Monday, November 24, 2008

Update and a Birthday!

My baby girl, Perry, turned 1 year old today. It's hard to believe but it's here. She's walking and jabbering, and just a joy to us all.

Last I wrote, I told you I lost my camera. I am looking at new lenses this weekend so I can get my Nikon back up and working. The old lens broke back in July and I had been using my point and shoot... which disappeared on me earlier this month. Sooooooo.... hopefully I will be back to posting regularly once I get that purchased.

A week after I got back from New York, I got a call from the relocation company and they wanted to get our big move done before Thanksgiving. I was given TWO DAYS NOTICE that the moving truck would be at my house to load up our things. It was frantic. It was chaos. But I got it done. A few days after everything was packed up, the girls and I loaded up the Explorer and made the big trek up to New York.

So here we are in a hotel room waiting for the house to be ready for move-in. Our household goods arrive Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) and we will be out of the hotel on Friday and living full-time at the house. Can't wait! You should see the kitchen. I am so excited. I will show lots of pictures!

I hope you all will continue to be patient with me while I get through this period of transition. Thank you thank you!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back from New York

I'm back. I lost my camera and my wedding ring. :( :( :( This was my little point and shoot that I was using because the lens on my nice Nikon broke... so I'm going to try and sweet talk my husband into letting me buy a new lens ASAP.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

.harvest pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie is probably one of my most favorite holiday pies. I love when Fall rolls around because I know those pumpkins are ripening on the vine and will soon hit market places. I have to admit to something. For years I used to buy the canned pumpkin, and in a pinch I will use it, but really.... nothing compares to fresh roasted pumpkin for your pie.

I bet you're thinking, "Great! I can use my Halloween pumpkins for pie!" No no no... pumpkin pie flesh comes from pie pumpkins. They are much smaller than those giant ones you use for jack-o-lanterns. The flesh isn't stringy and it's sweeter.

Aren't they just adorable? I think they are. Paige thought we were going to carve them for Halloween and I told her to BACK OFF MY PUMPKINS. Yah.. she's a little upset with mom. LOL

Cut the tops off the pumpkins and then in half. Use a large spoon to scrape out the centers. I thought having one family member upset with me was enough... when Jim saw me throwing away the pumpkin seeds, I had another cry baby on my hands. (I just can't get a break!)

Place the pumpkins in a baking dish and pour 2 cups water into it. Don't get the water in the pumpkins but around them.

Cover the dish loosely with foil and pop in a 400* oven for about 45 minutes to an hour. Pull from the oven and let cool.

I cooked the pumpkins yesterday and let them chill in the fridge overnight. You don't have to do this, but you will have to wait until the pumpkins cool enough so you can do this step. Take a large spoon and scrape out the cooked pumpkin flesh.

Mash with a fork. Make sure you look through this puree really well. I accidently had a few pieces of pumpkin shell in there that needed fishing out.

You should have about 3 cups worth of pumpkin here.

Add 1 can evaporated milk to the bowl.

Then add 1 cup sugar.

Add 1 tsp vanilla.

Time for the important spices. 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp allspice, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Dump in 1/4 cup flour.

And finally add 2 large eggs.

Whisk everything together until there are no lumps.

Prepare 1 single pie crust. Roll out and put in a pie plate. Trim the edge, turn under, and crimp. This recipe makes a lot of filling so if you will need a great deep dish pie plate. I love this one I use. I received two of them 16 years at my wedding. They're hand crafted clay and bake so nicely. I would cry if something were to ever happen to them.

Pour your pie filling into the pie shell. It should come all the way up to your crimped edges. Do not fill too full otherwise it will bake up and over your plate and cause a big mess in your oven.

Carefully place in a preheated 450* oven. Bake at 450* for 15 minutes and then lower to 350* and bake another 45 minutes.

The center should be just set. If you bake too long, your pie will crack in the center as it cools. Thankfully this doesn't affect it's awesome taste. ;)

Allow your pie to cool on the counter then transfer to your fridge to chill thoroughly. To keep a skin from forming on the surface, put a layer of saran on top and press on it lightly to stick it to the pumpkin.

Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Monday, November 3, 2008

.german pancakes with pears.

This recipe was found in a Martha Stewart KIDS magazine I bought years ago. While packing things up for our move, I found my stash upstairs and gleefully went through each issue page by page taking all of the craft and food projects in. I really miss this publication and wish Martha would bring it back! (Perhaps we should start a campaign?)

Today I wanted to make breakfast one last time for my husband before we separate for a couple of weeks. Sounds dire, doesn't it? I thought this would be the perfect thing and man.. it sure was. The original recipe calls for apples, but I bought pears instead because I love the sweetness they give, especially to this type of baked treat.

I imagine these would be a great breakfast for your holiday mornings, either Thanksgiving or Christmas. They don't take horribly long and you can make as many or as few as you want. Throw in some fruit, cottage potatoes and sausage and you've got a breakfast your family will love you for.

Here are your ingredients. I doubled the recipe from the magazine which I will post here. If you want less, just cut the recipe in half.

1 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. sugar + more for dusting pan, 3/4 c. milk, 3 Tbsp butter(melted), 5 eggs, 3 Bosc pears (peeled and diced), 3 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp butter, 1/4 c. honey or brown sugar.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a skillet. Dump in the diced pears. Stir to coat and fry for a couple minutes.

Add the lemon juice, cinnamon, and honey. Cook over medium high heat, stirring often until the liquid evaporates and the pears and nice and caramelized.

This is what they should look like. Yummy. You could eat them just like this, but I really suggest you put them in these pancakes. They are SO GOOD!

Brush giant muffin tins with the melted butter.

Sprinkle in teaspoons of sugar and coat each muffin cup. My pancakes stuck a little and so if I were to do this again? I would probably skip this and spray with Pam so they release better.

I got my big helper involved. She loves to cook with me and I appreciate her interest and help.

In a large bowl, dump in the sugar, flour, and salt. Mix together with a whisk.

Using one of those empty bowls, break your eggs. Paige will not let me crack the eggs. She must do them herself. She's so independent!

Mix the eggs with a fork and pour into the dry ingredients. Pour the milk into the bowl as well.

Whisk all the ingredients together then transfer the batter into a bowl with a pourable spout. This will make it easier to fill the muffin tins.

Hmph... look who I caught sneaking some pears? See, I TOLD you these were really good!

You might want to hide them from the family because you might find a thief doing something like this in your home.

Spoon some of the pears into the bottom of each tin. Pour the batter on top of the pears and fill each cup up halfway.

Once the batter is all used up, put the pans in a pre-heated 450* oven. Once you put them in, lower the heat to 400* and bake for 15 minutes.

The last 5 minutes these will puff way up.

When you pull from the oven, see how they are all puffy and pretty? Take a knife and run the blade around the edge of each pancake. Place a tray on top and then flip it over to release the pancakes from the pan.

Plate and then dust lightly with powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream. Or you could drizzle with maple syrup like my husband. Enjoy!

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Heading out of town

I will be in New York the next week. My husband has OFFICIALLY retired from the Navy after serving 20 years. WOO HOO! He starts his new job on November 10th so we're heading north to check out the area and find a place to live. I have some great fall recipes scheduled to post while I'm gone so don't let my absence keep you away!

I will be doing a small segment on hotel cooking (we're staying in a place that has a little kitchen) and will have those recipes and such when I return back to Georgia. It's going to be just me and my girls (we're leaving Jim up in New York) and I will be making some really awesome modified recipes for small households. I will be posting recipes for the full size and small size portions.

So that's what I have to update you with. I will still have access to email and all that good stuff so if you do need to contact me, shoot me a note. I love hearing from you!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Wendy

Today would have been my sister Wendy's 29th birthday. She passed away on January 30th due to organ failure brought on by pneumonia. She was such a smart girl who made some poor choices in life which eventually brought her short life to an abrupt end. I can't believe it's been 9 months since she's left this world. She is missed and loved.

This video was made by my brother Alan for her funeral. I was able to upload it to YouTube and am able to share it with you now. It took FOREVER. It's long. Almost 11 minutes long. Just a little glimpse into the life of my sister. We love you Wendy. Your memory lives on in our hearts and will forever.

.caramel apples.

My daughter, Paige has been bugging me for awhile now to make caramel apples and I thought today would be a great day to do this as a family. This caramel recipe is one I've made for years. It's from a cookbook I bought back before I even met my husband (we're talking 1992 folks. lol) and I have posted quite a few recipes from it here on the blog. The cookbook is by Land O Lakes called Treasury of Country Recipes. Love it.

We're big fans of apple and caramel here but I wanted to up the wow factor by making these like those mammoth numbers you find in candy/chocolate stores by adding chopped peanuts, toasted coconut, mini chocolate chips, and crushed oreo cookies. Seriously.. say it with me. "WOW!"

First we need to make the caramel.

In a large saucepan put 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar and 2 cups sugar.

Add 1 cup cream and 1 cup milk.

Add 1 cup light corn syrup. [NOTE: A tip when you measure this. Spray the inside of your measuring cup with pam spray and it will slide right on out. This tip works just as well with molasses and honey too.]

Put the pot on low heat on the stove.

This is what the caramel will look like after an hour. A little frothy on top and it will be bubbling slightly.

Candy is not something that can be rushed. This caramel takes almost 2 hours to make. You want to bring this to 248* F (120* C). Don't go past that temp otherwise your caramel will be too far into the hard ball stage.

When it finally reaches temp, remove from the burner and put in bowl of ice water. We need to cool this down a little (to 175*) before we dip the apples. Add 1 tsp vanilla.

While the caramel is cooking, prep your toppings. I crushed oreo cookies, chopped up some unsalted peanuts, opened a bag of mini chocolate chips, and toasted some coconut. Put each topping in their own bowl and set aside.

You're also going to need to melt some chocolate. I used a bag of 60% cocoa Ghiradelli chocolate chips. Put in a double boiler and melt on very low heat. Stir until completely smooth. Remove from heat.

Now if you've ever made caramel apples in the past, did the caramel slide right off the apple? The reason for this is because commercial growers put a wax coat on the apples to give them a nice shine, and also to keep them fresh longer and keep bugs off. So, what we need to do is remove the wax.

Bring some water to boil and dunk the apples in for just a minute. Put them in an ice bath and dry well. I also take a mesh scrubber that I clean my fruit and veggies with to scuff the skin. This will give the caramel something to grab onto.

Once you have cleaned the apples, remove the stems and shove craft sticks into the midde.

Something else I like to do but didn't have time to do today was put these in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This gets them nice and cold so the caramel sets almost immediately and keeps a lot from sliding off.

Dip the apples in the caramel, tilting the pot if necessary to get full coverage.

We had some pretty big apples and so I needed to help Paige out to get the tops coated.

Place the coated apples on a silpat or waxed paper. Put in the fridge or freezer to set.

We need to add another coat of caramel. So after the first coat has set, dip again. Now it's time for the fun stuff!!!

Sprinkle whatever toppings you like on your apple. Tilt here and there so you get the sides.

Return the apples to the fridge to set again. After a few minutes, pull from the fridge and drizzle with some melted chocolate. and sprinkle even MORE toppings on! Oh yahhhh!

Here is the monster caramel apple after it's all done. Pop the baby in the fridge or freezer again to set the chocolate.

Once it's firm, carefully pull from the waxed paper and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

.roast chicken pot pie.

Roast chicken pot pie. Or as I like to call it - poor man's pie, because really... it doesn't cost a lot to throw something like this together. I had some roast chicken leftover from the other night and some corn from when I made corn muffins on Sunday. All I needed were some other veggies thrown into the mix, pie crust, and a cream sauce! A wonderful meal on a very chilly Georgia night.

Let's start with the sauce.

Mine is more of a herb-ish/garlicky sauce which adds a nice contrast to the root vegetables and the chicken. Start by melting 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan and add 1 clove minced garlic to saute.

While whisking, add 1/4 cup flour, a little at a time. Make sure you whisk while you add otherwise you will get lumps. Lumps are not our friends. Let this cook over medium heat for a few minutes.

Now we need 2 cups milk. Again, while whisking, add the milk gradually.

Add 1/2 tsp dill weed. You really don't need to measure. If you're confident enough, just shake the jar a few times and that'll be good.

Then add about the same amount of thyme. Thyme is a good herb for anything chicken. I also added some salt and pepper to properly season the sauce.

Kick up the heat to medium high and let this thicken up. Make sure you whisk it constantly so it doesn't burn on the bottom of your pan. When the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon, it's done. Set aside.

Chop up some potatoes, carrots, and celery. I used 2 of each. You don't need more than you see here because it adds up quickly and your pie will be bursting at the seams! Yep.. been there. lol

Chop up some roast chicken. If you don't have roast chicken, cook some chicken breasts and use those. I don't play by rules. :D

At this stage, you could throw it all in a pie crust, seal up and throw in the oven. I have found my pot pies take way too long to bake through when I do this. So I do some cooking before putting it in the pie plate.

Start by melting 2 Tbsp butter. Add a little olive oil.

Add your chopped vegetables. Stir to coat them with the oil/butter. Saute for about 4-5 minutes. The potatoes will be glassy looking.

Here I added a variety of frozen vegetables. I added about 1/2 cup peas, 1/2 cup green beans, and 1/2 cup corn. Mushrooms would be a really nice addition but I didn't have any. Season well with salt and pepper then stir everything together.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour in your cream sauce. We're almost there!

Add your chicken. I used 2 cups worth of meat. If you want yours more "chicken-y", then add more. I like a good balance of chicken vs. vegetable.

Make a double pie crust. Roll out the bottom shell and line the pie plate. Trim off any excess. Add your filling.

Roll out the top crust and put on top. Again, trim excess, then pinch closed. Mark the top with a knife to create vents.

You wouldn't think I was a pie baker by this pie crust. I totally mangled it. Oh well. Brush with a little milk and pop in a 350* oven for about 1 1/2 hours. The sauce will probably be oozing out the top and your crust will be golden brown. A sure sign it's time to feast!

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