Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Night

Pumpkin Night

As a child one of my favorite memories was watching special holiday cartoons. Tim and I were excited to sit down with LittleA and watch the Charlie Brown's Halloween movie - but it was not on and we don't own it...oppps. I checked NetFlix instant watch - no luck. We were going to try YouTube but we came across Garfield Halloween special. I don't ever remember watching that as a kid. The language was not great for a 3.5 year old and dead pirates aren't up LittleA's alley either...for crying out loud she hid in her room for 2 hours while the Verizon guy was here today.

Tim pulled a dad move and "oppps something must be wrong with the video...it won't play anymore" and I swooped in with a "hmmm..I bet it is time to make Halloween cookies" I was inspired by the ones Jess made over at blue.speckled.eggs she used food coloring in the dough. I was interseted in trying this so we could avoid frosting so close to bed time.


LittleA made the last three and Tim and I will be arm wrestling to see who gets which of those little cuties in our lunch tomorrow. It was a little like Mr. Potato Head cookies. We may have fallen short on the movie - but the cookie-o-lanterns may become a tradition.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza Dough

Daring Bakers - Pizza Dough & Toppings


I made this one just in the nick of time. I logged into the Daring Bakers top secret member only website today to print up this months challenge - figuring I would have a couple days here to complete it. Whoops...today is the deadline. Good thing I was home waiting for the cable guy.


LittleA and I decided we could do this one together. The October challenge was to make pizza dough taken from the book The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhert. The dough was easy to make and easy to work with. This is the easiest time I have had throwing pizza dough.


I had a variety of topping options in the fridge but tonight was family Halloween night - so it was all about LittleA and she went for the traditional cheese and pepperoni pizzas.


 
My little helper stirring all the dry ingredients

LittleA loved the fact that yeast is a living thing

Very cold water...took forever to get to the right temp. Wonder why we needed it so cold? I thought with yeast things were supposed to be warm...hmmm have to look into that. 

 
dividing the dough - which was easy to manage in the mixer with the dough hook
  
You can make 4 large or 6 regular size dough balls. They can be stored in the freezer for future use too. Normally they stay in teh fridge overnight or for up to 3 days. But I was under a crunch and snuck some out for tonight's dinner. The rest will be frozen for later use.


as an added bonus to this challenge you get to watch me toss the dough...click on the above pic to see the video taped by LittleA

 
So you preheat the oven to 500 and get your pizza stone ready to go....mine started to burn...hmmm - maybe it is a cheapo or I forgot something here.

ready for a quick 10 minute bake at 500. 

ta-dah!

So there you have it. October all wrapped up. Be sure to head to the blog roll linked at the top of this post and see the amazing pizza combos the other DB'ers have created.


Football Food Face-Off - WEEK 8

Football Food Face-Off - WEEK 8
The Bills faced their long time rival this past Sunday - the Miami Dolphins. We lost...we were crushed!  Tim wanted to host October-Fest at our house. This past Sunday seemed the day for it. The weather was amazing! We tailgated in the driveway, we had a camp fire going, and the kiddos played on the swing set as well as spent time jumping in a H-U-G-E leaf pile that Tim made for them.
 
 
Needless to say I was a tiny bit distracted by the house prep and all that jazz to really spend a fair deal of time on creating this weeks menu. So instead of a full meal I made a dip this week. I have been to Miami once. It was a place like no other I had ever been to. We dined in a Cuban restaurant called Larios which I guess is a part of the Bongo's chain which is owned by Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio. Remembering this meal (and Mojito) I decided to go for a dip created with black beans. Too bad the mint in my garden is all gone for the season because a mojito would have been great.
I am certainly not claiming this to be an authentic recipe - but it is one that is similar to the authentic recipes I had seen and it was a time tested part of my recipe collection. This was made once by a friend of mine and she found the receipe in Cooking Light. After that first taste I added the receipe to my collection too!

Black Bean Dip with Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

  • 1  red bell pepper
  • 3/4  cup  minced fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)
  • 3  tablespoons  finely chopped green onions
  • 2  tablespoons  lime juice
  • 2  tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
  • 2  tablespoons  hot sauce
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 2  (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • Chopped red bell pepper (optional)
  • 6  (10-inch) flour tortillas, each cut into 8 wedges
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat broiler.
Cut the bell pepper in half lengthwise, discarding seeds and membranes. Place the bell pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet, and flatten with hand. Broil for 5 minutes or until blackened. Place the bell pepper in a zip-top plastic bag, and seal. Let stand for 5 minutes, and peel. Place the bell pepper and the next 12 ingredients (bell pepper through garlic) in a food processor, and process until smooth. Spoon into a bowl, and garnish with chopped bell pepper, if desired.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Arrange the tortilla wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until golden. Serve the dip with chips.


Did you play along this week? Leave me a link below.


Movie Roundup

Movie Roundup


















Since having a Netflix account I have come to realize that I am a sucker for a good documentary. I knew when I saw the previews to Young@Heart I just had to add it to my list. I have since returned it and I am still carrying with me the sweet seniors from the movie.The movie films the senior citizen singing group as they prepare for a new tour. The kicker is the songs that they sing....this movie is also filed in the catagory Rockumentary! Check out these clips (I wanna be sedated, I feel good, and this sad one covering Coldplay) and of course check out the movie...I laughed and cried and cried a little more - heartwarming story - showing how life can be full to the very end.
 
A friend took me to see Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist for my birthday. This was a cute movie - targeted to the teen college crowd perhaps - but I really enjoyed it. Similar to Juno - although that is not such a great way to compare the movie. It was fun to watch the charators run around Manhatten (in a Yugo) trying to hunt down a secret concert by their favorite band...of course drama and love ensues.  Tons of quirky fun and a good soundtrack.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin Princess

Pumpkin Princess


Tim and I spent a good time at the end of September and beginning of October trying to convince LittleA that she should be the Ma Nah Ma Nah guy from the Muppet Show. Earlier this year she was in love with the video clips we found on the internet. I saw this costume as a super easy out for me - allowing me to get a jump on some holiday sewing and crafting. Well LittleA changed her mind and stood resolute to being a princess! I tried to get her to change her mind....and then realized how dumb I thought that was. Meaning the whole fun of Halloween is being who or whatever you want to be. So we made a compromise....she could be a princess just not a commercial princess. I even tried Princess Di and other such historical figures (no luck). We did meet in the middle at a Pumpkin Princess. We took a trip to the fabric store and created our fictional lady with bits and baubles. We choose shimmery orange sparkle fabric with a sheer bejeweled overlay. Her crown was created from a pillar candle berry wreath. The wand - a pumpkin garden marker.

I fashioned the dress bodice on a tshirt she wears. There was honest to goodness squealing when the little princess sleeves turned out just as planned. As I added some finishing trims to the costume LittleA gave me a disappointed look as she held her wand.
This looks like a squash wand...not a pumpkin wand.
I assured her they were in the same family and all was well again!


We decided that the Pumpkin Princess should have a jack-o-lantern face on front. I asked LittleA what type of face she wanted it to have and unequivocally she answered "A mean one". Yes, for Halloween we get to be all the things we aren't normally. My sweet babe picked the meanest face she could find and I carved and stitched it to her dress. Hesitant of the "mean" aspect - but proud of her not fearing to be unique.
Sewing for LittleA is one of my favorite things to do. In the hustle and bustle of trying to get this dress ready I lost sight of the fun of creating - until LittleA set me straight. She loves to sit in my studio and craft along side me and while I was stitching sleeves and hems I overheard her quite conversation....

...and my friends will say "oh you are a pumpkin princess" and then they will say "where did you get your costume" and I will tell them I didn't buy it my mama made it for me.
My heart swelled.
I love this little gal!




Friday, October 24, 2008

Falling for Fall

Falling for Fall

The nights have been crisp and so I have happily dragged out the down comforter. We have had the fireplace going non-stop for a couple weeks now. The season where wood stays piled up near the front door. Allowing us to linger in turning on the old radiators. Getting cozy under blankets with tea and a good book (which is one that is also getting me in the mood for the season).

Time soon to plant next years garlic - as I cook many savory dishes with that which we harvested this summer.

Wool sweaters and leaf piles. Warming the kitchen with pies. Warming the heart with family celebrations.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Football Food Face-Off - Week 7

Football Food Face-Off - Week 7


Last weekend we went away to a state park with my family to watch the leaves change color - and freeze our bums off! We had a great time...but I admit I created no food for the game. In spite of my piss-poor effort THE BILLS WON beating the chargers!!
 
 

This has been such an exciting season. I promise to be back in full swing as this Sunday we battle our long standing rival the Miami Dolphins.



Want to know who didn't slack this week? Head on over to blue.speckled.eggs to see the seasame ginger mahi-mahi that Jess prepared! Thanks as always for playing along with me Jess!


If you participated - drop me a line in the comments below with a link to your creation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Spider Webs

Spider Webs
 

A few weeks ago while reviewing some unplugged challengers submissions I cam across sticky spider webs from Reprehriestless Warillever. If you want to see some really good ones - I suggested you stop right here and head on over to her site. We had fun making ours - but I decided not to follow the instructions so well and we had webs that didn't harden so well. Note: Do not water down the glue.
Again illustrating that the fun is in the process not so much the product. Got us into the Halloween Spirit.
We choose black yarn and finished them off with clear sparkles to add some shimmer - which was great - had our webs hardened enough to stay in their shape.
LittleA had a good time dunking and squeezing the yarn in the gluey solution. She is still not a huge fan of having sticky icky hands- but she was better this time...we made two whole webs before we had to wash her hands.
We laid our webs in a swirly spiral non-web like fashion on freezer paper (all out of wax paper).
These really do take some time to dry. LittleA liked to check on them frequently. On the day they dried we hung them up in our window bay. Before I got to make a pipe-cleaner spider LittleA had "played" with the web so much so that it unraveled.
I think we will give it another try next year!




Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Football Food Face-Off

Football Food Face-Off


The Bills were on a bye this week..and I followed suit. Since it was my birthday weekend we hightailed it out of town for a little family get-away. We had a great time and did some fun shopping that I will hopeful get some time to post about here.


So did your team play this week? Let me see what you made. Post your link in the box below.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Pasta Sauce


Pasta Sauce


Back in September Erin of Erin Cooks had a surplus of tomatoes she was looking to use cleverly. One of her readers posted a sauce recipe that seemed to good to be true. 


Ah man! There’s a great sauce recipe in the Stonewall Kitchen Harvest cookbook. I’ll abbreviate as best I can…:
15 cloves garlic
8 lb. ripe tomatoes (any kind)
10 medium onions (quartered)
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (your choice)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450ª
Quarter the tomatoes (no peeling or seeding)
Chop 5 cloves of garlic, leave the other 10 whole
Combine/toss everything in a large roasting pan
Put in the 450º oven; gently stir after 25 min; gently stir after another 25 min; roast for another 45 minutes. Remove and taste. If too bitter, add a little sugar (3-4 tablespoons)
Cans and freezes well; tastes great. And uses up a s***load of tomatoes.
Posted by F_D

I decided to give it a try and I am so thankful that I did. This sauce is super easy and tastes great. I have four or five contains full in the freezer.
I was able to use up the last of our garden tomatoes and herbs...and the kitchen smells amazing the whole time!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Big Three Oh

The Big Three Oh

In all my years I have never had cupcakes in a cone - so decided to make them for my 30th! I accidentally bought kiddie cones and have to say these are the cutest things I have ever baked.



I used a Swiss Buttercream recipe from the Martha Stewart Baking Book and admit that I ate a bunch of the leftovers. The frosting is so light and creamy...and not too sweet. Tiny little cupcakes disguised as ice-cream cones.
 
LittleA showing her cake decorating skills! She made these for me :)

 
And as a gift to myself I signed my resignation letter for an organization I no longer have a passion for. Making a resolution to myself that in the next decade I will participate in things because I get enjoyment in doing so...not because I can't say no.
A very merry un-birthday to you!





Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Football Food Face Off - Week 5

Football Food Face Off - Week 5


This past weekend the Bills played the Arizona Cardinals and lost despite my cooking efforts.


We went with a southwest theme and had Chicken Tacos....that I neglected to take a photo of. It might have had something to do with margaritas we started off with.
 
  
 The tacos were an old cooking light recipe I had saved titled Soft Chicken Tacos.

 
(photo from myrecipes.com)

Yield

4 servings (serving size: 3 tacos)

Ingredients

  • 1  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Cooking spray
  • 12  (6-inch) white corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2  cups  thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese (such as Tillamook)
  • Low-fat sour cream (optional)

Preparation

Prepare grill.
Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; rub spice mixture over chicken.
Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 10 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 5 minutes; chop.
Heat tortillas according to package directions. Divide chicken evenly among tortillas; top each tortilla with 2 tablespoons cabbage and 1 teaspoon cheese. Serve with sour cream, if desired.

The best part of the day was that Jenny and Mark came on down to the house to watch the game. They added a lovely presidential food face off appetizer and dessert ...

McCAIN LOADED FRIES & ICE CREAM

ok so we baked up the McCain Golden Crisp (for his golden years) fries loaded them with "cheese" stuffed in plenty of "pork" in the way of bacon. We added green onions too. YUM - we devoured them.
 
 Desserts were Ben and Jerry's - Fossil Fuel (energy policy), American Dreams, Peach Cobbler (we figured McCain and Willie Nelson were both old and southern).

And of course Sam Adams - a presidential beer of sorts.

Go Obama!


So did you participate in this weeks food face-off? Leave your link in the box below.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Unplugged Project - White

Unplugged Challenge - White

This past week was a busy one as I was helping plan a big office event. So we played it easy this week. I gave LittleA my camera and told her the theme was WHITE. She went off on a photo hunt for all things white in the house. Here are some of my favorites.






  • The arm of our couch
  • Clock face
  • Radiator
  • Belly of her favorite stuffed dog "window"
Want to know more about the Unplugged Challenge? Come and join us next week as we tackle SMOOTH. 

Saturday, October 04, 2008

All Encompassingly

All Encompassingly 


Ah the joy of guilt-free blogging. I have been doing the Unplugged Challenge as well as my Football Food FaceOff (feel free to join in at any time) as well as our Best of Bag library book review ...I just have not been posting. Been busy and such - ya know how it goes. I have also realized that I am spending too much time doing things I don't LOVE...and as I sit here on the brink of my Big Three-Ohh Birthday I think I need to change that.  While I work out all the details take a look at what we have done in the past week or so.


Unplugged Challenge - FRUIT
Nothing too crazy here. We gathered up the apples that the deer didn't scarf off of our tree and turned them into a micro-batch of sauce.


LittleA had a good time testing the apples hard/soft level at each step. Whole apples - too hard :)
 
She also tried her hand at chopping the apples into smaller piece. I quartered and seeded them - then she used a crinkle cut vegetable cutter to  make the pieces smaller. I bought mine at a local 5 and dime after seeing it in the Montessori Services catalog.
 

 FOOTBALL FOOD FACEOFF
I have not posted in two weeks...ugh - sorry! If you have participated - please post your link in the comments section and I promise to be back on track this week! 

Week THREE -
For week three we were returning from a wonderful camping trip with friends. The bad part was that I got seriously car sick and was in no mood to create a food face off (original plan cooking many Lil Smokie sausages and calling then LilSmoaklands. Kudos to Trisher for this idea). Thankfully we were playing the Oakland Raiders...I devised a plan whereby we "raided" the cooler and feasted on left overs. It worked - the Bills one their third straight game.

Week FOUR -
 
Could this really be happening? The BILLS WIN FOUR IN A ROW. Can't give up on the food face off now! That and we now have to keep wearing the same Bills shirts we wore week one. Hey - it seems to work. St. Louis was a much easier place to cook about. A quick internet search led me to find that St. Louis is an Apple state...raise your hand if your state is also an apple state - I think there may be two states that are not. St. Louis is also known for a fried ravioli....can anyone vouge for this or I am the part of some internet rumor chain?

Here are all my pieces together. Beer from St. Louis, Apples with caramel dip, and breaded raviolis ready for frying.

We used local Cortland apples which were supper tasty. They were paired with an organic caramel dip and some XXX Sharp Cheddar Cheese.

And here are the fried ravioli's topped with fresh grated Parmesan and a marinara sauce. These were a quick and easy appetizer and I would probably make them again - although next time I may try the pesto stuffed ravioli for a little twist.

Aunt Ellen also participated this week - Here are her two recipes from this week:



 
















Famous Barr's French Onion Soup
One of St. Louis's favorite soup recipes!

Ingredients

5 lbs onions, unpeeled
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons paprika
1 bay leaf
7 (16 ounce) cans beef broth, divided (recommended Swanson's)
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour or instant flour (such as Wondra)
caramel coloring (optional) or Kitchen Bouquet (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
French baguette (optional)
swiss cheese (optional) or gruyere cheese (optional)
Directions
1. Peel onions and slice 1/8 inch thick, preferably in a food processor.
2. Melt butter in a 6-quart (or larger) stockpot. Add onions; cook, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3. (The long cooking time makes the onions mellow and sweet.) Stir in pepper, paprika and bay leaf; saute over low heat 10 minutes more, stirring frequently.
4. Pour in 6 cans broth and wine. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
5. Dissolve flour in remaining 1 can broth.
6. Stir into boiling soup.
7. Reduce heat and simmer slowly for 2 hours.
8. Adjust color to a rich brown with caramel coloring, season with salt. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, heat soup in microwave or on stove top.
9. If desired, pour into ovenproof crocks or bowls.
10. Top with a slice of bread and a sprinkling of grated cheese. Heat under the broiler until cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.
11. Leftover soup can be frozen.


St. Louis Toasted Ravioli

"The St. Louis style of preparing ravioli is unique and delicious. The ravioli is breaded, fried and served with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese."

INGREDIENTS (Nutrition)

2 tablespoons whole milk
1 egg
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 (25 ounce) package frozen cheese ravioli, thawed
3 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 (16 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
 

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine milk and egg in a small bowl. Place breadcrumbs and if desired, salt in a shallow bowl. Dip ravioli in milk mixture, and coat with breadcrumbs.
2. In a large saucepan, heat marinara sauce over medium heat until bubbling. Reduce the heat to simmer.
3. In a large heavy pan, pour oil to depth of 2 inches. Heat oil over medium heat until a small amount of breading sizzles and turns brown. Fry ravioli, a few at a time, 1 minute on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately with hot marinara sauce.