Category Archives: Dessert

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like The Middle of February

Seriously, 11 degrees below zero in the middle of December?  Two major snowstorms? Is the universe trying to stop Plaid Christmas?!  Because nothing stops Plaid Christmas. Nothing!

All right, well, the weather did move the first Plaid Christmas back by a week. But I’ll give you the recipes now because now next week I’m doing two Plaid Christmases (Christmasi??) in two days. So not likely going to feel like recipe writing. And thanks to The Block

we did an impromptu practice Plaid Christmas last night when the original got pushed back.

However, moving Plaid Christmas One closer to Plaid Christmas Two allowed me to go to a cookie exchange yesterday.

Twas a bittersweet cookie exchange though to honor our dear friends, the Harrisons, who are moving back to Australia. The Block will be all the less kind, funny and joyful without them. *stupid computer got something in my eyes again*

For the exchange I made these Brown Butter Sugar Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

We tried multiple toppings and all agreed sanding sugar was a better topping than sprinkles. But everyone loved them, even Drummer Boy, who is not a big cookie eater.

However, those cookies were incorrectly attributed by me on Instagram to What’s Gaby Cooking. So to make up for it, I made her Molasses Cookies. Couldn’t be easier.  Used a scant two tablespoon cookie scoop and cooked 2 minutes longer than the recipe called for.

As a gift for the hostess and a snack for Plaid Christmas (one cannot exist on Chex Mix alone. JK – yes you can) I made these Union Square Cafe Nuts via Smitten Kitchen.  Only thing I did different is reduced the cayenne pepper a little. Glad I did, they still have heat at the end, but not overwhelming.

On to the meal. Totally pulled a Rachel from Friends – a layer of jelly, a layer of ground beef – when making GF meatballs and marinara sauce simultaneously.  I started the meatballs, paused probably to tell the cat to get off the table, then looked up a the meatball recipe and continued. That is, until I got to the “add a whole can of tomatoes”. That seemed wrong. Yep, was following the marinara recipe in the middle of the meatball recipe.

I soldiered on though, and what a happy accident indeed. So I present to you:

Accidental Gluten Free Meatballs

WHAT YOU NEED
1 lb. ground beef
1/3 heaping cup of gluten free panko crumbs
scant 1/4 cup of milk (I actually used a little less)
1/2 TBSP dried parsley
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3 TBSP finely minced onion
1 egg
2 TBSP olive oil

WHAT YOU DO
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl with your hands until fully incorporated. Shape in to balls with about 2-3 tablespoons of meat per meatball. Heat oil in a skillet and add meatballs. Brown, turning very gently, until browned all over.  Place meatballs on a greased baking pan and cook until done, about 15-20 minutes. These can be chilled and reheated in the sauce.

Plaid Christmas will include Skinnytaste’s Crockpot Bolognese Sauce and Two Peas and Their Pod’s Slow Cooker Marinara.  That way we take care of the meat eaters, the vegetarians, the gluten free crowd and the butter noodles crowd. Trying a new GF pasta, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Will also be making the world’s easiest Rosemary Roast Salmon that I’ve talked about before. The only thing I do differently is mix olive oil with dijon mustard and pinch of chopped rosemary and rub it over the salmon before putting the lemons on. It’s a hit every time and can be prepped ahead and kept in the fridge.  Thanks to The Block for taking care of yesterday’s salmon with gusto

all the while not being allowed in the front room or dining room because I had already set the tables before Plaid Christmas was moved. So it was a cozy practice Plaid Christmas.

In between all these festivities, we had one of the best School of Rock shows to date. Drummer Boy, Guitar Boy and friend and neighbor Singer Girl were all in the Motown band together and they killed it.

See Kevin’s Facebook account for some video footage if you are interested. Or I can send you some, I only have like 40GB of video though #proud parent.

I would be remiss in all my talk about Plaid Christmas – which, by the way, I’ve been planning for 4 years because that’s the McNamara Christmas rotation – if I did not link to one of the funniest annual features on the internet.  The 2016 Hater’s Guide to The Williams-Sonoma Catalog.  Even though it is a little close to home this year (ok I know he’s making fun of me), it still is one of my favorite reads. Not safe for delicate eyes though.

May Santa bring you all a Murder Vacuum.   Have a great holiday everyone.

 

October Surprises

This has been a cooking marathon.  Contests, a bake sale for charity, Halloween 1, 2 and 3. I’m exhausted. What’s that? I need to start planning Thanksgiving. After I nap.

First, Soup-A-Palooza. A refined competition between members of the Legal Department where each day, for THREE WEEKS, a person brings in a homemade soup for everyone to eat. And then we select a tribute for each soup and have them fight to the death. Well not exactly, we vote. My soup tied in my week. I will leave you in suspense as to whether I accept the results of the upcoming tie-breaking election.

I made Smitten Kitchen’s Cream of Tomato Soup.  The only thing I did differently is reduced brandy to 1 TBSP and used vegetable stock to make it vegetarian. Honestly, I’ve done it both ways and it was better with the vegetable stock.  Also, to make enough for the whole department, I had to make four batches. I don’t need no stinkin’ batches (name the movie).

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On the side were cheesy croutons and basil. Just toss bread cubes with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and bake at 375 until crispy (about 10-15 minutes) and then finely grate some white cheddar and gruyere cheese over the warm croutons.

Then we had the first Halloween outing for Al’s 8th birthday.  Here’s the crew

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I made S’mores Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from How Sweet Eats and Pumpkin Bread in the Williams & Sonoma Fall Cakelet Pan.

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Click the How Sweet Eats link for the s’mores cookies, but here’s my super secret pumpkin bread recipe. Ready?

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Yep. I’ve roasted and pureed and seasoned pumpkin to make bread. To which I get “yuck”. But Trader Joe’s mix – beloved. See, even I give up sometimes.

Next up was the charity bake sale at work for Bright Pink.  Made more pumpkin bread and these Browniest Cookies from Smitten Kitchen.

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We raised $2,700 for breast cancer research. Here’s the spread. This Legal department can bake!bakesale

Next up was Halloween 2 – Pizza Night (you thought I was going to say “the return of Michael Myers”. Nope, just pizza night).

Lt. Dan was a creepy clown before creepy clowns were cool.

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The Mother of Dragons stopped by as well as cats and sports fans.

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And Ron Swanson.

dsc_0274The quote on the cup is “You have accidentally given me the food my food eats”, one of our favorites. No disrespect Salad!   The gang was ready for some drinks and spooky treats from Mbork.

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And Jen from Pastries So Tasty made these awesome cakes.

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I made this smoked salmon terrine.

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Smoked Salmon Terrine
inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit

WHAT YOU NEED
8 oz nova lox
6 oz cream cheese
4 oz goat cheese
2 tsp lemon zest
1 TBSP horseradish
2 radishes finely minced
1/2 cup finely minced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

WHAT YOU DO
Line a six inch diameter ramekin (or any other flat sided dish or cake mold) with plastic wrap bringing it up the sides.  Blend the cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon zest and horeseradish with a hand mixer until smooth.  In another bowl mix the onions and radishes.   Flake the lox with a fork and make an even layer on the bottom of the ramekin, covering it completely using about a third of the salmon. Dollop half of the cream cheese mixture and spread it gently but evenly (an offset spatula works well here).  Sprinkle half the onion/radish mixture on top, pressing gently on them so they stick. Repeat the layers but then end with a salmon layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and press down gently on the whole thing.  Chill for at least an hour.  Serve by taking the plastic off the top and inverting on to a scary skeleton platter, then carefully peel the plastic off.  Top with the fresh dill.  Serve with bagel chips and party rye.

And then finally on to actual Halloween.  Where we never got a picture of the boys together because Guitar Boy had stage crew until 5 and then went trick or treating with his friends.  So please enjoy this picture of Drummer Boy as Bigfoot with his friend as…well, you be the judge.

 

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Oh, and one more thing.

CUBS WIN CUBS WIN CUBS WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you haven’t seen it, go watch this Budweiser commercial.  Grab a tissue before you do.

Working on practice Thanksgiving tomorrow. Didn’t everyone spend their Friday night dehydrating Craisins?  Yes, I do know how cool I am.

Have a great weekend everyone.

 

A Very Tardy End of Summer Post – In Poetic Verse

Editor’s Note: It’s better if you sing it to the tune of Gilligan’s Island.

We went on vacation to Michigan City
With a quick stop in Grand Beach
We drove home for bit, 12 hours to be exact,
Then South Bend we did reach
Then South Bend we did reach.

We came back home and went to camp
Practiced instruments for a singing señora
Because with sBork now joining the band
We rocked out in Aurora
We rocked out in Aurora.

Then me and mBork made a feast
for the post-show rock and roll crowd
With so many families here at once,
The children were really loud,
The children were really loud.

And next thing you know the Second Set
Was turning ten years old,
With Drummer Boy
and Miss M too
the Big C and his smile
A movie star
Baby D and a Nemo hood
Here on Lucky Rhino!

Vacation

Sweet house we rented:

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Sweet kids we took:

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Sweet drumsticks I made:

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I made these Honey Teriyaki Drumsticks from Skinnytaste.  Doubled the recipe, didn’t use sesame seeds (Drummer Boy has a bad reaction – and you never know when he might actually enjoy the food I cook!). These got thumbs up all around from those who do eat food.  Served with white rice with extra sauce spooned over.  Yum!

Since it was vacation, it begged for dessert. Begged, wouldn’t shut up about it. So if you are going to do dessert, go big, go YUGE, go Pioneer Woman’s Easy Peach Dumplings.  Turn this

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Into this:

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You feel like a horrible person while making these.  So much butter! Soda! Processed dough! Trust me, you get over it when they are done and topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. FYI – I used one of the tiny cans of Sprite you can buy at Target.  6 oz. maybe, but not a regular size one.

Unfortunately we had to go to South Bend for Kevin’s dad’s memorial service. There are lots of places on the internet to read about how great Bill Guilfoile was, but here is one from Kevin.

Even though the circumstances were sad, the cousins enjoyed getting together.  It’s probably been about 4 years since we’ve all been in one place.  So logically, we played a card game (Mafia) where people had to gang up on each other and accuse each other of crimes.  Natch.

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The Big Show

The boys and sBork did a great show for School of Rock. They represented the Austin City Limits festival with B-52s, Weezer and Billy Idol.

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DSC_0850So we has a Aprés Rock Show get together for those who came to the show.  With an Asian themed dinner party.  Just like all the hep bands do.

I made this Asian Chopped Salad also from Skinnytaste.  It’s a great salad, colorful and crunchy.

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And mBork made these Dragon Noodles which were ah.maze.ing.

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She also made Asian Marinated flank steak and I did a basic grilled chicken with an lightly spiced brine.

Grilled Chicken with Asian Brine
Heat 8 cups water with 8 TBSP salt and 4 TBSP sugar, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 3 splashes of low sodium soy sauce.  Heat only until salt and sugar dissolved. Once cool, place chicken parts (we used boneless breasts) in bag or covered bowl with brine to cover and put back in the refrigerator. Boneless – brine up to 6 hours before, bone-in could probably stay in longer.  Take out, dry off and grill as you normally would. Discard the brine.

The Big 1-0

The Second Set are all turning 10 within sixteen days in August/September so we had the family party.

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I made Olympic themed goody boxes with my Avery template that I’m always going on about. Filled them with Cheetos, pretzels, red/white/blue Hershey’s kisses – you know, the snacks of champions.

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I was in charge of salads so I made a Zippy Orzo Summer Salad from Pinch of Yum.  Spinach, fresh corn, garlic, cucumbers.  A bowl of summer.  The only thing I did differently was I did not add chicken and I sautéed the baby spinach with the corn and garlic.

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Also made this Nancy’s Chopped Salad from Smitten Kitchen. Didn’t use chickpeas because although I like them pureed (hummus) or fried crunchy (Vistro restaurant in Hinsdale, check it out), I don’t like them whole.  Go figure.

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And then we had a majority of the Expensive People* over for Pizza Night (*so named because the first time we went out over 16 years ago, it got a leeeeetle out of hand food and drink-wise at the restaurant).

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And now it’s back to school.

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Back to the daily grind, the piles of homework, soccer practice and certainly cut down on the parties. Well, until the next Pizza Night!

Have a great week everyone!

 

A Delayed Easter Recap

It’s been a long two weeks. It all started Thursday night (Maundy Thursday – who knew?!) with a work-related ladies poker party. Once we got someone from the Audit Department in there, the rules were official…and then I started to lose. But completely fun nonetheless.

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We moved immediately into Good Friday Pizza Night with a visit from Grandma and our Duxbury Guilfoiles.

duxThen onto, of course, The Block’s Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday.

egghuntsignHere they come.

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And there they go.

egghunt2Remember that scene in the movie Parenthood where Rick Moranis’ kid knows French and Steve Martin’s kid is all “he likes to hit things with his head” with a bucket on his head?  Yeah, well, welcome to my world.

bucketheadEaster was a lot of the same food as seen in past Easter posts.

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Hint: Pasta Blanco is just plain butter noodles but thanks to Uncle Tom I learned how to class the joint up a bit. But there was the addition of this Crunchy Spring Salad from The Kitchn.

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Super bright and springy. I added thinly sliced carrots too for color.  Of course, we busted out some new desserts. Well, there were three planned, and two more showed up. As it shall be. I mean really, there are 30 people, you need at least 5 desserts right?

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If you need something simple, this Chocolate Toffee Trifle from Or So She Says is super easy as you used boxed cake mix and Heath pieces.

dessertBunny Garden Pudding (bottom right) is just bunny Peeps in Smitten Kitchen’s Best Chocolate Pudding Ever in graham cracker tart shells.  Some of the bunnies fainted from the deliciousness.

And lest we forget a new cocktail!  Grapefruit Daiquiris from How Sweet It Is are delicious, not too sweet and would be fantastic if the weather here ever warms up (to quote my friend Laura T. with respect to this weather – “Mother Nature, I think you are drunk”).

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Table favors were teeny, tiny succulents from Mountain Crest Gardens in bunnies.

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And my new purple highball (yep, I said highball) glasses from Crate and Barrel.

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And then, of course, our own McNamara/Guilfoile/Kuhn Easter Egg Hunt with these fabulous ladies.

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mollyEgg won’t fit.

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But D don’t care.

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And all the cousins in a selfie taking process (which makes for a better picture when they don’t know we’re watching).

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I don’t mean to bring the post down, but we ended on a sad note Monday when my step-father Jim passed away.  What can you say about a guy that has five daughters and marries my mom who has four more?

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Only that he was a strong, strong man who loved us all very much.  We will miss you Jim.

And so we don’t end that way, and now this.

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And this is picture of me trying to write this blog post tonight with “help”.

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We’re going to a trivia contest fundraiser this weekend that involves TV related costumes (which was NOT disclosed to me in advance of me writing the check).  So you have those pictures to look forward to.

Have a great rest of the week.

 

The Night is Dark and Full of Appetizers

If I have to wear football gear, you can be sure I’m gonna nerd it up, Game of Thrones style.

For today’s festivities, I supported the Broncos because their colors are the same as the Bears. And I have orange shoes already, so…allegiance formed!

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Most of the people I follow on Instagram are food bloggers and you can tell everyone was getting ready for the Super Bowl yesterday because there were hardly any posts all day. And this morning – BAM – wings, dips, treats galore. Here’s what I chose to make:

Things We Dipped in Chocolate.  Recipe:  Melt chocolate, dip various things in it.

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But, BUT, you need to make these Potato Chip Cookies from Smitten Kitchen first.

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They are delicious, lightly sweet and salty. The only thing I did different was that I omitted the added salt (because I used Ruffles not Cape Cod chips) and I used another 1/2 cup of crushed potato chips in lieu of pecans. Because Drummer Boy helped and if he saw the nuts go in he never would even try them. He’s not a guy who likes sweets, so he immediately asked for…

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Chex Mix for dessert. I just use the back of the box recipe except that I add an extra two tablespoons butter. And this time we didn’t use wheat Chex because they just burn, everyone leaves them behind anyway in a puddle of sadness. So we doubled the Cheerios and pretzels.  But if you could find good gluten free pretzels, without the wheat Chex it would be gluten free.

On the healthier-ish side, we have this Greek Spinach and Kale Dip from How Sweet It Is. Made it the day before so flavors could meld. I reduced the kale to 1/2 cup because it was looking uncomfortably green.

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And finally, Pepperoni Pizza Rolls from Two Peas and Their Pod. Dough and I have a complicated relationship (in that Dough hates me) so I just used Pillsbury pizza dough in a can. Big hit.

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I’d like to pretend that’s my manicure, but my stubby nails could never support what MichCC can handle.

This is how 2016 children watch the Super Bowl. By ignoring it and playing games on their own devices. Left to my own devices, I probably would (name that band). Never mind, no one is going to remember. It was Pet Shop Boys.

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Wide retriever. Heh.

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Have a great week everyone.

Trying to be Organized

Inspired by, but nowhere near as cool as Shutterbean’s Meal Prep, the last two Sundays I have tried to pre-prep a number of items so that I would be all “Weeknight dinner ready in 10 minutes boys!” during the week. Erp. Didn’t exactly go down that way. But, I did shave some time off my game.

As much as I like to cook, I have a confession. I can’t stand leftovers. There, it’s out there. Once it is cooked and eaten, I really don’t want that dish again for a long while. Thankfully Kevin likes leftovers, so there is no waste. But it also means I don’t tend to repeat the same meal within a month.  So I have also tried to use Sundays to make a big meal where I can freeze half for another time at least a month later. That should save some time during the winter blahs in terms of getting a decent dinner on the table.

Enough yakkity-yakking.

The first Sunday, I made Short Rib Pasta Sauce from How Sweet It Is.  Divine!

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Added bonus: Pizza Mike made The Pioneer Woman’s Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes. He did the batter and home and brought it here to cook and it worked just fine. An awesome treat with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (which I would have a picture of, but every time we topped one – swipe! it was gone).

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Froze half of the short rib pasta sauce for another day. While that cooked, I made garlic confit (garlic cloves roasted in 2/3 cup grape seed covered in a dish in a 250 oven for 1.5 hours – cool completely and store in airtight jar in fridge for a week), chopped parsley and cut up vegetables for salads.

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Next day, used oil and half the parsley in Garlic Walnut Pasta.

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Garlic Walnut Pasta

WHAT YOU NEED
4 TBSP garlic olive oil or just regular olive oil
1 cups walnut pieces
2 cloves minced garlic (one if you used garlic olive oil)
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan
kosher salt to taste
3/4 lb linguine

WHAT YOU DO
Prepare pasta to al dente, reseve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain. Heat oil in a frying or sauté pan.  Add walnuts and toast, stirring, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and basil and stir until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Add pasta to the pan and toss with tongs to coat.  Add cheese and stir and finish with the parsley.

Then two days later, I used the parsley and some chopped basil to make a salmon dish

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Parmesan Herb Crusted Salmon
adapted from Add a Pinch

1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 tsp garlic oil (or olive oil plus a dash of garlic powder)
salt and pepper to taste
2 6 oz salmon filets

WHAT YOU DO
Heat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place salmon skin side down on the foil and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover loosely with either foil or parchment (preferred) and bake for 10 minutes. Combine first four ingredients in a bowl until they hold together. If too loose, add a dash more oil.

Remove salmon from oven and take cover off. Press the cheese mixture onto the top until it adheres. Put back in oven for about 10 minutes more or until fish is cooked through and top is all melted. If you would like the top to brown a little more, feel free to put it under the broiler for a few minutes. Me, I’m afraid of the broiler. I feel like if I take my eyes off of it for three seconds BAM!, burnt. But you do what you need to do.

Then the next Sunday I became all things tomato. I made Pioneer Woman’s Stuffed Shells and froze half. I cooked chicken breasts.

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Then I took the chicken off the bone and shredded it. Helpful hint from How Sweet It Is. If you ever need to shred a bunch of chicken, put it in a bowl and use your hand mixer. Yep, pinky-swear it works.

final1453638603261Used the shredded chicken to make tacos (mix with cumin and chili powder or just package of taco seasoning and a dash of chicken stock if your chicken is too dry).  Add some cotija cheese or queso fresco, lettuce or slaw of your choice and a squeeze of lime and wrap in a toasted corn or flour tortilla). final1453638824493Using many of the same ingredients, made a slow cooker batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Tortilla Soup and froze half (without the tortillas or cheese in it).

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And since the slow cooker was out anyway, and by now I had bronchitis and a sinus infection – I’m so pretty!!! – I only wanted more soup so I made Two Peas and Their Pod’s Creamy Tomato Soup with Orzo  with grilled gruyere cheese sandwiches. Freezer’s getting full!

final1453642002480Used the various precut vegetables in salads or as sides. Used orzo as a side to the salmon, froze the extra and then used in the soup. Froze a lot of rice too. So in February I’ll have some freezer meals ready to go.

Speaking of February, if your potted Christmas tree from the grocery store is still going strong, rewrap that baby, add some cookie cutters and make that poor shrub feel seasonal again!

final1453638727816Yep, those are cat paws to the right. Skunk the Cat – always helping.

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Have a great week everyone.

Well, That Went By Fast

People, I cannot believe it is December 29th. What happened? There was no snow before Christmas (note – hating on the snow now). There was a Wednesday night Pizza Night. There were holidays rendered in cheese.

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Ok. I promise, that’s it. No more cheese sculptures. Until it’s time for cheese hearts, cheese shamrocks….  Although I will say that after Cheese Snowman was mangled I made a joke on Instagram about zombies and Darryl Dixon/Norman Reedus’ body double liked my picture. Swoon.

Moving on, I made a lot of different food that wasn’t cheese based. I made these easy Apricot Glazed Chicken Thighs from Shutterbean on one busy weeknight. Super fast and super delicious. Didn’t take a picture because, well, we’ve been over how my brown food photography skills are. So you’ll just have to trust me and make it soon.

This Big Italian Salad from Once Upon a Chef:

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The dressing for this salad was really good. I think it would go well with any type of salad you want. And probably fantastic during summer with freshly grown herbs.

For Christmas Eve dinner, I did what I always do, Smitten Kitchen’s Braised Short Ribs with mashed potatoes. The crowd demands it. Plus you can make it the day before.

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In the treats category, How Sweet Eats Peppermint Pattie Brownies

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Smitten Kitchen’s Easy Roasted Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts.

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Smitten Kitchen’s Mom’s Apple Cake – Guitar Boy’s favorite.

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Gluten Free Chocolate Pan Cake from King Arthur Flour. With their Easy Chocolate Frosting. It was good. LIght and fluffy. I used milk and not water as we aren’t watching dairy.

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For both Neighbors Christmas and Mac Christmas I made everyone sprinkles mix using Avery design website again.

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My favorite one was “Bears on the Glen” mix with green sprinkles on the bottom and orange and blue on the top. Get it? Fun, right? I’ll understand if you want to leave and click back over to Facebook now.

As to presents, we had a very llama/narwhal-heavy Christmas. Want some salt or pepper?  No probllama!

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And of course, Star Wars figured prominently. Went to the movie too and it was great.

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One of my favorite gifts was this handmade artwork by Fake Sister.

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Or from my Nerd collection of gifts, maybe my very-hard-to-photograph Mother of Dragons wine glasses.

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Or maybe this?

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Ah yes, just like my childhood, when my mom would make 2001: A Space Odyssey pancakes every Sunday.

There were Christmas carols at GG’s.

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And we did some Christmas Crackers this year (the English party favor kind, not the snowflake-shaped Ritz kind). Then the kids put on a musical number with bells that were in the crackers, as expertly directed by me. Well, “expertly” might be a bit of a stretch. As is “musical number.” A clanging mess just might be slightly more accurate. At least they all cooperated for the picture.

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Mmmmmngh.

So I’ll take a one day breather, and then on to New Year’s Eve, Guitar Boy’s New Year’s Day family party brunch and then some classmates coming over to celebrate his birthday with Nerf and Halo–as one does as a tween–on Saturday. There will be some Avery projects and a significant amount of puff pastry goin’ on the next few days. I’ll report back as soon as I dig out.

Have a safe and happy New Year everyone. Peace out 2015.

Fall Fall and a Little More Fall

So many Honeycrisp apples.  Decided to do an apple based dinner.  And dessert.  But no, no apple dessert because despite cleaning out the kitchen benches to allow me to see all the pans,

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leading me to believe I, in fact, owned ALL the pans, I did not have the right size pan for the apple cake I wanted to make.  Sure I could have substituted a different pan, but I didn’t. Because, math.

So dinner went on as planned otherwise with Cider Braised Chicken with Spiced Butternut Squash from How Sweet It Is.  I’ll be totally honest, I was not loving how this smelled before it went in the oven. Really strong.  So much so I was texting guests to say “I’m not sure about this so manage your expectations”.  But how dare I doubt Jessica at How Sweet It Is.  This was delicious. I didn’t use the mushrooms because mushrooms and I are not friends. But you go ahead and add them if you like.

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And as a side I did my standard Apple Walnut Salad. This is very versatile salad.  You can add almost any crunchy vegetable you like. If you don’t like blue cheese, leave it off, or substitute with goat cheese or maybe even ricotta salata.  Whatevs.

Everyday Apple Walnut Salad
WHAT YOU NEED
3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP dijon mustard
Pinch of salt and pepper
Bag of your favorite lettuce (I use Romaine)
1/2 bag of baby spinach
2 Honeycrisp apples, cored and diced
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup crumble blue cheese (optional for the haters)
Any other crunchy vegetable you want (celery, shredded carrots, jicama)

WHAT YOU DO
Mix first 5 ingredients in a jar and shake to make dressing.  Combine the remaining salad ingredients in a bowl and toss with the dressing.

So about that dessert. Having softened 12 tablespoons of butter before my discovery of my need to go to TJ Maxx/Homegoods to get a 10 inch non-springform cake pan (I HAVE to, I have no choice!), I searched for other recipes that needed 12 tablespoons of softened butter. And lo’ and behold, Cookies and Cups comes through again with Brown Sugar Pound Cake with Salty Butterscotch Sauce.

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I didn’t have time to make the sauce, so I just melted some Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce and poured in on top. I don’t think anyone stormed out in protest.

And the Halloween Block Party 2015 went off without a hitch.  I made The Pioneer Woman’s totally 80’s Bacon Appetizer. Because who doesn’t want a warm cheese coated bacon wrapped cracker on a cool fall day.  No one, no one doesn’t want that (hmm?).  There was also mummy wrapping,

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pinatas, DSC_1024 fear factor,

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tug of war,

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and bobbing for donuts.

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We had it all.  Just like Bogey and Bacall (the kids love that reference).  But mostly, we had live action Hungry Hungry Hippos.

You wish you lived here. You can admit it.

Next up, Halloween decor faves. Happy Thursday.

 

The I’ll Do it Someday Someday is Now!

Sure, some people might have days off between jobs and go away for a weekend.  A spa day perhaps?  Maybe just lounge about on the porch and read some of those eleven books stacked up on one’s nightstand?  Sure, one COULD do that. Or, presented with 10 days of no kids at home and a husband who can reach things in high places, one COULD also embark on the biggest organizing and cleaning spree since one moved in here eight years ago.  And it was done. So say we all. #Nerdfoiles.

First up, the most significant change was Drummer Boy’s room losing its nursery motif. Because he’s 9.  Yep, 9. I never said I moved with lightning speed.

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And changing colors

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To a sports/Minecraft/Art theme more suited to a boy of his maturity.

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Next up, our closet.  Before:

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After

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Yes, I know the tag is still on it. I’m gonna wear it this fall, I swear.

But oh, it gets worse. Don’t worry, we’re getting there.  Laundry room before:

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After

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photoOh dear, now we go down to THE BASEMENT. Actually, it’s been more cluttered. We recently unloaded the baby toys (like play kitchens, small vehicles) so there are lot less large items. I remember buying this house thinking, “Now we have a finished basement, so all the toys will be down there and I won’t have to stare at a mess all day”.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, woo, woo, oh.  Whew!

Anyway, the basement before:

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And after

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Behind the bar, before

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Behind the bar, after.  Why yes, we do need more can koozies.  Thank you for asking.

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And finally, the utility room. Now, by way of background for those that are new here, at the old house we had a scary, spider-filled, space between the stairs where someone could easily grab you type of basement. Thus, whenever I would accidentally go to Homegoods, I would purchase a festive red platter, enjoy it, and then send that festive red platter down to said basement. Then the next time I accidentally went to Homegoods, I’d think “Hey, I don’t have a red platter” because, you know, object permanence issues. And down to the scary Hell-mouth basement that one would go too. Tablecloths would suffer the same fate. Resulting, as some  might say, in an excess of housewares. Now, however, there is no excuse as our basement is lovely. No excuse for THIS!

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Or this tablecloth tower of doooooom:

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But, finally all is in order.  With napkins in drawers labeled by season, kitchen and hand towels bagged by holiday:

IMG_1300Tablecloths loaded into a dresser by size of the table:

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Often used items put within handy reach:

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And platters and assorted dishes organized by color. As any normal person does. Right? Normal people do that, right?!!

IMG_1283Note the number of red dishes. It was a real problem.

Along the way a number of drawers were organized (nightstand, desk), supplies were created for the holiday gift I’m going to give the neighbors (SUSPENSE – it’s only September!) and Halloween Block Party planning/organizing has begun.

But for those who only come here for the food and not the OCD ramblings of a hoarder, what were some of the food highlights I made after seven days of seven straight hours of straight up straightening up?

Made this Shrimp with Spicy Garlic Sauce from Can You Stay for Dinner.  Didn’t have green beans so I used broccoli.  Also, only used half the chili garlic sauce and it was plenty spicy for me. Did I take a picture – no, because I was too tired from all the before and aftering.

Also grilled up some very simple chicken legs.  This is a very simple, fast way to grill chicken legs with lots of flavor.

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And, the never fail Ina Garten’s Baked Potato Wedges

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The leftovers of which became Two Peas and Their Pod’s Loaded Baked Potato Frittata (fri-ta-ta – that’s a fun word to say) for dinner the following night.

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And for dessert during my unemployment period?

Kentucky Butter Cake cookies from Cookies and Cups.

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Oh, I may have also watched two entire seasons of Orphan Black at City Cousin’s insistence. Which means I also didn’t sleep very much on certain evenings.

So, ultimately, over the last two weeks we donated/gave away/boxed up for Mom’s garage sale:

  • 13 Hefty bags total of clothing and shoes
  • 4 bags of toys
  • 3 boxes of books
  • 3 boxes of ancient financial records shredded
  • 3 boxes of housewares

Buuuuuuut, nonetheless, I accidentally went to Homegoods because I had something to return (it happens!), and may have bought a new fall pillow and blanket.

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Which Skunk the Cat is totally fine with.

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Now go get your weekend on. I know I will as I have to go to the new job on Monday. There may be pumpkin bread involved.  Just sayin’

Happy Fall y’all.

A Very Late Summary of a Very Long Week

Sorry folks, had plans for an extended Labor Day barbecue post on things to grill. But then I gave notice at work and things got a little busy. Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up (name that movie).

But now, I have 10 days off between gigs.  Just wait until the before and after cleaning pictures. I’m looking at you Utility Room!!

Meanwhile,

Got a nail polish organizer for my sister.  Was thinking about enrolling it in a Crossfit class, but it turns out it’s a looker.

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My SIL and BIL stopped by on their way back from South Bend to say happy birthday to Drummer Boy.  Speaking of Drummer Boy’s birthday, uh oh, now we have actual drums.

To the Block – so sorry!

For SIL and BIL visit, we did what used to be called an “early supper” as they had a 6:00 flight.   Did the Chicken Kabobs with Tzatziki from prior post.  Also the Israeli Salad from Smitten Kitchen that has made many an appearance here.

This Strawberry Peach Rose Sangria, however, from What’s Gaby Cooking was a big hit.  Diminished the amount of basil leaves by about half, but otherwise didn’t change a thing.

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To celebrate Labor Day, I made this Apple Pie in a Glass dessert, which will also be the subject of another post on easy desserts from Trader Joe’s ingredients,

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But for those who can’t wait

WHAT YOU NEED
5 Granny Smith apples, pealed and cubed into dice
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP white sugar
1/4 cup apple juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 jar Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce
1 container vanilla ice cream
2 cups Trader Joe’s Crunchy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, crumbled

WHAT YOU DO
Mix first 5 ingredients into a pot.  Set over medium heat, covered for about 25 minutes until apples are just tender. Cool apples. Layer apples, crumbled cookies, vanilla ice cream and Salted Caramel Sauce in a glass.

Made the easy Bolognese Sauce from Bon Appetit.

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This is a good recipe if you have a little left over red wine (yes, I’ve heard that happens to some people!) I don’t use veal in this recipe just beef, because in my weird list of rules is the “no eating baby animals” rule. I know, doesn’t make sense. But it keeps the “no eating animals you can have as a pet” rule company.

When you live on The Block, this goes up over-night to celebrate Fake Sister’s Aunt’s 60th Birthday 50’s style:

final1442146624127And this cake gets made by Jen at Pastries So Tasty to celebrate the birthday girl’s first car

final1442146497355And no self-respecting 50’s style party put up overnight in the driveway would find itself without properly attired wait staff!

final1442146398625So now I’m off to clean every inch of this house while I have time off. I’ve already donated seven bags of clothes and shoes, 2 bags of toys and 3 bags of books – and it’s only Thursday.