Category Archives: Other Treats

That Escalated Quickly

How did I go from Halloween to December in a blink? Seriously, this is the first time I didn’t do a Thanksgiving wrap-up. My apologies.  The good news is everything worked out well.  I made Ted Allen’s deconstructed turkey again but just used an herb butter of my own making – 2 sticks softened, unsalted butter mixed with 1/2 of mixed chopped parsley, chives, sage, salt & pepper  – rubbed under the skin and used a little of it melted for basting.

I used this Serious Eats dry brine, much easier than wet brine. Only difference is I mixed in a little dried thyme and rubbed sage. Used Sally’s Baking Addiction Apple Cranberry Herb Stuffing. A good showing.

If I am making Chex Party Mix, Drummer Boy will walk in the house and say “mmm, smells like Christmas”.  So I thought this an appropriate party favor:

A dessert I meant to make for Thanksgiving but ran out of time, should still be made nonetheless, as it is delicious.  All the ingredients are from Trader Joe’s and it is practically a holiday in a jar.

Winter Spice Trifle

WHAT YOU NEED (all from Trader Joe’s)
triple ginger snaps
5 TBSP cookie butter
4 oz whipped cream
3 TBSP maple syrup
Fleur de sel caramel sauce

Crumble the ginger snaps into the bottom of a jar/glass.  Combine the mascarpone cheese with the cookie butter.  Beat the whipped cream and maple syrup until stiff peaks form.  Melt the caramel sauce in the microwave (top off!) until pourable.  Layer the mascarpone mixture over the cookies, top with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.   Amounts depend on the size of your jar or glass.  Guitar boy had four of these over the course of a day.  Shhh, don’t tell him it’s cheese!

So on to Christmas.  The tree themes are Rainbow (as a result of me losing the white lights vs. colored lights argument to Drummer Boy).

The ornaments follow the ROYGBIV pattern of the rainbow with admittedly copper/rose gold subbing in for orange.

Front tree is Eat, Drink and be Merry so all food, drink, and music ornaments. It may be a touch too reflective of our lives (hotdogs, donuts and Diet Coke?).  Um, can someone buy me an asparagus ornament?!

See if you can spot my new favorite Christmas tea towel.

That’s right, Batman smells has now been incorporated into our decor!

But yesterday we went to the Christkindlmarket, a very cute German market set up in both Naperville and downtown Chicago. We drank cider and cocoa out of commemorative mugs, ate bavarian pretzels and shopped for ornaments. They had loads of delicately hand-painted Santas, stockings, peaceful nativity scenes and woodland creatures. Beautiful.  So what did we get #momofboys?

That’s right, can you spot the secret Krampus on each tree?  Now I’m being lobbied for an all bad guys tree next year.  Darth Vader ornament, I think you are about to have your moment!

Trying out a few Christmas cookies this weekend.  These Brown Sugar Shortbread cookies were a big hit with the teen crowd.

Making a birthday dinner tonight for mbork of F’ing Ziti (a nod to season one of Sopranos where AJ is mad that Tony’s panic attack made him drop the leftover tray of ziti – if you are over 18 go watch it, it’s a classic).  Really it’s Penne with Two Cheeses from Epicurious, but when I first made it for Aunt Mary and Treasured Guest decades ago, we were watching Sopranos so F’ing Ziti it became.  Adding in Smitten Kitchen’s Perfect Garlic Bread because carbs were requested, so carbs will be bestowed!

Next up – Holiday Pizza Night. Have some homemade favors to share with you but more on that later.

Have a great week everyone!




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!


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.


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


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…


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.


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.


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.


Wide retriever. Heh.


Have a great week everyone.

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!!


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.


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.


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,


But for those who can’t wait

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

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.


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.

A Nod to Phineas and Ferb

In the last week before school started, the boys lamented that we hardly did anything this summer.  I think all the blog posts that precede this one might disagree.

Nonetheless, for this last week, we jammed in some swimming, tennis, multiple birthday/pool parties, Pizza Night, trying out new instruments –

piano FullSizeRender

Visiting with cousins


And, on the very last day, when surely no more fun could be had in the last throes of summer – Wizard World Comic Con!!!!

Meet the Nerdfoiles:








Ok.  Geekfest over.  What did we make for this last hurrah?

Drizzled olive oil, salt and pepper over halved cherry and grape tomatoes (from Mbork garden) and sprinkled with rosemary (from yours truly’s garden) and slow roasted them in a 275 degree oven.  Toasted slices of baguette, topped with provolone in a 350 oven and then topped with the tomatoes.


And this salad,  THIS SALAD.


This salad could be anything it wants to be if it just puts its mind to it.  Add Asian flank steak, chicken, shrimp or whatever protein you desire and it’s dinner.  Otherwise it is quite a side to grilled chicken.  It can be served room temp or cold so it would be good for a late summer block party.

Asian Noodle Salad
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Foodie with Family.  Serves 6 with some leftovers for lunch.

For the Dressing
1 whole Lime, Juiced
8 TBSP olive oil
8 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
3 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 TBSP chopped or minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1  Jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped

For the Salad
1/2 package linguine, cooked al dente (seriously, don’t overcook) rinsed and cooled – -if doing ahead toss with a dash of sesame oil and refrigerate.  Both PW and FwF called for a full pound of pasta, but I thought it was a bit much for our crew.
2/3 bag of coleslaw mix (or you can chop up 1/2 a head each of Napa and purple cabbage)
1 clamshell or 10 oz bag baby spinach
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper thinly sliced
4 green onions, white and light green parts, sliced
1 hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
6 TBSP toasted sesame seeds

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake, shake, shake until it’s all combined.

Toss all salad ingredients except sesame seeds in a bowl and toss with dressing until fully dressed (you may not need all the dressing).  Top with sesame seeds.  You could also add some peanuts or cashews if desired.

And for dessert:


Rainbow Krispie Treats

6 cups Fruity Pebbles
6 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup butter, plus more for pan
20 oz. mini marshmallows

Butter a 9×13 pan and butter a piece of parchment paper cut so there is overhang on the sides of the pan.    Melt butter over medium low heat in a large saucepan.   Once butter is melted, add marshmallows and stir until fully melted.  Add in cereal and stir until combined.   Plop it all in dish and using a butter covered spatula or the the actual wrappers from the butter, press into the pan until all flat.   Once cool, lift sides of parchment to remove and cut into uniform squares.  Use a protractor if you have to, they’ll be ruined if not uniform.  No, not really.

All in all, a really fun week to end the summer.  In between all these activities, we MAY have watched some American Ninja Warrior and played a few video games.  Someone was very tired out by all that.


Happy Back-to-School week everyone. See you on the playground.


Father’s Day 2015

A relatively mellow Father’s Day.

An awesome pulled pork/BBQ buffet by Uncle M and Aunt C.


Kane wonders if he could have some.


A certain member of the family won the “Daddy Cup” made by hand by Miss Mimi.


I made Chilled Dark Chocolate Pie with Strawberry Sauce from Oh She Glows. Gluten free and vegan. And no one misses the gluten, as the picture shows.


Baby D is on the move.


A good time was had by all. Happy Father’s Day everyone.



Spring, a Surprise Guest and Mother’s Day

I have a perpetual problem when ordering spices of thinking, “Oh, 4 ounces doesn’t sound like much”.  This mindset results in my owning an extraordinary number of light spices that don’t weigh very much.  Like this, just one of my many, many jars of bay leaves (did I say many?):


And sadly, I’m not in need of a laurel.  Anyone need a cinnamon stick?  Just ask, call any time. And well, vanilla beans fall into that category too.  However, I industriously turned 2 of them into vanilla sugar (scraping the seeds into a clean jar and adding fine sugar).

So now what to do with vanilla sugar? Since Spring began, I’ve seen a number of recipes for fools. LIke take 8 beers, combine with 2 frat boys, add a Family Guy episode, stir….  No, I mean like British fools…take 8 Pimm’s cups, combine with 2 muggles.. No, wait, I digress again.  A fool is a English dessert that combines stewed fruit and cream. I have a lot of strawberries, so I thought I’d use my vanilla sugar and strawberries and make a fool.


Strawberry Fool

4 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
1/2 cup of vanilla sugar
2 TBSP water
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Put strawberries, vanilla sugar, vanilla extract and water in a bowl and stir.  Let sit anywhere from 15 minutes to 5 hours.   Mash half the strawberries with potato masher or two forks until there are mushy bits and still whole pieces of strawberries.

Whip the cream with the powdered sugar until peaks form.  Fold in half the strawberry mixture and stir just a little bit with a spatula.   Then fold in the rest of the strawberries and only stir once.  Garnish with a sliced strawberry and mint if you have it (I didn’t). Serve with Nilla Wafers or Lorna Doones.


Had a nice surprise visit from my nephew Joe before he departs to study and work in China this summer. So we made some steaks, following the directions from Serious Eats.  I’ve mentioned in other posts, or maybe I just wrote it in my recipe binder, but yep, salting beef ahead of time works wonders. So we grilled NY strips, made Oh She Glows’ Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Aioli (yes, again) and a big ol’ salad with homemade ranch dressing from Foodie With Family.


This time I boiled and smashed the potatoes ahead of time, covered the baking sheet and kept it in the refrigerator.   At dinner time I then cooked them in the oven a little longer, about 35 minutes, flipping them half way through so both sides got crispy.  Worked great.

While I made dinner the boys and Fake Sister played soccer with Joe (sorry Joe, hope you didn’t think this would be a restful visit).

soccerv soccerN soccerm soccer4

And games about football:


And music:


I didn’t host Mother’s Day, so there are not many recipes to report on.  But who am I to let a holiday go by without an appropriate beverage? This year, it was Blueberry Bellinis from She Wears Many Hats.

Here they are in all their blueberry and bubbles glory!


Really couldn’t be easier.  Just boil the ingredients, puree with a stick blender in the pot, bring to your sister’s house.  Add to Prosecco and eat donuts.  Done and Done.

Mmmmmmmh, donuts.


A leeeetle mishap involving Alvin’s face and Aunt Colleen’s windowsill of death.   What would Mother’s Day be without a trip to the emergency room for 8 stitches on one’s lip?  Al was a trooper, didn’t even cry.


Happy Mother’s Day everyone.  May Father’s Day be stitch-free.

What Worked Well – Valentine Edition

So what did everyone make for Valentine’s Day?   Did you go with fancy (something with scallops perhaps) or a nice steak?   I went with comfort food and a joint Valentine’s Day with my sister’s family.  The more the merrier!

The Slow Braised Beef from Smitten Kitchen was easy-peasy lemon squeezy. 3 ingredients. That’s it.  4 hours.  It’s done.  Did I take a picture?  No, I didn’t.

For dessert, I made How Sweet Eats Chocolate Cream Pie. Continue reading

Welcome to Middle Christmas

So here we are midway through the festivities, with Neighborhood Pizza Night and McNamara Christmas behind us. Let’s review, shall we?

Neighborhood Pizza Night was a fine time with many food gifts made.  I made this Sriracha Salt, Middendorfs made all sorts of chocolate bark, Madly Pop’n sent Chicago Mix popcorn and the Coluntuano’s gave everyone their famous hand made tomato sauce so we have something to look forward to.  I had planned to serve this Cake Batter Chocolate Bark from How Sweet It Is, but by the time I got home from work on Friday, this is all that was left:


Looking at you, Guitar Boy!

Fortunately, our neighbors from Pastries So Tasty make cake pops!


For the record, Baker Boy made lots and lots of cake pops, but by the time I could clear the children out to get a picture, this is what was left!

And they also did this with a Christmas wine topper.  Cute!


Every year since we’ve moved here, which is also the year we acquired a digital SLR camera in an attempt to capture ANY picture of baby Drummer Boy smiling, we have created The Block book of pictures through the year.  It forces us to actually create a yearly photo book and it makes a nice gift for the neighbors. Here is the 2014 edition on top of all the others:


Speaking of gifts, in honor of this here blog, the Borkowskis gave us these awesome lucky rhino bookends.   And a gift card to TJ Maxx.   Borkowskis are enablers.


In other gift news, when you make a joke saying the boys’ band should be called Turkey’s Furcula and you have a friend like John with immense creativity (see Fake Sister’s costume in Halloween posts), a touch of OCD and a love of music, you get this from the Rehors:


That’s right, Furcula concert t-shirts.  For the whole family.  Here’s the back:


Turkey’s Furcula, with the special guest, The Cranberries.  Oh wait, such a gift would’t be complete without an magazine cover (bonus Furcula poster inside!):


In the end, all 34 people had a lovely time, and Kevin ordered…


…just the right amount of pizza.

Next day was McNamara Christmas.  At the last minute (since Thursday I was flying from LaGuardia to Chicago, so it was anyone’s guess whether I’d be home by Saturday) I made this Smoked Salmon Dip from thekitchn.  It was yummy and it tastes great with Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel Chips.

The boys went with ugly Christmas sweater theme for Mac Christmas:


And here is the whole crew:


it was basically your standard McNamara Christmas, with Irish dancing demonstrations, the cousins grab bag, and the children gathered around:


one kid playing Minecraft on an iPhone, while the rest of the family gathered around the traditional…


Danimals tree.  Yep, your basic Christmas celebration.

I hope you’ve all made a dent in your shopping and will have time to relax and enjoy the rest of the month  I just finished making the 5th batch of Chex Mix to create teacher gifts today, will move on to cookies next weekend.

Happy Middle Christmas everyone.

Thanksgiving Wrap Up

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Cheers!


Oh relax, its a pomegranate/apple juice spritzer. But Cousin Minecraft’s face does have a Dorothy Parker Algonquin Round Table “bored with you all” kind of look to him.

The Table

Because this is the smallest of McNamara/Guilfoile/Kuhn holidays, what with people going to various in-laws’ houses, we can, for this one-time only, fit at one table.

These are my new dishes that Kevin got me for my birthday.   My other ones are almost 20 years old and are starting to show their age.   I’ll still keep the ones that aren’t chipped, but I thought it was time to class things up around here.


The aforementioned salted butter:


The Final Menu


The Gravy  While the gravy made with the turkey was good, it was not that different from the gravy made two weeks ago and frozen.  Therefore, that gravy wins as it doesn’t require sweating over the stove at the last minute until your previously flat bangs turn into water buffalo horns.

The Turkey from Epicurious.  Was done even faster than the recipe said (maybe because I only did one pan, not two).

The Pumpkin Cornbread Stuffing

The Salad.  I used the dressing from this Brussels sprout slaw from The View From Great Island but poured it over butter lettuce, toasted walnuts, shredded carrots and dried cranberries.

Also Colleen & Mitch’s cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, Mom’s stuffing, corn and fruit.  So for those counting, yes, that is 3 potato dishes and 2 stuffings.  For 13 people.   Irish Thanksgiving.

Dessert Table

Chocolate Pie from the Pioneer Woman.  Guitar Boy’s comment:  My life has been changed forever.   So I think he liked it.

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats   I’d seen so many food bloggers comment on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe that I had to try them.  Plus, Drummer Boy doesn’t really like cake, pie, pudding or candy which leaves him a bit stranded in the McNamara dessert oasis.

Apple Pie – from Kirschbaum’s bakery.   Why mess with greatness.

Cranberry Orange Scones from Trader Joes – because GG likes them.

And Aunt Colleen brought brownies.   Because you can’t have only 4 desserts for 13 people!


Who Was There?


But Really, Who Was the Cutest Person There?


Why it was Colleen and Mitch’s grand-nephew, Sweet Baby D.

So what now?

Christmas is going up.  I’ll come back with a post about some of my favorite Christmas items a little later.  With respect to recipes on deck, I’ve got to take something to Rob and Nancy’s most awesome white elephant Holiday Party that we look forward to every year.  But my company’s party is the same night, so it’s going to have to be cookies that I can pre-wrap on the tray I’m giving them:


And then Kevin can just bring the cookies with him when he picks me up at the train from the company party.  Note, the tray is not our white elephant gift as it is not impractical, inappropriate, useless or hilarious. I’ll let you know what we gave/received after the party.

Here are some of the possible choices on the cookies though:

The Pioneer Woman’s Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

I’ve made them before and they are quite tasty.  However, the Chocolate Pistachio Sablés from Bon Appetit look delicious and fancy (you can tell they are fancy because of l’accent aigu over the e).    Food always tastes better with an accent aigu or accent grave.  It’s a fact.  I’m sure it’s on Wikipedia somewhere. Or it will be shortly.

If I find myself slacking off and sleeping more than 4 hours a night, I might do these wonderful, but time-intensive, Lemon Wreaths from Martha Stewart.

Now go get your weekend on!