Category Archives: Dinner

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.

 

Dry Rub Dry Run

They say practice makes perfect.  I don’t know about that, but people do seem to enjoy the practice efforts.
20161106_124906_resizedThe Kiddie Cocktails do make it go down a little easier, if ya know what I’m sayin’

First up, the turkey.  I made this Cranberry Dry Rub from Foodie with Family. The only snafu was I could not find freeze dried cranberries anywhere. So I had to oven-dry Craisins as I mentioned in a prior post. Nonetheless, I used Foodie with Family’s Turkey recipe, replacing sweet potatoes with regular and used butter instead of olive oil. Turned out great.

20161106_121008_resizedThe potatoes underneath were just so-so. But not to fear, made Smitten Kitchen’s Sweet Potato Roast. Even people who don’t like sweet potatoes liked these.

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Made Pioneer Woman’s Beautiful Brussel Sprouts. Sorry PW, it’s not you, it’s me. Just not a huge sprout fan.

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And now this.

20161106_124145_resizedHey, it is practice after all. I might add, this was the only dish completely polished off.

We finished with Smitten Kitchen’s Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious.

20161106_140441_resizedI found some gluten free gingersnaps yesterday at Whole Foods. Might try this again for McNamara Christmas. Which is what I’m practicing for today!

That’s right, I have 6 events in 45 days here. So there’s a lot of list-making and practicing coming up.  For now,  I think I’ll practice with some sangria.

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And leave you with this, from our event last night at the Museum of Science and Industry. I hope science can fix whatever is wrong with Guitar Boy’s neck.

dsc_0312Have a great week and a safe and warm Thanksgiving 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!

 

Turns Out They Don’t Make Candles That Say 103

So my grandmother turned 103 this month. Passed her drivers test. Still lives in her condo. Still likes to go to parties. Still needs help with the iPad. Still better dressed than me.

So we had a 103rd birthday party. Which required (yes, required) commemorative menu cards.

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Made easier with the Avery template design tool. I also used it to make the cake topper signs.

So, let’s get this party started with a cocktail.  An Orange Crush Cocktail from Kitchen Konfidence to be precise.

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In an official Pittsburgh Pirates Old Fashioned glass. It’s the right thing to do.

The only thing I changed was to double the orange juice and add sliced oranges. I used the suggested Olmeca Altos Tequila and though I’m not usually down with the brown liquor, it was very good.  Those with more discriminating palates than mine thought it was good neat as well.

As you can read from the menu card, we had roasted beef tenderloin which I discuss in this post. Though I didn’t use the garlic, just rubbed with olive oil and cracked pepper before putting it in the oven and made a herb sauce. We also had Waldorf Salad Cups where I used the recipe for the salad, but then used whole butter lettuce leaves and spooned some salad onto each leaf.  People were hungry so we ravaged and thus, I forgot to take a picture. Oh, well, just imagine it looked delicious.

Made this Jeweled Tabbouleh side salad.

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Jeweled Grain Tabbouleh
Adapted just barely from A View From Great Island

WHAT YOU NEED
4 cups cooked grains.  I’ve used quinoa (keeps the dish gluten free) and freekeh (the picture is freekeh). The original recipe called for 2 cups each cracked wheat and wheat berries.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 large bunch minced fresh parsley, stems removed
1 small bunch of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped  (I used half of one of those grocery store plastic containers)
1/2 English cucumber, finely diced
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup raw pistachios, rough chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, finely diced
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup Craisins or dried cherries

WHAT YOU DO
Mix the dressing by shaking the olive oil,  lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste in a jar.  Pour it over the grains and toss to combine.  Mix in the the minced parsley, mint, cucumber, and red onion.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Mix in the nuts and fruit just before serving.

And cake from Kirschbaums, because that’s how we roll in the Wes’ Subs.

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A little help from some of the great grandchildren.

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Baby D recommends the frosting as a side dish. And a way to power through no-nap all the way until 9 p.m.

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But the true frosting on the cake was GG’s grandchildren and great grandchildren teaching her to use Snapchat.  This is her skeptical reaction to seeing this essential piece of technology:

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But then she got more comfortable breathing fire.

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But perhaps most disturbing was the face swap with P.

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But, in the end, everyone was satisfied.

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Very satisfied.

Have a great week everyone.

 

And, it’s Summer.

So, the last couple of months were a blur.  Grab a beverage of your choice and let’s catch up.

So, as promised lo’ those many months ago, the photo from the TV Trivia Night school fundraiser. Our table’s theme was Saturday Night Live and I think we can all agree, we brought it!

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Including the wine labels made just for the occasion.

SNL bottles

Made this dish about four Sundays ago. It’s Smitten Kitchen’s Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka and it couldn’t be easier. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a dish with minimal oversight and mess.

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The only thing I did differently is subbed carrots for cauliflower. Because cauliflower is one of the few vegetables I just can’t stand. Yeah, that’s right all you “but you haven’t tried cauliflower pizza crust yet – then you’ll love it” people.  No, I won’t love it because I’ll pass out from the smell of grinding it into a “dough”.  So just leave it alone. We’re done here.

I’m in a big tumeric phase.  It’s a great, natural anti-inflammatory and since I had pneumonia a couple of weeks ago (yep, why catch any old cold when you fly.  Go big, I always say!!!) I’ve also been making this tumeric “tea”. Very soothing.

Tumeric Tea

Combine 1/8 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp tumeric, 1 TBSP honey, juice of 1/2 a large lemon (or to taste) and 6 oz. boiling water.  Stir to dissolve everything.  And when you are home by yourself, no one argues with you about who got the Yoda mug “last”.

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We had another successful School of Rock show – Aerosmith.  With a special appearance by a Duxbury Cousin.

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Drummer Boy’s tattoos still haven’t worn off.  Should I be concerned about what those are made of?!

So within two months it went from cold and rainy, one day of 60 degrees (aka, Spring) and now it is summer.  And not just any summer, last day of elementary school for Guitar Boy.  Off to junior high next year *this computer got something in my eyes again*

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But the last day of school was followed quickly with the hallowed tradition of Pet Parade!  We’ve been making Drummer Boy and Singer Girl take the same picture every year since they were babies.

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They have been getting only marginally more tolerant of it in the last 9 years.

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So what was on deck tonight?

Making the Greek Flank Steak and Hummus Platter from How Sweet It Is.  Made it a couple weeks back and liked it so much we’re doing it again.

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The only thing I did different is no olives (see also, cauliflower) and I made some homemade Skordalia.  It’s delicious thinned out as a dip for naan, as I did, or leave it a thicker mash as a side dish.

Skordalia

WHAT YOU NEED

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tsp kosher salt
6 cloves garlic (I used Trader Joes crushed and frozen)
3/4 cups slivered almonds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP Champagne vinegar (you could probably substitute white wine vinegar)
2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water or reserved potato water
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

WHAT YOU DO

Place peeled potatoes in a pot and cover with water.  Add the teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer about 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are completely tender.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the potato water if you can.  Let potatoes cool.

Put almonds, garlic and olive oil in a food processor and process to a paste.

Mix, mash or put potatoes through a ricer (that’s what I did).   Add the oil mixture, lemon juice, vinegar and mash.  Add water or reserved potato water a little at a time until you get the consistency you like.  Mix in salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with grilled naan or pita chips as a dip, or just like mashed potatoes as a side.

And you see that cup in the lead picture.  I may have accidentally gone to Tuesday Morning where they had these Napa Style cups.  So I then accidentally made a Strawberry Basil Mule.

Strawberry Basil Mule

WHAT YOU NEED (for 2 drinks)

1 cup frozen strawberries
3 oz vodka (I used Tito’s)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 TBSP Agave nectar or simple syrup
6 sliced fresh strawberries
10 oz chilled ginger beer or ginger ale
2 springs basil

WHAT YOU DO

Tear off a leaf of basil and tear the leaf. Run it around the rim of the glasses to release the oil.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the frozen strawberries, a handful of ice cubes, the lemon juice, the agave and vodka.  Shake until cold and combined then strain into two glasses.  Add fresh strawberries and top with ginger beer.  Add the remaining basil sprigs.

And summer vacation begins. As Phineas and Ferb say, the annual problem for our generation, is finding a good way to spend it. Find your best way.

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.

Thanksgiving to Christmas in 37 Hours

Well another Thanksgiving in the books. This one with the oven going berserk three (3) times while turkey was in. First, beeping uncontrollably until we had to throw the breaker.  Second, decided to go into Sabbath mode (who knew?!) where it holds only the last temperature so that people don’t have to turn on the ovens during Sabbath.   Except the last temperature was now about 40 degrees lower than it needed to be to finish the turkey.  And finally, one more combo beeping/Sabbath mode until the breaker was thrown again.

Thankfully the turkey was at a safe temperature to remove to rest, so I shoved those stuffings in before my oven taught me any new religious holidays and told everyone NOT to open the oven doors until I was sure the stuffing was cooked. There is clearly a curse on me related to ovens as this is the 4th oven in 16 years in houses. Each one pulling antics like this until we gave up/it stopped working.  Perhaps I should have heeded the warning from the gypsies after all.

Anyhoo.

Made a cheese turkey. Because we all need a cheese turkey in our lives.

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Did the deconstructed turkey again but used the Martha Stewart Bacon Herb Roasted Turkey Breast recipe and just put the butter mixture under the skin of each piece.  Did the Pumpkin Cornbread Sausage stuffing from last year and Pioneer Woman’s Thanksgiving Stuffing for the traditionalists. Made the cranberry sauce from my practice Thanksgiving post, Ina Garten’s Honey Orange Glazed Carrots and mashed and sweet potatoes. And buttered noodles, because my kids still eat no food.

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Yep, that’s two can shaped cranberry lumps. That my kids will eat.  And Bobby Flay’s Fall Sangria. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It definitely has a lot of fall flavors and is very pretty.

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Did the tables with this cute runner from Kitch Studios,
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Lots of fall colors, cute teensy vases from POSH (that’s like Fishs Eddy to you New Yorkers), flowers buried in fresh cranberries, and of course, chocolate turkeys.

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A good time was had by all.

DSC_0144Especially this dapper gentleman,

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Who Skunk the Cat could not bring himself to acknowledge.

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Someone just needs to be the cutest thing in the house all the time. #selfabsorbedcat

For dessert I wimped out (new job people! No time for baking). And besides, when I have the head baker from Pastries So Tasty living next door, I’m not going to do apple and blueberry pies any better. But I can pour cheese and caramel popcorn into a bowl like nobody’s business. Just like the Pilgrims did.

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No one complained. Packed up leftovers in these containers I made with Avery labels at their design site.

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Super easy to use, I highly recommend it. There’s lots of pre-made designs to choose from or you can design your own (FORESHADOWING!!!).

So that was Thursday.  By Friday at 3:00, this was happening

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Theme on this tree (family room) is red, gold and music.

DSC_0176 DSC_0168 DSC_0180Front room skinny tree is decked in green and silver,
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And the basement tree is an homage to the upcoming Star Wars VII movie. I assume you all have your tickets already like we do. Right? *crickets*   #Nerdfoiles

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We made the garland using Avery labels and silver cord. I’m telling you, it is ridiculously easy. You’ll see this again in upcoming posts (MORE FORESHADOWING!!!!).

And finally, The Simp…..sons Christmas Village.  “Um, Dasher, Dancer….Prancer, Nixon…Comet, Cupid…Donna Dixon?”  “Sit down Simpson”

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Jealous, much?

I hope everyone gets to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season. I’ll be back with some treat ideas in the near future. With labels!!

 

From Halloween Roundup to
Practice Thanksgiving

For those who live in Chicago-land, it was your typical, rainy and cold Halloween. Followed immediately by a week of gorgeous 70 degree days. D’oh!

The rain didn’t stop the intrepid Green Arrow and Coke Can though, joined by their friend the Jawa.
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or spooky porch decorations from being up, complete with fog bubbles

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or dads from The Block, providing images that nightmares are made of.

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Post trick-or-treating we came back here for some chili, Smitten Kitchen’s Easy Baked Mac-and-Cheese (I didn’t take a picture, so just imagine….mac and cheese) and of course, pizza.  We had a kids drink station, complete with haunted lamp and Sprite with brain ice-cubes (oh the things you find when you clean up your utility room after eight years!).

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Mbork made spooky deviled egg eyeballs

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We made Halloween chocolate covered pretzels with bloody eyes (as one does)

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And we also had this Hot Maple Bourbon Cider from Foodie with Family. Delicious. What is wrong with me, why do I suddenly like the hint of bourbon? Oh, no! I’m old!

Ok, that’s done. NEXT!

On to Practice Thanksgiving. Here is what was tried:

The Pioneer Woman’s basic Thanksgiving stuffing.

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Food 52’s Andouille and Cornbread Stuffing and Martha’s Bacon and Herb Turkey Breast.

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Yep, bacon in your turkey. That’s a thing.

Food and Wine’s Maple Ginger Roasted Vegetables. I only did carrots and Brussel sprouts because that’s what I had. And at the last minute, and because there was clear demand for the can-shaped cranberry relish *now with more can ridges!*  I decided to use the leftover cranberries from the stuffing to make a fresh cranberry sauce. I’ve done all sorts cranberry sauces with a bevy of fancy ingredients over the years: orange zest, Grand Marnier, ginger, citrus, etc. Yet this sauce won over even the most die hard non-cranberry eater next door.

Easy Cranberry Sauce

WHAT YOU NEED (for 5 adults)
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

WHAT YOU DO
Combine all ingredients in a pot.  Cook about 10 minutes until cranberries burst, stirring frequently. Crush the cranberries with your spoon, but leave some whole.  It will thicken naturally.  That’s it.  All in, you’re talking about 15 minutes. No tubular plop sound and it lacks the slicing precision of the canned stuff, but delicious nonetheless.

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While some liked the andouille sausage and cornbread stuffing, we didn’t think it was right for the Thanksgiving vibe.  So Pioneer Woman wins that round. The turkey is a keeper, though if I do a deconstructed turkey again, that means putting the bacon butter compound into all the pieces. But, then again, gravy flavored like bacon. Soooo…….yes.

And now, this.

IMG_1798Have a great week everyone.

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.