"Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived."
-Jean Luc Picard

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shoppin' at the Ultra-Super-Duper-Gigantico-MegaMart

Mama Hairball sent us a generous gift card for Christmas this year. [Sandra Lee] Whoot!! [/Sandra Lee] We opened it a week before Christmas and decided to wait till now to go shopping as being surrounded by stressed out Christmas shoppers puts both of us in a really bad mood.

So today we had a late lunch/early dinner at a local deli, returned books to the library, updated our car registration with our new address, and went to the Ultra-Super-Duper-Gigantico-MegaMart (USDGMM). Hells bells, if it was that busy when we arrived today at the USDGMM, did we narrowly miss something like this!?!

So we grabbed a cart, did our stretches and jumped into the fray. So what exciting things did we buy today? We bought some candy canes that were on clearance, a lamp, a lampshade, one of those things that turns on lights when it gets dark, a ceramic crock and stand for bottled water, a plastic storage container, a silicone BBQ brush, a plug in LED light strip for under the kitchen counter, and a bathroom shelving unit. We had a few other things in mind that we were unable to find at our local USDGMM. We talked about maybe going across town to the other USDGMM but, an old injury of mine was starting to hurt so we decided to call it quits for the day.

Tomorrow I'll make some spaghetti and if you are interested in more details about that, then skip down to the last paragragh of this earlier post. *smacks head* In reading over the post I am linking to, I realized that I should be more specific about the garlic bread. Please don't put any almond paste, ricotta cheese, or bizarre extracts on your bread! *grins*

The shrikes are chuckling right now and the rest of you are scratching your heads. Have a good week!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

The day after Christmas

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas had a wonderful day yesterday!

I did end up including celery in the dressing and Mr. Hairball said it was good. I decided not to put the dressing in the crock pot as I was looking forward to that nice crunchiness that the top layer gets in the oven. I should have put a little more broth on it though since I included some leftover cornbread I had saved in the freezer and decided to go ahead and bake it in the oven. Since I only have one oven, I had to wait till the turkey came out and baked the dressing while the turkey rested. I normally let the turkey rest about 30 minutes as I get everything else finished/plated/reheated. Yesterday it took me a little longer to get everything done, so the turkey ended up resting for about 45 minutes. Mr. Hairball said it was the best turkey he ever had and didn't even want any gravy on it! The man loves his gravy so this was truly stunning news. So from now on I'm going to let the turkey rest that long. It was very moist and juicy so I must have done something right! :)

Here's the link to my original post in case you have no idea what I am talking about

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Prepping for Christmas dinner

I'm getting a late start today on cooking as I'm feeling a little under the weather. My throat is feeling kinda sore and scratchy right now. I really hope I don't wake up sick tomorrow! Anyway, today I will :

make a pumpkin pie
start the bread
make the cornbread for the dressing
make the cranberry orange relish
check to see that the turkey is defrosting okay and isn't leaking all over the refrigerator

I forgot to say that I altered the dressing recipe to include celery like in the original recipe. Let's see if Mr. Hairball objects! He's very picky about what cooked vegetables he will eat. Sometimes I just make whatever vegetable I want and he eats his usual salad. I have to remind myself to include salad on the menus I write out as we usually have a big container all washed and ready to go in the refrigerator. Because of that, I don't think about it as something I need to prepare for a certain meal so I forget to include it.

My MIL sent us an Aerogarden for Christmas so we will be eating more fresh herbs in the coming year. I'm excited as I usually just use dried as not having a garden means that we have to buy any fresh herbs and that quickly gets expensive!

Here's the post where I discuss Christmas dinner if you want more details about the menu- clicky

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sandra Lee's Holiday Special 2008

First off, if you are ever in need of a dose of Semi-Homemade snark, then please head over to TWoP and read the Semi-Ho board.

Thoughts on this special:
I watched this twice now and also read all the comments about this special at TWoP to help remind me of everything she did. I've never understood why on her specials it appears that her poor guests have to wait around while she makes everything. What would make sense would be to show us the prep, tell us what order to make the food in, when we need to start cooking so the guests have something to eat when they arrive, and then show us some shots of the guests mingling and eating the food.

The cocktails: Um, she's a lush and should just start mainlining the stuff and be done with it. If you doubt me then watch this video featuring her cocktail tree from a show she did in '06. Thanks to Rosie Hawthorne for the video!

Cranberry Glazed Turkey
I love turkey and cranberries but that poor turkey looked so pale before she put the glaze on! I have to cover up my turkey for part of the cooking time or else it gets way too brown. Ugh.

I can't believe I'm saying this but the Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms would probably be pretty good. I think it would be better with homemade cornbread but, compared to some of her other creations this is a big improvement!! You do need to serve this with plates and forks as
this is not a good choice for finger food.

Potato Leek Fondue Soup Well we've got canned potatoes and canned potato soup so it looks like Sandy is back! Since she's now shilling for Ore-Ida, wouldn't this have been a good opportunity to use their product and this recipe?

Sweet Potato Souffles Um, these are not souffles. They are sweet potatoes with marshmallow fluff on them just call it that and be done with it.

Cappuccino "Cup" Cakes Okay, I'm not a fan of Cool Whip or cake mix but, this would be good with some tweaking. Make up your own favorite yellow cake batter and leave off the Cool Whip and use fresh whipped cream or even Reddi-Whip. Why there is an emphasis on making pretty swirls in the batter when the top will be covered up with the Cool Whip or whipped cream?

Brown Butter Almond Brussels Sprouts
I hate Brussels sprouts! Wasting butter and almonds on this recipe saddens me and using almond extract on Brussels Sprouts has me mystified.

Holiday Wreath Cupcakes

*Whimpers* Make it stop! So chocolate cupcakes and muffins are interchangeable? Canned icing? Crumpled aluminum foil? Fruit rollups?? How do you eat the darn thing without getting it all over yourself??

There's no room for the food after she got through with her tablescapin'. *confused*

It's arts and crafts time !!

A few years ago I made myself a small microwavable rice filled pad to heat up for my feet, back, etc. The design was very simple, just a rectangle made from a queen size pillow case folded up a few times, filled up halfway with uncooked rice and sewn shut. The rice could flow freely within the pillow so if I wanted it flat, I had to put it down and smooth it out with my hands. Since at that time I wanted it to be versatile, this was fine. Now I have decided I need a different design more suited to keeping both the top and bottom of my feet warm in the winter while I'm at my computer desk.

I'm not very good at explaining my design so go grab a hand towel, lay it on the floor, put your feet on it about an inch from one of the short ends, and then fold up the end farthest away from you so it covers up the top of your feet. Got that? Now imagine that the towel is sectioned off into several sections and has rice inside with more rice on the part that is underneath your feet. The width is such that the sides will overlap when the pad is folded over the top of your feet but the sides will not be sewn together to create a pocket.

Be sure to insert your pad into a clean pillowcase to keep it clean as you would need to remove all the rice before you could wash it if something got on the rice pad. Anyway, just thought I'd share if anybody is trying to save on their heating bills and still keep their feet warm this winter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Songs and cookies!!

From one of Mr. Hairball's favorite Christmas shows, The Year Without a Santa Claus

I've always liked Clarice for not freaking out when she discovers that Rudolph is different from the other reindeer. She's so much wiser than the adults who go bonkers and tell him to wear that ridiculous fake nose so he will look just like everybody else.

Once again, I like the message that the so called "misfits" find homes where they are loved and accepted just as they are. I've always felt like a misfit myself so I choke up a little when I see this scene.

I haven't baked as much this Christmas as some of you have. I enjoy seeing the vast variety of goodies and honestly I've had a hard time picking only a few recipes to make. Earlier this week I made sugar cookies and buckeyes. Both recipes turned out great. I didn't have any colored sugar for the top of sugar cookies so mine are not as pretty as Rosie's but, they are tasty!!

Happy weekend everyone!

Country Butter

I found this recipe years ago in a book that is sadly now out of print. When I get all my books unpacked again, I'll try to remember to update this with the correct source. Edited to add: The source is Cheaper & Better Homemade Alternatives to Storebought Goods by Nancy Birnes.

Country Butter

1 lb softened butter or margarine--- I always use butter.
1 cup vegetable oil--- I use extra light olive oil.
1 cup buttermilk-- I use powdered buttermilk and add the water in with the oil.

Unwrap the softened sticks of butter or margarine and place in a mixing bowl or your food processor. If using your mixer, begin beating the butter or margarine till it is fluffy and *slowly* add the buttermilk and oil. Continue beating until it is nice and smooth.

If using your food processor, place all of your ingredients in the work bowl.

Then add the lid and process until smooth. Scrape it out into the covered container of your choice and store in the refrigerator.

This will keep for about a month in the refrigerator. Use as you would any commercial butter or margarine spread that comes in a tub. I don't recommend baking with it as you will likely be disappointed with the results.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu for 12/15/2008

Mr. Hairball has requested that I make him some crusty bread that is good for dipping into olive oil. With that request in mind, I have put together the following menu:

Pasta with walnut sauce topped with skillet roasted chicken, salad, and cuban bread with seasoned olive oil for dipping

Nigella Lawson's Pasta with walnut sauce
6 ounces shelled walnuts
1/2 clove garlic, minced ( I add several more cloves)
1 slice bread, crusts removed
2/3 cup whole milk
1 ounce grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil (preferably Ligurian)
Salt and pepper
2 pounds any flat short pasta
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Put a large saucepan of water on to boil, and toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan until they begin to make a nutty aroma. Put the bread in a bowl and cover with the milk. Put most of the toasted walnuts (reserving about 1 ounce for garnish) into a blender along with the garlic, bread soaked in milk, and Parmesan. Blend until it turns smooth and creamy, then pour in the oil and season well with salt and pepper before blending again.

Pour into a bowl, and set aside. Add pasta to boiling water with salt and cook for the required amount of time. When pasta is al dente, reserve a cup of the pasta cooking liquid and then drain the pasta, but put it in to a large bowl while it's still dripping slightly with water. Sprinkle a little olive oil over the pasta to prevent it sticking together, and then add the walnut sauce, mixing it into the pasta (splash in a little pasta cooking liquid to make the sauce less thick if needed). Roughly chop the remaining walnuts and toss them over the top along with some more Parmesan and the chopped parsley.

Skillet roasted chicken- source unknown
The original recipe called for bone-in and skin-on chicken breasts and then you made a white wine based sauce for the chicken. I decided that I liked the chicken but preferred other sauces so I just started combining the chicken with other sauce recipes till I found ones I liked. Also, after trying this recipe with boneless skinless breasts, I decided that I preferred the harder texture of the exterior of the boneless breasts after roasting when combined with something like the walnut sauce. YMMV.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch strips
salt and pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil ( I usually need more than this)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450F. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a 12 inch ovenproof skillet*** over high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and cook until light golden brown on both sides. Place the skillet and chicken in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and cut into the thickest piece to make sure it is cooked through. Cut up chicken into bite size pieces and place on top of the pasta with walnut sauce before you add the reserved walnuts, Parmesan and parsley.

*** If you don't own an ovenproof skillet, then use a preheated metal baking dish for the oven portion of the recipe. If you don't own a large enough skillet to brown all the chicken at one time, do it in batches.

Cuban Bread-recipezaar.com
1¼ hours | 25 min prep 2 loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
2-4 cups white flour
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)

Mix the 2 cups whole wheat and 2 cups of the white flour together. Add the yeast, the sugar, and the salt.Pour in the hot water and beat for 100 strokes (or 3 minutes with a mixer).Stir in the rest of the flour until it is no longer sticky. Knead it for 8 minutes.Put the dough in a metal bowl that you have sprayed with cooking spray.Cover it with a damp towel.Let it rise for 15 minutes.Punch it down.Divide it into 2 pieces. Shape each piece into a round loaf and put them on a baking sheet that you have sprayed with cooking spray. Cut an x in the top of each loaf. If you want you can brush the top with water and put sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top.Put the pan on the middle rack of a cold oven.Put a pan of boiling water on the bottom shelf. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes or until it is deep golden brown.
Note: If you want to use your food processor, put all the dry into the bowl. Turn it on and slowly add the water until the dough forms a ball. Let it spin 20 times. *** Be careful with using your food processor with this recipe. Mine was straining a bit at the end.

Garlic and butter rice

Mr. Hairball loves rice and used to be addicted to the boxed rice mixes. I would try to get them as cheaply as possible through watching for sales and using coupons but, I really wanted to learn how to make them myself. Unfortunately I don't remember the source of the recipe so I am unable to give credit where credit is due.

I'm estimating how much garlic I use as I no longer refer to the recipe as it's in my head after years of making it. I just start chopping garlic till it looks right. There have been times when I was sure I'd used too much garlic and he would hate it but, he always wolfs it down. If you are not a huge garlic person then please start with 1-2 cloves and try adding more the next time you make this if you want more garlic.

Garlic and butter rice
2/3 cup long grain white rice
1/3 cup spaghetti or angel hair broken up into 1 inch pieces
6 cloves minced garlic
2 TBs butter or margarine (or 1 TB butter or margarine and 1 TB light olive oil)
2 cups chicken broth ( you can use beef or vegetable if you prefer)
2 TBs Dried parsley

Brown the first three ingredients in the butter or butter/olive oil mixture over medium heat until the rice and pasta is light golden brown. Stir frequently. ( If you like your garlic a little more toasty, then start with the garlic in your butter or butter/olive oil mixture and add the rice and pasta after the garlic has started to turn golden.) Add your chicken broth and parsley and turn heat to high and heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until rice is tender (15-20 minutes for long grain white rice). Let the rice stand for 5 minutes then stir it all together. I don't usually think it needs salt because of the broth but, be sure and taste it and add salt or pepper or whatever else you think it needs.

Variation: I sometimes add some cooked wild rice to this. I make up a pot of wild rice according to the directions on the package and divide it up into 1/2 cup portions, place in containers and freeze. Then when I am ready to make the garlic and butter rice, I pull one of the wild rice containers out of the freezer when I start making the recipe and then dump the wild rice in the pot just before the lid goes on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Dinner

Well I went through my recipes today and found what I'll need for Christmas dinner. I seriously need to go through all my recipes and organize everything so it's easier to find. Since I'm only cooking for two people, the menu will be scaled down as I must have adequate room for storing all the leftovers. So we picked out what to us are the foods we would really miss and include just those. Decide for yourself what those foods are when planning out your own menu if you are doing all the cooking and storing at your home.

This is also pretty much my menu for Thanksgiving when we are at home and not in the process of moving!! So if I get lazy and don't get my recipes all organized in the coming year, then I can just check my blog for them.

Christmas Dinner Menu

Special Roast Turkey with gravy

Cornbread-Bacon-Walnut Dressing

Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Loaves O' Gold


Traditional Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream

Please note that these recipes have been collected and sometimes adapted from various recipes over the years. If I know the original source I will tell you and show you where I do something different. Now onto the recipes!

Special Roast Turkey- this is from the cooking magazine Taste of Home

1 12-14 pound turkey
2 cups water
2.5 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups orange juice- divided
4 Tablespoons soy sauce- divided
1 Tablespoon chicken bouillon granules- divided
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Orange Giblet Gravy
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water

Place turkey on a greased rack in a roasting pan. Add water, giblets, and neck to pan. Combine 1 1/4 cups broth, 3/4 cup orange juice, and 2 Tablespoons soy sauce; pour over turkey. Combine bouillon, onion and garlic powder; sprinkle over turkey. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 3 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes. When turkey begins to brown, cover lightly with foil. Remove giblets and neck when tender; set aside for gravy. Combine remaining broth, orange juice, and soy sauce. Remove foil from turkey; pour broth mixture over turkey. Bake 30 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees. For gravy, remove meat from neck and discard the bones. Chop giblets and neck meat; set aside. In a sauce pan, combine 2 cups pan juices, broth, orange juice, and Worcestershire sauce; mix well. Stir in thyme, sugar, and pepper. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Whisk into broth mixture; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in reserved giblets and neck meat. Carve turkey, serve with gravy.
****I used to baste the turkey as directed but I don't anymore.
Also, I used to just cook the turkey according to time instead of temperature which is obviously not the best way . The recipe calls for cooking the turkey to 180F which is considered overkill from what I've read. This is the first year I had one of those cool meat thermometers that you can use in the oven and run the cord out the door. I inserted the probe into the breast and roasted the bird till it reached 170F . Then, I pulled off the foil I had used to cover the bird after it started to brown and let it roast another 20 minutes or so uncovered to finish browning the skin. Next, I removed the turkey from the oven and let it rest while I baked the dressing and made the gravy. Letting it sit and rest for that half-hour is something that happened accidentally one year and I was pleased with the results, so I have continued to let it rest like that. I don't put the giblets or neck meat in the gravy and if I'm afraid I'll run low on gravy, I *gasp* make up a packet of turkey gravy mix according to directions, and mix it in with the gravy I've just made. I'm usually not a fan of powdered gravy mixes, but when made up and mixed with good homemade gravy, I think they are an okay way to stretch the gravy.

Here's the plan for Christmas 2009:
I'll roast the turkey until it starts to brown and then cover it with foil as the recipe says. Next, I'll take off the foil when it hits 160F, roast uncovered till the temperature hits 165, then remove from the oven and let it rest for a half-hour.

Here's the recipe I adapted my dressing recipe from with my changes after the recipe. The original recipe is from
"Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook" by Betty Groff

Cornbread-Bacon Stuffing
6 slices
1/2 cup chopped
1 cup chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups cornbread, cut into cubes

Fry the bacon in a large, heavy skillet until crisp. Remove bacon, drain on paper towels, and crumble. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Saute the onion, celery and parsley in the fat over medium heat until the onion is clear, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, cornbread cubes, and crumbled bacon, mix thoroughly. Pour into a buttered baking pan and bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 35 minutes or until it pulls away from the sides of the baking pan.

**** Mr Hairball dislikes chopped onion so I either have to use onion powder, or chopped shallots or garlic instead. He really loves garlic! My family always puts pecans in their dressing. Walnuts are cheaper for me so I frequently use walnuts instead of pecans. So with that in mind I altered the above recipe to work with what I had on hand and came up with...****

Cornbread-Bacon-Walnut Dressing

6 slices bacon
5 cloves chopped garlic
1 cup chopped celery
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 1/2 cups chicken broth ( use more if you like a wetter dressing)
One nine inch pan or skillet of your favorite cornbread recipe made in advance and crumbled up

Fry the bacon in a large skillet till crisp. Remove bacon from pan, drain on paper towels, and crumble when it is cool enough to handle. While bacon is cooling, saute the chopped garlic, celery, dried parsley, and walnuts in the bacon grease over medium heat until the garlic is a very light golden brown. Now, if your skillet big enough to hold everything, add the broth, cornbread, and bacon and mix well. If you don't have a big enough skillet then just put the crumbled cornbread and bacon in a large bowl and pour the garlic- broth mixture over it and mix it up well with a big spoon. Put the dressing in a buttered casserole dish and bake it uncovered at 350 F for 30-35 minutes. Can also be cooked in a crockpot on low for 4-6 hours if you are running out of oven space. Please note that if you cook it in the crockpot, the walnuts will turn very dark but, will still taste the same.

Cranberry-Orange Sauce- I got this at the Food Network's website. It's Tyler Florence's recipe.

2 (8-ounce) packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 orange, zest cut into strips and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature or cool and refrigerate. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.
**** You may need to adjust the amount of sugar. Add your sugar slowly and be sure and taste it until you have the sweet/tart balance that works for you.****

Loaves O'Gold

This is a recipe clipped out of a newspaper that I found while going through my late grandmother's recipes.Whoever sent it to her wrote this at the top: "You can make these into rolls too- Everyone here is wild about them". I don't know exactly how old the recipe is, but on the back of it, there's an ad for disposable diapers for $ 1.39! I haven't made this before but I am bravely going to try it for Christmas dinner. Be sure and read over this one carefully as you need to start this the day before.

1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup milk
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tsps salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup enriched yellow corn meal
4 1/2- 5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm water

Dissolve yeast in the 1/4 cup lukewarm water. Set aside. Scald milk and pour over sugar, salt, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Cool to lukewarm. Add cornmeal, 1 cup of the flour, and the softened yeast . Cover; place in a warm place ( about 80 degrees) about 16 hours to ferment.

Stir in 1 cup of the flour and the remaining 1 cup lukewarm water. Cover; let stand an additional 2 hours in warm place.

Add enough additional flour to form a soft dough. Knead on floured board or canvas until smooth, about ten minutes. Divide into 6 parts. Shape each to form a small loaf of bread. Place on a greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Cover; let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until nearly double in size. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with butter.

Traditional Pumpkin Pie - This was on a can of Kroger brand canned pumpkin puree.

1 (15 oz) can Kroger Pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can Kroger Sweetened Condensed milk
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
Whipped topping and nuts optional
1 (9") unbaked refrigerated pie crust

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients, mixing well. Pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes at 425 F. Reduce oven tempurature to 350 F and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool pie before cutting. Garnish with whipped topping and nuts, if desired. Refrigerate any leftovers.
*** The only thing I do differently is instead of using the can of sweetened condensed milk, I add the following :

1 cup dry milk powder
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup warm water
3 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine

Mix well so that you don't have bits of undissolved powdered milk in your pie.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Sandra Lee drives me completely bonkers

I temporarily have cable TV right now and I could not resist this opportunity to see that crazy loon Sandra Lee. I'm embarrassed to say I hope I still have access to cable TV on the 15th as she's doing another one of her infamous specials and I really want to see what insanity she's managed to come up this time. *hangs head in shame*

Uh, if your cake to frosting ratio is 1:1 you are doing something wrong. After seeing this, I immediately went over to Television Without Pity to read the Semi-Homemade board to enjoy some fresh snark. *sob* I've really missed the company of like-minded people.

Next up is her infamous Kwanzaa Cake which has been reworked to become her Fall Harvest Cake . Please note that what she called acorns in the video are actually corn nuts. See that blue cake with the star on it to the left of your screen? That is her Star of Hanukkah/Star of David cake which has non-Kosher marshmallows stuffed in the hole of the angel food cake. Later in the episode this cake was on her "tablescape" with a baked ham. Gah!!

I have just found a video that shows her Hanukkah/Star of David cake. The video quality is not the highest but, I'm glad to have it to show to you.

I rest my case. Good day everyone.

edited to add: When I originally posted this, the links to the recipes at the Food Network's website were not working. They are currently working so here are the links:
Star of David Angel Food Cake
Kwanzaa Celebration Cake

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cinnamon rolls, Christmas parties, baking, etc...

Wow! I can't believe it's been over a week since my last post. I've been busy unpacking and getting ready for Christmas. We went to a Christmas party last Saturday night that one of Mr. Hairball's colleagues was hosting. The place was packed and we were told that the turnout was unusual. We had a great time and they did one of those games where everyone brings a small gift and then you draw numbers and can pick an unwrapped gift or steal one from someone else. It's funny to see grown people going nuts for stuff like Hot Wheels and and guns that shoot rubber bands!! *grins*

While mingling, I heard a younger guy talking about how he had never eaten a sugar cookie made from scratch. This made me feel very sad as I do think our "modern and enlightened" way of life is slowly killing off the recipes of the past. I showed up at a potluck once with a homemade cake and had trouble convincing someone that I really did make it from scratch. The woman asked me what brand cake mix I used as she wanted to make it herself. I told her I didn't use a mix and she looked very confused at the concept of baking without mixes. *sighs*

This topic has inspired me to do some baking this week. Yesterday I made a batch of cinnamon rolls and will make another batch tomorrow. These are the old fashioned kind ( no whack-a-dough!!) with yeast, butter, cinnamon, nuts, coffee and maple flavoring. The recipe won a baking contest years ago before whack-a-dough and baking mixes became the default. It's *not* my recipe nor a family recipe but, it's the only cinnamon roll recipe I've made for the last 13-15 years.

Grandma's Cinnamon Rolls

5 ½ to 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided

½ cup sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup. (1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 (1/4 oz.) pkgs. Quick rising active dry yeast ( 2 1/2 tsps )
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 c. water
2 eggs
No-stick cooking spray
Maple Glaze, recipe follows
Nut Filling, recipe follows

In large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt, mix well.

In small saucepan, heat milk, water and 1/3 cup butter until warm, butter does not need to melt entirely. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, add egg. Blend at low speed of electric mixer until moistened, beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, 5-8 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place until light and doubled, about 30 minutes. Spray 2 (13x9 inch) baking pans with non-stick cooking spray. Punch down dough, divide in half. On lightly floured surface, roll or pat each half into a 12x9 inch rectangle. Brush each part with half of the melted butter; sprinkle half of nut filling over dough. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly and pinch edge to seal. Cut each into 12 slices; place in prepared baking pans.

Cover; let rise in warm place until almost doubled, about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Drizzle Maple Glaze over hot rolls, cool slightly and remove from pans.

¾ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped nuts

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; mix well.

2 cups powdered sugar
½ tsp. maple flavored extract
3 T. butter, melted
3 to 4 T. hot coffee

In small bowl, combine all ingredients, blend until smooth.

(Yields 24 cinnamon rolls)

Monday, December 1, 2008

The moving is done!!

As the old joke goes, I am hurting in places that I didn't even know I had!

Everything is inside of the new place and we are returning the keys to the old place this afternoon. Currently the new apartment is in the "Crap scattered from Hell to breakfast state" I'm hoping to get it down to "Unholy mess" by the end of the week. Our internet service didn't get transferred over properly so Mr. Hairball called customer service and got it all fixed. I am quite grateful for that as I missed having the internet and needed to do some financial stuff this morning so that everybody will have the pound of of flesh that they are owed. We ended up having the minions for longer than planned so we paid them half their money and Mr. Hairball will give them the rest on Tuesday. He was joking this morning about being glad to go back to work as he doesn't have to haul boxes around at his workplace and can rest a bit from the workout he got over the last few days.

The cats are contained in one room till things are in a better state as they would get into things that could hurt them. I'm getting good at slipping in the door to their room and slamming it shut before they can get out. I took the oldest one out last night and held her in my arms and gave her the walk through. She really wanted to get down and investigate everything thoroughly but, I just told her to be patient that soon she can come out and check out everything. The room they are in has a nice big window for their cat tree/kitty condo thingy which they like but, they are tired of being cooped up!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!

We are still moving (ugh!)and will take another load over a little later today and then find a place to have some T-day dinner. Mr. Hairball and his minions will do the heavy stuff like furniture tomorrow while I work on sorting out all the boxes so they are all in the room they belong in. We are both very physically and mentally tired from the whole moving saga. I've got an old injury that is saying "STOP GOING UP AND DOWN THE STAIRS 5000 TIMES A DAY!!" at the end of each day as I hobble home. Going up and down them a couple of times a day is okay right now but, the numerous trips involved in moving are hard on me. When we are ready to buy a house it will be a one story house as my difficulties with stairs will increase with age.

Some new people moved in next door to us at our old place and if last night is an example of a normal night for them, I'm glad we are leaving as they must have been playing football inside their townhouse as I kept hearing running and thudding noises. No point addressing it now and we want to keep on their good side for the next few days. It's hard to park the moving van perfectly straight out in front so that it is not encroaching onto their half of the carport/driveway area. If they won't complain about the driveway issue, then I'll live with them being noisy for a few days.

I better get busy packing and loading. Enjoy your holiday and for those who will be shopping on Friday, wear your low heeled supportive shoes and be careful out there!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hells bells, I got carded at the Mega-Mart!!! *faints*

Well, the lease is signed on the new apartment and we have taken some things over already. I'll be doing this throughout the week and leave the bigger things for when we get the moving truck and Mr. Hairball's minions. I stopped by my local Mega-Mart and bought some drinks for said minions. Hopefully in between drinks, pizza, and cold hard cash, the minions will be adequately compensated for lugging our furniture up and down the 'stairs of doom'.

I bought some Shiner Bock as well since that is the usual beer served at gatherings among Mr. Hairball's colleagues. As I was checking out at the Mega-Mart with the beer and several varieties of soda and some bottled water, two gentleman got in line behind me and started unloading their cart. The cashier then sheepishly turns to me asks me for my ID since I was buying beer. *snorting laughter* This was absolutely hysterical to me even after I saw that the register was prompting the cashier to do so if the customer appeared to be under 40 years of age. Um, just barely! *grins* Then the two gentlemen behind me told me and the cashier that they picked her lane because they liked my choice of beer! *big grin* I decided not to burst their bubble by letting them know that I haven't even drank a beer in years and will give whatever is left to one of Mr. Hairball's colleagues.

Tomorrow's activities will be: taking back the inspection papers so I can get the mail key, stopping by the moving truck rental place to verify our reservation and adding a dolly to it, taking several packages to the post office to be mailed, and making the above mentioned 9000 trips between the old and new place to take smaller things over.

I pulled out some chopped up smoked sausage out of the freezer today. In the morning I need to chop up mass quantities of garlic (We love garlic!!) and saute half of it in some olive oil, add some red wine and the smoked sausage, and let that simmer for a while then dump that in my trusty crock pot with some tomato puree and various seasonings and let it simmer all day. I need to pick up some romaine lettuce and crusty french bread and a couple of other things I forgot to get when I was at the dreaded Mega-Mart. For the bread: mix up the rest of the chopped garlic with some butter, a little olive oil, grated Parmesan, and Italian seasoning. Slice up about half of the french bread, spread with the garlic mixture and put it under the broiler for a bit after your spaghetti is boiled and drained. (It's your bread so play around with it and put whatever you want on it.) DON'T FORGET THE BREAD AGAIN AND BURN IT LIKE YOU DID LAST TIME AND TRY TO PASS IT OFF AS CAJUN STYLE!! Sorry, I'm not so good with the broiler! * Hairball shakes her fist and gives her broiler the stinkeye* Caesar salad is some tasty goodness with this spaghetti. Unless I get a burst of energy and make up the dressing tonight, I'll just ask Mr. Hairball if he'll make up some of his "measuring is for sissies" vinaigrette for us tomorrow night or *looks both ways and whispers* use some of that bottled salad dressing I have squirreled away in the pantry.

A good week to all and to all a good night!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oooo, I'm packing my life away...

As I wrote in an earlier post, the Hairball household is moving this month. This is the second move for us this year and we REALLY HATE MOVING!! The packing is going on as I write. Okay, not *literally* as I write because I am just not skilled enough to type and pack at the same time!

On Tuesday, our household was invaded by a swarm of real estate agents representing the agency that the townhouse is listed with. They quickly walked through looking at everything the place had to offer and left. One of them tripped and fell as the living room offers the "feature" ( I say it's a bug myself!) of a sunken living room. I was very flustered by this but luckily she was not hurt by the fall.

We live on a busy street and parking is at a premium as you can't park on the street. Our unit is attractive in this sense as the owner paved over the little lawn out front so you can park three regular sized vehicles out front if you park them close together. That said, the townhouse around the corner from us, (same exact floor plan but different exterior) has been on the market for 4 months now and I don't think one extra parking space is going to do that much for helping to sell this place in this complete and utter crap fest of an economy.

In summary to this rambling mess, I will be busy packing and dragging things from upstairs down to the first level so that we can start taking things over to our new place on Friday. Last week I was pushing boxes of books down the stairs as I was so tired of climbing stairs. I also had an accident on some stairs years ago, and I occasionally get panic attacks while going down the stairs. Have I mentioned that our new place is on the second floor? *sighs deeply* I guess God is telling me it's time to really start working on this issue.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pumpkin Cake

I cook and bake a lot so be prepared for recipes to show up. This one is in honor of my dear great-aunt who will be 91 this week and is suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease. When I eat this, I'm a kid again sitting at her kitchen table looking out the window at the wildlife that surrounds the home she and my late uncle lived in for many years. I'm writing it down exactly as she wrote it so I'll try to clear up any questions after the recipe.

Pumpkin Cake
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsps soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1.5 cups pumpkin
1 cup Crisco oil
4 eggs

Mix med 4 min
1.5 cup powder sugar
1/4 cup oleo or or one stick
1 small cream cheese
vanilla 1 tsp

Oven 350 cook about 30 min

Okay, the ingredients above the line are the cake and the ingredients below the line are the frosting.

The "sugar" is the granulated kind and the "flour" is all-purpose. For "Crisco oil" she means vegetable oil. (I usually use canola myself.) When she says "pumpkin" she means the plain canned pumpkin puree not the "pumpkin pie mix" you can buy these days. When she says "soda" she means baking soda. Anyway, place all the cake ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat them at medium speed for four minutes then pour into a 9x13 baking dish ( you don't need to grease the pan) and bake in the oven on the middle rack for about 30 minutes. Test it with a toothpick and when the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done.

"powder sugar"is powered sugar and "oleo" is margarine (I use butter.) "Vanilla" means vanilla extract.I can't remember seeing the 3 oz size "small cream cheese" that she is refering to lately and I normally just buy a 8oz brick and cut it half and save the rest for toast or something. I'm using 1 oz more than she does but, I like it that way. So for the frosting place your softened margarine or butter in a mixing bowl with the powdered sugar, cream cheese, and the vanilla extract and slowly beat that together till it's nice and creamy. WARNING: If you don't mix it slowly your mixer will scatter powdered sugar everywhere, or as my late grandmother would say, "From Hell to breakfast". Trust me you don't want that! *grins*

Let your cake cool and frost. Store uneaten portion in the refrigerator so it will keep better.

****edited to add**** I don't usually grease the cake pan as I don't remove it from the pan after baking. We've also gotten into the habit of scooping out cake with a big spoon and serving it in bowls. We tend to dirty up forks and knives pretty quickly in a normal day in the Hairball household. Because of this, we have adopted the bowl and spoon routine for most desserts that require utensils . If you plan to remove the cake from the pan then you will need to grease and flour your pan. Sorry for any confusion!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Random thoughts on 01/20/2009

I know Obama supporters will be filled with excitement and McCain supporters will be deeply depressed when January 20th rolls around. I encourage you to take a moment and write down a few lines about what you did on that historical night and exactly how you felt when the results were announced. Tuck them away in a safe place till 2012. Did your hopes or fears come to pass? Be patient, time will tell the story.

I enjoyed looking up what Wikipedia had to share about January 20th. I'm old enough to remember when the 52 American hostages were released on that date in 1981. On a personal note, 01/20/2009 will be my 40th birthday. Shh, don't tell anybody though. My mother doesn't want anyone to know she's old enough to have two children in their 40's! *grins*

Housing woes....

We moved here in June from out of state. Because we couldn't afford a scouting trip for housing, we rented sight unseen and only signed a six month lease in case it was really bad once we got here. Our lease is up at the end of November and we had decided that the place was fine and would sign a year long lease or even an 18 month lease if the owner would go for it. We'd like to stay put for a while and work on saving money so we can buy a house for us and the kitties. Then the property manager emails Mr. Hairball to say that the owner has decided to sell the townhouse we are renting.
*throws random objects across room, sticks out bottom lip, and sighs deeply*

The property owner would be happy for us to stay until it is sold but, we'd have to let people in for showings and when it sells we would only have 30 days to vacate. You know it's one thing to go through the whole "living in a house that's on the market Hell" if it is your home but, it's a whole other ballgame when you are just the tenants. After scraping through two months without any money coming in, we had finally put some money back in the savings account and had started thinking about using some of it to leave town and spend some time with our families during Christmas break . Now, most of that money will be spent on moving expenses. So, we will be spending the holidays at home again this year. *whine*

Because the whole packing and moving extravaganza is happening the last week of November, I won't even be able to cook Thanksgiving at home. Even those years when we would dine out on Thanksgiving, I would still make us a mini-Thanksgiving earlier in the week
(turkey breast, cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie) because we love the leftovers and I like to cook. *grumble, grumble*

Gone too soon...

This is a picture of my cat who died of cancer on 06/05/2008 at the age of ten. We miss her terribly. Mr. Hairball's brother gave us a big cat tree/kitty condo thingy last Christmas because he knew it would probably be her last Christmas. She loved the highest perch and if one of the other two cats got up there, she would chase them down and let them know that was *her* spot. Nowadays, the other two never get on the highest perch. Mr. Hairball says they know it still belongs to her and they leave it alone out of respect. I don't know if that is true or not but, I like the thought.

I'm not cool enough to be a blogger...

It seems that everybody and their dog has a blog these days except me. I have things on my mind just like everybody else but, sometimes I struggle with finding the right words and I have days where correct grammar and spelling are simply beyond my abilities. I set this sucker to private and I'll see how it goes. I'll do some posts and if I think they are halfway decent, then I'll open the doors to a smirking public. What will I write about?? Well, like most people, my interests are varied and different things are a priority to me on different days. Let's see what happens okay?