Saturday, December 30, 2006

A late Christmas gift to myself

I decided to buy a handmixer, since there is no way I can afford a KitchenAid mixer. I went onto eBay and found one for a good deal, a Black & Decker hand mixer. It looks like an older version but it is brand-new in the box. Having gone through three wire whisks in this last year, I think it was time to do something about it. Hopefully it will work decent enough.

I'm very happy and cannot wait to use it.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Time to bust out the alcohol

Like I said before, I am no lush...but since we are staying in, we picked up some Asti Spumante, Peach juice, Kahlua mixer, and Vodka to make Bellinis and White Russians. Odd mix, I know, but it should be fun. What I have been wanting is a Margarita like the one I had at the casino. That was an awesome Margarita.

My favorite drink of all time is still the Malibu Pineapple, which calls for Malibu Rum and Pineapple Juice and ice cubes. Yummy.

Here's to a happy, safe and prosperous new year! Stay safe everyone!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

No more baking for a while now

I've been really lazy on cooking too! I don't know about ya'll but I have been quite lazy these past few days. No real motivation to do much of anything...and my husband surprised me...he got a good deal and bought me all the extensions I needed to complete my SIMS set- the animal one and the Superstar I have been playing that. I love that game, but Superstar is fun as heck! And we're talking about the FIRST Sims series, not the uber-cool (and space-hogging, might I add- 5 full GIGS for all the expansions packs!?!? WTH?) Sims 2. I need a better video card, which my husband is getting me as well.

Here is an apartment building I made. I thought it was pretty cool:

Community computer center inside the building:

One of the apartments (2 bedroom, 1 bath):

Backyard with pool, patio tables, hot tubs, BBQs:

Yeah, I got a little creative there. Too bad it went kerboom when I forgot to back it up when we installed the other expansion packs.

As they say in Simlish, "Shul Shul!" (or Good-Bye).

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Post-Christmas muses and gripes

First off, the Peppermint Bark was a hit. Here is a picture of it broken up:

Christmas Eve was nice, we went over to my husband's Grandparents house for dinner, and my Grandmother-in-law made a Schwan's Spiral Ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls and we had salad as well. For dessert we enjoyed Schwan's Pecan Pie, which I have to say was the best Pecan Pie I have ever had, and I am not that big of a fan of Pecan Pie. The Spiral Ham was absolutely delicious as well. If I had more money, I would have Schwan's delivered to my house as well!

We ended up staying home yesterday for Christmas and just had Lasagna for dinner (thank you Stouffer's). Despite being over 500 miles away, there was drama with both sides of the family and was enough to drive me out of the house for a drive to get away from it and clear my head. The funniest part was that none of these family members were in our living room, but were on the phone, mind you. It was stressful and I did not want to deal with it.

Later on I made the Egg Nog Poundcake that Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes posted on her blog recently. I omitted the coconut extract and flakes and used the 1/2 tsp of Rum Extract instead. It was a very moist and delicious bread, but I could not really taste the Egg Nog. I tasted more of the Lemon Extract than anything. In any case, it's still good! Maybe I needed to use the coconut the recipe called for? Not sure. I did overbake them a bit too, which lead to the dreaded hard crust, and instead of golden brown or white sugar, I used dark brown sugar. Maybe that is what caused the taste to be different? It looked so good when I had it all nice and mixed up! Here are some pictures!

I think I'm done with baking for a while. If anything needs to be made, I think it will either come from the bakery at the grocery store or if I MUST bake, it will come from a box!

We've also made some plans with his grandparents to come over (they still have not seen our new place, we moved in here in late May of this year, right before I started this blog) for lunch on Saturday, so I am planning on serving ham and cheddar as well as turkey and swiss sandwiches cut up in fours as well as fresh veggies and this Egg Nog Poundcake for dessert (maybe I will buy some frozen berries and Cool Whip to top it off). On Sunday night we are having my sister-in-law and brother-in-law come over with the kids for a late Christmas get together, and we're going to have T-bone steaks, baked potatoes, salad, corn, garlic bread/rolls, and something for dessert. I'm looking forward to it, so long as they amp off of the drama.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

and Happy Holidays to those who do not celebrate! Here's to a Happy New Year to everyone. May your days be merry & bright, remember to love the ones you're with, and laugh a lot!


I know what you must be thinking. It's 1:45am! What are you doing up? Finished my baking up earlier, so I really don't have an excuse, except I started working on divvying up the goods while watching Elf (for the gazillionth time this holiday season) and The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I have never seen before. Good movie!

Tonight I made the Peppermint Bark (I haven't cut it up yet, but will provide pictures later):

Also made the Banana Cream Cheese Bread:

I also made Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies (recipe to follow below):

One tired helper (child):

I haven't gotten around to the Egg Nog Pound Cake yet and I am considering holding off til New Years Eve because of the fact that I have baked so much it's not even funny. Not to mention, my husband had to run back to the store to pick up the Rum Extract for me, but didn't return (and got home after work, long after I was done baking). I will get around to that. I am just not sure when.

Here is the promised recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies, courtesy of Diana's Desserts:

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canned 100% pure pumpkin
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F (180 C). Coat a 9-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine sugar, pumpkin, egg, egg whites and oil in large mixer bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended. Add flour, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon, allspice, salt and nutmeg. Beat on low speed until batter is smooth. Stir in morsels. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Makes 16 (2-inch) brownies.

Note from Jen: Good stuff! I didn't have cocoa on hand, so I just substituted a little more sugar. I also did not use white sugar (stuck with dark brown sugar) so it is not as sweet and not as rich as I thought it would be. It's pretty good!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Poor Man's Swedish Meatballs?

I haven't started baking yet (I want to start tonight and work into tomorrow), but I was making dinner tonight and wanted to make my mom's Swedish meatballs, but I got a little lazy and instead of making the mix for the meatballs (1 piece of regular white bread, soaked in water and squeezed out, 1 egg, Salt & Pepper to taste, 1/2 white onion diced and chopped finely), and instead of rolling, I just threw the ground sirloin in the pan, diced my onion up, threw that in after the sirloin was browned, and now it's simmering on the stove. I will add Cream of Mushroom later and have a pot of rice cooking.

I guess you could call it a Poor Man's Swedish Meatballs...perhaps?

Anyhow, the baking will start tonight and I will take pictures, I promise. Are you still baking?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

5 Days til Christmas

and I still have so much baking to do. I told my husband that I was NOT making anymore cookies, because honestly, if I have to look at one more cookie, I think I may just vomit (wouldn't it be funny if that word came up as a tag on my ZoomClouds thingy? hehehehe, on a FOOD blog, nonetheless!).

Yesterday I went to a cookie (or Cookay, as Jeff says!) exchange party hosted by one of the PTO moms (a friend of mine) and really, after all of the cookies I baked this past weekend, combined with the Cinnamon I am taking, I really was in no mood for anything sugary. I got to take some cookies home though, and had a couple. Not bad. After the party, I went to my daughter's school for a Holiday Sing-A-Long, then decided to go hang out in her classroom and guess what I was offered? More cookies! Then I got home and found a package from my Grandma and inside was gifts and guess what? Another tin of cookies!

So I am not baking cookies for my husband's Christmas potluck on Thursday. I'm buying a ready-made platter full of cupcakes whether he likes it or not! Heehee!

Other than that, I will be making that Banana Cream Cheese bread I made back in November, as well as Egg Nog Pound Cake that Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes recently tried as well (thanks Janelle! :D). I will also make the Peppermint Bark I promised. And I will take pictures! Other than that, I ban cookies in this household til sometime in June 2007. Seriously.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A great Christmas gift

My husband not only cooked dinner (chili) last night, but he also cleaned the kitchen and helped our daughter load up the dishwasher. That is the best gift I could get!

So, he made his own version of chili last night, complaining about my last batch of chili being 1, too watery, 2, being too bland, and 3, having too many huge pieces of onion in it. So I cooked the red kidney beans on the stove (after soaking them overnight) for about 3 hours til they were cooked thoroughly, and he fried up about 2 and a half pounds of ground beef with about 6-8 cloves of garlic and half of an onion chopped very thinly. He added all of them to the drained cooked beans and added crushed tomatoes (instead of using tomato sauce like I did last time) to the pot, about 2 tbsp of chili powder, 2 tsp of cumin, and salt/pepper to taste. It came out very good, but needed some more chili powder and salt. It wasn't watery this time and I think he did an excellent job on it. He's a bit camerashy and wouldn't allow me to take pictures. Bah humbug!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Cookie dohhh

We decided to do some baking tonight (again). Last night we did baking so I could be prepared for a Christmas party I was invited to on Tuesday, but tonight my husband, daughter and I got in on the cookie action. I made the dough, which I followed a very simple Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe posted on a board I frequent:

Cream together:

2 c. crisco
1c. white sugar

2 c. brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

4 beaten eggs

Sift together and add:

5 c. flour
1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

Add chocolate chips (about 2 cups) last. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375°F for 10 minutes or less. Do not overbake. Yields about 5 dozen if made into walnut sized balls.

I made two different varieties, Butterscotch and Chocolate Mint Chip, and instead of two tsp of Vanilla Extract I used one tsp of Vanilla Extract as well as 1 tsp of Pure Peppermint Extract. My husband and daughter were in charge of putting the cookie dough on the cookie sheets and baking them. Very delicious cookies, and we are pleased. Now I can freeze some for Christmas, unless they magically disappear (which is known to happen in this household!).

Here is a very happy child with a bowl full of Butterscotch Chip cookies:

A challenging relationship

Now, this steers from my normal foodie blogging, but it's an assignment as part of a blogging circle I belong to...but this will be an open letter I wanted to write to a family member who shall remain nameless that I have a rocky relationship with at the moment. WARNING: This may be a bit controversial because it speaks of my Agnosticism and how the family member I am writing it to is an Evangelical Christian (something I do not agree with). I want to make it very clear, that under NO circumstances will I accept ANY type of comment that is preachy of any nature. I get enough of it in my life from my Evangelical family member, and I certainly do NOT need it on my blog, where I let all of my feelings out. I hope my wishes can be respected. Thank you.

Dear XXXX,

I realize that as of late you and I have not been on good speaking terms, and I realize there are differences between the two of us. I want it to be very clear that in no way, do I criticize what you have chosen to do in your life. I may not agree with it, but I am not going to criticize you for it. There is a huge difference between criticizing and disagreeing. I have asked you repeatedly to please not preach to me about God or Jesus, to respect my wishes and to respect that I am an Agnostic. I am on my own path and I am learning, but I need to learn on my own. I do not need the Bible shoved down my throat at every moment you feel I am vulnerable enough for you to do so. It's unfair and it's manipulative of you to do that to me. I do not push my questioning of religion onto you, and I would appreciate the same. I understand you are an Evangelical, but if I recall correctly, Evangelicals are not supposed to be pushy, spread the gospel but do not push. Remember I did attend your church for years.

You know I have been on my own path since I was a freshman in college and that has not changed at all. I've explored other religions, including Judaism and Unitarian Universalism, but I do not feel attached to one particular religion nor do I believe in any God. You are well aware of this. I left your church because I was tired of having the "If you're not saved you will go to hell" mantra shoved down my throat at a young age. It's scary, it's unnecessary, and I like to believe if there is a God, he/she/it wouldn't want someone feeling fear of him/her/it. I just wish you would understand better why I left your church at 16 years of age and why I cannot agree with that kind of religion. As a teenager, before I decided to think for myself, I was scared of everyone's salvation- my family members, my friends who were not "saved" or Christian. Why should anyone have that kind of fear instilled in them? I don't want it instilled in myself, and I absolutely, under NO circumstances, want it instilled in my daughter.

Despite our differences, I hope you know how much I love you and how much it kills me inside to not be able to talk to you about the things we used to talk about. Our relationship has been impacted severely, and I say this out of nothing but love: I hope that it will change. I hope you can see that yes, we may be different, but I hope you can respect my wishes, stop pushing the Bible on me, and love me as I am, Agnostic or not. I hope someday you will stop judging me for not believing in God. I say this because it tears me up inside and I can't imagine our relationship continuing on down this road for the rest of my life. I just hope you will understand.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Peppermint Bark

is the rage this year. If you're anything like me, trying to avoid the fat and sugar ladened foods this holiday, it can be quite a challenge, but I'm thinking now that I have gotten over my no-baking bug, I will take the opportunity to start up again. Now, I absolutely adore Peppermint Bark, but I am going to make it as gifts so it won't be sitting around my house and tempting me. Thanks to Talk of Tomatoes and Vanilla Garlic, I have a recipe to make my own. Unfortunately, we do not have a Trader Joe's nearby (yet, they are building one in Bellingham on James Street soon), and I don't want to drive to Bellingham to go to the Food Co-op just for white chocolate, so I picked up Nestle White Chocolate Chips and well, we'll see how good they turn out. Only thing is, I totally forgot to pick up wax paper, so when this crazy weather (yes, AGAIN!! More snow is on the way, arghhhhhh!!!!!) slows down, I will go back to the store.

If you would like the recipes, you can click on those links above to the blogs and find one to suit your needs. Next year I will be more prepared and since TJ's will be in Bellingham, I will probably grab a good bar of White Chocolate to make.

Other baking adventures I have planned next week (going on a school break- first of its kind in my school too- more about school in a bit): making Chocolate Mint Chip cookies, Butterscotch Cookies, and maybe some Chocolate Chip cookies. I just don't want a lot of cookies (equals temptation) in my home.

Speaking of school, I declared a major for my Bachelor's program, I will be studying towards my Bachelors of Science in Business Finance. Yes, Jen...of all going for a B of SCIENCE. Whoda thunk it? I hate science! And Finance? Maybe I'm nuts, but since I started this block and am taking management courses, I am starting to come to a realization that management is just not for me. After consulting with my father (who has been in management for over 25 years now and is pretty much my business rock), I decided Business Finance was it for me. I'm kind of excited! Onwards and upwards! :)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Burn-out, anyone?

For the past few weeks I have been feeling a bit of burn-out on cooking and even baking (which I usually adore doing). Maybe it has to do with the impending holidays, I don't know. I'm half-tempted to buy store-bought desserts for Christmas. *Gasp!* Say it ain't so...I just need to get out of this cooking funk and back into cooking and baking mode!!!


Monday, December 11, 2006

What's on your music list?

I found this nifty thing that allows you to add your favorite music to a player and you can listen to it online. Here is a list that I will probably be adding to later on down the road, but you'll get a general idea of what kind of music I like.

Now, I have an odd taste in music, but one genre of music you will never see on my list is country. I can't stand it. I can't tell you why, and I'll listen to the cheesy country (like Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart"), but I just cannot deal with country music. No offense to country music lovers, I guess we all have our tastes. For example, I know so many people who hate rap, and I like some of it. Not all, but some.

I'm tagging the following people and asking, what are on your music playlists?

Jeff of C is for Cooking
Cairo (hey, dawgs gotta have music, no?)
Vinegar Martinis
Garrett of Vanilla Garlic
Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes
Fisherman's Blues

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Faux-tatoes, broken pie dish & shallots galore!

Well, they are made up of dehydrogenated potatoes, I suppose. You know, Potato Buds, the instant mashed potatoes? For shame! I know, I know...but potatoes don't keep well in my house and I have to use them up within 3 days or else. So, the night of my daughter's school dance, I decided I was going to try to be as fast as possible getting dinner done, considering it was already past 8pm when we got home and she needed to be in bed soon.

Taking a cue from Alton Brown's tips on Good Eats, I decided to take the chicken breasts that I defrosted and pound them thin. Only thing is, I don't own a mallet. So per Alton's instructions, I used an old pie tin and a heavy can of corn to thin out the chicken breasts. By the time I was done with all three, my pie tin was ready to go into the garbage. I pounded that thing into submission (boy I can only imagine what kind of hits my blog will get after posting that sentence- Hee!) and by the looks of it, that pie tin is no longer usable. Instead of making the chicken-fried steak that Alton made and that my husband craved, I pan-seared the chicken breasts in an extra virgin olive oil, made the faux-tatoes, and started a roux to make a homemade gravy. I chopped up some shallots and while I hear they are a more mild onion taste-wise, they were very harsh on my very sensitive eyes. I had mascara running down my face by the time I was done. Anyhow, I added those shallots to the roux of butter and flour and browned them up, added my chicken broth and voila, had a gravy. By the time it was done, it was about 9pm, and my daughter decided to give me a hard time (yet again) about the salad and the shallots in the gravy. *Sigh*, you can't win them all, huh?

Shallots have a nice flavor to them, but oh my word my eyes were stinging! I will never know how to stop my eyes from welting up whenever I chop up any kind of onion. My husband always says, "Take the food processor down" and I tell him that is sacrilege! I enjoy chopping veggies. Now, if I could only find a better knife...we shall see after Christmas!

Friday, December 08, 2006

She's a dancin' machine

My daughter inherited my love for dancing and shaking your groove thang. I never knew this side of her, but last night they had a winter dance at her school, and she was up on the stage/steps dancing away. The funniest part of it, which I really wish I was able to record as a short movie (but the lights were off, so there was no way), was my daughter dancing with a classmate (BOY!!!), jitter bugging and twirling each other around. It was like watching a scene from Grease, it was pretty funny to see two six-year-olds jitter-bugging!

Anytime they put on YMCA, she was right up there, doing it with everyone. I wish I was able to get more pictures, but more than half of them were too dark as they had turned the lights off.

CoffeeMate Holiday liquid creamers

Oh soon as I heard about Peppermint Mocha and Egg Nog, I was on it. Of course, there's also Pumpkin Spice...but I couldn't find it at my grocery store!

Tried the Egg Nog in my coffee and it's not too strong, just about right for me. If you're not a fan of Egg Nog or Egg Nog in your coffee I would not recommend this to you, and at first I was a bit skeptical of it, but I had a latte with Egg Nog in it and it was great!

The Peppermint Mocha is like a candy cane covered with chocolate in the coffee. Absolutely delicious and heavenly!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Show your support this holiday season!

Let's Say Thanks is being sponsored by Xerox and is a way to send American troops currently serving in Iraq a postcard saying thank you. You can't pick out who it goes to, but it WILL go to a soldier serving.

Thanks to Mazenbloo for posting this! (And she checked out Snopes to make sure it was legit.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blogs I read

Foodie Bloggers

Non-Foodie Bloggers

Other Blogs

A special birthday wish

My husband turns 28 today, yeah, I'm the "older" woman (hee- by nearly 2 months!). So tonight I will be making a Mexican feast with some spices to please his palate. It's too bad I don't have the jalapenos ready, which is something he can never resist.

My daughter and I will be baking a cake tonight as well for him and decorating it the best we can with the resources we have here.

Happy Birthday to my hubby! :)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Salad fixin's

Everyone I know of has different ideas on what should go on salads. From bell peppers to onions to jalapenos, there are many different variations out there. I prefer to have a salad with my dinner every night, thanks to my father for instilling that one in me. But seriously, salads are good, full of vitamins and nutrients that you need, and the more colorful you get, the more healthy it is for you.

When it comes to topping my salad I am game for pretty much anything, but it has to be crunchy in texture. I guess you could say I'm one of those people who have trouble with food texture (or in simpler terms, I'm just picky). When it comes to veggies, the more crunch, the better it is to me. I can't stand soggy and most steamed vegetables. As a child, I fought my parents tooth and nail on eating vegetables, and I guess it's a little bit of payback that my daughter does the same (my father laughs at that one).

My Grandma's salad is always full of bell peppers, cucumbers and not so heavy on the lettuce (romaine) side. I love her salad, because it's always so fresh and tasty, and complimented well with Italian or French dressing. The salads I buy (yeah yeah...I buy the bagged salad normally) are the Spring Mix, and sometimes I'll throw extra carrots and cucumbers on for crunch if I have them. We only have one type of dressing in this house, and that is Hidden Valley Ranch. Of course, I guess I should get another because lately I have been jonesin' for some Italian dressing.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I want to find the Olive Garden's balsamic vinegar recipe, because that has to be my favorite salad dressing, hands down.

What do you like on your salads?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thoughts on this week

It's so funny how we often take what we have for granted, not thinking that something could happen that makes it impossible for us to get out and pick up the little things that we often don't think of, like bread, milk, or eggs. Another thing my eyes were opened up to was how difficult life would be in the case of a natural disaster or if facets of life were completely shut off from the rest of the world (I'm watching way too much Jericho on CBS and way too many nuclear disaster movies! Oyy!). Most of us do not possess the type of skills it would take to be self-sufficient (sewing, hunting, fishing, even firemaking!). That is why I am considering the Girl Scouts for my daughter. My husband is self-sufficient, but I am not. I grew up not being taught how to fend for myself. Most of what I was taught was that I needed to educate myself, not defend myself, and I want to learn. I feel like a "girly girl" when it comes to that (not that there is anything wrong with that, but let's face any kind of disaster I'd probably be one of the first people running around wringing their hands saying, "What do we do??" and I admit it).

So I want my daughter to be more self-sufficient than I was brought up to be. It's important to me that she understands how to fend for herself in case something ever happens. You just never know.

Next time I plan on being more prepared, that's for certain. Now that we are able to get out of the house we were able to go grocery shopping and fill our pantry and fridge again. The things you take for granted! This was a lesson learned, for sure.