A Year of Transformation

December 19, 2009 at 2:09 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Well, given that it has been almost a year since I have updated this blog (its been a crazy year) I thought that it would be nice to look back at what a year it has been.

For us 2009 was a year of change and learning (along with a bit of adventure). Never a dull moment in our house, and the lack of sleep this year is proof enough!

We started off the year with some new (and old) but all amazing friends. A new tradition at New Year’s started of what was to be quite a year for us.

The first big change for Misha and I, we bought a new car. 2008 ended with a bang (literally) so after being thankful that we made it out alive and unharmed (along with our two pups) we were thrown into the world of car shopping. Needless to say the drive up to visit my parents is made much more comfortable and roomy with our new wheels. The girls love their new seats, and now travel in comfort and safety.

Our next big bit of excitement was two of our very good (and amazing) friends got married. Misha was the Man of Honor, and I was also honored to stand by Alex’s side as she and Mike were married. We are so happy for them. It has been amazing to see what was once a new relationship at our wedding blossom into what it is now.


Alex and Mike, 02.04.06 (at our wedding)

I also managed to go on a few business trips this year. I discovered snow in Chaska, Minnesota, cyclic thunderclouds in Indianapolis, Indiana, and writing techniques in Seattle, Washington. I really enjoyed experiencing some new things, but I was more than happy to get back home to Misha.

In August Misha and I went on an amazing road trip to visit two good friends (and their pup)  in Denver, Colorado. We brought our pups along with us and with camera in tow, hit the road. I am so glad that we took the scenic route, we saw some amazing parts of the country that we never even knew existed. Each turn on the trip brought something more amazing and inspiring than the last. We only took 4, 314 pictures (yay for digital). A few of the highlights included Zion National Park, Goblin Valley State Park (Utah), Route 70, Littleton, Colorado (staying with two amazing friends), Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Garden of the Gods, Mount Evans (Highest Paved Road in North America), Colorado National Monument, Arches National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Bryce Canyon National Park. It was great to spend time with Ben and Jenny, I am so thankful that we were able to make this trip. We had a wonderful time, as did our pups.


Misha, Mollie, and Abby, Zion National Park


Zion from the Car


Goblin Valley State Park, Utah


Mt. Evans, Colorado


Arches National Park


Bryce Canyon National Park

It seems like just last week that my mom came down for a quick visit in October. We were one of the fortunate few able to attend the California Women’s Conference. This year it expanded to two days, and we were able to participate in a Day of Transformation (the new additional day of the conference) along with the conference. It was a great visit, and a great conference. My mom and I both learned quite a bit, and continue to discuss things from the conference. I continue to share with others what I can, and to use what I learned. Alas, the trip was over much too soon.

For Thanksgiving this year we were fortunate enough not only to visit my parents for an extended vacation, we were able to see some very good friends that we had not seen in too long. Emilie came down to visit us, and we visited Tom, Angela, and Alexander. It has been too long between visits, and we are already remedying that fact and letting less time fly by before we see each other again. Friends are the family that we choose for ourselves. Misha and I are truly blessed with friends that we can consider family.

This year also was the year that many new faces entered the world. The time of Bridal Showers has changed to the tune of Baby Showers. It is so fun watching these little, sleeping, snuggling babies grow into their own personalities. I’ll keep their names anonymous for privacy’s sake, but our utmost congratulations goes out to the new parents, parents again, and the older siblings who welcomed new family into this world.

2009 for us was a year of transformation. Misha and I have been brought closer in the events of this year (if that was even possible). It was the year of our 10-year high school reunion (I always thought that I would never be the person who wasn’t there, but we were out-of-town for both of ours). We have been together 7 years, married almost 4, and look forward to the future while we enjoy where we are at now. We have two healthy pups that keep us on our toes and always know when we’re about to cook. We have reconnected with old friends, made new friends, and continue to grow closer to the relationships that we have. This year certainly did have some humbling and challenging moments, but looking back it really has only made us stronger and helped us to better appreciate what we do have and be thankful for all that has happened. Misha and I are both different people than we were a year ago. Different in a good way, but this year has certainly transformed us.

We look forward to 2010 with our hearts open. Thank you for the blessings of 2009. 2010, ready or not, here we come!

The Grinenko Family

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Peppermint Cookies

December 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Again these are cookies from last year, but they were a hit! It was hard crushing the candy canes, but other than that they were a nice easy cookie.

Peppermint Chocolate Cookies
Rachael Ray

Ingredients
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
Two 3.5-ounce bars dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used dark chocolate chips instead)
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes or candies

Directions

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the powered sugar. Once creamy, beat in the egg.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and salt.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture one third at a time, beating until smooth.
  4. Using parchment paper or silicone baking sheets, put the dough onto the baking sheet. Using your hands, shape the dough into a 12 inch long round log. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and roll into a smooth and even log. Seal the ends and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Reshape the cylinder and refrigerate for 30 more minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with silicone baking sheets or parchment paper.
  6. Unwrap the dough. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/3 inch rounds. Place these rounds 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.
  7. Bake until firm, 18 to 20 minutes.
  8. Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet, and cool completely.
  9. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine two-thirds of the dark chocolate with the oil. Microwave for 30 seconds then stir until smooth. If needed, heat at 10-second intervals. Stir in the remaining chocolate until smooth.
  10. Using a spoon, spread a scant teaspoon of melted chocolate on top of each cookie. Sprinkle the peppermints on top and press in, gently. Let stand until set, about 2 to 3 hours.
  11. Package up and enjoy!

I would do these again, if I had the motivation to bake this year. They were really yummy. Just keep an eye on them in the oven, they go from done to burnt pretty easily, and it is hard to see.

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Palmier Cookies

December 19, 2009 at 1:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Well, it has been a year, roundabouts, but I have really been slacking on the blogging front. I’ve had some recipes saved, ready to blog but I never quite got around to it.

These cookies are from the last holiday season. I have to say that they are one of my favorites and I make them on a whim every once in a while year-round. They are easy, cheap, taste fantastic. They just take a little planning ahead.

Cinnamon Palmiers Cookie
I Shot the Chef, though I know there are a ton of similar recipes out there

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, frozen
5 to 6 Tablespoons ice water
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Stir together the flour and salt in a large metal bowl.
  2. Grate the frozen butter into the flour, gently tossing to get all of the butter coated. Once all of the butter is in, add 5 Tablespoons of the ice water evenly into the flour mixture. Gently stir with a pastry blender or fork until all of the water is incorporated. If necessary, add another tablespoon of water. When a small handful of dough holds together, it is ready. Do not overwork or add too much water to the dough.
  3. Form the dough into a 5-inch square. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until firm (at least 30 minutes).
  4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a 15 by 8 inch rectangle. Brush off any excess flour and fold the dough into thirds (like a letter). Rewrap the dough and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  5. With the sort side of the dough near you, roll the dough out again into a 15 by 8 inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, rewrap and chill until firm, another 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling and chilling process again.
  6. Roll out the dough again unto a 15 by 8 inch rectangle, fold the dough into thirds. With a sharp knife, half the dough crosswise. Wrap separately and chill for at least an hour.
  7. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle a clean work surface with some of the cinnamon sugar, and place one of the chilled doughs on top. Quickly roll out the dough into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle. If the dough gets soft, chill on a baking sheet until firm. Sprinkle the top of the dough evenly with some cinnamon sugar. Fold the two opposite long sides of the pastry so that they meet in the center. Then fold in the same sides in the same manner. Then fold one half over the other (like a book) and press gently with the rolling pin to flatten. it will form a long, rectangular log. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon sugar.
  8. Chill on a baking sheet (uncovered) until firm for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough and cinnamon sugar.
  9. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper (I use silicone baking sheets).
  10. Cut one of the doughs crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices with a sharp knife. Arrange slices cut side down, 1 1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes until puffed and golden around the edges (they will puff and expand in the oven). Remove the cookies from the oven and turn them over with a spatula. If they begin to unroll gently press to reshape when they have cooled a tad. Continue baking until they are golden (3 to 5 minutes).
  11. Transfer onto a rack and cool as they are done.
  12. Once they have cooled, enjoy!

I love these cookies. They are pretty simple, and they make a ton! I never knew that they were so easy.

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Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos

January 28, 2009 at 8:27 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos

I found this recipe a few years ago when I was getting desperate for new vegetarian dishes for Lent.  I am so glad that I found this recipe, it is a nice easy dinner, great for leftovers and perfect vegetarian meal for the non-vegetarian.

I always forget how much this really makes every time I make it. As good as they are, by the time we actually finish all of the burritos we’re pretty burrito-ed out. You could easily half or quarter this recipe for a more manageable size. And besides, mashing 6 cups of kidney beans can get quite tiring!

Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos
Allrecipes
Makes 12.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
2 cups water
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 teaspoons prepared mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
12 (10 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Cook and mash sweet potatoes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Heat oil in a medium skillet. Saute onion and garlic until soft.
  4. Stir in the beans and mash.
  5. Gradually stir in water and heat the mixture until warm. 
  6. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper, and soy sauce.
  7. Divide bean mixture and mashed sweet potatoes evenly between the 12 warm flour tortillas.
  8. Top with cheese. Note: I added sour cream and green onion. Just add whatever you normally like to your burrito.
  9. Fold up tortillas burrito style and place on a baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 12 minutes. Note: I generally heat up the burritos as we eat them, I wrap the “extra” tortillas up and heat them up in the oven at a later time a little bit longer.
  11. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Now that Lent is coming up again, I’m sure we will be making these soon!

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Sweet Potatoes, Take 2

January 28, 2009 at 8:15 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Sweet Potatoes, Take 2

Just a few more recipes from Thanksgiving. This is actually a picture of the leftovers, and they were just as good as the original, just not as pretty. I love sweet potatoes, and have them year round.

Sweet Potatoes, Take 2
The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

4 Medium Sweet Potatoes
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. salt
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Pecans, chopped (measure before they are chopped)
1/2 Cup Flour
3/4 stick butter

Directions

  1. Wash 4 medium sweet potatoes and bake them in the oven at 375 until they are fork tender, about 30-35 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. After the sweet potatoes are cooked, slice them open and put the flesh into a large bowl.
  4. Add sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, and salt. With a potato masher mash them up until mixed but not smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl add brown sugar, chopped pecans, flour, and butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until combined.
  6. Spread sweet potato mixture into a baking dish, top with the crumb mixture. 
  7. Bake in a 400 oven for 30 minutes.
  8. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Maybe I’m biased because I love sweet potatoes, but these were so good! I don’t know if my family has ever done nuts on top of sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, but the topping was delish. Another keeper for years to come!

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Chicken Piccata

January 28, 2009 at 7:49 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Chicken Piccata

And guess what, I am still catching up! We had our friends over for dinner a few weeks ago (they have been over for dinner many times since) and we usually try something new every time. This night it was chicken piccata. I have never cooked with capers before, so this was a bit of an experiment.

We served this with pasta.

Chicken Piccata
Cassie’s Ruminations
Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 lb chicken tenderloins or thinly sliced skinless boneless chicken breast (I used chicken breast and tenderized it. )
Salt and pepper
4 Tablespoons flour
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons drained capers
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1-2 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Rinse and dry chicken. Note: I went ahead and tenderized the chicken.
  2. Mix flour, salt, and pepper.
  3. Lightly coat the chicken with flour, shaking off any excess.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate.
  6. Reduce heat on pan to medium-low. Add garlic and capers to the skillet. Cook for 30 seconds, or until the garlic is fragrant.
  7. Add 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture and stir to coat compleatly with oil, making a roux.
  8. Add broth and lemon juice, increasing the heat to medium-high. Cook for another minute or tow, stirring constantly. Sauce should thicken and all of the flour should be incorporated.
  9. Stir in the parsley, then return the chicken to the skillet. Coat the chicken completely in the sauce.
  10. Serve immediately and enjoy!

This was good. Not sure if it is my favorite, but I will be trying it again. As usual I doubled the recipe and had plenty of leftovers! Something new to add to the dinner rotation!

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Strawberry Pretzel Salad

January 27, 2009 at 7:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

This recipe is a new favorite. I discovered it a few years ago, and from what I can tell every family has their own way of making it. I just picked one of the variations and tried it, I love strawberries and it sounded too interesting to not try. Ever since then, it has been requested over and over again. Misha’s work requested it for the work pot-luck, every time he comes home with an empty dish. I just discovered this year that his work divides it into 6 pieces, and the 6 of them eat it! I had thought that the potluck party was a few more people, but little did I know that he and his coworkers eat this entire thing themselves! His coworkers now request it every pot-luck.

Though it is very easy to make, it does take a few hours (not of actual cooking time, but do this, then cool, do that then, refrigerate, then do this and let sit overnight for the jello to set). So it just takes a little bit of planning ahead.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad
various sources, this is one of those recipes where every family has their own variation

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar, divided
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1 8 ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed (cool whip)
1 6 ounce package strawberry flavored gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 16 ounce package frozen strawberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix together pretzels, 4 1/2 Tablespoons sugar, and melted butter.
  3. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Note: Be sure to not overbake, the crust will get too hard.
  4. Set aside the pretzel crust to cool completely.
  5. In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and cream cheese until smooth.
  6. Fold in the whipped topping. (I forgot this once, oops! It still turned out yummy though!)
  7. Spread the mixture evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
  8. In a medium bowl, stir together the gelatin mix and boiling water.
  9. Once mixed, mix in the frozen strawberries and stir until thawed.
  10. Spread mixture evenly over the cream cheese mixture. Note: I normally pull out the strawberries and “organize” them on the cream cheese, since they don’t really spread evenly themselves. That and if you can place the strawberries in a quadrant-like format, you can easily slice down the grid, and everyone gets a strawberry! But I’m crazy like that.
  11. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least a couple hours. Note: I usually let it sit overnight.
  12. Serve and enjoy!

A few quick notes, I only make this the night before. I wouldn’t let it sit any longer than that. Also, after the first slice be sure to finish the rest quickly. Misha likes it a few days later, but I find that the pretzel crust gets a little soggy and messy. Though it usually doesn’t stay around that long. It can also be hard to cut, so if you are taking it to a pot-luck bring a nice sturdy knife to get through the crust. I also like to have people guess what the crust is, I had my Father-in-Law stumped for quite some time! ry, Eas

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Pumpkin Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

January 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Pumpkin Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

Misha loves pumpkin. I’m not a huge pumpkin pie fan (shhh, don’t tell him) but I do enjoy a good pumpkin cheesecake. When looking on PW’s web site for Thanksgiving ideas, the pumpkin cheesecake caught me. I’ve recently started enjoying nuts more, and pumpkin, caramel, and cheesecake… what could be better! I’m not much of a gingersnaps fan, so instead of a gingersnap crust, I used the plain old grahm crackers with pecans. The printable recipe is here, on PW’s web site. Mine took signifigantlly longer to cook, but I think that my springform pan was slightly smaller.

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Turkey

January 27, 2009 at 6:06 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Turkey

Ok, so I don’t have a picture of the uncarved turkey from our thanksgiving. I guess we were all to hungry!

I used the Turkey Perfect brine (I could not find the brine ingredients that I was looking for). I did half apple juice and half water, instead of just water. I followed their instructions for cooking the turkey and he turned out great! I hope to make my own brine next year (with more planning ahead) but I would use their mix again.

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Stuffing (Cornbread and Apple Bacon)

January 27, 2009 at 6:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Back to food blogging now… whew! I am pretty far behind! I am still working on Thanksgiving, and still working off those calories! Oye!

If you know me well, you know that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. If you know me even better, you know that I have a weakness for stuffing. Nothing like a good stuffing. This year I made two, one was PW’s Cornbread Stuffing, the other was an Apple Bacon Stuffing.

PW’s Cornbread Stuffing

Cornbread Stuffing

Apple Bacon Stuffing

Apple Bacon Stuffing

I have to say, I was slightly disappointed in PW’s cornbread stuffing, it didn’t have as much flavor as I had anticipated. It was still good, and maybe with a touch more of something it would be better. I may try it again, but I may look at a few more recipes to get some ideas of how to give it a bit more flavor.

The Apple Bacon Stuffing on the other hand was delicious. I will be keeping this recipe and doing it again.

Apple Bacon Stuffing
Cooks Illustrated, November 1998

Ingredients

1 pound bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
4 medium ribs celery, diced medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2teaspoons dried sage or 4 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 cups dried 1/2-inch cubes from one 1-pound loaf French bread, potato, or challah. I used French bread.
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
3 large eggs , beaten lightly
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted

Directions

  1. Dry the bread you choose by cutting 1/2 inch slices, laying them in a single layer on baking sheets or cooling racks, and leaving them out overnight. The next day, cut the slices into 1/2 inch cubes and allow them to dry for another night. Note: I just cut the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and let it dry overnight.
  2. Be sure that the oven rack is in the center position (course this is assuming that all you are cooking is stuffing, and at Thanksgiving we all wish that we were blessed with four ovens). Preheat oven to 400.
  3. Fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp and brown, about 12 minutes.
  4. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Pour off all but 6 tablespoons of bacon fat from pan.
  5. Return skillet to heat, add onion, apples, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes.
  6. Stir in Sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley, and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  7. Put onion mixture in a large mixing bowl.
  8. Add bread cubes, bacon, chicken stock, eggs, and salt. Toss gently to evenly mix.
  9. Put mixture into a buttered 13 by 9 casserole dish, drizzle with melted butter and cover tightly with foil.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes (a bit longer for challah).
  11. Remove foil and bake until golden brown on top (about 15-20 minutes).
  12. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe is a keeper! Even better, we had leftovers.

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I got tagged!

January 27, 2009 at 5:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Kristin from Le Petit Perogi tagged me on her blog a few weeks ago (ok, a month ago… but I’m just catching up). So now I get to share a few things about myself, and pass along the love. =)

So, a few random/weird things about myself:

  1. I never grab the first item, anywhere, anytime, if at all possible. When grocery shopping I will never buy the first item on the shelf, I always go a few back. If there is only one thing of an item, I seriously consider not purchasing it because there is no second “untouched” item. This goes for all shopping, not just groceries.
  2. I am weird about formatting. If you are going to align something, align it, don’t use spaces to move it into the correct spot. Same goes for tab, use the paragraph style, not tab to apply an indent. Also, single space between sentences, it is no longer necessary to double-space. And this is going to sound crazy, but I actually enjoy re-formatting or formatting documents. I could be perfectly happy doing it all day long.ok, we have now discovered my hidden obsessive-compulsiveness. we must move on.
  3. A family friend of ours was appointed Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division under President Obama. Not that it means that I’ll be getting any fun trips or opportunities in DC anytime soon…
  4. I make my own laundry detergent. I am looking to make my own green cleaners.
  5. Coupons thrill me. Nothing like scoring a great deal!
  6. I love Disney, a perfect day would be an uncrowded day at Disneyland with Misha (and all the rides open with no lines).
  7. I am a huge Survivor and Amazing Race fan. I would go on Survivor, but people are too mean at this point. I would love to be on The Amazing Race with Misha. On a sidenote, Misha did an amazing wedding proposal using Amazing Race clues.

Ok, so now for my 7 taged (in no particular order):

Have fun everyone! And now to update my blog!

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I’m here, Happy 2009!!!

January 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Well, it seems like I have been up to my neck in everything lately. Work has been crazy, stuff at home has been crazy, and everything in between has been crazy. I’ve been busy thinking about all the blog updates that I need to write, but other than thinking about it I haven’t had much more time than that. I have a ton of recipes to blog about, and even more blogs to catch up on in my reader.

Other than being very thankful that 2008 is over, I am thankful that 2009 has gotten to a good start. Lots of the events from 2008 have finally wrapped themselves up. Abby has been given the all clear to be a normal puppy again (and once all of her hair grows back it will be all behind us). Mollie is doing great, she’s just enjoying her retirement now. And though the year went out with a bang with Misha’s car getting totaled, we now have a spiffy new car. Our first new car, safer and perfect for road trips (and a bit more family-oriented… not that my in-laws noticed at all). So though 2008 was a rough year that we will never forget, Misha and I made it through (along with the pups) and I can only think that we have been strengthened by all that happened.

Misha started school again this week. He’s taking three classes while working full time. I’m hoping that all of his hard work will pay off and he will get into Nursing School at Concordia, and start in January 2010. It is hard to believe all that is happening. Our 10-year high school reunions are coming up (has it really been that long?) and we’ll be celebrating our 3-year wedding anniversary in a week. Our two good friends are getting married in March. So many good things to look forward to this year.

And with that I have a ton of blog updates that won’t write themselves. =) Time to get this year started!

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Green Bean Casserole

December 10, 2008 at 10:44 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole is one of my faves on Thanksgiving. I’m trying to eat healthier, so I searched for a more homemade recipe this year. Not sure how healthy it is, but at least the green beans are fresh!

Green Bean Casserole
I forgot to bookmark it…

Ingredients

For the Beans
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces (weighed prior to trimming)
4 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 Tablespoon olive oil (omitted, I didn’t need it)
1/2 large Vidalia sweet onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 2 by 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tablespoon minced shallots
2 cans sliced water chestnuts, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the Roux
1/4 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (we used almost 3, it could have used 4)
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

For the topping
Can of French Fried onions
2 cups panko bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch green beans.
  3. Remove to an ice bath until cool, drain and let dry.
  4. Lightly butter a 9 by 13 inch casserole dish.
  5. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, saute bacon until slightly crispy.
  6. Remove bacon from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
  7. In remaining bacon fat, add onions and saute until just starting to caramelize.
  8. Add red bell peppers and saute 2 minutes.
  9. Add minced shallot and water chestnuts. Saute for 2 more minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Set aside.
  10. In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt the butter.
  11. When the butter is melted, add flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until well combined. Continue to stir for another minute.
  12. Add in milk, 1/2 cup at first. Stirring well to combine. Then add 1 cup more milk and stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Then add final 1/2 cup of milk and stir and simmer until thickened. We needed to add more milk (at least a cup).  Add salt and pepper.
  13. Combine with green bean mixture and pour into a prepared pan. Top with 1 1/2 cups panko crumbs, then reserved bacon, then remainder of panko crumbs.
  14. Cook at 350 for 35 minutes.
  15. Take green beans out of the oven and top with some french fired onions, evenly coating the casserole.
  16. Place back into the oven and cook for 5 more minutes.
  17. Remove from oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  18. Serve and enjoy!

The secret to my green bean casserole is the yummy water chestnuts. It is not worth my time if it doesn’t have the crunch of a water chestnut in there. I don’t like mushrooms, but you could add them to yours when you add the shallots.

The roux still needs a bit more playing, I think I did something wrong. I would try it again, but keep a better watch on what I am doing with the roux.

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Parmesan Rosemary Pinwheels

December 10, 2008 at 10:16 am (Uncategorized) ()

Parmesan Rosemary Pinwheels

I love these pinwheels. We have done different variations, but these are so quick and easy and a perfect appetizer. I found them on the What’s Cooking board on theNest.com.

Parmesan Rosemary Pinwheels
Adapted from Pampered Chef, found on the WC Nest Boards

Ingredients

1 8 oz can crescent rolls or Pillsbury Recipe Creations
1/2 cup regular cream cheese spread, softened
1/4 cup (1 oz) grated fresh Parmesan Cheese
1 teaspoon rosemary

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Roll out the dough. If you are using crescent rolls you will need to keep the crescent rolls in pairs, forming four rectangles.
  3. Place cream cheese in a small bowl, add rosemary and Parmesan cheese to the bowl and mix well.
  4. Spread the cheese mixture onto the dough, leaving a border.
  5. Roll up the sheet of dough. If using crescent rolls, roll from the short side.
  6. Using a serrated knife, cut up the rolled up dough into 22 slices (or 6 per crescent pair).
  7. Place slices on pizza stone or greased baking sheet.
  8. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Serve immediately and enjoy!

These pinwheels are always a hit. I usually make a double batch for a large group, since they go fast.

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Blintzes

December 10, 2008 at 7:59 am (Uncategorized) ()

Blintzes

These Blintzes are a family recipe. My grandfather made them with his aunt, my mom made them with my grandfather, and I made them with my mom. I am looking forward to the day when i can share this recipe with my children. We normally prepare these ahead of time, and store them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. One batch makes about 12-15, but they are addicting.

I made these the day after Thanksgiving. We did not do any early black Friday shopping, but my parents still perused the adds. Mollie helped:

Mollie

Mollie

Blintzes
My Great Aunt Rosalie

Ingredients

Crepes
1 cup flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup milk
smidge salt
2 Tablespoons Vegetable/Canola oil

Filling
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 pint small curd cottage cheese (or farmers cheese, if you can find it) Note: I use cheesecloth to squeeze some extra liquid out of the cottage cheese, so that the cottage cheese is drier.
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened

Topping
Strawberries (fresh if in season or frozen, sliced in juice if not in season)
Sour Cream

Directions

  1. Blend together the ingredients for crepes in a blender.
  2. In a separate bowl mix together the ingredients for the filling.
  3. Grease crepe pan (small omlette pan) and warm over medium heat on the stove.
  4. When the pan is hot, put a thin layer of batter in the pan (pour out excess batter if necessary) and cook through so light brown on one side.
  5. Place crepe onto towel (cooked side up), then fill with filling (about 1 to 2 spoonfulls). Roll crepe up and then place onto pan lined with parchment paper.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until there is no more filling. Place tray in freezer and freeze overnight.
  7. Remove frozen blintzes from pan (can be packaged into a large zip-lock for storage).
  8. Cook in buttered frying pan. You can store the cooked ones in a preheated oven.
  9. Serve immediately, topped with sour cream and strawberries and enjoy!

These are a real treat for breakfast!

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Brie en Croute

December 10, 2008 at 7:58 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Brie en Croute

mmm… cheese, need I say more? Misha and I love cheese, and brie is one of those cheeses. This is a fun way to do brie differently. I like to keep it simple with apricot jam, but you can add slivered almonds and all sorts of stuff.

Brie en Croute
Various sources.

Ingredients

1 puff pastry
1 large egg, beaten
1 wedge of brie
1/4-1/2 cup apricot preserves
crackers or bread to serve with

Directions

  1. Defrost puff pastry and roll out.
  2. I like to de-rind my brie, but I’m picky like that. So de-rind the brie if you would like.
  3. Place brie in center of puff pastery to see where to put apricot preserves. Note: I normally get my brie from Costco, and it comes in a wedge not a circle.  So I cut the wedge in half so that I can make a rectangle out of it.
  4. Remove brie from puff pastry and spoon apricot preserves  to about the size that the brie will take up.
  5. Place the brie on top of the apricot preserves.
  6. Wrap brie with the puff pastry.
  7. Wrap brie in plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 425.
  9. Remove brie from freezer and plastic wrap.
  10. Place on greased oven-safe dish. Brush brie with the beaten egg.
  11. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  12. Serve with crackers or bread and enjoy! Note: It comes out of the oven HOT, so let it cool for a bit so that eager husbands don’t burn themselves.

If I plan ahead, this is an easy appetizer that Misha and I love. It goes over well with crowds.

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French Toast Casserole

December 9, 2008 at 12:43 pm (Uncategorized) ()

French Toast Casserole

I was looking for a good breakfast casserole for when my parents came into town for Thanksgiving. I wanted something that I could throw into the oven when they were ready for breakfast.

French Toast Casserole
Adapted from ATC Family Cookbook

Ingredients

1 loaf french bread
8 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 cups half and half
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Slice bread into 1 1/2″ cubes and toast about 25 minutes. Allow the bread to cool.
  2. Grease 9 by 13 baking dish. Layer the bread tightly.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, half and half, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  4. Pour evenly over bread. press lightly on bread to submerge.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.
  6. When ready to break, preheat oven to 350. Remove casserole dish from fridge and unwrap.
  7. Mix butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup until smooth. Stir in the pecans.
  8. Spoon topping over casserole and spread into an even layer.
  9. Place dish onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 60 minutes. Note: This step (rimmed baking sheet) is very important. Though it didn’t look like it would, the casserole expanded and the baking sheet saved my oven. It took a little longer for mine to bake.
  10. Cool for 10 minutes before serving and enjoy!

This was a perfect and easy breakfast. I loved the nut topping!

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Carrots in Dill Butter

December 9, 2008 at 10:55 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Dill Carrots

I was looking for a side to do with the spaghetti pie, and found this recipe for dill carrots. If anyone knows my family well, they know that we love dill. What could be more perfect, carrots and dill, together. Since I recently developed a fear of using baby carrots (probably unfounded and crazy, but I’m now worried about chemicals in my baby carrots) I decided to peel and slice normal carrots.

Carrots in Dill Butter
Adapted from A Bit of Everything

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced
2 Tablespoons butter or Margarine
Dill (1 Tablespoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan cook carrots (covered) in a small amount of bilinig water (about 10 minutes or until crisp-tender).
  2. Drain, return carrots to saucepan.
  3. Stir in butter/margarine, dill, lemon juice, salt, and pepper making sure to coat the carrots.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy!

This was so easy and yummy. We will be doing these again!

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Spaghetti Pie

December 9, 2008 at 10:44 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Spaghetti Pie

I have been looking for new recipes to try that are good weeknight dinners. Misha’s aunt knows about the blog, so I thought that I would try something new on our usual Monday night dinners. We usually do a 5-ish mile hike on Monday nights while Misha is in class, so I was looking for something easy to finish/do after a hike.

Spaghetti Pie
Adapted from Allrecipes via About a Bit of Everything.

Ingredients

2 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken in half (we used barilla plus, and maybe a bit more than 2 oz)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons sour cream (I used low fat)
1/2 pound ground turkey (I could have used more)
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped onion
1 teaspoon butter or margarine
2/3 cup tomato sauce (I would use more if I added more ground turkey)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. In a bowl combine the egg, Parmesan cheese, and cooked pasta.
  3. Press the pasta mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased casserole dish or pie plate. Spread with sour cream. Note: The sour cream was easier said than done, I spreaded it as best I could.
  4. Preheat oven to 350.
  5. Crumble turkey into a skillet, add the pepper, onion, and butter. Cook over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.
  6. Drain fat out of meat.
  7. Add minced garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
  8. Stir in tomato sauce, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  9. Spoon into spaghetti crust.
  10. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  11. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.
  12. Serve immediately and enjoy!

I could have used more ground turkey. It was good, but just a different way to do spaghetti. I liked the variation though, a nice way to change the usual pasta dinner.

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Product Rave: Bar Keeper’s Friend

December 1, 2008 at 9:57 am (Uncategorized) ()

Bar Keeper’s Friend

With all the cooking and baking that had been going on this week with Thanksgiving and family in town a few of my pans had seen better days.

After my family left, and I started to return the war zone kitchen back to normal. We wanted to make blintzes, but after seeing one particular pan I was on a mission to clean it. Remembering the free little packet that Calphalon gave us with our cooking set, I decided that now was the time to break it open. I am so glad that I did. With just a little sprinkle of Bar Keeper’s Friend , and not very much elbow grease, all stains from the pan came totally off. I very much wish that I had taken a before and after picture (I did only clean half the pan and show Misha how pretty the cleaned side was).

Needless to say, as I continue to recover I will be using Bar Keeper’s Friend, and get my very own large package. My pan looks like new, I am totally sold on it. Since it doesn’t need much, I still have quite a bit in the sample package. But I can say that I will be using it more often. My pans will shine like new once again!

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