Saturday, December 29, 2007


Hi all. I must apologize. The gluttony I've been indulging in has apparently been making me lazy. We went to my parents' home on Christmas Day, and Sleek and I came back today. I over-indulged in all the holiday goodness while I was there. (Oh, okay. I was also indulging here on the days leading up to Christmas Eve.) So, I mainly laid around in my pjs watching the tele and reading. Not a bad way to decompress from the rushing around and stress of the previous days. I could've blogged about the big Christmas dinner we had (broiled sea-bass, sweet potatoes, baked beans, macaroni salad, homemade rolls, etc. And pie: pumpkin, pecan and coconut cream.), but I didn't. I lazed around instead.

Anyway, like I was saying, Sleek and I came back home today sans kids. You see, we're leaving in the morning for a little New Year's getaway to Las Vegas. Sleek and I aren't really the Vegas types, but we were invited out to attend The Red Bull Experiment. Sleek's friend is going to attempt to break the world record for longest motorcycle jump. He's attempting to jump the length of a football field. Yikes! Should definitely make for an exciting New Year's eve! Coverage of the event starts at 11:15 p.m. EST. on ESPN if any of y'all want to check it out.

I'm looking forward to getting back home on Wednesday and getting into some more healthy cooking. My body is just screaming for it right now. I may post some from Vegas. If not, look for me to be back in the cooking business on Wednesday. I wish all of you peace, health and happiness in the new year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Brunch

I wanted to really do something good for brunch today. I've been wanting to get really good at making homemade cinnamon rolls. I don't know why. I just think that's a really good thing to be able to make. So, I saw an episode of Good Eats on the Food Network back in November. Alton was making cinnamon rolls. I think I was drooling by the end of the show. I decided that those would be the ones I would make. So, the above picture is actually of the rolls that I made. (Don't they look too good to have been made my some amateur like myself?)

I wanted something savory to go along with the cinnamon rolls, and Sleek and I just love the chickpea gravy from VWaV. I decided to make that with some good, homemade biscuits. I found a recipe by Emeril for biscuits, and figured he knows a thing or two about a good biscuit. Wow. The gravy was great, as usual, and the biscuits were off-the-hook. That's the only kind I'm making from now on. So, we had a really nice Christmas Eve brunch this morning, which I plan on making a tradition.

That's all for tonight. Tomorrow we'll be heading to my mom's house for a big Christmas feast. I'll definitely be posting about it within the next few days. And with that...

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Tweleve Days of Goodies: Part XII

Wow. I actually did it. Well, I cheated a little. The kids really wanted to make Christmas tree sugar cookies. I'd already made the snowflakes, but they really wanted Christmas trees. So, I'd been planning to do it on Friday the 21st. The first day of Christmas break for the kids. I was going to make my twelfth goodie, popcorn balls, on Friday evening. After baking the cookies all afternoon, I was just too damn tired. I decided that the Christmas trees would be my twelfth (doesn't that word look weird?) goodie. So sue me.

They turned out great. The kids love them. (Although when the time came to make them, they mysteriously disappeared. After talking for days how they would help me!) Plus, now I have more cookies to give away.

I gave neighbors and friends plates of goodies. It was fun. I look forward to doing it again next year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tweleve Days of Goodies: Part XI

WHEW! One more to go. I can't believe I've made 11 different goodies in the last few weeks. My freezer is busting at the seams. I can't wait to give most of this stuff away! At this point, I really don't feel like eating any of it. Isn't it funny how that happens?

Tonight it was candied pecans. Let me tell ya, these things are goo-ood. Super-easy to make, too. I have a feeling they won't last too long around here. Tomorrow I'm making more sugar cookies with the kids and also my last goodie. It's going to be popcorn balls. Remember those from your childhood?

As for cooking regular meals...Well, that's sort of fallen off the radar for now. I just can't. I'm cooking up an awesome Christmas Eve brunch. Then we'll have a huge Christmas Day dinner at my mom's. I hope to do a special video post on Christmas Eve...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tweleve Days of Goodies: Part X

Coconut macaroons. Something I've loved my whole life. When I started thinking about making these macaroons, I knew that I wanted something that really just let the flavor of the coconut stand out. A few years back, I had asked my mom to make some macaroons, as she had made them for Christmases past. (Like, WAY past.) She had trouble finding a recipe that she liked. She eventually found two that she thought looked good. Honestly, neither of them were much like the coconut macaroons that we had remembered. The recipes she used both called for almond extract. I thought the almond flavor took over the cookie. Call us all unimpressed.

So, I searched the Food Network website for something that looked good. I found one from Ina Garten's show, The Barefoot Contessa. If you've ever watched Ina's show, you know she ain't messin' around. The recipe was extremely simple, and it had a five-star rating. I knew I'd picked a winner! They were so easy to make, and let me tell you, they are delicious. I even dipped the tops of some in chocolate. Ho-ly smokes! So freaking good. I somehow restrained myself and only ate one.

In my last post, I talked about how tired I've been from being in the kitchen all the time. I know my posting doesn't quite reflect that. I've made almost two batches of everything I've posted about. None of them have been made the same day as the first batch. Just yesterday, I made second batches of the macaroons (I think I made the first batch on Saturday) and peanut brittle. Today, I'm just finishing up a second batch of chocolate chip cookies. Friday, the kids and I are making a second batch of sugar cookies. (Or fourth batch, since I always double the recipe?) So, it has indeed been labor intensive, but I have enjoyed every minute of it. It has definitely enhanced my holiday season.

Okay, on to last night's dinner. A simple repeat, and it is indeed another casserole. (I'm trying to use up some of the beans in my freezer to make way for more goodies.) So, I made the Navy Bean Gratin from The Hippy Gourmet cookbook. I served it with a side of roasted asparagus with a soy/balsamic sauce. The sauce is 2 TBS butter or EB (melted), 1 TBS soy sauce, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar. Easy, quick and satisfying.

Tweleve Days of Goodies: Part IX

Pretend it's this past Monday, and you're reading this. I've been too tired at night to keep up with my blog. I've fallen asleep in bed with the kids every night this week. Like at 8 p.m. I always get back up for a while, but I'm just too tired to even open the computer. So, Monday I decided to try my hand at homemade brownies. I love brownies, and honestly, the ones from a box aren't bad at all. I know that because I'm sure I've eaten a whole pan of them on numerous occasions.

Since it's the holiday season, I wanted to make them special. So, I searched the web until I found a suitable recipe. I doubled it and used a 9x13 inch pan. It took them longer to bake than the recipe recommended. I think about 35-40 minutes. They came out very, very nice. They're so easy that I may not even buy boxed brownies anymore. (I did read the ingredient list on boxed brownies. There's some not-so-nice stuff in there! Of course, if you don't eat the whole pan that really isn't a huge problem.)

I've decided to make dinner as easy as possible this week because truthfully, all this baking is hard work! By 4 p.m., I just don't feel like being in the kitchen any longer. Plus, Sleek has just been working insane hours, so anything he can easily heat up when he gets home is good. So, Monday night I made a tuna casserole for dinner. Sleek and I like some tuna casserole every now and then. I do make a slightly healthier version than the old standard. Here goes:

14 oz. bag of whole wheat noodles
2 cans of tuna
2 cans of Amy's organic semi-condensed Cream of Mushroom soup (No funny ingredients here.)
salt and pepper
cheddar cheese

Cook noodles according to package directions. Mix in tuna and soup. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour it all into a casserole dish and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

It's really easy, and really good. The Amy's soup gives it a much more natural taste than Campbell's soup. Yum!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Twelve Days of Goodies: Part VIII

What's better than homemade peanut brittle? Ummmm. Chocolate-covered peanut brittle, of course! Last night after the kids were asleep, Sleek and I hit the kitchen for a little late-night goodie makin'. (Minds out of the gutter, please!) It was strictly peanut brittle. I seem to get a little anxious when making something that requires a candy thermometer. I have no idea why. It seems like an exact temperature would make it easier for me to get right. I really needed Sleek there to offer his infinite bits of wisdom with an occasional stupid joke thrown in. Wait...I think I got that backwards.

Anyway, making peanut brittle ain't no joke. It takes a long time, with lots of stirring and temperature-taking. We finally finished up, and I decided to wait until today to dip it in chocolate. YUM, YUM. It is so freaking good, you wouldn't believe it. I can't wait to surprise my dad with it. I've decided that since I have all the ingredients, I'm going to make a some more to have plain. Really, it isn't that difficult to make. Just lots of babysitting.

While the brittle was cooling, I whipped up a batch of coconut macaroons. I'm saving those for a later post, though. So, last night was a big night in the kitchen.

The kids have been wanting pizza, so before I got to chocolate-dipping today, I whipped up a batch of pizza dough. It gets easier every time, and turns out better every time too.

I've found that when I need some music besides "classical Christmas", I can just log on to rebecca's blog and listen to her playlist. Excellent taste in music, she has.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Veggie Reubens

Yum, yum, yiggity-yum! I love the veggie reubens at my favorite local restaurant. I have no idea why it took me so long to make them at home. It's so easy, really. I started by making the Russian dressing. Very easy to make. The recipe called for a cup of vegetable oil. I could not, in good conscience, put a cup of oil into that little bit of dressing. I used half a cup instead, and I don't see how it could've been any better. Certainly it would've been a tad oily with a cup of oil. Eeek!

Next, I sliced and sauteed a green pepper and an onion. When that was nice and soft, I added in some sour kraut. (It came from a jar. I'm not ready to make my own sour kraut!) I also added a TBS of brown sugar and some salt and pepper to the veggies. Then, I pretty much proceeded as one would when making grilled cheese. I buttered my (rye) bread, put it on the griddle, added a slice of swiss cheese, some of the veggies, dressing, and topped it with another slice of buttered (well, okay Earth Balanced) bread.

To go along with the sandwiches, I made some garlic oven fries. The recipe is from the September 2007 issue of Cooking Light. Sleek spotted the recipe and really wanted to try it. Best oven fries ever! I made them according to the recipe, but used Earth Balance instead of butter. I didn't have fresh parsley either, so I just used the garlic and parmesan. Sleek raved about the meal the whole time he was eating. He thinks it's among the best things I've ever made.

Black-Bean Soup

Last night, I finally got to make my black-bean soup. I had cooked my beans on Wednesday, planning to make it that evening. I realized that I was out of onion, and Sleek was working late. I didn't feel like loading up the kids and driving to the store for onion, so I thought I'd make my tuna casserole that I'd planned for Saturday. Ha! I got out my can opener, which I realized was stripped. I finally settled for a can of tomato soup (opened with the sharp side of a bottle opener) and a grilled swiss on rye sandwich. It really hit the spot, so I wasn't too upset about the previous turn of events.

So, bean soup. I got the recipe from my White Grass Cafe cookbook, which I've mentioned before. It is a very simple soup to make. At the end, you puree it all in a blender. It wasn't as thick as I thought it would be, and I had to use way more seasonings than the recipe suggested. It really turned out good, though. I've never made a bad soup from that cookbook!

To go along with the soup, I made some sweet-potato fries. Slice up a sweet potato, toss in a smidge of oil, sprinkle with salt, cumin and chili powder. Bake them at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, tossing them after 15 minutes. Delicious.

Annelies has been bugging me to make apple scones for her. So, yesterday I whipped up a batch. I used Alton Brown's recipe from the Food Network website. I made a few changes, though. I substituted 1/4 cup of the cream with apple cider, and also added a cup of chopped apples. Damn. They're awesome. Of course, Annelies doesn't like them. Typical.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Twelve Days of Goodies: Part VII

I crossed the threshold of the half-way point today when I made my peppermint bark. It is truly one of the easiest "candies" to make. The hardest part is unwrapping all the candy canes and crushing them up. I usually make it just using white chocolate, but this year I decided to add a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom. So, I started by melting my dark chocolate. I used one 14 oz. package of the chocolate wafers that you've certainly seen taking over your grocery store during the holidays. I spread it on my pan and let it cool and harden. I melted 2 14 oz. packages of white chocolate wafers and spread them over the dark. Then I sprinkled on the crushed up candy canes. I let it all cool in the fridge, then broke it into pieces. The only thing I should have done differently is not let the bottom layer of dark chocolate cool so much. I should have had the white chocolate melted and ready to spread soon after the dark chocolate was spread. Because I let it cool so much, the white chocolate and dark chocolate came right apart on some of the pieces. Oh, well. Next time I'll get it just right! It tastes fantastic, so that's all that really matters.

Orange-Sesame Tofu with Veggie Fried Rice

This evening I decided it was time for orange-sesame tofu again. I haven't made it for a couple months, so it was definitely time. I decided to make a simple veggie fried rice to go with it, along with a broccoli and red pepper dish. It was quite an involved meal to make, with lots of prep work. Since I've posted the tofu recipe before, I won't go into that part.

Yesterday evening, I decided to throw together some veggie fried rice to go along with the honey-baked lentils I had made. It turned out so good that I decided to make it again tonight. Here's what I did: First, I cooked my rice. That's one cup of long-grain brown rice brought to a boil with one cup of water and one cup of No-Chicken broth. Cover and turn heat to low, simmering for 50 minutes. In the meantime, I finely chopped half an onion and half of a red pepper. I sauteed those in oil until slightly browned and softened. (With a clove or two of minced garlic.) Yesterday when I made the rice, I used some diced carrots. I didn't have any this evening, so I improvised with the red pepper. When the rice was finished, I let it cool just a little, then added it to the hot skillet with the vegetables. I added a few splashes of shoyu, and that was it. I'm telling you, it's so easy and just amazingly good. Way better than the usually-greasy fried rice you get at a Chinese restaurant. I also made it with brown rice, so it's whole grain!

I saw a recipe for a sesame broccoli and red pepper dish in my Hippy Gourmet cookbook. Since I had all the ingredients on hand, I made it. I just steamed a head of broccoli. Then made a sauce with garlic, shoyu, rice vinegar, a bit of oil, and turbinado (raw) sugar. When it was ready, I added the thinly-sliced red peppers and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. I swear it was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. Wow.

I've still been kicking the Pandora classical Christmas station. I'm thinking that will be it for me until Christmas Day rolls around. By Christmas night, I'm ready for the whole thing to be over with. LOL!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Twelve Days of Goodies: Part VI

Wow! I'm halfway there! Yesterday I made chocolate truffles. I used this recipe from Food Network's Alton Brown. I wanted them to be extra-good, so I used all Ghiradelli chocolate in them. Making the filling was very easy. Getting the balls coated in chocolate? Not so easy. I was freaking out for the first ten or so truffles. Sleek was right there, offering support in whichever way was needed. (It was mostly emotional support.) LOL!

After coating them in chocolate, I rolled them in either cocoa powder, toasted chopped pecans or toasted, unsweetened coconut. I have to say, they are off the hook! Even Sleek liked them, and he doesn't really like chocolate that much.

I have to admit, I couldn't even rock any tunes while working on these. I had to devote my full concentration to the truffles. I kind of got the hang of it toward the end, and next time it will be much easier, I think.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Yesterday, Sleek started getting a hankering for twice-baked potatoes. He searched the web until he found a recipe he liked. It looked really easy and sounded very good. I mean, "Twice-baked Potatoes with Cabbage and Onions"? Yum. How could it not be good? We made them this afternoon since we felt like having an early dinner. They were really easy to make. I used massive potatoes, so I had to tweak the ingredients some for sure. I also used dried dill and parsley since I didn't have any fresh. I made an easy side of steamed cauliflower and broccoli to go with them. Sleek helped me out in the kitchen a good bit for this one. It's fun when we have to opportunity to cook together!

Happy Birthday, Olives!

Today is olives and more's birthday. The big 26. On Friday night, we went out to celebrate. Celebrate we did. Maybe a little (or a lot) too much. We started off with a nice dinner and some drinks at The Vintage Room. I started off with an Upside-down Pineapple martini. It tastes just like a piece of pineapple upside-down cake. Amazing. For dessert, I had a pumpkin pie martini. It was fantastic as well.

After dinner, we headed to a friend's graduation party. After a couple of drinks there, olives and I were ready to head downtown. We went to 123 Pleasant St. where they had a dj and dancing. We danced our asses off, and kept on drinking. I got home sometime between 3 and 4 a.m. Had a fierce hangover yesterday. I couldn't cook anything. That wasn't a problem, though. Annelies had her first piano recital, which she was a little nervous about. I told her we'd take her to eat at any restaurant in town after the recital. Much to my dismay, she chose Ihop. Oh, well. The slightly greasy hash browns eased the hangover, so I really can't complain too much. I'm looking forward to doing some cooking today, plus some chocolate truffles for my "goodies" segment. Stay tuned...

Friday night went on...

and on...

and on...

Thursday, December 6, 2007


After spending the better part of the day in the kitchen making cookies yesterday, I wanted to do something simple for dinner. I had planned on making pancakes and eggs, but I just couldn't stand in front of the stove flipping pancake after pancake. I decided to just do some omelets and biscuits instead.

I found a recipe for biscuits in VWaV, and I had all the ingredients. So, those are the ones I made. They were just okay. They were very small, for one thing. They were also a little bit dry, but they were better than canned biscuits. If I were to make them again, I'd add some more shortening and maybe a little more soy milk. I would also make them bigger.

I had some already-cooked broccoli in the fridge, and part of a block of cheddar cheese. I thought broccoli, onion and cheddar omelets would be good. So, I sauteed my onion and added the broccoli at the end to warm it up. I make my omelets with the egg whites only, that's why it's so white in the photo. The omelets turned out very nice. A perfect, easy dinner!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Twelve Days of Goodies: Part V

Today was Annelies's first official snow day. We woke up to a couple of inches of snow on the ground. At 3:45 p.m., it's still coming down. I'd say we have 5 inches now, and we're under a "heavy snow warning." We're expecting a total of 8 inches by the time all is said and done. It's a little unusual for us to have a snowfall of this magnitude in early December 'round these parts. It's really beautiful, and the kids had a blast playing in the snow today. They've just enjoyed having a day to spend together, I think. It's nice when they have a chance to just play all day. And that's exactly what they've done.

I, on the other hand, have been making cookies! I made another batch of the ginger cookies, and a big batch of chocolate chip. I used to use the Nestle Toll House recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but time after time the cookies came out flat. I modified it to make it just right, and also added some nutrition by using some whole-wheat pastry flour. Here's my recipe:

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter or Earth Balance, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
chocolate chips

Combine flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chips and stir until mixed in. (Sometimes I use a 12 oz. package of choc. chips, and sometimes I'll use less. Really, you can use as many as you like.) Bake at 375 degrees for 9-11 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for a couple of minutes and transfer to cooling rack.

I didn't write a post about dinner last night, but I made an enchilada casserole from the December issue of Cooking Light. Instead of using the red chile sauce that they included, I just used my enchilada sauce that I had in my freezer. At first, I thought the casserole was just okay. I had a second piece later on after it had cooled off, and I thought it was much better. I also made another batch of refried beans, and some chipotle Brussel sprouts. The Brussels turned out really nice. Just some brown sugar, chopped chipotle in adobo sauce and water.

Today while I was making the cookies, I was in the mood for some Christmas music. I checked out the "Classical Christmas" station on Pandora. It is absolutely fantastic. That's the kind of Christmas music I love.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tweleve Days of Goodies: Part IV

I wanted to make one vegan "goodie" during my holiday baking extravaganza. I saw a recipe in Vegan With a Vengeance for "Sparkled Ginger Cookies," and since ginger cookies were on my list, I decided to try it. I made up a batch this morning, and let me just say: "Lordy, Lordy!" These are some seriously good ginger cookies. In a taste-test, I'm sure they'd match any non-vegan variety. The recipe makes a pretty small batch, so I'm definitely going to have to make at least one more! Also, the dough was much easier to work with after being refrigerated for 10-15 minutes.

As I was working on these little gems, I listened to something new that Sleek recently put on my iPod. It's a Talking Heads compilation that just RULES!

Well, It's Not Mushroom Stroganoff...

I found a recipe The Hippy Gourmet for a really easy mushroom stroganoff. I couldn't wait to make it. I bought all my ingredients on Friday when I did my weekly shopping. I thought I'd make it while Sleek was away since he really hates mushrooms. I started getting everything together last night to get it made. Two of my three packages of mushrooms were moldy, slimy and way stinky. Ugh. I was so looking forward to the stroganoff! It would've been so good on a cold, snowy evening.

I had to come up with a backup plan, and I have to say, it ended up being very good. I had a big spinach and spring mix salad with some crushed up whole grain crackers. I also had a grilled Havarti cheese sandwich. Look at the cheese oozing off! Yum!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Twelve Days of Goodies: Part III

Like the seven-layer bars, my next "goodie" is a childhood favorite. I remember loving them as a child, then all of a sudden my mom stopped making them. I probably haven't had them for 25 years. Last summer, while looking through my mom's recipe book, I found the recipe. It was on a piece of calendar paper from 1974. It was in my dad's handwriting. (My parents have been divorced for nearly 30 years.) The recipe is called Swedish Nut Balls, but these cookies are also known as Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding cookies and Italian Wedding cookies. There must be a name for every nationality.

I remember writing down the recipe, and I've looked over it several times in the last couple of weeks. One thing I didn't quite grasp the magnitude of was the one pound of butter it calls for. Yes, one pound of butter! My eyes about popped out of my head as I reached in the fridge and got out one entire package of butter. It's a good thing I stocked up for all of my holiday baking. I usually don't even have "real" butter in the house.

So, yesterday I spent the entire afternoon making these little cookies. The dough is definitely different than most. (Must be the butter.) I was concerned I'd written the recipe incorrectly, so I was anxious to try one from the first batch. YES! They were exactly like I remembered them!

I had plenty of time to listen to lots of music while the baking was going on. I actually listened to Radiohead's In Rainbows two times. That album will get you. I swear it has the power to keep you from moving the iPod dial to something different! At the kids' request, I listened to "Colin" next. That's Colin MacIntyre, aka Mull Historical Society. After that I was tired, and once again resorted to "string ensembles" on Pandora.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chili, Pizza, etc.

Whew! I've had a couple of busy days, so I've got a few meals worth stuffed into one post here...

Last winter, my mom gave me a cookbook from the White Grass Cafe. It's a little cafe in Canaan Valley. It also serves as a cross-country skiing center. I've never been there, but I would love to go there to ski and eat sometime. It's sort of a little gourmet hippie cafe. Something I'd totally love. Anyway, soon after I got the cookbook, I made the White Grass Chili. Apparently it's one of their most popular dishes. No wonder! It's just so good. The recipe contains carrots, celery, onion, pinto beans, wheat bulgar, crushed tomatoes and canned tomatoes. Plus chili powder and cumin, of course. It may be the only chili I ever make again. It really is that good.

Yesterday Sleek took off work early so we could go out and get our Christmas tree before he heads out to California for a few days. I wanted to do something easy that the kids would love, so I made homemade pizza again. They just like cheese on theirs, and I made the ours with banana peppers and roasted red-peppers. For the sauce, I just used crushed tomatoes, and it was definitely the way to go. It turned out really nice. I'm telling you, it could compete with any pizza shop here in town.

I also had a few bananas getting overripe, so I also made up a batch of whole-wheat banana-nut muffins. I use the recipe from an older Southern Living cookbook that I have. It is one of the easiest muffin recipes ever. I've used it for banana bread too, and it's the best banana bread I've ever had. I love having muffins around for a quick breakfast or snack for the kids.

I'm still hooked on the string-ensemble station on Pandora. I can't not play it!