Friday, February 26, 2010

Where's the Beef?

No, it's not an ad of old from Wendy's. I'm not posting food today. I have been a lazy bum on my days off the last two weeks. The Olympics have been on my television a lot; we also just got DVR, so the nights I'm working I am "taping" the sports I would have missed otherwise. Next to penicillin, DVR has to be the best invention ever. I'm just saying...

I had mentioned in the last post (I think it was the last one) that I have also been working on my new scrap room. When Hermit Crab left for school Drama Queen claimed her room since there is another bathroom downstairs (that is in dire need of a rehab). I moved my scrap room from a small bedroom downstairs into Drama Queen's old room. Besides cooking and baking, scrapbooking is my favorite hobby. One of my favorite places is on the beach. I have always wanted to live on the beach-the fresh air, the waves crashing, the cool nights, the boats, the waiters bringing me Mai Tai's. Yum. Oh, wait-I'm back. So I love the beach. I wanted my new room to reflect that. I found a paint that I liked-or so I thought. Looks way too bright and not what I wanted, but it is toned down with the new sand colored carpet and all of my furniture in the room. I had a small counter top installed in my old room. I didn't want anything attached to the wall again, so we went to Ikea and I found a desk that I absolutely love. It has a glass top that sits on top of rails so it is raised from the desk portion. It has about 2 inches of storage space between the glass and the wood table it sits on. Great for pages I have in the works. I also bought a new chair and a new Shabby Chic white bookcase to go in the room. We changed out all the trim in the room for white, so it did the trick of reminding me of the beach. I'm going to start searching for some white framed art work of beaches, waves, umbrellas-something beachy!
The bookcase holds all the completed scrapbooks, page protectors, small embellishments, 12x12 paper and pictures waiting to be scraped.
The folding table holds my paper cutter, my Cricut, misc tools and underneath are all of my sticker binders, page elements I'm holding to scrap certain events, 8x11.5 paper and more misc items. The black mesh thing that looks like it is sitting on the blue three drawer file cabinet is my drink holder :)

This is my new desk. You can see how I have pages between the glass top and the wooden desk. I keep my pens in the wooden bourbon crate, a tool caddy for my rulers, scissors, regular ink pens (for jotting notes), a true colors light and framed photos of my loved ones.

This small cube holds the Cricut cartridges, my old Sizzix machine and dies, my rubber stamps and inks and some smaller albums I have in the works for gifts.
Oh, I forgot! POM sent me another 8 pack of POMWonderful juice. I'm excited as last time I didn't get to use all the bottles as it was hot when I received them and two of them smelled funky from sitting out on the stoop in the heat. There was no issue with them spoiling in this weather, so I have them loaded into the fridge and have two ideas rolling in my head.
Also, I want to give my daughter a shout out. My Hermit Crab is 19 years old today. I can't even believe it. The time went so fast and I'm feeling a little sorry for myself since this is the first birthday that we won't be together. I know her friends will make sure she has a good day.
And lastly, we went out and priced new stoves today. I have wanted a dual fuel stove for a long time and we just got our variable checks at work, so we are going to halvsies (is that a real word?) on one. However, we need to put in new counter tops as almost all of the dual fuels are a slide in option. Our old gas range is a freestanding model with the back panel that holds the clock and the oven control panel. In these, everything is on the front of the stove, so we would have a gap about 2 to 3 inches from the wall to the stove. We have been contemplating new counters for a year now, so this may the nudge we need. There is nothing 'wrong' with them, they still look pretty good for 14 years old; however, I'm way tired of the blue. I would love granite but not sure we can afford that, so we will see what happens.
Off to do more scrapping-working on Drama Queen's album. I would love to have hers done-not like I did with HC. I worked on hers up until 2 days before her party. Way too stressful. With my new room, I'm sure it will be a pleasure!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Are you ready for some chocolate?

Life has been rather busy around here the last two weeks. I saw that my last post was almost two weeks ago. We had our good friends over for food and games this afternoon. Nothing fancy-sloppy joes, cheesy fries, corn hotdish, deviled eggs, pickle roll-ups and chocolate cream pie. Now, I will probably have a ton of typos in this post as I haven't slept in over 24 hours. I'm nodding off while typing and don't wake up until it nods down to my chest.

I made this pie early this morning and then whipped the cream fresh while our guests were here. It was quite fudgy and good, and not too overly sweet. Even Dude liked it and he is not a chocolate fan.
Chocolate Cream Pie-from Diner Desserts, Tish Boyle
Graham cracker crust
Pudding layer
3 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup half and half -I used whipping cream
1-1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy cream
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Bake off your graham cracker crust. I would normally make my own, but the ready-made ones were on sale and I had a lot going on this weekend. I popped the pre-made shell in a 350 degree F. oven for about 7 minutes to made sure it was all toasty and good.
For pudding layer, in a medium bowl, sift together the corn starch, cocoa powder and salt.
Whisk in 2 TBSP half and half until it is a smooth paste. Whisk in remaining half and half; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar and chocolate. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat. Whisk about 1/2 cup hot chocolate mixture into the half and half mixture. Whisk this mixture into the remaining chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Return pan to heat and cook over medium-high and cook, whisking constantly. When mixture begins to bubble, continue to cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
Scrape pudding into cooled pie shell. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
For whipped cream, in an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment or beaters, beat the cream on medium-low for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and add sugar and vanilla. Beat until soft peaks form. Spread on pie before serving.

We have been busy working on my scrapbook room these last two weeks also. Drama Queen moved downstairs so I moved my scrap room up. We (not me) painted walls and got new baseboards. We went to Ikea and go a table for me, along with some chairs for computer desk/scrapping room. I spent about 8 hours hitting it yesterday and I'm still not done. I will post photos once everything is put away-looks like a bomb went off.

Well, my head keeps bobbing so I'm crawling into bed. I will probably wake up in the middle of the night-maybe I can find something else to bake?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Banana Cream....It's a Dream

Last week when I made the chicken stock, I also baked a pie. I had told Dude I could make him a Lemon Meringue since I had everything on hand, but he shook his head. Maybe you could make a banana cream? I haven't had that in forever. I searched through cookbooks and found one that was not based on Jello. I figured I might as well go all out.

This comes from Diner Desserts, the same book my Lemon Meringue pie comes from. It wasn't hard, but there were a few steps involved, but I had nothing going on at 2 in the morning.

Banana Cream Pie

1 pie crust

4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2-1/2 cups whole milk (I used 1%)
2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut in TBSP's
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, medium sized
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1-3/4 cups whipping cream
3 TBSP powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla extract
3 TBSP English toffee bits

Line your pie plate with pie crust and blind bake your crust for about 10-15 minutes until it is golden brown. Let cool on wire rack. For banana filling, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well combined; set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a gentle boil over medium-low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about 1/2 cup of hot milk into the egg mixture, then return the yolk mixture to saucepan with milk in it. Do this to temper the eggs so they won't scramble. Place pan over medium-high heat and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in butter pats until melted. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Quickly strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. This will catch all the little pieces that didn't blend in completely and makes a smooth custard. Half-fill a large bowl with ice cubes and add cold water to cover ice cubes. Place the smaller bowl of custard in the ice 'bath' and allow to cool, stirring occasionally, for several minutes. Peel the bananas and slice them 1/4 inch thick into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss gently to cover all the slices. Arrange the banana slices in an even layer over the bottom of the pie crust, pressing them into the crust slightly. Scrape the custard filling over the banana pieces and smooth the top with an off-set spatula or the back of a large spoon. Refrigerate the pie for at least 3 hours before garnishing.

For topping, in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium-low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until the cream forms soft peaks. Scrape the cream into a pastry bag fitted with the star tip. Pipe cream over the custard in large rosettes, covering it completely. Sprinkle with the toffee bits.

As you can see in my photo, I didn't do the whipped cream garnish as I was taking it to work that night. I brought a can of the spray stuff so those that wanted cream could have it and those who didn't could pass. Plus I knew the topping would be weepy by the time they ate it 16 hours later. Dude said it was fantastic and wants it to be marked a keeper. The next time I do it, I will make it for dessert for a get together with friends and use the topping.
Unfortunately my brother's Dad did pass away this weekend. His wake was tonight and his funeral is tomorrow. I didn't do the wake, but will be driving up to the Cities tomorrow morning for the funeral. I realized yesterday that I had finished cleaning out my work closet and didn't have any dress pants left that were not capri's and didn't think a dress was an option. I decided to visit Marshall's as I have never shopped there before. Let me tell you, I had a blast! I have lost about 22 pounds since I started working in a factory so was able to shop in the misses department for the first time in a long time. You girls know how happy that makes us! I went for pants. Came home with black dress pants, yoga pants for our trip to be comfy on the plane, a darling pair of black almost-patent leather peep-toe pumps, a blouse, a cow-inspired print spring dress coat, a new exercise outfit, sunglasses, some fun elbow length rubber gloves, a microplane for cheese/chocolate, some candles, a body scrub and some good smelling kitchen soap. Dude looked at me and said "Um, I thought pants were on the list. This looks like more than pants". Then I whipped out the reusable shopping bag I bought for him-in a giraffe print! I redeemed myself!

Have a good weekend and Happy Valentines Day! We work, but we are getting our winter dinner catered in on Friday night. It is a pasta bar with meatballs, chicken and another type of protein that I can't remember. Guess I can sleep in Friday since I don't have to get up and make us lunch to pack up!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chicken soup

I have never made homemade chicken soup before-Campbell's has always done the work for me! I had poached the six chicken breasts and then made the stock. I pulled apart the meat and put into two freezer packages for two different meals. I grabbed one of the packages of chicken, one of the containers of chicken stock, and my orange Rachael Ray cast iron Dutch oven and went to work.

Chicken Soup
1-2 cups cup up chicken
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
6 'new' Yukon gold potatoes, halved and/or quartered
2 carrots, peeled and slice in coins
1 stalk celery, sliced in small half moons
pasta of your choice, I used bowties

Place all ingredients, except pasta, in Dutch oven. Season with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Simmer for about half an hour. Pour pasta in and cook to desired doneness. I left mine about another 20 minutes.

Dude wanted more noodles, but I didn't have as much room in my pot as I would have liked, so I only used about a half cup of noodles and it wasn't enough. I made some fresh bakery dinner rolls to go with and packed it up for dinner at work. It was so good! I can't believe how easy it was and how much better it tasted not out of can.

Does everyone have big plans for Superbowl Sunday? Not us. Dude doesn't like football, but I bought some snack food and am making some guac so we can watch. I'm hoping the Saints can pull it off. It would be nice to see a first time winner (still waiting Vikings...).
Off to paint some more trim work in my new scrap room and I have a pot simmering on the stove with the ham bone and ham pieces from last nights' dinner. Trying ham stock so I'm not wasteful and also Dude wants me to try making a ham and potato soup. Hmmmmm.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Giraffe Stock.....tastes like Chicken

Now that I have your attention.......I didn't really make giraffe stock, that is just silly. I don't have a pot big enough to boil one of those! Ina always talks about how easy it is to make your own stock and I have seen different people do it different ways. I saw Ina do it with 2 or 3 chickens, veggies and water. I have seen others do it with chicken carcasses. I always like to march to the beat of my own drummer, so I had poached up 6 huge chicken breasts and then pulled the meat off to use for a couple different meals-one of which includes the stock which I am making here. I put the six breast bones with some meat and some of the skin in my large stock pot, threw in 2 onions that I just sliced in half, a head of garlic that I sliced in half, two carrots that I washed but didn't peel and chunked it up in 2 inch pieces and 2 stalks of celery that I washed and also chunked up like the carrots. I added 10 cups of water and simmered on the stove for a couple hours. I let it sit to cool and then poured it through a fine mesh strainer that I had lined with cheesecloth (I took the veggies out before this step). I let it cool down to room temp and covered and put in the fridge. The next day I went to scoop the fat off the top, but there wasn't that much there since I didn't boil whole chicken and some of the fat rendered off when poaching. I ended up with about 8-1/2 cups of stock after all was said and done and put it into 4 freezer containers and put it in the freezer. I don't know that I'm convinced it is better than the boxed kind, but it did taste pretty good. I didn't add salt because I had added a little to the poaching water and figured I would add some fresh to the recipes I used the stock for.
We received news today that my brother's Dad is in the hospital and they don't expect him to make it through the day. My Mom was married before and yada, yada, yada-we have different fathers. I feel bad for him; they were never very close and had been making strides in the last few years to fix that. If you think about it or have a chance, please say a little prayer for Hans-he is having a rough year-it is his son that just went to Kuwait in December.
Off for the weekend-think I may tackle taxes....then drink vast quantities of wine!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Goulash, my way

Hey everyone. Hope everyone has been well. I have been around visiting you, but haven't left many comments. Things are going okay here, but not perfect. Who am I kidding? When were they ever perfect? Drama Queen is being punished, by us and by those she wronged. Hopefully this will be a valuable lesson for her. Thanks to everyone who sent emails with their care and concern; it did really help me.

I'm still working on the pantry challenge. I did fall off the wagon two weeks ago when all hell broke loose here. When I'm stressed, I do two things: eat and shop. I had to get out of the house after the incident and I shopped for some craft items and then I was lured into the big, bad grocery store. I broke down and bought the bologna I had been craving, and some other lunch meat and some fancy cheese. Well, not fancy, but more expensive than I usually buy and need to shred it myself. This is how I wallow.
I pulled some ground beef out of the freezer and grabbed a jar of spaghetti sauce, some onion, garlic, smoked paprika and a southwest blend of spices and stirred it all up in a pan. I boiled some noodles-two kinds since I had about a palm full of both types but not enough of one to make the whole dish. Just part of the challenge.
Dude said it tasted like Hamburger Helper. Guess he wasn't impressed. Considering I have been sick again and rolled off the couch at 6 and had this on the table at 7, he shouldn't complain!
Here is one of the treasures that came with the Christmas gifts my Mom got me from the lady that passed away in her complex. In the Spritz maker box were a lot of recipes and receipts. One of my favorites were these four inserts from Spry shortening cans.
I used some of my scrapbooking tools and paper to mount the circles on complimentary colored card stock.

I picked this floating frame up at Michael's with a discount coupon and sandwiched the lids between the plastic sheets. I need to find my level so I can get it hung up in the kitchen.