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Monday, December 31, 2012

Ciao 2012!


 Every new beginning comes from
some other beginnings end.
Semi Sonic- Closing Time

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My party weary body is revolting.....

You all the know the feeling.......between work and family obligations and everything else that goes into everyday life, you crave time to get out of the rut of routine, you fantasize about having 10 solid days of not doing the same old thing and you vow that someday you will take yourself out of the rat race and shake things up a little bit. 
Well, that's just what we've been doing here in Judiland and I can tell you, my body is not liking it one little bit.  
This is the first time in 29 years that Carmen and I both took off the entire holiday season from work.  (Funny thing is....as I type this, he is getting ready to run into the office for just a little bit...).
We kicked it off with a quick but wonderful, super swanky, decadent  pre-holiday getaway.....well....it was a getaway for me....for Carmen....notsomuch.....since it involved being with his colleagues and others who are involved in his field of work.   Then, as soon we got back, it was hit-the-ground-running Christmas.....with all the cooking and eating and drinking and serving and guests and doing dishes and yadda, yadda, yadda.   When that was all said and done, it was more cooking, lots of restaurant visits, having plans uprooted by weather, entertaining more guests, going to parties, meeting friends for drinks and doing lots of movie watching and snacking and drinking.  By yesterday, my body hit the wall.  And, not in a good way.  However, since it was Carmen's birthday and we had a day of moreofthesame planned, I could not be a partypooper and call off the festivities.   Although when I awoke at 5 am and saw a blanket of snow, I thought that maybe--just maybe--we would not be doing all the things that were on the agenda and I could get my body back into some balance.  But, birthday celebrations don't stop for weather or gastronomical issues.  So, we just readjusted the schedule a bit and off we went.....kicking the day off with having Carmen's favorite chef   whip up a gourmet breakfast just for him with me having a bowl of his award winning chili (why I decided on that, I am still trying to figure out!) and Toni enjoying her all-time favorite grilled cheese (there is nothing ordinary about Chef Len's grilled cheese!).   Then, it was an all-out bookstore and music store shopathon with a break for some sweets.  And, the day didn't stop there.  No, my body punishment just kept on going with pre-dinner martinis at home before heading off to a neighborhood treasure for an amazing dinner.
I am not sure what possessed me to order this.....
Grilled polenta with sausage.....truly amazing!


and this......
Antipasti with shrimp, lump crab, buffalo mozarella.....a delight for all the senses!

Okay, maybe it was the yummy Hendick's martini we had when we arrived at the restaurant that made me do it....
A good deal of what I ordered came home with me in plastic containers.....
Anyway.....you would think that the day would end there.....BUT NO....
After chatting with some old friends that we ran into and Carmen and I sharing a quick little Frangelico apertif with them,  we wisked away to another of Carmen's favorite places to meet up with a few folks for a night cap.  This time......we all huddled around 2 bottles of a lovely Sebastiani Pinot Noir until there was not a drop left and they are getting ready to ask us to lift our feet so they could run the sweeper.........oh yeah. 
I am not sure what did me in but something or somethings did! 
Because when I poured myself into bed last night, my body decided to show me who was boss.

Now, here I sit.....trying desperately to hydrate myself with water, warm myself with hot tea and nourish myself with a scrambled egg so that I am party ready for another day of holiday hoopla.  Today, one of my spirited friends has rented out a party room at a local place to celebrate her husband's birthday.  Originally, it was also supposed to be a big Steeler-watching party but we all know what that game is gonna be like.  So, I guess it will just be more eating and drinking.....oh my!
Trust me, I know that I do not deserve any sympathy for all of this---after all---it's all-party-all-the-time here in Judiland.  But, lest you think that I am not suffering here, I am here to tell you that I have never....I REPEAT NEVER....spent this much time in bathrooms in my entire 53 years and 11 months of my life.  And, friends, I am paying for it all as well---I must confess to you that we have a call into the plumber.   Yes, it's true---I have single handedly destroyed the entire plumbing system in our master bathroom.  
 I really have no idea what I am going to say to the plumber when he gets here.....


PARTY ON!  


Friday, December 28, 2012

I can hear you!!!

Is the Peppermint BARK in your house as loud as it is in my house?
It just won't shut up!!!!!  

It's 6 am and it still won't shut up.
Should I just march in there right now and be done with it and get it over with?
I mean, really......it just keeps calling my name and taunting me.
I just can't neglect it....can I?
I mean....that stuff cost over $20 a box!!
It's bad enough that it kept me up a good portion of the night last night. with it's damn sugar rush......it's sweetness racing through my veins making me unable to sleep.....laying in my belly like a huge brick of sugary paste causing me such agony that I could not get comfortable in my own bed.
And, when I did finally find sleep, I awoke to a headache the size of a St. Bernard.  Thanks to that damn BARK!   
I am just ooey gooey in it's grips.....I always have been.....
Yes, I always have been..........
Will I ever be able to break free of it's grip?
I guess I could quit buying it.
But, that just seems so wrong. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It was a Christmas miracle.......

So, I figured I'd start out my first post-Christmas entry with a little weight-loss/holiday related story.....


There I was in the wee hours of Christmas morning, cleaning up after my very first hosting (a very successful hosting if I may say so myself!) of the super Italian Vigilia di Natale......wrapping up leftovers, cleaning off the table, washing the crystal and the china and the good silverware.  
Oh, and yes,  waiting for Santa.....
The remnants of a long night at the table! 
When what to my wondering eyes did appear?
A missing wedding ring!  


To explain....my wedding ring set has 3 pieces.....here's what they are supposed to look like.....
Sorry for the blurry pix....I extracted a close-up from another picture!
When I looked down at my rings....the top ring was missing.
I left like I was ready cry, my knees got wobbly and I could feel my head start to spin.  
After having such a lovely evening, I could not believe it was ending this way!!!  
 
Hey, it was bound to happen.
You see, I never got them resized after losing weight.
This is actually my second wedding ring set.
I grew out of my original wedding ring set as my weight escalated.
After having them expanded three times over a period of about 20 years, we gave up and went with a simple wedding band.....in a ginormous size to fit my chubby little finger.
Then, in celebration of our 26th Anniversary Cruise and the fact that I had lost about 75 pounds, Carmen surprised me with this beautiful set.  
At the time, it fit just perfectly.  
However, as I lost the remaining weight and my body adjusted to the weight loss and it redistributed across my body, they began to get loose.  
I really did mean to get them resized.....I really did
Even though I talked about it a gadzillion times, I never did it.
Maybe it was just another left over fat-girl behavior......I never believed I'd really keep the weight off.  
You know, I should have had them resized.  
I really should have believed in my Lapband.   
But, I didn't. 

So, anyway, there I was---in the wee hours of Christmas morning....standing in my kitchen.....looking down at my finger and my heart was sinking.  

I looked everywhere for that ring.....everywhere.   
Finally, at around 5 am, I gave up the search and crawled into bed.....vowing not to put a damper on Christmas Day by telling anyone about it or by pouting all day long.   

Christmas morning was a whirlwind of gift opening and brunching and getting ready to head off to my sister's for our family celebration.   
I kept my secret to myself......


Opening gifts......


Having brunch.....

 In the hustle and bustle of getting out of the house to go to my sister's, I realized that I had forgot to pack up some of the salad fixings that I was in charge of.  
I didn't have time to search for a bag to put everything in so I just grabbed one of the gift bags I stuffed under the loveseat from the night before (yes, that's how I cleaned up...I put things under the couches!).
And, there, in that random gift bag from Christmas Eve was my wedding ring.  
Yes, it was a Christmas miracle.  
And, it was a Happily Ever-After Christmas!
 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tastey Tuesday on Monday.......

just because it's Christmas Time!


Yes, it's Christmas Eve.
One of my favorite days of the year.....
The house is quiet, the Christmas tree lights are glowing in the darkness and carols are playing.
The kitchen is purring away with all the cooking that goes with the extravaganza that's about to ensue here in Judiland.
The shopping is done, the menu is complete and the table has been set with care but not a gift has been wrapped.  Uh-Oh.  Hope the elves get here soon......

I'm luxuriating in my new holiday season jammies with my red pen in hand--checking my ingredient lists, figuring out bowls and ladles and platters and seating arrangements.
I just know this moment of calm will not last much longer.....
Pretty soon the luxuriating will give way to another full blown nervous breakdown......
So, before I have my sixteenth nervous breakdown of the past 48 hours, I wanted to share with you one of the most amazing recipes you will ever put to your lips.
I've been saving it just for today because I'm thinking that you may want to make it to impress some guests or just yourself come New Year's Eve......
It's going to make an appearance as an appetizer at our gift-opening seafood and Prosecco buffet at 4 pm.  But, that's only because we have so many traditional foods to put on the Vigilia di Natale dinner table later this evening.   It's truly a beautiful recipe that deserves to be the star of a special dinner but I couldn't help myself but to show it off for my very first hosting of this very special evening.....

Lobster Ravioli with Crabmeat Cream Sauce
A great Food Network Recipe find!!!  

I purchased fresh Lobster Ravioli at our local Italian specialty store.  But, hey....feel free to make your own.....the recipe is contained in the link above.   

Here's the sauce recipe.....



For the sauce: Using a 12-inch saute pan at medium heat, add butter, shallots, and saute until shallots are translucent. Add the crabmeat and saute for about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the saute pan from the burner and add Cognac then place pan back on the heat to cook off the alcohol. (Please beware: the Cognac will create a large flame.) Once the flame stops, add the tomato sauce and cream with salt and cook until it reduces half way and becomes creamy. Add the cooked ravioli to the sauce and let cook together for about 1 minute before serving. Garnish with chives


Merry Christmas Eve!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What day is it and where in the hell have I been?

Well, I'm pretty sure it's December 23.
And I'm pretty sure I just returned from a whirlwind, swanky and all around amazing little trip.
However, considering it's December 23, I could not form a complete sentence even if I could remember where I was, what I did and how it felt....
BECAUSE IT'S DECEMBER 23...........

Yes, I'm living on caffeine and candy canes......

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More is MORE!


I've been a menu-planning-recipe-testing-crazed woman for a solid 18 days.
No, not because of Tastey Tuesday.   
However,  lucky for you---you will reap the benefits of my insane behavior.  
Did I mention that I have been entrusted with the very coveted  hosting of  Carmen's family's super Italian Christmas Eve tradition--which is steeped in tons of ritual--Vigilia di Natale?
Yeah, I might have forgot to mention that since I've been having a month-long panic attack.  
Hosting this event....and IT IS AN EVENT.....is a major responsibility.  I mean, it's not just about the food (even though it's all about THE FOOD....).  It's about the entire process.   It's about the table.  It's about who is at the table.  It's about the cadence.  It's about the china.   It's about the candles.  It's about the crystal.  It's about the centerpiece.  It's about the wine.  It's about the silverware.  Yeah, it's about everything but the kitchen sink.  Oh wait....I think there is something about the kitchen sink...
Now, please know that I am not complaining. 
I am beyond thrilled to be taking this on. 
This is exactly my kinda thing with all its pomp and circumstance and tradition and cooking and planning and recipes and......well you get the picture.  
 It's something I've long wanted to do.  I have such warm and wonderful memories of celebrating this tradition with my mother.  In fact--to this day, even though my mother has been gone for 40 Christmases.... I can vividly recall what the entire week leading up to Christmas Eve felt like....what the house smelled like, what it sounded like, what dishes and platters and glasses she would drag out....
I see her in her Christmas apron in our little kitchen.  I've always wanted to do that to. 
 And, now I am.....
Because the importance of this event has so many levels.....it frightens me a bit.   I've been finding myself sweating over things like the color of the napkins and the design on the flatware.  
Really Judi?
Yes, really.  
So, I've been going through a Vigilia di Natale Crash Course.... 
I am pretty sure I'm *this* close to a PhD.  
In addition to consulting online sources, scouring cook books and going through  my mother's recipe boxes and making numerous calls to my mother's 2 sisters (both of them well into their 90's) and my Italian cousins and enlisting some of my mother-in-law's assistance, I have turned to my dear, spirited and super Italian friend Angela.  She has been hosting this event at her house since her own mother died about 20 years ago.  She is very serious about the entire process and about the food and about the rituals and  everything that goes with it.....plus she gets me.  She knows that I start with a theme in my head and go from there....with everything.  She's one of those friends who knows not only to call me and ask when she can make to bring to a party at my house, she also knows to ask what color of  dish to put it in.  And, she loves wine and martinis and sneaking smokes.   
Yes, she has been the perfect adviser.....
The other day during one of our training sessions, she bestowed upon me her mother's much loved Christmas Eve Pasta with Tuna and Olives recipe.     
So, I am sharing it with you.....
You can thank my dear spirited friend Angela.....

3 to 4 jars of Marinara Sauce -  any kind you like
2 small cans of tomato paste
4 cans of Italian Tuna Fish  (drained)
 3 small cans of chopped black olives
1 chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper

Brown onion and green pepper in olive oil until clear,  add marinara and tomato paste and cook for 1 hour
Add drained cans of Tuna and cook for another 30 minutes
Add olives and cook for another 30 minutes

Cook 2 lbs of Linguini (you will have  lot of sauce left over - it tastes even better the next day).

Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmesan cheese and serve with big chunks of Italian Bread. 



Now, it's time to take a little break in my maniacal behavior and try to act like a normal person for the next few days.......
 I'll be back in time to wish you Merry Christmas......

May God Bless the families of  Newtown CT and hold those dear children and educators close to Him in Heaven....... 
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wrapped up in ribbons and bows......

and all that jazz!
Taking a little rest while on the party circuit this past weekend....

Yes, bloggerettes......I've been laying down on the job here.
Like everyone else, I've been swept up in the mania that is......CHRISTMAS.
And, what a MANIA it is. 
I am sure I don't have to tell you how crazy this time of the year can get....with all the shopping and partying and decorating and cooking and cleaning and shopping and partying and decorating and cooking and cleaning and shopping and partying and decorating and cooking and cleaning and....well.....not the mention the normal everyday stuff...like my job and my family obligations and shaving my legs...... so, you get the picture.   


Okay, it's time to get back to shopping and partying and decorating and cooking and cleaning......









Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exhange Day again!

Another chance to dig through those recipe files and share another sure fire winner for your holiday eating pleasure!!!!

Here we are at December 11.   Are you as panicked as I am right about now?  The weeks are flying by and I'm nowhere near ready for all the hoopla that's about to happen.   But, like every other year, when the time comes I will be ready.    
Having just come off a major party weekend,  food should be the last thing on my mind.  But, I just can't stop thinking about all of the fabulous food displays at my friend's party this past weekend. It was pure artwork.  Unfortunately, I could not get close enough to the tables to take pictures....they were three deep with guests at all times!   She has a catering business and believe me......it shows when she entertains.  Because she is a very busy caterer, she does not have the chance to entertain very often.  As a matter of fact, she hosts her holiday party only once every 5 years....which means the last time I was there, I was quite a bit larger.   And, I remember it well since it is a party you just can't forget!  Everything is pure perfection and a complete treat for the senses.  I came to the conclusion that I tend to eat less when the food is so artfully presented.  Or, perhaps I couldn't get close enough to the food tables to eat all that much.  Whatever the reason, I was thankful that I didn't leave the party kicking myself for overeating and possibly dealing with band issues.   But, what I did eat was truly amazing.  Two items were so outstanding that I am going to share both of them with you today......Creamy Leek Soup and Chicken With Figs.   AMAZING! 
Both of these recipes are from Epicurious....a website she said is her "bible" and one that I use quite a bit.  However, I have to be honest....I never saw these recipes.  And....if I did, I doubt I would have made them.  But, now that I've tasted them......I realize that I should definitely be more adventuresome and try recipes that at first don't seem like something I would typically cook.    
So....on with the recipes!  I'm gonna shake things up a little today and share 2 recipes with you that I have NEVER cooked in my own kitchen or served at my own home.  However, they have been taste tested by many party goers and by yours truly.....we all agree they are stunners!   Trust me, I will definitely be making both of them this holiday season.   
The Creamy Leek Soup was served in a very large and exquisitely beautiful tureen---that's what first got my attention.   I am so happy that I was so smitten with the tureen that I just had to taste what was inside.  It was an amazing soup--velvety and rich.   
Creamy Leek Soup
Btw....my friend tells me it's best to make this soup about 2 days before you serve it since it gets better with time!  
  • 8 medium leeks (3 pound), trimmed, leaving white and pale green parts only, and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 small boiling potato (6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth (24 fluid ounces)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
Wash sliced leeks in a large bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out and drain well in a colander.
Cook leeks, onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper in 4 tablespoons butter in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, then add to onion mixture along with wine, stock, water, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Stir in parsley and simmer soup, uncovered, 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf and keep soup at a bare simmer.
Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook roux, whisking, until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups simmering stock (from soup), whisking vigorously (mixture will be thick), then whisk mixture into remaining soup and return to a simmer, whisking.
Blend soup in 4 batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), about 1 minute per batch, transferring to a 3- to 4-quart saucepan. Reheat if necessary, then season with salt and pepper.
Beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until it almost forms soft peaks. Serve soup topped with cream.



As soon as I tasted the beautiful Chicken With Figs dish, I knew it was going to make it to my Tasty Tuesday recipe exchange.....it was just so good that I had to share it!!!     It's sophisticated enough to be considered an elegant entree but according to my friend--it's so easy to make that she blushes every time she gives out the recipe. She told me that it's one of her most popular and most requested dishes and that is considered her signature dish by default! 

Chicken With Figs
Another recipe that requires that you do the work the day before.....which, according to my friend is a caterers dream recipe!  
2 chickens (2 and a half to 3 pounds each), cut into 8 pieces each
6 large cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup best-quality olive oil
4 teaspoons green peppercorns (packed in water), drained
1 cup imported black olives
1 and a half cups dried apricots
1 cup dried small figs or large fig pieces
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup Madeira
1 cup large pecan pieces
Grated zest of 2 lemons

1.One day before serving, combine the chicken, garlic, thyme, cumin, ginger, salt, vinegar, oil, peppercorns, olives, apricots, and figs in a large bowl. Marinate covered in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a large shallow baking pan. Spoon the marinade mixture evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle with the sugar and pour the Madeira between the pieces.
Cover the pan with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a sharp skewer, 40 to 50 minutes.
Using a fork and slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, olives, and dried fruit to a large serving platter. Drizzle with a few large spoonfuls of the pan juices and sprinkle with the pecans. Sprinkle the lemon zest over all. Put the remaining pan juices in a gravy boat along side of the dish. 
(6 portions)

Start cooking!!!! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Where are you on the STRESS SCALE?

And, what do you do to deal with it?










"Tis the season of all things merry and bright?
RIGHT?
Then....why are we feeling just a wee bit stressed right  about now?
That's what my 2 spirited friends and I analyzed over cocktails last evening.

Here's what our experienced minds came up with....

There's so much to do in regular everyday life that when the obligations and the chores and all of the work involved with the holiday season are added to it, stress is something that just happens.

Now that we are all grown up, gone are the simple days of just waiting for the magic of Christmas to descend upon us.
We are now the magic makers---we bring Christmas. We make the magic.
We want to create the memories and give the smiles and make it all beautiful and wonderful.
Yet, in the process and the work of creating those memories and giving those smiles and making it all beautiful and wonderful, we find ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted and yes--a little pissy. 
OOPSY....that's not so nice!
Of course, we feel naughty for those negative feelings.
Especially at Christmas time.
Speaking only for myself....but my friends said they suffer from the same......I got this nasty habit of doing too much, taking on more than I can handle and thinking that I alone must create a storybook, glowing holiday season for those I love and hold dear.
I subscribe to the idea of never letting anyone know just how many nights I work deep into the night, not getting an ounce of sleep and making things just appear as if it were the work of elves and fairies and good old Santa Claus.
I'm a firm believer that you should never let them see you sweat or look the least bit exhausted.
I'm all for full make up, special holiday outfits and a 24/7 look of merriment.
No. Matter. What.
I don't think decorating or cooking or planning menus or entertaining should ever look hard or tiring or too damn much.
And, I don't like enlisting guests to be part of cooking or cleaning up or doing any kitchen duty.
Yeah, I'm cuckoo like that.
I want my guests to think it's all so effortless and happens without me even messing up my manicure or yelling at anyone. Like magic!
So, as you can imagine, with the burden of all that magic-making, I find myself completely frazzled just following the rules I alone have set for myself.
STRESS!!!

The way we figure it--the most imporant thing is how we deal with the STRESS.
We concluded that the best medicine for stress was 3 girlfriends sharing a few cocktails and analyzing the great phenomenon of STRESS.  



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

So, you thought you saw me?

On the Victoria Secret fashion show runway......


No, that wasn't me.  
My hair is much shorter these days.  


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The 5th Annual Tasty Tuesday Recipe Exchange!

I know you've all been waiting patiently by your computer for the reprise of Tasty Tuesdays!
Well,  blogger buddies.....your wait is over.......
It's Tasty Tuesday once more........hard to believe it's in it's 5th year!!!  

For those of you who are Tasty Tuesday veterans.....you know the drill.
For those of you new to the drill---here's how it goes:
Every Tuesday in December I share a recipe from my ginormus pile of tasted and tested holiday-worthy recipes.   And, I ask you to do the same.....share a recipe in the comments section of the posting.
It's a great way to help each other get ready for all the kitchen olympics that go on this time of the year and the perfect way to make you the FOODIE STAR of your holidays!
So, dig out your best recipes to share!  We especially like simple and scrumptious recipes.....

I'm going to kick off this year's Tasty Tuesday recipe exchange with a concoction that's new to my repertoire.  I debuted this dish at a September gathering and it got rave reviews.  To be more exact....my guests were actually licking their plates.....yes, it was that good.  So, I made a note next to it in my menu diary to be sure to share it with you for Tasty Tuesdays. 
So, that's what I am doing.....
ENJOY!!!  

Seared Cod with Spicey Mussel Aioli
I know this sounds super  sophisticated.....which makes it seem like it would be a very complicated recipe.  But, it could not be simpler.  And, it's lightning quick to make!  In fact, I was almost scared off by it when I found it online (courtesy of Food and Wine magazine) because I had never worked with mussels.  But, I was on the hunt for something very different to serve and this seemed like it would fit the bill.  If you're like me and have no knowledge on how to pick mussels just talk to the fish monger at your market so that you get freshest ones.  This would be a fantastic recipe to use on Christmas Eve if a seafood meal is part of your celebration. 


  1. 1/3 cup dry white wine
  2. 2 dozen mussels
  3. 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  4. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  6. 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  7. Cayenne pepper
  8. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  9. 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  10. Four 6-ounce skinless cod fillets (my friend used halibut and reported that it was great!)
  11. 1 roasted red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  1. Bring the wine to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the mussels, cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan a few times, until they open, 3 minutes; transfer to a large bowl. Shell the mussels and reserve. Rinse out the pan. Pour the mussel liquid into the pan, stopping before you reach the grit (sand) at the bottom.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Season with cayenne, salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Season the cod with salt and black pepper and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Bring the mussel liquid to a boil and remove from the heat. Whisk in the mayonnaise, then stir in the mussels. Transfer the cod to shallow bowls and spoon the mussels and sauce around it. Garnish with the red pepper strips and serve.  
Yum......just sharing that recipe makes me crave it.....

Monday, December 3, 2012

No time for the Monday blues......

even though I have a raging case of them! 


Even though my weekend didn't turn out exactly as I had planned, I don't remember a weekend when I felt as  relaxed and content.   
Relaxed and content. 
Not exactly two words I could use all that often. 
Especially the relaxed part. 
I took Friday off to get some work done around the house----as in banish all remnants of Thanksgiving and clear the way for a big cleaning this week and then decorating next weekend.
I forced myself NOT to leave the house all day.....which is not something I am very good at. 
But, I managed to do it....thus getting quite a bit done....although not everything that I had hoped. 
Yet, I was just fine with it.   
Saturday night was supposed to be a big romantic date night.  But, fate had other plans.  As in.....schedules that went topsy turvy and commitments that couldn't be avoided.   So, we ended up getting a little shopping done and then stopped off at one of our favorite local places for martinis and appetizers before heading home and catching up on some magazine reading.  Not the way I thought the night would go but I dealt with it and took a rain check.
Even our outdoor decorating day yesterday managed to go a little off kilter.   Thankfully, we started early enough before the rain came and forced us to scale back our light-trimming plans.  It's now as done as it's going to be.....and I'm okay with how it turned out. 
And, my plans to go Christmas shopping during the Steeler Game even got tampered with.  But, I went with the program and didn't let it get to me.  
I guess I must have used up all my tolerance this weekend because right now I am just not ready for Monday..... as in I am just not okay with it being Monday. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Haulin' Out the HOLLY!

It's that time of the year again......
With the promise of an excellent weather day and with the Steeler game coming on at 4:30, we decided it was a good day to banish all the pumpkins and remnants of the Fall holidays and decorate outside for the Season.....
I don't know about what goes on at your house but holiday decorating as a couple can be the perfect platform for a bit of bickering.   After 30+ years of hauling out the decorations, hanging the lights and making things look merry with my betrothed, I now come prepared for the inevitable  CHRISTMAS DECORATING FIGHT.  
How? You ask....
Well, for starters---I plan for a mid-day martini HAPPY HOUR.
I make sure I have his favorite vodka and stuffed olives and my favorite gin and a nice cucumber to cut up and float in my drink.  
I make sure we each have something we like to eat with our martinis.....
What he likes.
What I like. 
Secondly, I keep something aromatic cooking in the crock pot that he just loves  and buy a bottle of his favorite dinner wine to go with it as a reward for getting all  the decorating is done.
That's how I make it the most wonderful time of the year.....

 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The PARTIES are coming!


Although the Season of Eating has already started in earnest, it is now being combined with the Season of Making Merry.  Put them both together and it spells....

December arrives on your doorstep tomorrow.  And, with it comes the invisible EAT, DRINK and BE MERRY  LICENSE.  Followed by an avalanche of invitations to parties and eating and drinking events, trays of cookies at the office, bowls of candy on everyone's tables and fast food lunch breaks during hectic shopping days.  
What's a girl to do if she wants to continue to fit into her favorite PARTY CLOTHES?

Just because I have my beloved Lap band it does not mean that I don't think myself silly about these things.  Trust me, with everything on my Christmas list, I don't have a penny to spare to go out and buy myself an entirely new holiday party wardrobe.   And, even though I love, love clothes shopping---I don't love, love it enough to say that I want to buy bigger sizes of clothes.  

This holiday season marks my 6th Holiday Party Season with my Lapband.   Given that, you would think that I have the whole thing figured out like clockwork.   Not so fast.   Let's remember that I also lived 47 holiday seasons without my Lapband.   I had lots of time to solidify certain holiday party season behaviors and come to expect certain holiday party season foods and drinks and traditions.  So, if truth be told--the holidays do not feel right for me if I don't have certain foods, enjoy specific traditions that revolve around food and spend oodles of time planning, cooking and serving special holiday food.   Food is still a huge part of my holiday season.   As are parties.....

Given that I am in my 6th Lapbanded Holiday Season, I was thinking that maybe my old strategies of dealing with the holidays might need a little sprucing up.  Although in the past, I haven't had many issues with alarming weight gain, I have definitely been challenged.  Plus, I find that the further I go with maintenance, the more I have to stop and take stock of where I am and what I am doing to stay on track.  I have had my share of slip-ups!   So, I've been taking a little time to think of a few new things that I might want to do that would allow me to still enjoy the holidays but also not have to deal with the aftermath of that enjoyment.   Short of banishing peppermint bark and gin from my house and staying away from some of my favorite places, I have been struggling with figuring out the proper balance.  
Any suggestions?





Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another November to remember.......



My  92 year old father always tells me.....the older you get, the faster the time goes.
Yes....with age comes wisdom.
And, that man is so filled with wisdom that he's busting at the seams. 


I'm sure I've told you about my father a few hundred times.  
He's a true character.
One of the things that my father loves more than anything else is....FOOD.
That man just loves to eat. 
Always has.
I guess that explains a thing or two about where I get my foodlove from....
At this point of his life, food has taken on even more importance.....for more reasons than just nourishment and taste and something to do.
You see, eating time is also a time when he gets to interact with others---not just with his TV set or his books.
These days, he lives with my sister who is a single mom and she and my other sister and I care for him and take turns making sure he has his meals and  that all of his needs are met.
All he has to do is sit in his chair and watch TV and read his books and we take care of the rest.
So, as you can imagine--breakfast, lunch and dinner are huge events.
Holidays are even larger events....because there is even more food!
And, more people around to give him food!
Such was the situation at our annual Turkey Fry the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
We host a Turkey Fry each year at our house for family and friends.  It's more of a party type of atmosphere than a true Thanksgiving sit down dinner.   What that means is that there's lots of party type foods around---including lots of my dad's favorites---chips and cheese and crackers and nuts
Plus, there's lots of people milling about, filling their plates with food and eating it within his site.
Even though we make him a nice dish of  his favorite things as soon as he gets there, he is always eyeing for more. But, he knows that he is not supposed to eat so much of that kind of stuff.   And, he has a healthy fear of one of his daughters (not me!) about what he eats.....so he knows that he has to be very cunning on how he gets what he wants.  So, he takes great care to plan it out---enlisting his grandchildren and other guests to get him his treats---instructing them to give it to him without anyone noticing.  And, he is very careful NEVER to ask the same person twice.  So, God knows how many plates of chips and cheese and crackers and nuts he actually eats.  And, then he eats the main course--turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc.... and the desserts.
And, he is happy. 
Very happy.
This past Tuesday as I was chatting with him during dinner, I asked him if he ate enough for Thanksgiving and at our Turkey Fry.   He told me that he didn't really eat all that much because he is watching what he eats---he doesn't want to gain too much weight. 
(Another thing I should mention about my father is that he always says he is on a diet.)
Of course, I didn't challenge him.   He is, afterall, my father.....

Our little conversation got me to thinking about how much I am like my father. 
When I was heavier and battling my weight---I would never admit to all the food that I ate.
In fact, I don't even know if I realized how much I ate.
But, I always found a way to eat what I wanted.  I just never admitted to it. 
Knowing the joy that food brings to my father now, I wonder if I will be the same way.
And, I wonder if I will come to resent my  Lapband for taking that joy away from me....when I'm 92. 
 











Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Time to start drinking!

With all the hub bub of getting ready for Thanksgiving and the comings and goings at my house associated with the holiday, I was neglecting some very important matters.
And, one of those matters was....drinking! 
WATER.
A few days before Thanksgiving, I had a late evening hair appointment.  I had an extremely busy day at the office, I had a mountain of errands to run after work and I was completely consumed with everything Thanksgiving.   As the day wore on, I was feeling a bit odd.  I figured it was due to the effects of  this lingering cold and eye infection I've been battling since early October.  So, I soldiered on--with my goal of getting into that salon chair and taking a deep breath. 
By the time I got to the salon, I found myself feeling a bit fuzzzy---bordering on confusion.  The strangest feeling came over me---it's as if I could not complete a full thought.  I became a bit frightened by my inability to think straight. Plus, I just felt wierd.   As I waited for my appointment, I flipped through a magazine trying to get my mind off of  my certain terminal disease.  But, I just couldn't shake the feeling that something was horribly wrong with me.  I could not even concentrate on a magazine page and I began to feel woozy and shakey all at once.   Getting a fatal disease before I thawed out my turkeys just wasn't how my life was supposed to go....
My hairdresser---who also happens to be my sister--noted the sweat beads on my forehead and my quivering hands.   "Are you okay?'  she asked.  Naturally, being that she is my younger sister by 16 months, I wanted to shield her from the burden of my awful illness.  
"I think I am dying", I told her. 
At that point, my mouth was pastey dry and I felt like I could just lay down on the floor and sleep forever.
But, considering my roots were grey and my hair was ruining my life, I was determined to get  my beauty treatment--regardless of how close to death I was. 
"Just get me some water, I will be okay"  I told her in my best martyr voice.
She came back with a huge tumbler filled with ice water. 
I started out sipping it but as the water filled my mouth, the urge to gulp it was unavoidable.
It was like a gripping thirst that I just could not quench. 
When I was done with that, she brought me another.
Within moments, I felt so much better. 
Clarity soon returned.  And, when it did.....I realized.....I did not drank any water all day!   In fact, the only drink I had was during the early morning hours when I drank my morning protein shake. 
I was dehydrated....thus the feelings of confusion and shakiness had set in. 
That episode was a huge reminder that I cannot let anything stand between me and my water.
This posting is my reminder to you........DRINK UP!!!!! 




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I don't miss the Twinkies.......

because I have pumpkin pie and pumpkin ice cream and lots of whipped cream and lots of cranberry dunkers and a full container of white chocolate walnut biscotti and an unopened tin of peppermint bark....... 



Even if my treat pantry wasn't overflowing with all those wonderful things, I still wouln't miss  those Twinkies.
Those little cakes never did anything for me.  
Oh sure, I ate them....who didn't? 
But, did I enjoy eating them? 
Can't say that I did. 
Which brings me to a whole 'nother point!
How many things have we eaten that we really didn't enjoy yet we ate them anyhow....over and over again?
Did I  not get it that I deserve to eat things that I enjoy?
Did I not understand that foods we do not enjoy still have calories and fat and other stuff that's not so great?
When I think back to the weight gaining years and the weight fighting years, it's hard for me to imagine that I was that consumed with eating that I ate things that did not bring me pleasure.  In fact, eating them only brought me more misery (in more ways than one....).
Now, before anyone thinks that I do not have compassion for all of those people who are out of work because of this Hostess mess, let me clear----I care.  In fact, I care quite a lot.   It's my job to care about employment and the job market.   Plus.....Hostess Fruit Pies got me through my first pregnancy!  For that, I am thankful.  Those apple pies tasted amazing heated up in the microwave and covered in ice cream everyday at 10 am.   And, I wonder why I gained a wopping 80 pounds.....

Having just come off a food-infused weekend and dealing with all the remnants of that food-infused weekend, I am reflecting on how I could have cut back on all the food  to help me better prepare for the next 6 weeks of more food.  First, I should say that I did not really eat all that much.   I was too busy shopping for it and preparing it and cooking it and serving it to sit down and eat it.   So, I would say that Thanksgiving #1 and Thanksgiving #2 were not issues.   What is the issue is what I am left with now that those events are over and done with.   Now that all the work is done and my body and mind are taking a quick breather.....this is when the problems begin.   All of a sudden.....I want to eat all the food that's crammed into and teetering on top of each other in my fridge.  Well, not all of it.  But, quite a bit of it.  First of all.....it's good food.  Secondly, I slaved over it.... so yes, I deserve to eat it....right?  And, thirdly, I feel horrible wasting all of it.   It's economically wrong and it feels so disrespectful.
How can I stop the excessiveness of holiday foods and holiday cooking so that I am not back in this same spot in a few weeks?   
It feels like a viscous cycle since there are certain foods that are associated with holidays that I feel compelled to have in the house.   And, I truly do love the entire process of planning and cooking for special occasions and serving my loved ones foods that make them feel special and exude a certain feeling of comfort for them.   I think I am going to have to dig pretty deep to find a healthy balance here.  Ugh.  Just when I thought I could take a rest from all the planning.....


Geez......didn't I start out this posting by talking about Twinkies?
Now I've got myself so stressed that I might need a Twinkie!! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Anyone looking for a cute TURKEY?

It's seasoned and completely cooked!   It's a sassy, sweet and  petite little turkey dressed in a lovely silver lame jacket and just waiting in my fridge for a loving home......



Take me, I'm yours! All you have to do is CARVE ME!







Remember when I said that I made 4 turkeys?
Well, I was lying.
I made 5.
Blame it on my last minute panic attack (that I had on Thanksgiving #2 this past Saturday) that I would run out of turkey. 
Yes, I've got issues.....but we're not going to talk about all of my issues right now.
The only issue we are going to discuss is the one that's pressing at this precise moment.....the fact that I have a fully cooked turkey sitting in my fridge that needs a home. 
The other 2 tins filled with leftover carved turkey are not taking too kindly to this intact bird taking up valuable fridge space.  Not to mention how claustrophic the leftover stuffings, leftover mashed potatoes, leftover cranberry relish and all the other leftover foods are feeling right now.  Being squished in a fridge is not their idea of having a good time.....
So, if you know anyone looking for a turkey, let me know NOW. 
By 5 am tomorrow morning, this bird is going to turkey heaven......

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Presenting the STAR of the show.......

 Before I drown in a sea of dirty dishes or die from the aches and pains that are currently wracking my body or literally fall over from complete and utter exhaustion or  get sucked up into the holiday frenzy that is about to ensue, I wanted to share a recipe that took our Thanksgiving by storm.  It's an unlikely dish....since it contains not one speck of pumpkin or turkey or stuffing or gravy......(oh, and by the way....it's so band friendly that it borders on indecent....)....
This is what I am dealing with RIGHT NOW.....this is the best this corner of the kitchen has looked in 5 days....


 Ricotta Fritters

I served these with a pesto mayo sauce for dipping (mix equal parts jarred pesto and mayo...let flavors in fridge for about 2 hours)


1 cup ricotta
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup grated pecorino
⅓ cup grated mozzarella
1 tsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ tsp. grated lemon zest
⅛ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 egg yolks plus 2 eggs
4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped
¼ cup flour
½ cup dried bread crumbs
Canola oil, for frying


Stir together ricotta, fresh bread crumbs, pecorino, mozzarella, parsley, lemon zest, nutmeg, egg yolks, and prosciutto in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate until firm---about 30 minutes.   Put flour, whole eggs, and dried bread crumbs into 3 separate shallow dishes; whisk eggs. Using your hands, form chilled ricotta mixture into 1½" balls. Working with 1 ball at a time, dredge in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs, shaking off any excess. Transfer to a parchment paper–lined sheet tray. Pour enough canola oil into a 4-quart saucepan that it reaches a depth of 2". Heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer inserted in the oil registers 350°. Working in batches, fry the ricotta balls, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the balls to a paper towel–lined plate.





Have you had your fill of turkey yet?
Just nod your head.
No need to scream.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Eat, Drink and Be Thankful.......


My Thanksgiving blessing for you......

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes ‘n gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize.
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.


Happy Thanksgiving!  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Swaddle that Turkey!

or....in my case.....Swaddle THOSE TURKEYS!

Today is all about getting the STARS of the show ready!
Yes, the rumors are true.....we do 4 turkeys.  
Excessive?  Why, yes.  I know no other way to live....
 
So, while my cute turkeys are resting on the kitchen counter, waiting for their baths, I wanted to make sure I shared a recipe you might want to add to your  arsenal this weekend for your leftover turkey......it's been taste tested and given the highest seal of approval. 
There's nothing fancy to it nor could it be considered gourmet.... but it's so yummy (isn't that all that counts?).  Everyone in my house goes ga-ga over it.  This is one of the reasons why I make 4 turkeys......

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

2 C. Diced cooked Turkey (or chicken)
30 Oz.Enchilada Sauce
1 ½ C. Diced onions
1 Tbsp Minced garlic
1 10 oz. Cream of Chicken Soup
1 C. Chopped Black Olives
1/2 C. Corn
6 Corn Tortillas
1 ½ C. Cheddar cheese
¼ C. Diced cilantro
1/2 C. Diced JalapeƱo peppers to taste
1 Tbsp Chili Powder (optional)
  1. Combine Enchilada Sauce with turkey, onions, olives, cream of chicken soup
  2. Cut tortillas into strips. Use half to line bottom of 9X9 1 ½ qt. Casserole dish.
  3. Pour half of filling. Cover with cheese and remaining tortillas. Pour on rest of filling  and top with remaining cheese.
  4. Cover and cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
  5. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving.
  6. Serve with hot corn bread


 

Back to the kitchen........

Monday, November 19, 2012

Back to Talkin' Turkey......

Will my turkey defrost?
OMG, will my gravy be smooth?
How am I going to seat everyone around the table?
What if I forgot to add something to my stuffing?
Did I get enough oil for the turkey fryer?
How do I know if the turkey is really done?
Where are my gravy boats?
Do we have enough pumpkin pies?
Will I have enough room in the oven for everything?
Maybe we really don't need those pumpkin ravioli....
What if my cousin says something about______?
I'm pretty sure Carmen and I will have our annual extra-buffet-table-fight....I wonder if I can just sneak that table into the dining room without him noticing?  
How will I get everything done????????

Yes, it's the week of Thanksgiving once more......


No matter what those Food Network stars and food magazine stylists and cooks tell you---there is no easy, stress-free way to host Thanksgiving dinner.  
So, don't think you are less-than if you are feeling a bit stressed right now or ready to deck the next person who asks you anything related to being ready for Thanksgiving.....
Although chances are that everything will be just fine and you will be the star of  Turkeyday....getting to the big day is no small feat.  Right now, I feel like I am clawing and scraping my way.  And, I'm wondering just how much sleep I will get.....  
This past weekend, as I tried to wrap up as many last minute details as I could, I felt like I was always *forgetting something*.  Have you ever felt that way?  No to need to admit it....it makes me feel better if we just go with....YES!  
Now that we have all of that moaning and commiserating out of the way.....let me tell you about this Sangria recipe that might make your day just  a little bit sweeter....
When I entertain, I do strive to have a fully stocked bar and lots of different wines and beers so that everyone is happy.  However, when you are hosting a holiday like Thanksgiving---with all the kitchen time that's required,  it's tough to be the cook and play bartender.  Thanksgiving is especially rough at our house because I can't depend on Carmen and Vince to be of any assistance in the making drinks department since they oversee the outdoor Turkey Fry portion of the event.....where all the menfolk and kids gather around the fire pit while the turkey fries (but, let's be honest here....even if Carmen wasn't out there with the turkey fryer....he enjoys being a guest and not a host so he stays as far away from me as he can when we entertain....).  So, given all of this plus the fact that I like to enjoy myself as well, I find that offering a signature cocktail is a nice way to cut down on the need to be a mixologist and a drink fetcher.   Plus, it's fun to come up with something......there's taste testing involved! 
This year, I assigned my newly minted 21 year old sorority girl to come up with a signature cocktail for our Thanksgiving festivities.  And, she didn't disappoint.   She gets an A for her research!   We did a little taste testing over the weekend....yummy!  
I am happy to share with you the fruits of our labor......a seasonal and festive drink you can whip up for a crowd! 

Apple Cider Sangria.....
......a nice little drink to sip in the kitchen.....it will help with that frenzied feeling!  
  • 1 bottle (standard size) of  Pinot Grigio
  • 3 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
  • 1/2 cup ginger brandy (Jacquin's makes this)
  • 3 apples, seeded and chopped
  • 3 pears, seeded and chopped
Directions:
  • Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir well.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
  • Serves 4-6--so you might want to double or triple!!

Now might be a good time to run to the store and pick up everything you need to make this......not that I want to add one more thing to your to-do list.....


Sunday, November 18, 2012

HOLY MEATBALLS!


 also known as Sunday Meatballs..... 
Get it?  Sunday=Holy
 
This morning, I woke up wanting meatballs.  
Perhaps I was just feeling a bit nostalgic with the holidays upon us.
If you grew up  with an Italian mother, meatballs were a staple of your Sunday mid-day meal.  
Perhaps I was just missing the days when the comfort of a familiar food made me feel safe and loved. 
Or, maybe I just wanted meatballs. 

 This past summer, I tried out a recipe that called for topping meatballs and sauce with ricotta cheese and I fell madly in love with it.    
I just know you will love it too.....

 
 
 
 
 
Meatballs a la Ricotta

You can use your favorite meatball recipe or try this basic meatball recipe below.  I tend to make my meatballs a bit different every time--never really following a recipe.  One thing that never changes is the fact that I use lots of  fresh garlic,  fresh basil, good quality romano cheese and a hefty amount of chopped fresh parsley.  You can use your own tomato sauce or a jarred sauce or anything in between.  You could also use your favorite store bought brand of meatballs as well.  But, the one thing you cannot change is the fact that you have to use a whole milk ricotta......

 
3/4 pounds meatloaf mix (1/4 lb each ground beef, veal and pork), or you can use all ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs 
1/2 cup of grated parm or romano cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups of tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)
1 cup ricotta cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup slivered basil leaves

Directions
1. Make meatballs by combining meat, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and cream in a bowl. Mix together well and form into 12 meatballs. (These can be done ahead and refrigerated.)
2. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high, and add meatballs. Brown on all sides, turning gently, until they are browned but not cooked through, about 7-10 minutes total.
3. Pour sauce into a large saucepan. Carefully add meatballs, and heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until meatballs are cooked through.
4. Divide meatballs among plates, top with ricotta and slivered basil.
 
Enjoy! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sick of talking TURKEY?

Yeah, me too.
Let's go visit the cows. 
Let me introduce you to this little number......
This jar is a bit pricey but for something that's going to save my sanity, it's worth it!



I've been pulling out all the stops with the Thanksgiving menu planning.....so much so that I have been avoiding the other meals that have to happen over the next week or so.
As my house begins to fill up.....that means that there's more mouths to feed and  more meals to plan.
I've been so focused on the traditional foods that I haven't given a thought to much else.
These are the moments that I am happy that I am not so much of a food snob that I won't open a jar and make a meal from it.
The key to not being outted for serving something out of a jar  is to make sure that whatever is in that jar is something you would feel good about serving. If YOU don't like it, you can't expect your guests to like it!
 Oh, and yes, hide the jar.  

I can't remember if I told you about this product or not.  If I haven't---I apologize for keeping this secret to myself.  If I did---it's worth telling you again.
This braising base is sensational.
Yes, it's a little bit pricey.  However, during times like this---when a major cooking holiday is only days away and you have to make lots of meals for lots of people....cost needs to take a back seat to your sanity!
Let me start by saying a few things.....
First of all....it makes the house smell incredible.  Which is always good.
Secondly, with a little bit of ingenuity, you can make this into a one pot meal that's easy and satisfying....for everyone.  It's  super comfort food and goes really well with football!!!
And, most importantly---it will make you look like the star that you are!!!

Here's what I do......I do not follow the jar recipe exactly.....I stretch it out a bit.....I'm such an economical gal....aren't I?

CROCK POT Belgian Beer and Onion Beef and Veggies
  • 4-5 lbs beef chuck 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 jar Belgian beer and onion braising base
  • 1 small can of beef broth 
Veggies that I add:
-1 bag of frozen pearl onions
-4 potatoes--cut in med size pieces
-2 stocks of celery--cut in med size pieces
-1/2 bag of baby carrots (raw)

Season beef with salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until just smoking. Brown the beef on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a slow cooker, add veggies, broth and the braising base. Cover and cook on MED about 8 hours.... until the meat and veggies are fork-tender. You can shred the beef or cut it up. 



 We can resume talking turkey tomorrow.....

Friday, November 16, 2012

The road to Friday.......

was exhausting.  But, I welcome it with OPEN arms......




Last week at this time, I was sporting the wonderful glow of anticipating a little road trip.  Right now, that seems like it was sooooo long ago.  So, before I get swept up by the chaos that will inevidably sweep me up these next few days, I thought I would share a few pictures from that little road trip....

A mother in her son's kitchen.....

An early morning trip to a lovely market place.  Carmen was in love with their artisan sandwiches and I got a little bit of shopping done.....lots of fun jewelry and fabric art.   Oh and wine too!!

The entrance to the little village where our son lives.....one of the quaintest places ever!  I never knew a place like this ever existed!!!! 

A visit to a glorious bohemian town near our son's town where we got our "hippie" on!


Hiking on the scenic banks of the river at the end of our son's road.
 Just looking at those pictures brings a smile to my face.....

We all need to take a little break now and then from our everyday life. 
In fact, I'm so ready for another one!
No sooner did our weekend away come to a close, everyday life began in earnest.....catching up with emails and voicemails and  lots of work at the office and trying to get some semblance of order at home.  Carmen was summoned to DC by a last minute business trip early in the week so I made it my business to schedule lots of cooking and cleaning time these past two nights.  Although he is typically NOT home much anyway during the week, I knew that given this particular trip....he would want to come home to lots of down time and entertainment instead of work and projects this weekend (haha....just when I had planned  doing most of my prep work while he took care of several projects over the weekend). 
Plus, our sorority girl will be arriving on the scene tonight (WOOOO-HOOOO) for the holiday.  So, I wanted to get as much out of the way as I possibly could.  My girl's youthful energy and wonderful spirit will keep me very busy.... 
Plus, to be honest---cooking soothes me.  For me, the chopping and stirring and the entire process is very relaxing for me.  I just have to figure out how to feel the same way about the clean up...
Plus, I have to learn when to quit....going to bed so late...only to get up 2 hours later for 2 nights straight is not a good plan.....

HELLO FRIDAY!!!!