Follow me.......

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Counting down the hours.......

until it's time to say farewell to 2011!

Cheers from us!

Please spend today responsibly......since it's the last day of the year and all.
I'll try to listen to my own directive.
You just never know if a day with Frank Carr will end up responsibly!

Bang those pots!!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

I surrender!

Yes, I gave in.
Don't think less of me.
After a few years of listening to lots of moaning and groaning and pitiful drama over the fact that our big-enough screen TV was just too damn small for football and that it was somehow destroying my husband's life and possibly our marriage, I let myself be dragged to the store with the ridiculously big TVs. Once I was there, I succumbed.
We bought the ridiculously big TV.
After all, it was Carmen's birthday.
And, he had fed me 2 Cosmo's for lunch.
I'm now one of those women who has a honking huge TV smack in the middle of her living room.
Don't talk about me, please.
I will have you know that no sooner did we own that TV, I demanded a suitable TV stand that would fit my taste.
I refused to go home until we found it.
I'm one tough bitch.
You want a bigger screen TV? No problem.
Let me list my demands:
*The perfect TV stand that will fit with my decor. Yes, dear.
*The big-enough TV that was once where the ridiculously big TV is now is to be mounted in my little office off of the kitchen at a perfect angle so that I can see it as I am blogging and doing other various big computer related things. Yes, sweetie.
*And, the sort of big-enough TV that was once in my office is now to be mounted in my bedroom at a perfect angle for me to view from my bed while I am propped up on pillows sipping wine or chai. Yes, my love.

For good measure.....I also got a lovely diamond cluster ring and a sheepskin and shearling coat out of the deal.
Things I did not even demand.
I just happened to try them on in a little vintage shop I demanded to stop in.
Carmen encouraged me to get them---no, no, he was actually ripping his wallet out of his back pocket saying things like the coat looked way too good on me to pass up and the ring reminded him the first ring he ever bought me (that I lost sometime in the 70's).
Yes, darling! Who in the hell is this guy?What a man won't do for a ridiculously big screen TV!
Especially 4 days before a ridiculously big Steeler game.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another day.....another celebration.....

It's Carmen's birthday!

Yes, my guitar-strumming, rock-n-roll singin', Steelers-lovin', recliner snoozin'', stressed-out, work-obsessed, martini sippin', scotch swiggin', beer gulpin', engineer husband is celebrating another milestone on his journey.
Smack-dab in the middle of all the holiday hoopla, we are all putting aside our chores and our daily schedules and all of our Christmas week activities to make it a very special day.
It's a 24 hour Carmenfest.
Well, maybe not 24 hours...he might not last that long.
After all, he is celebrating #54.
No matter.
With the help of the collective brainpower of my full nest, we have put together a day that's focused entirely on what we think he'll want to do with a little wiggle room for what he decides he wants to do...
The boys are starting out with a visit to the Carnegie Science Center to visit the Steelers' SuperBowl trophies. We're sure it will bring a tear to his eye as he talks (and talks and talks and talks) about his Super Bowl memories of days gone by.
Then, it's on to meet up with Toni and I in the South Side of Pittsburgh for a fun lunch at Fat Head's Saloon---where there's lots of fancy beers and excellent bar food (both are things that are near and dear to the birthday boy's heart....) plus tons of Pittsburgh memorabilia that will surely warm the cockles of his heart.
Once we're sufficiently fueled up, talked out and nicely tuned, we're taking on the sights and sounds of South Side---there's no telling where our meandering hearts and celebrating souls will take us.
As in life---sometimes you just have to follow your heart and feel the beat of your soul.

Happy Birthday Carmen!
(he doesn't read my blog so if you see him, tell him that I sent him cyber kisses and hugs!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like......

you'll be hearing the following question:

What's your New Year's resolution?

I say it's time to look those people asking that question directly in the eye with a prepared statement.
Here's mine.....
I resolve to not make resolutions.

You only have 4 days to prepare your own.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Working day......

It sounds funny to hear myself say that I'm taking a break from the holidays to go to work today.
As if the holidays haven't been WORK.

There's been the all hours....morning, noon and night.....

And, there were the late nights and early mornings and mid afternoons of wrapping and setting up and fuffing and fussing....

Of course, there were also those fun family memories that had to be made....

And, the obsessive decorating......little vignettes all around the house.....the details of which are mind boggling.....

And, the party -going! Making the fashion choices was enough to send me over the edge....not to mention the decision as to whether I'd be going with wine or martinis....

Not to mention....all the extra meals, piles of laundry, clean up, dishes, no sleep, bad food decisions and tired aching bones that go with it all.....

Yes, I'm going to work today to get a bit of a rest from the work of holidaying......

Monday, December 26, 2011

Welcome to Judiland Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas....Day -1

It's the day after Christmas.......

Today's word is: OMYGAWD!
as in.....omygawd!
Once again, for good measure......OMYGAWD!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Christmas......

Today's word is: Christmas
as in.....Merry Christmas from my home to yours!
'Tis Christmas once more.....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas.....Day 24!!!

Only ONE more day until Christmas!
as in.....'tis Christmas Eve!

Today's word is: Anticipation
as in....I'm hoping those elves will come and do all the work that needs done!
Yes, that's me in Santa's the wee hours of this morning....wrapping and setting up and cooking and waiting on those damn elves to show up!

Christmas favorite part of the holidays.
I just love the ANTICIPATION......

Friday, December 23, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas--Day 23!

Only 2 more days until Christmas!

as in.....Judi please stop screaming!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas--Day 22!

Only 3 (count 'em...1*2*3)
as in...only THREE days until Christmas

Today's word is: Attack!
as in....move aside world, clear the aisles, tell your families to take cover and don't you dare drive the speed limit.....I'm on a mission to bring Christmas to Judiland!

Get outta my way, I'm living on caffeine and candy canes, I've got a list that's longer than that jolly fat fella and damn there's only three days until Christmas!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas......Day 21!

Only 4 days until Christmas......

Today's word is: Partygirl
as......yeah PARTY ON GIRL!

It's been a bustling party season here in Judiland......

Here we are at the beginning of the holiday party season, getting ready to go to a spirited party at one of my spirited friend's house with a few of my spirited friends.....
Here's those spirited girls at that spirited party......Kate, Angela and I.....
Closing out the night with the guy I go home from parties with.....

Party season is always a good season for a Partygirl.....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas......Day 20!

Only 5 days until Christmas!

Today's word is: Hurry-up in company is coming or my family is hungry and I am sick to death of serving the same old, same old....I need something new but it's gotta be something quick (and delish!)......

'Tis the season when there's always a ham or a roast beef or a vat of sausage or big old turkey or a huge bowl of ravioli or a tray of cheese and pepperoni and crackers or a crock of hot artichoke dip or a platter of shrimp with cocktail sauce fill in the blank....
Maybe that's just on the party circuit I travel.
Great food for sure but after a few nights of eating at the traditional holiday dinners and parties and buffets--I'm usually so done with it all.
And, so is my family.
As much as we look forward to all those traditional holiday foods, we find ourselves pretty tired of them after a few parties, a few meals and a few midnight raidings of the fridge.
When the holiday food misery sets in--and we all know it will--I try to be equipped with a few different ideas.

I'm always trying to come up with something just a little bit different to serve.....especially on those days between Christmas and New Year's when the kids are home full time, there's visitors at the door at all hours and I have to go to work.....
Let me repeat.....and I have to go to work.
It would be great if I could just put out all the leftovers and call it a day.
But, like I said---everyone (even our visitors) is pretty tired of ham and turkey and beef and sausage and know what I'm talking about.....
I don't want to see another cheese platter.....please!!

When I was planning out my menus for next week--knowing I'd have to go to work and that I'd be exhausted from all the holiday hoopla and there would be company coming and going, I made a concerted effort to think a little differently when it came to evening meals as well as delicious fare for drop-in guests.
Here's a few things that I came up with......
First, a tried and true chicken recipe that I've made many times but I decided to turn it into a finger food for next week. We could eat it in front of the TV or serve it to guests along with some chips and dips. It's easy to make ahead of time and throw in the freezer and take it out when you need it. It goes good with a hoppy beer as well as it goes with an oakey Chardonnay.
Here it is....excuse the fact that there are no exact measurements.....I do this by memory....

Better than Fried Chicken
Thin sliced, boneless chicken breasts.....cut into strips
Coat chicken with mayonaisse flavored with some black pepper and a mixture of parmesean and romano cheese (cover them well with the mayo mixture)
Dredge and press mayo covered chicken into a mixture of Italian flavored breadcrumbs, more romano and parm cheese and Panko.
Place chicken strips on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375/400 for about 15-20 minutes.
(If you want to freeze them now--cool them a bit before doing so)
Serve with your favorite dipping sauces--I will be using a good quality jarred marinara sauce (DeCecco is a good choice), either a jarred or powdered and mixed-up ranch dressing and a jarred barbeque sauce.

This next recipe is one that my caterer girlfriend serves in lieu of the usual shrimp platter.....
it's truly amazing, has an air of elegance about it, it's super easy and quick and it makes everyone happy and is enchanting in your mouth when you serve it with a lush and smooth Sauvignon Blanc.....

Roasted Shrimp
(serve at room temp)

3 pounds shrimp (I use the frozen jumbo shrimp from Aldi's--thaw it before putting in oven....its great!)
A few table spoons of good quality olive oil
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of coarse black pepper
On cooking sheet--coat all the shrimp with oil, salt and pepper very well
Roast at 400 for about 8-10 minutes
Cool and serve with lemon zest grated on top and scampi dipping sauce (saute some garlic in olive oil---when cooled add a splash of lemon juice, a bit of parmesean cheese, a little bit of dry white wine and lots of black pepper)

And, now for one of the best comfort foods around---Macaroni and Cheese.
Who doesn't love that?
Below is Alton Brown's really is the best....a few thousand people have said so!
The only thing I do a little different is that I have to add some good quality romano cheese to the topping.....I can't help myself...I have to Italian everything up a little!
Take this up a notch and serve it on your good china and pour some happy Prosecco to accompany it!
Won't you be the IT GIRL.....?!?!

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs + a few sprinklings of romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

Just in case you have a hankering for a little might want to try this quickie and tastey rendition of pizza. It goes great with a lively Sangria so you won't have to figure out what kind of booze to wash it down with.....

Taco Pizza

Crust: Large, oversized whole wheat tortilla shell or 3 whole wheat tortilla shells

  • 1 can (14 Ounce) black beans
  • 1 teaspoon taco seasoning (Penzey's Bold Taco Seasoning is fab!)
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1 head green leaf lettuce--shredded very thin (I buy the bagged variety)
  • 2 whole ripe tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cups cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cups sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons of Frank's hot sauce (or more!)
  • Pour black beans into a saucepan. Add seasonings to taste and heat up beans over medium-low heat. Use a potato masher to mash the beans to desired texture. Continue cooking/heating beans over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer runny (should be the texture of refried beans). Set aside.
  • Spread layer of refried beans all over crust (tortilla). Sprinkle mixed grated cheeses over the top. Place pan in the oven (in the bottom half of the oven) and bake for 9 to 12 minutes. Watch it to make sure crust doesn’t burn.

    Remove pizza from oven. Sprinkle on shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and cilantro leaves.

    Mix together sour cream and hot sauce, adding enough hot sauce to make the mixture pourable. With a spoon drizzle mixture over finished pizza. Serve with jarred salsa.

And, let's not forget about dragging out the crock pot. This past year, my sister bought me one of those buffet server crock pots that has 3 separate crock pots in it! She said I was the only person she knew that might really use it. So, I figured I'd prove her right. I did a little research on an entire meal--several courses--using my 3 crock pots. Whalla--a perfect meal to serve to your husband's boss and his wife on a busy work night during the busy holiday season. Turn on the crock pot, go to work, pick up a few bottles of wine, a decent champagne and a good bread on the way home, throw a salad together (using artisan bagged greens and simple bottled balsamic dressing, adding a handful of dried cranberries and some fancy nuts) when you get home and you're the queen of of the kitchen!


--1/4 cup each of cheeses. I chose goat, grated/shredded gruyere, and grateds/shredded swiss (Trader Joe's has a bag of shredded gruyere and swiss that works great)
--1/4 cup white wine
--1/2 tsp nutmeg

Put the shredded cheese in crock pot. Add the goat cheese. Pour in the white wine and sprinkle the nutmeg on top. No need to stir---it will melt together.
Cook on the lowest possible setting for 5-6 hours.

Serve with bread, croutons, crackers, or your favorite dipping vegetables.

Veal Osso Bucco

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Six-Eight 1-1/2- to 2-inch-thick veal shanks (about 4 lbs)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
One 14-1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 red onion, chopped (2 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds (1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
6sprigs fresh thyme
4 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
2 large cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)

The night before.....

Put the flour in a wide, shallow dish. Season the veal shanks all over with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour; shake off the excess flour.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, and when it foams, add the shanks to the skillet. Cook until golden, turning once, about 10 minutes. Transfer the shanks to a covered dish and refrigerate.

Add the wine to the skillet. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet and pour the contents into a separate covered container and refrigerate.

The next morning....

Put the veal shanks and the wine in the slow cooker. Add the tomatoes and their juices, chicken broth, onion, carrot, celery, and thyme. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours—the meat will be very tender and almost falling off the bone.
Before serving--sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the parsley, lemon zest, and garlic to make a gremolata. Serve the veal shanks topped with the sauce and the gremolata.

Wine Braised Pears

2 (29-ounce) cans pear halves

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine (an inexpensive merlot will suffice)
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
6 tablespoons sweetened whipped cream (for garnish, after cooking)

Drain pears, and plop them into your empty crock. Add the entire bottle of wine. Stir in the sugar, being careful to not break up the pear halves. Add vanilla, and float the cinnamon stick and star anise on top. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
Serve warm in bowls with a large dollop of whipped cream.

What are you gonna cook in between Christmas and New Year's?

Tell me quick..... HURRY-UP!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas....Day 19!

Only 6 days until Christmas!

Today's word is: Sigh......
.....I miss the weekend already

I didn't cook or wrap or decorate...although there's lots of those things left to do.
Instead, I just Christmased my way through the weekend......

I did a little ME shopping.....
Don't you just love the flower on my hat?

I brunched at a fun little place with my favorite brunch mate....

We met up with our kids and got into the spirit......

and now I'm back.
Time to get ready to tackle all the things that need tackling this week before Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Welcome to Judiland's Word of the Day Countdown to Christmas.....Day 15!

Only 10 days until Christmas!

Today's word is: Home

As in.....Welcome to my Holiday Home....

Tune in soon for more.....yes, there's more!
Until then, blog friends, I bid you a little good-bye.
You'll just have to come up with your own countdown words until Monday!
Because this Santa's helper is hitting the party circuit for the next few days.
Yep, I'm putting down the tinsel and the bows and I'm packing up the sleigh and partying all the way!

No matter how fun it will all be.....there's no place like HOME.