Monday, January 31, 2011

We Heart Weekends.....

One of the nice things about winter is the lack of busyness.  Our weekends have been lovely.  We sleep in, rent movies, try new recipes, and occasionally entertain.  Rob would be happy to stay around the house all weekend, but I try to plan at least one fun thing for us to do with the kids. 

This weekend we went sledding.  So, so fun.  The only bad part - walking back up the hill.  Rob was our photographer - he got some great pics. 

you should have heard the screams!

I kind of love sledding :)

trudging back up the huge hill

great view of our fair city

I love Emma's hair flying in the wind

stuffed in a sled!

pretty girl

Josh and his friends

Paige's dad

Josh and his friend, Paige

Kate and her friend, Elise

our little fashion-plate

Josh catching some air on a ramp!

We made some great memories.  The original plan was for Josh to meet up with some friends [and stay on the other side of the hill].  Instead, we all hung out together and it was great.  The more we enjoy plan-free weekends, the more I realize that this is what families are supposed to do.  I don't have anything against extra-curricular activities - but running around from activity to activity - no thanks.  If we were over-committed we would have lost the opportunity to go sledding on an impulse.  I love a simple life. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

as the Zach Brown Band sings, "cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right, and the radio ooooonnnnnn".  

Last week I waxed on about country music and a good beer - this week, my favorite is a good-fitting pair of jeans.  I recently bought these at our local discount "warehouse" type of clothing store.  They were $19.99.  If I could have found any more in my size, I would have bought as many as they had.  I don't consider myself weirdly shaped, but it is difficult for me to find pants that  fit, especially jeans.

the label says, "rider-fit relaxed" - I think that means "mom jeans"

 My husband, son, and youngest daughter - I can pick up any pants in their size and they fit perfectly.  How does that work?  Now, our middle daughter and I are built very similarly - kinda curvy - it is infinitely harder.  For her, I have found that GapKids jeans fit her really well - unfortunately, the adult version doesn't hold any magic for me.

At this point, I have one pair of jeans that fit really well - and then about three other pairs that would fit if I lost five - you know how that goes!  Thank goodness for a great washing machine. 

Happy Favourite Things Friday - check out what Mrs P declared as her favourite this week!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Perils of a Full Pantry....

I have read more than once in the past week about ways to save money on groceries.  Now, at the outset, I will say that I am thankful to not have the constraints of an actual food budget.  I do, however, shop for the best price when possible - with my priorities being local meats, dairy, eggs, and produce (when in season).  Meal planning is often touted as a great way to save money.  I'm sure that's true, but it simply doesn't fit with my personality.

It is hard for me to follow the rules - even my own.  I love buying random things and then challenging myself to create recipes.  I will often freeze partial cans of tomatoes, jalapenos, evaporated milk, etc if I have a little left from a previous recipe.  If I actually made a meal plan - I'd have to create a store list - something I hardly ever do and inevitably forget to bring along anyway.

I like being a fly-by-the-seat of my pants kind of girl.

Let me qualify something, though, we don't waste food.  I only buy things that we use on a regular basis.  I like to keep a stocked refrigerator and pantry so I can throw together a recipe that I might impulsively decide to make - another personality trait - being impulsive.

So, yesterday I had several sources of inspiration.  Annika commented on my cereal  post that Golden Grahams are perfect on vanilla ice cream.  It just so happened I had Golden Grahams and I had vanilla ice cream in the freezer.  I decided to incorporate her idea into our dessert last night and quickly whipped up a batch of this to go along with it -

hot fudge sauce - thanks, Annika!

I also read a post about homemade creamy tomato soup.  I have a great recipe for tomato bisque, but it utilizes a can of prepared tomato soup.  I like to know when I can make something myself.  I had all of the simple ingredients I needed and it tasted great on a snowy night!  I think it tasted even better to some skiers on their way home.  :)

creamy tomato soup - here is the recipe

philly cheese-steak sandwiches, perfect combination with the soup!

 Lastly, the kids have a day off from school today - snow day!!  If I didn't have a stocked pantry, we wouldn't have found something for our butter to swim onto.  I kid, but these waffles were quite well-received by a certain snowblower and his three snowman-making kiddos.

Obviously,  these recipes are all simple and require the most basic of ingredients - but still, it was fun to be inspired and not have to run to the grocery store!

Oh, by the way - the only thing in peril from a full pantry is your waistline!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What's Your Poison?

I am not normally a breakfast person - at least in the sweet realm.  I crave things more savory than not.  When I was growing up, we chewed sugar-free gum and ate healthy cereal.  Once in a while my mom would buy "sugary" cereals.  We were usually allowed to choose which one would be our special treat.  I would almost always choose Lucky Charms....until I found these. 

I don't know what it is about Golden Grahams...but I love them.  And, trust me, I don't believe that these are a good source of whole grain or calcium - but I still love a special treat once in a while.  Most mornings, my kids eat either Shredded Wheat or toast with fruit.   Every once in a while, though, I buy "sugary" cereals.  They disappear faster than you can imagine! 

So, what's your favorite "sugary" cereal?  Come on, I know you have one!  Rob is a sucker for Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  The kids will eat any they can get their hands on.  Can't wait to hear your secret indulgence. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Yogurt Parfaits

I feel a little like Emma, when she's dreaming up her next outfit.  She literally keeps a mental catalog of all of the outfits she wants to create - when we're traveling or she's at school and doesn't have access to her wardrobe.  It's kind of cute, actually.  Anyway, that's how I get when I'm brainstorming about a recipe idea.

Remember the lemon Chobani from yesterday?  Well, I've been thinking of the best way to utilize it's deliciousness.  Then I remembered this post from last spring.   I had just discovered a recipe from Nigella Lawson for raspberry-oatmeal swirls.  Basically, the recipe layers oatmeal-cookie crumbles with greek yogurt and pureed raspberries.  I think you know where I'm going with this.....

Let's get started, shall we? 

 Oatmeal Cookie Recipe (courtesy of the New Betty Crocker Cookbook)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup stick butter, softened
½ cup shortening
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup flour

1. Mix all ingredients except oats and flour.
2. Refrigerate mixture for at least four hours or overnight.
3. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment-paper lined cookie sheet.
4. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until browned.

I wanted crispy cookies, not necessarily pretty ones - I didn't bother chilling the batter. 

flat as pancakes - and perfect for crumbling!

ready for assembly

The next step is to puree the frozen raspberries - with powdered sugar. 

frozen raspberries with powdered sugar

pureed, but still frozen - in the food processor

Lastly, you'll need to assemble your parfaits.  Simply layer the raspberry puree with yogurt (we used lemon) and cookie crumbles. 

I think this would make a great lunchtime treat for your school-age (or at home) kiddos.  You could pack the cookies in a plastic bag and they could crumble them for a topping, right before eating.  My girls pack their lunch several times a week and mostly look forward to the "sweet treat" at the end. 

Nigella doesn't make her oatmeal cookies, but I have yet to find a packaged cookie (besides the Newman's Own brand - major sticker shock) that contains pronounceable ingredients.  You can certainly save yourself some time and just buy a package of oatmeal cookies.  Enjoy!

Read This Book

While researching books for upcoming book club selections, I read a recommendation for this book. 

It's listed in the "teen" genre, but don't let that deter you.  This book is deep, it's spellbinding, and it speaks of a darker time in human history.  In my opinion, there are certain periods in history we wish we could gloss over.  The rise of Hitler and the Holocaust are one in a number of human tragedies that has played over the course of human civilization.  I don't know why the urge to forget is so strong - I suppose it's partly due to the pain of trying to understand.  I can't explain why a whole nation decided to follow a madman.  I don't know why the Jews were singled out and exterminated in such a grotesque fashion.  I do think, however, that we do a disservice and a dishonor [to the victims] by trying to forget. 

I think the more we remember and educate ourselves, the more likely we will recognize not to follow blindly. 

The Book Thief details part of the tragic life led by Liesel Meminger.  At the age of nine she is removed from her family for her own safety.  Her mother was a communist and Liesl is sent to live with a foster family to escape persecution from Hitler.  The course of the book weaves its way through the next four years of her life - her triumphs, her struggles, and her ultimate love for words.  This is one of the best books I've ever read. The narrator is Death - it sounds kind of strange, but it works, very well.  The book is fiction, but the author (a resident of Sydney, AUS) drew on information he gathered from his parents, who lived in Germany and Austria during World War II. 

While this is certainly not a Christian book (there are a few mild curses), I would describe the story as redeeming.  Further proof that while horrendous atrocities were befalling Jews and Germans alike, there were many brave souls and heroes - young and old, all German - quietly refusing to lay down and die. 

A Learning Curve

This week I am borrowing my parent's KitchenAid ice cream attachment.  My dad has had great success with this - but, he doesn't make a custard mixture.  I decided to make coffee ice cream and adapted a Cooking Light recipe that I've had past success with (we have a cheapo ice cream maker from Lowe's that uses salt and ice).  The KitchenAid ice cream attachment is simply a bowl that you use in place of the standard stainless steel bowl.

We happen to love coffee ice cream here, so our inaugural recipe includes this

Rob was not impressed - he thought I should have used brewed coffee.  I tried to explain that what we needed was concentrated flavor (plus, I was nervous to add liquid into the recipe).  I happen to love this instant espresso - it's so convenient.  I keep mine in the freezer and have added it to chocolate cake batter and my beef brisket.  I buy this for $2.99 at Price-Rite.

But, back to the ice cream.  My first mistake started with my impatience.  Not surprising.  I decided to pour the custard mixture into the bowl before it had cooled.  We decided to start over and repeated the procedure this morning.  I think we left it mixing for too long - it started un-freezing after a while.  Ugh.  I stopped the mixer and scraped the whole mixture into a sealed container.

Here are the results - don't worry, I'll keep forging ahead until we get this perfected.  The flavor was perfect, but the texture was a little grainy, due to the haphazard procedure. Rob agreed that the instant espresso, for flavor purposes, was definitely the way to go.  A little side-note: I was wide-awake this morning at 4am....maybe you should indulge in coffee ice cream for a lunch-time treat!

Coffee Ice Cream

2 1/3 cups 2 % milk
1 cup light cream
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
2 T instant espresso granules
1 T kosher salt

1.  Heat milk and cream in a large pan until mixture reaches 180 degrees.
2.  In a blender, mix egg yolks and sugar until mixture turns a light yellow color.
3.  Add one cup of the hot mixture to egg yolks and blend.
4.  Add egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture and heat until 180 degrees.
5.  COOL mixture.  Add to ice cream maker and mix until partially frozen.
6.  Place ice cream into a sealed container and freeze until desired consistency is reached.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's the Little Things....

Looks like the Chobani creators have been busy....have you tried these new flavors?   I was so excited when I spied these at Price-Rite yesterday.  I tried the lemon one for lunch today - it was good, tart but refreshing.  I plan to buy more and top with berries, a little honey, and maybe some granola. 

Shrimp and Grits

Have you ever eaten shrimp and grits?  I tried this delectable concoction for the first time when we were in Charleston during our recent vacation.  I knew my dad loved grits, so I bought him a bag of white grits while we were traveling. 

Grits is a food of Native American origin that is common in the Southern United States, mainly used in breakfast. It consists of coarsely ground corn
Grits is similar to other thick maize-based porridges from around the world, such as polenta. It also resembles farina, a thinner porridge. (courtesy of wikipedia)

My mom recently invited us for dinner and we decided to make shrimp and grits.  I found a tempting recipe on epicurious - a little different than the usual version, this includes prosciutto and tomatoes.  We loved it.  The tomatoes really "cut" the richness of the cream-laden grits. 

Cream Shrimp Grits with Proscitto (courtesy of 

  • 4 1/4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup corn grits* (such as Arrowhead Mills)

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
For grits:
Bring chicken stock, whipping cream, butter and garlic to boil in heavy large saucepan. Gradually whisk in corn grits. Return to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered until grits thicken, whisking often, about 15 minutes.
For shrimp:
Melt 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes. Add shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to large bowl. Add white wine to skillet and boil until reduced to glaze, about 5 minutes. Add drained diced tomatoes and half of prosciutto and simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add parsley, chives and sautéed shrimp and simmer until shrimp are warmed through, about 2 minutes. Thin sauce with some of reserved tomato juices, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Spoon corn grits into shallow bowls. Top each serving with shrimp-prosciutto-tomato mixture, dividing equally. Garnish with remaining prosciutto strips and serve immediately.
*Corn grits, also known as polenta, are available at Italian markets, natural foods stores and some supermarkets. If unavailable, substitute 1 cup regular yellow cornmeal and cook about 8 minutes. 

 Kirsten's note: We also added 1 cup of shredded parmesan to the grits and sprinkled additional parmesan on top. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

I never thought I'd say this, but my favourite thing for this Friday is - country music.  The older I get, the more applicable country music is to my life.  No longer can I identify with many other genres - not that I really could to begin with. 

Country music is about real life.  It's about love, families, having fun, and good old-fashioned morals. 

One of our favorites : "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy". 


In the year 2011, what can you buy for $6.68 ?  The short answer is : not very much.  The longer answer could be:

1.  not quite two days of Comcast service
2.  3/4 of a gallon of Perrydell ice cream
3.  5 rentals at RedBox
4.  six things bought at the Dollar store (which will all break in 60 seconds) - can you tell I hate the Dollar store?
5.  an oven roaster bought on sale at Giant (99 cents per pound)

With this chicken, I made

dinner last night, Chicken Pie

lunch for tomorrow, a quart of chicken salad, made in the food processor (1 stalk celery, 1/4 cup mayo, 1/4 onion, 3 sweet gherkins, 2 cups shredded chicken).

I shredded the remaining meat for chicken and black bean enchiladas for next week and then used the bones to make 3 pints of chicken stock (also adding leftover carrot ends, onion skins, and celery tops).

$6.68 may not sound like much, but it can yield more than you think.....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ina's Lemon Pound Cake

I saw Ina make this recipe on the Barefoot Contessa last week and knew I had to try  it.  I made a yogurt-citrus cake (with lemon, lime, and orange) a number of years ago and have since lost the recipe.  I was hoping this cake would be just as good - it was close.

Here is the original recipe, courtesy of the food network and Ina Garten. 


1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt1 cup sugar
 3 eggs
 2 tsp lemon zest
 1/2 tsp vanilla
 1/2 cup canola oil

1.  Whisk the wet ingredients (eggs, vanilla, oil, yogurt, lemon zest).
2.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt).
3.  Combine with a spatula until smooth, do not overmix.
4.  Bake in a loaf pan at 350 degrees for 50 minutes (or in a tart pan for 35 or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean).  

Lemon Syrup
  - in a small saucepan, combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice until melted.  Pour over hot cake.  Top with glaze if desired (1 cup confectioners sugar with 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice). 

 *** I made this in a tart pan for a prettier presentation***

We took this to a friend's house for dinner - it must have been good because we came home with an empty plate!  I have yet to make an Ina Garten recipe that I didn't love.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stand - By

As documented before, I discover a recipe and then make it over and over until I'm officially sick of it.  Prior obsessions included porchetta, slow-roasted tomatoes, and rhubarb custard pie.

This latest concoction, a chocolate tart,  is now my stand-by.  From now on, I'll be bringing this when we get invited somewhere for dinner.  It's easy, it's decadent, and the ingredient list is inexpensive and easy to find. 

This can be your stand-by, too!

1.  Make the crust - mix 1 cup crushed chocolate graham crumbs with 1/4 cup sugar and 5 tablespoons of melted butter.

2.  Press the mixture into a tart pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

3.  Boil 1 1/2 cups heavy cream.  Add 9 oz chocolate chips and stir until melted.  Add two eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt.

 4.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until filling is set 3 inches from the edge - it will firm as it cools.  

Refrigerate tart for at least two hours.  

Melt raspberry jelly in the microwave and pour over chocolate tart - serve with vanilla ice cream.