Sunday, November 30, 2008

Carnival of Recipes: Holiday Gift Giving Edition 2

Last year at this time, I did a holiday gift giving themed recipe carnival, so I volunteered to do another one this year. My gifts in a jar are now done thanks to my father-in-law’s help – we did S’mores Brownies this year, but for those of you who don't have your food gifts completed, we have a carnival full of ideas!

Don't want to do a jar gift? I plan on mailing a few packages of cookies later as well as the jars I'm giving out next week. Here are some great food giveaway ideas if you are stumped on what to bake:

Still using Thanksgiving leftovers (I know I am)? Here are some Thanksgiving "leftover" posts for you to enjoy with that leftover stuffing:

Make sure to submit your recipes for next week's edition! See you then!

Gifts in a Jar 2008

You probably remember that I perfected my S'mores Brownies Mix recipe earlier and this weekend we did the jars up for Ray's co-workers. I think they turned out well!
Even Adam helped! PaPa (Ray's Dad) was a bit more help.:) We always did our jars with Dave and Pat as Pat did jars for Dave's work. This year, since Dave has a new job, he isn't going to do any jars, but he still helped us out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cooking

Adam and I spent today cooking for tomorrow (you can see his input - pulling everything out of the cabinet for me - he was obsessed with that cabinet today). My rolls (frozen rolls that you just have rise and bake off, but Ray adores them - I currently have them hidden or they'd already be gone!), coleslaw (this is my Grandma Stannard's recipe - a family tradition), pumpkin cheesecake and bread pudding are done (the bread pudding is for Ray's dad (who got here tonight) and the first year I made it, so I'll post the recipe later if it turned out well).

I don't like pumpkin pie because I really hate the texture, but I love pumpkin flavored desserts and this cheesecake is one of my all time favorites!

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Modified from Betty Crocker

Crust:
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

Cheesecake:
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp brandy (optional - I used it, though)
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (NOT pie mix)
4 pkg (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs

Heat oven to 325. In a small bowl, mix cracker crumbs, 2 tbsp sugar and melted butter (crust ingredients). Press crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Wrap foil around outside to prevent drips (this seemed quite ridiculous to me - I just put a sheet pan under it, but you really don't even need that - I've never had it leak on me). Bake crust 8-10 minutes or until set. Cook 5 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate about 5 minutes or until completed cooled (in other words do this before making the filling...).

In a small bowl, mix flour, pumpkin pie spice, brandy and pumpkin. Set this aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy (electric mixer on medium works). Gradually beat in brown sugar and 2/3 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on low until just blended. (Supposedly if you over beat, it will crack...mine cracks no matter what...). Gradually beat in pumpkin mixture. Pour over crust.

Bake 1 hour and 15-25 minutes or until set but center still is a little jiggly. (Also if you are anti-crack, the book suggested putting water in the oven under the cheesecake during baking). Turn oven off, open oven door at least 4 inches. Let cheesecake remain in oven for 30 minutes. Run knife around edges to loosen. Cool in pan for 30 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Run knife around cheesecake again to loosen. Carefully remove side of pan before cutting. Store cheesecake in refrigerator.

Makes 16 servings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tribute by Nora Roberts

This came out in July, but I just finished reading it. I have to say that compared to her other novels, this really was very low key and not that suspenseful. While in the other novels, the main character knew she faced mortal danger, in this one, there really wasn't that feeling for much of the book. I would call this fun beaching reading.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Honey Chicken over Rice

I had already done some modifications to this earlier, but did some more this time and Ray liked it much better. He really didn't like the white wine in the rice last time and I'm just not a fan of chicken stock and rice. I like regular water and rice. Now I know the fad is to use chicken stock and maybe that I'm cheap and only use bouillion cubes, but it just isn't worth it for me. So I just made regular rice this time with some peas in it.

Honey Chicken with Snow Pea Rice
Modified from Rachael Ray

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup white rice
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 large handfuls of frozen peas
2 lbs chicken, but into bite-size pieces
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flake [I reduced this as since I'm using ground, it was too hot for me this time.]
1 large onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground ginger [she used real...I so didn't.]
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp cornstarch [you add a little water to it before adding it]

Cook rice in water for 18-20 minutes or until tender. When you have about 3 minutes left in the cooking time, add the peas [regular or snow], but don't stir - the steam will cook the peas. Once the cooking finishes, you can mix it.

While the rice is cooking, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with remaining veggie oil. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken for about 3 minutes, then add in the red pepper, onions, garlic, ginger and honey. Stir frequently and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onions are tender. Add chicken broth (1 1/2 cups) to pan and bring to a simmer. Once it is simmering, combine cornstarch and water and add it to the pan, stirring thoroughly. Cook for 2 more minutes or until liquid is thickened (this took me a lot longer). You can top with scallions and lemon juice at this point if you want.

Serve the chicken over the rice.

Serves 4.

Vodka Cream Pasta

This is one of my all time favoriate Rachael Ray recipes and I don't even like vodka. We seriously keep vodka in the house for just this recipe.

Vodka Cream Pasta
Modified from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals

1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced [she used a shallot]
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock [I just use chicken bouillion cubes and water as I'm cheapt.]
1 (32 oz) can crushed tomatoes [this does NOT come in this size - again I have to complain, Rachael has no concept of what a "real" grocery store carries!]
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate [I used ziti this time]
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn [I use a couple of tsp of dried.]

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and onion. Gently sauté onion for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked. Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. [since I use dried, I usually put this in when I put in the salt and pepper.]

Finally Got My Wedding

I just finished Season 7 of 7th Heaven (just came out on DVD) and I finally got a wedding! Lucy and Kevin - I'm so happy.:):) Now I'd like a wedding in some of my OTHER shows!

Now I know 7th Heaven can be cheesy, but I love it. It actually tries to teach some good morals, rather than Hollywood's perverted ones. Also I loved it when Lucy was talking about her honeymoon and how the waiting was all worth it because that's the way I feel. I couldn't imagine "casual" sex either - it just isn't casual to me or something I could fathom with someone not my husband.

Garlic Carrots

Here is an easy and yummy side dish. This is a nice way to add some flavor to carrots. I took this with me to Dawn and Dennis' on Friday. I do wish whoever is writing carrot recipes would be realistic on time! I'm not in half done vegetables, no matter what the fad is. It seems so many chefs undercook their vegetables to the point of ridiculousness - even if you want it raw, serve it raw, don't pretend!

Garlic Carrots
Modified Quick Cooking

1 lb baby carrots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup hot water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dried thyme
dash of pepper

Sauté carrots and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. Add water, salt, thyme and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 8-12 minutes or until carrots are tender (this took about double the time and I did even sauté the carrots longer…carrots always take forever and I knew looking at this it was too short on time and it definitely was. I’d figure more like 20 minutes. Now I did double the recipe – I was making it for a party – but even so, their estimate was very low. I find almost all carrot recipes lie on timing. I also used an actual pot, not a skillet, because of room and lids issues (my biggest skillet doesn’t have a lid), but again, that shouldn’t have matter that much).).

Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aviator Adam

Having fun with Adam - those are Dennis' glasses to match Adam's coat. Goes well with the binkie, huh?

Recipe Carnivals

The last two recipe carnivals (as you can see I'm behind):
http://thai-cooking.blogspot.com/2008/11/carnival-of-recipes-november-16-2008.html
http://turkey-recipes.blogspot.com/2008/11/carnival-of-recipes-turkey-recipes.html

Plus here is the latest Rachael Round Up Recipes:
http://rachaelrayblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/rachael-ray-roundup_21.html

Catholic Math

This forward amused me enough to post. I'm pretty sure I've read it before, so you might have as well.

Catholic Math

Little Zachary was doing quite badly in math. His parents had tried everything, tutors, mentors, flash cards, Special Learning Centers. In short, everything they could think of to help his math.

Finally, in a last ditch effort, they took Zachary down and enrolled him in the local Catholic school. After the first day, little Zachary came home with a very serious look on his face. He didn't even kiss his mother Hello. Instead, he went straight to his room andstarted studying. Books and papers were spread out all over the room and little Zachary was hard at work.

His mother was amazed. She called him down to dinner. To her shock, the minute he was done, he marched back to his room without a word, and in no time, he was back hitting the books as hard as before. This went on for some time, day after day, while the mother tried to understand what made all the difference.

Finally, little Zachary brought home his report card. He quietly laid it on the table, went up to his room and hit the books. With great trepidation, his Mom looked at it and to her great surprise Little Zachary got an 'A' in math. She could no longer hold her curiosity.

She went to his room and said, 'Son, what was it? Was it the nuns?' Little Zachary looked at her and shook his head, no. 'Well, then,' she replied, 'Was it the books, the discipline, the structure, the uniforms?' Little Zachary looked at her and said, 'On the first day of school when I saw that guy nailed to the plus sign, I knew they weren't fooling around.'

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Books

I read two good books. The first was the sequel to Sisters, Ink and it lived up to its promise. Coming Unglued was about another of the Sinclair sisters and very enjoyable. The other book I've recently read is Simon Said by Sarah Shaber and it is part of a mystery series. The sleuth is a history professor (you can see why I identified with him!) who works to solve an old murder after a skeleton is found. I found the book and plot very interesting (and I was proud of myself - I figured it out!) and loved the fact that he used primary source research to solve the case! The one thing that I hope improves as the series goes on (and this was the first in a series that has been out for awhile, so I will be reading more in the series) is the "romantic" interest. Simon is recently divorced and starts dating the police department's legal liason, but I don't think that part of the book was very well done. The character (Julia) was great, but their relationship was very awkwardly done. Hopefully, as the series progresses, that will improve as this has the makings of a great series. I ordered two more books in the series online from a used bookstore, so should be getting them soon. (Better World Books and the profits go to literacy, so its a really great place to shop PLUS all the shipping (regular shipping) is free).

Friday, November 21, 2008

THE ABDOMINAL ADAM!!!

Playing in the snow (goes with the video below).










New Bird Feeder

Grandma Cottle sent this new bird feeder - it is an edible wreath for outside.

Happy Boy!


Adam's New Sweater

One of Great-Gram Stannard's friends made this. A little too big now, but he'll grow into it!



Adam's First Foray into the Snow

Adam working on figuring out all this white stuff! We've gotten a fair bit of snow over the last few days, so today I made sure Adam got out to explore it as it was pretty nice out.

video

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Week

This week has just been blah. Nothing specificly wrong, just not going well. Adam has been grumpy (today especially as we are going hard core on binky separation), I haven't been productive, Ray has had a bad week, etc. And now I'm trying to plan on my menu for Thanksgiving so I can go shopping tomorrow. I'm excited about that, but not looking forward to shopping (hence why I'm going so early). Anyway, it just isn't going the best. I can't wait for the weekend....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Far off Planets

They got fuzzy pictures of a far off galaxy - planets rotating around a sun, so like our own galaxy. They say none of these would support life (how they can tell from these fuzzy pictures I don't know). Honestly, the pictures just look like fuzz to me, but still kinda neat since someone can tell what I'm looking at. If I didn't know, I wouldn't come up with planets from this, that's for sure!

Christmas Home Tour

My friend Michelle and I went up and did the James Garfield Historical Society's Christmas Home Tour today. Adam, too, of course! The house that Adam and I are in front of is the one that Lucretia Garfield probably lived in as a child for awhile. It was a fun excursion, but a little cold as it was snowing on and off all day (nothing stuck) and the houses were actually pretty far apart. We walked to all but one of them - this one actually - and drove there only because it was quite a ways from the others. But still a great day! Some GORGEOUS houses and I found a really cool used bookstore in Garrettsville (which isn't too far from Ravenna) that Ray and I will have to go back to.
This was just a really cool old tree - it is a tree within a tree!


Gas Score

Giant Eagle (our grocery store) gives fuel perks that you earn for buying groceries. With my discounts, look what I paid for gas yesterday! Pretty cool, huh?

Adam's 2nd Tooth

Adam's 2nd tooth broke through - you can see it here plus the progress of the first one. Much happier since that broke the gum line!

Adam and the Water

Adam is now tall enough we can do this without the cutting board. He liked all the water! But he soaked himself in the process - but who really cares? He had fun!

video

Running the Mall

We went up to the mall in Cleveland (North Olmstead) on Veteran's Day since Ray had it off and Adam had fun running around in the mall!

video

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quick Update

We've had a rough week - mostly teething. Adam's second tooth popped through today, so hopefully that will make things a little better. We are just hoping for only up once tonight! He was up three times last night and once for almost two hours! Adam is walking really good now and so big!

Ray has a paper due on Monday, so that's his weekend. I have two things going on. I'm meeting a friend to do the First Ladies tour (I'm giving the first three of the day) and then we are going to go to the First Ladies' tea room, which I hadn't been to yet, although she has (but hadn't done the tour). On Sunday, I'm going up to meet another friend to do the James Garfield historical Christmas home tour in Garrettsville. Hopefully, it is good. Adam is coming with on that one.

We are ready for winter, although today felt more like early fall! This fall has been STRANGE!! We had such a cool summer, but winter is definitely taking its time.

Ray's dad is coming here for Thanksgiving, so I'll have to start planning that next week. I'm going to take pictures for Christmas then as I'm doing a photo card this year - Adam is just too cute not to! I also want to get my gifts in a jar done then - Ray's dad is always a ton of help with that. I got my Christmas project list organized - now I just have to find time to complete it! I'm mostly done with Christmas shopping, except for a few I'm having made up and Ray and Adam. But no decorations yet - not until after Thanksgiving - that's Jennie's hard and fast rule (learned from my father). I want to enjoy each holiday - no rushing me! I'm SO annoyed with all those blasted stores - Christmas decorations should be illegal until AFTER Thanksgiving!

Chicken and Dumplings Revisited

I really like Robin Miller's system, but I'm not always thrilled with her recipes, but I watch her show for ideas. I'm big on her prep ideas - really important when you have an infant in the house! But I saw her make a chicken soup with cornmeal dumplings. Now Ray adores cornbread of all types and I don't mind it. I have a great chicken and dumplings recipe, from Rachael Ray, so what I decided to do was keep the soup as is (wasn't thirlled with Robin's version - too thin - anyway) and try the new dumplings. Definitely a hit! Ray really enjoyed the new dumplings. I still like the original dumplings better, but the new ones were still very good. The sage and the pepper was a nice kick. We'll just alternate the types of dumplings from now on and that will help keep the recipe fresh.

Chicken and Dumplings
Modified from Rachael Ray and Robin Miller

Soup:
1 1/2 lbs chicken
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, diced [this is a tiny bit of celery and then you have a lot left, so I've been using celery flakes here instead and it works really well. Ray will eat celery in his lunches, but prefers carrots and I find celery too bland. In addition, I just don't like chunks of celery in my soup.]
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken stock [I actually used 5 cups this time - I like extra broth.]
1 cup green peas [frozen work well here as they thaw in no time]

Dumplings 1 (Rachael's):
1 small box biscuit mix
1/2 cup warm water
parsley

Dumplings 2 (Robin's):
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup buttermilk [or 1/2 tbsp lemon juice and the remainder regular milk]
1 tbsp oil

Dice tenders into bite size pieces and set aside. Wash hands.

Place a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Add oil, butter, veggies and bay leaf and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season mixture with salt, pepper and poultry seasonings. Add flour to the pan and cook 2 minutes. Add stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken to the broth and stir.

You can do either dumpling recipe here. In either case put dry ingredients in a bowl and combine. Add in wet and mix until just combined (this should be pretty thick). Then drop dumplings by the spoonful into the soup. Steam dumplings 8 to 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir chicken and dumplings to thicken sauce a bit. Stir peas into the pan, remove chicken and dumplings from heat and serve.

Serves 4.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Beefy One Pot Dinner

This is a quick and easy meal, but I think the recipe will need some tweaking. This was pretty runny, so you'll note I plan on changing it up next time. I might also add a few more spices.

Beefy One-Pot Dinner
Modified from Kraft

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup finely chopped potatoes [make sure to chop this small so it can cook easily.]
1 cup water
1/2 cup barbecue sauce [they also put in 1 (14 oz) can of baked beans, which I hate and thus omitted.]
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown meat in large pot [they use a skillet, but I find it is easier and less messy to use a pot] that has a lid [make sure of this....I had to switch mid cooking because of this!]. Drain meat. Add vegetables and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in water. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes or until veggies are tender (why you need small potatoes and sliced carrots.]

Add barbecue sauce (and beans if you want) and stir. [Okay, this was way too runny for me...I'm going to drain off the water before adding the sauce next time...the beans wouldn't really help this and you need the water to cook the veggies, so I plan to drain...plus it will get rid of more fat at this point for you as well.] Cook 5 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese.

Buttermilk Waffles

We did a big brunch of Sunday since Ray's dad was there. I even made sausage for the guys, which I don't like, but Ray does and he doesn't get it very often. Now I usually just use Bisquick, but Ray's dad isn't a fan, so I tried a new recipe for waffles. I actually got this recipe at my bridal shower. Everyone brought recipe cards for me - this is a great idea if you are planning a bridal shower, by the way! Every new bride needs some "tried and true" recipes to start out with! I really liked these and froze the extras (I never buy those frozen waffles - I always have extras when I make waffles or pancakes and I just freeze them in small ziplock bags and its perfect and quick.)

Buttermilk Waffles
From the Tumey's

2 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 tbsp of lemon juice plus regular milk to make 2 cups)
1/2 cup oil

Whisk the dry ingredients together (so through the cinnamon). Add in wet ingredients and mix until just combined (never over mix waffle or pancake batter - remember you will never get all the lumps out and shouldn't try). Spoon some of mixture into heated waffle iron. Repeat as necessary.

Serves 4. [I would say it serves more than that.]

Tennessee Whiskey Cake

This was quite a hit. Ray and his father just LOVED it. I actually really enjoyed it as well because I really like the flavor of molasses, which really comes through in this cake. This really is worth the time as it has a really rich flavor and a very gourmet taste to it. Definitely worthy of a "fancy" restaurant!

Tennessee Whiskey Cake
Modified from Everyday with Rachael Ray

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened [Remember in baking salt content will matter, so make sure to get unsalted.]
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup Tennessee whiskey [they recommended Jack Daniels, we used Bulleit Bourbon - remember Tennessee Whiskey is actually bourbon versus an Irish Whiskey...and obviously I don't know any of this, but my father-in-law did. Bourbon starts with a sour mash (again whatever that means!). The point of this ramble here - make sure you have a TENNESSEE whiskey, which is usually labeled bourbon.]

Toppings/Sides:
Chocolate sauce [we used this, I really liked this addition.]
Vanilla ice cream [we didn't use, but we think it would be good. I just usually don't have ice cream in the house because I like to go out for ice cream. It's one of the few things I always want to eat out versus in.]
Candied pecans [we didn't use as I don't like pecans, but you can find a recipe for these online, if you want them.]

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Using a standing mixer, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy; gradually add the brown and granulated sugars and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture, one-third at a time, alternating with the milk and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix in the molasses on medium-low speed. Mix in the whiskey until smooth, about 30 seconds. [This all actually takes a bit of time.]

Pour the batter into a greased, parchment paper- lined 10-inch cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes [okay, do NOT use a springform pan....I learned the hard way. My only 10 inch cake pan was a springform and I didn't have parchment paper (I did have wax paper, but just didn't want to mess with it), so I decided this would be good. Well, it LEAKS - so take my advice and don't use it. It only leaked some and still turned out, but still a mess you don't need!]. Let cool. You can serve with ice cream, chocolate sauce and candied pecans based on what you want.

Cider Doughnuts

I made apple cider doughnuts last year and Ray just adored them, so, of course, come cider season this year I had to make them again. I actually made them for the second time this year on Saturday for Ray and his father. Definitely a hit!

Cider Doughnut Holes
Modified from Everyday with Rachael Ray
1 1/2 cups flour, plus additional to roll with
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp powdered buttermilk [I bought this, but later learned (from Q&A in the magazine) that you can just use powdered milk....I was VERY annoyed this wasn't in the original notes as I even did searching in cookbooks and online for an answer to this! I don't ever buy/use buttermilk because you can make me with regular milk and lemon juice.]
2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup apple cider
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla
Vegetable oil or shortening for frying

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, powdered buttermilk, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, cloves and salt. Make a well in the center. Stir cider, egg, butter and vanilla into the dry ingredients until well blended.

Refrigerate batter (this says only 1/2 of it...meaning you use the first half right away...I'd refrigerate it all for about a 1/2 hour first as it will make it easier to roll...if you have ever rolled doughnuts, you know how sticky they are even with using flour on your hands! I recommend making the dough and then refrigerate it while you are waiting for the oil to heat up rather than heating up the oil first as the batter won't be ready then. I also recommend coating your hands in flour first.).

Heat oil until rippling (360). I use a little deep fryer (a fry daddy it is called), but you can use a regular deep fryer or you can just heat up the oil in a deep skillet.

Now this recipe was for doughnut holes - so you roll one-inch balls (use a teaspoon to measure). Again, if you have made doughnuts, you know why the hole is there - makes it easier to fry! I always make regular doughnuts. If you make the holes, work in batches (how many you can do in a batch depends on the size of your fryer) and do each ball until deep brown for about 2-3 minutes (regular doughnuts are the same time - without the middle, they cook faster even though they are bigger). You need all this time - remember you have to get the center cooked and it takes time. If you want regular donuts, pat out of the dough in parts and use a doughnut cutter to create your donuts to fry. Use a slotted spoon to pull the doughnuts out and put the holes on paper towels to drain. You can serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 30 doughnut holes or 1 1/2 dozen regular donuts.

Eureka

We just finished watching the season finale of Eureka last night (as normal, we are behind). Talk about a cliff hanger! First, we find out Allison is pregnant (Nathan's....we can hope that means they are bringing him back...in sci fi, it is always possible since there was no body) and then Jack gets fired at the end. I'm sure they'll find a way to reinstate him, but that's a mean way to end! We also found out that Eva, who we all thought was the bad lady, actually wasn't, and the plot of the season (what Eva's up to) is finally laid to rest. We also have Jack's sister living with him and pregnant with twins, so there is lots of character potential up for next season and we'll see where they go with the plot as they have finished off the current arc and will need a new one. I'm hoping they bring back Nathan!


I was watching the author stuff on the Season 2 DVDs (mostly out of laziness one day), and they had said we'd see more with the "every day" stuff in Eureka, but we really didn't. Hopefully, they will work on that in Season 4. In addition, Jack really hasn't had any "love" interest, which makes me wonder what they are doing with that, unless since they've gotten rid of Nathan (and don't plan on bringing him back....which would be SO mean), they plan on hooking up Jack and Alison. We'll see, I guess. Can't wait for Season 4 to start.:) I think that won't be until like July though, Sci fi runs strange seasons.

High Marks for Murder

I just finished High Marks for Murder by Rebecca Kent. This is set in a British finishing school at the beginning of the 20th century. The main character is the headmistress, Meredith, and her "co" sleuths are her fellow tutors, Essie and Felicity. This book took me quite awhile to finish, because I kept putting it down. It isn't bad, but it does move rather slow at times. This is the first in a series and hopefully the next will live up to the promise of this one and so I'll probably take the time to read it (I think it is due out next summer). I'm not sure on the use of ghosts to start the mysteries (the end of this one introduces the next one), but we'll see as the series progresses if it works. The overall plot isn't really far out into "sci fi" land, so it could work well.

Update: Rebecca Kent is also Kate Kingsbury, who I've read a few mysteries by as well. Interesing little side note!

Kim Vogel Sawyer

Okay, I feel bad now. I put up the books I didn't like, as well as the ones I did like and I actually got a very nice comment from Kim Vogel Sawyer, one of the books I didn't like this one. I've actually been surprised at the number of times I've gotten an author comment on my book reviews! In any case, I did want to mention (since I was feeling guilty), that I did love her Sommerfeld trilogy, which I reviewed back in July. I actually just reread the last book in the trilogy last night, which was my absolute favorite. That series is actually the reason I'd read the new book. So anyway, if you are in the mood for some good Christian fiction, I can heartily recommend this trilogy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Shelf

I have some books to report favorably on as well as some that didn't rate so well.

Don't Recommend:
  1. A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris - this was just plain boring. It's a mystery and the sleuth is a librarian, but she quits her job and is never there, so it is just about her and she's really a boring person. The book really just drags.
  2. Where the Heart Leads by Kim Vogel Sawyer (Christian fiction) - I really liked her trilogy that she did on the Amish, but this was was trite and poor historical fiction. I didn't mind the book this was supposed to follow (Waiting for Summer's Return), but this one didn't have the same staying power. First of all, Thomas really spends most of the time in Boston, so you've lost the family appeal. I don't like the girl he ends up with and the historical plot is done badly as well (nothing annoys me more than badly researched historical fiction).
  3. Ransomed Dreams by Amy Wallace (Christian suspense) - This was just depressing. The main character is a widow who lost her two young children and husband in a car crash and is trying to find the drunk that did it. The romantic interest in an FBI agent who is in the Crimes Against Children division. The two characters, while supposedly building a relationship, spend very little time together, so the two plots really develop separately only to quickly collide at the end. With the heavy plot topic, this book just is one big depression pit and the slight romance does nothing to help you out of it. This is the first of a series and I won't be reading the second one.
  4. Brevig Mission Plague by Frank Simon (Christian suspense) - I thought this was a cool idea , as the main characters test security of places and in this case a lab doing testing on the Spanish flu (the 1918 epidemic flu). But the characters are rather dull and there is really no additional plot lines to catch your interest. The plot just didn't bring me in nor did the characters.

Recommended:

  1. Wicked Weavesby Jim and Joyce Lavene - I liked their other mystery series (Peggy Lee Gardening mystery series) and this one has a cute locale - a Renaissance faire village. This series shows some promise as the main characters (Jessie and Chase) have a lot of potential for interesting topics and the idea of Jessie apprenticing with a different craft each summer for her dissertation is an interesting concept. This wasn't the strongest plot line, but I can see the potential, so hopefully it continues.
  2. Sisters, Ink by Rebeca Seitz - this Christian fiction is contemptorary and fun. This is the first in series and I'm really looking forward the rest of the series. It centers around four adopted sisters who are all scrapbookers. This first book is on Tandy, who comes home to visit and hooks back up with her high school boyfriend, but is dead set on returning to her law job in Orlando as she feels it is important to succeed. At the very end of the book, the sisters end up buying a Scrapbooking company that they are going to run - that really is going to set up the next few books as the central "location," I think. I think it might have been better to introduce this concept earlier as it definitely all collides at the end, but you can see Tandy's war with herself throughout the book. She wants to come home where her boyfriend is and her family, but feels she "owes" it to her parents to succeed and that she can't do that in their little town. The company will change that as it gives her something to succeed at there. Again here, I think a lot of this is potential and set up for the next books, so hopefully I won't be disappointed.

As you can see, some disappointing reads, but also some exciting ones. I really didn't figure I'd like Sisters, Ink so that was a nice surprise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yard Clean Up

Ray and his dad doing yard clean up for winter. We got all our stuff buttoned up for winter - cleaned out the garden, put away the hose, etc.

Tons of Bears

My father sent this on - pretty cool!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stair Cap

This is the stair cap finished (Ray still needs to caulk, but otherwise its on). We have exterior stairs and a separate entrance to the basement (laundry room), but it is literatlly a pit and we are worried about Adam falling in, so we put with is really just a root cellar door on the stairs so we can keep them locked down.



Working on the Cap

Adam "helping" hammer
Adam and his hammer - he wasn't so sure about all that noise!

Adam "supervising"



Adam and Doors

Adam is working on figuring out how to open and shut doors!

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At Home Depot

We were at Home Depot to get some stuff for the stair cap and as you can see Adam is wearing his new boots. He definitely isn't too happy with them so far, but is quickly getting used to them. They are different to walk in than his bare feet and he's let us know that without question! This dryer (we know someone who works in appliances) interested him enough to have him forget his shoes and go for it, which is what he needed.

Adam and PaPa

Ray's dad was here this weekend to help with putting on the stair cap (pictures to come).






Adam on the Stairs

See how good he's getting? Although he still can't go down stairs, hence he's not allowed to climb them on his own.

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Adam Playing with the Dryer

Makes good drums huh?

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Adam and Door Knobs

Adam is all into door knobs now, but as of yet, he's too short to turn them. We'll have to put in knob guards once he's a little taller.

Gas Prices!

Don't these look NICE?
Streetsboro
Our road (Ravenna)


Adam's New Obsession

Adam LOVES Sesame Street! I was flipping last week (election day - could only stand so much CNN at a time) and stopped here and Adam just plopped right down and watched it. He likes it better than Baby Einstein! I've been DVRing it so he can watch it when I eat lunch and dinner (the only times I don't like him crawling all over me). Otherwise, we try not to watch too much TV.

Adam and Halloween Dog

This dog figure was on our front porch over Halloween and I brought it in last week to let it dry out before packing it away. Adam was obsessed with the pumpkin in its mouth as he couldn't figure out how to get it loose!

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Adam on a DADDY HUNT!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congrats to Barack Obama

I might not have supported him in the campaign, but the nation has chosen and I am thrilled to finally see an African American elected (although I must admit I was personally hoping for Colin Powell who was who I wanted to run this year...oh, well). So congrats to Obama - this is a historic election and one to be proud. I wish Obama well as President and hope he can do good for the country. I honestly don't think Obama can fix the economy (or McCain could have for that matter so this isn't any type of slight on Obama) unless he actually listens to economists and does some unpopular things which isn't what the campaign has been saying, but I'd love to be proven wrong. Obama will have four years - I hope he'll do what needs to be done and listen to the economists in the first year or two when reelection is far enough away that he can do some unpopular things. Unfortunately what is good for the nation probably isn't going to play well with many people, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be done!

I was also THRILLED to see a high voter turn out - looks like we are going to have highest in generations, possibly a century! That's GREAT news to me to see Americans taking advantage of our precious right to vote. Think of all the people who died for that right!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

We voted - did you?

Ray and I have both already voted - Adam went with each of us as you can see by his two "I Voted" stickers! The first one is at the our polling locations, our Elks Lodge.



Monday, November 03, 2008

Four Cheese Chicken Fettuccine

I've made this before, but not in awhile, so I thought I'd post it here as I just made it today.

Four Cheese Chicken Fettuccine
Modified from Light and Tasty

****Plan ahead, if you don't have leftover chicken from something else, the chicken needs 30 minutes to cook before you even start*******

8 ounces uncooked fettuccine (or any type of pasta, Ray doesn't like fettuccine so I used linguine)
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (I used baby bellas this time as they were on sale - really a nice meaty dimension!)
1 tbsp butter or stick margarine 1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed (reduced fat reduced sodium - if you want to go low fat, follow all the parenthesis...if you don't, ignore them...or if you are like me, buy what you need extra as fat-free or whatever and what you already have is stuck being fatty...tastes great any way you do it) cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 package (8 oz) (fat-free) cream cheese, cubed
2 cups (fat-free) milk
1/2 cup (fat-free) half and half
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded (part-skim) mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded (reduced fat) Swiss cheese

TOPPING:
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tbsp butter or stick margarine, melted
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large pot, sauté mushrooms in butter until tender. Add the soup, cream cheese, milk, half and half and garlic powder. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until smooth. Remove from the heat. Add chicken and cheeses, mix well. Drain fettuccine, add to chicken mixture and stir gently to coat. Transfer to a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over chicken mixture. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Makes 8 servings (I halved this recipe, the only problem is then you are left with half a can of cream of mushroom soup in the refrigerator because they don't make them any smaller (at least where I live!) so you'll have to figure out what to do with that...there is always peas and tuna...yummy! As a note, even halved this makes way more than 4 servings in my opinion!)

VOTING

Rememer to go vote tomorrow! You are totally NOT allowed to complain about a thing for the next four years if you don't go vote!

Playing at the Palchos

We went over to our friends, Tim and Kris Palcho's, on Saturday. Adam had a BALL - he ran for about three straight hours! Everyone was loving him up and there was so much new to see, including two animals, so he was just so happy!
Playing pool
Playing foosball

Sitting in the chair!


Figuring out Evan's old rocking chair

He loved these two big exercise balls!





Superman

Our Superman! These are from Daddy's office on Halloween. You might notice that Ray's office looks very different. The admin secretary got her own office, so Ray got a lot more room (although he still has an office buddy). I never got "the" picture, but these aren't bad.