Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I want to Knit. Or Crochet.

Once upon a time I used to knit all the time. In fact, M's cousin just reminded me about the time I knit in a bar for hours.

The story:

A few months after we started dating, M and I took a trip to Erie, PA. He was meeting his dad, brother, cousin and friends -- about 10 other guys -- to go fishing and watch his youngest brother play in a basketball tournament. I was supposed to meet up with two of my girl friends at Peak N Peak Resort (Erie was the half way point for us). Unfortunately, one friend got sick, and I ended up the only girl on the fishing/basketball trip. Yikes!

The day worked out ok. I got a mani/pedi and went shopping while the guys went fishing. Then it was off to a basketball game, followed by a trip to the bar to watch football. The backyard brawl to be exact (Pitt vs. West Virginia for those of you who aren't familiar).

Once I realized it was going to be a long night watching football and drinking beer in a dive bar, I went out to our car, grabbed my knitting and settled in. I knit an entire scarf. Some old man even said to me, "Honey, in all my years I've never seen somebody knit in a bar. And I'm damn old."
After that M's cousin awarded me the coolest girlfriend award because I didn't complain at all. Knit One. Purl One. That's me.

Since then I haven't done much knitting, but I'd like to get back into it. I read just read Friday Night Knitting Club, Knit Two and most recently the third installment, Knit the Season -- all by Kate Jacobs. The books left me inspired to pick up my hobby again. Plus, another one of M's cousins showed me how easy it is to crochet over Christmas. It looks easy enough. Maybe I'll do that instead?

Does anybody knit or crochet? Or follow any other bloggers who do?

Friday, December 24, 2010

What's cooking this holiday season

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

This holiday season has been so great. Per usual, I'm really in the spirit. In fact, M. started calling me the Queen of Christmas.

I've watched an awful lot of cheesy holiday movies -- ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas, anyone? We've also visited two local displays of Christmas Lights - Hartwood Acres Celebration of Lights and Oglebay's Festival of Lights (both amazing!), hosted a tacky Christmas sweater party at the cabin and cut down our Christmas tree.

I can live without the green and white cup 11 months of the year, but once Thanksgiving rolls around, it's constant nonfat, no whip peppermint mochas for me. And of course, I've had the Christmas music on 24/7 since November 1.

Last night -- November 23 -- was our first official Christmas party. I made Ina Garten's amazing roasted eggplant spread for the occasion. It was really easy, tasty and seems pretty healthy to me. It's a great thing to bring to a party as an appetizer. Or perfect if you're hosting, because you can prepare it in advance.

The downside? While I was chopping the peppers, I also chopped off the tip of my thumb. I won't get into the gorey details, but it was ugly. My brand new fabulous Cutco knives sure do cut with minimum effort. Domestic fail.

So what's cooking this Christmas?
The ravioli filling was a ratio of one egg to one cup of ricotta, plus I added seasoned salt, pepper and a touch of garlic. The pasta was 2.5 cups of flour, 2 eggs and a touch of olive oil. Typically I need the dough by hand and then use the pasta attachment. But this time I used the dough hook on the KitchenAid mixer, due to the thumb injury. It worked well enough, but I think I'll go back to making it by hand next time.

I hope you're all enjoying your time with family and friends. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Picture: The tree in Rockefeller Plaza from our recent trip to New York City. Love!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Who puts plastic in the oven?

We had our second festive ugly sweater party at the cabin this weekend, which turned out to be really fun. I'm thinking it should become an annual thing.

Since we had 20+ people at the cabin for the weekend, my mom contributed an enormous tray of homemade stuffed shells that she had in her freezer. Perfect for dinner on Friday night. It was covered with aluminum foil, so I stuck it in the oven as it was.

Fast forward 30 minutes or so. M. realizes I left the shells unattended and goes to check on them. He peaks under the foil and what does he find??


That's right. The entire tray was wrapped a billion times in plastic wrap. I guess my mom did that so they wouldn't spill on the ride to the cabin? Or maybe to prevent freezer burn? I'm not really sure, but I did learn the importance of taking a peak under the foil before putting anything in the oven.

Luckily, the shells were still frozen when I put them in the oven, so even after 30 minutes the plastic hadn't totally melted yet. M. was able to salvage dinner and once they finished baking -- sans plastic -- the stuffed shells were a big hit.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Soup Night

As soon as the weather started getting cold, M. & I created our newest wintertime tradition -- soup night. Every week, one night -- typically Tuesday -- is designated soup night. We take turns cooking and this week was my turn.

I based my soup off of the Food Network's Butternut Squash Soup recipe (guess I'm still on that orange kick). The recipe says it's intermediate, but if you have an immersion blender, I'd bump it down to "any domestically deficient can knock this out of the park." Seriously. E.A.S.Y.

You need:
  • One large butternut squash
  • A medium onion (I used 4 little yellow onions, because that's what I had in the fridge)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 6 cups of chicken broth (I made it with chicken bouillon powder, because that's easier to keep on hand)
  • Spices
  • Cut your butternut squash and onion.
  • Saute your onion in butter, then add the squash and broth and let it cook for a while.
  • After 20 or so minutes, run the immersion blender (even leave some chunks, they taste great)
  • Toss in a few spices -- I used Tastefully Simple's Onion Onion, Garlic Garlic and Seasoned Salt, plus some pepper.
With recipes this simple and tasty, there's really no excuse for not eating healthy, home cooked meals.

Next up: split pea and ham. M. recently mentioned that he really likes it. Has anybody ever made that? I'm debating between recipes from allrecipes.com, cooks.com, and Emeril Lagasse on foodnetwork.com.

Thoughts? Recommendations? Advice?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree

Of course, I've had our house decorated since the first weekend in November. It's the Christmas Crazy -- it can't be helped.

Although I wanted to, I resisted putting up our tree until Thanksgiving weekend, simply because I didn't want it to die before the big day. So after a weekend with two fabulous Thanksgiving dinners, we headed out to the farm to chop our tree on that Sunday.

Carrying our tree to the truck.

I typically prefer a Douglas Fir, but all of the Canaan Firs were especially perfect.

With our new tree.

Decorated. Looks better with the lights off.

We got our "Just Married" ornament in Hawaii. Love it! (Obviously I was thinking about Christmas in October on a tropical island).

Speaking of Christmas trees, we spent the weekend at M's cabin decorating for our tacky Christmas sweater party.

The tree is much smaller than normal this year, due to the addition of a second loft. In the past M. and his brother have actually used a four wheeler and a tow strap to pull an enormous tree through the front door.

At this point, the tree only had about half of it's lights. Upon completion, we literally couldn't stare directly at the tree without risking vision loss.

Of course the boys were especially proud of their tree topper. In case you're wondering, that's a mullet wig with a trucker cap. True story. The good news is if the tree is wearing the mullet wig, that means my husband is not...

Just a taste of the cabin decorations. I'll share more when it's officially completed.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! And I seriously can't wait!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Thanksgiving Win!

Hosting our first Thanksgiving ever was a big time success. We actually hosted on Saturday since we were up at M's cabin on Thursday. And technically we used my mom and dad's home, because 14 people simply wouldn't fit in our house.

Here's a recap of the menu with recipe links. My sister and I made pretty much everything, with a little help from our dinner guests and M.

At the last minute, my sister was able to come home from college for the entire Thanksgiving break. Thank goodness, because she and I did most of the cooking at my house on Friday. Of course we had the Christmas tunes blaring and the wine flowing -- the perfect day!

While we were cooking my mom brought our grandma over to hang out for a bit. She has Dementia, so she's easily confused. While she had no idea where she was, she did know she was with her grand daughters and she was having a great time commenting on our cooking.

Grandma also looked at our wedding guest book notes and pictures for three hours. Front to back. Back to front. When she'd get to an end she'd close it for a minute. Then look down, see the book in her lap and say, "Oh boy, I haven't seen these pictures yet." And the cycle continued.

She also heckled us when we set the fire alarm off. She actually thought it was hilarious. She insisted she never did that while cooking. (Question: Did they even have smoke detectors back in those days?) She may have never caught the kitchen on fire, but she did have a few secrets of her own. Allow me to share one with you.

My Italian grandma made her own homemade tomato sauce -- always. She'd make huge batches of it and freeze it. For my Pap-pap, no other sauce was acceptable. Well a few years ago, she had a heart attack that landed her in the hospital for a few days.

After she was stable, Pap-pap was still pacing around the room. We told him to relax; she was going to be fine. He just looked up and said, "Yeah but she probably won't be able to cook for a while and we're out of tomato sauce!"

What Pap-pap didn't know was that Grandma was tired of making sauce all the time. It's really a long, time consuming process. So a while back she started mixing her homemade sauce with Ragu to make it last longer. Of course she always hid the the evidence and claimed it was her recipe. Overtime, she stopped making sauce completely. She was just freezing Ragu so it looked homemade. Smart lady.

When we dropped that bomb on my Pap, he was beside himself. Frankly, I'm surprised we didn't end up with two grandparents in the hospital, both recovering from heart attacks.

Speaking of our Pap-pap (a.k.a. "Snoop" b/c he's ridiculously nosy), he also stopped by unannounced on Friday. He walked in, snooped around, flipped on the TV, made himself comfortable and proceeded to take a nap on our couch. Typical.

Then on Saturday, Sister and I finished cooking and lugged everything over to my parents' house for dinner. With 14 people at the table -- most loud-mouthed Italians -- it was all the chaos and commotion I was missing on the real Thanksgiving.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my in-laws. Without a lot of extended family in town, Thanksgiving with them was a much-needed, perfectly peaceful and relaxing day at their cabin. Thanksgiving, Part II with my extended family was pretty much the opposite -- and in my opinion an excellent way to round out the weekend. Truly the best of both worlds.

Apparently Pap-pap wasn't the only only one who was tired.

The turkey. Good thing M. handled this, because it kind of grosses me out.

My favorite -- the cranberry brie bites.

Corn bread muffins made with my new tea cake pan. So cute!

The soup.

The stuffing, half way there.

Our first Thanksgiving as a married couple.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chocolate Krinkles

Cookie of the Month Club is surprisingly still in business. In November I made Chocolate Krinkles. My friend, C.C., actually shared this recipe in the comments after my Calling All Cookie Recipe post.

I'm not much for chocolate cookies, but these are so great. A perfect holiday cookie. Enjoy!

Chocolate Krinkles
Makes 4 – 5 dozen
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
Mix oil, chocolate, and sugar. Blend in eggs 1 at a time; mix well. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Cover and chill overnight.

Drop teaspoons of mixture in confectionary sugar. Press slightly. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes at 350o

C.C.'s Notes:
My family thinks these cookies taste even better the day after they’re baked. We’ve also found that it’s better to mix only one batch at a time, and we like to take them out of the oven a little early for a chewier cookie. Also, the mixture can get sticky, so keep it refrigerated when not using and make sure the cookie sheet is cooled between uses. Wiping a tiny bit of vegetable oil on the teaspoon also makes it easier to drop the cookies off.

The beneficiaries this installment:
  • C.C. herself since she just had a beautiful baby girl. I made her family dinner and in return C.C. let me hold her baby for a while.
  • The usual college kids: Sister, Brother-in-Law, Cousin
  • M. also got some this time around. Last month I didn't make him any extras and he swiped a few from the college kids' packages before I mailed them.