Friday, December 20, 2013

"Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge"

Haha, love that line.  A Christmas Story is an indispensable tradition in our home, as is It's a Wonderful Life...unfortunately George Bailey is on VHS and decided he was going to monkey with the tracking.  I got all the way up to George holding Mary's bathrobe ransom while she was indisposed in the bushes before I had to shut it off due to an almost uncontrollable urge to claw my eyes out after forcing them to jump around through all the lines on the screen.  I need to find it on DVD...or maybe there's a 24 hour marathon between now and the 25th.  But we do love the travails of the hapless Ralphie and his merry band of dysfunctional family and friends...the scene where Ralphie tells his mom one of his buddies taught him that very bad word and the hilarity that ensues is possibly one of my favorite in all of TV land.  And way to go Flick for taking one for your BFF....even if it wasn't one you volunteered for.

Christmas comes every year and brings traditions old and new....when I was a kid, it was always Midnight Mass, and I think it was possibly a High Mass at that...lots of incense that made old timers and the Christmas Catholics faint, a little bit of reading the insides of your eyelids, and every single old standard religious Christmas song pulled out and dusted off for it's crowning moment.  Polish Dish for breakfast Christmas morning, and an endless assortment of goodies and candy that we could eat as much of as we wanted for one day, even if it made us throw up.  Mom had her standards; tea cakes, toffee bars, our favorite cookies (that's the name of them, they're like sugar cookies but better), and of course, See's fudge with walnuts.  And we weren't sissy and had to buy ours from a store, we made it ourselves....I would say it was a secret family recipe, but Mom submitted it to St. Clare's Cookbook in the 60's so I think that ship sailed a long time ago.

The story was, as my limited memory allows, was that a female relative of my Mom's Mother worked with Mary See in California, and she got the recipe either directly from the horses mouth (she probably was, I would be if I made all that candy year round), or possibly by copying it down while Mary was busy with a crystallizing emergency, or perhaps unsticking her tongue from the divinity beaters.  I don't know, and I have no idea if it's really true or a hoax, but I do know that recipe has been floating through my family since at least the 60's, and it's damn fine fudge (which is apparently really hard to take a picture of).

I am a fudge snob, and have had very few that can meet my exacting standards...not to hard, not too soft, not too sweet, and for GODS SAKE, not grainy - that to me is death to fudge.  This stuff is silky smooth when done correctly, will hold it's shape but is soft enough that you could spread it on toast....its' a wonderment, it is.  This year I involved Handsome Stranger in the process because "If I get hit by a bus, someone has to know how to do this", but mostly because I was tired and I didn't feel like flapping my arm fat for the time it takes to beat it correctly.  We are up to 8 batches, and because of a recent share/flop, I decided to the last 3 myself, one after the other to see if I could refine the process.  Bingo, bango, bongo, I hit utter perfection on #3...each batch was a little better than the last, and I think I have it down now...they will all be very, VERY good, but the look and feel of the last one was like no batch I have ever seen - let's see if you can do it now!  I will, however change the name so I don't get my arse sued...

See it's Fudge

Simple process, with just a few rules....this does NOT require a candy thermometer, and I would not even know what temp to tell you to cook it to - but everything else should be pretty precise if you don't want to make hot fudge sauce.  Which is what I do if one miserably fails....add a little milk or cream and thin to pourable consistency - it makes an unbearably good sauce for ice cream, pound cake or even to put in your white stuff to make chocolate milk.  What I'm saying is you really can't fail...unless perhaps you incinerate it.

In a large bowl, put:

2 Cups chocolate chips
2 cubes salted butter (1 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla

Set aside.  Prepare an 8x8 square pan by flipping it upside down, then putting a square of foil over it and molding it to the sides; carefully take the foil off and flip the pan over and fit it into the pan, molding to make it fit inside.  Spray with pan spray, or use a little melted butter with a pastry brush to paint the entire surface of the foil.

In a large saucepan (too small and you'll be scraping burnt sugar off your stove for weeks) put:

1 SCANT cup evaporated whole milk (one cup minus 2 Tablespoons)
1-1/4 C. mini marshmallows OR 10 large ones (I throw in a small handful/one more big one for fun)
2 cups sugar

Stir mixture carefully with wooden paddle if you have one, or a wooden spoon, try not splash it up the sides too much to prevent crystallization.  Put over medium high heat until it starts to boil, then turn down so it continues to boil, but not wickedly gets too hot and overcooks that way.  Time it for exactly 6 minutes from the time it starts boiling hard enough that you can't make it stop by stirring it, then remove from heat and immediately pour over butter/chocolate.  Stir with a wooden spoon until butter and chocolate are completely melted, then break with tradition and take your hand mixer to it....beat the hell out of it, scraping the sides until it starts to cool and get thicker....when it's thick enough that you have to scrape it out of the bowl rather than pouring it, it's ready.

At this point you would add nuts if you like - the recipe always had you add it to the chips and butter, but I suspect the oils in the nuts might have messed with the texture.  I now just fold them in before I scrape it into the pan and it works just dandy.  Dump/scrape all into the pan, and smooth out with swirly's if you wish and make sure you get it evenly into the corners.  Let it sit for several hours, or put in the fridge if you need it in a hurry....I don't because it makes it too hard, and I'm afraid it will taste like onions or smoked fish or whatever weirdness is lurking in my fridge.  When it's hard, remove entire batch by pulling the foil out of the pan, peel it off and put on a cutting board to cut.  I use a long knife with a paring knife, and scrape the long knife on both side with the small one to keep cuts might try dipping it in warm water, but it can get messy.

I like that if you leave the cut fudge out and slightly separate the pieces, they form a crust on the outside that is like a super thin shell that protects the inner creaminess lurking within...if you put it in a sealed container or wrap it it'll stay soft, but whatever floats your boat.  The only problem you have now is what are you gonna do with the fudge scrapings?  I have a good idea...."Oh fuuuuuuuudge...."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Bionic Breakfast

Computers are like God and the devil....they lift your soul up with wondrous things one minute, and send you gnashing your teeth into a fit of helpless rage the next - we give this glowing box way too much power in our lives. I remember when the only computers were giant room size machines with spinning things and flashing lights, and Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers, the most awesome bionic couple that never was.  Remember when the olden days meant covered wagons and outdoor plumbing and not bell bottom jeans and the Ford Pinto?  Criminy I'm old.

I love the computer, and now it's in my phone - anytime, night or day (as long as I haven't run my battery down playing Candy Crush or left the GPS on after driving to Milwaukie for the 50th time because my memory is that bad) I can look stuff up, play a game, check the weather anywhere in the world, look at pictures from the last 2 years, keep in contact with family, see what friends are up to, and delete the 40 emails a second that get dropped into my inbox.  After I make sure none are a real email from friends...but I apparently have none.  Convenient?  Hells to the YES....a pain in the ass?  You betcha.  Continuing to text while someone tries to engage you in conversation is quite rude but I have done it.  Laughing out loud during that exchange is boorish...done it too.  We will have cellular implants soon, and it can't happen fast enough...I hate the little rubber thingy I have to put on my phone to protect it when I drop it, it falls out of my pocket and bounces out the car door onto the street, or I fling it across the room because Candy Crush put me in time out, and having it installed in my head will keep both my hands free to work the Wii remote and still be able to drink a glass of wine.  Just not sure about where I'll have to plug in the charger...

My sister in law lost all the recipes on her computer due to some massive hardware failure, and son number 2 was not able to retrieve any of the data off her hard drive, so she occasionally will request one that I've given her in the past.  And I get why it's cool to put them on your computer, but I prize recipes like not much else....they have to get written down and put in the binder, because losing a really good one can crush my soul.  I lost the eggnog scones once for over a year...I had a little party when I found it again, and still can't eat the damn things - right, who am I trying to kid?  Someday I will write a cookbook, so the binders and this blog are my reference for that purpose - I even still have a RECIPE BOX....go to an antique store or a fossil dig if you don't know what that is.  And every recipe carries with it memories....even if I forgot where it came from, I can always recall at least one of the times I made it.

So I got a text from said SIL the other day asking for my apple coffee cake recipe, and I was busy and told her it was on the blog.  Quite a while later she txt'd back and said she looked everywhere and it wasn't there, so she made raspberry scones because that was what her work peeps requested anyway.  My first thought was that she was nipping her vanilla a bit too liberally, because I KNEW it was there, so when I went to search, was shocked to find it WASN'T.  Not sure why....I know I am holding back on one recipe in case I ever open a bakery or cafe etc, and will feature said product as "World's Best" Item and become famous when Guy Fieri shows up and lets me drive his Camaro after tasting one.  And don't get me wrong, this recipe KICKS SERIOUS ASS....sorry for the swear, but dammit it's the best coffeecake I've EVER had!  

First time I had it was when my daughter made it for Mother's Day...she was probably pre-teen, and no doubt Handsome Daddy helped, but it was and has always been the most moist and delicious coffeecake known to me and everyone I've ever made it for.  I tweaked it ever so slightly and doubled the topping - I'm a sucker for the sweet crunch and the way it melts into the top of the cake in pockets of pure delight, so why not?  The kids made it every Mother's Day until they grew up and stiffed me with diamond earrings, the Jag, and a cruise to Tahiti....I would trade it all for coffeecake.

Apple Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1/4 C. shortening
1/2 C. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 C. flour
1/2 C. sour cream
1 large apple, peeled and diced

1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. chopped walnuts
2 T. butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat shortening and sugar until fluffy, beat in egg, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.  Put in half the flour and the sour cream and blend, add remaining flour and apple and stir just until mixed, spread into a greased 8x8 pan.  Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and walnuts, using a fork, smash in butter until crumbles and sprinkle evenly over batter.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until no longer jiggly in center and a toothpick comes out clean.  It's even better warm than cold, but cold is still better than any other coffeecake on earth....not kidding.

You can use other fruit - I've made it lots of times with blueberries, and am going to try it with rhubarb soon.  And I always double it and put it in a 9x13ish pan....if it's a bit smaller, it will take longer because it's thicker.  Nuts are a choice, of course....but walnuts go with apples, and I like that they make the top crunchy - you could use pecans or almonds too, or none at all.  It's not cakey, light, or borders on pudding-ey, but is not smooshy either - just drop dead moist and flavor for miles...the apples are heavenly!

So there you go, Pam - in a race against raspberry scones I'm sure THEY will come in a respectable second, 'cause I think you know how much this cake rocks...but can I have your recipe for scones?  You just never know, maybe you'll be riding shotgun with me in Guy's baby while he works on a plate of each...


Layering for Fall

Is it fall again ALREADY??  Seems like cold and rain came overnight - altho today it's sunny and beautiful outside, but requires either something a little warm on top, a heavily padded bra, or T Rex arms to cover your God-given temp gauges.  It's soup and woodstove and fuzzy pants weather, and we are once again reaping the bounty of the gazillion acres of squash my sister in law (who will now and forever be known as "My Produce Goddess") obviously planted last spring.  There are new varieties I must try, but am hooked right now on butternut and delicata, with heart of gold in a very close 3rd place.  So many recipes, so MUCH squash!!

I love that Weight Watchers has made vegetables and fruit zero points plus, and squash is one of those that actually gives me a twinge of guilt on can be so meaty, so carby, and SO filling that it seems like I'm cheating - even as I eat it with nothing but a little salt, and not slathered in melted butter and brown sugar as I was formerly accustomed.  Sometimes when I come home from work I will cut a delicata in half, scoop out the guts, sprinkle w/kosher salt and put cut sides down on a plate w/a T. of water and cover w/plastic, then pop in the microwave for 7 is filling and warming and keeps me out of the graham crackers and peanut butter.  And marshmallow creme if I'm stupid enough to buy it again.  

Butternut is not quite as sweet, but has a texture that holds up very well in soups and other recipes - it will start to break down, but adds a silky thickness and a buttery sweetness that lends itself very well to chicken soups of any kind....cook it with milk or cream and a bit of curry and you have a wickedly good creamy soup with tons of body and a lovely taste and mouth feel.  I just tried a recipe for roasted butternut and quinoa salad that turned out pretty good, but I want to tweak it a bit to add more flavor....didn't pack enough of a punch so back to the drawing board on that. 

I actually made the salad for a party, and at the same time made another untested recipe for butternut squash lasagne as a vegetarian side dish since I knew Brisket of the Gods would be waiting there (I kid you not...I may never attempt brisket now because I don't think I can meet those expectations, thank you SO much Matthew) - it was very well received, and since there were no vegetarians there to hog it all, we each got to take some home along with a hefty bag of other leftovers....the few of us that showed up must have all been cooks in a lumber camp in past lives.  That may have been the shortest distance between trying something new and putting it on the bog I've experienced, but it was pretty darn good so here it is for your viewing/creating pleasure.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Found this on Pinterest; Brian Malarkey's recipe on  I had to be different, however - not a big fan of lemon zest so I used gives it a somewhat floral flavor, so you can use lemon if you think that sounds better.  Also, don't try to precook no-cook lasagne sheets...they shred and fall apart, EPIC FAIL.  If you use them, I think you need to add a bit of liquid to your sauce, so maybe go w/regular ones?
1 large or 2 small Butternut squash – Peeled, cored and sliced thin 1/4  inch
Olive oil, kosher salt and pepper

10 to 14  Pasta Sheets – Cooked and put in cool water bath

1/4 C Butter
¼ Cup  Flour
3 ½ Cups Whole Milk
6 cloves  Garlic
1 handful  Spinach
1/2 bunch  Italian Parsley
Salt & pepper to taste

3 Cups  Shredded Mozzarella
½ Cup  Parmesan
1/4 C. butter
10 Sage Leaves – Sliced Thin
Zest from a lemon (or orange)
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 375F.  Drizzle a cookie sheet/jelly roll pan (with sides) with olive oil and place the slices of butternut squash on it, season with salt and pepper, repeat another layer until all the butternut is layered.  Cover with foil and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes until the squash is cooked yet still firm enough to break apart.

While that is roasting, heat ½ stick of butter in a large skillet or deep saucepan and melt until almost browned, whisk in the flour and continue to cook for about 30 seconds, then slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, Add the whole garlic cloves (yeah, that threw me off too, just do it) and continue to cook at a medium heat until mixture thickens. Transfer the mixture to the blender and blend in the Spinach/parsley. Season with salt and Pepper. It will taste very garlicky....this will mellow when you bake it.

Rub a 9x13 Baking dish with a little butter and begin the layers: Cream Sauce, pasta, Mozzarella Parmesan, butternut – Repeat. I used 4 layers of noodles, then used on sauce and cheese on the top layer. Cover with Foil (spray the side that will touch the cheese first and it won't stick) and Bake for 40 minutes at 375; remove foil and bake for another 15 or until the top is crispy golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with Sage/Lemon (or orange) Brown Butter:  In small sauté pan bring 1/4 C. butter to a light brown color – Very hot and bubbling.  Add Sage, Zest, salt and Pepper and remove from pan immediately; Spoon over the entire lasagne or a little on each piece.

I just heated up a piece to stage it for the photo (thank God for leftovers), and was forced to eat some of it - it was light, creamy, cheesy and had the bright flavors of the squash and orange zest, with the more mellow notes of browned butter, sage and parmesan...very nice!  Enjoy this beautiful season, and eat more squash....don't let The Produce Goddess down!


Monday, September 2, 2013

Be Careful What You Ask For...

Now here's a novel 'bout I give you a bunch of recipes recently requested with out all the blathering that usually comes with just one?  Done.  But just so you know, I can tell which posts get the most hits, so if it's this one I will be devastated and probably fall into a deep depression, never cooking anything again that doesn't come in a waxy box that contains the words "peel back the foil from the brownie".  Then you'll be sorry....

Dilly Beans

Marie, this one is for you...actually for Matthew.  We love dilly beans, and I have to hide them because the kids will come up with vodka and spicy bloody mary mix and just pour it straight into a quart jar of them that they drained the brine out of.  They are a little crunchy, nice and dilly, and the more red peppers you put in, the less of the spicy bloody mary mix you need....super simple to make too!

This recipe is for 5 quarts because I threw away my canner and have to use a stock pot to can in....only 5 jars will fit and I have to put extra rings on the bottom for a rack.  Anyone have an old canner they want to get rid of?

5 lbs fresh green beans, washed and stem end snapped off (we like the pointy end)
5-10 cloves of garlic, peeled
5-10 dried red chili peppers (or more...)
5-10 heads dill
5 C. vinegar
5 C. water
1/4 C. salt

Bring your canner or large stock pot a bit more than half full of water to a boil while you prep the jars.  Bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil in another pan, keep simmering.  In each sterile wide mouth quart jar, put one or two each garlic cloves, peppers and dill heads, then fill with beans, pointy end down.  Pack em in, turn the jar sideways and find holes to push more in until it's nice and tight.  Stand up the jar, and use scissors (I have itty bitty ones) to snip off anything that extends past the jar collar.  Trust's the fastest way.  Fill all 5 jars, then carefully pour the boiling vinegar mixture to fill each one 1/2" from the top.  Run a knife down the insides of the jar to release air bubbles (I didn't do this because I forgot, and only blew the bottom off one jar...whatev), then wipe the top edge with a clean cloth, then put your sterile lid and ring on each jar, tightening the ring firmly.  Handsome Stranger said the one lid that got crinkled was because I made the ring too tight...I put him in a headlock and he said he was just kidding, it was probly just a defective lid.  Put jars carefully into the canner of boiling water, add more if they don't have at least an inch over the top of them, then put the lid on and bring to a boil.  Process for 10 minutes at a full boil, then remove from canner and let cool.  Any lid that doesn't seal gets stored in the fridge unless you like to froth at the mouth.

Here's one for several people who asked after seeing a pic on facebook....I posted the recipe there too, but I have trouble finding recipes people post there, it's like writing one down on the back of an envelope, then trying to find it when you don't a. file paperwork more than once a year, and b. like to mix your recipes in with your paperwork.  This way you can say "Man, I wish I had some of those bitchin brownies", which will remind you of bitchinvittles, and voila!

I made these after someone posted the recipe, then posted my own pix and promptly got two requests.  I bet at least 3 people have lick marks on their computer or smart phone....

Mortal Sins (Peanut butter brownies)

Because once you have one under your belt, there's nowhere to go but down....

1 box brownie mix...or make your own, I do not care
1/2 C. butter
1 C. peanut butter
2 C. powdered sugar
1 C. chocolate chips
1 T. butter

Bake the brownies according to directions in a 9x13 pan, let cool completely.  Beat butter, peanut butter and powdered sugar until fluffy...try not to eat half of it before you spread it on the brownies evenly.  Refrigerate one hour, then melt the butter, stir in the chocolate chips, and microwave one minute (or 30 seconds at a time), then stir until melted and smooth.  Spread carefully over peanutbutter frosting and put in fridge for another hour to set.  Cut into squares and be will not be able to stop at one.  No one has so far....OMG these are too easy to be this damn good!  Only thing I thought might improve them is to double the peanutbutter filling....but then you could also skip the bottom and top and just make a bowl of the frosting and be done with it.  But we live in a civilized world, so if you do don't tell anyone.

And last but not least - made these after someone posted THIS recipe on fb, and brought them to work.  Request, request, request...

Sticky Pecan Baby Buns

Hahaha...I made that name up and it makes me laugh even though I'm sure it will disgust some of you, but probably only the ones who didn't get to eat one.  I made them in muffin tins and ended up with a lot of leftover cake batter, but you could also make this in two round cake pans to make things easy on yourself when you tip them out of the pan...did I say tip?  I meant scrape, cajole, attention to the end unless you want to curse like I did.

2/3 C. packed brown sugar
1/2 C. butter
1/3 C. honey
1.5 C. pecans, coarsley chopped

2.5 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
2 C. sugar
1 C. vegetable oil
1 C. sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 24 muffin tins with crisco...don't skimp.  In medium saucepan, heat brown sugar, butter and honey, stirring until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Stir in pecans and set aside.  In medium bowl, stir flour, baking powder and soda, salt and set aside.

In large bowl beat eggs and sugar about 3 minutes until thick and lemon colored.  Add oil, sour cream and vanilla, beat until combined.  Gradually add dry ingredients and beat until combined, scraping bowl.

Put 1 heaping T. of pecan mixture in bottom of each muffin tin, spreading it out a bit with the back of the spoon.  Put about 1/4 C. of the cake mix on top of the pecans, then bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack for FIVE MINUTES ONLY, loosening sides of cakes while it cools, using a sharp knife if need be.  Put rack on TOP of cakes upside down, then holding both together, flip pan over and smack the rack/pan on the counter once or twice for good measure.  Lift off the muffin tin and hopefully all the cakes fell out....if not loosen any "klingons" and then scrape out any excess pecan and put back on the cake it came off of.  You may want to stagger baking the two pans so you don't let one sit too long like I did...saves on confession for saying very bad words.  Let cool a bit, because that topping is about the same temp as what comes out of an old school glue gun...and your lips will look funny with bandaids covering the missing skin.

These are wicked good warm, kind of remind me of the flavor of baklava without the excessive sweetness...and you can smell the butter a mile away.  The cake is amazingly soft, rich and delicious...use the rest to make some cupcakes and you will not be unhappy you had extra.  And if you don't want to mess with cupcake tins, use two round cake pans, increase the cooking time 5-10 minutes, and just cut them into wedges when they cool...all comes out the same, right?

There you muss, no fuss and no warm and engaging stories with a positive and uplifing moral that will just get in the way of you making these delightful recipes and committing the sin of gluttony.  I hope you enjoy yourself.  Hmpf.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The View From my Park Bench

Hello again!  Wow...even I'm surprised at how long it's been, and I'm fully aware of the lengths my procrastination will go - I think I still have elementary report cards to sign and return and my baby just turned 26.  Stuff be happenin' tho - Son #1 and the lovely "Someday Daughter-in-Law" are now officially engaged...YESSSSS!!!  Now comes wedding prep and I"m sure she will turn into the T-Rex of Bridezillas...she just has that look about her and I just KNOW she's going to come up with some heinous dresses for her attendants, giant bows on the butt, possibly in Pepto Pink and topped off with a fruited hat of some sort.  It will look ridiculous on her maid of honor Daisy the cat, but she will wear it with tail held high because she's a class act.  Just not sure how they're going to get suspenders on best man George...he's not going to like wearing pants.  All kidding aside, we are thrilled and can't wait to see what they have in store for everyone...whatever it is it will be EPIC!!

Spent the summer chasing my tail at work, and cleaning up the woods after last year's drop em and leave em action....Handsome Stranger and I pinky swore that we will NEVER drop another tree without completely cleaning it up promptly thereafter.  It looked like the aftermath of a game of pick up sticks played by Paul Bunyan out there, but it is now mostly back in order save for the numerous piles of tree debris we are waiting for it to be wet enough to never catch on fire without copious amounts of gasoline.  Looks great and we have enough firewood neatly stacked to not pull out a chainsaw for another 5 years!

We ended our first and only week of vacation this summer with a lovely wine tasting at Ardiri Vineyards, which was catered by a local company of whose delicious work I have always admired - there we leftovers aplenty, and since I had committed MANY violations of the WW handbook in brewpub city Oregon, availed myself of a plateful of the roasted veggies and a few curried chicken skewers to take home for lunch the next day.  Once home, I thought how good they would be in a pasta salad, so I chopped them all up, added some rotini and a skosh of pine nuts and whipped up a very light dressing and blew my own mind - not only was it the best pasta salad I've ever had, it was also only 8 points plus for 2 cups of it!  I had such a nice lunch yesterday...sat on a park bench, took off my shoes and socks and rolled up my jeans and enjoyed all the flavors of summer - dropped a precious rotini and, if I could have found it, would have picked it up and eaten it...I think some hyper ants must have seen their chance and zipped off with it for an impromptu orgy of deliciousness.  Go ants!

So here is a somewhat laid back recipe for this wonderful dish - you can use whatever veggies you have on hand, I was sad that there were mushroom hogs at the party so I didn't have any of those in it, but you gotta go with what you got.  And when you eat it, you can take off your socks and shoes and roll up your pants...just not if you're at my son's wedding.

Tuscan Pasta Salad

Uhhhh...yeah.  Tuscan is just a hot button word that makes people think you're fancy and know something about Mediterranean food - in my mind it just means you watched that movie and got a little too much Tuscan Sun. Actually, it has pasta, vegetables, olive oil and balsamic, all of which are liberally used in Tuscany, so there.

2 C. uncooked rotini (or whatever pasta floats your boat)
6 chicken tenders or 1 chicken breast, fileted
Yellow curry (turmeric)
Olive oil or spray
Red bell pepper
Yellow squash
1 Cup grape tomatoes
12 teeny tiny squashes that look like flying saucers (Costco)
8 asparagus spears
1 T and 1 tsp. olive oil
1 T and 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey mustard (any kind of mustard but yellow will do, just add a little sugar if it's not sweet)
2 pinches of sugar
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 C. pine nuts

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water about 2 minutes past what the cooking time says (pasta for salad should not be al dente), immediately rinse with cold water until no longer warm, drain well and put in large bowl.  Sprinkle chicken with curry and a little salt, grill or broil until done, let cool and cut into bite size pieces and throw in the bowl.  Cut pepper, yellow squash and zucchini into strips, teeny squash into halves, spray or coat with olive oil and grill or broil until it starts to char a bit - remove from heat and splash with a bit of balsamic vinegar.  Cut into bite size pieces and toss in bowl.  Add dressing ingredients and toss until well coated, add pine nuts and you're good to go.  

You could add cheese if you like....I think feta would be nice in this, I just didn't have any, also black olives because I love them....pasta salad for me tends to be a way to use up little bits of leftovers, so whatever you have lurking in the fridge and you don't have to wrestle it into the bowl is good.  Now I need to get ready for the first real work day since I went on vacation - my email inbox is going to be more full of crap than this recipe, so I may have to go back to the park bench for lunch....if you see me chained to it with handcuffs, please do not try and find a key, I did it myself.

Friday, February 8, 2013

On Your Skid Mark....

I love to drive fast - always have and I blame my parents.  They didn't speed everywhere, but never believed in wasting perfectly good forward momentum...they would race to a red light or stop sign and brake at the last second, and I don't think we ever realized that wasn't what normal people do until we had been driving on our own and got back into the car with one of them, muffling a high-pitched scream at the first couple stops.  Handsome Strangers finger impressions were forever imbedded in our car dashboards early in our marriage - he still is not entirely comfortable with my driving style, but I like to point out to him that he's had several "Make your mother go gray in an instant" vehicular incidents that he should never have walked away from unscathed while I have had nothing but a couple minor fender benders.  Except the head on with my neighbor on the driveway quite a few years ago which my insurance company deemed 100% her fault because she was on the wrong side of the road on a blind corner.  And I still went to work that morning, and did not total a car AND a combine at the same time.

Poor people have limited options for vehicles, so we drove a motley collection back in the day - one of my best finds combing the local paper's "Auto's for Sale" ads was HS's prized 68 RS Camaro for $ was a giant POS, which now we call a "project car", but at the time we had nothing else so he made it run and I drove it.  Rough and with more than a few safety issues (Fred Flinstone holes rusted in the floor), that sucker FLEW and I was more than happy to take it down the local runway, even with kids strapped in car seats in the back.  Yeah, I know....but back then we did a lot of stupid things we weren't informed by every billboard, newspaper and fb article would kill us.  And I should be driving Nascar anyway - if you question that just try to keep up with me on my way to work in the morning.

One of the items on the "Needs fixin/can't afford it" was a broken motor mount.  You had to be careful and feather the gas when starting out, or the forward momentum of the car would cause the engine to lift, which caused the throttle spring to stretch waaaaaay out, sucking the gas pedal to the floor and sending you on your merry way like a rocket ship on crack.  I was quite pregnant with Son #2, and I believe both of the other kids were strapped in the back while we sat in the local gas station getting $5 worth of gas I had to dig under the seats and scrape green pennies out of the console to afford.  I paid for my gas, started her up and lightly tapped on the gas.  Did I mention this procedure was touchy?  The gas  station I was at used to sell milk in had a covered pump area with a brick building on one side, and had a carwash directly behind it.  To exit you had to creep around a one lane alley between the building and the carwash, and when she took off that day, all I could do was hang on, crank the wheel, and say a prayer in that nano second that no one was on the other side of that building.

I cut a perfect cookie from the pump to the other side of the building, and was standing on the brake with both feet and my butt off the seat (no mean feat when you're 8 months pregnant) when the motor finally dropped and she stopped.  I still don't know why I didn't wet my pants, but could not speak for a moment when the attendant who had pumped my gas ran up to my window with eyes as big as hubcaps and yelled "Are you OKAY??!!"....I was still trying to remember how to breathe.  There was a perfect "C" of rubber on the blacktop at that gas station for a long time....and SOMEONE got his arse handed to him on a platter with still shaking hands when he got home from work that day.  The kids were totally unfazed...they probably just thought they were riding with Grandma.

Speaking of cookies, I have not posted for so long I figured I would throw you a bone and give you one that is naughty and delicious with no regard for calories/points/the way your pants fit for the next week or so until you eat lettuce for a couple days and work out every minute you're not sleeping/working/driving.  Yes, they are that good...but be careful, right out of the oven they will hurt you if you aren't VERY careful...molten caramel will do that.  As will a broken motor mount...

Rolo Cookies

Found this in a search for some different Christmas cookies...but it's not really holiday-ish, just decadent and special.  They are also quite huge...the other day I saw a bag of mini Rolos and think I DID wet my pants thinking about making these baby sized - but regardless, they are totally worth having to peel the foil off a whole bag of Rolos.

1 C. sugar
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. butter
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
2-1/2 C. flour
3/4 C. cocoa (I, of course, use my lovely dark cocoa)
13 oz. bag Rolos, unwrapped (DANGER...)
Sugar for rolling

Blend sugars and butter until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla and blend well.  Beat in dry ingredients until a soft dough forms.  You can use two cookie scoops of this dough, press one flat, put a Rolo on it and then press the other on top, sealing the edges of the top and bottom dough pieces around the Rolo.  Roll in sugar and put on cookie sheet, leaving LOTS of room - 6 per pan because they spread out to be pretty large, and will be fairly flat when baked.  Bake at 375 for 7-10 minutes...just check the divots in the middle to make sure they don't look too wet.  Let them cool a couple minutes, then CAREFULLY remove them to a rack - if they break they will make a mess, and you will probably wonder how sanitary it is to be licking caramel off the counter/stove/floor/your slippers.  And they really will burn you if you eat them too soon...BE CAREFUL!  Still warm the caramel still oozes a bit, and even stone cold it has a soft and chewy quality inside an intensely chocolatey and fudgy shell - they are TRULY spectacular!

Enjoy, and don't say I didn't warn you - eat too many and you won't be able to squeeze into the Hershey's Rolo pace car for the Indy 500 lbs.  And be careful out there; you never know when a crazy preggo is gonna come flying outta nowhere to leave skid marks across your spare tire.