Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas cards

As someone who is an avid collector of stationery, & also a fan of the lost art of the 'thank you' card, you can bet I love to send (80 cards this year), and receive Christmas cards!

Look @ how many cards I got this season from you lovely people...I just love it! Thank you, & Merry Christmas!

Here here Target!

Standing in line 2 make my purchase last night & I look up 2 find this lil' wonder above every other register...right on Target 4 bringing back the MC! ;o)

It's not so much a religious factor 4 me as it is tradition & us getting back 2 saying it & not worrying 'bout being so 'PC'.

Merry Christmahanukwanzakuh!!! :oD

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sickie-poo's Day 4 contd.

Got baking done, bagged up the cookies in treat bags, as well as fudge bites, & started 2 put together goodie baskets & bags 4 friends & family. I had canned both plum jam & salsa earlier in the year 2 use 4 Christmas.

I adorned most of the gifts w/ these cute star shaped cookie cutters, which can either serve as tree ornaments or actually be put 2 use! :o)

8 baskets, 15 bags, & 4 singly wrapped jars later, WTF was I thinking!? I am beat, g'nite! Lol

Sickie-poo's Day 4

So the sinus pressure has finally gone down & my eyes aren't running & I'm not sneezing nearly as much - which is good, cuz I ran outta' my Puffs Plus w/ lotion & Vick's IN the tissue the night before. Those tissues are life-changing when U can't breathe, try 'em.

But, I was losing my voice b/c I coughed mostly thru the nite, which sucked, & I had some stuffiness return. Not good. :o( So, I was out 4 another day, rounding out the week.

About mid-afternoon, I thought, "Well, those Christmas gift baskets aren't gonna make themselves!". So, I started baking cookies & making fudge. It felt nice to be up & mobile!

Here I'm making my Aunt Sharon Kay's famous sugar cookies, which are thin & crunchy, like crackers...soo good! The dough does not have to be refrigerated & rolled out beforehand, which I love. You simply roll small balls (I used a small mechanical ice cream scoop), then coat the bottom of a glass w/ butter, dip in sugar, press each cookie & and twist. U do this for each cookie. They come out so light & crisp! You can see the choc/PB fudge in the background there as well - all done in micro, supa easy & fast.

Sickie-poo's Day 3

A GOOD dose of cabin fever is DEF setting in by this day. I've put an embarrassingly huge dent in my DVR list, the couch has also developed a dent as well! Lol

I've come 2 know the daytime talk show sched, & admit I did watch the Wendy Williams ('How you doin'?) show each day! Lol. She does look like a damn drag queen, but she's funny.

There was a certain somebody who was completely happy w/ me being home so much...

Sickie-poo's Day 2.

Needless 2 say, the taco soup was a good dinner, but did not deter the germies one bit. I found myself laid out on the couch Wednesday, wishing I could pop off my head, rinse it out, & put it back on. The sinus pressure was ungodly, & I was mostly immovable from the sofa.

Then the Dr.'s office called back, & I had 2 head out 2 Walgreen's 4 a diff OTC med. I went in all my pajama's & house shoes glory - oh yes I did!

And while I was out, no make-up & all, I picked up my FAVE pizza from Grimaldi's, margherita w/ pepperoni. I was over the taco soup, having had it again 4 lunch, & I blame all the NYC pizzeria/foodie shows on the Travel channel that day! Lol

Dear God, jst look @ that cheesy masterpiece! U gotta click on the folded slice close up 4 the larger's just 2 good! When I'm sick, I def go 4 comfort foods! Grimaldi's is so yum...fell in love w/ it in Brooklyn, & so glad we have the chain here now. :o)

Sickie-poo's Day 1

So, this past Tues I started coming down w/ something @ work, sneezing my head off, sinus good times.

When I got home that night, I wanted 2 put on a big pot of taco soup, in the hopes it would help, & of course ya' gotta' have corn bread 2 go with it!

I'll post my recipes when I can get 2 a real computer & not just my Blackberry. But 4 now, enjoy these lovely pics.

Jiffy cornbread w/ white shoe peg corn, roasted red peppers & sharp cheddar. Taco soup w/ anice dollop of sour cream.

Taco Soup

This is the EASIEST soup you'll make, it's basically all cans!  :)  And you can make it as spicy or non-spicy as you like, all depends on which kind of Rotel you add, or any jalapenos, if using the pinto beans w/ them included, like I do!  :)

This recipe makes a lot of soup, and you can basically change it up by adding any other beans or tomatoes you'd like.  You can really make it go far by how much you add.  For the ingredients listed below, I used a 9qt. dutch oven, which was almost to the brim - so, it was quite a bit.  A 12qt stock pot would work fine as well.  Feeds about 8.

1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, diced
1lb of lean ground beef or turkey
1 quart beef or vegetable stock
1 can pinto beans (I like the ones with jalapenos mixed in!)
1 can black beans
1 can chili beans (or Ranch Style beans)
1 large (28 oz.) can dark red kidney beans
1 can corn (I like the mexi-corn or the white shoepeg corn w/ red peppers)
1 can white hominy (optional, or you can swap for the corn)
1 can rotel (whatever heat point you like)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 packet Hidden Valley buttermilk dressing mix
1 packet McCormick's taco seasoning
Salt to taste
Sour cream for finishing (optional)
Other options: shredded cheese, diced jalapenos, chives, avocado, or green onions???

Drain and RINSE all of your beans (this dramatically reduces the sodium content of this soup, as it's not needed, as you can salt to taste).  Dump the can of corn over the top of the rinsed beans, and it will drain.  Do NOT drain the rotel or tomatoes, you actually want this juice for the soup.

Just saute your onion in a little EVOO or butter, toss in the garlic for about a minute, then toss in the meat to brown.  After the meat has browned, add a few splashes of your stock and get all the nice bits of brown up from the bottom of the pot.  This adds great flavor to your soup.

Now toss in all of your beans, corn, and tomatoes, add the rest of the stock, and the 2 packets of seasoning.  Taste, add salt as necessary.  Bring the soup up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.  If you need more liquid, add more stock if you have it, or water is fine at this point, since we've infused so much flavor w/ the quart of stock.

In the meantime, I hope you made your Jiffy cornbread and added the corn, cheese, and roasted red peppers - or WHATEVER strikes your fancy!  Cornbread is SO versatile!

Ladle up some of the soup and top w/ a nice, big dollop of sour cream, and whatever else you'd like.  Serve w/ a hearty hunk of cheesy cornbread!  Smiles all around.  :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Neiman Marcus Holiday Brunch

If you live in Dallas, and have never gone to the annual Neiman Marcus Holiday Brunch in The Zodiac restaurant at the downtown NM location...well, then, you haven't lived!

I've gone a few times in the past, and this year I wanted to start a tradition of taking the day off work, and enjoying the brunch w/ some available friends.

I give you, glutony, glee, the cold bar, the hot bar, themed desserts, roast beef and horseradish sauce, tiny ice cream cones, amuse-bouche chicken broth, the meat sweats, salads and sauces divine, and did I mention roast beef?

Treat yourself Dallasites. It is an indulgence at $30/person, but it's ONCE A YEAR, and it's some of the best holiday food you'll ever have, that YOU didn't have to prepare! :) They're still taking reservations, thru Dec. 23rd, I believe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baked Ziti last night

Ran by Jimmy's last night after work, craving ingredients for something with pasta.  As I've said before, for all things Italian, that's the place to go in Dallas.  I picked up the makings for baked ziti. 

I didn't follow a recipe, but I'll tell ya' what I used and how I made it:

Baked Ziti
1 bag (1 pound) ziti pasta
1/4 lb. pancetta, (about 6 thin slices), cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 gloves garlic, minced
1 lb. of 93/7 lean ground beef
8-10 small porcini mushrooms, sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 cup assorted olives, pitted, drained, and chopped (I use a greek or italian blend)
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers (about 1/2 a tiny jar or can - use all of it if you like)
2 24oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (I use Cento from Jimmy's - they're from Italy)
1/2 cup fat free milk (optional)
1/2 cup fat free mozz
1/4 cup regular sharp cheddar cheese
a lil' butter
S&P to taste

Get your pasta going while we begin the rest.  Once the water comes up to a boil, add salt, and a little EVOO.  (A little trick to keep the pasta from sticking together, even after you've drained it.)  Cook until al want a bit of bite to it, b/c it will continue cooking in the oven.  Oh, speaking of, now's a good time to heat your oven to 350.

Put a small pat of butter and about 1 tablespoon of EVOO in a large saute pan, set on medium-high heat.  Toss in your pancetta and cook until the pieces start to become crisp.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Now say, "Mmmm, pork fat, yum!"  There really isn't that much residual fat in the pan, so don't freak out. 

Now throw your diced onion in the SAME PAN - don't wipe out the pan, that's un-American!  Cook the onions until they're translucent, and a litte brown on the edges.  Throw in your garlic, and whirl around for about a minute.  You'll smell it when it becomes fragrant, and that's all the direct heat it needs.  Now add your ground beef to the pan, and start breaking up into tiny crumbles.  When most of the pink is gone, toss in your rosemary, and the mushrooms, and saute for about 3 minutes.  Push the mixture over to one side of the pan, and toss in your chopped olives and roasted red peppers.  Mix those around together to get them heated thru, then mix everything together.  S&P here to your liking. 

Now it's time for your 2 cans of crushed tomatoes.  Add those in, and stir to combine.  Now is when I add in the 1/2 cup of ff milk.  It's not neccesarily for flavor here, we're just using it to cut the acidity of the tomatoes.  You don't have to do it.  Now, if you were going for a romanesco sauce, you'd want to use something like CREAM here, then we're talking about a completely diff sauce.  But I'm trying to be good w/ this recipe.  :)

Let all of this loveliness cook on medium/low heat for about 15-20 really want the flavors to dance around and play w/ each other, and give that tomato sauce time to mellow out.  You want a slight bubbling in the pan, and give it a stir every couple of minutes.

Now, throw your cooked pasta in and combine.  Spray a large lasagna pan w/ cooking spray, and dump the mixture in.  Sprinkle the top w/ your pancetta bits, and the cheese, and pop into the oven for about 15-20 minutes.  All your looking for here is the cheese to melt and get a little brown, the edges will be bubbling a bit, and I love it when the ziti's that are poking out on top get crunchy - mmm, good stuff! 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hot chocolate...

...go on, getcha' some...come on, get happy!  :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I met The Pioneer Woman!

Last night Ree Drummond, (The Pioneer Woman), was in town for her Dallas book signing, and I was FOURTH in line people! There's a lot to be said for arriving at Borders at 9am on the morning of the signing to get your gold (first color group) wristband! (Thank you Shawn!) :) Especially considering it was a "sell out"! Borders had 700 books, which meant they had 700 wristbands...SEVEN HUNDRED. Gosh, I hope we weren't too much for Ree!? Texans do it up big!

She was too-too cute, and she brought along the girls - AND gave us t-shirts! It was a GREAT time, something Julie and I had been looking forward to for MONTHS. We had a blast talking to all of the folks waiting in line, and then went for pizza while all the other poor, miserable souls waited it out! And I called the Borders at Preston/Royal this morning, and found out that Ree stayed until 2:00AM signing those books for those patient folks - TWO AM people! Trooper, trooper I tell ya'!

(Click on pics to enlarge, l-r:) crowds gathering for Ree, Ree arrives w/ her girls and speaks to us for a bit, me passing off my gift basket (which after being there I feel turned out embarrassingly huge! lol), Julie with Ree, and the beautiful t-shirts (Wild Olive Tees) she gave each and every one of us! So sweet!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ree Drummond book signing 2mrw!

I've been SO excited about Dec. 1st for about 3 months now! Food, farm, & photography blogger Ree Drummond, AKA, The Pioneer Woman, will be in Dallas signing her 1st cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

You may recognize her name from this blog, as I've mentioned her several times & linked her recipes. I also have her listed to the right there, under my fave blogs. If you haven't checked her out yet, do it! Please? :o)

I am so pumped, & in the spirit of the season, I made Ree a gift basket full of "my faaavorite things" (sing w/ me now). All foodie related, & all fabulous. Oh, I can't wait to meet her!

Turkey Day

I went home to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving & didn't have to cook this year thanks to my Aunt Kay. I did however take my famous ham ball & crackers (I'll blog that soon). As you can see by my plate, there was plenty to eat - wonderful country cookin' & homemade bread to boot!

And the dessert table was glorious! Frankie even got in on the festivities w/ her t-shirt (Old Navy, $5)!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jimmy's Food Store in Dallas

If you live in the Dallas area & haven't yet been to this Dallas institution of all things Italian & tasty (@ Bryan & Fitzhugh), then skadaddle (sp?) on over because you're missin' out!

I took Mark & David there when they came 4 a visit, & we had the best time eating muffaletta & meatball sandwiches, cannoli's, fresh olives, and sesame & fig cookies-washing it all down w/ wine, of course! OH, & did I mention the market? I will forever be going here for all of my pasta, canned tomato, olive oil, & all Italian needs! :o)

Cute canvas.

I was in Garden Ridge a few weeks ago with sandy, & this cute screen printed canvas caught my eye...I really liked it, but stuck 2 my budget for my Christmas tree only. But I keep thinking about it...hmm, maybe I can dig up a coupon for GR? Do I need 2 pick up a paper, or can I go online 4 their coupons? If anyone knows, I'd appreciate the feedback. Because as most of U know about me, I don't pay full price 4 nothin'! Lol

Zuppa Tuscana the healthy way!

If you've had this wonderful, tasty, & hearty soup @ Olive Garden in the past, then U know how truly rewarding it is! But not w/ all the cream & butter they use, not to mention the fatty sausage!

So, I swiped the recipe from the Internet, & made these substitutions: Italian turkey sausage, turkey bacon, & fat free cream (or 1/2 and 1/2 works too). And where it calls for water and chicken bouillon cubes, I simply used 1 quart of chicken stock. And let me tell you, I tested it out on folks & they all agreed it tastes exactly the same!

Rosemary roasted potatoes and balsamic carrots with brussel sprouts

Okay, the rosemary roasted potatoes are another Pioneer Woman recipe, & the carrots & brussel sprouts I simply toss in EVOO, balsamic vinegar, & a lil' kosher salt & pepper, & roast @ 375 for about 25-35 minutes. These are 2 recipes where simplicity really speaks volumes. :o)

(Picture taken before roasting.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Lost Post

Okay, I know I posted when I made this, b/c I remem it was a pain in the butt b/c I had step-by-step pictures. And for those of you that blog w/ blogger, you know it's a pain in the butt b/c the pics don't post where your cursor is & you're constantly shuffling pics around your post (so annoying)!

At annnny rate, these are def post-worthy, as they are fabulous recipes I made from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond's blog.

I give you:

Chicken Parmigiana

Sweet-Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash Wedges

They were both FANTASTIC, and approved by all parties who partook. :)

Cupcake decorating

So, yes, I've made several cupcakes in the past...several. But this is my first attempt at piping using decorative tips and a piping bag! :)

These are chocolate fudge cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting - which I adapted from Mrs. Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond (love her). What I did diff was add my FAVE vanilla bean paste of all time, so there would be tiny black specs in the frosting, and I added a bit more cream cheese to make the frosting more creamy than stiff. I only did this, well, mostly by accident, but b/c I was piping w/ a #30 tip, which is basically a round hole. So, no real design to worry about, but if you were using a star tip or something more decorative, you'd want to stick to less cream cheese, or add more powdered sugar to make your frosting more stiff. I completed the cupcakes by sprinkling with pearl flakes and adding one silver dragée to each beauty. (Yes, dragées can be a bit expensive, but this one container will last you forever - unless you're doing a wedding cake or something!) ha

Oh, and as for the cake mix...well, I will have to divulge my secret: cake mix from a box! BUT, and a big BUT (or is it now BUTT, since I ate several of those cupcakes!), is that I modify each cake mix I use. The modification makes a much more moist and rich cupcake - they're fabulous, and it's easy:

Most boxes call for: 3 large eggs, 1/2 cup veg. oil, and 1.25 cups of water. Keep the eggs, keep the veg. oil, swap the water for 8oz. of sour cream, add one box of Jell-O Instant Pudding/Pie Filling (match the flavor to your cake mix), and only use about 1/3-1/2 cup of water. Follow all the same directions for mixing and baking. You will notice that your batter is shiney, pulls away from the bowl when being mixed, and is MUCH thicker. Not pourable, more like push it out of the bowl w/ a spat if making a cake, or scoop it out w/ a big spoon for cupcakes. But this is is alright, I promise. :) As the batter cooks, it will rise or puff up quite a bit, but settles when cooling.

Okay, ready? Go cupcakes! (click on the pics to see enlarged pics of the chocolatey goodness!)