Saturday, 31 October 2009

Happy Halloween!!


Happy Hallowe'en everyone! Wishing you and yours decent 'not too cold' weather, oodles of little trick or treaters and hopefully lots of chocolates left over to treat yourselves to long after the kids are in bed!!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

My Best Friend's Girl


Title: My Best Friend's Girl

Author: Dorothy Koomson

Type: Novel

Pages: 462

Book Type: paperback


Synopsis: From the moment they met in college, Adele and Kamryn were best friends. They never thought that anything would come between them ... until Kamyrn finds out that years ago Adele had slept with Kamryn's fiancee, Nate which puts an abrupt end to their friendship.

Years later the two women are brought together because Adele has a request for Kamyrn: to adopt her 5 year old daughter, Tegan. Kamryn had never planned to have children of her own nor does she think she has any maternal instinct. She also isn't sure if she wants the daily reminder of her failed engagement to Nate every time she looks at Tegan's face. Add to the fact that many people would see her as Tegan's nanny due to the differences in their skin colour and her problems initially dealing with having a child and a career; Kamryn has a lot of decisions to make.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book and it's main premise: "How far would you go to help the best friend who broke your heart?". It was hard to put down because the characters were believably flawed but also likeable. It's a journey through loss, forgiveness, love and hope. It also shows us that a family can be made up of the most unlikeliest of characters. There is a love triangle in the book and the author kept me guessing whom Kamryn would choose up until the end of the book. A really good novel.

My Rating: 4/5 (a very good read)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Bavarian Apple Torte


This is a delicious apple pie with a cream cheese layer. The always get compliments on it. The combination of apples, cinnamon, cream cheese and the raspberry jam is amazing! It's one of my all-time favourite pies.
If you want to get fancy you can carefully arrange the apple slices in concentric circles (see picture above) or just layer them any old way you like.

Base
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup raspberry jam

Filling
1 (250g) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Topping
4 cups apples (peeled, cored and sliced) ** See note below
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup almonds, sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 450F.

To make crust: cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Blend in the flour. Press on the bottom and sides of a 9" (2L) spring form pan. Spread a thin layer of raspberry jam over crust.

To make filling: combine cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Pour over the jam layer.

To make topping: toss apples with sugar and cinnamon. Arrange over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle almonds (if using) over top. Bake for 10 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 400F and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

Cool. Run a knife around the edge of the pie then carefully remove sides of pan. Store in refrigerator until needed.

Note: I usually use MacIntosh apples. Make sure you use an apple that bakes well and doesn't turn to mush and your pie will look much nicer.
Here's the easy way I slice the apples for this pie. After peeling the apple I use a corer to remove the core (go figure!) then slice the apple down the middle so I have two "C" shaped apples. Then I slice each half in thin apple slices. Easy!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Unmanned


Title: Unmanned

Author: Lois Greiman

Type: Paperback

Book Type: Mystery

Pages: 307


Synopsis: Christina McMullen has a history of people trying to kill her. But she's still shocked when a total stranger is gunned down and killed in front of her home. The real trouble starts when her brother Pete comes to town and tells her about his pregnant girlfriend, impending marriage ... oh and the fact that he borrowed money from a mobster named "D". Christina has always thought that family will be the death of her and now, on top of that revelation, she needs to find a killer who means to hurt them both.
.
My Thoughts: This book wasn't nearly as funny or as good as the other Greiman book that I read a few months ago ("One Hot Mess") which also featured the same main character, psychologist Christina McMullen. This book took a long time to pick up steam and actually start the mystery. The main character is very likable but the secondary characters aren't as colourful as I would have liked (like Janet Evanovich's Grandma Mazur or Lula who make those books). Overall, it was a decent read but nothing special.


My Rating: 2.5/5 (just an OK read)

Update

I haven't been updating the blog in a few days because our family has been hit by the flu that's spreading like wild fire in our area. Now, unfortunately, it's my turn. I do have several new recipes and 2 more books to post ... when I have more energy. Hopefully in the next day or two.

L

Friday, 23 October 2009

Chicken Noodle Casserole

This is one of my staple dishes -- tastes great and it's easy to hide veggies in it if you have some picky eaters. I prefer to put it together ahead of time then just pop it in the oven when I need it. I have also given it to new moms to put in their freezer to take the stress of all that comes with a newborn since it freezes well.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
3 cups uncooked egg noodles
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1 small tomato, diced
1 can (10 3/4oz) cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken
1 cup broccoli, finely chopped
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium skillet, saute the onion, green and red peppers until onion is transparent. Cook noodles according to package directions.

In a large bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add the chicken, the onion mixture, tomato and the cheeses; mix well. Add noodles to the chicken mixture. Toss to mix.

Transfer to a greased 2-qt. casserole dish. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until heated through.

Originally from: Taste of Home: Quick Cooking magazine (Jan/Feb 2000, pg 33)

Tip: try adding sliced zucchini to this dish. Saute it with the onion and peppers.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Casserole


This is one of those casseroles that our whole extended family looks forward to on Thanksgiving and Christmas (for some reason that's when we typically make it).   A big holiday meal just wouldn't feel complete without this dish!  It's got loads of nutritious veggies but the creamy yet tangy sauce (not to mention the bread crumb topping!) is what really makes this dish memorable.

It's a very versatile dish which you could easily add some diced ham, cooked bacon, cooked turkey etc if you choose.  I love the fact that I can make it ahead of time which saves me from prepping it during the craziness that always ensues right before supper time in our house.  Enjoy! 
1 bunch fresh broccoli, parboiled and cut into small florets (see tip)
1 head cauliflower (small), parboiled and cut into small florets (see tip)
1 (10 1/2oz) can cream of chicken soup
2 tbsp mayonnaise (or sour cream)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 -1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter or margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Place vegetables in a casserole dish. In a medium bowl, combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and cheddar cheese; pour over vegetables. Mix crumbs, Parmesan cheese and melted butter. Sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until tender (possibly as long as 50 minutes).

Tip: Instead of boiling my broccoli and cauliflower, I microwave them for a few minutes until they are al dente. Much quicker than boiling.

Note:  This dish can be made egg-free by substituting sour cream for the mayonnaise.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Certain Girls


Title: Certain Girls

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Book: Chick Lit (follow-up book to "Good in Bed")

Book Type: Paperback



Synopsis: Thirteen years have passed since Cannie's experiences in "Good in Bed". This book follows Cannie's marriage to her husband Peter, her rebellious daughter, Joy (as well as other crazy family members) and her now successful writing career. Instead of enjoying the lime light as a successful author, Cannie decides to write under a pen name and enjoy the quiet life ... which doesn't turn out to be quite at all!

My Thoughts: This is the long-awaited sequel to Weiner's "Good in Bed". It's filled with wonderful, memorable characters and Cannie's biting, self-deprecating sense of wit. I enjoyed how the chapters alternated between being from Cannie's point of view to Joy's. This book is even better than "Good in Bed".

My Rating: 4.5/5 (a really good read)

Good in Bed


Title: "Good in Bed"

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Type: Chick Lit

Book Type: Paperback

Pages: 400


Synopsis: Cannie is a pop culture reporter whose life is going well until she opens up a magazine to see that her ex-boyfriend has written a tell-all article for the magazine he works for about "loving a larger woman" and how it takes courage to date a larger woman. Cannie is humiliated ... and livid. The rest of the book deals with Cannie dealing with the upheaval in her life and learning to face her past so she can figure out who she can become.

My Thoughts: When I initially picked up "Good in Bed" I thought it was going to be a very simple and typical "chick lit" about an overweight woman and her dating and weight-loss woes. This book could have easily copied many other books that had the same theme but this book was different because it takes the humourous road. Cannie is a very likable and real character who is on a journey to change how people see her as well as change how she views herself. The book delves back into Cannie's childhood so the reader can understand where Cannie's feelings of self-doubt stem from. This is a good book if you're in the mood for something light with some good humour in it.

My Rating: 4/5 (a very good read)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Cheeseburger Soup

This is a great, hearty soup that turns into a thick, cheesy stew for left-overs.

1 lb ground beef
3/4 cup onion, chopped
3/4 cup carrots, shredded or finely chopped
3/4 cup celery, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley (optional)
3 cups chicken broth
4 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large soup pot, cook and stir onion, carrots and celery with beef until beef is brown. Skim off any fat from beef. Stir in peas, basil and parsley (if using). Add broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil; simmer until potatoes are tender (10-12 minutes).

In a small bowl, combine milk and flour until smooth (use a small wire whisk). Gradually add milk mixture to the soup, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Stir in cheese. When cheese has melted, add sour cream and heat through. Be sure not to allow the soup to boil once sour cream has been added.

Originally from: Allrecipes.com

Book postings are far and few between lately

Lately the amount of book reviews I've been posting has decreased a wee bit. There are a few reasons for the lull.

First, with Thanksgiving, birthdays (yes I am a year older now but I'd like to think I get better with age) and now colds running rampant in our house reading has been put on the back burner for a bit.

Another reason for fewer new book posting is because I'm half way through re-reading "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon. Even though I've already read this book (mind you it was 8 years ago) it is just as enthralling the second time around. Reading an Outlander book is no small feat either (most being over 700 pages long).

With any luck I'll find several pockets of down time to get back into the romance which is Claire and Jamie. If you haven't picked up this jem of a book (look for my review of this book under Historical Fiction) I suggest you do. It's a slow go until page 100 but once you get there hold on to your seats people. It's a great story!

On that note, I'm going to steal away with my book and a cuppa tea. :)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Rolo Cookies

These are a sweet treat with a nice surprise in the centre.

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
Rolo candies (approximately 2-3 rolls - or more)

Sugar Dip (optional)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 tbsp white sugar

Mix together 1 cup sugar, brown sugar and butter. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking soda. Mix well and add to the sugar mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup of pecans, if using.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix 1/2 cup pecans and 1 tbsp white sugar. Shape approximately 1 tsp of dough around 1 Rolo piece and cover Rolo completely. Press one side of ball into the sugar/pecan mixture (if using) and place on baking sheet, nut-side up.

Bake for 7-10 minutes. Cool 2 minutes

Warning: the Rolos can sometimes "leak" out ... but they're still G-O-O-D!

The Gilded Chamber


Title: The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther
Author: Rebecca Kohn
Type: Historical Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
Pages: 353

Synopsis: Esther has always been associated with feminine beauty and wisdom. This book tells Esther's story about coming to Babylon a Jewish orphan who is betrothed to her cousin, a well-connected courtier. She is forced to join King Xerxes harem where she witnesses or experiences abuse and deadly schemes. Her uncle warns her not to reveal her Jewish faith to keep herself safe.

She quickly learns that her new world is full of hatred and realizes that the only way to survive is to win the heart of it's king. Her sacrifices are finally rewarded when the king's trusted courtier Haman issues a decree ordering the slaughter of Jews and Esther is in the position to be able to save her people.


My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book and loved learning about a time in history that I had never studied before. If you love historical fiction (especially if you enjoyed "Nefertiti" by Michelle Moran) you'll enjoy this book. Full of wonderful descriptions, great discription, intrigue and suspense this book was hard to put down.

My Rating: 4/5 (really enjoyed this book)

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Italian Meatball Soup








Here's a great soup for the fall. I originally found this recipe from a Pampered Chef cookbook and I love it because it's one of those quick meal ideas you can whip up on those hectic week nights. With a side salad and some warm bread you've got a filling and delicious meal!




You can either make the meatballs using this recipe, or cheat (like I do) and buy frozen meatballs if you're short on time. This dish tastes great the next day for lunch too!

Meatballs
1/2lb ground beef
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp salt

Soup
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (14 1/2oz ea) beef broth
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (11oz) beans in tomato sauce, undrained
3/4 cup macaroni
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For meatballs: in a medium bowl, combine all meatball ingredients; mix lightly but thoroughly. Using a melon baller (or just by hand) form meat mixture into balls; place in a large saucepan or soup pot. Brown over medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Remove from saucepan.

For soup: Add zucchini, onion and garlic to the soup pot you used for the meatballs. Cook for 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add beef broth, tomatoes and beans; bring to a boil. Add macaroni, meatballs and Italian seasoning. Return to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Ladle soup into 6 bowls; sprinkle each serving with Parmesan cheese.

Yield: 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings

Friday, 16 October 2009

Baked Pasta Casserole with Ricotta and Tomatoes

OK, so I was all prepared to post the recipe for "Fiesta Chicken Soup" from an old Milk calendar that I made for dinner tonight. Change ... of ... plans. It was, um ... ew.

Usually I really enjoy the recipes from milk calendars and have found some real jems. This soup, sadly, was not one of them. Very blaw ... so in lieu of that icky recipe I thought I'd post another recipe that I found in a Milk calendar that my family and I truly enjoyed.

Baked Pasta Casserole with Ricotta and Tomatoes

This is a really good casserole that is perfect for the next day’s lunch.

3-4 cups Pasta (ziti, rotini), uncooked
¼ cup Margarine
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Small onion, chopped
¼ cup Flour
2 cups Milk
1 ½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Pepper
¼ tsp Nutmeg
Pinch Cayenne pepper
250g Ricotta cheese
1 can Diced tomatoes (796mL),
¼ cup Parsley, chopped
2 cups Mozzarella cheese, grated
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350F. Cook pasta. Rinse in cold water. Drain well. Reserve. Melt margarine in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add flour to margarine mixture and cook for 3 minutes stirring often. Add milk, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne to margarine mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cook gently for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the pasta with the sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, tomatoes and parsley. Pour into a 9x13” casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and brown.

Tip: If you have people who don't love eating tomato chunks you could try pureeing the canned tomatoes with a hand blender before you add them or try using just tomato sauce.

From:
Milk Calendar 1994

Substitution:
1-19oz can of diced tomatoes plus 1-10oz can of tomato soup for the 28oz of tomatoes.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Ham and Veggie Braid






Tonight I looked in my fridge and saw that I had quite a bit leftover ham from the other night. Armed with only a few veggies and some Pillsbury dough I decided to make a braid. They look great and are much easier than you think. Since I'm a huge Pampered Chef fan (used to even sell the stuff) I always bake on PC stones (I used the bar pan in this recipe). You can use a regular cookie sheet for this recipe ... just don't put it on the bottom rack like I advise or you run the risk of burning your dinner.

2 cups cooked, diced ham
1 cup broccoli, finely diced
1/2 cup red pepper, diced
3/4 cup shredded carrot
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 (235g) pkg Pillsbury regular crescent rolls
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375F. Move one oven rack to the bottom position. Place ham, broccoli, red pepper, carrot and cheddar cheese in a large bowl. Add mayonnaise and Dijon. Mix well. Set aside.

Unroll one package of crescent rolls; do not separate. Arrange longest sides of dough across the widge of a rectangular baking sheet (I use the Pampered Chef bar pan). Repeat with remaining crescent roll package.




Pinch seams with finger tips. With a rolling pin, roll dough to seal perforations. On the longest side of the baking sheet, cut dough into 1 1/2" strips. Make each strip approximately 3" deep. Do the same with the other long side of the dough (ensuring that there is about 5" of dough down the middle for the filling).





Spread ham mixture evenly over the middle length of the dough. To braid, lift strips of dough across the mixture to meet in the centre; twist each strip one turn. Continue alternating strips to form a braid on top of the ham mixture. Tuck ends up to seal at the ends of the braid.






Brush egg white over dough. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until deep golden brown. If using a baking stone, cook braid on lowest oven rack.

Tips:

1) The ham mixture can be made several hours ahead of time and kept in the fridge until needed.

2) Don't take the crescent rolls out of the fridge until right before you need them. They are much easier to handle when they're cold.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Before Green Gables


Title: Before Green Gables

Author: Budge Wilson

Type: Fictional Novel

Pages: 320


Synopsis: Before Green Gables is the story of fictional character, Anne Shirley's, life before her arrival at Green Gables on PEI. "Anne of Green Gables" was originally written by L.M Montgomery in 1908 and enchanted readers with her spunky, red-headed main character who won the hearts of so many readers that the 8 books in the series have never gone out of print!

My Thoughts:
Budge Wilson did a great job writing in a very similar style to Montgomery and made me want to read the "Anne of Green Gables" series again! This is a very heartwarming tale of a precocious Anne whose lively imagination and relentless spirit help her to overcome difficult times. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (loved this book!)

Mediterranean Tuna Pasta


This is a quick and easy stove-top meal that I made again for hubby and I tonight. Combining the distinctive flavours of tuna and the Caesar dressing tastes great (and tastes even better the next day for lunch!). Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.


8oz fettucini noodles
1 tsp butter or margarine
1 onion, chopped
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small yellow (or green) zucchini, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup creamy Caesar dressing (ie "Newman's Own")
2 (170g each) cans tuna
1 tbsp dried basil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup sliced black olives (optional)
3/4 cup (or more) feta, cut into 1/2" cubes


Cook pasta according to directions on package.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and saute onion, mushrooms, zucchini and garlic for 5 minutes or until soft. Add Caesar dressing, tuna, basil and cayenne pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato and black olives (if using); cook for 5 minutes. Add feta cheese, cook for 3-5 minutes or until cheese has melted. Add mixture to cooked pasta.

Tip: Although I've never tried it, I've often thought that (minus the pasta, obviously) this mixture would make a great hot dip appetizer.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

KITCHEN TIP: Making a Meal Plan

I find it so much easier to go food shopping when I've planned out what I'm going to make. I will often search the net (like one of my favourite sites: allrecipes.com) and occasionally pull out one of my numerous cookbooks or recipe magazines (although I find it much quicker to do a net search).

On many recipe sites you can set up your own 'cookbook' that can hold your favourite recipes from that site. I love allrecipes.com because I can rate the recipes in my own cookbook and since I have a paid membership on that site ($20 for 2 years) I can also edit recipes that other people have posted and plunk the edited version in my own cookbook.

Once I figure out approximately 5 supper options and a few options for lunches I have a better idea of what I'll need. Then, being a total Type A personality (I have embraced my Inner Geek), I put the items I need in an excel spreadsheet that is on my handy laptop in my kitchen. No more loose pieces of paper floating around for me to lose. When I think of something that I need to buy I just update my spreadsheet. I also list the meals that I plan to make at the top because, in the past, I've often bought all of the ingredients for a dish ... then forgot what dish I was going to make. *sigh*

When it's time to go food shopping I email the spreadsheet to myself which then puts it on my iTouch. With iTouch in hand, I head out to the food store where I can scan through my list and listen to music while I shop for (mostly) the things that I need. There are a few things that pop into the cart that aren't on the list (like those delicious Ritter Sport chocolate bars that I hide for 'Mommy Pick Me Up Moments'. A good place to hide said stash is in the canned veggie cupboard where hubbies and children rarely venture ... but I digress).

Whether you use a spreadsheet or not, planning out meals makes life a little bit easier and can help keep your pantry/deep freeze from getting too bogged down with all kinds of stuff that you often forget you even have. Who among us has not found some long lost package of pork chops or ground beef in the bottom of the deep freeze?

So, this week try making out your own Meal Plan and see how it goes! :)

Best Big, Chewy Triple Chip Cookies


My oldest son wanted to invent a triple chip cookie so we went huntin' for a great recipe. We found the original recipe on allrecipes.com then tweaked it to include "Cub's" favourite chips: milk chocolate, white chocolate and mint chips.


This recipe is amazing! If you like huge, chewy cookies, this one is for you. They look great and taste even better. The recipe is easy enough that I let my 3 kids put the dough together on their own and all I had to do was pop them in the oven ... and help them taste test them!


2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg (at room temp - see note)

1 egg yolk (at room temp - see note)

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or combo of white, mint and milk chocolate chips)



Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.

Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


Note: If you allow the eggs to get to room temperature the cookies won't come out flat. With our family we'll deal with flatter cookies if it means eating them sooner. ;)

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Pumpkin Pie

Mmmm. Fall and Thanksgiving. One of my favourite dishes at Thanksgiving has got to be pumpkin pie. I'm not a big pie maker and I think it's because I don't have a huge sweet tooth.

Pumpkin pies are perfect because I don't find them overly sweet but I love the spices ... and, of course, the whipped cream you dollop on top! I tweaked the recipe I found on the can of Stokely's Pumpkin. Here's the recipe I used for yesterday's pies.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
One 14oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
1/2 cup evaporated milk (not condensed milk)
1/2 cup cream or 10% creamer
One 9" deep, unbaked pie shell

Preheat oven to 450F.

Thoroughly mix together the brown sugar, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in eggs. Add pumpkin taking care that mixture is well blended (I used a small wire whisk to ensure no lumps). Stir in milk and cream.

Bake at 450F for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and continute baking for 25 minutes longer or until firm and crust is well browned.

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
Mix well together. Store in an airtight container.

Friday, 9 October 2009

One for the Money


Title: "One for the Money" (first book in the Stephanie Plum series)

Author: Janet Evanovich

Book Type: Paperback Mystery

Pages: 320


Synopsis: This is the first installment of the Stephanie Plum series. Stephanie Plum is a woman who has hit desperate times. She lost her job as a lingerie buyer, has a clunker of a car, has resorted to eating most meals with her crazy family. She needs cash fast! Soon, she finds that she has to resort to working for her creepy cousin Vinnie in his bail bonds office as a bond agent. She has no experience but that doesn't stop her from going after bail jumper, Joe Morelli who is a local vice cop. Joe has been a pain in Stephanie's neck ever since he looked up her dress as a child to when he got in her pants as a teen. Luckily the skills she learns as a bounty hunter come in handy when Stephanie learns she has a crazed boxer, Benito Ramirez after her. Will she be able to turn in Morelli for the $10,000 fee she'll make before Ramirez gets his hands on her?


My Thoughts: This is a good start to an amazing series. I found that I loved the later books much more than this first installment but I'd recommend reading this series in order because there are many smaller storylines and relationships between the characters that need to be followed. At times I'd find myself giggling out loud at the antics of the characters. I highly recommend this series if you're in the mood for a light, easy read.


My Rating: 3.5/5 (really good read)

Harvest Pork Stew

I made this stew last winter after I had leftovers from my Cranberry Pork Roast. This was a nice change from the typical beef stew. If you don't have any dry white wine on hand you can just add an extra 1/2 cup of chicken broth.

2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 bay leaf
3 cups frozen, cubed butternut squash
2 MacIntosh apples, cored and cubed
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups carrots, peeled and diced


Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Stir in the garlic and onion, and continue to cook until the onion has softened. Add white wine and continue to cook until the pork is firm, and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Place the pork and onions into a large saucepan. Pour in the chicken broth, and season with salt, rosemary, sage, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in the butternut squash, apples, potatoes, and carrots. Return to a simmer, then cook, uncovered until the squash and apples are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Turnip Casserole for Picky Eaters

Even picky eaters will love turnip done this way! The apple sauce flavour really comes through!

Ingredients:
1 Large turnip
28 oz can Apple sauce (You may not need this much, depends on how big your turnip is)
1 tbsp Margarine
¼ cup Brown sugar
Pinch Cinnamon

Topping
1/3 cup Flour
1/3 cup Brown sugar
2 tbsp Margarine


Preheat oven to 350F. Peel and dice turnip. Cook until soft; drain and mash with margarine. Mix mashed turnip and applesauce together. Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Put mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish. Mix topping ingredients in a bowl. Sprinkle topping over casserole. Bake for 1 hour.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sour Cream Coffeecake

If you're on the lookout for a light and tasty coffeecake, you've finally found it! I always get great compliments when I make this very easy treat. Great with coffee and a couple of gals to chat with.

1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

filling
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13" baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together 1 cup of butter and white sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Mix in 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt, just until combined. Spread half of the mixture into the prepared pan.

Prepare filling: In a medium bowl, mix 1/3 cup flour, brown sugar, 2 tbsp melted butter and cinnamon. Sprinkle cake batter with half of the filling. Spread remaining batter in the pan and top with the remaining filling.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Tip: Try adding raisins, chopped pecans or chocolate chips to the filling for a change.

Found on: allrecipes.com

Friday, 2 October 2009

BOOK DISCUSSION: Re-reading books

I know that there are people who couldn't fathom re-reading a book. Why would they re-read a book? They already know how it's going to end! I agree somewhat with this since I do not re-read mysteries.

But, I do thoroughly enjoy re-reading some of my favourite books. I have read the first four Harry Potter books at least 3 times each -- everytime a new book would come out in the series I would re-read the previous books to remember everything that happened (if you just decide to watch the movies instead of reading the HP books you are missing out on SO much of the story imho). Harry Potter has got to be one of my all-time favourite books/series and I thank my BIL DF for getting me hooked on this series. But I digress ...

Sometimes I love to re-read series because it's like I miss the characters. Odd, huh? Even though I know how "Outlander" (by Diana Gabaldon) ends I love going through the journey with Claire and Jamie again. It's amazing how many details you forget or didn't understand the first time you read a book. Things seem to pop out at you because you get the subtle nuances that certain skilled authors are able to put into their books. Re-reading a series you get to remember where characters' relationships began even though you know how they end. I do find that I like to re-read series of books but that's probably because there is more history to the characters and I've felt like I've gotten to know the characters more. I've always said that you know you're read a great book when you think about the main characters long after you've finished the book.

The only problem that I have with re-reading books is that I have to give myself time to re-read my favourites. The adage "so little books, so little time" fits me perfectly. There are so many new books out there for me to get my hands on that I keep putting off re-reading my favourites. I've been meaning to re-read "Outlander" for over 3 years now! I'm such a Library Addict that I've had to give myself a Literary Time-Out from the library in order to re-read my favourites (and to read the books that I've bought over the past year from Chapters). We'll see how long I can hold out from using the library. :)

So, on that note, I challenge you to pick up one of your favourites are re-read it and see if you love reading it even more than the first time. :)

Edge of Evil


Title: "Edge of Evil"

Author: J.A. Jance

Type: Mystery (1st book in the Ali Reynolds series)

Book Type: Paperback

Pages: 374


Synopsis: When Ali Reynolds is ousted from her TV broadcasting career because the execs wanted a 'younger face' and her 10 year marriage ending, nothing is keeping her in L.A any longer. After learning that her childhood friend has suddenly died she heads back home to Sedona, Arizona. Once there she falls back into the familiar rhythm of small town life and works in her parents' restaurant, the Sugarloaf Cafe. After talking to several locals about her friend's death, Ali begins to think that her death seems suspicious and vows to use her skills at investigative journalism to find out more. Meanwhile, while still dealing with losing her job, Ali starts up her own blog for cathartic reasons and to help others who have been cut loose from their jobs. When threatening posts begin appearing, Ali begins to fear for her life.


My Thoughts: This was a good mystery. The main character is likable but the secondary characters aren't as involved as other mysteries I like (ie. Stephanie Plum). I didn't like the fact that, what I deemed, the secondary storyline took more of the book than the main storyline (the murder) - I found that odd. Overall a good read and I'll most likely read the second in this series ("Web of Evil") to see where the author takes this character.


My Rating: 3.5/5 (good read)

Greek Cobb Salad


Before finding a Cobb-style salad recipe in the September '09 Chatelaine magazine, I had never eaten a Cobb salad but had heard great things about them. I made a few changes to the original recipe in Chatelaine because I found the dressing extremely salty anAdd Imaged I prefer eating feta instead of blue cheese. I also added some black olives to my recipes too.
Instead of the dressing given in the original recipe, I used a Greek salad dressing that my Mom has used for many years and has always gotten rave reviews. Here's what I came up with ...


4 cups chopped iceberge and/or head lettuce
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, pitted, cored and cubed
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and halved (optional)
2 tbsp minced fresh green onions or chives

Dressing:
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp oregano
1/8 tsp pepper
¼ cup olive oil

Dressing: Combine ingredients and shake well. Allow dressing to sit for 1 hour. Refrigerate remaining dressing.

Salad: Cover small platter, pie plate or shallow salad bowl with lettuce. In rows, arrange bacon, eggs, tomatoes, avocado, feta and olives over lettuce. Scatter green onions/chives over top. Serve with dressing.

Tip 1: To quickly ripen an avocado, place it in a paper bag. Fold up the bag and let sit overnight.

Tip 2: Use this Greek Salad dressing to marinate pork and chicken.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Country Breakfast Bake




This is one of my favourite breakfast dishes. I actually make it more often for dinner because I love having big breakfasts for dinner. :) I guess the amount of greasy dishes isn't something I look forward to cleaning up first thing in the morning.

1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup red pepper, chopped
3 cups frozen hashbrown potatoes
4-6 bacon slices, partially cooked and chopped
3 tbsp bacon drippings or vegetable oil (I prefer the bacon drippings)
4 eggs
To taste salt and pepper
1/2 cup Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 450F. Sprinkle green onion and red pepper in a 9" square baking dish. Add hashbrowns, bacon and bacon drippings; mix well and spread evenly over bottom of dish. Bake for 20 minutes; stirring mixture after 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 325F. Remove baking dish from oven and make 4 impressions in potato mixture with the back of a wooden spoon. Break an egg into each impression. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return to oven; continue baking for 15 minutes or until eggs are set. Remove from oven. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over eggs.

Tip: This recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 9x13" pan.
Originally from: Pampered Chef's "Stoneware Sensations" cookbook (p. 32)
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