30 November 2007

I Do Love Me Some Pie

Since I wasn't hosting Thanksgiving this year, I brought the pies. I made three pies -- two with Splenda and one with white sugar. Originally, I wasn't going to bring pies. I was going to bring Betty Crocker's Praline-Pumpkin Cake, but then I was told I would bring pie. Pie is a traditional Thanksgiving food, you see, and Traditions Must Be Observed.

Sigh.

Not as that bringing pie is any hardship, you know. I do love me some pie ...

"Mixed Berry Pie"
From the Crisco website. Made this pie using two 1-lb bags of thawed frozen mixed berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries) and a box of refrigerated pie crust. Brushed the top crust with a little beaten egg prior to baking to give the crust a little shine (I really need to work on my crimping technique, though).

My husband is a great fan of mixed berry pies and he thinks this one is a repeater. Actually, everyone seemed to really like it and there wasn't much to bring home. The pie was very fragrant and flavorful, but not too sweet and we could still taste the individual berries.

Crisco Mixed Berry Pie

"Chocolate Cream Pie"
Recipe from the Splenda website. Except for the substitution of 1% milk for 2%, I followed the recipe exactly. All the diabetics and chocolate-loving non-diabetics raved about it and took seconds and, as with the berry pie, there wasn't much to bring home.

I used my Pampered Chef easy Accent Decorator Gun to make the Cool Whip peaks and it worked really well considering I use it four times a year on average (usually for deviled eggs).

Splenda Chocolate Cream Pie

"The Great Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie"
Also from the Splenda website. I followed the recipe exactly when I made this pie and it was surprisingly good. The filling was very spicy and firm, but not dry, and with an excellent mouth feel. A really nice breakfast pie, I kid you not. Yes, there is a little brown sugar in this pie so it is not technically sugar-free, but close enough for government work.

17 November 2007

TMI

You know what's fun? Waking up an hour before the alarm is due to go off and just sort-of fidgeting about for half an hour before you give up and stagger to the bathroom and while dozing on the toilet you realize the smell is not coming from you but rather from the enormous runny shit some cat took on the shag bathmat so you scrape off as much of it as you can and toss the mat in the wash and then toss every cat you can find outside into the deep dark cold because they are horrible horrible creatures and by then you are wide awake and feeling faintly sick but that is okay because you need to be up in about five minutes anyway and then you remember that today is your day off and you have no need to be awake but you are utterly and completely awake so you write out a week's worth of menus plus grocery list and plan out which pies your are bringing to Thanksgiving plus grocery list and then you realize you can still smell the smell you smelt in the bathroom and you look and you do not find any more but you know it must be there and ...

Come to think of it, none of that was any fun. Well, menu planning was all right as it allowed me to browse the branch's copy of Pillsbury's Good for You! Fast & Healthy Family Favorites (Wiley: 2006) and tick off things on my freezer's content sheet.

Yes, I made a list of all the things in the downstairs freezer. I have a habit of forgetting what's down there and then discovering I own five pounds of frozen peas and a whole lot of mysterious (unlabeled) soup containers. Too many peas aren't a problem as I am quite liberal when I add frozen vegetables into casseroles, soups, and stews and they will get used up -- as long as I continue to remember they exist. The mystery soups are a bit more problematic (I swear I've been labeling all the soups), because I might thaw it expecting Cabbage & Vegetable only to discover it is Mexican Beef & Vegetable. Not a terrible problem, but a trifle irritating.

Another reason for knowing the contents of the freezer, is that I'd like to empty it out. Not particularly soon, really, but it would be good to work toward empty. We are (probably) putting our house up for sale in the spring and we're moving too far away to schlep a freezer full of frozen stuff. Anyway, the basement freezer came with the house and we may just leave it. It works fine, but I don't really want to deal with moving it.

Yes, I know. Fixating on the freezer isn't a useful thing to do. Yet, this is how I cope with change. I break down whatever change is coming into tiny steps (like emptying out the freezer) and, by the time I've done a bunch of tiny steps, I have gotten on board with whatever it is that has happened/is happening and I can look at The Big Picture without flinching (too much).

11 November 2007

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

Brought home Betty Crocker’s Chicken Tonight: 100 Recipes for the Way You Really Cook (Wiley, 2007) a few week’s ago and was fairly impressed by it. I’m not a big fan of spiral or ring bound cookbooks as the pages are always trying to escape or there's trick to closing the books I've never quite mastered.

Despite the format, I have enjoyed this cookbook. The cheery yellow-green cover is quite uplifting for this time of year and just a glance at the title is guaranteed to have me singing the old Chicken Tonight jingle for hours.

I made two recipes from the cookbook before I returned it to the library, because I need to buckle down and focus on the Christmas feast or I’m going to end up serving my guests “emergency spaghetti.”

“Easy Chicken Alfredo”
Very nice little piece of convenience cookery which tastes like more than it is. Basically just sliced zucchini, red bell pepper strips, chicken breast strips, Parmesan cheese and refrigerated (low fat) Alfredo sauce over fettuccine. It’s a very adaptable recipe – good for any vegetables you might have on hand – and takes almost no time to make. I might cube the chicken and use mushroom ravioli with sliced mushrooms next time. Or julienne the zucchini and use marinara sauce. I think it’s one of those recipes which could easily become a bi-weekly regular.

“Chicken in Brandy Cream Sauce”
Now, this I could serve for Christmas! It’s very simple and fast to throw together, but looks (and tastes) quite elegant. The recipe suggests serving the chicken over fettuccine, but we used no-yolk egg noodles. I imagine some celery mashed potatoes would have been quite nice, too. Definitely a recipe I will make again and it’s just sautéed chicken breasts gussied up with a nice brandy cream and mushroom pan sauce. Any beginner could make this dish without fear.

Another Birthday

I took Monday of last weekend so I could have a three day birthday celebration, but really it works out to almost two weeks of celebration. I thought, when one became a fully fledged adult, one's birthday celebrations became briefer and more paltry affairs. And yet, for me, birthdays seem better now that I am an adult. Less intense, maybe, but better. Rather than one big day with cake and ice cream and presents and too many people it becomes nearly two weeks of cards and mysterious parcels and restaurants and shopping and just a few special people.

The week before my birthday, The Best Friend sent me a parcel from the wilds of N'Hampsha which freely admit to tearing open immediately upon returning home from work. The Husband suggests I have no self control. I say, there was no note saying I shouldn't open it. The box was full, as always, with all sorts of yummy goodness and practical objects like delicious lavender flax bars and environmentally friendly cleaning stuff. The Husband, exasperated by my lack of restraint (he would have waited for the proper day if it had been his birthday parcel?), also gave me a present ...

Five Mo's Bacon Bar by Vosges Haut Chocolat!

Ever since I read about these a few months ago, I have been dying to try them. They are so delicious. The chocolate is smooth and deep. As it melts on my tongue, it releases a slight smoky flavor and then the salt crystals embedded in the chocolate begin to dissolve and, oh my, chocolate and salt is an amazing combination. Finally, when I chew, there is the bacon -- more texture than taste, but still unmistakably crisped cooked bacon. Not Bacos bacon bits, mind you. This is very much real Sunday Breakfast crumbled bacon ...

*Sigh* It is impossible to accurately describe the sheer pleasure this chocolate gives me. You must try it for yourself.

You know what a really great evening is? Guitar Hero III on the Wii, bacon chocolate in your mouth, and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon at your elbow. I kid you not, an evening like that is a small kind piece of heaven. A heaven I can look forward to most nights as GH3 was one of my other birthday presents (w00t). Not surprisingly, I am pretty terrible at it, but may someday be ... less terrible. And there is always bacon chocolate to console me.

Anyway, enough about the mouth-watering chocolate! The Husband also gave me on really snazzy jewelry box which makes my jewelry collection suddenly look a whole lot smaller (yet more expensive). My parents had bought me a jewelry box at Ames over fifteen years ago and I'd been making do with it, because it's just one of those things I use everyday, but don't really see. Suddenly, I have velvet lined drawers and separators and pockets and crap and I wonder how I got along without them.

Of course, there was lots of birthday food. We went out for dinner with my parent's to Modesto's. The food was good, but not as exceptional as I had remembered (we had eaten there once before). The Mexican I ate with The Husband certainly was, however, quite good.

We tried SolToro, the new Mexican eatery (apparently owned by Michael Jordan) at the Mohegan Sun. The guacamole put The Husband over the moon -- the guacamole was made from scratch at our table and the taste was really quite amazing. Clean and bright with none of the murkiness I associate with guacamole. And the duck carnitas ... they gave the bacon chocolate bars a run for their money as Most Delicious Thing I Have Ever Eaten.

So,a perfect night would be: guacamole with house made corn chips, duck carnitas, bacon chocolate, and Guitar Hero III. Must start planning.

02 November 2007

Apple-licious Applesauce

I made black currant gelatin. Yes, I know, that sounds lame. I followed the recipe for "Fruit Juice Knox Blox" on the back of the Knox Gelatin box. Not a bad first attempt, but the black currant flavor was very much in the background. Weird, as black currant juice has a pretty strong flavor. I don't really eat Jell-o so I'm not sure what inspired me to do this beyond, "because I could."

Which is pretty much the same reason I made apple sauce, come to think of it. At least the apple sauce tasted good -- really good -- and made the house smell fantastic. We'd gone to the farm stand last weekend to pick up more pumpkins and, of course, some apples. The Husband didn't seem to be eating them, because "they smell like pee" (don't ask) and I can't eat that many apples at once and didn't feel like pie (!) so ... slow cooker applesauce to the rescue.

The apple sauce was dead easy to make:


Six cups cored, peeled, and chunked apples in a slow cooker with half a cup water, half a cup sugar and cinnamon and ginger to taste. Cooked on High about five hours and then gave it a good stir until the bigger chunks fell apart. The end product was, yes, a bit darker brown than the applesauce you buy in the store, but it also tasted a damn sight better hot or cold. It tasted a lot like apple pie, actually.


Grr. Now I want pie.