Archive for the ‘ Cooking & Household ’ Category

More fondant fun…

August 11th, 2010

Things I learned tonight…

1. Marshmallow, very sticky
2. I don’t have a mixer quite big and bad enough to make a whole batch of marshmallow fondant
3. I shouldn’t have had my nails done right before deciding to make 10 pounds of fondant, short would be better
4. Marshmallows are sticky

This all really goes back to 1998, the year I was married. I was so loved (heh heh) that I had three wedding showers. My sister got married the same year and she had ONE shower. Sooo… my grandma (who was one of the very few people invited to all of my showers) gave my sister the KitchenAid mixer and me 3 smaller gifts that added up to the cost of the KitchenAid mixer. It is now 12 years later and if my sister has used that mixer twice, I would be genuinely shocked. The point is that I don’t have a stand mixer and my sister does and I still might wish I’d only had one shower. She doesn’t read this. If she did, this is where I would ask her to give me her stand mixer.

Unfortunately, my truly amazing grandma passed away in 2006. My grandma was a very successful and accomplished woman, but I remember her best for the time she spent in her kitchen. She wasn’t there because it was all she had, she had lots of important things to do — she was there because she loved it. I chose many special things from her kitchen, but her vintage Hamilton Beach Model E stand mixer (that she received as a wedding gift) is my easy favorite (though it’s hard to top the bacon press and the cheese cuber).

Unlike my sister, she used her mixer almost every day. It’s heavy and it’s clunky and the exterior is a little over-loved… but it still works like I just took it out of the box (and yes, I actually have the box, too). I’m so fortunate to have it and with it, the memories of the years I spent watching her make mashed potatoes and never, ever sitting down for a meal until everyone at the table was almost finished eating.

Worth a mention

August 11th, 2010

The tomatoes are rolling in and the keeper of the tomato plants is always quite anxious about the possibility of a rogue army of tomatoes rising up and overthrowing the established regime. So, off I went to the store for tomatoey dinner with nothing at all up my sleeve.

After wandering through the store aimlessly for 10 minutes, I admitted defeat and pulled out my iphone. I fired up my super favorite Allrecipes Dinner Spinner Pro. In about 12 seconds I’d found a recipe that was absolutely perfect! Using my handy dandy phone, I raced through the store gathering the ingredients for Summer Pasta with Basil, Tomatoes and Cheese.

I don’t like mint, so I skipped that part and when I had everything I needed and got to the very last item on the list, I ran into a “living on the crappy side of town” snag. Our grocery store doesn’t carry fontina. Of course I did check (again) that handy dandy iphone to find out if there is a suitable substitute for fontina. Not so much. I already had everything I needed (and my heart set), so I called in an emergency grocery request to Brian, who was on his way home from work and he stepped in as the hero and located my fontina on the other side of town.

This was a 5 star recipe for me, easily. It was just exactly what it claimed to be. It’s served just about at room temperature so it’s great for warm nights… and the tomato marinade mixed with the cheese… yum! A complete departure from anything I’ve made before. Cream sherry in pasta? Neat!

Counting down to 8…

August 9th, 2010

Brandon’s 8th birthday… just 5 days away. Bailey is 4, so logically, Brandon is older, though I still have no concept of time when it comes to my kids. He’s 8?? Really?? In 8 more years, Brandon will be driving away in our car, dating, and completely uninterested in me… but even though we just wrapped up 8 whole years, the “what will Brandon be like at 16” question seems so ridiculously premature. It shouldn’t, but it does… I don’t want to admit to myself just how quickly 8 years flies.

In my normal and expected fashion, birthday invitations went out late. VERY late. I now have 6 days to plan his very specifically themed Harry Potter birthday party, clean the house, figure out what to serve for lunch, and of course, learn how to make the far too ambitious Hogwart’s cake I promised even though I’ve never made any kind of 3D theme cake before.

Using a recipe for fondant that I found on my beloved, I made a practice cake to see just how much I could screw up fondant. It was quite an experience, but I’m pretty excited to learn something new. Secretly, I’ve always wanted to make awesome decorated cakes. I’ve just never been able to trust myself around a cake, so…

My first practice cake was not so much a disaster, even though I made it egg-free for Brandon and cakes without egg tend to fall apart. I really think I can do this castle cake. I really, really do! I think I can, I think I can. :) As long as my mixer holds out… we’ll just ignore the fact that it was smoking just a little tiny bit. No reason for alarm… move along. :)

Pictures of my first practice cake… just learning how to drape the fondant over the cake. It went well, I think. The rest of the decorating was just me wanting to play with my decorator tips. Perhaps I should practice on cardboard from this point forward? :)

… it requires to make cookies this tiny? It’s absolutely ridiculous. HALF teaspoons, 48 of them (and by the way, those are mini chocolate chips). Just 1 point for each tiny pair of cookies. But how unfair is it that you can’t eat 4 for 2 points? It’s really a conspiracy.


My 4 point lunch pizza has become a staple, but like all good things, Brian has taken over and become obsessed with pizza… every night. Of course, he’s not satisfied with the 4 point version, but 8-10 points is just about right for dinner.

In order to avoid the inevitable overkill and burn out that comes along with Brian liking any food and eating it over and over, I insisted that we go with something other than the same old turkey pepperoni.

Uuuuhhhhh-MAZING! Best thing ever. Well… best thing ever since giving up the real thing, but it’s a very close second. :)

Light Original Flatout – 1pt
Taco Sauce – 0pt
2/3 cup super lean taco meat – 3pt
1/4 cup diced fresh tomatoes – 0pt
1/2 cup shredded cheddar jack cheese – 4pt

4 Tablespoons light sour cream – 2pt
Shredded lettuce – 0pt

Tada! 10 points for a HUGE taco pizza (or about 475 calories)… woohoo! :)


Stumbled Upon…

March 29th, 2010

Literally, I stumbled upon this. In fact, I stumbled upon “Stumble Upon” — even though I haven’t gotten around to installing it on this new laptop. It’s the strangest thing! The other day, I somehow accidentally pressed something that landed me in the Stumble Upon loop and this recipe pooped up:

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze

YUM, I thought. But I’m still perplexed. I don’t have Stumble Upon, but somehow Stumble Upon knew I had 4 extra lemons and a mad love of lemon desserts. Creeeeepy, no? I still can’t figure out how I ended up stumbling upon them, but good ol’ Stumble Upon still knows what I like! What else could I do? I cleaned my kitchen to earn my lemon rolls.

Sadly, my socks are still firmly in place, not having been knocked off by the result. I baked them for the recommended 35 minutes and forgot to check on them, so they were… ummm… extra golden, but I think I had more of a problem with the filling to dough ratio. Still, these are fairly yummy and springy and a great way to use the extra lemons I always have sitting around due to my lack of grocery store self control. Recipe calls for a lemon? Better get THREE!!

Oh, chicken… you’re so gorgeous. This is the 4th whole chicken I’ve roasted in as many weeks and while the first was nothing special in the looks department, I am developing some mad chicken skillz! Even when I host Thanksgiving dinner, I always have help with the roasting so I’m pretty proud of myself (work with me here). These, my first 4 solo birds, have become a true craving. I’m almost scared to make them too often because I fear that we’ll overdo it and never want them again.


Detail time… because if you don’t roast whole chickens ever or often, I think it would be a good idea to start today! With the help of Swanson, I figured out that the ideal roasting liquid is 2 parts chicken broth to one part orange juice. It makes everything sweet and flavorful and it’s healthy, too!

I stuff my birds with celery, onion, whole garlic cloves, chunks of lemon and 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary. For the skin, I make an herb paste of a couple tablespoons of olive oil with poultry seasoning, fresh and dried rosemary, garlic salt, lemon & herb seasoning, fresh ground black pepper, and thyme. I rub the paste all over the top and also under the skin on the breast side.

And because this is an easy one pot meal, new potatoes, baby carrots and any leftover chunks of onion go on the bottom of the roasting pan, swimming in the orange juice and broth mixture (about 3 cups of it), picking up a sweet glaze that’s just enough to make them special.

I bake covered for about 75 minutes at 375º or until it’s about 10 degrees from being done. Then I remove the cover and brush the top of the bird and the potatoes with a tablespoon of melted butter, crank up the heat to 425º and stick the bird back in to brown (oooh… nice alliteration). Did you notice that the only added fat in this entire meal is about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter? It did not escape me… not any more than the fact that this chicken does NOT taste healthy and in fact I can even eat and enjoy the super tender and juicy white meat, which I would normally shun in favor of cardboard or packing peanuts.

Really, just roast TWO. It’s just as easy and they taste even better the second day. :) More from the vacation is coming soon — I still need to sort through it and figure out what to post.

I don’t want to disappoint you, oh master of the multi-tasker, but I frankly do not care if my bread machine only makes one thing.  I’m content and at peace with my decision.  In fact, even with the amount of real estate it consumes on my kitchen counter, it’s undoubtedly the best investment I’ve made all year.  For $5, I got a not exactly lean but very mean maker of bread, cinnamon rolls, breadsticks, pizza dough, and I’m sure some other stuff I haven’t considered yet.

We tested out this easy pizza dough recipe from my super favorite site.  I made a boring and basic mushroom and pepperoni pizza that was tasty on day one, but much better the second day.

pizza collage

Brian, the plate artist and master of doing everything the hard way created something completely new and unique.  A white bratwurst pizza with grilled onions and cheddar cheese… and yes, mustard on the finished product.   It sounds like my worst nightmare, but apparently people who like brats and onions found it quite delicious.  Brian didn’t think his finished pizza was perfectly pretty and golden enough to be showcased, so I will take another photo of the finished product tomorrow on Bears day so he can submit his masterpiece to

brat collage

Sunday morning (who am I kidding?) afternoon cinnamon rolls tomorrow? I think so.