Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Food I Can't Live Without

I have to admit it. I'm a picky food person. When I get an oven roasted sandwich at Subway (the same sandwich everytime), I'm the obnoxious customer that orders my sandwich with "the works" and that includes all the peppers, even jalapenos. I don't eat fries without ketchup. I need at least two sauces to eat a turkey burger. And no hamburger. It has to be a turkey burger. There is just certain foods I need to have and can't live without. Here are some I keep on hand at all times:

1. Blue cheese- usually dressing is fine but I scored a big chunk of cheese on a recent shopping trip so now it goes on almost everything I can reasonably put it on. When I got sick of salads, I used to eat blue cheese dressing on bread. That is how bad I am with the stuff.

2. Ketchup- this is a normal one with most people. But I will put ketchup on eggs, sandwiches, must have on fries, and baked potatoes. And I put enough on where people say, why don't you have some fries with your ketchup?

3. Mustard- I mix this with the ketchup. Ketchup alone won't do it for me on turkey burgers. I also mix ketchup and mustard with my black eyed peas and eat it like that. I probably just grossed out half the Southerners out there. Sorry.

4. Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce- The sweetest sauce around. And just tangy enough to make it mix well with lots of foods. I will eat this like ketchup.

5. A-1 or HP steak sauce- I usually eat these with steak but since we don't eat steak that often, I'll put it on baked potatoes or dip bread into a bowl of the sauce. My husband recently bought me the HP sauce (A-1 sauce equivolent from Britian) and it's super good. New addiction! Yeh!

6. Relish and Sweet pickles- Adds a nice sweetness and gives a crunch I love. I can even drink the juice out the jar. I have a serious sugar problem, I know.

7. Chocolate- Come on, you didn't guess that?

8. Salad- I do have to balance all the other nutritionally deficient stuff I eat so I eat lots of salad. But even with this, I put lots of toppings. Tomatoes, dried cherries, blue cheese (of course), apples, and sometimes imitation crab or turkey. Usually looks like a mountain when I'm done. But it's good!!

9. Sweet tea- We drink lots of sweet tea. I make a batch everyday.

10. Orange juice- OJ is my subsitute whenever I don't get my fruit for the day. And it has lots of added vitamins these days so I feel a bit healthier drinking it with my lunch.

11. Bread- I don't care what Atkins or whoever said about bread being a no-no, I like it! I dip it in spaghetti sauce, A-1 or use it to finish off my dressing after eating a salad. I really love to pull off chunks and swipe it in a tub of butter, but then the kids get mad at me for doing that.

12. Dessert- I don't know about anyone else, but after I eat, I need something sweet to finish my meal. Usually it's a handful of dark chocolate chips, but sometimes I make a dessert. Once I did not have any chips in the house (yikes!) and I used unsweetened cocoa mixed with sugar and ate that. Really gross but I felt better!

13. Pizza- With lots of sauce and pineapple on top. I'm drooling on my computer right now.

What foods can't you live without?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

My daughter had a request last week for Angel Food Cake. Specifically, Chocolate Angel Food Cake. This is definitely a cake I do not mind making, not only because it's so good, but I can eat more than one piece and not feel guilty! As you can tell, the chocolate in the cake was not enough for me so I added some chocolate syrup. Whipped cream is also wonderful with it. Either way, it's divine!

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

1 1/2 cups egg whites (10 to 12 large)
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

In a very large mixing bowl, allow eggs whites to come to room temp. about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, sift powdered sugar, flour and unsweetened cocoa powder together three times and set aside.

Add cream of tartar and vanilla to eggs whites. Beat with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.

Sift one-fourth of the powdered sugar mixture over beaten eggs whites and fold in gently, using a rubber spatula. Repeat steps until all powdered sugar mixture is incorporated.

Bake on lowest rack at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or butter knife comes out clean. Immediately invert pan and cool. Loosen cake, remove and let cake cool completely.

Q. What do they serve at birthday parties in heaven?
A. Angel food cake!
-Kids birthday party joke

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Favorite Authors

I love to read. For me, reading provides an escape from everyday stress and I love the idea that I can grab a book and go into a completely different world and maybe actually learn something too! I've been reading since I can remember so I'll include some of my favorite authors, but there are more than I can list here. Darn!

1. R.I.P. Robert Parker- I have to start with him, since I learned of his death just this past Monday. He wrote the famous Spenser series that spawned the show, Spenser for Hire. I never saw the show, but his books are fantastic. I'll miss Spenser, a lot.

2. Patricia Cornwell- Even though I don't read her books anymore, I could not stop reading her earlier works, like Body Farm. Seriously tough reads, she can pack in the details. Her books really made me think and I learned a lot.

3. Jane Austin- Before you picture me as some literary genius, I really don't read Jane's books all that much. I did in college, but I love her stories so much I had to include her. One of these days, when the kiddies grow up and leave, I have plans to plow through all of her books.

4. Jeffery Deaver- Everyone I mention this author to goes "who?". Then I mention the movie The Bone Collector, everyone goes, "ahhh, him". His main character, Lincoln Rhyme, is brillant. I never see the ending coming. I'm currently reading The Broken Window right now.

5. Greg Illes- I can't understand why they don't make movies out of all his books. They read just like a great thriller movie. Fast paced and fun. And he changes characters and plots so you never feel like your reading the same theme everytime.

6. J.D. Robb- also known as Nora Roberts. For some reason, I don't like her books as Nora Roberts. But J.D. Robb and the In Death series is one of those books I wait on the edge of my seat for the upcoming release date. A new one is coming out next month. Yippeeee! Her main character, Eve Dallas, is deep, tough and funny as heck. Who wouldn't want to be her?

7. Alex Kava- One of those relatively unknown authors that writes good novels. Plus I have a soft spot for her since she sent me a Christmas card one year! (Ok, it was her fan club I'm sure, but still.) I haven't had a chance to read her last novel, but I bought it and I'm looking forward to it. As soon as I plow through that Jeffery Dever one.

8. James Blish- I know everyone is saying "Who?" but his books are some of the first ones I remember being totally fasinated with. He wrote the originial Star Trek series books. I could not get enough of those stories. I recently bought the whole series again just to have them.

9. Sue Grafton- Kinsey Milhone. Gosh, what a great character. Her stories speak to the independent side of me. I keep hoping she never reaches Z cause that means the end for Kinsey. But each time, I can't wait to see what the next letter will be for.

10. Sallie Bissel- She writes about relationship and adventure. And with a smart character partically rooted in her Native American past as well as living in the present. Always a good read.

11. Dean Koonz- that guy can write! I feel like I climb into a whole new world and go into some scary places everytime I open his books! His book, Intensity, is one of my all time favorites. His way of describing a scene is unbelievable. Still can't figure out how he does it.

12. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child- Brillant books with extraordinary details, they are a good read everytime.

13. Alexandra Sokoloff- she is a screenwriter that can tell a seriously scary ghost story. I mean the kind where you don't want to be alone you're so scared. While I'm not too fond of things related to evil and demons, if you can ignore that, she writes great stories.

Who are your favorite authors?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Another light has gone out in the world.

Fruit Dump Cake

Odd name, odd looking dessert. But so very good! Yesterday, after four days with the kids home from school and everyone kind of bummed about going back today (well, all except for me!), I wanted to make something sweet but quick. As my son and I looked through one of my books, we found this recipe. It's from the Cake Doctor, which is one of the easiest baking books I've ever used. Although the recipe called for cherry pie filling, I used blueberry which is all I had on hand.

Fruit Dump Cake

1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling (I used blueberry filling)
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon the pineapple evenly over the bottom of an ungreased 13 by 9 inch baking pan. Cover the pineapple with the cherry pie filling. Pour the dry cake mix evenly over the fruit mixture so that it reaches all sides of the pan. Drizzle the entire pan with the melted butter. Sprinkle the coconut and the pecans evenly over the top of the cake. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until it is deep brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Remove pan and cool. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

“A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Songs That Make Me Cry

Not a happy topic for a Thursday Thirteen, I know. But I've had a sad song running through my head for two weeks now, and it made me think of all the other songs that make people tear up. Here is a list that does it for me:

1. Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney - this song has been in my head for two weeks now. I'm beginning to wonder if it's ever going to leave.

2. Somebody's Hero by Jamie O'Neal - I introduced this song to my middle daughter and she tears up on this one too. It has a special connection for us. And she plays it whenever she wants to see me cry!

3. Wildfire by Michael Murphey - I first heard this song when I was little. My friend April loved horses and it always reminds me of her. She died in a car accident at age 34. Makes the song even harder to hear for me.

4. At Seventeen by Janis Ian - I remember identifying so much with the song in my late teens and early 20's. You can just feel the sorrow pouring out of this song.

5. Butterfly Kisses by Bob Carlisle - Any song about my babies growing up and leaving makes me cry. This song brings my husband to his knees, which is why I plan to play it at both my daughter's weddings (I'm so bad!)

6. Everybody Hurts by REM - This song is just so true. It helps me sometimes when I feel alone in my troubles.

7. She's Leaving Home by The Beatles - The first time I heard this song, in the Sgt. Pepper's movie believe it or not, I thought it was so sad.

8. River Man by Nick Drake - I discovered Nick Drake after I heard Pink Moon on those Volkswagon commercials. He is fantastic. But he is depressing. My husband always asks me if I'm feeling suicidal when I listen to my Nick Drake CD's!

9. Come to Jesus by Chris Rice - Such a powerful song. You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate the depth of this song.

10. Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue by Toby Keith - I know this is not supposed to be a sad song, but with what we all went through with 9/11 and with a brother in the military, I feel a lot of emotion when I hear this song.

11. Le Festin by Camille - this song is off the Ratatouille soundtrack. While the song itself doesn't make me cry, the song played at the end of Ratatouille does. Why, I have no idea. I just love the ending for some reason.

12. 100 Years by Five For Fighting - what is it about songs about life and people getting old?

13. Christmas Shoes by Bob Carlisle - forget it. I can't even think about listening to that song and I tear up.

What is the song(s) that makes you feel sad?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Butternut Squash Bisque

This past fall, I stocked up on butternut squash and froze some for winter meals thinking I'd use it for a roasted veggies recipe. When I came across this recipe from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine, I thought I'd try it instead. I've never had this kind of soup before and I was surprised how good it is. I used skim milk for half the cream it called for, but otherwise I followed the recipe. The soup was perfect for the bitter cold nights we have been having here. Add a spoonful of sour cream and a dash of parsley, and you have a great meal!

Butternut Squash Bisque

3 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, coursely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayanne pepper, plus more for garnish (optional)
course salt
1 large butternut squash (about 4 pounds) peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes (frozen squash would work too)
1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced sodium chicken broth (I used cubes)
1 cup half and half (I used 1/2 cup skim and 1/2 cup half and half)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
sour cream

In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt, and cook, stirring as needed, until onion is soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add squash, broth, half and half and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree in a blender (do not use a food processer, tried that, it makes a mess!), until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt.

Serve with sour cream and parsley and cayenne, if desired.

Note: You can freeze this soup up to 3 months in single serving freezer bags.

Makes 12 servings at 117 calories and 5.4 grams of fat per serving.

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home."
-Edith Sitwell

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let It Snow!

My gosh, it's been snowy around here! I haven't seen it snow this much in years. But it's lovely and I'm enjoying it, even though it's hard to get around in and it's frickin freezing (in the 20's most days). We have had several days of snow, at least an inch or two each day. They are calling for 2 to 4 inches this Thursday and temps in the teens over the weekend. Yippeee! This photo was taken from my side deck looking towards my neighbor's house across the street. It's much prettier in real life :)

All this cold weather and a desperate need to get back to regular diets from all the overeating at Christmas has me wanting to fix soups a lot this week for dinner. I made chicken soup on Monday with our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers (frozen till now, of course!) and today I want to try a butternut squash soup. I've never made something like it, so I'm sure hoping it turns out. If it does, I'll post it for everyone.

I haven't been making any sweets since Christmas since we still have cookies from Christmas to finish off (they are frozen too). But I can feel the urge to bake something so in the next few days I think I'll have to make something new.

Though it's so nice to get back to the routine of things, I'm missing the company of family and friends from the holidays. I don't want the lights to come down, the tree to get boxed up or any of the festivities to stop. Oh well, I guess I'll have to look forward to next year. Since Christmas starts in August now in the stores I don't have long to wait!

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
-Dr. Seuss