Monday, November 29, 2010

Thankful

It's been a while since my last post because I've had a bit of the writer's block, but then I remembered my wise and lovely friend Marcy.  Marcy advised me to just sit down and write about whatever's on my mind whenever I find myself in this predicament.   So here I am, sitting and writing.

So what's on my mind at the moment?  My family and how very thankful I am for all of them.  A long Thanksgiving weekend can do that to a girl, I guess, but getting together with my family is always soul food for me.  When I was living at home in my teens and early twenties, I couldn't wait to get the H-E-double hockey sticks out of there, but time and distance (and a bit of life experience) will do wonders for a person's perspective.  For example, I've learned that my brother wasn't actually spying on me, that everything my mom says is not some thinly veiled attempt to control my life, and that my dad actually does listen.  If only I had known then what I know now, I could have seen my family for the wonderful people that they are and I would have saved myself so much angst.  But then again, I was a Smiths fan.  Angst was sort of a given.

Nowadays, there's nobody I'd rather hang out with.  Unconditional love and support, laughter, great food and strong drinks (after 5 p.m., of course) are guaranteed.  What could be better?  For now we are all here, alive and well, and I see every day and every experience with my family as a gift.

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends and that your souls were fed as well as mine.

p.s.  Thanks, Marcy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fun With MS Paint and Why Mr. Bizzle Rules

I've recently been introduced to a new blog called Hyperbole and a Half and I can't get enough of it.  If you've never heard of it, do yourself a favor and check it out here. The blogger uses hilarious drawings to illustrate her posts, which I think is a very fun and creative way to get your point across.  In fact, I was so inspired that I decided to give it a shot myself using MS Paint.  How hard could it be?  All I needed to do was find the right material and I'd be on my way.

Enter Mr. Bizzle.  This morning he announced that he was going to cut down a tree in our side yard that was dropping branches like crazy and could possibly topple over onto our house.  I immediately shot down his idea, knowing full well that the tree would end up falling on: a.) Mr. Bizzle, b.) the dog, or c.) the house (oh, the irony).  Since Mr. Bizzle is half pirate/half mountain man and relishes such challenges, there was no way I was going to stop him.  But then I thought to myself, "This could be the perfect scenario to blog about using MS Paint!" and I decided that it was worth the risk.  So, I observed and I waited and I came up with what I thought would be a funny idea.  Then I sat down at my computer and got to work on my illustrations. To my surprise, MS Paint is a lot harder to work with than I had anticipated.  This is the end result:





So anyway, um, it looks like I'm going to go back to the old way of blogging.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuscan Sausage Soup

I love soup.  In fact, I could eat soup every day for the rest of my life and be perfectly content. It's an easy-to- make, economical, one-pot meal that results in warm bellies, happy faces and freezable leftovers (bonus!).  Pair it with some crusty Italian bread, maybe a nice green salad if you're feeling frisky and it's on like Donkey Kong!  Let's take a walk on the wild side, shall we?


Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. Sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed (or 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes with juice
6 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups uncooked small pasta (such as ditalini, small shells, elbows, etc.)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving
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Directions:
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Cook sausage until browned, breaking sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon.  Once browned, remove sausage with a slotted spoon to a bowl and cover to keep warm.  Do not drain sausage drippings from pot (unless you're a health nut or something).

Add onions, carrots, celery & garlic to the pot and cook until softened (about 10 minutes), scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  (Note: if it looks like the browned bits are getting BLACK, add a small splash of chicken broth or water to the pot and it should scrape up easily and stop the burning process).  Stir in the basil, rosemary, red pepper and sage .

Mix in the browned sausage, tomatoes, broth and beans.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove lid, stir in pasta, and continue cooking, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, warm crusty bread, perhaps a salad, possibly a glass of vino, and you are in for a treat, my friends.  Enjoy!

Makes about 6 servings.













Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Think I Know Where Jimmy Hoffa May Be Buried

HERE:


My boy's room.  It's like walking through a minefield.  Whenever I open the door and peek inside, the song "Why" by Annie Lennox pops into my head.  If you're not familiar with that song, you can listen to it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vP-bONWw38 . Copyright infringement aside, I think it's fun to replace song lyrics with some of my own.  For example (and dig the cool unintended arrow formation):

How many times do I have to try to tell you
To please pick up after you’re done?
But when I start to try to tell you
That’s when you always tell me
Hey...Ma, I've only just begun.
I tell myself too many times
Why don’t I ever learn to just keep his door shut?
That’s why I’m scared to look inside and see
Those Legos scattered all around
Scattered all around
Scattered all around
Tell me…
Why

Now mind you, my kid is awesome in every way and I wouldn't change a thing about him.  It's just that boys are really messy.  Really.  Messy.  The picture above shows his room at one week post-cleaning.  If it went any longer than that, I am confident that there would be no visible carpet left.  But, tomorrow is cleaning day and all will be right with the world (at least for a few hours).  

In other news, I'm going to try to post more often since this blog is totally lame with only 3 posts.  Therefore, I'd like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to my 6 followers.  If it wasn't for you guys, I just don't know where I'd be today.  I really do it for the fans, you know?  




Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chicken Miccata

Last night I decided to make chicken piccata because I had some nice lemons (not the first time I've heard that) and some chicken cutlets on hand.  Then I looked in the fridge and realized that I needed to use up the crimini mushrooms before it was too late, hence chicken "miccata" was born.  Yes, my creativity astounds me.  I present to you Exhibit A:


Let's get it on:

Chicken Miccata
(Makes 4 Servings)

Ingredients:
12 oz. thin spaghetti
1/2 cup plus 5 Tbsp flour, divided (I prefer Wondra for almost everything)
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 tsp. salt & pepper
1 lb. chicken cutlets
2 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
1 (10 oz.) package crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
3 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
________________________________

Method:
In a large pot of water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.
In a measuring cup, whisk 5 tsp. flour and chicken broth until smooth.  Set aside.
Place remaining flour in a shallow dish, season chicken with salt & pepper and dredge in flour.
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet (large enough to hold pasta & sauce) over medium-high heat.  Add chicken (in batches, if necessary) and cook until browned on both sides (2-3 minutes per side).
Transfer chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add mushrooms to skillet and cook until they release their juices and start to brown (about 5 min.).  Transfer to a small bowl and cover to keep warm.
Add garlic and cook for one minute, then add wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2-3 minutes.
Add broth-flour mixture and lemon juice and cook until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add mushrooms, capers, butter and parsley and cook for 1 minute.  Add salt & pepper to taste.
Remove 1/2 cup of sauce from skillet and reserve to spoon over chicken later.
Toss the drained pasta in the skillet with the remaining sauce, let it sit for a few minutes, then toss again.
Serve pasta topped with chicken and reserved sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese to taste.

Enjoy!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shrimp Risotto With Asparagus and Thyme

Since my finicky offspring was intent on eating his leftover hoagie from lunch for dinner, I jumped at the chance to whip up something he'd never eat for the hubby and me.  Allow me to elaborate...

This right here is what I'm talking about. Shrimp risotto with asparagus & fresh thyme. It's crazy delicious and easy to make (if you don't mind stirring a whole lot).

This recipe serves 4

Ingredients
4 cups chicken broth (approximately)
1 lb. uncooked large shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/2 bunch thin asparagus, sliced into 1 in. pieces
2 large garlic cloves, peeled & minced
1 cup Arborio (or medium grain) white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided
Additional grated cheese for serving


Method
Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan and add shrimp.  Turn off heat, cover and let stand until shrimp turn pink (about 3 minutes).  Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a small bowl and cover to keep warm.  Cover the broth to keep hot.


Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat and add asparagus.  cook for several minutes, until tender but still firm. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon to a bowl and cover to keep warm.


Add chopped onion and cook for several minutes until tender.  Add minced garlic and cook for another 1 - 2 minutes.  Add rice and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes.  Add wine and cook until it is absorbed (about 3 minutes).  Add chicken broth, about a cup at a time, stirring frequently, until rice is tender but al dente and mixture becomes creamy (allow broth to become almost completely absorbed between additions).


During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the shrimp and asparagus to heat through.


Remove risotto from heat and gently but thoroughly stir in parmesan cheese and most of the fresh thyme.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.


Divide risotto in shallow bowls, sprinkle each with a small pinch of the remaining thyme and serve with additional grated cheese on the side.


Round out this dish with a garden salad and a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio for a special meal.


Enjoy!

Captain's Log: Day 1

Well, this is my first official post on my brand new blog (I'll hold for applause).  I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, I'm unsure about the design or direction of this thing, or even if I like the name.  In short, I've been up and running for about 10 minutes and I'm already having an anxiety attack.  But, I figure if there are zillions of other people out there who can do it, so can I.  Uh, right?  Anyway, I'm hoping to learn something new and have some fun in the process.  Bloggers always seem to have such interesting lives that I'm also hoping to appear more interesting.  And witty.  And Martha Stewart-ish.  I hope that you enjoy this journey with me (and when I say "you", I mean the readers, of which I have none at the present moment).