Monday, November 30, 2009

Fairy Poppet Present Finished!!!!

Blockette is going to her first Birthday party of someone who isn't one of the offspring of my or Mrblocko's friends. I've been feeling the crafty bug so I figured I'd kill 2 birds with one stone, and make a special present. This is the fourth poppet I've made. I got the pattern and various tutorials from ghilie's Poppet-a-long on Craftster.

This time around, I really learned a lot. I got better at attaching the hair, worked up enough courage to bake a clay nose (which involved sticking the whole head in the oven), and successfully made bendable fingers instead of paws. I also finally figured out how to make decent looking eyelids as well.

The thing that I'm most proud of with this doll is that I made the wings, dress, undies and shoes completely from scratch. I've never been good at drafting patterns. These all turned out far better than I expected. They actually look decent. Yay me!
Have you guessed yet who she is supposed to be? Maybe this will help:
Don't they look flitteriffic together?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sure looks pink to me

So Blockette has an ear infection, and it is coming out her eyes? Apparently, that happens with kids sometimes. Who knew.

Her eyes look more pink than this picture shows. The pharmacist commented that it was the worst case of pink eye she's seen. I told her it wasn't pink eye. You could have knocked her over with a feather.

I hope Blockette never actually gets pink eye, cause her eyes would probably glow infrared and have lasers shooting out of them. Although, she'd probably think that was super cool.

Dulcie's Acorn Soup

Are you familiar with Dulcie? She's a baking talent fairy from Fairyhaven in Neverland. You know, one of Tinkerbell's friends. You don't know?? What! You mean you don't read books from the Pixie Hollow series? Blockette cannot get enough of these books, and we have read every one our library has. Dulcie is featured in Fairy Berry Bake Off and Dulcie's Taste of Magic.
I've mentioned once or twice that Blockette is not big on soup. She's also not a fan of onions or potatoes. I was in the mood for soup so I knew I'd have to do some serious scheming to get Blockette to even try Taste and Tell's corn sausage chowder. Enter Dulcie's Acorn Soup. I told Blockette I got the recipe from Dulcie and that the potatoes were actually acorns.

It worked better than I could have hoped. She ate a few spoonfuls, which were a few more than I thought she would eat. Dinner was still a battle, but at least she tried it. Strangely enough, since I told her the potatoes were acorns, I didn't hear any whining about how she didn't want to eat potatoes. I think part of the problem was that she is still sick. This soup made a lot, so I'll serve the leftovers up when she isn't getting over Bronchitis.

I made a few minor changes to the recipe. I used almost 4 c of chopped potatoes because I wanted to use up the potatoes I had in the fridge before they went bad. Since there were extra potatoes, the soup was a bit thicker than I like. I didn't drain the corn and added water until the soup was the desired consistency. I'd guess it was about a cup or 2. I'd definitely make this soup again. It was delicious!

Corn Sausage Chowder from Taste and Tell
1 lb. bulk pork sausage
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
3 cups potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 15 1/4-ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
1 14 3/4-ounce can cream-style corn
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven, cook sausage and onion until sausage is browned and cooked through. Drain well. Stir in potatoes, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in both cans of corn and evaporated milk. Cook until warmed through.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Crockpot Applesauce Chicken

This is another one of those ugly meals. Even if you look at the photo for crockpot applesauce chicken on Crockpot365, it it ain't perty. I figure if a high traffic website can't make something look super fancy then I shouldn't feel bad about it not looking swell either.

I used cinnamon applesauce because it was what we had on hand. I really liked the extra cinnamon taste. I also increased the amount of red pepper flakes to 1/2 tsp. I think it could have been even spicier, but then I don't think Blockette would have been able to stand the heat.

Blockette loved this meal. She was hesitant to try it at first, probably because it didn't look to appealing. Once I told her the sauce was applesauce she loved it. She even asked for the leftovers.

The leftovers were just as good as the first night. I think this was because the chicken was so moist. The pieces barely held their shape coming out of the slow cooker. Overly moist and tender chicken is never ever a bad thing. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Crockpot applesauce chicken from A Year of Slow Cooking
4 frozen chicken breast halves or thighs (I used 2 of each)
1 1/2 cups of applesauce
1 T dried onion flakes, or 1 yellow onion, chopped finely
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

A 3 or 4 quart crockpot is the best size for this, but I did use a 6 quart. If your pot cooks fast, err on the lower end of cooking time. Put the frozen chicken pieces into your crockpot. Add the onion (if you are using the dried onion, wait and add it to the applesauce). In a bowl, mix the applesauce, vinegar, garlic, and spices together. Pour on top of the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, or on high for 3-4.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wormy Apple Burgers or Help with a Picky Eater

Burgers and Tater Tots!! Dinner of champions and 4 year olds! Yes, I realize this isn't the most glamorous looking meal. When you are working with new foods and preschoolers, familiarity trumps fancy.

As a general rule, we all eat the same thing at dinner. Sure there are times when we have leftovers and everyone eats something different, or I'll let Blockette have something like nuggets and Mrblocko and I will eat something a little more grown up. Most of the time our plates look very similar.

This goes back to the days when Blockette was in food therapy. Blockette had difficulties with the transition between phase 2 and phase 3/solid foods. She just didn't want to chew. A good portion of her problem was the result of stubbornness. (Where did that come from?!) Anyhow, one of the rules while she was in therapy was to eat what she eats. Ew. I cringe thinking about all the weird food combinations I ingested. (Think french fries dipped in grape jelly and tartar sauce. Gag!)

When Blockette graduated from therapy, I continued to use many of the therapy rules on a daily basis. The rules not only became effective tools to get a picky toddler to eat, but to try new things as well. The concept behind this particular rule is: kids are instant replay buttons. If they see a certain behavior enough times they will mimic that behavior, whether it is a good one or not.

This isn't an instant fix for the picky eater problem. It took us many frustrating months of trial and error to figure out the specifics of what would work the best for Blockette. There are days when it doesn't work at all. (Like, say when she has Bronchitis.) However, if you look at the big picture, most of the time she tries a lot of new things with little or no objection.

The other therapy rules we still use are:
1. Who ever is home at meal time, we sit down together at the table. This also means she is not allowed to get up from the table unless she asks first.

2. No TV. This used to be no distractions at all. I used to have to close the window curtain because even that was too distracting.

3. If we are having a new food, some of it has to be on her plate, and she has to try at least one bite.

4. If she wants dessert she has to eat all of her dinner. This sometimes encourages her to get past that first bite of new food. A lot of times she realizes she likes the new food on the third bite.

5. She can't have her drink until she has finished her meal. This eliminates saying she is full from her beverage. We are working on removing this rule now by allowing her to have half her drink during the meal.

6. Getting her involved in making the meal. If she helps make the meal she has pride in it and is more inclined to eat it.

7. She has 40 minutes to eat her meal. It's her choice to eat if she wants to, but when the timer goes off the meal is over and the table is cleared. This was one of the more difficult rules for me at the beginning of therapy. I was convinced Blockette was going to starve because she was going to screw around/stall/do anything but eat. Then the therapist pointed out that most people eat a Thanksgiving dinner in less than 40 minutes. This includes going back for seconds (or even thirds) and dessert. Blockette has not wasted away from starvation and I haven't gone insane from 3 hour dinners (or lunches or breakfasts). Most of the time we don't even have to set the timer. She just eats like a normal person. Then there are days when she can only manage 2 bites in those 40 minutes. When that happens, you'd better believe she wolfs down her next meal.

8.Finding fun new names for food. Sometimes if the food sounds fun, it makes it fun to eat.

Rule #8 is my favorite. I told Blockette the meal pictured above was called Wormy apple burgers. This might not work for a lot of little girls, but I know Blockette finds the idea of eating worms hilarious. I also told her the "worms" were made from apples. She has it in her head that she doesn't like onions. (Maybe I should write a rule #9-- down right trickery!)

Mrblocko and I saw this recipe for Autumn Harvest Burger with Caramelized Onion and Apple last year on Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Showdown: Burgers. This recipe wasn't the winner, but we sure thought it looked tasty.

The recipe says to make 4 burgers, but we thought the portion size would be insane for us. Instead we made 8 bun sized burgers and 2 half size burgers for Blockette. Four of the burgers we stuck in the freezer, uncooked, to eat another day. We did use all of the Caramelized onion and apple topping for the 4 regular and 2 small burgers. I really liked the onion and apples together, and totally pigged out on it.

We decided to omit the bun for a few reasons. First, we weren't sure that all the toppings would stay put. Second, Blockette sometimes gets a bit overwhelmed by all the bread in the bun. All the onion and apple and cheese on top would have made for a sandwich that was too thick for her to bite into. Third, we had enough carbs with the tater tots. Mrblocko and I agreed that the burger would have tasted good on an onion roll, but overall, we didn't miss the bun.

We cooked up enough burgers to have one as a leftover meal later in the week. I find that reheating burgers can be tricky without drying them out. These burgers were moist enough that wasn't a problem. Instead of having the leftovers in burger form, I chopped them up and reheated them in a pan with the onion/apple topping. Had I been thinking, I would have added a few scrambled eggs. The leftovers would have made a tasty omelet!

Autumn Harvest Burgers with Caramelized Onions from Food Network
2 tablespoons butter
2 Vidalia onions, sliced
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
2 pounds 80 percent lean ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 egg
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 large crusty rolls, split
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup blue cheese

Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions to hot pan and begin caramelizing, stirring occasionally. After 4 minutes or so, add apples to the onions and continue to cook until onions are golden brown, about 6 more minutes. Remove from heat when done. While onions and apples are cooking, blend together in a large bowl the ground beef, salt, pepper, thyme, Dijon, egg, and bread crumbs. Be sure ingredients are well incorporated, but don't over work. Form mixture into 4 good-sized patties. (hint: If you create a concave burger, with the center thinner than the edges, when it cooks the burger won't swell up to look like a meatball, but will remain flat and patty-like)

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place burgers on grill and cook about 10 minutes per side, or until cooked through. As burgers are finishing (after the first flip), spread mayonnaise on both cut sides of each split roll. Place rolls on grill, mayonnaise side down, to toast for about 1 minute, or until golden. Place each burger on the bottom half of a toasted roll. Top with about 1/4 cup of blue cheese, then with a generous scoop of the caramelized onion and apple mixture. Cover with the roll and serve.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An open letter to the man walking outside of the mall with his daughter

Dear Sir,
I saw you walking toward the mall with your daughter as we were returning to our car. She could not have been more than 8 years old. I couldn't help noticing she was not wearing a coat. I realize 50 degrees is pretty mild for this time of year. However, it is NOT warm enough for your daughter to be taking the long trek from the back of the parking lot to the mall entrance in a tank dress. Maybe you forgot that it is late November, not August or September?

I couldn't help overhearing you talk to her as you passed us. I heard you say something like, "See everyone else is wearing winter jackets, but you don't want to wear one." I am sorry that I was rude. You see I had just dealt with an extremely rude sales clerk and left the mall because of it. You were the first person I encountered and I took my frustration out on you. Still, that is no excuse for me being rude in return. When I heard what you said to your daughter, I tried to bite my tongue, but obviously I was unsuccessful. Maybe you didn't even hear me, I did mutter it under my breath. I'll never know if you heard me, because I kept on walking.

Rude or not, I do stand by what I said. You ARE the parent. It's your job to clothe your child in seasonally appropriate clothing when out and about in the elements. So what if your kid is going to have a fit in public because you won't let them wear what they want. Suck it up. A fit in public is better than the flu. If you don't want to lug around a jacket in the mall, at least make your kid wear something with sleeves for pete sake.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Leftover Halloween Candy Recipes

Here are some more recipes I thought would be a great way to use up leftover Halloween candy. Since ours is finally gone, I won't be testing these delicious looking recipes any time soon. I'm posting them here so I can find them easily next year.

Snickers Carmelitas from Cookie Madness.
Snickery Peanut butter and oat cookies from Cookie Madness.

Candy bar stuffed baked apples from CDKitchen. (uses toffee and nougat based candy)

Butterfinger Delight from Recipezaar. (ice cream and pudding bar)
Butterfinger cookies from CD Kitchen. (peanut butter cookie)
Chocolate fudge Butterfinger cookies from Picky Palate.
Butterfinger pie from Recipezaar. (cream cheese and cool whip based pie)

Candy bar croissant from Recipezaar. (uses refrigerator croissants and misc candy)

Milky Way Bundt from CDkitchen.
Halloween candy bundt from Baking Bites (brown sugar bundt with misc candy)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Italian Buttermilk Chops

Powdered buttermilk is my new best friend. The brand that I buy is from saco foods. I don't have any particular brand loyalty. This is just the brand that good old Meijers carries. Before I heard about powdered buttermilk, I'd always cringe when I saw there was a recipe that required that particular ingredient. Most recipes that call for buttermilk only require about a cup. So what do you do with the leftover stuff? You either have to plan out another recipe that uses the leftover buttermilk, or toss it out because it spoiled.

The powdered buttermilk wasn't the cheapest thing ever. If you are an infrequent user of buttermilk, like me, it winds up costing the same or less because you aren't throwing your money away.

Yeah, I know you can make your own buttermilk with a cup of regular milk and a Tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. I tried that once with vinegar. The milk was supposed to curdle after a few minutes. It didn't after 20. The milk smelled so vinegary that I decided to forget about the whole thing. It may work for some people, but not me.

I've used the powdered stuff a few times now and I can't tell the difference. Ultimately that's all that matters.
These Italian Buttermilk Pork Chops, from What's Cookin Chicago, were awesome. Maybe I've been living under a rock, but I'd never heard of marinating anything in buttermilk. These chops turned out really moist and tender.

I flubbed up and forgot to add the garlic to the marinade. Mrblocko was in charge of the actual meat cooking so I had him toss in the minced garlic to the pan while he was cooking up the meat. The meat wasn't infused with garlic flavor like it would have if it had been soaking in it all day. The bits of garlic were still tasty on top of the meat.

Our chops were the thin boneless kind. I thought they would get dried out if they were baked in the oven, so Mrblocko just cooked them all the way in the pan for around 10 minutes. I don't know cause I was making rice and a salad. I really wasn't paying attention.

Blockette said we should make these again because pigs are great. She's right on both accounts. We'll be making this again, and pigs are great.

Italian Buttermilk Chops from What's Cookin Chicago
4 pork chops
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 - 2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil

Season your pork chops with salt and pepper; place chops in a gallon sized zip top bag. Add the remaining ingredients and place in the fridge for 4 hours to chill (or you could chill overnight too.) Remove the pork chops from the bag and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 F. In a hot skillet with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, brown your pork chops on both sides. Once browned, place the pork chops on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes. Don't over cook otherwise it will result in dry, tough pork!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Espresso Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mrblocko went over to his friends house for a game night this weekend. He asked me if I would please make some cookies for him to bring along. I told him I would, as long as his friends were willing to be guinea pigs.

Ever since I made the Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies back in June, I've been wanting to experiment some more with the espresso powder. Baking bites posted this recipe for Coffee Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in July. It's been on my to do list, but there are just so many good things I want to make. I don't have the time, money or stomach for all the sweets on the to do list.

These must have been good because Mrblocko brought home an empty container. I thought they were just ok. I guess I was hoping they would wow my socks off like the Shortbread ones did. The coffee flavor was quite mild the first day, but grew stronger after the second day. The cookies were definitely better the second day.

My dough was extremely soft and sticky after I mixed all the ingredients together. I let the dough chill out in the fridge overnight and it was much easier to scoop into balls. These cookies really spread out a lot and made much more than 3.5 dozen stated in the recipe.

I had set aside the milk chocolate from Blockette's Halloween candy stash for baking purposes. I chopped up all the Hershey bars and kisses and came up with 1/2 cup. For the remaining cup of chocolate in the recipe, I used semi sweet chocolate chips. I think dark chocolate would pair better with the espresso. These are a grown up cookie and really deserve grown up chocolate. I'll use dark chocolate chips next time.

Coffee Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Baking Bits
1 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder
3 tbsp water
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, dissolve instant espresso powder in water. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract, followed by espresso mixture. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in rolled oats and chocolate chips. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingertips and leave about 2 inches between cookies to allow room for them to spread. Bake for 11-14 minutes, until cookies are golden around the edges and set in the center.
Cool for 2-3 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen

Monday, November 16, 2009

O.M.G. Becky, look at her Bundt

How did you celebrate National Bundt day???? Did you even know Nov 15 was National Bundt day? I would not have been thusly informed, were it not for the Food Librarian's I Like Big Bundts: 30 Days of Bundt Cakes. Really, how complete was my life not knowing this...not very I'd say.

Now that the Food Librarian's 30 Days of Bundt Cakes is over, I must admit I'm a bit sad. I really looked forward to a daily bundt recipe. I think she is enough of a bundt freak that she'll be making more in the not so distant future. At least I hope she didn't burn herself out completely. That would be a travesty. Maybe if she becomes the anti bundt queen she'll send me some of her swanky bundt pans. I totally have bundt pan envy. I mentioned a while ago I had chopped up a cup and a half of Halloween candy with the intention of using it in a bundt cake. Blockette has been eyeballing that container of candy bits every time she is in the kitchen. Whenever I would start moving and clanking around in the kitchen, she would ask if I was going to make the candy cake. I figured it was time to end Blockette's suspense. Besides, I couldn't let a mega holiday like National Bundt Day go by without paying due homage.

The recipe I used was Vanilla Bundt Cake with Halloween Candy Bits from Natalie's Killer Cuisine. The cake itself was a bit dry and on the dense side. This may have been because the batter was not mixed properly. Blockette has a creaping nose crud cold and I had to keep putting the hand mixer down to blow her nose. (Don't worry. I washed my hands at least once during the baking process. Mmmm mucus cake!)

There is also a possibility that I baked the cake too long and that was why the cake wasn't as moist as I would have liked. The recipe suggested baking between 30-50 minutes. I baked this bundt for 45 minutes. I checked the cake at 30 minutes and it was quite jiggly in the middle. I set the timer for another 15 minutes. I bet the cake would have been better if I took it out at 40 minutes.

I don't know that I"ll try this recipe again. I came across 2 other candy bar bundt recipes that I'll give a test drive once we are overloaded with candy again. I'll post links to them later in the week, along with several other recipes that call for leftover Halloween candy.

I sprayed the bejeezus out of the pan with Pam with flour. When I thought there was enough I gave it another coat. I also sprayed the pan immediately before pouring in the batter. There was only minor stickage in 3 spots when I unmolded the cake. I was able to stick them back on cake. The top of the cake is so mottled looking from all the different candies that the minor patchwork is not noticeable.

Also, if you take a good look at the picture above, the cake is sitting on a cooling rack. For some reason I turned the cake onto a cooling rack instead of a plate. That was not a brilliant move. I very carefully cut a few slices from the cake while it was on the rack and then moved it to a plate. I tried to move it to a plate before I cut into it, but the darn thing started to crack. Hopefully, I'll remember not to do that with the next bundt I make.

One more thing, this is the first cake I made from scratch. I usually just wimp out and use the mix from a box. I was feeling pretty special making a cake from scratch until I found out that Mrblocko had made a cake from scratch before we met. At least when I made my first cake from scratch I didn't use a tablespoon of salt when the recipe called for a teaspoon!!!!

Vanilla Bundt Cake with Halloween Candy from Natalie's Killer Cuisine
1 stick Butter, room temperature
1 cup Sugar
1 Egg, room temperature
2 Egg Whites, room temperature
3/4 cup Milk
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 cups AP Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup Halloween Candy, chopped

preheat oven to 350 degrees Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg/egg whites and mix until fully combined. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking power and salt. Set aside. Add the milk and vanilla extract to the egg moisture, mix until fully combined. The mixture may look curdled, don’t worry it’s not. Add your dry ingredients and mix until just fully combined. Chop up your candy ahead of time and add the candy bits to the cake batter and fold until combined. Pour in a prepared bundt pan and bake 40 minutes. Top with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mystery Surprise Chocolate Chip Cookies

I mentioned in my Trouble with Halloween post that I was going to wait to make these cookies until Blockette had eaten all her Halloween candy. We were having some difficulties getting her to eat her Tuna Noodle Hotdish. I figured cookies had a higher bribery power than plain candy. Since these cookies had Halloween candy inside them, they were worth their weight in gold to the fussy four year old. She ate her dinner and got her just reward.

I found the recipe for Snicker Surprise cookies on What's Cookin Chicago. They couldn't be easier to make. First, whip up a batch of your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough. Use a small cookie scoop and form all the dough into balls. Take one dough ball and smoosh it flat. Take half a Halloween size candy bar and place it in the middle. Take another dough ball and cover the top of the candy. Smoosh the dough around to form a large dough ball. I stuck mine in the freezer for later consumption. I used them right from the freezer, with no defrosting, and they took about 15 min to bake.

Can I say how much I love having frozen cookie dough in the freezer? No. I can't. There aren't words enough! I don't understand why I didn't do this before??? I can make just enough for "right now" and not have to worry about the leftovers sobbing in the pantry about how they would much rather be in my belly than the cold impersonal pantry. For those of you who don't know, cookies are quiet in the freezer. It's like they are in suspended animation. Sometimes they cry out, but it's really muffled. Maybe we've just got a good seal on the freezer door. All I know is I'm not eating a cookie (or 2 or 3 or 4) every time I go in the kitchen.

I used the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe for the cookie dough. For half the batter I used regular semi-sweet chips, and the other half I used mini semi-sweet. I was curious as to which version would taste better. The verdict was, that they were both good for different reasons. The mini chip cookies had small bits of chocolate in each bite. Chocolate in each bite is never a bad thing. The regular chip cookies had a stronger chocolaty flavor when you got a chip. You also got to taste the plain dough. All good things. I'll make a half and half batch again so we can get the benefits of both tasty cookie versions.

The cookies in the small batch you see below contained: Milky Way, Twix and Snickers. Further research is needed to be sure which cookie-candy combo was the best. There are still untested mystery cookies with Butterfinger, Crunch and Kit Kat in them. I don't think a verdict can be reached until all versions have been sampled.

A really weird thing happens to some of the cookies while they are baking. See this one?
All the chocolate melted off and pooled at the base of the cookie. You can see the caramel and nougat from the Milky Way peeking out from the top. Nekkid candy bar ain't got no clothes on!!!! Don't worry. I personally put this one out of it's misery. And yes, I did rejoice in the carnage.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuna Noodle Hotdish (Casserole) Happiness

My mom used to make Tuna Noodle Something or another when I was a kid. I have such fond memories of picking out both the tuna and the peas. There is a special talent in picking out flaky bits of tuna from your meal. I should have gotten some sort of medal. The only other thing I remember about this meal, besides not liking it, was that my mom used tiny ring shaped pasta. I would always try to see how many rings of pasta I could stack on each tine of the fork. I know it drove her bonkers when I did that. There is no question where Blockette got her mealtime stall tactics.

I wasn't surprised that Blockette didn't like this dish. She ate it though, even if it was under extreme duress. She wanted cookies for dessert. That was motivation enough for her. I never fell for that parental tactic. If I didn't like something, there was no way on God's green earth anyone was going to get me to eat it. How lucky am I that Blockette isn't that picky? I must have done something good to reverse all years of bad dinner table karma.

Whether Blockette liked this or not is completely beside the point. The point is, I liked this. Maybe it's because there aren't any slimy canned peas in this version?

Mrblocko wants to start incorporating fish into our diet. I greatly dislike fish, but I know it is good for us. This hotdish (or casserole for those of you who are weirdos outside of the Midwest) was my first stepping stone into fish cuisine. I know it's only canned tuna, but I'm still a picky eater. We're taking baby steps here.

I found this recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole from Food.People.Want. It originally came from a cookbook called San Francisco A La Carte. This cookbook got 4.5 stars on If the other recipes are even half as good as this one, there is no question why it got such a high rating.

As usual I made a few changes to the recipe. The biggest 2 being I roasted the red peppers, and increased the amount of tuna. I did all the prep work the night before, so the meal came together lickety split.

Not My Mother's Tuna Noodle Hotdish
6 oz egg noodles, (half a package) cooked al dente, drained
1 T fresh thyme leaves (1 t dried)
1 10 oz can cream of celery soup
1/2 c milk
3 five oz cans of tuna in water, drained and flaked
1 c finely chopped celery
1 roasted red pepper, finely chopped (about 1/3 c)
1/3 c chopped green onions, white and green parts
1/2 c mayo
3/4 c cheese (I used sharp cheddar and monterey jack) + additional 2 T or so for topping
black and cayenne pepper to taste
heaping 1/4 c chopped toasted almonds

(I did the following the night before to save time, but you can easily do this the same day.) Preheat the broiler. Half the red pepper and remove the guts. Smash the pepper so it lays flat on a cookie sheet or broiler pan. Broil until it is blackened to your preference. I cooked mine for 8 min on each side. Remove pepper from the oven and place in a ziploc bag for 10 minutes. This will allow you to easily peel the skin off. Once the pepper is cool, finely chop. In a medium size storage container, mix peppers, celery, onion, mayo, cheese and black and cayenne pepper to taste. Store in fridge until you are ready to use.

In the mean time, toast your almonds in a small pan on the stove top, stirring frequently until they turn a light golden brown. Once the almonds are cool, place them in a storage bag.

When you are ready to bake the hotdish, preheat the oven to 425. Boil water and cook noodles per package directions. While the noodles are cooking, heat the soup and milk in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stir to make sure the soup doesn't burn. Once the soup is smooth, add in tuna and the veggie mayo mix. Heat through on low until the noodles are ready. Drain the noodles and place them back into the pot you cooked them in. Stir in the thyme. Add the veggie cheesy sauce and mix until the noodles are coated. Place the contents in 2 qt casserole dish. Top with toasted almonds, remaining cheese and more cayenne pepper if desired. Bake 20 minutes until bubbly and brown on top. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Designs by Blockette

This is from her glowstick line. She made this all by herself from things in her "treasure box." It is composed of a glitter ball pendant, wrapped in 2 braceletts. The pendant is hung from a glow stick bracelette. All of this is strung on a glow stick necklace with a cricket, flower and 2 spider rings. I'm thinking we need to get her a listing on Etsy or something.

I would also like to draw your attention to the black hot wheels watch she is wearing on her right elbow. This is all the rage in Paris I'm told.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It is November. Isn't it?

I was out raking the front yard before lunch and thought I saw something odd in the garden. I brushed away the leaves and found this.

Then I raked a bit further down and saw this prolific plant. You've got to click on the picture to get the full effect. If you look closely you can see at least 2 white flowers still in bloom. Where were all my berries this summer? This same plant produced all of 2 berries through the normal growing season. Don't these strawberry plants know it is the 6Th of November????
I couldn't get a decent picture because of how the sun was shining, but all my Violas are in full bloom as well. Huh? We've been having below normal temps lately. It's mostly been cold and rainy. I thought strawberry plants liked sun. Not these guys apparently. Weirdness in my garden??? What a shocker.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Trouble with Halloween

Every year I expect a ton of kids, so I buy a ton of candy. Kids just don't trick or treat in our neighborhood. Why? Because we live in an subdivision where the houses are small and old. Technically, we're not even in city limits. Two blocks over, the houses are twice the size, and built in the past 5 or so years. Besides, they give out some swanky loot over there. Mrblocko took Blockette out trick or treating in that subdivision and she came back with a My Little Pony! Talk about hitting the jackpot!

I know this, but can never recall this factoid when it comes time to purchase Halloween candy. This year I bought a large bag and 2 small bags of candy. Can you say overkill? At least this was an improvement from last year when I bought 3 large bags of candy. Next year I'll buy one large or 2 small and hopefully that will work out much better. Watch, next year will be the year we get inundated with Trick or Treaters.

So, what should I do with all the leftover candy? If I keep it in the house I'm the one who ends up eating it all. We only let Blockette eat one or two pieces at a time. If she eats any more than that in one sitting, she is bouncing off the walls, more than normal. At that rate, it would take her until New Year's to finish all the candy. My butt cannot afford to have all that candy lingering in the house that long. I don't want Halloween Candy lurking about in December. That would cut into my Christmas cookie eating.

This year, I weeded through Blockette's candy differently. As a rule, Mrblocko gets the 3 Musketeers and I get the 100 Grand and Heath bars. I took out all the really chewy and hard candy that she might have a choking issue with. She's not a huge fan of suckers so I took those out too. That cut down her candy by nearly half. Mrblocko took that to work with him on Monday.

There was still waaaay too much chocolate in the house to tempt me. I found a recipe for a bundt cake that called for 1 1/2 cups of chopped candy. I cut that up on Tuesday and stuck it in a container. If the candy is chopped I won't eat it, and when I feel like baking a cake I'll have the main ingredient all ready. I'll probably make that cake in the near future. I've been yearning to bake a bundt cake since the Food Librarian started I Like Big Bundts: 30 Days of Bundt Cakes. (Anyone who makes 30 bundt cakes in 30 days is aces in my books! Go Food Librarian!!!)

That made a dent in the candy, but not nearly enough. I remembered seeing Snicker Surprise Cookies on Joelen's blog, What's Cookin, Chicago? So on Wednesday I made Chocolate Chip Cookie dough and halved mini Snickers, Milky Way, Twix, Kit Kat and Crunch bars. I stuck the candy bar pieces inside cookie dough balls. The "surprise" cookie dough is chillin in the freezer for another day, one where we are lacking in sweets. I'll post how that went as well when I get around to baking them. These will truly be surprise cookies because I don't remember which candy is inside which cookie dough ball!

All this reduced the candy by half again. There was still so much candy. I took out a bunch of the duplicate candies and sent them to work with Mrblocko. That cut the candy by nearly half yet again. This is a much more manageable amount of candy. It still fills in a medium size bowl. I think now I'll be able to restrain myself from eating it while Blockette is at Preschool. OK, so that's a lie. The truth is I'll only eat one piece instead of five.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baked Mac and Cheese

Two days ago, my favorite designer, Teresa Wentzler, announced she was closing up shop. This has brought on a lot of nostalgia and reflection of my craftier days. Back somewhere around 2001/2002 I was seriously in to cross stitching. I could spend the whole evening stitching at a project. Of course this was back when Mrblocko worked 18 hour days, and long before Blockette came around. My biggest distraction was the cats. They actually liked to sit on my lap while I stitched. They knew I'd be sitting there for a while so they could really settle in. I still love cross stitching but I find it difficult to find the uninterrupted time I need to stitch the complicated designs I love.

Anyhow, in the height of my cross stitching frenzy I used to frequent the message board for TW Designworks. At the time, there was a huge membership, but there was some sort of fight and the board fractured into several separate message boards. I was never able to figure out exactly what happened, but I felt a bit lost after the message board changed. There was no longer one place to chat with all the stitchers I felt were my online friends. I just couldn't keep up with all the different message boards so I gradually stopped reading all of them.

I think my passion for stitching has slowly morphed to a love of cooking. I don't get the same kind of long term satisfaction that I would get when I finished a huge stitching project when I cook. It's different, but in a good way. Cooking is something I can do with and for my family. Even though the food is gone after we finish our meal, the togetherness we experienced brings us closer together. That to me is the best kind of long term satisfaction.

This recipe for Baked macaroni really brings back memories of my marathon stitching days. I got this recipe from a posting on the TWBB message board. I think it's a nice collision of my old and new hobbies.Baked Mac-n-cheese from Annette414 and WizGidget (screen names from the TWBB)
8 oz mac or similar short cut pasta
1/4 c butter
1/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 c milk
1 c sour cream
1 c extra sharp cheddar
1 c Colby jack
about 1/4 c breadcrumbs

preheat the oven to 375. In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add flour, salt and pepper. Stir one minute. Slowly add milk and sour cream. Stir constantly. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes, still stirring constantly until sauce begins to thicken. Remove from heat, add 1 1/2 c cheese. Stir. Pour sauce over noodles. Stir. Pour noodle mixture into 1.5 qt baking dish. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake 30-35 minutes until top is bubbly and brown.

I generally like to use this as a basic recipe. Something else always seems to get added in. This time it was some diced ham, 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, and a can of fire roasted tomatoes, drained. You could add just about anything to this dish. Chicken, bacon, paprika, dried mustard, roasted veggies, whatever floats your boat. Feel free to experiment with the cheeses as well. Mozzarella and Gruyere are a tasty combo.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

When I was in Minnesota over Columbus Day weekend my uncle gave me a huge bag of onions from his garden. Originally I thought it would take us months to go through that many onions. I guess I never realized how many onions I cook with. I used the last onion from that bag in this soup. Thanks for the tasty onions Uncle Clownsuit!

Last week I made chicken stock from the carcass of the peach roaster chicken. This was the first soup made from that stock. I was right in guessing that this was a sweeter than normal stock. I think it worked well with the sweetness of the carrots and corn. This soup also used up the leftovers from the chicken as well.

I made a few changes to the original recipe from For the Love of Cooking. First, I increased the stock, chicken and veggies because I wanted a heartier thicker soup. Second, I omitted the chicken bouillon. Bouillion is always too salty for my liking. I figured the stock would be flavorful enough without it. The next time I make this soup I think I will increase the rice to 3/4 c as well.

This will definitely be going in the soup recipe rotation. Blockette, who has only cared for Cinderella Wedding Soup in the past, cleaned her bowl.

Here's the recipe with my changes:

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup adapted from For the Love of Cooking
1 T olive oil
1 small sweet onion or half a large onion
4 mutant carrots, half or quarter moon slices (or 7 supermodel skinny carrots, cut into coins)
4 stalks of celery, including celery leaves, diced fine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 c chicken stock
1/2 t basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
2 c cooked chicken breast, diced
1/2 c jasmine rice, uncooked
1 heaping cup of frozen corn, thawed
2 T corn starch
1 12 oz can fat free evaporated milk

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Add veggies and cook until they are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic. Cook another minute. Add stock, spices, chicken, and rice. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. If soup is not boiling, increase the heat. In a small bowl mix cornstarch and a small amount of the milk until the lumps disappear. Gradually add in the remaining milk. Add milk to boiling soup. Lower heat to simmer. Add corn and stir. Let the soup simmer for a few minutes to heat through. The soup will thicken as it sits. (Don't forget to remove the bay leaf before serving!)