Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thankful Thurs #22

1. The tiny stingy bug nest I found under the daffodil leaves was vacant.

2. I got all the plants my uncle gave me in the ground.

3. My pepper plant has a tiny green pepper on it!

4. Hanging out with friends.

5. Helping out at church.

6. Getting everything we needed to get done over the weekend.

7. While dinner wasn't great it was still edible.

8. The second dinner in two days didn't turn out how it was supposed to, but it still tasted amazing.

9. It's been cold enough to do some baking.

10. My husband was very understanding when I freaked out in the middle of the night from some dumb show we watched before going to bed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quick Maple Molasses Bread

I was in the mood for some bread the other day, but I wasn't in the mood for expending a lot of effort, or even waiting for the dough to rise. This recipe from Cookie and Kate for quick molasses bread seemed like a splendiferous way to solve my lazy bread hankering dilemma.

This bread uses a liquid sweetener like molasses, maple syrup or honey.  As luck would have it, I had exactly 1/4 c molasses and 1/4c maple syrup.  I threw caution to the wind and used them both.  The resulting bread had pleasing hints of both the molasses and the maple, neither of which were too overpowering.

I also used half regular yellow cornmeal and half polenta/grits.  No special reason why.  I just wanted to play around with the texture of the bread.  The coarser grind of cornmeal was an interesting addition, but next time I think I will stick with the regular cornmeal.  At times I thought the bread was just a tad bit too gritty.
Surprisingly, this bread was super moist. It actually got moister the second day. That sort of weirded me out. I mean isn't bread supposed to get dryer with age? The bread was almost sticky on the top and I was worried that it would be a mass invitation for a mold rave on my tasty bread. So, after slicing off some bread for breakfast on day two, I left the bread uncovered for a few hours, then I stored the loaf in the fridge.

The fridge did help dry out the bread, but not so much that it became dry and crumbly.  They held their sliced shape very nicely.  You could eat a piece without worrying that it would fall apart in your hands, which is always a bonus with leftover quick bread.

I would totally make this recipe again, lazy bread cravings or not.

Quick Whole Wheat Molasses (or honey or maple!) Bread from Cookie and Kate
Oil or butter for greasing pan
1 1/2 c milk and 2 T cider vinegar (or 1 2/3 c buttermilk/plain yogurt) (I used milk and vinegar)
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup cornmeal (I used half grits/polenta and regular cornmeal)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup molasses (or honey or maple syrup—anything but blackstrap molasses)

Heat oven to 325 F. Grease an 8"x 4" or 9"x5"loaf pan.  If using buttermilk or yogurt, ignore this step. Make soured milk: gently warm the milk gently (1 minute in the microwave will suffice) and add vinegar. Set the soured milk aside.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Stir molasses (or honey or maple syrup) into the soured milk, buttermilk or yogurt. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan.

Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 min to 1 hr. Allow bread to cool in pan 15 min, then invert onto wire rack. Loaf will be easiest to slice when completely cool

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

What can I say about this Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole from Picky Palate? It was the best thing I've made in a long time, and that is saying something.

It was one of those dishes where I could do all the prep work ahead of time and toss everything together a half hour before we wanted to eat.  Of course you could do it all at once, but I like to do a little bit of this and that throughout the day if I can.  

The only bad thing, and it isn't really bad, was that the leftovers didn't taste nearly as good as the casserole straight from the oven. 

I think that the health factor of this dish could be bumped up by adding a cup of quinoa and some defrosted frozen corn, peas and green beans.  But it doesn't "need" anything else.  It's a tasty treat as is.

Oh, one more thing.  With all that cheese, the casserole came out of the oven just bubbling with the oils that had separated from the cheese.  If you are like me, that will totally gross you out.  I was able to soak up almost all of the oils by placing a paper towel on its edge in the oil.  The oil will wick itself up the paper towel.  Voila!  Ick is gone and family is happy.

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole from Picky Palate
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 med onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 T fresh minced garlic
2 C shredded, cooked chicken breast (I used leftover shredded BBQ chicken)
2 C steamed white rice
2C prepared wild rice ( make mine in the crockpot)
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t garlic salt

Cheese Sauce
4 T butter
1/4 C flour
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
2 C chicken broth
2 C plus l 1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil into a med pot over med heat. Saute onion, celery and carrots until softened, about 10 min. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 min. Stir in chicken, both rices, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Reduce heat to low.

To prepare cheese sauce melt butter into a med saucepan over med high heat. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper then slowly pour in chicken broth whisking continuously. Whisk until thick and nearly boiling then stir in cheese until melted. Pour cheese sauce into rice mix then transfer to a 9×13" dish. Top with additional cheddar cheese and bake for 25-30 min or until cheese is melted through. Serve.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Frosting Creations - Two Recipes

At the beginning of May I won this super cool haul of Duncan Hines Cake and Frosting Creations.  Our church had a bake sale to raise money for Relay for Life, and I thought this would be great to make some treats using my winnings.

The first thing I made were cake mix cookies from the Duncan Hines website.  The original recipe calls for a cherry vanilla filling packet and dried cherries.  I used the orange creme flavor mix instead and switched out the dried cherries for extra white chocolate chips.

I liked how they turned out slightly orange-y colored.  They tasted very orange creamsicle-like.  I sampled quite a few before packaging them up for the bake sale.  Quality control is the most important part of baking.

The other thing I made with the Frosting Creations goodies was cherry vanilla cola cakes, again from the Duncan Hines website.

I had seen this supposed cupcake baking trick on Pinterest.  As this was for a bake sale, I thought it would be a great time to see if I couldn't get a nice round dome on the cupcakes.  Everyone likes a pretty cupcake!  The prettier something is, the better it seems to sell.

Yeah, I'm here to tell you, that trick does NOT work.  If anything, it made the cupcakes even flatter than usual!


Luckily, I remembered I had these plastic punch sized cups in my pantry.  I took the wrappers off the cupcakes and placed the cupcakes inside the punch cups.  I put the vanilla cherry frosting creations into a large zip bag and piped it onto the cupcakes in the cups.

This worked out great until I realized that when you pipe frosting, you use twice as much frosting as you would if you just spread it on with a spatula.  Doh!

So I frosted the other half of the cupcakes with chocolate marshmallow frosting creations.  
My logic is that marshmallows go with everything.

These are the marshmallow ones. You can tell this because they have marshmallows on them. 
 See how fancy that is?!

The cups actually turned out to be a good idea.  I brought forks so that people could just eat them right away if they wanted to. People actually thought I did it on purpose. Of course I didn't correct them.

So what do I think about the actual Frosting Creations?  I got a bit freaked out when I was mixing the powder into the unflavored frosting base.  The powder had this weird chemical smell and the frosting was sticky and stringy.  There was one brief moment where I thought I was going to have to make a mad dash to the store for different frosting.  I made my husband test taste the frosting first.  When he didn't fall over and proclaimed it to be tasty, I tried some myself.  It tasted just fine!

I was glad that I had already decided to pipe the frosting on the cupcakes at this point.  With how stringy the frosting was, I would have made a huge mess trying to apply it with an offset spatula.

In my search to find something to make for the bake sale, I found quite a few recipes that I'd like to make.  Most of them just use the frosting and the mix in, and aren't cake at all!  As I have two cans of frosting and only one mix in left, I'll probably have to go out and buy some more Frosting Creations to try them all out.

Have you tried Duncan Hines Frosting Creations yet?  If so, I'd love to hear about what you made and how it turned out for you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Crockpot Corn Chowder

My mom used to make this awesome corn chowder when I was a kid. It started out with cooking some bacon up and then cooking a whole mess of onions in the bacon grease. How could you ever go wrong with a recipe like that? You can't. It is a scientific fact that cooking something in bacon grease will make it better. I'm pretty sure bacon grease could solve world peace if we let it.

But I digress. I found this recipe for corn chowder in the crockpot from Real Mom Kitchen when I was looking for recipes to make from the leftover ham from Easter. I didn't expect it to be exactly the same as my mom's because, well it has ham, not bacon. But bacon and ham are kissing cousins so I was positive it would be close.

So I'm crockpotting away and I give the soup a taste test to see how things were brewing. Hmmm. Something was horribly tragically wrong! This didn't taste anything like my mom's chowder. Then I had a hand smacking the forehead moment. Duh. It's because there aren't any onions in this recipe you goof.

Lickety split I chopped up two small onions and cooked them until they had just started to turn light brown. Then I tossed them in the slow cooker. I thought that the soup could use a bit more corn, so I added a few handfuls of frozen corn to the mix. And then, just for kicks, I shredded up a large carrot for a hint of sweetness. I let the mix continue to simmer in the crock pot for another hour or so until we got hungry.

Yeah. That was more like it. Almost nearly exactly like my mom's, but not. Cause, well, no bacon. But I have proclaimed it good, so there you go.

Crockpot Corn Chowder adapted from Real Mom Kitchen
2 (14.75 oz) cans creamed corn
1 (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 1/2 cups skim milk
1 cup diced ham
2 cups frozen southern style hash browns (I used shredded because that's what I found in the back of my freezer)
2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 medium to small onions, sliced in thin half moons
2T oil or butter to saute onions in
1 large carrot, shredded
1 c frozen corn

Saute onions in butter.  Place creamed corn, cream of mushroom soup, and milk in a crock pot. Whisk until soup is well blended into the mixture. Add remaining ingredients to crock pot and stir well.
Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally. You can add more milk if needed when finished cooking to reach desired thickness. (you can add the onions, carrot and frozen corn later if you choose, or dump it all in at the beginning.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thankful Thurs #21

1. A wonderful visit with my extended family.

2. A chance to get away for a mini

3. Perfect spring weather.

4. Blockette enjoyed the movie "The King and I" as much as I hoped she would.

5. Stepping out of my comfort zone.

6. My irises were pretty while they lasted.

7. The mulch kept the veggie plants moist enough in the hot sun while we were away for a few days.

8. Bad dreams aren't for real.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Honey Roasted Chickpeas

My first experiment with roasted chickpeas didn't turn out so stellar. I mean they turned out OK, but they were not the crunchy treat I had intended.

I wondered if it could have been from using canned chickpeas.  So when I made honey cinnamon roasted chickpeas from Two Peas and Their Pod, I used dried, cooked chickpeas.
This time, they turned out exactly how I had hoped, a sweet crunchy healthy-ish little snack.  Sure the Honey and sugar aren't the best, but check out the nutritional value of the Chickpea. With all that protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, a little sugar isn't too bad. I will be making this again for sure.

Honey Roasted Chickpeas from Two Peas and Their Pod
1 (15 oz can) chickpeas (garbanzo beans) (About 2 cups cooked, dried chickpeas)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 375 F. Drain chickpeas and rinse under cold water until starch is removed. Place chickpeas on a paper towel to dry. I always pop the skins off, but that's up to you.

In a small bowl, whisk oil, cinnamon, and sugar. Place chickpeas in bowl and stir until  evenly coated. Spread chickpeas on a large baking sheet. Bake 35-40 minutes, until chickpeas are crunchy and no longer soft in the middle.

Place hot, roasted chickpeas in a small bowl and coat evenly with honey. Spread chickpeas back out on baking sheet and allow to dry. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Note: This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not for Sale

Sorry Christie's. This work of art is not for sale.

Blockette made it for her Great-great Aunt who turned 90 last Saturday. This was the first painting on canvas Blockette had ever done. I've never actually painted on canvas either so I think it may have been a bit of the blind leading the blind. Blockette was so proud of her painting. You may or may not be able to tell by this photo.
I think Blockette's face is going to crack from pride.

Of course my great aunt loved her present, but loved Blockette even more.   This visit was the first time they had actually met. 
Yup.  They are the best of buds.  My great aunt kept saying she was going to keep Blockette, and kept mentioning that the house two doors down was for sale.  Blockette thought that was the best idea ever.  Although, I'm not sure if that was because of the prospect of living so close to someone who would spoil her absolutely rotten, she'd live across the street from a huge park, or because of all the dragonflies she saw hovering around my great-aunt's house.

Either way, Blockette is already planning out our next visit to Northern Wisconsin.  Her goal is to move our entire town up there.  I'm not quite sure how a town of 9,000 would handle a sudden influx of 30,000 people.  Blockette is still trying to work out all the kinks.  I imagine she'll have it all figured out before the start of the next school year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weird PB Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I was in the mood to bake and thought I'd try something a bit different. I was just shy of having enough brown sugar on hand for most of the recipes that sounded interesting to me, except for these oatmeal peanut butter banana cookies.

The fact that they were from Dr. Oz's website should have raised a red flag. Another red flag was that they have hardly any sugar in them. And by hardly any sugar, I mean there is 2 T from Honey/agave and the fructose in two bananas. But because they are from Dr. Oz his followers are brainwashed to believe that anything he spews out of his mouth or on his website must be full of awesome.

These cookies were the antithesis of awesomeness.

They were super bland. Not only were they not sweet, which is a no brainer if you think about it. They had zero flavor. I couldn't taste any peanut butter OR banana. Very, very odd.

And the picture of the cookies on the website?  Oh they could not possibly be of cookies made from this recipe.  They look like cookies that were made with a lot more flour than just 1/4 cup.

Here's the photo from Dr. Oz's website:

And here's a cross section of the cookies I made:
They don't even look done in the middle.  AND this is after baking them for 20 minutes when the recipe states you only need to cook them for 13-16 minutes.

I tried smashing them flat in hopes of getting them a little crisper on the inside.  No dice.  Even after flattening the cookies as thin as I could, and cooking them for 20 min, the middles were still on the soggy side.

Now I'm a fan of gooey under baked doughy in the middle cookies.  But these cookies?  Ick.  It was more of a gummy, chewy, underdone sort of middle.  Not a pleasing texture at all.

I wracked my brain to find a way to salvage these treats.  I even schmeared on a nice thick layer of dulce de leche.  Even that didn't do much to improve the taste of these little villains.

Then it hit me!

The inside of these cookies reminded me of when you cook a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave. You know, the oatmeal gets a bit rubbery because the oats have soaked up all the moisture.  All you need to do is add milk and the texture goes from spackle, back to that of something edible again.

So for breakfast the next day, I crumbed up the rest of the cookies in our bowls along with walnuts, a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon, popped it into the microwave with some milk, and TA DA! 
Delicious breakfast!

Mrblocko and Blockette added raisins to their oatmeal cookie bowls.  That's not my thing so I had mine "plain."

I can see the merits of making a batch of these cookies for the specific purpose of using them for a quick breakfast, but for just the cookies?  No way.

Dr. Oz's Weird Peanut Butter Banana Cookies that You Should Just Eat Crumbled up in a Bowl Like Oatmeal
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp 2% milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp agave or Honey
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups quick-cooking or rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
Dash ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Make banana puree by mashing the bananas with a fork until smooth. Whisk in the peanut butter, milk, vanilla, agave, and egg. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.

Drop dough onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed or lined with parchment paper. Bake 13-16 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Downton's in the Hiz-ouse

Are you perhaps as obsessed with Downton Abby as I am?  I only just started watching it last month, and am now currently caught up on all episodes.  I probably like it because it's like a sophisticated soap opera with some rockin awesome costuming and sets.   Plus, everything sounds so swanky in "The Queen's English."

So if you are a fanatic about the series I think you'll find these spoofs amusing too.  I actually physically laughed out loud.  None of that usual lip service LOL stuff.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Nearly Festive Ice Cream - For the Rest of Us

I was never a big fan of Seinfeld before it was syndicated. However, for a long time I didn't have cable/satellite, so that was the only thing to veg out to. Needless to say, I've watched more episodes than I care to admit, for a show I don't even like.

Anyhow, there was one episode where they talk about Festivus, an alternative holiday to the commercial aspect of Christmas. Ben and Jerry's even made a special limited edition ice cream named after this fictional holiday.
It was a brown sugar ice cream with gingerbread cookies and a ginger caramel swirl.  You really had to be a fan of gingerbread to like this flavor.  Apparently, it was not a popular flavor with the masses as they stopped releasing batches, even over the seasonally appropriate wintertime.

I was pretty lukewarm about this flavor.  I liked it well enough to eat it when it was around, but if I had another ice cream flavor choice available, I'd take it.  I wasn't super sad when the flavor was discontinued.  My husband and best friend, on the other hand, were very very put out.  They both LOVED this flavor.

So when I happened upon this Gingerbread ice cream recipe over at Kate's Short and Sweets, I just had to make it.  The ice cream base was obviously not the same as Ben and Jerry's.  I'm fairly certain that their ice cream has an egg base.  That's all fine and dandy as they are professionals.  I don't like to mess around with salmonella.  Go ahead.  Call me chicken.  ::groan:::

I didn't care for the cookie dough recipe that was linked up on Kate's Short and Sweets.  It called for Ener-G egg replacer and frankly, I didn't feel like going on a wild goose chase, just to find one random ingredient.  I settled on using this recipe for egg free gingerbread from Well-fed Everyone to use as cookie dough.

OK.  So the original Ben and Jerry's  Festivus uses actual baked gingerbread bits.  I was afraid that any gingerbread cookie I made would get soggy in the time it takes for the ice cream to set up.  So I went with gingerbread cookie dough instead.

Let me tell you, that cookie dough was awesome. I could not stop eating it.  Even with all my nibbling and snacking, there was enough cookie dough for this batch of ice cream, and another down the road.
Instead of a ginger caramel swirl, I just used dulce de leche that I made in the crockpot.  Truth is, I'm scared of making caramel.  I'm terrified of burning it or myself; I don't have the best of luck with molten sugar.  I played it safe went with what I know.  And I know how dulce de leche in the crockpot tastes.  (Damn good!) If you are feeling adventurous, why not try this basic Ginger caramel sauce from Food and Wine, or this slightly fancier version from My Man's Belly. They both look really good.

So to sum up, while this wasn't an exact copy of the original Festivus ice cream, it was a very tasty facsimile. Make some for the gingerbread lover in your life.  They will thank you for it!

Festivus Fake-y Faker-ton  Ice Cream adapted from Kate's Short and Sweets and Well-Fed Everyone
2 C milk
2 Tbsp molasses
1/2 C brown sugar, divided
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 C cream
1/2 - 1 c frozen gingerbread cookie dough balls
Dulce de leche or other caramel sauce of your choosing (I used about a 3rd of the can)

Add milk, molasses, 1/4 C brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt to a small saucepan. Heat, whisking occasionally, on med til steam rises from milk 3-5 min. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and a couple T cold cream in a small bowl. Whisk away as many lumps as possible.Whisk cornstarch mixture into heated milk, along with remaining 1/4 C brown sugar. Heat, stirring constantly, until thick. This mixture is ready when it thickly coats the back of a spoon and a line drawn across with your finger remains intact, 3-5 minutes.

Cool completely (about 1-2 hours in the fridge), then stir in the remaining cream. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Pour the ice cream into the container you're going to freeze it in.  Fold in the frozen gingerbread dough bits. Drizzle on the caramel and swirl into the ice cream base.  Freeze for about 2 hours or until the ice cream is just set.

Frozen Gingerbread dough bits
1 3/4 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1 tsp gr cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 c butter or margarine
1/4 c  brown sugar
1/4 c. unsulphured molasses
2 T water
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and brown sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, scraping bowl and paddle occasionally, about 5 min. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk molasses, water, and vanilla.  Stir into buttery stick mixture (it will separate and look all funky and gross).  Scrape bowl and paddle.  With mixer running on low speed, slowly add dry ingredients until evenly incorporated.  Flatten dough into a disk and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to three days, or freeze for up to three months.  Once the dough is no longer super sticky, roll into small marble sized balls.  Freeze balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet until they have hardened, about an hour.  Transfer to a freezer safe storage container.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thankful Thurs #20


1. Mrblocko called at the exact time that I saw the gigantic man-eating yellow jacket come flying into the computer room like he owned the place.

2. Mrblocko calmed me down from my hysteric unintelligible shrieking and talked me through killing the offending wasp without me getting stung.

3. Mrblocko was able to take Blockette to the reading reward baseball game.

4. Blockette making another goal at soccer, this time using actual teamwork.

5. Getting the raised garden assembled and planted before it rained/we fell over from exhaustion.


6. The thank you card from our 4 and 5 year old Sunday School class. (I managed not to cry only because Mrblocko jokingly nudged me and asked, tongue in cheek, "You gonna cry?")

7. The bake sale at church for Relay for Life raised over $600.

8. Helping out at Blockette's school.

9. Getting myself motivated to do the stuff I needed to get done instead of getting sucked in by the computer, or laying down for a nap.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ding Dong Cake

A cake for Ding Dongs? Well, I mean we are pretty goofy, so one might refer to us as Ding Dongs. But no. This is not a cake just for weirdos. It's a cake fore everyone, that tastes like a Ding Dong. I found this awesome ding dong cake recipe from Just a Pinch Recipe Club.

On the outside it seems like an ordinary chocolatey cake...

But then when you cut into it....
layers of creamy filling!  

Ooooo!  It's the Clark Kent/Superman of cakes.  Able to bound single buildings in a tall leap.  Um...wait.
Never mind.

The filling is made up of the combined goodness of butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese and Cool Whip. Yeah. Sigh. It's pretty awful.  And by awful, I mean awful good.

You will find yourself with an insane amount of cream filling. Go ahead and heap it on the cake.  I thought I had heaped it on, but if you check out the picture above, that bottom layer seems a bit skimpy.

I took the extra filling mixture and blended it with the frosting.  This made the frosting really gooey.  I was  afraid it was going to ooze right on off the cake.  It never did, but I could tell it was really thinking about it. I did yell at it and told it to behaver itself.  So you just might want to try that, for safety's sake.

Even with a thick layer of frosting on the exterior of the cake, I had a hefty amount of leftover frosting. I may or may not have eaten the leftovers smeared on graham crackers.  I have no witnesses to this except the cats.  I've bribed them with kitty treats, so they aren't talking.

Incidentally, this was the cake I was going to make for my bloggy birthday, but then Easter got in the way with all it's Easter Basket goodness.  I made it for when my father-in-law came to visit.  I think he was expecting this cake instead.  Of course he didn't come out and tell me that beforehand, which would have been helpful.  I'm pretty sure this was an OK consolation prize.  He didn't seem to have any trouble eating the ginormous slice my husband plunked down in front of him.

Ding Dong Cake from Just a Pinch Recipe Club
1 box devils food cake mix
8 oz cream cheese softened
3 c powdered sugar
1 stick butter softened
8 oz cool whip
1 tub milk chocolate icing (or dark chocolate like I did if that's your thang)

Prepare and bake cake as directed on box. (2 round cake pans)

Filling: Mix and cream the butter and cream cheese. Add powdered sugar and fold in cool whip.

After cake is completely cooled split layers and spread filling on each layer and stack, do not spread filling all the way to the edge of the cake, the weight of the cake will press it out to the edge once you are finished, this keeps the filling from mixing with the icing. You will be able to put a thick layer of filling between the layers. Don’t be stingy.

If you have any filling left over you can mix it with the icing. Ice entire cake with the chocolate icing. Store cake and it's leftovers in the fridge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Fast Food" at Home

I saw this recipe for Warm bean dip over at Life as a Lofthouse back in February. I'd been drooling over it ever since, and hoping I'd get invited to some sort of gathering in which it would be appropriate to bring to share. Alas, no such invitation came.

For Mother's and Father's Day, Mrblocko and I each get to have the meal of our choosing on our respective parenting holidays, no matter how crazy it might seem.  I asked Mrblocko if it would be too weird for us to have this appetizer for dinner, as our main course, on Mother's Day. His reply was, "No, but only if we put shredded chicken in it."

What a stellar idea. So, Mrblocko grilled up two chicken breasts with our burgers on Saturday. I had him use some sort of hickory flavored grill seasoning so the chicken would have a smokey flavor.
Oh man.  This dip was THA. BOMB.  I used homemade taco seasoning, and half the amount of suggested cheese.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been some olives, and maybe a side of guacamole.

I figured olives might be pushing it.  Blockette, in the past, has turned her nose up at refried beans.  I told her it was Mother's Day, so she shouldn't complain about dinner, but that it was sort of like the bean dip she eats with carrots. I even cut up some carrots for her to dip in it.  Her reaction was, "Wow! This dip is soooo good. I love it.  It's like nachos, but even better."  Very high praise in deed.  I even ate the dip with carrots.  I don't know why, but it tasted really good that way.  (Mrblocko, don't knock it 'til you try it.)

If we had gone out to some place like Taco Bell.  I would have ordered something similar to this.  Only this tasted a million times better than anything you can get at Taco Bell.  The ingredients cost me around $8, including carrots, chips and a salad.  Aaaaand, if you notice, we only ate around a third of the dip.

This is why we hardly ever eat out.  Where could you go out to eat and feed three people for $8, with enough leftovers to feed all three of you for a whole other meal?  Plus, did I mention this TASTES better?  Oh, and I got to eat this in my PJ's on the comfort of my couch. Oh, sure, I or my husband, could go out and bring the food back home and then I could eat it on the couch, but it's a good 10-15 min drive to the nearest fast food place. By the time the food would get back home it would be cold.  Cold fast food is disgusting.  I don't know about you, but I'm not into congealed fat.  Doesn't float my boat.

As I'm a dessert obsessed girl, and so is my daughter, we couldn't forget about our after dinner treat.  I wanted to stick with that fast food vibe so I made some slushies/icees like the ones you might find at Sonic.

I had seen this idea for homemade icees over at Real Mom Kitchen.  All you do is stick pop your ice cream maker.  (Yeah, super hard work involved there!) I used Cherry Dr. Pepper for ours.  I was surprised how red the slushy was.  It looks like the normal brown pop color in the 2 liter bottle.  I only made a liter of pop into icees.  We weren't super hungry after dinner, as the bean dip was so filling.  Because I only used half the bottle of pop, the total cost of our slushy was a mere $.50.  I'm guessing what I made would be about the same size as a large icee, and we all know, a large squishy costs more than $.50 at the Kwik E Mart.

Oh sure, I DID have to do dishes. There weren't very many though, and I saved them for the next day.  (I don't do dishes on Mother's Day.)  It probably took me 15 minutes, max.  I think the money I saved more than made up for any output of effort made cleaning up the kitchen.

A Million Times Better Than Taco Bell Bean Dip Nachos adapted from Life as a Lofthouse
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened (I used the low fat kind)
1 cup low fat sour cream
2 cans (16 ounces, each) Or 1 (30oz) can low sodium refried beans (or make your own for even lower sodium)
1 packet taco seasoning (3T homemade salt free taco seasoning)
two cooked and shredded chicken breasts
1 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl. Mix in refried beans until combined. Stir in taco seasoning. Stir in chicken. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Spread mixture evenly into the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with both cheeses. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese in melted and slightly browned. Serve with tortilla chips and carrots.

Homemade Icees from Real Mom Kitchen
4 1/2 cups of chilled soda pop (or more if your ice cream maker is larger than 1 1/2 qt)

Place soda in your 1 1/2 qt ice cream maker and freeze accordingly for 20 minutes. Serve in 4 glasses.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Garden Update

Things have been going wild in the garden.  Here's a picture of the Salvia and Sage competing for who can take over the garden completely.  The bumble and honey bees are loving all the little flowers though. 

Maybe, just maybe, we'll have some strawberries bigger than a pea this year. They usually have green baby strawberries like this around mid July. Grow little berries! And critters stay away!

I planted some purple Irises this fall, and they are already blooming like crazy.  Irises are one of my favorite flowers.  We had some at our old house and I loved them. I don't know why I waited so long to plant some here. It's not like we're been living here six years or anything!
Speaking of our old house...we drove past it this weekend. It was the first time I'd seen it since we moved out. The current owners painted the trim this super ugly ultra bright blue and ripped out the side garden!!! I was so angry. Mrblocko had to remind me that the people who lived there could do that, because it was THEIR house and THEIR garden. I told Mrblocko I could be angry if I wanted cause the current owners were dumb, and that side garden with the flagstone walk way was awesome. Why don't people know beautiousness when they see it?!

Ok, Rant off.

Back to the garden for the house that we actually live in right now.

For Mother's Day I told Mrblocko I wanted a raised garden.  I found this little 4x4 foot kit at Home Depot that seemed easy enough to assemble.  It was designed for non handy folks like us I think. 

I wanted to get the dirt at Menards because I thought it would be cheaper, plus I had this $10 rebate card, and we had a bag of cement to return that we wound up not needing for the fence.  Dirt wound up being on sale!  AWESOME!

Blockette's school had a plant fundraiser and the plants arrived on Thurs.  From her school I bought 3 different tomato plants (Roma, better boy, and grape), and 2 pepper plants (Sweet and bell).  I knew that those 5 plants probably wouldn't fill up the tiny garden, so I thought we would look at Menards, since we were there already, just to see what they had.  Their plants were on sale too!  They had packages of  6 plants 2/$3.  That's a great deal around here for plants.  If you buy them from the greenhouse, they usually run about $3 a piece!

So I went a bit hog wild and got a pack of cauliflower, kohlrabi, and broccoli. 

The plant packages didn't say how big they were going to be, so I planted 3 kohrabi, 3 cauliflower and 6 broccoli in my little garden.  I'm hoping I didn't plant them too close. 

I decided, instead of just chucking the remaining kohrabi and cauliflower plants, to plant them in my side garden.  The side garden only gets about 3 hours of sun a day, so we will see if that is enough for these little guys. 

Hopefully, the neighbors won't mind the garden.  We put it in the front yard. I'm hoping it won't look too tacky.  Our back yard is full shade, all day so there was no hope for any kind of veggie garden thriving back there.  The spot where we planted the raised bed gets morning shade, but sun the rest of the day.  Hopefully that won't be too much sun.

If this garden does well, we will buy another raised garden kit this fall or spring. The kits can be combined to configure the raised bed in whatever dimensions you want.  The plan is to just make the existing bed longer.  We have enough room in the front on the side to make the garden 4 feet wide by 12 feet long.  I figured it would be best to start out small so I don't get overwhelmed.

Oh, we also planted a blonde raspberry bush sort of near the fence.  This area gets enough sun for lilies to grow, but we will see if it is enough for a raspberry bush.  I don't even know if the darn thing will grow or not. It was in the plant section of Mejiers marked half off.  The "bush" is essentially two sticks poking up out of the ground.  I'm not holding out much hope for them. 

The directions on the package said to plant them as soon as it starts to get warm.  On a normal year, now would be the perfect time to plant, but with our crazy weather, the bushes should have been planted in March.  I guess that's why they were so inexpensive.  IF they do somehow grow, it will be about two years before the bushes will bear fruit.

Wish me luck!

Rainbow Headband

I've had this rainbow head band from fabric scraps from Sugar Bee Crafts as a work in progress for almost two months.  

Which, if you think about it, is pretty ridiculous.  

The headband is only a series of skinny strips of fabric made into little tiny braids that get attached to two hair binders.  So simple and no need for such crazy procrastination!
Here's what it looks like on.  Blockette was nice enough to take a picture of me.  
Please ignore my dirty grungy hair.  I'm just tryin' to keep it real here.  

The headband is really wide and great for keeping back different layers, say if you were growing out your bangs, which I'm not.  My bangs are as long as the rest of my mangy hair.  
But if I was, It would be super useful.
I think the headband looks much cuter on Blockette
Although, the headband is a bit too big for her.  
 We solved that problem by twisting the braids around each other.  

There you have it, two great ways to wear one fun headband.   Yay headbands!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

For everyone who is and has a mom!

Because I said so!

Friday, May 11, 2012

French Onion Soup Burger

I found this recipe for Campbell's French Onion Soup Burgers in some magazine I got for free in the mail.  When Mrblocko saw the torn page on the counter I think he inhaled 99% of the air in the room. 

"When are you gonna make that?!!!  That looks awesome."


See, I don't think he read the recipe.  In fact I know he didn't.  He thought the condensed French Onion Soup went inside the burger. Nope.  You sear the burgers and then sort of saute them in the undiluted soup.
The burger was about as anti-climatic as this picture is.

Mark this recipe down as another one where I have set my expectations too high.

I think my main problem with these burgers was that there was no actual onion flavor in the burgers.  The only way to get any onion flavors was to keep dipping the burger in the sauce. Which is what we did.

The other problem I had with this burger was that it used canned soup. Yeah yeah yeah.  I know.  Duh. Duh. Double Duh. This should be a no brainer, but acting like I have no brains is my specialty so go figure. 

I keep forgetting how much of a processed funky aftertaste canned soup has.  I use it so rarely. When I do, it's usually mixed into a casserole where the other ingredients mask that weird chemical flavor.  (If you have a lot of processed or canned foods in your diet, this won't be an issue for you.  I never noticed the odd aftertaste until I stopped eating them for a few months.)  This recipe has two ingredients, soup and meat; so there is nowhere for the processed taste to hide.

Cambell's French Onion Soup Burgers from Cambell's Kitchen
1 pound ground beef
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed French Onion Soup
4 slices cheese (I used swiss)
4 hamburger buns

Shape the beef into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) burgers. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the burgers and cook until well browned on both sides. Remove the burgers from the skillet. Pour off any fat.

Stir the soup in the skillet and heat to a boil. Return the burgers to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the burgers are cooked through. Top the burgers with the cheese and cook until the cheese is melted. Serve the burgers on the buns with the soup mixture for dipping.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thankful Thurs #19

1. Blockette is a really good kid.

2. Her wipe out was pretty minor as far as wipe outs go.

3. Her boo boos are healing nicely.

4. She scored two goals at her soccer game.

5. Super moon viewing.

6. The glass jar of taco seasoning that fell almost behind the fridge didn't crack or break. (Neither did the non plastic plate, bowl and cup I dropped right after that.)

7. The swing set.

8. The free concert from Blockette every time she goes on her swings.

9. The fence.

10. Blockette's creativity.  Blockette has to write sentences of her spelling words.  One of this week's words is "flawless."  She wrote the following sentence "Candace is a Flawless Girl." I think you kind of have to watch the cartoon Phineas and Ferb to get the humor. Here's a clip from the show to give you an idea what "Flawless Girl" is.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pasta Cordon Bleu

This is the first of many things I'm making with the tasty tasty Ham with Maple and Mustard Glaze we had for Easter.

I can't remember the last time I actually had Chicken Cordon Bleu.  It's been at least 8 years.  At Least.

I used to buy those little frozen breaded things at the grocery store.  They came in individual little packets.  They were great when I was just whipping up something for myself. (I thought that was cooking in those days.)  The chicken always turned out a bit on the rubbery side.  And now that I CAN cook, I won't eat rubbery chicken even if it starts raining donuts.

Don't really know why I haven't attempted to make Cordon Bleu before.  Maybe the memory of the rubbery processed stuff has lingered in my mental taste buds?  Or maybe I thought it was too much work and involved handling raw chicken.

Handling raw chicken is super icky.  I try to use a fork when possible.  You can't really get around it if you have to stuff or roll up a piece of raw chicken. That, more than anything is probably why I've never made the darn dish.

Oh ho!  But then I saw pasta cordon bleu from Amy's New Kitchen.  There's no wrapping or anything to do with raw meats.  The recipe even uses pre-cooked diced chicken and ham.  How is that for speedy awesomeness?

As is my M.O, I did not follow the recipe to the letter.  The recipe didn't get the best reviews, but I was certain I could improve on it.  I made a few changes here and there, including nearly burning the panko and breadcrumb topping under the broiler! 
It looks a lot worse than it is.

See, you can't even tell when it's all mixed together.  And what's most important, there was zero burnt taste.  In fact, until Mrblocko looks at this post, I'll wager he had no idea how "cajun" the breadcrumbs were right out of the oven.

Pasta Cordon Bleu adapted from Amy's New Kitchen
3/4 lb. Pasta (I used penne)
1 cup Chicken Breasts, cooked and cubed
1 cup Ham, cooked and cubed
1 T olive oil
1 small diced onion1 1/2 cups Milk
8 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
2 T spicy or Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8t cayenne
2 cups Gruyere, shredded
2 cups defrosted peas (I only used 1 c. but it wasn't enough, and this is me who doesn't like peas saying this.)
3/4c combination of breadcrumbs and panko
1/4 cup Butter, melted

Cook pasta per package instructions. Drain and add meat to the pot, tossing to combine.  Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan saute onions in oil.  When onions begin to brown, add milk, cream cheese and mustard. Stir until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.  Add sauce to noodles and combine, then stir in cheese and peas.  Pour into 9x13 baking dish. Combine breadcrumbs/panko with melted butter.  Evenly sprinkle breadcrumbs over top of dish.  Place under broiler for 4 minutes, watching carefully so it browns and doesn't burn.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wool Dryer Balls

I have some plastic dryer balls. They look a little like a cross between a porcupine and a racquetball. My mom bought them for me several years ago when we started having trouble with our dryer.  The purpose of the dryer balls is to help the clothes tumble and therefore, dry faster.  I haven't done any scientific experiments, but they seem to cut down slightly on the dry times of large loads.

Once upon a time I had 4 dryer balls but one of them split open.  I'm thinking it had some sort of defect in the plastic.  Mrblocko's sweatshirt sleeves also like to eat them.  I don't know why I never notice it when I'm hanging them up, or even think to look inside them when I'm doing a second load of laundry and all the dryer balls are MIA.

Anyhow, I saw this tutorial for wool dryer balls from Good Mama and thought it would be a fun thing to try.  I got two dryer balls from one skein of 100% wool yarn from Joann Fabrics.  I can't remember what brand, just that it was half off at the time.

All you really need to do is wrap the yarn into a small ball.
As you can see here, mine is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

Then you stick the dryer balls in a sock or nylon of some sort, knotting the sock in between each ball.  I used a holey old knee high sock and was able to easily fit two of them in there. If you don't stick them in some sort of sock, they will unravel before the yarn gets a chance to felt together.

I tossed this weird looking sock in with the HOT washes, like whites and towels.  I would say it was about a total of four washes and drys.  I had to spread this out over two weeks as we are a small family who only does three loads of laundry a week.

Once the balls have been through the wash and dryer for a few times, add second layer.
Wash and dry them a few times and add a third layer. And, yep you guessed it, wash and dry them a few more times.

Here is what they look like after the final felting. (The blue spiky thing is one of my plastic dryer balls.)
The final product is slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

This project took me several weeks to finish simply because we don't do a lot of laundry in our house, but over all it was one of the easiest craft projects I've done in a long time.

P.S. I bet these would also make great cat toys, provided you don't have old man cats like me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

PBJ Ice Cream a la "The King"

What this ice cream should really be called is a "hunka chunka freezin' love".

A few weeks ago I accidentally bought a gallon of milk when we already had over a gallon in the fridge! Yikes. It was pretty crowded in there so I thought there was no better way to get rid of all that extra milk than to make us some ice cream. This recipe for peanut butter cup ice cream from Recipe Girl seemed like it would really hit the spot.

Hmmm...but I had a lot of other things that I wanted to use up. Like frozen bananas and strawberry freezer jam that never set up properly. (Man do I ever have lots of that stuff.)  But jelly goes well with peanut butter.  And Elvis teaches us bananas go well with peanut butter too.  So why not do both!

My husband proclaimed that this is the most disgusting looking ice cream ever. Of course he redeemed himself by saying it was also the best tasting ice cream ever.  It really was! (Gross looking and super duper yummy.)  And this coming from the man who has repeatedly said he doesn't care for peanut butter desserts.  (Maybe I shouldn't listen to him when he says stuff like that cause I know what I'm talking about when it comes to desserts.  If I know one thing, it's the goodness of desserts.  Yeah!)

Anyhow, back on track!  I didn't use any cream, just 100% skim milk.  There is so much sugar and other things going on, no one missed the cream.    If you are super picky about the texture of the ice cream, by all means, use a more fatty filled cow based mammary glad liquid product. 

As we had lots of little bunny shaped peanut butter "cups" left over from the Easter bunny, I chopped those little suckers up and used them instead of the traditional Reece's PB cups.  I probably had a little too much fun mutilating the peanut butter bunnies.  It was a good thing that no one else was home to hear my maniacal laughter.  (It's the little things that get me through the day.)  Unfortunately, I was about 1/8c shy of the required amount of pb cups.  So, I did the next best thing and chopped up a Hershey bar that I had leftover from when I made S'more Cookies last month.  They did the trick quite nicely.

I can't decide if I like this peanut butter ice cream, or the chocolate peanut butter swirl Ice Cream I made last year.  While they are both peanut butter ice creams, they are so different.  This one has peanut butter flavored ice cream with chocolatey peanut butter bits, while the other one is chocolate ice cream with peanut butter blobs.  They might seem like they should taste the same, but they are really so different.  I suggest you make both and decide for yourself!

Hunka Chunka Freezin Love - PB Banana Ice Cream with Mutilated Peanut butter cup bunnies and Strawberry jelly swirl adapted from Recipe girl
1 1/4 c creamy peanut butter
3/4 c sugar
1 large very ripe banana
3 1/4 c milk (or 1 1/4c milk and 2 c cream)
1 1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2c chopped pb cups (or bunnies if you are into that sort of thing)
strawberry jelly/syrup (if you use jelly nuke it until it is melted and liquidy - about 30 sec or so)

With a mixer, combine peanut butter, sugar and mashed banana until smooth.  Slowly add in 1 c of milk.  Mix on low for 2 minutes until sugar is fully dissolved and no longer grainy.  Add the remainder of the milk and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Pour into your ice cream maker and prepare as suggested by the manufacturer.   It will probably take about 25-30 minutes.  I tried to add my pb cups at the last 5 minutes of blending, but my ice cream maker didn't like that, so I poured the ice cream into a shallow freezer safe container and then stirred in my pb cups.  Once the pb cups were evenly distributed, I added in a few swirls of strawberry syrup.  I eyeballed this so I'm not certain of the amount I used.  It was probably somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 c.  At this point the ice cream will be very soft.  It is best after it sits in the freezer for 3-5 hours.  If you should have leftovers at this point, be advised that the ice cream will be diamond hard.  I usually leave the ice cream on the counter while we are eating dinner and it is scoop-able by the time we are done. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Winner! Winner! Cake for Dinner!

Ok. So we didn't really have cake for dinner. 

But I did win all this cake loot from a contest over at Cookie madness!!!!

The cake is not a lie.

The package contained: two boxes of Duncan Hines French Vanilla Cake Mix, Devils Food Cake Mix, 4 tubs of frosting creations, and a packet each of strawberry shortcake, orange cream, cherry vanilla and chocolate marshmallow frosting mix ins.

I haven't had time to make anything with my cake-y loot.  I can't decide what to make first.  It's hard to think clearly when you are dancing around singing a song about free cake.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thankful Thurs #18

1. It stopped raining long enough to move the swing set over from our neighbor's yard to ours.

2. No one, person, place, or thing was injured or maimed in the moving of the swing set.

3. Prayer.

4. Crafty time.

5. The speech one of the Graduating Seniors made on Youth Sunday.

6. Getting the gutters cleaned out.

7. Chewin' the fat with my mom.

8. I didn't send Blockette to school on Tues.  (Even though I thought about sending her just to see what the school nurse would say.  Hey her eye was only a little pink right?)

9. Blockette has been really good about taking her eye drops.

10.  I rescheduled my girls beading day with my best friend that I was supposed to go to on Tues.  (Was it ever nice to be out of the house and not around a bored six year old who wanted to watch "Gnomeo and Juliet" AGAIN.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

sWiNgY sWiNgY sWinG!!!

A few weeks ago I mentioned I was thankful for a talk I had with one of our neighbors. I was sealing the fence in his yard and I just assumed, as it was during the day on a school day, no one was home.  I think we both startled each other!  Anyhow, we got to chatting and out of the blue he asked me if I wanted their swing set.  For free. 


As our backyard is such a weird shape, I told him I didn't think it would fit.  I went and got a tape measure anyway. 

OH my GOODNESS!  There was room.  Just enough room!

Blockette was going to get a swing set!  Did you know this was her life long dream?  I did because she has told me repeatedly.

It took a few weeks for Mrblocko and our neighbor's schedule to coincide, but on Saturday they moved the swing set into our yard. 

The swings were pretty rusted so I ordered some new ones online.  They arrived Monday right before she got home from school.

Monday afternoon was a singing and swinging extravaganza.

Too bad it rained all day Tuesday, and she was home from school with pink eye to boot.

I told her eventually it will stop raining, and there will be plenty more times to go outside and swing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April Reads

A short list of reads again this month. I've been having such a hard time making time to read. I've been in a cross stitching and tv watching mode at night I guess.

1. Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston. A the first chapter of a manuscript was found that was believed to be written by Jane Austen. This author, for her sophomore novel, was bullied into completing it. The kicker is, that although she writes historical fiction, this novel is not in her area of expertise, particularly because she has never read or seen a single piece of Jane Austen's work. Slowly as her deadline approaches, after much internal struggle, she becomes entranced with the Austen world. I was surprised but pleased with the ending. I was afraid that the book would end quaint and contrived. The ending is happy, but it left me cheering instead of rolling my eyes. I think this is a great book for those just slightly interested in Austen to the diehard fan. Incidentally, the author of this book has written several novels that were a type of sequel to Jane Austen's stories. I don't really have any desire to read them as I feel Austen's stories can stand alone and I can leave the rest to my imagination.

2. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book 3 The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood.  This is, as the title suggests the third book in the series.  An amusing side story: My husband likes to read the jackets of the books I bring home from the library.  Oh, it's not cause he is wanting to make sure I'm reading quality books.  He just wants to find out if it's something he'd like to read.  You see, occasionally, our literary tastes overlap.  So he says to me, "That sounds like an interesting book, but did you know it is the third book in the series?"  I said, "Yes, that's why I checked it out.  Did you want to read the first one?"  And then he said, "No.  I meant it sounded interesting for you."  Well la de da captain obvious.  Isn't it grand to know that I am able to check books out for myself that I might find interesting.  What a nut!  Anyhow, back to the Unseen Guest.  The main character, Penelope, the nanny of 3 children raised by wolves, has come no closer to realizing that her employer might just be a werewolf.  She does however get to meet the wolves that cared for her charges, but this raises more questions than answers.  I'm still convinced that Penelope is somehow related to the children, and now am speculating that the family of the writer she has taken a fancy to is somehow entwined with the family she works for.  I can't wait for book four!