Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Caramel Apple Dip

Caramel Apple Dip

Makes about 2 cups.

This is a great recipe for fall -- parties, tailgates, after-school snacks, or weekend cabin getaways.

(1) 8-oz. block cream cheese, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla

Mix all three ingredients until smooth and well-combined. Serve with apple slices.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Maple Pretzel Chicken

Maple Pretzel Chicken

Serves 2.

I was all excited to make a fall-inspired meal of maple pretzel chicken and butternut squash gratin. It turned out 50% failure and 50% huge success. The chicken, a spontaneous creation from the workings of my own mind, was the success! The butternut squash gratin may look appealing in its photograph below, but it was a bust taste-wise.

The Maple Pretzel Chicken was inspired by Strawberry Jell-O Pretzel Salad, and its wonderful combination of sweet and salty. But that dish belongs in the summer; I needed something for fall! So, out went the strawberries and in entered maple syrup. This recipe turned out wonderfully, and both The Mr. and I loved it.

2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 c. crushed pretzels (use food processor to achieve a fine consistency)
1/4 c. vegetable oil

In a high-sided plate (or large, shallow bowl), combine egg and maple syrup. In another plate/bowl, spread the pretzel crumbs evenly.

Heat oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat until, as Rachael Ray would say, "it's screamin' hot."

Drudge chicken breasts in egg/syrup mixture and then coat with pretzels. Fry for approximately 10 minutes on each side, or until chicken is cooked through and pretzel crust is golden.

The failure butternut gratin:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing

Red Velvet Cookies with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 2 dozen.

This came by request from The Mr., and it made me excited because usually I'm the sweet tooth in the house, and not him. Lucky for me, what he wanted was easy to accomplish. I mean, really? 3 ingredient cookies? The least I could do was top them with some homemade cream cheese icing.

1 box red velvet cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 c. oil (see note below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Roll into balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the tops begin to crackle. Cool on wire rack.

A Note From The Little Lady: Cake mixes come in varying sizes. Most are around 16-18 oz. If your mix is on the larger end, feel free to up the amount of oil to 1/2 cup.

(1/2) 8-oz. block cream cheese, softened
1/4 stick butter, softened
1 t. milk
1/2 t. vanilla
2 c. powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, margarine, milk and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth.
Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low speed, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and spreadable.
Frost cookies.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Garlic and Ham Vegetable Saute

Garlic and Ham Vegetable Saute

Serves 2-3.

This was one of those things that was invented based on what I had hibernating in my refrigerator and freezer. We had some deli ham that was relishing in its last days, and some frozen veggies that I was starting to fear would accrue freezer burn if I didn't use them soon. Abracadabra -- a new vegetable side! I loved it, The Mr. loved it (as in, it was the first thing gone off his plate); it was a huge success. Here I thought I was cleaning out my fridge and freezer, and it turns out that we now have a new favorite veggie side dish!

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (use fresh if you have them!)
5 slices deli ham, diced (you could also use bacon or prosciutto)
1/3 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. butter, divided
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

In a large, high-sided saute pan, melt 1 T. butter over medium heat. Add ham, onion, and garlic; increase heat to medium-high and saute until onions are tender and ham has crisped a bit. Add veggies and cook/heat through. Add the other T. of butter, and toss veggies as butter melts to allow it to evenly distribute. Sprinkle with cheese, allow to melt. Serve and enjoy!

A Note From The LL: If you want to save time while still using fresh veggies, buy a bag of the stir fry veggie mix in the produce section. While I always prefer fresh over frozen (and actually very rarely rely on frozen), I must admit that this worked extremely well with frozen veggies.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The autumn season is here; Halloween is right around a corner. Are you looking for a good mystery to snuggle up to? If so, take yourself to the library and pick up this book. I am not typically a mystery reader. In fact, I never would've read this book on my own, but it was a chosen title for our book club. I was hooked from the beginning, and thoroughly enjoyed plowing my way through to the end. So, pull on thick socks, light a fire, heat up some apple cider, and enjoy weaving your way through The Thirteenth Tale.

Here's the review:

"Settle down to enjoy a rousing good ghost story with Diane Setterfield's debut novel, The Thirteenth Tale. Setterfield has rejuvenated the genre with this closely plotted, clever foray into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies, and half-truths. She never cheats by pulling a rabbit out of a hat; this atmospheric story hangs together perfectly.

There are two heroines here: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father's shop. Vida has been confounding her biographers and fans for years by giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it's the truth. Because of a biography that Margaret has written about brothers, Vida chooses Margaret to tell her story, all of it, for the first time. At their initial meeting, the conversation begins:

'You have given nineteen different versions of your life story to journalists in the last two years alone.'

She [Vida] shrugged. 'It's my profession. I'm a storyteller.'

'I am a biographer, I work with facts.'

The game is afoot and Margaret must spend some time sorting out whether or not Vida is actually ready to tell the whole truth. There is more here of Margaret discovering than of Vida cooperating wholeheartedly, but that is part of Vida's plan. The transformative power of truth informs the lives of both women by story's end, and The Thirteenth Tale is finally and convincingly told." --Valerie Ryan

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tiger Shrimp

Tiger Shrimp

This recipe has been passed to me from my family, and to my family from a good friend who made it famous. These are delicious. The Mr. hates shrimp, but loves these. Although he still won't touch other shrimp, he gobbles these up with the rest of us.

1-2 lbs. raw shrimp, peeled, deviened, and tails removed
1 bottle Tiger Sauce (see picture below for visual)
1 lb. pkg. raw bacon

Cut bacon slices in half. Wrap each shrimp with a bacon slice, and secure with a toothpick. Marinate in Tiger Sauce for 4 hours, or overnight. Grill over medium heat until shrimp is cooked and bacon is crispy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baked Artichoke Dip

Baked Artichoke Dip

Artichoke Dip is a classic. For years, I've made the simple mayo-parm-artichoke combo - quick, easy, and a guaranteed party pleaser. Since I was looking for a twist on the classic, while keeping the same appeal, I made a few changes, added a few flavor kicks, and threw it in the oven. It was a hit and definitely a nice option for when you want something a little different. Don't get me wrong, though, the classic 3 ingredient dip still holds its place in this world.

1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 California green chile (a.k.a. Anaheim chile, Long Green Pepper, or Chile Verde), seeded and chopped
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
dash hot sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients, spread in a pie dish (or any other baking dish of your choice), and bake for 30 minutes.

A Note From The LL: This pretty little pepper found it's way into the dip when I was browsing produce at the local farmer's market. I wasn't really sure what its official name was when I bought it, but I assumed it wouldn't be terribly hot, and its little size made it perfect for the dip.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Apple Pie Gooey Bars

Apple Pie Gooey Bars

Fall is here! I was asked to bring a dessert to a family gathering, and my original plan of Maple Cream Apple Pie was eliminated when I arrived at the grocery store 10 minutes after it closed. Rather than taking the time to drive to the 24-hour Giant Eagle, I decided that there were enough ingredients at home to come up with something else. I had everything I needed to make Butter Gooey Bars (always a hit), but I wanted to embrace the arrival of autumn. So, a can of apple pie filling that had been previously neglected finally found its place. I'm not sure if anyone has put this spin on gooey bars before, but it turned out great. It's a rich little dessert, but it's a nice, new option for the fall dessert line-up.

Layer 1:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1 egg

Layer 2:
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 block cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. cinnamon
21 oz. can apple pie filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 pan.

For Layer #1, mix together cake mix, melted butter, and egg. Press into bottom on 13x9 pan.
For Layer #2, cream together cream cheese, powdered sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix in apple pie filling, and pour on top of Layer #1.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. When you remove the pan from the oven, the middle should look a little gooey -- not TOO gooey, but it shouldn't be completely set.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

A Note From The Little Lady: To make standard Butter Gooey Bars, simply eliminate apple pie filling and cinnamon from Layer #2.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Grilled Chicken with Edamame Salad

Grilled Chicken with Edamame Salad

Serves 2.

Adapted from Self Magazine's recipe of the week. I'll be honest, the whole edamame salad business had me a little skeptical. It just seemed like a strange combination to me, BUT it surprised both myself and The Mr. I thought for sure it would get pushed around his plate a few times, a couple bites gone at the end of dinner. Instead, he ate almost the whole serving. We both agreed that, while it was good, we're not sure how fast we'll rush to make it again. The chicken, on the other hand, got split reviews from us. I really enjoyed it -- it was fresh, juicy, and summery. The Mr. doesn't love "citrus" with his "meats." So, if you're like The Mr., steer clear, but if you're like The Little Lady, and can appreciate a little citrus marinade, fire up your grill!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
2 T. oil
2 t. soy sauce
1 t. grated ginger

14 oz. bag of frozen edamame, shelled
1/2 c. julienned red onion
1/4 c. cored, seeded, and julienned bell pepper, yellow or orange
1 navel orange, peeled and thinly sliced

3 T. rice vinegar
2 T. oil
1 t. soy sauce
1/4 t. grated ginger

Mix together orange juice, oil, soy sauce, and ginger, and allow chicken to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Combine salad ingredients in a bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad.

Grill chicken, slice, and serve with edamame salad.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Strawberry Jell-O Pretzel Salad

Strawberry Jell-O Pretzel Salad

This is a summertime classic, and up there as one of my favorites of all time. The salty, buttery pretzels with the sweet middle layer is, in my opinion, the best part. But it is definitely complemented by the strawberries and Jell-O. It's technically a "side dish," labeled a "salad," but one could easily be just as satisfied having it for "dessert."

2 c. crushed pretzels
4 T. sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted

8 oz. block cream cheese
1 c. sugar
9 oz. pkg. Cool Whip, thawed in refrigerator

6 oz. pkg. Strawberry Jell-O
2 c. water, boiling
(2) 10-oz. pkg. of frozen strawberries, thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bottom Layer: Mix crushed pretzels, 4 T. sugar, and 3/4 c. melted butter; spread in a 13x9 pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Cool.

Middle Layer: Mix cream cheese, 1 c. sugar, and Cool Whip until smooth. Spread on pretzel crust.

Top Layer: In a large bowl, dissolve strawberry Jell-O in 2 c. boiling water. Add frozen strawberries. Place bowl in refrigerator until cooled, but not quite set. Spread on cream cheese layer. Chill until Jell-O is completely set.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bottle Cap Photo Magnets

Bottle Cap Photo Magnets

This project was in Martha Stewart Living, January 2008. The first batch adorns my own refrigerator, but I've also made these as gifts before. This is an easy, inexpensive project that doesn't leave you feeling like, "Now what do I do with it?" In fact, you will find that they bring you continued smiles.

bottle caps
1" circular craft punch
clear casting resin
strong craft glue
magnets (ideally with adhesive backing)

Collect bottle caps -- twist-off caps work best, as you don't have to worry about them bending, but I've also used standard bottle caps that have been removed gingerly.

Cut 1" circles from photographs that have been reduced in size (or pick small details from larger photographs, magazine covers, etc.). Using a small dot of glue, attach pictures to inside of bottle caps. This is an important step -- the clear casting resin will cause the photos to float to the top if glue is not used or allowed to fully dry.

Following instructions on the box, prepare clear casting resin and fill each bottle cap to the rim. Tiny bubbles will often form on the surface, but will most likely smooth during the drying process. If you have any large bubbles, try to pop them before allowing caps to dry and harden overnight.

Attach magnets (or thumbtacks!) to the backs of the bottle caps. If using glue, let dry overnight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chinese Almond Cookies

Chinese Almond Cookies

Makes approximately 3 dozen.

These cookies originated because of my dear father-in-law, The Mr.'s dad! He was always buying those "Chinese Cookies" from the grocery store and raving about them. That's when I set out on a mission to create a homemade version that he would love even more! After researching multiple recipes, I came up with this one. Now, whenever I bring him a batch, he hoards them from everyone else! Which, although unfortunate for everyone else, is the best compliment to me! :)

1-1/2 c. shortening
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 T. pure almond extract
3-1/2 c. flour
1-1/4 t. baking soda
3/4 t. salt
can of chocolate frosting

In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add egg and almond extract and beat. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add flour mixture to the mixing bowl, combining well.

Separate dough into three sections, rolling each section into a log (about 2" in diameter). Do your best to keep the ends from coning out (you'll avoid wasting dough later on when slicing). Wrap dough logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice dough (I typically slice every 1/2" or slightly larger, but slice at whatever thickness you prefer), and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Mmmm... cookies...

But wait! They're not complete without the chocolate drizzle! Remember when we made Summer Citrus Muffins and used the technique of placing the wire rack over the sink? Welp, we're doing it again, to save time spent on clean-up!

Microwave can of chocolate (lid removed) for 30 seconds. Stir with a spoon and continuing nuking at 10 second intervals until frosting is melted and drizzly. Yes, drizzly. Holding the spoon straight up and down, dunk into chocolate frosting and drizzle cookies.

A Note From the Little Lady: You can also freeze the logs of dough. Just refrigerate until firm and then place in a freezer bag, for extra freezer-burn protection. Thaw in refrigerator for a few hours before slicing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Broccoli Slaw Salad

Broccoli Slaw Salad

Serves 4 (entree) or 8 (side dish).

This is a great option for a light summer meal or side dish at a picnic. It's flavorful, crunchy, and satisfying. When The Mr. and I eat this as the main entree, I top it with some grilled chicken for extra protein and substance.

(2) 14-oz. pkg. broccoli slaw (see note below)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 pkg. Oriental Ramen noodles
1 c. almond slivers (I used peanuts for allergy purposes)
1 c. shelled sunflower seeds, optional (I omitted)

1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/6 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. water
1 flavor packet from Oriental Ramen noodles

Prepare and mix dressing. Toast nuts and Ramen noodles in 450 degree oven for approximately 5-6 minutes. Watch carefully so they don't burn! In a large bowl, mix broccoli slaw and green onion. Top with nuts and noodles (and sunflower seeds, if using). Toss with dressing, and serve.

A Few Notes From The LL: Broccoli slaw (found near the bagged lettuce) comes in 14 oz. packages in my grocery store. With the amount of dressing, one package is never enough, but using all of the two can sometimes lead to a dry salad. Start out using 1.5 packages of the broccoli slaw, and then, after you've tossed the dressing, check to see if it would be appropriate to add more. You could also slightly increase the amounts of dressing ingredients, but just be careful, as to not upset the balance between the Oriental Ramen flavor packet.

Also, if you are making this ahead of time, wait to toss nuts/noodles/seeds and dressing until just before serving. You don't want to end up with soggy noodles!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Best-Ever Bolognese Sauce

Best-Ever Bolognese Sauce

Serves 6-8.

I found this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, and have adapted it just slightly. The Mr. loves it.

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 c. milk
1 c. chicken broth
1 T. white wine vinegar
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped (optional)
28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
6-oz. can tomato paste
2 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. ground black peper
1/2 t. salt
16-oz. box of pasta, your choice
grated cheese, if desired

In a large stock pot, brown beef, onion, and garlic until meat is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Drain off fat.

Add milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for approximately 10 minutes until milk is nearly evaporated. Stir in broth, vinegar, and fresh chopped tomato (not canned); return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, for approximately 20 minutes until liquid is nearly evaporated.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, seasoning, pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions on the box. Drain. Serve with sauce and grated cheese.

A Note From The LL: Because The Mr. could eat "pasta with red sauce" every day of his life. And because one could say he's a little on the lazy side when it comes to food preparation, I freeze this (sauce and pasta) in individual portion sizes, so that he can reheat and enjoy as he likes. If you prefer, you could also freeze just the sauce.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Serves 2.

This was one of those recipes that came to me as I was digging through the refrigerator looking for something else. We had one wedge of Laughing Cow cheese left that was begging to be used. I don't know about you, but there's something gratifying to me about throwing away an empty container. Maybe it's because I'm getting it out of an area that's already over-crowded; maybe it's because I feel good about the fact that I let nothing go to waste. Anyway, I knew some garlic bread would go wonderfully with the pasta we were having, and with the addition of some creamy cheese, I knew it could be even better. Thus, the following recipe emerged. YUM.

4 slices Italian bread
2 T. butter, softened
1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese, Original flavor
1 clove garlic, minced and pressed
1/2 t. Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If you are working with a soft Italian bread, lightly toast it first.
In a bowl, combine butter, cheese, garlic, and Italian seasoning, mixing well. Spread on bread slices and put them back-to-back. Butter the exposed sides of the end pieces. Wrap in foil and bake for 10 minutes to warm through.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Henry's at the Barn

Henry's at the Barn
36840 Detroit Road
Avon, Ohio
(440) 934-6636

The Mr. suggested we catch a Crushers' baseball game, and since we rarely head out that direction, we decided to try out a new restaurant beforehand, as well. Going back and forth between Henry's at the Barn and Nemo Grille, we ended up choosing Henry's at the Barn based on the rave reviews of their patio. And with the absolutely gorgeous weather we've had lately, how can anyone turn down a meal outdoors? So, to Henry's we went!

What We Drank:
bottle of Dryer-Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon, $25 (from their "20 for $25" wine list)

What We Ate:
The LL:
*Iceberg Wedge, Apple Pepper Smoked Bacon, Pimento Cheese, Corn & Hot Pepper Hushpuppy, Green Goddess Dressing, $6
*Cast Iron Grouper, Fried Smoked Bleu Cheese Grits, Caramelized Onion Jam, $28
The Mr.:
*Lake Erie Fries, Perch, Walleye, Idaho & Sweet Potato, Paul's Cool Tartar sauce, $13
*Grilled 12 oz. New York Strip, Butter Garlic Mushrooms, Smoked Bleu Cheese, Melted Leek, Sweet & Yukon Potato Gratin, $28

Henry's at the Barn has character. Situated in an old 1830's blue barn (it's tucked near the back of Olde Avon Village, so keep that in mind when you're trying to find it), the inside seating offers a warmth of an old ski lodge, and the upscale nature of a fancy establishment. Since we had plans to eat out on the patio, we knew we could get by with slightly more casual attire, but upon returning to check on the inside, I would recommend business casual.

The menu, and restaurant itself, are reminiscient of a Southern restaurant, with plenty of seafood options and comfortable hospitality. The website decribes it as "Carolina Low Country Cuisine." An in-ground fire pit sits in the middle of the patio, which I'm sure would be fun to sit around in cooler autumn evenings.

Onto the food. Warm multi-grain bread arrived first, with three options for dressing it up: pimento cheese, chow chow (a spicy, sweet & sour pepper relish), and honey butter. Of the three, the honey butter was our least favorite.

I got the iceberg wedge. It was fabulous. I would by all means order this again. The pimento cheese was an interesting addition; one that I wasn't particularly wild about, but it was a nice change and complimented the other flavors well. The Green Goddess dressing was fantastic, although it left quite a ferocious taste in my mouth, so pack gum or mints.

The Mr. got the Lake Erie Fries, which I didn't have a ton of because I knew I was going to be eating grouper as my entree. The whole time, I couldn't stop thinking: "I wonder what came first? Burger King Chicken Fries? Or Henry's Lake Erie Fries? They are basically long strips of fish, fried. They had a flavorful breading and a wonderful tartar sauce. The actual potato fries were, in my opinion, average. Not enough crisp and not enough salt.

The Mr.'s entree. He seemed to really enjoy this, especially the load of toppings that came on the steak. I did catch him successfully working around the button mushrooms, but for all you other mushroom-scaredy cats, do not fear, because there were too few mushrooms to really worry about. I always prefer a filet mignon over a strip steak (even if I have to pay for it), but this was a nice option.

The Little Lady's grouper and fried bleu cheese grits. The fish was great -- it tasted blackened, which I wasn't really expecting, but had no complaints. The caramelized onions were a delicious addition. The fried bleu cheese grits were probably what sold me on ordering this as my entree, but I was a little disappointed. It seemed that there was a hunk of bleu cheese in the middle, surrounded by the grits, and then deep fried. While it was still good (how could it not be?), I wish the bleu cheese had been evenly distributed throughout the grits.

The service was what you would expect at a restaurant like this - we were treated well from the moment we walked in to the moment we walked out. The only thing that threw us a little was the fact that we were left to refill our own wine glasses. Not that it bothers me that much, but since that's what you typically expect at a place like this, we gave it some extra time and then opted to just refill the glasses ourselves.

A Note From the LL: We bought a gift certificate off of beforehand, which is a such a great way to enjoy a nice meal for less. If you're thinking about dining at Henry's at the Barn, you should do the same thing!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beer Mac & Cheese

Beer Mac & Cheese

Serves 2.

I originally saw this while browsing the blogging world: and knew that I had to make it. It just sounded too good to pass up! After adjusting the amounts to make for a smaller batch, and personalizing a bit to make it my own, I came up with the following recipe. The Mr. LOVED this, and I really enjoyed it too. In fact, I had to adjust measurements again because I hadn't made it enough! The measurements I'm posting should allow for heartier portions.

1-1/2 T. butter
1-1/2 T. flour
3/4 c. milk (preferably not skim)
3/4 c. beer (I used Red Stripe, but I think anything would work)
2-1/2 c. shredded cheese, your pick (I used cheddar and parmesan)
1-1/2 c. dried macaroni noodles (or approximately 7-8 oz.)
1/3 c. onion, diced
1 T. hot sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook macaroni in salted water, according to directions on the box. Do not overcook.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan and mix in flour. Add milk, cook until bubbling. Add beer, cook until bubbling. Cover partially and cook about 10 minutes more.

During this time, the pasta will most likely have completed it's cooking time. Drain pasta and return to its pot, immediately mixing in diced onion with hot noodles.

Back to the cheese sauce -- After the 10 minutes, add shredded cheese, stirring frequently until completed melted and smooth. Add hot sauce, salt, and pepper.

Add pasta and onions to cheese sauce, and stir to cover completely. Transfer to a baking dish and bake for 35 minutes.

A Note From The Little Lady: By request of The Mr., I baked this covered, as to prevent any crunchy top noodles. If you prefer the browned top of a baked mac & cheese, by all means bake it uncovered. I enjoy those crunchy top noodles, and easily claimed the edges in hopes of getting the same thing. It worked for me. So if you're split down the middle, bake it covered and let one eat the middle, and the other eat the edges. :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

What a good book. I loved it! Well, I'm not sure "loved" is the best word, considering the topic it explores, but Picoult does an amazing job of taking a touchy subject and successfully exploring it from all sides.


Best known for tackling controversial issues through richly told fictional accounts, Jodi Picoult's 14th novel, Nineteen Minutes, deals with the truth and consequences of a smalltown high-school shooting. Set in Sterling, New Hampshire, Picoult offers reads a glimpse of what would cause a 17-year-old to wake up one day, load his backpack with four guns, and kill nine students and one teacher in the span of nineteen minutes. As with any Picoult novel, the answers are never black and white, and it is her exceptional ability to blur the lines between right and wrong that make this author such a captivating storyteller.

On Peter Houghton's first day of kindergarten, he watched helplessly as an older boy ripped his lunch box out of his hands and threw it out the window. From that day on, his life was a series of humiliations, from having his pants pulled down in the cafeteria, to being called a freak at every turn. But can endless bullying justify murder? As Picoult attempts to answer this question, she shows us all sides of the equation, from the ruthless jock who loses his ability to speak after being shot in the head, to the mother who both blames and pities herself for producing what most would call a monster. Surrounding Peter's story is that of Josie Cormier, a former friend whose acceptance into the popular crowd hangs on a string that makes it impossible for her to reconcile her beliefs with her actions.

At times, Nineteen Minutes can seem tediously stereotypical-- jocks versus nerds, parent versus child, teacher versus student. Part of Picoult's gift is showing us the subtleties of these common dynamics, and the startling effects they often have on the moral landscape. As Peter's mother says at the end of this spellbinding novel, "Everyone would remember Peter for nineteen minutes of his life, but what about the other nine million?"
--Gisele Toueg

I think the thing that impressed me the most about this book was its exceptional ability to cover the thoughts and feelings of all the main groups affected by the shooting. I found myself feeling apathetic for Peter, the ::gasp:: shooter!, and his family. I found myself angry at the bullies, and the teachers for not doing anything to stop it. And then, naturally, I found myself furious with Peter and extremely sympathetic to the families who lost their children that day. You caught of glimpse of the lawyers' lives, the detectives', and the students still reeling what from they experienced that fateful day.

There are some books that you start, and then finish, and then move on to the next one without much more than a "hmm.. good book." But this one will stick with me for a while.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Potato and Onion Gratin

Potato and Onion Gratin

Serves 2.

Inspired by a recipe in a Williams & Sonoma cookbook. You'll be surprised how far one potato can go when thinly sliced.

1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
2 T. milk, divided
2 T. butter, melted, divided
2 T. shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
2 t. dried rosemary, divided
1 t. salt, divided
1/2 t. pepper, divided
1 T. breadcrumbs
2 T. shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, toss together potato, onion, and garlic. Arrange 1/2 of mixture as the bottom layer in a baking dish. Pour 1 T. milk and 1 T. melted butter overtop. Season with 1 T. Parmesan, 1 t. rosemary, 1/2 t. salt, and 1/4 t. pepper. Repeat with second layer of potato mixture, milk, butter, and seasoning. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired. Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes longer.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beer Margaritas

Beer Margaritas

Makes ~6 margaritas.

A summer classic you can't beat.

1 can frozen limeaid concentrate, slightly thawed
12 oz. water
12 oz. tequila
12 oz. beer
lime wedges

Combine all ingredients (besides lime wedges) in a pitcher. Stir to combine. Pour into margarita glasses and garnish with lime wedges.

You can also make these in a blender, which will crush the ice cubes, making more of a frozen margarita, BUT (AND IT'S A BIG "BUT"), don't stir in the beer until AFTER you've blended. Blender + carbonation = big mess. I've been there.

A Note From The LL: Rather than measuring out all your liquids, simply dump the frozen limeaid into the pitcher, and then refill the can with water, then tequila, then beer (or, if you're a bright crayon, you'll know to just pour the beer from its can/bottle...).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Whiskey Hamburgers

Whiskey Hamburgers

Makes 6 hamburger patties.

Adapted from This was a hit with the men, who said they really liked the flavor. I think I masked mine with too much ketchup, onion, and tomato, but they were easy, different, and a hit with the guys, so I'd definitely make them again. I got a request for the recipe the next day, so you know that's a good sign!

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 T worchestershire sauce
1 shot whiskey
1 egg
2 t. garlic powder
1 t. Seasoning Salt

Mix all ingredients. Shape into 6 patties. Grill over medium heat, ~5-8 minutes per side.