Monday, November 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves 12.

Whether she remembers it or not, I received this recipe from Jessi of To Kiss The Cook back when we were sorority sisters at Miami University. She brought it to a family gathering of another KKG we were attending; I loved it; went home with the recipe; have been enjoying it ever since. Thanks Jessi!
My only changes involve reducing the amount of butter, not in an attempt to "healthify" the recipe, but because it seemed to turn out a little too soupy.

I contributed this casserole to the Thanksgiving spread this year. As it was my first Thanksgiving with The Mr.'s side of the family, I was less than enthusiastic to whip out my camera at the dinner table. I had to sacrifice the blog and keep my camera tucked away, but trust me when I say that it's fantastic. Everyone loved it!

7 sweet potatoes or yams (I used 5 huge ones)
1/2 stick butter
1 egg
1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/4-1/2 stick cold butter
sliced almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prick potatoes with a fork a few times each and boil them (with skin) for about 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and place potatoes on a plate until they are cool enough to touch; peel the skin off with your hands. Add the peeled potatoes to a large mixing bowl along with the other casserole ingredients and blend with a hand mixer on high until the mixture is smooth.
Place mixture in a casserole dish (ideally glass or ceramic) that has been coated with non-stick spray.

In a separate bowl, prepare topping by combining sugar and flour, and then cutting in the cold butter. It should be a chunky streusel topping. Sprinkle on top of the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes, 45 if you have prepared ahead of time and refrigerated.

A Note From The Little Lady: Upon first reading the recipe, I was hesitant to boil the potatoes whole, with skins. I was unfamiliar with that method, and instead went through the traditional work of peeling, chopping, and boiling in smaller chunks. Believe me when I say that the method of boiling with skins works and it's actually just as easy as it sounds. The skins pretty much slide right off. I'm not sure if sweet potato skins are thicker to begin with, or if this would work with regular potatoes too -- anyone know?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Stockings

Christmas Stockings

Stockings are one of my favorite things about Christmas. I don't know what it is about them, but the gifts inside are usually unpretentious, thoughtful, and, if you're lucky, a few will be edible. After The Mr. and I had been dating for a year or two, I came across two homeless stockings from my grandparents' house. And a new tradition was added to The Mr.'s and my gift exchange. Truth be told, I think the stuffing of stocking stressed him out at first, but I'm convinced he enjoys it more and more each year.

With this holiday season being our first as husband and wife, I thought it was only appropriate that we acquire some stockings to call our own. Always looking for the chance to do something myself, I set out on a new project. And, what do you know, it worked out just fine. I'm actually quite tickled over our new stockings. You may wonder why there are three. 1) I couldn't make up my mind between fabrics, and 2) I was certain I would butcher one of them in the production process. Surprisingly, I didn't, so I guess now we just need to wait for a furry little friend to come along. But no, there will not be one under the Christmas Tree.

Main fabric: Christmas Classics Peppermint Stripe Green (1 yd.)
Flap fabric: Cookie Cutter Christmas Holly Berry Dots Vanilla/Green (1 yd.)

Main fabric: Christmas Valley Holiday Stripe Natural (1 yd.)
Flap fabric: Winter Fun Checks Red (1 yd.)


Main fabric: City Girl Holiday Ribbon Stripe Red/Pink (1 yd.)
Flap fabric: Holiday Greetings Polka Dot Camel (1 yd.)


Directions: (keep in mind I kinda made these up as I went along, so I apologize ahead of time if they aren't as clear as they should be..)
Using a stocking you already have (or one from the $ store), create a pattern by tracing and cutting a sheet of cardstock about an inch outside the edge of the actual stocking.

Create double layers by folding fabric (main and flap) and batting in half. Starting with main fabric, pin pattern to fabric and cut. You will have two pieces of main stocking fabric. Repeat with batting.

FLAP FABRIC IS DIFFERENT: Pin pattern to fabric. Cut, but make it an extra 3-4" longer on top than the main fabric. See pictures below.

As show in picture above, layer fabrics and batting in the following order:

1: Flap fabric, right side to floor, wrong side up
2: Batting
3: Main fabric, right side up, wrong side to batting
4: Main fabric, right side down, wrong side up
5: Batting
6: Flap fabric, wrong side down, right side up

Pin around edges, about 1" from edge.

At the top of the flap fabric, fold under (wrong side to wrong side) about 1/2" to create a clean, non-fraying edge. Pin and stitch.

This is where it gets a little confusing...
To create flap, carefully fold flaps "into" the stocking and "into" each other. Remember, at this point, your stocking is inside out, so by folding the flaps into the stocking, you are creating them on the right side. Pin into place. (You may have to take a few of your original pins out to make space for the flap. Just repin them after arranging the flap.)
At this point, your layering will look like this:

1: Flap fabric, right side to floor, wrong side up
2: Batting
3: Main fabric, right side up, wrong side to batting
4: FLAP: right side up, wrong side pinned to main fabric
5: FLAP #2: right side to floor, wrong side pinned to other main fabric
6: Main fabric, right side down, wrong side up
7: Batting
8: Flap fabric, wrong side down, right side up

Using a sewing machine set to a straight stitch, stitch around edges,

Clean up the edges by cutting away any extra fabric and batting. Don't cut through the stitch though!

Turn your stocking inside out.

Did it turn out?? I hope so!

Every stocking needs a way to hang above the fireplace, though, right? Create a hanging loop but starting with a piece of main fabric, about 2" wide and 7" long.

Fold them over lengthwise, right sides together, and stitch close to the edge.

Turn inside out, put ends together, and sew to inside of stocking.

Again, I apologize for any faulty directions. I should've taken more pictures!

A Note From The LL: All fabric bought at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Striped Pajamas, Part 1

Striped Pajamas, Part 1

I learned how to sew in high school, from the teachings of my home economics teacher and my very own mother, a clothing and textiles major. As a wedding gift, I received my very own sewing machine. ::sigh:: It was a day up there with, although still a long shot from, the Christmas I received my first KitchenAid mixer. (Yes, first. My grandmother "Mimo" upgraded me to the industrial size as a wedding present.) Anyway, I digress. Having a sewing machine in my possession could mean only one thing: I'd have to create something. So, first on the list: pajamas. I've made pajama pants in the past. I'm familiar with that. This whole shirt thing -- with buttons, a collar, and interfacing??? -- was a whole new area of exploration.

Needless to say, "production" has slowed now that the pants are finished. I have the workings of my shirt strewn across the living room floor, trying to figure out where I'm supposed to sew next. In due time, I hope to have it completed, but for now, I bring you Striped Pajamas, Part 1.

Here are the supplies I used. Since I followed instructions on the Kwik Sew pattern, I'm not going to go into detail on the actual production. But for those who are familiar with sewing, you might appreciate seeing what I ordered.

pattern: Kwik Sew Pattern #2811 Misses Sleepwear Pajamas (bought on Ebay)
fabric: #QQ652 Coral Multi-Stripe Shirting (bought on
thread: All-Purpose Polyester Thread #NMC020938, also from FFC
buttons: (4) 3/4" light tortoise shell 4-hole #NMC090477, also from FFC
interfacing: Pellon Decor-Bond NR-744, fusible, white (
elastic: 1" wide white; 1 foot

Cutting out the pattern pieces:

Filling the bobbin:

Making ties for the waist band:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vento La Trattoria

Vento La Trattoria

28611 Lake Road
Bay Village, Ohio

Vento La Trattoria is new to Bay Village, squeezed into a tiny space between Huntington Playhouse and BayArts. We finally got around to trying it out and really enjoyed it. It may be the smallest, quaintest little restaurant I've ever been to. There are about 10 tables, if that, a small bar, dessert case, and, in warmer months, a patio that probably doubles their seating space. Although they don't take reservations, they do offer call-ahead seating to accommodate your needs.

If you're seeing a production at Huntington Playhouse, check out their "Theater Patrons" menu -- a $20 meal consisting of appetizer, entree, and dessert -- that guarantees to seat you, feed you, and have you out the door in time for the show.

Or if you're spending the day exploring the metroparks, keep in mind they are open for lunch!

What we ate:

The LL:
*Baby Spinach - $7
Apples, chevre, pistachios, sweet pancetta vinaigrette
*Shrimp & Bay Scallop Bake - $16
sweet potato gnocchi, creamy oregano sauce, shaved parmesan

The Mr.:
*Caesar Salad - $7
Cherry tomato salad, croutons, shaved parmesan
*Pappardalle Pasta - $12
Tomatoes, olives, capers, shaved parmesan

The LL's mom:
*Baby Spinach - $7
Apples, chevre, pistachios, sweet pancetta vinaigrette
*Halibut - $18
Spiced tomato pesto, roasted pepper polenta, vegetable del giorno

The LL's dad:
*Baby Spinach - $7
Apples, chevre, pistachios, sweet pancetta vinaigrette
*Halibut - $18
Spiced tomato pesto, roasted pepper polenta, vegetable del giorno

Shared Dessert: Pumpkin Cheesecake - $6

Salads were fantastic and we all left pleasantly satisfied with our entrees. And the pumpkin cheesecake? Amazing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey - Ideas for Leftovers

Thanksgiving Turkey - Ideas for Leftovers

Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing you a wonderful day and weekend of good food, good family/friends, health, safety, and happiness. Here are some recipes I gathered for your Thanksgiving feast leftovers.

Something for breakfast...
From Maple Sweet Potato Muffins

Something for lunch...

Something for dinner...
From Creamy Turkey Tetrazzini

Something to freeze for later...
From The Great After-Thanksgiving Turkey Enchiladas

A recipe that incorporates ALL your leftovers...
From Five Layer Turkey Dip

Extra pie crusts as well?
From Turkey Pot Pie

For those who may have overindulged...
From Harvest Salad

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Crock Pot BBQ Sandwiches

Crock Pot BBQ Sandwiches

Makes about 8-10 sandwiches.

3 lb. beef (brisket, pot roast, rump roast, or tri tip sirloin roast), pork (butt or shoulder), or chicken (boneless, skinless breasts)
1 onion, chopped
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
Sandwich buns

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tilapia Tacos

Tilapia Tacos

Serves 2.

The inspiration for the avocado cream comes from a blogger who found the original recipe here. I made a few slight changes and have linked my post for taco seasoning in case you don't want to open a store-bought package for only a few teaspoons.

To the avocado cream, I added lime juice and fresh cilantro to give it some added flavor. What a great addition it is! This tasted great on tilapia tacos, but would also work for chicken, ground beef, or steak as well.

3-4 tilapia filets, thawed if frozen
6 taco-sized tortillas
topping options: fresh, chopped tomato, shredded cheese, fresh cilantro, taco sauce, sour cream

avocado cream: 1/2 avocado, 1/8 c. sour cream, 1 T. fresh cilantro, juice from 1 lime wedge

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and warm tortillas wrapped in foil, if desired.
Heat 1-2 T. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Season tilapia with taco seasoning and add to skillet. Pan fry (you could also grill or broil) until fish is white and flakes easily, about 2-3 minutes per side. Tilapia cooks fast!
Make avocado cream by combining the flesh of 1/2 an avocado, sour cream, fresh cilantro, and lime juice.
Assemble avocado cream, flaked tilapia, and desired toppings and you've got dinner!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple and Sausage Egg Bake

Apple and Sausage Egg Bake

Serves 3.

This recipe comes from Christmas Cookbook from The Cake Mix Doctor, and I have adapted it just slightly. The Mr. and I really liked this. Not only was it easy to throw together, but it is make-ahead friendly, diet-friendly, smells wonderful while it bakes, and tastes wonderful while you're eating it.

3 slices bread
1 T. butter, melted
6 oz. sausage (I used smoked sausage, but sausage patties or links would also work well)
1/2 apple, peeled, cored, sliced thin
1/2 t. dried thyme
3 eggs (or equivalent in Egg Beaters)
1 c. milk
1-1/2 c. shredded cheese (I used a mix of cheddar, parmesan, and swiss)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Brush melted butter on the bread slices. Cube bread, removing crusts if desired, and arrange in the bottom of a baking dish (8x8 or round cake pan) that has been coated with non-stick spray.
Brown sausage; drain fat and layer on top of bread.
Add a layer of apple slices, evenly distributing.
Sprinkle with thyme.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour over layers in baking dish.
For the final layer, top with shredded cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes.

A Note From The Little Lady: This is make-ahead friendly, which is music to my ears! I made this after dinner one night, left it in the fridge and baked it for the following night's dinner. Increase the baking time to 30 minutes if following this method.

Make it diet-friendly: Use wheat bread, turkey sausage, Egg Beaters, skim milk, and reduced-fat cheese to easily lighten this dish. You can also eliminate the butter without much change in taste.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oven Fries

Oven Fries

Serves 2.

Source: Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals

2 small potatoes (or 1 large potato)
2-3 t. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Scrub potatoes clean and slice into thin wedges. Toss with olive oil on a baking sheet.
Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven; toss and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Roast for 10 minutes longer.

Serving suggestion: Whiskey Hamburgers and steamed broccoli

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lemon Drop

Lemon Drop

Makes 1 drink.

Who doesn't enjoy the refreshing taste of a lemon drop? Just be careful after one... you may have a little more enjoyment than planned.

superfine sugar
2 oz, citrus vodka
1/2 oz. triple sec
1/2 lemon
1 lemon wheel

Coat the rim of a chilled cocktail glass with superfine sugar.
Fill a shaker halfway with ice cubes.
Add the vodka and triple sec to the shaker and squeeze the juice from the lemon into the shaker.
Shake the mixture vigorously for 5 to 10 seconds.
Strain the drink into the cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cinnamon Spice Ornaments

Cinnamon Spice Ornaments

Consider these ornaments for things other than your Christmas tree. Offer them as a gift to whoever's hosting a holiday event you're attending. If you're the one hosting, hang them creativity throughout your home for a refreshing smell of the holidays that's guarateed to warm your soul and quiet your mind. Have kids at home? They'll love to help!

2 cups cold applesauce
1 cup nutmeg
1 cup ground cinnamon
1 cup ground cloves
Cookie cutters
Wax paper


Make a dough by mixing all of the above ingredients.
Roll dough out 1/4″ thick and make shapes with cookie cutters.
Create a hole on the top of the shapes. I used a meat thermometer, actually, because it was the first thing I thought of. I never actually removed any dough from the hole, just pushed it aside to create the hole.
Lay out shapes on wax paper until they are completely dry, for a few days. They dry much slower than I expected, which is also why I don't have a "completed project" photo posted just yet.
Insert ribbon or string through hole and hang.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Serves 4.

I found the recipe for the gnocchi on the following blog: Jenn Cuisine - Pumpkin Gnocchi. The sauce I made up myself, but it's simple, very common, and could be found on many blogs and recipe sites. The original recipe says it will serve 6, but if using this as a main dish, I would assume 4 servings; 6 side dish servings.

This was a great meal and a fancy change of pace from the normal weekly line-up. The taste, aroma, and ingredients are so appropriate this time of year. And if you're not typically a pumpkin lover, don't shy away. The Mr., who doesn't prefer pumpkin, said that you could "barely taste the pumpkin." His plate was clean -- that's argument enough for me.

1.5 cups pumpkin puree
2 tbs butter
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg pepper

Brown Butter Sage Sauce:
1/2 stick butter
4 T. olive oil
12 sage leaves, very thinly sliced
Salt and Pepper
Fresh parmesan cheese, shredded

In a saucepan, cook pumpkin and butter over low heat, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin has thickened a bit. Remove from the heat and add in the rest of the ingredients, mixing until just combined into your dough. Don’t overmix! Working the dough too much will cause your gnocchi to toughen up. (My dough still had tiny clumps of flour, but I was too afraid to overwork it. Once cooked, you never would've known those tiny clumps existed.)

Cut the dough into sections, and roll each one into long "snakes."

Cut up into about 1/2 inch pieces and roll the gnocchis using a gnocchi board or a fork. I would imagine few people own a gnocchi board, and using a fork creates similar results.

Depending on whether you want to cook them immediately or freeze for later use, follow the appropriate directions below:

To freeze gnocchi: It is best to freeze gnocchi uncooked as soon as they are shaped. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on a baking pan and place the pan in a level position in the freezer. Freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Gather the frozen gnocchi into resealable freezer bags. Frozen gnocchi can be stored in the freezer for 4 to 6 weeks.

To cook fresh gnocchi: Bring six quarts of salted water to a vigorous boil in a large pot over high heat. Drop about half the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook the gnocchi, stirring gently, until tender, about 1 minute after they rise to the surface. Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon of skimmer, draining them well, and transfer to a wide saucepan with some of the sauce to be used. Cook the remaining gnocchi, if necessary.

To cook frozen gnocchi: Gnocchi must be cooked directly from the freezer in plenty of boiling water, or they will stick together. It is important that the water return to a boil as soon as possible; cover the pots if necessary. Drain the gnocchi as described above.

To make brown butter sage sauce: In a high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter with olive oil. "Fry" sage until just crispy. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with gnocchi and top with shredded parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pork and Chive Pot Stickers

Pork and Chive Pot Stickers

Makes 20 pot stickers (but see note).

Amazing! Fun to make, fun to eat, and ever so tasty. The best part is that these are freezer-friendly, so by putting in extra work now, you can easily cook and enjoy the rest at a later date.
Source: Everyday Food Magazine

1/4 lb. ground pork
1 T. minced fresh chives
1-1/2 t. soy sauce
1 t. minced peeled fresh ginger (do not substitute ground)
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. cornstarch
20 wonton wrappers (find these in the produce section)
1 T. vegetable oil

Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

In a bowl, combine pork, chives, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, cornstarch, and 1 T. water.
Place a heaping teaspoon of pork mixture in center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly wet edge of wrapper, fold over, and press to seal. Repeat to form remaining dumplings (about 20).

In two batches, cook dumplings in a large pot of boiling water until cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. In a large nonstick pan, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. In two batches, cook until browned, about 2-2-1/2 minutes per side. Serve with dipping sauce.

Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

In a large bowl, stir together 1/4 c. soy sauce, 3 T. rice vinegar, 1 T. minced peeled fresh ginger, 2 t. sugar, and 1/4 t. sesame oil.

A Note From The Little Lady: At my local grocery store, I wasn't able to buy anything less than 1 lb. ground pork. So, we ended up making close to 50 pot stickers. Granted, we LOVED these, so having the extra in our freezer is not a complaint. But in case you would prefer to make 20 and only 20, plan ahead to use the rest to make meatloaf/meatballs/etc.

Another Note: The only wonton wrappers I could find were squares. Not pleased with the idea of pot sticker "packages" vs. half moons, I used a biscuit cutter to make them circles. Easy enough and well worth it for me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nacho Chicken

Nacho Chicken

Serves 2 (easily doubled, tripled, etc.).

Anyone can do this. It's quick; it's easy; it can be prepared ahead of time. When I served this to The Mr. he said with excitement, "Wow! What's THIS??" And while eating, "Wow! This is so good! How'd you make this?" I had to chuckle to myself as I explained, with complete honesty how I "made this." What I thought was a throw-together attempt to put something on the table quickly turned into an addition to the regular rotation. So, give this recipe to your husband when he's in charge of dinner with the kids. Or, heck, give it to one of the kids themselves. They'll be able to make it... and they'll like it.

2 chicken breasts
1 can condensed cream of cheddar soup
1 c. salsa
1 c. crushed tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine chicken, cheddar soup, and salsa in a baking dish. Cover with foil.
Bake for 1 hour.
During the last 15 minutes, remove foil and top with crushed tortilla chips.
Serve with mexican rice.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Puppy Chow Bars

Puppy Chow Bars

A Little Lady Original. These came to fruition when I was attempting to clean out my pantry. There's nothing worse than coming home from the grocery store and not having the space to unload your groceries. I had 4 opened jars (4!) of different peanut butter varieties (The Little Lady loves her some PB), a half empty box of Special K that wasn't going anywhere fast, and plenty of powdered sugar and chocolate chips. Though I knew I couldn't make Puppy Chow with Special K, I figured I could do something similar. So, a bar form it became! My initial batch had some problems with crumbling a bit when cutting into serving pieces, so I've slightly upped the peanut butter, and decreased the powdered sugar to solve that problem. You should be good to go!

2-1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1 stick butter
3 c. crispy rice cereal (such as Chex, Special K, or Rice Krispies)
3 c. powdered sugar
2 c. chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together cereal and powdered sugar.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine peanut butter and butter, stirring occasionally until butter is completely melted and mixture is without lumps.
Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture and toss to coat.
Press into a lightly-greased 13x9 pan.
Melt chocolate chips and pour over bars, spreading evenly.
Chill in refrigerator for a few hours.
Taste the goodness of Puppy Chow in bar form.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


March by Geraldine Brooks

It took me a while to get into this book. About halfway through, I acquired the desire to keep going, but I can't say I was ever antsy to read it. It reads similar to a diary would. There's the start of the book, and the end of the book -- a straight line that follows chronological events. What I realized is that I don't particularly enjoy these "straight line" books. I like when the end somehow comes full circle. I like when the novel is all wrapped up and tie with a bow. I'm not asking for a bright, pink sparkly bow, necessarily. I don't really care if that bow is black and dingy. I just want a bow. Something to leave me with a feeling of completion. While this was a good book and covered a lot of interesting material, it left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied at the end.
That being said, I've talked to others who loved this book. I'm not discouraging it; just saying that it's not quite my style.


"As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the war, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Riveting and elegant as it is meticulously researched, March is an extraordinary novel woven out of the lore of American history. From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times. To evoke him, Brooks turned to the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May's father,a friend and confidant of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In her telling, March emerges as an idealistic chaplain in the little known backwaters of a war that will test his faith in himself and in the Union cause as he learns that his side, too, is capable of acts of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near mortal illness, he must reassemble his shattered mind and body and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through. Spanning the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott's optimistic children's tale to portray the moral complexity of war, and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism,and by a dangerous and illicit attraction. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, March secures Geraldine Brooks's place as an internationally renowned author of historical fiction."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dr. J

Dr. J

Makes 1 drink.

Yum. The Little Lady liked this a lot. Sierra Mist has a new variety out -- Cranberry -- and we opted to use that since we didn't have any ginger ale. The Mr. said it made the drink seem a little too "girly" but I think that's only because it turned it an oh-so-beautiful shade of PINK. Give this one a try with ginger ale or Sierra Mist Cranberry. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Source: Maran Illustrated Bartending

1-1/2 oz. Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz. vanilla vodka
1/2 lime
3 oz. ginger ale (we used Cranberry Sierra Mist)
1 lime wedge, for garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice cubes.
Add the whiskey, vodka, and juice from 1/2 a lime to a shaker filled with ice.
Shake the mixture vigorously for 5 to 10 seconds.
Pour the contents of the shaker into the glass.
Add the ginger ale to the glass, garnish with a lime wedge and stir.

A Note From The LL: Feel free to substitute scotch, bourbon, or rye whiskey for the Irish whiskey.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Turkey Cookies

Turkey Cookies

Gobble Gobble! Admit it, this made you smile. And if you've got little ones at home, I bet they'd have fun making these for Thanksgiving.

Sugar Cookies (homemade, store bought, or break-n-bake)
Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies
Mini snack size Twix bars
Chocolate Frosting (for "glue")
Decorating frosting (preferably yellow, orange, or red, but, as you can see, green also works)

Cut chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies in half. Inevitably, you will cause some cracks in the chocolate shell. Don't worry about it.
Also cut Twix bars in half.
Arrange marshmallows and Twix (cut sides down) on sugar cookies, using chocolate frosting as glue to hold them down.
Give your turkeys "gobblers" by decorating with additional colored frosting.

A fleet of turkeys!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beer Cheese Spread

Beer Cheese Spread

Makes 2 cups.

This recipe comes from Christmas Cookbook From The Cake Mix Doctor. It has a sophisticated taste with some pretty strong flavors, but people commented that they liked it. It has a slightly, "Wow. That's good. But I don't want to go overboard" affect on people. Make a half batch the first time and go from there.

2 cloves garlic, peeled
8-oz. pkg. (2 cups) Cheddar cheese
1/4 c. beer of your choice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. dry mustard, optional
dash of cayenne pepper
soda crackers, for serving

Place the garlic in a food processor. Pulse until the garlic is well minced. Add the cheese, beer, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper. Process until the mixture comes together and is smooth.

Serve with crackers.
The spread will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Makes 4 mini loaves

This banana bread became my famous recipe while at college. For whatever reason, everyone loved (and still loves!) it. I'd take batches over to The Mr. and his fraternity brothers and they would each eat an entire loaf in one sitting. It's a super easy recipe, requires no skill, and can't even really be considered "homemade," but I'm afraid to try anything else because of the rave reviews it receives. Using the mini loaf pans is key. I've tried standard size pans and it just doesn't turn out as well.

1 box yellow cake mix
1 box instant banana pudding
4 eggs
1 c. water
1/4 c. oil
2 very ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat (4) mini loaf pans with non-stick spray. Throw all ingredients in a bowl and mix. (I do this with a mixing bowl and wooden spoon.) Smooth out any big clumps of cake mix. Divide batter evenly among mini loaf pans. Bake for 35-38 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool. Slice. Serve.
These freeze well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Garlic and Herb Twice-Baked Potatoes

Garlic and Herb Twice-Baked Potatoes

Serves 2.

Are these the best twice-baked potatoes I've ever had? No. But they are slightly easy to pull together, and are a great use for flavored semisoft cheeses. If there were green onions and bacon in my fridge, I would've added those, and then, and only then, they would have been in the running for a higher title. Without them, the flavor was still great for an everyday meal, but if you have the add-ins available, ADD THEM IN!

1 large baking potato
1/4 c. semisoft cheese with garlic and herbs
2 T. butter
Optional Add-Ins: fresh chives, green onions, cooked & crumbled bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Scrub potato clean, pierce with a fork, and bake for 1 hour.
Remove from oven, slice in half lengthwise, and scooop out potato. The closer you can get to the skin without ripping it, the better.
In a bowl, combine potato, cheese, and butter. Mix until well combined. Divide mixture in half, and return to potato skins.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until top is golden.

Make-Ahead Option: After you have restuffed your potato skins, you can refrigerate overnight. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, until warmed through and golden brown on top.

A Note From The Little Lady: Looking for another use for your semisoft cheese? Try this great recipe: Chicken-Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Monday, November 9, 2009

Slow Cooker Sirloin Tip Roast

Slow Cooker Sirloin Tip Roast

Serves 2.

Crock pots can be wonderful time saving tools. They can also be kind of tricky. Soups and stews I've mastered. Pulled BBQ meats I can do. It's the roasts that always throw me for a loop. I toss it in before I leave for work, but all through the day I'm wondering, "Will it work? Or should I start looking for pizza coupons?" THIS one, my friends, was a success. It smelled great when I walked through the door; the meat was tender and flavorful, and we also had a wonderful gravy without any additional work. Pair this with mashed potatoes and you've got an easy meal for a cold night.

Recipe adapted from Fix It and Forget It cookbook.

2-lb. sirloin tip roast
meat rub
all-purpose flour
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1 bottle of beer (preferably a full-flavored beer; I used Red Stripe)
1 clove garlic, minced

Coat roast with meat rub, and then follow with flour. Place in slow cooker
In a bowl, combine dry onion soup mix, brown gravy mix, beer, and garlic. Pour over roast.
Cover. Cook on low 7-9 hours.

A Note From The Little Lady: You might be thinking that a 2-lb. roast sounds like a heck of a lot for two people. Keep in mind that the roast cooks down in size over the time it's in the crock pot. Chances are you'll have a helping of leftovers, but I know we were surprised at how much we ate despite feeling like we didn't eat that much. If that makes sense...

Another note: The original recipe calls for ginger ale instead of beer. We didn't have any ginger ale, and I almost substitued Diet Coke, because I know cola roasts are prevalent. I've read, though, that you shouldn't use Diet (I'm not sure why?) so I figured beer would make a good substitute. Considering how much we liked this, I don't think I'll use anything but beer going forward.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Taco Seasoning

Taco Seasoning

Makes equivalent to one store-bought "packet."

I found this on, and have adapted it slightly. Not only is it nice to have on hand in case you don't have a store-bought packet, but I think you'll also find that it's so easy you may write off buying packets forever.

1 heaping T. chili powder
2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 t. dried oregano
dash cayenne pepper

Combine spices together in a bowl.
Brown 1-1.5 lbs. of ground beef in a skillet, draining off fat. Sprinkle taco seasoning over meat; add 2/3 c. water.
Continue to cook over low heat until water has evaporated and "sauce" has thickened.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Golden Oreo Truffles

Golden Oreo Truffles

Makes 3-1/2 to 4 dozen truffles.

Yum. Yum. Time consuming, and not my favorite thing to make, but the results are well worth it. Wanting to try these, but don't have the crowd to eat them? Try my recipe for Oreo Truffles, For Two.

1 package Golden Oreos (or regular if you prefer)
8-oz. cream cheese, softened
16 oz. Baker's Chocolate, for melting (white, milk, dark, or a combo)

Using a food processor, finely crush Oreos. Blend in cream cheese.
Be careful to not over-process these. I've found that the heat from the food processor can almost cause the dough to melt, changing the consistency in a bad way. If you need to, let the dough chill for a while in the refrigerator before rolling balls.

Roll into balls. Chill for a few hours in refrigerator.

Using the double-boiler method (see the note below), melt the chocolate and coat the truffles. Return to a wax-lined baking sheet. Chill. Drizzle with additional chocolate, if desired.

A Note From The LL: You don't need an "official" double boiler to use this method. I use a glass bowl, setting on top of a saucepan filled with water. The water should be low enough, though, that it doesn't touch the bowl. Heat to a simmer. Add chocolate, remove from heat, and allow chocolate to melt, stirring frequently. When smooth, dip truffles in chocolate. If you need to return it to the heat, simply return to the burner, on low.

I used Golden Oreos, coated in white chocolate, with 1/4 of the truffles coated in dark chocolate. I drizzled with the contrasting chocolate... which, I must admit, is more to cover my imperfections than anything else. :)