Monday, February 28, 2011

Pimento Cheese Spread

Pimento Cheese Spread

Makes 1-1/2 cups.

This was a great dip... and so easy to throw together! Add it to a meat and cheese tray and your friends and family will be even more impressed.
Slightly adapted from: Martha Stewart Living cookbook

1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
2 oz. grated cheddar cheese (3/4 cup)
1 (2-oz.) jar pimentos
1/8 t. Tabasco sauce
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crackers, for serving

Combine all ingredients (except crackers) and mix until well-combined. Transfer to a serving bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Spunky Spinach Dip

Spunky Spinach Dip

Now I know what the "spunky" means... the salsa gives it quite a kick!
Source: Gooseberry Patch cookbook

2 c. salsa
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
8-oz. cream cheese, softened
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients together and place in a baking dish. Bake, covered, for 25-30 minutes.
Serve with tortilla chips or your favorite dipper.

A Note From The Little Lady: I halved the recipe, so keep that in mind when checking out my pictures.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Father of the Rain

Father of the Rain by Lily King

This book got great reviews, but it didn't do much for me. I was interested half the time and wanting to skim pages the other half. I think if it was the same story in half the pages, it would be a better book. But obviously I'm in the minority, so it might be worth your time.

Publishers Weekly review from

Whiting Award–winner King (The English Teacher) captures with easy strokes the bold and dangerous personalities lurking inside the mundane frame of domestic drama. Her third novel, narrated by the clear-eyed daughter of an alcoholic father, follows their evolving relationship. The opening scene-- with 11-year-old Daley and her father wreaking delirious havoc by streaking naked at a martini-fueled pool party in the sleepy Boston suburbs-- brims with Daley's love for her father and desire for connection with him, but is also tinged with the repercussions of a charismatic man divorced from the role of parenthood, unlike Daley's socially responsible mother. Daley watches her father's continued degradation, but after years of self-imposed cultural and emotional distance from him--she flourishes at Berkeley and builds a loving, stable relationship with an African-American man she knows her Waspish father will despise--she eventually returns to her father's side after he is no longer capable of living alone. While Daley's perfect romance with her strapping, intelligent suitor is simplistic though sensual, King's latest is original and deftly drawn, the work of a master psychological portraitist.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pierogi and Kielbasa Bake

Pierogi and Kielbasa Bake

Serves 4-6.

This definitely falls in the "comfort food" category. It's rich and satisfying and delicious... and pretty heavy in your stomach too!

2 lbs. pierogies (homemade or store-bought)
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. kielbasa, cut into small pieces
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange the pierogies in a 13x9 baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Scatter kielbasa evenly overtop.

Warm cream cheese, garlic, and pepper in a saucepan, and cook for one minute, or until cream cheese begins to melt, stirring frequently. Gradually add chicken broth to pan, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in tomatoes. Pour the cream cheese mixture overtop pierogies and kielbasa. Top with shredded cheddar. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tortilla Crusted Fish Filets

Tortilla Crusted Fish Fillets

Serves 2.

I used cod, but next time, I'll use a thinner white fish, such as tilapia.
Slightly adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens cookbook

2 tilapia fish filets (about 1/2 lb.)
1 beaten egg
1/2 c. crushed tortilla chips
1/8 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t. salt
Dash black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Thaw fish, if frozen. Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 2 serving-size pieces, if necessary. In a shallow dish, combine beaten egg and 1 tablespoon water. In another shallow dish, combine crushed tortilla chips, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Dip fish into egg mixture; coat fish with tortilla mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Bake, uncovered, for 4-6 minutes per 1/2" thickness or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Pact

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

I couldn't put this book down! And for a few reasons... 1) Right from the beginning, you're thrown in. There are no drawn out introductions to characters or lengthy plot developments that leave you wondering, "When will I feel hooked?" 2) The book switches back and forth from present day to flash-backs, which totally keeps my interest, and 3) There's the main story, but a few underlying stories that keep you from ever feeling bored. Nice work, Jodi Picoult.

Publishers Weekly review from

Teenage suicide is the provocative topic that Picoult plumbs, with mixed results, in her fifth novel. Popular high-school swimming star Chris Harte and talented artist Em Gold bonded as infants; their parents have been next-door neighbors and best friends for 18 years. When they fall in love, everyone is ecstatic. Everyone, it turns out, except for Em, who finds that sex with Chris feels almost incestuous. Her emotional turmoil, compounded by pregnancy, which she keeps secret, leads to depression, despair and a desire for suicide, and she insists that Chris prove his love by pulling the trigger. The gun is fired in the first paragraph, and so the book opens with a jolt of adrenaline. But Picoult stumbles in delineating both sets of parents' responses to the tragedy. Unconvincing behavior and dialogue inappropriate to the situation (plus, most importantly, the fact that the parents fail to discuss crucial topics) never touch the essence of bereavement and thus destroy credibility. Picoult redeems herself in flashbacks that reveal the two marital relationships and the personalities of both couples; and she sensitively explores the question of how well parents can ever know their children. After Chris is accused of murder and jailed, the narrative acquires impressive authenticity and suspense, with even the minor characters evoked with Picoult's keen eye for telling detail. The courtroom scenes (reminiscent of Picoult's 1996 novel, Mercy), are taut and well paced. Readers may remain unconvinced, however, that an intelligent young man like Chris would not have sought some help rather than respond to his lover's desperate request. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections; foreign rights sold in Germany, France, Poland and Norway.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Colossal Cookie

Makes 1 (12") cookie.

Posting after 7pm on Valentines Day... Better late than never right?
Here's a great big cookie for your sweetheart!
Source: Current, Inc.

1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 T. light corn syrup
1 T. sugar
1 large egg
1-1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl at medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sugar until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. At low speed, gradually beat in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Grease a 12" round pizza pan. Place dough in center of pan and press evenly to within 1/2" of edge.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until edges are firm and center feels slightly firm.

When cool, decorate with frosting.

I use the buttercream frosting posted here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Easy Slow Cooker French Dip

Easy Slow Cooker French Dip

Makes 6 sandwiches.

Everyone should make this... except those vegetarians out there, but I'm doubtful I have many of those readers. This is EASY, this TASTES GREAT, this TAKES 5 MINUTES TO PREPARE (although 7 hours to cook), and this is something YOUR FAMILY WILL LOVE. Do it, do it now.
Slightly adapted from:

4-lb. sirloin tip roast
1 (12-oz.) bottle of beer
1 (10.5-oz.) can beef broth
1 (10.5-oz.) can condensed French onion soup
garlic salt
6 French rolls
6 slices Provolone or Muenster cheese

Trim excess fat from sirloin tip roast; place in slow cooker. Season roast with garlic salt, and then add the beer, beef broth, and French onion soup. Cook on low for 7 hours.

Shred meat using two forks (it will pull apart super easily) and let sit in sauce while you prepare rolls.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split French rolls; spread with butter and top one side with a slice of cheese. With rolls open (buttered sides up, obviously), bake for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and rolls are heated through. Top with meat and serve with sauce for dipping.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

Your heart will ache for the characters, but you'll be compelled to read chapter after chapter.

Booklist review from

Giordano’s deeply touching debut novel immediately thrusts the reader into the lives of two individuals, at the moment when each of their young lives takes a sharp turn toward painful solitude: Alice has been crippled in a childhood skiing accident, Mattia is consumed by guilt after playing an unintended but key role in his twin sister’s disappearance. Upon meeting in their early teens, they develop a frequently uncomfortable yet enveloping friendship. What follows is a beautiful and affecting account of the ways in which seemingly inconsequential decisions reverberate so intensely as to change a life forever. Translated from the Italian, this is a book about communication: in lacking a facility for self-expression, our stunted protagonists exist almost solely, and safely, in their own minds. Despite its heavy subject matter, it reads easily, due in part to the almost seamless translation. A quietly explosive ending completes the novel in just the fashion it was started, as an intimate psychological portrait of two “prime numbers”—together alone and alone together. --Annie Bostrom

Monday, February 7, 2011

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Serves 3.

A simply roasted, yet flavorful, potato side dish.
Source: Everyday Food magazine

1 lb. fingerling potatoes
2 sprigs oregano
1-2 t. extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 t. fresh lemon juice, if desired

Toss potatoes with oregano and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes. Toss halfway through. Transfer to a serving dish, and toss with lemon juice, if desired.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Makes about 5 sandwiches.

These didn't have a strong buffalo flavor, which isn't a bad thing, necessarily, but I think it's worth pointing out. I was expecting a stronger buffalo flavor, reminiscent of buffalo chicken dip, but this was much more subdued, and the crushed tomatoes in the recipe tamed it and gave it a new taste altogether. Don't shy away from the recipe if you're a buffalo fan, but know that you may need to increase the hot-pepper sauce and decrease the crushed tomatoes to reach your desired flavor.
Slightly adapted from: Everyday Food magazine

1 t. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced small
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 can (7 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1/8 c. hot-pepper sauce, such as Frank's
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. yellow mustard
1 t. unsulfured molasses
5 hamburger buns
Sliced cheese, such as provolone, if desired

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until onion is translucent, 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to slow cooker.

To slow cooker, add crushed tomatoes, hot-pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and molasses; stir to combine. Cover and cook on high until chicken is very tender, 4 hours. (You could also cook on low for 7 hours.) Shred chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve on buns with sliced cheese, if desired. Oh, and Ranch dressing is great on these sandwiches, as well!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not My Daughter

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky

Probably the best Barbara Delinsky book I've read so far (the other two were: Coast Road and While My Sister Sleeps). With teen pregnancy on the rise, this was an interesting modern day read. There's a large focus on mother-daughter relationships, and if you're a knitter, you'll enjoy those references as well.

Publishers Weekly review from

Delinsky proves once again why she's a perennial bestseller with this thought-provoking tale of three smart, popular teenage girls who make a pact to become pregnant and raise their babies together. Lily, Mary Kate, and Jess also happen to be the daughters of best friends Susan, Kate, and Sunny, and the mothers are thrown into a tailspin by this unexpected news. Susan, the principal of the town's high school, has the most to lose, when the schools superintendent and editor of the local newspaper question her abilities as a leader and mother, and other parents prove quick to blame her—a single mother herself who got pregnant as a teenager—as a poor role model. But all three women must come to grips with where they failed as mothers, how the dreams they had for their daughters are disappearing, and scathing smalltown judgment. Timely, fresh, and true-to-life, this novel explores multiple layers of motherhood and tackles tough questions. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.