Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book is addicting!  I wanted to keep reading and keep reading.  I will say, though, the ending was a bit disappointing.  I did not like it much.  However, it doesn't stop me for recommending this book.  It's a great, thrilling read!  Perfect to start on Halloween!

Book description from Amazon:

Marriage can be a real killer. 
   One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn. 
   On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 
   As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
   With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cake Batter Fudge

Cake Batter Fudge

Makes about 25 pieces.

Use Halloween sprinkles and make this for your gathering tomorrow night.  It is deliciously good, and surprisingly simple.  Anyone can make this... in like less than 5 minutes.  Go, now, dear reader, and make. this. fudge!
As you'll see noted, I had to add quite a bit more cake mix and sugar than originally written, but consistency aside, I'm glad I did because my fudge would have come out too thin without it.  As you'll see in the photos, the fudge I ended up with is, in my opinion, a great thickness.
Slightly adapted from: Baked From a Box

1 cup yellow cake mix (I had to add almost an additional 1 cup in the mixing stage after the microwave)
1 cup confectioners' sugar (I had to add almost an additional 1 cup in the mixing stage after the microwave)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sprinkles

Mix cake mix and confectioners' sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl.

Add butter and milk.  Do not mix.  Place bowl in microwave and heat on high for 2 minutes.

Mix well; add in sprinkles and continue to mix.

Dump into an 8"x8" pan (no larger) that has been coated with non-stick spray.  Spread even and let set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps

Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps

Serves 4.

Lettuce wraps are messy.  I can't figure out to eat them while simultaneously looking like a lady.  Oh well, stuff your face and feast on these.
Source: Dine and Dish

16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Asian chili pepper sauce (optional)
1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil

Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 tablespoon of oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain, and set aside to cool. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chili pepper sauce to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and sesame oil, and continue cooking until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.

Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fifty Shades Freed

Fifty Shades Freed by E L James

This book -- the third of the trilogy -- took me the longest to get through.  In fact, I almost abandoned it.  :::GASP:::  I must have issues with trilogies.  I never read the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy.  :::DOUBLE GASP:::  But, in the end, I'm glad I was able to finish this one; tie it up with a nice neat bow.  But, I will say, as much as this third book is similar to the others, it has a slow, slow start.  It definitely picks up after a while.  If you liked books one and two, finish the series and read this one too!

Book description from Amazon:

When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.

Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.

Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Pancake Topping

Apple Cinnamon Pancake Topping

Serves 4-6.

I was a victim of the sample.  While browsing in Williams Sonoma with the wee one, we were offered samples of their oatmeal pancakes with apple cinnamon topping.  It was amazing.  Even the wee one started signing "more" after her paper cup was empty too.  Sorry, wee one, it's against etiquette to ask for a second sample.  
I couldn't leave the store without knowing I could make these myself at home.  So I purchased the oatmeal pancake mix -- at the price of $14.95, nonetheless -- and made them the following week.  They were, once again, fab.  But I will go broke if I continue to buy the mix, so please help me out.  I need a great oatmeal pancake recipe.  These pancakes were dense, moist, and flavorful.  The oats had been ground, because there were no whole oats in the mix.  If you have anything to share, please do!  Thanks!
Source: Williams Sonoma

1 oatmeal pancake mix from Williams Sonoma, prepared to package instructions

3 apples, peeled and chopped
3 T. butter
3 T. brown sugar
1/2-1 t. ground cinnamon

Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add chopped apples and cook until soft.  Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon.  Mix well.  Serve over oatmeal pancakes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Stromboli

Buffalo Chicken Stromboli

Serves 4, or 2 very hungry eaters.  I sliced into 8 strips to serve at a party.

I used shredded chicken instead of turkey, and a premade pizza dough.  This is a fantastic stromboli.  LOVED it!
Slightly adapted from: Naturally Ella

I used a canister of premade pizza dough, but the blog linked above has a recipe for homemade, if you prefer

1 lb. boneless chicken breast
1/4 cup Frank's red hot sauce
2 T. butter, melted
1 cup diced onions
3/4 cup bleu cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Oil, parmesan, and fresh parsley for topping

Cook chicken on a grill, in a skillet, or by poaching.  Once chicken is cooked through, shred or dice into 1-2″-1″ cubes and combine with Frank’s red hot and butter.  Increase the amount of Frank's if you prefer a spicier dish.

Pre-heat oven to 425˚ with a baking stone (if you have one).

Role out pizza dough into a 16″x10″ rectangle with the 16″ edge parallel to your body. Leaving a 1″ border, spread chicken over dough (drizzle a little of the extra Frank’s over the chicken-about 2-3 T). Sprinkle Onions, Bleu cheese and mozzarella on top of that (the amount of cheese is really up to you).  Beginning with the side closest to you, begin to roll the stromboli away from you. When finished, seal each end edge and the long edge by pinching the dough. Cut three-four slits in the top and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh parsley and parmesan. Slide onto baking stone (or sheet tray) and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the filling begins to bubble out and the crust is golden. Let cool slightly before cutting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fall Bark

Fall Bark

Serves 6-8.

A dear friend made this and brought it over as dessert for our shared family dinner.  It was delicious and loved by all.  A beautiful and tasty autumn treat!
Source: Real Simple

  • 1/2 pound white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup miniature pretzels
  • 1/2 cup candy corn
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries

  • Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides.

  • Heat the chocolate in a double boiler or medium heatproof bowl set over (but not in) a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often, until melted and smooth.

  • Spread the chocolate in the prepared pan and sprinkle with the pretzels, candy corn, and dried cranberries. Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

  • Remove the bark from the pan and break into pieces.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Buttermilk Roast Chicken

Serves 4.

The recipe was good, and easy!  But I keep trying and trying, and I just can't get myself to love bone-in chicken.  It's just a pain to eat, in my book.  So I'll use this recipe again and try it out on boneless, skinless breasts.  If drumsticks tickle your fancy, though, by all means roast away!  If you try boneless, skinless, just remember that your cooking time will decrease.
Source: Smitten Kitchen

2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra for sprinkling (I used Hungarian, a smoked one would also be delicious)
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts (we used all legs)
Drizzle of olive oil
Flaked or coarse sea salt, to finish

Whisk buttermilk with garlic, table salt, sugar, paprika and lots of freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag (or lidded container) and pour buttermilk brine over them, then swish it around so that all parts are covered. Refrigerate for at least 2 but preferably 24 and up to 48 hours.

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil (not absolutely necessary, but Nigella suggested it and I never minded having dish that cleaned up easily). Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt to taste. Roast for 30 minutes (for legs; approximately 35 to 40 for breasts), until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glaze Pork Tenderloin

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glaze Pork Tenderloin

Serves 6.

Follow the link below for more appetizing photos of this dish, because it is fab.  My photo doesn't do it justice (wait, have I said that before?) because I am bad about staging dishes.  When dinner's ready, dinner's ready, and there are hungry mouths to feed!  So I snap one like this.  B-a-d, I know.  But trust me when I say that this recipe is worth your time... and it won't require much of it!  It's tender and juicy and the glaze is just delicious.  Leftovers make great sandwiches, so make the entire recipe!
Slightly adapted from: C&C Marriage Factory

3 lbs. boneless pork tenderloin (mine was divided into two 1-1/2 lb. tenderloins)
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Combine sage, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub over roast. Place in slow cooker with 1/2 cup water. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. 

About 1 hour before roast is done, combine ingredients for glaze in small sauce pan. Heat and stir until mixture thickens. Brush roast with glaze 2 or 3 times during the last hour or two of cooking. 

Serve with remaining glaze on the side.

Monday, October 15, 2012

BBQ Meatballs

BBQ Meatballs

Makes 20.

Yum!  A great "man meal."
Source: Whatever...

2 lbs. ground beef
1-1/2 cups cracker crumbs
1 T. mustard
2 medium onions, chopped (I recommend one large)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk

BBQ Sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 t. mustard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all meatball ingredients; form into 20 large balls.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Mix together sauce ingredients; spread over meatballs and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, or until bubbly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Green Bean "Fries"

Green Bean "Fries"

Serves 4.

Delicious!  My new go-to for green beans.
Slightly adapted from: Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom

1-lb. Green Beans (blogger suggested Trader Joe's Haricot Verts which are thin, crispy and already prepped for you)
1 Tbs. olive oil, melted (or enough to lightly coat the green beans)
1 tsp. Kosher Sea Salt (or to taste)
2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.
Rinse, trim and pat dry the green beans (if it hasn't been done already).
Place green beans on a baking sheet and toss with oil, salt and garlic. Spread green beans in an even layer.
Bake for about 10 minutes if you like your green beans al dente, longer if you prefer your green beans soft. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Beef & Cheese "Foldover"

Beef & Cheese "Foldover"

Serves 4.

Super easy, great-tasting meal for those busy nights.  Kid-friendly, too!  I replaced half the corn with black beans, added some taco seasoning, and baked it on crescent roll dough instead of Bisquick baking mix.
Adapted from: Kraft

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup ketchup
2 T. A.1. Original Steak Sauce
1 T. taco seasoning
1 container refrigerated crescent roll dough (the non-perforated "sheet" is easiest to use)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Brown meat with onions in a large skillet; drain.  Return to skillet.  Stir in corn, black beans, ketchup, and steak sauce; set aside.

Unroll crescent roll dough on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Turn up edges to create a crust.  Spoon meat mixture onto the dough; spread to within 1" of edge.  Top with shredded cheddar.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Caramel Apple Surprise Cookies

Caramel Apple Surprise Cookies

Makes about 20-22.

Okay, so I must confess... My cookies turned out okay.  I mean, my photo looks decent, right?  And they tasted great!  But I kinda struggled through the process.  For one, I needed a lot of dough to cover the caramel, so I got far less cookies than the original blogger.  For two, even with all that dough, I still had issues with the caramel oozing out onto the cookie sheet, and then through the wire rack while cooling.  So I lost a lot of caramel... to my counter top.  But, they were still great, and very fall-like.  I just need to figure out how to clean up the process.
Source: Hot Polka Dot

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup apple, skinned and chopped
3 dozen caramels, flattened slightly

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line your baking sheets with parchment paper (I used Silpat liners) and set them aside.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla then blend it in. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt then stir it into the butter mixture. Gently mix in the chopped apples. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes to stiffen it up.
Scoop a heaping tbsp of dough for each cookie then roll it into a ball and flatten it into a disc between your palms. Place the slightly smushed caramel into the center and fold the edges of dough to cover it well, making sure to pinch any edges that meet. Form it back into a ball and place it onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake them for 10 – 11 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Transfer them to a cooling rack and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 6.

I increased the amount of veggies and broth in this fantastic soup.  It's such a simple recipe, and such a classic dish, I'm disappointed in myself that I haven't been making this for years already.  This winter, though?  We will eat it.  A lot.
Adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats

1 Tablespoon butter2 teaspoons olive oil1/2 onion, finely chopped2 large carrots (or about 20 mini carrots), thinly sliced2 ribs celery, choppedsalt & pepper2 garlic cloves, minced2 chicken breasts, shredded or cubed64 oz chicken broth* (buy an extra can if you plan to make-ahead; see note)8 oz frozen egg noodles

Melt butter and olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, celery, salt & pepper, and saute for 8-10 minutes or until soft. If you feel like you need to add more oil, add a splash of chicken broth instead and cover the pot with a lid so veggies can steam.

Add in minced garlic and saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add chicken and chicken broth, turn the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until noodles are tender. Serve with a good hunk of bread and enjoy!
*If pre-making, let cool then refrigerate. You will need to add in an additional can of chicken broth when re-heating as the egg noodles will have soaked up some broth.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Makes 12-14

It's October.  Bring some pumpkin into your life... especially when it's as easy as this recipe!
Source: Cupcakes! from The Cake Mix Doctor

1 package (17.8 oz.) chocolate chip muffin mix
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare muffin tin with liners.

Place the muffin mix in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center.  Place the pumpkin, milk, egg, and pumpkin pie spice in the well and stir the wet ingredients with a fork to combine and break up the egg yolk.  Stir the wet and dry ingredients together with a wooden spoon just until combined.  The batter will still be lumpy.  Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each prepared muffin cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. 

Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when lightly pressed with your finger.  Let the pan cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins and allow them to continue to cool on wire rack.