A blog about "nothing"!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Recipes of 2012

This year I really branched out in my cooking.  I don't know what prompted it, I really think it was a couple of things--primarily joining Pinterest, but also just getting tired of eating the same stuff all the time, and watching too much of the Food Network!  I can honestly say that there was only one that was really a heavy duty bomb, it's not often my husband will tell me to toss something in the trash, but that's where it ended up.  I don't even have it bookmarked anymore, so I can't share it, but it was a crock pot mac and cheese recipe that was just plain disgusting.

So here are the top 5 recipes I discovered in 2012--I hope perhaps you can find something you like in them!  We have tried them all and they are all keepers--and all of these ones are gluten free to boot!

5)  Oven Baked Parmesan Fries--these are delicious and I especially like them with a dollop of sour cream.  It also had me buy a new spice--Old Bay Seasoning--which I had never tried before, but I'm hooked!  I even made this with frozen french fries with good results. 

4)  Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce--I love anything I can toss in the crock pot and walk away from and this recipe is truly a winner.  I did do a little bit of experimenting with it--cut the meat and the sugar by 1/2 and added 1/4 of extra virgin olive oil--and it is still really very good.  It also freezes exceptionally well.

3)  Peanut Butter Pie With No Bake Cookie Crust--this all started because of a dinner out.  One of our favorite places from where we used to live has this on their dessert menu and we drove there not so much for dinner, but because I was craving this!  Afterwards I decided that there had to be a recipe for this somewhere online and I was right, and this particular recipe is spot on to what they served.  What I really like about it is it makes a lot and can be frozen for an extended period of time.

2) Gluten Free Peach Crisp--My recipe for apple crisp came up missing, not sure what happened, so I started poking around Pinterest looking for something similar.  I came across this and not only was it similar to what I had, but is actually WAY better.  I've made it with apples, fresh peaches, frozen peaches and combination of peaches and blackberries as well as making it in a sugar free version using Splenda for the hubby--and they all turned out good.  I did leave the nuts out as I am allergic.  I have three bags of frozen peaches sitting in my freezer right now waiting........

And the number one recipe for 2012 is......................................

Crack potatoes!!!!!  So named because they are so addictive, and I can't believe how stinkin' easy they are to make!  I made a batch of these for our Christmas Eve get together and everyone raved about them.  They reheat very well too and not a single hash brown went to waste ;)  Hubby also voted this as his favorite recipe find of the year! 

Happy New Year and Bon Appetite! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mad As Hell

Yeah, I am, and the target of my anger is our government, all of it.  What a bunch of slack ass losers they are.  If I had done my job as poorly as they have, I would have lost it, but somehow these people manage to keep getting elected.  I can't figure it out.

The so-called "Fiscal Cliff" situation is something that never should have been allowed to happen in the first place.  The Bush administration and our congressmen and women never should have approved something with an 8 year expiration date in the first place.  And now it is a mad scramble to get it straightened out.  WHY??????  Why wasn't this addressed gradually over that 8 year time frame?  It's not like our economy just all of a sudden plummeted over the past year.  Then the whole Obama administration approving the reduction in the Social Security tax--seriously?????  With the majority of baby-boomers retiring over the next few years, and we have less money going in to this fund, it makes absolutely no sense at all.  And now all of a sudden, we are facing the possibility of a HUGE jump in our taxes meaning less money in our pockets.  Everyone should be angry.

Now we have a crisis in the dairy industry, with the possibility of milk prices doubling in some places.  That doesn't just affect the price of milk either, that will affect cheese, butter, and all sorts of things containing milk that the majority of American's haven't even thought of.  As someone with many food allergies, I rely a lot on milk to make up for the proteins I don't get from other items.  I think of families with small children who go through multiple gallons a week--how in the world are they going to be able to afford this?  Our economy is already in the shitter, lets just push it a little further!  The side effects to the dairy farmer could be disastrous--I live in an area where dairy farming used to be a huge industry, but over the past few years, more and more families have thrown in the towel and quit.  This lack of planning could be the final nail in the coffin to many who have just barely been getting by.  And I am really starting to seriously think that this is what our government wants. 

Have you ever thought about how much our food industry has changed over the past 20 or so years?  I am perhaps more aware of it because of what hubby does for a living, but the simple fact is it scares the heck out of me.  Everyone wonders why we have more incidences of cancer, autism, mental illness--did you ever think there is a direct link to what we are eating?  I sure do, and I think it is exactly what our government wants.  Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty, we are being manipulated by a group of people whose only incentive is money, pure and simple.  "Money is the root of all evil"--how true those words are, and this is truly just the start of things to come.  They are in the process of turning us in to a society who can't think straight, and has to rely on the government for everything, and are taking our personal controls away.  The middle class is gradually disappearing, we are turning in to a country of "haves" and "have nots".    Eventually the "haves" will be a very small group.  Visions of medieval England and Europe come to mind.  And what a better place to start than with food.  Not only can they control how much you have access to this way, but also what is in it.  We worried so much about terrorists manipulating our food supplies, when perhaps we should have been more concerned with what was going on right here at home.

Sorry to get all political, but I just get madder by the minute, and I really hope this post makes someone, ANYONE take a moment to pause and think about what is happening in this country, and how we are being manipulated by our government and don't even realize it.  For a final thought--we have spent the last several weeks mourning 26 people who lost their lives in a senseless shooting in Connecticut.  How different that might have been had it been in our nations capital, and the dead would have been 26 members of congress--something tells me instead of mourning, there might have been a lot of cheering going on. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Memories of Christmas 2012

Christmas has passed, 365 days till another!  I am exhausted, 2 days of playing hostess and not enough sleep has caught up with me.  Fortunately I have no big plans for the next two days and we are under blizzard/winter storm warnings with 8 - 12 inches of snow expected--eeeek!  I made sure I ran to the store to get the few things I needed this morning so I can just hunker down and look out the window--although I did just come in from shoveling and salting a bit.  I am so not ready for this.  I think it is time to catch up on sleep.

Laney had a great Christmas, she is definitely one spoiled dog.  Here she is with a big blob of pumpkin fluff on her nose, she is my official taste tester around here.  I was laughing so hard at her I had a hard time getting a good picture, she had it all over her whiskers, chin and nose.
After all that taste testing, it was time to relax a little before everyone got here.  Poor Laney, she is not used to having a lot of people around and doesn't really care for it much, and the kids just want to hug and kiss her.  She got through the night okay though, but I knew she was stressing when she didn't even want the carrot stick someone offered her.
She must have been a very good dog this year, Santa Paws was very generous--she even got her very own Lands End tote with her name on!  It will come in very handy for when she goes to the kennel or travels with us.  Lots of treats and chewies too!

One of the things I had on my menu for Christmas day was baked potatoes.  I quickly grabbed a 5 pound bag of baking potatoes on my last trip to Aldi, not paying attention.  When I got home, I discovered that my bag of potatoes had all of 5 potatoes in it!  They were absolutely huge, and I debated on whether I should still bake them or turn them in to something else, but after 2 1/2 hours in the oven, they were delicious!  That is my hand in the picture to give you a reference point--and I have very long fingers, from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger is 7 - 7 1/2 inches!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  Now time to look forward to the New Year.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Almost there........

Wow, tomorrow is Christmas eve.........that sure got here in a hurry.  I've been busy the past week getting as much ready as I can.  Today I broke down and really cleaned my refrigerator, not just tossing stuff but actually giving it a good scrubbing with warm soapy water.  It really needed it, and now I have space for all the food (and leftovers) of the coming days. 

It sure smells good in here right now, I have a pork roast cooking to make pulled BBQ pork for Christmas day dinner, and tonight I am going to be making the starts to a few things that I can finish tomorrow.  I am hosting both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, so I am trying to be as prepared as possible.  I'm just hoping I don't have too many leftovers!

So, happy holidays, Merry Christmas and all that jazz!  Oh, and Happy Festivus!  Hubby and I are going out for Chinese for our official Festivus celebration :)

Laney says Merry Christmas too! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Week To Go!

I can't believe it is only a week to Christmas!  How is everyone's shopping, baking and other holiday stuff coming along?  I am done shopping, just waiting on an order to arrive so I can wrap that, I have all of my food shopping done, so now I am concentrating on holiday goodies.  I am making three of my usual favorites--Buckeyes, Peppermint Bark and Microwave Fudge, but I also decided to try something new that I've always wanted to try--Cinnamon Sugar Peanuts.  This is the recipe I used:
The recipe calls for almonds, but I used dry roasted unsalted peanuts and they turned out just fine.  I also used Ener-G egg substitute instead of a regular egg since I can't eat eggs, and it didn't affect the recipe at all.  These are so yummy, made my house smell wonderful and so easy to make--I can't believe I waited so long to try this!  Now it is just a matter of making sure we don't eat them all between now and Christmas.

The Peppermint Bark recipe is one I found years ago in a Martha Stewart Living magazine, and it is delicious.  Another super simple recipe that tastes great!

Buckeyes are also simple and everyone seems to love them.
Mix one stick butter, 1 cup of peanut butter and 2 1/4 powdered sugar. I found mixing them in a Kitchen Aid mixer is the easiest way to do it as this is a rather stiff dough.  Roll into balls, put in freezer for an hour, dip in melted chocolate of your choice. 

And last but not least, microwave fudge!  So simple and completely addictive--takes all of about 5 minutes.   Mix one can of sweetened condensed milk and one bag (12 oz) of semi sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Stir mixture and add one cup of mini marshmallows, stir until marshmallows are completely melted.  Pour mixture into an 8 x 8 pan that has been buttered or sprayed with Pam.  Refrigerate--enjoy!

I hope these satisfy everyone's sweet tooth! :)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Corner Cupboard

You know, that one in the corner of the kitchen cabinets that goes to infinity--the one that if a small child crawled in there too far, they might actually end up in Narnia?  I personally think these should be made illegal.  I had one in the kitchen in our other house and hated it, and I actually think this one is worse. 

I've always used this cupboard for stuff that I don't use often.  With the holidays coming, I need my disposable plates/cups/silverware handy.  I know that doesn't sound very classy, but with a group of young children coming who are in that age group of heavy duty rambunctiousness, I'm not about to put my good china at risk.  Chinette it is!  Guess where all of this stuff is????  Yeah, you guessed right, and I figure since I'm in there already, I might as well clean it out. 

I've already found two bags of Ziploc bags I didn't know I had as well as a bunch of Tupperware I'd completely forgotten about!  I think I need to start a spring yard sale box right now, all those Lands' End boxes sitting in my craft room were kept for a reason.  The one Tupperware bowl was not fun to get out, it was clear back in the Narnia door region, and even with my long arms I couldn't get it.  Thank heavens for long handled kitchen tongs and a yard stick.  I'm just glad no one was watching.

When I was a kid, our neighbors had a really cool corner cupboard.  It was a rotating cupboard, even the door spun around, she used it for boxed items, mainly cereal (they sure had a lot of cereal at that house!) and stuff like Bisquick, rice, etc.  I always thought it was the neatest thing, and loved when I would go over there early in the morning and Mark and I would raid it for cereal.  As an adult though, I couldn't help but think what a nightmare it must have been if something fell off the rotating thing in the back.  Hmmmm..........maybe that's what the people in Narnia eat?

Back to work......and this really qualifies as work.  At least to me it does.  But I will be glad when it is done, and I think I'm going to have a fairly full box of stuff for my yard sale.  Anyone need some Tupperware?  Or a salad spinner? (I have two)  How about a mandoline that I didn't like?  Come on, you know you need it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ho ho ho!

How is everyone's holiday decorating coming along?  I finished mine up the end of last week, but I didn't do as much as I have done in past years.  I am weeding out stuff as I go, it was time for some rotation of decorations.  I've also made a couple of things the past two years that I really like, and they weren't all that complicated.  Those all made the "cut" this year.

The first thing was this wreath, my only regret was that I made the parts by hand, my fingers were killing me by the time it was over with from all that folding back and forth. 

I had a lot of decent sized scraps from making the wreath, so I made this bell pull.  I used my Sizzix Top Note die to cut them out which made it super easy, and cut the letters out using my Slice cutting system.  Before cutting each of the squares out, I backed the paper with poster board, giving them just the perfect weight and stiffness.  I thought it turned out very nice.
Last year I decided to make some of the paper wreaths for gifts--luckily a friend of mine bought me a template for cutting out all the parts, complete with scoring for all the folds which saved my fingers!  I did them in two different color schemes, not sure which one I liked better when I was done, but I ended up keeping one of the blue ones for myself.

My other favorite decorations are the Lands' End needlepoint stockings that I bought last year.  I had been drooling over those for quite a few years, and they ran a terrific sale on them just before Christmas so I couldn't resist.
We have a small tree, and this year I decided to do some careful selecting of what I put on it.  If it related to a trip we had been on, a significant event, or was a gift from a friend, I used it on our tree.  This is an ornament I received as a gift last year from a fellow "Words With Friends" addict--I just love it, and it was so appropriate since we have now been playing steadily for just over 2 years straight!
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Cards

Do you regularly weed out people from your list? Or do you keep mailing regardless? Over the last few years I've added and eliminated. There are people who I would never eliminate, regardless of whether or not they sent me a card. But how do YOU decide to take someone off your list? I'm curious to hear other peoples "systems".

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Easily Amused

At least that’s what my husband tells me I am.  I guess because I get excited about simple things in life that some people would just take for granted.  One of the things that excites me is finding a great bargain, I guess I’m a true shopper.  A good example was last week when I went to Red White and Blue—I found the cutest jacket/capri outfit, the jacket was what drew me in.  It was a whole size larger than what I normally wear, but I tried the jacket on and it fit, so I figured what the heck—it was a half off tag, so both pieces only cost me $5.  If the pants didn’t fit, oh well, I would donate them to somewhere or take them to the consignment store.  Imagine how thrilled I was when I got them home and tried them on and they fit like they were made for me.  Upon closer inspection I realized that this was a brand new outfit, there was a tag still inside the pants—whoohoo!  Quacker Factory brand to boot. 

Yesterday was one of those kinds of days.  I was really craving a McDonald’s mocha and I needed to go to the ATM.  While I was out I decided to swing by the nearby Goodwill store.  I hadn’t been there for a couple of weeks and thought it might be worth a try.  Last fall when Heather and I were out shopping we went to one in Pittsburgh and I found these amber colored drinking glasses that I really liked.  99 cents for three, and we needed some glasses about this size.  Once I got them home I liked them even more, after they were run through the dishwasher they sparkled, and they were the perfect size for a beverage at dinner.  I wanted some more of them—so I looked on Ebay only to discover that they are vintage from the 50’s/60’s era, and they sold for $20 for a set!  No, I won’t pay that much, so I had resigned myself to the fact that we would have just three.  So imagine my surprise as I’m walking through the glassware section yesterday and what do I see—another three!!!!!!!!!!  49 cents apiece and those babies were mine, I couldn’t grab them off the shelf fast enough.  If someone had been watching me, I’m sure they would have thought I was nuts.  So now I am the proud owner of 6 pretty amber colored glasses—aren’t they pretty?


Sunday, December 2, 2012

December is Here

December is officially here and now the mad scramble starts to finish Christmas shopping—eeek!  I actually have a pretty good grip on mine, just a few things to pick up, and I’m done.  Wrapping it however, well, let’s just say I know what I’m going to be doing the rest of the week.  I do at least have my Christmas cards made, I just need to take the time to sit down and address them. 
 There are always those people who you have a hard time with, we all have them.  I finally figured out what to get my few “difficult” people thank heavens.  However, just in case you are still trying to think of something, I decided to make a “12 Days of Christmas Favorite Things”—yes, I’m totally stealing my title from Oprah and Ellen—but hey, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me! 

The items on this list are all items that I would not only be happy to receive but would feel confident in giving—and many of them I already have at some point. 

1.        VERA BRADLEY—okay, this is a very girly gift, which is why I put it at the beginning of the list.  For those of you not familiar, it is a nice line of quilted purses, totes, backpacks—you name it.  What is really a plus is that they have a wide variety of items, so you should be able to find something for that special gal on your list regardless of your price range.  I have several of their bags and I love them because they are lightweight, full of pockets and (for the slob like me) completely machine washable. 
2.       BURTS BEES LIP SHIMMERS—excellent little stocking stuffer, these cost all of $5 apiece and can be picked up at drug stores and grocery stores just about anywhere.  I hate lipstick, I could never get past the taste of it, and these are wonderful because they come in a variety of tints and have a light peppermint flavor to them.  They did make a clear one too for the guys, not 100% sure if it is still available though.

3.       CHOCOLATE—not just a Hershey bar, but a box of good quality chocolate from an actual chocolate store, or a box of Russell Stover chocolates.  I know very few people who don’t like chocolates, so this is a good gift for the person who has everything.  And if you really feel like splurging, there is always Godiva ;)
4.       LANDS END TOTES—these come in a variety of sizes and colors and if you want to personalize it even more, you can have it monogrammed with a single initial, all three initials or an entire word or name.  Several companies make these, but in my opinion, the Lands End version is the best buy for the money and the highest quality. 

5.       LOTIONS/BODY WASH/FANCY SOAPS—I like this gift because it is something everyone can use and it doesn’t sit around and collect dust!  And while it may sound girly, it doesn’t have to be, there are many companies out there making very nice stuff for men as well.  I remember a few years ago one of my male colleagues complaining about his hands cracking and becoming sore, so another co-worker and I bought him a bottle of Eucerin lotion to go with the other part of his gift—I actually think he liked the Eucerin better. 
6.       MAGAZINES—whether it be a subscription to a magazine, or even just a single issue tucked in with some other odds and ends, who doesn’t like a good magazine? 

7.       FOOD—I love consumable gifts, I hate acquiring things that are just dust collectors, and food is something everyone needs and likes.  Either a gift box you make up yourself, or purchase pre-made from Hickory Farms, Swiss Colony, Pittman and Davis or any of the other companies all make a thoughtful gift.  My best friend made me up a box of some of my British favorites for my birthday this year and I was thrilled.  She put it all in a re-usable decorative storage box—my kind of present!
8.       CALENDARS—these days there are calendars with every theme you can imagine, and most everyone can use a calendar.  Better yet, go to a photo printing website and custom make one with family photos, vacation photos—let your imagination run wild. 
9.       PHOTO BOOKS—another one of those items that you can customize with whatever pictures you want to.  There are plenty of places to buy them from—Shutterfly, Snapfish, MyPublisher, and even RiteAid are just to name a few.  A great way to commemorate something special as well!

10.   HANDMADE ITEMS—with Pinterest you can find a plethora of great ideas of things to make and give.  Not crafty?  Swing by Etsy.com and let someone else make it for you.  The number of things available there is just amazing, and there are some truly talented people out there.
11.   UNCLE JOHN’S BATHROOM READER—these are terrific books for the person who loves trivia!  We always have several of these floating around the house, and they regularly come out with a new one, so even if you buy one for someone now, you can buy them another one in a couple of years.  They even did ones for certain states a couple of years ago.  (And yes, we are nerds!)

12.   GIFT CARDS FOR DINING OUT—I’m not a huge fan of gift cards unless you know of something the recipient can use in particular.  For example, a friend of mine knows that I do a lot of sewing and crafting, so she got me one for Joann’s which was terrific.  I really hate giving ones to Walmart or a grocery store—I always have this fear that they will use it to buy mundane stuff like toilet paper, or worse yet, dog food.  But one to a restaurant is a different story—to me you are encouraging them to do something fun and for some people even something extravagant.  They also come in handy for one of those days where you thought you were going to cook dinner, but when it actually came time to—well, we all know how that goes.