Hunting Trip Eve

You know how there are those days, when you’re counting minutes (possibly seconds) until you can get home and put sweatpants on?

That was definitely my day today.

It’s the man’s last night before his Western adventure, so our apartment is a mess of hunting equipment, food, flashlights, blankets, and every possible odd or end that you could imagine needing to drive 30 hours across the country to hunt for two weeks.

Couple thoughts before I head into the kitchen to make some peach cobbler … oh, and dinner (lox and bagels, which is ironically appropriate considering today is Rosh Hashanah ~ altho’ the sun is down now, so technically, I believe the holiday is over ….? Chime in anyone!).

1.  The kale is WAY better fresh than a day old, but still eminently edible.

2.  I think that brownies are not my forte ~ I need Angie for brownies.  But my batch from last night are good.  Just not epic.

3.  I haven’t tried the pumpkin roll, but it still looks good in the fridge.  (!)

Also, the new season of TV is almost completely launched (save for some October debuts, such as Tim Allen’s ‘Last Man Standing’  ~).  I’m surprised at what I liked and what I didn’t like.  But my final word is, “The Good Wife” is still the best thing going on.  Perhaps more on this later ~ for now, I’ve gotta eat some food!

Happy Thursday everyone.  And Happy New Year!

whew!

Today has been a little crazy.

The restaurant launched a new menu (and several dishes hadn’t even been seen until today … which always keeps it interesting!).

More twists and turns in the great Out West Adventure for the man and his pa ~ so we hustled over to AutoZone after work to get a diagnosis for the truck, then to Kohls for some essentials (okay, okay, I got a few new pairs of earrings … but I haven’t gotten new earrings in YEARS, so I don’t feel so bad ….), and then to the grocery store to stock up on munchies for the man’s long drive, and odds and ends for my baking extravaganza this evening.

Have you ever had one of those shopping lists that is totally random, but you’re legitimately out of things?  Some of the things on mine …. grated Parmesan, dishwasher pellets (yes, we’re those kind of people), bleach, shower gel and vitamin C tablets (the man, who NEVER gets sick, is feeling under the weather … my diagnosis?  Imminent vacation ….).

As the clock ticks slowly (rapidly?!?) toward midnight -and my house fills with smoke because I forgot about the kale chips baking away on the bottom shelf and just rescued them- I’m feeling content with my accomplishments.

Someone once told me that their biggest irritation with me was that I never followed through with things.  And that was true about some of my “life choices” in my early twenties (I started grad school for teaching, I was gonna do real estate … you get the idea).  But the criticism has stuck with me ( I have an elephant’s memory, which is a blessing and a curse) so when I say I’m going to do something, I like it when I actually do it!  So …. this evening’s culinary adventures (which will be duly photographically documented when I have a minute to figure out what the problem is with uploading) ….

1.  Pumpkin Roll (it’s cooling in the fridge, so the verdict is still out, but when the pics go up, the verdict will be in, and I’ll share … it’s the man’s dad’s fav, so I hope it’s at least okay!)

2.  Kale Chips (This was something I wanted to try, & every recipe said the end result was amazing … I didn’t believe it but had to try it anyway … and ~ the end result was legit amazing … altho’ the man wasn’t over the moon … but this may have had to do with the blue smoke billowing in the house and the crispy edged kale chips that instigated it).

3.  Brownies, Version #2 (the man and his dad need some sweets for the trip!).

So, it’s been sort of a crazy Wednesday.  I”m ready for b.e.d. now.

pumpkin-licious

Well, today at my casa (and yesterday, if I’m divulging the whole truth) we are experiencing some technical difficulties with the camera and uploading pictures.  I’m bummed, cuz I made some kick a$$ pumpkin bread and muffins yesterday, and I had some pretty good pics to accompany my pumpkin kitchen adventure.

Unfortunately, I’m probably gonna have to add them at a later date.  Big frowny face.

But … here’s the recipe.  What I love about it is that it’s enough for three loaves, or two loaves and twelve muffins (which is how I rolled). One loaf of pumpkin bread just isn’t enough!).  For yesterday’s baking agenda, I used canned pumpkins, but I did contemplate puree-ing my own pumpkin.  (Then I realized that all I wanted to do was sleep, so I opted for the time-saver choice).

What you need:

3 cups canned pumpkin puree (about 1 and a half 160z cans)

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

4 cups white sugar

6 eggs

4 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 1/2 ground cloves

(I also like this recipe because it doesn’t involve nuts.  I know a lot of people love nuts, and I’m sure you could easily add them … and raisins and all sorts of other stuff … but I love plain pumpkin bread, so that’s what I made!)

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 350.

1.  Grease and flour your bread pans or muffin tins.

2.  Mix together the pumpkin puree, sugar, oil and eggs.

3.  In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Combine with pumpkin mixture.

4.  Divide batter between bread pans and/or muffin sheets.  *** Cook muffins for 13-18 minutes.

5.  Cook bread for 45 mins to 1 hour.  (Helpful hint: the top of the bread should be springy when pressed).

Voila.  The delicious taste (and, side benefit!!!, smell) of fall.

Can you believe that October is around the corner?  Yeah, me neither.  But I’m not complaining!  (I will put a request in for a drop in humidity tho!).

Happy Monday folks! I’m off to bed.

the search for a jersey

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot tell a lie.  These past few weeks have been hectic for me, and while trying to balance long days, intense work requirements and a bundle of social commitments (this girl just can’t say no!), my blog has been woefully neglected.  It doesn’t mean I’m not cooking … but it does mean that my time management skills have been pushed to the max.

I’m hoping between the Giants game this afternoon, and the Steelers SNF game tonight, I can finally do some baking, and (dare I say it?) some cooking!  Thoughts from readers on this ~ I feel like people fall into two categories: either you’re a baker, or a cook, but rarely do people do both with passion.  I love baking, but at the end of the day, I like making savory meals (and creating beautiful presentations) much more.  Do you think that people fall on either side of the line, or do you think people do both? More on this later!

Today, we finally ordered jerseys online (something we have been discussing with much enthusiasm since … well, I’d say mid-July, but as early as the end of last season).  Choosing a jersey, if you’ve never done it, is quite a commitment.  A lot of factors come into it.  What player do you like the most? What player represents your franchise best?  What player is committed to your franchise?

I own three Steelers jerseys.  My first was Hines Ward, #86, a Christmas present from my parents (that I strategically asked and lobbied for through my brother and his fraternity brothers).  I still wear this one the most. (I have it on right now). My second and third were also both presents: Troy Polamalu #43 ( & IMHO one of the best free safeties playing the game right now), and a customized throw-back jersey with my last name and favorite number (#12).  Twelve also happens to be Terry Bradshaw’s number ~ the Steelers QB from the ’70s who won four Super Bowls with Pittsburgh.

The man has had less luck with his jerseys (a few of his jerseys are players who are no longer Giants, and that’s a bummer, because they are really nice, stitched jerseys).  He’s been wanting a new jersey for awhile, but with budgets, and a thousand other things going on, it kept getting pushed back.  As of today, a blue New York Giants jersey has his name on it (not literally … figuratively, as in, it’s his), and should be coming our way via the United States Postal Service in (we hope) a timely fashion.

It went down to the wire, as he hemmed and hawed, and debated the pros of each of the players he was contemplating (a throwback Bavaro, a retired great Strahan, or one of the current players Bradshaw, Jacobs, or Nicks).  He’d made his mind up over the summer that if Kevin Boss remained a Giant, that was the jersey he was going for … but unfortunately, Kevin Boss left the Giants to go play for the Raiders.  (Boo.  And ps. Boo to the Giants for letting him go).

The man had different prerequisites than me, and his final choice of Brandon Jacobs (my fav Giant … hey, I watch them every week, so I’m bound to have a favorite!) reflects his thoughts on what makes a Giant player worth wearing.  While Nicks may go down in the history books as one of, if not the best, Giants wide receiver in franchise history, my man doesn’t wear receivers.  He doesn’t go for flash.  He goes for the guys who sweat it out yard by yard.  And after today’s beautiful touchdown by Jacobs, I think he’s quite pleased with his choice.

I may have mentioned this, but we really love football.

On another note, pumpkin bread and muffins are cooking in the oven right now ~ watch this space for the recipe.  The man and his pops leave at the end of the week for their hunting adventure, and I’m trying to bake them some snacks to take along for the ride!

believe the hype

Just a quick check-in to let you know that if you haven’t had Honey Crisp apples, and someone recommends them (and then weirdly, you notice them everywhere … ), go immediately to the store and buy some.

This is definitely an instance where you should absolutely buy into the hype.

I was skeptical.  Clearly.

I saw the piles upon piles featured in the produce section Monday, and hemmed and hawed (while frantically looking for Polenta) about whether to buy some.  I’m a die-hard Granny Smith fan ~ when I eat apples at all (which, to be honest, can be rare … apples are a lot of work when you’re not comfortable just biting it and gnawing it down to the core-which I’m not).  I like apples that have a little bite to them ~ apples that when cooked with, maintain some texture and flavor.

In the end, I figured even if I didn’t love them, John would enjoy having some apples for lunch.  And yesterday, along with polenta leftovers, he packed us each an apple for lunch.

Mine sat untouched on my desk all day, and when I finally ran out of the office in a fluster at 6.45pm, I glanced at it and felt a wave of guilt for once again failing to eat my fruit.  (Shamefully enough, this was not the first time I brought an apple to work with good intentions  … ).

This morning, I didn’t bring lunch (we’re menu testing so I figured I’d grab food at the restaurant) and I was also (this is a true tragedy) out of Cheerios for the second day in a row.  Such a disappointment.  So at 10am, I looked forlornly at the clock, realized lunch was too far away, that the dregs of my Starbucks would not suffice for another three hours, and I turned to face the apple.

And here’s my conclusion ~ short and sweet.  Believe the hype, and enjoy some Honey Crisp apples while they’re on the shelves.  Cheers to Fall!

Easy peesy Jalepeno Poppers

Okay, so I’m dead tired, and it’s already past my bedtime (the Giants are winning, so the man is in a good mood, but boy oh boy, this is the longest game … ever!).

Tonight did not go as smoothly as I hoped.

First, the grocery store was not only still out of pumpkin puree (not totally unexpected, but disappointing nonetheless) but also out of polenta!  Basic question ~ how does one make MNF Polenta without … polenta?!?!  John and I had to visit our least favorite place … the other grocery store.  You know what I’m talking about.  The store you checked out once upon a time and deemed lacking in all areas before choosing your current, amazing grocery store (which did, in fact, drop the ball today… but let’s not focus on that!).

This followed us getting out of the city late, every person in Philadelphia driving like they just got their learner’s permit, and various other road blocks that, if I were a suspicious person, would have made me go “Hmmmm…..”.

This will be short & sweet, with pics to come later.

This past Christmas Eve I visited with my Italian side of the family, and they served this dish.  I loved it so much, I recreated it for the man and my New Year’s Eve celebration (we’re pretty low key, but it was a great day/night).

Jalapeno Poppers

What you need:

10 – 12 small, firm jalapeno peppers

1 160z package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (or comparable)

1/2 package of bacon (I literally cut a package of bacon in half, and wrap and freeze the other half)

What to do:

Preheat oven to 325.

1.  Cut the peppers in half longway ( I cut the top off first, and then cut them in half).  Clean out the seeds and interior, and wash in the sink.

2.  Fill pepper halves with cream cheese.

3.  Wrap in bacon.  Arrange on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bacon cooks.  (I never seem to have toothpicks that do that trick, but you can secure the bacon in place with a toothpick or spear of some sort … altho’ it’s not necessarily necessary).

4. Serve!

Just so you know, these are addictive.  So if you’re cooking them, snag one before putting them out for people.  I also made them for the Super Bowl this past year, and when I finally got to the food table, only 4 were left.  I think of this as a huge triumph (rather than an epic disappointment) -I like contributing food people eat!

time flies!

It’s Monday afternoon already, and despite my greatest effort, I did NO baking over the weekend. We did, however, reorganize our refrigerator and our laundry room/walk-in closet, and I am very excited about that!  I am hoping to amend my lack of baking this evening during the Monday Night Football game (Giants v. Rams) because one of John’s fellow Giants’ fans is coming over and I think they’ll be totally involved in the game ~ which will allow me to pop in and out while checking the oven.  (Always thinkin’ ahead, says I!)

I had planned to bake on Saturday, but as mentioned above, we tackled the very necessary project of our closet/laundry area.  Yesterday, after church and a baby shower, I went to the store to purchase pumpkin puree and semi-sweet chocolate chip morsels, and the shelves were empty.  I’m talking, not even a single, solitary can of pumpkin puree or bag of chocolate chips.  Nothing.

Was everyone baking this weekend? Seriously.  I was so bummed out.

John cheered me up with a second firepit night ~ sometimes it’s just nice to relax together and talk about life, and goals, and ideas …. Then we wound down by watching the Emmys. Just as a sidenote, Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” fame is a graduate of my program at PSU. Cool, huh?

I’m hoping that tonight my grocery store will be re-stocked (I did ask at the Help Desk, and they said they usually get deliveries on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but to call ahead to make sure that what I was looking for was on the shipment).  Since we have to stop in and get ingredients to make MNF Polenta, I figure I’ll risk it.

Hopefully, I do not make that choice in error.

I realize that I haven’t blogged a recipe in awhile, so in addition to adding photos to the Polenta recipe, I am also making the easiest Jalepeno Poppers ever (they are also highly addictive!) and hopefully some Pumpkin Bread.

I didn’t realize that after awhile I would have to have a little more forethought regarding what I’m cooking and blogging about ~ I’ve run out of tried-and-true recipes, I’ve made a lot of things that I’ve always wanted to make … and doing spur of the moment cooking doesn’t really work with the heavy workload I’ve been carrying of late.  So please, bear with me as I navigate through this new phase of blogging!  I’m still super excited about trying new things in the kitchen, and I like sharing my recipes (they’re usually pretty easy, too, which never hurts!).

So, as always, watch this space ~ I’ll be back tonight with some yummy recipes, and probably some thoughts on football (Opening Day was so utterly painful that it’s taken me some recovery time to think about it logically ~ I hate it when the Steelers break my heart like that … luckily, they didn’t do it again yesterday, which is at least a relief until this upcoming Sunday!).

my beef with kelly clarkson

“I can’t stand when people get up and do karaoke for real. In fact, it’s highly embarrassing. Let the dream go, it’s not going to happen! This is supposed to be fun. I love doing things people would not expect me to get up in sing. I look hella bad doing it, by the way. I look like completely ridiculous. There’s a reason I’m single.”

~ Kelly Clarkson (Entertainment Weekly ‘Music Mix’ interview; Aug 31, 2011).

I read this a few weeks ago, and something about her response to the question (“My karaoke jam” to which she answered Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” followed by the above quote) kept looping in my brain.  I tried to justify it … yeah, she’s right, karaoke is embarrassing… people take it too seriously, blah blah blah.

Apparently, for my overactive brain, this wasn’t good enough, because I kept thinking about it.  And I would like to say up front, my final, honest reaction is probably a little strong, but it’s how I feel.

Had she perhaps said, “I don’t take karaoke too seriously ~ it’s silly fun, and I like to do something completely unexpected, because that’s what it’s all about,” I might not have been nearly so offended.  But last night, as I sat in the audience while a string of people – really good singers, actually – did karaoke at my local bar, that Kelly Clarkson quote that I just couldn’t shake came back to me with a vengeance.

Not to get too into the whole drama, but once upon a time I was a pretty good singer ~ good enough to be accepted into a college program based on my voice.  I wasn’t the best singer (I’m no Audra McDonald) but I was one of nine people out of hundreds who got a ‘yes’ from my program (and one of the top programs at the time in the discipline in the country).  I’m adding this because I feel as though my beef with Kelly would seem … less legit, maybe? … if you thought I was a tone deaf moron.  So, it’s established.  I kinda sorta know a little bit about what I’m talking about.

And here is what I have to say.

For a person who won a competition that is, in and of itself, a glorified version of karaoke, I think it’s highly irresponsible to say so nonchalantly that people should “let the dream go, it’s never gonna happen.” Not only irresponsible, but condescending and thoughtless. Each of the people who walked humbly and with some embarrassment up to the stage last night looked around sheepishly as the intro music played, but when they began to sing, you could see the joy it gave them.  Anyone who has ever stood on stage and been applauded can attest to the fact that it leaves you giddy.  It reinforces a person’s sense of acceptance ~ as Sally Field once famously said, “You like me! You really like me!”

Karaoke can be embarrassing, sure.  Like, burning in your seat and wishing, for the sake of the person on stage, they could melt into the floor like the Wicked Witch of the West (it happened last night while I sang the lyrics to the current karaoke song at the bar while the guys on the stage fumbled, and mumbled and in general didn’t ever really sing, instead looking awkwardly at each other as the words lit up across the screen … I mean, who doesn’t want to belt out “Callin’ Baton Rouge”? -my favorite Garth Brooks song of all time- Seriously!).  But for some people, it’s the ability to get up there and sing their hearts out ~ and from that derive joy.  I’m not saying I’m a karaoke groupie ~ I don’t know where it is and which nights, but I do enjoy, on occasion, the opportunity to once again stand up there in the spot light and sing my heart out.  It may not be Broadway, or even regional theatre (I can’t stay in good vocal health long enough to do that anyway), but it’s fun, and it reminds me that there are things I’m pretty darn good at, which is always helpful when life seems like an uphill battle.

So, in conclusion, Ms. Clarkson.  While I think I understand what you’re getting at, don’t belittle the rest of us who didn’t win American Idol (or America’s Got Talent, or The X Factor … or any reality show); who have never auditioned, or never pursued music, or never had the support or financial stability to take a huge risk like that.  Let the people sing karaoke.  Let them sing karaoke like they’re on stage at Carnegie Hall.  Understand that you are gifted, and privileged, and luckier than a lot of people.  And try to keep in mind that some of us karaoke-goers can hold a tune, some of us did pursue music … and then we got ‘real’ jobs to pay the bills, and every once in awhile we relive our glory days on stage during karaoke night.

You shouldn’t really begrudge us that.  Right?

 

elevators

In my office building’s elevator is a TV screen that freely advertises its purpose: to help everyone avoid awkward small talk in the elevator.

Whew.  Because that was always a big concern of mine …. (Please read with sarcasm).

However, sometimes there is really interesting information flashing across the screen (amidst Starbucks ads that make a person want to take the lift right back down to the first floor and purchase an overpriced coffee drink … which luckily I never have to do because I already have my steaming cup of chai tea clasped securely in my hand!).

One of the statistics they flashed recently was some preposterous percentage of people (87 perhaps?  I’ll check on my way down this evening) don’t have a healthy work/life balance.  They even – I kid you not! – eat lunch at their desk.

Wait a second.

The first time I saw the stat, I definitely made a face.

I, me, myself ~ this girl! ~ eats lunch at her desk.  I find it to be vastly more efficient, and it also prevents me from spending too much time chatting, and not enough time working.  Because here’s the deal ~ I prefer (and it rarely works out for me but I haven’t stopped trying) to be done with work when I leave at night.  So if that means working through lunch, so be it.  There’s not a whole lot of time (after the hour commute home) to go to the gym and get in a good work out, cook a fun meal, do chores around the house, etc before the clock is ticking 10pm, and the countdown to bed starts.

And trust me, this little lady needs her zzzz’s.  Besides, 5.45am comes pretty fast.  And it’s dark out now, which is even less inspiring when one needs to get out of bed and get organized for another jam-packed day.

Oh Mr. Elevator TV ~ why did you give me something else to worry about?

As I ate my rigatoni with lamb ragu this afternoon while doing some data entry, I wondered if the multi-tasking act was truly affecting me in a negative way.

The lunch was good.  Check.

The work was easy, and getting done.  Check.

No heart palpitations.  Good Sign.

No yearning to be sitting with my co-workers, idly chatting about things (in fact, truth be told, I was glad to miss lunch today ~ too many people jammed around the lunch area!).

So all in all, I’m doing okay.  But if you’re eating lunch at your desk and are feeling a little angry about it ~ you may be part of that terrible percentage, and some life reevaluations may need to be made.

Or, you could just be efficient.  But that’s only my opinion.  ;)

here we go …

The first day of football season (Thursday’s debut game notwithstanding) is always such an exciting day.  The jersey comes off the hanger, the hats come down from the rack.  As the weather cools, the sweatshirts are cuddled up in at night.  My whole life exists, especially on Sunday, in black & gold.

Ah Pittsburgh.  I love yinz.

There is something utterly exhilarating for me to watch my team come out onto the field in their uniforms, faces stony in concentration, hair cut, beards shaved ~ everyone clean cut, fresh and new.

This year we play the Ravens on Opening Day ~ our biggest Division Rival ~ the salt in many wounds.  I watched the AFC Divisional Game in January 2009 with my little brother, in Row 521 (or there about) in the endzone as the wind whipped and the snow fell.  It was the best NFL game experience I have ever had.  We barely sat down (the benches were coated in ice), we screamed, we swung terrible towels (sidenote: my arm actually hurt the next day ~ true story), we screamed until we couldn’t scream any more …. It was worth all the blood, sweat and tears it took to get there.  (Dave came down to Philly from NYC, I picked him up at 6am, we drove down to my parents, got my dad, and the three of us drove across the state in a snow storm).

At the beginning

In a sea of black & gold

This game isn’t as heavy as that game ~ but it’s a doozy of a way to start the season.  May Ben play well, may our O line play well, may our defense be epic, and may we suffer no season-ending or crucial injuries to our major players.

One can’t really ask for more than that.

Here we go Steelers, Here we go!