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Archive for September, 2011

Captain Cavedweller and I were invited to an Italian themed potluck last week. Trying to think of a fun dessert to make, I finally decided on Panna Cotta. The custard is so yummy, especially when paired with one of my other favorites – raspberries!

I didn’t have any leftovers, so I guess it was a hit!

The cast of characters

Begin by sprinkling gelatin over 1/4 cup cold milk.

Add sugar to the cream

Add in vanilla, stir well and cook for about four minutes or until sugar is dissolved.

Side Note: This is where I must fess up. I had a brilliant plan to make mini panna cotta molds using a  muffin-tin and cupcake papers. That plan was not so brilliant in reality as it was in my head. Which is why there are no photos between this point and the point of making the coulis. I just couldn’t bring myself to show you the disaster. I ended up taking the panna cotta to the potluck in espresso cups, which actually turned out quite lovely and fun, but I did manage to salvage one of the molds to take the photo you see here today. If I was going to go the mold routine again, I’d opt for silicone cupcake molds. I think that might work quite well. Maybe. Or paper cups – little Dixie cups. Or not…

Okay, on with the recipe…

Set aside a handful of raspberries for garnish. Sprinkle with sugar (I tried Raw Sugar and that was a good choice!) and let set over night along with the panna cotta. Cover with plastic wrap or put in a resealable bowl.

Mix berries, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy pan and cook on medium heat until berries are thick – about 10-15 minutes.

Cook until thick and bubbly and the delicious berry smell makes your knees a bit wobbly.

Run the berries through a strainer to get all the seeds and pulp out. Use the back of a spoon to press the juice through. Or if you are one of those lucky people with nifty kitchen gadgets that I drool over, you can do this whole process in your food processor.

Pour over Vanilla Panna Cotta and enjoy! You can save the coulis, tightly covered in the fridge for about four days. It is also yummy on ice cream, pudding, yogurt, pound cake, a spoon…

Vanilla Panna Cotta

A silky custard, made without egg…

1 3/4oz envelope unflavored gelatin

1 cup cold milk, divided

1 ¾ cups heavy cream

¼ cup granulated sugar

1½ tsp. vanilla extract

Sprinkle gelatin over ¼ cup milk in a small bowl. Stir until moistened. Let stand five minutes (it will be lumpy).

Cook heavy cream, granulated sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for about four minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring until completely dissolved. Add in  remaining ¾ cup milk. Stir in then pour mixture into six 4-ounce dessert glasses or wineglasses. Cover with plastic wrap and chill eight hours. If you have some forms that are easy to get treats out of, you can pour panna cotta into them. I would recommend silicone or something that is easy to work with.

Top with Berry Coulis, and  fresh raspberry or two for garnish. If you wanted to go wild, you could also shave some chocolate on top or drizzle a bit of chocolate sauce.

Berry Coulis

2 cups fresh raspberries

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

Rinse berries then cook with sugar and lemon juice over medium heat in  heavy saucepan until sauce is thick, stirring occasionally. This is going to take about 10-15 minutes.

When the berries have cooked down and thickened, run through a strainer to remove the seeds and pulp. Press it through with a spoon. The end result is a magically wonderful sauce that you literally want to eat with a spoon.

Enjoy!

She Who Liked this Way Too Much!

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Saturday I was running around the house like a chicken about to lose it’s head with a long to-do list of things that had to get done. Captain Cavedweller, of course, was working so that left me to tackle all my self-inflicted projects on my own.

And as luck would have it, my blasted, expensive, completely stupid washing machine decided to have a melt-down when I had five loads of laundry that needed done sooner rather than later.

Poor Captain Cavedweller made  the mistake of calling me while he was eating lunch to see how my day was going. It may be a while before he does that again due to the earful he received about the world falling apart at home, at least in the laundry room.

“Just take everything to the laundromat,” he said.

Right.

Easy for him to say, because he wouldn’t have to go hang out there for days of his life while hovering around the icky machines waiting for the loads to finish.

Scrounging through every vehicle, junk drawer, couch cushion and CC’s secret stash of coins for pop machines, I came up with what I hoped would be enough quarters to get the job done, loaded the laundry and reluctantly drove to the laundromat. There was only one woman there with her two little boys, so I quickly loaded up machines and got things rolling. I was dumping in the last load when I realized I was one quarter short.

Really? One quarter?

I’d already dug under the car seats, riffled through the jockey box and dumped out my wallet. And of course, there weren’t any machines that worked to convert dollar bills to quarters because in my search for change I had found two crisp dollar bills. Looking across the laundromat at the woman with a ziploc bag full of quarters, I decided to beg.

I offered to trade her a dollar bill for one quarter, thinking she’d jump on the opportunity. At this point, I would have gladly traded a $5 if I had one.

She might have gone for it if she could have spoken a word of English.

Through hand motions and, quiet possibly the look of sheer desperation on my face, she handed me four quarters. I think she may have been a bit frightened of the deranged woman who kept saying “I just need one quarter, please!” While frantically waving around a dollar bill.

She went and sat outside in her car while her clothes ran through their cycle. If I didn’t know better, I would think she was perhaps hiding out from me.

Once the laundry was done and loaded in my car, I ran back over and tried to give her the second dollar bill.

With a “thank you so much for the quarter,” I handed it to her. Finally she accepted looking somewhat unsure, but not quite as frightened, as she gave me a tremulous smile.

I don’t think she has any idea how much that quarter she let me have meant to me. But I hope that little smile means she might have an idea. And that she isn’t completely terrified of me.

She Who Terrifies Women and Children at the Laundromat

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Pigs in a Blanket

Any of you who have high cholesterol, high sodium issues, are on a diet or your arteries could explode if you eat too much butter, please ignore today’s post and check back next week for a delicious dessert.

For those of you who feel like living on the edge, read on!

We’re making Pigs in a Blanket today!

These are easy, fast and when you make them wickedly calorie-laden, so yummy!

Ingredients

Unfold crescents so you have individual triangles. Place one brat on the fat end and roll dough all around the brat, pinching dough to seal any openings. The camera battery died at this point and I had to switch to the old not-so-fancy camera, so I apologize in advance for the rest of the photos!

 

Once your little "pig" is wrapped up tightly in the "blanket" brush melted butter all over the outside of it.

 

Sprinkle on some chunky sea salt.

 

Pop in the oven and bake about 15 minutes until golden brown.

 

Pigs in a Blanket

 

Pigs in a Blanket

Package of Beef Brat Sausages

Tube of Crescent Rolls

Butter, melted

Salt

Roll Brats in crescent dough. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in 375 degree oven until golden brown and enjoy!

She Who Should Not Eat These Ever

 

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If you ask me why, I couldn’t give you any good reason I’m feeling particularly nostalgic today.

But I am.

And then I ran across this photo and it made it worse.

My brother Kim is dressed up and ready to go somewhere (if  I have my facts straight, it was his high school graduation.) My brother Doug got stuck holding me and my sister Shelley looks happy for whatever adventure lies ahead.

I love this photo for a variety of reasons.

• It is one of the few photos in existence that shows me with my three siblings. Doug married a year later and started his own family.

• I was cute then (I outgrew that stage pretty quickly).

• My two brothers aren’t paying any attention to the camera because they are both looking at me like I might spontaneously combust at any given moment.

• My sister and I are both looking at someone. That someone probably being my mom who was obviously doing a good job of making me smile.

• When I tell people I was an accidental afterthought to my parents’ first three kids, this clearly illustrates my point. Not everyone brings home a newborn when you already have three kids  who are 19. 17 and 14.

• You have to love the 1970s processing that makes Doug and Kim look like Oompa Loompas while Shelley looks ghost-like.

Sometimes, taking a little walk down memory lane is a good thing.

She Who Loves Old Family Photos

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Now that I’ve accepted the fact that fall is knocking at my door, I’m getting ready to invite him inside.

One way to make your home cozy and autumnesque is by using the scents of fall.

Pumpkin, apple, cinnamon and spice lead our noses down a merry leaf-filled path while our heads follow along.

Some of my favorite scents are:

Salty Caramel from Bath & Body Works

Creamy Pumpkin from Bath & Body Works

Cinnamon and Clove Buds from Bath and Body Works

Autumn Wreath by Yankee Candle

Be Thankful by Yankee Candle


Spiced Pumpkin by Yankee Candle

Find your signature fragrance and enjoy the scents of fall!

She Who Needs To Go Light A Candle

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With a chill in the air and the first official day of fall this week, I may have to admit defeat and accept the fact that autumn is about to arrive.

Instead of stomping my feet and having a full-fledged hissy fit that summer has once again flown away before I had a chance to fully enjoy it, I have decided to instead embrace the autumn season.

One fun way to do that is with an Autumn-themed party.

Send out invitations shaped live fall leaves or use stationery with a pumpkin or apple theme.

Bring the colors of the season into your home using shades of crimson red, burgundy, sage and earthy greens, golden yellow,  and deep orange. Use accent pillows or throws to really create that warm and cozy atmosphere we associate with fall.

Decoration for your party can be something as simple as a few potted mums, bundles of wheat tied with raffia bows or a pile of mini pumpkins and squash. You don’t have to get carried away with something fancy. You could even do bowls of polished apples or carve out the centers of apples and use as holders for candles.

Your meal can be simple as well. Make a pork roast with carrots and potatoes, pan-fry some squash and finish the evening with apple pie.

If you want the party to be a more hands-on experience, do a fun activity before the meal like apple picking or visiting a pumpkin patch. Make your guests earn their dinner by hosting a leaf-raking party (make sure you supply plenty of garbage bags to collect the leaves and gloves). Give the person who rakes the most leaves a nice prize.

Or host an autumn bonfire. Serve up hot dogs, potato wedges and mulled cider.

However you decide to entertain this fall, just remember to enjoy the experience and not get too wrapped up in the details.

She Who Really Needs to Plan an Autumn Party

 

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Respect

I attended a funeral Saturday that was heart-wrenching and emotional. One that makes you want to run home and gather your loved ones close and never let go.

There were, what I would guess to be, several hundred people in attendance. Most behaved as you would expect people to behave when at a funeral – somber, quiet, respectful. Then there were a few that really had me shaking my head.

I realize society’s rules on what is acceptable funeral (and wedding) attire has relaxed greatly, but I think there is a point where a line should be drawn.

There is nothing respectful in showing up to a funeral service in filthy jeans and slippers or flip flops and shorts. And some might be quick to assume these were young people.  Some yes, but not all of the offenders.

What happened to the days where people literally put on their “Sunday best” when attending functions such as weddings or funerals? Quiet honestly, I miss it. That laid-back anything-goes attitude just doesn’t always fly. Sometimes it goes over as well as a lead balloon.

The other thing I noticed that was completely lacking in respect was the behavior of drivers as the long line of cars snaked their way across town to the cemetery for graveside services. Most cars coming toward us pulled over and respectfully waited for the funeral procession to pass. Then there were  those who ignored what was going on, zipping past the multitude of cars pulled over on the side of the road. The offenders were all ages, so blame can’t be put on any one age group for not knowing better. I think it was more of a problem of people being so wrapped up in themselves, they pay no attention to anything else going on around them, or they don’t really care.

If you are one of the few who show respect in social settings, my hat is off to you. I sincerely hope dressing, acting, talking and being respectful isn’t something that will entirely disappear. Maybe if  few more people set a good example, others will follow.

She Who Cheers on the  Respectful

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