Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ham -n- Bean Soup

Every year my boss gives us a Honey Baked Ham and every year, after hubby is done gnawing at the carcass (ahhh, if only he looked at me that way), the remains go into a big soup pot.

Ham bone, onions, navy beans, salt, pepper and bay leaves (from my bay laurel). Simmered all day, until the smell causes drooling in the males of the home. Simple and so, so good, we it served with cheese crisps on the side. This bugger makes a HUGE pot (18 quarts) of soup, so the leftovers are bagged up for later and much is given away to the many folks who request it. He took a few bags to work and I took a couple as well. That still leaves several bags in the freezer for cold nights when we don't know what to have for dinner.

**I should note that I stole the first picture from Honey Baked's site. If they come looking for it, Andie told me to.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Us with stinkin' colds and Hoisin Pork and Buckwheat Noodles

I think Phillip's sister gave it to our nephew. Then our nephew gave it to Phillip's mom, who in turn gave it to the rest of us at Christmas dinner. Hers hit first, then his dad, then mine, now his. So everyone is kind of pitiful with the hacking and coughing and congestion and such. My mom always says "Well, you're just going to have a cold for 5 - 7 days, so may as well just suck it up and endure." That pretty much sums it up. No, the zinc lozenges haven't helped, and they're utterly vile. Cherry flavor? Please. It's like sucking chalk. No, amend that. It's like licking chalk off a dirty floor. Blegh. Bourbon is much better, and at first helps my throat, then alleviates my consciousness of the symptoms. (No, I haven't had THAT much. I just wish...)

So anyway, tonight I cooked something quick and simple with a lot of flavor to penetrate our diminished sense of smell. Hoisin barbecued pork tenderloin and buckwheat noodles. Pork marinated in hoisin, honey and soy sauce, grilled and sliced thin and mixed with thinly sliced vegetables and buckwheat noodles tossed with hoisin, lime juice, and some other stuff that I forget right now because I'm busy coughing. I'm going to need to Lysol my keyboard. And the rest of the house.
But cold or no cold, I'm back for blogging. The holidays were pretty hectic and I did a terrible job of keeping up. Yep. You can tell, I'm sure. So here we go, forging ahead for 2009. Stay tuned!
Now I'm going to go find some Nyquil. I can go to bed at 7:30, can't I? It's dark...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Dinner with Jenn and David

I know. I'm behind. WAY behind. I haven't logged in here in so long Blogspot forgot me. I had to go thinking about my password and everything. Sorry! I've been nagged by a few of my peeps to get busy. So I'm going to catch you up.

Let's see... dinner with Jenn and David was last Wednesday - almost a week ago. I know! I know! Hush. I'm getting there. I was out of town this weekend, working before that... you know. It's Christmas!

To add to my lameness, I haven't gotten any pictures lately. Here's a shot of Jenn and David that I have.

Yes, you're right! We have some seriously good looking friends! They're disgustingly nice, too. So because they're good looking and nice, and we want them to like us and hang with us some, (maybe some of their mojo will rub off), I made them a festive Christmas dinner. Oh, and also, we got Jenn drunk. (Just a little additional boost.)

Pootie served Jenn not one, but TWO Parkers before dinner. This is a drink that I had at the Algonquin in NYC that is named after Dorothy Parker. It's sweet, but delicious. We hit a really close approximation after we got home. It's 1 part vodka, 1 part Chambord, and the juice of half a lemon. Jenn's a cheap date, and she liked them enough to almost be all "I love you guys!" after dinner. (Score a point for us!)

Before dinner we had some honey roasted peanuts and some Boursin cheese and crackers. Look, it was a school night. I'd worked all day. They didn't complain. Not in front of us, anyway.

For dinner:
Grilled Herbed Cornish Hens with white wine sauce

Rustic Bread, Oyster Mushroom and Cranberry Stuffing

Steamed Green Beans


For dessert:

Apple Pie (delicious and made by Jenn)

Cafe du Leche Ice Cream (delicious and made by Haagen Daz (I can't find the umlaut)

Here. There's the umlaut and another picture so you don't get bored. By the way, they had some peppermint bark ice cream that RULED unfortunately for my taste buds, but fortunately for my butt, the Teeter is already out of it. Dang. Oh well. At least my pants will still fit.

We had a wonderful time. They stayed late, too, so hopefully we got exposed to more mojo. I DID feel better looking the next day, and I got a two emails, (only one from my mother) indicating an upswing in my popularity, so we'll have them over again and see if we continue to improve.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Baking...FINALLY

This has been a tough year to get Christmas going. It's less than 4 days away and I still don't have a single present wrapped that didn't get mailed out. Living here in the desert you don't usually get weather changes to remind you it's even on the way, but this year we had a foot of snow last week, and patches of it are still on the ground.
This shot was taken looking out of our driveway to the west. (In the distance you can see Mt San Jacinto.) We had no mail for several days, UPS was only delivering to the highway and even the military base shut down. It was like the world came to a standstill.

This weekend things started moving again. Mail arrived, the stores were open, the base was back in full swing and I decided once again, at Andie's urging, to do some holiday baking. First things first, the guilty culprit who sabotaged my efforts last time had to be locked away. Look, she's licking her lips in anticipation of catching me off guard and once again breaching the barrier to the kitchen and all the goodies she can find.

Since it was late and my packages had already been sent out, I scaled back the list to enough for the local folks. It came down to Dark Chocolate Truffles, Cranberry Pistachio Ice Box Cookies, Chocolate No Bakes and Chocolate Pecan Revel Bars. Now, the last two are straight out of Betty Crocker, and if I don't make them every year as I have for the last 20, I am in BIG trouble. The No Bakes disappeared before they made it to a tray, so the candy canes are standing in for them in this shot.

We ran a small container of goodies up to the weekend crew at the hospital, since they always feel left out. We barely set it down on the counter when they descended like piranhas and devoured it before our eyes. I take that as the ultimate compliment. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. (Darn, that line would have worked much better if I'd gotten this typed in last night...)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Baking...or Not

Injury, illness and puppy delays were finally under control, and I was ready. I had my list, checked it twice, and was ready, I tell you. Packages were going out tomorrow and fresh from the yoda-kitchen goodies would be included.

I set a pound of butter on the counter to soften at 7:30 Sunday morning, then Hubby and I headed off for breakfast and the final gift for brat boy. One platter of cinnamon roll french toast (I have got to figure out how they make it, it's TDF) and 200 pounds of gym equipment later we were headed home.

The cell phone rang. It was brat boy, home and laughing. Seems that our 2 Great Danes had broken into the kitchen (thank god the puppy was in her crate) and eaten two boxes of saltines, a loaf of bread and whatever else they could find. "What about the butter?" "What butter?" The only sign there had been butter was a small piece of paper stuck to a cabinet. Don't worry, by last evening we knew which one had eaten the butter.

So no, I didn't do any baking. I was busy cleaning. And scooping. And cleaning. And more cleaning. And if all you get is a box of stale Nilla Wafers that I swiped from Andie, don't be surprised. Wait, strike the wafers. They got those, too. Sigh.

And did I mention the frozen white stuff is only 4 miles away and heading fast for us?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Dinner with Ned and Melissa

Oh, I'm sorry. We were having too chill an evening for me to take pictures. Melissa was a little the worse for wear after their holiday office dinner the night before, and Pootie has been having a host of stomach ailments, so Ned and I were charged with the task of picking up the slack on the festive imbibing. I don't think we were quite up to the challenge. It was a pretty quiet, relaxed dinner. Lovely, really.

Mixed Greens with Cherries and Warm Goat Cheese
Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Blueberry Reduction Sauce
Wild Rice (not Uncle Ben's)
Peppermint Ice Cream and Potato Chip Cookies (these are the ones I made for shipping that are really crispy pecan-sandie-like)
Once again, my gas grill did me right. I put a cast-iron skillet on there and cranked up all three burners for a while, until it was about 600 degrees. Then I put the duck breast skin-side down. No smoke in the house, no grease on my ceiling, no waking up to the smell of stale diner, just perfectly seared, crispy duck skin, and about two inches of melted duck fat in the skillet. It's actually still out there on the grill. It was cold last night, so I decided to just leave it out there so it could solidify and I'll take care of it this morning.
I suppose now is as good a time as any, so I'm off to dispose of duck fat. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Cookies!!

I'm late with this one. It's Tuesday evening, and I did them on Sunday. All. Day. Long. I can tell I'm getting older. I used to spring out of bed at dawn on baking day, yell "Baking Day! It's Baking Day!!", put on my cape, boots and golden lariat of truth and attack the kitchen like I was kicking bad-guy ass in the Mole World of the Underground. I'd whip up multiple batches of several different kinds of cookies and candy so fast Willy Wonka would have hired me on the spot.

Even if I don't look like an Oompa-Loompa. (Thank god.)

As I've gracefully aged to a mature woman, however, I have noticed a gradual slowdown in production. This past Saturday, there were no heralding trumpets. No battle cry. Unless you count "Where the HELL is my coffee?? Is that damned machine not done YET?" at the crack of 8:00 AM. No cape, boots, or golden lariat. Just red pajamas, fuzzy slippers and what looked suspiciously like moths buzzing around my head until my second cup. Yes, to my horror, Wonder Woman has slowly and quietly been replaced by the grumpy old Hallmark lady, Maxine.

So hopefully my gift recipients don't receive their season's bounty and go "Geez. She's really losing her touch. And chinchy! Last year and year before we had boxes and boxes of sweets! And this year only two little paltry boxes of stale cookies!"

I just got too tired after eight hours to make any more cookies. Forget candy!

This year's list was:

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies (well, who hasn't done this with a chocolate chip cookie recipe)
Chocolate Rads (OLD Bon Appetit Recipe - Chocolate cookies with chocolate chips and walnuts)
Potato Chip Cookies (Fine Cooking) - oh, before you laugh and call me white trash, you have to taste them. man!
Molasses Crackles (Fine Cooking - pretty much a ginger/molasses cookie. good!)
White Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate Rum Balls (requested)

Was that it? Yes, I guess it was. I made multiple batches. See what I mean? Kind of pitiful, given how many different kinds I used to make. I fortified myself during the cooking process with iced green tea and saltines, and some of the potato chips from the cookie recipe (ahem). I've not got much of a sweet tooth, so I didn't do much tasting. I know. This does have repercussions. I have been known, in a moment of distraction, to leave out incidental ingredients such as sugar. Oh hush. I usually catch it before I put it in the oven...

So my Pootie helped me box everything up and he even did all the postage pick up paperwork. So yesterday (Monday) the mailman came and picked up the sad little shipment and I suppose it's on its way. It's the thought that counts, folks. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah and Felix the Navidad Cat!