Saturday, January 31, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #191

Scrappycat
Time spent with cats is never wasted. - Colette

Scraps (aka Scrappycat), the senior citizen of the Sidewalk household. She keeps us all in line.

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging, hosted by Sir Tristan Tabby Cat Longtail.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My New Favorite Toy

labeler


I believe in the power of suggestion. I believe if you go around smiling, soon you will be happy. I believe that if you buy yourself cute exercise clothes, you will exercise. So, when I read that one of the best tools for organizing is a labeler, I didn't even hesitate. I knew I wanted one.

Sticky Rice


I was right. I love this thing. It is useful everywhere! Right now it is at school and I am busy putting professional looking labels on my folders and binders. They are so pretty, sometimes I just sit and gaze at them. It calms me. It is my little island of order in the chaos that is middle school.

When I get everything organized (and I will, because I have a labeler, after all), I'll post pictures. You will be green with envy!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Slow-Roasted Beef Ribs with Mushroom Stroganoff

Short Ribs


Well, it's Thursday, you know what that means! Yep, time for Tyler Florence Fridays! What? Why do I post Tyler Florence Fridays on Thursdays, you might be asking yourself. Then again, you might not care. But, in case you do, it's because on Fridays I am busy working, teaching my special little darlings. So, I can't email my post and info in on Friday, I have to do it on Thursday night. There, aren't you glad I cleared that up for you?

So, anyway, for this week, I decided to use my new, free, cookbook, Tyler Florence: Stirring the Pot which I won just for participating in TFF. I didn't have to go far (it was the third recipe in the book) to find Slow-Roasted Beef Ribs with Mushroom Stroganoff. I paused for awhile at Bacon-Wrapped Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Gravy, so expect to see that in the near future.

Short Ribs


This was my first time making short ribs. I really wanted to braise them, but I decided to give slow roasting a try. I don't believe that my short ribs had as much meat on them as most do. So, they probably should have not roasted for the full 2 1/2 hours, but since I had no experience to back up my thinking, I left them in the whole time. They were a little dry. However, the unbelievably flavorful brown crust that formed on them was amazing. So, I think it was a fair trade. The next day, I shredded the leftover meat and stirred it into the mushroom stroganoff and moistened it with a little beef stock, heated it up, and it was possibly even better than the first day.

Slow-Roasted Beef Ribs with Mushroom Stroganoff
Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 2 ribs apiece
Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced shite button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup cognac
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup sour cream
1 pound egg noodles
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Sprigs of fresh parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 300. Arrange short ribs on roasting tray and drizzle with a little oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast ribs for 2 1/2 hours until meat is falling off the bones.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, heat a large saute pan over high heat and add a 3-count of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons). Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, until brown. Add garlic and shallots and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes more, until garlic and onion become fragrant. Remove pan from heat and carefully add cognac, scraping to deglaze the pan. Return to heat and add whipping cream. Reduce heat and simmer, until reduced by half. Turn off heat and stir in mustard and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain well; toss with butter and chopped parsley while still hot. Pile buttered parsley noodles high on a plate, top with ribs, and finish with stroganoff sauce. Garnish with parsley.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chai Spice Biscotti

Chai Spice Biscotti


When Grace from A Southern Grace announced a new food blog event, A Cinnamon Celebration, I immediately said, "I'm in!" I, in no way, felt hampered by the fact that I don't bake. I bake bread, but other things like why I don't bake pies and cakes, they never work for me. About the only kind of sweet baking that works for me is biscotti. Why? Because it is..one, so easy...and two, it has such minimal expectations associated with it. It's supposed to be sort of dry, and hard, and crumbly. It doesn't have to rise much, or stay moist, or do any of those other things that baked goods refuse to do for me. So, biscotti it is.

Chai Spice Biscotti
From Cooking Light November 2000
2 1/2 dozen

2 3/4 cups all-purpose
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon loose Chai spice tea (about 3 bags)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon triple sec (orange-flavored liqueur) or orange juice
3 large eggs
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350.

Spoon the flour into measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour and next 6 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl. Combine the oil, liqueur, and eggs, and add to the flour mixture. Stirring until blended. The dough is very, very dry and crumbly. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly 7 or 8 times. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into an 8 inch long roll. Place the rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray (I used parchment paper); flatten each roll to a 1-inch thickness.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove the rolls from the baking sheet and allow to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into about 15 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Reduce the oven temp to 325 and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from sheet, cool completely on a wire rack.


These were so good! The dough, however, is extremely dry and crumbly. I just sort of mashed it all together and kept pressing all the crumbly bits back in. Next time I might add a bit of liquid, maybe some milk. But they came out wonderful, it isn't completely necessary.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Garden Tuesday - The Last Photo of Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus


I promise this is the last photo of my Christmas cactus (but really, they have bloomed for almost 3 solid months). The weather actually warmed up this weekend, and I ventured out of the house with my camera. So, next week, garden photos of an real live garden. Or really, photos of a sort-of half dead garden, because it is the middle of winter, you know!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Coconut-Almond Couscous

Creepy Closeup of Couscous


What is the easiest pasta ever? Couscous, of course! Really what could be easier?? You boil some liquid, add couscous and seasonings. Remove from heat, cover and let steam for 5 minutes. One of my favorite ways to serve spicy dishes is over coconut rice (rice cooked in coconut milk), so when I saw this recipe for coconut couscous, I practically smacked myself on the forehead. Duh!!

The original recipe from Cooking Light called for light coconut milk and I only had regular. In retrospect the light would have probably made it less gooey, but still with enough coconut flavor. So next time, and there will be a next time, I will use half coconut milk, half water.

Coconut-Almond Couscous
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 1/2 cups light coconut milk
1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Bring coconut milk to a boil. Gradually stir in couscous, green onions, salt and pepper. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds.


PPN


This embarrassingly simple pasta dish will be my entry this week for Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Erin of Skinny Gourmet.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Likeness by Tana French


I don't know about you, but I read mysteries and thrillers the same way I eat popcorn. In big, greedy handfuls, with bits and pieces falling to the wayside. Not really savoring it, just one goal in mind, get to the end. Eat it all, finish the bowl. I'm ashamed to say that alot of times when I read a thriller, a week later, I can hardly remember what I've read. I read them so quickly, they just don't have time to create memories in my mind.

I am happy to say that it was not so with The Likeness: A Novel by Tara French.

Here is the requisite jacket blurb:

Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still recovering. Transferred out of Dublin’s Murder squad at her own request, she vows never to return. That is, until her boyfriend, Detective Sam O’Neill, calls her one beautiful spring morning, urgently asking her to come to a murder scene in the small town of Glenskehy.

It isn’t until Cassie sees the body that she understands Sam’s insistence. The dead girl is Cassie’s double, and she carries ID identifying her as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie herself used years ago when she worked undercover. The question becomes not only who killed this girl, but who was this girl?

Frank Mackey, Cassie’s former undercover boss, sees the opportunity of a lifetime. Having played Lexie Madison once before, Cassie is in the perfect position to take her place. The police will tell the media and Lexie’s four housemates that the stab wound wasn’t fatal. And Cassie will go on living Lexie’s life until the killer is lured out to finish off the job.

It’s a brilliant idea, until Cassie finds herself more emotionally involved in Lexie’s life than she anticipated. Sharing the ramshackle old Whitethorn House with Lexie’s strange, tight-knit group of university friends, Cassie is slowly seduced by the victim’s way of life, by the thought of working on a murder investigation again, and by the mystery of the victim herself. As Cassie nears the truth about what happened to Lexie Madison and who she really was, the lines between professional and personal, work and play, reality and fantasy become desperately tangled, and Cassie finds herself on the edge of losing herself forever.


I think it was the setting of the story that really set this apart from just a plain old mystery to me. The housemates in this story share this lovely old home. They don't watch television or play on a computer, instead they spend their time fixing up the house, playing old-fashioned games and cards, talking, and reading. So, while I was keeping tabs on the mystery, I was also enjoying the lifestyle of the characters. Usually I read thrillers because I want to be caught up in the mystery and I read other books because I want to be caught up in the story and the characters, this book gave me both. This was my first book for the Notable Books Challenge, and so far I am off to a great start!

I highly recommend it, giving it 5 out 5 stars. (I've already forgotten how to make stars...sad, but true).

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #190

Patchouli


I purchased some fresh eggs from the same farm where I get my beef. This was the first time that I had tried their eggs. I was completely delighted to open up the carton and see this gorgeous array of eggs, from pale blue to a lovely spotted brown.

Patchouli


Patchouli found them every bit as delightful as I did.

Patchouli


I had one egg left from a grocery store bought carton of organic brown eggs. Up to this point, I had been pretty pleased with them. I needed to use two eggs for a recipe and cracked them both into a measuring cup. I wish I had taken a picture of it, because the difference was amazing. The yolk in the eggs from the farm was a deep orange color, while the grocery store yolk was a pale yellow.

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging, hosted by Kachim at Paulchen's FoodBlog?!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Roasted Root Vegetables with Honey, Balsamic Vinegar and Fresh Goat Cheese

Roasted Root Vegetables


We all know that roasted vegetables are great. The heat of the oven seems to concentrate the flavors and add some of the fabulous carmelization that we all love so much. About the only vegetable that I don't like roasted is broccoli. So, when I saw Tyler's recipe for Roasted Root Vegetables with Honey, Balsamic Vinegar and Fresh Goat Cheese in Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time I knew that I would be making it. What I didn't know, was how wonderful it was going to be. The vegetables were glazed and sweet. That sweet candylike flavor was offset by the creamy tanginess of the goat cheese. Roasted root vegetables + tangy goat cheese = match made in heaven. Really, seriously, good.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Honey, Balsamic Vinegar, and Fresh Goat Cheese
Serves 4

1/2 pound of carrots, peeled and left whole (I chunked mine)
1/2 pound medium beets, peeled and quartered
1/2 pound medium turnips, peeled and halved
1/2 pound medium parsnips, peeled and left whole (some I cut into chunks)
3 shallots, unpeeled cut in half through the stem end (next time I'm going to use red onions because I love the flavor of them roasted)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 ounces chilled fresh goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 350. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and salt and pepper in a big bowl (I just did it on the baking sheet, which I also lined with aluminum foil to help with cleanup). Dump them out onto a baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 25 minutes. Whisk together the honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Take the vegetables out of the oven, pour the vinegar-hone mixture over, and toss. Return the pan to the oven and cook until for tender and caramelized, about 20 more minutes. Top with pieces of goat cheese.


This will be my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays. Be sure and check out the round up on Friday, you will want to try each and every recipe, I guarantee it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Perciatelli with Shrimp and Garlic Breadcrumbs

Pasta with Shrimp


Raise your hand if you know what perciatelli is. Good for you! I love all the different names for pastas, unfortunately, all I can find are just the basics around here. So, if you didn't know, perciatelli is a long hollow pasta. If you can't find it, and I certainly couldn't, spaghetti or linguine may be substituted.

This whole recipe was really good, but let me just say that the garlic breadcrumbs are to die for! I kept the leftovers in a bowl by my stove and sprinkled them on practically everything. This recipe is quick and easy (the hardest part was peeling the shrimp) and it looks really elegant too, or at least, I think it does. Serve with a salad and a glass of white wine (if you partake) and it's a lovely dinner.

I found the recipe in The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh you can also find it online at Perciatelli With Shrimp and Garlic Breadcrumbs and I've posted it below. The only change I made was to use less capers, because I only had about 3 tablespoons left in the jar. And keep in mind that this is a dry-ish pasta, not a saucy pasta.


Perciatelli with Shrimp and Garlic Breadcrumbs
Serves 4

8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs made from French bread
8 garlic cloves, minced, divided


1 1/4 pounds uncooked peeled, deveined large shrimp
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
6 tablespoons drained capers
4 teaspoons (packed) grated lemon peel
12 ounces freshly cooked perciatelli (long hollow pasta), 1 cup pasta cooking water reserved


Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and half of garlic; sauté until crumbs are golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl.

Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 5 tablespoons oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and remaining garlic to skillet; sauté until shrimp are just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, capers, and lemon peel. Add cooked pasta and 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water. Mix in 1 cup garlic breadcrumbs, adding more pasta cooking water if dry. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining garlic breadcrumbs and parsley.


PPN


This will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything at Least Once.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Ivy

Ivy


Until further notice (which means until I feel it's warm enough to go outside) all garden photos will be taken inside!!

This is my ivy. It spends it's summers outside on the front porch and it's winter's looking longingly out the window.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell


This is my first Malcolm Gladwell book,Outliers: The Story of Success, and I can definitely say, that it will not be my last. In sticking with my idea to listen to nonfiction, this book was first on my list. We (my husband, daughter, and I) listened to this book during our holiday travels. It held all of us captive.

The book looks at why some people succeed, living remarkable lives, while others never reach their potential. We've all been told, with lots of hard work, you will be successful. Gladwell feels that while hard work is important, what is also important are extraordinary opportunities and advantages that present themselves at the right time and the right place to the right person. It's fascinating. He covers everything from Canadian junior hockey players, to Bill Gates, to The Beatles. This is not a self-help book, it's more, here is what I found, what do you think of it?

This book was so good, that I promptly went around telling everyone I knew to read it, so that I could have other people to discuss it with. I was really interested in the stories that related to education. It also raises the question as to why, even though my husband was born in the banner year for computer billionaires, we are living in Soddy Daisy, TN and I'm a middle school special ed teacher. I think I was supposed to have been a billionaires wife.

Rating:
★★★★★

Thanks to Rachel and Angie's Sister for showing me how to create those stars!! Even though, the idea of taking any computer advice from someone who shares Angie's gene pool is kind of scary.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #189

Smudge
A cat sleeps fat, yet walks thin.
- Fred Schwab

Smudge has no idea what this means, but he likes the sound of it.

This week's Weekend Cat Blogging is hosted by Miz Mog and Kitties at Mind of Mog.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Teacher Smiles Again

Thermometer
Yes, my husband has a digital, talking thermometer. Men like their toys.

Okay, some of you people felt that my school system was very generous the last time they gave us an inclement weather day. So, I imagine, you might feel the same way when you find out that we are off today because it is too cold!!!

I know, I've seen the pictures on the news of the children, lined up, waiting to get in their school bus during what appears to be a blizzard. But this is the south, people. We don't do cold. I saw kids yesterday at the bus stop in flimsy windbreaker type jackets. My typical winter wardrobe is either a jean jacket or a corduroy jacket and cute, little, black leather driving gloves (which I might add, didn't even feel like I had gloves on yesterday as I was scraping frost off the car).

Some of you know, that the reason I am scraping frost off my car, when I have a two car garage, is because my garage is filled with stuff. Lots of stuff. I have eight chandeliers hanging in my garage. Eight! It's a sickness, and unfortunately I can not afford therapy. So, you dear readers, will have to provide my therapeutic outlet.

Blogreaders: Pam, how do you feel about the eight chandeliers hanging in your garage?

Pam: It's my mother's fault.

Blogreaders: Pam, how do you feel about your mother?

Pam: It's my mother's fault.

Blogreaders: You're cured!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New York Strip Steak with Brandied Mushrooms and Fresh Thyme

Steak with Brandied Mushrooms


Have you been good? Really, really, good? Do you need to reward yourself for a job well done? Well, here you go. I can think of no better reward than Tyler Florence's Strip Steak with Brandied Mushrooms and Fresh Thyme from Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time Really, the only thing better than making this to reward yourself, is having someone make it for you.

My only complaint is that it was too good. Yep. Too good. It was so rich and so good, it was almost overwhelming. But I survived. You can find this fabulous recipe online: New York Strip Steak with Brandied Mushrooms and Fresh Thyme and I've also posted it below. You can also find it at Natashya's Living in the Kitchen with Puppies (I love her idea of serving it over the roasted potatoes).

New York Strip Steak with Brandied Mushrooms and Fresh Thyme
Serves 4

4 New York strip steaks, each about 1 1/2 inches thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds wild mushrooms, trimmed, brushed clean with a towel and stemmed, caps left whole
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until smoking. Sprinkle the steaks all over with salt and pepper. Put the steaks in the pan and cook, turning to brown all sides completely, until medium-rare, 8 to 10 minutes depending on how thick the steaks are. Remove the steaks to a platter with tongs and cover loosely with a tent of aluminum foil to keep the meat warm while you make the sauce.

Put the saute pan back over medium-high heat and add 1/4 cup olive oil. When the oil is smoking, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Then add the thyme and garlic, and season well with salt and pepper. Toss a few more times to cook the garlic, then dump the mushrooms out onto a platter. Take the pan off the heat, add the brandy, and cook until almost evaporated. Add the cream and cook that down 2 to 3 minutes until reduced by about one-half and thickened. Return the mushrooms to the pan with whatever juices have collected on the platter and simmer the whole thing another 2 minutes until thickened again. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the steak thin against the grain. Taste the sauce for salt and pepper and serve.


And, of course, you know what this means....it is my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays. Are you participating?? Well, why not! It's such fun! There are even giveaways! I am now the proud owner of Tyler Florence: Stirring the Pot It just arrived today from Deb in Hawaii! Sorry for the abundance of exclamation points, but I won a cookbook!! Cookbooks make me happy. Especially free ones.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chicken with Tarragon Vinegar Sauce

Chicken with Tarragon Vinegar Sauce


I bought a new cookbook. Don't berate me. It's the fault of the library. I was searching for new cookbooks, and I checked out The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh to browse through. See, I had good intentions, but oh my, it's 1,100 recipes!!! Not only is it impressive in sheer volume (think... Bittman's How to Cook Everything..big), but it's all fast and easy. You know how there is weekend cooking and then there is I'm-so-tired-I-can't-believe-I-have-to-cook weeknight cooking. This may very well become my weeknight cookbook. Seriously, everything, easy peasy.

One of the first things I spotted was a recipe for Chicken with Tarragon Vinegar Sauce. Remember my tarragon vinegar? This sounded like a very good use for it. I know my picture for some reason showcases the shallots tumbling down over the brown rice, instead of the chicken, which is supposed to be the star of the show. Sorry. I don't know what I was thinking?? Maybe I was in a hurry because my husband was standing there waiting for his plate. Patience. You must have patience in my house.

Chicken with Tarragon Vinegar Sauce
Serves 2

2 tablespoons butter
2 chicken breast halves, with skin and bones
3 shallots, chopped
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar
1 cup low-salt chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Melt the butter in a heavy, medium skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and saute until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate and add shallots to skillet. Saute shallots for about 30 seconds, then add vinegar; boil until reduced to a glaze, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and return the chicken, skin side up, to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a platter. Add tarragon to the drippings in the skillet. Increase the heat to medium-high; boil uncovered until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve over the chicken.


I made the recipe as noted, except that I didn't have any fresh tarragon, which I think would have added a nice fresh touch. I'll have to make this again in the summer. I also think this would be good with skinless, boneless breasts. Since this is a classic French Bistro dish, I am entering into Regional Recipes, hosted by Susan C at Open Mouth, Insert Fork.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Trees

Trees
Before you exclaim that I've gone all artsy on you and posted a black and white picture, look carefully. See, the little bit of brown in the leaves and the hint of green on the lichen? Yes, it's a color shot, but the fog was so heavy, everything had been reduced to light and dark shadows. Lovely.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thai Beef Stewed with Noodle

Beef Stewed with Noodle


When I'm in the mood for Thai (and really, when is one not in the mood for Thai??), I usually reach for one of cookbooks by Vatcharin Bhumichitr. I've done several Thai recipes with chicken and fish, but have never tried a beef recipe, so with a freezer full of beef, this sounded like the way to go. While searching through, Vatch's Thai Street Food I stumbled upon Beef Stewed with Noodle.

As usual, I was not disappointed. I have become seriously enamored with these flavorful Asian broths. This was so good and was so ridiculously easy. I loved the combination of the fresh crunchy bean sprouts and the rich broth. The only changes I made were to use beef round, instead of rump, and I used wide soba noodles, because that is what I had. Really, why go out to eat, when you can eat this good at home???

Beef Stewed with Noodle
Serves 4

4 cups of beef stock
1 pound lean rump steak, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 cilantro roots (I used leaves and stems, mostly stems)
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 ounces sen mee noodles (rice vermicelli), soaked and drained
2 cups fresh bean sprouts

garnish
1 scallion, finely chopped
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Bring the stock, beef, garlic, cilantro roots, cinnamon, star anise, soy sauce, fish sauce, and sugar to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Skim off any foam occasionally.

Cook or soak your noodles (per package directions). Place the cooked noodles and bean sprouts into a serving bowl. Ladle the cooked beef and broth over the noodles and the bean sprouts. The sprouts will soften a bit in the hot broth.

Garnish with the scallion and the cilantro.


PPN


See, unbelievably easy. This will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights, which is hosted by Ivy at Kopiaste.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold

You know the old addage, if you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all? That is why I've been hesitant to post a review of this book. Not that I refrain from saying bad things, oh heavens no! I do not hesitate to go off on someone, especially if they have done me wrong, but I don't really just sit around talking smack about innocent people. So, anyway, I kind of hesitate to post negative reviews about books or recipes, but hey, to each his own, and what doesn't appeal to me, may sound fabulous to you, right?

I've read Alice Sebold's two previous books: The Lovely Bones and Lucky: A Memoir and enjoyed both of them, so I was feeling pretty positive about The Almost Moon. But I have to say there was nothing positive about this book. I almost stopped reading it twice. I really, really, really hated the main character. Isn't that odd? I mean, I read murder mysteries with simply ghastly main characters, and I still enjoy the book. Maybe it's because I don't know any murderers, but I know several people who are like this main character.

I'm not going to tell you the "big event" of the book, though if you read inside the dust jacket, you can pretty much sort it out. Here is the Amazon blurb:

For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally crosses a terrible boundary, her life comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined. Unfolding over the next twenty-four hours, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, the meaning of devotion, and the line between love and hate. It is a challenging, moving, gripping story, written with the fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

So, yeah, something awful happens between the mother and the daughter, and the daughter is the one telling the story. Now, I don't know what Ms. Sebold wanted me to feel about these characters, but I ended up hating the daughter and feeling terribly sorry for the mother. The daughter is whiny, complaining, and totally self-centered. I found myself yelling at this character to just shut-up and grow up. Really, I just wanted to smack her.

I give this ** out of ***** stars (only I don't know how to make real stars, like some people use on their blogs). If you know how, please leave me a comment and I will be your best friend forever.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #188

Patchouli
Patchouli would like to share with you a quote from Winnie the Pooh: "Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."

This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging, hosted by LB and Breadchick at The Sour Dough.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Silly Tip

Cooking Tips


Well, this is a rather silly tip, but I was kind of excited when I figured it out. So, on the off-chance that one of you might find it worthwhile, I'm posting it.

Whenever I am cooking, I am always looking for something to hold open my cookbook. Something heavy that will cause it to lay flat, but not so big that I can't read around it. One day, I happened to lay my meat pounder on a book, and voila! It was perfect, heavy enough to hold open the most onery cookbook, yet narrow enough to easily move or read around.

See..silly I know. Not much substance to this post. But it's first week back at school, and I'm already exhausted. And yes, I know I had a bonus snow (rain) day, but I don't care. I need a nap.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tyler Florence - Oven Fries

Oven Fries


I make oven fries all the time. I never make real fried fries, even though I love them. It's not just for health reasons, but really mainly because I don't want the mess (same reason I don't fry chicken). So, I allow others to fry my fries and my chicken, it's easy oven roasted for me. When I saw Tyler's Oven Fries in Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time they looked perfect. I usually just roast oven fries with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, so this is kicked up a notch for me. They were very good, they stuck to my pan though. Next time I will toss them in the pan with the olive oil, that seems to help coat my pan better and keep things from sticking.


Tyler's Ultimate Oven Fries
Serves 4

2 russet potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, halves cut lenghtwise into fourths to make 16 big fat wedges (if you're like me, you'll have to read this about 2-3 times to figure it out)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and salt in a large bow, then dump the potatoes onto the baking sheet. Spread them out in a single layer. Roast for 30-35 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through, brown and crispy. Toss them in a big bowl with the cheese and parsley and serve hot.

This will be my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays. If you've been wanting to try some Tyler recipes be sure and check it out, or even better make something of Tyler's, post it and join us!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Make a Teacher Smile

School Closing


Yes!!! No snow, just lots and lots of rain. What to do...what to do? Clean out the freezer? Bake cookies? Lie in bed and read??

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Birdbath

Birdbath


Christmas morning when I looked out my back window, I saw this sitting out in the yard with a big red bow on it! Isn't it lovely?? I've been wanting a birdbath for quite a while now, and my husband found this one, complete with hummingbirds on it! I love it! It's my favorite Christmas gift. What was yours?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Overnight Beef Stock

Beef Broth


Hey, guess what I did all night long on Friday night??? Well, duh, I guess if you can read the title of the post, you have it figured out! In November, we purchased a side of beef, and now my freezer is stocked with lots and lots of grass-fed, hormone-free beef. When we were picking up the beef, the farmer was telling me what was included. One of the things was a bag of bones, which he started to explain what to do with. I interrupted him and said, "Oh, don't worry, I have plans for those." When he found out I was going to make stock, he offered me a whole cooler full of bones for free!!! He said no one wanted them, most people don't know what to do with them. I was almost as excited about these bones as I was the lovely packages of beef.


Warning...vegetarians...look away, shot of beef bones to follow.


One of the things I had marked to do over Christmas break (which ended today...gulp), was to make stock. Since I had about a zillion other things to do, I decided to them in the slow cooker, and not only in the slow cooker, but overnight in the slow cooker! Genius! My only complaint is the aroma, your house will smell so good, it's hard to sleep. I think I dreamed of pot roast!

Bones


This was so easy. I browned the meat and veggies right after dinner, dumped everything in the slow cooker and then in the morning just strained and admired!!! I know I should have cut the bones up a little more for more flavor, but I was too lazy. This recipe comes from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.


Beef Broth

4 pounds raw meaty beef bones
2 medium-size yellow onions, quartered
2 medium-size carrots, cut into chunks
4 stalks celery with leaves, cut into chunks
1/4 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
1 bay leaf, broken in half
4 cloves
10 black peppercorns
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
10 cups cold water

Preheat the oven to 450. Put the bones, onions, and carrots in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes, turning once.

Meanwhile, combine the celery, herbs and spices, wine, tomato paste, and 8 cups of water in the slow cooker. Turn on HIGH for about an hour until hot.

Add the bones, onions, and carrots to the slow cooker. Poor off the fat and add the remaining 2 cups of water to the roasting pan to scrape up any tasty brown bits. Add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 10-16 hours. If the water cooks down below the level of the ingredients, top off with some boiling water (mine didn't).

Uncover and let cool to lukewarm. Set a large colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth or use a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Pour the broth through the strainer and press on any vegetables to get as much juice as possible. Discard the solids. Refrigerate.

This broth will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator, or store in the freezer.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #187

Smudge
One of Smudge's resolutions is to eat less, he plans on starting first thing tomorrow, or maybe the next day.

This week's Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted by Samantha Black and Mr. Tigger at Life From a Cat's Perspective.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Pork Chops with Cinnamon Apples

Pork Chops


One of the hardest parts of menu planning for me is choosing the side dishes. I think that sometimes I spend even longer trying to decide what to serve with something then I do on picking the main dish! There are so many choices: veggies, pasta, grains, beans, all in endless combinations. If I have a complicated main dish, then I want simple sides and complicated sides call for a simple main dish. See...it makes my head hurt just thinking about it. So, I really love it when a cookbook puts together a menu for me or at least makes a suggestion as to what to serve with something. That's why I like the Dinner Tonight menus from Cooking Light. They are usually quick and easy and they are all thought out for me.

One of my favorites is Pork Loin Chops with Cinnamon Apples. They suggest serving it with buttered poppy seed noodles and peas, which, of course, I do. Now this isn't earth shatteringly fantastic, but it's good and comforting. Pork chops, apples, cinnamon, buttered noodles, and peas...it's like a hug from your grandma.

Pork Loin Chops with Cinnamon Apples
Serves 4

1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon butter
4 cups (1/2-inch) slices peeled Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of salt

Combine first 3 ingredients, and sprinkle over the pork. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove the pork from pan. Cover and keep warm.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add apples and remaining ingredients, and cook 5minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Serve the apples with pork
.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Books Read in 2008

1. Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel by Joe Hill
2. The Chopin Manuscript: A Serial Thriller (Unabridged)by Jeffrey Deaver
3. Bridge of Sighsby Richard Russo
4.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Timeby mark Haddon
5. Brick Lane: A Novel by Monica Ali
6. Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunee
7. The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel by Michael Chabon
8. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
9. Sunshine: A Novel (An Avon/Flare Book) by Norma Klein
10. Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman
11. Slam by Nick Hornby
12. Predator (Kay Scarpetta Mysteries) by Patricia Cornwell
13. Lost Light by Michael Connelly
14. French Fried: The Culinary Capers Of An American In Paris by Harriet Welty Rochefort
15. Promise Me (Myron Bolitar Mysteries) by Harlan Coben
16. Knock Off (A Finley Anderson Tanner Mystery) by Rhonda Pollero
17. Break No Bones: A Novel by Kathy Reichs
18. Me vs. Me by Sarah Mylnowski
19. The Virgin of Small Plains: A Novel by Nancy Pickard
20. School Days (Spenser) by Robert B. Parker
21. The Girls: A Novel by Lori Lansens
22. PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY, THE: A NOVELLA by Steve Martin
23. Stork Naked (Xanth) by Piers Anthony
24. Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
25. Pegasus Descending: A Dave Robicheaux Novel (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries) by James Lee Burke
26. Vanity Fair (Penguin Classics) by William Makepeace Thackery
27. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
28. Drop City by T.C. Boyle
29. The Hot Flash Club Chills Out: A Novel by Nancy Thayer
30. Fire Sale (V.I. Warshawski Novels) by Sara Paretsky
31. Icy Sparks (Oprah's Book Club) (Oprah's Book Club) by Gwen Hyman Rubio
32. Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck.
33. The Lost Girls: A Novel by Laurie Fox.
34. Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham.
35. Gravewriter: A Novel by Mark Arsenault.
36. The City of Ember (The First Book of Ember) by Jeanne DuPrau.
37. Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1) by Stephanie Meyer.
38. New Moon (The Twilight Saga, Book 2) by Stephanie Meyer.
39. Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood by Jennifer Traig.
40. Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Per Petterson.
41. Tree of Smoke: A Novel by Denis Johnson.
42. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler.
43. The Bobby Gold Stories: A Novel by Anthony Burdain.
44. The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds.
45. Night and Day, Virginia Woolf by Virginia Woolf.
46. Exit Ghost (Vintage International) by Philip Roth.
47. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos.
48. Beyond Reach (Grant County) by Karin Slaughter.
49. Bones to Ashes: A Novel (Temperance Brennan Novels) by Kathy Reichs.
50. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold.