Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Highlights

Pretty much the whole time that I was home could be considered a highlight.  I had an absolutely amazing Thanksgiving break!!  It was the first time that I had been home in almost 5 months and the first time that I had been home for more than 24 hours in nearly 7 months.  I knew that it was going to be a very busy break, but I was so looking forward to it.

We had a bad trip in Tuesday night and arrived around 10 pm.  The traffic was ridiculous getting out of Pittsburgh and it poured the whole way.  Luckily the girls were insanely good for the entire trip.

Wednesday Liv and I went to the best lunch spot in Hamburg (Poppyseed) and then to see Breaking Dawn Part I.  It was so(ooooo) good!  I (we) cannot wait for Part II!  Wednesday night Devin and I went to an awesome dinner party at Kevin and Jenny's new place.  They had homemade ravioli and apple pie; homemade samoas and apple cider caramels.  They really put me to shame.  We got to see friends that we haven't seen in a long time and meet some new ones.  It was a great night!

Thursday we had Thanksgiving dinner at my Grams and dessert at my in-laws to celebrate Tanya's birthday.  We made Apple Cider Margaritas.  They had a little too much tequila for my liking so I added extra cider, but they were yummy!

Friday morning I went Black Friday shopping with my step-mom Bridget and Liv.  This is what the sky looked like:


After shopping, I made a shrimp salad for Saturday (keep reading) and we (finally) had these:

Southern Tier Pumpking/Young's Double Chocolate Stout Black and Tans with a cinnamon sugar rimmed glass.  Bridget perfected the art of making a black and tan by using an ice cream scoop as the spoon.  They were amazing!  

We went out for a family dinner and I was in bed by 9.

Saturday was my Grams Surprise 80th Birthday Party.  All of the kids/grandkids/great grandkids were in town (except Megan and Todd who were truly missed) so it was the perfect time to have the party even though her birthday is not until December 20th.  We did such a good job keeping the secret, she had no idea!  It helped that it was a month before her actual birthday.  It was a great afternoon.  I made the playlist with the help of Devin (some Christmas, jazz and Sinatra) and also my Grams shrimp (pasta) salad.  I forgot to take pics.  I will have to the next time I make it.

Sunday Liv and I decorated the Christmas Tree at my Mom's house.  It was beautiful!  So was the mantle.

After that we forced the girls into their carriers (they did not want to leave) and headed back to Pittsburgh.  We hit zero traffic on the way back and the girls were very good again.  Overall, it was one of the best trips home since moving to Pittsburgh!

Now I just have to bust my butt for the next few weeks until we go back for Christmas!  I cannot wait!!

So Long!

Soups On

Well clearly, I was not able to share all of my recipes with you before Thanksgiving.  Today I am going to share my Chicken Noodle Soup recipe.  Well, it is actually my mother's recipe (which I assume means that it was my grandma's recipe).  My mom had about 5 recipes that were killer growing up.  This was one of them.  I do not have a written recipe that I follow, so I apologize for that.  I will just give you the gist of things and hopefully yours turns out delicious.  It is kind of fool proof, and it gets even better on day 2 and 3 and 4 and ...

I start by cleaning and chopping up a bunch of carrots.  I don't like to use baby carrots because they are too small and babyish for this soup.

Some celery.  Including the leafs which have the most flavor.

And a couple sweet yellow onions which I leave in large chunks.

Then I throw everything into a HUGE pot with some evoo and s&p.  I think I am going to have to stick with the Rachael Ray vernacular which includes evoo for extra virgin olive oil and s&p for salt and pepper.  It is easier to write.  

I let the veggies cook up a bit and then I add in some chicken bouillon and a bit of water to keep it from burning.  I tried this new stuff and did not like it.  It is absolutely not "better than bouillon."  It just didn't add enough flavor to the soup.  I had to add in some other stuff on day #2 (sorry no pics of it, but it was just some normal non-cubed, semi-solid bouillon (cubed is also fine)).

I rinsed off my bird and then added that into the pot with some more s&p.

Next I filled up the pot with water and last but not least threw in a couple bay leafs.

I let the soup come up to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours.  The longer it simmers, the more flavor the chicken will impart in the soup.  The longer it simmers, the more difficult it will be to remove the chicken from the soup.  It completely falls apart.  No matter what.  Be prepared for that.  You have to fish for all the pieces.

I pull my chicken out and place it in a bowl.  Then I use two forks to pull the meat off the bones and add it back into the soup.  I do not use much dark meat, mostly just the breast meat.  You should use whatever you like.  I also like to leave it in big chunks so that it does not shred too much in the soup, but it is totally up to you.

Then I let the soup cook for a while longer.  Pretty much the longer it cooks, the more flavorful it will be.  Unless you use crappy bouillon and then it doesn't matter.

I like to use egg noodles for this soup.  Either wide or extra wide.  These were dumplings and I think that they were too think.

Throw it all in a bowl and you are set!

I should mention that I make so much soup so that I can freeze it.  I put it in quart containers and that way I can have chicken noodle soup anytime I want.  I really need a bigger freezer.  And a bigger kitchen.

So Long!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

Better late than never.  Some things that I am thankful for this year and always.

1.  The opportunities that I have been given in this life.

2.  People who believe in me.

3.  People to believe in.

4.  My husband for loving me unconditionally.

5.  My beautiful kitties.

6.  My family near and far, old and young.

7.  My friends near and far, old and new.

8. Christmas fast approaching.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a Good Night!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cookie Time!!

We have a little song that we sing in our house to signal "cookie time".  I wish that I could share it with you, but it just wouldn't translate via the written word.

Way back 3.5 years ago, Devin became the Percussion Ensemble Director for Duquesne University.  That very first semester, I decided to make cookies for their dress rehearsal.  I have made some sort of chocolate chip cookie every dress rehearsal since then.

Here is a picture of some of the ensemble with Devin on bass from last Tuesday's concert:

Side note:  here is a picture of my handsome husband in his new glasses:

A lot of times, I just make the chocolate chip cookie recipe that comes on the back of the Toll House Semi-Sweet chocolate chip bag.  You cannot go wrong with those.  In fact, I made a batch of them for this concert.  

I also decided to make a batch of crazy chocolate chip cookies to go along with these.  The crazy cookies are Three Chocolate Cookies from Paula Deen.  You know if Paula Deen made them, they are going to be good ya'll. They should be called Triple Chocolate Toffee Cookies, because oh yea, they have toffee in them too!  They are pretty nuts, and each cookie is 1/4 cup of dough.  I promised to take more pictures as I was baking, so I will go through the process of making these.

You need to start with softened butter and shortening.  Beat them together for a good while until they are nice and fluffy.

While that is going, I measure out my dry ingredients  When baking, you need to try and be precise.  That means leveling off the ingredients when you are measuring them.  Wisk the dry ingredients together.

Once the fats are all nice and airy, add in the plethora of sugars.  Beat those up until nice and fluffy, then add in the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.  I feel very strongly that you should always use pure vanilla extract.  It tastes so so so much better than imitation vanilla.  I get mine at TJ Maxx.  Spend a few extra bucks and pick up some good stuff, it honestly makes a difference.

Once everything is together, add in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Now here are the rest of the ingredients for the cookies.  That big black splotch is Janey wanting some chocolate.

You need to add a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 cup of milk chocolate chips.  Then mix.

Next chop up 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and add that in along with 1 cup of toffee pieces.  Mix again.

Once everything is combined, you must immediately tell that little voice in your head that says not to eat cookie dough because it contains raw eggs to shut up!  Have some.  It is amazing!  Dare I say even better than the cookies!

Measure out 1/4 cup of dough for each cookie and flatten them out a bit. 

Stick them in the oven and then enjoy ya'll!

Last, I have to tell you about "the best cookies I have ever made."  Devin's words not mine.  Although they could be mine because these were darn good cookies.  They are Jessica's chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  They really are so chewy and delicious.  I used my favorite whole foods dark chocolate chunks in the cookies.  There is a secret ingredient in these incredible cookies and it is…cinnamon!!  The cinnamon takes them over the top into perfection land.  You have to try these!!

I hope that is enough cookie recipes to keep you occupied until Christmas.  Last year a made so many cookies.  Too many cookies.  This year I think that I am just going to make these chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and my (famous?) cranberry-pistachio biscotti.  I will provide the recipe for those.  Biscotti is actually very easy to make and oh so good!

Before I go, I just want to give a shout out to all of my readers!  I really appreciate each and every one of you.  I have gotten a lot of really great feedback about my blog.  It seems that you just might love it as much as I do and that means so much to me! I want to thank you for all your comments via the comments section, emails and in person (or on the phone).  I cannot comment on a previous blog comment so I apologize that I have not gotten back to some of you.  I value all of your thoughts and opinions so keep the comments coming!

Last but not least, the girls:

Deeley cuddled up on the end table - look at that beard!

Janey being a cutie-

So Long!