Sausage & Cheese Calzones

I called the groomer Wednesday to make an appointment for Lola.  As the day wore on and I didn’t receive a callback, I thought to myself…”I wonder if I left that message with the groomer”.  The thing is, the message wasn’t like a business greeting – just “you have reached 508-xxx-xxxx” (beeeeep).  I thought that was a little strange, being a business and all but still, I left my name and number with the message to please call me back about ‘doing’ Lola, the Bernese Mountain Dog.  So, yesterday I called back and sure enough got a professional message “hello, you’ve reached FurrEssentials.  If we’re not answering, it’s because we’re with the dogs, please leave your name and number and we’ll get back to you”.

Oh boy…I’m sitting here wondering who has my name and number and is waiting for a crazy lady to show up on their doorstep with a Bernese Mountain dog.  In any case I guess they’re not interested since I haven’t heard back from them.  But I wonder, am I becoming that befuddled elderly lady who calls me at 7:30am asking for Helen?  And, every time that I tell her that she has the wrong number, she calls back and asked for Helen again.  Sometimes we go through that routine a few times with me asking her what Helen’s number is and explaining that she misdialed the area code until I guess she either gets through to Helen or forgets what it was she wanted to talk to Helen about in the first place.

I’m usually pretty good with the home phone and have gotten used to the violence of calling someone by  “punching” of numbers vs. the more genteel “dialing” although sometimes after punching in a bunch of numbers and sitting waiting for my call to go through I realize that I haven’t “hit” send.

How many of you remember rotary phones?  Now here’s where some of you will give your age away – how many of you remember party lines?  I think if I were to tell a young person that our first phone was a party line that they’d think my family was a fun but weird family.  It’s just recently that I’ve felt comfortable being able to have a long conversation with my daughter without having to worry about toll charges per minute or Mrs. Smith from next door click, clicking to let me know that she wanted to make a phone call herself.  And these long string of numbers to remember, except that you don’t have to remember them anymore because you can store them.  We did store them in the ‘olden days’ but it was in a little address/telephone book kept by the phone.  If you wanted to call someone in your town, you only needed to dial the last 4 digits; out of town you had to add the exchange.  So I guess it’s a good thing to be able to store phone numbers on your cell phone.  Except that you have to make sure that you’re communicating with the right person.

There are plenty of hilarious stories out there about auto correct which can be frustrating when you just have a simple question.  I was out shopping and saw the cutest baby socks.  I wanted to buy them for a couple about to have their first and texted my daughter asking her if it was a boy or girl…
Me:  “Nik, do you know what Matt & Colleen are having- boy or girl
Niki:  Boy
Me:  Ok, saw the cutest things & they’re Izods
Autocorrect:  Uzis
Me:  NO!  Izods
Autocorrect:  IPods
Me:  Damnit!  i-z-o-d-s!
Niki:  LOL.  it’s ok Mom I figured it out
Me:  Just didn’t want u to think I was buying weapons

And then there’s this problem with sending texts to the wrong people.  Usually I text my daughter and I guess I just assume that when I go into the list that hers will be the first one up or default.

Me to Niki:  What time are you coming by to pick up the air conditioner?
My friend Nancy:  ? Diane – thanks but I have central air

Me to Niki:  Are you at Wegman’s? If u r could you buy me those almond croissants? And what is the brand name of the mattress we bought you
Niki’s friend:   No response from her, but a text from her to my daughter:  why does your mom want to know if I’m at Wegmans & why is she asking about my mattress?  (This girl is such a sweetheart though that I’m sure if I really wanted those croissants that she’d go get some for me)

But my best was when my husband and I were out shopping and went separate ways in Macy’s…
Me:  Meet me in the sheets
My friend Richie:  ?Huh?

Now here’s a visual before I give you the recipe for these amazing calzones.  This is a normal brain:

This is my brain:

I need to explain all of that because if you read my last post, you may recall (I think I do) that I took a camera class.  In the class the instructor said to not delete photo’s individually from your camera – either delete all after downloading them from your computer or after downloading, reformatting  the memory stick.  If you delete individual photos, you end up with a badly fragmented memory stick. So thinking of all the practice photos in my class of fellow classmates, I reformatted my camera’s stick forgetting that I had a whole bunch of great shots of these calzones in various stages – beautifully colored mixture, dough rolled and lined up, heaped with filling, and even a shot of a freshly cut calzone which actually showed the steam drifting out.  They’re all gone and alas, but I had to show you something and all I can show you is this half calzone straight from the freezer and hard as a rock.  Trust me though, these calzones have a tasty meat mixture and ooze with melted cheese.

CALZONES WITH CHEESE, SAUSAGE, AND BELL PEPPER

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For the dough:
1 1/2 Cups warm water
1 Package dry yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Teaspoon salt
4 Cups all purpose flour

- Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in a large bowl & let sit for a few minutes. Stir to blend.
- Add olive oil & salt
- Add flour in 1/2 cups, blending after each addition up about 3 1/2 cups. Knead on floured surface adding last 1/2 cup only until dough isn’t sticky
- Smack ball of dough into an oiled bowl, turn & smack it to the other side to coat. Let dough rise until about doubled in size.

For the Mixture:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Small red bell pepper
1 Large sweet onion
4 Large sausage with casing removed – sweet or spicy to your liking
12 Oz About 3 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
12 Oz 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
4 Teaspoons oregano

- Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper until softened, set aside
- Cook sausage meat, adding a little oil if necessary, breaking meat up with a fork until cooked
- Mix mozzarella & ricotta cheeses in bowl with oregano

Preheat oven to 400 °.  Punch down dough, cut into 8 equal portions for a generously sized calzone.  Roll each out into a circle and drop equal amounts of meat filling, then cheese mixture into the center of each.  Fold each in half and pinch the edges firmly.  Sprinkle corn meal on 2 cookie sheets and divide calzones onto.  Pierce the tops with either a fork or knife to let steam escape.

Position 1 oven rack on top level and 1 rack on bottom.  Place one cookie sheet on each level for 15 minutes.  Reverse cookie sheets and cookie for another 15 minutes. until golden brown.

In My Kitchen – March 2014

I can’t say that I’m sorry to see February go away.  As Celia reminds us that it’s time to post our In My Kitchen for March I can’t help but hold out hope for some warm weather.  Be sure to swing by Celia’s kitchen this month – she’s made some scrumptious Cuban bread that I wouldn’t mind having right now.

Up until last night, about all I had in my kitchen was candles, rows of flashlights, and battery powered lanterns. We were supposed to get hammered with another fierce snowstorm, predicted to drop about a foot of snow on us and disrupt things with high winds. I think we may have lucked out though with the storm passing just south of us, leaving maybe just a few inches here. I did put away the flashlights and lanterns but I always have some candles out. These Swarovski crystal candle holders are my favorites and a gift from my husband many years ago. I love how they look like melting ice.

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I was so happy to finally find an egg separator at Target a couple weeks ago.  I lost one that I’d had for years and couldn’t find another so grabbed this when I spotted it in the gadget aisle.  I’ve been doing the back & forth with the 2 egg shells to separate yolks from whites and usually ended up making a mess and picking bits of shells out.

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It really came in handy for this Chocolate Raspberry Mousse from the Max Brenner cookbook that I won.  You know I would have had a terrible mess separating 10 eggs.

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Speaking of gadgets…remember my last post of the garlic chicken?  This is my handy little garlic zoom zoomer.  You lift the top, pop in the garlic and pretend you’re zooming a little race car around the counter while sharp little blades mince the garlic.  When you’re done playing, you’ve got minced garlic.  I also love my little garlic pot that I’ve had forever.

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Speaking of cookbooks – this one wasn’t free but close enough.  I found this huge Bon Appetit cookbook at a place called Ocean State Joblot yesterday for just $7.99.  You never know what you’ll find at that store but it’s guaranteed that you won’t leave empty handed.

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As I was looking through the recipes last night I found one for a sausage, red bell pepper, and onion calzones.  I’ve got to get moving and get the pizza dough started so I’ll have them for tonight.  Which brings me to one item that has been a back saver for me – this 30″ high counter stool which is just the perfect height to work sitting at the counter zooming the garlic zoomer around or kneading dough for the calzones.

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Under my feet is an unhappy pup who has two ear infections and needs drops in her ears twice a day.  Do you see that bottle of drops?  Right now she’s distracted by the treats she’s snarfing up but as soon as she looks up she’ll be outta here.  I don’t know how she clamps down those ears on me, but trying to get the drops in has been a challenge.

IMG_1354Finally, after I get the dough rising, and have chased Lola around the house with the ear drops, I’ve got homework to do.  I finally signed up for a class to learn how to operate my camera.  I really wasn’t that sure about paying to take the class because the pre-requisite was to read my manual.  Honestly!  If I wanted to read the manual, why would I take the class?  After downloading over 80 pages (the manual doesn’t come with the camera!), I decided that I’ll skim the pages, maybe make a few notes in the margins and pretend that I’ve been studying for months…

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Garlic Roasted Chicken & Butternut Squash with Pecans

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I’ve noticed a lot of us sitting in the polar vortex have been sticking with our old basic comfort foods to get us through the rest of this winter.  This past Wednesday was definitely a comfort food kind of day.

I tend to stay close to home when the weather’s going to be nasty, mainly because I drive a very impractical (but very fun) sports car.  Much to my dismay, I was caught about 10 miles from home coming out of Boston heading west into what was supposed to be rain with a dusting of snow.  All I needed was 14 minutes and I would have been back home – instead I ran straight into white out conditions with snow accumulating rapidly, slicking the highway and turning the back roads into skating rinks.  As I was trying to figure out which of the 4 approaches I could take to get to my house, I realized that they all included hairpin turns and were all uphill.  I think if I’d practiced a little earlier this winter I could have made the Olympic bobsled team which would have been a snap on a nicely groomed track.  With my skid control warning light flashing at me and my rear end sliding out (my car’s rear end) I just made it to our driveway and thankfully hit the garage door opener to slide the bobsled into the garage.  The only concern I had at that point was whether or not I’d be able to stop the slide into the garage before hitting the rider mower (just a little tap, shush).

A cup of tea to simmer down the shakes and it was time to get some comforting aromas in the house.  A roasted chicken has always been comfort food for me because it was usually what we had growing up for Sunday dinner.  There weren’t any foodies in the 50′s so menus didn’t vary much - chicken on Sunday, pasta on Wednesday, fish on Friday, and some kind of roast on Saturday.  Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday was up for grabs but usually the choices were  meatloaf, stuffed peppers, cabbage and spareribs, pork chops, casseroles from the latest Woman’s Day or Good Housekeeping magazine and always dessert.  Sometimes we’d have steak but that was always an incredibly long meal as everyone chewed…and chewed…and finally gave up to work on the potatoes and vegetables to give their jaws a rest.

A little story about our Sunday chicken dinners…my mother was a very good cook and especially known for her unbelievable pies.  She never minded cooking for a crowd and we often had family joining us for Sunday dinners - until my Uncle Arthur with his 7 boys got booted out of the house by Aunt Mary one Sunday.  If you’re younger than I am you might not remember that having a phone was still a new concept but the aunts and uncles who were invited to Sunday dinner would have called earlier in the week to let my mother know that a 5 pound chicken might not be enough and to plan accordingly.

I still remember sitting down one Sunday – 5:00 pm exactly – and just as the food had been passed around, Uncle Arthur was knocking at the door.  The 7 boys were already through the door and finding chairs to fit themselves at the table – they were hungry!  Of course my mother would never think not to invite someone to sit down to eat even if they were already stuffing their faces.  In any case, that dinner we all just had a little less than usual with no leftovers for lunches for the week.

Since Arthur was my father’s brother, Dad got an earful that night.  Not even close to the earful he got the next week, and the week after when Uncle Arthur and the boys continued to show up right at 5:00 every Sunday thereafter.  We never did see Aunt Mary who was probably still in bed recovering from the week.  I honestly thought that we were getting a special treat that Sunday when my mother had us all dress up and lined us up by the back door.  Just as Uncle Arthur’s car pulled into the driveway, we were marched out the door and just getting into our car as the boys began to pile out.  “Oh dear, so sorry but we weren’t expecting you…we were just heading out”.  As soon as the eating army was around the corner though we were marched back into the house and our chicken dinner was served.  I did wonder why we were leaving the house with the oven on and food ready to hit the table.

You’d think that would have been the end of it but nope, the following Sunday Uncle Arthur was back.  Yes, he was and we were caught unawares.  You did not mess with my mother though because the following Sunday we had our chicken dinner at 4:00 and were at the ice cream stand when Uncle Arthur pulled up wondering why no one was home.  A couple weeks of that and we were back to our 5:00 pm routine.

This isn’t  my mother’s chicken recipe, but it’s extremely juicy, tender, and flavorful.  I know it sounds like a lot of garlic in here but it isn’t overwhelming at all…although you can always have some mints on the side.

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Garlic Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

1     Whole chicken
6     Large cloves garlic
1     Whole head garlic
5     Tablespoons softened butter
4     Sprigs rosemary
1     Beer or 8 oz. chicken broth

- After rinsing chicken, insert full head of garlic and a couple sprigs of rosemary into cavity with a few glubs of beer
- Soften butter then mix in chopped rosemary (or use dried) and the 6 cloves of minced garlic
- Cut small openings under the skin of the chicken and push the butter/garlic/rosemary mixture into all of the areas you can read under the skin
- Pour more beer or broth on top of the chicken then cover and roast at 400° for about 1 1/2 hours, depending on size of chicken.  Remove foil for last 1/2 hour to brown skin.  You can continue to baste with beer.

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On the side, I had mashed potatoes with gravy and this butternut squash which was perfect with pecans.

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Butternut Squash with Pecans

- Chop about 1/2 large white onion
- Peel and dice butternut squash into 1/2″ cubes
- In heavy skillet, melt 4-6 tablespoons butter to cook onions until they’re almost caramelized
- Add diced squash and cover until squash is just tender
- Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans, mixing onions, squash, and nuts
- Sprinkle granulated brown sugar on top

When I make this again, any of you are welcome to join us – just call ahead.

When it’s time to say goodbye and Creamy cheese/ham over pasta

There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll come right out with it.  I got a divorce yesterday.  Yes, after almost four decades of a good relationship even with a few problems and breaks, I boxed up my final Mr. Coffee maker and returned him to Target yesterday.  After signing the final divorce papers at the return desk I’ve moved on to KitchenAid.  As I sit here drinking a HOT cup of coffee, I realize that I was in denial that things were wrong and nothing was going to make Mr. Coffee change back to being reliable and delivering a hot cup of coffee every morning.

I remember buying my first Mr. Coffee on sale for $14.99 and it worked great for over 20 years.  Simple design – put your coffee grounds in the basket, dump some water in, hit the button and viola!  hot coffee came pouring out.  Then they came out with a new feature – delayed brewing.  Huh, sounded like a great idea to have hot coffee waiting for me when I shuffled downstairs.  So I upgraded all the way to the new $24.99 model which was great once I figured out how to set the current time and delayed brewing time.  That pot stuck with me for years until I was diagnosed with MS which sometimes caused me to lose my grasp on things, like glass coffee pots.  I was so famous in the neighborhood for smashing coffee pots that as friends upgraded to different models they’d give me their old pots until I had a nice stash of extras built up.

But then, as you know we got the granite counters and my supply of pots quickly diminished…along with glasses and plates.  Not ready to give up I even bragged about my new Mr. Coffee ($39.99 on sale at Target) in my last In My Kitchen post.  Looked nice, right – even with my reflection in the pot…

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That was the beginning of February and although I really didn’t like the new design of this coffee maker, I tried to love it…for a week.  Then it started dripping coffee onto the hot plate when you pulled the pot out to pour a cup.  I think that could be a design feature since I’m guessing it might eventually start to mess up the hot plate at which point your coffee doesn’t get very hot, the plate burns out and there you are in Target again.  Once it started the dripping routine, the design really started to annoy me.  For some reason they decided to put the basket for the coffee in the front and in the same compartment, the water reservoir right behind it with about a 2″ opening to pour your water in.  If you shake and miss, then water comes pouring out the coffee spout all over the counter.  Once you manage to get some water in the back, then you can put the coffee in the basket, then swing this little arm from the back, over the top of the coffee grounds so in theory, it will gently spray water over your coffee grounds promising a superb cup of coffee.  That was the theory anyway but it was annoying as all get-out so I boxed that little buddy up and headed over to Target again.

Back to the coffee maker aisle and although there were a number of brands to chose from, I decided that I wanted one that made a full pot rather than one cup and I wanted an easy to fill design.  When I saw the next step up in Mr. Coffee on sale for $59.99 with the stainless steel carafe I figured that was the end of smashed pots for Diane.  And look how they even separated the water from the coffee grounds -

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That’s the theory anyway.  Reality was…
Day 1:  John didn’t have his coffee at 7:00 as he was busy shoveling snow then had to run out to work.  When I got my first cup, it was fine, just fine, not great because it was a little lukewarm.  Ah!  I forgot to put the cover on top of the pot.  That must be it.
Day 2:  John grabbed the first cup right at 7:00 and later told me that his was piping hot.  Huh?  Mine was a little less than lukewarm and I’d remembered to put the cover on.  Maybe Mr. Coffee’s worried about hot coffee lawsuits and decided to make lukewarm coffee.
Day 3:  I woke up to a piercing screech that seemed to be coming from the kitchen.  “John – is that the coffee pot making that noise?”
yeah, I’m trying to get the hotplate to stay on but it keeps going off”
“Well, would you kindly take your finger off the brew button because the animals are covering their ears”
“I did, it won’t stop!”
“Pull the plug or toss it out the back door!”

When I made my way downstairs I noticed that half the water was still in the water reservoir.  Now that’s not good but when I plugged it back in, the screeching started again.  Okay, sigh…there’s enough that brewed to give me one hit of caffeine which should hold me until I box this baby back up and head on over to Target.

How embarrassing is it when it’s the same sales clerk doing the return and she says “another problem Ma’am?”.  “Yes and I’m divorcing Mr. Coffee!”.  I’m sure they think I’m up to something dodgy with all the coffee pot returns – maybe stealing pieces one at a time until I make my own coffee pot for free.  But back to the coffee maker aisle.  As they say – fool me once –  shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me.  Hello KitchenAid… I always said I’d never pay a lot of money for a coffee maker because really the technology is pretty simple:   water – coffee grounds – a button – a pot – DONE.  But now, $100 later I am finally sitting with a really HOT cup of coffee and you know what?  It really does taste better when it’s hot.

IMG_1321I really hope that we have the coffee maker situation under control and will just have to look online to stock up on glass pots for it but in the meantime, I had to make the other Mr. in the house happy.  John’s been around longer than my Mr. Coffee’s and will probably hang around as long as I put a plate of pasta in front of him every now and then.  Since I was seriously worn out from packing up and lugging coffee pots around, I went with a quick and easy solution while also using up some leftover ham.  Sort of a cheesy/creamy sauce with ham and spinach on top of pasta did the trick….

IMG_1313No real recipe for this one…I just used a small 8 oz. ball of shredded mozzarella cheese with an equal portion of parmesan and a little cream.  After getting that all melted in the saucepan, I added diced chunks of ham and topped it all off with spinach.  Put it on top of some pasta and dinner was a success.

Since we’re now in the midst of a nasty Nor’Easter blizzard and there will be more shoveling to do….I think I’ll make a pot of coffee!  Please don’t accuse me of animal abuse – she loves it out there and won’t come in.

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I just had to update with this photo from the front of the house this morning, after the storm.  This icicle has to be at least 10-12′ long.  Going to make some noise when that lets go.

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In My Kitchen – February 2014

Since we’ve been in the deep freeze of one of the coldest New Englander winters of all time and with the new kitchen, you’d think that I’d be spending all of my time in the kitchen whipping up new recipes.  For some reason when the weather is like this, I tend to stick with the old favorite comfort foods and haven’t made anything new or very exciting – lots of soups, roasts, and casseroles.  I tend to hibernate when the weather is so bitterly cold that you get an ice cream headache stepping out the door and your face kind of cracks, falling into little pieces on the walk.  At my age, it’s hard to put all the pieces back in the right places which might explain the eyebrow being on my chin.

But, it’s always fun to join in to Celia’s In My Kitchen posts that she graciously hosts each month.  I don’t know about you, but I love snooping in other people’s kitchens to see what they have hanging around and this month Celia’s got lots of chocolate hanging around – in case you’re in the area.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photograph of the photographer but yesterday in my kitchen, I had our designer’s professional photographer taking pictures of my kitchen.  It’s amazing to watch someone who really knows his way around a camera but I’m afraid he would have critiqued my skills if I’d brought my camera out.  I missed that shot but Mary of Wayside Kitchens very nicely brought me these lovely roses and what I call bellflowers – maybe some of you experts out there could help me out on the blue flowers.  It brings a bit of spring into my kitchen which I really love.

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On the shelf on my range hood is Mr. Hooty the owl.  It was an adorable Christmas decoration from my daughter that was just too cute to put away until next Christmas.  He watches over what I do, and since owls are wise will hopefully bring me wisdom in my kitchen.  Plus, he gives the evil eye to any dogs who try to snarf up food off the counters.

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Ah, here’s my NEW coffee maker.  I may have mentioned that I’m having a little trouble getting used to the granite countertops.  I broke the pot on my old coffee maker but had a spare from the last coffee maker that burnt out.  Well, that pot seems to have hit the granite and was replaced with this new Mr. Coffee machine – yes, #3 and one of the less expensive models since I’m not trusting myself with breakables yet.  It might not be an expensive Keurig but at the rate I’m going I could rent out space here to Dunkin Donuts and buy coffee from them every morning – it would be cheaper I think.

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Now Celia, I thought of you on this one…I may have mentioned that my daughter is running the Boston Marathon this spring for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.  She had a very successful fund raiser for the MS Society at The Forum restaurant which was one of the places that was damaged last spring by the marathon bombers.  They were incredibly generous to donate a section of the restaurant for her to host the event and set up tables for raffle items donated by Boston businesses.  I was very relieved to not win the month membership to Beantown Bootcamp and instead lucked out with a much more appropriate prize of this decadent box of chocolates from Max Brenner’s store which also included his book “A Chocolate Love Story”.  The book has 65 chocolate dessert recipes so you should be seeing some posts titled ‘Bohemian French Toast Chocolate Sandwiches, ‘Parisian New Life Chocolate Dream Cake” or “Mon Cheri Chocolate Cherry Pie”.

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Oh… it seems that the tin of milk chocolate cubes filled with hazelnut cream and caramelized pecan bits (named Addiction) is empty!  I should take that back to see about a replacement…

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 Okay, a little explanation is necessary on this one.  I was reading Happiness Stan Lives Here’s post about his new Magimix that he got for Christmas.  I commented on the fact that I had this Pro model KitchenAid Mixer sitting in a box in my closet because it was going to be a Christmas gift for my daughter.  (She’d sent me a link, maybe it was a hint to this site that had them on sale).  After buying the mixer, I thought about her limited counter space and how she could really use a new laptop, so I bought her that instead.  When I told Stan about how I had this awesome KitchenAid mixer sitting in the box in my closet,  he wrote back - ‘use it’.  I don’t remember exactly what happened.  I think I may have blacked out for a few minutes and when I came to, this major mixer had replaced my 40 year old Sunbeam mixer on my counter and it was looking pretty good to me.  Of course the clock on the warranty starts ticking from date of purchase, not use and I was concerned that it might be defective – so I used it.

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That’s the dough hook attached right now which produced these cinnamon rolls (I’ve posted the recipe in a prior post, here) .  Sorry Niki, but will you forgive me if I keep turning out cinnamon rolls to share?  You’d reap the rewards with none of the work…

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Martini Stew, Bitter Cold, and the Throwaway Kitten

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Do you see this sweet little critter?  On one of our most bitter cold (minus 15°F) nights, with over a foot of snow, my daughter pulled into her driveway and saw this little kitty run in front of her car and under her barbeque grill.  Really hoping that it was indeed a kitten that she’d seen, she stuck her hand under the grill and came out with the poor thing.  Once she got it inside, she cuddled right up, purring like crazy but full of bugs, debris, and smelling like a ripe garbage bag.

Knowing that she couldn’t keep her (landlord doesn’t allow pets), she still decided to clean her up and give her a little food.  Little did she realize that once the kitty was soaking wet, there was barely any kitten there just skin, bones & fur.

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By the way, that’s food on the towel…trying to get some nourishment into her.  Based on the picture and what my daughter told me about how she was eating, my guess is that the kitten is only about 8-10 weeks old.  She had a hard time getting broth in her so my thinking is that she was separated from her mother before she was properly weaned.

After a little cleanup and tiny bits of food, she settled in for a purring sleep for the entire night.photo (51)
The next morning, Niki packed her up and brought her to work with the intention of bringing her to the MSPCA (Massachusetts Society for prevention of Cruelty to Animals) with a check for her care.  Of course, bringing her into the office was the best thing she could have done since she was adopted by lunchtime by a young lady who took her home and brought her to her vet.

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Even Chloe isn’t too sure that work is fun

The vet was very surprised that Chloe (her new name) was alive and certainly never would have made it through that bitter cold night.  In addition to being severely malnourished, and infested with parasites, she’d been bitten on her hind leg.  They  immediately gave her IV fluids, put on her 2 antibiotics, and she was given initial shots – happily she’s doing well and has a loving home.

I’m glad that Niki has good eyes and a kind heart and can’t speak highly enough about the MSPCA.  They do fantastic work getting animals into good homes but also helping people who can’t afford to keep a pet due to financial problems get connected with organizations that will assist them.  What I can’t understand though is how anyone, even someone who doesn’t like cats, could do this to such a sweet little creature.  If you can’t take care of a pet or don’t want the one you have, at least take 20 minutes to bring the animal to a place like the MSPCA so that they have a chance.  This is just my own imaginative story for Chloe, but my guess would be, based on her age and the time of year, that someone thought she would make a great Christmas gift.  Only problem is, sometimes with the best intentions, springing an animal as a gift on someone does not always work out the way you intend it to and that the receiver just threw the kitten out thinking “cats can take care of themselves”.  Except kittens…and especially not in a busy city in the dead of winter.

I’m thrilled that this story has a happy ending and it’s time to move on to complaining about our New England weather.  The past couple of days have been a veritable heat wave (just above freezing)  but prior to that we set records for bitter cold and biting winds.  Days like that deserve a nice hearty stew – and why not a martini?  This is a recipe that’s been sitting in one of my cookbooks for decades until I happened upon it.  It doesn’t have to be frostbite weather to enjoy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some on hand just in case.

MARTINI STEW

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2 lbs. Beef – I used a nice thick New York Sirloin and cubed it
1 Small Onion, diced
1 Cup Carrots, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
Sprinkling Italian seasoning
1/2 Cup Ground peeled tomatoes or ketchup (I think my husband prefers ketchup)
1 Cup White Vermouth
1/2 Cup Gin
1/4 Cup Beef broth

- Layer cubes of beef in a casserole dish then top with prepped onions, garlic, carrots.
- Sprinkle Italian seasoning on top
- Pour ground peeled tomatoes or ketchup on top
- Pour, vermouth, gin, and beef broth on top of tomatoes

Cover and bake in oven at 325° for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. This could also be cooked in the crock pot and served over noodles.  Excess gin and vermouth should not be thrown away.

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In My Kitchen – January 2014

Happy New Year to all – I even got the year right although I’m sure I’ll go back to writing 2013 once today is over. Special New Year’s wishes go to Celia for hosting the In My Kitchen monthly feature.   Not only is the IMK a fun post but I’ve found some wonderful blogs and blogging friends thanks to Celia.  Be sure to check out Celia’s IMK first post of 2014.  Celia, thank you again and since we aren’t quite into the new year here, I’d like to ask you – how is 2014 looking so far?

In my kitchen this month, I’ve got a tree casualty…

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This sad looking fuzzy reindeer ornament is sitting in my kitchen while I ponder whether or not he can be repaired.  You see he’s missing an antler and an ear because the cat batted him off the Christmas tree and the dog grabbed it to show me what a bad cat Moe is.  Unfortunately, once Lola got the reindeer, she didn’t want to give him up and he lost a few parts in the tussle.

Of course in my kitchen this month are some fantastic gifts…

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This is one of the coolest cheese boards I’ve ever seen and is a gift that Tim, my daughter’s boyfriend chose.  It’s made in Italy and made of alder wood.  I love the grain and bark.  Now, resting on that cheeseboard is not a cheese knife but something that I really could have used on Christmas Eve as I was shucking about 24 cherrystone clams!  Do you think someone could have remembered and said “hey, let Mom open one of her presents a little early”?  That is a very nifty oyster shucking knife which opens the shells and has a rounded tip so you can loosen the clam from the shell.  Oh well, maybe we’ll see how it works out with the next batch of Clams Casino.

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This is a gift from an Irish lady who my husband works with - homemade Irish bread and some Irish butter to go with it.  I can tell you both were superb!  I melted the butter on a slice of this bread and made a lunch of it.

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I enlarged this shot of a special gift from my daughter which is a cutting board that she had made with our favorite and famous Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe.  It’s a special recipe for her because I always had a plate of these cookies waiting for her after her first day of school.

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Another special, hand crafted gift is this brass candle holder.  It has so much pretty detail and the church windows open.  I put a little tea candle on the stand behind it to light up the church.

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How these egg coddlers have made it this long without a chip, I’m not sure but we’ve had them for decades.  You just plop an egg in each one and set them in a pot of boiling water for coddled eggs, my husband’s favorite.  It’s interesting that I had this post almost complete when I read Celia’s and noticed that she has an Evesham Gold water jug posted that would make a great match to these!

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And finally, in my kitchen is something a little sad but full of sweet memories.  This large, heavy, leaded crystal heart has been hanging over my sink (now over the new one) for years.  It’s a special birthday gift from one of the sweetest, most generous friends I’ve ever known.  Gail was diagnosed with cancer just 3 months before I was and unfortunately died much too young almost 4 years ago.  Her smile would light up a room.  She was the best friend and confidante anyone could ever have.  Although I miss her terribly, I remember her positive outlook and generosity and think of her every day when I look at my crystal.  I think it’s fitting to include this in the first post of the new year to remind me that life and friends are precious and should always be loved to the fullest.

Wishing you all a very special, happy, and healthy New Year – Diane