In My December Kitchen – 2014

When did December sneak up on us?  If it weren’t for Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, I don’t think I’d know what month it is.  Please stop by to say hi to Celia and take a look at what she and other bloggers have going on in their kitchens this month.  She really caught my eye with the awesome Cheese and Garlic Crack bread!

After finding a recipe for Spicy Lime Shrimp with Drunken Grapes (check out the recipe on  Simply Fresh Dinners – Robyn, guest writer on BamsKitchen blog) I tried this recipe as just an appetizer.  My husband and I decided that in the future it’s worthy of an entire meal.  Little appetizer bites were great, but you just don’t want to stop eating these.  I used a dried ginger powders for the shrimp since I didn’t have fresh and Pinot Grigio to get the grapes drunk.  As I say, the shrimp was so good but I may have gotten a little too excited about the drunken grapes. Therefore, in my December kitchen …

IMG_1608an extra mason jar of Drunken Grapes.  They’re sweet red seedless grapes with a Pinot Grigio poured over the top and soaked for 6 hours to no more than 2 days.  I can tell you that after 2 days those little grapes will blow your head off.  So what to do with the extra grapes?

Make some Goat Balls with Drunken Grapes…

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No need to put them on crackers.  I just did that to get my husband to try them.  When he’s watching football, you can put anything on top of a cracker and he’ll eat it.  I just ground up some pecans, made little balls with the goat cheese (I found that small balls are better than big since the cheese can overpower the other flavors),  rolled the cheese balls in the pecans and stuck them with a pick.  Of course you can just eat the drunken grapes.

This is what’s left of the Pinot Grigio.  It was a very nice wine but I’m including it really to show the background kitchen wall paint.  Yes, I really did get that room painted!

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ALMOST in my kitchen are some food rings.
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I’ve been coveting food rings every time I see Happiness Stan making something with his (like this cottage pie with seared filet in madeira sauce) and vow to get some for myself.  While my husband and I were out Christmas shopping I found these at Sur la Table – a really fun store with everything you can imagine for cooking.  Since I couldn’t find the food rings, my husband asked a clerk and we BOTH went over to the bins where I picked 4 rings and said “I’ll get these but you can wrap them and put them in my stocking for Christmas”.  So that’s why they’re not quite in my kitchen yet.  BUT…a few days later, my husband went back out Christmas shopping alone.  When he got home I was taking a picture of these and he did a double take and said “where’d you get those?”.  I reminded him that we bought them when we were out shopping, that I explained that he needed to wrap them, and they were to go in my stocking.  At which point, he went back down to his car and came up with these…

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Oh look…more food rings!  One of each size … from Sur La Table.  Since I wanted them to make pretty and equal portions of foods like mac and cheese or some sort of meat patty meal, I’m not sure what to do with one of each.  Maybe I could make a portion for papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear – any ideas or should they just go back?  Especially that tiny little one, I’m not quite sure what you’d put in that other than maybe – oh yes – a drunken grape sitting on a goat ball.

Well that’s all that I can show in my kitchen right now since the island is full of Christmas gifts waiting to be wrapped and I can’t very well share those pictures yet.  Thanks again to Celia, hostess for In My Kitchen.

 

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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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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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