Friday, October 28, 2011

End of October Randomness

I am really going to miss Regis.  What a curmudgeon but so loveable!  And although I am sure he feels it is his time to go, I will miss him.

I miss Oprah only a tiny bit.  She was a good filler in my day right before I had to get serious about making something for dinner.    I thought she got a little bit too preachy for a while but I was able to take her with a grain of salt on those days.  Dr. Oz is great, but I think the format of his show is already starting to get old.  I mean just how many days of the week can we watch someone  from the audience don the the rubber gloves and  pick up and peel away the towel on the table  to reveal more human organs plagued with disease?  The grossed out factor is starting to wear thin and now it’s just plain weird.

I haven’t had a cold in 3 years!  Honestly and I’ve been keeping track.  BUT, I have a whopper today, compliments of my teenage son.  I am miserable.   I have been using Zicam for the last week and I honestly thought I beat it but last night it  hit me like a ton of bricks.  I don’t just get your average cold.  I get the knock you on your butt kind.  You know the ones where your eyes don’t stop tearing for days so mascara is worthless and you can’t wear your contacts so you have to wear your glasses all day and you are virtually guaranteed of having an extremely bad hair day for a minimum of  three days in a row.    I have also been known to walk around with a tissue hanging out of one or the other nostril.  Oh, look, I have one tucked in there now.  It’s a good look.

I am hoping I feel better for the BIG Halloween party tomorrow night.  Our friends go all out and have a band  and a bartender who makes spooky themed  drinks that you select off of a menu.    They host it every other year.  And this is an “on” year.  Still working on our costumes.  I can’t reveal just yet what we are going to be.  It’s still a secret.  Let’s just say for now that  feather boa’s are required for one and a top hat for the other.

I can tell you that we made a cupcake costume for my daughter last weekend that turned out cute.  She took it back to school with her for the big street party on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill where she goes to school.  We took some shiny/silvery fabric and backed it with some iron on interfacing to help make it stiff and then we folded it accordion style so that when it wrapped around her it looked like a cup cake liner.  We then took a piece of cardboard that we cut to look like the icing on top, wrapped quilt batting around that and glued it down, then wrapped that with a pink satin fabric and glued that down.  Glued on some colored mini pom poms to look like sprinkles.  Then we took a bright pink puffy shower sponge thingy, glued some twisted green pipe cleaners to make a stem and then attached that to a head band to be the cherry on top.  It turned out cute!  No pictures yet but I hope to have some next week after the big party.

I am taking a wine and cheese class next week at Southern Season’s in Chapel Hill next week with a friend.  Wish we didn’t have to drive so far to do fun things like this but that’s just the way it is. 

I am amazed every time I vacuum and see just how much dog hair and dirt gets sucked out of my carpets. It’s repulsive really.

Oh, I am getting a cleaning lady!  We are in the early stages of negotiation (with my husband).  My sad little wrists were thrown into carpel tunnel braces two weeks ago from the combination of scrubbing the shower, carrying too many grocery bags at one time, and playing tug of war with the dog.  This is going to be such a luxury to me.  I think I want the kind that sends a “team” in and gets in done in a few hours.  The company I am looking at  has someone with a vacuum strapped to their back! 

I still haven’t bought any Halloween candy.  If I wait much longer I’ll be forced to pass out little boxes of raisins.  I always thought that was the worst treat you could get when I was a kid.  Raisins!  Who gives out raisins?  That and pennies.  I hated getting pennies too. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marinated Pork Tenderloin

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It felt good to be cooking something that everyone in my house likes.  And lately I have been in the mood for grilling.  We are having some beautiful Fall weather these past few days.  The days are bright and sunny with Carolina blue skies, temperatures in the 70’s, and the leaves are beautiful right now.  Last night was a nice night to light up the barbeque. 

I marinated a pork tenderloin yesterday and thankfully it was a “protein” day for my body building son although I tried to cover my bases by offering up both a pan of roasted potatoes and a pot of jasmine rice in case it was a “carb-loading” day.   Typically, I only barbeque a tenderloin on the weekends or  when I have a crowd to serve so this was a nice change for a Tuesday night dinner.

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I LOVE my grill basket.  Do you have one?  They are great for grilling vegetables and I like to use it for grilling shrimp too.  I also use it when I make pork tenderloin.  I don’t know about you but it was ingrained in me to never eat undercooked pork.  The threat of trichinosis looms large in my memory.

Now I know that really nice restaurants serve their pork tenderloin slightly pink in the center but I don’t!    After cooking the tenderloin on the grill, I bring it in and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  I then will place my grill basket on the grill to get nice and hot while the pork tenderloin rests and I slice it.    I like to slice it on a diagonal and then  take any of the pieces that are still pink in the center and place them in my grill basket and finish them off.  Usually it only takes an additional two or three minutes on the hot grill. Another one of my many cooking quirks but safe and delicious and no pink pork.


Marinated Pork Tenderloin

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup honey

2 garlic cloves, pressed

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a large gallon size zip-loc bag.  Mix well and the pork tenderloin and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours.  The longer you marinate the better.  Place on a hot grill.   I usually will grill them for about 8 minutes and then flip them for another 8-10 minutes. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again, (Or At Least Trying To Be)

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.  Nothing too terrible but it just seemed like it was one thing after another.  My husband travels a lot on business and was in China for the last two weeks.  Naturally two days after he left the cable (which now is our umbilical cord to the mother ship of Time Warner Cable and basically runs our whole house), decided to check out for a few minutes and when it did it took out our phone, our TV, and most importantly to my sense of security, my well being, and my overall general happiness…access to the internet.

The wireless router blew when the cable came back on line and for some silly reason it defaulted back to factory settings.  Yep, factory settings.  I am clueless when it comes to hardware.   A  husband in China isn’t much help  at resetting a wireless router and with the 12 hour time difference  my 3:00 in the afternoon crisis does not equate to an emergency at his 3:00 in the morning to his Chinese hotel sleeping self who has a big presentation to give when he does wake up.  My internet access troubles don’t even register in his world right now.  The only saving grace was that my son had an extra cable from his old Xbox that he was able to use to hard wire me directly to the router.  But that required me to move my laptop upstairs to where the router was.  I don’t want to use my computer upstairs!  I want to use it in my kitchen as nature intended!  So, long story short, two weeks with limited computer access  revealed to me just how much of a major stressor not having “access” is in my life.  That, and the fact that I was basically forced to confront my internet addiction cold turkey.

  Add to that a son sick with a major cold who then passed it on to me  and who “forgot”  that he had a major project due in two days in his AP Government class and needs help along with a tri-fold poster board and it’s 11:00 at night and the printer isn’t working,   a daughter home for a couple of days on fall break from school who wants help making a Halloween cup cake costume so she can dress up for the big Halloween party on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and take it back to school with her, Furniture Market in High Point and many wheels of cheese begging to be cut and wrapped and attractively displayed, my car leaking something and making a funny noise, and the same son who I found out has been tardy to school so many times that his parking pass was suspended for two weeks and I now have to drive him in the mornings and pick him up again in the afternoons, toss in a painful case of Carpel Tunnel and braces on not one but both of my wrists, and the house keeps getting dimmer because every time I turn on a light switch another light bulb blows, and I have Halloween costumes to make for a fabulous party that we are invited to and I haven’t even started making them, and the same son who is now body building and I can’t keep straight which days he is “carb loading” or doing “protein” and I keep serving the wrong thing for dinner each night, and the phone call from my Dad saying that he is only 2 hours away driving on I-40 near Asheville and could they come over and visit for the weekend, the lawnmower that won’t start and we skipped mowing it the week before and the grass is getting knee deep and looks terrible and we are in the middle of college application season… shall I go on?  (Because I could!)

I am exhausted.  :)

Check back with me tomorrow though, I am currently marinating a pork tenderloin to throw on the grill for dinner tonight and planning to post the recipe tomorrow.  Husband is home safe and sound, my laptop is back in the kitchen where it belongs and I am keeping my fingers crossed that tonight isn’t “Carb-Loading”.  If it is , I’m in big trouble.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Burning Mandarin Martini

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Found a new cocktail just in time for your Saturday night.  Love these!   Have you ever heard of a Burning Mandarin Martini?? I found the recipe recently when I was browsing the  It’s fresh and a bit more citrusy tasting than a Cosmopolitan.   The Serrano Chili adds a bit of an “after burn” and I loved it.  I added an extra slice of the chili to amp it up a bit.  Using just one like the recipe calls for is very subtle.  If you like a lot of “heat” I would add the second slice.  And then see how you like it and if you need more “after burn”, live large and add a third. 

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The Burning Mandarin Martini

Yield: 1 martini

2 slices of Serrano Chile
1 1/2 ounces Absolute Mandarin
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup*
1/2 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce cranberry juice

*Simple syrup can be made by mixing equal parts of water and sugar.  Heat them till the sugar is fully dissolved.  I made a small batch by mixing 1/4 cup of water and sugar in a Pyrex Heat Proof mixing cup and heated it up in the microwave in 30 second increments until the sugar was dissolved.)

Muddle one slice of  Serrano Chile in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, orange juice, and cranberry juice, along with one large handful of ice.

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Shake vigorously until well-chilled.  Strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with remaining chili slice.  (I didn’t sugar the rim of my glass as I don’t like my drinks too sweet.  But I do think sugaring the rims do make them a tad more festive.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recycled Halloween Votive Candle Holder


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  Today I made a quick project and recycled an empty salsa jar and turned it into a Halloween candle votive holderNew Camera Photos 001

  A strip of burlap, some twine, some cute number plates that I found in the scrapbooking section at Michaels, a votive candle, an empty jar, a pair of scissors, some Tacky Glue, and a handful of candy corn and I was in business.  This is so quick and easy to do.

Here’s how I did it:

  I took a piece of twin about 60 inches long and dabbed a dot of Tacky Glue on one end and attached it to the jar.  I held my finger on it as I wound the twine around the top of the jar.  Then I did the same with the second piece to fill in any gaps left by the first piece.  The twine covers up the top of the jar where the grooves are for the lid.  Then I cut a scrap of burlap and glued it around the center of the jar.  I threaded my number plate with a piece of twine and tied it around the jar on top of the burlap.  I got lucky with the numbers and there was a “31” for Halloween.  Although a lucky “13”would have been nice too. 

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   I filled the bottom of the jar with some candy corn and added a votive candle.  Then I scratched a match stick across the Trick or Treat Matchbox and lit the candle.  That’s it!   Easy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

French Breakfast Muffins

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I made these last night on a whim thinking that they would be good the next morning with a cup of coffee on top of being portable.  It’s my son who could benefit from the portable part.  I just want to drink coffee.  He cuts it  way too close in the mornings time wise if you ask me.   And  he is usually hungry in the morning but runs out of time to eat breakfast.  Now I am not saying these are the healthiest muffins you could eat but it just might be one of the tastiest.  Even better hot out of the oven. 

I found the recipe over on the blog Velvet Lava Cafe after first spotting it on Pinterest where it is getting a lot of attention right now.    And besides, with a name like  French Breakfast Muffins, how could I not give them a try? 

Here is the recipe:

French Breakfast Muffins

1/3 c. butter, melted
1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. all purpose  flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 c. sugar
1/2 stick of  butter, melted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium-large sized bowl, sift together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir until combined.  Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix. Scoop batter into muffin tins that have sprayed with cooking spray or line with cupcake paper liners.  I used a large ice cream scoop to get them into the muffin cups and I got 10 medium sized muffins out of this batter; Bake for 20-25 muffins, or until they just start to turn a bit golden at the edges.

For the topping, mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place melted butter in another small bowl. Dip the warm muffins in melted butter, then in cinnamon sugar.  ( The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of sugar and a whole stick of butter.  That seemed like a lot to me so I cut it in half and used 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 of a stick of butter and was glad I did.  It was the perfect amount.)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Basil Pesto

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The basil in my garden has gone crazy.  I suddenly have tons of it.  I thought it was all pretty much dead and burned out from the heat and lack of rain.   But in the last few weeks we have had a lot of rain and the temperatures have dropped.  The evil Bermuda invaded and pretty much choked out my tomatoes and peppers, and radishes.  And the deer ate every bit of my Swiss chard down to the nub.  The view from my kitchen window told me the basil was all dead but once I actually walked out there and took a closer look, the basil was anything but dead.  It regenerated itself  and it’s the lone survivor of summer.  And there is lots.New Camera Photos 023

Lots and lots.  I went out and picked a big bowl full and brought it into the house and washed it and laid it out on a fresh kitchen towel to dry.

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 I decided to make Basil Pesto with all of it and got to work shredding a wedge of Parmesan cheese.  Basil Pesto is one of those things that I kind of just put together in my food processor.  But today I took some notes so that I could write down some measurements.    The big bowl of basil that I picked ended up making two batches. 

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I took about half of the basil leaves and put them in a 4 cup measuring cup.  I packed it in.  I used a whole grated  wedge of Parmesan cheese per batch.  I used the juice of 1/2 of a lemon, 1/4 cup of pine nuts and about 5 peeled cloves of garlic with about 1/2 cup of olive oil. 

I did not add salt which I usually do but the Parmesan cheese was salty enough and so I left it out.  I would taste your pesto and if needed add the salt in then.

Here is the recipe:

Basil Pesto

4 cups of basil, washed, dried, and packed into the measuring cup.

5 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/4 cup of pine nuts

1 wedge (about 8oz or half a pound) of Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 lemon, juiced and seeded

1/2 cup olive oil

Add the basil leaves to the bowl of your food processor.  Add the garlic, pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, and the lemon juice.  Turn on machine and slowly add the olive oil through the top in a slow stream as the machine is running.  Scrape the bowl down a few times in between processing.  Process until you have a nice spreadable consistency.  Add more olive oil to thin it out if you need to. 

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For each batch that I made I was able to get about 5 mini jelly jars of pesto. 

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I filled each jar with the Basil Pesto and then I drizzled some olive oil on top to help keep the pesto a bright green.  (basil pesto will oxidize and turn brown and the olive oil helps keep the air out.)  Then I put the lids and bands on them.  Store it in the refrigerator and I would use it up within a week or two.  Freeze the rest.

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Basil Pesto is great on pasta and chicken.  I have added it to the top of soups like Minnestrone, spread it on hot Italian bread and of course its fabulous on bruschetta.  You can either spread some on your bread slice and then add the bruschetta topping or prepare your bruschetta and then add a dollop of pesto on top.  The bruschetta at The Village Tavern is made this way with a dollop on top and shards of Parmesan cheese with capers scattered on top. I LOVE their bruschetta. 

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  I still have a bunch of basil still out in the garden waiting to be picked.  I’ll probably be making Basil Pesto all week long now.  As long as we don’t get an early frost, I still have lots of time to get to it.  

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Basil Pesto freezes well and so this winter we should be well stocked.  And I have more than enough for friends and neighbors.  How about you?  Do you like Basil Pesto?  Ever made it?  And how to you like to serve it?  I would love to hear your ideas. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pumpkin Carving Ideas

I was browsing around online looking for some new ideas for Halloween costumes and decorations for around the house when I came across these pumpkin carving ideas  on the Country Living Magazine website.  They have 29 pages with great ideas.  Here are just a few of my favorites.

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How clever are these lantern pumpkins with a lantern painted on the outside and cutouts to show the glow of the candle?  And I love the Trick or Treat display complete with cornstalks and crows.  I had a terrible time finding cornstalks last year.  Hope I get lucky finding them this year. 


Now this pumpkin looks like someone used an etching tool on it.    I love the crescent moon on the second pumpkin here.  I think it would take a hammer and maybe a thin metal tube or pipe to make this one after tracing the shape of a crescent moon onto the pumpkin.

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Now I wonder how they secured these pumpkins to the tree branches?  And I still like the idea of painting a pumpkin white and then painting a scary silhouette on it.   The spider web with a spider is a cute idea.  Not really into zebra though.


I love how they did the tree silhouette through the bookshelves on this one.   And they recommended this “Speedball” Linoleum Cutter set for all your carving and pumpkin etching needs.  I have never heard of a tool like this but the best thing about it is the price.  They said it sells for around $10.00.  I’ll be looking for it next time I hit Home Depot or Lowe’s .


And finally, how creepy is this?!  Is this putting you in the mood for Halloween?    I held off posting this till today.  I mean it is October 1st and all.  Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I am already thinking up ideas for this year’s costume party.  How about you?  Do you dress up?  What was your favorite costume?