Love, Semi-Homemade Italian Style!

27 03 2008

Monday, the hubs was cleaning out the fridge and came upon some leftover stuffing. Rather than risk him throwing it out or forget about it and let it go moldy in a month or so, I decided to put it to good use. Besides, I really didn’t want to have to wrestle him to the ground again to foist the stuffing from his open mouth AGAIN! So, instead, I got creative. My recipe is adapted from a Kraft one and you’ll notice that, as usual, I don’t give quantities, so bear with me!

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Bruschetta-n-Cheese Stuffed Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Leftover stuffing

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

Basil

Mozzerella cheese

Italian dressing

Pound chicken to 1/4″ thickness and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together stuffing*, tomatoes, basil (I used dried basil and used about 4 shakes), and cheese (about two or three handfuls). The stuffing will be very moist and fragrant. Spoon stuffing onto chicken and roll up. Place seam side down in baking dish and drizzle with Italian dressing (the original recipe calls for Roasted Red Pepper Parmesan dressing, but, really, who keeps that in the house?). Bake for 40 min at 350. Remove chicken from over and top with additional cheese. Bake for 5 min or until cheese on top is melted and bubbly. I served with green beans and the combination was divine! PS: this is even better the second day and makes a completely drool-worthy lunch for work! I may make this for company sometime. Even the hubs, who can be a complete PITA when it comes to trying new things, really liked this!

*The original recipe says that you are to combine uncooked stuffing with the tomatoes in their liquid. I, personally, don’t like it that way as it renders the stuffing completely mushy, but if that’s what you like, then so be it!

Work has been really good lately. I’ve been busy and just happy, which is a good thing and something that, quite frankly, I had almost forgottenĀ  could even exist! The first commercial that I wrote has started airing this week, so I am totally revelling in all my geeky glory!

I was reading the NY Times online, as I do pretty much every day, and came across an article about food shopping in NYC for 99 cents. The guy challenged a chef to go to this horrible-looking discount grocery store (Jake’s, I think?) and to create meals using only the products he found there. He managed to create five meals and three desserts. Impressive, huh? I guess that goes to show that you don’t have to have all of the gourmet and organic items to do creative things in the kithen! It’s actually inspired my girls and I to head to the nearest Big Lots (Hey! Don’t laugh! They have food!) and do a similar thing. Maybe even host our own Iron Chef for Tightwads! I’ve been thinking about this all day and I think it sounds like a lot of fun! Gawd! I need to get out of the house more often!

The hubs and baby are both sick with a cold. However, the difference between the two is amazing. The baby is still running around at full strength as if she didn’t have a cold. The only difference now is that she runs even faster through the house because she doesn’t want mommy to catch her and make her blow her nose. Hubs, on the other hand, is miserable. Tired, run-down, and phlegmmy. Sexy, huh?

That’s about it for now. I need to pick things up around the house before my next commercial is on the air. Sadly, I looked at the schedule and I know exactly when my commercials are running, so I’ll be in front of the TV for the next six months like a crazy shut-in flipping from channel to channel, in hopes of catching a glimpse of my own brilliance!





Happy Easter

24 03 2008

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This Easter, I decided to push my boundaries as a baker and try to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. Warning: once you make your own rolls, you just CAN’T go back to the ones from a can!

Cinnamon Rolls

4 3/4c to 5 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 c milk
1/3 c butter
1/3 c granulated sugar
1/2 t salt
3 eggs
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c all purpose flour
1 T ground cinnamon
1/3 c butter or margarine
1/2 c golden raisins (optional)
1/2 c chopped pecans (optional)
1 T half-and-half or light cream
Vanilla Glaze

1. In mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 c flour and yeast. Heat milk, 1/3 c butter, granulated sugar, and salt until warm and butter almost melts (120-130 degrees). Add to flour mixture, along with eggs. Beat with electric mixer on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat on high for 3 min and stir in as much of remaining flour as you can.

2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and kmead in enough of remaining flour to form moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3-5 min of kneading). Shape fough into ball and place in greased bowl, turning dough to coat lightly. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place until dough doubles in size (roughly an hour, but it took my dough slightly longer).

3. Punch dough down and turn out onto lightly floured surface. Divide in half, cover, and let rest for 10 min. In the meantime, lightly grease 2 9″ round cake pans or 2 cookie sheets (it’s been my experience that the rolls turn out better if you cook them in cake pans). Mix filling: stir together brown sugar, 1/4 c flour, and cinnamon, and cut in 1/3 c butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.

4. Roll each half of dough into 12×8 rectangles and sprinkle filling over rectangles. Add nuts and/or raisins, if so desired. Roll up each rectangle fro the long side and slice each roll into 12 pieces. Place cut side down into prepared pans/baking sheets.

5. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap, leaving room to rise. Chill from 2-24 hours. Uncover and let stand at room temp for 30 minutes. (if you will be baking the rolls right away, skip this step and let rolls rise for 30 minutes).

6. Break any surface bubbles with a greased toothpick. Brush dough with half-and-half. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until light brown. Remove from oven and brush again with half-and-half. Cool on wire rack.

If desired, top rolls with glaze. I use the Cinnabon recipe, which is a mixture of butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla, with a tough of lemon juice (sorry, I don’t have quantities, I just know when it tastes right!). For best results, whip some cream cheese into frosting (I like neufchatel) to give it some “body.”





A Rare Moment of Reflection

23 03 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a friend, D, who is having one of the hardest years of her life. Her beloved husband died not even six months ago. As she has struggled to come to terms with that and to forge ahead, her grandma died last week and then her son’s girlfriend (who is the mother of her granddaughter) died a couple of nights ago from an accidental overdose.

When things like that happen, I have to wonder how much suffering is the human spirit truly capable of surviving. I, too, have been through years like the one D is having. I have had those soul-crushing moments where I’ve repeatedly asked God why He chose me, of all people, to suffer so much and I’ve listened patiently for an answer that never seems to come. I’ve seen many of my friends go through truly hellish situations – infertility, illness, and family deaths. Why does it seem like certain people are chosen to suffer again and again and again?

And at what point does the healing truly begin? Will we even know when the emotional carnage has dealt its final card and we are finally allowed to breathe- burden-free and fearless, finally, that it’s over and that the soul may finally emerge from its coccoon and fly free like a brilliant butterfly on a sunny April afternoon?


On a far cheerier note, today is baking and cleaning day, so I’m headed off to the kitchen soon to make devilled eggs and cinnamon rolls for tomorrow. Now that I think about it, it’s just as well that my recipe for cinnamon rolls makes 2 dozen because I’m fairly certain that the hubs won’t be able to stay away from the rolls for that long!





Mmmmmmm…Tuna!

20 03 2008

Ugh…it’s been so cold and rainy here for the last couple of days. I haven’t really wanted to do much of anything, except lie on the couch. Tonight, for whatever reason, I was in the mood to cook dinner (hallelujah!), so I dusted off an old favorite recipe: tuna burgers. The recipe is actually pretty simple:

2 cans of tuna (chunk style, in water)

onion

salt

pepper

1 egg

breadcrumbs

I know it’s probably annoying to you that IO don’t give actual quantities, but I tend to cook (unless I’m baking) by gauging quantities based on how the recipe looks, smells, etc. In this case, mix all ingredients until the meat starts to hold together. Spray the grill with Pam and grill until you’ve reached your desired level of done-ness:

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I served on a bun, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Hubs insisted on tarter sauce, but to each his own!

I can’t wait for Easter! The little one has the most adorable dress and hat and I can’t wait to put her in it! And I can’t wait to watch her search the house for her Easter eggs!
I’m also looking forward to baking, but I haven’t decided what yet. At this point, it’s a toss-up between hot cross buns, cinnamon rolls, or wheat bread. What do you think?





In Troubled Times, I Have to Ask…

19 03 2008

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Seriously, I don’t have all of the answers. When I’m troubled, I bake! For the love of God, where is my email from the Daring Bakers? I’m ready!!! Let’s dance!!!

In all seriousness, I’m in the process of helping the hubs find a job. It’s all I can think of. I keep thinking that life will be better when… and that I’ll be a better person when… I really need to stop waiting for things and just live my life!

I need a recipe!





Luck o’the Irish?

18 03 2008

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So today is St. Patrick’s Day which, quite frankly, means a whole lotta nothing to me. Of course, that could be because I’m just in a snarky mood today. Snarky because there’s not much going on today at work (at least not in my portion of the world, but my co-workers seem quite busy since there are a couple of people out) and also because the hubs is trying to solve yet another one of our financial crises and he’s none-too-thrilled with my being stressed out about it.

Come to think of it, I haven’t actually celebrated St. Patty’s Day in a while. I went the extra mile last year and cooked a pre-seasoned corned beef brisket (Lay off, foodies! I didn’t have time last year to season and marinate it myself!), but it was the saltiest, nastiest thing ever. The only other St. Patty’s Day celebration I remember going to was some drunkfest at a bar where they rented out tents and made it an all-day affair. If I remember correctly, we got there early and left before the projectile vomiting started, which was probably just as well.

Seriously, anyone else look at St. Patty’s Day as an amped-up version of New Year’s Eve. You know, where you’re a total loser if you don’r do anything to celebrate, despite the fact you don’t want to share precious oxygen by hanging out with these morons, let alone share the roads with them? Good, it’s not just me, then!





Back to Basics

17 03 2008

Yesterday, I posted about baking blueberry muffins and searching for the ultimate recipe. After scouring various websites and finding recipes using orange zest and lemon peel, it occurred to me that maybe the classics aren’t so bad, afterall. They were good enough for our mothers and grandmothers. Besides, I really was not in the mood to make a run to the grocery store this morning (my stomach was rumbling and the kiddos were threatening to kill each other over some toy), so, instead, I tried a recipe I found on the Food Network website.

muffins.jpg

Blueberry Muffins

Recipe Courtesy of Sara Moulton
Show: Cooking Live
Episode: Cook Along 53

 
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 3/4 cup sifted flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon flour
Cream butter and sugar. Add milk and egg and beat until smooth. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Mix until moistened. Toss blueberries with flour and fold into batter. Fill a well-greased muffin pan 2/3 full with the batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

This recipe is perfect! A true classic and the kids loved them (my stepdaughter ate eight of these little beauties!). Admittedly, I thought it was kind of strange to toss the berries in flour, but to my amazement, it locks the juice inside the berries and they don’t bleed all over the batter. I will definitely have to make this recipe again in the near future.
Tomorrow begins another work week. I think I have to go to a meeting at my former employer’s office, which fills me with dread. Some of those people were truly horrible and the work was both mind-numbing and soul-sucking.

Went shopping today for some pretty things for spring (ok, that and I don’t have anything green for St. Patty’s Day) and walked out of there with two pairs of white pants, a silky fitted celery green polo and a really pretty dusty rose sweater. As usual, the hubs did far better than I did: he got three pairs of pants, 2 t-shirts, and another shirt, I think. And I got a gorgeous airy white dress with little pink roses and a long sash for the baby. When I held the dress up to her, her little eyes began to dance and I can already see her in my mind twirling around in the dress.