Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Warming Artisan Bread

If you love Artisan Bread, you know the fresh breads from Publix or Super Target like Tuscan, Rosemary, French Boule, French Baguette, Italian, Whole Garlic … yummmm.  I do and I personally could probably live off of bread and water … well at least FRESH bread.  That’s why I’m afraid to learn how to make it myself … yikes … I’d be in big trouble. 

You know how that bread gets hard after a day or two or even three?  Well here’s a helpful hint on how to warm up that bread when it’s a day or two or three old … it will taste just like it was fresh out of the oven.  Soft, warm and oh so delicious.

Take a paper towel and wet it, squeeze out all of the water so it is just damp.  Wrap your piece of bread (I’ve only done a piece or two at a time) in the damp paper towel and place it in the microwave (yea they are good for something) for 20-30 seconds.  Be careful removing from microwave because it WILL be hot.  Serve with your favorite Extra Virgin Olive Oil and seasonings or Butter … just like fresh out of the oven.  Amazingly like having fresh baked bread!  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dirty Martini ~ Shaken Not Stirred

Why is it called a ‘Dirty Martini’ … because of the added Olive Brine which makes it look a little cloudy.  This is one of my favorite Martini … of course I’d never tried a Martini until a couple years ago when my niece talked me into ordering one before dinner out one night.  Thank you Kelwie!  That was a doozie of a large … no make that humongous … Martini and I must admit … one was quite enough … this one isn’t quite that size by any stretch of the imagination.  From then on I was ‘in love’ with the Martini. 

Sooooo … why had I not ever tried one you may ask?  Well I grew up in an era where everyone drank on TV … Dean Martin always had a glass of some kind of liquor in his hand on his show and we all know about 007 and his ‘Shaken Not Stirred’ Martini … so I sorta associated a Martini as a old geezer drink LOL … a lot has changed since then … now we have dozen of flavors of Martini from Lemon Drop to Pomegranate but the Dirty is still my favorite.

Dirty Martini ~ Shaken Not Stirred

3 oz Vodka
1 oz Dry Vermouth
½ oz Olive Brine
1-2 Manzanilla (or Spanish) Olive Stuff with Pimento, for garnish

Place Vodka, Dry Vermouth and Olive Brine in a Cocktail Shaker with crushed ice.  Shake vigorously for a couple seconds then pour into your martini glass.  Skewer an Olive or two and add to drink for garnish … I personally love to eat the olives after finishing my drink because they absorb all that delicious flavor.

Hint: A Shot Glass is the equivalent of 1.5 ounces.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Zucchini, Onions, Tomatoes and Peppers with Basil

Zucchini, Onions, Tomatoes and Peppers with Basil

1 Tblsp Butter

1 Tblsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Can Diced Tomatoes, drained
1 Zucchini, sliced
½ Lrg Onion, diced

½ Green Bell Pepper, diced
6-8 Leaves of Fresh Basil, chopped*
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

Heat the Butter and Olive Oil in a skillet then add the Tomatoes, Zucchini, Onions, Bell Pepper, Sea Salt and Black Pepper.  Cook until just tender … I like mine still on the crunchy side.  Add Fresh Basil leaves during last couple minutes of cooking. 
*I had to use Dried Basil for the dish in these photos as I didn’t have any Fresh Basil on hand.  I’ve tried growing it year round by keeping a small plant on my kitchen counter BUT my kitty loves it just as much as I do.  Use 2 teaspoons of Dried Basil.  AND if using Dried Basil, add it at the same time as you do the other ingredients.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Roasted Sweet Baby Broccolli

Sweet Baby Broccoli (also known as Broccolini) and Broccoli Rabe look very similar but each have their own distinctive flavor.  Baby Broccoli is sweet in taste whereas Broccoli Rabe has a bitter taste so don’t get the two confused or you will be disappointed if you buy Broccoli Rabe expecting a sweet flavor.

Actually I don’t really like Broccoli Rabe, though I’ve never cooked it myself … its just too bitter, to me … maybe I just haven’t had it cooked the right way.  On the other hand, I had never seen Sweet Baby Broccoli until recently on a shopping trip to Super Target … I just love their produce department and they have the largest selection of organic fruits and veggies, at least for my area of Metro Atlanta.  Hope you can find it in a store near you!
Roasted Sweet Baby Broccoli

1 lb Fresh Sweet Baby Broccoli
2 Tblsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, sliced
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425°.  Wash your Broccoli and dry it really well then place in a large mixing bowl.  Add the EVOO, Garlic, Salt and Pepper and toss gently.  Place the Broccoli on a large baking sheet, preferably one with a lip so that the oil doesn’t roll off the sides while the Broccoli is cooking.  Cook for about 12 minutes … at least that’s how long my oven took.  If it’s not done enough for you, cook a little longer but be careful not to burn it.  As with most veggies, I love mine a bit crunchy, not soggy or overcooked.
Before Roasting

Perfectly Roasted and Ready to Eat!

Southern Braised Cabbage

Braised Cabbage is probably my most favorite way of cooking cabbage and I swear by cooking it in an iron skillet.

Southern Braised Cabbage

Cabbage, small head
2-3 Tblsps Butter
2 Tblsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp Sugar
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper to taste

Wash and cut up Cabbage, cutting out the core, of course.  Heat Butter and EVOO in a cast iron skillet on medium heat.  Add inside leaves first because they take longer to cook.  Add Sugar, Salt and Pepper.  Add greener (outside) leaves after the first leaves have cooked about 5 minutes.  Continue to cook at medium heat, tossing leaves to make sure the uncooked ones are always at bottom of skillet.  Cook for about 10 minutes or to desired tenderness ~ I like mine a tad crunchy.

Adjust Butter, EVOO, Sugar, Salt and Pepper accordingly for a larger head of Cabbage.  That’s it!  So gooooood!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Puppy Adventures

A little background.  We always had a dog or two (or three) when I was growing up but my kids didn’t … well we did once for about 3 months, Anthony begged for one for his 11th birthday but since I worked full time it just did not work out and we ended up giving her to my Mom … so never again did my kids have a doggie.  Sad … I know, but when you work full time it is hard … heck raising kids and working full time is HARD enough.  By the time I was unable to work any longer and became a full time stay-at-home Mom, I was just too sick to take on the job of raising and training a puppy.  Well … we got Bella when my illness was somewhat under control and what a blessing she has been to me since both the boys were grown and out of the house and Alayna in high school … it was time for a puppy.  Somehow though (since she is now 6 years old) … I had forgotten how very HARD it is to train a puppy.  Funny how we forget things like that isn’t it?  LOL

Soooooooo … what was I thinking getting a 9 week old puppy at my age?  Scott suggested I journal about it so that when I’m a little older (lol he actually said the age but I won’t) and want a new puppy again … I can look back and think … “what the hell am I thinkin?”  Well funny thing is … it wasn’t my idea to get another puppy in the first place …Scott!!!

I can’t really complain though … Scott HAS been a great help … getting up in the middle of the night, cleaning up ‘accidents’, mopping, etc.  I’m pretty sure though he is thinking that if he doesn’t help that I will say take this puppy back LOL … no I really wouldn’t do that, too attached already … BUT I will say this … I am too freaking old for this shit!!!

The first 3 nights, as it was with Bella, were HELL!  Whining and howling all night long … by the fourth night she slept 6 hours straight before needing to go potty.  Thank goodness!

Okay so we’ve had her 11 days and she has managed to …

Try to chew on my coffee table, kitchen cabinets (outside corners), the trash can ‘step’, a magazine and the sphagnum moss around my fake olive tree … thankfully so far we have deterred this behavior by offering her a bone or toy and no real damage has been done.  We also sprayed these areas with a mixture of 50/50 white vinegar and apple cider vinegar (apparently they do not like the taste or smell) and it has worked!

“Christened’ every main floor room (we have an open floor plan) but also thankfully only on the hardwoods so clean up has been easy.

Tried to go up the stairs to the second floor and only ONCE has she actually made it by running from me as I chased her yelling NO … she’s tried a couple times since but all I have to do is say NO and she comes right back down.  This is something we taught Bella … to never go upstairs and the downstairs is inhibited by a closed door.

Find the lower shelves in the library (twice now) and pull off several books at a time … thankfully, again, she has not tried to chew them.  Both times I was in my bathroom which backs up to the library and heard “bam bam bam bam bam” thinking …. “that did not sound good”.

Jump on the sofa (once) trying to get the cat (Ciana) and when Ciana jumped onto the back of the sofa, Nora did too … then Ciana jumped off the sofa to take flight up the stairs and silly little Nora thought she could move like that too, took a dive off the back of the sofa and ended up wiping out … it was hilarious though it did sorta scare the crap outta me cause dogs DO NOT land on their feet LOL … she’s fine though!

Get trapped inside the bar stool … LOL … that was funny watching her trying to figure out just how to get out!
Trapped in the Bar Stool ... LOL
Ya’ll its like having a baby or a toddler in the house … into EVERYTHING!  Again … what the hell was I thinking?  I’ve been able to not get much of anything done unless she is sleeping.  I just DO NOT have the heart to crate her during the day … its hard enough at night time.

For those of you are may not be animal lovers … there is NOTHING like the love of a dog for its ‘mommy and daddy’ … you leave for 10 minutes and come back and they act like you’ve been gone for days!!!  Unconditional love … pure and simple!  Cats are nice too, a little too independent and not so loving but they do like to curl up beside you once in a while and they do love you in their own way … just do not show it like a dog does.
Me and my Nora
Well … I’m sure there are more Nora adventures to come … so stay tuned!

January 21, 2013 ~ More about Nora ...

As of yesterday, we have had her for 2 weeks and finally she has stopped chewing on things she is not supposed to be chewing on ... so far ... keeping my fingers and toes crossed on that one!

Also, yesterday, she went potty outside EVERY time (except once) which is a biggie.  She even rang the bell each time.  Bell, you ask?  Well when Bella was a puppy our Vet told me that if I attach a bell to the door we use the most to take her in and out and each time BEFORE taking her out touch her nose and then touch the bell (ring it) she will eventually learn that that is her way of letting us know she needs to go out.  Works like a charm and actually I've told a couple other people about it and they have done the same thing ... like my grandpuppy, Chicago, he uses a bell too!  So we're in the process of teaching Nora to use the bell and she's starting to get it.

And last night ... biggest achievement of all ... she slept from 11:30 pm until 7:30 something this morning!!!!  

January 28, 2013 ~

Well we've had Nora for 3 weeks now and she's 12 weeks old.  Finally she's got it ... the going outside to potty thing.  Oh yeah!  She goes outside 90% of the time now.  Funny thing is she pees like a boy ... at least twice on every outside excursion ... sometimes three times!!!  And she's definitely got the knack of ringing the bell ... woohoo!

Now knows a few commands: SIT, WAIT and RING THE BELL and I'm (we're) working on a few more.

Still doesn't understand that when she gets up needing to go out at 6 am that I really want to go back to bed afterwards and sleep a little longer but we're working on that!

It's no longer easy for her to get under the sofa ... well getting  under there is not the hard part ... she literally takes a running dive and slides under by splaying her legs at the last second ... I really wish I could catch that on video ... its hilarious ... hard part is getting out from underneath LOL

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mini-Cinis (Cinnamon Rolls)

I had forgotten all about this recipe that I found in Southern Living years ago.  Meant to make them while the kids were here for New Years but with all the food we had in the house, I didn’t.  Forgot too, how very easy they are to make … apparently too easy cause I made a half a recipe last night and by hmmmmm … about an hour ago they are all gone … I’m embarrassed to say … I ate every last one of them!  So much for the FIVE pounds I lost between Thanksgiving and Christmas and have managed (thus far) to keep off!  Like I said … too easy to make LOL

Anyway, this is the recipe as I found it in Southern Living … I quadruple the Icing cause I like lots of it on mine and believe me … its not too much!  For my ‘half recipe’ last night though I only doubled the Icing.  The italicized wording is MY own added hints.

NOTE: Pictures are of a half recipe, except for the Icing, I doubled that.

Mini-Cinis (Cinnamon Rolls)
Makes 2 Dozen

2 (8 oz) cans Refrigerated Crescent Rolls
6 Tbsp Butter, softened
1/3 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
¼  cup Pecans, finely chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon

2/3 cup Powdered Sugar
1 Tbsp Milk or Half-n-Half
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp Salt

Unroll crescent rolls and press diagonal perforations to seal so you end up with two rectangles.  Lay out on flat surface (I place mine on Parchment Paper to keep it from sticking to my granite countertop) and lightly roll it with a rolling pin. 

Stir together butter and next four ingredients.  Spread mixture evenly over one side of each rectangle.  Roll up jellyroll fashion.  Cut into 1 inch thick slices, using a serrated knife.  Place rolls 1/4 inch apart into 2 (8 inch) greased cakepans.  Bake at 375° for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Watch them because my oven cooks them in like 12 minutes.  Cool 5-10 minutes. 

Stir together powdered sugar and remaining ingredients.  Drizzle over warm rolls

Helpful Hint: To make slicing easier, place unbaked rolls on baking sheet and freeze 10-15 minutes. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Banana Puddin'

Yep there’s lots of Banana Puddin’ recipes out there but here’s one more that is definitely worth a try … plus it’s an easy one and I wouldn’t be adding it to my blog if it wasn’t delicious.  I shared some once with a neighbor and her children and they loved it … it is pretty darn good if I must say so myself.  It’s not my recipe though … I got this one from one of my nieces though her recipe calls for Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies which are good but I prefer Nilla Wafers. 

Banana Puddin’

6-8 Bananas, sliced
1 box Instant Vanilla Pudding
Milk (to make pudding as directed on box)
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 sm Cool Whip*
1 box Nilla Wafers

Layer bottom of pan with Nilla Wafers and cover wafers with lots of banana slices.  Prepare pudding as directed on box.  Blend pudding, cream cheese and condensed milk.  Fold in Cool Whip.

Begin layering pudding mixture with bananas … when you reach the last layer add more Nilla Wafers on top.

*Note to self: Cool Whip contains hydrogenated oil … next time take the time to make your own whipped cream … its easy and even more tasty.

Tuscan Style Cannellini Beans with Sage

This recipe comes from an Italian cookbook, which was originally printed in 1950 (in Italian) and written by an Italian lady well known in Italy for sharing and publishing authentic Italian recipes ~ a gift from Scott’s grandmother many years ago.  I’ve had great success with every recipe I’ve tried from this cookbook!  I’m one who doesn’t hesitate to make notes and such in my cookbooks … which used to make my Mama cringe … Mama just didn’t believe in writing in a book!!  Once I’ve tried a recipe in a cookbook, I will put a red star beside it if it’s a winner, X it out (usually with a marker lol) if it’s a loser and sometimes even adjust the recipe to improve it.  Before I started doing that I’d forget if it was a recipe I had tried and sometimes use the same lousy recipe twice … ugh!  But anyway … so far this cookbook has had nothing but winner recipes.

Tuscan Style Cannellini Beans with Sage

2-3 cans Cannellini Beans, drained
2 Tblsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½-1 tsp Sage*
2 cloves Garlic, sliced
1 can Diced Tomatoes, drained
Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste

*I use fresh Sage ~ about 8-12 leaves (or more, depending on size), leaving them whole.  Here’s a hint ~ if you rub the Sage leaves in your hands before adding to the Beans it releases the oils and therefore the flavor.
Place all ingredients in a pan.  Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Do not overcook and do not let them dry out … I usually reserve the juices off the Beans and Tomatoes for this reason and sometimes add a bit back to the Beans.