Saturday, November 29, 2008

And We Call Ourselves Civilized

Warning: Holiday rant follows

Shopping. Not really one of my favorite things to do. I especially hate Black Friday shopping, or pretty much any shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everyone is at the store, making it difficult to get around (because they want to leave their cart in the middle of the aisle, making it impossible for anyone to pass, and then shoot you evil stares when you try to politely say excuse me, I'd like to pass). Everyone is crabby and short with each other, and very, very few people are really into the spirit of Christmas. Heck, who cares what this season is about, I'm just here to spend gobs of money on things that no one really needs just so I can feel important.

Three people are dead after yesterday's shopping, and many more I'm sure are injured. I find it absolutely barbaric that we as human beings, in a supposedly Christianized society will trample a man to death, and then continue shopping because our own lusts for "stuff" is more important that the life of one man. And, what idiot brings a gun to go shopping, even if it is Black Friday? Seriously. Barbaric. How can anyone look at us as a nation and think that we are civilized when we act like hungry lions on the Serengeti at feeding time. We are so concerned with getting the best "deal", that we will kill our fellow man to get it. It is amazing to me.

I hear of parents who want to spend $300 to $400 per child, just for Christmas presents. What on earth does a child need that much stuff for? My husband and I don't spend that much on presents for our 6 kids in a whole year, let alone for one day. I hear of parents talking about taking out loans, just so they can spend as much as they want on their children. And then later, wonder why their children are so selfish and self-centered. I've had discussions with people about why my children have to get exactly the same number of toys that all add up to exactly the same amount of money, because "they're counting, really, they're paying attention and they're all going to get jealous of each other". Really? I didn't have any problems with it until it was made a problem by certain family members. When it was made an issue, it became an issue.

For the most part, my kids do pretty well at Christmas. We've tried not to make a big deal out of the presents we give (extended family does what they will and there's not much we can do about it), but we've tried hard to make sure that they understand the meaning of Christmas. From our family, we don't do much in the way of presents, leaning more towards family gifts, which seems to work well for us. I do like to do the stockings, but we don't put a ton in them.

I guess my point is, we as a nation tend to focus far too much on material aquisition (especially of cheap crap that breaks easily), and we don't focus much on each other, or our relationships. We are so much more interested in getting what we want, that killing a person in a stampede is deemed less important than shopping for the ultimate gift. We are so much more interested in getting our kid the latest toy so we can be perceived as the "cool" parents, that we will bring guns to a toy store to get what we want.

And we call ourselves civilized.

I am working on something, an idea for Christmas. I will get it up in the next week, so stay tuned.


Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake. This has been one of my favorites for forever. My grandma made it when I was a kid, and while I'm reluctant to say it's my most favorite, it definitely ranks up there. It's such an easy recipe too, and then there's all that ganache, I think I need a piece for breakfast.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake

1 pkg. (18.25 oz.) devil’s food cake mix (with or without pudding)
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
Chocolate Glaze:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350* F. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Place the cake mix, cherry pie filling, eggs and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula. Place in the oven. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack while you prepare the glaze. For the glaze, place the sugar, butter, and milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips. When the chips have melted and the glaze is smooth, pour it over the warm cake sot that it covers the entire surface. The glaze will be thin, but will firm up. Cool the cake for 20 minutes more before cutting.

**Store this cake, covered in aluminum foil, at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze the cake, wrapped in foil, for up to 6 mos. Thaw the cake overnight on the counter before serving.

Then of course, there's pumpkin pie. Now, for some reason, mine didn't turn out too pretty. But here's an idea....

Let's Talk Turkey

I am going to tell you today how to make my absolutely awesome Garlic Rosemary Turkey Breast. I based this off a recipe for a whole turkey, but no one in our family likes dark meat so we switched over to turkey breast. I am never going back. It is so easy to do just a breast, and you have tons of juicy white meat.

Garlic Rosemary Turkey Breast

  • One 8-10 lb. deboned turkey breast with skin (you can order this through a butcher, usually about a week ahead of time)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely minced
  • 3-4 leaves fresh sage, finely minced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare your turkey breast, skin side up, in a large baking pan. Cut 6-8 small slits in the skin, and insert the garlic. Push them in a little so they are covered by the skin. Squeeze one half to one whole lemon over the turkey breast, covering the skin with the juice. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle with the fresh sage and rosemary.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F. for about 15-20 minutes per pound. I am aiming for about 3 1/2 hours or so. I will start checking the internal temperature after about 2 1/2 hours.

Let it cool for about 20 minutes before carving.

You can also try to find half of a turkey breast, for a smaller amount of meat. I like the whole breast because it leaves me lots of leftover turkey for sandwhiches and recipes, like chicken pot pie and soup using the turkey as a substitute.

Here's how the garlic works:

Here's the turkey before cooking:

And here's the turkey after cooking:


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Today is a busy day, but I will try to get a few pictures in here and there.

Today our menu is:

  • Garlic Rosemary Turkey Breast (no one will let me make anything else, it's that good.
  • Golden Au Gratin Potatoes (it might not be mashed potatoes, but again, they won't let me take it off the menu!)
  • Creamed Sweet Corn (I don't know if it's exactly creamed, but it's really good)
  • Cottage Cheese (storebought, I'm not that good)
  • Some sort of rolls or biscuits. I don't know yet.
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake
That should about cover it. There will probably be a few things tossed in at the last minute, but I chose to keep things very simple this year. We are celebrating by ourselves, and the opportunity to scale back a lot was rather welcome. I thought about having the kids make some sugar cookies this afternoon too, to keep them out of my hair, but we'll see.

Have a great day everyone, and I'll be hopefully posting pictures tonight or tomorrow!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How Is This His Job??


President-elect Barack Obama said his plans to rebuild infrastructure, modernize schools and develop alternate energy are long-term investments in the economy, not quick fixes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Looking At What I Read....

I thought it would be fun to look at all the sites that I tend to frequent, and check out their reading levels. Now, I really don't know how accurate this test is, and I can't seem to find any extra information on the way this one looks at the reading level. But, it's fun, and right now I'm feeling smart.

Real Effect High School
Real Debate Wisconsin High School
Fuzz Martin Junior High School
Boots and Sabers High School
The World According To Nick Junior High School
Silent E Speaks Junior High School
Rocks In My Dryer Elementary School
Orthogonal Thought High School
Cooking For Engineers Genius (Sometimes shows up as College Post Grad)
Papa Z's Views and Comments Junior High School
Rachel Lucas Elementary School
Vox Day High School

Now, some of these I'm not terribly surprised about, there's nothing massively outstanding about most of them, at least in the realm of higher thinking. A few that I am surprised about, Vox for one, seems to have an extremely intelligent group of followers, and I like his writing style. Rachel Lucas I also expected to be a little higher, what with her chemistry and all. Cooking For Engineers, now that one really threw me. I am on that site all the time, and while I understand a lot about cooking, I never felt that there was anything too far above my level of expertise in that area. I thought it was all pretty simple. Makes me wonder about what I read now.....

Wow, I Didn't Realize....

blog readability test

Movie Reviews

I really have to wonder how this thing works. What does it check to determine the readability? It's neat though. I didn't expect to get such a high readability level.

Especially after seeing Elliot's post over at From Where I Sit. Check him out. He's got some good stuff over there. At least, he does when I remember to check :)

After a bit of snooping, I decided to enter a few other blogs I do frequent, just to see what they were. I was expecting most of them to be doing better than I was, especially Fred. But, apparently not. That's just a little weird....

Friday, November 14, 2008

These Look So Cute!

I want to make some of these now. Such easy little tiny stars, and little strips of paper. These look like a good use for shredded paper :)

More instructions here:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stash Contest

I just found a cute little site today that is giving away a stitcher's dream stash. Some beautiful threads, and a stitching book. I love embroidery, and this just looks like it would be such a fun little package to get. Go check it out!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Best Lasagna Ever?

I am a person who can cook just about anything. Chicken Kiev, cutsie cupcakes, homemade marshmallows, just about anything you could want, I can bake it. Except lasagna. Lasagna is the bain of my culinary existence. How could something as easy as noodles, cheese and sauce be so difficult to make properly? Apparently for me, very difficult.

Until now. I believe that I have actually found the best lasagna ever, and it's even actually called The Best Lasagna Ever. Go figure. I looked at the recipe, and thought hey, even I might be able to make this. And oh look, my husband might even eat it! He's a little picky. But that's alright. Anyway, I decided that this recipe looked easy enough even for my lasagna challenged skills, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Before I go any further, for the longest time I thought that my husband's mother's lasagna was the best ever. Lots of sauce, cheese, noodles, and tons of layers. It was really, really good, and after a while, I even gave up trying to make it because even when she helped me, my pan would turn out terrible, and hers would turn out great. It was creepy, because we'd make it exactly the same way. So I decided that I must be lasagna challenged, and turned my attention to things like pate-a-choux, because it was easier. However, I digress.

After making this recipe, so kindly put onto the internet by my new favorite person Pioneer Woman, I thought I was doomed to avoid lasagna forever. Until now. This is truly, The Best Lasagna Ever, and even my husband, who is picky and loves his mother's lasagna, agreed. I was in shock. I made lasagna, and everyone loved it? What has the world come to?

Here is the recipe. You really must try it. I will warn you, this is not an inexpensive dish. After a bit I will work on ways to make it more cheaply, perhaps getting the cheese from the deli, getting the sausage on sale, that sort of thing. But man, it's worth it. Our family of eating age adults and kids, 8 in total (we had a guest too), made it through about 1/3 of the lasagna. It was very filling and rich and good. The littles don't eat a lot, and they're even pickier than my husband some days. So we have plenty of leftovers for a while. I will have to see how this reheats, but I'm sure it won't be an issue.

I did make a change though, since I have picky eaters. I pureed the whole tomatoes along with the tomato paste until I had a nice smooth sauce. None of my boys really like the chunks of tomatoes, so I did have to make that change. It still turned out amazing though, and now, I can cook lasagna knowing that it will actually taste good. I would probably cook it a little longer than I did too, and let it sit longer to cool so that it's not so melty when I go to serve it.

Thank you Pioneer Woman, this is definitely The Best Lasagna Ever!

Before baking: Look at all the pretty layers!

After baking: Mmmm... all melted and good.

Dinner time!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

More Apple Pie

I didn't take pictures this time, but I thought I'd share the recipe, since the pie turned out so good. Maybe I'll get a pic of one of the leftover little bits of the pie later one. We'll see.

Anway, this is about the easiest recipe you could get. But, I changed it a bit, and it turned out better than I expected.

Apple Pie

3 lbs. Golden Delicious apples (about 6-8 medium, I usually shoot for 8)
3 Tbs. Butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Vietnamese Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pie crust
Cinnamon sugar

In a large skillet with high sides, melt the butter over high heat until sizzling and fragrant. Add the apples and toss with the butter to coat. Turn the heat down to medium and cover, cooking 5-7 minutes or until softened but still slightly crunchy on the inside. Add the sugar, spice, cinnamon and salt, and cook over high heat until the juices are thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes. (**I personally have never really been able to get it thick at this step, so here are my instructions) Remove the apples with a slotted spoon, and cool on a cookie sheet. Continue boiling the syrup for another minute or so, until it starts to thicken, and turn off the heat.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. and place your baking rack in the bottom third of the oven.

Prepare your pie crust. If you are using the refrigerated kind, lay it out on a piece of waxed paper, and roll it out so that it is a little more rounded, and a lot thinner. This will allow for a crisper crust that won't get as soggy. Place it in the bottom of your pie plate and fit it in there good. Leave the edges overhanging for now. Place your cooled pie filling into the bottom crust. Roll out the top crust the same as you did for your bottom crust, making it nice and thin (though not too thin to handle. If you wish to use a mini cookie cutter to cut out pretty little shapes, now is the time to do it. Transfer to the top of the pie, and crimp or flute or do as you wish. You might want to brush the bottom crust with a little cold water, but that's not ever something I seem to be able to remember. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar. If you didn't use the cookie cutter to make cutouts, make some steam vents now.

Now, you are ready to bake. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and the filling is bubbly. As insurance, you may want to put a tinfoil lined baking sheet on the rack under the pie in case anything drips. When you are done baking, allow the pie to cool for 3 to 4 hours, or as long as you can stand waiting. Serve it with vanilla ice cream.
One thing I noticed this time, is that the brown sugar seems to help the juices thicken easier. You may not even need to boil the juices separately, but I did it automatically this time, and it still turned out really good. I also don't actually measure my spices, so measurements are approximate. You can adjust according to your family's tastes.