Friday, December 21, 2012

Have yourself a merry little Christmas....


I'll be in the kitchen baking and cooking for most of the weekend, then I'll be
enjoying time with my family and friends.

So, I'm signing off until after the holiday.

Warmest wishes for a Christmas
filled with sweetness.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quick and Easy Creamy Clam Chowder (Chowda)

Easy Clam Chowda 1

I think it's the law that if you live in New England you need to know how to make clam chowda. Yes, you read that right, we don't say chowder, we say chowda. (We say a lot of things funny around here).

There are 3 types of chowda that are made here in New England. Red, also known as Manhattan, Clear and White. My household is a big fan of the white.

This is a cheater chowda. It's quick and easy to throw together but it tastes like a chowda that you spent hours making.

Once in awhile I get John to make clam cakes to go along with it. Clam cakes are a messy venture and require a long stand at the stove. When I made this the Steelers were on so I didn't even ask for clam cakes, I new better, lol.

We finished off the whole pot in one afternoon. I just left it warming on the stove. John was watching the game, I was baking in the kitchen and the kids were doing their thing. I left mugs and spoons out and we just ate when we were hungry.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a big pot of this simmering while you wrapped all your presents this weekend?

Easy Clam Chowda

Oh and one of the best places to take your mug of chowda and eat it is under the Christmas Tree.

I highly recommend it.

Chowda near the tree 1

Quick and Easy Creamy Clam Chowder
recipe from Lisa@ The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
1 small onion, chopped or you can use shallots like I usually do
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 stick butter
2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of potato soup, undiluted
3 cans (6-1/2 ounces each) chopped clams - not minced! DO NOT DRAIN!
1 quart half-and-half cream or whole milk or 2% milk. I have used all with success.
3 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with a little cold water
More milk to get it to the consistency you like.

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, carrots and celery in butter until tender (about 20 minutes). Stir in the potato soup and 3 cans of undrained clams and the cream or milk. If the soup looks too thick, just thrown in a little more cream or milk. I add the additional milk at this point. Just put in as much as you like. If you need to thicken it up a bit combine the cornstarch and a small amount of water in a small bowl and stir until smooth; add to soup. Bring to a boil, lower heat and continue to cook until hot. Yield: 9 servings (about 2 quarts).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Almond Cream Cheese Crinkles

Almond Cream Cheese Crinkles

After the tragic events of last Friday, I questioned myself about posting a cookie recipe. I thought about 20 mothers who couldn't bake cookies with their children, about the presents that won't be opened under the tree, about the grieving brothers and sisters, aunt and uncles, grandparents and friends, who won't have a vey merry Christmas this year.

I cannot imagine how these people are coping with such a horrific tragedy. I just hope that some how, some way, they can feel the love and prayers and know that so many people all over the world are sending them a collective hug, embracing them in our hearts and sharing in their pain and sorrow.

When tragedy strikes we always seem to come together, we always want to try and help and we try to carry on. I suppose we try to make life normal again, something I've gotten vey good at over the past two weeks. You try and move past the pain, and just function again. Reconnect to the ordinary.

I've been keeping very busy. It's how I'm dealing with it all. Not giving my mind time to wander too much. My packages have all been mailed, presents are all wrapped, the house is decorated inside and out. My menu is complete and I've picked up everything I need from the grocery store except for those last minute items. I made about 5 pounds of fudge, 60 candies and hundreds (351 in fact) of these....

Holiay Pretzel Rings 4

Holiday Pretzel Rings (you can get the recipe here). The boys love bringing these to parties at school. The fudge was mailed out to some special folks and the rest was gifted to some of our favorite people.

I think I'm good. I think I'm ready.

I've got a few more cookies to make this upcoming weekend. My molasses cookies are always a must for Christmas, and I'll make a chocolate cream pie cause it's Evan's favorite. I've got a full menu of food to prepare and a this to make for Christmas morning.

3 Cheese Breakfast Bake 2

My Three Cheese Breakfast Bake is the perfect way to begin your Christmas Day (once all the presents are open that is). You can make it the night before and just throw it in the oven Christmas morning.

I also whipped up a batch of these Almond Cream Cheese Crinkles.

I love me an almond cookie. Almond is right up there with mocha and caramel in my book.

This cookie is soft and oh so almondy.

This is a really sticky dough. Don't plan on making it and using it right away. It needs to spend some time in the fridge, overnight or at least several hours. I sprayed my cookie scoop with baking spray and the dough still wanted to stick to it. Return your dough to the fridge between batches.

Make sure to let these cool completely before digging in.

Almond Cream Cheese Crinkles 1

Almond Cream Cheese Crinkles
recipe from Plain Chicken 
1 box Golden Butter cake mix
1 egg
1 stick of softened butter
8oz cream cheese softened
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
powdered sugar

In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients except for the powdered sugar. You can use a stand mixer or a hand held mixer. This batter is very sticky, so be prepared for it to ride up on your beaters if you are using a hand held mixer. Once the dough comes together, remove it from the bowl and place it on some plastic wrap. You want to refrigerate this overnight, or at least several hours because it's such a sticky dough.

Preheat the oven to 325. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and coat in powered sugar. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes.I pressed the tops of each ball of dough down with my fingers just a bit.  I found 12 minutes was the perfect time for my oven. The tops of these will look under cooked  so don't over bake them. The bottoms will be golden brown. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. You want these completely cooked before you eat them. I dusted mine with a little extra powdered sugar before serving.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies 2

You were right.

So many of you who had lost a pet reached out to me and told me it will get better with time, and it has, a little.

That first week had me feeling like I would never have joy back in my heart again. I could feel myself slipping into a bad place. No ambition to do anything. No laughing, no smiling, just lots of tears and still feeling like the void in my life would keep me mourning forever.

Each day is gets a tiny bit easier. I'm really trying to focus on the love and happiness that Moose brought into our lives. I know we gave him the best life we could. We just all still miss him so. I am trying to get back to normal, really I am.

Part of that process was finding joy in the kitchen again. Making Christmas cookies was always one of my most favorite things to do and I didn't want to lose that this year. So even though my baby wasn't sitting close by waiting for anything to hit the floor, I got back in there baked, and it felt pretty good.

Baby steps.

I first made these cookies way back in 2008 when my blog was in it's infancy.

My photos were horrible! It's kind of comical looking back at them. Take a photo in natural light? Why I never thought of that, lol.

If you love chocolate you'll love these cookies.If you know a coffee lover, they will LOVE these cookies.

Filled with lots of bold chocolate flavor, chocolate chips and a dash of espresso powder, they are great addition to your holiday cookie list.

I dare you to find a better cookie to go with a big cold glass of milk!

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies 1

Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies
recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
Yields – 3 dozen
3 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
½ cup butter (1 stick), cubed
1 tablespoon instant coffee or espresso granules
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan melt the unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup of the chocolate chips, butter and the coffee/espresso granules. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl beat the sugar and eggs for 3 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in the chocolate mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture. Stir in remaining chips.

Drop by the heaping teaspoon full 2 inches apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet. I use a small cookie scoop. Bake for 350 for 10-12 minutes or until puffed and the tops are cracked. Cool for 5 minutes on the pan before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally a recipe from me.....Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Chicken Broccoli Casserole. 2jpg

It's been hard to get back in the kitchen.

The kitchen was my happy place. Cooking and baking for the people I love. Moose was always with me, laying on his bed, watching my every move, following behind me every step of the way. There have been a flood of tears. These days without him have been hard, so much harder than I ever imagined. I see him everywhere. I think I hear him, I think I catch glimpses of him. There is such a void in this house. It's so very hard.

I'm trying to get back into my routine. It's the holiday season but I can't really feel it. It's such a strange thing to go through. I love Christmas. I love making gifts and planning out menus and baking cookies. It always made my heart happy, but my heart just isn't into it this year. For the first time in 25 years I didn't send out Christmas cards. I had no desire. So if you are normally on my list, I apologize, but I just can't do it this year.

The morning after Moose died there was a mourning dove on my deck railing. I have this connection with birds. I don't know why but birds are like signs to me. They come to me when I'm troubled. I can't explain it, it's just always birds. So there sits this mourning dove, quiet and still, not frightened by me opening the door. It just sat and looked at me, and even as I inched forward it didn't move, we looked at each other. I mean I made eye contact with this bird. Finally when I got about 2 feet from it, it flew away. I can't help to think that dove was a sign from Moose saying "I'm ok Mama, I'm free".

That same night John and I headed out to the store and we got behind a bus and scrawled on the bus was the words "On the wings of a dove".

I know it sounds crazy, but these little signs help me cope a bit. Dealing with his loss has thrown me for a loop. I cannot thank you all enough for your e-mails and your words of love and encouragement. They really did help me get through those first few days when I felt like my heart was breaking in two. Thank you all. I know my heart will heal in time, it's just so darn hard right now.

So now it's time for me to get back into the kitchen and get back into a routine and cook something up for my men. You know they really did get spoiled getting fed all the time, lol.

I confess I made this a few weeks ago but never sat and wrote a post for it. It's a quick casserole to throw together. You can use fresh or frozen broccoli.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

Chicken Broccoli Casserole
recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
1 pound of fresh broccoli, broken into pieces and steamed until just tender - Don't overcook! (you could use frozen if you like)
4 cups cooked chicken breasts (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 cup cheddar cheese

For the topping:
1 tube Ritz crackers crushed
1 stick melted butter

For the sauce:
1  stick butter
1/2 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash or seasoning of your choice
Dash salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
2 cups milk
1 cup cheddar cheese

In a greased 9x13 inch pan, layer the broccoli and the chicken, set aside.

In a sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter. Add in the cornstarch, chicken broth, seasonings and milk. Stir sauce until thickened. Once thickened turn the heat to low and add 1 cup of the cheddar cheese. Stir until melted. Pour over the chicken and broccoli.

For the buttery topping: Melt the stick of butter and stir in the crushed Ritz crackers. Scatter the crumbs all over the top of the casserole. Bake at 350 for 30 - 40 minutes of until hot and bubbly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Moose 2004 - 2012

Moose better!

Our sweet Moose passed away shortly before noon yesterday.

We were both with him, laying our hands on him, giving him kisses
 and telling him how much we loved him. 

We feel like our hearts are broken into pieces.

We were blessed to have him for 8 1/2 years.

He was a cherished part of our family and will remain in our fondest memories.

Much thanks to all of you who held us in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Moose laying in the sunshine

What a week.

I know lots of you will relate and can totally understand when I tell you that our dog Moose is a part of our family. He's not just a pet, he's part of us and we love that little bundle of fur just like we was one of our kids.

This week has be hard. I haven't sleep, I'm not eating well, I can't concentrate and being in the spirit of the season just hasn't hit yet.  My mind is constantly on Moose.

I have had such a gut wrenching time. As of this writing he is still at the animal hospital. He did have pancreatitis. We had hoped that after a weeks stay he would be on the road to recovery, but he's not. 

We visited Saturday and Sunday. Saturday had us in a bit of an optimistic mood. Moose was excited to see us. He was up and moving and even drank some water and went outside for a bit. He gave us kisses and was wagging his tail. He looked terrible tough. The vet techs had warned us that they had to "give him a hairdo". He looked like a cross between a samurai and Gene Simmons. His hair was spiked up and held in place with gauze. His face was a mess and his little leg was shaved and covered in pink gauze. Pink. Really?

I left with the feeling that we was on the very slow road to recovery. The vet tech told us that after we left, he chewed through his nylon leash and wandered into the waiting room looking for us. Hearing that just broke our hearts. 

Sunday we returned and there was no tail wagging. There were no kisses. He was mopey. He begrudgingly went outside. I made him some chicken with the hopes that maybe he would eat Mama's food. He refused. 

The vet tech told us that the recent blood work indicated that he may have a blockage in his bile duct. What did that mean? I left in a flood of tears. I cried all the way home. I cried all afternoon. I was inconsolable. The doctor was supposed to call around 1pm. At least that is what the vet tech told us. 1pm came and no call. 2pm. 3pm.....nothing. I was beside myself. Finally John called and asked the answering service to contact him. He called us back around 4pm. 

He said he thinks Moose has an internal obstruction, not an external one which would be worse. Good news. After an ultrasound today to confirm his suspicions, he'll go on prednisone. We call prednisone the miracle pill. Moose took it when he was sick back in 2010 and it was amazing how quickly he got better.  

It's going to be a long day waiting to hear.

I'm praying and hoping for good news.

There hasn't been much cooking, baking or photo taking going on here. My poor men have had to fend for themselves almost all week. I've been so down that I barely had any desire or energy to cook. I said to John at one point " I cannot imagine how someone coping with a loved ones illness can function" How to you live with the constant worry? How does their illness not consume your every waking moment?

I'm a total mess.  This week has knocked me on my ass.

I just need Moose back home. I need the churning in my stomach to go away. I need to wake up and see that tail wagging happily at me, I need to take him on his morning walk again, I need to get back in the kitchen and cook, I need to pick up my camera again. I need everything to go back to normal.

Thank you for sticking around while I go through this rough patch.

I'd love your good vibes and prayers.