Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Ultimate Comfort Food

We woke up this morning to light rain. YAY! I was sooo happy to see the rain and feel the chill outside when we went to the park. It is fall afterall, and this is how it's supposed to be!

As luck would have it, I began making a huge stock pot of soup yesterday. The cold, rainy weather was the perfect incentive to finish it off this afternoon. I had the soup on our menu for later this week, but Kevin decided that the house smells too good, and he wants the soup for dinner tonight. I didn't put up much of a fuss ;o)

I really think that a nice, hot bowl of soup on a cold, gray, rainy day has got to be the ultimate comfort food. It warms the house as well as the soul (not to mention the tummy!), and nourishes you in a way that few things can. It's filled with delicious vegetables, tender meat and lots of love. Oh, and some barley, too!

Very shortly, we'll be sitting down to steaming bowls of beef barley soup and warm asiago cheese bread. Mmmmm. What's cooking at your house?

A meal fit for ...

a wonderful office staff!! This past Friday was my free lunch from Stonefire Grill. What a feast! How wonderful that I was able to share such a fabulous meal with my friends at work and my awesome hubby (he was able to take a long lunch and join us for the festivities!).

The delivery guy, Matt, couldn't have been nicer. He was there about 10 minutes early, in fact, and set everything up for us. After he went over everything with me, he handed me my invoice (zeroed out, of course); that was a $100.00 meal!! In addition to that, he handed me a survey and said that, if I mailed the completed survey back, I would receive a $10.00 gift card to the restaurant!! The only thing the meal didn't include was drinks, so I stopped on the way to work and picked up 6-packs of rootbeer and creme soda. YUM! I'm sorry to have do this to you, but ... I'm going to anyway! (Sure wish this were smellivision ;o)
Oh my. It was all so delicious! There was just enough Greek salad leftover for Kevin and I to enjoy for dinner - with a little tri-tip and chicken mixed in. And enjoy it we did. I can't say enough wonderful things about Stonefire Grill. You definitely must go if you live close to any of their locations. It's a wonderful restaurant and they are a terrific bunch of folks. Thanks, Elly, for choosing my card!!

Moral of the story: put your business cards in those fishbowls. They really do pull them out =)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yes Sir! Yes Sir! Four Bags Full

Over the weekend, Kevin picked the apples on mom and dad's tree. This was the largest crop they've had! While it wasn't a 'huge' crop by any means, it was definitely more than they've had in past years. In the late spring, Kevin helped dad hang squirrel deterrent bags in the tree. They seemed to have done the trick because the squirrels didn't even touch the apples. A bird or two here and there, but even that wasn't a big deal.

After picking, mom and dad saved a couple of apples and then insisted that Kevin and I take the rest home. We shared a handful with one of our neighbors and then kept the rest.

I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and process the apples tonight before they had a chance to bruise or go bad. I wanted to make apple pie filling for the upcoming holidays. I chose to make filling over just preparing the apples for the freezer because, in the past, I've just sliced and frozen apples and I've not liked the way they turn out when thawed. They tend to be discolored and the slices are somewhat dry. By making a filling instead of just freezing the apple slices, the apples are bathed in lemon juice to prevent discoloration, and then slightly cooked with the sugars and spices, so they should remain moist and tender.

We weren't quite sure how much filling the recipe would yield; it indicated enough for 5 pies, but I opted to make it into just four. I decided that I'd rather have four nicely filled pies, rather than five pies that could use more filling. The recipe that I used was new (to me), and both Kevin and I thought it was definitely a winner. Here's the end product: Mmmm. Yummy! Pie anyone?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Festivus for the Rest of Us

This past May, I happened to mention to a couple of friends at work that it would be fun to have a grilled cheese festival. The both agreed. We poked around some ideas, but that's as far as it got. Partly because it was rapidly approaching the end of the school year, and partly because, by that time, it was getting pretty warm and, let's face it, grilled cheese is more of a cooler weather thing.

Flash forward to the start of this school year. I was making the Friday Treats Sign-up Sheet and went ahead and signed the office up for two dates. That's our norm - we bring staff treats twice a year - once in the late fall/early winter, and once in the spring. Typically, one time it's for lunch and the other time will be just break-time goodies. Our first treat date was this past Friday - and it was our lunch round.

I again mentioned the grilled cheese festival idea, and everyone thought it sounded fine. You know, it's funny how you can mention something to several different people and each person's idea of the same thing is different. For instance, Jeff's vision of a grilled cheese festival was white bread and American cheese. Okay, so that's normal. But ... it's also boring! I'm not sure what everyone else thought as they really didn't weigh in on the subject. My vision, however, was ... well ... unique. I guess. When I dreamed this up initially, my thought was to have various kinds of breads, a selection of delicious cheeses, and all kinds of 'add-ins' to make the sandwiches both special and delicious.

I began tossing around ideas for different combinations of things. While I thought they sounded wonderful, both Jeff and Linda looked at me as if I'd lost my mind or had landed from a different planet. I teased them about not knowing what was good, and in return, each suggestion I made was met with either incredulity or, worse, feigned barfing noises (thanks, Jeff).

As we grew closer to the date, I'd made out lists of items and signs for ideas for different sandwiches. I even created a dessert menu of 'dessert melts' that I thought would be fun. My office mates kept telling me that I was 'over the top', but told me to go ahead and run with the idea. Most said they were running short on time and would be glad to pitch in money if I didn't mind picking up all of the 'goodies'. No worries, I thought, that's fine with me.

Running around from place to place picking up this item or that item, I began to wonder if maybe I was indeed crazy, and had gone way off the deep end with this idea. I worried that maybe the rest of the staff wouldn't be as into this 'festival' as I was ... Well, it was a risk I'd just have to run.

Starting Tuesday in our staff bulletin, I began hyping Friday's Grilled Cheese Festival at lunchtime. On Wednesday, I included an amazing website that listed tons of amazing options for grilled cheese sandwiches. By Thursday, I was encouraging everyone to 'come hungry and be creative!'. So .. . Friday arrives and I was in the lounge at break-time just starting to set up for our lunch. The first step was to post signs with bread, cheese and add-in offerings, as well as the dessert melts options and offerings. Next, I posted signs saying 'How About ...' and listing different sandwich creations.
As I was posting them, our staff began reading them ... out loud. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but was so pleased with what I heard! A few people told me they'd woken up that morning saying 'TODAY is the grilled cheese festival!!' Several others told me they'd been thinking about it all week long! I was amazed - and thrilled - to hear that they were as excited about it as I was!

As I continued setting up for the lunch, I grew even more excited! I wondered what everyone's favorites would be. (Not to mention a bit of worry about blowing the power with four large grills running all at the same time ...) Finally, everything was set up and ready to go -- with about 15 minutes to spare before the lunch bell rang.

WHEW!! Let me tell you, shopping, preparing, and setting everything up was one HECK of a lot of work. Was it worth it? OH MY GOSH - YES! I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we had! Everyone was amazed at the choices - breads, cheeses, and 'fixin's'. I think everyone came up with a different combination and we had a blast asking 'What do you have?', 'What's on your sandwich?' And the 'mmmmm's and 'ahhhhhh's. It was a HOOT!

All afternoon, I kept receiving emails from everyone: "That was the BEST luncheon we've ever had!", and "Oh my gosh, that was SO MUCH FUN! What a great idea!", "WOW, what a spread!". Clearly, everyone loved it! And I had a great time putting it all together. Was it a lot of work? Yes. Was I totally exhausted? You bet. Would I do it again? In a heart beat!

Okay, so maybe I was a bit over the top. But, as you can see from the photo, the staff agreed: Life is too short for boring cheese. Sorry, Jeff!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Cute 'lil Halloween Banner


Don't be scared, it's just me ;o)

I've been wanting to make one of these for a while and finally got around to it this year. I kinda had an idea in mind, but didn't quite know how to go about tackling it. So, as with most things, not knowing that I couldn't do it, I just jumped right in and did it! I think it turned out pretty cute if I do say so myself. What do you think??

It's easy peasy. First I cut out circles from black paper. Then I added orange crepe paper to the back of the black circle using double stick tape. I gathered the crepe paper as I went along to give it a somewhat ruffled effect. Next, I cut smaller circles from sheet music that I had crumpled. I attached the sheet music circle to the black circle using double stick dimensional tape. Finally, I cut out letters that I'd printed in orange (the font is called 'Circus Ornate' -- don't you just love it!?), and used a glue stick to attach the letters to the sheet music. When each of the individual letters was complete, I hot glued each one to a length of cute black and orange polka dotted ribbon. A little time consuming (mostly the crepe paper step), but worth it I think. It's the perfect size for the mantle of our little fireplace =)

Cool Weather = Time to Start Cooking!

One of the reasons I love fall and winter is that the cooler weather means it's time to turn on the oven and get cookin' again! With the the advent of our rainy, gray days this week, I've done just that. Not only that, they were both NEW recipes! And, they BOTH turned out great!! (Love it when that happens...)

Here's the first one:

Maple Roasted Chicken with Vegetables
1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs and/or drumsticks (I'm sure it would be fine with chicken breasts, too ... but not skinless since they dry out so easily)
poultry seasoning to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups carrots, cut into 1" pieces
3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
1 red onion, cut into 1" pieces
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons thyme

Arrange the chicken in an 8 x 13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Place the carrots, sweet potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with maple syrup and olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and toss to coat. Pour veggie mixture over chicken. Cover with foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and cook uncovered for another 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown and a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven, cover with foil and let stand 5 minutes before serving. YUM!!!

The seond one is a great mac'n'cheese recipe:

Pepper Jack Mac
2 cups elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
1 can 2% evaporated milk

1/4 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 small (individual serving sized) bag crumbled Baked Lays potato chips

Cook macaroni according to package instructions; drain. Return macaroni to the pan and mix in milk and cheeses. Stir until cheese is almost melted. Pour into baking dish and sprinkle topping all over. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until just slightly brown.

They're both absolutely delicious! If you happen to try one, drop me a line and let me know what you think. Happy cooking!

Temecula Quilt Show

This past Saturday, Deb and I headed out for a girls day event: a really cool quilt show in Temecula!

Every year the town has a 'quilt walk'. Merchhants throughout the town display handmade quilts - inside their stores, from rafters, bannisters, balconies - you name it! Everywhere you look there are gorgeous hand crafted quilts. Amazing!

We had a fun time walking around - eventhough it was pretty warm out there. Our last stop of the day, of course, was Quilters Coop. I had promised Deb that I would introduce her to the most amazing quilting shop. And I made good on that promise! We walked in the door and Deb said "WOW!". My sentiments exactly. Here are a few photos (though neither of us took them) of the quilts on display:

Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch?

Not me!! Well, at least not any more =)

About two weeks ago, Kevin and I went to Stonefire Grill for dinner. We love this place! Everything there is delish. It's sort of along the lines of a Wood Ranch, but it's less pricey. Annnnyway ... while we were there, I noticed that they had a fishbowl in which to drop your business card. I never, ever do this. Not for any bad reasons, but just because I never remember to do it. Well ... I'm so glad I remembered this time!

Tuesday afternoon, I received a phone call at work. It was Stone Fire Grill! They'd pulled my card and I was this week's winner! I had no idea what I was even playing for - I figured maybe a free meal or something. Indeed, it was a free meal. Or, more precisely, TEN free meals. Here's the skinny: I won lunch for myself and 9 of my co-workers. All I had to do was pick a day (we decided on October 15th) and a time (11:30 a.m.) and they will be catering the following meal:

BBQ Sliced Chicken Breast
BBQ Sliced Tri-tip
Nutty Coleslaw
Greek Salad

How cool is that?! I was thrilled! ...and my co-workers were pretty darn happy about it, too! Photos to follow after the feast.

Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Weather

I don't get it. Just last Monday it was 113 degrees. Yep, you read that correctly 113 degrees.

This past Monday, yesterday and today, it's rainy ... and cold! So cold, in fact, that we actually turned the heat on last night. I can't remember an October that was this rainy and cold this early in the month. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it, but how crazy is that?

Stay tuned - they say it's supposed to be in the 90's by the weekend. No wonder everyone at school is getting sick!