December 28, 2010

It's taken our home by storm...

... the flu that is. That terrible bug has taken quite a toll on our family - all of us, even the extended family. Little Lou, I think, scared us the most. After a few days of fighting, she seemed to be turning the corner and feeling much better. Only to scare her dad, grandma and me with a seizure. We were taken to the ER and then had an EEG done the next day. I am very grateful for the training I received in nursing school, it helped me feel a bit more calm.
Lou is doing great now - we are recovering well. Lou has made a full recovery. We are thinking the seizure was just due to her fever - thank goodness. We will hear the full results from the EEG soon. We are not too worried though now - she is acting normal, playing normal, eating normal, and even went to a movie this morning.
But please be patient with me as I try to get my family over this bug (and myself for that matter) and recuperate from the big events of last week ... not to mention Christmas!

December 21, 2010

It's a boy!

Yesterday, thanks to some old friends at the hospital I used to work at, we were able to take a quick peak at our little baby. After a bit of searching, we finally got a for-sure shot: We are having a little boy! We are so excited. My husband especially. I am excited to buy cute boy things, like that hat. I have a thing with little boys and dinosaurs - so he will probably have a few items with dinos on them. We will have to start doing some research on names and shopping for boy stuff. Luckily, I bought boy bedding last pregnancy - so we are set there.

Hope you all are having a Merry Christmas. As most people this week, I will be spending it with family and relaxing. I won't spend too much time in the kitchen since we are staying with the in-laws. The posts may be a bit sparse through the holidays - but I am sure you will be busy with your families and adventures. Happy Holidays!

December 15, 2010

Finals Time: Brain Foods!

It's finals time. Some of you know someone who is taking finals, or are doing finals yourself. Good luck to all of you! I thought I might list some foods that help boost your brain power. (Disclaimer: I googled my information. I can not verify the accuracy of my information - but healthy foods can never hurt!) Whether you are finishing up finals, or just starting - I know we could all use a little more juice at this time!

Steel Cut Oats - a great medium for many brain foods!

Foods to Help Boost Brain Power:

December 13, 2010

Cranberry Orange Muffins

This is a killer week for me. Let me explain. Today my husband has a final (aka won't see him all day), I need to pack for our trip. Tuesday I feed 75 hungry 20 year old men. Wednesday is my big comprehensive Pathophysiology final (yeah, just the name makes it sound hard!) as well as my husbands last final. Thursday morning we are finally done and fly out in the morning to relax and see our family. Yes, it is a big week - wish me luck!
For this big week ahead I am going to need something good to help me start the day. I made these muffins because they are a quick, easy, portable breakfast (or snack... or lunch...). They are delicious and the glaze takes them over the top.

Cranberry Orange Muffins
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c dried, sweetened cranberries
2 tsp orange zest
1/2 c butter, melted
1 c milk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tin with papers or grease thoroughly.
In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cranberries, and orange zest; stir until well combined. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine butter, milk and egg. Whisk with fork. Add to flour mixture. Stir with wooden spoon until all combined. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overmix.
Evenly spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. While still warm, top with orange glaze.

Orange Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar
orange juice

While baking prepare your glaze. In a small bowl mix powdered sugar with orange juice, a Tbsp at a time, until consistency is like honey. (Confession - I used clementines, and only needed about half of it). Drizzle the tops of your muffins with glaze or simply dunk the tops in the bowl.

December 10, 2010

Asian Chicken Salad

My husband and I are taking our last finals for the semester, and for me they are my last ever! Hoorah!! But as exciting as that is, we are a little stressed in our house. I only have one more final left so I am a little more relaxed than my husband who has 3 Law finals left. I have been trying to have meals planned out and the shopping done in advance so dinner is not something I have to worry about. Last night we had an Asian Chicken Salad. Done in about 15 minutes - it is a healthy and fast meal for us.

Asian Chicken Salad
2 small chicken breasts
Red bell pepper
Green onion
Shredded carrots
Chow mein noodles
Rice Wine Viniagrette (recipe follows)

Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, garlic, and ginger. Saute over medium to medium high heat until center of thickest portion reaches 160 degrees. Let rest a few minutes before slicing. Toss ingredients remaining ingredients with dressing and top with chicken.

Rice Wine Vinaigrette
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp green onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp ground fresh ginger
pinch red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

Blend first 6 ingredients together. While whisking, stream in oil until desired consistency.

December 08, 2010

Corn Chowder

One great thing about cold weather is I have a good excuse to make soup. I love soup. I even make it in the summer. But it is a bit more comforting in the winter - but must be accompanied by big fuzzy socks.
This corn chowder is from my old roommate Monica. I love it because of the surprising flavors of rosemary and cayenne. Yum! And the original recipe calls for half and half - but I use milk to cut some calories. But really I can't taste much of a difference.

Corn Chowder
2 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
3 Tbsp butter
7½ cup corn (divided)
2 tsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
¼ tsp cayenne
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
1 bell pepper, sauteed
salt and pepper

In a large pot sauté onion, carrots, and celery in butter until onions are translucent and veggies are starting to get soft. Add 5½ cups of the corn, rosemary, cayenne. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for 30 minutes. In batches, puree in a blender. Return to pot. Add milk (or half and half for richer taste), remaining corn, and bell pepper. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the corn I think frozen is best. Fresh is great, but hard to find the majority of the year.

December 06, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving, though over a week ago, was a blast. But I will say, I was slightly disappointed that there was no pie. In our family that's the best part! So for Sunday dinner, I made pumpkin pie. I had all the ingredients and thought why not! I have never made a pie before so I was slightly nervous. But I was really pleased with the outcome. I was planning on using half butter and half shortening, but my shortening was gone. I did straight butter and was surprised that it still came out very flaky and very tasty!
Thanks to my sister who suggested this pie crust recipe, I used the same ingredients - but the directions are my own, hence the silliness and possibly bad grammar.

Pumpkin Pie
adapted from here and here
Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup ice water

Cut butter into small cubes (I do about 24 cubes per stick). Place in freezer while you prepare the rest of your ingredients (you don't want it frozen, just really cold when you are ready to use it). Next make a big bowl of ice water, set aside. Okay, now you are ready to go.
In your food processor, combine flour and salt, pulse a few times just to mix it up. Add butter, pulse until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. While pulsing, add water, a couple tablespoons at a time, until comes together. (Here's a trick: if you pinch the dough and it holds together - you are good. Too much water = soggy crust. Lean toward the dry side!) Cut in half and form lightly into balls. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Roll dough out to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place crust in pie plate. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Place back in fridge until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.

Keep everything VERY cold! Have things ready and chilling until right before they go in the bowl! This is very important.
Remember - imperfect looking dough means a perfect tasting crust. If you mix it too much and it looks uniform, it isn't going to be flaky.
The less your hands touch it the better.

Pumpkin Pie Filling
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 large can (30 oz.) Pumpkin Puree
24 oz Evaporated Milk

Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Separate evenly into two pie shells. Place on cookie sheet (just to be safe in case there is a spill, if you are more confident then me, go ahead and try without one).
Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350° F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving. 

I actually didn't have evaporated milk at my house. I used whole milk. The result was just as delicious, but the texture was slightly softer than the typical result. My husband actually preferred it.

December 03, 2010

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

I love the flavors of mint and chocolate together. Always a classic combo. But I especially love these flavors during the colder weather. These are a simple recipe. You will love this for your busy holiday season. Plus, the cookie bottom is a pleasant surprise!

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
1 devils food cake mix, prepared according to directions
24 chocolate mint cookies, like Thin Mints (if you are lucky enough to find some)
Buttercream Frosting (recipe to follow)
12 chocolate mint cookies, crushed

Line muffin tin with papers, place one cookie at the bottom of each cupcake tin. Divide batter evenly between the 24 cupcakes. Bake according to directions. Cool completely on cooling rack. Frost with buttercream frosting (I like to add a drop or two of green coloring so people know what to expect). Top with crushed remaining cookies.

Buttercream Frosting
2 sticks butter, room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-5 Tbsp milk
few drops food coloring (optional)

Make these at St. Patrick's Day too!

December 01, 2010

Honey Baked Ham... only homemade

The credit for this ham should go to my husband. Because I ended up being in charge of the turkey and the ham, and I don't have two ovens (sniff. sniff.), my husband offered to go to a friend's house to baste the ham every 15 minutes. Bravo sweetie. It was delicious. The picture, of course, doesn't do it justice (Any tips on photographing meat? This is my hardest subject.)

Honey Glazed Ham
adapted from here
1 small, spiral cut, bone-in ham
2 Tbsp whole cloves
1 cup honey
2/3 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Score the ham on a diagonal, about every 3/4 inch, to make diamonds. Evenly space the cloves in some of the intersections. Set aside.
In a small saucepan combine honey, butter, and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, let brown sugar dissolve, reduce to low.
Brush sauce liberally over ham (you won't use all of it, just some, you'll use the rest later). Place in oven. Baste every 15 minutes for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (depending on size of ham). Keep sauce warm on low. After ham is warmed through, turn on broiler until crust is crunchy and caramelized, about 3-4 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.