Saturday, December 29, 2012

Polenta-Sausage Triangles

Last Christmas my aunt gave my mother and I a subscription to Cooking Light. In this last November's issue there was a recipe for Polenta and Sausage triangles. It sounded so delicious we had to try it for the family holiday party (which was a brunch).

We didn't have the best at cutting them into triangles - whether it was because we added too much sausage so the polenta didn't firm up enough, or if it was because my mother tried to fry them rather than just toast the triangles... either way we ended up just crumbling it all up in a bowl but it was still gobbled up real quick.

Polenta Sausage Triangles

8 ounces pork sausage
3/4 C finely chopped yellow onions
3/4 C finely chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 C water
1 1/4 C milk
1 C instant polenta
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB olive oil, divided

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage; cook 2 minutes or until sausage begins to brown, stirring to crumble. Add onions, celery and garlic; saute 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 

2. Add 1 1/2 C water and milk to sausage mixture in pan, and bring to a boil. Gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in salt. Cook for 3 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Spoon polenta into a 11x7 inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cool to room temperature; cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. 

3. Cut the chilled polenta into 8 squares, and cut each polenta square diagonally into triangles. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil; swirl to coat. Place 8 triangles in pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Repeat procedure with remaining olive oil and polenta triangles. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

Original photo found here.
A few weeks ago I was browsing Pinterest and stumbled across the Minimalist Baker's version of Pumpkin French Toast Bake and it sounded like the best thing to serve on Christmas morning.

It's basically a bread pudding and you can use any flavors of bread you want. You make it the night before and just slip it into the oven when you wake up in the morning. So I did a few variations and tweaks (listed below) but in the end it was a KILLER breakfast!! I had to share.

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

1 loaf Gingerbread Streusel bread (Franz brand) (approx 4 1/2 cups)
7 lg eggs
2 C milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple extract
1/4 C pumpkin butter
1/2 C brown sugar (for topping)
Cool Whip or Maple syrup, optional

Instructions:

Cut any kind of bread into 1-inch cubes. Just use enough slice to fill a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish quite full (I used a 9in round deep corningware dish)

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, and pumpkin butter well combined. Pour over bread and push down with a spoon or your hands until it’s all soaked and mostly covered. Cover with saran wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, uncover and top with brown sugar. Bake for 45-55 minutes or golden brown and no longer wet.

Serve immediately with maple syrup, or cool whip. Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered for up to a couple days.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Buckeyes

Candy Buckeyes
My boss brought these little delights into the office earlier this week, and I'll be honest for as big a fan of chocolate/peanut butter combination as I am - I'd never heard of Buckeyes (outside of "Ohio the Buckeye state").


Real Buckeye nut
I wasn't even sure what a "buckeye" was let alone how these little sweets looked like one. So I went on google and looked it up of course. :) 

Anyway. I knew my family would be a HUGE fan of these peanut butter balls of yumminess so I asked her for the recipe and have about three dozen of them in the freezer waiting for the family party on Saturday. They were so easy and really pretty quick to make.

Buckeyes

1 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 C confectioner's sugar
2 C semi-sweet chocolate

1. Line baking sheet(s) with wax paper and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat peanut butter, butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheets. If mixture is sticky, wet hands with cold water and continue rolling. Place baking sheets in freezer for 30 minutes or until balls are firm.
3. Microwave chips in a glass bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes, stirring midway.
4. Pierce each ball with a toothpick and dip into chocolate 3/4 of the way deep, wiping excess chocolate on rim of bowl. Place on waxed paper; repeat with remaining balls. Return undipped buckeyes to freezer for 10 minutes if they get too soft.
5. Chill in fridge for 45 minutes, until set.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Penuche Fudge

One thing I make every year at Christmas is fudge...this year though we tried a new recipe. This year we made Penuche Fudge (basically brown sugar candy instead of chocolate based). Seems to be the year for "variation". It was so delicious. It's a family tradition to give Maple Sugar candy and this was almost like a homemade version.

Penuche Fudge

10 Tbsp butter, plus more for pan
1 1/2 C dark brown sugar
1 (5-oz) can evaporated milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C confectioners' sugar

1. Coat bottom and sides of an 8x4 inch loaf pan (I used an 8x8 pan and it was just easier to cut) with butter. In a medium sauce-pan, cook butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes (or until butter is lightly browned and has a nutty aroma). Immediately remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. 

2. Stir sugar, milk and salt into butter. Return to heat and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until a candy thermometer registers 235 (soft ball stage); about 20-25 minutes

3. Immediately remove from heat and transfer mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl. Beat in confectioners sugar at medium speed with a mixer and continue beating about 4 minutes or until mixture begins to lose its luster. 

4. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Cool completely. Cut into about 40 (3/4 inch) squares. Store in an airtight container about one week (longer if frozen).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Turtle Graham Bark

So (most) everyone is familiar with 7-layer cookies? The graham cracker bottom with chocolate chips, butterscotch and coconut....well here's a variation I found last year and has replaced 7-layer cookie on our Christmas tray. 

Turtle Graham Bark

14 graham crackers
2 sticks of butter
1 C brown sugar
1 C pecan pieces
12 oz Chocolate chips
Pinch of Salt

(and I also added an extra 12 oz of peanut butter chips and about 1 C of coconut)

1. Arrange graham crackers on parchment paper lined cookie tray (with sides). 
2. Melt butter with sugar, pecans and salt. Then allow to reach boil for 2-3 minutes, stir constantly. 
3. Pour over grahams evenly and bake 10-15 minutes (Note: if your house is cold and the mixture seizes before you can spread evenly, it will spread for you in the oven)...do not let burn.
4. Melt chocolate over double boiler. Pour over graham crackers and spread evenly. If it doesn't spread put back into the oven for a few minutes - sprinkle top with coconut/chips/etc and gently press into melted chocolate. 
5. Refrigerate 30 minutes until cool. Break into bark. 


Friday, December 14, 2012

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies

In the past I have made a pumpkin cookie with and eggnog glaze for the holidays. This year I came across a similar recipe for Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies. I love chai so I thought this would be a good recipe to try out. I made them last night and I think the only changes I would be:

1) add more chai flavor - perhaps by adding one bag of loose leaf and then soaking a second bag in the hot butter to infuse the flavoring.
2) Do a spiced glaze, instead of eggnog, to allow for the eggnog to not over power the chai

In the end these are yummy cookies...just not as CHAI as I'd have liked.

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookie:

1 chai tea  bag
1 (17.5-oz) package sugar cookie mix
1/2 C melted butter
1 large egg
4 Tbsp eggnog, divided
Parchment paper
Cinnamon sugar
1 C powdered sugar
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350. Remove tea leaves from tea bag; discard bag.
2. Stir together tea leaves, sugar cookie mix, melted butter, egg and 2 Tbsp eggnog until well blended.
3. Drop dough by tablespoons onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Flatten dough slightly with bottom of glass dipped in cinnamon sugar (I missed this step so sprinkled it over the icing)
4. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes (I did 8-9) or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack and cool completely.
5. Whisk together powdered sugar, nutmeg and remaining 2 Tbsp eggnog until smooth. Spoon over cooled cookies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And the Universe Said "Just Kidding"

I know I've been a little MIA lately. With the holidays here and big events at work things have just been a little chaotic. But today, with students practically nonexistent on campus, when the Universe decided to tell me to "suck it" I figured I'd share it with all of you. 

My 30th birthday is under two months away and I've been wanting to make it something special. You only turn 30 once afterall. So I've been working hard, planning like only I can plan (one word: SPREADSHEET), and organizing a get-away-weekend to Las Vegas with some of my closes friends. I found a house for us to share, put down a deposit, and was getting ready to book my flight. 

Well then today I get this email:

"We regret to inform you that due to the sudden death of Mr. X on December 7, 2012, all reservations and contracts made for this property have become null and void effective immediately."

Apparently he was leasing the property and then renting it out and now that he passed they're contacting everyone who had made reservations and are trying to refund their money:

"We ask for your patience with us during this time as he was truly the only one who knew the ins and outs of the programs and contracts implemented. Therefore, we need to figure out all the monies due the renters."

Now, I never interacted with Mr. X so I'm not sure how he was the "only one" but here I am now with hopes of spending my 30th birthday in a casino sign graveyard and visiting the Erotic History Museum...but with no place to stay. 

I can hear the Universe shouting

 *sigh*

Now what? Well luckily, I kept the spreadsheet of housing options (no I wasn't kidding about having made a spreadsheet) and can contact my other options to see if their homes are still available... but I have to wait for the refund from the dead-guy's house to come through or the raise at work to go into affect to quickly put a large chunk of change down on a somewhere in Vegas. 

I said to a friend earlier today that maybe the Universe is telling me not to go to Vegas. 

Vegas = Death

I could tell from the tone in her instant message she wanted to smack me. haha.

But really. Now what? My goal/hope was to enter into the next decade of my life with friends and not wake up in my own bed or town.

Suggestions are welcomed. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Not Worth It

I've pretty much been an avid shaver ever since I started in my early teens. And being 1/2 Italian means shaving on a regular basis. I'll also totally admit that I'm all for the natural look if that's your thing, I however (on myself) can't stand stubble let alone full growth. 

However (true confession time) there are times, when I just don't care and will go a week without shaving...but then the weekend comes around and I do it all again. I've tried Nair but had an allergic reaction to something in it and broke out in a rash so back to the razor I went. 

I finally decided to try waxing. I go in and have my brows done on occasion and figured why not try legs? But of course being the chicken...penny-pincher...coward...DIYer that I am I bought a home waxing kit. 

I polled folks on facebook to see what percentage shaved vs. professional wax vs home wax vs "other" and almost everyone said "shave" ... shoot! Means I'm going at this alone. 

The one about shaving once a month was my mother. Haha

(*Warning - pictures of hairy legs coming)

So the first thing with waxing is your hair has to be between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch long...to get my hair that long meant not shaving for over a week. Luckily it's cold and wet and definitely not shorts/skirts weather in Portland right now. 



I was amazed at how little it hurt. I mean it was super quick and more just a pain in the butt than anything else. Twisting my legs around to get the back....propping my leg up on the counter to get it all....and I still missed some.



Would I wax again? Probably. Depending on how long this lasts. But I'll probably go to a professional...I'd much rather pay to just lay there.

At least for now my legs are silky smooth and ready for my party dress!



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shave, Wax or Other

I have a poll happening over on Ms. Morgan's Reality Check Facebook page (here) on whether you shave, wax or other method for hair removal. 


If you have a Facebook page jump on over and enter your vote. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pies. Pies. Pies.

Part of my favorite part of Thanksgiving is making pies. I have some golden oldies I make every year (pumpkin), a few I have my own twist too (sweet potato with a walnut streusel top) and then I'm always open to trying out new recipes on the family (spiced apple/pear pie with a hard apple cider caramel sauce). 

All three went over well this year so I thought I'd share them  with you. 

Classic Pumpkin:

3/4 C sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 lg eggs
15 oz canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix but purred pumpkin)
12 oz evaporated milk
1 9-in unbaked pie shell

Mix sugar and spices. Add eggs. Stir in pumpkin and evaporated milk. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake in preheated oven (425) for 15 minutes - reduce temperature to 350 for remaining 40 minutes. Serve hot or chilled. 



Sweet Potato Pie with Walnut/Pecan Streusel:

Pie filling:
15 oz canned cut yams (NOT candied yams)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 Tbsp brown sugar

Streusel top:
2 Tbsp cold butter cut
2 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 C chopped walnuts
2/3 C chopped pecans
1 graham cracker pie crust

Pie: Heat canned yams, sugar and spices into saucepan for 3-5 minutes to infuse the spices flavor. In large bowl mix eggs and evaporated milk. Temper yams into egg mixture. Mix well - strain if lumpy. Pour into pie crust. Bake in preheated over (375) for 15 minutes - then add streusel.

Streusel: Mix flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut butter into flour mixture until lumpy (do not over work). Add in nuts. Place mixture lightly onto semi-cooked pie. Bake pie for another 30-40 minutes. 


Spiced Apple & Pear Pie:

2 pie crusts (of your favorite recipe or premade)

Filling:
3 pounds baking apples (about 6 apples)
1 1/2 pounds baking pears (about 3 pears)
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling on the pie
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten

Peel, core and then slice both the apple and pear into 1/2-inch slices. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the fruit, then toss fruit with the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and nutmeg.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fruit and cook about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered, until the fruit softens and the juices evaporate some, about 10 minutes. Evenly mix the flour into the fruit; then cook about a minute more to thicken the juices slightly. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest; and remove from the heat. (The filling should resemble a tight compote.) Cool completely.

Poor into pie shell and top with second crust. Crimp and decorate as you wish. Paint top with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake pie in preheated oven (375) for approx 50 minutes (or until both top and bottom crusts are golden brown). 

 Serve with cider sauce* 

 *2 cups of hard apple cider, 2tsp cinnamon, 1/4 C brown sugar and 2 tsps of corn starch cooked on stove top until reduces by 1/2.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

3 Fav Blogs (15 Day Challenge)

Day 13 of 15: Getting to Know the Blogger - "3 blogs you visit and read enthusiastically"

Oh gosh... so first I am an awful blog follower. I get so wrapped up in life I have a hard time writing let alone reading blogs. :( 

However when I do get a chance there are four (I know it said "3" but I'm a rule breaker) that I just can't get enough of:

Because I'm such a fan of Pinterest and have a few DIY blunders of my own there is no doubt I'm in love with Pintrosity. And not just because it's hilarious to see all the mistakes and disasters others have made with Pinterest, but they take it the next step and try to help figure out what went wrong - not just laugh at another's misfortune.

And then there is one I found through a a Blog Hop (I think) and that's Chocolate, Chocolate and More (can you guess what I love about this site?). I don't think I've made anything yet that Joan has blogged but I share her links on Facebook all the time. They just looks so amazing and yummy I can't help but drool. 
 


The next two are very funny ladies who, when I can't get to their sites on a regular basis, I (will) spend HOURS catching up and reading their posts - even ones I've read before. 

The first is Holly over at Not a Perfect Mom's Blog. She's the mom of four adorable children and blogs about the chaos joys of being a mom; like the time she woke up to her son sniffing her armpit, or her daughter peeing in a water bottle..... As well as her life being a woman and wife. Did you know the day after Valentine's Day is National* Steak and Blowjob day for any husbands/boyfriends that do a good job the day before? (*not really but it should be) or her adventures in waxing Veronica (her vagina). You have to go check her out. 

The last is a nationally recognized blogger turned author (and yes, her book is on my Christmas wishlist) - The Bloggess! I don't even know where to begin with this blog or this woman. She's inspirational and empowering with the way she is open with her own battle of depression. She's hilarious in the conversations she let's you be a fly on the wall for (the last one included God in a three-way). She's brilliant with her comebacks and her love of giant roosters and taxidermy woodland creature (you just have to go read her to understand).

There you are. My favs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top 5 Posts (15 Day Challenge)

Day 12 of 15: Getting to Know the Blogger - "Your Top 5 posts and why you think they were successful."

Top 5 Most visited posts:

1. Fashion Friday: Fashion's Invisible Women
2. Plus Size? Or Normal Size?
3. Valentine's Day
4. Noise Pollution
5. Getting to Know You

As for why these were the most visited - probably because of labels really... you just never really know what is going to be a hot ticket post sometimes. So I thought I'd balance this out with:

Top 5 Most commented on posts:

1. I Love My Online Friends GFC Hop
2. Gearhart, OR
3. Bridezilla: The Next Generation
4. Funny Face (Amusing August Blog Hop)
5. Versatile Blogger Award Pt2

Looking at these most include pictures and highlighting other bloggers - which is something I know I look for in other blogs. :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Blog Tools (15 Day Challenge)

Day 11 of 15: Getting to Know the Blogger - "What are a couple of your favorite blog tools that you use?"

So to be frank I had/have no idea what "blog tools" are. My first thought was the fact I post links to Ms. Morgan's Reality Check Facebook page which then links to my twitter account. But when I Googled the term things I've never heard of were listed.

So today's blog post is going to be these blog cartoons I found instead. :) Haha.






Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why Blogging (15 Day Challenge)


Day 10 of 15: Getting to Know the Blogger - 

"Why did you start blogging and what is your blog about?"

I first started blogging back in 2010; just after my 27th birthday. I had a few other friends who blogged and was looking for a creative outlet for everything that was happening in my life. 

I never have really felt like I "fit in" with others my age and as my 20s were quickly whizzing by I started wondering if I was an "average" 20something. Then a few months after that I started a food blog with recipes, food articles, restaurant reviews etc. (Epicurean Enthusiast).

As I approached my 30s sooner and sooner "Surviving 20Something" was redesigned, edited and morphed through a few phases before Ms. Morgan's Reality Check was born. 

Ms. Morgan's Reality Check is just my life as a (soon-to-be) 30something year old woman, finding love long distance, being a cog in the Higher Education world, and loving fashion and food at the same time. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hobbies (15 Day Challenge)

Day 9 of 15: Get to Know the Blogger - "What are your hobbies?"

Can you guess based off these photos?






What about these?


Or these?



I'm pretty sure I've talked about this hobby a few times:



Finally, my favorite one:



Any guesses?





















Answers: photographing old cemeteries, finding new places to eat/being a foodie, baking, painting, farmers markets and playing tourist in my own town. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Family (15 Day Blogger)

Day 8 of 15: Get to Know the Blogger - "Tell us a bit about your family"

Holy smokes where do I begin? Okay how about some numbers first?

1 single mom.
2 sisters but only one biological.
2 uncles.
4 aunts.
4 grandparents + 1 great grandparent (all gone).
2 nephews + 2 nieces (non given birth by my sisters).
19 cousins (not including their spouses).
30 cousins if you count spouses (because some have been in the family longer than I have).
18 2nd cousins + 3 3rd cousins.

Me, Baby Sister and Mom
My mother's side of the family is German, English, Welsh, Scottish, Polish and a few other little things here and there.

The adults are my great-grandparents Elmer and Marie and the children are my mother and my uncle Ron.
This is also the 100% German great-grandmother who lived to be 98 years old and has been quoted to say,
"My mouth is so dry I couldn't spit if my pussy was on fire!"
My father's side of the family is Italian. All four of my great-grandparents came to America on the same boat from the same small mid-eastern Italian village. I'm third generation born but don't speak/understand Italian sadly.

Great-great grandparents
Great-grandparents. This grandmother lived with my
father's family as they was growing up.
My grandfather (boy on right of center) and his family.
My grandparents (Chic & Angie) are on the far right.
This is a picture of them and their best friends on my grandparent's
wedding day.
Now just for some fun pictures to show off some of my wacky loveable family members. 

Mom and sisters at sister's wedding
I'm on the left. Niece on the right.
Do you see a family similarity?
Grandfather Jack, Grandmother Kathy, Uncle Ron
My mom and her little sister Diane.
Sister Celene and her boyfriend Nick
Cousin Raven eating the head of a lobster.