December 29, 2010

Recipe redemption

I have a recipe book that's been fighting for its spot on my recipe shelf.  

The book is so cute and the recipes are seemingly so tasty and effortless that I want to love it.  And keep it.  

But it's been fighting for this spot because the recipes I've made from it always seem to fail or backfire in some way.  Granted, until last night I've only made two recipes from the book, but they've both bombed and two for two is a pretty high failure rate!  

How cute, right...?

The book is organized differently than most cookbooks, dividing recipes by what color they are.  A little annoying if you're say, in the mood for a chicken dish and want to see all chicken recipes, but overall it's one of the things that drew me to the book in the first place.  It was creative and cute and I didn't mind it in one recipe book...

I also liked how sweet and personal the  book was.  She begins each color with a memory of that color.  Kind of fun...

And the recipes all have a rustic, "at ease in the kitchen, wanting to make something wholesome for your family" quality about them.  She just seems like the kind of gal you'd like to sit in her kitchen with, sipping tea or wine as she breezes around tossing things into a bowl.  And the food photography is always pretty...

As you can see, I've marked several recipes for trying...

But after this first one I made, I was a touch skeptical.  It tasted pretty good, but my apartment at the time, and every single nook and cranny of it, smelled like garlic and tomatoes for literally a week.  I'd pull clothes out of my closet and they would smell.  I went to a class at the gym with a friend and she told me she could smell my heated up workout clothes!  Um...that's bad!  You can't live like that!

Then, last weekend I thought I'd try her white bread recipe for some homemade bread for leftover Christmas ham.  My loaf looked nothing like the one in the picture, and I firmly believe it was not operator error.  It's a straight forward recipe, and I'm not a yeast bread novice, so I really don't think I'm to blame.  There was just something about the recipe that didn't seem right, but I thought I'd try it anyway.  While it pretty much tasted fine, it wasn't at all the fluffy loaf I imagined we'd be making sandwiches on...

It was after that, I declared to Todd the book is teetering on the edge of the garage sale box.  I had one other recipe I had already bought ingredients for and if that one didn't work out I'd give it the final push in.  So, last night I tried the Chicken Cutlets with Tomatoes and Capers.

I modified it a little because she likes to overdo it on the olive oil.  I added more sage, garlic, and a bit more capers and tomatoes (mostly because I was doubling the chicken plus some) and instead of using water or wine as she suggests, I used caper juice (this was mostly because I was down to the last of my capers and it wasn't worth it to keep only a few in the jar. And, I figured, a little extra caper juice never hurt anyone!).

THIS recipe was a success!  Todd yelled from the living room that it was smelling good, and confirmed it after he took a bite.

The recipe book saved itself in the eleventh hour.  I will keep it for a little while longer and give a few more recipes a shot.  Now that it knows I mean business maybe the book will redeem itself, earning a permanent spot on my shelf instead of a probationary one...

Chicken Cutlets with Tomatoes and Capers

Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced (I used 3 very large cloves because I love me some garlic!)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a cup of cherry tomatoes and also roughly cut 2 regular tomatoes into chunks.)
4 chicken cutlets or tenders (I couldn't find "cutlets" at the store, so used a full package of about 9 tenders.)
Flour for dusting
2 sage sprigs (I used a whole plastic container of sage like you see in the herb section of grocery stores.  And I only used the leaves.)
4 tbsp. of white wine or water (This is where I just used the caper juice from the jar.  I didn't have a bottle of white wine open and wasn't about to open one for the small amount used here.)
1 1/2 tbsp. drained capers (see above)
1 1/2 tbsp. chopped parsley (I used the flat leaf kind and guesstimated the amount)

Heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the garlic, but don't let it get brown.  Add the tomatoes and a twist or two of salt from a grinder.  Simmer until the tomatoes release their juices but not so long that the juice begin to evaporate.

Remove the tomatoes from the pan to a bowl.

Sprinkle the chicken lightly with a little salt and pepper.  Put about a 1/2 cup of flour on a plate and lightly cover the chicken.  Shake off any excess.

Heat 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil in the same skillet.  Cook the cutlets in the oil until one side is golden-y brown.  Turn them over and do the same.  Add the sage, making sure it lands in some oil to help it crunch up.  This part was tasty!  You may have to add a tiny more oil as everything cooks, but judge that as you go along.

When the chicken is done on the inside, add the capers and juice/wine/water choice, the tomatoes, and parsley.

Let heat through and serve!

December 27, 2010

Honor roll

I recently found out that I got an "A" in both of the classes I took this semester.


It took some work at the end of the semester to get caught up and all of my assignments turned in on time, but I did it.  And it was a good thing I did!

I'm beginning to have visions of being a 4.0 student this time around, something I was not my first time through college.

So far, so good!

December 26, 2010


Christmas at our house yesterday was pretty uneventful - ok, very uneventful - but still nice!

Since Todd took the week of Thanksgiving off he has to be around to work over Christmas and New Year's Eve.  So, no traveling for us.

We started the morning with Denver omelets, something my dad always makes, and a coffee cake Todd's mom makes.  

While I was getting breakfast ready, Rigby was about as anxious as a kid to open his presents. We put his bag of rawhide chews in a Christmas bag under the tree, but simply laid the stuffed pheasant and bouncy ball under the tree thinking he wouldn't mess with anything.  Were we wrong!  I caught him with the pheasant three times and his bouncy ball once!  After the first time with his pheasant I put it in the Christmas bag thinking he wouldn't dare get in there.  But he did.  And he even tried to be all sneaky...going over to nonchalantly sniff the tree branches then evvvvver sooooo sloooowly lowering his little sniffer toward the bag... then nip! nip! he tried to pull the pheasant out! 

When he finally got to have his presents he hardly knew what to do with himself!  Rigby pulling the pheasant out when we gave him the go ahead...

He loves this pheasant...

Todd took the bouncy ball out to remove the cardboard around it and Rigby snatched it and did NOT want to give it back...

Any more presents for me in here...?

With all his presents...  the purple and yellow ball and rope are from last year.  He was overwhelmed!  We're pretty sure he never had a toy before he came to live with us.  He didn't know how to play!  We had to teach him.  So, he gets a little protective of his things...

Todd with his first gift - a book called The Cold Dish by Wyoming author Craig Johnson.  I got Todd the first in the series.  According to a couple girlfriends this author is really wonderful.  One friend, who worked at the State Library, called him "magical" and said he's hilarious and super nice in person.  As I understand it, Johnson used to be a cop in Philadelphia and moved to Wyoming a little while ago and started putting out Wild West murder mystery stories about Sheriff Walt Longmire.  Another friend told me I'd be reading him too.  When I do, I'll report back...

Me with my first present - a bouquet of nice serving ware, which I've really wanted.  All I have right now are some old black plastic things, which are fine if it's just us, but for entertaining I wanted something a little nicer...

Todd's second gift: a fossilized fish from the Green River Formation that I found at the Rock Shop in Torrington, Wyo.  Elly told me I simply must check that store out because they have cool jewelry, vases, name it.  It was a Todd paradise!  But, he of course wasn't there when I found this.  Todd loves fish - he studied them in school; he loves fishing; and he loves rocks and geology stuff.  I'd say this was a perfect find!

He really liked it...

Doggie lovin' break...

Todd got me a gift certificate to Sin City Tattoo downtown! HAHAHA!  He did...but it's not for a tattoo.  It's to get my ears re-pierced.  I had them done once before but had a serious reaction - I'll spare the details, but it wasn't pretty and was VERY painful.  I like earrings on me though and I've had a hankerin' for a while to get my ears redone...

Todd was very sweet - he had ordered a pair of turquoise earrings to go along with the certificate, but said he was very disappointed in them when they arrived.  So, he included these tacks, which he colored blue on the heads to be the "earrings."  Obviously, he doesn't expect me to wear them, but I liked the creativity...!

Another gift - a really beautiful necklace we had seen the day before walking around downtown...

It's a Buffalo Nickel that's been laser cut so the only thing remaining is the buffalo suspended in the ring.  I love buffalo...I love Western jewelry...I love that the buffalo is on the Wyoming state flag...and I love that the Buffalo Nickel is one of Todd's favorite coins.  He's a coin collector...

Which is a good segue into Todd's next gift - his big one that I'd been DYING to give him...!!

...a signed gold line speech from my old boss, Wyoming U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, given on the Senate floor encouraging Sacajawea be included on the dollar coin.  The story: A long time ago, when Todd was first showing me his extensive and expensive coin collection, he pointed out the Sacajawea dollar coin.  I said, "Did you know Senator Enzi was instrumental in helping to get her on the coin?"  He said no!  And maybe one day the senator would sign something for him - or something.  Of course, that got me to thinking...

Still having a good relationship with the senator and some good friends in his office...maybe they could help me brainstorm something neat for Todd for Christmas?  Elly came through again (same Elly with the Rock Shop suggestion) and ordered up a gold line, which is a speech from the Congressional Record on really nice, formal paper with a gold trim, had the senator sign it, and sent it to me!  I about died because I KNEW Todd was going to absolutely DIE!  I got it framed downtown Casper - and didn't they do a beautiful job??  Refer to Todd's face two photos up to confirm that he loved it.

One last present from Todd!

Cash...and a pair of "jeans" Todd fashioned from some old denim...  I am to go pick out a couple nice pairs of jeans to replace the super holey messes my everyday pairs have become.  Every time we have to go someplace I complain about my jeans - either the holes, or the fact that my nice pair that I'm comfortable in aren't long enough for heels.  This is typically not a problem because I don't wear a ton of heels anymore.  But every now and then you just want jeans and heels - and most of my heels are pretty high.  So, since he can't pick them out for me, he gave me the cashola to go do it myself.  I loved it!  Especially the cut out jeans he made with smiley faces on the butt cheeks...

And Christmas dinner!  A spiral cut ham and The Pioneer Woman's Turnip Gratin.

The gratin is absolutely delicious!  I didn't use Gruyere as she did, I substituted Gouda for it.  It was cheaper at the store, quite frankly.  I also didn't use the extra shake of salt she gave each layer.  No need for it.  The cheese is salty enough and the extra salt doesn't do anything for it.

I would definitely make her recipe sometime if I were you.  It's a keeper for me now!

I also made The Pioneer Woman's Pear Crisp, thinking Todd would love it, but we were both a little disappointed.  The topping needs to be cut in half.  It overwhelmed the fruit. I scraped most of it off and it's a lot better now.  

We also went for a walk yesterday in the Edness State Park, but that was it!  Our second Christmas together, but our first without other family around.  It was pretty quiet, but a nice time!  

I hope everyone else had as great of a day!

December 20, 2010

Chrismas miracle

You know how much I hate my Fabulous 400 oven. It is a subject I have minced no words over.

The big oven stopped working several months ago and I've had to be creative in my cooking ever since, i.e., cookies have been baked in a cake pan because a cookie sheet won't fit in the small oven.

But we've had a break through:

About two weeks ago, I was standing at the oven frustrated that it didn't work.  I wistfully said, "I WISH this big oven would work!" And for some reason was compelled to turn the oven dial in one last hope. 

And it worked! 

The red light turned on.  I gasped!  I was positively floored.

I yelled excitedly for Todd to come there and we stood staring - incredulous over the development.

Not only was there a red light on, but the coils were red and there was real heat coming from them!

I squealed that I have a Fairy Oven Mother then ran for the camera, though I've got to admit, I was hesitant to leave the miracle happening before our very eyes.

It stopped working for just a second one time after its resurrection, but it's worked consistently since.

Todd and I will randomly flip it on - even with nothing in it - just to check that it comes on, and each time we just pause in awe. 

It's a Christmas miracle!!

These actually baked...!

December 19, 2010

Schoooool's out...

for the semester!

(You know that tune...Alice Cooper School's Out for Summer!)

And as of last Thursday I was done with my first two classes back in the books.

It was a learning experience on several levels: I actually learned a few new things; but I also learned what it was like to be a "non-trad", how hard it was to work full-time and keep up with my assignments, and what to expect from here on out.  It was an experimental semester, if you will.

I got all my assignment in with good grades on everything.  I even had an A++++ on an assignment and the professor asked if she could use a different project for a class example.  I will get docked in one area though - the "class" discussions.

Both of my classes were online and we had to contribute our own answers to discussion questions and also reply to several of our classmates.  I didn't do all of that.  I was much more concerned in getting the high ticket items with lots of points in.  So, I may not be a gold star student this semester.

Next week, I have to meet with an advisor to figure out a game plan for what classes I have to have in order to get a new degree - and a new career.

It's been nice to have some days off and a homework free weekend!

December 13, 2010

O! Christmas Tree!

Last Sunday, Todd and I went to the mountains to get our Christmas tree.

This is one of my most favorite things to do!

I love packing snacks, hiking around, and hunting for the perfect tree. I take this part very seriously.  The tree must speak to me.  I mean, really scream, "Ooooh!  Pick me!  Pick me!!  I'm your tree!"

At this point on the trip we were pretty far out of town - where are the trees...?

Oh...there they are!  Behind that cloud...

We got back into the woods and this is what areas of the road looked like...

Todd with the tree pre-chop...

Me lovin' on our tree before it comes home with us...

Our tree post-chop...

A tuckered out puppy from running in the woods...

Todd wrestling with lights, which begs the question: In a day and age where we send folks to the moon and all sorts of other high-tech things, why must you be a master electrician in order to put Christmas lights up...?

The ornaments for hangin'...

Todd hanging decorations...

The angel going on top...

Voila! Our decorated beauty!  Todd and I took Rigby for a walk tonight and we checked out the trees in other people's homes.  We definitely have one of the best, if not THE best tree in the neighborhood...!

Another successful tree year!

December 5, 2010

Parenting styles

In one of my classes I had to do a project on parenting styles.

I've had to do a few projects now, and while I mostly think they're silly (I guess I'd rather do them than a paper though), this one was really funny to Todd and I.

For this particular project we had to choose a combination of parenting styles predetermined by the professor.  I chose Warm/Authoritative versus Permissive/Indulgent.

And, at JWG's suggestion, I used Rigby to demonstrate the differences.

Check it out:

Pay no mind to the incredible amount of dust under that chair, something I didn't notice until I was looking at the photo...

He is such a good boy! What other dog would let you put your old Halloween halo on its head, or a shoestring, and not even try to shake it off or paw at it?

December 4, 2010

Trader Joe's glad tidings

I know I've posted on here before about how much I LOVE the grocery store Trader Joe's.  

While I couldn't do all my grocery shopping there, it's so wonderful for so many things! spreads, cheap peanut butter (and almond butter, which normally costs an arm and a leg!), rock bottom pricing for cheese - good ones, too - and cheap, cheap, cheap wines that taste fantastic and not a thing like Boone's!

It's an absolute wonderland of food.

And there is not a single one within several hundred of miles of my home.

It's heartbreaking.  

So, when we went to Missouri for Thanksgiving a trip to St. Louis to hit up TJ's was on the agenda.  Come rain or shine or blizzard - I was getting to my Joe's.

Todd and his mom had never been to a Trader Joe's and I think they were baffled by mine and my parents excitement about the store - until they went in themselves.  Then they understood, as every TJ's shopper does, the magic of the store.

Standing outside the store, my heart going pitter-patter...

And we love you too...

Lovin' on some cheap, delicious wines.  Why, oh why can't you be closer to me TJ's??  (I'm "wine"-ing, now)...

Our grocery cart.  The wines not in a box are my dad's.  Every other blessed thing in the cart is ours.  We drove to Missouri partly because of this shopping trip!  (Just kidding - sort of...)

See how fun this place is?  The employees wear Hawaiian shirts...!

This sign says it all, I do believe... 

I will wait for you to move closer to me my love...but I'm getting impatient.

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