Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kitchen Tool of the Week...

A Cast Iron Skillet.

I finally got around to buying myself one. I was hesitant to get it, because I have so many things in my kitchen, I'm running out of room! Plus, it's heavy & as is, I'm already cursing my 9 quart Le Creuset for breaking my back while washing it.
But, now that I have one, I really don't know why I've waited this long. Ever since I got home from the store with it, I've been using it constantly. For everything from pancakes, to skillet cornbread, to oven roasted potatoes {it makes the crispiest potatoes ever!}.
Cast iron is ideal for cooking, as it's a great heat conductor. If well cared for, it will last for many lifetimes, needs no special utensils for use {like an enameled dutch oven, or non-stick pan}, is naturally non-stick {when well-seasoned} & just gets better with age.
If you get one, go for the Lodge 12" skillet. It's the perfect size & comes pre-seasoned & ready to use, right out of the box.
Many people recommend you clean your cast iron cookware with nothing but a steel brush & some hot water. But, I find that if there is excessive amount of oil left in the pan, it will become rancid & effect the flavor of your food. I often find I do need to clean it more thoroughly. If you do decide to use soap to clean it {which, is okay to do}, wash the pan & dry it very well. Then, re-season it by heating the pan, using the stove top, or oven & apply a very thin layer of a neutral oil {canola, grape seed, coconut} to the surface & rub it in. Your cast iron skillet is now ready for it's next use!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Creamed Spinach

Oh, I just love creamed spinach. It's one of my favorite steakhouse sides.
I made this recipe for the first time at Thanksgiving. Not, a typical Turkey Day side, I know. But, I was having a vegetarian guest join us & I wanted some hearty veggie options.
It was a big hit & I've made it many times since. Mostly for dinner guests, as it's a bit time consuming for a weeknight meal. A plus, however, is that it can be made a day ahead of time & reheated. Leftovers are fantastic too!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maple Sugar Sunday @ The Stamford Nature Center...{A Giveaway!!}

You might remember that back in January we had a great afternoon hanging out at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. On March 7th, they will be hosting their 10th Annual Maple Sugar Sunday. This event is one of my favorites. I love Maple Syrup. Maple sugar. Maple Sugar candies. Anything Maple. In fact, DH & I have been wanting to tap our big, ole' maple in the backyard & make some of our own.

Some info from the Stamford Nature Center's website...
The maple sugar season peaks on March 7th as they celebrate their 10th Annual Maple Sugar Sunday.
At the festival visitors can learn how the Native Americans created sugar from sap using the "hot rock" method, see how colonists used large iron cauldrons to boil the sap over the open fire and then stop by the maple sugar house to see their modern evaporation technique in action.
There will be lots of sweet treats and the ever popular pancake breakfast. Other activities include maple-themed crafts, games, storytelling, music and much more!

The folks over at the nature center have been kind enough to offer up 4 guest passes to one of my lucky readers. The passes can be used for the upcoming festival...or, for anytime you might want to make a visit over there.
To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this post. You can enter multiple times by sharing this giveaway with others via facebook, twitter, or your own blog. Just be sure to leave a link showing how you shared it. I will select a winner on Monday, March 1st.

For more information about the festival, or about the Stamford Museum & Nature Center, visit www.stamford, or call (203)322.1646 ext. 6521

Update: The winner of the 4 free passes to the Stamford Nature Center is Mamalizza!! Congrats! I will mail them out to you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Red Wine Cake

This recipe has a story.
My stepmother makes this cake & after having it for the first time, the bozo's became obsessed. Now, she makes it nearly every time we visit. I had no idea what it was called, but I named it the "Cinnamon Toast Crunch" cake, because it reminded my of the way the cereal tasted.
Knowing how much my guys loved it, I asked for the recipe. She said she would get it to me, but never did. Time after time I asked & never got it. Finally, after asking & asking, for probably a year, she admitted that the reason she never gave it to me was because it was a cake from a box! Heavens forbid!
She wanted to come up with a "homemade" version before she let me have it & never got a chance. Eventually, she had to cave & just fess up.
I have to admit that I am not a fan of boxed cake. Mostly, because I love baking from scratch. But, this cake in no way tastes like anything from a box. I would have never known, had she not told me.
So, here it is...the cake. I am posting it in honor of my darling Bozo #1. My first born baby. Who is turning EIGHT tomorrow & who's favorite cake is this...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bozo Picture of the Week...

A snowy day playdate with some of the best friends a girl & her bozo's could ask for...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Some Things I Just Love....

A slightly Valentine's Day inspired collection of stuff I love. Slightly, because not all of it is Valentine's Day inspired.

a. These are the Valentine's Day cards the Bozo's gave out this year. I saw them at a friend's house & ran out the second I left to buy them for my guys. They love anything having to do with space, so I had to have them. There are 4 designs with a special one for the teacher. I also love the envelopes with little white stars all over them. The website is sold out of the girl variety, but I did see those in person & they are equally adorable...for next year, folks.

b. Well, this has nothing to do with Valentine's, or does it? It's a place to store all your kids art supplies. The very art supplies they might use for their Valentines?
I know for me, that every afternoon when it's homework time, it's "Mom, where are the pencils?", or "scissors", or "glue sticks", or "crayons". This would be perfect for keeping all their stuff in one place. And, if you don't need a storage solution for art supplies, then plant a little herb garden in the clay pots...that would also be super cute.

c. I saw these oyster shell candleholders in the Wisteria catalog {I love that dang catalog} & thought they looked pretty. Then I saw them in person at Dovecote, in Westport, CT & was even more impressed. They are much bigger in person, than they look in the catalog. Oysters are aphrodisiacs, right?

d. I know that some women would be deeply offended by receiving anything having to do with homemaking as a romantic gift. But, not me! I want this white Le Creuset so freaking bad! I have a big, red one. But, I want a smaller one, for cooking smaller quantities {I hate lugging the huge one out every time I cook} & a more neutral color would be nice too.

e. I flipped through this cookbook the other day & I want it! Every single recipe in it looks absolutely delicious & has a beautiful glossy photo to accompany each one. The perfect place to look for a Valentine treat.

f. I love this couch! It looks like nothing special until you see it in person. It's super duper deep, which is perfect for snuggling side by side with your sweetie pie. When you sit on it, it's like sitting on a cloud.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spiced Red Lentil Soup with Cashews

I had a soup similar to this at a great little store in Westport, CT, called "The Organic Market". They have the most amazing soups...always using unusual & natural ingredients.
I had never in my life had soup with cashews in it. I loved the flavor & crunch they added & have been trying to find something similar, without luck.
I saw this recipe for Spiced Red Lentil soup in a recent issue of Fine Cooking. I remembered the soup I loved having tomatoes & a curry like spice to it. So, when I saw this I thought it might be as close as I was going to get. The cashews are my little addition. So good!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bozo Picture of the Week...

We spent 5 days last week, on a much needed getaway in Vermont. We had loads of fun. Spending quality time together...playing board games, cards & such. Our good friends & their kids joined us for part of the trip. It's something we do every February & I oh~so look forward to it.
The Bozos got a chance to sample a bunch of winter time activities...snowboarding, ice skating, tubing & BB gunning beer cans off hills of snow.
DH doesn't usually sport the redneck beard. But, since we were on vacation & it needed a trimming, he trimmed it in a day by day progression, that just got crazier as it went on. Today was back to school, work, reality & neatly trimmed whiskers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Simple Beef & Kidney Bean Chili

I have been searching for a really simple & delicious crockpot chili recipe for a long time now. Not something exotic, or gourmet. Just super basic.
This is the recipe I was looking for. And, with Super Bowl Sunday around the corner, I figured now would be a good time to post it. You can play with the spices as much as you'd like. I kept them pretty low key, as I was serving this to the whole family & I wanted everyone to enjoy it.
If you don't have a slow-cooker, you can cook the chili in a stockpot over low heat for 2 hours. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days {it tastes even better after sitting a day, or more}. It can also be frozen for up to a month.