Saturday, June 13, 2015

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese


This recipe was another Imgue find. It was good and nice to come home to a completed meal (added some pepperoni slices, cooked in my crock pot on "keep warm" for about 8 hours because the low option is still too damn hot), but it was kind of bland. I need to add something to it for the leftovers.

But a word of advice: cube up your cream cheese first. Don't just dump the block in the crock. It will melt and mix better that way. I actually did cube mine and was happy with how it turned out.

Plus, if you're going to make mac and cheese, bake that shit! It needs to come out of the oven instead of out of a crock pot.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Orion's New Tie

I couldn't very well make a bow tie for Cujo and not one for Orion, now could I?
Take it off, take it off, take it offfffffffffffffffffffffffffffff."
Left over fabric from an old thrift store shirt I had and loved but it wore out.
   

Thursday, June 11, 2015

I Have Reached A New Crafting Low

Our German Shepherd is 13 years old. We've had him since he was 7 months old.

My husband has always said I am not allowed to dress the dog. I have always maintained that a little doggie black leather jacket and matching hat would make him look tough (and freaking ADORBS!). My husband says no, it really won't, because our GSD is actually a lover and not a tough guy.

And he also doesn't want our dog to be dressed like the lead singer of Judas Priest.

But when I saw a pattern for a baby's bow tie...well, my husband's at work, I'm here alone with our dog, and I've decided he's going for the preppie look tonight.

I actually saved some fabric from some pants I turned into capris, especially for this project. I may need help. The crafting might be getting out of control for me.
This pattern actually called for interfacing, but since this was going to be just for cutes and giggles behind my husband's back, I left out the interfacing. For the inside of the bow, I put in one extra piece of fabric. The interfacing does have a purpose, which was to give it a little extra stiffness (that's what she said) and I knew the tie would need that, even just for photos.

I think I should have made the center part of the bow a little narrower, by taking off 1/2" in width.

"Orion, what's my afternoon schedule look like? I'm going to need to pencil in  a post-meeting nap around 3."

"Hello! I'm Business Dog! It's time to go to work to make the moneys to buy more treats!"

Chicken Stuffed With Spinach, Tomato and Mozzerella

Every once in a while, our local paper runs a column called "Everyday Chef," where regular people are interviewed and their recipes shared. I tried getting Michelle the Cook interviewed a few years ago for it, but right after that, the column went on hiatus for awhile.

This recipe is from that article, which was published on March 28, 2012. No, really, you read that right. I've been hanging onto this recipe since then. Can you say electronic pack rat?

I made this last night, but with one exception: I didn't stuff the chicken breasts, because the one time I did something like that, I had stuff falling off the walls in my kitchen and I broke part of my stove top. Cooking with me is not just an adventure. It's a cry for help some nights. Instead, I used the stuffing ingredients as a topping for the chicken.

This is what I made for supper last night, and even the leftovers today for lunch were just a touch better. The topping ingredients had time to really mix together very well (think like good lasagna the next day...you know how it tastes different as leftovers? That's what this dish did), and the spinach held up nicely for another day of meals.

Chicken Stuffed With Spinach, Tomato and Mozzerella

Makes: 6 servings

  • 8 ounces of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 to 5 ounces of fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons capers (I love capers! Drain these suckers and go heavy with them!)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil (I don't even know what the hell this is!)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, butterflied
  • One 8-ounce ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced (Given my poor culinary planning, I forgot to take this out of the freezer so I had to substitute white cheddar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese  (Left this out because I felt like it wasn't needed)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Add spinach, capers, salt, pepper, garlic, truffle oil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, thyme and basil. Mix together.

Divide mixture into six equal parts – or however many chicken breasts you are stuffing.

Stuff each breast with one slice of mozzarella and one portion of the tomato-and-spinach mixture. Place breasts in baking pan.

In a bowl, beat two eggs, then pour evenly over stuffed breasts. Sprinkle bread crumbs over the top, and place one tablespoon of butter on each breast.

Bake for 40 minutes, then remove from oven and sprinkle dish with grated mozzarella. Return to oven and bake until cheese is brown, about 10 to 20 minutes more.

This was so good! It's definitely a keeper recipe. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Billy Joel Came Back to Virginia Beach!

I am still riding the aural high/eargasm that was Billy Joel. He came back to Farm Bureau Live in Virginia Beach last night and I didn't know we were going. :) My husband came home from work on Saturday morning and left the tickets sitting on my computer for me to find. (We even had better seats this time than we did the first time, and according to my husband, that was just happy luck,)

I can't say enough good things about Billy Joel and the shows he puts on. I absolutely adore his music. I can't remember a time when I didn't have his music in my life, and he hasn't had anything new on the charts for about, oh, 20-25 years. Hell, in all honesty, I think Billy Joel is the ONE celebrity that I admire that I couldn't intelligently speak with. I think I'd be a blithering idiot. I really believe I'd dissolve into a mess of tears, just because of how much his music means to me.

I took a good number of pictures. Unfortunately, I was using Shane's camera last night so it's unfamiliar and I don't think I got any videos to turn out. :( But click through these to see them bigger.



Gavin DeGraw was the surprise opening act. He was really good. He only played 4-5 songs (40 minutes worth) but for the mid-way point, he took the mic, left the stage and wandered around in the audience while singing.



Billy Joel had eight local sailors up on stage with him to sing along with the chorus of "Goodnight, Saigon," because the concert date was June 6--D Day. I liked this and I obviously know about the Naval presence here in Hampton Roads, but the song is about young Marines that met at Parris Island. I would have had Marines up on that stage, if it had been me.
Chain Saw was back again this year and performed AC DC's "Highway To Hell." It was AMAZING!
During Chain Saw's cover of that "sacred song," Billy played guitar for him.
"We Didn't Start the Fire"--Hearing this live again and singing along with it was almost orgasmic. ROCK AND ROLL AND COLA WARS I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!
"It's Still Rock and Roll To Me"--While Billy was singing this, the video to it was being shown on the split screen above and behind him. He was still dancing the same way as he did when he recorded the video.






SET LIST
  • "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)"--"They sent a carrier up from Norfolk..." This line was SCREAMED by the audience. It gave me CHILLS! I've loved the kind of dark, depressing imagery of this song, even before I knew what and where Norfolk was. (It always reminded me of the Batman series where the bridges into Gotham City were blown up and the city was isolated ("No Man's Land" in the late 90's). Think "I Am Legend."
  • "Pressure"--If you are a runner with an MP3 player, get this on your playlist!
  • "The Entertainer"
  • "Vienna"
  • "Zanzibar"--This is about a young man with a jazz guitar and borrows his father's car to go to a bar called Zanzibar. The themes of "Zanzibar" include love of sports, love of alcohol and the singer's attempt to pick up a waitress. I always figured it was supposed to be more about the guitarist playing there, but the real subject of the song, in my mind, is the jazz trumpet breaks, played originally by Freddie Hubbard. Those breaks are the true subject. Forget the jazz guitarist! He's supposed to be a jazz trumpeter!
  • "Allentown"--This always resonated with me because of the lay offs of the meat packing and tractor plants back home when I was a kid.
  • "An Innocent Man" --This was truly amazing to hear this song live. His "An Innocent Man" album from 1983 is the first record I'd even stolen (from my father) and framed for my crafting room. I played this record over and over and over again, so many times. Billy is 66 years old now and over the last few years (even though he sounds like he takes care of his voice), he wasn't able to continue hitting those high notes in "An Innocent Man," so he was having a female back up singer sing those lines. But not this night! He announced to the audience that he'd be singing that himself, although not as high as it used to be. It sounded WONDERFUL!
  • "The Downeaster 'Alexa'"--He mentioned the fishermen of the Chesapeake Bay
  • "My Life"--Rodney Dangerfield was actually the friend that closed the shop and bought a ticket to the west coast, but (aside from being the theme to "Bosom Buddies" back in the day), I felt like the chorus spoke to me in my college days. "I don't need you to worry for me cause I'm alright. I don't want you to tell me it's time to come home. I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, and leave me alone"
  • "Goodnight Saigon"
  • "New York State of Mind"
  • "Anthony's Song (Movin' Out)"
  • "She's Always a Woman"
  • "Don't Ask Me Why"
  • "Highway to Hell" (sung by guitar roadie, "Chain Saw")--I am pretty sure that this is the song that caused me to NOT have a voice when I woke up this morning. Screaming "HIGHWAY TO HELLLLLLLLLL" will do that to you. :)
  • "We Didn't Start the Fire"--I can't say enough about this song. I just can't. I used to feel like I missed out on so many of the important events through out history, just because of when I was born, but I've realized over time, that no, I haven't missed out. There's new things happening every day. It's like a good reminder song to me.
  • "The River of Dreams"
  • "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant"
  • "Piano Man"--"He's talking to Davy, whose still in the Navy, and probably will be for life!" My husband laughs at me for grabbing him and swaying along, singing this line.
Encore
  • "Uptown Girl"--Another amazing surprise to hear from "An Innocent Man." This is back from Billy's Christie Brinkley days (as was "She's Always a Woman") and I was under the impression he doesn't really do these songs anymore. 
  • "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"--Another favorite of mine. I can't help but move to this song, no matter where I hear it. 
  • "You May be Right"--Shane's favorite, because of, "I even rode my motorcycle in the rain. You asked me not to drive, but I made it home alive, and you said that only proves that I'm insane." It always worries me whenever he's on his bike out in the rain and he always plays it off like it's nothing when he gets back. 
  • "Only the Good Die Young"--This has always reminded me of my grandma: she was named Virginia and she was Catholic.
There's only one song that I almost need to hear someday..."I Go To Extremes,"  from the 1989 release, "Storm Front." I don't know why, but this song actually moves me to tears but in a good way, and in a stronger way than "We Didn't Start the Fire." Those two songs just speak to me.

Because I am a pessimist, I was surprised to see that the Daily Press and the Virginian-Pilot both had good reviews of his show. 

And if Billy comes back to Virginia Beach in another seven years, I'll be there again, dancing and singing my brains out, probably close to joyful tears again, willingly spending a buttload of money on souvenirs, just because I love Billy Joel.

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

Since I believe in full transparency here, I have to tell you that while I did make this for breakfast this morning, I did not start it last night as the recipe calls for...that's because my happy ass was at the BILLY JOEL CONCERT last night in VIRGINIA BEACH!

So yeah, I'll have a post on that shortly, but because this is a faster post and I'm still riding the aural high that was the two hour long eargasm, we'll talk about French toast instead.

First of all, this was not as good as I hoped it would be, but my husband liked it and I think he liked it more than I did.

French Toast
  • 3/4 loaf of French bread: This seems like a LOT of bread to use, so instead I used 5 slices of a good oatnut bread instead. 
  • 3/4 brick of lite cream cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

Grease a 2 quart casserole dish. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes. Place half the bread cubes in casserole dish. Sprinkle with cream cheese and blueberries. Top with remaining bread cubes.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk and syrup. Pour over the bread mixture in the casserole dish. Press down on bread to make sure that the egg mixture is distributed throughout the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Take out of refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from casserole and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and center is set. Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes prior to serving.

I was disappointed at this point because the creak cheese, while it was already softened, didn't melt into the egg/milk mixture at all. I don't think the outcome would have been any different if I had started it the night before.

Blueberry Syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tsp butter
In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil 3 minutes while stirring constantly. Add blueberries and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until blueberries burst. Stir in butter until melted. Serve with french toast above.

Yeah, hell no...I got a bottle of a wonderfully delicious boysenberry syrup, mixed in a half bag of frozen and thawed mixed berries and let them cook together on medium heat for about 10 minutes. When finished, I used a potato masher to manually crush the strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. The teeny tiny little blueberries were still intact somehow, but that lent a nice texture to the syrup I thought.

Overall thoughts on this recipe: too much work, stick to regular French toast on the stove when you want that. Or go to IHOP. This just wasn't worth the work to me but the house smelled fantastic this morning!