Happy New Year.

I had quite the day.  A loooong day.  I became an official grandma today and served up heartburn for New Year’s Eve fare.

My daughter woke me up at 4:00 AM to tell me she was leaving for the hospital and would I please see if I could get my 2 year-old step-grandson back to bed.  He must be psychic because he never wakes up in the middle of the night and throws a fit, but last night he did.  He’d been up since midnight.  So I hauled my very old- feeling 44  year -old behind up from the basement, saw my daughter and son-in-law off to the hospital in the middle of a freak rain storm/fog bank, put my very grumpy grandson back to bed and lay down on the couch to try to catch a bit more sleep.  No luck on the sleep part.

By 11:47 AM I was an “official” grandma of beautiful 6 lb, 3 oz baby girl and after chasing the 2 year-old around the house for 4 hours and making a pot of chili, I needed a nap.

I still haven’t had the nap, but I served up chili, jalepeno poppers, homemade guacamole (made by one of my sister-in-laws), pigs-in-blanket, and brownies (made by another sister-in-law).

I’m still awake because my boys want to have sparkling cider and crack poppers at midnight and have absolutely no mercy on a tired woman who is now a grandma.

Happy New Year’s to everyone and hoping for a prosperous, peaceful one for all.


Thursday Night Menu: Snow Storm Edition

I hope all of you survived the monster winter storm that hit the east coast. As I write this, we are predicted to get about 12 inches of snow today. It’s coming down pretty heavily right now and I’m not looking forward to my drive home. I will set this up to post automatically, just in case. See how much I love you? (Edit: Home safe and sound, roads are ugly)

Keeping it simple tonight. If your house is like mine, you’re still suffering holiday goodie hangovers, so no dessert tonight, just fresh fruit. Lots of fresh vegetables in this one, too. Trying to help you get ready for those New Year’s resolutions.

On the board tonight:

  1. Sausage Pasta
  2. Italian Green Bean Salad
  3. Bread Sticks
  4. Sliced Pears

Sausage Pasta

  • 1 lb Italian sausage, sweet or spicy*
  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 2 mushrooms, washed & sliced
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp fennel (opt)
  • 10 oz ditalini or penne pasta

deep skillet and large saucepan

Brown sausage in skillet, and crumble well, add zucchini, onions & mushrooms, cook until tender. Add tomatoes & spices. In honor of my new friend fennel, toss 2 tsp in if you like.  Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain well & toss with sausage mixture.

* you can substitute ½ lean ground beef or ground turkey for ½ lb of the sausage to lighten up this meal.

Italian Green Bean Salad

  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • Romaine lettuce leaves
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, sliced in rings
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 4 oz can black olives, whole

saucepan and serving bowl

Prepare beans by snapping off ends, washing and cutting in half if large. Add  water & pinch of salt to saucepan, add beans and cook for 5 minutes at boiling. Reduce heat and cook until beans are tender-crisp about 5-10 minutes. Drain well. Prepare Vinaigrette Dressing (left), pour over warm beans & toss. Place in freezer to cool completely (about 5 min).  Remove, toss with parmesan, add tomatoes, onions & olives. Serve on lettuce leaves.  You can also serve warm over lettuce if you prefer.

Vinaigrette Dressing

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp basil, crushed
  • ½ tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients and blend well

Menu serves 4

Shopping List:

  • Bread Sticks
  • 4 pears
  • 1 lb Italian sausage, sweet or spicy*
  • 2 zucchini
  • 4 green onions
  • 2 mushrooms
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 10 oz ditalini or penne pasta
  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • Romaine lettuce leaves
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 4 oz can black olives, whole
  • fennel seed (opt)

Also: crushed garlic, basil, oregano, olive oil, red wine vinegar

Perfect Mashed Potatoes

You should know I’ve been trying to write this post for the past 4 days.  Life has not cooperated.   I expected this week to be quiet, but that has not been the case.  It is all good, so I’m not complaining in the least.  I’m just wishing things would stop see-sawing between excruciatingly boring and Indy 500 speeds.

Okay, so Christmas dinner turned out fabulously.  The rib roast was perfect, the gravy a very nice flavor if a bit lumpy and the potatoes were excellent.  So I thought I’d take this week and write what I did with each item.  Starting with the mashed potatoes.

There are several steps to making perfect mashed potatoes every time.

Step 1: Start with russet potatoes.  The texture makes for fluffy, flavorful mashed potatoes.

I use red potatoes for baking (very moist) and occasionally Yukon golds (never been a big fan) in stews and soup.

Step 2: Scrub well, don’t peel and then cube.  I know this can be controversial. But I think the skins add a nice overall flavor, and do I need to remind you they are packed with vitamins?  Okay then.  Don’t peel.

This is the newest model comparable to the one I own.  Pretty.

Step 3: Steam, don’t boil.  I do this in a pressure cooker, but you can do it in any saucepan.  Put a steamer basket or small rack in the bottom of the saucepan, add potatoes, add just enough water to cover the bottom layer of potatoes.  If you’re not using a pressure cooker, check the water often and add more as needed.  The rack keeps you from scorching the potatoes if you let the water get too low.  Cook until tender.

Step 4: Drain the water (I keep mine for gravy), remove the rack and return the potatoes to back to the saucepan. Now put the saucepan on the burner, turn the burner on briefly until all the water in the bottom of the pan is gone.  Don’t walk away, this is a quick process, but it keeps your potatoes from being watery.

Step 5: Warm milk and butter before adding to the potatoes.  I make sure the butter has melted in the milk before adding.  I used 1/2 cup of milk for 8 potatoes.  I used just a tablespoon of butter because I’m all about the gravy.  Use as much butter, salt and pepper as you desire.

Step 6: Mash well with a hand masher.  When you have unpeeled potatoes, this is your best option.  Gives you the best consistency, not creamy, but smooth and fluffy.  Great for holding gravy (did I mention I’m all about the gravy?).

Keep them warm until time to serve.  This is made much easier because the milk and butter were warmed before adding.  Other things you may want to add:  roasted garlic, sour cream (reduce milk or butter to keep consistency), cheddar cheese, jalapeños (cheddar cheese-jalapeño mashed potatoes are a favorite – no gravy), or bleu cheese.

Mmm…Another Pot Pie

At the grocery the other day I was pushing the cart by yet another one of the aisle blocking portable cooler bins that management sees fit to use wherever there is an unfilled niche between the various racks and stands that are themselves a hazard to navigation and should be marked as such just like they put out those little folding “wet floor” signs when there is a spill to mop.  I imagine several possible wordings for such signs:  “Caution-sign ahead”, “caution-we’re idiots”, “caution-free samples ahead”.

Maybe I should have titled this post “caution-rant ahead”.

Anyway, there they were, the frozen turkeys that had missed the Xmas dinner table and were piled, cold and forlorn, right there in my way.  Did I mention “in my way”?  Bah..  Seemed to be a sale on, the tags all read $1.49/lb and the sign had them @ $1.19/lb.  Grabbed one.

I don’t have room in either freezer for a whole turkey so I just left it to thaw and then roasted the thing when it was ready.  Plan was to strip the meat, roast the carcass for making a nice stock, bag all the white and dark meat so as to have small enough parcels to tuck away here and there, but to leave enough out to have:  Ta Da!–Another excuse to make these fabulous drop biscuits for a crust on a pot pie.


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