Friday, October 30, 2015

Foodie Friday- Hot Spiced Cider

Well, Happy Day Before Halloween! If your area is anything like mine, there's no telling what kind of weather you will be experiencing as you take the kids in your life trick-or-treating or go out on your own for whatever reason. Here is a nice warming drink for those that get chilly weather!

Hot Spiced Cider


2 quarts apple cider
1/2 cup molasses
4 lemon slices, cut in half
12 whole cloves
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup lemon juice

Garnishes: cinnamon sticks,lemon wedges, whole cloves


Bring cider and next 4 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves with a slotted spoon; stir in lemon juice. Garnish, if desired.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

It's National Cat Day!

Here's my little owner, Nightshade, as pictured when I adopted her. And here she is more recently:

Go here for more info about my new favorite holiday. The 27th was Black Cat Day- I can't believe I missed that!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Foodie Friday- Sweet and Savory Cheesy Bacon Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws

Well, sign me up for a batch of these!

Sweet and Savory Cheesy Bacon Wrapped Puff Pastry Straws

prep time: 20 MINUTES cook time: 40 MINUTES total time: 1 HOUR yields: 26-30 Cheesy Bacon Twists


1 package frozen puff pastry,
1 egg, beaten
1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded (or a mix of your favorite cheeses)
26-30 pieces thin cut bacon (or 18 pieces of thin cut bacon sliced in half lengthwise)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced (may sub sage or thyme)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray.Open one sheet of puff pastry on a cutting board. Brush the surface lightly with some of the beaten egg. Sprinkle with your desired amount of cayenne pepper (I did 1 teaspoon per sheet of puff pastry). Sprinkle surface with 1/2 cup of cheese to evenly cover entire surface. Dust a rolling pin lightly with flour and then roll the rolling pin over the cheese to gently press the cheese into the puff pastry.Cut the puff pastry into long 1/2-inch-wide strips and then take each strip, fold in half and pinch the ends together. Now gently twist each strip several times.Take a piece of bacon and wrap it around the twisted pastry and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and bacon until everything has been used.Add the brown sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper to a shallow bowl or pie plate and toss well. Now carefully take each bacon wrapped pastry one at a time and dip it through the brown sugar mixture, using your hands to coat all over the twist. Place each twist back on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining twists.Bake the twist for 30 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. My bacon took 50 minutes to cook, but it was on the thicker side. I would start checking them at around 30 minutes and then every 5 to 10 minutes after that to make sure they are not burning. Once the bacon is cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes. Then use a spatula to carefully lift the twists off the baking sheet. Serve!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Not the greatest week- I hate having blood drawn

So, I went to the lab a week ago to have blood drawn for my doctor's appointment. I got a new-to-me tech who I never want to see again. Actually, I *DO* want to see her, preferably across a courtroom when I sue her incompetent ass. This idiot picked up a needle that was a cross between a darning needle and a railroad spike and jabbed it into my arm so hard that I expected to see it come out the other side. Now, I admit to being a wimp when it comes to needles, but this was ridiculous! Then I got a fresh wave of pain when she jerked it back out after collecting the umpteen vials of blood needed for my tests. I've never had one hurt coming out. EVER.

By the end of the night, I had a huge bruise on the inside of my arm and the needle hole was still visible. There were also red streaks extending up toward my wrists. Sunday, the hole was STILL visible, although the bruise and red streaks had faded. I had, however, developed random shooting pains and muscle spasms. And a lump about 3 inches down from the needle hole. Then I found out that she'd done the same thing to my father on Friday, only he didn't have the same side effects. Luckily for her.

My appointment with Dr. B was on Monday. He looked at my arm after I told him what happened, and shook his head. He thinks the lump is an internal bruise. The pain & spasms are because that cow most likely nicked a nerve. He had his office manager call down to the lab to find out who we needed to complain to and was told that the cow's last day was Friday (the day after she abused me & the day she hurt Daddy) and they were very sorry to hear what had happened. That's great, but what about the damage done to my arm?!? Dr B said it should lessen by the end of the week, and to call him on Monday if it hasn't. I'm here to tell you, it hasn't.

Just to add to the fun, I got my flu shot. In the same f'ing arm. So now I have a stiff achy shoulder (I always have the worst reaction) as well as the shooting pains & spasms in my lower arm. Did I mention that this is my left arm and I'm left handed?!? Not fun.

Oh yeah, and my recurring sinus infection is awake with a vengeance. Love the changing of the seasons.

So, there's my WAAAH post for the week. I'm not even going to start on the general stupidity of my workplace. Instead, here are some pretty boys to look at!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Foodie Weekend Bonus Recipes- Soup Edition (Chicken & Gnocchi, Salmon-Corn Chowder)

It got down to 34 here yesterday morning. It was 80 two weeks ago and now we have this crap. Everybody is sick and cranky, especially me. I wanted something good the other day, and couldn't decide what. Soup sounded good, so I made myself get up and throw some together. (Sorry, canned soups just have too much sodium for my taste these days) I couldn't decide which of my favorites I wanted, so I made these two and now I don't have to cook for a day or two...unless I get hungrier for something more substantial! I may have posted these in the earlier days of the blog- I was too tired/lazy to go back and check.

First up is this gem. It's the Homemade version of Olive Garden's Chicken & Gnocchi Soup.


3 -4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups half-and-half
1 stalk celery, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1⁄2carrot, shredded
1⁄2onion, diced
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper
16 ounces potato gnocchi
1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)


Saute the onion, celery, garlic, carrot in oil over medium heat until onion is translucent.
Add chicken, chicken stock, half and half, salt and pepper, thyme. Heat to boiling, then add gnocchi. Gently boil for 4 minutes, then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Add spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes until spinach is wilted.
(Heat to boiling and add cornstarch dissolved in 1-2 Tbsp water at this point if you want a thicker soup.).
Ladle into bowls and serve!


I used mini-gnocchi this time, but any version will work.

The other one that sounded good to me was my version of Whole Foods Salmon Corn Chowder. I had bought a chunk of smoked salmon of Friday, thinking I would take it to work for snacking on with cheese and crackers. Most of it went into the soup instead, but there's enough left for a good snack. This is a fast & dirty cheat recipe, based on cans (I know what I said above, but work with me) and a few fresh ingredients.

This picture isn't my recipe, but it's close enough. I forgot to take a picture, so this will have to do:

2-4 oz hot-smoked salmon, flaked or cut into smallish chunks (not the bright pink lox you would serve on bagels, the other kind)
1 can creamed corn
1 can cream of potato soup
1/4-1/2 small onion or 1 lg shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2-1 carrot, shredded
1/2-1 rib celery, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dill

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the fresh veggies and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they are soft but not quite browned. Stir in the soup & creamed corn, allow to come to a simmer. Stir in the salmon & dill, allow to simmer for 15-30 minutes, depending on how hungry you are. If you prefer a thinner soup, you may wish to add a splash of milk or 1/2 & half just prior to serving. If you like it thicker, a bit of cornstarch dissolved in some milk and added to the pan will help.

2-4 servings depending on how hungry you are and what size bowl you use.

Both of these are good with crusty bread, plain or buttered.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I couldn't resist Crimson Peak

It opened yesterday. The first showing nearest me was at 11:20. Depsite the fact that I have been suffering from a migraine all week and was dead tired; AND I'm supposed to go on Monday with some friends, I stayed up to go see it. Why?

And from the scene that has fangirls around the world screaming "She's in MY SPOT!!!"

Any Questions?!?

Because it was so early, I had a nearly private screening. It was me & two slightly weird guys, both of whom had to be discouraged from sitting next to me. Seriously. In a huge empty theater, the only place you can find to sit is next to the Amazon in the center of the top back row?!? One caught my headshake as he saw me and started up the stairs and had enough sense to stop and find a seat where he was. The other had to the threatened with being tossed back down to the bottom after saying "don't worry baby, you can cling to me if it gets too scary." He wisely decided to move a few rows down after that. AND I heard HIM screech in fright when the first bloody ghost showed up. Heh.

I won't say anything about the story other than I walked out of the theater wondering what the hell I'd just watched. Tom, is beautiful, even when his character's Loki is showing. (yeah, I went there) Jessica Chastain is wonderful as his possessive sister, and I even liked Mia as Edith despite the fact that she gets to snog Tom & I don't. Charlie Hunnam was wasted- they managed to make him look plain, and his character was boring.

The guy who had enough sense not to come near me at the beginning did linger after the credits to talk to me and ask what I thought of the movie. He turned out to be a rather nice comic book geek and we had an interesting chat. He also asked me if I wanted to go have lunch with him. I actually would have gone if I hadn't been so tired that I couldn't see straight. It was 2:45 before we left the theater- the previews were nearly 45 minutes and the movie itself was 2 hours! I did suggest meeting at the bookstore on Sunday instead and he agreed to that. It's not going to be a date, but I figured it might not hurt to make a new friend.

Three last things:

1. Guillermo del Toro lied. We DO NOT get to see "Loki's pokey stick."

2. Don't bother sitting through the credits. There's no bonus content.

3. the 2 best previews were for Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy & Daniel Radcliffe- looked quite promising!) and the Last Witch Hunter. (Vin Diesel) Will probably wait until they both are on DVD, but they looked good!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Foodie Friday- Loaded Skillet Toasted Green Beans

Doesn't this look delicious?!?

Loaded Skillet Toasted Green Beans



4 slices bacon, chopped
2 shallots, sliced
2 pounds fresh green beans
1/3 cup toasted almonds
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

garlic butter breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/3 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the bacon and shallots. Cook until the bacon is crispy and the shallots begin to brown, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes minutes. Remove the mixture from the skillet and place it in a bowl while you cook the green beans.

Add the green beans to the skillet. If there isn't any bacon fat left, you can use butter or olive oil (about a tablespoon) to toast the beans. I find that the beans are seasoned enough with the bacon flavor and feta, but you can add some salt and pepper here if you like. Cook the beans over medium heat, stirring and tossing occasionally, until they are bright in color and cooked - but still slightly crunchy - about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the shallots and bacon back into the skillet and toss. Toss in the toasted almonds and feta.

Sprinkle with the garlic brown butter bread crumbs and serve immediately.

garlic butter breadcrumbs
Add butter to a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk constantly while it bubbles. The minute brown bits begin to form on the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and whisk for an additional 30 seconds. (for more step by step photos of browning butter, click here) Let butter stand for 2 minutes, then add in minced garlic and whisk. Add in panko and pepper flakes and stir well to coat and combine. Set aside.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Two Shows That Made Me Cry For Different Reasons (possible spoilers if you haven't seen them)

Luther is fascinating, maddening, and heartbreaking. I was sorry for the character's grief when his almost ex-wife was killed in series one. I didn't care about her so much, but Idris Elba played Luther's grief and feelings of betrayal by her killer very well. Series 2 didn't have any main characters die, it was just grim. Then I watched series 3...and now I want to scream. I won't say who died at the end of episode 3, just that it was one of my favorite supporting characters, and it was a nasty, undeserved death. (It also hit close to home as I constantly worry about some of my favorite officers at work finding themselves in similar situations) I bawled like a baby. Happily, the 4th episode saw the killer brought to justice. He managed to take out the one character that I wanted to see killed (teach you to mess with my man, jerk) and wound another one that I was on the shelf about (wasn't sure if she needed killing or a good slap) before getting taken down himself.

So, after watching the oh-so-good, yet oh-so-depressing Luther, I needed something to boost my spirits a bit.

Season 3 of Miranda ended with her being proposed to by no less than TWO adorable men and her mother practically weeping for joy. The final episodes start with her choosing one and the usual lunacy that follows. The scene that had me laughing so hard that the cat fled the room? Miranda and her fiancee decide to practice their first dance. "But we haven't chosen a song yet!" "The first song that comes on (as her fiancee brandishes the stereo remote) will be our song!"

The song?

They stare at each other blankly for a few seconds, and then bust out their own "Hammertime" moves. I almost died.

I almost didn't watch the rest of the show after Miranda & her fiancee split up at the end of part one. Yep, more bawling on my part.

Then I realized that there surely was NO WAY Miranda Hart would break her fans like that. So I watched the rest of the finale. And bawled some more, but this time happily. Miranda DOES get her HEA, albeit it a roundabout offbeat way; which is really the only way it could happen. And it was satisfying!

My only remaining question is this: When did I become such a big watering pot?!?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Random thoughts from my brain

So, I've lost just enough weight (again) that my current underwear is too big, but the next size down is too small. I firmly believe that underwear - actually, all clothing - should come in half sizes, just like shoes!

I like the daily planner that I bought last year, so I thought I'd save money this year and just buy a refill for it. After going to three bookstores & two office supply stores, I *FINALLY* found one at Office Depot... and it cost just as much as buying a new planner would have. Actually more, because I would have at least gotten a 10% discount and B&N if I bought a planner there. I bought it anyway, but it really irked me. I mean, shouldn't there be some sort of eco-discount for reusing something & buying a refill for it rather than adding more junk to the landfill?!? On the other hand, the cashier was a cute little tattooed boy who lit up when he saw my Doctor Who inspired shirt. We had a good chat about our favorite Doctors and tattoos.

Here's a pic of the design on my shirt:

Tom Hiddleston & Michael Fassbender are trying to kill me. They both have several movies coming out that I desperately want to see. I may actually have to break down and set foot in a movie theater.

Nightshade is getting possessive. I think she knows I'd adopt all the feral cats if I could and she's making sure that they know I'm *HER* human and she's not sharing. Some of them have gotten brave enough to let me touch them - just for a second - before they run away. Or they'll brush against my leg when I'm filling their food bowl. Anyway, now there's an adorable little black kitten in the bunch. She looks like an even smaller version of my Shady-girl, right down to the white spot on her chest! I don't care what Shady thinks; if I can catch that little one, she's living inside with us. Period. In the meantime, Shady comes and stands by my feet while I talk to the outside kitties and hisses if they start to come over.

Tune in later for another installment of Random Thoughts...

Friday, October 9, 2015


Ok, so Bacon Day was back on August 30th. However, I have found a plethora of bacon dishes, so they will be making appearances over the next few weeks. Starting with this yummy dinner!

Author: Pinch of Yum, inspired by The New Classics cookbook from Saveur
Serves: 8 (unless you eat like my family does- LOL)

3 slices bacon
½ cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
salt and pepper
2 teaspoon herbes de provence
1½ - 2 lbs. chicken thighs with skin***
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
dried or fresh parsley for topping

BACON: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large ovenproof Dutch oven or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving the hot bacon grease in the pan (turn down the heat while prepping the chicken).

CHICKEN: Mix the flour with salt and pepper and the herbes de provence. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture and transfer to the hot pan. Pan-fry the chicken for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown (but not cooked through). Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on plate.

SHALLOTS: Add the shallots to the pan with the olive oil. Saute for 5-10 minutes, until softened and fragrant and golden brown. Add the wine slowly, stirring to get all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and let everything cook until it reduces slightly, about 5-10 minutes.

BAKE: Add the chicken and bacon back to the pan and bake for 40 minutes, stopping ever 10 or 15 minutes to baste the chicken with the pan sauce. Remove from oven when the chicken skin is crispy and the chicken is fully cooked. Skim the oil off the top of the sauce if you want (see notes) and serve with bread to soak it all up.

***As per my usual, this was done with chicken breasts. If you use the chicken thighs, you will definitely want to skim off some of the excess fat.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Foodie Friday- Crispy Golden Pork Belly

I have to confess, I have NOT tried this...YET. It looks awesome though, and I am a Southern girl who digs the pig, so it's going to happen!


2 lb pork belly
1 cup salt
for the marinade:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced


1. Using a paper towel, pat skin of pork belly until it is completely dry. Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl and then pour into a rectangular pan that is big enough to hold the pork belly. Place pork belly into the container, making sure only the meat touches the marinade and the skin stays completely dry. If the marinade level is too high you can pour some of it out. Place in fridge for several hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Completely line a roasting pan with foil (this will make clean-up much easier). Pour 1 inch of water into bottom of pan. Place wire rack on top of roasting pan to hold the pork belly. Place the pork belly on the wire rack. The pork belly will cook above the water, with the pork drippings dripping down below into the water. Make sure the pork belly is level (if one part is lower/shorter the skin will not cook evenly. if you have to, use something oven-safe to prop up a shorter part to keep it completely level). Spread 1 cup of salt evenly across the pork belly skin. Place into top half of oven. Bake for about 40 minutes until meat looks cooked.

3. Remove pork belly and increase oven temperature to 465F. The salt should have formed a crust which you should now remove. Once oven has reached desired temperature, place pork belly back into oven. Bake for another 30 minutes until skin is completely bubbly and crisp. Let pork belly cool a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Happy (1st) International Coffee Day

Apparently the 29th was National Coffee day, but I missed it because I was celebrating my dad's 82nd birthday. So, I'll celebrate this one instead!