Sunday, November 29, 2009

Terrible Twos...

So the most enjoyable treats of fall are all the baking of pumpkins and apples and turkeys and breads. With the coming of the holiday season, now is the perfect time to warm up your mittens and whip out your whisks. What better way to get excited about baking than to bake an apple pie?

If you've ever baked an apple pie from scratch, you know what an ordeal it is. Not only do you have to deal with pie crusts to carefully mix, rest, roll out, and chill. Then you must make the apple pie filling: peeling, coring and slicing all the apples, adding spice and cooking it down and letting it cool. Then you finally get to bake the pie for over an hour and waiting at least 6 hours to cool. By the time all is said and done, it'll be 24 hours before you actually are able to slice into and enjoy a piece of apple pie.

You know where this is going, don't you? So, I baked the perfect apple pie with a great mix of local apples and we were patiently waiting to taste this piece of heaven and it sat over night to cool and the next morning, Secret Agent Man and I decide to run a quick errand. This isn't a big deal, we run errands all the time but for some reason that morning, the dogs decide to throw a tantrum. A MAJOR tantrum.

We returned home to find my lovely, beautiful, delicious pie on the ground, licked clean. And to finish it all off, they got hold of some altoids to hide their guilty breaths (no joke!).

We were so looking forward to eating a piece...I nearly cried. They know not to jump up for food off the counter/table/laps but when they throw tantrums, they know how to be royal pains. I almost took a picture but thought it was too depressing to share. So, coming up...directions for Apple Pie #2.

Guard your sweets.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Crazy Cranberry Chip Dip

Seriously, this is a dangerous dip to have around. Oh so addicting and oh so bad for you. Do not be put off by the ingredients. Just trust me. This came about a couple of Thanksgivings ago when a friend was rummaging through my pantry looking for something to eat while waiting for the turkey. She remembered a dip she had at an office party but required a special raspberry dressing (which I'm too cheap to buy) but I thought--it's Thanksgiving, we should use cranberries!

So, if you recall where we left off yesterday, we have a lovely simple cranberry sauce.

So here we have a thickened version on the stove.

Add some water to thin it out a bit.

Then, break this bad boy out:

You should be able to find a can of chipotle peppers in your local grocery store or big box store. If I can find it out here in the middle of nowhere you can find it too. You might have to search though. It should either be near the canned peppers, jar salsa, or in the area labeled "world cuisine" or some other misnomer. Surprisingly, these areas are NOT next to each other.

You only need one pepper, chopped finely, and added to the cranberry sauce. Keep the rest of the peppers by individually freezing them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Like so:
Once frozen, place peppers into a ziplock bag and remove when you need it (you'll be pulling one out in a day to make another batch after you take one taste of this magic!)

While this is simmering (remember add more water if you are likely to burn this sauce)...take out an 8 oz. block of cream cheese.

Whether you choose to use full fat, low-fat, or Neufchatel Cheese is up to you but I can guarantee you that there's no point in using fat free creamcheese.

Put the block on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds--just long enough to warm it up and soften it.

Use a butter knife or off-set spatula to spread the cream cheese across the bottom of the plate.

Then take a can of black beans.

As a side note, whoever came up with the motto in this can of beans should be laughed out of a job. Seriously, it's beans. When have beans ever been food to feel good about? Ahem...remember I am the lovely recipient of the after-effects of said beans. up the can of beans and drain really well. Dump the beans on the cheese and spread into a thin layer.

Put the dish back into the microwave for another 20-30 seconds to warm up the cheese and beans. Then pour your hot cranberry sauce over the top of the beans. If you like your cranberries thick and chucky, then simmer until more water evaporates before pouring it over your dish.

Then dig in!

The best chips to use with this dip, for some reason, are the
Tostitos Scoops Corn Chips but feel free to use any corn chip or tortilla chip of your choice.

Why does this taste soooo good??! Something about the smokey, spicy, sweet, salty, cruchy, creamy combination. It covers every single tactile and taste sensation there is to be enjoyed. I know the beans seem a little weird in this dish but you know how you aim for certain ingredients in say, a nacho plate or a 7-layer dip?

You know you do--admit it. Some of you go and scoop up all the sour cream or guacamole. Others go for all the chips covered in cheese. No one aims for the lettuce at the bottom of the dip. So it would surprise you to know that you will aim for the black beans. Don't know why but you will. You've been warned.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Simple Cranberry Sauce

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? I LOVE Thanksgiving! Someone once said, "Thanksgiving is just like Christmas but without the pressure or stress of presents!" I must agree with that!

If the turkey is the king of the Thanksgiving table then cranberry sauce is the crowning jewel. The brightness of the color and flavor of cranberry just makes things more cheery. There will be two lessons in this post:

1. NEVER buy canned cranberry sauce;
2. NEVER EVER buy canned cranberry sauce.

It's too easy to make, it takes less than 5 minutes, and completely fool proof. Let me show you...

Simple Cranberry Sauce
1 bag (12 ounces) of fresh cranberries--frozen is okay too.

Dump it into a pot.

Add a cup of sugar.

Add some water. You may want to add more than I did. Maybe a cup of water.

Dump all of it into a pot and bring it to boil. If you typically burn things, you might want to keep this on simmer (you know who you are). You'll soon start to hear popping sounds which is the cranberries exploding.

Soon, it'll become a nice juicy slurry.

Let it simmer until the liquid dissipates. You might want to taste it at this point to see if it's sweet enough for your liking.

Let it cool and it will become jelly like.

And there you have it...simple cranberry sauce worthy of your Thanksgiving table!

Here are some other options to spice it up to your taste:

Cinnamon Stick--add when cranberries begins to boil. You might want to pull it out before it reduces too much. The cinnamon might become too strong.

Whole Cloves--similar to cinnamon but just as yummy.

Oranges-- cut into small pieces, rind and all and let it simmer with the cranberries. It'll taste like a chutney.

Raisins-- lovely pockets of sweetness. Need I say more?

Apples-- think sweet, spiced applesauce with cranberry tartness.

Rum-- do I really need to explain this one? Yum!

MIX AND MATCH as you wish!

Coming up next...the best dip ever! Hint: It makes use of this cranberry sauce in a very unique way.

p.s. Happy Birthday, Secret Agent Man!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


How sweet is this face?

Everyone, meet Cody. He's the softest, sweetest, golden retriever you'll ever meet!
Have a sweet day!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Secret Agent Man and I traveled to Sacramento for one of my childhood friend's wedding.

We drove 90 miles to the nearest international airport and this was the beginning of our daylong trip:

Now this airplane may seem small but believe it or not, if we flew out of our local airport, we would have flown in a smaller propeller plane. Just to give you an idea of how small our plane was, the seats were arranged as 1 seat, an aisle, then two seats. And just to give you an idea of how far we traveled, this was only the first of three flights we had to take.

Once we got there, it was a non-stop eating spree!
Here's just a glimpse of the food we had during our short trip.

Oh how I miss sushi...

And while in Sacramento, we really did take a vacation (and catch some food!)

This one was a little small so we kept trying.

All of this was BEFORE the wedding!

Happy eating.

Monday, November 9, 2009


We went all the way to Philadelphia and DIDN'T get a Philly Cheesesteak.

And get this...we went to the Reading Terminal which is a neat collection of markets, kinda like a daily farmers' market. When we first entered there was this really looong line of tourists waiting at a Philly Cheesesteak stand.

Then we overheard one of the workers talking at another market stand (specializing in fresh local produce) mentioning a much better food stand deeper in. So we decided to check it out and boy were we glad we did!

DeNic's served up simple, fresh roast beef, roast pork, pulled pork, or steak on rolls dipped in au jus. These two sandwiches--the roast beef and roast pork-- must have weighed in at 5 lbs!

These sandwiches were the only meal of the entire day and we went to bed full! Secret Agent Man was so happy. Secret Agent Man was especially happy about the super sharp provolone in his sandwich. It really added a whole new dimension--you must try!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I did it again!

I joined a holiday ornament swap! It's great because you get 8-10 different *handmade* ornaments sent to you by the first week of December. It feels like Christmas arrived early and it's a great way to really get into the holiday spirit.

The only catch is that it is a swap so you have to make 8-10 ornaments (all the same) to send to different people. So this might be a source of stress if you don't enjoy the crafting part but it was fun for me...except that my group one year had a punk who accepted all the ornaments but sent nothing and gave this lame excuse (very much frowned upon) but another person made it up by sending TWO ornaments because she was a few days late. Ahhh...the holidays.

If you're interested, click the picture below or the one on my left-side bar. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend when I can get these done and shipped out!

Swap-bot swap: Holiday Ornament Swap '09 hosted by freshlyblended
I swap with Swap-bot!

p.s. It's expected to snow again on Thursday.