Monday, November 30, 2009

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

I was looking for something different to make for Thanksgiving and ran across these Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes.  While they look scrumptious, I’m not a huge chocolate fan and thought it would be too much for me. I also thought of the peanut butter kiss cookies that Mom makes so well, you know the ones that look like this:

I thought maybe I could combine the two ideas into something I call Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies.

Now let me warn you, they didn’t turn out as pretty as I had intended, but they taste delicious and you won’t be able to eat just one!

The ingredients that you’ll need are as follows:

Cookie Batter
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 jars of maraschino cherries, drained
1 tablespoon of cherry juice
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 375F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape into 1-inch balls and drop onto ungreased baking sheets. Press down onto center of the dough with your thumb.

Place a cherry into the center indention of each cookie.

In a small saucepan, combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. Heat over low until chocolate is melted. Stir in 1 tablespoon cherry juice.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the topping over each cherry, spreading to cover the cherry. If the frosting seems too thick add a little more cherry juice.

Bake for 10 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Thanks, 2nd Edition

I couldn’t list everything I was thankful for in my previous Thanks post, so I thought I’d do another one.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

1. Mashed potatoes, with lots of butter and white gravy.

2. FX Network, and their great shows. Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy…

3. Water, ice cold water.

4. Our new gun safe. Monkey isn’t walking around yet, but she will be before we know it and a secure place to put all our firearms is necessary. The old one just wasn’t big enough.

5. Subway Flat Bread. It is so good, try it!
6. The Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz. They aren’t his normal style of writing, but I like them. I will actually go as far as to say I like them better than his other books.

7. On the topic of books… The Old Book Barn in Forsyth, IL. You can trade your old books in for new books there and I love it.

8. Wine. A nice bottle of wine is nice. And I’ll admit it, I even like cheap wine… Boone’s Farm baby.

9. Email. It’s not always easy keeping in touch with friends/family that I don’t see on a daily basis and email makes that possible.

10. Gorgeous fall weather. Nothing beats the weather when a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt is sufficient. Add sitting around a campfire with friends and you’ve got a perfect night.

11. My health. I don’t get sick very often and I certainly am grateful for that. Being sick is no fun.

12. Grandparents. Not only are they wonderful of course, but they also make great babysitters.

13. Long weekends!  Enjoy yours!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Today my baby is 7 months old AND she sprouted her first tooth on Monday!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shakin' Up the Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving is this week, yaaaayyy!!  I love spending time with my family, eating all the great food and gettng a nice long weekend!

I need some help though.  I can't decide what food to make.... we always have the traditional Thanksgiving fare, but I like to mix it up as well and have a few dishes that aren't traditional holiday food.  I've got a few ideas up my sleeve, but I'd like your input as well before I go off to the store with my shopping list in hand.

So tell me.... what non-traditional holiday food do you serve?  Or what would you like to have served to you?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bring Home That Bacon!... or Venison, Whatever.

I could hear the shots ring out this morning… shotgun season is upon us! Mmm… I can just taste the venison already.

I normally like to take the day off work to go with Hubby, but I have some major work events next week that I need to prepare for so it just wasn’t going to happen today. Maybe tomorrow we can hit up the ole Love Shack.

Just what is the Love Shack you ask? Well it’s set way back in the middle of a field, just a funky old shack; it’s a little old place where we can get together… and hunt of course!

I like using the Shack instead of a tree stand because there’s a heater in it and a nice cozy lawn chair that I can snuggle up in and read a book during the down times. I know, I know… it’s the sissy way to hunt, but I don’t care. I like it and I’m sticking to my guns.

Hubs still went out this morning without me and I’m really hoping he comes home with a nice deer. But what’s more important is that he comes home safe and sound.

The Department of Natural Resources says while deer hunting is part of our outdoor heritage, they want to encourage all hunters heading to the field this weekend to make safety a first priority. The number one cause of hunting accidents in Illinois is falling from a tree stand. Last year in Illinois, there were 38 reported hunting accidents; 30 were the result of tree stand falls and five of guys died. So far during 2009, there have been 13 reported hunting accidents in Illinois, of which six have involved falls from tree stands. DNR reminds hunters to check ladder stands to make sure they’re secure, use a haul line to raise an unloaded gun or bow into the stand, and for cryin’ out loud, weaer a safety harness.

Here's a good video on safety that was featured on Farmweek last year.

Since my guy won’t be in a deer stand his risk is significantly lower, but there are others out there that need to take precaution and remember to always wear your orange!

Happy hunting and enjoy that venison!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Big Butt Mac N Cheese

Recently Laura, a friend of mine from high school, was looking for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe. She requested various recipes from friends, so she was able to cook a different one for her family every night for an entire week.

Yes, even after all of that cheesy goodness she is still as skinny as ever.

Say it with me now, I know you want to… Brat.

Not the ‘B’ word you were going to use, was it? Keepin it family friendly here people, come on!

The one I gave her was used on Day 4 and she said it was the best so far. I’m not sure which recipe her family ended up liking the best at the end of the week though, so unfortunately I can’t take the crown for the best mac n cheese overall.

Since they gobbled mine up without having any leftovers she gave it a new name as well…. Big Butt Mac n Cheese!

I don’t have an actual recipe for it as I just threw some stuff together one day and alter it every time. But here are the basics for what you’ll need for my favorite Grilled Macaroni and Cheese…

2 cups macaroni
1 can cheese soup
1 can milk
A cup or two of grated cheese, any flavor you’d like
2 or 3 tablespoons of pico de gallo (depending on how spicy you like it)
Italian seasoned bread crumbs
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash or two of Chipotle Tabasco sauce

What to do:
Boil macaroni; while it’s boiling heat up the soup and milk in a sauce pan and melt the cheese.
Mix together with drained macaroni.
Add pico de gallo and Tabasco sauce.
Put the mixture in a greased grill-safe pan.
Top with bread crumbs and then pats of butter.
Bake on grill for 30-40 minutes or until bubbly. I really like it when the sides get a little crispy, but you do whatever your taste buds desire!

This can also be done in the oven, but let me tell you, the grill is the way to go if you can. It gets this awesome smoky flavor and perfect crispness on the edges. Mmmm… I’m salivating right now thinking about it.

Damn this weather and ever-present rain! I need one more sunny day so I can use the grill!

Enjoy my Big Butt Friends!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

This makes my heart melt....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who Put That Food on Your Table Anyway?

I recently over heard some people talking about “big” farmers and how easy they have it, yet when the weather isn’t cooperating their whole system derails and the average consumer pays for it. They went on to say that organic farming is a much better method. I was this close to interrupting their conversation and setting them straight, but I refrained as I didn’t know them from Adam.

What I would’ve told them is that yes, farmers are for sure hindered by this weather we are having and are definately happier when not only the weather goes as we would like, but when the markets and fuel prices do as well. But just because something doesn’t go as planned for them, they don’t give up. Farmers are fighters and work with the conditions that are given to them.

This has been the wettest and slowest year for harvest in 40 years. But despite this, we are looking at having record harvest numbers. Is that not amazing? Seriously. How many companies or organizations out there can say they are having their worst year in 4 decades yet are still producing record amounts of their product or service?

There are naysayers out there that think the way we farm should be changed, that we shouldn’t use pesticides or biotechnology in any way. Without these advances we wouldn’t be able to produce enough to feed the world. So which do you want… the “old fashioned” way of farming and letting people starve? Or using the technology we have and feeding the world? It seems like an easy decision to me.

Thanksgiving is next week and thanks to farmers we will have a table full of goodies to help us celebrate. So instead of standing in line at the grocery store and complaining about what farmers do, why don't we all take a step back, look at how fortunate we are for their efforts, and then go thank a farmer for what they do.

Wish I would've taken the five minutes to say that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Books with Bite

I’m an avid reader. I love reading the paper, magazines, online articles, but mostly I love books. All sorts of books spanning over many genres.

I’m in the middle of a series now that is just plain fun. There’s not a whole lot of thinking that needs to go into it, it’s just for the sheer enjoyment of reading and let's be honest, sometimes I just want a book that doesn't make me think a lot when I'm reading it.  And this one does it for me.  It's the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. 

Heard of Sookie?  She’s a pretty popular chick having her own hit show on HBO as well.  I don't get HBO so I had never heard of her, but my sister turned me on to her books and I'm glad she did!  There are nine of them so far and I'm on the fourth one right now. 

I know the covers look a little childlike, but they aren't.  Oh no sir, not at all.  Remember, they did turn these books into an HBO series!

So if you are looking for a new obsession, this series comes with a big fat recommendation. And really, what I've seen of the show is excellent as well. But, um, make sure your kiddies are safely tucked away in bed before you watch.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Alright Guy

A few days ago I went to a concert given by my second most favorite singer of all time, GARY ALLAN!  He is only runner up to Chris Ledoux and since Chris is deceased, Gary has the number one spot for living artists.

I'll admit it, I love him.  My husband knows it and he's accepted it.  He has the most amazing voice, I could listen to him sing all day long.  Which actually I've been listening to his cd's for the past three weeks in anticipation of the show and I'm still not tired of him!

We had awesome seats and I was able to snap some pretty good photos... here are a couple:

I can't forget the guitar player in his very hip kilt...

But this one, this one is my favorite picture of the night...

If for some reason you aren't a fan of Gary's already, I highly suggest you check out some of his music.  He's soulful, plays a mean guitar and can cut right to your heart.  There's a long backstory of sorrow for him, losing his wife to suicide, and knowing that just makes his music that much deeper.  Of course, great musicians have captured intense emotions before without actually living them. But for me as a listener and huge fan, I cannot believe the emotions he puts out in his music aren't authentic and rooted in a deep, personal tragedy.  Because of this, it only makes me love him more.  I can't wait for the next cd to be released!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yet Another Tragedy…

How much more proof is needed? Disarming capable, legal citizens is not smart nor is it safe! With the shooting that happened last week at Fort Hood, where 13 people were killed and more than 30 wounded, it once again proves this point. “Gun-free zones” are nothing more than a place where the bad guys can do harm, and a lot of it.

The Associated Press reported that when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan started shooting up the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Pfc. Marquest Smith dove under a desk, where he "lay low for several minutes, waiting for the shooter to run out of ammunition and wishing he, too, had a gun."

Neither Smith nor the other victims of Hasan's assault had guns because soldiers on military bases within the United States generally are not allowed to carry them. This folly of "gun-free zones" only attracts and assists people bent on mass murder instead of deterring them.

The supporters of victim disarmament believe that Smith’s desire for a gun was irrational. According to Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, "This latest tragedy, at a heavily fortified Army base, ought to convince more Americans to reject the argument that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people with more guns in more places."

Does this make no sense to anyone else? Number one, his reference to "a heavily fortified Army base" completely disregards the fact that the people attacked by Hasan were unarmed as a matter of policy. Number two, Helmke’s assurance that "more guns is not the solution to gun violence” is just plain ridiculous. Look at the facts… IF someone, anyone, would have been armed, this tragedy would most likely not have happened, or would have at least been stopped before so many innocent people were harmed.

The first people with guns to confront Hasan, two local police officers, were the ones who put a stop to his rampage. While these police officers did their job and acted heroically, they did not arrive on the scene until a crucial 10 minutes or so had elapsed and Hasan had fired more than 100 rounds.

If someone else at the processing center had had a gun when Hasan started shooting, it is likely that fewer people would have been killed or injured.

Of course, Hasan knew that his victims would’ve been unarmed, so maybe he would’ve chosen a different target. Maybe one of the other locations where firearms are not allowed… churches, schools, shopping malls, etc. The overall problem is that hell-bent killers tend not to follow such rules while the good citizens do. And the good guys end up paying for it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Zuppa Toscana Soup

I’m really not a huge soup fan. I don’t care for broth, which hinders my soup liking a lot. Even when I’m sick, I just don’t like it. Basically the only soups I like are creamy ones; cheesy potato tops the list. But there is one out there that has stolen my heart. It’s Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana soup. I could seriously eat a whole pot of it and still want more.

I’ve tried mastering the recipe and just haven’t been able to get it right. Last night I think I finally did it! Hubby even gave it an A+! Yes, I make him grade my recipes… he thinks I’m a dork, and I own that.

These are the cast of characters (minus the water I forgot to put in the picture).

1 lb Italian Sausage
4 strips smoked bacon
3 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
3 large potatoes
2 garlic cloves
1 onion
2 cups kale
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese

I started off by browning the bacon and sausage, seperately of course.

While it was cooking, I chopped up the potatoes, garlic and onion and added those to a large pot.

Then I added the chicken broth and water, letting it simmer over medium heat.

When the sausage and bacon are finished, add them to the pot. Simmer until potatoes are tender.

While simmering, chop up the kale.

Add to pot (I think you are catching on to the pattern here, right?)

Then add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and heat through.

Lastly, and this might be the most important part, so do not forget it… add parmesan cheese to each individual serving. You won’t regret it, I promise.

I served the soup with garlic bread sticks. A salad would’ve been awesome as well, but I was out of lettuce. Oh the shame!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


These two crazy kids have been married for 61 years today.  For real, 61 whole years! 

It almost seems more common these days for couples to just give up and quit trying when times get tough.  Not these two.  I'm sure they've had their ups and downs, but after 7 children and 61 years together they are still making memories!

That's what I call inspiration.

I love you Grandma and Grandpa, Happy Anniversary!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Know What Today Is?

Any idea at all??

It's November 6th!  46 years ago on this very day, my Momma was born!  Okay, so maybe that would only make her 10 years old when she gave birth to my brother, but she doesn't look a day older than 46 if you ask me. 

I don't know how she's done it, but she's managed to escape a face full of wrinkles and whatever secret she has up her sleeve for that, I want her to give it to me.  Now.  Please. 

Happy Birthday Mom, I love you!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Thanks

As today is Thursday, Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am feeling a mental drain, unable to write anything really worthwhile, I thought I would list thirteen things that I am thankful for.

1. My little Monkey. She’s the best baby in the world and I’d do anything for that sweet little face.

2. My husband. I may complain about him on occasion, like when he ruins a perfectly good toaster. But I love him and am thankful he’s in my life.

3. My family. No words can express how much they mean to me, period.
This picture was taken at my baby sister’s wedding…. Please excuse the bowling ball underneath that dress, I was 8 months pregnant.

4. My friends. I’ve got some of the greatest friends in the world. We’ve seen some really hard times having to say goodbye to a handful of us, but we’ve made it through, coming out closer, stronger and tighter knit as a group, on the other side.

5. My freedom and the Bill of Rights.

6. Good food and the ability to enjoy it.

7. My dog. He makes me smile, simple as that.

8. Sunshine and blue skies. We’ve had some pretty drab, rainy days here recently, but it’s been looking good with clear skies! I love sunshine.

9. My in-laws. You hear a LOT of horror stories about the crazy Mother-in-Law and such. I’m sooo happy that I don’t have to deal with that. My in-laws are awesome and no I won't trade with you.

10. Clean air and breathing easy.

11. My husband’s job. We are in open enrollment for insurance right now and it just reminds me how lucky we are that his employer pays for 100% of our health insurance. That is something almost unheard of these days and I sometimes take it for granted. They also provide us with a chance to travel and visit new places. So far they’ve paid for us to go to Denver and Portland for a company party. Very cool.

12. My good health and the ability to run. I may not always like running, but I am able to do it!

13. Good literature. I love to read and appreciate a quiet moment to curl up with a great book.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Of Mice and Men

I’m in need of a new toaster. Why you ask? Because my husband JC thinks that I’m not always right.

I am always right. Unless I’m wrong, then I’m not right. But in those cases I just keep my mouth shut. I like being right.

This is the story of the dead toaster and why my sweet JC is wrong…..

We were sitting in the living room watching T.V. or talking, or playing with Monkey or something. We were doing something, okay? I don’t remember the specifics. Get off my back.

I do remember hearing our cat Jinx (the story behind her name is a whole nother blog post, I’ll get to it someday) in the kitchen making some odd noises. I look in there and she is up on the counter with her nose in the toaster, pawing away at it like crazy. I say to JC, “What is she doing? Oh, please tell me there’s not a mouse in the toaster!”

Jinx likes mice. She likes them a lot. And she’s great at catching them. And leaving the remains in the shower for me to step on in the morning if my eyes aren’t all the way open yet.

So we go into the kitchen to check out what all the commotion is…. And yes, there was a mouse in the toaster! We could just see his little butt and tail sticking out from the side at the bottom of it. I commence to tell JC that he needs to get that mouse out of MY toaster this very second.

Let me clarify, I’m not afraid of mice. Growing up in the country we had them all the time, they are actually kind of cute, but I certainly don’t want them anywhere around my food!

We try shaking the mouse out, no luck. Pulling the crumb catch out, no luck. The little booger was hiding in there and was not about to come out while Jinx had her eye on him.

JC gets the bright idea to TURN THE TOASTER ON. I tell him to not do that. I can live with a mouse being in the toaster, but I most definitely can not handle having a burnt up mouse in there! He proceeds to turn it on saying it will coax the mouse out.

After a few seconds of this coaxing and no mouse, I shut it off. He turns it back on and puts a cast iron skillet on top to keep the heat in, to once again, coax out the mouse. No luck. After a few seconds of this, I tell him it’s not working and to just stop because the mouse is going to burn up and I can’t have that. I like this toaster and don’t want it ruined.

This toaster isn’t anything special, but it was a wedding gift and I LIKE it. It’s big enough for bagels and toasts bread at just the right brownness without burning. You know like this:

Not this:

But most importantly, I don’t want to have to buy a new one.

Before I can reach over and shut it off, I see smoke coming up out of it, and think to myself, “This isn’t good. This is EXACTLY what I don’t want and exactly why he should listen to me in the first place!” But out loud I say, “Honey, it’s smoking. The mouse is burning up and it’s smoking. I’m not happy.”

He pulls off the skillet and gets a nice big whiff of what was cooking. It wasn’t good.

So sorry I don’t have pictures of the toaster or of the poor little mouse, but I didn’t want PETA getting on my back. We already don’t see eye to eye. Maybe when I buy a pretty new toaster I’ll show you a picture of it.

Moral of the story: Listen to your wife, especially when she’s always right!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I know I'm late, it's a trait I have.  Actually it's normally not my trait, it's the hubby's.  He makes me late consistantly.  He'll try to blame it on me but everyone knows the truth. 

This time it's my fault though, I can't lay the blame at his feet.  I was just busy and felt no desire to get on the computer this weekend.  So HAPPY LATE HALLOWEEN! 

Here is Monkey in her semi-costume.  I decided to not spend a bunch of money on something that she would only wear for 2 hours and not remember a single second of it.  So I got this cute onesie instead.

I hope everyone had a great weekend and got oodles of candy!