A Very Merry Christmas!

It’s hard to believe it’s over already!  Since first starting to see Christmas decorations right after Halloween, I can’t believe we’ll ring in 2013 just next week.

Since my Mom was going to my brother’s house for Christmas (check out his last blog post!), we celebrated with my side of the family on the 23rd.  My Mom makes a mean lasagna, and I brought a salad and bread and my sister brought dessert.

While I love snowmen, my Mom loves angels!  She didn’t decorate her house nearly as much as she would have since she wasn’t going to be home, but it was very festive!

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I realized that I was in a lot of the pictures I downloaded, and I didn’t take a picture of everyone – gah!  My Mom is only 4 feet 9 inches tall, so while I stand at only 5 feet 3 inches tall, I kind of tower over her.  In one picture I ducked down so she would be taller – we were laughing so hard. 

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My sister won’t get any points for plating, but my Mom’s lasagna is really good – I had two pieces!

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I specifically told my family that I didn’t want anything for Christmas.  My only gifts were granola and homemade Chicago Mix popcorn.  So imagine my surprise when I was given LOTS of stuff – it was embarrassing!  Snowmen, cookie sheets, a pretty blue pitcher, a 5 quart sauté pan with lid, a big bench scraper, coffee, mustards, homemade treats – it was too much!   So my tip to you is next year tell people you don’t have any money and they will buy you lots of stuff!  So thank you family! Open-mouthed smile

Christmas Eve it was just me and Tony.  We watched It’s a Wonderful Life which is my favorite Christmas movie.  True story.  I was in college (oops, not quite 21 yet!) and my roommate invited a couple guys over and we started doing shots of root beer schnapps.   It was before Christmas break and one of the guys had never heard of It’s a Wonderful Life, let alone seen it.

In my slightly drunken state, I proceeded to tell the movie, from when Harry falls into the ice on the shovel, to when Clarence says that he can’t fly because he hasn’t earned his wings yet, to one of my favorite lines in the whole movie:

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

Every year when I hear that, I wonder if I’ve done enough in the past year to touch the lives around me.  And usually the answer is “not as much as I could.”  I hope to volunteer in 2013 – it’s good for the soul!

We ate the steak we would have had on our Anniversary, with a baked potato and garlic bread.  We each only ate half – we easily could have split this plate.

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I made no knead Artisan bread for our Christmas Day dinner.  Just like how I gushed about the lasagna soup I got from Suzie, even if you are afraid of using yeast, this is the easiest recipe!

  • 6 1/2 cups regular flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1.5 tablespoons yeast
  • 1.5 tablespoons salt

That’s it.  MIx the flour, yeast and salt well in a large bowl.  Add water and mix, making sure the flour at the bottom gets incorporated.  It will be a sticky dough, no worries.

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Now the original recipe says to let rise for two hours, divide the dough into four balls, let those rise another 40 minutes while you preheat your dutch oven in the stove at 450 degrees.  I think four loaves are two small, so I always make 2 loaves out of this recipe.  Yesterday I made one loaf sesame seed and one loaf rosemary and sea salt.

Once your dutch oven gets to temperature, bake the bread covered for the first 30 minutes, then take the lid off for 15 minutes more.  Comes out perfect every time!

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And speaking of lasagna soup, I made that our first course.  I posted the picture of the soup and bread on Facebook, and my Aunt Martha immediately asked for the recipe.  I said I followed Suzie’s recipe to the T, except that I left out the onions.  To which Veronica and Suzie said:

Veronica Miller Biz is crazy, don’t leave them out! 😉

Suzie Shaw Don’t fear the onion! 😉

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My second course:  wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and bacon bits.  Turns out only a few of us like blue cheese!

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I made oven roasted sesame carrots, which were really good, if a bit overcooked.  I made them earlier in the morning and they were perfect, but when I heated them up they got a tad dry.  No worries, a little butter helped!

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I used the baking method from this blog, and also “borrowed” their picture because I didn’t get a good one when they were first done.  I also just used olive oil, salt, and pepper, and 10 minutes before they were done cooking, I sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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And the star of the show?  Tony’s grilled ham!

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My plate:  sauteed apples, baked potatoes my SIL brought, sesame carrots, ham, mustard that Hannah got me – simple and delicious!  And no, that is not butter on my baked potato – its mustard! Open-mouthed smile

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It was a nice, relaxing day.  It just looked like a full restaurant was cooking in my kitchen, it may have been just a bit of a disaster!  Tony and Hannah are clean as you go cooks.  Me?  Not so much.  I think I used every plate, salad plate, bowl, fork, knife and spoon I own. Embarrassed smile

I am grateful for another day off from work today.  I have two projects.  One is to finish the laundry, and the second is to sort through my clothes and donate them – I figure if I haven’t worn it in the last six months, it’s never going to happen.  I also plan on going to the gym!

The only thing I’ve been good about being off from work is getting my water intake in, other than that, my exercise came to a screeching halt.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  Make it a great day!

Tony ate the whole thing…beady eyes and all!

Thanks for all the Anniversary wishes on the blog and Facebook!  We had the best day.  Tony of course had to make me my weekend breakfast.  This time it was “toad in a hole” or whatever it goes by in your neck of the woods.  A piece of toast with the center cut out, and the egg cooked in the hole (mine NOT runny, thank you very much) with Florida tangerine on the side.

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That was the three cheese miche bread Hannah brought me from Panera – it’s so fricken good!  Asiago cheese is the predominant cheese and its insulin worthy!

We ran some errands to pick up the last of our Christmas dinner items.  We had a gift card so we stopped at Chili’s for lunch.  I have to say, Chili’s food is pretty good and their lunch specials are awesome.  I got the $7 dollar lunch special which included a choice of soup and an entrée. 

I went with the spicy southwest chicken and sausage soup and the two baby burger sliders.  I stole the pictures off their website – but I have to say the sausage soup looked nothing like this – and it was more tomato based  – not cheezy like this one.

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Tony asked for Tabasco on the side for me – I didn’t need it – it was super spicy all on its own.  And while this shows four baby burgers, I only had two.

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For being small, they were still pretty juicy and flavorful.  So for less than $20 bucks, we had a nice lunch out – and still have money left on the gift card – winning! Open-mouthed smile

So when Tony came up with the great idea for each of us to make each others favorite appetizers, I knew it would be easy for him to make something for me – I like:

Melissa d’Arabian’s Spicy Mussels with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (HELL NO!)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces fresh chorizo, removed from casing
  • 1 tablespoon harissa (Tony does the tomato paste/cayenne mixture)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 to 3 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded (1 pound for me)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (he uses milk)
  • French bread, for dipping (totally necessary!)

Directions

Cook’s Note: If harissa cannot be found, substitute 1 tablespoon of tomato paste plus 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the onions in the butter over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chorizo to the onions and cook until the sausage loses its raw color, about 5 minutes. Add the harissa and red pepper flakes, and then turn up the heat to high.

Once fragrant, deglaze the pan with the wine, allowing to bubble for a minute. Lower the heat to medium, add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the prepped mussels and cover to steam until the mussels open, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cream and stir. Serve immediately with plenty of sliced French bread for dipping.

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There is a ton of broth/chorizo leftover, so I plan on making it into some sort of soup.  If you would have asked me five years ago if I would eat this dish, I would have said hells no.  But I realize I can’t assume I don’t like something now that I didn’t like growing up.  Tony still throws up a bit at the final dish – he hates the smell of chorizo and the look of mussels.  Now is that true love or what?! Open-mouthed smile

But Tony was a bit difficult for me.  I cook him football food every weekend, I’ve made him bay scallop gratin before, which I know he loves.  I also make the best homemade shrimp cocktail thanks to America’s Test Kitchen.  He loves escargot, but I didn’t think that would be too filling of an appetizer.   Then it hit me – shrimp toast!  If we eat in at a Chinese restaurant, he loves this appetizer. 

The salt and pepper shrimp heads didn’t come to me until Tony saw I bought head on shrimp and he walked by and said “I’d eat those!”  So his appetizer was born.

I have to say, I had to look up how to prepare the shrimp heads.  I’ve made shrimp toast before, but went with a new recipe this time:

Ming Tsai Shrimp Toast

  1. Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
  2. 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (I reduced to 2)
  3. 1 cup finely diced peeled jicama (I used canned water chestnuts)
  4. 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling (nope!)
  5. 1 teaspoon truffle oil
  6. Canola oil, for frying
  7. 1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  8. 8 slices of day-old white sandwich bread, crusts removed (I used 2 large slices of bread)
  9. 1 large egg
  10. Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (I forgot!)
  1. In a food processor, puree the shrimp with the egg until smooth. Add the butter, truffle oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper and pulse until smooth with small bits of butter remaining. Stir in the jicama and the 1/2 cup of scallions.
  2. SpIn a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/8 inch of oil until shimmering. Spread 1/4 cup of the shrimp mousse on each slice of bread and sprinkle with sesame seeds. In batches, add the bread to the skillet, mousse side down, and cook over moderate heat until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the toasts and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer the toasts to paper towels to drain. Cut the toasts into quarters on the diagonal. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of scallions on top and serve.

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I cannot tell you how delicious these are.  The toast is nice and crunchy, but the middle of the bread is still soft, and the shrimp paste surprisingly had so much flavor.  Next time I’ll remember the sesame seeds.

I am glad I looked up how to prepare shrimp heads, because I didn’t even notice that the top of the shrimp head has like a razor sharp fin – you need to cut that off.

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The shrimp were on sale for $4.99 a pound, so I got half a pound.  I used the heads for the salt and pepper shrimp heads, and the body for the shrimp toast – pretty cheap appetizers!

I just tossed the shrimp heads in corn starch that was seasoned simply with generous amounts of salt and pepper.

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The shrimp heads cooked for about 4-5 minutes.

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Tony’s final plate:

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We were actually stuffed eating our appetizers, so we’ll save the steak we bought for another dinner.  So good and a great idea.  Thanks for a great anniversary day Tony!

So remember last week when I told you that my parents-in-law always buy me Florida citrus for Christmas?  I knew exactly what it was so I opened it right away.  Tony got a box too, but he figured he would open it on Christmas day. 

Well, we talked to his Mom this morning and realized we could have opened the box the same day I opened mine – it has my MIL’s AMAZING COOKIES!

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You guys, um, it turns out that ALL OF THESE COOKIES ARE INSULIN WORTHY!  Holy cow.  I need to get her shortbread cookie recipe. Open-mouthed smile

But my favorite are her turtles – shortbread cookie with caramel and a walnut on the bottom and then covered in chocolate.  AMAZEBALLS!

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Thank you Bonnie for these delicious treats.  I may have to freeze some so I don’t eat them all in one sitting.  Thanks!

I am headed to my Mom’s house tonight to celebrate Christmas with my family before my Mom goes to my brother Charlie’s house for Christmas.  She’s making lasagna, which is so good – just hope she leaves the onions out!  I am bringing two loaves of my artisan bread. Open-mouthed smile  Should be lots of laughs!

I won’t be blogging again until December 26. I just wanted to wish each and everyone one of you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays!  All the cards, e-mails, gifts and comments I got completely got me out of my Holiday Funk and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Red heart 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Your Face Smells Like Cake

12.22.12 = 12 years!

Twelve years ago today I married my best friend.  We spent the day separated.  I was with my Mom, daughter and MIL Bonnie, and Tony was with his Dad and son.

People who know me know that I am very low maintenance.  I don’t usually wear make-up, as soon as my hair is long enough to put in a pony tail, that’s usually how I wear it.

Twelve years ago today I got my nails done, I got a pedicure, my hair done and my make-up done!

We got married on the beach in Naples, Florida and as I walked to Tony and gave him a kiss before we had our short ceremony, the first thing he said to me was “Your face smells like cake!” because of all the make-up!

The best part though is that when everything was done, we had a delicious dinner and went into our hotel room, the first thing he said to me was “can you take all that make-up off?”

I was trying to put a video together of our life over the last 12 years, but it turns out I am a bit technically challenged, but I am still working on it. Open-mouthed smile

I’ve carried this picture in my wallet for 12 years.  Every time I pay for something I see it.

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It’s gotten creased and tumbled over the years, but it just reminds me that our love is everlasting even with all the bumps and bruises we’ve had in our lives the last twelve years.

So while I slept like the dead, Tony wrote this for the blog post today.  I hope you enjoy it!

From Tony . . .

The worst part of living inside of being me, is what goes on in my head. Today is my 12th wedding anniversary. As I write this my beautiful bride is still asleep in bed, her hair mashed about like a recently captured POW. I am up and inside my head is this song.

I have not heard this song in over twenty years. Why, this morning has it shown up?

I am truly blessed. I get to spend time with the nicest, cutest, cuddliest human on the earth. The odd part is she likes me. That part confuses me. I’m a guy who sometimes utters “hey, you wanna play where does this fit?”. This to me is a romantic overture. She actually laughs and enjoys the inference. She is my best friend, my lover, my confidant, and my rock.

While I am not a particularly religious person, I feel as some sort of divine intervention got us together. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to play wardens wife and the escaped prisoner.

Happy Anniversary My Love!  I love you!

1 More Work Day = 5 Days Off!

Well the 8+ inches of snow we were supposed to get never happened.  The temperatures never got low enough thank goodness – if you would have translated the rain we got before it started to snow, I think we would have easily gotten a foot of snow.

I was glad, because I worked until 9:00 last night.  I was worried I’d have to drive home in blizzard conditions, but the roads were just wet, not icy.  This morning its cold – 20 degrees, but we maybe got a half inch of snow?

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I had half a baked potato in the fridge, so I made a breakfast stuffed potato.  I scooped out the insides of the potato and cooked that with 1 egg, chopped deli ham, baby spinach and scrambled it at home.  Once at work, I microwaved the potato skin for a minute, stuffed in the scrambled egg mixture and then put a slice of Swiss cheese on top and stuck it under the broiler.  Super filling and delicious. Open-mouthed smile

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No workout yesterday.  I had to run an errand for one of my bosses, and then I had a one hour webinar I had to attend for work.  I had leftover enchiladas from the other night – you can’t see it, but I have a cup of chopped baby spinach under my chicken enchilada and Mexican rice.

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When I got home I had another Christmas gift from blog reader Carol – how did she know I like spicy shit??!!  Thanks Carol (and sorry for the shitty picture – it’s still dark outside this morning!  I can’t wait to try the wasabi ass kicking sauce!

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My boss is notorious for saying “we are almost done” when working on a project.  The very first night I worked for her I worked until 4:00 a.m., and at 10:00 p.m. she told me we were almost done – at 2:00 a.m. I told Tony just to go to bed and not wait up anymore! 

But it’s hard to decide whether to order dinner in or not.  If we don’t order food, I think we just focus on and continue until we are done.  Once food is ordered, it’s almost saying we are in it for the duration and it could be hours before we are done.

But in the end, I ordered Chinese food.  It’s a place across the street and they literally deliver in less than 10 minutes.  I got kung pao beef – but holy shit, this was almost too spicy!  I ended up skipping the white rice, but when I take it for lunch today, I think I’ll need the rice to bring it down a notch.

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And wouldn’t you know that 30 minutes after this was delivered, my part of the project was done and I got to come home.  Sadly, the Christmas tree was not lit when I pulled in the drive and I didn’t even notice it until an hour after I was home.  Tony thought he would go the whole night without it being on, but I turned it on an hour before I went to bed. Open-mouthed smile

So I have one more personal day to take that I can’t carry over to 2013, so I have the day after Christmas off – so a five day weekend! 

And tomorrow?  Tony and I will have been married 12 years on 12.22.12!  If you ask Tony, he says it feels like we’ve been married 30 years!  It’s only because we each married our best friend and we get each other so well that it feels like we’ve been together our whole lives. Open-mouthed smile

Happy Friday – make it a great day!!

Making MY Spirits Bright!

I have to tell you that I am overwhelmed by all of your emails, cards AND gifts sent my way after my Holiday Funk post.  I am happy to report, that with your help, my Christmas spirit is shining bright!

Thank to you blog reader Jody and blogger Lori for their gorgeous family Christmas cards. 

Thank you to blog reader Carol, who sent me an adorable KISSING snowman/snowwoman salt and pepper shakers – so fricken cute!

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And to blogger Jenn who sent me this adorable snowman coffee mug, it has a cute ceramic spoon to go with it!  Yep, this one is going to my office today. Open-mouthed smile  This will make me smile all day long today.

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And to blog reader Kym, who sent me a wonderful handmade card and an I Love Snowman kleenex box cover – I am getting a square kleenex box today to it can go right into my bathroom.  (my taco seasoning bottle stood in for the picture though!)

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My first question to all of you is . . . how did you know I liked snowmen??!! 

Your love, generosity, and kindness is what makes this world go round, and that I am the beneficiary of such goodness, I am forever grateful.   THANK YOU!!

And Jenn put it correctly – even though I’ve never met most of you, I consider all of you my friends, and my life is richer for it. Open-mouthed smile

With all the bread Hannah brought me from Panera, I am pretty sure the breakfast sammie is going to be around for a while.  Yesterday’s sammie had sourdough bread, ham, one egg, baby spinach and American cheese, with a tangerine on the side.  Sadly, I left my camera on in my camera bag overnight, so my phone stood in.  I am glad I bring my camera charger to work, so by lunch I was fully charged.

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I went to the gym with the sole reason of . . . taking a long hot shower!  I love the showers at my gym.  I walked for 2 minutes, cooled down for 2 minutes, but ran the rest of the time.  Not the fastest runner, but watching a show about burgers made me run while I was dreaming about burgers!

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So I took a 10 minute shower – it was so relaxing!

Lunch was the last of my potato soup, some three cheese miche toast on the side and another tangerine and apple.  I will definitely make this soup again.

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Over the weekend I picked up this stuffed pork chop package for two – it was stuffed with cheese, baby spinach and ham.  Check out the price – $1.67 for two!

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Yep, I got too caught up in the price of the meat, that I failed to see on the label that it also had the word ONION as one of the stuffing components.

The cheese kind of oozed out and burned as I was cooking it, but the first half of my pork was pretty tasty.  All of a sudden I hear Tony say “are there fucking onions in here?!”  I looked through mine and said “nope!”  It wasn’t until I got to the other half that it was chock full of the stinkiest of onions – the dreaded white onion.  We both almost threw up.

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Next time I’ll read the labels better!

I am sure it’s the same as in your office spaces, but it seems every day we are delivered more and more goodies.  Yesterday we got a box of these windmill almond cookies.  I have a recollection of having these around Christmas time growing up.  Do you remember these?

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They were giving me the stink eye all day when I passed them by our coffee nook at work.  But I didn’t give in – go me!

Well.  That is until I got home.  My Aunt sent us her Christmas goodie box that was chock full of Chex Mix.  Tony says that hands down my Aunt makes the best Chex mix, and she makes it in her microwave!  My brother Charlie sent a box too – but his had SPICY chex mix, macarooons, oatmeal scotchies, snickerdoodles, spicy peanuts, oh my!

I was fine until around 9:30 and then I cracked open the bag of spicy Chex mix.  I texted Charlie and said “I love your spicy Chex mix!  I love you!”  He responded “Really?  I was worried it didn’t turn out.”  I told him I’d have to run 4 miles today because I didn’t stop eating during that whole half hour!  Gah!

If I stay 168 pounds by New Years Day it will be a Christmas miracle! Open-mouthed smile  But Lord help me, I loves the Chex mix!

So thank you again to everyone who lifted up my spirits.  In a world that is so crazy, it is wonderful to know there are people out there who will give someone a random act of kindness:

A random act of kindness is a selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.

I plan on paying it forward – we are supposed to get snow today, so I’ll probably shovel my elderly neighbors driveway. Open-mouthed smile  What will be your random act of kindness today?

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Christmas duets.  David Bowie and Bing Crosby.  Sorry about the 15 second commercial in the beginning, but this was the best version I found online.

Make it a great day!