Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Derby Casserole Recipe

Every year, for Christmas, my mom makes Derby casserole. It's an egg-y, bread-y, casserole-y, bacon-y dish of deliciousness. LauraC posted a link to a similar casserole the other day, which I must admit sounds even delicious-er, though I was shocked to find someone made something far more...shall we say, RICH, than the recipe I use. I mean, this isn't health food by any stretch, but just check out that link if you want to feel good about eating this recipe. Huge quantities of it, which is what I did Christmas morning.

So for LauraC, here's the almost famous, healthy only by comparison, recipe:


6 eggs, beaten
6 slices of white bread, crusts removed and cubed
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 lb bacon (or sausage, or a combo of both), cooked, drained, and crumbled
2 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard (optional)


Combine all ingredients in a 9x13" baking pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

That's it! Pretty easy, huh?

And for those of you who are interested, this type of dish is technically called a strata. There are lots of variations on how to make them, though the bread/egg combo is pretty constant. I've made a fancy-dandy one once with fresh herbs, sun dried tomatoes, and goat cheese. But I always come back to the good ol' plain Derby casserole!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hanukkah races

I'm new to this whole Hanukkah thing; we've really only been lighting the menorah regularly in the past few years. Before that, we might remember a night or two, but never all eight nights.

So I just have to know: does everyone bet on which candle is going to win? I mean, how can you not?

And secondary question: how do you define "win"? Is it the candle that burns out first, or last? I contend that the candle that burns out first is the winner, while TK holds that the candle that burns longest is the winner.

My position is that I'm being far more positive: of course the candles are racing to the finish line (being burnt out). Just watch 'em and you'll see...they want to burn out! If they're trying to stay lit longest, well, it's a Pyrrhic victory at best as even the last burning will soon succumb to the extinguishing of its flame.

And how come it's not the center candle that burns out first every time? It's lit first, it should go out first. And then the other candles should burn out from right to left, in the order they were lit. Why doesn't it work out that way? Can I please get completely uniformly sized and shaped candles? Are drafts of air in the house responsible for the different burning times? Has anyone ever studied the order in which Hanukkah candles burn out?

Do I think too much about this?

Well, I hope all of you who celebrate had a very happy Hanukkah this year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

He doesn't understand...or perhaps he understands all too well!

We have a Christmas tradition of making a donation for the boys as one of their gifts. This year is the first time we thought they were old enough to be really involved in the process, so after opening our gifts and eating breakfast, we sat down to talk about giving to people who have less than us.

I said, "We give money to help people who need it."

B-man said, "Maybe we should give it to the bank."

Has he been listening to NPR while my back was turned???


We ended up picking some ducks and some chickens to donate through World Vision. I thought something concrete would be easier for them to understand than just sending a check to March of Dimes or Red Cross or something. We were looking through all the things we could donate, talking about them and how they'd help people. When we picked the ducks, N-man said, "Wait, I have another duck!" Then he ran to the bathtub to get his rubber ducky.


All in all, it was a fun experience. I can't wait for future years to see what kinds of charities they'll get interested in!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cauliflower Latkes

For the first night of Hanukkah this year, I made two kinds of latkes: traditional potato, and a cauliflower latke recipe I found in Bon Appetit.

I love potato pancakes. They're so delicious, and I make them all year. Why wait for Hanukkah? But I must admit, the cauliflower latkes were even better! Here's the recipe, if you're celebrating Hanukkah, or if you just want some really delicious food. The original recipe appears in the link above, but we made a few changes (my sister-in-law, a wonderful cook, pretty much made this one):


2 medium head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. minced fresh parsley (or 1 tsp of dried parsley)
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 c. plus 2 T dried unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste...we used a lot less since my MIL doesn't like spicy food)
black pepper to taste
2 or 3 eggs
Oil for frying


Steam the cauliflower until very tender. Add garlic and half the cauliflower to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the remaining cauliflower, parsley, and dill and process until slightly chunky.

Transfer to a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs, baking powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper. Beat 2 eggs and add to the batter. Stir well...if it's too dry, add a third egg.

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Drop about 1 tablespoonful into the oil for each latke, flattening slightly. These will make very small latkes. For some reason, our were crumbly (I did add a third egg, but things still didn't hold together very well and we found it worked best not to flatten the batter).

Fry until bottom is browned, flip, and fry on the other side. Drain on paper towels.


In the original recipe, they suggest a Za'atar aioli to serve on the side. Which would be great, except I don't have za'atar (a middle eastern spice mix, according to the recipe). So my sister-in-law whipped something vaguely similar up, that was such a yummy accompaniment!


1 garlic clove, peeled
1 c. mayo
4 tsp lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. sesame seeds (or more to taste)
1T. Herbes de Provence (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste


Chop garlic finely in a food processor. Add sesame seeds, mayo, and lemon juice. With machine running, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until smooth.

Remove to a small bowl and whisk in the Herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper.

Let stand at least 30 minutes.


We didn't take any pictures as it wasn't very pretty, but it was so delicious! Believe me, I won't be waiting until next Hanukkah to make these...we'll be eating them all year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What, other people noticed?

Do you know how many blog hits I get for "Stephanie Meyer terrible writing"? A zillion, every day. That's hyperbole, or an accurate count of the number of times we were told Bella was clumsy. Wait, was she clumsy? I can't remember.

Yes, I agree, the writing was terrible. Want to give a shout out all you random Googlers? Who are you, people who are searching for others who agree that the writing in the series was horrific? Or are you all Twilight lovers looking for blogs to boycott? Hee!

For the record, I enjoyed the first two books despite the writing. It wasn't until the last two books that things became unforgivable.

Overheard by my blog

Is this chick ever going to update her blog?

Yeah, what's up? She posted every day in November, and now is totally slacking in December?

Lazy, lazy.

You're not kidding.

And she'll probably try to pull some kind of "I'm too busy with all the holidays" junk.


I heard she's not even being a good bloggy friend.

Yeah, she's hardly commenting at all anywhere, and is behind in reading some of her favorite blogs.


It's true!

I don't know, this girl better get it in gear!


Hee! Happy Holidays all. I'm pulling the "I'm busy; it's the holidays" lame excuse. I hope you're all having wonderfully busy great holidays, too!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why snowmen are scary

Today was the big holiday celebration at preschool. They had someone dressed up as a snowman to take pictures of with the kids. Of course, neither of my boys would sit with him. On the way home, they were telling me about it.

B-man: They had a snowman, but it was just a costume. Inside was a monster!

N-man: No, it wasn't a monster. It was SANTA (said with a tone of dread. They haven't grown any fonder of Santa in the past few years.)

B-man: No, Santa has black boots. I didn't see any black boots. It was a monster.

Me: It wasn't a monster or Santa. It was just someone's mom or dad in the costume.

There was a big pause while the boys considered it. Then they immediately went back to their original positions, and the monster vs. Santa debate continued.

No wonder why they were too scared to get close to the snowman!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wine Slush

At Thanksgiving this year, my brother-in-law made a delicious dessert: wine slush. I loved it, even though I don't normally like wine. As I've said before, though, the closer alcohol tastes to ice cream, the more I like it!

Anyway, as soon as I tasted it, I knew I had to make it for book group. Last night, it was a big hit and I was asked to post the recipe. I wish I'd taken a picture, though it doesn't look that pretty. I'd have to pretty it up in a martini glass or nice bowl with a sprig of mint or something on the side...none of which I had. So you'll just have to make the recipe and try it for yourself.

I got the basics of this recipe at Thanksgiving, and figured I couldn't really mess it up as it's so simple. I'm sure this isn't precisely the "real" recipe, but it turns out just fine.

Wine Slush


1 c. red wine (any kind, whatever you've got lying around)
1 1/4 c. water
2/3 c. sugar
3 thin round slices of an orange (I use rounds from the thickest part of the orange)
1 small container raspberries


Add raspberries and red wine to a large tupperware container.

In a medium saucepan, add water, sugar, and orange slices. Cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until all the sugar is dissolved. Pour into the container with the raspberries and red wine.

Cover and store overnight in the fridge.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the liquid into a container that will fit into your freezer. I use a small metal casserole pan (11" x 7"). Squeeze the oranges to add the juice to the liquid. Discard the oranges.

Next, using a plastic spatula (those flexible scraper kind), squish the raspberries against the mesh and let the juice strain into the wine mixture. Keep doing this until mostly all you have left is seeds (well, use your judgment. The longer you do this, the more likely it is some seeds will make it through the strainer and into your liquid). A lot of raspberry juicy stuff will collect on the bottom of the strainer, so make sure you use your spatula to scrape it off and add to the wine.

Stir it all up, and put it in the freezer. Every 45 minutes or so, use a fork to scrape it up so it doesn't freeze solid. You only have to do this a few times, and in my experience, it was okay when I forgot for more like 3 hours instead of 45 minutes.

That's it...it's ready as soon as it freezes (give it at least 2.5 or 3 hours).


Monday, December 15, 2008

Is it just me?

I can't read those words that pop up to verify I'm a real person instead of a robot. You know, the ones most people make you type in order to post a comment on their blog?

Which makes me wonder...am I a robot? It's all very Blade Runner in my head, and I think I'd like Harrison Ford to stop by and sort things out for me.

I guess technically, I always think I *can* read the letters. So I type them in, then get the message that nope, I was wrong again. Which I find even odder than if I knew I couldn't read it. I wish they'd leave the original letters up, along with the correct answers. How am I supposed to learn if I never get any feedback? Posting on blogs is like a test that I just keep on failing.

Am I the only one with this problem, or does it take everyone get a couple "fails" each day when commenting on blogs?

I am a robot, aren't I.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Here's one for the facebook and Jane Austen fans among us

Someone exceedingly funny wrote this one:


You'll love it, you know, if you love facebook and Pride and Prejudice. And really, who doesn't?

What's the deal with "followers"?

Anyone using this feature in blogger who can explain it to me? Is it just a way of saying "hey, I like your blog!" I only follow two blogs, and they were the two bloggers who specifically asked for people to follow their blogs...I figured, "Sure! Why not?"

But it clutters up my dashboard, which I rarely look at anyway.

But I don't want to offend people: does anyone want me to follow their blog? I'd be happy to!

More importantly, though, can some explain what it's good for? I don't think I'm using it right...

Do you "follow" people you also have on your blogroll, or just blogs that aren't on your blogroll? Which is better in your opinion? I add the blogs I really enjoy to my blogroll...that's essentially what I use as my blog reader ever since blogger came up with that feature that shows the most recent post.

Just curious, no biggie.

And I figured I better post something! I've been sick all week. I finally have some energy so yay! Of course, I should be expending said energy on cleaning rather than blogging, so trying to keep this short...

And failing.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The casualties of Thanksgiving...

Can you tell I'm going through pictures (trying to find appropriate pictures for holiday cards. Ugh, this won't do!).

I'm having a bit of a wordless Tuesday, I guess!

Is my tea trying to tell me something...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ugh, I'm sick!

Okay, we'll start with a whine. I'm sick again. It started hitting pretty hard yesterday (on my birthday! The nerve of these viruses!) I was up half the night coughing. My back and shoulders and chest are sore from all the coughing. Now I'm SO tired. Hopefully I'll be able to sleep tonight.

Whine over. For now.

On to the good part...my birthday, besides being sick, was fun. I got to catch up with a lot of friends which is always nice, though I spent a large portion of the day on the phone, when I normally rarely talk on the phone.

It got me to thinking: TK and I have moved around a bunch. It's been kind of fun, and a little adventurous. We've got to enjoy and discover all new parts of the country, and we've stayed in each place long enough that we've gotten to enjoy the feeling of it being home. But, we live nowhere near any of our family, and we've got friends spread out across the country. Sure, we've made friends here in Boston, and that's awesome, but it's still kind of sad that there are so many people we rarely get to see any more.

I wasn't one of those "desperate to escape my hometown" people, but I never really expected to stay, either. But every once in a while, I get a little jealous of those people who have family living all around, and friends they've known since birth around the corner. Sometimes I wish we had stayed, and not moved around.

Then I think about the people we've met, how much I love it here in Boston, and how many fun experiences we had living in Georgia. I don't know. What do you think? Are you a home-towner or a transplant? I guess there's good things on both sides. What I'd really like best is if all my family and friends moved to Massachusetts. That'd be the best...why can't I convince anyone? :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Guess whose birthday it is!


Yep, celebrating today. The earth is celebrating with me...we're getting our first snow of the year. I love snow! It looks so pretty.

TK ran out and got bagels and coffee for us this morning, and now he and the kids are playing with playdough while I play online for a few minutes. Then we're going to put up the Christmas tree.

What a nice day. I love birthdays.

Probably because of the cake!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finished for Friday--my novel (first draft)

Oh boy, oh boy! Three Under Two over at Lit and Laundry hosts this one, and I'm so excited to play along this week.

What did I finish this week? The first draft of my novel! Yes, I know, those few of you who stuck with me through November got endless updates about NaNoWriMo, and know that I hit 50k words before Thanksgiving. That was enough to win NaNo, but not enough to finish my novel. I've been plugging away, and on Wednesday of this week, I reached the end.

So I'm celebrating this week. Maybe this weekend I'll do my first read-through, fix up all the glaring grammar/spelling errors (I have a wicked bad habit to never add ends of words. I get the main word, but forget about any -s or -ed or -ing that's supposed to be at the end. Weird, huh?) I'm curious to see how it turned out.

I'll include here a brief back-cover-type blurb about my novel:
In an alternate Earth, chaos reigns. Civilization as we know it has collapsed, fueled in part by a drug called Frantic. In our world, Kara, a single mother, and Erik, her teenaged son, are given a cure for Frantic. Will Kara and Erik be able to face the dangers before them, and will their efforts to spread the cure be enough to save a dying world?
I'm not sure yet what the title is going to be. I've considered Frantic or Hope for Frantic. But I don't love either.

Well, that's it. Now the hard work begins.

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that throughout the month, they send out emails from published authors to cheer you on. Some are really helpful, and we were sent an especially great one a few days ago from Kelley Armstrong. In it, she talks about how what you get out of NaNo might be the realization that your story isn't novel-worthy. And that it's okay if that's the result, that you still got a month of writing practice, a month of trying out a new idea. This was important for me to hear, because last year, my NaNo novel crashed and burned. Oh yeah, I have 50k words from 2007 (actually a lot more than 50k). It's a novel. A stinky novel, SOOO not worth editing or rewriting. But I've felt like it was a cheat, that I did the easy, fun part of creating the novel, and then wimped out on the less fun, more difficult editing.

But I really needed to read that pep talk from Kelley Armstrong. Because this year's novel has left me with such a different feeling than 2007. Sure, my novel this year is still rough. Really rough. But it's worth revisiting. And I'm glad someone has said that the piece of crap I wrote last year wasn't a complete waste of time, even if I never look at it again. So thank you, Kelley Armstrong. I'll have to look for one of her books. If her advice is so helpful, it's worth trying one of her novels.

And 2007 wasn't a total waste. In the process of researching a fairly minor plot point, I stumbled upon all the "eat local" stuff in a big way. I had already been on the CSA bandwagon, but researching more fully about the eat local movement really changed the way I think about food: what we eat, how we buy it, how it is produced. So maybe I didn't get a good novel out of 2007, but I did get a revamped outlook on eating.

But I hope what I get out of 2008 will be a novel. Even if it's never published, even if it's never worthy of sending out, I hope it's still a novel. We'll see. For now, I'm FINISHED FOR FRIDAY!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prop 8 - The Musical

Have you all seen this? Pretty funny.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

How awesome (or should I say LEGEND...ARY) is Neil Patrick Harris? If any of your still haven't seen it, after you watch the above, set aside 45 minutes and google Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long blog. You'll thank me.

Back to gay marriage...can I say how happy and proud I am to live in Massachusetts? We totally rock.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


This weekend I took a trip to a spice store. A while back, Snick had told me about a shop in the area that just sells spices, but it's not that close to my house and I'd just never had the need to go. But I finally went. And it was awesome.

And I'm totally reinspired to cook. I was kind of in a rut since the CSA ended. I think I have to face facts that I'm someone who is inspired by new things: new recipes, new ingredients. I get bored of making the same ol' same ol'.

So here what I got:

Fleur de Sel, my one "luxury" item. I bought a tiny jar, so it wasn't too expensive, though I calculated it out and it costs almost 100x's as much as that blue cylindar jar of normal salt. I don't care, it was a fun $9 splurge!

Sweet curry powder
Taco powder
Cilantro (I know, boring. I just happened to be out of it)
Green Goddess mix
A mix for sprinkling on sandwiches
Lemon Grass
Vanilla extract (again, boring, but I use a lot in winter cooking)

The lavender was the real reason I went to the store. I found a recipe for lavender shortbread cookies (I'll post it after I try it if it's any good), but haven't been able to find any dried lavender to make it with. And I couldn't find it in this store.

I asked at the counter, and got the most awesome example of food snobbery: "CULINARY lavender?" Yes, I answered. "You're going to COOK with it?" Yes, I answered. "Okay, we keep it in back so that only people who know it's for cooking will buy it."

Hee! So I got my culinary lavender.

Have any recipes I should try with my new spices? Link 'em or post 'em!

I made two great things with the Fleur de Sel last night. Soft pretzels, and caramel dark chocolate truffles with fleur de sel. Both were good, but the truffles were unbelievable. They took a zillion hours to make though. I'll never complain about the price of truffles again...I get it now! And I "ruined" some of mine by not tempering my chocolate after I had to take a break with one of the boys trying to use the potty. Oh well, they're still tasty, even if they're not all lovely.

Pics pics, to make my mouth water:

How much is a "funky"?

B-man is starting to understand the pattern of counting above 20, that the numbers 1 through 9 just repeat after the "twenty" or "thirty". He loves to count now. So, the other day, we were in the car and he was counting to himself in the backseat.

Twenty-one, Twenty-two, Twenty-three...all the way up to Twenty-nine.

Immediately followed by...

Funky. Funky-one. Funky-two. Funky-three...straight through Funky-nine.

Then we move on to Punky. Punky-one, punky-two, you get the idea.

We were rolling!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Help the chef

Some cooking blogs go so far as to, you know, actually offer cooking advice.

And that's why this will never be a cooking blog.

I need help. Help me, please!

I made Thai Pumpkin Soup last night. I followed this recipe, using one roasted acorn squash and one can of pumpkin puree (there were no sugar pumpkins at the store! Heresy!) It was okay. Nothing special. Kind of...one note.

I used a sweet curry because I don't like the spicy ones, and added a bunch of freshly grated ginger, and a hint of freshly grated nutmeg. It helped, but still wasn't awesome. I have a bunch of it I put into the freezer with a note that it needs SOMETHING. I hope you'll tell me what that something is.

Here's the picture of it. It's pretty, right? I garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds. This should have been great. I'm so disappointed it was just okay. Help a sister out, won't ya?


Last night was some GREAT television. First, let's talk Chuck. Casting Bruce Boxleitner, Captain John Sheridan himself, as Awesome's dad...well, it was AWESOME.

Then, in Heroes (spoiler alert! Stop reading now if you have it DVR'd and haven't seen it yet!)

Okay, you've stopped reading if you don't want to be spoiled, right? Last warning!

Oh my, I love Seth Green. Heroes has some great casting. But on a down note, please, please, please don't tell me my best friend Kristen Bell has been written off. I thought for sure she was going to end up preggies with a lil' baby watchmaker...

In other random news, I just saw the preview for the new Star Trek movie. Despite my full-fledged geek status, I'm just not a big Trekkie and have been ignoring this. And will continue to do so, except that did you see Zachary Quinto (Sylar) was cast as Spock? That cracked me up, since on Heroes his incredibly huge eyebrows do half the acting, and now he's cast as Spock, another famous eyebrow-actor. Funny, or maybe it's just me...

Merry SITSmas

What, you say it's only December 2nd and a little early to ALREADY be on to this? I know, I know, I don't set the date of SITSmas, it's just when it falls on the calendar. What's a girl to do?

Of course, my holiday season is nicely delayed this year. Hanukkah is relatively late, starting December 21. My inlaws are all coming up to visit for the holiday. And we're not doing Christmas until Martin Luther King Day. See, my idea of randomly changing the date of Thanksgiving is not without precedent.

But I'm in. I wish you all a very happy holiday season. May the lines be short for you, the traffic light, the prices on sale, and the cookies sweet. Oh, and all the "good will toward men" stuff, too :)

I'll leave you with this: my first experience torturing both my children and Santa. What's funnier: the looks on my boys' faces of sheer terror, or the look on Santa's face of sheer resignation? If my boys could have talked back then, I'm pretty sure they would have said, "We're half Jewish! Get us out of here!"

Happy Holidays, everyone! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy whatever it is you celebrate! Have a safe, happy, wonderful December!


Want to play along? Head on over to The Secret is in the Sauce. They're giving away a $200 Target gift card today, along with all the festivities...