Saturday, December 31, 2011

Panko Fried Haddock

This week during my grocery trip I had company.  Every once in a while Jay wants to join the adventure.  Most of the time I welcome it because he can give input about dinners. We walked by the fish counter and while Jay was shopping for cocktail sauce, I was checking out the sales.

I like to buy fish at least once a week, but it can be really expensive.  My solution is to make my fish meal around what is on sale.  Our fish counter always has one or two items at a very reasonable price.  As long as you are willing to be flexible, you can enjoy fish several times a week.  

This week's sale was haddock fillets for $3.99/lb.  I asked for two large fillets and the total cost was $5.61.  One fillet was enough for Jay and I to split, and the rest will make great fish sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.

I originally planned on just baking them in the oven with a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Then Jay asked if I was going to fry them.  Suffering from a cold, I really didnt' want to, but I figured it would make good blog material.

I have been frying fish since I was 14 years old.  My first job was in a pizzeria, and every Friday we had fish fry's.  That meant every Thursday night, I would prepare all the fish.  This meant breading several hundred pieces of fish and lining them in bus pans for the next day.  I use the same technique as I did in my restaurant days, just on a smaller scale.

It is super simple and this technique can be applied to any kind of fish, chicken, or pork.  You just want to remember, dry-wet-dry.  That means, start with flour (dry), then egg wash (wet), and finally into bread crumbs (dry).  I chose to use Panko bread crumbs which makes a super crunchy crust, but regular bread crumbs work just fine.  I also chose seasonings that compliment fish like Old Bay, but if you are doing chicken a grill seasoning would work nicely.


1 to 1 -1/2 lbs. of haddock, or any white fish
1 c. flour
2 c. Panko bread crumbs
1 egg, whisked with 1 tbsp water
Old Bay Seasoning, salt, pepper to taste
4 tbsp. canola oil

First set up your work station.  You will need a plate for flour, a bowl for the egg wash, and a plate for the bread crumbs. (If you have 3 pie pans that will work great too.)  Also set up a cooling rack with paper towels underneath it for the finished fish.  This allows the fish to drain without losing your bread crumb coating.

Next prepare your fish.  I like to take a few paper towels and dry off the fish.  I also cut large fillets into smaller portion sizes.  This makes it easier to turn the fish when cooking it.  Lightly sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper, and Old Bay.  (You can also sprinkle your flour and/or bread crumbs lightly with the same seasonings.)

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat.  Meanwhile start breading your fish.  Dredge the fish into the flour until it coats the fish.  Shake lightly to knock off any excess flour.  Then run the fish through the egg wash, and into the bread crumbs.  Turn the fish in the bread crumbs several times until coated. 

Test your oil with a few bread crumbs, if it sizzles you are ready to go.  Gently place the fish in the skillet, but be sure not to crowd the pan.  I work in small batches, cooking only two pieces at a time.  The fish cooks about 5 to 6 minutes on the first side.  The edges will start to turn golden brown, then flip it over.  Cook on the other side for another 4 to 5 minutes.  Once the fish is cooked through, move to cooling rack to drain.  Serve with vegetables and potato.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Nowak's Take Manhattan

You heard of the Muppet's Take Manhattan, well here's the Nowak's version.  We had a very nice trip to the "Big Apple".  This is how it played out:

We are close enough to NYC to drive, but honestly I am not comfortable with the thought of Jay navigating NYC traffic.  So we decided to drive to Poughkeepsie and take the train from there.  Originally we looked into taking the train from Albany, but the price difference in tickets was significant.  We took the trade off of driving an extra hour to Poughkeepsie, for the lesser fare and shorter train ride. 

Everything was going great until we actually got to the train station.  My husband suffers from GPS brain.  In case you don't know what this is, basically if there is a GPS or another driver is in the car his mind goes blank.  He literally will ignore the GPS directions, and turn which ever way he wants, and then starts asking, "Which way do I go???"  How about, the way the GPS told you to!  So after finding the station, it took us about 30 minutes to find the parking garage.  Needless to say, some shouting occurred and there were two very grumpy adults.  Deep breath!

We are settled again, we bought our tickets, and yippee the fares were even cheaper than the computer said.  Apparently traveling "off peak" hours, made our tickets less, Brandon was free for being under 5 years old, and Adam was $1.75 family fare round trip.  This brightened our moods a bit. 

We arrive in Grand Central Station about 8:30 p.m.  The kids are in awe as am I, it's been 7 years since I was there.  Every time it takes my breath away, it's one of my favorite places in NYC.  Ok, my moment of astonishment is soon over and now we need to find the passageway to our hotel.  We were staying at the Grand Hyatt, which is connected to Grand Central Station.  Let me preface this, Jay was in charge of our hotel accommodations, and he did a fabulous job.  He sprung for a fancy hotel, and the location was unbeatable, however, he didn't research how to find it from the train station.  He had left over GPS brain when looking at the big map at Grand Central.  Another few words muttered to each other, but we finally found it.

Grand Hyatt Lobby

After a good nights rest, we ventured out into the wonderful streets of New York.  Our first stop was Rockefeller Center to look at the tree.

 Then we hit some toy stores and found the much wanted, Evil Emperor Zurg, for Brandon and Adam found a new PS3 game.  After a few hours of walking, we opted for subway passes to save the little legs.  The boys were thrilled.  We could've just taken them on the subway and the trip would have been complete.

7 Train to Grand Central

More sight seeing, a carriage ride through Central Park ( I won't go into the scuffle I got into over that), and a few more subway rides and Brandon was done for the night.  He was tired, his asthma was acting up, so we settled into the hotel for the night while Adam and Jay went to the Empire State Building.  Adam managed to call me and my mom from the top and had great "Adam and Daddy" time.  While Brandon and I lounged in the room, watching cartoons, and playing with Zurg.

Carriage Ride

Adam at Empire State Building

Brandon relaxing at the hotel

The next day was my personal highlight, ROCKETTES!!!!!  Jay surprised us with floor seats to the Christmas Spectacular, and I have to say it was spectacular.  I now understand why people go every year.  Adam loved the show, Brandon remarked about their legs, but his highlight was the hot chocolate.  Oh and by the way, you can get any kind of alcohol served at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning at Radio City Music Hall. I guess the liquor laws don't apply there ;)

After the show, we ventured back on the train to Poughkeepsie.  It was a very quiet drive home, as ALL my boys napped in the car.  So, did we have low moments?? Of course.  Did we have a blast?? Absolutely.  Are we going back??? Most definitely!!!

Happy Holidays!!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Challah Bread Recipe (for bread machine)

Bread, oh how I adore thee!  I haven't found a bread that I don't like, which is probably why my waistline is bigger than I do like ;)

I have mentioned before, I received a bread machine last year for Christmas.  I have baked traditional white bread in the machine, but mostly I use it on the dough cycle for rolls, pizza dough, and oven baked breads such as Italian bread and Challah.  I have posted a recipe for Challah French Toast, but never showed how to make the actual bread.  So here it is.

Linking to these parties.
ingredients (1.5 lb loaf)

3 1/4 c. bread flour
1 c. plus 1 tbsp. warm water, run the hot tap water for a few minutes
3 tbsp. canola or olive oil
2 tbsp. honey (you can use sugar)
1 tsp. salt, I use Kosher salt
2 tsp. yeast
1 egg, room temperature

In the pan of the bread machine add water, egg, oil, honey, and salt.  Carefully add the flour on top and make a small well.  Add the yeast to the well.  Fit the pan into the bread machine and start dough cycle for 1.5 lb loaf.

Once the cycle is complete, on a floured surface turn dough out of pan.  Divide the dough into three pieces.  Roll the pieces in long ropes, about 15 inches long.  Lay the dough next to each other on the counter, pinching them together at one end.  Start braiding the three ropes, pinching the dough at the other end to seal it together. 

Transfer the dough to a greased cookie sheet and cover with a towel.  Allow to rest and double in size about 45 minutes.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water).  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.  The bottom will sound hollow when tapped with a knife.

Allow to cool on rack.  You can also top with sesame seeds or poppy seeds before baking.  Also for a more advanced Challah, divide the dough into six pieces and braid a six strand bread.

Wrap it for a holiday gift!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Golden Banana Loaves

Are you frantic yet??? Have you completely lost your mind???  I know I felt that way yesterday.  All the hustle and bustle is upon us.  Today, I'm back on track.  I actually had a few minutes this morning to read, and make banana bread.

I make this recipe about once a week.  It is by far Jay's favorite and the children like it too.  If I don't put a limit on the amount he can have, Jay will literally eat a whole loaf at once. 

This is actually a combination of two different recipes.  The first recipe is from the Cake Mix Doctor, and the second recipe is an adaptation from a Pillsbury quick bread mix.  I took the a cake mix base, and then add maple syrup from the quick bread mix.  The result is a super moist, banana bread, with a layer of flavors.  Jay always jokes, that getting a piece out in tact is a victory.  It's so moist, and likes to fall apart.  Also, because it is so moist, it freezes well.

I have made this bread for a lot of people.  It is always well received and I get tons of compliments.  So you need a last minute gift???  Make a loaf or two and give them away.  I guarantee you will be a hit :) 


1 yellow cake mix
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 c. soured milk, add 1 1/2 tsp. white vinegar to milk and let stand 30 minutes
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. maple syrup
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix until well blended.  Pour batter evenly into two 8 inch loaf pans.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on baking rack.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside!!! (Tortellini Soup)

Yesterday was rainy, windy, and a bit yucky.  I woke up this morning to snow :)  Gotta love New York.  Cold weather, snowy day,  perfect for soup making.

After the kids had a play date, we stopped by the grocery store for a few ingredients. Soup is quite simple to make.  You can add a few ingredients or really amp it up with the whole pantry.  We chose to make a soup with a short ingredient list. 

Adam was my sous chef.  I am really determined that both of my boys will know how to cook basics.  They have been helping me in the kitchen with age appropriate tasks for a while.  Today's lesson had Adam front and center.  While he doesn't eat soup right now, he's learning basic kitchen skills, and someday may try it.

He had the job of peeling carrots, chopping the onion (in the mini chopper, with supervision), and dumping all the veggies into the soup pot.  I stirred, added the stock, and kept a watchful eye on the simmering pot.  Together we made a tasty pot of tortellini vegetable soup, and more importantly had much needed "Adam and Mommy time".

recipe (yields 4 servings)

1 small onion, chopped fine
3 ribs of celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced (I used a Yukon Gold)
1 box of vegetable stock, 4 cups
1 lb. bag of frozen cheese tortellini
1 tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried parsley
Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large stock pot, heat a tablespoon of oil.  Add chopped vegetables, salt, pepper, and saute for about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil.  Once the soup is boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes.  The vegetables should be tender.  Add frozen tortellini, cover, and cook another 5 to 7 minutes.  Once the tortellini is cooked through, remove from heat.  Check for salt and pepper, and adjust to taste.  Ladle into bowl and top with Parmesan cheese.  Serve with bread, such as my Italian Bread.

** NOTE: If you are making this ahead or freezing it, don't add the tortellini until you are ready to serve.  **

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Oreo's!

Previously I posted about chocolate covered treats.  Well, my wonderful husband wanted to contribute to Chocolate Covered Anything Day at work.  I am very tired this holiday season, and decided he could make the contribution.  Trying to think of his skill level, we decided on chocolate covered Oreo's. 

When he came home from work last night, I had everything set up for him.  I explained what a double boiler was and how to temper the chocolate.  Once he succeeded with melting of the chocolate, I showed him how to dip one Oreo.  The rest was up to him.  I did act as a sous chef.  I moved his trays to the Florida room to chill, and I cleaned up the kitchen.  However, all the hard work and decorating was left up to him.

So, what's the lesson for today???  Don't be intimidated about making chocolate covered treats.  If my husband can do it, ANYONE CAN!!!! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chocolate Covered Treats

Our family just got back this weekend from New York City.  I promise to do a post about our adventure, but I must wait for Jay to get back from a business trip.  He has the camera with most of the pictures :)

For now, I will do a post about chocolate covered treats.  Did you know December 16th is chocolate covered anything day???? I didn't, not until Jay told me about it.  I figured a post about chocolate would be appropriate.  Today I did chocolate covered pretzels, cranberries, and marshmallows, which will be small food gifts this holiday season.

There really isn't a set recipe for this, but more of a process or technique.  First you need some food items that hold up well to dipping.  In the past I have dipped the following:

Next, get yourself good chocolate.  When I am visiting Buffalo, I buy a 10 lb bag of Merkens and keep them in the freezer to use all year.  You can also use a nice quality chocolate block or bar in the candy aisle.  I have used chocolate chips in a pinch.  Just make sure the chocolate is not waxy.

Prepare cookie sheets lined with wax paper to place dipped items on to dry. 

Then put a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Add your chocolate to the bowl, and slowly allow the chocolate to melt.  Stir occasionally until you have a smooth bowl of chocolate. (Don't let the water boil, or you can burn the chocolate.)

Remove the bowl from the heat.  Now you are ready to dip.  I work in small batches.  For example, add a few handfuls of pretzels and fold them into the chocolate until coated.  Using a fork remove from the chocolate and lay on cookies sheets.  Sprinkle with candies to decorate.  Allow to cool and harden.  I stick them in my Florida room, but you can put them in the fridge. 

Once they are dry, bag them in cute cellophane bags or put them in tins.  These can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

For dipping nuts, raisins, or cranberries, line mini muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.  Then spoon the covered nuts or fruits into the paper.  Allow to harden and pop out of tin.  These make perfect clusters.

Any chocolate covered item makes a great addition to your holiday platters.  These even make great little desserts after a heavy calorie laden meal.  Happy Chocolate Covered Anything Day!!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Italian Bread Recipe

I love to cook and bake.  I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.  I also love to see satisfied faces around the table when I have prepared a recipe. 

I can cook a wide variety of items.  However, my passion is really baking.  I have mastered cookies, cakes, trifles, I'm working on pies, and now bread.  Last Christmas my in-laws bought me a bread machine.  I made all kinds of breads, bagels, pretzel dough, etc.  All winter we had a new bread in our house every few days.  Then summer time came, and I put the bread machine away.  Well, it's that time of year again, it has made a return.

Now for this recipe, you don't need a bread machine.   Actually you can do almost any bread by hand; the bread machine just makes the kneading and rising so simple.  Last night, I prepared a classic Italian bread.  I have to say nothing compares to fresh bread out of the oven.  This bread can be enjoyed with butter as an addition to any meal, or make it into garlic bread.

So I will share the recipe, and urge you to give it a try.  Right now I have whole wheat dinner roll dough in the machine.  Stayed tuned for that recipe too :)


1 c. water, warmed (I run my hot tap water for a minute or two and use that)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
2 1/2 to 3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg white

If using a bread machine, add water, oil, sugar and yeast to bread machine container.  Allow the yeast to foam a little.  Then add flour (start with 2 1/2 cups) and salt.  Use setting for dough, one pound loaf.

For the first few minutes watch the machine mix and add flour until the dough is elastic but not sticky.  I only added another 1/4 c.  Allow machine to finish dough cycle.

If you are not using a bread machine, combine water, oil, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.  Allow yeast to foam a bit.  Slowly add flour and salt until dough is elastic and not sticky.  Mix with hands or a wooden spoon.  Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Place in an greased bowl, cover and allow to rest for an hour.

Prepare a cookie sheet with baking spray.  Turn dough onto sheet and shape into a loaf.  Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut slits diagonally and brush top of loaf with egg white and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown, and the bread sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cookie Corner: Holiday Cut Outs!!!

This isn't really a new recipe to the blog.  I have done these cookies several times....however, I feel it's the perfect month to do a refresher.  So December's Cookie Corner cookie is a classic sugar cookie with royal icing.  The possibilities are endless, and doesn't have to be complicated.

sugar cookie recipe

3 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup powder sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 3/4 cups of flour

Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, salt and flour. Mix until forms soft dough. (do not over mix or the cookies will spread during baking). Divide into two discs, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out desired shape, place on greased cookie sheet (or sheet lined with parchment), and bake 13 to 15 minutes, depending on size. Don't over bake, the top of the cookie will be pale, but golden on the bottom. Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

If you are cutting all the cookies at once, keep the sheets refrigerated until ready to bake. If the dough is too warm, it will spread and not hold its shape.

recipe for royal icing

6 tbsp. pasteurized egg whites
4 c. powder sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

In a glass or metal bowl using a hand mixer fitted with dough hooks, or by hand with a whisk, blend ingredients until smooth.  This consistency is stiff and peaks should be held when lifted. 

Add a teaspoon of water and fold in with a spatula to loosen the consistency a bit.  It should be about the thickness of toothpaste.  Using a piping bag fitted with a #2 tip, outline your cookie.  Cover remaining frosting with plastic wrap.

Allow the outline to dry for about an hour.  Then with the remaining frosting, add a few teaspoons of water at a time until the icing is the consistency of pancake batter.  You want the icing to be able to drizzle but not too runny.  Add food coloring at this time and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow to sit for 20 minutes.  Air bubbles will rise to the top and then can be gently stirred in.  This prevents the air bubbles from forming on your finished cookie.

Either using a piping bag fitted with a #3 tip or a kitchen squeeze bottle (you can find them in the candy making section of your craft store), fill icing and begin to flood the cookie with each color.  I start at the edges and allow the icing to flow to the outline, gently filling in the center of the cookie.  Be careful not to "overflow" the cookie or the icing will run over the outline. 

Add colored sanding sugars or sprinkles to wet icing.  Allow to dry overnight on a cookie sheet.  Store in an airtight container for several weeks or freeze for several months.  If freezing layer cookies between parchment paper.

As always if you have any questions please feel free to ask :)  Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

St. Nicholas Day Is Approaching!!

My house is decorated for the holidays.  I was a bit lazy this year.  The kids helped me put up the tree, a few outside decorations, and of course our stockings.  However, upon pulling out the stockings this year, I decided to buy new ones that all matched.   Up until now we had four mismatched stockings.  While there are certainly adequate and serve their purpose, it really bothered me from a decor standpoint. 

So off to the Christmas decor aisle at our local department store we headed.  I was a bit disappointed in the lack of stocking variety.  (I would really love to have the embroidered ones from the catalogs, but I can't reason spending $80 plus dollars on them.)  We searched and came up with a velvet stocking with a simple detail at the top.  Now the color choices??? Adam wanted red, Brandon wanted purple, I figured Jay for green, and that left me with silver.  Well, Brandon's purple was throwing off my color scheme.  After several minutes of negotiation, Adam and I talked Brandon into green.  So we picked up two red and two green.  Now, Adam posed the question to me, "How will St. Nick know who has which stocking, having two of the same color??"  Good question.  Then a few rows over we found stocking charms.  Simple initials trimmed in glitter, perfect!!!

We are all set for St. Nicholas Day!!  In our home we open our stockings on St. Nick's Day, December 6th.  There are many stories and legends that tell how Christmas stockings came about.  Every culture celebrates it a bit differently, but for us this works out great.  We are reminded about St. Nicholas and how giving and protective of innocents he was.  It also serves as a great introduction to the holiday season for the kids.  It starts a discussion about giving to others, as St. Nicholas did.

For the full history of St. Nicholas, click here.

So what do we fill our stockings with??? Small trinkets, some candy, or even fruit.  However, this year St. Nicholas will put sample packs of K-Cups in the adult stockings ;)

Tune in Thursday for Cookie Corner!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How do you celebrate the holidays???

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Now the mad push for Christmas is among us.  In our family we are Christians, however, I am trying to teach my boys that everyone has different beliefs and it's ok.  I think sometimes the wrong message is put upon us during the holidays.  Many people don't even know why they are celebrating, except for shopping and gift exchanging.

Growing up, I lived in a community that was primarily Christian.  I had a few friends who celebrated Hanukkah, and a few friends who didn't celebrate anything.  For the most part, Santa Claus was prevalent at school and possibly a menorah.  We moved to a small town several years ago.  In this town there is a wide variety of religious beliefs.  All the different views are celebrated and my children are educated in different cultures.  I am happy that we are part of a community that shows tolerance for all beliefs.

There are also many interfaith families in our community.  We have friends who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.  We have been invited to various family activities during this holiday season.  So how do we respect everyone, but still share our gifts? 

Something small that you can do, is be conscience of how you present your gifts.  The retailers are on this trend too.  You can find so many gifts bags, wrapping paper, etc. in blue, silver, white.  I like to wrap my gifts in designs that can cross many traditions.  For example, I have snowflake paper that is backed in light blue.  This to me simply says winter.  I also baked cut-out cookies in mittens and snowflakes, decorated simply in blue and white.

Also if you know a certain family has particular restrictions regarding their diet, be aware of any food gifts you may give.  I learned this when I had my gift basket business.  I received many requests for baskets where all the items must be Kosher. 

This time of year is about caring and understanding others.  Of course, we want to celebrate, attend parties, and give gifts.  All I ask of myself and others is to be considerate.  It's also a great lesson to teach the children.  So, how do you celebrate the holidays??? I would love to hear your family traditions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Caramel Applesauce Cake

Well the last couple of post were all about my little guy's Toy Story Party.  We had a ball that day, but we had another celebration in our family.  As previously mentioned, my father-in-law shares a birthday with Brandon.  It was wonderful that my in-laws made the trip to help celebrate Brandon's birthday. 

We decided to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday the next night.  (I don't think he really wanted a Toy Story cake.)  My father-in-law really likes the spice, vanilla, caramel flavor profiles.  While he will eat chocolate cake if it is the only option, he's more of a spicy kind of guy.  So I made an applesauce cake with a caramel glaze from the Cake Mix Doctor Returns, by Anne Byrn.

This cake is so moist it can be made a few days in advance.  The caramel glaze just seeps into the cake and makes it more moist.  I recommend serving it with a bit a whipped cream to help cut the spicy flavors.  Linking to these parties.


1 package (18.25 oz) plain spice cake mix
2 c. sweetened chunky applesauce
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. buttermilk (I used regular milk)
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts or pecans, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, and mix on medium for 2 minutes with an electric mixer.  Pour batter into a 9 x 13 pan sprayed with baking spray.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  Check with a cake tester, when it comes out clean remove from the oven an allow to cool. 

caramel glaze

3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. light brown sugar
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
3 tbsp. heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cream in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil for one minute, stirring with a whisk.  Remove from heat, add vanilla.  Pour glaze over cooled cake. This glaze will not harden.  Also great topping for a bundt cake or ice cream.

If desired, top glazed cake with toasted nuts for garnish.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Toy Story Party (Part 2)

It came and went, with a happy little "Buzz Lightyear" by the end of the night.  We enjoyed a dinner and party with friends and family.  The food was a simple home cooked meal that was prepared ahead of time.  All I had to do the night of the party was heat things in the oven.  I set it up buffet style, served the beef to the guests, and let them help themselves to the rest. 

The menu was as follows:

For the kids: Whole grain chicken tenders (white meat only), smile fries, and strawberries
For the adults:  Roast beef on "weck", cheesy potatoes, green beans, and dill pickles
Cake for dessert and a coffee station set up with the Keurig and flavored syrups and creamers

  • To prepare the roast beef, I got a sirloin roast from the butcher with most of the fat trimmed.  Liberally season the roast with salt and pepper and place fat side up in a roasting pan with a rack.  Add about a cup of water and cover with foil.  Roast at 300 degrees for 20 minutes per pound.  You want the internal temperature between 120 and 130 degrees.  The roast will be rare but will cook to desired temperature when re-heated upon serving.  Allow the roast to rest and then refrigerate.  Once the beef is chilled, slice against the grain as thin as possible.
  • To reheat the beef, simply heat beef stock to a boil, then when serving, allow the beef to soak in the stock until desired temperature is reached.  The ends of the roast are more well done than the middle, so you can meet everyone's needs.
  • Serve the beef on Kaiser rolls with horseradish.  I also had gravy for those who wanted that.  We had Kummelweck rolls as well. For the history on "weck" rolls click here.

recipe for cheesy potatoes

1 two pound bag of cubed hash browns, thawed
1 c. sour cream
1 can cream of celery soup
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. finely diced onion
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. plain cornflakes crushed with 2 tbsp melted butter

In a small sauce pan saute onion in a little bit of oil or butter until soft.  In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients except the cornflakes.  Stir until well mixed and put into a 9 x 13 pan, sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with cornflakes, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until bubbly.

After the cake was served, we rounded out the evening with a pinata.  The whole night was wonderful and my little guy told me at bedtime, "Mommy, it was the best Toy Story party ever!"

See you soon :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Coming!! (Toy Story Party Part 1)

It's almost baby is turning 4!  I can't believe it.  It also means by father-in-law is turning 64! Yes Brandon shares a birthday with his Grandpa Nowak :)

I have eluded to Brandon's birthday party theme in recent posts.  My little guy is obsessed with Toy Story, thus we are having a full blown Toy Story party.  I will do a post with specifics on the food recipes, but for now here are a few of the decoration and party ideas.

First, Brandon really wanted Toy Story party hats.  I looked in every party store, online retailer, and nada.  I only found a alien party hat that was $3.49 each.  Sorry Charlie, this mama is on a budget.  So I visited our local dollar store and purchased 8 regular party hats for $1.00 and Toy Story stickers for $1.00.  Brandon helped me decorate the hats, and they only cost $0.25 each.

Next part of the festivities is the pinata.  I found a Toy Story pull string pinata.  I liked the pull string one because the party guests who will be partaking in this activity are 4 years old.  While I let my 6 year old and his friends swing a bat at a regular one, I thought the younger crowd would have more success with the pull string.  I also filled the pinata with goldfish cracker packages, Toy Story fruit snacks, and little plastic army guys (which Brandon calls hut hut guys).

I always like to give party favors to the children who come.  I knew Brandon's party theme earlier this year, so when I saw things on sale I bought them and put them in my party box (a plastic storage bin in my basement).  I found really cute Toy Story travel coloring pads, Toy Story socks, and plastic cups.  I wrapped them together in cellophane with a few other trinkets and voila!!!  Party favors, check!

Last but not least, we need a Toy Story cake.  Brandon again was very detailed in his request.  He wanted a round cake, stacked, chocolate, that looked like sky with all the characters.  Oh boy this one was going to be the end of me.  I made a 3 tiered cake,  the bottom tier vanilla, and the next two chocolate.  Then I tinted the icing blue and piped white clouds.  I bought little figures from the movie and just arranged them around the cake.  Now I am the first to admit, it was not my best frosting job on the cake.  I was tired, the frosting was too soft and I couldn't get it as smooth as I would've liked.  However, when Brandon saw the cake this morning, his face was priceless.  He yelled, "Mama, that's what I wanted!"  Okay mission accomplished :)

Now that I gave you a glimpse into some of the party ideas, stayed tuned for the menu.  I am serving Beef on Weck, a Buffalo classic.  Yes, I found Weck rolls in the Oneonta area :)  I will also post after party pictures this weekend. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Good Shoes For Bad Feet

Wow, November feels like it's almost over.  This is such a busy month for us, between school activities, my little one turning four, and Thanksgiving I don't which way to turn.  Luckily I have new shoes to help through all the hustle and bustle.

I titled this good shoes for bad feet.  Yes, I have extremely bad feet.  When I was younger I wore the "fashionable" shoes and ignored the stress it put on my feet.  That was until I needed to have some foot surgery on my toes.  I would wear very pointy shoes, and by pinching my toes I wound up with repeated ingrown nails.  I finally had to have surgery on both big toes to remedy the situation.  Then I started wearing a shoe with a wider toe box.  The only problem was the shoes weren't very stylish.

Fast forward another ten years and now I have problems with my arches and heels.  The thought of standing first thing in the morning is horrifying.  My heels feel like I have stones in them for the first hour of the day.  So I bought myself a pair of really good slippers that I could use as house shoes.  We have almost all hard surfaces in our house and it is very painful to walk bare foot.  I love the slippers.  They are Clark's and are built on a shoe foot bed.  Very comfy!! 

I decided I was going to have to bite the bullet and pay a little more for shoes that would be comfortable and fashionable.  I went to our local shoe store and bought a pair a brown Sketchers for everyday walking.  Then I went back the next week and bought a pair of Clark's clogs from the Bendables line.  Both shoes are very comfortable and cute.  However, I was still missing a cute pair of flats that I could wear with jeans or to church. 

I was browsing online at  and stumbled across super cute flats.  There were from Isaac Mizarahi and too cute to pass up.  I ordered black and a neutral snakeskin pattern.  The shoes arrived last week and I am in love.  Not only are they comfortable they are stylish.  BINGO!!!!!  I found the formula to good shoes: Pay a little more for designer shoes.  I hesitated paying $50 for a pair of flats, but then I when I thought how many seasons I would have them, it worked out to be a good buy :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Cookie

I have a very diverse group of friends.  With that diverse group, comes creativity and talent.  One particular friend has an immense amount of creativity, talent, craftiness.....and her name is Amy.   Amy and I have been friends since our days in the accounting office at Wegmans, a long long time ago.  She was in college and I was finishing high school.  We shared a lot of laughs, a little bit of trouble, and the friendship has been blossoming ever since.  Amy is My Little Blogspot's featured cookie maker for November. Oh and the plate to cookies are on were a wedding gift from Amy.

One night on the phone, she mentioned she made a batch of pumpkin cookies.  The next several days that started working on me. I love pumpkin!!!  I knew I wanted to do a pumpkin cookie for November, so I asked my dear friend to part with her recipe.

I made a batch for pure research and quality control measures ;)  They came out great. I shared them with friends in Oneonta and the reaction was all positive.  Make them big or small, they are delicious in any size.  Oh, the best part in my opinion is the frosting, do not skip that step :)

Thank you Amy!!!

recipe for cookies

1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 c. canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 tbsp. grated orange zest (Amy and I both used orange juice)
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 c. wheat flour
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 c. chopped walnuts


1/2 c. butter
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c. whipping cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 c. powder sugar

For cookies, cream butter and brown sugar in your mixer until fluffy.  Add pumpkin, egg and orange zest, beat until smooth.  Combine flours, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, stir until soft dough forms. Stir in walnuts. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours.  ( I chilled it overnight right in the mixing bowl, covered in plastic wrap.)

Drop tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

For icing, melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Stirring constantly, add brown sugar, whipping cream, and corn syrup. Cook until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; pour into heat resistant medium bowl. Add powder sugar and beat until smooth. Ice cookies, allow icing to harden. ** Hardens fast, work quickly!! **


Substitute 1 tbsp orange juice for orange zest
Finely grind nuts in a food processor for people who don't like large pieces of nuts in their cookies

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Favorite Things

I am going to share a few of my favorite things today.....but first I need to tell you why I chose this topic.

My day started with a bang!!!  Brandon came in this morning at 4:30 am, wanting to get up. I told him he had to go back to bed it was still night time.  He left my room yelling that he wasn't tired.  Oh boy, it's starting already.  Then at 5:30 am he came in again, I told him "Back to bed!!!".  Honestly at that point I wondered why it was so light for 5:30.  Well, at 7:00 am, Adam came in asking to go down stairs, I said sure, I was getting up anyway.  I stroll downstairs, make my coffee, give the kids their breakfast, and gave them their Halloween cards to open from their grandparents.  I am enjoying my freshly brewed Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla (from my Keurig), when my lovely husband comes out of the bathroom and states, "Do you know it's 8:00 am."   WHAT?!?!?!!?

I leave the house everyday at precisely 8:07 am to walk Adam to school.  I jumped out of my chair, told Adam he had to go upstairs and get dressed, and like a lunatic run into the kitchen to make his lunch.  I am yelling up to Adam what clothes to put on while slapping a PB&J together, pouring milk into his thermos, and figuring out a healthy snack for him.  I am also barking out to Jay, that he needs to take Adam to school today. There is no way I can get Adam, Brandon and myself ready in the next 5 1/2 minutes.  Adam emerges from his room, in a somewhat matching outfit, packed his backpack, and I send him on his way to school with Jay.  OH SHOOT!!!!! Adam has a walking field trip to the library today, it's raining, and I forgot to give him his umbrella.

In my frenzy, I managed to ask my husband, if he thought it was odd, I wasn't downstairs getting ready before 8:00 am??? He responded, "I thought you were sleeping in."  Really??? On a school day??

Now I have a few minutes to breathe and gather my thoughts before I have to take Brandon to preschool.  I run up to the shower, get Brandon dressed, and manage to finish my coffee. 

So what happened, why was I so late??  Well, I have an alarm clock that automatically resets itself if the power goes out.  A few years ago, when the powers at be changed daylight savings time, my alarm clock didn't.  It was still on the old schedule.  Last night, my alarm clock, fell back (on the old schedule).  So when Brandon came in at 4:30 am, it was really 5:30 am, and at 5:30 it was really 6:30, our normal wake up time.

I have been suffering from a nasty head cold and I welcomed the extra sleep, but not the chaos.  All is well as of this moment.  I took Brandon to school, swung by Adam's school and dropped off his umbrella, and ran a few errands.  I was supposed to get my haircut today, but I will leave that for another day.   Oh did I mention, yesterday I locked myself and Brandon out of the house! I know I am not alone, my neighbor had a similar few days a couple of weeks ago. Read about her frenzy on her fabulous blog here: Project Anthologies.

So with all of the ups and downs today, I decided to think of things that make me happy. I will share a few of my favorite things.

I love my new Vera Bradley grand traveler bag in Rhythm and Blues.

WEN cleansing conditioner in pumpkin ginger and pomegranate. I love this one so much I have the gallon size of pomegranate, offered every May from QVC.

Philosophy shower gels.  I have a ton of these, but right now I am hooked on candy cane.

Finally, I love my Keurig and it's variety of K-Cups.

Happy Thursday, I'll be back soon :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Baked Apples

I am so homesick right now.  When I feel this way, I try to find comfort in old memories.  The weather has taken on a chill, and when I was little my mom always made baked apples in the fall.  The house would smell of cinnamon and brown sugar, and it was difficult to wait the hour for them to be done.  However, when they finally emerged from the oven it was worth it.

This is very simple and can be done in the microwave, but I chose to make them just like mom.  Of course you can doll them up with nuts or poach them in cider or little liqueur.  I kept it simple, just apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and butter.  I put them in the oven right after dinner, and an hour later the apples were perfect.  My mouth was watering, and I was back in my mom's kitchen. 

What memories do you have that you find comfort in???

The measurements here are approximate, it all depends on the size of your apple.

  1. Core your apple.  Firmer apples work better. Place in an oven safe dish.
  2. Fill the cavity with brown sugar, about 1 to 2 tablespoons.
  3. Sprinkle with cinnamon, about 1/4 teaspoon.
  4. Dot with a pat of butter.
  5. Bake in a 350 degree for approximately 1 hour.
The apples are done when a knife inserts easily.  Allow to cool, and spoon syrup in the bottom of dish over apples.  Enjoy.