Monday, December 27, 2010

Chirstmas Dinner 2010

Well, this year was the biggest crowd we've had at our house for Christmas....and I loved every minute of it! It may not be a lot of guests by some people's measure, but we had ten people.

Christmas Eve dinner was a Benjamin family tradition of snack-y foods. The chili was a new addition, however. It's been so "chilly" here lately (pun totally intended!) that the dish just seemed appropriate. Plus, it's a slow cooker meal: set it and forget it!

Christmas Eve dinner:
Obama chili
Shrimp cocktail
Nut bread with cream cheese
Cheese/sausage with crackers
Torta de casar cheese and quince spread (courtesy of Jamie & Nacho)
Assorted cookies & ice cream

This Christmas dinner was pretty vegetable-heavy. With such a rich, tender red meat as the main dish, the veggies helped to balance it out....and the red wine complemented it nicely! The roast was a little particular with the temperatures, but the rest of the dishes were pretty easy! I had my brother, his partner, and my brother-in-law in charge of each side dish. I consider the meal a success because we had VERY little leftovers!

Christmas Dinner:
Standing rib roast

Cranberry sauce
Cauliflower sformato

Garlic butter roasted mushrooms

Pumpkin pie

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Week 50 Menu

I think we're still in a food coma from yesterday! we still have a houseful of people, so we'll be flying by the seats of our pants for dinner!

Sunday: Haven't decided yet. We still need to restock the fridge.
Monday: Fish and oven fries...encore from last week. Yum!
Tuesday: I'm's choice
Wednesday: I'm's choice, Part Deux!
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Schezuan noodles
Saturday: Out? Something very low key while overdosing on college football!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Freezer Cooking - December

The freezer stash is getting pretty low. And, I'm excited to get some yummy food ready to eat after the holidays!

Here's my plan!
- Wheat Pizza Dough x3 (from Smitten Kitchen)
- Hamburger Buns x2
- Chicken Pot Pie (Ina Garten) We're going through a phase
- Beef Stroganoff (Paula Deen)

- Stuffed Shells x2 (This Week for Dinner)....hoping to get to this one in over the holidays (we'll see)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in Florida

I've lived here in Florida for five years now (!). Christmas always sneaks up on me down here - what with the absence of snow and extreme frigidity. Our new house has a lot more trees on our property and in the neighborhood. Just this week I noticed that the leaves on the trees are starting to change color. While stopped at a stoplight on the way home listening to "Sleigh Ride," this scene just struck me as odd: Christmas decorations and palm trees. Bizarre.

Sometimes just a little weird for a Midwestern girl.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hamburger Buns

I've gotten pretty good at making pizza dough....who knew it was so easy to make (and freeze to have available at any time!)? After reading through some of the other freezer cooking plans, I found a simple recipe for hamburger buns (or hot dog buns or dinner rolls....whatever your fancy) and decided to give them a try.

These rolls/buns are fantastic! I've made them as hamburger buns and dinner rolls, made double batches to freeze for later, slathered them with jam, & given them to new parents to snack on. Yum! Whenever I do even the smallest Freezer Cooking session, I include these rolls in the agenda! There is so little active prep time involved.

The recipe calls for "gluten" to make the buns light and fluffy. Okay, a new one for me. I've got to tell you, the funniest part is that the box of gluten is available in the Organic/Health Food aisle right next to the gluten-free products! The irony was thick.

I highly recommend giving these rolls/buns a try!

Wheat Hamburger Buns
From Connie

8 - hamburger buns
12 - hot dog buns
12-15 - dinner rolls

1 cup water
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (cut into small pieces)
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon Vital Wheat Gluten

Place all liquids ingredients, followed by all the dry ones, and lastly the yeast (not touching the water) in stand mixer. Never place the yeast where it will come in contact with the salt or sugar as it can decrease the activity of the yeast. Make a small well in the top of the flour and place the yeast there.

Allow dough to mix. After 5-10 minutes, check your dough. It should be in a soft, tacky ball. If it is dry and stiff or feels like Silly Putty, add liquid (80°F), 1/2 to 1 tablespoon at a time; if too wet and sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. If it leaves a small indention that fills slowly, it’s right.

Allow to rise about 1 hour, it should double in size. [Bonnie's note: I left it to rise for 4 hrs on a busy day, and it was just fine]

When the rise is complete, turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Gently roll and shape the dough into a 12-inch rope. With a sharp knife or kitchen sheers, divide the dough and roll gently into balls. Place the dough balls onto a greased baking sheet or baking sheet with silicone pad. Flatten slightly (to about 1/2″ tall).

Cover and let rise in warm oven (170 degrees) 10 to 15 minutes until almost doubled. Brush tops with melted butter or beaten egg and top with seeds if you like.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Bake 9 to 11 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. These keep in the freezer for 3 to 4 weeks.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Week 49 Menu

Sunday: Fish and chips
Monday: Boursin-stuffed chicken (thanks for the idea!!) and roasted carrots
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday (Mom & Dad arrive!): Homemade Pizza and green beans
Thursday (Brother arrives!): Crockpot chili & cornbread
Friday: Christmas Eve feast
Saturday (In-laws arrive!): Standing rib roast, Garlic Roasted Mushrooms, still working on the other dishes!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week 48 Menu

Sunday: Asian salmon (Ina Garten), roasted vegetables
Monday: (Leftover) Salmon salad
Tusday: Shitake mushroom risotto
Wednesday: Dinner at church
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Red Curry Burgers with Boursin cheese [anyone else have good Boursin recipes?...have a lot of it from Costco!!]
Saturday: Out

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Air Handler Roasting on an Open Fire...

Well, the "fun" I referenced from last week. Oy.

We put Shelby to bed and settled in for some Monday Night Football. A smoke detector went off upstairs followed by another and another!!!! What the what??!! Most residential smoke detectors have a wimpy beep. These alarms sounded like the second missile key had been activated. Needless to say, Shelby was completely freaked out.

Upstairs had a horrible burned electrical smell, but no smoke. I quickly checked the outlets I could find for char or smoke. Nothing. I was standing under the air vent in the hallway and the smell was pouring out of it. At that point, I told Scott to call the fire department. Was the attic on fire? The ducting? We just had a very damaging fire at work and I wasn't taking any chances!!

Not one, but TWO fire trucks came to our house on the quiet cul-de-sac in the quiet neighborhood with lights everywhere. Two firemen came up to the house with oxygen tanks on backs and axes in hand. Good Lord. They checked out the attic and the upstairs and found nothing (thank goodness!).

The younger fireman was asking me (only slightly condescendingly) if the smell was a burnt dust smell. I told him, "Look. I work in a factory. I've worked in maintenance for 7 years. I know electrical burning things. I don't like them. That's what we've got up there!" He gave a quick nod and said, "Got it."

They went down and popped the panel on the upstairs air handling unit. The wiring was black, charred and mostly missing! Found it! Luckily, it was contained to the air handler. The firemen told us to bundle up and sleep downstairs. With all the firetrucks outside, Shelby was in heaven! When they went to leave, she was upset. I told her they needed to help another little girl and she emphatically said, "NO!" I guess they were her personal firemen now!

We brought Shelby's mattress down to the guest bedroom and I convinced her it was like taking her nap at school on a mat. She bought it for a while. I slept out on the couch until she work up at 12:30. After trying to get her down for an hour, we ended up sleeping together on the couch. My daughter "sleeps large," so it was pretty miserable. It was like living with a newborn again!

The next day an electrician was able to rewire the unit and we were back to normal!!! They found a loose wirenut that caused the wires to short, arc and catch on fire. We had the downstairs air handler replaced during the inspection when we bought the house. Guess it was only a matter of time for the other one!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Yesterday was full of "excitement" (a whole post must be devoted to the "fun" later). But, one thing was just hilarious. I went to pick Shelby up from school I saw her friend Chloe and her parents in the parking lot as I was headed in. Chloe's mom looked at me with confusion and said that Shelby wasn't at school - the teachers told her Shelby was picked up early. I could hear the proverbial crickets chirping. And, I'm fairly certain I had the stupidest, trying-hard-to-connect-the-dots look on my face.

Then it dawned on me: Scott picked her up to take her to a doctor's appointment.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Personal Pans

I've been looking for individual ramekins/gratin dishes to serve pot pies and other individual oven entrees in for a while. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for (shocking). Most were too fancy; some were too big. They just weren't right. One day I was taking a stroll through Williams Sonoma with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket.

I saw a set of four personal pizza pans and thought: Hmmm, sturdy, heats evenly & dishwasher-safe. Love it! I've used them for several dishes - especially with Freezer Cooking recipes.

For stuffed shells, I made them and froze them in groups of five or six. When I was ready to serve them, I popped a bagful into the pan, covered with marinara sauce and cooked them up.

For Chicken Pot Pies, I made up a batch of the filling. Then, I lined the pans with plastic wrap and filled them up with the filling. I popped them into the freezer until the pot pie filling was completely frozen. Then, I pulled the "hockey pucks" out of the pans, wrapped them in the plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag. This freed up my pans for the next dish! When I wanted to cook the pot pies up, I unwrapped the "hockey puck" and let the filling defrost in the pan.

I've also used a pan to test out a half batch of Cauliflower Sformato I was thinking of serving for Thanksgiving. It was pretty yummy, but wasn't a favorite for the whole family. By using the small pan, I wasn't stuck finishing up an entire souffle all by myself! Only a small amount of leftovers.

I have a lot of friends who are having babies this winter and spring. I've been so excited about my pans that it got me thinking. What a better gift than the gift of dinner! A set of pans plus "hockey pucks" of various varieties and prep instructions! More to come!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

For Thanksgiving this year, we had two fantastic guests for the weekend - Michelle & Karen Connavino. They are Scott's cousins and dubbed "Shel" & "K" by Shelby. They immediately took to each other and got on famously! I think Shelby was just excited to have other people to spend time with over the 4-day weekend! :)

The weather was just fantastic. Not to make the northerners jealous, but it was almost 80 degrees throughout the weekend. Love it! We enjoyed the weather and went to the park multiple times and to the beach several times, too.

We did family Penguin Bowling down the long, hardwood hallway. It was like we had our own personal bowling lane! Michelle convinced Shelby that, in order to bowl properly, you need to wear a fireman's hat and the animal washcloths on your hands. Shelby was a firm believer. It was pretty hilarious.

Week 47 Menu

We've all been a little sick this week, and we all feel like some good comfort food!

Sunday: Chicken Pot Pie filling over egg noodles with oven fries.
Monday: Minestrone soup from freezer with crusty bread
Tuesday: Italian Beef (Pioneer Woman)
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Spinach Enchiladas (GoodLife Eats)
Friday: Pasta with eggplant ragout
Saturday: Out.