Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas wrap-up

We made the extended rounds - mom, BFF's family, grandpa (and that part of the family), grandma, dad (and that part of the family), and Mr. L's family. Just over 12 hours in the car over 5 days. Honestly, not too bad.

Unfortunately, I took absolutely NO pictures! I've become such a slacker.

There were many perfect presents, but the best of all had to be from the BFF, who gave me authentic pages of newspapers - one with J. Adams' and T. Jefferson's obituaries, and one with a letter to and response from Pres. Adams (Sr.)! She is officially the ebay queen! They are amazing. Now I just have to figure out how to preserve and display them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I'm about half done with my baking. Last night, I made a super-batch of cookies, and wrapped most of them. And (miraculously), I still went to the gym!

But my naughty, naughty dog ate about a dozen of the cookies that were cooling while I was at the gym! Deja vu! I think I'm going to have to get a kennel for him again and lock him up while there are tempting cookies... or really, all the time I'm gone, because lately, when he's not eating cookies off the table, he's sleeping on furniture that he's not allowed on. I can't believe I'm having to retrain my dog when he's 7. I think things will be better when it warms up and he can go running with me. (And I'll be glad to get off the treadmill and onto the road again. I'm tired of staring at the cornice over the windows in the mini-gym, and I am terrified of how much harder it'll be to move off the treadmill after months.)

AND, last night while I was waiting (not-so-patiently) for my battery and tail light to be replaced in my car, I found boxes that are the perfect size for packing up my enveloped cookies! I had completely given up, and then there they were, already Christmas-decorated, and the perfect dimensions (and I didn't even have to resort to the internet). I bought one to try out and make sure it was the right size - and it was! So now I can pick them up on my way home (when I also buy more butter. Goodness, I've been through a lot of butter!).

By his time tomorrow, I should be 100% ready for Christmas. How's that for procrastination?

Monday, December 22, 2008


I messed around with the settings, and I think they are working now. Hopefully.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I swear I've been in the kitchen!

Here's what I've been up to:

There was pesto, made with basil that I actually kept alive all by myself! I tossed it in with veggie spiral pasta, grilled chicken, and peas. Yumm!

Then there was meatloaf. I can't remember where I found this recipe, but google seems to think that it's modified from Bobby Flay's recipe. This is definitely making it into the recipe rotation. So much flavor! And I still felt like it had the texture of a full-meat meatloaf. The true test will be what Mr. L thinks of it, but I think he'll go for it. Delish. Here it is, cut into portions (the recipe said it was 10 servings, so I cut it into 10 servings - less temptation, and easier to reheat) and ready to freeze. Aren't all the diced peppers nice and festive?!
Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground beef
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan
1 cup ketchup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat.
Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool.
Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl.
Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.
Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Whisk together the remaining ketchup, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the entire loaf.
Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
*I split it into 2 loaves, in loaf pans, and it took about 50 min to cook.

And that same night, I made spinach and sun dried tomato frittatas from FitAfterThirty, one of my new favorite sites. (seriously, check it out!) It is wonderful. I made mine in giant cupcake tins, lined with parchment, since I'd be taking them to punch for work - I just pulled them right out and stuck them in ziplocks. They were easy to reheat, and I didn't have to remember to bring dishes home. And the parchment liner worked perfectly as a built-in plate. I also cut the amount of sun dried tomatoes in half, worried that they would overpower it (it looked like so much before I added them); this was a mistake. Next time, I'll put the full amount in the recipe.

Finally, it was cookies for coworkers - Robert E. Lee Gingersnaps, to be precise. This is a recipe given to me by one of my law professors, and I think it may be the best thing I learned in law school. They are perfect - they are soft gingersnaps!!! I totally used Martha's idea of cookie envelopes, and made each cookie an envelope from wax paper, sealed with a sticker from etsy's LadyBugLabels. I stacked them by the dozen and tied them up with ribbon.

Robert E. Lee Gingersnaps

3 sticks butter, melted
1/2 c. dark molasses
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
4 c. flour
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
In a large bowl, add molasses, sugar and eggs to melted margarine.
Combine flour, soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Add to margarine mixture.
Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
Make into small balls, roll in sugar.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Makes 12 dozen. (Dough will keep for weeks in the refrigerator.)

Oh! And there were pound cakes - 4 of them, for groups of people at work... but I totally forgot to take pictures of them. Just imagine a plain pound cake. Times 4. That's it. I went with Martha's recipe, which I haven't actually tried. But they smelled good and looked OK, and people said nice things. So I assume that it's good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekend baking

I had a wonderful weekend, spent around town. Mr. L came down to me, so it was delightfully unstressful (at least for me!). A friend invited us over for dinner, and I promised dessert. We first thought of making banana pudding (yumm), but I couldn't get my stuff together until that afternoon, and was already in the midst of boiling the pudding when it clicked that I needed time for the pudding to set (and I didn't have it). Ooops. So, the banana pudding went to work with me on Monday. (I just followed the directions on the vanilla wafer box, but used banana creme flavored pudding instead of vanilla. I am not afraid of overdoing a flavor).

But cookies are easy. And I can always whip a batch up. So, I followed the recipe on the bag of off brand chocolate chips I had. It was a basic chocolate chip cookie, but with just a few walnuts, and just about 1/2 a cup of oatmeal. I liked the addition of the oatmeal, since it contributed a little extra heartiness to the cookie. Most of these went to the dinner, and the last batch (that came out of the oven as we walked out the door) came to work (and were immediately devoured).

Friday, December 5, 2008

More baby shower preview

What do you guys think? My plan was to use branches to do something like this, but I realized that I already had these guys lying around.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving, the North Carolina Experience

I went to visit my mom for Thanksgiving weekend, and Mr. L came with me. We had a great time (at least, I did), and got a little relaxing in.

I was in charge of baking biscuits and chocolate pie. I got Mr. L's mom's recipe for chocolate chess pie (he worships her cooking, and I'm just trying to come close!), and it did turn out beautifully. Rave reviews all around.

Unfortunately, I totally forgot to take pictures of the biscuits. It occurred to me to get a snapshot of the pie as people were digging in, but those pics aren't on my camera. I think I must be doing something wrong, because lately it seems that this happens to me more and more.

The recipe for the buttermilk biscuits was from a local cookbook. And I learned that biscuit batter is really sticky stuff! Another great recipe (although the directions left out adding in the shortening, so I just cut it in after mixing everything else together, and that seemed to work out fine). I will definitely be making this one again.
After dinner, we went to see Four Christmases, which was a perfect lazy afternoon family (without kids) movie. But seriously - movies are up to $10!? Crazy.
More importantly, the Charlotte (Lowe's) Motor Speedway allows people to drive their own cars around the track (3 laps) on Black Friday if you give a $25 donation to their Children's Charities (or spend $50 in the gift store). I was so in! My step dad drove his car, with my mom as passenger and photographer, and I drove mine with Mr. L as passenger/photographer. Awesome! This was seriously cool. I wanna be a race car driver.

My crazy mom, hanging out of their sunroof to get a photo (photo by Mr. L).

Then, it was down to the southern end of town for coffee with a great friend (and 2L), and then to see my grandma and her husband. If you haven't tried Starbucks' salted caramel hot chocolate, DO SO NOW! It is crack. Seriously. I want to add salted caramel to everything now. It makes great gelato too. And truffles. So good.
Saturday, we all trekked up to Raleigh to watch the NC State football game. It was cold, and there was a little rain, but our seats were fantastic and the game was exciting too. It almost makes me wish that I had gone to a school with a real football program (although UNCC is finally getting a team in a few years!). Even though it was a holiday weekend, and freezing and rainy, the stands were filled with people in red parkas and ponchos. And there are so many support groups - dance teams and cheerleaders, and bands and boosters... I know that this is normal for most people, but this was my first (non-tv) college football game (I'm soooo not counting the W&L game I went to)! The excitement is infectious (especially when it's somewhat close and your team is winning)!
The view from our seats.
On the way back (OK, so it was a bit of a detour), we stopped in Lexington (NC, not VA), and had dinner at Lexington Barbecue. Yumm. That was the perfect ending for a Very North Carolinian Thanksgiving!

*You may notice that I did not mention the 2 games of boys v. girls Trivial Pursuit that took place over the weekend. They need never be mentioned. Our boys are really smart.