07 January 2012

True Meaning to Song Lyrics

One of the funniest posts I've read in a while. You have to be the right age though.

Deciphering the True Meanings of Song Lyrics - Jeffrey Goldberg

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column.

06 January 2012

I imagine ...

... that Edward Rochester could sound like Tom Waits. Just a thought. 

Listen to "Somewhere" from Blue Valentine by T. Waits and see what you think. 

Christmas Cooking - Chestnuts

We tried something we have never done before. The very last thing we did on Christmas Eve was roast chestnuts in the oven. So I dutifully put x's on about 25 chestnuts that I bought at the grocery store. Probably not the best place to source chestnuts, but I don't know
where else to get them in our neck of the woods.
I carefully laid them all with the x up on the baking sheet and slide them into a 425 degree oven for the estimate time of 25 minutes.
What's left of a chestnut
We are sitting around enjoying snacks and drinks as the chestnuts roast - that is until the first one exploded. It looked like sawdust inside the oven - thank goodness for an self-cleaning oven.
Is this what they are supposed to look like?
So, figuring they were probably done now, I took them out of the oven and left them on the stove top to cool a little before we made an attempt at peeling them. We all gathered around to look at them and test the temperature by trying to pick them up (unwise at this stage of the game), when the next one exploded all across the kitchen. Needless to say, I quickly covered the rest with a dish towel. I thing we give it an A for excitement. I, personally, didn't care for them. That said, I may have had bad ones and not known it,  but I assume that they are an acquired taste, like boiled peanuts - you either like them or you don't there's no in between.

Christmas Cooking - Sausage and Cheese Balls

It isn't Christmas unless we have sausage/cheddar balls. I love the fact that they freeze well and I can have them again in a couple of weeks with no real work involved at all. I like mine the same way I like a sausage biscuit - with grape jelly. So that's what I do. Growing up, my dad liked mustard with his sausage balls - to each, his own. 

Sausage & Cheese Balls

3 cups Bisquick® mix
1 pound hot bulk pork sausage
4 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (16 ounces)
1/2 cup milk
spicy mustard / grape jelly, for dipping

Heat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease bottom and sides of jelly roll pan. Stir together all ingredients, using hands or spoon. Shape mixture into 1 inch balls. Place on pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brown.
Immediately remove from pan. Serve warm with sauce for dipping.

Bench Notes: I just line a pan with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray for easier clean up. And use your hand to mix - it's the only way this will work. 

05 January 2012

Christmas Cooking - Cheese Straws

This is a new recipe for me this year. That said, I'm usually pretty terrible with puff pastry - I think it's the defrosting. No, really I do. Somehow I can't get that right. Either I take it out and it's still too frozen or I take it out and it sticks together and I have a terrible time with it.

Cheese Straws
Credit: Ina Garten
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm),
defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
Flour, for dusting
1 extra-large egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it is 10- by 12-inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with 1⁄4 cup of the Parmesan, 1⁄2 cup of the Gruyère, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the thyme, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt, and some pepper. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each
strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don't over bake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve at room temperature. 

Bench Notes: I used cheddar instead of Gruyere and did not use extra salt. I also used a little cayenne on about half the straws - just to see if we would like it.
Imperative that you flour the knife or pizza wheel. 

If He's Wild - Hannah Howell

Summary: She sees his face everywhere… Lady Alethea Vaughn Channing is haunted by a vision of a man in danger-the same man who she has seen in dreams time and time again. She doesn't even know his name, and yet she feels the connection between them, knows she is the only one standing between him and disaster.
…Yet They Have Never Met
But rakish Lord Hartley Greville is capable of protecting himself, as he has proven more than once in his perilous work as a spy for the crown. If he's to carry out his duty, he'll need to put aside the achingly beautiful woman with the strange gift. And yet, when Alethea's visions reveal a plot that could endanger children, Hartley will not be able to ignore the destiny that binds them together-or resist the passion burning between them… (Source:Hannah Howell website)

Comments: It bares repeating that I still can't stand the titles of these books. I enjoyed this book a good deal, especially the inclusion of more of the Werelocke/Vaughn family members and returns of those who have made appearances in the previous two books in varying degrees. There is a central story of how Alethea needs to warn Hartley about her vision and an additional subplot of finding Hartley's missing niece and nephew that has boats going back and forth to France. We come to realize some in the Werelocke and Vaughn men work secretly for the British government to protect king and country. I keep harping on the family interest in these stories and how I enjoy them because so many times family or friends of the main characters seem to be an afterthought. There is again, in this book, strong, intelligent female characters that are independent, but not hoydenish.
I would certainly recommend reading these books in order. It certainly helped with this book since many characters from the others were spoken of or appeared in this story as well. Again, a for adults only book. Now on to what appears, though I hope not, to be the final Werelocke book.

03 January 2012

Christmas Cooking - Pecan Tassies

Pecan Tassies are vital to Christmas for me. I make them throughout the winter and into the early spring, but never summer. I'm not sure why.

Pecan Tassies

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 lg eggs
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat cream cheese and butter until blended, add flour and mix to incorporate and pat into disk, cover with plastic and chill for at least an hour.
Lightly beat eggs, add sugar and vanilla, stir in pecans Press dough by teaspoon into mini muffin cups, fill with pecan sugar mixture to within 1/4" of top of dough cups. Bake 25-28 minutes.

Bench Notes: I think this was originally from a Southern Living magazine, but could
not swear on that. Either way, I can make them in my sleep, I've been making them for so long - at least since about 1987. Forever ago.

01 January 2012

If He's Sinful - Hannah Howell

Summary: It is whispered throughout London that the members of the Wherlocke family are possessed of certain unexplainable gifts. But Lord Ashton Radmoor is skeptical - until he finds an innocent beauty lying drugged and helpless in the bedroom of a brothel. The mystery woman is Penelope Wherlocke, and her special gift of sight is leading her deep into a dangerous world of treachery and betrayal. Ashton knows he should forget her, yet he's drawn deeper into the vortex of her life, determined to keep her safe. But Penelope is no ordinary woman, and she's never met the man strong enough to contend with her unusual abilities. Until now... (Source: Amazon)

Comments: Still hate the title of these books - groan. They are stupid enough to make people think the story is stupid fluff. But it's not. Perhaps I should go into the business of helping people title their books. Sigh. 
That said (again!). This was another interesting story about the Wherlocke and Vaughn families and their unusual ability. Penelope Wherlocke has the ability to see ghosts and speak to them and finds when she's kidnapped and drugged in a brothel, that there are plenty of ghosts there. I won't go into the kidnapping etc. as it would be a spoiler, but it's plenty believable when you meet some of Penelope's step-family. Peneolpe is the daughter of nobility, but keeps ten boys, her two half brothers by her father's affairs and either others who are the by-blows of her cousins and uncles, in an only barely semi-respectable area of London. She's older sister and mom to the boys and they love her fiercely. Lord Ashton Pendellan Radmoor finds her intriguing as well. 
The sort of odd things the Werelockes and Vaughns can do are just on this side of believable - sort of and certainly are interesting. The other thing I enjoyed about the book is another set of strong female characters and strong family bond of both the Werelockes and the Radmoors. While the stories are falling into a pattern, it's a pleasant one that is enjoyable. This book introduced a number of characters that are interesting that I'm hoping to see more of in the future. For mature audiences.