Dec 30, 2012

All Good Things Must End

I would say we have the post-holiday blues.  We left our friends and family back in CT and headed back to NJ this weekend.  We both had a blast catching up with everyone and would have liked to make the trip longer, but the wedding of our friends Ian and Michele on Saturday night sure brightened our spirits after saying goodbye to everyone up north (details on the holiday and wedding to come, but frankly I am quite exhausted after all the shenanigans and do not have the energy right now)!
I hope everyone else had a wonderful holiday, and is enjoying the snow.  Us poor folks in South Jersey are snowless.  Not even one flake.  Not one.

Just wanted to pop in and share a quick recipe, which I made tonight with my brand new digital, programmable crockpot (Christmas present from BearFace which I am in love with after only one use)!  After all the holiday feasting, a bit of drinking, and lot of dessert-eating this week, I am definitely looking forward to returning to a normal diet!

I'm in love.

White Bean, Sausage and Kale Soup

I adapted this recipe to work for the crockpot, and also added some sausage for extra protein.

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced
1 small white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 15 oz. can cannellini beans
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3-6 cups kale, chopped or ripped
Black pepper
  1. Saute onions, sausage, bay leaf and garlic over medium heat about 5 minutes until onions are translucent and sausage is just browned.  Meat will finish cooking in the crockpot.
  2. Add chicken broth, undrained beans, and sausage mixture to crockpot and turn on High for 1 hour.
  3. Turn heat to Low for an additional 3 hours.  
  4. Add kale and cook for another 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I served with toasted ciabatta rolls for dipping.  Warm, healthy, and satisfying!  

In with the good, out with the bad!

Dec 23, 2012

Home for the Holidays

The Christmas countdown is ticking by fast!  Only one more half day of work tomorrow, our work Secret Santa lunch/party, and then a 4 1/2 hour drive home for the holidays.  BearFace, Murphy and I will be making the trek back to our home state once more....for me it will be the first time since the beginning of October, so I am SUPER excited to see family, friends, AND my eyebrow maintain-er (I only trust one person on Earth with my eyebrows!)  

It will certainly be a busy week, since I only have a few days to pack everyone on my list into the schedule.  Here's what it looks like so far:

  • Monday night: Annual Italian Christmas Eve at Aunt Mollie's, complete with Christmas Jager Bombs and the Annual BeerPong Championship (in which I have yet to make it past the first round...)
  • Tuesday: Christmas with Drew's family (finally get to see his nieces after about 6 months!), then Christmas round two with my family.  Hopefully topping off the night at the movies to see the new Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained.  Unbelievably excited about this movie!  
  • Wednesday: meet up with MagSauce for a bit of catch-up, then rendezvous with Jenny at UConn, our old stomping grounds.  On the docket for the day?  UConn dairy bar, Wings Over Storrs, visiting long-lost pony friends, and maybe Margarita's for an early dinner.  
  • Thursday: Riding with Sarah, a few appointments, and then heading to West Hartford for happy hour with some of my favorite girls.
  • Friday: Reserving this day for family time and Murphy's annual vet visit.  
  • Saturday: heading back early morning for Ian and Michele's wedding in PA.
A whirlwind week, but I know I will love every minute of it!

BearFace and I already started warming up for the festivities this weekend.  My dear BeenBag came home for the holidays on Saturday.  Since her parents only live about an hour away from us in Alloway, we were able to visit her (of course she HAD to move to Wisconsin only a few months before I moved to NJ!  Wisconsin, really?!).  She took us to Atlantic City for our first taste of the casinos.  We ate at The Continental at Caesar's Palace.  This being the first restaurant we've eaten at in Atlantic City, I'm really not an expert.  But you should eat there.  Just do it (Three words: buffalo chicken meatballs).    
After dinner, we sent BearFace home and spent the night snuggling and movie-watching, which basically sums up the two years that we lived together in college.  

The best ex-wifey I could ask for!  

And this guy....

I spent Sunday doing laundry, packing, and baking for our Christmas party at work. 

1 box vanilla cake mix
1 container vanilla frosting
Sugar sprinkles
Mini chocolate chips
Peanut butter chips
  1. Bake cake according to directions.  Cool cupcakes, then frost.
  2. Coat with sugar sprinkles, then add chips to make eyes and nose.

So cheerful, I almost don't want to eat them.  HAH that's a lie.

Peppermint Cake Balls

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 container chocolate frosting
6 candy canes, crushed
Peppermint extract
2 bags Wilton candy melts (I get these at Michael's)
  1. Bake cake according to package directions.  While still warm, remove cake from pan and crumble into bowl.
  2. Add entire container of frosting to warm cake and mix until combined.  Mix in about 1 tsp peppermint extract.  
  3. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, then roll mixture into 1 inch balls.  Place on cookie sheet on wax paper.
  4. Melt candy melts according to package directions.
  5. Using 2 spoons, roll cake balls in melted candy until coated, then place on wax paper.  
  6. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top (This must be done immediately, before candy coating hardens or it won't stick)

I actually paid Santa's elves to make these.

In conclusion, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and gets to spend some quality time with their loved ones!

Dec 20, 2012

The End of the World?

So.  What's everyone doing tonight?  Something special, I hope.  Something end-of-the-world worthy.  Because as everyone knows, tomorrow is the last day on the Mayan calendar.  Which obviously means that the world is going to end.  Right?  Wrong (At least that's my bet).  I have lived through quite a few "doomsday" predictions in my lifetime, and I'm only 24! (Y2K was definitely my favorite.  Such a catchy name).  Either way, I'm spending this Thursday night with my favorite people (BearFace and Murphleson), just in case this time it's true.

I'm still nursing a nasty cold and a bit of the black lung, so no riding again today (sad news, I miss my friend Chubbles!).  The evening will be spent relaxing on the couch, snuggling with Murph the Surf, and whipping up a homemade meal for the first time in over a week.  Between being sick and our busy schedule last week, I've been lacking some kitchen time.

Speaking of Murphy, the little guy has been quite busy with a ridiculous new obsession.  What could be more ridiculous than his shadow-chasing obsession?  Well, he recently discovered that Drew and I have something in our mouths that moves.  It is called a tongue.  He also has one of these, but it is not nearly as fascinating as the ones that reside behind our teeth.  While cuddling on the bed, I happened to stick my tongue out at him, at which point he went certifiably insane.  He spent the next hour with his face glued to mine, eyes locked on my lips, frozen as a statue, while I did my utmost to stop myself from crying tears of laughter.

I know it's in there.  I saw it with my own eyes, 
and I have nothing better to do but sit here and
stare at you.  All day.  

SHOW YOURSELF, mystery worm!

As entertaining as this obsession is, there have been a few close calls, most of which resulted in a wet Murphy face smush.  Not really sure what his intentions are should he get one of our tongues, but I definitely don't want to find out!  We had to take a little break from this game on Tuesday after he decided to eat a poop stick.  What is a poop stick, you might ask?  Well, a poop stick is exactly what it sounds like.  A stick.  Covered in poop.  It went something like this:
  • Murphy:  Hmm this smells SUUUPPERRRR yummy!  Smells like poop.  And it's on a stick. Aaaand I'm kind of hungry.  Mom shorted me a few kibbles this morning.  I bet this poop stick will make a nutritionally balanced snack.  Om nom nom.  
  • Michelle: Murphy, what are you doing?  Are you eating something?  Come here!  
  • Murphy:  Crap.  She hates it when I eat stuff.  Especially poopy stuff.  I better pretend I didn't hear her and run the other way.
  • Michelle: MURPHY get your butt over here!  Right now! 
  • Murphy:  She's not buying it.  I better go over there.
  • Michelle: What are you eating?! Oh it's just a stick.  Let me have th....AUGH IT'S COVERED IN POOP!  WHY WOULD YOU EAT A STICK COVERED IN POOP, YOU FOUL BEAST!!  
Thursday Night End-of-the-World dinner:

Indian Chicken Stew (I photocopied this recipe from a magazine a couple years ago, but can't remember which magazine it was.  I think Better Homes and Gardens...)

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 tsp curry powder
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper and/or cayenne pepper
2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp lime juice
9 oz fresh spinach
  1. Coat a 6-quart slow cooker with oil or cooking spray.  Add chicken, onion, and garlic to the slow cooker.
  2. Add curry powder, ginger, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat.
  3. Stir in drained beans, undrained tomatoes, broth, and bay leaf.
  4. Cover and cook on high 4-5 hours or low 8-10 hours. 
  5. Stir lime juice into cooked stew.  Stir spinach leaves into stew, and let stand 2-3 minutes until wilted.  
I usually serve this with brown rice and Na'an for dipping.  You can also whip this up in about an hour on the stove if you don't have time for the crockpot.  Just saute the onions and garlic, then add all ingredients and simmer for about 45-60 minutes.  I have tried making this dish with chicken breasts but they tend to dry out, so I recommend sticking with the chicken thighs.   

May have forgotten to add the spinach...still good though!

Dec 18, 2012

A Few Words

I woke up this morning thinking about the tragedy at Sandy Hook and the families who were robbed of their loved ones only days before Christmas, and wanted to share some of my thoughts.

Having recently graduated from college (ok, maybe 2 1/2 years isn't that recent!), I have many friends who are now teachers.  In addition to friends, Drew and I both have a number of family members in the teaching profession.  After hearing about the deaths of the young teachers at Sandy Hook, as well as the principal and a number of other adults, my first thoughts were those of my friends and family.  This could just as easily have happened at their schools.  And I can tell you, without even a second thought, that every single one of them would have done the same thing as those brave teachers who lost their lives protecting their students.  This makes me both proud, and afraid for them.  I pray that they never have to face an event as horrific as this one, and that their commitment to educating the young minds of our country will never put them in the line of fire.  That being said, I also pray for the families of those teachers who were lost, and I hope they know how thankful we all are for the sacrifice that their loved ones made.

I pray for the families who lost children in this tragedy.  I cannot imagine sending your child to school and not being able to pick them up at the end of the day.  For the families who were able to pick their children up that day, I hope that this traumatic event does not scar their young minds for the rest of their lives, and that they grow up still able to see the good in the world.

Of course after something like this happens, there are always questions.  Questions of blame, and questions of motive.  Do we blame the guns that the shooter used?  Did he play too many violent video games as a child?  Did his family see this coming and fail to stop it?  In my opinion, the only one to really blame is the shooter himself.  Sure, if guns did not exist he would not have been able to use them in the shooting.  Maybe if he played less violent games as a kid, he would not have had such violent tendencies.  But if someone is sick enough to consciously make a decision to walk into a school with malicious intentions, I think he would have found some other way to do it.  As for motive, what does it matter?  No "reason" on Earth can justify what was done, and no "reason" can bring back those who were lost.  There is no "reason" that could make sense of this senseless crime.

In conclusion, my heart goes out to every family in Newtown and Sandy Hook.  I am so sorry that this happened to you.  I thank all of the teachers at the school for counting the lives of their children more important than their own.  And I pray that one day, you are all able to heal.

If you would like to donate to the families of the victims, check out this fundraiser:

Newtown Strong. Newtown Proud. 

Proceeds go to funeral expenses of the families, a town memorial fund, and a town scholarship fund.      

Dec 16, 2012

There IS a Santa Claus!!

It's been a busy week here in Alloway...Drew has officially graduated from the police academy as of Wednesday December 12th, and is a real, live New Jersey game warden.  I am extremely proud of the commitment he made, and the effort he put in the last 5 months.  I certainly would not have been able to do what he did...I would have run for the door after the first push-up!  He has a nice, long vacation (off until January 7th) as a reward for all of his hard work.  I'm sure I will be leaving him some to-do lists and ideas for Murphy adventures, muahahaha!

Drew's family was nice enough to drive the 4 hours down here to attend the graduation, and we  were all able to squeeze in lunch at Bull on the 19th over at the golf course in Woodstown before the ceremony.  Once again, I was not impressed with the waitstaff (never got the appetizers we ordered), but my pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich was cheesy and delicious. It was great to spend time with his family, whom I have not seen since we moved.  His boss Ian and fiancee Michele met us at the ceremony as well, and BearFace and I went out to dinner at Terra Nova in Sewell with them afterwards.  Again, it was great to spend time with some Connecticutians!  It was a late night for us old folks (went to bed at nearly MIDNIGHT!), but we had a lot of fun, and I know Drew was glad to celebrate his achievement.

Thursday was another late night for us...after a long day of work (for me), we headed to the Phily Diner in Runnemede for an open bar/graduation party with the rest of his class.  It was good to finally meet his classmates and put faces to the names I have been hearing about.  The Phily Diner was pretty neat too... it's a huge 50's themed diner/bar with multiple bar and eating areas.  Although I did have hypothermia by the time we left...I guess they put space heaters in there for a reason!

So, two nights out in a row?  Crazy, right?  At least for us...but this time, it wasn't enough!  Out again on Friday for my work Christmas dinner at Filomena Lakeview in Deptford.  Can't say I saw the lake, but the food was excellent, the restaurant was beautiful, and the waiters remembered our appetizers (I must say, I was rather concerned that our waiter was about to pass out or vomit from the looks of his ghastly pale face and the fact that he was sweating bullets.  Either that or he just snorted some cocaine.  I'm not really sure).  I ordered the Almond Crusted Tiramisu for dessert...doesn't really compare to classic tiramisu, but I absolutely love almond flavoring, so it was a real winner (I've been known to get high off almond extract.  Just kidding.  But seriously, it smells sooooo good!).

BUT that's not all (I saved the best news for last)!  ROOMDOG MOVED OUT.  That's right; as of Friday at noon, we no longer have a parasite residing in our second bedroom.  How do we feel about this?  ECSTATIC, ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC.  I was at work when he left, and coming home to a quiet house was so wonderful.  It's amazing how much tension his presence caused, and now that it is gone, our little house feels quite homey!

And finally Saturday...we crashed!  Three late nights took their toll and we are both exhausted and sick (something of the sinus pressure/chest congestion variety).  Of course, we still had to celebrate RD's absence, so what did I do to celebrate his departure?  Cleaned.  Obviously (Don't you know me by now??).  We managed to summon up enough energy to move some of the things in our bedroom into the now empty bedroom and closet, including Murphy's crate (He's all grown up now...time for his own room).  It will probably take a few days to get the stink out of there (Smells like an old man.  Maybe because he didn't shower daily...), but that's what we have candles for!  I also disinfected the shower, which is finally completely free of oatmeal, boogers, and toenails.  Yup, I found a toenail graveyard on the top ledge of the shower.

Murphy was feeling pretty spiteful after being left home alone for three nights in a row, so BearFace and I were nice enough to take him for a short walk at the golf course near our house.  He got out all his crazies, and we took in some of the warm winter air (another 50 degree day).          


BearFace really enjoys it when I interrupt our walks for 
the sake of photography.

Today is a day dedicated to relaxation, movie watching, and getting better!  We rented Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (Drew loves Abe.  What can I say)  and Moonrise Kingdom from Redbox, got a couple cans of soup and some break and bake cookies, and will be planting ourselves (yes, all 3 of us), on the couch for the rest of the day.  Cooking didn't really happen this week, but I'll be back in the swing of things next week!

One final picture to leave you with:

Proof.  BearFace actually DOES love Murphy.

P.S. I finally figured out how to allow comments from all readers, without having to create an account.  I know, I'm a little slow. But comment away!  Please.  Pretty please.  

Dec 4, 2012


Before I get to my adventures from today, a bit of recipe catch-up from last week.  My delicious chicken and black bean soup made enough for us each to eat two bowls that night, lunch for me the next day, and dinner for Drew the next night.  Plus I had about half of my whole chicken and 6 cups of chicken stock left for further cooking.  So, what to do with all these leftovers?  Use them to make more mouth-watering dishes, of course!

Leftover Night #1:

Michelle's Semi-Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

2 cups cooked chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 refrigerated pie crusts (I do not find making my own pie crust worth the time and effort that goes into 
        it, but if you disagree, be my guest!)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup frozen broccoli
2 cans Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup flour
Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Saute onions, carrots, celery, and broccoli until slightly softened, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Mix vegetables, cooked chicken, and 1 1/2 cans cream of chicken soup in a large mixing bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Mix in 1/2 cup flour.  Mixture should be only slightly loose. You may need to add more flour. 
  5. Line bottom of pie plate with 1st pie crust.  Add mixture to pie plate, then top with 2nd pie crust.
  6. Cut holes in center of top crust to allow pie to vent.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes.  Let cool 10-15 minutes before slicing.  

Not too bad for Semi-Homemade.

Leftover Night #2:

Michelle's Homemade Chicken Soup

1-2 cups cooked chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups homemade chicken stock
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1/2 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 cup pearled barley
  1. Bring 6 cups of chicken stock to a boil.
  2. Add onions, carrots, celery, and barley to stock.  Turn down heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and barley is cooked through.
  3. Add cooked chicken, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer another 5 minutes. 
Considering the fact that I only spent about $35 on all of the ingredients for my soup, I'd say getting 3 meals out if it was a bargain!

Moving on to Tuesday: Today was a day of numbers.

  • Number of gunshots I heard in the woods while trail riding today: 4
  • Number of times Chubbles bucked while trail riding: 3
  • Number of miles Chubbles wanted to walk, trot, or do anything besides gallop (He apparently did not appreciate having 2 weeks off from his bi-weekly trail gallop): 0  
  • Number of hours spent Christmas shopping today (...with poor Murphy in tow.  At least he got to accompany me into PetSmart!): 2 1/2 
  • Number of times Murphy tried to eat trash in my car while I was in a store: ~ 5
  • Number of empty Wawa quesadilla containers that were slipped through my cracked car window by a random asshole while I was shopping (No joke, this really happened): 1 
  • Number of times Murphy protected the car from random assholes: 0
Seriously though, who does that?!  If I hadn't known for a fact that RD was in Gloucester County at the time, and nowhere near my car, I would have bet a million dollars that it was him.  On the plus side, I had an awesome trail ride this morning (minus almost being shot by deer hunters and thrown off by my energetic horse), and only have one more Christmas present left to get! 

What I imagine Murphy to be thinking: How many times do I have to
 tell her, I am a DOG, not a darn HORSE.  She better not put this picture 
on her stupid blog.  This is humiliating, just humiliating.
What Murphy is really thinking: Squirrel?!?!? Shadow?!?! 

Chubbles: Hey.  I see that carrot in your bag.  Yeah, that big one 
right on top.  I definitely deserve it after carrying you around
 for an hour.  Come on, just give it to know you want to.

I made it home around 4:30 after a thoroughly exhausting day of riding and errands, and settled in to whip up this quick and yummy dinner:

Shrimp Fried Rice

~20 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (if using frozen shrimp, defrost first)
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen broccoli
Red pepper flakes
Garlic salt
Sesame oil
Soy sauce
  1. Cook rice according to package instructions.
  2. Heat about 1 tbsp sesame oil in pan over medium heat.  Saute shrimp until pink, about 5 minutes.  Season with red pepper and garlic salt and remove from pan.
  3. Heat another 1 tbsp sesame oil in same pan over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute about 5 minutes.
  4. Add cooked rice and toss with onions and garlic.
  5. Spread rice to edges of pan so there is an opening in the center of the pan.  Add eggs to opening and cook, mixing with rice. 
  6. Add broccoli and cook about 5 minutes until defrosted.  Season rice with more red pepper.  
  7. Return shrimp to pan and add soy sauce to taste. 

Easy peasy weeknight meal!

And now off to do some reading and relax a bit.  I am currently reading Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer.  It is a non-fiction book written by a journalist who set out to compete in the American Memory Championships after reporting on the event.  I am not usually one to read non-fiction, but this book is fascinating.  The author writes about how the memory works by detailing many studies done by psychologists, most of which revolve around people with abnormal memories.   He also explains the process by which he learned to "remember everything".  The most fascinating part is that he and everyone else who competes in the championships claim to have just an average memory.  They only had to teach themselves to use it properly.  For someone who used to have an amazing memory (I don't think I ever studied more than a night in advance for any test in high school or college), and now can hardly remember what I did last weekend, I was quickly drawn in.  I will let you know if I uncover any Earth-shattering secrets as to the human mind!