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Friday, February 25, 2011

#thatswhyyourmyex


First of all, I am not a real expert on all things Twitter.  I only started using the social media site for my last job, where I was in charge of marketing.  I kept the account when I moved and have been trying to learn all the ins and outs of tweeting, or twatting as Dennis Leary claims is the past tense.  I've been tweeting regularly and promoting my blog shamelessly.  Thank you to everyone who reads!  But I'm still just a Twitter novice.

So back to the hashmark topic.  "#thatswhyyourmyex" was one of the trending topics on Twitter the other day.  I enjoy reading these trends and can definitely see how one can get addicted to Twitter.  But shouldn't it be #thatswhyyouremyex"?  I'm pretty sure it should be.

Anyway, I saw this topic a few days ago and this got me thinking of all the real "winners" I dated before I had the privilege of meeting and marrying my amazing and fabulous husband.  I feel beyond lucky and ecstatic to have met and fallen in love with this caring, thoughtful, endearing, responsible, intelligent, funny man.  Even better that he loves me back!  And his family is amazing.  His mother is a dream and his other close relatives are great.  I won the jackpot with my husband, and I'm so happy.  He really is the whole package, just what a girl looks for in a man but never really believed existed.  I was head over heels the moment I met him.

But I wasn't always so lucky in love.  There was a long string of douchebags I dated before my saintly husband came into the picture. For each guy I dated seriously, let me list the reasons #thatswhyyourmyex:

*You received a blow job in front of me at a party.

*You had a voice like a toddler.

*Your mother tried to poison me.

*You couldn’t hold your alcohol.

*You promised me great things your bank account couldn’t cash.  And you wore sneakers to a wedding.

*You used my cell phone to speak Farsi to your Uncle.

*You stole my ipod.

*You took my car for an evening and banged a stripper...  in my car.

*You told me you wanted to marry your dog.

*You didn’t make your own decisions, but believed in things because your family always held those same beliefs.

*You brought me shellacked seashells from Florida…  when I lived at the beach.  Wtf?

As you can see, I really know how to pick 'em!  Although some of these relationships were longer than others, and many brought on a lot of heartache, the experience of the relationship helped shape me into the woman I am today.  It wasn't always easy to endure the situations I inadvertently put myself in, but I don't regret any of it.  The path I walked led me to the happy, healthy life I'm living now.  I learned so much in dealing with these men not only about the individual, but about our society in general.  I also learned a lot about myself.  I really believe I'm a better person for having survived this string of bad romances.

I like to think of this as work towards where I am now rather than failed relationships.  Had any one of these relationships lasted, I wouldn't be nearly as happy as I am now.  It took surviving these bad relationships and ultimately bad breakups to get to the good one relationship.  

It took a lot of work and a lot of time to get to the place of happiness where I currently find myself, but each moment was worth it for the end result.  As my mother would say, I had to catch a lot of carp to get to the prized trout.  So glad I have my trout, though I'm not sure my hubby will like being compared to a delicious game fish.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Famous Butler Hot Dog Sauce, As Promised


This is the recipe for the best hot dog sauce in the world.  The recipe comes from the old Butler Hot Dog Shop, a place my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother frequented their entire life.  It was one of my favorite stops until the place closed when I was in college.  

The Butler Hot Dog Shop was by no means an upscale place, but home to the Western Pennsylvania working class, stopping by when their shift ended at the steel mill or shale mine for a quick and filling bite to eat.  It was open 24 hours a day, and you would be lucky any time of day to find a seat upon your arrival.  You almost never found a cleaned table with settings ready for you, and it was commonly advised to skip a trip to the bathroom.  But the food was always good, and you could smell the aroma of this delicious sauce as soon as you got out of your car.  

For me, this sauce has fond memories of trips to my great-grandmother's house.  We never went with her, but as she aged her cooking skills diminished.  We always found visiting on a full stomach to be the wisest plan for our visit, so we hit the Hot Dog Shop on our way.  Forget it if we were visiting Uncle Don and Helen, who continued living alone and cooking until well into their nineties.  

They were all raised in the Depression era, and were of the mindset that you never throw anything away.  A meal at Don & Helen's may well include last month's chicken, questionable vegetables, coffee and cream well past it's prime, and a can of peaches from 1963.  We always thought that scientists should study their stomachs for the cure for cancer or some other wild scientific breakthrough, for being able to eat the food they regularly consumed.

Anyway, this is a delicious recipe and I hope it brings you as much joy as it does to me.  I like to load up my hot dog bun with the hot dog first, then I smother it with the hot dog sauce, and top with shredded cheddar.  My grandparents put fresh onions on top of their sauce.  Any way you like it, give it a try!

Butler Hot Dog Sauce




1 lb hamburger, browned
¾ cup diced onions
1 ½ tablespoons salt
7 teaspoons chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
9 teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
1 cup ketchup
3 cups water
1 beef boullion cube
½ cup water and ½ cup flour blended together

Simmer 1 hour.  Stir frequently.  Once cooked and cooled, I put it through the food processor to bring to consistent texture.  Makes ½ gallon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How I cure myself

Sometimes I feel a bit "off."  Not sad, not angry, not frustrated, not annoyed, just not my usual peppy, optimistic, sunshiny self.  Usually a good night's sleep can cure these feelings.  But spending time doing some of my favorite things definitely helps boost my mood and get me back to normal. A good hike in the woods, my favorite movie, or creating culinary masterpiece in my own kitchen can definitely shake me from these depths.

My favorite hike is at Oil Creek State Park.  In the heart of the park is the Geology Trail in Wildcat Hollow.  This 1-mile loop takes you up and down one of the main hills in the park, through a pass between two giant boulders.  The rocks and soil under these boulders is almost always muddy, and often has a small stream running between the rocks.  You can smell the oil in the ground during your hike.  Further up the trail you past a rock overhang, where you can imagine Native Americans resting for the night after a hunt.  This also happens to be where a friend and I boldly choose to step over a copperhead, though I didn't tell her the snake was venomous at the time.  Several hundred feet further is an overlook where you can see the entire Oil Creek Valley.  While not an easy trail, it is definitely rewarding.  As a teenager, my dog and I used to hike this trail at least once a week.  The view from the overlook was never the same, but always comforting and beautiful.

As I was growing up and hiking the trails of Oil Creek and the woods beyond the field near my house, it was perfectly normal to complete any hiking trail without seeing another soul the entire time.  (Hasson Heights locals will know that field as Rubino's Field.  There was an awesome abandoned barn and chicken coop we used to explore as kids.  Always gave me the creeps, but even two girls couldn't resist the urge to venture in and have a look around.)  I believe this is the way to experience a hike; in total solitude.  Hiking was and is my place to get lost in my own thoughts and daydreams.  I never hike with headphones or music.  Instead, I enjoy the music of the forest.  To me, nothing sounds better than the songs of birds, the chatter of squirrels, the rustle of leaf litter as a white tailed deer jumps across the path, the trickle of a snow melt stream, and the sound of wind through the tree branches.

When I moved to Washington D.C., one of my biggest complaints was that I couldn't get away from the mass of people.  Everywhere I went, including the woods (I lived very near Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA, which had a trail that ran along the Potomac and linked up to Great Falls National Park - a lovely park and a lovely hike) I couldn't get away from the people.  Forget hiking on a weekend, you would encounter hundreds of people along the way.  Sometimes, on cool or cold weekday mornings, you could hike the trail and only run into a handful of people, but it still didn't allow me to enjoy my hike.

When I moved to NC, it was slightly better.  I hiked Carolina Beach State Park on a regular basis and enjoyed the flat, coastal terrain along the Cape Fear River.  Each time, I would encounter a few people, but it was generally a good hike when the weather allowed.  It was great until I came across a middle aged man walking the trail stark naked.  A few weeks later, a body was discovered in this same park and concluded my hiking experience at Carolina Beach State Park.

Fayetteville has a soulless trail called the Cape Fear River Trail.  It's paved (which ruins it for me, I must admit) and has clear mile markers making it easy to hike a few miles.  But it isn't the trails I long for.  We ventured north to Raven Rock State Park but had the same experience as I did along the Potomac, far too  many people.  Hopefully we will be able to find a suitable trail for me to hike with Lola.

I was definitely feeling "off" on Monday.  Lola puppy had her spaying appointment.  I'm far too attached to that dog, and it drove me crazy that I couldn't be there through the surgery or even with her during her recovery.  She did far better than I did, and is recovering nicely.  Anyway, to cure my "off" feeling I got a good night's sleep and decided to do one of my other favorite things; cook a delicious meal for my husband;
Pan-Seared Rockfish with Buerre Blanc Sauce served with Parmesan broiled asparagus and baked potatoes.  Sounds really difficult, but it was really quite simple.  I found the fish recipe online, but changed it up a bit to improve the flavor.  Serve this for company and they will definitely be wowed by your abilities!!!

Pan-Seared Rockfish with Buerre Blanc Sauce




2 lemons
1/2 dry white wine
White pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup canola oil
6 eight ounce filets of rockfish, boned and skinned
1 cup butter, melted
half a shallot, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
tablespoon fresh thyme
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

For the sauce, mix together wine, white pepper, and juice from lemons and heat to simmering.  Whisk in cream, bring to a boil and reduce by half.  Meanwhile, heat oil to medium high in large skillet.  Salt and pepper filets to taste.  Saute shallot and garlic in oil.  Add filets and cook till golden brown on both sides, sprinkling 1/2 of the fresh thyme over filets after you turn them.  Once cooked, remove filets to heated serving dish.  When the sauce has reduced by half and is thick, reduce heat and slowly whisk in melted butter, whisking the whole time to properly incorporate the butter to the sauce.  Pour sauce over the filets and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Bucket List

I've updated!!!  New stuff in Blue!!!

Everyone should have a bucket list...  In no particular order, here's mine:

*Kiss the Blarney Stone
*Hike in Patagonia (the place, not the gear...)
*See a bristlecone pine


*Attend a concert in Red Rocks Amphitheater
*See Stonehenge
*Write and publish a cookbook
*Have a spa weekend in Taos, NM with my best friend
*Tour Biltmore, and do a wine tasting
*Eat my way through Italy
*Attend a taping of A Prairie Home Companion, preferably before Garrison Keillor bites the big one
*Purchase back the family cottage, or a similar property
*Make money from blogging
*Bicycle through Bavaria
*Amble across the footbridges of Plitvice Lakes National Park
*Take the Hiram Bingham to Machu Picchu
*Photograph Petra in the early morning
*Eat the Menu Découverte with my husband in Paris
*Go on a honeymoon with my husband!

That's all for now.  I'm sure more will come in time.  What's on your bucket list???


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Recent WTF moments in the Greater Fayetteville Region

Recently my husband and I have encountered a wide variety of strange creatures around Fayetteville.  Friday during a quick trip to the Hope Mills Walmart, we encountered a clown doing some light shopping.  It's one thing when you read about clown encounters, another when you actually experience a clown in person.  Is Walmart the clown's natural habitat?  I'd like to think so.

This didn't conclude our creepy encounters for the weekend.  Yesterday, on our way home from running a few errands we saw two men selling Domino's pizza out of the back of a pick up truck.  To sweeten the buyer's deal, the men were dressed up; one was dressed in drag in a white gown and gloves with a long blonde wig (and facial hair, of course).  The other was dressed up as a jester.  I don't know about you, but the last time I bought pizza out of the back of a truck from a guy in drag and a guy dressed as a jester it did not agree with my gastrointestinal tract.

Finally, to round out our wtf weekend, we encountered one more classy citizen of Fayettenam.  Right there, on the main road outside of our subdivision approximately a mile from our home was a man walking along the side of the road donning a late model gas mask.  Not carrying said mask, but with it perfectly in place on his face.  Wtf???

After further discussion about our encounters over the weekend, hubby and I decided we will move somewhere with far fewer people upon his honorable discharge from the Army.  Somewhere like the wilds of Wyoming, the back woods of Montana, or the deep wilderness of the Northwest Territory.  I guess we'll see where the winds carry us.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Crazy Ex Girlfriend and Backyard Arrests

So I have two topics of discussion for you today.  One of which stems from an incident involving my husband and one of his ex girlfriends.  But we will get to that one shortly.

First of all, last night my husband, puppy Lola and I were rudely awakened to the loud and close sound of multiple gunshots.  Actually, Lola and I were awakened to the sound of gunshots, I had to wake up the husband who slept right through the first shot.  There were several more shots after Mark looked around the house.  When he determined that no one was in the house threatening us harm, he put Lola and I in the windowless bathroom and called the Fayetteville Police and Sheriff's Department.  Only a few minutes later and the officers were racing through our yard to the lake front area behind our next door neighbor's yard.  It was an unusually warm night last night (only got down to 57) so we could hear the officers shouting at the suspects through our open bedroom window.  The officers ordered the suspects on the ground and to drop their weapon.  A short verbal exchange between suspects and officers ended with the suspects, two young men, in cuffs and the officers escorting the guys from our yard and the neighbor's to the group of police cars collected in our cul de sac.

From what I overheard, the men were likely drinking and just wanted to test out their gun.  They must have been under the influence, because anyone in their right mind wouldn't fire their gun at 12:30am in a highly populated, relatively quiet and upscale subdivision.  Regardless of their mental state, it meant for a rather frightening experience for my little family.

Now on to the ex girlfriend interaction.  Everyone has that ex that simply won't get the point; that you are no longer interested in them and don't want them in your life.  Instead, they clutch to the idea that there could still be a chance.  Their obsession has not run it's course and they will do all they can to hold on to that little bit of hope that the object of their affection could have a change of heart. While this is rarely the case, it never helps the obsessed to stop their attempts.

So is the case with Mark's ex.  While she was the one to end their relationship with infidelity, she can't seem to understand how Mark can possibly continue his life without her.  Numerous attempts at contact from her have been met with different responses.  At first, Mark responded to her advances with kind dismissal.  When this didn't work, he resorted to nastiness; this only seemed to encourage her.  From then on, he simply ignored her friend requests on Facebook or email messages.  From the time we began dating until now, he has ignored no less than 5 attempts at contact from this woman.

Her latest advance was brought to my attention a few days ago.  I decided that maybe a message from me discouraging her behavior might make her realize that her chances with my husband are nil.  My message to her read as follows:

Dear ______,

You don't know me, and likely don't know of me, but I am married to Mark Crenshaw. He recently alerted me to your continued attempts at contact with him via Facebook. While I understand your enthrallment, your contact is neither welcomed nor appropriate. Please cease and desist further contact with my husband. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Katie Crenshaw



I didn't want her to feel attacked, but I wanted her to know that her advances are not going to be tolerated.  Her response to me was:


Do you really talk like this?! Lol I am married so whatever your making this out to sound like it isn't.. I'll definitely have to put this message on some kind of facebook fails website- definitely the funniest thing I've read in a while! I went to school with mark and that was it. So how about you "cease" writing lol


I don't know of any "facebook fails" website that would post my well written cease and desist letter.  There are no "fails" [shouldn't that be failure, if we were using proper English???] in what I wrote.  I believe my message was very clear.


Regardless, I'm not threatened by this woman.  She clearly still has feelings for my husband despite her marriage.  Mark and I have a wonderful, loving, strong and honest marriage.  Something I truly hope she can aspire to with her husband.


As for the "went to school with mark and that was it" comment.  I don't know why my honest and straightforward husband would lie to me about his relationship with some woman in his past.  They clearly were not just friends, though I'm sure he wishes that their relationship would have remained as such.


I believe that people should respect the vows of a marriage.  Once you're married, regular friendly correspondence with exes should "cease and desist".  If for no other reason than respect to your new spouse.  I'm not saying that you can never speak to them, and I know there are sometimes special circumstances.  But I can guarantee you that regardless of what your significant other says, they are somewhat uneasy when/if you speak with one or more of your exes.  Forget it if you're speaking with an ex without letting your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband.  If you feel the need to speak to your ex and cover it up, you definitely should not be speaking with this person.  


On the flip side, if you are trying to contact your now married ex, you too should respect the vows of that marriage.  He/she clearly choose another over you, and while it may be painful, you should back off and allow him or her to enjoy the married life with his/her spouse.  

And yes, I do speak like that in my daily life.  Being well read, having a good education, and experiencing life as I have allowed me to speak and write with a wider range of vocabulary than perhaps the everyday American.  I take pride in the fact that I can compose an impressive letter, be it to my husband's ex via Facebook or to the President of the United States.  Just because you're communicating in a casual media does not mean that all one's elementary grammar, punctuation, syntax, and diction should be dismissed.


If this woman happens to read my blog, I hope she knows I don't wish ill on her.  I hope she can develop with her husband the kind of relationship Mark and I have.  As for her request for me to cease writing; never.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Valentine's Day, In-laws, and Bowflex

So I've been a super slacker and haven't blogged in nearly a week.  What can I say, I've been very busy!  Last Friday evening, Mark's brother surprised us by coming to visit.  We were supposed to go to South Carolina to see his brother, Jamie, and his mother and her husband but of course Mark was "on-call" for work and we couldn't leave the area.  So Jamie got here around midnight Friday and didn't stay long, he left around 1pm Saturday.  Anyway, of course we stayed up to visit and drank way too much.  I am way too old to stay up all night drinking anymore.  I really can't hang like I used to.  Up until 4am, about half a bottle of Private Stock consumed, and I literally had a two-day hangover.  I thought I was dying.  I truly did.  Other symptoms we won't discuss here had me convinced I had Ebola.  Luckily the symptoms did not persist and I'm feeling quite better. As a result of Jamie's whirlwind visit, Mark and I laid low the entire weekend.

I must report that the gnocchi prepared for Friday night turned out splendidly, but I don't think that I will make it again.  It's just a lot of meal.  It's too heavy and anything leftover does not seem appetizing.

After our lazy weekend, Valentine's Day arrived on Monday.  I was surprised by a gift certificate to an upscale spa, a charm for my Pandora bracelet, a bouquet of beautiful tulips, my favorite flowers, and an exquisite steak dinner at an upscale steakhouse here in Fayetteville.  I didn't purchase him anything, per se, but I did dress up in slutty lingerie for him after dinner.  He said no one had ever done this for him and was very happy.  Now, if you know me, you know that I'm not a skinny little mini anymore.  I got my Valentine's Day present for my husband from a great website - Plus Size Plum, and I highly recommend them to anyone.  I got amazing customer service and they were really helpful.

Speaking of being plus sized, I've been using my hubby's bowflex.  It's an incredible machine, and I'm already seeing results.  My jeans fit better, and I feel great.  It was an expensive machine, but with regular use, it will pay for itself.  I am, however, incredibly sore today.

I made stuffed shells last night for dinner.  Not from the recipe book, just from a few recipes.  They were good, but nothing spectacular.  I'm attempting to reduce our meat intake for better health and to aid weight loss.  Don't get me wrong, never ever will my husband and I will never be vegetarians.  But it won't kill us to have a meat free meal once or twice a week.  I'm making homemade pizza tonight with garlic, olive oil, basil, and fresh mozzarella.  It's my go-to pizza and is always good.  I'm thinking about a vegetable stir fry sometime this weekend.  We just happen to have a lot of vegetables in the refrigerator to be used.

I must get ready for my brow wax appointment this afternoon.  What a way to use my spa gift certificate!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back in Business

So my mom is finally gone after a nice, short visit.  The Steelers failed miserably in the Superbowl.  My weekend has just been ruined yet again by my husband's work. He has to work 6pm to 6am tomorrow (Saturday) night.  We were supposed to visit his hometown this weekend.  Hubby's brother was going to be home for the first time in about 5 years, and I was going to get to meet him for the first time.  But the Army made sure we couldn't go anywhere this weekend.

So my mom bought us some all natural/organic hippie shit for the dog from a store called Indigo Wild.  She got her what is called a yum pack, including wash and a spray to keep her smelling un-funky.  It smells really good, but as it fades from it's delicious formulated smell, the smell remaining is patchouli which isn't my favorite scent.  But it is better than hot wet dog.  She also got me some deodorant, which smells amazing (tea tree and lavender) but doesn't keep the funk from creeping in by the end of the day.  It's great for overnight though, and I will keep using it.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to order some soap from this company, because they seem pretty cool and it's all organic and environmentally friendly.  I also want to give the laundry detergent and household cleaner a try.  I'll let you know how well it works.

I'm getting back to my ambitious Italian cooking spree, with intentions to make Potato Gnocchi with butter, sage, and Parmesan cheese for dinner tonight.  Gnocchi is one of my favorite things but it can be so heavy.  This recipe promises to be light and fluffy and delicious.  We will find out tonight!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Steeler Nation

Superbowl fever abounds, and I anxiously await the game with my husband and mother.  An avid Carolina Panthers fan, my husband is happy to cheer for the Steelers after their abysmal season. My husband recently saw an article on Yahoo! news or some equivalent media outlet about how a county in Pennsylvania wants to change their name from "Greene" to "Black and Gold".  He couldn't understand how this could be.  He couldn't understand how a county could feel this strongly about a sports team.

(After further research, I found that Greene county was temporarily renaming the county to Black and Gold County for Superbowl week to coincide with a "Tail-gate" party to benefit the local humane society.)

This brought up further discussion about team support.  My husband believes that it's great to support your team, but that it is just a game and any further endorsement is unnecessary and excessive.  He couldn't understand this mindset and commitment to a sports team.  I told him that this was further proof that the Pittsburgh and it's surrounding area has produced the best sports fans in the world.  The feeling a Steeler fan has when she walks into a bar on the Southside is incomparable. Even more awe inspiring is one's first Steeler or Penguin game.  Pirates games are less exciting, but asking for three successful sports teams in one city is exorbitant.  Even walk into one of the thousands of Steeler bars around the nation and you can feel the electricity in the air.  No other team has so many dedicated fan bases as do the Steelers.  Any city of any size will have one of these Steeler bars, where you can crack an I.C. Light and discuss the defense with a guy from Aliquippa, relocated because of work but holding strong that Steeler praise.  We were born of dirt and sweat and grit, to hard working families.  Steelers playing reflects this working class mentality.  It may not be a pretty game, but they work hard to get the job done.

This is one of the many reasons it is so good to be a Steeler fan in a Steeler nation.  Regardless of who wins the game tonight, I have always been and will always be a fan of the black and gold.  Go Steelers!

Friday, February 4, 2011

chicken marsala

So after a day's rest for my serious injury to my head, and arguably my brain, I'm back on top.  Well, technically Lola is on top of my knees licking the back of my laptop.  But I digress.

I made an absolute gastronomic masterpiece last night for my lucky husband.  He came home from a very long day at work to Chicken Marsala with Sauteed Carrots in Marsala and a homemade carrot cake.  The depth of flavor in this delicious chicken recipe was naturally complimented by the sweet glaze on the carrots.  It was supposedly Carrot Cake day so I decided it was time I made something nice and sweet for the hubby and he got a serving of veggies for dessert!

Anyway, this recipe wasn't necessarily more difficult than the others.  Ok, yes it was.  But it still wasn't difficult and with a little preparation anyone can make this delicious, restaurant style dish.  Let's start with the Chicken Marsala.  

Chicken Marsala
In order to make this as easy as possible, I measured out each of my ingredients ahead of time, and lined them up on the kitchen counter for easy access.  Both this recipe and the sauteed carrots require attention at the last minute so in order for them both to be ready at the same time, it's important to have everything close at hand.  Expect to have lots of little dishes to wash at the end of this meal from your preparation.  But trust me, it's worth it!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (fat trimmed)
1 cup unbleached flour
Salt & black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 ounces pancetta (about 3 slices), cut into pieces 1 inch long and 1/8 inch wide
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a large heatproof dinner plate on the rack, and heat oven to 200.  Pat the chicken breasts dry.  Place the flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate (I use paper plates for this).  Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper to taste.  Working with one cutlet at a time, coat both sides with flour.  Shake off excess and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12 inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat until.  Place the floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Using tongs, flip the cutlets and cook on second side until golden brown, or about 3 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to the heated plate and return the plate to the oven.  

Return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta (I used American bacon and it took a little longer, but still tasted really good).  Saute, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until the pancetta is brown and crisp, about 4 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to medium high. Saute, stirring until the liquid released by the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook, stirring constantly until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute.  Off the heat, add the Marsala (if you add the wine to the pan while on the heat, especially on a gas oven, you run the risk of a large fire).  Return the pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.  Off the heat, add the lemon juice and any chicken juice from the pan in the oven.  Whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Stir in the parsley and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve immediately.

(NOTE:  I made this with chicken tenderloins (chicken fingers) and they were tough and dry.  Definitely stick to the whole chicken breast for this recipe.)

Sauteed Carrots with Marsala
1 pound whole carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices on the bias
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Ground black pepper

Bring carrots, 1/2 teaspoon salt, thyme, and 1/2 cup wine to a boil in the covered twelve inch skillet over medium high heat.  Reduce the heat to the medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are just tender when poked with the tip of a paring knife, about 5 minutes.

Uncover, increase the heat to high, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 1 -2 minutes.  Add the butter and sugar, toss the carrots to coat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are completely tender and the glaze is light-golden, about 3 minutes.

Off the heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon Marsala, the lemon juice, and the parsley.  Toss to coat.  Transfer the carrots to a serving bowl.  Discard the sprig of thyme, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. 

(NOTE:  When I made this recipe I must have used the butter directions from the Chicken recipe because I added 4 tablespoons.  It turned out really well with a buttery sweet glaze on the carrots.)

I haven't a clue what I'll make tonight, but if it is anything good I will be sure to share.  Happy cooking!  I'm off to terrorize a squirrel that has the audacity to be on top of my patio furniture!!!  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

@#&%$*! Squirrels!!!

My loving and amazing husband bought me a lovely bird feeder for Christmas along with all the bird feed I could pack into the thing.  Hours after I hung the feeder I saw that the squirrels were going to be a serious issue.  I never knew it would be an epic battle of patience and wit between rodent and human!!!

I tried to scare them away with yelling and running frantically at the feeder, but they just seemed to retreat to the safety of the trees and laugh at me.  They were filling their bellies with my bird feed and getting away with it.  This went on for a few weeks until one day I returned home from running a morning full of errands to find my beloved bird feeder broken in pieces on the ground, an army of squirrels around the spilled out bird feed stuffing their little squirrel faces.  I did the usual barbaric approach to the feeder, arms flailing and roars erupting from my mouth.  The squirrels did their usual retreat, waiting to ambush the scene upon my return to the house.

Heartbroken and at my wit's end, I vowed revenge!!!  A quick trip to the local Tractor Supply Company garnered new bird feed, a beautiful new cedar feeder, and an essential new Daisy bb gun with "Real Tree Finish!"  The model we purchased was the top of the line available at this particular store.  We spared no expense in our squirrel war.  It even came equipped with a scope!  Since it was dark when we got home and all respectable squirrels had retreated to their fluffy leaf homes, I had to wait until the next day to try out my new weapon of squirrel destruction.

I spent the entire next day trying to get a good grip on my bb gun's abilities.  But I couldn't seem to get the scope to point me in the right direction!  I don't have a lot of experience with guns, but I have definitely shot many a bb gun at a squirrel before and couldn't figure out why none of my shots landed successfully!!  Finally, my brilliant husband removed the scope and we were both suddenly a dead on shot!!!  Beware squirrels, as soon as the sun comes up I will exact my revenge for the demolition of my bird feeder!!!

The squirrels seem to be slow learners.  After scaring the squirrels with many near misses, I think they may finally be getting the hint.  I landed a shot dead on one of the squirrels and while not fatal, definitely scared the shit out of the little bastard.  Literally, I think he shit his little squirrel pants right there.  While this occurred only about an hour ago, I'm hopeful that he is telling his little squirrel friends that my yard is not the place for dinner!

Day #3 was doomed from the beginning...

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night, your house shaking.  You hear repeated loud BOOMs that seem to be right down the street??  This happened to me and my husband two nights ago.  After the loud noise woke us up, I sent the husband searching the house, gun in hand, for possible intruders.  As it turned out, once we were fully awake, we were simply hearing the cannons from the artillery range on Fort Bragg.  Twelve miles away.  Shaking our home and waking us out of our much needed slumber.  Why those in charge of this particular exercise thought it would be a good idea to practice at 12:30am I'll never guess.  These exercises continued throughout the night and next day.  Quite unnerving.  It felt like I was in London during WWII.  Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep.

Then, when I finally got out of bed I found it to be a beautiful 64 degrees outside so I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and open all the doors and windows to allow the house to air out.  I'm working on my 3rd window when the damned blinds fall out of their holder and neatly onto my head.  Now this may sound minor, but these particular blinds are quite heavy.  Add the gravity of the fall and my head had a significant goose egg.

I tried to get past these issues by going about my day in a normal fashion.  When I nearly beheaded the checkout clerk at Harris Teeter for asking "paper or plastic" when I had already handed him my reusable bags I decided it was a sign to take it easy the rest of the day.  So day three of Italian Classics did not happen, Papa John's did instead.  Stay tuned for tonight's menu of Chicken Marsala with Marsala glazed carrots.  Also, I hear it is carrot cake day???  I'm not sure this is "Official" or anything, but I may whip up a carrot cake too if I'm able to finish the rest of my chores.

Lola is trying to help me type:

ghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhggggggggggggggggggggggggg

That was her helping.  Time for QT with my puppy.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

So I've decided to start a blog

I know what you're thinking...  Who really writes a blog???  Why would someone want to write about their mundane existence?  I can't really answer this question, except it just seems like something fun to do.  I am not one of those self absorbed housewives who has too much time on her hands.  (Although I am currently unemployed, I keep myself quite busy keeping a house and cooking for my husband.  I know, a little traditional and old fashioned but that is another post for a later time).  Nor do I believe my ideas are of such value that anyone will actually want to take time out of their busy days to read them.  I just thought a blog might be a fun place to share my experiences as the wife of an Army man living in Fayetteville and maybe share some recipes I have found successful.  So I will just dive in head first:

My husband and I received $125 worth of gift cards to Barnes & Noble for Christmas.  I wanted to purchase a bird guide in response to another Christmas gift, my bird feeder (also another post for a later time...).  I lost my husband somewhere in the stacks and decided to peruse the cookbooks.  With some Italian roots, I settled on "Cooks Illustrated: Italian Classics".  The cookbook has many of your favorite Italian restaurant favorites as well as tips on how to easily conquer the most intimidating dish.  Coming from Cooks, the recipes are tried and true.  I was immediately excited by my purchase and planned out meals for the entire week with recipes from this cookbook.  I will report daily on my findings and share the best of the recipes.

We began the adventure last night with grilled lamb chops and grilled eggplant. The grilled lamb chops were a giant hit while the eggplant was less than thrilling.  Both recipes were very simple!  Any kitchen novice could easily wow friends and family with these impressive dishes.

Grilled Lamb Chops
2-3 Lamb chops per person
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil per lamb serving
Salt & Pepper to taste

Choose 2-3 lamb chops per person.  Trim excess fat and then rub olive oil over chop.  Salt generously and pepper (ALWAYS FRESH GROUND PEPPER) to taste.  Grill for 4 minutes over high heat.  (I tend to favor a charcoal grill over a gas grill just for the flavor.)  Turn chops and move to lower heat portion of the grill.  Grill for additional 6 minutes for rare, 7 minutes for medium, or 8 minutes for well done.  I like mine about 6 minutes 30 seconds for a medium rare.  Cooking to this level of doneness maintains the tenderness of the meat while still cooking to a safe temperature.

Grilled Eggplant (serves 4)
1 Eggplant, trimmed and cut into squares
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme or Oregano
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Mix oil, herbs, and salt and pepper.  Brush on eggplant slices.  Grill on low heat 8-10 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature.

This recipe wasn't necessarily bad, just not to my liking.  If you're a huge eggplant fan, or maybe preparing a bbq for people that include vegetarians it would be a recipe to consider.

Day #2 of the Italian Classics Cookbook

So day number two of the Italian Classics dinner was a huge success, and so well received by my husband he begged me not to lose the recipes.  Okay he didn't beg, because that is not his style...  But he did tell me to hang on to those recipes because he really enjoyed the dinner.  We had Chargrilled Tuscan Style Steak with Olive Oil & Lemon and Broiled Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese.  So good!!  Here are the recipes.

Chargrilled Tuscan Steak with Olive Oil and Lemon
2 T-Bone or Porterhouse Steaks, each 1 1/2 inches thick (about 3.5lbs total), patted dry
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges for serving

Prepare charcoal grill with a hot side and a cooler side. Heat grill grate for 5 minutes then brush clean.  Meanwhile, salt and pepper the steaks (recipe called for above measurements but I just sprinkle liberally with salt and use fresh ground black pepper to my liking, which is generously).  Grill on hot part of the grill 2.5 minutes on each side to brown, then move to cooler part of the grill for an additional 5-6 minutes for rare, 6-7 minutes rare medium rare, 7-8 minutes medium medium rare, or 8-9 minutes well done.  Remove from grill and let rest 5 minutes (this is an important step, as it allows the juices to settle within the meat.  Cutting the meat immediately allows the juices to escape, leaving you with dry steak).  Once the meat has rested, cut from the bone and slice into strips about 1/2 inch thick.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Broiled Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese
1 1/4 lbs of asparagus, tough ends snapped off
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and coarsely freshly ground black pepper
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Place oven rack at top position.  Lay asparagus in single layer on rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roll the asparagus to evenly coat.  Cook under broiler until they are beginning to brown lightly and a knife easily punctures the stalk.  (I used the low broiler setting on my oven, but some ovens only have one setting.  Be sure to watch anything in the broiler closely as food can quickly go from done to burnt in a broiler.)  While the asparagus is broiling, grate 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  When the asparagus is done, sprinkle half of the cheese over the asparagus before removing from baking sheet.  Then carefully remove asparagus to warmed serving dish.  Squeeze lemon over asparagus, and sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Serve immediately.