Wrapping Things Up

Lasagna

Lasagna

Here we are coming to the close of another year.  It has been another eventful one.  There is no lack of excitement going on over in this neck of the woods.  It hasn’t been easy but there isn’t one thing I would change if I could.  Not one.  Well, maybe just one.

I am not a person of complacency.  Thankfully I live in America and what a great foundation for a good life.  Wherever we live, we would still strive for happiness.  But, everyone’s definition of happy is different.  The glass half empty comes to mind.  When my older girls where younger I had a terrible fear of death.  I would have anxiety over flying, the girls choking, or what would happen if I left them with a sitter.  Something shifted inside me that lead me to understand that life is short.  Death is something we will all experience and no avoiding it in our heads is going to make it not happen when our time comes.  I can’t tell you what exactly happened to me to make that shift.  But I am not afraid of living or dying anymore.  And I do believe that the two go hand in hand.

That being said, you may not like what I have to say.  My words may seem volatile, or irrational, maybe funny, always exciting, lovingly truthful, with a touch of crazy, sometimes sad, but it will always be human.  It will be my human emotion through this journey of personal triumphs and failures.  But it is my journey.  It is my journey of growing and thriving as a business owner and a single mom of three beautiful girls.  It doesn’t define me as a good/bad person, a good/bad chef, or a good/bad mother.  It is an experience.  I know that some of you think of me as a strong woman who has always got it together, but I do not.  Through experience I have come to redefine my definition of confidence.  To me, it isn’t being 100% sure of a decision.  Confidence, to me, is making the best decision despite what could be the outcome- all while feeling good about the person looking at me in the mirror.   It is feeling good about myself, even if the outcome is not perfect.  However, I now have an editor, so ultimately she can be blamed when things go really south.  Readers-blame her.  There is no doubt I can throw a fabulous party and cook a damn good meal.  But there is so much more that goes with it.  Maybe one of you can learn from my personal successes or failures.  I may not be perfect in what I am doing personally, but I will always take risks to make things unique and wonderful. This is evident with G&H.   That is what I hope my blogging does for you-gives you confidence and courage.  If you are just 1 person or if you are 101 people.  Writing is my therapy.  I want to write it out and share with you the things that I do right or learn there may a better way.  And I do this, always, one meal at a time.

It is also therapy to share my recipes.  I get bits and pieces of recipes from everywhere.  I have a library of cookbooks and with the internet, there is no loss of information.  I  love sharing them for you to try them out yourselves.  G&H is here to make it for you when you don’t have the time, but I completely understand wanting to play in the kitchen.  Here is the lasagna recipe that a client ask for a few weeks back.  It is such a lovely compliment to want a recipe!  Thank you-

Ingredients

~1 Lb Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage in casing

~Bulb of Garlic

~4 26 ounce containers of Marzano italian crushed tomatoes

~1 Roasted Fennel (optional)

~Sliced Mushrooms (optional) 8 ounces

~Fresh Mozarella thickly sliced  16oz

~Whole Milk Riccotto 16 ounces

~1 Egg

~1/2 Cup Parmesan (plus more for sprinkling on top)

~1 Package Barilla No Boil Lasagna Noodles

Directions

The sauce is the most important part of this dish.  I learned from some Italian friends the way to make a good tomato sauce.  Simmering it on the stove for a long time is the secret.  It is a weekend type of dish.  Start your sauce on Saturday and let it simmer over night and then put it all together on Sunday.  To make the sauce, brown your sausage and break it up in the casing.  Add all of your bulb of garlic.  I just smash it and peel it.  Next add your containers of crushed tomatoes.  If I have fennel and mushrooms, then I will add them.  If I don’t, then I won’t make a special trip out for them.  When everything is in your stockpot, let this simmer on low for 8 to 12 hours.  The tomato sauce will become this deep red color.  Hold back from eating it now, because you will want to!  Mix your egg, 1/2 cup parmesan and ricotta in a small bowl.  Start with a layer of tomato sauce, then noodles, ricotta, then mozzarella slices.  Do this as long as you have ingredients to layer and room to pile it up.  Your last layer should be the tomato sauce and sprinkle some parmesan over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly hot.  Serve this with an italian loaf and garden salad.  Yum- a perfect Sunday family meal.

Cooking, throwing a party, helping clients to make wonderful memories, having this forum to share feelings and recipes, and celebrating life are all things I enjoy and give me great happiness.  I look forward to sharing many more recipes and experiences with you in 2014!  Here’s to living!

You want WHAT for Christmas?

Vanilla Pound Cupcakes with Almond Buttercream Icing

Vanilla Pound Cupcakes with Almond Buttercream Icing

It is finally here!  The season that little people and some big people favor most of the year.  Christmas is finally upon us!

I may have written this before, but this is not my favorite holiday.  It reminds me of a really bad drug (like a decongestant) that gets you all hyped up only to plummet you to the bottom of the deepest darkest hole.  OK, maybe that is a bit extreme but I ain’t a fan.  We all feel way too busy rushing around.  We all hear those car horns a little more this time of year.  Everyone seems a little Mad.  And for most Moms and Dads, it can be brutal having your little monkey look at you with those sweet eyes, saying “please get me that iPad mini” that is over $300.  I sold my car from college for about that much.

I believe the best part of this year is staying warm in the kitchen while baking goodies for friends and family. And sometimes eating the goodies myself while watching Netflix in the comfort of my own home.  Sometimes I turn on some calming music (maybe a little Frank Sinatra’s Christmas but only once during the season) and zone in on the baking, tuning everything else out.  All eyes do light up and twinkle when given that gift that is made from the heart and fills the belly.

The girls and I have so much fun concocting different sweet treats.  One such treat are these Vanilla Pound Cupcakes.  I call them pound cakes because they use more egg than a normal yellow vanilla cake.  They can be tricky because as they cool, they will shrink from the cupcake tin.  I found this Pound Cake recipe from Gourmet.  It was called Elvis Presley’s Favorite Pound Cake.  I changed a couple of things, like the egg amount, to make them into more of a yummy cupcake.

You will need to soften your butter to room temperature.  This always gets me because I forget and then need to make it on the fly.

Ingredients~

2 sticks butter

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour (sifted)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream your butter and sugar together in a mixer and then add the eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla and mix.  Scrape down of your bowl.  Add half your flour, then all your heavy cream, and finish with your last bit of flour and salt.  Mix this on high speed for 5-6 minutes.  This is where the batter will get a lovely silky texture.  Bake your cupcakes for about 45 minutes.  Check to make sure your toothpick comes out clean!

You will love this with berries and cream in the summertime too.  It doesn’t hurt to dream of the warm spring, which IS my favorite season.  It will be here sooner than we know.

Here is to spending way too much money on the monkeys and feeding them way too much sugar.  But, most importantly, to their faces lighting up when they receive what they didn’t expect, which is always priceless.

Holiday Time

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  Get your orders in before December 20th!

Medium Jars of Spicy Candied Pecans or Walnuts  $10.

Large Jars of Spicy Candied Pecans  $13

Baskets- include One Medium Jar of Spicy Candied Pecans, One Bag of Grits, One Jar of Grits and Honey’s Granola and Honey Sticks $45

I cannot believe myself.  I have actually gotten Christmas Cards made this year.  Am I becoming more organized?  Am I less of a scrooge this year?  I think so.

I am so proud of my Christmas Tree.  It was $27 at Costco.  They are already wrapped up so you can’t really tell what they look like.  I just let the guy helping me pick it out.  I wasn’t going to fret over a tree that was going to be put in the dump in less than three weeks.  I figured he could pick me out my Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  Oh, it is a beautiful Fraser Fir Tree.  I think it is even more beautiful because it was only $27- $29 and change with tax.  I had Allie help me get it off my car and I sawed the bottom three inches off so that it would soak up the water.  We carried “her” in and placed “her” in the living room.  We played Christmas music, I had a glass of wine, and we decorated “her”.  The girls at one point pulled every ornament out but only hung 3.  I said “no way, you guys wanted the tree, you guys help decorate it.”  What is it with their attention span?  The tree isn’t perfect, but it is perfect for us.  It was a perfect evening, with every one of the trees flaws and ours.

I hope to make this Christmas simpler for us all.  One thing that helps me are my Spicy Candied Nuts as gifts.  They are the perfect gift for teachers, coworkers, or neighbors.  Get those orders in and let’s make this Christmas perfectly simple and delicious!

Roast the Garlic

Roasted Garlic Bulbs

Roasted Garlic Bulbs

I wish you could smell my house right now.  I was reading while I had this in the oven roasting.  It is a head of garlic.  And it smells divine.

This is such a quick, easy and delicious addition to so many meals.  You can add roasted garlic to your soups, like Creamy Tomato or Potato Soup.  Adding it to my mashed potatoes is one of my all time favorites.  If you are roasting a chicken or any meats, just place the whole head into the roasting pan with it.  I just love it.  My house is a home with something in the oven cooking.  My house is a happy home with roasted garlic cooking in it.  Everyone is breathing deeper to inhale all the goodness, while exhaling any left over tensions.  That is what Roasted Garlic does for our home and I think it will do it for yours, too.  Maybe that is what is meant by garlic ridding off bad spirits.  Ha!  It is lovely and whatever works!

Simply, grab a whole head of garlic.  Cut the top of the garlic off, just to expose the inner bulbs.  Place your garlic on a piece of foil paper or put it in a small oven safe dish.  I like foil, less clean up.  Sprinkle the garlic bulb with kosher salt and a little extra virgin olive oil.  Cook in your oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the head is soft to touch and your home smells of divine roasted garlic.

Don’t be surprised if everyone begins to feel hungry, joyful, and a little less possessed by evil spirits! 😉