Monday, December 30, 2013

Nutcracker Kahlua Torte with Cara Mia Prosecco

This weekend we celebrated not only birthdays, but also the last weekend of 2013.  Hard to believe this year is behind us and a new one is just around the corner.

I survived barely another December of three birthdays and Christmas, only to wake up this morning feeling great, off to work and within an hour of arriving gasping for air as I go into an ulceritis and gallstones attack...and then back home I go...shortest working day ever in my history of  being in the workplace. I don't know what irritated me more, starting a Monday off this way or ending a year this way. Well, tomorrow is the official New Year's Eve and I certainly plan on spending the real last day of the year on a much better note!!

At any rate, we did enjoy the weekend with a toast and hopefully the last dessert that I will see for a very long time!!  I feel pretty good about being able to spend this past year conquering the art of baking in high altitude conditions - not an easy task for a girl that has always lived on flat ground, below sea level.  Now that I have completed this accomplishment, time to hang up my hand mixer and get back into my jeans!!

Cara Mia Prosecco - Cheers!!

Nutcracker Kahlua Torte
Adapted from The Good SeaZens Family Cookbook

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups Ritz cracker crumbs (about 42 crackers)
3/4 cup sugar, additional for mix
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Kahlua Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbls sugar
1 to 2 Tbls Kahlua liqueur

Beat eggs with 3/4 cup sugar about 5 minutes at high speed.  Stir in the remaining ingredients until they are blended.  Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate.  Pour mixture into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

While torte is baking, beat cream with sugar and Kahlua until stiff.

Frost torte with Kahlua Cream and refrigerate overnight.  Serves 8 - 10.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Surf and Turf and 15 Year Olds

The girls' modeling debut...
Well the day had finally arrived, my newborn twins were now 15 years old.  Everyone warned me that the time passes you by in the blink of an eye - they were right. 18 months old.
 This year, I finally got around to putting together their scrapbooks for a birthday gift...that caused more than a few tears, I can assure you (still going with the post-holiday blues, lack of sleep, emotional issues).  Their scrapbook brought back the day when my husband and I met, or wedding, pregnancy, birth and so many first day of school photos, first steps, first haircut, first bicycle, etc....time definitely goes before us much to fast.

I have learned to take each day as a gift and count my blessings always.  As they say, "Yesterday is History, Tomorrow a Mystery, Today is a Gift, That's why it's called the Present".

Tonight at the dinner table, we prayed and thanked God for all our gifts, especially the gift of our children and the blessings bestowed upon us each and every day.

Tonight's festive dinner table.
We typically do dinner at home for those special Birthday Nights...and it wouldn't be a birthday without the request of Surf and Turf for dinner, complete with a homemade birthday cake.  Now I am not much of a baker, but I can only think of one year that I had a professional cake done (that was the year of the Barbie Cake, for their 4th birthday, way beyond my abilities.

This year the girls both selected their own flavors...Red Velvet and Classic Vanilla with a Vanilla Frosting.  I baked while wrapping presents and dad frosted while I decorated the dining room.  Great teamwork and the end result turned out quite fun.  I even stenciled "15" in cake sprinkles in the middle.

Dinner of course was lobster tails, drawn butter, flat iron steak and cheddar broccoli rice...don't all teenagers have surf and turf for dinner?  I think I was in my late 20's before I got to experience this kind of meal.  At any rate, our children are lucky that their parents love to cook because there is no way that we would go out for a dinner of that magnitude.

Broiled Lobster Tails
Courtesy of

4 whole lobster tails
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground paprika
salt to taste
ground white pepper, to taste
1 lemon - cut into wedges, for garnish
1.Preheat the broiler.
2.Place lobster tails on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, carefully cut top side of lobster shells lengthwise. Pull apart shells slightly, and season meat with equal amounts butter, paprika, salt, and white pepper.
3.Broil lobster tails until lightly browned and lobster meat is opaque, about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges to serve.

Paired dinner with one of our favorites....
LaCrema Pinot Noir

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Classic Roast Prime Rib, Pictures and Farewell To A Friend

Another Christmas is over and it is very sad.  We always get the post holiday blues.  This year's seems especially difficult since the holiday was in the middle of the week and we were back to work in the thick of it again today.

Napping with her three favorite new gifts.
The kids were exhausted and napped most of yesterday.  All the excitement, even at 15 years old and 40's/50's "something" can conquer the best of us.
Exhausted and mad we took over
 his living room all morning.
There has been a growing trend in our family, when it comes to the presents I receive every Christmas....who can make mom cry first with their gift.  I tend to get very sentimental and emotional during Christmas morning.  Perhaps it's the lack of sleep in the weeks prior to the holiday, the crash from too much sugar testing during my marathon baking nights or it's simply the fact that I am so thankful to be incredibly blessed with our family and the gifts given to us each and every day.

...and the winner is...
Hands down, husband won the cry award this year.  I opened his gift and completely lost it...choked up, couldn't speak and tears streaming down.  He made a collage of our family for me.  He and my daughter picked the frame and matting out together and he got the girls to help him select and print the photos.  He knows how much family and cherished memories of photos mean to me and I know how much time, effort and love went into his gift.  Yep, he won!!

In the spirit of pictures, he also bought me an entirely new camera set up, complete with bag, tri-pod, different lenses, remote control for the timer photos.  I am going to need college classes to learn all the amazing things my new toys can do.  

My tired and old little Kodak has been through a lot.  I have had it close to ten years and it has seen many scrapbooks, school projects, vacations, first days of school and birthdays.  It has been forever faithful and good to me.  It has had a difficult final year...the girls broke the flash during their photography class last year and during one of my cooking blog photos, it slipped out of my hands and I broke the lens protector...a rough year indeed.  It has been looking very sad and tired these days.

Good-Bye My Friend
In celebration of this memorable holiday and all our traditions, we continued with making our annual Classic Roast Prime Rib.  My husband goes to great lengths to make this for us every year and it is always a very special treat for the family.  We have tried close to a dozen different recipes and have now melded several into one.

Classic Roast Prime Rib
Courtesy of Husband and Many Memories

(1) Standing Beef Rib Roast (4 to 7 ribs, 9 to 18 pounds)
olive oil
(1) medium yellow onion
Seasoning is proportionate as follows:
1/2 Weber's Chicago Steak Rub
1/4 sweet paprika
1/8 Mediterranean sea salt
1/8 pepper

Remove the prime rib from the refrigerator and place in pan.  Rub the entire surface of the cold roast with olive oil and coat evenly with the steak rub, paprika, salt and pepper.  Cut onions into thin rings and cover roast.

Leave the prime rib out at room temperature for 2 hours.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven is hot, put the roast in and cook for 20 minutes to sear the outside of the roast.  After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 325 degrees and roast until the desired internal temperature is reached.  For medium-rare this will take approximately 15 minutes per pound.

Transfer to a large platter, and let the prime rib rest, loosely covered with foil for 30 minutes before serving, to let the juices redistribute. Serve with your favorite au jus.

Tonight we toasted our blessings and family with "Take Two" French Red Wine Blend.  Look closely and you can even see the camera on the label - how cute is that?

Cheers and Blessings To Everyone

Monday, December 23, 2013

Rouladen and Relatives

So, we have these special little greeters at our front door...Santa Clause that used to sing and dance and get his groove on at our entrance and two little ice skating children.  Now, please understand that when I found the ice skaters, the girls were about their size, and they thought then that the dolls were adorable.  In these times when I put them out this year, I believe the phrase I heard was, "those creepy little ice skating dolls".  I think they have been watching too many SciFi Channel movies.  Yet, when I said, "Okay, I will throw them away"....the response was, "NOOOO", don't throw them way!!".   I rest my case.  Tradition always wins!!

Santa and his little friends.
Well, our greeters happily welcomed our niece Heather and her husband Matt this weekend.  They live three minutes from us down the street and are the most adorable couple.  When we moved here a little over a year ago, they were our angels.  Met with realtors, scoped out houses for us and had the most beautiful house warming basket ready for us on our move-in day (complete with toilet paper, now that is true friendship).

Heather and our youngest at the Sun River Family Reunion 13 years ago - so precious!

Heather and Matt (photo bombed by Theo)
Heather and I discussed our family holiday dinner and she had the most incredible idea for a traditional German dinner.

If you’re German, you’ve probably heard of rouladen, a very traditional dish in German cooking. If you haven’t, rouladen (roo-la-din) is a pickle wrapped in a thin piece of steak and then wrapped in bacon. Sounds strange, but it is delicious!  Tonight though, we opted out of the bacon.

This family recipe is slightly different, and slightly easier to make than what you might find elsewhere. Rouladen is something a little different if you’re looking to make a traditional meal from another country.

Traditionally, rouladen is served with spätzle or dumplings and red cabbage. Spätzle is a type of homemade dumpling in Germany which my kids absolutely love, but you can just use regular store bought egg noodles or dumplings as a substitute.  I also served it with a side of sour cream and it made the sauce so creamy along with the dish.

Courtesy of Heather

1 (1 1/2-pound) piece of flatiron or sirloin steak, butterflied open (by you or your butcher), cut into 4   equal pieces and pounded 1/4-inch thin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons country-style or Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter

1 large carrot, thinly shaved slices
2 dill picles, thinklly shaved slices
1 carton of beef broth/stock
3 juniper berries
4 slices of bacon, cut in half horizontally (optional)

1 large carrot, rough chopped
1 celery stalk,rough chopped

1 large yellow onions diced large pieces

Special equipment: toothpicks

Slice the beef about 1/4 inch thick across the large surface. This can be done with a slicing machine or by the butcher, or by hand with a very sharp knife. This works best when the meat is partially frozen. Lay beef out flat.

Spread each slice with mustard, fill one end with 1 - 2 carrot shavings and 2 slices of pickle. Roll up from the filled end (like a jelly roll) and secure with 2 toothpicks. (This is where you would wrap it in the half slice of bacon if you are so inclined).

Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan or Dutch oven and brown the outside of the roulade in it.  Meanwhile, dice the carrot, onion and celery.

Remove the roulades to a plate, add the "Suppengrün" or mirepoix and sauté for a few minutes, until soft. Place the beef rolls back on top of the vegetables, add enough of the beef broth, to make about 1/2 inch of liquid in the pan.  Add the juniper berries.  Cover, turn temperature low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove beef roulades and keep warm. Puree sauce and thicken (optional) with a little cream, sour cream or "Wondra" (like Sossenbinder") flour. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as needed. Place roulades back in sauce until serving time.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Cake Cookies and Traveling Ornaments

1994, My (future) husband's first trip to Alaska where we found this mini dog sled.
"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; "

Well it's not quite the night before Christmas, but close enough....not only have I had visions of sugar-plums, but also Karo syrup, vanilla bean, baking soda....I think you get the picture.

1997 Craft Market in Finn Creek, Minnesota
We have also been going down our traveling memory lane with the Christmas tree ornaments.  Ever since my husband and I met, whenever we travel somewhere for vacation, we always pick up a Christmas ornament for the coming year's tree.  I write on the bottom of it the year and where we were, to always treasure the memory of our adventure.

2007, Atlantis Resort, Nassau Bahamas for our 10th wedding anniversary.

2013, this year's adventure to Mount Rushmore
As I was trying to think of items to put in the holiday treat bags I made for everyone in my company, and I came across these delightful cookies.  I can't help but love anything so easy and festive that even Santa Clause will love them during his quick visit on Christmas Eve.

"He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! "

Holiday Cake Mix Cookies
Adapted from

1 box white/vanilla cake mix 15.25 oz.
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mini holiday M&M's candy

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix together the cake mix and baking powder, set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add mixture to the cake mix, beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Add M&M's (reserve small amount to put in the tops to make them pretty) stir in with a wooden spoon.

2. Roll in to 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Use reserved M&M's to press randomly into tops of cookie balls for decoration. Bake 9 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Thumbprint Cookies and Thrown Under Santa's Sleigh

Final shopping, prepping, baking, wrapping, errand running, cooking weekend before Christmas and what do my kids do?   They threw me under the proverbial sleigh.  We received my mom's boxes from Alaska full of beautiful gifts...and I do mean beautiful.

She spends days wrapping gifts.  Now I don't mean just throwing on some paper and a bow and calling it a day.  She actually coordinates the boxes and ribbons to match either the gift inside or to compliment the personality of the person that is getting it.  She truly puts a great deal of time and thought in her gifts.

That being said when the girls unpacked her boxes, the older ones says, "Wow, Grandma's presents are always so beautiful and decorated perfectly".  In my mind I heard..."Mom you are the worst present wrapper in the world".  I swear that's what she said!!  Did she really just say that?   Did I just get thrown under the sleigh?  At that moment, I wanted to retrieve all of their presents from under the tree and take them back and let them get coal in the stockings instead... how pretty is that now??!!

Instead, being the loving, gracious mother that I am, I went to my neighborhood Dollar Tree store and stocked up on the most beautiful, pretty, decorative, ribbons, bows and adornments to do their remaining gifts in.

The thing is, my mom trained me to wrap presents, I was mentored by the best, the "Queen of Curling Ribbon".  Then I started in high school volunteering wrapping gifts at the malls for charity and fundraisers.  I think after all these years I just got lazy...well, I got this now.  I can step up my game again and I have realized that it's time to teach the next generation Grandma's talents.

In her special delivery boxes also, are her incredible Thumbprint Cookies.  She has been making me these for years and doesn't matter where I am, she makes sure that I have my own box every Christmas.

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
Compliments of Grandma

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup raspberry preserves or jelly of your choice

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Combine flour and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Shape dough into 1-in. balls; roll balls in egg white, then in nuts. Place 2 in. apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray (or lined with parchment paper). Using the end of a wooden spoon handle, make an indentation in the center of each ball. Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks. While warm, fill each with a teaspoonful of preserves. Cool completely. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Steak Marsala and Mangers

Here we are in the final week before Christmas and tomorrow is the winter solstice.  Our 70 degree days of pretend summertime of the past few days, quickly went away and we woke up this morning to a dust of snow and back to our 21 degrees.  Good thing because if we don't have a white Christmas, it will not be a pleasant morning in our house.  Ever since our girls experienced their first real white Christmas in Alaska (after 13 years of only waking up to palm trees), they insist that it always snow for their holiday morning hot cocoa.

In our continuing holiday decor around the house, one of our most precious items is the manger that my husband made for his parents when he was in high school.  It really is quite the masterpiece, complete with lighting and very compact.  Last year it needed a little help on it's roof, so we added some dried grass and straw (thank goodness for Aqua Net hairspray - roof stayed perfect all year in its storage box).

Last Saturday, we went to a wine tasting at Snifters as they were featuring some wines from Opici Wines in Northern California.  Here is how they describe their Auspicion Cabernet Sauvignon, The lingering finish is accented by touches of chocolate, toffee, and vanilla. Sign me up, that sounds like Christmas in a bottle to me.  I am usually not a fan of Cabernet wines, but this one was really smooth and light....and affordable, which I really love!!

To compliment our newly found vineyard, I tried out a new steak recipe.  My husband is crazy for Chicken Marsala, which comes in a close finish for first place with my Chicken Piccata.  The family is chickened out and I was looking for something different to try.  So, I saw on the back of a Knorr packet their version of Steak Marsala.  I had never heard of it or ever tried it.  I'm glad I did though - this will be a keeper for those quick weeknight meal needs.

Steak Marsala
Courtesy of Knorr
  • 3 Tbsp. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!® Spread
  • 4 beef tenderloin [or , strip or sirloin steaks]
  • 1 package (10 oz./300 g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 package Knorr® Au Jus gravy mix
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • Melt 1 tablespoon spread in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook steaks until desired doneness, about 8 minutes. Remove steaks to serving platter and keep warm.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon spread over medium-high heat and cook mushrooms and onion, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms start to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Stir in wine and cook 1 minute. Stir in water, Knorr® Au Jus gravy mix and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon spread until melted. Top steaks with sauce and serve with crusty French bread. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Almond Joy (To The World) Cookies

Happiness and Joy is overflowing through the house.  Girls are overjoyed with all the sparkles and colors of the holiday season around us.  I even put my sweet little tree on my desk at work.  It just adds so much cheer to the environment. I mean really, how can you be in a bad mood, with Santa and twinkling lights by your side every day.  I'm tempted to keep it on my desk year round, just to continue the spirit each work week.

So, my practical joker daughter came running downstairs sharing that she made a video of Angus and Theo (the labradors) as dancing elves on the website JibJab.  I could not stop laughing after she showed it to is hilarious to watch.  I love these custom cards you can do they are really good for a fun laugh.  Check out the boys and their dance moves.
In an effort to continue spreading the joy around, I found this recipe on Pinterest during Halloween as a lead into candy treats.  These are delish, and really taste like the Almond Joy candy bars.

Almond Joy Cookies
Adapted from High Heels & Grills
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teas. vanilla
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teas. baking soda
  • 1 teas. salt
  • 4 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped almonds
  • 2 cups coconut

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375*
  2. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with Silpat Baking Mat or Parchment Paper .
  3. Combine dry ingredients and set aside. 
  4. In a mixing bowl combine first 5 ingredients and mix. It best to use room temperature eggs and add them one at a time. 
  5. Add dry ingredients slowly and mix well. 
  6. Stir in chocolate chips, almonds, and coconut.
  7. Use ice scoop to drop dough onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  8. Remove and place on rack. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Topsy-Turvy Apple Pie and Upside Down Cake Martini for the Birthday Boy

Husband's birthday, done and checked off the December list.  His special day was finally here.  He is very low key about his birthday, especially since he shares it with Christmas and our twins' birthday all in the same month...but always a good sport about it.  I am quite jealous of him though, I have known him for twenty years and he hasn't aged a bit.  All the while I am dealing with more "highlights", wrinkles and sagging where I never did - just not fair, is it!!
My guy, back in the day...
After getting up before our coffee time I of course prepped and started his annual Puttanesca dish. (Nothing like the aroma of onions, garlic and anchovies before my eyes are completely open).  Later in the morning I surprised him at work with a pastry and coffee from our Romanian Bakery and we were lucky enough that our schedules afforded us to have lunch in Boulder at his Firehouse Subs.

...and here he is today.
After a hectic day I thought I would have fun with the cocktails and dessert.  He is not much of a cake guy (cheesecake excluded), so I found these fun play-on-words recipes with an upside down cocktail and apple pie.  At any age, it's still fun to be a kid and play with your food, right?

Upside Down Cake Martini

2 oz SMIRNOFF Iced Cake
1 oz orange juice
1 oz pineapple juice
Top off with club soda

Mix first 3 ingredients in martini shaker with ice - shake well.  Pour into chilled (and sprinkle rimmed) glass.  Top off with club soda and add a cherry and an orange slice.  Cheers!!

Topsy-Turvy Apple Pie
Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest Winner, 1951

Glaze and Crust:
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon LAND O LAKES® Butter, melted
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 cup Fisher® Chef's Naturals® pecan halves
1 box Pillsbury® refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Pillsbury BEST® all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups thinly sliced, peeled apples (4 medium)

Whipped cream or french vanilla ice cream, if desired      

Heat oven to 425°F. In 9-inch glass pie plate, mix brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Spread evenly in bottom of pie plate. Arrange pecans over mixture. Make pie crusts as directed on box for Two-Crust Pie, placing bottom crust over mixture in pan.

In small bowl, mix granulated sugar, flour and cinnamon. Arrange half of apple slices in crust-lined pie plate. Sprinkle with half of sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining apple slices and sugar mixture. Top with second crust; seal edge and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.

Place pie on sheet of foil on middle oven rack in oven; bake 8 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F; bake 35 to 45 minutes longer or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. Immediately run knife around edge of pie to loosen. Place serving plate upside down over pie; turn serving plate and pie plate over. Remove pie plate. Serve warm or cool with whipped cream or ice cream.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Zensational Chili

Yes Virginia it is Christmas...oops, I mean "Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus".  Well it most definitely is Christmas around our house.  I barely caught my breath last week from returning back home and in the thick of getting into work again...daughter no sooner in the blink of an eye had all the Thanksgiving garb down, packed and Christmas was up and running again in our living room.

Bless those girls' hearts, they are the epitome of the lyrics in "We Need A Little Christmas"...

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet

Every year, the first decoration to come out is always one daughter's favorite ice skating rink.  I think we got this when the girls were 2 years old and she would turn it on and watch the little skaters for hours and hours.

My (used to be guest room) now looks like the gift wrapping room at Macy's...paper, boxes and ribbons and bows, oh my!!  I destroyed our little room by getting a head start on the first wave of Christmas present wrappings, so as to not be up until 3 am Christmas Eve doing all the last minute wrapping and also completing my husband's birthday presents which his special day is tomorrow.

In my ever sleepless in Longmont nights, I woke up again last night and realized that the Christmas cards we designed and ordered will be arriving today.  More disturbing though, this also reminded me that yet another year has gone by and I still haven't cleaned up and updated my address book.  I know what your're thinking....who still had address books...don't judge.  I still have the Daytimer organizer from many, many, many years ago that my husband gave me as a gift (even the chewed up corners that our black lab Nemo left me, after he was mad at me one day).  Nope, can't get rid of it, still love it after all these years (I'm afraid I am turning into my mother).

My cookbooks and internet recipes are strewn all over the place as I am trying to figure out which treats to put in my work's gift bags and husband's office platter.  My purse is overflowing with post-in notes and lists of what still needs to be done, purchased, wrapped and mailed.....we have packages going to Alaska, Oregon, Washington and California this year.  I'm sure that I will be making more than one trip to the post office this year.  (Good thing I have my handy address book for those box labels!!)

The Chili Masters
We did get an extra special treat early this year.  My husband's company held a chili pot luck for their company luncheon, which meant an extra bonus for me!!  He typically makes his famous chili on New Year's Day, just like the day he and his brother Rick created it, many years ago.  This chili is so hearty, but not heavy...with so many layers of great flavor, without being overly spicy.  Hands down, this chili has won many cook-off chili competitions.

The Zen Master Meat Lovers Chili

1 lb. Tri Tip
1 lb. Ground Beef
1 Green Pepper
1 Jalapeno Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
2 Fresh Tomatoes
(3) 14 ounce cans Stewed Tomatoes
(2) 14 ounce cans Chili Beans
(1 or 2) 14 ounce cans Pinto Beans
1 Fresh Zucchini
1 Packet, Six Gun Chili Mixins

Brown ground beef and season with salt, pepper and garlic salt.
BBQ/Grill the tri tip until cooked to medium.
Combine stewed tomatoes, all beans, cooked ground beef and vegetables into crock pot.
Grate zucchini, chopped peppers and tomatoes and put in crock pot.
Cut cooked tri tip into small cubes and mix in with other ingredients.
Stir in chili mix.

Let simmer in crock pot on low setting for 6 - 8 hours.

Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced red onions.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

World's Best Lasagna and Columbia Winery

Well it's almost been a week since we have returned from our Seattle excursion and after the week I have had, I just want to go back there and hide.

First, we are now in the week of "Markadan", that's the week right before my husband's birthday.  So, I am trying to hide his presents strategically throughout the house and figure out how they are going to get wrapped.  Planning the infamous Puttanesca dinner and figure out his birthday dessert, as he is not much of a cake guy (unless it's cheesecake that is). battery died - of course it did, because instead of using any extra $140.00 on holiday gifts, I get to purchase a new car battery and they didn't even gift wrap it for me.

Tuesday...daughter gets sick and throws up in her classroom garbage can - I think that pretty much sums up how that day went.

Wednesday...temperatures dropped to -15 degrees.  I know that my friends and family in Alaska think I am a wimp, since I grew up in 40 below temperatures most of my life.  I'm sorry, but after 25 years in Southern California thinned my blood and it's just plain cold.

My dear husband though has made sure that I have a blazing hot fire for me when I get home every night. I would love however to be in front of the fireplace at our Columbia Winery and Chateau Ste Michelle vineyards that we visited last week.

Columbia Winery
On Friday, our in-laws Cindy and Bill treated the whole family to a private wine tasting at Columbia Winery. They packed tapas platters for us to take to the tastings, where we experienced 10 different wines in their private tasting room.  It was a wonderful experience for everyone to have at the end of the holiday.  After the flights of wine, we treated ourselves to a bottle of Porphyry and brought it home to save for a special occasion (Markadan is right around the corner after all).

We all then ended up back at their house for what has to be the World's Best Lasagna, not just my opinion, it actually is called that and now I know why.  Cindy made the sauce the day before, which I think made a tremendous difference for all those flavors to infuse together...the end result was awesome!!

Photo courtesy of internet.
Our lasagna was eaten by the family
before I could get a good photo of it.

World's Best Lasagna

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
2.Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4.To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
5.Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.