Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Pumpkin Addiction Continues...

This was my first ever cheesecake. I've been wanting to make one for a long time, but have never been a fantastic baker. They sound like a lot of trouble, and I fear failure. But since this is my year, I figured, "Let's do this!" So, my first try (naturally) would be a pumpkin cheesecake. I found this recipe on a blog called "sprinkle bakes" through food gawker. It sounded pretty darn easy, and I had almost all the ingredients already. Cream cheeses a-blazing, here I go!

The springform pan needs to be wrapped in heavy duty foil, I'm guessing so the hot water bath doesn't seep in.

The crust is made up of pecans, sugar, flour and butter, salt, ginger & water. I can do that! Process everything but the water & butter...

Add the butter then the water till crumbly.

The consistency may have been a little more pasty than crumbly....

so it was kinda sticky to spread in the pan. I ended up using a spatula.

Pumpkin mix ingredients.

Meanwhile, the crust bakes and needs to cool completely. Turned out great!

Mmmm, pumpkin, heavy cream and spices.

Mix that into the beaten cream cheese and sugar, add cornstarch then add eggs one at a time.

It looks good already! (to me, anyways) The springform sits in a baking pan and gets a good 1" hot water bath, then into a 325° oven. The recipe called for 70-80 minutes, so I baked it for 75 to be safe. 

YaY! It's beautiful (if I do say so myself :)

This will be my new Thanksgiving "signature" dish! (along with my corn souffle) I wouldn't change one thing about it, it's absolutely BRILLIANT! (thanks Becky) I ate it last night and for breakfast today. And for a snack this evening. And probably breakfast tomorrow.

I skipped the whipped cream topping and sugared pumpkin seeds in the above recipe. Honestly, it was perfect just like this! (with a dollop of whipped cream)

This salad is made up of mixed greens, feta, pears & pecans. It's my new signature salad (I like saying "signature"). I made my signature (hahahaha) Italian dressing with fresh herbs from Annie and Pete, brought in fresh from Merritt Island on Thursday!

Ok. That's enough cooking. I'll hit the kitchen again when the hunters come home!

Eat, Drink & Be Scary

When the hunter's's time to party! A last minute get together turned into some amazing costumes! Last year I was really into making creepy food and fun decorations, but this year the gathering was much simpler and lots of fun. I made a big salad & a pumpkin cheesecake (which was fab, and I'll blog later today), and we ordered Valentino's (shout out!) pizza. Easy peasy. Let the costumed fun begin!  

Becky, Carolyn, Debbie and I were gonna stay in a wine theme: Becky would be wine, Carolyn chose a bunch of grapes, Deb was supposed to be a piece of cheese and I was to be a cracker. Ummm, no. Carolyn kept to her word and took the prize! (even though there was none) With her hubby's help, she put this incredible costume together, complete with real grapevines from her Dad's yard! Hey, wait, does he have any wine in his yard?!

Melissa is literally THE cutest gal on the planet. This costume fits her personality and her wonderful decorating taste (you should see her western/southwestern themed home!)

I stuck with the wine theme by dressing as Amphictyonis, the Greek Goddess of Wine & Friendship (I figure, you have enough wine, you're pretty darn friendly!) My friend Laurie sent me a link with a painting of her where she's buck naked, with grapevines wrapped around her. I'm SO doing that next year, because that darn tablecloth was hot!

Becky's box of wine was a masterpiece! Not just any wine, BECKY wine! She is a true German "select harvest" with sweet & spicy notes, just like her label (on her rear) said! That faucet is precariously positioned...

Annie decided on a wine fairy; in my opinion, she needs to imbibe a bit more, but I do love the pose!

This was a complete surprise to me! (which is way fun) Laura totally rocked the "Frenchie" look, right down to her poodle socks. And she kept everything on all night!

Nicole was right in character being a modern day vampire (that's a bottle of Tru Blood in her hand; maybe her fangs are purple from wine?!) It's also totally fitting because she has eternal youth as well! (in all seriousness, she's 33 years old, and doesn't look a day over 21. *sigh*)

As does her momma! Her Budget Ninja persona is perfect for her; low profile & quiet, then sneaks up on you and BAM! She comes out with stuff that keeps everyone in stitches! It's always the quiet ones...

Ok, I'm so gonna dress up like Sherri next year, too. Not her costume, just HER. She was gorgeous as a flapper. Maybe it's the shoes?! ; )

Cathy with a headful of snakes! These sisters are kinda like sugar and spice (it's ok, they know it) These two look great in black!

Debbie did a wonderful job with her geisha make up! The dress was really pretty, and we loved her little "bound" feet!

Leave it to Foozer to come as a Breast Cancer Awareness Witch in pink and black! (although I caught a touch of Wilma Flintstone in there...gotcha, Fooz!) She's always one fun gal!

An iPhone?! Loved it! Tina just put that together yesterday afternoon...aren't these girls creative?! Her cakes show that! I wanted to check my facebook every time I looked at her!

Marcy's fairy was beautiful and glittery, and this huggy bunch were all wearing glitter by the end of the night! She loves to dress up : )

The group shot. Too. Much. Fun! I seriously have next year's costume in the works, though!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

While the Hunter's Away...

This is a big day here in the Ehrig household; months are spent planning and executing the annual pilgrimmage to the Holy Land. No, not THE Holy Land, but darn close. Yep, North Dakota! You betcha. It's duck season! (wabbit season, duck season, wabbit season...)
Jacks's bags have been at the ready since Monday: boots? check. thermals? check. jackets? check. shotguns? check. coveralls? check. gloves and headgear? check. underwear? who needs it?! (To my dismay, bathing is on an "as needed" basis, and apparently it's not needed often. In their defense, I wouldn't get naked in that cold unless absolutely necessary either!)

Ready to roll! Fargo, here they come!

These are two doggone happy faces, and it's only 4 am! Jack has waited allllll year for this, and Al seems to be pretty glad to be goin' along.

These are doggone happy faces, too! At Leoncito, for dinner and margaritas with a few of my besties. Last night Jack said, "Are you ready for your vacation?" I said "Yes, sir, and you've gotta be happy to get a break from me for two weeks!" (he agreed) He's a sweetheart; he knows I'll like the hall pass from cooking, and he definitely knows I love spending time with the girls, and he's all good with that. Daggone it, just when I thought I was sooo ready to get rid of him, I start missing him already! That rascal! ♥

Stay tuned for some great adventures!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Priscilla's Guac

I went to a super-fun Mexican-themed wino (yes, I meant "wino") girls' party at Melissa's last night, and took one of my all time favorite dishes. This is "Priscilla's Guac", Priscilla being Annie H's mom. It usually goes to every Mexican party we attend, even though Jack (nor Annie) even like guacamole. The blue clay dish was given to me as a gift by Annie to serve it in, just like her mom did. ♥

Easy Guacamole Dip

2 avocados, peeled and mashed
1/2 small tomato, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, halved
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 lime, juiced
1 tblp mayo

Blend avocados, tomato and 1/2 of the onion, chopped. Squeeze in the juice of the other half. Add garlic powder, lime juice and mayo. (I sometimes add cumin or even a few shakes of the packaged guacamole seasoning if I'm in the mood for spicier) Add one of the avocado seeds to prevent the dip from browning, then place plastic wrap directly on dip, sealing well (this also keeps it fresh looking).
Enjoy! This is fabulous on everything...

Now....on to OKTOBERFEST!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's in a K-cup? (You'll find out...)

I bought a single-serve Keurig coffeemaker for work last year. It's honestly the best thing since sliced bread; individual cups of coffee, tea, cafe latte, and even hot cider! It gets used a bunch by a number of  us. Anyway, I went to put a "K-cup" in the Keurig yesterday, and it rattled. Hmmmm....what could that be about?! (we actually had kind of a "bug phobia" lately, and were worried that a critter was trapped inside!) (((Shake, shake, shake))) was still rattling, and I'd never heard that from a K-cup before! So Laura and I set out to dissect the innocent little brew cup, and see what was up!

We took the foil off, ripped the filter liner out, and dumped the coffee, but it continued to rattle. See that little plastic ring? It was almost invisible, but sure made alot of noise! Whew, that's all it was! We figured I had gotten a rattley batch, because other cups in the box were the same (no coffee was harmed in the posting of this blog).

Moral of the story: Save the 56¢. Now ya know.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bye, Bye $6K! (But Hello, Fresh AC!)

It just wasn't salvagable. We hoped to put the "investment proposal" (that's actually what the estimate is called!) on the back burner until at least next spring, but it wasn't possible; the popping, dripping, cracking and relentless noises that this ac made were frightening (not to mention the warm air!) Sooo, we called Colman yesterday, and they came out first thing this morning (YaY!). They did a fabulous job, and we are cool and comfortable in less than 9 hours!

This hole behind the intake grate used to scare me...

G'bye, old stuff that ran up our electric bill!

Hours after the old evaporator laid in the yard, it was still frozen solid! Isn't that crazy?! No wonder we couldn't get cool air, the fins were solid with ice!

A van of garbage pickers came around while the ac guys were at lunch, trying to pick up our stuff. Jack said, "Hey, man, this is MY s**t!" We weren't ready to let go yet ; ) Who would want this stuff?!

I know it's gross, but this is what 44 year old duct work looks like. Ewwww! Please have yours cleaned. (and I apologize if you've been a guest in our house!)

The scuttle hole to the attic. There were THREE guys up there at once replacing the duct work. Poor guys!

The only air those guys got was from this fan! It was in the mid-80's today, too!

Aaahhh! Isn't it beautiful?! They custom made the box on site.

It seems like a silly thing to be excited about, but THIS makes us happy! We'd been stressing about needing this for awhile...what else were we gonna spend $6 grand on?! Oh yeah, LOTS of stuff! We'll just spend next year's vacation at home, being cool and breathing easier! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Starbucks?! We Don't Need No Stinkin' Starbucks!

You know by now how much I loveeee pumpkin. I found this recipe for Spiced Pumpkin Latte on...wait for it....FOODGAWKER!!! The blogger touted, "Save $$ and calories by making your own Starbucks Pumpkin-Spice Lattes. It's really simple!" Really? YES, really! I think these are fabulous. I  came home today and made one for lunch, even though it was about 85° and as humid as a rainforest! Hey, it's October, I can pretend it's fall, can't I?!

Pumpkin Spice Latte
(Serves One)
  • 2 T canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup milk of choice, or (my favorite) a combination of fat-free half & half and skim milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3-4 T strong coffee (I used my iced coffee concentrate)
  • sugar (or stevia) to taste
Mix everything with a fork or whisk. Heat in microwave to your liking and enjoy! Top with whipped cream if desired.

No kidding, this is super! Cozy up with a blanket for me!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wine (but mostly a FOOD) Tasting!

In the last few years I've realized that cooking good food makes me really happy. My cooking style now is unlike the "food preparation" style of my child-rearing years: hamburger helper, rice-a-roni, spaghetti and scalloped potatoes (not that there's anything wrong with that!). That food was easy, quick and inexpensive, and met the need to fill our bellies (on a shoestring budget!). But with kiddos gone for the most part, it's such fun to prepare different (translation: fresher and more expensive) foods. Jack has developed a palate that I never thought was possible; he was strictly a meat and potatoes guy, who now likes my versions of moo-shoo vegetables, baked sweet potato fries with rosemary, and mushroom-dill perogies (still doesn't care for artichokes, though, I'm working up to them). So a few weeks ago, when we decided to have another wine tasting, I immediately started searching for new recipes, while he looked forward to the wine. Who knew?!

This concoction is the fig portion of fig and kalamata olive tapenade, absolutely my favorite dish of the night!

I doubled the recipe and threw in some green olives for good measure.

Then I topped a block of feta and a block of cream cheese each with this fabulous blend of salty and sweet. Yummo!

I've had that hankerin' for pumpkin, so I found these on my food gawker obession. Errr, website. Pumpkin cheesecake brownies. I've only made brownies from scratch a few times, and that part was easy. Adding the pumpkin cheesecake mixture was a different story, however. I got to the part where you mix the two, and was kinda like "huh?" Maybe I baked them too long; they were a tad drier that I hoped.

But PRETTY (and actually pretty tasty), so who cares?! ; )

This idea for a centerpiece came from Laura N., who sent it to me the night before in a text, via Pinterest. I love my friends!

I also made a pumpkin cream cheese spread with walnuts, a goat cheese log rolled in fresh herbs (that would have been for YOU, Laurie C!), and caprese skewers! The links are below:

(for the spread)
for the skewers.

Sorry kids! I'll be a good-cooking-Grandma instead!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Whirlwind (literally!) Week!

What a great week it's been! Not only did Sara visit, but sis-in-law Gin and her beautiful girls came this weekend to our sunny state...well, at least it was sunny for a bit one day! It's always a bummer when family comes to visit and the weather is nasty; today is day three of four of a mini-hurricane for us. Ugh. But they all had such a fantastic attitude, I don't think a major hurricane could have dampened their spirits! We celebrated Mom & Dad's 62nd anniversary on Friday at Portofino's. This is where I always say "(insert # of years here) years ago my mother-in-law started her journey to sainthood"...just kiddin' Dad! ; )

Don't they look FABULOUS?! We're blessed to have them.

Cait, Gin, Mom, Jen, LeeAnn & moi. 

With brother Bill, Dad & Jack. You can definitely see the family resemblence!

So...I had a mini-vaca with Sara, a three day work week, an anniversary dinner with lots of food, wine and laughter, a wine tasting (again!) with good folks and fab food, and ended with another family dinner today where I got to know these lovely ladies a bit better! We even decided a vacation next year may be in the works for all of us! Hmmm, another vacation?! Yes, please! ; )
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