Friday, January 28, 2011

Do you like to cook?

I come from a long line of good cooks.  I can remember going to my Grandma's house and having her homemade pancakes. They were so light and fluffy, with my grandpa's home made sausage on the side. Yummy. Or fresh homemade waffles with chicken gravy (If you've never tried that - you should! Delicious!)

Grandma used to come down to our house on Saturday morning, and in return for my dad working on her car, would turn a 50 pound bag of flour into  homemade bread, rolls, cinnamon rolls, and donuts. Grandma's donuts were a treat, even if we were still frying donuts at 2:30 in the morning. Sadly, now,my sweet Grandma has Alzheimer's, and can barely remember me, let alone how to cook.

Of course, my mom shares Grandma's passion for cooking.  When we go to visit, she always asks us what we want to eat, and you never leave the table hungry, as she makes enough to feed an army.    Everyone has a favorite dish of Mom's that they request when they go for dinner.

I love cooking. To me, it is relaxing. I can come home after a busy day, and  the chopping, and mixing, and stirring is all therapeutic for me.  I also love trying new recipes, and Hubby is a very willing taste tester, so we compliment each other well :)  I have a 3-ring binder full of  recipes I have found on the internet or copied out of magazines. And with hubby's beloved Packers plying in the Superbowl, I've been looking for  recipes for Superbowl snacking. We have always gone elsewhere for Superbowl parties - but this year we are hosting the party. It's a challenge for me to find healthier options for snacks, as football party fare is usually anything but healthy.  Are you having a Superbowl party? Are you trying for healthy or just going with favorites menu items that might not be healthy? Do you have a favorite dish that you always make?

I always seem to fall short on the (healthy)dessert items though. A die-hard chocoholic and sweet addict, the chocolate-y-er (I know - not a word), the richer, the sweeter - the better in my opinion. I am known for my delectable desserts  - chocolate truffles, fudge, white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, etc. I figure if I cook healthy for all the other meals, then it won't be so bad when I don't go healthy on the desserts. Not great reasoning, I'm sure.

A recent find in the snack recipe search is this yummy little popcorn recipe.  The proper title is  "Cinnamon Caramel Corn with pecans and white chocolate".  Too long a title for me - I'd say just call it Cinnamon roll popcorn, because it tastes like cinnamon rolls. Really quite addictive. 

Cinnamon Caramel Corn with Pecans & White Chocolate
12 Cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup kernals)
1 Cup pecan halves, roughly chopped.
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup light corn syrup (honey makes a good substitution)
 1 stick real butter
 1 teaspoon vanilla
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
 3 squares almond bark (about 4 ounces)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Place popcorn and pecans in a large bowl and set aside.
Combine brown sugar & cinnamon in a 2 liter capacity microwave-safe bowl. Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup over the top of everything. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then stir to combine. Return to microwave and heat for 2 minutes. Remove & stir, then micrwave for 2 more minutes.
 Remove from microwave and add vanilla and baking soda. Stir to combine. Mixture will foam and rise. Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pecans, stirring gently until everything is coated.
Spread popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan. place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

 Remove from oven and spread on a large piece of parchment, waxed paper, or tin foil. Melt almond bark according to package directions. Drizzle over popcorn mixture.  When almond bark is cool and hardened, break apart in to smaller chunks and enjoy. Store in a airtight container.
* You might want to hide it somewhere if you are saving it for a Superbowl party - it's very addictive and will disappear before you know it. :)

What is a favorite dish you are making for you Superbowl party?


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jumping In With Both Feet

A few years ago at a quilting retreat held at our church camp,  it was a warm, beautiful day in October and the camp staff opened up the zip-line for those who were more adventurous. I do not usually see myself as an adventurous person. For one, I'm a bit of a clutz, and I also have an intense fear of heights. One of my fellow quilter friends talked me into going down the zip-line with her. I was all harnessed up, and we had to sit there on this little platform high up in the air waiting for the all-clear. It's a good thing I was sitting, because I was petrified. Were it not for bad knees that I was afraid would give out in the process of standing up, I would have backed out. At that point there was only one thing to do. Take a deep breath, say a prayer . . . and jump.

So anyway, here I am, jumping in with both feet and venturing into the unknown territory of blog land.

Hi, I'm Darlene & I am pleased to meet you.  I live in an old  house - originally a one-room school house - built in 1849, with my husband George, my youngest daughter Amber and Domino, our 12 year old cat who thinks he is a dog. We live in western New York, in Chautauqua grape country. It's also the heart of snow country.
I love cooking, baking, candles, bags, sewing, quilting, crocheting, decorating, etc. Generally keeping busy with some creative outlet or another.

My tastes are eclectic, much more country than contemporary, but varied. I love decorating my home to be warm and inviting. One of the biggest compliments you can give me is to tell me my home is welcoming and comfortable, because I believe a home should be lived in and loved in, not a museum piece (that's a story for another time).

The highlight of my summer are all the community yard sales that occur around the area. When we go visit my family in PA, we always schedule in a GW trip. If I can make it down through the week, we also include the local thrift shop where they have dollar-a-bag day to help reduce some of their inventory.  I like  love a good bargain, and if I can turn it into something else, why, that's even better.

I love the fact that my grandmother used to make quilt tops, pillows, and embroidered pieces out of old feed sacks, old coats  or whatever else she could find, because she didn't have the money to go buy fancy material. Some of those things that she made years ago are among my most cherished things.  I like to think I inherited some of my frugality from her. Yes. I can go to the store and purchase new material, but it's much more fun combing the thrift shops for fun/funky/retro things to turn into bags or wallets or whatnot.

I hope you'll share my journey into the unknown as I tackle the various projects on my to-do list, from wallets & wall hangings, to furniture & room makeovers, to whatever delectable dessert I have made lately.