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Archive for October, 2013

Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni & CheeseSometimes in life you have to color outside the lines, tell little white lies, or bend rules. It’s near impossible to toe the line all of the time. I experienced a moment like this, just the other day. Feeling cold and a little blue, I made Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese for dinner. Without regret, I devoured a bowl of corkscrew pasta and crispy bits of bacon gliding in a sinfully rich and creamy cheese sauce. My house smelled incredible and my stomach bulged with happiness. So, yes, sometimes in life you have to choose comfort food over healthy food!

Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese
Mother’s Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again by Lisa Schroeder and Danielle Centoni

INGREDIENTS
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting the pasta water
1 pound fusilli (corkscrew) or other pasta
3/4 pound bacon, diced (about 1 cup cooked)
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups firmly packed shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, (white and green parts), for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously (it should taste like the sea). Stir in the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain (but don’t rinse, or you’ll rinse away starches that will help thicken the sauce) and return to the empty pot.

2. Meanwhile, place a large sauté pan over high heat for several minutes. When hot, add the bacon and sauté until browned and crispy (lower the heat to medium-high if necessary to prevent scorching), about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.

3. Pour off the fat from the pan (into a metal can or heatproof cup) and return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer until the cream is reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the Cheddar cheese and bacon. Stir well and cook over medium-high heat, stirring now and then, until the cheese has melted and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.

5. Stir the sauce into the cooked and drained pasta in the pot. Place over medium heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken the sauce and allow the pasta to absorb the flavors, stirring now and then.

6. Serve in individual bowls topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.

Serves 4 to 6 servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used Rotini pasta.

2. Although the bacon starts off crispy, it does not stay that way after soaking in the sauce. It does, however, lend a nice chewy texture to the dish.

3. I did not add the 1 teaspoon of salt as stated in the recipe. I waited until after the dish was completed, to see if any additional salt was necessary. Whether you add additional salt or not will depend on the saltiness of the bacon you use.

4. This dish did not fare well as a leftover, due to separation of the fat.

5. Thinking this recipe was plenty rich, I did not serve it with the optional sour cream garnish.

6. The authors of the cookbook offer this variation:
Lorraine Mac & Cheese
You can easily change up this recipe by using the classic flavors of a quiche Lorraine for inspiration. You just have to add caramelized onions and substitute Swiss cheese for the Cheddar.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons grease from the cooked bacon. Add 2 cups of finely sliced yellow onions and sauté over medium heat until soft, brown and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Pour in 3 cups of cream and continue with the recipe (step 3), substituting firmly packed shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese for the Cheddar.

If you have cooked, crumbled bacon and caramelized onions on hand, the recipe is even easier. When stirring the cheese into the reduced cream, just add 1 cup bacon crumbles and 1/2 cup caramelized onions, too. Then proceed with the recipe.

ENJOY!

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Entering the Creepy Room A white door at the top of the stairs rests slightly ajar and tempts a young woman to enter. The floor groans as she takes her first steps into the dusty room. As her eyes adjust to the dim light, she spies dark shapes lined up under the shuttered windows. Closer inspection reveals large bags leaning against one another for support. At the tops of the bags, scrawled in cursive handwriting, are the words: Torsos, Necks, Bottoms, and Arms. Red specks cover the carpet and a cutting blade lies nearby. It’s quite a messy scene. “Mom’s at it again,” the young woman sighs. Acknowledging her mother’s late night activities forces the woman to shiver and contemplate the approaching cold weather. As she slowly closes the door behind her, she says thoughtfully, “How nice. Mom’s making more t-shirt scarves for the homeless.”

#1 – Igniting a Strand of Firecrackers
T-shirts The power of one is like lighting the fuse on a strand of firecrackers. In September, I conceived an idea that would help both the homeless and planet Earth. In 100 Scarves: Making T-Shirt Scarves for the Homeless, I wrote about making scarves and tote bags from clean and gently used t-shirts. To help me reach my goal, I solicited t-shirt donations from friends and acquaintances. To date, I’ve made over 50 t-shirt scarves and 10 t-shirt tote bags and taken them to a local homeless shelter. When a dear friend of mine saw the scarves and bags she was inspired to help. Not only did she clean out her drawers and closets, she asked her friends to do the same. Very quickly word spread and soon friends of friends were donating t-shirts. Sitting in my dining room are close to 500 t-shirts and other pieces of clothing. Items such as jackets, vests, sweaters, and long-sleeved t-shirts will be donated to the shelter as is. People I don’t even know purchased brand new t-shirts to donate to my cause. Another friend gave me scarves she had knitted which reminded me of my own bag of knitted goods. All the scarves I’d knitted, but never given away as gifts were added to the pile. Once a strand of firecrackers ignites, each individual explosion affects the next one and the spark continues.

#2 – Monster Face Pizzas
Monster Face Pizzas Monsters are everywhere this time of the year. They can even be found hiding in our food! From Rhodes Bake-N-Serv Blog comes this monstrously easy idea. Think of how much fun kids would have creating their own Monster Face Pizzas at a Halloween party!

#3 – Art That Makes The Cut
Yulia-Brodskaya10-640x808 Using a technique called quilling, Moscow-born artist Yulia Brodskaya painstakingly cuts, curls, rolls, and glues paper to create her incredible three dimensional artwork, as seen on fubiz and on her website.

#4 – Creative Ideas
Chair and Bookshelf All In OneRecipes, design concepts, storage solutions, and re-purposing ideas can all be found in Simple Ideas That Are Borderline Genius. Some of them I’ve posted about in the past, but others are new to me. Who doesn’t appreciate a good idea?

#5 – The Power of One
“First with the head, then with the heart, you’ll be ahead from the start.”
Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

NOW GO AND SPREAD JOY!

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Bread Pudding Muffins My husband has two sweet loves that drive him crazy. Both possess endearing qualities that he cannot resist. If ever they appeared together, he would be beside himself with indecision. Recognizing that his birthday highlights this conflict, I decided to alleviate his stress this year. I figured out a way he could have his cake and eat it too—a way he could enjoy one love in the morning and one love after dinner. For breakfast I made him custard-rich bread pudding muffins and in the evening he blew out birthday candles on a moist and spicy carrot cake. Problem solved.

Bread Pudding Muffins
The Grand Central Baking Cookbook

INGREDIENTS
1 pound crusty artisan white bread
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1½ cups heavy cream
1½ cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS
1. Slice the bread and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Put it in a large bowl and toss it with the cinnamon.

2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, cream, milk, and vanilla together until well combined, then pour the custard over the bread. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

4. Line a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners, or generously grease with butter.

5. Scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of the pudding mixture into each of the 12 muffin cups; each one should be nicely mounded. Top off each pudding with the remaining custard.

6. Bake for 45 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through the baking time. The puddings should be lightly golden brown on top. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar while they’re still warm.

Makes 12 Pudding Muffins

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. Because of the amount of soaking time involved, if you plan on serving these muffins in the morning, it is best to begin soaking the bread the evening before.

2. I was able to get 18 muffins out of the recipe.

3. Although these are categorized as muffins, these little bread puddings would make nice individual desserts.

ENJOY!

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Rio Samba Rose Trick or treat? The early morning sun cast a spectacular golden glow on a rose, necessitating an impromptu photo session. After downloading the images to my computer, tone-on-tone color variations, curves, and shapes filled the screen and fooled my eyes. Was I looking at an abstract painting? Cerebrally, I knew the answer. But for a few seconds, my brain refused to recognize the rose and registered only its glorious components. I was both tricked and treated, don’t you think?

#1 – Inside a Wave
Inside a Wave Imagine a wall of water curls over you. You’re inside a wave. How would it look? What colors and shapes would you see? Take a Look Inside a Wave answers those questions with a collection of fascinating photos taken by different photographers from around the world.

#2 – Color and Shapes

Artist Beatriz Milhazes

Photo by Felipe Dana/Ap

Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes’ life is filled with colors and shapes. A statement by French artist Yves Klein influences her work. Milhazes says, “Klein said he painted in one color because once you add another, you have conflict.” She desires the opposite effect in her artwork. She wants conflict. Watch the 8-minute video to see more of her colorful work and to learn more about her unique techniques.

#2 – Jack-O-Lantern Designs
140 Pumpkin Carving Designs Pumpkin? Check. Carving tools? Check. Design? Nope. If you’re looking for jack-o-lantern designs, look no further. It’s Written on the Wall provides links to (At least) 140 FREE Halloween Pumpkin Carving Patterns. That’s almost too many designs to choose from!

#4 – Life-Changing Sentences
You Learn More From Failure How many of you remember the childhood saying. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As a child I bought into all of that, but as an adult, I recognize its folly. Words have power. They influence, they wound, they encourage, they make our hearts sing, etc. Lifehack offers a list of 10 Sentences That Can Change Your Life. These sentences may not change your life completely, but the powerful thoughts behind them will make you think and possibly question your current beliefs.

#5 – Limited or Limitless?
“There are only 3 colors, 10 digits, and 7 notes; it’s what we do with them that’s important.”
Jim Rohn

Now go and spread joy!

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Cinnamon Beef Noodles Ribbons of fat noodles soak up a spicy and aromatic broth while tender chunks of beef and green spinach leaves float by. How’s that for comfort food on a cold night? The use of cinnamon in a beef and noodle recipe may leave some people wondering. Wonder no more. For without a doubt, the cinnamon, together with the ginger, aniseed, and hot chile paste, undeniably adds a lovely complexity to the flavors in this simple and appealing dish.

Cinnamon Beef Noodles
Nina Simonds Asian Noodles Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

1 teaspoon safflower or corn oil

Chile-Cinnamon Seasonings:
6 scallions, trimmed, cut into 1½-inch sections, and smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed lightly with flat side of a cleaver, and thinly sliced

4 slices fresh ginger (about the size of a quarter), smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife

1½ teaspoons hot chile paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon aniseed

Remaining Ingredients:
8½ cups water

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 pounds chuck or beef stew meat, trimmed of fat and gristle, and cut into 1½-inch cubes

10-ounces spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and drained

1/2 pound flat Chinese wheat-flour noodles, udon, or other flat noodles, such as fettuccine, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water, and drained

3 tablespoons minced scallions

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat a large pot or casserole over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add the chile-cinnamon seasonings and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

2. Add the water and the soy sauce and bring to a boil.

3. Add the beef and bring back to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1½ hours, or until the beef is very tender. Skim the surface to remove any impurities or fat.

5. Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon sticks and discard.

6. Add the spinach and bring to a boil.

7. Divide the noodles among six soup bowls. Ladle the meat, spinach, and broth over the noodles and sprinkle with scallions. Serve.

6 Servings

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. I used half low-sodium soy and half regular soy, because I was concerned about the broth being too salty. It was just right. No additional salt was needed.

2. Because I had 3 pounds of meat, I added an additional stick of cinnamon to the pot.

3. Adding chunks of red pepper will contrast the spinach nicely and give the dish a little bit more color.

4. In her recipe Ms. Simonds states, “The flavor gets better and better every time you reheat it.” Don’t you love food that gets better with time!

ENJOY!

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Fallen Oak With a lonely heave, a small oak tree fell across a pathway. People walked around the “nuisance,” refusing to break their stride. It was as if a fallen tree was an everyday impediment. No one paused long enough to admire its beauty, even in its sad state, or to show appreciation for the gifts it had bestowed upon the earth during its lifetime. No one mourned its loss–except for, perhaps, one. That one stooped down low and touched the tree. As her gaze followed her fingers, something caught her attention. A random broken twig, bound tightly to the tree by delicate lichens, resembled a cross.

#1 – Make a Difference
Make a Difference Day Making a difference in the lives of people and in the world should be an everyday happenstance, but sometimes people need a little push or added motivation to get involved. To that end, an official day has been declared. Make a Difference Day is on October 26th this year. To learn how to register a project or to find ways you can help, click on the link for more information. If you want to search for an organized project in your area click here and insert your zip code or city in the box. Large or small, your participation can make a whole world of difference.

#2 – Sit!
30 Places You'd Rather Be Sitting Right NowFor those of you who sit for many hours on the job, you’ll enjoy scrolling through 30 Places You’d Rather Be Sitting Right Now . I guarantee you that all of the seats offer more fun and excitement than your desk chair!

#3 – One Great Costume
 Operation Game Costume Remember the board game Operation in which participants would pretend to be surgeons and try to remove plastic “body parts” with a pair of tweezers? Well, a creative person figured out a way to make the Operation game into a costume. It’s clever, it’s fun, and it’s interactive!

#4 – There’s Pumpkin on Your Face
6 DIY Pumpkin Face Mask RecipesPacked with essential vitamins and minerals, pumpkins are good for your body inside and out. Along with your favorite edible pumpkin recipes, add these 6 DIY Pumpkin Face Mask Recipes to your collection of homemade beauty recipes.

#5 – Live Your Life
“Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light. Give thanks for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. And if perchance you see no reason for giving thanks, rest assured the fault is in yourself.”
Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Indian Chief

GO NOW AND SPREAD JOY!

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Jammers: Biscuits Topped with JamImagine the smell of homemade biscuits wafting throughout your home in the early hours of the morning. You wake up early, before everyone else, because you enjoy the peace and calm of your empty kitchen. The timer rings and you take a tray of jammers, large buttery biscuits topped with jam, out of the oven. You restrain yourself from taking a bite into one, because you know that they will reach perfection in about five minutes. That gives you just enough time to brew a mug of coffee or steep a cup of tea. You eye the clock as five minutes turns into an eternity. Finally, you sit down with your hot brew and stare at the plate of jammers. You carefully select the largest one that has the biggest glob of jam on top. And after only one bite, pure delight spreads across your face as the crunchy exterior yields to the soft flaky interior. Ah, there’s no better way to start the day than with a hot jammer!

Grand Central Bakery Jammers
The Grand Central Baking Cookbook

INGREDIENTS
4 cups (1 pound, 4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (8 ounces, or 2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1¼ to 1½ cups (10 to 12 fluid ounces) buttermilk
About 3/4 cup good quality preserves or jam

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.

2. Measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a bowl with high sides or the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine.

3. Dice the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment of the stand mixer on low speed to blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the texture of the flour changes from silky to mealy. There should still be dime- to quarter-size pieces of butter remaining. If you’re preparing the dough the night before, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight; otherwise proceed with the recipe.

4. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour 1 cup of the buttermilk in one addition. Gently mix the dough just until it comes together; it will look rough. Scrape the dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add another 1/4 cup buttermilk and mix again to incorporate any floury scraps. The majority of the dough will come together, on the paddle if you are using a stand mixer. Stop mixing while there are still visible chunks of butter and floury patches. The dough should come out of the bowl in 2 to 3 large, messy clumps, leaving only some small scraps and flour around the sides of the bowl. If the dough is visibly dry and crumbly, add up to 1/4 cup more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing no more than one rotation after each addition.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Use the heels and sides of your palms to gather the dough and gently pat it into an oblong shape 1½ to 2 inches thick. It won’t look smooth or particularly cohesive; that’s okay. Use a biscuit cutter to cut jammers into circles at least 2½ inches in diameter. Layer the leftover scraps on top of one another and gently pat them out to a thickness of 1½ to 2 inches and again cut into circles.

6. Use you thumb to make an indentation the size of a fifty-cent piece in the middle of each biscuit. While gently supporting the outside edge of the biscuit with your fingers, use your thumb to create a bulb-shaped hole that’s a bit wider at the bottom and that goes almost to the bottom of the biscuit (think pinch pot). Try to apply as little pressure as possible to the outside of the biscuit, to avoid smashing the layers, which are the key to flaky jammers.

7. Fill each indentation with 1 tablespoon of jam and put jammers on the prepared baking sheet with 1½ inches between them.

8. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through the baking time. The jammers should be a deep golden brown.

Makes 10 to 12 jammers

LINNELL’S NOTES
1. These are very large biscuits! I was only able to make 8 biscuits from the recipe.

2. The key to achieving a flaky biscuit is to keep the butter cold and to avoid overworking the dough.

3. I baked my jammers for 35 minutes in a convection oven and they were done perfectly.

ENJOY!

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