Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and cookbook winner!

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah, everyone! OK I thought I was going to be able to post a lot more this holiday season, but that didn't happen (obviously)! To add insult to injury, I have not been crafting at all. That makes me a bit sad but I have lots of plans for next month. That's the good thing about January for me; although the holidays are over, it gives me a chance to catch up on projects. I didn't make any handmade gifts this year, besides the quilt and pillow for my niece. I can't wait to hear how she likes them!
OK, let's get down to business...the winner of Gooseberry Patch's "Fresh From the Farmstand!"
I really loved reading all your comments. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about the recipes I posted, that means a lot! I had to discount a couple of entries since they did not include email addresses (sorry!) I had 45 entries. True Random Generator selected number 35, which is...well, well, well! It's Miss Sharon from Red Geranium Cottage! Sharon wrote:

Ooohh I'd love to win that. Awesome that you get to review that first. Lucky you.

Congratulations Sharon! Email me your snail mail address and I'll get this book in the mail to you next week!
If you didn't win and you'd still like to purchase the cookbook, you can do so here. And by the way, Gooseberry Patch has started their annual After-Christmas sale early....I ordered a bunch of great books and calendars myself! Don't forget to check out the sale too!
I am going into Mason's third-grade class later for their Christmas party. We're going to decorate cookies! I love doing stuff like this. I got my last-minute Wegman's trip done this what a zoo! It was before 9am and already the parking lot was jammed. I'm going to spend the rest of the morning doing laundry and getting the house ready for company. My sister and her family are coming up tomorrow, we are all so excited. My dad is coming on Monday for a few days too, so the celebration goes even longer!
Merry, Merry Christmas friends...and a very happy new year to you and yours!

♥ Jen

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Fresh from the Farmstand" Review & Giveaway!

Hello friends! It's time for another Gooseberry Patch Early Bird review!
This time I have received two copies of Gooseberry Patch's latest cookbook, Fresh from the Farmstand. It will be available to purchase soon, but you can win your very own FREE copy here! Details at the end of this post.
To purchase, please click here.

This is a wonderful cookbook, chock-full of fresh ingredient recipes. The book is divided into six categories: Freshly Gathered Breakfasts; Market-Basket Soups & Breads; Garden-Fresh Sides & Salads; Farmstand Feasts; Summer's Best Appetizers; and Berry Best Desserts. I prepared two dishes, and they are both fantastic. The first is "Topsy-Turvy Apple Pie." Apples are plentiful now, and I thought that this would be a good addition to a holiday dessert menu.
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 9-inch pie crusts
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
7 cups Jonathan, Granny Smith, and/or Gala apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

Here are my prepared apples. I used Macoun...they're my favorite variety for baking. I suggest you use whatever apples you like, but make sure there's a little tartness.
Combine pecans, brown sugar and butter in a 9" deep-dish pie plate; stir to mix. (I used walnuts.) Spread mixture in bottom of pie plate.
Top with one pie crust. (I used Pillsbury ready-made crusts; if you want to make your own, go for it!)
In a large bowl, toss together remaining ingredients; spoon into crust.
Top with remaining crust; trim crust even with edge of pie plate. Bring bottom crust over edge of top crust; seal and crimp. Cut several slits in top crust.
Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool for 5 minutes; place a serving plate over pie and invert. Carefully remove pie plate and replace any loose topping. (I was scared that the pie would stick to the pie plate...but no worries, all that butter really greases up the pan good!)

Cool at least one hour before serving. Serves 8 to 10.
VERDICT: Wow, this was delicious! I love regular apple pie, but this is extra special. The butter/brown sugar/nut topping caramelizes and keeps the crust moist. Dave and the kids also loved it...Annabelle is usually not an apple pie fan, I think because of the plain crust. This she really enjoyed. The rest of us also cleaned our plates. The topping is gooey and decadent. I will definitely make this again!
Ok, onto the next recipe. This one is called "Ryan's Yummy Pasta Salad."
8-oz. package refrigerated cheese tortellini, uncooked
2-1/2 cups rotelle pasta, uncooked
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup deli roast chicken, chopped
2 Tablespoons lemon pepper, or to taste
Ranch salad dressing, to taste
(NOTE: I make ranch salad dressing from the Hidden Valley mix. It's very simple (you just add mayo and milk), and I think it's much, much better than the bottled kind. Thanks to my buddy Sharon for this tip!)

In separate saucepans, cook tortellini and rotelle according to package directions, adding frozen vegetables to rotelle pan. (I chose to stick with frozen corn for my vegetables. I bet it would be great with broccoli florets or some peas to green it up.)
I think I should have used a larger pan! Oh well.

Drain; combine in a large serving bowl. Add chicken to pasta; sprinkle generously with lemon pepper. (Ok, I admit that I don't know what "lemon pepper" it a special seasoning blend, or just lemon-flavored pepper? In any case, two tablespoons sounded a little excessive to me. Since my rotisserie chicken was lemon pepper anyway, I skipped this step and just added a few extra grinds of black pepper.) Add salad dressing to desired consistency and toss to mix.
I used the whole 8-oz. recipe of Ranch dressing that I made. I also thought it needed a little "something," so I shook on some bacon bits...yum! 

May be served warm or chilled. Serves 6 to 8.

VERDICT: Very, very good pasta salad! We all liked it a LOT! (well Mason didn't try it, but I figured that would happen).  I served it cold with warm biscuits on the side. Next time I will add some chopped parsley and some green veggies too.
I cannot wait to try some of the berry recipes when they're back in season around here. How about you? Would you like to win a copy? Just leave me a comment on this post by Friday, December 23. I will pick a random comment on that day. In order to be considered, PLEASE make sure there's an email linked to your comment, so that I can get in touch with you.

Have a wonderful day!

♥ Jen

Monday, December 5, 2011


Hi everyone! How was the weekend? Today is my husband's birthday...he's finally as old as me! We had his birthday dinner yesterday, since he works later on Mondays. I roasted a turkey breast and made mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc. Yes this is a Thanksgiving menu, but since we were away for the holiday this year we didn't have a whole lot of time with leftovers. So guess what we're having tonight? Hee hee! Oh and I made the world's best chocolate cake ever...Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Cake, with the fabulous frosting. Do your loved ones a favor and make this for them one day. It's simple and oh-so-delicious. I was very full after dinner and yet I couldn't stop thinking about this cake. I'm already excited to have another slice tonight! (Note: this photo is borrowed from the Hershey's website, but ours looked very similar, sans strawberry.)
Speaking of birthdays, getting old has its minuses. After cooking all day (for dinner and the other incidentals, like breakfast and lunch), my sciatica reared its ugly head and I was stuck on the couch with a heating pad for the rest of the evening. It's a lot better today. I think I stayed in one position all night. Anyway, we gave Dave presents and cards this morning before he left for work, and we'll have a nice evening later as well.
How's the Christmas shopping coming along? I've got most of mine done, I comes one of my favorite holiday activities, wrapping! I love to listen to holiday music, drink coffee and make packages look pretty. Hey wouldn't a gift-wrapping party be fun? Gather with friends, everyone brings their own wrapping supplies and a dish, then you could eat/drink/chat while wrapping! Anyone want to join me?
Well, I got snow tires put on my minivan this morning. Usually I wait until we've already had six inches and I'm scrambling to find  someone to do it last-minute. This year I got both cars done early. Of course that means it won't snow for a month.
Have a happy day!

♥ Jen