Hi folks….after less than two weeks with my blog on this site – I’m posting my last one….but WAIT…..that’s only because I’m moving to a new site…..my Blogguru, Jenny, via email from Buenos Aires, found me a better place – one that allows for more creativity.  And she knows what she’s talking about – unlike me – so I took Jenny’s advice and my new site – while still being worked on – is now available for you to tune into….so please visit me there from now on.  Go to:  www.potsandpins.typepad.com  This will be the one and only move I’ll make and sorry for the inconvenience! 

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I was shopping this morning in a local store that sells gift wrap, ribbons, and boxes and there were two people in the store….me and some guy who was buying a single sheet of gift wrap and a piece of ribbon.  He paid his money and then set this little box on the counter and asked if they would please wrap it for him.  There were 4 clerks standing behind the counter…..FOUR….and none of them moved – finally one said, “I’m sorry, we don’t wrap gifts here.”   The man then asked if they knew where he could get his gift wrapped – all four of them shook their heads back and forth and one whimpered a “sorry.”  

Four employees with NOTHING to do… tape and scissors on the counter and not one of them could help this guy!  So I asked if I could use some of their tape and told the guy I would be happy to wrap his gift for him.  He was so happy!  “Oh thank you, thank you, you are most kind!”  He even bowed a little!!!  (He was not an American – hence the bow….which I could get used it!)  It took me all of 2 minutes to wrap his gift, tie on the ribbon and attach his card – while all four of the ejits behind the counter stood there and watched. 

What has happened to customer service?!?!  When a guy is buying gift wrap, well, that’s like me buying a carbuerator – I may know what it’s for but I would have no clue as to what to do with it!  (I don’t even actually know what it’s for but that’s not the point!)  This man basically needed a favor – a very SMALL favor – something that someone with any business sense (or common courtesy) should have been happy to oblige.   So they don’t wrap packages – would it have hurt them to wrap this one customer’s gift??  Possibly keeping him as a customer?  I could understand them saying no if the place was busy or if he asked to have several items wrapped….but really…..when a man asks for help with gift wrap, isn’t that a little bit like watching a wounded animal?  I just don’t understand how they could have refused!

That’s my soapbox for today…..I’m glad I was there to help him – one good deed deserves another…what did you do today?

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So this is the one that worked…..Cranberry Bread – tart/sweet and hot from the oven – nothing is better!  I have two recipes for Cranberry Bread – both have the usual ingredients – flour, eggs, sugar, – but each was different enough that I couldn’t decide which one to make – so I combined the recipes and it worked! 

Cranberry Bread– adapted from Linda Millward (infamous baker/cook and mother of my friends, the Fashionistas) and Joni Geurts, my sister and wannabe Fashionista.  Makes 2 small loaf pans (6 1/2 x 4 1/2) and freezes well.

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons apple cider

2 tablespoons vegetable cooking oil

juice from 2 large oranges, about 1/2 cup

1/2 chopped walnuts

1 cup fresh cranberries, cut into quarters

zest of two oranges

Zest both oranges, set aside.  Juice both oranges, gathering 1/2 cup of juice.  In a small bowl combine orange juice, oil, apple cider, beaten egg and both sugars.  Mix well.  In separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.   Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing only until moistened.  Fold in nuts, cranberries and orange rind.   Bake in greased bread tins, lined at the bottom with parchment paper (or use the disposable paper pans that need no greasing) and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes before trying to slice – if you can stand to wait that long.

And now…..the recipe I ruined…..more times that I’d like to count, I have disasters in the kitchen and I will try to be scrupulously honest here and let you know when that happens – unless it happens everyday, in which case I will be forced to lie.  I was asked to bring corn bread to a church function tonight…..corn bread…..a no brainer, right?   Well, it is if you HAVE corn meal and if you FOLLOW a recipe….neither of which I did.  And I got the results I deserved.  When baking, if you don’t follow the recipe you might as well eat out.

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Here’s the before……and the after…..and it looks great!  But I’m jumping ahead – let me tell you what I did….while digging in the pantry looking for corn meal – and discovering that I had none – I found a bag of polenta which is basically the same thing as corn meal so I turned the bag over and there was a recipe for San Francisco Polenta Bread – so then I was in business!  But the recipe sounded kind of bland – let’s face it, polenta is really grits – and who can eat grits without dressing them up with butter or cheese?  So I decided – with my infinite wisdom – to doctor the recipe with cheese and cayenne and corn……it could have worked – truly – except that I made one fatal mistake…..I mixed everything together and started spooning it into the pan when I realized that I had forgotten the cheese – so instead of scooping everything back into the bowl and mixing it up – I thought how wonderful it would be to have a layer of cheese in the middle of the cornbread!  So I tossed in the TWO cups of cheese in the middle of the mixture – covered it up with the remaining batter and threw it in the oven! 

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I think you can see from the picture what the problem was….the layer of cheese had turned into an oozing mass of cheese – making the cornbread too gooey to hold it.  IF only I had mixed the cheese into the batter  then I think this would have worked….what little cornbread I could taste – the pieces around the cheese – had a great flavor but nothing could stop that wall of cheese from running all over the place!  Hardly something I dared take to the church dinner – not with all the blue ribbon cooks there!

So, if you want to give it a try – here’s the recipe…..and I cut back the amount of the cheese…just to be safe.

Polenta Cheesy Corn Bread

1 cups sifted flour

2 cups polenta

6 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups milk

1/2 cup cooking oil

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can (15 oz.) whole kernal corn

1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese – try not to forget to mix this in!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place all ingredients in mixing bowl and blend.  (I love recipes that only use one dish….dump and mix!)  Pour into a 10-inch cast iron skillet and bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.  May also be baked in two 8-inch square pans or muffin tins.  And may the force be with you. 

Trying to think of unique gifts to give to friends and family is half the fun of the holiday season – which, if you weren’t aware, started yesterday…..this is a “prototype” of what I’ve come up with for my Foodie Friends – I had to make one for myself to be sure it was worth it!  (If you’re a Foodie Friend and I give you one of these gifts remember to act surprised!)

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All packaged nice and neatly in a clear pie box – tied with a pretty ribbon, cute, no?  Inside you can see all the goodies….an apron, which I will embroider with the lucky recipient’s name….recipe cards to write down their best cookie recipe on (so they can send it to me as a thank you!)….a cookie cutter to shape those wonderful cookies, cinnamon spice to give them that holiday flavor, a wooden spoon to mix the batter ever so gently, a pastry brush to make the butter glazing easier, a scraper so clean-up will be a cinch and a piece of chocolate to get them in the right mood to bake!  I think they’ll like it – what do you think?

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What could be more fun than a barrel of monkeys?  Glad you asked….only a Sock Monkey quilt, of course!  This pattern, Naptime Monkey, is from the quilt book, Polka Dot Kid Quilts(Martingale) by Jean Van Bockel.  A friend made one for a baby shower and everyone oohed and aahed over it…..especially me.  I LOVE sock monkeys even though I never had one as a kid – my only deprivation, I assure you!  So when my beautiful daughter announced she was pregnant, I just had to make one for my grandbaby…..this quilt is 34-inches wide by 44-inches long, machine pieced and machine quilted….It’s made to withstand any monkeying around my grandson will do.

Speaking of Sock Monkeys…..I just discovered The Vermont Country Store has Sock Monkey sheets for sale in their catalog this month….under a heading that says: “Fun Flannel For Fun Folks of All Ages”…..I might have to order a set for the mister and me for Christmas!  They are available in twin, full, queen and yes…..even KING!  Maybe my grandson will have a complete Sock Monkey nursery…..can’t you just picture it?  Monkeys swinging through trees painted on the walls….hanging from branches…..eating bananas while dangling by their tails!  Could be sew, sew cute!

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I guess I should have moved the “tail” out of the way!   Oh well…..boys will be boys!  After finishing this quilt, I noticed that I had sewn the “facial features” on wrong….take a close look at the Sock Monkey on the left – he is NOT wearing a mask….the Sock Monkey on the quilt has a mask over his eyes!  As I see it, this just makes this quilt MORE valuable….(because no way am I going to UNpick the thing and put it back on….once a quilt has been bound, washed and dried – the birthing process – then it is done, finished, over and out the door! 

I can’t think of monkeys – sock or real – without being reminded of a silly, little rhyme my parents used to say us – when we were kids and one of us got hurt jumping on the bed – one of our favorite past-times:

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed….one fell off and hit his head!
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
Four little monkeys jumping on the bed….one fell off and hit his head!
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
Three little monkeys jumping on the bed….one fell off and hit his head!
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
Two little monkeys jumping on the bed….one fell off and hit his head!
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
One little monkey jumping on the bed….He fell off and hit his head!
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said; “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

getattachment1.jpgI picked up this little book the other day at Sur La Table – and since I thought I aspired to be a Food Snob, I knew I would thoroughly enjoy this “essential lexicon of gastronomical knowledge.”  Well, much to my surprise, I discovered that I was not only NOT a Food Snob but I now know my aspirations to be one were totally off course!  The Food Snob’s Dictionary has this description of a “Food Snob n: reference term for the sort of food obsessive for whom the actual joy of eating and cooking is but a side dish to the accumulation of arcane knowledge about these subjects.”  How could I have been so wrong?!?  The accumulation of knowledge is not something I have ever sought…in any area of my life…. as my friends and family will attest!  This means, however, that I am just a Foodie, and interestingly enough, The Food Snob’s Dictionary does not even include this term within it’s pages!!!  Talk about a glaring oversight!  So I, proudly, have come up with my own definition of a… Foodie n:  reference term for the sort of food obsessive for whom the actual joy of eating, tasting, licking, slurping, etc., etc.,  is enough!  Who needs knowledge when you can have a eclair? 

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I just love it when I go to make something for dinner and I have all of the ingredients in my fridge or pantry – and today was one of those lucky days.  When I found this recipe I remembered the leftover pepperoni from the mummy bread and this recipe moved to the top of the pile.  It sounded good and simple – my only two requirements on a weeknight – and it was!

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 Pepperoni Pizza Quiche – Adapted from VeryBestBaking.com 

(The changes I made are denoted by an asterisk…I felt the egginess of this dish might need a little zip…since I’m really not a fan of eggs…and I was right.)

1 unbaked 9-inch frozen pie shell

1 package (8 oz.) shredded Italian blend cheese, divided

*4 oz. thinly sliced pepperoni (about 35 to 45, 1 1/2 to 2-inch diameter slices), divided

1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk

3 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

* 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion

1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

*1/4 teaspoon white pepper

*1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle 1 cup cheese and half of pepperoni slices onto bottom of pie shell.  Sprinkle green onions over pepperoni.  Whisk evaporated milk, eggs, flour, basil, pepper, salt and garlic powder in medium bowl until blended.  Pour mixture into pie shell.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Decorate top with remaining pepperoni pieces and any other topping you like.  Place quiche on baking sheet (if pie pan is made of aluminum foil.)

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. 

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I found it necessary to dab the top of the cooked pie with paper towels to soak up some of the grease from the pepperoni….

Cool for 5 minutes before serving. 

I liked the taste of this and will definitely make it again…..maybe on game day – when the old man dons his Redskins ensemble, flies the flag and spends the afternoon yelling at the TV calling the refs idiots…..he doesn’t know they can’t hear him.

(The original recipe suggests topping with red or green peppers or sliced black olives or any other topping you’d like before baking.)