Thursday, December 20, 2007


This seems to be making its way around the web, but I couldn't help and post it here (especially so I can watch it repeatedly).

One group's very clever version of "The 12 Days of Christmas"...

I've been a little slack posting here (especially pictures of what we've been up to) so I'm thinking the next few days will be good for focusing (read: getting a LOT of other things down) and re-energizing for another year in Kara's Kitchen.

Here's wishing all of you a very Merry and Blessed Christmas - see you in 2008!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Not a Comedian...

But I tried to improvise (a recipe) tonight... so not a big deal, right? True... in cooking, I often use a recipe as my base idea and then add/omit as I desire, or as my refrigerator and pantry dictate. But baking... improvise in baking? Except for the fact that I threw some Christmas colored M&Ms that weren't called for into my blondies last week, this may have been a first for me.

So they say to always cook (or bake!) with ingredients that you love, right? *don't quote me, I may have made that up but it's worked out for me! It all began last Christmas season, when I had my first taste of my now favorite version of Hershey's Kisses... and on the back of the bag was this recipe beckoning me to call her home.

The problem was that I didn't want to make an entire cheesecake for us - both of us do enjoy cheesecake and having sweets anywhere within arms reach these days is just not good news. So my thought... mini-cheesecakes without having to go to a kitchen store to buy individual springform pans.

I took a risk... I fully admit that, and while the result IS tasty (and my greatest fear, that the mini-cheesecakes wouldn't come out of the muffin tins cleanly, was all for naught!), it's just not cute... and really not even picture-worthy, though sadly, it does depict the dessert as it stands. I do like to say that I live and learn... and for sure now I know some things I'd do a bit differently should I repeat this recipe using my altered version. Maybe one day I'll do a "Live and Learn" post and record my second attempt.

While I can assure you that these little treats taste FAR better than their picture would indicate, I would definitely tweak my recipe a bit and hope that I am suddenly blessed with better photographic skills. One general comment about cheesecakes... after having now made a few using either a food processor or a mixer, I stand proudly on the food processor side of the aisle, it just makes a much smoother batter.

Individual Candy Cane Swirl Cheesecakes
makes approximately 6 cakes

Cookie Crumb Crust
3/4 cup vanilla wafer cookie crumbs (about 23 cookies)
1/2 TBSP sugar
1/8 c melted butter or margarine

1 1/2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
3/8 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
about 1 1/2 eggs
about 20-22 HERSHEY'S KISSES Candy Cane Mint candies
1/2 TBSP milk
fresh, sweetened whipped cream, optional

Make the crusts: Heat oven to 350°F. Stir together vanilla wafer cookie crumbs and sugar in medium bowl; blend in melted butter or margarine. Press mixture onto bottom and up the side of about 6 greased muffin tins. Bake about 4-5 minutes; cool.

After preparing the crusts, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Set aside 1/4 cup batter; spread about 2 TBSP of remaining batter in each of the prepared crusts. *adjust the amount of batter in each tin as you need - should be about 2/3 of the way up the side of the tin

Place candies and milk in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium about 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium another 10-15 seconds, stirring after each heating, until candies are melted and mixture is well blended when stirred. Gradually blend reserved cheesecake batter into candy mixture. Drop candy mixture by tablespoonfuls onto vanilla batter. Gently swirl with knife for marbled effect.

Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove from oven to wire rack. With knife, loosen cakes from side of pan. Cool completely; remove cakes onto a flat surface. Cover; refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with optional whipped cream.

The way I see it... at least I conquered my fear of altering a recipe?! I just need to do a better job about proportions and other teeny, tiny, insignificant (right?) details.

On the flip side, I did get to finally make a recipe that I've been looking forward to. Course, that's just one of many... I have a whole host of recipes that I've bookmarked or earmarked, just waiting for me to try my hand at them... at risk of this sounding like a recipe-exchange, I'd love to know what tops your list as the next new recipe to try?

And if you don't have enough cookies on that 'list' of yours, check out the just released Washington Post 2007 cookie guide!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Hero Among the Rest

Just when you thought (or at least I did) that there was no hope for pro athletes... along comes someone like LaDainian Tomlinson... and on a day like today when we are reminded of some of the most horrific acts "gotten away with" if only for a little while by a fellow/former NFL star, this story about L.T. was just what the doctor ordered.

I readily admit, in the past year or so, I'd heard all the stories about L.T. averaging x-number of touchdowns a game but I chalked it up to "just another NFL star". Thanks to 60 Minutes on Sunday evening, I take back any comment I may have made or ever thought about L.T. being "just another" ANYthing.

Just a few of the highlights, though you really should take a few minutes to watch the video clips in their entirety.
  • Two days before Thanksgiving, he gives 2,000 families enough food to make Thanksgiving dinners.
  • He has his own charity golf tournament, gives $1,000 college scholarships to seniors at his old high school, and hands out dozens of bikes and hundreds of shoes to underprivileged kids in San Diego.
  • Since he couldn't afford to go to NFL games as a child, he buys tickets for 21 kids to every home game. Twenty-one is his jersey number. And again, he gives them his time. After the game he comes back on the field to greet each of them, sign autographs, and pose for pictures.

Let's hope that L.T. isn't just inspiring little kids out there... we big kids need just as much help!

*Has my blog taken a turn into the world of the emotional side of sports "writing"?? I will be back with some tasty treats, I promise.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Will He Stay or Will He Go?

Ahh... so this is what it feels like to have a somewhat decent football program... especially one that came out of a "nothing" program only a mere two years ago. At the conclusion of the past two seasons, Deacon fans around the globe have been rudely awaken to press that our beloved Coach Grobe will be leaving for a bigger school, "better" (depending on your definition) program, more money, etc. I stand proudly among the Deacs and admit freely that my morning consisted of chasing down articles all over the Internet trying to figure out if we have a coach or would the Meineke Car Care Bowl (doesn't have quite the same ring to it as the Orange Bowl did last year) be his last day as a Deacon...

First this...

And then after we all recovered from our minor heart-attacks, things started to look up...

So it seems, at least for now, that *knock on wood - lest I be the one to jinx us! we still have a coach and a great one at that (but really, someone, please let me know when this is a sure-thing!). It is a compliment to be so highly sought after, that's for sure - it just makes for a panic-filled morning.

But, this begs the question... what is the real draw for college football coaches and what truly defines their success? Are they all in it to make it to the "big" football schools or is there just a point where they become tapped out (speaking of, another school close to my heart... USNA... rumors abound whether Paul Johnson will remain)? Is quality of life and job security enough to stay? If so, I say that both Grobe and Johnson will be back at their schools for many years to come.

Here's hoping!!

*Uh oh - Paul Johnson's a goner.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

First Time's a...

Well, now that I'm officially in the holiday spirit (as if I wasn't before - HA - like Susan, I start listening to Christmas music WAY before any social "norm" calls for), it's time to get back in the kitchen. I actually HAVE been baking... not a ton but I did manage a few things for my recent out of town visitors.

Even though I have resolved to let this holiday season pass me by, especially given the fact that we passed the t-minus 3 month mark and realized just how much we have left to do, I couldn't pass up making just a few things to bring with us to holiday parties, and let's be honest... to munch on ourselves.

Also, I've been dying to participate in Susan's "Eat Christmas Cookies" event; even though I usually shy away from these online foodie "events" - I think it was the cute logo and the Christmas cookie theme that lured me in.

So for my first-ever entry, I have prepared one of my Christmas staples... Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark.

I follow the Bon Appetit recipe pretty much exactly... my only comment being that as you start to layer warm chocolate on the previously chilled and firm layer, work very quickly and don't play with the chocolate too much or you will get a swirly-brown-looking mess. The great thing is that regardless of how they look, they ALWAYS taste great! Plus, how can you beat delicious "cookies" that require few ingredients (remember Trader Joe's for chunks of white and semi-sweet chocolate) and come together fairly quickly and easily - seems like a perfect recipe to me, or at least one for the abbreviated Christmas I'm having this year.

I'm tempted to say that I will be back with a second cookie, but that might be getting a little ambitious so only time will tell! In the meantime, check out all of the other submissions... but consider yourself warned - there are a ton of delicious-looking cookies just begging to be baked!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

High Flyin'

Army-Navy 2007 was our typical family affair, with an added spin. Okay, a couple of added spins...

#1 This was the first time since 2000 that the Army-Navy game was hosted in Baltimore... most years, the game is hosted in Philly.

#2 Thanks to #1, my family was able to celebrate the entire weekend together!

My parents, Chris and I all met up at my brother's house (with brand-new, self-installed, beautiful hardwoods, throughout the main level) in Columbia, MD, for the weekend. What a great time, complete with some serious bonding between Granddad and Charlie while taking care of various home improvement projects. Charlie is quite the little fix-it-upper and is quick to correct you should you accidentally call a tool by its incorrect name. Saturday morning, the guys and I were quite the urbanites, taking the light rail into Baltimore for the big game.

#3 The game didn't disappoint (though even though I'm a die-hard Navy fan, I do wish Army's program would at least give Navy a run for their money one of these days) especially the fan-fare surrounding the game including the march-on by both schools (as usual, Army's marching abilities embarrassed Navy), Army and Navy's parachute teams, and last but not least, the fly-over. The Cadet and Midshipmen "spots" were a little subpar this year, though happily, I was able to track down the only one worth showing again... here for your viewing pleasure.

Oh - and did I mention the Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the U.S.A." at half-time? (why am I so excited? have you HEARD that song... though my music tastes are somewhat varied... remember how excited I was to see and hear Taylor Hicks at last year's Orange Bowl?)
#4 Back to that flyover... no big deal, right? As it turns out, these happen so often nowadays that there's even an official government form that must be filled out in order to request the "Aerial Event Support". But has one of your old friends ever piloted a F/A-18 Super Hornet in the Army-Navy game flyover? My friend, Colin "Farva" Price, stationed in Lemoore, CA, was one of the 4 pilots chosen to perform before this year's game - and as he says (in true fighter pilot fashion), they were treated like royalty all weekend. We got a glimpse of this when a random woman approached him and asked if he would take a picture with her.

What a great way to get to see an old friend! It doesn't get much better than that!

#5 Not a new spin but part of the weekend nonetheless, Navy takes home the Commander-in-Chief's trophy once again as they emerged victorious over USMA for the 7th (or so) time in a row.

#6 After a cold but thankfully not freezing afternoon watching the greatest rivalry in college sports, we headed to Little Italy for a delicious and warm meal at Sabbatino's!

And to wrap up a packed day, we shared a variety of Vaccaro's desserts and warm drinks while driving through the Columbia neighborhood light display!

I feel like a broken record saying this but once again, Sunday afternoon came too quickly - my parents headed on their way back down to Atlanta, my brother's family went off on their merry way to chop down their Christmas tree, and Chris and I were back to Virginia. Each year, this weekend feels like the kick-off (albeit a late one) to my Christmas season, so I guess there's no turning back now!

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