Thursday, September 25, 2008

This Just In...

Operation Baking GALS update!!

Our soldier and his new friends have received, eaten and now de-toxed from an overload of sweets sent to them earlier this month. Sadly, however, no pictures are allowed on the compound where these brave soldiers reside so we aren't indulged with a visual of everyone chowing down; however, Colin got creative and I recently received this:

And from Colin...

"Kara had requested pictures of me and the group enjoying the packages. Unfortunately no pictures are allowed where I live, so instead I had people sign th[is] card so that it could be scanned in so that all of you could see the thanks from the people you helped. Its a small bit of gratitude for all of you taking time out of your busy days to bring a little bit of home out here to Afghanistan. All in all I received 29 packages from 34 people. When Kara told me about this group, I didn't realize the magnitude of what was about to take place. Some how we managed to consume every last bit of food sent our way! I was like a cookie Santa Claus around the camp. Even more, most people around here didn't believe I had that many lady friends!

What you did for us is unbelievable. The worst part of being out here for the majority of people, is the day in and day out monotony and being away from friends and family. Hearing from home, no matter how small the message, always helps break up that boredom and frustration and makes the day a little easier to swallow. So [our] card is only a small part of the thanks and gratitude I heard and received from everyone around me.

To Operation Baking Gals, big Thank You from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan!"

Right back at you, Colin and all who received the fruits of our labor (though I can barely call it "labor")... I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the pleasure was all ours. We'd do it again in a heart-beat (in fact we are!).

... And We're Off!

Hopefully we'll return with some of our own pictures... like these!



Bratislava (and along the Danube headed back to Vienna)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm Just Sayin'

Really. Just when I thought this couldn't be out-done... I'm now fairly certain it doesn't get much cuter than this!

It seems that Charlie has emerged unscathed by the *slight loss of the limelight since the arrival of his sister... I think he has managed to attend more of his favorite Lowe's "Build and Grow" workshops since Caroline's been on the scene than ever before!

Much love to my absolutely heart-stoppingly adorable niece (new pictures to come!) and nephew... from the Proudest.Aunt.Ever

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Close Enough For Me

I keep hearing that fall has yet to officially begin, however, the two things that mark fall in my world (neither of them being the official Fall Equinox) HAVE started which is good as done for me.

One of those is of course the fall of temperature... no doubt part of the reason why it's called "fall" is because of this very reason (notice I didn't link to anything there because I completely made that up... just now, yup). And the second... the start of football season. I'm really not partial, either - college football or NFL Sundays, both of those are quite satisfactory for this girl (let me clarify - we all know I care most about my Deacs but since I do also enjoy some good competition on a Sunday afternoon or the makings of a late Monday night, I'll include the NFL too)! Though in truth, I'm just a sports kind of a girl and cherish the start to every new season... as long as it's not hockey or pro-basketball (save for my Spurs), I'm there.

And from now on, I will most likely be "there" with a plate of this... Pulled BBQ Chicken. I really can't say enough about this to do it justice, so hopefully screaming MAKE THIS CHICKEN will get the point across. It's amazing... it's easy... it's made with inexpensive ingredients (and probably even ones you already have around!)... and just in case there are still any lingering doubters out there, my mom had 3 helpings of this last night - and she just doesn't do that.

Pulled BBQ Chicken
Adapted from Penzey's Spices

4 lbs bone-in chicken thighs
2 onions, sliced 1/4-inch
1 can light beer, room temp
1-2 c water, room temp
1 TB BBQ 3000 or other BBQ dry rub

1-2 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
2 TBSP yellow mustard
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBSP chili powder

*this is for preparation in a crockpot but I believe would work supervised in a large dutch oven

Line the bottom of the crockpot with 1/2 of the onion slices. Wash chicken and pat dry, seasoning with BBQ 3000. Place in the crockpot on top of the onions. Layer the remaining slices of onion on top of the chicken; using a combination of the beer and water, fill slow cooker until the liquid reaches 2/3 of the way up the side of the chicken.

Cook (in the slow cooker) for 8 to 12 hours on low. While cooking, whisk together the sauce ingredients.

Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to rest so the juices redistribute into the meat. Shred the meat (it will be falling apart at this point) and discard bones and skin. Completely empty the crockpot of any fat or liquid and onions. Return the meat to the cooker and add enough of the sauce to cover the meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat the chicken on low until warm and serve on your favorite hard rolls or buns.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Our favorite two dachshunds have always been quite the duo given the chance to hang out for an extended period of time... they usually "co-exist" by plaguing each other incessantly but most recently, it seems that their relationship has taken a different turn... new best friends?? I maintain they were just worn out from running after each other all day... stay tuned.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Serious Case of the Mondays

Nothing helps a Monday morning more than a little Johnson Automotive badger action...

*thanks to my favorite new parents for these always entertaining selections!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

From the Bottom of my Heart...

No official polls were done or surveys taken, but I think we can easily say this round of Operation Baking GALS was another huge, sweeping success. Even just on our own little team, we had groups of bakers coming together around the globe, literally, to make some homebaked goodness to some very lucky soldiers. I am so thrilled to report that not only did new and old friends and family jump on-board for this particular effort, but that it also got some folks thinking about involvement on even a much bigger scale. Nothing could make this girl happier.

As for our recent efforts... I think Colin's initial response upon receiving the first 4 packages says it all: "Well the first four packages have shown up, I don't think I had a handle on the scope of this. Its going to be a ton of treats." While I don't know if he'd actually weighed our packages, I'm willing to bet it wasn't too far off a ton...

So even though I know that my debt of gratitude goes without saying, since I did want to say something to all of you who felt the call to send our fearless soldiers a little bit of your homebaked love and support, I thought why not add some (of your very own) mouth-watering pictures!!!


Allie Parker, San Francisco, CA, sent some moist and rich 'brownie cookies' and also, one of our soldier's favorites, Snickerdoodles.

Andrea Garrity, Falls Church, VA, sent an assortment of amazing cookies - Chunkies, Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Bars and Crinkles. Good thing she lives just up the road from me so I can taste-test the next batch!

Team Forney, TX: Cappie McBeth, Hollie Cantrell, Viki Colon, and Laura Musgrave sent another great assortment of Chocolate Chip cookies, Ginger Snaps, and "Dishpan" Cookies; I can't wait to hear how the "Dishpan" Cookies were as they are Cappie's specialty. Chris Wallace, Sandy Springs, GA, sent two different bar cookies including her crowd-pleasing Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars.

Christie Stump, of Stump the Chef, Orlando, FL, tried out a new recipe: (Paula Deen's) Three Chocolate Cookies and determined that it's a keeper!

Christy Parker, of CP in Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, was the first to get her box in the mail not knowing how well the Danish postal system would oblige. She sent delicious Oatmeal Raisin Walnut cookies and Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin cookies, just perfect for fall!

Dolores Ferrero, of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity, East Bay Area, CA

Elizabeth H de Saint-Aignan, Providence, RI

Falon Mitchell, Prosper, TX

Heather Peskin, of Sherry Trifle, New York, sent some of her rated 5-STAR cookies including Chewy Chocolate Coco-nut Squares, Peanut Jumbles and some cookies I can personally recommend, Celebration Cookies.

Jen Jaglowski, of The Latest and Greatest, Pittsburgh, PA, with her little Sam by her side sent the troops a couple of loaves of Pumpkin Bread as well as some Chocolate Chunk Cookies! Colin should rest easy knowing these are "Sam-Approved"!!

Karen and Kayla Polascak, Broadview Heights, OH

Kristy Hudson, of Hokie Crib, Herndon, VA, made the perfectly caramel-y Caramel Bars. She said she took "baker's liberty" with the recipe but it looks to me like she made all the right changes!

Lesley Roberts, Alpharetta, GA

Lila Easton, San Angelo, TX, sent some Salted Nut Bars, which she promised is a favorite for her friends in Texas. She packed her box tight filled with gum, individual packets of Crystal Light, banana chips, and Jerky.

Linda Linden, Sherman Oaks, CA

Liz Clouthier, of Cooking the Books, Bremerton, WA, sent the always popular Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookies and "off the container" Quaker Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!

Marisa Rosenfeld, Brooklyn, NY

Megan Hurst, of Apples N Carrots, Alexandria, VA

Missy Mayweather, Radford, VA

Monica Harvell, of Cake Goddess, Atlanta, GA, packed Colin and his friends some real treats: Spumoni Biscotti, Chocolate-White Chocolate Chunk Cookies, and Snickerdoodles.

Tamera Butler, Atlanta, GA, sent an amazing variety of gourmet "Cake Truffles" including chocolate cake with Kahlua, chocolate cake with caramel and toffee bits, white cake with rum and caramel/toffee and white cake with lemon zest in white chocolate. I kind of wish I had had her box routed to me instead of overseas!

Tara Liptak, of Smells Like Home, Connecticut, sent some classic Oatmeal Raisin cookies. I loved her picture of the cookies.

Tia Lynn and Sandy Emmett, Atlanta, GA, sent an enormous box stuffed full of goodies that the troops are sure to enjoy!

To round it all out, I sent Colin and his friends some fun and fruity "Rice Krispie Bars" and one of my latest go-tos, a version of Brown & White Walnut Bars.

Alas, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to each and every one of you who stepped up to participate with us. You all will never know how much your involvement has warmed my heart; from putting our team together, to receiving your emails, and finally seeing the fruits of your labor and how much love you put behind it all; in all sorts of amazing, different ways, each of you put your heart into this effort and supported a troop(s) that you didn't even know but took my word for, and for that, I am forever indebted.

With that, you must forgive the sales-pitchiness of this, but as you all undoubtedly know, there are still many many troops serving our great nation overseas, so if you would like to continue to be involved in this effort, please head over to Operation Baking GALS where round 3 is gearing up. We'd love to have you all!

From the bottom of my heart... THANK YOU.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Proud Parents!

September 4, 2008, will go down in infamy... surely for many reasons, though none more important than because it was the day that Jayne and Jason received their precious bundle into this world.

At approximately 8:06pm, Harrison Henry, at 7lbs 2oz and 19.75 inches, arrived to the delight of his parents.

His arrival was long anticipated and prayed for - we are so excited for some of our best friends to enter the world of parenting! It was about time that the wedding circuit transitioned into a baby boom!

Congratulations, Jayne and Jason!
... and we can't wait to meet you, Harrison!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Some Things Never Change

We've all felt the crunch of the recent rising costs... at least around here, seems the cost of everything, from gas to food to other everyday items, creeps higher and higher.

It hasn't been all bad - it's just caused us to get creative... and thankfully since I got out of my "only from a cookbook cooking" a few years ago, it's been a pretty fun time in our kitchen.

One thing that hasn't changed, though, is our habit of eating breakfast for dinner. Apparently some people have a "thing" against this but in this household, we are all for it. Most recently though, thanks to some inspiration from the fun brunch spot we visited in New York, The Barking Dog, I decided we'd try their combination of breakfast sausage and fruit. We enjoyed (and will enjoy again!) the different textures of the cooked fruit and the pieces of the flavorful sausage.

Apple and Chicken Sausage Frittata

3/4 cup firm apple, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup herbed chicken sausage, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 TBSP onion, chopped
Cooking spray
5 eggs
1 egg white
2 TBSP mixed herbs, chopped
1/4 cup shredded cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
1 green onion, sliced

Spray heat-safe 10-inch fry pan with cooking spray and saute apple, sausage, and onion until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes over medium heat.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and egg white with herbs, salt and pepper, and finally the shredded cheese. With the pan over medium-high heat, pour the egg mixture over the meat and apple mixture; scrape the sides and the bottom of the pan with a spatula to ensure the egg gets mixed for even cooking. You will see cooked egg scattered throughout, but loose egg in between.

Sprinkle 1/2 of the sliced green onions overtop the frittata before putting the pan into the oven. Cook for up to 5 minutes, or until the underside of the frittata is set.

Cut into wedges and garnish with the remaining sliced green onions just before serving.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Bit of History

Sadly, our trip lasted barely a "New York minute" but an incredibly fun and packed 60 seconds it was!

Before I get too far and anyone questions my loyalty, I must state that it is true... Yankee Stadium is in its last year of existence, I saw it with my own two eyes. And for that matter, seeing that stadium was the ONLY reason that Chris and I found ourselves in attendance at the game against the Blue Jays. The experience was fun, especially since Chris and I are such avid baseball (okay... sports, in general) fans, but let's make it clear that the Yankees don't make it to the list of teams we cheer for.

But as for our quick 60 seconds... what an alive and vibrant city the Big Apple is! We loved exploring as much of Manhattan as we were able.

Our friends, Amanda and Drew, had picked our cultural activity for the afternoon so shortly after arrival, we headed to the Frick Museum to see a magnificent, stately home, filled with an unmatched collection of art. I highly recommend it to anyone no matter your taste in art.

After seeing our share of Vermeers, Monets, Renoirs, to name a few... we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around with stop at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square! I loved the hustle and bustle of such a busy city.

Dinner brought us to La Vineria, another choice of Amanda and Drew's... and after the Frick and our delicious dinner, I have to say they are hired for my next trip! We enjoyed first, the freshest mozarella and tomatoes I've ever tasted, followed by a variety of different amazingly fresh pasta dishes *think butternut squash filled pasta with a light sage sauce drizzled over it.

After a great day in the city, we were ready for our trip to the Bronx to visit such a historic landmark in the soon-to-be demolished Yankee Stadium. It was just as I imagined - a great neighborhood for baseball - and we even got our fair share of "real" Yankee fans (who were removed from the game shortly after arriving - love Yankee Stadium security!).

We had such a perfect afternoon *enjoying a Yankee loss, and end to our quick trip, getting to know Yankee Stadium and its city!

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