Fresh Start…and Stuffed Mushrooms Thursday, Jan 1 2015 

A fresh start…That’s what everyone wants on New Year’s, right? At least it seems to be a recurring theme every January 1st. Many preachers have sermons geared toward it, magazines are rife with articles on getting organized, there are checklists galore online to keep one focused. I am no different than the masses (well, kinda sorta!) — If I look back at 2014 all I see is a year of disaster, unwanted change and even some <gasp!> culinary failure. I won’t bore you with all of my New Year’s resolutions though…especially since I, like 92% or some such of the population, will fail to keep any. Does that mean I shouldn’t at least try? Well…no. Setting goals is especially important because if you fail to plan, you will often inadvertantly plan to fail. So — the one goal I have is to actually get more creative and absolutely play in my kitchen more frequently – and, in doing so, share more through my blog (lucky you!).

This past year my efforts were so obviously abysmal, many due to circumstances beyond my control – such as yet another (third) pregnancy loss, followed rapidly by the battle with cancer my father endured for long months and ultimately lost in October. I was so crazy-busy, stressed and depressed that I didn’t always have time to be in the kitchen, and even when I was in the kitchen I was often distracted – by others as well as by my own thoughts. That caused soooooo many failures, and the normal comfort foods like pasta or chicken-and-dumplings became a way of life when I wasn’t trying to push PB&J on the family. My creativity plummeted to new lows as I was desperately trying to keep afloat emotionally. But there’s that whole “If at first you don’t succeed…” maxim. Plus, I now know lots of ways some recipes just will not work! It will be quite the journey this year because I do have more structured goals (at least in my mind, if not on paper) for 2015. Including my constant transition to a healthier me. But…because I know I have a party to attend on Monday, I have already planned to change things up, at least as far as my healthy eating plan, after January 5th. Sounds like cheating, I know — but better to plan than to just give up. And I already used my juicer today and feel slightly less sluggish after a night of possibly excessive eating and drinking…So I’m trying.

Last night/this morning, we rang in the new year with family (immediate and a few “extras”), and I made stuffed mushrooms as one of the snacks. It was pushing midnight by the time I got them assembled and in the oven – mostly because I was trying to socialize somewhat. My chef friend, Damian, didn’t think he’d care for them because they do not feature meat or seafood in the “stuffing”. Rather, the filling is an easy mix of cheese. Well – I don’t know whether or not he loved them, but he conceded that they were “quite good” (I get nervous over a real professional’s critique). But Les and the kids wanted more — so guess what was on part of the menu for supper tonight (aside from Damian’s amazing gumbo)?!

Stuffed Mushrooms

Here’s what I did:

* Preheat oven to 350*F

* Coat a 9×13 pan with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

* Take the stems out of 15-20 large button mushrooms (set stems aside) and coat mushrooms in olive oil, then place cap-side up in the pan and bake for about 15 minutes while preparing filling. (I hand-picked my mushrooms from the local farmers’ market, but I’ve seen loose mushrooms at the grocery store too.)

* Dice the stems of the mushrooms and saute in 2 Tbsp. olive oil 5 minutes with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

* In a mixing bowl, place one 8 oz. block of softened cream cheese, 2 Tbsp worchestershire sauce, 1 cup shredded parmesan (don’t use the powdery stuff!), 1 c. bread crumbs and the sauteed stems of the mushrooms.

* Use about 1 Tbsp filling to “stuff” the mushrooms and then place pan back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.
This is a really easy appetizer! I hope it encourages you to go play in your kitchen! Hope you all enjoy a very Blessed and very Happy New Year in 2015!

Love,

~Mary

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Cream Cheese Alfredo Farfalle Tuesday, Apr 22 2014 

Ok — so I am not always the amazing cook I like to think I am (GASP!). But. Some days I just want something quick and easy, that doesn’t mean I have spent absolutely forever in the kitchen. I mean, I like to play. But — who wants to always slave away in the kitchen when the sub-friggin freezing weather we’ve had has started to evolve into something resembling warm? I want to be out in the sun, at least a little. Plus, as far as cooking — it doesn’t help when your chef friend is elsewhere for the supper hour. (Oh how spoiled I have been!) The amazing thing though is that my children still appreciate my cooking…Oh yeah baby!!! And — thank God! I love to cook and thoroughly enjoy being in my kitchen a large portion of the time. But I am no restaurant — My philosophy is that if you don’t like it, we always have an abundant supply of peanut butter and (yes, homemade) jelly…No one has ever complained (much) about the alternative anyway. And I’m still providing the “food” portion of the whole food/clothing/shelter stuff, so we’re good — no need to call Children & Youth on me.

So last night was pasta night. It seems to be a “thing” on Mondays. Not only is it usually meatless, in keeping with the whole ‘Meatless Mondays’ movement (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/), but I find it to be fast and very simple, and — most importantly — a meal that stretches. Because I NEVER know who is coming for supper on a Monday. My oldest son has tons of friends who are members of the local fire department (which is really “local”…within obnoxious siren-hearing distance) and so over the years I’ve had many, many extras at my table on many a Monday. Usually my personal preference is a red tomato-based sauce, but let’s face it — some days monotony is absolutely BOR-ING! This past week I found a very simple cream cheese alfredo recipe that sounded pretty fool-proof, and it actually was pretty awesome. I can’t remember for the life of me where I found said recipe, so I apologize in advance for seemingly pilfering an amazing and tasteful dish.

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Here’s what I did:

* I used two 1 lb packages of farfalle noodles that I bought on sale (yay me!!!). Boil according to pacakge directions. I like mynoodles al dente, but not everyone does…Some like them mushy and some like them almost raw. 053

* In a saucepan heat 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 8-oz block of cream cheese and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (do not skimp and buy the powdered stuff!!!) until the cream cheese is dissolved. This will take about 5 minutes.

* Add 1/2 tsp salt and some fresh ground pepper.

* Stir in 2 cups thawed frozen peas and immediately remove from heat.

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If you want to go crazy, maybe add some fresh herbs too (which I prefer this time of year when winter is giving way to some green…) This is one really rapidly pulled together and easy-peasy dish (no pun intended!). I hope you enjoy. Now go play in your kitchen!!!