a99kitten’s Musings

I blog about a WHOLE LOT of stuff :)

Interesting article regarding a new book coming (a whole book?!?) out about the beanie baby craze. Pretty interesting. Basically the book is saying the beanie craze was manufactured by some crazy women it seems….I wonder if the book has pics of them. I know how I mentally picture them. But I would add that it really helped propel eBay as well.

http://nypost.com/2015/02/22/how-the-beanie-baby-craze-was-concocted-then-crashed/

And yes…I have some. Big surprise. I can remember hitting up Hallmark stores or small gift shops in search of new cute ones or rare ones. And constantly searching eBay. This is also when I first learned, from an Australian friend who saw TONS of fake beanies being sold on the streets in China, how they were made at a factory (in China) and some of the “rejects” that did not pass QC were then “thrown out” which actually meant employees took them and sold them on eBay as variants and rare for big $$$$. I learned how to look for the errors in the TY tags (the Chinese always seem to mess up the English in everything they steal/copy.)

This is what instilled in me *Caveat Emptor* of ANYTHING bought on eBay (or from China.) But there are people who pay $25 for a Prada purse from a street vendor who actually think they just got a good deal on a designer bag. I am assuming these are also the people who respond to the Nigerian Prince…

I can remember going to McDonald’s to get happy meals for the teenie beanies. I’d go to the one at Stanford Shipping Center in Palo Alto – do NOT get in the way of wealthy soccer moms attempting to get toys for their screaming kids!! And do recall people ordering the Happy Meals and telling the cashiers to keep the food (ummm…give me those fries!) It was definitely nutz.

My beanies are currently all (EXCEPT the 2 husky beanies which are on my bedroom dresser) stored away in 2 containers in my garage. But I can honestly say I never paid more than $50 and that was just for 1 on eBay – the Princess Diana bear. When I moved a couple years back, I considered donating them but I just couldn’t make myself give them up. They are too cute.

So when I start to worry I collect too much Star Wars stuff, or Funko POPs, or anything else…I can re-read this :) I might actually get this book. Cannot argue the guy was a genius. And he owns the Four Season in NYC?!?!? From crazed women (mostly I am sure) buying stuffed toys. That is fantabulous.

Just watched tonight’s episode of Big Bang Theory. Wow. You caught me off guard guys. I’m still sniffling.

I hate to admit that I had kind of forgotten that the actress died. And when Howard mentioned his Mom, I thought to myself right then “oh, that’s how they will deal with it. Have her away, etc. She didn’t appear on the show so maybe even find another voice.” Yes. I thought it during tonight’s episode. It’s Hollywood. They do that.

Then Mrs. Wolowitz died. And I got instantly sad. The actors did a great job of being very sad and remaining in character.

When Sheldon said “When I lost my own father, I didn’t have any friends to help me through it. You do.”, it made me cry and smile at the same time. When my brother died, my friends are the ones who got me through it.

Them. And Big Bang Theory. I watched repeats every single night for several months. It was the only thing I could watch without getting sad. The only thing besides my huskies that could make me smile at all.

That was a great episode tonight.

Now I need to go get all this dust out of my eyes.

RIP Carol Ann Susi AKA Mrs. Wolowitz #fuckcancer

I found this recipe in a Williams Sonoma catalog (catalogs ARE good for something!) and it’s actually what made me want to buy the Paderno Spiralizer. I changed the recipe a bit from the original for my taste:

Ingredients:
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (plus extra for topping)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup packed mint leaves
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 zucchini – spiralized!
1/4 cup pine nuts

Directions:
To make the pesto, combine the garlic, almonds, Parmesan, 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground. Add the basil, parsley, mint, 3/4 cup olive oil and the lemon juice; process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in small pan and brown the pine nuts. Remove from heat after browned so they don’t burn. Then add to pesto when stirring in with the noodles.

Preheat a pan over medium-high heat until smoking. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the pan and sauté until just cooked through, about 5 mins. Transfer to a plate.

Toss the zucchini noodles with the pesto (not all at the same time) until evenly coated. Divide the zucchini among 4 bowls and arrange the shrimp on top. Drizzle more pesto on the shrimp and sprinkle with parmesan. Serve immediately.

This was SO delicious. Actually better than I expected. Will definitely make again! And honestly, it didn’t take that long which I like :)

It was supposed to be cold, rainy and (hopefully) snowy over the weekend so I thought a good time to make some meat sauce and try over zucchini noodles using my new toy!

Ingredients: 

2 pounds ground beef – I used organic, grass fed 85/15%
1 shallot, finely diced (I used my food processor)
1/4 cup minced garlic
4 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (14 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb seasoning
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in ground beef, shallot, and garlic. Cook and stir until the meat is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink, about 15 minutes.

2. Transfer the meat to the slow cooker. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, chicken broth, red wine, Italian seasoning, basil, salt, and black pepper.

3. cook on low for 8 hours.

Noodles:

Obviously you can use real pasta (mmmmmm) but I wanted to try zucchini noodles! SUPER EASY! First step – bought the Paderno Spiralizer 3-Blade from Williams Sonoma. Sure, sure…you can slice them manually but I know that I won’t do that and like kitchen tools :)

Once you have spiralized the zucchinis (2) heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet and cook/stir in the noodles so they are all coated in the oil. Then add in about 1/4 cup of water and cook until the zucchini is softened, about 8-10 mins or so. Season with a bit of salt and pepper as you stir occasionally.  You want the water soaked up by the noodles.

Then pour some sauce over your noodles and sprinkle some parmesan over it and YUM!

I haven’t made homemade mac and cheese in a very long time so I decided it was time! I found this recipe a few years ago in the Macaroni & Cheese cookbook put together by Joan Schwartz (easily obtained on Amazon!) I like this one because it has some spice!

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups salsa – I used Frontera (Rick Bayless) Chipotle salsa
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt
  • 1 lb dried pasta (I used elbow macaroni but can also try cork-screw cavatappi or the spiral rotini or fusilli)

 

Pour 4 quarts of water into a large pot, cover and set over high heat.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium heat (or in a glass measuring cup or bowl in the microwave), warm milk for about 1 minute.

Add the warm milk and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes. (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.) Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in cheese. Continue stirring until all the cheese has melted. Taste and season generously with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cover to keep warm until the pasta is done.

When the water has come to a boil, add the dried pasta. Stir well to keep the pasta from sticking together and boil until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and add the pasta to the sauce. Stir until all the pasta is covered in the salsa cheese sauce.

You can eat it this way. But I decided to put the mac and cheese in a baking dish and top with some fried onions (or buttery bread crumbs could work as well) and bake in a preheated 375 oven for 10-15 minutes, until browned and crisp on top.

macncheese

 

 

I love Buffalo Chicken Wings (prefer boneless though.) I love Buffalo chicken pretty much anything. I hate when people call anything spicy “Buffalo” but whatever. Use Frank’s and you are pretty good :)

2 (10 ounce) cans chicken breast
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot original cayenne pepper sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (Fage)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cream cheese in a medium bowl and stir until smooth. Mix in Frank’s Red Hot, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, and yogurt. Stir in chicken until thoroughly combined. Spoon mixture evenly into a deep 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until mixture is heated through. I serve with pita chips and sliced cucumbers (also carrots and celery but yuck.) :)

Mmmmmmm

Mmmmmmm

TOTAL last minute party. Decided on some favorites of mine that would also be kind of easy to make Sunday AM. #1 is a dip I had at a cooking class called Bubbles and Bites. It was actually already made when we arrived for the class (so I’ve never tried making it) and we got the recipe to try at home. I did change it a bit for me (noted). This is my first time not just using Lipton for my sour cream dip!

Caramelized Shallot and Bacon Dip aka A More Time Consuming Onion Dip So You Can Feel Better About Not Using A Processed Packet (that is still delicious, don’t get me wrong) :)

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (original recipe is for vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup chopped shallots (original recipe called for 1.5 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt(I added this)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 5 strips thick sliced, cooked bacon, crumbled (make sure cooled before stirring in) (original recipe is for 4 but MOAR BACON)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (original recipe is for 3/4 cup)
  •  1 cup sour cream (original recipe called for 3/4 cup)

 

  • Heat a large skillet over low-medium heat. Add the olive oil. When it shimmers, add the shallots, cover and cook for 10 minutes and then add balsamic vinegar and salt. Continue to cook (covered) until the shallots are deep golden brown in color, stirring to make sure not burning, about 20 minutes or so. Let cool.
  • Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream in a medium bowl to blend. Add shallots and bacon. Season dip to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cover dip and refrigerate until flavors blend, about 2 hours, or even overnight (I did mine early in the AM of Superbowl Sunday.)
  • Serve with thick potato chips (YAY!) or veggies (for that 1 weird healthy-eating person at every SB party.)

    YUM!

    Dip

    It’s been 1 year since I adopted Smokey. He has 2 different birthdays (Feb and April) on his old vet records so we don’t know when his actual birthday is or his age (2 different years). So this means I am using his adoption date as his birthday and I decided on his age (6) :)

    On January 27th 2014, my ex and I went to look at 4 dogs, all available through NorSled (where we adopted Shadow.) I brought them with me so we could see how Shadow interacted with the dogs. He was going to have to be friends with him (or her) so best to have him help interview too!

    Smokey was the first dog we met as he was in the Woodland area and the rest were in the bay area. So we met him on the way down. When I walked in and met him and hung out with him for a short time, I instantly loved him. He was not black & white, like all of the others I was going to see that day and he was not as fluffy as Angelus and Storm or Shadow and we had no idea of his mix beyond husky and/or malamute mix. But he was the sweetest guy ever. I left there to go look at the others to make sure I wasn’t just taking the 1st dog I met since losing Stormy in August but I knew I loved him.

    Met 3 other fantastic dogs who were all gorgeous, lovable, sweet and needed homes but Smokey stayed in my mind. So after all day of driving and meeting dogs and foster moms and dads (and frankly I think Shadow was getting stressed thinking he was being dropped off somewhere!), we decided to stop and eat for the 1st time that day. Buffalo Wild Wings. Mmmmm.

    I sat there thinking how would I feel if I drove home and didn’t get Smokey – and I felt immediately sad. So we called the foster mom and told her we were coming back to see him again – this time letting Shadow have more time with him. We took Smokey and Shadow for a walk along with the foster mom – who I think was sad to lose Smokey (she was originally going to keep him but that didn’t work out for non-Smokey reasons).

    That was it – I decided then to do it. Signed all of the paperwork, wrote a check and loaded him in the car. Had Shadow in the backseat and Smokey in the back back. I think Shadow was starting to wonder what the heck. But he did get along best with Smokey as well. I think he was most happy I didn’t get the girl husky as she was half his size but kept kicking his butt as female huskies are likely to do!

    First night in his new home!

    First night in his new home!

    Got home around 11pm. Smokey was pretty stressed – obviously. New house after stranger took him away from his mom of 11 months. We woke up 3 or 4 times during the night. I was worried he had to go potty, but I think he just wanted to walk back to his old house.

    It took a few days for him to calm down a little and settle into a routine but I’m good at routines :) Angelus and Storm trained me. He still gets stressed when his routine changes. But he has settled into a pretty darn calm and happy guy :) And honestly, he has been a dream. How anyone could have not wanted to keep him (and hurt and abandon him) is beyond me. He had gone through several homes and all this proves to me is that people generally suck and most probably have no business being responsible for a pet rock. But I’m a wee bit cynical.

    After losing Angelus and then Storm, I was pretty sad for a time there. Now, I am happy literally every day. And I hope he feels the same way. I’m pretty sure he does. :)

    His 1st snow! 1/30/14

    His 1st snow! 1/30/14

    1st beach visit at Mavericks! 2/14

    1st beach visit at Mavericks! 2/14

    Full of smiles :)

    Full of smiles :)

    Snow fun with Shadow 1/15

    Snow fun with Shadow 1/15

    Happy Birthday Smokey Dokey :)

    His daily adventures can be followed at http://packdog.com/smokeydokey

    And anyone can donate to NorSled. These people work endlessly to find northern breeds homes from bad (and sometimes VERY bad) situations and need every penny: http://www.norsled.org/how-to-help/

    Even though it has not been terribly wintery all January (pretty much do **not** like you at all right now Mother Nature), it’s still pretty darn chilly at night. So warm and wintery dinners sound good. I found several recipes for beef stew and thought I’d try that!

    As a a kid, I LOVED Dinty Moore beef stew. There is nothing short of a zombiepocolypse that could get me to eat that now (no clue what that meat is…), but boy oh boy did I love it when I was 10-11yrs old. So I combined several recipes that I found that kinda sorta looked like I remembered and changed it a little for my tastes:

    Ingredients:

    2 lbs of beef cut into 1″ (ish) cubes – I asked the guy at the meat counter for the best type/quality of beef (you need some marbly fat)
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 clove of garlic – minced
    1 bay leaf
    1 teaspoon paprika
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    1 shallot – chopped (all recipes I found called for onion but ick)
    2 cups beef broth
    1/2 cup red wine
    4 baby red and 4 baby white potatoes – quartered (left skin on)
    4 carrots – peeled and sliced
    10 oz white mushrooms – sliced (no recipe I found called for this but I love mushrooms)

    For later: 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup cream

    All of the recipes called for celery – also yuck. But if you like it, go for it.

    Directions:

    Place meat in the slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Pour over the meat and stir to coat the meat with the flour mixture.

    Stir in the garlic, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, wine and veggies. Then put in the bay leaf and stir in but kind of on top.

    IMG_6973 copy

    Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. The cook on high option says 4-6 hours but I always prefer the low cook.

    At around 9.5 hours I thought it looked a little watery for stew. So I added the additional 1/4 cup flour and cream. This pretty much made it perfect. It cooked for another 1hr 15 mins and YUM!

    Plus I’m guessing it will be even better tomorrow!

    beef stew

    I’m thinking next time, use 1.5 cups of broth to prevent the wateriness. Maybe? Or maybe just keep the cream ;)

    Another yummy sounding winter recipe that I found after digging through my big box of recipes (that I really need to get sorted out.) Plus it sounded like a fairly easy one and I like those :) I did change it to suit my tastes AS USUAL!

    INGREDIENTS:

    4 (to 6) boneless chops about 1″ thick
    1/2 cup flour, divided
    1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
    10 ounces sliced mushrooms (original recipe called for 8oz and I say the more mushrooms, the better!)
    6 tablespoons butter, divided (I used unsalted)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 cup chopped onion (I used a whole small shallot)
    1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (I did not use, but did mic in about 1/4 teaspoon of celery seed)
    1 cup chicken broth
    1 cup milk (I used non-fat as that’s what in my house…probably even creamier with whole milk)
    salt and pepper, to taste
    2 tablespoons lemon juice

    Preheat the oven to 350°.

    In a wide, shallow bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the flour, the paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper; Stir to blend well. Dredge the chops lightly to coat all sides.

    In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter; add the mushrooms and cook until tender and golden brown. Remove to a plate and set aside.

    Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and brown the pork chops on both sides, for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove the pork chops to a baking dish and set aside.

    Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and add the onion and celery (seed). Cook, stirring, until onion is tender. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to the skillet and stir to blend into the onion mixture. Add the chicken broth and milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in the mushrooms and add salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice.

    Pour the sauce mixture over the chops in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.

    Mmmmmm

    I served over Jasmine rice because I could live off of the saucy white rice combo :) This was DELICIOUS. It was like a homemade cream of mushroom recipe. So, less people (yes..talking to you pretentious foodies) might not be AS condescending about using not an actual can of cream of mushroom soup in a recipe. Maybe. But probably not. But then, if I cared about that, I’d probably not have a #zombiepocolypse supply of blue box mac and cheese in my pantry. :)