Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hammie Time Under Construction

For some reason, I thought it would be fun to try and 'redesign' my blog page. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED my little cartoon girl but being that this is a FAMILY blog, I wanted to design something that used our actual pictures. Over a week or so ago, I began to mess around with the design and research what I'd like to put up on my blog.

A lot of it has to do with html code. Which really makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a dull spoon. It's almost trying to navigate this:

You know you'll eventually figure it out and get through it, but it's probably going to take you FOREVER and there'll be A LOT of wrong turns.

This has been the case with me and this stinking html coding that I have to do to get my blog looking how I want it to. What you see now, is NOT what my blog is going to look like. I have GRAND plans. It's just figuring out how to get those grand plans to transfer to the world of coding. 

So in the meantime, I may not be posting any new blogs while this:

is happening.

Let's hope all this time designing headers, backgrounds, blog buttons and what-nots doesn't go to waste. Last night around midnight I was ****this close**** to chucking it all and just PAYING someone to design it.  But I'm dedicated to getting this done to the best of my ability. Let's just hope the best of my ability doesn't look like my 6 year old designed it.

Here's hoping.

Stay tuned.....

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bon Appetit!

I'm sitting here in my kitchen right now, exhausted, dirty and oily, my skin seeping out a beefy (chuck roast to be exact) odor that seems to be ingrained after a 12 hour stint in which I slaved over hot bacon grease, olive oil and LOTS of butter. But the smell coming out of my oven makes it ALL worth it.

I can honestly say that I've never smelled anything so wonderful in a long time.

So, what are you up to you may ask? Well if you've been reading my AWESOME Facebook page you're well aware that I've been making a VERY famous dish - Boeuf Bourguignon!

What is BB? Basically it's a stew of AMAZING beef, braised in red wine that cooks in your stove for HOURS!

Why? Well I'm part of a super secret, super cool, super exciting culinary team of ninja's waiting to take over the world - One entree at a time!

In other words - I'm involved with the 'Gourmet Club' here on base.

Lemme break it down Barney Style for ya.... Basically when you sign up for GC, you agree to either:

1. Host ONE luncheon of around 22 women at your home.
2. Agree to cook at TWO of the luncheons.

Since I really can't squeeze that many women, complete with table set up in my home, I opt to cook. I'd rather have it that way anyways!

This is my 2nd year being a part of GC. Last year's GC theme was 'Around the World' and it was awesome! I cooked for the months of November and February (Mexican and French themes, respectively). This year's theme is 'Movies'. Each month is assigned a different movie and we cooks, come up with a menu designed around that movie. My months this year are January and March.

I have been looking forward to this since....well, a long time.  I love to cook. I may not do it as often as I should but when I do, I don't hold back! I love it! Last year before Jon deployed we had a chance to watch the movie Julie and Julia and as corny as I know this is going to sound, I fell in love with it and with Julia Childs. Jon being the awesome husband he is bought me the 'The Art of French Cooking' by Julia Childs for Christmas and vowed that someday he'd buy me my very own Le Creuset so I can finally make that dish in the movie that everyone seems to go ga-ga over.

I am bound and determined to make this Boeuf Bourguignon!

Fast forward about half a year later and I'm sitting with the rest of the GC board deciding on movie themes for each month. I am very happy to find out that the rest of the gals also thought that this movie would make for a fun cooking month.

My plan is slowly taking form.

The GC 'Welcome Aboard' rolls around and everyone is asked to either sign up to cook or host. I'm there early of course since I'm on the board and put my name down right away for the months to cook.

Then, this last Christmas what does Jon buy me as a present? My very own 5.5 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven!!

It is on like Donkey Kong!!

So now it all comes down to this months planning meeting. I am DYING to make this dish. Seriously DYING. I have no idea why I have to have an excuse to make it but I do! I'm the first to shout out that we should have BB as our entree and the first to volunteer to cook it. I thought I was going to lose out to a Duck Entree but Lady Luck was on my side and BB was voted in as the main course! Go me!!!

Which leads us all back to the here and now.

Since I've never made this before I had to make a test batch! I spent the last few days gathering my ingredients and on Sunday, I woke up excited to get started!

Now, don't laugh. Everyone who reads this blog KNOWS I'm a freak when it comes to taking pictures of my food and all that. So...for your reading pleasure a Cliff Notes version of the looooong process of making Julia Childs Boeuf Bourguignon.

It starts out with bacon. Now, can you tell me one dish that starts with bacon that ISN'T good?!!

Chopping my delish swine strips!
 But actually, it calls for a SLAB of bacon with rind. I looked all over this God forsaken town and couldn't find it. So I used thick sliced bacon and went with it. Whatdda gonna do?

After that, it was chopping up that 3lb slab of chuck roast eyeballing me. Have any of you actually watched Julie and Julia? There's the scene where Julie is making this dish and she's hand drying each piece of meat before browning. Hard to believe, but yup! You really have to do this in the recipe. But because I have a slightly lazy (don't laugh) side, I just laid down a long line of paper towels, lined the meat up and then another paper towel then squished the wetness right out of them!
Drying my meat....

Then I get to brown it all in that yummy bacon grease. Nothing say healthy like meat sauteed in bacon grease. Mmmmmm.....

So, you basically dump all that into a bowl and move onto carrots and onions....

Sauteing the carrot and onion...

Hmmm....what's my next move?

I'm gonna jump, hop and skip over a few steps (because believe it or not, I know some of this food stuff bores some people) and move onto the most important part -

Oh yum! Yum! Yum! Yum!!!  

Again - this is the PERFECT dish! Bacon? Yes please! Wine?! The more the merrier!! In fact, that bad boys takes on 3 whole cups of red wine. Seriously!

Here comes the part where the smell warms up your whole house. This dish is such a comforting, wholesome, family type of dish. It's one of those recipes that once those flavors start to meld in the oven, people start wandering in asking what smells so good and when's dinner. There's just something about the meat, veggies, bacon and wine all sitting in that pot, all jiving together to create the most beautiful smell. I can't say it's better than cake or cookies baking (because I'm a sucker for sweets and can't resist them at all) but as for entree's - it is the most heaven-like smell ever! If I had 'smell-a-blog' I'd totally have you scratching your computer screens hoping to get a whiff.

Now that my beef baby is gestating for 3 hours, I have to move onto the next chapter of this recipe.

Time to braise some baby pearl onions and mushrooms!



After a long 3 hours, I got to combine those onions and mushrooms together while boiling down that tasty wine sauce.
 Fresh out of stove

The sauce thicken and I pour it back over the meat. Creating a beautiful stew worthy of kings and paupers. But more importantly - ME!

Final dish...
 (By the way - as with most stews/soups, this is even better the next day!)

So, now that my test dish is finished and I'm patiently waiting for my double batch of meat to come out of the oven I have time to ponder this meal that I've waited a year to make. I know a lot of you think I'm funny this way or that I have some weird obsession with cooking or food, but without coming off sounding corny I honestly feel that when you find something you love, you put your heart into it. So if I cook for you, I love you! It's as simple as that.

I know I'm not the type to cook professionally, or that I'm the worlds best cook because trust me! I know many other wonderful cooks out there that I have taken great inspiration from (My Grandma, who I don't remember watching cook but I'm told I'm a lot like her in that way, my Mom and my BfFF Erin). All awesome in the kitchen! So when I post silly pictures on my blog about some fantastic dish I ordered in a restaurant or made, it's only me trying to share this love of food I have. Corny or not, it's who I am.
Perhaps Julia Childs would be proud?
Either way, I know I will not be 'cooking my way' through her cookbook, as in the movie. I've seen some of those recipes and honestly, my kids aren't going to eat Meat Jello (Aspic). Sorry Julia - it just ain't happening!

Now, it's a waiting game. Hopefully my GC ladies will love this dish as much as my husband and I (and my friend JenniBunny, who I invited over for the test batch) did. If my husband's complete dissolve into a puddle of love in his chair after his first bite is any indication, I think I have a pretty good chance tomorrow.

I'll let you know....

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day 2011

Back in December, our area had a pretty nice snow storm come through that dumped a couple of inches of snow everywhere. Us Hammie's were up in Michigan at the time, enjoying our Christmas vacation, so we thought that was it for our area. It usually only snows once (with accumulation) a year (generally) for the Camp Lejeune area.  Although we were in snowy Michigan, we were bummed we missed out on the snow fall that hit our house in NC.

Imagine how excited we were when news of 'possible' snowfall would be hitting our area in the next few days! On Sunday, news of area closings and delays started posting. The kids were anxiously waiting to hear if our school district would be one of them. By that evening, I had recieved a call from the school calling for a two hour delay. Which to me, didn't make sense. The worst of the storm wasn't supposed to happen until later that afternoon. But, whatever..... So we let the kids stay up for a little longer. I can remember letting our dog Lizzie outside before heading to bed and the air had *that* smell to it.


Fast forward to the early morning....All the kids were snuggled in their beds and Jon and I were snoring away peacefully when my phone rang. It was the school. They finally caved and called school off! Yippie!!! I could sleep in. I was so happy! Next thing I know, my phone is going off AGAIN! Only this time it was the alarm I had set to get up. Dang it! I wanted to sleep in. I hit snooze. Drift off to sleep, only to be woken up AGAIN by my phone ringing! This time it was Cassie's orthodontist asking to reschedule her appointment for Tuesday. They weren't taking any chances and were closing the offices for today and tomorrow. At that point, I figured I was going to have to be up. Jon was already out of bed and said I should "really get up and see this". He opened the curtains to our bedroom windows and like out of some movie, the scene before me was breath taking! Snow falling in huge flakes. The ground completely covered in a few inches of snow and every where I looked was white! Absolutely beautiful!

I drag my booty out of bed (the kids were already up and overjoyed with the fact that they didn't have school),  make my cup of coffee and decide to go against the norm and NOT make pancakes. On a cold, wintry morning such as this I was in the mood for oatmeal! The kids agreed so I set about to making a big ol' batch complete with milk and lots of brown sugar. YUM!

We spent the rest of the morning being lazy and just enjoying the easy life. I took Cassie over to her friend Kharlin's house. Apparently the teenagers decided to hang out down there and play outside. This midwest girl was amazed by the fact that there were actually cars in the ditch! I mean, it's snowy. The road are icy. But do people not realize that because of that, you can't drive like idiots? I couldn't help but laugh at that.
Around noon the kids decided it was time to bundle up and head outside. The snowfall had died down just a little and every step we took made this awesome crunching noise.

So what's the first thing to do when confronted with a yard full of beautiful snow? Make a snowman of course!!!

The boys and I rolling our first snowball....

I was having a hard time getting the ball rolling...

Jason giving it a shot....

Trying to pack a nice firm ball...


For some reason, we just couldn't get our snowballs any bigger. So we just decided to go with the flow and build ourselves a mini-man.

Isn't he stinking adorable?!?!

After that we decided to do a little snow boarding. I broke out the boogie boards (there are no sleds here folks! Gotta use what we have on hand!) and pulled the kids around the yard.

Jack being his impatient self waiting for his turn on the boogie board.

Here we go!

Now it's Jason's turn!

Off he goes!

Wipe out!

After the faux sledding, we had a massive snowball fight, a snow angel competition and ended the adventure by jumping on a trampoline full of snow and trying to catch snowflakes on our tongue.

After coming inside, what else is there to do but make heaping cups of hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows?  

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