Sugared Cranberries and a Request

Remember the good old days when I used to blog? That was fun.

The main reason I haven’t been blogging is because the time I used to spend writing is now the time I spend running. Or sleeping. I blog either at night after the kids are in bed, or early in the morning before they wake up. But since I’ve been running a lot more, I go to bed much earlier and wake up crazy early to run. I’m not saying that running has replaced blogging for good. I’m just trying to figure out how to do both.

But I completed my first half marathon in November! (Did you notice how I said “first,” implying there will be more? Heh.)

Me with my shiny new medal and my half marathon car magnet.

Me with my shiny new medal and my half marathon car magnet.

One of my favorite websites is anothermotherrunner.com. I’ve learned a lot from Sarah and Dimity and I especially love their article: What a Mother Runner Looks Like. They recently had a contest to come up with a six-word sentence that best describes your running. The author of their favorite sentence wins a treadmill. Well, it just so happens that I am one of the finalists!

So I am here to ask you a teensy, weensy favor to head on over to anothermotherrunner.com, scroll down to “Who Should Win the NordicTrack Treadmill” and (pretty please) cast your vote for me, Samantha. My sentence is: “I am stronger than I thought.”

It is not, although it could be: “I shamelessly ask for your vote.”

 And as a token of my appreciation, I will share with you one of my favorite Christmas recipes. I cannot claim it as my own, but I can tell you that everybody who tries this, loves it. We make these cranberries every year to give as teacher gifts, and they’re always a big hit.
from Cooking Light magazine, December 2003

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar*

Preparation

  1. Combine granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving steeping liquid, if desired. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish. Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.
  3. Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.
 *I’ve never used superfine sugar. Instead, I measure regular granulated sugar into the blender and pulse a bunch of times until the sugar is more powdery (but not powdered sugar. ‘Cause I’m tricky that way).
Sugared Cranberries from Cooking Light

Sugared Cranberries from Cooking Light

Please, please vote for me to win the treadmill. Just imagine how awesome it would be if I didn’t have to wake up at 4:20 to go to the gym! I might even have more time for blogging!

Just keep in mind that voting ends on Thursday, December 20 at noon MST. I sincerely thank you!!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sun Pancakes

I don’t really like to trash talk on the internet. I try to to keep things fairly amicable around here. But today I’m going to trash talk. I’m going to trash talk someone that you all know and probably adore.

He’s the life of the party. Everyone loves him. He’s all bright and cheery, hanging around all cool-like, with his sunglasses and his giant smile. All he has to do is peek his little head out and people everywhere gravitate toward him. He’ll wrap you in a warm embrace or brighten your day with his cheery disposition.

Unless…

Bela Lugosi as Dracula

Well, unless you’re this guy.

Or me.

I’m talking about the Sun. What I ever did to him, I’ll never know.  But he hates me.

The Heartbreak Kid

We just got back from a trip to the beach. The first day, I slathered myself in SPF 50, covered up head to toe, and sat on the beach for a mere 2 hours. I still managed to get a sunburn. Story of my life.

I get a sunburn if I even think about the sun too hard. In fact, I’m getting burnt right now.

Sure, everybody loves the sun. But what has it ever done for me?

Summer Rental

Oh, sure, energy and vitamin D and photosynthesis and all that. Whatever.

Whenever I talk about the weather with people, I always pretend I’m in the Sunshine Lover’s Club.

“Oh it’s supposed to rain tomorrow? Darn!”

“Yes, it is great that the sun is finally out!”

“Oh joy! You’re telling me that it’s going to be sunny for the rest of the week?!? Wowzers that makes me so GLAD!”

I sing Oh Mister Sun and You are My Sunshine to my kids, sometimes even with a ukulele. They know Here Comes the Sun and Let the Sunshine In. I can even muster up a hearty chuckle when those Jimmy Dean breakfast commercials come on tv.

But it’s all a lie. A big, fat, gray-skied, cloudy lie. Because warm weather and sunshine make me kind of grumpy. There, I said it.

2. Justin Bartha, The Hangover (2009)

The Hangover

But enough trash talk… how about some yummy Sun Pancakes?

This is the pancake recipe I use.

Sun pancake

The suns vary, depending on the ingredients I have on hand. I like to do strawberries for the rays, or canned mandarin oranges. But the faces are always different. Sometimes I use blueberries or raisins for the eyes, and dried cranberries for the mouth. Chocolate chips make a frequent appearance. This was a lucky day for the Critics because they got whipped cream!

The Critics love these. Usually Don Corleone is the pancake maker in our house. But occasionally the kids ask specifically for sun pancakes. And I’m happy to oblige, even though… you know. They represent my archenemy.

I try to enjoy the sun, I really do. But I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I am, at heart, a rainy day kind of girl. Clouds and rain in the forecast make me smile. That’s just the way it is.

And I’ll spend the rest of my life searching for SPF 5000 sunscreen.

I’m still here

Hello All!

Yes, I’m still here. And no, I’m not here:

The problem that I’m having is that there is only one of me. It’s a big problem, and I assure you, I’m working on it.

I used to blog at night after the kids went to bed, or in the early morning before the kids woke up. But back in the fall, I started some intense training with my running, which involved waking up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the gym, which basically means that by 10:00 9:00 8:00 oh, who are we kidding, 3:00 p.m. I’m a zombie. And I know zombies are trendy these days, but it doesn’t really help me blog more often.

Tomorrow me, my brother, my sister, and 29,997 other people will be running in the 10-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia.

10. freaking. miles.

This is going to be us:

Or maybe we’ll channel Forrest Gump:

 This is what I’ll be imagining (in my delirium, probably around mile 7):

this, around mile 9:

So telepathically send us some encouragement tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know how it went. After they scrape me up off the road (hopefully after the finish line).

Slow Cooker Creamy Herb Chicken

Hello, Blog! I remember you!

I haven’t gone this long without blogging before. But, you see, I have a very good reason. A Big Announcement. The thing is… and if you know my husband, you know what a big deal this is…

We Got Cable.

For reals. Cable tv. In my house. I’m still reeling. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and go downstairs to turn on the tv, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

I don’t really do that. But I am super excited.

I know for a fact that we aren’t the last people on Earth to get on board the Cable Train. But I know we’re pretty darn close to the caboose.

Anyway, there’s no time for blogging when there’s SO MUCH tv to watch!

So I’d like to share with you some things that you may already know, but that I’m just learning about cable tv:

  1. Frasier is on 87,000 times a day.
  2. MTV is nothing like it was when I was a kid. VH1 Totally 80′s is way better.
  3. iCarly is pretty annoying, but Good Luck Charlie is kind of cute (actually I kind of like it) (actually I don’t kind of like it, I do like it).
  4. The History Channel is not nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. Is there any actual history on that channel?
  5. Turner Classic Movies is as much fun as I thought it would be.
  6. Cupcakes are really popular. Especially red velvet ones.
  7. The Wonder Pets are just as annoying on cable as they are on DVD. Seriously, Ming-Ming. It’s called speech therapy. Go get some.
  8. I still love The Waltons.
  9. I don’t have nearly enough kids yet to get a reality tv show. I mean, four is nothing, when you could instead raise a small army. I’m looking at you, Duggars.
  10. Man vs. Food is gross. Just gross.
  11. There is absolutely nothing real about any of the Real Housewives. Seriously, Bravo. Where’s the sweatpants that have been worn one too many times before washing? The spit-up stained t-shirts? The Cheerios that are forming their own colony under the couch cushions? The mountain of laundry on every available square inch of space? Real Housewives? Real, my foot.

So those are just a few of the things I’ve learned. But with my new channel line-up I’m sure I will continue to learn new things each and every day! I haven’t even touched on infomercials yet!

When you spend so much time watching t.v., it’s good to have some quick, easy dinners that you can just throw into the crockpot in the morning, before Gilmore Girls comes on, that will be finished cooking by the time The Brady Bunch airs. This one is super duper fast and easy.

Slow Cooker Creamy Italian Herb Chicken

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 container Philadelphia Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Creme
  • crushed red pepper for serving

Directions:

  1. Spray slow cooker insert with cooking spray. Seriously, do it! You’ll thank me later!
  2. Place chicken breasts into slow cooker. Cover with spinach.
  3. Add cooking creme, and stir it up a bit. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours.
  4. Remove chicken from slow cooker. Shred,* return to cooker, and give it a good stir. Serve over pasta with a nice sprinkling of red pepper.

Click here for printable version.

*If you prefer, you can cube the chicken before cooking it, or even leave and serve it whole. I like the shredded chicken over pasta, but that’s my preference.

Slow Cooker Creamy Herb Chicken

Creamy Herb Chicken over pasta

Wow, really bad pictures. See what happens when you don’t blog in over a month?

I thought this meal was delicious! I thought it was, “You better learn to like it, kids, because Mommy’s gonna be making this a LOT!” good. Let’s see what The Critics thought:

Don Corleone: I love it!

Sarah Crewe: It’s really good, Mommy!

Batman: I don’t really like it. Then later: Actually I think I do like it.

Curious George: I don’t really like it either. Later: I like it mixed with the pasta.

Elmo: I don’t like this dinner. Me: How do you know? Did you taste it? Elmo: No. But I looked at it, and it was spicy.

Oh well, it wasn’t a huge success. But it wasn’t a huge failure, either. I’m definitely making this one again!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, and Happy One Year Blog Anniversary To Me!

Yup, one year ago today I started this crazy blog. I don’t really know where I thought I’d be right now, blog-wise. But I can tell you one thing, I had grand plans for the Christmas season. Recipes, movies, cookies, music, cookies, gift ideas, cookies… did I mention cookies?

Maybe 2012 will feature a Christmas in July here at Critics in My Kitchen. That’s actually not a bad idea. Clearly I have a problem with this whole “December blogging” thing.

New recipes are coming. And you (and I) will be hearing a lot more from The Critics, that’s for sure.

Happy 2012!

(Isn’t twenty-twelve sooo much easier to say than twenty-eleven? It’s gonna be a great year!)

 

Countdown to Christmas

I don’t have a recipe for you today.

I had grand plans of posting a new holiday recipe and a favorite holiday movie every day for twelve days (Twelve Days of Something or Other). Then Thanksgiving happened and my mind instead has been on a constant loop of:

“Oh! And I have to remember to get this done!”

“How am I ever going to get that done????”

Over and over and over…

So I would love to post some holiday recipes, if I can get my act together. In the meantime, my thoughts, as I write this at 5:00 a.m., are something along the lines of this:

"We're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye." -Christmas Vacation

Inappropriate quote for a family friendly blog, I know. I apologize. But I thought it was apropos!

All right, Christmas, bring it on!

Who needs sleep, anyway?

Turkey Cookies

You should have seen my son’s face when I said I was going to make turkey cookies for his school’s Thanksgiving “feast.”

I had to assure him that the cookies were made to look like turkeys, not made out of turkeys.

Although, cookies made from turkey… hmmm…

Just kidding!

Turkey Cookies

Turkey Cookies (fromPillsbury.com)

  •  Your favorite sugar cookie recipe (I used this one)
  • candy corn
  • chocolate frosting
  • orange and black decorating frosting or gels

Directions:

  1. Prepare sugar cookies as directed. When cool, spread a little bit of frosting on each cookie in an arch at the top. Gently press candy corn on top of the frosting, as shown.
  2. Using the decorating gels, give your turkeys eyes, beaks, and feet.
  3. Let dry.

These cookies looked so cute when they were finished that my kids had a good 20-minute argument over why it is or isn’t unfair that only Curious George got to have one.

Ah, Thanksgiving…

In keeping with the turkey theme, I’d like to share a picture that my Sarah Crewe drew when she was five years old.

Turkey's Dinner

It’s a picture of a turkey at the stove, cooking dinner. And another turkey handing the chef a pair of um… well, human legs.

Don’t ask why or how a five-year-old thought of this. I don’t like to go there.

But I think it’s funny.

Gobble Gobble!