Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Fire (The Seven Kingdoms, #2)Fire by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the reasons I really enjoyed the first book in the series was having a strong, independent female character. I went into this book expecting a similar character. I liked Fire, the main character, but I didn't love her as much as Katsa in the first book. Overall I enjoyed the book. Although this a book in a series, reading the first book is definitely not essential to understanding and appreciating this book.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winston's New Bed

Is Joe.

I'm on a cross-stitching kick again, so I haven't been cooking as much. I still have several recipes I'll hopefully get around to blogging.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

I originally posted this soup in February, 2010, but I didn't have a photo. Now here you go!

I wish I made more, until next time. I found this recipe on Pennies on a Platter.

I halved the recipe to give a heaping 3-4 servings. I wasn't a fan of the lumps of potato, so I used my immersion blender to puree it (the first time, the second I liked the lumps).

Makes 3-4 bowls

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup, minus 1 tablesppon, flour
3 1/2 cups milk
2 large baking potatoes, baked, peeled and cubed (I just microwaved mine)
3 green onions, sliced (and then more for garnish)
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (optional)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper, plus more for seasoning
garlic salt, to taste

In a large soup kettle or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Stir in flour; heat and stir until smooth. Gradually add milk, stirring until thickened (about 10 minutes). Add potatoes and onions. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir until cheese is melted. Puree with immersion blender (optional).

Season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Serve immediately.

Who needs a dishwasher...

...when your dog enjoys licking the dishes so much?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles, #1)The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed the book! The narration was wonderful and I loved the personalities of the characters. I look forward to listening to the next in the series.

View all my reviews

Into the Wilderness

Into the WildernessInto the Wilderness by Sara Donati

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked this book up because many who like the Outlander series give this book rave reviews as well. I enjoyed the book, but it was long for me. I found myself starting to lose interest by the end. Regardless, the story is refreshing and the characters very strong and vivid.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Butternut Squash Casserole

I don't know if you remember Kenny Roger's restaurant. It was very similar to a Boston Market and they had the best squash bake ever. I've been in search of something similar and this is pretty darn close. It's very sweet so I might cut back on the sugar by 1/3 the next time I make it. I served it at Thanksgiving and man, was it a hit! The original recipe doesn't call for cinnamon or nutmeg, but I added those based on a review. Do it! The spices are a must. This recipe below reflects me increasing the original by half.Recipe adapted from All Recipes

about 3 pounds butternut squash - I buy the precut packages
1.5 cup white sugar
2.25 cups milk
1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
4 eggs
1/3 cup margarine, melted
1/2 (16 ounce) package vanilla wafers, crushed
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 cup brown sugar

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  • Put butternut squash in the microwave and cook on high, until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Cut in half, scoop out seeds and cube. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add squash and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and mash.
  • In a 9x13 inch casserole dish combine 4.5 cups mashed butternut squash, white sugar, milk, vanilla extract, salt, flour, eggs and melted margarine.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until set.
  • In a medium bowl combine crushed vanilla wafers, 1/2 cup melted margarine and brown sugar. Crumble over top of cooked casserole and return to oven to brown.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving (again)!

I know this is a day late, but Happy Thanksgiving again! This is now our second holiday season without my father-in-law. He was sorely missed at our table yesterday. However, I am thankful for all the time we had with him and that we now live close enough to our family to host Thanksgiving dinner. There are many things for which to be thankful and I realize that even with rough times, we have each other and that makes everything manageable.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Here's some Jib Jab fun.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Proud of Myself

Since this is my blog, I can saw how I feel. I am quite proud of myself. Yesterday I attended a small shower for my friend who is due 10 days before I would have been due. I knew I wanted to share in this special day with her, but it was still tough. Yesterday as I stood next her I looked at her belly and couldn't help thinking that I would have had a very similarly sized bump as well. I've come a long way since July when we confirmed my miscarriage, but it's something I continue to think about. I was sad about our loss, but I held it together and I'm very glad I went.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Forever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #3)Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the narration and enjoyed having Cole as a major character, but I was not a fan of the ending.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Book of Love

The Book of Love: Book Two of the Magdalene Line, Narrated By Linda Stephens, 18 Cds [Complete & Unabridged Audio Work] by Kathleen McGowan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first. I wonder if the material was too much to listen to and I would have digested it better if I physically read the book. However, I enjoyed the narrator.
View all my reviews

Friday, November 4, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash with Cinnamon

I'm trying to blog more of my seasonal recipes during the actual season. We'll see how long this lasts. I didn't discover butternut squash until I was into my adulthood, and let me tell you, it is quite delicious. I'm still experimenting with more ways to prepare it. I buy the pre-cut packages to save myself some time.

Recipe inspired by Ommy Nom, who was inspired by Whole Foods.

1 butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Place in single layer on baking sheet, bake for 30 minutes or until tender.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beer Bread

Tastefully Simple first introduced me to beer bread, and now I'm quite addicted. I love it accompanied with some soup or in fondue. I also love using different beers and seeing how it affects the taste.

Recipe from Food.com

3 cups (12.75 ounces) flour (sifted)
3 teaspoons baking powder (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
1 teaspoon salt (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1 (12 ounce) can beer - I like using a dark or heavy beer, try to avoid light beers
1/2 cup melted butter (1/4 cup will do just fine, I used 1/4 cup melted butter in the batter and pour the 1/4 cup on top)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients and beer.
Pour into a greased loaf pan.
Pour melted butter over mixture.
Bake 1 hour, remove from pan and cool for at least 15 minutes.


Happy Halloween!

It's been quite a while since I posted a "kids safety" topic, but with Halloween here, I think these tips from Healthy Children are perfect for today.

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to help ensure they have a safe holiday.

All Dressed Up:
  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child's costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Do not use decorative contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from an eye care professional. While the packaging on decorative lenses will often make claims such as “one size fits all,” or “no need to see an eye specialist,” obtaining decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal. This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.
Home Safe Home:
  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.
On the Trick-or-Treat Trail:
  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
  • Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
  • Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
  • Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Never cut across yards or use alleys.
  • Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom).
  • Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
  • Don't assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn't mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.
Healthy Halloween:
  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

I love pumpkin. I love the fall weather. I wish the days were still longer, but overall, fall is nice. When I saw this recipe in Penzey's fall catalog, I knew I had to try it. I didn't have any evaporated milk on hand, but I think buttermilk worked just as well. I would add some nutmeg to the recipe to give it a little more spice, but over, I really enjoyed it!
Recipe adapted from Penzey's Spices

1/2 Cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 Cup (7.5 ounces) packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 Cup canned plain pumpkin
1/4 Cup evaporated milk (I used buttermilk)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
11/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 2/3 Cups (7.08 ounces) flour

Streusel Topping:

2 TB. flour (I used almond flour)
21/2 TB. white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 TB. butter

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and blend.
  • Mix together the pumpkin and evaporated milk and then mix into the butter/sugar mixture.
  • Add the baking soda and SPICES and gently mix.
  • Lastly, add the flour and stir; don't over stir, it makes the muffins tough.
  • Pour the batter into 8 greased large muffin tin cups or 12 regular.
  • In a small bowl, blend the streusel ingredients together with a fork until the topping is about the size of small peas.
  • Sprinkle the topping over the muffins and then bake at 375° for approximately 22-25 minutes for an 8-muffin batch, 18-22 for a smaller 12-muffin batch.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

When I saw this recipe, it reminded me of a curry soup I made last year, Coconut Curry Butternut Squash soup. I loved that soup. I made it twice last season. I always love to try new things, so I thought I'd give this one a try. I'm not that big of a fan of it. I added cinnamon, which helped, but it still just doesn't have enough flavor for me. I have at least two bowls still in my freezer. I hate wasting, so soon enough I'll eat them.

Recipe from Joy the Baker

Curried Sweet Potato Soup from The Essential New York Times Cookbook
serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onions
1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (my addition)
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
6 cups chicken broth, or slightly more as needed.
salt and pepper to taste

6 to 8 teaspoons goat cheese (I used sour cream)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until the onions begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric and red pepper flakes. Add the sweet potatoes and broth and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.

Puree the soup, in batches in a blender or food processor. Season to taste. The soup can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge. Reheat over a low flame. If the soup is too thick, add a little more stock.

Ladle into bowls and crumble goat cheese on top.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Beer, Coffee, and Wine

I have random thoughts run through my mind quite often. Last week I realized I like beer. This is new for me. I remember 5 years ago I would always, always, choose a sweet drink over beer. It's amazing how we can acquire tastes as we get older and the more we try something. It was the same way for coffee and wine. Now I crave coffee every time I smell a fresh brewed pot.

So, that's my random thought for the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pumpkin Roll

I originally posted this recipe in November, 2010. At that time, I didn't have a chance to take a photo. Since I love pumpkin and cream cheese, I just had to make it again this year and this time I took a photo for our viewing pleasure. Now I want some more of this delicious pumpkin roll.
Recipe from Tasty Kitchen

* ¾ cups Flour - 3.2 ounces
* ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
* ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
* ½ teaspoons Cinnamon
* ½ teaspoons Cloves
* ¼ teaspoons Salt
* 3 whole Eggs
* 1 cup White Sugar 7 ounces
* ⅔ cups Pure Pumpkin (I use Libby's.)
*1/4 tsp vanilla
* Powdered Sugar (for Powdering Your Kitchen Towel)

* 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese, softened
* 6 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
* 1 cup Sifted Powdered Sugar - 4 ounces
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

For Cake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 17 x 11 jelly-roll pan. Line with wax paper; grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

In a bowl combine: flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

In a separate bowl mix the eggs and white sugar until thick. Beat in the canned pumpkin. Stir into the flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately turn cake onto prepared towel. Slowly peel off the wax paper. Roll the cake up in the towel, starting with narrow end. Cool on a wire rack.

For the filling: Beat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl until smooth. Unroll cake and remove towel. Spread cream cheese filling over cake. Reroll cake. Store in a container with a lid. Keep refrigerated.

If you can refrain from eating the deliciousness of this roll right away it’s better when it’s been refrigerated for at least an hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if you like.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Marshmallow Cookie Bars

I love trying new cookie recipes. This recipe calls to make them in a pan, which I did. I found the middle too mushy, however. I think these would be great made as cookies instead of a large pan. I really liked the added flavor of marshmallow.

Recipe from How Sweet Eats, makes one 9 x 13 pan

2 cups (8.5 ounces) of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (7.5 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup (4.74 ounces) sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chunks
3/4 cup marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup crisped rice cereal (omitted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13 over-safe baking dish.

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter and sugars until they are mixed. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until mixed. Gradually add flour and mix until a dough forms – it will look crumbly at first, but it will come together. Fold in chocolate chunks. Gently fold in marshmallow fluff until you have a thick “ribbon” throughout the dough. Finally, fold in rice cereal.

Press dough in the baking dish evenly. Bake for 30-35 middles, or until edges are golden and middle is just a little jiggly. I covered my dish with foil about 25 minutes in so the top would not get too brown. Let cool for 30 minutes, then cut!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for StoneCutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is more of a 3.5 book, but not good enough for 4 stars, so 3 stars it is. I really enjoyed the story, but I felt the book overall was too long and at times slow moving.
View all my reviews

Monday, October 10, 2011

Brown Sugar Corn Muffins

I'm still in search of the perfect corn bread recipe. These look delicious, but they were still a little two dry for me.
Recipe from How Sweet Eats
makes 12 muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup creamed corn
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 egg
1/3 cup freshly & finely grated cheddar cheese (omitted)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder together and mix with a spoon. Add the egg, corn, heavy cream, melted butter and milk, stirring until smooth. Fold in cheddar cheese. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray (or use liners) and using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon batter into each muffin tin. Bake for 15-18 muffins, or until tops are golden and muffins are cooked through. Serve hot with cinnamon or honey butter.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Adobo Chili

Although it's quite warm here in Maryland today, it was quite brisk a couple of weeks ago. With the chilly weather, I love making some hearty soups and opted to give a new chili recipe a try.

I had purchased ancho chili powder and wanted to give it a try. Instead of replacing some of the chili powder called for in the recipe, I added an additional 2 tablespoons. THAT WAS A MISTAKE! I swear, my mouth is on fire every time I eat this. I also added some frozen corn to help dilute the spiciness. I'm realizing I love corn in my chili. I doubt this is my go-to chili recipe, but with lots of cheddar cheese and sour cream, it's still pretty darn good.

Recipe from Crepes of Wrath

1 lb. sweet pork sausage
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced (I used 1)
5 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces dark beer
5-6 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (canned), pureed in a food processor or a blender
28 ounces diced tomatoes, with juices
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoon ancho chili pepper - my mistake, I think
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
2 cans beans, your choice (I used black beans and kidney beans), drained and rinsed

1. Saute the onion, jalapeno pepper(s), and garlic in two tablespoons of oil until softened over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and ground beef, breaking it up with your cooking utensil and cooking until almost cooked through, about 8 minutes.

2. Add in the rest of the ingredients (except the beans) and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour (if the chili starts to boil or bubble too much, turn down the heat).

3. Rinse and drain your beans, then after an hour of simmering, add them to the chili. Cook for another 30 minutes to an hour, until thickened. Serve with cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, or crusty bread. Serves 6.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blueberry Buttermilk Cake

I can't believe how quickly I'm posting this entry--I usually have a turn around of at least one month. However, I'm quite excited about showing you the benefits of natural light and my set up from yesterday. I wish I could take my photographs with natural light more often; it makes it so much easier to edit.

Well, now moving onto the star these photographs - blueberry buttermilk cake. The density is more like a muffin and I think this recipe would be great in muffin form, plus it would be easier for me to freeze. However, I used an 8x8 pan and a mini loaf pan. I'll freeze the mini loaf. I loved how moist this dish was, but I felt like it was missing something. My gut says cinnamon, but perhaps all spice? I think if I make this again, I'll add some baking/all spice. Oh! I used frozen blueberries instead of fresh and it turned out fine.
Recipe from Alexandra Cooks

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon
7/8 cup + 1 T. sugar - 6.13 ounces plus 1 T
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour - 8.5 ounces
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups fresh blueberries - I used 12 ounces of frozen (they were cheaper out of season)
½ cup buttermilk
**I suggest adding some all spice, but I didn't in this recipe and have yet to try what it would taste like

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.

4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When the Cat's Away...

..the mice will play. Ok, I'm not quite a mouse, but I had a blast taking some food photos today. I had an unexpected day off, so I was able to take advantage of some natural light. I wish it was sunnier out, but oh well.
This weekend I made this table-top. It was inspired by Love and Olive Oil and Confections of a Foodie Bride In this photo, it only has the stain. I've since added some white paint. Despite how hard I tried, I couldn't get an aged look with my paint. I'll see how it looks when it dries, but I think I used too much paint. I still have to stain the otherside of the table top, but I haven't decided if I'm going to paint it or not. (The table top is just the planks, I have it sitting on a tv-dinner stand.)

If you're going to make one of these table tops, which I highly recommend, go straight to Lowe's for the wood. I didn't find it at Home Depot and it was about a third more expensive at the craft stores. Over all, it was super easy to make.
Well, back to taking food photos. From reading food blogs for a couple of years now, I've learned white boards help bounce the light. I agree, they add such an affect. It was nice having the natural light and my "studio" set up for two sittings before hubby came home. No fear, deary, we have our dining room back.

Curious Westie

We've been using a screen to keep Winston in the kitchen. Metal on paint is not a good combination. We're trying something else now, so Joe wanted to touch up the scratches. As I was taking these photos Joe said, "please do not put these on the internet." Umm, sorry babe--Winston's curiosity is too precious to keep to myself.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

Leave it to me to forget one of the key ingredients in a recipe. After I had finished my meal and put the other half in the freezer for a later time, I realized I forgot to add the sour cream. Overall, I'd give the recipe a B. It wasn't amazing but definitely enjoyable. I think it would be a great topping for a nice steak. I need to work on cooking my beef cubes in such a way they don't turn tough.

Recipe from Tasty Kitchen

1-¼ pound Sirloin Steak
1 whole Onion, Chopped
8 ounces, weight Mushrooms
5 cloves Garlic
¼ cups Flour
½ teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Pepper Or More Or Less To Taste
4 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup Beef Broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups Sour Cream
8 ounces, weight Egg Noodles, Cooked According To Package Instructions


Chop onion, mushrooms, and garlic and set aside. Cut steak into bite size pieces a little larger than your desired size, as they will shrink.

Mix flour, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper. Coat the beef in this mixture.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat, add onions and caramelize until brown. Then add mushrooms and garlic. Cook until mushrooms start to have a nice brown color. Remove this mixture to a medium sized bowl.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat add steak and flour mixture and cook until steak has a nice brown crust on all sides. Remove to the bowl with mushroom mixture.

Slowly poor into pan the 1/2 cup of beef stock scraping brown bits and forming a sauce over medium heat level. When smooth add the other 1/2 cup of stock, the worcestershire and then add in the meat mixture. Cook until everything is heated through.

Turn stove to low and add sour cream, mix thoroughly until heated and enjoy over noodles or rice!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Taker

The TakerThe Taker by Alma Katsu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the writing, but I didn't love the story, however it was definitely interesting enough to keep reading. I felt like the ending was too abrupt.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mushroom Soup

I've made this twice now. The second time I added quinoa for added protein--I definitely recommend this. The second time I also use the food processor to chop the mushrooms prior to cooking. I found the mushrooms of my second batch chewy and I'm not sure if it's because I chopped them prior to cooking. Regardless, this soup was quite delicious!

Recipe from Crepes of Wrath

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced - 1 tsp freeze dried shallots
1/4 cup white wine
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups fresh mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and sliced thinly (save a few for a garnish) - about 8-10 ounces
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (reconstituted in 2 cups boiling water)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme - 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup crème fraiche (I used sour cream since I had it in my fridge)

1. First, you need to “rehydrate” your dried porcini mushrooms. Place the mushrooms in a medium sized bowl. In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms. Cover and allow them to sit for 1-2 hours. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid, but reserve the liquid to add to your soup later. Strain the liquid to remove any dirt that may have been lingering on the mushrooms.

2. Now, you’re ready to cook. Heat the butter over medium heat in a medium sized pot. Saute the shallots until they are translucent, about 5 minutes, then add in the white wine and cook until it is reduced by half. Add in the garlic and stir, for a minute, until fragrant. Add in the fresh mushrooms, the reconstituted mushrooms, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to become browned. Add another pad of butter, should you be so inclined.

3. Add in the porcini mushroom broth and the vegetable broth. Turn the heat up to high, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to medium or medium-high, depending on your burner, and cook for 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. Remove the soup from the heat, and using either a food processor, a blender, or an immersion blender, puree your soup in batches. Don’t worry if it isn’t completely smooth – a few bits of mushroom in the soup adds a nice texture. Just puree it enough for it to resemble a soup and not a stew.

4. Return the pureed soup to the pot and turn the heat to medium-low to keep warm. Place the 1/4 cup of crème fraiche (sour cream in my case) in a small bowl, and add about 1/2 cup of the soup to it. Whisk to combine. This will temper the crème fraiche, so that when you add it, it goes in smoothly and doesn’t form clumps. Add the tempered crème fraiche to the soup and stir to combine. Taste, and add salt or pepper if needed. Serve into 3 or 4 bowls, depending on if you are eating it as a meal or as a side, garnish with some of the fresh sliced mushrooms you set aside earlier, and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Winston's Anger

Like most puppies, Winston isn't a big fan of being left alone. When we're going to be gone, we leave a pee pad in the kitchen. Well, he sometimes take it upon himself to shred it to pieces. Case in point. And then, as I tried to sweep up the cotton, he was biting the broom. To have his energy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Today was a beautiful day outside. I'm on call to answer parents' questions. As Winston and I were sitting outside today, I had a call to answer, so I tied him up and left him outside to enjoy the weather. Ten minutes later, I found this! I can't help but think he's a cutie, despite having my flowers dug up and needing to give him a bath.

Went to Mass

For the past couple of Sunday's that I've had off, I've been telling myself I need to go to Mass. Today I finally found the motivation to do so. I think the best way to describe my experience today is "comfortable." Faith takes work. I know I don't believe in all of the Catholic Church's actions and beliefs, but right now, it's where I'm comfortable. It's the religion of my childhood.

A passage from the second reading resonates with me:
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.
Phillipians 2:3

Faith takes work. I'm hoping I continue to find the motivation to work on mine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chocolate Mudslide Cookies

One of my favorite mixed drinks is a mudslide, yet I haven't had one for over a year now. When I saw the title of these cookies, I immediately thought about the alcoholic mudslides. Unfortunately, these cookies aren't really similar to the mudslide drink. Personally, I thought the cookies were too rich, but my friends devoured them at our gathering, so I think it depends on one's taste buds.

Recipe from Crepes of Wrath

The Jacques Torres Chocolate Mudslide Cookies
from Chocolate with Jacques Torres

Total Prep and Baking Time: 30-45 minutes to prep, about 15 minutes per batch to bake
Yield: 40-50 cookies

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar - 15.75 ounces, pluse 1 tablespoon
5 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped (I used almonds)
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
fleur de sel or sea salt, for sprinkling
*parchment paper, for lining the baking sheets (parchment paper with a little non-stick spray worked best for these)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F if you are using a convection setting, but if you don’t have one, like me, then preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Melt together the 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and the 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a medium sauce pot over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a bit.

2. Beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until it has the texture of wet sand. Add in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the flour mixture, and mix until just moistened, then beat in the melted chocolate, until just combined. The dough will seem very wet at this point, but don’t worry! It’ll come together.

3. Chop your walnuts and additional 16 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, and fold them into the batter. At this point, I found it easier to scoop the dough onto the baking sheets after refrigerating the dough for 15-30 minutes, but it’s not necessary if you just can’t wait! I did about half without refrigerating because I didn’t think of it. I do highly recommend using parchment paper to line your baking sheets, though, or at least using a lot of butter or non-stick spray, as they can be a little tricky coming up if you made large cookies, as I did.

4. Use a a 2-tablespoon sized ice cream scoop or two spoons to drop the dough onto the baking sheets (it will be too wet to actually handle with your hands), then sprinkle with a bit of fleur de sel or sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees F on the convection setting for 10 minutes or so, or at 325 degrees F on a regular setting for 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from the sheets.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Balsamic Potatoes

I rarely try new sides since I'm the only one who eats them and they don't freeze as well. However, when I had my family over for dinner I knew I wanted to give these a try. Honestly, I was disappointed. I thought the vinegar was too overpowering. Hubby didn't like them either, but dad took several helpings.

Recipe discovered on Proceed With Caution, who adapted it from Martha Stewart

1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, halved or quartered if large
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
8 garlic cloves, smashed
5 sprigs of thyme ( I used 1.5-2 tablespoons of dried thyme)
coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking dish, combine potatoes, broth, vinegar, garlic, thyme; season with salt and pepper. Bake until potatoes are tender and liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 1 1/4 hours, tossing twice.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Curried Quinoa with Mango and Cucumber

I've hopped on the quinoa bandwagon and I'm quite glad I did. I'm not going to lie, it's quite yummy.

Recipe adapted from Moderate Oven Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone Five Days in the Life of Curried Quinoa Salad

This salad can be made in advance and keeps very well, but you should dress it at the time the quinoa is cooked. The grains take in more of the flavor from the vinaigrette when warm and slightly moist. If you want to prepare this dish with leftover, already cooked quinoa, simply steam the grains to refresh.

½ teaspoon salt
1 ⅓ cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
2 garlic cloves, pressed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup plain yogurt
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala (can sub an extra teaspoon of curry powder)
the juice of one lemon
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped mint (recipe calls for cilantro)
2-3 teaspoons red wine vinegar, optional
2 large mangoes, peeled and diced - (1 16 oz bag of frozen mango)
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
2 small or 1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced (1/2 jalapeno) - I could leave it out all together, honestly
1/2 tsp chives 5 scallions, including 1 inch of the greens, thinly sliced
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained - a must!

To cook the quinoa, bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan then add the salt and rinsed quinoa. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the quinoa is tender. There will be excess water in this method of cooking. Drain the quinoa well.

While the quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, salt, yogurt, curry powder, and lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil and let the dressing sit for 15 minutes to develop the flavors. Stir in the cilantro and taste. If not tart enough, add the optional white wine vinegar. Salt and pepper as needed.

In a large bowl, toss the still-warm quinoa with the mango, cucumber, jalapeno, scallions, and chickpeas. Add the dressing and fold gently until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ramdom Ramblings on Bills

One of my stress relievers is shopping. I know of other less expensive stress relievers, but shopping seems to be my go-to. I need to stop this and get back to using working out as my stress reliever. I even need to cut back on the baking/recipes as my stress relievers. One of the realities of adulthood is paying bills. As I look at my credit card statement, I realize I just spend too much. While $100 really isn't much for a stress-relieving shopping spree, it's still more than I need to spend. While Joe and I both need new socks, I really don't need a new pair of tennis shoes (well, maybe I do). I definitely don't need the colorful cloth napkins I bought for my food photos. When I look at my credit card statement, that's when I realize how all of these small things add up. I charge almost everything so I can see what I spend and get reward points. I have a rule that I can only charge if I know I can pay off the bill at at the end of the month. I still can, but a couple of months I've had to dip into my savings to pay off that bill. This needs to stop. This means I also need to stop trying as many new recipes, probably. A lot of times I go out and buy ingredients. This is fine when I'm going to eat everything that I'm making, but I don't need to spend $10 making something, taste it, and then take the rest into work. While my coworkers might enjoy that, my budget doesn't. I know we can eat good food on a budget, and I just need to accept my meals might be a little more boring for a while (so Joe will eat it, picky man). I have a ton of books waiting to be read and several cross stitch projects I need to finish. Now I just have to fight the urge to try a delicious looking new recipe.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Alice Forgot

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book. One of the characters has a miscarriage early in the book and with my recent loss I didn't know if I could continue reading, but I'm glad I did (don't worry, this isn't a spoiler). Moriarty did a great job of incorporating real life into this work of fiction, along with some humor thrown in. It wasn't the genre I generally read, but I'm so glad I picked it up, even if I didn't finish it in time for book club.
View all my reviews

Monday, September 12, 2011

Peanut Butter Trifle

I'm not going to lie, the recipe sounded a lot better than it tasted. Don't get me wrong, this was yummy, but I high much higher expectations for this trifle. If you're going to make this, please make sure you buy the correct size vanilla pudding, that was part of my snafoo. Also, I recommend making it day off and only if you think almost all is going to be eaten--the brownies get soggy.

Recipe from Pampered Chef

21 oz pkg brownie mix
1 pkg. (5.9 oz) Vanilla Instant Pudding - the large box!
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup whipping cream, whipped and divided
10 oz pkg peanut butter chips
3 cups milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
24 regular (2 inch dia) peanut butter cups, divided

*Line a 13 by 9 inch pan with aluminum foil, extend foil by 2 inches over side. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Add peanut butter chips. Bake in foil lined pan for length of time required by package. Cool completely. Lift foil out of pan. Invert on cutting board. Remove foil. Cut into 3/4 inch pieces, using sharp knife.
*Coarsely chop 20 peanut butter cups; saving 4 for garnish.
*Combine pudding mix and milk in large bowl. Beat at low speed for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add peanut butter and vanilla; beat until smooth. Gently fold in half of whipped cream.
*Place half of brownies in bottom of trifle bowl; top with 1/2 of chopped candy and half of pudding. Repeat layers. Top with remaining whipped cream, spooned or piped on. Slice leftover candy in four long pieces. Arrange them vertically on top of cream.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Like almost all of you, I know I will never forget September 11, 2001. However, I will also never forget my father-in-law. Last year was the first football season Joe didn't have his dad to watch the games with, talk about the plays, etc. He started the tradition of stopping by his grave and listening to some pre-game radio before each game. With the start of football season this year, he picked up the tradition. Winston and I tagged along. At first I felt weird taking a dog to the graveyard, but I realized Mr. Joe would love him, so I got over it. I took this picture today, I wish I could describe it better, or give it a fancy title, but I can't. Sometimes a picture is enough and words are just too much. I love you, Mr. Joe!

P.S. Did you see those Ravens annihilate those Steelers, Mr Joe?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mushroom Spinach Pesto Pizza

When I first found out I was pregnant, and before I knew the pregnancy wasn't meant to be, I was on a spinach kick. I put it in everything. I wanted to give myself the most folate possible, originally prompting my interest in this pizza. You don't have to be pregnant to enjoy this pizza, however. I've since made it several more times and enjoyed it just as much! Plus, I think it's a great use for pesto.

This recipe was inspired by Clean Eating Magazine, June 2011 Issue, p21.

1/2 pound mushrooms - I used baby bella
1.5-2 cups packed spinach
1/2 cup pesto
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
1 spring fresh oregano (optional)
4 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 precooked multigrain pizza crust - I tried Trader Joe's wheat pizza dough, and it definitely wasn't as yummy.

1. Saute the mushrooms, spinach, salt, pepper with the olive oil (about 5 minutes)
2. Spread pizza crust with pesto
3. Top with sauted ingredients, top with spoonfuls of ricotta, sprinkle with oregano - I once left off the oregano, bad idea!
4. Bake 10-12 minutes
5. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


$1600, that's approximately how much it cost me to have two ultrasounds and a D&C for a baby I never had the opportunity to meet. I received the first bill two weeks ago, and that was rough. I had seen my insurance claims online and knew the bill was coming, but I never realized how heart wrenching it was going to be to write the check for the ultrasound that confirmed no growth. Needless to say, two weeks ago was a horrible week all around. I did a little jig on the day I checked the mail and didn't have a bill. Last week I received the bill for the D&C and have been putting off paying that one (finances and emotions). Well, I just wrote that check and I'll put it in the mail tomorrow. I'm hoping this is the last check I'll ever have to write for an experience such as this. That thought made it a little easier to write the check.

I am beyond grateful we have insurance, but that "20%" still adds up.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Expected One

The Expected One (Magdalene Line Trilogy, #1)The Expected One by Kathleen McGowan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book brought out a fair number of thoughts/emotions in me. Briefly, the story is about Mary Magdalene and her place in Christianity. The book is written has fiction, but the author notes the main character reflects experiences the author has had. However, the McGowan wrote the story as fiction to protect her sources.

The idea of Mary Magdalene as wife of Jesus and mother of Jesus's children has been a hot topic for a few years now. Personally, this concept does not disturb me. The message McGowan portrayed through her book and Mary's roll in Christianity was very uplifting for me. I would love for this message and account to be factual. I think it would actually bring me closer to finding my faith again.

I've turned this review into a personal reflection, but that's what this book is about. I enjoyed the writing and was curious to see how the characters developed. I have the next book on audio and look forward to listening to it soon.
View all my reviews

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I Don't Like ER

I'm on two weeks of ER right now, and it's definitely not my cup of tea. It's not the medicine I don't like, it's the shift work. I don't have set day or night shifts and my body is not used it. I went from an 8a-4p shift to a 1p-3a work day the following day. It's only 4 days into this rotation and I'm exhausted. I slept 8 hours last night, but I feel like I could go back to sleep--I think I have to play catch up. In fact, I'm going back to bed for a little since I work 6p-2a tonight and I can.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yet Another Hobby

As if I don't have enough hobbies all ready, I decided I want to give digital scrapbooking a try. I still have all of my goodies for paper scrapbooking, but I never find the time to pull them out. We'll see if I can keep up with photos this way. I doubt it, honestly.

I'm still learning and a friend recommended checking out Jessica Sprague for a tutorial, and that I did. This premade template was easy, but I definitely want to learn how to make some more with my own style. We'll see.

Guacamole with Corn

It was pouring down rain when I made this, so I ended up boiling my corn. I think I would have enjoyed this much more if I grilled the corn. I also didn't have any fresh cilantro, so I used dried, it's not quite the same.

Recipe from Pioneer Woman

3 ears Corn, Shucked
6 whole Avocados, Diced
1 whole Large Tomato, Diced
1/3 cup Onion, Finely Diced
2 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
2 Tablespoons Diced Fresh Jalapeno
1 whole Lime, Juiced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/2 cup Cilantro Leaves


Grill corn until nice and golden, with good grill marks on the kernels. Allow to cool a bit, then cut the kernels off the cobs. Set aside.

Halve avocados and remove pit. Cut avocado into a dice inside the skin, then scoop out with a spoon.

In a bowl, combine corn kernels, diced avocados, diced tomato, jalapenos, minced garlic, lime juice, salt, and cumin. Stir gently to combine. Add cilantro and stir in.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Salted Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Not my best photo, but that's what you get when I bake on a weeknight and use my camera phone. Good photo or not, these things were tasty!!

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, who adapted it from Food 52.

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 12 minutes


1¼ cups all-purpose flour - 5.31 ounces
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder - 1.5 ounces
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup light brown sugar - 5 ounces
1/3 cup granulated sugar - 2.33 ounces
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup peanuts
Coarse salt for sprinkling


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. Beat together the butter, peanut butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts.

4. Drop by two heaping tablespoonfuls of dough, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle a small pinch of coarse salt on top of each cookie. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the outside of the cookies are set but the middles are still a little soft. Cool cookies on the baking sheets. Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rule of 3's?

Bad things happen in 3's, correct? I hope so, because my friends and I have had enough. This May, one of my best friends had an electrical fire and her house now needs to be completely gutted. July I found out I had a miscarriage. Just this past week, another best friend's condo place caught on fire and now her condo is basically ruined from water damage. I'm hoping we are done with bad things happening to our group of friends.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peachy Bread Pudding

This was my first time making bread pudding, it was quite straight forward and yummy. I always love some bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. The recipe calls for a caramel sauce. At first it was too thin, then I tried to reduce it some more and ended up making it solid at room temperature. Dad and I agree, it didn't need the caramel sauce.

Recipe from AllRecipes

2 cups fresh peaches - peeled, pitted and halved (3-4 peaches)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups hot water
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups French bread, torn into small pieces

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon rum

  • Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  • Chop the peaches and lightly mash them in a mixing bowl. Combine the sweetened condensed milk and the eggs; add them to the peaches and mix well. Stir in the hot water, melted butter, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir the French bread into to the custard mixture until the bread is completely moistened. Turn the pudding into the prepared baking dish.
  • Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  • While the pudding is baking, combine the brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, corn syrup, and rum in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until just slightly thickened. Let cool slightly.
  • Remove the pudding from the oven and let it cool for about ten minutes before serving. Serve warm with the caramel sauce. Cool and cover any leftover pudding and store it in the refrigerator.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Good bye tree!

I have to give Dad and Joe credit where it's deserved. I didn't think they'd be able to remove it without it falling into the house, but they did! We probably have to have someone remove the stump, but we'll get to that eventually. Each time we look out our front door, we do a double take. I'm curious to see how long it takes us to get used to not having a tree anymore.

And of course I have to throw in a photo of Winston for good measure! He was afraid of the chain saw, but loved being outside when Dad and Joe were loading the branches into the truck.
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