Monday, November 29, 2010

How to (help) survive the Holidays

for Christmas my sisters and I do a knock off of Oprah's favorite things. We pick a price point and gather some of our favorite things to share with the others. It's a great tradition and this is our 4th year doing it. I love it because I buy duplicate things and its fun to think of what I love or what I was introduced to.

Last year, one sister gave us, what she called, her stress mints. I liked them..I think they help destress me because they're chewy, you have them in your mouth for a little bit, it's not like a hard candy you can chomp into and be done with.

So, while I was shopping in an overly crowded Whole Foods on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving thinking to myself..what were you thinking picking up the turkey the day before Thanksgiving, I saw them and grabbed a pack. I probably ate half of it...but they might sound hokey, but they kind of work.

Not only was I worrying about me being stressed, as I am known to be quite the patient person..yeah right! I was worried about the animals. It might sound strange, but we have a very dominant male cat who's quite territorial. He's the cujo like cat that bit me and sent me to the doctors a couple weeks ago. We seldom have people over and I thought that he might have some issues. I may have sounded like a crazy loon, but I asked people not to pet him or engage with him and it seemed to work. But...I also picked up some of these drops...I put about ten treats in a bowl and put a tiny drop of Rescue Remedy for Pets on each treat...I SWEAR these helped calm him down. I wasn't worried about dried turkey or lumpy gravy, one of my biggest concerns was Davie the Cat biting someone. I mean, look at the add...that puppy seems to like them..although I'm not sure I'd shove this down a parakeet's throat anytime soon. If you find yourself at a Whole Food's and have an anxious pet, you might want to grab some..and mints for you too! I might sound like a crazy lady giving my cats stress relief drops, but it was $12 well spent!

Thanksgiving has come and gone...'s going to be December on Wednesday!! Is it me or is that just nuts? I feel like I just came to terms with putting my flip flops away for the season and have gotten used to my pasty toned legs and the fact that I need to wear pantyhose and going without is no longer an option.

Thanksgiving at the Allan house went without a hitch. I'm declaring it a success. I was uber organized...would we expect anything less? I only freaked out over herbed butter and gizzards and it was only for 5 minutes.

Here's how the schedule went down....I was going to have a massive bake-a-thon and cook-a-thon on Wednesday night. As I sat there on Tuesday, I thought, might be a good idea to get a leg up on things. Tuesday night I made Grandma Ople's Apple Pie (recipe here) and Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie (recipe here). I didn't make the whipped cream for the pumpkin pie since it takes two minutes. Both were fine and tasted great on Thursday! Mr. Allan and I also chopped all veggies that we needed and put them in ziploc bags.

Wednesday..i worked until 2pm then braved the crowds at Whole Foods to pick up my bird. I ordered a pre-brined fresh turkey. My turkey ended up being 18.5 lbs. I was nervous we didn't have enough with 9 people...but we're drowning in turkey right now.

I got home and started on my cranberry good and so easy I'm wondering why people suffer through the canned nonsense jelly crap. Take 1 bag fresh cranberries. In a small saucepan I dissolved 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup light brown sugar in 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of OJ. I added a pinch of cinnamon (maybe 1/4 tsp) and you let it stir and simmer until it's thick...about 20 minutes. One of my favorite dishes!

I also roasted carrots, made the stuffing, and made a lemon meringue pie. We took my inlaws to dinner and when I got home, I buttered up the turkey with a fabulous herb butter and got it ready in the roaster so all i had to do was pop that baby in the oven the next morning. Like I said...the only freak out..getting the gizzards out of the turkey and asking Mr. Allan for help and someone was immersed in a game of Gin Rummy.

Thanksgiving morning, the turkey started roasting, the table was set and my mom showed up with turnip, squash and a fabulous sweet potato casserole.

Other notable favorite recipes....the turkey. Lucky for me, i was lazy last Saturday and skipped Turbo Kick class and stayed home to do laundry and watch the Food Network. I saw Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and her turkey looked sooo good. Hard to believe that less than a week before Thanksgiving and I hadn't settled on what I was going to do with the turkey yet. Here's the recipe. I bought my turkey pre-brined, but the gravy and process of having the turkey uncovered the night before worked out perfectly! I loved the gravy and the meat was pretty damn good if I do say so myself! (Herbed Brined Turkey Recipe)

My only regret was making my stuffing the day before. It turned out the tiniest bit dry and I think it was the whole microwaving it the next day. It's a recipe I used before that I've had great success with.

i only have one picture to share. After lots of house cleaning, cooking up a storm, baking like there's no tomorrow, trying to make sure the cats didn't bite people (thank you to Whole Food's Rescue Remedy Pet stress relief drops!), and making sure our house guests felt welcome and had everything they needed....Mr. Allan and I were dead tired! I'm still recovering and it's Monday afternoon.

The day after..aka Black Friday...I decided not to wake up at the crack of dawn and sleep in. We took the family to a little quaint town in RI called Wickford. Here's a tired Allan family portrait.

My sister is our family photographer as we are required to frequently stop in our tracks, stop what we're doing, and put our chin down and smile for her. So, hopefully some pictures our of beautiful dinner will be up soon. Now it's time to figure out what the hell we're doing for Christmas!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Busy busy busy weekend...

As I've said a million times, the Allans are hosting Thanksgiving. Right around Columbus Day when we hatched this genius idea of let's offer to host and see who comes, we also decided, why not do some work on the house? Mr. Allan has been a little nomad traveling the country for work, which left me at home with plenty of time to play with the cats and go to yoga. I'm a pretty smart lady, I could start tackling some projects. We set a list to do of house stuff that included painting all wood trim, painting our main living areas, hanging new interior doors...and then I added buying new dining room furniture and redecorating that room to our list.

I'm glad to say that my husband returned from travel in the wee hours of Thursday night and after a tiresome weekend we met our goal! Yeah for the Allan duo or Mr. Allan and Mrs. Allan.

Here's a snapshot of what we accomplished this weekend....

First on the list was a trip to the lovely RI Dump..also known as it's politically correct title the RI Resource and Recover Center. I read in our lovely local newspaper that on Saturday, November, 20, there was a state wide recycling event. Mr. Allan is funny about his recyclables. He takes them very seriously. If I name a number plastic he can tell me if I can put it in our bin, bring it to wholefoods, or recycle it elsewhere. I know. Impressive and makes him terribly attractive, ey?

He made the recycle bug bite me and we make an effort to be a greener household. So, I clipped out the article and circled the date on the calendar. This state-wide event included the Eco-Depot at the Dump would be set up to take all our hazardous materials such as paint, paint thinner, old oil, pesticides etc. We could also recycle old electronics and bring paper for the great paper shred. Exciting stuff...isn't it?

Well, at least Mr. Allan was smart...we left bright and early. I had my gimp arm from the cat bite and took a week off from the gym. So, no kickboxing as usual for me bright and early on a Saturday morning. Instead we loaded up our mini-van, aka Big Blue, packed him with all our hazardous waste, Mr. Allan grabbed a coffee as I ate my breakfast, a Cliff Bar Jr. and had the morning paper to prepare for, what we thought, would be quite the crowd.

The gates to the dump opened at 9am. All in all, we waited about an hour in various lines. I couldn't get over the amount of people or the amount of bitching and whining. It's a state wide recycle event people! Bring a coffee, pee before you leave the house, and hoist up that Christmas's a no brainer, you're not going to drive in and out. We were surprised by 1) how nice the people who work there are 2) how nasty people waiting in their cars can be and 3) that it's a full service don't even have to get out of your car. The dump personnel empty your trunk was like the Starbucks drive thru...yet people still complained.

Here are the pictures of the lines we drove by on the way out...unbelievable!

I kept snapping picture after picture because just when I thought the line couldn't get any did! But..kudos for people wanting to dispose of this stuff properly. There are probably way too many numbnuts who throw it in their yards etc. That's how our groundwater and soil get contaminated.

After our exciting trip to the dump, the navigation on my phone brought us to Walmart in the most indirect, circular, route it could. Just to give you a glimpse of what we did this's my to-do list..with items still left may I add!
Page 1
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While I feel accomplished, I'm also pretty freaking tired today. Gym after work, then the grocery store for more crap, then home to prepare for a trial on the Wednesday..real smart timing for me. And go figure..the house is spotless so of course a cat decided to throw up its breakfast in the middle of the rug. Glad some more tasks await me when I get home tonight!

Best Panty hose eva

I loathe wearing suits for work. When I first became a lawyer I thought the more the merrier and loaded up on whatever sale rack mishap I could find. Then, I figured out that quality was better than quantity and stocked up on 10-12 decent quality longer lasting suits. But, something I still struggle with...stupid panty hose. Let's get real, they suck, you feel like a sausage, they're not easy to get on and off and they're kind of plain uncomfortable. What's my live life in pants suits? My legs are pasty and resemble birch tree trunks this time of year. Summertime I can rock the naked legs because they're tan. Winter..not so much. I like skirt suits, I work hard to stay in shape and don't mind showing off a little toned calf action at work.

Like suits, I realized when it comes to pantyhose, it's quality not quantity. I quit buying the mass packs of cheap-o No Nonsense and discovered these bad boys. Leggs Sheer Vitality. These last soooo much longer. Last year I bought 2 pairs that lasted me all winter and early spring and I'm still rocking one pair from last year. For those of you that don't have the task of wriggling into pantyhose, you probably are scratching your head at this post..for those of you who know the pain of creeping the hose up your leg without ripping your nails through it are probably thinking...I need these!

 They're 5$ at your local Walmart. So worth the extra couple bucks in my pantyhose clad ass book. I might also add...they create minimal muffin top effect, which all ladies know, is very important!

A better carrot recipe....

So, we're 4 days before the big cooking extravaganza I eat way too much and feel like a beached whale holiday called Thanksgiving. Four days before and I'm still testing recipes. Last night I made Mr. Allan a pot roast and thought..let me sneak in one more recipe for carrots to see if I like it better.

So...of course I did...scrap my allrecipes Honey Glazed Carrots and hello Epicurious' Honey Glazed Balsamic Carrots...Here's what my pot o carrots looked like fresh out of the oven. Notice how clean my oven is and I will again apologize to Mr. Allan for my freak out omigod the oven door is broken, heat is leaking out, Thanksgiving is ruined moment last night.

Honey Glazed Balsamic Carrots

2 pounds carrots (1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter), peeled, halved lengthwise
2 pounds parsnips (1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter), peeled, halved lengthwise (I omitted the parsnips because I'm dealing with some picky guests on Thursday!)

6 tablespoons olive oil (I used 3 Tbsp because I didn't use parsnips)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Drizzle Olive oil over carrots. Roast at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (mine took 25). In a saucepan melt butter, add honey and vinegar. Stir until smooth and then pour over carrots once they're done cooking.

Just a note...this was a tab buttery for my taste. But, again, I'm a healthy do - gooder who thinks butter, cheese and any fat is the devil. Mr. Allan wasn't bothered by the butter but next time I might cut the butter down to 1 tbsp so it doesn't overwhelm the honey taste.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My sister is famous..sort of

A co worker brought in the Whole Foods Market 2010 Holiday Edition Magazine. I was beyond excited to see a member of the 3H club..aka the Briggs girls...aka my sister amongst the pages...

Here's the, that's not my sister...

But...this is...we're an attention-whore-ish type family so I was BEYOND excited to see my big sis in print!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Talk about a CATastrophe

This is my boy, Davie. Mr. Allan had Davie when I first met him. I must admit..Davie is a charmer and part of the reason I liked Mr. Allan so much in the very beginning was because of this fluff ball. Mr. Allan calls him a mamma's boy and he totally is. He's  very dominant male cat and lets you know who's when 2 co-workers came over on Tuesday to hook up my fridge to a water supply (thanks again guys!), I knew to keep an eye on Davie. He wasn't happy with strange men in the house, he was already in a funk because Mr. Allan was away, and he went nutty on me. I picked him up while he was agitated and it got worse...and Davie sunk his needle like cat fangs into my arm. I was beyond precious little snuggly fluffy cat attacked me. To make matters worse, I had a 1/4 puncture wound in my wrist. It didn't bleed, quickly swelled and I had a hot mess on my hands.

I took a trip to the doctor's the next morning to find out that cat bites are typically more serious than dog bites because their teeth are so small and tiny and cats carry such a mass amount of bacteria in their mouths. Oh besides a hole in my arm..I walked out with a stash of meds...

I also walked out with this lovely teal no I didn't make an attempt on my life bandage on my arm. Needless to say it didn't match my brown suit. Today, I ripped the bandage off to find a fat swollen mess...who knew a cat bite could do so much damage. I took my fat red hand to work, popped my antibiotics and bought a Feliway diffuser to plug in the wall, crossing my fingers that its magical chemicals calm my cats the hell down. I think Thanksgiving will be even more interesting this year with Cujo Cat on board.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Royal Wedding Fever

I so have it. I think it's because Prince William has always been around my age...I remember him as a kiddo when I was in junior high...I remember his mom passing away my first year of college and he was in high school...and now he's getting MARRIED!!! I love him, even though his hair is thinning at a fast rate, and I think Kate Middleton is a doll.

Here's Prince William and Kate talking about the proposal

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Pie First!....lemon meringue...

I had two very nice co workers who took some time off of work and came and helped me out today. Mr. Allan has had a crazy, hectic, I'm gone 3 out of the 4 weeks of the month travel schedule the past 6 months. Just when I thought the traveling would die down as the holidays approached, it of course take a turn in the other direction and he's off here and there again.

So, when my co workers heard me complain about my beautiful new fridge that has this neat water filtration system and ice maker that I can't use because it's not hooked to a water line, they pitched in, took a good old Rhody road trip and came to the nether regions of our small state to help me out.

All they asked for in exchange for their generosity....some pie and beer. So, why not test run another Turkey day pie???

Next on my list to tackle was something that's been taunting me...lemon meringue pie. I was very intimidated...I've had many lemon meringues with weepy sloppy meringue, runny fillings, and a weird layer of liquid between the meringue and the filling. So, even though I anoint myself this great little baker/lawyer...I was very scared that the lemon meringue pie would kick my baking ass.

So, I searched and searched for recipes...they all kind of seem the same to me. I found one on my favorite've been going there since Martha Stewart put that crappy Pumpkin Cream Pie in her magazine.  I found one, it worked, and the co workers seemed to enjoy it! They had their pie and I have a fridge that dispenses water and ice! It's really one of the most exciting things that has happened this fall! are a couple shots of the pie....the recipe follows. Another big thanks to my co workers and my apologies about my bad male cat who made a scene...he doesn't like strangers which should make Thanksgiving even more interesting!

The last picture was my teaser pic...the pie waiting in my fridge!

I read alot of comments made about this recipe. I put * of changes made!

Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie
(adapted from



1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water * (I used 1 1/2 cups skim milk to make a creamy filling)
2 lemons, juiced and zested  * (I used the juice of 3 lemons, which was 1/2 cup and 1 TBSP of zest)
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
 4 egg whites * (I used 6 egg whites)
 6 tablespoons white sugar
* I also added 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

To Make Lemon Filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat. Pour filling into baked pastry shell.

To Make Meringue: In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie, sealing the edges at the crust.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.
Just my tips and Notes!
1- Bake your crust first! I almost forgot to!
2- Make your meringue before you start your filling. You want to put your filling in a warm pie crust and the meringue needs to be put on immediately onto the  hot filling to adhere to the filling and not create a weird layer of liquid that will separate your meringue and filling.
3- You need to constantly stir your filling. It took me a good 15 minutes to get a thick filling. Be patient..if your filling doesn't thicken, it's not going to thicken while you bake the pie or refrigerate it after.
4- I baked for 13-15 minutes. I don't think the 10 minutes recommended was enough!

Monday, November 15, 2010

10 Shocking Secrets of the First Year of Marriage

That's the title of a Bride's magazine article this month. I've been married for just over a year, and no, I'm not a loser still pining over bridal magazines..that ship has sailed and I moved on. But, I heard this article mentioned on a radio show on my commute in to work this morning, which was a ghastly 70 minutes due to traffic for no apparent reason...the worst kind!

So, I thought..let's see how the Allans measure up...and if Bride's magazine knows what they're talking about!

I loved their opening line....

"Think that your first year as newlyweds will be total bliss? Of course it will—but even paradise comes with surprises. Here's what to expect!"

1. THE SHOCK: You'll gain a little love weight.
I'm glad to say this is a big NO. My husband calls me the food warden because I won't let him eat a bag of Stacy's Pita Chips in one sitting. My sister jokes and tells me my house is a food prison. So be it!!! I'm health conscious and will snack on the occasional bag of mini whoppers left over from Halloween, but if it's not in your house you won't eat it. I'm proud to say that Mr. Allan is probably -5lbs from our wedding day and at most I've gained maybe 3lbs. Eat that Bride magazine.

2. THE SHOCK: Your B-list buds will go MIA
Another  big negative in the Allan house. We were some of the dead last of our friends to get married. So, marriage hasn't made my friends go B friends having kids have made me go B list..but, hey, I happens.

3. THE SHOCK: Your sex life will be off the charts—sometimes.
My mom reads this blog, so I'm invoking my privilege against self incrimination...aka I'm pleading the 5th on this one..sorry

4. THE SHOCK: You won't unpack your china for six months.
Actually I was smart enough not to register for grandma handed hers down to me..but we're using it for Thanksgiving this's the first time its seen the light of day in 2 years.

5. THE SHOCK: You'll do the dishes; your husband will fix stuff.
Although I do consider myself one hell of an independent I can do anything including using a drill and taking a closet door off (tonight's activities!) we do fall into the manly and womanly roles with our household duties. i cook and clean and Mr. Allan takes the trash out, mows the lawn, leaf blows, and hangs new interior doors. While I hate washing the dishes, it beats taking out the stupid trash.

6. THE SHOCK: Even though you'll have two paychecks, you'll still feel broke.
This is hard. We've yet to combine our money. I wanted a clean break up of my single checking account. We're currently paying off credit card debt. I see the light at the end of the tunnel with this stupid debt. Once it's paid off, we will combine. But, Mr. Allan totally cramped my luxurious single lifestyle of shopping. So, while I'm not hitting the mall afterwork and buying the newest things at Banana and Ann Taylor, we're not really eating Ramen Noodles every night wondering how we're paying for the cable bill. So, I don't feel broke, my husband has just taught me to be a financially responsible person. He tries to drill into my head that we can't afford certain things but his reverse psychology mumbo jumbo doesn't work on this smart chick.

7. THE SHOCK: You won't want to spend every moment with your new husband
No offense to Mr. Allan, but, yeah, this wore off after a year of dating.

8. THE SHOCK: You'll go to bed mad, even though you vowed not to—ever
So true. This was the old school advice that your weird great aunts gave you at the wedding. Yeah, sometimes I'm mad and a girl needs her beauty sleep. While Mr. Allan and I don't fight too often, when there are disagreements, I have gone to bed upset...I usually put on the crappiest tv show and wrangle the cats in the bedroom with me so he knows I mean business. I can say, however, that I've never really been mad at Mr. Allan for more than 24 hours.

9. THE SHOCK: Being a wife won't mean you'll instantly have skills worthy of an Iron Chef.
Hello...I already have mad, no, marrying Mr. Allan didn't do anything special for me in the kitchen..since I'm already a baking queen that puts Martha to shame sometimes

10. THE SHOCK: The world will feel like a better place.
Call me a hopeless romantic...but just having Mr. Allan in my life makes it a better place. He's the calm to my crazy and the patience I never seem to I didn't really need a paper saying we're married to make the world feel like a better place!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Pie 101

I'm still on my pie kick. Thanksgiving is T- 2 weeks away tomorrow and I'm still tooling around planning a menu. I finally got off my butt and went to Whole Foods to order the turkey the other day. It's been one of those weeks, I'm tired, even with tomorrow off (yay for Veteran's Day) it still seems like the longest week ever. wasn't so busy and tiring that I didn't have some extra time to give another pie recipe a whirl....My co worker told us about this fabulous pie her husband made...pumpkin but with mascarpone cheese so it wasn't too pumpkin-y and she (as a non lover of regular pumpkin pie) loved it. So, I googled and searched and had the recipe. I'm not a huge pumpkin girl either. I know it's one of the healthier pies, but when theres a chocolate contraption and some fruity sugary deal next to the pumpkin pie, I usually go for one of those if I'm indulging in dessert.

Here was my pie before it went in the oven. I've been a mad pie making gal the past couple are some of my tips from my learn by disaster type of approach I take to cooking and baking.

1) Put your pie on a cookie sheet...maybe pumpkin pie won't mess that bad, but fruit pies bubble over and sugary fruity liquid is a bitch to clean..especially from off the bottom of your oven.

2) My glass pyrex dishes work best. I don't like a metal pie dish because you can't sneak a peek at the bottom of your pie to see if its baked and I have a ceramic deep dish pie plate...I have to increase the baking time with that puppy..alot.'s my creation in my Pyrex glass 9" pie plate on my favorite luvah of a cookie sheet (chicago metallic sold at Crate and Barrel) ...raw Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie

Here's the end result...just a note...this is fresh out of the deflated a tiny bit once it cooled but not to the point where it looked like a decrepit shrunken in lonely pumpkin pie that no one wants to eat.

Just another note...I used the pie crust I oohed and aahed over last week from It was flaky and fantastic...yes, a good pie crust excites me. Fabulous Pie Crust Recipe enclosed...

My thoughts on this pie--it's a nice classy twist on pumpkin pie. It's got some spice, it's got something different in it and it all works. I thought the mascarpone cheese would have more of a role in you would have a creamy cheesy pie, but it just added something and isn't overwhelming or the main taste when you take a bite. So, it's a winner for the Allan Thanksgiving. Oh...the best part...I almost forgot...there's a mascarpone whipped cream that goes with it. Unfortunately I ran to my local Stop and Shop who sold mascarpone cheese at $6 for a tiny eensy weensy I skipped the cream...but will indulge for turkey day!

Here's the recipe...

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie


1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese*

Whipped Cream and Mascarpone Topping:

1 cup chilled whipping cream
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese*
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

* Just a obviously need a crust for a 9" pie too!
For filling:

Using electric mixer, beat pumpkin and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs and next 7 ingredients and beat until blended. Add mascarpone cheese and beat just until mixture is smooth. Transfer filling to prepared crust.
Bake pie until custard is set, about 55 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool

For whipped cream and mascarpone topping:

Combine ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat to soft peaks.

Just a're probably sick of hearing it...but better to know now vs. when you're pie is in the oven and you're wondering.....I baked this bad boy for an additional 15 minutes...I opened the oven and gave the cookie sheet a little wiggle after 55 minutes. The center of the pie looked a little unset jello, so I left it in for 15 more minutes and it was good to go.

I brought it into work and it was a hit with the co workers. Even the guy who said he doesn't eat pumpkin pie succumbed and took a slice.

Monday, November 8, 2010

First snowfall of the season

As you can from my's not that much..maybe 3/4 of an inch. Seriously Mother Nature. I'm eating leftover Halloween candy still. It's November 8...too early for this crap, especially in RI where people freak, are probably out buying their milk and bread right now, and no one knows how to drive on a highway with any type of precipitation, nevermind snow. It took me over an hour to get to work, stop and go and I actually saw a car slide off the road into the woods. Schools are all delayed an hour in my area as well.

Thank you for reminding my of why I LOATHE wintertime.

Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic...30% off

Because I like you all so's your coupon code for 30% off Gap, Old Navy,  and Banana Republic for online shopping from November 11-14..

Coupon Code: DHC6KYM7TD4Q

Boo to Gap for excluding Piperlime and Athleta...they must know I need yoga tops..jerks..

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rachel Ray is good for one thing

ok..maybe 2. Her garbage bowl and her vegetarian chili recipe. Other than that, the lady annoys the crap out of me. Just the sound of her voice grates on my last cooking nerve. I can't watch her show. She man handles food and groans and ooh and aahs too much for me. Some people love her..this girl hates her. I tried to give her magazine a chance but my arteries clogged and my muffin top grew just reading her recipes. I even emailed the Everday magazine asking for nutritional info on their recipes. Whoever read my email probably snorted and wondered if I knew I was reading Rachel Ray's magazine not Weight Watchers. hidden gem I did find online...her vegetarian chili recipe. Its one of her only recipes without a tub of butter and a side of cream. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating and confusing her with Paula Deen a bit.

Here's the pot I just made...a little football and raking leaves called for a pot o chili for dinner.

Rachel "Man Hands" Ray's Vegetarian Chili

2 Tbsp EVOO
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup veggie broth or light beer
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp chilli powder
1 Tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp sauce
1 can refried beans

Dice veggies. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add veggies and sautee for 3-5 minutes. deglaze pan with the 1 cup of broth or beer. Add crushed tomatoes and black beans and kidney beans.

Cook for 5 minutes. Then, add refried beans.

Just a note--the refried beans go in very chunky..once they heat up, they  blend right in.

Also--I add 1lb lean ground turkey when I need some meat...tonight I needed some and the pic above shows my Meaty Rachel Ray's Vegetarian Chili.

Also--don't skimp on the jalapeno and hot sauce because you don't like hot things..they're more for spice vs. heat.

I love this chili because the refried beans add a very good texture to this. Most chilis are simply tomato based with tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, the refried beans create a thick delicious base for Rachel's Ray's only healthy recipe.

So, while her voice makes my ears bleed, I'll give the girl props for her awesome chili recipe and I'm still jealous that she came up with a stupid simple idea for a garbage bowl and that I was a sucker to buy one and love it.

Got a question?

then email me....

Successful Turkey Day Sidedish

I'm still thinking about Thanksgiving. It's looming in the wings. I need to get my butt to Whole Foods and order a turkey and test run some recipes to make sure I have my sh*t together on this blessed holiday of eating and gluttony.

Last weekend when I had a husband in the same state as me, I made a quick side dish...mostly I wanted to try this, then eat it the next day reheated and see if it was just as good. That way, I can make it Wednesday and not on Thanksgiving to save myself time. I know, I'm one wicked smart girl.

Here's a picture of Honey Glazed Carrots. Another recipe off of I've really been digging this site for a couple different reasons. 1) I love the reviews and where people can tell you they went wrong, modified something etc. 2) there's so many recipes on here, it can be overwhelming but also a gold mine of stuff.

I'm a bad blogger and don't have a picture of what I actually made. But, here's a user's pic from allrecipes.

I can tell you that I do not use baby carrots when I roast veggies or make side dishes. There's just something about peeling a carrot and slicing it that I enjoy and I think you get a much more sophisticated looking dish. But, I wanted you to get a gist of what the recipe is about.

This recipe is easy, delicious and just adds a little spin on carrots. I like to try and keep it a little healthier...but this recipe does have some butter and honey, but I thought it would be healthier than a casserole and cream of whatever side dish.

Honey Glazed Carrots (my alterations are *)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil* (I used 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil)

  • 1 pound baby carrots* ( I used 2 lbs of regular sized carrots)

  • 1/2 onion, chopped

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon monosodium glutamate (MSG) * (um..yeah I left this out..who the hell adds MSG to vegetable dishes????)

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • salt and pepper to taste  

  • 3 tablespoons honey

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened

  • Directions
    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. *(I took this to mean...put the oil in your baking dish)
    Toss carrots with onion, and add Worcestershire sauce, oregano, monosodium glutamate, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
    Bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Turn oven off and add honey and butter, mixing thoroughly. Place dish back in the warm oven for a few minutes. Serve immediately.

    Minus the crazy MSG..this was simple, tangy recipe for a veggie side dish. Best of tasted great reheated the next day.
    I know, nothing all that fancy and out there, but I need me some carrots next to the green bean casserole!

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    One of my great loves....

    I have weird hair. In looking at pictures, you might say, whatcha talking bout willis? But, it's my horse and pony hair is plain weird..from the texture to taking care it, it's big work. I was blessed with, what I like to refer to, as my white girl afro. My hair is wavy...weird wavy and in the very back of my head, downright curly. You might ask...but I never see pictures on the blog of you with curly hair. That's because it's only curly in the center back of my head. If I attempt a curly look, I resemble a drowned poodle after the rain, or a sticky looking body wave perm from the 80's. Yes, I refer to the 80's as out of style, a lot.

    So, because I can't pull off a Rebecca Gayheart curly.....I painstakingly straighten my hair daily. Yes, daily. It's alot of frickin work. So much work, that last week I burned the back of my head with my lovely Elchim hair dryer. But, I have found one product that helps with my hair woes. It makes my sometimes burnt out straight hair feel soft and silky. It's my lifesaver, my co-pilot every a.m. when I'm in my pink fleece robe and the top half of my hair goes up to start the 15 minute multi part drying process. My hairdresser gets mad props for introducing me to it. My BFHP (best friend hair product) is Moroccan Oil.
    This little bottle retails for $18 at my favorite salon. It lasts me about 3 months. I use a dime sized amount in my white girl afro and smooth it through just like I would with any hair product. I dry my hair and it leaves it so smooth. I am someone who has tried at least 50-60 different straightening products that claim to get the curl out...this works better than anything else I've tried. All hair types can use it. My oldest sister has stick straight hair and uses it and my older sister rocks the WGA as well and knows my hair woes first hand.

    Just one note....I cheated on my Moroccan oil just once. My salon ran out and I bought it's counterpart...Moroccan was alot heavier than the oil and was a bit disastrous as it didn't get along my my hairdryer nozzle and sometimes left me with a weird feel to my hair after being blasted with heat. So, stick to the oil.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Such a special story...

    Ok, I'll admit it. Today was a long (unecessarily) long day in court. The kind of day where I could be so much more productive if I was anywhere but the dreaded courthouse waiting for paperwork to be filed to handle a case at 3:15pm...a case I had been waiting for since 11am.

    When I got back to the office, I returned pertinent phone calls and went onto some good ole websurfing to relieve the feeling I got to bang my head against the wall after waiting around all afternoon.

    I don't even know how I stumbled about this website. I was looking at a photographer's website, clicked on another, and saw a post about a photographer's blog, and she liked this blog. My computer froze, then if came back to life after an impatient 30 seconds, and I was at the bottom of the blog and saw the link to Nella's Birth Story.

    The name intrigued me and I clicked on it. My websurfing journey lead me to this photographer's personal blog about life with her husband and 2 little girls. Her daughter, Nella, is very special for one big reason.

    Here's the beautiful blog about by a brave mom. A mom who is also gorgeous and stylish with a knack for photography! The pictures are beautiful on this blog and the story is even more beautiful. I can only hope to look as lovely as this mom did in the hospital right after she gave birth!

    Glad to see someone from MTV's Real World did something with their life

    Who's this? It's Sean Duffy from MTV's the Real World Boston....he was the handsome lumberjack dropped into the city for some culture shock. He's all polished and adult looking now....and just got elected as a Congressman representing Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District.

    You might remember him better from this pic......of the whole cast of RW remember, the Alaskan girl who's mom was sick, Montana with the red hair who totally liked Sean, Genesis, the newly out of the closet lesbian, Cyrus, the big tough street guy, Kameelah, the very politically correct girl and that other guy...
     I used to watch this show religiously...I remember the first season with Julie from Alabama and Eric, the hottie, who went on to host the grind and soooo wanted to get into Julie's pants. From NY, to Hawaii, to LA and San Fransisco and to New Orleans (twice!) I kind of grew up on this original reality tv series.

    I always wondered what happened to these people who had their 3 minutes of fame. I loathes the Real World/Road Rules Challenges that (I think) are still on to this day with the same has been cast members showing up for their 10th challenge...come on, don't these people have jobs and such? ..especially considering that some of them are probably well into their 30's by now. There's no way they can be milking off of money from these low rated tv series.

    So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that 1) Sean did something beyond another appearance in an MTV show 2) that he's still married to a former RW cast mate (not his season though)

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Big things happening in the Allan household

    We've been in our house for almost 4 years. I'm sad to say, Mr. Allan and I haven't really done alot of cosmetic work. I loved house favorite thing was when we walked into a house with a purple bathroom..toilet and all...and Mr. Allan said..I'll give  you 20k to redo the bathroom...yeah right..glad I didn't take him up on that offer..because we're kind of slow on the home improvement front. I remember when we moved into Casa de Allan. I loathed our bathroom. The poor previous owner told us she re-did it herself. I wish I had the same taste and could embrace her cobalt blue trim, chair rail, and molding everywhere and her hand painted floral stencils. That bathroom was on the top of my to re-do list..however it wasn't an immediate need to re do thing and fell by the wayside. 4 years later I'm still looking at the floral stencil mess. that we've started..we're superstars...well I think we are at least.

    First thing on my agenda....get rid of our wood trim. Our house looks like wood trim threw up on every end of it. I call it the 80's explosion...all we need is a framed picture of Michael Jackson's Thriller album and Olivia Newton John blasting on our radio. The wood trim would feel right at home.

    Here's what our house looked like before...

    My living room...wood trim around the big window and all along the floors...yes that's my hot boyfriend Don Draper on tv

     My, well I guess I really should say our, slider leading to our deck...more wood trim throw up
    Here's the new and improved living area...

     My camera phone is acting a little are more pictures without the flash..I couldn't decide what I liked they're all on here

    I had to take so many pictures because I'm in absolute LOVE with it. I feel like our house stepped into the millennium...I can't tell you how different white trim and a fresh coat of paint on the walls made. I wish the pictures were a little better...but the color on the walls is Benjamin Moore's Stone Hearth and the trim is Benjamin Moore's Swiss Coffee in a semi gloss oil paint.

    What did I learn or teach myself through this project...lots!

    1) I was soooo intimidated to do this..I'm not sure why I kept getting so intimidated about this project. It seemed so large to me and I got so overwhelmed. wasn't as bad as I thought

    I guess that's not really a lesson..but oh well..move onto #2

    2) in painting stained wood, use a good Oil Based Primer. I did one coat of Kilz Oil Paint Primer. I then used 2 coats of Benjamin Moore Oil Based paint. I think using a better quality paint like Benjamin Moore made a huge difference. We used Behr in our bedroom and the quality difference is noticeable.

    3) Don't be afraid to sand. I just used a sanding block and wished I used it more. The trim in a house gets so nicked up and the sanding block worked wonders on a window sill where my cats frequently jump up and got scratched etc.

    4) Purdy angled brushes are your best friends when painting trim. I used a 2" angled and a 1"angled. The 1" was great for my windows, I don't think I could have done it with just the 2" inch.

    5) when using oil paint, Home Depot sells a brush cleaner. It works better than paint thinner. Why? I soaked my brushed in paint thinner and the oil paint was just too much to get out from in between the bristles. The paint also sunk to the bottom of the container and I found myself dumping it, putting more paint thinner in and going through a ton. Brush cleaner..they were clean in 10 minutes.

    6) Frog Tape rocks. It's way better than the 3M blue crap. I read up on tape. I'm not a good painter and needed tape. I used 3M in our bedroom and when we pulled it off, it left a feathery mark on the edge of the paint. Frog Tape is worth the extra money, it didn't pull off paint we didn't want it to and left a clean edge

    7) If you're going to wear a skirt suit to work the day after painting, make sure you remember to clean the white oil paint spots off your legs or else co workers and fellow lawyers will stare and point at you.

    I'm no expert..just some things I learned along the way. There may be way easier techniques etc. to do this...but this was my trial and error of how to paint trim and walls.

    Mr. Allan is playing with a new tool in the garage...mostly because he's getting ready to hang new doors...I'm beyond excited about this! Our ugly hollow wood veneer looking stained messes will be gone and replaced with nice 5 panel white doors. He's the best!

    More de-80ifying pictures to come...especially after I hang curtains back up and put the crap back on the walls so it looks like a house again. Next up...painting the trim on the inside of the 3 bedrooms, hanging new doors and onto crown moulding.

    Lastly...I need to give a big ole shout out to Sara. Here's her super cool blog with a house she and Brandon TRANSFORMED
    Sara's really cool blog

    I asked Sara a million questions on how to paint trim and she patiently answered them all. After seeing what she did, I thought, maybe I could do it too and rid myself of the wood trim that's swallowing my house up.  Thank you Sara!!

    Apple Pie 101

    Lots of 101 classes in Allan land this week. While everyone was prepping for Halloween, handing out candy and enjoying the trick or treaters, the Allans painted, cleaned up after painting and I tested another pie recipe and a new crust recipe...

    It started off with these puppies...I'm not a huge dessert person, well I am, but I tell myself I'm not so I'm less likely to eat it. I'm not one who loves apple pie...I'm picky with apples. I don't eat anything red..only Granny Smith. I love the firmness of these and the tart taste. I feel like red apples have a mushier texture. The recipe I chose to test was Grandma Ople's Apple Pie. Who the hell is Grandma Ople...I have no idea, but her pie rocked. (recipe below)

    More important that Nana Ople's kick ass pie recipe, was the amazing new pie crust recipe I tried. It was different from anything I've tried before which usually consisted of flour, butter, and water. It split the flour proportion with half cake flour and half all purpose. Luckily I had some of this stuff lying around.

    I measured out my ingredients and off to the food processor we went
    This is the consistency you want..where your dough crumbles up a bit but its not so wet that you have a sticky mush

    Here is, what I think, the secret to this recipe. All the other crust recipes I've tried, you pop it out of the food processor, form mounds and chill them. This recipe (which will also be posted below) had a secret squirrel concoction of vinegar, ice water, and egg yolks. You put 4 tbsp in the mixture before you form into mounds.

    After I added the secret squirrel concoction, this is what you get

    Just a quick tip. I used to try and wrangle some saran wrap around the discs, cover them and usually Mr. Allan hears me swear like a sailor, while the saran wrap won't rip, its stuck etc. Instead, slide the discs into a large ziploc...sooooooo much easier. I also flatten a bit once they're wrapped...makes for easy rolling later.'re probably dying to see the end result and want your grimy hands on these awesome recipes I've trolled away....

    Here you go...Grandma Ople's Apple Pie in the Best Ever Pie Crust..both recipes are courtesy of I hope my Grandma Andrade doesn't take offense that I'm stealing Grandma Ople's pie recipe!

    I loved this pie. The bottom crust was a tiny bit soft, but not a sogged out disaster. I added my notes in bold in the recipes..what I found worked and didn't!

    Baker's Secret Pie Crust (Just a note--this makes 1 crust, I doubled it...I don't think you need to double the * ingredients, which are the ones that make the secret concoction- I had tons left over)

  • 3/4 cup cake flour

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 5 tablespoons shortening

  • 1 egg yolk *

  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar *

  • 3 cubes ice *

  • 1/2 cup cold water *

  • Directions

    Measure butter & shortening onto a plate, put into freezer for about 20 minutes.
    Measure cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds to mix.
    Take 1/2 of the cold butter and 1/2 of the cold shortening, put into processor with dry ingredients and pulse off and on for about 1 minute. Scrape down twice while doing this.
    Take remainder of the cold butter & cold shortening and cut in very briefly with the processor, leaving visible pea-sized chunks. Do not over process at this stage!
    In a measuring cup, mix egg yolk and vinegar together, add ice cubes and water. Let this get chilled, about 3 to 4 minutes.
    Remove mixed flours and shortening from processor, put into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle approximately 4 to 5 tablespoons of this egg, water, vinegar mixture, a little at a time, mixing gently with a fork. The key to this is, you do not want a wet dough, and you do not want to overmix.  (go easy with 4 Tbsp..I used 5 and my dough was a tad moister than I needed)
    Place this dough into plastic wrap or plastic bag, chill in refrigerator for a few minutes. (May also be frozen for a few weeks at this stage for future use).
    Remove from refrigerator and roll out. This makes absolutely the BEST pie crusts.
    Now...for the pie.....
    Grandma Ople's Apple Pie

    1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup water
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced (I had a ton of apples left over...I think next time I will peel and core 6 and see how I do with an extra one in the wings..8 was way too many)

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

    Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work of crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.

    Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.
    Two notes-- when you make your butter/sugar mixture, I found it way too clumsy to try and pour this from my saucepan over the pie--you'll make a huge mess. I grabbed either a gravy boat, creamer, or something with a little pouring spout. I poured the mixture in there first. This allowed me to really get the mixture into the nooks and crannies of this pie since the lattice crust covered it already.
    Also, I baked for 15 min at the higher temp, then 60 minutes at the lower temp. I think my pie was a bit under done. I may cover the top crust in foil and bake for 25 minutes at the higher temp, remove the foil and bake at the lower temp. Baking at the higher temp is how you get your bottom crust baked...mine was a bit underdone.