Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I got a new cookbook for Christmas (thanks, Rita!), so I had to try a recipe from the new book.  I'm posting the recipe in it's entirety from the Rachael Ray's "Book of 10."  However, I made a ton of substitutes!

My grocery store only had 2 kinds of mushrooms- button mushrooms and baby portabellas.  So that's what I used and the recipe turned out great!  I thought I had some beef stock at home, so I didn't buy any.  When I got home I realized, I only had chicken.  Substitue = chicken stock.  I did purchase an onion at the store, but after I took the papery layer off, I realized it was a bad onion.  Substitute = 2 shallots.  The grocery store did not have fresh sage.  Substitute = dried sage. 

I also couldn't find the quick cooking version of polenta.  Substitute = regular polenta.  It took about 30 minutes to make the polenta, so if you can't find the quick cooking- you'll want to get that started right away.  It also helps if you find someone who can stir it the entire time, while you make the stew!

Don't try to substitute mild Italian sausage- the hot is really good and not too spicy!

Hearty Sausage and Mushroom Stew Over Polenta

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
5 garlic cloves, 2 crushed from their skins, 3 chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 cup beef stock
1 2 ounce package dried porcini mushrooms
4 tablespoons EVOO
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
2 pound small button mushrooms, halved
4 large portabella mushroom caps, sliced
1 pound fresh shitake mushrooms, halved
6-8 fresh sage leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
¾ cup dry red wine
2 cups quick cooking polenta
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Combine the chicken stock, milk, crushed garlic cloves, and a little salt and pepper in a large sauce pan. Bring it up to a simmer and then lower the heat until you are ready to add the polenta.

In a small sauce pot, bring the beef stock to a boil over high heat. Add the dried mushrooms, turn the heat off and let them steep to rehydrate while you get the fresh mushrooms going.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of the EVOO, 2 times around the pan. Add the sausage and break it up into little bits, using a wooden spoon. Brown it, stirring every now and then, for 5 minutes. Once it is brown, remove the sausage from the skillet and drain it on a paper towel lined plate.

Drain all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet, return the skillet to the stove over high heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Add the fresh mushrooms, sage and some pepper. Cook the mushroom without stirring for 3-4 minutes, then give them a stir and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. Add the chopped garlic, onions and a little salt and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add the wine and let it cook down for about a minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the rehydrated porcini mushrooms from the beef stock and add them to the sautéed mushrooms. Line a small strainer or the corner of a colander with a paper coffee filter and pour all of the fortified beef stock through it and into the skillet.

Return the sausage to the skillet, bring the mixture to a bubble, and cook it until the liquids have reduced by half.

Back to the polenta: Remove the crushed garlic cloves from the chicken stock and milk, whisk in the polenta in a slow and steady stream, and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the cheese, stirring to combine. If the polenta gets a little too thick for your liking, add a little more stock or milk and that will loosen it up. Polenta is very forgiving.

Once the liquids in the stew have reduced by half, turn the heat off, add the butter and basil and stir the stew until the butter has melted.

Serve each helping of the sausage and mushroom stew over a portion of the polenta.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Wild Animals

It was a tough assignment, but I was able to catch a glimpse of these 2 wild animals in their natural habitat. I slipped on my Uggs, thermal underwear, and high school sweatshirt and quietly snuck outside. They were wild and running around like crazy, but I was able to get a few good shots . . .

Please note: No animals were harmed in the making of these photos. In fact, both of them are now curled up on the couch on top of the new electric blanket!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Walker Family Christmas

We packed up our car with Christmas presents, jackets, clothes, and 2 little dogs and headed to Tennessee!  We couldn't wait to celebrate Christmas with Jeremy's family.  It had been forever since we saw Alison. 

Ivy and Win were ready for a visit, too! 

Rita couldn't wait to give Alison and me our first gifts!  We opened up a gingerbread house kit and new monogrammed aprons!  We loved it! 

Here's our finished results!  Not too bad, huh?

Christmas Eve Night, we went to Granny B's for a brief Christmas dinner with all of Jeremy's cousins.  Everyone had other places to go, so we didn't get to see anyone for too long.  But it was nice to catch up with family that we don't see nearly enough!

Jeremy, Ali, Jessica, Rebecca, & Mark

How do you like my new feather head band???

We carried on the tradition and opened up cute new pjs with Jeremy's family, too (thanks, Clovis!).

With 4 dogs running around the house, they pretty much ruled things!





Billy & Rita with Sebastian

Alison & Cody with Gabby and Sebastian

Erin & Jeremy with Ivy and Win

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Perfect Mountain. Perfect Mountain Town.

After much anticipation, we were finally ready to leave for our ski trip.  We flew into Denver and drove to Breckenridge.  The weather was great- not nearly as cold as last year!

But that also meant, they didn't have quite as much snow and a few of the lifts and runs were not open.  We still had a great time and they had plenty of blues open for my liking!  Who need those blacks anyway?!?!

The weather was pretty nice the entire time.

My mom is pretty amazing!  I don't know if she's available for other ski trips, but if you are going, you might considering giving her a call.  She made us a homemade lunch every day.  After a tough morning of skiing, nothing is better than walking into the condo and having a steaming hot bowl of your mom's chili!  It was amazing!!!  I'm spoiled for life.  And it doesn't end there!

Every afternoon, she has the hot chocolate heating up. We come in take off those awful ski boots and put our feet up and sip some hot chocolate! It really makes the skiing experience!!!

We usually go out to eat at least one night- give mom a break and celebrate Ethan's b-day.  It's also fun to see Breckenridge's cute little Main Street.  They have some neat shops.

This year we also stumbled across this amazing crepes (creep, creepy, crapy, crap- however you say it) place.  It was sooo goood!  They had every imaginable combo!  They even had savory crepes!  I had one with nutella- amazing!

We took a ridiculous amount of photos on the trip, so here's a little slideshow- if you have 30 minutes to waste!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Moore Family Christmas

We celebrated Christmas with the Moore Family a little early this year.  Ethan graduated with his MBA on Saturday and we were leaving for our ski trip on Sunday morning- that left Saturday night.  Our family tradition is to open one gift on Christmas Eve and that gift is always pajamas (usually matching). 

I could pull out some pretty embarassing pics of me and Ethan right here, but I'll save us both and not.  We stuck to tradition and opened our pjs first!  The bonus of the quick version is that we have our hair brushed and make up on.  Usually, I have messy hair, sleepy eyes, no make up and glasses.  Pretty, I know.
Here are the Christmas Eve gifts . . .waiting to be opened.  What could it be?!?!  (We always act surprised even though we know it's pjs).

Here's the family pic in matching pajamas!

Next, we opened our gifts.  What a fabulous Christmas!  We got so many wonderful things- way beyond what we could ever actually need.  We are very, very blessed!  But the best gift was our time together on the ski trip!

Merry (early) Christmas!