Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year! and a few dog pics...can't resist..

I couldn't resist starting off with a couple of pictures of Bruno. He traveled really well with us, to three different towns in four days. He slept on the console during the truck rides--he won't fit there for long, so I had to get a picture! He also got a steak for Christmas. It squeaks, and he loves it.

Moving on...
Tomorrow is New Years Eve! We are hosting a party here with all sorts of food and drinks. My friend Laine is helping host it. We are having:
-buffalo chicken dip with celery and chicken crackers
-spinach and artichoke dip with cucumbers, carrots, and tortilla chips
-homemade guacamole
-chicken salad in puff pastry
-candied nuts
-assorted chocolate candies/homemade fudge (finishing off the Christmas stash)
-mini cheescakes with Nilla wafer crust (pretty excited about these!)
-lots of different kinds of drinks-- including our "specialty" Blue Lagoon :)
and most importantly, lots of friends! I am pretty excited to use this cool new server that has two optional warming trays and pans that I got from my brother in law. It will get put to good use! Off to get things together around the house, return a few things from a really wonderful Christmas celebration with ALL of our families. We had a really great Christmas and are extremely blessed with our families and friends.
Happy New Year--see you in 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bakeathon! And home for the holidays...

Look what we did Saturday! We all brought the ingredients to make our favorite Christmas treat, so we had a TON of goodies. You can't even see the full second table. We had peppermint bark, Payday bars (I will have to get the recipe, they're great!), candy cane cookies (more of an experiment, right sis? see pic below...), almond dipped pretzels, Oreo truffles, peanut butter balls, nutty dipped marshmallows, choco PB sandwiches, raisin cinnamon chip cookies, peanut brittle, and I hope I didn't miss any others! It was fun, and we made treat plates to share with everybody we know, since we had plenty:)

a sugar experiment gone wrong.

Norris showed us his "technique" for white chocolate pretzels. Yummy! Oreo truffles and PB balls. So easy, so sinful.

The ultimate Texas AND North Carolina fan himself. According to his stack of new UT and NC gear, anyway!

I'm not sure I've seen my grandpa cook before this moment, and it was great!!

I am in Topeka for Christmas and so glad to be here a couple days just to hang out before the true holiday festivities get underway. We celebrated this weekend with my mom's side and Norris' parents, and we'll be celebrating this week with my family, my dad's side, and Norris' dad. Rather than thinking of it as a lot of driving, I like to think of how blessed we are to have so much family to celebrate with!! Lots of pictures of the family so far...I don't have my computer to put my pictures on so I am just taking my mom's she's uploaded to their computer!
Merry Christmas!!!! Enjoy your time with your loved ones.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

White Whisper Pasta

This is a weight watcher's recipe that we both enjoyed. I would suggest a little less pasta next time. Veggies are already included!

Makes 4 servings

2 t olive oil
2 c sliced mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c skim milk
1/3 c nonfat cottage cheese
3 T basil leaves
3 T parsley leaves
2 T all purpose flour
1 t dried oregano
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
2 T grated Asiago cheese
4 cups fusilli or penne pasta (we used whole wheat and that added a little more flavor)
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring as needed, until the mushrooms release their liquid, 4-5 minutes.
2. In a blender or food processor, puree the milk, cottage cheese, basil, parsley, flour and oregano. Add to the mushroom mixture; stir in the Parmesana nd the Asiago cheeses and cook, stirring as needed, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the green beans during the last 4 minutes of cooking time. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Immediately top with the mushroom sauce; toss to coat.

Barbecued Beef

It was so snowy when we woke up this morning! I was really kicking myself for not moving my car into the garage last night...the 4-wheeler we are keeping was in there, and I forgot to ask Norris to move it, but tonight my car is in the garage thankfully!!

Anyway, it was really cold and great to come home to a warm meal already cooking. Here it is:

Barbecued Beef (from my All Recipes cookbook)

1 1/2 c ketchup
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c red wine vinegar
2 T prepared mustard (Dijon or regular)
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/4 t garlic powder
1 (4 pound) boneless chuck roast, cut in half, fat trimmed

1. In a slow cooker, combine everything but the roast. Stir well.
2. Place chuck roast halves in slow cooker. Turn meat to oat with ketchup mixture. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook 7 to 8 hours.
3. Remove roast, shred with two forks, and return to slow cooker. Sitr meat to evenly coat with sauce. Continue cooking on low approximately one hour.
Yield: 12 servings

You can put everything in the crockpot the night before, then stick it on high right when you wake up. Before you leave (about an hour for me), put it back on low.

Serve on toasted sandwich buns with extra sauce. There will be enough sauce that you could use it as a dipping sauce if you like. We had it on toasted rosemary ciabatta buns which was soooo good!

**A good way to skim more fat: put the sauce in a container in the freezer while you shred the beef. The grease will harden on top and then you can skim off the extra grease/fat at the top. Then return the sauce to the slow cooker with the shredded beef to cook for the remaining hour.

Edit: I used the leftover beef for a beef stew, and it was really really good in that. It added a slightly sweet element I don't normally have in beef stew. Definitely do this with leftovers!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Norris! (and some yummy cookies:)

This is what's going on outside right now. Happy Birthday Norris, the first snow's for you!:) We are celebrating with dinner and relaxing tonight!

These are the addictive Andes mint cookies. I got them from the Sister's Cafe blog, and then I melted some semisweet chocolate squares (with a touch of veg oil to make it easier to drizzle) to put on top. YUM! I might have had a few already today...
Andes Creme de Menthe Chunk Cookies
Submitted by Mindy
1/2 cup salted butter - softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 package (10oz) Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips
2 2/3 cups flour
Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed. Stir in Andes Baking Chips and then flour. Chill approximately one hour in refrigerator. Measure out approximately 1 oz of dough. Form ball and slightly flatten. Raise oven rack one level above middle and bake on non-stick baking pans. Bake at 350 for approximately 8-10 minutes. Cool on pans for two minutes before removing. Drizzle melted chocolate if desired. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Baked Apple Pancake

We made these today in class, and they were excellent! We made two "batches" to feed 10. Everyone got a piece about the size of a piece of medium pizza. I think that would be plenty for a breakfast along with something else. These are so easy to make that you shouldn't wait until guests come over! I had my camera out ready to take a picture of the lovely creation (that looked kind of like a funnel cake after sifting powdered sugar on top) but they got so excited about eating them that by the time I was ready to take a picture, they were done eating! Oops!
Baked Apple Pancake
(recipe from ProStart)

3 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each (we used some other apple and cut them into slightly thinner slices--I'd say the apple doesn't matter, but I would cut them thinner)
½ c milk
1 egg
2 T oil
½ t vanilla
1 c flour
5 T powdered sugar
¾ t baking powder
¼ t salt
3 T butter or margarine
¼ t cinnamon
Powdered sugar and/or maple syrup for serving

1. Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 425.
2. In a medium bowl, beat milk, egg, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour, 3 T powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir until blended.
3. In a 10”, oven proof, non-stick skillet, melt butter over a medium heat. Add apples, 2 T powdered sugar, and cinnamon. Cook, turning often, for 5-7 minutes until apple slices are browned but still hold their shape.
4. Spread slices in an even layer in skillet, stir batter, and pour over hot apples.
5. Place skillet in oven and bake 13-15 minutes, until the batter is cooked and puffs up around the edge of the pan.
6. Remove and loosen the edges from the pan. Place a serving platter over the skillet and flip the pancake onto the serving platter. Garnish with powdered sugar or maple syrup.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Here is our new little love:) He is so cute and little. I am sure he will get big really fast. For now, it's funny watching him not be able to get up the half stair from one room to another and liking to curl up in our arms. He can't get down the stairs, and on the first night we had him, we put him on the stairs. One of these pictures is him trying to back down them because he didn't know what to do!
I admit I am also excited to have a new running partner! We also promise not to dress him in clothes regularly--my sister got him this jacket thing so we had to at least try it on him...it was a little small, so I think the first picture is his disgust toward it, but I thought it was pretty cute and funny!

Review: Gingerbread trifle

This is how good that gingerbread trifle was....I hope he's not too embarrassed that I put this here:) He's a great husband--he likes almost everything I make! (and for many many other reasons as well, of course!)
After my family left, we both needed more of this stuff! He wasn't shy and just sat down with the bowl and a spoon...hey, might as well! You've got to try this stuff. I had extra filling, so I took it to school to make mini ones for my kids and it is definitely teenager approved, also.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cloverleaf Rolls and Libby's Pumpkin Pie

(photos from culinary.net--I forgot to take my own photos!)
I posted a message on a cooking forum in search of the ultimate pumpkin pie recipe--the undisputed vote was for Libby's straight off the back of the can! We made this recipe for "Turkey Treats" (Thanksgiving treats that we sold and sent home with teachers before Turkey break) and I brought one to Thanksgiving myself. Our Thanksgiving is a whole different story for a whole different time...it was great, though!
We made the yeast rolls, but wanted to make them a little different, so we made cloverleaf. We thought they were best with melted butter mixed with garlic powder brushed on them right before baking. Our first round turned out great, but our last rounds, not so much. Something was definitely up with our industrial mixer, and the dough didn't rise and turned a grayish green color (the dough hook was scraping up bits of the bowl into the dough..yuck!). We had to scrap 13 dozen rolls the morning of delivery, and disappoint a few people. But hey, I'd rather have none than have non-risen, greenish-gray ones, you? Every experience is a learning experience!

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie

¾ c granulated sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t salt
½ t ground ginger
¼ t ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz) pure pumpkin
1 can (12 oz) Evaporated milk
1 pie shell (homemade or store bought)

Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.
Pour into pie shell.
Bake in preheated 425 F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F; bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Parker House Cloverleaf Rolls

From Joy of Cooking
Yield: 24 2-inch rolls
1 c milk
1 T sugar
2 T butter
¾ t salt
1 package active dry yeast
2 T 105-115 F water
2 2/3 c all-purpose flour, sifted
Melted butter
1 egg

Scald milk.
Add sugar, butter, and salt and stir until dissolved.
Sprinkle yeast over water.
Add the milk mixture when the yeast/water has cooled to lukewarm.
Beat in egg.
Stir in part of the flour; knead in the rest. Use only enough flour to form a dough that can be handled easily. Place in a greased bowl. Brush the top with melted butter.
Cover and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Punch down the dough. Now, fill greased muffin tins about one-third with 3 small balls (as sketched in Joy of Cooking, page 611).
Brush the tops with melted butter.
Let rise covered in a warm place until about doubled in bulk.
Bake in a preheated 425 F oven 15-18 minutes. Remove at once from pans.

French Bread...just like Panera!

We served another lunch to teachers--this time just to 30, because we were delivering our "Turkey Treats" two days later, which consisted of a TON of baking!

For this lunch, we started with homemade chicken stock (which was hilarious to watch the kids figure out how to cut a chicken and boil the necks and backs of a chicken!) to make chicken noodle soup. We were not brave enough (nor had enough time!) to make our own noodles, but our chicken noodle soup was great. From making the stock, we had some extra veggies, so we decided to puree them and then add them to the soup to thicken it up and add some extra veggies without any chunks. I really liked that idea--more flavor, more veggies, and nobody knows they're eating more veggies.

This french bread is awesome. It is a lot like Panera; kind of a crunch to the outside, which is mainly because of the egg wash--don't skip that step. Most of the people that had it first asked if we ordered it from Panera, then asked for the recipe, which is extremely easy! Then, you could make sandwiches, serve it on the side (great bread for sopping up extra broth in, say, chicken noodle soup???), or make an awesome French toast out of it!

The menu of our lunch was: Old Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup, french bread, and apple crisp. Add a soda to that and the whole meal was only $6 to order--not bad, huh?:) I was proud of my kids again!

French Bread

Yield: 30 servings
5 2/3 c all purpose flour
2 ½ packages active dry yeast
2 t salt
2 c warm water (110 F)
1 T cornmeal
1 egg white
1 T water
1 T butter
1 t sugar

1. In a small bowl, combine yeast, 1 c of the warm water, and sugar. Let sit until instructed to use.
2. In a large bowl, combine 2 c flour and salt. Stir in the other 1 c warm water. Combine.
3. Add yeast mixture to this and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough attachment. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
4. On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8-10 minutes total. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
5. Punch dough down and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into a large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.
6. Grease a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 T water and brush on. With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about ¼ inch deep across top of each loaf. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.
7. Bake in a preheated oven 375 F for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.

Adapted from http://www.allrecipes.com/
Apple Crisp

Yield: 12 (1/2 c) servings
Fruit Mixture:
6 c sliced apples, peeled if desired
1 T cinnamon
1 T water
1 t lemon juice

1 c rolled oats
¾ c all purpose flour
¾ c firmly packed brown sugar
½ c margarine or butter, softened
1 t nutmeg
½ t ground cloves

1. Heat oven to 375 F. Place fruit in ungreased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with cinnamon, water, and lemon juice.
2. In large bowl, combine all topping ingredients. With pastry blender or fork, mix until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over fruit.
3. Bake at 375 F for 25 to 35 minutes or until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown.

Adapted from Pillsbury
Chicken Broth
(just in case you have never made it!)

Yield: 64 oz.
2 lb. chicken backs, necks, and/or wings
2 quarts (8 cups) water
2 small onions, quartered
1 c coarsely chopped celery with leaves
½ c sliced carrots
2 t chopped fresh parsley
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
1 bay leaf
½ t salt

1. In Dutch oven, combine chicken and water. Bring to a boil. Skim and discard residue that rises to surface. Reduce heat; partially cover and simmer 30 minutes.
2. Add all remaining ingredients except ½ t salt; partially cover and simmer an additional 4 hours.
3. Remove bones from broth. Cool slightly. Remove meat from bones; refrigerate or freeze for a later use.
4. Strain broth; stir in ½ t salt. Cool uncovered in refrigerator. Skim fat from broth; discard. Cover; store in refrigerator up to 3 days or freeze up to 6 months.
Chicken Noodle Soup
(slightly different from the "norm", so I had to include it!)

Yield: 5 (1 ½ c) servings

1 ½ c cubed cooked chicken
1 c sliced carrots
½ c chopped celery
½ c chopped onion
1 parsnip, peeled, cubed (3/4 c)
2 t chopped fresh parsley
1 t chopped fresh dill
58 oz. chicken broth
2 c uncooked wide egg noodles

1. In Dutch oven or large saucepan, combine all ingredients except noodles; mix well. Cook over medium heat 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
2. Add egg noodles; cook 15 minutes or until of desired doneness.

From Pillsbury