Monday, December 27, 2010

Recipe Of The Week: Red Velvet Brownies

This Christmas season was special, because it was Sloane's first. Jake and I talked alot about our family Christmas traditions and how that might change with a growing family. We discussed Santa and argued over his gifts being wrapped or unwrapped, then we discussed the religious side to Christmas. We would like to instill both concepts in our Christmas traditions, and one of my ideas is to bake a birthday cake or dessert for Jesus for us to enjoy on Christmas Day. It will be fun to try new cakes or bake one on request. Plus I hope that it will be a project my children will want do with me and maybe even carry on with their families. This year I made Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Icing.

Red Velvet Brownies
Line pan with foil by trimming two long foil pieces to a 9-inch width. Fit strips, crossing each other, in the pan.

1 (4-oz.) bittersweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
1/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (1-oz.) bottle red liquid food coloring
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
Small-Batch Cream Cheese Frosting
Garnish: white chocolate curls

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.

2. Microwave chocolate and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Whisk in sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Gently stir in flour and next 4 ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 44 to 48 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely on a wire rack (about 2 hours).

4. Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles, gently remove foil. Spread Small-Batch Cream Cheese Frosting on top of brownies, and cut into 16 squares. Garnish, if desired.

Small-Batch Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and salt, beating until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Recipes found in December 2010 edition of Southern Living magazine

From my experience: I got out all of my ingredients first, so that I wouldn't be scrounging around for items, and the process would go faster. Setting out the cream cheese and butter at this time allowed them to soften until I was ready to use them for the icing. Once I had all of my ingredients ready, the recipe was simple. I cut a few corners to save time too. I didn't chop my squares of chocolate, and they melted just fine; to me that seemed like an extra step. I also didn't put foil strips down in my baking dish. I realize this helps release the brownies from the pan, but I planned on leaving them in the baking dish to serve, so again that was an unnecessary step for me. I simply sprayed the dish with non-stick cooking spray. And as you can see from my lousy picture (I was at my parents' house and out of my element) I did not curl white chocolate on top. Had I served this for a fancier crowd I might have done so, but this was a lazy Christmas day project for me. The brownies were really rich and tasty. In my opinion, the best part was the icing! And because it was iced, everyone ate it like a cake. It was best served with a glass of milk.

10 Months

Sloane has grown even more mobile this month. She walks around the coffee table and to the other furniture in our living room. She goes for anything withing her reach. She especially loves our laptop, cellphones, and remote controllers. She also likes to crawl over to Lily's bed and water and food bowls. You will see her in the living room playing with her toys, then all of a sudden she is in the kitchen. She hasn't gained much weight or gotten taller, but her teeth are finally coming in. Another tooth came in on the bottom and her top 6 teeth are on there way down; they are huge and bulging out of her gums. We have been giving Sloane alot more finger foods. She loves cheese, bananas, and oranges. She has eaten different pastas like lasagna and maccaroni and cheese. She has also eaten green beans, mashed potatoes, and other squishy vegetables and casseroles. She usually likes whatever we give her, but gets tired of feeding herself after a while. At that point she drops the food over the side of her tray or spits it out in her lap. Either way, Lily is ready to eat the scraps. We are having so much fun watching her learn and grow. She is more like a little person now rather than a baby. Time has gone by so fast!

This picture was taken on December 19th at Sloane's first family Christmas party. She discovered dolls that day, and then got two for Christmas.

Here is what Miss Sloane can do:

* crawls well
* get into a sitting position from stomach
* exchange back-and-forth gestures with you
* play patty-cake (clap hands)
* walk holding on to furniture
* feeds herself using fingers and hands
* searches for hidden objects

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sugar Cookies!

My friend, Gabby and I got together and made Christmas sugar cookies. Here are pictures of Sloane eating her first cookie!

Gabby loves to dote on Sloane since her Aunt Brittany isn't local to do so. She always trims her fingernails and toenails for me, because it makes me nervous. On this day, Gabby gave her a full peticure!

Recipe of the Week: Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

I found a paper pullout of Chex mix recipes, so I tried the cheesy version for the coaches Jake works with for Christmas. Below you can see the tins I found to put it in, and the paper with 5 recipes for Chex mix. There are lots more variations on

Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix

9 cups Corn, Rice, or Wheat Chex cereal (or combination)

2 cups bite-size pretzel twists

2 cups bite-size cheese crackers
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1 package (1 oz.) ranch dressing and seasoning mix

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1. In a large microwavable bowl, mix cereal, pretzels, and crackers. In a small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 30 seconds or until melted. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated. Stir in dressing mix and cheese until evenly coated.

2. Microwave uncovered on High 3 minutes, stirring each minute. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in an airtight container.

From my experience: I had a bag of store-bought Chex mix that my husband didn't want to eat, so I used that for the 9 cups. Then I put 2 cups of Cheese Nips and 2 cups of White Cheddar Cheese Nips. After I made the first batch, I realized that there was so much seasoning that another cup or two of anything could have been added. When I made batch 2, I added pretzels and more Cheese Nips. It turned out really good; my husband was disappointed there wasn't any leftover for him!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

For our book club meeting, we had a cookie swap. There are several recipes that I want to try, so I couldn't make just one! Plus I didn't want to do anything traditional. The swap was fun, and I am excited about the book we chose to read: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer. Here are the two cookie desserts I made and a bonus recipe from a friend.

Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares
~makes 24

*13 graham crackers
* 1 bag (8 ounces) toffee bits

* 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted natural almonds

* 1/2 cup sugar

* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

* 3/4 cup (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chopped
or chocolate chips
* 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place graham crackers in a single layer on sheet, edges touching. Sprinkle toffee bits and almonds over graham crackers.

2. In a small saucepan, bring sugar and butter to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat and cook at a rapid simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is syrupy, 2 minutes. Immediately pour over graham crackers. Bake until sugar topping is bubbling, 12 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate and salt over graham crackers. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 2-inch squares. Let cool completely on sheet on a wire rack. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 week.)

Found in May 2010 edition of Everyday Food magazine.

Jeweled Lace Cookies
~makes 4 dozen
* 1/3 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup corn syrup
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup rolled oats
* 1/4 flour
* 1 pinch of salt
* 1/3 cup dried cranberries
* 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, chopped

1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Grease 2 cookie sheets. In a medium saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter over medium heat until smooth and bubbling, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, and salt; stir into pot, then stir in the cranberries and pistachios.
2. Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture about 3 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake until bubbly and a shade darker, 9 to 10 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute before quickly transferring each cookie to a rack using a thin metal spatula; let cool completely.

Found in December/January 2007 edition of Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine.

From My Experience: The top recipe was sooooo delicious! They have a crunchy, chocolaty, toffee taste, so if you like Heath bars or toffee flavored desserts, you will love this recipe. They were very easy to make too. Once they are baked, they are one big sheet dessert. I used a pizza cutter to break it apart, which I reccomend. It also helped to make my cuts in between the individual graham crackers. Then I cut each cracker into thirds. They are pretty rich, so that size was perfect. They are really crunchy on the day you make them, but soften the next day (still good though). I forgot to add the salt, so I am curious how it would taste with that altering flavor.
The lacies also tasted good, but better on the next day. They turned out very crispy, but softened with each day. They baked better on the upper rack. On the lower, they spread very thin, and then unevenly baked. I was unsure about how it would turn out, so I followed the required amounts for the oats, cranberries, and nuts, however I think it needed more of the chunky ingredients. You could be creative with it like adding coconut flakes, raisens or other dried fruits, varying nuts, cinnamon chips, etc.
I didn't use pistachios, but instead a nut mixture and then threw in some trail mix. They were a little difficult to scrape off the cookie sheet, so make sure to slide the spatula under them while they are still hot. I left them on the sheet to cool because they were too brittle to put on my cooling rack. This recipe was a little more complicated to make, but it was fun to try nonetheless. Have fun!

Bonus Recipe: This was a friend's recipe for the cookie swap. She came over to my house to make them, but didn't follow the recipe correctly and they turned into brownies. We heard from someone at the party that these cookies are super, so I am going to make them sometime, maybe during the holidays!

Red Velvet Cookies
* 1/3 cup cocoa
* 1/4 cup butter
* 1/4 cup sour cream
* 1 tablespoon red food coloring
* 1 egg
* 1 package of sugar cookie mix

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, stir cookie mix, cocoa, butter, sour cream, egg, and food coloring.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

4. Bake for 8-9 minutes.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas card

Picture Tree Christmas
Visit for classic photo Christmas cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Project

So I wouldn't call myself a crafty person, but with a buddy I am more willing to get involved on a project. In the December 2010 Martha Stewart Living magazine, they showed this Christmas card holder. I have been wanted one to display my Christmas cards, and this seemed easy to make. A friend and I got together to recreate what was published in the magazine. To make one yourself, you will need: a 14-inch embroidery hoop, mini wooden clothespins, wood glue, and a ribbon. The magazine said to glue the clothespins 1 1/2 inches apart, but I spaced them 2 inches apart and still had more clips on mine than the picture in the magazine. Suspend the hoop with a ribbon. The picture shows the ribbon a little higher, but I had a hard time finding wall space (hence the light switch in view). This was a super easy and inexpensive project for the holidays!

Recipe Of The Week: Better-Than-Basic Muffins

I love the magazine Everyday Food from Martha Stewart. They show simple recipes and how-to's with variations. The recipe I chose was their basic muffin mix.

Better-Than-Basic Muffins
~ makes 12


* 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan

* 3/4 cup granulated sugar

* 2 teaspoons baking powder

* 2 cups all-purpose (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* 2 large eggs

* 1/2 cup whole milk

* mix-ins (see variations; optional)

* 2 tablespoons sanding sugar; optional


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with rack in lower third. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup muffin pan, tapping out exess. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients; make a well in the center. Add egg mixture to well. With a rubber spatula gently stir ingredients just until batter is moistened (do not overmix; a few lumps are fine). Add mix-ins, if desired.

3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full; sprinkle with sanding sugar, if desired. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Loosen muffins, and tip them on their sides to cool in pan. Serve warm or at room temperature (muffins are best the day they are made).

CORN = In Step 2, reduce flour to 1 cup, and add 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal.

BRAN-RAISIN = In Step 2, reduce flour to 1 1/2 cups, and add 1 cup bran and 1 teaspoon cinnamon; replace butter with 3/4 cup vegetable oil. At the end of Step 2, fold 3/4 cup raisins into batter.
CHOCOLATE-CHIP = At the end of Step 2, fold 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips into batter.

BLUEBERRY = At the end of Step 2, fold 1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen) into batter.

CHERRY-PECAN = At the end of Step 2, fold 3/4 cup chopped pecans and 3/4 cup dried cherries into batter.

*Buttering and flouring the pan will keep muffins from sticking; paper liners work, too.

* If you don't use all the cups in a pan, fill the empty ones with water to ensure even baking.

*For the lightest, airiest texture, gently stir ingredients just to combine; don't overmix the

*To freeze muffins: Place in a resealable the batter. plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months.

*Portion batter with an ice-cream scoop for even-size muffins, and fill each cup only two-thirds

* For a homemade muffin mix, combine the dry ingredients, and keep in a resealable plastic bag
in the freezer. Mix with wet ingredients, and bake whenever you're craving a treat.

Found in May 2008 edition of Everyday Food magazine

From My Experience: It was fun creating my own muffins using whatever I had on hand. The recipe made more than a dozen; I think it depends on the mix-ins. I made two different kinds as shown above. I had come apples that were a little too soft for my liking, so I chopped about three small apples and added cinnamon chips in one batch. For the other batch of muffins I added a berry mix consisting of frozen cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Both were yummy with varying tastes. The berry muffins were tart and the apple cinnamon sweet. I had a friend bake them with me, and her family loved them as well. Next time, I think I will try using half whole wheat flour. Since it typically needs more moisture, it is safer to only use it in place of half the flour requirement. This recipe is a keeper!

Visit with Santa

Santa visited my mom's school the other day. Dressed up as Santa was my old principal, so it was especially special. Sloane was great. She was unsure about Santa, but never cried or even got upset. My mom got in the picture with Sloane too!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Recipe Of The Week: Green Bean Casserole

I am very late on getting this entry out there since this recipe was for Thanksgiving. It was my responsibility to bring the traditional green bean casserole this year, yet I have never made this before. I wanted to try a new version, but knew that my family was expecting the old favorite. For this reason, I looked online and found my recipe on the Campbell's website. They offered some variations that sound yummy which you will see below.

Green Bean Casserole

1 can (10 3/4 oz) Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (reduced is acceptable)
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French Fried Onions
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 cup milk
Dash of pepper

1. Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans, and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2 - quart casserole.
2. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.
3. Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Tips: Use 1 (16 oz) bag frozen green beans thawed or 2 cans (about 16 oz each) green beans, drained or about 1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans.

* Could substitute 4 cups cooked broccoli
* For a festive twist, stir in 1/4 cup chopped red pepper with soup
* For a crunchier topping, add 1/4 toasted sliced almonds to the onion topping
* Could add 2 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon to bean mix
* For a cheesy version, stir in 1/2 cup cheddar cheese with soup and omit soy sauce. Sprinkle with an additional 1/4 cup cheddar cheese when adding the remaining onions.
* Could substitute soup for Condensed Golden Mushroom Soup and omit soy sauce. Add 1/4 cup chopped red pepper.

Recipe found in

From My Experience: I did not do anything different from my mom's except use the frozen green beans instead of canned. I think it gave it a fresher taste because the green beans were greener and crunchier. No one could taste any difference, so I accomplished my goal!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

9 Months

Sloane is now 9 months and went for a check-up recently. She weighed 17 pounds and 2 ounces which put her in the 25 percentile. Her length on the other hand, is in the 95 percentile at 29.5 inches. She is a tall, thin baby. Her head circumference was 43.6 cm which was 45%.
Recently, Sloane cut her first tooth on the bottom, and when the doctor looked into her mouth, she said the top four were on their way and should pop out at the same time in the next two weeks. Sloane is also crawling everywhere now and can pull herself up to stand holding on to things, so we started safety proofing our house. We have already put baskets full of her toys in different rooms so she has a place to crawl and get into stuff and moved objects out of her way. She is very mobile and curious to discover everything in sight. She has become especially interested in remote controls and cell phones. We also lowered her mattress on her crib. Next on the to do list is put covers on the unused outlets. She is also starting to eat more adult foods. We are introducing soft fruits and veggies like bananas, carrots, and peas. So far we notice she likes to eat them if they are by themselves, although she still has difficulty picking them up. We have tried mashing them up and mixing them with her cereal or other foods, but she spits out the chunks.
Sloane had recently had her first fever and cold, so when the doctor looked in her ears she found an ear infection. She was amazed that Sloane was still sleeping so well and so happy. She said Sloane must have a higher tolerance for pain! Despite being sick, she was still her pleasant self. It just reminded me how blessed Jake and I are to have such a wonderful daughter. She is so sweet and becoming increasingly affectionate to show us her love in little ways. Sloane will put out her arms for you to pick her up, and when you do, she will nestle her head in the crook of your neck. My favorite is when she crawls over to me just to sit in my lap and play with her toys as if that is the best place to be. Jake and I have decided this is the most fun time with Sloane. She is so interactive and loving right now, and seems to learn something new each day.

Here are some things Miss Sloane can do:

* holds her bottle
* crawl
* pull-up to a standing position from sitting
* drink from a cup
* play peekaboo
* say "mama" or "dada" indiscriminately
* object if you try to take a toy away
* bangs objects
* responds to name well

Recipe of the Week: Roasted Vegetables and Spinach With Pasta

Roasted Vegetables and Spinach with Pasta

1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large red onion, cut into thin wedges
3 yellow and/or green sweet peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 11-ounce can condensed tomato bisque soup
1 cup water
12 ounces dried cut ziti or rotini pasta (about 4 cups)
1 6-ounce bag prewashed baby spinach (about 8 cups)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)

1. Preheat oven to 4oo degrees. In an ungreased 9x13-inch baking dish combine eggplant, red onion, sweet peppers, and the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes until vegetables begin to brown, stirring twice.

2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat the 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add thyme, fennel seeds, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and garlic. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in tomato bisque soup. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain well and return to pan. Add tomato bisque soup mixture and roasted vegetables; toss to coat. Stir in spinach.

4. Spoon pasta mixture into the same baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Recipe found in 9x13 The Pan that Can

From My Experience: I wanted to make this recipe because I've always wanted to try eggplant. I had tried cooking it once, but it turned out terrible. Now after making this recipe I realized I just don't like eggplant. It turns a brown color when cooked and has a spongy texture that was unpleasant to me. Without the eggplant, I would have liked this recipe. If I made it again, I would use roasted broccoli or asparagus instead. In making this recipe, I used more crushed red pepper than called for, so it was spicy! And when I started fishing around in my spice basket, I realized I didn't have fennel seeds, so I just didn't use them. Use whatever cheese you have or none at all; I used parmesan cheese and I liked the crunchy texture it gave on top. My husband had the same opinion on eggplant, but I think he was also turned away since there was not meat included. I tried to sneak that past him! Meat such as chicken, ground beef, or italian sausage could easily be added although you might need a bigger casserole dish. Happy cooking!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Sour Cream Enchiladas

Sour Cream Enchiladas

8 oz. sour cream
10 3/4 oz. can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
4 oz. can green chiles, chopped
12 flour or corn tortillas
2 1/2 to 3lbs. cooked, boned, and shredded chicken
8 oz. Monterrey Jack cheese, grated
4 oz. Cheddar cheese, grated

Combine sour cream, soup, broth, and green chiles. Heat and stir until smooth and well blended. To soften tortillas, place one at a time directly into soup mixture. Lift tortillas out of soup mixture. Place 3 tablespoons of chicken and 2 to 3 tablespoons of each cheese in center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in 2-quart baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with salsa. Freezes well.

From My Experience: I was given this recipe from a friend, and I've always wanted to try it. I decided it would be a great recipe to multiply, so I ended up making several batches. To do so, I used the meat from two roasted chickens, which I had cooked and pulled the day before, and quadrupled the rest of the recipe. Consequently, I was able to make 4 possibly 5 meals. Now I will have a frozen main dish on hand when I need to bring dinner to a family or when I don't feel like cooking anything elaborate. It was an easy and fun recipe to try. I brought all my supplies into the living room, and set up on the coffee table so I could watch a movie while going through the process. I learned from making a mess, that you should keep one hand wet to handle the tortillas while keeping the other hand dry to scoop the chicken and cheese. This will make you more efficient and the process go smoother. We ate one batch that night, and they tasted awesome. My biggest critic (my husband) loved them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wurstfest 2010

Wurstfest is an annual event in New Braunfels, TX to celebrate their German heritage. Their is sausage, saurkraut, and beer galore. They have a dance hall with a polka band and offer rides and other booths like a fair, but we attend for the food and beverages!

This is our group that ventured to NB for the festival. We all go to church together and are involved in the community group. These were our first purchases.

I was excited about eating a Cheddarwurst, while Jake was just concerned with getting Spatten.

Jake ate a few things such as a Wurstentashen shown here, but mostly savored the special beers (see shirt pocket).

After eating 2 Cheddarwurst, fried pickles, some cajun potatoes, and a piece of a cinnamon, sugar-coated Belgian waffle, I indulged with a final fried oreo!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hi Aunt Brittany

Miss you Auntie! Thanks for my cute tights.

Look at me crawl!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Beef and Vegetable Stew

So the inspiration for my recipe pick was a leftover butternut squash that I did not know what to do with. In the end, I decided that I would make a beefy vegetable soup (which I have never made before) and cube the squash to put in it. Then I decided to make it a crockpot recipe so that I could fix it and forget it; it was a busy day.

Beef and Vegetable Stew

This is a good old-fashioned basic beef stew. No prebrowning is required. Toss everything in the slow cooker and 8 to 9 hours later, the stew is ready to serve.

* 6 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and cubed
* 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
* 1 onion, coarsely chopped
* 1 celery rib, chopped
* 2 pounds lean boneless beef stew meat or boneless beef cross rib roast, trimmed of fat and cut
into 1-inch cubes
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced peeled tomatoes
* 1 cup dry red wine
* 1 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* salt

1. In a 6-quart electric slow cooker, mix the potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery. Toss the beef with the flour to coat evenly. Add to the slow cooker. Top with the tomatoes and their liquid mixed with the red wine, dry mustard, thyme, and pepper.

2. Cover and cook on the high heat setting 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Reduce the heat setting to low and cook 7 to 8 hours longer, or until the beef is tender, stirring once or twice during cooking, if possible. Season with salt to taste.

From my experience: I used the butternut squash and cut potato requirement to 4. I have never cooked butternut squash this way so it was an experiment. The squash ended up getting so soft, they lost their shape and acted as a thickening agent and turned the soup an orange tint. I didn't have any red wine, so I used a couple of substitutions. I wanted to stretch this recipe a little so I added a carton of beef broth. Plus I added a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce, which I had seen used in other vegetable soup recipes; I think it could have used a little more too. I didn't use the flour either. I don't know what it was supposed to do, but I didn't think it was too important. Overall the soup was good; it tasted like beefy vegetable soup. It was nice to throw everything in one pot, and at the end of the day have a meal containing meat and veggies!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Halloween

Jake's brother Martin K and his wife Ozde were here visiting from London on Halloween so we had a photo shoot dressing Sloane up for the holiday. Here is a picture of Uncle Martin and Aunt Ozde with Sloane!

Jake and Martin both went in to give Sloane a kiss. Such a cute moment!

The family:Jake, Sloane, and me (Shae)

Sloane's official Halloween costume was a UT Longhorn cheerleader outfit. Jake thought it would be nice to try taking her pictures in her costume outside. She started to get fussy when we put her down, but the longer we took pictures, the madder she became. She was especially upset when set her down in the grass; it grew into a full-blown temper tantrum.

This was the final outfit, pajamas. This outfit was a gift from Aunt Brittany. Sloane was alot happier at this point because she had had a bath and was being entertained by her aunt and uncle. Jake and Martin K actually took her to a few houses in her Halloween pajamas. After Sloane went to sleep, the adults played games and watched Fright Night. It was a fun Halloween!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Peanut Butter Balls/Oreo Balls

We have an annual Halloween Party and I wanted to make these dessert balls this year. I have eaten them at other parties and functions, but never made them myself. It was fun and easy to make them, but took some time and patience. I am writing both recipes for the dessert balls and pictures of the process and outcome. Both made alot of servings and were a hit at the party.

Peanut Butter Balls

*2 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter
*1/2 cup butter
* 4 cups confectioners' sugar
* 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Melt peanut butter and butter in saucepan, over low heat. In a large bowl pour sugar. Then pour melted peanut butter and butter over sugar and blend together thoroughly.
2. Form 1 inch balls or smaller balls, spread on cookie sheets, and chill until firm in refrigerator (overnight is okay).
3. Melt chocolate in double boiler and keep melted while working with balls. Dip to cover and place on cookie sheet. Keep chilled until firm.

Oreo Balls

*1 package Oreo cookies, crushed (regular size)
*1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
*1 package white chocolate almond bark

1. Using a blender or food processor, mix Oreos and cream cheese together.
2. Roll into walnut size balls.
3. Chill for an hour.
4. Melt approximately 3/4 package of white almond bark.
5. Stick toothpick in an Oreo ball, and dip it in the melted white chocolate.

Optional: When Oreo balls are no longer sticky to the touch, you can decorate them by drizzling chocolate on top.

From My Experience: To melt the chocolate, I used the double boiler method as shown above. Boil water in a pot. With the chocolate inside, put a bowl on top of the pot. The steam and heat from the boiling water will melt the chocolate without burning it. This will also keep the chocolate melted while you are trying to coat the ball. Just make sure you have enough water boiling in the pot because it does evaporate in the process and could dry out if the water boils long enough. Place the dessert balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper sprayed with nonstick spray. To cool the balls faster, I stuck them in the freezer. In this process I made the balls one day, then coated them in chocolate on another day. If you decide to freeze the balls completely like I did, you will want to let them thaw a little so the chocolate will stick. I used chocolate almond bark and white chocolate almond bark for the recipes instead of chocolate chips. It seems to dry thicker and coat better. They both tasted yummy of course and made a great party dessert since they were each just a couple of bites a piece. Everyone loved them and I will definitely make them again!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Halloween Madness Chili Bake

I love Halloween! I loved dressing up as a kid and going trick-or-treating. As an adult, I still look forward to the candy but have moved passed the costumes on to the decorations and fun food. This week I wanted to make a Halloween recipe that wasn't gory or gruesome so I chose an easy chili casserole for the occassion.

Halloween Madness Chili Bake
40 minutes 6 servings

* 1 1/4 pound ground turkey
* 1 can (16 oz.) spicy chili beans in sauce, undrained
* 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (6 oz.)
* 1 can (8 oz.) refrigerated reduced fat crescent dinner rolls
* 1 tablespoon cornmeal

1. Heat oven to 375. In a skillet, cook turkey over medium-high heat 7-9 minutes, stirring frequently until no longer pink; drain if necessary. Stir in beans; heat until hot. Pour hot mixture into ungreased 11x17-inch or 8x8-inch (2 quart) glass baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese.

2. Unroll dough onto flat surface; firmly press perforations to seal. Using small Halloween-shaped cutter, cut shape out of center of dough. Place dough sheet evenly over top. Sprinkle cornmeal all over dough except on cutout area.

3. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Recipe found in Pillsbury October 2007 Halloween magazine

From My Experience:
If I am honest, I didn't do a very good job of following this recipe. I didn't have the can of chili beans so instead I used a can of chili tomatoes combined with a can of rinsed and drained kidney beans. I also added chili powder and garlic salt to my ground turkey to give it more chili flavor. Then I forgot to add the cheese! It tasted like a chili bake for sure, but my husband thought it was bland. Perhaps if I had added the cheese at least it would have tasted better. From the pictures you can see that I used a pumpkin shape cutter. This was the hardest part. It was difficult to transfer the long, flattened dough after the shapes had been cut and removed. It was so disasterous, I ended up wadding the dough up and starting over; luckily I had bought two cans of dough! To make it work, I put the flat dough on top of the casserole, then cut out the shapes. For this reason, the pumpkin shapes did not cut so sharply but you can still see the resemblance of my desired cutout.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

8 Months

Sloane is at a really fun stage right now! She is such a happy baby and keeps developing more and more personality. She still tends to laugh at noises she thinks are funny or the sight of Lily lying nearby, but now she is ticklish too. She will squirm and giggle when you tickle her. Sloane has also become very observant. She knows when you are eating and drinking and wants a sip of whatever you have in your cup. She sees the patterns on fabric or fuzz on the floor and tries to eat them. She notices jewelry and other fun accessories. She also points to things and touches objects with her index finger. Sloane has also developed a bashful side. When someone approaches her, she will shy away. She puts her hands above her head or on her hair and smiles slyly, then turns her face away; it is so cute. She hasn't made many changes in her routines or growth and movement. She isn't crawling yet, although she has got the army crawl and rolling down, and she also hasn't cut a tooth. I can see a hint of where they will be once they emerge, but so far they have not surfaced. She is still a excellent eater; I haven't found anything she doesn't like. She still LOVES her formula. And she is still a great sleeper. She is starting to figure out how to pick up and drink out of her sippy cup, and we are about to start working on Gerber Graduates. She can pick them up, but swallowing them is different for Sloane, and she is not so sure about their texture.

Here are some new things Miss Sloane can do:

*look for a dropped object
*object if you try to take a toy away
*understand "no" (but doesn't always obey it)
*feed self a cracker
*pick up tiny object with thumb and finger

Monday, October 11, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
makes two 1-pound balls

With one batch of dough, you have enough to make two large pizza shells or eight individual ones.

*1 1/2 cups warm water (115) water
packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
*1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
*2 tablespoons sugar
*2 teaspoons coarse salt
*2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for kneading
*2 cups whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)

1. Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Brush another large bowl with oil.

2. In a bowl with yeast, whisk sugar, oil, and salt. Stir in flours with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Transfer to oiled bowl; brush top of dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm spot until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead until smooth, about 15 seconds; divide into two balls.

To freeze 1-pound balls: Set balls on a plate (they should not touch); freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Then freeze in a freezer bag up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator.

To freeze individual shells: Divide each ball of dough into 4-pieces. Using your hands, stretch each piece into a 5-inch disk (if dough becomes too elastic to work with, let rest a few minutes). Freeze shells on two parchment-lined baking sheets. Stack frozen shells between layers of parchment paper. Freeze in a freezer bag up to 3 months. Bake from frozen.

To bake preheat oven to 450. Spray your pizza pan with non-stick spray. After dough ball is thawed, stretch the dough to form your crust. If the dough isn't stretching to the length desired, let it sit to rest then try working with the dough again. Once the crust shape is formed, poke it with a fork several times. It tastes good if you rub olive oil and sprinkle garlic salt on the edge of the crust. Bake until crust is golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Recipe found in 2009 January/February edition of Everyday Food magazine

From My Experience: Pizza is sadly my favorite food, but it is not a very healthy choice. For this reason, this recipe for whole-wheat pizza dough was intrigueing to me. I tried this recipe with my friend who is a chef. We made 8 batches so that we could save some pizza dough for a pizza party later on. If you are going to make homeade pizza dough, you might as well double the recipe so you have it on hand for a quicker pizza in the future. I made two pizzas to eat that night and a calzone, then we froze the rest in balls. The pizzas came out pretty good. One of the pizzas had a thinner crust and I liked it better because it didn't have such a strong wheat flavor. This recipe made me feel less guilty about eating pizza so I will probably make it again; I love pizza!

Happy Birthday Nana Sue!