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!