Tuesday, December 29, 2009
My husband prefers to avoid simple carbohydrates in general, and baked goods specifically, so cinnamon rolls are something I would not normally put on the menu around here. As such, I’ve been eyeing this particular recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks with apprehension. There simply is NO good time to make it in our house, from a dietary perspective! That being said, I’m working my way through the cookbook, trying to make each item by June 2010, so I decided to just get it over with during the holidays when suspect dietary choices are encouraged! :)
It’s funny that I have made many breads, puff pastry, and tons of other so-called fancy foods, but never the humble cinnamon roll. I’ve tried Cinnabon at an airport and have to admit I really didn’t think it was worth the fuss. There was too much bread to it, and the icing tasted like sugar and nothing else. All in all, I chalked cinnamon rolls in the category of foods that sound better than they are in reality.
I can find NOTHING to complain about in the finished product with this recipe. It’s really very easy to make! The filling is gooey and satisfying, and the glaze/frosting is still mostly sugar, but with a couple of additions that make it sublime.
I made a half recipe, and while that’s sometimes tricky with baking--the chemistry of the culinary world--this recipe divides in halves so evenly that it works. Plus, then I had less rolls to force my daughter to take around the neighborhood and get them OUT of my house! I like to do that: make foods of dubious nutritional value, then pawn them off on other, skinnier people. Win-win for me, ha!
I see making these to share at a swim meet, or to bring to a pot luck style event earlier in the day, or baking them in disposable pie tins and giving batches away as gifts. What I am saying is, these are best shared. Then let the accolades pile up, because they are that good! You can find the recipe and photos instructing their preparation HERE.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I barely had any time to think about Christmas this year, but it still happened! We never got around to making a gingerbread house—Trader Joe’s didn’t stock the kits this year, and I simply never got around to going out to find one elsewhere. Oh well, it’ll just make next year’s all the more special, right? Right? ;)
However we did do plenty.
Along with our traditional chocolate advent calendars, I found one that featured a favorite ‘new classic’ story—Olive the Other Reindeer. I found it way back last January and tucked it away… and am amazed I remembered about it! Hey, some days I feel like giving myself a high-five for simply keeping all the kids fed, reasonably clean, and at the places they should be more or less when they should be there, so yes, I am amazed I remembered the little calendar I stuck in a rarely opened drawer 11.5 months ago! Go me! :)
Everyday a new element is revealed and placed in or around Santa’s Castle. The details are wonderful, with roofs flipping open to show the interior of the house, stables, workshop…
This reindeer cracks me up, hanging out with his cocoa. For some reason he reminds me of less wholesome bar patrons huddled outside with their smokes… The kids all arrange and rearrange the scene multiple times a day. Bunny likes to set a wide, grand tableaux… while Carter prefers to jam all the pieces inside the buildings, and Cole upsets them both by swatting whatever he can reach onto the floor.
Who knew Santa had a helipad? That guy has everything!
This advent calendar is not reusable, but at $10 it is a really fun way to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas. You can see the info and buy it for next year, if you so desire, HERE.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
In all my nearly 37 (!!) years, I can’t believe I have never made egg-in-the-hole, or as I like to imagine in my head with a very strong Cockney accent, “Toad-in-the-‘ole'.” On Christmas Eve it was time to change that! I’m working my way through The Pioneer Woman Cooks and hope to try every recipe in the book by June 2010, so I knew where to turn for a breakfast idea.
Now, being Christmas Eve, and me being me, there was still plenty of wrapping and prepping to be done, so Egg-in-the-Hole seemed like a perfect choice because of its simplicity. Ree has posted the recipe on her site HERE, along with many, many photos that make this nearly foolproof recipe completely foolproof, assuming you can crack an egg!
I daresay we have a winner, yet again!
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Carter loves birds, so we put up this bird feeder for his 'bird friends'. He'd love a pet bird in a cage, and I have nothing in theory against this, except we already have a cat--a cat who has proven to be an able bird hunter!
Anyway, we all really enjoy watching robins, wrens, and finches come to feed by this window. For Otis it's very exciting, albeit FRUSTRATING. He stalks them as best he can, and eventually ends up with his paws and nose fairly pressed against the window, all for naught. Poor kitty.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Every year each child gets their own ornament to add to the tree, and when they’re grown and in their own home, these will be the beginnings of their own collection of ornaments. I hope they’ll cherish them as much as I do—eventually.
Carter and Bunny are old enough to choose their own ornaments, and I chose one for Cole, perhaps for the last time. Additionally, Carter made a few at school. I just love the ones made by small children. I remember my own handmade ones as a kid, and wish I had them to add to the mix, especially the clothespin reindeer we made in Brownies one year…
Here is Bunny’s choice.
She agonized for a long time, trying to choose between this ‘bright eyed kitten’ and another similar one that was in a different position, pointing out the various things she liked about both—Santa hat v. ball of yarn; blue eyes v. green… oh the torture! I know a couple of moms who would have said to get both, but to me the point is that they choose their ONE that ultimately represents them at that point in time.
Carter chose this plump guy.
It’s plastic, and not by accident. He first was drawn to a very large glass ball that was flocked with seasonal words (merry, etc.) and dropped it. After we cleaned the mess a bit and called a Target associate over to let them know to sweep, Carter said he wanted one that wouldn’t break. He chose this all on his own, though.
Cole had no clue about ornaments when we went, as he surely does not remember last year’s tree, so I got to choose for him. :) I liked this simple, colorful one.
I still need to take a photo of the pipe cleaner candy cane Carter made at school, but did snap a couple of the pine cones, which I adore!
So simple, and sweet. Our tree is full to bursting with unique ornaments, and I imagine in a couple-few years a smaller auxiliary tree will be necessary! Maybe a table top one for the kids? At any rate, I love how ‘all over the place’ our tree is!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Today we arrived home from the park to this on the doorstep: a box of homemade sweets and two jars of Sonja's wonderful strawberry jam. I could eat that jam with a spoon, it is so good!
I suppose I will share the jam, but the coconut truffles are all MINE. :)
Monday, December 21, 2009
Last week a very special visitor came to Carter's preschool! Carter is anxious about new people, and has specifically told me he's 'kind of shy around Santa Claus'... so when The Missus came in, my middle child literally crawled under a play structure and watched her with suspicion.
I didn't think he'd get anywhere near her, but greed won out. He really wants the Star Wars trilogy (the one I think of as THE trilogy), and summoned the courage to sit on her lap and ask that she relay that to her husband. Then he got the HECK off that weird lady's lap. :)
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday was an odd day. The kids and I had been sick for what seemed like half our lives, and we were all ready to get up and go... in spirit, but not so much in body. I woke at 6:15 as more or less usual, but instead of hovering over the coffee pot, emptying the dishwasher, getting breakfast going... I snuggled on the sofa with Cole and then also Bunny. 6:45 rolled on by, as did 6:55. Generally Bunny has finished eating by then, and is already in the shower, but there we three were, watching something on Sprout.
7:00. "Hungee! Mama, hungee, hungee!"
Cole was in my face saying that. Alrighty! Up. Not at 'em, but up.
Later that morning after Bunny was at school, I was folding laundry on the floor when Carter comes up to me to report his brother had once again decided to try out pooping on the floor (phase, please let this be a SHORT phase...). I swooped Cole into a bubbly tub and just as I was about to wash his hair the phone rings.
Mrs. Parker from Bun's school is on the line, asking if I can bring Bunny some shoes. Now, I have said many times I was pretty dang tired that morning, but I am certain she was shod! Wore pants, too, I just *know* it. I'm a details person like that. But no, a strap on her shoe gave out, and I had about an hour until recess, which would be a great time for her to head to the office to get some shoes that actually remain on her feet.
So, I wrestle Cole out of the tub -- he is warm and happy, and hey, no diaper! He was happy in there, and didn't want me messing with his bubbly good times.
Fast forward past UNfolded laundry scattered around the living room by our resident Nobody, a shoe delivery, errands, a lost balloon, and the blurring details of daily life, and we all found ourselves staring at size 2 girls shoes. Bun had busted the strap on her only pair of sneakers, and the ones she has to grow into are still too big. Surprisingly she chose these beauties, which are her first pair with laces.
I know. She's 7. Going on 8! And lemme tell you, you want to randomly decide she has to learn something like how to tie laces when she has no desire to know how on her part, well, you BE MY GUEST. I figured she would not die an old lady wearing Sketchers Z-Straps no matter how lax I was on this front.
Whaddaya know, once she wanted to learn, she got it in about 5 minutes. Sure, it's still tricky, but she'll be a pro soon.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Last Thursday I tried a new recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I’m trying to fit in at least two recipes a week with the goal of trying every one of her recipes (in the book, not her site!) by June 2010.
Simple, Perfect Chili is well named. I fought every ‘mess with this recipe’ instinct and made it as Ree wrote it, adding only the can of diced tomatoes with chilies (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted tomatoes) and a can of kidney beans, which were listed as optional additional ingredients. I did not, however have masa, and really didn’t want to buy a bag of it just to make this recipe, so I allowed the chili to cook down more instead of thickening it.
The verdict: it is a tasty chili! Paul and I agreed we like ‘my’ recipe more, but I can see this, made without the tomatoes or beans, as a killer ‘topping’ chili for hot dogs. And, to quote Paul, “If you can’t cook, like my Aunt Tony, then this recipe is a great improvement.” I think he means, if one is lacking a good chili recipe, this a great one to use.
Chili is personal. There are a thousand and one ways to make it well. PW’s way is good. Another thumbs up!
Since this recipe is not on her site, I am thinking she only wants it in the book, as it is something she is selling. Sorry for the lack of a recipe – if you want it, I’d be happy to email it to you.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Another Monday, another menu. :)
This week I’m trying two recipes from The Pioneer Woman Cooks for Sunday dinner. The soup in particular sounds really tasty!
Monday: Roasted Sausages with Tomatoes and Onions
Tuesday: Undone Cabbage Roll Skillet
Wednesday: Salmon, acorn squash, veg TBD
Thursday: Belgian Beef and Beer Stew w/rolls
Friday: Kebabs (but I am using beef instead of lamb)
Saturday: leftovers or take out burritos (swim meet that day)
Sunday: Sherried Tomato Soup, Spicy Shredded Pork – PW recipes of the week
Friday, December 04, 2009
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I have a pretty great enchilada recipe. I love it, the kids (who eat food) love it, and my husband complains to me about how good it is, because that makes him forgo his carb avoiding ways because they’re just too good to resist.
PW has an enchilada recipe in her book. Thankfully for me, it is a beef recipe, and ‘my’ enchiladas are chicken. It’s always nice to add to the simple recipe reservoir, so I decided to try out her way this week.
You can find the recipe and oodles of beautiful photos HERE.
Preparing this recipe was easy-peasy. I dropped off my daughter at swim practice (three minutes late because I was so tired I made a very costly wrong turn on the way there), dashed home, prepared the sauce and meat, then let it all hang out while I returned to pick her up, finally assembling the enchiladas and putting them in the oven when we got home again (after I put away my mom’s-gypsy-taxi-uniform).
Since the sauce and meat had cooled off a bit, warming in the oven took a little longer, but the extra time was worth it. As luck would have it, my youngest waddled up to me and said, “I stinky!” right as I was serving dinner, so I was not there for the first bite verdict from Bun and my husband. However, I heard their groans of delight from down the hall. It was declared another ‘keeper’.
I can totally see making both the beef and chicken versions for a casual dinner with friends with homemade refried beans and some rice… and maybe that Sangria!
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
I planned my menu yesterday, but didn’t get a chance to sit down and write it up. Anyway, today is my new grocery day, as it’s been working well to drop Carter off at school and then for Cole and me to go directly to the store… one less child to amuse during the trip, and Cole enjoys the outing—plus he gets to eat a banana and try whatever they’re serving in the demo part at Trader Joes. So, I do plan the menu on Monday to be ready on Tuesday. Make sense? ;)
Monday: split pea soup with leftover ham & bone
Tuesday: beef enchiladas from Pioneer Woman Cooks
Wednesday: salmon, asparagus, butternut squash
Thursday: Pioneer Woman’s simple chili
Friday: Cobb salad
Saturday: maybe out to celebrate Bunny participating in the Christmas parade (I’m still working on figuring out how she can ride with both groups she’s in that are in the parade).
Sunday: probably leftovers
Saturday, November 28, 2009
One of my favorite blogs is SouleMama. Though I have to imagine it’s often far from the case in her home, her blog resonates a serenity I crave many days with my three and the comings and goings and nonstop noise-noise-noise of it all. So, nearly every morning I spend a moment with my coffee and Amanda Soule, enjoying her projects, marveling at how she manages to do so much, and laughing my butt off at the thought of me trying to do about 20% as much in any given day or night. I have periodically wished I was the sort of person who could stay up late in the nights creating this or that, driven by a fever to complete a project, but… I seem to enjoy sleep a little more than that.
However, there is one idea I have incorporated into our home. She calls it their Nature Table, a place where the odd pine cone, shell, rock, etc. finds its way inside to be enjoyed. We refer to the idea as “Collecting.” Over the summer beautiful shells greeted us as we entered the house and both the older kids really enjoyed contributing their new finds. Most everyone enjoys beach combing, but it seemed to add something, taking the time to really admire a shape or the mother of pearl inside an otherwise unremarkable shell.
Now that fall is firmly upon us, we’re on the look for what Mother Nature gives as her finale to the growing season. And there is so much! Lemme tell you, that old broad can really bring down the house, so to speak!
By the library we’ve found magnolia seed pods with bright red seeds peeking out and branches with red and orange leaves and seed pods. At the park we discovered the pepper berries, which are both spicy smelling and a surprising red against the yellow leaves.
We also found long seed pods that curved and curled, rough and knobbly bark, and maple seeds, which can fly like helicopters…. and of course all the leaves! The kids have delighted in creating the display, which changes almost as often as they walk by it.
Often we’re so overwhelmed by all that we must do every given day. It’s been a great treat to slow down, look around, and really take in and appreciate everything around us, and to watch change as it happens.
I’m not sure how we’ll collect winter, as puddles are hard to capture. However, something tells me, with open eyes and a bit of patience, we’ll do a fine job of it.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
There is no way to compose this post entirely using words beginning with 'p'.
However, this pie? Poifect!!
Every year I face the same quandary. Pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or cheesecake? Nevermore. This one has it all. Check out www.bakerella.com, because if you're not reading her, you SHOULD be, and also because the recipe for this pie is there. I will post the photo of a cut slice tomorrow. The textures all combine and work amazingly, and I will go to my grave proclaiming this the king of all Thanksgiving pies. Until I find a new favorite.. and I'm pretty fickle, so pie, enjoy your time in the sun...
Oh, and I have had 2 glasses of wine. Fair dinkum.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Along with about a bajillion others, I bought Ree Drummond’s cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, named after the cooking portion of her website—on preorder, even. Her style is casual, yet she makes everything look delectable while also completely doable for the average home cook.
I decided it might be fun to ‘cook the book’—to try out each recipe in the book—though it might take me a while, as there are, to my quick and distracted by three kids home the day before Thanksgiving count, 62 recipes. Some are sides, one is sangria… might take at least until May 5 to find reason for that last one. :)
Anyway, last night I made my first recipe from the book: meatloaf (pp 150-151). And it was a definite success! I had to alter it a bit, as I felt totally wrapping the meatloaf in bacon was a little too rich. Ree may have a house full of cattle ranchers working cows all day, but we don’t! So I used half slices just along the top, and I also cut down the bread and milk to 2/3 of what was called for, to not be over the top carby, in semi-respect for my husband’s dietary preferences.
The meatloaf was moist and simple to assemble. I’ve never been a huge fan of tomato sauce on meatloaf, but this worked out wonderfully, too. I dropped off my daughter at swim, came home, assembled and put the meatloaf in the oven, and when I returned home… oh MAN, the fragrance greeting me as I opened the door was drool worthy.
Paul said this should be our new meatloaf recipe, and declared it a keeper. I agree. 1 down, 61 to go. :)
Edit: This just in! Pioneer Woman has shared her recipe for this awesome meatloaf. Find it HERE. Yay.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Talk about your easy variation on something simple, that results in delight for children: cookie--on a stick! These were ridiculously quick and uncomplicated. If you can bake a cookie, you can make a cookie pop, as long as you have the sticks.
These used the larger size that were already lying around, left over from The Great Cupcake Pop Spree of March Ought-9, and I used a packaged cookie mix--the entire stick of butter called for makes 'em taste homemade, but without any fuss, which makes it also a reasonable "I wanna help" project with small kids. The only adjustment I made to baking was to set the oven down to 365 instead of 375, because either my oven runs hot or my dark pan browns cookies too quickly. After they cooled, each little guy was tucked into its own little cellophane bag... presto, cookie pops!
Kids love treats that have wrappers and sticks. You can embroider that on a pillow, I promise. It's just the truth.
Monday, November 23, 2009
This week, of course, has Thanksgiving on Thursday. We plan a little bit of a special meal here, and we’ll enjoy it among us 5, but it’s not a ‘going crazy’ meal this year. We don’t like turkey, so we're having ham—I know, how DARE we! Well, we really don’t like turkey, so there!
Anyway, here is the plan, Stan.
Monday: roast chicken
Tuesday: meatloaf (trying out Pioneer Woman’s recipe from book)
Wednesday: enchiladas w left over chicken (then going to PIE PARTY!)
Thursday: ham, fauxtatoes, asparagus w/hollandaise
Saturday: split pea soup with leftover ham
Sunday: Pioneer Woman pot roast
I also decided to work my way through as many of the PW recipes in her book as I can, to ‘cook the book’ as it were. So, this week an extra will be her cinnamon rolls, which is Bunny’s request. I’ll be writing up these PW recipes along the way. :)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Today Carter is having his first school photo taken. It’s not really an official school portrait (no wagon wheel or cheesy background), but still, it is his first photo at school.
This morning we chatted a bit about how much I’d appreciate him smiling. He does not ‘like’ to smile for photos. He likes to make what we call the ‘monkey boy’ face.
Here is hoping they get one nice photo. And not only ones like this:
I have a lot of these. Let’s hope for something a little more conventional. :)
Friday, November 13, 2009
Mama, I brought you something!
I was hanging my bag and Cole’s jacket as Carter jammed his little hand into his jeans pocket.
Oh no! Your flowers…
Tears began to fill his eyes as he let two crumpled dandelions drop to the floor. I quickly picked them up and sniffed them.
Are these for me? Oh honey, you are so sweet to always think of me. I love you so much!
I kissed his freckles, we hugged, and Carter beamed. Cole swept around behind Carter to create the perfect ‘sandwich hug.’ All was well.
Monday, November 09, 2009
This year I had to make up for it, though Carter actually kinda dug the idea of a rock cake. :)
He's really into the movie Peter Pan nowadays, especially 'Captain Hookhand,' so I decided to try my hand at a pirate ship. Really, all the boy cares about is that his cake is chocolate, but I have to play too, ya know! I found instructions for a cake that was both cute and doable all of 44 hours before the party was scheduled to begin. I like to plan ahead, you know...
Last spring my friend Laura gave me the coolest cupcake book, Hello Cupcake! In it are so many wonderful ideas and very helpful instructions, I may well spend the rest of my adult life trying to come up with reasons to try every design. Since not every child would want chocolate cake, I rationalized that as an excuse to also make vanilla cupcakes--with sharks on them!
Armed with a crazy list of treats I never-ever-ever buy (Twinkies??), I collected everything to make both, and baked the cake layers the day before the party so as to not repeat the 'cake won't cool quickly enough to decorate in time for the party' debacle of 2008.
Then it was simply a matter of putting all the components together in a way that would hopefully look nice.
With the book very close at hand, and a strong coffee to keep my mind defuzzed, I started to cut off pieces of Twinkie. By the way, Twinkies suck! I popped a little piece of an end into my mouth and... ewwwwww. It didn't taste at all like cake or whipped cream. I always cringed when my mom claimed this or that tasted like chemicals when I was a kid, but these just tasted like unpronounceable preservatives. Blech. However, they did work well for this, and a Twinkie every year or less probably has never killed anyone. (As far as I know.)
The Twinksters were then glued onto the tops of cupcakes. Is it just me, or could these also be the start of some really morbid Titanic sinking commemoration party treats? Huh, huh?
Then I cut little slits into the cakish yellow things, and inserted some lemon waffle cookies that were trimmed a bit into the slits to make a dorsal fin shape. The book said to use a different kind of cookie that I could NOT find without going to a second store, and probably not finding them there either, so these had to do. And they were fine. If I had not bought these, I would have gotten yet another thing I never buy, Oreos, and "unscrewed" them to use just the cookie part. After this step, they were put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or however long it took me to dash around tidying up and ordering the kids to NOT MAKE ANY MORE MESSES (so probably closer to 30 minutes).
I used ordinary icing from a can tinted gray and heated in the microwave until kind of like melted chocolate, and dipped the shark part of the cupcakes into that to coat it, then added a few details to transform the sad Titanics into...
SHARK ATTACK CUPCAKES! Perfect for aquarium parties, people afraid to swim in the ocean... so many uses! By the way, true story: the first movie my parents ever took me to was Jaws. I was three. This explains so much, no?
The pirate cake was really a lot more straightforward to assemble and decorate than it appears. The cake layers were cut into half circles and laid all in a row with the rounded sides down, and bunches of different premade treats were used in pretty neat ways to fashion cannon balls, cannons, and railing. Bunny and I made the sails with construction paper and skewers, and the pirate is part of one of Carter's toy sets. I was extra fancy and washed the toy before using it... Party Guests, you're welcome for that. :)
As much fun as it was to make, the real payoff was that Carter was delighted, and it tasted good, too.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Sunday, November 01, 2009
I wanted to make some special cupcakes to take to the pumpkin carving party at Christ's house this year. It was on the same day as Carter's birthday, and of course, you have to have cake on your birthday!
In a perfect world, I'd have found time to make the cupcakes he's been eyeing for months. But in the real world -- the one where I have been chasing tail all week -- I had to settle for these. I made 'em, but from a mix. I decorated 'em, but with store bought picks.
In the end, Carter had a blast. He got cake. And he gets MORE next weekend when his party is held. Now, for me to figure out what kind I will make that day, and to find time to decorate it in a manner more befitting the world's most wonderful little four year old stinker... but, really, as long as there is chocolate involved, I know he'll like that, too.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Four years ago you looked like this. Such a perfect little bundle of sweetness to come into our lives. We learned once again that the heart expands infinitely to accommodate more love, and that sleep is overrated.
For the record, you still look just like this when you sleep.
We love you so much and are so proud of you.