Sunday, December 21, 2008

Naptime...or not

Yesterday, Grant had the chance to lie down next to Marissa for a little nap. Sounds fun, right? Cuddling with your sweet child, both drifting off into restful slumber?
Well, Marissa decided that wasn't what she had in mind.

In her words: "Daddy, you need to sleep with your wife."

Unfortunately, I wasn't napping at the time, so that just wasn't an option. Poor Grant had to rest by himself.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fudge Puddles





If you haven't had enough sweets yet, here's another one! I made these little goodies for a cookie exchange a couple of weeks ago and they were a big hit. Personally, I decided I prefer the Peanut Butter Cup Cookies, but these are still worth the effort and are delicious. You just can't go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter!

Note: The original recipe can be found here, but this is how I made them, based on other reviews. This should have produced 96 cookies....I ended up with 77. I guess some of them were too big??? Well, I thought the bigger ones came out of the pan easier, so it worked out for me just fine. If I HAD ended up with 96 cookies, I wouldn't have had nearly enough filling, because I had about 4 cookies without some as it was. SO, if you make small cookies and have more than 70, I would say increase the filling amount or just be happy with some plain peanut butter cookies!
Recipe:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (some whole wheat substituted is fine)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Filling:2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk-chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups pecan halves (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
Cream butter, peanut butter and white and brown sugars. Mix in eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir the flour mixture into creamed mixture. Shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Place each ball in one compartment of a mini muffin tin.
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and immediately make wells in the center of each using a melon baller or a tablespoon. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then carefully remove to wire racks.

For filling, melt the chocolate chips with the condensed milk in the microwave and stir until smooth. Add vanilla. Take a ziplock bag and spoon in some filling. Snip off one corner (not tiny like drizzling, but fairly large) and squeeze chocolate into the cookies. Top with a pecan half if desired.


Rare proof of me in the kitchen. Rare because I'm the main photographer around here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Annika the Laugher

This is Annika's new thing....covering her mouth with her hands and laughing, sometimes fake laughing. She's a funny girl!

video

Taken Dec. 6, 2008.

video

This is What We Do At the Table....

For your viewing pleasure:

video

Taken on Dec. 5, 2008.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Toffee (made easy)

Welcome to the newest addition of my "gain as much weight as possible over the holidays" theme going on here!

Last year I slaved over the hot stovetop for over an hour making English Toffee, and after all that, the result was rather disappointing. The taste was good, but the texture was less than desirable, in my opinion, and I was too embarrassed to give it away as intended.

This is NOT that recipe! This is so much easier, and while not authentically "toffee", it is amazing and addicting and is sure to add a couple of pounds to your hips. And it's totally worth it. (Grant would not agree, by the way. He's not the biggest fan of toffee in any shape or form. Despite the chocolate, he doesn't even care to eat this stuff. Just keepin' it real, here.)
I got the original idea from Allrecipes and made it as written last year, but this year I made some improvements. I think this is a Christmas candy/cookie staple and WILL make it every year.

Recipe:

1 1/2 sleeves saltine crackers (about 6 oz)
1 1/2 cups butter (Yes, that is 3 sticks. I told you this would add the pounds. I really can't remember for sure, but I think I only used 2 1/2 sticks.)
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1-1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts (or pecans)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Line a 10 x 15 inch pan (with sides) with foil and spray generously with non-stick spray.
Arrange crackers in a single layer on the pan.
Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil over medium heat (takes awhile, be patient). Stir frequently, and don't worry if the mixture separates. It will come back together.
Boil for 3 minutes. Pour evenly over the crackers. Be careful; it's extremely hot and sticky.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 7 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Wait a few minutes for them to melt, then spread evenly with the back of a spoon. While still hot, spread finely chopped walnuts over the top. Chill until completely set. Break or cut into desired size pieces. Does not have to be refrigerated, but will stay fresh longer if it is.


This is one of the plates of cookies we distributed to our neighbors.

The kids loved helping arranged the crackers.

Happy little helpers!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cranberry Coconut Bars

I have been drooling over this recipe from my Taste of Home Cookies cookbook for over a year now and finally made it for my MOPS group. It was the perfect occasion to try it, since it contains several ingredients that Grant doesn't care for much. Plus, it's festive looking for Christmas-time. I think it's a real winner.....and apparently others agreed, as I received numerous recipe requests.



Recipe:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (14 0z) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups dried sweetened cranberries
1 cup flaked (sweetened) coconut
1 cup pecans (original recipe said to use halves.....I prefer chopped for more even distribution)

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs and butter well; press into a greased 13 x 9" pan.
Gently stir other ingredients together and carefully spread over crust.
Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned.
Cool on a wire rack before cutting and eating.

That's it! Could it be any easier? Now if only it was low-fat..........


Friday, December 5, 2008

Pumpkin Roll Cake

This is another Thanksgiving dessert favorite around here, although it's easy and yummy enough to make year round. I ended up making two of these over a period of four days.....because you don't even use half a can of pumpkin for one cake and I hated to waste the extras.....and the first one went WAY too fast anyways. We needed another one. "Needed" being a relative term here.

One important thing to know about making roll cakes is to use a towel or napkin that doesn't have fuzzies. I've made that mistake before and ended up with not-so-nice little chunks of fuzz stuck to my cake. This time I used a 100% polyester napkin, coated generously with powdered sugar, and it worked GREAT. Linen would work just as well.

Recipe:

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs on high for 5 minutes. Gradually beat in white sugar until thick and lemon-colored. Add pumpkin and lemon juice.
In another bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg (and cloves and ginger if using....I recommend it); fold into the pumpkin mixture.
Grease a 15x10x1 inch baking pan; line with waxed paper. Grease and flour the paper. Spread batter into pan.
Bake at 350 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
Immediately turn out onto a linen towel dusted with confectioners' sugar. Peel off paper and roll cake up in the towel, starting with the short end. Cool.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla until fluffy. Carefully unroll the cake. Spread filling over cake, almost to the edges. Sprinkle with nuts if desired. (Again, I highly recommend them, but if you have nut-dislikers in your family like I do, it's fine without.) Roll up again. Cover and chill until serving. Dust with additional confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Apparently these freeze really well....although I can't say I've tried it. We'd rather just eat them as soon as possible.


Obviously I didn't take the time to coat it evenly with powdered sugar....we were in too great a rush to eat it. But you get the idea.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Caramel Pecan Pie

This is my new traditional Thanksgiving pie. My sister and I made one two years ago with walnuts (delicious), I made one last year for Christmas with pecans, and decided to use pecans again this year.
I adore pecan pie. I always have. Growing up, my grandma always made them at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and only then. I looked forward to them all year. And in my family, pecan pie is not topped with a dollop, but a mountain of sweetened whipped cream. Ummmmm.
I was doubtful that anything could replace that original pecan pie. But this pretty much has. And plus, Grant likes it, which is more than I can say for the original.
Don't do what I did and make your own pie crust with oil instead of shortening.....I had to try it because it's healthier and it had great reviews on Allrecipes, but it did NOT turn out well for me.

Recipe

1 9" unbaked pie crust
36 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped, OR an 11 oz bag of Kraft caramel bits
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan over low heat, combine caramels, butter and milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Gradually mix in the melted caramel mixture. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into unbaked pie crust.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown. Allow to cool until filling is firm. ( I actually had to bake mine a bit longer....it was very jiggly at 50 minutes)
--------------------------------------------------------------------
If you've never baked pecan pies before, it can be hard to tell when they're done. Basically, they puff up while in the oven and settle back down when they cool.....and it's best to take them out while they still have a tiny bit of jiggle, but not much. You don't want a soupy pie, but you don't want it as hard as a rock either. I know, I'm very helpful. What can I say, I've only made four pecan pies in my life, so I'm no expert. But all of mine have turned out wonderfully, except for my lousy oil crust.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All I want for Christmas is a Wusthof knife.....

Wanna see my early Christmas gift from Grant's parents?

What you are looking at are the 7" and 5" Wusthof Santoku (Asian-style) knives.

Okay, so that's just a stock photo....but you get the idea. I had been seeing knives like this on the Food Network for awhile and thought they would be the perfect addition to my kitchen....but I hadn't mentioned them in quite some time. My father-in-law, however, came with a mission and launched right into his search for the best deal on these knives soon after arriving here.

Before I knew it, I had both these beauties in my possession, along with a J. A. Henckels 6-inch chef's knive and a carving knife with fork to complete our collection. Oh, and a new knife block to hold the larger family. WOW!

It was a fabulous gift and will last for many years......and can I just say, I love those knives?

As soon as I started chopping with one, I knew I had fallen in love. They're magnificent. I never knew I would like chopping so much! Now I'm just looking for an excuse to slice up an onion or mince pecans or whatever.....it's so easy and FUN!!!

And it's not just me......mom-in-law was so thrilled with her experience with the 5" Santoku that they ended up buying the last one from Bed Bath and Beyond for themselves!

If you ever get the chance to try one out, do it. Only your wallet will regret it.


Monday, December 1, 2008

The past 2 weeks.....

I've been neglecting my poor little blog, sorry about that. Time has just slipped away from me and I delayed posting when I didn't have the pictures uploaded that I wanted, all that stuff. So here we are with an update of the past two weeks' activities.
Grant's parents arrived on November 18, very late at night. Actually, it was the 19th very early, but I digress. The kids were delighted to see their grandparents and made friends again immediately. There were special gifts as well.......the girls' gifts had been shipped to us early, but shopping had to be done for Corban's gift, so Friday morning was the big day. The girls received rocking horses, the cutest little things that make hoof noises and neigh while moving their heads and tails when you press their ears. Marissa found them particularly exciting....and Annika warmed up to them quickly, even distinguishing which one was hers and being quite possessive of it.


Marissa named her rocking horse Dancer, after Grandma's childhood horse.


Annika is checking out Marissa's horse.


Annika's horse is named Prancer.....just because it rhymed.

Corban received a Razor Scooter....which was something he had been desiring for awhile.


He's already been attempting, and succeeding, at wheelies. (not in this photo, I just thought I'd mention his ability.)


Also on Friday, we had a big first for the whole family. We went Bowling! Actually, Grant and I had a bowling date a few weeks ago that was OUR first time together....but this was the kids' first time in a bowling alley. We went to this really cute alley at Fort Monroe and were the only customers there. Worked out GREAT!

The kids had their own lane and used bumpers. Corban got a score of 72, Marissa 55. Not too bad, considering how small they are! You should have heard the shrieks and seen the dances of little Marissa when she'd get even one pin....and yes, you can completely miss everything even with the bumpers up.

This is serious business.




The lightest ball they had was 6 lbs...requires a lot of effort from a 33 lb girl!



Also in the past 2 weeks, we've had lots of shoulder rides......


And kids bundled up to go outside and play.

Then of course was Thanksgiving........and Uncle Eric came to visit for a couple of days. The kids always look forward to playing with him.....he's the energetic, playful, adoring uncle that any child would be thrilled to have around.


Here he's enjoying seeing the pictures of Grant's chin incident for the first time.

And he made sure to play Candyland with the kids not once, but twice.


Grant got to carve the lovely turkey Grandma baked.

The day after Thanksgiving, we put up the Christmas tree. Annika wasn't quite sure what to think of the whole thing!



Grandma and Grandpa with the kids.......very happy family.

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