Saturday, March 31, 2012

Family Update: March Edition

March has been a busy month for us - but then, I can't really think of a non-busy month. 

Corban won 2nd place in the Pinewood Derby at our church.  He was super excited, as this is his 4th year participating and the first time he won a trophy for speed.  (last year he won first place for workmanship). 

Corban with the 3rd-5th grade boys he raced against. 

This was the birthday card Corban made for grandma - I thought it was so cute, I had to take a picture of it so we could remember it.

 Ellia has some of the cutest expressions - even when she has pie on her face.  She was "helping" me with taking photos of our Mixed Berry Pie that we had for Pi Day. 

I finally got Miranda in for her (4 month) check up last week (she's 5-1/2 months old) and
she was 27-1/2 inches long (off the charts) and 17.1 lbs. (90th percentile).
She's a big girl!  She has the most delightful little chubs!  She's very strong and can even sit unsupported for awhile, but you do have to watch her because she can topple over in the blink of an eye.

 LOVE this baby!!

With the nice weather and opportunities for playing outside, Annika has mastered riding her bike with no training wheels!  She is still working on turning corners without putting her feet down, but she's made huge progress and is so proud of herself. 

Marissa lost her second tooth, just in the nick of time because that permanent one has been coming in really fast.

She and Annika had their last ballet class, which they loved.  Marissa can't wait for us to sign her up for classes again, but we're taking off for the rest of the spring because the three older kids have just started soccer. 
We got to visit the zoo with our best friends and had such a great time.  I am super thankful for our double jogging stroller, which makes toting around a toddler and an infant a breeze.
It sure is a pain to fold up and get into the van, though.  You should have seen me fighting with it in the parking lot as we were trying to leave - somehow I forgot how to get it to fit and wasn't pretty for a few minutes there.

All of the kiddos (minus Miranda) of our two families - combined we have 11 children! 

Marissa, Ellia, and Annika

Annika and Marissa with Essie - Friends Forever! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

I adore lemon flavored treats.

Lemon pie, lemon bars, lemon cake, lemonade - I mean, what's not to like?
(according to Grant, there's no chocolate, that's what's not to like.)

So recently I stocked up on a few lemons and made lemon muffins.  As much as I desperately wanted to like the recipe the first go-around, they were too dry and dense for me.  I altered the recipe a bit, adding more oil, (coconut oil is so good for you, I refuse to feel guilty about it!) less sugar, a lower baking temperature, and of course, using mostly freshly ground whole wheat flour.

The result the second time?  A delightfully wonderful, tender muffin bursting with flavor, nearly like a cupcake really.
Even Grant thought they were delicious.
And that's saying something from Mr. Chocolate.

Recipe: (adapted from This Chick Cooks)
Yield: 18 muffins

1/2 cup oil (I used melted coconut oil) or softened butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 T. poppyseeds
1-1/3 cup plain yogurt
4 T. lemon juice (or grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon)
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 t. lemon juice
2-3 t. milk

Preheat oven to 350°.
In a mixing bowl, cream oil and sugar together well.  Add eggs one a time, blending well after each addition.  Add the poppyseeds, yogurt, and lemon juice with grated rind.  Stir well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add slowly to the creamed mixture, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix!
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins about 2/3 full.  Bake at 350° for 14-17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of muffins comes out clean.
Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool more.

Combine the glaze ingredients in a small bowl.  Add the lemon juice to the powdered sugar first, then add milk gradually until you get the consistency you want.  If it's too thin, you can thicken the glaze with more powdered sugar- if it's too thick, just add a few drops of milk at a time. Drizzle over cooled muffins. If the muffins are still warm, it's okay, but the glaze will likely run off easier and be a bit messy to eat.  We ate them so fast, it didn't really matter.

Linked to Trick or Treat Tuesday

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Celebrating my 4th Blogiversary with Caramel Cake

I wrote my first blog post four years ago today.

I had no idea really what would happen with it or if anyone other than my parents and in-laws would read it.
To be honest, I was a little afraid of anyone other than family reading it.
Yes, and I was even more afraid that nobody would read or care. 


Back then, I had only three kids.  Ages 4, 2, and 6 months.  
Life has changed a bit since then. 

I've had some really dry months of posting nearly nothing - because of severe morning sickness or adjusting to new babies.  I've taken some really terrible photos and they're still on here, because I'm forgetful about updating stuff.  And it is kind of funny to see how far I've come in my food photography, even though there is still SO much further to go.

I've discovered that I really enjoy blogging  - trying new recipes, sharing them with others, "meeting" new people who share similar interests and live in places I've never been and probably never will go.

Blogging is an important part of my life, so to celebrate 4 years of it, I made a cake.

I had a hard time deciding what kind of cake to bake for the occasion.  We're always huge chocolate fans, and as much as recipes like this and this were calling my name, I just kept wanting to make something with caramel. 

A homemade caramel cake.  Yes. That would do.

After all, my own birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks and I can always make something decadently chocolate then. 

This Caramel Cake features a really nice yellow cake, which is moist and flavorful and not too crumbly, yet solid enough to hold up to a rather thick frosting.  The caramel frosting is very rich and sweet - almost too much so, but since I have a ridiculously strong sweet tooth, that didn't bother me.  I love the homemade caramel flavor so much, I can eat it by the spoonful. 

Note 1: If you don't have dark brown sugar on hand (like I never do), you can make light brown sugar into dark just by adding molasses!  Add 1 Tablespoon molasses for each cup of brown sugar.  Just mash it around with a fork until well combined and not lumpy. 

Note 2: If you don't keep cake flour on hand (like I never do), you can measure out your all-purpose flour as directed, then remove 2 Tablespoons of flour for each cup of flour, and replace it with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch, then sift it all together three or four times.  More if you have the time.  It makes a lighter textured cake than all-purpose flour. 

Recipe: (from A Well-Seasoned Life)

1 (8 oz) container sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour (I recommend cake flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/4  cup plus 2 T. whipping cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3-3/4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.  Combine sour cream and milk.  Set aside.

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. 

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat at medium-low speed until blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour batter into two greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks and let cool completely.

Prepare frosting:

Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add brown sugar; bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Keep at a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Stir in cream and vanilla and bring back to a boil.  Boil for another minute.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Cool for one hour.  Transfer to a mixing bowl. 
Sift powdered sugar into frosting.  Beat at high speed with an electric mixer until creamy and spreading consistency.

Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.  If you want, reserve a little frosting to pipe on decorative swirls.
Garnish as desired. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Homemade Oreos


This cookies were a big hit with my family and with Marissa's Wed. night class at church.  The cookies aren't exactly as crisp as real Oreos, but they're very chocolatey and slightly crunchy.  The creamy frosting is a perfect sweet accent to the cookies. 

I debated whether or not to make some chocolate or even some peanut butter frosting also, both of which I'm sure would be fabulous - but ended up with just vanilla frosting this time. 

That's okay.
There's always next time!

Recipe: from My Kitchen Addiction
(makes approximately 3 dozen sandwich cookies)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (I used salted and decreased the salt called for later)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder (or dutch process cocoa powder)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 T. cream or milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps

Begin by preparing the cookies.  Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well incorporated.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture, beating on the lowest speed.  Continue to mix on the lowest setting until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

Divide the dough in half, and shape into two discs.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

When the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.  Set aside.
Taking only one portion of dough out of the fridge at a time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough to a 1/8 - 1/4-inch thickness.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out cookies and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until set.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are cooled, prepare the filling.  Combine the softened butter, cream, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined.  The mixture may be a bit lumpy, but will come together.  Add the powdered sugar gradually, approximately 1/2 cup at a time, until the filling comes together.  It will be slightly stiffer than a cupcake frosting.

Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Pipe the filling onto half of the cookies and top with the remaining cookies to form cookie sandwiches.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Another dessert that I made for a festivity on St. Patrick's Day - which ended up getting cancelled. (a disappointment, but hey, when it's rescheduled I'll get another chance to try out a new recipe!!)

I made them as miniature cupcakes  because there were lots of kids expected at the party and little kids just like to lick off the frosting and toss the cake...or just take one bite, then toss the cake....or stick their fingers all over it, then toss the cake......if you've ever been to a child's birthday party, you know what I'm talking about.  

I figured with mini-cupcakes, I could minimize the loss of  delicious cake
I know there are some folks out there who don't like the chocolate/mint combo, but none of them live in this house. I guess if you add too much mint, you could end up with cupcakes that ended up tasting like toothpaste, and that would be less than appetizing, but with just a touch of flavor in there, it takes tasty but ordinary chocolate cupcakes and makes them into something memorable.

If you even saw how easily we put away a batch of these cupcakes.  It's almost embarrassing.
At least we were able to share some of them and give some away.

See, the problem with miniature cupcakes like these is that you can take just one, intending to have portion control and all that, but it's gone in about two seconds and you want to have at least eight more.  And since there's so many of them, no-one will notice if you just happen to take another one.

Recipe: cupcakes adapted from Martha Stewart, idea from Tracy's Culinary Adventures
Yield: according to Martha, 18-24 standard cupcakes.  I made one and a half times this recipe and got 104 miniature cupcakes.

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used mostly Hershey's Dark Cocoa
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (or other preferred oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon mint extract (omit if you want just chocolate cupcakes)
Andes Baking Chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard or miniature muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and mint extract, and mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Sprinkle the tops of cupcakes with Andes Baking Chips if desired.  Bake standard cupcakes until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Bake miniature cupcakes 13-15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 T. cream or milk
1/2 of a (7 oz) container marshmallow fluff (optional)
1/4 tsp. mint extract (more if you like a lot of mint)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Green food coloring (optional)
Semi-sweet chocolate chips or additional Andes Baking Chips, for garnish

In an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy.  Add powdered sugar gradually, alternating each cup with about a Tablespoon of milk or cream.  Add in marshmallow fluff if desired.  It's totally not essential, I just happened to have it on hand and added it.  It was delicious - but would be fine without it too.  
Add in extracts and green food coloring and beat until all is combined and frosting is desired consistency.
If you used unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor.  I used salted butter, so it wasn't necessary.  
Taste frosting and add more mint extract if you like.
Pipe onto cupcakes and garnish with chocolate chips or Andes Baking Chips.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We met Ree!

About a month ago, I saw that Ree Drummond, aka the Pioneer Woman, was going on a book tour to promote her new cookbook.  I have been a fan of hers for at least three years now, not sure exactly.

I've featured several of her recipes on this blog, like Apple Fritters, Cheesy Green Bean Casserole, Chicken Spaghetti, Spicy Pulled Pork, and Iny's Prune Cake.

I have her first cookbook and love it, I've watched her on the Food Network, and I faithfully read her blog. 
I even won one of her giveaways a couple of years ago, much to my surprise.  I mean, when there are over 14,000 entries, you don't expect to win. 

But win I did, a $300 gift certificate to BlueQ.  Kind of a weird prize, I'd have much rather won a camera or mixer or Ipad  - she does those sort of giveaways too - but hey, you can't complain about winning!  I got some great re-usable shopping bags, shoulder bags, a beach bag, some lotions, water bottles, and similar gifts for my sisters, mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law for Christmas.  That was pretty awesome.
But the funnest part was seeing my name as a winner on her blog - I was so excited, all I could do was laugh. 

Anyways. Back to the book tour.  I saw that Ree was going to be in Virginia Beach on March 17.  That's definitely in my neck of the woods, at least a whole lot closer than D.C., where she stopped on her last book tour. 

Oh, I forgot to mention that Annika also has Ree's children's book, Charlie the Ranch Dog, which I got her for her birthday last year and she really enjoys.  So yesterday I packed up my two older girls and Miranda and off we went. 

We drove about 34 miles to the Books A Million and arrived about an hour before Ree was due to arrive.
Since most of my friends have no idea who the Pioneer Woman is when I mention her, I really had no idea how popular she is in this area and didn't know what to expect as far as crowds go. 


Apparently the Books A Million had been advertising her book-signing for awhile and had given out tickets the previous night for people to be first in line.  300 tickets, apparently they had given them all out within an hour.  Obviously I did not have a ticket. 

The folks with tickets were in line on the right side of the store, winding through the aisles.  The unfortunates like myself were being lined up on the left side of the store.  There were probably 75 people in front of me without tickets.

This wasn't looking so good.  In fact, it was downright grim. 
We still had an hour to wait before she even arrived......and then all those people in front of us. 

I sat down on the floor at the end of the aisle to nurse the baby.  It's not like the line would be moving for a few hours anyways.  She finished soon and I was talking with the girls when a middle-aged man walked past. (There were very few men in line, as a side note.  Those there were with their wives.)

He stopped and smiled at me and asked, "Would you like a ticket?" 
I was confused.  "What???"
"I have an extra ticket," he explained.  "I'm leaving and would like to give it to you."
"You are an angel!" I gasped.  "Thank you so so so much!!!"
He just smiled bigger and left.

So the girls and I moseyed right over to the right side of the store and got in line. There were very few ticketed people behind us, so I knew we had close to 300 people in front of us.  Still a long wait.

Little did I know.

4 hours total before we got to meet Ree.  That's right...FOUR hours standing in line holding a baby who refused to be put down in her stroller and trying to entertain a six year old and a four year old who were getting tired and bored and hungry. 

We had some nice conversations with the ladies in line around us and tried to make the best of the situation. Around 4:30, the girls started begging me to go home.  No WAY!   I mean, once you've driven for 45 minutes and stood in line for a few hours, you just can't leave when there's only 30 minutes left till you get what you came for.

Ree was lovely.  She oohed over Miranda's little bare toes and hugged the girls and when she signed Annika's book, she wrote," Love to Annika  from Ree and Charlie" and drew a little paw print.  It's super cute. 
I wish we could have had more time to chat.....but I'm sure the rest of the waiting crowd wanted us to keep moving.

So we did it.  I'm glad we did, and I'm glad it's over.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Triple Layer Fudgy Mint Cookie Brownies

Grant had a potluck at work today and I used that as an opportunity to try another new recipe - one that I could sample a bit of but not have the whole pan around tempting me.  Good thing. 

These things are ridiculous. 

Almost gooey, chocolatey brownies with a minty marshmallow swirl and the crunch of chocolate mint cookies, topped with a fabulous jazzed up buttercream with white chocolate, topped with more cookies. 

How could you go wrong with that?

The original recipe called for Mint Oreos, which I'm sure are just fabulous, but I didn't find any on my grocery trip, so I settled for Grasshopper Mint Cookies.  Regular oreos could also be used, with or without the mint, if you so desire. I definitely liked the Grasshopper Cookies, though.  They add a nice, subtle mint flavor without being overwhelming.  And the extra chocolate doesn't hurt, either.

I'm told these were quite popular at the potluck and there were several requests for the recipe, so that's always a good thing. 

I don't know if mint is a traditional Irish flavor or not, but the green makes these a festive option for St. Patrick's Day for sure.  But honestly, who needs a holiday to make a crowd-pleasing dessert? 

Heaven knows I don't!

Recipe: adapted slightly from Love Veggies and Yoga

4 ounces baking chocolate (4 squares Baker's Semisweet Chocolate)
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 package Grasshopper (chocolate mint) cookies OR 12 Cool Mint Oreos, crumbled
1 7-oz jar marshmallow fluff
1/8 tsp. mint extract
Green food coloring, if desired

1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 T. milk or cream
1/2 package Grasshopper Cookies

Preheat oven to 350°.
Line a 13 x 9" pan with foil and butter well. Set aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, heat chocolate and butter for about 90 seconds, or until butter is melted.  Stir and heat a few seconds more to finish melting chocolate if necesssary.  Add sugar and stir.  Mixture will be grainy - that's okay.  Add eggs and vanilla and whisk well.  Add in flour, and mix until incorporated. Add in crumbled cookies. Pour into prepared pan.
In a separate bowl, mix marshmallow fluff, mint extract, and a few drops of green food coloring.  Drop 1/2 cup of this mixture by spoonfuls over brownies. (the rest of the marshmallow fluff is saved for the frosting.)  Swirl with a knife to get a marbled effect. 
Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until brownies are set. 
Cool completely.

To prepare frosting, begin by melting the white chocolate chips in the microwave.  Do it in 30 second increments, as white chocolate can scorch easily.  Be sure to stir every time, as chips can appear still solid but actually can be stirred smooth.
With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy.  Add in powdered sugar gradually, mixing until combined. Add in vanilla and milk, beating to a smooth and very creamy frosting.  Add the melted white chocolate chips and the remaining marshmallow fluff mixture.
Tint with more green food coloring, if desired.
Spread over cooled brownies. 
Crumble remaining Grasshopper Cookies (I did all but about 5) over the brownies and press in gently.
Refrigerate until slightly firm. 

Bars store best in the refrigerator and are delicious cold or room temperature. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day - Let's Have Some Mixed Berry Pie

Pie was a big thing for my mom's side of the family when I was growing up. 

Although we often called it "cobbler".  Now though, when I see recipes for cobblers, they usually call for some sort of biscuity dough dropped in clumps on top of the fruit mixture.  That is definitely not what we ate.  Cobblers in my family were just pies baked in 13 x 9" pans. 

My grandma would make strawberry rhubarb cobbler (my favorite), peach cobbler, blueberry cobbler, even blueberry rhubarb cobbler. 
Then there was traditional apple pie, grated apple pie (another favorite), the usual pumpkin and pecan pies during the holidays, lemon meringue pie, and another of the top favorites of everyone in the family, chocolate pie (with meringue on top). 

Everything was made from scratch.  No mixes, no frozen pie crusts, none of that.

And it was all so delicious.

My granddad used to say, "I only like two kinds of pie.  Hot and cold."

I tend to agree.  Although I can definitely eliminate mincemeat pie from those that I like.

Grant, on the other hand, isn't a huge fan of pies.  He'd pick just about any kind of dessert over than pie, except for anything pudding related.  He's a little lot pickier than me in that regard.

There is one kind of pie, however, that Grant admits to liking.  Mixed Berry Pie. 

I can't recall ever eating a mixed berry pie as a kid.....seems my family wasn't too big into blackberries and raspberries. 

Grant's family would buy the Marie Callendar Mixed Berry Pies for special occasions and he has fond memories of them, so when I was debating what kind of pie to make for Pi Day, it was really a no-brainer to pick something that my dear husband would enjoy.

Making the pie crust is always the intimidating part.  I've had a few major flops in that department and not had much motivation to try again.  The Pioneer Woman featured a really nice tutorial on her blog awhile back that I followed - use that for reference if you're crust-ignorant like me. Although I have to say, following her directions to a "T" didn't exactly work for me.  I ended up having to add more water, not sure how much.....and I still had difficulties rolling out the crust to the right size and shape, despite the parchment paper trick. 

Well, it all came together in the end.

The pie was superb.  Really.

Grant said, "You can make this every day."  Um, sorry, that's not gonna happen.
And then, "You didn't by chance make two of them, did you?"  No. I did not. At least we only ate half for dinner!  We can have more tomorrow!

Recipe: adapted slightly from Cooking Lessons

Pie dough for 2 layer crust, unbaked
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2-1/2 T. granulated, quick-cooking tapioca
5 heaping cups mixed berries, (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries) fresh or frozen - I used frozen
2 T. unsalted butter (I omitted)
1 egg, beaten with 1 T. water (for brushing on crust)

Heat oven to 400°F.

Roll out the bottom crust and fit it into a 9 or 10 inch pie pan.Trim the edges so they are even with the outer rim of the pie pan.  Refrigerate while you make the filling and roll out the top crust.

In a large bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers.  The lemon oil will soak into the sugar to provide you with extra-zesty lemon flavor.  Stir in the salt and tabioca. Add the berries and gently fold them into the sugar with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.  (If you are using frozen berries, don't defrost them; just mix them in now).

Roll out the top crust and with a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut it into 3/4 inch wide strips for the top of the pie.  You can mkae skinnier strips and use more of them if you prefer. 

Take the pie shell out of the fridge and fill it with the berry mixture.  Dot with butter if desired.

Use a pastry brush to coat the rim of the dough with water.  Lay 5-6 strips of dough evenly across the top of the pie.  Lay the other strips perpendicular to the first ones, weaving them in if you like.
Lay 2-3 strips of dough around the rim of the pie to cover the ends of the lattice top.  Crimp.  Brush the edges and all the lattice strips with the beaten egg.

Set the pie on a baking sheet to avoid oven disasters if the filling bubbles over.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Decrease the oven heat to 350° F. and bake for another 45 min. to 1 hour, until the filling bubbles in the center.  Total baking time is 1 to 1-1/4 hours, longer if you have used frozen berries. 
Check every once in awhile to make sure the crust isn't getting too dark.  Place a piece of foil loosely over the pie if it looks like it might burn before the pie is done.

Remove the pie from the oven and place on a rack to cool to room temperature before cutting.  If you cut it sooner, it will be runny, but will still taste great!

And as we all know, there's nothing better with warm pie than homemade vanilla ice cream.
(No, my house did not get cleaned today.  And there's still laundry to be folded.  And we had leftovers for dinner.  But boy, did we have dessert!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes

Another fun variation on the normal whole wheat pancakes, these really are reminiscent of oatmeal cookies.

When I just couldn't bear the thought of making oatmeal  for breakfast again, I surprised the kids with making made them one school day last week. They couldn't have been happier and we polished off nearly the whole batch.  I was amazed at how they kept asking for more. 

Grant says he still prefers the Gingerbread Pancakes, but he liked these very much. 

I'm always glad to have another pancake recipe to add to our rotation, and this one is a sure winner.

Recipe: adapted from Joy the Baker

2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk (or 2 cups milk with 1 T. lemon juice or white vinegar)
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
4 tablespoons melted coconut oil or butter, melted
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
heaping 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins
oil or cooking spray (for cooking - I did not use on my non-stick griddle)

In a large bowl beat eggs. Add buttermilk, oil, honey, and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Mix well until mostly smooth. Fold in raisins and let batter set for a few minutes.
Heat griddle or pan over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan or spray with cooking spray. You can test to see if the pan is hot enough by adding a few drops of water,  when the drops start to dance its hot enough.
Pour 2 Tablespoons of batter onto the griddle. Cook on the first side until bubbles that form start to pop. You can also gently lift up the pancake to make sure the bottom is not overcooking, if it is the pan may be too hot and you will need to adjust the heat. Flip the pancake over with a spatula and cook until golden brown. Repeat until all the batter is gone. Let cooked pancakes rest on a heat proof plate in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

Linked to Trick or Treat Tuesday

Saturday, March 10, 2012

French Toast Casserole

I've been trying to add some variety to our Saturday morning breakfasts.  Grant was mildly resistant at first, since he would be perfectly happy having pancakes or waffles on Saturdays and eggs, bacon, and English muffin bread on Sundays for all eternity.
We're a bit opposite on some things.

Like cars and food.

If it were up to him, he'd get a different vehicle every year, just because there are so many out there that he likes.  As for me, I like to pick a vehicle and keep it forever.  At least until it's either completely broken or we've outgrown it. 

When it comes to food, he likes to have the old stand-by favorites and not worry about trying new things.  (not that he objects to the things I make, but if it were up to him, he'd never go to the trouble.)
I love to search out new recipes and not stick to the same routine every week. 
And many of the new things I make end up becoming family favorites. 

So when I mentioned that I was going to make a French Bread Casserole for our Saturday breakfast a couple of weeks ago, there weren't joyous exclamations of delight.  No complaints, mind you, but I could tell he was skeptical.

But after trying it, he was so glad that I had made it. We all thought it was just terrific.
In fact, I ended up making it again the next week, with homemade French bread that time.

I discovered that you can tinker with the amount of eggs and milk a little and not really notice the difference. 
The following is how I made it the first time; but the second time I only used 8 eggs and increased the milk to 2-1/2 cups, and it tasted nearly the same.
Just be sure to have enough cinnamon and brown sugar on top....when it gets a little browned and crispy, it's really good.

Recipe: Inspired by Examiner dot com

1 loaf French bread, cut into 1" cubes
1T. sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon and 1/4 t. nutmeg
2-1/4 c. milk
10 eggs
1 t. vanilla
4 t. sugar
1/4 t. salt
2 T. butter, cut into tiny squares
3 T. brown sugar
2 t. cinnamon

  • Place bread cubes in a greased 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon/sugar mixture and toss to distribute evenly.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended and frothy.
  • Pour over egg mixture over bread in baking dish. Gently toss to coat; make sure each bread cube is soaked with egg mixture.
  • Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking and dot the top of the French toast casserole with butter.
  • Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the top.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 35 minutes
  • Remove the foil and let it bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
  • Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into squares to serve. Top with maple syrup, honey and/or fruit.
  • Yield: 8 to 9 squares

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries

I don't know about you guys, but we're pretty hum-drum around here when it comes to side dishes.
Let's face it. 
Life is busy, getting an entree on the table can be hard enough, and there just isn't time for being fancy about our veggies.
I mainly resort to steaming them, although roasting or boiling or sauteing are occasionally an option I choose.
I only really get fancy for holiday meals or sometimes company.

Crispy baked zucchini fries are definitely worth the extra effort, though. 

The panko adds a wonderful crunch to the tender zucchini strips inside and the seasoning takes a rather plain veggie to something really tasty. 

Grant declared them a new favorite for sure. 

Recipe: from Confections of a Foodie Bride

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs
2 T. water
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb zucchini, cut into 4-5-inch sticks

Preheat oven to 425° and line a baking sheet with parchment (or whatever non-stick method you prefer).
Place flour in a large zipper bag.
Whisk eggs with 2 Tbsp water and place in a shallow dish.
Place Panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a shallow dish and mix to combine.
Place zucchini in the bag with the flour and shake until well coated. Dip the zucchini into the egg and then into the panko, turning to coat well.
Place breaded zucchini on the baking sheet.
Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (ranch, marinara, or barbecue sauce)

They're best the first day, but to store leftovers, store in a single layer on a plate, wrapped with plastic wrap.  Reheat at 375° for 5-7 minutes, until heated through.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Of 2-Year-Olds and Clothes

Ellia has become quite opinionated about what she wears.
It's almost funny, but not really.
It can be incredibly frustrating to try to get a two-year old dressed when she critiques each clothing item you
bring out and says, "Nope, not that one".

We had settled on a darling outfit today, a purple flowery casual dress with matching leggings.  She wore it all morning, completely happy.
As I was putting her in a diaper for nap time, she decided it was time to change clothes.

Unlike all of my other kids at this age, she loves jeans.I had to fight tooth and nail to get jeans on either of the older girls until they were at least 4.  Not Ellia.  She adores denim.

So anyways, she had laid out a pair of jeans and a light pink turtleneck to change into.

Me: "No, Ellie, you don't need to change now."
Ellie: "But Mom, it's so cute!"
Me: "You really want to wear this outfit?"
Ellie: "Yes, I like it.".
Me: "Okay, okay."

We proceed to change her...

Ellie (looking down and admiring herself): "See, it's so cute!"

Then she realizes that she's wearing a turtleneck, which apparently she doesn't like.

Ellie: "Mom, I don't like it. I take it off.  It's not that cute."  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Family Update - February Edition

Miranda started rolling over from back to front during the last week of January, a full week and a
half before she turned 4 months old.  I'm not sure (because I've been terrible not so efficient at keeping
records of such things), but I think that she's our earliest roller. 
She can roll from stomach to back also, but she doesn't do it nearly as much.

Now she's nearly 5 months old. She does mini-push-ups and is incredibly strong. 

She is such a happy baby and while she's not the best sleeper, she makes up for it
by melting our hearts with her laughs and huge smiles. 

Ellia has reached 2 (very important) milestones this past month. 
First, she is now "Tah Tee" free.
Oh, "Tah Tee" is her coined term for pacifier.  No idea where she got it. 
Anyways, for many, many months she has insisted on having two pacifiers with her in bed,
one to suck on and one to hold in her hand. 
She would flip out if one of them got lost in the middle of the night.
She has never developed a "lovey" or special stuffed animal, blanket, or dolly - her lovey was
her pacifiers.  Although she was only allowed to have them in her bed, we were dreading taking them away from her for good for months.
Then one of them got broken.  The nipple part was cracked terribly.  She refused to suck on that one
for a few nights, then eventually told me that it was broken and should go in the garbage. 
I agreed and threw it away.
Not long after that, the second one suffered the same fate.  I was so afraid to throw it away,
anticipating huge fits at bedtime because she didn't even have one to hold anymore. 
She was very matter-of-fact about it and has never asked for another one. 
Sooooooo glad that's over and was so easy.
Second, and even better, she's now Potty-Trained!!!!
We've been taking her to the potty for months, trying all sorts of training methods,
nothing working.  She liked the potty just fine, would even ask to go, but nothing would ever happen.
Then one day a week and a half ago, she just started going. 
She's had a few accidents, mostly in the first few days, and still wears a pull-up for naps and bedtime,
but other than that, she's thrilled to go to the potty and is even more thrilled
to wear "big girl panties". 
Oh, and she doesn't complain about getting little candies (conversation hearts or m&m's) everytime
she goes.  Now to just wean her off the reward expectation......

Annika was officially invited by Marissa's ballet teacher to join the class for the last 5 sessions.  She was participating on the side-lines anyways.  Now she got her own ballet shoes and gets to dance with 6-9 year olds.  And we didn't even have to pay.  She (and Marissa) couldn't have been happier. 
She does very well, but being 4 years old, she doesn't have quite the coordination of the other girls.....
fortunately she doesn't seem to notice or mind.  She's just happy to be involved. 

Marissa got to go shooting with Grant and Corban for the first time. 
She proved to be quite a good shot and absolutely loved it. 

As for Corban, there weren't any significant events for him last month (ie, I hardly got any pictures of him at all!) but he's been working hard in school and piano, still practices basketball often, rough-houses with anyone and everyone he can talk into it as often as possible, loves taking care of his baby sister, and is a good shoulder to sleep on. 

We had to get a photo of them all asleep in the van....we had a really late night out visiting with some friends and they all were knocked out within minutes of fact, Grant carried them all to bed in their clothes and not a one of them woke up.  But this is the sort of thing they like to deny....."I never fell asleep", they'll emphatically declare. 
Now we have proof. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chocolate Covered Fluffernutter Hearts

Even though it's slightly embarrassing to be posting about Valentine's Treats
when it's already the first week of March, I refuse to wait till next year to post
about these little treats. 

I'm stubborn like that. 

And please try to ignore the fact that they're decorated with Christmas sprinkles.
I had brilliantly thought that the red and white decorating sugars I had on hand would look darling, not taking into account that they would just disappear into the chocolate. 
These were the only acceptable sprinkles I had.

And Christmas sprinkles are better than no sprinkles. 
My kids didn't notice anyways. 
They were too busy munching and wiping chocolate off their fingers and asking for more.

When I first saw this recipe, I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it myself.  I've posted before about Chocolate Peanut Sweeties, which have a creamy peanut butter confection dipped in chocolate on top of a pretzel.  They're amazing.  These are essentially the same thing, but in a different form.

A little pretzel sandwich with a peanut butter filling, dipped in chocolate. Why had I never even noticed that mini-twist pretzels are shaped like hearts?  And that when totally dipped in chocolate, you wouldn't even know that it's a pretzel?

Well, I know now.  And I love them.  So so cute.  And yummy. 

Recipe: from Home Grown Beanes

1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 T. softened butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
Mini twist Pretzels
2-3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 T. shortening or oil

 With a hand held mixer or electric mixing bowl, combine peanut butter, butter, sugars, and marshmallow fluff.  Beat until creamy and smooth.

Scoop out some of the mixture onto a pretzel. Top with another pretzel to make a sandwich.  Press down slightly so you are sure it will stick together.  Wipe off any squished out peanut butter mixture.
Continue until you have used up all of your "Fluffernutter".  I got about 65 pretzel sandwiches. 
Melt chocolate chips with the shortening or oil in microwave (or double boiler). 
Stir until completely smooth.

Dip each pretzel sandwich in the chocolate and tap off the excess.  Lay on wax paper to set up
Decorate with sprinkles if you want.
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