Saturday, October 30, 2010

Colorful Chicken Linguini

I made this for dinner recently and the whole family liked it, even with all those veggies.  Well, okay, the girls complained about the peppers, but other than that, it went over very well.  I ended up using some green and red peppers from our garden, which although they were small, they were lovely, but the yellow one from the store added a nice touch too. Use whatever you like. This dish is pretty similar to my Cajun Chicken Pasta, except without the spiciness. I really thought it was wonderful.  I'll definitely be making this again.  

Recipe (from Taste of Home)

1 box (13.25 oz) whole wheat linguine (or fettuccine if desired)
1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 T. oil (I used olive)
1 cup julienned carrots
1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
1 medium green pepper, julienned
1 medium yellow pepper, julienned
2-3 cups fresh broccoli florets
1-1/2 T. cornstarch
16 oz. (2 cups) chicken broth
1 T. lemon juice
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. dried thyme
3 T. sour cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese (I had fresh on hand, but I think out of a can would be okay)

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute chicken in oil until no longer pink.  (I added a sprinkle of garlic salt and pepper to season).  Remove and keep warm. 
In the same pan, saute carrots for 1-2 minutes.  Add peppers and broccoli; saute 3-4 minutes longer or until vegetables are crisp-tender.
In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, chicken broth, lemon juice, salt, and thyme until blended.  Stir into vegetables.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sour cream. 
Drain pasta; place in a large bowl.  Add the chicken, vegetable mixture, and Parmesan cheese; toss to coat.  

Friday, October 29, 2010

"K" is for Kiss Cookies (aka Peanut Butter Blossoms)

A classic recipe with a slight re-work of the name to make it work for K week!   We thought Hershey's Kiss cookies would be more appealing than Kale or Ketchup.  There is always Kiwi, but you never know if the ones you pick will be sweet and juicy or downright sour.   

I used the recipe off the back of the Kiss package, substituting butter for the shortening.  They're a little crumbly, but oh so delicious.  I love how the kisses look firm, but when you bite into them they're soft and creamy and a perfect complement to the peanut butter cookie.  

Recipe (adapted from the Hershey's Kiss bag)

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1 egg
2 T. milk
1 t. vanilla
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
Granulated sugar, for rolling
48 Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375°.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and peanut butter together. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  
Add in egg, milk and vanilla and combine well.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. 
Roll dough into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar, and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. 
Immediately upon removing from oven, place an unwrapped Kiss in the center of each cookie and press gently.  
Remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack. Cool completely.  Or eat while warm.  I won't tell.  

To see the rest of our Alphabet Service Projects, click here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Marissa!

Marissa Janae,

Today you are 5! 
How the time flies.
Daddy and I remember well the day you were born. 
What a joyous and exciting time that was for us!
To see our first daughter.....who looked so much like her daddy....
(and still does, for that matter!)
and adored him from the very start...
(and still does, for that matter!)
to snuggle you close and dream of all the delights of
raising a precious girl and wonder in amazement
at how different you were from your brother!

You are such a gift from God, Marissa. 
You have great joy and zest for life,
you have an infectious laugh from tiny babyhood that never ceases to make us smile. 
You love singing, drawing and coloring pictures for others, you adore animals
both stuffed and alive
and swinging in the back yard for hours. 

You're a wonderful helper around the house and with your baby sister,
you're learning how to measure ingredients and cook,
you're reading short words, and counting to 100,
and great at memorizing verses and songs.

You love dresses and having long hair, but you hate to have me brush it. 
You're bossy sometimes, very cuddly and snuggly and affectionate,
and very particular about how you want your dollhouse arranged. 
(although the rest of your room you don't seem to give a second thought.)

Oh, we love you Marissa. 
You light up our lives every single day.
We look forward to seeing the lovely young lady you become,
but are happy for you to stay a little girl for awhile longer. 

Happy Birthday! 

October 28, 2005

October 28, 2006

October 28, 2007

October 28, 2008

October 28, 2009 (professional picture, we don't have the license to print)

Taken at Yorktown Victory Center, September 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spicy Turkey Burgers

These turkey burgers have become one of Grant's favorite foods very quickly.  He requests them every week, as a matter of fact. 

Can't really complain, I like them too, and the kids all eat them with great enthusiasm.  Especially Corban.

I do leave out the crushed red pepper in the kids' burgers, after they complained of the heat the first time. 

I'm sure they're great on the grill, but I'm not particularly good at grilling and have no pressing desire to learn at this point in my life - and most week-nights, I don't want to bother Grant with firing it up when he gets home exhausted from work - so these just get cooked in a skillet on my stovetop.  

Grant and Corban prefer them with pepperjack cheese - the girls and I opt for cheddar.  Whatever floats your boat!

Recipe: (from Tammy's Recipes)

1 lb. ground turkey (I usually use 1-1/4 lbs or more and increase the seasonings accordingly)
2 T. water (I use 1/8 c. for 1-1/2 lbs meat)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
2 T. dried minced onions
1/2 t. dried minced garlic (or 1 fresh garlic clove, minced)
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 t. paprika

Combine all ingredients well and allow to sit for a few minutes or refrigerate overnight.
Preheat skillet on medium-high heat.
Form meat into patties of desired size (I make smaller ones for the kids, a medium one for me and a large one for Grant).
Place in hot skillet and cook on each side for 3-6 minutes (depending on thickness), just until done. 
Alternatively, grill according to grill instructions if desired. 

*The water makes the patties slightly tricky to form, but the burgers are moist and tender every time.


Monday, October 25, 2010

S'mores Brownies

I made these brownies for a friend who had a baby recently and kept a few to sample at home. 

I am by no reach of the imagination a brownie snob.....I love a mix just as much as anyone. 


Brownies from scratch are just......just.......oh, I don't know, wonderful!  And you can't have too many brownie recipes.

This one, I have to say, is divine.  I think the base recipe without the marshmallows and graham crackers may just be the tastiest brownies I've ever eaten. 

To be quite honest, I couldn't really taste the graham crackers in there. Maybe I crushed them up too fine, maybe I didn't add quite enough, I don't know....but they just kinda disappeared.  And the marshmallows, while I loved the added flavor and stickiness, they didn't flatten out quite as I expected, so I'm recommending cutting your marshmallows in half to spread them further over the brownies. 

And my husband, while he loves roasted marshmallows and s'mores, does not approve of marshmallows in other desserts and he was not fond of these. 

The children, for the record, thought they were from heaven. 

My friend's family thought very highly of them as well. 

Recipe: (from Sugar Cooking)

1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 T. cocoa powder
11 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. butter, cut into 1-inch cubes (2 sticks or 8 oz)
1 t. instant coffee granules
1-1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
5 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. coarsely crushed graham crackers
15 large marshmallows (cut in half if preferred)

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 13 x 9" pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
In a large microwavable bowl, heat the butter, instant coffee, and chocolate at 30 sec. intervals until melted and stir until smooth. (Or you can mess with the whole double boiler thing....I didn't want to take the time).
Stir the sugar and brown sugar into the chocolate.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each. Add vanilla.
Don't over beat the batter or the brownies will become cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture in and fold in gently with a spatula.
Mix in graham crackers.
Spread into your prepared pan.  Dot with marshmallows.
Bake for 30- 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
Marshmallows will be browned and puffy, but will deflate a little as cooling.
Cool for 20 minutes, then cut with a sharp knife, cleaning the knife with hot water if it gets too sticky and messy.

This post is linked to Picnic Recipes: a 4-Moms Link-up

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"J" is for Jar of Jellybeans

We know a family in which both parents and all four children have names beginning with "J", so it just seemed  fitting that they would be the recipients of our service project this week.

We tossed around the ideas of giving them Jam and Juice, but ended up deciding that a Jar of Jellybeans would be a fun gift.  Not to mention baking required!
Although Annika had a bit of a hard time with the thought of parting with the Jellybeans prior to our visit, we had a delightful time playing and delivering the treat.  

To see the rest of our Alphabet Service Projects, click here!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce

I was looking recently on foodgawker for anything and everything and a chicken enchilada recipe caught my eye.  I already have one chicken enchilada recipe that we love....but it uses more of a creamy sauce, so this one is definitely different.  I liked the sound of it, but it called for canned enchilada sauce, which I refuse to buy.  Every brand I've found has objectionable ingredients like MSG or partially hydrogenated oils.   So I went on a hunt for another recipe that included homemade enchilada sauce with ingredients my kids can pronounce.  

Found one that sounded good, combined the recipes together, and ouila, here we are. 

I wasn't sure how the kids would react, since usually the girls have loud, negative opinions about spicy things, but everyone loved them.  Even the second complaints, empty plates.  Rarely happens around here.

Grant and I loved them these will definitely find a place in our favorites list.  

Don't leave out the fresh is so delicious with these enchiladas.    

Note: I had extra sauce leftover, about 3/4 c. worth.  I've been using it to spice up bean and cheese quesadillas for lunch - delicious!  


Enchilada Sauce: (from The Review Lady)
2 T. olive oil
1 T. flour
1/4 c. chili powder
2 c. chicken broth
10 oz. tomato paste
1 t. oregano
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. salt

Chicken Enchiladas (adapted from A Sweet Pea Chef)
2 c. enchilada sauce 
kosher salt
1-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken pieces (I used breasts but thighs would be great)
2 cups shredded Colby jack cheese (or cheddar if desired)
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish if desired
12 (6-in) flour or corn tortillas
cooking spray

Begin by making the sauce. In a large saucepan or skillet, heat 2 T. oil and then add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds.  Add 2 cups broth, tomato paste, oregano, cumin and salt.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium/low.
Cut chicken breasts into halves or fourths.  Season with kosher salt and pepper.
Add the raw chicken breasts  to sauce, submerging as much as possible.  Let simmer in sauce until done (about 15-20 minutes).  Remove chicken from sauce and shred with 2 forks.
In a large bowl, combine shredded chicken, about a cup of sauce, 1 cup of cheese, and 1/2 c. cilantro.  Mix well.
Warm tortillas to make wrapping easier if desired.  I use flour tortillas and they were fine, but corn ones may break easier if not warmed.
Preheat oven to 400°.  Grease a 13 x 9" pan.
Spoon about 1/4-1/3 c. chicken into each tortilla and roll up. Place in pan seam side down- I fit about 9 in there and saved the rest of the chicken for the next night.
Spray with non-stick spray or mist with olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt if desired and bake for 8-10 minutes.   Remove from oven, spread extra sauce on top, cover with foil, and bake another 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and return, uncovered, to oven for 3-4 minutes, until cheese is melted.
Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swimming Pool Cake

Corban's 7th birthday party was held at an indoor pool, so I felt it fitting to make his cake a swimming pool.  I did the colors on the lane markers and flags just like the real pool. Nothing too fancy here....

Plain chocolate 11 x 15" chocolate sheet cake, frozen first, then frosted with white buttercream for a crumb coat, chilled again, then frosted again.  Tinted blue buttercream for the piping and a little bit tinted black (add cocoa powder and black food coloring to get it black easier) for the lines in the swim lanes.

The main challenge of this cake was the water effect.

I researched online on how to do it.....and the general conclusion is that piping gel is the best medium for such a task. The first recipe I tried called for 2 packages of unflavored gelatin, dissolved in 2 T. of water, heated, then mixed with 2 cups of corn syrup and heated again.

Sounded easy enough.

I had a whole box of Knox unflavored gelatin in my pantry.  It had actually been given to me by a friend who was moving and didn't need it....oh, say about 8 years ago.


I don't use unflavored gelatin much.  Okay, ever.

I searched the box thoroughly for an expiration date.....couldn't find one.  But seriously....does gelatin ever go bad?  I've never heard of such a thing.

I proceeded to make the recipe exactly as directed.  The gelatin never quite dissolved all the way, but I thought it would work itself out.  Ha.

Well, here's what I ended up with.

Ever seen the 80's John Cusack movie "Better Off Dead"?  I wouldn't recommend it really, very goofy, but there's a scene in there where the spacey mom serves up this goop for dessert that ends up crawling off his plate.....well, let's just say that my piping gel was pretty much like that.  Ugh.

So I had to try again.  I found another recipe on Cake Central that didn't include gelatin and gave it a shot.

1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. water

In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch.  Add lemon juice slowly, followed by water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Allow to boil for a minute or two, then remove from heat.  Add food coloring as desired.

It worked perfectly. 

As I was adding the coloring.....

All nice and watery looking. 

It set up pretty much like jello in the fridge overnight, so before putting it on the cake, I had to warm it and stir a lot to get it more spreadable.  I ended up making another batch because I was knew the first batch wasn't enough...turned out perfectly.  I just mixed the fresh, hot batch into the one from the night before and stirred them together well.  

Then I just spooned it carefully over the cake, spreading it gently.  It was surprisingly easy to do.  After that, I just piped the lane markers with white and blue buttercream.  

Just to be clear, the piping gel tastes fine, but it is definitely lemon tasting, so it was a bit weird with chocolate.  Most of the adults scraped it off.  The kids seemed to love it.  I think it would taste good with a yellow or lemon cake.  Texture is still kind of strange, can't get around that. 

Altogether, Corban was delighted with his cake and even the lifeguards at the pool seemed pretty impressed.  

Picture before adding the backstroke flags.

Corban with his cake and two buddies' elbows.  

This recipe is linked to the Ultimate Recipe Swap: Birthday Cakes

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy Birthday to Corban!

Corban David,

Today you are 7. 

Gone are the endless nursing sessions in the middle of the night, the reckless swinging in your Johnny-jump-up, the rolling across the whole room, the combat crawling, and the stuffing of every speck found on the floor into your mouth.

Today you are 7. 

Gone is your infatuation with construction vehicles, the sheer excitement of seeing a forklift or backhoe on the side of the road and your two favorite toys, "Giant" (a toy frontloader) and "Little" (the smaller excavator). Gone is your love of all things Thomas the Train Engine, your love of Pup Pup and playing your "Guitar" dog before we got you your own toy guitar. 

Today you are 7. 

Gone is your struggle to learn to read, your fear of putting your head under water, your zooming around the block on a tricycle with a Bob the Builder hard hat barely balancing on your head, your singing of wonderful and sometimes crazy made-up songs.

Today you are 7! 

You fill our lives with excitement and joy every day.  You love to wrestle, with both your dad and any other boy or man we know.  You climb every tree you can, you read 200 page chapter books in just a few days, you swim laps with perfect form (and even dive beautifully!), you design and build amazing lego creations, you compliment me profusely on my cooking (and out-eat your dad sometimes!), you pop wheelies on your scooter, practically fly on your bike, play soccer and soon basketball, are learning piano, love camping like nobody's business, catch your marshmallows on fire on purpose, chase your sisters around the house, delight your baby sister with your games, and complain about why spelling is really necessary.  You're over 55 inches tall!
And did I mention you beat me soundly in most Wii games? 

And most importantly of all, you love Jesus. You ask amazingly insightful questions during Bible time and have a precious desire to know more of God. 

Today you are 7. 

Your dad and I love you more than you imagine.  We are so blessed to have you as our son. 

Stop growing up so fast! 

And Happy Birthday!

Monday, October 18, 2010

"I" is for Ice Cream Sandwiches

(Sorry this post is late - I've been crazy busy the past few days and didn't get around to finishing it)

Ice cream seemed an obvious choice for our "I" week last week.....but we decided to take it a step further and make Ice-cream sandwiches instead. Yum!  Our recipient of the week was one of Corban's best friends, Isaiah. (and we gave some to the rest of his family, too.....cause we're nice like that). 

I considered going with chocolate chip cookies or even something a little more unique, like snickerdoodle cookies with cinnamon ice cream, but eventually settled on a simple chocolate cookie with (gasp!) storebought ice cream to imitate the treats my kids love from a a slightly healthier version. 

I just used a round biscuit cutter for my cookies - but you could use any shape of cookie cutter you want.  I did find that several of the sandwiches did leak ice-cream a bit while freezing back up, so they pretty much ended up a huge mess....but certainly an edible mess that we didn't mind a bit. 

Recipe: (from Annie's Eats) - makes 10-12 sandwiches, depending on how big you cut them

4 T. unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

1 half-gallon vanilla ice-cream (or your desired flavor)

In a mixer, combine the butter, oil, and brown sugar.  Beat on medium speed until combined. Blend in the eggs one at a time, and the vanilla extract until smooth.  In a separate bowl, sift the cocoa powder and combine with the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to blend.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated and a soft dough forms.
Gather the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.  Dough will still be soft!

Line a 13 x 9" pan with plastic wrap.  Allow ice-cream to soften until somewhat spreadable - spread evenly in the lined pan.  (harder than it sounds).  Return pan to freezer until cookies are ready to assemble into sandwiches.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out as many pieces as you can, transferring the cut outs to the prepared baking sheet.  Gather and re-roll the dough scraps as needed.  If desired, use a wooden skewer to make a dotted pattern on the cookies.  Bake 8-10 minutes (8 was perfect for me).  Let cool on the baking sheet a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Remove ice cream from freezer.  Use the plastic wrap to pull the ice cream out of the pan.  Use the same cookie cutter to cut pieces of ice cream to put between two cookies. Return sandwiches to freezer immediately.  Some of the ice cream will not be perfectly shaped because you'll have to use leftover scraps.  Just smush them together and make it work! :) 
Wrap the sandwiches individually as desired.  Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Annika with Isaiah

To see the rest of our Alphabet Service Projects, click here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bars

Another favorite here...if you've been reading here awhile or browsed my recipes, you've probably figured out that one of the most-loved combinations around my house is peanut butter and chocolate.  Add cheesecake into the mix, and you can't go wrong.
Even my non-cheesecake-loving parents enjoyed this one....and that's saying something!
I got to use my homemade graham crackers (chocolate ones!) for the crust and was excited that it turned out great!  I've been wanting a good substitute for store-bought graham crackers for crusts for a long time.

Recipe: (adapted from The Sweet's Life)

7 whole graham crackers, crushed (I used 1 c. homemade chocolate graham crackers)
6 T. unsalted butter, melted (I used about 4 T. for my crust -if it seems too dry, just add a little more)
3 T. brown sugar (omit if using chocolate graham crackers)
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/8 t. salt

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla extract
25-30 miniature peanut butter cups, chopped

1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 T. milk
10-15 miniature peanut butter cups, chopped

Preheat oven to 325°.
Line an 8 or 9" square pan with foil, leaving a 3-4" overhang on each side.  Grease foil.
Make crust by adding crackers to blender and crushing until fine.  Add butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt.  Mix well.  Press into the bottom of the baking dish. Bake crust for 10 minutes.  Let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Slowly add sugar, beating well.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Beat in sour cream and vanilla extract until fully combined.  Don't overbeat at this point!
After chopping peanut butter cups, set aside approximately 1/2 cup for later.  Stir the remaining chopped candies into the cream cheese batter.
Pour batter into baking pan, spreading evenly over crust.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are set and the middle still jiggles slightly.

Cool cheesecake for 2 hours.  Prepare topping by melting chocolate chips with the milk and stirring well until smooth.  Pour or drizzle over the cheesecake.  Top with reserved chopped candy. Cover and refrigerate 3-24 hours.

Remove from fridge and using the foil overhang, remove bars from pan. Cut into small squares.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Homemade Graham Crackers

I love graham crackers.  Who doesn't? 
What I don't love is the high fructose corn syrup and other weird preservatives that store-bought graham crackers have in them. 

So I decided to give this recipe for homemade graham crackers a try.  I have to say, I love them. 

In fact, I just couldn't stop munching on them.  They're not hard at all to make....and it was my first time using sucanat (which I bought at a local health food store awhile back and just hadn't gotten up the nerve to use yet).  I was so pleasantly surprised. 

The next batch I made, I included 1/3 c. cocoa to make chocolate graham crackers.  While they don't taste just like storebought ones, they worked beautifully to make the crust for a cheesecake recipe....which will be coming shortly. They're just a simple, crunchy chocolate cookie, that's all.  The kids weren't overly impressed, expecting them to be sweeter, I think....but once they got over that expectation, they gobbled them up also.  

Recipe: (from Heavenly Homemakers)

1 stick of butter, melted
2-1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. sucanat (deydrated cane sugar juice) or brown sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1/3 c. cocoa (only include IF making chocolate graham crackers)
4 T. honey
1/4 c. water
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.
Melt stick of butter in the microwave or in a pan on the stove; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sucanat or sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
Add the liquids; honey, water, vanilla, and melted butter.
Stir well until a nice ball has formed. 
Cut two pieces of Parchment paper the size of your cookie sheet.  Lay one piece of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  Place the ball of dough on the parchment paper.  Lay the other piece of parchment paper on top of the ball of dough.  Squish dough down a little with your fist.  Use a rolling pin to roll the dough between the pieces of parchment paper.   Roll until the dough covers the whole cookie sheet.
Remove the top piece of parchment paper. 
(you can either cut the dough into squares or shapes now, or wait until baking is done)
Bake in oven for 15-18 minutes.
If you haven't cut it into squares yet, now is the time to do so!
Turn oven off, but leave crackers in the oven to get crisp.
Remove from oven after 20-30 minutes.  Break graham crackers apart.
Store in an airtight container.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"H" is for Hot Fudge Sundaes, among other things

For our Alphabet Service Project this week, we decided to do something a little different and have over a friend who's name begins with H.  Annika has a sweet little friend from church named Hannah, so we asked her and her mom and brother over for lunch and a playdate.

The girls played Hungry Hippos and Hi Ho Cheery-O, wore Hats, colored Horses, and we ate grilled Ham and cheese sandwiches, fruit salad with Honeydew, and indulged in Hot Fudge Sundaes (for which Annika and I made this chocolate syrup) for dessert.  

The rest of the week, we also ate Hot dogs, Hamburgers and Hashbrown casserole, gave lots of Hugs, and played Hopscotch.   And after all that, Annika is still calling the letter H "G"instead.  Guess we'd better keep working on it.    

Friday, October 8, 2010

Caramel Glazed Apple Bread

If loving caramel is wrong, I don't want to be right.  

Seriously....this topping is so yummy, I just wanted to eat the pan of it straight.  

I managed to restrain myself and pour most of it on the bread.  The bread itself is delicious.....not too sweet, nice and moist, nice apple flavor.  I might add a little vanilla next time, but it was really good.  But the glaze takes it over the top.  I wish I had pecans mixed in the bread, but since my family would all revolt, I settled with sprinkling some on top of part of one loaf.  Still good, but I would love more nuts!  

Recipe: (adapted from Pass the Sushi)

1-1/2 c. grated, peeled apples (I used 3 small Gala)
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. oil (canola)
1/4 c. applesauce
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 c. white whole wheat flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 c. chopped pecans (optional)

2 T. butter
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 T. milk
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease bottoms only of 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray or butter.
In a large bowl, stir together apples, 1 c. brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, applesauce, and eggs.  Stir in remaining bread ingredients just until moistened.  Pour into pans.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Meanwhile, prepare topping.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in 1/4 c. brown sugar.  Heat until boiling, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low.  Boil and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in milk.  Heat to boiling; remove from  heat.  Cool for 10-15 minutes. 
Gradually stir powdered sugar into glaze mixture.  Stir in additional milk, 1/2 t. at a time, if mixture is too thick.  Beat until smooth and thin enough to drizzle.  
Drizzle glaze over loaves. 
Wrap tightly and store at room temp. up to four days or refrigerate up to ten days. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Of Friends and Crayons.....

A little over a month ago, I had a surprise comment from a friend from long mom had mentioned my blog to her and she came over to visit and say "Hi".  I think the last time I saw her was about 13 or 14 years ago, can't remember exactly, but my main memories of her are from my freshman year in high school, which was back in '91-'92. 
It's funny how time changes things......

Back then Tracy was my basketball coach for the year, the older sister of a couple of my close friends, a young married momma of two little ones who sacrificed her time to passionately coach my team of rather inexperienced girls.  Oh, I adored her...we all did....but we were worlds apart.  I was not even 14 years old, totally immersed in my friends, surviving biology and dissecting fetal pigs, passing notes in class, and of course gossipping about who had a crush on who....that sort of thing. 


She's a mom of eight...yes, 8!!!......her two littles I that I vaguely remember are all grown up, one is even married, has a baby and another on the way, but Tracy also has children around the ages of my children.  How cool is that?  She has a lovely blog about her family called Finding Joy in the Little Things and one about her crafts  - man, she can sew!  She homeschools and has many of the same interests as I do....I just wish we lived closer so I could get together with her.
Anyways, when I reconnected with her on her blog, she happened to be having a give-away, of these gorgeous crayons from Rainbow Resource.

Her kids loved them and she wanted to give some to another family. 

Of course I entered....

and to my great excitement,


(I don't usually win things.....except that one time I won one of the Pioneer Woman's giveaways - have I mentioned that?  Maybe another time....and no, it wasn't one of those awesome cameras or KitchenAids or IPads......but it was pretty cool to win something out of 14,000 entries anyways!)

But I digress.  I was so thrilled to win the crayons, and Tracy sent them to me quickly. 

When we got the package and I opened it, the kids said, "What?  Crayons?  What's so special about that?"

And then they started coloring.

And then all they could say was, "These are the COOLEST crayons, EVER!!" 

They're so smooth, so silky, so easy to use and vibrant to look at....the kids just can't get enough of them. 

She had also thrown in a little bonus, Crayon Rocks.

Annika (3) in particular loves fact, I'm pretty sure she's hidden them from the other kids because she loves how cute they are in their little bag.  :)
So I give a hearty THANK YOU to Tracy - not just for the crayons, but for getting back in touch with me - which is a delight and a blessing.  We're finding joy in the little things here, too!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Barbecue Chicken Casserole

I was browsing through my Taste of Home Winning Recipes cookbook recently and this recipe caught my eye.  Grant and I love barbecue chicken, and the kids love corn, so I thought it would be a fun one to try.  
The original called for a whole chicken, cut up into pieces....I don't prefer to deal with helping kids remove chicken from bones at the table (can you say "messy"?) so I decided to use diced boneless skinless chicken breasts instead.  I thought it turned out really well.  
Every one liked it.....although Grant said he'd prefer it without the corn next time  It has sort of an Asian taste to it, a sweet and sour chicken if you will.  It would probably be delicious served over rice.  We'll try that next time.  


1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 stalks celery, chopped thinly
1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. water
3 T. brown sugar
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 package (16 oz) frozen corn, thawed (optional)
Additional salt, if desired

Place flour in a large resealable bag.  Add chicken and shake to coat.  In a large skillet, brown the chicken until no more pink remains.  Transfer to an ungreased 13 x 9" baking dish.
Drain skillet, reserving 2 T. drippings.  (I had no leftover drippings, so I added a T. of butter)
Saute the onion, pepper, and celery until tender.  In a bowl, combine the ketchup, water, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.  Add to vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Pour over the chicken.  
Sprinkle corn on top, if desired, and add a little extra salt for the corn if desired.
Bake uncovered at 350° for 20 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.  

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"G" is for Gorp

Our Letter of the Week Service Projects continue.  "G" presented a bit of challenge, as I had no desire to take Garlic, Green beans, Guacamole, or Grapes to anyone....although I did entertain the idea of Granola Bars.   Grant suggested my popular recipe of White Chocolate Gorp, and I was sold.

(For the record, Gorp stands for "Good Old Raisins and Peanuts"....although obviously mine contains much more than that).

It's delicious, easy, and kids love to help make it and eat it.  We bagged it up, stuck on some Green bows, and delivered it to a lovely middle-aged couple from our church, the G______s.   It was pouring rain and not really the weather anyone would want to go out in, but we had fun visiting with them and spending a few moments getting to know some familiar faces from church on a more personal level.

If you haven't had a chance to make this Gorp recipe, you really have to try it.  It's irresistible.

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