Friday, December 31, 2010

A perfect Christmas

Okay, I know it's "time" for the new years resolution posts and everyone is over Christmas, but I had to post about our wonderful Christmas day because I never want to forget it!

For the first time in quite a while, my parents did not host their sides of the family in town.  Instead the plan was to (as usual) spend Christmas eve w/hubs family, my family was going to Paducah on Christmas day, and then to Owensboro on the day after Christmas.  It's always a whirlwind, and I know that we should be thankful that we have all our family within a three hour or so drive, but this year after having so little time together, hubs & I really needed some "us" time.  So we decided to stay home on Christmas day, just the two of us :).

On Christmas eve we did the normal movie, dinner, and presents w/hubs' family.  We saw the Voyage of the Dawn Treader and then came home for a dinner of ham, turkey, and finger foods :).  Tons of presents as always, but the best surprise of all came right as we were about to leave.  We knew that there was a chance of snow the next day, but hubs opened the door to start loading up our car and there was lready an inch or two on the ground!!! We were so surpised and giddy--and all the kids had gotten snow boots & sleds from hubs' mom--it was great!  And then we got on the road...eep!  Apparently our city had not planned on snow so soon and winthin those 2 hours of accumulation the roads were covered and slick w/ice.  We slipped and slid and our normal 15 minute drive just about doubled in time before we made it safely.  I was really worried about my sister in law though, she had to drive to Smiths Grove, which is normally at least half an hour away...with 5 kids in the car!  Thankfully everyone made it safely and we came home to this:
And then on Christmas morning:
We don't get much snow in Bowling Green, and haven't had a white Christmas in years!  It was perfect!!
My parents came by the next morning to do presents at our house before they headed to Paducah, and then it was just the two of us (and Butch of course)!  I've got to say it was the best Christmas of our marraige :).   We laid around and watched movies, played some board games & Wii and just enjoyed the day together.  We had more time together that day than we'd  had probably in the past 6 months combined!  It was lovely.  For dinner I decided to conquer one of my cooking fears: steak!  I had seen the filet au poivre recipe on the Pioneer woman's website and decided that I could do it.  I made some yeast rolls & baked potatoes, then I set up a candle-lit dinner at the dining room table and we had sparkling grape juice (not really alcohol drinkers).  It was as good as a date out!  I used ribeyes for the steak and they were okay, but then I tried it again later in the week w/sirloins and oh. my. goodness.  AMAZING!  that's hubs' favorite cut of steak anyway so it was quite the hit.  Sadly, I forgot to take any pictures during any of our Christmas festivities, but here is a picture of the repeated steak dinner--you should definitely try the recipe!
I got some very special Christmas presents as well hubs surprised me w/my own GPS (because I get lost and often borrow his and don't give it back) and this beautiful necklace!
I got several things to help w/the baking including new airbake cookie sheets and best of all, the glass kitchenaid mixing bowl for my mixer!!  (from my mom).  Also extremely special was a gift from my dad: the Oswald Chambers devotional journal "My Utmost for His Highest" but the best thing about it is that he had gone through and wrote a message to me on every day of the year!  There were definitely lots of tears at that one, and just knowing that my dad had dedicated time every single day of the year to write something to I am so blessed!

The day after Christmas was spent at my Aunt's in Owensboro.  Another wonderful time w/family, food, and presents, but the best part was really celebrating the "reason for the season."  We did our family's traditional advent with the candles and read Luke 2:8-14 with teh Christmas story and talked about the things that God has done in the last year.  It was wonderful!
This was such a great Christmas, and I hope we will always remember it!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Red Velvet Cheesecake

When time came for our Bible study Christmas party I wanted something festive and delicious for our dessert.  Several of the girls had told me that Red Velvet cake is their favorite dessert, and of course they all love cheesecake, so this was a perfect fit!  Once again, I made myself search my cookbook collection for a recipe before going to the internet and found a perfect one in the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook from 2008. 

It cracked me up--my cheesecake cracked like a face!  I thought about decorating it with the topping around the edges so it looked like Santa Claus...

This was really good--the only thing I would change is the topping--it was too sweet for my taste, more of a cream cheese American buttercream.  I would definitely choose a sour cream based topping next time.

Red Velvet Cheesecake
from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
2 (1 oz) bottles red food coloring

1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional Garnish: colored sparkling sugars

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-in. springform pan.

Beat 3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese & 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an elextred mixer 1 minute.  Add eggs & next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined.  Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake at 325 F. for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300 F, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm.  Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake.  Turn oven off.  Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes.  Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes.  Cover & chill 8 hours. 

Beat 1 (3 oz) package cream cheese & 1/4 cup butter at medium speed w/an electric mixer until smoooth; gradually add powered sugar & vanilla, beating until smooth.  Spread evenly over top of cheesecake.  Remove sides of springform pan. Garnish, if desired.  Yield 8-10 servings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

I've made this one a few times for the students--once for a leadership dinner for about 15 people, then again for my own Bible study.  I usually double the recipe since I have so many people to feed and make it in my large crock pot, and it's always wonderful!!  Sorry that I don't have a picture, but honestly, beef stroganoff doesn't look so appetizing...  Just imagine a creamy sauce w/beef &; mushrooms--and don't forget the egg noodles!

Garlic Beef Stroganoff
adapted from Taste of Home Casseroles, Slow cooker, & Soups cookbook

2 tsp. beef bouillon granules
1 cup boiling water
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
2 jars (4 1/2 oz. each) sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2  large onion, chopped
1.5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless round, skirt, or flank steak, trimmed & cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, cubed

Hot cooked egg noodles

In a 3-qt slow cooker, dissolve bouillon in water.  Add the soup, mushrooms, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce.  In a skillet, brown beef w/onions in oil.  Transfer beef & onions to slow cooker.  (I usually go through all these steps the night before, then refrigerate the mixture covered in the pot overnight and it comes out great)

Cover & cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is tender.  Stir in cream cheese until smooth.  Serve over noodles.  Serves 6-8.

You should definitely make this--it's wonderful!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

recent happenings and a new favorite christmas cookie

I have been the most absent blogger ever--nearly a full month since my last post!  And I have about 6 drafts started where I started a recipe but never got around to actually finishing.  So sorry to any of you who may be curious as to where I am!

Life has just been crazy.  I thought that this year--my first year since the age of 16 not working at the doctor's office--I would have all kinds of time to read my Christmas baking magazines, make treats, and get things done in a leisurely manner.  Well...I was wrong. I'm not sure exactly why things have been so crazy.  I've hosted a few Christmas parties & had several cookie tray & cake orders, but I guess it has been the meetings w/college students that takes the most time.  Crazy as it is--I ADORE what I'm doing now!

Here are some pictures from the past month or so:

 me with my fabulous Bible study after our group Christmas party

I also hosted the CRU women's Christmas party at my house--about 25 college ladies packed into my living room!!
 we made ornaments (yes...that's 25 girls shaking paint-filled ornaments in my living room...)
 then played dirty santa

and of course I've made tons of food:
for the Christmas parties

and all those cookies yesterday for orders:

It's been wonderful, but definitely enough to make me exhausted!
i'm feeling a bit jealous of this lazy one:


But I know that you are interested in the cookies right??  I made these for the first time right before the CRU party and love them!  If you don't like peppermint, these aren't for you, but I think they're wonderful! They are not too sweet which is really during the holidays.  They actually have a bit of a delicious saltiness.  My favorite way to make them is to crush the candy canes in my food processor, then pour the crushed candy out, and mix the dough in the food processor.  Doing it this way means less uniform chunks of peppermint--some of it is powdery, so your dough will be more pink, but it also incorporates more peppermint flavor into the cookies and I think it's easier. 

Peppermint cookies
adapted from Taste of Home magazine.
yield: approx 7 dozen

1 1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup crushed peppermint candies or candy canes (about 1 regular box of candy canes)

-in a mixing bowl, cream butter & sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture.  Fold in the candy.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 F for 10-12 min. or until cookie edges just begin to brown.  Cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

TWD catch up

I haven't been able to make the devilish shortcakes chosen this week by Tania of Love Big, Bake Often but they sound wonderful and I hope I get the chance to make them!  I have, however, made most of last month's recipes but just haven't gotten to post b/c of busyness.

So here they are:

Chosen by Emily of Sandmuffin: All-American, All-Delicious Apple Pie

I've got to say that this is my favorite of the bunch--I also made Dorie's pie crust and LOVE it...afraid it's going to have to replace my go-to recipe!   The only thing I changed is to use cornstarch instead of tapioca & to omit the lemon zest.  I've made this recipe 4 times--for a Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house for international students at WKU, for my Bible study Thanksgiving dinner, and also for Thanksgiving w/hub's family.  Crazy as it is to say, I had never made apple pie before! This is definitely a keeper though--and hubs' favorite!

Chosen by Janelle of Mortensen Family Memories: Caramel Pumpkin Pie
I was kinda "eh" about this...I used the rum as posted in the recipe--I always forget that Dorie makes really boozy desserts--and it was a bit too strong for my liking.  It mellowed a bit after a few days, but I think if I make this again I will definitely use apple juice in place of the rum!

Chosen by Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen: Not-just-for-Thanksgiving Cranberry Shortbread Cake
I made this one for Thanksgiving with my family and they LOVED it!  My mom said this was the kind of dessert that she always wanted to make :)  I thought it was very easy as well!

(Check out the links to the blogs for the recipes)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Butch does this!

glad we aren't the only household w/a dog who digs in the bowl...but it would have been nice to know about this casting--Butch could have been famous!!  (she does it whenever she is hot or over excited...)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TWD peanuttiest blondies

This week Nicole of Bakeologie chose the Peanuttiest Blondies f/m page 119 of BFMHTY.

Well, sadly these are kindof a fail for me.  I baked them for the suggested minimum 40 minutes and the edge pieces are like rocks!!  my teeth hurt from trying to eat one :(

The batter was fabulous, so I think if I bake them less they will be perfect--and I may try that very soon!  Kinda bummed about this big plate of blondies that are too hard to eat, but I'm thinking that would be fabulous ground up in the food processor and used as a cookie crust for something delicious...

Thanks for the pick Nicole (check her blog for the recipe), and everyone be sure to check the TWD lyl post to see if they didn't become rocks for someone else!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Burrito Casserole

This was dinner for the second Bible study meeting that I had.  Served it with some white queso dip & chips and the ever-popular sopapilla cheesecake.  I really enjoyed this one a lot and think the girls did too!

 the leftovers after dinner

my portion the next day :)

Burrito Casserole
from Tast of the South magazine
 8-10 servings

1 (10.25 oz.) can beef gravy
1 (10 oz.) can enchilada sauce
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 (1.25 oz.) envelope taco seasoning mix
1 cup water
2 (16 oz.) cans refried beans
10 to 12 flour tortillas
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
1 (8 oz.) package shredded cheddar cheese
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a small bowl, combine beef gravy & enchilada sauce; set aside
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat on stovetop, brown ground chuck & drain grease.  Add taco seasoning & water.  Continue to cook until liquid has been absorbed (5-10 minutes).  Add refried beans to meat mixture & stir well; set aside.
  • Line a greased 9x13 in. casserole dish with one-third of tortillas.  Spread half of meat mixture over tortillas, and top with half of sour cream.  Repeat layers, ending with the final third of tortillas.  Pour gravy mixture over casserole and top w/grated of cheese.
  • Bake for 30-45 min. or until casserole is hot & bubbly.  Remove from oven & let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.  
  • To serve, cut into squares & top with your favorite burrito toppings!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What it feels like to be sick...

I got an email today from a fellow food blogger who also deals with a chronic illness and she mentioned something that I haven't heard of before--the "spoon theory"--as a way to explain how it feels to people in your life.  I googled it and ran across this video which brought me to tears.

Watch it first, then we'll talk about it ;)

Okay--I'm not looking for sympathy here.  I don't have Lupus or cancer or anything life-threatening and I've adapted to having CFS & Fibro over the past 3 years so I function pretty well.  I can get ready in the morning easily at this point, (though I won't lie, when I first got sick I had to rest after taking a shower...)  My problems won't kill me.  I can keep going, just at a slower pace.

But I have to think about my "spoons" regularly.  Even mental focus while I'm sitting takes something out of me and after a meeting I'm tired with a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.  For the past two weekends I have done too much around the house so that by Sunday I am too sore & exhausted to do anything.  I have to plan my days carefully and take time to rest between things--or know that if I don't I will need a day of doing nothing to deal with the repercussions.  I feel guilty that I sleep in till 9 now that I quit my job and am doing part time work with CRU, but if I don't get that sleep the day starts off with pain.  And regularly sleeping a few hours later and being balanced is a lot better than before when I was getting up early and overdoing it through the week and then hibernating all weekend!  Things are SO much better now that I have more time to rest and am doing what I am passionate about, but I still have bad days and even weeks.  On good days I question myself--"Is this all in my head?"  "Am I just not pushing myself enough?" "Am I just lazy?"  On bad days I thank God for a tangible sign that I'm not just crazy--swollen lymph nodes & a fever.  This is just life now.  It is still a good life and I've learned a lot--specifically about resting in the Lord and trusting Him to provide--but its a different life than I had imagined for myself.

Thanks for caring enough to read this!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Conspiracy theory...

Do you remember the little problem i have with magazines??  I've been good about cutting back and not renewing the gazillion that I subscribed to in my crazy subscription spree because I have absolutely not been able to get through them fast enough...I think i have enough unread magazines to last me years!  Also I've been working on getting rid of the junk that is overflowing my house, and one of those things is the magazines that I for some reason have kept for lots of years.  I've gone through some of them to find recipes that I want to keep, and in doing so have discovered a disturbing trend...

 notice any similarities??

  anything yet?

 is it just me or are the magazine cover designers lazy??

 these are the issues that mad me notice first...
and i think these two issues from February of 2004 & 2005 are the worst--they even have some of the same cover titles!

Now I will give it to them, these issues are from around 2003-2006 and since then they have drastically changed the cover design to make it less cluttered and more modern, and with that they seemed to have come up w/some new design ideas ;)  But I kinda felt jipped--instead of subscribing for all those years I could have just read the same issue each year and probably had the same information!  (and sorry to kinda be picking on Woman's Day--those were the issues that I had available, but I have noticed this in other magazines as well).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My favorite Carrot Cake

Several years ago when I was in college I went to visit my dear friend and Bible study leader, Abigail.  She knew about my love for magazines and offered to by me any one that I wanted.  I saw the Spring 2005 issue of Taste of the South Magazine and that was it!  I fell in love with the magazine immediately and of all the issues (and I have every one...) this particular one has been my favorite! A section on strawberry recipes, one on great southern cakes, casseroles, and deviled eggs.  My favorite hash brown casserole recipe was adapted from this magazine, as is a burrito casserole that I love (and will be posting soon) and of course this fabulous cake!
I made this cake back in August for my dad's birthday to serve to him at one of the CRU beginning of the semester meetings.  Carrot cake is his favorite and this one is super special with the coconut and pineapple and nuts and all the fabulous stuff in it!  Some people prefer their carrot cake to be more plain but this is my favorite--tons of extras in the icing and cake--you'll love it!

my mini portion in a custard cup--have to taste test right??

the finished cake

Carrot Cake
from Taste of the South magazine

2        cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2  tsp. baking soda
1 1/4  tsp. baking powder
1/4     tsp. salt
2        cups sugar
1 1/4   tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4   cups vegetable oil
4         large eggs, at room temp.
1         tsp. vanilla
2         cups finely shredded carrots
1/2      cup chopped pecans
1 (8 oz.)can crushed pineapple, well-drained
3/4      cup flaked sweetened coconut
1         recipe Decadent Carrot-Cake Icing
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease & flour three 8-in round cake pans or two 9-in round cake pans (i used a 9x13 this time); set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon; stir well.  Add vegetable oil and eggs; blend well with an electric mixer at medium speed.  Stir in vanilla, shredded carrots, pecans, pineapple, and coconut.
  • Ladle batter into prepared pans, dividing equally.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cake layers cool for 10 minutes in plans.  Invert onto cooling racks and let cool completely.
  • Frost cake layers with Decadent Carrot-Cake Icing. (Since this cake is very moist, it is recommended to place layers in the freezer for at least one hour before frosting.)
I sliced this cake in half so I could frost it in between layers as well, but that was SUPER hard due to all the mix-ins.  Next time I do this in a 9x13 pan I will just bake it in 2 pans if I want the extra icing...

Decadent Carrot-Cake Icing
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
6 cups confectioners' sugar
3 cups flaked, sweetened coconut
1/2 cups raisins (i usually omit)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
In a large bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer at medium speed.  Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth.  Stir in coconut, raisins, and pecans.
**I have always gotten at least 1-2 cups of extra icing, so you could probably get by on 2/3 of a recipe for this, or  make another half recipe of the cake into cupcakes :)**

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TWD: double apple bundt cake

 For this week's TWD challenge, Lynne of Honey Muffin chose the Double Apple Bundt Cake from pp. 184-184 of BFMHTY. 

With shredded apples and apple butter in the mix, this really is a perfect (and perfectly moist!) cake to celebrate actual fall weather!

I left out the nuts & raisins this time b/c some of the girls in the Bible study aren't huge fans, plus it means that I actually have a chance that hubs will try it!

I also didn't make the glaze...a lemon glaze w/this doesn't sound appetizing to me, but I'm contemplating adding a caramel glaze before Bible study tonight.

 Dorie says that the grated apples melt into the batter and it is so true!  You don't get the texture from them, just a pure fresh apple flavor as well as the lovely spices and moistness from the apple butter.  Fabulous!

Thanks so much to Lynne for this pick, and be sure to check out her blog for the recipe and the TWD leave your link post to see who baked along this week!

Monday, October 4, 2010

My life now...

I was talking to hubs last night and he said "you never post about fun stuff on your blog any more--only food" and I guess that's a bit true these days...though I think most of my followers over here are here for food, those of you who I know in "real life" and who are interested in what is going on in my life after some major changes have been left with no info except for the fact that I am doing a LOT of cooking for big groups of college students!  There is definitely more to life now so I'll start to fill you in on that in between the food posts...

My last day at the office was Wednesday, July 28--I left before 5 in a torrent of tears, hugs, & goodbyes.  Crazy girl that I am, I decided that I would take myself off all of my medication around that time and see what just plain rest & water aerobics would do for my health conditions.  Well, going off of the Prozac the day before I left my job of 10 wasn't pretty!  I cried and cried and snotted and cried some more!  It was intense!

The week before I left my coworkers honored me with a goodbye pot-luck lunch and some precious gifts
 a very blurry picture of some of the food
 they got me a cupcake Christmas ornament!
 a cookbook from Patti's--a Kentucky restaurant famous for amazing food & pies and they all signed the inside of the cookbook so I can think fo the whenever I cook from it :)
sobbing my little eyes out over my goodbye card.

I got another cookbook from one of the nurses "Great Recipes for Good Health" since that is one of the big focuses in life now.  Also a check and lots of hugs from the doctors and some money from my co-workers, and a 3-tier cakestand from another of my dear co-workers.  It was so special!  I'm disappointed with myself for not getting a picture with everyone before I left though :(  But I"m glad that I at least have our 1970s wood paneling and orange benches from the basement immortalized on the blog ;)  

The first two weeks after I quit I did very little.  I still took a lot of calls from the office on how to do certain things, and then these precious little ones entered our lives:



Butch even got to have a few visits with the babies & she loves them!

It was a great time and my sister-in-law & I really got to bond.  I was able to stay with her some in the hospital and help with feedings and cuddling and all that great aunt stuff :)  The boys were so tiny though!  It was scary one point when feeding one of them I was sure that I had killed him!  He just didn't seem to be moving and I was terrified!  Thankfully no one has died in the hands of Aunt Sarah (yet) and the tiny boys weighed at just under 10 pounds on their two month checkup!  They've done amazingly well for being born on July 31 when their due date was Sept. 8.  I love them!

Well, that is what happened in the two weeks after leaving my job...I'll update again soon on my major role now!