Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Resolution check-in

Well, I haven't been as consistent as I would like with posting these updates, but I thought that the last day of the month would be a good time to evaluate myself.

So here is how I'm doing...the good, bad and ugly...

1. Improve my overall health.  No progress.  Still been very sick and discouraged about it.  :(  and I have not lost any more weight.  boo.  cranky.  blech. 

2. Be a better steward of our money.  Really making progress!  I have a new lunchtime routine...instead of going shopping or wandering around stores I am grabbing lunch and going to the park if it's pretty, or to barnes & noble and grabbing a cushy chair and reading!  It is absolutely wonderful.  I've also worked on a real budget to try to get a cap on my spending habits, specifically cutting my discretionary spending and grocery budget.  I'm doing well and it makes me happy!

3. Letting things go. Nothing real as far as progress, but least I'm not accumulating more!

4. Waste less time.  Not really sure where I am with this, I spent a lot of time in bed sick recently, but have gotten some reading done during that time...just kinda eh...

5. Read books.  Finished My Life in France!!  Loved it and LOVED reading on my lunch break--especially in the park!  It is just a very special bit of "me" time.  Today I started Get Happy, a Judy Garland bio.  I'm very much into memoirs and bios right now and am excited about this one--I'm always fascinated by tragic celebrities for some reason.

6. Organize/cleaning. I've had a few times in the past few weeks when the house was  I got a lot done this past Saturday and had also done well a week or two before, but it just gets messed up so feels worthless.  :( 

7. Spend more time w/hubs. We've had some good times--I was out of comission for a while from being sick, but we have tried to make the most of the times that we've had, and are enjoying taking walks together again now that the weather is pretty!  Also, he is consistently helping with dishes and that make me feel so loved!  He has also been working hard to take care of me when I'm feeling sick.  :)

8. Have time with God daily. Was not good about it last week, but have been doing better this weekend.  I need to focus on really absorbing what I'm reading instead of just skimming over the words to check it off my list.

Three months down!  How have you kept up with your resolutions?? (or have you forgotten them all together?)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No TWD this week....Chocolate with Francois instead, and I'm hosting!

Even though I love coconut, I did not make the Coconut Tea Cake chosen by Carmen of Carmen Cooks.  I may end up making it for Easter this weekend...we'll see!

Instead, I have a very special event today...even though I've only been in the group for a very little while, it is my turn to host for Chocolate with Francois!!!

I must admit, I feel a bit guilty to be hosting so quickly since I have only baked along once before, but we're still a small group and we've got to start somewhere!  Chocolate with Francois is a small group baking through Francois Payard's Chocolate Epiphany.  I was so lucky to have found the book right at the time that the group was starting and have enjoyed looking through all the amazing recipes.  It was really hard to choose one--the pictures are absolutely gorgeous and since the group is so young I had so many options!

I ended up choosing the Chocolate Canneles from page 48--I was interested in these from my very first glance at the book!  I have never had a cannele, but the picture and description were just wonderful:

"Canneles are a specialty of southwest France.  Their thick exterior crust is very crisp and dark, while their inside is moist and lighter in color, with a distinctive chewy 'crumb'..."
My only reservation is that they are baked in special molds, which I do not have, an imagined that most of the other bakers would not have either.  After much online research I found that canneles can be made in muffin tins instead of the molds so we were good to go! (thanks to Tartlette for this information!)  I was very tempted to buy some cute little mini bundt pans that were shaped like a little squat cannele mold, but we're trying to save money, so i passed...:(

These really were not hard to make...but you do have to allow the batter to rest.  Francois also recommends inverting the molds over the cooling rack in order to prevent them from sinking...but I think that this caused mine to sink from the bottom.  However, the way that they sank kinda made them look like the shaped ones from the book! 

I hope that everyone enjoyed baking along with me this month, and if you are interested in joining the details are on the group blog

Chocolate Canneles
Chocolate Epiphany p. 48

  • 3 ounces (90 grams)  72% chocolate, chopped (i had  some 77% and some 60%, combined them)
  • 2 cups (500 grams) whole milk (used a mix of skim & cream as usual)
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (90 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup (180 grams) sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons (40 grams) dark rum, such as Myers's or Armagnac
  • Vegetable cooking spray, for the molds
Make the Batter: Put the chocolate in a medium bowl.  Put the milk and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan (reserve the pod for another use).  Scald the mixture, removing the pan from the heat when small bubbles form at the edges.  Pour the mixture over the chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt over a medium bowl.  Combine the egg, egg yolks, and rum and whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.  If you go too fast, lumps will form.  Slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture, whisking until the mixture is smooth.  Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.
Bake the Canneles: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400* F.
If using copper molds, heat them in the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are hot.  This step is not necessary with silicone molds (i used a metal muffin tin but did not do this step)
Spray the molds with vegetable cooking spray, doing so more generously if using copper molds.  If using silicone molds, arrange them on a baking sheet.  Stir the batter, and transfer to a large measuring cup or to a pitcher if desired, which will make it easier to pour the batter into the molds.  Fill the molds almost to the top, and let the batter rest in them for 30 minutes.  This allows the flour to settle at the bottom, so the canneles won't rise during baking.
Bake for 60 to 75 minutse, until the exterior f the canneles is crisp and set and springs back when you lightly touch the top. (since muffin tins are shorter, i reduced the time to 45-50 minutes...i think that 50 might have been a tad too long as mine got too dark in some places.)
Remove the molds from the oven, and turn them over on a wire cooling rack.  Let the canneles cool in teh molds, which keeps them from sinking and becoming dense.  When cool, unmold them, and keep them in an airtight container.

These were definitely best on the first day...I didn't put them in a container so they lost their crispy exterior after a day or two, but the flavor is still great.  I love the chewy center...I want to try them in some different flavors now!  

Monday, March 29, 2010

more weird dreams...

You know by now that I am a vivid dreamer...what with the walking and consequently falling while sleeping, the talking and all that.  I don't know if I mentioned before but hubs refuses to listen to my dreams now.  It kinda makes me sad, but really, I do the same with his sports stuff (or I pretend to listen while it all whooshes over my head...).  Well, I have had lots of crazy dreams over the last week...I think because of being sick and stressed about getting behind at work, a lot of my dreams centered around the office.

Since hubs doesn't care to hear, I will tell you about my dreams, because I know you're just dying to know right??  (please don't feel like you have to read this, I just like to record my dreams sometimes)

First a few snippets from earlier in the week:
~I had gone back to work after being sick and found that two of the doctors in our practice had had a huge falling out while I was gone and refused to work on the same side of the office!  The entire place was turned upside down and patients were confused b/c their doctors were not in the right place.
~The doctors rehired the woman who had been the manager years ago when I was first hired.  I won't go into details, but in real life there was some shady stuff going on which lead to her rather abrupt departure.  In my dream I was forced to train her on how to do the job that I do now which used to be her was just weird.
~I was walking through walmart looking for tapioca pearls in order to make Bubble Tea and was intent on finding large enough straws to suck up the pearls...In real life I am honestly not sure if I've ever tried it, but I seem to have a memory of having some when I was in Russia... (okay, that was not at all about work, but i just remembered it)

And now for last night's dream...
The first part I remember is that I was going to get some milk and there was some odd substance in the bottom of the cup when I was finishing it.  Then I looked closer and pulled out the jug and the rim was coated with maggots!  yuck yuck yuck!!!! 
Then I ended up in my high school, once again I had graduated from high school and college, but now they said I was missing a credit and needed to take classes again.  I started in English where I was stressed out about a paper that was due on a book I hadn't read, then moved on to my choir class, where I began passing out the best ever peanut butter cookies.  My friend Stephen from high school was in class and feeling sick so I went over to him and felt his head and then gave him pepto-bismol pills...I had access to my real life desk drawer which is full of all my pills!  lol.  Then my favorite college professor walked down the hall in a graduation robe, interrupted our choir class to tell me that I couldn't come to work for him, but that the high school wanted to hire me.  Class ended and I started to panic, because once again I had forgotten to print out my class schedule and did not know what class I was supposed to go to or where I was supposed to go.  I ended up in "room 79" which was a computer lab/typing class.  I was trying to find seats by my friends and we kept shifting everyone else around so we could be together, and my sister ended up in the class and her hair was down below her waist like it used to be.  Then out of the blue I had this realization that it was the middle of the day and I had missed the whole last week of work because I was sick, and now I was going to have to be in school everyday until 3:00.  How was I possibly going to manage an office if I could only work 8 hours a week?  And how would I get caught up on everything I had missed while I was sick?  I ran to the school office to get to a phone so I could call my work and spilled the whole thing out to the guidance counselor.  Then I woke up with a minute before my alarm went off. 

My first day back to work after the flu (?) I was exhausted, already stressed, and frazzled.  boo.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

Well, this week has not been good and I am feeling quite the grump, but I am posting this in an attempt to be thankful...

1.  Quiche.  Yep.  Eggs.  I'm sick.  have been stuck in bed since Tuesday.  The doctor tested me for strep and the flu and said they both "looked negative but were not 100%" so she put me on a Z-pac to see if that would do anything.  I don't think it is, but I'll finish up the pills and call back if I'm still in bad shape on Monday.  I have this (maybe irrational??) fear that I have mono/epstein barr again and that throws me into some serious fear/depression considering that is what launched me into all my chronic illnesses 3 years ago. 

Anyway...back to the quiche... You know that I like eggs when I'm sick, and this is just such an easy yummy comforting way to eat them.  If I can muster up the energy to make it one day, I am able to eat it for all 3 meals for a while!  I made a variation of this recipe using fresh spinach, mushrooms, red onions, and a bit of bacon.  Sauteed the veggies until they were soft, then threw them in the pie shell, mixed them with some cheese, topped w/the egg mixture and baked for about 35 minutes.  Easy.  Delicious.  Comforting.

2.  Lovely weather.  I was able to open the windows in the bedroom on Tuesday or Wednesday and get a nice breeze/hear the birds chirping.  It lifted my spirits.  :)

3.  Bolthouse Farms C-boost juice.  Now, I don't really believe that it is helping me to be honest...but this 100% juice is wonderful and should help your immune system...if you're not me that is...

4.  My chair.  In most households it is the husband/father who gets the recliner.  Not in this one!  I claimed this chair back in September 2007 when I first got sick and it has served me well :)  This actually was a hand-me-down from hubs' best friend.  A ratty old green recliner that I wanted to get rid of.  Well, I've got a slipcover on it now, and my little laptop table beside it, and it is quite comfy if I do say so myself!  Butchy knows it as the "cuddle chair."  Whoever sits in it should expect a 45 pound bulldog in their lap. 

5.  Disney/Pixar movies with dogs.  In the past few weeks hubs has really been trying to encourage and love on me while I've been feeling so miserable.  Last week we watched Up and this week we watched Bolt...both made us cry so much!  Of course Up has the marriage aspect, but we just have a soft spot for pups...and Butchy has been very interested in both movies--her ears perk up when the dogs on screen bark and sometimes she growls at the bad guys!  Hilarious. 

What has brought a smile to your face this week?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

a day in the life of a bulldog....

She lazy.
you know the feeling when you have a fever and your eyelids feel like they're burning?? 

yep.  that's the one.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TWD: Dulce de Leche Duos

For this week's assignment, Jodie of Beansy Loves Cake chose the Dulce de Leche Duos from page 161 of BFMHTY. 

Though Dorie says you can use store-bought Dulce de Leche I made it for the first time using my slow cooker as the wonderful Julie posted on the TWD site this week and it was awesome!  At first I was kinda scared b/c it seemed very solid, but it got pretty creamy once I gave it a good stir...I may have overcooked it just a tad, but I don't think it hurt these at all.  Such an easy way to get wonderful creamy caramel whenever you want!

Well, these cookies were also a big hit at our dinner for Lacey.  I made them on Sunday afternoon, and guess what?  Hubs even liked them!  (he did not try the sandwich ones though)  I love how soft and chewy they are, and the caramel flavor really comes through.  I took the leftovers to work where they were eaten by most (we did have one nay-sayer.  boo) and everyone seemed to like them a lot there too.

Thanks for the awesome challenge Jodie!  And for those of you who want to make your own Dulce de Leche at home, all you have to do is sit a can of sweetened condensed milk in your slow cooker/crock pot and cover it with water (there should be an inch or two of water above the can).  Turn your cooker on low and just let it cook for 8-10 hours.  After that time is up, turn the cooker off and allow the water and cans to cool back to room temperature befure opening and eating.  Use it on ice cream, in brownies, or in these awesome cookies! 

Monday, March 22, 2010

strawberry truffle pie

After my last very thought-heavy post, I wanted to post something more to my liking...

I made this delicious pie for our Sunday night get-together for Lacey, and it was quite a hit!  It is really quite simple to throw together and looks impressive.  The chocolate filling is actually similar to a chocolate cheesecake but without eggs.  You should try it!

Strawberry Truffle Pie
from Better Homes & Gardens Ultimate Desserts (another impulse special edition magazine purchase...but i've already used it so it doesn't count!)

  • Pastry for Single Crust Pie (they reference their own recipe, but I used my favorite from the Aug-Sept. 09 Food network mag)
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate peices (1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 oz. package cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 2 tbsp. orange liqueur or orange juice
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 pound fresh strawberries, stems removed and halved
  • 1/4 cup red currant jelly, melted (i used a combo of cherry preserves and rhubarb raspberry jam b/c that's what I had on hand) 
Preheat oven to 450*.  Prepare Single Crust Pie pastry.  On a lightly floured surface use your hands to slightly flatten dough.  Roll dough from center to edge into a 12 in. circle.  Wrap pastry circle around rolling pin, unroll into a 9-in. pie plate without stretching it.  Trim pastry to 1/2 inche beyond rim of pie plate.  Fold under extra pastry.  Crimp edge as desired.  Prick bottom and side of pastry with a fork.  Line pastry with a double thickness of foil (grease side of foil that will be touching crust.  You can also use a single thickness and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans).  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove foil.  Bake for 5-6 minutes more or until pastry is golden.  Coll on a wire rack.

In a small saucepan combine chocolate and butter.  Cook and stir over medium-low heat until melted. (in general I feel much safer to cook chocolate over a double boiler, but this way did work fine.  Do what makes you feel comfortable)  Add cream cheese and liqueur/juice.  Cook and stir until smooth.  Remove from heat.  Stir in powdered sugar.

Spread chocolate mixture in bottom of baked pastry sheel.  Arrange strawberries over chocolate layer.  Brush berries with melted jelly.  Cover and chill for at least 4 hours.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. 

thoughts on healthcare from someone who works in the industry

A lot of my friend's blogs have had posts on the newly passed healthcare reform bill, and while I don't pretend to be someone who is knowledgeable about, or even very interested in, politics I just wanted to throw in a few thoughts.  I'm not making a political statement and am not well informed enough to make judgments on this bill, but as a person who works directly with insurance companies in the healthcare industry, and having chronic health conditions these are the things I know for sure:
  • The system as it has been does not work.  I spent this morning sending accounts to collections and having to discharge patients from our practice for not paying their bills--very often because the patients are uninsured or underinsured. It is not fun to tell a family that they can no longer see their pediatrician because they have not paid their bills.  I waver between being very jaded and callous about the situation to being absolutely broken hearted at this part of my job. 
  • The people who are suffering under the current system are often the middle class--there are state programs to support low income families, many providers offer discounts for the uninsured, and most wealthy families have access to good coverage through large companies. Then there are the middle class families--many are paying out of control premiums to have coverage at all, but their plans require deductibles and coinsurances which still cause the patients to pay most services out of pocket. However, since they "have insurance" no additional discounts are generally given. (this is a generalization, I know, but it is what I see daily)
  • I have watched insurance companies go back to charges filed a year ago and recoup payment stating that they paid in error--most of the time b/c patients did not update other insurance information (which is only requested once a claim is filed) or because they made a retroactive preexisting review and decided that a condition was not reported and therefore the patient should not have been covered at all.  Then the patients are stuck with hundreds of dollars worth of bills that they thought were covered.  
  • At 25, I have been denied insurance coverage for my health conditions.  The one plan that would accept me had a $1200 per MONTH premium.  Thankfully I have coverage through my husband's work (at over $300 a month just for me, and that is with his employer paying part of my premium), but if we lose that coverage I am in big trouble, because my office (despite being a doctor's office) does not offer insurance to employees, and without a group plan I am basically uninsurable. 
  • Many of the families who do have insurance are completely ignorant of their policies.  Whether this is user error or failure of HR departments, employers, or agents to explain the terminology, I don't know, but it is awful.  They don't know that their insurance applies vaccinations and preventative care to a deductible...and then they get a several hundred dollar bill that they are stuck with.
  • Communication from insurance companies and the many requirements to keep a policy active and up to date are very confusing, and generally only come up when there is a claim filed.  75% of the denials I deal with are for Coordination of benefits: the insurance wants to know whether or not the patient has any other active coverage.  This is an extremely routine thing that most companies require every 6-9 months, but the patients don't understand it.  Then they don't fill out the paperwork or call the insurance company.  Then all their claims are denied.  I do my best to educate our patients on this with letters and phone calls, but there is only so much that the provider can do b/c only the subscriber can update this information (don't even get me started on what happens in situations of divorce when one parent gets the bills but the other holds the insurance!).
Like I said, I do not know enough about this plan to really make a judgment on whether or not I think it will work, and I honestly don't have any great suggestions, but what we have now is not working.  I see the nasty side of things every single day at my job, and it is so hard when you are dealing with children who NEED these services but their parents can't afford to pay.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


My heart is full and welling up.

I spent this evening with one (well, actually three) of my former Bible study girls as well as several other women, some who I knew, some who I did not.  They came over to my house and we had dinner and fellowship, and then dear Lacey shared with us about how she is going to devote the next year of her life to serving the Lord in northern Africa.  Though I encouraged her to do this and have been in touch with her throughout the process, the magnitude of her decision did not really hit me until tonight.

For some reason, my mind doesn't really comprehend the danger that is inherient in this decision.  I don't know why, but I think of Africa as a safe place, while in reality what she is doing is not safe.  It is not comfortable.  It is not easy.  I am so proud of her.

Pray for Lacey as she prepares for this, and for Africa!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fab 5 Friday

Another week has passed, and it's time to celebrate what made life lovely this week :)

1. Flowers! That's right, spring has finally sprung, and little flowers are pressing their lovely heads out of the ground and from limbs of trees.
See those tiny little blue flowers? (okay, they're really weeds...)  when I was little girl I would pick them for my mom, and even though they are weeds she would put them in water in a tiny juice glass. Such a great mommy!  Everytime I see them I think of springtime when I was a child.  :)

2.  Chap stick/lip balm.  I'm addicted.  I love Burt's Bees and Avon's Moisture Therapy lip balm the most.  I keep one by my bed, in my desk, on my key chain, in the kitchen, and in the living room.  I remember going home when I was in college and my lips being so chapped but not being able to find any!  It was awful so I never want to be without it again!  lol. 

3.  Taco Bell's Cheesy Double Beef Burrito.  YUM!  My favorite fast food treat :)  I got to have it this week (add sour cream of course).  It used to be $.89, but now it's a bit more expensive...still under $2 though. 

4.  My DVR.  Yep, I'm a TV addict, and I just love that I can record all my favorite shows even when they are on different channels at the same time, and I can skip commercials.  Woohoo!!

5.  Tennessee--espeically Spring Hill & Franklin!  I had such a blast with my bestest when I went to visit her, and I justlove the downtown Franklin area.  I mean, it has to be a great place since so many people that I love live there!

What made your week great?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"The best peanut butter cookies in the whole world"

Okay, I'm not necessarily claiming that these are the best in the world, but some others may say so...

My dear coworker Crystal has some of the most adorable little girls that I have ever known!  They come to the office whenever they're sick, or sometimes just to hang out before going to the babysitter, and they always come and visit me in my "room."  I have several little toys on my desk--including a bobblehead bulldog that they call "butch"--and they always come see me and play with my toys.  Lately, every time that Magaily comes in to the office she comes up to me and says (in her adorable three year old voice) "Sarah, you make the best peanut butter cookies in the whole world!"  Seriously, she has said that every time she has come by in the past few months!!  It absolutely melts my heart :)

 Magaily visiting me in my "room"

Maddy & Magaily on their Christmas picture from 2009

The first time that I made these cookies Crystal took some home to her girls, who apparently went crazy for them and declared them to be their favorites.  A little bit later she was taking them shopping and was going to get some cookies from the store, and apparently Maddy started to cry because she can't get her very favorite cookies from the store--only from me!  She then asked her mom if maybe I would make her some if she drew a picture for me.  Well, we can do better than that!  I invited her over and we baked cookies together, and she drew me a beautiful picture that is still on my fridge :)

 Baking (or eating?) with Maddy
 The beautiful picture!: "I Love You and I Like You"

Usually Crystal asks for these cookies for her birthday (or Christmas...or Wednesdays...), but this year she asked for strawberry cake (or cupcakes) instead.  Then later she said that the girls might get mad that she didn't get any of the I made both for her birthday. 
 Strawberry cupcakes iced like flowers :)
 And a mountain of peanut butter cookies!

These cookies are pretty darn amazing...but I can't take credit for them.  I found them in Taste of Home's Best Loved Cookies & Bars special edition around Christmas '08, and I have made them over and over!  Absolutely wonderful!  Unlike your average peanut butter cookie, these have a layer of peanut butter icing on top.  The original recipe calls for you to drizzle some chocolate icing over the tops, but I leave that out--yep, I want pure unadulterated peanut butter please!  Also, I generally shy away from using shortening over butter in my recipes, but the shortening in these really does make for the soft and chewy texture--I wouldn't substitute butter...just my opinion.

Here is the recipe in case you want to make the best peanut butter cookie in the world!

Fancy Peanut Butter Cookies
Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies & Bars 2008
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • dash salt
Chocolate Icing: (optional)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter, and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in milk and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  • Roll into 1 in. balls.  Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 375' for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. (I take them out right at about 11 minutes when they are still pretty light)  Remove to wire racks. 
  • For frosting, in a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, shortening, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy (i combine the fats, then add the sugar) Beat in the milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.  Frost cookies.  Combine melted chips and milk, drizzle over frosting. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

TWD: soft chocolate raspberry tart

Guess what?  I actually made the right recipe on time this week!  woohoo!!  I'm posting a bit late due to another night of much baking (more on that tomorrow) but I did finish last night--just wanted to wait to post until after I could get a daylight picture (it's still light when I get out of work now--yay!)

This week Rachelle of Mommy? I'm Hungry!! chose the soft chocolate raspberry tart from page 354 of BFMHTY by the fabulous Dorie Greenspan.  I LOVE the chocolate raspberry combo.  I buy ghiradelli raspberry squares and stash them in my desk for chocolate emergencies.  But I rarely buy fresh raspberries b/c they go bad so quickly and I find them a bit too mushy.

I honestly thought about skipping this one, even though I love the flavor combo.  The idea of a soft tart didn't really appeal to me and when she described an almost pudding like texture...well, you know about me and pudding.  makes me gag.  yuck.  But I thought it looked pretty simple and I had gone out to pick up some raspberries so I decided to go ahead with it. 

It is a super easy tart to make--just make the crust in the food processor (I skipped freezing the dough and left out the nuts...oh, and probably over-worked it a bit before re-reading that you were supposed to leave it kinda crumbly.  oh well...still good), scatter berries over the baked crust, and then pour the chocolate mixture over it.  I made a half recipe b/c I planned to keep it at my house for dessert, and I definitely don't need a full 9 inch tart!

Well, I'm very glad that I made this one (except for maybe the extra calories).  It is so delicious!  I ate a bit too much when I got home from work (I seriously thought about the tart sitting in my kitchen all day long...longingly...)  I almost skipped dinner and just ate the whole thing!  eep!  Here's to hoping I have better willpower b/c after my creamy-fried weekend and sugar-high monday, I have GOT to get back on track with the eating. 
Thanks for the pick Rachelle--check out her blog for the recipe and be sure to check out the rest of the TWD bloggers to see how they did with them (a lot of adaptations on the type of fruit used as well!).

Monday, March 15, 2010

I have days and moments when I think "I will never have children" usually out of frustration and aggravation.  As you can probably imagine, these moments arrive quite frequently since I work at a pediatric office--generally brought out by hearing children screaming and throwing tantrums about seeing the doctor and/or getting shots.  (we have very few happy children in the office...I guess that's what happens when you are only there b/c you are sick or getting a checkup!).  Sometimes I wonder, if we ever do have children, will I just automatically tune out their cries since I have been ignoring fussy kids every day for nine years?  I have definitely become jaded.  hmm...

Well, today was one of those moments.  At the grocery store.  Yikes.  There was a woman behind me in the checkout lane with a very rambunctious boy (probably around 5-7) and there were just no boundaries!  He kept picking up my groceries--produce in particular--and pretending to eat it or coughing on it or moving it around.  And she just let him!  GAH! It got on my nerves.  I wasn't rude and just tried to ignore it, but it irked me.  I hope I'm not just being unwarrantedly annoyed, but seriously, would you just let your child pick up someone else's food and cough on it?  yuck! 

And I thought how children have minds of their own but don't have those boundaries unless we enforce them.  And being responsible for that scares me.  I'm sure that mom was tired and annoyed herself, and I don't want to just judge her or her parenting skills, but I must admit that I did. 

Just thoughts....still not ready to have babies, that is for sure!

my weekend, and msc

Well, today I am home and had eggs for breakfast...and I didn't get to make the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes for MSC...

But I'm not sick!  Woohoo!  I'm taking a vacation day after a weekend with my bestest in Spring Hill, TN. 
We ate and wandered around downtown Franklin, then went to the factory and painted pottery!  So fun! 

I made a teacup and saucer and she made a super cute bowl.  We had a blast and just enjoyed time together!  After Franklin we went back to her home for dinner and Friends Scene-it, followed by my first time seeing The Proposal. Then we went to my very favorite church that takes me back to my youth!  The reason I came in that weekend was because it was Baby Dedication day and I got to see their sweet daughter Charlotte be dedicated to the Lord!  It was just a special and very sweet weekend full of people that I love.  Once again, I am ready to pack up and move!  If only hubs wasn't so rooted in Bowling Green...

Speaking of hubs...I have to brag on him just a bit.  This was one of the first times that I have been gone on a weekend that he was not super busy filming.  I had already taken Monday off and planned to use it to catch up on the things I didn't get to do while I was out of town...but I came home and they were done!  He did the laundry and folded it and put it away (as well as he could, lol), he unloaded and re-loaded the dishwasher, and...for the biggest shock ever...he mopped the kitchen floor!!!!!  I think that every couple has their regular issues that they argue about, and one of our biggest ones is the allocation of household responsibilities.  In general, I do 95% of things around the house, and usually need to let him know when one of "his jobs" needs to be done.  I don't mind too much b/c he basically works 2 jobs, so this is like my extra stuff--but sometimes I get overwhelmed, and the past few weeks have been one of those times.  I did not at all ask him to do anything while I was gone, but he chose to serve me in that way, and it just made me feel so very loved :)  And honestly, I don't think he has EVER mopped the floor in our house, so that was awesome!  

It was just an amazing weekend and I am so excited that I got to enjoy it!  And as for why I didn't make this month's cupcakes, well, I recently made lemon curd and do not have any lemons (or curd) left, and am trying to save money, and cut back on calories, so that's what's up.  Sorry I missed this challenge Megan, but they look wonderful!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Favorites...Fab 5 Friday...conflicted...

So...I have been going back and forth in my little head between keeping my normal "friday favorites" that I have done for a while, or joining with my friends sabrina, jordan, emily, and jenny to do "fab five fridays", a weekly blog series started by emily in which you list 5 tangible things that have made your life great this week.  I don't know why I am feeling so conflicted about such a silly thing!  I want to be included but I also want to keep doing it MY way ;)  I sound like such a baby.  lol.  I may waffle between the two.  My head is twirly...

Well, as I don't have one particular thing to stand out in my head this week, I am going to do my first Fab 5 goes! 

1.  My Life in France by Julia Child.  I have finally gotten to really get into this book and I am loving it!  I spent a few lunch breaks this week reading it and it paints such a lovely picture of France in the 1940s & 50s.  But don't read it when you're hungry--seriously!

2.   Fruit2day juice.  I love this stuff!  100% juice with bits of fruit in it (mostly pear) it is like a snack and drink in one and so yummy!  I especially love the strawberry banana kind. 

3.  My Scentsy warmers!  Okay, this is a bit of shameless self-promotion b/c I do sell these products, but I just got my shipment of the spring/summer scents & catalogs as well as a few new warmers and scents for my home and I just LOVE them.  I've got some very springy light clean scents and my whole house and car and office just smell wonderful and ready for spring!

4.  My awesome water bottle.  It is just wonderful b/c I drink SO much water and it holds a ton so I don't have to refill all the time.  It has a handle and a straw and flip top and holds about 64 ounces.  It's perfect!  I also have one in pink :)

5.  Sonic grilled chicken wraps.  These are so yummy and a pretty healthy option when it comes to eating on the go.  When I eat lunch out I almost always go to either Taco Bell or Sonic and this is my go-to Sonic lunch.  Yummy and pretty filling!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

my loves

It's been a crazy day and I don't have a ton of time to post, but I just wanted to honor the special day that today is:  March 10th is the most special day is my and hubs' dating anniversary, and Butch's birthday!!!
Today hubs and I are 8 years old (crazy!!!) and Butchy-bear is 3!  Sadly, we did not really get to "celebrate" but I got Butch a new toy and hubs and I spent a lot of time talking.  Money stuff is no fun.  But I love him.  And her.  These two always make me laugh.

 How could I not laugh at these crazies??

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Well, once again I am not exactly baking along with the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie clan.  I didn't have all the ingredients for the "Thumbprints for us Big Guys" chosen by one of the few male members of our group, Mike of Ugly Food for an Ugly Dude who is quite funny (check his site for the recipe).  I do enjoy thumbprint cookies but between illness, exhaustion, and lack of ingredients, I skipped these.  I definitely plan to be back on track for next week though!

I did however make a recipe that I had missed during the last bit of December when I was all baked-out.  The Low & Lush Chocolate Cheesecake, chosen by "the Tea Lady" over at Tea & Scones (we have some things in common...).  I had planned to make this for a co-workers birthday at the same time that it was chosen.  Between exhaustion and so many other treats she said not to worry about making it for her.  Well, that same coworker's husband recently had surgery and I was asking what they would like me to make for a dinner for them.  She asked for dessert, so I decided to make what I had originally planned for her birthday!  (she loved it by the way).  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Resolution check-in

I've been slacking on posting updates for the past few weeks--sorry!  Here is how I've been doing:

1. Improve my overall health. I've been sick sick sick over the past two weeks.  I've had to take it really slow during my time not at work in an attempt to rest and recuperate.  So far it hasn't worked.  I'm thinking through some things that may help, but am nervous about drastic changes. Pray for me!

2. Be a better steward of our money.  I think I've done pretty well...I know I went to TJ Maxx once and got some stuff, but it was almost all on clearance for $5 or less!  Hubs says we're doing well right now, so I'm good with that!  I've also been selling more scentsy stuff which is always good and fun.

3. Letting things go. Have dropped off a few more boxes to Grandma's attic. Have not been able to work through clothes yet due to illness, but hope to do that soon.

4. Waste less time.  Better-ish.  I made a big step in cleaning out the list of blogs that I follow~I know have only 126 ;)  But seriously though, I stopped following several that have ended up just being time wasters, and now only have about 15-20 posts each day to sift through.  I realized that I am particularly an information hoarder...I feel like I have to watch or read everything that I may be interested in, as if I won't have any other option of finding that information!  Silly Sarah.

5. Read books.  I'm over half way through My Life in France!!!   Enjoying it oh-so-much.  I also had the wonderful joy of wandering to the park at lunch on this beautiful almost-spring day.  I listened to music, had a nice little lunch, and read another chapter.  It was just what I needed!

6. Organize/cleaning. None.  Not a bit.  My house is an absolute nightmare right now.  I just haven't had the energy. 

7. Spend more time w/hubs. Umm...I really squandered my weekend in an attempt to rest and get better.  We had some week nights together over the past few weeks but sadly I was in bed all weekend and we didn't get to talk much.  Sad times.  He's super busy filming this week too with the Sweet-Sixteen basketball games. 

8. Have time with God daily. Mostly consistent, I missed a few times over the weekend.

Well, that's it for now. Not going great in any of these areas, but hopefully this week will be a turn for the better.

meyer lemon yogurt cake

As you know, I recently happened upon some lovely meyer lemons and have been trying to decide how to use them up.  After being sick for the past two weeks they were beginning to shrivel up, so I knew I had to act quickly!  I contemplated muffins, meyer lemon curd, a few types of bundt and pound cakes, but decided upon this Yogurt Cake form Ina Garten that I had seen on so many blogs.  I didn't make many changes, but did double the recipe which was perfect for my 6 mini-loaf pan which I had not used in quite some time,and the exact amount of zest and juice that my lemons gave! 

The cakes are extremely moist and springy with just the right lemon flavor.  I baked them up and have nibbled on one, and wrapped the remainder up nicely and to be frozen and either given away or pulled out for those rainy spring afternoons when I may just need a bit of sunshine. 

Meyer Lemon Yogurt Cake
recipe adapted from Ina Garten

makes 1 loaf pan's worth of cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 t. Meyer lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment and then grease and flour the pan.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, zest, and vanilla.

4. Combine wet and dry ingredients until only just blended. Whisk in vegetable oil.

5. Bake for 50 minutes. For mini-loaves bake for about 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs.

6. While the cake bakes, cook your lemon juice with your sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture runs clear. Poke holes in cake and pour lemon glaze over the cake while still warm from the oven.  Allow syrup mixture to soak in before removing loaves and serving or wrapping to freeze.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sick day Baked potato soup

I ended up doing quite a bit of cooking and baking over the weekend--it's pretty much all I did in my sickly state other than laundry and groceries which could not be avoided!  

I had a large bag of potatoes hanging out and decided that potato soup sounded absolutely perfect for my sore throat so, despite the fact that the weather is finally getting warm and spring-like, I made a large pot of soup in my new dutch oven and used it to sustain myself for the rest of the weekend!

I looked through all of my cookbooks and favorite blogs and finally settled on this recipe from Annie's Eats based on the ingredients I had on hand and the amount of work that I wanted to put into it.  I made some adaptations, and found this to be quite delicious for a sick lady needing a bit of comfort,

Baked Potato Soup

4-5 russet potatoes (i used probably 6-8 b/c my potatoes were quite small)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour, divided
6 cups 2% milk (used 1 cup cream, 3 cups skim milk, and a block of cream cheese)
2 tsp. salt (I used kosher--just threw a few pinches in to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (i probably used at least a cup--just a large handful)
½ cup green onions, chopped (omitted b/c I didn't have any)
1/3-½ cup light sour cream
For topping:
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped green onions
Bacon pieces
Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Prick the potatoes with the tines of a fork.  Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Scoop the insides of the potatoes into food processor, discarding the peels.  Pulse until the pieces are broken into small chunks. (I didn't do this part b/c my processor bowl was dirty.  I just scooped out the insides and kind of crumbled them in and cut some in bits I left rather large chunks but would pulse them some with an immersion blender next time)
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt the butter.  Add ¼ cup of flour to the pot and whisk into the butter.  Cook, whisking constantly, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and the rest of the flour (I added the cream cheese, cut into chunks here).  Cook until thick and bubbling, about 6-8 minutes.  Mix in the potato chunks.  Whisk in the salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese and stir until the cheese is melted.  Remove from the heat, stir in the green onions and sour cream. (I also stirred crumbled bacon into the soup at this point instead of waiting to use it as the topping)
Serve immediately.  Garnish with sour cream, cheddar cheese, green onions and bacon as desired.
Source: adapted from For the Love of Cooking

Friday, March 5, 2010

friday favorites

First I'll give you a hint of what is NOT my favorite...

I love my yummy brunch and all, but do you see the eggs?  Do you remember what they mean?  Yep.  Sick again.  (or should it be still??)  I finished my antibiotics for a sinus infection on Monday.  I had Dr. John look at me again on Thursday b/c on Wednesday I had started to feel worse.  He said I managed to pick up a virus while my immune system was down from the week before.  bah.  I am kinda afraid that it is the flu b/c last night I started to run a fever, and of course I am exposed to every nasty thing in my office.  But I haven't had the energy to get up and go to the doctor again.  I am considering firing my body.  It's performance has been seriously sub-par, especially since the start of the new year.  Does anyone have any good recommendations on where I can get a well-functioning new one? Any ideas at all?  Even a temp to get me through this season...let me know.

So what is my favorite this week?

My bed. But I cannot pretend that it looks this lovely right now...this picture was taken when I had first got the new bedding over the, just imagine bottles of medicine, tissues and magazines strewn about, and very rumpled sheets and pillows.

We got together to hang out at 6:00 last night, and had quite a wonderful time if I do say so myself.  I finally started on Julia Child's My Life in France and made it through the first hundred or so pages, finished a few magazines when my head was too fuzzy to focus on a book, had lovely cuddles w/the pets, and was surrounded by the things I need:  blue medicine, tissues, my ipod, my laptop, magazines, books, water, and my cuddly ones.  Hubs didn't get home from filming until I was extremely out of it at 10:00, and then I got even more cuddles from my favorite!  Bed and I had a lovely morning as well, hanging out until 11:30--I love the bed so much that I even had a dream about sleeping in it and never wanting to get up!  This dream was mirrored by reality.  I have been up for about an hour to make my eggs and post, but I think I will return to it in a short time...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

TWD...just the wrong week

I think that the Toasted Coconut Custard Tart that Beryl chose for this week's baking assignment sounds AMAZING...but I didn't make it.

For a few reasons:
1. I just finished making last week's recipe
2. Hubs will not eat it.
3. Most of my co-workers will not eat it.
4. I am in a deep blue funk and do NOT need anymore treats lying around the house to tempt me towards emotional binge-eating.
5. I'm still a bit under-the-weather and not feeling up to any major bake-tastic feats.
6. I'm contemplating a bit of a break in baking (at least in baking just for the sake of baking and challenges) in an effort to really focus on my health and getting in shape. I feel like I need a kick start, and the blueness of my moods lately is making me mindlessly nosh on whatever is lying about. Not a good choice.

I did make the Honey-Wheat cookies from last week (chosen by Flourchild). I mean, they're full of wheat germ, honey, and lemon zest with only a stick of butter and half a cup of sugar--this is diet food! ;)

I made them for my mommy. I invited her over last Thursday after one of her dear friends had some very serious complications during a medical procedure that caused her to go into a coma and to pass away early this week. She needed to be mothered a little bit. I fed her quiche and made these cookies and served them with some lemon curd which my mommy loves. And I hugged her and encouraged her and we cried together. It has been an emotional week. The cookies were good, but the comfort was better.

Well, here's a little sunshine recipe to cheer us up:

Lemon Curd
from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, Sept. 2009
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest, plus 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 8 large egg yolks (reserve whites for another use
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter cut into 1/2 in. pieces
In a medium saucepan, off heat, whisk together sugar, zest, and egg yolks; whisk in lemon juice and salt.

Add butter and place pan over medium-high. Cook, whisking constantly, until butter has melted, misture is thick enough to coat the back of a sppon, and small bubbles form around the edge of pan, about 5 min. (do not boil)

Remove pan from heat while continuing to whisk. Pour curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass bowl.i usually skip this Press plastic wrap against the survace of curd and refrigerate until cool. (To store, refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 2 weeks) in my experience, it also freezes well