Monday, December 19, 2011

Mexican Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows, the perfect gift!

Yes, I know the holiday gift giving season is pretty much what!  This is a great gift or just something nice to keep in your cabinet. 

A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to make everyone marshmallows and hot chocolate, I remember getting a lot of good reviews so I decided that I was going to do it again this year.  It is just something different then cookies and breads, and you can put it away for a later date if you want (well at least the hot chocolate.)

This year instead of just plain ol' hot chocolate mix, I made Mexican Hot Chocolate.  The difference is that it has cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  Now, I made the first batch and it was really good but I wasn't really able to taste the cayenne pepper. SO...when I made the second batch, being the super smart person I am, I decided to add just a bit more of the pepper.  Not something I recommend.  I didn't add much, but man!  I ended up having to split the second batch into two and mellow them down a bit to tame the heat.  The second (and third) batch were/are still spicier then the first but were much more tolerable.  I even got a "tell your wife shes the bomb" response from one of my husbands friends, I must admit the compliment felt good. 

Mexican Hot Chocolate

3 cups non-fat dry milk
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 brown sugar (I used dark)
3/4 cups white chocolate chips
3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 cups dark cocoa powder (such as Hersey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients into a food processor, pulse until well mixed and most of the chocolate chips are broken down. (This may need to be made in batches depending on the size of your processor.)

Combine about 1/3 of the mix with hot water or milk, mix well and top with a homemade marshmallow.

Now. Marshmallows.  If you like marshmallows and have never made your own, I highly recommend it!  They are so much better, fresher, softer, did I say better, then store bought and really easy to make.  The other thing with making your own marshmallows you can flavor them anyway you want by just adding extracts, or cocoa.  For this recipe I just did plain since the hot chocolate had extra flavors.


Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract (or what ever flavor you would like)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, for dusting

Brush a 9 x 13 pan with oil, I like to also line the pan with foil (which will also be oiled) that hangs at least two inches over the sides for easy removal, dust the pan with some of the powdered sugar. *You can not over oil the pan!

Bring the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 3/4 cups of water to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
In a standing mixer, with the whisk attachment, add 3/4 cups cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let soften for at least 5 minutes.
On low speed, whisk the sugar mixture in to the gelatin.  Switch to high speed, add vanilla and beat until stiff and looks like marshmallow fluff.  About 12-15 minutes.
Pour into the prepared pan, smooth and set aside, uncovered until firm. About 3 hours. Cut in to 1" squares or what ever shape your heart desires. 

Christmas Crafts with a Star Theme

Star Christmas Cards
I am always looking for some type of craft to do with my son, and this month I decided to try to get into the spirit a little more with star themed Christmas crafts. 

My son loves to paint, and I love that he loves it!  I covered our kitchen table with paper, gave him red, green, and white paint and let him go at it!  I also bought crayola glitter glue and gave him all but the turquoise. Using his artwork, we then cut the paper in to star shapes (that eventually became our Christmas cards), and into strips to make a garland. 

When we were finished with the table, I gave him cardboard stars.  This was an upcycle project if you will.  We have cardboard boxes at work that have dividers in them to hold rolled plans, and the person who worked in our print room cut the dividers into a bunch of smaller pieces that were about 5" x 5" when pushed flat, but have seams to fold into a cube. 

Cardboard Stars

Well I took the pieces (I was told I could) and cut them into star shapes.  My son and I, painted about a dozen.  They are now standing around our living room on shelves, and we even put a couple in our tree.  They probably won't last til next year so I may keep one, but the rest will probably just end up in the recycling bin. 

Star Garland (in front of door for clarity)

We also, used the cardboard stars to make a garland. Well this was more my project, I added some colored paper circles between the stars and threaded them all together. It actually hangs in the window next to our front door.

I don't have good picture but we also painted salt dough ornaments, my son did most of the painting, I just went back with the glitter glue and added a little.  The original plan is for the ornaments to be
decoration on the grand- parents gifts, and they still may.  I had a couple extra stars that I put on two of the gifts, so the third may have an ornament.  Because I was a little impatient, I dried the dough in the oven on a low temperature.  Well they bubbled up a bit so they didn't turn out quite how I wanted.  But everything was a lot of fun to make.

I am all about being creative through a mess, and kids should get messy.  It all washes off and out.  Life is too short to worry about spilled paint. 

Cookie Season: Classic Spritz Cookie

Spritz cookies. I remember them being a special treat during the Holiday, my mom rarely made them but I loved them. My mom used my grandmothers recipe, but my father said they were never the same. I don’t think anything ever ends up being better then what you remember as a kid.

A few months ago, we took a trip to visit my father-in-law and we never leave visits with my husbands family empty handed. Well this time, mixed amongst the ice cream maker, chairs, beanie baby animals, quesadilla maker, etc. there was a cookie press, and not just any press a battery operated one! Well I decided right then that I was going to make my grandmothers Spritz Cookies this year. So I asked my mom if she could send me the recipe. Well…she couldn’t find it. Disappointing! She said it was probably tucked in the cookie press box, but she no longer has the press. Well who ever has ended up with it, now has a good grandma recipe. Well then my search was on to find a spritz recipe that made me relive my childhood.

Well I think I found that recipe, it was very simple. One thing that I didn’t do before hand was test my cookie press. I loaded the batteries, made my cookie dough, filled the press, squeezed and…nothing. My heart actually sank a little. All I thought was “this has to work! I am not going to stuff a pastry bag!” After a little cursing, I figured it out! There was a small gear that is on the “press” part and that was supposed to stay, via pressure in the top of the press. Well it wasn’t and come to find out I need to actually have it threaded for it to work. (Sorry if that makes no sense, I am sure it doesn’t.) So now that I had the press working, I just needed to work on getting the correct amount of dough on the cookie sheet. After a couple of tries, it became so easy! I remember using my mom’s press and having to actually press and twist to get the dough out, no wonder she didn’t make them much. It was like exercise. I am loving the battery operated one; I will probably use it more often.

Well on to the recipe…the recipe said it was from the side of the Wilton cookie press box, but I don’t have a Wilton so I am not 100% sure it really is or not.

Classic Spritz Cookies

3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups of butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
Red and green sugar sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder, set a side. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. Gradually add flour mixture, beat until combined. Do Not Chill. Fill cookie press with the dough, press onto ungreased cookie sheets, and if desired sprinkle with the colored sugar.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges are just starting to get LIGHTLY golden brown. Cool.

Makes 7-8 dozen small cookies.


Broccoli Bacon Salad

For the past couple years our company has held a holiday pot-luck; this year while I was looking over the carb loaded, cheese smothered sign-up sheet, I decided that I would do a vegetable. My first thought was a corn dish (probably one of the least nutritious vegetables). I was looking to see what I could do different with corn, last year I made a Corn Pudding and I wanted something different. The recipe that I found was a Corn Gratin, with lots of cheese, cream, bacon and to top it off fried onions; it sounded wonderful! Talk about making a veggie unhealthy. (Side note: I will make this at some point.) As I thought about it, I decided I would go green. The only other item on the sheet that was green was a spinach salad, and I am a stickler about my plate not being all one monochromatic mess.

I was first looking for an Asian Broccoli Slaw that I could tweak a bit, but instead I came across this Broccoli Salad. And guess what? It is only about 89 calories a serving, which is about a cup. (I couldn’t eat a full cup if I tried; this is full delicious roughage here.)

Broccoli Bacon Salad

1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups finely chopped broccoli crowns
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
Freshly ground pepper , to taste

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. Chill overnight or at least 3 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Simple and Delicious!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Lasagna

I thought this was great! I made it just like I would have made a 'regular' lasagna but instead of beef I used mushrooms and I added some spinach in with the ricotta. I only prepared this in an 8"x8" pan because I knew there was a chance my husband wouldn't like it. (He ate it but it wasn't his favorite, I knew going in that he didn't like ricotta or cooked spinach.)

What you will need:

No boil lasagna noodles
1 jar of your favorite sauce
1/2 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
1-2 pounds mushrooms, use your favorite (I used button and cremini)
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves or garlic, minced
2 cups mozzarella, shredded

Clean and chop the mushrooms, (I did half fine and the other in larger pieces) sauté with the olive oil, garlic and Italian seasoning. While the mushrooms cook, mix the spinach with the ricotta and Parmesan. Set aside.
Start layering. Put sauce on the bottom, layer the noodles followed by the ricotta mix, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese then more sauce. Continue until the pan is full. Sprinkle some extra cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 min. Until hot and bubbly.

This can easily be made ahead, you will just need to lengthen the cook time slightly.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Balloon Birthday Cake

My son just turned two, he has been really into the movie UP and balloons in general. We were even characters from the movie for Halloween, I was Kevin and my son was Russell. But anyway on to the birthday...

I have been thinking about his cake for a while, last year I made sesame street cupcakes. I thought awhile trying to figure out what would make good balloons, cake pops ended up being the answer. This was my first time making them and I need to work on my covering skills. This was also my first time using fondant to cover a cake, it was a little harder than I thought it would be, it was my arm work out for the day!

Well because of time I "cheated" and used box mix for the cake. I used yellow and chocolate, even though my son only wanted chocolate. He also helped me make the cakes. I made two 9" round cakes (one in each flavor) and the rest of the cake we put in a 13"x9" pan, which my son decided to make marbled. The 13"x9" was used for the cake pops (directions follow). Once cooled I layered the 9" round cakes with a layer of white frosting between, I then covered the cake with more white frosting (tinted blue). I bought pre-made fondant, it was by Wilson and is ready to roll. I had blue and green that was never used from last year, and I bought new white. I rolled out and covered the cake with the white and then added "jungle grass" in green around the cake. It didn't turn out quite like I pictured in my head, I guess that is what happens when you try new things with a time constraint.

Cake Pops:
One 13"x9" sheet cake
About 2 cups of icing
Melting chocolate (I used Wilson brand)
Lollipop sticks
Styrofoam block

In a large bowl crumble the cake and add the icing. Mix well, I used my hands. Shape the mixture and place on a sheet pan lined with wax paper. Place in the refrigerator to harden, you could also put in the freezer if you have less time. Once the cake is firm, melt the chocolate (use directions on the bag). Dip the stick in the chocolate then carefully insert it into the cake. Cover the cake with the chocolate, by dipping or using a spoon. Stick it in a styrofoam block to dry. Repeat until all cake is used, I made about 2 dozen.  The amount will depend on the size you make the pop.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Adventures in Training #1- Preview/Background

This past year I have been on a quest to lose weight and get healthier. While on this quest I have made a point to run two 5k's. Now if anyone knows me, I have spent the last 30 years of my life doing everything possible NOT to run. When I played sports (which wasn't much) I was playing defense in soccer or first base in softball. I got motivated by the fact I lost weight after my son was born, mostly due to breast feeding I'm sure, but I never went back to my pre-baby weight. I decided that that was the motivation I need to keep losing. At my heaviest I was 210 and wearing a size 18, no woman ever wants to be in the 200's, but now I am 172 and in a size 12/14. I'm sharing this because I'm proud of what I have accomplished! Trust me I wouldn't usually share my weight, no woman ever really would.

The reason I am deciding to write this blog, which will be a series (I hope), is because I have signed up for my first triathlon. A triathlon! This is something I will need and want to train for and not just wait until two weeks before and say "oh know I better do something". So I am going to try to keep a log or journal of my 'adventures' if you will. Now, I probably won't start really training until the spring but wanted to put it out there. I do feel I need to at least do something so spring won't be too much of a shock. The race is August 19th so I have time. I also will be doing this with my sister which is super exciting!

One hope by doing this is that it will help keep me motivated to reach my goal weight (150). Mixing up swimming, running & biking should also help. But right now my main focus is to find somewhere to swim. There is the Y or local colleges but like everything schedule and moreso price will be a factor. My hope is the Y because there is one near my house and near work. I would like to be able to swim at lunch so I can still have family time when I get home. In reality I would love to do it before work but because Nic goes in to work so early that isn't possible since I have Thomas. I am also starting to think about all the other things I need.  Luckily I have a GREAT support system and friends that are willing to let me use their road bike, (mine is a heavy hybrid).  But, I still need to get a swimsuit (and all the swimming accessories), a bike helmet and I would like to get a trisuit.  (So if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas or my birthday, wink, wink.)

(this post will also be blogged on my MyFitnessPal blog, so if you are a member you call also read it there or friend me.  My user name is choy1280)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homemade Applesauce & the Joy of Canning

Last Saturday my family and I went to Shaw Orchards to have our pictures taken, (by Gracie Jane Photography) and after we we finished walking around we went in the store. Gracie was telling me about the orchard's 'seconds' so I decided to buy some.

The 'seconds' are basically apple that just aren't as pretty as the rest, maybe have a bruise, but are perfect for making applesauce or butter. So when we got back home I decided to make applesauce. Because I didn't want to stand by the stove all day while the apples broke down I decided to make it in my slow cooker, which made it super simple. All you need is:

-about a dozen apples, peeled cored and cut into large chunks
-1/3 cup of sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp all spice

Put every thing in the slow cooker and cook on high for about 3-4 hours. Checking at the 3 hour mark for softness. I use a potato masher to mash the apples because we like chunky applesauce. If you like a smoother consistency, work in batches and purée in a food processor or blender.

Now, my adventures in canning. Well it wasn't really too much of an adventure, it was quite easy actually. This was my first time, but it won't be my last!

Keeping the applesauce on warm, I prepared my jars. I simmered the jars and lids in water to sterilize them. Once that was finished, I filled the jars leaving 1/2". (I looked on for times.) I then placed the lids on, finger tight and placed in boiling water for 20 minutes. Then let then cool and check the seal 24 hours later to make sure the seals were good. Easy peasy!

This was my first ever canning experience and I was pleasantly surprised, I was expecting it to take longer for some reason.  But come summer I hope to be a canning fool.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Meatless Monday: Stuffed Poblano Peppers

I went out on a limb for this one because I made these knowing that my husband doesn't like peppers and/or onions. (Also, I want to apologize for the picture, it's not the best.) I really enjoyed this meal, you could easily add meat to these or even just eat them as a side dish but I ate them as my meal. And when I say "I" I mean just me, first my son tried them he was ok with the rice filling but didn't care for the pepper and basically Nic had the same reaction. His thought was they would be really good if I didn't use the pepper. Anyway.

I would say that Poblano peppers are by far my favorite type of pepper. Especially when roasted. I did roast my peppers before stuffing them, but you don't have too. After I roasted them, I placed them in a bowl covered in plastic wrap and let them sweat so I was able to easily remove the skin. Once the skin is removed I carefully cut the peppers in half and removed the seeds. Then just spoon the filling in the pepper halves.

For the filling, I cooked 1 cup of white rice. While the rice cooked I sautéd onions, garlic and some left over pepper in some olive oil. I then added the rice, corn and some taco seasoning. Mixed well, removed from heat and stirred in some Colby-Jack cheese. Once in the pepper I sprinkled more cheese on top.
Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted, then add some taco or hot sauce on top after it is out of the oven. Serve with a green salad.

Options that I would do if I was just eating them (and I would have done this if I new it would just be me) is add black beans to the mixture to make it more hardy.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Homemade Blueberry Pop-tarts

When it is gloomy I tend to get on a baking kick, it has been super wet the last few weeks and finally it is sunny and nice. Fall.

Well this post is over due, I actually made these two weeks ago. I have seen recipes before but what finally gave me a push was the September version of the Food Network Magazine (FNM). My version is slightly different, FNM uses grape jelly and an orange glaze. I am sure that would be delicious, but I had some fresh/frozen blueberries so I made my own blueberry filling. My husband has been taking samples of my baked items to work for the guys. The next requested version of these will be with a nutella filling.

Here is the adapted version:

For the tarts:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp shortening, cold and cut in small pieces
2 sticks butter, cold and cut in small pieces
1/2 cup blueberry purée (directions follow)
1 large egg
1/2 milk

Pulse flour, sugar and salt in food processor until combined. Add shortening and about one-quarter of the butter and pulse until they disappear in the flour. Add remaining butter and pulse until it looks like course meal with pea size pieces of butter. Add 1/2 cup ice water and pulse a couple times until dough comes together. Turn out on to plastic wrap, form into a disk and chill at least an hour up to one day.
While the dough is in the refrigerator prepare the blueberry filling.

Blueberry filling:
1-1 1/2 cups blueberries
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

In a small sauce pan, on medium-low heat, heat the blueberries and sugar until the blueberries break down. About 30 min. Remove from heat and stir in cornstarch stirring consistently until the sauce is thick. Set aside to cool.

Roll out the chilled dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into 3 x 4 pieces. You should end up with about 12 total. Spoon out about a tablespoon of the filling and place in the center of one rectangle. Brush the edge with egg and lay another rectangle in top, using a fork press the edges. Brush with a mix of milk and egg. Repeat until all six are made. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Parmesan


I have been talking about doing Meatless Mondays (or any other day for that matter) for a while. I have finally been able to make a meatless meal! This came with a few trials and a few things I would tweak the next go round, but all in all this was a good family meal that my son even seemed to enjoy. (The recipe reflects the tweaks.)

This was a special dish because I made everything but the cheese from scratch, my original intention was to use store bought. I had all these ‘butts’ of bread and a lot of basil and tomatoes so I went all out. The last time I made an Eggplant Parmesan, I pan fried the eggplant this time I was trying to get the crunch but with a little less fat, so I baked it.  I also used three different types of eggplant, the graffiti are my favorite, I think they tend to be less seedy and less bitter.  They just seem to have a really great flavor.

For the eggplant:

5-6 smaller eggplants
1-2 tablespoons salt
1-2 cups flour
3 eggs
About 4 cups Homemade breadcrumbs (recipe follows)

Peel and slice the eggplant, sprinkle with the salt and place in a colander or cooling racks and let drain, for about 30-40 minutes. Wipe any excess salt. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and place two baking sheets in the oven. Mean while start the dredging process.  Dip the eggplant in the flour then egg then breadcrumbs, set aside.  Once you have a baking sheet worth, place on the preheated sheets and back for about 20 minutes, flipping once.  Continue until all eggplant is cooked.

For the breadcrumbs:

10-12 slices old bread (not moldy)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp fresh herbs; I used basil, parsley and marjoram
1/2 - 1 cup panko bread crumb

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until you have fine crumbs.  Toss with the panko.  Super Simple.

For the sauce:

This is a simple marinara type sauce.

5-6 heirloom tomatoes, fairly large.
1 large bunch of basil
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 medium shallot

Cube up the tomatoes and place in a large sauce pan.  Cook on a medium heat until the tomatoes break down. Remove from heat to cook.  While the tomatoes cool, brown the shallot and garlic.  Add to the tomatoes.  Pour the tomato mixture in to a food processor and pulse a few times, add the basil and pulse until everything is incorporated.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Cheese Blend:

2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 cups grated parmesan


Layer the eggplant, sauce then cheese blend.  Repeat.  Sprinkle a little extra cheese on top.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

My husband has not been feeling very well lately (he even missed the Ravens football game today), so when thinking about what to have for dinner my mind instantly went to soup. I didn't want to do just plain chicken noodle so I did a twist on Mexican and the classic soup and sandwich combo.

There are a few things that I would add next time, like roasted pablano peppers and black beans. I did add the black beans when I reheated it for lunch, my husband doesn't care for beans. I also would have added more heat but because my son was eating it I left it more mild.

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Cheese Quesadillas

For the Soup:

3 cups shredded chicken
4 cups chicken broth
1 19oz can enchilada sauce
1 10oz can roasted diced tomatoes
1 4oz can green chilies
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off or you can use frozen or canned
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream, lime and cilantro for garnish
Tortilla Chips

Add all ingredients into a slow cooker, stir and cook on high for about two hours or on low for four. Serve with a lime wedge, dollop of sour cream and crushed tortilla chips.

For One Quesadillas:

1 flour tortilla
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/8 cup black beans (optional)

Add the cheese and beans to one side of the tortilla, fold the tortilla over and using a press bake or grill until the cheese is melted and the tortilla is slightly crispy.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I am walking in the CCFA Take Steps Walk…

As some of you know I have had some issues and have been working with my doctor to resolve them (this may be a little TMI for some people so if you don’t want to know this part of me I suggest you stop reading now.) I while ago I posted a blog about My Struggle with Food, where I touched on some of my issues. But first let me say a little about the walk itself.

The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) raise awareness and funds to help with the fight against Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) which include Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. Now there are over 500,000 people that suffer with IBD, roughly half with Crohn’s and half with a form of Colitis. What I have read it is rare for these diseases to cause colon cancer, but the more severe forms may make you more susceptible. These diseases affect people’s everyday life making it difficult to do everyday things. I suggest checking out their website for more information. I am new to this and am still learning.

On to my personal reason…I have been diagnosed with colitis, I was just tested for Crohn’s the other day and have not heard the results from that yet. (My next appointment is in November.) I have had internal issues for as long as I can remember but it didn’t get really bad until my third trimester with my son. My first doctor made me feel like he didn’t care and that everything was normal. Well I didn’t get better after I had my son, I would go a month or two with no symptoms then I would have really bad flare ups. So I decided to get another option. I ended up going to Johns Hopkins Gastroenterology (GI) Division, and have been super pleased. I really like my doctor, he really takes the time to listen and explain things. Since I have been going there I have had a lot of blood work done to test all sorts of things (some numbers came back low but now low enough to be too concerned) and have had a colonoscopy. The original prognosis was that I had proctitis which is a form of colitis that only affects the lower part of your colon (rectum) but the colonoscopy showed inflammation much higher. I was actually showing inflammation around my appendix, which is why, just to be safe and hopefully rule out, they are testing for Crohn’s. I am currently taking four types of medication, to hopefully make me go into remission, once I am symptom free we will work on maintaining that. But it will come and go forever, and the worse thing is that it is hereditary which means there is a pretty large chance my son is going to end up going through everything I am and possibly worse.

I have walked in many charity walks but I usually have only known or known of people that were affected by which ever charity. Be it for cancer, autism, MS or even premature babies. This time I am the one affected, so this is really different for me. So if you read this and can help with the cause, even if it is just one dollar ($1.00), I would personally really appreciate it.

You can go to my personal page by clicking the link

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


This is all about blueberries, and you can tell how behind I am since they really aren't in season anymore...but they were!

In my area of Southern Pennsylvania blueberries were just going out of season but were in full swing in Northern Pennsylvania when we took a long weekend trip to visit my father-in-law. After a morning of feeding the animals at Animal land, my father-in-law, husband and I took our son blueberry picking. The view from the orchard was just beautiful. I wasn't sure how well a toddler (or my husband) would do with picking blueberries for a couple hours but for the most part they did really well. (Until shortly before we left when there was a little too tired melt down.)

Blueberry Orchard

My son probably ate or threw more than what he actually put in the bucket but I sort of expected that. My husband seemed to be enjoying himself, or at least he acted like he was. He even disappeared for a little while, probably to sneak a smoke, but came back with handfuls. I think at the end of the day we ended up with more than 5 pints of blueberries, so we split them with my father-in-law and started thinking of what to make.

Once I got back home, I rinsed and froze all the berries (which are great to munch on frozen). I then decided on making Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins. As I was making these I was thinking of how good they will be and how I wanted to share the recipe with my father-in-law, well the only problem was he isn’t able to eat processed sugars. So below the original recipe, which is adapted from A Farm Girls Dabbles  recipe for Grandma Renelt's Blueberry Muffins with Crumble Topping, I have posted a couple links for sugar-free blueberry muffins.  It was my intention to make a batch of sugar-free (and still plan on it) I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

**These muffins are best eaten warm and within a day or two.

for the muffins:

1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cup fresh blueberries (or frozen do not thaw)

for the crumble topping:

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 T. butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 400°. Line muffin tin.
Mix egg, milk, and oil in small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir. Do not over mix. Fold in blueberries. Spoon into muffin tin and let rest a few minutes while you prepare the crumble topping.

In a small bowl, blend all topping ingredients until crumbly. You want some pea-size pieces of crumble. Sprinkle over muffin batter.

Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Yield: 12 muffins

Sugar-Free Muffins:

- Sugar Free Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
- Sugar-Free Blueberry Muffins
- Primal Coconut Blueberry Muffins


Pesto made with Walnuts

What to do with all that fresh basil in your garden? Make pesto!

For our anniversary my mom bought me, well us, a food processor. Even though our anniversary isn't for a couple more weeks (and my mom gave it to us a month ago) I pulled it out and decided to give it a whirl. I'm in love! It is super quiet and easy.

My son was being fussy and really wanted to go outside (it has been raining most of the day) so I took him out and we picked a bunch of basil. It wasn't easy getting him back inside buy once I did he helped me make the pesto.

Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts but today we made it with walnuts because that is what we had. I chopped the garlic and measured out the cheese and my son got to pour it in the processor and the best part...push the buttons!

I think because I used walnuts and it took a little longer (because of my help) our pesto turned a little dark but the flavor was and is still there. It actually looked a little like olive tapenade. Oh well.

Here is the simple recipe:

Walnut Pesto

4 cups basil, packed
1 1/4 cup walnuts
2-3 medium/large garlic cloves
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse the basil leaves until coarsely chopped. Add the walnuts, garlic and cheese, pulse until blended. While processor is running, stream in the oil.

Use or freeze. I used baby food freezer trays that are just over 1/4 cup to divide and freeze my pesto. This way I can use just what I need and save the rest for later.

You can do all sorts of things with pesto, here are just a few:

-toss with your favorite pasta
-mix in with your ground beef or turkey and make a pesto burger
-mix with mayonnaise and use as a spread on your sandwich
-mix with butter and spread on corn
-toss with green beans
-brush over a grilled steak

Enjoy! (don't be scared of the color, it still tastes great!)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Homemade Oreos

I found a recipe for homemade Oreos online a few weeks ago and have been wanting to make them ever since, so today I made my own Oreos. They were super simple to make and they really don't take any longer to make then any other drop cookie. Granted they aren't really any cheaper if you make them at home but they sure do taste a lot better!  Next time I make these I plan on making the cookie smaller. If you make them as the recipe says, the cookies bake to be about a two inch cookie which when sandwiched make a pretty large cookie. The only good thing about that is that one is enough.  

On a side note, a favorite ice cream in our house is Turkey Hill's Double Dunker and the cookie dough is just like the cookie swirl, so keep an eye out for when I attempt to make our own homemade 'Double Dunker' ice cream.

Homemade Oreos
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg
For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In the bowl a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While the mixer is running, on low-speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together.

Roll just under a teaspoon of dough unto a ball and place two inches apart on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using the bottom of measuring cup, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the filling, beat together the butter and shortening in a medium bowl. Then, starting at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with large round tip or a ziploc bag with the corner cut.

To assemble the cookies, start by matching the cookies up by size (doing this before you start filling makes the process go much smoother), placing one cookie bottom side up on top of its match. Cover one cookie with the icing and place the matching cookie on top and gently press into a sandwich.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Dark Chocolate Brownies (let's try this again)

I'm always looking for ways to tell myself that something is healthy so I don't feel bad eating it. I know it isn't really heathy but hey whatever I can tell myself. So here is my most recent, Dark Chocolate Brownies...secret ingredient: zucchini. Yes zucchini, it makes the brownies extra moist, and your sneaking in a veggie! So both dark chocolate is good and so is the zucchini, in turn we have "healthy" brownies.

This is also a great way to use up zucchini, because I don't know about you but between grilled, fried, baked and turned into bread; sometimes I want something a little different. This is the perfect way to do it.

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
(This recipe is adapted from Food + Words blog, Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies.)

2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or smooth applesauce)
1 cup flour
1/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or another type of chocolate chip or none)
2 cups finely shredded zucchini, squeezed/drained of any excess liquid

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8" x 8" baking dish with parchment paper and cooking spray.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, sugar and oil (or applesauce) until just combined.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa. Mix well. The batter will be thick. Fold in the shredded zucchini, make sure to mix well so you don't have any clumps. (Unless you tell them, people won't know there is zucchini in them.) Fold in the chocolate chips and pour the batter unto the prepared pan.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


This is a test...

So I have been behind on my blogging and have many written they just need some tweaks or pictures. But I am not good about getting on the computer to do it, I'm sure it has to do with working on a computer therefore not wanting to sit at one when I get home. (not to mention our wireless card or whatever it is doesn't work in our computer so I am unable to sit on the couch and surf the web anymore.) I have used my phone to post drafts but not to actually publish. So here is my test to see how well it works and if the pictures come through also. We will see!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sharing Blog Philipians 4:13: In The Village...The Peaceful Village...I Slept In...

My cousin Amy has been in Uganda for the past few months and will be there a few more.  I just want to share her blog with everyone.  She and her team are in my prayers each day and as I am learning more through her posts, all the families she has touched are also in my prayers.

She is over there with Empower a Child
"Empower a Child is a non-profit Christian organization based in East Africa, Uganda and Kenya. We focus on the humanitarian crisis in Uganda and Kenya by re-building communities and guiding today's youth. EAC provides resources for children and teens to excel academically and will never turn a child away due to age or religion"
Check out Amy's most resent and inspiring post...

Philipians 4:13: In The Village...The Peaceful Village...I Slept In...: "This past week my team here in Uganda packed up and went back to spend a week in the village.We left Kampala at about 9am and headed Southe..."

Citrus Pie

I have been craving a key lime pie for some reason, maybe because it is so hot and key lime pies are always chilled and refreshing. Well this weekend I decided I was going to make one. The timing couldn't have been better.  We got together with our wonderful neighbors for what started as Margarita Monday and evolved to Mexican Monday with a full taco/faijta bar.  Well what better dessert then a nice cool refreshing pie!

Now you may have noticed that the title of today's post is "citrus pie" not key lime. Well the reason is I had limes (though not key limes), lemons and grapefruit so I decided to add a little of each for a nice all over citrus flavor. All are tart and sweet so I thought the combination would work great. And I was right!  You could switch up the amounts of each fruit but I liked the more lime flavor, you just need to have about a 1/2 cup of total juice.  So if you like lemon add more lemon.

Citrus Pie

For the crust:
2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter

For the filling:
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
Juice of half lemon
Juice of 1/4 grapefruit
(there should be a total of about 1/2 cup of juices combined)
About 2 tablespoons lime and lemon zest
1 - 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yokes

Candied lemon for garnish

Mix together the graham cracker and melted butter and press into a 9" pie dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Let cool.

Beat egg yokes. Add the milk and citrus juice and zest blend until smooth. Pour into cooled pie crust and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Candied lemon: add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar into a small sauce pan. Add sliced lemon. Let simmer for about 4-5 hours.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Artisan Breads...for the first time

It is so hot here and why I decided to bake bread is beyond me because it did help cool off the kitchen that's for sure!

Today I actually baked off the second loaf from what I mixed up last week. I have been wanting to try to make my own bread for a long time. I have never made a yeast bread by hand. Last week I was looking on Foodgawker, which I love right now, and came across a few different bread recipes. The one I chose to try was off of Chef Dennis's blog. I decided to try this because it seemed to be a large batch and is a no knead dough. One thing you need to remember is read recipes through before you start cooking. I thought I did this but I missed a little which caused me to bake the first loaf the day after I made the dough. There are only 4 ingredients and you need to let it rise on the counter for two hours then in the refrigerator for another three (that is what I missed). The nice thing is they say you can keep the dough in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. The longer it is let to ferment the more sour it will be. So that is why I left half the dough sit until today, a week later.

First batch...
 The first loaf had really good flavor but didn't look very pretty. It had a nice crusty crust and was soft inside. The thing with fresh breads they can go bad much faster than store bought. We ate about half this loaf and I made french toast with the rest.

Basic Cinnamon French Toast
The second loaf was about the same as the first texture wise but I think it looked much better. I couldn't really tell if it was any more sour, it did smell more fermented. This was wonderful warm with butter. I am sure it would have been great with olive oil, salt and rosemary but I didn't think about that before hand.

Second Batch

Follow this link to the recipe... Artisan Bread and Pizza

I will make bread again, I will probably try a different recipe just to try something new.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Simple Refreshing Melon Popsicles

What is better on a hot day then an ice cold sweet treat? We have freezer pops in the freezer but I wanted something else that wasn't full of processed sugars and dyes. I had a watermelon and a honeylope in the refrigerator so I decided to make my own popsicles. They were cold, sweet, refreshing and best of all my son loved them!

All you need to make about 4 is:
about 2 cups of cubed seedless watermelon
about 1 cup cubed honeylope (or any other melon)

Puree the melons (separately) until smooth and pour into your molds.  Freeze.  Super simple!
*I filled the mold about 3/4 of the way with the watermelon and the rest of the way with the honeylope, it looks like there is less of the honeylope but the watermelon just inched its way up the sides.  I think if you want something that is a little more visual try freezing the first layer slightly before adding another flavor.

What is a honeylope?  It is a hybrid between a honeydew melon and a cantaloupe.  I find it to taste more on the lines of a cantaloupe with the flesh looking more like honeydew. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July Summer Berry Pies

I tend to always look for an excuse to make a pie and what's better then sharing your pie with good friends. So when I was thinking of what to make for our friends 4th of July party my mind instantly went to blueberries, since they are now in full season. What I decided to make? A classic Blueberry Pie (or at least what I think of classic.) I also had some strawberries that I froze a few weeks ago, so I decided to also make a Strawberry and Hazelnut Cream Galette. (A galette is just a free form tart or pie, not the most photogenic of the pies.)

Blueberry Pie

1 basic pie crust, homemade or store bought
I added a dash of almond extract to my homemade pie dough, this is optional.

5 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar, more or less depending on the sweetness of the berries
3 tbsp cornstarch
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl toss all the filling ingredients. Set aside.

Roll out the dough for a 9" pie crust. Lay in pan and crimp edges.

Pour filling into pie crust. Bake for about 50 minutes.

Strawberry & Hazelnut Cream Galette

1 basic pie crust

2 cups fresh strawberries
2/3 cups blueberries (optional)
2/3 cups sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup hazelnut cream cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out dough to about a 12" diameter circle. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Working from the center, spread the cream cheese out leaving about two inches around the edge. Pour the berry mixture onto the center, keeping about two inches around the edge.

Carefully fold over the edge of the pie crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Place in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes.

Marshmallow Rice Treats (amped up a bit!)

My husbands family has a family reunion weekend every year, and every year there is a potluck dinner. I have tried different things from making something there, to prepping at home then putting things together there to making something completely at home and bringing it with us. (Backing up a bit...this is a camping trip.) Well this year is no different and I was trying to think of something I can not only make at home but also ahead of time. I thought of a cold noodle salad but really I had a desert in mind. I came up with Marshmallow Rice Treats, but I wanted to do something that would turn them into something more than just plain ol' rice treats.

Double Chocolate Marshmallow Rice Treats

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (divided)
2-bags mini marshmallows (divided)
10-12 cups crispy rice cereal (divided)
12 oz bag white chocolate morsels
12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate morsels

Melt together 1/4 cup of butter and one (1) bag of the marshmallows.

Using microwave: melt butter for 30 seconds, toss in the marshmallows and microwave for about 1 minute.
Using stove top: melt 1/4 cup of butter over a low heat, add the bag of marshmallows, stir constantly until melted.

Add about a quarter of the bag of white chocolate and half the bag of semi sweet chocolate to the hot marshmallows, stir until melted and mixed in. Start adding the rice cereal to the marshmallow mix, add a cup at a time until it is mixed well. Turn out the mixture in to a lined and greased 13 x 9 pan and press down evenly in the pan.

Sprinkle about a handful of the remaining chocolate on top, melt by placing under the boiler for just a minute. Spread evenly.

Repeat, using the rest of the chocolate. Press the mixture on top of chocolate layer.

Cool completely and cut into squares. Makes about 24.

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Rice Treats

Using the same method as above but use peanut butter instead of the chocolate, about a 1/2 cup per batch. For the layer between use about a half cup of chopped peanuts (or chunky peanut butter).

Key Lime Marshmallow Rice Treats

Use the same method as above but only use white chocolate and add the zest of one lime. For the layer between melt the white chocolate with a little lime juice.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Struggling with Food - A Rant

Lately I have been really struggling with food, I have a list of food that my doctor has told me to avoid, I am trying to maintain a healthy diet and calorie intake, I am now in need of more calories than my body has finally gotten used to and I just don’t have the will power to make the best choices. Excuses, excuses…I know!

Just a little back ground information…
I have been trying to lose weight for what seems like forever, but this year I have gotten serious and have lost almost 25 pounds since April. I changed my diet, controlled my portions and started exercising. I have recently hit plateau. So I decided I was going to do one of those crazy work outs that are on TV. My choice? Insanity. And yes, it is insane. On top of those changes I was also diagnosed with IBD which has restricted my diet. I am supposed to avoid; dairy, red meat, chocolate and spicy foods just to name a few. And if you know me…it is SO hard!
So okay…Since starting Insanity I have become really tired and fatigued. I first just figured, “I’m working really hard, it just is what it is, I will get used to it.” Well, I never changed how I was eating. I have gotten used to a 1200 calorie diet and well I am burning at a minimum 500 calories a workout. So I am pretty sure my body isn’t getting the nourishment it needs. The problem? I am going to try to eat at least 500 more calories a day. This is hard; I sometimes don’t even hit 1200 so adding more is harder than one may think. And yes, I could eat more cookies, ice cream, chips, etc. but that is NOT what I want to do. I have also been giving in to temptations. I have been finding it really hard to say no, and it is most likely that my body is craving something that it just isn’t getting.

So what to do? That is my dilemma. I could add a piece of fruit, dairy-free yogurt or nuts. More carbs? Protein? I need healthy choices, and I am really struggling with it. I don’t want to load up on carbs. I really don’t like left-over meat. Nuts can be a little too fatty (and I can never eat a serving). I just would rather not eat yogurt. Luckily with it being summer, all the summer fruit is out so I should be able to eat that.

I need to start planning my meals. Right now, I am about to run out the door in the morning when I realize I need something for breakfast and lunch, so what happens? I grab something quick. I try to grab the healthy stuff but I usually end up grabbing that left over rice, or pasta. So I am going to make an effort to plan. My husband does dinner, but I can plan lunch and breakfast, and snacks I can’t forget the snacks!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Short-cut Sticky Buns

Half eaten.

These are a play on sticky buns and monkey bread (aka pull-apart bread).  This is prepared and cooked in an oven safe skillet, four ingredients and super super simple.


1 container of refrigerated biscuits (8-ct)
1 stick of butter
1/2 chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an oven safe skillet, add nuts, toast for just a minute and then add the butter and sugar. Melt the butter and sugar together to make a caramel sauce. While the mixture is melting together, quarter the biscuits.  Add the biscuits to the sauce mixture and lightly toss/stir to coat.  Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the biscuits are fully cooked, about 15 minutes.

Turn out on to a plate and serve warm and gooey.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Simple Sauted Kale

For years my husband and I have been buying Kale, but never for us to eat.  Kale has been a staple in our bearded dragons diet and I have never really thought about making anything with it.  While looking through different vegetarian recipes trying to find 'new' things to try, kale kept coming up.  So the last bunch of kale I bought just looked so crisp and fresh I just had to do something with it...just a simple saute.


5-6 cups of roughly chopped kale
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced thin
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, saute the onion in oil until tender, add the garlic.  Place all the kale in the pan and toss to coat, cover for about 10 minutes or until the kale is just al dente and bright green.  Toss the greens once more, add grated parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Serve hot, season with salt and pepper to taste.