Tuesday, December 27

Dinners in Pictures

So I left off on Monday with the Butternut Squash and Tomato Soup.

Tuesday's menu was Penne Pasta and Kale. --I've never done anything with kale before, so I used a recipe for Basic Sauteed Kale that I found in the magazine Recipe.com.

Saturday, December 24

Cookies for Santa!

It's Christmas Eve!! Wow! It seems as if Christmas just kind of snuck up on us this year. Crazy how time flies when you are running around everyday. Anyway, with Santa's impending arrival, we were in need of cookies!

And I wanted to do the very traditional--but still not perfected--chocolate chip cookies. These did not disappoint. :)

Chocolate Chippers
recipe adapted from Grandma's Kitchen

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.

Traditional Holiday Goodies--2 Kinds of Fudge

After having so much fun with cookies, I nearly forgot about the usually holiday goodies I make...because it is what my mom used to make. :) So on Christmas eve, I set to work.

First up was the Butterscotch Marshmallow Fudge.

We needed to crush the graham crackers first.
The girls had fun whacking the ziplock bags of graham crackers with pots. :)

 Then Abby took a break to test one of the crackers.

Wednesday, December 21

Soup and Chocolate Orange Cookies!

Monday's planned dinner was a tomato soup. So when the time came to get dinner started, I began with a can of tomato soup and two cans of vegetable broth.

Those went into a large pot over medium heat. Then I pulled out the leftover pureed sweet potatoes I had in my fridge. I also thought the mashed butternut squash would be a nice addition. 

Monday, December 19

Let's Eat! -- One Week at a Time

    Today isn't the busy Monday I had thought it was going to be. I've only gotten about half of the cleaning done and no laundry. And now everything is at a stand-still. My little one fell asleep on the couch next to me while watching 'Rudolph' before her snack and regular naptime. I don't want to disturb her while she sleeps. She never falls asleep on the couch and is good about her naptimes. Being a mom, you recognize signs that something is wrong--this is one of them with my kids. So I'm just going to sit with her and keep watching 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'. :) 

    But since I do have some time on my hands, I wanted to do a different kind of post. Well, different for me anyway.

    Being on a budget, I need to make the most of what we have. One way I do this is to plan out meals for the 2 weeks between paychecks. And it helps to make sure we don't end up eating the same things over and over again. So let's take a look at this week! :)

Monday: Soup-Tomato
     I love making soup! It's one of those things that you can throw a variety of ingredients into the pot and still have it come out delicious and satisfying. Today I'll use either a can of tomato soup or tomato sauce, but I intend to add pureed sweet potatoes and pureed butternut squash. I think I have a little coconut milk leftover too that I could use.

Tuesday: Pasta with red sauce & kale
     I have ziti and bow-tie pasta in the pantry so I'm not sure which I'll go with. Though I do know I will do a red sauce and maybe use some of the ricotta that's in my fridge.  But the more exciting thing (not to mention new) is the kale. Since I've never made it before, I'4m using a recipe I found in Recipe.com magazine for Basic Sauteed Kale.

Wednesday: Breakfast--either M.Y.O. omelets or banana muffins

Thursday: Mac 'n' Cheese Bake

Friday: Pizza of course! 

Saturday: Bacon & Spinach quiche

Sunday, December 18

Weekend Recap: Shopping, Smoothies, Chai Tea, & Brussels Sprouts

    I have finished my Christmas shopping for my girls, Nate, my dad, my sister, and Nate's mom. Woo!! All I have left is my mom, Nate's dad and Nate's brother but we know what we are getting Nate's brother. We had a great idea for Nate's dad but I can't find it anywhere now. How seriously frustrating--hopefully it's Amazon.com to the rescue! haha

    Since I've been away for a bit, let me explain where I've been. 


    Then I did some more shopping. 

    And then, oh yea! I did a little more shopping. :)

    Thursday was the big grocery shopping trip since it was payday. Friday morning was dedicated to Christmas shopping (3 different places at that) that needed to be done before the weekend. Both of those days I needed to be home in time for Abby's naptime--and then to be at the bus stop later. So those days I needed some serious refueling while Abby was sleeping. Don't ask me why, but Thursday I had the idea of an omelet. And it was goooooooooood! 

    A two-egg omelet with feta cheese, green onions, and black olives topped with mozzarella cheese and parsley. Then 2 pieces of buttered whole wheat toast on the side. The pairing of feta cheese and eggs became one of my favorites. Wow. I definitely recommend it. :)

    The second part of my refueling came after Kyleigh came home from school with our snack--fruit smoothies! 

Sunday, December 11

25 Days of Christmas in Cookies--Day 11 Mocha Chip Peanut Butter Cups

    What a weekend. I can safely say that this is one weekend that I am glad is behind me. It's funny how kids not sleeping throws your entire weekend off. But ya know what makes any day better? Playing in the kitchen. :)

    I was trying to explain that to Nate earlier too. Being in the kitchen by myself for just a little bit is therapeutic. Don't get me wrong, I love having the girls help me bake cookies. But when it comes time for me to make dinner, I want them no where near the kitchen. It's something like how an artist feels about his/her studio. I don't know that this is making sense, so let's just say that in order to keep my sanity I need some "alone time" in the kitchen. haha 

    Anyway, so with our weekend lacking in the sleep area Nate gave up control of the television and football games to have the girls sit with him and watch a movie. This was Mommy's time to play in the kitchen. And in the end, the girls were glad of it. Because after dinner, there was a super scrumptious, gooey, moist, and chocolatey dessert waiting. :)

This is the face of a kid who has seen the dessert and is ready to eat dinner. :)

Mocha Chip Peanut Butter Cups
Yield approx. 48 cookies

3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 oz hot water w/ 1 rounded tsp instant espresso
Nestle dark chocolate chips
mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or baking mat and set aside.

Heat up 3 ounces of water and stir in the instant espresso. Let it sit to cool.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until it is smooth. With the speed on low, add in the granulated sugar. Once the sugar has been incorporated, increase the mixer speed. Beat until light and fluffy. 

Scrape the sides of the bowl down and beat in the eggs one at a time, being sure the first is fully mixed in before adding the second.

Scrape the sides down again and beat in the brown sugar.

With the mixer on low, slowly beat in the cocoa powder. Otherwise you will end up with a cocoa cloud. :)

Alternately beat in the flour mixture and coffee. 

Once both have been fully mixed in, stir in the bag of dark chocolate chips.

Drop the dough by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes.

Pull the baking sheet from the oven. Taking care not to burn yourself, press the peanut butter cups into the middle of each of the cookies. Let them cool a little bit more then transfer to a cooling rack.

While my cookies were cooling, I noticed my Trader Joe's grinder. And I realized that the three things in the grinder were also in my cookies. And there was melty chocolate puddles in the middle of each cookie...waiting for something to be dusted on top. How perfectly perfect! So I topped each cookie with the Trader Joe's Sugar, Chocolate & Coffee Bean Grinder. :)

Friday, December 9

Time Out from Cookies

If I may, I'd like to take a break from the cookie post. I know, I know. I'm behind, so why take a break already? Well, trying to bake 25 different cookie recipes in 25 days is no easy feat. And I'm feeling a little off my game since I was absent from the blogging scene for a couple months. Perhaps I should have cut it down to 12 days this year, just to keep from biting off too much while I "get back in the groove". haha 

    So it's Friday! It doesn't feel like Friday because we didn't do 'Pizza & a Movie Night'. After the kids got off the bus this afternoon (30 minutes late with no explanation--thank you very much. ugh) we walked home with a friend of Kyleigh's since we live in the complex together. It was actually enjoyable. I wasn't sure how this playdate would go because the little girl (who is a year older than Kyleigh) is a little on the hyperactive energetic side. Also, the mom (who I guess you could say I am becoming more-than-acquaintances with) is Polish and very outspoken and has quite an accent. I do find her straightforwardness refreshing in a time where we all watch what we say in fear of offending someone. 

    But back to the point. The kids had fun and 'D' and I sat and talked. It was nice having a big people adult conversation. So we stayed longer than I thought we would, but part of that is also due to the late bus, and by the time we walked home it was after 6 o'clock. Though the girls did not have pizza, they still got quite a treat--McDonald's for dinner! Then when we got home, it was bedtime. And while the girls drifted off to dreamland, I flipped through my new favorite book.

    The Cleaner Plate Club, by Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin. I have a confession to make. From time to time, I like to read cookbooks like it is a novel. And this one has me keeping on coming back for more. Sadly, it is only a library book so it will have to go back. But for now, it's mine! muahaha 
    So I do cook dinner each night. I put thought and love into what I serve up. I even go as far as planning out my meals 2 weeks at a time and have it written out on a dry erase board. But ya know, despite my best efforts, I am more-often-than-not thwarted by a stubborn picky opinionated 5 year old who lassos in a 2 year old cohort. It sure is enough to make someone throw up their hands. 

Mini rant Quick side note:
    And now we just finished watching 'Four Christmases' on TBS. So funny. I find I am becoming quite a Vince Vaughn fan. I think he is hilarious. 
    But now there is silence--well, except for the heat going--because Nate is flipping through Netflix on his PS3. He takes soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo long to find anything to watch on there. I usually throw in the towel after the first 10 or 15 minutes and go to bed. haha Yea, I'm not a fan of silence. It's nice after a particularly long bout of yelling and screaming from the kids, but usually, I like to have some sort of white noise in the background. 
    Niiice. After settling on episodes of 'White Collar' the stupid Netflix and PS3 and Internet crapped out. Good thing I wasn't getting into it. <---major sarcasm going on
Back to the old stand by of DVR'ed Chopped.

    Okay, back to the frustrating 5 year old food critic. 
    My aim is to serve healthy, budget-friendly food without a whole lot of repeats. But how to achieve the healthy rainbow of food? I usually like checking cookbooks out of the library, but only as inspiration. Until this awesome book! 
    The Cleaner Plate Club has some of the most realistic down-to-earth food I've come across in any cookbook. Usually, while the food looks good, I'm thinking to myself that there is no way I would make that or that it would turn out looking like the professionally photographed pages. I'm going to take this opportunity to mention that there aren't any photos of impossible standards anywhere in this book--there aren't any pictures at all. haha I'm enjoying the breakfast ideas, lunches, lunchbox ideas, and mostly the soups from scratch. It also explains some of the questions I'm sure a lot of us have. For example, the difference between 'organic', 'pastured', 'grass-fed', 'free range', well, you get the idea. 
    I think I'm going to buy this book after the holidays (and thus after all the Christmas shopping) and use it to hopefully stick with my New Year's resolution. So be sure to look out for those! I'm excited to try the recipes and share them!

Sunday, December 4

25 Days of Christmas in Cookies--Day 4 Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

The girls were glad to have a distraction from the football-laden television. :)

Here is our creation for the day. You won't be able to have just one. I promise! ;)

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Yield...a lot :)

Saturday, December 3

25 Days of Christmas in Cookies--Day 3 Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Cups

    Saturday. *whew* Who knew the weekend would be busier than the weekdays. haha I guess the closer Christmas gets the busier the weekends are going to get. That's the way it is. I find it fun, though. :)

    As another day of my 25 Days of Cookies, I needed to bake these cookies in between shopping, the library, cleaning, doing laundry, well, you get the point. :)

    Today's cookie was inspired by last year's cookie Double Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies, from Sweet Pea's Kitchen--I really enjoy her blog, and a cookie I found on Foodbuzz.com this year, Double Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies from Love From the Oven

Friday, December 2

25 Days of Christmas in Cookies--Day 2

    Ahh Friday. Today seems a little off though. Kyleigh has only a half-day today. That throws the schedule Abby and I have a little off because Kyleigh gets off the bus in the middle of Abby's naptime. So we have to adjust and always end up with cranky kids. 

    Anyway, I had forgotten how tough it is to keep up with the 25 days of cookies. What makes it so tough is that I bake each cookie everyday, as well as sharing it with you guys. But it sure is a tasty endeavor. :)

For today, I wanted to make a cookie using my super yummy maple syrup from Canada--the REAL stuff. 
Mmmmm REAL maple syrup--at about $8 a can...
And, with the help of my girls, 
My helpers.
here is what I came up with:

Thursday, December 1

2nd Annual 25 Days of Christmas in Cookies

It's funny. I don't know where to begin. Can you believe the last time I posted anything was September 2nd?? 

I feel like I'm re-uniting with an old high school friend and things are awkward because so much time has passed. But in this instance, I don't come empty-handed. 

Today is the first of December. Know what that means? For the second year, it means 25 Days of Christmas in Cookies! (On a side note, I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to be able to do this for a second year.) 

I have been doing some "research" and found an overwhelming number of cookie recipes for this event. But in addition to finding already created recipes, what about ones I will make as I go? And then the classics need to be taken into consideration. And then there are the hits from last year I'd like to bring back. Whew. Kind of sends the head reeling, doesn't it?

The phrase "one day at a time" comes to mind. So let's focus on today. 

Oh, and by the way. While we were on our trip in Canada, Abby accidentally broke my camera and I am now adjusting to a new one from my Mom....please bear with me while I figure it out. haha It may mean either no pictures or blurry pictures. I'll get the hang of it before the month is out...I hope. :)

I'm calling them Chocolate Covered Oranges because they really remind me of those chocolate "oranges" in the candy aisle. And this year I have a new assistant in the kitchen. You'll recall my lil helper last year.

Well somehow she ended up in Kindergarten this year. Seriously, how does time go by this quickly??? So I enlisted the help of another lil one. :)

While looking through my cupboards for inspiration, my eyes came upon a rather large container of Nutella. And then I saw the oranges sitting in a basket on my counter. And voila!

Chocolate Covered Oranges
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