Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flower "pin"

I found the Jones Design Company the other day and was inspired to make this darling flower.

I think it is so cute and I can't wait to make tons more using different colors, fabrics and sizes.

You can find the tutorial here.

I missed my glue gun.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Creamy Milk Chocolate Tart

For our Christmas Eve dinner we had lobster and I thought I would make Julia Child's chocolate souffle. After checking out the recipe I realized it would need to be made at the last minute, so I decided to come up with something different. Everyone loved the Chocolate pudding pie I made awhile back, except the kids were not crazy about the crust so I decided to make a milk chocolate pudding with a graham cracker crust in a tart pan.

My little family is not always easy to please when it comes to desserts, but this, was a success!

The creamy milk chocolate pudding is so delicious and the graham cracker crust goes so well with it. And everything is better with whipped cream!

This dessert is really wonderful and a little fancy without being difficult.

Please do try it, I'm sure everyone you serve it to will love it!

Creamy Milk Chocolate Tart
Graham Cracker Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs crushed finely
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter melted

Pudding Filling
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups 2% milk
3.5 oz Lindt excellence extra creamy milk chocolate finely chopped (you can find this at Super Target)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter and mix well. Press the mixture into a 10- inch metal tart pan with removable sides. You will have extra crumbs either save for another recipe or eat the rest right out of the bowl (hehe). Bake the crust for 10 minutes and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the cornstarch, 1/3 cup of sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in the milk over low heat. Turn up the heat to medium and bring to a boil whisking constantly. Boil the mixture for two minutes whisking constantly, it will thicken. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Pour the filling into the graham cracker crust and chill for at least two hours. I made mine the night before. Cover the top with plastic wrap so a skin does not form.

Before serving whip the cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Spoon onto pie and sprinkle with cocoa if desired.

Source: Barefoot Contessa and Smitten Kitchen

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Celebrations

I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bits of Encouragement

For Better or For Worse is by far my favorite comic strip.
This particular strip reminded me of Ian. He can be rather cranky but then out of the blue he can be so sweet. Reading through this brought a smile to my face, I hope it does to yours too.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!
Happy Monday!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pasta Puttanesca

Our children are pasta freaks, they would eat it every night if I let them. Frankly, they probably got it from me. A few Christmas's ago my in-laws gave me Lidia Bastianich's Italian-American Kitchen. We have quite a few cookbooks, and I would have to say this is probably one of my all-time favorites! Every recipe I have tried out of this cookbook has been delicious, and many of them are quick and easy. I hope to share a few of our favorites with you this coming year.

One of the first recipes I tried was the Fusilli alla Puttanesca. It was a hit right away, sure we have made a few tweaks here and there, but this is a winner. Here is the note that Lidia includes with the recipe, which I found interesting.
"Puttana is Italian for a lady who renders her services under cover of the night; esca is a suffix that means "in the style of." This dish is quick to make, full of flavor: and as the story goes, one that was often prepared by the ladies when they got hungry between their "appointments." The story could by true or it could be allegorical, but in either case, the name stuck."

Pasta Puttanesca
Yes, there are anchovies in this dish. They add a great flavor and no one will know they are there so please try them. They dissolve during cooking, and add a wonderful flavor. If you are feeling shy about using them, use a tablespoon of anchovy paste instead.
Brian likes his tomatoes chunky, so he crushes his by hand. I like mine more smooth so I put them in the blender/food processor. If you choose to use this method be careful not to process them too fine or they incorporate a lot of air and turn your tomatoes pink.
One year for Christmas we gave Brian's siblings this recipe and all the ingredients to make it. Later his youngest brother said he noticed how using good quality ingredients really makes a dish. I encourage you to use the best ingredients you can afford and you will taste the results.

One large can Italian Plum tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
1 1/2 cups good quality olives, green or black or both. (If you have an olive bar at your store use those, if not use the olives from a jar)
1 pound pasta (fusilli, penne,or spaghetti) I like Barilla
Extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
3 anchovy fillets or anchovy paste
1/2 tsp. crushed hot red pepper
1/4 cup tiny capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup basil (optional)
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano, or parmigiano-reggiano cheese

In an eight-quart pot bring six quarts of salted water over high heat. Covering your pot will expedite this process.
Pour the tomatoes either in a bowl and crush them with your hands or use a food processor (see the note above). If your olives have pits crush them with the flat side of a heavy knife. Set aside both the tomatoes and olives.
Stir your pasta into the boiling water. Return to a boil quickly and stir frequently. Cook the pasta with lid half way on. Stir the pasta occasionally until done according to the package directions.
While your pasta is cooking make the sauce. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Crush the garlic with the back of knife and remove the skin. Add the crushed garlic to the pan and cook, shaking and stirring the pan until light brown about two minutes. Watch this very carefully, you don't want to burn the garlic. Add the anchovies stir them with a spoon to break them up. Toss in the olives and cook until sizzling about two minutes. Carefully pour in your tomatoes (stand back, because everything will sizzle) and add the red pepper. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to a lively simmer, and cook for five minutes. Stir in the capers.
If your pan is large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta, scoop our the cooked pasta with a large wire skimmer and place it directly into the sauce. If not, drain the pasta return it to the pot, and add the sauce. Place over medium heat and stir in the basil if you are using it. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Check the seasonings and serve right away.
Source: Lidia Bastianich, Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last minute gift ideas ~ 2010

I have quite a bit of shopping to do before Saturday. Brian and I need to go out this afternoon. We still have two Spiritual gifts and two Fun gifts to purchase, oh and a few stocking stuffers. I also need to get Brian a few little things.

Here's a few last minute homemade gift ideas if you need some:
Purchase a festive platter and fill it with your favorite cookies. Wrap the platter with the cookies in cellophane and tie with a bow and a tag. We did this one year and it was a big hit. If you need cookie/candy ideas you can check out
our holiday baking label.

How about a pan of Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls...yes, they are as amazing as she says!!

Hot Chocolate Mix with with homemade marshmallows.
Rich and creamy this could be dessert. They will love it!

Hot Chocolate Mix
4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 pounds of good quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use guittard)
8 oz. of good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups dutch-process cocoa (I use Penzey's)
In a large bowl combine the sugar, cocoa, and the finely chopped chocolate. Stir to combine. Place in jars. The mix will last for six months.
To serve: Heat 8 oz. of milk until very hot but not boiling. Add 1/4 cup of hot chocolate mix and let sit for a minute. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
I omit the coconut.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bits of Encouragement ~ Advent

I'm sitting next to the tree listening to Pandora (Baby it's cold outside) my favorite station and watching the dainty snowflakes fall...perfect morning.

We had quite a busy weekend.

Friday night dinner with Shane and Jen at Bar La Grassa. Go, it's amazing!!

Saturday, Christmas with Brian's family. Good food and fun surprises! Let's just saw a certain man is very happy with his new Griswold and Wagner pieces. Thank you, thank you Kathy and Ruth!!

Last week was a hard week for my Mom. Her youngest brother passed away suddenly. We all went over Sunday afternoon to hang out and have pizza. Thanks for all your prayers! She seems to be doing better.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy the snow!

"Glory to God in the heavenly heights. Peace to all men and women on earth who please him." Luke 2 The Message

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So Easy ~ Cheftalk review

Here is my latest cookbook review for cheftalk.
So Easy, by Ellie Krieger. If you have a minute please check it out. Thanks for your support!! You guys are the best!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bits of Encouragement ~ Advent

All weekend plans were cancelled due to the storm. In fact the children don't even have school today! Which is saying something because our school district NEVER closes!!

Instead I did laundry, baked, and dipped pretzels by myself. It wasn't fun without you Sus!!

Brian used the snowblower multiple times, he is having waaay to much fun with that machine! I'm glad we invested in it. Like one of our friends said "save your back for other manly things." What they don't know is that I do most of the shoveling around here, guess I should save my back for more womanly things. I am happy to report though, that I haven't had to lift a shovel at all! Last Christmas was it for me.

Well, have a wonderful week and please stay toasty warm!!

"Hark the herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn king!

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

Joyful all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With the angelic host proclaim

Christ is born in Bethlehem

Hark! The herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn King!"

~ Charles Wesley

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thumbprint cookies ~ a little makeover

I make thumbprint cookies for Christmas every year. Here is the original recipe that I use if you are interested. I do love this recipe, but I wanted to mix it up a bit, so I decide to give it a makeover. Instead of using walnuts I used pecans. Typically I fill these cookies with seedless raspberry jam...yum! Instead I filled them with nutellla. If you haven't tried nutella please do!! It is a chocolate hazelnut spread and it is delicious! The kids love to spread it on artisan bread for a snack. I know you can find it at Super Target. If your kids don't like nuts like mine make a few without.

Our weekend plans are in limbo depending on the blizzard we might get...yuck! We did finally break down and get a snow blower, so at least we are prepared. There might be a neighborhood sledding party tonight. Baking and Big Bowl with the Buckmans tomorrow, church and brunch and probably a game on Sunday. How about you guys, what's on your list this weekend?

Thumbprint cookies with Pecans and Nutella

2 sticks of unsalted butter softened

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

2 cups finely chopped pecans

Nutella (if the nutella is stiff, place in the microwave to soften for 10-15 seconds)

Heat oven to 350. Beat the butter, sugar, and egg yolks until light and fluffy. Stir in flour and salt until well mixed. Shape into 1-inch balls. Dip in egg white, roll in the pecans. Place 1-inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheets. Make an indentation with the back of a wooden spoon in the center of each cookie.
Bake 10-12 minutes until set. You may need to indent the cookies gently. Remove from the cookie sheets and cool on wire racks. Fill each cookie with nutella.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bit of Encouragement ~ Advent

I was reading a devotional the other day that I received via e-mail. It spoke to the verse in Psalms "Be still and know that I am God." I thought it was quite fitting considering that we are in the midst of the Advent season.
We tend to get hurried and have twenty things on our to do list up until Christmas day. I mean there are cookies to bake, gingerbread houses to put together, decorations that need to be placed just so, and don't forget the presents. This year, for whatever reason I am pretty behind my holiday schedule and you know what I don't really care. Sure we did put up our Christmas decor and I have started my baking, but I am not stressing out this year. This year, I am going to be still.
"Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They enered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened there luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincesnce, myrrh." Matthew 2
Stay warm friends!

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Green Christmas"

I'm not much of a "wrapper". I can never seem to find wrapping paper that I really like, or if I do it seems to be more than I want to pay for something that is going to be thrown away. I really like the look of an old fashioned parcel, so last year I thought I would go with that theme. I took grocery bags and cut them to the size of the gift I was wrapping. I laid the printed side of the bag up and wrapped away. I had the Katie and Ian decorate shipping labels with different Christmas stamps and address them with markers. Then we tied the labels onto the gifts with raffia. Easy peasy and I like the way they turned out! I'm planning on using this idea again this year, now I just need to finish up my shopping!
I'm hoping to get my Christmas baking started this weekend. For some reason I am behind on that this year.
Happy Weekend!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What I'm Thankful For...

There are many things I am thankful for, but this year I am especially thankful for my sisters. I didn't always feel this way. Growing up in a home with three teenage girls can have its challenges to put it mildly. Over the years though we have learned to embrace our differences and have become closer. The three of us have become great friends. I know these two girls will always be here for me and I will always be here for them. Love you Susie and Liza!
I hope you all had a wonderful day! Here is a glimpse of what ours looked like.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Bits of Encouragement ~ Advent

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

Have a great week!



Friday, November 26, 2010

My Sweet Girl

This week I got this sweet text from Katie. It made my day!
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends.
Have a a great weekend!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your Thanksgiving be full of God's abundant love and filled with all the good things He takes joy in giving.
With love ~
Brian, Rachel, Katie and Ian
"Mercy, Peace, and love be yours in abundance." Jude 1:12

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Recipes ~ Cranberry Cherry Sauce

I had never been a huge fan of cranberry sauce. It never looked very appetizing and that tart flavor...yuck! At some point I found a cranberry cherry sauce that I liked very much and I have been making it for a few years. This year I decided to come up with my own cranberry cherry combo. Yummy!!

Cranberry Cherry Relish
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup cherry jam
1/4 cranberry juice
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup brown sugar
Pick through the cranberries for any stray bits and rinse then drain well. Combine the cranberries, orange juice and zest, cranberry juice, cherry jam and cinnamon in a pan. Place over medium heat: boil slowly until the berries pop open about 10 minutes. Remover from the heat and add dried cranberries. Let cool for five minutes and then add vanilla and brown sugar. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Recipes ~ Brian's Apple Pie

Brian doesn't do much baking, in fact he doesn't make many desserts at all except for apple pie. It's his speciality so to speak. My sister's always request this pie every fall. If we happen to be with my family for Thanksgiving this will be on the dessert table for sure. You know the saying "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Well, they forgot to include my sisters.
Apple Pie
This recipe comes form the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
6 Cups thinly, sliced, peeled apples (Brian likes Granny Smith and Haralson)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
Pastry for a Double-Crust Pie (see the recipe below)
Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the sugar mixture to the sliced apples; and toss to coat the fruit. Fill a pastry lined 9-inch pie plate with the apple mixture. Cut the butter into small pieces and sprinkle over the fruit. Add the top crust. Seal and flute the edge. Sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of the crust. Cut three silts in the middle of the crust. Each silt should be about 2 inches long. Cover the edge of pie with foil or use one of those circular things for pies. Bake in a 375 oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil; bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until the crust is golden. During the last 5-10 minutes of baking place a sheet pan on the lower oven rack to catch any juices. Cool. Serve with ice cream.
Pie Pastry
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup shortening (Brian uses crisco sticks. We keep them in the freezer)
6-7 tablespoons cold water
Stir together the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the water over part of the mixture gently toss with a fork. Push to the side of the bowl. Repeat until all of the dough is moistened. Form the dough into two balls. Place each ball on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten each into a disk. Wrap the plastic wrap around each disk. Place into the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to a day in advance. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough with your hands. If the dough seems to hard you may need to let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Roll dough with a rolling pin from center to edge. Forming a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Ease pastry into a 9-inch pie plate being careful not to stretch pastry. Place filling into the bottom shell. Add the top crust trim and flute.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bits of Encouragement

Have a wonderful week as you prepare your hearts and home for Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Season of Giving

Picky Girl had a little soiree on Thursday. Brian and I stopped by quick to show our support and check out the new holiday apparel. For Christmas this year I was planning on pulling out a classic velvet number that I haven't worn for awhile. From across the room I saw this beauty calling my name. I strolled over to her and she was stunning. The dress is made of a heavy ivory fabric with a beautiful gold design printed all over. The dress is from 213, my favorite designer that Picky Girl carries. They are beautiful and ultra feminine pieces that are very sweet and timeless in my opinion.

Susie was also in attendance, and insisted that I try the dress on. So, on it went and it fit perfect on my not so much 20 year old figure. Mr. Young also approved. I am really happy about the purchase and excited to wear it for Christmas. Another great piece to add to my closet!
Check out Picky girl's new blog. Even better stop on by the store! They have everything from candles, jewelery, mittens, and of course GORGEOUS clothes for you.
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