8.31.2011

my sweet summer boy...


my love.

"What Mom?"                               "Mmm...  Chips!"


8.30.2011

temper? what temper?? [a cry for help...]

Before I had a two-year-old, I didn't know that I had a temper.  I really did believe that I was a pretty even-keeled person who kept things under control most of the time!  (Well, except for my tears maybe, but hey...  I'm a girl!)


But now I know different.  I have a temper.  And ugly, embarrassing green-monster that comes out when my two-year-old pushes my oh-so-easy-to-push-these-days buttons!

I can't even believe I'm telling you all this, but unfortunately I'm sure more than a few people have witnessed my ugly green monster by now and it's time to come clean.

I guess part of me is also hoping to hear that I'm not alone.  And even more so, I'm hoping to hear that there's hope I will one day find my old peaceful-self again!

I can't even count on one had the times I have to give myself a time-out every day.  I snap, I yell, I glare, I want to run away...

And then I cry, I pray, I kneel... and eventually I beg forgiveness from both my Father and my son.

And they both hug me back and freely give that forgiveness, knowing full well that I will fail them again...  and loving me anyways.

Why do they forgive?  How am I even forgivable, when I fail so often?  How do I change, when these old, ugly habits are carved so deeply into my being?  Scars that keep ripping open and hurting not only me, but those around me as well??

And so I am coming to you, my readers, my family, my friends...  asking... begging... for help.  I need your advice, your thoughts, your hugs & your prayers...  I need accountability.  I need you to push me, to question me, to help me be a better person...  a better mom.

Will you do that for me?  Will you help me beat this ugly-green-monster before he gets too big to conquer??


8.29.2011

cinnamon nectarine freezer jam

If you've never made freezer jam before, you'll be amazed at how quick and simple the process is.  If you've never even tasted freezer jam before...  you need to make some.  And soon!


Freezer jam is a beautiful taste of summer you can enjoy year-round.  Because you use perfect, ripe fruit for freezer jam (as opposed to the slightly-too-ripe-to-enjoy-fresh-but-not-far-gone-enough-to-waste fruit often used to make regular jam!), you reall get to enjoy the true fresh flavor of the fruit!

Raspberry freezer jam tastes like you are popping fresh, juicy raspberries into your mouth.  Strawberry freezer jam smells like summer, looks like a beautiful jewel-colored coating on your toast, and tastes like heaven.

This Cinnamon Nectarine Freezer Jam tastes like you are biting into a beautiful fresh peach that you have sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon...  I half expect to find juice running down my chin every time I eat it!

Back to those beautiful boxes of peaches and nectarines I got...  and the easy-peasy trick I just showed you on how to peel them all...

I wanted to make sure I had a good variety of uses from all the fruit, instead of just eating them all over ice cream, or freezing them plain.

I make lots of raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and rhubarb freezer jams each year, but I had never made peach before.  We love freezer jam in this family...  on everything from toast, to ice cream, to straight out of the jar...  so I decided it was time to try it out!


I used my nectarines, but you can use peaches if you'd like...  they are completely interchangeable!

Cinnamon Nectarine Freezer Jam Recipe
adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride (& Ball!)

Ingredients:
3 1/3 cups peeled & finely chopped nectarines (or peaches!)
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons Ball Real-Fruit Instant Pectin*
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:
Stir together nectarines (or peaches), sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl.  Set aside for 10 minutes.

Slowly stir in the pectin, stirring continuously for 3 minutes.  Stir in the cinnamon, and then pour the mixture into clean freezer-safe containers, leaving at least 1/2" of headspace (which allows the freezer jam to expand without overflowing your containers!).

(*If you use a different brand of Instant Pectin, make sure to compare the instructions on the container and adjust accordingly!)

Cover the containers and leave them out out at room-temperature for 30 minutes.  Transfer them to the fridge or freezer and enjoy!

(Freezer jam lasts up to 12 months in the freezer!)


What's your favorite kind of freezer jam?


8.28.2011

jalapeño popper grilled cheese

& a Pinterest challenge!

Sarah, from Emerging Mummy challenged us to a Pinterest challenge this weekend.  Basically, it's as it sounds...  DO something that you have pinned, instead of just looking at it!!

If you don't know what Pinterest is...  Oh My Goodness!  It is an addicting, wonderful way to create a virtual "pinboard" of all of your internet finds!  You can pin just about anything...  recipes you want to try, decorating tips for your house you want to remember, gift ideas for you or others, anything!  Seriously addicting.  Check it out!


I knew immediately what I would do for the challenge, as I have been eyeing this recipe forEVER!

Jalapeño Poppers are one of my favorite guilty pleasures...  especially in the form of my Jalapeño Popper Dip!  This sandwich is now a very close second.  So good I can hardly stand it.

(It's taking all of my will-power not to go make another one right now!!)

Check out the original recipe, that I found on Pinterest, over at Closet Cooking!


Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipe
adapted from Closet Cooking

(This recipe makes one sandwich...  adjust accordingly!)

Ingredients:
2 jalapeño peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
2 slices sourdough bread
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup pepperjack & cheddar cheeses, shredded (one or both!)
1 tablespoon tortilla chips, crumbled

Directions:
Place the peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet with the cut side facing down.  Place the baking sheet on the top shelf in the oven and broil until the outer layer of the skin has blackened, about 8-10 minutes.

Place the peppers in a ziploc bag, seal and let them cool until you can handle them, about 10 minutes.  Remove the skins from the peppers. The skins should easily "pinch" off.

Spread one side of each slice of bread with 1/2 tablespoon of butter.  Place these slices, butter-side down, on a cutting board.  Spread 1 tablespoon of cream cheese on the non-butter-side of each slice of bread.

Sprinkle the tablespoon of crushed tortilla chips on one slice, and layer the jalapeño peppers on top of that, covering the whole bread slice.

Preheat a skillet large enough for the sandwich to medium heat.  When hot, place the piled on slice of bread, butter-side down, into the skillet.  Pile on the shredded cheese, and place the second slice of bread, butter-side up, on top of that.

Grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is all melted.

8.27.2011

peeling peaches... a step-by-step photo tutorial!

Do you ever feel like making a few peach pies, or canning or freezing that beautiful box of organic peaches you just got a great deal on, but just can't seem to get in the mood to try and peel all of those peaches?

Well, here's a trick for peeling them quickly and easily!

(Yes, I know these are nectarines, not peaches...  
but I had both and these looked so much prettier!)

This is something I learned years ago from my Grandma, while I helped her can peaches, and it works great on peaches, tomatoes, nectarines & plums!


Here's my kitchen set-up when I am going to peel a bunch of peaches.  This time I am going to dice them and freeze them to use later.  I found some gorgeous organic peaches and nectarines at Costco this week, so I grabbed 3 boxes, and just may go back for more!


You need a pot (big enough to hold a few peaches submerged in boiling water), a big bowl full of ice water, a slotted spoon or tongs, knives and a cutting board!

(Did you notice that I have a towel under my cutting board?  Well, it's there for 2 reasons...  1st to keep the board from sliding around as I chop and 2nd, to catch all the overflow juices!)


Wash your peaches and score a small X into the bottom of each one with a paring knife.


Place 2 or 3 peaches at a time into the boiling water, and let them boil for 30-60 seconds, until the skin at the "X" starts to curl up.


Quickly take them out of the boiling water and place them into your ice-water bath to cool them down so you can peel them (and to stop the cooking process!).


Take them out of the cold water once they are cool enough to handle and with your fingers, pull back the skin.  It will come of very easily, sometimes even in one piece!


Chop your fruit however you would like...  I like to dice mine, just because that's how I usually use it!


And there you go!

Next time you need to peel a bunch of peaches or nectarines for peach pie, blueberry nectarine crumb bars, cinnamon nectarine freezer jam... or for canning or freezing, try this trick!

Check back next week for some great recipes, like the ones mentioned above, using all this beautiful fruit!!


8.26.2011

slow cooker whole "faux-tisserie" chicken

We all know how much I love the rotisserie "cheater chickens" from the grocery store (or more specifically, Costco!), right?

Well, I do...  and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

But sometimes (though I don't really know why...) I feel the urge to buy plain-old raw chicken, which then sits in my freezer being ignored while I continue to buy Cheater Chickens almost every time I go to Costco!

I think I just can't ignore the aroma when I walk by.  It consumes me and takes me by sheer force.

So, months later when I remember that I have 'real' chickens in my freezer, I decide it's time to use them.  Enter:  the Faux-tisserie Chicken!


Cooked in the Crockpot with minimal prep-work, this chicken is almost as good as an honest-to-goodness rotisserie chicken!  (Maybe even better, depending on where you buy your 'cheaters' and the quality of your 'real' chicken!)

Try this next time you remember that whole chicken sitting in your freezer being ignored!  (Or next time one of your roosters makes a bit too much noise in the morning!  What?  You know you've thought it before!)  :o)

"Faux-tisserie" Chicken Recipe
adapted from Saved By The Egg Timer

Ingredients:
One whole chicken, small enough to fit in your slow cooker, thawed
about 1/4 cup seasoning salt (store bought or homemade)
aluminum foil or 3 medium onions

Directions:
Place 3 aluminum-foil balls (about the size of your fist) or 3 medium, peeled onions in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Rinse the chicken in cold water, removing any 'extra-parts' hidden in the body cavities (I know, gross huh?  Does anyone really use those?!) and pat dry with paper towels.

Place the chicken, breast side up, on the foil balls or onions in the slow cooker.  (The foil balls keep the chicken up out of it's juices so that it doesn't steam!)

Slide your hand in between the skin and the breast, separating it without tearing the skin. Take about a tablespoon of seasoning salt (or salt and a bunch of seasonings, whatever you like!) and rub it in between the skin and breast.

Take the remaining seasoning salt and rub it all over the outside of the chicken and sprinkle it into the cavity.

Cover the slow cooker, turn on LOW, and cook for 6-8 hours - depending on the size of your chicken, until the juices run clear and the chicken is falling apart tender.

(Save the juice to make gravy, or just spoon it as is over the chicken when you serve it!)


8.25.2011

sometimes there is just no better feeling...

than sitting here in my quiet house full of my sleeping loves, closing my eyes and just being.

Still.  Calm.  Quiet.  Gentle.

Breathing in...  and out... and savoring each uninterrupted breath.

Listening to the nighttime sounds of my loves in their beds.  The soft breathing.  The gentle rustle.  The murmers and sighs...

My heart fills with so much love that I can do nothing but savor the feeling of love consuming me.

I miss them so much when they are sleeping.

And so I gaze in on my sweet little loves, always one last time, before closing my own eyes for sleep.

Touching their angelic faces...  kissing their warm, rosy cheeks... and tucking them carefully into their beds.

Thanking God for loaning them to me, for now.  Praying for the strength and grace to mother them the way they need to be mothered.   Praying that they will always know how much I love them.

And how much He loves them.



8.24.2011

fudgy chocolate chip cookie dough brownies

Fudgy, chocolate-y mocha brownies, topped with an amazingly rich (egg-free) raw chocolate chip cookie dough and a beautiful chocolate glaze!  Need I say more?


I am excited to join this year's Holiday Recipe Swap over at My Baking Addiction, because really... who doesn't like sharing and discovering new favorite recipes, especially with the busy holiday-baking season approaching?!


I saw the idea for these brownies over on the brown eyed baker's blog, and I knew I had to try it!  I used my Fudgy Dark Chocolate Brownies recipe (altered a bit because I didn't have cocoa powder on hand, wanted to add some coffee... and I wanted a smaller batch) but I did use her cookie dough topping (doubled!)!

These bars are yummy and impressive...  Let them chill completely before cutting and serving for the best (prettiest!) results!

Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

Ingredients:
for the brownies:
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup very hot coffee
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (dusted with 1 teaspoon flour)
for the cookie dough:
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:
for the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line an 8" square baking dish with foil and generously butter or spray the foil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted chocolate and baking soda.  Whisk in about half of the melted butter until smooth.  Then whisk in the hot coffee until thick and smooth.

Whisk in the sugar, egg, and remaining butter until smooth.  Stir in the flour, vanilla and salt until combined.  Gently fold in the flour-dusted chocolate chips.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the brownies are just set.  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

for the cookie dough:
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth.  Beat in the milk and vanilla until smooth.  Mix in the flour until just combined and gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the cookie dough over the completely cooled brownies in the pan, smoothing the top.  Place in the fridge to chill for at least 1 hour, or until the cookie dough is firm.

Remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the foil and cut into small bars to serve.  Store in tupperware in the fridge or freeze!

optional glaze:
Melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips in the microwave.  Place into a ziploc bag and snip off the corner.  Drizzle over the cooled brownies, or spread on the tops.

recipe adapted loosely from the brown eyed baker

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Scharffen Berger.

8.23.2011

double-glazed lemon poppyseed scones

Last week I got to have 3 of the sweet girls that were in my birthing class with me over to my house for a little get-together.

It was the first time all of us had been able to get together with our babies and it was so fun to catch up and watch our kiddos get to know each other!


I must say, though...   hanging out with these girls and talking through our birth stories a bit sure gave me 'the itch'!  ;o)


Everybody brought great food to share (one of the girls even brought deviled quail's eggs!  SO cute!), and I made these Double-Glazed Lemon Poppyseed Scones.  We ate well!

(This recipe makes 32 small-ish scones, so I stuck most of them in the freezer for another time!)

Double-Glazed Lemon Poppyseed Scones

Ingredients:
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
zest of 3 large lemons
4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, diced
1/4 cup poppy seeds
4 cups powdered sugar
juice of 3 large lemons
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, blend together the sour cream and baking soda; set aside. In another small bowl, blend together the egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the lemon zest; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tarter and salt. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry blender until the butter is the size of small peas.

Stir together the wet ingredients and then add to the flour mixture, stirring until just moistened. Gently fold in 1/4 cup of the poppy seeds.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times, just until the dough comes together.  Divide the dough into 4 parts and gently form each part into a round disk about 3/4" thick, and then cut each disk into 8 wedges.

Place the wedges on the baking sheets, spacing them out about 2 inches, as they will spread during baking.

Bake each tray for 25-35 minutes, or until the scones are golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out almost clean! Cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, and then glaze with a lemon glaze*...

*Lemon Glaze Recipe:

Ingredients:
juice of 2 lemons (plus more if needed)
4 cups of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)

Directions:
Squeeze the lemon juice into a medium bowl. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth...  adding more juice or water if needed, to thin the glaze out.  (Stir in the 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, if you'd like!)  Pour over the cooled scones.

(I like to pour the glaze once over the still-partly-warm scones for an all-over thin coating, and then again when they are completely cooled for a thicker double-glazing...  scooping back up some of the glaze that has dripped onto the baking sheet!)


8.22.2011

I'm blessed...

with the week we just survived, I can't help but join up with Gretchen's I'm Blessed blog carnival and count my many blessings!


I'm blessed...  to have a working computer after it was so horribly thrown-up on by my 2 year old!

I'm blessed...  to have a healthy family after a week of the flu and almost everyone getting it!

I'm blessed...  to have a half-cow in my freezer, letting me feed my family natural, healthy beef on a regular basis!

I'm blessed...  to have a roof over my head and a husband who works so hard to keep it there!

I'm blessed...  to have friends who are willing to sit with me when I'm sick, play with my kids, listen to me vent & whine, and love me anyways!

I'm blessed...  to have family who loves me unconditionally, even when I am not the most lovable person!

I'm blessed...  to have a beautiful kitchen to cook in and people (you!) who care about what I've made!

And last, but definitely not least...

I'm blessed...  to have so many online friends, all of whom I care about so much...

I really am blessed to know each and every one of you.  Thank you for being in my life!


(click here to go to He Sows, She Sews & see some more "I'm Blessed" posts!)


8.20.2011

where I went...

...besides crazy, I mean!

I have been taking care of a house-full of sick kiddos (and myself) this past week.

First Bjørn, then me, then Navy...  I'm really hoping the others don't get it.

And as the icing on all the chaos...  Bjørn's last [ahem] 'explosion' was all over my laptop!  I guess he wanted to go out with a bang.  :o(

I haven't even tried to turn it on yet, I'm too scared...  if you don't mind sending up a prayer that it will work when I try on Monday morning, I would appreciate it!  I really don't know what I'll do if it's a goner.  (I'm posting from my mom's computer right now!)

On that much brighter note, we are spending this beautiful warm sunny weekend in the Big City with my family...  and I couldn't ask for a better distraction from the 'computer-black-cloud' that is hanging over our house!

I hope you are all having as beautiful a weekend as we are!  I'll miss you friends, while I'm gone...  fingers crossed that I'm able to get back in business soon!!






8.18.2011

sick, sick, sick...

That's really all I have to say.

This sweet little boy was sick yesterday, and he just plain wore us out.

(Throwing up all night and day...  we barely got 5 hours of sleep total between the 2 of us!)


It's a good thing he's so cute!  :o)

Obviously, there was no cooking going on in our house to blog about!  Maybe tomorrow...


8.17.2011

the best salad dressing

A few years ago we quit buying salad dressing.

Except for, you know... that one bottle of ranch dressing to dip my pizza in, that is.

Instead I make this homemade dressing every week or so and we live off of it.  The whole family loves it!  

It is healthy and fresh-tasting...  and I especially love that I know exactly what's in it!  (Unlike the rest of those bottles we finally threw away!)

This is an italian-style dressing...  it's very light & fresh, but chock-full of flavor!


We call this "Daja dDressing" because I got the original recipe from my friend Daja...  I believe she said it was actually a Weight Watchers recipe, but don't quote me on that!

I have tweaked it a bit, of course, but the original idea is still there...  and so good!


Daja Dressing Recipe

Ingredients:
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:
Measure ingredients into a jar with a securely-fitting lid.  Screw on the lid and shake vigorously to combine.  Store in the fridge for up to a week.

(If it solidifies - as olive oil does in cold temperatures - let it sit at room temperature for a little bit and re-shake!)


8.16.2011

why there are no tomatoes...

I just realized I'm not sure how many of you know why I haven't posted many recipes with tomatoes in them recently...  or in, say, the last 8+ months?

Maybe you already know.  Or maybe you don't even care?

Either way, I feel the need to explain!

Because here's the thing...  I am not picky.  Yes, there are a few things that are not my favorites, but there's not much I won't eat.  Snails, maybe.  And Rocky Mountain Oysters... but that's beside the point.

Tomatoes...

Tomatoes, I love!  I would eat them everyday, if I could.  And I even have 3 beautiful tomato plants on my deck, teasing me with their intoxicating aroma!

But, see, there is a problem.  A big, huge, unavoidable and absolutely adorable problem...

His name is Haakon.

video

This sweet, happy, joy-of-my-heart nursling hates tomatoes...  or at least, his stomach does!

Every time I eat a tomato, or touch a tomato, or even look at a tomato (or so it seems!), he gets sick... Fussy, miserable and then vomits.  And it breaks my heart.

Therefore, as much as I absolutely adore tomatoes, we no longer have them in this house.  Yes, the rest of my family can still eat tomatoes...  but I love them so much that it hurts to serve them and not be able to eat them myself.

No joke, I almost cried the other day because Andrew made his yummy Buffalo Chicken Chili in the slow cooker and I couldn't have any.  And it smelled so good.  So, SO good.

I almost cried.  Or maybe I really did cry.   I'll never tell.

And yes, I sometimes even dream about tomatoes.  I wake up in the morning dreaming about spaghetti, and creamy tomato basil soup, and taco soup,  and BLTs, and pizza...  oh, how I dream about pizza!

But you know what?  This too shall pass.  And this sweet boy... my happy, happy baby...  is so worth it.

He is worth every craving-that-cannot-be-fulfilled.  He is worth every recipe that would be that much better with tomatoes.  He is worth missing out on one of my favorite things...

Because he is one of my most favorite things!

And when the day comes that we can eat tomatoes again...  they will taste that much sweeter!  (And you will be seeing nothing but red on this blog!)  :o)

(Oh, we are also not OK with Citrus.  But that's not as painful for me now.  It was bad during the winter orange and satsuma season, but we got through it!)

Did your nurslings have sensitivities like these?  If you had to cut out foods, when were you able to enjoy them again??

Did you dream about your 'off-limits' foods like I do?  Or am I crazy??


8.15.2011

amaretto-spiked blueberry crumb bars

Is there anything better than fresh, sweet, juicy blueberries picked from the local berry farm?


I rarely ever have fresh blueberries to use in baking because I love them so much straight out of a bowl.

But I needed something to bring on our recent camping trip and I happened to have a flat of fresh berries staring at me in the fridge.

It was almost painful to do anything to these beauties besides rinse them and eat them, but after I doused them in Amaretto, I started to feel a bit better about it!


You can substitute  an equal amount of fresh-squeezed lemon juice if you want to skip the booze, but don't be afraid to try it...  It's so good!!

Amaretto-Spiked Blueberry Crumb Bars
adapted from Cookin' Canuk

Ingredients:
5 cups fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons Amaretto
1 cup sugar, divided (1/2 cup + 1/2 cup)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.  Butter a 9x13" baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, Amaretto, 1/2 cup of the sugar & cornstarch.  Stir together and set aside.

In another bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cardamom, nutmeg and the salt... stirring well to combine.

Using a pastry cutter, or your fingers, cut in the diced butter until coarse crumbs are formed.  Stir in the egg until combined and moistened.

Press about 1/2 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the baking dish and press down lightly to form a crust.  Spread the blueberry mixture over the top.

Take the remaining crumb mixture and sprinkle it over the top of the blueberry mixture.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top is light golden brown.


8.13.2011

peanut butter balls

(also known as Buckeye Balls...  although I have no idea why?!  Do you??)


I was in the mood to bake today in this ridiculous fall-in-august weather we are having, but as soon as I got ready to turn on my oven, the sun came out and I just couldn't do it.

So, I decided to whip up some peanut butter balls instead!  Easy, quick & no oven involved...  perfect for a summer day!


This is a classic, simple recipe.  Creamy, sweet peanut butter filling...  covered in a thin layer of chocolate.  You've seen it before, I'm sure, and you'll see it again.  This is my version!

I like to make pretty tiny peanut butter balls...  one-biters.  When you have a 2-year old snacking on chocolate, one bite is always a good thing!


I also make a pretty small batch.  For 2 reasons...  #1 being that I rarely have time to finish a full project with my house-full-of-chaos, and #2 being that if I only make a small batch, I can only eat a small batch!  :o)

Feel free to double the recipe if you've got more time and stronger will-power than me!

Peanut Butter Balls Recipe

Ingredients:
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:
In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, butter & vanilla until smooth.  Dump in the powdered sugar and stir until too stiff to stir with a fork...  then comes the fun part.

Dig in with your (clean!) hands and stir & knead until a smooth stiff dough forms.  Roll into small (teaspoon-full size) balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Once you are done rolling all the dough, place the sheet in the fridge to chill and set for a few hours, until very firm.

In a small, deep bowl...  microwave the chocolate chips and oil together in 30 second intervals - stirring well between each time - until smooth.

Using a fork, dip each ball into the chocolate, tap off the excess and set it back on the parchment;  repeat.  Again, once the pan is finished, place it back in the fridge to set completely for a few hours!

If you have excess chocolate, reheat it in the microwave for a few seconds and then scrape it into a ziploc bag.  Cut off a tiny bit of the corner of the bag and drizzle the chocolate over the partially cooled chocolate balls.

*Alternately - and much more time-efficiently, especially great if you have littles running around! :

Instead of dipping the balls, place all of the melted chocolate in a ziploc bag and drizzle generously over the peanut butter balls.  A little less chocolate to peanut butter ratio, but still great and much quicker & cleaner...  and in my opinion cuter!!


8.12.2011

chocolate chip coconut macadamia nut cookies


I made these cookies in honor of my sweet friend Sarah who shares my love for Mauna Loa Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Nuts (a Hawaiian treat - you can even buy them in a huge bag at the Maui Costco!).  Sarah is a beautiful blonde Hawaiian girl...  and I, well, I've been to Hawaii before.  :o)



Sarah even used these goodies...  macadamia nuts covered in coconut and chocolate... wrapped in little bundles, as favors at her beautiful outdoor wedding a few months ago!

I used my Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe as a base and added the flavors that make the candy so good...  chocolate chips, sweetened flaked coconut and dry roasted, salted macadamia nuts.

These cookies really are amazing...  even if you think you don't like nuts in cookies (I don't!), macadamia nuts are so soft and buttery, you won't mind them!


Make these if you want to WOW someone...  or even if you just want to make them feel special!

In order to show you why I like the 'egg-cracking' method for forming the dough, I made one cookie the normal way - rolled into a ball and placed on the cookie sheet (vs. the 'egg-cracked' method - rolled into a twice as big ball, broken in half and placed craggly-side up on the cookie sheet)...


Which one do you like better??


Chocolate Chip Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies Recipe

Ingredients:
2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled (still warm)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dry roasted macadamia nuts

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt;  set aside.

In your mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes!).  Beat in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until smooth.

Mix in the flour mixture until just combined and then stir in the chocolate chips, coconut and nuts.

Take about 1/2 cup of the dough and form it into a ball in your hands.  Hold the ball with both hands and break it apart in half - like you are cracking an egg.  Place each half, craggly-side up, on a parchment-lined cookie sheet...  making sure to leave plenty of room for the cookies to spread.

(These make big cookies!  Big, chewy, gooey, yummy cookies!)

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the cookies are just barely golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave on the cookie sheets to cool at least 10 minutes.


8.11.2011

baby "hockey"

As his big brother now calls him...  is such a sweet, happy boy!

8 months old now...  Haakon is 21 pounds, rolling all over the place, sitting like a champ & seriously never stops laughing.

I just couldn't resist sharing these pictures with you...  especially since he is wearing my favorite shirt!


Man, we all love this kid so much!

I wish you could all meet him and be blessed by his laughter.  He is definitely a joy-bringer!


8.10.2011

simple sausage and bean soup

This was an "I-Just-Got-Back-From-Camping-And-Don't-Want-To-Go-Grocery-Shopping-So-I-Will-Clean-Out-My-Cupboards-Instead" creation.  (Boy, that was a mouthful, wasn't it?)

Basically, I just got back from camping and didn't want to go grocery shopping...  so, I cleaned out my cupboards instead (Oh wait...  You already figured that part out?  Sorry.) and came up with this delicious, hearty soup!


Beans, sausage, chicken broth...  onions, garlic, spices...  you can't really go wrong!  Fortunately it was chilly enough to be able to make soup in August.

(I'm obviously not living in the heat-wave-stricken majority of the US...  it's been downright fall-ish here in the Pacific Northwest!)

Sausage and Bean Soup Recipe

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound, or so, sausage links
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15oz) cans beans, drained, but not rinsed (whatever you'd like...  I used black and garbanzo!)
3-4 cups chicken stock (1 carton)
1 parmesan rind*
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste

Directions:
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot.  Place your sausage links in the pan in a single layer and brown all over, turning when necessary.  Remove the sausages to a cutting board and set aside to cool for a bit.  (Note:  Don't worry about cooking the sausage here...  You are just browning it at this point.  It will cook in the soup later.)

Add the onions and carrots into the still hot oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally to scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until soft.  Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Dump in the beans, chicken stock, parmesan rind and spices (leave the salt until the end, in case you don't need it!).  Cut the sausage links into bite-sized pieces and add those also.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for an hour or as long as you want...  until the sausage is cooked through and you are ready to eat!  (I let mine simmer a good 3 hours or more!)

Serve with crusty bread, or crackers!

*If you don't save your parmesan rinds, please do!  Throw them in the freezer and add them to your soups...  you will be so glad you did!!


8.09.2011

Open Sky

Ok, I know we all get more 'Deal Site' offers than we can even handle.  In fact, my inbox is full of them right now...  But I have never been as excited about one as I am this one, so I just had to share!


From their website:

"Open Sky is “… Twitter, but with shopping.” – USA Today

A social network of shoppers, OpenSky taps you into exclusive food, style, healthy living, and home design sales that are handpicked by a bevy of curators you choose to follow. Each week, your arbiters single out the item they fancy the most and give you first dibs to purchase it up to 60% off.

Like picking your circle of friends, you edit what products you see by choosing the curators you want to hear from. Plus finds don’t just disappear at midnight; purchase items in your curator’s collection for happiness guaranteed without the time crunch."


Basically it is amazing deals on food stuff... and baking stuff...  and cooking stuff...  and other fun stuff...  all picked by some of our favorite celebrity chefs and others!

Ok...  I'll stop now.  Besides I have to go so I can drool over all the stuff I would love to have, while my boys nap...

Click here if you'd like to go check it out!

**Note:  This is not a paid endorsement or anything more than my personal excitement to share my new find with you! **


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