Thursday, December 30, 2010

and the baking continues

here's what i made for christmas:


Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
(and because I had a small pan, it ended up being pumpkin bars AND a pumpkin loaf)

Ingredients

Bars:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 15-ounce can pumpkin
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Icing:

  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.



Banana Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar (can easily reduce to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Method

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a mixer, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour last, mix. Pour mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a rack. Remove from pan and slice to serve.


Options:
You can also make the banana bread more fun with these add ins:
-1 to 2 tbsp Nutella spread before the dry ingredients
-A few handfuls of chocolate chips on top of the batter before you place it in the oven
-1/4 c chopped nuts (not my favorite thing at all)
-Larger banana chunks in the batter to give a few bites with some real banana pieces


Monday, December 20, 2010

cookies round 2

today was an awful day... snowy, cold, ick...
well, i found a bag of dark and mint chocolate chips in my cupboard and a tin of hershey's cocoa in the lazy susan and made ....

Chocolate Mint Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 bag Nestle dark and mint chocolate chips (or cut up some Andes mints)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs; beat well.
  3. Stir together flour, cocoa and baking soda; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended.  Stir in chips or cut up mints.  Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 5 dozen cookies.
(or if you make them how i make them.... about a dozen HUGE monster cookies)


well, that was the adventure today.  enjoy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

tis the season to bake

this is the baking season.  it's cold out.  you drink a lot of hot chocolate, tea, and coffee.  you have filling stews and roasts and soups.  what better way to end dinner or compliment your beverage than with a baked treat?

i am notorious for making cookies (and good ones i've been told) and having josh yell at me for baking a ton.  so, granted these aren't recipes i've made up... they're still ones i've tweeked to be more delicious than the originals.

here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Nutella Chocolate Chunk Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 small jar of Nutella
3/4 bag chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (I just have a hand mixer so I just grab a separate bowl), cream the butter, the sugar and the brown sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla until combined.

Gradually add the flour until the mixture is combined.

Then mix in the chocolate chunks and the Nutella – it should look kinda "marble-y".... I just use my hands to mix it... It is much easier than trying to use a spoon....

Roll into small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 min and then cool on cookie sheet for 1-2 min and then on wire racks til completely cooled.
For smaller cookies only bake 5-7 min.



Peanut Butter Blossoms

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
24 mini Reeses, unwrapped
Mini cupcake wrappers

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients, whisk and set aside.

Cream butter and peanut butter with sugars, then stir in egg, vanilla and milk, mixing until well-combined.
Combine dry and wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Put mini cupcake wrappers on cookie sheet. Roll dough into small balls and place into center of cupcake wrapper.  The ball shouldn't be too large...about the size of a pingpong ball maybe?
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until tops of cookies no longer look doughy and are beginning to turn golden brown. (This is a good time to unwrap your Reeses cups... this is TEDIOUS!)

Remove cookies from oven, and push an unwrapped mini Reeses into the center of each cookie. Let cool for a few minutes and move to wire rack to cool.  You might even need to put them on a plate and chill them in the refrigerator for a few hours or freeze for about 15 minutes.



that's all i have time for now... baby calls.  i will update with more cookie recipes soon.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

the gift of giving

My job is collecting food donations for the holidays.
I was going through my pantry to see if we had anything that we really dont need or use or had too much of and was astonished.  I felt so greedy.  Here there are, families EVERY DAY, needing assistance to feed themselves and their children, and we have a surplus of things and still complain that there's nothing to eat or go out to eat when we have perfectly good food at home. 
I found 16 items (4 containers of baby food, a box of rice cereal, 4 boxes of mac n cheese, 6 cans of soup, and a can of black beans) that we have brushed by in search of something "better" to eat.

What really struck me is that I remember growing up being poor.  There are theories I don't want to go into as to why I grew up that way.  I remember sharing a can of soup between 2 or 3 of us with tuna sandwiches for dinner, countless nights of mac n cheese.... and here I am, pretty greedy, hoarding food in my house when there are others going without.

I remember some of our Christmas gifts coming from the donation bin at church.  I remember being a little jerk and opening presents and being disappointed I didn't get what I wanted or only got 10 things... what a little jerk.

I think that's why I hate the holidays so much.  There is this constant "have to" that is placed on the head of everybody.  You "have to" spend X amount of dollars and buy X amount of gifts.

A guy I work with said that he wants to bring his daughter up in their family tradition of donating to Toys for Tots.  That inspired me. 
I don't want Audrey to be a brat or a little jerk.  I don't want her to be ungrateful or spoiled. 

So, it's been decided that we are going to make it a family habit to donate and give to others for Christmas.  When Audrey's old enough, I want us all to volunteer at a soup kitchen together.  I want her to realize that though we live a LOT more humbly than everyone we know (I'm not trying to sound braggy... we really are just very plain people... nothing matches in our house!), we have it a lot better than most.

I really encourage everyone to see how much they have and can do without and donate to others this holiday.  It really is unfair how selfish we are and don't even realize it. 

What really hit the chord in me was reading a page from a food bank in Los Angeles that said many infants and toddlers go without adequate nutrition.  That broke my heart.  I have a daughter and my biggest fear is not being able to provide food for her.  Thankfully we are able to, but what about those parents that can't.  How sad and awful they must feel.

So, here's a page where you can find local food banks in your area to donate.

This is the "season of giving" as those commercials with people buying tons of expensive crap so frankly puts it.... so, let's give.

attack of the virus

it seems our house has been hit. 

it all started with a cold. 
saturday 7am Audrey has a runny nose.
that turned into super runny nose by sunday.
monday 730am Josh's truck gets "sick" and breaks down.
then there's last nite....






7pm Audrey goes down for bedtime.
8pm Audrey is still awake babbling in her crib.
9pm Audrey makes a weird dry heaving/gagging noise
then came the computer.  out of NOWHERE, pop ups galore (i saw enough porn and viagra sites to scar me for life).  all my programs were infected.  spyware spyware spyware.  my norton account expired and would not renew for some reason.  still wont.  then audrey made the noise again.  we poked in on her but didnt turn on the light and again, she seemed just fine.
10 pm I am running sweeps and scans.  it detects a trojan virus.  quarantined it and still nothing works.



11pm I get a geeksquad guy online and pay him to fix it. 
12am Audrey again makes gagging noises which I attribute to her cold and try to get some sleep.
4am Audrey makes gagging noise again accompanied by whimpering.  I jump out of bed, go downstairs, turn on the light and..............

see my poor baby smiling, rolling around in dried and crusty puddles of vomit.  its on her pjs, on her teddy bear, her blanket, and it even went through the sheet onto the mattress protector. 

730am Josh leaves for work and I get the urge.... and now, 815 am and I think Audrey is napping (or at least resting quietly) and I am on the couch not feelin so hot.

dear reader, we have been hit.
we are under attack.  take cover take cover take cover!

Monday, December 6, 2010

when it rains it pours....

so today...
i had a bad feeling getting into josh's truck this morning.  his battery light was usually on and would spike all over the place (he has an electrical problem from long ago that just wont quit).  today, a bunch of other lights came on and i took off down the alley and into the road.  suddenly the radio went off.  trying to "conserve energy" i turned off the headlights but it was still kind of dark, so when i got to the next traffic light i put the headlights back on and POOF the car died.  i was at the intersection of N 26th and Penn which is NOT the best place to have a car die.  i have NEVER been in this situation before, so i started panicking and calling josh (who after 7 phone calls in a row wasn't answering) i sat there ready to cry.  people kept honking and just swerving around me.  finally these 2 older guys waved over to me and helped me get to the side of the road.  they didnt have cables so they couldn't give me a jump.  i sat there and called josh for another 5 minutes who still didnt answer.  since my house was merely 4 or 5 blocks away, i decided to put my boots back on and start walking home.  FINALLY josh called back and 10 minutes later, he and audrey showed up to drive me to work.  on the way to work i find out that our garage door broke.... again.  now the openers dont work and the whole door is off track. also,  i was 15 minutes late which counts against me, he had to miss work entirely to wait on the tow truck and for the repairs to get done. 
BUT, even tho i was panicked and grumpy and not the nicest person today, i got a big payment which put me halfway to my monthly goal.  5 minutes after that, josh texted me to say that the dudes at midas (that LOVE him because he is such a schmoozer) didnt charge him for the tow and were going to fudge the facts a little and only ended up charging him $131 for EVERYTHING!!!!!
what should have been an unaffordable $800 tow and repair job ended up being WAY less than that!
audrey cried A LOT the whole way home.  mostly cos she was tired and hungry i guess.  but after we got home and she ate, she was SO cute and SO funny!!!  my lil lady has such a vibrant and larger-than-life personality.  she went down pretty well and we got to eat chinese for dinner..... what a treat!

so all in all, today started off rough.... but, thanks to josh always telling me to look on the brighter side, i was able to help him AND myself stay on the upside of things. 

the motto for today: "THINGS COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE!"

honestly, the truck could have caught on fire, i could have GOTTEN fired, the repairs could have been more than we could have afforded, audrey could be REALLY sick, our garage could have collapsed, both our cars could have issues, we could have NO second car, etc etc etc.

so, see?  things could always be worse. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2 pounds and I dont know how many inches....

My scale broke.  Well, ok the battery died and I dont know where oh where to get a replacement.  I honestly kept frantically looking and couldn't find one.  I think it was God's way of telling me to focus on what mattered and that was NOT my weight.  I had to quit on quite possibly the only diet that was working because it was making my milk supply PLUMMET.  Now sadly, my supply is such a mess that I have to supplement with 1-2 bottles of formula a day... and it looks like we're workin our way up to more.

ANYWAY... I went back to eating normally but applying principles of the diet to my daily life (which is what any good diet does- teaches good eating habits).  Basically the gist of it is to eat high fiber fruits and veggies, have starches in small quantities, fill up on lean proteins and veggies, and eat small meals often.  You'd be surprised how MUCH you can eat when it's GOOD FOR YOU FOOD!  Also, I am applying the concept of drinking a lot of water and not eating too much salt or eating past 8.  It really works!

All my old work pants fit.... everything but my old jeans!  My hips still need to shrink a little and my self definitely needs some toning (seriously I'm not being nitpicky... I really do).
Sunday I had weighed myself with a scale at the gym and I was 2 pounds away from my normal weight.  Prior to my scale breaking, I had 8 pounds to go.  That means without thinking about it, without intentionally TRYING, I  lost weight.

This definitely motivates me to keep going.  While I only have time to hit the gym maybe 2-3 times a week, I am trying to be smarter and keep working. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

of all the ways to be like momma

so, my child is basically a mix of josh and myself.  i get it.
i see it in her face and her body....
she has my eyes, josh's brow and forehead, my nose and lips, josh's ears, josh's long limbs and slenderness, my petite-ness, josh's goofiness, my silly faces, josh's observance, and unfortunately, my......

                         lack of patience!!!!

it's becoming so apparent lately.  audrey has hit this age where she wants to explore and learn and do new things and try things out on her own.  understandable. fine. ok. 

she desperately wants to walk.  she holds onto her crib or the table or her walker toy and does this lil groove to show her excitement.  she sits up and puts herself on her tummy and rolls around from place to place.  she scoots backwards.  she helps me put the spoon with food in her mouth.  she's learned to grab her lil puffs and ALMOST gets them in her mouth.  she has learned to push herself away from things and up off the floor.  she tries to sit up on her own and if we lay her down on her changing table for a diaper or a change of clothes .... holy hannah.

this is what has been happening.  any time she is just SO CLOSE but cant get it.... out come the whimpers and whines, screams, shrieks, cries, and flailing limbs.  she almost gets the puffs in her mouth, cant figure it out, so she gets flustered, gives up, and throws them on the floor.  she cant figure out how to put the spoon in her mouth on her own so if i let go of the spoon, she flails and throws it on the floor.  she cant figure out how to move forward on her tummy so she flails her limbs, whimpers, whines, and starts crying.  she wants to sit up and move around and constantly be DOING something or GOING somewhere (just like good ol grandpa barney and unfortunately ME), and if we have to put her in her carseat or on her changing table or put her in a position that is something other than what she wants right at that moment..... good golly cover your ears and hide your children.

i hate that this is what she gets the most from me.  she is a beautiful girl.  she is smiley and usually so happy.  i guess she is trying to do and be a lot more than she is able to right now and just like her dear ol momma HATES IT!  i get the same way.  if i cant figure something out right away, i instantly get pissed off, throw a fit and quit.  i admit it.  so childish but i do it. 

Lord grant me patience to teach my baby patience!  what a house we will be in if NO ONE has any patience!