October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween from The Four Seasons - Family Costume

Our Halloween costumes for this year. Only the kids dressed up their year, since I'm so sleep deprived with the newborn. One night we sat at the dinner table and brainstormed all the things that came in fours. Somewhere along the way, we decided the Four Seasons would be perfect. Each kid picked a season and I'd have to say, they are pretty indicative of their personalities! There should be a personality test based on your favorite season for corporate America. Then when someone was warm and bright, you could just say. "what did you expect from a summer?"

The only thing you can't see in these photos is the full winter stroller decorations which include blue lights and homemade snowflakes that my Mom and oldest son whipped up while I was taking a nap with the baby.

I love to create costumes that don't require much money. We have a huge dress up box and most of our items come from there. Remember last year as the Three Pigs? And how about Red Riding Hood from 2008?

Happy Halloween from...

October 29, 2010

My Favorite Molasses Cookies


My favorite cookies in the whole world are molasses cookies. I love the chewy inside and the crisp outside. I love the taste of molasses and the ginger - perfection! I haven't found any store bought version that I like as much as homemade. The closest I've come with store bought ones were from Costco.
I've included two version of this delicious cookie. The original comes from Southern Living and it's my family's favorite. The chocolate version comes from Martha Stewart and many of my friends prefer this version. Try both and you decide. These are perfect cookies to make as Christmas presents for friends and family.

Molasses Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen

3/4 c shortening
1 c sugar
1 egg
1/4 molasses
2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 c sugar

Cream shortening in mixing bowl with sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses and beat again. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add flour mixture to mixing bowl in small amounts until well mixed. Chill dough for 1 hour (or if you are lazy, in a hurry or otherwise don't care, just skip this step and start making balls.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1" balls and roll in the 1/4 c sugar. Put on cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

1 1/2 c plus 1 tbsp flour
1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tbsp freshly grated peeled ginger
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp boiling water
7 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c sugar

Whisk together first six ingredients in a bowl. In mixer bowl beat the butter and fresh ginger on medium speed until creamy. Add brown sugar and molasses and mix again.

In a small bowl dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water. Beat half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Beat in dissolved baking soda and then remaining flour. Mix in chocolate on low. Refrigerate dough until firm (at least 2 hours).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll the dough into 1 1/2" balls and roll in the 1/4 c sugar. Place on cookie sheets and make for 10 minutes.


October 22, 2010

Cherry Almond Snack Mix

We are not a sugar cereal household. My poor kids have never tasted Cocoa Puffs or Frosted Flakes. They don't know that Fruit Loops will make your milk colored. I know, they are so deprived!

However, we ARE a cereal house. My husband teases me that I am like Jerry Seinfield with our 20 (yes 20) boxes of cereal that I keep at anytime. I buy when it's on sale and I have a coupon. We keep about 5 boxes open at a time and the rest are in the laundry room overflow. I don't feel badly about this, because my friend Melissa says she has MORE than 20 boxes in her pantry!!

Every once in a while I will make something with our cereal like a trail mix, Chex Mix, and People Chow (which you should check out at Our Life in a Click - I love her photography). My twist on the original recipe found on a Chex cereal box long ago is to replace half the chocolate chips with butterscotch chips. Yum!

Another favorite cereal recipe is Cherry Almond Snack Mix. For this one you need to start with this Quaker cereal (and yes you can use any of their three flavor version of this cereal).

Cherry Almond Snack Mix

4 c Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal
1/2 c sliced almonds
2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
dash of salt
1 c dried cherries, cranberries, or raisins

In a bowl, combine butter, spices and salt. Add cereal and almonds to bowl and toss to coat. Spread out mixture on baking pan with sides (aka jelly roll pan). Bake at 300 degrees for 20 mins stirring once halfway through the cooking time. Cool out of oven and then add the dried fruit (which I have not done yet in the above photo). Store in airtight container.


October 18, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto - Vegetarian

As I've mentioned before, I have a little thing with risotto. It's like creamy heaven to me and perfect for fall weather. I adapted this dish to make it for a vegetarian friend and it was incredible even without the pancetta. I used basil in my dish because it's what I had growing out back, but tarragon would be nice too. Either way, your whole family will love this!

Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from myrecipes.com (serves 4 main dish portions)

1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2" cubes
2 c vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 1/3 c water
2 tbsp marsala wine (can be purchased at the grocery store in the cooking wines)
1 tbsp minced fresh tarragon or basil
1 c finely chopped onion
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c uncooked Arborio rice
2/3 c monterey jack cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts for garnish
fresh tarragon or basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Spray jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray and dump squash onto pan. Spread out and bake in oven for 20 mins, turning once halfway through cooking time. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees.

In large ovenproof dutch oven, heat oil. Add onion and saute until soft and brown (about 10 minutes). Add garlic and saute another minute. Add rice to pot and stirring often, cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, wine and tarragon. Bring this to a boil over med heat (do not rush it). Then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Put dutch oven pot in the oven you still have going at 325 for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the squash, cheese, salt and pepper.  Let this stand for a few minutes in the pot. Then when you are ready to serve scoop into bowls or plates and sprinkle with the pine nuts and tarragon for garnish.


October 15, 2010

Fresh Apple Maple Muffins

A delicious recipe we made using the fresh picked apples we recently got. These are so moist, I didn't make the additional glaze. I baked the muffins and then wrap each one in plastic wrap and store them in a big ziplock bag in the freezer. They are perfect to pop in a lunch box!

Fresh Apple Maple Muffins
1 1/3 c flour
1 c quick-cooking oats
2/3 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ c milk
1/3 c melted butter
¼ c maple syrup
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 c chopped, peeled apples
12 pecan halves (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (through cinnamon). In a small bowl, mix milk, butter, syrup and egg; stir into dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill prepared muffin cups ¾-full (this is easiest to do when you use an ice cream scoop). Top each with a pecan half. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

October 13, 2010

Our Baby is Here!

We officially have four children as of Saturday. All went well with our darling daughter's delivery and we are enjoying time at home getting to know one another. I love this precious newborn stage! Well, except for the sleepless nights. Thank you for all of your well wishes, I'll be up and posting again soon.


October 7, 2010

Homemade Pimento Cheese Spread

My husband and mom REALLY love pimiento cheese. I think it's okay in small doses, but I've never been one to crave it. My brother on the other hand thinks it should be banned to the realm of DDT. I figured no matter where you stand in the pimiento cheese debate, making it from scratch had to be better than the bright orange store bought kind.
The basics of pimiento cheese are the pimientos, cheese and a little mayo to hold it all together. Pimientos are simply a type of pepper that is pickled. Pimiento peppers are the same item you find stuffed in the middle of green olives. Ironically red bell peppers are the same pepper that gets dried and ground into the spice paprika. Talk about versatile!
You could pickle your own peppers substituting red bell peppers and get a similar result if you roast them first. I did not pickle my peppers since we had only green and purple ones this year, no red bell peppers. Instead I went to the grocery store and purchased a little 4 oz jar of the pimientos for my recipe. I will say no matter whether you purchase or make the pimientos, this recipe will be the BEST pimiento cheese you've ever had. It really is so drastically better than the store bought you can be proud to serve this at any entertaining event (and it's easy)!

Pimiento Cheese Spread
Makes 4 cups
1 4oz jar of pimientos
1 1/2 c mayo
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp finely grated or minced onion (you can use dried)
16oz of finely shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (or use a combo of extra sharp, sharp, med cheddar and also monterey jack, or mozzarella)
Stir together the pimientos, mayo, worcestershire, and onion. Then stir in the cheeses. You can optionally add in any one of the following: 3/4 c chopped pecans, 4 oz of cream cheese, or 5 oz chopped green olives.
The first time I made this cheese I was amazed. It's really good and only as orange as your cheddar cheese makes it. It's chunkier and "drier" than the kind from the store. Really yummy on crackers or in a sandwich.

October 4, 2010

Little Bug Treats

These little treats were for preschool class. They are perfect for upcoming Halloween parties. (You can see the snacks I made last year here.)

Simply lay 3 pretzel sticks straight and then take a marshmallow and cut it in half, stick it on top of the pretzels. At this point you can customize them. Break some pretzels in half and stick them in the top for antenna. Drizzle a little melted chocolate over the top for stripes or dots. Use the melted chocolate to "glue" other candies on the top of the bugs. You could use the chocolate for eye dots too. I used blue piping gel from the grocery store because my son wanted them to have blue eyes like him.

I'd love to see what you all come up with for your creations. Email me your photos. 


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