June 5, 2013

The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

I have debated whether or not to post this. This is first and formost a recipe blog and I know you are coming for that. However, it is also a little of my life and what's going on. I've already shared with you about my Dad's cancer and my Father-in-law's car accident, and how each of those events sent us into shock and sadness.

Today I've decided to be blunt in desperation. This might be the straw that breaks me.

Today I am reeling.

Today I am in the hospital with my sweet baby girl, our youngest one, the two year old, she of the Sesame Street party. She has been diagnosed with kidney cancer.

We came to the emergency dept
and we now reside in the oncology ward.

We would love to have your prayers for our little girl. We are depending on God and the amazing doctors to pull her through this. Yesterday was removal of her kidney and all went well. Today is recovering from surgery and getting rid of some of those tubes. Down the road is potentially chemo.

A share this burden with you as a reminder to give all of your loved ones a hug today and let them know how special they are.

You just never know what might happen.

May 30, 2013

Cranberry Cheesecake Shakes

This was a start of the summer treat for my kids. It turned out with a beautiful pink color that would make a great drink for a girls summer party. Frosty pink happiness!

I keep cranberries in my freezer year round, because I love their tartness and they freeze so well. And then I always have cranberries to make Cranberry Coffee Cake or Cranberry Spice Granola or good old fashioned cranberry relish, which should not be relegated to just the Thanksgiving table.

I remembered years ago I tore a page out of Family Fun for a cranberry milkshake. I thought it was a little strange, but why not? Today was finally the day to make them. All the kids liked the recipe, since ice cream before dinner is a big deal. I think next time I'll actually make them with ricotta cheese instead of the cream cheese. I also used sweetened almond milk which I think added another layer of flavor, but you could use the original plain milk.

Cranberry Cheesecake Shakes
1 c cranberries
1 1/2 c almond milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 oz cream cheese or ricotta cheese
vanilla ice cream

Put the cranberries and milk in the blender. Pulse until smooth and a beautiful pink. Add vanilla and cheese, pulse again. Add enough ice cream to fill the blender and make a thick rich shake.

You could also add some vanilla whey protein powder to this one easily.


May 24, 2013

Shark and Beach Cupcakes

Aren't these little guys so cute? End of the year meant we needed some summertime cupcakes according to Banana Girl. She insisted on sharks "for the boys" and "beach for the girls". I'm not sure that all were eaten according to her rules, but I know the kids enjoyed them.

The beach cupcakes are icing and then sprinkled with crushed ginger cookies (which I think taste better than graham crackers, but either would work). Add a little Teddy Graham bear and a drink umbrella that I picked up from the grocery store and...total cuteness!
The sharks were just as easy. Ice the cupcake with blue tinted frosting and make sure to leave peaks for yours waves. Cut out blue shark fins and insert them into the frosting right before serving. If you do it ahead of time the icing will create grease stains on the paper. You could go all out and create fondant fins, but I was a taking the easy way out on this one!
Happy Summer!

May 23, 2013

Charlotte's Web Party

I quickly wanted to share these pictures of a Charlotte's Web cake I made for my oldest child's end of the year play. For the most part it was an easy cake: a sheet cake on the bottom, another sheet cake cut into a barn on the top (use chopsticks or dowels to secure the barn). Chocolate cookie crumb path, pretzel fences and plastic Little People barn animals.

I also made brownie spiders with a billion black melting candy legs that all fell off and broke in transit! Sometimes things just don't work out the way you hope. 

I'll share the shark and beach cupcakes I made for the other kid's end of year party tomorrow.

April 18, 2013

Honey Wheat Seeded Bread

This is my Dad's favorite bread recipe. Because of that, it has a special place in my heart. While my father-in-law is recovering from his car accident amazingly, my Dad is not getting better. He is still in experimental treatments and wondering what will happen next. I'm so impressed with the way Mom and he are handling all of this...one day at a time. I'm grateful for whatever time we have left, but it's hard to think about what's happening inside his body. Cancer is so unpredictable...it pretty much sucks. Some of the things he loved to eat before, don't even taste good to him anymore. That's where the bread comes in.

If there is anything I can do to make Dad's life a little happier right now, I'm all for it. And this bread seems to make him happy. Sometimes it's as simple as a loaf of fresh bread. It's really all I can do.

I love you Dad.

Honey Wheat Seeded Bread
2 packets yeast (or two tbsp)
1 c warm water
1 1/2 c warm milk
2 eggs
1/2 c honey
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 c oil
3 c wheat flour
2 c white flour (or go all wheat)
1/4 c wheat germ

1/4 c sesame seeds
1/4 c sunflower seeds
1 egg white

Combine water
and yeast in a glass measuring cup to allow yeast to proof {For specifics on bread making and yeast, see this post.} The water should feel warm to your fingers, but not hot.
Once your yeast is proofed (or should that be "proved itself") pour it into a large stand mixer bowl. Add the milk, honey, sugar, salt and oil. Blend together. Add the wheat flour and blend together using a dough hook on the mixer. Add 1 cup of the white flour and reserve the rest of the flour. Add the wheat germ and seeds.
You want to knead the dough in the mixer for about 5 minutes until the it's smooth, adding small amounts of the remaining 1 cup of flour a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forming a ball. You may not use all of the flour if it's a dry day or you may need a little more if it's a humid day outside, but you shouldn't vary more than 1/2 c more or less in what you need.

Put your dough into a greased bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm place until it doubles in bulk. This should take around 1 hour unless your kitchen is pretty cold. You can figure out if yeast bread is ready with the
poke test
When the dough passes the poke test, you need to gently deflate it by folding it or "punching" it down. Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes or so (which means just leave it alone for a few minutes).
Cut dough into two portions and shape into loaves. Put in greased loaf pans and cover loosely again. Let rise for 30 minutes.
To make the top look pretty, brush it with a little egg white and water wash (which means use fork to mix some egg white and water). Then sprinkle on oatmeal, seeds, wheat germ. The egg wash works like glue and holds it all on the top - looking like it came from a fancy bakery.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool on racks.

Try giving this loaf of fresh bread to someone you love. Wait til it cools, then wrap in in plastic wrap. Then put it in a old citrus/ apple mesh bag. Tie the ends with pretty ribbon and you have a wonderful gift and you didn't spend a lot of money. Those mesh bags are also great for smoothie gifts and assorted other ideas - like homemade pot scrubbers. How do you repurpose them?

April 9, 2013

Giveaway to Publix! $25 Gift Card - Closed

 CONGRATULATIONS to the winner...Gina!!
It's HERE AGAIN - Publix GIFT CARD time!!

I really love shopping at Publix, it is a pleasure, especially since they have become so coupon friendly. I never have problems stacking coupons there. I love their buy one get one free deals!! (today is was Juicy Juice.) Right now they are running a special promo on cereals which is nice because we can blow through a box of that stuff over two mornings at our house. The people that work there are so nice to my kids and always help me out to the car. The stores and clean and well stocked. Their produce is wonderful and now I have discovered their mango key lime pie - which ROCKS!
I also love the discounts I get with their two clubs. One is for babies (Baby Club) and the other is for preschoolers (Preschooler Club). If you haven't signed up, you really should. They send all kinds of great coupons and fun things for the kids. The most treasured item they have ever sent us is the Publix-saures computer game. The game is so easy and comfortable that I have taught each one of my kids about the computer starting with it. The cursor is HUGE and easy to find. The questions are completely age appropriate. For example, you can help Pearl the Polar Bear put away the groceries in the right places. You can play hide-and-seek with Chaz the Cheetah or even learn about safety rules with Barry the St. Bernard. My kids especially loved the coin rewards that the game gives you when you get the right answers. Whoever designed this thing KNEW kids!

Publix (through My Blog Spark.com and General Mills) has given me a $25 gift certificate to giveaway to one lucky reader. 

You can even get multiple chances to win! Please leave separate comments for EACH entry and be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win. All of them are easy…you ready?…
•Simply leave a comment on this post (on the blog, not on facebook)
•Share this post on Facebook by hitting the FB button
•Like Chickenville on Facebook
•Subscribe to Chickenville by RSS or Email
•Add my blog button to your site(in blog roll etc.)
•Tweet this giveaway with button on bottom of post

Giveaway open to U.S. residents only. All entries must have a valid email in blog profile or leave email address in comments. This giveaway will close Wednesday April, 17th at 11pm.

The winner will be chosen by random.org and notified by email.

Publix on Facebook
Publix on Twitter


March 20, 2013

Beautiful Berry Cream-Filled Tart: My Favorite Dessert

This dessert seriously makes me swoon. It is my all time favorite dessert, ever since I was a teenager. I was that weird kid that was thrilled to see fruit in my lunch box (thanks Mom). I guess I have a special place in my heart for berries because they are so perishable and the season is pretty short. You gotta get 'em while the getting is good. Kinda like kisses from my kids - I'll take them whenever they are ripe for taking. Even the wet sloppy ones from the 2 year old!

The tart may look a little difficult because it's so showy (like the pavlova) but it's really not. Pull together the ingredients for the crust and press it into a pie pan or a tart pan (see below) and then make the creamy filling. After that, it's just a matter of piling on the berries!

Beautiful Berry Cream-Filled Tart

Pastry Shell
1 1/2 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
8 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 tbsp heavy cream

Put flour, sugar and salt into a bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse. Add the egg/ cream and pulse until the dough is chunky and holds together when squeezed. (You can also do this in a bowl with a pastry cutter, it just takes more work.) Dump the dough onto was paper and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

Roll dough out into the shape of your tart pan. This dough makes enough for a 9" round pan. (A tart pan has a bottom that comes apart from the sides like a cheesecake pan to make serving a cutting the tart easier. You just lift the bottom of the pan out of the sides and serve the tart on the bottom. You can use a pie pan, just serve it right out of the pan like a pie.) Fit the dough into the pan and cover it with foil or parchment paper. Put some pie weights or dried beans on top of the foil to keep it from puffing up and bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, remove the weights, prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Cream Filling
2/3 c sour cream
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c heavy cream
Beat sour cream, cream cheese, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla, and cream together in a large bowl. Spread mixture over cooled pastry shell. Arrange berries over the top and garnish with mint leaves if desired.

Chill between 1-4 hours before serving. This doesn't keep well in the fridge for more than a day, since the crust gets soggy.

March 14, 2013

Easter Egg Nest Cupcakes

Easter is coming!! I can't wait since we celebrate with our families at our house. I'm ready to have everyone over and celebrate. Easter brings joy and it's just what we need. I'm ever so grateful for the eternal gift I've been given through Jesus' sacrifice.

Easter time is also when our Girls are ramping up their laying! We have eggs coming out of our ears right now. I was inspired to create this cute cupcake. They are a totally fun Easter treat I made for the preschool and elementary aged kids. Super easy. Just whip up some cupcakes and top with icing. Then sprinkle on some chow mein noodles and add a few speckled jelly beans or whoppers to the top. How simple is that???

February 15, 2013

Lemon Love Note Bars - Sweet and Sour

These bars are sweet and sour all at the same time

...kinda like marriage.

I love my husband. It's true, he's the man for me. He puts up with my moods and endless chatter. He brought me flowers and a huge balloon for Valentine's Day, and the man HATES balloons. He eats everything I put in front of him. He can build me anything I ask for. He's the most supportive and encouraging person I know. He's there for me whenever I need him. (Boy, oh boy, have I realized how much I need him lately.) We are a team and a great one at that. (I'm pretty sure we could win the Amazing Race.)

However, there are definitely times when we seem to treat each other more "sour" than sweet.

Everyone has some sour moments - right? At this point in our marriage (ten years) I'm pretty sure it's normal. I mean, you are not really supposed to get along with someone every single day right?

I logically knew it wouldn't all be roses before we got married. I even engraved it on the inside of his wedding band, "Come What May". And while I don't love being in the down times, I do love the wonderful tenderness that comes after we get out of the funk.

The sour, just makes the sweet all that much sweeter.

Honey, MacGuyver, Babe, Husband....this one is for you. I love you...come what may.

Lemon Love Notes

1 c butter
2 c flour
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 eggs
2 c sugar
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c powered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
3 tsp milk

Blend butter flour and sugar together with pastry cutter or a fork. Pat into a 9x13" ungreased baking dish. Make sure this is very flat and even. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool until you can touch the baking pan.

While that is baking and cooling, make the filling. Mix together zest of one lemon and the juice of the lemon with eggs, sugar, flour and baking powder. Pour this on the cooled crust and bake again at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool again.

Melt butter. After the bars are cooled off enough you can touch the pan again, make the icing. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, vanilla, melted butter and milk. Pour over the top of the pan. Cut into small bars because these are super rich. They will keep fresh for only a few days.

February 9, 2013

Apple Carrot Slaw

I had some carrots in the fridge that needed a home and I just didn't feel like cooking them since the weather here in GA has been so warm. It's absolutely crazy... my daffodils are trying to come up. I have really missed winter this year. I know those of you up north think I'm crazy, since you are underneath a mound of snow.

Mom and Dad were flying back from Dad's chemo treatment yesterday and were delayed with all the flights being cancelled. I was a little worried about them, but they are home, safe and sound. Dad is exhausted, but hanging in there.

On the other side of the family, my father-in-law has moved into an independent living place so we are sleeping better around here, since we don't have to worry about him on the stairs. Thank you all for the kind words and prayers.

This recipe is perfectly refreshing with a roasted chicken and homemade wheat bread. I love the addition of celery seeds. I usually add those to our cabbage slaw because that's how MacGuyver's Mom makes slaw. I never thought to add them to a sweet slaw. 

I have the perfect imitation recipe for Chik-Fil-A's carrot slaw and this recipe somewhat reminded me of that, so I left the raisins out of the original recipe to make it different to my family. Let me know what you think.

Apple Carrot Slaw
Adapted from Feast on the Cheap, check out their beautiful photo and original recipe

3 crisp sweet-tart apples, cored and cut into matchstick-size strips
3 large carrots, washed, peeled and coarsely grated
2 tbsp sweet onion, minced
3 tbsp low-fat mayo
1/3 c cider vinegar
1 tbsp real maple syrup
1 tbsp celery seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk mayo, vinegar, celery seeds, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside. Prep the slaw ingredients and combine in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.  

February 8, 2013

Moose Munch - Chocolate Covered Caramel Popcorn

See. I wasn't kidding.

I've been making everything. Chocolate covered caramel popcorn this go round.

My Mom made this addicting stuff for us for Christmas. It's a take on Harry and David's Moose Munch. I figured it would make great thank you gifts. One bag to a neighbor who has taken care of my kids during all this chaos and another bag to our marriage mentors, who keep us from taking the stress out on each other. The problem was: I tried it, the kids tasted it and I let my husband taste it. We ate the whole recipe! It's that crazy good.

There is no way you can eat just a little bit of this stuff. You have been warned. Make a double recipe and give a bag to your loved ones for Valentine's. Attach a note to let them know how much you love them. Send it to someone you haven't seen in a while and you miss. Don't wait for the "perfect time" to reach out. Now is the perfect time.

Chocolate Covered Caramel Popcorn

8 c popped popcorn
1 stick butter, cut into fourths)
3 tbsp corn syrup (the recipe will work without this, but the caramel won't be shiny or as crunchy)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
chocolate chips (Mom choose dark chocolate)
peanuts, m&m's, mini marshmallows (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Remove all unpopped kernels from popcorn and pour popcorn into a large bowl. Combine butter, corn syrup, salt and brown sugar in microwave safe bowl. Cook on high until mixture boils - watch this carefully - don't let it boil over. Remove, stir and microwave for another few minutes. (Or you can do this in a pot on the stove over med-high heat).  Cook and stir until mixture boils. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
Pour caramel over popcorn and stir to coat. Work quickly before the caramel cools. Spread onto silicone lined (or greased) baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes (10 for chewy, 15 for crunchy).
Remove from oven and add chocolate chips, stir around on sheet to melt the chips. You can also melt the chocolate and drizzle over the popcorn for a fancier look. 

February 6, 2013

Butternut Squash Bean Chili

Difficult season of life right now...

My Dad is terminally ill with cancer. My father-in-law had a major car accident and is living with us for a bit. 

At this point, functioning is difficult. Writing complete, coherent sentences with correct spelling is a challenge. Please forgive my choppiness. I need sleep. 

I'm taking comfort in food which is a dangerous place to be. I know me - stress equals eating. 

I need to make healthy things. Vegetarian chili comes to mind. We have a butternut squash and out came this. Warm comfort in a chocolate bowl.

Butternut Squash Bean Chili

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp lime juice
2 14.5 oz cans tomatoes, undrained
2 14.5 oz cans any beans (black, red, pinto, etc), drained and rinsed
2 c butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1lb)
Salt and Pepper
Sour cream 
Chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in pot over med-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and beginning to brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and jalapenos, stir 1 minute. Add spices: chili powder, cumin, oregano and lime juice, stir 1 minute. Add in tomatoes with juice, beans, and butternut squash. Cook with lid on until squash is soft, about 20 minutes. Stir the pot around 10 minutes, add water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, and lime wedges.

January 5, 2013

Ambrosia: Orange Pecan Salad

Ahh, the smell of a fresh new year! What a pleasure this time of year is for me. I love the quiet space after Christmas and before schooling gets in gear again. I have enjoyed laying around and doing...nothing.

And don't worry, my family is still eating, I just have not been posting. I've...been...lazy (gasp). Sometimes I have to take a break from routine or I think I will go crazy. The mundane of laundry, dishes, even getting dressed, just gets old to me every once in a while. I've been this way for as long as I can remember. Even when I was a teenager, life would just get "boring". It usually takes something fun and exciting to bring me back into motivated mode. At this moment in time, I have something REALLY exciting to look forward to!

I'm taking my two oldest kids to Disney World for the first time. I can't wait to see the magic of Disney through their eyes. I'm practically giddy with joy now that we are in the actual month of departure!! My husband jokes that the kids are along for MY vacation, not the other way around.

All the planning and waiting is finally coming to fruition and it's going to be great. Of course, there is one down side to Disney - the food. It's expensive and not delicious. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe things have changed since I was there 13 years ago, but I remember being glad I brought my own snacks. As I've mentioned, I can only handle so much junk food before I'd rather not eat. So part of my packing preparations are putting together healthy snacks and thinking about what we can eat quickly in the condo for breakfast or a late night snack.

Since we will be in the Citrus State, we will be enjoying grapefruits and oranges straight from the orchard. I plan on bringing bags home with us to share with the little kids and my husband (who are all staying home). This is one of our families favorite ways to enjoy citrus.

Ambrosia Salad


1/4 c pecans
6 oranges
1 grapefruit (optional)
1 can pineapple pieces (optional)
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c shredded coconut

Toast pecans in a dry skillet or toaster oven tray until they smell fragrant and lightly brown. Watch carefully so they don't burn). Let cool.

Slice the peel off the oranges, starting with the top and bottom. Then slice off the sides. When the pith (white part) is gone, slice knife in between each membrane and loosen the orange. Do this over a bowl to catch all the juices. Plop the segmented orange into the bowl. Repeat with grapefruit if you desire. Add pineapple to the bowl. Add sugar and stir. Add coconut. Chop the cooled pecans and add to the bowl. Give a good stir and then store in the fridge until you are ready to serve. Ah-maz-ing!



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