Monthly Archives: October, 2016

Happy Halloween – FINALLY!

It feels like this day has been “around the corner” forever, but it’s taken a really long time to arrive!  It’s finally here and – I’m tired.  LOL  Literally, I am so sleepy.  I thought I’d slept well when I woke up, but now I feel like never reached that deep sleep that rejuvenates you.  Probably because I drank three glasses of wine yesterday – which is WAY past my limit.  But yesterday was a good day and thankfully it was a beautiful day.  The better half and I went on a photo drive, I had good conversations with the kids, we went on a bike ride and watched the youngest walk for a good cause at the middle school, baked some too sweet cookies, three of us watched a family friendly movie, I certainly have no reason to complain.  Other than it’s a little more difficult to corral the four of us together now, with homework, friends, just lack of interest, sleep, etc., many things take precedence now.  I’m not thrilled about it, but that’s just the way life works.

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Sodalis Nature Park, Plainfield, IN

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NJHS Walk-A-Thon

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Toffee Butterscotch Cookies (Yikes!  WAY too much sugar here!)

And now it’s onto Halloween, they both have costumes and they’ve both worn them to parties already.  I asked if they were going trick or treating tonight and they both hemmed and hawed and said probably not.  So this could be it…the last hurrah.  How quickly time flies and they grow out of the good stuff.  Time to make new traditions, I suppose.  We drove to an orchard this fall, but didn’t pick pumpkins or apples or anything, we didn’t even buy one from the store and carve it this year!  They talked about handing out the candy or maybe even going out with friends, but I don’t know, I suppose we’ll see.  It’s all kinda sad if you think about it…

But not to dwell on the getting older thing for too long – this weekend a recipe for Skillet Spaghetti and Meatballs came across my Facebook page.  And it just so happened that I had thawed out some ground turkey this weekend…so with that recipe in mind, this morning I threw these meatballs together and tonight we’ll be having some Skillet Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs for Halloween dinner!

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Italian Turkey Meatballs

3 lbs. lean ground turkey
1 ½ c. Italian bread crumbs
½ c. grated parmesan
¼ c. parsley
¼ c. milk
¼ c. ketchup
2 large eggs
2 T. minced garlic
1 small-medium onion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400*. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and use fingers to combine ingredients. Roll or using a cookie scoop make into 1 ½” balls. Place on a nonstick baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes.  Makes approximately 60 1 1/2″ meatballs.

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!  And try not to eat too much of that cursed Halloween candy!

xoxo

 

“It Tastes Like Starbucks Mom!”

I would love for everyone to believe that I’m a culinary genius!  That creations in the kitchen come natural to me, that I never have to look at a cookbook or a recipe, that I can come up with something new on a whim because it sounded delicious in my head.

Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from accurate.  I’ve said it before and I believe it to be the truth, “if you can read, you can cook”, this recipe is one of those recipes that make me deliriously happy that I can read!!  And once I tasted the frosting I was overjoyed cuz I knew – it was gonna be good!

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We invited the in-laws over this weekend since both their birthdays are this week.  I had not a clue what to make, usually these things take some prep work, but all this was decided in less than two hours.

Ever since we went to Bob Evans a couple weeks ago and the better half had their pumpkin bread, I’ve been wanting to try to replicate it.  The fact that it’s “spicy” and so moist like cake is what make me want to make my own!  As usual I started my search online and found this recipe.  I followed it pretty closely to make the bread.  It definitely lived up to her claim that it was “…virtually identical to the pumpkin bread that Bob Evans Restaurants sell…”!  I only had a very small bite of the bread at Bob Evans, but this one I just couldn’t resist!

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Pumpkin Bread – Bob Evan’s Copycat Recipe

1 29 oz. can pumpkin puree 
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 2/3 c. white sugar
4 eggs
3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 T. baking powder
2 T. all purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350*.  Grease and flour two 9 x 5″ loaf pans.  In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves*; stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in middle of the bread should come out clean.

*I didn’t measure the cinnamon/nutmeg or cloves.  I just threw some in until I felt like it was enough – I’m probably a little more heavy handed with the “spices” but measuring may be the way to go for you.  I also did NOT flour the pans and they came out just fine (I used nonstick loaf pans.)

I purchased the Better Homes and Gardens 100 Best Pumpkin Recipes magazine a couple months ago and inside was a recipe for Cocoa-Frosted Pumpkin Bread.  For my bread, since I was serving it as a dessert, I decided to use the frosting recipe and I’m so, so glad I did!  Wow!  It was absolutely delicious!!  This was definitely one of the best desserts I’ve ever made and everyone loved it!  It would have been terrific with a cup of coffee!  My youngest daughter said – more than once – that it was like something you’d buy at Starbucks!  And THAT, coming from her, is quite a compliment!

Cocoa-Spice Frosting

3 T. softened butter
2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. milk
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. instant espresso coffee powder
1/2 t. vanilla

In a small bowl, beat the butter with a mixer on medium for 30 seconds.  Beat in 1 c. powdered sugar then add the rest of the ingredients and beat until mixed.  Then add the additional 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 t. milk at a time until it reaches desired spreading consistency.

*My kitchen is always so hot if the oven is on that everything that includes butter turns to soup.  I threw on the frosting and had to transfer it immediately to the fridge.  I also think I frosted it before the bread was cooled, which of course didn’t help!  But no fear, because the taste took center stage!

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If you like pumpkin bread and especially Bob Evan’s pumpkin bread, I would give this recipe a try.  My guess is, you’ll make it again and again both with and without the frosting!

Have a great week!

xoxo

Love at First Bite

I grew up in a different time with a much different lifestyle than I live today.  During the summer, we would go to the beach to visit my grandmother, she had a live-in housekeeper.  I would wake up early, run downstairs into the kitchen where the housekeeper would be fixing coffee and readying things for breakfast.  Every morning, I would beg her to make me “eggs and gravy”, sometimes, she would concede and I’d get my “eggs with gravy”, other days she’d flat out refuse – usually because we’d had it the day before!  It didn’t matter though, I’d still ask and if she’d make it, I’d always eat it!  Both she and my grandmother have long been deceased but this is still one of my most fond memories and still one of my most favorite foods.

I have slowed down my consumption of artery clogging eggs Benedict but I have not stopped loving it!  And although eggs Benedict day is April 16, there’s no better day to make eggs Benedict than today!

I asked my daughter a couple months ago that if she could learn to make one meal, what would she want to learn, surprisingly she said eggs Benedict.  My assumption would be because it’s one of her father’s favorites as well and she could woo him with her skills if she whipped up some of this for him!

Yesterday morning I woke the youngest up out of a dead sleep and told her today was the day she was going to learn to make eggs Benedict!  She wasn’t real thrilled.

This is a crazy easy recipe, no one needs to be hesitant about making it or shy away from it because of the sauce.  It does take a bit of organization, but nothing you won’t get the hang of.  The Hollandaise, once you make it a few times, will become second nature.  I’ve made it so often that I can tell if it’s going to turn out before I even pour the butter into the blender.  Strange, but true.  One piece of advice, until you become proficient at making the Hollandaise, don’t use the most expensive ingredients.  I’ve had to throw the whole blender full away a few times!  Eeek!

Eggs Benedict
Makes 2 servings

Begin with making the Hollandaise Sauce

4 egg yolks
2 T. lemon juice
cayenne pepper to taste
2 sticks of butter, (I use Land O’Lakes and if you use salted, don’t add salt, if you use  unsalted, add salt to taste)

Add egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and salt (if needed) into blender.  Melt butter just til boiling, remove from heat (make sure the butter is NOT bubbling) and pour directly into running blender.  Sauce should thicken almost immediately.  If it’s clumpy/gritty looking – it’s no good, if it’s smooth – it’s perfect.  Stir the sauce.  Hollandaise should be thick, not runny.  The spoon should almost stand up.  If the butter was too hot, the sauce will separate, if it’s the correct temperature, it will have a smooth and creamy texture.  You can keep it warm by placing the blender into warm (not hot) water until ready.

4 eggs
8 slices Canadian bacon (I use Jones)
4 english muffins (I use Thomas’s)

(Here’s where you have to be a bit organized.  I start the water to boil and make my bacon and muffins.  I keep the bacon & muffins warm in a 200* oven and once the eggs are ready I place them on top of the bacon and then spoon the Hollandaise on top.)

Fill frying pan with water and a tablespoon full of vinegar to keep egg from feathering.  Lightly brown the Canadian bacon in a frying pan.  Toast and butter the english muffins.  Place bacon on muffins and keep warm. Heat the water until simmering then add the eggs one at a time.  Cook eggs about 3-4 minutes depending on desired doneness.  (I have always eaten this with the yolks runny and the whites cooked.)  Remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon and dab onto paper towel to soak up any remaining water.

Place poached egg on top of the Canadian bacon and spoon the Hollandaise on top of the poached egg, sprinkle with parsley. Serve with a fruit salad for a completed meal and enjoy!

Needless to say – as you can see from the photos – she did a great job.  She claimed she didn’t want any, but after everyone else started eating theirs, she couldn’t help herself.  It was delish, as usual!

Hope you all have an eggs-cellent day!

xoxo

 

iPhone vs. Android

This weekend was full of almost nothing but becoming re-acquainted with my iPhone.  Back in July, my iPhone 6 plus’s camera decided to start producing only out of focus shots, and if there’s one thing I have to have almost more than a phone is a camera.  The BH had previously bought me a Samsung Note 4 to try.  I did for a couple months, but I wound up going back to the iPhone since that’s what I’m most comfortable with and find to be most user friendly.  I feel that Androids are made for more technical people and I am NOT anywhere near technical.  Truth be known, it’s probably all in what you’re used to.  When androids first came out, we tried a tablet and it was horrendous.  It was so slow!  But I will say – they’ve come a long way and in a lot of ways have surprisingly surpassed the Apple.

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Now I know there are people who are Android fans and they wouldn’t dare go near an iPhone, but that’s not me.  I do think that Apple has done a backslide in every way, shape and form since Steve Jobs died.  They definitely are not keeping up with or outpacing Androids any longer.  If they are going to have any hope of staying out in front (which I believe is a very very small margin at this point), they are going to have to build a better product and perhaps, get back to a little more reasonable customer service.  You can tell that their customers are NOT their top priority and that’s extremely disappointing, without us they have nothing.

The two previous iphones that we’ve had (both 6+), have not been up to par – at all.  And I wouldn’t go anywhere near a 7.  With that being said, I think the iPhone 6 plus is a great phone, however, it doesn’t hold up long enough and the warranty isn’t good enough to justify such a huge expense.  Apple really needs to back its product with something other than $125 for insurance and then MORE money on top of that to repair it.  That’s a bit much considering these things are over $500 as it is.  That’s theft.  Morally, I’d drop Apple in a heartbeat.  But realistically with only these two options, my choice is the iPhone, hands down.

Thoughts?  What’s your choice and why?  Have a great day everyone!

xoxo

 

Sophisticated S’Mores

One of the items on my October Bucket List was to make s’mores.  We’re not really one of those families that sit by the bonfire out back on cut logs, roasting weenies and marshmallows on sticks we found in the woods and telling ghost stories.  We’re more like the family that hangs out in the house, on our computers or video games or watching T.V., doing our own things in the central air or heat.  Consequently, if we do make real s’mores, there’s usually a weber grill involved or sometimes even – dare I say, a microwave.  Shocking, I know.  But instead of fabricating an elaborate LIE and staging something that really probably wouldn’t work for us anyway, I came up with a version of s’mores that seemed to work pretty darn good!

The Mini S’more Cupcake and WOWZA, these little gems were delicious!  I have found as I age, I like things a little less sweet than I used to and these, I thought, were perfect!  One recipe made way more than we could eat and the best part, they are a little less than 200 calories each!  They made for a perfect sweet snack after dinner!

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Mini S’More Cupcakes
(Makes 36)

Place rack in center of the oven and preheat to 325*. Line mini cupcake tins with 36 cupcake liners and set aside.  I used a 24 & a 12.  Begin by making the…

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Crust:
1 1/3 c. graham cracker crumbs
5 T. sugar
5 T. butter, melted

Mix ingredients together with a fork in a small bowl. Press about a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of the mixture into a cupcake liner and press down with fingers to level. Bake for 6 minutes. Set aside to cool and keep left over crumbs to sprinkle on top of finished cupcakes.  Then make the…

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Cupcakes:
1 box Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Premium Cake Mix

Prepare according to package directions. Add batter to each mini cupcake liner until ¾ full. Bake 16-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Once cooled a bit, remove center of cupcake with a knife or a cupcake corer. Set aside. Make the…

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Marshmallow Filling:
2 egg whites
½ c. sugar
¼ t. cream of tartar
1 t. vanilla

In a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar until the sugar dissolves. Do not let the simmering water touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue whisking until egg mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from heat and beat with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and stir in. Spoon filling into a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off or into a pastry bag and squeeze to fill the center of the cupcakes. Then make the…

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Buttercream Frosting:
8 T. butter, softened
2 1/3 c. powdered sugar
½ c. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 c. half and half
1 t. vanilla extract

Place butter in mixing bowl and beat with a mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar and cocoa then slowly add the half and half to desired consistency. Bake on medium speed until fluffy. Spoon frosting into a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off or a pastry bag fit with your preferred tip and pipe icing onto the cupcake.  You can…

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decorate the tops of the cupcakes with Hershey’s chocolate drops and a sprinkle of the graham cracker crumb mixture.

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Delicious and just the right size!  Here is the nutrition info without the Hershey chocolate drop!

Nutrition Facts
Servings 36.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 195
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 8 g 13 %
Saturated Fat 4 g 20 %
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 23 mg 8 %
Sodium 127 mg 5 %
Potassium 34 mg 1 %
Total Carbohydrate 23 g 8 %
Dietary Fiber 1 g 3 %
Sugars 18 g
Protein 2 g 4 %
Vitamin A 3 %
Vitamin C 0 %
Calcium 1 %
Iron 2 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

If you like s’mores, but you’re not doing the outdoorsy thing, give these a try and stand in front of your fireplace while eating one.  You won’t be disappointed!  Have a great day everyone!

xoxo

Mini S’More Cupcakes

  • Servings: 36
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Place rack in center of the oven and preheat to 325*. Line mini cupcake tins with 36 cupcake liners and set aside. I used a 24 & a 12.  Begin by making the…

Crust:
1 1/3 c. graham cracker crumbs
5 T. sugar
5 T. butter, melted
Mix ingredients together with a fork in a small bowl. Press about a tablespoon to a tablespoon and a half of the mixture into a cupcake liner and press down with fingers to level. Bake for 6 minutes. Set aside to cool and keep left over crumbs to sprinkle on top of finished cupcakes.  Make the…

Cupcakes:
1 box Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Premium Cake Mix
Prepare according to package directions. Add batter to each mini cupcake liner until ¾ full. Bake 16-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Once cooled a bit, remove center of cupcake with a knife or a cupcake corer. Set aside. Then make the…

Marshmallow Filling:
2 egg whites
½ c. sugar
¼ t. cream of tartar
1 t. vanilla
In a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar until the sugar dissolves. Do not let the simmering water touch the bottom of the bowl. Continue whisking until egg mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from heat and beat with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and stir in. Spoon filling into a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off or into a pastry bag and squeeze to fill the center of the cupcakes. Then make the…

Buttercream Frosting:
8 T. butter, softened
2 1/3 c. powdered sugar
½ c. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 c. half and half
1 t. vanilla extract
Place butter in mixing bowl and beat with a mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar and cocoa then slowly add the half and half to desired consistency. Bake on medium speed until fluffy. Spoon frosting into a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off or a pastry bag fit with your preferred tip and pipe icing onto the cupcake.  You can…

decorate the tops of the cupcakes with Hershey’s chocolate drops and a sprinkle of the graham cracker crumb mixture!

DC Bound

I’ve decided that today – I write.  Not that I haven’t tried during the last eleven days mind you, but I haven’t been able to write an entire post that I felt was worthy or that was really even complete!  But today, I’m home alone with minimal pressures to get things done so with coffee, phone, and quiet house, I’m ready to go!

Sunday evening, the youngest boarded a transit bus. She and four full buses of other 8th graders made their way to Washington, D.C. for their class trip.  She (and her sister and me too) was born there so basically she took a very expensive bus trip home.  Her father still lives there and yesterday was her birthday.  Although I haven’t had an update yet, he was supposed to meet her at their hotel to meet her friends and celebrate her birthday.  I can’t wait to hear all the details! *A very brief update – he showed up with cupcakes and cash, it was good.  And like I said – I can’t wait to hear all the details!

This trip brings back memories of my own trip to D.C. when I was in the 9th grade.  I was living in S.C. at the time and although I was born and raised in D.C., I’d never toured the White House or the Washington Monument or really any of the main landmarks you think of when you think of our nation’s capital.  It was where we lived, we didn’t “tourist” there.  My parents were divorced and my father still lived in D.C. so the same situation applied, my dad met me and all my school mates downtown, it was just an exciting and memorable time.  I’m hoping the same for her, that she’ll look back on her trip with good memories.

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The trip and her birthday were a couple of the reasons I didn’t have a chance to formulate a full post!  I had to make sure she had everything she needed and we decided to celebrate her birthday prior to her leaving, not to mention it all coinciding with the fall orchestra concert and the end of the soccer season.  Then of course, trying to keep up with Hurricane Matthew and his whereabouts since most of my family and friends live on the East coast.  It’s been a fairly active eleven days.

H’s cake selection this year was a pumpkin spice ice cream cake.  I followed the original ice cream cake recipe that I tried last year and came up with this beauty!

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A layer of graham cracker crust, a layer of Edy’s pumpkin pie ice cream, a layer of caramel sauce with crushed gingersnap cookies and toffee bits, another layer of Edy’s pumpkin pie ice cream, all frosted with a layer of Cool Whip.  And I have to mention, I thought it would be cute to decorate the cake with those little Brach’s candy pumpkins, so I bought a bag, and then…I made the huge mistake of reading the ingredients.  The rest of the bag was promptly tossed into the trash.  When the wax candles were blown out and removed from the cake so were the wax pumpkins and before anyone could object they all went into the trash.  Once I read the word shellac on the ingredient list, that was that.

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lac tubes created by the kerria lacca insect

Here is the description of confectioner’s glaze from Wikipedia and the reason I’ll never purchase these again <gag>, “Pharmaceutical glaze is an alcohol-based solution of various types of food-grade shellac.[1] The shellac is derived from the raw material sticklac, which is a resin scraped from the branches of trees left from when the small insect, Kerria lacca (also known as Laccifer lacca), creates a hard, waterproof cocoon.[2] When used in food and confections, it is also known as confectioner’s glaze, resinous glaze, pure food glaze, natural glaze,[3][4] or confectioner’s resin.[5]”  Seriously?  Ugh!  Sometimes I think I would be better off to not know so much.

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I’d give the cake a C grade.  If I were to make this again, I’d change a couple changes.  The crust would be half as thin as this was, it was simply too thick and it was hard to cut.  I wouldn’t use (at least this particular) pumpkin ice cream again.  I would purchase vanilla ice cream then add real pumpkin and spices to the vanilla.  I found this pumpkin ice cream too artificial or too “perfumey” tasting.  And of course, I’d leave those shellacked wax pumpkins at the store.  The idea was good, but the execution needed a little fine tuning, a couple minor changes and I think this could be a really tasty dessert!

We are on fall break for the next two weeks, so the rest of this week should be a breeze.  I’m looking forward to finishing the posts I started and posting regularly again!  Have a great day everyone!

xoxo

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