Friday, March 29, 2013

Chunky Braid-y Scarf

This Chain Loop Scarf by Hidden Daisyy  was so much fun to make.  Probably because it stitched up lickety split.

The whole thing is a series of several chains closed to make individual loops. Then you wrap the loops with yarn on one side to keep them together.

I think this is a perfect scarf for the beginner who hasn't quite figured out how to move past chaining onto making a second row with single or double crochet.
I think the loops look sort of like they were braided.  This effect is a result of using super bulky yarn, often classified as a 6 on the label.

For this scarf I used slightly more than one skein of Lion Brand Yarn Hometown USA in Portland Wine. Each Skein in this brand is 5 oz or 81yds.

Blockett thought this yarn was very scratchy.  I don't know what she was talking about.  It's a very soft 100% acrylic yarn. I think it was thick and bulky, and she didn't like it up so close to her neck.

I chose purple for this scarf because, at the time, the Vikings were doing really well.  Of course, I was finishing up this scarf while watching the game that eliminated them from the play-offs.  Serves me right for trying to display a little team spirit.   They've got all spring and summer to get their act together, right?  RIGHT!?  sigh.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Infinity Scarves

I fell in love with this artfully simple infinity scarf by Moogly back in December.   It was one of the patterns I took up with me when I visited my mom over Christmas.
 Yes, I know these pictures were taken in the bathroom.  It's been super cloudy and it was the only place in the house that had halfway decent light.
I messed up stitching it the first time so I wound up ripping the whole thing out 4 rows into it.  The first row had gotten insanely twisted up on itself.  So much so, by the time I got to the fourth row it was nearly impossible to add a fifth row.  Once I figured that out, it stitched up super fast.

As this scarf took up an entire skein of yarn, and I bought the yarn up in MN, and promptly tossed the label in the trash once I finished, I have no idea what sort of yarn I used.  While I liked the scarf, I thought it looked a lot bulkier and thicker than the one over at Moogly. 

Shortly after I returned home, I found myself in the yarn section of Joann Fabrics.  (Amazing how that happens! It's like magic!)  The store that is closest to my house has a much larger yarn section than the one by my mom in Minnesota.  I even found the brand used in the original scarf  (Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable.)   When I got home I discovered I chose the exact same color (tidal) as in the instructions.  (Great minds think alike!)
Blockette is so kind to be my model!

I think the second scarf has a much nicer drape.

Here are the 2 scarves side by side.  The one on the top is the second scarf I made.  Even though both yarns were labeled by the manufacturer as a "4" or worsted, the yarn used to make the yarn on the bottom was a lot thicker.

Also notice how the first scarf has a mottled look, and the second scarf looks almost striped.  Both scarfs were variegated, but the Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable yarn's color change was much longer than the first yarn I used.  When I bought the first yarn I thought it DID have a long length before the color change, but I was clearly mistaken.  So, if you want the stripy look for your scarf and you cant find Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable, look for a yarn that has a very long stretch of the same color before it fades into the next one on your skein!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Drawer Organization

Ok more organizational stuff today.  I've been on this big cleaning and organizing kick.  We live in a smaller house, at least smaller that we used to 8 years ago.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all our stuff and I have to evaluate the usefulness of our belongings.  This involves going through all our junk which usually makes the house a mess in the process.

Then I get reminded of things that make me grind my teeth.

I hate having to do something over that I already did nicely the first time.  Particularly, I hate folding T-shirts.

Why?  It's not like it's hard or anything.  I just feel like it was a huge waste of my time. I'd do the laundry and fold the clothes so the drawer would look something like this:

AW.  See how nice and neat that looks?  Yeah.  Until you try to find a particular shirt.  Then all the shirts get smooshed around, and never put back as nicely as they were the first time.  Then they get all wrinkly and I've got people in this house wondering why their clothes look like they were slept in.

Then I found this tutorial from Get Simplified.  The shirts are folded in the same way I was doing it before, except with the added step of folding them in half again.  (Visit that site if you're curious.  There's a video tutorial.)

Now the same drawer looks like this:

Notice how there is still room in the drawer!  The way things were placed in the drawer before, the drawer just barely shut. 

Now I don't have to worry about the clothes getting wrinkled or having to refold all the clothes in the drawer every week.  You can see what shirt you want at a glance.  No more rummaging around.

I thought it was so great I did my drawer:

Again, this drawer was so full it barely shut.

Then I did Blockette's:

I did hers in color groups.  This now solves the problem of not being able to find a shirt that goes with a certain pair of pants.  OR, sometimes she has to wear a certain color for special events at school.  This eliminates one more drama moment in the morning routine.  Less drama = win.

So maybe folding the clothes like this is anal retentive. Ok.  Yeah, but it is a huge time saver.  I'm only folding the clothes once, I haven't had to rewash anything to get the wrinkles out and less AM whine from the munchkin.  This leaves me more time to be lazy.  Hooray!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Crochet Bath Puff

I made this Bath puff by Fresh Mint back in February.  It sat on a shelf in the basement until last week, when I finally decided to take pictures of all the things I had crocheted over the past month or so.

The yarn I used is called Lily Sugar'n Cream, and the color is country stripes.  The poof took almost one full skein.  Because the yarn I used was an ombre where it gradually changed from one color to the next, I opted not to use multiple colors as the pattern suggested. 

Also, when making the tie thingie that scrunches the poof up, I didn't switch colors mid way.  One of the comments suggested doubling the length of the tie and weaving it through the whole thing so it could tie at one end.  The ends of the ties are slip stitched ends together, which eliminated the need for hearts at the end.  This made for a loop where it can be hung in the shower.

 Here's what the poof looks like stretched out:
 So how does it scrub up?
Hmmm...not very much to my liking. 
As a personal preference, I like my scrubbies to have a bit of exfoliating power.  This had zero.  It was just too soft!  I know that there are some of you that like that sort of thing, but it's not my cuppa tea.

Now I don't know what to do with it.  I've used it, so I can't really give it away, but I have no desire to use it again.  Any suggestions?  Should I unravel it and reuse the yarn for something else?  Toss it?  Let Blockette use it to wash her bike?  I have no idea.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Art Supply Organization

Blockette LOVES to draw.  Consequently, she has a nice stash of art supplies.  Previously we were containing them in these stackable bins.

They worked well for a while.  Then she had so many pencils and markers that every time you tried to find a particular marker, twelve would fall out.  The bins were over full, so they never ever got stacked.  So much for a space saving storage unit.

Then I saw this post from Curbly where they took an old shoe box and filled it with empty toilet paper tubes.  I mentioned this idea to Blockette and she thought it was awesome.

It took us a long time to collect up enough tubes.  Luckily, I discovered that for the shoe box I was using, I could get three sections out of one paper towel card board tube.  Every Wed when I helped out in the kitchen at church, I'd snag the empty paper towel rolls.

Finally, this weekend we had enough rolls to fill the box.

Here's what our new storage unit looks like:
 Blockette and I decided that the box would work best if the supplies were arranged in color groupings.  I love how you can find what you are looking for right away.

This box now holds all her pens, mechanical pencils, smencils, regular pencils, the gem topped fancy pencils she got from my uncle, colored pencils, twisty crayons, markers, paint brushes, popsicle sticks and scissors.

 And look:

Empty spaces!  That means she has room to grow and we won't be scrambling to find a new storage solution in 6 months.  Hooray!

She still has her crayons and art supplies of similar height in one bin.  They were too short for the cardboard rolls.  Blockette uses her crayons much less than she does her colored pencils.  Besides, as you can see by the first picture, even with all the random coloring utensils, the bin isn't too full to rummage through.

I did find this link for a different kind of art caddy using rolls of varying heights over at Instructables.  It reminds me a lot of the Advent Calendar I made for Blockette over the winter. I may make a version like that for her if she gets too many short supplies; for now the cardboard box is working great for us.

The funny thing is that I can't tell if Blockette likes the organization better than the shoe box itself.  She has taken it upon herself to decorate the outside of the box.  Even our organization has to be fancy I guess.  Such is the life of a superstar artist.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pizza Pot Pie...for Pi Day

I'm a little late posting this, but we did indeed celebrate Pi day last Thursday.  For dinner I made this Pizza Pot Pie from Eat At Home.

I got super fancy and slashed 3.14 into the dough.
Here's what it looks like when you serve it.  The cheese is on the bottom, so if you've sprayed your baking dish sufficiently as I did, when you flip it over the cheese will be on the top and the crust on the bottom.

Now over at Eat At Home, they call this a Chicago style pizza pot pie.  I'd say they should stick with calling it Deep dish pizza pot pie.  Chicago style pizza has cheese on the crust, then toppings, then sauce, which is usually chunky.  Of course if you made this dish like that, it wouldn't plate up nearly as neatly. 

I'm not a fan of Chicago style pizza.  I feel I can say that because I am not, by any stretch a native Chicagoan/Illinoisian. Although my husband seems to think so since I've lived in the Chicago burbs for 10+ years now.  Once a Minnesotan, always a Minnesotan.  This is probably why he's a Vikings fan, not a Bears or Packers fan. 

Anyhow, the pizza...I like my cheese on the top, non chunky style this dish was awesome.

I did run into a problem with the crust though.  It wouldn't brown. I baked it for nearly 40 minutes and it was still quite pale.  As Blockette and I were starving, I just cranked up the broiler for 5 minutes and that did the trick.

I'd say there is something weird going on with my oven not getting hot enough as I had chocolate chip cookies that took extra time to bake, however, last weekend I made a turkey and it got done a full hour before the recipe said it should have.  Who knows what's going on with that.

Deep Dish Pizza Pot Pie from Eat At Home
1 pkg. yeast (or 2 1/4 t.)
1 c warm water
1 t sugar
2 T. veg oil
2 1/2 c bread flour (you can use all-purpose, but bread flour makes a fluffier crust)
1 t salt

1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
2-3 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar pizza sauce

For top of crust:
2 T. melted butter
dried oregano and basil

Make dough: Dissolve yeast in water. Mix in other ingredients until well blended. I used a stand mixer with a dough hook, but you can also mix by hand. Let dough rest while sausage cooks. Brown sausage with onion and garlic. Drain to remove fat. Heavily spray 9×13 dish. Layer: cheese, meat and then sauce.  Roll out dough to shape of your dish.  I just used my hands to press out a shape.  Carefully transfer the dough to the top of the dish. Roll any excess dough under to make a sturdier edge.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with oregano and basil, if desired. Bake  at 425F for 25-40  min. Flip pieces upside down to serve, so cheese on top.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Choc Chip Cookie: Zucchini Version

Zucchini cookies!  Why zucchini?   Cause they are green for St. Patrick's Day of course!

Well, they aren't super duper green, they just have little green speckles on them.

I tried to make them in secret, but when I went to shred the zucchini in the food processor I accidentally put the slicing blade on instead of the shredding blade. I may have said some unkind words to the food processor and zucchini.  Naturally, that caught the attention of my husband, who was suddenly curious about the goings on in the kitchen.

To my surprise, he didn't make a weird face about the vegetable addition to our St. Patrick's Day dessert.  You see, Mrblocko is not the biggest fan of zucchini. 

Guess what?  He Loved then!  With the oats, walnuts, dark Chocolate chips, and cinnamon, you simply cannot taste the zucchini. 

While we all loved the cookies, I thought the directions were a bit off.  First, my cookies did not spread at all.  Perhaps this was because I used less zucchini than the recipe called for, or because I used old fashioned oatmeal versus quick cooking oats?  I wound up flattening the dough before putting it in the oven.  Even with the flattened cookie dough, my cookies took 17 minutes for them to brown.

You would think that with the extended baking time these cookies needed they would have been hard as a rock.  When I took them off the baking sheet I had visions of Hagrid's rock cakes from the Harry Potter books.  Amazingly, they were soft and cake-like.  What a wonderful surprise!

I plan on growing zucchini in my garden this year, so this is a great recipe to keep on hand for when I (hopefully) have an over abundance of summer squash.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies from Nestle
1 1/2 c flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4c sugar
1 egg
3/4 t vanilla
1 1/2 c shredded zucchini (I used 2 small zucchini which were only 1 1/4 c)
1 c quick oats (I used old fashioned)
1 c chopped nuts (I used half walnut pieces
1 2/3 c (10-oz. pkg.)  Dark Chocolate Chips (I like Nestle because they are larger than their milk and semi sweet chips)

 350° F. Lightly grease baking sheets.(I used parchment paper.) Mix flour, cinnamon and baking soda in small bowl. Beat butter, sugar in large mixer bowl until well combined. Add egg and vanilla extract, beat well. Add zucchini; gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats, nuts and morsels. Drop by rounded teaspoon 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. (I used a small cookie scoop and flattened the dough out with moist hands) Bake 9-11 min or until light golden brown around edges. (For me this took 17 minutes) Cool on baking sheets for 2 min; remove to wire rack (or paper towels) to cool completely. Store in tightly covered container at room temperature.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Turkey Tamale Soup

Are you like me? Do you purposely buy an enormous turkey just so you can have leftovers?  I'm so crazy, I buy two turkeys around Thanksgiving because they are so outrageously low, cheaper than roaster chickens per lb! 

If you are like me, you probably have leftover turkey hiding in your freezer.  We just cooked up our second turkey from November last week, so I've got a lot of leftover turkey to work with.  This turkey is slated to be used in some of our favorite turkey recipes like: Turkey Cranchiladas, Crumble Pot Pie, and Mega Burritos.

When I first started this blog I discovered websites like Foodgawker, Tastespotting, Tasteology, and finally Pinterest.  I became aware of just how many recipes were out there that I wanted to try.  Consequently, as there were so many recipes on my "to cook" list, I rarely made the same thing twice.  Then I came to the realization that some of the meals I made were so darn tasty that they were worth making again.  Sometimes I struggle to find a happy medium, preparing old favorites and experimenting with new dishes. 

That being said, I such an over abundance of turkey leftovers that I can make a lot of our old favorites, and try some new dishes too.  One of the recipes I tested out for the first time with this round of Turkey leftovers was Cheesy Turkey Tamale Soup from The Cozy Apron.

The name is not misleading!  It really does taste like tamales in soup form.

I added some of the corn after the soup was pureed, and used 3 cups of turkey.  This made the soup very thick and hearty.  It was perfect for these cold snowy March days we've been having lately.  (Hey Mother Nature, what's the deal?  Why wait until March to get all wintery?  We're all sick of the cold and snow now so let's get a move on with the spring-like weather!)

The family consensus was that this soup tasted best with shredded jalapeno cheddar cheese and crushed tortilla chips.  Of course Mrblocko added lots of hot sauce to his as he is crazy about spicy foods.  Or maybe he's just plain crazy. You decide.

Cheesy Turkey Tamale Soup from The Cozy Apron
2 T olive oil
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 (1lb.) bag frozen, sweet corn, thawed
½ t cumin
½ t oregano
¼ t pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 T tomato paste
¼ c fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
4 ½ c chicken/turkey stock, hot
1 c broken-up, corn tortilla chips, plus more chips for garnish
1  c shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1 T honey (I used 1 T sugar as our honey has solidified from sitting in the cold pantry all winter and I didn't feel like attempting to liquify it)
2-3  c  left-over roasted turkey, chopped/cubed/shredded, for topping soup

Place the ingredients through red pepper flakes in lg pot over med heat.  Stir to combine, add tomato paste, cilantro, stock and chips.  stir. boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer soup for 20-22 min, til veggies tender and chips dissolved. Remove from heat and blend in batches with a blender.  (Don't fill your blender too much or hot liquid will explode on you!  Even better, be super cool and use a stick immersion blender.)  add cheese, turkey and honey. Garnish with cilantro, cheese and chips!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Maple Pumpkin Butter

I was rummaging through the freezer the other day and I came across some leftover canned pumpkin.  Hooray!  It's been months since I made something new and interesting from pumpkin.

Yes.  I wanted to make something new.

I've made a LOT of things from canned pumpkin: rolls, sloppy joes, pie, soup, cornbread, bars, granola, bread pudding, oatmeal, waffles, sweet bread, microwave mug cake for one, ice cream, pancakes, and bagels...just to name a few. 

Making something different was going to pose a challenge! 

I did some hunting and found a recipe for Maple Pumpkin Butter over at the blog called Chatelaine. 

How perfect and simple.  Blockette and Mrblocko both love pumpkin butter but I rarely buy it for them because it is always on the pricy side.  Not so with this version! 

I love pumpkin so I stock up when it goes on sale around Thanksgiving.  I also used my own pumpkin pie spice blend.  Then I used homemade maple syrup.  These things cut down on the cost as well.  Even if you buy your pumpkin full price, use real maple syrup and pricy spices, this will still be less costly, and taste better than the fancy little jars of pumpkin butter in your supermarket.

 The pumpkin I found in my freezer happened to be a scant 2 cups, so I used scant measurments of the rest of ingredients.  After cooking the concoction, the recipe yielded a heaping cup.
ingredients before cooking for a half hour.

Maple Pumpkin Butter from Chatelaine.
2 cups pumpkin purée
1/2 cup maple-syrup (I used home made maple flavored syrup)
1 tsp pumpkin-pie spice (make your own)

Combine pumpkin purée with maple syrup, pumpkin-pie spice and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan and set over medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and turns dark brown, about 30 min.

One note of caution, I found that if I didn't stir the pumpkin butter constantly it bubbled up and made a mess over the stove.  So, I did what I do with most menial household tasks, I yacked it up on the phone.  Standing in front of the stove for 30 min just stirring and doing nothing else is boring!  So if you can't multitask, put on some good music before you begin this recipe.

After cooking...notice the deeper, darker brown color.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos

This is another surprising vegetarian meal we had for Lent:  sweet potato and bean burritos from cHow Divine. It was surprising because even my husband, carnivore extraordinaire, enjoyed it.  He even said he, "barely missed the meat."  If you know my husband, that is HIGH praise.  Usually if I attempt to make something sans animal protein, he makes sad pathetic pained faces.  Not this time!  He even chose to eat this as leftovers instead of leftover fritatta.  And the fritatta had meat in it.


Please don't judge this dish by my photos.  Mashed sweet potatoes and mashed beans ain't perty.  That's why you wrap them up in a tortilla and hide it.

Much more appetizing! 

We ate our burritos topped with cheese, sour cream, guacamole, olives and salsa.  I meant to cut up lettuce, but I'm only just now realizing that I forgot to do that!

This was the first time I tried the whole wheat tortillas.  I was surprised how great they tasted.  I will buy them from now on for meals like this.  If I'm making giant burritos, or enchiladas, I'll still get the white flour tortillas.  One, because they don't make jumbo whole wheat tortillas, or if they do, they aren't at my grocery store.  Two, if I'm making enchiladas the dish is covered in sauce so you couldn't discern the subtle flavor notes of the whole wheat. 

Another great thing about this recipe is that it made two huge burritos for each of us for 2 meals.  Plus leftovers for at least two more burritos.  That's about 14 large burritos.  Not too shabby.

This recipe was definitely a winner in this house!

Sweet Potato and “Un-Fried” Bean Tacos Recipe from cHow Divine
1 1/2 c cooked pinto beans (or 1 can)
1 c cooked black beans (or 2/3 can)
2 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2  red bell pepper, finely chopped (Mine was roasted with the icky skins peeled off)
2 T soy sauce
2 T dijon mustard
4-6 TB + 1 TB at a time
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cayenne (feel free to adjust heat to your liking.  This was just mild enough for our daughter)
2 large sweet potatoes, baked until very soft (1 hour at 425F.  Sugars should be bubbling out stab holes and caramelizing.)
tortillas of your choosing (we used burrito sized whole wheat)
canola oil for the pan

 Mash beans til smooth. In a separate bowl, peel and mash cooked sweet potatoes. Cover mashed sweet potatoes and keep warm. Heat pan on med heat. Add just enough oil to coat bottom of pan. Add garlic, onions  and peppers to pan. Saute about 5 min.  Add beans to pan. Stir until heated through. Add soy sauce, mustard, cumin, and cayenne. Add water as needed to get desired consistency.  Should be smooth and creamy. Mix well. Push beans to side and add mashed sweet potatoes to pan. Lower the heat to lowest setting to keep warm. Heat tortillas as needed.  Fill them up with beans, sweet potatoes and any other fixins your heart desires.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Breaded Lemon Cream Tilapia

It's no big secret that fish and I are not friends.  I mean I can be friends with a fish.  Especially if they are cute and squishy.  In other words, to quote the sharks from Finding Nemo, "Fish are friends, not food."
Ok, so I like white fish, aka krab.  I mean that stuff tastes like crab, not fish.  So it doesn't even count. 

Tilapia and salmon are edible, if they are smoked on a plank of wood over the grill.  Except our grill doesn't like to heat up when it's windy.  Lately, we've been having sustained 20+mph winds with gusts in the 40mph range.  That grill isn't even going to remain vertical, let alone maintain the proper heat.

So that leaves me with a sad face when my family wants to have fish for dinner over Lent.

Then I found this recipe for Breaded Tilapia and Lemon Cream Sauce from Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake.  

The breading was nice and crispy without having to fry it in copious amounts of oil.  I wound up using half regular breadcrumbs and half panko.  I was mistaken regarding the amount of panko I had in the pantry.  I don't know if using regular breadcrumbs in addition to the panko accounted for this crispy breading, or if it was just luck. It could have been that the fish was dry before it was dredged in egg and crumbs.  Who knows!

Blockette and Mrblocko only used the lemon sauce sparingly, but I drenched my fish in it.  It was so good it covered any fish smell or taste.  I thought the lemon sauce was so yum-a-riffic that I even dipped carrots in the leftovers the next day. 

For the record, I ate my fish with way more sauce than in the picture.  I wanted you to be able to see the fish in the photo.  I added loads more sauce after I took the picture.  One could say the fish was "swimming" in lemon cream sauce.  :::groan:::

We ate our fish with a baked potato.  I didn't feel like messing with chopping or buying special potatoes like the recipe over at Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake suggests.  We had russets already so I used those.  They are topped with Italian Blend seasoning and Italian blend preshredded cheese.  That flavor combo went well with the lemony fish.

Blockette had been begging for green beans, but Mrblocko does not like cooked green beans.  As a compromise, we ate them raw with bean dip.

I'd make this meal for dinner again, even outside of Lent.

Lemon Cream Breaded Tilapia from Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake
2 T flour
1 t lemon-pepper (I used Penzeys Florida Seasoned Pepper)
1 cup Panko bread Crumbs (I used half regular bread crumbs and half panko)
1 egg
4 tilapia or other white fish fillets (I used 3 frozen, defrosted tilapia as I didn't want leftovers)
4 T vegetable or olive oil for frying

On plate, mix flour and seasoning. On second plate, place bread crumbs. In bowl, beat egg. Pat fish dry.  Coat fish with flour mix. Dip into egg then coat well with bread crumbs. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add fish fillets, and cook 3 min on each side til golden brown.

Lemon Sauce
3 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/4 t onion powder
1/4 t sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

On low, melt butter in med pan. Add flour.  Stir in flour.  Cook for 1-2 min so flour develops nutty taste.  Whisk constantly so it doesn't burn.  Slowly add in milk.  Whisk constanly as you are slowly adding the liquid.  This will help prevent lumps from forming.  On med heat, stir til sauce thickens.  Remove from heat. Add lemon zest and juice.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Caramelized Apple Grilled Cheese

The other day I was in the mood for something out of the ordinary for lunch.  I didn't have a lot of ingredients to work with, so it was a bit of a challenge.  I decided to make a Caramelized Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  I found the recipe at Our Eating Habits.

Lunch only took 10 min from start to shoving the food in my mouth.  That included cutting and cooking the apples, then preparing the grilled cheese.

I used a smallish apple, and there was lots of extra caramely bits left in the pan.  The next time I make this I will use two apples and save the leftovers for lunch or a snack the next day.  Of course, if you were making this for a crowd, or didn't want to be bothered with peeling and cutting up fruit, you could certainly use apple pie filling!

What really made this sandwich extraordinary was the bread.  I was fortunate enough to have leftover French Toast in the freezer.  I used that instead of plain bread.  It made the sandwich even more cinnamon-y.  For someone who can't get enough cinnamon, this was heaven.

The recipe says to use good quality cheddar cheese.  I bet that would have been even better.  I didn't have that, all I had was processed sliced cheddar and shredded jalapeno Mexican blend cheese.  I went for the sliced because I wanted the cinnamon flavor to dominate.  I'm sure that the spicy and the sweet would have been a good match as well.

Here's what you need to do if you want to make your very own fancy schmantcy caramelized apple grilled cheese sandwich:

1 T butter
1 T brown sugar
1 dash of cinnamon (I used 1/4 t)
1 apple (peel, core and slice) (You could use 2 apples, and make 2 sandwiches/have leftovers)
2 thick slices of good cheddar cheese (I used one slice of processed cheddar)
2 slices of good bread (I used French toast made on regular sandwich bread)
butter for grilling bread

In small pan melt 1T butter.  Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook til brown and bubbly. Add apples and cook 5 min. Butter each slice of bread.  Place buttered sides down on skillet. Top with cheese then apples. Cook on med, flip when golden brown, continue cooking til second side is golden brown.  (Recipe from Our Eating Habits)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Dump Cake

I was a cotton headed ninny muggins and forgot to take a picture of this dessert. Please forgive my forgetful nature!

This recipe was adapted from the chocolate dump pudding cake from Eat Live Run.  I thought it was the same recipe that was made for dessert at our church youth group dinner, but that recipe set up quite differently.  This one was a lot more pudding-like in texture.  The one I had at church was definitely more cake-y and bar-like.  I'm pretty sure that recipe called for cook and serve pudding mix, and not the instant that this one required.

My changes to this recipe were to swap out the chocolate pudding for pumpkin spice pudding.  I picked it up over Thanksgiving and was sick of the pudding box staring at me in the pantry.  I thought that vanilla cake mix would make a nice flavor pairing, so I switched that out for the chocolate cake mix.  Finally, I used a mixture of white and butterscotch chips instead of the chocolate chips the recipe calls for.

The cake tasted ok, but the texture was weird.  I don't know.  Couldn't put my finger on it.  I guess I was just looking for a more cake like texture, like the ones I had at church.  I'm sure if I had this version first, there wouldn't have been an issue with the texture.

If I were to make this recipe again, I'd mix the chips in completely before baking.  I left half of them out to put on top.  I thought this would make the dessert look nicer.  Unfortunately, the white chips on the top of the cake turned brown before the center had set.  I ended up picking most of them off the top of the cake.  Good thing I was only making this for my family, and not as something to serve for guests.

So let this be a lesson to you.  If you are going to make this dessert with white chips, don't put them on the top of the bars or they will burn!

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Dump Cake adapted from Eat Live Run
1 vanilla cake mix
1 small package pumpkin spice pudding
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine pudding with milk stirring as package suggests.  Add cake mix (just dry mix–don’t add anything else) and stir well to combine (batter will be thick). Stir in chips.  Smooth batter into a greased 9x13pan.Bake 30 min, or til edges pull away from sides.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cinnamon Carrot Lazy Bars

And we have another missed photo opportunity.  This is what happens when you attempt to make a rum cake and it fails miserably.  You go for a classic emergency back up like Lazy bars!

Let's just back up and discuss that rum bundt cake for a second.  I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what went wrong.  I've made the cake before with no problem, and it was amazing.  We were going to my best friend's housewarming party and I thought it would be an awesome dessert to bring along.  They love rum, and this rum cake was super freeking fantastic.  At least, that's what it should have been.

This particular incarnation of this cake was very oily.  Also, the glaze never set up.  As far as I know, I did nothing different.  I can't figure out what went wrong.  The cake tasted ok the next day after it dried out for another 24 hours.  It certainly wasn't anything I'd serve to anyone besides my husband.  (He thought the cake tasted great though.)

So with only a few hours to prepare another dessert, and very few ingredients, including rock hard frozen butter, I settled on Lazy bars.  I was out of chocolate chips or m and ms, but I did have cinnamon chips.  I also had a box of carrot cake mix.  I thought the cinnamon would pair nicely with the carrot cake.  I was right.  The bars set up perfectly and didn't stick to the pan at all.  The were rich, but not sickly sweet.  People even had seconds!

So here is an artist's rendition of what the bars may have looked like:
That's exactly what they looked like.
The bars were a medium brown with small darker brown dots (cinnamon chips) instead of yellow.
They also didn't have large carrots on them.
They WERE in a blue pan though.
So yeah.  Pretty much spot on.

Cinnamon Carrot lazy cake cookies adapted from I'm a Lazy Mom
Carrot cake mix
5T butter
2 Eggs
1 bag Hershey's cinamon chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter.  Dump in cake mix and eggs.  Once all that is combined, stir in chips. Spray 9x13 pan.  Dump batter in pan and smoosh it all around.  The best way to do this is with wet hands. The dough is going to look like it isn't going to be enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  It's ok to spread it out thin.  Resist the urge to put it in a 9x9 or 8x8 pan.  It will rise in the oven. Bake 20-25 min. Cool before slicing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Praline Brownies

I made these praline brownies from My Homemade Life for a church gathering. 

They were a great way to jazz up a boxed brownie.

For some reason the praline topping was super thick.  And by thick I mean there was a thick layer of frosting, almost as thick as the brownies.  The consistency of the frosting was also very thick.  The frosting pictured at My Homemade Life looks more like the runny glaze that sets up with a nice crackly top.  This was like thick canned frosting!

My guess is that I just cooked the frosting mixture for too long on the stove.

It still tasted great.  The extra frosting made it very rich.  I "accidentally" ate two bars within a very short period of time and the sugar overloaded my system.  If you are sensitive to sugar, cut these brownies in small pieces.  You may even want to make the brownies in a 9x9 pan and half the frosting recipe.  This way the frosting to brownie ratio will be less, and therefore taste less sweet.

Praline Brownies from My Homemade Life
1 box  brownie mix
Water, Eggs & Vegetable oil as called for on the brownie mix box
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Praline Frosting 1/2 c.whipping cream
6 T butter
1 1/2 c br sugar
3/4 c chopped pecans
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla

In lg bowl, combine brownie mix, and ingredients for "cake like brownie" per brownie box. Add pecans.  Pour into 9x13 sprayed w pam.  Bake per box directions.  Cool for 1 hr.  Once cooled, prepare the frosting. In med pan, over med heat, add cream, butter and br sugar, stirring frequently, til mix comes to slight boil.  Continue cooking, and stir constantly for 1 min while boiling. Remove from heat, and stir in pecans, vanilla and powdered sugar. Mix until smooth.  Let sit off heat 6 min.  Stir once every min for 6 min.  Pour over brownies.  Chill in fridge so frosting sets up.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Feb Reads

 Warning:  This contains spoilers for the below mentioned books.

 Storybound by Marissa Burt
This is one of those books that had me drawn in right away.  One of those, just one more chapter, and you wind up reading five and your family complains because they are starving and you forgot to make dinner.  The main character is an orphan who literally gets sucked into a book, into the land of stories.  I was absolutely riveted...until 2/3 the way into the book.  I did not like the plot twist where the girl discovers she was born into the land of stories, and placed into our real world.  I liked the fact that she was an outsider, figuring things out and saving the day.  It just left a bad taste in my mouth.  I won't be reading the next book in this series.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by  Jonathan Auxier
This was another one of those books I didn't want to put down.  This orphaned blind boy has special thieving skills.  One day he happens upon a box with three sets of magical eyes.  They take him to a place where he and a cursed knight must save a kingdom.  I was really enjoying the ride when BAM!  You discover he is a long lost prince of this lost kingdom he is trying to save. WHAT? How did I get two books in a row with this same plot device.  GRRRR!  I was really pissed off because the writing in this book was even better than the previous book I read.  It was sort of a combination of Lemony Snicket and Roal Dahl humor, but just slightly more lighthearted.  I think if I had read this book before I read Storybound, I would have enjoyed it more.

Pure by Julianna Baggot
The next book I read, I thought I'd change things up from Fantasy to Dystopian post apocalyptic fiction.  In this book it is after a bomb has been dropped.  Some of the people were "saved" by living in this dome, while others who were exposed to the bomb were fused to objects around them.  The main character, Pressia happens to have a doll's head for a hand.  Those inside the dome are referred to by those outside the dome as "Pure". When a person on the outside turns 17 they are forced to join a sort of army or become target practice for the army.  A boy from the dome, Partridge, manages to escape and happens to joins up with Pressia.  He is on a mission to find his mother who was not allowed in the dome.  Then, can you believe it?  Pressia and the boy from the dome discover they are siblings.  WHAT?  Again?  are you kidding me?  Then amazingly they find their mother and their brother who was believed to be dead, but the brother turns out to have been tampered with genetically and has a bomb inside his head and blows himself and their mother up.  How is it possible that I checked out three books from the library in a row that were completely different, but have that same plot device that the main character is a long lost sibling.  Ugh.  I guess there are no new stories.  I am NOT going to read the next books in this series.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Ugh, finally, a story that's not about long lost siblings.  This one is based of a dystopian society set in the not too distant future (80 or 90 yrs).  At this point, chocolate and caffeine are illegal, water is rationed, and it costs postage to send an email.  What I liked about this story was that the negative situations of the time do not overwhelm the character.  Sometimes these futuristic stories are so bogged down about how horrible things are that the story almost gets lost.  This is just a way of life for the characters, much like a story set in the 80's would not have lamentations about how horrible it is to not have 3G networks.  People don't know what they are missing because their life is normal to them.  Anyhow, the main character Anya comes from a crime family that dealt in black market chocolate.  Her ex gets poisoned by chocolate, he finagled from her, and she has to try to prove her innocence.  The fact that she is dating the DA's son helps with that.  Only the DA thinks she is bad press for him.  In the end Anya learns where she fits within her family and that she has to make some big sacrifices in order to ensure the safety of those she loves, including her boyfriend.

Switched by Amanda Hocking

This story is about a changeling who discovers that she is not human.  She is what her people refer to as Trylle or trolls.  This is not the traditional sense of what stories describe as trolls, I'd say they were more like Fae.  Her human mother tries to kill her when she is 6 because she realizes she is an impostor.  When she is reunited with her biological family, she discovers she is the daughter of the queen.  Of course.  Why couldn't anyone be a normal average citizen.  Everyone has to be special class or royalty.  But if they did that, there couldnt be forbidden love.  Although the concept of the story was fairly original, the plot turned out to be pretty cookie cutter for this genre.  All things considered I enjoyed this book, probably because it was a quick read that I finished in one sitting.  I plan to check out the sequel to see where the story heads from here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Snowman Snow

Tuesday we got out biggest snow of the year so far...4 inches.  Four inches of the wettest snow ever.  While it was back breaking to shovel, it was perfect for making a snowman.

Blockette made this snowman all by herself.  Well, I helped her stack the layers. The snow was so heavy I had to struggle to lift the middle ball.  Of course I had noodle arms from driveway snow removal duty.  That's my excuse, and not because I'm a wimpy girly girl.

I think it's the cutest snowman in the history of snowbeings. 

Last year my mom gave Blockette a snowman kit, but we didn't get enough of the right kind of snow to use it.  It was so awesome to have everything handy.  There was no arguing over how Blockette needs to wear her scarf more than the snowman does.  I think the scarf in the kit was the perfect size.  And don't you just dig the heart?  Uber cuteness!  Thanks mom!!!