Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cookie Recipes

I made a ton of cookies for the exchange. I actually ran out of time to make them all, thanks to not reading a new recipe through before baking. I got to the refrigerate for several hours or all night and almost lost it. Sadly this is a post without pictures because I was total crap at taking any. Please visit the respective sites where I got the recipes to see how wonderful they look though.

I made my regular M&M cookies with my current favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I've posted the recipe before so I won't do it here again.

I also made my usual fudge and spiced pecans.

I tried this recipe early on to see how it tasted. It was a HUGE hit at home and especially at work. They sound so weird but they are SO GOOD. An important note on the directions - use parchment paper or a baking mat for these. I seriously never thought that mattered, but with these cookies it did. I ran out of parchment and just greased the pan, the cookies spread out and were one big pancake type mess on the pan. With the parchment, they baked up into perfect round cookies.

Salted Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Annie's Eats

Yield: about 24 cookies (I made a double batch for the exchange)

Ingredients:

8 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Combine the 8 ounces chopped chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, and heat until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. (Alternatively, heat in the microwave in 25-second intervals, stirring in between.) In another mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate mixture, blending until incorporated. Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2-3 inches apart

Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the cookies are just slightly soft in the center and crackly on top, about 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with additional salt and let cool on the baking sheets 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

The next cookie is a Ginger Crinkle. My sister in law cannot find the recipe she uses so I had to turn to the Google to find one. In the end I decided to use Betty's. The only thing I would change (and have in the recipe below) is to decrease the amount of ginger. 1 Tbsp was just too much for me. I would halve it.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat 1 cup sugar and the butter with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon, until soft and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients except 3 tablespoons sugar until well blended.

Place 3 tablespoons sugar in small bowl. Shape dough by tablespoonfuls into balls; roll in sugar. On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls 2 inches apart.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.

The cookie that didn't get made for the exchange, but did for Christmas and the one that I absolutely fell in love with is this final one. When they are hot from the oven they are amazing. It's like a peppermint mocha in cookie form. I seriously could have eaten the entire batch.

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies
Yields 2 dozen cookies

1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spooned and leveled bleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 3/4 cups sugar, divide
1/4 cup of canola oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm, not hot
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons of peppermint extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, beat together well the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Melt the chocolate in the microwave on 50 percent power for 1 minute, stir, and microwave for 15 seconds more and stir; set aside.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together 2 1/2 cups of the sugar, the oil, butter and corn syrup to blend. Beat in the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla and peppermint extract. Then on low, beat in the melted chocolate. Add the flour mixture and beat in on low speed. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line bakesheet with parchment. Take out about one-quarter of the dough at a time to shape. Roll the dough into 3 inch balls. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar into one bowl and the confectioners’ sugar in another bowl. Roll each cookie dough ball lightly in granulated sugar first, then very heavily in confectioners’ sugar. (By rolling in plain sugar first, the confectioners’ sugar does not soak in so much and stays on the surface better).

Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on the foil. For crisp cookies, bake 12 to 14 minutes. For a chewier cookie, bake 10-12 minutes. Bake one sheet at a time.

Happy Baking if you're not baked out already!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Wrap Up

I hope everyone had a great Christmas. I have a TON of food leftover from Christmas dinner. You're welcome to come and help me eat it.

Saturday morning John was dying to open presents. Since my brother wouldn't be there until later in the day we did stockings. First with the dogs

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and then our ones to eachother. Please excuse the bed head on us both.

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Finally my brother arrived and it was time to open presents.

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My nephew was a lot of fun to watch while he opened all his gifts.

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It was the year of kitchen supplies for me. It started with my new stove (which I am IN LOVE WITH)

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Then John got me a Le Creuset dutch oven.

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Isn't it pretty?

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My brother had me in the family exchange and got me the larger food tray for my Kitchenaid grinder attachment and a second paddle for the mixer. Now I just need a second bowl!

My mom was excited about the floral knife I got for her.

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John was really excited about her Peyton Manning action figure.

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He also opened the new fire pit that I got for us and will be getting a Blues hockey jersey just as soon as it comes back in stock.

My nephew got my parents this cool family tree. Mine and John's end was left blank and they joked about having 6 hearts under us. Yeah right!

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The next day we exchanged gifts with John's family which is always full of wild antics.

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I got a Santa Pig from John's mom and a Target giftcard. I'll most likely buy some more kitchen supplies!

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John also got some movies which I somehow don't have a picture of. We were able to Skype with his sister in Illinois so that was nice as well.

We still have an exchange to go with his brother sometime this week. As fun as it is, I'm looking forward to recovering from the holidays as soon as I get a chance!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve

Actually, Merry Christmas as it's only 30 minutes away from the time that I started writing this.

Today John got to play Santa at the nursing home his mom works at.

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He did such a great job and was so good with all the residents.

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He even sang Christmas carols with them.



Me and Santa!

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My parents came in early and we drove around and looked at Christmas lights.

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Gotta love Santa in a wife beater drinking a beer.

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Humpty Dumpty Santa

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We called this Satan's Reindeer.

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Now I'm just waiting for pies to finish baking so I can get into bed. Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cookie Exchange

This past weekend all the girls got together for a cookie exchange/potluck/gift exchange. I was a terrible picture taker (and was the only one that gave an attempt), but did get one of our spread of cookies

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and of our Skype session with Stephanie.

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Julie drew my name in the exchange and made me the CUTEST apron.

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She also gave me this knitting book which already helped me finish a scarf for my niece that I also did not take a picture of.



I'll do a run down of all my cookies in another post. :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pomp Wreath

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I got this idea from Baby Rabies and you can go here for her easy tutorial.

The only thing I did different - I used a 18 inch wreath so I needed 2 yards of fabric. I had to buy more fabric so I did mine over a few days, but it really only took about 2 hours or so to make.

It looks great on the door and if I want I can put it up again in February!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weight Gain

Ugh. A topic that is never fun to talk about. The truth of it though is that since my wedding 3 years ago I have gained 40 pounds.

Yikes.

Just before we got engaged I was at my (then) heaviest. I joined Weight Watchers and in about 4-5 months met my goal weight and lost about 25 pounds. I kept that off until after the wedding, but then things started creeping up again.

Two years later I had gained back that 25 pounds plus about 10 pounds. I was able to maintain that weight, but not really lose anything.

I joined Weight Watchers again and in 5 months I lost 5 pounds. Yes, I was following the program and yes, I was tracking. I got my 10 week key chain, but didn't have a single charm to put on it. Most have a couple of charms before they get the key chain. Major suckage.

I gave up on Weight Watchers around the time that I quit my job. You think I'd be happier right? Leaving an extremely stressful and miserable position? I was, but my weight didn't change. I was even working 2 jobs where I was on my feet all day and hardly ever had time to eat. I added 10 more pounds in the past 6 months. Actually I should say it's been the past 2-3.

Those 2-3 months is when I started a weight loss challenge with my coworker. I've been eating smarter and working out at least 4 days a week and I've gained 10 more pounds. No, my measurements haven't changed either so it's not really muscle gain.

I recently started working with a nutritionist at work. We're early stages - tracking what I currently eat and then coming up with a game plan.

Tuesday I went to see my endocrinologist. She was really concerned about my weight and it was topic number 1 on my list for her. Pretty much everyone in my family is diabetic so I have a high risk, but I don't want my weight to be a factor too. The fact that I've been doing everything that I've been doing and still gaining really concerned her as well. My thyroid levels had been pretty normal for the last year, but this time they had gone way up. That's probably where the weight gain came from.

The good news is that I don't have any additional nodules on my thyroid, the bad news is that it's basically gone to crap and it's totally jacked up my metabolism.

My endo has suggested I take what is basically the modern day Fen Phen. There are some side effects so I'm still thinking about it. I'm going to talk to my nutritionist about it. I'm going to research it a bit more. We spent a lot of time talking about it and what to watch for so I do feel educated. I also wouldn't take it longer than 6 months and I go to see her in 4 instead of the normal 6 months for a follow-up.

Edited to add: I did start the meds this weekend. The only side effect I've experienced is the slightly cracked out feeling, but it usually goes away. Glad I don't have the mild insomnia!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ice Skating

This past weekend John and I took our nieces ice skating.



It was something different and the girls had a ton of fun.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Christmas to Me

I bought this as an early Christmas present for myself

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and I used it to make salsa last night. I have about 20 pounds of tomatoes that I saved from the garden before it froze. I wrapped the green ones in newspaper and they've been ripening over the past couple of weeks.

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The food grinder made making the salsa an absolute cinch! The most I had to do is cut the veggies into pieces that fit into the grinder and it did all the work for me.
The only thing I had to chop myself was cilantro. It took care of 8lbs of tomatoes, 3 onions and a handful of jalapenos.

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I used this recipe for the salsa.

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Tomorrow I plan on using the vegetable strainer to make a couple of jars of tomato sauce. It takes care of the skins and seeds for you so no boiling and peeling for me any more!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Geeking Out

I got my first seed catalogue!

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Yeah, I know my garden JUST died, but here in Texas it's time to start ordering and starting seeds.

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Weekend

Tomorrow my mom is doing flowers for a wedding. The wedding is going to be filmed for a show. I don't know all the rules associated with this show so I won't say which on here, but it's one that airs on a certain channel that has all you favorite country music singers.

All I can say is that I wish I could go. Most of the flowers are fake so my mom didn't need my help with this one. To give you a sneak peek though I'll tell you some of the details my mom shared with me.

The couple goes rock crawling which involves taking big monster looking trucks up on rocky cliffs. They're actually getting married on a cliff and then will depart doing some rock crawling. This is one of the reasons they got picked for the show.

The guys are all wearing overalls.

Earlier this week they filmed a scene where the groom was making an ice sculpture, got mad that it looked ugly, and took his gun to it.

They also filmed the guys making a beer shooter. I've never heard of one and when I asked my mom she said she was too scared to ask. I think it may be a beer bong/funnel, John thinks it's more like a potato gun. Google couldn't tell me either.

The bride gave the groom his wedding gift. It was a stripper pole made out of two tractor wheels and a pole.

The bride's mom isn't coming to the wedding because of all this. Having been through something similar I almost don't blame her.

Unrelated to the show, but I'm sure they're eating it up, the groom was driving home the other night on a very dark country road. He hit a horse. The horse died and he's got a giant bump on his head and a concussion. Plus, being a man, he won't go to the hospital.

Should be an interesting day! This episode is supposed to be the season premier in January. I'll let you know when it airs in case you want to tune in.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A New Staple

As soon as I saw this recipe on Our Life Accounts I knew I had to make it. Plus I had some fresh tomatoes from the garden that I saved before the freeze and had some pesto hanging around.


(Borrowed picture as well since we ate ours too quickly to get one)


Pesto Chicken Bake (adapted)

3 chicken breasts
2-3 Roma Tomatoes
Pesto
Mozzarella Cheese

Cover the tops of chicken with pesto, add sliced tomatoes and top with cheese. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

I meant to cover until the final 10 minutes of baking, but forgot. The cheese was nice and toasty, but I kind of like it that way.

I served over pasta. The pesto separates while the chicken bakes so I used the juices in the bottom of the pan as a "sauce" for the pasta. A tiny bit went a long way.

John and I absolutely loved this! I made extra so we could have left overs but it's such an easy recipe to make for 2 or more. It's such a simple recipe, but the flavor from the pesto goes a long way and adds a ton of flavor.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Making a List

Right now my world is ruled by lists currently.

There's my Christmas card list that hasn't been updated since last year. I also haven't received our cards yet (they've been ordered). It's one that I can put off until I get the cards in at least. Although all if you that have already sent cards out are making me feel like a total under-achiever.

There's my work to do list which is all my normal to do stuff plus decorate my door, figure out what to bring to the holiday luncheon, and help pick our department dinner location.

My gift list. I thought I was close to finished and realized I have 11 more to buy for. 5 are out of town so I need to get on tackling that list now. I pretty much know what I'm getting everyone, I just need to find the time to do it.

Then there's my stuff around the house list. Like the wreath I want to make, fixing the card holder I made last year, and putting up lights outside. Oh and getting quotes on tile installation. Yeah we started that project back in July....

There's also the grocery list that needs to be done and the list of cookies I want to make for our exchange next week.

Total list overload.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Weekend Recap

Saturday I headed to Houston for my nephew's 4th birthday party.

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It was a Peter Pan themed party so there was my nephew Ben as Peter Pan.

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My niece Lizzie was Tinkerbell (the other girls were fairies too).

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He's obsessed with Buzz right now so John and I got him a Buzz costume.

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Lizzie loves her uncle and her grandpa when she's not completely ignoring me or shooting me death looks.

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At the end of the day she was the only one that would stand still long enough to take a picture with me though.

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I had made plans to stay the night and hang out with Sarah and Jackie. On my drive to Houston I did the calling around and catching up with people and found out my other high school friend Euan was in town from Chicago. His mom lives in the same city that the party was in so I stopped in to pay her a visit and to see if Euan could come out to play with us that night.

We ended up at Pete'e Piano Bar downtown. The girls.

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The guys.

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Jackie and Sarah

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Me and Sarah

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It was a fun night, but killer drive home the next day. What happened to being able to just jump up and and be good to go the next day after a full night of partying?
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