Friday, February 28, 2014

To Die For Blueberry Muffins


These ones seriously live up to their name. I ate most of these by myself - I couldn't stop myself. They reminded me of the blueberry muffins at Starbucks. They have such a lovely cakey density to them, with the perfect amount of sweetness and that irresistible crunchy topping. Delicious!!

The batter is very thick and I was able to get 11 regular sized muffins out of this recipe (I didn't fill the muffin cups all the way to the top, I did about 3/4 full). I will definitely be making these again soon! I had fresh blueberries I was able to use for this recipe, and next time am going to give some frozen blueberries a try. This is definitely a keeper!
 
To Die For Blueberry Muffins by Colleen on AllRecipes
 
Ingredients 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour                       
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
To Make Crumb Topping:
  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
  2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Hot Buttered Rum Apple Pie


It's another Secret Recipe Club reveal day today! This is one I made awhile ago and we enjoyed piece by piece until it was all gone. I keep debating on whether or not to make another one since the pre-made crust I used just did not do this recipe justice! If you choose to make this one, make sure to use a homemade scratch pie crust. The pie begs of you.

This month I had K and K Test Kitchen - and it is a beautiful blog full of absolutely lovely photos and recipes. Stop by K and K's "About" page to learn more about this mother and daughter team!

I had a wonderful time browsing through many possible recipes, and saving several for later. Some of the goodies you will find at K and K include: Caramel Peanut Popcorn (goodbye Cracker Jack?!), King Cake, Country Bread, Oreo Chocolate Chip Bars, and French Dip! YUMM!! (I am so making those Oreo Chocolate Chip Bars very, very soon).

The recipe I opted for this time around was the Hot Buttered Rum Apple Pie. I love apple pie, and this sounded like a wonderful variation on the classic - I had to give it a try!!

I should have used all of the 3lb bag of granny smith apples I bought, but I got lazy and left about 3 of them in the bag - so my pie was a little "thin". I cheated and used two of the pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts I'd bought awhile back to have on hand as well, and this was the first time I've had a store bought pie crust in awhile, and it just doesn't do this pie justice. It needs a tender, flaky, homemade crust for sure. I probably will make it again, with all the apples, and a homemade crust, just to taste the difference!!

My son in particular loved this recipe - I think he ate at least half the pie by himself. I definitely enjoyed the piece that I ate as well, although I did find the apples to be overly soft in my opinion. They are cooked for quite awhile between the time on the stove and 2 hours in the oven, so keep that in mind when baking (if you like them super soft the cook time is perfect, if you like them to retain some form and have a slightly firm texture you may want to cut them thicker or reduce the bake time).

Hot Buttered Rum Apple Pie from K and K Kitchen

Ingredients

For the pie filling:
3 lbs apples (about 8-10 small / med), I used granny smith
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup dark rum
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

To use on top of pie crust before baking:
2 tablespoons heavy cream (I used half and half since I didn't have heavy cream)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions
  1. Peel and core the apples, and slice them to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness.
  2. Place a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the 1/3 cup sugar.  Cook the sugar, without stirring, until it melts and then caramelizes, turning an amber color. Tilting the pan back and forth a little to move the sugar around as it begins to liquefy, and adjust the heat as needed. Have your apples ready to go - as soon as the sugar has melted it will caramelize quickly and you'll need to add the apples as soon as the color of the sugar has changed to amber. 
  3. Add the apples and saute until they are cooked about half way through, and all the excess liquid has boiled off (8-10 minutes). Stir and toss the apples during cooking, to ensure even cooking on both sides. The apples are done if they are beginning to soften, but still hold together well and do not fall apart. Don't overcook.
  4. Transfer the apples to a bowl and allow them to cool completely to room temperature.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare your favorite double pie crust recipe.
  6. When the apples are cooled, add the brown sugar, rum, butter, cornstarch, vanilla extract, spices, and salt and toss to combine.
  7. Divide your dough in half, and roll into two approximately 11 inch circles. Line a pie plate with one of the dough rounds.
  8. Pour apple pie filling into the lined pie plate. Transfer the other pastry circle to the top of the pie.  Roll the bottom crust overhang up over the top crust, and seal the edges together.  Use fingers to crimp the crust edges together.
  9. Brush the top of the crust and the edges with heavy cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  10. Put the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then tent the pie with foil and continue to bake for 1 more hour. Remove the foil and bake for 30 more minutes or until the pie is browned on top (total baking time is 2 hours). Remove the pie from the oven and cool for at least an hour before serving to allow the filling to set.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Happy 5 Months Lindsey Rose!

Look who is 5 months old already! I can't believe my little girl is almost half way to her first birthday already!! Time is flying by.

 





5 month fun facts:
  • She adores her bare toes. Especially on the changing table - toes go into mouth.
  • She likes to blow raspberries and bubbles.
  • She likes to make an incredibly annoying humming / grunting weird noise when she's bored and has determined someone should entertain her.
  • She's gotten much more vocal in the past couple weeks.
  • She's still a drool monster, but still no teeth that we can see or feel.
  • She can hold herself in a sitting position unassisted for up to a minute at a time before toppling, but still not usually more than about 5-10 seconds at a time.
  • She likes the sound it makes when she rubs her feet on the leather of the couch.
  • She really likes our basset hound, Max - she seems to know the word "puppy" and looks for him when we ask where puppy is. She loves to pet his face and his ears. He is the only dog of the 4 we have who actually seems to like her and comes over for attention from her.
  • She has an adorably cute giggle and sometimes giggles for what seems like no reason at all, almost always giggles and grins when I get home from work every night, and definitely giggles for tickles and blowing raspberries on her belly.
  • She gets super excited when she knows she's about to be picked up from the bath, or unbuckled and picked up from her bouncer and starts kicking and waving her arms to let you know she's happy to be set "free"!
  • She's just started solid foods, and has tried sweet potatoes, pears, and bananas so far. She seems to like them all most of the time, although the fruits she seemed to like better when mixed with baby oatmeal cereal. Next it's on to green beans!
  • She still wakes up 2-3 times per night, although the nights she's eaten solids within an hour of bedtime and eaten a decent amount she finally slept a little longer for.
  • She loves petting her daddy and her big brother's faces.
  • She thinks Kent should let her eat his glasses.
  • She likes to sit on big brother Kent's shoulder and see the view from above.
Update 2/25/14:

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that she is half way to her 1st birthday in a matter of weeks. They time has been absolutely FLYING by lately. Lindsey is figuring out her lips and tongue lately and has been blowing a lot of bubbles, blowing raspberries, making sucking noises with her tongue partially sticking out, blowing her food back at me when she's done or doesn't like the way it tastes (hello green beans) and of course putting any and everything INTO her mouth! Her hand eye coordination has improved so much, and her grip is getting stronger. It's fascinating to watch her grab onto her toys and bring them to her mouth - her dexterity and ability to hold onto things has improved and increased so much! I really notice it at bath time when she's holding onto her rubber ducky, she brings it to her mouth and sucks on it pretty much every night and she's gotten really good at bringing it to her mouth without it falling out of her fingers anymore. I also notice it when she's playing in her gym. She pulls on toys so hard the whole thing changes shape and contorts. I keep waiting for her to let go when she's pulling really hard and then have the toy bounce back and hit her... thankfully she hasn't done that yet (at least that I've been around to see)!

 At just over 5 months and 1 week old Lindsey had a quick weigh in at the pediatrician's office and weighs 17 lbs already! She is getting big so fast!! I recently ordered some 12 month clothes for her to get through the upcoming warmer weather, and can't believe she'll be in that size in another 1-2 months more than likely... these moments really do go by so, so fast.

Lindsey seems to like prunes the most of the foods she's tried so far (bananas, pears, prunes, sweet potatoes, and green beans). And she definitely liked the green beans the least. I ended up wearing almost as much as she was after a couple of those feedings. She would purse her lips and blow raspberries with food in her mouth and it would come flying on out!

There are so many moments I want to tuck away into my memory and try to hold onto and remember them. She seems to change just a little each and every day, growing a little more, learning a little more... she won't be a baby for much longer and I am trying so hard to enjoy these moments while they last.

When Kent plays with her and holds her and I get to see my two beautiful children playing together I sometimes think my heart just might burst in my chest. I just love them so very, very much and am so blessed to have the chance to be their mom. My family is definitely my everything and I am so grateful for each and every day - the good ones and the bad and all the in between.




Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Deliciously Hearty Taco Salad



This was such a tasty and filling lunch I had the other day! I made it dairy free for my current diet needs using Daiya non-dairy cheddar cheese and Tofutti "Better Than Sour Cream" but you can use your favorite versions for your salad!

I love the combination of textures, flavors, and temperatures in this yummy meal. You could also crush up a handful of tortilla chips and sprinkle over the top for some crunch! Delicious!

Hearty Taco Salad
(makes 1 salad)

Ingredients
1/2 cup Taco Meat
1/2 cup Black Beans and Rice
2 - 3 TBS sour cream
2 TBS shredded cheddar cheese
2 TBS salsa
1 - 2 TBS diced avocado
2 - 3 TBS diced fresh tomato
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce

Directions

  1. Heat rice, beans, and taco meat until warmed through; mix to combine. 
  2. Lay lettuce on a plate and top with meat, rice and bean mixture. Top meat mixture with shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes and avocado. 


Monday, February 17, 2014

Four Meat Pizza Omelet



We had some sausage links and diced ham in the refrigerator and it inspired me to use them in a "pizza omelet"! I think this would be great with some fresh diced tomato and maybe sliced olives over the top as well. Yumm!

Four Meat Pizza Omelette
(makes 1 omelet)

Ingredients
2 eggs
1/2 TBS water
salt and pepper to taste
6 slices pepperoni
1 sausage link, diced
2 TBS diced ham
1 thick cut slice bacon, cooked to desired crispiness and crumbled
2 TBS shredded cheddar cheese
2 TBS shredded mozzarella cheese
Optional fillings: sliced mushrooms, onion, pepper, etc.
Optional topping: diced tomatoes, olives, etc.

Directions
  1. Whip eggs and water together in a bowl until well combined.
  2. Pre-heat a flat, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. Pour in eggs, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When the bottom has started to set, sprinkle with meats and cheddar cheese (and additional filling ingredients, if using) on one half of the eggs. When the bottom of the omelet is almost completely set, flip the top half over the bottom half (with the filling ingredients). Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on the top, cover with a lid and cook for another minute or so, or until eggs are completely cooked and cheese has melted.



Sunday, February 16, 2014

Graham Cracker Crust



This is a very easy and classic recipe for a graham cracker crust which I used recently to make Key Lime Pie. The crust was very tasty and came together very easily! I used my blender to turn the crackers into very fine crumbs. It worked very nicely with the key lime pie, and I would definitely use this recipe again next time I need a graham cracker crust for a pie.

Graham Cracker Crust by Carole on AllRecipes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup white sugar

Directions

  1. Mix crumbs, butter, and sugar in a bowl. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Use a spoon to press the crumbs up the side of the plate and the side of your hand to press down on the top.
  2. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before filling.



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kyle's Favorite Beef Stew



This was a DELICIOUS beef stew recipe we fixed recently to enjoy during this extra cold weather we've been having around here (I tried to get a picture showing the light dusting of snow that was on the ground). I didn't have all of the vegetables called for in the recipe (I probably only had half of the carrots, and no mushrooms), but otherwise followed the recipe ingredients as listed below. It was so tasty! My husband is not a big soup / stew fan, but he ate this one up in no time - leftovers went fast. It was wonderful served with a loaf of Irish Brown Soda Bread!

The original recipe called for a 1.5 tsp of black pepper - I probably added maybe a little more than 1 tsp, and found the taste to be fairly "sharp" - it definitely had a peppery bite to it. My husband really liked it that way, and I thought the flavor was good, but if you're not a pepper fan maybe start with 1/2 tsp and add more to taste.

This will stick to your ribs, and leave you feeling warm and comforted on a cool evening.

Kyle's Favorite Beef Stew by Heather G on AllRecipes.com

Ingredients
3 pounds cubed beef stew meat
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large potatoes, cubed (bite sized pieces)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups hot water
2 (1 ounce) envelopes onion soup mix
1 large onions, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup burgundy wine
2 (6 ounce) packages fresh button mushrooms, halved

Directions

  1. Place beef, salt, and flour in bottom of crock-pot, stir to coat the beef.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (sprinkled / poured evenly over the top of the meat).
  3. Cook on low for 6 - 8 hours or until beef and vegetables are very tender.



Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Our baby princess is nearly 5 months old (in just 3 more days) and I had about the best time over the past week taking some Valentine's Day pictures of her and had to share them. She is so much fun to photograph!! She finds "picture time" generally very amusing - she likes all the attention and interaction and finds all the crazy noises and faces I make at her very entertaining to say the least!
























Atlanta received more snow and ice this week, so I was off from work from Tuesday through Thursday and was able to get some wonderful quality time in with all of my family. I loved having those extra days with them! Kent really enjoyed the snow - he went out and played in it quite a bit. He even took the camera out and took a bunch of pretty fantastic pictures of the ice on Wednesday! I was very impressed - I think I'm rubbing off on him a little with my love of photography. He's got a good eye that one. :) I also had the chance to cook and bake quite a bit which makes me happy!

With the recommendation of her pediatrician, our little girl has just started on solid food - and we think maybe, just maybe, it's going to help her start sleeping a little longer at night. She's on a formula that's very broken down (she has a milk protein allergy) and it doesn't taste very good either, so she never eats very much at a time. Now that she can eat a little cereal with a little fruit or vegetable mixed in, she is excited about eating, and has slept really well two nights in a row (knock on something)! I really hope being able to get more in her tummy in the evenings is what she needs to be able to sleep more than 3 hours at a time - for her sake and her sleep-deprived mommy and daddy's sakes as well!

I'm already working on ideas for her "5 month" pictures to take this weekend - I'll have to see what we can come up with for her. :)


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Atlanta Snow-Jam 2014

If you follow the news / weather and / or live in and around Georgia I'm sure you heard about our "Snow Jam 2014" that occurred last week.

It was ridiculous. Our entire city shut down over about 3-inches of snow. We are just NOT prepared for that kind of weather around here as it happens very, very rarely!

For me - this meant a very hell-ish and long commute home. I remembered the snow we'd had a couple years prior, and remembered being holed up at home for a couple days while it melted off - but I hadn't had too difficult of a time getting home from work the day that happened. Although, now I can't remember if it snowed in the afternoon, or overnight so that we didn't go to work in the morning... in any event, the snow started coming down mid-day this time which meant a disaster for anyone who subsequently tried to get on the roads and go ANYWHERE.

At 1:00pm they closed Emory University down and I headed outside to the circle to catch a shuttle ride back to the parking deck. About 10 minutes went by and 2 or 3 shuttles had come by, but I couldn't get on them because there were SO many people trying to catch a ride. After standing in the freezing cold, with snow accumulating on my head and shoulders, I gave up waiting and walked the 1 - 1.5 mile walk to the parking deck along with quite a few others. The roads were already very congested, and between congestion and the snow the shuttles were having a hard time getting through anyway.


It took me about 20 minutes to get to my car. Then it took me about 2 hours to get from the parking deck to the freeway (this normally takes about 20 minutes). Then I sat on the freeway for what seemed like an absolute eternity. It ended up being about 6 hours I think on I-20 trying to get to my exit. I was so frustrated, tired, hungry, and exhausted but I refused to pull over. My husband kept encouraging me to just stop and get a hotel, and my good friend said she'd find a way to come get me and let me spend the night at their house - but I just knew if I pulled off, if I stopped my car on the side of the road or at a hotel, I wouldn't be able to get home for at least another 24 hours. I just wasn't ok with that. I wanted to get HOME. I wanted to sleep in my bed, I wanted to kiss my husband, hold my baby, and hug my son. I wanted to keep moving until moving wasn't an option any longer.

As it got darker, colder, and icier outside people began spinning out all around me. Semi-trucks became giant obstacles at odd angles across the lanes. The lines on the road disappeared and people were just winging it the best they could. I only saw craziness a couple times - mostly people pressing their feet all the way to the floor, spinning out like crazy, with only inches between their car and the one in front of them. I kept waiting for a giant smash to follow when I heard hard-core tire spinning... Lots of cars slipping and sliding a little on the ice, and lots of abandoned and parked vehicles all over the road, and shoulder of the road. The semi's were the worst - they littered the freeway and caused massive delays as people had to maneuver in and out of them. Anywhere there was any hill was also very bad. When I did finally get off the freeway, there was a decent sized hill that was causing massive congestion because of multiple stuck semi trucks and other vehicles across 4 lanes of traffic. So many vehicles had tried and failed to get up the hill that there was only one potential spot people could get through and everyone was trying to maneuver into that position. As I crawled slowly closer and closer to that spot, all I could think was please GOD don't let anyone in front of me get stuck in that one opening!! After I cleared that spot, I was able to get up the hill and to the gas station. I had been in the car for about 8 hours at that point and everything was sore, I was starving, and getting bleary eyed and a little bit delirious.

I got a sandwich and some coffee, filled my car up (my fuel light had been on for 2-3 hours at that point!) then got back in the car for the rest of the ride home.

It took about 2 more hours to get home from that point - there were a few pretty dicey spots on the main road I was on (one in particular where there were about 7-8 cars abandoned all over the road in a particularly curvy and icy spot which created a pretty nasty obstacle course). Once I got to the point where I could get off the main road and drive on the back roads it was pretty smooth sailing. The roads were completely empty. There was one hill about 1.5 miles from the house where a police officer was directing traffic and only allowing one car at a time to go (the hill crested over a bridge which was particularly icy).

I had been listening to Netflix on my phone for hours at that point. It was more distracting to me than the radio and when I rolled my window down to get instructions from the police officer he saw my phone and remarked on me watching TV in the car! I smiled and told him I promised I was just listening. :) Thank you "Sister Wives" for keeping me sane for many, many hours that evening!

I crept slowly the rest of the way home, passing an abandoned school bus which had obviously slid backwards into a ditch when trying to go up a hill and eventually made it to the bottom of the hill before my house. I pulled into my neighbors yard at the base of the hill (with her permission - thank you Tasha!!) and walked on shaky legs up the hill. I could have kissed the doormat. I was so HAPPY to be HOME! It was surreal to walk in the door, in the dark and quiet, after all of those hours of stress and anxiety.

That was on Tuesday afternoon / evening. The University was closed Wednesday and Thursday as well due to the snow.

We didn't get out and play in it too much - not with our little one who is not so fond of the chilly air - but we did go take a little walk and Kent sure got to enjoy the snow while it lasted!