Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Cookies

Since it is better to give than to receive- we started a tradition of delivering cookies the night before halloween to all of the boy's little friends. Halloween is always so busy- so the night before is perfect! My plan was for the boys to have a "dress rehersal" in their costumes- but since they were delivered to the wrong address, they weren't quite ready. (They needed some alterations to say the least!). This idea started because I wanted to support my friend's new bussiness selling the most darling sugar cookies.
I bought a dozen from her (the candy corn in the center below). However, I realized I should have ordered more! So the boys helped (mainly with the sprinkles) and Tuesday we baked cookies! They turned out pretty cute! This was the first time I have made royal icing- it holds up great, dries hard for packaging, but it is not the tastiest. So I'd like to experiment with different recipes. The sugar cookies are Martha's recipe. A little hard for my taste- but again they held up great and we didn't break one! I think I'll go back to my recipe- but use her techniques (frequently chilling the dough etc.). Sugar cookies are TIME CONSUMING! But- pretty!

My kind of Pumpkin!

Happy first Halloween Peter, Peter, Pumpkin eater! I'm sorry I didn't get to hug and love on you more tonight! You only get to be an ity bity pumpkin once in your life- but I was so distracted by a couple of wild Indians! You are the cutest pumpkin ever!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Baby Shower

Menu for Monica's shower

Vegetable Quiche
Plain/Chocolate Croissants
Orange Cranberry Scones
Fresh Fruit

Monday, October 29, 2007


gives you complimentary creme brulee if you are celebrating a birthday! I'm sorry you missed out on this sissy! It was a great meal- thank you dad!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

60 looks good!

Sissy- we have nothing to worry about with mom's genes (not to be confused with mom jeans!). She looks so young...we have it made! Happy birthday mom! You are an amazing mom who has taught us many important lessons- especially about love and family- and how they go hand in hand. We love being your daughters. Thank you for laughing with us. And singing at the dinner table (well, just when the guys are gone, right?). And hurray to dad for taking us all out to eat tomorrow night to celebrate as a family- I can't wait!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lemon Cheesecake to die for...


For lemon curd

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For crust1 1/3 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (5 oz)

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Special equipment: a 9- to 91/2-inch (24-cm) springform pan

Accompaniment: blueberries

Make lemon curd: Whisk together zest, juice, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 6 minutes. Force lemon curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a wide shallow dish, scraping bottom of sieve, then cover surface with wax paper. Cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Make and bake crust: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Invert bottom of springform pan (to make it easier to slide cake off bottom), then lock on side. 3Stir together crust ingredients in a bowl, then press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of springform pan. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan and bake 10 minutes, then cool crust completely in springform pan on a rack.Make filling and bake cheesecake: Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.Beat together cream cheese and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in sour cream and vanilla until combined.

Pour two thirds of cream cheese filling into crust, then spoon half of lemon curd over filling and swirl curd into filling with a small knife. (Avoid touching crust with knife to prevent crumbs getting into filling.) Repeat with remaining filling and curd.

Bake cheesecake until set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center trembles when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes. (Center of cake will appear very loose but will continue to set as it cools.) Transfer springform pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen. Cool completely, about 2 hours, then chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours. Remove side of springform pan before serving.

Cooks' Notes:

Lemon curd can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered.

Crust (without filling) can be made 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature. Cheesecake can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 2 days. Cheesecake must be completely chilled before covering to prevent condensation on its surface.

Pour two thirds of cream cheese filling into crust, then spoon half of lemon curd over filling and swirl curd into filling with a small knife. (Avoid touching crust with knife to prevent crumbs getting into filling.) Repeat with remaining filling and curd.Bake cheesecake until set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center trembles when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes. (Center of cake will appear very loose but will continue to set as it cools.) Transfer springform pan to a rack and immediately run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen. Cool completely, about 2 hours, then chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours. Remove side of springform pan before serving.

Cooks' Notes: Lemon curd can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered. Crust (without filling) can be made 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature. Cheesecake can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 2 days. Cheesecake must be completely chilled before covering to prevent condensation on its surface.

Apple Peacan Salad

October's Better Homes and Gardens had a great section on Apple Recipes. This salad was amazing! The only thing we did different, was add some blue cheese. The dressing is really good too. I highly recommend this for thanksgiving if you are looking for a special green salad for the big day.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mom's Birthday Dinner

Let me start by saying I'm not worthy of my sister's culinary genius.
I put myself in charge of setting a date for the party (no small task!), inviting the guests and of course hosting the party at my home (read=cleaning the house). Our fabulous sister-in-law did an amazing job decorating and setting a gorgeous table (not to mention providing the talented wait staff). But April, she baked, marinated and cooked her booty off! Not only was everything delicious- it was beautiful! Our mom enjoyed the evening with her girlfriends—and we enjoyed dreaming about a future in party planning. To see the menu for the evening click here and the recipe for the risotto here. More recipes from the evening to come soon…

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Salad Dressing Challenge: Red Wine Vinaigrette

Red Wine Vinaigrette
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions: In blender, add all ingredients except the olive oil. With blender on, add oil in a slow, steady stream. Serve with favorite salad greens. Makes about 1 1/4 cups. Refrigerate any leftover dressing.

Recipe Review: This was a little too mustard-y for me. I choose this recipe because I thought the sugar would balance out the acidity. But I think I want something a little sweeter. I might try it again with only a teaspoon of mustard and a tablespoon of brown sugar.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making fresh flowers last for weeks

I love having fresh flowers on the dinner table. It makes dinner just a little more special. Since I’m lacking an Oprah like income level, this doesn’t happen all the time. But when I spring for a bouquet at Costco, or my hubby brings me flowers (or in this case, my sweet sister), I want to make them last.

I do this by 1.) changing the water often and 2.) picking out the dead or dying flowers and filling in with random greenery and blooms from my yard.

I don’t have a cutting garden, but just a few rose bushes and lots of shrubs. You can do this too by just thinking creatively. Here are two arrangements I stretched:

To this arrangement I added those blue flowers and the green berries from a shrub. I also filled in with the last few roses of the season. There weren’t enough to make a bouquet of their own, but mixed in they look fine.

After about half of the original bouquet had faded, I removed the dying flowers and added berries and leaves from a tree to the fall flowers I had been given.

Using a little creativity and what is growing in my yard I can stretch my flower arrangements for weeks…works for me!

For more “works for me Wednesday” tips, check out Shannon’s Blog- Rocks in my Dryer.

Mom's 60th Birthday Dinner

The Menu:

Rosemary/Lemon Roasted Chicken Breast
Butternut Squash Risotto
Green Bean Bundles
Salad Greens w/Caramelized Apples
Crunchy Baguette
Lemon Cheesecake w/Fresh Berries

Rosemary Topiary

I just picked up this rosemary topiary from Lowes last night. I replanted it in this pot I had (from my dead kumquat tree). Hopefully the rosemary fares better than the poor kumquat.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weekly Menu Plan

Sunday-Beef Stew with mashed potatoes
Monday-Orange Chicken, Asian veggies and rice
Tuesday-Chicken Spaghetti
Wednesday- Pork chops with apples, caramelized onions and sweet potatoes

Thursday- Mom's Birthday Dinner Party with her friends (April-post menu when you have time)
Friday-Date Night! (CSUF Football Game) Hallelujah!
Saturday-Dinner with our small group @ Michelle and Joe's
Sunday- Family Birthday dinner for mom (How does a couple different soups and bread sound?)

On the menu plan this week...

...Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti. It looks like a classic (although I've sworn off cream of anything soup, I think I can't resist trying this recipe. Click here for the recipe and step by step directions with pictures! Or a printable recipe card here. Her cooking blog is really fun so is her regular blog about life on a ranch. I'll let you know how we liked the Chicken Spaghetti.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Butternut Squash Risotto

How does this recipe look for mom's birthday dinner? I think it sounds delicious! I'm thinking I'll do a maple/lemon/rosemary chicken breast to go with the squash flavors...

A northern Italian specialty dating as far back as the Renaissance, risotto is traditionally served as a primo piatto (first course), after the antipasto. It is made from a high-starch rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli. The small grains become exceptionally creamy as the dish slowly simmers. Here, butternut squash puree and caramelized onions lend a mellow sweetness to the risotto.

7 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. minced fresh sage
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups butternut squash puree
2 Tbs. olive oil
2/3 cup caramelized onions
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbs. of the butter. Add 1 Tbs. of the sage and heat until the butter browns. Strain the butter into a small bowl and discard the sage. Cover the bowl to keep the butter warm.
  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the stock and squash puree. Bring just to a simmer, 8 to 10 minutes; maintain over low heat.
  • In a large saucepan or risotto pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the caramelized onions and rice and stir until the grains are well coated with the oil and are nearly translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. sage and the rosemary. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed.
  • Add the simmering stock mixture a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding more.
  • When the rice is tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center and looks creamy, after about 30 minutes, stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. butter, the cheese, salt and pepper. Add more stock if needed so the rice is thick and creamy. Let stand for 2 minutes. Drizzle with the reserved sage butter and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Roasted Acorn Squash

*Made this on Wednesday-it was great. (This is one of the recipes April made when she did the cooking demo for the MOMS group).

Roasted Acorn Squash

1 medium acorn squash
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
1 tablespoon Orange Juice
Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds and pulp. Slice squash in half rings and scatter on a baking sheet. Season squash with salt. Mix brown sugar, maple syrup, butter and orange juice to form a paste, coat squash with mixture. Toss squash to insure it covers all the squash.

Cook for 20-30 minutes until squash is tender and begins to brown.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In the pot tonight...

...spaghetti! This is really my ultimate comfort food. I think because it was one of the staples of our house growing up. It is the boys' favorite too and since they are up to some "real" food after a week of being sick I made a monster sized batch today. And it felt so productive to do something other than clean up vomit. I'm going to freeze most of the sauce for later though. I added diced carrots, celery, red bell peppers and zucchini. No one ever notices all those veggies hidden in there. [Have I ever mentioned this was the best gift I got for my 30th birthday?]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Dishes?

I'm in love with this Studio Dinnerware in Cocoa. I have two dinner plates so far and they mix in so well with my cream, sage and butter colored slah pieces. The warm coffee color really updates my dishes and I love mixing and matching place settings. I have a great coupon right now for pb, so maybe I can pick up a few more dinner and salad plates. Or put them on my Christmas list (hint-hint).

Mom’s Oatmeal Cookies

*Revised recipe (I sort of left out the sugar...) make sure you use the revised recipe below-
So remember when I asked you if mom’s oatmeal cookies called for butter and you said “I’m sure”…well, I knew there was something funny about that recipe. OIL! I had already softened my butter and put it in the mixer. So I went ahead and made them with butter. They aren’t as chewy as mom’s, but they are nice and fluffy (usually they are pretty flat). Of course I omitted the raisins and used chocolate chips. They were good with the butter, but next time I’ll use oil. For nostalgia.

Mom’s Oatmeal Cookies
½ c. oil
2 eggs
1/3 c. molasses
1 ¼ c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 ¾ c. flour
2 c. oats
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped walnuts

Mix oil, sugar and eggs. Sift flour, salt, soda and cinnamon and then add to mixture gradually. Add oats, raisins and nuts. Bake 400 for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy warm!


These have really brightened up my house! I especially love the little mini pumpkin things- it is a great fall bouquet!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Self Challange: Homemade Salad Dressing

I'm so tired of all the salad dressings we usually have. We eat salad almost every night (like you, right sissy?). I was making homemade ranch for awhile. It is really good- but high in calories and fat. For the last two weeks we've been eating the same walnut, apple and cranberry salad with Marie's poppy seed dressing. Everyday. Really. But we are out of poppy seed dressing and that combination was getting bor-ing! Any suggestions? I really want to master making my own vinaigrette. I need to pick up some dijon next week at the store... do you have a good recipe for one? What are your favorite dressings right now?

Ravioli w/creamy marinara sauce

So for dinner tonight I wanted to make something that my husband loves since it's the only night this week that I'm going to be cooking because we're heading out of town. So I made ravioli (whole wheat - healthy) with a great homemade marinara sauce that I decided to change into a cream sauce by adding a little cream in the last couple of minutes on the stove. Well, it was delicious! I asked my husband if he likes the sauce (because it's a little different than the thick meaty sauce I usually make). He says "yeah, what is it tomato soup?" I was very offended! I told him I would just pretend he didn't say that. Well despite the call from the in-laws right as we were sitting down to dinner which made it a little cold, it was a good dinner. Try the sauce; it's really tasty and great on ravioli.

Feel Better Chicken Noodle Soup

I make really good chicken noodle soup. There I said it. It's true. It's plain and simple and just what the doctor ordered when you are feeling a little sick. Or vomiting everywhere. So today I have two sickies- one is doing the former. I was feeling so inadequate to help him, so I made soup. He's not quite ready for it yet (still trying dry toast), but his little bro (AKA, "bottomless pit"), is eating it up as I type.

Sara’s Simple Chicken Noodle Soup

(Usually I make a big pot with a whole chicken, but today I made a small batch. Below is what I did today- but it could be doubled (or tripled with a whole chicken).

1 bone in chicken breast (could used boneless if that’s all you have)
2-3 t. chicken bullion {I don' use this anymore- did you know most bullion has msg?}
1/3 cup sliced carrots
1/3 cup slice celery
1/3 of a 16 oz. package of fresh fettuccine noodles, cut in 1 inch pieces {or egg noodles from the freezer section of the grocery store are even better!}

(I told you it was simple).

Cover chicken with four cold cups water. [You can add a few baby carrots, leftover onion chunks and some big pieces of celery with the leaves, but you can skip this step]. Simmer chicken for about 30 minutes. Remove chicken. Strain broth and return to pot. [Discard the veggies you added to the make the stock.] Add bullion to the broth and the sliced carrots and celery; simmer 15 minutes. Add the pasta; simmer another 7 minutes. Shred the chicken removing it from the bone and add to the soup. Salt and pepper to taste.

Notes: You can freeze the rest of the package of pasta for the next time you make this soup. During the winter I always keep fresh fettuccine in my freezer to have on hand. The fresh pasta makes all the difference. Enjoy!

The world's best Lemon Squares

Okay, so I'm making the best lemon bars you will ever start by making the lemon curd. Which I was going to purchase because I have a very busy couple of days and I was hoping to cut out a step. But, since I forgot to buy the lemon curd and I live 1 1/2 hours from the closest place to purchase it, I had to take the time to make it. Here is the recipe I used. I'll be back to tell you about the rest of the lemon to do some laundry and start dinner...I think I'm making Ravioli w/a creamy marinara sauce, salad and bread.

Lemon Curd
3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

Old Fashion Lemon Squares
1 Recipe Lemon Curd
2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Cup Butter
2/3 Cup Coconut
1/2 Cup Chopped Nuts (pecans/almonds)
Step 1
In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda. Cut in butter until crumbly, set aside 1 1/2 cups of flour mixture.
Step 2
For crust, press remaining flour into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 min. Cool on wire rack for 10 min.
Step 3
Reduce oven to 350 degrees spread lemon curd on crust. Combine set aside flour mixture w/coconut and nuts, sprinkle over lemon curd.
Step 4
Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden, cool on wire rack and cut into squares, enjoy!

You were born to do this...(and I was born to be your funny sidekick)

Thanks for visiting our MOMS Group and sharing your culinary skills and did a great job! I'm going to be posting some of your recipes later this week.

Blue Cheese Butter

Thanks for the tip sissy on finishing my filet mignon with some blue cheese butter. It was divine! Eric missed out- but I guess golfing for a good cause is worth it. :) Sam was so tired and fussed through most of dinner and was sent to his room. When he pulled himself together to come back to join us, he ate his beef dipped in sour cream. That's my boy! Now, I'm going to start that diet on Monday. Oh wait, today is Tuesday. I meant Tuesday.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

It was crazy how we were both craving these cookies on the same day last week. I tried your recipe (well, really) and it was just like I remember as a kid! For the second batch I skipped rolling them in sugar- don't skip this step! It adds just the right crunch (and sparkle!)

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
1 3/4 c. flour

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 tsp. soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. butter

1/2 c. peanut butter

1 egg

2 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine ingredients. Roll into balls, roll balls in sugar. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Top with chocolate Kiss immediately upon removal from oven.

Bean Soup and Beer Bread

For a day of football and laundry- I thought this dinner sounded easy. I used the Manischewitz mix and added the veggies it calls for (carrots, celery, onions and garlic) plus some smoked turkey sausage and a few bay leaves. For the beer bread I bought a mix from Target (I love their pantry items), but it is totally missing. I'm certain I left a bag at the store since my candy corn is missing too. [We have a serious problem with doing this at that blasted new Target]. Back to dinner...since I had mentioned beer bread and Eric had his heart set on it, he found a recipe in Joy of Cooking, which is his go-to book. Would you look in Joy for a BEER recipe? It called for 12 oz. of beer and we found a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in the back of the pantry that would work great. The only problem with the beer bread was it tasted like beer. ALOT. And the thing I hate about beer is, well, the taste. It was even too much for Eric who has enjoyed a beer or two in his day. So the beer bread went into the garbage after dinner. The soup was good. If you like bean soup. Good flavor overall, but I bet it will be even better tomorrow for lunch. In case you were wondering if the boys liked this dinner- they are both on the R.A.T. diet. Our pediatrician recommends this for diarrhea/upset stomach. They both seem to have the stomach flu going around. But tonight they chowed down on white rice, dry wheat toast and applesauce. I'm not sure I would have let them eat that beer bread anyway. :) I'm going to try to find a recipe like the Simply Delicious mix- it rocks (you can hardly taste the beer!).