Weekend Randoms (Spacebar Issues, Gone Girl)

July 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Deliciousness, Home, Life, Things I think | Leave a comment
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Just a few things that have been happening around here lately…

  • LC has pulled the spacebar off my keyboard twice now. I’ve been unable to get it properly reattached and as a result it frequently comes off and more frequently gets stuck, which really makes it a pain to type.  Spaces are unavoidable, you know!
  • It’s been so hot here this summer.  The forecast this week is 108 every single day. Wow. We’ve been going to playgroup, the library, and to the splash park to keep entertained, but playgroup has been so full lately that we were turned away one day last week, and barely made the cutoff the next. Clearly I need some backup ideas!
  • A friend recommended Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, so I gave it a try. I finished it in two days.  It was a great read and gave me a lot to think about afterward.  My friend and I had slightly differing opinions, though. I felt that the book was psychological thriller, while he thought it was a horror novel.  If you read the book, what did you think of it?  Do you think there is a “hero”? (I didn’t, but my friend did). This would definitely make an excellent book club pick.
  • Now I am reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block and the adbridged version of Douglas Southall Freeman’s Lee, the biography of Robert E. Lee. I’m not much for biographies usually, but my husband recommended it to me, so I’m giving it a shot. The jury is still out on the Toddler book.
  • On the TV front, we have been without cable for almost 3 months and I really don’t miss it. If we had an antenna, I think I would be set.  However, W can’t live without SEC football, so we’ll probably have it back by this time next month. Boo…I’ve enjoyed saving that money.
  • I made this Blueberry Crumble this week and it was soooo good.  I can’t wait to make it again!
Blueberry crumble

Photo credit Christopher Hirsheimer (http://thecanalhouse.com/)

  • I’ve had it with my spacebar, so I’m done typing for now!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

November 29, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Deliciousness, Family, Home | Leave a comment
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We’re in the holiday spirit here in the B household!  We had a nice low-key Thanksgiving at home for the first time since W and I have been together.  We spent our first Thanksgiving as an engaged couple in Korea.  For our first Thanksgiving as a married couple we drove 13 hours to visit W’s grandparents and the next year we saw the Lions play (my first pro football game!) and last year W was deployed so Duncan and I were here alone.  So, even though we couldn’t be with our families this year, I was really looking forward to just being home and eating turkey at my own table.

I restrained myself from making ALL the sides I’d normally love, but we had a delicious meal nonetheless.  We feasted on:

  • Bourbon-Molasses Glazed Turkey
  • Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes
  • Sauteed Carrots with Sage
  • Apple Cornbread Stuffing
  • Crescent Rolls (from a can, y’all)
  • Pumpkin Crunch Cake

We got most of the Christmas decorations up this weekend and I finally finished my Advent wreath last night (only a day late!) after multiple trips to Michaels/Hobby Lobby.  We have a faux tree this year for several reasons, but I REALLY miss having a real tree.  Growing up we’d always drive to a tree farm and cut down our own tree.  I’d really like to do that with LC when we actually live somewhere where trees grow :)  I also loved driving around to look at lights after the Christmas Eve service and having our special Christmas Eve “party” where everyone got to pick their favorite appetizer and we’d eat the appetizers and Christmas cookies and fudge for dinner.wreath

Now that we have a baby I’m really looking forward to creating our own family traditions.  What are some of your favorite Christmas/holiday traditions?

Pumpkin Pancakes

September 18, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Posted in Deliciousness | Leave a comment
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One of the best things about fall, maybe even THE best thing about fall, is the abundance of pumpkin-everything.  I get abnormally excited over the appearance of Little Debbie’s Pumpkin Delights, and I may or may not already be on my second box of the season.  Given my obsession with love of pancakes, it’s only normal that I look forward to pumpkin pancakes this time every year. But I somehow always manage to miss them at IHOP, and so when Serena at Big Apple Nosh announced that this month’s NoshGirl Party was weekend breakfast, I knew that now was the time to try them at home.

Best enjoyed with coffee with toffee nut creamer. Yum!

I started with this recipe from food.com. Yes, I started with Bisquick.  I hate to say it, but Bisquick has given me consistent results when other recipes have failed me. It’s been a good standby to have when I don’t want to have to guess whether my breakfast is going to turn out.  But I promise, once this box is gone, I’m going to make my own baking mix to keep on hand for my Sunday morning pancake fix.

Here’s my adaptation of the recipe:

  • 2 1/3 cups Bisquick
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let stand 10 minutes.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and ladle a scant 1/4 cup batter per pancake.  Cook until edges are dry, flip and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Keep warm on an ovenproof plate or baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.  Serve with butter and your favorite syrup. Enjoy!

Mag Review: Cooking Light

August 26, 2011 at 5:19 am | Posted in Deliciousness, Things I think | Leave a comment
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Up until recently, I never got the whole “lite cooking” phenomenon. I thought, if you’re going to make or eat something delicious you might as well go all the way–full fat, full everything. And then, in October 2008 we got married, and I very quickly gained the Newlywed 9 (or 10, or 11). I wasn’t overweight, per se, but my clothes barely fit.  I was miserable at my sister’s wedding, where my bridesmaid dress, ordered months before, barely zipped.  Near the end of June 2009, my husband and I bit the bullet and signed up with a personal trainer at our local Bally’s.  It sounds cliche, but our trainer, Tina, really changed the way we approached fitness.  For someone who loves food as much I do, it was not easy to hear that a big part of what we’d be working on was changing our eating habits.

For 3 or 4 months, I kept a daily food journal.  My goal was supposed to be somewhere between 1300-1500 calories daily, based on my personal needs.  I had never counted calories before, and it wasn’t easy.  The number of chain restaurants who don’t publish nutritional information is frustrating, and for those that do, actually seeing that information is mind-blowing!

Enter Cooking Light magazine.  I knew I had to change the way I cooked if I wanted to be continued to be motivated to eat healthy.  One night at Borders (RIP), I happened to pick up a copy of Cooking Light.  The cover featured pizza (my all-time favorite, next to pancakes!) and the issue highlighted comfort foods made healthier.  I was hooked.

There are several features that I really like.  The first is Super Fast–meals that can be made in 20 minutes. And the best part is that they really CAN be made that fast (I’m looking at you, Rachael Ray). *EDIT* I started this post awhile ago, and, having cooked my way through many issues since, can say that this is not always true.  Many of the 20 minute meals call for prechopped ingredients, which are either hard to find or are much more expensive, and at least for my wallet, not an option.

There’s also a Dinner Tonight section that offers weeknight meals that can be made in 30 or 40 minutes, for nights when I feel like putting forth a little more effort :) My one gripe with this section is that while recipes for an entree and a side dish are provided, only the nutritional information for the entree is provided.  So if the chicken is 370 calories, I want to know what the potatoes are going to cost me too! *EDIT* I must not have been the only one with this complaint.  Happily, this feature has been updated to also list the nutritional info for the sides.

This magazine is definitely geared toward women, with a fitness/beauty section that sometimes feels a little out of place (an article about highlights, really?), but I do enjoy perusing the food-related shopping feature for gift ideas (for others and myself).  This year they’ve been featuring a different healthy habit each month and educating their readers about ways to incorporate that idea into their lifestyle.  For example, eating more (sustainable) fish, or going veggie once a week.  It’s a nice reminder not to focus on just one thing (counting calories or eating lots of fiber), and that being healthy is multi-faceted.  Mark Bittman also has a column focused on using less meat, which I always look forward to.

It’s now been two years since I first began cooking from this magazine, and I still look forward to each issue’s arrival in my mailbox.   I’m no longer strictly counting calories, but I am trying to eat mindfully.  Every month, I can always find at least a handful of recipes that I’m inspired to make.  While I frequently try new recipes, many of my standbys and favorites are CL recipes.  I’ve got my mom and sister on the CL bandwagon as well, which is fun. It’s nice to compare which things they’ve tried vs which things I’ve tried, and we enjoy sharing any tweaks we’ve made. In two years, there have been repeats: I’ve sometimes wondered how many versions of pizza margherita they can publish, and recently in two back-to-back issues they featured a veggie pizza that was almost identical save for a couple of small changes.  Overall, though, I’m still finding many new recipes and ideas to try and enjoy.  Cooking Light has saved me many times from just ordering a pizza or falling back into my old ways of just cooking anything and not thinking about how nutritional it is.  As long as they continue to innovate, they can count me as a friend and subscriber.

Cinnamon Oat Pancakes

August 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Posted in Deliciousness | Leave a comment

Pancakes are probably most definitely my favorite food.  I love them plain, smothered in butter and syrup, reheated with a smear of butter and a spoonful of sugar and folded over like a pancake-taco.  Favorite variations include blueberry (with berries in the cakes, none of that gloppy compote on top), chocolate chip, pumpkin, and gingerbread.

On the weekends, I usually make blueberry or chocolate chip, but last week I decided to make breakfast for dinner and wanted something a little different.  I came across this recipe from Martha Stewart, which was a definite winner.  The oatmeal in the batter makes them seem healthier than your average pancake, although I haven’t done a nutritional analysis to compare.  I stayed pretty close to the original recipe as I usually do when making something for the first time, with the exception of adding in a capful of vanilla. I’m unsure of whether I’d use any whole wheat flour the next time I make them (and there WILL be a next time); I worry that they might lose their light quality and become a little too leaden.  We shall see!

This sweet-tooth queen liked that the pancakes weren’t super-sweet, and they were delicious with butter (Brummel and Brown in our case) and honest-to-goodness maple syrup, but ALSO: loved them as a snack the next day heated in the toaster, spread with a bit of butter and jam. Love!!

My tips for making pancakes that turn out well:

  • I know a lot of people like cast iron, but I’ve come to favor my 12-inch All-Clad skillet.
  • Start with a hot pan, but not too hot.  I usually heat mine on med-med high and turn it down after the first batch or two.
  • Don’t overcrowd! In my 12-inch skillet, I can do three at a time comfortably.  Have patience–a batch goes fairly quickly.
  • A scant 1/4 cup of batter makes a good sized pancake in my book.  You don’t want the pancakes to be so large that they cook unevenly.
  • A flexible turner is key…I usually use this one by OXO.
  • I keep my pancakes warm in a 200-degree oven as I go.

Here’s how they turned out! (I’ll spare you the process shots, I’m sure you know how to measure and mix a batter).

Can't wait to make these again!

Chocolate Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

June 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Deliciousness | Leave a comment
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A few good things have been happening around here  lately (more about them soon), but one of the best has got to be these cookies.  My manager at Fancy-Schmancy Cooking Store shared them with me, and I can’t believe it took me so  long to get around to making them!

Cast of characters incomplete

Very easy to make.  First, mix together your dry ingredients.

Melt butter and add brown sugar. Beat with a hand mixer to combine.  Beat in dry ingredients.  Add cherries, vanilla, and eggs. Fold in chocolate.

This kitchen scale changed my life.

Fold in that chocolate!

Scoop onto a silpat or parchment with your favorite scooping utensil, bake for 10-12 mins (my oven always runs hot).  Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.  I highly recommend them warm out of the oven!

Just out of the oven!

Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:

Audee’s Chocolate Cherry Heart Smart Cookies

1.5 ounces all-purpose flour (~1/3 cup)*
1.5 ounces whole-wheat flour (~1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
6 T. unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 c. dried cherries
1 t. vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.  Preheat oven to 350
2.  Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.
Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl;
stir with a whisk.
3.  Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat; add
brown sugar, stirring until smooth.  Add sugar mixture to flour mixture;
beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.
Add cherries, vanilla, and egg; beat until combined.  Fold in chocolate.
Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment.  Bake at 350 for 10- 12 minutes.  Cool on pans 3 minutes or until almost firm.  Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire rack.
Yield: 30 cookies
*I highly recommend using a baking scale.  The recipe calls for 1.5 oz flour; when I used my 1/3 measuring cup, I ended up with around 2 oz.  I’m not sure if the extra half-ounce would make a huge difference in this case, but I find it better to be more precise when it comes to baking.

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