Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has a safe and very happy new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Survived Christmas!

I feel like I've been away from my blog for too long. But the past week is a serious blur. Squeezing in time to sleep was tough, let alone blogging. Between school parties, choir concerts, wrapping presents, welcoming out of state relatives and keeping kids under control, I'm surprised I can even think straight enough to write a post. But it was all so much fun, even if it will take me till next summer to recover.

Besides enjoying the heck out of the gift giving and the looks on the kids' faces at present time, I loved baking this year. Giving cookie boxes and trays as gifts is lots of fun. Like I said before, I did start early this year with the baking, so to make up for the extra time I had from baking so early, I made more cookies than I needed, lol. The two top pictures are from the cookie trays I sent to our local library (what a great bunch of people!) and to my husband's work.

This is Santa's share of cookies on Christmas Eve. If you look closely, you can see that someone stole a red candy before Santa could even get to the cookies. I think that was ok with Santa, though. He had more than his fair share of cookies the week before Christmas (wink, wink).

This is the Gingerbread house the kids and their cousins built. I try to snag one each year so they have something to keep them busy. Anything to keep those little hands out of trouble!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

"Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for - I don't know what exactly, but it's something that you don't mind so much not having at other times."
-Kate L. Bosher

"Roses are reddish
Violets are bluish
If it weren't for Christmas
We'd all be Jewish."
-Benny Hill

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I can't believe it's here. At first I thought it would never get here and now it is Christmas Eve already. The kids are so restless waiting for their cousins to get here and for the party to start. I can't blame them. I was up early this morning myself, anxious to start the day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and very Merry Christmas and that the day helps create some cherished memories. And don't forget to eat your fair share of sweets. After all, it is Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

M&M Shortbread Cookies

M & M's and Christmas together? What could possibly be more natural? I think M & M's go with anything really. Shortbread cookies are no exception. I really wanted to find a cookie with lots of color for the cookie gifts I'm making this year, and this recipe worked out very well. And it's delicious and easy too. I made an initial batch to test the recipe out, since I've never made them before. I froze the cookies and tested one after a few days. M & M's freeze very well :) I'm glad I found a new favorite cookie to add to the others I make every year!

M&M Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup M&M's, any color

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla well using an electric mixer. Gradually blend in flour and corn starch.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Gently flatten each cookie using fingers or the flat bottomed drinking glass (dip in sugar to prevent sticking). Place M&M's on top of cookies.*

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown. Cool for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack. Cool completely.

*You can blend the M&M's into the batter instead of placing them on top.

"I'm not overweight, just chocolate enriched."
-popular bumper sticker

Monday, December 15, 2008

White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake

I was looking for a hostess gift for my hubby's supervisor, who throws an annual Christmas party at her home for all the managers from work. In previous years, we usually brought a good wine or something similar. I didn't want to bring the same thing again this year. I thought about it for a few weeks and had no idea what to bring. Then I saw this recipe in one of the emails I get from Paula Deen's site. Perfect! It was a breeze to make. I even made it a few weeks ahead of time and froze it. It worked out great and I wasn't pressured to make it the day before the party. I wish I could tell you what it tastes like, but I made the hostess promise not to share it if she didn't want to. She had a piece, though, before the party was over and gave it rave reviews. Whew! Now maybe I gave the hubby a better chance for a raise at work :)

White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake

1 (16 oz) can whole berry cranberry sauce
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 (4 oz) bar white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (I used good quality white chocolate chips, melted)
2 cups fresh cranberries (optional)
1/4 cup cranberry preserves, melted (optional) (I could not find cranberry preserves so I used strawberry)

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook cranberry sauce for 35 minutes, stirring frequently until reduced to 1 cup. Cover and chill 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and melted butter. Press firmly on bottom and 1 inch up sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in melted white chocolate.

Spoon 1/2 of batter into prepared pan. Spread reduced cranberry sauce over batter. Top with remaining batter. Bake 45 minutes or until almost set. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Chill 8 hours before serving. Can be frozen for up to 1 month. To serve, garish with fresh cranberries and brush with melted preserves, if desired.

"What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day."
-Phyllis Diller

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Season's First Snowman

Ok, he's not exactly a picture perfect snowman, but we tried! It's about 50 degrees today and the snow is all melty-like, so it's easy to form and makes great snowballs and snowmen. We didn't have any coal for the buttons or eyes, so my husband brought out the spray paint. I never thought you could spray paint snow, but it works. Go figure!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is It Christmas Yet?

I sure hope we get a snow like this at Christmas! Knowing how it usually works, it'll snow like this until Christmas then the temps will hit 70 on Christmas Eve :) So I'm enjoying the beautiful white stuff while it lasts.

"When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, we hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, and etched on vacant places are half-forgotten faces of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know."
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."
-Jeff Valdez

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy 12th Birthday, Baby Girl

Happy 12th birthday to my baby girl! I know everyone says it, but I can't believe you have grown up so fast. From my littlest to my tallest, you have been a joy, a source of pride and my little spitfire. I love you so much. Have a wonderful day!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

After baking all weekend, one of the better cookies I made was these Chocolate Crinkle Cookies (say that five times fast!). I'm always a little unnerved trying new recipes, especially ones found on the Internet. But these cookies were easy and tasted great. The cool, soft taste of powdered sugar on the outside with the fudgy inside was a delicious combination. There was a surprising depth to the chocolate too. I was a bit impatient with the refrigeration time, so my cookies are wider than they should be. Whoops!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 cup melted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
3 tsps. vanilla
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, melted chocolate, vanilla and granulated sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture one spoonful at a time, incorporating after each addition. Chill dough overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll teaspoons full of dough into small balls then drop into the confectioners' sugar to coat. Place coated chocolate balls onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, being careful to not over bake. Allow to rest for 2 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool. Makes approx. 60 cookies.

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall."
-Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

Friday, December 5, 2008

Molasses Spice Cookies

Oh, the Christmas baking has begun! I finally got smart this year and started early. In the past, I always waited until the last minute because I had no idea you could freeze most cookies. Duh! But now that I've got a clue, these were the first cookies I started with. I've never made them before because spicy cookies never really interested me. But after tasting these, I can't figure out why I never tried them! They are so delicious! Crunchy on the outside, chewy inside and the sugar on top make for one heck of a tasty cookie. I've seen so many versions of this cookie, but this one is the simplest.

Molasses Spice Cookies

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup of sugar plus 2 tablespoons
4 tablespoons dark molasses
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, beat shortening, egg, 1 cup sugar, and molasses just until blended. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Add slowly to wet mix until blended. Place remainder of sugar in small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, dip in sugar (you can roll completely in sugar, if you want). Place on lightly sprayed baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until brown on bottom and cracked on top.

"Slow as molasses in January."

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month."
-Harlan Miller

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One Word

I haven't got any recipes to post today. I'm busy gearing up for the tons of holiday baking I'll be doing in the coming weeks. I'm hoping to share some of the recipes from our family classics as well as any new recipes that turn out good. So instead of a recipe, I do have a new meme my sister sent to me that I thought I'd share. I just love memes!

Use only one word answers. It's harder than you think!

1. Where is your cell phone? pocketbook
2. Your significant other? working
3. Your hair? reddish
4. Your mother? confused
5. Your father? distant
6. Your favorite thing? kids
7. Your dream last night? disjointed
8. Your favorite drink? tea
9. Your dream/goal? moving
10. The room you're in? living
11. Your fear? dying
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Virginia
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you're not? rested!
15. Muffins? yuck
16. One of your wish list items? chocolate
17. Where you grew up? Virginia
18. The last thing you did? clean
19. What are you wearing? jeans
20. Your TV? off
21. Your pet? dogs
22. Your computer? laptop
23 Your life? good
24. Your mood? tired
25. Missing someone? brother
26. Your car? great!
27. Something you're not wearing? bikini!
28. Favorite Store? Wal-Mart
29. Your summer? busy
30. Favorite color? blue
31. When is the last time you laughed? dinner
32. Last time you cried? weekend
33. Who will/would re-post this? friends

Monday, December 1, 2008

Eggnog Custard Pie

If you like custard, you'll love this pie. Making something different for Thanksgiving has become a goal of mine each year. I made the traditional pies too, both pecan pie and pumpkin pie (see below). For something a little different, I've started making the pecan pie chocolate, but that is hardly radical! But this year, I wanted something completely different than the usual choices and this recipe was just the thing. And because of the eggnog, this pie is good for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Eggnog Custard Pie

1 (9-inch) unbaked piecrust
2 cups eggnog
3 eggs
2 tablespoons brandy or rum (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. brandy, rum or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick holes in bottom of pie crust. Bake 15 minutes till partially cooked.

To make filling, beat eggnog, eggs, brandy or rum (if using), and vanilla in large bowl. Add sugar, salt and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour into pie crust.

Bake for 25 minutes then cover with foil and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean (center will be a bit soft, this is ok as long as the knife comes out clean).

To make topping, beat whipping cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add confectioners' sugar and brandy or rum. Beat until stiff peaks form. Garnish pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serves 8.

"We never make sport of religion, politics, race or mothers. A mother never gets hit with a custard pie. Mothers-in-law-yes. But mothers-never."
-Mack Sennett

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

Thankful list:
1. For health, which if you have, you are truly rich.
2. Family, good or bad, you gotta love 'em.
3. For my home. So many don't have one this year.
4. Friends. I could not live without mine. They make me laugh and help me keep my sanity, everyday, in real life and on my blog.
5. Living in the U.S. We are so privileged.
6. God. If I didn't have my beliefs, I wouldn't have anything.
I hope everyone has much to be thankful for this year. Have a great day and eat a lot!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creamy Broccoli Salad

The other day, I splurged a bit and bought broccoli crowns instead of the whole stalk broccoli. Yeah, I really do consider that a splurge, especially these days with the economy in the pits and all. But anyway, I got the craving to make broccoli salad, right in the middle of the coldest temps we've had in a long time! But it just sounded so appealing with the tangy dressing, plump raisins, and the crunch of the vegetables. I have a very good basic recipe in my Best of the Best from Virginia cookbook but I altered it a bit to fit the ingredients I had on hand. I'll put the real recipe here, and add my alterations on the side. Enjoy!

Creamy Broccoli Salad

1 large head broccoli (or two smaller crowns)
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (used 1 cup thinly sliced carrots instead)
5 greens onions, sliced (used diced red onion, about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped English walnuts
1 cup mayo (I used low fat)
2 tablespoons vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1/4 cup sugar

Wash broccoli thoroughly and cut off flowerets into bite size pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add bacon (or carrots), onions, raisins and nuts. Combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Add dressing to broccoli mixture and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours.

"I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."

-George Bush, U.S. President (1990)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mini Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

Sometimes recipes found on the back of food packages are the best ones. This recipe caught my eye after I bought a package of mini chocolate morsels that were on sale. I had no idea what I was going to do with the mini morsels until I saw the recipe. It just sounded so different than the usual that I had to try it. The flavors of banana and chocolate with the cake-like texture of the bars reminded me of a very sweet version of banana bread. And this recipe made so many bars that we had some at home and shared with everyone at hubby's workplace.

Mini Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 large egg
2 cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan.

Mix flour, baking power and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Beat in bananas and the egg. Gradually add flour mixture until just blended. Add mini chocolate chips. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until butter knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.

Makes about 6 dozen. Recipe from Nestle Toll House.

"My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana. I said 'No, but I want a regular banana later, so... yeah.'"
-Mitch Hedberg, American Comedian, 1968-2005

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Little Of Everything Meme

Country Dew (Blue Country Magic) had an interesting meme she posted earlier this week that I just had to steal. It really doesn't have a theme but instead touches on a little of everything. If anyone is interested, please feel free to copy and post!

1. What do you do before bedtime? After the kiddies are in bed, which takes most of the evening :), I usually talk with my husband about how our days went (this is harder on the nights he works late). Then we try to watch a movie or catch up on a favorite T.V. show. We usually get less than an hour before one of us is falling asleep! Once I'm in bed, that is my time to read in peace. I'm reading J.D. Robb's latest In Death book. What a great series!

2. What is your favorite sound? My kids laughing. Every once in a while, one of them will laugh at something and it's more than just a giggle; it's a pure pleasure, joyful kind of laugh. To me, it sounds like how an angel would laugh.

3. What were your childhood fears? I had lots of them, mostly centered around my parents who abused me. I was afraid of dying or being left alone to fend for myself. I was afraid of other adults, esp. mean ones. Separating the abuse and real fears all kids get is hard to do for me.

4. What place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back? I usually vacation in most of the places I love like the ocean, Williamsburg, West Virginia and Virginia. One of my favorite places to go is back to Danville, Va where I grew up. And I would love to visit Savannah, Ga someday. I heard it's beautiful.

5. What has made you unhappy these days? I worry about the economy, not so much about job loss as trying to keep within our budget and making the bills and food money stretch. Because my husband works in social services, he isn't usually targeted when job cuts become an issue, though it can happen. But we are always scraping by because the pay is so poor. I also worrying that we are growing out of our house. We have one small bathroom and 5 people. It's a little tight! But I'm grateful we have a home so I try not to dwell on it.

6. What websites do you visit daily? My own blog as well as my favorite blogs on my blog list. Most days I visit Ebay and City-Data forum. Sometimes Youtube and always Google.

7. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head? John Mayer's CD Heavier Things has two songs- Clarity and Bigger than my body. I was listening to the CD today while I cleaned the house and both songs got stuck in my head.

8. What’s your favorite item of clothing? I have a thin, dark gray jacket with a hood that goes great over a simple white t-shirt or turtleneck. I also like my Levi's 550 jeans.

9. What is your dream for the future? I really want my kids to grow up healthy and happy. Boring, I know but I can't help it! I hope I can be there when they have kids too. I also would love to move back home. My dream of raising my kids in the South is pretty much shot, but I would still love to have them experience it with me and also so they could be closer to their cousins and other family.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chocolate Bar Bundt Cake

Talk about a chocolate fix! When I first saw this cake on Dozen Flours blog, I thought I was in heaven. In the same week, I saw a recipe for a regular chocolate bundt cake that got rave reviews over on I decided to try and combine the two and see what happened. Oh, did it turn out delicious! And versatile. Ingredients can be added or switched if you want the same basic cake but a slightly different taste each time you make it. I'm adding the different ingredients and ideas throughout the recipe so you can choose for yourself. Have fun!

Chocolate Bar Bundt Cake

1 box (18 oz) yellow or fudge cake mix, either with pudding in the mix or plain
1 (3.5) instant chocolate pudding (if you use the plain cake mix only!)
1 1/3 cup water
1/2 vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large (over 10 oz) milk chocolate bar, with or without nuts
1 cup mini chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bundt pan with cooking spray and dust with flour. Set aside.
Mix cake mix, water, oil and eggs in a bowl and beat for 1 to 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape bowl well. Add mini chocolate chips. Stir.

Break chocolate bar into small pieces into a microwave safe bowl. Melt on 50% power for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until almost melted. Stir until completely melted.

Remove 1 cup of cake batter slowly add the melted chocolate to temper it. Then stir into the rest of the cake batter, mixing on medium speed until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned and center springs back when touched. Cool 10 minutes then invert onto rack to cool.


7 to 10 oz. milk chocolate bar (you can add some dark chocolate if you prefer)
2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening

Melt chocolate and shortening together in a microwave safe bowl on half power. Stir until completely melted. Pour over cake. Decorate with chips, nuts, sprinkles, etc.

"Come over to the dark side...we have candy."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Tis the season for everything pumpkin, and this includes seeds. Can't waste those, right? I've only roasted seeds one time before, when the kids brought home a recipe from school. They didn't like how the seeds turned out, so we didn't use that recipe again. This time, I used a recipe I found on the Internet and modified to our taste. It made some very addicting roasted seeds!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 cup butter, melted
Seeds from about 3 pumpkins (3 to 4 cups), cleaned in very warm water
1 to 2 tablespoons garlic salt
2 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Clean seeds and place in large bowl. Add butter and spices. Stir very well. Line a 15 x 10 cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spread seeds out on pan. Place in oven and bake for approx. 20 minutes or until very dry and slightly browned. Cool and store in large plastic bag.

"Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth."
-Susan Taylor

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Veteran’s Day Tribute

When America had an urgent need,
These brave ones raised a hand;
No hesitation held them back;
They were proud to take a stand.

They left their friends and family;
They gave up normal life;
To serve their country and their God,
They plowed into the strife.

They fought for freedom and for peace
On strange and foreign shores;
Some lost new friends; some lost their lives.
In long and brutal wars.

Other veterans answered a call
To support the ones who fought;
Their country had requirements for
The essential skills they brought.

We salute each and every one of them,
The noble and the brave,
The ones still with us here today,
And those who rest in a grave.

So here’s to our country’s heroes;
They’re a cut above the rest;
Let’s give the honor that is due
To our country’s very best.

By Joanna Fuchs

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fun Personality Test

I saw this on Blue Country Magic's (Country Dew's) blog and tried it out. I think it's pretty accurate!

The Castle Personality Test

You are a bit tentative when it comes to new experiences. You have to push yourself to try new things, but once you do, you love the adventure.

You like to think that people see you as dramatic and fascinating. You do your best to seem mysterious.

You are a very realistic person. You see the world as it is, flaws and all.

Right now, you feel very trapped in your life. You often feel like there is no way out of your rut.

Overall, your life is well managed and fulfilling. You enjoy every day, even if nothing out of the ordinary happens.

You aren't optimistic about the future. You worry about what will happen to the world and if we'll be able to clean up the messes we've made.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Light Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

How can low fat, low calorie taste so good?! This recipe was on MSN last week and I could not resist. Pumpkin in any form fits in perfect with Fall and Thanksgiving. These cupcakes, along with being light, are moist and flavorful. I was very surprised when I tried the first one. Everyone in the family had one or two then I sent the rest to work with my husband, where they got rave reviews.
You've got to try these!

Light Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes


2 1/2 cake flour, not self rising
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup light corn-oil spread, trans fat free (I used Smart Balance canola oil instead)
1 can (15 ounce) pure pumpkin, not mix
2/3 cup egg beaters (I used 1 container plus 1 regular egg to equal 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup low fat or fat free milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract


2 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup light cream cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans, optional


Preheat oven 350 degrees and line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, all spice, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and spread/oil at low speed for about 2 minutes, scraping bowl often.

Increase mixer speed to medium and beat in pumpkin, egg substitute, milk and vanilla. Reduce mixer to low speed and add flour mixture until just blended.

Spoon batter into lined cupcake cups, filling about half way. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove cupcakes and let cool on rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Mix at low speed until blended then increase speed to medium and mix 2 minutes.

Spread icing on cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with pecans, if desired.

Makes about 24 very yummy cupcakes.

"I've learned there are three things you don't discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."
-Linus, The Great Pumpkin

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Welcome Anubis!

Here is the newest member of our family, Anubis. He is a German Shepherd Mix we bought from the Western Pa Humane Society this past weekend. He is about 2 years old (vet's guess) and was a stray in a local county, so no one knows his history. My husband was missing his dog, Romulas, who I've posted about before. When Romulas died, my husband could not face getting another dog for the longest time. But recently, I've caught him looking on the Internet at pictures of black German Shepherds and talking about dogs a lot, so I kind of figured he might be getting ready to get another dog.

The thing is, my husband has always been interested in pure bred dogs and would never consider a shelter dog. But the last two pure bred dogs were not exactly easy to deal with, so this time he was willing to look at a shelter dog. Shelter dogs have too many good points to pass up- most are housebroken, behavior is already known and some are even trained, depending where they came from. Because the hubby wanted a dog that "picked" him, we had to search high and low. We looked in Winchester, Va while on vacation, and all around Pa. I was beginning to feel we lived at some of these shelters for as often as we went! After a few months searching and no dog "spoke" to him, the hubby was ready to give up when we saw Anubis on line at the Humane Society.

Anubis was named Tony and Reggie by the staff at the Humane Society. Why he had two names, no one could explain, but it was a blessing in disguise for us. Since he was never used to being called one name he took fast to his new name, Anubis, which we came up with on the way home from the Humane Society. If you look at the picture above, you can see the resemblance to the Egyptian god Anubis. Plus, my kids used to call our last dog "Bus" because they couldn't say Romulas when they were little. Anubis became A- New- Bus.

Anubis seems to be happy in his new home. He loves rawhide, running in the yard, riding in the car and sleeping next to us at night. What a good dog! After our experience, I have to encourage anyone considering a dog to try the shelter!

"If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them."
-Phil Pastoret

"We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment."
-George Eliot

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spooky Pizza

My middle daughter is having a Halloween party tomorrow at school and she asked me if I'd make something special for it. Last year, I made scary dirt pudding with marshmallow ghosts and gummy worms. It was a great recipe, but keeping it cold (because of the milk in the pudding) was challenging! This year, I spotted a recipe from Kraft that was not only easy, but looked like lots of fun to make. With all the gummy worms and bugs, I think this one is definitely for the kids!

Spooky Pizza

16 Oreo cookies, divided
1 pkg. brownie mix (I made my own recipe for brownies, but I would use the mix if I had it!)
1 1/4 cups miniature marshmallows
white decorator icing (or mix 1 cup of confectioner's sugar with a few Tablespoons of milk until thick)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop 8 Oreos and set aside. Prepare brownies and spread into a greased 14 inch pizza pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Sprinkle marshmallows over hot brownie and bake 3 to 5 minutes more until partially melted. Immediately sprinkle chopped Oreos over marshmallows. Let cool.
Decorate remaining cookies with decorating icing to resemble tombstones, ghosts, etc. Let icing dry. Decorate pizza with gummy worms, gummy bugs, etc. Stand decorated cookies up around pizza gently pressing into marshmallows.

"Hold on, man. We don't go anywhere with "scary," "spooky," "haunted," or "forbidden" in the title."
-From Scooby-Doo

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Brrrr, It's Snowing!

It's October and it's snowing. I can hardly believe it. At first, it was just a few flakes almost too hard to see. Then it started coming down like rain. I never thought it would stick on the ground, considering it was in the high 50's just over the weekend and the ground was still warm from summer, but stick it did.

It looked more like January than October. The kids quickly put on gloves, coats, mittens and snow boots and ran outside to play.

It's hard to believe I just picked these tomatoes out of our garden not two weeks ago. I wonder if this means a cold, snowy winter?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Sleep, Please!

I have been so lazy the past few days. I haven't done any baking or cooking outside of the usual everyday meals. I have no motivation to keep up with the house or do any of the other requirements of my job. I think it has to do with the cold weather that has arrived in the past week. Everyone around me is yawning and wishing they could go back to bed, me included. Thank goodness for daylight savings time this weekend. One more hour of sleep sounds like heaven right now. And maybe it'll jump start my motivation!

"In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel "burnout" setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective."
-Dalai Lama

"The best time to listen to a politician is when he's on a stump on a street corner in the rain late at night when he's exhausted. Then he doesn't lie."
-Theodore H. White

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Five

I'm in the mood to do something fun today and I thought I might try a meme. If you want to participate, please copy and complete on your blog. Have fun!

5 Things Found In My pocketbook
grocery store receipts
hand sanitizer
cell phone

5 Things I would do today if I could
read a book
eat (a lot!)
laugh (a lot!)

5 Things I love about my life
my kids
my husband
my health
my freedom
my sister and brother

5 Things I’ve Always Wanted To Do
bake professionally
own a successful business
visit Europe
move back home
have a big family

5 Things I enjoy the most
dinner and a good movie
laughing with my kids

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Forty Clove Garlic Chicken

Every time I have thought about posting this wonderful recipe, I would think about how the picture of the chicken would turn out all pale looking and unappealing, and I'd post something else. This time, I'm jumping in with both feet. This is too good of a dish to pass up. The more I make this chicken, the more I love it. Most people, like I used to, will steer clear of so much garlic in one sitting. But once the garlic is roasted, it loses it's sharpness and becomes sweet and savory. If there is any garlic left over from this dish, I save it for Italian bread. Just warm it up and spread on with a bit of butter. Unbelievable!

Forty Clove Garlic Chicken

2 to 3 heads of garlic, about 40 cloves
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed if frozen
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup chicken broth, preferable low sodium

Peel away the papery outer skin of the garlic. Don't peel the cloves.

Pat chicken dry. In a large 10-inch skillet, heat oil and 1 Tablespoon of the butter over med-high heat. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper. When chicken is brown on one side, turn over and salt and pepper other side. Add garlic around the chicken breasts. Add the wine, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until juices run clear.
With a slotted spoon, remove chicken and garlic to a serving platter. Remove bay leaf.

To make sauce: Skim any fat from pan. Add 1 cup broth and boil until reduced by half. Remove skillet from heat and add remaining 1 Tablespoon butter. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

"There is no such thing as a little garlic."
-Arthur Baer

“Without garlic I simply would not care to live.”
-Louis Diat (1885-1958)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Fun

On our trip to Virginia, we picked up some nice pumpkins to carve as well as a new kit called Pumpkin Surface Carver. I'd never seen anything like it before. The kit comes with two plastic carvers each with a U shaped and a V shaped small metal attachment, a booklet full of patterns and glow in the dark paint. You tape the pattern you want onto the pumpkin and punch out the holes outlining the pattern. Then you use the carvers to carve out the surface of the pumpkin. When you are done, you use rubbing alcohol to seal the design and let it dry for 24 hours. Then you can apply the glow in the dark paint inside the design. The result is a really cool glow in the dark pumpkin and very happy kids!

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."
-Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 17, 2008

Double Mocha Iced Brownies

Got a craving for chocolate and coffee? These brownies will satisfy even the worst craving and then some. The favors of chocolate, mocha and cream cheese blend together into one very rich treat. All you need is a glass of cold milk. Yum! Thank you to Dozen Flours for the basic recipe. I changed it around a bit to add my own ideas.

Double Mocha Iced Brownies

Chocolate topping:
8 oz good quality semi sweet chocolate chips
8 oz. heavy whipping cream

2 sticks (1 cup) butter
2/3 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour minus 2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons instant coffee, finely ground
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 Guittard Cappuccino chips

Chocolate cream cheese frosting:
1 8oz cream cheese, softened (I used low fat)
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 Tblsp. ganache
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chips in a bowl. Heat cream in pan on stove until steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat and pour over chips. Let sit then stir until blended. Reheat in microwave if needed to melt completely. Let cool.

Spray a 9x13 pan well. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat then add cocoa and sugar. Mix well. Add eggs one at a time beating until blended. Stir in vanilla and add flour and salt. Do not overbeat. Fold in chips. Spread in pan and bake 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add 4 Tablespoons of ganache and mix well. Add more if you want a stronger taste. Add salt. Slowly mix in confectioners sugar. If mixture is too thick, add a bit of whipping cream until it's spreadable.

To assemble: When brownies are cool, spread cream cheese frosting over top. Pour ganache over frosting. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

"Researchers have discovered that chocolate produced some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two, but can't remember what they are."
-Matt Lauer on NBC's Today Show

"In Seattle you haven't had enough coffee until you can thread a sewing machine while it's running."
-Jeff Bezos

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Here's To A Long Life!

Want to know how long you will live? I just hope however long I stick around, my life is well lived and I leave people around me with the feeling that I tried to make the world a better place. Given that, I still hope this quiz is right and I will live to the ripe old age of 89!

The Eons site does require that you provide a name and email address to take the quiz. But if you are like me, you just make up any old information and give them a yahoo addy you don't use often.

To take the quiz, click on the link then go to "lifepaths" near the top under the Explore heading. Then scroll down to Eons Longevity Calculator on the left hand side.

Let me know how you do!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Escape To Virginia

Welcome to Virginia! That has to be one of my favorite sights. I'm home again....ahhhhh. As you've probably guessed, we took a little trip this past weekend to visit Virginia. Just an overnight thing, though I wish it could have been longer. We had been thinking about going to Luray, but we just don't know enough about the area so we chose Winchester again. Even though Winchester is part of northern VA and some people don't feel it's very southern, I just love it there. It's so different from where I live now that it feels like a real getaway.

If you know Winchester at all, you know it's the capital of the Apple. They make apple juice, applesauce, apple anything at the White House factory in town. And the town loves to show it off. Although this is not a very good picture, I hope you can tell it's an apple with a stethoscope. It's located, of course, in front of a medical center. Whoever thought of it has a great sense of humor!

Here is some of the scenery on our drive. Pictures really don't show how beautiful the colors where around Virginia and West Virginia. I always forget how high those mountains can get. I think the highest we were was around 3,000 feet. It's some view from that high!

One of the main reasons we visit Winchester is the Virginia Farm Market. Here in PA, I don't live near anything like this. The closest farm market is about 20 minutes away and doesn't have things like fresh apple cider, ham hocks, country hams and bacon, fresh apples or play areas for the kids. So the Virginia farm market alone is worth the trip to me. I can't even drink store bought apple cider after being so spoiled by the farm market's fresh cider. You get to pick an empty gallon jug and fill it with cider right from the cider tank yourself. They also provide labels and caps. We usually buy about 3 or 4 gallons and bring it home in a big cooler. The cider is gone within a week after we get home.

The front of the farm market as you turn in coming from Winchester.

Part of the fun of getting away is finding a hotel that the kids love. Because of how much room we need now, we had to reserve two connecting rooms this time. And of course, the indoor pool is a big deal. I think the kids would be happy if we just stayed in the hotel all day and swam!

Another cringe inducing jump into the pool. I was designated photographer and trying to get the kids to look like more than a blur was not easy!

On the way home, we tried to make it as less depressing as possible, especially since it was only one night we were away. We took in as many pretty sights as we could, including the lovely lake above at Deep Creek in Maryland. We had loaded up on muffins and other goodies at the farm market before we left, hoping the food helped the disappointment of having to leave VA. Hopefully, we'll be back very soon, and for more than one night!
"Up men to your posts! Don't forget today that you are from old Virginia."
-George Edward Pickett

"We have everything here a scarecrow could want, the fall harvest, the beauty of the changing colors, apple cider, pumpkins and cornstalks."
-Mary Martin

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Autumn In Red

"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air."
-Eric Sloane

"A solitary maple on a woodside flames in single scarlet, recalls nothing so much as the daughter of a noble housedressed for a fancy ball, with the whole family gatheredaround to admire her before she goes."
-Henry James

"Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees."
-David Letterman

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Little Known Facts About The Human Body

This stuff really fascinates me. Interesting little tidbits on how our bodies work. I was particularly interested in the bone density since I'm getting to the age I need to start worrying about those kinds of things. Ugh.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Slow Cooker Red Cabbage And Apples

I don't know about you, but this time of year makes me start craving food that is slow cooked. Food that makes you warm inside and makes the house smell wonderful all day. Not many people agree that cabbage is that food :) But when it's mixed with apples, cloves and bacon, the scent is reminiscent of the holidays. I never had red cabbage until I met my husband. His mother's family is from Germany and red cabbage was part of their regular meals. I never did get my husband's mother's recipe, but this is very close. Red cabbage reminds me of chow chow and other foods I've eaten in the south. Plus this is so easy to make it's not funny! It's a great side dish with chicken or beef.

Red Cabbage And Apples

1 small red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped small
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 red wine vinegar
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 cup cooked crumbled bacon (optional)

Combine red cabbage, apples, sugar, red wine vinegar and cloves in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours (stir after about 3 hours). Before serving, sprinkle cabbage with bacon.
Makes about 6 servings

“I want death to find me planting my cabbage."
-Michel de Montaigne

"Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head."
-Ambrose Bierce

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chocolate Bundt Cake

This cake is one of the easiest I've ever made. I actually discovered the recipe earlier last month but didn't have time to make it. But when my friend Monica's father died this week, I was thinking of ways to help her out, when I thought of making a meal and a dessert for her and her family. I made her a large pan of pasta along with a salad, Italian bread and this cake. To make it a little easier on me, I made double of the meal so I could save time and feed my family as well. Monica said her family loved the meal but the cake was the big hit. Our family had to agree. We really liked our cake too!

Chocolate Bundt Cake

1 (18 oz) box fudge cake mix (no pudding version, moist is fine)
1 (3.5 oz) instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup oil (you can substitute applesauce for lower fat/calories)
1/2 cup water
1 cup sour cream (I used low fat)
1 (9 oz) package semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients, except chocolate chips, very well. When well blended, add chips and blend. Pour mix into well greased/sprayed bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Turn out cake on serving platter. When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with chocolate syrup or ice cream, if desired.

"Page one is a diet, page two is a chocolate cake. It's a no-win situation." -Kim Williams

"To be in one's own heart in kindly sympathy with all things; this is the nature of righteousness."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Apple Cake

Who can beat the crunch of a crisp, sweet apple on a Fall day? I know I can't. My eldest daughter decided to make good use of the abundance of apples to make an Apple Cake. She has progressed in her baking to the point that she now can pick a recipe and make it all herself with only a question or two for me. This recipe is one she picked out of her Usbourne Cooking School cookbook. It had just the right amount of apple and spice together. It's great by itself or with a big scoop of ice cream. Well done, sweetheart!

Apple Cake

1 1/3 cup flour (can use wheat)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
3/4 cup soft margarine
1 rounded tsp. ground cinnamon
2 oz. chopped nuts
1 cooking apple, approx. 8 oz.
brown sugar for sprinkling on top

Grease and flour an 8 inch round pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift flour into a large bowl. Add sugar and baking powder. Add eggs to flour mixture then add margarine, cinnamon, and half the nuts. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together well. Spoon into the pan and smooth top.

Peel apple and cut into thin wedges. Lay slices in a circle on top, overlapping if needed. Sprinkle the apples with remaining nuts and brown sugar, as desired.

Bake for 1 hour or until cake springs back if touched. Cool then serve.

"Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed."
-Robert H. Schuller

Monday, September 29, 2008

Stuffed Green Peppers

Out of the blue, my eldest daughter asked me to make stuffed green peppers last week. We have probably had these a handful of times for dinner, but she had a craving so I obliged. For some reason, I have this yuck factor associated with stuffed green peppers. I remember them tasting too spicy when my mother fixed them when I was little, so I made these with a bit of reluctance. I was very surprised when they were not only delicious, but I found myself eating the stuffing and the pepper. It came out mild tasting with a bit of sweet to it. The only thing I would change next time is to make more of the stuffing.

Stuffed Green Peppers

4 green peppers, washed
1 pound lean ground beef or pork
1 small onion (about 1/3 cup) chopped
1 7 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup long grain rice
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. dried basil or oregano, crushed
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar or blended cheese

Cut tops off peppers and remove stem ends, seeds and membranes. Immerse peppers into boiling water for 3 minutes. Invert onto paper towels to drain.

In a large skillet, saute meat and onion until meat is cooked through and onion is tender. Drain fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes, water, uncooked rice, Worcestershire sauce, and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil then reduce. Simmer 15 to 18 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese.

Fill peppers with meat mixture. Place peppers into a 2-quart baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Spoon any remaining meat mixture around peppers. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and let sit until melted. Serve.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

“We don't need a melting pot in this country, folks. We need a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, you put in the different things. You want the vegetables - the lettuce, the cucumbers, the onions, the green peppers - to maintain their identity. You appreciate differences."
-Jane Elliot