Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Happy Easter!

Wow, it was a tough winter but spring is here. And it's Easter time already. Several people told me this week that they just realized Easter is this coming weekend. There are so many fun things about Easter. Here are a few:

1. Jesus- People forget, or at least don't talk about it openly, but Easter is about Jesus and his resurrection.

2. Bunnies- quite a different thing than Jesus, but who can think of Easter and not think of bunnies? Besides, God made bunnies, didn't he?

3. Jelly Beans- I love the grape ones best

4. Chocolate- of all kinds! I don't go for those hollow bunnies, though. Eww!

5. Coloring eggs- The smell of vinegar, the bright colors, dipping eggs. All fun!

6. Easter clothes- the first chance to dress up and wear pastels

7. Flowers- they are just starting to bloom here. I can't wait to see some color out there

8. Dinner- my mother in law refuses to let anyone else make dinner, but I happy with that. As long as I'm not making it, that is good!

9. Family- getting a chance to see everyone and take a break from our crazy schedule

10. Easter baskets- I no longer get one :( but I like making them up for the kids. I love the looks on their faces when they find their basket.

11. Easter egg hunts- no matter how old you get, these are still fun

12. The colors- all the bright colors everywhere- light greens, yellows, pinks, light blue

13. Peeps- most people find them gross but they still stock them in droves in stores and people still buy them, like I do every year. They are too cute!

What is your favorite thing(s) about Easter?

Happy Easter everyone!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Double Fudge Coca Cola Cake (Cracker Barrel Copy Cat)

While my husband was out of town last week (he was in Arkansas, lucky dog!), I took the kids out to dinner for a treat at Cracker Barrel. We get lonely without Daddy around, so it's nice to have some fun. During dinner, my middle daughter kept saying how hungry she was, so I let the kids order dessert. She decided on Double Fudge Coca Cola cake with vanilla ice cream. We all got a taste and we fell in love! I found the recipe when we got home and made it. It turned out great. It's so moist and the icing is irresistable. I hope you get a chance to make this one.

Double Chocolate Coca Cola Cake

1 cup Coca Cola
1/2 cup oil (I used applesauce)
1 stick butter
3 Tblsp. cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

1 stick butter
3 Tblsp. cocoa
6 Tblsp. cream or milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pound (3 3/4 cups) confectioner's sugar

In a saucepan, mix Coca Cola, oil, butter and cocoa and bring to a boil. In another bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Pour the boiling Cola mixture over the flour mixture and beat well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, soda and vanilla and beat well. Pour mixture into a greased and floured 13 x 9 inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees or 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan and cool for about 10 minutes. Frost.

Frosting: In a saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa, and milk. Heat until the butter melts. Beat in the remaining ingredients and spread on the cake while it's warm/hot. Cool and cut.

Coca-Cola Slogans through the years:
"The Pause that Refreshes."
"I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke."
"Coke Is It"
"Things Go Better with Coke"
"I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" (a hit single in the 1970s).
“It's The Real Thing"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Favorite Things About Summer

All these days above 50 degrees is making me think about summer days. I may not be the biggest fan of summer, but after this past winter I think I'm ready this year! Here are some things I'm looking forward to:

1. Corn on the cob- canned is blah, frozen is ok, but on the cob, with butter and pepper, divine.

2. Gardening- The garlic I planted last fall is coming up already, and I'm itching to plant some vegetables. I'm planting an easy garden this year, mostly greens, beans, lettuce and zucchini.

3. Green grass- all that snow for weeks on end has me looking forward to slipping off my shoes and wiggling my toes in some warm grass.

4. Swimming- we got one of those easy to set up pools last year for the kids but summer wasn't that warm. Hopefully it will be this year and the kids spend a lot of time in the pool.

5. Watermelon- juicy and wonderful on a hot day

6. Picnics- the option to eat outside on a nice summer evening is great. The kids think it's a big adventure.

7. Grilling- I've already squeezed in a few grilling sessons on the warmer days, but it's nice in summer to grill a lot. Hamburgers, shrimp, and vegetables, it's all good.

8. Peaches- right off our peach tree in the front yard. Last year wasn't so good so I hope that means this year will be much better.

9. No school- I love having the kids home, love having no school demands (believe it or not, the school is constantly asking parents for time, paperwork and money) etc. I could live without the constant fighting and "I'm bored" comments, but it's a good tradeoff.

10. Flowers- for some reason the older I get, the more I appreciate the beauty of flowers and all their colors.

11. Time off- there is more time to spend together with friends and family, more time to take trips or just get away for a day.

12. No coats- less to lug around!

13. Food- more salads, fruit choices, vegetables and whipped desserts. I love throwing together dinners made of various salads with fruit for dessert. Easy and good!

What is your favorite thing about summer?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Being sick last week didn't stop me from baking. I had to do something to make myself feel useful, and baking made me feel better. Plus I needed something to go with all the hot tea I was consuming, in a desperate attempt to make my throat feel better. This recipe is one of my favorites. I love how simple and easy it is and how wonderfully delicious it tastes warm. My middle daughter is already begging "please please make some more!"! I did double this so we had a loaf at home and my husband had one for work.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 1/3 cups of very ripe mashed bananas (about 2 large)
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of milk (I used skim)
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I substituted applesauce)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs (I used Egg Beaters)
2 2/3 cups Originial Bisquick (I used the low fat version)
1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.

Stir together bananas, sugar, milk, oil, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in Bisquick and chocolate chips. Pour into pan.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until top bounces back when touched or toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Cool for 10 minutes then remove the bread from the pan and cool further. Serve warm or cooled completely. Makes about 12 slices.

Recipe from Betty Crocker
Photo from eHow

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Being Sick

On Monday, I was feeling kinda iffy. I did my usual routine, but I swore I had really bad allergies or something. By Tuesday, I was sick. Ugh. I haven't even had a sniffle since last year so I was really bummed when I realized I had a cold. I'm whining, I know. Poor me, a cold! Here are 13 things I hate about being sick:

1. The beginning- when you aren't sure your sick but you just don't feel right. I hate the not knowing if I'm sick part.

2. Staying in the house- I am not a stay at home person. I like being out in the morning doing my errands and getting my work done. Being sick, you can't go anywhere. It makes me feel like I'm missing something.

3. Missing something- I miss work, the gym, grocery shopping, my friends, even those tedious errands. And those little things that happen that make your day interesting- good or bad, I miss them too.

4. Stuffy nose- you can't breath, can't sleep, can't taste anything. And you have trouble catching your breath when you talk! Then your nose runs while your asleep! Yuck!

5. Swollen glands- for some reason, swollen glands make me nervous. I always wonder if I have an infection somewhere. And they hurt like heck.

6. Lack of sleep- No matter how tired I get while sick, I don't sleep well until I feel better.

7. Coughing my lungs out- and not being able to catch my breath. I couldn't sleep I was coughing so much the other night.

8. Restlessness- I get bored and daytime TV is awful! I read and try to work on chores, but I can't sit still or concentrate.

9. Lack of rest- I do have all day but once the kiddies are home, it's business as usual. Moms don't get downtime like Daddies do! No sick days here. No one does the laundry, makes dinner, cleans or runs the kids to activities if I don't. We women are a tough lot!

10. Forgetting healthy- Even if I'm sick only a few days with a mild cold, I forget what it felt like to be healthy. And it makes me that much more grateful when I am healthy.

11. Being woozy or dizzy- nothing feels scarier to me than feeling like the world is tilting or spinning. It usually stays with me until I get my strength back.

12. Weakness- I like feeling strong and in control of my body. Being sick doesn't let you do that!

13. I feel like a big baby!- Gosh, it's just a cold and I've had a lot worse. But I still feel like whining!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hot Fudge Brownie Cake

Yesterday, I was craving cake. A big chocolate cake. But being that I was feeling lazy, I didn't want to make a cake and have to make icing too. So I made the next best thing, Hot Fudge Brownie cake. This dessert is so easy, it even makes it's own sauce! Serve it warm and top with some whipping cream and you'll have a little bit of heaven!

Hot Fudge Brownie Cake

1 cup of all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk, at room temp.
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Whipped cream or ice cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together flour, the next three ingredients and 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, oil and vanilla. Spread the batter in a lightly greased 8 x 8 baking pan.

Combine brown sugar, cocoa, and the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle over batter in the pan. Using a spoon, gently drizzle the boiling water over the batter, being careful not to disturb the layers. Do not stir.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until a cake layer forms on top and springs back when touched. Let cool. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or ice cream (or both!).

-from Southern Living, January 2009

"Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt."
-Judith Olney

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Best Chocolate

There is so much chocolate out there, and so little time! I've tried many different types of chocolate but I'm sure I've only barely skimmed the surface of what is available. Here are some I've tasted and loved-

1. Lindt- this used to be my go-to chocolate but they've branched out so some so their stuff is not as good. But still a good fall back, especially the 70 to 80% dark. Very sharp, very good for everyday eating.

2. Leonidas- Oh man. This stuff is fancy and delicious. My hubby gets it for me every Christmas and I have a very hard time making it last to New Year's!

3. Ghirardelli- nice smooth chocolate taste. Just sweet enough but also gives a good bite.

4. Dagoda- organic chocolate. Dark, fruit infused, chocolate nibs, it's all good!

5. Scharffen Berger- the different flavors available are too tempting- sea salt, honey and coffee bars. Very upscale and to me, expensive. But worth every penny.

6. E. Guittard- some of the best, basic chocolate around. They use fresh ingredients and offer milk, semi sweet and bittersweet bars with hints of cinnamon, cherry and nuts. They also offer a lot of good baking bars for those bakers out there who want the best!

7. M&M's- who can stop eating them?!

8. Chocolove- the packaging makes it look like really cheap chocolate, but it's not. They offer flavors like toffee, raspberries, and orange peel. I grab one everytime I go to the specialty chocolate store.

9. Aero bars- from Europe. Light and airy, it has bubbles inside! Even though I don't normally like milk chocolate, I can't resist these.

10. Michael Cluizel- Very French plantation bars of chocolate. Flavors like dark chocolate with hazelnut, praline, and coffee. They also offer a chocolate bar that is 99% dark. Whoa!

11. Valrhona- another wonderful French chocolate company. Very high end, offering chocolate bars and baking chocolate to chefs.

12. Chocolate milk- not the skinny stuff, but the whole milk/cream with chocolate. Organic, off the farm, is even better. With Oreos.

13. Avalanche bark- not really a chocolate at all but so good. I get a piece every time I go to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. It's a mix of rice krispies, white chocolate, peanut butter and mini semi sweet chips. I've posted it before on this blog but here is a link to the recipe on line if you want to make it-

What is your favorite chocolate?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Nutella Cupcakes With Nutella Coffee Icing

Talk about your Nutella overload! The flavor of these cupcakes is intense and so wonderfully sweet and cakey (is that a word?). The chocoalte coffee combo in the icing tops the cupcakes off perfectly. They are hard to resist!

Nutella Cupcakes With Nutella Coffee Icing

10 Tbsps unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift then measure)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup Nutella- you can add more if desired!

Preheat oven to 325. Line 12 muffin tin with paper liners.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Don't worry of the batter looks curdled. Add vanilla.
Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until thoroughly combined and no flour remains.
Fill each paper liner with batter, 3/4 full. Top each cupcake with approx. 1 1/2 tsps. Nutella.
Swirl Nutella and batter together with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of the batter up over Nutella. Bake 20-25 mins., until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean (except for the Nutella). Remove cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely.

Nutella Coffee Icing

4 tablespoons butter, softened

4 tablespoons Nutella
3 cups powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons milk with 2 teaspoons instant coffee and stir until coffee is dissolved.
In a separate bowl, combine butter, Nutella, sugar, salt, vanilla, and the 2 tablespoons of coffee-milk mixture. Mix well with electric mixer for at least 2 minutes, adding more milk as needed to make a fluffy spreadable frosting.

“Who throws a cupcake? …honestly!”
- a young Dr Evil, Austin Powers movie character

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Retro Candy

I loved growing up in the 70's. Call me weird, but I miss so many things about that time. I guess being a child during that decade helped me see it a bit differently than an adult would have, but I thought it was a total blast. Disco, banana bikes, roller skating, etc. All fun. Especially the candy. Yum! There just seemed to be so many choices, and nothing was alike. Here are some I loved:

1. Candy necklaces- having candy that available was too cool! Never mind it got sticky on your neck. I was having too much fun eating it to notice.

2. Chunky bar- I used to think they were huge! Now they make them even bigger. My favorite was the chocolate mixed with raisins.

3. Fun Dip- talk about sugar! I loved the way your tongue felt rough after eating the whole package.

4. Now and Laters- never failed to make my jaw hurt and my teeth ache, but it was a good pain! They seemed to last forever too.

5. Pixy Sticks- powdery goodess. But I never could open one without getting the end wet and my powder would stick. Still didn't stop me!

6. Candy buttons- on those sheets of white paper. Everyone complained that you ate more paper than candy, but they were irresistable.

7. Wax lips and bottles- I could never just drink the liquid. I always had to chew the wax until my jaws ached. I still don't know what that liquid was but I always wanted more. And wax lips were fun to suprise your friends with.

8. Candy cigarettes- a major no no today, but we never cared what they were as kids. I just remember the fun of blowing out the powder and feeling like a grown up.

9. Pop Rocks- they were new in the 70's and everyone had to have some. I think someone even called them space rocks. Very unique and fun to stick your tongue out so your friends could see.

10. Chocolate powder gum- I remember having a packet similar to a pop rocks packet and there was a chocolate powder in there. As you chewed it, it became gum. I never saw it again but it was really neat.

11. Flying saucers- addicting, for what reason I still don't know. For me, this candy was all about sensation. The wafer melting then the coolness and crunch of the little candies inside was too hard to resist.

12. Zero bar- A white candy bar? How cool! I guess everyone else thought so too because they are still around.

13. B-B-Bats- So many flavors and so cheap! I remember our local 7-Eleven having an entire row of different flavors of b-b-bats along the bottom of the candy isle. I tried everyone of them. Chocolate was my favorite, of course!

If you are a child of the 70's (or you are just hip enough to be into the 70's!) can you recall your favorite candies?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

French Quiche

I feel like I've been away forever. With more snow storms, kids off school, starting my business, and a death in the family (my brother in law's wife) all occuring at the same time last week, I ended up getting sick over the weekend. No surprise there. But I'm feeling better and better everyday, and I finally got time to cook and blog! I found a wonderful and easy recipe for French Quiche this week. It comes from the kitchens of a French language camp that I, unfortunately, did not get to attend! But since I love anything French, I tried this the moment I got a chance. So good and so authentic! I'll give the basic recipe but you can change any ingredients to whatever you like.

French Quiche

Layer in order:

For the Liquid:
4 to 5 eggs, beaten (I used Eggs Beaters 1 1/4 cup)
2/3 cup of cream
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
large pinch cloves
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. rosemary

Line a glass baking pan with a pie crust (I used a store bought one). Layer the veggies then mix and add liquid ingredients. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 to an hour (depends on your oven). When the quiche puffs up, it's done!

"Prejudices are what fools use for reason."