Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Little Turns TWO!

I cannot believe this little thing is TWO years old tomorrow!! Remember how little she started out?  I still love her littleness and she is such a joy in our house.  When I picture her, it's pushing a stroller with her doll or Elmo along for a ride, carrying her diaper bag full of bottles, sippy cups, and doll diapers.  Like her big sisters, she likes skirts and accessories, and she often asks me to brush her hair in "two" (two ponytails).  She makes friends everywhere and people all over town know her name.  She loves music and sings to herself constantly, has a big imagination and takes care of her babies and stuffed animals like such a sweet little mommy.  Little always wants to know where everyone in the family is and what they are doing.  It's her job to call everyone to the table at dinner "time a deeno!" and wake up her sisters for school.  When she kisses me on the cheek, she asks, "happy mama?"  to which the answer is always, "yes!  you make me happy."

Big and Middle are obsessed with planning birthday parties and themes.  They talk about theirs all year round.  Even though theirs aren't until August and September, as of today, the themes will be "Wizard of Oz Slumber Party" and "Wild Kratts."

When we ask (somewhat jokingly) what kind of birthday Little wants to have, she says "cake."  When pressed or given choices, it's "Elmo."  So, Elmo Cake birthday it is!  Little doesn't share our affection for chocolate so I turned to my meyer lemon tree once again for inspiration and made her a lemon cake with vanilla frosting.  It turned out delicious!

 Lemon Birthday Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (makes two 8in layers)
from Cooking Light

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 T finely grated lemon rind
2 T fresh lemon juice

For frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 T vanilla extract
up to 4 T milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350 and spray 2 (8 inch) round cake pans with baking spray (or butter and flour).

 Measure flour and combine it in a bowl with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.  Set aside.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat in the lemon zest and lemon juice.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  I use a kitchen scale to make sure they're even.  Tap each pan sharply on the counter once to release air bubbles.  Bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make Frosting:

Sift the confectioner's sugar.  Beat butter for a few minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn on the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and add vanilla, salt, and 2 T of milk or cream and beat for 3 minutes.  If the frosting needs to be more stiff, add more sugar.  If it needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Frost cake and serve!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Recent favorite pasta

Alright, I feel like if I'm going to post so infrequently, I owe you some photos with the post.  Here are a few recent ones of what my life looks like these days . . . not a lot of sleep or rest but plenty of smiles and adventures.

This pasta recipe was another Pinterest "win."  I love sun dried tomatoes and I liked that this recipe has chicken as a lean protein to balance out the carbs.  We've been eating lots of the sausage & kale pasta but I wanted something a little different and this hit the spot.

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes (4 servings)
from Julia's Album

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small jar (3-4 oz) sun-dried tomatoes in oil (you can use dried if you want)
1 lb chicken breast tenders
1 c. half and half
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz penne pasta
1 T dried basil (can use fresh - maybe use more)
crushed red pepper flakes

Cooking Note:  If you're using the sun-dried tomatoes in oil (from a jar), drain them before using them and reserve 2 T of the drained oil for sautéing.  If you're using dried sun-dried tomatoes, use 2 T olive oil.

In a large pan on high heat, sauté the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes (drained) in 2 T of oil (see note above) for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant.  Remove the sun-dried tomatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the chicken tenders, salt lightly cook on high heat for 1 minute on each side.  Remove from heat.

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Reserve a cup of the cooked pasta water.  Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into smaller bits (if you want to) and then add them back to the skillet with the chicken.  Add half and half and cheese to the skillet and bring to a gentle boil.  Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until all the cheese melts and a creamy sauce forms. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir to combine.  Add basil, red pepper flakes (to taste) and stir to combine.

At this point, the creamy pasta sauce will be too thick so add about a 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water (try a tablespoon or two at a time, stirring, until it's a consistency you like).  Immediately season with salt and more red pepper flakes to taste.  Let it simmer for a few more minutes to combine the flavors.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

To start off February right after not much blogging in January, here are some pictures of my soon to be 2 year old!

Our Meyer lemon tree has exploded with ripe lemons and I stumbled upon this recipe as I was looking for ideas of how to use some of them.  Granted, 1 zested lemon and a few tablespoons of juice isn't going to get me very far, but these had a great lemony flavor and I liked the chia seeds (sort of like a lemon poppyseed cake).  I made mini muffins and got about 2.5 dozen.  I can't remember exactly how long they took, but I think around 13-15 minutes.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins (1 dozen)

2 c. flour
3 T chia seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
8 T butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. Greek vanilla yogurt (nonfat)

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 T fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare muffin tin by buttering it or using liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, chia seeds, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in lemon zest and vanilla.

Using a spatula mix in the flour an yogurt until just combined.  Fill muffin tins about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool fully.

Prepare glaze by whisking the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth.  Drizzle a little over the top of each muffin and let the glaze set before serving.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bacon wrapped Jalapeño Poppers

Wow . . . you can probably tell by the fact that I've only posted once this year that January is sort of kicking our butt.  I'm working a MWF schedule that I've not done for probably 10 years and it's been a little tricky coordinating that with the kids' schedules and other "life" stuff.  On the food front, I'm proud to report that I've been feeding my family real food for dinner every night - no fast food or pizza on weeknights (yet) and we have all been having breakfast together before school.  One thing nice about this work schedule is I'm there to take the girls to school every morning.  Then dad picks them up and I'm home around 6:30 for dinner and bedtime.  Whew!

Super Bowl is coming up and it might be a great time to make one o the best holiday appetizers that I made this year . . . what's better than a jalapeño popper?  One that's not fried but is wrapped in bacon!  These were a little time consuming (prepping the peppers) but I loved that I could make them a day ahead and they turned out amazing.  For our lactose-free friends, I did just goat cheese (without the shredded cheddar) in half and they are gluten free!  You can spice up / change the filling to your liking - it's a really versatile recipe.

Bacon-wrapped Jalepeno Poppers (2 dozen)
from Sally's Baking Addiction

12 jalapeño pepper
8 oz cream cheese (or goat cheese) softened to room temperature
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (pepper jack would also be great)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
12 slices bacon, cut in half
24 toothpicks

Cut the jalapeño peppers in half lengthwise.  Carefully remove seeds and center membranes.  Set aside.

Mix together the cream cheese, shredded cheese, garlic and paprika.  You can use a mixer or just a spatula.  Add a little salt to taste.

Spoon filling equally among the 24 jalapeño halves.

Wrap each stuffed jalapeño with a half slice of bacon and stick a toothpick through it to secure.  At this point, you can refrigerate them until you're ready to bake or you can bake them right away.

Line a large baking sheet with foil and then place a cooling rack on top.  Put the jalapeños on the cooling rack (this way, the bacon fat will drip onto the foil).  Bake at 400 degrees 25-30 minutes or until the bacon is done to your liking.  You can turn the oven to broil for the last few minutes to make the bacon nice and crispy.  Serve immediately.

The original recipe says you can cover leftovers and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days . . . we didn't have any leftover!  It also says you can freeze assembled jalapeños for up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and bake as directed.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015!

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful 2015!  Our year started off great today . . . I took Little for a run in the jogging stroller and stayed in my yoga pants all day.  The big girls went to a movie with their grandma and after watching the football and "undecking  the halls," we had breakfast for dinner and played games.

Last night we had our first (annual?) New Year's Eve party which was a ton of fun.  One of the recipes that received the most compliments was a recipe from some family friends the Goldens for a Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa.  I'll share it below along with a few photos of our Christmas and New Years.

Little and her Great Grammy

Dressed up for Christmas Eve dinner in the desert
On our way home Christmas morning
Christmas with cousins
Christmas sweatshirts . . . thanks T!

Happy New Year!

Cranberry Jalapeño Salsa 
from the Goldens

12 oz cranberries, chopped
3 -4 jalapeños, chopped (seeds removed)
3-4 green onions, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2-3/4 c. sugar

Combine all ingredients and chill overnight.
Recipe notes:  freeze cranberries to make them easier to chop.  Jarred jalapeños work as well as fresh.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nothing says "Merry Christmas!" like . . .

Pictures by Christmas trees
Chats with Santa Clause
Kids in Santa hats
Little Wise People
Playing with the nativity
Advent Calendars
Looking at Christmas lights
Christmas colored food 
This kale salad might not be typical christmas fare but it's a good change from the artificially colored red and green food and the plethora of sweets.  I've been making it all fall and realized it's a great and colorful addition to a holiday menu.

Pomegranate & Apple Kale Salad

Fill a large bowl with chopped kale (tough stems removed).  Pour a little olive oil over it and use your bare hands to massage the kale for a few minutes or until all of the leaves are moistened.  Let it set for 10-30 minutes.  Drizzle a light vinaigrette over the kale (I use a blush wine vinaigrette but anything that's light and slightly sweet works well).  Add chopped apples (I like tart Granny Smith), pomegranate seeds, and chopped walnuts.  Toss.  Sprinkle with goat cheese or bleu cheese before serving.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Your Potluck Friend

One of the things I love about the holiday season is going to parties and potlucks and seeing old friends.  If you need a dessert to feed a large crowd or bring to a potluck, the Bundt cake is your friend!  I used to be scared of them because of this disaster but since I found the Baking Pam spray (with flour), I have been a big fan.  It's great for people (like Big) who don't love a ton of frosting and you can slice it thin or thick, depending on how many people you want to serve.  It's also an easy item to have people serve themselves at a potluck.

For your holiday parties, consider the recipe pictured above - a buttermilk cake with butternut squash grated into the batter (don't be weirded out - it's awesome) which I served with pumpkin ice cream.

Another great one is the "All in One Holiday Bundt" with ginger, pumpkin, apple and cranberries.

Or, try out the Gingerbread Pumpkin Guinness Bundt cake.   Gingerbread . . . pumpkin . . . beer . . . not a typical combination but an altogether yummy cake.