Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wheat-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

As you know, I've been baking my own breads, wheat-free, from scratch. It's a lot of work, so I thought I'd buy a pre-made, wheat-free mix. Bob's Red Mill is my favorite brand of wheat-free flour products. This bag was expensive though: $6.19!! But, if I made it myself, it would also cost a lot because I would still have to buy the regular wheat-free flour, which is anywhere from $3.50 - $4.25 for a bag this size.

I was really impressed with how easy this recipe is. Since all the dry ingredients are all in the bag, I only had to add water, oil, and eggs. The final product is delicious and just like real bread, but it must be toasted and have butter on it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Baked Apples

I wanted to make a "healthy" dessert option for myself for Christmas Eve, so I chose this baked apple recipe from Cooking Light. The recipe is meant to be part of a Christmas Morning Breakfast, but I thought it would work for a dessert too. But, after making Chocolate Mousse, I just didn't have it in me to also make the baked apples. So I made the recipe a couple days later for breakfast, and it is very good, especially with vanilla ice cream!

2 cups dried cranberries
1 ¼ cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
6 Gala Apples, cored and chopped (about 3 pounds)

Combine all ingredients in a large microwave-safe dish. Microwave at HIGH 20 minutes or until apples are soft, stirring occasionally. Yield: 6 cups (serving size ¼ cup).

Chop the nuts and apples the night before, and combine with the rest of the ingredients in the morning. Serve these juicy baked apples over slices of Spiced Pumpkin Bread, warm bowls of oatmeal, or pancakes. Ida Red and McIntosh apples also work well.
*Note, I used 3 Gala apples and 3 Granny Smith.

Recipe from Cooking Light.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cider Glazed Carrots

This is the second time I've made these delicious carrots. The recipe is from Cooking Light, and is meant to be part of a larger holiday meal, which is why they mention boiling the carrots the day before.

Cider Glazed Carrots
9 cups (3-inch) julienne-cut carrot (about 2 ½ pounds)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons buter
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Place carrot in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 1 minute or until tender. Drain.

Combine brown sugar and remaining ingredients except parsley in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook until butter melts, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium; add carrots. Cook 3 minutes or until carrots are glazed and thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with chopped parsley; toss to combine. Yield: 12 servings (serving size about 2/3 cup).

-Cider vinegar gives these carrots the flavor of an apple cider reduction, but in a fraction of the time. To get a head start, boil the carrots a day ahead. Refrigerate tem in a zip-top bag, then sauté just before serving.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My New Telephoto Lens

Hubby got me this image stabilizing telephoto lens for Christmas!! I really wanted it, and now I have it! Thanks hubby!

With my new telephoto lens, I was able to get this close up picture of one of our bird houses.
I also got this picture of the snow, without having to put shoes on!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Initiation

I guess it's a tradition of one of hubby's great uncles to put stupid stuff in the Christmas cards he sends out. I've been married to hubby for seven years now and we have never received anything special in our Christmas card. I didn't even know Uncle M did this. However, this year, he decided to initiate us to his ways. On Wednesday, I opened the card from Uncle M to find these pictures included:

Hubby looking smashing at some high school function.

And hubby with girlfriend at said event. Yep, that's not me; I didn't know Donivan in high school. Luckily she looks pretty nice and harmless - except for the fact that she's wearing an old-fashioned wedding dress! If it weren't for the blue and silver fabric and the column behind them, it could be a wedding picture! Thanks Uncle M; I sure got a laugh out of this.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Morning Hash Browns

Christmas Morning Hash Browns
10 potatoes, grated
8 oz. sour cream
½ cup melted butter
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 cup grated cheese

Mix together in a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

You can make this the night before and keep in the fridge until ready to cook in the morning. And to make it even easier, I used frozen shredded hash browns. But since the hash browns were frozen into a chunk, I did have to remix it this morning (after keeping it in the fridge overnight), but still that’s was easier than doing the potatoes from scratch. If you do this, I suggest two bags of shredded potatoes for a full recipe. I made a half recipe this morning since there’s only three of us, and I wasn’t sure if hubby would like the potato dish. He turned his nose up at me when I told him what was in it, but this morning, he was able to gobble down a big helping. I LOVE Christmas Morning Hash Browns.

Recipe from my Aunt Amy

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chocolate Mousse

I just made Chocolate Mousse for our Christmas Eve dessert. I think it will be delicious (I can't eat it because of the raw eggs - I'm pregnant, and because of the immense amount of dairy in it), but I wanted to make something special for our guests.

I have two tips: note that the recipe calls for egg yolks, not whites. So, use the yellow part of the egg. I know this seems silly, but yours truly first did it with egg whites. Luckily I caught my mistake before I ruined the whole recipe. My second tip is to always crack your eggs into a separate bowl first, one by one, and once verifying that there are no egg shells or blood (yes, this happened to me today), then dump the egg into your recipe. I was sure saved by this today. That bloody egg was gross!

Chocolate Mousse
6 ounces (175 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy whipping cream
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
Fresh Raspberries
Shaved Chocolate

In a medium-sized stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Set aside but keep the bowl over the warm water so the chocolate will stay slightly warm.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Refrigerate, covered, until needed.

Place the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar dissolves, a minute or two. This produces a sugar syrup. Then, whisking constantly, pour the boiling syrup over the egg yolks. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly (can use a hand mixer on low speed) until the mixture is thick and light in color. This mixture should be hot to the touch. (About 10 minutes)

Remove the bowl from the heat and, working quickly, scrape the egg mixture into a clean large bowl of your electric mixer. On medium speed (or with a hand mixer) beat until the volume has doubled and the bottom of the bowl is completely cool to the touch. Turn speed to low, and beat in the warm melted chocolate until well combined. Fold in half the reserved whipped cream and then fold in the remaining cream. The mixture should resemble softly whipped cream. This can be used immediately or refrigerated, covered, until needed. If the mixture seems a little runny, the chocolate may have been too warm, but after refrigerating for an hour or so, it will firm up. Can be made and refrigerate a day ahead of time.

Recipe source: The Joy of Baking - the website says the difficulty level of this recipe is easy, but I disagree. I would say difficult because everything has to be done just so and there are so many different steps and different pans involved.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Poppy Seed Bread

I made this Poppy Seed Bread, wheat-free, and it is absolutely delicious! And, it's been the easiest to make out of the pumpkin bread and banana bread that I've recently made. I even made the glaze out of Splenda instead of sugar (you gotta cut back somewhere), and it was still just as delicious. I even got hubby to sample a bite (he still refuses to try a piece of fudge), and he said it was good, in fact, very good. He confessed to me today that he had a small slice last night! (He NEVER eats my wheat-free confections.)

Poppy Seed Bread

3 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups oil
3 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 ½ tsp. almond extract
1 ½ cups milk

TOPPING:¼ orange juice
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. almond extract

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds, in a large bowl and set aside. Cream sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Add dry ingredients to the sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Bake at 350 in 2 greased loaf pans for 40-60 minute or until they test done.

Combine orange juice, sugar, and almond extract and drizzle this mixture over the top of the baked bread. Cool. This bread is also good without the glaze.
~Recipe from Kitchen Keepsakes and more Kitchen Keepsakes by Bonnie Welch and Deanna White.

*My tips: I made the glaze with Splenda instead of sugar. Also, to make it wheat-free, I used Bob’s Red Mill wheat-free flour and xanthan gum (3/4 tsp for each cup of flour). Note, my loaves don't look large like the recipe says because the wheat-free flour just doesn't rise like real flour.

More Bible Story Pictures

This is the last set of Bible Story pictures I have to share with you. This of course is Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay and being told that there's no room in the inn.

Doesn't Mary look lovely considering she's about to give birth? Was she already dilating? Was she experiencing contractions? Was she hoping for an epidural? Did she and Joseph complete their birthing classes? I bet sitting on that donkey helped things move along. I hope I look as lovely and calm upon arriving at the hospital for baby #2. What about my hubby? Will he be as agreeable as Joseph looks here? Sure, my wife can give birth in the stable.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Bible Story Pictures

Here's Jonah in the belly of the whale/fish. Even in Biblical days, they had a problem with littering - notice the broken cistern in the belly of the whale.

Here's Naomi and Ruth waving goodbye to Orpah. They look so jovial; I just imagined the scene being a little more sad, but hey, it's a children's book.

Here's Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. Fine. But, John the Baptist was only six months older than Jesus - why the beard and white hair?

More pictures tomorrow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bible Stories - Adam and Eve

We got a nice book of Bible stories from Costco this year for our Little Guy. I was wrapping it today and looking at the pictures, and I just have to share some of them with you.

This is the first picture the book has of Adam. I like how the bear's gift of flowers covers up Adam's unmentionables.

Here's Eve. Isn't she the most beautiful Eve you've seen? She's fresh from a shower and has applied her bouncy curls frizz control cream. She swept back some of her hair and secured it with fresh flowers. She has her fake eyelashes on and even applied gloss before going out to get to some food.

Then she shared her food with Adam, who apparently has tried some of Eve's bouncy curl cream. He looks drastically different from the first picture of Adam. Maybe, being a Jewish boy, he got a perm. I like how there's a koala in the picture.

Here we see Eve and Adam in very fashionable clothes, provided by God. Eve is in a nice sleeveless sun dress with a slit up the thigh, and Adam, well he just gets a short skirt.

The pictures in this book are great, and I'll be showing you some more in the days to come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Snow Day

Here's a snowy picture of the sun coming up in our backyard. Have a good day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Biggest Loser

I'm so glad that Michelle won! She really deserves it and she looks great.

I'm so glad America voted for Ed! I think Heba looks great, but I hope she learned the lesson that she doesn't get everything she wants simply because she's Heba.

I think so many of the at home contestants look great! Colleen looks so much like Reese Witherspoon - she looks great!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mint Chocolate Fudge and Raspberry Chocolate Fudge

I experimented with my mother's Chocolate Peanut Butter Two-Tone Fudge recipe and made two-tone versions of mint chocolate and raspberry chocolate fudge. I think the peanut butter is my favorite, but I think everything with peanut butter is my favorite.

Since I did not want a whole recipe of each mint and raspberry, I made half a batch of each, and that is what the recipe reflects.

Mint Chocolate Fudge and Raspberry-Chocolate Fudge
4 ½ cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 jar marshmallow cream
1 cup unsalted butter
1 – 12 oz. package chocolate chips
1 – 12 oz. package white chocolate chips, divided
1 ½ tsp. mint extract
1 tsp. raspberry extract
Green food coloring
Red food coloring

Line a 9x11” jellyroll pan with waxed paper. Combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a large saucepan (3-4 quarts suggested). While stirring the entire time, heat sugar mixture on high until it boils, reduce heat (to keep from boiling over) and keep boiling for 8 minutes. Add butter and marshmallow cream to the sugar mixture and stir until smooth.

The sugar mixture will be split into three bowls: half of the sugar mixture for the chocolate layer; a quarter of it for the mint layer and a quarter of it for the raspberry. Into a large bowl, pour half of sugar mixture over chocolate chips and 1 tsp. vanilla. Into a second large bowl, pour a quarter of the sugar mixture over the half a package of white chocolate chips and mint extract. Into a third large bowl, pour a quarter of the sugar mixture over half a package of white chocolate chips and raspberry extract. With electric mixer, beat the first mixture with the chocolate chips until combined. Pour chocolate mixture into jellyroll pan. Set in fridge for 10 minutes. This will be the bottom layer of the two-tone fudge.

Add green food coloring to the mint mixture. With clean beaters, beat the mint mixture until well combined. Pour mint mixture over half of the chocolate mixture.

Add red food coloring to the raspberry mixture. With clean beaters, beat the raspberry mixture until well combined. Pour raspberry mixture over the other half of the chocolate mixture.

For best results, let set in the refrigerator overnight before cutting. Store in refrigerator in air-tight container.

*I suggest getting everything out ahead of time so you don't waste time as the fudge mixture needs to stay warm/hot enough for you to smooth it out into the jellyroll pan.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Two-Tone Fudge

This two-tone fudge is pure sin. You have to make it! My mother made this fudge for every holiday growing up, and I have never tried to make it before because I was scared away by the amount of sugar in it. I've never made any fudge recipe before. I had to call my mother three (or maybe four) times yesterday while making the fudge to clarify what I was doing. Thanks Mommy - you were a great support. So, here I have typed up the recipe with lots of details for you.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Two-Tone Fudge
4 ½ cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 jar marshmallow cream
1 cup unsalted butter
1 – 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp. vanilla, divided

Line a 9x11” jellyroll pan with waxed paper. Combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a large saucepan (3-4 quarts suggested). While stirring the entire time, heat sugar mixture on high until it boils, reduce heat (to keep from boiling over) and keep boiling for 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add butter and marshmallow cream to the sugar mixture and stir until smooth.

Into a large bowl, pour half of sugar mixture over chocolate chips and 1 tsp. vanilla. Into a second large bowl, pour the other half of sugar mixture over the peanut butter and 1 tsp. vanilla. With electric mixer, beat the mixture with the chocolate chips until combined. Pour chocolate mixture into jellyroll pan. Set in fridge for 10 minutes. This will be the bottom layer of the two-tone fudge.
Clean beaters and beat the peanut butter-sugar mixture until well combined. Pour peanut butter mixture on top of the chocolate mixture that has already set in the fridge for 10 minutes. For best results, let set in the refrigerator for 24 hours or overnight before cutting. Store in refrigerator in air-tight container.

*I suggest getting everything out ahead of time so you don't waste time as the fudge mixture needs to stay warm/hot enough for you to smooth it out into the jellyroll pan.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mrs. Prindable's Candy Apples

This past year at the fair, several stands boasted that they had chocolate-peanut butter covered apples. My mouth was drooling for this confection. But, none of the stands actually had these apples, and I went to the fair on two different days! My sweet mother who was with me at the fair and witnessed my angst at not getting my desired dessert, sent me these handmade confections in the mail for Christmas. I received a box of sixteen candied apples; four of each kind:

Dark Chocolate Coconut

Milk Chocolate Crunch Apples - this is the one I've tried so far; it's delicious!! The apple was very fresh and the candy oh-so-good!

Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Pieces

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup
Thanks Mommy!

Boundaries with Kids

I have just started reading the book Boundaries with Kids. This is an obvious break from my normal reading matter, as it is NON-FICTION!! I thought I would share my first revelation with you.

I've only read the first couple of chapters, but what I've learned practically so far is this: I need to have boundaries so that I can teach my kids to have boundaries (big concept, I know). But, up until this point, I think I've fallen into the category of a push-over. I realized yesterday that I allow my Little Guy to have control of my day. He determines when I wake up (yesterday I was woken from a dream with, "Mommy, read this one." My Little Guy proceeds to hand me a book he wants me to read to him.) Because I couldn't stand the crying that ensued when I said I needed a minute, I gave in and read him the book three times. I had a horrible morning. I felt tired (he woke me up very early), and I felt that since I had to wake up so early, I was entitled to something special - be it food, extra sleep, or whatever. But, I never got that special something.

I decided that I will wake up at 6:10am, but I will not get out of bed until 6:30am. I can do whatever I want with those twenty minutes (today I slept, but hey, that's okay, I did it on purpose and it was my choice). If my Little Guy is awake before 6:30am, then he needs to play by himself and he will not be allowed in my bed. I have crackers and water ready by my nightstand for him if he claims he's hungry.

My new plan went very well today. But, my Little Guy woke up at 6:45am as opposed to 6:00am, which made it a little easier. I actually did get in about 15 minutes of reading and a little extra sleep. I was in control of my morning. It felt great.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Test Your Spelling

I grew up in the age of spellchecker (did I spell that right?). I blame spellchecker on my poor results. Go to this website to take the test and see your score. This English major got 13 out of 25 words correct! Embarrassing, I know! Let me know how you do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Biggest Loser - Vote for Ed!

I know Ed wants us to vote for his wife, but I can't stand Heba. She is a spoiled brat. She has never learned boundaries in her life; no one has ever stood up to her (which is why she got so upset when Phil ate the Reese's Peanut Butter cups), and no one has ever told her no. I think Ed is scared to have to live with a wife who doesn't get what she wants, so he's pleaded with us to vote for her, but I just can't! I don't particularly like Ed, but I don't think he looses great numbers, and if he's in the final, then Michelle might have more of a chance of winning, which would be great.

Christmas Shaped Bokeh

I was delighted to put up my Christmas tree and use it as my bokeh light source. The snowflake shape I had used in my previous bokeh attempt did not weather well and looked distorted, so to keep things simple (and in the spirit) I cut out the shape of a cross for my bokeh shape. Choosing the subject of my picture was a hard choice, and this angel which turned out the best, was actually my last choice. The subject needs tons of lighting, and I find that the picture works best with the camera set on manual, with a shutter speed of 1/50 and aperture of f/1.8. The camera will say that this is grossly underexposed, but somehow it seems to work. Well, an hour of messing around with this solved my itch to do it for a while!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Typealizer - the personality of my blog

This Typealizer website will analyze your blog and tell you its Myers-Briggs personality profile. The profile for my blog came in pretty close to my actual personality:

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers
"The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever. The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work in their own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it."

P.S. While I don't wear cute clips in my hair like the lady pictured above, my hair is out of control like hers. Amazing how they got that right.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Book Review - Sweet Talk by Susan Mallery

I read Sweet Talk awhile ago, but just realized that I never did a “review.” Since it has been so long since I’ve read it, all I can tell you is this: I liked it! And I’m on to reading the second and third books in the series. Mallery’s characters find romance and have to overcome personal and social issues in their way. Mallery has good secondary characters and so far I haven’t read a book of hers that I haven’t liked.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Book Review - A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr

Marcie Sullivan travels to Virgin River to seek out the man who saved her husband Bobby’s life when he was critically injured in Iraq. Since saving Bobby, Ian Buchannan has withdrawn from everything and everyone and is living the life of a hermit. Ian gave Marcie three more years with Bobby before he died from his injuries, something that Ian feels guilty about, but Marcie is thankful for. Marcie feels she can’t move on with her life until she thanks Ian. She didn’t expect to find a man who was hurting and didn’t understand her gratefulness at saving her husband’s life. Can Marcie continue to reach out to this rough and brute man?

Since this is romance, you know the answer to that. Being snowed-in in a little cabin with no electricity, and bang, you have yourself a romance. A Virgin River Christmas is the fourth book in Carr’s Virgin River series, and is probably my least favorite of the books so far, but it is still a good book. I thought Marcie was a little too gold-hearted and not real enough. Also, in all the other Virgin River books, before the main characters engage in sexual relations, birth control is discussed or used, but it was never addressed between Marcie and Ian. I was bummed because I thought Carr was setting a precedent in her previous books.