Saturday, June 30, 2012

Baby DJ

I had the privilege to photography 5 day old baby DJ. What a cutie!

I love watching moms interact with their babies!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Crisco’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (slightly adapted)

¾ stick Crisco Baking Sticks (Butter-Flavored or regular)
1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 (12 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375°F.

Combine shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies, or 11 to 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

I omitted the nuts that the recipe says are optional. I think nuts in cookies are an abomination, so I can’t even write it into the recipe as optional. But what you will enjoy instead is that WHOLE 12 ounce bag of chocolate chips in your cookies. Also, if you opt for the chewier cookie, I suggest letting them cool on the baking sheet for the 2 minutes as suggested, then removing them to a sheet of foil placed on the counter. This will ensure your chewy cookie doesn’t fall through the cooling rack. Enjoy!

Weight Watcher's Cobb Salad

This All-Tossed-Together Cobb Salad is from the Weight Watcher's One Pot Cookbook. My whole family will eat this salad, which really says something to how good it is!

All-Tossed-Together Cobb Salad

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 small head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cooked skinless chicken breast
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1 small Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into ½-inch dice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 hard-cooked large egg whites, chopped
¼ cup crumbled reduced-fat blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To make dressing, whisk together vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in serving bowl.
Add all ingredients except blue cheese and parsley to dressing; toss until mixed well. Serve sprinkled with cheese and parsley.

Serving size is 2 cups. Weight Watchers Points Plus = 7

Sunset from my Backyard

I love that I can see the broad expanse of the sky from my house now - no more being surrounded by tall trees that block my view. This was a sunset a few nights ago. I under exposed it to make the sun not so harsh.

Crescent Moon

I had the opportunity to see this beautiful sky from my house the other night. The crescent moon was so clear and then a plane flew through my shot leaving that lovely light trail. I took many shots, and in all of them, there is that creepy second moon artifact - not sure why it's there, but it makes the picture even more interesting. I love the light from the sunset on the clouds. It's hard to believe, but I took this picture at 10:30 at night. This is straight-out-of-the camera.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cheese, Beef & Noodle Casserole

This is a scrumptious, easy-to-make dinner. Seriously, I was able to make it while listening to my five-year old read aloud from his Aliens book, while my three-year old squirted water all over the kitchen with the kitchen faucet hose, and while I talked on the phone.

My tips are to add some salt to the ground beef as you cook it. It seems quite a few of the Weight Watcher recipes don’t call for any salt. Also, this really isn’t a one-pot meal. The recipe calls for hot cooked penne. How do you get hot cooked penne without cooking it in a pot? Another thing - the recipe calls for a flameproof casserole dish. Raise your hand if you have one of those (*me not raising my hand*). So, I had to sauté the onions and garlic and brown the ground beef in a nonstick skillet then transfer it to my casserole dish. So that makes it a three pot meal, but that’s okay, right? It was worth it.

Cheese, Beef & Noodle Casserole
From Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¾ pound lean beef (7% fat or less)
4 cups hot cooked whole wheat penne
2 cups fat-free marinara sauce
 ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¾ cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

Heat oil in 2-quart flameproof casserole dish over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add beef and cook, breaking it apart with spoon, until browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir penne, marinara sauce, ½ cup of Monterey Jack, and the parsley into beef mixture and spread evenly; sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheese. Transfer casserole to oven and bake until cheese is melted and filling is bubbly around edge, about 20 minutes.

Points Plus value = 7 points for 1 cup serving. Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Spinach and Provolone-Stuffed Chicken

Spinach and Provolone-Stuffed Chicken
(from the Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook)

4 (1/4-pound) chicken cutlets
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 very thin slices prosciutto
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 slices reduced-fat provolone cheese, each cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Place chicken cutlets between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to even thickness with meat mallet or bottom of small heavy saucepan.
Sprinkle chicken with pepper. Place 1 slice of prosciutto on top of each cutlet. Spread spinach evenly over prosciutto and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Top each cutlet with ½ slice of provolone. Roll up up each chicken cutlet starting at tapered end. Secure each roll with toothpick.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken rolls and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Add broth and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet with wooden spoon. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes longer.

Transfer chick to platter and keep warm. Increase heat under skillet to high and cook until pan liquid is syrupy, about 5 minutes.  Pour over chicken and sprinkle with parsley.

Tips: don’t use colored toothpicks to secure the rolled-up chicken; the color will transfer and you’ll have red or blue chicken. Also, I found the prosciutto to be very hard to separate since the slices were so thin – I say just work with it and if it tears, don’t worry about it. Also, very important: my syrupy sauce took longer than 5 more minutes of cooking, and I left it unattended for a minute and it burned! Don’t do this. Stick with it and you’ll get a good sauce. Notice, there is no sauce in my picture.

I served my stuffed chicken with a garden Rotini tossed with browned butter and sea salt. Enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Spaghetti Carbonara with Broccoli and Bacon

Spaghetti Carbonara with Broccoli and Bacon from Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook

 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and gently squeezed dry
¾ cup low-fat (1%) milk
½ grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup fat-free egg substitute
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 slices turkey bacon, chopped
¼ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
4 cups hot cooked whole wheat spaghetti
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Mix together broccoli, milk, Parmesan, egg and egg substitute in medium bowl.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until light golden, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until crisp, about 4 minutes. Add vermouth and cook until it is almost evaporated, about 30 seconds longer.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add spaghetti and broccoli mixture to skillet; cook, tossing constantly, until eggs are cooked through and mixture is creamy, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; sprinkle with parsley and pepper; toss to mix well.

9 Points Plus per serving (about 1½ cups)

My tips: this recipe does not call for any added salt and I think it desperately needed it, so I say add salt to taste. Also, I forgot to buy egg substitute from the store, so I just used two whole eggs total. Also make sure to cook the spaghetti at the beginning of the recipe.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Shane's Last Stand

Shane's Last Stand is the e-short before the first book of Suzanne Brockmann's new Fighting Destiny series. It gives the back story of Shane Laughlin, the star of Born to Darkness. It's really short and reads like a preface for Born to Darkness. I had a little trouble keeping track of the secondary characters, the other SEALs on Shane's team, since the story is so short. I can't say I learned anything dramatically new and you definitely don't need to read it before you read Born to Darkness.

Harvard's Education by Suzanne Brockmann

Harvard's Education is one of two books in Tall, Dark and Devastating, a reissue of Brockmann's Tall, Dark and Dangerous series. I had read the 10 books in this, one of my favorite series before, but I just found out today that there's an 11th book! I get my copy on Wednesday. This weekend, I found myself without a book to read, so I enjoyed reading Harvard's Education again.

Taylor's Temptation by Suzanne Brockmann

This reissue of Suzanne Brockmann's Tall, Dark and Dangerous series contains two books: Get Lucky and Taylor's Temptation. I've read both books before, but decided to re-read Taylor's Temptation and I really enjoyed it even the second time around.

Sunrise Point by Robyn Carr

Sunrise Point is book number 19 in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series. I love this series, but this book wasn't my favorite, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I love visiting Virgin River.

Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

Another winner by one of my favorite authors. I love this Virgin River series and I hope Carr never stops writing.

Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook

I was lucky enough to get this book for three weeks from the library and I made a long list of dishes I want to make. Looks like lots of good recipes in this book. I've already tried the All Tossed Together Cobb Salad and the Cellophane Noodle and Shrimp Salad which were both really good. Now I'm off to get my act together so I can start taking pictures of some of these dishes.

Loving by Karen Kingsbury

Loving is the fourth and final book in Karen Kingsbury's Bailey Flanigan series and it didn't disappoint. I really enjoyed watching Bailey fall in love and marry the right person. Definitely a good read.

Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow and Nathan Whitaker

I've become a Tim Tebow fan!! I LOVED reading his biography and felt inspired as a parent to instill in my children all I can like Tebow's parents did for him. My children and I have started memorizing Bible verses and I've really tried to make every moment a teaching moment. I mentioned that we've moved and until the end of the school year, we spend 80 minutes a day in the car just to get to preschool. I've been inspired by this book to be a better parent and so I've decided to redeem that time we spend in the car and we practice our memory verses. I really want to meet Tim's mom! Definitely a must-read!

Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann

Born to Darkness is the first in Suzanne Brockmann's new futuristic series. There's definitely a grim side to this novel as many of Brockmann's other books have, like in the Troubleshooter series, which I don't like to read, but the characters, the story - it was still addicting. This story also has a gay couple and details about their intimate relationship, which I also don't like to read. I'll still look forward to the next one though. I actually just found out today that there's a short e-story that precedes this first novel called Shane's Destiny, so I'm off to read that now.

Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery

I won't go into a summary of these books I'm about to share with you, but I will tell you that this is the first book in Susan Mallery's Blackberry Island series. It's a little different than her other books which are really based on the romance. This one is based on female friendship with a little romance thrown in as well. I really liked this book and can't wait to read the next book in the series. The characters were well-developed and interesting. A very good read!

I'm Back!

I've spent the past two months (okay three months!) moving out of my old house, turning it into a rental, living with in-laws for two weeks and now we're in our beautiful new home. I'm ready to cook and take pictures again! But, I haven't stopped reading, so I'm going to share with you the books that have gotten me through this big transition.