Tuesday, December 27, 2011

NYE Menu Planning

I should be de-Christmasing my house, but instead I am on my couch searching for recipes to try on New Year's Eve.  We are looking forward to spending New Year's with some dear friends and these particular friends just happen to like to eat, drink, and be merry as much as we do! We have already decided that we will do fondue, or as we are calling it, "FUNdue".  I'm doing a traditional Swiss fondue with garlic and wine, my friend is doing a sharp cheddar fondue with a dark beer.  I love to dip cauliflower and green apples into the hot, bubbly cheese.  We will also have crusty cubes of bread and some other veggies for the spread.  Instead of doing a chocolate fondue for dessert, we figured we'd be sick of dipping and would be ready to just plate up some sweets.  I'm requesting their famous French Silk Pie, while I think I will make the Strawberry Pretzel Salad  I found on Pinterest.  Since fondue really needs to be eaten quickly to keep the cheese from burning, I figured I'd plan on a few appetizers to have sitting out so we can graze continue the food drunk all night.  What are your plans for ringing in the New Year?  Whatever your plans, I hope you are surrounded by people you love; I know we will be.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Wish

May the magic of Christmas
 be with you today and always!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

This week I went to a Favorite Things Party, thanks Pinterest!  My contribution was my coffee obsession this summer.  Luckily, since it's a seasonal flavor, I found it on clearance at Target so it fit the rules for the gift budget. 
For those of you who think this doesn't sound good, you HAVE to try it when it comes out again.  Not only does it taste so yummy, the smell just takes it over the top!  The party idea was a really fun twist on the old Dirty Santa routine.  We decided to make it an annual event.  I'm no Oprah, but it sure is fun to share my favorite things with some of my favorite people. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cookie Exchange

LoveFeast's Holiday Cookie Exchange
I am linking up to LoveFeast Table's 12 Days of Christmas Cookie Exchange.  Don't you just love an old fashioned cookie exchange?  I sure do, and this virtual kind is easier and kinder to my hips.  I have a dear friend that hosts an annual cookie exchange for the ladies in her neighborhood.  They even do a cookie contest.  I gave her this recipe, which is embarassingly easy, and she won the contest that year.  You probably have had a version of this cookie, but I promise, none of them are as good as this one. 

Peanut Butter Blossoms
1 (14-ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk)

3/4 cup peanut butter

2 cups biscuit baking mix

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup sugar

65 solid milk chocolate candy pieces, unwrapped

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat EAGLE BRAND® and peanut butter until smooth. Add biscuit mix and vanilla; mix well.

2. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned around edges (do not overbake). Immediately press chocolate candy piece in center of each cookie. Cool. Store leftovers tightly covered at room temperature.

Friday, December 2, 2011

'Tis the Season

Although it's just now beginning to feel like Christmas weather wise, it's been looking a lot like Christmas around here for awhile.  We put our tree up the week of Thanksgiving because we went on our little getaway after Turkey Day and I wanted to come home to the house already decorated.  I haven't snapped any pictures of our decor yet because the past week has been a whirlwind.  I will get some this weekend and share them with you next week.  I'm sure you will be on pins and needles until then.  I have been busy baking every night this week.  I do rum cakes for the holidays and have had several orders come in.  I am also working with a local winery and selling some cakes there, so needless to say, I feel like I could bake a rum cake in my sleep at this point. 

This weekend is Bedlam...GO SOONERS and we get to watch the game with some of our very favorite people.  I'm still deciding what snacks to make for game day.  I know I will do a cheese ball, there's just something about this time of year that makes me want a good ol' cheeseball.  My family has been using the same recipe for as far back as I can remember.  If ever I mess with the original recipe, I regret it.  I recently messed with it.  I immediately regretted it.  Here's the recipe, don't mess with it.

 "Ancient Chinese Secret" Cheese Ball
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use the sharpest I can find)
8 oz. block of cream cheese (dang, that stuff has gone up in price!)
1 cup chopped pecans
garlic powder to taste (we like things garlic-y, so don't try to kiss me while I'm eating this)
chili powder (sound weird, I know, but remember, I said DON'T MESS WITH IT, trust)
Blend the cheeses, nuts, and garlic well.  Your hands are your friends here.  Just get in there and squish it all together.  Here's where it gets fun, you can make it into a ball shape or roll it into a log shape.  Once you decide and it's all shaped up, pour some chili powder onto some waxed paper and roll the cheese ball in it.  This is best if you make it the day before.  We always serve it with Wheat Thins at my house, if you don't, then essentially you are "messing with it".

BTW, that's not the real name of the recipe.  There isn't one.  I just made that up.  If you didn't grow up in the 70's you may have no idea where that came from.  Sorry.  In this instance, you may mess with the recipe by renaming it anything you would like.
For your viewing pleasure:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Happy Place

We just spent a fabulous weekend in Eureka Springs, AR.  Eureka is one of those places that people either really love, or they just hate it.  We absolutely love it there.  We love the slow pace, the old buildings, the historic homes, the downtown shops, and fabulous food.  We have our favorite places that we hit every time we go, but this time we tried out 2 new restaurants and will now count those as "must do's" as well.  I didn't take any pictures the whole time we were there because the weather wasn't great and I didn't always look camera ready.  We wore comfy clothes, threw on our hats and spent the day wandering the streets.  The bed and breakfast we stay in truly feels like a second home to us.  Susan and Bob are such great hosts and make us feel so welcome.  We were married there 6 years ago and look forward to visiting every year.  I'd love to have a little nest egg that we could use to buy one of those historic homes and fix it up just the way we want it.  I'd love to open up a little store or eatery and totally embrace the Eureka lifestyle.  But for now, it's back to reality and back to the grind. Thank goodness for little getaways!  Do you have a little spot that you like to get away to? 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

May you gobble 'til you wobble on this Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

This is How We Do It

Since my mom and dad just live a hop, skip, and a jump from us, we don't have to travel for Thanksgiving.  That's something to be thankful for in itself, I have heard horror stories of holiday travel.  I always look forward to Thanksgiving because it really is a stress free celebration in our family.  We do things comfy and casual and mom always makes sure everyone has their favorite thing on the table.  Yes, mother, I DO want that green bean casserole. Sorry guys, I just can't resist those little french fried onions when they get all toasty and almost burned in the oven. This year will be different though, because my sister won't be there with her family.  They took a trip to Disneyland with their kiddos.  I'm sure they are having a great time, but we sure will miss them.  On the upside, that means more green bean casserole for me.

I always look forward to the prep and cooking part of Thanksgiving.  I love waking up early and puttering around the house in my pj's, drinking coffee, and watching the parade on TV.  I guess it's kind of tradition around our house and I really love hearing all the bands play while I cook.  This year I'm making the dressing, balsamic brussels sprouts, and a pumpkin crunch cake.  We make pumpkin pie pretty frequently this time of year so it really doesn't feel that special come Thanksgiving.  I found the pumpkin crunch cake on Pinterest and thought I would give it a shot.  I also made a cranberry compote for an event I catered this weekend.  I made plenty so that we could have some with our turkey dinner.  All of us, that is, except Dad.  He just has to have the jellied cranberry sauce.  You know the one. The one that comes out of the can in one big blob that is actually shaped like the can.  It's his favorite and good ol' mom makes sure it's on the table every year (alongside that green bean casserole).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy Birthday to You

You chased me with frogs.
I cried.
You wore your green terry cloth swimsuit.
You wore it while riding your banana seat bicycle. Everywhere.
You smelled like outside.
 All the time.
You outgrew these things.

Happy Birthday to my "baby" sister!

What's up with this pose, you ask?  Back in the day when mom used to take us to have our pictures made, the photographer had Melissa pose like this.  From that day on, anytime a camera was pointed at the girl, she struck this pose.  It didn't matter what she was doing, be it riding that banana seat bike or chasing me with frogs, she stopped, threw her hands up to her face and was ready for her close up.  I'm sure that Olan Mills photographer had no clue how famous this pose was destined to be.   

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mediterranean Layer Dip

For a recent girls night I needed to bring a snack to share.  I didn't have time to stop at the store after work so I took to the "use what you have" method.  I had bought some hummus and pita chips at Sam's on my last shopping trip so that was going to be my stand by if I couldn't throw something together.  I ended up throwing something together using the stand by.  My inspiration was Mexican 7 Layer Dip.  I used the hummus as a base then chopped up some cucumber, tomato, and red onion to put on top.  I sprinkled a little dill weed over the veggies then crumbled some feta over the top.  When I was ready to serve it I drizzled the whole thing with olive oil and some fresh cracked pepper. I found that there are some similar recipes on Pinterest, so I guess I didn't invent this dip, but I used what I had to throw it together so I am taking at least partial credit. 

It was much prettier in person, my iPhone photos really aren't up to snuff.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Did You Feel That?

Here in Oklahoma we had not 1, but 2 earthquakes this weekend.  Yes, you read that right.  Earthquakes.  In Oklahoma.  Weird, huh?  We slept right through the first one that hit around 2:30 in the AM on Saturday.  The only reason I even knew it happened was thanks to my "must check Facebook immediately upon waking" habit.  People that live in my neighborhood said it woke them up but the 2 adults, 2 kids, and 4 dogs at our house slept right through it.  On Saturday, we went to some friend's house to watch the OU game and stayed after to play Scrabble and then the guys watched the Bama/LSU game.  After a day of food, football and fun we were exhausted and headed to the house.  As soon as we got home the second quake hit.  I walked in the door and it sounded like a stampede was coming my way.  Things started rattling and I literally felt the earth move under my feet.  This one was stronger than the night before, but I can't believe we were able to sleep through the first one.  People say they wouldn't want to live in Oklahoma because of the tornadoes, but at least you get a warning when a twister is coming!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself

This past weekend we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary.  We took a day trip to one of our favorite places, Eureka Springs.  We got married there and love to get back there when we can.  The foliage this time of year is unbelievable, and we just love the vibe of the slower pace there! We shopped and ate and shopped some more.  While going on little jaunts like that are so much fun, I feel even more lucky to share my regular everyday life with such an amazing partner.  These six years have absolutely flown by and I can't wait to see what the next ones will bring.  Have you heard Blake Shelton's song God Gave Me You? He really sums it all up way better than I ever could (guess that's why he's getting paid the big bucks).
On my own I’m only
Half of what I could be
I can’t do without you
We are stitched together
And what love has tethered
I pray we never undo

Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
And for when I think I lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you, gave me you.
He gave me you.

Here's to you, the love of my life, and the life we have made.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ghosts of Halloween Past

My "babies" are all grown up! This Halloween won't be spent costuming or trick-or-treating, but we still intend to celebrate.  We are having a few friends over to make pizzas, drink Bloody Mary's and pass out candy to the neighborhood ghosts and goblins.  I was feeling a little nostalgic and had my dad dig up some old pics of the kids in their Halloween costumes.  Those days seem like yesterday and like a million years ago all at the same time.  
Hallie was only 11 days old so she stayed home while we took Drew to HalloZOOween.
Our little Sandra Dee
Nerd boy

Tim McGraw...LOL
Witchy Woman
Enjoy your "little pumpkins"!  They grow up way too fast.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A "Pinterest-ing" Plate

I tried 2 new recipes, both from Pinterest, for dinner last night.  I love, love, love brussels sprouts, and this shredded version from Eat Live Run did not disappoint.  I left out the sugar, but added a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end.  So good! This was also my first go around with flank steak. Marinated Flank Steak with Horseradish Cream caught my eye because I love horseradish, and if you mix anything with cream it's even better, right?  I made the marinade the night before because flank steak needs all the help it can get.  This stuff is tough, but if marinated long enough (overnight at the minimum) it ends up really tender.  My ex MIL used to make the best flank steak, it was done in a soy based marinade with some green onions in it.  Man, that was some good stuff.  I say she used to make it, I would assume she still does, I just haven't had the pleasure of her cooking in quite some time. If you follow me on Pinterest then you know I pin lots of recipes and I have every intention of trying all of them.  On the other hand, I also pin lots of crafts and DIY items, most of which I will probably never try.  What do you lean towards on Pinterest? If you aren't on Pinterest, what are you waiting for? Christmas?  Well, don't, 'cause Christmas is just around the corner and there are tons of recipes and crafts you need to try before it gets here.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Can You Keep a Secret

I thought I'd share the secret to a pretty fabulous homemade ice cream cake.  This cake is a big hit around here, it was even my daughter's request for her 17th birthday cake this week.  I actually made this recipe for the first time on a whim, I needed a quick dessert I could throw together and forget about.  I was hosting a luncheon for some teacher friends and my oven was occupied baking the yummy quiche.  The dessert was such a hit and all the girls were raving about it. I didn't tell them right away what my secret was, but I finally spilled the beans.  The secret to an easy,  yet impressive ice cream cake is...
ice cream sandwiches. 
Building this cake is like playing with bricks and mortar in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.  You just layer the ice cream sandwiches with the fudge filling, then cover the whole thing in Cool Whip.
That fudge "mortar" is to die for.
I build the cake on 2 pieces of foil that I overlap. Wrap that foil loosely up around the sides and stick it in the freezer.
Doesn't look like anything special, huh?  Just trust me.  When you slice into it the layers are so pretty.    The only change to the original recipe that I made is I buy a larger container of Cool Whip, I like the thicker "frosting" on the outside.  I'm not even a huge Cool Whip fan, but I do like it on this dessert.  You could fancy it up a bit with sprinkles or even some crushed oreos.  You'll have plenty of those because the recipe only calls for a few.
You don't have to spill the beans to your guests.  Let them think you meticulously layered all of that chocolaty, creamy goodness. 
Just don't forget to take out the trash!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives

Do you watch "Triple D" as Guy himself calls it?  I watch at it, but it's not a must see for me.  My son however, loves it.  I was recently in Indiana and had some time (like all day) to kill before my flight home.  Drew texted me the name of a place he had seen on DDD.  As luck would have it, Steer-In wasn't too far off the beaten path from where I was.  So I put the address into my trusty Garmin and off we went; and by "we" I mean me and the Garmin.  The Garmin and I have become buds recently, I will never travel without her again.  I say "her" because I prefer the female voice over the male voice selection.  Drew also told me the owner of the Steer-In makes the meatballs fresh everyday and that I should get the meatball sandwich.  That typically wouldn't be my first choice, but I took his advice and  was definitely glad I did.  The meatballs were outstanding, and those onion rings...TO. DIE. FOR.  These rings were some of the best I've ever eaten.  I sat at the counter in the middle of the restaurant, allowing me to visit with some locals who are regulars, as well as the friendly wait staff.  I got to talking and told them how I ended up there and they insisted I try the coconut cream pie.  I was stuffed after my lunch but I'm not one to turn down a piece of pie.  Especially a pie that put the place on the map...literally.  Let's just say I left there overly stuffed. 
No, I didn't eat the whole thing.  I ate the meatballs and just a couple of those onion rings.
Yes, I ate the whole thing.
Guy left his mark on the place...
and so did I! 
The owner gave me a little white pin to mark my hometown, all of this business has come to them thanks to being on the show.  I'm so glad I had the time to explore this little gem.  I'm glad all of that TV watching my boy does has paid off.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Down on the Farm

We were recently extended an invitation to attend a "farm to table" dinner. We met at our friend's country club then hopped on a motor coach that took us to a farm just a few miles outside of town. The setting was gorgeous, intricately carved pumpkins and hay bales lined the walkway into the farm and I knew we were in for a treat. We toured the farm, which is sustainable and all organic. After the tour we were seated at a beautifully set table right smack dab in the middle of the farm. Here are a few pics I was able to snap with my phone. 
This bar greeted us as we came up the pumpkin lined path.

 The menu: the pumpkin soup and the pork belly were the highlights of the meal.

This soup was amazing, never mind the presentation, I'd eat this stuff out of a trough.

Enjoying a glass of wine before the tour.
He doesn't drink wine.  He's not a photographer.  How did this happen?
I wish I had gotten more pics, but hopefully some of those that the hubs snapped with our friend's camera will capture the evening better than I did.  We had such a great time, it was definitely a treat!