Monday, December 12, 2011

Red Velvet Peppermint Cookies

So here's how this cookie began.  I had planned all morning to make sugar cookies so that the twins and I could decorate them after their nap.  After I'd gotten the girls all comfy in their beds, I rushed downstairs to mix the sugar cookie dough.  I opened the pantry door and reached for what looked like a 1/2 full bag of flour.  Unfortunately, what I found was that I had maybe 1/2 cup of flour.  I was a little sad because I had my heart set on making cookies.  I decided to google what I could use to substitute the flour.  I found that you can use cake mix as a base for cookies.  My heart leaped with joy when I remembered that I had a box of red velvet cake mix left over from the twins birthday.  My head began to fill with the endless possibilities that could make the red velvet cookie the most amazing Christmas cookie ever.  Okay, although it will most likely not be the most amazing Christmas cookie ever, a girl can dream right?  Lol!

This is a super easy recipe, so you should definitely try it out.

I started out by setting my oven to 350 degrees F.  I then dumped an 18 oz. box of red velvet cake mix into the beloved mixer.  I then added 1 egg, 1/2 c. butter, and 2 tbsp. of water.  I gave it a good mix, and realized I would definitely need a lil' flour...the dough was still a lil' gooey.  I didn't measure the flour, I just shock a bit in there, but I would say it was approximately 1/4 c.  Feel free to add more if it's needed.

Once it was just right, I spooned the dough onto a greased cookie sheet.  Once the whole cookie sheet was full,  I popped those little lovelies (which actually look kind of like raw hamburger patties in this picture, lol) into the oven for approximately 12 minutes.  After they where done baking, I cooled them on wire racks lined with wax paper.  

While the cookies where cooling, I whipped up some frosting, and added several drops of red food coloring.  While the cookies continued to cool, the frosting chilled in the refrigerator.  

For the peppermint decoration, I broke up several candy canes and placed them in a coffee grinder.  The grinder ground the candy canes into peppermint powder, which is ohhhhh so yummy, and can also be used to spice up your hot cocoa.  I placed the powder in a bowl, and then moved onto make chunkier pieces of peppermint.  I again broke up several candy canes, but this time I placed them in a ziploc bag. 

If you need to get some aggression out, you'll really appreciate this next step.  Make sure to close up your ziploc nice and tight.  Take a hammer and go at the candy cane until it's broken into chunky pieces.

By this point, the twins where up from their naps, and ready to decorate the little beauties.  

Emma was excited to see the decorations, and was ready to dig in.

As it turns out, Emma thought we should decorate all of them, and then eat all of them.  Once she found out that we would not be eating all of them, she ate her 2 cookies and left me to decorate alone.  

To decorate, I spread the frosting on, sprinkled a lil' peppermint powder, and lastly sprinkled some chunky peppermint over the top.  Voila...Red Velvet Peppermint cookies!!!!!

When my husband came home, he lovingly said "These are the best Christmas cookies ever".  No joke, he loved them!!!!  I'm so excited, and will have to make these annually now!  I think they'd also be great with cream cheese frosting!!  

Red Velvet Peppermint Cookie Recipe:

1 18 oz. box of red velvet cake mix (you can use any type of cake mix you'd like).
1/2 c. butter
1 egg
2 tbsp. water
Approximately 1/4 c. all purpose flour

Martha Stewart Whipped Frosting Recipe:

3 large egg whites
3/4 c. sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 c. water
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
4 or 5 drops of red food coloring


1 box of candy canes

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where's My Espresso IV Stat?!!?

Well, I should start by explaining that I had all intentions on hitting the hay last night by 10pm.  My goal every night is to get to bed by 9pm, but that rarely happens.  I was up doing homework across the couch from the hubs, while he was also pumping out the homework.  I finally drug my exhausted self upstairs (Mt. Everest), and could not for the life of me fall asleep.  I kept hearing things downstairs that turned out to be my imagination.  I laid in bed until 1:30am, and finally I gave into the idea that I would never sleep.  I grabbed my pillow, and my huge zip up fleece I stole from my husband (I wear it every night, even though I look like the bag lady) and I walked back down the stairs, absolutely defeated by the fact that I had lost the sleep battle.  I threw myself across the chase lounge and contemplated making a pot of coffee, but decided that that would not help things at all, and I would wait until morning.  Just when I thought I was alone in my inability to sleep, down walked the hubs with a pillow under one arm, and a blanket under the other.  Since I couldn't sleep, he had come down to sleep on the couch and at least be down here with me.  It's the small things right!

With every minute that passed I could just feel how exhausted I was going to be when the wee ones where up making their demands for food and entertainment the next morning.  I am happy to announce that I did FINALLY fall asleep at 2:30am.  Unfortunately, my exhaustion led us to oversleep.  I woke up in a panic at 6:50am, shaking Matt to wake him up.  Matt usually leaves for work around 7:15am, so waking up at 6:50 is a no no.  Matt ran upstairs to get ready, and I laid there seriously considering staying on the chase lounge and sleeping all day.  I had a quick flash of what a wreck the house would be within even one hour of the girls being down here while I was sleeping, and on that note I shot up and literally ran into the kitchen to get the much needed coffee a brewin'.

The morning definitely started off on a bad foot, and by the time I put the girls down for a nap at noon, I had absolutely run out of gas.  I realized that I hadn't eaten and that must have been why I felt like my stomach was eating itself.  I mixed up a tbsp. of trusty peanut butter and 1 tbsp. of grape jelly, and stirred it up.  No, I didn't put it on bread, that's my version of a pb&j sandwich.  I like to eat it right out of the bowl, with a side of Propel water.  I do this every day, sometimes late at night.
After I ate my sandwich in a bowl, I shockingly allowed myself to lay down on the couch (I don't usually let myself take a nap, because I'm always too afraid of getting behind on things) and fell asleep for 45 minutes.  When I woke up, my mind instantly went to coffee!  I needed it, I was desperate for the stuff, and I made a b line for the freezer where I keep my Espresso Roast.  It was a little warm outside today, so I wasn't really in the mood for hot coffee.  I decided I'd make an iced coffee.  I used to think that iced coffees where better when made at a coffee shop, but that is just so not true.  Not only do they taste better when made in your own kitchen, but they are WAY better for you.

I like to use Starbucks Espresso Roast for my iced coffee (and my coffee iv, which I hook up to and carry around all day long, lol...I wish).  I make 6 cups, and use 2 tbsp. of coffee plus a little extra dash for that extra punch.  

The mug on the left is my fav.  It says "Go away, Beat it, Leave me alone, Get lost, Scram", which is how I feel before I've had my morning coffee.  Notice I call it my "morning coffee", because I have morning, afternoon, and evening coffee.  My confession is that I drink WAY too much coffee for just one person.  You're probably wondering what the mason jar is for.  Once I mix the hot coffee in my mug, I pour it into the mason jar over ice.

I LOVE coffee so much, I even find beauty in pouring it, lol!

Ahhh, the rich, carmel, and bold beauty of Espresso Roast.  Now it's time for me to stir in 2 tbsp. of creamer, and 2 tbsp. of Sugar in the Raw (I like sugar).  With the holidays approaching, you could also put Coffee Mates Pumpkin Spice creamer in, giving it the taste of Fall.

I've got my ice in my jar, and I'm about to pour my mug of love over the cold ice.  By the way, I've come to the conclusion that my ice maker is not friends with the coffee that lives on the shelf next to it.  The ice maker doesn't seem to want to keep up with my ice needs.  I often find that I've run out of ice and have to wait a full 24 hours before it has replenished itself.  Do you think the ice is jealous of the coffee?

A yummy treat to pair with an iced coffee is a dark chocolate Pirouline.  I will not be enjoying this light chocolate wafer, because I've already eaten all of them =(

That's okay though, this jar of glorious goodness is all I need for now....until tonight when I am in need of yet another caffeinated rendezvous.

Feel free to leave your tired mommy or daddy confessions in the comments box below...I would love to hear them, and maybe not feel so ridiculous over my affair with Espresso Roast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Pie

I had a request earlier this afternoon for an apple pie recipe.  I gladly agreed to make one and post it, because I have this BIG box of apples sitting in my kitchen just begging to be used.

I'm sure my husband's co workers will be thrilled to find out that they're having apple pie for breakfast tomorrow, lol!  My kids will be equally thrilled when they see the mini apple crescents I made for them out of the left over pie dough.  Even if you've never made pie dough from scratch, this recipe is very simple!  You can do it, I'll even show you how ;)  Follow me, we'll do this together...

Grab your sea salt, all purpose flour, butter, and fill a cup with iced water.  

Grab 1/2 c. of butter (1 stick of butter) and cut it up into piece.  Make sure that your butter is chilled, the colder the butter, the better.  

Toss 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour, and 1/4 tsp. sea salt into a mixing bowl.  

Start mixing your flour and salt, 1 piece at a time start mixing in your cold butter.  

Mix your ingredients until it resembles loose sand.  

Measure your ice cold water that's been sitting in the cup into 1/4 c.  Don't put any ice into the measuring cup.  Slowly add your water into your mixing bowl, 1 tsp. at a time.  Mix your dough until it forms a ball.  Immediately stop mixing, place in plastic wrap, and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.  Overworking your dough will cause your crust to be hard once you bake it, and putting too much water will cause a chain reaction of having to add more flour, water, get the picture.

I made 2 balls of dough, because I wanted to also place lattice on top of my pie.  If you want  to make more then 1 ball of dough, I would recommend repeating the steps above instead of doubling the recipe. While doubling recipes is a great and easy way to multiply the amount of food you make, baking is an exact science.  Pies are straight forward and easy to make, but they are also very easy to mess up.  

Once your dough is ready to go, place a sheet of wax paper down on your counter.  A sweet lil' tip for keeping your wax paper from sliding all over the place while your rolling out your dough, is to sprinkle a few drops of water underneath the wax paper.  The water will keep the paper on the counter.  Sprinkle a dusting of flour on your wax paper, and place your dough on the flour.  Lightly sprinkle flour on the top of your dough and begin to roll out your dough.  Quickly roll in a 1/4 in. flat circle.  

Once you have your pie crust all rolled out, gently place it in the pie pan.  If you're only using 1 pie crust, fold the areas of the dough that are hanging over the sides of the pie pan, and fold the dough under itself.  Place your pie pan in the refrigerator to chill while you move onto prepping your apples.

Moving onto our pie filling, grab 8 Fuji apples, wash, peel, and core them.  

Cut your apples into small pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile preheat your oven for 425 degrees F.  Next, melt 1/2 c. butter in a sauce pan over low heat.  

When your butter is completely melted turn heat to medium, place 3 tbsp. all purpose flour into your sauce pan, and mix to make a paste.  

Pour in 1/4 c. water, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 c. white sugar, and 1/2 c. brown sugar.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to lowest heat setting to simmer.

While your sauce is simmering, place your apples in the pie crust.  

If you're going to use a 2nd crust to make lattice do that step while your sauce is simmering.  Once the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes (stir occasionally), gently pour sauce over the entire pie.  Brush an egg wash (1 egg beaten and applied with a pastry brush) over the edges of your crust.  Place your pie in the oven for 35 minutes, placing a loose foil tent over the pie during the last 10 minutes to avoid overly cooked crust edges.

Sprinkle with cinnamon, and allow to cool for 1 hour.  Well, you did it!  Good job!  Now go eat that beautiful pie with your family, friends, or give it away to someone you love =)

Pie Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 C. All purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. ice water
1/2 c. butter

Apple Pie Filling Ingredients:

Pie crust
8 Fuji apples 
1/2 c. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon 
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Egg Wash:
1 egg

Crock Pot Spaghetti & Meatballs

Today has been a busy day, with lots to check off on the agenda.  Between the girls school work, my school work, pictures to edit, phone calls to make, and the ever growing pile of laundry I thought a good easy dinner was in order.  My family LOVES spaghetti and meatballs, and Emma often begs me to make it on a weekly basis.  This recipe produces the best spaghetti I've ever had from a home kitchen.  Oddly, the best spaghetti I've ever had came from the dining facility at Fort Jackson, SC while I was in Army Basic Training.  How funny is that!?!?  I have found memories of rapidly stuffing down my spaghetti while there.  I can tell ya that although I may have only been able to taste it for a mere 2 was delightful!

Whether you are rushing off to work, taking the kids to school, heading to doctor's appointments, or running around trying to get the kids together to start their school work; this recipe is for you!

Place 1 lb. of lean ground beef (I used 1/2 lb. because I like a smaller amount of meatballs) into a medium size mixing bowl.  Pour in 1 1/2 tsp. garlic, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp. onion powder, and 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper.  Mix all of your ingredients together.

Using either a small ice cream scooper, a spoon, or your hands, form your ground beef into medium size meatballs.  Place your meatballs in a skillet, and brown on medium heat.  While your meat's cooking, spray some all natural cooking spray on the sides and bottom of your crock pot.

Once your meatballs are browned on the outside, transfer them into your greased crock pot.

Pour 1 jar of spaghetti sauce into your crock pot, covering the meatballs.  Gently stir the sauce, mixing the meatballs and sauce slightly.  Throw in a dash or 2 of Italian Seasoning.

Place the cover on your crock pot, turn on low, and allow your sauce and meatballs to cook for 6 to 7 hours.  

As for your sauce, you can use home made, or store bought.  For convenience sake, I bought mine, and used Trader Joe's Three Cheese Pomodoro Sauce. It's amazing by the way!!!  Emeril's sauce is fantastic as well!!!  

Once you're home from work, school, the doctor's, or just ready to get the clan fed, fill up a pot of water and bring it to boil.  Pour in a bag of organic whole wheat spaghetti pasta, and boil until al dente (firm, but not hard).  Drain your pasta, serve it up on plates, and pour your sauce and meatballs over the pasta.  Sprinkle on a little parmesan, and your all set!!!  Bon appetit!!!

Recipe Ingredients:

1 lb. Lean ground beef
1 1/2 tsp. Garlic
1 1/2 tsp. Onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. Sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. Black pepper
1 to 2 dashes of Italian seasoning
1 25 oz. Jar of spaghetti sauce
1 lb. Organic whole wheat spaghetti pasta
Parmesan cheese

*Tip for stretching your food*

If you have any left, throw it in the food processor or blender with a couple dollops of all natural or organic alfredo sauce, and mix until creamy.  Warm up slightly, and it makes a perfect meal for baby, or that exceptional little boy or girl that may not be able to chew their food just yet.  You can place puree in small containers or ziploc baggies and freeze for future use.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pumpkin Puree = Roasted Cayenne, Salted Pumpkin Seeds, and Pumpkin Waffles

Did you know that last week was National Waffle Week?  I was late in learning this, but I did make the cut off by making waffles on Saturday morning.  I don't make waffles regularly; but when I do; I like to make A LOT!  I used to buy the frozen pre made waffles because I thought I was making my life easier by paying a couple dollars for 8 to 10 waffles that I could pop in the microwave for 15 seconds.  A couple years ago when I started looking for ways to save money at the grocery store, I realized that I was spending more on the frozen waffles, then I would if I made them myself, and then froze them for later.  During my next trip to the grocery store, I bought all of the ingredients (which are basic pantry and refrigerator staples) to make 20 + waffles intent on freezing them for breakfast's to come.  20 + waffles lasts our family from 1 1/2 to 2 months, because I make them in a belgian waffle maker.  A belgian waffle is equivalent to 2 regular sized waffles, so in reality I am making 40 waffles.
I LOVE cooking in bulk, then freezing it for later, but the real plus in this recipe is that you can mix in whatever fruit, vegetable, or grain you fancy.  This is a perfect way to get your kids to eat their veggies.  Sometimes I toss in some good ol' flax seed, sometimes sweet potato, and other times on special occasions I like to go a little sweeter with banana's, and organic dark chocolate chips.  Today I opted for pumpkin because I had 4 small baking pumpkins sitting beautifully in front of my fireplace.  I prepped the pumpkin early this morning while I was drinking my morning coffee, and then baked it during the mid morning hours.  While I was prepping the pumpkin, I decided I would also roast the pumpkin seeds, and later make pumpkin waffles, using the puree I would make from the roasted pumpkin.  Sounds like a lot, but it's all very easy =)  You ready?

Let's start by first washing your whole pumpkins, and placing them on a cutting board.  

Grab a serrated knife and cut your pumpkins in half using a sawing motion.  Place pumpkin halves skin side down, and scoop out all seeds and strings.  I used an ice cream scooper, but a spoon works well too.  Make sure to separate the pumpkin seeds into a separate bowl.  Fill the pumpkin seed bowl with water to soak the seeds.

At this time, set your oven for 350 degrees F.  Place a wire rack (if you have one) in the bottom of a roasting pan, and fill with water until the bottom of the pan is completely covered.  Place the pumpkins skin down on the wire rack.

Cover your roasting pan with foil, and place it in the oven for 1 hour.  You may need to roast for longer, depending on the size of your pumpkins.  Check the tenderness of the pumpkin flesh periodically with a fork.

Meanwhile, grab your pumpkin seeds that have been soaking in a bowl, and pour them into a strainer.  Let them strain for 5 to 10 minutes.  

Remove your seeds from the strainer, and spread them evenly over a baking sheet.  Pour 1 tbsp olive oil over the seeds.  Sprinkle on a generous amount of cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt.  

Use your hands to evenly coat the seeds with the olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.  Then place in the oven at 350 degrees F (your oven should already be set and ready) for 15 to 20 minutes.

Once the seeds are done roasting, they should be a beautiful golden color.  

Transfer your seeds from the baking sheet to a paper plate to allow for better cooling.  Once they are done cooling, place them in baggies, and store in a pantry for up to 3 weeks...if they last that long =)

Your house should be smelling amazing now with the aroma of roasting pumpkin filling the air.  Once your pumpkin's are done, take them out of the oven and remove the foil.  Allow them to cool for about 30 minutes.  

Now that the pumpkin is cool enough to touch, peel the skin off, and separate the flesh into a bowl.

Place your roasted pumpkin flesh into your blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. 

Now that your pumpkin is pureed, pour it into a tupperware container, and freeze, place in refrigerator, can it, or set it aside for the following recipe.  You can also freeze your puree in small bowls, to be used as baby food later.  When you're ready to serve to baby, simply thaw, add a lil' olive oil, or organic butter, and a couple sprinkles of cinnamon. 

Recipe Ingredients:

2 Small baking pumpkins
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper
Sea salt
2 tbsp. olive oil

Storing tip:  

If freezing your pumpkin, write the date and time on top of the container w/ a black permanent marker.  The pumpkin will stay good for 3 to 4 months, and writing the date and time on them is an easy way to keep track of their expiration date.

Pumpkin Waffles:

Grab a medium size bowl, and whisk together 1 1/3 c. flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. sugar.

In a small bowl, crack 2 eggs, separating the egg whites into the small bowl.  Set the 2 egg yolks in the bowl with the dry ingredients.  Beat the egg whites until moderately stiff.

Mix in 1 /34 c. milk, and 1/2 c. butter into the dry ingredients.  Next fold in the egg whites, and mix well. Sprinkle in 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and 1/3 c. of pumpkin puree.
Mix all ingredients together.

Plug in your waffle maker, and set a clean plate to down next to it to place your finished waffle on.  

When your waffle maker is ready, ladle on your batter and cook for approximately 2 minutes per side.  The cooking time will depend on your waffle maker.

Yummy, yum...ready set eat!  Freeze in ziploc baggies, make a breakfast sandwich or two, or place them in baggies and serve them later as snacks.

Recipe Ingredients:

1 1/3 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 3/4 c. milk
1tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 c. pumpkin puree