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Friday, November 30, 2012

Elfie's Antics: Week One


Last year we started the Elf on the Shelf tradition with our boys, though I admit, I wasn't terribly inventive at the time.  This year I decided to step up my game...Here are Elfie's Antics this week!

Day One:
Elfie arrived while we were at Nana & Papa's house for Thanksgiving.  He surprised the boys with some warm Christmas jammies, Christmas socks, a Christmas CD for the car and some M&Ms!


He also left a letter, reminding the boys of the rules.  We have a house rule that we can move Elfie to a safe place (from the floor to a shelf, for example) without him losing his magic.  That way I'm not having to constantly think of really high places to hide the elf or yell at the kids all day.

Day Two:
Elfie made a chain out of our giant monkeys.

He thought it was pretty awesome to hang with monkeys on the Christmas tree all day.

Day Three:
Knowing my tendency to lose my keys, Elfie decided to keep an eye on them tonight.

Day Four:
Elfie, the lesser known 4th king, arrived on the manger scene via camel.

Day Five:
Elfie thought the glass top stove looked a lot like ice, so he organized a hockey game...

...with candy cane goals, a bamboo skewer bent into a stick, and a marshmallow puck.  And his favorite team's jersey, of course *GO SIOUX*

Day Six:
Elfie started to make a paper chain to count down to Christmas.  He didn't have time to finish, but my 4 year old was more than happy to pick up the slack!


There you have it!  Do you have an Elf on the Shelf?  What are your favorite Elf Antics?  For more ideas, don't miss my Elf on the Shelf Pinboard!



Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Beer-Lime Chicken



One of the few foods my boys will eat on a regular basis is chicken.

I also love chicken, but it’s really easy to get stuck in a chicken rut and get really sick of plain old chicken.

That’s why I love marinades like Beer-Lime Chicken!  It adds interest to the same old meal and keeps things fresh and interesting!


Recipe Notes:
*I used a dark Leinenkugel 1888 Bock in this recipe


Monday, November 26, 2012

Beef Stew



Once the weather turns cold and brisk, I just love a nice hearty soup.  I’d never before made beef stew, so I decided it was high time I did so!

This fabulous recipe did not disappoint.  It had all of the delicious flavors that you expect from a beef stew plus a few extras (Worcestershire!  Paprika!  Beer!) just to keep things interesting!

The best part is, this recipe could be easily whipped up in the slow cooker, just sear the meat and toss everything else into the slow cooker and you’re set!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mocha Almond Biscotti {12 Weeks of Christmas Treats}




Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we are officially in the Christmas season!  It seems so much closer from this side of Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?

Today I have another great cookie that would be equally wonderful on holiday cookie trays or wrapped in a pretty bag to give to friends or co-workers.  After all, who doesn’t like a delicious piece of chocolaty biscotti with their morning coffee?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Cookies & A Cautionary Tale



Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I love going home and spending time with family.  Playing games, eating, and laughing together. 

I’m in charge of cookies again this year; my mom is going to handle the rest!
  
Before we get to the cookies, a cautionary tale…

Last week we celebrated an early Thanksgiving with my husband’s family.  They traditionally deep fry their turkey.  So while the women and kids relaxed inside (most of the side dishes were made ahead), the men went out to the garage to heat the oil and do manly things.

The men were out there a long time when they came in to tell us that the oil had been so cold that they were having trouble heating it (after over 30 minutes, it was still onely at 150 degrees F and needed to be at 350).  So they increased the flame on the propane tank considerably.  And it still wouldn’t heat up!

Then the deep fryer began to smoke (not good), and then my father in law opened the lid and it LIT ON FIRE (really bad!)  But being men, they had to be sure, so they lifted the cover a second time and flames shot into the air (really really really bad!)  Thankfully no one was hurt nor was the garage lit on fire.

Once everything was under control, they checked online and found that the smoke point of peanut oil is 600 degrees F and the flash point is 800 degrees F.  Those men were very lucky.  So the point of this store is: use caution and make sure all of your equipment is in good working condition!

Now let’s talk cookies!


I started out with the iconic hand turkeys, only make them in cookie form! (You can find my inspiration here).  I added names so these cookies can be used as place cards too.  And so my boys can’t hoard all of them.

Those are their actual hands, by the way.  I just traced their hands onto card stock, cut them out and used a sharp knife to cut them out of rolled sugar cookie dough!  It makes the cookies just a bit more special, I think.  Here’s the whole gang!

I also made little Cookie Pumpkin Pies (inspiration here)!  The slices have a little dollop of “whipped cream” because you have to have whipped cream with pumpkin pie, right?


I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Apple Cheddar Muffins (SRC)



Today I got a Secret Recipe Club S.O.S.

At today’s SRC reveal, Avanika’s blog, Yumsilicious Bakes was orphaned.  Getting orphaned on reveal day is like being the last one picked to play kick ball at recess.  It’s a major bummer.  So I was more than happy to step up and make something from her blog, especially since she has so many amazing recipes!

Yumsilicious is a dessert blog and oh do those desserts look good!  Had I not already made my Thanksgiving desserts, I definitely would have taken advantage of one of Avanika’s amazing dessert recipes!

As it was, I happened upon a delicious recipe for Apple Cheddar Bread that I get to share with you today, though I made it into muffins, cuz that’s how I roll!

Typically I make chocolaty muffins (since my boys are totally chocolate freaks), but the flavors in this muffin were speaking to me so I kept it as is.  And I am so glad I did!  Whether of not you are a cheddar and apple fan, you will love the muffins!  The cheddar is not at all prominent and instead adds an amazing depth of flavor and melds harmoniously with the apple and spice flavors.  These muffins will be lovely for Thanksgiving breakfast…if there are any left, that is!

Hoot Owl Cookies




A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from my Grandma.  She was going to be attending a fund raiser and the theme was “Something You Want to Hoot About”.  My sweet grandma wanted to hoot about me and my cakes and cookies. 

She had contacted me so I could send her some photos of my work, but I wasn’t about to stop there!  No sir!  I also decided to send her a couple dozen little hoot owls to share with her ladies!


These little owls were made using a Hello Kitty cookie cutter with the top cut out with a small circle cutter!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dark Chocolate Toffee-Nut Clusters {12 Weeks of Christmas Treats}





While in the Detroit area visiting relatives last week, I went on my first excursion to Trader Joe’s!  Since we were traveling by plane only a couple days later, I could really only peruse the store instead of filling a cart to my heart’s delight. But since we needed road snacks, I did snag a bag of Dark Chocolate Nutty Bits.


Can we say delicious?  These yummy snacks boast a mixture of nuts coated in toffee, dipped in dark chocolate, and sprinkled with Fleur de Sel.  You really can’t go wrong with this one!

Since I do not see a Trader Joe’s coming to my area anytime in the foreseeable future, I decided to make my own version of the delightful treats as soon as I got home!  And since they are sweet, they are this week’s 12 Week’s of Christmas Treats!

I used a version of my personal Christmas favorite, Almond Roca, to coat the nuts. And while these aren’t a traditional Christmas treat by any means, I think a package of these along with a bottle of Homemade Vanilla Extract is the perfect gift for all of those hard to buy for people!

Recipe Notes
*I used Planter’s Deluxe Mixed Nuts in this recipe, containing cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, and pistachios
*If using a glass top stove, be careful that no molten candy comes in contact with the glass top, as this can crack the glass.
*Use a good quality dark chocolate.  I mixed 4 oz Semi Sweet Baker’s Chocolate (54% cacao) and 1 ½ oz Lindt Extra Dark Chocolate (85% cacao)
*You don’t have to temper the chocolate, but the smooth, shiny chocolate does add a nice touch.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chicken & Noodles




Last week I shared my Grandma’s recipe for homemade egg noodles, so now it’s time to share her Chicken & Noodles!  My grandma made this dish frequently when we went to visit, so I always think of her when I make chicken and noodles.  I am so glad I can share her recipe with my own family!

As a side, Chicken & Noodles may not be much to look at, but it is comforting in every way!  Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Homemade Egg Noodles



When I first decided to create my 30x30 list back in March, some of the first recipes I added were family recipes that I wanted to be sure were passed down to the next generation.

One of those recipes came from my Dad’s Mom, Grandma Ginny.  (Grandma Liz is the one I’ve mentioned before as the family baker). 

Her homemade Chicken & Noodles is one of those amazing comfort foods.  Chicken & Noodles also had a by-product of checking off another 30x30 recipe: homemade noodles!  So the recipe for Chicken & Noodles will come in a few days and today we’ll talk noodles!

For this recipe, you don’t necessarily need a pasta roller.  I used one, though sometimes I wonder if I should.  It seems like more work than it should be, constantly unclamping itself from the counter and sticking like crazy (though that was an operator error – use tons of flour!)  But I’m going to keep trying!  In the meantime, enjoy some noodles!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Chocolate Fondants {Chocolate Lava Cakes} SRC





For this month’s Secret RecipeClub reveal, I was assigned Corina’s blog, Searching for Spice.  Corina loves to try new recipes and Searchingfor Spice is her way to record all of the successes, new and old.  She is constantly pushing herself to try wonderful new recipes.

As I perused Corina’s blog, I was initially drawn to her many recipes featuring chorizo.  I’ve never used chorizo (and I’m not entirely sure I can even buy it in my area), so I almost went that direction. 

But ultimately I chose to make the decadent chocolate fondants (largely due to the fact that I was about to head out of town and didn’t have time to eat leftovers).  Plus Chocolate Fondants (better known as Chocolate Lava Cakes or Molten Lava Cakes in the US) are one of my 30x30 bucket list recipes!

I got nervous about flipping my cakes & slightly overcooked them, so while they were rich & gooey in the center, they weren’t molten.  Ah well, there were still wonderfully delicious and I plan to make them again around Christmas or New Years!  Can’t you just imagine curling up in frost of a Christmas Eve fire with these beauties?


Recipe Notes:
*The original recipe uses metric measurements.  I did my best to convert them as accurately as possible without owning anything that measures in grams.
*This recipe calls for caster sugar, which is an ultrafine granulated sugar (not confectioner’s sugar).  I used regular granulated sugar in this recipe.

Chocolate Fondants {Chocolate Lava Cake}
Recipe adapted from Searchingfor Spice

2 tsp cocoa powder
Cooking spray
¼ cup or 2 oz or 50g semi sweet chocolate, chopped
¼ cup or 2 oz or 50g unsalted butter
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
6 tbsp or 60g caster sugar (see note)
¼ cup or 2 oz or 50g all purpose flour


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180C).  Generously spray two 1-cup ramekins with non stick spray, then add the cocoa powder to the ramekins to coat; tap out the extra cocoa.

Use a microwave set at half power to melt the chocolate and the butter together (60-90 seconds should do).  Stir the butter and chocolate until very smooth.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Place the egg, egg yolk, and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture becomes pale and thick.  Gently stir in the chocolate mixture.

Sift the flour on top of the bowl and gently fold it in.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared ramekins and bake for 12-15 minutes.  The edges of the fondants will be cake-like and the center still gooey.  Remove the ramekins from the oven and cool for 3-5 minutes on a wire rack.  Then, carefully invert the cakes onto plates.  Garnish with sifted confectioner’s sugar and sliced strawberries.

Serves 2


Saturday, November 10, 2012

MN Vikings Cake



This week’s installment of 12 week’s of Christmas Treat is delayed until Monday.  Because Monday is SRC reveal day and I have a wonderful recipe picked out for you from my SRC blog!  It’s something delicious and decadent and I can just imagine putting the children down for bed on Christmas Eve and diving in to this beautiful dessert.  It also fulfills one of my 30x30 recipes.  Have you guessed it?  You’ll have to wait to find out until Monday to find out!


In the meantime, since we are in the middle of football season, I thought I’d share a cake I made for my neighbor a few weeks ago.  


Her son is a huge Vikings fan and specially requested a Vikings cake for his birthday!  And even though I come from a family of Packer fans, I was more than happy to oblige!



You'll have to forgive my lighting.  The cake really was Viking Purple, my camera just decided to pick out all the blue!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pesto Meatball Subs




You know those meatball subs you sometimes see on fast food restaurant commercials? 

They always look so good.  Until you get to the restaurant and see those meatballs in the sitting in that warmer in the congealed sauce and start to wonder what kind of meat those meatballs are.  Ewwww. 

I can honestly saw I’ve never ordered a meatball sub.  Instead, I decided to make my own.  And I decided to add some pesto for a little extra pizzazz!   Serve these up on a homemade Asiago Baguette and you’ll wonder what that fast food sub ever looked so good!


Recipe Notes:
*For even more pesto flavor, double the amount of pesto in the recipe.  If the beef is too loose, add more bread crumbs
*I used jarred pasta sauce, because I just like the consistency better, but you can also use homemade sauce!


Pesto Meatball Subs
An Amy’s Cooking Adventures Original Recipe

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Asiago Baguettes




A couple months ago, I bought a block of Asiago cheese.  I used a bit of it in one recipe and promptly forgot about it.

Lucky for me, the cheese had not started growing any mold when I rediscovered it, but I knew its days were probably numbered. 

I could’ve thrown into some homemade mac & cheese, but I have recently given up on homemade mac & cheese because 1) my boys scream and refuse to eat it 2) it’s always grainy, even if the recipe says its not, 3) my boys scream and refuse to eat it. 

There’s only so much screaming a Mama can take.  Mac & cheese was out.

So what’s the next best thing to do with cheese?  Toss it into some buns!  These baguettes have just the right amount of cheese, you can taste it, but it isn’t overpowering.  These baguettes are also extremely versatile, being equally delicious paired with a nice hardy stew, or as a simple sandwich bread.


Asiago Baguettes
An Amy’s Cooking Adventures Original Recipe

Monday, November 5, 2012

Homemade Flour Tortillas





Have you ever eaten a warm fresh, homemade tortilla?

Until I made these, I hadn’t.  But I’d seen them on the interwebs quite a few times and was intrigued and added them to my 30x30 list. 

After all, the ones I got from the store were often tough and stuck together and dry.   Homemade had to be better.  But it’s probably time consuming, right?  Wrong!  Even slowly making these for the first time, they took well under an hour, start to finish – and it was while my husband was out of town & I had both of my boys to keep tabs on!

So the tortillas were quick to make and they were far more flavorful (anyone else always want to use the British spelling of words like flavour?  I think I’ve read Harry Potter too many times!)  than I ever imagined  a tortilla could ever be.  And they were so incredibly soft and tender and pliable!

I honestly think that I will never buy flour tortilla from the store again.  In fact, a couple weeks after I made these for the first time, we had my husband’s team over for an end of the season party, so I tripled the recipe and made enough tortillas for the 20 people we had over for dinner.

I will note, however, that if you double (or triple) the recipe, I’d enlist a helper to do the cooking (super easy) while you roll.  I enlisted my husband & he did a great job!

I would also use a kitchen timer to time out the 15 seconds per side (really!) especially if you are attempting to roll and cook at the same time (craziness, I know, but I managed!)



Homemade Flour Tortillas

Saturday, November 3, 2012

DIY Vanilla Extract {12 Weeks of Christmas Treats}




If you bake as much as I do, you go through vanilla extract like crazy!  So this year I decided to make my own.

This was such a ridiculously easy process that I made enough to give as Christmas gifts (teachers, neighbors, family - everyone’s getting these!)  By the way, if you’re one of those people I just mentioned, pretend to be surprised when you unwrap this at Christmas!


The vanilla extract takes 6-8 weeks to infuse before it’s ready to use, so you have just enough time to get started if you want to make some for Christmas.  But if you are getting started a little late, you can make vanilla extract anyway, just put a “Do not use before” date on the individual bottles!


From what I’ve read you can refresh your vanilla extract once it’s used up by adding another 8 oz of vodka and one more split bean!  You’ll also notice some little floaties in the bottle.  Since these are just the innards of the vanilla bean, it doesn’t need to be strained out unless you find little vanilla bean flecks to be unappealing.

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