Thursday, December 29

Merry Christmas! (Peppermint Brownies)

Merry Christmas!  I hope that you all are in the midst of a wonderful and joyous holiday season!

Our Christmas was the most exciting one I've ever had.  As we were opening the presents with the baby on Christmas morning, my perception started to seem like a movie home video montage. It struck me, as I unwrapped bath toys and blocks and a huge stuffed Curious George, that we were actually parents.  Over the past 8 weeks, I've felt like a mom (sort of).  We've done the baby things - feeding, changing diapers, feeding, giving baths, feeding, napping, feeding, soothing in the middle of the night, feeding, reading stories, feeding, having tummy time and oh yeah, feeding.  But parents - other people are parents.  My parents are parents.  That was some holy grail of having a baby, working together as a unit for the enjoyment of a child, not just to keep them alive with their basic needs met.  Parents.  And now, after this Christmas morning experience, after this unified effort to bring joy and happiness to our child, I think we qualify.

Parents.  Wow.

Monday, December 19

Snuggles (Chai Shortbread)

One of my favorite nights of the year happened several weeks ago:  the night we put the flannel sheets on the bed.  I love flannel sheets.  There's something so incredible about snuggling down under the warmth and softness of cozy sheets.  It makes it super duper awfully hard to get out of them in the morning.  Especially when you're snuggled in flannel sheets with a cuddly little warm body.

Sunday, December 18

Beautiful People and Ugly Sweaters (Gingerbread Bars)

Last night we had an ugly sweater party, with our nearest and dearest coming together to eat, drink and be merry in their most garish Christmas attire.  It was a lot of fun and a lot of food.  One of the things that I love about our house is the entertaining that we've been able to do.  We had only been living here for two weeks when we threw our first party, Halloween 2009.  I've always dreamed about being the 'fun house' - the house where all the kids hang out, who's known for fun times and good food.  My husband is fantastic in that regard - he completely gets into the spirit, sending out the invitations, stocking the bar, cleaning up the game room and running to the grocery store 15 minutes before our guests are set to arrive because someone forget to get pepperoni for the pizza rolls she's elbow deep in cheese making.

(I do want to go on record by saying that we started the ugly sweater trend - apparently this year it's the cool thing to do, but we've been dressing ridiculously to spread our yuletide cheer for several years now.  Trendsetters to be sure.)

Monday, December 12

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (Peppermint Kisses)

This year, I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap of 2011 (typed in my best Madison Square Garden announcer voice), hosted by Julie at The Little Kitchen and Lindsay at Love & Olive Oil.  (Check out their blogS - love it!)  The idea was like any other cookie swap, that we would each bake a dozen cookies to send to 3 other bloggers and would receive 3 different kinds in return.  Except better, because these cookies come in the mail.  Finally, after weeks of online Christmas shopping, there's a package that comes for me!  Very exciting.

I decided to put a new twist on an old favorite cookie of my husband's, the peanut butter blossom.  For those of you not in the know, this is a peanut butter cookie with a Hershey's kiss stuck in the top.  Delicious.  Wonderful.  Traditional.

(Funny story:  the first time I made those for Bob, years ago, I forgot the baking soda, so they turned out to be peanut butter pancakes with a Hershey's kiss stuck in the top.   He married me anyway.)

Saturday, December 10

Night and Day (Dress Shirt Pillow Shams)

Our little one has decided to start sleeping longer and longer at night - last night he was asleep by 12.45 and woke up at 7.30 - which is pretty awesome, for sleeping purposes.  What this means, though, is since he eats roughly 10 times per day, we now have much less time to get those 10 feedings in.  So now, he's hungry every what feels like 6.37 seconds.  I used to be able to nurse him to sleep and do things during those 2 hours in between.  Not anymore.  Now I get about 20 minutes to run around like a hopped up Charlie Sheen, trying to do everything I need to get done before he wakes up and wants to eat again.  

Gratuitous baby pic of the day:  Steelers Baby!
Luckily, those 20 minutes are exactly enough time to make these pillow shams.  (OK, to be honest, it takes about 20 minutes per sham.  So 2 sets of 20.  But still - that's pretty fast.)  Hubby cleaned out his closet a few days ago and left me a big pile of clothes to donate.  In the pile were several dress shirts in almost brand new condition.  Hubs has a fondness for stripped dress shirts, but since he wears golf shirts to work every day, his collection tends to grow faster than he can wear them out.  I set a few of them aside to see what I could do with them.

(If you're looking to donate clothing or other household items on the East Coast, the Purple Heart foundation does a great job using donations to support veterans.  And they come to you!  You can schedule a pick up online and they come to your house and take whatever you have for them.  Definitely recommend.)

Monday, December 5

A Very Good Year... (Apple Pie Shortbread Bars)

Can you believe it's December already?  As the end of the year (and the end of my 27th year as of tomorrow, haha) approaches, I've been looking back over 2011 at all the changes and excitement we've had.  I graduated and passed the boards and started working as a nurse.  We got pregnant and had a baby.  We rearranged the entire house.  We made new friends and stayed close with old ones.  We joined a church and got involved in community service.  

So far, 2011 has been my favorite.  :-)

Sunday, November 27

Traditions (Gluten Free Apple Tart)

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Ours was full of family, food and relaxation, which in my book makes it about the best holiday you could have.  Since we've been a little busy, what with having a newborn and all, my mother in law offered to cook this year.  Our families gathered together over turkey, wine and applesauce.

Baby's first Thanksgiving - he was even sleeping excitedly.

It is a tradition in my husband's family that they have homemade applesauce for every family dinner.  Bob's grandmother would make a huge batch of it a few times a year and freeze it, so it was always available whenever the family would eat together.  Since she passed away in 2009, there has been a void where homemade applesauce once was.  My mother in law, now that she's the grandmother, has taken it upon herself to learn the secret applesauce recipe.  This recipe apparently requires a particular kind of apple, which she was able to order online.  And, since apparently it's cheaper to buy said apples in bulk, I now have a giant bag of apples sitting here staring at me.

Lots and lots of apples.  A plethora of apples.

Monday, November 21

Waste Not (Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Jack Daniels Chocolate Ganache)

I believe in recycling.  I reuse boxes and gift bags.  I wear clothes long past their fashion window.  I freecycle. I hate to throw things out.  I don't like to waste anything.  Especially chocolate.  

Especially chocolate and booze.  That's a sin.

So when I had some leftover chocolate sauce from last week's post about Chocolate Jack Daniel's Cake, I knew that I had to do something with it.  The sauce had hardened in the fridge to a soft ganache-like consistancy.  And what's better with ganache than cheesecake?  Especially in easy to serve bar form.

But, since I believe in the principle of "go big or go home", wouldn't it be better to have the chocolate IN the cheesecake?  As a layer?  Instead of as a topping?

Sunday, November 13

True Love, Again (Chocolate Pecan Jack Daniel's Cake)

Baby Chase is 11 days old today.  He's such a good baby!  Eats, sleeps, poops...again and again and again.  We're having a great time hanging out together, mostly he sleeps and I just stare at him.

How could you not?  Have you ever seen a more beautiful baby?  

I really had no idea how much you could love another person until I first laid eyes on this squirmy, squeaky little man.  Every day I fall more in love with him...and with my amazing husband, who is proving to be the best daddy in the world.

Wednesday, November 9

The most incredible thing we've ever made...

Chase Robert Hennefer
November 2, 2011 at 12.05 pm
7 pounds, 19-3/4 inches long

Love you!

Tuesday, October 25

Gotta Have It (Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing)

Hennebaby watch:  Day 257 (Week 36)

I haven't had too many cravings during this pregnancy, and the ones I've had have been kind of tame.  At the beginning (before I got sick), I went a whole week craving coconut.  Then I moved on to macaroni and cheese, green beans, iced tea and mashed potatoes with gravy from the hospital cafeteria.  I thought I had a craving for Ben & Jerry's Schwety Balls ice cream, but that lasted about 5 spoonfuls before I got bored with it.  The weirdest craving I've had was for bourbon - weird because I don't remember ever really liking bourbon before.  That one I'm going to attribute to Uncle Kracker songs and watching too many NCIS reruns.  Or maybe Hennebaby is actually a cowboy.  Either way, that particular craving will have to wait until after labor.

Sunday, October 16

Fridge Fun (Apple Crumble Mini Pies)

I was in the mood to bake the other day.  I was NOT in the mood to go to the grocery store.  

One of my New Years resolutions this year was to waste less, especially where food was concerned.  I try really hard to use up everything I buy, but sometimes I open the crisper to find a wilted crown of broccoli or move the eggs and discover a bag of grapes has turned into raisins.  This has happened more now that my belly stops me from bending completely over.

Friday, October 7

Hennebaby watch: Week 33 (White Chocolate Cinnamon Cookies)

Things that give me heartburn:

Water.  Tea.  Milk.  Tomatoes.  Cheese.  Bread.  Apples.  Yogurt and granola.  Chocolate.  Cinnamon.  Pancakes.  Chinese food.  Macaroni and cheese.  Chicken and broccoli.   Sitting up.  Laying down.  Walking. 

Things that make my heart happy:

My hubby and my puppy. Feeling Hennebaby kick. 

Wednesday, September 14

Old Friends and New Beginnings (Caramel Apple Skillet Cake)

A few weeks ago, some dear friends of ours bought their first home.  In the time between then and now, our area experienced an earthquake, a hurricane, and some massive flooding.  Luckily, their new house has withstood all that nature could throw at it, and they're safely back home to settle in. 

As we were going to visit for the first time and give them a little housewarming, I knew that they had already been through a lot. I'm of the opinion that it's bad luck to visit someone's new house and not bring food.  Something about good luck and best wishes and prosperity and happiness and who knows what else.  Either way, this seemed like a good opportunity for cake.

I don't usually make cakes, as any casual reader of this blog can tell you.  To make an entire cake for hubby and me seems like overkill, so I really need a special occasion that involved a lot of people to even get up the excitement to try.  Also, cake itself just isn't terribly exciting to me.  My entire life I've viewed cake as a mere vehicle for icing.  Even the best, most moist homemade cake seems a little blah.  And don't even get me started on all the birthday parties where I've had to suffer through dry, crumbly store bought cake with hydrogenated oil "icing".  For my birthdays, I always request pie or cheesecake or brownies or something else with some character.  Cake just doesn't trip my trigger like other desserts.

Oooey gooey goodness...

Sunday, September 4

Cooking for Canines: Bacon Birthday Biscuits

Dear Layla,

Happy 3rd birthday! Thank you for being our dog.  Every since we met you, you've wiggled your way into our hearts and turned us into a family.  Even though I tell everyone that we adopted you, I know the truth - that you adopted us.  

Wednesday, August 31

Autumn Love (Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies)

We were lucky enough to survive Hurricane Irene with little damage around here, but my heart goes out to those who are dealing with the destruction.  Around here, it feels like Irene brought us autumn.

I love fall.  I love the warmth of the sun on the downslope of summer.  I love the richness of autumn veggies and fall recipes.  I love sweaters and jeans.  I love the chill in the air when I take the dog out in the mornings.  I love Halloween and wreathes of red and yellow leaves.  Summertime is all fun and games, but fall is really my favorite.

Friday, August 26

Blame It on the Rain (Eggplant Rollatini)

Apparently, it's going to rain this weekend.  Judging by the crowds of people stocking up on toilet paper and bread, Hurricane Irene promises to be the biggest thing to hit the Northeast since, well, since the Snowpocalypse of 2010.   Or, if you believe the newscasts, The Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011.

Our hurricane preparation:  Buy bottled water and batteries.  Bring in the patio furniture.  Fill up the gas tanks.  Check, check and check.  The mass panic out there isn't doing anyone any good.  Although, I am happy that Target decided to open all their registers just for the occasion.  It was like Black Friday in August!  Along with my flashlight and batteries, I got cute shoes and a huge tote bag, both on sale.  Weatherproofing win!!

Not really photogenic.  But genuinely delicious!

Saturday, August 6

Sharing is Caring (Salted Caramel Shortbread)

As a brand spanking new nurse, I have a preceptor for several weeks who's there to make sure that I'm comfortable taking care of all my patients and to answer the 1001 questions that I have every day.  My preceptor, Kelly, is pretty awesome, and I'm very lucky to have her to learn from.  Plus, we eat lunch together and get coffee in the afternoons.

Last week she had a handful of salted caramels from the gift shop.  Since she's a nice person, she shared one with me.  Since I'm pregnant and love caramel, it's all that I've thought about all week.

Soooooo, to satisfy my salted caramel craving, I decided to make some shortbread cookies topped with caramel and sea salt.  And since I had a few toffee bars in my cabinets, I figured that I would throw those in the cookie dough, too.  

Good things happen when we share.

Sunday, July 31

Midsummer Night's BBQ (Brownie Cheesecake Bars)

Right now, as I write this, I'm sitting down, feeling Hennebaby play soccer in my belly and eating a piece of heaven.  All three things are equally exciting - sitting down, feeling the baby and eating heaven.  In the past less than two weeks, I have taken an unfortunate trip home for my grandmother's funeral, painted a bedroom, worked 6 twelve hour shifts, relocated all the furniture in our house so that we could have our hardwood floors refinished, moved two people and a dog out for a week so that said floors could be completed, moved both people and dog back in, cleaned up after said floors, had two doctors appointments, did 5 loads of laundry, moved all the furniture back and hosted a barbeque for 20 people.  

Today I'm sitting down.  And enjoying Hennebaby dancing the Macarena in there.

It's wonderful.  :-)

On to third exciting thing:  the heaven.  Brownie Cheesecake Bars.  My good friend Liz celebrated her birthday yesterday, and was sweet enough to spend some of it on our deck, getting bitten by bugs and eating my husband's grilled hamburgers.  I wanted to make something special for her, something creamy and delicious and decadent and not too hard, because - let's face it, this pregnant girl was tired.  Since I couldn't reach my cookbooks until it was too late, buried as they were under the dining room furniture stacked in my kitchen, I turned to my handy dandy bookmarked list of desserts, where I found this gem from one of my favorite blogs, Brown Eyed Baker.  How I managed to bookmark this and not make it until this weekend I'll never know.

These bars completed my life.  For realsies.

Tuesday, July 12

Spicy Saturday BBQ (Spicy Pork Burgers)

Baby Watch, Day 173:  Last week we found out that Hennebaby is a boy!!  So now it's time to paint the nursery, buy some furniture and start our collection of blue baby blankets.  :-)

In other news:  since putting together our grill last summer, I've been looking for new things to try on it.  Hubby would be content with Bubba burgers and hotdogs, but I was feeling a little creative this Saturday.  We had an impromptu cookout with our besties, and in a mini-panic over what I should make, I turned to the mountainous pile of recipes ripped out of magazines that's been sitting on my kitchen table, waiting to be filed and put again in my Binder O' Recipes.  

Monday, July 4

Red, White and Blue (Blueberry-Raspberry Crisp)

Happy Independence Day!!  Today we had a little barbecue with the in-laws today.  Knowing that they would supply enough meat to feed the troops, I stopped at the farmer's market on my way home today for some produce.  Red tomatoes, blueberries and raspberries beckoned to me patriotically from the stands.  I decided this was the perfect opportunity to try out a new recipe I found on one of my favorite blogs, Erza Pound Cake - for Southern Tomato Pie.  I'm not going to recreate the recipe here, because she's done it perfectly on her blog already, so head over and check it out.  Even my somewhat veggie-phobic husband told me it should be one of those things I "definitely make again".  Score!!

For dessert, I wanted something quick and easy, something light and simple.  I wanted a crisp.  Remembering the success we had with Apple Cranberry Crisp from my Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook, I opened it up again and on the opposite page found a recipe for Blueberry Crisp.  I subbed out 1/3 of the blueberries for raspberries and - voila - perfection! 

Sunday, June 26

Garden State (Sour Cherry Crumb Cake)

When I begrudgingly accidentally grumpily optimistically moved to Jersey 5 years ago, I imagined it as the land of parking lots, strip malls, toxic waste and Tony Soprano.  It was the place you scoffed at from other states; where fresh air was a pipe dream and the roads were clogged with big haired women in oversize SUVs on their way to the mall.  

OK, so maybe I still scoff at North Jersey.

But where I live, in South Jersey, is totally different.  I live in a suburban neighborhood like the Wonder Years.  Our grass grows like it's on steroids.  Not five minutes away is a cute little center of town where you can grab a smoothie or a coffee and wander down the streets, window shopping and people watching.

I might kind of like it here.

(Don't tell my husband.  He'll never believe you anyway.)

Wednesday, June 22

Summer Projects (Pina Colada Scones)

Happy First Full Day of Summer!!  It's been a busy few weeks - I started my new job two weeks ago!  So far, I love it.  It's interesting and challenging, and I'm learning more from my preceptor than nursing school ever taught me.  The other nurses on the floor are extremely helpful and sweet, and I'm starting to feel like I fit in.  The twelve hour shifts have taken a little getting used to, but I'm loving the schedule of working 3 days a week.  Not having to wear bright yellow scrubs that scream "student!!  student!!" is pretty sweet, too.

We've also been organizing, cleaning, painting and moving furniture to get ready for Hennebaby's arrival.  I know we have plenty of time before November, but Hubby and I are too excited to wait any longer.  Our next ultrasound is scheduled for the first week of July, and we should be able to find out Hennebaby's sex then.  Then the real fun begins!!  :-)

In the midst of all this, I have been in the kitchen occasionally, but until today I haven't made anything else.  I had a craving for Pineapple Slush and Blueberry Tarts, which I indulged, but until today I hadn't made anything new.  This morning, I opened my fridge, pushed past the the milk, the half empty cartons of strawberries and the chicken leftovers to find these little guys:

Tuesday, May 24

Full House (Sticky Buns)

For the past few days, my best friend Theresa and her new baby Nevaeh have been staying with us during a move.  It's been awesome to have them here, and I'll be very sad to see them go tomorrow.  It's always fun to have a baby around, and Nevaeh is such a sweetie pie.  Hubby, pup and I have had a little taste of what's in store for us in November.  Oh boy.  :o)

Wednesday, May 18

Baby Steps... (Key Lime Cheesecake)

Hennebaby is 13 weeks!  We had our first ultrasound last week - it was incredible to see this tiny little life bopping around inside of me.  I can't wait until I get a bump and can start to feel the little guy (or girl) in there!  This itty bitty little person that we made.  That we're responsible for creating and growing and nurturing for the rest of its life.

And that is itself responsible for all the craziness going on in my body.  So far this week has been a little better, but I'm still scared to eat normal food.  I've been carbing it up since I got sick - toast, granola bars, scones, if it's flour based I eat it.  I'm hoping that this week I can get up the courage to eat a salad.  I never thought I would miss vegetables quite like I do now.   Our 2nd anniversary was on Monday, and when we went out to dinner I took a risk and had zucchini fritti for an appetizer - I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. 

Monday, April 25

Spring Surprise! (Fudgy Chocolate Cake)

The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the puppy is shedding and it's finally feeling like springtime!!

It's been quite a while since I've posted anything - don't worry, nothing terrible has happened in the past few weeks.  I just don't have anything yummy to post.  I haven't been feeling well since ACE-a-palooza, because, well....I'm pregnant!! 

Hennebaby is due November 18, and we're all really excited!!  (We have names picked out, but for now our last name has to do.)  I found out during finals week, which made it REALLY hard to concentrate on studying change theory and gerontological disease processes, but somehow I made it through the last four days of finals, passed my exit exam (with flying colors, not to brag, haha) and convinced my classmates that I had actually given up alcohol for Lent.  Then, a few days into my first week of free-me-time, it started....Morning sickness.  Or the proper name for it, All The Freaking Time Sickness.  Starting Week 6, a few days after ACE-a-palooza, I haven't been able to stomach even the idea of food, let alone make anything to take pictures of.  In fact, I've watching TLC nonstop and been eating a lot of this:

Ahh, to be 8 years old again.  Anyway, my body feels like a science experiment.  I started to read the "What to Expect" book, only to find that I had EVERY. SINGLE. SYMPTOM. possible, including the weirdo ones like nosebleeds, congestion, headaches, acid reflux if I lay down with less than 2 pillows and the ability to smell better than my dog.  I swore that if one more person suggested that eating crackers in the morning was going to fix me, I would throw up on them.  Needless to say, a food blogger's worst nightmare.  Poor Layla  has been stressed out about why her Girl Human can't seem to stand up without making a horrible retching sound and why Boy Human is the only one who feeds her anymore. 

So that was the past 4 weeks.  For the Easter weekend, my parents came to visit, which was such a blessing.  It was so nice to be pampered and waited on for a few days!  Bob is a wonderful Baby Daddy, and he takes good care of me, but one of us has to go out and bring home the bacon, and that's not me for the next few weeks.  It was soo nice to have some help for a few days.  My mom turned into Mama Extraordinaire, making Easter Saturday dinner, cleaning my disaster of a house and doing all the laundry that had piled up.  In those few days, I moved into my 10th week and started feeling better, with the nausea fading to just the morning and before bed.  (It's my theory that Hennebaby is a boy, since a boy fetus starts to produce testosterone during Week 10 and I'm thinking that's what's counteracting my preggo hormones and helping my body to calm down a little.  We shall see!!)

So, my plans for this blog are to include one pregnancy recipe and (eventually) postpartum/new baby recipe a week to help those other food-loving expectant moms and their families.  The remaining recipes will probably be to satisfy my cravings, which are starting to be, um, interesting in their diversity and surprise factor.  

But, without further ado, I bring you....chocolate cake!!  One of the things I have had no interest in during my icky-feelings is chocolate. Given that it's Easter time, and that Hubby's favorite Easter candy is Reese's peanut butter eggs, my mom decided that for dessert on Easter Saturday she would make him a little treat, in the form of chocolate peanut butter fudge cake.  Using her easy recipe for chocolate fudge cake, she substituted chocolate peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co for the fudgy filling and drizzled some fudge topping on the top.  Also, the recipe calls for a bundt pan, but since I somehow don't have one, we used a springform pan that worked just as well.  

This cake was rich and delicious and even Hennebaby seemed to approve of the two tiny pieces I had.  The peanut butter flavor was infused throughout the cake, and it was sweet and rich without being tooth-achingly over the top.  And as an added bonus, my house smelled AMAZING for several hours!!

Fudgy Chocolate Baby Daddy Cake
(from Mama Extraordinaire)

1 box chocolate fudge cake mix
1 box chocolate fudge instant pudding mix
8 oz sour cream
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 jar fudge ice cream topping (or chocolate peanut butter topping)
Powdered sugar for the topping

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and sour cream well.  Place one half of batter in a greased bundt pan.  Using the back of a spoon, make a 'well' around the center ring of batter.  Fill with topping and cover with the remaining batter.  Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or till cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in pan 5 minutes then invert on cake plate.  When cool, top with glaze or powdered sugar.  Store covered.  Enjoy!!!

**For Turtle cake, use caramel ice cream topping for the filling and top with pecans.  Dream up your favorite combination!!

Sunday, March 27

The End, Finally (Homemade Samoas)

Well, folks, we did it.  My classmates and I are officially nurses!!  Last Saturday was our exit exam, and I passed with flying colors (not to brag, haha).  It was a crazy, wild ride, and while I can't honestly say that I enjoyed every second of it, I'm definitely grateful for the experience.  

So now that insanity is over, I'm recovering from a year of no sleep and mucho stress.  This past week has been blissfully relaxing.  I should start working in May, once I take the boards and get my license, but until then I have a few things going on that I'll share over the next few weeks.  I have some new ideas on where to take the blog, and I hope that my readers (all three of you, haha) will be excited.  More about that later.  On to the main event!

Thursday, March 10

My Little Sister... (Homemade Tagalongs)

My little sister turns 21 today.  21.  The age of adulthood.  And drinking.  And gambling.  And generally having fun in a legal-ish type way.

But first, before all of that, I had to make her something to celebrate with.  Rachel loooooooves peanut butter.  Loves it with a capital L.  So, taking this all into consideration, I made her my homemade version of our favorite Girl Scout cookie, the Tagalong (also known as Peanut Butter Patties.  Original Tagalongs and Samoas, however are the best.  You can read about the GS cookie bakeries and varieties here, if you're so inclined.)

This had nothing to do with my love of peanut butter and chocolate.  This was solely for the purpose of making my little sister happy.  I'm pleased to report that these cookies are deliciously like the originals.  I only had one, just for testing purposes. 

Seriously, just one.

Handful.  :o)

Happy birthday, little sister!!!

Homemade Tagalongs
(from the wonderful Love and Olive Oil)

 1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups white flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk

1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 oz milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips (your preference)
1-1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Cream the butter and sugar and slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt (this way it won't make too much of a mess).  The dough will form a ball in the bottom of the bowl.  Chill the dough for 15 minutes, then roll out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 1 to 1-1/2 inch circles.  You could do this part by hand if you had a really good eye, but let's face it, I don't, so I used the cookie cutter.  Place on the lined sheets, close together because they won't spread very much.  Bake for 12-13 minutes, until the edges are browned.  Place the cookie sheets on a wire rack, and press a thumb-sized indentation into the middle (this is where the peanut butter will go), then transfer off the sheet onto the racks.  Save your parchment paper.

Once the cookies cool, stir together the peanut butter, powdered sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla into a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for 20-40 seconds, until the mixture is soft enough to pipe.  Put the peanut butter mixture into a pastry bag or a plastic baggie with the corner snipped off and pipe a small amount into the middle of the cookie (about 1 teaspoon, depending on the size of your cookies).  I used a knife to spread the peanut butter until it was flattened.  As the peanut butter mixture hardens,  in a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave (usually 2 rounds of 30 seconds will do) or over a double boiler.  Stir in the vegetable oil.  Place your saved parchment paper under your wire rack.  Dip the top of each cookie into the chocolate, and place on the wire rack to harden.  
Store in a cool place, if you have any left to actually store.  :o)

Friday, March 4

Tortellini Love (Santa Fe Chicken Tortellini)

School is almost over.  In 15 more days, I will have successfully completed the requirements (I hope) to graduate this program, sit for the NCLEX and become a Registered Nurse.  We are soooooo close.  I can feel it.  I can taste it.  I can see it.  Over the past few weeks, my classmates and I have been stumbling around, exhausted, overworked and stressed to the max.  Now, this is changing a little.  We smile a little bit more.  We look at each other with the fondness that you feel for people with whom you realize your time is short.  Our time is short, both with each other and in our busy days. 

Because of this, I've been trying to cook things that are easy and self-contained.  I'm a fan of the casserole.  The one pot meal.  The one bowl brownies.  If it can be scooped onto my plate and eaten together, I'm a fan.  Who wants to fuss with side dishes?  

Thursday, February 24

Love and Cupcakes (Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting)

My wonderful, sweet, supportive, smart, funny, awesome husband's birthday is tomorrow.  When asked what he wanted me to make for his special day, he answered, "Cupcakes.  And macaroni and cheese.  And blueberry muffins."  

With fun sprinkles!!

Monday, February 14

Life by Chocolate (Truffles)

Today, I'm officially renaming Valentine's Day "Life by Chocolate" Day.  I think this name better captures the essence of what modern V-Day is all about - loading our loved ones up with sugar.  Honestly, I'm all for it.

Hubby and I don't go all out for Valentine's Day, since we just had Halloween, Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, New Years, and his birthday (in two weeks).  We kind of look at is as a good time to reexamine how we share our love for each other over the entire year.  

And as an excuse to drink wine and go out to dinner.

These little bite-sized Life by Chocolate Truffles go really well with wine.

Or milk.

So whip up a batch and go drink some with the one you love.  Even if that's yourself.  I won't tell.  :o)

Life by Chocolate Truffles
12 Oreo cookies, crushed
8 oz white chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
8 oz dark chocolate
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened ever so slightly

Over a double boiler or in the microwave, heat 1/3 cup of the cream to just before boiling.  Chop the white chocolate and stir into the hot cream.  Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted, set aside to cool.  Mix together (a hand mixer works best) the crushed Oreos and cream cheese until combined.  Stir in the cooled white chocolate mixture, being care not to overmix but making sure that the ingredients are combined completely.  Shape into 1 inch balls; refrigerate on a piece of wax paper for 20-30 minutes, until firm.  Heat the remaining 1/3 cup of cream.  Chop the dark chocolate and pour the cream over top.  Stir until combined, allow to sit for 5 minutes, until cool.  Dip the truffle balls into the chocolate and allow to sit 20-30 minutes, until set.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3

It's that time again, folks (Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies)

Time for midterms!!

For what is hopefully the last time, my classmates and I are cramming for midterm week.  This quarter (hopefully our last) we have fluffy classes like "Leadership and Management" (which strangely reminiscent of a corporate training seminar), Ethics (what is the answer to life the universe and everything?) and "Research and Nursing" (a hypothesis is an educated guess).  We're also taking an NCLEX and skills review class to get us ready for the final comprehensive HESI exam (read: giant pretend nursing licensure exam at the end of the term that we have to pass to graduate) and review our clinical skills, like IV medications and dressing changes.  On top of all that fun, we have two serious classes, Critical Care Nursing and Gerontology (elderly) Nursing. 

Due to some curse by the scheduling gods and the Philadelphia area meteorologists, both our heavy class midterms are scheduled for tomorrow.

Which is Friday.

Thursday, January 27

Snow Day (Pizza)

Hey, guess what.  There was a little bit of snow last night.  Just a tad.  Like, this much:

Layla was in frolicking heaven.  She tries to run through it, but it's a little too deep for that, so she ends up with this bunny hop/kangaroo kind of move.  It's hysterical!  There's nothing quite like a happy, carefree dog to make you feel like all is right in the world.

Friday, January 21

Single Digits (Caribbean Banana Muffins)

It's 10 am and it's officially the end of my third week for this last quarter of school.  That means that in 8 more weeks, I'll be a nurse.  Well, I'll at least be done with nursing school and getting ready to pass the boards.  But I'll be done with school, which is really what I'm looking forward to as I stare at the mound of work and textbooks on my desk.

Eight weeks!  When we all went to school on the very first day, I started a weekly countdown.  We went from 52 weeks to 8 weeks in the blink of an eye.  It's an ever widening ray of hope in this cold and dreary winter.

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