Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 3! (30 Day Challenge)

It's busy! I'm back just to share a few things I've found interesting lately...

- Janetha at Meal & Moves spoke at a small event the other day and shared her outline, resources and a small workout she created. I learned a few new things and thought you might too! You can find the post here!

- Found a new awesome blog that makes me happy... don't know why I wasn't following it already! It's called Confessions of a Cookbook Queen - check it out!

- Another blog that I found recently via Pinterest is mainly about easy, IMPRESSIVE hair styles! I love it - it's called The Small Things Blog. She made me really love the current length of my hair by giving me even more ideas!

Ok - that's enough for today... be back again tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 2 (30 Day Challenge)

Good morning! Checking in on day 2...

Workout dabble - I really like the Pinterest workout I posted yesterday - enough to get your heartrate up, but not too much to make you sweaty! Perfect way to start the day... Also on tap for today - Body Pump Class and Boot Camp. Lord help me!

Music dabble - I had a fun little find last night while I was working on my iTunes organization... They have an option that finds all of your duplicate songs for you! I have so many duplicates - now I don't have to rely on myself to find them. It made me happy!

TV dabble - For the first time in a long time, I actually have a LIST of shows I'm recording and actually watching...

- Criminal Minds (I always have at least 10 on the DVR, but I've seen most of them. Definitely watch the current season every week though!)
- Pam Am (love the setting, love the storylines!)
- Parenthood
- Modern Family
- Person of Interest (I love Jim Cavieziel!)
- Revenge (I didn't know this one would be so GOOD! Love it!)
- Biggest Loser (after taking a prolonged break from watching it, it's got me hooked again!)

And that's enough TV for me! Anything I'm missing?

Food Dabble - I'll go ahead and link to my birthday cakes for this year - they were PHENOMENAL! I made two cakes - one for Friday and one for Saturday (I LIKE to make my own cakes - it gives me a chance to bake something new that I've had my eye on for awhile...) I'm sorry there's no pictures - I need to get better at photographing them!

My favorite of the two was the Pumpkin Cake with Butterscotch Filling with Brown Sugar Buttercream. I found the recipe on Annie's Eats.

Pumpkin Cake with Butterscotch Filling and Brown Sugar Icing

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

½ tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ cups pumpkin puree

1 cup buttermilk

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

¾ cup heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

¼ tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 – 1 oz. pieces

¾ cup chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (optional)

For the icing:

2 cups tightly packed brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 8 – 1 oz. pieces

¼ tsp. cream of tartar


Line the bottoms of 2 round 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the parchment, as well as the sides of the pans. Preheat the oven to 325°. Center a rack in the oven.

To make the cake, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin puree and buttermilk and mix until smooth. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase to high speed and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and scraping down the bowl between additions. Add the vanilla extract and beat on high for 30 seconds. With the mixer running on low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter, until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Immediately divide the batter between the prepared cake pans, spreading evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

To make the filling, heat the cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat until hot (do not allow to boil or simmer). Combine sugar and lemon juice in a separate saucepan and stir with a whisk to combine (the sugar will resemble moist sand). Caramelize the sugar for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk to break up any lumps. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the hot cream, one half at a time. Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring to incorporate completely before adding the next piece. Cool in the refrigerator 45 minutes. Place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until light (but not fluffy). Add the chopped nuts and stir to incorporate. Set aside.

To make the icing, heat the brown sugar, heavy cream, 2 – 1 oz. pieces of butter, and cream of tartar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, while bringing the mixture to a boil. Allow the mixture to continue boiling while stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Transfer the bubbling hot mixture to a stainless steel bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding. Place the cooled mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, adding the 6 remaining pieces of butter one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for an additional 1 minute until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake, place one of the pumpkin cake layers on a cake platter or a cardboard cake circle. Spread butterscotch filling evenly on top of cake. Top with remaining layer of cake, pressing down firmly. Frost sides and top of cake with brown sugar icing. Use remaining frosting to pipe decorative accents onto top and bottom edge of the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

The other cake was a Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Cake - I found the recipe on Food Network.

Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Cake

18 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 Chocolate Cake recipe, recipe follows
Sea salt flakes (recommended: Maldon)
Put your chocolates in a big bowl. Put the sugar and 1/2 water in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and bring up to a boil. As soon that happens, stop stirring and let it boil until it turns an amber color, 8 to 10 minutes or so. (If you think that it needs another stir, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, and stir the entire mixture, picking up the pot itself by the handle, being careful not to touch the caramel or else it could crystallize.) Once the mixture reaches that dark amber color, turn the heat down. Stand back from the pot and add the cream very slowly, stirring with a heatproof spatula. (If you are nervous about the steam, wear a kitchen glove to protect your hand.) Continue to stir until all is incorporated. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the fine salt. Take off the heat and pour the caramel over the bowl of chocolate. Whisk to combine, making sure all the chocolate melts. Pop in the fridge for about 1 hour until completely chilled.

Take the frosting out of the fridge and beat it with a hand mixer just until it becomes spreadable. Add the butter in pieces and mix until it's all combined. Pop back into the refrigerator for another hour.

Place 1 cake layer on a cake platter, flat-side up. (You want the cake flat-side up so when you get into it you'll have nice and even layers.) Evenly spread 2 cups of the frosting over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes, then put the other cake layer on top, flat-side up. Spread the rest of the frosting over the top and on the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the top with more salt flakes.

Chocolate Cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature for 30 minutes
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk (or 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (9 by 2-inch) nonstick round cake pans. Line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper, and then butter the paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together onto parchment paper. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 4 or 5 minutes. Add your eggs, 1 at a time, mixing until completely incorporated before adding each additional egg. Mix in the chocolate and vanilla, making sure to combine really well. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, in 3 batches, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Make sure to let it mix thoroughly.

Pour half the batter in each pan and spread it evenly with a spatula or butter knife. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 25 minutes. Remove the pans to racks and allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes or so. Loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a knife, then turn them onto the racks. Remove the paper and let the cakes completely cool. Yield: 2 (9-inch) cake layers

And with that... I'm done for day 2! See ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1 = 30 Day Challenge Begins!

November is always a good month to get the blog kicked up again...

I'm sticking with the theme of dabbles - it seems I'm good at dabbling in a lot of things!

Cookie Dabble - These are the latest cookies I designed for Brelynn's 1st birthday - the theme was simply a '1st' birthday party in pink and brown, so I made little '1' cookies, iced them in brown and then put them on a pink scalloped square. To add a little pizazz I put brown polka dots on them and then made them into little hearts - they were pretty cute! Happy Birthday Sweet Brelynn!

Music Dabble - Miranda Lambert's new album, Four the Record, came out today! I'm in love... I want to be like her when I grow up!

Workout Dabble - I'm doing the workout I found on Pinterest (MY NEW OBSESSION!) for 30 days straight. It's what I'll start my day with... And will also be hitting the gym at lunch, after work, or even before work if necessary!

More on this to come...

Food Dabble - I'll share the birthday cakes I made for my birthday this year soon (I only had one little piece of each and seriously gave the rest away - YAY!) But for now, I'm giving a basic outline of my eating plan moving forward:

Breakfast: Green Monster
Morning mini: Apple + Turkey lunchmeat + LC Wedge
Lunch: WW Pasta w/ turkey meatsauce or wrap or sandwich on sandwich thin, etc.
Afternoon mini: Greek yogurt w/ fruit, etc.
Dinner: Salad or Lean Protein + Veggies (NO carbs other than veggies)

There will be quite a few more dabbles in the days ahead - Pinterest will be a huge one, friends blogs, posts I've found interesting, music, events, friends... wheeee!

Excited to be back! Now to make this last...

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Long, long, long story short. I have a new member of the family - a beautiful rescue dog named Dylan! I'm so happy to have him join my family and Jolee is already in love with her new 'bubba' too!

I knew as soon as I lost Pancheaux that I would be getting another dog. How depressed Jolee was in the aftermath of the loss expedited the process.

So meet Dylan - and he'd love to meet you in person! (If you're a friend of mine, otherwise, that's just weird.)


On Wednesday night, I met up with some friends at bar in town called Armadillo Palace for a 1/2 birthday celebration (she gets shafted every year by Christmas parties and the like!) and to see Ryan Turner. Upon my arrival I saw a friend that I hadn't seen in a couple months and HOLY CRAPBALLS she looks UNBELIEVABLE! She's lost ~70lbs throughout the past year due by pursuing a healthy lifestyle (running and eating right). Then I walk inside to see the 1/2 birthday girl, and she's been kicking a$$ and taking names TOO (bootcamp, rowing, eating right, etc.).

The first thought that popped into my head was "I want to be a part of THAT wolfpack." Now, why I'm thinking in Hangover references, I can't explain, and to be honest, I cracked up laughing at my thought pattern, but the underlying train of thought is there. I want what they've got. And I know how they got it. HARD WORK. And it's attainable - I just need to DO IT.

Today being July 1st, it's a good time to look back at New Year Resolutions. So far, I haven't been diligent. But there are 6 months left this year - and you can make a HUGE difference in 6 months! So I'm back at it. And I started all of this, on a FRIDAY. Of a HOLIDAY WEEKEND. Am I crazy? Maybe. But there's no time like the present!

There are SO many reasons I want to start a new routine that includes an EARLY morning workout.
- Gets my workout out of the way so I free up my afternoon/evening for the fun stuff, or even an aerobic class or two should I want to do one.
- I get to work earlier, which means I get to leave earlier.
- Traffic. I will be able to avoid all of the traffic on Hwy 6 between my house and Sugar Land (they're installing medians all the way down and taking over the inside lanes as a result. Traffic is a huge cluster now!) AND traffic is better on 59 too - win/win!
- I tend to eat better and drink more fluids if I workout in the morning.
- I'm more focused and diligent throughout the day.

So this morning I scheduled a wake up call from 1/2b-day girl at 4:30 am. And I set my alarm for 4am. And I went to bed at 9pm last night. I actually was excited to get up when the alarm went off. I got everything ready, spent some time reading/journaling (I do this every morning) and then left for the gym. I knocked out a cardio circuit that I made up (30 min HIIT on the elliptical, 5 min on the stairmill (holy schnikees that thing is HARD!) and a 15 min walk on the treadmill and then finished off with 200 abs. One of the trainers actually came up to me while I was on the treadmill to let me know he liked my 'fire' and was excited to see me jump on the stairmill (most people avoid it like the plague for a reason!) - anyways - it's fun to have someone notice your determination!

It was a great first day. Now I need to continue eating right and stay on track with my exercises. Here's the plan for this weekend:

- Saturday: spin class at 8:30; possibly cardio kickboxing at 9:30 (depends on the teacher!)
- Sunday: full body weights at gym, or Jillian Michael's No More Trouble Zones
- Monday: cardio circuit + 200 abs

and I'll be back to update for the week on Monday as well!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pancheaux: A Tribute

Pancheaux, my beautiful boy with the golden eyes, my monkey man, my sweet boy, Panch, Panchito...

You are so loved. You have brought me immeasureable joy. You've brought me to tears I didn't know I had. And you've made me laugh, oh how you've made me laugh...

I remember going to Brazos Valley Animal Shelter on Friday, March 26, 1999 for orientation because I planned on volunteering. I decided after watching the video to just walk around and look at the animals. And then I got to your kennel - you and your 5 brothers and sisters - 3 black, 2 red, and one was red with a black saddle. They were walking all over you and biting your ears, so I reached down and plucked you out and you instantly snuggled in. I was a goner. I went home and was back that afternoon to apply for you. I had to wait 3 days to pick you up, but I went back every day I could just to see you. And on Tuesday, March 30th, I brought you home.

You were SO CUTE!! I named you Pancheaux, after the song Pancho and Lefty, but obviously gave you a cajun kick. The name has suited you just fine...

I remember in those first few months I could carry you around on my hip like a baby. You'd wrap your bottom legs around my waist and just sit on my hip. I must have looked ridiculous, but whatever. I loved it.
I remember moving into the duplex with Courtney and all of a sudden you took on her personality! You were a complete spaz, and because of that I was living with 2 crazies! But I laughed so much. I remember you trying to outsmart me - I put you in the backyard for some reason, forgetting that I had my bedroom window open. The next thing I know, you come walking into the kitchen. I had to laugh, but then went in the bedroom and shut my window and then put you back out. The next thing I heard was a 'THUD!" because you thought you were getting back in again. Not so much...

This is also where you learned to jump fences - and not just any fence, but 6 FOOT FENCES. Finally seeing how you accomplished this made me admire your ingenuity. You were a smart, smart dog. Putting you outside and then having you meet me on the front porch when I opened the door made me laugh, and frustrated me to no end. I don't know many people that had to wire not only the bottom of their fence, but also the top. Points for creativity buddy...

And it was during this time that you started your 'bullfrog jump' - where if someone you wanted to get to was ahead of you, you would literally crouch down and then spring your body straight up in the air. This little 'trick' brought so much laughter to so many, but none more than me. I still wonder what people in the cars driving by must have thought...

Oh, and sorry about the dress up days with Court-Court. I hope you've forgiven me for that by now, even if you haven't forgiven her. Actually, I guess that 'kiss' where you chipped her front tooth in half was probably your version of 'payback'. I'd say that's fair...

Then we transitioned from College Station to Houston together. And the first thing you did when we walked into the new apartment was throw up on the floor. Glad to know you approved of the move! You followed that up by refusing to go to the bathroom outside. To say you weren't thrilled by apartment life is an understatement. It was also at those apartments that you literally leveled me one morning by trying to chase a cat. Another time you wrapped me up in your leash to the point that you took my legs out because you were trying to play with a dog. At least I'll always have that scar to remember you by...

I know you were so happy when we finally moved into a place with a yard. I knew I'd never make you go back. The yard was your domain... until I brought your sister home. Again, you were not thrilled. But you came to love her and protect her. You followed her during all of her escapes making sure she stayed safe - even when y'all escaped for the first time only 3 weeks after I brought her home. You're the only reason I was able to find her. And then you followed her on the succession of escapes that came after, leading me to not only hotwire the fence, but put chicken wire along the bottom and then hotwire THAT. Ingenuis, I tell you...

Your stubborness allowed you to manipulate me into giving you anything you wanted - space on the bed, cheese on your food and my bowl/plate to lick at the end of a meal. I couldn't say no to you. I've never learned...

But I have learned what it's like to be unconditionally loved - because of you. I know what it's like to always have someone happy to have you walk through the door. I'd say I'll miss your hair lying around, the strands that are half-white, half-black so they're sure to show up on anything, but I think you've left enough of that here so I'll be covered for my lifetime. I'll miss your wagging tail THUMPING walls and clearing tables. I'll miss your frito paws. I'll miss you nudging your head under my hand so I'll pet you. I'll miss you staring at me until I finally get up and do whatever you want. I'll miss you jumping up on my back windows to let me know that you mean business - you want back inside. I'll miss you sticking your backside at me because you want that area above your tail scratched. I'll miss you running in your dreams and snoring in your sleep. I'll miss your floppy ears. I'll miss your golden eyes. I'll miss your huge, huge heart...

God speed little man, you truly are the best dog I could have ever asked for and more. Thank you for all you have given me throughout the past 12+ years. I love you more than I know to say...

Be at peace my friend. May you be restored and reunited with all of your furry friends - Shiner, Hank, and make sure you find Sam - he's the one that initially opened my heart and paved the way for you. And Paw Paw's waiting too - he'll know where the treats are!

Now go cross the Rainbow Bridge, and wait for me there, until we meet again...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Emerson's Princess Cookies

So another friend sponsored my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer by purchasing the 'cookie package' that I offered. For her daughter Emerson's 3rd birthday party, I made 36 princess crowns. These were pretty simple and I made them even more special by adding pearls and brushing on luster dust after they had dried to make them sparkle!

Hope you had a wonderful time at your party Emerson! Happy 3rd Birthday!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Karsen's Birthday Cookies!

My friend Steshie's little girl Karsen is having a 'pink John Deere' birthday party this weekend, so she ordered cookies from me (in support of my walk for breast cancer) for the party! I think they turned out pretty well...

Hope y'all enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Best Carrot Cake. Ever.

So it's a friend's birthday today and on a whim I decided to whip up one of my most requested cakes. Not to mention, it's not on the blog yet - why have I been holding out on y'all?!?!

And to be 100% honest - I just found this recipe a few years back. I haven't made ANY modifications. It simply doesn't need any. It's that good. Just make it. You can thank me later...

Pumpkin Carrot Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup (about 3 medium) carrots, grated
1 cup coconut, flaked
1 1/4 cups nuts, chopped, divided
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease two 9-inch-round cake pans.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in small bowl. Combine milk and lemon juice in liquid measuring cup (mixture will appear curdled).

BEAT eggs, pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, pineapple, carrots and milk mixture in large mixer bowl; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Stir in coconut and 1 cup nuts. Pour into prepared cake pans.

BAKE for 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 15 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

FROST between layers, on sides and top of cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish with remaining nuts. Store in refrigerator.

FOR CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:COMBINE 11 ounces softened cream cheese, 1/3 cup softened butter and 3 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar in large mixer bowl until fluffy. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 teaspoons orange juice and 1 teaspoon grated orange peel; beat until combined.

Peppermint Oreo Stuffed Brownie Truffles

Hi. It's been awhile. Thought I'd make it up to you by giving you a recipe with the longest title ever! These aren't for the faint of heart - they're not difficult, just time consuming...

So I was blog perusing the other day and came upon Cookie and Cups stuffed brownie truffles. She'd used Rolos, cookie dough, mini Reese's and mini candy bars - I decided to incorporate 2 recipes I've been wanting to try - Oreo Balls and these Stuffed Brownie Truffles.

I started by baking a box mix of brownies according to the directions on the box. I baked them on an 11x17 pan so they were thin and baked up quickly. It's imperative that you don't overbake the brownies! Once baked, let them cool completely.

While those were in the oven I whipped up a recipe of Oreo Balls (crumble a package of oreos in the food processor (set aside 1/4c), then add 8oz of cream cheese and process into a course mixture again) using Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe Joe's (their version of oreos, only available at Christmas time). Another option would be to use regular oreos and simply add a few drops of peppermint extract in along with the cream cheese. Once processed, I rolled these into 1/2" balls and put them in the freezer to harden.

(I actually covered the brownies and didn't come back to these until the next day. You can space them out according to your schedule.)

The next day I crumbled the baked brownies by hand and then took an oreo ball and wrapped the brownie crumbles around it - it took some finagling, but it works - just be patient and it comes together! At the end each ball was ~1" in diameter. I put them in the freezer to harden.

(I left them overnight and did the next step the next morning.)

For the final step I melted some candy melts (I used the white mint flavor to give them an extra punch of mint) in a double boiler on the stove with a couple tablespoons of crisco (add crisco to make the mixture more fluid and 'drippy' - want it to coat the spoon, not clump to it), dipped the brownie truffles in the melted chocolate and set them on wax paper. I sprinkled the tops with the reserved crumbled oreos from the first day.

And that's it! Like I said, takes some time, but it can be done in stages, and while you're watching tv, etc.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cookies for Cancer Research!

Ok - so I'm still a little short in my fundraising attempts for my breast cancer walk in April. I've raised $1520 of $1800, so there's only $270 left to go! One of the things I've gotten into over the past couple of years has been decorated sugar cookies. These are greatly popular at kid's birthday parties and wedding/baby showers. So I thought I'd combine the two in hopes to reach my goal...

For a donation of $50, you will get 3 dozen cookies decorated according to your 'party theme'. Not only is this a GREAT deal (honestly these types of cookies are usually $2+/ea at a bakery), but your 'purchase' will be tax deductible.

Please contact me regarding the date and theme of your party and then you can make a donation HERE.

If you need more than 3 dozen cookies, just let me know and we'll work out a donation amount based on the amount of cookies you'd like.

Just to give you an idea of some of the cookies I've done in the past, here are some pictures:

Cookies for Meg's baby shower for Charlie:

Cookies for Cora's barnyard birthday:

Cookies as cake decorations for Courtney's baby shower for Zoe:

Cookie Favors for Meredith's baby shower for Morgan: Let me know if you're interested! You can email me HERE.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

12 Treats of Christmas

Ok, so each year the Christmas season comes around and people start stressing over gifts and wrapping, etc, etc, etc. A couple of years ago I found Advent Conspiracy and decided to do things a little differently. Instead of buying gifts for each person in the family, I decided to sponsor a child through World Vision. So I spend $35 each month, about the equivalent of a Christmas gift, and someone in the world has medical care, education and gets to know about Jesus. That's better than any physical gift I could give my family in my opinion.

But, because I still like to have stuff under my tree, I've started doing Twelve Treats of Christmas! This year I tried quite a few new things and really enjoyed my time in the kitchen. I got to wrap them all individually and then put them in bags I'd stamped and tied up with an ornament I made. I loved it, and think most of the recipients did as well.

Here are the links to the treats I made:

Gingerbread Biscotti (My first attempt at biscotti - and it was easy and tasty - will definitely be trying more...)

Peppermint Marshmallows (I know, I know, WHY in the world make homemade marshmallows? Because they're AWESOME! SO much better than the plain ol store brand!)

Almond Roca (My mom's favorite! I burned it a little this year :o(, I went by temperature, next year I think I'm going to just focus on how it looks!)

Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt (How do you make fudge even better? By adding Nutella and a touch of sea salt!)

Vanilla Caramels with Fleur de Sel (Homemade caramels! So much easier than I thought it'd be, and SO much better than store-bought!)

Pecan Pralines (I'll tweak this a little bit next time - I went with the 'bars' rather than spooning them and letting them spread into the 'circle's - this led to a lot of breaking when I cut them up - I'll try the spoon technique next time.)

Poppy Chow (A simple spin on the typical 'puppy chow')

Peanutbutter Brownies (Holy Moses these are as good as the first time. Definite winner!)

Pecan Pie Bites (My dad liked these a lot the first time I made them, so I thought I'd make them for him again.)

Vanilla Bean Shortbread (Another recipe I made for my dad - he's not real big on the really rich sweets.)

I also made, but don't have the recipes for:
- Snickerdoodles
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 5-star Brownies

I know that's technically 13, but I split the dough for the cookies - made 1/2 of it into Snickerdoodles and the other 1/2 into chocolate chip cookies, so I'm claiming it as only one! ;)


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oak Ridge Boys, Beth Moore, Blogs and Life!

Sorry I was a little absent over the weekend - just didn't get around to blogging. After I finish this post, my goal is to find all of the links for the Christmas treats I made and finally finish that post as well...

Music Dabble:

Speaking of this weekend, there was an unexpected turn of events on Saturday and I ended up in Galveston seeing none other than The Oak Ridge Boys.

Wowza. Definitely a good time, but so much to take in! Ha ha! First of all, my friend and I were the youngest people there my a LONG SHOT (other than some kids that were friends with the ORB with the beard). The ORB's draw out a full house, and I'm not sure why I expected anything different, but it was definitely an older crowd. Unfortunately the 'ooom boppa mow mow' guy was really rude after the show and acted as if the fans were an inconvenience. Which sucks. But the bearded guy (William Lee Gibson) was SO NICE! Took the time to sign everything that people wanted signed, took all the pictures that people wanted taken (some of them twice, ahem), and was genuine. His buddy should take a lesson...

Overall, it was awesome to see a band from my childhood live. There were quite a few songs I forgot about, but they were fun to hear. I'm sure I saw them at the rodeo when I was little, but it was fun to see a show that I'll actually remember!

Spiritual Dabble:

Can I just say I love studying and digging into the bible under the direction of Beth Moore? She absolutely amazes me and I'm so glad that God has given her the gift that He did and that she answered the call to use it in such a powerful way! Currently, she's teaching the book of James, which I LOVE. We've been to two sessions and we are through James 1:1. Ha ha! Obviously we don't go verse by verse as the entire session is only 8 weeks, but it's somewhat laughable. I'm going tonight with my girlfriends and it's one of the highlights of my week!

Blog Dabble:

There are so many blogs I follow on an (ir)regular basis. Thank God for Google Reader! I'd never be able to be so 'productive' without it! I sort my blogs into different categories (Friends/Health/Inspirational/Food/Business News/Other), which helps me when I'm looking for certain types of info. My Google Reader is never completely read, but at least there's always something to read, right? I thought I'd highlight a few of my favorites...

- For those of you that are doing, or interested in, the new Weight Watchers program, a great blog to follow for recipes and ideas is Danica's Daily. She also has her own forum (Friends of Weight Watchers?) where you can connect with others. I'm not doing the program, so I haven't joined in on that, but I find that she has some great general info and recipes, so I read it pretty regularly!

- For inspiration, I highly suggest Melanie, aka Big Mama. She's a mom, an Aggie, a Christian and FUNNY! Her antics with her daughter crack me up. So if you're looking for a light-hearted laugh, she's a good place to visit...

- Also for laughs, I recently found A Bad Case of Dates. These make me laugh and cringe at the same time!

- There are SO many good food blogs, so I'll just throw a few up here and come back with more later... Here are my recommendations for today: Evil Shenanigans, Annie's Eats and Sing for Your Supper.

Life Dabble:

Ok - I've gotta run (therefore the Christmas Treats post will wait til tomorrow). But life has been pretty good other than a generally crappy Monday that I will gladly not repeat any time soon. I've been working out and (mostly) eating right. I should probably be more stringent, but I'm just trying to do what works. In January a couple of things I implemented that are really working for me are a morning 'reflection time' where I go through my day, my goals and read some other things to get me in the right frame of mind to start my day. I've really enjoyed that time to get myself together. Also I bought 4 huge water bottles in order to spur along my water intake. It's going ok. Still need to improve. My goal for February is to institute morning workouts so I'll be ready when rodeo season hits. I also should start tracking again. I'm so bad at that...

Ok - signing off! Be blessed!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Infamous Banana Bread and Sean McConnell

Ok - it's day 2! It's late...but I'm back! There's some commitment!

Music Dabble:
I'm starting with this because lately it's rocked my world. Seriously. I went with a few friends and saw Sean McConnell at a bar in The Woodlands called Dosey Doe's, which is a bar/gourmet restaurant/coffee house all in one. (Sidenote: the coffee is A-MA-ZING! I want some right now!) The history of the building is really neat and it has some GREAT acoustics. Anyways... it ended up being a full band acoustic show, and I'd never seen them that way. I've loved his acoustic shows and loved the full band shows, but was really excited to see the stripped down full band show.

And it did not disappoint one little bit! It ranks as one of the top 5 shows I've EVER seen. I'm not kidding - I could talk your ear off about some of the shows I've been lucky enough to be a part of, and this was one of the 'magical' ones. I was AMPED when I left, when I woke up the next day and for the days that followed. Mainly because of a new song Sean sang called 'Praise the Lord'.

Sean's not a Christian-artist, but he's definitely a Christian and that shines through in the music he writes. Which means a lot to me because my Christian faith is my foundation and really important to me. He prefaced the song by telling us that it was about finding out what religion and a relationship with God really meant. I knew exactly what he was talking about as it was a process I went through in my late 20's. So this song struck a STRONG chord with me. I can't share the actual song with you as it's not on a CD yet, but HERE IS THE LINK TO A VIDEO - please, please, please check it out. It's just a small slice of his mastery when it comes to lyrics. If it's something that interests you, I urge you to check out more of his work - I'm floored by his talents...

Recipe Dabble:
Speaking of the Sean McConnell crew, they are often the recipients of what I create in the kitchen, for a few reasons.

1. They travel in a van. 5 guys, 1 van, 1 trailer. And they are making the run from TN to TX more and more often. So I try to 'sweeten' the trip when possible!
2. It gets it out of my kitchen.
3. They appreciate it - and let me know that they are always up for goodies!

As a side note, the other most common recipients of my kitchen creations are Wade Bowen's guys - they love and appreciate it too!

And last week - I got to see BOTH of my bands! That called for some work in the kitchen! So I made their favorite, my banana bread. I've posted the healthy version of my banana bread in the past, but some have requested the 'regular' recipe, which is what I have been making for these guys. I made it in muffin form last week because it was easier to split that way, and it only took 20 minutes to bake, rather than an hour and a half with 2 loaves! So here's the recipe - sorry for the shoddy cell phone picture!


1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7x3 inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans. Top with streusel (recipe below).
3. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

(Makes ~32 muffins, bake for 20 minutes; or 2 regular loaf pans, bake for ~90 min, start checking at 75 min)

Streusel Topping recipe:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter (maybe a little more...)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together until crumbly.

Fitness Dabble:
Another 3 mile loop today! I need to get to the GYM. My strength training is seriously lacking. I think I'll hit it up tomorrow and Sunday this weekend... But overall, I've done something almost every day, and that's an improvement over last week. I'll take gradual improvements! My food has been pretty much spot-on, so that's good.

That's enough dabbling for today, more to talk about, but I'll save it for later!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New format & Snickerdoodle Blondies!

Ok - I'm going to try something new that might actually get me posting here more often. So many things happen throughout my days that I actually think 'I should blog about this', yet I never do. And I'm getting rid of all my other blogs. Everything's going to be here. Trying to keep up with 3 was just a ridiculous idea. Good concept, bad in execution. So here we are...

What's the new format? Dabbles.

I'm going to dabble a little here, and dabble a little there. There will be stuff here about the music I'm digging that day, there will be recipes, new workout ideas, craft projects, etc. A little of this, a little of that. Read what you want, ignore the rest...

Recipe Dabble:I'm going to try to bake one treat each week to sell at work to raise money for my Avon 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer that I'm doing in April. I have to raise $1800 and I'm about $600 short right now. I know I'll get there, but want to spur it along a little... So I decided to do something easy and these looked just like the ticket! I originally got the recipe from Jamie at My Baking Addiction, but when I looked in my pantry and saw the cinnamon chips sitting there, I thought they'd be a great addition to an already great concept - so into the batter they went! And I must say, these were easy, and AWESOME. I must get them out of my house so I don't eat them all! I plan on wrapping them and bringing them in tomorrow...

Here's the recipe:

Snickerdoodle Blondies
adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
a pinch nutmeg
1 cup cinnamon chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and/or line a 9×13 inch pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and set aside.

2. In large bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar for 3-5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and beat until smooth.

3. Stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Fold in the cinnamon chips. Spread evenly in prepared pan (mixture will be somewhat cookie batter-ish, so it’s best to spread it out with a greased spatula or your hands). Combine the granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a little bowl. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top of the batter.

4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool before cutting.

Makes 20-24 bars.


Music Dabble:

About a year and a half ago, Wade told me I NEEDED to get Seth James' CD, That Kind of Man. And I had every intention of doing so, but then it slipped my mind. How freakin' unfortunate! After seeing him with Wade, Cody and Sean on the acoustic tour in December, I was reminded of the conversation a year earlier and resolved that I WOULD get myself that CD. And I did. And I LOVE IT.

There are so many highlights on this album - I just keep it on regular rotation in my office. If you've seen him in concert, you'll recognize Cigarettes, Anger and Wine, Honky Tonk Saturday Night, Leaves of September and likely Thing for You. I also really like If the World Was Mine and Let's Make Us. Of course the love songs. I really do like his voice. A LOT. And he is just a little more than talented on the guitar. (That's an understatement).

Life Dabble:

This week picked back up on what will be my 'regular schedule' until rodeo season hits...

Monday - Young Life Club

Tuesday - Beth Moore Bible Study at FBC Houston

Wednesday - Young Life Campaigners

Of course there's work and workouts too, and everything else fits in around all of that. I'm busy, but not as busy as I've been in years past. I'm not packing out every single weekend. And I'm actually enjoying this non-frenzied pace of life. I'm striving to have at least 2 'free' weekends each month where I can spend as much time enjoying what I have at home and getting things done so I'm not always overwhelmed.

Fitness Dabble:

Walked the 3 mile loop at Memorial Park with my friend Sarah today at lunch. Hopefully I can hit up the gym in between work and Campaigners tonight. I've eaten on plan today and will avoid the kitchen tonight - always too many treats around when high school friends are involved - if only I could get some of that teenage metabolism back!

Ok - that's it for the first 'dabble' post. Hopefully I'll return tomorrow!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Dinner

I simply wanted to link up the recipes I used for our Christmas Dinner (mainly so family could see them...) Sorry, there wasn't exactly time for pictures!

Ham (Mom brought and baked)

Crash Hot Potatoes

Green Bean Bundles

Roasted Vegetables (no recipe, just fresh broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus drizzled in olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt/ground black pepper and roasted for 20 min at 425^)

Garlic Roasted Mushrooms

Garden Salad (brought and made by my uncle)

Parker House Rolls

And I guess that was it! I know there weren't a ton of leftovers (which made me happy!), but it was plenty to feed 9 people a great meal!


German Chocolate Cake

Snickerdoodle Bundt Cake

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

Now, there were plenty of leftovers of the above! Much to the dismay of my hips!

Another post coming soon with the 12 Treats of Christmas!