Friday, December 31, 2010

"Plain" Pancakes

We eat a lot of pancakes. My kids would eat them at least 5 days a week and sometimes we do! I love to try new pancake recipes -- looking for the perfect one! I have found that a minimum of 3 teaspoons of baking powder is required for fluffiness and butter is needed for good flavor. This pancake recipe is my current favorite. It produces light, fluffy pancakes that brown easily without burning. It takes a few extra steps, but it's worth it.

This recipe is from my new favorite cookbook The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. I don't often buy cookbooks because I can usually find what I want on the internet for free, but this book is a keeper.

I suggest doubling this if you want any leftovers at all.

"Plain" Pancakes
2 eggs
5 Tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar (or sucanat)
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Put butter and milk in a small saucepan and warm on low until butter is melted.  Allow to cool. Beat eggs in a bowl. Mix milk/butter mixture in to eggs once it is cool enough -- you don't want to cook the eggs! Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Add wet ingredients. Stir just until combined. Cook on hot griddle or in a frying pan.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goals for 2011

I can't believe it's been another year! I remember sitting down last year to write out my goals for the year. I'm pretty certain I failed miserably at most of them, but that's OK. It was an odd year for me.

This year I'm keeping it pretty simple. I know what I want to improve and it's just time to do it, already.

Goal 1: Get more sleep -- I am tired all the time because I am not going to be early enough. I need to carve more "me" time in to the middle of my day so that I'm not trying to fit in way too late at night.

Goal 2: Get more active -- I am also tired all the time because I do not get out and move enough. I just bought a bike and my dad bought one for my husband and a baby seat for our 2 year old so we are all set to go. In fact, we've spent a lot of time riding bikes over the past week and it's been great!

Goal 3: Get closer to God -- I'm already signed up for a women's Bible study at our church that starts in a week. I'm really excited to get involved and meet new people. It has the added bonus of forcing me OUT of the house one night a week.

Goal 4: Get this blog organized -- I've been working on this for over a year, but I am stuck on a name that has an available domain. I want to focus more on homemaking the "old fashioned" way and cooking from scratch. It's really the domain situation that is hanging me up!

That's it! Four totally "doable" goals for this year! I'm ready to go... bring on 2011!

What goals do you have for this year? Do you have any suggestions to help me with mine?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Gift

My 4 year old daughter, Ella,  is one of the most strong-willed and independent people I have ever met. I spend much of my time trying to figure out how to stay one step ahead of her. Don't get me wrong -- she is also sweet, funny, creative and beguiling, but she definitely keeps me on my toes.

I would really like to homeschool my children, but my daughter has refused every single attempt I've made at any type of "school"ish activity. I really wanted her to learn her letters this school year. That's it. Just recognize the letter and put the correct name to it. Every time I attempted to engage in her a fun activity to learn letters, she refused to cooperate. I gave up on "A" sometime back in September.

Imagine my sheer delight and utter surprise when she drew me this picture at breakfast Christmas morning:

I cried I was so happy! I hate to admit it, but I think I have the PBS show "SuperWhy" to thank for this because I certainly have not been working with her.

I'm not much of a "keeper" -- I tend to throw things out quickly, but this piece of paper is going in a frame. Someday when Ella tells me she can't do it, I'll show her this and tell her, "oh yes you can!"

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sausage Breakfast Casserole

After perusing numerous breakfast casseroles for Christmas morning, I put together this recipe. Every single family member loved it!

You can double this recipe and bake in a 9 x 13 pan for more servings.

Sausage Breakfast Casserole
5 eggs
1 cup milk
Dash of salt
1/2 pound breakfast sausage
1/4 cup onion, diced
4 white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup cubed day old bread
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

In a frying pan, cook sausage until no longer pink. Remove from pan and put sausage in to a large bowl. Cook onion and mushrooms in the frying pan, adding butter or oil as needed, until onions are just starting to turn brown (about 10-15 minutes). Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk and salt in the bowl with the cooked sausage. Add bread and cheddar cheese and vegetables when cooked. Pour mixture in to a 2 quart casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove casserole from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in casserole comes out clean.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chocolate Waffles

I had a hard time choosing between these waffles or a casserole for Christmas morning. The casserole won for sake of ease, but I made these waffles the next day. I really love them, but they definitely need a good topping. I just served it with male syrup, which was just OK. Chocolate whipped cream or strawberries (or both) would be excellent on these.

Because these are brown, it's easy to hide whole wheat flour and sucanat in these waffles. I'd sub in 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and use all sucanat for the sugar. 

I have a large square Belgian waffle maker and this recipe made 3 full batches plus one single - 13 Eggo sized waffles. We had plenty of leftovers!

Chocolate Waffles
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan, melt chocolate chips and butter. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk together.

In a small bowl mix together eggs, milk and vanilla. Add to dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Add in chocolate and mix to combine.

Bake in waffle iron according to manufacturer's directions.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Have a Stress Free Visit with Santa

As the parent of small children, going to see Santa is a nightmare. You're never quite sure how long the wait will be or how your child will react once they finally get up to see the jolly old elf. I find it so nerve wracking, that my 2 year old who is on his 3rd Christmas has never been to see Santa!

A few years ago a friend of mine mentioned that growing up Santa always came to her house on Christmas Eve. As an adult she now realizes that her mother actually hired a Santa to make the visit. This year she followed in her mother's footsteps and hired a Santa to come to her house. This, my friends, is the absolutely best idea ever. No waiting in line forever. If your kid freaks out, he can sit back and watch for a while and then try again and there is no pressure to hurry up.

The amazing thing is that a visit to your house from Santa costs about the same as pictures with the mall Santa. If even that is out of your budget, get together with other families and have everyone pitch in. Ask around to see if anyone knows of a Santa or even ask the Santa at the mall for a card. I've read two stories in the paper this week about different Santas for hire. I'm sure there is still time to find one for your Christmas festivities this week!

Off My Needles: Santa Hat Ornament

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last Minute Treats: Sweet Cereal Party Mix

This recipe takes all of about 7 minutes to throw together and my family can't get enough of it. It is also very flexible. Use up whatever you have in the cupboards! I've eaten this several times with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in it and it was excellent. But you can use any combination of cereal you want. I used 5 cups of Cheerios, 2 cups Rice Chex and 3 cups Corn Chex. I also used peanuts and subbed in some white almond bark because I only had 1.5 bags of white chocolate chips. See? Totally flexible!

Sweet Cereal Party Mix
10 cups cereal
2 cups nuts
10 oz bag of pretzels
1 big bag of M&Ms (mine were from Halloween! Oh well!)
2 12 oz bags of white chocolate chips (or white almond bark)
3 Tablespoons coconut oil (veggie/canola is fine)

In a very large bowl (I used a roasting pan) mix together all ingredients except white chocolate and oil.

Over a double boiler or in a microwave (stir every 30 seconds), melt chocolate and oil. Pour chocolate over cereal mixture and mix well to coat. Allow to cool until set. Break apart as desired to eat. Enjoy!

Adapted from Pennies on A Platter

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last Minute Treats: Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

This sugar cookie is as easy as it is delicious! How can you beat a recipe that lets you dump in the ingredients and mix? The only tiny hang up is that it does need to chill for a good 8 hours. After that, it can sit in the fridge for a day or so until you are ready to make cookies. Make a batch today for a fun activity later this week.

A quick way to get your butter "softened" is to slice it up once you get it out of the fridge. Let it sit while you put all the other ingredients in the mixer bowl.  Add the butter last and you'll be good to go. The cream cheese is usually soft enough right out of the fridge, but get it and let it sit while you assemble the other ingredients, too.

Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (two sticks), softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Mix together sugar, salt, extracts, egg yolk, butter and cream cheese. Stir in flour until combined.

Wrap dough in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for 8 hours or overnight.

Roll out dough and cut in to shapes. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Slow Cooker Chex Mix

Chex Mix was a holiday tradition in my home growing up. My mom would fill this gigantic plastic bin (probably around 5 gallons) FULL of Chex Mix. So when I discovered that you could cook Chex Mix in the slow cooker, I had to try it!

I just bought a 5 quart slow cooker and it is perfect for a full batch. But for the past few years I used my smaller Crock Pot (maybe 3 or 4 quarts) and it worked just fine. It was just harder to stir. If you make consecutive batches (like I do), your cooking time will be cut down because the slow cooker is already hot so just keep a closer eye on it (stirring every 30 minutes or so).

I did cut the butter down from the original recipe and I don't notice any difference. But if you want more, just add two more tablespoons.

This is the original flavor, but I've made several different varieties of Chex Mix in the slow cooker. My favorite was the Buffalo Mix flavor and the Snickerdoodle Mix is great, too. I just saw a recipe for Garlic and Chili on the back of one of the boxes. Can't wait to try that one out! I think you could have an entire party with all the different options!

Slow Cooker Chex Mix

4 Tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons Lawry's seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire (Lea & Perrins does not contain MSG)
3 cups each, Corn Chex, Rice Chex, Wheat Chex
1 cup Cheerios
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite size pretzels

Turn slow cooker on to high and put in butter, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and Worcetshire sauce. Once the butter is melted, stir seasonings together and turn slow cooker to low. Add in Chex, Cheerios, nuts, and pretzels. Stir well to coat. Put top on the slow cooker and cook for 2-3 hours, stirring every 45 minutes or so.

Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking and General Mills Chex Party Mix.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Big Cupcake

I never really paid much attention to the super giant cupcake cakes. They are cute, but a $30 pan to make one thing? Not that cute. Then my neighbor found a the Big Top Cupcake pan at work for $5 so I had her pick me one up.

This cake was for my son's 2nd birthday. I figure this is the last year I'll have any say over a theme and I wanted to use the pan so I made him a big cupcake. Unfortunately, I was so concerned about the cake being done in the middle, that I way over baked it. I used this recipe from Annie's Eats for yellow cake and chocolate frosting. The frosting was divine! I'm sure the cake is just fine if you don't kill it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Off My Needles: Tree Ornament

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake for Thanksgiving. In fact, I made it a week or two prior to Thanksgiving day and froze it. I let it thaw for 24 hours before serving and it was perfect. It was so good that we all agreed it would be making appearances at Thanksgiving every year.

I do not own a springform pan, but I was ready to buy one until I started reading up on cheesecakes. Apparently the problem with a springform is that if you bake the cheesecake in a water bath, it can leak in to your cake. I certainly didn't want that happening! Instead, I baked the cake in a 9 inch round cake pan with a pan of water on the rack below. The first few pieces coming out of the pan weren't pretty, but the rest were just fine.

I also found that it was pretty important to have all the ingredients at room temperature in order to get a nicely combined filling. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake
1 1/2  cups  gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 30 cookies processed in the food processor)
1/2  cup  finely chopped pecans
6  tablespoons  unsalted butter, melted
1/4  cup  sucanat (or white sugar)

3  8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sucanat (or 1/2  cup packed light brown sugar and 1/4  cup  white sugar)
2  large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1  cup  pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1/2  cup  sour cream, at room temperature
2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
1 1/2  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
2  teaspoons  pumpkin-pie spice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 inch cake pan. Stir together all crust ingredients. Press into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sucanat until light. Beat in eggs and yolks, 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin, sour cream and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour and spice. Pour into crust.

Place cheesecake on center rack of oven. Fill a separate pan with 2 inches of hot water and place on the oven rack below the cheesecake. Bake until cake is set around edges but still slightly jiggly when lightly shaken (cheesecake will firm as it cools), 55 to 65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill for at least 10 hours or up to 2 days. Can be frozen and thawed.

Original recipe from All You.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Cheese Garden Pizza

This is my new found favorite pizza! I had it at a Pampered Chef party last month and have made it twice since.

Three Cheese Garden Pizza
1 pizza dough
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 roma/plum tomatoes, sliced
1 oz grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasonings

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll or press out dough on to a lightly oiled cookie sheet, pizza pan or preferably a pizza stone. Sprinkle garlic over dough. Bake for 8 minutes. Put toppings on pizza and then cover with cheese. Sprinkle Italian seasoning on top. Bake until cheese is melted and crust is browned.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Off My Needles: Cable Chapeau

This is Debbie Stoller's Cabled Chapeau in Caron Wool on size 8 needles. It knit up SUPER quick! I really love it and knit it at my niece's request for her birthday. I hope she loves it, too!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

Our oldest turns 11 today. 11! Time is flying. We'll be celebrating with her in person later this month with a rockin' tie dye party! Can't wait!

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

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