Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cinnamon and Pineapple Carrot Sheet Cake

I like cinnamon...and pineapple...and carrots.  So, when I saw this recipe in my mom's big pile o' recipes I decided to copy it and make it one day.  This recipe originated from one of my mom's Prevention magazines, May 2003 to be exact.  I altered the frosting part of the recipe, but the actual cake is listed below as the original recipe denoted. 

David didn't really think this cake looked very appetizing when I brought the recipe home a while back.  So, I decided to make it when my mom came over earlier this week.  We like to have a girls' night when we can and we had a fun night of looking at wedding stuff, stuffing overselves with Thai food...then eating cake.  After becoming completely and totally miserable I promptly sent her home with half of the cake...I don't need that kind of temptation lying around.

Imagine a tasty combination between spice and carrot cake...that's this very moist cake.  Yum!  Here's the recipe:

Cake:
1 c pitted prunes (12 prunes)
1/4 c hot water
1 pkg (18.25) yellow cake mix
1/4 c vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 large eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 can (8 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, drained
1 c grated carrots

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c confectioners sugar
juice from half of one lemon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly coat 13" x 9" with cooking spray, set aside.

2. To make cake: Place the prunes and water in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Pulse until prunes are finely chopped.  Scrape down the side of the processor with a rubber spatula.  Set the prune puree aside. (I used my blender)

3. Place the cake mix, oil, eggs, cinnamon and puree in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute.  Stop, scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase the mixer speed to medium, and beat for two minutes longer, scraping the side down if needed.  The batter will be thick.  Fold in the pineapple and carrots until well distributed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

4. Bake the cake until it's golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed in the center, 33-37 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a rack to cool.

Frosting:

1. Blend all ingredients until smooth. 

2. Once the cake has cooled, spread the top with a thin layer of frosting.


Mmm...this picture is making me crave a piece right now...

Big Changes Coming Soon!

When you start planning a wedding there are a lot of things to take into consideration.  Where, when, dress, cake, attendants, DJ, showers, etc.  David and I have had additional worries on top of these things.  Because we're both in our late 20s and successful professionals, there are a lot of things each of us already have that many young couples don't.  For example, when I move into his house I will need to get rid of most of my furniture.  We won't need two sets of couches...or two computer desks...or two bedroom sets...or four mattresses...or two dining rooms sets.  The lists goes on and on...making household consolidation interesting.  Luckily, most of his items are newer than mine and luckier still, I like his style!  Well, OK...so maybe I really like his sister's style!  She did help him pick out most of his furnishings.

The biggie, however, is that we both own homes.  David's house is a pretty good-sized house for a young couple and will be fine for us...for now.  However, my house is what you would probably consider a true "starter home."  It's pretty small with two bedrooms, one bathroom and a single car garage.  I attempted to sell it and move into something bigger a couple years ago, but it just didn't work out.  Well, I had fully intended on trying to sell it again last spring, but David and I had started dating and he wouldn't hear of it.  He liked my house and said it would be a great rental property for us someday. 

Well...now when it comes right down to it...we're starting to question our real desire to become landlords.  My stepdad (in his great wisdom) suggested us selling it now due to the current tax credit for those purchasing homes as well as low interest rates.  These items really make it a seller's market.  David decided to discuss this idea with his dad as well.  And now...with both sets of parents in agreement...we've decided to take our parents' advice and, once again, put my house on the market. 

I'm kind of scared and not looking forward to constantly being inconvenienced with showings...yet again.  I'm already starting to try and go through all my stuff and get rid of things I don't want anymore (garage sale in my near future!).  Plus, I fully intend to begin moving one box a week up to David's starting this coming week.  That way, I'm not engulfed in a huge move in July and/or August.  For example, all my Christmas stuff and random attic boxes can go now.  Then, here in a few weeks (hopefully) all my winter clothes can be moved.  I guess, now I need to concentrate on moving pictures and other personal items as well.  Anyone who's ever tried to sell a house knows that you need to take down all personal items from view.  This is so that your possible buyers can picture their stuff in your house and imagine it as their home.

Basically, I just wanted to make this announcement so that it seems more real to me.  For some reason the decision has more substance and seems more final when it's actually written down and out there for viewing.  Please cross your fingers for me and hope for the best.  Last time I received a total of three semi-decent offers in the six months my house was on the market, which all fell through due to various reasons (lack of credit approval, too low, etc.)  I have an awesome realtor and do look forward to talking to her more often than the random email and facebook comment, so there is a definite upside (apart from the obvious monetary one).  Hopefully this time it'll happen quickly, after all it only takes one good offer!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Great Reread: Dewey

Like every other future bride in history, I'm trying to lose a few pounds before the wedding.  While walking, I've decided to listen to a few of the audiobooks I've already got on my iPod.  This one is a must-read.  I love it. 

If you are an avid reader and an animal lover, you need to run out today and get this book.  It involves a library and an adorable cat, what more do you need?  This book details the true life story of a kitten discovered in a library book drop one cold winter morning in the small town of Spencer, Iowa.  This cat, Dewey Readmore Books, is named after Melvile Dewey...of the Dewey Decimal Classification.  I'm really enjoying rereading/listening to this book again and hope you do too!

No Book Store Trip For Me Anytime Soon...

This past weekend I made a trip to the state fairgrounds with a couple of great friends.  The Friends of the Library Book Sale was going on in the Expo Hall and let me tell you, this was an experience!  The big room in the Expo Hall was wall to wall people and Oklahomans are SERIOUS about their books!  I brought in one of my reusable grocery totes to carry my books in and I thought I was thinking ahead of the game.  But, there were people with luggage, rolling carts, milk carts, wagons, etc.  I couldn't believe it! 

Everything was very haphazardly sorted.  They had balloons tied to each looooong table and the color denoted the genre: fiction, biography, nonfiction, religious, romance, cooking, art, history, mystery, etc.  Nothing was alphabetized by any stretch.  Basically, there was no way for you to be able to sort through and find anything specific.  When I buzzed through fiction, I don't think I've ever seen so much Danielle Steele in my life.  Wow.

The purpose of this book sale is for the Metropolitan Library System to sell superfluous copies of books onhand, typically relatively newly published works.  There was also verrrry old copies of some books.  My friend, Brooke, got a couple of "oldie but goodie" copies of Egyptian history and ballet/dance books.  There was a lot of good stuff, but you just had to elbow your way through the people and piles.  Oh yea...and hand sanitize.  Brooke and I sanitized many times.  With that many people and that many public books...who knows what you could come down with. I kind of digressed there...but anyway, after this sale the library system can afford to buy new books to stock their shelves with.  Great deal for all!

After $13.50 the above picture is what my "to-read" pile looks like.  I would say that probably three-quarters of that pile is new stuff from the sale.  And you'll notice they're almost all hardback ($23-$30 new) books.  What an awesome deal!  In the "big" room hard-back books were $1 and paper back 50 cents.  In the "collector's edition" room books varied a little bit higher, but I didn't find anything above $1.50.  I will go to this room first next year because the books were in better condition and not much more expensive...plus, a lot more elbow room.  For some reason fewer people frequented those tables...

We also asked some of the volunteers about the sale while we were there.  If you sign up for two (three hour) shifts you can go in the night before the sale starts and buy your own books before the public sees anything.  I'm so up for that!  In fact, I emailed the address the fairgrounds provides for this program today. 

This was a lot of fun and I will definitely participate again next time around!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Son of a Witch

I've just finished Son of a Witch and I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of Gregory Maguire's writing style.  I originally read Wicked, the prequel to this book, after seeing the musical.  The stories are veeeeerrrrrry different.  So, if you plan on reading the novel because you liked the musical...be prepared. 

While I'm not a big fan of his writing style, I also have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with his books.  I'll be reading the story and have a hard time following it, but then once I get to the end of a chapter I'll think about what I've read and think to myself, "this is actually a pretty good story!"  Saying this, I would never recommend this to child or even adolescents.  These are adult novels and have adult content.  Nothing super racy...but, there is stuff I would never read to a child (of any age).  Also, a lot of these books discuss different aspects having to deal with politics in society, different ethical questions and how people versus Animals (talking/thinking/reasoning animals) versus animals are treated.  There's a lot of similarities that are mirrored in our society that Maguire does a good job of describing. 

Basically, Wicked followed the life of Elphaba, also known as the Wicked Witch of West, and how she was simply "misunderstood."  Son of a Witch follows the life of her possible son, Liir.  Liir is uncertain as to whether or not he is truly the son of Elphaba; she never showed any sort of maternal instinct towards him.  In fact, when asked Elphaba states that she's not sure either.  This is because Elphaba fell into a coma-like state after her lover dies in Wicked and when she 'comes to' there is Liir as a small child.  Elphaba does not remember giving birth or being pregnant, yet that time in her life is very murky in her memory so she can't fully deny it with certainty.  However, halfway through the novel Liir does go ahead and claim Elphaba as his mother, at least to society if not in his heart.

Going into the novel knowing this...and by the way I would NOT recommend reading this book if you haven't read Wicked first, you'd be completely lost...this novel follows the young adulthood life of Liir.  There are slow parts and there are fast parts, but the ending is the best.  And you find out for certain whether or not he is truly Elphaba's son.  I won't say how, but I loved how Gregory Maguire revealed this.  And although I do have a love/hate relationship with his writing, I might eventually read A Lion Among Men.  Why?  Why not?  I've made it this far in the series, why not finish it up!

Elevator Etiquette

What I'm about to talk about didn't happen to me on an elevator yesterday, though it typically does.  This incident occured at Walgreens and it is so frustrating!  People are in such a hurry these days and they don't take common courtesy into consideration. 

How many times have you been riding an elevator and when you reach the floor of your destination the doors open and someone tries to rush onboard before you can even think about getting off.  Or perhaps you're waiting right at the doors and they practically run over you.  A lot of times they'll look up and go, "Oh!  Excuse me."  Then, they'll step out of the way so you can deboard the elevator.  That is the courteous thing to do in this situation.  What's especially irritating is when the elevator has a good number of people on it, say four or five.  There's not that much room people!  Wait for those needing off to exit.  Anyone else on the elevator can see that you're waiting, they'll hold the button for you.  And most people will hold up their hand so that the elevator senses their arm and won't automatically close.  Don't panic, you'll make it!  No need to be rude.

This happened to me at Walgreens last night, only with those automatic sliding doors.  There are two sets of sliding doors at a Walgreens...one for entry, one for exit.  I had a gentleman enter the exit while I was trying to leave.  When he saw me coming from the opposite direction, he just stopped in his tracks and looked at me for half a second.  No, "excuse me."  Nothing.  He just stared at me like I was in his way.  Then he just kept on walking, moving around me.  Rudeness much? 

Now, don't get me wrong...I understand that it might be closer to enter through the sliding doors on whatever side of the parking lot you parked on.  And it's cold outside.  OK.  And I won't say that I've never done this before.  But, I've never blocked someone else and acted irritated with them about it.  If I have, I've apologized and quickly moved on to take care of my business, then they can move on to theirs.

Anyway, this is one of my pet peeves.  Just thought I'd vent for a minute.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wedding Update

I'm in the works of booking my DJ!  And no, this adorable kitten is not going to be it.  Though, that would be a conversation piece!  I'm not sure this kitten would get all the songs I've picked out played at the appropriate times...something to do with opposable thumbs.  They're kinda necessary in a DJ... 

In the meantime, I've been trying to pick out our dance/misc. songs: first dance, father/daughter dance, step-father/daughter dance, cake cutting song, bouqet toss, garter toss, last dance, etc.  (David isn't dancing with his mother in case you were wondering...they're not the dancing type for some reason)  I have some pretty good ideas, but the only one David and I are in complete agreement on is our first dance.  We'll just have to see on the rest. 

Another biggie...David has officially booked our honeymoon.  Hawaii, here we come!  We had a little snag with the proposed itinerary getting out there...there was a thirty minute layover in the LA airport and I told David that was a big no-no.  I don't want be running late on a previous flight and miss that one!  Plus, I don't know how many times per day a flight goes out that direction, but I'm sure it's not hourly...  I wouldn't mind a tight layover on the way back, but not on the way out.  Who wants to miss a possible day of vacation?  Not me!

Things are also coming along nicely with the florist.  I've gotten some good estimates on my mine and the bridesmaids' bouqets and am looking forward to working with her!  Next: boutonieres, corsages and cake flowers!

It doesn't appear that I ever mentioned my "official" cake baker...as I look back through my archives.  And the cake is an important part!  I actually ended up picking the baker that the Dominion House typically uses if brides don't have a preference.  She works out of a small house next door to her home, but she was impressive.  She knew everything there was to know about the venue and she's, literally, across the street from it.  Plus, her cake samples were BY FAR the best.  Most bakeries give you four, or so, samples and you pay for extra tastings.  This baker, Rosebeary Designs, sent me home with nineteen, yes NINETEEN, cake samples.  My mom, David and I kinda went crazy when we got back to Edmond...despite her telling us to "take it easy."  Eh...who has will power when it comes to cake? (Disclaimer: this pic is NOT of my cake samples...it's just to give you guys an idea.  Mine were in little, plastic cups with squirts of icing on top...all nineteen of 'em!)

That's about all for now...this wedding planning is all fun and exciting, but there are stressful moments.  It's amazing the things people say to you!  Some are good, some are kinda rude...but, in the end I believe everyone has good intentions.  I look forward to planning the rest of this wedding throughout the next five months!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thick and Hearty Taco Soup

I always hesitate to tell David what's for dinner when the answer is "soup."  Why?  Because the typical "man" complaining begins.  There's usually not enough meat for him...I've mentioned before how he likes to say "something's gotta die" when it comes to his meals.  Then there's the whole veggie side item issue.  David HAS to have a veggie in every meal, otherwise he gets vewwwy cwanky.  And no funny business on the vegetable either; no obscure vegetable that he's never heard of and would be wary to try.  It needs to be something like green beans, broccoli, corn, etc.  So, it was no surprise when he asked what was for dinner the other night and I got a whiney response when I said, "taco soup."  However, when he asked about the veggie, I promptly answer "corn."  OK, so good so far...well, maybe not good, but doing OK.  He was already slightly foul, but this could turn out all right.

In the end, this turned out fantastic!  This soup is super quick and easy to make; it only took me 30 minutes!  And the flavor...well, let's just say that David asked, "Was this in the crock pot all day?"  Nope...in a pot for 30 minutes.  The flavors melded together very well and it had a nice kick.  We both went back for seconds.

I forgot to take any pictures of this soup, but the consistency is very thick and hearty.  David described it as similar to a chili with corn in it.  Eh, it's more complicated than that...but hey, that's a good simple description for ya!

Here you go!

1 pound ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped (I didn't have any onion, surprisingly enough, so I used some minced onion)

2 (15.5 oz.) cans chili beans, undrained
1 (15.25 oz.) can whole kernel corn, undrained
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chiles
1 (1.25 oz) envelope taco seasoning mix
1 (1 oz.) enveloped Ranch-style dressing mix
1 1/2 cups water

1. Cook beef and onions in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until meat is browned and onions are tender, stirring until meat crumbles; drain.

2. Stir beans and next 7 ingredients into beef mixture; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

3. Spoon soup into bowls; top with desired toppings.

Possible toppings: corn chips, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Banana "Muffins"

What's the real difference between muffins and cupcakes?  I read a blog a few months ago that referred to this question.  The girl had a point...aren't cupcakes just muffins with icing and vice versa? 

Soooo...here was my dilemma.  I had some bananas in my kitchen that were rotting faster than normal.  Therefore I needed to make something with them...and fast. 

I have a great banana bread recipe, but I was at my house with no loaf pan.  David has one, so why should I buy one now when we'll be combining households in less than six months? 

No muffin recipe...BUT, I did find a cupcake recipe that I had printed a while back.  So, I thought...why not? 

These are phenomenal.  And since there's no icing...instant muffins!  Click on the link above to try this recipe soon!

Also, these are a big time David pleaser...Dave's Faves for sure!  Have a hungry man at home that likes banana-flavored baked goods?  Slam dunk.

Valentine's Day Red Velvet Cupcakes

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend...for both Valentine's Day and President's Day.  My weekend was a little longer than some...being a state employee really does have it's perks sometimes!  Then, yesterday I was out of the office all day on business and didn't have a chance to post any blogs.  So!  Let's try and catch up a little...

I want to share an awesome Valentine's Day recipe that I have made for dessert the last two years.  And after tasting them again this year, I've decided that they're going to have to be an annual Valentine's Day tradition for David and I.  We both love it and I'm officially denoting it as a "Dave's Faves." 

I love red velvet cake, always have and always will.  What's funny is that a lot of people think that red velvet is a specific flavor of cake and that it has some special ingredient...  Nope.  It's simply a mild chocolate cake with cream cheese icing.  So, if you like chocolate and cream cheese...yep, you'll like it.

I got this recipe from an old Wal-Mart recipe catalog that I "borrowed" from one of my aunts.  Ahem...yea, she really just let me have it and made me promise to share recipes I enjoyed out of it.  I'm sharing it now, right?

Also, this recipe makes really tasty cake batter...if you're into swiping your finger on the side of the bowl or the beaters.  Not that I'm encouraging you to since this recipe includes raw eggs...I'm just sayin'...we did.

Cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter; softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk (I always use half and half)
1 tbsp liquid red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp vinegar

Frosting:
8 oz. package softened cream cheese (suggests 1 tsp lemon juice stirred in-I never do)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.  In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  In a glass measure, combine buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture in thirds, alternating with buttermilk mixture; until blended. 

Beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally, until batter is smooth. 

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.


2. Bake 18-22 minutes, until a pick inserted into cupcakes comes out clean.  Let cool in pan 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.


3. Frosting: In a large bowl, with electric mixer on medium, beat cream cheese and butter until well blended.  Add confectioners; sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cupcakes, and refrigerate to firm up frosting.  Bring to room temperature before serving.


Makes 8 servings, with leftovers (12 cupcakes***).  Each cupcake: 343 calories, 29 g fat, 5 g protein and 40 g carb

***Both times I have made this recipe it has made 15 cupcakes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Filler Favorites

I don't have anything to write about.  Seriously.  Not really.  So, in between my thoughts and everyday life I was trying to think of a good post.  I got nothin'.  So...since I haven't finished another book (too much wedding stuff) and haven't cooked lately (it's David's week) aaaand I haven't really had anything else to blog about...I thought I'd share some of my favorite books.  These are all books that I've read within the last few years.  Each of these books I have found very enjoyable and I'm going to attempt to place them in order of my preference...but, after the first one they're all pretty much a close second or third.  If any of these you haven't read, I highly, highly, highly, highly recommend taking some time and doing so.  Here we go:


I LOVE this book.  It has the perfect amount of suspense and has an AWESOME ending.  There are twists and turns I never saw coming and I love it when books do this.  If you haven't read this, it's a must!  It's my favorite book right now and has been for a few years.


The storyline of this book is phenomenal and there are quite a few parts that made me cry.  Few books make me cry, this one did.  And if any sad book can have a good ending, this one is it.


If you've read my blog within the past week you already know my love for this book.  Awesome writing style?  Check.  Wonderful storyline?  Check.  What else do you need?


The movie and the book are nothing alike; the movie is crud compared to the book.  I loved every second of reading this book...minus the part where she loses her virginity.  That part's just weird.  But, the rest of the book is great.  If you've just seen the movie and not read the book...they're two completely different animals and you need to properly be exposed to this story.


This book has another disconcerting virginity loss scene...imagine reading that outloud to your boyfriend while you're on a roadtrip to Yellowstone National Park.  Yea....awkward.  And that's exactly what happened to me.  I read this book aloud to David while we were on vacation.  It was a very good book...just a weird excerpt there.  Overall, two thumbs up!

And last, but definitely not least...


If you're an animal lover in any capacity, this book is beyond amazing!  This cute owl will capture your heart throughout the story of his beautiful little life.  I recommend this book for anyone with dogs, cats, horses, birds, ferrets, hamsters...or whatever, you'll have a new appreciation for animals in general after reading this book.  In fact, Stacey O'Brien's blog is one that I follow so if you want to see what she's been up to recently, simply click on the link on my sidebar under My Blog List.

Alrighty, that's about all for now...hopefully I'll have some good books and tasty recipes to share with you soon!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wedding Update

I haven't included any information about the wedding in any blogs recently, so I thought I would give an update today.  As of right now you guys know I already have the place and photographer booked. 

I also have a photo booth rented...this will be the the wedding favors and I really hope that this will be a fun thing that will cross generations.  I can really see family and friends that are my age enjoying this idea, but I can also see family and friends that are my parents' age enjoying this too.  I'll keep my fingers crossed!  So far in the wedding this is the one thing I've just HAD to have.

I purchased my dress about a month ago and this past weekend my future mother-in-law, Donna, was in town and I took her to see it.  I was a little nervous because although my mom and bridesmaids (minus David's sister) all loved it, I really wanted Donna to like it as well.  There was no need to worry because she l-o-v-ed it!  Phew!  We went ahead and brought it home from the bridal shop because my mom is considering making the few alterations herself.  That and the bridal shop is moving...which makes my mom and my dad nervous.  They've both helped pay for this and both of them have heard stories of bridal shops going out of business and brides being left high and dry with no refund and no dress.  Both of my parents are confident in this particular bridal shop...but, also don't want to take any chances.  So!  The dress is now hanging in a safe, undisclosed place!  No peeking by anyone outside of the bridal party and mom's! 

In addition to my dress, I have picked out the flower girl/train holder dresses and, in fact, my train holder just got hers in on Saturday!  She's even tried it on and it looks so cute!  Her mom, my matron of honor, ordered the dress and shoes with a little room to grow and all looks good.  I can't wait to see how they all look on the big day!

Next, of course, would be the bridesmaid dresses...I have a pretty good idea what dresses I'm going to use, but I'm not 100% sure yet.  So, we'll just have to see on those.

As for the reception DJ...I'm having a really hard time with this.  There have been three recommendations made to me by close friends and all three are the same price.  How does one make a decision when there's no incentive to go with one over the other?  All have great reviews...so which friend's advice do I take?  I'd hate to play "eeny, meeny, miny, mo"...though I might have to!

Next...the cake.  I have already been to one tasting and have another scheduled for this week.  The one for this week is actually the baker that my wedding site typically uses and I've heard very good feedback from girls that I know who have been married there before.  Wish me luck on this decision because I really liked the first baker as well!

Lastly, I am currently considering the florist.  My dad actual had a connection in this department and I am waiting on feedback from her regarding price. 

Overall, the wedding planning is going pretty smoothly and Donna told me she's having a lot of positive feedback on David's side of the family as well.  There are already a couple groups of family members that are planning on coming from long distances that Donna was unsure of before.  It's all very exciting and been a lot fun with only mild stress to date!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Crock Pot Meatballs

When David and I invited some friends from church over for dinner the other night I sat and thought about what to make.  You never really know what to make for people that you don't know really well.  I mean, David's known this couple for years and I've known them since I started attending his church.  But, it's not like we eat with them all the time and know what their food preferences are. 

I checked to see if there was anything I should completely forget about even considering.  Nothing.  The only request was nothing with almonds due to an allergy.  Well, that wasn't a problem because we all know I hate those things.  Don't ask me why I love peanut butter though...crunchy at that.  That's why I made this for dessert.  I'm weird, just don't try to understand why.  It'll make your head hurt.

Anyway!  After thinking about it and thumbing through my recipes, I decided to try this one.  Meatballs are always a crowd pleaser because they're a nice comfort food.  The only thing about this recipe that completely threw me for a loop was the chili sauce.  I've reduced the amount I actually used as compared to what I've listed below.  Because...wow...they were soooo hot.  I even added a little cream towards the end because they were that hot.  If you don't use a lot of chili sauce, then you won't have to worry about that though.  Have you ever had the atomic salsa at Ted's?  Yea, they were similarly warm.  Luckily, everyone liked spicy!  Phew!  I was really sweating that...no pun intended!

Overall though, the meatballs had a nice flavor and I will definitely make them again.  Just not as hot.  The sauce was really good with the mashed potatoes I made to go with these.  Are you noticing that I like to mix a little bit of sauce with my potatoes?  Anyone else like that?  Or is that just another one of my quirks...

Crock Pot Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck (80/20)
1 c. dry breadcrumbs
2 eggs, whisked
1 c. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. minced onion
1/3 c. ketchup
2 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
juice from half a lemon
1 can jellied cranberry sauce (16 oz.)
1 oz. or less of chili sauce (depending on how brave you want to be)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; shape mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls.



Combine ketchup, sugar, juice and sauces in crock pot.



Gently stir in meatballs.  Cover with lid; cook on low for 8-10 hours. 


Enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Running With Scissors

I talked a while back about how it I had gone to Half Price Books two or three times and each time could not find even one audiobook I was interested in.  Well, the last time I went I basically was searching for anything I could get my hands on and ended up with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and this book, Running With Scissors.  I'd heard of both and knew that this book was a New York Times Bestseller and it had been adapted into a movie.  I read the back of the book cover and it read like the memoir of a man who grew up in a highly dysfunctional family. 

Immediately I thought of The Glass Castle.  I love The Glass Castle, it's become one of my favorite books and if you haven't read it yet...well, you can probably guess that I highly recommend it.  It's essentially about the dysfunctional life of Jeannette Walls while she was growing up.  Highly dysfunctional, yet an excellent story and Walls' writing style is spectacular. 

As you can imagine, I figured Running With Scissors would at least be somewhat similar.  Maybe, not as good of a story, but some healthy dysfunction providing entertainment along the way.  After all, it too was highly popular.  Why else would it have been a New York Times Bestseller?

Yea...not so much.  I have to say that this book is AWFUL.  And I mean aaaaaaaaaaaawful.  Augusten Burroughs does have a peculiar writing style that I enjoyed, but when you're not enjoying the story itself, what good does that do for you?  Let me tell you, this book makes the family in The Glass Castle look like the Brady Bunch.  There's a lot of highly graphic scenes as well as lots of foul language.  I have to say that the only reason I made it through this is book is because it was an audiobook.  Audiobooks just kinda keep going and a lot of times they do make it easier to breeze through more boring books.  If I'd had this book in paper form I would have never finished it.

I do not recommend this book nor do I have any intentions of seeing the film version, which oddly enough, has a pretty nice cast.  Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kristen Chenoweth...  My guess is it's probably like most other star-cast movies.  A flop.

Two very unenthusiastic thumbs DOWN!

PW Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

David and I had a couple of friends from church over last night for dinner.  We had fun visiting, then ate some spicy, tasty meatballs (recipe to be revealed at a later date).  Eventually...when everyone's mouths had slightly recovered from the spiciness of the meatballs...we had pie.  Very tasty pie.  And you guessed it, a Pioneer Woman pie. 

I don't have a food processor yet sooo... (can you imagine what one item on my wedding registry is going to be?)  When one doesn't have a food processor, what does one do?  I suppose I could have used my blender, but I always feel weird about using my blender to crush up things that aren't going be ingested by drinking.  Call me weird, but I just feel that way.  So, I busted out my trusty wooden spoon, put the Oreos in a thick plastic baggy and went to town.  It helped to relieve some aggression too.


It turned out pretty well, I think.

Below is the finished product.  And let me tell you, this pie was very rich and very good; there was not a crumb left on any of the four plates!  However, when slicing this pie I would advise slicing a half portion of what you normally would.  It's that rich.  If you would like to try this recipe, please click here for the PW's step-by-step instructions and printable recipe.  I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Zucchini Quiche

I really think I need to go through and try my oldest untouched recipes.  You saw in one of my previous posts...there's a lot of post-its hanging off the side... 

Well, that wasn't why I tried this recipe, but when I looked at the post-it...well, let's just say I remember it from a loooooong time ago.  Like, as in that pad was given to me by a close friend probably five years ago.  Yikes!  It hasn't been in my book that long...my book hasn't existed for five years...but, still.

Regardless, when I first started adding new recipes to my book, I went through a lot of my mom's recipe books.  I found this recipe in an old Southern Living cookbook and...I love zucchini and I love quiche.  What more did I need to know before marking it to copy?  I tried to look it up on their website, but I couldn't find it...maybe because this recipe is probably from the 80s.  I'm sure they've altered it since then.  Plus, for whatever reason quiche seems to attract broccoli and cheese followers more than zucchini.  Oh well. 

I altered a few items, but all the ingredients are essentially the same.  Just different quantities!

Crystal's Zucchini Quiche, adapted from Southern Living circa 1980s

5 eggs
2 medium-sized zucchini, shredded
1 cup packaged biscuit mix (Bisquick)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cooking oil (canola)
6 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. dried dillweed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat eggs; stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 8 or 9-inch dish.




Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes.  Inserted knife should come out clean when done.



Let stand for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

I cut myself a slice of this for breakfast this morning and it was quite good!  Though it's not the prettiest of pies, I highly recommend trying it!  I'll gladly be enjoying it for the rest of this week...David wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.  He doesn't like quiche.  Whatever, no one's perfect.

A Dave's Faves Shrimp Recipe

David's birthday is this week and we went to a restaurant on Monday night to utilize a "birthday coupon."  One of those "buy one entrĂ©e, get one free" type things.  Sooo...while we were eating we discussed the actual plans for his birthday...with his parents visiting and such.  Things like his mom making him a homemade German chocolate cake for this birthday cake.  Anyway, I told him that I would make his favorite meal that I make this week.  He has a bad habit of requesting his mom's recipes...the problem with this is that she tends to alter recipes.  Everyone does this in varying degrees.  You might not add as much salt as the recipe calls for...you might not bake it as long...whatever, some little alteration that throws the taste off juuuuust a bit.  And it drives David crazy when something doesn't taste quite right.  His sister has fallen into this "trap" from time to time and David always says, "This doesn't taste like Mom's!" ::sigh::  I refuse to fall into this no-win cycle.  We'll see how long my will power can stand up to this...

Soooo...David thought about it a little and came up with this.  I know...shocking...Pioneer Woman.  But, it's not her recipe...it's a friend of her's recipe.  And this recipe has become a staple around here.  This recipe is one of the reasons why we buy shrimp in bulk at Sam's.  That and David likes to grill them out...I love it when he does that.  Molly does too.  See?


OK, you can always look the full recipe up via the link above.  But, here's a few pics of the batch I made up last night.  Sooooo good...


See those red pepper flakes...yeaaa, that was these.  I insisted last night that he buy another cayenne pepper plant again this year, it's come in really handy!  And maybe a jalapeno plant too... 

BTW, I didn't know until he told me last night that pepper plants aren't perennials.  You learn something new every day...especially when you're engaged to a Kansas farm boy.  He comes in so handy.



Here's the best part...I ALWAYS make mashed potatoes with this meal.  You wanna know why?  Do you see all that yummy saucey (I know that's not a real word) goodness puddling on the plate?  Mashed potatoes are excellent at sopping it up.  Mmmm...I love it when there are added bonuses like this in meals.


If you really like shrimp, try this.  It's wonderful.  Oh, and like always...I doubled the garlic called for.  What, I like garlic?  So does David.  Don't judge us.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New Layout

In case you were shocked when you first logged on to my site...yes, I did change my layout. 

The pink stars were getting a little old and I wanted to jazz things up a bit, including a pic of David and myself in the header. 

If you were looking at my site earlier this morning you probably saw some other layouts over a period of an hour or so...sorry about that.  I was learning a little as I went along! 

I'm not really big into changing things frequently, but I do like a nice change of pace from time to time. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Somebody Upset the Wrong Person

I saw this the other day while driving home from David's house.  My jaw dropped because I'd never actually seen something like this in real life.  On television and email forwards?  Sure.  But not with my actual two eyes driving down the highway!


In case you can't tell, the back windshield reads, "Jerk!"  As I passed this vehicle, there did not appear to be any other shoe polish markings.  I guess this guy learned to not mess with us Okie girls...does this picture remind anyone of a song?  It does me...only this real life incident was much more tame...



and BTW, I totally have a girl crush on Carrie.

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Book

I've talked about my recipe book before.  This is it.  Warning: I'm a little OCD...deal with it.  When it's my days (read: the nights David and I eat dinner at my house) I try to make a grocery list and go to the store to get all the ingredients beforehand. 

Yes, that's my grocery list and yes, that's a pad of paper with shoes all over it.  Have I mentioned that I love cute little girlie notepads and post-its? 

Each of those tabs is a different section of my recipe book denoting the type of food included in that section...breakfast, appetizers, soups, main dishes, side dishes, etc.  And by the way, my dessert recipes are in an entirely different binder.  Within each of these sections are my recipes, alphabetically arranged and all conveniently slipped into plastic sleeves.  This is so that when I'm cooking, no messy water spots to blur the recipe the next time around!  And do you see all of those little post-it's hanging over the side at the bottom right?  Those are all of the recipes I have NOT tried...yet.

Here is an example of a page in my book with two un-tried recipes:


Do you like that paper on the right?  My friend, Lisa, got me this cute notepad a couple years ago for Christmas.  Love it.

This is what a recipe looks like once I've already tried it.  I make little notations on the post-it, then slide the note under the plastic sleeve for future reference.  See my meatloaf recipe on the left?  Lots o' notes through my trial and error sessions!  If you haven't tried it yet, you should.  Click here for the recipe!  Yum!


Now, once I've decided what recipes I'm going to try that week, I move the post-it to the top of the book (see below).  that way, later in the week I can flip right to it!  As you can see, I'll be trying three new recipes this week.  Wish me luck!

The Innocent Man

The past four days I was frozen stuck in a house...kinda.  On Thursday and Friday there was a horrendous ice and snow storm here in Oklahoma City.  Sooo...what does one do while stuck in a house?  Luckily, if you have power (which we did-hooray!) you can do things like read, watch TV/movies and browse the 'net.  As my last post shows, I chose reading to be one of the major ways I passed the time stuck indoors.  This book, The Innocent Man, was recommended to me by my father and aunt and my curiosity peaked when I learned it was a true story with Oklahoma as the main setting.  It is John Grisham's only nonfiction novel and is based on the story of a man unjustly tried and convicted of a murder in Ada, Oklahoma.

When I first picked up this book at the store my dad told me, "I'm going to tell you the same thing Sis told me when I read this book-be prepared to be angry by the time you finish it."  I can attest to this sentiment.  However, I wasn't angry with the story when I was finished with it; I was angry throughout.  I breezed through the first 200 pages on Friday afternoon easily...the last near 200 pages had to be spaced out over Saturday and Sunday.  Those details I couldn't continue reading incessantly.  Grisham does an excellent job of telling this story...in fact, for the first 20 pages I felt like I was reading a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation script.  I was hooked by page eight.  Good stuff.  I mean...not good, obviously...well written!  Have I mentioned my addiction to crime shows?  CSI and Criminal Minds specifically...David has to come in and instruct me to "shut off that crime drama" after a three hour marathon on Spike.

But, I digress...

What essentially occurs in this book is this...a woman, Debra Sue Carver, is brutally raped and murdered in this semi-small town of Ada, Oklahoma.  This is a town where people left their front doors unlocked and didn't worry about their kids while they were outside playing in the neighborhood.  After this occurs, fear ruled Ada and the police detectives were pressed for an arrest because those in town were demanding results!  A little bit of time passes, a couple of months, and another murder occurs!  This time Denice Haraway was viciously murdered...and the detectives still have no real leads on the first gruesome crime. 

Thereafter, the detectives, in their attempt to close the case quickly, relied upon poor witness accounts (one in particular) and faulty evidence handling to lead them to Ronald Williamson.  Within the first 50 pages of the book you learn the background of Ron and discover that first of all, Ron was no where near the crime scene the night of the murder and secondly, he was an easy target for the police.  Ron had numerous mental issues throughout his life and did not have the mental capacity or monetary backing to defend himself.  One thing Ron did have going for him in the past had been his athletic ability.  Being a former minor league baseball player, Ron had always felt he deserved better and expected others to help him along the way...this included when he was under charges for murder.  Ron wanted his sisters and mother to drop everything and purchase him a good lawyer.  He even surmised that "the powers that be" in the baseball industry would swoop in and "fix" all of these false accusations against him.  None of this would occur.  His family couldn't afford it and well, as for the baseball industry's "powers that be"...

Sadly, the story continues on and one of Ron's old friends, Dennis Fritz, is included in the murder case.  This being because the murder was so harrowing, that no man could have pulled it off himself...or so the conclusion the Ada detectives derived.  Unfortunately, Dennis Fritz does not have the means to defend himself either...though both vehemently declare their innocence, they both end up in prison.

Have I mentioned that Williamson's mental incapacity was never mentioned in trial?  His manic depression?  His personality disorders?  His mild schizophrenia?  Never.  Not once. 

Five days from Williamson's execution, a habeas corpus petition was granted, then after eleven miserable years in prison and on death row both men were finally exonerated based upon DNA evidence.

Do you think either man was given an apology?  No...the detectives and district attorney simply stated that there wasn't enough evidence to convict them...now.  And do you remember that one eye witness account they, the police, used to convict Williamson?  Yea, that was the real murderer.  The only reason he was not initially a concern was poor police work and oh, yea, he was into drug trafficking with members of the police department.  Nice, huh?  They took their sweet time convicting him...he was just sentenced to life without parole in 2006.  Debra Carver was murdered in 1982.  Williamson and Fritz were convicted in 1988, then exonerated in 1999.  Sheesh.

Williamson, sadly, died five years after exoneration due to cirrhosis of the liver, likely caused by the prescription drugs taken for his mental incapacities over the years.  His obituary was what spurred Grisham to write this true-life novel.

Basically, what I got from this book is that a couple of detectives felt the pressure from those in their small town to quickly find the murderer of a town sweetheart...at any cost...no matter whose life they ruined.  Sad.  Good, well-written, compelling novel.  Sad, sad story.

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