Monday, February 13, 2012

At 8 months Jolene

At 8 months, Jolene...

Cut her third tooth

 Said her first word - "Mama"

Loves when Mama reads her bedtime story, Goodnight Moon

Is starting to crawl

Eats three meals of solid foods each day

Is practicing her pincer grasp by grabbing and eating puffed cereal

Can slowly walk while holding Dada's hands

Enjoys "kicking" her inflatable beach ball (baby soccer)

Has started to shake and nod her head

Likes to grab at jewelry, which means no earrings for Mama

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tomatillo Salsa

This salsa is amazing! I literally can't stop eating it. Thanks to our friends Leo and Haley for sharing this special recipe!

Tomatillo Salsa

10-15 small/medium tomatillos
2-7 dried arbol peppers
1 jalapeno pepper
1 serrano pepper
2 cloves garlic
Salt, to taste
1/2 onion, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1 bunch cilantro
1 avocado, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Peel the tomatillos and remove the pepper stems. Roast tomatillos and peppers on the grill until blackened on all sides and soft. Allow to cool. Add tomatillos, peppers, 1/2 of the total diced onion, garlic, cilantro, and oregano to a food processor and blend. Add salt to taste. Place in a large bowl and stir in diced onion, tomato, and avocado.


French Onion Soup

Dustin and I both love French Onion soup.  When we were in college we used to drop by The Keg restaurant and we'd both order a bowl of the French Onion soup and a house salad.  Unfortunately, when we moved away from the town in which we met, we also moved away from The Keg.  We finally decided to try making it at home a few years ago.  And boy is it easy!

French Onion Soup

4 large yellow onions
1/4 cup butter
4-6 cups beef broth
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
4 slices French bread
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Using a large pot, cook sliced onions in butter until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and broth (we like lots of broth, so add until your desired consistency). Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

Place the bread on a nonstick cookie sheet and top with cheese. Broil on high until cheese is lightly browned and melted.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with a piece of bread.

Bon Apetit!

Asian Hot Wings

I have to thank The Pioneer Woman for this one too! We tried her recipe, with a few changes, for our Super Bowl party. These wings are sweet, spicy, and delicious!

Asian Hot Wings

Canola oil
24 party wings
3 fresh plums
0.25-0.5 cup sugar, to taste (depends upon how ripe/sweet the plums are)
0.25 cup soy sauce
0.25 cup white vinegar
0.25 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 jalapeño peppers
1 serrano pepper
Baby carrots
Cucumber, peeled and cut into sticks

Roast jalapeño peppers and serrano pepper on the stove top or, my favorite, on the grill. Once cool, finely mince the peppers.

Peel and pit plums. Purée using a food processor. Place plum purée in a small saucepan with sugar and cook until little liquid remains. Add soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, jalapeño peppers, and serrano pepper. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat.

Heat oil to 375 degrees F in a heavy pot (you need enough oil to cover the wings). Add half the wings to the hot oil and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a large plate with paper towels for draining. Repeat with the remaining wings.

If serving wings immediately, toss wings and sauce in a bowl.

If serving later, place wings in a baking dish with half the sauce. When ready, bake in a 325 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with remaining sauce.

Serve wings with carrots and cucumber.

Sooooo good!

Jalapeno-Cilantro Slaw

I have to thank The Pioneer Woman for this one.  We made some adjustments to her recipe and this slaw was the perfect pairing for our pulled pork sandwiches at our Super Bowl party.  Plus, I just love all the pretty colors - it's definitely a great dish for the big game!  It's best to make the slaw a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to get happy.

Jalapeno Cilantro Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 head purple cabbage, sliced thin
1 jalapeno, roasted and minced (we roast ours on the grill for easy clean up)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups cilantro, coarsely chopped

Combine cabbage and cilantro in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix milk, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, and jalapeno.  Pour over cabbage and cilantro.  Toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Classic Hot Wings

We love hot wings, especially with a cold beer and a great game of football. We made these classic hot wings for our Super Bowl party.

Classic Hot Wings

Canola oil
24 party wings
1.5 cups Frank's cayenne hot pepper sauce
0.5 cup butter
3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Blue cheese dressing
Celery, cut into sticks

In a small saucepan, melt butter and then add hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat.

Heat oil to 375 degrees F in a heavy pot (you need enough oil to cover the wings). Add half the wings to the hot oil and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a large plate with paper towels for draining. Repeat with the remaining wings.

If serving wings immediately, toss wings and sauce in a bowl.

If serving later, place wings in a baking dish with half the sauce. When ready, bake in a 325 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with remaining sauce.

Serve wings with blue cheese and celery sticks.


Weekend Planning

I'm really looking forward to this weekend. I was able to follow my new cleaning schedule for most of the week so there's not much cleaning left for the weekend - yay!

  • Attend Jolene's Gymboree level 2 class
  • Make cupcakes for Saturday's get-together
  • Make banana bread
  • Make baby food purees (prunes, peas)
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Work on blog posts
  • Update work calendar

  • Attend get-together
  • Meal planning
  • Finish and send out birthday evite

  • Grocery shopping
  • Clean master bedroom closet

What are your weekend plans?  Be sure to link up in the Weekend Planning Blog Hop!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mrs. Miller's French Bread

This is my go-to bread recipe - I usually make it once every two weeks, if not more often.  This recipe utilizes my handy Kitchenaid stand mixer, which I adore.  This bread is incredibly easy to make and so yummy!  Unfortunately, we seem to eat it too fast to snap any pictures.  I'll be sure to add one the next time I whip up a loaf (if I can manage to not slice into it first!).

Mrs. Miller's French Bread

2 cups warm water, divided (110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon, active dry yeast
4 teaspoons sugar
5-1/2 to 6-1/2 cups bread flour (you can also substitute all-purpose flour, but bread flour is best)
3 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon sugar into 1 cup warm water until combined.  Stir in active dry yeast and gently mix.  Cover the bowl (I use plastic wrap) and allow to proof until foamy (this will take about 8 minutes).  Place 5-1/2 cups flour into the stainless steel mixing bowl along with salt, remaining sugar, and oil.  After the yeast has proofed, add to the bowl, along with remaining warm water.  Using the dough hook, start kneading the bread (I use a level 2 speed for kneading).  Gradually add in more flour (a spoonful at a time) until a soft, smooth, semi-sticky dough has formed (this takes about 8 minutes).  Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a lightly floured surface, and let rest for 3 minutes. 

Oil a large deep bowl.  Gather the dough and gently knead into a ball using your hands.  Place the dough into the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise for about 1 hour in a warm place.  The dough will double in this time.  Punch down the dough and remove to a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough in half.  Let rest for 5 minutes. 

At this point, I place one half of the dough in a bowl in the refrigerator for the next day.  When baking the second loaf of bread, I just remove it from the refrigerator and place in a warm place for about one hour.  Then I follow the directions as specified below.

Using a rolling pin, roll each dough ball into an approximately 9 inch by 12 inch rectangle.  Then, using your fingers, roll up starting at a long edge.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet.  Place the loaves onto the cookie sheet, seam-side down.  Using a small, sharp knife, make 3 small diagonal cuts on the top of the loaf.  Allow loaves to rise for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Smores Cupcakes

These cupcakes are amazing!  A little time consuming, yes, but they are worth the work.  Dustin's favorite part is getting to use the kitchen torch.

Smores Cupcakes

2-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

8 large egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners; set aside.

Combine 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds using the paddle attachment. Scrape down sides of bowl and continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add boiling water and stir to combine; set cake batter aside.

Place graham cracker crumbs, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl; stir until well combined.  Place approximately 1 tablespoon graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Pack the crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake liner (I use our espresso machine tamper). Reserve remaining graham cracker mixture for topping.

Place 2 teaspoons chocolate in each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tins to oven and bake until the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill each muffin cup three-quarters full with cake batter. Then sprinkle with remaining chocolate and graham cracker mixture. Return to the oven and bake until tops are firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and let cool completely.

Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Transfer bowl to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed, gradually increasing to high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla, and mix until combined.

Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with your tip of choice.  Pipe frosting in a spiral motion on each cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the frosting (be careful not to burn the cupcake liners!).


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Christmas Decorations

I know, I know...Christmas was two months ago. Can you tell I'm behind? Yikes!
Front Door



Jolene's Stocking

Christmas Cards

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cleaning Schedule

I was recently offered a consulting position that would allow me to work from home part-time. With an amazing vacation planned for the fall, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to make some extra money for our trip.

However, I was worried that the tidiness of our home would suffer since I'll be primarily caring for Jolene and fitting in work in the down time, which is normally when I'd clean. So I created a cleaning schedule that I hope will help me stay on track. Crossing my fingers!

Daily Tasks:
  • Make the bed
  • Spray the shower
  • Wash cloth diapers
  • Vacuum areas where Jolene plays
  • Sort the mail
  • Empty the kitchen sink
  • Clear the clutter in living areas

  • Laundry
  • Bedrooms
    • Dust furniture
    • Change sheets
    • Vacuum

  • Laundry
  • Bathrooms
    • Clean mirrors
    • Clean counters
    • Clean showers/bathtubs
    • Clean toilets
    • Vacuum floors
    • Mop floors

  • Living room
    • Dust furniture
    • Vacuum floor
  • Office
    • Dust furniture
    • Vacuum floors
    • Straighten up work space
  • Entry
    • Vacuum floor
    • Mop floor

  • Kitchen
    • Clean counter tops
    • Wipe down appliances
    • Spot clean cabinets
    • Clean out refrigerator
    • Take out garbage, recycling
    • Vacuum floor
    • Mop floor
  • Dining room
    • Wipe down table, chairs
    • Vacuum floor
    • Mop floor
  • Clean cat box