My Poor Neglected Kitchen

Posted by Danielle on February 29th, 2012

It has been weeks since I cooked something that didn’t come from a box, wasn’t a simple pan of scrambled eggs, or a grilled cheese. My poor husband is so very tired of take out and convenience foods, and my daughter has mastered helping out with the grilled cheese process.

I swear I’m not on strike, though! I’m just waiting for my energy to return, and for some lingering nausea to subside.

What’s that? Oh, yes… we’re expecting our second child! I’m due September 9.

I found out on New Year’s Day and within a few days, my life was turned upside down thanks to debilitating nausea and exhaustion. First trimester is no joke, folks! I’ve finally found a magic cocktail that helped with the nausea and vomiting, and now I’m just waiting to regain some of my lost energy. My house is a disaster area. I live in yoga pants and camisole tops. And we’ve already covered my family’s current diet.

I’ll be back to normal soon, though! I have hope! I’m just past 12 weeks and coming up on second trimester, which is when things should get even better. Or so they say!

10 Day You Challenge: Day Six-One

Posted by Danielle on December 29th, 2011

I admit that I’m cheating, but here’s a wrap up of the 10 Day You Challenge.

Six Places ~ I long to see…
1. Italy
2. France
3. California
4. Hawaii
5. Australia
6. (nerd alert!) The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Five Foods ~ That I want to master in 2012.
1. Flour Tortillas
2. Buttermilk Biscuits
3. French Macarons
4. Pastry Cream
5. Naan

Four Books ~ That I couldn’t finish…
1. The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd
2. Love Walked In, Marisa de los Santos
3. Austenland, Shannon Hale
4. Lipstick Jungle, Candace Bushnell

Three Films That I loved in 2011…
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
3. The Help

Two Songs That I can’t get out of my head…
1. Dominick the Italian Donkey
2. Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5

One Picture of Myself

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Danielle on December 25th, 2011

Our Christmas card

Our three kitties! Luna, Minerva, Raven

Depending upon when you’re reading this, I could be doing any number of things:
1. Watching my daughter open her presents and stocking
2. Watching the cats attack the wrapping paper
3. Enjoying brunch with my Mom’s side of the family, noshing on killer egg casserole and chicken salad
4. Groaning because I ate too much
5. Playing games with the family, laughing hysterically ’cause we are some seriously funny peoples
6. Eating cookies
7. Groaning because I ate too many cookies
8. Basking in the warm glow that family time brings me
9. Sat in the kitchen, feet up, and with a drink watching my husband clean the oven. Though recently I have found an oven cleaning service OvenGleamers where a man comes to your home and cleans your oven for you!
10. Passed out

No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I know I’ll be having an absolutely delightful day cloaked in love and gratitude. I hope you’re doing the same, and I’m wishing you the best this holiday season!

Some of my favorite ornaments

The husband and daughter topping the tree

My kitchen decor plus card display

Gingerbread House Night at school

Holiday Program Night at school

And finally, Luna, the latest addition to our family! In early December I took a trip to the local humane society to drop off some donations, and while there, made the unwise decision to visit all the animals. My heart broke for those sweet babies in cages and pens, eager to love and be a part of some family’s home. If I could, I’d take them all, especially the kitties!

This particular girl, named Iman at the time, caught my eye immediately. You may have noticed from the first image in this post that I have an affinity for tuxedo cats? She was the only tuxedo there that day, and as I opened the cage to pet her, she immediately began purring and loving on me. By the time I left an hour later, I was head-over-heels in love with her and sending pictures to my husband. Later that night he said “so, when are you bringing her home?” and I squee-ed and flailed in delight.

The next day I took my husband and daughter with me to meet her, and we came home with her that afternoon. Adding her to our 2 cat household was an adventure, as our Raven-girl is quite territorial and has spent a lot of time growling and hissing. Minerva wasn’t too sure at first either, but he’s slowly come around. As for Luna, she made herself at home right away and spends a lot of time next to me or on me. At night she sleeps with my husband and I, often right between us or on our pillows. She’s playful, silly, fearless, and so very friendly that one can’t help but adore her. I am so glad I found her at the humane society, and I feel lucky to call her a part of our family.

{Recipe} Strawberry Nutella Shortbread Thumbprints

Posted by Danielle on December 24th, 2011

I’ve always been a fan of thumprint cookies – crumbly little shortbread-style cookies with a dollop of sweet fruit jam on top. They’re basic, but delicious! In the last couple of years, I’ve also seen thumbprints filled with Nutella or salted caramel, and you can bet your sweet bippy that I’ll be making both variations as soon as I come out of my Christmas cookie coma.

I was going to give thumprint cookies a shot last year, but they were a casualty of the annual Too Many Cookies, Not Enough Time struggle, during which I shed items from my list and hope to get back to them another time. This was the time!

I stumbled upon a Raspberry Almond Thumbprint recipe that sounded like a delicious starting point, but I knew I’d want to change it up a bit. I’m not a fan of almonds or almond flavoring, so I intended to switch to vanilla extract. And raspberries are delicious, but strawberries are my favorite, so I wanted to change up the jam flavor.

I ended up making a double batch of these and once my husband starting munching on them, and couldn’t stop, I was glad I’d made that choice! This is a great basic recipe that you can easily switch to fit your desired flavor profile. My husband suggested the Nutella drizzle, and it’s an incredible accompaniment to the cookie!

Strawberry Nutella Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Bakergirl, who lists the source as Sunset Magazine, December 1998

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup strawberry jam
Nutella, chocolate, or basic glaze – optional

In a large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, and vanilla extract until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour. Beat until thoroughly combined, about 2-3 minutes.

Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour. (Mine was refrigerated for 2 full days and had to be softened a bit at room temp to work with it, but it was fine otherwise!

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350*.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 2-inches apart on foil, parchment, or Silpat-lined cookie sheets. Use thumb to make indentation in the center of each cookie. Fill the indentation with about 1/4 teaspoon of jam.

Bake for 14-18 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Allow cookies to stand on sheets 1-2 minutes, then remove to wire racks and allow to cool completely. If desired, drizzle with melted chocolate, Nutella, or a basic glaze.

{Recipes} Oreo Truffles, Grasshopper Truffles, Turtle Pretzels

Posted by Danielle on December 23rd, 2011

To balance out the cookies I was planning this year, I knew I wanted to add some simple candies to the mix. The yield is generally greater and they’re a nice change from the abundance of chocolate chip, oatmeal, and sugar cookies to grace the holiday spread. They’re also so very easy, even if they are occasionally annoying…

Oreo Truffles are like magic. They’re comprised of three ingredients, couldn’t be easier, and are like crack. They are So.Good.

But I hate making them. I don’t own a food processor, so crushing a package of Oreos to a fine crumb is an exercise in frustration. Beating the crap out of them with a rolling pin is cathartic, but the Ziploc bag inevitably splits and I still can’t get them as fine as they need to be. This year I grabbed our coffee grinder after crushing them in the Ziploc bag, and rant hem through there in very small batches until the consistency was what I was looking for. By that point I had Oreo crumbs all over my kitchen and myself.

I’m not making these endearing, am I? Please re-read the deliciousness claimed above. They really are delicious, and if you have a food processor (or can borrow one!), you won’t have the aggravation that I did!

Grasshopper Truffles were a variation on the standard Oreo Truffles that I made with my chocolate-mint-loving-husband in mind. The Turtle Pretzels were something I’ve seen a few times and were too easy to pass up, plus my sister loves turtle candies, so I knew she’d dig these at Christmas brunch.

Oreo Truffles
Adapted from Kraft

8 oz cream cheese, softened
16.6 oz Oreo cookies, finely crushed
16 oz of melted chocolate or candy melts

Mix softened cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well blended – no more streaks of cream cheese should appear in the mixture. I’ve tried this with various utensils but always come back to using my hands – it’s messy, but far more effective.

Shape into 48 1-inch balls, placing on wax (or foil or parchment) lined cookie sheet. Pop into freezer for at least 60 minutes to firm up. When ready, melt chocolate or candy melts and dip truffles, placing back on lined sheet. If desired, decorate with sprinkles, non-pareils, drizzled chocolate in contrasting colors, etc. Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up coating.

Store truffles in sealed container in the refrigerator.

Grasshopper Truffles
Adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, who adapted the original Kraft recipe

9 oz box of Thin Mints or Keebler Grasshopper Cookies, finely crushed
4 oz cream cheese, softened
Dark chocolate almond bark or dark chocolate candy melts (I used green because I had it and it’s festive, but dark chocolate would definitely be better!)

Mix softened cream cheese with crushed cookies until no streaks of cream cheese remain. Again, using your hand will be the quickest route.

Roll into 24 1-inch balls, placing on a wax (or foil or parchment) lined baking sheet. Freeze for 60 minutes until firm.

Melt chocolate or candy melts, dip truffles, decorate if desired, and then refrigerate or freeze until set.

Turtle Pretzels
Adapted from AllRecipes

Small twisted or wheel-shaped salted pretzels
Rolo candies, unwrapped
Pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300*. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil. Go through pecan halves and weed out broken pieces – it will save you time later.

Place pretzels in a single layer on cookie sheet and top each one with a Rolo. Bake for 4 minutes. Immediately upon removal from the oven, press a single pecan half on top of each now-softened Rolo. Cool completely (pop in refrigerator of your home is warm) before storing.

*Amount of ingredients needed depends upon how many candies you wish to make. My bags of Rolos averaged 52 candies each. I used 3 bags of candies, one standard bag of pretzels and one 4-cup (large) bag of pecan halves. I had pretzels and pecans left over.