Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Kid in the Kitchen (Jai's Walnut and Chocolate Chip Slices)

My 12 year old daughter "Jai" is a real mini me, she loves the same types of music, food and decorating I enjoy - I have been a little hesitant about baking with her because I have a fear of the kitchen looking like someone came in and just poured flour everywhere... I know, I know... she's gotta learn right??? Well - I stumbled across a cookies and bars book just for her in JoAnn's fabric several weeks back and here is her first attempt at baking with only mommie's supervision...

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter (plus extra for greasing)
1 Cup Walnut Pieces
7/8 Cup Sugar
Vanilla Extract (about 1 tablespoon)
1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 Cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Coarsely chop walnuts to about the size of chocolate chips (I did this part for her)

Grease a 9 x 13 pan

Beat butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy

Add vanilla extract
Stir in flour

 Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips

Press mixture into pan 

Bake for 20 -25 minutes

 Remove from oven and allow bars to cool
Cut into slices and arrange on cake plate

I was very proud of "Jai", she stayed in the kitchen to make sure her bars came out perfect, she even helped with dishes! To celebrate her first time baking, I had her open my new cake dish set so she could be the first to use it! The bars were super easy to make and really tasty with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Turkey Noodle Casserole

Good Morning everyone!!! I decided to use my leftover Turkey from Thanksgiving to try this recipe and it is absolutely delish!!! Super easy to make and I wish I had more turkey to do it again... Enjoy!

Turkey Noodle Casserole (Source Fine Cooking Magazine)

2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more for the baking dish 
Kosher salt 
3/4 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs 
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
1 Tbs. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage 
Freshly ground black pepper 
1 lb. assorted fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick 
3 Tbs. minced shallots 
2 medium cloves garlic, minced 
2-1/4 oz. (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour 
6 cups low-fat milk 
3-1/2 oz. (1-1/2 cups) grated sharp white Cheddar 
3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
8 oz. egg pappardelle pasta 
3 cups shredded or diced roast turkey  

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Mix the breadcrumbs, 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, Parmigiano, and sage in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil to the pan and then add the mushrooms; cook, stirring frequently, until softened and golden on the edges, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the shallots and garlic; cook, stirring until softened, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly until it colors slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in enough of the milk to form a thick, smooth paste. Set the pan back over the heat and whisk in the remaining milk in a steady stream. Add 1 tsp. of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Turn off the heat and stir in the Cheddar and parsley. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, about 1 minute less than package timing. Drain and spread the pasta in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the turkey and mushrooms over the pasta. Pour the sauce on top and use a fork to distribute it evenly.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the entire casserole. Set on a baking sheet to catch drips and bake until golden-brown and bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. Let rest 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 500; Fat (g): 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 210; Saturated Fat (g): 11; Protein (g): 28; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 9; Carbohydrates (g): 43; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): 760; Cholesterol (mg): 100; Fiber (g): 2;
photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 107 , pp. 55
September 2, 2010

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pioneer Woman Pot Roast & Mashed Potatoes - A must try!

Right now, I am intoxicated with the smells of herbs and onions in my pot roast... I have the  recipe book, "Pioneer Woman Cooks" 
I decided to give the pot roast a try because I have been craving beef lately. I was so delighted to see how simple this recipe is (hyperlink below) 
this is my first main course dish I have attempted. I have Rachel Ray's hard anodized pots and pans but I really think my pitch for stainless steel pieces from her collection may have to revisit the table... (wicked grin inserted here)

Anyway - Here's what I did step by step

3 tablespoons olive oil

peeled onion and carrots, cut onion into halves, carrots onto quarters

Seasoned chuck roast with salt and fresh ground pepper

Dump carrots into hot skillet and lightly brown. Remove carrots from skillet and place in a small bowl.

Repeat same step with onions

 Starting to smell really good right about here...

After removing onions, add another tablespoon of olive oil to skillet and allow skillet to get really hot, add chuck roast and sear on all sides 
(2 mins should be plenty on each side)


Remove chuck roast and let rest on a plate. Add beef stock to skillet and let the renderings from the veggies and roast become friends.

Add veggies and chuck roast back to the skillet

Place Rosemary and Thyme in skillet, tuck into little areas around the roast, distribute herbs evenly.

Place in oven at 275 degrees, my roast was 5lbs, so I let it cook 4 hours

Here is the roast right out of the oven... Yummmmmmm!

While this was my first time making the pot roast, I have made these potatoes a million times, I even made enough to feed 200 for the office Christmas Party at my work last year.

Dinner is served

I hope you give this simple and delicious recipe a try, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Going Where I've Never Gone Before - Finished Desk

I worked on my desk as the weather would permit throughout this past week - Winds like California has not had in over a century hit us these past two weeks and I was determined it wouldn't slow me down. Lets take a look back a my desk -

Before and after in a few simple steps listed below...

Since the desk was in pretty decent shape, I used a coarse sanding strip then followed with a fine strip to smooth out the desk top and face of the drawers. For the tough to reach areas, I used my sanding block (a great $2.27  investment for simple projects such as these)

I ran in the backyard for this shot just before the winds picked up for the evening, I barely remembered to get a shot of the primer. I used the Glidden brand Gripper Primer in Grey. I love this primer soo much!

If you notice the patio furniture looks awful close together, that's because it has been relocated since the high winds to battle against the strength of the gusts. One morning, the entire set was strewn about the backyard and those pieces aren't lightweight. 

I finally gave in to the weather (sort of) and decided that I would work on the drawers inside, I couldn't bear the cold any longer. This is the first (and very light might I add) coat of black paint on the drawers. I always do at least two coats of paint, seeing how rich the black is already made me very happy.
I used a basic Black paint, I purchased a quart of Color Place brand paint from Walmart for the desk. I figure, black is black... I hope I am right. I am debating painting the inside of the drawers...

In the process of painting the first coat, I discovered... I will need three coats on my desk

The weather only got worse after this picture, so I finished the desk in the family room... The rain caught me off guard.

Here is my finished sewing desk

I applied three coats of black paint to the desk and drawers and two light coats of gold spray paint to the pulls. I really like the way the desk turned out.

Overall, the desk was a real joy to update and a steal compared to prices out there for a desk similar to this:

Desk: 30.00
Primer: 0.00
Paint: 10.30
Spray Paint: 3.47
Pulls: 0.00
all bushes, sanding blocks and sponges were from my stash
total: 43.77

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DIY Bulb Wreath~ Bigger Project Than I Thought!

I decided I would make a bulb wreath creation like this...

ornament wreath
directions and image found on

Christmas Ball Wreath

A shimmery stunner takes Christmas ornaments off the tree and onto the wall. Buy a straw wreath about 22 inches in diameter from the crafts store. Using 1/2 yard of white felt cut into 3-inch-wide strips, wrap each piece around the wreath, pinning to secure and overlapping the edges. Take assorted Christmas balls and attach to the felt with a low-temperature glue gun, using the smallest balls to fill in holes and gaps. This is also a great way to use older ornaments that may not look good from all angles. You can also add small stars, snowflakes, or other ornaments to give your wreath a unique look. Hang with wire, wrapped securely around "top" of wreath. (Note: You'll need to add the wire before you cover the wreath completely with ornaments.)

Here's where things get a little lost in translation for me (I forgot to take pictures with my camera, however I have TONS on my blackberry...)

Therefore - (Step One and Two) 

I used am 18 inch straw wreath and thank goodness I did, this turned into a really large wreath. I wrapped the wreath in some old fabric I had around the house in my usual go-to shade of natural. I did not use any pins, I simply hot glued the overlapping strips when I started a new piece.

Here is the wreath before I created the ribbon addition to hang it with, I wound up purchasing over 130 bulbs, I used all but 12 so this 18 inch wreath has 118 bulbs on it!!!
I absolutely LOVE this wreath, it was worth the trip back to Walmart to get the bulbs, I will say that I would suggest the re-use option with old ornaments you may have, and while I have some (somewhere) I decided on doing something different this year, which was nice because it's my first time using these colors.

I have not even finished my holiday decor (I am a little late, I know) but I wanted to see what the wreath looked like on the wall so I took down the pendulum clock in the formal living room to satisfy my curiosity, I still have a little more decor to add to to the formal living and dining area but here is a picture of the wreath on the wall.

I plan to add some ornaments to the brick work on the fireplace (it's too small to call a mantle) and maybe I will jazz it up with some gold or silver beads. I also plan to make little hanging ornament decor for the short railing I have on the staircase. I figure a few candles here and there will also help to make the room special. I asked my husband for a flocked white tree, I haven't had one since I was a teenager so that will be special. 

Overall, I am very pleased with the wreath, I have already decided on what next years wreath project will be, I have to get lots and lots of turquoise bulbs after Christmas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Out of the Mouth of My Babe

Happy Friday Everyone!

I will share with you a little bit of wisdom I heard from my 12 year old daughter Jai on the way home from school -

Jai: Mommie - You know what we learned today in chapel?
Me: No baby girl, what did you learn?

Jai: We learned that you are not to worry about anything because you are a child of God. God takes care of the smallest birds and animals in the wilderness, so he will take care of you! God doesn't want you to worry about bills, or money, or anything, because he will take care of your needs, He wants us to give Him our best love and you cannot do that without faith.  Just trust God Mommie, and stop worrying so much. If God can make sure a little bird can eat, and people don't feed every bird every where, he will take care of what you need because he cares for you.

Me: Thank you Jai - Mommie really needed to hear that! (Choking back tears)
Jai: You're welcome Mommie, everything will be okay, you will see.

So I am going to work on doing just what Jai said, sometimes it's hard to remember the principals of the bible, life gets to be soo overwhelming and seems too much to bear.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding  Proverbs 3:5

Have a Blessed Friday and Weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hobby Lobby Find

I finally had a chance to stop in the "new" Hobby Lobby (I say new because the chain store is new to California) on Friday - I realized as soon as Asa and I got into the store, I forgot my camera. I was really impressed with the wide aisles, the variety in the store and the total amount of shopping space. I decided I would be coming back to the store as soon as possible. I will bring a camera the next time...

Before Asa and I could walk out, I decided to go over to the framing department. I have been looking for a frame for the custom tree I had made to represent my children and I and my Grandmother, this tree is going in the formal living room. I had been so disappointed in the selection out there, I saw a lovely (albeit) plain frame in Target that I just refused to pay 49.00 for and other stores just left me frustrated. I was optimistic but willing to accept that I may not find anything at all, and there it was...

Perfect size and color and on sale. 

The original price on the frame was 59.99 and the frame was on sale for 1/2 off - that's right, I paid 30.00 for this frame! I was sooo excited! I actually found a frame I liked that I didn't have to settle on that was going to do the artwork justice! 

Here is the tree for Nana - the fingerprints are actually my girls and mine! Each child was able to put her own fingerprints on her branch and the branch that is not connected to any of our names has some of each of our fingerprints. I decided I would leave Asa's branch blank with the exception of my fingerprint to represent Nana until he is old enough to put his own prints on the tree - by then he will know who she was and may even feel like he is ready to put his prints on the branches.

I love the artwork in the frame.  

I am so happy to have stopped in Hobby Lobby - I cannot wait to go back. I picked up a straw wreath also, I am going to make (or attempt to make) a DIY bulb wreath this week. Keep an eye out for the artwork in my Christmas photo of the formal living room. I am excited to buy a tree for Asa's first Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home Made Sweet Potato Pie

I never learned to make a sweet potato pie, which is really no one's fault but my own. My children love sweet potato pie and they ate them every holiday season until they were sick (literally). My dislike for sweet potatoes kept me out of the kitchen when my Nana would bake them, until now. I was inspired to give the pie a try after reading and seeing Mrs.Delightful's post on her sweet potato pie ~

I also decided since I kinda knew the ingredients my Nana used, I would throw in what I could remember .

 I drew from memory her shopping list and decided I would add a little of my own touch to the pie to make new memories for my girls. I am pleased to say, they loved it! No one threw the plate back at me, and I think my Nana would have been proud.


3 lbs fresh Yams (Peeled and cut into thirds)
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Vanilla Extract
2 eggs

1/4 cup Evaporated Milk
1/3 cup Butter (melted or Softened)
Cinnamon and Nutmeg to taste
I used a ready made Pillsbury pie crust

Boil your fresh yams and once cooled, mix with hand mixer or stand mixer until a nice thick texture. Add in vanilla, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, evaporated milk. Since the yams are not from a can, allow enough time to beat down the pie filling to a nice smooth texture before adding butter. I am not making super sweet treats around the house so if you feel the sugar content is too low, simply add more. Add in cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes

I was soo proud of myself 

Thank you Mrs. Delightful for inspiring the soul in me to make this pie - I was really worried about how it would taste but I made a second pie and it too happily walked away on plates!

I will be making more of these!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Going Where I've Never Gone Before

Salvation Army made me a happy woman again! One evening after grabbing Jai from school, I decided I wanted to stop at the Salvation Army - I hadn't been in a few weeks and wondered if they would have anything to tickle my fancy. They never disappoint me...

I thought about this desk and went inside to see if there could be anything else I saw that could win me over before the desk. I thought about if I even needed another desk since I still haven't gotten around to painting my  Sweet Secretary Desk that I blogged about. I am a little apprehensive about painting the desk. I am trying to talk myself into it.

I paid a mere 30.00 for this desk - check out those pulls! I won't be swapping those out for anything new - I am going to spray paint (eek!) them gold.

After considering a few colors ~ Navy Blue, Plum, Burnt Orange, Evergreen... I decided, I am going to do something I would never do... BLACK! I am going to make a pitch to the family on the location of the desk because I have such great plans for it. Stay tuned for the after, its coming really soon. 

Black furniture is truly going somewhere I have never gone before and I couldn't be more excited!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Updated Table

You may remember the thrift store find I fell in love with for my bedroom:

Well I am finally able to put the table in it's rightful place, I painted the table Ivory Lace by behr, the table turned out nicely  (or at least I think so)

I hope to find just the right accessories to place on the table top... I am really liking hummingbirds for some reason, maybe I will find something that either has lovely little birds or even my sweet hummingbirds to add a little more depth to the table and the corner of the room I will put it in. 

The winds are extremely high today, so my plan for going out thrifting will have to wait, I don't want to risk Asa getting a cold. 

Have a great day!