Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve Low Calorie Cocktails

Tonight I plan on making these semi guilt-free cocktails to ring in the New Year.

Poinsettia

  • 1 ounce Grand Marnier
  • 1-1/2 ounces of lite cranberry juice
  • champagne or sparkling wine of your choice
  1. Pour 1 ounce of Grand Marnier and 1-1/2 ounces of lite cranberry juice into a wine glass, martini glass, or champagne flute. 
  2. Top with chilled champagne.
  3. Add an orange twist.

Gin & Tonic- I love these with lots of lime!
  • ice
  • 3 ounces gin
  • 4 ounces diet tonic water
  • Lime wedges
  1. Fill a glass with ice.
  2. Add gin, then diet tonic water.
  3. Squeeze a large lime wedge in drink, stir well.

Here's my public service announcement:
If you do plan on partaking in any adult beverages please make sure you don't drive or operate machinery that might cause you or anyone else great bodily harm.

And if you accidentally on purpose partake in too many adult beverages I've got some tips for you:
  • Drink 2 ounces of pickle juice before and after alcohol consumption . You heard me. It works, I promise. My Dr. told me about the benefits of pickle juice for a hangover. He's full of useful information.
  • Drink a glass of Pedialyte before and after drinking alcohol. Yes, it’s for sick babies and that's just what you are right now. 
 Pedialyte Oral Electrolyte Maintenance Solution, Fruit Flavor, Case of 8 Bottles- each 1 qt (1.8 fl oz) 
Heinz Genuine Dill Pickles 46 oz - 3 Unit Pack 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Random House Reader's Circle)
This book is marvelous! My Bestie recommended it to me, Nana's BFF recommended it to me, and still I didn't read it until I stumbled upon it at my library. I instantly remembered their high praises of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and grabbed it before anyone else did. By the way, I live in a tiny town and our library is smaller than small. There is rarely a soul in the place and it's usually an older fella using that new fan-dangled thing the young people call 'the internets'.


About the book: It is set at the end of World War 2 in London and on Guernsey Island. By chance Juliet, the main character, starts to exchange letters with a farmer, Dawsey, who lives on the island. Juliet is a writer and decides to write about the island's interesting war stories. The book is a collection of letters of her correspondence with the people of Guernsey and her closest friends. I must admit that I usually don't like books that are a collection of letters, but I loved this one. You get a real sense of the hardships that were endured and the courage of the people... I totally cried!


So go to your local library, book store, or borrow it from your BFF and get to reading!



Sugared Pecans

This pecan recipe comes with a WARNING! If you make these you will not be able to stop eating them. I'm serious. It's a curse... the recipe is haunted.
Mr.Perfect loves them hot out of the oven. Trouble loves to eat these instead of popcorn for movie night. Nana loves eating the little broken pieces because she likes to think they don't count. They do count, trust me! 
What you need:
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pound pecans
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt  
What you do:
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, beat egg white, water, and vanilla until frothy. This should look like soapy water.
  3. Stir in the pecans and coat evenly. 
  4. Combine sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir sugar mixture into pecans, coating pecans evenly. 
  5. Spread pecans evenly on a cookie sheet. I like to line my cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from aluminum foil to cool. I place them on a sheet of wax paper. 

These make a great gift for the holidays or a perfect snack for New Years Eve.

Did you know the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas? Yes indeed!

Another fun fact: The 20th Governor of Texas, James Stephen Hogg, asked that a pecan tree be planted at his grave instead of a traditional headstone, requesting that nuts be distributed throughout the state. But he also named his daughter Ima Hogg so I'm thinking he may in fact have been a nut himself!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Help Your Child Let Go

Being that Trouble just received a lifetime supply of legos and various other toys for Christmas and... being that his room and closet is filled with toys/stuffed animals aka junk he never plays with I thought this would be a good time to introduce him to donating stuff to Goodwill to get a sweet little tax deduction for Mom & Dad.

I started off by asking him if he had any toys that were for little kids that he might want to give away. He fell for it with an affirmative "Oh Yeah!"  Great! I hand him a bag say, "Follow me, we're going into your... closet" dum, dum, dum, dum!

We have a little look in Trouble's super scary closet and decide that the ginormous bucket of toys/stuffed animals/junk needs to be sorted. "OK Chicken Nugget" I say. "You are going to make 3 piles for me. One pile for giving away, one pile for keeping, and one pile for stuff that belongs somewhere else." Yes we need a pile for things that belong somewhere else because little boys put forks, rocks, photographs, underwear, rocks, and did I mention rocks in their toy bucket. Someone has a serious rock problem!








 
So I come back to check out the progress Trouble is making and I see that he's started going around his room sorting more of his junk and he's got quite a bag full of stuff to give to Goodwill.
-"Great work Trouble!! Will you please help me with my closet?"
-"No way Mom!"

Why do I choose to donate to Goodwill? Very simply because they have a drive-thru. They have many donation locations in town and that makes donating to them perfectly simple.
http://www.goodwill.org/
 
PS- Don't forget to get your receipt for your tax records!

PSS- I found this app that tracks the date you donated non-cash items to a charity, the charity you donated items to, and the fair market value of those items.
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/idonatedit/id341013253?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D6#

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cooking with Trouble: Easy-Bake Oven Style

Trouble Baking

I love to cook and I'm always looking for ways to share my passion for food & cooking with my son, Trouble. So, this year for Christmas I gave him an Easy-Bake Oven. Yes, I know he's a boy... but boy's should know how to cook, clean, and in general take care of themselves!! You hear that?!

Anyway... We got out the Easy-Bake oven and found that you get two little tiny packets to bake some sugar cookies and a cake with frosting. When I purchased the oven I noticed that additional packets were available to purchase. I thought I should give making my own cake mix a try. I did some research and came up with two cake recipes for us to try. Trouble had fun cooking and loved eating the desserts we created!
Easy Bake Oven Peppermint Cake (Trouble thought the pinkness of this cake was too girlie. So I made-up the next cake just for him.)

 What you need:

  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons red sugar crystals
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint sugar crystals
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 8 teaspoons milk
What you do:
  1. Preheat Easy Bake Oven 15 minutes as directed in instructions.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, red sugar, peppermint sugar, vanilla, oil and milk. 
  3. Pour about 3 tbsp. of batter into greased and floured cake pan. I've been using Bakers Joy to spray in the pans, it's way easier than greasing & flouring those little pans.  
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. (makes 2 layers)


Easy Bake Oven Chocolate Cake (Trouble says it's for Boys only!) 

 
What you need:

  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened coco powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 8 teaspoons milk 
  • 1/8 cup chocolate chips 
What you do:
  1. Preheat Easy Bake Oven 15 minutes as directed in instructions
  2. Stir together flour, coco powder, baking powder, salt, sugar, vanilla, oil, milk, and chocolate chips.
  3. Pour 3 Tbsp. of batter into greased and floured cake pan. I've been using Bakers Joy to spray in the pans, it's way easier than greasing & flouring those little pans. 
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. (makes 2 layers)   

Monday, December 27, 2010

Jane Austen




I first discovered Jane Austen in college when I stumbled upon this book while looking for something to read at my parent's house. I took the book over Christmas break sometime in the 90's and that's the last time Nana has seen it. Sorry Nana... I'm keeping it!



I always felt a connection with Jane, she was born almost exactly 200 years before me. Her writing shows the dependence of women on marriage to secure their social standing and economic security during her time. In my eyes she is a subtle feminist. Her heroines interests are not only in marriage and child rearing, despite the fact that this was the only acceptable career for women.

My absolute favorite Jane Austen book is Persuasion. It was her last completed novel. It's about a girl named Anne who falls in love with Frederick, a handsome young navel officer. He's smart, ambitious, and very poor. Anne is persuaded to break off her relationship with Frederick because he is considered below her.  At age 27 Anne is still unmarried and is thrown into Fredericks acquaintance once again. This time Frederick is seen as a catch, in the time that has past he has made a fortune in the Royal Navy. Anne is still in love with him.... the rest you'll have to read.

All of Jane Austens books are wonderful! Give Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, or Emma a try.


So go to your local library, book store, or borrow it from your BFF and get to reading!




Sunday, December 26, 2010

Baking Soda for Your Carpet

Santa's footprints
At our house, Santa leaves baking soda snow footprints on our rug as he tiptoes to the Christmas tree. And that got me thinking that this would be an excellent time to sprinkle some more snow baking soda on the carpet to absorb all of the yucky odors that have been hanging out in the rug this holiday season.  And when I say yucky odors... I really mean a certain white cat in our house has been vomiting Christmas tree needles on the rug and I won't even say what the new dog has done on the rug.  Mr.Perfect doesn't need to know!
That's the cat



It's perfectly simple, all I do is sprinkle baking soda on the carpet making sure it’s somewhat evened out.  Let it sit overnight. The longer you leave the baking soda on the floor, the better it will freshen the carpet up. Tomorrow I can vacuum up the baking soda and those horrible stinky smells... bye bye cat & dog stink!

A&h Baking Soda 16oz

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Scavenger Hunt


I love Christmas traditions, they make my heart happy! Here is a fun tradition that Mr.Perfect and I started when Trouble started reading. Every year after Trouble opens his gifts from Santa he gets a gift with a note and a clue attached: 

Dear Trouble,

If you want to find your gifts,
you’ll have to follow these clues.

Look closely and read carefully or,
you’ll have the blues!

Love,
Mom & Dad
Clue #1

Mom washes your clothes here every day
You'll find a gift here don’t delay!

He then goes to the next place and finds a gift with another clue attached.

Clue #2

A room of blue is where you should go
You’ll find a gift but no snow!

And he keeps running around the house looking for gifts and clues.

Clue #3

The place where Mommy parks her car
Is where your last gift is, it’s not far!
 

The last gift is usually a bigger gift that I have in the garage. This year Trouble got a bike.




It’s a fun way to break up the mad rush to open all the gifts under the tree.

Now let me tell you a sad funny story about a year (2009)  that Mr.Perfect gave me a homemade wordsearch for Christmas. I was supposed to find clues in the wordsearch to where my gift was. Only thing was, I didn’t realize that there were clues in the puzzle. So I didn’t get my gift... until 2 days after Christmas when I finally realized what the heck was going on. Mr.Perfect is funny like that!

**************Update*************
I received this note from Mr.Perfect and Trouble for Christmas this year. That's right... I suddenly got the deer in the headlight look remembering the wordsearch incident of 2009.
It was fun!  I almost ended up in the pool but finally got my gift!  Guess what I got...
Just what I wanted and a very appropriate gift to go with the mapquest. Trouble may have even got some practice with cardinal directionality. Mr.Perfect is smart like that!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Marble Falls Walkway of Lights



Nothing gets me in the holiday mood more than visiting The Marble Falls Walkway of lights.

 

The local Chamber of Commerce organizes this beautiful small town Christmas tradition. A park on the banks of lake Marble Falls is transformed into a picture perfect twinkle-light winter wonderland. Mr.Perfect, Trouble and I love strolling through all of the lighted sculptures, twinkle-light tunnels, and Christmas trees. Seeing all of those twinkle-lights reflected on the lake is a sight. Oh, and did I mention that it’s FREE!  Makes the long drive there even sweeter!! Check it out, make some memories and traditions with your family.








P.S.- If you are in the market for a yummy meal, snack, or dessert after looking at all of those fantastic lights, stop by Blue Bonnet Cafe on your way out of town. I personally love their biscuits and gravy. Their pie is out of this world! The meringue is ridiculously tall. They even have a Pie Happy Hour from 3pm-5pm.  You get a slice of pie and iced tea for $3.50  Now that’s what I’m talking about!




Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Morning Perfect Pancakes

Tall Beautiful Pancakes

These pancakes are what Mr.Perfect has been asking for since we were married. I stared off our marriage making  pancakes with Bisquick. Those Bisquick pancakes didn't satisfy Mr.Perfect's desire for big puffy, restaurant quality pancakes. I tried various recipes making the batter from scratch and some of them were quite good. But... not very long ago I came across this recipe that called for vinegar. I'm a big fan of secret/weird ingredients! So, when I made these and tested them on Mr.Perfect and Trouble I said not a word about the vinegar. My family  loved these pancakes, I think Trouble's exact words were, "Mom these are the bestest pancakes ever!"

What you need:
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  •  1 teaspoon baking bowder
  •  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1 egg
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  2 tablespoons butter, melted

Also let me give you a little tip. I got this pan from my mom, Nana, for Christmas last year. She got it on Amazon, she's a big Amazon fan. Anyway, I think this pan was designed just to make wonderful pancakes and I love it! I NEVER have to use cooking spray or grease it. It's a perfect pancake pan! Say that 3 times fast.


What you do:
  1.  Combine milk with vinegar and set aside for about 5 minutes. Yep, thats right! The milk is getting all nice and sour. Yummy!
  2. Combines the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. 
  3. Whisk egg, melted butter, and vanilla into soured milk. 
  4. Pour the flour mixture into the soured milk mixture. Do not over mix this, mix until everything is just wet. 
  5. Feel free to add stuff to these pancakes. Mr.Perfect and I like mashed banana and pecans. Trouble likes chocolate chips. Trouble's friend likes them plain. Blueberries are great too!
  6. Heat the pan at a medium low temp. I don't grease my pan because I've got an awesome pan but, if you need it this would be the time to grease your pan. Pour 1/4 cupfulls of batter on the skillet. Cook until you see little bubbles on the pancake. Flip pancake ans cook until browned.


Banana Nut Pancakes
Yummy sour milk










Trouble and his friend enjoying Perfect Pancakes

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mandola's Italian Market


I am not embarrassed to admit that I like food... OK I love food! So what!! Who cares!!

Moving along...if you are ever in the Bee Cave, TX area around lunch, dinner, or snack time. Please stop in this place called Mandola's Italian Market. It's the bomb! I go with my parents every other Wednesday and we just pig out like we've never eaten before. People stop and stare at us weirdos moaning over our dishes.

They give you focaccia bread when you sit down. They've got a vat of olive oil & herb concoction that you dip your bread in, oh baby it's good.

We always order the Affettati, it's a variety of Italian, meats, cheeses, olives, and salads. The first time we ordered this and it came to our table Papa's jaw dropped and he slobbered all over the table...yes really!
Affettati aka Heaven in Italian
Their pizzas are perfect! The Margherita pizza crust is thin and crisp. I just don't understand how they make it so good.
Pizza
Trouble gets cheese pizza and gelato. He's in hog heaven, his two favorite things pizza and ice cream!
Ahhh... pizza!
Wow- this stuff is good!

 Yes, I said gelato! They've got quite a selection of different gelato flavors and a bakery with all kinds of Italian pastries & cakes. The tiramisu is divine!


tp://www.mandolasmarket.com/pages.php?pageid=24
I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with this restaurant, but if they were to ask me to do a commercial in exchange for a lifetime supply of their food, I'm available and definitely their girl!