Month: August 2015

Elijah’s Birthday Extravaganza!

Everyone wanted a horse themed party this summer (well two kids anyway). So how do you plan two parties back-to-back with the same theme and keep them completely different? It ended up being a lot easier than I thought. Elijah, who turned three, wasn’t able to take riding lessons this year. For a couple of the lessons he sat and watched enviously as his older siblings and cousins got to ride around on horseback. I know, I feel like a terrible mother. But what are you supposed to do when you have no baby sitter? I’ll tell you what I did. I rented a horse and pony to come to our house for his birthday party so he could have his very own horse ride.

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Look at that face, worth every bit of it!

And you have to let the other kids ride too…

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The package also came complete with petting zoo,IMG_9829IMG_9779IMG_9780IMG_9785
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And face painting!


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I got to feed the horse one of our apples!

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Aren’t horses beautiful?

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And so are little cowgirls!

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I honestly was so busy with the party that I almost had forgotten to take pictures of the food!

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Beef brisket, scalloped potatoes, rolls, chips,

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the family baked beans (I think they make an appearance at almost every gathering),

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and corn on the cob grilled in the husk,

Where is one to get something to drink in these parts?

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At the waterin’ hole of course! (And there was pop on ice.)

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We had “haystacks” at the last party, so this time we had “Barn Muck,” peanut butter and chocolate. Yummy!

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And no birthday party is to be without cake!

I missed the whole part with swimming in the pool, but it was there. Then we had what turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the day. (I’ve shared my love of party photo ops before.) I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time. I never knew one could have so much fun turning dollar store mustaches into all sorts of facial hair… (I’d really like to do a whole post on this, and I would like to apologize in advance for the onslaught of pictures coming your way.)

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Overall the party was a huge success because the birthday boy was happy! He told me so! “Me excited about my birthday. Me like my presents!”

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Happy Birthday Elijah/Cowboy/Power Ranger/Spiderman! We love you so much!

Molly O’s Cheesy Onion Bread

I don’t think I can capture the delight in words. This bread is so wonderfully delicious. It almost reminds me of a deconstructed French Onion Soup, and would be amazing dipped in au jus. The caramelized onions and Asiago add so much flavor, and the crusty bread gives so much texture… It’s a perfect bite.

As organic as possible:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large Yellow onion, finely chopped

1 cup Mayonnaise

1/2 cup Asiago

1/2 cup Parmesan

1/4 tsp Black pepper

1/4 tsp granulated Garlic (or powder)

1/4 tsp granulated Onion (or powder)

1 French baguette

Preheat the oven to 350º. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat (Side note: I also added a pat of butter because I like to caramelize my onions like that). Caramelize onions, stirring frequently so they don’t burn, looking for amber color. Add granulated garlic and onion, pepper and a pinch of salt. Remove from heat and let cool. In a bowl, mix mayo, cheeses and caramelized onions. Cut the baguette in slices on the diag. Spread mix on each slice. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Sing.

BTW, Molly is a very good friend of mine and I can’t wait to share her cakes!

Loving Lately ❤️

Easy apps could easily make a weekly appearance on Loving Lately. For someone who likes to entertain as much as I do, quick and simple appetizers are greatly appreciated. I always want to make my guests feel welcome, and obviously I love to feed anyone who comes through the door. I wish I was one of those people who always had a big pot of something cooking on the stove, but I’m not (yet). I can however offer you a good cup of coffee, and a tasty bite… usually containing cheese. (Have I mentioned my love of cheese?)

Loving Lately #1: Goat Cheese and Dill (pictured above)

This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman, and honestly I don’t think it could get any easier. If you can chop some dill and unwrap some cheese you’re set. I like to pair mine with toasted pita chips (more like crackers). It just seems Mediterranean doesn’t it? But I also like to give my guests some options. I already knew I like goat cheese, but I’m not usually a huge fan of dill. Until now! Something about it just works. You should give it a try.

Loving Lately #2: Cast Iron

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I could actually make a whole blog post out of this alone. I can’t say enough about it. I love how it connects me to the past. I love the crust it gives my cornbread. I love the way it makes pineapple upside cake. I love that I can fry up sausage and get it crispy or how I can bake the same pan in the oven and make a giant cookie. I don’t think I would feel like a home cook without a cast iron fry pan. And camping certainly wouldn’t be nearly as fun. (By the way making biscuits over a campfire in a cast iron dutch oven is sheer joy! …for someone who enjoys those things.) If you don’t have any cast iron I urge you to try it. Lodge is a company in Tennessee, USA, They make great reputable products! Click here for more information.

Horsin’ Around for Addi’s Birthday

The kids, my two oldest, my neice and nephew, have been taking riding lessons this summer. Naturally horses are all of the rage to them right now. So when the birthday ideas were rolling around the one and only theme to be had was a horse of course! (I had to.)

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The farm, where the lessons are had, rents a pavilion along with a horse riding package for parties. My sister, the chef, is also quite an efficient party planner (she gets that from our mother). She made the giant daisy overhead streamer for an area designated as the dance floor. (She also made the burlap birthday banner from the featured image.)

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She covered all of the picnic tables with white cloths and made beautiful arrangements with wildflowers and Mason jars.

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The menu included hamburgers (requested by the birthday girl)…

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baked beans and watermelon…

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slaw salad,

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and potato salad.

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The weather was absolutely gorgeous for cowboys and cowgirls alike.

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As a memento for the birthday girl, everyone attending the party signed a picture…

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of Addi with her favorite horse, Morning Star.

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I have to admit, when Addi said she wanted a cake with the face of Morning Star, I was nervous it would come across like something from The Godfather, but it turned out pretty cute.

 

A highlight of the evening for me was the daddy-daughter dance.

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Everyone got to take home a little “haystack.” Have you had one of those before with chow mein noodles and butterscotch? Um, delicious.

Thank you Addi! You are turning into such a lovely young lady!

Spicy Pesto Perfecto

Aunt Leann makes amazing pesto, the dilemma is like a chef she doesn’t write down measurements. She was very sweet to give me her best estimates, and I tweaked them slightly according to taste; which basically means I added more Parmesan and pine nuts. Yum! Our family is not afraid of a little heat, so the cayenne adds a nice kick and the lemon really brightens the up the dish! Also known as Aunt Leann-ish Pesto, the result is as follows:

As organic as possible:

2 cups tightly packed Basil
1/4 cup tightly packed Mint
1/4 cup tightly packed Parsley
1/2 cup Pine nuts
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
The zest and juice of 1 Lemon
1/4 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp course Salt
1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/2 cup Olive oil (give or take according to preference)

1 pound Linguine (or pasta of your choice)

Roughly chop the the basil, mint and parsley and place into a food processor. Add pine nuts, parmesan, lemon juice and zest, vinegar, salt, pepper and cayenne. Put the lid on the processor and pulse a couple times. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in until somewhat liquified, but still thick. Taste! If need be add more vinegar, cayenne, salt, etc. It should have a strong flavor! You can use it right away or let it sit in the refrigerator until dinner time. It’s a great recipe for making ahead!
Cook noodles according to package directions and strain. When ready, add pesto to hot noodles and toss. Add freshly grated Parmesan as desired for serving. Enjoy!

(Psst, pesto makes a great sandwich spread too.)

Another Liebster Award!

Thank you to Healthy in All Hues for nominating me! I love your idea for sharing the good things you want to do in life. And I want to hang out with you at the beach having a “Low Country Boil” and building sand castles!
The Liebster award is a promotional award from bloggers to bloggers aimed at recognizing blogs having less than 200 followers. I am so thankful to be nominated by Healthy in All Hues and I happy to share great blogs I’ve come to appreciate in hopes that more will enjoy them too!
Here’s how the award works:
• Link back to the person who nominated you
• Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator
• Display the Liebster award logo in your post
• Nominate up to 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
• Create 11 questions for the nominees
• Notify all nominees via social media/blogs
Here are my answers for the questions I was given:
1. How did you get started on your blog?
I have been a stay at home mom for 9 years, my youngest being almost 9 months old now. I really wanted a creative outlet!
2. What is the hardest thing you’ve found about blogging?
Time to do it. My life is so busy, I still have two in diapers! (Working on that…)
3. What is your favorite blog post?
That’s an interesting question. Probably the one about my grandma on the 4th of July. I loved going through those photographs and thinking about her.
4. If you had one day left to live, what would you do?
Yikes! I would probably say a prayer something like this “Thank you God for giving me a wonderful life. What do You want me to do?”
5. Sweet or savory?
Savory… And then sweet. Lol.
6. What is your favorite passion or hobby?
Baking/Cooking. (and blogging about it)
7. What is a motto or quote you live by?
“Love your neighbor as yourself. Love yourself.” There is so much wisdom in that!
8. Name one person that has inspired you.
My sister. She naturally makes great food. And she has an amazing way of thinking up over-the-top ideas for a party and actually making them happen.
9. What is a guilty pleasure of yours?
Chocolate and good coffee. (But I really don’t feel that guilty.)
10. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
I pick manicotti, it just sounds really good right now.
Here are my 4 nominations:
What’s Bec Cooking, my sister from Oz😊

Life Bellissima, so glad to find your blog😄

The Richmond Avenue, I want to work in your restaurant😉

Quirky and Wonderful, yes you are!😀
Congrats to you blogs! I’m giving you the same ten questions I had to answer plus:

11. Your spouse’s boss has heard you cook and invited himself to dinner… What are you making?

Life is What Happens…

Within one single week,

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Barbara, courtesy of Sharon

Barbara had a fall and took a turn for the worse,

“Hi,” courtesy of Chad

Hannah was born, healthy and strong,

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I was able to push my baby on the swing,

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Courtesy of the V family.

Nick and Erica found out they are having a baby boy,

Addi, courtesy of Ryan

Addi, courtesy of Ryan

and we are celebrating my niece’s birthday.

I am so thankful for my full life!

“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.”
― Arnold Bennett

Featured image courtesy of Alex Childress Photography

Double Chocolate-Almond Biscotti

I can eat biscotti all day without guilt. Maybe because its called biscotti (Italian for a twice baked cookie), it doesn’t register. I think I’ve tried it all. There hasn’t been one variation I didn’t like. Besides, that second round in the oven probably got rid of anything bad for me, right?

As organic as possible:

1/2 cup Butter, softened

3/4 cup Sugar (rounded)

1 tsp Almond extract

1/4 cup Cocoa powder

2 tsp Baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

2 Eggs

1 3/4 cup Flour

1/2 cup Milk Chocolate chips or pieces

1 cup Semi-sweet Chocolate chips or pieces

1 cup Sliced, slivered, or chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly grease a cookie sheet, set aside. In a stand-up electric mixer or in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer or with your mighty hand, beat butter, sugar and almond extract. Add cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add eggs, one at a time. Add flour, a third at a time, until combined. Remove bowl from mixer. Add milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and almond pieces, gently fold until incorporated.

Separate dough into to halves. Taking one half of the dough portion into your hands, shape into a log about 9″ long. Place onto the baking sheet lengthwise and gently press down to lightly flatten. Repeat with the other half. Place into the oven and bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325º. Place cookie loaf onto a cutting board and cut diagonally with a serrated knife. Place cut side down and bake for 8-9 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake for an additional 8-9 minutes, until crisp. Let cool. Serve with coffee or hot cocoa for dipping or all alone.

Loving Lately ❤️

I am a huge advocate for eating well. I am not a dietician, and I certainly could practice more moderation, but I am whole-heartedly in agreement with trying to eat your vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc. through your food. I have said before, and I’ll say it again; I am a believer in eating organic and non GMO/GEI crazy food experiments. I understand it can be costly which is why I always say “as organic as possible,” because every bit is a step in the right direction.

I am also always interested about specific foods and they’re health benefits. Not too long ago, a fellow blogger wrote an interesting post on the benefits of parsley. I believe herbs (and spices) in general have health potentials we haven’t begun to fully understand. And when I see something as informational as this, I’ve got to pass it along!

Loving Lately #1: Parsley

From Cooking Without Limits: Click “Parsley” for the full read.

Loving Lately #2: La Croix

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Sometimes you just got to have some fizz in your drink and nothing else will do. Honestly diet drinks scare me. Fake sugar of any kind is linked to cancer and all sorts of other issues, and no joke I think it erases peoples’ brains. So, I try to avoid it. On the other hand too much sugar is a bad thing too. I personally don’t do well with big doses of sugar, and I certainly don’t need the extra calories. Enter La Croix, sparkling water but better! It’s just right. It’s flavored; it’s fizzy; it’s zero calories; it’s sodium free; it’s love. Currently my favorite flavor is Peach-Pear.

Best Cookie Bars Ever and Tips for Making Them Great

You are probably familiar with cookie bars, from Magic to 7 layer. I don’t discriminate against cookie bars, I love them all. They are my fall back, go to, SOP (Standard Operating Procedure; my husband is an engineer) for every event all year round. For my very knit close group of friends, who get together regularly, we often bring a dish to impromptu gatherings. I go straight to the cookie bars. They never let me down.

As organic as possible:

1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter

9 Graham crackers, full sheets (I like Annie’s Organic)

14 oz Sweetened condensed milk (1 can or Trader Joe’s organic bottle)

1/2 cup Crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp Vanilla

1/2 cup Coconut

1 cup Chocolate chips

1 cup Chopped hazelnuts

Okay, here’s the drill. Preheat the oven to 325º for a glass pan, 350º for metal. In a ziplock or mortar and pestle type set up, smash the graham crackers until fine crumbs. Place the stick of butter in a 13X9 baking dish and let melt in the oven. Continue to leave in the oven a couple more minutes until browned (not burned). In the mean time, in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, warm condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla just until smooth. Remove from heat. When butter is a little browned and bubbly, (using oven safe gloves or hot pads) remove the dish from the oven and move around, letting melted butter coat the whole bottom of the pan. Add the crumbs to the butter making an even layer. Press down gently using your hands or the bottom of a glass. Pour condensed milk mixture over the graham cracker crust and gently smooth to make it even. Sprinkle the coconut flakes over the milky peanut butter. Scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the coconut. Sprinkle chopped nuts on the top of the chocolate. Carefully pat the toppings down. Bake 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, cut into squares and serve.

Tip #1 Use good ingredients! I love Annie’s Organic Graham Crackers, they are sweet and perfect all by themselves.

Tip #2 Use Salted Butter! For this recipe, a salty bite on the crust is what you need.

Tip #3 Brown your butter! It just adds that je ne sais quoi.

Tip #4 Use crunchy peanut butter! We are building layers of texture and flavor here, it all matters.

Tip #5 A little coconut goes along way. Too much does not make it better in this case!

Tip #6 Use milk chocolate! Everybody likes milk chocolate.

Tip #7 Hazelnuts have a great crunch! (chopped peanuts are the next best thing) And great bars have crunch.

Tip #8 Layer bars are best served at room temperature. It allows all of the flavors to shine.

Tip #9 Share! Because something this good should be had by all.