Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chocolate Slice Shortbread Cookies

 My sister recently gave me a new cookbook titled, Around My French Table, and I have thoroughly enjoyed looking through it. Reading cookbooks is a hobby of mine.  In fact, there is often a cookbook or two on my nightstand reading stack.  This cookbook is great because there are hundreds of French recipes, but they are not all complicated.  The author does a great job of giving tips for each recipe on whether or not you can freeze it, various ways to serve the dish, and other little tips to help in the kitchen.

Beware, because I'm going to be sharing many recipes from her book and most of them contain LOTS of butter!

This cookie recipe was one that I flagged upon my first perusal of the book because it combines two of my favorite things in a dessert:  butter and chocolate.  Not only that, but in her little side tip, she suggests serving these cookies as an ice cream sandwich using Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream.  Coffee ice cream just happens to be my favorite flavor, and with a little Heath Magic Shell topping, you have the perfect combination.  These cookies added a nice touch.

Chocolate Slice Shortbread Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped {optional}

Whisk the flour, cocoa, and salt together.  In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.  Add sugar and beat until creamy, but not airy.  Mix in the vanilla.  Gradually add the flour mixture until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate at this point, if using.

Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a log about 1 3/4 inches in diameter.  Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Slice the logs into 1/2-inch thick cookies {or 1/3 inch if you want them thinner} and place on baking sheets.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating sheets at the halfway point.  Cookies should be firm to the touch.  Cool on wire racks.

You can refrigerate the dough for 3 days, or freeze it for up to 2 months.  If freezing, just add a minute or two to the baking time.  

source: Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, Dorie Greenspan

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Week in Photos

Nap time was abbreviated today, so just a post with pictures.  I'll be posting more details on many of these pictures very soon, but in the meantime, here's a little photo recap of what I did this week.

Put together some finishing touches in the nursery.  Reveal to come next week!

Spent a number of hours on this ladder painting.

Sewed a little something for the girls; a tutorial is coming next week.

 Baked some yummy chocolate cookies.  They are delicious.  Stay tuned for the recipe.

Spent lots of time with my kiddos.  Couldn't resist sharing this picture of my little guy.  He's 3 1/2 months old now!  Can't believe how fast time is going!

How was your week?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

5 Ways to Decorate with Seshells

Summer often means trips to the beach, walking in the sand, and collecting seashells.  Have you ever wondered what to do with all of those shells you've been storing?  I just use mine as a vase filler, which is an easy decoration for a table, mantel, or bathroom.  These ideas that I've gathered from around the web require a little more creativity than that, but are totally doable!

1. Kim, from Sand and Sisal, put together this gallery wall of framed shells.  I love how personal, yet professional it is.

2. Martha Stewart came up with a great little craft for kids. These little koalas would be fun to make with your children and display in a bedroom or bathroom.

3. It might take quite a few years to accomplish something like this, but I thought this sea shell backsplash was unique. If shells are your thing, and you're thinking of sprucing up that home at the beach, this would be perfect!

4. Angie, from The Country Chic Cottage, provides a tutorial on making some shell art with frames, burlap and shells.

5. Tammy, from A Walk in the Countryside made this plate charger with some plywood and seashells. This would be great for a sea inspired table setting.

Have you ever made anything from shells you've collected at the beach?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Grace's Sweet Life, a Collection of Italian Desserts

Soon after Mason was born, I was sent a cookbook to review.  The book, Grace's Sweet Life arrived just before we headed out of town, so I took it along to peruse during the ride.  Let me just tell you, our mouths were watering after reading the first few recipes!  Bradley made me read aloud each recipe {not all the directions, just title and ingredients} and we had a blast!


The recipes in this book vary between quite complicated {something to make when you have lots of time} to quite simple, but each one would be delicious and make you appear as a gourmet chef.  The step-by-step instructions make it easy to follow the recipes, so even those who are just setting out in the kitchen would be able to whip up these delicacies.  The first chapter in the book lists some of the basic components of Italian desserts, things like pastry cream, pastry dough, whipped cream, croissant dough, etc. so as you progress through the collection of recipes, you will often come back to these staples.

If you are wanting to branch out with a new dessert repertoire, then this book is for you.  You can purchase it from Amazon, just simply click on the picture of the book below.

Grace also has a blog, La Mia Vita Dolce, where you can keep up with her latest creations.  The recipe below was just posted two weeks ago and it looks amazing.

So, go on over and check out Grace's blog, and if you're looking for a new cookbook, purchase a copy today!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Journey through the Psalms: God is our Fortress


"God is our refuge and strength, 
a very present help in trouble.  
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, 
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 
though its waters roar and foam, 
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, 
the holy habitation of the Most High.  
God is in the midst of her, 
she shall not be moved; 
God will help her when morning dawns.  
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; 
he utters his voice, the earth melts.  
The LORD of hosts is with us; 
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
 Come, behold the works of the LORD, 
how he has brought desolations on the earth.  
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; 
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; 
he burns the chariots with fire.  
'Be still, and know that I am God.  
I will be exalted in the earth!'
The LORD of hosts is with us; 
the God of Jacob is our fortress."
Psalm 46

Friday, July 20, 2012

21st Century Bartering & Family Photos

Back in the old days people would trade services for services; you couldn't always expect to get cash payments for work you performed.  Doctors would treat their patients and sometimes receive chickens, eggs, or even produce in return.  Many parts of the world still function with systems like this, but the USA generally works on money for services rendered.  I'm here to tell you, though, that you can still try the bartering system!  Here's how it recently worked for me:

My friend, Callie, photographer of Achor & Eden, master mind of The Not Wedding, has wowed me with her photography and business skills ever since I met her in 2009.  For the past three years she has taken pictures of my kiddos on several occasions; never for payment.  These are some of my favorite ones she's taken:

Enter me, the SAHM, non-business-woman-with-no-official-services-to-offer.  But, I do like to cook and bake.  So, what did we trade?  Awesome pictures for food {that I hope is awesome}.  You see, Callie is about to give birth to their second daughter, and we all know that having a newborn baby often means less time to prepare meals.  So, over the past two weeks I've been making meals for Callie and her family to put in the freezer; when Baby Girl #2 is born, they'll be set for about a week.

Some of the foods I made {click on the highlighted ones to find the recipe}:
Beef Stew
Baked Ziti
BBQ Pork
Sweet Potato Casserole
Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole
BBQ Meatballs
Twice Baked Potatoes
Corn Muffins
Banana Zucchini Bread
Beef Burritos

I tried to make meals that would freeze easily and that would suffice for an entire meal {aka casseroles}.  

And, what did I receive in return?  These awesome pictures of our family.  These were taken back in May, when Mason was just 5 weeks old, but I. love. them.  One of my favorite parts about these photos is that we took them in our yard, mostly in front of our garden.

Thanks, Callie!

What could you possibly trade with a friend?  

All photos courtesy of Achor & Eden

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Zoo Day

Over the weekend we had the opportunity to attend the Ordination service for a good friend of ours in Charlotte, NC.  He just completed his studies at RTS {Reformed Theological Seminary}, and has been given the position of Assistant Pastor at a church plant in South Charlotte. We were thrilled to rejoice with him and his family as they celebrated the awesome journey the Lord has taken them on these past 4 years.

The service was Sunday night and we had planned to just drive all the way home after the service, but at the last minute we decided to get a hotel halfway to home, and take the kids to the Zoo the next day.  They've only ever been to the San Diego Zoo, and that was when they were too little to remember, so this was a first time experience for them.  We had a blast!  Yes, it was a hot day to be walking around the Zoo, but we are so glad we went.  Enjoy some pictures from our time!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pan Fried Parmesan Zucchini

Zucchini was coming in faster than I could keep up with it a few weeks ago, so we were trying all kinds of different recipes.  I love zucchini and onions, cooked in a little butter with some salt and pepper, but I can only eat that so many times before I get a bit tired of it.  Thankfully, Sherri, has some great zucchini recipes on her blog.  I made this cake {which is DELICIOUS} and this bread from her collection.  I shredded and froze tons of zucchini for future baking throughout the year.  And, I made Zucchini Cornbread, which was also good.

One night, though, Bradley suggested that I fry up some zucchini, similar to how I make my Fried Okra.  I wanted to use bread crumbs for the coating, but didn't have any, or any crackers, so I opted for pretzels.  Let me just tell you that these were. so. good.  Unfortunately, I didn't really measure all of the ingredients--that's what is fun about cooking, but frustrating when you try to blog about it. Ha!    But, my little tip for you is to try crushing up different things to use as coatings for frying foods.  You could try goldfish crackers, cheese doodles, potato chips, tortilla chips--pretty much anything that will be fried will work.

If you have some zucchini lying around, you'll want to give this one a try.

Pan Fried Parmesan Zucchini
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup crushed pretzels {chopped up in the food processor}
1/2 - 1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick
oil for frying

In a small bowl, combine the flour, pretzels, garlic salt and Parmesan cheese.  In a separate bowl, place the eggs.  Heat enough oil over high heat to cover the pan 1/2-inch deep.  Dip zucchini slices in egg to coat, then in the pretzel/cheese mixture to cover.  Keep as much coating on as possible and transfer to the hot oil.  Repeat until the pan is full, and turn heat down to medium-high.  Cook until golden brown on both sides, only turning once.  Drain on paper towel lined plate and serve.

I didn't make any, but as we were eating these, we realized they would be pretty tasty with a remoulade type sauce.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To Lengthen or Not to Lengthen

Today I just have a simple question for you.  I need some help!  The drapes I made for my dining room last summer are a bit too short, I think.  People have varying opinions on drapery length, so I realize this is ultimately a matter of opinion.  However, I can't decide if I should change these or not.  Should I lengthen them or leave them??

I have some white fabric already that I will use to add material to the bottom, if I go the route of lengthening, so it won't cost me anything, just some time.  I'll need to move the hardware up a few inches above in order to do this.  What do you think?

Thanks for your help!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Making Creamed Corn & the Recipe

Up until about 3 months ago, all of my experiences with Creamed Corn have been out of a can.  The day I came home from the hospital with Mason, though, my friend brought us a delicious home-cooked meal, complete with homemade Creamed Corn.  It was delicious!  My mom, Bradley and I all tried to guess at the ingredients and we just couldn't put our finger on it.   This same friend asked if she could join us for the 4th of July {her husband is currently deployed} and I agreed, so long as she would bring the corn, other necessary ingredients, and teach me how to make Creamed Corn.

Here's how to make this deliciousness!

1. Enlist the help of some friends, because it takes awhile to prepare the corn.

 2. Shuck the corn.

3. Cut the corn off of the cob.  This is where it gets technical.  You only want to cut off the top portion of the kernels; the portion that is arched.  Just trust me on this one.  And, you'll want a really sharp knife.

You should have a pile of pieces that looks something like this after this step:

4. Once the tops are removed, use the sharp slide of the blade and scrape it down the sides of the cob, extracting all of the creamy goodness of the cob.

The cob will look like the picture below once all of the cream is out.

5. Admire all of the creamy goodness that you've worked so hard to achieve.

6. In a large skillet, melt some butter over medium-high heat.

7. Once the butter has melted, add in all of the corn.

8. Cook this for about 15 minutes, until the corn starts bubbling on the edges and looks cooked.

9.  Taste it and add salt and freshly ground pepper, as desired.  Serve it with whatever you want, like our 4th of July feast pictured below.

And, the other end of the table:

There you have it!  Super easy, super tasty, super homemade.

Creamed Corn
20 ears of corn
1 stick butter
salt and pepper to taste

Shuck all ears of corn and pull of silk.  Using a very sharp knife, scrape the arched portions of the kernels into a large baking pan.  Once all of the tops are off, go back over the cob with the sharp blade running along the sides of the ear, extracting the cream from under the kernels.  Repeat with all ears of corn.

In a large skillet, melt butter.  Add corn, with the juices, and cook about 15 minutes, over medium-high heat.  Taste for doneness, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adjust amounts as necessary.  You can make more or less.  This freezes well, just place what you would serve for a meal into a ziploc bag, remove excess air, seal and freeze.  

source:  the Slaten family

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