Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sweet and Smoky Baked Beef Boats

I needed something quick and filling for supper last night, and because it was cool and rainy all day and I had a headache most of the day, some comfort food was definitely needed as well.

I needed a few groceries, so while I was at the store I decided to pick up some fresh Bakery Club Rolls and some Chipped Roast Beef and Smoked Cheeses. What could be easier and less demanding than Baked sandwiches? Well, maybe a bowl of fresh fruit with granola with a cup of tea, but that would never work for my guys. :)

These are simple and quick and bake in about 15 minutes. They enjoyed them except for a few minor details. One of them said there was too much roast beef, another didn't like the crusty bread. But the rest of us really enjoyed them! And I liked the crusty bread. :) I guess it's a good thing that not everyone enjoys the same things. It keeps life from getting boring and teaches us to be flexible. :)

You can add Spicy to the title of the one I made just for me because I also added Spicy Southwest Mustard. I also added finely chopped Red Bell Peppers and sautéed sweet onions and mushrooms to mine. YUM!!

8 Bakery Club Rolls
2 lbs. Chipped Roast Beef
Finely diced Red Bell Peppers, optional
Thin sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms, sautéed
Sweet Onion Strings, sautéed
½ cup Sweet Baby Rays Honey BBQ Sauce
½ teaspoon Liquid Smoke
Smoked Swiss, Provolone, and Cheddar Cheeses, shredded
Parsley Flakes

Place chipped beef (I also cut it into smaller pieces) into a bowl. Mix with bbq sauce and liquid smoke. Add the spicy mustard and red bell peppers if you're using that as well.

Slice the rolls down the middle, almost through, widen the cut by tearing it a bit towards the bottom of the cut but not enough to tear it through. Fill them with the beef, top with sautéed mushrooms and onions and sprinkle with the cheese or mixed cheeses and sprinkle with parsley flakes.

Bake @ 350° for 10-15 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Serve immediately.

We as a family would appreciate prayers for my Father In Law. His cancer has returned and the pain is intense at times. Stop in at www.fleurcottage.blogspot.com and let them know you are praying for them.
♥Love and Blessings!♥

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ohio Weekend

We spent a very short weekend in Ohio with family. In front of my brothers house, where we always stay, is a very large pond and I love to sit on the dock and watch the swallows as they dip and dive, eating bugs and gathering water to make their mud nests. I love to feel the breeze that is usually present and listen for the Spring Peepers and Bullfrogs. I like to walk around the pond and look for big fish, too. The kids like to fish sometimes, but no one did it this time.
It was a beautiful afternoon and I was waiting there hoping for some pretty sunset pictures but the sky kept getting more and more overcast. So, no sunset pictures but I did get a few shots that I love of the neighboring farms. I love how they reflect in the water and how the hill envelops the homestead in it's embrace. I loved each of the editing processes so I thought I'd share them both with you :)

My Uncle raised his family on this farm and now his son and grandsons do the farming. I had a cousin who was a few months younger than I who lived here and we were best friends. We spent countless hours together, riding bikes, exploring, doing chores, etc. In the winter when sledding was possible we would ride our sleds on that very long hill behind the barn. The ride down was always great, and the walk back up to the top seemed endless! 

 Neighbors to the East
"The House That Built Me"
(or perhaps I should say 'helped' to build :)

My 3 handsome sons coming to join Mom, Dad, and Sis on the dock
Posing with my Sister (center) and my Niece and the real reason they want to live in Ohio on the far left, their favorite Cousin. It's the one thing I know my boys miss out on because we live here in Pa. away from my family. Having cousins closer to your own age who have the same interests you do is lots of fun! But we enjoy our family here as well and know that this is where God has chosen for us to live, for now at least. :)
My sweet Niece Brittany and Lynn
We loved being at your wedding and wish you many happy years together!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Birthday, A Basement, and Random Things of Beauty

Over the last month we've celebrated Shawn's 16th Birthday several times. Once with just our family, once in Ohio with my family,

and once with extended family and school friends. We rented a gym and they played some volleyball and basketball.

That's Shawn going for a spike!
He came home a few weeks ago from school and said "Mom today we were playing volleyball and when I went up to spike it, all the girls on the opposing team ran screaming for the sidelines!" He had a big grin on his face and I believe he got a kick out of that. From what I hear he can really pound it. But I guess if you're 6'2" and have decent athletic ability you really should be able to do that.

 It's always fun to watch how your kids grow up from year to year. The character strengths that are more pronounced as they grow older and of course there is always the evidence too that our parental guidance is still needed :)

He loves action, is a loyal friend, has a tender heart that loves to help and comfort people, recently joined our local fire company and is loving that! He works hard, has an opinion about everything and most of the time feels like he should share it too. And yes, to those of you who know me, he gets that from me! :) Although I have learned the art of having an opinion and not making it known .Imagine that!! He is looking forward to the end of school and having a job. He says he doesn't really care what he works he just wants to work hard. I consider that a blessing because he's got plenty of energy and a strong healthy body.

I can usually tell if he's had a good day at school or not as soon as they drive into the garage in the afternoon. He is talking or singing LOUDLY before the car even stops! :) He definitely helps keep things lively around here!

Shawn I love the sparkle you add to our lives, and the dimples that flash when you smile. :) God will use your abilities in amazing ways!

A long time ago I promised you a few pictures of our basement redo. What started out as a quick update turned into a long, pricey ordeal because of mold. But we are very happy with the end results and have been enjoying the fresh, new look and feel of some hard labor. Thanks to my husband for some DIY, the boys for their unending, uncomplaining patience as they waded through the mess to get to their rooms for weeks on end. And thanks to our carpenter friend Rod, for coming right away when we realized we were in over our heads!
I don't have before picture but if you have any imagination at all you can picture it. Rusty Brown 80's carpet and linoleum, & brown cupboards.  I'm sure it looked great in it's time but it was desperately in need of a fresh look!!

The moon has been amazing lately! I opened my eyes this morning and the first thing I saw was a pink moon!! Who could stay in bed when there are beautiful things to photograph and early morning walks to be enjoyed??!!

Perfection that only God can achieve!
We are all looking forward to a brief time in Ohio for a nieces wedding this weekend. Leaving today and coming home on Sunday afternoon in time for the youth group to come for some volleyball and a hot dog roast. Hopefully the beginning of many evenings like that. :) I'm hoping the weather cooperates. And just so you know, I have friends coming to stay here and house sit and feed the animals while we are gone. Just in case someone was intending to stop by to "raid the cupboards" while we are gone. :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Light Balsamic Tomato Feta and Onion Salad

Here is a quick, simple, and versatile salad that has lots of potential. It is also really, really delicious!
I had about 3 cups of grape tomatoes just waiting to become wonderful and we were having company over for supper. I knew this would be enjoyed as a salad topper instead of a sugary dressing so I stirred it together in the forenoon and let it marinate till the evening.
I've enjoyed it plain with avocados (shown above),  or with avocados over a bed of spinach for a quick but satisfying lunch. Sometimes I eat it just as is without avocados. And I've enjoyed it over a bed of Romaine. 
I have yet to try it on Bruschetta or over grilled steak but I think it would be amazing served like that!
I like that it doesn't have sugar and I give tribute for that to the White Balsamic Vinegar that is used. It has a light and fruity flavor and makes this such a treat to have on hand. The Feta makes it special too. The juice that settles on the bottom as it marinates is wonderful! Ha, yes I drink it when the veggies are all gone! :)
3 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 medium sweet onion, cut into thin strings
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup light olive oil
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
fresh parsley
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper,
to taste
Place all ingredients into a bowl, give it a stir and cover. (The 8 cup glass pitcher from Pampered Chef works great for this.) Allow to marinate several hours before serving. I store it in the fridge but the oil hardens. Just leave it at room temperature for a while and stir before serving.

If I'm eating avocado with it I add it right before I eat it to keep them looking fresh. :)
I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!!
We are looking forward to celebrating Shawn's 16th birthday with friends and family tonight so I've been busy in the kitchen preparing food this morning.
I hope to stop in at school sometime this afternoon for Anthony's Science Fair (his is on Tornadoes) and to listen to a few other interesting subjects.
The noise of the washer is keeping me company today and I must run to the store for a few things for tonight. There is more mulching outside to do and I'm thankful for a few drizzles now and then and an overcast sky because staying inside if the sun would be shining would be very difficult! I realize that my problems are small!!!!! 
And the waiting on results about our Fathers (see previous post) is still in progress.
Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pillowy Personal Cheesecakes

This past weekend I was asked by a friend to bake a few things for the Open House she was having for her new clothing store. These were some of the goodies I made.

We also had another dinner at church after the services on Sunday so I made some more cheesecakes and put different toppings on them. Just to make it fun. :)

These little individual ones bake in just 15 minutes! Compared to the 1 hour baking and the 2nd hour cooling in the oven (no heat) I'd say these are more fun and less time consuming. Although they may not always be practical, they are a fun change from the big cheesecakes that I make.

The second batch I made I added only the whites of the eggs and the texture was different. Because of that and the sour cream they were lots more fluffy and it felt in your mouth like you were actually eating fluff.

The Lemon Curd on top with the blueberries was fabulous!

Preheat oven to 350°. Line cupcake pans with liners.

Nilla Wafers or Oreos
32 oz. softened Cream Cheese
1¼ cups White Sugar
1 cup Sour Cream
3 Tablespoons AP flour
4 Large Eggs or 8 Egg Whites only
1 Tablespoon Vanilla extract

I used Oreos for some and Nillas for the rest. I removed the icing from the Oreos and used only one of the cookies. The Nilla wafers are kinda smallish but I just used one cookie each for the second batch I made. The first batch I had crushed them and added 1 Tablespoon to each cupcake liner. Next time I might try baking them without either of these and pressing a fresh crunchy one onto the bottom after they are chilled and unwrapped. Because I enjoy a crunchy crust over a soggy affair. :) And these were soggy.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. In a separate bowl beat together eggs, sour cream, and vanilla, and flour. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat just until combined. Scraping down sides as needed.

Fill the cupcake liners somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes, or until the center is mostly set when jiggled a little. I like to put a pan of water somewhere in the oven as they bake but it's not imperative that you do this for these smaller ones. I think the texture is nicer and the tops are glossy when you do.

Topping of your choice such as pie filling or fresh fruit, lemon curd, chocolate dipped strawberries, etc.

I've been busy working outside and doing a lot of mulching. I love having boys that can drive pickups and trailers since they can then haul the mulch for me. :) They have been getting a load after school for me and then I empty the trailer during the day. Yesterday I emptied 2 trailers. Haha, they were amazed when they came home from ball practice! While they would be happy to help me with the unloading as well as getting it filled up again, I do enjoy the hard work and the exercise it gives me and working alone outdoors is therapeutic and gives me ample time to think. :) I have a goal to be finished by next weekend but to get that accomplished I will need some hands on help from all the guys around here. :) There are some heavier things that I might not be able to handle. Learned that hard lesson last Spring. Really don't want a repeat of that.
We are waiting on test results from both of Fathers who recently did scans or blood work for the cancers they are dealing with. Waiting on anything has never been something I excelled in but waiting on something that feels so threatening is hard!! We trust that God hears our prayers and we know and have felt His Love and Care for us through our friends and families. Thank You!
Since I won't have any mulch to spread till after school today I think I'll do some easier things today like spray the nasty thistles that seem to be everywhere and plant some things in the garden. My oldest son has a volleyball game I'd like to go to and the laundry needs attention. There's also cleaning that could be done. Not much time to sit around as you can see :) but I this life and wouldn't want to trade it!
Thanks for stopping in and I
Hope you have a wonderful day!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Random Beauty...

...all things Bright and Beautiful, all creatures great and small... 
...The Lord God made them all.

We had a few rainy days this week and I happened to notice this Finch on the bejeweled tree outside my kitchen window. So I had to stop and make sure it was properly appreciated. :) 
This little beauty was singing, even in the rain. It was a reminder for me that I can still offer an encouraging song when life 'rains' on me. Someone who needs the encouragement might be watching. And in turn, I myself, will be encouraged, and the 'rain' won't seem so unbearable.
I've enjoyed watching and listening to birds since I was very young.
 I asked Serena to find our bird books and asked my hubby for his hunting binoculars so that when the migrating birds start passing through I'll be ready. :) I can usually hear (if the windows are open) when a different bird comes into the area by it's song. Then it's always fun to go outside and try to find it.
Happy weekend to everyone! I hope you make time to relax and enjoy the Spring beauty.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Peppery Parsleyed Parmesan Oven Roasted Waffle Fries

Yeah... that's kind of a mouth full but to make it easier you could say The Kitchen Cookies' 3 P Waffle Fries. Haha :) Cheesy!
Anyway, we did some experimental grilling last evening and I thought something like this would go nicely with the steak. They are delicious! And just enough crunchy to make you want one more. We don't eat a huge amount of potatoes for various reasons but now and then I like to make something like this for a special treat. The children really enjoyed them, and our 2nd son informed me that the next time I make them I should make more of them!
They usually look like a lot more when I start out but they really shrink as they bake.
If you do not have a waffle cutter in your kitchen... go... get one! They are useful and handy and I love to use them for these fries and for fixing veggie trays. You know how most of the time on veggie trays they have big chunky radishes? Well... this waffle cutter is perfect for those big chunky things and you end up with a really nice piece that is much more practical for dipping.
Preheat oven to 450°
8 cups Red Potatoes, waffled
Place into a large bowl and cover with cold water and a teaspoon or two of sea salt. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and spin or pat dry. Place them back into mixing bowl and add:
½ cup Grated Parmesan,
or more if you like
¼ cup Light Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
(I used the canned in oil type)
Fresh sipped Parsley
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, lots of it
Sea Salt, to taste
Toss till evenly coated and pour onto a baking sheet. Add a bit more parsley and pepper if you want to, I did. :)
Generously spray a large baking sheet (or 2 smaller ones) with non-stick spray. Pour waffled potatoes onto sheet and spread into a single layer as much as possible. Bake for 30 minutes, flip potatoes over and bake for another 20-30 minutes or until they are browned to your preference. The amount of time it takes will depend on whether they are stacked on top of each other or not. Some of mine were. So just watch them closely after you flip them to avoid over browning.
I hope you enjoy them!
The weather is finally feeling like Spring!! happy dance!!
On Saturday I had the day mapped out to get some big things done outside. But if 3 of your big guys are fire fighters and things insist on burning, you know plans can change rather quickly. Then there's always that wee little space of time when you're tempted to kick and scream (can anyone else relate?) because you have to let go of those plans, but common sense usually wins and you make the choice to be flexible and make the best of it :) it's just part of what comes with volunteer fire fighting. :) Anyway we did get one big thing done that I was very grateful for, we mulched all of the berries. Yay!!
It was a fabulous day to be outside whether working or playing!!
 This is my row of red raspberries and 1 golden raspberry. The blackberries, black raspberries, and strawberries are in the garden. We did those too. These 5 helpers saved me a lot of walking and hauling. It really is amazing how much those big guys can do in a short period of time! Wow! The rest of the week weather wise looks wonderful as well so I might disappear for a bit. I hope you all enjoy the beautiful weather and get outside if you can!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chocolate Bunny Cake with Caramel Buttercream Icing

Happy 9th Birthday Serena!
Yesterday was Serena's 9th birthday! Wow time sure flies!
She wanted a bunny cake and I thought "oh good that will be easy!" Several years ago I had bought a bunny cake with those plastic pieces for the head, feet, and tail so I thought for sure this will be a quickie. Not to be. I looked everywhere for those plastic pieces but they were not there. I suppose this had something to do with the fact that I couldn't be accused of being a hoarder. ha :)
I decided I can figure it out on my own because I didn't feel like heading to the store for plastic bunny pieces. Seemed kind of ridiculous. :)
I had a bigger problem. No eggs in the house that were not hard boiled. Luckily there is a simple but decent chocolate cake you can bake without eggs so that's the one I made.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place parchment or waxed paper (fitted) into the bottom of two 9 inch round pans that are non stick sprayed.
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup light olive oil
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 cups water
Combine all ingredients except 1 cup of water. Mix, then add the last cup of water and mix well. Divide evenly into the two round pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or till toothpick test comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the pans, then cut around the edge and invert onto parchment or waxed paper on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Caramel Butter Cream Frosting
1½ cups Crisco
1½ cups unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup Hershey's Caramel Syrup
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup sour cream
Combine shortenings, brown sugar, and syrup in a stand mixer and mix well. Add the powdered sugar and sour cream and whip until very fluffy. Drastic amounts of sugar!! Yikes!! The brown sugar does not completely dissolve but this just gives the bunny character and pizazz. Ha!

I used melted chocolate to make the eyes, nose, etc. Pipe it onto waxed paper and allow to harden and the press into fresh icing. His whiskers kept melting in my fingers, so you have to work quickly.
I'm going to let the pictures explain the process.
Cut in half then in half again horizontally.

I just guessed for the legs and feet.
 Cut one then cut in half horizontally.

Cut 1 of each then in half horizontally. :)
Broken record, I know!

Rough draft.
Refrigerate after this to allow base icing to harden.

this is what you'll have left of the second cake

his cute little tail :)

what it looks like inside

We spent Easter weekend in Ohio with my family and also celebrated Serena's birthday out there. My niece, Rachael, (Serena's favorite cousin) made a horse cake for her. She and Serena share a love for horses so this was a special delight for my girlie.
I was impressed with her artistic cake skills!
We also celebrated Shawn's 16th birthday but I'll do that in another post after his party. :)
The sun has been gracing us with it's presence, now if the wind would die down we could truly say it feels like the warmer Spring weather is here. But... the sun is shining and that's what matters! I have lots to do outside so I'm definitely looking forward to warmer weather!