Monday, October 31, 2011

Wild Thing

This is our pride and joy - this is our grandson. He's in his Halloween costume. Can anyone guess who he's dressed up as?? Max on "Where the Wild Things Are". I melted the moment I saw him in his costume.
If you've never read the book or seen the movie, and since I'm not good with words, I found this review (below the following image) and had to copy and paste it as I couldn't have said it any better. Oh to be young and carefree again!

My mother first bought this book for my oldest son. It has endured as a beloved favorite to all three of my boys. I think that children can really identify with Max and his thoughts. When he is sent to his room for misbehavior, his imagination helps him to run away to where the wild things are and collect his thoughts. I believe that the author must remember what its like to be a child and feel like no one understands, and not quite understanding yourself. Ruling the wild things helps Max understand that he just wants to feel loved, and helps parents to keep in mind that such outbursts from children are generally cries for attention--for someone to love them best of all. Mr. Sendak understands children! When you read this book it will transport you back to your own childhood and you will remember that lost feeling of being a child. Bravo, Maurice! You are my hero! - Lisa Forrest, Sunman, IN

Here are some pictures of Max and his BFF, Carrol:
Oh please don’t go
I’ll eat you up
I love you so - KW

I shared this with:
Mommy's Idea
Sweet Pea

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Festive Cupcakes

by Ina Garten - Barefoot Contessa

Chocolate Orange Buttercream Cupcake oh so good!

2 butter stick
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar lightlly packed
Cream all of the above in mixer on med. high speed for five minutes
3 eggs - add one at a time and cream well after each
3 tsps. good vanilla, pour in creamy mixture

In the meantime
Dry Ingredients:
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups good cocoa powder
2 ¼ tsps. Baking soda
½ tsp salt
SIFT all above ingredients together and set aside

I had to stop in the middle of everything and google how to make my own sour cream since I didn't have any. Sure enough, the recipe was quick and easy to find and make.  3/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup buttermilk.  Use a hand mixer to mix completely.  I was supposed to let it set for 24 hours but since I didn't have time, I went ahead and used it in my recipe.  I thought what could it heard, if anything, if would just make cake more moist, that's my reasoning....  So skip this part if you already have sour cream

WET Ingredients:
1 ½ cups buttermilk
¾ cups sour cream
3 tbsps. brewed coffee (picture above shows me pouring in the brewed coffee)

WHISK all the wet ingredients together

Turn the mixer on low.  Add dry and wet ingredients, taking turns to batter, ¼ at a time.  Mix well but don’t over mix - this picture shows what the batter looks like once it's all mixed together - please ignore my sloppiness :\

Fits in ½ sheet pan that’s been greased and floured OR 40 cupcakes.  If you're using a sheet pan (like Ina Garten did on her show) pour the whole batter in.  Smooth the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  (If baking cupcakes, bake for 20 minutes).  Cool completely.

2/3 cup water
2 cups sugar melt in water, lid on, bring to boil 240 degree

In the meantime . . . . . .
6 egg whites at room temperature, whisk in mixer on high
¼ tsp. cream of tartar, add into mixer with egg whites

Pour sugar syrup into egg whites, very slowly, thin stream so not to deflate egg whites.  Mix 10-15 minutes (to room temperature – similar to meringue).

and until soft peaks

Add 5 sticks of butter – room temperature and mix on low
2 tsps. vanilla extract
3 tbsps. orange liquor (I didn't have any so I used pure Orange extract I bought at the grocery store)

Add 1 tbsps. orange food coloring.  I didn't have any but fortunately, I had yellow and red and we all know what that makes = ORANGE!!! :).  I probably used 1 part yellow to 2 parts red.  I mixed it first in a small bowl with a spoon and then added it to the mixer

Not as orangey as I'd like it but oh well, it still taste fabulous!

 Now it's time to decorate.  I just used the frosting 

and candy corn

I frosted the cupcakes first and then I added one candy corn on top

I made enough to take to work, for my daughter to take to work and plenty for us at home

I love all the Autumn colors


I bought the candy corn a couple of weeks ago knowing I wanted to use them to make something to take to the office on Halloween. I was at a loss on how to use them but thanks to Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), she made this on her "Halloween" show.  I'm so glad I DVR'd it and when I watched it last week during my "me" time, I knew immediately that's what I wanted to make.  Plus I love the combination of Orange and Chocolate, it's the best kept secret!  I'm so proud of these because it is all homemade.  What a difference homemade baking makes.  The cake is heavier, not airy and the frosting is fresh and creamy.  Who wouldn't want that??   Have a Happy Halloween and blessed week everybody!!
I shared this recipe with:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Simple Texas Chili

Hot, spicy, steamy Texas Chili perfect for a very chilly day

3 tbsps. Olive Oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 lbs. ground beef or beef tips
2 tomatoes, medium size - chopped
1 jalapeño, remove seeds and veins, chop
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 chipotle chilis, chopped
2 tbsps chili powder
2 tsps. cumin powder
2 cups beef broth (or 1 cup broth, 1 cup dark beer)
2 cans of drained, rinsed pinto beans (because pinto beans are Texas)

Heat olive oil in dutch oven

Add the onions by themselves

and saute for about 3 minutes

Turn the heat down a little bit, then add the garlic and saute for one minute

Add the ground beef, chop into pieces and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes

Add the tomatoes, chipotle chilies, and the spices and stir

Stir in the tomato paste and the beef broth.  Don't you hate it when recipes ask for 1 tbsp. of tomato paste and you have to open a whole can and end up wondering what to do with the rest of it?  Well I don't know what to tell you what to do with the leftovers BUT I know what you can from now on.  Buy a tube of tomato paste and it will last for months in the refrigerator.  No waste, no leftovers.  I love it!

Stir in the beans

Stir completely until well blended, bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low

Cover and simmer for an hour or two, stirring several times throughout.

Serve with cornbread or plain ol' dinner, buttery, delicious rolls

What better to eat on a crispy, chilly day?  Why Texas chili of course.  Simple because it really is easy to make, I used ground beef instead of beef tips.  Had all the spices in hand so I didn't have to run to the store.  Nothing else can keep you warm and cozy and boy did we ever need it today.  With the snowstorm that blew through the mid-Atlantic and northeast today, we barely missed the snow but we definitely got the bone chilling wind that bit like I've never felt before.  Being a college game fan, rootin' for the team out in the cold, cold windy day, eating some hot Texas Chili sure hit the spot!!
I joined Miz. Helen's Texas Star Chili Cook Off
Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Year Ago - Our Miracle Home

It’s hard to believe that a year ago this week we were in the makings for one of the greatest and best surprises my hubby and I have been through together as a married couple.  A true life miracle and of all times during Halloween but we praise our God who does not rely on time, no matter the season to grant a miracle any time He feels like it.  It all started over three years ago when we had to “let go” of our dream of owning our dream home.  We never even came close to making an offer, but oh how we loved it.  It was the perfect home for us, plus we were also planning to have hubby's elderly mother move in with us.   This house was one level, had plenty of bedrooms, closet space, one level, formal dining room, plus a laundry room, 4 bathrooms, full basement, a garage and a sunroom, one level and for added measure, an in-ground pool and oh, a gazebo next to the pool.  Did I say one level?  The reason why I’m over emphasizing one level, is that it had been my dream and desire to live in a one-level home for years.  See, hubby’s knees slowly deteriorated since jumping out of helicopters in Vietnam back in the 60’s.  When we bought our two-story home back in the early 90’s, which also had two sets of steps going up to it, we did not realize how difficult life was going to be in a decade or so.  Hubby lived a life of pain and misery, suffice to say he ended up having two knee replacements within 6 months of each other in 2008,  plus with Grandma moving in with us, a one level home would be ideal.  A year later, we so happened onto a local realtor’s website and that's where we found our dream home.  We looked at it in person a couple of times and talked a little bit of business with the realtor.   The problem with this dream home though was that it needed a lot of TLC, but then so did our current home.  We came to the realization that we did not have the financial resources to fix both homes.  It was painful and very depressing.  I knew we would never find another home like it.  After a few months of being down in the dumps, we decided to renovate the kitchen which would be a small step to fixing up the current home, one room at a time and probably one year at a time.  In 2010, a year after renovating the kitchen and not feeling very good about our progress and with hubby still struggling with his knees, I saw on TV a new housing community advertisement for Open Houses.  I mentioned to hubby to “just for the heck of it”, let’s go take a look at these homes.  Surprisingly he agreed.   Anyway, the Open House was scheduled for the following Sunday which just happened to be on Halloween.  It ended up being a beautiful, warm, sunny day.  As I was getting ready that Sunday morning, hubby comes in and shoves the day’s newspaper into my face and tells me to “look!”  I’m annoyed as all get out, he knows it’s a big no-no to bother me while I’m getting ready.  Anyway, with that little smirk on his face, once again he tells me to “look!”  Frustrated I “look” and then there it is!!!  Oh my goodness!!!  Our dream home is having an OPEN HOUSE on the same day.  The dream home that we let go of, the one I cried crocodile tears over.  The ad said it had been “renovated” and ready to move in.  I had thought that all this time a family had already bought it and settled into it.  Come to find out the sellers couldn’t sell the home so after months and months of trying, they had to foreclose.  I can’t even begin to imagine the pain they had to go through themselves in having to let it go like that.  So some flippers bought the house from the bank and fixed it up completely.  I was thrilled to go see what updates they made on it but still very cautious not to get too attached, I just didn’t want my heart to get broken again.  The flippers renovated, added, touched up on everything  that we wanted to do to the house and more.  We were at a loss for words as to how much better it looked.  After a few more stops that day, it was time to go home to get ready for our trick or treaters.  The whole time I’m dreaming of this house (never gave the other homes a 2nd thought) and what were our possibilities!  As soon as I cut the lights off after the last of our  trick or treaters had come and gone, I rushed into the bedroom where hubby was still awake watching TV.  I asked him what he thought about our possibilities .  We discussed it thoroughly and decided to look further into it that week.  NOW HOLD ON TIGHT, THINGS  START MOVING  REALLY FAST FROM THIS POINT ON!!   A week later we get pre-approved for a home loan.  A week later the flippers come and look at our house to see if they would want to buy it and fix it up too.  A week later they make an offer on our house and we make an offer on their house, the DREAM HOME!!  At this point the following  two months are a complete blur.  All I remember is that we were moving in the middle of Christmas!!  We began to clean and pack and clean and pack.  I was hoping and praying that our closing date would be before Christmas and was sad when they told us it would be two days after Christmas.  Thanksgiving came and went.   As we got closer to the closing date, they told us that it had been moved to a week earlier, on the 17th, yay! before Christmas AND on our 27th wedding anniversary!!!!  Now, could we have planned that any better? I don’t think so!  God and only God!!  The following week was Christmas and all I could muster was a small wooden Christmas tree, 2 ft. high next to the fireplace and our cute manger scene with some string lights on our mantel.   Ever so thankful though that God granted us the desire of our hearts and gave us our dream home.  As much as I wanted to celebrate and have the whole house decorated for Christmas, we just didn’t have the strength to do it as we were still unpacking and cleaning but joy filled our hearts for our new home, the best Christmas present ever next to Jesus of course and oh!  that Hubby wouldn’t have to climb a multitude of steps anymore (Grandma too), YAY!  Thank you Lord!!  I told our daughter Elise that after not celebrating last Christmas in the usual way, next Christmas we’re going to start early and go all out!!  She totally agreed.  It’s supposed to start getting really cold today, possibly some snow tomorrow, another miracle – snow in October.  Wouldn’t it be fun to start decorating for Christmas with the chill in the air and the snowy forecast?  Bring. It. On!!!

If you look close into the one large single window on the right ~ that's the living room ~ you can see the string of Christmas lights on the mantel :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beef Caldo (Mexican Beef Soup)

3-6 Beef shanks (bone-in)
1 Turnip cut up in qtrs.
1 onion cut up in qtrs
3 garlic cloves
1 bunch of parsley or cilantro
1 tsp beef bouillon
Salt and pepper
1 carrot cut up or sliced
3-4 russet potatoes, cut up or 1 large can of potatoes (drained)
1 can of corn, drained
1 small head of cabbage, sliced any which way you like

In a dutch oven, throw in the beef shanks, turnips, onions, garlic, parsley and beef bouillon in enough water to cover all the vegies.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer for about 3 hours.

After three hours of simmering, remove from heat.  Take out all the vegetables and discard.  Take out the beef and set aside.  Use a strainer and pour the broth through in another pot, let cool a little bit to skim off some fat.  This broth is full of flavors and very savory!

Carefully pour the broth back into original dutch oven pot then add the carrots, corn, potatoes and sliced cabbage.  Simmer for another hour or two.  Serve with Mexican rice, corn tortillas or Tuscan bread.

  The beef was so tender, it fell off the bone.

The broth was so savory, full of so many delicious flavors

Perfect for a chilly Autumn day.  I think this is what heaven's going to be like!

I was at a loss as to what I was in the mood for this weekend.  Grandma and I went to the Farmer's Market and then to the grocery store.  While in the meat section I saw these beautiful, meaty, plump beef shanks and it all of the sudden took me back to a Mexican soup my mom used to make for us when I was little.  I hadn't had any in decades and I don't understand why I never made it for my family.  It was always a favorite for us kids, well at least for me.  I really didn't know what else she added to the soup so I had to make some phone calls and  Facebook to find out as I was a little desperate.  I truly appreciate all help I received from friends and family.  It took most of the day to make (so start several hours ahead of time).  As soon as I got home, I started to prepare the Caldo and in no time, my house was filled with the familiar aromas that took me back.  My mom is no longer with us but oh these smells made it feel like she was in my kitchen, cooking me some Caldo.  What a better way to end my feature of Mexican food in lieu of National Hispanic Heritage Month.    

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