Saturday, December 15, 2012

'Tis the Season...for Gingersnaps

One of my favorite times of year is finally here! We have been busy visiting with family, getting ready for Christmas parties, doing some decorating and shopping, and trying to enjoy it all...thus the serious lack of posts the last couple of weeks. I'm finally done with Christmas shopping, so I can sit back and relax--a little.

I'm sure many of you have family traditions that are very special to you this time of year. For my family, many of our traditions involve food. Cooking together and eating together. My mom has several dishes that she always makes around the holidays, and eating any of those makes me think of Christmas. One of those is her Gingersnaps. Most people think of gingersnaps as being crisp, crunchy cookies, and they often are. My mom's gingersnaps, though, are soft and chewy, and they have the perfect blend of Christmas spices. They are also surprisingly easy to make. I made them this past week for a Christmas party at work, and I plan to make some more for our neighbors.

Hope you are enjoying this special time of year!

Best-Ever Gingersnaps

1 cup sugar, plus about 1/4 cup extra
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg, slightly beaten

Combine 1 cup sugar, flour, salt, soda, & spices.

Stir lightly.

Cut in shortening to resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in molasses & egg.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls, and roll them in extra sugar.

Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 8-10 mins. Remove from baking sheets to cool.

*I posted the original instructions above. I usually make them by mixing all the dry ingredients, then I add everything else and mix it with my fingers. It's the best way I've found to get all of the ingredients incorporated...even if it is a little messy!

*My mom says not to double this recipe. I'm not sure why but I've never done it since Mom usually knows best =)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We Might Be Crazy...

Because today we are official owners of this house!

Andy and I have decided to embark on a new adventure and renovate a house! We started toying with this idea a few years ago when we first moved to East Lake, but it just wasn't the right time then. We really liked the idea of investing in East Lake by restoring a home. Fast forward 2 years, and here we are. It is really our hope that God will use this home as a tool to further reach the East Lake neighborhood for his glory, not our comfort.

We fell in love with this house a few months back and started dreaming of all the possibilities and potential that it had. It was built in 1925 and has some great character. But it needs a lot of work. A. LOT. So welcome to the home renovation phase of East Lake Livin'!

The house is actually right around the corner from our current house, so we'll still be pretty close to the neighbors that we've become connected with over the past 2 years, and now we'll have the chance to get to know even more neighbors!

We're *hoping* we can finish the project within a year, but we'll just see how that goes. I'm sure this time next year we'll be completely sick of home projects, but right now we're pumped! We're asking our family to donate hours of demo/painting this year in lieu of Christmas presents =).

Coming soon...more pictures!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you have all gotten to spend the holiday with the ones you love. For all of you who have spent the day at work, I feel for you! This is the first year since Andy and I have been married that I will have both Thanksgiving and Christmas off. Woohoo! We flip flop who we spend the holidays with each year so that everyone gets Christmas to themselves every other year. So this year, we are spending Thanksgiving with the Sanders and we'll be spending Christmas with the Edwards' side. We had a wonderful meal today and will spend the rest of the weekend watching football, doing some shopping, enjoying our time together, and cuddling with our nephew. I'll try to post some pictures later.

For now, I'll share with you one of my favorite pie recipes. My mom makes this often around the holidays, so it's become my go-to pie for Thanksgiving. It's sweet, but not too sweet, and has a warmness to it that is perfect for winter because even though served at room temp, it just warms your insides!

Buttermilk Pie

Source: My Mom
*The original recipe makes 2 pies, but it divides in half perfectly so I usually just make 1 at a time

2 pie crusts
3 3/4 c sugar
1 c melted butter
1 c buttermilk
6 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Stir together sugar and melted butter. Once combined, add buttermilk, eggs and vanilla (I usually use a whisk to combine because it blends the eggs more evenly). Stir until just combined. Mix in flour.

Yummy filling...I have eaten could eat this right out of the bowl

Pour filling into 2 pie shells. Bake at 350 for 50 mins, until top is golden brown and center no longer jiggles. Allow to cool to room temp and serve.

The no longer jiggling part is important! 2 years ago, I made this pie for Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  It had been a while since I had made it, and when I put it in the oven, I forgot to set a timer. I came back to check on it a little while later and the top was pretty brown already. So, I went ahead and took it out of the oven thinking it looked perfectly done. The next day, we stuck the pie in the backseat of the car and headed across town to Thanksgiving dinner. When we arrived at our destination, there was uncooked pie custard spilled all over the backseat, and running down in between the crack in the seat. Complete mess, not to mention the tragedy of not having Buttermilk Pie for Thanksgiving. I will never make that mistake again. That being said, this pie usually needs a full 45 to 50 mins to bake, even if it's already browning a bit. Just check the jiggle!

I only made 1 pie this year, so I split the recipe, but I did use a second crust to make my "leaf and acorn crust". To do these I used these pie crust cutters from Williams Sonoma (which are 60% off right now!) compliments of the Debster (aka Mom).

Aren't they cute?

I put my first crust in my pie dish, allowing a little to hang over the edge to give me something to attach my leaves and acorns to. Then I barely wet the edge of the crust as I went around to help my cut outs stick. I just overlapped the leaves and acorns all the way around pressing lightly to make sure the stuck. I also cover my crust with foil when it starts to brown during baking so it doesn't overcook.

Hope you enjoy this pie as much as I do. If you've never tasted Buttermilk Pie (you are seriously missing out), it's similar to a custard or chess pie...but better! Happy Thanksgiving!

*Note to self: Do not take pictures of pie on your black stovetop at night = no good.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Best Friend's Baby

This weekend Andy had plans to go camping with his guy friends (which they always wait to do until it's way too cold), so I decided to head to Memphis to visit the fam and meet my BFF's sweet new baby girl. I definitely missed my hubby for the weekend, but it was so good to get to visit with my dear friends.

Bear and I tested out the Greenline for the first time with Mom & Dad. Definitely something that I wish we had there when I was growing up!

Liz had Ellie Grace about 3 weeks ago, and she is an absolutely beautiful baby! She stayed awake almost the whole time Cari and I were there, and participated in our girl talk with the occasional grunt or grin. Liz is a natural at being a momma and it truly filled me with joy to see their sweet family growing.

I am so thankful for these THREE girls!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Budget Friendly Chicken Stock

I've been *trying* to do a better job lately of not wasting groceries and making the things we do buy go as far as they can. I HATE throwing away groceries! I feel like it's saying, "goodbye money I could have spent on something else." That being said, one of the things I've started doing is making my own chicken stock. We are big chicken eaters. It happens to be both mine and Andy's favorite meat. One of the most economical ways we've found for buying chicken is buying a whole chicken and incorporating it into different meals. Example: the first night we'll roast the whole chicken and eat part of it, then we'll use the leftovers in salads, soups, or make chicken salad for lunch. Until recently, it never occurred to me that I could get some use out of the parts we don't eat as well...that's where good 'ole chicken stock comes in.

We use chicken stock in quite a few recipes-especially during the colder months when I make a lot of soups. It's actually incredibly easy to make yourself! I thought I'd share my method for making stock and the things I've learned along the way.

The first thing I do is start freezing ingredients for the stock as I have them leftover. So, any time we have a roasted chicken, I put all the leftovers that we won't eat (bones, skin, etc) into a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer. When I have veggies that we're not going to use that would go bad (carrots, onions, celery), I wash and chop them (if needed) and pop them in the freezer. This way, I never actually buy anything to go in my stock. It's 100% leftovers that would have been thrown away!

When I'm finally ready to make my stock, I pull out my chicken parts and veggies, and throw them all in a pot. One of the things I like about making stock is that you can really use whatever you have on hand. Sometimes I have celery, sometimes it's just carrots. I've even added mushrooms before. So don't worry too much about not having everything on the list below. Add the chicken and veggies to a stock pot. Fill with water until it just covers the chicken (whether you're using 1 chicken carcass or 2, this method still works-just fill it with water until it almost covers the chicken). Add salt and pepper to your taste. I prefer to go a little lighter on the salt so I can add it in the recipe later if I want it. Add herbs.

Bring water to boil on the stovetop. Allow to boil about a minute, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours.

Strain into a glass bowl, and allow to cool to room temp. Refrigerate over night. The next day, remove from refrigerator. There should be a solid white layer of fat on top. Once it's bee refrigerated, it's easy to remove this layer and discard. This is way easier than trying to skim oil off the top of your stock while it's still warm. You waste less this way and get more fat off. Win, win!

Bye Bye Fat!

At this point, you can either store the stock in the fridge (use within about 1 week), or what I usually do is freeze it. I freeze mine in ice cube trays. Each cube is 1 oz.  This way, I can easily pull out how much I need without thawing what I don't need. Again...less waste! Store the ice cubes in gallon freezer bags and use as needed.

As long as this post is, making your own chicken stock is really not complicated. Throw it in a pot, simmer it while you do other things around the house...or watch TV. Refrigerate overnight and then throw in the freezer. Done.

Budget Friendly Chicken Stock Ingredients:

1-2 Chicken Carcasses
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup celery
1 cup chopped onion
2-3 bay leaves
1-2 T Parsley
Salt & Pepper

*You can add additional herbs if desired (ex: ginger, thyme, basil, garlic), but usually I just add what I've listed above
*All of the amounts listed can be tweaked based on what you have on hand. These are just approximations to get you started.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hello again!

I've been MIA for a little longer than planned, but we've been busy and it's been too pretty outside to stay inside on the computer!

Last weekend we had a baby shower for one of my roommates from college, Sarah. She is having a baby boy in December. Can't wait to meet Mr. Aiden! It was great getting to catch up with some friends from college and meet some of Sarah's work friends too. Here are just a few pictures from the shower.

We also had a great Halloween. Last year we only had 2 trick-or-treaters so this year I just bought 1 bag of candy. Well, we ended up having over 30 this year, so we definitely ran out of candy and our backup Oreos and candy corn. We'll definitely be getting more candy next year.

This weekend, we celebrated our nephew's (on Andy's side) 2nd birthday. He had a really cute Thomas the Train party. Of course, I forgot my camera. Total aunt fail. I can't believe he's already 2! Happy birthday Enoch!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Favorite Fall Recipes

I love salad. I eat one just about every day. Andy and I actually even have a song we made up about salad (don't tell him I told you that). It may sound a little weird, but salads are such a tasty way to get in your fresh veggies. That being said, this is one of my all time favorite salads, and it's perfect for Fall. It's great as a side, or you can add chicken and make it a meal. Andy (who is definitely not as fond of salads as I am) really enjoyed this too. We had it for dinner this past week (twice) with sweet potato biscuits. I may have had it for lunch one day too...Told you I love salad.

Orchard Harvest Salad 

(makes 5 dinner-sized salads, or about 8-10 sides)

1(5.5 oz) bag of salad
1/2 cup dried cranberries
4oz blue cheese crumbles
red onion, thinly sliced  (to taste)
2 Gala or Fuji apples, chopped in bite sized pieces
1/2 c pecan halves, toasted
Chicken (optional)

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Drizzle with dressing.

*I usually just throw these together in individual serving sizes. So if you like more of one ingredient and less of another, you can adjust it to suit your taste. It's also really yummy to candy the pecans with some cinnamon, brown sugar, and cayenne. I've done it both ways.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette 

(original recipe-minus my adjustments-found here)

1/4 c cider vinegar
1/4 c apple juice
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 c cannola oil

Combine all ingredients in a jar. Shake vigorously until well combined. Serve or refrigerate until needed. Should keep for at least 1 week. (I never have any left after that).

*I know this may seem like a lot of pepper, but it's the perfect blend of spice with the cinnamon and the sweetness of the juice and tang of the vinegar. Yum!

Sweet potato Biscuits 

(recipe found here)

2 c all-purpose flour
1Tbsp baking powder
1Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 c whole milk (I use buttermilk)
1 c baked, mashed sweet potato (about 1 med potato)
1 stick butter, frozen
Additional milk for brushing tops of biscuits

Preheat oven to 400. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mash together the sweet potato and buttermilk as evenly as possible. Grate frozen butter and toss with dry ingredients. Add sweet potato mixture to dry ingredients and mix together until forming a sticky dough (I put some flour on my hands and just mix it with my fingers).

At this point, you can follow the original recipe and roll out the dough and then cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. I, however, am usually too impatient for biscuits to mess with all that. I flour my hands again and just tear off pieces of the dough and lightly form them into round biscuits, then pat them to slightly flatten them. They're not quite as pretty, but they taste just as good.

Place biscuits on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush tops of biscuits with buttermilk (or cream). Bake for 12 to 15 mins.

*These are amazing served warm with some cinnamon honey butter. I usually don't have the patience or foresight to actually bake my potato, so I just cook mine in the microwave for 5-8 mins, until soft. I'm all about saving some time on weeknights!

Happy Fall! Go enjoy some tasty food and beautiful weather!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hello 21st century!

Well, it's finally happened. I have joined the world of smart phones. And I have to say, the iPhone has not disappointed. If you have any suggestions of your favorite apps, let me know. So far my favorites are Insragram and the Publix app (by the way, Publix does NOT sponsor my posts =). You can make your grocery list, adding things on sale from the weekly add. Then you can add reminders for coupons. When you set the location of the store you go to, it automatically sorts your list by what isle the items are located on. When you get to the store, they have free wi-fi so you don't have to use your data. And its really easy to check off items when you get them (you can do the same things on a Kindle Fire if you don't have a smart phone).
Love. It.

In other news, today is this guy's 2nd birthday. I can hardly remember him ever being this small. Happy birthday crazy dog!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

BBQ Chicken Pizza

My friend, Melissa, has been telling me to try Publix's ready made pizza dough for a while, and I finally tried it out last week. It was Buy 1 Get 1 Free, so that gave me a good excuse. It was really good, so easy, and you couldn't beat the price ($1.30).

We love BBQ Chicken Pizza, so I thought we'd try making our own. Warning: this is definitely not our healthiest dinner, but it sure was yummy! We paired it with some salad so we could feel a little bit better about it =).

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Pizza Crust
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup red onion slices (or more if you really like onions)
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
Romano cheese (or parmesan if you prefer), grated
BBQ sauce
BBQ seasoning

Spread out pizza dough on a rectangular baking sheet with a rimmed edge. I used a roller to smooth mine out to the desired shape/thickness. My crust was fairly thin, so if you want it thicker, use a smaller pan.

Stir 1/4 cup BBQ sauce in with shredded chicken. Spread BBQ sauce onto pizza crust for desired amount of sauce (I didn't really measure mine, but I probably used a little less than 1/2 cup; next time I would add a little bit more).

Layer chicken, tomatoes, bacon, red onion, and mozzarella cheese as desired. Sprinkle BBQ seasoning on top. Top with Romano or parmesan cheese until it looks good and cheesy. I used about 1/4 cup Romano.

Bake about 25 mins, or until cheese is bubbly and edges begin to brown. With about 10 mins left on bake time, remove pizza from oven, brush pizza crust with olive oil or butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Return pizza to oven and finish baking. Slice and enjoy!