Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eighth Grade Project

Whew!  Eighth grade is over.  I made it.  I mean he made it.  I guess I mean we made it.  Lots of people told me that things really amp up in the eighth grade.  Socially, academically and emotionally.  And, dang, they weren't kidding!  But it's over!  For now.  I have to do it again in a couple of years.  With a girl.  I'm gonna need more cake!

Several weeks before school was out I got the now dreaded teacher appreciation email.  After this and this I was a little gun shy of teacher appreciation lunch days.  The email gave a list of items needed and out beside it each one in parentheses it gave instructions such as, Pasta Salad (I'll send the recipe) or Gallon jug of tea (no lemon flavored please).  Here is what it said for dessert:  Dessert (only pretty, yummy desserts please).  I'm totally not kidding.  It might as well have said no chunky purple cakes or artificially flavored Kroger cakes.  Come on people.  Everybody has a bad day...or two.  Mine just happen to fall on teacher appreciation day.

That seriously bothered me the whole day.  It also steeled my resolve to make the cake I had been wanting to make happen. So here it goes!

Dear eighth teachers of the school where my child spent the last three years,

It's been an interesting year, so I made you this cake.

It has three layers.  Two are vanilla and one is chocolate.  It's filled with buttercream and fudgey chocolate and has buttercream on the outside and has poured chocolate fudgey goodness on top.  It's gluten free in case you are into giving bonus points.  We could use them in science please.

It has been a good three years and I wanted to say thanks.  So here goes.

Dear choir teacher,
I should have made you a cake for just you.  You gave him a place to belong and something to be good at.  You love middle school boys and are so wonderful with them.  That alone deserves a cake.

Dear drama teacher,
I do believe his best memories will be of play practices.  Thank you for making that happen.  Thank you for unending hours with LOTS of middle schoolers.  Thank you also for giving him something to be good at.

Dear pre-algebra teacher,
Lord have mercy, we did it!  Thank you for your patience and extra help (with me.)  I never made a B in Algebra in my entire life so I am beyond thrilled.  And like I told you, he HATES math but he still loves you so you must be awesome.

Dear science teacher,
It was long, it was hard, it is over for us both!  Let's eat cake!

Dear reading teacher,
I really had just woken up from surgery when I sent you that frustrated email.  Probably not the best time to send an email but he did work hard on that project.  And an F seemed extreme.  I am sorry.  Please eat some cake and forget I'm that boy's crazy mother.

Dear everybody else that made middle school actually tolerable for my boy.  I appreciate you.  It has been fun.  It really has.  Hang on to your hats though, I have another one coming your way.  She is nothing like her brother but is awesome in her own way.

See you in August.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My new BFF

In my house there are 2 girls and 2 boys.  Total.  Me and Jenny and Shane and Will.  Shane and Will are always traipsing off on a Boy Scout adventure.  Camping in the rain, sleeping in huts made of sticks and leaves, and doing things that they will tell me about in 20 years when it's "funny."   Of course we miss them when they are gone but we do enjoy our "girl weekends."  I don't know how much longer she will want to spend those with me but I'll take it as long as I can get it.  We like to go shopping and make crafts.  She helped me repaint the bathroom one weekend, and one weekend we spent the entire day Saturday making valentine goodies for her class and other friends.  It was fabulous, but  every once in awhile we get a hankerin' to go somewhere.  So when the chance came along to go to Birmingham and hang out with one of our favorite cookbook authors we jumped on it.

Ree said to tell you all hello.

We got to visit with her for awhile.  Ok.  She signed our books, took a picture and we had to  move on but she was super sweet.  She's very pretty in real life and had the same quirky sense of humor she writes with.  It was such a fun thing for Jenny and I to do together and I'm glad she was excited to go see an author and chef and not some pop star with only half her clothes on.  I hope we can keep it that way!

I'm going to go now and cook my way through Ree's new cookbook.  She told me to make the orange sweet rolls.  She really did!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jenny's birthday cake

This is my baby girl.

She turned 11 last month and now she looks like this.

I love this girl.  She amazes me.  I can't figure her out most days and I think that's how she likes it.  From the day she was born she has known exactly who she is.  I love many things about this girl but that is my favorite.  She's not easily influenced and as we enter middle school next year I pray that quality remains strong.  Stay strong baby girl, stay strong!!

We had to have a party of course and we decided to have an art party!  I love a good theme and we ran with it!  My friend Jill's daughter Reagan came and painted with the girls and they had a great time.  Jenny and I always like to bake her cake together and this year we decided the rainbow cake we've all seen on Pinterest was the perfect cake!

Here is the finished product.

And here is the inside.

This was not a hard cake to make.  It was however a very time consuming cake to make!  My advice?  Buy 2 or 3 cake pans.  We only had one so it took a long time!  We had fun though!

We started with a basic white cake recipe which we doubled.  We used an 8 inch cake pan.  We colored a small amount of batter using gel colors, not liquid food coloring.  You can get gel colors at any craft store in the cake section.  We then poured about an inch of batter into the well greased pan and baked it for about 10 minutes.  We ended up with lots of these!

We ended up with seven total.  My daughter is very organized and she likes things in the right place and order.  Yes she's just 11.  As a result please notice from top to bottom the order of the cake.
The orangey looking layer second from the top is actually pink which I convinced her could substitute for indigo.  Therefore our cake is in perfect ROY G. BIV order.  Can you say OCD?

Anyway, we used plain white buttercream in between the layers.  Obviously we needed more between some layers to make things nice and flat and even.
We then covered the whole thing in buttercream and made the banner and added the large gumdrops which we bought at the party store.

And voila!
Excuse the dishtowel and the mess behind the cake.  It was LATE!!

Here are some scenes from the party!
The artist table all set up

Jenny and our friend Reagan.

The masterpieces!
It was a really fun party and as hard as it can be to see them get big it really is a joy to watch them grow. They sat around and talked and giggled and painted and thankfully did not talk about boys just yet!  So far 11 has been great!

And in case you were wondering, in between the two pictures above she looked like this.

Be still my heart!  Love that girl!

Hard drives, restores and a nervous breakdown

Well that pretty much sums up our computer experience over the last few months.  I should have emphasized the nervous breakdown part.  Computers are like cars.  They should just work.  I don't want to spend my time fixing you.  I have supper to fix I don't have time to fix you too!

It started simply enough with what appeared to be a power supply problem.  As in, it was stone cold dead.  Nothing. Nada.  That happened the week my 8th grader had two projects due.  One of which was a web site he had to build and the other a paper he had to research.  The computer was going to take a week to fix. I seriously asked the apple guy for a school excuse.  We made it through that, but our back up software wanted us to restore the computer.  I'm not sure why.  But it seemed harmless enough so we did that.  Big mistake, big, huge, I have to go shopping now. (Sorry, movie quote!)  Anyway, the restore took forever but the computer was working ok and then.... it all went CARAZY!!!  The computer would not allow us to use more than one application at a time.  As in I cant open pictures and the Internet which means no blogging!  I can't research and write a paper at the same time, etc.  After about a month of that it became completely unusable and there was probably a nervous breakdown or two.  So back the store we go where the little man says it's the hard drive.  They wipe the computer clean.  As in, when I turned it on for the first time it was a blank white screen flashing a question mark.  But two hours and two phone calls to Apple later I had installed an operating system and we were cooking with gas....until I hit the restore button.  After much angst it appears the off site backup we used had some corrupted software or some such computer talk and it was wreaking havoc every time we tried to used it.  It did restore but it took an entire week and then the computer was once again useless.  SO back to the store we go again.  A major issue was that despite the fact that the computer had restored I could not open my picture files.  I was holding the panic at bay but after an hour at the apple store when the man said, "There that should get everything back!" and pressed the button and the message, "picture files corrupted, cannot restore" or some such gibberish flashed on the screen the tears began to flow.  He handled it well, bless his heart but when I say I left with my big old computer in arms with tears streaming down my face it's not an exaggeration.

Too make a long, boring story only slightly shorter I had to walk away from the situation.  Way too emotionally involved and Shane took over.  Many phone calls later my precious pictures have been restored all 17,000 of them (who knew there that many.)  I can once again see my babies faces and that is so good!  We have a new back up system in place and that also so good.  I lost some of the organization of the pictures but at this point it doesn't even matter.

All that to say... I can blog again.  Some may be happy, some may say who cares, some may groan.  Either way, I've been cooking up a storm over here so I'll be seeing you soon!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tim Riggins cookies

I was going to write about chicken today.  I had the whole thing almost written.  It was pretty funny too.  But then I came across this recipe during my morning stroll through the blogosphere and they had me at "Chocolate."  If you scroll on through the post at you will see that she includes some references to Tim Riggins. Now a year ago I wouldn't have known who this was but I have recently watched Friday Night Lights on Netflix and now I most definitely know who Tim Riggins is.  And these cookies fit the bill....really bad, but sort of sweet.  Here is the sad thing about Tim Riggins or actually about me.  When I watched this show I did not think, "Oh WOW that Tim Riggins is one hot cookie!"  Nope I thought, "That Tim Riggins, he needs a mama- Bless his heart"  I think that means I'm old!  That and Tim Riggins would have never even known I exisisted in high school.  And he would have scared me.

SO without further ado I give you "Tim Riggins Cookies"

(I loosely followed the recipe they give but made some changes to accomodate them being GF)

For this you need a chocolate cake mix.  I was skeptical because I don't like to use GF cake mixes.  I just don't like them and they are expensive.  This sucker was over $5.00

I used it though and it worked out perfect.  To the bowl of your mixer add:

1 box of chocolate cake mix
1 stick of butter soft, but not too soft
2 eggs
2 Tbsp buttermilk powder
a dollop of sour cream- maybe 1/3 cup

Mix really well and then drop by tablespoon fulls onto a greased baking sheet.
Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.

Let me just tell you.  From break open the cake mix box to in the oven was about 6 minutes.  These were so easy to get in the oven!

While they are cooking take your scissors and cut 18 large marshmallows in half.

When the cookies come out of the oven place one marshmallow half on each warm cookie.  Place the pan back in oven for about a minute and a half.

After the 1.5 minutes pull the pan out and give each marshmellow a little squish to flatten it out.  Its all kinds of gooey goodness!

While they are cooling mix up the frosting.  This is also very Tim Riggins like!   Just a bit excessive.  Ok so Tim is very excessive but you get my drift.  Make some frosting!

1 pound powdered sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup evaporated milk (plus a little more if needed)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
Mix it all up.  Its yummy!

When the cookies are cool pipe it onto the top of the marshmallows.  Some I covered the whole cookie.  Some I covered just the marshmallow.  It was just the right amount of frosting so be a little conservative with it.  Not at all like Tim Riggins.

It's almost Valentine's day so I added some of these.

And ended up with this.

These were really good.  And so completely easy.  Start to completely finished in under an hour.  And they look good too!  Perfect for a school party.  They got good reviews from the 5th and 6th graders at church tonight.

So go make these 'cause they are super yummy and watch Friday Night Lights if you're bored 'cause its a good show.  But don't be like Tim Riggins 'cause he's got issues.  Bless his heart.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thirty one hour pancakes

My daughter stayed up for 31 hours straight this weekend.  Thirty-one.  From 6:00 Friday morning until 1:00 Saturday afternoon.  That's a long time people.

She had a church event Friday night in which they stayed up all night and went bowling, to see a movie and goofy golfing.  Tons of fun!  They ended the night with a pancake breakfast at a local restraunt which is super fun unless you can't eat the dang pancakes.  She made it home about 8:00 Saturday mornig completely wiped out but.......

Several weeks ago I talked to her about taking some acting lessons at a local theater.  She had a friend that was doing it and one of her normal activites was not going on this spring so we thought it might be fun.  The first class guessed it... Saturday morning.

As we say in the south, "Bless her heart!"

When she stunbled in Saturday morning I knew I had to keep her awake for 2 hours before it was time to leave.  If she fell alseep it was all over.

So I made these:

Mini Puffed Pancakes

These are alot like the Brazillian cheese rolls I've shared before.  You put the ingrediants into the blender and blend away.

3/4 cup flour (I used Pamela's)
3/4 cup of milk
2 eggs
1/8 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp of melted butter (you know I went with 3)
Just a tip: Put the milk in first and then the flour.  I don't like the flour to get all gummy at the bottom.  And I need a new blender-not a walmart cheapy-any suggestions would be great!

Anyway- just pour the batter into a mini muffin tin that has been sitting in your oven while it preheats to 400 degrees.  I actually made these twice this weekend and the second time I spooned the batter into the cups and it did better and I got more. Bake for about 20 minutes. It made about 30 little muffins.

They poof up nice and cute and are very bite sized.  I spooned some melted butter over them (yes I did) and poured some of the good syrup on them and sprinkled them with powedered sugar.  

 I sat them in front of Jenny and went to cleaning the kitchen.  I suddenly realized that my poor, half asleep child was softly singing:

"These are so yummy, so very yummy.  These are yummy.  I really like them."

Bless her heart.

She made it to acting class and back home.  She ate a little lunch and hit the sack.  She slept for about 5 hours but had to get up for her brother's play that night.  She slept great Saturday and Sunday night but based on the melt down over science homework last night - she's still playing catch up.  Either that or compound mixtures are a lot more serious than previously thought.

Either way, make these. They are cute and yummy and will keep a 10 year old awake for long enough to compose an original song.

Recipe adapted from our  And I seriously want  would like to have that heart shaped pan!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dear Middle School Teacher (again)

At the beginning of this week I got an email that it was time to sign up for the teacher appreciation lunch that would be held today.  I have been haunted by the disaster  I took last time and I wanted to show you what I could really do.  So when the email came I took a good look at my calendar and this is what I saw.

I knew this would be a busy few days so I decided two things:

1.  That this would be the perfect time to rearrange my kitchen/ keeping room.

2.  That I would sign up to make a chocolate cake.

Why?  Because I have lost my cotten pickin' mind thats why!

And because I wanted to make this cake for you.  Isn't it pretty!  I knew I could do that.  And I could do it Gluten Free which I felt like would deserve bonus points.  Bonus point which I need in pre-algebra and science.  Not that I would be trying to blackmail you with cake but you understand.  

Anyway-  In my mind this was a beautiful cake.  And then I went a little crazy and started thinking about how I could put it in a cake box and everyone would say "How pretty, Where is this from?"  And I could put a lable on the box with my blog address on it and then everyone would marvel that I had made the cake and how great it was and then someone would read my blog and then they would call me and I would say, "I would love to write a cookbook!"  And that would be great because I was thinking through all of this while I was moving my keeping room all around and I could use the money cause now I need a new rug.

But I was also thinking about the great blog post I could write when I showed off the beautiful cake.  About how you all have made my 8th grader's middle school years so great.  About how much he is going to miss you next year.  About the difference you've made.  I was even going to name names!!

I thought about it yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon-I need to make that cake today.  Last night between church and big projects (you know who you are) and dress rehearsals I made this.

Definately yummy, but its not chocolate cake.

This morning about 6:45 I remembered the chocolate cake.  I would have whipped it out.  I could have whipped it out, but I had to take my daughter to the doctor.  

So dear sweet teachers here is what I brought.

I completed my assignment.  I turned it in on time but I can't help but think that perhaps this isn't what they had in mine when I signed up.

I took the next picture to show that at least it was a chocolate pudding cake.

And I had to ask myself why they are so proud of the artificial flavoring?

Anyway, Kroger cakes are yummy so there's that.  I rarely get to just buy something off the shelf ready to eat so that was kinda fun.  My kitchen is clean and my keeping rooms new arrangement is great!  So all in all I think I have turned another "C" worthy project.  

Next time though I'm getting an "A" if it kills me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Sleep Well at Night

What keeps you up at night?  Worrying about your kids? About drugs and rock music and all that comes along with that-if you catch my drift.  Wondering what to do about all the problems in the world? Poverty, hunger, wars.  What keeps me up at night?  How do I make gluten free bread sticks?  How?  How to make them soft and chewy.  What if can't do it.  Jenny asked for them weeks ago! I have to figure this out!  I have to!!!  AAAAHHH!

Ok so that was a little over the top.  But I do lay awake and think about how to make certain things they ask for.  And Jenny wanted bread sticks.  She knows just how to phrase it too.


"Yes, dear?"  (You always answer your children that way, right?!)

"You remember when we used to always go to that pizza place?  You remember they had bread sticks?  You remember how good they were?  I miss those so much."

"I know baby"

"I bet you could do it Mommy."

"Sure I can do that."  I can make soft chewy bread sticks without the stuff that makes them soft and chewy.  Sure.  No sleep till I figure it out.

But I love a challenge and this one turned out great!

Bread sticks two ways :

Parmesan Bread sticks

I started out with a package of Bob's Red Mill GF Pizza mix.

I don't typically use a lot of mixes just because they are so expensive, but I hit a sale at Big Lots of all places and I bought about 6 bags of this for $2.90.  Can't beat that.

I just mixed it according to the directions and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

I grated some Parmesan cheese into a pie plate.

I then dump 1/2 of the dough onto a mat and sprinkled it with flour just to make it easier to handle.  I put the other half in the fridge.

I took a golf ball size ball of dough.

I then rolled it into a "stick" about 6 inches long.  I brushed each stick lightly with an egg/water mix just to help it brown pretty and for the cheese to stick.  (1 egg and about 2 Tbsp. of water)

I then rolled them in the cheese.

I lined them all up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baked them at 375 for 20 minutes.

I had to snap this quick before someone ate the last two!  I have to say that this turned out great!  They were not really cheesy but you could taste the Parmesan.  The were a little crunchy on the outside and so soft on the inside.  We served them with pizza sauce and they were gone in minutes!  Perfect for a party or spend the night company.

Cinnamon Bread sticks:
I did the same thing with the other half of the dough as I did to the first.  I placed it on a mat.  Sprinkled with flour and rolled it into sticks.

But instead of egg and cheese I brushed them with butter and then rolled them in cinnamon and sugar.

I have no idea what the cinnamon to sugar ratio was here.  Just do what feels right to you.  I mean at least where sugar and cinnamon are concerned.

Into the oven for 15 minutes at 375.  

To make these really yummy you could make a sort of frosting/glaze to dip them in.  That would be a lot of sugar and way over the top. 

I totally did that.

About 2 cups of powdered sugar. About 2 Tbsp of milk.  The leftover melted butter and some vanilla.

Do not eat this with a spoon.  That would be immature and a little gross.

Don't judge me.

Instead put it a cute red cup and serve it up with cinnamon bread sticks.

These were good too!  My one note on these is that they were definitely not as soft as the ones the night before.  Next time I think I would let the dough get to room temperature before rolling them.  That being said my 13 year old just sat and groaned as he ate them.  That's a good thing.  At least today it was.

So rest well tonight friend.  No need to worry about how to make soft bread sticks.  We got that one covered.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Speakers, measuring spoons and homemade bread

Awhile back my daughter spotted an item in one of those scholastics order form the kids bring home from school.  Now I'm a sucker for books.  That's one thing I tend to spend a good bit of money on.  I would have bought her a book from the order form, but that is not what she wanted.  She wanted a $12.00 set of cardboard speakers to plug her ipod into.  Yes, I said cardboard speakers.  As you can imagine the answer was no.  To which she replied that she would be glad to use her own money.  Now I'm a believer in allowing your children to make mistakes with their money.  In allowing them to learn life's lessons the hard way, but I seriously just could not give in to this.  $12.00 cardboard speakers?!  As she cried (believe it or not) I asked her if she remembered the beautiful stainless steal measuring cups we had seen at the cooking store earlier in the day?  She did.  I explained how much I wanted them.  How much I felt like I needed them.  How I wanted to feel like a real baker.  How those would complete me as a cook.  But alas, they were $30.00 and I had measuring cups and it just didn't make sense to spend money on something like that.
Well, she still doesn't have cardboard speakers, but look what I got for Christmas!

I'm so happy I decided to make bread!!

I tried a new recipe for bread this time.

1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp of sugar
1 1/2 cups of arm water ( about 105 degrees)

Combine the yeast and sugar in a bowl and add the hot water. ( I used a candy thermometer to make sure it was the right temp.  It really makes a big difference to make sure that's right.)
Set aside and it starts to look like this.
Bubbly yeast is very promising!

Combine in the bowl of your mixer:
2 1/2 cups GF flour (I used Pamela's of course)
2 tsp xantham gum
1 tsp. salt (I used kosher)

In another bowl (What's with three bowl recipes lately!!)

Whisk together
3 eggs
1 1/2 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1/4 cup sour cream (That's a guess-it wasn't in the recipe but I added it in-a big "dollop")

Add both liquid mixtures to the dry mix and blend with mixer for about 4 minutes.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

You can also just spray your pan, but when I use my new stainless steel measuring cups and parchment paper I feel like a real grown up!

Pour the batter into the pan and put in a warm pace to rise for about an hour.  This is when I new the bread had promise.

Here it is when I put in the nice warm spot.  Clearly the laundry room due the huge pile of to be ironed clothes behind it!

Here it is an hour later.

Yeah for bread that rises!  Makes me so happy!  My own little science experiment in the laundry room.  In my experience GF bread doesn't always cooperate when it come to rising so I was ecstatic about this!

Bake at 375 for 60 minutes.  It will start to brown too much on top.  Just cover with tin foil and let it keep baking cause I didn't do that and I panicked and took it our about 10 minutes early and it did this.

Kind of sunk in the middle.  Sad face!!  It was super yummy though!  Just a little too soft in the middle.  It was really good though.  Nice and soft.  Not grainy at all.

My kids are weird and although there was homemade bread ready when they got home from school they wanted fruit snacks so I decided to cut it into slices for french toast the next morning.  Because it was a little too soft I cut it and let it sit overnight.

I mixed about 1/2 cup of milk and 2 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla in a pie plate. I soaked each piece and put it on the griddle.

Put it on plate and serve it up!

Excuse the paper plate.  It was Tuesday morning.  You know how that is.  Will ate it up.  Jenny didn't complain which says a lot.  

It was really good.  It was the new measuring cups I'm sure of it!

P.S.  Jenny never did get those cardboard speakers.  She did however get some real speakers for ipod so all is well in her world.  For now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I spy something CA-RA-ZY!

Oh Walmart.  Sometimes you make my head hurt.
Which one of these is not like the other?