Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Carried away by Cards

Last week I saw something posted on Facebook that got me super super excited! It was definitely too good to pass up.

Shutterfly is offering a deal to bloggers for fifty free photo cards. It got me thinking about Christmas cards that we've done in the past and what my plan was for this year.

Click my Review page to here all about it...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Perfect Popcorn

I know this is kind of a random recipe to share on Thanksgiving week, when blogs are full of recipes for yummy sides, perfect turkeys, and scrumptious desserts.

But I see it this way. What did the Native Americans help the pilgrims grow? That's right, corn! So I think it's entirely appropriate to share my favorite popcorn recipe as a reminder of all we have to be thankful for.

I know...it's a stretch.

First of all, in answer to the question you all are asking...why don't I just use microwave popcorn? Well, I wish the reason was that I knew all along tha microwave popcorn isn't that good for you, that supposedly certain chemicals leach into the popcorn and that's just not good, but I only found that out after the real reason....our microwave is on the fritz. It's brand new and it stopped working and we've had repair men out from the company and now we're waiting on a replacement.

Popcorn is an essential part of our family movie nights so I had to get online and find a recipe for stovetop popcorn. (which is when I found out that perhaps not using microwave popcorn is a good thing!) After making it one time I decided that this is how we'll do it from here on out. It was soooo good, and I honestly don't think I will be able to appreciate the taste of microwave popcorn after having this kind.

So, because I care so much about my blog readers, all five of you, I am going to share my new love with you.

Perfect Popcorn Recipe
from Simply Recipes, modified
3 Tbsp canola oil (I experimented with adding less oil and it works fine, I usually use 2 Tbsp)
1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels
1 3-quart covered saucepan
Salt to taste

1 Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat.

2 Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.

3 When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from heat and count 30 seconds. (Count out loud; it's fun to do with kids.) This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

4 Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl.

With this technique, nearly all of the kernels pop (I counted 4 unpopped kernels in my last batch), and nothing burns.

5 If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but hot pan.

6 Salt to taste.

I usually make mine with just salt, but the kids like having a little butter. I'm sure you could try all sorts of fun toppings if you wanted. Let me know if you get around to trying it and what you thought of it! I'm home with two under the weather girls and I think that we might kill some time with popcorn and a movie this afternoon!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Facebook Funnies

I've been holding onto these stories for awhile now, but they are just too good to not share with you all!

First is one that has nothing to do with me so I won't use the name of the guilty party....
(I looked back on his profile and saw that the post and comment thread are no longer on there so I definitely won't post names - but it's just too funny, I have to make sure it isn't forgotten!)

I was scrolling down my facebook homepage and came across the following post and link from a friend;

(read carefully)
"Hey for all of you with young boys who like to play with blacks, check out this website!"


The first comment was from a mutual friend of ours saying "I think you meant BLOCKS, right?"

So yes, he made a tiny little typo that totally changed the meaning of his post. This was one of those things that struck me as so funny. I laughed so hard. I thought it was so funny I had to call Matt and make him go on facebook and read it - because I was laughing so hard I could barely explain it. Renee and family were over that night for dinner and I had her come see it and laugh with me.

What kind of awful website would that be (it was actually a link to a kids woot deal on wooden block sets) according to his typo? Seriously - worst typo ever!!! I think some of the funniness of it knowing the person and imagining his enthusiasm over sharing a link to a great deal and then realizing that...oops....that's not what I meant to say!!!...is what makes it so funny to me - I hope you can put your imagination to work and find the humor in it too!

But if I'm going to laugh at someone else's mistake, I have to be willing to laugh at my own. So next up, a mess up on my part that provided people with many laughs!

Ever since Matt got an iPhone and I found the Words with Friends App I have been super into (i.e., obsessed) with the back and forth challenges that I have going on with various friends. My one friend "J" and I joke that we know each other's schedules based on when we play, and it seems to be around 11pm at night when she's done with all her grad school work and starts to play her rounds. Since I'm usually reading or getting ready for bed I'll grab Matt's phone and start entering words and occasionally we'll send messages back and forth, briefly catching up or talking trash!

(It's funny because often times J and I have 5 games going on and we're both on a roll and it's getting late and I know that one of us just needs to quit and go to bed...and then I'll see "Your Move with J_____" and I get sucked in again!)

Ok back to the story.

She had gone to a concert one night so was not available for our nightly WWF play. The next day she posted on facebook how great the concert was and I added the following comment:
"Glad you had fun - I missed you at 11pm last night! ;) We need to talk in real life sometime soon!"

No big deal, right?

That afternoon I got home from something and Matt was working on his laptop and said something along the lines of me being responsible for the latest facebook oopsie. I honestly couldn't figure it out....until he said "you posted on J's wall....under my account!"

So yeah - basically that innocent comment from me sounds not so innocent and rather strange coming from Matt! Strange enough that her husband was convinced that Matt's account had been hacked and was going to call and warn us. Two hours later she posted a follow up comment "Meg, is that post coming from you?" They figured it out, but I'm just picturing the two of them (both off of work after the late night - so they saw the comment right away) sitting there trying to figure it out for that long, her husband so convinced he needs to warn Matt when, finally they put it all together.

I think it will take me a long time to live that one down!

So which one is worse - The blocks website or my wrong account posting?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Baking Woes

I think I'll place the blame on the busy week. Just one of those weeks, getting ready for the girls' Fall/Halloween celebrations at school, coordinating the volunteers for Ella's class, getting ready for Pumpkin Math at Ella's school - just a lot of things all in a few days.

I had volunteered to bring in a pumpkin treat for the class to enjoy after Pumpkin math. Pumpkin math was this fun activity that Ella's teacher organized, where the worked with estimating, measuring counting and counting using a pumpkin.


I decided I would make my pumpkin cookies. They are super easy and super yummy. Also they are topped off with brown butter icing which is my favorite for anything pumpkin.

I figured I would double the batch since we had our church group meeting Thursday night and I could bring them to that as well. Only one problem. The recipe called for shortening and I didn't have enough for two batches. So I used half butter, half shortening.

At this point my problem began. I'm not sure if it was just using the butter or if my butter was too soft and getting melty, but the cookies flattened out more than usual and were very....soft/mushy/fragile/falling apart. I made probably six plus dozen cookies and I tried all sorts of tactics, cooking them longer, letting them cool longer on the pan, refrigerating the dough beforehand. Nothing seemed to really work too much, but the refrigerating did help a little. (leading me to think that it was the butter being too soft and not the use of it that was the main problem. any thoughts)

Of course as the cookies were basically falling apart in my hand, I ate much more than my fair share, because of course I can't give the kids broken cookies and can't just throw them away either!

Sidenote: There is something about pumpkin that leads to me always overindulging. With brownies or chocolate chip cookies I usually have more control, but give me a pumpkin cookie or even an oatmeal cookie and I'll just go to town. Is it that, despite all the butter and sugar that I added with my own hand, the addition of a "healthy" ingredient" results in me feeling that it's not as bad for me as brownie? Can anyone relate to this?

So I ate tons of broken cookies all day and then that night right before I put the kids to bed I made the brown butter frosting. This involves melting butter, adding brown sugar and milk and cooking it until it's boiling. Then you remove from the heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla, stir until combined and then drizzle or spread on your dessert of choice.

Easy cheesy.

So with the kids watching I did all of the above. Except instead of being a consistency that could be drizzled or spread, it got super thick and dough like. I thought perhaps I read the recipe wrong and added more milk, hoping to thin it out. And then more milk. And then it became apparent that whatever I had done wrong was irreversible so I had to step back and evaluate.

I tasted the icing. It didn't taste right. (Catherine liked it and actually had a cookie with it on top in a big lump) It didn't take me too long to realize that I had added flour instead of powdered sugar! Awesome! So I dumped it all in the trash and started over with much better results.

I packed the cookies up into a container and set them aside for the next day.

But of course that would have been too easy. When I opened the container whatever was wrong with the cookies from the beginning and just gotten worse and many of them were breaking, sticking to each other (kind of funny, not the icing, only the cookie part was sticky) - basically a big mess that I didn't feel would be great to share with a group of first graders.

So.....I decided to risk attempting to bake again, this time, pumpkin bread from my favorite food blog Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Even though I really really did not want to bake again, and the thought of having more pumpkin temptation was almost unbearable, I'm glad I did it because the bread turned out awesome!

Thanks to Mel I avoided adding yet one more baking woe to my list. Anyone else have issues when making non yeast bread when the middle seems to stay gooy and the sides get overcooked? It happens to me all the time. In this recipe Mel said that if I was using a 9x5 pan it would make 2 loaves and an 8x4 pan it would be three loaves. I don't think I ever realized that that extra inch on either side would make that much of a difference, because it turns out I do have 8x4 loaf pans. All those times I was getting gooey undercooked bread - perhaps I was cramming three loaves worth of batter into two pans!

So yeah, all of this to say, go check out Mel's Kitchen Cafe and make her pumpkin bread. You can't go wrong with it!

Stay tuned for some more yummy fall recipes. I have some that are so easy and simple that I can't not share them with you!

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