December 31, 2012

Weekly Menu Dec. 31

Hello Everyone!!! Oh, how I missed you! We had a lovely visit with The Geologist's family, in the middle of Missouri, a place I like much better when all the bugs are dead (or sleeping). I'm so happy the rocks have converted him to the West, because I am a Western girl, deep down in my bones.

Source: buzzfeed

I thought not blogging for a week would be a nice break, but it turned out I missed it! Yes, I could still read your blogs, and comments, and emails, but it just wasn't the same. I'm thrilled to be back, and already planning way ahead with all the new recipes I want to try, and a few old favorites to share! You know me, I can't promise it will all be anywhere close to "New Year's Resolution-friendly", but I'm also going to try just a bit harder to look for more veggie recipes. We'll see how that turns out!

This week we have:

Source: nordingarden
For today, Dec. 31...

Outside my window... It's snowing!! I told The Geologist that Colorado was welcoming us back home. Not enough to accumulate much, just feels festive and wintry. Yes, it still feels festive around here, to me!

I am thinking... about re-arranging my kitchen. You know how it is, you move in, throw things in cabinets, and realize a few weeks or months later that this is just not the best set-up. My cabinets are a bit cramped. Time for some room!!

I am going... To the library tonight!! A new book from Kate Morton, a favorite author, and a gorgeous cookbook I've been waiting for for 2 1/2 months! Stephen devoured Dr. Doolittle over the break (2 days actually) and I'm letting him start something a bit bigger. Not sure what yet, I was thinking Harry Potter, but that may be jumping the gun. 

I am thankful... Oooh, here it is folks. Remember the gift that brought me to tears that I mentioned?? Well, it was a joint effort between my husband and mother. First I open this....

And I squealed!!! It's a set of THREE of the tiny cocottes from Le Creuset!! (Remember??

They're so cute!! But then The Geologist said, "Well, those are actually from your Mom. And the card was supposed to say 'We miss our mommy...'" 


Then he looked at me. Meaningfully. Like he was trying to communicate telepathically or something... 

and my heart stopped. Seriously. I said, "No. Way." 

He told me that he wanted to get me one himself, but was afraid to get the wrong color...

And that's when I started crying. 

So today, I went to pick out my favorite Christmas gift of all time... A Le Creuset Dutch Oven!!!!!!!!
I can't get the color right... it's bright and buttery, a golden yellow. Well, I'll just have to wait till it's sunny out!

I am pondering... Some years, Christmas spirit strikes early and sticks around all year round. Sometimes it squeezes in just in time. Sometimes poof! It's gone as soon as the wrapping paper is all cleared up. But somehow, this year, it still feels Christmassy to me. Maybe because we went on vacation, maybe because we came back to snow, maybe for no real reason... But it still feels like Christmas to me. I hope it lasts a while...
Source: imbd

I am wondering... When will season 3 of Sherlock come out?! And why did Peter Jackson get a monopoly on Martin and Benedict?! Did you know Benedict is going to be the voice of Smaug? Which is awesome, and Martin is Bilbo to perfection, but I would rather they get back to work on the show that made us all love them in the first place!! Sherlock is officially my new favorite show. It has even defeated Downton Abbey and White Collar, but just barely. And it may just be me, because I have very strange taste in movie stars, but somehow I went from thinking Benedict Cumberbatch was one of the weirdest looking guys I'd ever seen, to somehow, strangely, mysteriously, attractive... yeah, I know, I'm bonkers. Ah well, you love me anyway. :)
Source: digitalspy

I am reading... Well, waiting to go pick up my new books from the library, then I'll fill you in!!

I am hoping... That this season in Downton Abbey, Mary and Matthew can finally get together. I mean, come on. This is just ridiculous. Besides, she's even nice now!!! I wanted to throw something at the TV when I watched the Season 2 finale. Argh. Oh, and people say I look like her... I think they're crazy...

Source: thetelegraph

I am looking forward to... Um, Downton Abbey!! Hellooo!! That, and baking. Lots. Sending it all away after a taste, trying to get fit...ish... but I am in a seriously baking mood.

Something new about me... I am a selective perfectionist. Housework? Nah. Outfits? Not so much. Cooking?? Heck yeah. I've been known to throw tantrums (and kitchen implements) if I screw up a recipe. I burned an apple pie filling once and sat down on the kitchen floor and bawled. The first thing I ever made the Geologist was a blackberry cobbler that was one of my specialties (and still is!) when he was visiting over Thanksgiving to officially ask me to marry him. I doubled the dough, but not the filling, and was miserable for the rest of the evening. I also know how to sew! I know, shocker, right? I made The Geologist a pair of pajama pants that same year, for the Christmas before we were married, and though they turned out great, every slightly crooked seam, tiny flaw, and homemade touch nearly drove me to fits of profanity. That was the last time I sewed more than a button. It makes me too angry. :)

Guilty pleasures... Anytime you can mix an electric guitar with an orchestra. Yep, that makes it loud and raucous and obnoxious, but I love it. Metallica's S&M album (sorry Mom!!!) Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Mad Russian's Christmas and Christmas Eve in Sarajevo, Lindsey Stirling's Phantom of the Opera medley...

I have a weakness for guitar. May have something to do with The Geologist and his brother taking me under their wing at 15 and showing me that there is music out there besides Enya and the Backstreet Boys. Oh yes, that was me. For my first lesson, they gave me Led Zeppelin, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, and Oasis. I listened to it on headphones because I was so sure my mother would be horrified at the evil music I was being corrupted with. Little did I know, she loved it! Most of it... anyway. Stephen and his younger brother played guitar and bass, had their own band with their other brothers, and I became their biggest fan and only groupie. :)

Pet Peeves... Okay, this one is funny. The number 9. I don't know why, it's just so incomplete! So tantalizingly close to a nice, round, number 10!! Especially on blog numbers. Followers and pageviews. I don't really care if I ever get to a zillion followers, and I am thrilled every time I gain one, but when it is stuck... like now... at a 9 number... it drives me crazy till I get just one more to push it to 10. Not because I'm "all about the numbers", just because I'm, yet again, bonkers.

Well. This may have been a bit too much sharing, but oh well!! See you tomorrow :) By the way, like my new signature?? It's actually mine! In real life!!

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

Source: inspirationlane

Yesterday was the perfect Christmas Eve. We didn't do everything I had planned, we didn't live up to the image I had of the Christmas Eve I wanted when we could finally afford it... But we spent the day together. We thought of Christ. We anticipated Christmas. We were relaxed, and calm, and kind. We watched A Muppet Christmas Carol, which is still my favorite. We read the story of His birth. I finished Joe's scarf. The day was just full to the brim with good feeling. We went to bed much too late, and it was snowing.

We were woken this morning by our ecstatic boys, and we made them wait, while we got ready, and The Geologist went out to the living room, ready to film their joy. And there was a LOT of joy. Santa came through, with popguns, and more art supplies than any two kids should ever need. Bracken made a new friend, and has been snuggling it ever since. There's snow outside!!

Gift-wise, this was the most thoughtful, meaningful Christmas we've ever had. Most things weren't even expensive! Go figure! :) Unlike previous years, the boys wanted to stop and play with each and every gift. Kids sometimes tend to rip off wrapping and say, "Thank you! What's next?" but not this year. One of my gifts made me cry, and you will laugh when I tell you which one, but I won't tell you until next week, ha! Which leads me to an apology. We leave bright and early tomorrow morning for Missouri, and will be there till Sunday(ish). I could spend today getting all of my posts ready for the week... I probably should have done it sooner... but I'd just rather drink in this Christmas. I'm sorry!! I'll be back on Monday, I promise, with all of those yummy recipes I promised! (and I'm going to go take them off yesterday's post) I hope you can forgive me, smile, and drink in your Christmas as well. I love you all.

Today is a day of joy and giving. To us, it is the birthday of our Savior, who was born to help us all find our way Home, and this year I truly feel that gift in every moment. Even if that is not what Christmas means to you, I hope you have a wonderful, joyful, perfect Christmas.

December 24, 2012

Weekly Menu Dec. 24

Update: I will be taking a break till Sunday, since we will be traveling. See you in a few days!!

Merry Christmas!!

For today, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve!

Outside my window... It's darkening, and clouding over!! The snow is supposed to start tonight, and snow through Christmas morning!! A white Colorado Christmas?! I don't even need presents anymore!!

I am going... Almost nowhere, today! We have to get some groceries, and will drive around and see Christmas lights tonight, but the rest of the day, we will just be. Day after Christmas we are driving to Missouri!!

I am thankful... For snow. For Christmas. For family, and music, and gifts, and little boys. For not having any real plans today!!

Source: stellarsky

I am pondering...How wonderfully blessed this season has been. After years and years, basically our whole married lives, of just barely scraping by, with much help from friends and family, and managing it happily! (most of the time) this move to Denver, starting this new life, has been full to the brim with blessings. The ones we were expecting, and plenty that we weren't. Blessings so perfectly tailored to each one of us, that it leaves no doubt that our Heavenly Father loves each of us, individually, and personally.

I am wondering... If we, especially Joe, can make it through the next two days in peace. I'm pretty sure he's going through a growth spurt, which makes him very tired, and VERY cranky. We will take naps. Fingers crossed!!
Source: christmas4u

I am hoping... That tomorrow is heavenly. That all of my boys like their presents. That they mean as much to them as they do to me!! And that this fabulous snowstorm stays just far enough ahead of us that we travel safely! (And FAST!)

I am looking forward to... Tomorrow morning, obviously!!! This is one of those years where nearly every present has actual meaning, not just fun stuff. I can't WAIT!!! Also, looking forward to our road trip! Our boys are the best travelers in the whole world!! We have lots of fun on our road trips.

Something new about me... I used to sketch. And write. I think I have half a dozen beginnings of stories... I was great at thinking up characters, and settings, and descriptions, and ideas... but could never turn them into whole stories, with middles and ends. I still have a few of my favorite sketches too. Sketching is definitely something that requires constant practice though, I cringe to think what would happen if I tried now!!

Source: forevernoms

Guilty pleasures... This is a recently discovered one: The sugar-dusted cake donuts at our local grocery store. They're soooo Good!! Lots of nutmeg, and buttermilk, by far the best cake donuts I've had... and so dangerous! They're just sitting there in the case, tempting me every time I go to the store... no fair. 

Pet Peeves... When my boys show me things by sticking them RIGHT in my face. They're kids, so obviously they're still learning about personal boundaries, and mine have grown quite a bit in the past 4 years. But still. Back up!!! Sigh. No worries, I still adore them. :) I had a bunch of other, more controversial pet peeves in mind, but decided to hold off. It is Christmas, after all!!

December 23, 2012

Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls

Church was wonderful today. While we were attending a student congregation in Utah, they never had a Christmas program the Sunday before Christmas!! I mean, come on, that's just not fair! We'd sing 2, maybe three songs... and that's it. Today was everything I hoped in would be. The Geologist even spoke on "Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men". The children, including my boys, got up to sing with the choir, and there was a beautiful number with the choir and a cello. That just sealed the deal. I love the cello!!! So despite the fact that ALL the children were crazy for the next two hours, and it's strangely warm outside, and Bracken ate the handles off my scissors, and I may have killed my fairy garden... It's still a good day. Full of Christmas Spirit. Just the right kind. :)

Now, I've seen these raspberry sweet rolls from Food and Wine magazine floating around in different incarnations, mostly on Pinterest, and my Mom emailed them to me and demanded I make them, so I must! I failed last week, but have succeeded this week! I used my favorite dough recipe, tweaked the berries, and created a cream cheese frosting. They're awesome.

Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls
Printable Recipe

1 1/2 tsp active-dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/8 cup sugar plus 2 Tb
1 Tb butter, melted
1 Tb powdered milk
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you may need an extra 1/4 cup)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla

about 8 oz. frozen raspberries
a pinch of lemon zest
1/8 cup plus 2 Tb granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cornstarch

2 oz cream cheese, softened
4 Tb melted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl (or mixer). Add sugar, butter, powdered milk, salt, flour, vanilla, and zest. Mix till it comes together in a soft dough (if too sticky, add another 1/4 cup flour, 1 Tb at a time. Mix well between each, it may take a bit to come together). Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead 5-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic (or knead in mixer). Place in greased bowl and cover for 1-2 hours, until doubled.

Turn dough out onto lightly greased surface, and roll into 12x8(ish) rectangle. Toss berries, zest, sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over dough.
Roll tightly, starting at the long side. Pinch the ends together and cut into 9 slices. Line an 8x8 baking dish with wax or parchment paper.
Place rolls in the dish, cut side up, and let rise again, about 2 hours, till puffed and filling the dish.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for a few minutes. 

Whisk/beat glaze ingredients together until smooth.

Invert the rolls onto the rack and peel off the parchment paper. Invert the rolls onto a plate or platter. Dollop glaze over each roll and spread with a spatula. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I should have drizzled my glaze, all thin and pretty, so you could see the raspberry-ness... But I forgot. And I smothered them with frosting, because that's how I like my sweet rolls!!
Raspberries and cream cheese... Mmmm... Fluffy lemon-tinged rolls... Double Mmmm!
These are positively delicious. And not too rich!! Sunny and fresh, sweet and tart and creamy...I love raspberries. They're my favorite berries, my favorite fruit, really! And these are a very fun twist on your average breakfast sweet rolls!
A perfect start to any morning! Well, unless you're trying to lose weight, perhaps...

December 22, 2012

Small and Wonderful Things 12

I'm keeping things simple today :)





Source: snowscape via tumblr

The smell of pines and firs

Dates with my best friend, the love of my life. 

Little boy hugs (Me and Joe, 17 months old)

December 21, 2012

Cranberry-Raspberry Cheesecake

I'm going to be straight with you this morning: I got nuthin. :) My brain is so full of last minute things to take care of today, that I am left with no pithy little comments to start off this post! Just this: Make This Cheesecake. It's celestial. 

Merry Christmas!!

Cranberry-Raspberry Cheesecake (adapted from Full Fork Ahead)
Printable Recipe

Cranberry purée:
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (or you can do half cranberries and half raspberries, like I did!)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
zest from 1 orange
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups finely ground butter biscuit cookies or butter cookies
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted

2- 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Puree first!
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Cool slightly. Transfer to food processor or blender. Add vanilla. Puree until smooth. Strain into medium bowl. (Scrape the puree against the mesh strainer until you're left with just seeds and a tiny bit of pulp, and make sure to scrape puree off the outside of the strainer)
Cover with plastic. Stick in the freezer to chill while you make the crust.

Now the crust:
Grease and/or flour an 8 inch springform pan. Wrap outside of pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. 
Blend cookies, sugar and cinnamon in processor. Add butter; blend until moist clumps form. (Or pound cookies to crumbs in a plastic bag, then mix with butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium bowl)  Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of pan. Place pan in the fridge to chill while you continue with the filling. Preheat oven to 350 and position rack in the center of the oven
Filling time!
Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. Pour 1/3 of filling into the crust. Dollop 1/3 of cranberry puree on top of filling and gently swirl it through with a knife.
Be careful not to scrape the crust. Repeat layering of filling and and puree 2 more times. On last layer, swirl puree through filling, creating marbled design. This one is supposed to be as pretty as you can get it!
Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of springform pan.
Bake until cheesecake puffs around edges, about 30 minutes Turn off oven. Let cake stand in oven 1 hour, leaving oven door ajar. Transfer cake to wire rack. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Cool completely. Remove foil from pan sides. Cover cake and chill overnight. This is a very soft cheesecake, you must chill it overnight! (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Yeah, my swirling is a little lopsided... But it still looks awesome, right??
I love those pockets of berry-ness... they're just luscious-looking!
This is the lightest, creamiest cheesecake I've ever made!! Oh, it was so addicting, it's a good thing I sent it to work with the Geologist!
That tangy puree... it's just plain heavenly! I never thought of mixing spices with cranberries, but it's fantastic! Tart and sweet and festively spiced, with a hint of orange, this cheesecake just says Holidays!!
So impressive, NOT difficult as long as you baby it, you've got to try this one. Sure to be a holiday showstopper! I actually halved the recipe to make a small one. Double my measurements and use a 10 inch pan, and you'll have plenty for a crowd! Or just for you, to last you through till about February... :)

December 20, 2012

7 Layer Cookies

It's almost here, it's almost here!! Aren't these "keep calm" thingees fun? I want to get one that says "Keep Calm and Bake", and frame it to hang in my kitchen. This is probably the prettiest one I've seen though! So, are you all ready for Christmas, or will this weekend be a frantic rush to finish those loose ends?

                                                                                      Source: Louise via Tumblr

We're done, nearly. I just need to do some research, find a good neighborhood for lights, and whip the boys' scarves together. I can crochet pretty quickly, but only rectangular things. If you want a blanket or scarf, I'm your girl! Maybe someday I'll learn more tricks... maybe not. :)

7 Layer Cookies
Printable Recipes

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup crushed graham crackers
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, etc)

Melt butter and pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle remaining ingredients over the butter in layers in the order listed. Drizzle condensed milk over the top, top with nuts (if desired). Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Let cool and cut into squares.
Easy as pie, right?? I'm sure there are a zillion different recipes for bars like this out there, but they happen to be The Geologist's favorite Christmas treat. We skip the nuts though. He's not a nut fan.
They're crunchy and chewy, but mostly buttery!  The butter just oozes into every nook and cranny, taking all these simple ingredients to a whole new level of Yum! If you don't have graham crackers, you can pretty much use any crunchy cookie. We actually used butter cookies for this batch.
Layers of chewy coconut and buttery crumbs, lightly crunchy tops and bottoms. These are always on our Christmas plates for friends and neighbors!
How can something with so many yummy ingredients not be good?

December 19, 2012

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting


The weather finally came through!! It's been snowing all morning, from dainty little flakes to big fat puffs. We were very bad influences out back, let Bracken off her leash to play, and gained a few like-minded friends. I don't think she's had that much fun in weeks!! Snow and friends?? All we're missing is peanut butter, and it would be the greatest day of her life! She was so fun to watch, slipping and sliding up and down the hill, and every so often she'd flop down and just roll in the snow. I don't know if there has ever been a dog that loved snow more than my beastie. I wish I'd gotten pictures. Well, what better for such a Christmassy day, than a festive Christmassy cake??

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from The View From Great Island)
Printable Recipe

1 cup boiling water
2 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup ground almonds/almond flour (or use more regular flour)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the boiling water with the baking soda and set aside. Grease (well!!) and line a 10 inch springform pan. (This cake is sticky, grease the pan like crazy!)

Beat the butter until fluffy, add sugar, and beat till creamy. Add the molasses and water/baking soda mix.
Sift together dry ingredients and add them to the wet ingredients. Add eggs, beating after each. 

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, or with just a few crumbs. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Carefully remove cake from pan when ready to frost. (my edges were a bit high, my oven was too hot, so I trimmed them off)
1 8-oz. package cream cheese at almost room temperature (still pretty firm)
1/4 cup salted butter at almost room temperature
2-3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
Zest from 1 lemon

Whip together the cream cheese, butter, zest, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and whip carefully until smooth and thick. Refrigerate any leftovers.
The original recipe has a spiced-rum buttercream, but cream cheese frosting is my favorite!! And adding a dash of lemon just made sense. Ginger and lemon, right?
Oh, this is a heavenly cake. Rich dark spices, so moist and toothsome, just a bit more substance with the almonds, everything gingerbread should be! Molasses, brown sugar, spices... did I mention molasses?? I love molasses!
And the creamy frosting with a hint of lemon is the perfect compliment. You could frost the sides as well, but I wanted to see that dark gingerbread underneath!
Are you ready for Christmas?? With a window full of falling snow, and a slice (or three) of this cake, I sure am!!