Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brad's 30th Birthday

God had mercy on me last weekend and stopped the rain and gray skies just in time for me to run outside and set up a 30th birthday party for husband Brad and his family in our backyard.  It couldn't have been more perfect!  Between the oustide dining, yard games, open hot tub and the bonfire it was just as I'd hoped it to be.  The rain started up again about an hour afterwards.  Thank you!!!

What do you think this look means?  Yep...probably something like 'woman...get that camera out of my face while I'm trying to eat!'  I'm so lucky he puts up with me. 

Find the recipe for this shrimp here.

How grateful am I that I have children who jump up and down and rejoice when they discover we're having shrimp for dinner?  Very.

Cheers to you, my handsome man!  Welcome to the best decade yet!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry Orange Sherbet Daiquiri

As I looked out the fingerprint and dog drool smeared living room window into the drizzly, blustery day this morning, I daydreamed about the unseasonably hot weather we enjoyed last week.  So many of my favorite simple summer things happened that week.

The ducks came back to our irrigation ditch; though no ducklings quite yet. 

The boys went to bed dirty and happily exhausted each night from their outdoor adventures. 

I didn't have to wear socks, or a coat or turn the heat on.

And the best one of all!  I got to once again relax on my front porch...which to me, is one of the most blissful places on earth. 

During one such lovey afternoon while sitting my favorite spot watching the boys ride bikes in the driveway, I dreamed up this little treat to enjoy with the hubster when he got home from work.  Don't tell anyone, but in the comfort of our own home, my manly man husband loves the girlie drinks I come up with for him. Yes, I underlined the word 'loves.' 


Make these for your manly man today!

Strawberry Orange Sherbet Daiquiri
Makes 4

1/2 cup white rum
1/4 cup triple sec
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup strawberries fresh or frozen, sliced
3/4 cup orange sherbet

Load up a blender with the first 5 ingredients and blend until smooth.   Add ice to fill blender about 3/4 full and continue to blend until pourable.  Add water if needed to achieve the desired consistency.

Use a lemon wedge or your finger dipped in lemon juice to moisten the rim of a margarita glass then dip the glass in any kind of sugar you have on hand.

This recipe is super forgiving, so feel free to adjust the amounts to your preferences.  If it's not sweet enough, go ahead and add a bit of sugar. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Day!

Imagine this...

Mr. Todd Lee Sappee is buzzed over the intercom and notified by his secretary that he has a delivery waiting at the front desk.  Knowing full well what day is it, he bounces from his chair and skips down the hall towards the super special surprise waiting for him.  Behind him, he leaves his bewildered boss, Mrs. U. R. Krazee mid-drone about the latest security software downloads. 

Mr. Sappee can't get there fast enough.  He daydreams about what it will be.  Will it be a dozen long stem rozes?  A fuzzy little teddy bear holding a box of chocolates bearing the inscription 'Be My Valentine?'  Will it be a singing telegram with a fist full of balloons?

He finally arrives at his destination, sees the carefully constructed floral arrangement and squeals with delight.  Snatching the card, he reads it aloud and then calls his mother, sister, and all his friends from golf league to tell them all about it...every detail.  Beaming, he returns to his office and can barely focus for the rest of the day as he mentally plans his outfit and hairstyle for his date that evening.

Sound like anyone you know?  Didn't think so.  Ladies go for this stuff, but dudes?...not so much. 

Because of this, Valentine's Day generally eludes me.  I'm not always sure what my husband would like for a gift. I do know, however, that he loves candy.

Loves. Candy.

So this year, his Valentine's Day gift is different, fun and definitely super cheesy. I'm sure he'll love it!

With a piece of poster board, super glue, a black Sharpie and a whole bunch of candy, you too, could give a loved one a candy-gram. Basically, walk the candy aisle and find treats you could use in a sentence. For example, 'I sure do love you and our little SUGAR BABIES.' Or, 'I sure SKORed when I married a BIG HUNK like you!.

I had a lot of fun with this project which is sure to elicit a happy smile from my man. 

On another note, I have two sons...neither of which would probably want to hand out pink hearts or doillies and are tired of the same old boxed Bakugan or Batman valentine cards.  This year, we did something a bit different.  I saw it on-line and thought it was a brilliant idea.

Construction paper, lollipops, a glue stick and my handy dandy black Sharpie created these little cuties.

Cheers to you this Valentine's Day and may you feel as loved as Mr. Todd Lee Sappee did.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola


Not the most glamorous name for a food.  Just say it a few times out loud.  Maybe it's just me, but it's one of those words that just sound weird.  Like luggage, and fork and horse. 

Maybe I'm the weird one.  Yeah, that's probably a much more likely conclusion. 

Either way, this granola is incredible.  Growing up, granola never really appealed to me.  It was hard and boring and my jaw always got tired of chewing long before my belly was full.  As an adult, however, I love it!  It's fun to go to the health food store and peruse the wall of bulk bins looking for just the right granola for breakfast the next day.

Yes, this is fun to me...weird, I know.  Told ya.  

I also like to search through the wall of bulk spices.  As I've mentioned before, I don't buy spices in the spice aisle.  The bulk bins at the natural food stores are much more economical.  Instead of paying $10 for a tiny plastic jar of cardamom, you can get just the amount you need for the cost of a few pennies. 

After you read the recipe, you'll notice that I didn't use golden raisins.  I didn't have any, but the regular ones worked just as well.  My husband likes to just munch on this plain as a snack too.  My children even liked it...both of them...which is a miracle. 

Spiced Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Granola
From Oprah magazine

3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Canola or olive oil
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 cup pistachios (optional)
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cranberries (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, and salt.  Add oats, pecan, and pistachios (if using), and toss to coat.  Spread evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.  Stir in raisins and cranberries (if using), and continue baking until oats are just crisp, about 15 minutes more.  Stir one last time, then set aside to cool completely.  When hard, break into chunks and store in an airtight container.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Wedding Cake and Raspberry Cream

My sweet friend, Jennifer, was married this past weekend and requested months ago that I make a cake for her Moroccan themed wedding.  It was so much fun!  A little stressful...not gonna lie, but fun nonetheless. 

I always freak about about any cake I make.  There's always a point at least once during the process where I feel the panic rising in my chest and feel certain that it's not going to work and I'll let someone down.  After a couple calls to my baking genius friends and a couple deep breaths, I was talked off the ledge of throwing it all away and starting over. 

There was nothing particularly difficult about the cake.  They just wanted a chocolate cake with raspberry cream filling and a chocolate ganache frosting, plus a bunch of little cupcakes.  The cake itself had a honey, coffee and chocolate flavor.  It came out much more dense than I would have liked so I ended up brushing it all with a raspberry simple syrup, which helped with the consistency.  I probably won't make it again and therefore, won't share it with you here. 

The raspberry cream, however, was amazing!  I've used it before as both a filling and a frosting.  It's light, and fruity and makes everything better.  This weekend, I decided it would be great as a topping for french toast or Belgian waffles and tonight, I'm using it for a parfait. Honestly, though, it's good straight off the spoon.  Of course I forgot to take a picture of it, but just imagine a big bowl of pink fluffy delicousness. 

Raspberry Cream

6 ounces unsweetened frozen raspberries
1 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons sugar

In a saucepan, cook the raspberries over medium low heat until they release their juices.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.  Puree in a blender, then strain the seeds out with a sieve.

Whisk the cream until stiff peaks form.  Mix 1/3 cup of the puree with the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Fold in the whipped cream.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Warm Bean Salad with Salmon and Cauliflower

During my 'Tone and Zone' class at the gym earlier this morning, my instructor informed us to grab heavy weights because we'd be 'burning out' our biceps during the session.  As she spoke these words, she smiled...the whole time.

Though I smiled back at her, the hamster on the wheel inside my head was squealing 'We're going to do what to our biceps?!?!?!'  I bravely grabbed my heavy weights and prepared for the worst as I looked around the room.  To my dismay, I saw that most of the women in the class were older than me if not twice my age.  No excuses, Aubrey.

I took a deep breath while the drill instructor inside me head yelled 'C'mon, pansy, you can do WILL do this.  Your classmates don't look scared and neither should you.  Burn those biceps, burn those biceps...burn those...'  I quieted his voice and silently prayed..."Dear sweet Lord, help me!"

Soon thereafter, I learned what it means to burn out my biceps.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Let's just say it's good thing I can rest my arms on the table right now and only have to use my fingers to type this blog post.  At the end of class, the instructor reminded us to drink lots of water and eat some protein for lunch. 

This salad is what I came up with based on leftovers and what I had on hand in the pantry.  I wasn't expecting much as I haven't been to the grocery store for a while, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and texture of the dish.  Another plus is that it came together in no time at all.

Now, please excuse me while I go ice my burned out biceps. 

Warm Bean Salad with Salmon and Cauliflower

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup cauliflower, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 can white beans (cannelini, navy), drained and rinsed
4-6 ounces cooked salmon, cut into small pieces*
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Saute the cauliflower for 4-5 minutes or until it begins to soften (we don't want mushy).  Add the garlic and continue to saute for 2-3 more minutes until the garlic starts to brown. 

Add the beans and cook for about a minute to warm the beans, then add the salmon and heat through. 

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley.

Serve warm, though I'm sure this would taste great cold too. 

*You can use canned, drained salmon or be like me and use last nights leftovers.  I suspect his salad would still be tasty even without the salmon. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Roll

We had our first snow a few days ago.  It didn't stay on the ground long, but for a few hours it was beautiful!  There's something about the first snow for me.  It nudges awake my holiday spirit and gets me in the mood for holiday planning. 

It's like this for me every year.  I start it off with a bang and by December 22nd, I'm panicking to get everything done.  I'm sure no one out there can relate at all to my plight.  Each year, I vow to get started early, make homemade treats and discover that perfect gift for all my loved ones. 

I can't remember the last time I sent out Christmas cards.  Ok, you caught me...I've never sent out Christmas cards.  I don't have a present wrapping station and I don't match the gift tags to the ribbons. 

It's amazing, however, that our holidays are always perfect despite the failure of my best laid plans. 

I suspect this chocolate peppermint roll will make it into the regular list of holiday treats.  That's the plan anyway.

Chocolate Peppermint Roll
From Hershey's Recipe Collection

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder (original recipe is Hershey's brand)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
Peppermint Filling (recipe follows)
Chocolate Glaze (recipe follows)

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1 inch jelly-roll pan with foil, generously grease foil. 
2.  Beat egg whites with electric mixer on high speed in large bowl until soft peaks form; gradually add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.
3.  Beat egg yolks and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed in a medium bowl 3 minutes.  Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar; continue beating 2 minutes.  Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to egg yolk mixture alternately with water, beating just until batter is smooth.  Using rubber spatula, gradually fold beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture until well blended.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.
4.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly.  Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto clean towel sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Carefully peel off foil.  Immediately roll cake in towel, starting from narrow end; place on wire rack to cool completely.
5.  Carefully unroll cake; remove towel.  Spread cake with Peppermint Filling, reroll cake.  Glaze with Chocolate Glaze.  Refrigerate until just before serving.  Cover and refrigerate leftover dessert. 

Serves 10-12

Peppermint Filling

1 cup whipping cream, cold
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup finely crushed hard peppermint candy or 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
Few drops red food color (optional)

Beat whipping cream with electric mixer on medium speed in medium bowl until slightly thickened.  Add powdered sugar and crushed peppermint candy or mint extract and food color, if desired.  Beat cream until stiff peaks form.

Chocolate Glaze

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (original recipe calls for Hershey's)
2 tablespoons water
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter in small saucepan over very low heat; add cocoa and water, stirring until smooth and slightly thickened