Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Weekend

What a fabulous weekend it was for us! Friday night we carved pumpkins with our friends up the street, watched The Ring (which they had never seen and still scares the crap out of me) and made delicious carameled apples.

Saturday morning, I was able to go with my dance students to watch the NYC Dance Alliance competition at the Salt Palace. I am always amazed at the talented dancers that Utah produces! My handsome sweets stayed home with Trav so I could run around erranding with my momma without the babe. What a good man. It's amazing what a day of not worrying about your child can do for you. We mommas need that every now and then and it's so easy to forget. Sat night, we went to the neighborhood Trunk Or Treat with our little crocodile... he sure looked cute!

Today we actually made it through all 3 hours of church (amazing for us with Trav) and have enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. I tried out a new chicken noodle soup recipe that was on the back of the frozen noodles I bought. We were actually thoroughly impressed! Here she is:

Reames Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

1 lb. cooked chicken (we used a rotisserie chicken from Costco)
12 cups chicken broth
1 pkg. Reames home style egg noodles (first time trying this brand, and thought they were just as good as the grandma noodles... these are frozen home style noodles so they taste sooo much better than regular dried egg noodles)
2 tsp dried parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups heavy cream or half and half
1 cube (8 Tbsp) butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sherry (optional)

Boil broth with bay leaves, add noodles and simmer for 20 minutes stirring often.
Add the herbs, pepper, onion, and veggies and simmer for approx 10 minutes or until veggies are cooked through.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet. Whisk in flour and cook 1-2 minutes.
Add cream to the soup, and return to a simmer. Add the flour mixture in slowly, and cook and stir until thickened (2 min).
Add chicken and sherry (if using). Stir to incorporate and heat through. Enjoy!

I did use the sherry and while it was delicious, I felt like I took away from the traditional chicken noodle soup flavor that I love. If you opt to add the sherry, I would suggest only using about 1/4 cup.

This recipe makes a TON of soup. It served our family, our neighbors who were sick and I froze 2 nights worth dinner in zip loc bags.

I also like to make my own chicken stock from the remains of the rotisserie chicken. You simply boil the remnants of the chicken (bones, skin, etc) with a bay leaf, peppercorns, and chunk of onion and let simmer for 15 min. Drain the broth and freeze for the next time you make soup!

How was your Halloween weekend?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Grandma Tecla's Timeless Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are always a tradition in my family around the holidays (usually Valentines, Halloween and Christmas). They taste fabulous, but I'm not going to lie they are a PAIN if you do the whole ordeal in one day. I made that mistake as a newlywed trying to be the cute domestic little wife to impress my sweets but by the end of the night I hated everything and everyone- my bosch, myself, the stupid cookies, even my sweets for trying to remind me that cookies aren't that big of a deal... Hopefully some of you can relate. I have since learned that frosted sugar cookies can be pleasant, if you split the process up into 3 days. This recipe has been passed down by my darling little grandma Tecla, and I hate to say it to all you contenders out there but I really think it is the best sugar cookie recipe out there. Yep. I said it. If you don't believe me, try it out for yourself and let me know what you think. :)

Cookie ingredients:

4 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup shortening (I like the Crisco sticks)
3/4 cup butter (not margarine)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
dollop of sour cream (this is a recent addition from my sister Amanda, and it gives a perfect little puffiness to the cookies)

Day 1

Blend sugar, shortening and butter well (ideally in your Bosch... if you have a kitchen aid I will forgive you but will convince you in a later post why a Bosch is sooo worth the money even though it might not look as cute as the kitchen aid sitting on your counter). Add eggs, vanilla and almond flavorings and sour cream; beat well. Add flour 1 cup at a time until dough is stiff.

Wrap dough in wax paper and refrigerate at least 2 hours until chilled. For a batch this size, I suggest wrapping 2 separate little blobs so that the dough doesn't warm up too much while you are rolling and cutting out your shapes the next day. As the dough warms up, it becomes very difficult to keep the cookies in their shapes while moving them to the cookie sheet.

Day 1 is finished! Your cookie dough can stay overnight (and really even several days) in your fridge if you aren't ready to bake the next day.

Day 2

Roll out dough onto floured surface and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. A darling little helper is suggested, but not mandatory :)

Bake cookies at 375 for approximately 10 minutes until they are slightly golden around the edges and nice and puffy. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Once completely cooled, you can store them in a Tupperware container and either refrigerate them if you plan on frosting the next day, or freeze if you need more time till frosting day. Day 2 is finished!

Day 3

Butter Cream Frosting ingredients:

4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cube butter
1/4 cup half and half (or more as needed for consistency)
1 tsp vanilla
Cream cheese (optional)
Food coloring

Melt butter in microwave in medium sized mixing bowl. Add about 1/4 cup half and half. Add powdered sugar slowly while mixing. Add vanilla. Continue to add half and half as needed to obtain a thick and creamy consistency. (Occasionally I add a a few Tbsp cream cheese for a slightly richer flavor... it's up to you!)
Scoop frosting into separate bowls, add your desired coloring to each bowl and frost away! This is the fun part for the kiddos to help. We like to add little treats and shapes to our cookies. This year's Halloween cookies are NOT the most beautiful or creative due to lack of time, but they still tasted fabulous!


French Wingback Chair

I had planned on waiting till this project is finished to even mention it, but I just can't contain myself. I am SO excited about my wingback chair revival in process that I need to just show a few pics so that maybe you can see my vision and get excited too (unless you are normal and don't stay awake at night thinking about how you can try to turn every ugly thing you can imagine into something gorgeous to go into your house... for cheap).

I bought this bad boy at a Consignment store in Dixie, UT on a girls trip with my sisters this summer and have been pondering over what to do with her since then. I also had to save up for the fabric that I really wanted and I'm so glad I waited. We all fell in love with the charm in the details on this chair and ottoman. I hadn't ever really upholstered anything when I bought it, so it was very brave of me but so far so good!

More pics coming soon....

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rosemary Roasted Veggies

This is a simple and fabulous way to use up any veggies you may have from your garden, or hiding in your crisper drawer for who knows how long (not that I ever do that...)

For my friend's hubby's bday party, I used the following veggies:
baby carrots, red new potatoes, zucchini and squash from the garden, yellow onion and garlic.

You can seriously use whatever you have on hand. Roasting your vegetables gives them such a rich flavor that you lose when you steam or boil. Some of my other favorites to roast are:
sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips (don't knock 'em till you try 'em), brussel sprouts and cabbage.

Rinse and chop your veggies and onion so that the chopped pieces are relatively uniform in size (you want them all to cook for the same amount of time). Lay them all out in a 9x13 pan. Drizzle with a generous amount of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Don't be stingy with this. Season well with course salt, and add 3-4 whole peeled cloves of garlic. Add several (4-6) sprigs of Rosemary. Toss the veggies to ensure that they are all well coated in the EVOO.

Bake at 425 for approximately 25-30 minutes. Pull them out to flip over with a spatula half way through. You will get some crispy ends, but you don't want any of the veggies to burn. Once a fork goes easily through, the veggies are done! You may opt to pull the whole garlic cloves out, but they are actually much less potent when they have been roasted so I leave mine in.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Talk about a crazy past couple of weeks. My sweets and I enjoyed a fabulous week vacation on a Caribbean cruise for my bday, and then after we got home little Trav and I joined some of my family members for a crazy weekend trip to Moab, Utah. We had a lot of fun, but I am definitely ready to get back into a routine. I have LOTS to post about but just haven't yet had the time. Here is a quick little blurb about some awesome deals I found before we headed out to Moab, since being domestic in my world involves finding creative ways to live on a budget!

First of all I have to give a little background on my history with the DI (a thrift store in Utah, similar to Goodwill). Growing up I wouldn't have been caught dead buying clothes in there because of the negative stigmas that I thought were attached to it. I certainly would never want anyone to know that I had clothes from there. How little did I know then!!! Shortly after my sweets moved to the US of A from South Africa several years ago, he told his BFF Aaron about this AWESOME clothing store he had found where he bought some Polo shirts for $2. His friend laughed when he told him it was called the Desert Industries and explained to sweets that it's not really something you want to go around bragging to people about. Clearly Aaron and I needed to learn a lesson or two from the African. It has taken me 26 years to learn this little fact, so perhaps I can educate some of you... THE DI ROCKS!

I stop by my local DI on average 2 times a week. I don't always leave with something (it's probably once every 2 weeks that I do) but I always drop in for a quick browse. I of course LOVE the DI for furniture and home decor "projects", but there are so many other fabulous hidden gems to be found at the DI including clothing. I will admit that I am usually not patient enough to search through all of the racks for the great finds (especially with little Trav in tow) but if you are willing to do it I promise you will find some amazing deals!

My last adventure to the DI came to a grand total of $10 and included:

2 knit Polo pull overs (perfect condition)
1 Gymboree lime green and white track jacket (perfect condition)
1 pair Osh Kosh overalls (perfect condition)
1 pair lined drawstring camoflauge pants (slightly worn but still look great)

1 pair red mary jane baby shoes (never been worn)

Ok I know I don't have a girl YET but there was no way I could pass up a $1 pair of darling brand new shoes.

Have I inspired you to start looking in the thrifties for your new threads???