30 October 2013

365: Halloween

Remember when my baby J was a puppy for Halloween last year? Okay now you do. 

Well this year I thought it would be fun if he was a puppy again this year. (Read: the costume still fit and I thought it would be cute and easy on my part.) 

False. The puppy costume would not be worn no matter what I tried. Instead the puppy costume was carried around, kissed, and pushed in the stroller. Second option, a dog walker who pushes dogs in a stroller. Original I know!

This week when I was folding laundry I came across a pair of Wrangler jeans and the cutest plaid cowboy shirt. Add a stick pony and we have ourselves a cowboy! 

The pony was also carried around, kissed, and tucked into bed. This cowboy sure knows how to take care of his animals.

23 October 2013

365: My Little Jet

Have you ever wondered if you gave your child the wrong name? I have.

And by wrong I don't mean WRONG just, "Oh that name might have suited him/her better than his/her given name." 

When I was pregnant with J, choosing a name for him was always an ongoing discussion. Joseph and I decided from the beginning to keep the names between us to avoid any outside opinions. You know, like the Texas Roadhouse waitress that wants you to pick her son's name because she LOVES her son's name. 

We always had a few names that I liked, he liked, and (depending on the day) we both liked. One of the names we mostly agreed on for our little boy was Jet. (Or Jett, we never worked out the spelling.) My husband loves airplanes and we pictured an energetic ball of energy just like his dad. It was perfect!

But then we had doubts. What if he is a calm and quiet boy? (Now I'm laughing that we ever worried about this!) What if he doesn't enjoy airplanes like his dad? What if what if what if. 

Oh and then Joseph insisted that his middle name be Jackson. (Like Jett Jackson from that show when we were kids. His other favorite name was Colby Jack. Yes, the cheese.)

By the time J came into the world, we had given up on trying to make Jet work and decided on a more traditional name that I (secretly) had been calling him from day 1.

And then what happened? Our little boy grew up, fell in love with airplanes, and runs around the house at jet speed all day. I guess he always will be our little jet plane.

21 October 2013

Pumpkin Banana Bread

I am all about pumpkin recipes but I can only handle so much pumpkin-y stuff before I plead, "Please Pinterest, it is time to move on." 

But when I learned that pumpkin puree can be substituted for eggs in baked goods, I felt the clouds part and heard angels from on high. I have already tried (and loved) the substitution in this recipe and also Slice of Pumpkin Slice Cookies

Now I'm thinking about those long nine months when I was pregnant and suffered (okay not really) by forgoing tastes of cookie dough with raw eggs. Next time I will be prepared!

By just substituting pumpkin for the eggs in this banana bread recipe, you get a rich golden color with a slightly crunchy (and not soggy) crust. It doesn't shout pumpkin bread like most do, but the mix of subtle pumpkin flavor with the cinnamon chips is perfect. Oh so perfect!

Pumpkin Banana Bread
Nutritional Information

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water
2 cups flour
1 cup mini cinnamon baking chips

1. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add in pumpkin puree and mashed bananas and mix well.
2. In a small cup, stir to dissolve baking soda in warm water and add to the pumpkin mixture. Next, mix in the salt and flour. Stir in the cinnamon chips.
3. Divide batter between two greased and floured loaf pans.
4. In a 325°F preheated oven, bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

- For a more pumpkin-y flavor, add your favorite blend of pumpkin spices when you mix in the flour.
- My husband informed me that he doesn't like any banana bread. And then he proceeded to sneak slices all day. So yeah, it is really good.

18 October 2013

Sweet and Spicy Sesame Noodles

Growing up I thought that leftovers were those cold things that sat in the fridge until Dad had them for lunch. Fast forward a few years, I'm married and now when I cook for our family of three it usually makes leftovers. And because Dad isn't here to eat them, I have faced my fears and come to realize that leftovers can be wonderful wonderful things.

Like this recipe! It is delightful as leftovers and it uses the leftover bits from other recipes (Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken and Roasted Vegetables and Pineapple) in a new and delicious way!

Sweet and Spicy Sesame Noodles
Nutritional Information 

1 pound spaghetti noodles
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
3 tablespoons peanut butter (we prefer chunky)
1/4 cup soy sauce
hot sauce, a couple of dashes
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups shredded chicken (recommend Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken)
2 cups roasted vegetables and pineapple
2 cups shredded cabbage
4 scallions, thinly sliced 
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, optional

1. Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add a generous amount of salt, then pasta, and cook al dente.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan. Once warm, add the ginger, garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, hot sauce, canola oil, and honey. Whisk over heat until combined. Remove from heat.
3.  Assemble dish by layering pasta, shredded chicken, roasted vegetables and pineapple, shredded cabbage, scallions, and sesame seeds. Top with warm sweet and spicy sauce.

-This makes more than my family can eat in one meal and so we keep each part separate as we assemble our plates. (This makes leftovers easier when the sauce doesn't make everything soggy.) However, you can mix everything together in a large bowl and serve as well.
-Substitute vegetable for chicken stock and leave out the shredded chicken for a vegetarian option.

15 October 2013

Roasted Vegetables and Pineapple

Funny how some of my favorite recipes are so easy they can hardly be considered a recipe. This one included. I love roasting a pan of vegetables with pineapple to eat with our favorite Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken or over brown rice.   

Roasted Vegetables and Pineapple
Nutrition Information

1 red onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Spread sliced vegetables and pineapple onto a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Add baking sheet to the preheated oven and roast vegetables and pineapple for 30 minutes. 

Serve with Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken. And try not to steal too many chunks of sweet pineapple goodness before dinner!

09 October 2013

365: Pool Time

Well fall is surely here and the weather is cooling. This chilly (high of 80 degrees) weather has quickly put an end to our daily trips to the complex swimming pool and we are all missing it terribly.

I will miss our swimming routine, with J grabbing his suit and his space ships and running to the door. He knew just where to stand and when to turn when applying his sunscreen. 

Although he didn't care much for the swimming part of going swimming, he loved the sunshine and splashing in the pool.


Now on to finding new ways to use up this boy's boundless energy. 

Suggestions welcomed!

08 October 2013

Slice of Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Are you looking for more recipes using pumpkin? 

What about an egg-less cookie dough that you don't have to worry about eating? 

STACKS of pumpkin spice chewy goodness?

Yep, I thought so.

Slice of Pumpkin Spice Cookies
Yield: 4 dozen small cookies 
or 2 dozen medium cookies
Nutrition Information

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rolled oats 
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. In a large bowl combine brown sugar, butter, shortening, pumpkin puree and vanilla. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (2 to 3 minutes). 

2. Add flour, cream of tartar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes). 

3. Add rolled oats to dough and stir with a spoon until well incorporated. 

4. Form dough into a ball and divide in half. On two sheets of plastic wrap, shape each half of the dough into a log (about 12 inches long). Wrap and chill dough 4 hours or overnight. 

5. Heat oven to 350F. In small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon. Slice cookies 1/4-inch thick; dip each side in sugar mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.

6. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans immediately to cooling racks. Let cool and place in an airtight container.

-Go ahead and double this recipe! The dough keeps in the freezer, perfect for a last minute dessert or when you need a taste of cookie dough. Remember, no eggs, so taste away!
-My cookies were done at exactly 9 minutes. Resulting in cookies that were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
-If you want bigger cookies, slice cookies 1/2- inch thick and then flatten to 1/4- inch thickness. (I like them small because then I can eat and handful and not feel guilty about it. Oops!)

04 October 2013

Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken

**Disclaimer, there is a picture of a raw chicken in today's post. If you get woozy or easily offended, I suggest you avert your eyes.**

But seriously, if I could hire someone to handle and clean up after all the raw chicken at my house, I would without hesitation.

Last month when whole chickens were on sale, I grabbed two and stuck them in my freezer. I knew I was going to have to touch them eventually (deep breath). And this week, it was time.

One of my favorite ways to deal with raw chicken is to slide it straight into the slow cooker to cook for the day, leaving my hands clean and my nerves calm. 

However when I adapted this recipe, a whole raw chicken must be touched, bathed, and slathered in a jerk spice paste. Deep breath, I promise it will be worth it!

Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken
Nutritional Information

1 whole chicken, 3-5 lbs
1 small red onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green onions, chopped 
1/4 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup olive oil 

1. Begin by making four balls of aluminum foil and placing them in the bottom of your slow cooker. For each ball I tore off about 14 inches of foil and lightly packed it into a ball, kind of like I was making a snow ball. 

You want them to be large enough to keep air circulating under the chicken but small enough that your chicken will fit in the slow cooker with the lid on.

2. Now grab your whole chicken and remove everything from the inside cavity. (If you are like me, it is best to not ask what it is, just grab it and toss it in the garbage.) Rinse the chicken in the sink, inside and out, with cold water. 

As you rinse, work your hands around the chicken between the breast meat and the skin. Let the chicken rest in a pan in the sink while you make the paste.

3. Place all the ingredients listed above, except olive oil, in a food processor and pulse to combine.

4. With the food processor running, stream in the olive oil to form a thick paste.

5. Go back to your chicken and pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Place chicken, breast up, in the slow cooker on the balls of aluminum foil. Now spoon and rub the jerk paste onto and under the skin of the chicken.

 **I know this looks gross, or dross as my little guy would say, but the paste smells amazing and this chicken will not disappoint!**

6. Cover chicken, breast meat under the vent whole in the lid, and cook on low for 6-8 hours. This chicken can be dry if cooked for too long, so at 6 hours insert a meat thermometer through the vent on the lid into the breast meat to check the temperature. 

As soon as the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees, turn off the slow cooker and let the chicken rest for a few minutes.

7. The meat will be so tender that it will be difficult to remove in one piece. I've found that if I get two large spoons or spatulas, I can slide them under the chicken and lift it out in mostly one piece. No guarantees!

8. Congratulations! You conquered a whole raw chicken and now you have a golden juicy cooked chicken to show for it. 

Enjoy the drumsticks or sliced breasts with brown rice, a side salad, or roasted vegetables and pineapple. Shred the leftover breast to use in chicken salad, stir fry, or sweet and spicy sesame noodles.

Even the little guy loves this recipe and tries to sneak tastes whenever he can!

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