Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sweet and Savory Strawberries

I love strawberries but probably not quite as much as my daughters do!

When I pick strawberries, they eat them and eat them and eat them.

I can't say I blame them, because fresh picked strawberries are far superior to the ones from the store.

Strawberries have been cheap at the store lately, so I picked some up and made a couple of recipes for you!

Of course, they are good this time of year, but they even more amazing with freshly picked strawberries.  So, hold on to these recipes!

Of course, a special thanks goes out to our Community Group for being willing taste testers :)

Up first, we have our savory bite:  Strawberry Bruschetta.

Bruschetta is usually made with tomatoes and basil, but did you know that bruschetta actually refers to the bread that is toasted and can be topped with any number of different delicious things?

There you go...you learned something new today!

For the Strawberry Bruschetta, you need:


Thin loaf of bread
10 strawberries (or enough to equal 1 cup diced)
1 tablespoon sugar
4 oz cream cheese (half of the packaged pictured)
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

First, chop up enough strawberries for 1 cup.  I like the pieces to be fairly little.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Put in the fridge until ready to serve.


Put softened cream cheese into a bowl.  Chop up 2 big leaves of basil.


I chiffonade the basil first.  That's a fancy way of saying that I roll it up and cut it into thin strips.  (I get rid of the stems.)


After it has been chiffonaded, chop it into little bits.


Combine it with the cream cheese, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.


For the bread, I used thin french bread that was fairly soft.  You can use a baguette which is quite crusty.  I prefer to start with a softer bread so that it isn't too hard after toasting it.

Cut the bread into even slices. 

Here is my trick...I use the width of the knife to measure out the thickness of my slice.


I simply lay the knife across and that's where I cut.  It makes it significantly easier to have slices of equal thickness.

Put the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes at 300 degrees.


Flip the slices and bake for 6 more minutes.

Let the bread cool slightly.  Spread on some basil cream cheese and top with about a tablespoon of strawberries (or however much looks good to you).  

Chop up some more basil and sprinkle on top of the strawberries.  Lightly drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil on top.  I pour a little bit of vinegar into a spoon and drizzle from the spoon.  I find I can control the amount a lot better that way.  I then do the same with olive oil.


Doesn't it look yummy?!  The balsamic vinegar adds a wonderful little tang and the olive oil adds a nice richness. 

Leah was helping me take a picture of this outside and it was really windy :)


Next up, our sweet treat:  Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake!

Start off by combining 1 and 1/3 cups whole milk, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1 lightly beaten egg in a small bowl or measuring cup.


Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine 3 and 1/3 cups of flour, 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup sugar.

Add in 12 tablespoons of cold butter cut into small pieces.  Toss to coat the butter with the dry ingredients.


Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces of butter are no larger than the size of peas.  (Very often when I deal with butter in this way, I freeze it and then grate it into the dry ingredients.  That would have been much easier.)


Mix in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.


Pour the milk mixture over the dry ingredients and stir gently until a sticky dough forms.


This is a good time for a 2 year old to wake up...before you knead the dough!


Now that your 2 year old is up, very gently knead the dough until most of the dry ingredients are incorporated.


The dough is so sticky that if it was a person, I would name it Sticky McStickerson.


Yikes!

Now, the original recipe says to be careful not to overwork the dough.  So, I will tell you to be careful not to overwork the dough, even though I'm not exactly sure what that would look like.  I'm guessing you don't want to handle it so much that your butter all melts.

Scoop the dough onto a baking sheet (line with parchment paper or a silpat...I'm a huge believer in parchment paper; it's revolutionary stuff!) in about 1/3 cup sized mounds.  Pat them down until they are about an inch thick.  Sprinkle the tops with additional sugar (I use the bigger sugar for topping) and bake at 425 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  You want the shortcakes to puff up and give just slightly when lightly pressed.  


This made 20 shortcakes for me.

While the shortcakes are baking, slice about 1 and 1/2 pounds of strawberries.



Combine with 3-4 tablespoons of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Stir to combine and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Just before serving, make some whipped cream.  On high speed, whip together 1 cup of heavy cream, 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar, and a dash of vanilla extract.  Whip on high speed until medium-stiff peaks form.

To serve: slice shortcake in half, top the bottom with whipped cream, then strawberries, and put the shortcake top back on.


Don't you just want to take a big ol' forkful of that mound of deliciousness?  I know I do!

I can't wait until strawberry picking season is upon us!

Enjoy!

Recipe Source:  Strawberry Bruschetta is adapted from Annie's Eats, and the Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake is from there, too!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello Miscellaneous Monday!

Hello Friends!

We had a fun and full weekend...hope you did, too!  

Here are a few shots from this weekend, plus a couple of things with which I'm totally obsessed.

1.  Hello Cold Stone Creamery Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer!


I am OB.SESSED. with this creamer.  

I'm pretty sure if manna from heaven was in liquid form, this would be it.  

I have been drinking an obscene amount of coffee lately simply to have a vehicle to consume this creamer, so if I've seemed a little jittery lately, that's why :)

I tried drinking it in tea, which was a disaster of epic proportions.


It separated and was like baby spit up in the mug.  

I hate to see my favorite Caribou mug defaced in such a way.  Disgrace.

But, here she is in all of her glory in my morning coffee...or was it my afternoon coffee? 


You should start drinking this immediately.

2.  Hello New Favorite Vitamin!


Have you seen these?  My mom had them, and she had the amazing pomegranate variety.  Then, the next time I went to Aldi, they had these as a special purchase.  

Heaven in your mouth.  

I may turn in to one due to my rate of consumption.

I feel like they are healthy, though?  

I mean, hello, we all know dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants and unicorn sparkles and vitamin bursts, right?  

And, I don't think we could get healthier than acai and blueberry.  

I'm fairly certain that I added a good week or 2 to my life by eating these.

Except they aren't a vitamin...I just like to pretend.

They do go really well with the aforementioned coffee creamer.

3.  Hello New Friend!

My friend, Kim, just had a baby named Asher, and he is the sweetest little thing.


Don't you just love the proud and happy look on Leah's face?  Gracie is really checking him out, and I'm sure Maggie would have held him all night if I would have let her.

Why does this picture make the inner Bible name nerd in me so happy?


My real name is Rebecca.  Rebekah in the Bible is Leah's mother-in-law, and Asher is Leah's baby.

I know.  It's a lot to take in, but it makes me so happy...incidentally, Asher means happy.

Told you I was a Bible name nerd :)

4.  Hello First Picnic!

It was so nice out on Saturday that Leah suggested we have a picnic!


We were already planning on having hamburgers for lunch, so it worked out great!


It got really cold when the sun went behind the clouds, but it started out warm and sunny and awesome!

Eating outside can't be beat.

And finally...

5.  Hello Finger!

As I was working on En Gedi, I came upon some interesting things.

For example...this finger.


Leah has a Fancy Nancy doll and somehow its finger came off.

That was weird.

Then, she found it.  

First, I have no idea how Fancy Nancy loses a finger, seeing as I'm pretty darn sure she doesn't use power tools.

Second, I have no idea how Leah found it.

Third, I told her I would super glue it back on, but let us not kid ourselves, I'm pretty sure the odds of me super gluing my finger onto Fancy Nancy's hand are significantly higher than me actually super gluing Fancy Nancy's finger back on her hand.  

Super glue and I have a tenuous relationship at best. 

That's all, friends!  I hope your Monday is happy :)



I'm linking up with Lisa and carissa

Friday, April 26, 2013

En Gedi Update

You may remember last week when I showed you pictures of our messy bedroom and promised you an update.

You may come off of the edge of your seat now because here is your update!!!

Well, looky here!  It's a bed that's made and has sheets that aren't flannel!


WIN!  

Let us not kid ourselves, though, I started you off with the good news!  There has definitely been some improvement, but there is still a ways to go.

Take my dresser, for example:


The stack in the middle of the dresser has been taken care of, BUT has been replaced by a different stack.  

Apparently it's the stack zone.

You'll also notice a pink fan.  It will eventually be in the big girls' room.

And, let us not kid ourselves, the Lonely Sock Bag isn't going anywhere, but that stack NEEDS to be taken care of and NOT replaced!

I read somewhere that fresh cotton/linen scent is very nice for bedrooms, because it is fresh and clean smelling.  I got them for a dollar a piece at Walmart...not bad!

About the green laundry basket...


...it has been replaced by the white laundry basket!  I took care of everything that was in the green laundry basket and the white one is full of things that need to go downstairs. 

This is progress even though it doesn't look like it!  

"But, what about the Abyss?" you ask.


I feel like it's better than before...I mean the laundry basket isn't there any more :)

Granted, I now have a Dora chair (I think that came to our room because the girls were fighting over it) and a pile of clothes.  But, I really am wearing the purple hoodie, so it's a good thing I had it so easily accessible ;)

The least dramatic thing is Aaron's dresser.


I think I moved a frame so that I could get to the postage stamps.

Even though it doesn't look like I did much, I did accomplish some things!

  • All of the girls' toys that were in our room have been put away.
  • All of the things in the green laundry basket have been put away.
  • The things that were in the white basket (some left over from February Christmas) have been put away...there's new stuff in there, though!
  • I actually cleaned out some of the closet shelves, hence the large amount of new stuff in the laundry basket.

I really have gotten some stuff done but there is obviously much room for improvement!

I feel optimistic that I'll finish this off next week, but we'll see!  I might be feeling optimistic because I ate some cheesecake not too long ago, and cheesecake makes a girl feel optimistic.

I'll keep on keeping you posted.

Have a happy weekend...whether your room is En Gedi or not!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Little Actress

Leah had a little play for school last week!  It was really more of a readers theater and SO fun.

To say she was excited is a gross understatement.  She had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night before her play and told me, "I'm so excited for my play I can hardly stand it!"

We got there and the kids were lined up and ready to go.



Leah wore her sequined Christmas dress, because Readers Theater calls for your fanciest clothes :)

Gracie was so excited to be at school and to sit at the big kids' table.



I did blur out the other kids' faces because not every parent wants their kid to be on my blog, I'm sure.

I taped Leah's performance, but I feel like I shouldn't post it for the same reason.  I'm sure she'd love to show it to you, though, if you ask her in person!

Leah's performance was called Elephants in the Wild.  She was Joyce Poole, elephant expert.



She mentions, as a part of her lines, that she knows all about elephants because she lived in Africa when her dad was in the peace corps.

One of her classmates was sitting next me during Leah's performance.  She leaned over to me and whispered, "It's pretty cool that Leah's dad used to live in Africa."  I started to tell her that he didn't, but just let it go.

First graders crack me up!

Her whole class did a performance to The Little Pigs Blues.  All of the first graders were wearing sunglasses to capture the bluesy feel.



There's not much in life that is cuter than kids wearing sunglasses...especially a whole roomful! 

Here's Leah with some of her groupies!



Our little friend, also named Gracie, was with us for the day.  Doesn't she just fit right in with our girls?

We got flowers for Leah, because one of the best parts of being in a play is getting flowers after your performance.



Maybe that's just me.

She noticed the flowers shortly after she got inside, said they were beautiful, and asked to whom they belonged.



I told them they were for her and she said, "They're purple!  My favorite color!"

And that's why we got her purple <3



Now, here's what Aaron and I are trying to figure out.  Right after I told her the flowers were for her and she was very excited, she said, "My eyes are watering a little.  That sometimes happens when I come in from outside."

I like to think she was so happy that she was moved to tears and didn't understand the idea of happy tears.

Aaron said that she's young enough to not think she should cover up happy tears and would say if they were happy tears.

I like to think she was moved to happy tears :)

Regardless of what the tears were about it, Leah does love her flowers!  She brings them around the house with her so that every room can have "the beautiful flower smell."

So, what's your vote...happy tears or coming-in-from-the-outside eyes?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Laugh First

Do you ever find yourself getting so caught up with the little, more mundane things in life that you become an irritable, brow furrowing sigh-er?

Maybe it's just me, but sometimes between the whining, spilling, bickering, losing things, repeated questions, and messes I can get a tiny bit on the irritable side.

While reading 1st Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) in the ESV, verse 5 says that love is not "irritable" instead of "easily angered" like it says in the NIV.

This is not me complaining about translations AT ALL!

This is me realizing that saying I'm feeling irritable doesn't sound as bad as saying I'm easily angered.

The reality is that it's sin regardless of what I call it.

For some reason irritable sounds less sinful than easily angered.

Just like being concerned sounds less sinful than worrying.

So what I'm I working on right now?



Because, those little things that pile up and make me irritable are mostly quite silly when taken by themselves.  

Every morning I've been praying that God would give me joy in Him.  I like that 1 Thessalonians 5 doesn't just tell us to be joyful, but to also pray continually.  

We can't be joyful on our own...we need Jesus for that, too.

When Maggie poured her own fruity cheerios the other day and dumped them all over,



by Jesus in me, I was able to laugh first...without gritted teeth, too.

And you know what makes it easier?  See that tennis shoe on the right side of the picture?  I was going to crop it out, but then I realized what was going on.  

That's Aaron, waiting until I'm done taking a picture of spilled cheerios so he can help Maggie clean up the mess.  

I'm blessed by God every day to have a husband who helps me without judgement and who graciously reminds me to laugh first.  

And the good thing about laughing first is that it keeps me from crying over silly things like spilled milk...or spilled cheerios.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hashbrown Egg Bake

You may have noticed on my monthly menus that I make breakfast for supper quite often.

This is one of those recipes and I love it because you can bake it or microwave it.  Microwaving it takes less than half the time, which came in handy when we stayed at the park longer than I anticipated on Saturday.

And, you guys, I didn't find this recipe on the internet.  

I know, it's hard to believe!

I got it out of a cookbook my mom made me, and I have no idea where she got it.

Dare I say it's an original?



The ingredients are really basic, plus you can get them all at Aldi!

Winner winner chicken dinner...or winner winner hashbrown egg bake.  Whatever :)



You need:
Tater Tots (or almost any frozen potato product)
Cooked Bacon, crumbled or cooked sausage links, sliced
1 cup shredded cheese
5 eggs
4 tablespoons milk

Spray an 8x8 inch pan with nonstick spray.

Line the bottom of the pan with tater tots.



Microwave for 2 minutes.  Use a fork to mash flat.



If it's not mashing flat very well, go ahead and microwave it for 30 more seconds.

Sprinkle bacon and cheese over the mashed tater tots.



Let's say the people in your family aren't, shall we say, vegetable hesitant.  You could quickly sautee up some bell pepper, mushrooms, and onions (other any other veggies you would put in an omelette) and sprinkle those on, too.

Crack your eggs in to a bowl, add the milk, and a little bit of salt (you're already getting salt from the bacon/sausage and cheese) and pepper.  Friends, even the Bible says you need to salt eggs ;)



Those eggs just look so cheerful to me!

Pour the egg mixture over the smashed tater tots/bacon/cheese.



At this point you can bake it at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes OR microwave it!  If you microwave has a turntable that turns the whole time, microwave it for 10 minutes and check it to see if it's done.  (If your microwave doesn't have one of those, turn it every 3 minutes).

If it's wiggly and damp, it's not done.  We all know how I feel about wiggly and damp food.

Not a fan.

After the initial 10 minutes, microwave it for 2 minutes and check again.  If it's still not done, microwave for a minute at a time, checking after each minute.

The last time I microwave this, I had an older, smaller microwave, so it took longer.  I overcooked it a bit this time, because I didn't make adjustments for a more powerful microwave.  The directions I just gave you reflect the way I should have done it :)

Now, brace yourselves for this, but there have been times that I've made this that EVERYONE in my family has liked it it!!!

Saturday was not one of those times, but Aaron and I are consistently big fans of the delicious simplicity of the classic Hashbrown Egg Bake.  



These are also ingredients that I tend to have on hand 90% of the time, so if supper time is hectic, I can scrap what is on the menu and make this.

Serve it with some yogurt and/or fruit for a complete meal.

Enjoy!

OK, I feel like I've been posting kind of a lot of breakfast recipes lately...so next week it will be a NOT breakfast recipe.  Any recipe requests?