Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Yellow Stripe Celebration

We are so proud of our Camden for earning his first "stripe" in Kung-fu on Tuesday. It is a big accomplishment for him, so of course it called for a little celebration. He wanted veggie tacos for dinner, and I whipped up some "yellow stripe" cupcakes for dessert. Great job, Camden! We love you so much!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Silver Tray Kitchen Chalkboard

I saw this post over at My Romantic Home a while back, and have been wanting to make my own silver tray chalkboard ever since. I have also been dying to try some chalkboard paint for the longest time, so it was a perfect project for me to attempt. I've only ever seen chalkboard paint in little cans, but found it in a spray at WalMart one day.

It costs a bit more than a standard can of spray paint - - I want to say it was somewhere around $6.87. I figured I could get multiple projects out of it, so it was worth it.

Next, I needed a tray. I see lots of silver serving trays at thrift stores, but it isn't often that you fine one that doesn't have some type of engraving on it. You really have to look. One day, I found the perfect, albeit beat-up, tray at my local thrift store for $2.50. It appears that someone may have used a harsh cleaner of some sort on it, but I knew it would still work for my project. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a "before" picture - - I could kick myself for all of the projects I've done where I've failed to take a "before" picture! Anyway, I washed the tray and let it dry thoroughly. Then, I used painter's tape to tape off the area that I wanted to spray paint. I tucked saran wrap under the tape to cover the portions of the tray that I didn't want painted - - if that makes any sense (see? It would have been much simpler if I'd taken pictures!). Next, I applied an even coat of the paint. It goes on super nice, and dries in no time. To be sure I had good coverage, I added an additional coat, and let it dry over night.

Then, I added a tulle bow to hang it, and my project was complete. I use mine to write what I'm making for dinner each night, but it is just a neat little chalkboard for your kitchen that you can use for anything. Final cost: approximately $3.50. That's a bargain!

I really have to restrain myself from spraying random objects with the chalkboard paint. I'd love to do a little table top for the boys, or maybe an area on their bedroom wall.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake

Last month, a friend from high school posted a link to Martha Stewart's recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares on Facebook, and yesterday I decided to give them a try. If you are like me, you are overcome by the urge to have the aroma of pumpkin goodies, wafting from your kitchen during the month of October. Why is that? I really don't know the answer, but it has caused me to make pumpkin muffins, scones, pancakes, waffles, etc. at an alarming rate this fall. I suppose that maybe it is just comforting, when the leaves change and the temperature drops.

I'm going to go ahead and call this "cake", rather than squares, as the recipe produces a very light cake with a delicate crumb. For me, squares or bars are much more dense, but I digress.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled (I made a very slight adjustment here by using 1 cup all-purpose, and one cup whole wheat pastry flour)
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 bag semisweet chocolate chips (12 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Spray the foil lightly with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes (mine was done at 35 minutes exactly). Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan (using foil as an aid). Peel off foil, and use a serrated knife to cut into 24 squares.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dreaming of the City

A few days ago, while up to my eyeballs in Swine Flu, I found myself reading random things on the Internet. Somehow, I happened upon the blog We Are Not Martha, and this post. Once I was done with that, I read this post and this post. Ever since then, I have not been able to stop daydreaming about jetting off to New York City. I want to take in all the sights. I want to ride in a multitude of taxi cabs. I want to visit Ground Zero. I want to eat an obscene number of cupcakes. I want to shop. I want to eat at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain on 52nd Street (oh, how I love Bobby Flay). I want to wander around Greenwich Village. I want to eat a lot of black and whites. I want to see a Broadway show. I want to go to Rockefeller Plaza, to pay my respects to Matt Lauer, of course. The list is endless.

I've been to New York City three times before. The first time was a bit of a road trip with my dear friend Jen, and it just so happens that the motivation behind our trip was, of course, boys. My second trip was also with Jen. We'd requested tickets to the Late Show with David Letterman our first time there, and then a couple of years later, we got the tickets. Unfortunately, Jen was in Maine and I was living in Washington, D.C. at that time, but no matter, we each hopped on a train and met up for a whirlwind adventure. The third time I went, I was living on Long Island, working as a nanny. I took a bus to the city for the day, where I proceeded to see Prince in concert on the Plaza on the Today Show, and then wandered the city by myself all day long. These were all great adventures, but like many things of my youth, I don't think I fully appreciated the experiences.
Now, I'd like to have a few days to really enjoy it. Perhaps and extra-long weekend? What do you say, Jen? New York City in springtime?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Derailed by the Swine Flu!

I had grand plans of sharing a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup last Thursday, and Friday would have brought the World's Best Banana Bread. Instead, we found ourselves with one very sick little guy, who, as it turns out, had the H1N1 virus.

Sweet Camden, packed in ice
So, we've been pretty busy around these parts, fighting the seemingly never-ending fever, Lysol-wiping everything, and tending to our little guy. I'm happy to report that the rest of us have remained healthy, and that Camden is finally on the mend. I think he'll be ready to head back to school tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Best Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting. Ever.

Last week, I was making a birthday cake for my mother-in-law - - a 4-layer white cake with lemon curd filling - - and I knew I needed a good butter cream frosting for it. As a cake decorator, I have a standard icing recipe that I've always used. It is the recipe that my mother has always used in her cake decorating, too. The base of that frosting is shortening, which makes the perfect consistency for decorating (plus, it tastes soooo good). However, when I'm making a cake with filling, I like to experiment with different frostings, particularly, butter creams.

So, when making this lemon cake, I simply relied on Google to help me out. I've made plenty of butter creams before, but I've never really found just the right one. The first recipe that popped up came from My Sweet Saucy, and I do believe it is now the only vanilla butter cream recipe I'll ever use. The search is officially over! I think what drew me to it was the fact that it calls for kosher salt. I love using kosher salt in baked goods, but just could not grasp how it would taste in butter cream frosting. It really does add an extra pizazz that I can't describe, other than to say that it really amplifies flavor. Just trust me, it is fabulous. Oh, and please - - use real butter. No butter substitue allowed!

*Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the cake, so I had to rely on some cupcake clip art!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nothing Says Autumn Like Apple Cider Donuts

Oh my.

These donuts are absolutely delicious, and worth the effort to make. If you haven't had the pleasure of flipping through Food Network Magazine, please treat yourself to a copy. The October issue included this recipe for Apple Cider Donuts, and they are fantastic! I love Food Network - - I dare say, it is my favorite channel, but that is another post all together.

Ever since I saw this recipe, I've been wanting to try it, and so yesterday, I did. Although there are quite a few steps involved, I found this to be a very easy recipe. I have made many batches of baked donuts for my boys, but this was the first time that I actually fried donuts in oil. It is going to be very, very difficult to go back to my healthier baked donuts after yesterday, I can tell you! I will definitely be frying up more donuts in our future, but will save them for a once-in-awhile treat, lest my hips need their own zip code.

The only issue I took with the recipe was that the first step (reducing the apples in the apple cider) took quite a bit longer than stated. I think the total time the recipe gave was 13 minutes, but it took closer to 30. No matter - - the scent of the fresh apples simmering in apple cider was heavenly.

My candy thermometer worked fine for watching the oil temperature, and I'm happy to report that I managed to fry up the whole batch without splashing myself with scorching hot oil. Phew!

I prepared half the batch using the cider glaze with cinnamon and sugar, and then the remaining half we just rolled in cinnamon and sugar. The boys just loved the end result, and I'm pretty sure Camden and Griffin have consumed more donuts in the past 24 hours than they have in their entire lives. I'd say that's a sure mark of a successful recipe!

Come back tomorrow, when I'll be sharing a recipe for the absolute best vanilla butter cream frosting in the world. I'm not kidding. I don't kid about frosting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Crock Pot Applesauce

Here is a super-easy recipe to try when you find yourself with an over-abundance of apples. It is a no-brainer that produces lovely results - - just the kind of recipe I like!

We live in a quaint little town (okay, technically it is a "city", but if you've ever been here, you'd agree that there isn't anything "city" about it) that is well-known for its orchards. Peaches, plums, apricots, apples, and of course, cherries. I can't tell you how many there are still standing - - I think we drove by 5 or 6 different orchards before settling on the Anderson Apple Ranch on Saturday. In the 8 years that I've lived here, I've witnessed the sad sight of orchard trees being chopped down and fruit ranches closing. Luckily, though, there are still a bunch in operation.

So, on Saturday, we headed out on a little drive, in search of some apples. It is late in the season, but we managed to pick 10 lbs. of red delicious. Camden had fun filling the bucket....

...and Griffin had fun running through the orchard trees...

The next morning, I washed a bunch of apples, and the peeling and chopping commenced.

I looked at some recipes on line, but quickly realized that I didn't need a recipe. I am one of those cooks who thinks I need a recipe that I have to follow to a "T" whenever I make something, but I am trying very, very hard to loosen up in the kitchen and be a bit more creative. While I wouldn't really call making applesauce in the crock pot being creative, at least I didn't freak out and start hyperventilating while I threw my ingredients in. So, progress is being made, my friends!

To the chopped apples, I added one cup of water, the juice from a half of a lemon, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and probably about a tablespoon of granulated sugar. I only ever buy natural applesauce, so I'm not sure what compelled me to add sugar - - next time I will leave it out. Live and learn.

Then, I threw on the lid, set the timer for four hours, and went about my business.

Next, I took my handy potato masher and did some mashing. The result: delicious, homemade applesauce. I think I used approximately 5 lbs. of apples to make this, but of course only ended up with about 3 cups of sauce. I used one cup of it to make some Apple Pumpkin Butter (that's a recipe for another day), so I'll serve the rest as a side dish during the week.

Please come back each day this week for a variety of's "kitchen week" at Way Out West!

Friday, October 02, 2009

A Wonderful Week

I had good intentions of blogging while we were away, but alas, we were too busy having fun for that to happen. Vacation sped by much too quickly, and we are now back in Idaho, but our heads are full of Mickey Mouse, Jack Sparrow, and all of the fun things we saw and did while we were there. I had not been to Walt Disney World since I was a child, and I can tell you that we had a really, really great time -- it is definitely a place we will be visiting again. In fact, Camden cried quite a bit before we left, and asked if we could go back next week!

I'll do my best to keep the summary brief, but I can't make any promises! We packed a lot of action into 6 days and 6 nights. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House), which we loved so much! It has an African theme, and animals roaming the savanna, right outside the window. We were lucky enough to have dinner one night at Boma, and I am still dreaming about the corn pudding I ate there...yum. Steve and I enjoyed ordering an appetizer and cocktails each night from Jiko, after we put the kids to bed...really going to miss that! The boys loved the pool, so we did plenty of swimming, too.
Other dining highlights included a great birthday lunch (for Kevin and Griffin at The Coral Reef restaurant at Epcot. Had lunch at Hollywood Studios at the 50's Prime Time much fun! It was a unique experience and I definitely want to go back there again. Also had breakfast at the Crystal Palace one morning, where the boys were able to meet all kinds of characters. It was fun being at the Magic Kingdom early, before all of the crowds arrived.

On Tuesday, treated the boys to "pirate makeovers" at The Pirate's League in Adventure Land. I think this was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. Both Camden and Griffin were so into the whole thing, and took it very seriously. At the same time, Violet was at the Bibbity Boppity Boutique having a "princess makeover". Later that evening, we all went to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, which was a special event after the Magic Kingdom had closed for the day. The decorations were great, the parade was the best parade I've ever seen, and the kids could trick or treat throughout the park.

As for rides, Griffin wasn't exactly a happy participant, but I think he liked a couple of them! I think he was still a bit too young. Camden loved Pirates of the Caribbean (no surprise there). We all loved Dumbo (how could you not?). We had fun on the Jungle Cruise, Swiss Family Tree House, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, and seeing all the sights. At Epcot, my favorite attraction was definitely Turtle Talk With Crush. Kevin was able to trick me into getting onto Mission: Space - - when we were about to get on he told me that it was the ride a couple of people have died on, and seeing the motion sickness bags hanging in front of my seat didn't help any! As it turns out, it was an awesome ride! We also went on Test Track but didn't get the full experience of that one because it broke down in the middle of the ride...shucks!

Unfortunately, my sister-in-law was ill for a couple of days during the trip with a fever and generally feeling awful. I was lucky enough to be invited by my brother to take her place on the Around the World at Epcot Segway tour that they had planned to take. Yes, I can now say that I can operate a Segway. We went all over the World Showcase at Epcot on Segways before the park opened, and it was really great to be able to spend some one-on-one time with my brother. Thanks, Kevin! Hope you are feeling better, Rachel!

The boys had a great time collecting autographs of Disney characters in their autograph books, and we will be busy today getting prints of all of the photos to put in their books. I've left out a lot of details I am sure, but it is safe to say that we all enjoyed ourselves, we're glad we were able to share the experience with my parents, and my brother and his family. I was so happy to spend time with my niece, Violet - - she is the sweetest little girl and miss her already.

Now, onto the pictures:

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House

Camden and Alice

Violet Jean

With Pooh at The Crystal Palace

With Eeyore

Giraffe on the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Dad and Mum, Main Street U.S.A.

Camden Arnett, Safari director
The boys after their pirate makeovers
receiving their swords

Princess Violet and Benjamin Goldstealer

Meeting Pluto

Nana and Camden on Dumbo

Meeting Lightening McQueen and Mater

Relaxing by the pool

Evening appetizers and cocktails

Rachel, Violet, & Kevin


Great Britain - World Showcase

Camden's brain short-circuiting at the Lego Store, Downtown Disney
The end!

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