Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday-November 29

Did everyone have a great Thanksgiving? I hope you counted your blessings one-by-one. I tried and there were too many to count! Our little family is extremely blessed! I am so thankful.

We had an amazing first Thanksgiving with our little girl. She did great traveling to 2 different places. We were nervous she would be overtired since her napping hasn't been great lately, but she took great naps before each event, making our lives much easier. For that we are thankful!

My 5 meals for the week are so delicious and I'm so excited about them. Three of the recipes are new and ones I haven't tried before and a couple I've made and they are wonderful. If the new recipes turn out to be good, you could see them on here!

Don't forget, I only plan 5 meals a week now since we stay fairly busy most nights and 5 is all we have time for most weeks. Enjoy!



November 29-December 4

Chicken Vegetable Marinara (from Kraft Recipes; new recipe)

California-Style Barbecue Chicken Pizza (from Kraft Recipes; new recipe)

Fiesta Beef & Black Bean Enchiladas (from Kraft Recipes; new recipe)

Chicken and Rice Soup (I made this a while ago and froze in it separate servings, so it's ready to go! And it's amazing!!!) And I'll make some French Bread to go with it.

Bacon, eggs and french toast (Hubby makes the best french toast!)


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Double Fudge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting




This cake is AMAZING!
We had a family friend come into town last week for a business trip and he was able to come by and have dinner with us. I was in charge of dessert, shocking I know!

I've been addicted to The Food Network lately. I can't turn it off. Seriously, I can't. It's on 24 hours a day. Okay, maybe not 24 hours, but 8 hours. Any who, I saw this dessert and knew I wanted to make it. It's decadent, chocolately, rich, and oh so good! And it was easy to make. I know I know, I say that about every recipe, but it really was. Yes, the cake is made from scratch, but it's not 800 ingredients and it's probably stuff you already have in your pantry. So, go and make this cake!



Double Fudge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the frosting:

24 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature


Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and butter and flour 3, 9 inch cake pans.
2. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
3. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, until they're well incorporated.
4. Combine the buttermilk and sour cream.
5. On low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture alternately in thirds, starting with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix the batter only until blended.
6. Pour the batter into prepared pans (its thick and dense, so you'll have to spread it a little). Bake for 15-25 minutes, checking after 15 minutes by placing a toothpick in the center. If it comes out gooey, put it back in the oven for 2-3 minutes at a time. If the toothpick has little crumbs on it, it's done. Take it out of the oven, cool on a cooling rack in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely.

While your cakes are baking, start on the frosting.

1. Place the chocolate chips and heavy cream into a bowl a set over simmering water. Melt chocolate and cream until smooth, stirring occasionally.
2. Off the heat, add the corn syrup and vanilla and stir to combine. Allow this mixture to COOL to room temperature (this is important so do it!).
3. In your stand mixture or hand mixer, place cooled chocolate mixture in the bowl with 1/2 stick unsalted butter (room temperature) and beat on medium speed until thick, 5-10 minutes.
4. Spread the frosting onto the cooled cakes. And enjoy!

The Verdict:
This cake was very dense and delicious. It tasted a little dry and was crumbly, so I may not leave it in the oven as long (I think I baked it for 20 minutes), but it may be crumbly because it's such a dense cake.
The frosting was AMAZING! It was easy to put together and spread great on the cake. I felt like it was going to fall off the cake because of the consistency, but it looked beautiful and stayed on. The corn syrup made it so shiny and beautiful.

I only used 2 of the 3 layers I baked (saving one for something else) because it looked like it was going to be so tall and I just felt like we didn't need so much cake for the event I made it for (there were only 6 of us!). But if you're making it for a big family gathering or a potluck, use the 3rd layer. And the 3rd layer will probably make it look more dramatic and beautiful. And there was more than enough frosting for all 3 layers. I should've put it on a little thicker, I felt like it could've used more.

My mom really liked the frosting. She said it wasn't overly sweet and had great texture. Everyone seemed to enjoy it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creating Memories

This year is our first year as family of 3! What a big deal, especially when it comes to Christmas cards and photo books!!!

I love receiving Christmas cards. I get to see how people have changed, what's been happening in their lives and so much more. It's just so much fun to open up the mailbox and see all the cards we receive. I also love going to my mom's house and seeing all the ones they get. They get so many and I love seeing all the designs of the cards and the recent pictures of the families. So exciting!

I also love taking a picture for a Christmas card, designing one and mailing one out. This year, I'm using Shutterfly for my Christmas card needs. I recently found Shutterfly, was recommended by a friend, and I love it. If there is something you want to do with your pictures, go to their site and design it (it's easy) and in an instant you're done! It's fantastic!

Some of my favorite items and things I have in the making:

I'm designing 2 photo books for Christmas presents (shhhh!). And I'll keep doing these for us and her since I'm not into scrapbooking.


I'm making some thank you notes with N's pictures on them. This is my favorite card. I just love having a bunch of pictures on them so people can see her doing different things! And of course, we have about 500 pictures of her, so we have plenty to choose from and it may be difficult to choose from all we have, but I can always have different ones made later one.


And my favorite right now, Christmas cards! I am having so much fun looking through their selection and I think this may be the one I like best as of now. I will definitely be designing some sort of card for our new family of 3 using Shutterfly.com!



Are you thinking about sending out Christmas cards for 2010? If so, check out Shutterfly.com for TONS of cards and gift ideas!

I've had great experiences with Shutterfly. They are quick, reliable and a great deal. And the easiest part? You can design your stuff from the comfort of your own home! You can't beat that!!!!

Shutterfly is offering 50 free holiday cards absolutely FREE!



-Ginny

Disclosure: In exchange for writing this post, I will receive a promotional code for a package of 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly. Thoughts and opinions about my experience with Shutterfly are my own.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday-November 15

Since my life has changed in the last 4 months (Happy 4 months to my sweet girl this past Saturday!), my menu planning has changed along with it. In October I may have cooked 10 times and I hate that! I'm so busy and exhausted by the time dinner time comes along, that it rarely gets done. Because of that, I'm changing how I plan our meals each week!

I'm going to plan 5 meals a week and cook them when I can. For awhile when I was able to cook, I'd cook 2 or 3 meals and freezer the ones we didn't have for dinner. I'm l going to try that approach these next few weeks, get my freezer stockpile up and still do something I love. If I'm only able to cook 1 meal, so be it, I'll cook the next day maybe during N's nap time.

Here's the plan for the week. It's in no particular order, I'll cook from this list for the week and we'll pick what we want each night. I'm only doing 5 meals a week because we can have leftovers 1 or 2 nights and we usually have dinner with some of our family once a week. Of course, we'll see how the week goes and if some of these items even get cooked, but I'm hoping!

Mexican Chicken (I bought a cookbook 2 weeks ago and this is a recipe from it; I'm super excited about this cookbook. I already made a soup from it and it was fantastic!)
Chicken Enchiladas (same cookbook)
Chicken Fingers and baked potatoes



Friday, November 12, 2010

Dear Bleach

Dear Bleach,

I have to say, I used to not like you. You smell, you burn my nose and throat when I use you and you're just a lot to handle.
Up until Sunday night, I didn't love you. Now, I do.
You see, I have tile in my shower. I'm not used to tile, so I didn't know how to really clean the grout and get all the black moldy looking stuff out. Yeah, that's a lot to admit, it wasn't horribly gross, but it bugged me. But then, I put you into a spray bottle and you changed my life. I sprayed you in my tile shower after I showered and let you go to work. The result you ask? The next morning I looked in the shower and it was all clean and wonderful. All black stuff gone and you looked great. And no back breaking work.
Now, you do still burn my eyes and nose and you smell and I need to use you when I won't be back in my room, but you do a wonderful job.
So here's to you bleach! You do a great job. Thanks for you hard work, so I don't have to.

Sincerely,
Ginny

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Convenience Meals-Money Saving Tip

We're all trying to save money, cutting budgets here and there. We're always looking for ways to save a few pennies. There are so many ways to save some money and we do this thing every week day... It's called leftovers!

Yep, leftovers. I think people really overlook leftovers and don't use them and toss them out. What a waste of money! I'm not into wasting money, especially when it comes to food, the one thing we can control.

We love leftovers in our house. I try (yes, I said try) to cook 5 times a week and whatever we don't eat goes in it's own container, with a label, into the freezer and placed on our freezer inventory list. This inventory list is to always know what we have to eat in the freezer, saving us time and money. We call them "convenience meals." They're an easy grab from the freezer and are always delicious. Most everything freezes well, so there's no excuse in our house to go out to lunch every weekday.

Hubby works away from home and he loves his leftover lunches. He gets many questions each week as to what he's brought from home and what smells so good. That makes me feel good and know he's eating a good lunch and is taken care of while at work. I just love knowing he's well fed. :)

Now, I know not everyone has enough food to have leftovers, but if you do every once in a while, this is a great way to save your leftovers.

When I see my freezer meal stock getting low, I try and cook a little more to build this back up so we always have good and hot meals to eat.


Monday, November 8, 2010

1 year ago today...

Happy Girl!!!


1 year ago today we found out some AMAZING news. We were expecting our first child. Talk about mind blowing!

The week before I suspected I was pregnant so I took about 3 pregnancy tests, but they were all faintly positive. Now, I've never been pregnant before, so I didn't know if this meant I was or maybe was. So I scheduled a doctor's visit with my Nurse Practitioner and come to find out, I was 4 weeks pregnant. Waiting in the waiting room was the longest hour of my life! I was shaking and my heart was racing and my palms were sweaty, it was weird. It was an insane experience.

I don't even remember what I was thinking when we were finally taken back to one of the exam rooms. And when Sandy came in and said, "Congratulations!" I was floored. Daniel and I looked at each other and smiled and hugged and just had so many thoughts running through our head. As this pregnancy wasn't planned, it was definitely a surprise! But a fantastic surprise!

Now one year later, we have an almost 4 month old! I am amazed by God's blessings daily. We have a healthy, happy, smiley, big (15 pounds) baby girl. And we couldn't be happier with her and our life with her. It's hard to remember what it was like before her. I heard so many people say that and didn't understand it until she came along, I so get it now. It's an amazing, rewarding, scary, complicated and exhausted experience. But I wouldn't change a second of it. I'm enjoying every single moment, even the fussy and cranky moments. I know that all this won't last forever and I have a few short moments with her being little and super dependent.

1 year later I'm thankful for her and for my supportive husband, our wonderful families who can't get enough of her and for all the spoiling they do. They take wonderful care of all 3 of us!

Blessings,
Ginny