Tuesday, January 27, 2009


After staying up late last night getting these babies ready, I was greeted upon waking to a tall pan of cinnamon rolls, eager to be put into a hot oven. Words cannot describe...they are so soft and sweet and SO not on my diet! Don't blame me, though; that sourdough starter was sitting in my fridge, just going to waste ☺

Today there is still quite the blanket of snow, so it is just a really great day for warm, comfort food. After a cinnamon roll-filled breakfast, the only thing that sounded really good was just a steaming bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese. Nothing fancy, just Campbell's, but I like to jazz it up with shredded cheese and garlic. A few little crouton boats floating on top would have been great, too. A very happy lunch, indeed ☺

My day has been filled with mundane cleaning tasks, trying to get this place in order before Sunday: clearing off all of the artwork and paper clutter from the fridge, cleaning up the toy room, minimizing the amount of coats hanging on the coat rack, mountains of laundry, etc. The highlight of the day was receiving a very anticipated eBay purchase from Hong Kong! More about that later ☺

Friday, January 23, 2009

House Party, baby!

As I mentioned a few months back, I have really gotten into the freebie/coupon sites on the net; what a super way to help save some money at the grocery store, plus I get wonderful weekly "surprises" in my mailbox. Yesterday, I received a 3-book set of hardcover children's cookbooks from Jif/Smuckers and Brianna LOVES them. Today I got a bunch of NutraSweet packets. Keep an eye on http://www.freebies4mom.com/ ; Heather does a really great job of making her blog a one-stop shop to guide you to all of the best coupons and free samples ☺

Through Freebies 4 Mom, I learned of a site called House Party. You fill out online applications in order to be considered to host parties in your home centered around different products. Basically, if you are chosen you are sent a box of freebies, etc. to give to your guests. It doesn't cost you anything to sign up...they just expect you to honor your commitment to have a party and try to post some pictures to their website. I have applied for a few parties, and was excited to get chosen to do the Velveeta Game Day party for Super Bowl!! Since I do a Super Bowl party anyway, this is just icing on the cake ☺ I received my huge box of goodies from FedEx today:

The box was FULL of cool stuff!
Here it is, laid out so I could see it all: a 2 lb box of Velveeta, a can of Ro-Tel, a canister of sugar-free Koolaid, three bags of Ritz chips, and a cute little ceramic square serving dish.
How cool are these cups?! I received 25 of these "Etch-It" cups. Apparently, you peel off the label and underneath is a little blackboard that you scratch your name on your cup....no sharing cooties here!

What is a party without guest favors? They sent me 16 of these plastic "Velveeta-keepers" to pass out......along with 16 of these dandy chip-clips. Who couldn't use a few more chip clips? There is also a pile of recipe card booklets with coupons to pass out, as well.

All in all, a nice little start of party-supplies ☺ Check back next week...I will be hurriedly working on cleaning, making decorations, getting food situated, etc.!

Have a terrific weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recipe testing, the last chapter

I ended up doing a total of three recipe-tests for the new cookbook. I would have loved to do more, but having all of these baked goods in the house when you are trying to lose weight is not a good thing! The last recipe was an easy, fast, and delicious one for Pineapple Bread. A super-quick bread that vanished super-fast between my two girls!

The dry ingredients were whisked, and the wet ones were combined. A total of only 7 items went into this bread!

I was surprised at how light and fluffy this batter was, as compared to the much thicker/denser batter of a zucchini or Amish friendship bread.

The batter was poured into a greased loaf pan and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Although the directions stated to bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, I found it to be completely done at 30-40 minutes... just another reason these recipes are tested!

I had to snap a quick photo before it was all gone! A light, pineapple-y sweet bread with a cinnamon-sugar crust. Perfect for breakfast or snacking ☺

Whew, finally a recipe that didn't give me too many fits. Kevin currently has the first-draft of the book in his hands, and it is scheduled to be released this Fall. I think it will be an amazing book of recipes and stories, which I am looking quite forward to. I will share more with you all when the time comes!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Recipe Testing, part 2

The next recipe on the list was simply called "Lazy Woman's" Chocolate Cake. Kevin assured me that he didn't think I was lazy, but only found the title to be humorous. Sure, Kevin, I'll bet! Anyway, the recipe is fairly different; unlike most cake recipes, it does NOT call for any eggs. The leavening agents in this particular one are baking soda and vinegar! Definitely a bit out of the ordinary.

Like I mentioned yesterday, the directions for these recipes tend to be pretty vague. I picture these Amish women scribbling the recipe down for a friend on a notepad, short and simple. They inherently seem to know how to mix the ingredients, what size pan to use, how long to bake, etc. However, when publishing a cookbook for the masses, the instructions must be clear, complete, and precise. That is one of the main reasons we are testing them; we also have to make sure they are really delicious and fit for a cookbook!

Although the only directions for this recipe was "Combine all ingredients and bake", I did start out by whisking the dry ingredients together. I made a well in the center for the liquids, then mixed into a batter. Look closely and you can see those bubbles forming from the baking soda/vinegar. Grade school science at it's finest!

The batter was poured into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and baked. Still bubbling away right before I put it in the oven!

Hot out of the oven, hubby and I were ready for some chocolate cake! I hate to admit we were hasty in our judgement; we did not care for it! Everyone knows how a cake looks straight from the oven, with a bit of a "crust" on top. That crust was a little bit bitter, and the cake itself wasn't too sweet. I covered it in plastic wrap and left it on the countertop overnight.

By the next morning, the cake had a chance to distribute its moisture and mellow out a bit. Wow, was it moist!! Not overly sticky sweet, but a really nice cake for a good spread of frosting. A fast, one-bowl recipe for a decent cake.

ps...I should have mentioned this in my last post, but I cannot post these recipes. The cookbook is a work-in-progress, and I wouldn't want to ruin it. I can assure you, it will be a beautiful book and worth the purchase! Check out the newest book, The Amish Cook at Home, and you will see what I mean!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recipe Testing, take 1

Why is it that sometimes, when you think something is going to be easy, it ends up being super-difficult? This recipe that I tested for Kevin and Lovina's newest baking book, called Butterscotch Brownies, seemed like a no-brainer. And, actually, it was... once I got past that first stinking step!

The first thing you do is melt butter in a pan, then add brown sugar. You are supposed to cook it until the brown sugar "melts". I was waiting for it to turn into a carmeley-saucey sort of thing, so I continued to stir...

Eventually, then entire thing seized up and turned into a brown sugar brick; good for making houses, no so good for making brownies.

I scrapped that batch (obviously!) and started over. This time, I only let the butter/b.sugar mixture get to a peanut butter consistency before I allowed it to cool.

The rest of the ingredients were assembled, and the batter was made.

As in many of these Amish recipes, the specific are just not there. Directions may just say "pour into greased pan." Then the question becomes, "What SIZE of pan?". The first batch I made in an 8 x 8 pan (and you can see that only half of that batch has nuts in it...that is intentional ☺). There just didn't seem to be enough batter to cover a 9 x 13 pan. They turned out very good, but a little taller/cakier than a normal brownie.

I take this job very seriously, so I made another batch and spread it into a 9 x 13 pan. The batter is very thick and sticky, and there isn't much of it, but my off-set spatula made short work of this. I was suprised how much that little amount of batter really puffed up! It was decided that 9 x 13 pan is definitely the right one to use.

Nutty, chewy, and not overly sweet...Delish!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Help Neko Case help animals!

I just saw this link on another blog, and I just had to share it with everyone! For every blog that posts the link to a FREE download of the newest single from Neko Case, "People Got a Lotta Nerve", $5 will be donated to the Best Friends Animal Society!

Download it here.

For more information on how to link YOUR blog to this great cause,
read about it here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Slippery bucks find a home

I have been trying so hard to spend my remaining Christmas cash (gift from parents) in the last couple of days. A lovely Japanese pose doll slipped through my fingers in the last 5 seconds of an eBay auction yesterday... and then I stayed up through 1 a.m. for a long, tedious Etsy store update that was a total bust.

Everything happens for a reason. I can attest, this is true.

Look what I just nabbed:

Invisible Bandit, original framed paper-doll outfit
(photo credits to The Black Apple)

I couldn't think of a better way to let go of it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Meet me in the kitchen

This week, I have enjoyed finishing up this wonderful cookbook by Lovina Eicher and my friend Kevin Williams . Kevin is the long-time editor of "The Amish Cook" syndicated newspaper column, written by Lovina. This book is absolutely fantastic! They centered it around the four seasons, with the recipes/stories/photography relating to seasonally available foods. There are also specialty-type sections about using fresh venison, wild mushrooms, and the like. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy !

Luckily, sales for this newest cookbook installment were so positive that Kevin and Lovina were quickly offered the opportunity to write a baking book. They are on a tight deadline, and each recipe must be tested before being deemed acceptable for the book. I volunteered to be a recipe-tester, which has been a really fun job. I have been taking pictures and notes of the recipes I was assigned, which I will be sharing here in my blog within the next week ☺

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hide the sweets!!

(A sampling of the treats I made for friends and family: chocolate-dipped marshmallows; cherry-vanilla and pistachio-almond macarons; the BEST frosted sugar cookies; and dipped pretzels molded into trees, santas, and reindeer).
Luckily, the last morsel of Christmas goodies is gone until December. I am retrying last years goal of losing weight...along with 50 million other Americans. I hope I can do it. I have been using my eliptical again and have joined a Yahoo support group of other friends with the same goal in mind.
So, I went and bought a hot air popcorn popper today to make a healthy snack. What could be better?
I turned it into homemade carmel corn.
This is going to be harder than I thought.