Monday, February 28, 2011

Martha Monday--Slow cooker favorites

February was a busy month for me and while it held some fun times, like Little Miss's first birthday, I am glad to show February the door.  There was just too much going on in only four short weeks and I hope that March brings some calmer times. 

One thing I really appreciate when the daily routine becomes so hectic it's almost unbearable is my crock pot.  I really, really love that thing!  How awesome is it that I can throw ingredients in the pot in the morning, leave it alone for 8-10 hours, and at the end of the day a meal is completely ready?  Amazing!

As handy-dandy as it is, I do need to use my crock pot even more. Martha has a great list of slow cooker recipes, including this delicious pot roast

This winter I started using the crock pot for BBQ pork and chicken sandwiches.  My method is to just throw frozen meat in there, cover it with BBQ sauce and add a little water, but Martha has a slightly more complicated recipe here.  Check it out:

   I get the most mileage out of my crock pot with chilis and soups.  Here's Jimmy Fallon's Crock-Pot Chili

For all the pot roasts, soups, stews, chili and BBQ I make in my crock pot, I have yet to tackle making a dessert in there.  But that is about to change...take a look at these amazing slow-cooker triple chocolate brownies

Yum! I'll be trying these soon.

What do you make in your crock pot?

Friday, February 25, 2011

One year

It amazes me that in one year she can go from this... this at three months...

to this...

And she just keeps going and growing! 

The things that can happen in one year's time blow my mind.  As does she, on a daily basis.

My Baby Girl is now one year old.  How did this happen so quickly? I demand that time stop, or at least significantly slow, for a while starting right now. 

Sigh.  Time flies, doesn't it?

Happy birthday, Little Miss!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Baby Girl's first birthday cake

For BabyGirl's first birthday cake, I wanted to come up with something spectacular. Inspiration finally struck when I saw this Rose Cake on i am baker

Here's BabyGirl's cake:

I thought about icing the sides of the cake, but decided against it. The brown/chocolate cake and pink frosting made such a striking color palette that I didn't want to cover up the cake.

The frosting is, of course, all buttercream.  It's so good, I hardly ever bother with anything else.

Thanks to i am baker for posting the tutorial for making the roses.  It was a cinch!

Happy first birthday to my BabyGirl!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monogrammed cookies

BabyGirl is turning one, so I wanted to have some really cute cookies for her parties.  The Big Guy, Little Guy and I all worked on the cookies. The Big Guy made the dough, while the Little Guy helped cut out the shapes. 

The cookies  are rolled sugar cookies, which seems easy enough, but the making and decorating process takes days.  I was really pleased with the finished products, though.  BabyGirl had some great monogrammed cookies, flowers and pretty frosted designs for her first birthday.

The best part is, these cookies taste as good as they look.  Yum!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kids + Cupcakes = Fun!

For the BabyGirl's birthday party, I had a fun activity for the kids:  Decorate your own cupcake.  A friend of mine (Hi, Jean!) did this at one of her kids' parties and it turned out well.  I've been wanting to try it ever since, but a crazy inner dialogue got in the way. The Type A side of my personality clashed heavily with my Mommy side. 

It went down like this:

Type A:  Let the kids decorate their own cupcakes?! Are you crazy?!
Mommy:  It will be fun!  I think they'll really enjoy it.
Type A: They'll make a huge mess! You'll be cleaning frosting off the ceiling for weeks!
Mommy:  It won't be that bad. I'll put down a plastic tablecloth and keep the wet wipes handy.  It will be fine.

Type A:  The kids are going to fight over the frosting! You'll have a food fight in 2 seconds!  You'll be cleaning food off the ceiling for weeks!
Mommy:  They won't fight. It will be fine.
Type A:  Seriously, I don't think you know what you are in for.  This is going to be a disaster.
Mommy: Seriously, you worry too much. This is going to be fun!

Thank goodness the Mommy side of me won out, because I did let the kids decorate their own cupcakes and they had a blast.  Take a look:

Originally, I thought this would appeal most to the younger kids. As it turned out, we had a high schooler in attendance, and when he saw how much fun the younger kids were having, he jumped right in and decorated his own cupcake.  How awesome is that?!  Of course, all the kids had to wait until after dinner to eat their creations.  They got their cupcakes as the larger cake was being dished out to the adults.

This activity was a huge success and surprisingly, there was very little mess to clean up.

Mommy:  See, I told you everything would be fine!
Type A:  *Dumbfounded silence*

Monday, February 21, 2011

Martha Monday--Party decorations

There's a HUGE occasion at the TMI household this week.  BabyGirl, my sweet little bundle of cuddles, is practically all grown up...she'll be one in a few days.  Can you believe it?  Where does the time go?

Per our usual, we are in the process of having three birthday parties to accommodate all the families.  For decorations, the Big Guy decorated the foyer columns with pink crepe paper and I put several "Happy Birthday" banners throughout the house.  I did take a tip from Martha about kids' party decorations and made a "1" out of balloons.  You know, in case all these guests had no idea why they were at our house. 

I put the "1" in the foyer for all to see.  The balloons themselves are printed with "Happy 1st Birthday" so people really know what's going on. 

Here's the Balloon Blowout as Martha does it:

I don't know how many kids Martha invites to the  birthday parties she hosts, but there are a bunch that come to our house.  Can you see where this is going?

Before the party:

And 30 minutes after the party started:

Oh well, it was a neat decoration while it lasted. The kids had fun with the balloons, and that's really all that matters. 

And while our household is all a-twitter with BabyGirl's first birthday, she's not the only birthday we have at the TMI House this week:  Happy Birthday to the Big Guy!  We love you!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Branching out

Once I mastered regular white bread, I tried to make raisin bread and dinner rolls based on the recipes found in the bread machine instruction manual.

The raisin bread was tasty, but the machine didn't get all the raisins mixed in and many were clinging to the outside. 

I tried again, but instead of letting the machine mix the raisins in I tried to do that step by hand. I rolled out the dough, sprinkled more cinnamon on, and tried to evenly distribute the raisins.  Then I rolled up the loaf, let it rise and baked that sucker.

Can you see the cinnamon swirl pattern in the bread?  This method didn't really work--not enough raisins.  I'm going to keep trying, though, because we have some true raisin bread fans in this house.

Then I got really crazy and decided to make dinner rolls.  Again, I let the bread machine do the majority of the work.  The recipe instructions called for rolling the dough into special "dinner roll" shapes, but that sounded like a lot of extra time and effort to me, so instead I just plopped balls of dough on the cookie sheet and called it a day.

My laziness paid off though--the rolls were fine in their blobby shapes and tasted delicious!  Making the leap from bread to rolls was a cinch.  A tad messier, perhaps, but completely a cinch!

With the help of the bread machine, I can see myself making rolls at least once a week.  Each recipe yielded 16-18 rolls, and that is enough to get us through the week. 

No more dough out of a tube for me!  Now that I've mastered bread baking, I really feel so Martha-ish.  Martha-like?  Marthalicious?

Yes, that's it...I feel Marthalicious!  Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And on the third day...

...I created bread!  After attempt #1, I got new yeast.  After attempt #2, I got actual bread flour.  By attempt #3, these efforts paid off...I made an honest-to-goodness delicious loaf of homemade bread.  Woohoo!

I let the bread machine do all the work except the actual baking.  Because I was tired of that crazy round bread shape (which totally does not fit in my toaster, by the way) I took the dough out after the second rising and baked it in my traditional bread pans.  Ta da!

It was delicious!  The Big Guy and I ate an entire loaf that night--that's how good it was. 

I was so happy that I danced around for a while claiming to have invented bread, but the Big Guy informed me that no, I didn't, that I just finally managed to bake it in my own home.  Excuse me?  I informed him that I did so invent bread, and then reminded him that the floor is not a comfortable place to sleep. 

The Big Guy then stated that this "bread" is my best invention yet, and he thinks it's really going to catch on. 

Isn't that a great story? 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Keep trying!

Even though my first attempt at baking my own bread was a disappointment, I was more determined than ever to conquer yeast and DO THIS THING.  So I got some fresh yeast and tried again.

Here's my second attempt at baking homemade bread:

This time I got the height, but the top caved in.  And I'm not wild about this round shape, either, though that's due entirely to the shape of the bread machine.

After cutting off the roof collapse, I had some decent bread remaining.  This could work!

With some butter and Belfry Bees Honey, this actually tasted pretty good.  There is room for improvement, though.  Like getting rid of that round shape--it's really weirding me out!

I'm not giving up though.  After this attempt, I decided to get serious.  Really, really serious. As in, "I went to Sam's Club and bought a 25 pound bag of bread flour" serious.

I am not kidding around about this homemade bread stuff.  I will make delicious homemade bread for my family, so help me Martha.