Sunday, December 27, 2009

Next Christmas...

...I'll bake the stuffing the day before and just reheat it Christmas Day.

...I will only eat half of my dessert while the guests are over and save half of it for after everyone's left and the kids are asleep so I can savor it =) It was hard to enjoy eating my cream puff while watching the kids and keeping on top of everything!

...I will definitely do a kid friendly tree again (a fake one)--it decreased the stress so much because I didn't have to worry about anything breaking or about them touching it! It did almost tip over once, but it was so easy to stand back up since there were only paper ornaments on it.

...I will remember to go through the kids toys a few weeks before Christmas and put some of them away.

...I will definitely untie all ties and assemble all toys (if possible). We assembled Eli's toy, but left the dolls and their accessories in their boxes. I think it took us 45 minutes to get them undone!

...I will ask my kids what they would like for Christmas. I know it probably sounds strange that we don't, but we haven't wanted to encourage them to dwell on listing all the things they want. I haven't wanted to do deal with the "I want.. and ... and ..." every time we go into a store.

...I will make 2 pies for Christmas Day dinner again, but not rolls. I really liked having the room for pie instead of rolls! =)

...And I will make sure I have extra whipping cream (like I did this year) in case my whipped cream for my cream pie gets overwhipped because I'm doing 2 things at once =) Whew--I was glad I had extra!

What will you do next year that you did this year or that you didn't do?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Easy Chocolate Truffles--Yum!

This is my version of the recipe I tried yesterday....
Mint Chocolate Truffles

1. Microwave 2 Tbsp butter and 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream in a bowl on high fro 1 min. 15 sec.
2. In a second bowl, microwave 1 package of Nestle Dark Chocolate/Mint Chips (Target has them) plus 2 oz. semisweet choc. chips in a bowl for 3 min-3 min. 15 sec. at 70%. (I did them on high and almost overcooked them.) Stir until smooth.
3. Then, use a whisk to stir the cream into the chocolate mixture.
4. Refrigerate until firm and you can mold it into balls (2-3 hours). At 2 hrs, I could do it, but it would have probably been easier at 3 =)
5. Combine 1/4 c. cocoa and 1/2 cup powdered sugar (it would have help if I had sifted the sugar). Mix well.
6. Form the chocolate mixture into small truffle size balls (no more than 1 inch). Then roll them in the sugar-cocoa mixture. Place in a tupperware lined with wax paper in one layer. Store in the refrigerator.

Mine were pretty small so it made about 30-40. I have never tried truffles before--I've been pretty intimidated, but these were super easy and they worked. Most importantly, they taste really good!! My girls helped me by putting the dishes in the microwave and turning it on. I took the dishes out. They weren't able to roll the balls themselves, but they did roll them in the cocoa mixture. (they are 4 and 6 years old).

Today I'm trying a revised version of the peanut butter bon bon recipe so I'll let you know how they come out! I made the filling yesterday but it was too soft to form into balls so I let it sit overnight.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grain Mills: A great investment

It may seem that sometimes good small appliances are expensive, but I was reminded 2 weeks ago that it can really be worth it. A very good friend of mine has a dog with allergies. So, she grinds rice flour once a month to make dog biscuits. Her Nutrimill just died after 3 years of monthly use. She ground a total of about 1000 lbs we calculated (over that time). Rice flour is a specialty item and can cost $2-$3 a pound. We figured out that she saved $2800 by grinding rice with her mill. So, eventhough a Nutrimill costs $250, we both agreed that it is definitely worth it!

When I called the company, they were awesome and gave a great tip to prolong the life of your Nutrimill--never run for longer than 15 minutes at a time. Especially when grinding rice, because it is the driest of the grains that the mill can grind. They told me to have her send them her mill and they would fix it this time, but to tell her that next time she needs to only run it for 15 minutes at a time =) The man I spoke with was great and very helpful.

I've had my Nutrimill for 4 years already and it continues to run great. I have ground only wheat and corn in it, since we don't have any food allergies in our family.

Parchment Paper

Please forgive me if I've posted this before. When baking cookies with Parchment paper, you can reuse the parchment paper. Just use a spatula to take them off and put new dough on the paper to bake. It really works quite well for a whole batch. =) My husband asked me yesterday why Parchment paper matters, and I think it helps when cookies are prone to spreading to keep them together and makes them easier to get off the cookie sheet. The best and cheapest way to get it (if you like to bake a lot) is to find a restaurant supply store or a friend who owns a restaurant that you can order a box through from their restaurant supplies distributor.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yummy Turkey Soup,3635791

The link above is for our favorite after-Thanksgiving (or after-Christmas) turkey soup. I didn't know how much my husband loved it until he came home and asked for 3 copies of the recipe to take to work a few weeks ago because he was telling everyone how good it was.

The only change I make is that I only use 1/4 cup of butter instead of 1/2. I try to cut the fat in recipes when I can--without taking it completely out. 1/4 cup works just fine. I also usually add almost 2 cups of turkey--I tend to like more meat in it =)

I am not a big internet recipe person. My brother is convinced that within a few years, publishers won't be making books anymore--everything will be online. I guess I am very old school. I was adamant that would not be the case! I love to have a cookbook in front of me. A cookbook seems more personal than a print out from the computer (and yet here I am posting this link to this recipe!) I find myself skeptical of how good a random recipe on a website will be. If I find a recipe in a cookbook that I've found lots of great treasures in then, I have more confidence in trying another new one from the cookbook.

But, in this case, I went searching for a turkey soup recipe several years ago and found this one--and it is really, really good! You can buy plain wild rice at Trader Joe's. It is a little expensive as a single ingredient, but put it in a ziploc bag and keep it in the bag of your fridge for the next time you want to make this soup. If you store it in your pantry, and the pantry gets warm, you may get bugs in it =( Thankfully, the rest of the ingredients make the soup pretty affordable, I think.

...One last tip, I always buy red bell peppers when they're on sale and slice them and then freeze them in ziplocs. I tried buying Trader Joe's 3 pepper blend, but it always ended up mushy on me when I defrosted them. Freezing the bell peppers myself seems to work better--without mushy results. =)

I hope you enjoy the soup if you get to make it!

I'm funny, aren't I?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Trees

Yesterday, I bought the least expensive fake tree they had at Lowe's for $22.95. I know it may sound different to do that, but I decided that I wanted to get a tree just for the kids. My oldest daughter is 6 and each year I have watched as my husband (and me too) have been anxious about the tree falling on the kids--about the kids pulling ornaments off the tree--about the kids touching everything. But, I really want them to enjoy the tree. So, I asked my husband if this was okay--to go get a tree just for the kids and he said it was fine.

I'm so glad I did! I put it up and put the lights on it. Then we (the kids and I) put the kids decorations they've made on it. My husband came home and was impressed. He said, Wow! Maybe we should just get one like that for upstairs (instead of spending a lot more for a bigger one upstairs). I thought that was a compliment.

But, my new thought is, maybe this should just be our one tree for the year. It would make things so much simpler! I wouldn't have to stress about keeping an eye on them around the tree and there isn't anything on the tree that can't be handled by my 1 1/2 year old =)