Friday, May 31, 2013

A Car Conversation

My High Schooler had half days this week due to finals, which left me with even more than the usual trips to school.  I didn't complain. He'll be driving soon, and all that precious time in the car together will be gone. Forever. All those one on one conversations. All those glimpses into his day.....

ME:  How were finals?
HIM:  Great!  I cleaned out my locker.  Do you know what I found at the very bottom?
ME:  Food?
HIM:  Yes.  A Slim Jim.
ME:  Was it in the wrapper?
HIM:  Yes.
ME:  Did you eat it?
HIM:  Yes.  Do you know what it tasted like?
ME:  What?
HIM:  Freedom.

I get it.  The last bite out of the locker tastes like the first bite of summer. I love my baby boy!

Happy Summer, Everyone!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Thanks a Latte" Gift Card Holder

Today is the last day of school for the girls.  Where has the year gone?  It seems as if we just moved into our new house, just had those First-Day-of-a-New-School jitters, just played in the snow..... Oh yeah. We did just play in the snow. Earlier this month!

I always get a bit teary-eyed at the end of the school year when I realize how much our teachers have invested in our children, when I think of the strides my kids have made, or when I look at their First Day of School pictures and discover how much they have grown in such a short time!

A coffee card doesn't seem like adequate thanks, but it is still a token of my appreciation for all the teachers have done. I especially like to give something to our middle school and high school teachers who don't always get the recognition that the grade school teachers do.  So I made 20 of these. That was our magic number this year. Twenty teachers in grade school,  middle school and high school that influenced the lives of my children!

For these coffee gift card holders I found these awesome Petal Folders at Target.

They are essentially a card and envelope in one.  I taped the gift card to the inside.

I found this great printable over at Just A Girl and Her Blog.  
Ahhh....  I just love it when other people do all the creative work for me!

The kit comes with its own special seal.

Add a bag of these delicious Chocolate Chunk Rolo Bars and their coffee break is complete!

Thanks, Teachers!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chocolate Chunk Rolo Bars

Sometimes you just need to amp up a classic.
Introducing:  Chocolate Chunk Rolo Bars.

Did you know that Rolos now come in minis? These are the perfect size for adding to pretty much anything..... cookies, brownies, cupcakes, trail mix, salad, lasagne...... (OK, just kidding about the last two.) 

For these amazing cookie bars, just whip up a batch of your basic cookie dough (see recipe below) and throw in the entire bag of mini Rolos.

Top that off with a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chunks.

Spread the dough out into a 1/2 sheet cake pan
(or two 9 x 13's).  It's all about the math.

Can you see the chocolate caramel chunks?
Don't forget the milk!

Chocolate Chunk Rolo Bars

1 1/3 cups butter or shortening (I like Earth Balance)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2  tsp vanilla
3 cups flour (I use white whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 8-ounce bag mini Rolos
1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Blend butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy again.  Add flour, baking soda and salt.  Beat until well mixed.  The dough will be stiff.  Add chocolate chips and combine with a spoon.

For the bars, line a 1/2 sheet cake pan with parchment paper.  

Pat the dough into the pan evenly.  If the dough sticks to your fingers, put a plastic sandwich bag over your hand and spray the palm side with cooking spray.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2-Ingredient South American Chicken

I don't know if they actually eat this delicious chicken dish in South America, but I do know that it has only two ingredients, can be made in a slow cooker and gives me just one more reason to love Costco!

Here it is.  South American Salsa.

If you can't find it at your local Costco, I'm sure the regular mango variety will work. But if you can find it, use the South American Salsa.  It's extra special. And I'm not just playing favorites here.

I think it's the combination of the pineapple and piquillo pepper that give this salsa its distinctive flavor. Just combine 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs with one jar of South American Salsa in your slow cooker and walk away.  Come back after 6-8 hours on low, shred, and dinner is ready. What's not to love?

Serve over rice.  Be a hero.

For my round two recipe, I added a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and about 1/3 cup of ketchup to the remaining chicken.  It made delicious barbeque chicken sandwiches!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sweet Buttermilk Cupcakes

May is Birthday Month in our family.  It's my mom's birthday, my sister-in-law Janet's birthday, my sister-in-law Pam's birthday, my Aunt Ruth's birthday, my Uncle Steve's birthday and our favorite baby-sitter Kelsey's birthday.  I love birthdays.  It gives me just one more reason to make cupcakes.

This Yellow Buttermilk Cake recipe makes the perfect classic birthday cupcake. I adapted it from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book.  The combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour give them the perfect balance of lightness and heft.  The buttermilk adds flavor dimension and moisture.  You definitely won't confuse these with the cake mix variety.  Top with Cream Cheese or Vanilla Frosting and, of course, sprinkles!

Sweet Buttermilk Cupcakes
Makes 36 Cupcakes

3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
2  teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together dry ingredients.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients.
  3. Add flour to wet ingredients in batches and continue beating until combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly among 36 muffin tins. 
  5. Bake for about 17 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. To finish, frost with Vanilla or Cream Cheese Frosting.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Trip to Atlanta

I took the girls to Atlanta this past weekend.  I hadn't been back there since the overstuffed moving truck pulled out of our driveway. On that day, we left approximately 17 minutes after the moving truck. I left the house to a cleaning crew and didn't even shed a tear as we hastily drove away, trying to get some daylight driving in on our long journey north. But as it turns out, we ended up missing a lot of things about The South. Things we had taken for granted and had no idea we would be missing. Things like Chick-fil-A. Is that wrong? 

This was our first stop.

Aaaahhh..... after almost of year of giving up such deliciousness, here it was..... 
our first Chick-fil-A sandwich.

If you haven't ever eaten a Chick-fil-A sandwich, you have no idea what you're missing. Perfectly seasoned and breaded chicken pan-fried to a crispy crust, leaving the inside moist and tender. Once you eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich, you will wonder how you ever lived so long without one.

A second Chick-fil-A sandwich.
Tastes even better with a side of friendship.

Here's a locksmith breaking into my safety deposit box.  I lost my key.  I'm not proud of this.
I asked him if he had considered a career on Oceans Eleven. He's thinking about it.

I keep reminding myself that the lifestyles on "Real Housewives of Atlanta" are not normal in any other part of the world than Atlanta.

A Presidential visit to Morehouse College + Tornadoes to the West = The Perfect Storm for delayed flights.

Welcome to Moe's!
A great diversion for our loooong delay.  
Did you know that the entire airport shuts down for Air Force One?

President trumps Housewife.... and entire collegiate Lacrosse Team!
(Not to mention the other gazillion people traveling through Hartsfield Airport!)

But we made it home safely, and, in the wake of the recent tornadoes, I'll take a delay any day.
Oklahoma, you are in our prayers!