Archive for July, 2010

Jul 30 Friday

I’m going to dip you in caramel!

Sometimes, when our kids are being naughty, my sister and I tell them that we are going to take them home and dip them in chocolate. If they keep being naughty, add some sprinkles. Or nuts. And don’t forget a dollop of whipped cream.

Today, it’s caramel.

“Stop bothering your sister or I am going to dip you in caramel!”

In honor of Sammy Quinn’s 2nd birthday, we are having a tiny little carnival. Complete with carnival food. Popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, cotton candy, cupcakes and caramel topped apples.

Thankfully I have the perfect caramel recipe to fit the occasion.

A friend of mine, Lindsey, posted this family recipe on her blog nearly a year ago. They enjoy it with apples picked fresh from her family orchard. (I enjoy it on anything; a spoon, my wrist, apples, ice cream, the counter top, etc.)

This is not a heart healthy recipe. Moderation is key people! The buttery flavor of this caramel is crazy good, but it’s so rich you will find yourself only needing a nip here and there.

Rule #1 What happens between you and the spatula in the kitchen stays between you and the spatula.

Note to you: Use unsalted sweet cream butter if available. We are lucky to have access to hand churned Amish butter. If you live near an Amish community, pick some up. It is a beautiful addition to this recipe.

You will need:

1 C. Butter
1 lb. Brown sugar (2 1/4 cups, I have used dark & light brown, either works)
1 C. Light corn syrup
1 C. Sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat stirring constantly.  Cook for 8-10 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 220 degrees. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Ladle over diced apples.

If you want to make caramels, cook until it reaches 245 degrees, pour into a greased 9×9 pan, cool overnight, cut and wrap in wax paper.

Note to You: I make this ahead. It stores well, covered, in the fridge.  When it’s party time, I warm it in a Crock Pot until ready to serve.

Disclaimer: Threat is for dramatic purposes only. Dipping kids in hot caramel is not recommended.

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Jul 28 Wednesday

Free Rubs! (With purchase.)

I am a big fan of home parties.

Tupperware, Pampered Chef, anything that makes me feel a little spoiled while hanging out with my gal pals. Stir a little margarita into the party and you have a recipe for success.

It is also an opportunity for me to advertise the fact that I don’t get out nearly enough.

While attending a recent Pampered Chef party, I was slap happy.

PC Rep: Why don’t you ladies take some time to look through your catalogs. When you are ready I will be over here to tell you about the guest specials and take your orders! Are there any questions?

Me: What are the guest specials?

PC Rep: Oh yes! With any $60 purchase you get your choice of any two rubs!

Me: Oh fabulous, I’ll take a neck and foot rub!

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Jul 26 Monday

Hi, My Name is Porky!

*All names have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent parties involved.

My friend Cinderella, herein referred to as Ella, is one of the most hysterical people I know. Her emails, texts and general commentary leave me tickled pink. I often giggle so hard, I have to fight to keep control of my bladder.

In an effort to feel good about herself, Ella joined Weight Watchers with a close friend of hers named Molly. These girls have the best of friendships, which include the ability to make fun of one another without causing hurt to anyone’s feelings.

Last week, Ella and Molly headed off to their very first Weight Watchers meeting together. When Molly had her back turned, Ella, being a bit of a prankster, grabbed an extra name tag and scribbled the name “PORKY” on it.

After the meeting, as the two exchanged kudos in the parking lot, Ella slapped the name tag on to Molly’s back.

The deed was done. Ella assumed Molly would go right home to her husband, who would discover the prank.

Two hours later, Ella still hadn’t received the phone call she expected from her dear friend. As the minutes passed, she grew more and more anxious.

Ella called Molly, who picked up the phone immediately.

Molly: “PAYBACKS ARE HELL!”

Ella: “Please tell me you went right home!”

Molly: “Oh no! I went to WalMart! I walked around for an hour and half. No one said ANYTHING to me until I was standing in the check out line. This nice older lady tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Oh honey! I think someone is playing an awfully mean trick on you!’

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Jul 21 Wednesday

They Were sCONES!

SuperHub doesn’t ask for much. So when he recently suggested I make blueberry scones with a surplus of blueberries we hand picked ourselves, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to spoil him a smidgen.

Having never made scones, I researched recipes until I found one that met my criteria: Easy, I have most (if not all) of the ingredients on hand and the recipe comes from a reliable source.

Blueberry scones with a fresh lemon glaze. Doooooods.

As complicated as they seem to be, this is actually an extremely easy recipe.  The toughest thing for me, was squeezing 1/2 cup of juice fresh lemons. Oddly, something I have done a lot of lately.

On a scale of 1 to What in the hell was I thinking?: 2

You will need:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, sliced
1  to 1 3/4 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup heavy cream (Plus another bit for brushing on top)
*I did not have heavy cream, so I used 1/3 cup butter, melted and stirred into 3/4 cup milk

Lemon Glaze:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice  (4-6 lemons)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 lemon, zest finely grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Mix your flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl. Whisk well to combine. Or sift if you’re fancy. Add 5 T sliced butter to the mix.

You can use two forks or a pastry blender to cut the butter into your flour mixture. Honestly, I just use my paws. Get in there good and mix (squeeze and crumble) until mixture is crumbly and even in texture.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Add 1 C of your heavy cream or the substitute listed above. Fold the mixture with a spoon until completely combined.

I added an extra splash of extra heavy cream to make the mixture come together.

Pour 1 to 1 3/4 C fresh blueberries on top and VERY GENTLY fold them in with a spoon or your hands. Be careful not to puncture or bruise too many blueberries. Sometimes I stick some into the dough after being cut. This is a soft dough and it’s easy to do.

On a well floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle, about 13 inches long, 3 inches wide with a thickness of around an inch.

Cut in half. Then cut both halves in half. Your next cut will be a diagonal cut along all four pieces, making the traditional scone triangle shape.

Gently brush the top of each scone with heavy cream and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. I sprinkled sugar on top of mine to give it a delicate sweet crust. YUM.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown.

Let sit on pan for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. Cool a bit before applying the lemon glaze.

Note to You: The glaze is optional. That being said, it’s magnificent.

To make your glaze: Squeeze your lemons to juice, zesting one lemon. Less than half cup of juice is fine, as long as it’s close. Mix lemon zest and juice with 2 C powder sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Put in a microwave safe bowl and add 1 T butter. Microwave on high for one minute, stir well and let cool slightly before glazing scones.

To apply to scones, simply spoon the glaze over the top.

Best served warm with a cold glass of milk.

Rumor has it my next request is for a fresh raspberry pie. Stay tuned.

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Jul 20 Tuesday

Brutal Honesty

Every night during Family Story Time, we share our favorite parts of the day.

They vary from day to day with whatever adventures have met our path. Tonight, I shared my favorite part of the day was getting a nap. A much needed, beautiful, cozy up on the couch nap.

Yeah! Mom NEVER gets a nap. She gets up too early to go workout and then is bothered by us kids all day long!”

Funny and ouch. So I grabbed the cute 6 year old little blondie who shared that tidbit and told him that I am most lucky to have the opportunity to be bothered by my kiddos all day long. Sometimes it’s good to be bothered.

Me: “And you know that Dad goes to work everyday, do you know what he does?”

Cooper: “Keeps people safe on their computers.” (Note to You: SuperHub is a good guy computer hacker.)

Me: “Exactly! Do you know what I do for a job?”

Cooper: (Counting on his fingers) “You wipe our butts. Take care of us. Make us food. Play with us. Take us on play dates. And write.”

I’ve been upgraded from the last time I asked him that question. See below.

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Jul 19 Monday

Leftover Ice Box Sandwiches

If there happens to be any Kick-You-In-The-Crotch frosting leftover from your Lemonade! Cupakes, or if you just get a hankering to make these, I highly recommend you do so. Purrrrr.

They are BANANAS. Or lemons if you are nit picky.

Place a generous dollop of frosting in the center of a halved graham cracker. Top with another cracker. Freeze until solid (1-2 hours). Remove from freezer and enjoy! Or wrap up in packs of 2, because I don’t like to share, using plastic wrap and store in freezer until ready to consume. Will keep in freezer for up to 6 weeks.

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Jul 19 Monday

Temporarily Out of Commission

Today was my first day back to working out since a nasty kick boxing accident last Monday morning that left me temporarily out of commission.

Honestly, I am more of the type of person to tough it out “It doesn’t hurt THAT bad” until I get home and then complain to Brown Town about how much it REALLY hurts. But this one was a doozie. During a switch-back kick, my foot rolled under my entire body weight and my whole body followed. There was a pop, I saw white light and down I fell. DOOOOOD. After figuring out how to move (hop) I drove my sweaty ass to the ER at 5:30 in the morning. No money. No ID.  Just me, my water bottle and a serious lack of control over my emotions.

I was a sobbing, sweaty, pile of people.

After x-rays, ice, a hug from the doctor and a nice dose of pain meds, I hobbled home to recover and throw the world’s largest pity party.

Pity Party: Table of 1

SuperHub ironed his cape and took over life here on the home front. He was nurse, Daddy & Lead Poopy Britches Updater until getting sick himself on Tuesday afternoon.

I am being completely honest, not exaggerating, when I say that this was the third worst pain I have ever experienced; after childbirth and car accident recovery. It threw me that there was nothing immediate to do to make things better. By Wednesday, I was in a major funk. Depressed, lethargic, achy and completely off my A game. After two days of pain, I was a hot mess.

It makes me (once again) more compassionate to people who have serious injuries or live with chronic pain. Just dealing with pain is a full time energy sucker. There is little to nothing left to give by noon, provided you are out of bed by that point. The same goes for depression.

For the sake of my own sanity, and the well being of my family, this morning I wrapped up my foot, hoped for the best and went to kick box my heart out.  With serious modifications, I was able to complete my entire workout. It felt good to get my feet underneath me again.

Even if one of them is gimpy.

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Jul 16 Friday

Lemonade! Cupcakes

The oddly placed exclamation point in Lemonade! Cupcakes title was born when SuperHub took his first bite of these culinary delights. His head spun around twice and a “WOAH!” bellowed from his gullet.

“The cupcake is a nice subtle lemon but the frosting is a kick-you-in-the-crotch lemon that comes later!”

And so it goes. I successfully made lemons into cupcakes! Well, kind of. Hold your lemons people. No, that is not a euphemism. We don’t need them.

Yet.

First of all, a HUGE thanks to you (my loyal readers) who emailed me your recipes after my lemon cake fail. You are all divine and quite appreciated! This particular cake recipe came from Carrie N. This girl is an amazing chef, photographer and a most awesome human bean.

Since having a religious experience with a citrus cream cheese frosting, I have had a hankering to recreate one myself. So I did. Paired with Carrie’s lemon cake recipe, this is a match made in food heaven.

You will need:

1 box French Vanilla Cake mix (I only had yellow on hand, you could also use lemon)
1 box Instant lemon pudding
¾ Cup Canola oil
4 Eggs
1 Cup Lemon Lime Soda

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cupcake pans by placing a paper in each cup. Combine the cake mix, lemon lime soda, pudding mix, oil and eggs as directed. Mix for 2 minutes. Scoop an even amount of batter into each cupcake paper. Bake for 18-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

Bake time for 9 x 13: 30 minutes (2-3 minute window either way, check for readiness with a toothpick.)

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (aka Kick-You-In-The-Crotch Lemon Frosting)

1 – 8 ounce Package cream cheese, softened (1/3 fat works beautifully)
1/4 Cup Butter, softened
2 Tablespoons Lemon zest
3 Tablespoons Fresh lemon juice
5 Cups Powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla, optional

Combine cream cheese, butter, lemon zest, lemon juice in a bowl with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar until well combined. I put a quart sized plastic bag into a measuring up and gently spoon in the frosting. Then clip one corner of the bag and slowly apply the icing in a traditional cupcake dollop. It’s cute, clean(ish) and when you are done you can apply the icing bag directly to your mouth and squeeze.

Frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish as you wish. I used giant sprinkles because Maddy thought they made the cupcakes more fancy. And well, who can resist a fancy cupcake?

The Survey Says: Ohmigawd. These are amazing. They are light, airy, flavorful and so packed with lemony punch that I got goosebumps while noshing.

We made 48 cupcakes, along with a pan of minis.  We decided to indulge ourselves and do what another reader told us to do. Lindsey L., we are going to have a little cupcake with our lemonade!

Tomorrow the kids and I are setting up our very first Brown Family Lemonade (& Lemonade! Cupcakes) Stand.

My little entrepreneurs made signs, bought cups and will sell their hearts out to thirsty passersby. Since our neighborhood is landlocked, we will be setting up shop on a route sure to get lots of traffic. If you see two cute little blondies, stop and try some of our goodies.

Besides, who doesn’t need the occasional kick in the crotch?

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Jul 16 Friday

I was talking about Astronomy, I swear.

Me: Projectiles into black holes? Mile high geysers!

SH: Huh?

Me: You want to explore the Milky Way? The Big Bang Theory?

SH:
Um.

Me: What, are there clouds of gas around Uranus?

SH: *Controlled giggling.*

Me: Oh la la, I can see the Big Dipper! Let’s go explore where imagination becomes reality.

SH: Dear, you need to go to bed.

Me: *Sings* Ground Control to Major Tom…

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Jul 13 Tuesday

Happy Birthday to You!

It’s summer vacation which means parents, like myself, are taking advantage of long summer days to plan our kiddos birthday parties. Pssst, outdoor parties mean we don’t have to scrub our kitchen floors.

Our fridge door is filled with a perpetual stream of invitations for sugar fueled merriment. It’s simply marvelous.

I have found myself gravitating towards the same gifts this past year. Along with some new finds, here are some ideas to keep your gift giving fresh.

Just My Style Messenger Bag Kit
Walmart
$10

This kicky little bag is good for hours of fun for your school aged birthday girls. The bag comes with a set of permanent markers allowing her to channel her inner Picasso. Bonus: She will be excited to carry the bag to school in another month or two.

Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden
Amazon
$15

Witness butterfly metamorphosis up close and personal. This reusable, collapsible habitat comes complete with a voucher for five butterfly larvae and special food. You have to send away for the larvae, but the entire three week process is worth the wait!

Ultra Stomp Rocket
Amazon
$13.25

Serious amounts of fun. Stomp and watch them go up. And up. And up. Up to 200 feet in the air.

Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book
Amazon or your local book store
$13.59

Just Doodle it! Pair this chunky color book a pack of colored pencils, markers or twistable crayons and you have the perfect gift for your little artist.

Going on a Picnic Kit
Any super store
$25 ish

Cooper’s best friend (and self proclaimed future Mrs. Brown) recently turned  6 years old. In an effort to do something a bit different, Cooper and I created a Going on a Picnic Kit. We filled a plastic square crate with tissue and piled in everything you might need to host a successful meal in the park; a roll up blanket, an insulated cooler bag ($1 spot), sandwich bags in a pretty pink design ($1 spot), napkins, plates, bowls, cups, hand sanitizer and wet wipes. Top off with some contrasting tissue and you have a super cute gift that any little girl would love!

Note to You: Switch up colors to make it boy friendly. Add or subtract items to fit your budget. Also, this time of year picnic items clearance out, keep your eyes peeled and stock up for future gift giving.

Add This 2 Comments Post by Katy