Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A successful event deserves brownies!

Hello Sweets,

I hope you all are having a spook-tacular Halloween!  I love this time of year.  The smell of the seasons changing, seeing all the little ghosts and goblins dressed up, and nothing says fall more than a fresh loaf of baked bread :)  Yup that's right, I finally succeeded with the whole wheat honey bread!!!  I either had a bad batch of yeast, or it didn't activate.  Either way, we now have two fresh loaves of bread, and the house smells absolutely divine.

Aren't they purdy :D

After last nights fail, I was feeling a little defeated, and somewhat frustrated.  So of course, I started looking at some of my favorite foodie websites, and came across a recipe for homemade brownies.  Now I don't know about you guys, but brownies always make me feel better lol, and I decided to bake them alongside the bread, just in case I had another mishap.  Now they didn't fall out of the pan easily, so they're not pretty, but they are pretty tasty lol.  Ok, on to the recipe, because that's why you came here after all!

Cocoa Brownies (via The Food Network)
soft butter, for greasing the pan
flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1C sugar, sifted
1C brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces of butter, melted
1 1/4C powdered cocoa, sifted
2Tsp vanilla extract
1/2C flour, sifted
1/2Tsp salt

1)  Preheat oven to 300F.  Butter and flour an 8" square pan.

2)  With an electric mixer, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow.

3)  Add both sugars and mix well, add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

4)  Pour batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes.  Use the tried and true toothpick method to see if the brownies are done.  Check in the middle as that is the last part to bake.

5)  When it's done, remove to a rack to cool.  Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

Now believe it or not, this was my first time baking brownies from scratch.  How sad is that? lol  They are so much better this way than store bought or boxed brownies, and it is very simple and quick too!  What is your favorite sweet to bake?  My favorite recipes are the ones that are passed down through families.  With my family, it was chocolate chip cookies, lemon meringue pie, zucchini bread, and banana bread.  My grandmothers banana bread is so moist, and the crust has this nice thin layer of crunchy goodness to it.  When she finally gave me the secret recipe, the first thing I did was make some "jen-ifcations" lol, which means I added chocolate chips and eventually even peanut butter!  I always bring my baked goodies to my grandparents, and she has always liked the changes I've made :)

Now I know this is somewhat of a short post, but tomorrow will be longer as I will be making not one, not two, but three different recipes tomorrow (yikes I'll be one busy little girl).  This is in preparation of the Texas AAA 500 race.  Nathan's family has season tickets, so we will be spending the weekend down at the track!  This also means my posts might be a little spaced out more so than usual starting on Friday.  I am thinking I might do a couple of race themed posts about what we did, and what we ate.  This will sound silly to most of my American readers, but I had never been tailgating before last April when we went to my first NASCAR race EVER, and they bring all sorts of yummy food to cook out in the parking lot before and after the race (when you're waiting for all the cars to vacate the parking lot).  Needless to say, and to Nathan's surprise (but he loves it), I love tailgating and even the races too!  Just another thing the love of my life and I can do together, plus we are the cutest racing couple ever lol, just kidding, but no really we are ;) .
See, wasn't I right :p

Now have a haunting good evening, and enjoy all the little kids that come to your door tonight.  Until next time........

Stay sweet,

Jennifer xoxoxo

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

With baking there is no fail, only lessons to be learned

Hello Sweets,

 Today's post is about the lessons that can be taught to you in your kitchen, and to show that all of us, both experienced and not, can make mistakes, and not let them discourage us from doing what we love!  I chose to venture down the road of homemade bread today.  This wasn't my first attempt, but it was sadly my first fail. :(  But I will not let this discourage me.  I will attempt this recipe in the next few days, but until the success, I have decided to still post about my fail in hopes that it will perhaps not only help others, but also encourage all of you to keep trying.

So what did I try to make you ask?  Whole Wheat Honey bread, similar to what they serve at The Cheesecake Factory.  Nathan took me there on our anniversary back in August.  I had never been there before, and he thought that was crazy considering my love of cheesecake (hmmm definitely another post topic lol), and needless to say, their food was delicious!  Our entrees were savory.  Nathan had the Southeast Asian Caramel Chicken, and I had the Chicken Fettuccine mmmm good!

This part is going to sound silly, but next to their AMAZING cheesecake, was the whole wheat honey bread they bring you when you sit down.  Usually I am more partial to the white bread served in restaurants, only because a lot of restaurant's brown bread is sort of dry, but at The Cheesecake Factory, their brown bread is to die for.  Of course being the ever loving girlfriend, I have been scouring the Internet for a recipe that comes close, and I think I finally got one worthy lol, and go figure, the first time trying was a disaster.  This will not be the last time you'll see this recipe (or one close to it), as I am determined to make this delicious bread!  Now onward to my silly little catastrophe :p 

Honey Whole Wheat Bread (via Raegun Wear)
3/4C warm water
1/4C molasses
1 1/8C all-purpose flour
3/8C wheat flour
1/2Tbs cocoa
1/2Tbs sugar
1Tsp instant coffee
1/2Tsp salt
1/2 packet of yeast (1 1/8Tsp)
1/2Tbs oil
1 egg white (optional)
oats (optional)

1)  Dissolve the coffee in the water.  Add yeast and let bubble.
I think this is where I went wrong, I waited but never got bubbles :(

2)  Add sugar, cocoa, salt, and oil.

3)  Add 1/2 the flour and the molasses and knead.  Continue adding flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Doesn't exactly look appealing lol

Note:  You want sticky but manageable dough.  The stickier the dough the softer the bread will be.
Definitely sticky :)

4)  Allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size.
I was hoping it would rise, but alas it did not

5)  Shape into rolls or loaf.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with oats.  Allow to rise again.
my sad little brick lol

6)  Bake at 350F for 20-35 minutes (time depends on size of roll or loaf).  To tell if it's done, pick it up and thump the underside, it will sound hollow when finished.

Well alas, sadly my bread did not end up rising and stayed a small little brick of ingredients lol at least I can laugh at my own mistake! Although it didn't rise as expected, it did however, turn out to be just as delicious as the bread I used as a template, if not more. 

I hope this "fail" blog shows everyone to never give up when you don't succeed, and don't ever let that be the 'end all be all' for your kitchen excursions.  And when you really feel frustrated, pull up this blog post and laugh at my silly blunder, and give yourself the credit you deserve and try again!  Until next time.....

Stay sweet,

Jennifer xoxoxo

Stormtroopers and Pumpkin Seeds

Hello Sweets,

Happy Monday! I know what you're thinking "happy Monday? not quite!" lol  Well I had a good day today (not health wise but I made the best of it), and I did some activities today that made me reminisce back to when I was little.

Now I know I always seem to be talking about what a great man Nathan is, but he really is different from any guy I've ever met, and I hope all the ladies out there find a man that treats you exactly like you should be a queen!  But really, he does anything to make me smile, especially if I am having a bad health day like today.  Of course he knows I love Halloween, and I had been telling him all about how I love carving pumpkins, and how white ones are my absolute favorite!  So today he surprised me with a trip out to Hall's Pumpkin Farm in Grapevine, where we picked up the VERY LAST carvable white pumpkin!!!
Isn't she beautiful? :p 

Needless to say, I was one very happy girl, smiling from ear to ear just like I have every year since I can remember. :D  Now I was in complete and utter shock when Nathan told me had NEVER carved a pumpkin.  I honestly thought that was a right of passage as a child.  So of course I decided to carve a pumpkin that he could be as excited about as I always am lol, and Nathan being the Star Wars fan that he is, I decided on an Imperial Stormtrooper.
Not an easy stencil

Since my shoulders always hurt as it is, and Nathan has never carved a pumpkin before, he helped me with all the difficult carving (le sigh :( ).  So I got him to cut the top open, then I cleaned out all the pumpkin gunk (he had absolutely NO desire to touch the stuff), stenciled it for him, and started the operation!
Be careful when cutting as the pumpkins are thick, and kids always use parental help :)

Now the more detailed the stencil, the more careful you have to be with your cuts as to not leave any weak spots in the structure, or you'll end up with a sad droopy pumpkin, and no one wants that!  After a couple of hours of strategic cuts, and a few more shaves to allow light, our master piece was complete, and might I say "out of this world" lol!
Isn't it great!!

Now as I am sure you are all aware, I do not like to waste anything when baking/cooking, and pumpkin carving is no different!  You can make a deliciously healthy snack from the pumpkin seeds themselves, and it is all very simple and easy.  Actually the hardest part is digging through the squishy innards of the pumpkin.

Healthy Flavorful Pumpkin Seeds
 Fresh pumpkin seeds, from your freshly carved pumpkin
Seasonings of your choice, I opted for;
Sea salt
Garlic and pepper seasoning
Seasoning salt
Crushed red peppers

1)  Preheat your oven to 275F.  Wash the pumpkin seeds free of all pumpkin goop, and towel dry as best you can, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2)  Add your seasonings on top before placing into the oven, so the flavors absorb during the baking process (I had an after thought when they were baking in the oven that you could season them in a bowl to ensure they are completely covered).

3)  Bake in the oven for at least 20 minutes.  Periodically shuffle them around with a spatula to ensure all the liquid is evaporating ,and they will all be crunchy.  Enjoy this tasty health snack on the go, or instead of popcorn, munch on these!

So we were a little late in getting up this morning.  Well, just me, since I had a really bad sleep :(, and I had promised Nathan I would make him pumpkin pancakes.  What do you do when you miss the best meal of the day?  Have breakfast for dinner!  I always love making him breakfast, and since discovering pumpkin pancakes, which he happens to now love, that's what we were going to have.  Now I had leftover batter from the last breakfast I had made(Pumpkin Pancakes), which keeps very well in the fridge.  All it took was a couple of stirs, and it was ready to go!  Now the original plan was to serve maple bacon with the pancakes, but Nathan had some maple breakfast sausage so our side dish changed.  This was my first time cooking the round breakfast sausage, so I had Nathan take the reigns on this venture.

Maple Breakfast Sausage 
1 package of round breakfast sausage
5Tbs of maple syrup

1)  Cut up the sausage into 1/2" slices, place onto a cold skillet, top with a dollop of maple syrup and cook over medium heat.
Nathan was surprised when he turned around and saw my addition, but liked the final product ;)

2)  Flip continually to brown evenly on each side, cook for about 20 minutes or until there is no pink in the center and the center is 160F.

Serve in addition to some of your delicious pumpkin pancakes with butter and syrup, and you've just made yourself the best breakfast supper around lol :)
I crowded the frying pan just a little lol.  Still turned out great!

Needless to say I think Nathan and I had a wonderful Monday, low key, but full of smiles and laughs.  Do you like carving pumpkins?  What is your favorite/hardest stencil you've created?  Better yet, have any of you NOT carved a pumpkin before?  Do you eat the seeds?  If so what seasonings did you use?  Until next time.......

Stay sweet,

Jennifer xoxoxo

Sunday, October 28, 2012

This pirate isn't gettin' scurvy!! ARRRGH :p

Hello Sweets,

I hope you all had a fantastic weekend, and for all my adult readers, I hope you all had some Halloween fun out!  Did you do anything fun for Halloween?  What did you choose to go out as?  I would love to hear all about your fun Halloween adventures as it is one of my favorite time of the year :)

Nathan and his friend Dave took me out to a sports bar named Sneaky Pete's, for a couple of hours to have a fun night of Halloween debauchery.  Now this place was perfect for me, because my health is so unpredictable I require an environment that is not too loud, or crowded, and definitely smoke free, which this place met all of those.  Now I have never, and I mean never, been part of a couple that has matching costumes, but I've always wanted to.  Since I have the most amazing boyfriend, he said that he would be on board!  Needless to say, I was super excited, and immediately started thinking of what we could be.  In a close second was being ghost busters, but as you can tell by the post title, we settled on pirates!  The next crucial step was finding the perfect costumes.  Now Nathan and his family LOVE the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, so he settled on "Black Beard", except instead of a beard he had scruff, and I think he looked great!  Then for me, we located a cute little female pirate costume with a bustier that had boning in it (something I've always wanted to wear), and even a cute little pirate hat!  So we got all dressed up; the pirate couple, and Nathan's friend Dave, dressed as Fred Flintstone (he made it himself, and looked amazing!), and headed out for a nice evening of friends, laughter, and maybe even a little singing :p

Sorry for the self photo, but I just love my tiny pirate hat and giant eyelashes
Dave aka Fred Flintstone 
Awe aren't we cute :)

All in all it was a great night, even health wise (talk about good luck).  Dave and I even had the honor of being guest singers for the band!  Even if Dave got "Whiskey mic" lol, as he put it (greatest line of the night), when he forgot the lyrics to 'Ice Ice Baby'! 

We had a blast

Since we had a great night, I decided today I would try making Nathans absolute favorite dessert, Coconut Meringue pie (via  Now for those of you who do bake, we all know meringue is one of the most difficult types of pie, as the meringue is very fickle.  Needless to say I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I am sure it had a lot to do with the fact that both Nathan's mother, and grandmother had tried but not been successful .  Ekkk no pressure right?!? Lol well I dove in head first, like every baking excursion, and went in with the feeling that it would turn out fantastically.  Well I am happy to announce, dadaduh, that it was a success :)  Now I will share this delicious recipe so you can try it too!

Old Fashion Coconut Meringue Pie (via
Ingredients for coconut filling
1/2C white sugar
1/3C flour
1?2C milk
1/2C butter, melted
1/2Tsp salt
1/2Tsp vanilla
3 eggs, separated (yolks for this half)
1C sweetened coconut flakes, heaping
9" pie shell, baked (I opted to use a pre-made graham crust)

Ingredients for meringue
3 egg whites
1/4C white sugar

Pie filling
1)  Mix flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, and egg yolks in a large sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until thick, then remove from heat.
before and after 

2)  Stir in vanilla and coconut.  Pour into pie shell, top with meringue.
smells delicious

For the meringue
1)  Whip egg whites until foamy, then add the sugar.  Continue beating on high speed until soft peaks form.
foamy egg whites 

now add the sugar 
soft peaks :)

2)  Pour on top of the pie and spread to edges to seal, sprinkle additional coconut on top.

3)  Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, or until top is golden.  Refrigerate until completely cold before serving, if not it will be runny.

Now since I was a pirate last night, in a funny link to my blog I decided to make a "Passion fruit sweet tea", as to not get scurvy lol!

Passion Fruit Sweet Tea
1/2C sugar
2Tbs honey
1 bag of Tazo Passion fruit Iced Tea
1 lemon, sliced

1)  Bring 1Qrt of water to boil with the tea bag in the entire time.
Color releases instantly :)

2)  While the tea is boiling add the sugar and honey to an empty pitcher.

3)  Add the tea and stir to dissolve all the sugar and honey.  Then add the ice, allow to fully melt, then top with lemon slices and refrigerate for at least an hour.
so pretty and fragrant

Serve the sweet tea in a mason jar mug with a slice of the coconut meringue and send your taste buds to flavor heaven.  
Looks delicious doesn't it?

Have you tried to make something you weren't sure if it would turn out like it should?  Was it a hit or a miss?  Do you like baking someone's favorite dishes, or maybe something just for you?  I would love to hear from you, whether it's fun Halloween tricks or treats, or the recipe you're the most proud of accomplishing :)  Until next time.....

Stay sweet,

Jennifer xoxoxo