Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thankful little turkeys

Last week, my children made the sweetest little thankful turkeys in the history of turkey thankfulness! I'm sure I'll say the same thing next year, as I'm sure I said the same thing last year. :) That's just how moms are...every sweet little project is always the cutest!

For this quick project you will need:

one large and one small circle in coordinating papers
five (or more) popsicle sticks
markers, crayons, or colored pencils
yarn or string

Have your child color the popsicle sticks in fall type colors. We did orange, red, brown, and yellow. Then glue the small circle to the large circle so it looks like a head resting on a chunky turkey body. Draw eyes, a beak, and a wattle onto the turkey face.

If your child is able, have them write something they are thankful for on each popsicle stick. If your child is not of writing age, have them dictate their thankful things to you as you write them on the stick. Then, glue the sticks onto the back of the turkey making sure the writing is facing out so it can be easily read. Attach a piece of yarn to the back and hang as a Thanksgiving decoration!

Work by little hands is my favorite kind of artwork to display in my house. And it warms my heart to read the sweet things my littles are thankful for.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Dear Autumn

Throughout the last couple of weeks, some mom friends of mine on Instagram and I have been writing little "love letters" to our favorite season, autumn (or fall, if you choose). It's been fun to sit back and take a minute to share through a few words and pretty pictures what makes this season just so darn great, in our eyes. Also, I'm as social a gal as they come, so it's been fun participating in this little ode to autumn with other brilliant mamas across the country.

My kids sure love fall, as well. So, I thought I'd let them write out some love letters to autumn. And today, I'll share them with you. :) These letters are all in their own words, and the pictures that accompany them were taken by their own little hands. I hope you enjoy reading these sweet letters as much as I do!

Dear Autumn,
I love when you come. Your season is so pretty. I love that you bring pumpkin patches. You are my second favorite season, and you are here!
Emma (age 8)

Dear Fall,
I like that you come because you bring pretty leaves all over. I really, really love you. My name is Sophia, and anyway, your name is Fall. Fall, you're here! I'm glad you're here.
Sophia (age 5)

Dear Fall,
I love you. I'm glad we can go outside and see the leaves and you. I like when you are here because we get chilly. When you're here it means Christmas is almost here.
Elijah (age 4)

You can follow the goings on of our family on Instagram @julia_reed6!

Sour Cream Coffeecake Muffins

Happy Monday to you all!!

The girls and I tried a new recipe for muffins this morning. Just call us the Muffin Girls! We changed up the original recipe from Cooking Light quite a bit, so if you'd like to see that click HERE. It calls for an orange glaze, and we really weren't feeling that. We changed some other stuff around I'll share our new and improved version with you!

Sour Cream Coffeecake Muffins
Yields 18 regular sized muffins

1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/4 C chopped almonds
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 C granulated sugar
1/4 C butter, softened
2 eggs
1 C sour cream
2 T water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C unbleached white flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400*.Place muffins liners into 18 muffins cups, or grease 18 muffin cups.

Combine brown sugar, almonds, and cinnamon into a small bowl; set aside.

Cream the granulated sugar and butter together, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in the sour cream, water, and vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl combine the flours, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add into the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold the brown sugar mixture into the batter, reserving about 3 T in the small bowl for topping. Don't completely stir it into the batter. We want to create a crumbly, streusel ribbon throughout the muffins.

Fill the muffin liners about 3/4 of the way full. Sprinkle topping over each muffin.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden or a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

These muffins were a hit in our house this morning! (Really, is that any surprise??) The cinnamon streusel running throughout the muffins was such a nice addition, and the almonds gave a nice, subtle crunch. Definitely put this recipe in your Autumn muffin repertoire!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Vegetable Beef Soup

This is the third and final recipe from my ROAST TRI-TIP,  and this one is my favorite! We're a huge soup family (even in the summer!) and this one always hits the spot. Hearty, brothy, beefy...this soup is the whole shabang.


Approx. 1 lb. leftover beef, cut into bit sized pieces ( This could be steak, or in this case, leftover tri-tip roast. I've also used ground beef with favorable results.)
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 large carrots, chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes
Approx. 48 oz beef broth (That's about 1 and a half cartons)
1/4 C ketchup
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 package frozen mixed vegetables

*If you are not using already cooked leftover beef, then brown your beef along with the onions, carrots, and garlic; drain.*

If you are using already cooked leftover beef:

Saute the onions, garlic, and carrots in 2 T cooking oil over medium heat until soft. Add the beef, tomatoes, broth, ketchup, basil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, add in the frozen veggies and bring back up to the boil. And that's it! Make sure the soup is heated through and serve with some delicious and fluffy've got yourself a recipe for comfort on a chilly fall night!

Well, there you have it. Three completely different meals using one tri-tip roast. We've also made meat pie (like chicken pot pie, but with beef), beef tacos, and shepherd's pie using leftover tri-tip roast. It's safe to say we are a tad obsessed.

Blessings! Have a wonderful weekend, friends! (Because we all know Friday begins the weekend!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spiced Pear Muffins

There was a delightful chill in the air this morning. Perfect for making muffins! Emma and I had the same idea, almost at the same time, of making pear muffins. So, I hopped online and found this recipe from The Kitchn It sounded delicious, so I thought I'd share it with you! I modified it a bit by using coconut oil. We didn't put the cinnamon sugar topping on either (I forgot!) and they still turned out amazingly! Below is my modified version of the recipe.

Spiced Pear Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1/2 cup  packed brown sugar
1/4 cup  white sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temp
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 to 2 1/2 cups pears, unpeeled and diced small (2 medium-sized pears)
 Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling on top.
Optional: 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger, 1/2 cup chopped nuts, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Heat your oven to 425°F. Spray the top of your muffin tin with non-stick coating and place muffin cups in all the wells.
In a mixer on high speed, cream together the sugars and the coconut oil until they resemble fluffy frosting, about 1 minute. Mix in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated, about 1 minute each. Mix in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, mix 1/3 of the flour mixture into the sugar mixture followed by 1/3 of the milk. Continue alternating between the flour and the milk, mixing just until the flour is incorporated. It's ok if there is still some flour on the sides of the bowl. Do not over-mix.
Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and stir gently to incorporate the last of the flour. Add the diced pears all at once and fold them in to the batter.
Divide the batter between the muffin cups. The batter will fill the cups and mound slightly on top. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon and sugar.
Place the muffin tin in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 400°F. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan once in the middle of baking. The muffins are done when the tops look cracked and toasted, and when a toothpick inserted in the middle of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Let the muffins cool enough to handle, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These were completely devoured and I have requests to make them again...tomorrow! Serve with butter and coffee and you've got yourself a winner! Enjoy!

Pulled Beef Sandwiches

Hello all!

Last week I shared with you my recipe for ROAST TRI-TIP in the crock pot. I promised you all three meals out of one roast, so today I am back with a tasty dinner to make using some of your leftovers.

Pulled Beef Sandwiches. Yum. All you need is some of your roast, fork-shredded, and some of your favorite BBQ sauce. My mom gave me this idea, and I'm so thankful she did! This dinner was a hit with the family! Since this is really not a recipe, I'll just give you basic step by step instructions on what I did.

1. Place your fork-shredded beef into a saucepan over medium heat. Just eyeball the amount of beef you use. We are a family of 6 and I would estimate I used about 2 C of beef. So just put in what looks right for the amount of people you are feeding.

2. Add about 2 T of water to the beef along with about 3/4 C of your BBQ sauce. Again, just eyeball this. If you really like BBQ sauce, put in more. There is no right and wrong here.

3. Heat and stir until beef is heated through.

4. Serve on a warm hamburger bun with a side salad and some caramelized turnips....

About those turnips. I really, really, REALLY wish I could utter the words, "Oh my children LOVED my caramelized turnips. They couldn't get enough of them. I didn't have to hear one word of complaint when I served these!" But, alas, in the real world, everyone (including myself) had a huge aversion to them. I'm glad we tried them, though. Now we know, none of us like caramelized turnips. And that's ok!

Two recipes down, one to go! This next one is my favorite!! Stay tuned!


Friday, November 1, 2013

A tragedy, a victory, and a recipe.

Isn't there some sort of saying stating something like, "never make a new recipe for guests or contests..."? I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before. It's very good advice....that I never seem to follow.

My lovely sister and her awesome husband made a beautifully fantastic Caramel Cake for the bake-off at their church's annual Harvest Festival. It sounded so delicious and seriously looked like a million bucks. And they won first place! We were all so excited  for them...especially Stephen...he made the whole cake by himself! What a guy!

The girls and I had the great idea to ask Auntie Jessie for her cake recipe so we could make it for OUR bake-off at OUR church's annual Harvest Festival. She obliged and sent the recipe straight away! I kept thinking, though, "we should probably have done a test run of this cake...".

You see, this cake calls for making homemade caramel for the frosting, hence the caramel part of the Caramel Cake. But, I've never in my life made a successful caramel. Never. And it's not for lack of trying. I've tried and tried, and I either burn it to death, or it turns out crystallized and crunchy. I was intimidated by this say the least. My girls, however, were fired up and ready to go. So, we dove in and began the cake.

The actual cake making went splendidly! The cakes were beautiful. Perfectly springy and the loveliest creamy color! We were well pleased. With our new sense of determination we got to task making the caramel.

We had all of our ingredients measured out and ready to go. We read and re-read the recipe four times and felt very confident in our carameling abilities. Everything was going smoothly, and I was so surprised! We finished the last step, adding the cream, took a step back and breathed a huge sigh of relief. The only thing left to do was taste it, and boy were we ready!

If you know me well, you know that I usually have to smell everything, food or drink, before I taste it. I don't know why...I've done this all my life and will probably continue to do this until the day I die. So, I smelled our beautiful caramely creation. Instead of a rich amber scent, I breathed in a bitter, burned stench. I tasted it secretly and that's when I realized, I burned it. And I didn't even know it. Just the teeniest hint of burning...but it was enough to make it unusable. The girls tasted it and at first they were all "mmm's" and "yuuummm's", but after a moment, they tasted it too. The bitter pang of burnt caramel. We kept tasting it, hoping it would be better with each taste, but with each spoonful we knew, it had to be thrown out.

"It's ok!", I exclaimed! "We'll make a new batch and use brown sugar this time!" So, I Googled a brown sugar caramel recipe. It was a Martha Stewart recipe, so it HAD to be good, I thought. We got all of our ingredients out again and started back at it. Round two of the caramel making commenced!

This time, the failure happened almost immediately. As we started adding the butter to the melted sugar it began clumping and crumbling like crazy! Then, it firmed and hardened completely, getting completely stuck in my whisk! Obviously, I had done something wrong, and ruined one more batch of caramel. I'm telling you, people, caramel making is NOT for me! And actually, I'm ok with that. I don't have to be good at making caramel. I am just fine with not being an expert, or even a good, caramel maker.

Now, this is where the rubber meets the road. My girls were looking at me with the hopes of winning any place in our bake-off shimmering in their eyes. I wanted to scream and cry. I had just wasted two sticks of butter and a bunch of whipping cream. That stuff's not cheap, and I HATE wasting ingredients due to the recipe not turning out. But I knew my girls were watching me. This was a make it or break it situation...and I've had SO MANY times of breaking it. I whispered a prayer to God to give me peace and patience, turned to the girls and said as softly and happily as I could, "We'll just change the frosting. How about Spiced Buttercream?" Thank you Lord. He intervened in a situation in which I knew I was just about to lose it, and gave me exactly what I needed at exactly that time. The girls cheered their hearty agreement and we got to it.

I'm not sharing this story to pat myself on the back. Really, I'm not. My list of parenting failures is long and ugly. All of us have times where we wish we could permanently erase those Monster's Inc. moments from our history. You know, when Sully roars at the fake kid right in front of Boo. Her sad, scared little face, wondering why in the world this big guy that she loves and respects is acting like a crazed lunatic. Yes, I've been here.

But it's what we do after those moments, and the moments after that when our patience and resolve is tried and tested again. What will we do? Lean on our own understanding? Allow our own emotions to guide the situation? Get mad and take it out on the kids, again. Or, take Proverbs 3:5&6 to heart and live it out? "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Or how about Philippians 4:6&7, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." He will straighten our angry and frustrated path. He will guard our hearts and mind and bring us peace. Just trust. Pray.

I'm just so thankful that He is faithful to His Word. So faithful even in the smallest of things, like making caramel that didn't turn out. We didn't understand why our caramel wasn't turning out after meticulously following two recipes, but God did. We may never know why, and that's ok. It didn't work out, that's fine. Shake it off!

The cake was saved, the memories made in our kitchen stayed happy and free from mom's grumpiness, and in the end, our cake won first place. My girls are still talking about was a magical night for them.

And I'm giving glory to God. Thankful for His faithfulness. Thankful that He can take an exasperated mama and breathe peace into her soul at just the right moment. I'm thankful for the sweet memories made with my girls while making this cake.  And, I'm just thankful for cake.

So, I'll share the recipe with you. Not the caramel. Never the caramel.

 Vanilla Cake with Spiced Buttercream
1 1/2 C white sugar
12 T butter, softened
3 eggs, room temp
1 T vanilla extract
2 1/4 C flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 C whole milk 
Directions for cake:
1    Preheat oven to 350°.  Butter and flour 2 8x8 round baking pans 
2    In a medium bowl, cream together sugar and butter (about 2 minutes).  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and beat on high for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale. Stir in the vanilla.
3   Combine flour, baking powder and salt in different bowl.
4   Add to butter mixture, alternating with the milk (start and end with the flour)
5   Pour batter evenly into prepared pans, smoothing tops with back of spoon.
6   Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes in pan then transfer to cooling rack

Spiced Buttercream Frosting

1 Cup butter, room temperature
3 1/2-4 Cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 C milk
Beat butter until creamy. Alternate adding the sugar and milk, starting and ending with the sugar. Mix well until it is completely smooth. Add the vanilla, spices, and salt. Mix well. 
 Assembling the cake:
 Spread a layer of frosting over the top of the bottom layer. Sprinkle some semi sweet chocolate chunks over the frosting. Gently place the top cake layer on the bottom layer. Frost the entire cake, including the sides. Sprinkle a bit of extra cinnamon on top for garnish.