Santa’s Cookies

I already explained that we do a simplified version of Santa here.  I think it’s a sweet tradition, rooted in Christian history.  As I was making our shopping list for next week (next week?!?!?), I realized I needed to make sure I have what we need to make cookies for the man in red.  We make this same recipe every year, and it’s perfect!  Some years we do cut outs, and other years just circles, but we always have lots of fun decorating on Christmas Eve.  Here are a couple of pictures from last year!
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1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375*.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Add baking powder and flour one cup at a time, mixing after each addition.  Dough will be stiff.  Do not chill dough.  Divide dough in half.  Roll each half about 1/4 in thick.  (Roll between 2 sheets of wax paper to help with sticking.)  Dip cutters in flour before each use.  Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet or middle rack of oven for 7-11 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.

Now, decorate to your heart’s content!  Don’t forget to add lots of fun icing and sprinkles to your shopping list.

*Note:  I did not create this recipe and I am not claiming to own it.  I’ve been using it for several years, but I have no idea where I originally got it.  If you think it’s yours, let me know, and I’ll give credit where credit is due!

smoothie time!

It’s no secret that my husband and I both have a pretty significant amount weight to lose.  We’ve both struggled with weight our whole adult lives, and I gained a lot with each pregnancy.  I was able to lose the pregnancy weight with both of the boys, but I haven’t really lost any of my pregnancy weight from my daughter…who is 2 and a half.  Ugh, I’m sick of my clothes not fitting and feeling frumpy and unattractive.  But I have had such a hard time getting going this time around.  As my doctor said, “You aren’t 24 any more.”  Thanks for pointing that out, Doc.

Anyway, we’ve been eating a lot of smoothies as meal replacements.  They can be so full of good nutrients, too.  We have them most days for breakfast and a lot of nights for dinner.

Here’s what I threw in to the ones we made tonight (all very rough measurement estimates):
3 cups frozen mixed fruit
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1/4 cup pb2 (peanut flour)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup baby kale, chard, & spinach mix

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It works best to put the yogurt and liquids in first, then the greens, and then everything else.  Then blend, baby, blend.  I let it blend several minutes, because I don’t like to be able to “chew” the greens.  If it isn’t blending well, add a little more liquid and stir it up with a spoon.  Once they’re very well blended, I promise, you really can’t taste them.  Also, if you’re new to peanut butter flour, it adds great protein and vitamins, without tons of calories.  I was worried at first that I’d have to be really careful to mix it with exactly the right mixtures of other things because of the peanut butter taste, but it really blends in with just about everything and the smoothies don’t taste very strongly of peanut butter.   If we do want to go for a peanut butter flavor, we usually use about 2 frozen bananas, plain yogurt, oatmeal, almond milk, pb2, and maybe 3 tablespoons of nutella.  Yum.

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Oh, and drink them cold.  I love the taste cold, but can’t stand the texture if they warm up at all.

princess cookies

princess cookies

What, Mario doesn’t attend YOUR tea parties?!

We’ve been very much into tea parties around here lately. I love that the boys are into it, too, and encourage my daughter to put on her princess dress, all of her jewels, and her tiara. They also like to set the table for her. Perhaps our coffee table is already showing some wear from moisture, but we’re trying to be more careful about spilling the “tea,” ( water).

This week, I promised her we’d make some real cookies for a tea party. So we did. Of course, they had to be pink and sparkly. I used my easiest cookie recipe ever, and thought I’d share it with you.

Princess Cookies (aka Scotch Shortbread)

You’ll need:
3/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. sugar
2 cups flour
optional: copious amounts of pink food coloring and sprinkles

1. Preheat to 350*.
2. Mix butter and sugar thoroughly.
3. Work the flour in gradually by hand.
4. Here, you can either roll it out and use cookie cutters, or do the super chic ball & squash method. As a general rule, I save cookie cutter cookies for when a chubby man in a red suit is coming to eat them, so we rolled them up in balls and then flattened them with a glass. They don’t smash down as nicely as more moist cookies, but none of my party attendees seemed to mind.
5. Bake about 25 minutes. This makes about 20-25 smallish cookies. If you make them bigger or smaller, adjust the time accordingly.

experimenting with PB2 & muffin recipe!

I’ve been curious about PB2 for several years, and now it’s available at my Target, so I thought I’d give it a try!

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First, I used it in this recipe earlier this week, with rave reviews. This is one of our go-to lower cal desserts. Give it a try! (But, make sure you plan ahead, it has to freeze for several hours!)

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Then, I found this recipe on Pinterest. I wanted to try some PB2 muffins, but didn’t have any bananas (which pretty much every PB2 recipe seems to call for), so this is what I ended up with. I thought the recipe seemed a little bit unusual (no sugar, no oil). I think maybe it’s not an American blog, so perhaps their taste preferences are different (and healthier!) than ours.  So, I made some modifications, without compromising the health benefits of the recipe too much (in my opinion).  Here’s what I came up with:

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Pumpkin & PB2 Muffins

You’ll need:
4 eggs
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 T. vanilla extract
1 big squirt Stevia Liquid Sweetener (to taste, obviously!)
1 c. white whole wheat flour
1 c. oats
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
2 T. PB2
1 T. cinnamon
1/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat to 375 and spray muffin pan with cooking spray.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs.  Stir in all of the other liquid ingredients until well blended.  Add dry ingredients, and mix just until blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Use an ice cream scoop to make 12 muffins, and cook for about 20-22 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Reviews from my fam:
I think these are pretty good, and my husband and eldest liked them okay.  My middle child wouldn’t even touch them because they’re “lumpy,” and my youngest ate a few bites and then got distracted.  So – maybe 3 stars from our house.  A decent breakfast option to throw in the rotation, and pretty good on nutrients, etc.  I’d do a little bit bigger squirt of Stevia next time, I think.  Or  maybe agave or honey?  Or maybe some applesauce substituting for some of the eggs?  They needed to be just a little sweeter.

Anyone want to perfect this recipe for me?  Or have any great PB2 muffin recipes?  I am going to try some of the banana ones as soon as I’m able to keep bananas in my house long enough to let them get nice and ripe!

Choconananut Muffins

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This is a recipe I created a few years ago, and they are some of our favorite muffins! They’re only about 180 calories each, and lots of fiber and protein. Perfect for breakfast on days when we’re driving carpool, or for packing in lunches. I sometimes make a double batch and freeze half so we can enjoy them for a while.

Choconananut Muffins

You’ll need:
1 cup white flour
2 cups wheat flour
1.5 cups old fashioned oats
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2(+) tablespoons cocoa powder
4 small ripe bananas
1 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar
1.5 cup plain lowfat yogurt
2 eggs
1(+) tsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients and bananas and stir until mostly blended. Add everything else and mix well. Bake at 400* for 15 minutes. Makes about 28 ice cream scoop sized muffins.

Honeyed Chicken & Pineapple

Honeyed Chicken & Pineapple

I made another Asian recipe! They loved the dish, but I tried the crunchy fried noodles, and they didn’t care for those. But, the dish itself is definitely a keeper. (Confession #1: This was my first time ever to fry something! It’s sort of hard work!)

You’ll need:
1 broiler-fryer chicken (about 3 lbs)
1/2 c. cornstarch
3 c. vegetable oil
2 t. grated ginger
1 20 oz can pineapple chunks, drained
1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 1/2 c. water
2 t. cornstarch
1 1/2 T honey
1T. chicken bouillon granules
1 t. sesame oil
4 green onions, cut into thin slices

1. Remove giblets from chicken. Rinse chicken and cut into serving size pieces. Coat chicken pieces with 1/2 cup cornstarch. (Confession #2: I used boneless chicken breasts.)

2. Heat vegetable oil in wok over high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Add chicken pieces one at a time to hot oil. Cook 1/3 of the pieces at a time. Cook until golden and completely cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper. Repeat with remaining chicken.

3. Pour all but 2 T of the oil out of the wok. Stir-fry ginger and garlic in the oil over medium heat 1 minute. Add drained pineapple and the sliced pepper to ginger mixture. Sir-fry over high heat 2 minutes. Remove from wok.

4. Mix water and remaining 2 t. cornstarch. Blend in honey, bouillon, and sesame oil. Pour mixture into wok. Cook and stir over high heat until mixture boils and thickens. Return chicken and pineapple-pepper mixture to wok. Cook and stir over high heat until hot throughout. Add green onions. Cook and stir 1 minute longer.

My family really liked it, and I’ll definitely make it again. (Confession #3: I accidentally used corn meal instead of corn starch. I didn’t even realize I had done it until my sweet husband asked if it was supposed to be fried like catfish instead of chicken. He pretended to think it may have been a chinese strategy that he had never heard of, rather that an error. But, it was still good!)

physicals, beef noodles, & special needs request

Right now, we’re gathering our new documents for our home study update.  Today, I called to schedule our physicals.  Our doctor, who was very interested and encouraging about our adoption, was booked through the month of April.  Obviously, that wasn’t going to work.  Then the receptionist said, “Wait, this is so weird.  Two consecutive appointments just opened up on March 20th.”  It’s not weird – it’s God working!

We also sat down tonight, over my first-ever successful asian meal, and finalized our special needs request, pending approval from our social worker.  We’ve been asking our close friends for prayer, and telling them, “We’re in the same chapter but not on exactly the same page yet.”  We’ve both prayed about it a lot, and know lots of you have been praying, and tonight we were able to come to a decision that we both feel really comfortable with.  I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on that here right now, but our list includes several orthopedic needs as well as cleft lip/palate.  People have written a bunch on blogs about how writing the special needs request was one of the hardest parts – yeah, it was pretty hard.

Thanks for the prayers and for checking in!  Hopefully, some more exciting updates will happen sooner, rather than later.

Here’s what I made for dinner tonight!  We both really liked it, even though I don’t really love either ginger or soy sauce.  It’s from, Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook.

Beef with Noodles

You’ll need:
8 ounces Chinese fine egg noodles
1/2 c. water
3 t. soy sauce
1/4 t. salt
2 t. instant chicken bouillon granules
6 T. vegetable oil
1 lb. beef rump steak
6 green onions
1 piece fresh ginger root
2 garlic cloves

1.  Cook noodles until tender according to package directions.  Drain well.  Place a clean towel over wire cooling racks.  Spread noodles evenly over towel and dry about 3 hours.

2.  Combine water, 2 t. of the soy sauce, the salt, and bouillon.

3.  Heat 4 T. of the oil in wok over high heat.  Stir-fry noodles in the oil 3 minutes.  Pour water mixture over noodles.  Toss noodles until completely coated, about 2 minutes.  Transfer noodles to serving plate.  Keep warm.

4.  Remove and discard fat from meat.  Cut meat across the grain into thin slices about 2 inches long.  Cut inions into thin diagonal slices.  Pare ginger root and cut into thin slices.  Crush or mince garlic.

5.  Hear remaining 2 T. oil in wok over high heat.  Add beef, onions, ginger, garlic, and remaining 1 t. soy sauce.  Stir-fry until beef is done, about 5 minutes.  Spoon meat mixture over noodles.

Doro Wot for the Crock Pot!

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I modified my Doro Wot recipe for the slow cooker! Obviously, it’s a bit American-ized, but retained some Ethiopian flair, and was super easy.  Bonus:  All 5 members of my family liked it!  That doesn’t happen very often.

Ingredients:
2T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2  six oz cans tomato paste
3c chicken broth
1T fresh garlic
1t black pepper
1T red pepper flakes (or 2t berbere*)
3-4 large chicken breasts
6 hard-boiled eggs (poked with fork)

Put it all in the slow cooker and cook on high 6 hours or low 8-10 hours, or until chicken is done.  Shred chicken coarsely, stir, and let it all cook about 30 more minutes.  Serve with Injera** if available, or with pita bread or naan.

*Berbere is a traditional Ethiopian spice.  I haven’t used it yet, but have heard it’s awesome!
**Injera is Ethiopian Flat Bread.  I tried to make it once and almost caught my kitchen on fire.  I’ve read on other Ethiopian adoption blogs that it’s pretty hard to make in a US kitchen, but you can buy it online or at some multicultural stores.

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