Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Recap

I find myself with a few minutes of time as the hubby is quite entertained by his new video game right now. Christmas for us started on Friday when we went to Jerame's aunt and uncle's house. We ended up spending the day with his aunt and uncle, their son and his wife, and Jerame's mother. We spent most of the day over there, enjoying finger foods and some wine. There was also quite a bit of Rock Band on Friday as well. On Saturday, we arrived at Jerame's mother's house in the early afternoon to spend the day with his mother and his sister and her family. Before we had a wonderful dinner that his mom fixed up, the whole family opened up presents and watched football. Later in the evening however, we ended up back at his aunt's house. It was a crazy evening, with more Rock Band, Karoke, and Uno Attack! Definitely some imbibing of the ol' alcohol that night! Needless to say, after a crazy couple of days, it was nice to spend yesterday at home. It was a very Merry Christmas indeed! A few pictures to sum up the holiday:

Joyce's Christmas Tree
Me and Gizmo
Whole family photo
Gavin is a big fan of Thor
Brock is ready to get serious about his dental health
A girl after my own heart, loves her Barbies
Later on at Martha's. We all got into karoke!
Girl's just wanna have fun :)
Great pic of the photographer for the night
I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The Hubby and I's 2nd Christmas in Kentucky turned out great! For us, it's been a whirlwind over the last couple of days. The Christmas festivities with Jerame's family started all day Friday and went all day Saturday. We had a great time with family and lucky for me, Jerame took some pictures. Today, being Christmas day, we were so exhausted from the last 2 days that we decided to take the day for ourselves and stay home with our boys and watch Christmas movies. It was a much needed day of rest. The cookies went over splendidly, I received a lot of compliments on them. I had previously been a little worried that I didn't make enough cookies, but there turned out to be more than enough. So much so that my cookie tins were overflowing!

The cookies all packaged and ready to be delivered
One of the cookie tins
I will be sure to write about Christmas and post some pictures later in the week. Hopefully tomorrow, but the hubby is on vacation this week so I have a feeling blogging isn't something I will be doing a lot of this week :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Final Results

Yesterday was Day 3 of cookies and it was a success! I am done now. I have cookies coming out of my ears but I think it will be a nice arrangement once the cookies are divided and packaged. The cookies up yesterday were Vanilla Bean Shortbread and Snickerdoodles. I inadvertently left the 2 easiest cookies till yesterday. The shortbread was easy because let's face it, there are very few ingredients and steps with shortbread. The snickerdoodles were easy because I had already done 2 practice runs. Both turned out pretty tasty.
Vanilla Bean Shortbread
The Hubby is NOT a fan of the shortbread. I liked it. It's a low sugar cookie so the other ingredients must stand out. It's got a nice buttery, flaky taste that had a very subtle hint of vanilla. I also like how you can see the little specks of vanilla bean in the shortbread. The Hubby LOVES the Snickerdoodles however. I made a double batch since I knew that would be his go-to munching cookie. All in all, it was a successful cookie baking experience. Maybe there is a little bit of baker in me after all?
Cookies, cookies, and oh yeah, more cookies!
Here are the recipes I used: Vanilla Bean Shortbread and Snickerdoodles.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More Cookie Talk

Day 2 of cookies commenced yesterday. After a frustrating morning, the final results came out of the oven looking better than expected! A lot better! My first cookie I attempted was the Peppermint Pinwheel. I don't know if it was the recipe I used or the fact that this recipe employed techniques not often used by me but I did not end up with pinwheels. I really should have done a test run on these. Sigh. This cookie involves dividing the dough in half, rolling out each half into a rectangle, inverting one dough on the other, and finally rolling all the dough, jelly-roll style. Well, my dough was pretty crumbly and I had a very difficult time rolling it out and then an equally difficult time rolling the two doughs together. I also wasn't thinking and shaped the dough logs more like ovals than rounds. Not to mention it took almost 2 hours to make this dough! After baking the cookies and taste testing, they tasted pretty good. Like a minty sugar cookie. They also have a nice marble effect. So out of this mess, Peppermint Marble Cookies were born. They will work for this year.

Peppermint Marble Cookies
My other cookie yesterday was the Salted Caramel Brownies which I was initially worried about. The batter was sooooo thick! I have never seen brownie batter like that! I continued  on though and I am glad I did. The brownies turned out wonderful. The thick batter made for a chewier brownie. It is the salted caramel layer on the brownies that is to die for though! I will be making these again. And again. And again. Highly recommend :)

Salted Caramel Brownies
You can find the recipes I used here: Peppermint Pinwheels and Salted Caramel Brownies. Up today is Snickerdoodles and Vanilla Bean Shortbread!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Life is a Cookie

Snowballs (White Chocolate and Chocolate) and Two Layer Pecan Caramel Bars
After Day 1 of Christmas cookie baking in the Jarrell household, it is Jessica 1, Cookies 0.  Haha. I decided this year for Christmas that I wanted to give Jerame's family homemade cookies. I have never attempted Christmas cookies before, seeing as how every year prior to this one I have been working 60 hour weeks around the holidays and barely even had time to BUY people presents. I have picked out 6 different cookies to make and decided I would make 2 a day for 3 days, starting yesterday which was Tuesday. Friday the cookies begin getting delivered. Day 1 was Snowballs and Pecan Bars. It was a long day, I finally finished up at 6:45 pm. It took so long because there were 7 batches of the Snowballs! The hubby tasted tested both cookies when he got home and he gave a big thumbs up to both, although he went crazy over the Pecan Bars. I expected that. Here are the recipes for  both: White Chocolate Snowballs and Two-Layer Caramel-Pecan Bars. Up today is Salted Caramel Brownies and Peppermint Pinwheels!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Our family tree. Our red curtains work perfectly for Christmas!
Christmas is only 10 days away! I am very excited, I love the holiday season. Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday, but Christmas is not far behind. I love seeing all the Christmas lights on houses, Christmas tree's in windows, and not to mention having my own tree up! I have stocked up on everything for holiday baking, minus getting more eggs and more butter. I thought I had enough butter till I checked my recipes one last time and realized I might have to double some of my cookie recipes, especially my sandwich cookies.
I am probably a week out from starting on the cookies for Christmas but I am like a little kid. I want to make cookies now! I was itching to bake today so I decided to whip up another holiday treat. While browsing Cooking Light's website, I saw egg nog cupcakes. This of course led to a scouring of the internet to find a well-reviewed recipe. I found a wonderful blog, Dollhouse Bake Shoppe Blog. I decided to use their delicious sounding recipe. While mine don't look like their professional picture, I think mine looks pretty good!
Egg Nog Cupcake with Cream Cheese-Egg Nog-Rum frosting. Dusted with nutmeg.
The cake in these cupcakes is very unique. I don't think I have had one like it. The cake is super light and fluffy. Like putting air in your mouth. The recipe calls for a tbsp of vegetable oil, which I don't normally put in my cupcakes. This could account for the change in texture but another thought I had was it might be the egg nog? Whatever it is, I enjoyed it. They are very rich though so one cupcake is plenty. A good holiday treat in my book! You can find the recipe I used here, Egg Nog Cupcakes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Beginnings

It was a rough week last week. Lots of little headaches gave way to a migraine on Saturday that is persisting. Grr. Worst time of the year to get a migraine, I have way too much to do! Exciting news though... Jerame started his new job yesterday! I am so proud of him! It was an incredibly hard process, finding a good stable job in this economy. Needless to say, Jerame has been walking on water since he found out he got the job and he could barely contain his excitement all weekend before he started yesterday. He will be making a lot more than what he was making before, not to mention all the perks that come from working for a big company i.e. health insurance, 401K, steady hours, and available overtime. This opportunity will really start a new chapter in our lives and we are ready! In the meantime, I am hoping this migraine goes away and I can continue getting ready for Christmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Album Review: Nickelback's Here and Now

Nickelback's "Here and Now"
Nickelback is one of my most favorite bands. I take a lot of crap for liking them too. People everywhere have nothing but bad things to say about them. Well, guess what? I. Don't. Care. Detroit's online petition to have Nickelback NOT perform at the Thankgiving game against Green Bay? Laughable. It's true. People can say what they want to say, but I think Nickelback's album and concert sales speak for themselves.
This is their 7th album and I think it is what Nickelback fans have come to expect. The album is a combination of hard rock, rock ballads, and their typical pop songs that will probably be released on the radio. Most of Nickelback's pop music, I don't like. "How You Remind Me", "Photograph", and all their socially concious songs i.e. "If Everyone Cared", "If Today Was Your Last Day", and "When We Stand Together" are in my opinion the songs Nickelback releases to get pop hits. What I like about Nickelback is their hard rock. I fell in love with their "All The Right Reasons" album after hearing "Follow You Home", "All The Wrong Reasons", and "Next Contestant". My favorites on the "Dark Horse" album are the hardest hitting, "Burn It To The Ground", "Something In Your Mouth", and "Shakin' Hands". This latest album is no different for me.
The album opens with what is probably my new favorite song, "This Means War". I love, love, love the punch it packs. My next favorite on the album is definitely "Kiss It Goodbye", a hard rock anthem exploring the difference between the East and West Coasts. This album also has the typical Nickelback ballads and slow songs. I find that I actually like "Lullaby", a song that speaks to anyone going through a rough time. The song on the album that I think is most likely to be a pop hit is either "Lullaby" or "Don't Ever Let It End". "Don't Ever Let It End" I also surprisingly like. The lyrics are sweet and Chad's voice flows melodically on it.
All in all, it is a good album. Nothing has really taken the place as my favorite as "All The Right Reasons", but if you like Nickelback, you will like this album.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Night 5: A Week of Salads

Last night was our last night of salads and I saved the best for last. I made Chicken Panzanella last night and it was good! Panzanella means "bread salad". The hubby said it was his favorite of the week.

Chicken Panzanella
Here is what's in this one:

1- boneless skinless chicken breast
2 cups of diced ciabatta bread (4 oz)
2 large tomatoes, diced
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup of roughly chopped basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

I seasoned the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and then grilled the chicken breast. Let it rest for 10 minutes and then dice. I tossed the bread cubes with some garlic olive oil and put the bread cubes on a cookie sheet under the broiler, stirring often. I cooked those about 3-4 minutes. Combine diced chicken, tomato, celery, cucumber, and basil in a large salad boil. Combine olive oil and red wine vinegar, stirring with a whisk. Add the bread to the salad mixture and then drizzle salad with dressing. Toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
I will add that it is so worth the extra time of toasting the bread. I have made this several times without toasting the bread, this was the first time I toasted the bread. It was amazing! It really makes all the difference in the world! This is a good one and I will admit, more filling than a lot of my other salads this week. But we finished our detox and are looking forward to some real food next week :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Night 4: A Week of Salads

It was night 4 of salads in the Jarrell household. We are continuing on ahead but I for one am looking forward to leaving this detox in the past. Not that I don't love salad, I do. But it's time for some chicken parmesan or something! Anyways, last night was was Pasta Salad with Tuna, Olives, and Parsley.

Pasta Salad with Tuna, Olives, and Parsley
This one is really easy to make, plus you can toss in whatever leftover vegetables or herbs you have in the fridge. Here are the ingredients:

Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound curly pasta such as fusilli
  • 1/2 cup olive oil $
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • pint cherry tomatoes, halved $
  • 12-oz. can oil-packed chunk light tuna, drained, flaked $
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced $
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
The directions are to cook the pasta according to box directions. Run under cool water when pasta is done. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Combine all ingredients (including dressing) in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The only changes I make are to omit the onion (obviously) and I sub green olives for the black olives. This is a tasty one.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Night 3: A Week of Salads

Last night I decided to take it really easy. Jerame had been clamoring for a night of just garden salad so that's what I did (What can I say? The man loves salad!). I made just a Classic Garden Salad and served it with some  brown and serve rolls I had leftover from Thanksgiving. It was a very light dinner, perfect for a detox week.

Classic Garden Salad
My garden salad consists of lettuce, tomato, croutons, green olives, pepperoncini's, light Italian dressing and fresh grated parmesan cheese. I add the red onions on the side as the Hubby will not eat raw onions. Both Jerame and I have noticed since we started our detox that we feel soooo much better. Our plan is working :)