Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One sweet monkey....

So I know everyone always warns you that once you have a baby time goes by faster than a speeding bullet. But seriously? A year? Already?  I cannot believe that Cole is now a big-boy-one-year-old. I am super tired and am having trouble putting into words the love I have for my little boy. (me, unable to find words? I know, it doesn't happen often.) So I will just say this:

I simply love him more than life itself.

It's true, I would gladly give my last breath for those sweet cheeks. Thankfully God isn't asking me to do that. So instead, I decided to throw him a birthday party to celebrate the joy that he has brought into our lives.

Oh, so much joy.

Here is a recap of the blessed day!

I fell in love with that sock monkey hat and decided a sock monkey birthday party would be absolutely perfect! I have this strange obsession with themes.....I think I may need professional help.

I also loved the idea of a cookie and milk underlying theme since up until this moment my little monkey hasn't had any other liquid besides breast milk and water (see? I told you.....theme mania) Out of that idea sprung the Cookie Dough Cupcakes and milk bar.

Apparently the mister loves sweets as he ate every last crumb and licked his mug squeaky clean. This was the first time he had any sugar besides could literally see it pulsating through his veins!

We also had a candy buffet bar where everyone had the opportunity to create their own goody bag to take home with them.  I loved that it added a fun and whimsical element to the party. Plus, it's more fun when everyone gets to load up on their favorite candy rather than just having to deal with what they were dealt.

It was such a surreal day....a day mixed with excitement, sadness, joy, disbelief and so so much love. I cannot wait to see where God will take our little boy throughout is life. I pray that he will grow and mature in a deep and passionate love of our Creator.  May he choose to love others above himself and may his sweetness be a constant reflection God Himself. I have no doubt there are great plans to be made for our little man, and I consider myself blessed beyond belief to get to walk alongside him as his adoring mother( I'm sure he will appreciate that during his teen years....)

Here's to our sweet little monkey..... Mom and Dad love you to pieces!

(Now where are my tissues?)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ever have trouble keeping your mitts out of the cookie dough?

I do. All the time.

Once I became pregnant I had to constantly remind myself not to eat cookie dough, tried to forget about eggs over easy, and said so long to my beloved ravioli with a soft yolk barely cooked in the middle....(haven't tried it?Seriously run to the nearest authentic Italian restaurant and order some pronto....your view of good ravioli will forever be changed.)

For some reason I like to eat things raw.....hence my adoration of sushi. Luckily, I behaved myself and didn't even tempt myself with any of it.  But how, oh how I wish I had found this recipe while I was still baking my baby. In fact, the moment I laid eyes on the recipe I knew it would be perfect for his one year birthday party. And when I tasted it...... I knew that it would be my go-to raw cookie dough recipe pregnant or not.

Here is the recipe that changed the cookie dough dilemma for good.

P.S. Come back later to check out more pics of the Sock Monkey Party....still trying to figure out how to put into words how much my little monkey means to me. For now, make these and eat your pretty little hearts out. 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes:
(Source: Annie's Eats)
Yield:24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

For the filling:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
3½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. milk
2½ tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total).  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar.  Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir together to blend.

 Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla.  Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.   Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the cookie dough filling, combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, about an hour.

To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake.  Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Beat in the flour and salt.  Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.

Frost the filled cupcakes as desired, sprinkling with mini chocolate chips and topping with mini chocolate chip cookies for decoration.

And then eat with a tall glass of milk!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Homemade Chipotle Burrito Bowl? Yes Please!

It's no lie, Kyle and I love Chipotle. When we left Portland, we sadly said good-bye (or so we thought) to our favorite restaurant friend.  Little did we know that Boise was getting ready for the grand opening of one here! Sunday lunch is SAVED! However, because we were out of the know for awhile, I happened upon this wonderful blog Skinny Taste that made her own homemade versions of Chipotle's classics! And what made me grin even bigger was that she simplified the cooking process by throwing it in a crockpot, lightened up the recipe.....and get this, it still tasted fabulous! In fact, Kyle commented several times that he even liked it better than the real deal. SCORE! (mental note, recipe saved and starred!) For once it paid off to be left out in the dark, otherwise I may not have tried so desperately to quench my craving by digging around on the internet.  So, if you are in the mood for some quick, easy, and lip-smacken good tacos, look no further my friends....
Mexican Slow-Cooked Carnitas
Source: Skinny Taste

  • 2.5 lb pork shoulder blade roast, lean, all fat removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, cut into sliver
  • cumin
  • dry adobo seasoning
  • garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup 99% fat free chicken broth
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo (to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves


Season pork with salt and pepper. In a medium saute pan on medium-high heat, brown pork on all sides for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Using a sharp knife, insert blade into pork, cutting small holes and insert garlic slivers. Season pork generously with cumin, adobo and garlic powder all over.

Pour chicken broth in the crockpot, add bay leaves and chipotle peppers. Place pork in crock pot and cover. Cook low for 8 hours.(Note: my crockpot cooks unreasonably fast, so my pork usually only takes about 4 hours to cook, make sure you play around with your crockpot to find the appropriate timing) After 8 hours, shred pork using two forks and combine well with the juices that accumulated at the bottom. Remove bay leaves and adjust salt and cumin (you will probably need to add more). Let it cook another 15-30 minutes.

I also served this with Corn Salsa and Cuban Beans, and homemade guacamole. It can also be served over romaine lettuce and made into a burrito bowl. Soooo yummy! Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkins and Milestones

Fall has always been a fun season, it's the season that brings on so many changes.  We have been enjoying all of the new sights, sounds, and tastes that fall has brought us here in Idaho.  I still have not had a pumpkin spice latte, but plan to fix that problem when I am home visiting family next week.  I'm just glad my mom shares my love of everything pumpkin.  She has sweetly informed me that there are about ten loaves of pumpkin bread hanging out in the freezer awaiting my arrival, throw in a cup of coffee and we will be set for the week. I am blessed by my mom. 

In an attempt to get more into the fallish spirit we decided to pack up our little punkin and head to Cole's first ever pumpkin patch! I think mama was a wee bit more excited than he was.

Cole did a lot of staring people down, and seemed somewhat interested in the animals at the petting zoo....which, I have decided was my least favorite part of the day. It's stinky. It's dirty. There are flies everywhere.  And kids are running into you, stepping on your feet, shoving, pushing, and shrieking over animals that look less than excited to be there. Needless to say I dowsed my hands with some sanitizer and made a mental note to pass up the petting zoo in the future.

We did however, manage to play on some tractors.....
Cole discovered hay for the first time, and immediately started plowing through it with both hands!
He offered some to daddy.....
And then took it back....
After the mini photo shoot and hay extravaganza, we took a hay ride out to the pumpkin patch.  We had all of the right intentions of picking out some beautiful pumpkins.  But after looking around and seeing that many of the pumpkins looked like this.....
I immediately envisioned the two of us trying to carry Cole, find the perfect pumpkins and then attempting to lug them back to the front of the farm.  Birthing another child seemed easier. 

So we loaded back onto the tractor....pumpkinless.

While bumming along on the tractor.... I whispered to Kyle, "how about we just pretend to pick out our pumpkins and then head to the nearest store to pick out the real deal." He chuckled and nodded his head in agreement. So we cheated. I figured Cole wouldn't be too scarred since he most likely won't have any recollection of our failed pumpkin patch experience.

Instead we took advantage of the beautiful day and the amazing fall surroundings to get some fun shots.

It was a wonderful time with my family.  As I look at the pictures I am reminded of God's goodness. And as I stare at that baby boy and his baby blues I can't help but think that in 10 short days he will reach his one year milestone (deep breath).

Here is what my little mister has been up too thus far:

He says "dada" all the time (boo)
I was worried that he didn't know who his "mama" was with all of the "dada's" being thrown about. So the other day while he was in his carseat I looked at him and asked, "Cole, where is your mama?" he immediately smacked me in the face.....guess that answered my question.
He has started a high-pitched shrieking, that is like nails on a chalkboard. Apparently he likes the sounds of his voice.I do too, but wouldn't mind if he toned it down a bit. :)
He points to things when asked where they are, for example the other morning I asked him where the fan was.....he hardly skipped a beat in his crawling, stuck his whole hand up in the air pointing towards the fan without even looking up in the slightest (as if to say, duh mom, it's right there...and to make it apparent I was cramping his style).
He still loves to be by my side during the day. If he is playing and I am sitting somewhere else in the room he will take breaks ever so often to come over and lay his head in my lap. He is my lover boy.
He is not walking yet, but stands up on everything, walks along the sofa and fireplace hearth, and will take steps while holding onto my hands.
He loves to open drawers, and empty them. He loves the dishwasher and will come barreling over if I as much as unlatch the door (the kid has excellent hearing).
He is still mainly breastfeeding and doesn't seem slightly interested in giving that up or cutting back. 
He also loves solids as far as veggies and fruit....still working on getting him to eat meat, so far unsuccessful.
He has 4 teeth and is clearly working on a couple more, as he has two constant streams of slobber dribbling down his chin at all times. This has also caused quite a bit of night waking again.
he still needs and takes two naps a day, they range anywhere between 1-2 hours at a time.
He goes to bed no later than 8 every night, wakes up religiously between 10:30-11:30 pm to be topped off, and then typically sleeps in until 8:30-9:00. (Praise the Lord! I actually manage to get a good nights rest)
He doesn't like loud noises and will cry if I try to vacuum or turn the blender on.... so much for trying to clean the house and prepare his baby food!
He flaps his arms when he gets really excited about something I ask him.
He is OBSESSED with Happy Baby puffs, and lately when I ask him if he would like some puffs, I get a squeal and something that sounds like a "YAH"! 
He is learning to throw a ball back and forth with me.
He loves to play "so big" (or Kyle's version "touchdown!")
He plays peek-a-boo every chance he gets, whether it's with a t-shirt, door,shower name it, if he can hide behind it he will happily initiate the game!
He would rather play with all his toys flipped upside down. It always looks like he is investigating how they work.  
He loves cashiers, in fact he will just sit and stare with his laser eyes and a smile on his face, if they don't look at him his smile gets bigger and the stare more intense..... as if he is daring them to ignore his cuteness. Once they look, he will giggle and flirt...mainly with the ladies. :) Oh man....

He is still the sweetest most low-key baby I know. I can hardly stand not being around him 24/7. I am in awe as to how fast he won my heart and how quickly time has passed. I thank God everyday for my precious little boy and pray that he will grow into a man of God, with a heart sensitive to His calling. He keeps me on my toes and brings a constant joy that is overwhelmingly wonderful. He makes my life full and abundant.  I can't wait to celebrate this little man's birthday!

Thanks Cole bug for being who you are, I love you dearly.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall Has Fallen Upon Us

Well, it's beginning to feel a lot like home around here these days.  The clouds have rolled in, the blue skies have turned to gray, and there are rain drops falling on the ground. Yep, feels almost like the Portland weather we thought we left behind.  Cole has been standing at the window watching the rain fall and pointing with his whole hand at the droplets in the puddles.  It's pretty adorable watching him grasp the world around him.
And then I get looks like this that make even the gloomiest of days seem to fade....
Yes, this little punkin face has brought me more joy than he will probably ever know. He has always been mama's little sidekick, but for some reason even more so than usual.  Lately he has to be right by my side whether I am folding laundry, doing the dishes, or trying to cook.  Sometimes it makes getting that task at hand hard to get done.....but then I look at the pile of laundry and those big blue eyes.....the eyes always win.  I figure there will always be another load of laundry to be done, something that can be picked up and cleaned....but there will only be one chance at soaking up every moment with my little man.  So that is what I choose, and without an ounce without regret. 

Because of this current case of wanting to be attached to mama's side, I have been a big fan of quick and easy meals that taste great.  So in honor of the Portlandish weather, I decided to whip up one of my favorite soups.  It's a breeze to throw together and it packs a punch that will warm you up from the inside out.  This is often a requested soup from the hubby, and never fails to get raves and compliments.  Whenever Kyle mentions how good something is more than 3x's during one meal I always add it to my "hits" list and make a note to add it to my mental recipe file.

We had this for dinner last night and then both had leftovers for lunch today.  I was so hungry by lunchtime that I scarfed it down a little too fast and I needed to sit down to allow myself a little recoup time.  The best part about the soup is the versatility and the ability to adjust the spiciness according to your liking. So here is the soup that cured the rainy day blues.

Chicken Coconut Curry Soup
Source: Savory Sweet Life
Photo: Savory Sweet Life
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 onion,  chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
1/2 cup mushrooms
1 cup cooked chicken meat, chopped
1 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons red curry paste (if you like it less spicy, just use 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
13.5 oz can Asian coconut milk or cream (I use Trader Joe's light coconut milk and it tastes great)
21 oz chicken broth (If you want a thicker and creamier soup don't add the full amount in)
1- 2 tablespoons fish sauce and a few sprigs of cilantro

In a medium  sauce pan, heat olive oil on medium heat and cook chopped onions, carrots, red bell pepper, and mushrooms for approximately 5 minutes.  Add curry paste, brown sugar, chicken, rice, and fish sauce stirring and sauteing everything until curry paste is completely incorporated (approx. 2-3 minutes).  Pour chicken broth and coconut milk into the pan and give it a good stir for a half minute.  Reduce heat to medium and allow the soup to cook for 15-20 minutes.

See, easy peasy. Plus this is a good soup to make if you have left over chicken or rice. Mmmm...I kind of wish I had more leftovers, I would heat me up a bowl right now. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Folks, I Have Problem:

I am in love with this little man.....
In fact, so much so that I often go to bed with a smile on my face anxious for the morning when I get to be greeted by that amazing-melt-your-heart smile. Ok, so that isn't a problem.....the real problem is that in a few short weeks I am going to have a one-year-old.  I have been thinking and daydreaming about his first birthday for a lot longer than I wish to admit. But then I would often stop and scold myself as it would be silly ordering anything or making any solid plans with his birthday being so far off....and then all of a sudden it hit me last week,  I am behind schedule and risk the possibility of running out of time. Oh the horror of that realization! Seriously, where did my 6lb 8oz newborn go?  I had no choice but to jump into high gear and now I have party planning on my mind 24/7.  It's an epidemic. Last night I kept waking up and unable to go back to sleep with my mind flooded with thoughts of balloons, cake and sock monkeys.  My problem is this, I can't just do something's either all or nothing.  I need a theme, I need inspiration, and I need perfection.... and pronto people!  I warned you, it's a problem.

Good thing I knew my theme months and months ago: SOCK MONKEYS!!!! And here is my inspiration.....
Isn't that adorable?  I love the brown and red with pops of aqua.  And who doesn't love a classic sock monkey, it's like the epitome of  baby cuteness.  I can't wait to see how everything turns out, I will be sure to share lots of pictures, recipes and ideas once it's all said and done.sniff. And then I may need some moral support as I wrap my mind around the fact that my baby is growing up.  Double sniff.

Great, now I am sad and mopey.

Good thing I have just the cure for such a time as this.....can I get two cheers for CUPCAKES!!! I have realized that not only do I have a problem with being a perfectionist in party planning, but I also have a problem with cupcakes. See, my little sister asked me to make cupcakes for her wedding, I of course agreed.  Naturally I had to do a bazillion and one trial runs with different frosting combos and such.  My husband begrudgingly was my taste-tester. I say begrudgingly because every time he would say, " you really need to stop all of these trials because I keep eating all of them and they are going to make me fat." Sounds like a tough job, eh? And for the record, I don't think he gained an ounce. 

My sister had only one request, one of them must be banana.....that may sound easy enough.  But you try finding a banana cupcake that doesn't taste like it should be a loaf instead of a cake.  But I think my persistence paid off and this was the finale in the cupcake taste-off.

BananaCupcake with Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

For the Cupcake: Check out Schweet n Savory

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
 (Source: Sweetpolita)
If you have never made Swiss Meringue Buttercream before I urge you to read Sweetpolita's tutorial as it can be a daunting frosting to make, but it is by far my favorite to work with.  It always looks beautiful if done correctly. I also used store bought 100% egg whites that were pasteurized as to make absolutely sure there was no possibility of Salmonella. But if done correctly the egg whites are cooked enough to kill any potential food illness.

Yield: 15 cups (enough to frost and fill approximately three 8" round cakes)
16 large egg whites (30g each--total 450g, or 2 cups)
4 cups granulated sugar (800g
5 cups (2.5 lbs, 10 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
30 ml (2 tablespoons) pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups caramel sauce
Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk attachment, small bowl, and whisk with paper towel and lemon juice (or vinegar), to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar,  and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot (you can feel a drop in between your fingers to ensure no granules.).
Take off of stove, and place bowl back on electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and neutral (you can feel outside of the bowl to test temperature). Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on low speed continously, add butter one cube at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).  Add vanilla and salt, mix well. Add in caramel sauce and continue to beat until thick and creamy.

You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more. If buttercream is too runny, the butter was possibly too soft--place into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, then beat again. If still too runny, add a few more cubes of butter and keep beating. Use immediately, or refrigerate/freeze.

Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.
Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.
If buttercream still doesn't have its satiny finish after rewhipping, microwave 1/3 of the buttercream for approximately 10 seconds and add to remaining buttercream in mixer bowl, beating for a few moments to incorporate.

I sprinkled the tops of the cupcakes with toffee pieces, which added a nice crunch to each bite!

Oh but I am not done here.....this next one is a beaut.  

This was my absolute fave. When I did a tasting for Shannon (the bride) her comment was "I am tasting a bit of heaven with each bite."  These are pretty heavenly, you get a fix for any chocolate craving that is rinsed down with a creamy melt-in-your-mouth cream cheese frosting.
Cookies n Cream Cupcakes:
(Source: Annie's Eats)
Yield: 24 cupcakes

-When I made this for the wedding I didn't put the oreo half on the bottom as sometimes I had problems with it sticking, but it does add a fun little surprise when you take a bite!

For the cupcakes:
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I quarter them)

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. heavy cream

For garnish:
Oreo cookie crumbs
24 Oreo cookie halves

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.