Thursday, November 24, 2011

So Very Thankful

This year more than ever we have so many blessings to be thankful for. The Lord has blessed us with a home, good friends, a loving family, a job my husband loves, and the opportunity for education. Every day I wake up in this phenomenal country, I am thankful for all of the liberties we are afforded that are so easy to take for granted. It's amazing that we can achieve as high as we are willing to work, and I am thankful for a husband who is sworn to defend the Constitution that grants us these liberties.

Earlier this week, I was in such a sour mood that I kind of thought I had been wearing the RAB locket horcrux. I was upset and bitter about not being able to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My dad's  whole family (30+) get together in Pigeon Forge every year and eat, play dominoes, and pretty much laugh for the entire weekend, and to me, it is literally the happiest time of the year. I have been really bummed about having to miss it this year, but when I woke up today, I decided I was tired of being in a bad mood and that I wanted to make the most of this day that I am blessed to be able to spend with my husband. I realized that there's no guarantee that he'll be home for other Thanksgivings, so I tried my best to turn my attitude around, and we had a really great day! We slept late, watched the parade, ate cinnamon rolls, went for a run in the BEAUTIFUL 60 degree sunshine, watched football, and ate an amazing meal. I am very thankful for this day that I was blessed to spend with my husband, and I am also thankful that the rest of my family was able to spend the day together because I know how much it means to them too.

Also, Luke says he is most thankful for this:

Pumpkin Chocolate Bundt Cake

No surprise here that my Thanksgiving dessert was also pumpkin. This was the most moist cake I have ever had. I can't get over how delicious it was! I used my Kitchenaid mixer for this, and it was the first time I've used the KA for anything but ice cream. I was really impressed with it and thankful to have my hands free while it mixed.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup applesauce (I used cinnamon applesauce - with all the spices in this, I couldn't taste it)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup fat free sweetened condensed milk
1 can pumpkin

First I put the melted butter and sugar in the mixer and let that go while I got the rest of the ingredients ready. Then I added the applesauce, eggs, milk, and pumpkin and let that beat for a couple of minutes. Then I added the flour, cocoa powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and baking soda. I just let that mix until it looked pretty well incorporated (and while I stood there with my mouth open watching the KA do its magic). Put that in a greased bundt pan and bake for about 55 minutes at 350.

For the icing, I used 8 ounces of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup milk. I mixed everything with a hand mixer except for the milk, and I incorporated the milk slowly until the icing was a consistency that I thought I could spread without making the cake crumble. I tried to drizzle the icing in a lovely, delicate fashion, but that didn't happen. It was delicious anyway.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

My pumpkin obsession continues. I made these for Thanksgiving "brunch". However, we slept til 1000, so I got a late start on these, and brunch was served around 1:30. The dough was pretty sticky and a little hard to knead and roll - this is probably because I used more pumpkin than the recipe I adapted from called for. Oops. Nevertheless, they were delicious and completely worth the wait and time spent cleaning pumpkin from my nails.

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin (I used a full cup, but like I said, too sticky)
2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp butter, divided
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 up packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

In one bowl, combine 1 1/2 cup flour and yeast. In a saucepan, heat and stir pumpkin, milk, sugar, 2 tbsp butter, and salt until butter is melted. Add to flour mixture with egg. Beat on low for 3 seconds and then 3 min on medium speed. Sit in enough of the remaining flour to make the dough stiff. Knead on a floured surface (take off your rings first! bad experience). Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with Pam and turn it over so both sides of the dough are coated. Let sit for 1 hour.

Roll dough onto a lightly floured rectangular cutting board. Melt remaining butter and spread over the dough. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over dough (I ended up sprinkling a little more cinnamon after that just to cover more of the dough).

Starting with the longer side of the dough, roll the dough in a jelly-roll. Cut 1 inch slices and place in a greased brownie pan. Cover and let sit 30 minutes. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes and then let cool.

For icing, I used about a 1/2 cup of powered sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla extract and then enough milk to make the mixture "pourable." I probably used about 1/4 cup.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Catch Up

Things have been super busy around here lately. Last week, Luke and I went to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (unfortunately not the one with JT in attendance...), and we had a great time! Luke's command is relatively small, so there were about 250 people there. The speaker was General Tryon, and I gotta tell you, I loved what he had to say. He commented on how the WWII generation has been called the "Greatest Generation," but he said that he considers this generation to be "The Most Important Generation." With all of the turmoil and unpredictability in the world right now, our generation has the opportunity to have a great impact on the world. Some may call me a pessimist for this, but I think I am just a realist. While I do believe his statements regarding this generation's opportunity for impact in the world, I am doubtful about this generation's willingness to make any sort of impact. With <1% of the nation's population having any sort of military experience, it seems that our nation has become completely apathetic regarding the job that our military is doing right now. And I think that is very sad. While I can't speak firsthand about the WWII generation, I have gathered from my grandparents and great-uncle that everyone was concerned and interested in the job of the military because every single person had someone they knew/loved in the military. Now we can always get into debates about the draft, but that isn't my point. My point is that their generation cared about the turmoil in the world because they were all involved. It's all too easy now to be uninvolved, and I truly believe that is only impacting our country and our world in negative ways.

On a lighter note... Over the weekend, Luke and I headed south for my sweet sweet nephew's 6th birthday party. It was seriously one of the most fun weekends we have had in a long time. It's amazing how quickly kids grow and develop in such small periods of time. We last saw my nephew at our wedding a little over 4 months ago, and he has since started Kindergarten - I was amazed by his vocabulary, his new personality features, his sense of humor, and his inquisitive nature (he kept asking me to define words I used that he didn't know - so cute!). We went to an arcade-type place for the party, and he had such a wonderful time. It really just warmed my heart to hear him laugh and be excited all day long. Leaving on Sunday was probably the hardest time I've ever had leaving my family. While it isn't easy to say goodbye to my parents and my sister, I know that they understand the process of goodbye, but I was so sad to tell my nephew goodbye. A 6 year old just doesn't understand why his aunt can't come to all of his hockey and soccer games or come over to play Legos anytime. On the drive home, I was thinking about all the things I'll miss out on as he grows up as a result of being far away, and I felt really discouraged. I tried to remind myself that making the most of the time I do have with him is the best that I can do, and I love my husband so I chose this life, and it helps a little, but let's be honest. Missing out on things with family sucks even when you're missing it because you're with a husband you love dearly. I don't have a neat little package to wrap that in, so I guess I'll just leave it at that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread

Since we ate the last of the pumpkin apple bread this morning, we both agreed having breakfast bread in the house was a semi-necessity. We both love the cinnamon swirl bread from Great Harvest and have been in slight withdrawal since we left Annapolis, so I found this recipe in a Taste of Home baking cookbook. I didn't have a few of the ingredients, so the way I made it was a little unorthodox but sooo delicious. I'll post what I used plus the original recipe.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vanilla yogurt + 2 tbsp skim milk (the original recipe calls for buttermilk, but I didn't have any)
1 egg
1 pudding cup of cinnamon pudding (sounds weird I know... the original recipe calls for 1/4 cup vegetable oil. I won't bake with vegetable oil, but we were out of applesauce, so I used the pudding out of desperation. It worked really well. I think this might also be good with chocolate pudding? Just a thought for the future)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1.5-2 tsp milk

Mix the flour, one cup of sugar, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the yogurt/milk (or buttermilk), egg, and pudding (or applesauce or oil). Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar.

Grease the bottom only of a loaf pan. Pour half the batter in and spread evenly. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar mix. Spread the remaining batter on top and sprinkle with the rest of cinnamon sugar mixture. Swirl a knife/skewer/whatever through the batter. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes (I had to go for 55 minutes, but this may be a result of my unorthodox ingredients). Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing to cool on a wire rack. Combine powdered sugar and milk for glaze and drizzle on top. DEVOUR.


Even more delicious:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Apple Bread

I stayed home today because I woke up with a 100 deg fever and I sound like I've been smoking cigars since the womb. While I wish I could just lay on the couch and watch tv all day, I need to be productive to feel better. So what better way to feel accomplished than baking? I threw a roast and some vegetables in the crock pot, but that just didn't give me the fix I needed. I opted for some pumpkin apple bread. I could actually smell this cooking, which says a lot considering my nose hasn't stopped running for 3 days now.

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp cinnamon
.5 tsp nutmeg
.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 can pumpkin puree
2 apples, chopped
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 loaf pans with nonstick spray. In one bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix wet ingredients. Incorporate the two until well blended. Divide into two loaf pans and cook for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean in the middle. Love this bread because it has such a wonderful flavor and it has a serving of vegetables and fruit in it : ) I had to fight the urge to add chocolate chips, but I'm sure that would have only made this even more delicious.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When my nose is running 60 mph, I'm coughing, and running a fever, all I want is a big bowl of soup. This tends to be counterproductive because soup makes my nose run even more, but I crave it nonetheless. Today my particular craving was for chicken tortilla soup. My husband who claims to not like Mexican food loves this soup. Typically, I make this is in the crock pot, but since our "quick" grocery trip actually took 1.5 hours, I made it on the stovetop instead. I think I like it better in the crock pot, but stovetop was an adequate substitute. Anywho, this is the crock pot recipe:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, including juice
2 cans chicken broth
juice from 2 limes
1 can black beans, drained
1 can "fiesta" corn
1 tsp sea salt
4 corn tortillas, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese

Put the chicken in the crock pot. Combine the garlic, tomatoes, lime juice, and chicken broth, and pour over the chicken. Cook this on high for 3 hours. When the chicken is done, use two forks to shred it. Mix in remaining ingredients, and stir to incorporate. Turn crock pot to low and let simmer for 30 minutes. We like this with the shredded cheese on top. This one smells to delicious while it cooks!