Friday, October 29, 2010

My Supermom Cape is Tattered and Torn

I'm not talking about a Halloween costume here. I'm talking about the Supermom cape that I wear everyday. The one that I know better than to try to fit into, yet I reach for it all the time anyway. I'm always being told that I try to do too much, but I always feel like I never do enough.

This morning, I missed my oldest singing in chapel at school. This is a new school for him this year, and it was his first time to be in a group that was singing at morning chapel. I got a phone call about 8:00, and he was in tears. He wanted me to go to school and watch. I had no idea he was going to be doing something special today. It takes me at least 20 minutes to get to his school. His dad usually takes him to school, and there I was, sitting in the recliner, still in my pajamas, watching the Disney channel and hanging out with the two youngest kiddos, also still in their pajamas. There was no way I could make it to school in the next 5 minutes to watch him sing.

It tore me up. Why? Not so much because I missed it, although that was part of it. But it was important to him. My child. He was the one that was upset. And so it became important to me. School was out at noon today and by the time I picked him up, it was all forgotten about. The headmaster had someone take a picture on their camera to send to me, and apparently that had made everything better.  I should have known the drama would be over by the time school was.

But that's far from being the only reason my cape is tattered and torn. It's slowly become that way over the years. I don't even know why I think I need to have a Supermom cape, but I've always carried it around with me, trying to be that perfect mom, and ending up far from it. It's never mattered if I was working full time, part time, or not at all. I'm harder on myself than anyone else is, but I never let up in my self-criticism. Nothing is ever good enough. I pick up fast food, I scold myself for not cooking at home. I cook at home, I complain that I didn't cook a side dish, or a healthy enough meal. Whatever it is, I find something wrong. I didn't make enough for the bake sale. I couldn't go on a field trip. I don't take the kids to the park often. I think you get the idea.

Let it go.

That's something I get told a lot. Or "you try to do too much." My response? I usually don't feel like I do enough. Why? Why do I have to be like this? Part of it - I'm a people pleaser. I always have been. I want everyone to be happy. And if they're not? It must be my fault. Somehow.

This is not a pity party. This is not me trying to get sympathy and have everyone tell me that I'm doing a great job and not to worry about it. This is not a chance to blast me either. ;) This is just me. Sharing. Venting. Putting myself out there and saying "Hey. I want to do it all. I try to do it all. I over-commit my time and energy. I can't keep doing this. I need to chill out. Relax. Find a happy medium." Happy medium. What does that even mean??

And it's not just "mom stuff" either. It's making time for my husband, for myself. It's not having enough time to catch up with friends, both online and in "real life." It's keeping up with the day-to-day stuff. Balancing the "have to do" with the "want to do" stuff. It's looking at my list of 10,000 things to do and not fainting.

This morning, after having my own little meltdown, I called my mom. I didn't tell her what was wrong, but she knew something was up. She came over and brought a latte with her. And most importantly, she brought her own Supermom cape.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chicken and Orzo Frittata

This past week I actually managed to sit down for a few minutes and watch part of an episode of Everyday Italian on the Cooking Channel. The recipe that caught my eye was for a chicken and orzo frittata. I had no idea if my family would go for, but I decided it would be worth a try. I changed up the recipe a bit (and lightened it up too) and I think it turned out quite well. We all enjoyed it. Yes, you read that correctly. We ALL enjoyed it! :)

It's also a fairly easy recipe to prepare. I used a garlic and herb rotisserie chicken from the deli at the grocery store and that made it even easier! I even managed to get a few side dishes made to go with it. Seems like I can either get the main dish, or the side dish, but getting a whole meal made at once eludes me a lot of the time. I served it with roasted broccoli, roasted potato wedges, and cheesy garlic bread. The only thing I was wishing for was a nice salad to go with it.

On a side note, I realize that the picture to go along with this post is far from great.  I'm having...issues.  Some of it is camera-based, some is user-based, and some is user-family-based!  In other words, my camera is not that great, and seems to be cooperating even less these days.  I don't know a ton about photography, although I'm trying to learn.  And then there's my family.  Sometimes it's just plain hard for me to take the time to get a good picture, especially when the bigger kids are hungry, the baby is fussy, and the hubby is rolling his eyes at me for grabbing the camera before I start serving up supper.  Please tell me I'm not the only one that deals with these things!!

Chicken and Orzo Frittata
inspired by Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
4 large eggs (or 1 cup egg substitute)
1/3 cup part skim ricotta
1/4 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, diced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Italian herb mix
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 375'F. Spray a 2 qt baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Cook the orzo pasta according to package directions in well salted water. Be careful not to overcook it. Drain and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, and sour cream until mixed well. Stir in the mozzarella, Parmesan, chicken, red peppers, seasonings and cooled orzo. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes or until set. Turn on the broiler, and cook until golden on top, 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and wait 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings
Enjoy :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Graham Crackers

Homemade graham crackers.  That's what I've decided to share with you for my 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies post this week.  I thought it would be a fun change of pace!  However, I also have to share that this post contains a major planning #fail.  As in, it sure would have been nice to take pictures of the finished product before we ate them all!  Oh well, at least that shows that they were good!

I've actually tried several recipes for graham crackers lately, but this one has been the favorite at our house.  It's from Smitten Kitchen, and the recipe can be found here.  If you use a food processor, the dough comes together very quickly and easily. 

It is definitely a sticky dough, so make sure you chill the dough, and use plenty of flour when you're rolling it out.  This is a fun one to have the kids help with too.  I found an adorable mini cookie cutter set at Michael's a few weeks ago, and thought it would be perfect for these.  We used all of the shapes, but the kids' favorite was the little bear -- think homemade teddy grahams!!

I've discovered that with Sprout, if I give him a little bit of cookie dough, bread dough, whatever I'm working with, and just let him do his own thing with it, that it makes everyone happier!  When Munchkin was that age, he listened and followed instructions.  Unlike now, of course.  But Sprout?  No, he just wants to do whatever strikes his fancy at that moment!  Anyway, if I let him play with a little bit of the dough, while the rest of us work, it just works out.

I hope you'll give these a try.  But be warned: they are addictive! 

Enjoy!  :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cranberry Almond Biscotti and Toffee Chocolate Almond Crunchies

Hey everyone!  Well, my back is feeling better.  I want to thank everyone for the well wishes!  I'm still exhausted and behind on everything, but isn't that always true?

Just as promised, I have two recipes to share this week.  One is a new one for me, and one is a long-time favorite.

The new recipe is Cranberry Almond Biscotti.  This is only the second time I've ever made biscotti, and the first time I've made it from scratch.  After reading the recipe, I thought to myself "I can mix this by hand; no need to get out the mixer!"  Well...yes and no. It came together, although for a minute I thought it wasn't going to.  But next time, I'll just use the mixer.  The recipe came from an old Taste of Home book.

I've read, though I honestly can't remember where and can't attest to either my memory or the accuracy of the following statement, that traditional biscotti is made with no fat other than eggs, and that biscotti without butter keeps longer.  Take it for what it's worth.  :)  I'm a biscotti fan, and these were good.  I enjoyed one (or two) the next morning with my coffee.  And I may have nibbled away on a couple while they were still cooling...

Cranberry Almond Biscotti

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp almond or vanilla extract (I used vanilla)
6 oz sweetened dried cranberries
3/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325'F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites and almond extract.  Add to dry ingredients and beat on medium speed just until moistened.  Stir in dried cranberries and almonds and mix thoroughly.

Turn batter out onto a floured surface (batter will be thick and sticky).  Divide dough in half and, with lightly floured hands, pat each half into a log approximately 14 x 1-1/2 inches.  Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and reduce heat to 300'F.  Cut biscotti into 1/2 inch slices and stand upright on the baking sheet.  Return to oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Let cool completely on wire racks.  Store loosely covered.

Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

The next recipe I'm sharing is one that I received several years ago from a friend.  A group of us exchanged recipes around the holidays, so I've always associated this recipe with Christmas.  I've included it in gift tins several times and it always goes over well.

It was a big hit this time around too.  Here's the funny thing: even the Munchkin liked them this time!  Usually, he won't try them. But they were sitting out cooling, and he says "can I have a cookie?" "Sure!" I respond. I figure he's going to take one bite, give me "the look" and say he doesn't like them.  Nope.  Ate the whole thing, and told me they were the best cookies I make.  Who is this child?  Oh well, my picky eater returned the next day when I tried to get him to eat a dreaded vegetable.

I did not try to freeze any of this dough.  I made the whole batch and sent most of them to my person for Operation Baking Gals

Toffee Chocolate Almond Crunchies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 pkg (225 g) toffee bits
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375'F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, oats, baking soda and salt.  Add to butter mixture, beating until blended.  Stir in toffee bits, chocolate chips and almonds.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets.  (I use a #40 disher.)

Bake in the center of the oven for 8-12 minutes (mine were done at about 10 minutes; don't over bake) or until lightly golden.  Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 4-1/2 dozen

Enjoy!  :)


Friday, October 8, 2010

Coconut Clouds

Confession time. I'm totally ripping myself off for this week's 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies post. Starting a couple of days ago, my back became very unhappy with me. I'm not sure why, but it's just not happy.  I know I shouldn't complain, but I am decidedly a wimp.

Complicating matters is the fact that my oldest is out of school for fall break, and we had already promised him a day trip today (Friday) and another on Saturday. So, I decided to give my back a break yesterday and not do any baking. I thought it would be better today. Not so much. As a matter of fact, I'm sitting here in the recliner, with a heating pad and my laptop typing. We had a fun day, but I'm done!

D told me just to skip this week, that everyone would understand. I can't do it. Can't just skip the post this week!

So...I'm pulling out a recipe that was one of the first ones I posted after starting my blog. I was such a newbie, in fact, that I didn't manage to take a picture of the cookies. I didn't even tag the post correctly -- it wasn't filed under "cookies" at all. 

Here's a link to the original post for Coconut Clouds. And I'm going to re-post the recipe here as well. I distinctly remember baking these cookies. They were great! I had baked them for the teachers at my son's school at Christmastime. It's a recipe from Taste of Home, and the cookies turn out very soft and cake-like, with a coconut frosting and toasted coconut on top!

And I'll make a promise to you for recycling this recipe:  I'll post TWO cookie recipes next week.  How's that?  ;)
Coconut Clouds
from Taste of Home

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flaked coconut, toasted

1/3 cup butter, cubed
3 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flaked coconut, toasted

In a small bowl, cream butter, shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and extracts. Stir in sour cream.

Combine the flour, salt and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Fold in coconut.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In a small heavy saucepan, cook butter over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Pour into a small bowl; beat in the confectioners' sugar, milk and extracts. Frost cookies; dip in coconut. Let stand until completely dry. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: about 5-1/2 dozen. (I must have made them bigger, because I only got a little over 4 dozen)
Enjoy!  :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TWD: Double Apple Bundt Cake

This week's selection for Tuesdays with Dorie comes from Lynne of Honey Muffin.  What a perfect choice for the first Tuesday in October!  It's finally starting to feel like fall around here, so the scents of this cake baking were very welcome indeed.

This cake comes together fairly easy, with the exception of grating the apples.  However, you only have to grate two of them, so it's really not that bad.  I had some 2-year-old help in the kitchen while making these, so things didn't go quite as smoothly as perhaps they could have.  I guess I didn't get my bundt pan buttered as well as I thought, because the cake did wind up sticking in a few places, though not too horribly.  And if I'd had a little more time, I probably would have toasted the pecans first.  I was finally able to use the apple butter I bought at a local apple orchard too. 

Still, it turned out quite well.  Following Dorie's suggestion, it really is better the next day.  I admit it.  I snuck a piece of it while it was still slightly warm.  I couldn't help it!  :)  It's very moist, and I feel it's great on its own - no icing necessary. 

For the recipe, see Lynne's post, and be sure to see what the other TWD Bakers did with this week's recipe!

Enjoy!  :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chewy Ginger Snaps

Sit down.  No really, I mean it.  There are 12 weeks until Christmas.  Seriously.  Get out your calendar and count if you don't believe me!  Do you know how I know this?  Because I'm participating in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies this year.  It's hosted by April of Abby Sweets.  And there's a linky thing to all the other cookie posts  down at the bottom of this post.  Or at least there's supposed to be.  ;)

Aside from being horrible at time management and also being a huge procrastinator, want to know what my biggest problem has been?  Narrowing down what cookies I'm going to make!  There are just so many choices out there.  I decided to start with this recipe for Chewy Ginger Snaps.

I got this recipe many years ago off an online parenting message board, and I've made it several times since then and adjusted the recipe slightly.  I'm sure there are several recipes out there, and I'm just not certain of the original source.  I quite often make these to go in gift tins at Christmas, so I thought it would be a perfect recipe to share!

I like ginger snaps, and this is a really good soft & chewy version.  It's fairly easy to make, although rolling them into balls and coating with sugar does take a little more time than a drop cookie, but it's worth it. 

I only baked eight of the cookies.  The rest, I shaped into balls, placed on a baking sheet in the freezer, and then transferred to an airtight container once frozen.  Note, I did NOT roll them in sugar before freezing.  I didn't think that would be a good idea!  I've never frozen this dough before, so I thought it would be a nice experiment.  And I'll {hopefully} have cookies ready to go later in the season!  Here's a good post about freezing cookie dough.

Chewy Ginger Snaps

1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
additional granulated sugar for rolling, about 1/4 cup

With a stand mixer, cream together the 1 cup sugar and butter.  Add the molasses and egg and beat until light and fluffy. 

In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix just until combined.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (or overnight). 

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350'F and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape into 1" balls.  (I use a #40 disher and then roll into a ball so that they are uniform in size.)  Roll in the remaining sugar and place 2" apart on prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 8-12 minutes or until set.  Let cool on baking sheets for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Enjoy!  :)

FFwD: Gougeres

Well folks, Dorie Greenspan's new book, Around my French Table is out!  And with it, a new group to cook along with the book -- French Fridays with Dorie.  Of course I had to join!

Dorie chose the first month's worth of recipes herself, beginning with gougeres.  They are basically cheese puffs, which begin with a pâte à choux, something that I have never even attempted.  Hello!  Where have I been?  They were not nearly as daunting as I expected them to be. 

The recipe instructs you to bring your milk & butter mixture to a boil, dump the flour in, and begin "stirring energetically."  For some reason, I just love that description.  Anyway, as soon as I dumped the flour in, my phone started ringing.  Of course!  I let it go to voice mail (sorry Mom!).  After beating in the eggs comes the awesome part -- adding the cheese!  Oh yeah.  :)  I chose cheddar because, honestly, it's what I had. 

I followed Dorie's suggestion on freezing mounds of the dough before baking.  I only baked about 1/3 of the dough this time.  I enjoyed them!  Sprout liked them too.  D wasn't too fond of them, but then again, he ate one at room temperature a few hours after they were baked.  I did prefer them while they were still warm out of the oven. 

I really do love Dorie's books.  The recipes, pictures, and stories are all wonderful.  And so is she!  :)  So, I encourage you to check out the website, buy the book, and get cooking! 

Enjoy!  :)