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Archive for November, 2009

This week, Kim‘s Dare to DIY challenge was to make yummy holiday cookies.
click on the badge to head over to Kim’s site and find links to what the other ladies baked:

I chose to make Chocolate-Hazelnut Thumbprints from my latest issue of Cooking Light.


Don’t be confused.  The cookies are not the healthy treats mentioned on the left side of the cover.

These are delicious!  The cookies have a brownie-like texture and richness while the Nutella gives them a creamy smooth finish. 
Personally, I think the best way to make them is while drinking a Mikes and snacking on holiday Chex Mix. 

A few things I learned:
–  When I added the flour mixture to the egg mixture, my dough didn’t come together.  So, I stopped, scraped the beater blade off really well and when I mixed again, the dough came together right away.
–  I didn’t toast my nuts (I was a little lazy) and think the cookies came out fine.
–  I should have, however, chopped my nuts smaller.  I left them a little bigger to be pretty, but the larger (pretty) pieces fell off the cookies at the end.  Smaller bits stuck better.
–  I baked all of my cookies at once.  10 minuets wasn’t quite long enough though.  They probably cooked 12 minutes total (and could have gone a minute or two longer).
–  My thumbprint almost completely disappeared during baking.  I just put a new thumbprint in when the cookies came out of the oven.
–  A small offset spatula works great for applying the Nutella.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Thumbprints (from Cooking Light – December 2009)

4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon instant espresso (optional; I left this out)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1/3 cup hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt; stir with a whisk.  Place butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Stir egg yolks with a whisk, adding espresso, if desired.  Add the yolk and vanilla to butter; beat well.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined.
3. Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead 6 times or until smooth and shiny.  Shape dough into 28 (1-inch) balls.  Roll sides of balls in nuts, pressing gently.  Arrange balls 1-inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Press thumb into center of each cookie, leaving indentation.  Bake, 1 batch at a time, at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.  Spoon scant 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.  Yield: 28 cookies (serving size: 1 cookie).

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Thanksgiving was amazing.  I had so much fun cooking and playing hostess.

The table linens looked fantastic.  It’s the first time I’ve served dinner with cloth napkins and I think they’re such a nice touch.  I look forward to using them again and again.

I started my day in the kitchen at 8 AM.  I baked Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and delivered them to my favorite neighbor (who I knew was cooking and would be as busy in the kitchen as me).  I may have dumped half the pan of mini-muffins on the bottom of the oven and the oven door.  I cursed.  I took a deep breath and said, at least it wasn’t the turkey or the pie.  (The dropped muffins weren’t the only mistake I made though.  I also forgot to put the blade in the bread machine so the bread didn’t mix and flopped.  Oops.  We never missed it though.)  I moved on to start baking the pie and setting up the house. 

We stated the day with munchies.  Everyone came around 12 or 12:30.  We all skipped lunch and just grazed and socialized.  The starters included:
–  mixed nuts, m&m’s, and chocolate covered almonds
–  chex mix
–  nuts in the shell for cracking, and salt & pepper pistachios
–  fresh veggies and ranch
–  coconut shrimp with dipping sauce (thanks Jill and Paul!)
–  artichoke crab dip  (thanks again Jill and Paul!)

Meanwhile I was cooking in the kitchen with a lot of help

Jill was the most amazing kitchen assistant on Thursday!  Near the end, I was roasting more than the turkey and my amazing cousin-in-law was so kind to put a cold cloth with ice on my neck.  She also read my mind and helped with everything from mixing mashed potatoes to swapping casseroles in and out of the oven to warm them at the end.  I couldn’t have done it without her!

Alex filled many roles from bartender to turkey carver.

The food hit the table about 3:02 (my cooking schedule worked out just right for our 3 o’clock dinner).  The final menu included:
–  turkey
–  mashed potatoes
–  gravy
–  stuffing
–  green bean casserole
–  green salad with oranges and beets (thanks Lynda!)
–  butternut squash stuffing casserole (thanks Donna!)
–  mom’s brussels sprouts
–  sweet potato casserole
–  cranberry sauce

After we all stuffed ourselves to the brim, we watched one of our family holiday favorites, Christmas Vacation.

Following the movie, it was pie time.  This year we had two:
–  Pumpkin Pecan Pie
–  Apple Pie (thanks Jill and Paul!)
Both were made with the famous family pie crust.  The Pumpkin Pecan Pie is a recipe my mother-in-law passed down to me last Christmas.  And, the Apple Pie was made with heirloom apples from Oregon.

Everyone had a great time.  I was surprised how different it was to be the one in the kitchen instead of sitting on the couch.  But it was so much fun!  All the housework, cleaning, cooking and dishes were all worth it.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

PS. The family room remodel was completed in time for Thanksgiving.  Official before and after pictures coming soon. 🙂

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T-Minus 2 Days

I’m so excited that Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow!  The kitchen is full of yummy goodies waiting to be cooked.  The house is half way clean.  And, the last touch-up paint is drying on the trim of our family room remodel (final photos to come soon).

Jack offered to blog for me, but instead fell asleep on the job.

When I kicked him off the computer, he found a better place to sleep.

I love how he always digs into the pillow to mess it up before he can settle in.  What a silly dog!

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Dare to… Entertain!

Nevermind the fact that our remodel isn’t quite done, the house is still a mess, the laundry needs to be folded, and I still need some groceries.  Nevermind that I’m not going to do any of this today.  Because, instead, I spent the morning out shopping with the girls, and I plan to spend the evening will the in-laws because my husband’s cousin flew in today for the week. 🙂

We did a decent amount of yard work yesterday (blew and picked up lots of leaves as well as pulled weeds).  We also have trim painted and ready to install, and most importantly, The Turkey was evicted from the freezer this afternoon and has taken up residence in the fridge for the next 3 days and 18 hours (I rounded up and am giving it a full 4 days to defrost). 

I won’t have a full Thanksgiving table set until Thursday (you should see the to do list of all the things I’d like to accomplish before then, I’m sure it’s totally unrealistic).  But, I did finish sewing my Fall linens this weekend and set a quick fall table to participate in part 2 of Kim’s 6 week holiday Dare to DIY Blog Party.  Don’t forget to click over to Kim‘s and see all the other amazing tablescapes her creative blogging friends have shared.

T-Minus 4 days, and counting until Gobble Gobble Time.

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Red Fish Blue Fish

Alex and I thought it would be fun to have some nice pictures taken this fall.  We never had engagement photos done.  I thought we’d get plenty of pictures from our wedding, and we did, but they’re wedding pictures; we didn’t have any cute pictures of just us.

So, we called our favorite photographer, Red Fish Blue Fish.  After a rescheduling a few times due to the weather, we met up at our favorite local park at just the right time.  And, the 4 week anticipation ended today when our photos came in the mail.  I love them.  Jennifer sent us a dvd of 125 photos and they’re all fantastic!  There are even some with goofy faces that really capture our personalities and fun relationship.  I can’t wait to pick a photo for our Christmas cards.

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Alex cut and dry fit the trim.  It’s currently being painted.

We’re still aiming to get it done by Thanksgiving (T-Minus 7 Days).  We’re also hoping to clean the carpet in the family room and thinking about getting a pet gate at the new doorway to help preserve our soon-to-be-clean carpet.  We’ll see.

PS. The Home Depot guy was right.  The secret to a nice paint finish on trim is Flotral and the most expensive paint brush you can get (The Purdy).

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It’s official.  Thanksgiving can now happen because today I went grocery shopping and come home with this:

.

That’s right, a 15 pound bowling ball TURKEY!  I also bought my favorite stuffing mix, green beans, fried onions, cream of mushroom soup, bread mix, sugar and butter.  All very critical elements to a feast!

And to those who doubted…

It fit in my freezer easily. With room to spare.  I told you’d I’d been working on cutting down my frozen meat stash.  I’ve been planning. 🙂

Also, Butterball has some very helpful turkey information.  At the grocery store they had a chart which suggested a 10-16 pound turkey to feed 6-12 people.  Their website also has some great calculators.  My 15 pound bird will take 3 days and 18 hours to thaw in the fridge; and it’ll take 3 to 3 1/2 hours to cook.  Very helpful information.

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