Monday, October 29, 2012

Baked Eggplant

Baby Clara is loving her sponge baths.  That makes one of us that is showering!

This is a recipe that I tried out before Clara was born.  I saw a pin on Pinterest titled "The Grilled Eggplant Recipe That Got 100K+ Repins".  I really like eggplant so I decided to give it a try.  Let me start by saying that I didn't grill the eggplant, which is why my recipe is called Baked Eggplant.  Second, while Tim and I both enjoyed the meal, I'm not sure it warrants 100k+ pins.  Maybe it would have been a 5 star recipe if the eggplant was in season or if I'd used the grill.  I'll let you try it out and decide for yourself. 

2 medium eggplant
3 large tomatoes, to match the diameter of the eggplant
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup fresh basil leaves + 8 extra leaves for topping
Juice of lemon
4 garlic cloves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  Arrange oven rack in the middle position.  Place tin foil under the rack.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Cut of the eggplant crosswise into ½” thick rounds. Lightly season them with salt and leave them for 30 minutes on a side to let water to come out of the eggplant.

3.  Once ready drizzle some olive oil on top of each slice and "grill" them on the middle oven rack for 2 -3 minutes each side.  Set aside.

4.  Blend the basil leaves with 6-8 tablespoons olive oil, garlic cloves, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt and ground pepper in a blender until smooth.

5.  Cut the tomatoes crosswise to 1/4” thick rounds.

6.  Cover a baking pan in foil and lightly oil the baking pan.  Arrange eggplant rounds side by side.  Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the basil-garlic mixture on top of each one, then generously sprinkle feta crumbs. Top each with tomato rings. Add another layer of eggplant, basil spread, feta and tomato rounds and top with the rest of the crumbled feta.  I ran out of feta cheese so I topped it off with grated Parmesan.

7.  Drizzle some olive oil on top of each stack and bake for 15 minutes.

8.  Remove from the oven and top with chopped basil leaves.  This is great with a side of pasta.

Servings: 3-4

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Stuffed Cookies

Before Clara was born, I did a lot of baking.  I knew that I wouldn't have any time to bake after she arrived and I was craving some treats.  Here is one of the goodies I baked...and a quick picture of my 3 favorite ladies.

My husband is always teasing me about how when I like certain things, like say pretzels and chocolate and caramel, I find ways to bake them all together.  I happen to think it's a brilliant idea that results in a power-packed bite of pure goodness.  My latest creation is the Stuffed Cookie.  I made a batch of cookies using my favorite cookie recipe and then divided the batter in half.  I stuffed half of the batter with Mini Rolos, pretzels, PB chips and chocolate chips (my attempt to re-create the Take 5 candy bar) and the other half of the batter I stuffed with Bunch-a-Crunch and pretzels.

Pretzel Crunch Cookies 

Take 5 Cookies

I surprised at how much I loved the Bunch-a-Crunch and pretzel cookies!  My "Take 5 Cookies" didn't turn out quite as I expected - the caramel in the Mini Rolos caused the cookies to spread and they probably needed to be baked longer - but they were still good.  I've learned a big lesson as well: I don't like peanut butter chips.  I thought I did, but this is the second time I've used them with cookies and I just don't like them.  I will probably try to perfect my "Take 5 Cookies" again.  I'll keep you posted.

1 stick softened butter 
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp sugar 
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp brown sugar 
1 egg 
½ tsp vanilla 
1 ¼ cups flour 
½ tsp baking soda 
½ tsp salt
Cookie "stuffings" (I used Bunch-a-Crunch and broken pretzels for half of the batch and quartered Mini Rolos, broken pretzels, Reeces PB chips and milk chocolate chips for the other half batch.)
Sea Salt

1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle position.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
2.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3.  In a large bowl, beat together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until creamy.
4.  In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt in large bowl and mix thoroughly. 
5.  Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and mix. 
6.  Add your cookie "stuffings" of choice, stir until just combined.
7.  Drop by the spoonful onto the cookie sheet.  If you used Rolos, the caramel will make the cookies spread so leave some room between cookies.
8.  Sprinkle sea salt on the cookies.
9.  Bake for 7–9 minutes, or until golden brown, but still soft. 
10.  Let cool on baking sheet before transferring to cookie rack.

Yield: 18-20 cookies

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Look Who Came Early!

Introducing Clara Christopher Reeves!

Clara surprised us by coming early.  I wasn't due until October 23rd, but around October 11th  my amniotic fluid started leaking.  I didn't realize it was amniotic fluid (since my first pregnancy, my bladder control is that of an 80 year old woman).  This went on for several days before I started to worry that I was leaking more than just urine.  I called the on-call OB very early Sunday, October 14th and she told me to go straight to Labor and Delivery.  Fortunately, the girls had spent the night at my mom's house that night so all we had to do was pack our bags and head out.

We arrived at the hospital at 6:30 am and the OB determined that I was in fact leaking amniotic fluid.  I had to take an antibiotic to prevent infection and they started me on Pitocin.    At 1:24 pm, baby Clara was here!  She weighed 6 lbs 12 oz and was 20 inches long.

We hadn't decided on a name for Clara before she was born.  In fact, it wasn't until almost 24 hours after her birth that we chose her name.  We chose Clara because it means "clear and bright".  Tim also liked that we could call her Clare.  Her middle name, Christopher, is her Grandma Reeves name (and Superman's name!).  According to Grandma Reeves, her parents chose to name her Christopher just because they really liked that name.  Ava's middle name is Carol-Ann, which is Grandma Isaak's name, and Sidney's middle name is Catherine, my name.

Much to my surprise, Ava and Sidney are IN LOVE with Clara.  They really want to help out and play with her.  Adjusting to life with 3 kiddos is definitively challenging, but I'm so blessed to have my girls.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Official Elf Report Card

I know Christmas is still months away, but when I was walking through Hobby Lobby the other day when I saw idea for The Official Elf Report Card in their Christmas section and had to share.  If you have the Elf on the Shelf, this is a great addition to the tradition.

You and your child decide on the 5 tasks or behaviors they are going to work on during December.  At the end of each day, you (or your Elf!) decides whether or not your child has followed through on their goals.  If it was a successful day, put a Christmas sticker over the number.  The day before Christmas, you (or your Elf) determines whether your child will be on Santa's Naughty or Nice list.

I made printed two color copies for my girls, cut them down a bit and double stick taped them to red and green card stock.

To download your own Official Elf Report Card, click here.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin Sweet Bread

Whenever someone invites us to their home, I like to bake something to bring over as a thank you.  Right now, my favorite thing to bake is anything with pumpkin!  I've tried out many pumpkin sweet bread recipes and this one is the best.  The bread stays super moist over several days and tastes just as good the 5 day as it did the first!  You can add your favorite ingredients or toppings to the bread - I like chocolate chips and walnuts best.

2 egg yolks
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup flour
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chopped walnuts

NOTE: These ingredients will yield 1 large loaf or 4 mini-loaves.

1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Mix together the egg yolks, oil, water and canned pumpkin.
3.  Add sugar and mix thoroughly.
4.  Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda and mix thoroughly.
5.  Add flour and mix thoroughly.
6.  Now here's where you can get creative.  If you just want to make one large loaf, you can add your chocolate chips or walnuts or whatever to the bowl and mix them in.  Then lightly spray a loaf pan with non-stick baking spray and pour the ingredients into the pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
7.  I wanted to give these away as gifts so I made several mini-loaves.  First, I used a Sharpie to write the "add-ins" on the bottom of the tin.
8.  Next I lightly sprayed the inside of the tin with non-stick baking spray and poured the mixture into the tin.  I filled the tins ~2/3 full.  They will puff up a lot.
9.  Then I added my "add-ins", in this case I added some chocolate chips, and stirred them around with the spatula.  Now it's ready to bake!
10.  I did another mini-loaf with chopped walnuts added in and sprinkled on top.  And I did another mini-loaf with chocolate chips added in and chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.
11.  The mini-loaves only need 40-45 minutes to bake.  The loaves that I topped with walnuts took 45 minutes, where as the loaves with just chocolate chips mixed in took ~40 minutes.  Be sure to test with a tooth pick.
12.  Let them cool down and then you can either wrap them in Saran Wrap or tin foil or if you have the cute little lids that go with the disposable tins you can just use those.  I decorated mine with felt pumpkin stickers!

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Halloween Rolo Pretzels

I think I have given up on maintaining a normal weight gain this last month of pregnancy.  I find myself baking treats multiple times a week these days.  My excuse is that I have all these men working hard to finish the basement before the baby comes so I need to keep them well fed.  While I think they enjoy the treats, I'm sure they'd prefer a case of beer instead.

Anyway, I decided to make some Halloween Rolo Pretzels for them (and some for me too) because they're such a fun, easy and yummy thing to snack on.

Small pretzel twists (Snyders works the best)
Rolo candies (one bag has about 55 Rolos)
M&M's (I bought a regular bag and picked out all the orange, yellow and brown ones)
Any other toppings you choose (i.e.; pecans, white chocolate for drizzling, etc.)


1.  Adjust oven rack to the middle position.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Place pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet. I like to use parchment paper for easy handling, but you can also put them on foil, a silpat, or directly onto the cookie sheet.

3.  Unwrap your Rolo candies and place one on top of each pretzel with the wide end facing down.
4.  Place pan in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Any longer is probably too long. You just want the chocolate on the outside to look glossy and melty, but they should still hold their shape.

5.  Remove pan from oven and press the Rolo onto the pretzel with the back of a spoon.  I use 2 spoons - one to hold the pretzel in place and one to smash the Rolo.  It doesn't have to look pretty.  Just try to cover the pretzel.
6.  Place your topping on the chocolate.  Again, I stick to M&Ms, but you can be creative.  Pecans, cashews, and honey roasted peanuts would be good.  And for kiddos and those who can't eat nuts or don't like them, those mini Hershey's kissables make a great little topper.  If you want to get fancy you can give them a little drizzle of almond bark or white chocolate. 
7.  Let them cool by placing them in the refrigerator or freezer.
8.  You can store them in the refrigerator but they taste best at room temperature.

This is such an easy and yummy treat that you can bring to a Halloween party!

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Maternity Photos

Our CD of maternity photos arrived in the mail!  I can't tell you how excited I was to see these pictures.  They are all amazing and I have no idea how I will pick the ones I want to print.  As my cousin, Kristine, said, "You're going to want to wall paper your walls with these pictures."  Our photographer is Keri Dummerth.  She has 5 kiddos of her own and was unbelievable with Ava and Sidney.  She not only took great photos but she also managed to accentuate my more pleasing areas while hiding my less appealing parts.  These are hands down my favorite family pictures yet.  I can't wait for her to come back when the baby girl arrives!

Before the photo shoot, I looked around online to get some photo ideas.  Here are just a "few" of my favorites (like I said, it is so hard to choose!  Keri is amazing!).

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Gooey Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think my favorite thing about fall is all the pumpkin treats I get to eat.  My friend, Jenna, gave me this recipe for Gooey Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and I make them every year (okay, I make them several times a year).  They are soooooo yummy so I had to share the recipe.

1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the sugar, pumpkin, oil and egg.
3.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder, then slowly add to the stand mixer bowl until combined.
4.  Dissolve the baking soda, milk and vanilla in a small bowl and add to the stand mixer bowl.
5.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
6.  The dough will be sticky so I'd recommend using two spoons to drop the cookie dough onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
7.  Bake for 6-8 minutes.  I always check them at 6 minutes because you do not want to over bake the cookies.  They should be soft and moist when you take them out of the oven.
8.  Cool on the cookie sheet until you can remove them and store in an air-tight container.

NOTE:  You can also make these into mini muffins.  Just lightly spray the muffin tin with non-stick spray first.

This recipe makes ~28 cookies.

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