Adventures in Snack-Time…Or How NOT to be a baking Diva

Sooo…It’s back-to-school time for the clowns:

Which means Mom has to get back into super-mom mode. Even without the boys doing sports, we still have plenty of school-related functions to keep us busy, such as endless fundraisers, Cub Scout activities, birthday parties, class parties, room mother duties, PTA meetings and so forth. This usually means that I have ample opportunities to make a lot of snacks. Last year, on one particularly busy work night, I tried my hand at Bakerella’s cake pops (see www.bakerella.com). These were a disaster, mainly because I did not factor in the chill time, and the end result was the walk-of-shame to the Brookshire’s to purchase an emergency snack replacement. Sad, I know.

This weekend, I was determined to try again for our weekly Cub Scout meeting. As per Bakerella’s instructions, I cooked a red velvet cake, crumbled it in a bowl, and added in some cream cheese frosting. The result looked absolutely gross:

However, I was determined to succeed, despite already being overwhelmed trying to get a nice Sunday dinner made for my hungry family and friends. I rolled this concoction into balls:

Then added the sticks:

After chilling these for the APPROPRIATE time, I busted out the candy melts:

Which did not go as well as I had hoped. I tried melting these in a double boiler, instead of the microwave, and that may have been a mistake. They never did melt very evenly or smoothly, and I had to add an obscene amount of vegetable shortening to get the chocolate to a dipping consistency. I am sure that there was an easier fix for this, but at 8:00 on a Sunday night, I was not up for figuring it out. Luckily at this point, my friend J had arrived and helped me dip these annoying cake pops in the chocolate before I turned them into projectiles. The end result was worth it, however:

Because I had hungry cub scouts swarming me before I could even set the tray down. And yes, I do get a big fat “F” in the presentation department on this one, but you try cooking dinner, doing homework and rushing back out the door to a meeting in under 20 minutes. They are just lucky they made it to a platter at all, instead of remaining on the chocolate-splattered sheet pan.

Now, if I had only foreseen the reality of red velvet cake in the hands of 20 first-graders…..

Because One Craft At A Time Would Just Be Slacker-ish….

So, my friend J and I have been on a candle-making binge, which has had unexpected success, with a few hilarious failures here and there. During these experiments, we discovered that candle-making sure does have a lot of idle time, and idle hands are bad, bad things…at least, I think they are.

Anyway, we decided to fill this time last weekend with more craft lunacy, because what better way to fill the idle time than with yet another project that involves heat, sharp objects, and possible trips to the ER?

With our Fall-obsession in full force, we decided to try our hand at a dried apple wreath we saw on the internet. After a fun adventure in search of craft wire (which was WAY more difficult than it probably should have been), we scored at the local Michaels in the floral section. J peeled a boatload of apples, I sliced them with my handy mandolin, and we soaked them in a noxious mixture of lemon juice and salt. Afterward, we mixed up a bowl of cinnamon, allspice and cloves, and dredged our slimy apples in them, and popped them into a 200 degree oven to dry:

This only took a couple of hours, which was way off of our six hour estimate. Once the apples were pretty dry but still pliable, we folded them, threaded them through the wire, and made this:

The candles hanging in the center were our first attempt at taper candles. Overall, our little wreath may not be much to look at, but we did have fun doing it, and it smells dang good too. Who knows what kind of mayhem we will get into this weekend?

It’s Not A Problem If They Don’t Make A Support Group For It

At this point, I think I am showing remarkable self-restraint.

Though it is taking everything I have, I’ve left the Fall decorations alone…so far. I solemnly swear not to start our seasonal madness until at least September. *she says with a twitch*Yes, I fully understand that decorating for Fall when it is 100 degrees outside is probably eccentric, bordering on downright weird.

Though my husband and I are about as different as two people can be, we both share an unnatural tendency to go overboard on the holidays. It all starts with Halloween, which we over-do like it’s going out of style. We decorate the entire house, usually have some type of party, and carve enough pumpkins that people must think we are pretty freaky. I have already spent this month planning, plotting, reading and scheming about what the month of October will bring. I have a stack of Halloween books and magazines littering our coffee table, and have been to the craft store EVERY weekend for the past four weeks. I have been scouring the internet for ideas, like this:

And this from MarthaStewart.com:

And this:

 

I think I may have a problem with obsessing…

And if you think this is bad, wait till Christmas….

My Confession and Tuesday Night Dinner Catastrophes/ Victories

I have an embarrassing confession to make.

I hate sweet potatoes.

Horrid, right? What kind of southern girl hates sweet potatoes? That’s like, sacrilegious. Up until recently, that has been my deep, dark, sad secret. In fact, I try them every year at Thanksgiving just to see if maybe I’ve outgrown this problem, all to no avail.

Not too long ago, I tried some sweet potato fries, which were pretty yummy, so I decided that it may be time for me to try this Louisiana staple again. I’d been searching for a recipe that had the potential to convert me, and finally found one online. Monday night, I put these together and shoved them in the fridge to go with whatever I decided to make for dinner on Tuesday night:

Those just happened to be maple-topped, twice-baked sweet potatoes. Don’t they look pretty? They are loaded down with plenty of tasty, fattening ingredients that I will probably regret when I meet my scale later. On Tuesday morning, I started a Balsamic Roast in the Crockpot. Tuesdays are always the worst day of the week, so I figured the Crockpot would give me a leg up on the bad-day-meets-5-o’clock-dinner-rush. On Tuesday night, I rushed home, and threw my sweet potatoes in the oven. They came out looking like this:

They smelled soooooo good, and were like a bit of Fall aromatherapy for forgetting the 102 degree heat outside. I became very hopeful that this experiment would not end in disappointment. But, after I took them out of the oven, it occurred to me that these potatoes really do not go with a Balsamic Roast, and cooking additional rice or potatoes violates some inner mandate I have in my mind about serving two starches in a meal. WONDERFUL foresight on my part, I know. I quickly threw together some garlic bread:

My theory was that I could tear off large chunks of the bread and serve the roast over that. I know what you’re thinking smartass—bread IS a starch…but not in Louisiana. Bread is its’ own meal component (ya know, protein+starch+2 veggies+a bread= a meal). So, that crisis was averted, but then I realized I neglected to plan any vegetable with dinner. *smacked forehead here* I quickly whipped up some glazed carrots, because that’s the first thing I saw when I opened my fridge:

Only later did I realize I now had a plate full of two very orange things, thereby violating some inner mandate I have regarding meal color diversity:

At this point, I was ready to throw in the towel and retreat whimpering into my wine. The curse of Tuesday had struck again, and while I did get a hot meal to the table in 30 minutes after work, I could hear my inner-mom voice saying “what the heck kind of menu is this??” So, I did what any self-respecting, tired, working mom would do…I drowned that voice in Chardonnay, and patted myself on the back for providing my family a hot meal that did not come from a drive-thru…orange or not.

Regardless, it all turned out to be awesome. I loved the potatoes, as did my husband. In fact, he wants them to replace our old Thanksgiving sweet potatoes, because they are that good. You should try them too:

Maple-Topped Sweet Potato Skins

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 c. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 2 t. cinnamon, divided
  • 2 t. nutmeg, divided (I grate mine fresh from a whole nutmeg. You can find them now in the spice section with all the McCormick’s spices and use a micro-plane grater. The bottle will set you back nearly 10$, but I’m still working on my first nutmeg of the four that were in there, and I bought the bottle a year ago)
  • 2 t. ground ginger, divided
  • 2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 3 T. butter, softened
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 to 4 T. warm maple syrup, depending on your preference

Pierce potatoes with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees until tender; cool. Slice each potato in half lengthwise; scoop out baked insides, keeping skins intact. Place potato skins on an ungreased baking sheet. Mash baked potato in a bowl until smooth; add cream cheese, sour cream and one teaspoon each of spices. Mix well and spoon into potato skins. In a bowl, mix nuts, butter, brown sugar and remaining spices; sprinkle over top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-25 minutes, or until hot and golden and yummy. Drizzle with warm maple syrup. Makes one dozen.

Flammable Hilarity

This weekend, my friend J and I decided to get crafty and make some candles…or rather J resolved herself to trying to teach the most uncoordinated, creatively-challenged person in the world the fine art of candle making.

Did I mention I’ve already burned one house down? Well, technically I didn’t, bad dryer wiring did, but it still makes me a little gun-shy on all things flammable.

So, for two days, J helped me get the basics of candle-making, which was no small feat considering that I still managed to have a wax accident that we dubbed either the wax-apocalypse, or waxopalypse, depending on how many drinks we had in us at the time. Regardless of the name, my sweet husband bit his tongue and helped me clean the carnage up, because he is a saint like that.

In our crafting adventure, we experimented with a few techniques (all with an eye toward Halloween). Here are the results:


First, and the least hard to screw up, were the jar candles. This first set turned out really well, and smells like fall-in-a-jar. These have definite potential as favors for our big Halloween party:

We then attempted some black pillar candles for my spooky candelabras. We made various sizes, and I was really excited about these because they also smell just right, not like some licorice nastiness I find in the stores:

Finally, we saw a project in a craft book that looked too easy or crazy to pass up. It involved dipping fabric in wax and covering a candle. This was the result:

So, overall, my first foray into candle-making was pretty darn fun, and pretty darn successful, all things considered.

And my house is still standing.

Recipe Chaos Solved…or at Least Contained

I have a big recipe problem.

First, I like to try new things so often that by the time I want to remake something again, I have completely lost or forgotten about the recipe.

Second, I spend waaaayyyy too much time on the web looking at recipes, printing them, then misplacing them on my desk before they can even make it home.

Third, on any given day, I have the attention span of a goldfish, and refuse to devote time to organizing my recipe madness when I could be doing other fun things…like annoying my husband by putting my cold feet on him right about the time he falls asleep.

As you can see, this has been a simmering problem for a while. I tried resolving it by purchasing Mastercook software, but it crashed. So, I purchased it again, new version and new computer, and guess what? It crashed again. So, I voted all software off the island.

However, last year, I stumbled across an ad for the Living Cookbook software, and since it offered a free trial download, I decided to give it a try. After two days of playing around, I was sold!

This is absolutely the best software I ever purchased. Sure, it does all the expected stuff: categorizes recipes, menus, grocery lists, etc. But what really sold me was the “recipe capture” function. If I find a recipe on the web, I can capture it straight into the Living Cookbook software, without retyping or reformatting a thing.

I can also add my own recipes, with pictures, notes, categories and sources, export it to Word, and print it if needed. You can make your own cookbooks in nothing flat. I haven’t explored even half the features, but it has certainly made my recipe chaos a lot more manageable.

Basically, with a little experimenting, this software is easy for even techno-dunces like me. So, if you have your own recipe chaos, give the free trail of this software a try; it may be perfect for you too.

**by the way, in case you were wondering, no one pays me to review anything. I am just not that cool, though it would be super-neat if that were the case. So, any review you see is just me passing along something I really think you might like too**

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!!

It’s about that time…

The time every mom does not WANT to admit she loves, but secretly DOES anyway…

It’s just about school time!!!

(hear that choir of angels singing “Hallelujah?”)

I love back-to-school time. I love fresh school supplies, new school clothes and the promise of two kids who will not be bored to death in this miserable heat anymore. They will have work, structure, activities, friends, recess and most importantly, early bed-times.

Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Don’t get me wrong…I am sad to see the lazy days of summer go, but at the same time, I think I’ve reached my limit of being the perpetual cruise director to two kids who are dangerously bored.  Because with boredom comes swords, and with swords comes imaginary warfare that threatens every breakable thing in my home. Not to mention the three rolls of scotch tape they used last week to build their own battle accompaniments out of construction paper…but hey, it bought Granny an hour break from the “I’m bored” brigade, so I guess it was tape-well-spent.

So, as we prepare for the back-to-school rush, I will do my best to contain my happy dance, and act appropriately sympathetic to my Phineas and Ferb wannabees. *snicker, snicker, snort*

Yeah, Right….