Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Review

What a year! Especially the last month-ish. Here's the recap from a personal level:
  • January I was in full hibernation mode. I went nowhere and did nothing.
  • February I turned, well, the corner into the downhill slide to 40. Had the one and only snow day of the year and painted the laundry room.
  • March The Spawn turned ten. My department at work doubled in size - going from one (me) to two (Mexinese). This guy is my hero!
  • April I took my first vacation in... a long time... and went to Las Vegas.
  • May the first bat appeared in the house.
  • June The calm before the storm...
  • July The month of insanity. The Spawn went to camp for the first time. Both kids had swimming lessons and VBS. Summer Conference for work. The Spawn had pink eye. Bats #2 through 7 were in the house.
  • August Tried to keep this month as simple as possible. I attended a bachelorette party. The CofC went to the fair. Work took on a whole new level of challenge.
  • September Sent The Diva off to school.
  • October The Diva's daycare closed and we had to find a new daycare. The Diva turned five. Boyfriend and I broke up.
  • November Had a minor fender bender the end of the month. I took on a second job. The Diva's school switched teachers. Bat #8 came out of hiding. Completed an essay for a writing contest.
  • December The busiest month.ever. The Winter Conference for work, The Spawn's orchestra concert, making gingerbread houses with The Diva, and an offer to write a newspaper column were a few highlights. A car accident that totalled out the car was not a favorite highlight, but thankfully no one was hurt. Bats #9 and 10 were also not on my top ten list.
So that was my personal life in a nutshell. Probably explains why reading was put on a back burner. Well, that and this little thing called Pinterest... So let's wrap up what happened on the book front this year:
  • I made up my own little book challenge to try to move things off the TBR shelf. It was a good effort, but the "restriction" of my normal reading habits became tiresome. Sometime around the halfway mark I gave up completely.
  • Goal of  47 books for the year: failed. Finished the year with 37 books, and 2 books that I'm still trying to finish up going into 2013.
  • Reducing the TBR shelf: failed. Even though I did some serious culling in the last few months, I just didn't read enough to keep up with the new books.
So what's up for 2013? I have no idea. I don't know if I'm going to set a To Read goal this year. This may be the year where I eliminate the TBR shelf. Ideally I'd like to have that shelf around 20 books - 10 "real" books and 10 e-books, but I don't know that would ever happen. I'll keep y'all posted!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pizza Rolls

I found this recipe on Pinterest (see, it's not all evil), but I didn't save the link. I found this when I was looking for a variation of pizza for The Spawn. Pizza is one of the few foods he'll eat, so we may eat it up to three times a week. Pizza is not one of my favorite foods, so I was in desparate straits when I gave this recipe a try. The first time I made this, I followed the recipe (shown in the photo) and the bottom of the rolls never fully cooked. So I have done some experimenting and made a few tweaks and now they turn out perfect every time. Both kids get excited when these are on the menu and I've even come to appreciate them.

1 can refrigerated jumbo biscuits
about 3/4 of an 8oz. cheese block cut into 8 cubes, any flavor - we like mild cheddar
16 slices pepperoni
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 to 1 tsp italian seasoning
pizza, marinara or alfredo sauce for dipping

Move oven rack down one space from "typical center". [Okay, has anyone else ever noticed that the "center" of the oven really isn't the center? Drives.me.crazy. Moving on...] Preheat oven to temperature indicated on biscuit container, usually 375°F.

Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Take each biscuit and press it flat with your hand. It shouldn't be thin, just spread out more.

Place one cheese cube and 2 slices of pepperoni in the center of each biscuit. Fold up all the edges around the cheese and pepperoni and pinch closed. These should stay closed well by themselves.

Place each pizza roll with seam end on the cookie sheet and some space between each one.

Brush rolls with beaten egg.

Combine parmesan cheese, garlic powder and italian seasoning. Sprinkle over rolls.

Bake for recommended time on the biscuit package, usually 15 minutes or until tops are lightly browned.

Serve with dipping sauce of choice.

These freeze well uncooked and without the egg/seasoning on them. Allow to thaw in the fridge for one day before baking.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Diva's Butterfly Cupcakes


In case anyone has noticed and is wondering: Yes, The Spawn does have birthdays too, but with the exception of the makeup-for-being-a-bad-mom-chess-cake, he prefers very simple vanilla on vanilla cakes. For which I do have an awesome vanilla cake recipe that I will post for his next birthday, I promise... Now, on to The Diva's birthday cupcakes from like,  two months ago... These adorable butterflies came about from the combination of two Pinterest ideas and a little bit of "what I already have in my cupboards". I apologize in advance for the lack of thorough How To photos... I might have gotten bored halfway through making these...

What you need:
24 baked and frosted cupcakes, your flavor choices
48 tiny twist pretzels
pull and peel twizzlers, pulled apart and cut to 24 pieces (I eyeballed it, but approximately 3" long) flavor/color of choice
24 tootsie rolls flavored or plain and cut in half lengthwise
96 M&M's in color matching sets of 4 (or if you want to do whatever, do whatever.
Melted almond bark. I used white and chocolate separately.
wax paper

Here's what you do:
Spread a long piece of wax paper out on the counter. The assembled butterflies take a bit to set up to be moveable so you'll need space to do a lot of them. I found it better to completely assemble each butterfly before moving on to the next one. Place two pretzels with the wide end together as shown in the photo above.

Fill pretzel space with melted almond bark as shown. You'll want to spoon a good amount across the center to help secure the butterfly antennae and body.

Fold twizzler in half and place fold at the top center of pretzel. This is the antennae. (Did I need to tell you that? I really just like typing "antennae"...) They should spring open on their own. If they don't, then give them a little nudge with your fingertip after you place the body.

[Insert epic fail for lack of pictures, here] Place one cut tootsie roll in the center of the pretzels, cutside down and covering the twizzler bend.

Place one M&M in each section of the wing. I tried to place mine without the "m" showing.

Allow to harden completely (about half an hour depending on the kitchen temp) before placing on top of cupcakes.

These keep well for about two days. After that the tootsie rolls and twizzlers will start to goop up [sorry for the techinical term] due to the moisture in the frosting.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

These are a solid staple in my house as both kids love them. I bake up a batch and throw them in the freezer for grab and go breakfasts or afternoon snacks.
 
3 mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips (I use mini chips)
 
Preheat oven to 375°F and place liners in a muffin pan.
 
In a medium bowl, mash bananas (can use a fork or the mixer) and add in oil, milk, eggs and vanilla mixing until well combined.
 
In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips.
 
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and combine until just blended (do not overmix).
 
Fill each muffin well about 3/4 full.
 
Bake 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
 
Place muffins on a cooling rack and allow them to sit 10-15 minutes before attempting to remove the wrapper.
 
Makes 12 large muffins.
 
Recipe found in Blue Spring 2012 Newsletter.