Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cooking School

Tuesday night I went with my neices, Kassie and Crissa, to the Taste of Home cooking school at the Marriott in Provo. Kassie had found out about it and invited us along. I was so excited to go, and it didn't disappoint. We got there about an hour early to check out the booths. When we signed in and got our goodie bags (that's a whole other topic right there) we were told there were free massages at the end of the hall. Whoo hoo! We headed straight there. We got our free 5 minute massages - just enough to tease me and remind me I'm long overdue for a GOOD massage - and went to check out the other booths. There was a huge crowd there and lots of cute stuff at the booths.

They started the class right at 7 and they just jumped right in to demonstrating the recipes. Everything looked so good! The hosts were funny and kept things moving right along. They had tons of door prizes to give away, and every time the hostess said, "Oooh, I'm not going to pronouce this name right," I was sure it was me. Nope. We're big ol' losers. People all around us won prizes, but not us. They even gave away the food they had cooked at the show!

But I didn't feel too bad about it, because I was so in love with my goodie bag. It's a good sized tote bag, and had in it the Cooking School book, full of recipes including the ones demonstrated. Then in addition to that, there was a magazine called "Simple and Delicious" that I turned pages down on as I browsed through it during the breaks in the show. Yeah, I turned down about half the pages. I'm so excited to try them out! I didn't even know that Taste of Home had another book besides the Eating Light one, or whatever it's called.

We also got a little calendar, sample spices from McCormick, Ziploc baggie samples, a weird little knife from Velveeta, and tons of recipes and coupons. I had THE BEST time, and hope that Kassie keeps track of these things so when the Cooking School comes to Provo again, we can go again. It was so much fun.

My mom subscribed me to Taste of Home I-don't-know-how-many years ago, and I love getting it. Some of my best and most loved recipes have come from there. I might have to start subscribing to the other one too, the Simple and Delicious one. Thanks, Kassie, for inviting me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

With love from the Butterton's

We had a family party today for Easter. I intended to make some cupcakes as my potluck item, but once I got started I just couldn't stop . . .

More mini cakes. Lane doesn't like frosting so they are perfect for him. Turns out my sister doesn't like frosting either, so she was pleased to have an option. They always turn out perfectly as long as I use a mix.

I forgot to get the mini eggs for the Easter cupcakes. The Maceys cashier even asked me specifically about mini eggs because they were on special. "No thanks," I replied. "Don't need 'em." I'm so stupid. I even had to make a second trip to Maceys because I forgot garbage bags and marachino cherries. And I still forgot the mini eggs.

Can a person baste too much? Nope, I didn't think so. Today's baking used well over a pound of butter. Is that a lot? Not for the Butterton family!

I basted the life out of this bread. I made 2 loaves and used a full cube of butter just on basting.
I really need to make something with cream cheese in it. I thought I was out of cream cheese so I bought 2 at the store (yeah, I remember THAT and forget the mini eggs). I had Jack and Addie clean out the fridge and I found out that I already had 3 bricks of cream cheese, making 5 with the 2 I just bought. I also have an over-abundance of sour cream, cheese, and whipped cream. I better stay out of the dairy department for a while.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's just not worth it

I consider myself more of a pastry chef than I actually am since I watch lots of The Food Network. After watching a few too many episodes of "Food Network Challenge," I decided I would give fondant a try. How hard could it be? Those pasty chefs on Food Network make it look terribly easy . . . easy enough that an idiot like me could do it. Right?
I mixed it up, rolled it out . . . it tore. So I kneaded it up again, rolled it out . . . it tore again. So decided maybe I was working with too much at once, and separated a smaller ball. Kneaded again, rolled it out again . . . it tore again. This went on and on for some time and my back was really starting to seize up between all the kneading, rolling, and temper tantrums. I finally got it rolled out nicely without tearing it, wrapped it losely around my rolling pin to move it to the cake, and somehow got it laid over the cake. It was at this point that I realized how un-flat my cake was. I didn't realize that I should have put on more frosting to level the cake out more, I thought the only purpose of the frosting was to keep the fondant from sliding off. Live and learn.
I smoothed out the fondant as best I could over my lumpy cake. I then colored my remaining fondant pink to use for cut out hearts. Clearly, I should have rolled the fondant thinner because the hearts just look like big fat things stuck to the sides and top. Again, live and learn.
As the kids came home from school, and when Lane got up, they all commented on how lovely the cake was. It isn't lovely, and they were probably just buttering me up to make sure they got some. We had some after dinner, and SURPRISE, SURPRISE! No one liked the fondant. Everyone had a taste, and then peeled it off, eating just the cake. At least that made me feel better. I have never really cared for fondant, but it looks so pretty and I wanted to try it out. So now that's one thing I can cross off my list. Life is too short to do back-breaking work on something no one likes anyway. I'll stick with normal, fluffy frosting.
Now I need a massage.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Welcome to my Happy Place where I am Queen

Everyone should have a Happy Place, a place where you can close your eyes and escape when things in the real world just get to be too much, a place where everything is perfect . . .

Maybe my Happy Place wouldn't be your choice for a Happy Place, but I am Queen here and it brings me joy. My Happy Place has the best smell - freshly washed wooden decks, baking under the hot Miami sun. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but it has a smell. My brother and I joke about it through text messaging when we go on cruises. There is always a text from the lucky one on the cruise to the miserable one left at home: "Smelling the deck." I can still close my eyes and smell that relaxing smell that means that several carefree days are just about to begin.

My Happy Place also involves South Beach Miami. This is the hotel we like to stay at, the South Beach Marriott on Ocean Drive. We have always stayed in an ocean view room, and who wouldn't? Look at what we get to look out at! Plus it's only a few short blocks from a heavenly burger and shake at Johnny Rockets. Calgon, take me away!

There is nothing quite like the first glimpse of the ship waiting at the port. It makes my heart beat faster, just thinking about getting away from everything and being perfectly pampered for a few days - days that go by WAY too fast, and we have to leave - leave those sweet smelling decks for someone else.

I will miss South Beach again this year, we are going to Tampa. It will make South Beach that much more wonderful when we get back there. Or maybe Tampa could be my new Happy Place. I don't know, even on Google Maps South Beach is gorgeous (yes, I visit Google maps to appease my South Beach needs), and Tampa - well, not so much.

237 days and counting.

Thanks for visiting my Happy Place. Please come again soon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dog Lovers, avert your eyes

Today I ran over a dog. I'm devastated. Never in my driving career have I hit an animal, and it was very tragic and sad.

I was coming home from Addie's piano lesson this afternoon. As I was going on 100 East a dog ran out in front of me, I slowed down so as not to hit it, and suddenly it doubled back in front of me and I couldn't stop. There were two sickening thumps as I ran it over, and then I could hear the dog's piercing yelping as it lay there in pain. There was a family sitting in the front yard of the house I was in front of, and as I stopped my car and started crying, the father/husband of the family immediately came over to talk me down off the ledge he could see I was on. The dog got up (thankfully, although it clearly had a broken or crushed hind leg), and hobbled off, still yelping. I asked through my tears if it was this family's dog, and the father/husband said no, it belonged to the family across the street. I locked my car doors since Addie was still in the car and I didn't want to take her out on the busy street, and headed across the street. This nice father/husband walked with me, assuring me there was nothing I could have done. I knocked on the door to the owner's house, and told the mother/wife what I had done. She felt badly because she had just been out in the back yard hollering for the dog who had gotten out. She also obviously felt badly that I was so upset. The father/husband assured the owner that there was no way I could have avoided the dog. The owner called for her husband and while he tried to console me, the female owner went to get the dog. Both owners assured me it wasn't my fault, this is the risk of living on such a busy street with no fence, and told me to go on home and be safe. I just felt so badly, not only for hitting and injuring the little dog, but also because they will probably have to put the dog down, or go to some expense to get him fixed up.

If anyone ever hit my dog who was wandering in the street, I wouldn't want them to fret and stew about it, and I'm sure these people don't want me to fret and stew either. Addie prayed for the little dog tonight, and I, too, hope that somehow it will all be alright.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Things you may not know about me

Since we should all live in my world, which is a world where it's all about me . . . and since I have no great new insight nor wisdom to share . . . and since I didn't cook or bake today. . . I'm taking you on a scary trip called "Things you might not know (nor want to know) about me."

#1 - SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME LAUGH EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT - The "Tuttle" episode of MASH. That episode never gets old. Sure, I can quote nearly every line of the episode. But it makes me laugh, out loud, every time. Especially 2 lines: One by Frank Burns - "That's not true. I knew him best" and the other by Henry Blake - "He was the best damn OD we ever had." I'm laughing even while typing this. Truly a classic in television history.

#2 - SOMETHING I SECRETLY HOARD - Boxes. I blame this on my dad (a hoarder of more things than boxes). Almost nothing can get me as jazzed as a really great box. We got one the other day that our Direct TV DVR came in. Lane nearly threw it out - the horror! It is a truly excellent box and must be kept. I don't generally bother with shoe boxes. But the absolute best part of being an Avon Representative is the boxes. I get at least 2 per month, and they are the epitome of great boxes. I challenge anyone to find a box that can rival an Avon shipping box. Cannot be done.

#3 - SOMETHING THAT IS A GUILTY PLEASURE - "The Young and the Restless." I'm not proud of it. Luckily, my work schedule prevents me from watching it, and although I used to DVR it and watch it later, I now only keep up with it on the internet. It's stupid, and I'm ashamed, and yet I just can't seem to stop it. It's like Melrose Place back in the 90s. Yeah, I watched it, but I wasn't proud of it then either. Ok, so maybe I had a couple of ladies who came over every week to watch it with me, but I'm sure if I asked them now, they wouldn't be proud of it either.

#4 - MY LIFELONG DREAM - I'm serious about this. I would love to see a shuttle or rocket launch. That would be the coolest thing EVER!! The launch is my favorite part of Apollo 13, and probably that's as close as I will ever get to the real thing, but a girl can dream, right?

#5 - SOMETHING LOTS OF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME - I graduated from college certified to teach history and English. No, really. It's true. I LOVE history. I love the mechanics side of English, but really hated all the literature classes. I did my student teaching at Spanish Fork Middle School, which was enough to show me that I was in the wrong field. I had one English class and one history class there that were a joy to teach, and the others were awful. I learned I don't have the temperment to put up with junior high age kids. So I never taught school. But I still love history.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Baking Day, Part II

Last Saturday's Baking Day was so much fun, I just couldn't help but have another. I got a late start on it, though, so I didn't fit quite as much in.

Every Saturday (and Monday. . . and Tuesday . . . etc.) morning starts with my morning "coffee" run. It's ok, because I frequently see Stake President Top there; we both have a drinking problem. So after my shakes had been calmed by a morning infusion of caffeine, I told Lane we ought to run down to Springville to the Stouffer's Thrift shop since our garbage disposal, aka Jack, had eaten all the previously purchased frozen food. On the way to Springville, I chided myself for not having the sense to have thought through the plan since I have a pair of pants that I got for my birthday in January that needed to be returned to JC Penney (too big! Woo hoo!) Lane was agreeable to going to the Thrift Store, home, and back to JC Penney if I would buy him lunch. So we got our stuff at the Thrift Store, went home and crammed it into our already overly full freezer, grabbed the pants and we were off to the Provo Towne Mall.

Now, we are not mall people. We hardly ever go to the mall, especially the Provo mall. This is why I haven't returned the pants yet. But we got the pants exchanged, and headed off to Sears at the other end of the mall, because if we are going to go ALL THAT WAY to the mall in Provo, then dang it, we are going to Sears. White Trash as it may seem, we are Sears Lovers. When we lived in our first apartment in Provo, that's what we would do for date night - wander around at Sears back when it was at the old location on Freedom Blvd and about 500-ish North. It's sad, quite pathetic really, but that's who we are and we've learned to embrace it. I found some cute sweaters there and Lane got himself a new cordless screwdriver since the one he's had for 10+ years will no longer hold a charge. It was a good Sears day.

I asked Lane if he wanted to have lunch at the Red Robin since we were right there, and he said he didn't think their burgers were any better than JCW's bugers, which caused both us to start salivating, so we decided to just drive to AF and hit JCWs. Life is too short to settle for a second rate burger. Evidently everyone in northern Utah County had the same idea. JCW's had barely any room in the lobby area to wait to order, and there were no tables available, and people standing around with trays of food giving the stink eye to people in booths who simply were not eating fast enough. Haters of crowds that we are, we decided we didn't want to deal with the crowd so we went to Wingers up the street. Whew! It was 2:30 by the time we got home from all this.

Since I never got to the pretzels last week, I got them started first thing this week. I still just do the pretzel bites because they are easier to make and eat. Yummy, fresh from the oven and dipped in cream cheese, which I have learned is a pantry staple. We never used to have cream cheese on hand, now I always do, so if you need to borrow some, I have it.

When we were driving home from the mall, Lane suggested I make homemade noodles for the chicken noodle soup I was planning for dinner. "What?" I shrieked. "I can't make noodles! I'm NOT your Grandma!" So he backed down. But when I got home, and had my tummy full, I started to wonder why I couldn't. After all, as someone once told me, it's just ingredients. If I really mess up and have to throw it out, it's just ingredients. So I decided to try.
Guess what? Not that tough! The hardest part (and by hardest, I mean most time consuming) was rolling it out and cutting it. They turned out really yummy, it wasn't that hard, and I will definetly do it again. I'll just have to remember to allow enough time. I made the noodles for the chicken noodle soup, plus some bow ties just for fun that are waiting in the fridge for me to do something with them. I'm thinking Minestrone tomorrow. With Cheddar Bay Biscuits. With spring coming, my soup days are numbered so I'll have to fit in what I can.

I made a from-scratch chocolate cake mix, which I foolishly put in my mini-cake silicone pans. After they were baked and wouldn't pop out of the pans, I remembered that I have trouble with those pans and from-scratch mixes. Don't know why, just do. Plan B was cupcakes. As the cupcakes were cooling, I thought, "Hey - I love extra sugar. Why not fill them with whipped cream?" (Another staple, I've learned.) I filled my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator with whipped cream and filled the cupcakes. I've never done it before, and wasn't sure how it would work. What do you know - it worked beautifully! Frosted with Chocolate Buttercream and Chocolate sprinkles and we have a winner.
You can call me Betty Crocker.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cafe Rio

I'm still trying to capture that Cafe Rio/Bajio/Costa Vida flavor at home. I managed some tasty chicken that I baked yesterday and has been since sitting in a marinade of olive oil and lime juice. It was pretty good, but still not quite right. I haven't found a perfect enchilada sauce for Cafe Rio night (as it has come to be known at our house), but this one was pretty good. My rice, though, turned out very Cafe Rio-esque. I found a recipe on the internet different from the one I've been using, and it was much closer to what I've been looking for. I had to break out my blender and everything - who knew? It actually had no lime in it, but mixed perfectly with both my chicken and pico, which both did have lime. I'm going to get some tomatillos at the grocery store this weekend and try to make the ranch dressing they have there. I'm feeling another baking day coming on on Saturday. I have no committments and a never-ending sweet tooth, so I'll have to dig out some fun recipes to try. It has been suggested by some 11-year-old memebers of my household that I make more mini-cakes, chocolate this time please, so I think I'll start there. And probably get those pretzels made that I didn't get to last weekend. Feel free to stop by and sample - we love company!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Baking Day

I felt like having a Baking Day on Saturday. I had some recipes I wanted to try out.

My cousin Nikki (see blog list - Shirley's Swirlys) recently posted a recipe for cinnamon rolls. I have never attempted cinnamon rolls before, so this was quite a momentous effort. This first attempt was only ok. The finished product didn't much resemble Nikki's. I sliced them too thin, and thus cooked them too long. They taste fine, but it's clearly something I'll have to keep working on.

Jack likes to help me bake and cook. At least until he gets a better offer. He mixed up the batter for pumpkin muffins all by himself. Here he's scooping up the freshly made ranch into jars. Yep, we have already eaten the two quarts that it seems like I just barely made! He also has become quite the chef of grilled cheese sandwhiches! He cooked 7 on Sunday afternoon.

I made 5 dozen pumpkin muffins. They make an excellent breakfast. I stuck most of them in the freezer so we'll hopefully have them for a while. I mixed half and half white and wheat flour this time in an effort to make them a little more healthy. They taste just the same. I've learned that I prefer butterscotch chips over chocolate chips in pumpkin muffins. What was that I was saying about making them healthy?

I broke out my ramekins and made what we refer to as Mini-Cakes. They are larger than a cupcake, so we don't call them cupcakes. The first time I made them, one of the kids said, "Oh look! Little mini cakes!" and the name just stuck. This is a white cake mix from a box. They are too pretty to frost, so I made an icing that I flavored with raspberry extract. I guess they were good, because they were gone really fast!
At 4:00 today, I still had no genius idea for dinner, but since it was pretty warm, I decided to go with a salad. I defrosted some chicken in the microwave and cut it up into chunks to go onto the salad. I cooked that up, seasoned with coarse ground sea salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic (of course!) and paprika. While that was cooking I made a buffalo sauce:
2 T honey
1/2 c butter
1/3 c ketchup
Tobasco - I didn't measure, but it was a little more than 2/3 full of a 1/3 c measuring cup. Hows that for accurate?!?
After the chicken was cooked, I poured the sauce over the chicken and simmered for a while. I didn't time it. It cooked for the amount of time that it takes to set the table and gather 4 other people for dinner. It turned out really good, everyone loved it, and I think it will now move into our regular meal rotation. The chicken made it hearty enough for a meal, and I also served a sliced baguette that I had also baked on Saturday but turned out way too ugly to photograph (another first attempt).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Catching Up

Well, since Leslie was the only one interested in the apron, it made for a very simple drawing. Leslie, it's all yours. I hope you like it as much as I like mine.

We had a fun evening tonight. Lane didn't have to go to work tonight, so he had a dead-man-walking day, meaning he stayed up all day, after staying up all night working last night. After I was done at work, we went to the bank to deposit a few checks, then we went to the grocery store, which made it almost 4:00 by the time we got home. The kids spent the day at Grandma's since they had no school today, and since neither Lane nor I had had any lunch, we put away the groceries and went out for dinner. Yes dinner. At 4:00. We went down to Sizzler because I had a coupon and was feeling in a malibu chicken-y mood. I think we were the only people under 65 in the place. It really is the senior citizen hour. After dinner, we went next door to Big 5 sporting goods, and I found the cutest pair of Keds type shoes. So cute. And only $20 on clearance. I think it was for good reason they were on clearance - I tried on a pair and they seriously felt like some sort of medeival torture device. Not just uncomfortable. Painful. I think that anyone who wore those shoes would find a pool of blood in them at the end of the day. I even tried on a different size to make sure the first pair wasn't just a fluke, and they were awful too. Not just needs-to-be-broken-in painful, actually painful. Obviously, I passed on the cute shoes.

During dinner my neice Kassie texted me to see what we were doing. I've been wanting to hear about her new job, so later in the evening she and her husband Jesse came up just as the kids came home. So the 3 kids had fun beating Jesse at Mario Kart while Kassie and I caught up on what was going on in our lives. After Mario Kart we watched last night's episode of The Office (hilarious!!!) and Wednesday's episode of Psych. It was a nice, relaxing evening, just the sort of Friday night everyone needs to have to unwind at the end of the week.

I made a dress for Addie yesterday since she is all about dresses these days. She doesn't have enough "school" dresses to get her through the week without repeating, and she flat refuses to wear pants. I found some fabric at Walmart that was so cute I bought all 7 1/2 yards remaining on the bolt, even though I only needed 2 1/2.

I don't have to work tomorrow and there is no basketball game for Jack. I have big plans. I hope I can get as much done as I've planned.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm having a giveaway . . . and losing my mind

I found some yellow fabric in my stash. It was just enough to make an apron - who wants it? I made myself one for Christmas and I love it because it's big enough to cover up all those splatters that I make when cooking. Let me know if you want it. I think I changed the settings on my blog to allow comments for those who don't have google accounts. If you want it and can't leave a comment, send me an email or a Facebook message. Yes, I will even mail it.

In other news, I believe I'm losing what's left of my mind. I decided to switch from Comast to Direct TV, and I thought they told me on the phone they would come install it on Monday (yesterday) morning. So I had Lane stay up all morning waiting for them. When they were a no-show at noon, Lane called me at work, at which time I decided to finally look at the email confirmation, which said Tuesday. Sorry Lane! He had stayed up for nothing. I wasn't expecting Grandma for FHE last night because I thought she said she had her class for her upcoming trip to Israel. Well, guess who shows up promptly at 5:30? Grandma said the class was the following Monday. Naturally, since Lane was asleep after staying up all morning and I wasn't expecting Grandma, it was a Stouffers frozen dinner night. When Grandma came, only Jack had eaten (he is always eating). So we all piled in the van and headed over to Kneaders for dinner. Grandma was a good sport about it. Then this morning Lane checked again with me, Direct TV is coming today right? Yes, Lane, today. When I got to work, just for kicks, I decided to check that email again. Tuesday, March 9. Somewhere I lost a whole week. So I called Lane and sent him to bed. How did I misunderstand so badly?

Then, if all that isn't bad enough --- I spent an hour and a half preparing dinner. Sweet and sour meatballs over rice. Made my own sauce and everything. Just as I was ready to put everything on the table, the kids' piano teacher called and said the kids were supposed to be at their group lesson right then. In Cedar Hills. Grrrr. So I left Lane to watch to make sure dinner didn't burn, and yet keep it warm, and off we went. Jack had failed to mention the group lesson, and since their lesson is normally on Thursday, why would I think any differently? It all worked out, Lane did a good job of tending dinner. It still tasted good. That was my best sweet and sour sauce by far, nice and thick and tangy. Now I just need to worry about what I've forgotten to do tomorrow!