Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kitchen Aid

Lately I've had this need to be in my kitchen. I've been dying to try new recipes for sweet treats and expand my general dinner menu. Am I bored with what I've been doing? Not really, I just need to add a bit of variety to my list of recipes. Plus, all this baking and cooking is satisfying this need for a creative outlet. I'm looking for something out of my ordinary and this is helping for the time being. A little kitchen aid, if you will.

I went last week and picked up a recipe journal from Barnes & Noble. Pryo Man and I decided we need to keep track of some of the new things we try and keep a running list of our favorites. It's interesting combining our two palates together. We often times have different ideas of what sounds good or looks good. This little journal might help us create our own cookbook of old favorites and new.

I turned to my one of favorite cookbooks from The Pioneer Woman, Food From My Frontier, for her Chicken Parmesan.  Delicious. This was my second time to attempt this recipe, the first being a couple years ago and I'm glad I took another stab at it. Takes a little bit to get it all ready, but I'm really glad I took the time. It was so worth it!

Janson caught me sauteing the onions and garlic.  

Table is set with our beautiful china. 

Dinner is served! Turned out pretty nice if you ask me and tasted even better!

Husband approved. 

Well, after dinner was finished and the Pyro Man helped me clean up (sweet man), I decided I needed to mess it all up again and try these Oreo Cheesecake Cookies from the Brown Eyed Baker. I accidentally doubled the recipe by reading the 3 oz of cream cheese as 8 oz. Fortunately I realized my "oops" moment early on and just doubled everything there after. I doomed this batch before even adding the third ingredient...

Part of trying new things is messing up a bit. These cookies looked delicious and really easy and yet, I wasn't really impressed with my outcome. However, I don't think it's the recipe's fault, but perhaps the baker. 

The batter is really great, but I was a bit disappointed with cookies themselves. After 15 minutes in the oven, they looked golden around the edges like the recipe said they should. So I popped them out, looking gorgeous, but incredibly gooey inside. Gooey to the point that both my husband and I wondered if they were even done (And yes, I realize this this a cheesecake cookie, but even cheesecake has some consistency.). 

After  another few minutes in the over, the darn bottoms got too brown, not burned, and the cookies tasted way too chewy. Well, I certainly took care of baking the gooey out of them. Perhaps they were supposed to be just browned on the outside with the super gooey center. Perhaps mistakenly doubling the recipe really was a bad idea (an extra 2 oz cream cheese might have added to the gooeyness...duh). 

I'd like to try these again and see if smaller balls would work better and not doubling the recipe on accident might help. We shall see. Try it for yourself! Even slightly crispy, the cookies have a great flavor to them! 

Oreo Cheesecake Cookies
Yield: About 1 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes | Bake Time: 12 to 15 minutes
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs --> I recommend running these through a blender or crunch with a rolling pin. I hand crushed mine, hence the giant chunks of Oreo. 
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (No parchment paper in the house, I used non-stick foil. Might have added to the extra browning on the bottom).  
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and well-combined.
3. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix until the ingredients are well-combined. Add the flour and mix on low until the flour is incorporated then add the chocolate chips. 
4. Place the Oreo cookie crumbs in a small bowl. Scoop the cookies into about 1½ to 2″ balls and then roll in the cookie crumbs. Place the cookie balls on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden and the tops are slightly puffed.
5. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Welcome to the World, Baby Madeleine!

On a bright Saturday morning last February, I got a call from my Big Sister. In true Julie fashion, I rattled on about who knows what until I finally her asked, "what's up, Big Sister?"

"Oh, well, I've got some news," she casually replied. 

"Oh yeah? Tell me!" I'm such a little sister, anxious for new. 

"Well...Jason and I are having a baby!"

I then proceeded to weep and blubber on about how excited I was and congratulations and oh my gosh, you're going to be a mom! It was a very moving moment. I'm pretty sure Big Sister was laughing at my hysterics and repetitious exclamations of pure joy.

A few months later, we found out Baby Bean was a precious little girl! Pink, curls, sparkles, and bows! My little niece and I are going to have so much fun together, I just knew it! All I had to do was be patient until Baby Bean was made her grand debut on August 28th.

As her due date grew closer, we all debated just when exactly was Baby coming. Doctors moved up her date and then pushed it back a few times. We waited patiently just hoping Baby Bean would make her way safely into the world. By August 26th, Big Sister knew Baby Bean was either going to arrive right on time just like her dad or fashionably late like her mama. Well, we found out she's prompt just like her papa.

Baby Madeleine Elizabeth Duff arrived at 9:03 pm on August 28th, 7.5 lbs and 20 in long! 
(Middle name is for her Nannie Julie--Lucky little girl!)

She's a precious bundle of joy! Pyro Man and I got to visit the weekend after she was born and I had the best time just holding her. She is a beautiful creature and I can't believe she is actually here, a perfect combination of her mother and father. 

I'm always happy to hear about a friend's new niece or nephew. Babies are so precious and who doesn't love to hold their little hands or play with their little toes? I'm head over heels for my precious nephew, Michael, who is a hambone and a half. But seeing my Big Sister go through this wonderful miracle of pregnancy and holding her baby, her baby, I'm in complete and utter awe. 

Sometimes I think Big Sister should be back in the 5th grade reading The Babysitter's Club and trying to convince me that playing The Quiet Game was actually fun. Now here she is, a new mom with a brand new baby girl who is just that, brand new. Pregnancy, nature's coolest science fair project; taking two loving people and creating one unique human being. Madeleine has gotten me seeing babies in a whole new light.  

Don't get any crazy ideas, I'm all about being fun Nannie Julie/Aunt Ju-Ju right now! Bring on the weekend babysitting! When she gets big enough, I'll buy Madeleine her very first pair of tights and ballet shoes. And now for the better part of this post, more pictures of my sweet baby niece! 

We're going home! 

Papa Gary is wrapped around her little finger! 

Such a little Southern Lady in her seersucker bow!

Oh, sweet Madeleine, you are already loved beyond words! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice

Who doesn't love the pumpkin spice flavor? Considering fall is right around the corner, this is the perfect time to add this flavor to pretty much anything. I personally love it in my coffee (Hello, Starbucks!) and baked into homemade goodness. 

This weekend I was dying to bake something for fall, something to satisfy my need for orange and red colored leaves and a cooler breeze. So I popped onto that handy dandy Pinterest site, my favorite get away site, and searched for anything pumpkin flavored. I came across this precious gem, Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Sugar Baked Donuts.

Recipe? Pretty easy. Taste? Pretty delicious. Status? Less than 24 hours and all gone. Here's the recipe: 


  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached flour

    1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. If you'd like, these can be made in muffin tins. 
    2) Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt, and baking powder until smooth.
    3) Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.
    4) Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well. 
    6) Bake the doughnuts for 10-12 minutes. (Original recipe said for 15 - 18 minutes but I found 15 minutes left the donuts dry.) 
    7) Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 3-5 minutes, loosen their edges with a spoon, and transfer them to a rack to cool.
    8) While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar. 
    9) Cool completely, and wrap airtight; store at room temperature for several days.
    Makes: 12 doughnuts

    Cinnamon Sugar

    1/2 cup of sugar
    2 Tablespoons of Cinnamon

Drop in a bag and shake it up! You'll have a ton of leftovers, but I like keeping it on hand for cinnamon toast. 

I kept four at home and boxed up the rest for Pyro Man to take to work to share and find out the verdict. Me? I'll love anything pumpkin spice, but I wanted to know if anyone else liked them, too. Pyro Man doesn't care for pumpkin, poor man. So much for an at home taste tester.  He came home with an empty tupperware so I'd call that good. 

Someone suggested using powdered sugar instead of cinnamon sugar. I'm really curious to try that in the future and this is definitely one I will try again. 

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Autumn is a second spring...

I absolutely adore the fall season. It brings so much into the year with it's crisp, cool breeze and I can hardly wait to dive into the fall festivities this year!

Some of the things I love about autumn are the changes that come with it. The temperature changes from blisteringly hot to a cool and balmy feel. The leaves often change colors and although they don't last as long or as beautiful up here in Oklahoma as they are anywhere up north, it's a little more than what we get in Texas. My closet changes from sundresses and tank tops to warm sweaters and beautiful boots. Even my kitchen holds new aromas of pumpkin and cinnamon instead of summer fruit and cook out fixings. Everything changes and this particular fall will be a new change for me.

For the first time, I'm teaching a full year in one place I'm very familiar with. For the first time I have someone living in my house with me and he's no roommate, he's my husband. For the first time in my entire life, I've got a family all my own that includes a husband and not one, but two kitties. For the first time, ladies lunch with my mother and sister includes a brand new little southern lady, my niece, Madeleine. So many adjustments in a few short months and like a domino effect, each change will trickle down into many more changes through out the year. It's a whole new slice of life I'm looking forward to trying.

With so many new things I'd like to share, it's no wonder that I return to my blog. It's been some time since I've last been on here. My dedicated blogging fell by the wayside as life got a little more "grown up" after my masters. After I started teaching and delving into wedding planning, I found I wasn't too sure about what to post any more. There are only so many times you can write "I'm still planning" or "I'm still teaching" on a blog. Stepping away from my first year of teaching and a few months after our wedding, I do have some pretty great stories and decoration how-to's. Just like the season, this blog might have to go through its own change.

For now, I'll make the effort to post a few more times than every once in a blue moon. One last final note, a very Happy Heart Day to my sweet mother. She had her open heart surgery 15 years ago today. We are blessed beyond words for these extra fifteen years with her and I know she's happy to have had them, too. I love you, Mom, and I'm grateful to have you!

Mom finally home after the big surgery and surrounded by the family. 

Happy Sunday, everyone! Go enjoy the gorgeous new weather! 

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower" 
-Albert Camus
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