Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Turn for a Birthday and Honeybun Cake

We just love teacher birthdays around Kindergarten. It gives us a reason to order in lunch and celebrate with sweets. I am not sure why it is, but teachers get so stinking tickled over the smallest things. Maybe it is because we teach kids and are around innocence all day. Maybe it is because we like a break in the routine.  Maybe it is all of the above. But we do! Like "jeans day"? OMG...Christmas come early! A hot chocolate bar in the teachers lounge? PARTY! So a birthday with food ordered in and a dessert? CELEBRATION! Some not in this profession may think we are silly to get so excited over these things but you know what? It is a blessing to be thankful and excited over such small things. At least I think so in this culture of "big and grand".

So on our Kindergarten team, we choose names at the beginning of the year and we are responsible for taking charge of the celebration for whomever is our birthday buddy. I chose our sweet Kirsten who is new to our team this year. This girl is beautiful, inside and out. And I get to teach next door to her. Her sweet heart, smile and realness are a blessing to my life. And she always cares and has concern for everyone. We are so lucky to have her and I love that I got to head up her celebration!
Bless her little heart...she wore a birthday crown just to make me happy.
We changed up her birthday lunch and I treated her to a birthday dinner when our team went out after Open House. Get us teachers together outside of school to share stories over drinks and food is a GOOD TIME. Seriously, the laughs over our stories are too much. We are "that" "hen party" of women cackling at a restaurant totally oblivious to everyone else. Some of us have even been known to "drop it like its hot" right there at the dinner table. I am not naming any names. 
My Wonderful Team
 And while I was treating Kirsten to a birthday dinner, my wonderful husband was baking this cake. Yes, he is that good to me. And he did have the cutest little helper. 
The following day, we celebrated with Honeybun Cake. And it was delicious. Just like a honeybun. OMG...delicious. We had quite a lot of cake left over after we got our 6 little pieces so we left it in the lounge. And by the end of the day? It was all gone. Teachers just love a little pick "me up sweet".
Honeybun Cake
1 (2 layer) yellow cake mix
1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 cup paced brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Combine the cake mix, sour cream, oil and eggs in a mixing bowl and beat until blended. Spread one-half of the batter in a 9x13inch cake pan. Sprinkle with a mixture o the brown sugar and cinnamon and spread with the remaining batter. Swirl with a knife and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

3 cups powered sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla in a bowl until the desired consistency. Spread the icing over the top of the cake. Let stand until set.
*Adapted from a favorite cookbook, Mardi Gras to Mistletoe*

*Momou, I am always cooking in honor of you!

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Best Friends, A New Baby and Artichoke Turkey Bugers

Collins and I took our first girls trip this past weekend to Lafayette to see a dear, best friend, Jessica. We had one mission and one mission only on this trip: Operation Baby Nursery! We sat on the floor of the nursery Saturday morning trying to find a "vision" for the nursery and then off to shopping we went. Collins was such a little shopping trooper and we were successful! By the time we said our goodbyes, we had a game plan for a beautiful nursery for a special baby boy and a couple of hundred dollars spent:)

Jess and I have been best friends since we met at Northwestern quite a few years ago. We stood by each other in the dating saga with our high school loves and we both ended up marrying those loves. We stood in each other's weddings and by each others during quite a few moves across the country. And now we have each other for this new season of being moms. Jess was in the waiting room when Collins was born and I plan to be there waiting too when Baby Pitcher arrives in April. I can't wait and it is such a blessing to walk this road together.

Jess and Blaine came to visit this past September for Labor Day. See, nothing was very fishy with this because the "Fab 4" has spent many of Jessica's birthdays together. But there was a tiny feeling that I had in my heart wondering," Hmm... I wonder if they are going to tell us that Jess is pregnant?". Well, I didn't have to wait for the answer long. Just moments after they arrived, Jessica asked if have ever read the new book that she was reading. The title? What to Expect When You're Expecting. Well, at that point there were tears, hugs and laughs all around. And we talked about nothing but babies that weekend. 

And we cooked too, of course:) Artichoke Turkey Burgers and they were delicious! They freeze perfectly so make half and freeze half.

Artichoke Turkey Burgers
1 pound ground turkey
2/3 cup Italian Style Breadcrumbs
1 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1 large egg
2 tablespoons butter, softened
5 ciabatta buns
1 (14oz) can quartered artichoke heart, drained and chopped
1 cup light Alfredo sauce
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
seasoning to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, bread crumbs, mushrooms, seasoning and egg. For mixture into 4 hamburger patties, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
2 Preheat grill to medium high heat. Grill burgers, covered with grill lid, for 5 minutes per side, or until done to desired taste.
3. Spread split buns with butter evenly on both sides. Grill buns, butter side down for 2 minutes. 
4. In a medium bowl, combine artichokes and Alfredo sauce.
5. Place turkey burgers on buns and top with Alfredo mixture and basil. 

Adapted from a Sandra Lee recipe. 

And always cooking with love in honor of Momou!

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunshine Meeting and a Hollywood Christmas

One night in November...yes, still only in November on these posts of mine, I had my dear Sunshine girls over for dinner and spirits so we could start making plans for our upcoming staff Christmas luncheon.
We LOVE any reason to be together...aren't my sunshine girls beautiful?!?!?
We had to talk theme, caterers and many other details. All very serious and we had to do it in proper form with food and drinks.  Since this is our first year on Sunshine, we have never been planned for this event, let alone such a big one. But now that I write this post almost two months after the fact, I can happily say that our Christmas Luncheon seemed to be a fun time and merry success!

We had a fun theme of "Hollywood Christmas" and each grade team decorated their table in the theme of their favorite Christmas movie. It was amazing! We have so many creative teachers that these tables were DECKED OUT. We had teams in costumes,a table serving hot cocoa (Polar Express) and so much more! So many movies were represented and not ONE repeated! Each person voted on their favorite table and Charlie Brown Christmas (represented by our awesome support staff) won! We played Christmas movie trivia and "Name That Line" with quotes from various Christmas movies and we had so many laughs. I was so impressed and our staff made it so easy for this special event to be a success. Here is my Kindergarten team dressed for our table decorated like the movie, "Elf".
So my Sunshine girls and I really take it serious when we plan. And of course it was a time for me to break out new recipes. My sweet sunshine girls always let me play hostess so I can get Collins in bed and then I cook for them. I made a dish that rocked my world. Barbecue Chicken Potpie. It was amazing! Wait until you find out the secret ingredient;))) To accompany this, I made a salad. We finished off our meal with Pumpkin Spiced Gingersnap Truffles. Oh sweet Maria. It was all delicious and so good. And any time with these precious friends calls for a celebration. Here we are being silly for school pictures. When you husband is the photographer, you get to pull a few stunts like this:) Or rather he pulled a few stunts on our gorgeous pictures.
 I just love our above "prom picture" pose:)
If only Lauren will give the rest of us some of her height! Darn her and her tallness!
 Barbecued Chicken Potpie
1 Tablespoon butter
1 bag seasoning blend (about 1/2 cup of bell peppers, onions and celery each)
1 can green chilies
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 (14oz) can chicken broth
1 (12oz) bottle chili sauce
3 Tablespoons brown sugar 
1 oz. chocolate, grated!!!
1 can refrigerator cornbread twists
Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the seasoning blend, garlic and green chilies. Saute for 5 minutes and stir in the cumin. Cook for 2 minutes and stir in the vinegar, stirring. Add the chicken, broth, chili sauce, brown sugar and chocolate and mix well.
Cook for 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Spoon the chicken mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Separate the corn bread twists and arrange lattice fashion over the top of the prepared layer. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minute. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. 
Adapted from a favorite cookbook of mine, Mardi Gras to Mistletoe
Pumpkin Spiced Gingersnap Truffles
1 1/4 cups semisweet  chocolate pieces
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup chopped gingersnaps (about 10 cookies)
Roll in:
1/3 cup finely crushed gingersnaps (about 7 cookies) 
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

In medium bowl, combine chocolate pieces, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla
Place cream in a saucepan and bring just to boiling. Pour cream over chocolate mixture. Let stand 5 minutes Whisk until smooth. Stir in chopped gingersnaps. Cover refrigerate 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until firm enough but soft enough to form into balls.
Place crushed gingersnaps and/or cocoa powder in small bowls. Using a small spoon, scoop 1 tablespoon portions of truffle mixture and shape into balls. Roll in crushed gingersnaps or cocoa powder to coat. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Store, covered, in refrigerator, up to 3 days. 
Take from a Better Home and Gardens Magazine many moons ago. No name listed to thank for this deliciousness:(

Momou, always thinking of you...the lovely hostess and cook:)

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Way Too Easy Calzones

When Jason and I were in college, we were hooked when Pizza Hut came out with "P-zones". OMG...such goodness. A few years ago, Jason wanted to make one so I was off to find a great recipe to make my hubby happy. Now while these things are amazing, well, sadly, they are not the healthiest. Darn. So we were off to make a "healthier version". The best part is that you can pick and choose your ingredients and add what you want. And guess what...make one for tonight and freeze another for another night. THIS MOMMA LOVES THAT! And this will definately please the babies and kiddos and you even can hide a few veggies in the filling;)

Stuffed Calzones
Makes 1 large calzone to feed 4 and serve with salad
 1 tube refirgerated pizza crust dough (use whole wheat if you like)
1 cup low-fat skim ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (we used fat free)
1/4 cup sliced pepperoni (use turkey pepperoni or grilled chicken cut into cubes)
1/4 cup any veggie you want (mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes for me and jalapenos for my man)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup marinara sauce (they have many low fat/sugar versions on the market)
Salt, pepper, Italian Seasoning, Basil to taste
1. Prehat oven to 400. Spray large cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2. On cookie sheet, unrooll pizza dough. Press dough into 16 inch by 10 inch rectangle (or smaller if you prefer a thicker crust)
3. In large bowl, stir ricotta, mozzarella, meats, veggies, seasonings and cornstarch.
3. Spread cheese mixture on long side of dough to cover half of dough, leaving a 1 inch border. Spoon half of marinara sauce  over cheese mixture.
Folder over half of dough over filling. Press edges together to seal.
4. Cut 4 slits in top of calzone to allow steam to escape during baking. Bake on cookie sheet on bottom oven rack for 16-20 minutes or until golden. Serve with remaining sauce.
 I always love making dishes for my family on a weeknight...Momou would have done the same and taken pride in doing so. She inspires me always.
*Another recipe cut from a magazine many years ago.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sisters and Margaritas Just Go Together...

My sister made my whole month when she told me to block off a weekend in November (yes, I am that behind!) because the whole Courville family was coming to town. I don't think I could have a better Friday knowing  my sister and her precious crew were on their way. The wine was ready and beer "fridge" was stocked. Time to celebrate the weekend and solve all of the worlds problems while managing to keep the babies, kids and hubbies happy and alive;)

Jen and I have been simpatico forever, not just sisters but best friends. God has blessed me with beautiful sisters and a special relationship with each. Jen and I have always been so close...well, after those young years where we fought all the time but definitely once we got to high school together. She was a senior and I was a freshman. She drove me around all around that year, bless her heart. We went out together and then we had the best time living together in college. Now we are both teachers (kinder for me and 1st for her) and then it was only fitting that we had babies(my first and her third) just a few days apart.

 Jen rushed to the hospital (3 hours away!!) just a few days before her own due date to be there when Collins was born and was also there for CC's first birthday party. I know I am blessed and I cannot imagine a world without my sisters.

So our weekend was a fabulous time, as always! The men drank their beer (and scotch) and helped us with the babies and kept us mommas happy. We had fun dinners out, photo shoots and we brought the kids to the Houston zoo.

The weather was gorgeous and apparently everyone else in Houston had the same idea for the zoo but we made it in! The kids loved it and it was Collins first time to go. She kept pointing at was so fun seeing it through her eyes. I never knew how easy it was to because a fool of parent making the biggest deal out of everything we saw to our baby who barely knew what was going on. But we did and she seemed to enjoy her little self, as much as we did!

That night called for a "night in" where we cooked and laughed for hours. The men drank more scotch and I made a mexican fiesta with Cranberry Lime Margaritas for us girls. We had Spicy Queso Dip to munch on while we made Southwestern Chicken and Rice Soup (so easy!). The dip was so good and so bad for us so we had to behave with a delicious but relatively healthy main course. We ate ourselves silly while we kept the margaritas flowing. You know nothing goes better together than margaritas and sisters...

Cranberry Lime Margaritas
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups tequila
1/2 cup orange triple sec
1 (64 oz) bottle cranberry juice
Lime wedges
Kosher salt
1. Stir together sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Pour into a large pitcher, cover and chill 20 minutes.
2. Add lime juice and next 3 ingredients to sugar syrup in pitcher. Chill until ready to serve. Rub rims with lime wedges, and di rims in salt. Serve margaritas over crushed ice.

Spicy Queso Dip 
1 cup milk
8 oz. queso cheese, cut into small chunks
8 oz. white cheddar cheese, diced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can finely chopped tomatoes
1 4 oz. can diced jalapeno peppers, drained

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a glass bowl. Microwave for 5 minutes or until creamy stirring often.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, saute 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in tomato, and saute 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in peppers.
3. Stir vegetable mixture into cheese mixture until blended. Transfer dip to a slow cooker. Heat on low or warm setting for up to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
(Adapted  from Southern Living Christmas Cookbook)
Southwestern Chicken and Rice Soup
1 bag seasoning blend
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cans chopped fire roasted tomatoes
7 cups chicken broth
1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, chipped
Tortilla Chips
1. Saute first 3 ingredients in hot oil in a large pot over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
2. Stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients. Stir in chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Garnish with avocado and tortilla chips.
(Adapted from 2006 Southern Living Annual Recipes Cookbook)

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bistro Grilled Chicken...Make 1/2 and Freeze 1/2!

Today, Houston, Tx reached one of the lowest temps since we have lived here...a whopping 18 degrees. Yikes! I just can't take it. I am one to go running in the morning every single day before school, no matter the temperature. And that is safe to say in Houston because chances of it being really cold are very few and far between. Well, not today. I just couldn't do it. Come on spring! My few days of love for winter are over...this Louisiana/Tennessee/Texas girl needs her southern warmth.

So in craving spring days with a BBQ outside, I pulled out a favorite recipe of ours from this past summer.  Delicious. And the best part? You can make half and freeze half. What momma doesn't love that? I think the whole freezer prep in 4 hours for 4 months is pretty smart but I am just not organized enough to pull it off. So I think some sort of semi-plan where you make half, eat it then and freeze the rest is more my style. It is like I am thinking ahead but really I am just making too much and get to  make a few meals out of it.

Bistro Grilled Chicken

1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp. EVOO
1/4 tsp dried thyme
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
Teriyaki butter
6 (1/2 inch french bread slices)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small mixing bowl; reserve half and pour mixture over chicken in a shallow dish. Cover and chill 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade.
Brush onion slices and bell pepper with reserved teriyaki mixture. Brush teriyaki butter over bread slices. 
Cook chicken and vegetables, without grill lid, over medium hot heat, 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are golden brown, basting with remaining teriyaki mixture. Remove vegetables, and keep warm. Cook chicken 2 to 4 minutes or until done, basting often. Keep warm. Add bread slices; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. 
Place chicken and vegetables on top of bread; serve immediately. 

Teriyaki Butter
3 tbsp butter melted
1 tbsp. teriyaki sauce

Combine butter and sauce, sitrring well. 

*I doubled this recipe to freeze half and it tasted just as good when we made it again.
(This is not my recipe as none really are but this is one I cut out of a magazine years ago. I wish I had a name to go with it but I don't:(So to whomever you are....thank you so much for this yumminess.)

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Two Ladybugs, One Dalmation and Cruella Deville

My handsome hubby loves to dress up. Give him any occasion, especially Halloween and the man is all on board. There was a time in our lives that we owned two huge afro wigs (from a 70s Halloween costume quite a few years ago) and the man loved to wear these things on random occasions.
He even wore them in a golf tournament...for church...and convinced our church administrative assistant to do the same. I heard the rumors that they were cruising on their golf carts in these wigs and the rumors were true. I should have known. Those wigs bit the dust when he wore one in the Warrior Dash one year and he convinced another friend to do the same.
So Halloween? It would be considered taboo to not dress up. You will never find the Welchs not participating in Halloween. So this year there was more of a reason to celebrate...we had a baby to dress up! Since she is our baby bug, she of course was a ladybug. And then "sissy" dressed up too, as a matching ladybug, of course.
We spent too much money on costumes that were worn for about 3 hours (maybe 10 minutes for Garcia:) but it was worth it. As far as daddy is concerned, you can never spend too much on dressing up.
We dressed up our babies and took pictures in the front yard and jumped around like fools to get the two of them to look and smile. We succeeded a few times.And what do you do on Halloween night with a baby? Well, you join forces with best friends and their baby since we can't exactly have a night on the town.

We took about a thousand pictures of Matthew (the precious little lion) and the Ladybug and I am pretty sure they were babbling about how crazy we were with the camera.

Sot what else do you do when they are too little to go trick or treating? Well we rolled them around in the wagon and then stripped them down to diapers for dinner. Our wild Halloween with babies babies included peas and chicken all over floor and messy babies to bathe! But that is why you join forces and do it together...and with delicious food and spirited beverages. Mary Rachel cooked the most amazing chili that apparently is her dad's secret award winning chili so there is no recipe to share there:) But I did  make Peanut Butter and Cocoa Crispy Rice Krispies because chocolate and peanut butter are my husband's love language language and  pumpkin pie martinis to wash it down with:)

I feel like babies are the hardest job and the best joy. I feel like nothing can prepare you for how things change when they come along but special events and weekends REALLYYYY change. In the sweetest way, but also not in the most exciting way if you can understand. I mean, whining and messy babies doesn't equal a thrilling time but I still wouldn't change it. It is our new season of life so we are rolling with it and we are so blessed by our baby girl. So you just  pack the wine, good food and do it with good friends!

But then there are times that you get a babysitter, dress up and get to be your pre-baby selves...all while never forgetting the precious lady bug that you left at home.

Our sweet friends and wonderful hostesses, Jacob and Maria hosted our Sunday School Halloween Party and there wasn't a detail spared. Maria is one of the most creative people I know and another dear friend of ours, Jenn, is always right there with her. The two of them could rival Martha Stewart and her party planning any day. We had a mexican buffet contributed by everyone and I brought dessert of course, another version of rice crispy treats and this time with Reese's Pieces (another love language of Jason's) Jason and I dressed up as Cruella and the Dalmatian and while we were pretty darn cute (at least we were told;), we didn't quite take home the costume contest prize. There was lots of stiff competition! Especially when you compete against Duck Dynasty!

Halloween Crispy Treats
1/4 cup butter
1 (10 oz) package marshmallows
6 cups rice cereal
1 (1 lb) package Reece's Pieces
Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add cereal stirring until well coated. Stir in Reece's. Using buttered hands, evenly press mixture into prepared pan. Cool completely. Cut into squares. 

Peanut Butter and Cocoa Crispy Treats
Halloween sprinkles
1/4 cup butter
1 (10 oz) package marshmallows
2/3 cup peanut butter
6 cups cocoa-flavored rice cereal
Lightly grease a 13x9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle Halloween sprinkles to cover bottom of prepared pan. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows, and stir until completely melted. Add peanut butter, stirring well to combine. Remove from heat. Add cereal, stirring until well coated. Using butter hands, evenly press mixture into prepared pan. Cool completely. Cut into squares. Flip over when preparing on serving plate.

Pumpkin Pie Martini
3/4 cup spiced rum
1/4 cup pumpkin spice creamer
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes. Add rum, pumpkin spice cream and pumpkin. Shake with ice until well blended and strain into 2 martini glasses. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.

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