Birthday Cake-Palooza

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Last weekend, my husband’s family celebrated his Dad’s birthday! I was honored that my MIL asked me to make the cake for his birthday. Little did she know that I’d be bringing two cakes!

One being carrot cake, which my husband told me is his favorite. Apparently, he loved it so much that he was sad when it got stale, and he had to throw it away! That’s a big baking compliment right there!

I halved the original recipe to make a personal 6 inch cake, since everyone else in the family usually goes for the standard birthday cake.

I also made a different cream cheese frosting than the recipe indicates, which was inspired by this recipe which I used last year.

Carrot Cake with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Epicurious (Gourmet)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated peeled carrots
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (omitted)
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and ginger. Divide batter between prepared pans.
  3. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off waxed paper; cool cakes completely. For my cakes, it took about 20-25 minutes in the oven, since they were 6 inch

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For the standard birthday cake, I used Duncan Hines French Vanilla mix with 2 tsp. almond extract added. Shocker, I know, but I was also preparing for a garage sale that weekend. I was pretty swamped! This is covered in Wilton Buttercream using ALL butter! :)

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I think I’m a Pack-Rat

After about a year of not scrapbooking and the projects piling on, I decided it was high time to dig in the closet and get out ALL scrapbook stuff into one place.

A few months back, I bought this organizer set at Tuesday morning for less than $20. It was still in the box until last night. I’m not completely done with my organization, but let’s just say that I don’t need to buy greeting cards, note cards or scrapbooking supplies for a while.

It doesn’t completely fit on top of the chest of drawers in there, but, at least I can display it now. :) I might be moving this somewhere else, but for now, this is its resting place.

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QUITE a while at that….

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I must make a vow to avoid Michael’s, Tuesday Morning, Target and Dollar Tree’s scrapbook section until further notice.

It does feel good to get some much needed organizing done in the craft room.

Get Rid of that JUNK!

After the hubs and I got hitched, it didn’t take us too long to realize how much stuff we really had. There were things we had for our kitchen that we ended up being given nicer versions of, so the old stuff had to go! We also had a lot of stuff from our old (parents’) homes that we just had no use for anymore. Boxes upon boxes of stuff were stacked up, and we decided that it was really time for a garage/yard sale.

Thankfully, my husband’s family (his parents and brother’s family) wanted in on the garage sale too. So, we decided to plan a 3 family garage sale. The perfect weekend we thought? Well, of course, living in a college town, we went for the bye weekend, which was this past Saturday.

We really lucked out doing this. Since a lot of people thought on the same page as us, there were garage sales everywhere! So, I think a lot of serious people made it their Saturday morning to hit them all up! We even had a lady tell us at our garage sale that this was her 12th one for the day! Wowsa!

We ended up having 6 completely cramped tables of stuff, condensed to about 1 1/2 within an 8 hour garage sale. We were troopers haha..in actuality, time really flew! :) About $600 later in sales between the two families, we were done! My husband and I made about $270 of that. :) Not bad for the stuff we consider JUNK and now, our home is mostly clutter free!

We just purchased this neat-o looking futon to put in our other spare bedroom (aka the hubs’ office) using some of the profits. I think it looks pretty neat, and it would give us another bed, if company came over.

Futon

We’ve also made a vow to NOT clearance shop anymore. Clearance shopping results in clutter, and we don’t need it! :)

Are you finding yourselves overwhelmed with clutter after the wedding?

The Real Bride

This post on Weddingbee reminded me of the early stages of planning.

The post is for brides to share the pictures of their dress on the model vs. on them. Seriously, real brides look WAY better in the dresses than the models do. I didn’t always feel that way though.

I remember when I decided on my dress. I went in with a really open mind, but with a budget. I never saw the dress before in a catalog or magazine, but I was so drawn to it that it was a natural choice for THE DRESS. I remember asking the sales lady for the dress name, so I could stalk it endlessly on the Internet for the next few months before receiving mine.

When I went on the Internet, I found the dress. Wow, did it ever look GOOD on her! I wanted to look like that…I told myself that I HAD to look like that on our big day.

Original Dress Link

Well, you know the rest of the story. I didn’t become a size 0. However, on my wedding day, I felt so beautiful and amazing, even at a size 22.

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Image taken by Amanda Meyer

Moral of the story? If you are about to be a bride, don’t push yourself to look like the model. Just be REAL!

Eat that pint of Ben & Jerry’s when the invitations don’t go quite right and don’t beat yourself up if your florist appointment ran into your work-out time. You will still look and feel great in your dress on the big day! I promise!

Another vow…this time to me!

When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I got really gung-ho about losing weight and being healthy. I even told myself that I was going to keep this up, because I was on a roll. I lost about 20 lbs. since my college graduation! It was great!

After the wedding, however, we started adjusting to our new lives together and things took a bad turn. I found myself feeling less and less guilty. I would eat WHOLE pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, crave Nawlins style snowballs everyday, and never have remorse for fast food! I also quit the YMCA to save money and swore I would get back into shredding. What was I thinking? :(

I had to do SOMETHING. I had no motivation. So, I rejoined Weight Watchers. They are having a deal until October 17th that you can buy one monthly plan and get one free. So, two months of meetings and weigh-ins for $40. That should be enough for a jump start, right?

Since September 30th, I’ve lost 5.2 pounds! To see the 250’s again on my scale feels very good. I haven’t gotten back into exercising quite yet, but that will be happening this week. With the beautiful Fall weather on my side, I’m restarting the Couch to 5K work-out plan! Maybe I can get a friend to do a 5K with me next Spring. Who knows.

As for rewards, I remember writing this post about rewarding myself. I know, I should be in the 230s right now, but oh well, at least I’m back on the horse! No need to beat myself over it!

Here’s my new reward ideas:

By Thanksgiving, I WILL be in the 230s.
By New Years, I WILL be in the 210s. 
By my 26th birthday, I WILL be in ONEDERLAND! (that’s weight with a 1 in front of the two other numbers, not a 2)
By summer 2010, I WILL be in the 180s.
By Labor Day 2010, I WILL reach my GOAL! (170s)

I will be giving myself some great rewards for reaching these goals too…

Reaching Thanksgiving goal — Buying a dSLR after Christmas!
Reaching 26th bday goal — A little ol’ shopping spree at VS. I’ve always wanted to shop there!
Reaching Summer goal – A brand new swimsuit!
Reaching GOAL — Big time shopping spree and a pat on the back!

Is anyone else trying to lose weight since they gained some newlywed poundage?

40 Cloves and a Chicken

chickengarlic

I’ve been reading so many great reviews about 40 cloves chicken. That is chicken baked/cooked with 40 (yes, 40) cloves of garlic!

There are so many recipes out there, however, so I decided to rely on my tried and true recipe maven, Alton Brown. In reading some of the reviews from the Food Network site, people recommended that I watch him make this. So, I did!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAGtkAoVBCU]

You’ll have to fast forward a little to get to the part where he makes the chicken.

Of course, as you might know, Alton Brown’s show contains characters that add a little humor to the episode. Sorry if vampires aren’t your thing…hehe…vampires, garlic? Ok, maybe too obvious. It made me chuckle.

I ended up making this in a stainless steel shallow pot as well, and it came out beautifully. Very simple too! The flavor was definitely garlic, but not overwhelming. I also took Alton’s  suggestion to make garlic french bread with the spreadable garlic and leftover oil. Simply yummy!

The next day, I shredded the leftover chicken to put in some cajun jambalaya. Yum yum yum!

40 Cloves and a Chicken
Source: Alton Brown

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (broiler/fryer) cut into 8 pieces (we used 3 bone-in chicken breasts..cut in half)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 40 peeled cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Toss with a 2 tablespoons olive oil and brown on both sides in a wide fry pan or skillet over high heat. Remove from heat, add oil, thyme, and garlic cloves. Cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  3. Remove chicken from the oven, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, carve, and serve.

15 Minutes a Day

Last week, I made a vow to our house. I promised everyday to do a cleaning task for 15 minutes so I won’t be spending so much time in the house on weekends cleaning. I really didn’t care that much before, but now that we will be hosting Thanksgiving in the house, my husband and I have made a goal to have our home spic and span for the holiday season! Hopefully, we can make this happen and hopefully, we can keep up with it afterwards.

Next weekend, we are holding a 3 family garage sale with his family. I was SO excited to bring over 4 boxes of clutter and be able to clean even more! I feel like Danny Tanner right now. Haha!

So, here was my Monday. Our kitchen island has been a mess of mail and other stuff. I decided to take some time to clean this up! I’m being bold and posting befores. Don’t judge me. :

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About 10-15 short minutes later, using a mail organizer for our mail, I cleared up the clutter! Excuse my husband’s tools…we are still doing fix-up things around the house! So, they have to stay for now.

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Tuesday, it was pretty boring. I ended up changing the sheets in our bedroom. No need for before/afters, since it’s just pale green vs. pale yellow sheets! Nothing exciting.

Wednesday, I decided to tackle the guest/craft room. This room was housing garage sale stuff, and  my sister was going to sleep over this weekend, so I had to clean it. (She ended up changing her mind, but oh well, we have a clean room now!) This was more of a 30 minute task, but it’s done! Again, don’t judge my mess. :)

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Here’s the after. There are still some garage sale items in the front of the room, but it’s MUCH better.

My poor sewing machine. I haven’t used it yet, because I need to learn to sew! Maybe I should make that a little goal of mine too!

Just to note, the bedsheets were in the washer at the time of the picture. :)

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Oh gosh, this is the worst. I do my make-up and hair in the guest bedroom so my husband and I have separate bathrooms in the morning since we go to work at the same time. Our sink is full of make-up that dropped or powder remnants…I’m messy in the morning!  Blech, I’ll say it again, don’t judge me! I ended up spending 15 minutes last night tackling the counter and sink!

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Thanks to the magic of Comet, the sink is squeaky clean. That make-up was a pain to remove! I placed everything else in the cabinets below the counter.

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I’m making my list for next week on what to tackle. I will be doing a little bit of cleaning this weekend, but not as much as I would have had to since I did these tasks during the week! Did anyone else tackle some small areas of the house this week?

Halloween M&M Biscotti

biscotti

Here is part 2 of the bake-palooza. I decided to make biscotti for my Operation Baking Gals package, since biscotti is a pretty sturdy cookie. I knew it would hold up well for shipping!

A few months back, when I was actively blogging for Weddingbee, I saw a fellow blogger use this recipe for making possible edible favors. I starred it, but as usual, I forget about my starred recipes. I’m obviously making it a goal of mine to look back and make these recipes!

So, I decided to give this recipe a shot. It’s a little different than my normal go-to biscotti recipe, which uses olive oil instead of butter. However, this came out beautifully. I added crushed Halloween M&M’s to make it more seasonal instead of the chocolate chips that were called for.

Chocolate Halloween M&M Biscotti
Source: Epicurious, via Weddingbee blogger, Mrs. Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (subbed 8 oz. crushed M&Ms)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips (omitted)

Directions:

  1. Line large baking sheet with double thickness of foil. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Stir in semisweet and white chips (or M&Ms).
  2. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheet in two 10- to 11-inch-long strips, spacing 3 inches apart. Using metal spatula or wet fingertips, shape strips into 11- by 2 1/2-inch logs. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake logs until tops are cracked and dry and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes; cool 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Using foil as aid, lift logs onto work surface. Line baking sheets with clean foil. Using serrated knife, gently cut warm logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange half of slices, cut side down, on each prepared baking sheet. Bake biscotti until just dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Turn biscotti over. Bake until top is dry to touch, about 8 minutes. Cool on sheets.

My First Operation Baking Gals

This past month, I decided to participate in Operation Baking Gals for the first time. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies, and now that I’m on a diet, I’m trying to find opportunities to bake that don’t require me to have a pan of brownies housed on my counter for a few days. Too tempting!

I knew I was going to bake three items: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies, Halloween M&M Biscotti and The Chewy, which will all be featured on the blog.

I first went to the Dollar Tree and bought three packs of disposable containers, along with packing supplies. I also got the flat rate APO/FPO shipping box for free at the post office to do this. If you were doing this to send to someone NOT in the military, go ahead and just get a flat rate box. You’ll be glad you did…my box of goodies ended up being 7 lbs.!! Flat rate rocks!

First, I followed the directions on the OBG website, which said to line the containers with paper towels and place a few pieces of apple peel in the fold nearest where the baked goods will be placed. Then, I loaded up the containers with baked goodies, put another paper towel with apple peel and taped the container shut, just in case!

Then, I put in one layer of baked goods in the box and squished in grocery plastic bags around them to make the boxes as immobile as possible. The trick here is to make everything in the box stay absolutely still, so if they are shaken, they won’t get super crumbly before reaching their destination. I’ve shipped two boxes of decorated cookies using this method with GREAT success!

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Then, I added a second layer of baked goods. I ran out of containers, so I lined two ziplocs with a paper towel and apple peel and filled them up. I wrapped them tightly in bubble wrap as well. I’m not quite sure how these will fare, but hopefully, since they ended up being packed in pretty tightly, I’m hoping they will be ok!

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I also added a note to tell them how much I appreciate what they do for our country. :) Then, I added a bunch of plastic grocery bags to surround the second layer of boxes/bags, as well as on the very top, put two layers of bubble wrap, so they don’t accidentally cut through the goodies when opening the box!

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All in all, this was a fun way to show appreciation to our troops! I paid maybe $20 (including $11.95 shipping) to do this, and I know I’ll definitely be doing this again!

I’m thinking, if I have enough Internet buddies interested, of hosting a team for December’s shipping dates. It is the holiday season after all, and who doesn’t like baking with fun holiday sprinkles?! :)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies

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I think I’m pretty brilliant. I have to be. I mean, who in their right minds would join Weight Watchers the week before bake-palooza was going to happen at their house? That’s right, me. There WAS a plan here, I promise!

Bake-palooza happened this weekend for me, because I joined a team on Operation Baking Gals for the first time. I’ve been ITCHING to just have a weekend of baking bliss, and this was the perfect opportunity. My brilliance kicks in even more, because I got to give away all of this food to people I think completely deserve a little something to remind them of home. In other words, I only had one sliver out of this pan vs. eating half of the pan had it been left home with me for a couple of days b/c I felt that the box needed to be filled to the BRIM with goodies for these wonderful soldiers!

However, brilliance did meet with stupidity. Stupidity was this happy baker going to Albertson’s on a Saturday morning to get butter and eggs on sale. Not just ANY Saturday morning…the morning of an away game for LSU. Usually Saturday mornings are so slow, but no, this Saturday involved standing in long lines on Saturday morning surrounded by baskets of ribs, Doritos and LSU colored Bud Light. It took me 15 minutes of waiting in self-checkout (shortest line, or so I thought) to get out of the store, but I had my supplies in tow! I was ready to bake!

I decided to bake three things for the soldiers. This first recipe was featured on Bakerella in the beginning of the year. I’ve had this bookmarked for quite some time, but never got around to making it. I’m glad I did. These turned out to be some very sturdy (shippable) brownies, and the one sliver I tasted was so yummy!

Oh yeah, and these aren’t from scratch. Yeah, I broke a couple of rules here, but it was, after all, game day. Shortcuts needed to be taken since these were thrown together during half time!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies
Source: Betty Crocker (via Bakerella)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Original Supreme brownie mix (w/ chocolate syrup pouch)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 container Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy chocolate frosting (omitted for shipping reasons)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Spray bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray, or grease with shortening. Make brownie mix as directed on box, using oil, water and 2 eggs. Spread in pan.
  2. Make cookie mix as directed on pouch, using butter and 1 egg. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls evenly onto brownie batter; press down lightly.
  3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool on cooling rack 30 minutes. Frost with frosting. For brownies, cut into 8 rows by 6 rows.

Stay tuned for what I made after the game! :)