Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

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Because if I wanted a crispy snickerdoodle to crumble into my coffee, I’d choose biscotti. But I want a soft and chewy cinnamon treat to bite into with my front teeth! I found this one a few years ago by Sara at Our Best Bites. It’s just perfection.

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups sugar (12.25 oz), divided
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt*
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter* at room temp
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
*if using salted butter, just omit table salt

Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or use nonstick baking sheets.  Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish and set aside.  Whisk flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.

Beat butter, shortening, and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

Reduce speed of mixer to low and slowly add flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds.  Give dough final stir to ensure that no flour pockets remain.

Working with 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll into balls.  Working in batches, roll dough balls in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheet spaced 2 inches apart.

Bake 1 sheet at a time until edges of cookies are set and just barely beginning to brown, but centers are still soft and puffy, about 10-12 minutes.  The cookies should look raw between the cracks and seem underdone.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.  Makes about 2 dozen 3-4 inch cookies.

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http://ourbestbites.com/2012/02/soft-and-chewy-snickerdoodles/

Deliciousness

Really, there is hardly anything better in the world than Eggplant Parmesan. If you’ve never cooked with eggplant, I urge you to try this very simple recipe. Even my kids ate it. Even the neighbor kid ate it! And it’s great for filling people up without meat. I think I found it on a recipe card several years ago, but a Google search showed me that it is a Food Network recipe. So credit to Juan-Carlos Cruz (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/eggplant-parmesan.html).

eggplant parm

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients
1 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 medium eggplant, sliced into 6 (1/2-inch) rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and then minced
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
2 (15-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place bread crumbs on a shallow plate. Pour egg substitute onto another shallow plate. Place a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet. Take a round of eggplant, dip it into the egg substitute until fully covered, and then drag through the bread crumbs until completely coated; transfer to a wire rack. Repeat for each round of eggplant and then bake in oven for 15 minutes.

While eggplant is baking, heat olive oil in a 5-quart nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the chili flakes and stir to incorporate. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to blend completely. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the basil, and remove from heat.

Remove eggplant from oven and leave oven at 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish (about 13 by 11 inches) with the eggplant rounds. Pour the tomato sauce over the eggplant. Top with the cheeses. Bake for 30 minutes until cheese is soft and bubbly. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

February – The Worst Month of the Year

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I’m sorry. I try not to discriminate against any one month, but I can’t help it. February is the worst. I wanted to call this “The Bleakest Month,” but I am pretty sure “bleakest” is not a word. I looked it up and found that “bleak” means “lacking in warmth, life, or kindliness; not hopeful or encouraging.” Well. . . yes. That is the perfect definition for February. And the synonyms! These can lead you down a black hole of despair: gloomy, cheerless, chill, comfortless, darkening, desolate, dire, disconsolate, dismal, dreary, elegiac, forlorn, funereal, glum, godforsaken, lonesome, lugubrious, morose, sepulchral, sullen, sunless, wretched! Feel better? Me neither.

I try not to hate February because it is the month of my Dear One’s birth. He’s a lovely Pisces with a kind heart and he deserves to have a happy birthday. But it’s a struggle to make fun happen in February — unless we use it as an opportunity to get away to someplace warm!

Why is February worse than any other winter month? December is loaded with exciting distractions and beautiful celebrations, of course. January is bearable and filled with the possibility of snow days. By February? Please! We are “over winter” and any charms it may have held before we froze our fingers off, shrugged in and out of coats every day, and grew tired of being in the house with one another! March, which barely introduces spring, usually treats us to a few warm days, a week off school, and (here in the Midwest) daffodils along the highway. We are so desperate for spring that we all rush to the zoo on the first day temps reach 50! Our banner picture for the spoon and the thimble was taken in March — on a hike — with NO COATS!

Some facts to read before this excruciating experience draws to a close. . .

February is the second month of the year in the Gregorian calendar and its predecessor, the Julian Calendar, and is the only month that has less than 30 days. It was named after the Latin word februum, which means purification because the month was a time for purification.

  • Middle English – Februarius
  • Latin name – Februarius mensis – Month of Februa
  • Latin – dies februatus – Day of Purification
  • Old English – Solmonath – mud month

History of February

The old Roman calendar considered winter a monthless period (sensible, truly), thus it only consisted of 10 months. The month of February was added, along with January around 700 BCE by Numa Pompilius so that the calendar would equal a standard lunar year of 355 days. February became the second month of the year around 450 BCE, although it was originally the last month of the year in the old Roman calendar.

February was shortened to either 23 or 24 days at certain intervals in the Roman calendar, in which a 27 day intercalary month was inserted after February to realign the year with the seasons. During the Julian calendar reform, the intercalary month was abolished and leap years were added every fourth year thus February gained a 29th day in leap years.

Second Month

February is the second month of the year in the Gregorian calendar and its predecessor, the Julian calendar, and consists of 28 days in common years and 29 days in leap years. It did not exist in the 10-month Roman calendar. It is considered the seasonal equivalent of August in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the only month that can pass without a single full moon.

February starts on the same day of the week as March and November in common years. During leap years, February starts on the same day of the week as August. Once every six years and twice every 11 years, the month of February will have only four full seven-day weeks, where the first day of the month starts on a Sunday and ends on a Saturday.

Let’s give ourselves a pat on the back for surviving another February.

Two more days, and we will be well on our way to spring! Yahoooooooo!

Four seasons in 40 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmIFXIXQQ_E

A POWERHOUSE lunch that tastes good too!

I always feel healthy after yoga and so for at least a good hour and a half I try to eat clean.  🙂  Today I decided to make a Kale and Quinoa salad.  This salad is filling, good for you and tastes great too. Kale and Quinoa Salad 1 Bunch of Kale (cleaned and de stemmed) 1 cup Quinoa (cooked and cooled) I used Gluten free 1/4 avocado 3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Organic) 2 T Fresh lemon juice 1 t Dijon mustard 1 garlic clove diced salt and pepper to taste Clean and de stem Kale.  Roll Kale leaves and chiffon chop them.  Place chopped kale and about 1/2 cup quinoa in a bowl. In a small bowl mix E.V.O.O., Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Put about 1 T of the dressing on the kale and quinoa mixture.  Top with avocado and chow! I save the extra kale, quinoa, avocado and dressing in separate left over dishes.  I plan on eating this for lunch everyday this week. ENJOY!  Your body will thank you. quin 2

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice SNOW DAY Soup

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Finally! The first snow day of 2015. . . and the kids had the day off school anyway! Oh well, slows life down a bit and makes me want to snuggle under a blanket in front of the fireplace. Also makes me eat my way through hibernation and NEED this soup. I found the recipe on Lauren’s Latest and will link to her at bottom of post. In my house, this recipe must be doubled (or the last guy to the pot won’t get any!). Happy Hibernating!

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onion, diced

4 ribs celery, chopped

4 large carrots, peeled and cubed

6 cups good quality chicken broth

3/4 lbs. chicken breasts, cubed

1-6 oz. box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain & Wild Rice

1 1/2 cups half and half

1/3 cup all purpose flour

plenty of salt and pepper

Directions:

In large pot, heat butter and olive oil. Saute onions, celery and carrots on medium low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth and cubed raw chicken. Raise temperature to medium high heat to poach chicken in cooking liquid. Once chicken has cooked and become opaque, pour in rice and seasoning packet that came with the rice. Cover and reduce heat to simmer lightly for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. In small bowl, whisk cold half and half with flour until smooth. Pour into soup pot and reduce heat completely to low. Cook 10 minutes or until rice is softened completely and soup has thickened slightly. Taste and season accordingly. Serve hot.

http://www.laurenslatest.com/creamy-chicken-and-wild-rice-soup/

Our 10 Favorite Things

Organized bloggers might have written this post before Christmas, but before Christmas we are crazy busy, so now we have time to share some of our favorite things with you! Mind you, we love PEOPLE before THINGS, but we could never list all of the folks and all of the reasons we love them, so here, in no particular order, are some cool things we like, too!  By the way we get NO kick back on these items…..truly just things we LOVE!

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1. Coconut Bliss Tempur-Pedic Pillow from Mattress Firm. When hubby gave me this coconutty-smelling pillow for Christmas a few years ago, I thought he had gone nutty. But it is HEAVEN. Truly blissful. The coconut smell is very mild and wears off as time goes on, but the perfect level of head/neck support just stays and stays. Not too flat, not fluffy, not hard. Just right. You gotta try it.

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2. Organizing STUFF in clear bins with 8 1/2″ x 11″ “labels” printed from my computer. My #1 organization tip? Only use clear bins. If you can’t SEE the stuff, you will never find it or even remember that you own it. And the giant labels just make you feel organized. Plus they’re cheap to make and easy to replace when you reorganize. Love.

Nars

3.  NARS lip gloss.  We LOVE Chihuahua, but all colors are beautiful.  It’s expensive at $26.00 a bottle but worth it for a winter pick-me-up.  Throw all of those $8.00 lip glosses in the bottom of your purse away.  Once you use this you will never go back.

coconut oil

4.  Organic coconut oil.  This stuff is amazing.  I cook with it, use it as a hair masque and put a spoonful in my kids baths.  (Kim gives Art the WonderDog a spoonful a day to keep him from being itchy.) The list is endless for this “essential” oil at our house.  I like Trader Joe’s Organic Coconut Oil.

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5.  Cast iron grill pan.  I am not sure how I ever lived without this.  This is perfect for grilling meats and veggies when it’s cold outside and makes the most amazing paninis EVER.  Great wedding gift!

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6.  The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Luis – This book is a game changer and a must read.  We post the four Agreements in our homes.  Principles to live by for sure.

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7.  Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum.  I’m not sure if it’s the “turning 40” or what but my skin is not as smooth as it once was.  This product changes that.  It literally feels like silk on your skin.  It’s worth every penny as far as I am concerned.  Perfect stocking stuffer for yourself!

necklace

8.  Monogram necklace from Lubella’s. Who doesn’t love something with their monogram?  We both have them and get so many compliments on this necklace you can wear with anything from tank top and shorts to a pretty dress.  Our essential accessory!

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9. Michaels Kors time piece.  I adore his watches.  I wear my silver one everyday.  This year my husband surprised me with a gold watch and I just think this pink face makes it so fun.

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10. Two Leaves and a Bud Tea.  We love our tea….iced or hot.  This tea is the best out there.  We order in bulk off of Amazon.  My favorite is Organic Tropical Green and Kim’s favorite is Organic Tamayokucha.  Both are refreshing and good for you!

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Bulk-Homemade-Ranch-Dressing-Mix-l-www.SimplyScratch.com_-620x414

Middle school daughter wanted to have a few friends in for NYE this year. I sat on my hands and let her do all the party planning. Even let my husband take her shopping for food and supplies. Whew, that was hard! But on my last minute grocery run on Dec. 31, she asked for a veggie tray. It was cute to see a 13-year-old panicking about having enough food for her guests. By 4 pm on NYE, the veggie trays in the produce section are pretty picked over. So I decided I’d make one myself, but didn’t think about the dip!

We did have some Hidden Valley Ranch dressing in the fridge, but I remembered that a while back I bought some dry buttermilk to try to make my own ranch dressing mix. I hate the “mystery packets.” Besides having the buttermilk in the pantry, I had ALL of the other ingredients in this recipe on hand! So, I’m telling you — it’s very easy to make and much more delicious than the bottled kind! I even made two dips from it: fattening for the kids (sour cream) and skinny for the adults (plain yogurt)! Yum!

HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING MIX

Yield: About 1 cup

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE BULK HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING PACKET MIX:

1 cup Dry Buttermilk

2-1/2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley, divided

2 teaspoons Dried Dill, divided

2-1/2 teaspoons Garlic Powder

1-1/2 teaspoons Onion Powder

1-1/2 teaspoons Dried Onion Flakes

2-1/4 teaspoons Kosher Salt

3/4 teaspoon Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Coarse Ground Black Pepper

1/2 teaspoon Paprika

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne

FOR BUTTERMILK DRESSING:

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1/2 cup Sour Cream

3 tablespoons Bulk Homemade Ranch Dressing Packet Mix

2/3 to 1 cup of Buttermilk

FOR DIP:

1 cup Sour Cream

2 tablespoons Bulk Homemade Ranch Dressing Packet Mix

DIRECTIONS:

In a small food processor or blender; measure and add in the dried buttermilk, 2 tablespoons dried parsley, 1 teaspoon dried dill. Place the remaining 1/2 tablespoon parsley and 1 teaspoon dried dill off to the side. Measure and add in the onion powder, dried onion flakes, kosher salt, sugar, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Turn on the processor and let it run until all the spices are blended into the buttermilk powder.

Transfer the ranch mix into a jar or container {that has a tight-fitting lid} and add in the reserved parsley and dill. Whisk to combine.

2 tablespoons of the ranch mix is equivalent to one packet.

Store in the fridge for 3-4 months or in the freezer for 6-8.


Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Stew

chicken stew

Sometimes I want a hot dinner ready even though I have a busy day and/or evening. I am pretty picky about what I’ll dump in the Crockpot, though. No Campbell’s soups, no ground beef. Kristin sent me this one that fits the bill. It’s just like the ever-popular slow cooker taco soups, but no ground beef! Perfect for a Monday!

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 15-16 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-16 oz. can of kidney beans

1 15-16 oz. can of corn (drained), some like Mexicorn. I used a cup or 2 of frozen corn bc that’s what I had on hand.

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes w/ chiles (can use plain diced tomatoes if you are avoiding spicy foods)

1 1.25 oz. packet taco seasoning (had to measure my homemade seasoning with a shot glass!)

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – I used 3.

Instructions:

Mix everything together in a slow cooker except chicken. Lay chicken over top and cover. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3/4 hours. 30 min. before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Can top with cheese, sour cream, or tortilla chips.

Number of servings: 14.

Orig. found on SparkRecipes.

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

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(not my best photo ever!)

This easy chicken soup is made with a light and refreshing lemon broth, orzo pasta, and vegetables. It is healthy and perfect for a cold day!

I found it at Two Peas & Their Pod, but I prepared the chicken a bit differently because I had boneless, skinless thighs in the refrigerator. Lately my husband is loving the flavor and moisture natural to chicken thighs vs. the way breasts tend to become dry so easily.

So, first I rinsed, salted and peppered the thighs and then cooked them in a bit of olive oil right in my deep soup pot. They didn’t take long. I removed them to cool and started sauteing the vegetables without even cleaning the pot. However, if you picked up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery, shredding that meat would work well, too!

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil (1 for chicken, 1 for vegetables)

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced (you know I use jarred garlic!)

2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1-2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

8 cups chicken broth

zest of 2 lemons

juice of 2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 cups orzo pasta

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat (cook chicken if needed). Saute onion, garlic, carrots, and celery until tender, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes or until orzo is tender. Add the cooked, shredded chicken and heat for about 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pot from the heat. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve warm.