give thanks

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Thanksgiving as a Baker in the books (this is number two for those counting...).

Adam and I were lucky enough to both have the entire week of Thanksgiving off, and it was nothing less than amazing. The last time I had that much time off work was when we got married! I'd love to say we sat around and watched movies all day, but we honestly didn't have any lazy days. Our freshly painted yet un-decorated house was beckoning. We spent one whole day perusing Ikea and found some super cheap, super cute curtain rods - woo hoo! (We really are getting old, aren't we?) And we spent a lot of time cleaning and organizing... and shoving boxes into our attic and out of sight.

Monday night was my monthly girls night - this time at Alysa's. We made these Christmas wine bottle decorations; they were fast, cheap and easy - just the way I like crafts (and cooking).

Here's how to make your own...
1. Drink wine.
2. Put your empty wine bottles (red works best) in hot water for 10 minutes, then scrape off the labels.
3. Buy removable alphabet stickers and glitter spray paint (we used gold, but the Bakers did it a couple days later and used all sorts of fun colors).
4. Think of festive words and spell them out on your wine bottle(s) with the stickers.
5. Spray!! (We only did one coat, but I suggest doing two or three).
6. Let sit for 30 minutes then peel off the stickers and admire your fabulous work of art.
7. Put Christmas lights into each bottle, plug in - and ta da! You're all set.

Wednesday night we had both of our families over to see the new place! For once, we actually had everything ready - including ourselves - about 30 minutes early. This is a very rare occasion, as we're generally running around/out the door at the last minute (except to Debbie and Dave's house since the Easter Fiasco of 2012!). It was great having everyone over at the house, and we look forward to entertaining everyone again soon!

Thanksgiving Thursday arrived fast, and I spent the morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and cooking up a storm (if by storm we can all agree that dumping flour into your Kitchen aid, turning it on full speed and the flour exploding all over your kitchen  is a storm). Here are the dishes I made - which all came out pretty amazing, thankyouverymuch.

Gluten Free, Nut Free Sweet Potatoes
(I wasn't too thrilled with this dish, mainly because it wasn't pretty. But it got pretty good/sympathy reviews from the crowd.)

3 sweet potatoes
3 apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

1. Slice potatoes 1/4 inch thick.
2. Slice apples 1/4 inch thick.
3. Put lemon juice on apples.
4. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.
5. Alternate layers of potatoes and apples in a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.
6. Sprinkle each layer with sugar mixture.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned and apples are tender (It actually took almost an hour to cook.)

Layered Zucchini Parmesan

3 large zucchini, sliced into 1/3-inch coins
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated and divided in half
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup marinara sauce, homemade or bottled
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Blot zucchini coins with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Place zucchini in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat each piece. In a separate bowl, combine half the parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper.
2. Dip each zucchini coin into the parmesan mixture, turning to coat and pressing the breading slightly to ensure it sticks. Place breaded zucchini coins in one even layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until browned and crisp.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a small baking dish with marinara sauce. Layer one third of the crisp zucchini coins over marinara, overlapping if necessary. Sprinkle zucchini layer with mozzarella and the remaining parmesan. Repeat the layers 3 times (or until the zucchini is gone, depending on the size of your baking dish) ending with a sprinkling of cheese.
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

German Chocolate Brownies
(I am so proud of myself for these! They turned out delicious.)

3 (4-ounce) bars of Baker’s® German’s® Sweet Chocolate (a total of 12 ounces; use 2 bars for melting and stirring into batter; coarsely chop the third bar to mix into the batter)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (regular or unbleached)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans
Coconut Pecan Frosting (I admit, I bought this at Wal Mart)

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13″ baking pan, or line pan and sides with parchment paper (leave a little extra parchment paper sticking out so you can grab edges to lift brownies out of pan after they’re frosted and cooled; the brownies are really easy to cut when they’re out of the pan).
2. Coarsely chop 1 of the 4-ounce bars of chocolate, if using, and also chop enough pecans to equal 1 cup; set these ingredients aside. Note: the chocolate bar will be easier to chop if it’s been chilled in the refrigerator.
3. Microwave 2 of the 4-ounce chocolate bars and butter in a large microwaveable bowl for 1 to 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Remove from microwave and stir chocolate and butter together until chocolate is completely melted.  Add sugar to chocolate-butter mixture, blending well; then add eggs and vanilla, blending well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until blended. Then fold in the chopped chocolate, if using, and pecans from Step #2. The batter will be fairly thick.
4. Spread your batter evenly into the prepared 9×13″ pan and bake for 35-38 minutes, or until top middle of brownies is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean–it won’t come out completely clean because of the chopped chocolate in the batter. If you decide to omit the chopped chocolate in the batter, your baking time may be a little less, like 32-36 minutes.
5. Cool brownies completely before adding the frosting.

Needless to say, I am now a professional chef. Someone please hire me to destroy their kitchen and make mediocre food!

Thanksgiving day went by too fast, as always. We had a late lunch at Meagan and Nathan's and dinner at my parents' house. I always laugh at how calm and relaxing it is at at the Causeys' - and what a madhouse it is at my parents'. I love both equally - I get two polar opposite experiences in one day.

Adam and I both have so much to be thankful for, it's almost overwhelming!

On Friday, Adam and I grabbed dinner with my very best friend, Lindsay, at our go-to Mexican restaurant, La Parrilla. She was only in town for the weekend, so I had to capitalize on all the time I could spend with her (which also included lunch with our mom's at Willie Rae's on Saturday).

And finally, last night we celebrated Kelsey's 20th birthday with grilled pizza at the Bakers'. We love you Kels, and are so glad we get to celebrate all these fun birthdays with you!

Oh! We also tried out a new church on Sunday morning, and we loved it - plus there are so many couples our age. Hoping this is where we belong for the long run!

Needless to say, last week was a whirlwind staycation - and I loved every minute of it. (Especially the extra QT with my hubs.)

Ok, finally for REALZ. Today is Ruthie's 2nd birthday! I can't believe our little pup is growing up so fast. She is now a teenager in dog years, which I'm sure is why she had such an attitude about getting her picture taken this morning...


Monday, November 5, 2012

Every year around March I have these genius ideas for Halloween. Every year I promise myself to write down these genius ideas for October. And every year I forget and it's a last minute, unoriginal scramble.

Last year, Adam came up with a pretty genius idea in October, so we actually went through with it. We were Hawaiian Punch - he was a boxer and I was a hula girl. But of course, we waited until ohhh, two days before the Halloween party to actually pull it together. Typical.

This year, I knew I was going to be in Miami for work the weekend before Halloween (aka Adult Halloween) so I kinda sorta happily wrote off Halloween. Until my manager told me we were going out in Miami for Halloween - the Halloween Mecca, if you will. Luckily, one of her friends let me borrow a costume (Little Red Riding Hood, if you're interested).

We started out at Lucky Strike and then headed over to Soho Beach House for the big par-tay. Turns out Soho is a super fancy, members only club in Miami - and for Halloween they went all out with their Circus theme.

The following day was our No Kid Hungry Palm Beach dinner, which raised $81,000 to fight childhood hunger - woo hoo!

As I previously mentioned, we closed on our house shortly after I returned from Florida and spent actual Halloween sitting on our new front stoop hoping to make some new neighbor friends. We did meet a nice old man, Gene, and his dog, Lewis. And we had a good amount of kids come through. Great success!

I completely forgot to include the picture of the most amazing Halloween costumes, ever!! I don't know how I forgot about the Halloween party I went to in Atlanta the night before Miami. Kelly and/or Vann (it's still up for debate) had the incredible idea to dress up as Designing Women. Most of these fabulous get-ups came straight from Vann's closet - just a casual Friday! We definitely had the best costumes - even if no one actually got what we were.