Sunday, October 24, 2010

Peanut Butter Heaven

Peanut Butter Heaven 

I love peanut butter!  I love it so much I eat it with a spoon out of the jar.  My favorite combo is chocolate and peanut butter:  Ice cream, cookies, pudding, candy and now cupcakes!  I made this delicious cupcake and it has quickly become my favorite.

I used a chocolate cake mix and followed the directions on the box, plus I added 1 cup of chocolate chips to the batter.  I put the batter in a large ziplock bag and snip one corner so I can squeeze the batter through the hole and fill the cupcake papers.  You can make the traditional size cupcakes or the mini cupcakes.  Bake as directed on the box.  Let cool completely before  icing.

Peanut Butter Icing
1 cup smooth peanut butter 
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla

Combine peanut butter and butter in a large bowl, mixing together until light and fluffy.  Add sugar, 3 Tbsp milk and vanilla.  Start mixer slowly and gradually increase speed.  Mix until smooth and creamy.  Add 1 Tbsp milk or cream if icing is too thick.  

When icing my cupcakes I like to use an icing bag with a tip or just a plastic sandwich bag with a corner snipped off.  I can swirl the icing high and coverage doesn't have to be perfect. It makes icing the cupcakes go really quick too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Connected For Eternity

We did not choose Carlos Amado to be our Mission President and he did not choose us to be his missionaries.  It was part of the plan.  We are connected together for the eternities no matter what direction our lives take.  There will always be a love and appreciation for each other even when it's been 28 years since we have seen each other.  That was President Amado's message to us on Friday night at our mission reunion.

Many years have passed without seeing many of these people.  We are a bit older and have more experiences under our belt so to speak.  Many of them I didn't remember right away - they do look a bit different!  I of course don't.  Ha Ha!

We had a great reunion with President and Sister Amado.  Alex Boye was there and performed a few songs, we had a great presentation of pictures that had been sent in and compiled into a CD.  It brought back many forgotten memories of my mission, I remember it as such a great time in my life.
Mission Reunion with President and Sister Amado

Guatemala, Guatemala City Missionaries 1983-1984

Debbie Smith Johnson, Erick Chojolan, Me

Carol Hair DeFriez, Hna ?, Caty Lang, Me

Christie Schouten, Me

Me, Elder Homer

Friday, September 17, 2010

New York City Wish List

When we go to New York City, it's a major food fest.  (I always know I'll gain at least five pounds).  Everything we do is scheduled around where and when we will be eating.  I keep a list on my iphone of places that we hear about, so the next time we are in NYC we can visit as many on the list as possible.

It's our NYC Wish List!

We have our favorites that are a must each time we're in New York.  Like...
Carmines - The best Italian, served family style

Joe's of Bleeker Street - The best slice of pizza, great crust!

La Esquina - A new favorite.  Seriously the best tacos!  See Emily Everywhere's post  "La Esquina: A word worth waiting for" for second testimonial on the tacos.  She has some other posts regarding our food frenzie in NYC that are well worth reading.

Katz's Deli - Another new favorite.  Order the pastrami sandwich - you won't believe how good it is.

Cupcake Tea at The Ritz
Ritz Carlton - Cupcake Tea is so romantic - go for a walk in the park afterward.

Other great places to grab a bite in New York:

Gramaldi's - Great pizza, but be prepared for a long line unless you get there when they open.  Just over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Serendipity - Wonderful, overthetop desserts.  Famous for their frozen Hot Chocolate.

Magnolia's, Crumbs and Eleni's - Who has the best cupcake???

Silvias Fried Chicken and Waffles
Silvias - Up in Harlem.  Queen of Soul Food.  Chicken was good, but the Waffles were fantastic!!

Cookies from Levain Bakery
Levain Bakery - Fabulous cookies.  And I love cookies.  They have four cookies to choose from, or don't choose and have one of each!  Chocolate Chip Walnut, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip and Oatmeal Raisin.

Donut Plant - They have a square Peanut Butter and Jam doughnut!  Best doughnut I tasted was the Creme Brulee.

Stand - A hamburger joint with Gelato Milkshakes!  Yummy!

Artisanal - Suppose to have great Mac and Cheese.  I know!  Who goes to New York to get Mac and Cheese - It's suppose to be That Good.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Got a Nickel? Go Suck a Pickle!

  • It has been a busy summer!  I realized I am down to my last 3 jars of dill pickles.  I have called around to the local farms looking for cucumbers in bulk.  I haven't found any yet, we are at the end of the growing season.  I thought I may not get any this year.  I was delighted when I returned home from New York and a friend of mine brought me some of her excess cucumbers!  I was able to bottle 11 quarts of dill pickles.  Though that seems like it should be plenty, I wish I could have double or triple that amount.  I use them as payment to my Dad when he helps us with todo's around our place in St. George.

Pickles are the easiest thing to bottle.  You can get a lot of them done in a relatively short amount of time.

There are different recipes out there for dill pickles.  Some recipes call for pickling spices, and sugar.  I don't use the pickling spices or the sugar.  All you need is a basic brine recipe that you like.  My favorite recipe is very simple.  

  • Brine
  • 3 qts (12 cups) water
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup pickling salt (make sure you use pickling salt, it is not iodized, so the liquid won't be cloudy in the jars)

  • You'll need about 8 pounds of 4 inch long pickling cucumbers
  • 3 cloves garlic for each jar, peeled and halved
  • 1 head fresh dill weed for each jar
  • 1 grape leaf for each jar (keeps the pickles crisp)
  • Optional - if you like spicy!
  • jalapeno or any hot pepper, with slices cut through it - one for each jar. I like to use the red peppers for their bright color in the jar.
  • or use 1/4-1/2 tsp cheyanne pepper,
  • or 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

  • Wash cucumbers, and place in the sink with cold water and lots of ice cubes. Soak in ice water for at least 2 hours but no more than 8 hours. Refresh ice as required. 

  • Sterilize 7 (1 quart) canning jars and lids in boiling water.

  • In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar, water, and pickling salt. Bring the brine to a rapid boil.

  • In each jar, place 3 cloves of garlic, one head of dill, grape leaf and pepper if desired.  Put enough cucumbers into each jar to fit tightly, do not leave space.  I like my pickles cut in spears, but you can do whole or halves if you like that better.  Fill jars with hot brine to within 1/4 inch from top.  Remove air bubbles.  Seal jars, making sure you have cleaned the jar's rims of any residue.

  • Process sealed jars in a boiling water bath. Process quart jars for 20 minutes.

  • Store pickles for a minimum of 8 weeks before eating. Refrigerate after opening. Pickles will keep for up to 2 years if stored in a cool dry place.

    USU Extensions had this to say about crisp pickles:

    Use of ice to firm pickles
    Soak cucumbers or other vegetables in ice water for 4 to 5 hours before pickling.

    Use of grape leaves to firm pickles
    Historically, grape leaves are sometimes added to pickle products. The tannins in grape leaves were found to inhibit the pectinase enzyme (a chemical that would break down and soften the pectin structure). However, this enzyme is located at the blossom end of the cucumber and if that is removed this process is redundant.

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Green Gold

    When my girls were babies, they didn't like tomato sauce on their spaghetti, they liked "green spaghetti".  Back then I'd buy pesto from the store, which in my opinion is expensive and doesn't taste as good as homemade pesto.  So I learned to make my own pesto.

    This started a long tradition of growing, harvesting, and making basil pesto.  A tradition of my sister and nieces coming to Utah and going home to California stocked with frozen pesto.  A tradition of Jessica and her friends eating bagels with cream cheese and pesto (among other things).  A tradition of not just making one kind of spaghetti for dinner but having both a red spaghetti and a green spaghetti, since Kenzie still prefers the green.  We all have our favorite ways to use and eat pesto.

    This year I have 20 basil plants growing in my garden.  I make and freeze pesto so I can use it all winter long.  It is delicious on pasta, sandwiches, bagels, soups, lasagna and my personal favorite - pizza.  I never have enough pesto in my freezer.  See my recipe below for making the best Basil Pesto ever!!!

    If you grow your own basil:  Cut the stocks from the plant.  Make sure you don't cut the stock back all the way, you want to leave some stem and leaves for a second growth (that means more basil!)

    If you don't grow your own basil be prepared to spend a lot for a little bit of basil.  You can find it in the produce section of most grocery stores.  Check out farmers markets, local produce growers, or import stores may have some.  There is an import store near me called Pirate O's that has great local grown basil for a good price.

    Clean and dry the basil leaves.  I put my basil stocks in the sink full of water with a drop of liquid soap.  Agitate the water and then rinse the stocks in fresh water.  Remove the leaves from the stems.  To dry the leaves I use a salad spinner.
    For this recipe you'll need:
    2 cups fresh basil - tightly packed
    3 Tbsp. pine nuts
    4 cloves garlic
    1/2 tsp. salt
    dash of pepper
    3/4 cup grated romano cheese
    2/3 cup olive oil
    2 Tbsp. butter
    Put all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth.
    Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.  I like to use cup size freezer containers, they're the perfect size and they're stackable.  Find them wherever canning supplies are sold.
    Try making your own pesto.  You'll be surprised how easy pesto is to make.  Leave me a comment, I want to hear about your successes and how you use your pesto!

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    Amazing Bear Lake

    Just spent a great weekend at Bear Lake with my family.  Bear Lake is amazing. It is gorgeous, easy to get to, and generally not to crowded.
    We did some wicked tubing - I say we, but I really mean they.  I don't tube, I take the pictures, enjoy the ride and watch the action.  My niece Lindsey and her husband Brian came with us. It was great fun.  This is Lindsey scissor kicking in the air.
    Despite our best efforts, Jessica reigns supreme.  She couldn't be thrown off!  She is the champion.  I don't know how she does it, she was thrown back and forth and bucked around as if riding a bucking bronco.  She held on no matter what.

    Everyone loves the Sky Ski!
    Thanks everyone for a great weekend!  Love you!



    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Can You Say Pie? Apricot Pie!

    Did I say strawberries were my favorite?  I meant apricots are my favorite...at least for pie.  Yummo!!!
    It's especially good when the apricots come from the tree in my backyard. We don't get apricots every year, because my tree is early blooming and there is always spring snow that knocks off the blossoms. This year is the first year in many, many years that we have had enough to make pies or anything else. I usually end up begging my friend Kristine for apricots off her tree.

    There are a few things that I love to do with apricots.  I make Apricot Pineapple Jam (that's for my husband - it's his favorite).

    And for me, my favorite is Apricot Syrup!!!

    But the season in not complete unless there is an apricot pie.  Apricot pie has the perfect blend of sweet and tart.  We had so many apricots that Rielley made 5 apricot pies!  I don't know if I was more excited that Rielley made the pies, or that we ended up with 5 pies.  Rielley said she wanted to make the pies, and she did, all by herself.  I was really impressed.  The pies were beautiful!  And the crust was just perfect, nice and flaky.  Yay for Rielley!  Yum for Me!!

    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    There's Basil In My Garden and Pesto In My Bread!

    Each summer I plant a garden just for the basil and tomatoes. But since I'm taking the time to grow a garden, I might as well plant other things also. So I have peppers, jalapenos, anaheim peppers, eggplant, green beans, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, beets, carrots, cantelope, acorn and butternut squash and different herbs.

    I look forward to harvesting the basil so I can make pesto. I make a lot of pesto! I freeze it in 1 cup containers so I can use it through out the coming year.

    We use basil as a sauce on pizza, pasta, lasagna, sandwiches, soup, spread on bread, spread on toasted bagels with cream cheese, salad, grilling sauce for chicken, fish, lamb, pork, vegetables, salad dressing, dipping sauce for veggies, and a fabulous pesto loaf.

    I recently found a new way to use pesto! I roll
    out my french bread and spread the pesto on the dough.

    I roll up the dough and put the loaf in a pan. Let bread rise and then cook. When it is cut each slice has a spiral of pesto in the bread. It's tasty and pretty.
    After experimenting I have come up with some variations:

    * After rolling the dough with the pesto, cut the dough in half down the center lengthwise and twist it.

    Put the loaf in the pan to rise and cook.

    * Or, when spreading the pesto on the dough add some drained sun dried tomatoes and roll up the dough. Put the loaf in the pan and then slice half way through the dough down the center lengthwise, sprinkle some parmesan on top. As it rises it looks beautiful.

    *Try other ingredients. For example: pine nuts, cinnamon, sugar and pecans, cheese, onions, pizza sauce, etc - the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

    All of these techniques work and look beautiful. Try them and see which way you like the best.

    Friday, July 9, 2010


    Sir William Wallace died fighting for it. Our country was founded on it. We enjoy the benefits of it and we celebrate it every 4th of July.

    We were at the Stadium of Fire this year on the 4th of July. As a tribute to our Armed Forces, each group was asked to stand as their theme song was played. It was all very emotional as each song blared over the speakers.

    We applauded the Marines when "From The Halls Of Montezuma" played and the Air Force when we heard "Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder", for the Navy it was "Anchors Aweigh" and the Army was "The Caissons Go Rolling Along" and for the U.S. Coast Guard it was "Semper Paratus". We owe so much to those who have fought to defend our freedom.

    Thank you, thank you.

    Thursday, July 8, 2010

    Strawberry Days in Pleasant Grove

    I love a Rodeo! It takes me back to my childhood and the time spent at my Grandfathers farm in Wyoming. Every summer we would take the looooong drive from Cupertino, California to Cowley, Wyoming. We'd spend a week there at the farm with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and many other relatives that made up the entire town of Cowley...(No kidding - Population 600, give or take a cousin). There'd be BBQs, horseback riding on a horse named Hungry, tire swings, irrigating the fields, driving Grandpas truck, fresh garden peas and pancake eating contests.

    When I smell the leather saddles and the manure and hear the horses, I am taken back to the farm and many childhood memories. My grandmother made sure we always had tickets to the town rodeo. One of my favorite memories at the Cowley Rodeo was when my cousin Kevin was on the Wild Horse milking team. He literally picked up the horse and slammed it to the ground. I thought he was pretty cool. Many years later, in staying with the tradition of visiting Cowley on the 24th of July, my family and my sisters family went to the Cowley rodeo. My sisters youngest daughter even entered the mutton busting contest. That is one of our favorite family stories.

    Pleasant Grove has a fun rodeo during Strawberry Days. This was our second annual Strawberry Days Rodeo and it did not disappoint. As we entered the rodeo grounds I could smell the manure, leather and hay. Immediately I was thinking of Cowley, Wyoming. There was mutton busting, bucking broncos, barrel racing, roping, wild cow milking and bull riding. There were hot dogs, hamburgers and strawberries and cream. Something for everybody.

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Now That's A Kitchen I Can Sink My Teeth Into

    In our home our favorite gathering place is the kitchen. I love to have family and friends sitting or standing, visiting, laughing, preping and taste testing while meals are being prepared. There is something very satisfying about the atmosphere of the family gathering in the kitchen, enjoying life. This is where learning and sharing takes place. I love to have my husband cooking along side of me, he is such a foodie, and he's a great cook! From the time my daughters where babies they have spent time in the kitchen with me. I cleared out a cupboard and put their toys in it, so they were literally playing at my feet. As they grew older they loved to make cookies, cupcakes and brownies, licking the bowl and the spatula was and still is their favorite part. I bathed them in the sink as babies. Homework was done at the counter as I prepared dinner. Science projects, fingernail painting, after school snacking. We've made hundreds of valentine cookies, many peach pies, sunday roast dinner with yorkshire pudding. Homemade ice cream, cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate, jams and pesto. We've celebrated birthdays (15 for each of us) and Christmas's with our tradition of cheeses and proscutto. It's the first place we go when we walk through the door returning from the outside world.

    Our kitchen had oak varnished cupboards, blue formica countertops and standing room only. We rubbed elbow, bumped elbow and threw elbows trying to position ourselves for prime kitchen real estate. Though I have wonderful memories of many years together I won't miss you old friend, but I will remember you fondly and maybe shed a tear now and then.

    Now, I'd like to introduce you to the new kitchen
    on the block. We've moved walls and windows, ovens (plural!) and refrigerator. We have a pot filler, ice maker and our spices are hidden. Bench and bookshelves, pendents and a pot rack (to be installed soon)! It is so beautiful and functional with a bit of room to spare. I look forward to good times and good memories with my new kitchen, now I am shedding a tear!

    Photo at the top of this post is of my mother and my older siblings back in 1960. My mother is pregnant with me at the time. Don't you love the high chair and the refrigerator? My mother is taller than the refrigerator! I love this picture, in fact I love it so much that I use it as the cover for my family cookbook.
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