Day to Day Life: Week Fifty

A look at the last week:

Winter creek.
IMG_1132

A still-in-nature-Christmas-tree.
IMG_1100

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at blogging life.
IMG_7499

On a walk with my buddy Janet we happened upon this guy.
IMG_1060

And these guys.
IMG_7350

And then we lunched. At Sammich. Pastrami for me, tuna melt for her!
IMG_7359

My dudes.
IMG_7393

A terrible, terrible color for a finger! It STILL hurts.
IMG_7383

Enchilada mess!
IMG_7500

Pre-storm hitting skies! PINK.
IMG_7502

The utmost requested sandwich in this house: The Chop Chop.
IMG_7399

Vincent appeared super shocked to find me MAKING guacamole. I’m not sure if he thought it was just something you buy in the store… He still wouldn’t eat it. Hah!
IMG_7501

So shiny!
IMG_7509

And then there’s this bowling technique…
IMG_7508

Our power went out with the crazy storm we caught, traveling up from California… The benefit of having a gas stove though? I STILL GOT MY COFFEE.
IMG_7408

Someone gave himself a bath late one night.
IMG_7441

Some… okay, most… mornings.
IMG_7453

The very last of our summer tomatoes FINALLY ripened! They were green when I picked them before the first frost!
IMG_7468

Burrito fillings. Extra guac, extra hot sauce!
IMG_7503

Sunshine!
IMG_7486

Cheddar beer soup last night… Silas said, “Uhhh Julie. This tastes like beer and I’m pretty sure I don’t like it!” Then he made a PB&J.
IMG_7504

Hot chocolate and vegan marshmallows!
IMG_7505

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week!

Saturday Sites: Week Forty-Nine + Fifty

satsites4950

  1. This article titled, “Being an ‘Elephant Mom’ in the Time of the Tiger Mother” is a good read, although I think when it comes to parenting there are times to take on both roles for the benefit of our kids.

  2. Certainly my kind of granola!

  3. This photo series makes my heart both happy and deeply sad. One of my favorite modern photographers, specifically for his ability to conjure those feelings with nearly every image.

  4. I’m pretty sure I’d like this cocktail, please!

  5. Would you like to have a brain orgasm?!

  6. San Francisco, as explained in emojis.

  7. These 28 rules for fathers of sons… Yes. Seeing as I live in a home with a husband and two boys.

  8. This is the kind of prank I would thoroughly enjoy pulling!

  9. Do you know how to make a perfectly rounded muffin?

  10. I’ve got some fantastic ideas for upcoming baking projects!

  11. This article had me cracking up… and hoping that I don’t ever require an MRI.

  12. As well, on the topic of farts (sorry not sorry)…

  13. This list of healthy vegetarian freezer meal ideas is chock full of some good looking recipes!

  14. Just… YES.

  15. Some of these things I can relate to…

  16. I love overnight oats so very much. This version would be lovely this time of year.

  17. What in the world… THESE CREEPY RENAISSANCE BABIES?!

  18. Just   two    three words: HOMEMADE JELLY DOUGHNUTS.

  19. I love the look of these cookies. (Literally!)

  20. This performance.

  21. I can appreciate these words.

  22. These shortbread cookies sound delicious to me!

  23. And this bread makes my brain say, “whooooooowhat?!”

Rich Frosted Chocolate Sheet Cake

photo 2

Every year as my husband’s birthday approaches, I start to think about what his celebratory dinner and cake will consist of. By “approaches” I mean my crazy-brain begins thinking around early October, for his late November birthday. Usually I wait until the second week of November or so, before the craziness of Thanksgiving begins to creep in (which happens to typically fall within the same weekend of Craig’s birthday), to ask him what he’d like.

Often the request isn’t too crazy. Likely something involving dark chocolate, possibly peanut butter, and most always a “warm chocolatey sauce” to be served with the cake. As someone who isn’t a huge dessert fiend, sometimes the amount of chocolate involved can begin to feel a little overwhelming. But I guess birthday cakes are made to be an overindulgent once-a-year debacle.

This year’s request was the simplest yet. “A plain chocolate cake with hot fudge sauce. Please.” We discussed options — a layer cake? Some other flavored filling in a layered cake? A one-pan sheet cake thing? “Yes! A sheet cake! I don’t like a layered cake anyway because there’s always too much frosting…” This chocolate sheet cake is fluffy, moist, not overwhelmingly sweet (the frosting adds a nice balance of sweetness to the not overly sweet cake). The frosting on the top of the cake slightly hardens as it cools, making this cake a breeze to cut when serving. It isn’t overly thick or overwhelming.

chocolatesheetcake-square

Rich Frosted Chocolate Sheet Cake

Makes one 9×13-inch cake

Ingredients:
For the cake
1 cup water
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

photo 1

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, then lightly dust with flour, dumping out any excess.

In a large pot, combine the water and butter, cooking over medium-high heat until the butter completely melts. Stir in the half-cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. Continue stirring until completely combined and the cocoa powder has dissolved. Stir in the flour, sugar, and salt into the butter mixture and bring up to boiling for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and baking soda. Stir this mixture into the chocolate/flour mixture until everything is well combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, or with just minimal crumbs on it.

In the last 15 minutes while the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. Combine the 1/4-cup of butter, milk, cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a small sauce pan. Bring up to just under boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

photo 3

Once the cake has finished baking, let the whole pan sit on a wire cooling rack for about 5 minutes, then pour the chocolate frosting mixture over the still-warm cake. Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes. If you want to sprinkle the mini chocolate chips on top for added decoration/texture/CHOCOLATE! you can do so. Serve while warm or at room temperature.

Keep the cake covered for up to 3 days, although for best quality eat the day it’s made.

photo 1

photo 2

Meatless Monday: Fettuccine Alfredo with Vegetarian Chik’n

4

Every now and then, I crave certain foods wherein I simply start off knowing, if I eat this, certainly it’ll satisfy my craving for the next year. Maybe the next 6 months. Fettuccine alfredo and homemade fried doughnuts are probably at the top of that list, hands down. If I weren’t too concerned about balancing my health and nutritional intake, perhaps I would eat doughnuts and fettuccine alfredo more frequently. Maybe even in the same day.Gasp!

But I do care, so when I give in to making either of these dishes, I know it’ll be well enjoyed. There is nothing low calorie, low butter, or low fat about fettuccine alfredo — let’s just be real.  Traditional fettuccine alfredo didn’t originally contain cream. Warm pasta was simply tossed with butter, parmesan cheese, and pepper. As the cheese melted from the heat coming from the pasta, a beautiful sauce formed. I do enjoy the rich creaminess that results in using cream, though.

I prefer dried fettuccine noodles to freshly made pasta, as the sauce is so incredibly rich that fresh pasta makes things much too heavy. Plus the dried noodles seem to hold up under this creamy sauce much better. The addition of Quorn Chik’n Tenders that have been sautéed in spices and herbs makes this a deliciously simple, filling, kid-friendly meal.

1

Fettuccine Alfredo with Vegetarian Chik’n Tenders

Serves 8-10 people.

Ingredients:
18 ounces Quorn Chik’n Tenders (one and a half bags)
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 1/2 pounds dried fettuccine noodles
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
zest and juice from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
small pinch of fresh nutmeg

6

Directions:

Prepare the Quorn Chik’n:  In a large saucepan (I use one similar to this), heat the three tablespoons of oil over medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and Quorn Tenders, gently tossing to coat everything with oil. Sprinkle in the 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, dried basil dried oregano, and red chili flakes if you’re using them, and the lemon juice. Sauté until the tenders are lightly golden brown. Remove the cooked tenders from the pan.

Prepare the pasta: Cook the fettuccine to al dente, as per the directions on the pasta packaging. Drain, reserving about a half cup of pasta cooking water.

Prepare the sauce: In the pan you used to cook the Quorn Chik’n, pour the heavy cream and milk. Add in the stick of butter (you can cut it into smaller pieces for quicker melting). Occasionally stir the mixture until the butter has completely melted. Whisk in all of the parmesan, the lemon zest, half teaspoon of black pepper, salt, parsley and nutmeg. The sauce should almost instantly begin to thicken once the cheese is added.

Finish things off: Now that the sauce is nicely thickened, gently fold in the pasta. Once all the noodles are coated with the sauce, fold in the Quorn Chik’n Tenders. Serve immediately.

*For reheating, should you have leftovers: Cream based sauces can be tricky to reheat, as separation from the butter and cream naturally begins to happen. To reheat this pasta, add a few tablespoons of milk, half and half, or cream to a large sauce pan, bringing the temperature up over medium heat. Once the milk is warm, add in the leftover cold pasta. Gently break the noodles and sauce apart (not too quickly, as it’ll become easier as the pasta and sauce warm up). Gently fold the noodles into the added milk, occasionally stirring/folding all the ingredients together until the pasta is heated through. You can add more or less milk as needed, to reach your preferred consistency.

2

3

5

Day to Day Life: Week Forty-Nine

Here is a peek at the last week:

The colors are quickly fading out. (I hope we have bare trees and snow sooner than later.)
9

A little creeper left its mark on our front porch… I’d say raccoon, due to the unpictured scattered trash everywhere, too.
8

Taco night! Both kids helped make tortillas, too.
12

This old man had to go to the vet for surgery early in the week.
7

The tumor-removal was successful. Hopefully it doesn’t grow back.
5

Colors and patterns.
10

Chicken has a daily routine. Every morning when I go to get him out of his cage, if he’s ready, he comes to the door to be lifted out. If he’s not ready, he pecks the crap out of my fingers. Next, he likes a little bit of bed-time, wherein he sits in the bed and hangs out until we go downstairs. [Insert crazy bird lady image here.]
11

Fettuccine alfredo with veggie chicken one night!
2

And… salad for good measure.
14

Here’s a fancy throwback… 16 year old Julie. With no hair. And no eyebrows. Geeze.
3

Cone of SHAME. Poor guy. But have you ever seen such a happy looking cone-wearing dog?
4

Do you remember Rice-a-Roni? You know, The San Francisco Treat? Hah! HOMEMADE RICE-A-RONI!
1

I love fall/winter squash season! Roasted butternut squash (“fancy squash” according to Vincent) for lasagna.
6

Homemade seitan, turned into two meals: baked cornflake seitan one night and BBQ seitan the next night!
13