Sunday, November 11, 2012

Annabelle Leigh

Four years ago we welcomed a little girl, Annabelle Leigh.
If there was ever a match made in heaven, it's her being matched with us. We are peas in a pod. Actually, Baby D & I may be the peas in her pod. Sometimes in life, you get what you need. Other times, you get what you want. Only once in a lifetime though, comes an Annabelle Leigh.
Already best friends
She is sensitive. A raised voice directed towards her and it's a flood of tears.
She is a cowboy boot wearing, red lipstick toting, tangled hair flowing, stubborn as a mule kind of girl.
She is a marketing firm's dream. There is not a televised product she wouldn't purchase if given the chance.
She is content. She loves a Friday movie night on the couch, made all the more perfect by a run to Dollar General for candy & 'homemade cookies' aka Chips Ahoy.

Showing off her painted pumpkins
Things she loves: Tom & Jerry, sausage pizza, lollipops, horses, flying in airplanes, King of Lion, Coca-Cola, painting, watching Dak play football, Spongebob, chicken, Las Vegas, french fries, licking the batter bowl, scary movies, Rio, exercise, bacon, changing Eddie's diapers, nice hotels, balloons, strawberries & cuddling.

Halloween as a queen...a nice one. 
She apologizes to me often for growing taller. "I'm sorry Mommy, but I have to grow bigger just like you. I'm sorry, but I have to, don't be sad." She says this as she gently strokes my hair & face. It's all I can do to not burst into tears immediately.
She is someone I'm glad to know and I'm so thankful I am her mom. I love you Annabelle.

Cuddle friends

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ad Hoc Brownies

Who doesn't like a brownie? If you don't, then that makes me a little sad.

I'm assuming you are still reading, so my second question is, are you an edge or middle person? Some people like the inside part of the brownies. Maybe you fancy the piece where the brownie is extra moist, super soft, chewy, sticky & has a chance to be a little underdone.

But I fancy an edge, and if I get really lucky, I snag a corner. Nobody puts this baby in a corner, unless I've got a corner brownie to keep me happy. Have you heard of this pan? It was my Christmas present a couple years ago, & the most expensive pan I own. It is also worth every penny.

So when I received my new Thomas Keller book Ad Hoc at Home, I was super excited to try the brownie recipe. Chef Keller uses a 9 inch silicon mold, which I might use if I was making brownies to please everybody. But right now, momma needs an edge brownie, and that's just what I'm gonna do.

Ad Hoc Brownies

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter (cut into 1 tablespoon pieces)
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
6 ounces 61-64% chocolate (chopped into chip-sized pieces, about 1 1/2 cups)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder & salt.  Set aside.

Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat & put the remaining butter in a medium sized bowl to the side. 
This butter is patiently waiting

Pour the melted butter over the bowl of butter and stir until creamy. 
Melted butter over cooled butter

Using a paddle attachment, mix together the eggs & sugar on medium speed for three minutes - the mixture should be thick & pale. Add the vanilla. On low speed add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/3 of the butter and continue to alternate. 

Thick & pale...this might describe someone I know, but I'm not saying
Add the chocolate and mix to combine. 

Note: it says the batter can be stored up to 1 week. I've never in my life made batter and NOT baked it immediately, but you never know.

Spread batter evenly in the pan. 

The batter is a little challenging to get in this pan, but well worth it. 
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan until the brownies are a bit warmer than room temperature. Run a knife through the edges, invert the pan. Cut into 12 rectangles & dust the tops with powdered sugar before serving. 

Store in an airtight container for up to two days. 

These brownies are super delicious and well buttery. If you're going to splurge with these guys, buy the better butter. Trust me, it makes a difference and a few bucks goes a long way. Below are some pictures of the complicated clean-up process. It's hard to be on the dish washing crew sometimes. Enjoy!
Clean up is easy

This is my sous chef, actually I am the sous chef. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hail State

I've never been one to have school spirit, and that is a gross understatement. But now, I am a Mississippi State bulldog fan! My cousin, #15, Dak Prescott is a freshman quarterback attending MS State. If you know me, you are aware I know nothing about football. Yet, I found myself at work using the phrase, "dual threat" when speaking of Dak. I've learned a thing or two this football season, so let's recap.

It's a long way to Mississippi from Central Texas, so we stop in Shreveport to settle down, rest & meet Aunt Peggy, Dak's mom, then it's Mississippi bound. We've been to two games and headed back for two more before the end of the season. It's loud, crazy, full of cowbells and a total blast.
We went to the season opener in Starkville, and were there to see Dak's first SEC touchdown. Here's the proof.

I've learned a few things on these road trips. 
1. You can't buy your own cowbell, it's considered bad luck.
2. We don't say "Ole Miss" in Starkville. It's called, "the school up north." The bulldogs are THE Mississippi school.
3. Dak can run the ball. 
4. Hotel pools can turn your navy colored bathing suit gray. No, I will not post a picture.
5. Ed makes a mess at a continental breakfast.
6. Bring cash for parking, duh. Actually double duh. 
7. The iPad is the greatest investment we've made in recent history. As Derek says, "we invested in our sanity."
8. You get what you pay for when it comes to hotels. Enough said. 
9. I feel a little special when pizza is delivered poolside at a hotel. Big pimpin' baby. 
10. Annabelle says "Ont" not "Ant" when saying Aunt Peggy. 
11. Mississippi State football games are a blast! We've had the best time. 

The man we are there to see #15 - Intensity baby!

Ed making friends in the stands

Ed & myself enjoying the Jackson State game

Family shot after the game

Stopping at the Mississippi/Louisiana State Line

Ed & myself in front of the mighty Mississippi

Aunt Peggy & Annabelle aka 2 of the biggest Bulldog fans

Look at that form! Hail State. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Coconut Zucchini Muffins

Okay, enough with that sappy anniversary stuff. I'm hungry, and I'm on a zucchini kick.

'Tis the season for zucchini; it's everywhere. Who hasn't had zucchini bread? I needed something different. Luckily my friends at King Arthur Flour have got me covered with my addiction.

Alright, I almost took the easy way out with these muffins. I thought to myself...these don't really need a glaze do they? Actually toasting coconut? Last time I did that it burned- badly. That pan was hard to clean. Then I thought, okay, there's a reason the recipe is written this way and let's give it a go. First of all, the toasted coconut smells amazing. I know there are some folks who don't like coconut & I used to be one of you. Have you tried it toasted? If not, then my guess is you are missing out. And the aroma....much better than any Glade or Scentsy product I've ever come across. The muffins are very tasty, not too dense, but the star is the glaze with the toasted coconut. Completely worth the extra effort. Here's the recipe.   
Naked muffin! 
Our glaze to the left and the toasted coconut to the right
The glaze needs to be a little runny...otherwise it would be called icing
Small hands roll it in the coconut
The same little hands place it just so!
So delicious!

Sure sure, zucchini is a healthy vegetable. You can steam it, grill it, saute it, but baking with it is more fun. I promise.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nueve Anos

Nine years of marriage might sound insignificant when compared to ten. Nine years is still a lot & I love a reason to celebrate & reflect. As a fan of John Keats, I thought I would write a public declaration to my partner. It's no 'Bright Star,' but allow me to indulge my inner romantic. This is for Baby D.

My "Top 9 List"

1. You understand me completely - for someone such as myself, this is no easy feat.

2. You pick up my slack - when I am not cutting it, you come in and step it up for me.

3. We laugh at the same things - however ridiculous, I am thankful for our thousands of inside jokes.

4. You are a hard worker - you've helped give us an amazing life.

5. You gave me my kids - enough said, they are the best.

6. I trust you - a lot of people don't have this - that makes me very sad, as it is our base for everything.

7. You are right - when I question things, which is often, you are right -you've never steered me wrong.

8. You are there without question - whenever I call, baby you roll up - just like Wiz

9. I love you more than ever - I honestly didn't think I could, but alas, I love you exponentially more.

For two fools who rushed in, it looks like some things are meant to be. Cheers to 99 more!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Put it in the Oven for Baby & Me

As I was made this recipe tonight, I was thinking about my love of baking. My parents & grandmothers taught me how to bake. With my mom, it was Christmas cookies for neighbors. With my dad, it was pizza doughs & salvaging my mistakes. I learned what a pastry blender was from my Mammy. Because of my Grandma, I always unplug the mixer before grabbing the beaters - always!

 I know music is super important to teach children because it helps them learn math, but baking isn't any joke. Many life lessons can be found in the kitchen & here are a few I've learned.

Make sure you have all your ingredients BEFORE you begin.
You need to measure liquids and solids differently. 
Baking soda and baking powder are different.

Pack that brown sugar.
Underestimate your cooking time - you can always bake longer.
If it gets messy, as evidenced, no worries - it can be cleaned.

You cannot rush butter to cool to room temperature.
It is near impossible to add ingredients once the baking process has begun.
Crack an egg in a separate bowl, it's easier to remove any unexpected shells that way. 

Never think butter and margarine are interchangeable - NEVER.
Know the importance of a cooling rack.
Only knead dough what is necessary. 

Get at eye level to make sure your measurements are correct.
Substitutions will work, but they are rarely as good as the original.
Don't trust a spice lid to stay on - measure to the side of your main bowl.

Adapt - Use a fork instead of a whisk.
The letter b is very important, especially in conjunction with t,s & p.
After your hard work, you get to lick the bowl & beaters.

I always try to have Annabelle & Ed in the kitchen when we are baking. Derek's specialty is whole-wheat pizza dough and Annabelle enjoys measuring, stirring and pouring. I hope they can learn from us as I did from my family. What are your baking successes? What's your favorite thing to bake?
I'm always a sucker for doughnuts, especially with white icing & sprinkles.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Puff Pastry Adventures

My mom happened upon a puff pastry recipe just before New Year's Eve. As an avid fan of Top Chef, I've seen puff pastry used on several challenges -  mainly the ones where the chef goes home for using store-bought ingredients. The particular recipe was for spinach cheese spirals, and I must say it looked right up my alley.

Luckily, my dad bought us a box of puff pastry and a box of phyllo dough. For those of you who are not "in the know" when it comes to pastry/dough variety, puff pastry is like a thick pillsbury dough - easy to work with & roll out, whereas phyllo dough is composed of tiny, tissue paper thin sheets of dough that will make you question your sanity. Although delicious, particularly with baklava, phyllo dough can be a challenge for sure.

The spinach cheese spirals turned out well enough with the phyllo dough, & I saved the puff pastry for another recipe I stumbled upon - Raspberry & White Chocolate Hand Pies

After the challenges working with the phyllo dough, I was on pins and needles with the puff pastry, but it was a total breeze. I easily rolled it out, & cut 12 circles out of each sheet. Annabelle & I mixed cream cheese, sugar, & white chocolate chips. We plopped out about a tablespoon of this mixture onto the circles, then she diligently counted out three fresh raspberries to place on top.

Topless hand pies!
We brushed the sides with egg wash and closed them up. Like any pie, we stuck three holes in the top, and in the oven they went.

Hand model Baby D  
I would like to say I shared these with neighbors, co-workers & friends, but we didn't. We ate them all - every last one of them. They were buttery, crisp, juicy & since they contain fruit, I consider them a health food.
Literally bursting with flavor
Something that's great about this recipe is you could easily change out ingredients. I've thought about using dark chocolate & raspberries or white chocolate with blueberries or strawberries or even pineapple & honey. What ideas might you have to make some puff pastry pies? Whatever they are, totally try it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


We made two trips to Louisiana in one month; no wonder I'm a little tired.

Our first trip was for a senior dance recital for my cousin Bailey. She did an awesome job & her twin Stephen even participated in the final dance as her partner. Annabelle had so much fun. She was mimicking the dance moves in the audience; especially the butterfly dance. Ed even watched most of it!
Ed, Bailey & Myself after recital
Earlier this year, Sir Edward met some of the Ebarb women, but he hadn't me one guy yet - my Paw Paw. So, they met and fell in love. Here's the proof.
Ed & Paw Paw getting to know each other
Ed also picked up a football for the first time. Who better to show him around a football than these two guys? How about Dak, who plays for Mississippi State University? Or Jace, who played football at Northwestern University in Louisiana?
Ed & cousin Dak sharing offensive strategies
Ed & Cousin Jace at Bailey & Stephen's graduation
We stayed at our old friend Ms. Mary's house. She's known me my whole life and was amazing enough to put up with all four of us on two different occasions. We love you!
Ms. Soileau & Annabelle watching cartoons
Someone else met Ed for the first time. Ms. Peggy- oh wait, don't call her that, Aunt Peggy will suffice. She is one of my favorite people ever and I am trying to remember one time I've ever been around her where I haven't had fun, and...I can't remember. That's because she is awesome and hilarious. Ed seemed to fall in love with her too.
Looking like twins at Red Lobster
Traveling all the way to Louisiana will make you tired. Mammy took advantage of one of the few sleep & cuddle opportunities Ed gives.
Mammy & Ed resting up
Something crazy happened at the dance recital. Baby Ed turned into a flesh eating zombie with a particular affinity for eyeballs. Lucky for us, he quickly recovered.

Annabelle trying to fend off an attack from Ed 
  Life is busy, and sometimes you don't get to see the people you love very often. Well, below are two ladies I love and miss very much & I try to cherish the time I spend with them- two of my aunts.
Peggy, Me & Valrie -  a little washed out, but still looking good!
To quote the most talented Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." I need to be reminded of that sometimes.