Autumn’s First Birthday

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Our little sweet Bean turned 1 just two weeks ago… how has it already been that fast?!?

We had a wonderful time with friends and family as we celebrated at home the weekend before her birthday.

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It meant so much to us that our families came up to visit and celebrate, with my mom and dad traveling from Florida, my brother and sister from CT, and Price’s family from central NY and NH.

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Oh, this melts me.

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Our farm theme party had cupcakes that were decorated like apples, a veggie patch (crudite platter), muddy tracor wheels (chocolate dipped Oreos), haybales (rice krispie treats), chicken feed (popcorn), Ham and Cheese Sliders, cheese and crackers on our piggy cutting board that Price’s dad made, and chili to serve on top of corn bread muffins. We decorated with a custom made poster, some bales of hay, and burlap banners. Plus, I cut out some barnyard animals from the cricut, placed them on the bookcase that morning, and forgot to put up. Story of my life. ha!

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As much as Autumn enjoyed all the action she still needed her afternoon nap so we then sang to her and cut the cake for everyone to enjoy. An hour later, she woke up happy & refreshed to tear into her wonderful, generious presents.

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I really wish we had more pictures, we were just having a blast that I kept putting down the camera and enjoying it all instead of snapping pics. I always struggle with getting the right amount of pictures with everyone and being a part of the action.

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Then on her actual birthday, I brought a cake with her to daycare to share with all her little buddies there. I made a golden yellow cake with a pink buttercream frosting. I heard a full (loud) report from the kids when I went to pick her up that they loved it. And got to see a little video of them singing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ in english and spanish over and over again. She was all bouncy and clapped along. She just loved being in the spotlight that day.

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And just because we wanted some pictures of Autumn with some cake, I went to a local cupcake shop down the road from my office and got her a carrot cake cupcake.

We set her up with that cupcake, and her cute little birthday hat that she recieved as a gift, but she since she had just inhaled more than an avocado for dinner she wasn’t too interested in anything besides the frosting. Which worked out fine as Price and I then split it. ha!

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We had such a fun time celebrating her birthday. Autumn loved the extra attention from her family, friends, and daycare buddies. Oh, the singing, she couldn’t get enough of the singing. Oh little kids, they kill me!

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Quick Apple and Pecan Cinnamon Swirl Cake Bars

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I always told myself that I’d never have a fake Christmas tree.

It just didn’t jive with me. I couldn’t imagine not going to buy one and the smell. Oh, the smell is the best part!

But…

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We now have a fake tree up in our living room.

First I got a pre-lit fake Christmas tree. And now it’s already up before Thanksgiving. What is going on here?!?

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You see, we found a great 6 1/2 foot pre-lit tree for under $100 that was just too good of a deal to pass up. So what?

Well, our place is itty bitty so we’d have to get a small tree, which is still pretty pricey here so the fake tree is actually a good investment. We figure that it will pay itself off in like 3 years. Plus, we already have a hard time just keeping our heads straight so I can’t imagine us properly managing watering it, which if you don’t do properly just makes it drop more needles, which means you need to vacuum even more! Yes, I’ll miss the smell of the fresh tree but I always have so many candles going that I’ll get over it.

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Okay, so the tree is up and lit. I’m staring at it right now. It just doesn’t have any ornaments on it. We’ll get to that this week. It’s only been up since Sunday night so it’s not like it’s just been hanging out naked in our living room for all that long. Besides, that is when I think Autumn will be interested in it, so far so good. We’ll just have to see how things go when it’s all decorated.

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I guarantee that you’ll have as much luck holding back when it comes to these bars as will Autumn when it comes to ornament hanging on the tree.

Promises!

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The majority of the cake is from a boxed mix. Cheater! Yep, a boxed mix. But you are jazzing it up with the apple and pecan, which go so well with the cinnamon topping. And, of course, the glaze too! The added apple and pecans add a lot of fun fall favors- which we are still technically in, although it’s been getting ‘winter’ cold lately.

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Oh man, looking at this just makes me drool. I should run out to the store to get another box of quick bread mix. And then grab another so I always have one on hand to whip this up whenever the craving hits.

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Quick Apple and Pecan Cinnamon Swirl Cake Bars

Makes 16 squares

Ingredients

  • 1 17.4oz package of Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread Mix AND ingredients per box
  • 1 -2 apples, should yield 1 heaping cup when chopped
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Process

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Mix the quick bread mix according to the package instructions.
  3. Peel and chop the apple. Add the apple pieces and pecans to the prepared batter.
  4. Pour half of the batter in a 8″ x x 8″ greased baking pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the packaged cinnamon mixture. Pour the remaining batter over the layer of cinnamon topping. Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon topping on the batter.
  5. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Let cool and drizzle the glaze on the cooled bar bars. Cut into 16 equal sized squares.
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Apple and Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing- SRC

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I have a funny story.

It happened on Saturday, but it all starts with something that happened on Thursday. Kinda. Sorta.

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See, on Thursday our wonderful dog walker emailed me asking for me to call her. She wanted to let me know that Kemper’s left eye was all puffy. Not the eye actually, but all around it. Top and bottom lid. My poor bug eyed dog was even more bug eyed. It looked like he was punched. Well, a trip to the vet later, he was having an allergic reaction to something. Nothing in his diet or in the environment changed. Nothing that we could think of. So, he had to get a benadryl shot and keep taking it 3x a day for 3 days, plus pepcid for his stomach as allergic reactions will often upset their stomach. (The things you learn.)

Fast forward 24 hours to Friday night and my stomach starts itching. No big. It’s the winter. My skin is dry.

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Then it’s Saturday morning and my feet and hands start itching. My hands get splotchy and a bit puffy, enough to take my ring off. So while Kemper is getting Benadryl dose I take a pill too. What the hell is going on!?!? Anyway, Autumn and I then go grocery shopping. Enough of a distraction for me to stop scratching my palms. By the time we got home it was time for Autumn’s nap so I put her down and then got the perishables away. I was crashing so I figured I’d take a 5 minute catnap, or maybe a 15 minute nap. I’m usually great at getting myself up at a certain time, but I didn’t do so well as I woke up at 10.40. And panicked. Why? Because I had to make mac and cheese to bring over to our friend’s house for 1pm. I sprung up and stumbled into the kitchen while freaking out ‘How did you let me sleep so late? I gotta make mac and cheese. We are never gonna get to Mark and Allie’s on time!!!” “Umm, we’re going there tomorrow…” And so there we were. So I took a deep breath, stumbled back to the sofa and fell back asleep.

And that is why you should buy NON-DROWSY Benedryl. Noted.

Now it’s time to discuss this amazing side dish.

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For this month’s Secret Recipe Club post I was given Sarah’s blog Curious Cuisiniere. Sarah shares her adventures; whether it’s in the kitchen, traveling or her recent bakery position.  It all makes for well balanced blog with wonderful recipes including the one I chose for this months SRC.

Sarah shares hundreds of recipes, thankfully all very well organized. I enjoyed browsing through them as she shares a unique range of dishes from all different cultures. As I had been focusing on Thanksgiving recipes I picked her Apple and Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing as it sounded easy to make – just about 30 minutes- and really flavorful with the layers of flavors from the apples, mushrooms, raisins, and, of course, the wild rice.

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This Apple and Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing is the perfect side dish for Thanksgiving.  It’s off the beaten path which will make for a tasty alternative to stuffing but goes great with roasted turkey or other fowl.  The earthy texture and filling taste of the dish makes for a hearty side for tummy and palette.  The wild mushrooms mixed with the apples and long grain rice are a wonderful combination.

I changed things up a bit by using fresh mushrooms, as opposed to canned. But the recipe was so great that there was little personalizing needed. I did garnish the stuffing with chopped pecans and dried cranberries but you can leave it plain. Or you might even want to add some pecans into the rice. I love pecans but Autumn doesn’t do too well when nuts are mixed into things. She just spits them out. ha!

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Apple and Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing

Makes roughly 2 quarts

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups water
  • 1/2 Cup wild rice
  • 1 Cup white rice
  • 2 Tablespoos butter, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon chicken broth
  • 8 ounces of baby bella mushrooms, white button mushrooms are okay too
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (approximately 1 Cup)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped (approximately 1 Cup)
  • 1 medium green apple, cored and chopped (approximately 1 Cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 Cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 Cup raisins
  • 3 Tablespoons parsley, dry
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, ground dry
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Process

  1. In a large sauce pan, mix water and wild rice and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered for 5 min. Add white rice, turn the heat down to low, and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender, but not overcooked. Note: You may have some water left over in the pot when the rice is tender, simply transfer the rice to a strainer to eliminate the excess liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon chicken broth over medium heat. Cook until browned and reduced in size, approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove from the skillet.
  3. Add 1 Tablespoon butter to the skillet. Once melted, add the onion and celery. Sautee for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 Tablespoon chicken broth and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the apples, and garlic and sauté an additional 3-4 min. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the onion mixture to rice along with remaining stuffing ingredients.
  5. Stuffing is ready to serve, or be stuffed inside a turkey.

Inspired by Curious Cuisiniere

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Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

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MAYDAY PEOPLE!!!

We are now less than a week from Thanksgiving. It’s the Super Bowl of food. I’m sure I could come up with something about how the QB is the turkey and the special teams is dessert, but that would be ridiculous as there are times when I barely understand football and, well, it’s just lame. Oh, look I did it… I’m lame.

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I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving but I’m mainly looking to the time off of work. FOUR DAYS! And I just can’t wait to watch the parade followed up by the dog show.

Sure, the food is great but it’s a whole hell of a lot of work. The turkey isn’t that bad in terms of prep & active cooking time but it’s all the sides. And the sides are the best part. Spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole. Nothing is too difficult buy you just have to plan, prep, and cook according so that it’s all ready at the right time. TA-DA!!!

I feel that Thanksgiving is also about the appetizers. That might be my favorite part of Thanksgiving. I love snacking so I love snagging some Swedish meatballs, pepperoni, veggies and dip, and cheese and crackers. I love it so much that I’m barely hungry when it comes time for dinner. And forget about dessert. Stuffed.

So I’m enjoying my dessert early!

I totally enjoyed having a slice of this Double Chocolate Pecan Pie while staying up late to work on a deadline this week. It made staying up to work on it pretty enjoyable. Have a bite. Write some sheet notes. Have a bite. Tag elevations. And so on.

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This pecan pie is for the chocolate lovers in your life. There are chocolate chips and chocolate liqueur in the pie. Unlike Bourbon Pecan Pie, you don’t really taste the booze. It doesn’t have that kick like the bourbon, just a nice smooth chocolate flavor.

I suggest that if you make the pie a day or so in advance that you put it back in the oven on a low temperature (200 degree or so) just to gently warm it up so that chocolate just gets ooey gooey again. Then you top it off with some whip cream. I added some of the chocolate liqueur to my whipping cream before I beat it. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

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Pecan Pie is Prices favorite Thanksgiving food. I love the appetizers. What are you most looking forward to?

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Double Chocolate Pecan Pie

Makes a 9″ Pie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup sugar
  • 1/4 Cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 Ccup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 Cup chocolate liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces chopped pecans
  • 3/4 Cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 purchased frozen deep-dish 9-inch pie crust, or a homemade crust
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 2 Tablespoons chocolate liqueur

Process

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Beat thesugar and butter in medium bowl until smooth; beat in flour. Gradually beat in the eggs, corn syrup, then chocolate liqueur, and vanilla extract. Mix in chopped pecans and chocolate chips. Pour filling into crust.
  3. Bake pie until filling is puffed around edges and just set in cente, about 45 minutes. Cover the pie crust edge if browning too quickly.
  4. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
  5. Beat the cream and chocoalte liqueur in a medium bowl until peaks form. Serve with the pecan pie.

Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit | December 1996

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Dear Autumn @ 12 months

Dear Autumn- 12 months

November 2014

Dear Autumn-

As every month, nay, as every day passes I am constantly pinching myself that you have been brightening up our lives for how ever long it has been at that point.

We couldn’t believe that you were arriving a week earlier than scheduled. Oh, sure, we always knew they could have moved up my C-section or even that I would go into labor before the 25th, but we had that day circled so that’s what it was going to be! Wrong!

So there I sat dumbfounded saying ‘sure… today works…’ when my doctor told me that they wanted to move things up a week. But, maybe, I couldn’t fit in that day? The hospital would call me later to let me know if you were arriving that night or the morning of the 19th. La-la-la. So I headed back to work to just wait for the hospital to call. I didn’t want to miss out on working that day as I wanted to eek out every bit of maternity leave that I could. So there I am packing up my desk and tying up loose ends when the hospital called at lunch time to ask if I could be there in an hour. Umm, no! Well, there had been a misunderstanding as to who was calling me when related to fitting me in. Whoops.

Anyway, I run out of work (forgetting my coat!) and meet your Dad at the train to get a cab ride home. We threw stuff in a bag – see so unprepared. And left as fast as we could to arrive at the hospital. Surprisingly, we did make good time considering how crazy things had just been.

Thankfully, we breezed through the hospital check-in and head up to the delivery floor to start the process of getting paperwork filled out, IV’s in, getting undressed and in a gown. Oh, Dad had to get dressed up in scrubs too! Before we knew it they were ready for me to head to surgery. Oh boy!

It was scary to head into surgery on my own but I had to get all prepped before Dad could come in. In the end, it didn’t take to long (or so it seemed) to get my spinal and get all set up before he was right by my side. As things were about to begin I told him to talk to me so that I would be distracted from the surgery, like anything really could really distract me, but I just wanted something to kinda take my mind off the rapid firing that my brain was doing as I was trying to listen to your first cry.

And there it was at 4.59pm.

I felt the biggest relief to hear that. The most beautiful sound in the world.

And yet, I was still so utterly nervous. Not because you were born, that was amazing. But because of your omphalocele. The team of doctors that were waiting your arrival checked you out and basically said that it was no big deal. What?!?! That was such wonderful news. It was so hard to believe still. We had been prepped that there there was a chance that we wouldn’t get to hold you for a few days if the omphalocele was complex. But there you were, all wrapped up, getting handed over to us while they completely my surgery. I was so petrified to touch you, but it was the best feeling ever at the same time.

That feeling has never left. I’m usually afriad I’m screwing up along the way but seeing you grow and learn along the way really is the best feeling ever. You are beautiful but you are smart, funny, and charming. You are a flirt, waving to everyone at the grocery store. You love the attention. You are such a happy baby. And a fearless one. Half the stuff you try to climb over makes me so nervous. I know that once you are walking you will be off running. Until then you are a lightening fast crawler. I think you get all the engery from all the different foods you happily eat. At least you do a good job of burning it off since you are still so ‘danty’!

The past year has been amazing. I know that next year, and all the ones to follow, are going to be wonderful. You are such a lovely little girl. Our Bean. Our Autumn. Our Little Chicken. Our Doops. We love you so very much.

Love,

Mom

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