Archive for December, 2013

Welcome to the last menu plan for 2013!  Can that really be true?  This year has flown right by and I don’t see 2014 going any slower.  I don’t technically make resolutions, but hopefully 2014 will be full of blessings and great accomplishments for everyone.  Yesterday, the sermon was about having vision for your future.  It doesn’t matter if it was spiritual, physical, personal or professional, but it does matter that you have a starting point and a plan.  I took a couple of hours on Saturday to do a little blog planning and have so many ideas that I want to try.  Come along for the ride and see what happens.

C & I are going to try to get back to healthier eating since our holiday parties are now over.  It is time to regroup, refocus, and hopefully get back to a routine.  What can I say, I actually like being stuck in a rut.  This week’s menu is still a little short, but it is a start.

Happy new year!

Bubble up enchiladas

Grilled steak burgers with oven fries

Grilled pork chops with butter roasted potatoes and salad

Pizza night

Plain Chicken’s chuckwagon stew (new)

Please join me at I’m An Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

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If you have never visited Bakerella’s site, please do so!  Her baked creations are absolutely beautiful and tasty as well.  Her artistic talent far exceeds mine, so usually I just browse her site for fun.  When I saw these cupcakes, I just knew I had to give them a try. 

They combine two of my favorite flavors (chocolate and peanut butter, of course) and they are pretty to look at, too.  Now I didn’t go quite as far as she did and put a homemade peanut butter cookie on top, but I did add a few peanut butter chips to the cupcake batter.

I didn’t get enough action shots for the recipes so this will be a text recipe only with some pretty finished shots thrown in.  Without further ado, I give you (drumroll, please): Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cupcakes:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cupcakes


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup cocoa

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup milk

2/3 cup hot water

1 cup peanut butter chips


1 cup butter, room temperature

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

4 cups confectioners sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

2 tbsp. milk


For Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan with liners and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.  Add the eggs, oil, vanilla and milk.  Mix together then add the hot water. Stir in the peanut butter chips. The batter will be thin. 

Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes or until done.  Cool before frosting.


Chocolate Frosting: Beat 1/2 cup butter until creamy.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla and mix.  Slowly add 2 cups of the confectioners sugar and cocoa.  Mix until combined.  Add 1 tbsp. of milk and mix until creamy and smooth. 

Peanut Butter Frosting: Beat 1/2 cup butter and 2/3 cup peanut butter until creamy.  Add 1 tsp. vanilla.  Slow add 2 cups confectioners sugar and mix until combined.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp. of milk and mix until smooth.


Here comes the fun part!  Using a decorator or zip top bag fitted with a large decorating tip, add BOTH frostings to the same bag.  Try to keep them side by side in the bag and not completely mixed together.  Frost the cupcakes with a swirl and the two frosting will mix together in the swirl.  How cool is that?  They are almost too pretty to eat.  Almost, but not quite.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cupcakes

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While browsing Pinterest one evening, I found this roast recipe from Chocolate, Chocolate and More that caught my eye.  It was a easy slow cooker recipe that used basic ingredients.  What more could you ask for? 

The only problem was that I was missing a few of those basic ingredients so I just made do with what I had.  It still turned out great and will definitely be added to my regular menu roster.

Basic Slow Cooker Roast

2 to 3 pound chuck roast

1 tbsp. vegetable oil (Oops, didn’t make the photo.)

3 tbsp. all purpose flour

3 cups low sodium beef broth

1/2 medium onion, diced

salt & pepper to taste


Preheat the slow cooker on high and spray the inside of the crock with non-stick spray.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Combine the flour with a little salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Press the roast into the flour mixture, coating both sides.

Brown the roast in the skillet for about 2 to 3 minutes per side until the outside of the roast is golden brown.



Next, put the roast into the slow cooker and add the onions and beef broth.  Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours until the meat is super tender.  Serve with your favorite side dishes and enjoy!




Basic Slow Cooker Roast

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Looking back over the last few months, I seem to be stuck on book series.  Today’s Book Beginning subject is no exception: “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” by Diana Gabaldon.  This book is part of Ms. Gabaldon’s Outlander series and, if you haven’t read these books, you don’t know what you are missing.

“The dog sensed them first.  Dark as it was, Ian Murray felt rather than saw Rollo’s head lift suddenly near this thigh, ears pricking.  He put a hand on the dog’s neck, there ridged with warning.”

These aren’t just books, but epic novels full of colorful characters and vivid descriptions of locales and lifestyles in the 18th century.  If you are a lover of historical fiction (like me), run, don’t walk, to your library and check out these books!

Please join me at Rose City Reader for Book Beginnings.

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A few of our favorite special ornaments:


I am trying to learn how to get the “bokeh” effect in photos.  It is a decent start.








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It is Monday all over again and time for another menu plan.  Is Christmas really next week, really???  I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that December is half over and a new year is rapidly approaching.  That means I really need to get to the grocery this week to buy my Christmas dinner(s) ingredients.

This past Saturday, I made three new tasty cookie recipes to give as gifts to co-workers and friends. Can’t wait to share those with you all in the coming weeks.  January may be cookie recipe month around here. 

This menu is pretty simple since the holidays are next week.  Have a great week!

Salsa sloppy Joes & oven fries

Tacos with salad

BBQ pork chops with butter roasted potatoes

Cheesy steak sandwiches with oven fries

Pizza night

Please join me at I’m An Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

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I have been participating in a monthly dessert challenge hosted by The Lady Behind The Curtain and have really enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone to try new ingredient combinations.  Unfortunately, due to the hostess’ travel plans, the December challenge has been cancelled.  I had already made my choice and it is a great pairing of two classic holiday flavors: cranberry and eggnog.

I really like cranberries, but eggnog is not really my thing so off to Google I went in search of a recipe using both ingredients that looked appealing to me.  I found this cheesecake bar recipe at Baked By Rachel and it fit the bill.  The eggnog really goes well into the cheesecake part and the cranberry swirl is delicious.  In fact, if I make this again, I may double the cranberry amount.

cranberry eggnog cheesecake bars

Cranberry puree:

1 cup whole cranberries

2 tbsp. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. water


2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. apple pie spice**

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted


20 oz. cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup eggnog

3/4 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. apple pie spice

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour

2 eggs

**The original recipe used ground nutmeg and I didn’t have any so I used apple pie spice instead.


In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, water and sugar.  Stir occasionally, cooking until all of the berries have burst.  Press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl.  Discard the berry solids.  Cover and chill the strained mixture.



Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9×13” baking dish with parchment or wax paper and spray the paper with non-stick spray.  Set aside.  Add all of the crust ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Press the dough firmly into the bottom of the prepared dish.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.


Beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.  With the mixer on low, add the eggnog, vanilla, salt, spice and flour.  Gradually increase the mixer speed while adding the eggs.  Beat until combined and no lumps remain.  Pour the filling into the prepared crust, spreading evenly.

Dollop the cranberry puree over the cream cheese layer.  Using a toothpick or knife, swirl the puree to create a pretty design.


Bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is set.  Cool in the pan until the cheesecake is room temperature then chill in the refrigerator.  After the cheesecake is chilled, carefully lift it out of the pan by the paper and slice into even squares.  Serve immediately or store chilled.

cranberry eggnog cheesecake bars

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