Monday, December 29, 2008

Pupcake Masterpieces

My niece Maddie came to spend the night with me last night. We had a blast as usual. The child wears me out! One of her most favorite things to do is bake and decorate cupcakes or "pupcakes" as she calls them. We were able to get a few decorated before the decorations began to disappear. Now I don't know who could have been eating you?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Peanut Butter Candy Bar Squares

I found this recipe recently on one of my favorite food blogs to read, Bake or Break.  It is supposed to be made with leftover Halloween candy, but I have to admit that I went out and bought the candy just for this because they looked so good.  My picture doesn't look half as good as the ones that she has posted on her site, but I am sure that they taste just as good.  They were a huge  hit with my family and friends that ate them. I will definitely be filing this recipe away for the future.  

Peanut Butter Candy Bar Squares 
adapted from

16 oz package of Nutter Butter Cookies, crushed
1/2 cup butter, melted
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tbl of vanilla extract
7 1/2 oz of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, chopped (I think that I did around 10 cups)
4 oz of Butterfinger Bars, chopped (this is around 7)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts

- Preheat your oven to 350
- Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray
- Combine the Nutter Butter's and butter and press into the bottom of the pan
- Bake for 6 - 8 minutes 
- While crust is cooling, chop your candy
- After the crust is cool, combine the sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, and vanilla in a bowl
- Sprinkle candy, chocolate chips and peanuts over the crust.  Drizzle with the milk and peanut butter mixture
- Bake for 25-27 minutes


Friday, October 31, 2008

My Memaw

Well it has been a really long time since I have posted something on this blog. My life has been absolutely insane and continues to be so. I finally moved into my house after what seemed like forever. The entire house process pretty much consumed my time over the past 2 months. (Pictures and post to come...)

The thing that my Family and I have been dealing with more over the past 2 weeks is the death of my Grandmother, who I called Memaw. Memaw had just celebrated her 80th birthday in August. She was one of the kindest and strongest people that I have ever known. She battled everything from diabetes, vision problems, hip problems, etc since I was in middle school. She continued to live on her own until the day that she passed away and it ceases to amaze me how she made it through the ordinary things in life when you take into account all of the cards that were stacked up against her.

On the Sunday before she passed, she began to have some chest discomfort and other pains in her arms and back. The Doctor set her up to have testing done on the following Thursday on her heart. While at the hospital doing the tests on Thursday, the Doctors quickly determined that she had had a heart attack. They were planning to admit her and do surgery that afternoon. While doing additional testing, she passed out and had another heart attack. They were not able to revive her.

I have never lost anyone this close to me in my life. I have truly never felt that kind of pain before...and I continue to have rough days. The hurt is nothing like I have ever experienced. I consistently talked to my Memaw when I was driving in he car...even if it was for hours at a time while I was traveling on vacation or to visit my best bud, Elisabeth in PA. Not talking to her on the phone has been the hardest thing for me to adjust to and I don't think that I have still gotten over that.

It was no secret that Memaw loved her family and friends. She was so proud of all of us. She would worry and fuss over me when she didn't like something that I had planned or was doing. She always asked about her great grandkids...she loved them sooo much. I hate that they will not be able to grow up knowing her.

There are many things that I will remember my Memaw by. These are just a few and are in no particular order:
- My phone conversations with her. I miss them so much already.
- Taking her to lunch/dinner and then pushing her around in her wheelchair in the Mall.
- Her teaching me how to bake. I am so thankful for this because I am able to now carry on the traditions that she had.
- How she played the piano
- Her coming to a movie with me years ago and sitting through it even though she couldn't see it.
- How happy that she was at her 80th birthday party.
- How much pride that she took in her family.
- How she called me Precious.
- How she always said, "Well Louise!!" when she messed something up or couldn't see something.
- I will always remember her coming to my house and seeing it the week before she died. You can't imagine how thankful that I am that she got to see it.

Memaw was a very special lady to many people. She is going to be so missed. I take comfort in knowing that I will see her again one day. I pray that God allows for me to be as strong and loving as she was. She was a true blessing on my life.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Attempt at Key Lime Pie

I am not a big citrus dessert fan. Lemon bars, cake, and pie just don't do much for me. My Mom loves Key Lime Pie and she recently sent me a subliminal message by cutting out a Key Lime Pie recipe out of a magazine and leaving it on the kitchen counter. So I gave in...

I honestly do not know what magazine it was out of, but I believe it was out of Woman's Day. My only negative things to say about it are that the pie didn't stay on the springform pan too well. it almost slid off. I think that this is because the recipe didn't call for enough butter in the graham cracker crust so it didn't stay together well. Mine also didn't turn out with as dark of a green tint as the picture out of the magazine did. I do not believe that this affected the taste.

You can easily make this recipe reduced fat by replacing things like cream cheese, sour cream, etc with their reduced fat or fat free options. Since I don't eat a lot of citrus desserts, I do not know if this is considered a great recipe. I think that it does taste good. It is tart (which I believe it is supposed to be) and very rich. My favorite part is the whip cream/sour cream topping. I guess that is evidence of my dessert preferences. :-) My mom absolutely loved this though and already wants me to make another.

Key Lime Pie
adapted from Woman's Day Magazine version

7 graham crackers, crumbled
1 1/2 TBL butter, melted (I suggest using a little more to hold the crust together)
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whipped topping (I used Cool Whip)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

- Combine graham crackers and butter in a bowl. Mix well.
- Spray a 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Press the crumb mixture into bottom of the pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
- Combine the lime juice and zest into a microwave save bowl. Sprinkle with unflavored gelatin.
- In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese until well softened. Add the sweetened condensed and blend well.
- Microwave the lime juice mixture for 20 seconds. Add to the cream cheese mixture and blend well
- Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes
- Remove pie from refrigerator. In a medium sized bowl, mix whipped topping, sour cream, and confectioners sugar. Spread on top of pie.
- Refrigerate pie for 2 hours before eating. I found that the longer it stays in there, the better it will stay together.
- If you want to make it pretty, garnish with some thinly sliced limes.

Enjoy! Until next time...

How I Spent My Afternoon

Mom and I found a vendor at our Farmer's Market that sells some of the best corn we have ever had.  Our family went through 2 dozen ears of it last week.  This week we got 52 ears of it with the plans to freeze some and of course eat some too.  So far I have gotten through half of the corn and plan to do the rest tonight.  I shuck it and clean it and blanch it for a few minutes in boiling water.  I then cool it in cold water and cut it off of the ear.  I place it in quart size freezer bags.  A quart size freezer bag should be enough to feed the 6 of us.  I just love the fresh vegetables of summer...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Zucchini Bread

One of my favorite parts of the summer is all of the fresh produce options that are out there. My sister Lindsey and her husband Joel have a garden and one of the plants that they have that always produces a lot of vegetables is zucchini. One of the fun ways that I like to use up this surplus is to make zucchini bread. This super easy recipe is from my grandmother, Memaw. I honestly do not know where she originally got the recipe, but I remember her making this years ago when I was little. The zucchini and then the addition of the pineapple keep this bread really moist. The recipe makes two loaves and I have also made muffins with it before. It is very inexpensive to make...especially if you already have the zucchini.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 cup crushed pineapple with some juice
2 TBL vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour
2 cups grated zucchini

- In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
- Grate zucchini to equal 2 cups. I find that it typically takes 2 large or 3 medium zucchini.
- In a large bowl beat the eggs
- Add the sugar, oil and vanilla and beat together
- Stir in the pineapple, zuchinni, and nuts
- Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients 1/3 at a time. Stir well after each addition
- Distribute evenly between 2 greased loaf pans
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Just watch until it is firm on top and bounces back when you touch it.

My favorite way to serve this is to spread a little bit of butter on top. Yum!!
Enjoy! Until next time...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gorgeously Green

I just finished reading Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano. I first heard about her on Oprah before I stopped watching the show. Another post another time... I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was so informative. The book is super easy to read and Sophie kept me engaged throughout the entire book.

In the past I have been the first person to change the channel, turn the page or surf to another website if anyone started talking about environmental topics. The phrase "going green" would grate on my last nerve. Over the past few months I have done some research and in conjunction with reading this book have come up with my own opinion on all of this "going green" stuff flying around out there.

Do I think that the world is going to come to an end and that all of the ice in the world is going to melt because of global warming? No. Do I think that we need to do a better job at eating more natural foods, conserve energy and eliminate some of our waste by recycling? Yes...absolutely. It is insane when you think about the amount of highly processed foods that we eat. We are ingesting so many foreign chemicals into our bodies that they don't even know what the long term effects are going to be. I do not think that we have seen the tip of the iceberg on the diseases that some of our young people will have years down the road.

So how do I feel is the best way for me to go green? (And everyone is different)

1. Eat as many natural, organic foods as you can. These foods have been grown and treated without pesticides and hormones. I feel that one of the most important changes that I have made in my family is by switching to organic milk. My nieces drink a lot of milk and by switching, I have saved them from having a lot of unneeded growth hormones, etc in their milk. This is also important with vegetables because these are grown without the addition of pesticides. Buying organic can be very expensive so I encourage to look for sales and start out slow on purchasing things. I started with milk and have gradually gotten to where about half of my purchases are organic now.

2. Purchase as much local product as possible. By purchasing food from local farmers and companies you are buying things that are grown better than the mass growing factories. (which many times means that you are accomplishing #1) You are supporting local businesses and your local economy and are decreasing the amount of energy that is spent to get product to you. For example, when something is shipped from CA to VA.

3. Conserve as much energy as possible. I have made small adjustments in the way that I do things around the house to try to conserve energy. The easiest thing is to turn off the lights in rooms when you are not in them. Unplug any unessential appliances when not in use. Switch to the energy conserving curly light bulbs. And on a travel note...carpool when possible. If someone is going to the same place, why drive separate cars??

4. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle! Much of the trash that goes into the landfills will still be around for years and years to come. I promise, it is not painful at all to keep those water bottles and drop them off at the recycling center. (By the way why are you using a lot of water bottles?? Buy a reusable container!) It would surprise you to find out how many things you can actually recycle. Anything that you can do with this helps!

Well I hope that I haven't sounded too crazy with this stuff. I would have thought so a couple of months ago. I definitely see the importance of certain aspects of this now. The two key concepts with all of this is that we want the best possible things going into our bodies and then we don't want to blatently waste things like energy and things that can be recycled. It actually does make me feel very fulfilled by doing these things. I feel like I am making a difference (as small as it is) in the world and that I am hopefully helping to make a difference in my nieces lives by giving them better foods to eat.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

House Update

I finally have basement walls!!!! Hopefully things will start moving along faster now!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chicken Cacciatore

I love watching the Food Network and am always up for trying something new from shows that I watch. I recently watched an episode of Everyday Italian where Giada made Chicken Cacciatore. I have never made this dish before and I was very surprised. It was delicious. Of course, I made a couple changes but I am really happy with how it turned out. I think that one of my favorite parts of the dish are the capers. They add a great pop of flavor and they are good for you too! This has definitely been logged in my book of repeats.

Chicken Cacciatore
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

4 chicken thighs
2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
1 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
6-8 fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup white win
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons of drained capers
Red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 lb linguini (or really any other pasta you enjoy)
Grated parmesan cheese

- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dredge pieces in flour.
- In heavy saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and saute just until brown. This usually takes about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
- Add the bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, and garlic to the pan and saute over medium head until the onion is tender.
- Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (to taste)
- Add the win and simmer until reduced by half. This takes around 3 minutes
- Add the tomatoes, broth, capers, and oregano.
- Return the chicken to the pan and submerge in the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer and continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through. (About 30 minutes)
- Remove chicken to a platter. Boil the sauce until it thickens slightly
- Shred chicken and serve over pasta. Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with the basil and parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My House

I am building a house. I am so excited but scared at the same time. The opportunity came up recently for me to get an acre of land. It is beautiful land I might add. The lot is fully wooded with large trees that will provide me shade and privacy throughout the year. The land slopes just enough where it will give me a nice walk out basement. Last week my builder started clearing the land and he dug the basement yesterday. It is amazing now fast that the entire process progresses...once you start that is.

So take a look!


After Clearing...

Till next time...lots more to come.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Memaw's Favorite

My grandmother (Memaw as I call her) has been a diabetic since I was in middle school. Years ago it was hard to find good sugar free desserts for diabetics. You were basically limited to fresh fruit and jello. These days, the options have expanded quite a bit. You can get sugar free ice cream (that actually tastes fairly good), cookies, cakes, candy, etc. I have tried some different recipes for her in the past few years. Some were successful and some were not. I made her a sugar free amaretto cheesecake last year that was really good. I will post that later on...

Last year I was having Memaw over for dinner and I wanted to make her a sugar free dessert to have that we would all enjoy. I came up with this recipe that people have loved. It is very simple and you absolutely can't tell that it is sugar free...which is the point I guess. You can either do this in a 9x13 dish or in a trifle bowl, which I did here. I do have to say that the trifle bowl is definitely the prettiest way to do it.

I hope that you enjoy!

Memaw's Favorite Sugar Free Dessert

- 12 sugar free white chocolate macadamia nut cookies (I get these at the Wal-Mart bakery)
- 8 oz block of cream cheese (softened)
- Container of Sugar Free Cool Whip
- 1 large box Sugar Free - Fat Free Instant Vanilla Pudding
- 1-2 bags frozen mixed berries (usually takes 1 1/2 bags)

- Make pudding per directions on box.
- Blend cream cheese with hand mixer until very soft
- Add in pudding, 1/3 at a time and mix to blend between each addition so that you do not get clumps of cream cheese
- Add Cool Whip and mix until combined
- Crumble cookies in the bottom of the dish. If using a 9x13 pan, put all cookies in the bottom. If using a trifle dish, put half of cookies in the bottom.
- Spread pudding mixture ontop of the cookies. If using a 9x13 pan, put all of the mixture on the cookies. If using a trifle dish, put half of the mix ontop of the cookies
- Put berries on top of the cream cheese mixture. If using a 9x13 pan, put all berries ontop, If using a trifle dish, put half the berries on the layer.
- If using a trifle dish, layer the last of the cookies, pudding mix, and berries
- Keep refrigerated until ready to serve

**This would be great with other types of berries. We like the mixed because you get a little bit of everything. You could only do blueberries, strawberries, etc.

**I have also made this in the past with Sugar Free Chocolate Chip cookies when I couldn't find the white chocolate macadamia.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Beginning

So I have been thinking about starting a blog for a long time. I definitely enjoy reading other peoples blogs so why wouldn't I like writing my own? Of course, then the inevitable doubt creeps in saying, "Lori, why do you think that someone wants to read about your life?" or, "Are you worried that someone will think that you are weird after reading what you wrote?" Part of me says, who cares? I find my life interesting in its own random way.

I am a 27 year old female from Lynchburg, VA. I find enjoyment in the simple things of life (I have to in order to live in Lynchburg and actually love it). I love to cook (thus you will find as this blog will probably be half filled with my favorite recipes), am into making cards, love photography, traveling, books, and spending time with my family and friends. Two of my favorite people in the world are my neices (more of them to come). I love them so much!

I am a Project Manager at Liberty University. I have worked there for over 5 years now. The primary thing that I do is manage the implementation of one of the software system at the University. This year I got the new "adventure" of helping manage Commencement. This was definitely much different than managing software...but very fun!

We are all making it our own way through life one day at a time. We all enjoy and excel at different things. This blog is a small look into the random things that make up my life. I do not claim to be the best at grammar, spelling, or keeping you totally captivated. This is just me...I hope you enjoy.

Till next time...