Thursday, December 31, 2015

Take Off The Chill Chicken Lime Soup

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Yum...spicy and refreshing!
 Happy New Year!!!

Baby it's cold outside...finally!  After a perfectly balmy Christmas, I am thrilled to have a roaring fire and a pot of soup.  This soup was exceptional, a little undertone of heat, the perky lime, and some decadence on top.  Let's start at the beginning.  I'm not a fan of Mexican restaurants.  I am not one who craves tacos, enchiladas or fajitas.  I don't drink margaritas out because I am terribly allergic to Triple Sec and just can't trust the bartenders.  I always order soup, and have found many different variations. Some have rice, some have other veggies, some are a little thicker like a chili, some have lots of broth.  A lot of them add tortilla strips, I just wasn't up to making them, and my little grocer doesn't carry them premade.

I referenced a Williams Sonoma recipe online, because I remember one published with the line of spices the stores were carrying, and it called for Mexican Oregano, which I just happen to have.  I am just guessing those spices are gone from the stores, because that recipe seems to have been removed and/or changed.  Let me tell you how I did it.  Trust me, it's fantastic. Mr. Preppy was a little concerned at first bite, but the heat is an undertone and not in your face.  He felt it was too limey, but he ate every bite.

Chicken Lime Soup

2 quarts chicken stock
1 1/2 pounds boneless Chicken
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 yellow Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
4 Carrots, peeled and diced
1-2 Jalapenos (it depends on their size, their hotness and your tastes!)
1 can diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (mine had chipotle in it)
1/4 cup sliced Black Olives
6 Tablespoons fresh squeezed Lime Juice
6 Tablespoons chopped fresh Cilantro
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
Sharp White Cheddar, shredded
Chopped Avocado
Sour Cream

I started with frozen chicken breast tenders.  I put them in a large soup pot, poured in a quart of stock and a teaspoon of Mexican Oregano and brought to a simmer, cook it slow, no boiling.  As the chicken cooked, the stock reduced.  When I could see the chicken was cooked and would shred I removed from the heat. Pour the entire contents of the pot through a sieve placed over a large bowl.  When chicken is cool enough to handle, shred and set aside.  Reserve the stock.

In the same pot, place the olive oil on medium and add onion, garlic, carrot and jalapenos.  Cook without browning, stirring frequently.  When they are soft and fragrant, add the tomatoes, the second quart of stock, the olives, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper and the shredded chicken with the reserved stock.

These are tasty with the chipotle peppers!
Fresh lime is key!

At this point all you are doing is warming it through.  When piping hot, ladle into large bowls and top with avocado, white cheddar and if it's a little spicy, sour cream.  The sour cream will break and look sort of nasty, but it will help with the heat if the jalapenos are too spicy!  You can also top with fried tortilla strips and even add a scoop of rice in the bottom of the bowl if you want a little starch.  We ate ours with crusty sourdough bread.  So, what are you waiting for?  It's finally cold, get in there and make soup!!!

Sharp White Cheddar and Avocado toppings.

Serves about 8

Monday, November 9, 2015

Catch Up!

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So where have I been?  California, Michigan, Key West, Ohio...not to mention 3 batches of company here in between.  It's all rather humorous as this is the first fall in 12 years that we don't have any volleyball to chase around.  But there's no grass growing under my feet.  I have been a baking and cooking fool mind you, just not a writing fool.  So let's catch up, shall we?

Cookies are my life these days, and after taking May off for graduation, I headed back to the kitchen.  So here's a cookie roundup.

I had an amazing week of hiking in the Park City area with some amazing friends.  I made a platter of thank you cookies for our gracious hosts, and then the other Utah cookies for my hiking buddies.  The emoji is an inside joke...

A thank you for my hosts in Park City

Everyone's favorite emoji! Mr. Preppy thinks they're kisses!!!

Cookies for my Utah hiking companions!

I've written about my mom's doctor before, and all about the cookies she makes him. So I made him his very own sugar cookies.  Lucky guy, right?

Cookies for my mom's eye doctor
 I have written about my very talented sister who finally finished the never ending Hobbit movies to DVD job.  She is a producer, and a very talented one at that.  I made these cookies, just like the first ones here,  for the final wrap party.  The elvish cookies say Farewell Friends.  I even got an email from a big wig (really big)  gushing about my cookies. Made me blush.

The Hobbit of course...
 A group of young kids were heading home after a summer working at a Young Life camp in Colorado, so I made these for them.  Cool logo, wouldn't you agree? One of them was heading back to college at Alabama so I agreed to make those cookies too.  We always have a good laugh, after Oklahoma beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, I like to tuck a little Boomer Sooner cookie in her platters!

Cookies for some Young Life campers heading home

The team everyone loves to hate!
 We had a most amazing week golfing in Michigan at Arcadia Bluffs.  Our very sweet host has a mild obsession with Minions, so I had to put a few in his tasty thank you I made him!

A Minion thank you for our host in Michigan

More from that thank you box

 Let's hear it for football season!  We had company come and we headed to Oxford to cheer on the Rebs!

Ole Miss
 And did you hear?  The Memphis Tigers were rated as high as 13!  They suffered a loss to Navy, and our rating dropped, but their 15 game winning streak was really a bright spot for the city!!!

Love those Tigers!
 We know I love to golf.  I professed my addiction here, and meeting my one true love on the course here.  This fall I played in a pink tourney to raise money for breast cancer that would stay right here in my county.  A big selling point for me!

Pink Ribbon Links

Great auction items!

And I do a lot of showers, I mean a lot....  This has to be one of my favorites.  The grey was so pretty!  

a gorgeous simple grey baby shower

That's all for now.  Stay tuned, I swear there is more in my kitchen than butter, sugar and royal icing!!!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Surprise Inside Cake!

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Thankfully no one tries to load it with 51 candles!

Surprise inside!!!

Making wishes!

Happy Birthday to me!  So there has to be cake, right?  I had offers of cakes from the store, the bakery, even Mr. Preppy offered to bake one, but I had a plan.  As you may know, I share my birthday with my daughter, so there is often a cake war.  I blogged about the challenge  joys of sharing my special day a few years ago here,  and honestly it is awesome, and we both enjoy the special day.  But back to our cake.  She wants chocolate, I want angel food.  She wants chocolate, I want anything but.  However,  I have seen no less than a zillion pictures on Pinterest of cakes with little surprises in the middle, and really wanted to make one. Most I saw were white cake, and I thought the color surprise in a chocolate cake would be stunning, so I relented.  I did a little research, and found Beki and her blog on her many attempts to perfect this.  This was the plan.  Polka dots inside of a chocolate cake. I followed her instructions, and strongly suggest you do the same.  Here's how it went.

Homemade vanilla cupcakes, sifting is a must!

First step was simple white mini cupcakes dyed various colors.  I used this delicious and simple recipe designed to make 12 cupcakes or makes 24 generous minis.  My suggestion is that you use Americolor Gel Food Colors.  The colors are bold and bright, especially the electrics, which is what we chose in orange, pink, blue and green.

One Dozen Vanilla Cupcakes

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small bowl with hand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs, and mix just until blended.  In another bowl, sift dry ingredients,  and in a small cup mix milk and vanilla.  Add to egg mixture in 2 increments, alternating dry and wet into the butter.  Beat the batter just until it is smooth.  Do not over mix.

Divide batter into 4 bowls, and add your gel color as desired.  Mix well.  Spray a 24 well mini muffin pan and add your batter to fill 3/4 of the way up.

Bake at 350º for about 8-11 minutes.  Use a toothpick and remove as soon as the center is set.  Do not overbake!!  They will be baked again!  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then pop out onto rack to cool completely.

Americolor gel brights


A rainbow of cupcakes!

When you bake the cupcakes, don't use paper liners, and I filled them pretty full.  When they bake, it forms a bit of a crust on the edges, I simply used a round cookie cutter to slip that off and create a truer circle.

The messy part, but you want no crunchy parts!  It almost makes them ball-like.

Arrange them on their side, then pour in the batter.

I totally cheated on the chocolate cake and bought a Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Chocolate cake mix.  (It's 4th of July weekend, we are busy!!!)  I used to sell this stuff, and I know if you are using a mix, this is the only one.  I figured (wrongly) that the polka dots would displace enough batter that we would have plenty to fill the pans.  Not the case.  So in a desperate moment we ran to Walgreens and bought a chocolate cake mix, NOT Duncan Hines and it was flavorless and bland.  But we had no choice.  So we quick mixed it up and poured it in and around the yummy Duncan Hines and, damn.  Too much batter.


We baked anyway, and what a mess we made of my oven! However, when you read Beki's blog, she really felt that 2 layers was too small.  Since my layers were enormous, they were actually quite perfect and made a nice tall cake.  I think there is plenty of batter in 2 mixes to make 3 layers, but I am not sure how many more mini cupcakes I would need or if I could just move some around.  So my personal suggestion is 2 boxes of Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Chocolate and bake it in 2 layers.  after the allotted time the toothpick will still be a little gooey, so I turn the heat down about 30 degrees and let it bake a little slower.  I am making another in September, and think I will try the 3 layers.  I will keep the same recipe for the minis, but maybe make them a little smaller so I can make more.  I will update when it all goes down.  Take a good look at how the minis are put into the pan before the batter.  You want to have that large circle when you slice into the finished cake.

Cake and Ice Cream...

Every slice looks different!

But wait, no cake is complete without frosting.  So we slathered my favorite chocolate buttercream on and called it a day.  This frosting gets positively fudge like when it is chilled.  So decadent!

Chocolate Buttercream

5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
6 cups confectioners sugar
2 sticks butter, unsalted and at room temp
6 T. milk plus more if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
Put the chocolate in the top of double boiler and melt. Then cool to room temp. In the bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla and milk on low speed. Increase speed. Add more milk if it seems dry. Take about 1 cup frosting and set aside. Add melted chocolate to the rest and mix well. 

Make your list and get on it!  This cake is a showstopper and everyone will ooh and aah over it.  Don't let on how simple it really is!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake a cake!  Surprise!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Golf Addiction

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My last blog confessed my Pure Barre addiction, so here is my second addiction.  This one is bad, because unlike my 55 minute Pure Barre class, golf takes a good 4 hours for 18 holes.  A few weeks ago, I may have played 99 holes...5 rounds and a round of 9 holes.  Basically 22 hours.  Goodness knows how many balls I lost, how many times I said the "f" word and how many times I may have slammed my club into the ground! But I am getting better...

I have blogged before about meeting Mr. Preppy at a PGA golf tournament.  I knew that this sport would always factor into our married life.  Even our first date was at the driving range.  Every year, our club hosts the Fedex St. Jude Classic.  This year I made golf cookies for a PGA golfer who was kind enough to get us a few extra tickets.  I will leave his name out so no one asks him favors on my behalf!  They are the header cookies with the green sanding sugar.  A shoutout to Callye also known as Sweet Sugarbelle.    She ran a little tutorial on golf cookies, and I totally was inspired!  She is one creative and very kind gal.

Its so beautiful, who wouldn't want to spend 4 hours a day here???

I made these for an outing, fondant golf balls.  Yuck.

Again, fondant.  Just not a fan!!!

My first Ace!

My family would be shocked if I wrote a blog about golf and didn't mention my hole in one.  It happened fall of 2014, and I was as shocked as anyone.  Mr. Preppy doesn't have one yet, so I remind him every few weeks that I do!  And this summer, when the golf tournament rolled into town, I volunteered as a scorer.  What a fun job that was.  For 4 days I got to score a group of golfers.  They are very focused individuals, although a few will chat a little.  But at the end, they give the scorers a signed ball.  How cool is that!?  One golfer didn't sign me a ball, and he didn't make the cut.  Let's just say he isn't going to make my fantasy golf roster anytime soon!  My collection is below. From left to right...
Seung-Yul Noh, Camilo Villegas, Ryan Palmer, Oscar Fraustro, Matt Jones, Zack Sucher, Harris English, and Jonathan Randolph.  I am excited for the tournament next year, and my fellow scorekeeper friend and I have threatened to go on the road with the tour and fun would that be?!  So, back to the kitchen, the course or the barre.  What are you waiting for?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pure Barre Addiction

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 I have 2 things in my life that I am addicted to.  Neither of which are edible.  One is Pure Barre.  If you aren't familiar with the barre, let me enlighten you.  This is a 55 minute workout that will leave you shaking, if you do it right that is! LTB, Lift, Tuck and Burn!

It begins with about 6 minutes of warm up, a little floor Pilates type moves, some light weights, push ups, tricep dips and my favorite...plank.  If you don't think 90 seconds is a long time, try planking for the duration, everyday.  It will make you strong from the inside out.  Then we move on to leg work at the barre, and no, you do not put your leg up there.  You do tip toe a lot however, and the mantra is, The Higher the Heels, the Thinner the Thighs.  Ha!  I'm not too sure how that is working out for me, but I have muscles like never before.  On to the other areas like glutes, abs, stretches etc.  The movements are small, but mighty, and the more classes you take, the harder it gets. You can push yourself everyday.  It never becomes easy or boring.  The class has subtle changes everyday and bigger changes about 4 times a year.

It is fast paced, but no impact.  It will make you quiver and sweat but the music and the friendships keep you focused.  I feel amazing when it's over and look forward to the next day!  I am about 300 classes into it, and honestly can't imagine not having it in my life.  And most of the women I work out with every day feel the same way.

It isn't cheap and it isn't easy.  It's not a quick fix, but I honestly believe it makes so many other things better.  I am more flexible, I have a stronger core, I have endurance, and I have self confidence.  I don't do this to get skinny, that is unlikely to happen.  I do this so I can get out of bed and be active into my old age.

Recently I was asked by a gal from a another class to make cookies to celebrate Margaret and her 500th class.  Pretty awesome wouldn't you say?  What can most people say they have committed to for 500 times?  I am hoping that's me this year.

Check out the Pure Barre website and see if there is a studio near you.  They usually offer an introductory class or package.  You can't go once and expect to love it.  Give it 5 classes, it could seriously change your life!  All over the Web, there are tips and lists of what to expect and what to do.  Here's some advice from someone who has been there a few years.

1. Go early, meet the teacher and maybe meet a few other clients.  Those of us that are regulars are happy to tell you the best place in the studio, and who to watch for good technique.  Also, many regulars go to the same spot every day...they can be sort of territorial.  You'll understand.
2. Leave your shoes in the entry.  If you walk across the studio floor in your shoes, you may be face down in that spot in the next hour.  Especially when it rains, be considerate. No one will steal your Hunters.
3. Leggings and a tank.  No bootie shorts, no exposed bellies, no bare feet.  You can buy sticky socks there, or at just about any place that sells yoga stuff.  There are some Lulu model types, but there are plenty of us that aren't made up or matchy matchy.
4. Do not apply perfume before you go.  Please.  You can figure out why.
5. Watch others. You may be able to lift that leg over your head, but when they say an inch, they mean an inch.  It will work the muscle they are after.  Trust the process.
6. Breathe hard.  When we do abs, they tell you they want to hear you breathe, and I can tell you, if you breathe right, your abs contract, your heart rate climbs.
7. Last 10 best 10.  No matter how hard the sequence is, when she says last 10, make it your best.  You will feel a sense of accomplishment.
8. Close your eyes. If you listen, you know where you should feel the exercise.  Close your eyes and focus.  This 55 minutes is all about you.  Make your grocery list when you leave.
9. Leave your phone in your purse.  I get it, we worry about the kids.  This is your time. If there is a tragedy, you can certainly deal with it better if you have all those endorphins working.  When that Bed Bath and Beyond text glows in the middle of legs, you and I will both be distracted.
10. Smile.  This workout is hard.  Give yourself a round of applause, every day, you earned it.

 What are you waiting for?  Get in there and Tuck!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hoo Doo Granola

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HooDoos in Bryce Canyon

I have just returned from a 7 day hiking adventure in Utah.  #7days7hikes   #hikethehoodoos It was a fantastic week in Park City, Deer Valley, Sundance and Bryce Canyon.  We put some miles on our weary feet and had one awesome meal (and a beer, mojito, bloody mary or something along those lines) every day at the end of the hike.  So breakfast every morning was a lighter affair, after all, who could hike with Sunday Brunch in their bellies? 

Bryce Canyon on the Navajo Trail
I made a batch of this granola for the trip, and we all devoured it.  It is high in fiber, high in flavor, and yes, there is sugar.  But if you have ever spent a day hiking a canyon in the sweltering sun, you come to appreciate a rounded out diet.  Your body needs it all to perform.  It's named for our favorite rock formation, the hoo doo.  Rhymes with lot of funny things, (hiking can make you semi delirious!) and makes you sing Paul Simon in your head and out loud for, well, hours!

The original recipe is found here on epicurious, and I have shared it with many.  Below is my version, and of course it is like a blank slate just begging for your own variations.  Dried fruit?  Different nuts?  Another grain?  Whatever you like.  Just add a little Greek yogurt (unsweetened 2% for me) and a little fresh fruit and breakfast is served.  I also like it warm with a little almond milk in the winter!  So, what are you waiting for?  Go take a hike!!

HooDoo Granola

4 cups Bob's extra thick rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds (this is all I can find here)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix these ingredients in a large bowl so there are no brown sugar chunks.
In a small saucepan, combine the following...

1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 Tablespoon sugar

Bring to a simmer and take off heat.  When it is no longer bubbling, add

2 Tablespoons vanilla paste

Stir well, until all the oats and nuts are coated.  Then spread onto a sheet pan that has been sprayed or coated with oil.  And bake for 20-30 minutes at 300º.  Remember if using convection, it will be hotter and cook faster.  It will harden as it cools and can then be broken up.  Grab a spoon while it's hot though and give it a taste...Delicious!!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Is Anybody Out There?

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I have been a very bad blogger.  Bad.  I was hoping to get a refresh on my blog and dive in with new enthusiasm after the events of May. What event?  Just the last child graduating from college...holla!!!  I now have 2 kids working, paying rent, paying taxes, and officially out of the nest.  It really gives a mom a sense of pride, but also makes me very sad.

We may have made signs at Baccalaureate....and her name is NOT Tina! 

I long for those long summer days with kids running in and out of the house with wet feet, looking for towels and popsicles.  And I miss those sleeping wet kids on a sweltering afternoon, sprawled on the couch.  Nothing can stir that exhausted post swim nap. So here I am.  They closed Williams Sonoma over a year ago, so no job.  I have my cookies, but I really hate being trapped indoors all day on these gorgeous days.  My pool will finally get filled tomorrow after a long repair job, and i have to just enjoy the moment for what it is. And I have to write.  It really is part of who I am.

My first blog is here.  Boy have things changed since then.  Nic was just 2 months past high school graduation.  Christina was starting her sophomore year of high school.  Over the last 7 years, I have documented events at the Air Force Academy, a transition to civilian college at OU, high school volleyball, going to Millsaps, lots of birthdays, holidays, work events and loss.  I have baked with groups, I started my 50 chefs for 50 years (started, but no where near finished!), I have cooked, grilled, cleaned, sewn and of course baked loads of sugar cookies.  I have come a long way on my sugar cookies in 7 years and 3 cookie conventions!!!

So here is to today, and new beginnings.  Fresh starts, new recipes, new cookie designs, and who knows what else!  Please stay tuned.  I am always so humbled when I get a comment or an email from a reader.  Here we go.  What are you waiting for?  Oh, me!  I'll be right back!