Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Sophie, use your words."

There was a time in the not-too distant past that I thought that Franny might never learn to speak. At 2 1/2, she could sign for "more" and say "uh-oh" and "Alyssa" and a few others I could count on my hand. Things have changed a lot since then and I am happy to report that Franny has a lot more to say than "uh-oh" and "Alyssa" these days. (However, I do wish she was saying Alyssa more, and seeing Alyssa more. We miss her!) I am so grateful for Franny's giant strides in speech. I remember a time when I was so desperate to hear what she had to say. Well, lately her words have been cracking us up.

This was taken at the bowling alley the night before Thanksgiving. Franny's a pretty good bowler. I love this picture!

Here are some of Franny's words that have been flying around my house lately:

When Sophie cries or whines, "Sophie, use your words!"
"Hi Miss Mommy" and my favorite: "Hi Miss Daddy!"
If we're in a hurry and I don't bother putting socks on with her shoes, she says, "bye-bye socks."
"Give her the hug"- then she comes up to me and hugs me.
She's learning about actions at school and she'll start running and then she'll say, "What am I doing? Running!" Today I saw her jumping and I said, "What are you doing?" And she stopped and bent over, touched the ground with one hand and reached towards the ceiling with the other hand and said, "Stretching!"
Narration for all of our actions: "Daddy sleeping." "Sophie crying." "Mommy go potty."

It's really fun to see how much her speech and language have improved. I'm so grateful for the wonderful people who work with her and help her to achieve so much.

Sophie has had some things to say lately, too. I made this in photoshop a few weeks ago but never put it on my blog because I got busy with Thanksgiving. It's a strange feeling for Bobby and I to feel so calm about Sophie's development. Of course we are grateful and relieved with how well she is doing, but it also makes us feel a little sad for Miss Franny and how hard she's had to work to learn the things that seem to come so easy to Sophie. Most of the time, we try not to compare our children, but it's not always easy.

I am really excited about Sophie's new words, though. Today Bobby was leaving and she waved at him and said, "bye!" in her sweet and tiny little voice. It was so cute!

Peppermint Dessert

This is my mother's recipe. She adapted it from a recipe called Peppermint Surprise that she found in the Pinch of Salt Lake cookbook. Here's the recipe with her changes:

2 cups crushed chocolate wafers (I grind them up in my food processor. I couldn't find the traditional chocolate wafers that we usually use, so this time I made my sister Maggie scrape the cream filling off a bag of Oreos.)
5 Tbs butter, softened

First Layer:
1 half-gallon peppermint ice cream, softened slightly

Second Layer
2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
3 egg whites

Combine wafer crumbs and butter in a medium-size mixing bowl; reserve 1/4 cup for topping (I skip this step and use all the crumbs for the crust.) Press into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Spread ice cream over and freeze.

In a medium size saucepan melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Remove from heat and gradually add beaten egg yolks, stirring continuously. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and nuts. Mix together and cool thoroughly. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into cooled chocolate mixture. Spread over ice cream layer, sprinkle with reserved crumbs and freeze. Allow to soften slightly before cutting into squares and serving.

A couple hints with this recipe- this last time I put the crust in the freezer for 30 minutes before I spread the ice cream, that made it easier to spread. Also, heat the chocolate VERY slowly. I almost always screw the sauce up once and have to start over. This time I screwed it up TWICE. I probably should have just pulled out the double boiler. This fudge sauce can't be beat. I also always make sure to prepare this the night before I plan to serve it, so it has plenty of time to harden. I love this recipe!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I've been looking forward to Thanksgiving for a long time now and it did not disappoint! It did come and go rather quickly, though, and I've been sad ever since without the menu to daydream about and the anticipation of my family's visit. At least now I get to relive it all here on my blog. Here's our Thanksgiving table. Ashley and my Dad figured out how to fold my mother's Thanksgiving napkins into poinsettas and we placed a leaf-shaped shortbread cookie on top of each of them as favors. This was my first time using my china for guests, so it was a big deal for me. Ashley unpacked and washed each piece, and then after my Dad handwashed our dinner plates, she stood and repacked them all after dinner! That's a lot of work after a big meal! We were late getting everything ready to go, but everyone was so nice and patient and willing to make last-minute trips to the store or home because I forgot to buy Cream of Mushroom soup! (Thank you, Chrissy!)

I have no picture of the beautiful golden turkey. I feel a little bit sad about that, but I do have a funny story to share. I brought the turkey to Natalie's house to roast. (Thank you Natalie!) I brought it over at 6:45 AM and knew it would need a long time to roast due to it's enormous size. At 1:30, two hours before showtime, I called Ashley who was staying at Natalie's for an update on the bird's internal temperature. She checked the thermometer and reported a whopping 197 degrees! I couldn't stifle the "WHAT?!!!" when I heard such a high number. Luckily, I had inserted the thermometer into the wrong part of the turkey, and the temperature was exactly where it needed to be. Phew!! I ended up using a combination of this and this for my brine. I stuffed the cavity with the apple-sausage stuffing, which tasted fabulous by the way.

A disclaimer: I was having camera issues that day but no time to deal with them, so the pictures I do have leave something to be desired. That said, let's get a look at the food!

My mother's artichoke dip. This recipe is a holiday party staple in our family. It's easy and delicious and gets the people going! I don't know about that last bit, but it's definitely a crowd-pleaser. 1 cup mayo, 1 cup shredded parmesan, 1 softened package of cream cheese, 1 drained can of artichoke hearts, blended with a hand mixer and baked in a dish at 350 for one hour. Serve with tortilla chips. Also pictured above is the spinach gratin. It was definitely good, but I'm not sure it can hold its own on the Thanksgiving table and therefore will most likely not be making an appearance next year.

Ah, here are my two FAVORITE Thanksgiving side dishes. Mmmm.... raspberry pretzel jello salad and Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples.

We were lucky enough to have Ashley's famous dinner rolls prepared by Ashley herself and served with raspberry butter. Also, a delicious homeade cranberry sauce prepared by Chrissy that was perfect. And here is my Thanksgiving dinner plate masterpiece. I love all the pretty bright colors- like an artist's palette! (Not pictured: creamed corn. Creamed corn and I have had a volatile relationship ever since my Mom forced me to eat it as a kid and I gagged. Maggie loves it and insisted on Aunt Gayle's recipe. She and I have had several conversations about my creamed corn aversion and this time something she said finally got through to me: corn, cream, and parmesan cheese.... what's not to like? Hmmm... a valid point, Maggie. Well put. Still couldn't make room on my Thanksgiving plate for it, however. Maybe next year I'll make a little room for some yellow.)

I am so glad I only made two pumpkin pies, and not three. I also made an apple pie and my mother's peppermint dessert. I thought it seemed like an appropriate way to usher in the Christmas season after a big Thanksgiving meal. I am fully aware that I think about food way too much. Even with all the people, we still had a lot of leftover dessert, so I've been having a little helping of each of them with just about every meal since Thursday. Naughty.

And our guests. (Bobby is missing from this photo because he was helping Franny.) We were so glad to be able to have friends and family with us on Thanksgiving. I had so much fun with all of you. I am so pleased with my first Thanksgiving-hosting experience and I think my Mom would be proud. I tried to do it "Marianne-style" and even got to use her table cloth and napkins and Thanksgiving salt and pepper shakers, thanks to my Dad. He also brought See's candy like she always served at parties. Dad, you're the best. It was fun to use the china she helped me pick out and the beautiful Lenox casserole dish she surprised me with at one of my bridal showers for the mashed potatoes. There is nothing like having the perfect serving dish! Thanks for coming everyone and for all your help! Some of you had to travel to get to us and we were so grateful to have you all there with us.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey Salad Sandwich

Here's my something pomegranate for Thanksgiving! (or post-Thanksgiving, rather.)

1 cup chopped pineapple
3 cups diced cooked turkey
1 cup celery, sliced on the slant
1 cup diced apples (Rome, Winesap, or any red-skinned variety)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream

Toss pineapple in large bowl with turkey, celery, apple, and pomegranate seeds. In separate bowl, combine mayonnaise and sour cream. Toss dressing with turkey mix in the larger bowl. Garnish with additional pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds.

Vegetable Tian

This vegetable recipe is so good, I would almost call it a dessert. It is so delicious! I don't make it that much because it seems a little too labor-intensive for a side dish, but it is worth it!

Good olive oil
2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound medium round potatoes, unpeeled
3/4 pound zucchini
1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and thyme sprigs and drizzle with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake for another 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Family is Here!

I am so happy that my family could come out here and spend time with us for Thanksgiving!! We all are. I think this picture adequately captures how Franny felt about their impending arrival. She had the biggest grin when they walked in the house that night.

This is my Dad. He once won a Harrison Ford look-alike contest. That's not true, and I'm going to get in trouble for saying that, but when I was in high school two of my best friends did used to tell me how handsome my Dad was. At the time it embarrassed me a little, but now I think it's kind of fun. His granddaughters just love him. Look at the outfits he picked out and sent them.

Some of us made the drive to Nauvoo today to go to the temple and see some of the sites. It was a really nice day. We had a wonderful time. I'm so happy they're here. I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was funny- it seems like every time we're together for a long car ride, no matter what time of day it is, everyone zonks out and takes a nap while my Mom or Dad drives us home. Well tonight it was me driving my slumbering family home. Which is weird, because as I've said before, I'm a borderline narcoleptic, so it doesn't seem very prudent to let me drive in the dark unsupervised. It was great to be together and laugh and talk.

We asked this groundskeeper to take our picture after our session and he sweetly offered to walk with us to a spot he knew of where he could get the whole temple in the picture. But my heart sank when he crouched down to take a picture from every woman's least favorite angle. Yuck. Oh well, I'm posting it anyway. Just know I am not happy with that picture. Oh yeah, and I'm glad he was sure to include the horse's rear in the photo.

What did I say about needing supervision? As I was driving in silence, I thought of my little hitchhiking ladybug who apparently was finished with Nauvoo and wanted to head west. Here he is on my steering wheel. I started to wonder what would happen to him once he got off in our town. Then I thought, "what is the life expectancy of a ladybug?" Which made me wonder, "Does anyone even know or care?" And then, "How could the lifespan of a ladybug be tracked?" Which then prompted, "What kind of freak wonders about the life expectancy of ladybugs?" Then I answered my own question by taking a picture inside my car- the same kind of freak who takes a picture of a ladybug while she's driving. Luckily the car ride was over soon thereafter and I forgot all about the hitchhiking ladybug. He'll spend a warm and cozy night in the Sienna and I'll drop him off at Franny's school tomorrow morning.

Yikes- it's really late. I'm going to go to bed before I think too much about all the ladybug nonsense I just wrote about.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I can't seem to finalize my Thanksgiving menu, but I promised I would post it in advance, so here's what I've got so far.

Mom's artichoke dip with tortilla chips
Smoked salmon served with crackers, cream cheese and lemon wedges
Vegetable crudite

Turkey (still working on the recipe. Looking for the perfect brine.)
Cranberry Sauce
Green Bean Casserole (courtesy of French's Fried Onions and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom- per Maggie's request)
Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples
Apple-sausage Stuffing
Raspberry Pretzel Jello
Creamed Corn (Aunt Gayle's recipe)
Mashed Potatoes
Rolls (Ashley's recipe)
Spinach Gratin

Pumpkin Pie (3)
Apple Pie
Peppermint Dessert (this is my mother's recipe. It is fabulous! Will post the recipe when I get a spare minute.)


Rice Krispie Treat Master Class

I've had a long-standing love affair with rice krispie treats. I used to love this old commercial that was on when I was a kid (I remember it was on our taped copy of Neverending Story so I saw it all the time- "Come for me, Mork- I am Atreyu!") where the Mom is in the kitchen reading a book and her family is calling out to her from the other room: "Are they ready yet, Mom?" She calls back, exasperated, "In just a second!" Then she grabs some flour, throws it in her face and walks out with the tray of rice krispie treats. I remember one time when Bobby and I were first married, we ate a big batch of rice krispie treats in lieu of dinner. That's it. Just rice krispie treats.

What other dessert can you prepare in five minutes with a baby on your hip?

But I don't follow the recipe. I'm about to share the secret to really amazing rice krispie treats with you.
Start with one bag of marshmallows- large, mini, it doesn't matter which. Now here come's the secret. Add 1 cube of butter instead of the 1/4 cup the recipe suggests. Trust me.

Melt in microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Mix marshmallows and butter until butter melts and mixture is smooth. (If the butter doesn't melt, microwave for an extra 15 seconds or so.)
Now this part I'm afraid I can't teach you. I just pour the rice krispies into the bowl without messing with measuring cups. I can tell you that it's nearly a whole 15 oz. box of cereal.

Mix away. What we're trying to avoid here is big gloppy amounts of white marshmallow. That is how all the recipes on the backs of marshmallow bags and on the side of rice krispie boxes try and lead you astray. You see, what I'm proposing is not actually doubling the butter (although that's not always a bad idea), but reducing the marshmallows by half. Once the marshmallow-butter mixture is evenly mixed in, pour into a pan and allow to set. Enjoy, and come back and tell me about it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Raising Hell!

The other night I had a Relief Society Presidency meeting here at my house. One of the ladies was having car trouble after she left, so she came in to use the phone. She couldn't track down her husband (he was at the church working with the Young Men's group), so I offered to drive her to him. She lives a good ways out of town- 20 minutes or so. We're on our way to the church in the minivan and Anna starts to get kind of nervous that we're not going to make it there in time to catch him. As we get closer, she starts looking very closely at every car we pass, checking to see if it's his car. We pull in the first of two driveways to the church and notice the headlights for several different cars in each driveway. She's frantically trying to pick out her husband's car and all of the sudden she spots it- in the other driveway, turning right. Well, by the time we got around the church and out the other driveway, he was long gone. I waited for direction from Anna who said we should take Baltimore and try and cut him off before he gets on the highway. Now things start to get exciting. Half of the 1st ward Relief Society on a late night joy ride. Driving very fast, I start making my way to the main drag through town. I start to accelerate when I see that the light is green at the intersection of Baltimore and Normal, but I'm not fast enough and the light turns red. I think ah what the heck, and with a rebel yell I run that red light! I speed down Baltimore and as we approach the last stop light before the highway starts, we keep an eye out for her husband's car. Our light turns green and just when I start to turn, we see his tan-colored sedan pull up to the light. We pull up to the side of his car, give a brief explanation, shout out some directions, and then we're heading back to my house. It was the smoothest operation I've ever had a hand in. Beautifully executed- couldn't have worked out more perfectly. Very Dukes of Hazard.

Gouda and Nutella Panini

I know that about 63% of you think this is a wacky food combination, but trust me, this was very tasty. I used sourdough bread from Panera.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Last week was rough. Early mornings, potty-training failure, three- year-old banshee screams, husband working late, blah blah blah... and all of it augmented by missing my mother. Just a rough week- the kind when you eat two batches of rice pudding by yourself in four days. You know what I mean.

Well, Bobby came to my rescue in a big way on Thursday. He was on call Wednesday night and up all night working at the hospital after working all day Wednesday and gave up hours of much needed and deserved sleep so that Sophie and I could spend the day in Columbia. It was just what I needed and I was so grateful. We went out to lunch together, went to Target and the mall (where I was sure to stop at Panera and pick up shortbread cookies and sourdough bread), Sam's Club, and Hobby Lobby. I stopped in there to find some supplies for a Thanksgiving centerpiece and I was shocked and overwhelmed by its size. It is HUGE. Like, picture a Robert's and multiply it by 2 or 3, depending on which one you're at. I never wanted to go in there before on account of their name being so lame, but it is a treat to visit! The aisles are not marked, though, and it's impossible to find anything without the help of an employee. Luckily the store wasn't busy and it was easy to find some guidance.

Before we headed back, I stopped at Red Lobster to pick up Bobby's favorite restaurant dinner as a thank you. Before we moved here we went there for his birthday dinner every year as a tradition. He doesn't care for seafood but he LOVES their cajun chicken pasta. I'm going to have to agree with him- it is very good. My man was happy.

Way to go, Grandma!

This is my Grandma (isn't she pretty?) and she just started a blog. How cool is that? She always says she was born 50 years too early. I'm so impressed because so many people her age don't want to bother with figuring out stuff like this!

This picture was taken at my brother Richard's wedding in March. Sophie was sleepy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

To all you haters out there...

People hate rice pudding. I hear it all the time. I never make it for company because I'm afraid my guests are going to be disappointed. My Dad has been making this rice pudding since I was a little girl and I would never think of using another recipe. I've recently decided that you can't be an official rice pudding hater until you've tried this recipe and can honestly say that you don't love every last bite of it! I'm about to rock your rice pudding world. It tastes best warm with whipped cream.

This recipe comes from the Lion House Dessert Cookbook.

Rice Pudding

2 cups milk
1 small can (5 1/2 oz) evaporated milk
1/2 c plus 2 Tbs sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup raisins
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Place 1 1/2 cups of the milk plus the can of evaporated milk and 6 Tbs sugar in the top of a double boiler. Heat together until milk is scalded. In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs together until they are broken apart. Add salt and the remaining 4 Tbs sugar to the eggs and whisk again. Slowly pour egg mixture into scalded milk, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Allow to cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl mix reserved 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch together and slowly pour into nmilk mixture, stirring constantly until pudding begins to thicken. (Be careful to stir constantly or lumps will form.) Stir thoroughly and allow to cook 10-15 more minutes or until cornstarch flavor is gone. Add cooked rice, then allow pudding to cook 7 more minutes. Remove from the heat and add raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Serves 8. (Or 1 if you're me.)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples

This recipe is one of Ina Garten's, from Barefoot Contessa Family Style I think. It's my favorite yam recipe I've found so far. I think it tastes best when the apples are caramelized. I've only been able to achieve this once! Usually they end up all soft and mushy. I'm sure I'm using the wrong apples. I'm going to try my new favorite apple: Honeycrisp. I will probably split these into two casserole dishes and top one with the apples and one with mini-marshmallows, to appease my family members whose Thanksgiving tastes are not as... sophisticated as mine. :)

8 pounds (about 12 large) sweet potatoes
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
6 McIntosh or Macoun apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
6 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375°. Scrub potatoes, then prick several times with a knife or fork. Bake 1 hour, or until very soft when pierced with a knife. Combine orange juice, cream, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

Remove potatoes from oven. Once cooled, scoop out the insides with a spoon. Place 1/2 of sweet potato meat into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add 1/2 of juice-and-cream mixture, blend until combined but not smooth, and pour into a large baking dish. Repeat with remaining potatoes and juice-and-cream mixture, and add to baking dish.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple wedges and brown sugar; cook about 10 minutes, turning apples occasionally, until lightly browned on both sides. Place on top of sweet potatoes and bake 30 minutes, until heated through. (Note: If refrigerating before baking, cook 45 minutes, or until heated through.)
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