Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Menu

Today is a special day. I am going to post my very, very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I discovered it awhile ago, after becoming a bit bored of the same old recipe I had been using for a long time. This new recipe is SO good. I am loving it for many's fun to make, requires some delayed gratification, tastes oh-so-good, and they even taste great the next day, which has always been an issue for me. Love fresh cookies, but day-olds always disappoint. Not with these. I kid you not, my mouth is watering right now just describing them. Mmm.

This is a recipe that I think the little things matter in following the recipe. I'm one who usually takes short-cuts, but I follow this one exactly as written. So worth it!

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie

1 cup unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 TBSP milk
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips

Melt butter. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream with mixer on medium speed. Add egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to butter mixture until thoroughly combined. Do not over mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours. (Dough should be very hard.) Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough onto sheets, 6 or 8 per sheet only. (Too many on the sheet for this recipe and the heat won't circulate well enough around them to bake evenly. I tried.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes, then remove onto wire racks. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Would you not like to just reach right through the screen and grab one??! Or is it just me??

Friday, April 24, 2009

Flashback Friday

Whatcha got, Bethie?
Look, Brenna! A new bug!

Beth getting a closer look at her new friend...

This was looking back to April 2003. Really, though, it could have been yesterday, if you just imagine that little girl a bit bigger, hair a bit darker, and vocabulary a bit broader. But this girl still is fascinated by bugs. Any bug. She can spot a bug in the blink of an eye. She collects them, builds little habitats for them, and then lets them go at the end of the day to go back to "their family". (That line still works!) She loves frogs, lizards, snakes, worms, crawling bugs, flying bugs...anything. She never forgets a fact that she reads about them. Yes, she even reads about them. They have intrigued her since she could express what intrigued her. Her eyes are always scanning for some creature to pick up and study.

Do you all remember Marcia Brady's short-term boyfriend named Harvey? Perhaps Beth's ideal man. Time will tell.

Her plan is to be a veterinarian at a zoo, and though she has lots of time to firm up those plans, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if she sticks to that.

Her 2nd grade class is having a bug theme for their end-of-year program...and her big dilemma is which bug to dress as. "All I have to do is speak up and say what I want to be. I'm thinking of maybe a lady bug, but I just can't decide." Well, no! Who can blame her for being a bit indecisive when your head is swirling with possibilities?! After all, she's practically been preparing for this role her entire life!

I LOVE her curiosity. I LOVE her zest for life. I LOVE how she sees intrigue and beauty in all things. And I LOVE how she's taught me that there is cuteness in unexpected places. Sometimes you just have to look at it through the eyes of a curious cutie. Thanks for being a curious cutie, Beth!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

6 Words and 8 Things

Here are a couple fun things to ponder...

This last weekend I had the pleasure of going to see Beth Moore in Portland with a couple friends. It was so good. Good to get away. Good to be with friends. Good to be challenged and stretched. Good to be quiet in a group of 7300 women. Good to worship with 7300 women. Here's one thing we were challenged to do... we were asked to describe our life in only 6 words. Where you are, where you've been, what you do, whatever. Just 6 words. Mine came pretty easily, but is a bit too personal to share here. So give it a try. Can you sum anything up in 6 words? Some were funny, some were serious, some were heartbreaking, some were hopeful. All over the place.

Here are 2 of my buddies, Molly and Tracie. The little white haired lady just over my shoulder was so sweet to sit by Saturday morning. She was there with her 2 daughters and granddaughters, and we had a couple short but sweet conversations. When we were leaving, she grabbed my arm and said, "Sweetheart, you have a very safe drive home today." It just warmed my heart. The kind of lady that mothers everyone around her.

Onto a totally different topic now:

I saw this on another blog, and thought it was a fun idea! I've not been tagged by anyone, so I'm tagging myself! I love a list!

8 Things!

8 Things I'm Looking Forward To:

1. A Saturday morning when I can sleep in.

2. My Thursday night date with Brad.

3. Warmer weather.

4. Eating. I'm very hungry right now.

5. Vacation at the end of June!

6. Tiling my bathroom floor.

7. Riding my bike to meet Brad on his way home from work. See #3.

8. Going to a Mariners game. Again, see #3.

8 Things I Did Yesterday:

1. Hosted Moms In Touch.

2. Grocery shopped.

3. Made a yummy Taco Salad.

4. Pulled some raspberry plants gone awry in my garden.

5. Signed a beautiful report card from Alex.

6. Watched Alex's baseball team win 13-4, and Alex get 4 RBIs. (Or is that RsBI?)

7. Watched The Biggest Loser.

8. Read some blogs.

8 Things I Wish I Could Do:

1. Get better sleep.

2. Eat chocolate chip cookies everyday, without consequence.

3. Do my run with zero discomfort.

4. Speed up parts of my day and slow down other parts.

5. Go to Hawaii with B.

6. Not worry.

7. Spend more time with friends.

8. Protect my kids from hurts.

8 Shows I Enjoy:

1. Survivor

2. The Office

3. The Amazing Race

4. 24

5. The Biggest Loser

6. Paula Deen on The Food Network

7. Lost (only because my husband is sitting still during this hour.)

8. Mariners games!

So, now I'm suppose to "tag" people to do their 8 things on their blog. So I tag Brenda, Shelley, and Katie!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Menu

Layered Taco Salad

Here is a yummy recipe for layered Taco Salad, compliments of Paula Deen, with a few tweaks from me. We are having a small window of beautiful weather, so we will be having this tomorrow night. Baseball season always forces creative meals. We have 2 evenings a week that Alex has to be at the field by 5:15 and we don't get home until 8:30, so I try to make things on those evenings that he can eat before he goes and we can eat at the field. One favorite is to make taco salad, then put it into a grilled tortilla. Fold it (like a wrap), then wrap tightly in foil. Makes a hand-held taco salad! Here's the salad recipe:

2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted

1/4 cup minced cilantro, more or less to taste

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup buttermilk (or just plain milk)

2 TBSP fresh lime juice

2 tsp. hot sauce, more or less to taste

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 (10 oz.) bag torn hearts of romaine lettuce

2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (from a rotisserie is great, or I rub chicken breasts with taco seasoning and grill it.)

1 (16 oz.) container sour cream

1 (15.5 oz.) can chili beans, drained

1 (15.25 oz.) can corn, drained (I leave this out)

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained (I just use chopped fresh tomatoes)

1 (8 oz.) pkg. Mexican cheese blend

1/2 cup minced green onion

crushed Nacho Cheese Doritos

In a food processor, combine avocado, cilantro, mayo, buttermilk, lime juice, hot sauce, sugar and salt. Process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours. (Or, just mash the avocados and combine everything with a whisk, then refrigerate.)

In a large serving bowl, layer lettuce, chicken, sour cream, chili beans, corn, black beans, tomatoes, cheese and green onions, whatever order you want with what you are using. Spread avocado dressing evenly over top layer. Cover and refrigerate for up to 8 hours before serving. (This salad tastes better if it's allowed to be refrigerated before serving at least 2 hours.) Top with crushed Doritos just before serving.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

And the Winner Is...

Can you stand it any longer??! I am so glad to finally be announcing a winner. Your responses have cracked me up. A valiant effort by all. Well, okay, by most. You all would make terrible contestants on The Price Is Right. You need to learn to space out your guesses to increase your odds!! Better luck next time to all the non-winners.

Here are the answers to the questions...

1. Favorite cookie? You all made me drool. I had forgotten all about Monster Cookies, Katie. LOVE them. And the Melt In Your Mouth Sugar Cookies are sooo good! I'll post a recipe for them in the near future. And too poor for chocolate chips?? I was totally born into the right generation. For all of you who said Chocolate Chip, I love you the best. But I'm not partial.

2. Who is the baby? I must confess, to console you, Brad even guessed the wrong baby...

For those of you who guessed right, I think you are the most brilliant.

3. And the grand total of chips...

TA-DA!!!! (First, a disclaimer. The video was for dramatic purposes only. Due to an extreme need to make cookies on Friday afternoon, in part as a comfort for a friend having a rotten day and in part to take out of town for our girls' get-away, I had to dip into the bowl and remove 2 cups of chips. So if you watch the video and think it looks like too few, you are right. But the count is accurate as it was when the contest was posted!)

For those of you who were off by appalling numbers, I beg you to get more familiar with your chocolate chips. It shows me that you are lacking quality time with chips in your life. I'm sorry for you. I'm disappointed in you. But I believe in you. You can do it.

I do so wish I had a consolation prize for dear Phyllis, who actually got chips out and tried to get an idea of how many she might be looking at. She even tried to approximate based on the tile size on my counter. She was thrown off by the fact that our tile is actually 12x12. Otherwise you totally would have had it, Phyllis. I love the effort you put into it!

So, based on Chocolate Chip Count, the winner is....LOIS!! Congratulations! You are definitely the anointed one. You have a gift of chocolate chip approximations. And I know it is in large part due to the fact that you are a self-professed chocolate chip cookie snob! Way to go!!

Wasn't that fun?! We'll do this again sometime. Thanks for playing!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Contest Time ~ Great Giveaway!!

Hooray for a contest! I am so excited to do this. Simply because I really love to give stuff away. I just get a kick out of it. So, for kicks, I am having this very simple contest. It's purely a game of luck, so everyone out there is on equal footing. A couple rules first...winner must be in the continental United States. I've heard I need to say that, because you never know. If you are an international reader, I'd love to hear from you. You are welcome to play, you just can't win. Also, you cannot be my husband or child to play. The contest ends Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. The fabulous prize will be mailed (or delivered) Monday the 20th. If you don't love the prize package as much as I do, play anyway. Someone in your life will love it. Mother's Day is coming, and you must know a mother who would love a portion of this!

Here's how to play: you must comment within this post. To do that (for any novice players), click on the comment at the end of the post. From the "Comment as..." drop down, choose either Anonymous and identify yourself in your comment, or choose "Name/URL", then enter your name (you just leave the URL blank). After you type your answers into the comment box, click on "post comment." Then you have to enter one of those weird curvy words. It almost always rejects it the first time. Just again click on post comment, enter another wavy word and it will work the 2nd time. Here we go...GOOD LUCK!!

1. Tell me your favorite kind of cookie. If there's a story as to why, tell the story. No extra points awarded for saying "Chocolate Chip", I'm simply curious.

2. Identify this baby: Alex, Brenna, or Beth?

baby Carlson, 30 minutes old...

3. Guess how many chocolate chips are in this bowl:

Closest guess, without going over, wins. I'm not giving you the dimensions of the bowl, so don't ask. I will say it's maybe a Fred Flinstone-sized cereal bowl. Not a salad bowl. And, yes, I counted each one. And my children do not know the total, so don't try to bribe them either. I know better than to tell them.

And the prizes??

1. Williams-Sonoma Cookies

This is a great cookie recipe book, beautiful pictures for each recipe, great assortment of recipes!

2. "Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder" by Joanne Fluke. Not an intellectual read, but fun. Lots of unique recipes scattered throughout the story.

3. Magnetic Measuring Spoons. Okay, really, this is so cool! These spoons gently stick together so they don't get all lost in your drawer! I love, love, love these. If you see my husband, give him a hint that I'd like these for Mother's Day!

4. A cookie dropper cookie scoop. Because I care about the uniformity of your cookies.

5. Of course, a bag of Nestle chocolate chips. Because "N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle makes the very best!" (I just sang that to you.)

This is a prize package worth around $45.00! Woo-hoo! (Starbucks next time, Molly!)

Gotta play now! Good luck!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Beth's Bad Habit Song

So Beth had a homework assignment this week all about grammar. We were to discuss some of the proper grammar rules with her and talk about some of the mistakes that are common in grammar. So, just because I was in a silly mood as we were doing this, I wrote the following note to Beth's teacher at the bottom of the assignment:

"Me and Beth done had fun with this here homework. She ain't got no more bad habits now. I seen to that. Thanks for the learnin'! ~Leanne"

Beth started reading that note, and something came over her. She could not stop reciting it. Over and over. She carried the page around with her, reciting it in different accents, finally settling on "cowboy talk". It was as if she was an actor preparing her lines. Over and over. We were cracking up in the other room. She was particularly fond of the "Thanks for the learnin'!" line. It sounded as if someone was pulling the string on the back of a talking doll. Every time Beth said "Thanks for the learnin'!", Brad would say, "There's a snake in my boot!" (Toy Story reference). Some of the funny had worn off by the time I had the sense to record this, but here it is. By this time, it was coming out in more of a song, and she told us it is now her "bad habit song." Why the bathroom? Well, for one the acoustics are great. For another, she has a history of singing in bathrooms...that's a story for another day. And, she had been told to empty the bathroom garbage. And who doesn't sing while they empty the garbage?? Enjoy the show...

Monday Menu & Contest Alert!

I couldn't decide what type of recipe to post for today. I debated doing something healthy, since I am still suffering from an Easter sugar coma. But after looking through several options, I kept being drawn to this. So if you just can't take the thought of more sugar right now, tuck this away for another time. But really now, a sugar coma is only mental. So let's just all get over it already and dive into some more!

These are very yummy. Very easy. Very quick to put together when you need a quick dessert. Also great for a bake sale.

Chocolate Chip, Oat 'n Caramel Cookie Squares

1 roll (16.5 oz.) refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough (gasp! I know!!)
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup caramel ice cream topping (I like Mrs. Richardsons)
5 TBSP flour
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

In large bowl, break up cookie dough. Stir or knead in oats. Reserve 1/2 cup dough mixture for topping. In ungreased 9-inch pan, press remaining dough mixture evenly in bottom to form crust. Bake 10-12 minutes or until dough puffs and appears dry.

In small bowl, mix caramel, flour, and vanilla until well blended. Sprinkle walnuts and chocolate chips evenly over crust. Drizzle evenly with caramel mixture. Crumble reserved 1/2 cup dough mixture over caramel.

Bake 20-25 minutes longer or until lightly golden. Cool 10 minutes. Run knife around sides of pan to loosen bars. Cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut into bars to serve. Or just grab a couple forks and let each person fend for him/herself.

AND!! The contest is coming soon! I think it may appear tomorrow! Should be fun, so check back in soon!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Flashback Friday

I had a very cutesy post planned for today all centered around a funny Easter egg hunt with my kids. But then I saw this video below, and I could not think of a better flashback for Good Friday. I hope that you all have a great Easter weekend. I hope you eat a chocolate bunny, or if you are really with-it, a Reese's Egg. And I hope that you'll take 3 minutes out of your day today to watch this video and remember why we have so much to celebrate. It's not easy to watch in parts, but it's good. Way back in the beginning of my blog, I posted a picture of the captured creature that was living under our house. It was gross, but I wanted everyone to appreciate our victory. I thought of that today. To really appreciate Sunday, we have to understand Friday.

And I hope that no matter what you are going through right now, you remember that today is Friday, but Sunday's coming...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday Menu

Did anyone notice that last Monday passed with no menu?? I didn't. But here I am, back on track. And you are in for a huge treat if you make this recipe. So, so good. If you like Happy Teriyaki chicken, you will want to jump up on the table and do a little dance, out of gratitude that you can now make it at home...and even better. If you don't like Happy T chicken, this will redeem teriyaki chicken for you!

Look at the picture above! Thumbs up and big smiles! No good picture of the chicken, but if this won't sell you on the recipe, I don't know what will. Alex proclaimed this his new favorite type of chicken. Brenna has requested it for her birthday dinner...which isn't until December.

Now, this recipe comes from my friend, Brenda. She got it from her friend, Cheryl. Thanks to both of them for passing this along. What to call it?! Well, if Happy Teriyaki is yummy but this is fabulous, then I think we need a name that takes "Happy" up a notch. How about...ecstatic? Yes. I think that will do. Here you go...

Ecstatic Teriyaki!

Skinless, boneless chicken thighs, as many as you want for your family.

Yoshida's Sweet Teriyaki original gourmet marinade and cooking sauce

With a fork, poke your chicken several times in each thigh. Place chicken in a gallon-sized zip-loc bag and cover with sauce. Seal bag and knead the bag around to make sure all thighs are coated. Place in refrigerator to marinade at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Heat your grill on high. Here's the method that makes it so tender and does not burn the sauce: turn off one side of the grill, leaving the other side on. Place chicken on side of grill that is turned off. (I spritzed mine with non-stick spray first.) Close lid on grill and let the chicken cook for 4-6 minutes. Keep a close eye on it to make sure it's not getting too hot. After the 4-6 minutes, turn off the other side of the grill and flip the chicken, moving to the side that does not have a flame. Turn on the opposite side. So you are not cooking the chicken over the flames at any time, instead you are more baking them on the grill. Cook on the second side 4-6 minutes, checking frequently to make sure nothing is burning. So good. I could eat it again right now if Brad didn't take left-overs to work for lunch...

I served mine with rice, broccoli, and pineapple. If you happen to burn the rice, no worries. Just cover your cooked chicken tightly with foil, and cook a new batch. It'll keep well for the 20 minutes or so the rice cooks. The family may get restless, but that's okay. As long as the chicken is fine. Now, don't try to go all healthy and use chicken breasts instead. Just eat the thighs this once. So moist. Really, you must try this. Have I convinced you yet??

I am assembling my prize package for an upcoming contest on here. I'm thinking early next week we'll begin. It's something you'll want to win. Keep an eye peeled! And if you missed it, check the post below this one for a link to my friend's contest!

P.S...why does spell checker not recognize "teriyaki"???

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yippee For Sun! (And a contest link...)

FINALLY the sun found it's way to us in all its glory! Last weekend snow, this weekend sprinkler jumping! Gotta love it. It's a balmy 67 degrees outside, we are all out sweating and fanning ourselves. The girls hoped to set up the pool today. When that was a no, they hoped to go to a lake. Still a no. Next best thing, the sprinkler, of course! Nothing quite like that first sprinkler play of the new season! Thanks for coming, sun, we've missed you. Achingly.

My real-life friend (not just a bloggy friend) is having a fun contest on her blog. It's inspired me to do something similar, so stay tuned in the next couple weeks. I'm brainstorming and assembling the prize package, and will announce a contest when I have it figured out. Please participate. My fear is that I'll do something fun and no one will play with me. I'm making sure the prizes are something I'd want, just in case I get stuck with them. So, in the meantime, now that you are waiting with baited breath (or waiting with a worm on your tongue, as my mom would say)...head over here and enter Brenda's contest. It will be a good warm-up for you. If you don't know Brenda, it shouldn't handicap you. I know her well and still had to stumble my way through some answers. Have fun!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Flashback Friday

Happy Friday! My sweet Grandma celebrated her 90th birthday last weekend, so it's only fitting that this flashback revolve around her. I could say so much about her, and have so many stories I could share, but will choose this one. It is actually a story more about Brenna and a former kitty, but it reflects how loved this Grandma is to us.

It was July 2001, and a new kitty found its way into our home. She was especially fond of Brenna, who was 3 1/2 at the time. We named the kitty Sunny, and she was truly a sweet cat. She would sit and let Brenna pet her anytime. She'd purr and purr whenever she was with Brenna. Although we had named this cat Sunny, Brenna decided to call her Grandma Bryan. I asked her why she wanted to call the kitty Grandma Bryan, and she said, "Just because I wuv her so much." Can't argue with that!

So Brenna's nickname for the cat stuck. All summer, we would hear, "Mommy, Daddy!! Come look at how high Grandma Bryan climbed up the apple tree!" Or, "Mommy, Beth pulled Grandma Bryan's tail!" Or we'd call to Brenna, "You need to leave Grandma Bryan alone now. If her ears are back and she's making those sounds that means she's had enough."

We did have to explain to our neighbors the nickname for the cat. We were concerned they might overhear these comments and who knows what they would think!

Sadly, about a year later, Grandma Bryan had a run-in with a raccoon that ended badly for her. We were all so sad, especially Brenna. She told everyone how sad she was that Grandma Bryan had a fight with a raccoon and died. We tried not to grin, and then quickly explain that the Grandma Bryan Brenna was referring to was, indeed, a cat.

Here is Brenna with her two Grandma Bryans. Great, great love among that trio. There are many things I could say as a tribute to my grandma. But I think the fact that a 3-year old loved her enough to name her kitty after her speaks volumes. She's not quite who she use to be these days. I don't even think she'd remember this story. But we remember. And we love her very much.

And this picture has nothing to do with the story, but just another small flashback of this sweet lady. That's me on the left at almost the exact same age as Brenna in the above picture, Christmas 1972.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


This will be worth your 9 minutes today...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello, Old Friend...

Yep, it's time to be friends again. I just can't take it anymore, being away for so long. I thought I could live quite comfortably without you. I thought I could accept you just the way you are, in your new role as a hanger for drying clothes. But I just can't. The last 3 months have been a bitter-sweet parting. I've now crossed over to totally bitter. So it's time for some sweetness back in our relationship. You have to share me with Bob, a new friend. These last 3 days, I've spent time with Bob and then time with you. You have been very welcoming, and I appreciate that. But something funny has happened since we last were together. The timer and distance reader on your proud chest seems to have slowed considerably. I do think you are now counting 2 seconds for every one real second. Maybe you'll get better at that the more time I'm with you. But I would appreciate it if you would pick up the pace of ticking off seconds. Trust me, I'm counting the seconds. And when I look down and see you telling me I've only gone half a mile, when I know it's 18 or something, I do feel a bit of bitterness cropping back up. But you hang in there with me, and I'll hang in there with you. All things considered, though we have a love/hate relationship, it's good to see you, my friend!

And hello, also, to my spiffy new running shoes! Here the gems are bonding with the tread. They hope to become great friends and travel many miles together!