Wednesday, January 29, 2014

First time singing bed time song

Oh my goodness. He just melted my heart. Every time before I put Isaac down for a nap, I sing "I Am a Child of God" and then put him in the crib. Today I asked if he wanted to sing with me and he said, "sing!" So I took the binky out of his mouth as we stood next to his crib, and he practically sang the entire song with me! I had a hard time singing and not crying because it was so incredibly sweet! He has been listening and learning. Sometimes he applauds at the end of the song. He is such a joy to have in my life. 
This was taken outside a Subway sandwich shop near Kelly's work, where we often meet him during lunch on Mondays since Kelly goes directly to Chinese class each Monday after work. Isaac is usually in bed by the time Kelly gets home, so this gives them a chance to see each other a bit during the day. He still goes down so well for his nap without crying and sleeps for about two hours every afternoon. He's such a good baby. 

A few days ago, I was downstairs and heard a loud thud during nap time and then a crying, frightened Isaac. He took a nosedive out of his crib since he has been into climbing a lot. He fell out of his bed about a year ago and hadn't done it since then until Saturday. Hopefully he will remember that it hurts to crash down into the floor and not keep doing it. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pecan Pie Tartlets

My most favorite pie in the world is pecan pie.  Recently I treated myself to a new set of these mini tart pans and want to share how easy these completely irresistible petite versions are of this family favorite recipe that I got from my sister, Tracy, that came from our Grandma Jackson.
The set of six mini tart pans from The Pampered Chef each has a removable bottom, which is perfect for removing the dessert without any problems.  I used one Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust, and rolled it out to make an oblong piece of dough, to be able to fit all six pans.   As you can see, I sprinkled a little bit of flour onto the counter top to prevent the dough from sticking.
I cut the dough into six sections using a tiny paring knife, then one by one, placed dough inside a tart pan, and gently pressed it down into the bottom, to fit closely around the fluted edges, then used my fingers to press down and cut off any excess dough from along the top edges.  I discarded the remaining dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Here's the mixture that you will stir together into a bowl, then divide among the six crusts.  Okay, be warned that the measurements for these five simple ingredients are going to be really awkward and nontraditional because I have used two- thirds of our family pecan pie recipe (except with the pecans).
  • 2 eggs
  • .44 cups of sugar  (use a 2/3 measuring cup, then fill it 2/3 full)
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/6 cup melted butter (2.67 tablespoons)
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup (Karo brand)
After I mix these together, I pour it all into my awesome Wilton candy funnel, to be able to easily pour the mixture into the prepared tart shells.  Later, the pecans will be put into the shells after the mixture has been evenly dispersed.
The shells will seem full, but should still be able to accommodate the pecans.  Add the pecans next.
  • 1 1/3 cups pecan pieces
After you put the pecans inside each cup, you can carefully dip them down into the mixture to let them get covered somewhat, and they'll rise back to the top while baking.
As you can see, I bake mine on a perforated baking sheet.  Use a cookies sheet if you don't have one of these.  I'm assuming that a cookie sheet will have similar results and need the same baking time.
I baked these for 30 minutes, but oven temperatures vary greatly.  You may need to add or subtract a few minutes to get yours just right.
After they cool down a little while, the mini pecan tartlets should lift right out from the bottoms just by pushing the center rim upward.  You may need to gently slide a thin knife or spreader along the bottom to release the crust from the non-stick surface.
Most of them should come out easily and you will be so excited the first time you remove it from the tart pan and see the gorgeous fluted edge.  It's hard to resist sinking your teeth into one right then and there.
You'll be delighted at their cuteness, how they are slightly bigger than a cookie.
When you look at it like that, you might as well take a bite.  Besides, there are still five more left.   My husband detests pecans, so unless I want eat the whole thing, it's easy to package these little goodies up to give to a friend.  I used a clear cellophane bag and pitched the boring, unattractive twist tie, and used some pretty ribbon to close it off.
Finally,  you can attach a small 3" x 3" little love note with festive washitape to finish the gift and make someone's day.
Alternate crust option: If you prefer to make your own pie crust, add 1 1/4 cup flour, then with a pastry blender, mix in 1/3 cup Crisco shortening, and a little bit of cold water to form a ball.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Crab Dip/Salad

Toasted homemade canape bread that I baked in a metal flower-shaped tube accents a mini crab salad for an individual serving. I bought the adorable mini flare dish in a set  of 24, which includes twelve flares and twelve petite tasting spoons, from Pier 1 Imports.  Love them!
Here it is served as a dip, served with store-bought bagel crisps to scoop it up. 
There have been many requests for my crab dip/salad recipe, and I finally am posting it.  It's so delish to snack on if you are a fan of imitation crab meat, cream cheese and veggies, which apparently, I am.  I have adapted this from a recipe in one of my old Pampered Chef Season's Best Recipe Collections.  Enjoy!
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh (rinsed and patted dry) parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces imitation crab meat, chopped
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • juice from 1/2 of a large lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, diced
I usually chop the onion, bell pepper, parsley, then imitation crab meat, one by one in my food processor by pulsing each ingredient a few times, then put it in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the paddle attachment, and blend everything together until well mixed.  The most time consuming thing is perhaps dicing the grape tomatoes, and that's completely doable. This recipe comes together in a snap and is excellent served in individual mini cups, with some type of bread, bagel crisp, or cracker, or served family style in a chip and dip set-up.  Refrigerate until serving.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Teaching baby how to talk

Isaac has been adding many new words to his charming little 21-month-old vocabulary and seems to be delighted that he has figured out ways to verbally express his wishes to us.  He loves being able to tell us what he wants, then get the reaction that he expects, simply by saying a word or a combination of words that he has learned.  For several months he has been able to understand much of what is going on, and we are all so excited when we hear something new that he clearly utters. 
For quite some time, Isaac has known to say "amen" at the end of a prayer, since he hears us praying often as a family at the table before we eat, or when we have family prayer.  Sometimes he will squeeze his eyes together to pretend they are closed and bow his head. 
Tonight as Hannah was ready to go to bed, we gathered together for prayer and somewhat jokingly, Kelly called on Isaac to say the prayer. Without thinking of it, I called him over to stand by me to help him.  (Please note that this picture below was not the actual prayer time that I'm talking about, but was one of several attempts I made at getting a good shot of him before church on Sunday in his new little vest.)
Back to the prayer, I reminded him to close his eyes and I started him off by saying, "Dear Heavenly Father, we are thankful for all of our blessings. Thank you for everything," then I told him to say "thank you." And as he was snuggled up next to me, in the sweetest voice, said "thank you," which actually sounded more like a "teh-tu," but it seemed so genuine and pure to me, and for a moment I couldn't speak, because I was so happy that my little baby boy was learning to express his gratitude to our Father in Heaven through prayer.  The brief silence where I was trying to pull myself together before commencing to help Isaac with the remainder of the prayer, had the rest of the family unsure of what was going on, but Isaac knew what he was doing.  He then confidently declared, "Amen." So we all joined in and made his amen the official one.  It was a tender moment to hear my son say his very first prayer.  I know it was extremely basic, but I will count it as that.  It warmed my heart and I am thankful for his intelligence and his sweet little spirit and the joy that he adds to our home.
I bribed him with a Hot Tamale candy here to see if I could get a smile from him.  I'm not fast enough with my camera!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Goulash

Happy new year! All is well with our family in the year 2014.  Flights have been canceling all over the country  in the past few days due to snow and ice, and it's even been kind of chilly here in Austin, so I have been in a soup and comfort food state of mind lately. Tonight, I made what was probably the best goulash I have made, and want to remember what I did, so I can duplicate it in the future.  It's mainly from Paula Deen's recipe, but I have made a few changes.  Here's what I concocted, that was a big hit with my family. By cooking the ground beef mixture in advance, this would be a perfect recipe to have waiting in the crockpot when we get home late from church at 6 pm now that our ward meets from 2:30 to 5:30 pm.  The final step of putting the noodles in the mixture would still need to be done, but that's not too bad.

Step One
  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, chopped in food processor
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped in food chopper

Brown the beef  with the chopped onions and bell pepper in a large pot.  Using a colander, drain excess oil from cooked meat mixture.  Return to pot.

Step Two
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
Add the above ingredients to the meat mixture, then stir everything together, then put the lid on and cook at medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Step Three
  • 2 cups noodles (mostaccioli, penne, elbow macaroni, etc.)
Add the dry noodles to the mixture, stir well, return the lid to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.  Turn off the heat, then allow the mixture to sit about 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Leisurely day

We met up with my friends Holly and Michele and each of their husbands and kids this afternoon at the new Austin aquarium, then went out for ice cream after that at Amy's, where the little kids could play on the playground while we socialized.
Later in the evening, we ate burgers at Moonie's and also went for a drive to see Christmas lights in Round Rock near the Dell Diamond where there was a 1.5 mile light display that was well done and kept us all entertained.  It's so nice to be at home for the holidays and have Kelly home from work.  We look forward to next Christmas when Lindsey will be here too with us!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas

We enjoyed spending the morning opening presents, then eating a brunch menu of Texas shaped Lemon Poppyseed Waffles and crispy bacon, in honor of Lindsey, who discovered the recipe before leaving on her mission, so we always think of her when I make them.

Isaac loved the excitement of all the presents and liked his new toys. Hannah got her very first ever violin, and Christopher got some computer parts and is learning how to build his own computer from his technical wizard dad.

We loved talking on the telephone last night to Lindsey, when it was Christmas Eve in Texas and fourteen hours ahead, Christmas in Hong Kong. After our traditional Christmas naps, since we always stay up too late wrapping presents, etc., I prepared dinner for the family and we enjoyed the company of the three missionaries in our ward, Elders McKinley, Toone, and Anderson, plus two  other families from church, Melanie and Ryan and their sons, Jordan and Luke, and Heather and her husband, Clayton, and their son, Glenn. 

After dinner, we played Bingo, sang some Christmas carols while Kelly accompanied, and then had a brief Christ centered message from the sweet missionaries. It was a fun day, and our home was filled with love and peace. 
Christopher loved getting a multi-pack of Takis and Subway gift cards from Aunt Brenda and Uncle Joel. Thank you to family members who sent us gifts! We appreciate each one of them so much. 
Isaac got the hang of opening presents and loved his Elmo related toys. 
"For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord."