Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins <3

So my husband said he has monthly meetings, and is responsible for taking snacks…. which I was completely unaware of so he would run tot he gas station and buy packaged donuts…. can you say grossssss especially when his wife is a pretty darn good baker! Geeeeze! So I said let me know when the next meeting is, and I will start making muffins or cupcakes or pastries for you guys. He said awesome, by the way it’s tomorrow!  So I pulled out one of my favorite muffin recipes that I have changed, changed again, and changed again to become my go to all time favorite! It’s very versatile, this time I decided to Strawberry. A couple other combos I have tried are Raspberry, Raspberry Blueberry, Raspberry Blackberry, Raspberry Blueberry Marionberry which is a yummy northwest berry, Peach, and Raspberry Chocolate Chip I am allergic to Bananas but they would be really good too with some walnuts! Really, whatever combo you can come up with would probably be yummy!

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins:

12 oz cream cheese softened

1 stick of butter

1 1/2 cup of sugar

4 eggs

2 egg whites

9 tablespoons of buttermilk

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cup of all purpose flour

2 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 pints of strawberries, 1/2 pint pureed in food processor- whichever fruit you choose always take the 1/2 pint and puree it. It really adds the flavor of the fruit into the muffin.

Cream cheese drizzle:

4oz cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

A few table spoons of creamer

Directions:

Puree the 1/2 pint of strawberries and finely chop the rest.

Cream the cream cheese and butter until smooth, add sugar and cream again until smooth. Add eggs and egg whites beat until just combined, add in  the buttermilk and vanilla and strawberry puree and mix well. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture just until moistened. Fold in the chopped up strawberries.

Fill paper lined muffin cups with batter, 3/4 full…. to be honest I never follow this… I fill them pretty much the entire way even on cupcake recipes. I like the big round dome on top!

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 turning around halfway through.

Let sit in pan for about 5 minutes to set before removing from pan

While the muffins are cooling beat the cream cheese and creamer until smooth, and add powdered sugar until smooth and creamy

Fill a pastry bag and pipe on a drizzle! Although it’s not exactly a drizzle it’s a cross between a glaze and icing…. it’s super creamy and melts in your mouth! Very yummy!

Hope you enjoy!!

My Moroccan Valentine’s Day Dinner

Back in May my husband and I went to Florida and did the Disney World thing, we stopped at Epcot the first night. I was sooooo sick, I actually wasn’t sure we were going to make it on the trip. Even though that first day I was pretty miserable, it was one of the more memorable times. We stopped at Morocco in Epcot because I literally thought I was going to die from heat, the worst cold and sinus infection of my life and awful blisters on my feet! We stopped to have a really nice dinner, not knowing what to expect. We had Chicken B’Stillia for an appetizer and I had ordered Chicken CousCous and my husband ordered Kababs. It was, to this day one of the best meals we have ever had! And Ever since he has been begggggggging me to make it for him. So this Valentine’s I wanted to make a completely Moroccan dinner for us to enjoy!

 

Those are a couple pictures from the restaurant in Epcot. We had belly dancing entertainment and Aladdin and Jasmine came to eat dinner with us too. It was a very cool experience!

I was really intimidated by the work of this recipe, but really it was a lot of fun and not all that hard!

My recipe for Chicken B’stillia:

1 Chicken roaster, about 5lbs

1 sweet onion, chopped coarsely

1 bay leaf

1 box  good chicken stock- I use the low sodium Pacific Organic

Water as needed

Garlic

A dash of turmeric

Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage

Combine all together in the crock pot and cook in for 10-12 hours (I cook the chicken the day before so that after it cools, I shred it and put it in the fridge along with the left over stock in the bottom of the crock pot.)

When the chicken cools, take off the skin and shred it to fine pieces, which doesn’t take much since the crock pot pretty much took care of that. Put chicken in fridge until needed.
If you put the liquid stock from the cock pot in the fridge the night before it will be jelly like, that is completely ok, just put  1.5 cups of stock into a small pot and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to about 3/4 or so cups of stock. Reserve for later

Liquid from crock pot, Chicken Stock

3 tbsps butter

1.2 an onion processed in the food processor or magic bullet till it is mush

½ sweet onion processed the same

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

Combine these ingredients in a large pot and sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat.
While the above is cooking, combine all the following ingredients in a bowl:

1.5 cups minced cilantro

3/4 cup minced parsley

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon turmeric

2 tsps kosher salt- if you are using regular broth I would omit this completely or only use a ½ tsp.

1.5 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger

1.5 tsps fresh-cracked black pepper

1 cup dried currants

Herb Mix

It’s really important that you choose high quality fresh herbs… dried ones just will not do for this recipe! It will help meld the flavors and give even taste through out.

When the onions are sautéed nicely add the above herb mixture and combine together cooking for a minute or two.

about 3/4 cups of chicken stock (the reduced stuff)

plus reserved chicken

Turn heat off and add chicken broth, then the shredded chicken and combine till everything is coated well and mixed nicely. You should taste it in case it needs a little salt or pepper, but it should be fine.

Add chicken stock to herb and onion mixture

Add chicken to mixture- I mashed any large chunks left over

4 large eggs, beaten thoroughly

Combine the 4 beaten eggs, and mix again till everything is combined. You can pop this in the fridge the day before, or just until you are ready to put it into the pan

Add eggs and mix together

Use a 10 or 11 inch spring form pan for this pie. It will make everything so much easier!

1/2 cup melted butter

2 sheets Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry sheets, which is what I used and found it to work really well, the original calls for Phyllo dough but this is a serious pie and I found this to work better

Butter the bottom and sides of your spring form pan and then lay one sheet on the bottom and press out till it comes up the sides a little. You will have 4 corners sticking up and that is ok just leave them there! You will place the top sheet on so the top corners fit into the spaces to form a complete surround.

Fill the dough with your chicken filling and smooth out, but not to the edges, it will be a mound shape. Thicker in the center.

Place the second sheet on top, opposite of how the bottom was places, press the corners down into the spaces and then pull up the bottom corners to seal it and pinch any open gaps closed.

Top the entire thing with lots of melted butter, make sure that it’s almost saturated! You can also put this into the fridge all closed up if you are doing other things, and just pop it in the oven when ready!

Butter it all up!

Bake it for 55 minutes, or until caramel brown, in a 350 degree oven.

½ cup of powdered sugar

1 or 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Combine in a bowl for sifting over the pie right before it is ready to be served. You can dust it over the entire pie after you release the spring form, and then again once it is plated for an all over dusting sugar. It is really important that you do not skip this step!

Chicken B’stillia is usually served as an appetizer so before I started working on the B’stillia I cut cubes of New York strip, parsnips, carrots, mushrooms and left over onion and garlic mash in a bag, filled with some chicken broth, marsala wine, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and tumeric, popped it into the fridge and let it marinade for a few hours.

When the B’stillia was in the oven I threw it into a big deep skillet and let it simmer

Marinade bag dumped into skillet

After the B’stillia came out of the oven, I let it rest took a cup of juices from the steak “stew” and boiled it in another pot, and added a cup of couscous, let sit for 5 minutes, and fluffed, plated, and topped with the steak mixture.

Classic Moroccan dish

 

Our Dinner set up =)

So that was our dinner! It was a lot of continuous work, but it was very very worth it!! It makes me want to visit Morocco badly! Maybe that will be our next traveling adventure =)

I hope you all had a fantastic Valentine’s day! I think this may be a new tradition of ours!

Marriage Monday, The eternal debate of Valentine’s Day

First off, I have to say that I am incredibly spoiled to being with. I have a husband who is willing to buy me anything I could ever want (as long as we can afford it lol) and who is willing to go through a lot of trouble, even moving, to make me happy!

This Valentine’s day I said all I wanted was for all the pieces in the puzzle to finally fit together and for us to be able to relax, settle down and move forward in life. I don’t ask for to much right =). I also have been searching for a wedding band since we got married… so about a year and a half now… and I either find one I really like that is 30,000 dollars or I can’t find one at all. We were shopping for what I think is a pretty great Valentine’s day present to ourselves, New Bedding! Which I am completely happy with. Seriously there is nothing better then getting into your bed and feeling like you are on a cloud! But anyway, we decided to stop at the Jewelry store on the way home and I found a gorgeous sapphire and diamond ring that looks really pretty with my solitaire, so he bought it for me and I was able to pick it up yesterday! It’s the first wedding band that I have actually worn since we got married. I haven’t been able to find one that is comfortable enough for me to wear all the time. But I found it, here it is! =)

That isn’t really why I started writing… I started writing because out of all the people I know, I have to say there is a big divide. They either go all out and celebrate Valentine’s Day allllll day or completely boycott it out of their world. Both I think are kind of extreme. I feel like I get spoiled all the time so having an extra day doesn’t really feel necessary for me. I really enjoy reading the cards my husband picks out, he is really good at pickings that say exactly what I need to hear at the time. I know all you guys out there are gonna hate me for saying it, but taking the time to pick out a card and write a note inside means more to me personally then any flower or piece of jewelry out there. It really is the little things. Through out our hectic lives we often don’t take time to pay attention to those little things so I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a day to remind us of what it’s important… not the flowers or chocolate which both are great, but what it is we are doing what we are doing, why we chose to be with the person we are with or why we are taking time out for ourselves. Wherever you are in life, it’s important to take time and think about why we are where we are.

I know I am really bad at remembering to give those words of affirmation to my husband, to say thank you really for all the amazing things you do for me and how much I appreciate them, so I am very open to having a day to remind me to do those things and an excuse to be cheesey and mushy because we all need to hear that we are wanted, loved, and appreciated it. Those things can NEVER get old! Just because men may not be the absolute best at showing their feelings or expressing their needs, the little ego boosts and reminders that they are important in providing for us really goes a long way!

I understand the point of view of those who boycott Valentine’s Day, I really do… and I completely agree, that we should show our love and appreciate every day… but really lets face it… we are a society that is all about me, and remembering to share with our loved ones those important words and actions of affirmation doesn’t happen to often.

Sometimes we feel that we are showing our spouses how much we love them, but the way we are doing do is like a foreign language to them and our acts of love of words of affirmation are not getting heard, which leaves the other feeling a bit low in the love tank. We have to learn each others love languages, which can be really challenging, and does take time. I think that it’s an ongoing process and never really stops evolving. I know I struggled a lot with this at the beginning. My love language is acts of love, choosing to do the dishes after I cook a meal shows me you love me and appreciate what I made, taking time to pick up a few things around the house says I value what you do and want to help because I love you… acts of love speak to me more then any materialistic thing and even sometimes words of affirmation. I still need to hear that you appreciate me and love me but showing me says a whole lot more…. and having a husband who loves to buy me things often left me feeling unloved because those gifts weren’t my love language and the communication was getting lost so I read a book shortly after I had gotten married and I wish it could be a book that all couples have to read before getting engaged, and even if you aren’t in a relationship it still should be a book you read.  It’s called The 5 Love Languages,     It’s written by a Christian author, but do not let that deter you from reading it if that is not your faith!

So this Valentine’s Day even if you are normally one who boycotts it, I challenge you to learn your own love language and the love language of your partner and make an effort to show them you love them in a way that they understand! =) I know I will be working hard today and tomorrow to make my husband understand how loved and important he is, which I am guilty of not telling him nearly enough!

Stuffed Manicotti, not so traditional!

Last night I made my stuffed manicotti, and it turned out really well. My husband and mom both really enjoyed it, and I thought it was one of my better ones too. I am always playing with recipes and making my own twists on things, so I thought I would share this one!

I originally adapted this recipe from The Geometry of Pasta, which is really a fantastic book for anyone who likes know more about how things became part of our lives, and not just food on our plates. The history and recipes are fantastic!! The artwork is very cool too.

Ingredients:

1 pound of ground turkey

Salt, Pepper, Fresh Garlic, Italian Herbs

1 tray of Manicotti (the brand I buy has 7 per tray)

3 cups of fresh spinach

At least 1 1/2 cups of Ricotta, or just a 15 oz container is fine

1/2 bag of Parmesan cheese, you can use an Italian blend too, that works nice as well, we always have cheese in the house so I just use whatever I have

2 large egg yolks

Fresh grated nutmeg, of course if you don’t have a fresh nutmeg the dried spice will work as well, I use about a teaspoon

2 tbs butter – last night I didn’t have real butter so I used margarine and it worked just as well. I only needed to adjust the flour ratio and added a tablespoon more

3 tbs of all purpose flour

3/4 plus 3 tbs of milk

3/4 cups of your favorite red sauce, I think that a sweet red works best in this recipe rather then a salty.. that may be overload!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425

In a skillet with some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and Italian herbs brown your ground turkey, cooking it all the way and remove from heat to cool

Boil a large pot of water and add manicotti, I also throw my spinach on top because it floats and I like multitasking, When the spinach has wilted and darkened take it out, rinse with cold water, squeeze excess liquid out and chop finely =) And when the manicotti is al dente, rinse with cold water and set  aside

In a bowl combine Ricotta, Egg Yolks, Spinach, Salt and Pepper to taste, Nutmeg, Garlic, and when the turkey has cooled down a little bit, enough that it won’t start cooking the egg yolks, combine with the rest and mix well, make sure you taste this… if it doesn’t taste good now it won’t later and adjust the salt and pepper and nutmeg to taste

In a 9×13 pan, cover the bottom with your red sauce

Fill a pastry bag with your ricotta mixture and pipe into manicotti shells and place on top of your red sauce, I usually have some left over that I just pipe at the edge of each shell… and give the rest to the dog =)

In your turkey skillet melt butter and add flour and combine till it’s nice and pasty, then slowly add the milk stirring constantly until the sauce is smooth

Pour your white sauce over top of the stuffed manicotti and make sure you smooth it out over the entire shell so the edges don’t get crispy

Top with your cheese and bake for about 25-30 minutes, I usually broil for about 2 minutes right before I take it out

Let it rest for as long as you can stand, about 10-20 minutes and then serve =)

This is definitely a family favorite, and I have fun making it!

Pair it with a great spinach salad and some garlic bread! It is also super delicious the second day!

Jar reuse and Thrifty finds

Thoughts for Thrifty Thursday:

I have been on the hunt for massive jars! Ones that will hold 10+ pounds of flour or sugar. I do a lot of baking and I buy everything in bulk from our local grocery store. I found myself filling bags of flour and sugar and other common ingredients each time I went to the grocery store… one day I got sick of looking at my cabinet full of bags of bulk items… I had over 15 bags of flour because I just could not access it easily and I put it in other places. So my mom and I decided to hit up local antique stores because I knew there were old glass pickle barrels of large proportions! I was so excited to find this baby and it was very well priced. It was $18 bucks, which may sound like a lot but I filled it to the very top and then had some left over because I had bought that much extra flour! I have found large jars at places like Walmart for about 10 bucks, but they really are about half the size of this guy. They are hard to come by but I hope I can find at least one more for the sugar and one for rice!

 

I just love the look of jars, they don’t have to match or be similar at all but I love storing dry goods in glass. I found this guy at Goodwill for $1,75!! Seriously, what a steal!! Currently it’s housing my powdered sugar.

On New Year’s our tradition is to make a pork roast and saurkraut in the crock pot with mashed potatoes… well after I emptied the good sized saurkraut jar I thought hmm, I could just start saving the ones that we empty from things we use like jelly, pickles, relish, some mustards, tomato sauce or sauces alike. I am not really sure why I never thought to do this before. I have started a good collection of jars to house things like chocolate chips, baking soda and powder, grains, herbs, all the things I buy in bulk that I can now easily see and access and not over purchase, which in turn has saved us a lot of money! So now when I am grocery shopping I constantly look for things we need that also come in class jars and hopefully I can soon have a huge pantry full of them that I can share with you. I am a little OCD so I have contemplated spray painting and color coordinating the lids and of course I have to use my label maker to label what each jar is… but that is a personal preference =)

So next time you are grocery shopping and pick up something like jelly and grab the easy squeeze or plastic bottle…. think twice about it not only because we all know by now the less plastics we use the better off we are but because if you buy the big glass jelly jar you can reuse it for baking ingredients or herbs or even things in the bathroom like cotton balls, qtips, or your toothbrushes (Which storing in a glass container that you can sanitize in the dishwasher is a really good idea anyway!). I love anything that has multiple uses so think about what you can reuse so you don’t have to go out and buy new containers, which by the way are ridiculously expensive! Personally I have saved over $100 just by reusing jars and not having to go out and buy them, with the exception of the mega monster jars at the thrift stores because our food and goods no longer come in awesome containers like that!

Who knows, you could even star your own fresh herb garden out of recycled jelly jars!

 

The begining of something…. addicting?

Where to start… I have decided to update my blog, and hopefully actually use it as it’s intended. In the past I have enjoyed posting recipes for others to try out, and have shared some of my organizing ideas but I never really took it seriously. I am not sure I am taking it seriously this time either but I continue to get requests from friends wanting help with certain projects or ideas, which I absolutely love when they come to me and I can come up with a solution to help them out, so with that happening more frequently I guess I thought maybe I could help out some other people as well who happen to come across my blog looking for recipes, storage solutions, financial struggles, or marriage struggles… I can’t always guarantee that it will all rainbows and glitter, because lets face it, life is not always rainbows and glitter, but I can guarantee that it will be honest with the hopes of reaching someone somewhere to make their life a little easier through my trial and error!

A lot of things have changed drastically in my life over the past two weeks. I have become a stay at home wife again, by choice because my previous employment was literally making me sick, the stress and crazy that I had to deal with I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. It was not a healthy place for me or my family to be in and it needed to end. It was not an easy decision because that means we will be relying solely on my husbands income and while for two adults doesn’t sound terribly horrible, we are supporting 3. My mother lives with us and will probably always live us from here on out because I believe that is what is best for her. As we get older, obviously our parents gets older as well, and having to switch the roles to be the caretaker in some areas has been a big change for me, but to be honest it has been something really good. My relationship with my mom has not always been good, in fact some points it was pretty horrible, but as time has gone by I consider her not just my mom but my friend and my husband has embraced this sometimes less then private situation we have with open arms and has been welcoming to her and she is officially part of our family. So needless to say financially I am going to have to be a little bit creative when it comes to making our dollar stretch, but it is absolutely worth it for my own sanity and the well being of the rest of the household!

We also have had to deal with the awesome ugly truth of taxes as a home owner, landlord, and an adult with way to much responsibility. This year when I was preparing my taxes I never thought we would actually owe money… never. And there it hit me…. a whopping $8,000 we must pay back all at once to the IRS because the tax laws have changed since 2010 when my husband and I decided to turn the house we own into a rental so he could be closer to work and I could actually find work. Yea, that worked out well…. So it looks like when the tenant’s lease is up in March of 2013 (September of this year if they are willing to leave when our lease is up) we will be moving back into that house, which is in the middle of the country and will be a big adjustment for all of us. We just can not afford to keep that house as a rental. I really truly believe that everything happens for a reason, I know that moving out of that house was exactly what my husband and I needed to focus on our relationship as newlyweds and learn to live with each other and communicate with each other and this time around going back to that house we are in a very different place, emotionally and financially so I really am looking forward to going back and doing all the things we want to the house that we never had a chance to do. We originally bought that house because it was a very boring blank slate and I could do whatever I wanted to it… which brings me to my next thought on the beginning of all of this….

Pinterest!! I knew from past browses if I ever got an invite I would probably spend way to much time on there gathering ideas for when we move back into our house. I was absolutely right… it is an amazing and evil site all at the same time. I really do love the fact that I can pin up everything I want to do to the house and the yard and share my ideas and get feedback. It’s like the old fashioned cutting out magazine pictures and gluing them onto paper in a binder… except way more efficient! But man… I could spend days on that site if I wanted to!

Here are my boards if you would like to take a look at my small collection so far =) I noticed a lot of peoples boards are very unrealistic as far as renovations and house ideas go… so I would really like to keep mine down to earth and make the most out of what I am lucky enough to have instead of drooling over the 2 million dollar kitchens we ALL would love to have! I also look forward to sharing a lot of my things on there through here, in hopes of again, making someone’s life easier through my trial and error!

I would also love to do specific posts on issues you may be dealing with currently, whether it’s storage issues, financial issues or you are just looking for something yummy to eat!

I noticed a lot of blogs do specific posts on specific days, like Menu Mondays, Wordless Wednesdays…. I may try to come up with a few more like Financial Fridays and Storage Saturdays, I know I have enjoyed reading those posts from other blogs, so I will hopefully come up with a few new fresh ideas – although that seems a bit daunting since there are SOOO many blogs out there!!

There will be a lot going on in our lives this coming year and I look forward to having a place to write it all down, I have always found writing therapeutic so perhaps it will help maintain the stress levels!

To new journeys and beginnings…. a new chapter in life has begun!