Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowed In.

Well, I'm still snowed in my house.  The city hasn't plowed our street, so it's still completely covered with ice and snow.  Fortunately, I brought plenty of work home last week to keep me busy today!  It was a lovely weekend though.  

The snow started overnight on Thursday, so I woke up to a winter wonderland on Friday.
It sleeted all day, often heavily.  I had never seen it sleet that forcefully before-- like pouring down rain, but ice.  Since we were stuck inside for three days, I cooked a ton.  I don't remember ever cooking nine meals in a row in my house before, but I did this weekend.  I made creamy chicken and rice soup, pot roast and mashed potatoes, brownies, stovetop popcorn and more.
I got to use my new dutch oven!
It continued to sleet and snow into Saturday until we were totally snowed in.  No distinguishing between where the street ended and the yard began.
Donny and I watched a lot of Boston Legal (which is fantastic!), played a lot of SkipBo, and read books.  I finished Sweet Jiminy by Kristin Gore.  
We also started and finished Making a Murderer.  It was so fascinating and infuriating to watch.  Like almost everyone, I was outraged at the seeming miscarriage of justice that occurred.  After finishing the series, though, I've read a lot of articles about the reality of the case and the trial that was not portrayed in the documentary series.  I'm less convinced that he's innocent but still outraged at the justice system in Wisconsin.   
Now today, I'm working from home watching the snow melt ever so slowly.  Thankfully, the courthouse is closed today.  I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get out of my road tomorrow and get to the office!
How was your weekend??

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2016 Goals.

I didn't make any goals for 2015 other than my reading challenge, which I completed.  But I definitely have plans for some things I want to accomplish this year.
1. Read through the Bible start to finish.

2. Spend time with Jesus every day.

3. Complete my 2016 book challenge.

4. Finish a 5k

5. Grow as a cook/baker.  
More on this later, but I have definite things I want to accomplish in the kitchen in 2016.

6. Sell my decorated cookies. 

What are your goals for 2016??

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Book Challenge Recap and 2016 Goals.

This year, I finished my reading challenge with 85 books!  I realized around mid-October that I had several categories left to go still unread.  I just barely finished by the skin of my teeth (finished the last one on New Year's Eve), but I did it! 
I really enjoyed this challenge-- it took me out of my book rut and got me to read some really great books (looking at you, Jane Austen, Z, and Columbine...).  Since I read more than 80 books this year, I won't go through all of them.  But I do want to share some of my favorites (the links take you to my review of that book on my book review blog, Bookworm Katie):

Pride and Prejudice  //  Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald  //  The Invention of Wings

Inn Boonsboro series

Cormoran Strike series

For 2016, I decided not to do a similar book challenge again, although I really liked the idea and will do it again in the future.  Next year, I want to read some books that might take me a while to get through.  So I don't want to pressure myself too much to read a high number of books or a large variety of categories again.  Instead, I have made a few specific book goals for 2016:

- Read Gone with the WindThe Pillars of the Earth, Little Women, and either Emma or Sense and Sensibility

- Read the Bible from beginning to end again

- Start and finish an entire book series

- Read at least five books that have been on my to-read list since before 2014

- Read three books by new-to-me authors

- Read at least five non-fiction books 

These goals are definitely doable, but will again get me to read books outside of my favorite genres, become more well-read in the classics, learn new things, and help clear off my to-read list! 

What were your favorite books of the year?  Any book recommendations for me??

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Favorites.

2015 was a great year.  I know I didn't blog during much of it, so I missed out on sharing a lot of the goings on.  There was so much good stuff that it's hard for me to narrow down my favorite things/events/discoveries/activities/etc.  But I'm gonna give it my best shot!

Audiobooks.  I discovered the joy of audiobooks this year.  I can almost never stop reading my book!  If I can't hold it with my hands, then someone else can read it to me.  How could that not be wonderful?  My favorite audiobook reader, hands down, was Jenna Lamia.  I adored listening to her read Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald so much that I got the audiobook of The Invention of Wings just to hear her melodic voice.  I'll definitely be reading more from her!
Essential oils.  I also discovered essential oils this year and LOVE them.  I use doTerrra oils and use them every single day for a variety of things.  They diffuse while we sleep, keep my face calm, help us when we're sick, and much, much more!

Cooking and baking.  I've never been afraid of the kitchen and always enjoyed cooking.  But this year, in an effort to save money and eat out less, I've been cooking up a storm.  I've gotten more adventurous in the kitchen, even developing some of my own recipes and ideas!  This year, I roasted my first turkey and gravy, made my first pot roast and mashed potatoes, made pie crust from scratch (leading to a chicken pie and apple cranberry pie), made my own birthday cake, and tons more.  I've loved spending time learning and growing as a chef and baker!
Cookie decorating.  Speaking of growing in the kitchen, I started decorating cookies with royal icing, and it was so fun!  I even sold some of my cookies to some people I know!  It's definitely got me thinking about a possible side business...
MAC makeup. 100% my favorite makeup brand this year was MAC. In almost every category. Their Face and Body foundation, eyeshadow in Slate, dazzleglass in Date Night, and lipstick in Modesty are daily staples.  I also fell in love with NYX's matte finishing spray and butter gloss!
Bible studying. 2015 was also definitely the year of Bible studying for me. I started the year as a participant in Bible study but ended the year leading it with my friend. We did several Beth Moore studies and some from Proverbs 31 Ministries and Lysa TerKeurst, but my absolute favorite was Gideon by Priscilla Shirer. If you're looking for a good study that will challenge and move you, this is it.

What were some of your favorite things of 2015??

Monday, December 28, 2015

Apple Cranberry Pie.

I. Love. Cranberries. It's one of my favorite things to bake with, which is why baking in the fall and winter is the best. This year, I decided that I wanted to make a pie from scratch for Thanksgiving. It was a total experiment that (thankfully) turned out delicious. Apple pie is obviously such a classic. But I wanted to make one a little more festive and different. Loving cranberries like I do, I decided to make an Apple Cranberry pie!
I used Ali's pie crust recipe and instructions from Gimme Some Oven. As I suppose I should have expected, my dough never looked like hers. But it still turned out flaky and delicious, baked beautifully, and held up under all the fruit and juices.
I wish I could describe to you how delicious this pie was! My family loved it, and I was so excited that my first pie from scratch was such a success.  I've always been more of a cake person than a pie person, but this pie was amazing.  I'll definitely be making this again!

Apple Cranberry Pie
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven and Brooklyn Supper's Cranberry Apple Pie

PIE CRUSTS (makes two crusts, one for bottom and one for top)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 8 Tbsp. ice cold water (more or less)

3 large granny smith apples, cored and cut into slices
3 large honeycrisp apples, cored and cut into slices
1 cup fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
zest of 1 orange
1 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. clove

1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. sugar

Using a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Then add in half of the butter cubes, pulsing a few seconds at a time until just incorporated. Repeat with the remaining butter. It will still be clumpy at this stage. Then in a bowl with a spatula, mix the liquid into the dough a tbsp at a time. Basically, you want enough water to incorporate all the dry ingredients, but not enough to make it wet. You might need slightly less or slightly more than the 8 tbsp of water.

Divide the dough in half and pack each one into a fairly tight ball (like you're making a snowball). Then pat each ball into a thick round disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour (I made mine the night before I was going to use them, so refrigerated overnight). The dough will keep in the fridge for three days.

While dough is still in the refrigerator, prep the oven by preheating to 425 and placing a rimmed baking/cookie sheet in the oven to get nice and hot. Then make the filling by stirring all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let them all sit together while you prepare the crust to soak up all the flavors and release some of the juices.

After chilling the dough, turn one of the disks onto a well-floured surface and roll out into a circle of at least 12" in diameter and approximately 1/8" thick. (Dust the top of dough as needed to avoid sticking to the rolling pin.) Place the dough in the pie plate and gently press into the bottom without stretching it. Trim off any excess dough with a knife, leaving about a 1" border around the top of the pie plate/pan. Keep this in the fridge to stay cool while you work on the top dough. Roll out the other dough (again about 12" in diameter and 1/8" thick) and then cut into strips. I made mine pretty wide (about 1 1/2"), but you can make them as thin or as wide as you like. 

Now you're (finally) ready to assemble your pie! Take the chilled crust from the fridge, SPOON apple mixture into it until full. Do not pour. You want to keep as much of the juices out of thepie as possible to avoid a soggy bottom.

Follow these directions to weave the lattice on top. Then brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

I also used some of the excess crust to make some leaves-- just cut them in a rough leaf shape with a sharp knife, score them with a line down the center and off to the side to mimic the veins in a leaf. It's a simple but nice touch! Place these on top of the sugared crust and brush each with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie on the preheated baking sheet in the oven.  Bake for 25 minutes at 425 then rotate pie and reduce heat to 350. Bake for another 30-35 minutes until top is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Keep an eye on it and cover with foil if crust starts to get too brown on top. 

Let it cool for as long as possible before serving. At least four to five hours would be my recommendation in order to let everything set so the filling will stay together. Feel free to serve it whenever you need it, but be prepared for the filling to seep out. This cooled for about four and a half hours before eating, and you can see how it held up very nicely when slicing.
And there you have it-- my Thanksgiving Apple Cranberry pie!

What are your favorite pie recipes?? 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas & Birthday Recap.

I had a truly wonderful Christmas and birthday yesterday!  Both Donny and I were up super early to have our Christmas morning at home.  Then we went to my parents' house for breakfast.  I made some orange cranberry sweet rolls, my mom made mimosas, and dad made his famous country ham biscuits!  It was a DELICIOUS breakfast.
Then we all gathered around my parents' Christmas tree for gifts!
Drew & Morgan sent some beautiful and yummy treats from sunny Los Angeles!
And then we headed to my grandma's house for lunch, more gifts, and birthday cake!
Everyone thought I was nuts when I said I wanted to make my own birthday cake.  And yes, it was a LOT of work and didn't go exactly according to plan.  But it turned out SO delicious-- easily one of my favorite birthday cakes in all my 32 years.  Totally worth all the effort!
My husband and family were SO generous, and I got a ton of stuff that I love and can't wait to use/play with.  But if they keep buying me kitchen goodies, Santa is going to have to bring me a bigger kitchen!!  :) 

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!