Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review

Back in January, I decided wanted to create in 2009. I think I accomplished my major points:

1. Finish old projects, once and for all. I got a lot of projects finished, a lot of new ones started and completed, but not many that were on the original list got finished and they continue to follow me into 2010. oh well! Trying again....

2. Continue creating our home. Lots of little things got done. Replaced light fixtures... reorganized and cleaned out. Brian finished his wall, but the economy caused us to put a hold on spending any money on the painting and landscaping. We have it mostly planned out and as soon as we can, we'll be jumping in again!

3. Create new routines. Ironically, the one I labeled as the toughest, ended up being the one I stuck with the most. I still am not a morning person, but I have a much better routine. One that includes weeknight group workout classes, regular time with Brian and a normal bedtime of 10 to 11 pm and wake up time of no later than 7:00 am on workdays. I am claiming victory on this one! :)

4. Create great memories. Definitely accomplished. My brother got married in April. I got my weekend with the girls in May by the ocean. Celebrated with our family as the nephew turned one. My sister got married in August. We watched our nephew for a whole week in August. Watched lots of Law & Order. Made some lifelong great new friends. Enjoyed great times with old friends. I went deer hunting for the first time. We planned and booked our next big vacation for 2011... a Disney cruise to Alaska with some good friends. :) Lots of time with the family. Lots and lots of great memories this year. :)

5. Create new traditions, new favorites. Didn't quite make that many new recipes this year, but this endeavor will continue in 2010. Brian learned to make excellent french bread from scratch. I made some new cookies and main courses that made it into the permanent recipe box. I'm sad to say that I still haven't made marshmallows though... I have a book, but haven't made it past drooling over the recipes. :) Definitely plan on making some soon though!

Still trying to decide what to resolve for 2010, but I'll think on it tonight and make a decision for tomorrow. Until then, happy new year from our house to yours!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recipe #5: Asian Beef Stirfry

I found this recipe and changed it from skewers to stirfry. I heated a skillet with a little canola oil, added steak that was precut fajita style. Added the onion after a few minutes. While that was cooking mixed up the sauce, then poured it into the pan once the beef was no longer pink. Added a tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken up the sauce, then added some fresh cubes of pineapple. Served it over rice instead of pasta. Yum! Brian and I both liked how hot this one was. Another keeper!

Recipe #4: Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies

These are a definite favorite that will get made frequently. (And no, that is not what my cookies looked like!) Think Girl Scout Thin Mints...yum! So I got the recipe here. I made some definite revisions to the recipe though, so here is my version of the same recipe.

Chocolate-Peppermint Cookies

Makes 6 3 dozen.

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
8 large candy canes or 30 peppermint candies or about 15 mini candy canes, crushed
2 pounds white chocolate, coarsely chopped Note: Do not use white chocolate chips, they will not melt down enough!


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in peppermint extract. Slowly add flour mixture, and beat until just incorporated. Shape dough into 2 disks rectangles about a 1/2" thick, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

2. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Using a 2-inch round cutter, cut out circles, and Work with one rectangle at a time (keep the other in the fridge), cut into 1/2" by 1/2" by 1/2" cubes. Working quickly, on a floured surface roll all the cubes in hands to form small balls of dough. Press to 1/8" thick with a flat-bottomed drinking glass. Generously use flour on the bottom of glass, your hands and the dough. It will not show up on the cookies once they are baked. The longer the dough is out of the fridge the stickier it gets, so work quickly! Once you have pressed the balls of cookie dough flat, place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Roll and cut scraps once. Freeze cookies until firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining disk. Bake immediately, no need to freeze.

3. Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer parchment, with cookies, to wire racks, and let cool. (Undecorated cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.)

4. Sift crushed candy, and separate larger pieces from dust, reserving both. I didn't do this and they turned out just fine! Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water. Remove from heat. Dunk cookies into melted chocolate. Using a fork, turn to coat, let excess drip off, and gently scrape bottom against edge of bowl. I ended up spreading the melted chocolate on the top with a knife. I wouldn't recommend using white chocolate chips -- not the same! Next time, I may even just use milk chocolate because it will coat better. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of either candy pieces or dust on top. Repeat, sprinkling half the cookies with pieces and the rest with dust. Refrigerate until set, up to 3 hours. Decorated cookies are best served the same day. Again, I disagree. They tasted great until yesterday, a full 2 days after making! I don't think they would have lasted any longer, but they will taste just as good if you make a day or two ahead of serving or giving them to people!

Definitely adding to the recipe box in our house!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Recipe #3: Baked Chicken Meatballs

So I saw this recipe over on the Smitten Kitchen blog. Hop on over there for the recipe. A little on the salty side to us, but I think that's the pancetta talking. Only change I made was to put a little shredded mozzarella on the top before putting in the oven. Very tasty and definitely going into our recipe box.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Recipe #2: Lime Meltaways

Remember Lemon Coolers? They were this tasty lemon cookie covered in powdered sugar that lived in a green box in the grocery store? Oh how I miss those cookies!

So when I saw the Lime Meltaway recipe in this cookbook:

Martha Stewart's Cookies

I HAD to try it!

You can get the recipe here.

Now we want to make using lemons too. Delicious! :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Recipe #1: Sweet Fire Chicken

Recently, I tried a new dish at Panda Express -- the Sweet Fire Chicken. YUM. But I knew that it was somewhat unhealthy and probably easily recreated in our kitchen. I was right!

Other than knowing for sure it had pineapple, red bell pepper, onion, chicken and sweet chili sauce, I wanted to make sure I was not missing anything. I turned to google to see if anyone else had created a recipe for it yet. I found this great resource and used this recipe to help me formulate a healthier chicken replacement for the deep fried chicken I know is in the original!

So this is how it all came together:

(Sorry for the less than fabulous picture -- this was taken mid-feast on my phone before we consumed it all!)

Amanda's Sweet Fire Chicken

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into approx. 1" pieces
1 cup flour
salt & pepper, to taste (we hardly use any salt and add more pepper)
canola oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan or PAM cooking spray
1/2 of a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 of a small onion, chopped
1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped (could substitute a can of pineapple, drained)
Thai sweet chili sauce (I used about 1/2 cup, but we both would have liked it hotter, so next time I'll probably add more)

Chop and prepare all ingredients before starting. Heat oil in pan on stovetop. Mix flour, salt and pepper in a gallon ziplock bag. Add chicken pieces and coat evenly. Once pan has heated, add the chicken pieces. Throw out the leftover flour mixture. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring several times to cook chicken. If the pan surface gets dry, spray some additional cooking spray on the surface or add a little bit more oil. Once the chicken has browned, add the bell pepper and onions. Stir in and cook about 3-4 minutes. Add the sweet chili sauce and stir. Then immediately add the pineapple and stir. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Serve over rice immediately.

SO yummy. Definitely adding to our list of regular dinner menu items around here!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

30 by 30

On and off for months I’ve thought about doing a 30 before 30 kind of list. Just the fact that I have come back to it so many times has taught me that it is time to just commit to it and go for it! And really, I turn 30 at the end of just 3 months from today, so no better time to start, right?!

Of course, I saw this somewhere. Multiple blogs and websites for sure. But I have no clue where. So rather than look to see what others have done or find what I saw before, I’m going to do my own thing with this: A moving, flexible, adaptable 30 by 30 list. In my mind, I look these lofty lists I’ve seen of backpacking through Europe, Skydiving, reading the BBC top 100 list. Me? I think these are great, but I would much rather focus on the here and now. The things that are staring me right in the face that I want to spend my time on today. That I can accomplish in 3 months.

Aside from that lofty ever growing and changing list of things to do someday, here’s my idea of a 30 by 30 that I want to accomplish by my birthday on February 28th, 2010!

1. Read 30 books by 30. I seriously have a HUGE collection of books I want to read. I even have a stack of loaned books that have been sitting in my living room for over a year now. So that pile of books is where I intend to start.

2. Finish 30 projects by 30. I have a never ending list of projects. The to-do list just seems to grow and never seems to get smaller. Small projects, time consuming projects, annual projects. Even if that list continues to grow I want to finish 30 projects by 30.

3. Watch 30 movies by 30. Our Netflix queue is out of control. Hundreds of movies. Time to catch up a little. We’re on a roll right now and I want to at least get our $'s worth out of Netflix again!

4. Cook 30 new recipes by 30. No other rules here, just to try 30 new things. Anything really. I just want to spend more time cooking and baking. Already have a few in mind!

5. Run 30 by 30. And by 30 I mean a 30 minute 5k. Totally doable, but a commitment to getting back into running 3-5 days a week. I was close to running this time once by a few minutes. I am a better runner now than I was then. I’m mentally tougher now and have endurance now that I didn't then.

So how will this all work? Right now I look at it as three months, 30 items on those four lists and one goal. Just ten a month... ten books, ten recipes, ten movies, ten projects. Check in at least once a week, start building those four lists of items done.

As for the running goal, I will go back to my old program I liked so well, the ten weeks to run a 5k. Want to keep my evening class workouts of aerobics, kickboxing and the occasional boot camp... maybe even toss in the occasional bike ride with my husband, but I think I will be getting up the morning to run again. All I need is my iTunes play lists and some sleep.

So in three months, I hope to look back satisfied and maybe then I’ll write an impossible pie-in-the-sky 40 before 40 list. Old school style. But there won’t be in skydiving on that one! :)

Do you have any lists of things waiting out there for you to do? What helps you stay motivated? Have you finished any of those lists?


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