Monday, March 31, 2014

Caramel Filled Brownies

Having been a choice in the past it was great to finally get a chance to try this recipe out!  As with any other dessert I suck at having the patience to wait for things to set up, so my final brownie picture is more a delicious pile of warm goo than the picture perfect brownie square, after a night in the fridge it should be more picturesque!  I had never made brownies from scratch before so this was a fun adventure.  Pretty easy and delicious!  Thank you so much for your votes and in deciding on this dessert!  I couldn't have done this without you!  I hope you enjoy it!  As always, please feel free to submit any recipes you would like for me to cook next month and thank you for reading!

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 oz. bittersweet Chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp Almond extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose Flour
1/2 tsp salt 
Caramel Filling:
11 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with foil and grease the foil REALLY WELL, with butter or cooking spray. Set aside.
Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. Heat, stirring occasionally, until all is completely melted and smooth.
Mix in sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well incorporated. Then add in flour and salt until just combined.
Spread about 1/3 of the brownie batter into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let the brownie layer cool for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, make the caramel filling by combining the caramel candies and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep stirring until melted and immediately spread the caramel mixture over the cooked brownie layer.
Pour the remaining brownie batter over the caramel layer. Try to spread it evenly as it is pretty difficult to try to smooth it out evenly over the caramel layer.
Bake for 20 minutes then remove from oven and transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting and serving. You’ll definitely want to wait for it because otherwise, your squares will be a complete gooey mess!

Melt the chocolate and the butter
Mix in the eggs, sugar and almond
Add the flour and salt
Mix it all together
Pour 1/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the foil
Cook for 20 minutes

Melt the caramel and the cream in a saucepan
Thoroughly mix it

Pour on top of the cooked brownies
Top with the remaining brownie batter
Cook for a final 20 minutes
Serve & Enjoy!

If you would like to view the previous winning desserts, click here:

January's Winner: Black Forest Pavlova

December's Winner: Pumpkin Tiramisu

November's Winner: Caramelized Banana Pudding

October's Winner: Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

September's Winner: Apple Raspberry Crumble

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Carne Asada: The Winning Dish!

I have to admit that this must be one of the easiest dishes that I made based on your votes.   Not to say that it takes away from being tasty in any way.  Having never made Carne Asada before, I never realized just how quick and easy it was.  The longest time is spent in marinating the dish, and the rest goes by very quickly!  Thank you so very much for your participation and your votes in deciding what I would cook for this month!  As my readers, you are my motivation for keeping this up every single day!   If you have any recipe suggestions, please feel free to share them with me and I can add them in to my monthly vote! 

1.5 lbs flank or round steak
2 Garlic Cloves (Minced)
1 tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Alpine Touch (Salt & Pepper)
1 Large handful of cilantro (cut thinly, stems included)
2 Limes worth of Juice
2 Tbsp White Vinegar
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 small Yellow Bell Pepper (Seeded & Chopped)

Corn or Flour Tortillas
1 Avocado (Peeled, cored & chopped)
Green Onions

Combine all of above marinade ingredients and the steak in a large bowl and soak in the fridge for 1-4 hours. 
Preheat your grill (I just use my George Foreman Grill).  Remove the steak from the marinade. If you are cooking on a pan indoors, you may want to brush off excess marinade as the bits may burn and smoke on the hot pan.   Grill the pieces for a few minutes only, on each side, depending on how thin they are, until medium rare to well done, to your preference. You may need to work in batches. Remove the steak pieces to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.

(Optional) Serve with warm tortillas (flour or corn). Warm the tortillas for 30 seconds on each side in a dry skillet or on the grill, until toasty and pliable. Alternatively, you can warm tortillas in a microwave: heating just one or two at a time, place tortillas on a paper towel and microwave them for 15 to 20 seconds each on high.
Feel free to add whatever toppings you would like.  I listed which ingredients I added into it, but cook according to preference.  Serve & Enjoy!

Marinate the steak
Grill it to juicy perfection
Warm up your tortillas
Serve with toppings and enjoy!

 Here are the precious winners if you are interested in checking them out! 

February's Winner: Chicken Cordon Bleu

January's Winner: Sauteed Scallops

December's Winner: Pizza Pot Pies

November's Winner: Lasagna Stuffed Manicotti

October's Winner: Pumpkin Risotto

September's Winner: Burgundy Pork 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Toddler Bowling

Today Liam (my 3 year old son) had a birthday party to go to that was at the bowling alley.  It also happened to be dinosaur themed (because what little boy doesn't love dinosaurs?)  Liam had never previously been bowling so this was his first time.  I do have have a bowling game on my phone that he loves to play so the concept was not entirely foreign to him.  As a mom I know that sometimes I suck at knowing when my son is old enough to participate in certain activities (such as bowling).
Liam was very excited to get out there and start bowling.  His favorite parts were rolling the ball and the fan at the ball retrieval.  After awhile I had to convince him to keep bowling instead of standing over the fan to let it blow on him while he stood there in delight.  After only one time he has learned that there are certain bowling balls that are too heavy and that you should only roll the ball in your own lane.  He was very good at taking turns with another child and waiting for his turn.  This is huge knowing how bad he has been at having patience with anything in the past.  He was quite sad that all of the bowling balls that were cool colors were too heavy for him.  He was very happy to wear the shows and even enjoyed checking out the arcade games by the entrance.  Over all I think that he did very excellent for his first time.  I can't wait to work on throwing the ball harder and aiming in the future.  But this was a very fun activity that he was definitely in to.  I can't wait to take him again soon.   I wanted to share some of the fun dino party pics as well as a bonus video at the end of Liam reading "El Materdor" this evening.  Unfortunately I missed the previous stories that he knew a lot better than this one but it's still fun to watch :)

Bowling :)

Dinosaur Party  

 Arcade Games

 Reading "El Materdor"

Friday, March 28, 2014

DIY: Activities for Toddler Part 4

As I sit here on a Friday night planning on fun things for Liam and I to do I always turn to my DIY lists and try to choose at least 1 activity a weekend.  Since we were able to accomplish a couple, it was time to find some new activities to add to the list.  I am still working on a few oldies but I found some spectacular new goodies :)  Enjoy!  Please feel free to add any suggestions you have so that we can try them out!

Bunny Collage

I love how simple and adorable this is!  Plus the supplies are easy to come by and uses stuff we already have around the house :)

Construction Paper
White Paint
Shallow container/paper plate
Cotton Balls
Black Marker

Cut out a green strip of "grass" and glue it onto a piece of sky blue paper.
Pour some white paint into a shallow container or paper plate. Make your Bunnies out of two thumb prints. One for the head, and one for the body. Make as many bunnies as you'd like, anywhere in the meadow.
Break off the ends of your Q Tips and glue them on top of your thumb prints to make the bunny's ears. Glue on a small wad of cotton ball for the tail.
Cut out a sun from yellow construction paper and glue in on your scene. When the paint is dry, draw on the eyes, nose and whiskers.
Other options to add to your collage are green pieces of tissue paper stuck on as grass, or cotton ball clouds, be creative!

 Salt Painting
This is a great and easy way to have a fun painting time at home with not too much of a mess.  I have seen a lot of people try this and similar things out in the past and have been wanting to try it with Liam since he is totally into creating different works of art. 
I keep wanting to do this one and find that I need to buy salt haha.

-Construction paper/cardstock
-Paintbrush and/or medicine dropper
-Colored water (we used about a tablespoon of water with 6-7 drops of food coloring)
-Little bowls for colored water

Have your child draw a picture with glue.Then sprinkle the glue with salt.  We did this on top of a piece of cardboard, but a baking sheet will work well too. Next have your child take a paintbrush or a medicine dropper and drop colored water, one drop at a time onto the salt.
Some tips: Make sure they lightly touch the salt with the brush.  It also helps to have a bowl to clean the brush in between colors...otherwise you lose the colors start blending together and you lose the vibrant colors because they become murky. 

 Feed The Penguins Learning Game

I can't lie, I am very excited about this activity.  Liam also has an obsession for the Swedish clay-mation show Pingu.  So he is totally into penguins.  Also we can throw learning in with counting and letters on the fish :)  What a spectacular idea. 

Cardboard Box (about Graham Cracker box sized)
Construction Paper (Black, White, Orange)
Goggle Eyes (2)

Wrap the black construction paper around the box. I only used 1 piece, so it didn't cover the top, bottom or the back of the box. But that's ok. :)
Cut an oval shaped hole for the mouth. It doesn't have to be perfect, just big enough for the fish to fit in.  (You'll want to leave paper off the top of the box so that you can get the fish out after they get put in.)
For the beak, cut a square out of orange construction paper. Then cut an oval shaped hole in the middle.  Tape the beak onto the penguin.
Glue 2 googly eyes on the penguin (or cut eyes out of paper and glue them on).
Cut out a white oval for the stomach and glue it on.
Cut out 2 orange feet and glue them onto the bottom of the box.
Cut out 2 black, oval flaps for the wings and tape one on each side.
For the FISH:
Just draw a fish shape onto a piece of paper and cut it out (Make sure it's small enough to fit in your penguin's mouth). Then use that fish as a template and draw some more fish on a piece of construction paper. Then place 2-3 MORE pieces of construction paper underneath and cut out the fish. (Saves time cutting out 3-4 at a time!)
Once you have all your fish, get a black marker and draw a dot for the eye and a little smile on each fish.
Then draw on whatever concept you want to teach: SHAPES, NUMBERS, LETTERS, MATH, WORDS, etc.
(Optional): For extra durability, laminate the fish so you can use them in other games later! (I actually just used clear contact paper).

Jello Ocean Bath



 Messy activities in the bath are such a fantastic idea.  You get to be all messy and yet you don't have a huge mess to clean up!  Also if the mess is too much, just rinse it out and then wash your child up as they are already in the bathtub playing!  Liam loves the bathtub anyway, so I know he would love this activity!  I have found it to be quite the ordeal to find blue raspberry jello, so I am still in search mode.

4 Boxes Blue Raspberry Jello
Small bag of Smooth Round Stones (Such as used for candle accents)
Variety of sea life toys

Let the jello set up.  Put it into the bottom of the tub and add some warm water to make the bath warm enough to play in.  Add the stones and toys and let them get in and have a ball.  This makes for a great sensory and learning experience!

If you would like to see the past DIY activities that we have completed together, check them out here:

Kool-Aid Dyed Pasta

Cardboard Owls

Alphabet Train

Make Your Own Rainstorm

Orange Sugar Scrub

Meditation Bottle

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Greek Lemon Oregano Chicken

I always love a nice easy baked chicken recipe.  This one is great in that it has minimal ingredients and minimal efforts for a very delicious meal.  Enjoy it!

4 Chicken Breasts
4 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Cloves of Garlic (Mince)
Generous Seasoning of Mediterranean Sea Salt & Mediterranean Oregano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil (to make for easier clean up).  Arrange the chicken on the cookie sheet with the smooth side up.  Sprinkle the lemon juice, garlic and seasoning on top of the chicken.  Cook until done (about 30-40 minutes).  Serve with pan juices and enjoy!

Get your ingredients out
Arrange the chicken smooth side up and sprinkle with lemon, garlic and seasoning
Cook for about 30 minutes
Serve & Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lost: A Poem

Today was an exceptionally bad day....  Let's just say that it led to a rough poem of expressing some of my thoughts.  Just thought that I would share with you.  I know the flow is a bit rough, I haven't had much time to read through it, just sharing it in it's initial hurried pen to paper to get things out format.  Enjoy.

Brittany L. McCann

I feel so lost
Surrounded by chaos
As if adrift on the seas
Wave after wave of unplanned emergencies
Why can I not see the light
Is there no end in sight
No matter how hard I try
End up broken down and cry
Alone here I sit
Some days wanting to quit
Mental breakdown seems nigh
To a deserted place, I yearn to fly
Wanting to follow my dreams
Instead I stifle frustrated screams
Worse it can always be
Yet I still fight desperately
Can I never get ahead
Just want to hide in my bed
Is there no break to be caught
Has it all been for naught
I take it one step at a time
Awaiting my turn for sublime
Still here it is day after day
Sunny skies still turn grey
Most days are not sad
Yet some end up so bad
The battles I fight
Leave me alone in the night
Just when I can’t fight any longer
Somehow I come out stronger
One step at a time
Now entering my prime
Yet what is the cost
When I come to you lost

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Letter Writing: Old Fashioned Romantic Gestures

I have a few fairly old fashioned tastes when it comes to what I want from a man and a relationship. One of these things is that I want a man who will take the thought and time to send me an actual handwritten letter, and send it through the mail with *gasp* an actual stamp. I find that I can eliminate a LOT of suitors with this one simple request. Their response to this request tells me a LOT about them. I get a lot of excuses such as; "I hate writing" "I have bad handwriting" "I could do it in a couple of months when I have more free time" "I don't have time for stuff like that" "I don't have any stamps or envelopes", etc. If you can't take the time to do something as simple as write me a letter, than I must not mean very much to you. If you cannot take the time to some something so simple and thoughtful and personal than you aren't very serious about wanting to court me. There is only one person who has actually said that they would write to me.... I find this sad, but also hopeful that all is not lost in the hopes of real love.

Another reason why letters mean so much to me is that when my parents got divorced, my mother gave me all of the letters that my dad wrote to her when he was away at college before they got married talking about how much he loved her and me and I can't read them without crying. I also have her journals from when she was younger and those are some of my most priceless possessions, along with photos. I have boxes that I take with me everywhere of every letter that anyone has ever written to me from middle school until now. The written word is so amazing. Somehow you take more time to think when you actually wrote on paper than you do on a computer or through text. It takes that extra thought to know that what you are writing will be there on paper forever.

I know that I wrote more before being a mother and now I have sucked at it in the written form, I have been documenting a lot electronically, but that could all go away one day. I keep buying journals that I want to fill the pages of, I have them next to my bed, I used them for dream journals and late night thoughts but I bought a bunch of fun new colored pens so that I can have even more incentive to write more. I need to get on it myself. I need to print out more pictures for Liam to have and to post up around the house and to have actual REAL photo albums for Liam to look through. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Apple Glazed Pork Scallopini

Glazes are always a great way to ensure that you end up with a savory, flavorful, juicy pork dish.  Pork is always a great dish to add fruit to because it goes really well with a little bit of a sweet flavor.

5 Tbsp Butter
3 Pork Scaloppinis
Seasoning ( Mediterranean Sea Salt, Tarragon, Basil)
1 Large Apple (Cored & Sliced)
3 Tbsp Apple Jelly (You can also use jelly as I originally intended to use)
2 Tbsp Sugar

Add 2 Tbsp Butter to a skillet.  Add the pork and season generously on both sides.  Cook on med-high until browned thoroughly (About 8-10 minutes per side).  Soften the butter and mix with the jelly & sugar.  Add the glaze and apple slices to the pork.  Turn the heat down to low and mix thoroughly.  Simmer for about 5 minutes to ensure the glaze has soaked into the pork.Serve with the apples and glaze.  Enjoy!

Add your pork to the skillet and season generously
Mix up your glaze
Add the glaze to the pan
Add the apples and simmer for 5 minutes.   Serve & Enjoy!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

DIY: Kool-Aid Dyed Pasta

This is a great way for what many people call "Sensory Learning."  It is suggested that you get a sensory bin (any kind of plastic shallow tray or bin) and then you want to have various colored objects of all shapes and sizes and then you child can learn from these things and play with them.  Personally I think that a lot of these things can double as art supplies if you have some glue on hand, to include this project.  I actually find that I will most likely use this more for doing other artistic and crafty ideas instead.  Already I want to make a pasta necklace :)  *Kiwi-Strawberry does not turn out very pink, looks similar to the orange flavor. 

Supplies: (Per Color)
1 Cup Rice or 1 Cup Pasta
1 packet Kool-Aid
1-2 tsp Rubbing Alcohol
Gallon or large plastic Ziplock bags
Tin Foil
Cookie Sheet

First add 1 cup of pasta to each bag.  We decided to use a different kind of pasta for each color.  After the pasta is separated into the bags pour 1 packet of  Kool-Aid on top of the pasta.   Add 1-2 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol to each bag on top of the previous two ingredients.
Seal the bag shut and shake it up.  Let it sit for at least 15 minutes to saturate.  Cover the cookie sheet with tin foil.
Next, pour the wet pasta onto the cookie sheet. and get it as flat as it will go so that you can dry it overnight (or for at least 6-8 hours).  When it is dry, the rice will be all clumped together; separate the rice grains with your hands.
Now you can use it for sensory learning or to make additional arts and crafts projects like I intend to do.  My son was already having fun counting and telling me the colors. 

Get out your supplies
Show your excitement :)
Pour the pasta into the baggies

Get ready to add the Kool-Aid
Pour the Kool-Aid over the pasta, add the rubbing alcohol and tightly seal the baggies
Vigorously shake up each bag
Get that dye to stick to the pasta

Happily wait for the dye to sink in
Lay it out to dry overnight and then play :)

If you would like to see the past DIY activities that we have completed together, check them out here:

Cardboard Owls

Alphabet Train

Make Your Own Rainstorm

Orange Sugar Scrub

Meditation Bottle