Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Food Club... French & Swiss Theme

We joined a food club in our neighborhood, we thought it would be a great opportunity to get to know other adults and find good recipes. We rotate houses and choose a new theme each month. This first months theme is French and Swiss. There was fondue, quiches, desserts, drinks, and wine for those that drink wines. I am going to list the recipes I made...

Fruit Tartlets  (Tartelettes de Framboises au Mascarpone)

I started with a recipe, but varied because I didn't like the original taste. I also change the size since I don't have tart pans and made then in cupcake pans, but I didn't like them as much that way so I bought some mini pie dishes that are 4 in diameter, one batch will make 8-10. We cut it into halves or 4 smaller pieces to eat. They worked perfect! 

2/3 cup powder sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
1 7/8 cups flour
1/2 cup butter unsalted softened (I rarely use salted butter anymore)
1 egg

1. Sift dry ingredients, add butter, egg, and then use a pastry cutter to make dough smooth and pliable. 
2. Make into ball and place in freezer 15 minutes.
3. Roll out crust about the same as a pie crust thickness then cut out circle to fit pie pans. Do not make an edge like pies just cut it to the pan, any extra thickness doesn't taste great. 
4. Cover the pastry with wax paper and  fill with beans to keep crust flat. 
5. Bake at  350 degrees F (175C) until just lightly golden brown 15-20 minutes. remove wax paper and cook just 2 minutes more so that the bottom is completely cooked. If you cook it too long the shell get tough. 

1/2 cup greek yogurt
1/4 cup+ powder sugar (to taste)
1 vanilla bean slit lengthwise seeds scraped in
8 oz mascarpone cheese. 
1 tsp. extract (vanilla, almond, etc...)

6. Mix well and add to cooled shells then top with fresh fruit. Traditionally it’s not slice, but I like to cut it up and mix it so you get a wide variety in each bite add a little sugar to make the juices a little thicker. 
7. Cool at least 15 minutes and dust with powder sugar before serving.

Printable Recipe here: French Fruit Tarts 

French Macarons w/ganache 

I had never eaten these before or made them so this was a whole new game. I didn't like them that much, but others loved them. A couple things I learned: space them apart since they do raise a bit, use lots of coloring or they are not colored at all, and lastly watch them closely they overbake easily, in fact after I got home from cooking club I realized all mine where overbaked! All in all they were actually pretty simple to make if you follow the instructions from the Joy of baking (also her recipe). I also watched quite a few videos on Youtube of how to mix it correctly. They are fairly simple to make but it is a process to figure out the right way to make them.
I used a new chocolate ganache recipe and I didn't like it as much so I am going to post one I  have used before that is much better and sets up to the right consistency. It will vary with the chocolate you use so always use good quality. For those of you who may not know ganache is the center for truffles, so it will set up once it cools.
12oz chocolate chips 
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp extract
Heat your heavy cream just till it boils and pour over chocolate. Cover lightly and let stand for a couple minutes then stir, repeat. If not completely melted you may need to heat just a small bit more. Add you extract to the smooth mixture and allow to cool. Store in the fridge.

Garlic Gruyere fondue

2 garlic cloves- finely minced
Gruyere cheese
Kirsch - 2 TB
Cornstarch - 1.5 TB
White wine - 2 glasses
Dry mustard - 1-2 TB

Mix wine and garlic together and warm it up (do not boil). Add in cheese and melt. Once melted make a roux of the cornstarch and kirsch and add to cheese mixture. As the fondue thickens, add the dry mustard and whisk till smooth. Transfer to a fondue pot and enjoy!

Chocolate fondue

One package of milk chocolate chips (Ghirardelli)
Heavy cream

Whisk the chocolate and heavy cream together till smooth and enjoy!

Contributed & Made by: Shaswati Cates

From: fondue cookbook
Printable Recipe: Garlic Gruyere fondue & Chocolat Fondue

Breakfast Quiche Gluten Free

24 ozs potatoes (frozen hash brown)
13 cup melted butter
1 cup ham (cooked diced) **I used bacon**
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Squeeze any excess moisture from the potatoes and combine them with the melted butter or margarine in a small bowl. Press this mixture into the bottom and sides of an ungreased 10 inch pie pan.
Bake at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 25 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and arrange the ham and cheese evenly over the potatoes. In a separate small bowl, beat together the eggs and the cream. Pour this over the ham and cheese.
Return pan to oven and bake for 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 30 minutes, or until the custard has completely set.
{**I think a little less cooking time might be better? Or add one more egg**}

Contributed by: Ashley Baker
Reciepe From with a printable version:
Yummly: Breakfast Quiche Gluten Free

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

3rd Anniversary Gift Ideas

The third anniversary is the traditionally leather. Traditionally leather shoes would wear out during the 3rd year of marriage, with funds low the traditional gifts where meant to replace items that would wear out. I can't imagine how many women out there would go crazy if they had to wait 3 years of marriage to get new shoes.  I had to take a moment and pause on how lucky we are to have so much when I found out that is why it was given in days past.

Lets talk about the properties in marriage for a second. Leather is strong, durable, warm, and flexible. We all know that leather lasts a long time, at the third year it's the first of many milestones you will reach in your marriage. By this point you should have adjusted to each other and know that your marriage is flexible.  You and your spouse have most likely been through hardships and know that your marriage is durable. Most couples have probably learned by now each others "Love Languages and are able to have a warm meaningful relationship in which you both can express and feel love.  Leather really embodies what your marriage has become a strong, durable, warm, and flexible relationship.

Consider an old book, it is covered in leather to protect the delicate paper pages within. Books have lasted hundreds of years because of there protective cover. Its nice to think that by the 3rd year of marriage you have created something that can last your lifetime and beyond. 

On a little side note this is also considered the anniversary that couples who delayed having children decide to try for children.

Color: White
Gemstone: Pearl or Jade
Flower: Fuschia or Sunflower

Link to other years: Anniversary Gift Ideas

Gift Ideas

Cognac leather luggage setLeather Luggage Tag - Travel Gift with Free Monogramming
Luggage: If you don't have a nice luggage set this would be a good idea for all the many family vacations  business trip, and romantic getaways to come. If you have a good set consider luggage tags, which are a must for flights. Check out these tags from Divina Denuevo and a good article to read on buying luggage from Overstock

Big Buddha Sutton SatchelPatricia Nash Leather Napoli Shoulder BagBetsey Johnson Be My One and Only Now Satchel
Purses and Wallets: Guys, if your wife has been drooling over a designer purse this is a great time to splurge and get her something that you normally can't afford. It would surely be the purse she cherishes and shows off to all her friends. Wallets are always wearing out, I know both me and my husband need new ones. Dillards has a huge selection. I buy mine from a lady locally they are super affordable and chic, but she doesn't sell them online.
Leather Pendant Leather Jewelry Flower White Green Lime OOAK

Antique Men's Brown Leather Cuff Bracelet, Leather Wrist Band Wristband Handcrafted JewelrySilver Disc Earrings with Leather Insert

Jewlery: depending on what you get, you could get the for him or her. I really like the stylish options from Sarto J and Crafy Mosaic. I like the men's cuffs from Pier 7 Craft

Tufted Accent Chair, Red Faux LeatherStratus Queen Bed, Brown Faux Leather 
Furniture: Who doesn't want new furniture, I know I love it! Whether its a bed, couch, chairs, or ottoman leather cleans up well and lasts forever. The items above are from Walmart.com.

Shoes: Most women love shoes and my husband loves shoes. This could be a fun occasion to spruce up your wardrobe. It is the traditional gift anyways. The shoes above are from amazon they have good ones on there, but sometimes you have to search.

14" Manhattan Camera Bag - Serengeti -Full Grain Leather - Large Padded Camera Insert Divider with Padded Bottom - Made in the U.S.A.14" inches/Inch Leather Laptop/Messenger/Satchel Shoulder Cabin Handbag/Bags Handmade Camel Pure Genuine Soft Leather Briefcase Purse
Camera bag & briefcases are a good idea for men. Here are a couple I like from Creative Leather and Copper River Bags

Personalized Whiskey Leather HANDMADE Dopp Shaving Kit Toiletry Case Gift for Man
Tolitry Case: My husband uses his almost everyday since I don't like things all over the bathroom. It also comes in really handy for trips. I like the ones from  Felix Street Studio and if you have kids they have really fun kids ones. 

Watches: I found some fun watches on Overstock. Choose one of these to tell time for all the years to come. 

Get creative leather is all around! If you cant find leather get the pearls they are my favorite. 
Pearl Wedding Jewelry, White or Ivory Pearl Necklace with Rhinestone Balls, Bridal Necklace, Vintage Style Bridal Jewelry

Wedding Earrings, Rhinestone Bridal Jewelry, Pearl Cluster Earrings, Dangle Earrings, Ivory Pearl or White Pearl JewelryWedding Bracelet, Pearl and Rhinestone Bridal Bracelet, Ivory pearls or White Pearls, Pearl and Crystal Bridal Jewelry

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

LeapPad Review

We bought a LeapPad when they first came out. It was a pain to get since everyone wanted one and it cost a pretty penny, but it is worth every cent maybe more. Even our pediatrician said that it is great for kids to learn abs's, science, math, etc..  If your on the fence I say get it! 

Ours is over a year old and works perfect! It has been played with by my 2 yr old and 5 yr old, daycare kids, my nieces/nephews, the kids I nanny, and pretty much every kid that comes to our house. My husband is often found playing it as well. So here is what we have done to keeps ours working great:
#1: Make sure you get a case
#2: Get the gel cover
#3: Cover the screen, just like a smart phone.
#4:  Get good rechargeable batteries

Here are some of my pro's: It will save your iPad, smart phones, and computers lots of where and tear. It is great for long drives in the car, I cannot tell you how many hours my kids have been entertained in the vehicle with it. You really don't have to help them at all after a couple times using it, even the 2 yr old finds what she wants.  I love that you can watch movies, play games, take pictures, read books, etc... my kids don't get board with just one activity.  It is educational unlike a DS, our rule is you cant have a personal game system until your at least 8.  Ability to check what you kids are playing, when I plug it into the computer I am able to see what they have completed. You can get games relatively cheap when ToyRus runs their sales, I haven't paid over $14 for a game yet. There are multiple languages, haven't tried them yet but they are on the list.  Each LeapPad has 3 players set and one guest option so your kids can easily share, but still have there own personable menu. Its a good toy for a family to share.

Cons: You have to expand some a the games and the system tells your child to have a grownup get the expansion. We haven't expanded any of ours yet, but my son asks every-time he play one of the games. The games play fine without the expansion, but I might buy him one for his coming birthday. There is no battery gauge  it would be nice to know how much is left especially before a long drive.  The back covers where the batteries go don't stay on, this is not a big deal at all if you have a gel cover. The LeapPad 2's are supposed to be more durable so maybe this is what they fixed, it is the only problem I could think would make it more durable. 

Best games we have tried:
Letter Factory: fantastic game, I wish they would make more like this! My son has had this one since Christmas this year and I have seen a dramatic improvement in his letter recognition, sounding out words when he reads, and writing. I can actually read most his words now.  I can't attribute it all to this game, but if you sit and play if for just a couple of minutes you will be in love with its teaching capacity. Get this game for any child under 7.

Magic School Bus Oceans: another recent purchase that is great! This one is definitely a game for 5 and up. My son has been learning about different sea animals, food chains, and sorting. This game really helps them learn to listen and follow directions. A good game for fun facts!

Mr. Pencil: this is a good game for learning to draw shapes and be creative. It is a little hard since it makes you trace it exact, but a good game. 

Games that are not so great:
Spongebob: Its just dumb, plain and simple. The game doesn't have that great of graphics and you really don't do much other than karate chop everyone. I guess its a break from educational games, but I wouldn't buy it again. 

Apps we like:
Explorer™ Flash Card App: Land Animals
Brain Blocks Flash Cards- Land Animals: this was a surprisingly good app. It has a 2 player game that is mainly what we use, but a good little app about animals. 

Explorer™ Video App: Team UmiZoomi Volume 2: Mighty Missions
Umi Zoomie Video's: we dont have TV and I really like the math skills this show teaches. I love that the kids can watch a short movie with no commercials. 3 episodes per app. 

Explorer™ Video App: Bubble Guppies Volume 1: Playtime with Bubble Puppy!
Bubble Guppies: this is mainly what my 2 yr old does with the Leappad. They teach colors, shapes, and sing fun songs. 3 episodes per app. 

We love the LeapPad and plan to buy one more soon for our 2 yr old, we will be trying out new games (girly ones) and I will update on the ones we like. Share your reviews too, I hate buying something without reading reviews first. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2nd Anniversary Gift Ideas

So your second anniversary is approaching and your wondering what to get your spouse. The traditional gift is cotton. Cotton is traditionally given since it symbolizes the need for a marriage to remain strong, versatile, and soft. Ironically cotton symbolizes prosperity.

Cotton has been around since 3000 BC and is the leading cash crop in the US. I highly doubt that without change it will still be the leading crop. In a marriage the first year can either be extremely difficult adjusting to each others qualms or it can be very fun and laid back, but at some point the relationship changes in order for it to survive and remain as strong as the day you where married.

When I think about this idea I think about the idea that my son is sleeping on cotton sheets that my brothers now in their late 20's slept on. I can't imagine the number of times they have been thrown up on, soiled,  washed, but yet they still work great and are soft. On your 2nd anniversary you give cotton to symbolize that no matter how many times you fight, disagree, loose your way; your marriage can be "washed" and last for years to come.

I think it also reminds us that we need to be soft with our spouses. Change is not always easy over the last two years you have probably learned a whole new way of budgeting, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and communicating. You may have had personal tragedies, job loses, etc. Sometimes we may not always realize how things have affected our spouses.

Color: Red
Gemstone: Garnet
Flower: Lilly of the Valley

Link to other years: Anniversary Gift Ideas

Gift Ideas

Bedding: I like the idea of bedding it is something that just the two of you share and that will last for years. It is soft and durable. I think it perfectly symbolizes cotton and all the aspects needed for a strong marriage. If you feeling really ambitious make you master bedroom a second honeymoon that you get to enjoy every night. The ones pictured above are from Overstock

Bathrobes: I like the idea of giving bathrobes because you could execute it in so many ways. Make reservations in a local hotel for the honeymoon sweet or a local bed and breakfast. The robes will be a perfect thing to lounge around in and take it home. Or if money is tight make a candlelight dinner and romantic evening at home. The robes will be great and you could enjoy breakfast in bed the next morning. I love all the options on Amazon and free shipping with prime is great!

Williamsport Plaid Window TreatmentsSound Asleep™ Blackout Window Curtain LinerBombay® Garrison Rod Pocket/Back Tab Window Curtain Panels
Curtains: we know of a house that we have dubbed the "fish bowl," it really is a lovely house, but there are no coverings on the windows. Whenever we drive by it we love to see what they are doing and I am sure they love that everyone driving by can see. They really should have gifted curtains for their 2nd anniversary. Curtains are also a wonderful idea since it really does make anywhere feel like home. I like the curtains we have from Walmart.com and BedBath&Beyond

Personalized photo art Your PHOTO printed Canvas Wedding Reception Decor  text and words Photo Wedding 24X36Things to do kids photos Words pictures on Canvas Art Custom Typography 16x20 inches
Canvas Photos: I love this idea if your like us we still have so many bare walls and not one picture of our wedding or our whole family on the wall. Check out these really cute one's from GeeZee's.

Cotton Boll Bouquet and Mercury Glass Vase - Home Decor - Christmas Decoration - Wedding Decoration - Anniversary Gift - CenterpieceMixed Cotton Boll Wreath - Natural Cotton - Raw Cotton - Dried Floral - Centerpiece - Candle Ring - Wedding - Home Decor - 18"Bridal Bouquet - Natural Cotton Bolls - Raw Cotton - Wedding - Bridesmaids - Dried Bouquet - Boutonnieres

Actual Cotton: I love this idea!!! These are so cute and my style rustic shabby chic. Wreaths, bouquets, floral arrangements, etc... check out these amazing creations from Tall Cotton 'n Peas. Husbands I don't think you can go wrong with something from her store!

Personalized With Hunters Fleur De Leis and Name 52 Inch Real Tree Camo Riffle Bag
Riffle Case: This is a great gift for the hunter in your life. If you both hunt get a matching set. I like these embroidered ones from Monogrammed Memories, she also has other item you could gift. 

iPad Case - Monogram iPad 2 and iPad 3 Case - Personalized iPad 2 and iPad 3 CasePersonalized, Monogrammed Laptop Sleeve
Technicall Covers: With the technical world all around us most of us probably have something that can be covered and around a 2nd anniversary some may be starting or already have kids, this is a great gift to help keep these expensive devices working.  I really like the covers by a modern style or check out the tutorials to make your own. 

Hammocks: What a fun gift that you both can relax and enjoy. The Hammock Company has a huge selection from free standing to camping ones. I also like that they have a most pinned section kinda gives you an idea of what people like. 

Adrian Gonzalez #28 Boston Red Sox Replica Jersey (Red)Toronto Maple Leafs Zephyr NHL 2012 Powerplay Fitted Hat (Navy)Green Bay Packers Forever Collectibles NFL Pashmina Scarf (Green/Yellow)
Fan Gear: Whether buying for him or her the options with this one are unlimited. Hats, purses, shirts, scarves, coats...  The items above are from FANZZ, but sports stuff is everywhere. You can even get sports fabric and make something special like a quilt, apron, pillows, etc...