Equal Parts Effort & Love

This weekend, I spent a significant amount of time in the kitchen with the boys underfoot baking. This is truly one of my favorite pastimes, especially around the holidays. I love sharing my baked goods with my coworkers and spreading some Christmas cheer.

Baking a perfect cookie is equal parts effort and love. I also believe that allowing the butter to sit out on the counter for several hours before baking helps create the perfect formula for soft, fluffy cookies.

Below I’ve included the recipe for the three types of cookies I baked this weekend. The method for all three is the same. In a large mixing bowl start by creaming the butter and sugar together. Then add the remaining wet ingredients and stir until blended. Then add the dry ingredients and mix carefully. Use a tablespoon to place on the cookie sheet, spacing them evenly apart. Bake in the oven adjusting the timing plus or minus a few minutes depending on your oven. Cool on a baking rack and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 3 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

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Iced Pumpkin Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Icing glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk

Bake at 350 degree for 15 to 20 minutes.

To make the glaze, melt the butter in the microwave. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and stir carefully. Then slowly add up to 3 tablespoons of milk to reach the desired consistency for icing. Drizzle across the top of each cookie with a spoon after the cookies have cooled.

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Chocolate Oatmeal Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 c brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbs milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 c oats
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

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Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 10 minutes.

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Guarda tus Frijoles

Chalupas are one of my most favorite Mexican meals that was a regular staple on our table growing up. Simple, tasty, and satisfying, this dinner can be ready in no time flat if you cut corners with a few ready to go ingredients. This is a no fail weekly dinner option with a lot of versatility that’s sure to please everyone you share your table with.

Mexican bingo fondly referred to as Loteria or Chalupa comes to mind as I blog about this dish as its namesake is also a delicious meal. I enjoyed playing this game with my grandparents and cousins. It served as my first introduction to gambling, mind you with incredibly low odds. What do you expect when you’re betting with pennies?

Because refried beans truly are central to this dish, the Spanish phrase, “guarda tus frijoles” seems like a fitting way to segue into the recipe.

CHALUPAS DE CARNITAS

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Ingredients:

  • Corn tostadas
  • Pork Carnitas
  • Refried black beans
  • Shredded cheese

Garnishes:

  • Salsa
  • Sour cream

Directions:

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Spread refried black beans evenly on each tostada and set aside.

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In the microwave, heat the carnitas according to the directions on the package. Shred the pork with a knife and layer on top of the beans. Top with shredded cheese and broil on high for a few minutes.

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Keep an eye on them closely as they can easily burn. The goal is for the cheese to brown slightly.

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Top with fresh sliced avocado, salsa, and sour cream.

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Variations:

Traditional chalupas are a great vegetarian option. Swap refried pinto for black if you fancy those more. Spread the beans, top with cheddar cheese, and broil in the oven. Garnish with shredded lettuce, tomato, salsa, avocado, and sour cream.

In place of carnitas, consider ground taco meat or shredded chicken. Follow the same method of layering the beans, meat, and cheese and broil. Then top with your favorite garnishes.

Chalupa garnishes can vary widely. Consider a variation that best suits your palette. Easy options include: shredded lettuce, fresh cilantro, sliced avocado or guacamole, salsa- green or red, cheddar, cojita, or Mexican blend cheese, roasted corn, and diced tomatoes.

 

The possibilities truly are endless. Make them your own and enjoy!

 

 

 

Baby Bears under the Weather

Things at Casa Mulroony the last few days have been rather stressful. Liam came down with the flu on Thursday afternoon. Then Atticus threw up at daycare on Friday afternoon. Since then, Sean and I have been pulling double duty to tend to the boys and also keep them isolated from one another so that Atticus doesn’t get the flu. This has undoubtedly proven to be a rather difficult task.

Poor Liam definitely was hit the hardest. Lethargy, a high fever, aches, and general discomfort proved to be a recipe for a patient in distress. Tender loving care and some incredibly expensive Tamiflu worked wonders, and Liam is slowly starting to return to normal. Thankfully just in time for his 6th birthday tomorrow! The picture below is of Liam with a sunnier disposition at The Thinkery in Austin. I’m confident he’ll be his sunshiny self in no time!

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Atticus threw up again this morning and had a few explosive diapers but otherwise seems to be doing okay. Thankfully he isn’t running a fever and his general disposition has been cheerful and jubilant. His stomach woes may have taken somewhat of a toll on his little body, however, because he enjoyed a three plus hour nap in the middle of the day.

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With sick baby bears in the house, a simple chicken soup seemed like the perfect way to soothe and comfort the boys. Easy, healthy, and just what the doctor ordered, I highly recommend making a pot when you have a loved one who’s under the weather.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound chicken tenders or breasts, chopped evenly into bite size pieces
  • 1 bunch of carrots, peeled and chopped evenly
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Russet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 5-6 cups chicken broth, depending on how much broth you prefer in your soups
  • Sea salt, pepper, and dried thyme, seasoned to your preference

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Sauté the onions and garlic on medium high until fragrant. Add the chicken and carrots and sauté until the chicken is lightly browned.
  2. Next add the salt, pepper, and thyme. Pour in the broth and turn the heat up to high. Add the canned tomatoes and cover until the soup comes to an boil.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer at least an hour.
  4. Serve hot with fresh bread!

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Taco Nights aren’t just for Tuesdays

During the work week, I don’t have time to for a complicated dinner. I prefer to focus on quality time with the boys in lieu of prepping, chopping, and sautéing. Despite being pressed for time, I don’t like to skimp on flavor or quality. I usually like to pull in fresh produce to round out the meal and ensure the boys get their fill of fruits and vegetables.

One of the simplest dinners that’s ready in under 15 minutes are pork carnitas tacos with Mexican rice. This meal would not come together this quickly without a little help from my friends- most notably H-E-B. Their fully cooked pork carnitas are a godsend and are microwave ready in 4 1/2 minutes. Tilda’s Mexican Style Chili & Bean Basmati Rice seals the deal for a savory side ready in under 5 minutes. The only prep work this meal requires is slicing an onion and an avocado.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • H-E-B Fully Cooked Pork Carnitas
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Avocado, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

In a skillet on medium heat, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent. While the onions are on the stove, heat the pork carnitas in the microwave according to the directions on the package. Remove a third of the onions and add to a second skillet to sauté with the rice. Then add the heated carnitas to the remaining onions on the stove, stir until mixed, and turn the heat down to low.

In a separate skillet, sauté the rice, onions, and frozen veggies you have on hand. I usually toss in peas and corn. This week, I realized I was out of corn, so I just opted for the peas. You can also add a can of drained fire roasted tomatoes to stretch the rice and have more for leftovers.

As the rice is warming, use a comal or a third skillet to warm the tortillas on medium. Assemble your tacos and top with salsa and fresh avocado. Sean usually likes to add sour cream to his tacos as well. This dish can easily be made low carb by skipping on the tortillas and rice. Instead top the carnitas and onions with shredded cheese, fresh avocado, and sour cream.

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Make your next taco night come together in no time flat with this quick and easy recipe! It’s definitely always a hit with the bears in my den.

 

A Halloween State of Mind

Christmas is undoubtedly Liam’s favorite holiday, but Halloween is a very close second. He wholeheartedly embraces the spookiness and mystique that encompasses the spirit of Halloween. This weekend he embarked on his first independent venture of carving a pumpkin. Now granted he needed a little parental supervision and guidance, but overall he successfully orchestrated a pumpkin work of art.

Carving a pumpkin is truly a labor of love, and you certainly can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Liam squealed with delight as his fingers combed through the squishy, stringy pumpkin as we made our best effort to get every last seed and all of the pumpkin pulp. He also meticulously combed through the pulp with an eagle eye to gather all of the seeds for roasting.

Liam spent the better part of the morning cutting his pattern, gutting the pumpkin, using the poker tool to outline his pattern, and finally carving out his design. The end result proved to be both a labor of love and a source of pride for him.

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Carving a pumpkin creates quite the mess. Liam served as my little helper and in almost no time flat, our kitchen was spotless. We realized we’d worked up quite an appetite, so we snacked on some of our roasted homemade pumpkin seeds and relished in the beauty and artistry of Liam’s first solo carving venture.

If you haven’t carved your pumpkin this Halloween, consider saving your seeds for a savory treat. They are great as a stand alone snack but also would be ideal sprinkled over oatmeal or on top of a fresh salad.

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Ingredients:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • parchment paper

Directions:

Melt the butter and pour over the pumpkin seeds. Mix together and then spread the seeds evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Stir at least halfway through. The seeds are roasted to perfection when they are golden brown.

A side note: the buttery smell that permeates the kitchen as they roast is absolutely heavenly. Enjoy!

A Mama and her Bears

This weekend we were one bear short at the den with Papa Bear away on a fishing trip. The neighborhood offered a wealth of opportunities to keep the boys and I happily entertained.

We started off our morning with breakfast at the playground. Sunday mornings are always a little better when you indulge in a blueberry scone paired with coffee. Climbing, crawling, and an unexpected surprise (a hot air balloon floating through the sky) set the tone for a wonderful day.

After lunch, we ventured out to the neighborhood Farmers Market. A few key finds included savory beef samosas, spicy habanero pickles, and homemade popsicles for the boys and me. Liam wore more than half of the red berry rhubarb on his chin and tee shirt. A sure sign he thoroughly enjoyed it. Atticus and I shared a tangy lime cucumber, and I think the photo evidence supports that he more than loved his first popsicle.

For homework, Liam had to complete a university pennant. I discussed the importance of college and showed him a video for each of his parents’ alma maters: Ball State (Sean), Indiana University (Anne), and Texas A&M/The University of Texas (Me). Because I went to two universities, I felt it was important for him to understand that transferring is always a viable option too. As we watched the videos together, I pointed out various features of each school but maintained absolute neutrality. I wanted Liam to decide which university he liked most. When it was all said and done, he decided he liked A&M the most because of Reveille, the Corps of Cadets, and the spirit of Aggieland. Proud of his artistic efforts, he posed with his pennant and made sure to throw in a “Gig ’em, Aggies” for good measure.

With Halloween around the corner, Liam is counting down the days until he can don his Darth Vader costume and venture out for trick or treating. This afternoon he created a Spiderman pumpkin to add to our growing collection.

After a fun filled day of indoor and outdoor activities, I opted for a simple yet delicious dinner of fideo. This classic dish is savory, spicy, and always takes me back to my childhood. It’s also quick, easy, and a great vegetarian option. I usually serve it with warm tortillas but because I was out, I opted for a side of tortilla chips and fresh avocado.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 box of Vermecelli
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounces chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 packet of Sazon Goya cilantro and tomato seasoning
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons chili powder (more or less depending on how much kick you like)

DIRECTIONS:

Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until fragrant. Add the Vermecelli and sauté until brown. Then add the broth, water, salt, pepper, seasoning packet, and chili powder. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve with fresh tortillas or tortilla chips and fresh avocado.

Soup on a Sick Day

Sometimes trying to carry the weight of the world comes at a price. I put so much energy into transitioning into a new job and jumping into it with great gusto. Then Atticus got sick and again I expended more energy on worrying, doting, and offering extra TLC to comfort him in his time of need. In the midst of all of this, I let work and personal stress get the best of me. Burning the candle at both ends typically doesn’t end well for me.

So yesterday when I woke up with a sore throat, I knew I might be in trouble. Unfortunately as the day progressed, I started to feel feverish, achy, and downright puny. When Atticus went down for his afternoon nap and Liam started his quiet time, I knew I needed to see a doctor to make sure I wasn’t coming down with something more serious than a cold.

It’s rare that I get sick, but when I do, it usually knocks me flat on my you know what. As I waited to see the doctor, I feel asleep on the table; a sign I was really in for it. The doctor walked in, awaking me from my feverish slumber, and delivered the bad news. My lab results confirmed strep throat.

I’d already missed two days of work only a week and a half into my new job because Atticus was too sick for daycare. Now I faced calling in again, this time to report I was too sick to work. This, of course, sent me into a bit of a tizzy because I worried immensely about what my new administrators would think about me missing another day of work. In the end, I accepted my fate, although rather begrudgingly, because I didn’t have any other alternatives.

Today’s sick day has been restful with lots of napping, lying in bed, and catching up on Hallmark movies. The antibiotics, fluids, and rest seem to be working their magic. I’ll be back at work tomorrow and will slowly ease back into it so that I can ensure a speedy recovery.

When I’m under the weather, there’s nothing better than homemade soup to ease my symptoms. Perhaps fate worked in my favor when it came to weekly meal planning because Saturday morning I’d purchased all of the necessary ingredients for chicken tortilla soup. I prepped, diced, chopped, minced, and gathered all of the items early on Sunday morning before I started to feel terrible. After my doctor’s visit and a trip to the pharmacy, I whipped it together in under 20 minutes. This soup was savory, spicy, and exactly what the doctor ordered! The leftovers were perfect for lunch today too.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced (Remove the seeds if you want to take the heat down a few notches)
  • 1 pound chicken tenders, chopped
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons – 1 tablespoon of chipotle chili pepper (It depends on how much heat you like!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh cilantro, large handful
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn

GARNISHES:

  • Mexican cheese blend, grated
  • fresh limes, quartered
  • cilantro for topping
  • tortilla chips, crushed or in strips
  • fresh avocado, sliced

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot on high heat, sauté the onions, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil until fragrant. Add the chicken and cook until brown. Next add the tomatoes, corn, and the handful of cilantro. Top with salt, pepper, and chipotle chili pepper. Bring to a boil to warm everything through. When the soup is ready, serve with your favorite garnishes.

To stretch this soup, consider adding black beans.