An AppeTHAIzing Family Favorite: Spicy Peanut Tofu Stir-fry

As the temperature soared past 100-degrees all last week, the last thing I wanted to do was stand over a hot stove when preparing dinner.  However, if I could make something tasty in 10-15 minutes over the heat, I was willing to consider it.  Especially since I was thinking about making one of my family’s favorite dishes.  About a year ago, I was looking for something spicy and peanuty that went with tofu and I came across a recipe on the Nasoya website.  I adapted it a little based on items we regularly had on hand and it was an instant hit.  After living with us for about a month at the time, our Macedonian au pair, who was new to any Asian cuisine, said it was one of the best things she had ever eaten.  Hopefully she still feels the same after living with us for a year!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pkg extra firm tofu, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 4 tbls soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbls olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (cocktail peanuts work as well)
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (creamy)
  • 3 tbls pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbls rice vinegar
  • 1 tbls water
  • 1 tbls sesame seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili paste (1 tsp if you like it extra spicy)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS

(1) Cook the Rice – Prepare brown rice on the stove or rice cooker as directed on the packaging.  Set aside if it is ready before the rest of the meal is ready.
(2) Broil the Tofu – This is my absolute favorite way of preparing tofu.  Once I tried it in the broiler, I never looked back.  First, pre-heat the broiler.  While pre-heating, stir together 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and ginger in a medium bowl and gently stir in the cubed tofu to coat (side note – I also do this with curry powder in place of ginger when cooking with curry sauces).  Place foil over a baking sheet or mist the sheet with nonstick cooking oil spray.  Spread the tofu on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Place under a broiler for 5-7 minutes.  Flip the tofu and broil for another 5-7 minutes or until light brown and crispy.  Set aside.
Crispy Tofu
(3) Stir-fry the Veggies and Peanuts – While the tofu is broiling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat and sauté the chopped onion for 3 minutes.  Add the chopped red bell pepper and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened.  Add the peanuts, stirring occasionally, for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Set aside.
Sizzling
(4) Mix the Sauce – In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce (if you want to reduce the sodium, use 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon water) with the peanut butter, maple syrup, rice vinegar, water, sesame seeds, garlic, and chili paste.  Set aside.
Saucy
(5) Mix it Up! – Add the rice to the wok and mix with the veggies.  Pour the sauce into the wok, and stir to cover the rice and veggies.

Mix it up!

(6) Fold it in – Fold in the tofu until evenly distributed throughout the mix. Finally, fold in the cilantro.   Warm up over the stove, if necessary, but it should have remained warm from the recently cooked rice.

Yum!

Serve and Enjoy!  Hopefully your family enjoys this as much as we do!  This past time, we finally introduced Alister to this favorite dish and we found it was Alister-approved.   While we ate dinner, he was pretty focused on gobbling up every last piece of tofu on his tray as shown below.  (FYI – if serving to small children, remember to exclude the peanuts from the dish or remove them from their serving to prevent choking hazards).

More tofu, please.

Watermelon! And Blueberries! And Mint! Oh My!

Whether you pride yourself on the ability to feed your entire family from your garden or you find yourself forgetting to water the couple houseplants you own that require nothing more than water every couple weeks (ahem, me, ahem), you will have no trouble caring for the natural phenomenon that is fresh mint.  We have been blessed (or cursed) with wild mint growing alongside our home.  And if you know wild mint, you know it could be mistaken as a weed if it weren’t for its deliciously fresh smell and taste.  So what do you do at this time of year when you have an abundance of mint?  Well, after you cut and clean a bunch and give it to friends and neighbors, make mojitos and mint lemonade, and keep some in your fridge to use in dishes over the week, here’s a quick and easy way to take advantage of fresh mint as well as the produce that is currently in season and taking over your grocer’s (and farmer’s market) aisles.

Watermelon and Blueberry Salad (measurements are approximated)

Serves 10

In a large bowl, combine 5 cups of watermelon cubes (1/2 – 1 inch size) with 3 cups of blueberries (or other berry of your preference).

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 – 1/3 cup of minced mint leaves with 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of honey in a small bowl.  Whisk or stir the mint mixture together.

Gently combine the mint mixture with the watermelon and blueberry mixture.

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Enjoy!

Up, Up, and Away – A Hot-Air Balloon /Travel-Themed Baby Shower – Part 2

As promised, here is my follow-up post to the details I started to share with you about a hot air balloon/travel-themed baby shower two of my good friends and I recently hosted.   In addition to the Pin Your Birthplace Guestbook and Favorite Destination Onesies I shared in the original post, here are some of my favorite details that helped pull the shower together.

TABLE DECOR

Here is an inexpensive and easy way to make the room a bit more festive.  Kelli lent me 7 or 8  tin cans she had on hand where she had already removed the labels.  I took pink cardstock, cutting each sheet into thirds, and then wrapped and pasted (or taped) each strip around a can.  Then I tied pieces of twine around each strip to pull in the pink and tan look.  Lucky for me, we had pink hydrangeas and a few dark pink roses blooming on the side of our home at the time of the shower.  About an hour or two before the shower, I snipped enough flowers to fill all the vases and set one or two on top of each can.  I really could not have asked for an easier flower decoration.

We placed the flower decorations around the food and drink area in the kitchen as well as the gift opening area in the living room.  To add some height and make it feel more like a centerpiece on the coffee table, we added some of the pink and tan photo boxes I picked up at Michael’s .

Centerpiece and can vases

 

HANGING DECOR

You can’t have an “Up, Up and Away” shower theme without decorating “up” – can you?  Well, we thought it was necessary and the couple of “up” decorations pulled the theme together.  First, Kelli worked her paper magic and created this hot air balloon-inspired banner.  The flag above each string reads a word – Up – Up – &  – Away!  We hung this banner along the mirror above the food table.

Up Up & Away

Then I made a flag banner similar to the one I made for Alister’s First Birthday.  Only using craft paper card stock and maps from an atlas instead of photos of my son.  After weaving pink ribbon through the top of each flag, we hung it along the large window in the living room, where everyone congregated during the shower.

Map flag banner

REFRESHMENTS

What would a baby shower be without food and drink?  We filled the table with standard baby shower dishes, ranging from savory to sweet.  Hummus and veggies, fresh fruit, a cheese plate, tea sandwiches, avocado deviled eggs, spinach and artichoke dip, mini cupcakes, and chocolate dipped pretzels kept the guests satiated while we kept them busy pinning maps and ironing onesies.

Flowers and Food

A closer look at the sweet section of the table.  Kelli tackled her delicious Sprinkles’-inspired Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes while I made my go-to chocolate and vanilla buttercream cupcakes.  Having some success with chocolate-dipped pretzel rods at Alister’s First Birthday, I decided to go ahead and make them for the shower at the last minute.  More for a splash of pink on the table than anything.  Half of the pretzel rods had crushed peanuts on top of the chocolate and the others were just chocolate.  Most, if not all, of the pretzel rods were gone at the end of the shower, so I’m glad I added them to the mix.

Sweets!

Near the food, we set up a “Beverage Cart,” complete with one of Kelli’s hand-crafted signs.  While I originally intended to make strawberry lemonade, I decided to take advantage of the fresh mint that was taking over the side of our house.  So instead of strawberry lemonade, we had mint lemonade.  Basically, a pregnancy-friendly mojito.  Andreia, the other host, stocked the beverage cart with rose wine to complement the pink theme as well.

Drink Station

BAGGAGE CLAIM FAVORS

Last but certainly not least, we couldn’t let the guests go empty-handed, so Kelli pulled these little gift bags together by filling snack-sized ziplock bags with  iced animal cookies and stapling her handmade labels to the top.  Also, it allowed her to use her adorable hot air balloon stamp!

Baggage Claim Favors

Well, I think that’s all for now!  What a great time we had at the shower and what a great excuse we had to get together to “plan” over the past few months.  Now that I no longer have party planning as my excuse, I guess that means I should start working on organizing our closets.  Shocking, but I do not have the same motivation to get going on that.

Instead, I think I’ll spend more time sharing photos from the shower!

Mom-to-be with the Hostesses

The Guest of Honor grabs a photo with the Hostesses.

Happy Day

The beautiful expecting mother glows as she and her husband announced the baby’s beautiful name.

 

Up, Up, and Away – A Hot-Air Balloon /Travel-Themed Baby Shower – Part 1

This August will mark ten years since I moved from Indiana to the Nation’s Capitol for a new job.  That means, ten years of adjusting to a faster pace of life and a much slower pace of traffic.  Ten years of exploring different ethnic cuisines and cultures. Ten years of watching every conceivable protest march between the Hill and the White House.  And ten years since I met one of my very best friends, and former roommate, Kim.

It has been five years since we lived together, and those five years have been filled with major life milestones we experienced along a very similar timeline yet independent of one another:  buying a first home (defined as a one-bedroom condo in DC ), changing careers, getting married, and moving from DC to Arlington.  And come August, Kim will be celebrating more than just her 10 year anniversary in DC.  She will be joining me in this new world of parenthood as she becomes a mother.

To get a head start on the celebration, two of my good friends and I had the honor of hosting a baby shower for Kim.  All three of us quickly agreed to a travel-themed shower given Kim’s love for world travel and exploration.  We were inspired by countless different vintage travel-themed showers we saw on Pinterest, but it did not take long to realize a common theme with these parties – they were for boys.  It made sense, after all, with the bright reds and blues in vintage passport stamps and little airplane decorations.  Thanks to the suggestion by one of the co-hosts, Kelli, we overlapped the feminine and whimsical qualities of hot air balloons with the travel theme, and just like that, we had ourselves a baby shower theme.

To set the tone of the shower – travel, hot air balloons, and pink – Kelli designed the invitations.  Then, making a crafternoon of it, Andreia (the other co-host) and I helped her assemble them.  So basically, Kelli did the hard work and we helped punch paper and glue pieces together.  My kind of project.  Here’s a look at the final product (blacked out in areas to protect everyone’s anonymity).

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In addition to the theme, we also agreed that there would be no traditional games at this shower.  Like a lot of ladies, self included, Kim is not a tie-a-ribbon-around-my-expanding-belly kind of girl.  Instead, we decided to harness that creative energy and put it into other activities or gifts for the expecting mother.

Not knowing exactly what we had in mind, as guests began to RSVP, we asked each for their top vacation spot and place of birth.  We later realized that we probably sounded like potential hackers knowing how many of us use this type of information for our passwords.  We promise our intentions were good and solely focused on shower activities. In the end, we decided on the following two activities, each with its travel-themed card: (1) Check-In: Pin your Birthplace on the Map and (2) Souvenirs: Decorate a Favorite Travel Destination Onesie

Check-In: Pin Your Birthplace on the Map

Knowing the nursery was going to be in neutral hues with photos from Kim’s African safari, we  asked each guest to pin their birthplace on a vintage-style map.  While originally intending to apply the map to a cork board, it was not feasible.  Instead, Andreia had the map laminated to strengthen and protect it.  We placed the map on a table with pushpins and a “Check-In” sign.  As guests arrived, they were instructed to pin their birthplace on the large map.  Kim received the map at the end of the shower as a decoration for the nursery.

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Souvenir Station: Decorate a Onesie

At the risk of disappointing guests by requesting they iron during a baby shower, we knew they would go for it in honor of Kim.  We took the list of top vacation spots the guests provided and I had the joy of finding graphics that embodied the location yet seemed appropriate for an infant onesie.  Lucky for Kim, her guests have been all over the globe.  I selected anything from a baby and mama giraffe for Africa to a painting of a sleepy moon and stars for Turkey (inspired by the symbols on the flag).  Other graphics included a kangaroo for Australia, a sandcastle for a beach vacation, a tango silhouette for Argentina, and a hula girl for Hawaii.  I had a lot of fun finding different graphics that would make fun onesies, and the end result was definitely worth the effort.  Once I had the graphics, we printed them onto transfer paper like I did for Alister’s monthly onesies. We set up an ironing table and iron and laid out the iron-on graphics and blank onesies at the Souvenir Station in Andreia’s basement.Image

About an hour into the shower, we requested the guests to take a trip down to the basement, find their favorite travel destination iron-on and select a onesie to iron.  In an effort to make it feel more fun and less like household chores, we also provided a couple of fabric markers so the guests could personalize the onesie they ironed for Kim.    Here are a couple photos of  the Souvenir Station:

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Aren’t they adorable?  Not able to let an obvious play on words pass me by, I went ahead and included a couple phrases for some of the graphics – “Like Mother, Like Daughter” for the giraffes, “My Fine Whine” suggested by Kelli for the Napa wine glass, “Future Engineer, Just like Grandpa” for the sandcastle, and “Daddy’s Little Sack of Potatoes” for the Ireland potatoes.

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We were very excited about them, and the guests were great sports in making something special for Kim.

Realizing this is getting a lot longer than I anticipated, I will hold off on the rest of the shower details for a separate post.  Now that I have put it out there, I will try not to wait three to four months before posting it.

We All Live In A Yellow Submarine – Alister’s First Birthday

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since we welcomed our bundle of joy into our lives. It is true what they say that there is nothing more exhausting and rewarding than having a baby.

Alister - New Born
Of course, no one ever told me that part of the deal was singing Yellow Submarine at least once per day for an entire year.  But can you blame us?  The moment we sang it to him, he started smiling.  And from that moment on, whenever he was fussy or resisted to eat, all we had to do was belt out the first line of the song and he was back to his happy self.  Alister has picked up quite the dancing moves over the year as well, and when we chime in with lyrics from his favorite song, he stops what he is doing and starts swaying along with surprising rhythm.  It was only fitting that his first birthday celebration focus on his favorite song.

After scouring all things Yellow Submarine, Yellow Party, and First Birthday on Pinterest, I narrowed my projects down to a few reasonable tasks.  From here on out, they are appropriately referred to as my naptime projects, because each project was started and finished or at least substantially complete during a weekend nap.  So much for “sleep when the baby sleeps.”

YELLOW SUBMARINE CUT-OUT PHOTO PROP

My first project allowed me to recycle the giant box that carried Alister’s new big-boy car seat.  The added bonus was that  I was able to take advantage of a beautiful Spring day.  Inspired by Yellow Submarine photo-shoot props, I was determined to make one of my own.  Sure it was not an exact replica of the album artwork, but with the bold colors and obvious Submarine shape, who would know?

For starters, I sketched a very loose outline of a Yellow Submarine photo I saw online on the backside of the expanded box, making a point of maximizing the cardboard area.  Next, I got out my heavy duty scissors, which I’m pretty sure are supposed to cut metal, and started cutting out the holes I traced from a serving plate.

Sketch and cut

Three holes later and the hard work was done.  Cut the peep holes

Next, I started filling in the lines with similar colors.  It may not have been a perfect match, but once I added the yellow, it really started to resemble the Yellow Submarine I had in mind.

Paint and paint.

I considered cutting around the outside of the submarine, but Justin convinced me to paint the background blue.  Not only was this a lot easier than cutting through thick cardboard, but it really helped making the submarine pop.  Also, it allowed me to use some leftover blue paint we had from remodeling our bedroom, so I felt like I was recycling the paint instead of tossing it.  How appropriate given Earth Day was just around the corner.

Finishing touches

If I were to do this over, I would have moved the holes a little higher on the cardboard.  I did not think that through and when all was said and done, I wasn’t quite sure how people would pop their head through without lying on the ground.  Fortunately, I had blue tissue paper at home, so I draped it over a card table and propped the cut out on top of it.  The little ones could just pop behind there while we took their photos.Say cheese!

Unfortunately, I do not have Alister’s photo to share right now, but I will post that at another time.

FIRST YEAR FLAG BANNER

What I lack in Alister Yellow Submarine photos, I make up for in the flag banner.  This was my personal highlight of the decorations for obvious reasons.  What do I love more than one photo of Alister?  Twelve photos.

 I do not even remember how I stumbled upon this blog post, but I am so happy I did.  It was exactly what I was looking for to showcase Alister’s monthly onesie photos while decorating with a yellow banner.  I printed out 4×6 copies of Alister’s monthly photos onto regular computer paper and followed the directions and the template for measuring and cutting out flags.  Once the flags were cut, I  measured one of the photos onto the center of the flag and cut around it.  Then, as recommended in the post, I used the photo to trace the shape for all other photos.   I did the same with the yellow and white diagonal striped card stock, which I used in between each of the photos.

Cut and paste

Once the cutting was complete, I simply used a glue stick to attach all the pieces.  Then I punched holes in the corners of each flag and wove a yellow ribbon to attach them.  It was a perfect decoration to hang in our living room where most guests would congregate.

12 mos of Alister

Here is another close up shot of the banner.
A close-up

 PARTY HATS

 In the hustle and bustle of looking up all things first birthday party, I must have stumbled upon this post about DIY party hats.  Not only does it share a few ideas for decorating hats, but it provides you with a printable template for tracing and cutting your own hats.  I traced the template onto pale yellow cardstock (with the exception of one bright yellow piece for Alister).  Then I simply connected the pieces, forming a cone shape, and taped the interior to prevent it from flying open.  Next came the fun part.  I had a few leftover tissue paper balls after making large ones to hang from the ceiling.  I attached the balls  to resemble yellow flowers for some of the hats.  For the others, I got out my new hole punch toys and went to work cutting and pasting.

Cut and decorate

It was another great accent to the corner of the room for the little kids who attended.  I hadn’t thought about this at the time, but the kids (or the parents of the kids) ended up writing their names on the circle attachment to the front of the hats.  So it ended up doubling as name tags for the little ones.  Also, to make it a little more enjoyable for them, I hid a bottle of bubbles under each hat.  Who doesn’t love bubbles?Put on your party hats!

Here is Alister in his one-of-a-kind, made-by-mommy birthday hat ready to try his first bite of cake!The Birthday Boy

PARTY DECORATIONS

In no particular order, here is a look at some of the other decorations we had scattered around the house.

Come aboard our Yellow Submarine!

Front Door Sign

 A room with a view.  A very yellow view.  Also a look at my very first attempt at making tissue paper balls.  Not perfect, but not bad.

Yellow

The cake table was full of yellow treats before we brought out the cake.  With Easter just a few weeks before his birthday, it was the perfect time of year to find yellow-colored treats in the store.  Yellow Peeps, Reeses Eggs, pretzel rods dipped in yellow melting chocolate leftover from the favors (more on that below), yellow M&Ms, Lemonheads.  And of course a lemon and daisy centerpiece.Yellow Table Decorations

The drink stand focused on yellow drinks as well.  From left to right:

  • Pineapple Sangria – recipe here – doubled the ingredients and used 3L of wine
  • Lemonade – good old fashioned Country Time mix with lots of lemon slices
  • Adult Lemonade – 3-4 parts lemonade, 1 part vodka, 1 part seltzer water
  • In the back are two bowls full of lemon slices and pineapples to accompany the drinks.

Yellow Drinks

We couldn’t let the guests go hungry, so keeping with the theme, we put up a Design Your Own Yellow Submarine (sandwich) Bar.  From left to right:

  • Turkey Meatballs – doubled the recipe seen here
  • Beef and Sausage Meatballs – doubled the recipe seen here
  • Italian Rolls
  • Turkey and Ham
  • Cheese, Tomatoes, Onions, and Lettuce
  • And unrelated to the design-your-own-submarine theme, but still keeping with yellow, there is my favorite corn salsa recipe, a simple onion dip, and another bowl of pineapple chunks.

Submarine Bar

Here is the birthday boy not too happy with his birthday hat that slid onto his face.  I didn’t bother too much with his high chair since there was a small window between lunch and the start of the party, but I managed to string some yellow balloons to the back and hang some crepe paper along with a little “ONE” sign from the tray.
Cake Time!

Once that hat came off, he was ready for anything.  And by “anything,” I mean staring down a tiny piece of cake until we forced him to smash his hands in it.  So much for a cake smash photo.  Justin just looked at him and said, “you are your Mother’s child” as he did not get a single speck of food on him.  
Hmmm, I only trust Cheerios.

FAVORS

Even if they had enough sugar to last the year, we couldn’t send the guests away empty handed.  Recommended by a pin I had previously seen when used as a cupcake topper, I purchased a Yellow Submarine ice cube tray from Amazon along with more than enough packages of Wilton yellow melting chocolate, hence the pretzel rods previously mentioned, and got to work.  After sixty seconds in the microwave at reduced power, I poured the melted chocolate into the ice cube tray to cool at room temperature for about twenty minutes.  With only nine molds in the tray, I finished this project over the course of the day.
Melt the chocolate

I placed three chocolates in a cellophane bag, tied it with a yellow ribbon and placed it in a white basket I filled with yellow grass I picked up after the Easter rush.Thanks for coming!

Once the last of the guests were gone, our little buddy finally relaxed and enjoyed a piece of cake.  With a spoon.Sneaking secondsWell, I think that about wraps up Alister’s First Birthday party!  We had a wonderful time celebrating his first year with our friends and family.  Here’s looking forward to another memorable year with this amazing addition to our lives.

Making the Holidays Merry and Bright – DIY Baby’s First Christmas Photo Shoot

Now that January is coming to a close and we finally packed away the last of our holiday decorations, I began reminiscing on the highlights of this past holiday season.  Without a doubt, the most memorable experience was watching Alister as he experienced the whole season for the first time.  From the Christmas tree to lighting the menorah to the countless hours watching me bake in the kitchen.  And of course there was the regular stream of presents that continued to appear throughout the entire month of December.  Santa (Alister’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, and parents’ friends) treated this first-timer quite well this season.  Of course, when it comes to Alister, the wrapping paper provided enough joy let alone what the box contained!  Each present was truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Okay, so rather than spend the entire post discussing every “first” Alister experienced last month (that’s what his untouched baby book is for), I will focus on one of the more enjoyable times I had with him.   Inspired by a number of pins on Pinterest, I staged an amateur photo shoot for Alister’s first Christmas card. (Can you call it a photo shoot if it lasts 10 minutes?)  Well, we were so pleased with the results, particularly since I have no photography skills, I wanted to share a quick “how-to” for creating a similar scene with items you have around the house.

Step 1Find the location.  Given that it is winter and we have very little direct sunlight facing our home, we opted for the room that received some sunlight in the morning.

Step 2 – Set the stage.  We already had a white blanket on the bed in the room, so that helped set the scene.  To make it feel wintry, we draped white towels over the dark wood headboard of the bed and wrapped a couple of strings of white Christmas lights around the headboard.  Surprisingly, everything stayed put with little effort and no tape.  We placed Alister clad only in a diaper and polar bear hat on the blanket.  To provide him some warmth on a chilly December morning, as well as some decency, we draped one of his white baby blankets over his lap.

Set the stage and distract the baby

Step 3 – Distract the subject.  The oversized hat, a gift from his Aunt Rachel and Uncle Adam, was a perfect distraction for the photo shoot.

A hat makes a great distraction

Step 4 – Who turned out the lights?  Doh.  Too much distraction.  It was time to save the baby from the dark and move onto the next step.Alister 0, Hat 1

Step 5 – Point and shoot.  After several minutes of trying to compete with the hat for Alister’s attention, he looked directly at me.  When that happens, do not hesitate.  Take. The. Photo.  Then, trick yourself into thinking you will take another round of  photos in the future when baby is in a better of mood.  Knowing deep down inside that day will never come.

Take the shot!

Step 6 – Get your Picasa on.  Time to make that amateur photo look less amateur-ish.  I do not claim to know what I’m talking about when it comes to photography, but I know that a little click of a button in Picasa took my photo from looking decent to another level.  Using the Cross Process function under the green tab in Picasa (see the lower left corner option?), provided a cross processed finish by softening the photo yet brightening the lights.  It is probably not the ideal effect I would have selected for a regular, framed photo, but it was perfect for the Christmas card feel I was trying to achieve.  Also, this feature helped create artificial lighting where I needed it.

With a little help from Picasa

Step 7 – Show off.  Once the photo shoot and touch-up are complete, I added a holiday phrase to the photo.  Then, the only thing left to do was find a photo card company, which seem to be everywhere these days, and order dozens upon dozens to share with family and friends.

Merry and Bright!

Here’s a look at the finished product!

Merry and Bright!

Presidential Cookie Bake Off, Round 2: Michelle Obama’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Happy Inauguration Day!  As people crowded the National Mall to watch the POTUS take his second oath and hear Beyonce belt out the National Anthem on this chilly January day, I paid tribute in the comfort of my own home by baking a batch of the First Lady’s winning white and dark chocolate chip cookies.

Ever since I baked the delicious winning recipe for the Texas Governor’s Mansion Cowboy Cookies back around the election in November, I knew that I would pay tribute to the winner of the election by baking a batch of this election’s winning cookie recipe come Inauguration Day.  However, when glancing through the ingredients of the recipe, I could not believe this submission was from the same person who started the Let’s Move campaign.  Two sticks (1 cup) of butter and a stick (1 cup) of butter-flavored Crisco??!!  No wonder it beat Ann Romney’s measly one-stick-of-butter M&M cookies.  Well since we do not have the strict workout routine exhibited by Michelle Obama, I cut the butter requirement in half.  Besides, I was sure the cookies would look like pancakes if I mixed in that much butter.

Other than halving the butter, I kept pretty close to the original recipe.  The only other modifications I made were toasting the walnuts and swapping out milk chocolate chips for semi-sweet since that is what we had on hand.

The original recipe is located here at Family Circle and my modified version with less butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and toasted walnuts is listed below.

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (1/2 stick) Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup each white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and mint chocolate chips
2 cups chopped and toasted walnuts
 
Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  On low-speed, beat in flour mixture.

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While the original recipe recommends adding the chocolate chips and walnuts and mixing by hand, I took the easier route and used the stir setting on my standing mixer.  I poured in all chocolate chips – white, semi-sweet, and mint – and the two whopping cups of walnuts at the same time, and let the mixer work its magic.

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Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

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Having taken a month-long hiatus from baking after the holidays, I finally had an opportunity to try out my new cookie sheets and liners that Justin gave me for Christmas.  Very clever of my loving husband.  New baking sheets mean desire to bake more.  Baking more means tasty treats for Justin to eat.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  My first sheet yielded smaller cookies and baked for 10-11 minutes.  My second sheet yielded heaping tablespoon-sized cookies and baked for 12 minutes.

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Now begins the waiting game.  Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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Enjoy!

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