Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Real Campbell's Tomato Soup...

... and grilled cheese!

Today I wanted some good, old comfort. There's almost nothing that can say that to me more than a creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese.

To make the soup:

In a large pot over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple tablespoons of butter. While those are melting down and together, chop one onion. It doesn't have to be diced too small, just a coarse chop. Once the butter and oil are melted, add the onion and continue to cook it over medium heat until the onion gets nice and soft. Don't forget to add a little salt and pepper - you know how I feel! =]~

While that's cooking, take about 60 ounces of whole tomatoes (if you can your own, you'd use about a quart), add it to a blender and pulse it a few times to break the tomatoes down. You will likely have to do this in two batches. Check your onions! Keep stirring them as we don't want them to brown or char, we just want them soft.

Once the onions are done, add in the tomatoes and about 4 cups of chicken stock. Add kosher salt and fresh black pepper and 2 bay leaves. Let all that come together, on low heat, for about 20 minutes.

Slowly add heavy cream to the soup until you've added about 1 1/2 - 2 cups. It's really a preference thing. I like my soup nice and creamy. Now, in our house, we sometimes need to make things stretch - feed the masses, yanno what I mean? So, to do that, I used a separate pot, boiled some elbow noodles and tossed them in the soup. It made the soup a little more substantial and even the pickier eaters enjoyed it because it had a little fun in it!

Then, for the sammiches... I used ciabatta bread that was fresh at the deli counter and American cheese and cheddar cheese sliced fresh from the deli counter. These are two important things. Too often we get caught in simple, old school grilled cheese. It's really easy to give it a fresh taste!

So, I cut the tops off the bread rolls like this...

In a small bowl, I added about 1/4 cup of mayo - not miracle whip - and some garlic powder, to taste. On one piece of the bread, I smeared a good bit of the garlic mayo. Then I added one slice of American and one slice of cheddar. Don't over cheese a grilled cheese. It's about using good, quality cheese and just enough to make it yummy. Close the sandwich up. I made 10 sandwiches, but had to go back and make some more mayo along the way. I buttered one side of all the sandwiches while they were sitting on the counter and the pan was heating up. You want to make grilled cheese over medium heat. This will give the cheese time to melt without burning the outside. Whatever you do... butter the bread and not the pan! As I got ready to add them to the pan, I held it carefully and buttered the other side.

Yes, this was a child's bowl. At least I grabbed a photo, right?

Cook until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden.

Now go eat! =]

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Proof of His Love challenge!

This post has been writing itself, in my head, for months. My closest friends know that I’ve been struggling lately. With what, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been calling it broken heartedness.

I prayed some time ago for Jesus to break my heart with what breaks His heart. Since then, I’ve been walking around broken hearted. Shocking, right?! I have a friend who prayed once (I’m totally paraphrasing) about our lack of suffering and, in comparison, not only to Jesus, but many others in this world, we have no idea what it means to suffer. She asked for suffering?! I didn’t understand it when she first told me years ago – I understand now.

When I think about narcissistic people, I think of the world. I think of people who don’t know Jesus and, therefore, don’t know the true love, compassion, humility of Christ. I think of a mental disorder. I think of crazy, mass killings with no cause or reason. I think of horrific crimes as seen on TV police dramas… I think of all things “bad.”

I don’t think of Christians.

I don’t think of me.

When I think of greed, I think of those who have too much and give very little. I think of those who always want bigger, better, more. I think of people who will do anything to meet their needs. I think of people who will use, abuse, and throw away those who don’t fit into their pretty package of life.

I don’t think of Christians.

I don’t think of me.


I’m finding, more often than I’d ever like to admit, that we live in a world of narcissistic and greedy people – regardless of a relationship had or not had with Christ.

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” ― Stephen Colbert

Wow. Yes!

Wikipedia describes narcissism this way: “is a generalized personality trait characterized by egotism, vanity, conceit, or selfishness. Narcissism is usually considered a problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others.”

David Thomas, PhD, suggests that narcissists typically display most, and sometimes all, of the following traits:
·         An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
·         Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
·         A lack of psychological awareness
·         Difficulty with empathy
·         Problems distinguishing the self from others
·         Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
·         Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
·         Haughty body language
·         Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them
·         Detesting those who do not admire them
·         Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
·         Pretending to be more important than they really are
·         Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements
·         Claiming to be an "expert" at many things
·         Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
·         Denial of remorse and gratitude

As followers of Christ, and finding new life in Christ, are we not supposed to clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? Forgive one another as Christ forgave us? Over all these things, aren’t we to love?

We LOVE. That’s our calling. We love Him, and because of that love for Him, we love others. Period. We love struggling couples, we love new moms, we love those without a home, we love those who break the law, we love those who are not kind, we love the unloveable, and we care for those who are in need! Without love, there is nothing.

I would like to think greed and selfishness are only in people who don’t know Jesus, but it just wouldn’t be true. There are greedy people in this world who proclaim the love of Christ.  It’s our sinful nature. In Colossians 3 we are reminded of how we used to be, as non-believers. But we are also told, beginning in verse 12, who we are now and how we should behave with Christ in our heart.

Remember that time we felt hopeless, lonely, burdened. Yet someone came alongside to offer a lending hand. That’s what we should think about when looking at others who *need* us.

I have a passion for wounded people. For unjust things. We’ve discussed this in previous posts. I think it’s just starting to come full circle for me.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of seeing, hearing, watching people do little or nothing to love others. I’m sick when I see someone pleading for a little compassion and that person is just ignored, passed by, unacknowledged. Unloved. Rudeness shown to them, no empathy, a missed opportunity. Of course, these are not things I see all the time, but I do see it way more than I’d like. I can only state what I see and feel.

I’m not saying this to pretend that I’m perfect or that I’m above all this – I’m NOT! I have that flesh desire, the sinful nature, the yearning to be selfish right into the core of who I am. But what I really want to see is that we all, together, strive to be better than our flesh. A longing to fulfill the mission the Jesus started. The desire to fulfill our responsibility to Him. I mean, come on, the Man died for us! The least we can do is our best for Him.

Our actions speak volumes to other people. Love takes sacrifice. We sacrifice our time, money, comfort, space, etc… It doesn’t matter if you say you love – it matters if you show you love.

How are we supposed to show the love of Christ and the truth of His word to people who don’t believe when we are too concerned with ourselves?


Following all the rules is great, but if there hasn’t been a heart change, directly from Jesus, then what’s the point?

So what is my argument in all of this?

I just want to see more love. More compassion. More empathy. More of a willingness to help. I want people to know about Christ’s love because they see it in us and they want to know more about it. I want to hurt more if it means someone else can hurt less.

I want to see a less narcissistic, less greedy society. I want to see lovers of God to stand in the gap for Him when needed. Lend a helping hand when given a chance. Do what’s right, not what’s comfortable. Do what needs to be done, not dependent on what’s in it for us. 

I want for us to be the person that people admire, not because of who we are, but because of Him in us.

Can we do this together? Will you hold me accountable? Will you ensure that my love is always constant? Will you help me to always be sure that His desire is way more important than my own?

I’ll help you, if you help me. I’ll help you even if you don’t help me. =]

(based on Bible Verses: 1 Cor. 13: 1-3 as spoken by For King & Country in their song, Proof of Your Love)

If I can speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy
But I don't love; I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate
If I speak God's word with power, revealing all His mysteries
And making everything as plain as day
And if I say to a mountain jump and it jumps
But I don't love, I'm nothing
If I give all I own to the poor
Or if I even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr
But I don't have love, I've gotten nowhere
So, no matter what we say, no matter what we believe, no matter what we do
We're bankrupt without love.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4 Joy Dare

February 4 Joy Dare - Three gifts found when bent down.

Kisses and reading time with Nicole. When I returned home this evening, Nicole's momma was doing her reading lesson with her. I wanted to give momma a break and spend some time with Nicole, so I bent to kiss her head and went through her reading lesson with her. Highlight of my day. 

Lost toys found. Do you have cats? No? Yes? Well, if you do then you know that cat toys are always missing. Cats aren't like dogs. They don't gnaw on toys until they are worn out. No. They pick up their toys and throw them around and push them underneath anything that will suck them in. When I came to my room, I found a long lost cat toy on my floor. No idea where it came from, but I know my Tiki is happy to have it back!

The yarn basket. My yarn supply has grown and emptied. I bent over tonight to go through my inventory to see if there were any projects waiting to be started and I have nothing! This is both good and bad. It's good because I've used up my yarn. It's bad because I have to go buy more! I need a yarn credit. haha. 

Are you doing the Joy Dare work with me? How's it going for you? I'd love to know. =]

Pizza Night!

I'm not a huge pizza fan, but there are times I just want pizza. Yanno? The other night was one of those times. I made three pizzas, all different.

Everyone has a dough preference. I typically buy dough balls and use them as my dough. As much as I'd like to make my own all the time, a weeknight meal, when I've been gone to work all day, isn't usually the best time to jump on the dough wagon. We gotta do what we gotta do...

Here is how I make my sauce. Take a 6 oz can of tomato paste, dump it in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Stir. Add some water. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings as needed. Add water if it's too thick. Stir. Taste. Stir. Add. Taste. Done! =]~ Really, this is how I do sauce every time.

The other night, I laid out all three crusts onto cookie sheets, one a little larger so the crust was thinner. And prebaked them at 400 for about 5 or 6 minutes. Once I pulled them out, this is how I topped them.

One had the tomato based sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and diced ham. This was my thin crusted one.


The second one I topped with a thin layer of apricot preserves, mozzarella cheese, diced ham, and crushed pineapple.

The third one was my favorite.
I cooked some bacon, about 10 slices, then removed it to a plate. Chop when cooled. Then, drain a good bit, almost all of the grease from the pan.


I sliced an onion really thin and added it into the pan I used to cook the bacon. I wanted the onion to really be good and caramelized. It took about 6 or 7 minutes on medium heat. Add about 1 clove of minced garlic for the last minute or so. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon to a plate.

I took about 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes and halved them. And shredded about 8 oz smoked gouda cheese.

On the crust I drizzled olive oil, sprinkled some dried basil, then cheese, then the chopped bacon, onions, and tomatoes. Then I topped it with some kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Once it was done, I added from fresh chopped basil. Yum!

All the pizzas should be cooked at 400 until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. About 12 minutes. Of course, if it's not ready just keep it in there and check it every couple minutes until it's done just the way you like it. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

December Wedding Cupcakes

In December, I had the chance to make more wedding cupcakes! The bride and groom requested: strawberry, chocolate, red velvet, and cookies and cream!

You can use any of your favorite cake recipes for the basic flavors - strawberry, chocolate, and red velvet. I'll post the recipes for the cookies and cream, though. They were really good!

For the red velvet, I used cream cheese icing, which you can find here.

prior to the icing

For all the other flavors, at the request of the bride, I made a marshmallow icing.

Marshmallow Icing

8 large egg whites, room temperature
2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. clear vanilla extract

Set a saucepan on a large burner of the stove and bring the water to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to a simmer. Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a metal bowl. Place the bowl over the saucepan and whisk the ingredients continually until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch. It should take about 4 minutes. Just keep whisking!

Pour the contents into the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment and whisk on low speed, increasing to high until the icing stiffens and soft peaks start forming. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

You will want to ice the cupcakes right away. I did them the day before and noticed, probably because of the cold, that the icing "fell" some from when I first did them. They still looked good, but if you're going for a big top, you'll want them fresh. Also, I know there is no marshmallow in it, but it really does taste like marshmallow! heh.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c milk
3/4 c hot water
1 package of Oreos

I forgot where I got this recipe and I don't have anything "doodled" on it, so I must not have made any changes, or if I did, they were minimal.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line 24 cupcake tins. Place one whole oreo in the bottom of each liner.

Mis the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl with a wire whisk. Add the eggs, oil, vanilla, and milk. Mix well. Add the hot water and mix until it's all well combined.

The batter will be very loose, but don't worry about it - that's how it should be! Using a large cookie scoop or ice cream scoop, add the batter to the lined tins about 3/4 of the way.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

Cookies and Cream Icing

1 c shortening
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3-6 Tbs milk
At the wedding
Oreo cookie crumbs (optional)

Beat the shortening in a mixer until smooth. Add vanilla and mix well. Add the powdered sugar in small batches, scraping down the side as you go. Add the milk, 1 Tbs at a time, until you get the consistency you want. At this point, you can add the cookie crumbs, I skipped this part because the bride and groom wanted winter-white cupcakes.

For all the cupcakes, I used sugar sprinkles and beads to decorate the tops of the cupcakes. You can even add an oreo or crushed oreos if you'd like.

Have fun!!

November wedding cupcakes

At the end of last year, I was honored to make cupcakes for two weddings! It was so nice to be able to contribute in a way that is so meaningful for me. My heart is food. That's how I love!

Prior to the November wedding, we had a bridal shower, which we used as a time to taste and test the cupcakes being made. I wanted to make sure the bride was happy with the flavors I chose for them. We ended up with carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Snickerdoodle cupcakes with cinnamon icing. And Guinness cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream icing. I don't have the carrot cupcake recipe on hand - it's my friends recipe - but they were super yummie! The rest of the recipes are below. 

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
6 cups powdered sugar

If you have a sifter, feel free to sift the sugar into a large bowl. I don't use a sifter typically. I just put it in a bowl and whisk it really good to break up the lumps and puff it up. 

Add the cream cheese and butter into a standing mixer and beat on high until creamy. Add vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and add the sugar in small batches - no more than 1/2 c. at a time. You will need to scrape down the sides as you go. Once all the sugar is in, beat it until desired consistency and viola - you're done! 

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe)

  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c. cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 Tbs sour cream
  • Splash of half & half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Mix together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a large bowl. Set aside. 

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in small batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each. Add in the sour cream and half & half. Mix until combined. 

Using a large cookie scoop or ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake about 20 minutes. Cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes to wire rack to finish cooling completely. 

Cinnamon Icing

1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 c. powdered sugar, sifted (or whisked)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. cinnamon

In an electric mixer, cream the butter until it's pale in color and creamy. This should only take a couple of minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the sugar in small batches, about 1/2 cup at a time. Every two times you add sugar, raise the speed on the mixer to add some air into the icing. Reduce speed and continue adding the sugar, following this same process. 

Add the vanilla and cinnamon and beat until desired consistency. This icing works well when it's nice and light. Don't be scared that you'll overbeat it. You can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, but it will take several hours to reach room temperature, which you need in order to use it. Trust me. I know this from experience. =]~

Guinness Cupcakes (recipe from My Baking Addiction)

1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Guinness, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, and baking soda. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet Guinness mixture.

Butter 24 muffin tins and divide the batter among the muffin tins.

Bake 25 minutes, until risen and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out of the tins.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Icing

1 stick salted butter, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 tablespoon Clear Vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
4 tablespoons very cold milk

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the clear vanilla extract and combine well. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk one tablespoon at a time, combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high to high speed) until you reach the desired consistency.