December 2, 2014

'Tis the Season for.... Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

I was recently invited to join in on a wonderful weekly cyber cookie "swap" with a few amazing bloggers that I am also so thankful to call friends. Each week we will all be posting a different cookie that is suitable for your holiday cookie tray. I hope you enjoy this little "swap" and please make sure to take a look at all the blogs listed below for even more cookie inspiration!


These peanut butter kiss cookies are one of our absolute must haves for Christmas. They are tender and super peanut buttery and go beautifully with a ice cold glass of milk or a steaming mug of hot chocolate.


Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Natural Peanut Butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 bag chocolate "kisses" - unwrapped

Method:
In a large mixer bowl, beat butter and peanut butter with electric mixer on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, beating well. If necessary, cover and chill about one hour for easier handling.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Shape dough into one-inch balls. Roll in additional granulated sugar. Place about two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are firm. Immediately press a chocolate "kiss" atop each cookie. With a spatula, lift cookies onto cooling rack. When cool, store in an airtight container.

Makes approximately 60 cookies.



Be sure and check out the Pinterest board for the group for more great cookie recipes from the other participants. We'll be posting recipes each Monday for the next few weeks.

Also check out the other participants of 'Tis the Season for Cookies to see their fabulous cookie recipes as well!

Diana Cannone at To Di for Bakery.
Dianne Simmons at Dianne’s Dishes.
Judy Chiappini at No Fear Entertaining.
Mandee Racer Pogue at The Kitchen Wife.
Marye Audet-White at Restless Chipotle.
Renee Joslyn at Flamingo Musings.
And Sandy Smith at Eat Real.

November 10, 2014

Braised Beef Cheeks with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

I made these beef cheeks for the first time a couple months ago... and we loved them so very much that I have made then 4 times since then! I had heard all the hype about how amazing they were and after finally hunting some down, I set on a mission to see if they were really as good as everyone says they are. If you live in a bigger city I'm pretty sure these are easy to find... you might not find them in your local grocery store though. I had to call my local butcher and he didn't have any on hand... but was able to get them for me within a day or so. I had done some research on how to cook these beauties and found that low and slow braising was the way to go. I used my usual short rib recipe to cook them and I was so pleased... I liked them even better than short ribs, personally.

My cheeks came in large pieces and had a good bit of tough fat and sinew on them... it was easy enough to clean and trim off though and I suggest you do the same. There is enough fat marbled through the meat that you don't need to worry about them being too lean. Look at those beautiful pieces of beef! So pretty! One cheek easily fed 2 people.

This was the veg after the cheeks were finished braising. Gorgeous isn't it? Just look at that delicious liquid! It was absolutely rich and amazing once the veg was strained out and the liquid was reduced. Dark and jammy and decadent.

The meat was so tender it felt apart into moist, flavorful shreds that were absolutely divine over the creamy polenta. This meal is definitely one I will make again and again. Impressive but not at all difficult. And just wait until you smell it braising in the oven... you won't be able to wait for dinner. It's heavenly!




Braised Beef Cheeks with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Ingredients for the Braised Beef Cheeks:

4 beef cheeks, cleaned and cut into halves
Salt and pepper to season the cheeks before cooking
Olive oil for browning the cheeks and sautéing the vegetables
4 anchovy fillets
8 cloves garlic, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 small onions, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
6 sprigs thyme
16 black peppercorns
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 bottle red wine (I used a Barolo)
6 cups chicken stock
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Method:
1: Clean the beef cheeks of any sinew. Cut each cheek in half. Season well with salt and pepper.

2: Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown cheeks on all sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3: Add a little more oil if needed and add anchovy, garlic, carrot, onion, celery and leek and sauté until nicely browned.

4: Lower heat to medium. Add thyme and peppercorns, stir well.

5: Add the tomato paste and continue stirring over medium heat for 5 minutes.

6: Slowly pour in the red wine while scraping the delicious browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

7: Cook for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.

8: Return browned beef cheeks to the pot with the wine reduction and veg. Cover with chicken stock and bring to a boil.

9: Once boiling, skim the surface of any foamy muck.

10: Cover the surface with a circle of parchment paper and the Dutch oven’s lid and place in a preheated 300*F oven for 2 1/2 hours until tender and falling apart.

11: Remove from the oven and add balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.

12: Transfer the beef cheeks to a plate, covering with foil to remain warm.

13: Strain the liquid of its vegetables and return the leftover liquid to the pot.

14: Over medium heat, reduce the remaining liquid by 1/3 to 1/2.

15: Remove from heat. Return the beef cheeks to the reduced liquid and cover to reheat while you make the polenta.


Ingredients for Creamy Parmesan Polenta

3 cups chicken stock
3 cups heavy cream
1 and 1/2 cup yellow polenta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt, if needed

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for serving
Shaved Parmesan for serving

Method:
1: Combine the chicken stock and heavy cream in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.

2: Reduce heat to low and pour the polenta into the stock and cream mixture slowly, whisking as you pour to thoroughly combine.

3: Whisk constantly while the polenta cooks for about 10 minutes, until the liquid is completely absorbed.

4: Remove from heat and gently stir in the cheese and butter. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.


To Serve:
Mound a large spoonful of polenta in the center of a flat bowl. Top with a piece of the beef cheek and spoon over some of the cooking liquid. Garnish with shaved Parmesan and chopped flat leaf parsley.

Makes 8-10 servings.



October 30, 2014

Ubisoft Petz Beach 3DS Game Review #CleverGirls #PetzBeach


This past week I gave a new video game to my youngest kiddo a reward for doing so well on a test in school recently. He's got an Nintendo 3DS and he loves animals, so this game was a perfect fit for him!
Petz Beach is a fun filled game that includes a variety of animals to choose from... everything from adorable cats and dogs to more exotic dolphins and whales! Your child will get to interact with the animals by completing quests, meeting new villagers, exploring and expanding their community. One of the elements my son loved best about this game is that is ever changing. The more your child explores, more areas open up and allow for even more game play. It's not the kind of game that will be played from start to finish in one sitting and then cast off to the side. It held his attention for hours and is still going strong! You can't beat that. My middle child also loved this game, and while she is a bit older... she enjoyed the interesting facts provided by Encyclopaedia Britannica. I am thinking about purchasing her one of these games of her own, since she keeps asking to use her brothers copy.



Petz fans will embark on the ultimate adventure in Petz Beach, where players can care for a variety of dogs, complete quests to expand their village and connect with other Petz owners. There are more than 50 different types of animals in the game and because the environment changes with the seasons, the adventure lasts all year long! As players explore the town and meet new neighbors with their pets, the game expands and grows. Helping new friends will expand the village as the game progresses. Through its partnership with Encyclopaedia Britannica, Petz Beach incorporates learning along the way. As kids care for their pets and complete missions, they’ll learn facts about animals, plants and insects! 
If you like Petz Beach... you might also like to try out Petz Countryside. Same fun experience, but in a new and different environment!

You can purchase Petz Beach on Amazon.com

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

October 27, 2014

CRYSTAL LIGHT and Miranda Lambert Platinum Rewards Program

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central for CRYSTAL LIGHT. I received a gift card to purchase CRYSTAL LIGHT products to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation. #MC #SPONSORED #CrystalLightWM #RanFan
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CRYSTAL LIGHT has forever been one of my go-to drinks. I love all the flavors and the fact that they are low calorie and have on the go packs that I can just tuck into my purse to add to a bottle of water anytime I'd like. I get bored with drinking plain water, but I know getting enough water each day in essential to good health... with CRYSTAL LIGHT I can drink water anytime and enjoy it! I was so excited to hear about the new "Platinum Rewards Program" recently launched... now you can earn points with each CRYSTAL LIGHT purchase to use toward some amazing Miranda Lambert merchandise! Signing up for the Platinum Rewards Program is super simple. Just follow the directions below and you'll be on your way to earning points for all sorts of neat swag.... song downloads, t-shirts, mugs. There is even a totally sweet signed guitar!

1. First, sign up for the program here using your email address or Facebook account.
2. Purchase participating CRYSTAL LIGHT products at Walmart and be sure to keep your receipt.
3. Go to www.earnplatinumpoints.com in your mobile browser and log in.
4. Click “Snap,” choose “Walmart,” and then click “Select/Take Photo.”
5. Snap a clear photo of your receipt and click “Upload This Photo.”
6. Redeem points for Miranda Lambert rewards.

That's all there is to it! To get you started, use this code:“mirandaic” you will instantly earn 30 free points! The sign up process was easy and my local Walmart had a ton of different CRYSTAL LIGHT products to choose from. I got all my favorites and already earned enough points to get the CD!!! I am so excited and hope you are too... go join and start earning points!

October 9, 2014

Give A Frosty, Help A Child



Foster care adoption is something very near and dear to my family. Our lives have been blessed in ways I cannot begin to describe because of 3 special children that we got to know first as foster children and then later on as forever family through adoption. Watching these 3 kids grow and thrive has been amazing... Did you know that there are more than 100,000 children in foster care awaiting to be adopted? I would like to think that every child would one day get the forever home they deserve and Wendy's® and The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption® want to help that happen by offering these Halloween Coupon Books for $1 each. Ninety cents from each $1 coupon book sold will go directly to the The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption®!

October 5, 2014

Homemade Taco Seasoning and Taco Frittata

We eat a LOT of tacos in my home... I have 3 kids and we all know how much kids love tacos! If I would let them have their way, we would have them several times a week. I usually make 2 or 3 pounds of taco meat at a time, because then it's a quick lunch the next day in a quesadilla or I can use the leftovers to make this delicious, filling and easy taco frittata. I love this one, since it's different than a taco, but uses all the leftover bits from taco night. We top the warm frittata with the same things you might top your taco. Or, you can just eat it as it, without the toppings and it's still amazing.

September 30, 2014

Love Conquers Hate and How You Can Help

This is a sponsored post on behalf of GiveForward, as always opinions are 100% my own.
This campaign is close to my heart because my eldest son has Asperger's and was severely bullied in elementary and middle school. He was taunted and teased so much that finally, when it became too much for him to bear, we pulled him out of the brick and mortar school he was attending and enrolled him in cyber school. My son is intelligent, loving, talented and compassionate. He is also quiet, a bit unsure of himself in social situations and shy. Once you get to know him, he is the kind of kid who will do anything he can help you out. He's funny and silly and loves to make people laugh. But, until he trusts you... he comes off as aloof and standoffish. Being of MENSA level intelligence, he can ramble on at a good clip about how the processor of a computer works or about some theory he has, in language most of us would think is something of another planet entirely. He's not your typical teenager in that he doesn't care about the latest fashions and would prefer to wear the same style "uniform" every single day. He loves music and can be found listening to the same track on repeat all day long while he does his school work or progresses on one of his many projects. He's mind has to be constantly focused on something. He is always thinking, playing ideas out in his head, putting them to paper or actually physically making them happen. He is all about habits, routine and following a sense of order. Do something that sets his normal pattern out of balance and he becomes lost and regaining his equilibrium is something that takes days. Rolling with the punches isn't something he understands. All of these things made him a target in school and the bullying was harsh and never ending. Can you imagine how difficult life might be for someone like him? Now... imagine having to deal with people who pick on all of those things that make you different. Pretty difficult to imagine how someone handles all that, isn't it?