April 23, 2010

Guacamole Anyone

When I was pregnant with Caston there was one food and one food alone that cured my carvings- Mexican!

I wanted it all....chips and dip, tacos, burritos, enchiladas....but mostly guacamole!

Guacamole is very simple to make too. We usually have avocados laying around the kitchen as well (did you know that avocados are very good for your health)! Doctors even believe that avocados are a cancer fighter....so eat up!

Here's my simple guacamole recipe that will suit your fancy!

Kick-Up Guacamole
3 medium avocados, very ripe
1 shallot, minced
1 small jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup lime juice, fresh
1/2 tsp. lime zest
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

Place avocados and lime juice in bowl and mash with a fork, lightly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and serve with chips!
(PHOTO: Caston turned 5 months recently...this was a couple days after his 5 month birthday!)

April 18, 2010

Another Day, Another Story

Our son has been persistent on waking up at 4:30 am every morning the past week- which before he slept till at least 5:30 am. He's teething so, I'm sure that has a little to do with it. But, we've been trying to make him hold off for a feeding 10 minutes extra each morning. (That's what I've read to do...but I've learned that the so-called expert books don't know it all.)

My husband was out of town one night this week and Caston woke up crying like no other...nothing would make it better so I made a bottle for him. (He's been switched over to formula now.) He went to town eating...when Caston is hungry you better watch out! I usually burp him when he's half way through, so I proceed to do so. But, he just would not burp and his little belly was so tight! (Caston has acid reflux very bad...so it sometimes take forever to get him to burp.)

He wouldn't burp and was screaming by this time bc all he wanted was his food. So, we started feeding again. After he finished he was completely satisfied. I laid him on my shoulder and he laid his head down gently and was cooing. (Nothing is more sweet than a baby cooing.)

Then is came.

On big ole loud, nasty, hard burp! I mean LOUD...

And the chair, my back, my hair and my neck was covered in baby puke. (We call Caston "Mr. Puke" around the house...his reflux makes him spit up a lot and even hours after a feeding.)

I couldn't believe I was sitting in living room at 5 am covered in puke...funny thing Caston didn't have a drop of spit up on him. Just my luck right. I had to laugh...I mean my husband was gone, it was the wee hours of the morning and I was covered in puke. I was just thankful that our furniture was leather, not cloth.

Oh, what we go through for our children, so that someday they can grow-up and become teenagers and forget all the things their parents did for them. The sacrifices they made, the many nights they stayed up with us when we had a cold, those blow-out diapers, the puke, the sleeplessness...the list goes on and on.

Wait. I need to call my parents and thank them. You should do the same.

If you are really trying to tell mom how much you appreciate all she's done for you...try these Chocolate Cupcakes. You are sure to make her day! (BTW I lived off these when I was pregnant...so good.)

Chocolate Cupcakes
from JoyofBaking.com
Makes about 16 cupcakes

1/2 cup (50 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup (240 ml) boiling hot water
1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Fudge Frosting:
4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups (160 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly butter, or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, use a large Wilton 1M open star tip to make lovely swirls.

Chocolate Frosting: Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).

April 15, 2010

The Debate: Oven Roast or Crock-Pot

Everyone has an opinion on this debate: Oven roast or Crock-Pot roast. I've cooked roast in the oven and in the Crock-Pot and I have to say that nothing beats a roast cooked the old fashioned way in the oven. The taste is so much better and it's really not any more difficult.

(PHOTO: Loving that he can now sit in his big boy chair to eat his cereal. today Caston was all giggles.)

I used to throw a roast in the Crock when I worked out of home bc I thought it made my life easier (and it did a few nights). But, you can also cook a roast in the oven at a very low setting and cook it while you are at work just as easy.

But, I won't argue with anyone of this debate. I will suggest that if you are a fan of a Crock roast you just try my oven recipe and then tell me which you like best.

I did some experimenting with my roast recipe earlier this week....and we have a winner.

Lane's Oven Roast
1 (3-4 lb) roast
2 cups dry red wine (Merlot)
2 cups of tea
3 beef stock cubes
4 Bay leaves
4 stalks of celery, plus the celery leaves (roughly chopped)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. ground peppercorns
1/2 tsp. Thyme, chopped

Sear the roast in a cast iron skillet with about 2 T. of olive oil in the bottom of skillet. This is the key to a good oven roast. Using a cast iron skillet will give you the very best sear- keeping the moisture of the roast.

Place all ingredients in large baking dish with a top. Lay the seared roast on top and be sure the veggies lay around the roast. Take some of the liquid and drizzle it over the roast. Sprinkle the roast with a little more salt and pepper. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for about 3 1/2 hours or until roast is done. The roast will be done with you can stick it with a fork and it falls apart.

NOTE- All ovens cook differently. Watch the roast so you do not over cook it.

I always know when my roast is ready because the entire house smells delicious. Funny, I know- but true!


April 13, 2010

The Beauty of Soilds

This is the face Caston made today when he had his first taste of banana. Priceless!

He's been eating cereals for a month now and I thought since he's had no allergy to any cereal we would try banana today. (Yes- I know that the drs. tell you to wait on fruit and veg until 6 months, but I think mama's know their babies better.)

Mixing it with some organic oatmeal he was delighted! In fact I couldn't shovel the mixture in fast enough to suit him...looks like he's going to have his mother's patience. (That's what my husband likes to say.)

I've learned to eat every meal standing up since Mr. Caston came along. I'm either feeding him and trying to catch a bite myself - entertaining him while trying to eat - doing business on the phone or Internet while eating - and even grabbing something to eat while running out the door to my next meeting. Life has changed so much in the McConnell house.

Now, at this point in the post I would somehow try to tie in a recipe to the story...right?

So, what recipe am I going to post today? I'm not. I'm suggesting to all of you- take the night off from cooking and enjoy the beauty of spring and eat out. I might be a cook, but do you honestly think that I cook every night? My husband and I still enjoy date night twice a month (well we at least attempt it...harder now with the lil man).

Pick out a new restaurant tonight or order take out and relax! And check back tomorrow for a new recipe from me!

April 11, 2010

The Perfect Ending

I swear the older I get the faster the weeks go...it seems like it was Monday just yesterday. Guess they are right, "time flies when you're having fun." The weather in the Ozarks is amazing and I thank God for living back home in the south. The trees are budding out and the warm breeze is the perfect ending to a wonderful week!

I started the week off at my parents on the farm for some interviews with some local farmers for upcoming articles and ended the week doing some much needed landscaping. (Which BTW my mother told me how happy she was that I lived so close now...she said it was like she had her daughter back home. I almost cried bc it made me so happy!)

Our new house had barely any landscaping (which is nice - meant we didn't have to remove any old plants that I didn't like). We spent all day yesterday outside digging holes, planting and mulching. We still aren't done though. I still need to incorporate some hostas and day lillies into the mix, plus whatever annuals I decide to plant.

I'd like to find a local nursery in or around Hollister (so if anyone has any suggestions let me know). Otherwise, I'll be headed to the farmers' market in Springfield.

Here's an updated photo of our little man! Hard to believe he'll already be five months in a week- he's such a little hambone. His newest discovery is his toes, which he has taken to sucking on. I was worried about this at first, but read that it's perfectly normal. But, usually babies don't start the toe sucking until month 6. You can bet that I make sure his little pigs are very clean!

Here's a recipe I pulled off a 100 mile diet blog that we recently made. The leftover chicken makes for great chicken salad the next day!

Shallot Rub for Roast Chicken (enough for a small bird)
2 shallot cloves
2 garlic cloves
1 large stalk rosemary, leaves removed
4 T butter
2 T olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until well combined.