October 27, 2010

Recommended Reading: By The Time You Read This I'll Be Dead

I haven't done one of these in a really long time, I guess I hadn't been reading anything that really struck a cord or that I thought you guys would enjoy as well. But this book really hit me, and I really, really love this book. Even though it's a pretty sad and depressing story, I really loved it...it makes you think.

This book tells the story of Daelyn and her stuggles with every day life, with her parents on 24/7 suicide watch over her after her 3 (or more) failed suicide attempts. This last one leaving her mute and having to wear a neck brace all the time. She is considered a "freak" at school and feels very alone and worthless. She has horrible things happen to her and you might feel the same after what this girl has went through. But then again maybe with a better support system from her parents she might not of felt the way she did...but who knows. Either she isn't communicating properly or her parents just don't know how to listen.

Daelyn finds a website dedicated to "completers", those who will finally off themselves...for the last time. No more failures. She finds comfort in knowing that no one is gonna talk her out of it on this site and its there to help these people tell their stories and vent frustrations.

There is a twist when this random boy comes up to her one day, while waiting for her mother to pick her up from school, and starts chatting with her. He's very persistent and is there everyday to meet her and talk with her...but does she have the ability to let someone in, even though her "date of determination" is only 23 days away?

This book kept me enticed all the way through. I was invested in the character. I wanted to yell at her, I wanted to hug her, I wanted to be her friend. I wanted to tell her everything was ok...
Emotional charged and pulling on heartstrings, this book is a winner.

And I don't know what my view is on the whole "bullying" situation, but I am glad this book is out there to show what it can do to someone's life...when the bullying is day in and day out, no matter where they may move or what new school they go to...it really makes you think.


October 19, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Streusel Muffins

Its that time...time for my famous pumpkin muffins!!! I changed it up a bit this year and put together a mish-mosh of 2 different recipes that I have come across and my own little twist. These muffins are packed with everything fall! They are moist, flavorful and just make you feel happy when you eat them.

Minis ready to be devoured

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Streusel Muffins
Makes 12 regular muffins (original says 24 I got 12) or 48 mini-muffins

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 8-ounce package cream cheese (I used 1/3 fat free)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line or grease your muffin tin and set aside.

1. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla. Whisk until combined and smooth.

3. Slowly stir in flour mixture to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.

For the filling:

Beat the cream cheese until softened. Beat in the brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until all ingredients are incorporated. Set aside.

For the streusel topping:

In a bowl combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. With your hands mix in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

4. Fill muffins tins about 1/3 of the way full with the pumpkin batter. Add a good dollop of cream cheese to the center of each one. Fill the tins about 3/4 full and top with streusel topping.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes for regular muffins and 10 minutes for minis, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place muffins tins on wire racks for cooling. Remove from tins and enjoy!

(Took bits and pieces from Two Peas and Their Pod and the streusel from GroupRecipes)

These...are...amazing. They are so good!! I am so glad I tinkered around with a few different recipes to make something so good and truly delicious! I sort of just went by what I had I hand and what I could do with what I had. I am really glad I found how to bake the cream cheese right into the muffins, cause I used to pipe them into the bottoms and it was a pain and I felt like you never got quite enough.

And not only is the cream cheese amazing but that slightly crunchy and sweet brown sugar topping is awesome. I think it makes the whole muffin! And the muffins itself, when you don't get a bite of cream cheese is delicious and moist. Very flavorful and light.

These muffins are a winner!! You must make these for a fall gathering or for your neighbor or someone you love, or just for yourself. They are that good!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry ~Happy Autumn~


October 11, 2010

Cheesy Potato Broccoli Soup with Crispy Proscuitto

I was clicking through the food blog The Craving Chronicles and came across this amazing soup recipe that was cheesy and hearty and full of good stuff. The original recipe didn't have broccoli, but I had some cooked, and leftover so I threw that in and I thought it was perfect. The crispy proscuitto on top, definitely makes the whole dish!! You need that salty bite with the cheese and potatoes, its absolutely delicious! This soup is a gonna be a new fall favorite!

I'm in love with these huge soup mugs!

Cheesy Potato Broccoli Soup with Crispy Proscuitto
(original recipe found here.)

4-6 slices proscuitto
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 carrots, sliced
1 lb. approx. red potatoes (10-12 small or 4-6 large) peeled and cubed
1 qt. box chicken broth or stock
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Place slices of proscuitto on a lightly greased or Silpat lined sheet pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool, and then break into crumbles.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add onion and carrots and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and enough stock to just cover and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt 3 T butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted add 3 T flour and whisk to form a roux. Allow to cook, 1 minute. Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly to smooth out any lumps. Continue to heat while whisking until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Once it reaches desired thickness, remove from heat and stir in your grated cheese.

Once potatoes are tender, pour the cheese mixture into the potato mixture, stirring to combine. Heat to a simmer and let thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each bowl of soup with crumbled prosciutto and enjoy!

Warm, cheesy goodness for a Fall day

One big, soup mug full of this soup was enough for a good meal! Add some bread to dunk and I'm sure it's even better, and more satisfying! The Hubs added oyster crackers, which are delicious and great with soup as well. This soup of full of hearty potatoes and veggies and feels good in your soul. It was super easy to make...like, incredibly easy! You dirty 2 pots, but its ok cause the soup is so yummy! The potatoes are nice and tender and the carrots still have crunch and the broccoli adds nice color and flavor, all around a great bowl of soup. The best part is the prosciutto on top...so crispy and salty, I am in love! I love prosciutto when its not crispy, and I like this crispy topping rather than bacon, I would choose prosciutto any day!

Hey! Don't take that yet!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry...and warm up with a bowl of soup!


Banana Oatmeal Cookies

I came across a banana oatmeal cookie recipe a couple weeks back and thought that those sounded amazing! I love, love, love oatmeal cookies, and I love baking with bananas so it seemed win/win for me! I looked up a few more recipes and found one that seemed perfect and thought I'd give it a try since I have some overly ripe bananas chilling on my counter.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
(adapted from this recipe.)

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup banana, mashed (about 2)
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat in egg and bananas. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips or nuts if using them.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

These soft, dense, flavorful cookies are great!! Really easy to make, although the whole, combining the sugar with the flour and THEN beating in the butter, was a little weird, but whatever, maybe that is why they are kinda thick and cakey. Also, I decided to go with brown sugar instead of all white sugar, because, well, I just like it more and I think that caramel-y flavor you get with brown sugar goes perfect with bananas. Also, to the last bit of batter I added a small handful of hazelnuts to see how those turned out. I think the nuts needed to be in bigger chunks, but I like the taste and texture of nuts in oatmeal cookies.

I hope you get inspired by these delicious cookies and use up some over-ripe bananas you may have sitting on your counter.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!