Friday, July 22, 2011

Salad, Rolls, Cookies, & Cake

Lately I've been loving the website, Our Best Bites! Every recipe I've tried from them has been delicious. A few weeks ago, we had this salad at Bunco, and I've wanted to make it ever since. So I finally did! I found frozen ciabatta rolls from Walmart that were AWESOME!! I seriously thought, "I never need to go to Macaroni Grill for their bread anymore - I just need to buy these rolls!  I ended up using fresh blackberries for the dressing, but I do prefer the strawberries instead.  It was still so delicious - a perfect summer dinner!
Also, I have FINALLY found the best chocolate chip cookie recipe!!  Many of you know, I love to bake, and grew-up making a different batch of cookies nearly every Sunday at my house!  However, I really never liked to eat the cookies once they were baked.  I just liked the cookie dough.  I few months ago, I tried a new recipe and thought, "This is pretty good."  When Shawn came home and tried it, his first response was, "Have your tried Laura Lowe's recipe?"  Ok - my, what I thought at the time, pretty good recipe must not have been as good as Laura's.  So, I e-mailed his coworker and got the recipe.  I didn't try it until last weekend - HELLO - I've made it twice now (not good for the hips!)
So - I will share with you, what I think is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe!  Trust me!  Now, this is what Laura shared with me.  I've included all the instructions - but will tell you what I do.  I microwave the butter (all of it) for 2-3 minutes.  You have to watch it, so it doesn't boil over - but it does give it a good flavor.  Also - use dark brown sugar - it really enhances the taste.  Note: The dough will be gooey and you might think, Add more flour - wrong.  Just refrigerate it a little to help it set back up.  (they don't tell you to do this, but do it!)

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
From the episode: The Cookie Jar

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I use chunks and chips! or chips and mini chips) 
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking
sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes.
Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3
minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large
heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and
yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture
stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until
mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no
flour pockets remain.
4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches
apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will
require 3 batches.)
5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to
set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer
baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving. 

They also had some technique tips, that I thought were interesting.  Click here to read those. 

Finally for this post - I turned 30 yesterday!!!  Hard to believe, I guess.  I don't feel any different, but supposedly it's a big deal!  :)

Shawn and the girls did a wonderful job at making me feel special and they sure did spoil me!  Shawn took Andie and Ali shopping, and it's always fun to see what they think is "your favorite!"  Which happened to be raspberry truffles, dark chocolate, and bright pink nail polish!  (according to Andie and Ali!)
Since the beginning of the month - the girls got the pink bag and christmas bag and have been filling it with pictures and drawings for my birthday.  Andie has been most funny about this.  She would draw something, show me and then say, "It's for your birthday!  I'm going to put it in your birthday bag (hers was the Christmas bag) and hide it, so you can't see it."  Then she would go put it next to the couch!  lol - it was so funny.
They had fun blowing up balloons and hanging up the birthday sign with Shawn.  I was laying in bed just laughing (waiting) as I heard them shrill and giggle with excitement. 
Overall, we had an average day.  We (the girls and I) went visiting teaching and babysat for a friend from the ward.  Shawn is taking his comps right now, which means he writes a 15 or so page research paper each week, with a new question at the beginning of the week for the next 4 weeks!  He's been staying up well into the night every night this week and leaves for school at 7:30am.  It's a busy time for him - but a major step for his dissertation - so we are happy!

That night, I treated myself to a favorite dinner.  Tri-tip, homemade rolls, raspberry jello, mashed potatoes and of course Chocolate Cake, with Chocolate Frosting! 
I always thought it would be fun to have all of your candles in the cake.  The girls loved it too!  The lighter was hard to use, requiring both hands - but definitely fun to light 30 candles!
Posing for a picture before I blow them out!

We liked this picture the best - with all the holes!

The girls sure enjoyed the cake....well most of them.
We have found that chocolate does not sit well with Adalyn - poor girl.  Hopefully she's grow out of that (could you imagine a life without chocolate?)  So, instead of cake, she got jello, which she LOVED!

It was a great ending for a great day!!  Andie took this picture of the birthday girl!  All day long she would say things like, "Mom, how about you decide what's next, since you're the birthday girl!"  It was great!
I love my little family - and extended family too! How blessed I am to have all of you! Thanks for all the birthday fun!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Date Night - UGA Campus

A few weeks ago, our wonderful neighbors offered to watch the girls so Shawn and I could go out on a date. It was great. We didn't have any plans and decided to do something we'd never done. So, we went and parked downtown and walked around for a bit - looking for a place to eat. We ended up at 5 Guys Burgers and Fries. I likes their fries, did not like their hamburgers....but, that's me.

Anyway - we decided to walk around North Campus, and since I always have my camera with me, we had a little fun taking pictures. Shawn's never much of a fan of my ideas - but he indulged me! Besides - it's great to have to show our kids in the future!

So - here we are. I believe this is the academic building. It's very southern to find the big columns - and was fun for a picture!
We had to take a picture of this big PINK tree for Andie.  She would have loved it.
Close up - it was so bright and pink!  I loved it!
This is a southern magnolia!  I'd always heard of them, but would have never been able to identify them.  Fortunately for us, the tree had a tag on it - so now we know what a magnolia tree looks like!!  "A magnolia from Mongolia!" (ha ha)
Here, Shawn is posing in front of the campus chapel.  The doors were locked, so we couldn't see what was inside.
This is Herty Field.  Where the first UGA football game was played.
So, naturally - we posed to play a football game.  This was the first of many "set the timer and run" pictures.  It was fun!
This is the fountain on the other side of Herty Field.  Some kid was out taking pictures and offered to take ours.  I like this picture - because the way the fountain is, reminds me of the Salt Lake Temple, with it's spires.
This is the Terry College of Business.  Many of our friends from the ward go to this building!!
More pink trees and a lamp post.
Pretty Landscape.  Shawn said this is where they lock you in rooms when you have to take a big exam.  Hmm....testing center?
Sanford Stadium.  We have not been to a football game, and honestly probably won't go.  I think it would be fun for the experience - but who wants to surround themselves with a bunch of drunk people?  Not us.  It is pretty neat to see though - it seats 93,000 people.  Let's just say - football season is crazy here in Athens. 

ok - this was the coolest drinking fountain I'd ever seen.  Maybe it's because I don't go to school anymore, so maybe all drinking fountains are like this.  You can put your water bottle under and it will sense it and fill it up.  Then it counts how many water bottles have been saved.  Eco-friendly and Molly-friendly.  So cool!!!
This is the new Tate Building - the student center (that houses the ever so cool drinking fountain.)  It's very pretty, and VERY large!!
Smile for your senior picture Shawn!  Unfortunately the bookstore was closed.  We'll have to try again.  I've never been there!
I told Shawn we had to get him a picture sitting at the bus stop - although I'm pretty sure he's never cheesing it like this.  We're so grateful for public transportation!!  (Well, I am - I know Shawn is ready for the day when he will never have to ride a bus again!!)
The Library.
That was the end of our little tour.  Keep in mind - this is just North Campus.  We weren't even down by Shawn's buildings.  We didn't have the time or the energy to walk the whole thing.  We probably walked a good 2-3 miles just in our little excursion.  It was well worth it - to work off those burgers and fries. 

Thanks for a great date night Shawn!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gymnastics Camp

Last week, Andie and Ali went to Gymnastics Camp. They had such a good time, and I also enjoyed the 3 hour break. They went every day from 9-12. They loved taking a snack each day!
The theme for the week was "Experiments". Each day, the girls would come home with a new experiment or craft. The first day was the yellow bag. They mixed corn starch and water, then got to pick their favorite color. When you played with the mixture in the bag, it was liquid. When you let the bag sit, it would harden up.

The second day, they had plates with paint on it. They got to blow through a straw to spread the paint around and make a picture. The third day, they made googles to help them see. Ali was kind enough to display all of her experiments for us!
On the last day, they had a parent show for the last hour. We loved watching them and all the "gymnastics" they learned! Adalyn on the other hand, was not a happy camper!
Each day, the gym was set up with different courses - I took video of the girls doing each of the rotations - they were hilarious to watch. They were having a blast - which is the whole point. If you ever want to stretch out, we know some good exercises that involve making pizza, pie and pancakes!!

They sure had fun!!

In case you can't tell - Andie is in purple and Ali is in blue. It was hilarious watching them...let's just say, Ali was in her own little world most of the time. I finally thought to video it, so you don't see it in the videos, but they are still fun to watch!


I love Ali's kart wheel in this last video!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

4th of July 2011

On Monday, we had such a fun day.  The girls and Shawn went swimming (we love having a pool) in the morning, while Adalyn took a nap and I got some things done around the house.  After lunch, we played games - the girls LOVE Yahtzee.  Then we went outside to play.  They rode their bikes for a while, then it started to sprinkle - so they got their boots on and started puddle jumping!

That evening, we had a BBQ picnic with our friends from the complex.  There are 8 lds families, plus 2 apartments with missionaries (4 elders and 2 sisters) that live in our same complex now - with another family moving in on Thursday!!  It's crazy to think we were the only ones here 3 years ago - glad we've convinced so many to move our way!!

We made red and blue jello jigglers!!
The girls had fun playing with Sparklers
that is, until Ali touched one, and burned her index finger and thumb!!  It had just finished and she grabbed the top to throw it down - poor girl.  She is fine, but it was a sad moment!!
Friends out talking and enjoying the evening!

Happy 4th of July!!
Waiting for the fireworks to begin (all of which were small and made no sounds!)  I love Ali's face, looking at Andie with the thought, "Should I be worried)
Brielle, Andie and Ali
Little miss Adalyn didn't want to sit for very long

I love this picture too!!  Ali had a ice pack for her fingers - but enjoyed it more on her face.  I also love that she's holding on to Adalyn so she won't get the fireworks!! 

We hope you had a fun and safe 4th of July. According to Andie - it's the 4th of July until my birthday - so party on!!