Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sara Jane: Pumpkin Scones

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Ours was full of family and food. 

Last Saturday, I escaped for a few hours to go Christmas shopping.   On my way out of town, I stopped by Ruby Cakes, a bakery that only has Gluten Free and Vegan sweets and everything is delicious!  When I walked into the bakery, I spotted the scones.  They had a pumpkin/cinnamon chip scones that looked heavenly so I grabbed one and headed out.  The first bite into it was an explosion of flavors in my mouth.  Along with the expected pumpkin flavor was a syrup with seeds and nuts.  I can't even explain it.  I was floored by how yummy it was.  From then on, I have been wanting another one of their delicious scones but haven't had the time to go get one.  

The other night, several hours after Ruby Cakes had closed, I REALLY wanted a pumpkin scone so I attempted to make my own.  I altered my recipe quite a bit so I will repost the entire recipe here for you.  I basically cut my original recipe in half, eliminated the milk and added the pumpkin. 


*3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for hands and parchment
*1/2 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
*1 1/4 tablespoons baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*6 Tablespoons shortening
*1/4 cup butter
*1 can of pumpkin (I can't remember how many ounces but use the smaller can of pumpkin)
*1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice

*2 cups powdered sugar
*1/4 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the scones: In a mixer, blend dry ingredients, shortening and butter together thoroughly until mixture looks like bread crumbs. Add the pumpkin and mix for about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.  If the mixture looks to be too dry, add a few tablespoons of milk; if it looks to be too wet, add about a 1/4 cup of flour.  Be careful not to overmix. Flour hands and shape dough into a large circle about 10 inches in diameter. Cut into 6 pie shaped pieces and sprinkle with sugar. If you want to do a shape, like I did, roll out your dough until it is about 3/4 inch thick and then use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, rotating once halfway through the cooking time. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

To make the icing: Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Mix for about 30 seconds or until thick. Drizzle scones with icing. Let icing harden before serving.

One more thing....I have a new favorite gift to give.  Sticky Grams.  They are soooo fun!  The site takes your Instagram pictures (which I am slightly obsessed with) and makes them into little magnets.  I received the few that I made for my in-laws yesterday and I can't get over how absolutely adorable they are!   Check them out!


Sara Jane

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sara Jane: Test Kitchen

It seems I have been spending most of my days in the kitchen lately.  It always happens this time of year and....I LOVE IT!

Last week, I had my 6th annual Cookie Swap!  It was a blast.  If you have never been to or heard of a Cookie Swap, you really must find one to go to.  At my cookie swap, we each brought 6 dozen cookies and a dish to share.  Then, for a few hours, we ate, gabbed and exchanged cookies.  Always a highlight of the season for me!  I am already planning next year's event (too early???).

For today's post, I am being your test kitchen.  There are so many recipes on Pinterest that look too good to be true so I am testing them out for you.  Some worked marvelously....others not so much.  I will share the link to where the recipe is originally posted and then share with you any changes I made to the recipe and/or my review of the recipe.  Here we go....


I discovered PJ Chang Lettuce Wraps a few months ago thanks to my beautiful friend, Amy.  I am in love with them.  I would eat them daily if I didn't live so stinkin' far away from our PF Chang.  I have, however, been known to crave them and drive the 1.5 hour round trip just to be able to fulfill that craving.  Worth every mile, I tell you!

I always see recipes on Pinterest claiming to taste exactly like the original PF Chang recipe.  I found one yesterday that made my mouth water so today, I tried it.  The recipe can be found here.  I really didn't change the recipe at all other than I used ground chicken instead of whole pieces.  Does it taste exactly like the original  Is it good....yes!  I can't quite figure out what is different so I think I will go grab an order of Lettuce Wraps at PF Chang and try to figure that one out.  Do you see how much I love all you blogger friends :)


This next recipe I saw just a few days ago.  You've probably seen it, too.  Check it out here if you haven't.  You take one boxed brownie mix and add one can of pumpkin to it and bake it as you would normal brownies.

I didn't love this recipe.  In fact, I REALLY didn't like it.  Here are my thoughts.

1.  I love batter.  This batter was not good.  I mean, REALLY NOT GOOD!  That should have been my first clue :)

2.  The original recipe says to bake it for 25 to 30 took me an hour and ten minutes to get the thing to set!  Even then, it was super gooey (and not the good kind of gooey).

3.  The taste just isn't quite right.  I love pumpkin and chocolate together but you couldn't taste the pumpkin.

Bottom line...I will not do this recipe again.  I would rather continue to make my brownies from scratch or, if I do use a boxed brownie mix, do it how they recommend on the back :)


I try not to eat many sweets so we usually don't have many sugary items in our house.  However, sometimes I get crazy cravings, usually involving chocolate, and when I do, I always go to this next recipe.  

Some people call it chocolate chip cookies in a mug but this blog has the best version I have seen of the single serve chocolate chip cookie (and believe me, I have tried several versions).  Does it taste exactly how a chocolate chip cookie SHOULD taste?  Not so much but it is really yummy and always fulfills my craving for chocolate.  I would change nothing about her recipe.  I only should warn you that you may want to have a glass of milk next to you with this dessert.


I don't remember loving broccoli as a child.  If my memory is correct, it was Allison who liked it.  As an adult however, I LOVE broccoli.  I actually have a post ready about my (and my children's) three favorite ways to cook broccoli...another day.  I really could eat broccoli for every meal.  Yum! So, when this recipe popped up, I tried it right away. 

The only thing I changed about this recipe is that after the meat was mostly cooked, I added 2 to 3 Tablespoons (I can't remember exactly but I think it was 3 T) of brown sugar to the meat and let it create a glaze on the meat.  It makes it have more of the Mongolian Beef flavor but I like the sweetness.  Other than that, I changed nothing!  Make sure not to let your broccoli cook for too long otherwise it becomes super soggy.  Serve over rice and maybe with this salad (which is also a fav of mine).

If you guys can't tell, baking/cooking brings so much happiness into my life.  I know there are so many people out there who really don't understand that but it is 100% true.  Just remember, like I have said several times before, its OKAY to mess up and order your favorite pizza instead.  That's how we learn and how we figure out what we like and don't like.  I will continue testing out recipes and get back to you with another Test Kitchen Post beginning of next year.  

QUESTION:  Are there any recipes out there that you're wondering if they really work?  Let me know and I'll try them out for you :)

Sara Jane

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Allison: Fall & Baking

Hello!  Something amazing has happened this last week: Autumn finally arrived in Arizona!  Well, at least in the mornings.  That chill has hit, and I've had to pull out my flannel pajama pants, and socks.  Of course by about 11 am, it turns warmer, and I regret the socks.  Oh well.  But at least for the mornings, I'm happily chilled and ready for hot chocolate and a warm fire.  What else usually hits me around this time of year?  A desire to bake!  So I scoured my "Cookie" board on Pinterest and besides being embarrassed by how many pins are there, I found my new favorite recipe: 5 ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies.

I found the original recipe here, and had serious doubts about how good they could possibly be.  With the base cookie only consisting of peanut butter, sugar and an egg, it doesn't make sense, but it works and I may never go back to the traditional cookie.

Sort of forgot a before picture, but here's the aftermath.  

To make things even better, the cookies are dipped in melted chocolate, and then in chopped peanuts.  AMAZING!  The cookies literally fall apart in your mouth while the chocolate and crunch of the peanuts just add to the experience.

Here's the basic recipe:

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg

Chill dough for half an hour.

Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

These cookies are a little brittle, but that gives you a chance to sample your work.  :)

I didn't have baking chocolate, so I melted 1/3 of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double broiler on the stove (a glass bowl over a bowling pot of water).  I also didn't have plain peanuts, but I had honey-roasted peanuts.  I chopped them up and they worked perfectly.

I hope the rest of you are enjoying the Fall weather and changing leaves.  Have a great week!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Lisa: Thankful!

Hello, again!  I hope everyone had a terrific weekend.  We did here with our foot of snow that fell from Thursday night till Sunday morning!  We made snowmen, forts, igloos and lots of snowballs!  There was even talk about sleeping in snow caves but I think we'll leave that for another time.  We didn't do sledding yet.  We are waiting till there is a nice base on our favorite hill up American Fork Canyon.  (Shaun, wanna go with?)  That is a favorite tradition in our home.  We sled and sled until everyone is thoroughly sick of it and then we have some homemade soup that we packed up with us.  Good times!

Two weekends ago, my family got to participate in a 5K in support of my husband's Uncle Dean who was just recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.  
Dean, on the left, with some of children and their spouses.

This uncle and his family are amazing!  Instead of looking at this as devastating, they have decided to pull together and be grateful for all that they have.  Being a family of runners and iron man competitors, they put together an opportunity for everyone to come out and support Dean with a Team IronDean 5K!  

My kids and their papa in the background!
My girls and husband after the race.

It was a cold morning but they had over 450 people out in support of Dean.  It was wonderful to see them and see their attitude.  They are inspiring!!

It was a great opportunity to have especially right before Thanksgiving.  It helped me to remember how an "attitude of gratitude" can change a life!  Earlier in the year, my family and I started a gratitude jar. 

 We write things we have done, things that are said and, overall, just things that we've experienced as a family and are thankful for.  We plan on opening it on Thanksgiving and reading them out loud.  

As the quote on the jar says, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of Life!"  

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sara Jane: Thankful tree and Chicken Curry

November is always the month that I take a little more time to think about those things in my life that I truly am thankful for.  I know I'm not the only one because my Facebook feed is full of what everyone else is thankful for, too. :)  I enjoy reading what others are grateful/thankful for.  It makes me smile.

When my oldest, Penelope, was just a little baby, I started a thankful tree and have been doing it ever since.    It is nothing fancy.  I simply cut out a brown tree trunk with a few branches and then everyday in November, we each write something (or in Penelope's case, 5 somethings) we are thankful for on simple little leaves.  Our first tree was very small.  Now, with five of us writing thanksfuls on it, the tree has become quite large.  It takes up the entire side of my refrigerator.  Not the prettiest site to see but it warms my heart whenever I see it.

The tree looks quite bare right now but by the time November is through, our tree  (and refrigerator) is  overflowing with leaves.
Now, the fun part.  When November is through and it is time to put up all my fun Christmas decorations, we carefully take off all the leaves and put them in a labeled box.  Each year we have done this, I have simply put the boxes in storage.  This year, however, we are going to wrap the small box up and make it into an ornament on the Christmas tree.  I really think it will be fun to someday look at these when my children are grown.

Now that Penelope writes, it is really fun to help her spell out what she is thankful for.  
I can't leave with out sharing with you my favorite recipe.  Chicken Curry.  I never knew I liked chicken curry until several years back when we went to our friend's house for dinner and they served it. It was like love at first sight! Amazing! After this heavenly meal, the search was on for the perfect chicken curry recipe that I could actually make. While trying to use up a gift card at Borders, I found a rather intimidating Indian cookbook called The Complete Book of Indian Cooking.  It is now the ONLY curry recipe I use.  The recipe may look overwhelming at first, but don't be fooled. If you can follow directions, then you can make this recipe. The spices can be found at most supermarkets. I buy mine in bulk at a specialty store but I have also found them at Safeway and Albertson's (they just tend to be more expensive there).  If you really can't find the spices locally, try this ordering them online here.  The spices that are in this recipe are always in my cupboard now and I do buy them in bulk to make sure I ALWAYS have them.  I have made this recipe probably 100 times and have altered it a bit so I will give you my version of the recipe.  Here you go....

Chicken Curry

4 tbsp vegetable oil
4 cloves
6 green cardamom pods
1 piece cinnamon stick (2 inches long)
3 whole star anise

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, crushed (If you buy already minced garlic like I do, I add 4 teaspoons)
4 tbsp mild curry paste
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp five-spice powder
3 lb chicken, skinned and chopped into bite size pieces 

14 oz. Canned tomatoes, chopped
4 oz. Creamed coconut (sometimes I add an entire 14 ounce can for a more mild, soupy curry)
 2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Heat the oil in a pan at a medium high heat and fry the cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon stick, star anise, and curry leaves until the cloves swell.  About 5 minutes should do the trick.  You will know its ready when you can smell all the spices.
2. Add the chopped onion, and garlic and fry until the onion turns light brown. Add the curry paste, turmeric and five-spice powder and fry until the oil separates.
3. Add the chicken pieces and mix well. When all the pieces are evenly covered, cover and cook until the meat is nearly done.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and the creamed coconut. Simmer gently until the coconut dissolves. Mix well. Fold in the chopped fresh cilantro, then reheat and serve hot.  I never find that this needs salt but if yours does, then add it.

We usually eat our curry over rice but lately it just feels like too much food so I eat it as a soup instead.  If you are feeling extra adventurous, try this naan recipe.  It is delicious and goes excellently with the curry.

We had extra tonight, so we gave some away.  
One last thing before I end my longest post EVER!  One month ago, we acquired our dog, Jack.  I have never really been a fan of dogs but seeing that my husband and children all wanted one, I thought it was probably time we get one.  We looked for months but couldn't find one that went well with our family.  Then one day, everything fell into place and Jack moved in with us. This dog is incredible.  He is gentle (well as gentle as a 105 pound boy can be) with the children and follows me everywhere.  He has melted my heart. So, today, I am thankful for my new buddy, Jack.  He has been the perfect addition to our family!

Allison: Fancy Cookies Part 2 & Giveaway!!

                                     ***************GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED******************

Hi again! This morning my friend, Amanda, and I were able to finish our cookies from yesterday. My two-year-old almost thwarted our plan with a runny nose, but we pushed on.  Modern-day pioneers, huh? :)

After outlining and "flooding" the cookies yesterday, the royal frosting had finished drying completely overnight and was ready for a little more detail. If you didn't read Part 1 from yesterday, here's a link. We used the same piping bag of frosting to add the veins on the cookies today. This part went really fast, though maybe I should have slowed down a little.  :)

I thought this was such a fun activity to learn, that it made me a little sad that I hadn't tried it earlier.  One of the many reasons I'm grateful for this blog, is that it forces me to be creative and to try new things.  We've had this blog up for a little over 6 months now, and just reached 15,000 views today!  That definitely deserves a giveaway to show our gratitude to all our friends, and new friends that take the time to see what we're up to.  So here's the question for today's giveaway:

What is something creative that you would love to try/learn, but have been too scared to actually do?

If you answer that question before Monday morning, you could win a mini-starter kit to decorate your own cookies. This kit will include:

Meringue powder (frosting recipe is on Part 1)
Disposable frosting bags
Gel food coloring

Thanks for sharing in this new venture.  And a HUGE "thank you!" to my friend, Amanda, for teaching me.  I can't wait to try decorating cookies again. Now I challenge you all to go out and try something new. Have a great day!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Allison: Fancy Cookies Part 1

Hello, again! I'm so excited to share what I did this morning. For awhile now, I've wanted to learn how to decorate sugar cookies. I'm not talking pre-made frosting and some sprinkles. Instead I've wanted to learn the fancy decorating with frosting that wouldn't cause all my cookies to stick to each other, and fun details. I've watched multiple tutorials, and pinned too many pins on Pinterest, but have been too scared and lazy to try (that's a bad combo!).

Then this last Christmas, my good friend, Amanda, brought the cutest cookies to our church cookie exchange, and we made plans to make some together. Then we both got pregnant and life got a little crazy. The cookies would have to wait.

Now that we both have newborns, and our two-year-olds are playing better together, we thought we'd give it a try. Amanda originally learned how to decorate the cookies with this tutorial from Annie's Eats, making cookies using this recipe and the frosting with this recipe, also from Annie.  Amanda jokes that she feels like she knows Annie after watching tutorials and followings her tips.  :)

I think the hardest part to this whole process was actually trying it. I was surprised how easy it actually was, and how fast it went, once we got started. Prepping the frosting with food coloring and getting it to the right consistency can take a bit of time, but they turn out so cute, that the time is worth it.

This middle pic is me trying to help still while I was nursing.  :)

Nap time was quickly approaching so we decided to finish the cookies tomorrow morning. Make sure to check out tomorrow's post to see how they turned out.

If you're interested in trying these fun cookies, I strongly recommend getting a group of girlfriends together and giving it a try. I can't wait to see the finished product! Until tomorrow...  Oh!  I also think we have to have a giveaway to celebrate 15,000 views to our blog!  It's going to be a fun one, so make sure to enter tomorrow.  So mysterious, right?  :)


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lisa: Election Night

Hello, everyone!  Happy Election Day to you all!  My family and I are very excited about this time of year and today most especially!  My daughter got upset yesterday when she thought I was going to turn off the news because she just wanted to hear as much as she could about the elections!  It probably helped that when our ballots came in the mail this year, I let my two youngest help me fill in the candidates that we are voting for.  They feel invested and interested which is what I'd like to teach them about elections in America! To help all my children (and my nephew who is now living with us!) understand the importance of voting and our democracy, I have a few other plans for tonight.

First of all:

 I found a map that the children can color red or blue as the exit polls come in and we can tally the electoral votes.

Another thing is to have a dinner with red and blue themes:

Drinks of red, white and blue.

I have some food planned but no pictures yet!  I'll post them when I do.

Don't forget to get out and vote!  Have a fantastic day!


Friday, November 2, 2012

Sara Jane: Christmas Cards

I know you're thinking, "Did she just name her post 'Christmas Cards'?"

Yep, I did.

I have Christmas cards on my mind right now. I am getting ready to order Christmas cards for my dad's business (Did I tell you I work a day a week at my dad's office?  Its pretty fun!) and have been playing around with my own Christmas cards for the last few weeks.  I thought I would share with you what I have been up to.

Recently my good friend, Annie, took some family photos for us.  It was a cold, rainy day but we went for it and got some really great shots.

This picture is perhaps my favorite of all she took because it captures, 100%, my little Penelope.  This picture makes me smile whenever I see it.

For our family Christmas card, I chose my favorite group shot, added some text and am now preparing to send it off to the lab so I have my cards plenty early and don't have to worry about them anymore.  I tend to like simple cards.  I have seen some beautiful elaborate cards but they just aren't me.  So, I did my own Christmas card using Photoshop and here is how they turned out...

I will have them printed on metallic paper.  If you've never seen black and white photos on metallic paper, you need to.  They are quite stunning!  My SIL, Amy, did my son's birth announcements on metallic paper.  At first, I was a little worried, having never seen it done before, but she told me to trust her and man, am I glad I did.  Anyway...I did a couple of test cards this past week where I had the lab send me the photos done a few different way which really helped me figure out what I wanted.

You're probably thinking that this is an awful lot of worry about just a little Christmas card.  It probably is but why send out Christmas cards to friends and family if it doesn't represent you and your family 100%?

Here are a few of my favorite sites to use when preparing my Christmas cards and when getting prints.

Tiny Prints - When I don't "make" my own cards, I always buy my cards from Tiny Prints.  I love all the different styles of cards they have for every occasion.  Their prices are pretty reasonable, too.

Replicolor - This is the lab I used to order my prints on metallic paper.  VERY reasonable pricing (trust me...I have done all the comparing) and the prints turned out very true to the original.  I have tried ordering from Walmart and other "local" photo labs recently and I am ALWAYS disappointed and end up having to go back in and return the pictures.  Replicolor lab is a great lab!

Winkflash - This is the lab I use to order my prints the rest of the year.  Their canvases are a great price and their photos never disappoint.

Photoshop - I do realize that Photoshop is not in everyone's budget but if you can buy it (or know someone who has it and will let you edit some photos on it), you can do some really fun projects with your pictures.  They have free month-long trials...check it out.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Sara Jane