Thursday, October 29, 2015

Rosemary's First Birthday

Happy Birthday Rosemary! My little baby is now one year old. She's walking, almost talking, and loves to cuddle. We had a very nice family party in our backyard the weekend before her birthday. As many of you may know, I love a good theme. So what was the theme for this very special occasion you might ask? Well, for Sam's first birthday we did Green Eggs and Ham, so for Rosemary's first birthday the theme was...rosemary!

There is a sweet little song by Edison Lighthouse from 1970 called Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes). I used that phrase for the invitations and on the cake. I actually love cooking with the herb rosemary, so I tried to incorporate it as many ways as possible. Of  course that included my signature rosemary shortbread cookies. I was so excited to get adventurous and try these recipes!  I did include a few dishes without rosemary just in case someone wasn't a fan.

 I had a lot of fun making these charming little centerpieces. I do wish my rosemary had been a little longer, but they still turned out adorable. It was pretty simple. I got some pink flowers and rosemary from the store, put them in a pint sized mason jar, and decorated the jar with some pink ribbon and a happy birthday message printed on cardstock. I used clear double stick tape to attach the ribbon and message to the jar. Voila! A country chic centerpiece perfect for a girl's party.

No I haven't learned how to make frosting roses yet, I have to give credit to my mom for that one, but the rest was all me! The cake was made from scratch too, which I haven't done in a while. I used a recipe I had from when I helped make cake for a friend's wedding. An apple spice cake seemed perfect for a fall birthday! The cake uses honey as the sweetener instead of sugar, so here is a great tip I learned from watching one of my favorite shows, "The Kitchen." - spray your measuring cup with non-stick spray before you measure the honey, and it will just slip right out. I tried it and it worked! It's amazing! It's going to make measuring and cleaning up when cooking with honey so much easier from now on.

Apple Spice Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened.
1 1/2 cups honey
4 eggs
3 tsp vanilla
2 cups applesauce
4 cups flour, sifted
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Beat butter and honey together until it gets fluffy, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Mix in applesauce. Sift in dry ingredients. Mix well. Batter will be thick. Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan and bake at 325 degrees for 45+ minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely in the pan before frosting. (preferably with a homemade cream cheese frosting!)

 Rosemary Chicken Salad
 I doubled the recipe for the party

3 cups cooked chicken (I put a family pack of chicken breasts in the slow cooker with a little water until they were easy to shred). 
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
a squirt of Dijon mustard
chopped celery
salt to taste

Whole Wheat Rosemary Carrot Bread
This was one of my favorite recipes that hadn't made for a while. I adapted it from a plain carrot bread recipe in a bread cookbook. This was the book that told me to make any white bread recipe into a whole wheat recipe by just replacing half the white flour with whole wheat. I use this tip a lot! I was excited to bring the recipe out again!

2 packet dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups grated carrots
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp melted butter

Sprinkle the yeast into 1/2 cup of the water. Let it stand for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve.

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the dissolved yeast. Add the carrots, rosemary, and butter to the well. Mix in the flour. Stir in the remaining water, as needed, to form a moist, crumbly dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth but still sticky.

Put the dough in a covered bowl and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down and let it rest for 10 more minutes.  (Rising tip -do your baking and laundry at the same time and proof your bread on top of the warm dryer!)

Shape the dough into a round loaf.  Place on a floured baking sheet and cover with a dish towel. Let it rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Bake  for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, or until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

Rosemary Parmesan Quick Bread
A great bread for a busy weeknight! It has the ease of a quick bread, but the taste of yeast bread. I upped the rosemary from 1 tablespoon to 2.

Pesto Caprese Salad
I had a ton of basil in my garden this year, (just about the only thing I had a ton of!) and had just made a load of pesto. I had also just helped out my dad by picking a bunch of tomatoes from his garden before a frost came. Pesto, tomatoes...pesto, tomatoes...I eventually put two and two together, grabbed some fresh mozzarella and came up with this tasty and classy salad!

Basil Pesto
Grape or Cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh mozzarella, cut into chunks

Mix them together. Done!

Sparkling Honey Rosemary Lemonade
When kids turn one they are finally allowed to eat honey - so why not add a little sweetness to the party? Don't forget to spray your measuring cup with non-stick spray!

Recipe courtesy of Nutmeg Nanny -

 Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

What kind of Rosemary themed party would it be if I didn't include my personal favorite and signature cookie, rosemary shortbread? My blog post with this recipe includes lemon zest, but this time I made them straight up, no lemon.

 Happy Birthday Rosemary! I love you so much and I can't wait to see where life takes you!

Monday, October 5, 2015

My Happy Saints Office

I am happy to say that I am starting off a new school year in a newly cleaned and organized home office! Last year I didn't clean it once all year and it was, to say the least, a disaster area. I made it through, but I'm hoping that keeping my office organized and clean will make me a more productive and effective teacher this year. As those of you who read my blog regularly may know, I am a 6th grade teacher for a virtual public charter school. I teach and monitor my students from my computer at home, and the students work from their homes with a parent or other adult who is designated their "learning coach." You have many of the benefits of public school, and many of the benefits of homeschooling all rolled into one.

My Wall O' Saints. It was hard to get a good picture with the glare from the light. Sorry!

 One of my favorite features in my newly organized office wouldn't be possible without working from home, and that is my wall of saints! In a brick and mortar public school, I of course wouldn't be allowed to plaster images of saints all over my classroom walls, (maybe some small things on my desk, but not all over the walls!). Since I am working from my own home, I can put as many saints as I want all around my office to provide me daily inspiration! Yay!

I chose to use images from Happy Saints for my wall o' saints to help give my office that elementary classroom vibe. They really go with my purple walls and fun, colorful, education themed accents and artwork.

The top row are my education/work saints. They help to remind me of the value and impact of education and the teaching profession, as well as remind me to make God present in all my daily tasks.

St. Francis de Sales - Patron of teachers and writers. Also a great saint to remind you not to worry and stress when things get crazy!
St. Josemaria Escriva - Founder of Opus Dei which means "Work of God." Opus Dei is dedicated to teaching that everyone is called to holiness, even in every day work and ordinary life.
St. John Bosco - Started a school for wayward boys. Patron of youth and school children (and magicians!) My favorite quote from him, "Run, jump, play but do not sin!" Many of the students who come to us could fall into the category of "wayward."
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton - Started the first Catholic School in the United States and was a mother of 5. She was a working Catholic mom in the field of education just like me!

The second row are my more personal patron saints that have been with me as I've grown and changed through life.

St. Cecelia - My childhood saint. Patron saint of musicians and early martyr of the church. I chose her as my patron saint for my confirmation back when I was eight years old. I still love to sing and play the piano!
St. Joan of Arc - My teen/young adulthood saint. I started falling in love St. Joan in middle school when I read the book Young Joan by Barbara Dana, and I continued to fall in love with her even more in high school when I read Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. Our lives are very different, but I greatly admire her strength and confidence in all the dangers she faced, even when on the inside she still felt like a simple, vulnerable, young girl.
St. Gianna Molla - My adulthood saint. It is hard being a working mother, and it can seem even harder than normal sometimes when so many of your friends are amazing stay at home moms. St. Gianna is my reminder than even a working mom can become a saint!

If your job or career isn't inherently faith based, how do you incorporate faith into your work life? I'd love to hear!

* note - in case you were wondering, Catholics do not worship saints. We hold them up as excellent examples of  living the faith and we ask them to pray for us. Just like one might look up to their parents or other inspiring person as a good example for how to live life, and asking those people to pray for us! Saints are our friends in heaven. They are close to God and their prayers are powerful!  We use images of saints just like one might keep pictures of their friends and family in their home or workplace. Remember that we are called to be saints!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Broccoli Cheddar Biscuits

I love broccoli. That's right, I said it. I love broccoli! I always have since I was a little kid. My brothers and sisters felt the same way. When mom made broccoli with cheese sauce for dinner it was a huge treat and we gobbled it up. My youngest sister even requested broccoli with cheese sauce for her third birthday. Imagine my surprise to grow up and learn that other people don't feel this way about this lovely little tree-shaped vegetable. I was shocked! And now I am raising one of broccoli's most vehement opponents, my son Sam. When we had him try "just one bite," he literally threw up. Literally. Threw. Up. What's a broccoli loving mama to do to get her children to eat their vegetables?

Put it in a baked good of course! If you bake it, my son will eat it. (See my whole wheat pumpkin pancakes and whole wheat spinach parsnip muffins!)

Now, this isn't a hidden vegetable recipe. The biscuits do have a distinct broccoli flavor. But with the soft texture of the biscuit and the flavor boosters of cheddar and garlic, even my Sam said he liked them!

Broccoli Cheddar Biscuits

1 crown of broccoli
Biscuit mix (I usually use Jiffy)
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp garlic powder

1. Chop the broccoli crown into pieces and pulse in your food processor until it has a crumb like texture.  (see picture)

2. Make one recipe of drop biscuits according to the biscuit  mix directions.

3. Mix in the broccoli, cheese, and garlic powder.

4. Bake biscuits according to biscuit mix directions.


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