Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The kids made their own robots today from cut up pieces of paper. Here's the results:

This is Connor's robot. His name is X.
"He uses his X-thingie to fire red ones and destroy all the good robots. He's got really big feet, but you don't see them. You don't see him when he's far, far away. You see him in the movie theater. It comes on next night."

Apparently, he's a bad robot. Not sure how I feel about that.

This is O's robot. His name is Gypsy Danger.
"He's a cool robot and he uses a to shoot kai juice."??

Need some translation here, I think!

And... Kelsey declined to post a picture of her robot. She made a Princess Robot for a young lady who lives down the street.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Candid Cook: Make-Ahead Lasagna

In addition to my chocolate cake mix issues, I'm also a lasagna snob. And while I can eat a frozen lasagna without dissing it, I will never be able to buy one. Lasagna is not hard to make, and you don't have to boil the noodles ahead of time. You know those "oven-ready" lasagna noodles they sell? Biggest. Ripoff. Ever.

So, to assemble your own lasagna, you are going to need a few things.

10-12 raw lasagna noodles
4 cups of spaghetti sauce + 1 cup water mixed in
(If you need a good shortcut spaghetti sauce, stay tuned. I'll post mine one of these days...)

3 cups shredded cheese
16 oz. cottage cheese (can substitute ricotta if desired)
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan (can substitute grated)
2 eggs
Natures Seasons or Salt/pepper

You can also add any extra meat or veggies you have on hand that would taste good in a lasagna. Ground beef or sausage, pepperoni, sauteed mushrooms & peppers, cooked spinach, etc. Whatever floats your boat. Just be sure to cook it first, whether it be meat or veggie.

Essentially, a lasagna is just layers of noodles, cheese, red sauce, meat and/or veggies if desired. Since you already have your noodles, sauce, and meat/veggies ready, let's assemble the cheese blend before we layer.

Combine cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs and Nature's Seasons in a medium mixing bowl.

Then mix in about half of the shredded cheese. If I were grating the cheese fresh myself, I would probably have used just straight mozzarella. However, when I use the "shortcut" pre-shredded cheeses, I always go with the Italian blend. In my experience it melts better.

Now take a greased 9x13 baking dish and spread a thin layer of red sauce on the bottom.

Layer 1/3 of your noodles on top.

Then 1/2 of the cheese mixture.

Because I was making this for my family which includes meat-hater kids, I just put meat on half of my lasagna. In this case, the meat was leftover chopped up meatballs. However, this is the step where you'll put 1/2 of any meat or veggies you want to have in your dish.

Top that with about 1/3 of the remaining red sauce.


Now put on your last 1/3 of the noodles...

...and the rest of the sauce. Admire the pretty layers.

Cover with a double-layer of aluminum foil and stick in your fridge for at least 2 hours. If preferrred, it can sit up to a full day if you want to make this the night before.

When you are ready to bake it, pull it out and stick it in the oven at 375 degrees. Leave the aluminum foil on. You are going to bake it - covered - for about 45 minutes. Then remove it from the oven and take off the foil.

Top it with the rest of the shredded cheese.

Bake an additional 15 minutes or so until the cheese is just starting to brown.

This serves up best if you let it sit for about 30 minutes before you serve it.
I know it will be hard.
But it will be worth it.

Trust me.

Candid Cook: Perfect Chocolate Cake

I have a confession.

Don't hate me.

I love chocolate boxed cake mix.

I mean love love it.

When I was a teenager I remember making chocolate cake from a mix and intentionally leaving some of the batter in the bowl so I could eat it with a spoon. It was so, so good...

My hubs and oldest daughter have been in South Carolina for a few days visiting family and friends. That has left me here alone with the three younger kids. Kelsey insisted we needed to bake and decorate Halloween cupcakes. I really wanted to take a shortcut here and indulge in one of the chocolate boxed mixes of my youth. Unfortunately, I read the ingredients.


It had propylene glycol in it! And for those of you who don't know... THIS is what propylene glycol is. Warning. This definition is not for the feint of heart.

pro·pyl·ene gly·col
  1. 1.
    a liquid alcohol that is used as a solvent, in antifreeze, and in the food, plastics, and perfume industries.

It's in antifreeze! And most shampoos! I may never be able to eat a boxed mix again. With that tragedy came the need to find a great chocolate cake recipe to fill the void in my life. I figured a chocolate sour cream cake should do the trick, since the sour cream can really keep a cake moist for a few days. So the search began. It ended when the Daisy brand's chocolate sour cream cake recipe which I found online. (You can see the original recipe here.) I wanted to make a couple of modifications of my own, so what I'm posting here is the recipe I will use forever when I want a light and fluffy chocolate cake.

Side note: There is only one egg in this cake. I was skeptical, but went along with it. When I got to the amount of baking soda, I triple checked it just to be sure I was reading it correctly. It really is one TABLESPOON of baking soda. That is why you only need one egg in the cake. Don't worry about it. It really does work!

Rich Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

3/4 c. olive or canola oil
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. baking cocoa
2 c. flour
1 Tbsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. warm water
1 c. sour cream

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine oil, egg, vanilla, sugars, and baking cocoa. Beat until well combined.

For the rest of the ingredients, you need to add them in this specific order I tell you. Trust me; I know what I'm doing. Oh, and pay no attention to the different colored pictures. My new kitchen has terrible lighting and I had to use the flash in some of the pictures. (I hate using the flash.)

First, you're going to add 1 c. flour, the baking soda, and the salt. Mix it well.

Then slowly pour in half of the warm water while it's mixing.

Once the water is mixed in thoroughly, blend in half of the sour cream.

Now you're going to repeat the steps again, but this time without the baking soda and salt of course. First the rest of your flour, then your water, then your sour cream. See? Easy-peasy.

Once your done it will make a nice thin cake batter. If you are making cupcakes like I was, invest in a cookie scoop with a thump-release handle. Two even scoops makes one cupcake or muffin. It's a lot less messy than my old method, let me tell you.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. You know the drill.

See how perfect these look?

I meant to take more pictures of them done, but by the time I got around to it, we had packed them all up to give away or eaten them. This picture from before was all I had left. With whipped chocolate ganache for frosting. Fabulous.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Birthday Drama

Thanks for hanging on through all these posts.
This is the last one tonight.
And it's really short.
I promise.

Maddox recently turned 3.
I had ordered one of his presents through Amazon at the last minute, but forgot to change the shipping address to our new house. I asked Terri (my old neighbor) to snag the package and I picked it up the next morning. Since it actually got delivered ON his birthday, I let him open it the next morning after we picked it up. Unfortunately, I didn't count on the effect that it would have on the two other little guys in this house. Apparently, having a birthday boy open presents at a party is one thing. But if he gets a present and there isn't a party and the other kids don't get one, too? Watch out. It's going to be a pout-fest.

Here is Maddox playing with his cool new Rescue Bot, Heat Wave.

And here is Connor, mad that he didn't get one, too.

It wasn't until I uploaded these pictures tonight that I noticed I caught O's lip in this picture. He was really sad, too. Poor little fella.

Fortunately, Maddox still takes naps, and the newness has worn off a little. He is willing to share from time to time and the drama has subsided.

Railway Museum...Revisited

For those of you who don't know, I've started watching a friend's kids during the day.
It has been so much fun for us.
Their dad said I could put their pics on our blog, as long as I don't plan on trying to be the Pioneer Woman.
Umm... no.
But, just to be on the safe side, I'll just refer to them by their first initials.
Just in case I go viral.
Since I am kind of awesome that way.

Although most of our pictures are going to be from a field trip to the Oklahoma Railway Museum that we took with friends, this picture is not.
Once I saw the picture on Maddox's face, I had to include it. 
He thinks he is smarter than me.
You can see it in his face.

And now for the trains! Kelsey, her friend Madyson, and baby H.
Kelsey and her new friend were born on the exact same day.
Cool, innit?

The boys on the train. I couldn't get them to cooperate, but they were having fun!

This is O; I love this handsome guy!

I love how excited Maddox looks in this one. He cracks me up!

Another little man that I just adore...

 The 4 youngers on the bench. Since O's legs were blurred, I asked him to stop kicking.

He managed, but it was apparently really, really hard!! Look at that face...

Baby H is pretty cute, too.

 And this handsome fella? Yeah, he gives me that look a lot these days.

But this one I caught on O's face was unexpected and made me laugh.

Kids can never have too much fun...

...climbing on trains.

Don't they look happy?

After we had made our circuit around the train yard, the kids found the spot for the poser pictures. They had to take turns getting on it for a picture.

"Maddox, look up for the picture!"




Connor's turn, and he did it right the first time. Great job!

"O, it's your turn. Look at me for a picture!"




And look at Baby H, just cruising along like a big girl...

It was a lot of fun, but my friend and I had 9 kids between us.
Maybe it's time for a sanity check?