Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yummy Pumpkin Bars...a sure sign of fall!

Yesterday, Bob and I saw an old friend/wardie, Biffy Turner. After chatting a minute, she offered us a Pumpkin Bar. Who's going to turn one of those babies down? NOT I!!
So, in my grocery shopping adventure, I made sure to pick up a few cans of pumpkin and cream cheese. Can't go wrong with those two ingredients. {smile} The house smelled FABULOUS this morning as they were baking and they were even better tasting than I had remembered. Thank you Biffy for reminding me how much I love these little gems and Paula Deen for the great recipe!! 

Pumpkin Bars


4 eggs 
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar 
1 cup vegetable oil 
15-ounce can pumpkin 
2 cups sifted all purpose flour 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. 
Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. 
Spread the batter into a greased 13x10 inch baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes. 
Let cool completely before frosting. 
Cut into bars.
To make the icing:
Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined.  Stir in the vanilla and mix again. 
Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.
Recipe Courtesy Patty Ronning as adapted by Paula Deen
Servings: 48 small bars or 24 larger bars
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Difficulty: Easy

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

For as long as I can remember, I've loved Homemade Potato Soup! My Mom made it when I was a kid,  I've made it all our married life, and my kids request it when they come over. There's just something incredibly comforting about it on a cold, blustery day or when you don't feel good. Whenever I make it, we end up with LOTS of leftovers which makes for great lunches for a while. In fact, a week ago Saturday while Bob and Zack were deer hunting, it was cold and rainy so Maddi and I whipped up a big potful. I took it to school every day for the rest of the week and shared it with other teachers. YUMMY!!

While checking out The Girl Who Ate Everything blog, I found a new variation of the old stand-by. Can we all just say FABULOUS??!! I love the added vegetables without it taking a lot of extra time to cut them up. We always add cheese, preferably "block" cheese that you cut into cubes. (Personally, I'm good with grated cheese but Bob insists on cubes of cheese in his. Silly guy!) Maddi bought "sharp" cheddar cheese last night and I was a bit concerned it was going to be too strong. NOPE! DELICIOUS!!!

Try this won't be sorry!! Oh, and thanks for the picture Christy! :)



3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup carrot, diced (optional)
1 cup diced cooked ham (buy a ham steak in the deli section)
3 1/4 chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

Note: I added some carrots that I had and Becky said she adds a can of corn too which would be good.

1.Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, carrot, ham and chicken broth in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper. 

2.In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk so that lumps don't form and until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes. 

3.Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. 

4. Top with cheddar cheese, chives, and bacon if desired. Serve immediately. 
5. Makes 6 servings 
Source: adapted from Allrecipes

Darn Good Chocolate Cake

First of all...This recipe is NOT from The Girl Who Ate's from my good friend, Julie. It's absolutely AMAZING!!
We make it for birthdays, Sammi made it for the Elders in her Zone,  make it for the heck of it and ESPECIALLY when you need a HUGE chocolate fix! I wish I had a picture but we've eaten it too quickly. Next time I make it, I promise a picture. 

from Julie Sargent

1 box devils food cake mix
1 small package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs beaten
½ cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350, mix cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water and oil in large mixing bowl.  Blend on low for 1 minute, scrape bowl and blend on medium for 2 more minutes.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Pour batter into greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake 45-55 min until cake springs back when lightly touched.  Place on rack to cool for 20 minutes.

Frost with favorite chocolate frosting or use this one:

Melt 5 TBSP butter with 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup milk.  Boil for 1 minute.  Take off heat and stir in 1 cup semi sweet (we prefer Milk) chocolate chips.  Drizzle on cake.

Now is where The Girl Who Ate Everything comes in. I found the most intriguing frosting recipe on her website. I just had to try it and even though it's not chocolate, Bob and I thought it was AMAZING on Darn Good Chocolate Cake! (The pictures are from Christy's blog because, again, I don't think of taking pictures when I cook.) 


5 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup granulated white sugar (not powdered sugar)

In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. It took me around 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. You can place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools if you are in a hurry. Stir in vanilla. This mixture must be completely cooled in order for the frosting to work.

While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat until it all combines and resembles whipped cream. Make sure you scrape down the sides every so often so that it all gets incorporated and whipped. If it's not looking like whipped cream, keep on whipping. This frosting is great for piping. Best served the same day.

Cooking Confessions

OK, I admit it...I LOVE TO COOK! However, I HATE shopping, HATE the clean-up, HATE coming home from work and doing it, etc., etc. Therefore, I rarely fix anything very spectacular. During the week, the common dialogue between Bob, Maddi, and I consists of the following:
"What's for dinner?"
"I don't know; what sounds good to you?"
"I'm not hungry." 
A few minutes later:
"So...what's for dinner? It's getting late." 
"Nothing; what sounds good to you?"
"I'm still not hungry...I'll get something later." 

It's RIDICULOUS!!!!! We usually end up with something out of a box, running to the store where it costs WAY more than it should know run in to buy milk and come out $50. later... Bob will stop at Ream's on the way home and call me. Same thing, different day. I HATE IT!

A while ago, I found the most AMAZING food blog called "The Girl Who Ate Everything." I have a friend I work with who has a sister-in-law that lives in Ft. Lauderdale (actually in Weston which is a suburb of Ft. Lauderdale. She was in Sammi's mission president's ward in Plantation until a couple of months ago.). Her husband plays football for the Miami Dolphins. Of course, anything related to South Florida, Ft. Lauderdale Mission, Sammi, I have to get all the info/details I possibly can! (It's a "Mom thing.") Anyway, I found Christy on Facebook and saw she has a couple of of them being TheGirlWhoAteEverything
The Girl Who Ate Everything
Sounds intriguing, right? OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!! Here she is, a mother of three little boys, has a football playing hubby, faithful member of the Church, and absolutely adorable! She LOVES to cook and then she shares her fabulous recipes! I've spent hours perusing her blog/recipes and reading her cute commentaries. 

Finally, yesterday I decided it was time to try some. HOLY COW!!!!!!! They're AMAZING!!!!!!! The thing I like best about them is they're made with "normal" know, stuff you have in your cupboard. Well, that is if actually go grocery shopping for more than one meal at a time. So,  I made a list and headed out to the store. I've been so excited to try these recipes and honestly, the ones I've tried have NOT let me down!! 

I'm going to use this as kind of a "recipe book" of my favorites so that when I want to make them again, I can just find them on here. I dare you to try them!! You won't be disappointed and please give Christy and her blog ALL the credit!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Twinners!!!

WOW!! Twenty-five years ago today, we became the overwhelmed parents of the most adorable twins!
Mallorie and Zack at cousin Melissa's blessing in February 1986. They were about 3-1/2 to 4 months old here.

Now they're big, married, and AMAZING adults! We love them so much and are so incredibly proud of both of them.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Family Pictures on Antelope Island

Miyo Strong from Busath Photography took our family pictures on Saturday at Antelope Island. These are just a few of the AMAZING photos she got. Can't wait to see all of them on my walls! :)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Conference--October 2010

We had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Saturday Morning session of General Conference. We were so excited to have secured six tickets from our Stake Presidency and Bishop. It's so amazing to be in the same room as the Prophet, Quorum of the Twelve, and other leaders of the Church.

 The Conference Center prior to the session. It's BEAUTIFUL!!

 Three-fourths of the family...
Bob, Michelle, Kenzi, Zack, Maddi, and Sister Denson
We missed Mal and Tom!

 Sister Call (Meryl) was one of Sammi's companions in Boca Raton. They became "BFFs" while they served in the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission. Meryl came home in July. It's been so much fun for them to spend time together and text constantly while Sammi's been home. They're really going to miss each other but it's only for four more months...

 Meryl and her cute boyfriend, Ryan Farr.

 While we were hanging out on the Deseret Book Plaza after conference, we saw Alex Boye (an AMAZING singer!!) walking around. Just had to take a picture with him. He was excited to meet a Sister Missionary...he told her to get back to Florida and find some black people to baptize...we need more blacks in the Church!)

 Sister Denson needed a picture with the famous author, Jason Wright. Of course, he had to be "arms length"... LOVE the look on her face!

 Jason's caption on this picture on Facebook: "Oh, Jason...You're so funny! Such a delight to meet you!"

 Such a great picture! It was fun for them to finally meet.

 Zack and Jason have a very "special" friendship.
(Check out the look on the guy's face behind Jason! hahaha)

Jericho Road performing on the Plaza. They still sound GREAT!

It was an amazing day! So much fun to watch Conference in person at the Conference Center, meet amazingly wonderful friends afterward, and do a little "star-gazing." PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jason to describe the experience?...

Over the past three years, I've had the GREAT opportunity to become good friends with Jason Wright, author of Christmas Jars, Christmas Jars Reunion, Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle, The Wednesday Letters, Recovering Charles, The Cross Gardener, The James Miracle, and his newest, BEST book, The Seventeen Second Miracle. He spoke at my school on a tour in November 2007, at a fireside in our stake last November (it was AMAZING!!),  and then I've seen him several times at book signings, etc. We've developed a GREAT friendship; it's been a lot of fun!!

Friday, he was the guest speaker at an assembly for our school talking about service and performing a "Seventeen Second Miracle" which can change someone's life for good. He had the kids (all 1200 of them) eating out of the palm of his hand!!

Yes...that's 1200+ students completely mesmerized!

He had them eating out of the palm of his hand!

He called these students up, spur of the moment, and asked them what they were going to do for their Seventeen Second Miracle in the next 24 hours.
He asked teachers and administrators what they had done in the past 24 hours for their "SSM." SCARY!!!
Just watchin' the show...

In addition to the assembly, he worked with the 9th grade English classes on the importance of writing in our everyday lives, the writing process, and answered questions. He was exhausted by the end of the day but it was so much fun! The kids LOVED it!!

For some of the classes, he had impromptu skits then the kids had to write what they saw. It was a GREAT lesson on 1st draft, 2nd draft, etc. In this one, Maddi & Sammi had to portray a "conflict." They are driving down the road and Sammi doesn't want to listen to Lady Gaga on the radio anymore. Maddi is adamant they're going to listen to her. It went from there...a little freaky because it was SOOOOOO reminiscent of times gone by! 

FIGHTING over who gets to choose the station...the driver or the passenger...

Sammi wanted to listen to Keith Urban because he's "hot" and has a GREAT accent. The kids got such a kick out of that!! :)

My "Drama Queens"

...and "Best Friends"!!

He talked about what a first draft of a passage from Christmas Jars would have sounded like and then how he would have improved it through various drafts. 

Then reading the final draft. Amazing how the process works!

He also had some kids come up and talk about the profession they'd LOVE to have as an adult. He'd give them some exotic name (this guy's was "Jehoshaphat" (or however you spell it...they called him "Phat Joe" for short...) and then gave him a beautiful, model for a wife (her name was "Roxanna" and every time her name was said, he had to do a little butt-wiggle. HILARIOUS!!). "Phat Joe" wanted to me a pro-golfer so Jason explained how he'd need to write contracts asking for sponsors. It was so effective and fun!!!!!!!! The kids really "GOT" it!

By the end of the day, Jason was absolutely exhausted but had a great time talking with the kids. I have overused the "Thank Yous" and superlative "amazing" but somehow...someday...I want to be able to express my appreciation for him coming. What a GREAT opportunity for all of us!