Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fall Engagements

About a week or ago Braedon and I were asked to be "models" for a lens seminar put on by Jessica Janae Photography. She was so fun to work with- we kind of felt like we didn't really need an introduction because we had both become "friends" over social media.  She's so sassy and makes you feel totally comfortable.  It took some convincing to get Braedon to agree, but I think after it was all said and done he had fun.  I mean, who would't want to guilt free PDA it up with their spouse?  Here are a few more pics I just got this morning.  They were taken by the lovely Angela Welch Young.  Go visit her site, she's awesome!  I love that she made each place we shot look so beautiful, and we were really just on the side of a road next to an office building.  Plus, despite the rain (which it rained, the whole time), we look pretty happy and not frozen!

Photo Cred: Angela Welch Young

Babe husband alert (ow ow)

I'd always wished I could have fall engagements or bridals because I absolutely love the colors.  I mean who doesn't right??  I wouldn't trade my August wedding for anything, but it was fun to get the chance to shoot "engagements" in the last of the fall leaves.  
Have a great week everyone!
Someday I"ll post my "actual" engagements and wedding pictures. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars

I know this happens every year, but I really just can't believe it's already Thanksgiving again!  Last year at Thanksgiving I had a great time with my family, but it was a little tainted because I knew I would be working the night shift at the hospital.  Sleeping is kind of precious to me.  This year, I'm feeling pretty thankful that I won't have work, or school (sort of) to worry about!  The Murdock's are taking us to Cancuun and I'm pretty giddy about it.  It didn't really hit me until today, but I'm suddenly feeling spring fever and not wanting to accomplish any of the tasks I should get done before we leave.  My thoughts have been totally occupied by finding the perfect book to read on the beach, and what swimsuits I want to bring on the trip.  

Anyways, if you're assigned to bring a dessert for a Thanksgiving party, I highly recommend this one!  I've made it three times already this fall- it's wonderful.  If you love pumpkin pie and particularly love the crust- this is a winner.  The crust is like an oatmeal cookie brown sugar heaven.  I brought it to a family party and my Aunt Pam even asked for the recipe- she is the queen of desserts people.  I felt pretty honored.  

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars

1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups quick oats (old fashioned works too)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Filling:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed-light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 pinch ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned pureed pumpkin
1/3 cup evaporated milk or half and half
whipped cream and cinnamon, for topping (optional)

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Next, you'll make your crust.  Start by whisking together flour, oats, salt and baking soda until it's well mixed.  Add in the white and brown sugar, mixing until no clumps remain.  Combine melted butter and vanilla, then pour into the mixture slowly, stirring as you go and making sure it's evenly moistened.  (I really hate that word- moisture- but there's just no other way to put it).  

Press half the crust into a greased 8x8 baking dish and bake in preheated oven 15 minutes.  

While the crust is baking you can go ahead and make the pumpkin pie filling.  Whisk together 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt. I also like to add a dash of pumpkin pie spice.  Here's a little mom *trick: packed and overflowing brown sugar-always! Whenever a baking recipe calls for brown sugar I always do a little extra.  Can't help it, that's what my mom taught me! Next you'll add in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. 

There's probably a much better method to get the egg yolk but this is what works for me.  Just crack your egg into a bowl, and carefully scoop out the yolk with a spoon!  Sometimes the whites will kind of stick to the yolk but with a little patience it usually just falls right off.  

Next you'll mix in the pumpkin and milk, depending on how it looks, I'll add a little extra pumpkin puree. By this time, the bottom crust should be just about finished baking.

Pour the pumpkin pie filling over the crust

Spread evenly, and return to the oven to bake 15 minutes.  

Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the remaining cookie crumble bits on top (if you have any left).  I have the hardest time not snacking on the crust while I'm baking...woops. Return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes.  You'll know when it's done when the top is golden and the center jiggles only slightly.  Let it cool for 1 hour at room temperature, and another hour in the fridge. Cut into squares and top with whip cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon-honestly, it's great on it's own.  Or, you can just serve it warm with ice-cream right out of the oven like a crumble! 

Tonight I had somewhat of a wife fail.  I made german pancakes for dinner and we paired it with leftover stuffing from our turkey dinner at the in-law's last night.  I'm pretty sure Braedon mixed the two together- at least he has a full belly right? 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Quick Look At Our Weekend

Our weekend looked a little something like this...

Friday Night: 
Tsunami with the fam and Catching Fire.  Don't even get me started, I cried three times.  Kind of embarrassing?  Maybe for Braedon.  

Before the movie Braed asked me to do a little recap on the book.  I've only read it 4 or 5 times, and will probably read it again now that I've seen the movie.  
Braedon: Remind me what happens?
Me: 20 minute book report, a little to enthusiastic
Braedon: You're talking about them like their your friends
Me: ....they are my friends

IT. WAS. AWESOME.  Go see it.  Just wish my sister Missy was here for it!  (Emily lucked out and got it to see it on Wednesday).  Don't worry Miss, I'll go see it with you at least two or three times when you come visit!

Saturday Night:
 Hanger got the best of us (so hungry, that you're angry).  Ask anyone of my family members or friends about this illness...I can be quite the grouch.  Something Braedon and I definitely have in common!  We went to Blue Lemon for dinner and actually agreed that we would just not talk until our food came out.  We went from blank stares, to loving newlyweds the minute we could shovel their blessed butternut squash soup into our mouths!

After dinner we headed to the mall to do a little Christmas shopping.  Sad to admit, but at 8:30 we were pooped, and we both had homework.  We headed home to try to get some studying done, but it quickly turned into a slap happy snap chat war.  That would explain the lovely picture above!  

Sunday Night:
 Braedon started practicing with his "Gentleman's A Capella" group.  They are planning to do some Christmas Caroling at Primary Children's Hospital, various Nursing Homes, and other venues.  They are sounding so great and I can't wait for their "performances".  I think it's the cutest thing ever.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My New Job + Creme Brûlée French Toast

I recently started working as a pediatric home health nurse.  Coming from the hospital, this has been a totally different but very rewarding experience.  I get to see it all; loving parents, cute friends interacting with my patients at school, heartbreaking stories, humble living circumstances, and best of all happy families in spite of health issues.  I recently started my own nursing journal to document the many stories I'm collecting.  We truly do have the best, "how was your day?" answers.  Because of HIPAA, I can't go into detail about my patients but I'll try my best to tell "his" story. 

He is only in the first grade, and he's the most popular kid in the class.  He has a terminal illness, but has surpassed all of the doctor's expectations.  This makes his prognosis pretty unpredictable.  Although he doesn't have most of the functions others kids may take for granted, he still teases, laughs, and plays jokes on others. 

This is why my job is so great:

I get to watch him excel in spelling and math
Everyone asks to sit by him at lunch, and he says yes to everyone-it's a race to see who gets there first. 
We play tag at recess.  There are days when I'm tired, but he'll look at me with wide eyes, a bright smile, and say, "Come and get me!".  There is no way I can turn down the invitation!
During treatment, he requests we listen to Justin Bieber's Christmas Album.
After treatment, he's dancing and singing all the words to "Baby".  It's become our tradition to play that song just before we head back to class.
We arm wrestle when we get bored during math... he always wins.
He rolls his eyes and shakes his head teasingly at me when I have my "pure luck" moments; like forgetting to bring his book to the library, spilling food on myself, you know-the usual. 

I sense that he just wants to feel normal, he just wants to be treated like any other kid.  While he does have a lot of "exceptions" (like staying in from recess if he chooses) he won't accept offers to butt in line, follows all of the class rules, and tries his best to participate in class.  It's probably no secret that I've become attached- we've become really good friends.  I'm so grateful for my job, and for the relationships I've been able to build that wouldn't have been possible if I were working in the hospital.  I feel blessed to have a job that I'm actually excited to come back to!  

Alright, Creme Brûlée French Toast.  Pretty much the best breakfast ever.  I have Micah Ricks to thank for introducing me to this warm, gooey, sugary-sweet casserole of joy.  But seriously, I'm considering making it our Christmas morning tradition, which is a big deal because my family already has a "Christmas Casserole" tradition.  This is the Lion Houses's Recipe for Creme Brûlée French Toast.  

Best part?  It's so easy, and you can make it the night before (actually recommended). I count my sleeping hours as precious, so not having to get up at 6 am to accommodate Braedon's school schedule just to make him breakfast is a plus (worst wife award? yikes).  I couldn't even snap a picture because we licked the pan clean so fast.  

[Egg Mixture]
5 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1 inch pieces (torn), to fill a 9 x 13 pan about 3 inches thick
Can use:
Crescent bread (this is what I use)
French baguette
[Syrup Mixture]
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch

First, tear your bread and set aside.  It is recommended that your bread be a little dried out.

Next, make your "egg mixture".  Beat the eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt (and pinch of cinnamon if desired) for two minutes.  Set aside. 

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low-medium heat.  Stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup.  Heat and stir long enough that the sugar dissolves.  Side note: corn syrup is ridiculously sticky!  I had never used it before, spilled it all down my arm and it took me a good 5 minutes to get it off!  

Now we're ready to start layering the casserole.

Start with the syrup and distribute evenly.

Next, layer the bread.  Then pour the egg mixture over the top to coat.  Sorry for the blurry picture, I was awkwardly trying to snap while pouring...

All done!  You can cover and store in the refrigerator to bake in the morning, or go ahead and bake right away.  I waited a few hours and then decided to bake it so I wouldn't have to wake up early to have it ready in time for Braedon.  I know, worst wife.  Tastes just as great reheated ;)
We cut up some strawberries to put on top, but honestly it doesn't really need anything extra! 
Hope you enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Newlywed Dinners + Beating the Blues

Braedon keeps telling me that I need to start posting some "newlywed dinners", so tonight I'm taking his advice!  The point of a newlywed dinner is that it's inexpensive, simple, and easy- while secretly tricking your husband into thinking you're a gourmet chef.  Tonight I tried a new recipe, Spaghetti Squash Primavera. Braedon helped me with dinner, thank goodness, because it involved squash again and I was not in the mood for loosing a finger! 

This is a low calorie, light dish.  So if you're like us and always crave dessert, you won't feel too guilty after this meal.  
1 medium-large spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and baked
1 bag pre-cooked medium or large sized shrimp (you can also use chicken)
2 roma tomatoes
handful of spinach, stems removed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the top off of the spaghetti squash and then slice in half lengthwise...like I've mentioned before, Braedon knows my track record with knives and was more than happy to help. Place the squash face down into a 9 x13 pan with 2-3 tablespoons water- obviously I couldn't quite fit the squash in one dish so I had to use two.  Bake in the oven for 50 minutes.  

While your squash is baking you can get everything else prepared, plus probably read a book or study!  Dice the tomatoes, and tear the stems off of the spinach.  Easy enough right? Simplicity is key for these newlywed dinners :).  I seasoned my tomatoes with a little garlic salt.  

The advantage to buying the pre-cooked shrimp is you don't have to worry about anything besides reheating it.  Just add a little olive oil (or butter or coconut oil) and let the shrimp simmer in a large frying pan.  I would start this about 5-10 minutes before your squash is done.  

When your squash is finished baking allow some time for it to cool; then scoop out the seeds and all the squishy guts!  Next, take a fork and run it along the squash width-wise to separate it from the peel.  While your doing this, just turn down your heat on the frying pan to low, and make sure there is enough liquid that your shrimp won't start sticking to the pan- but not too much that it's swimming!

I kind of just threw everything in but was wishing I had added the tomatoes and spinach first.  Once the squash was added it was hard to get the spinach to the bottom so it could wilt.  I would recommend adding them first. Then once the spinach is wilted and the tomatoes are warmed, add in your squash.  It doesn't need to cook long since everything is already heated!  Just add a little salt and pepper and you're good to go!  To be honest I served it with some canned mandarin oranges. So glamorous.  Like I said, cheap, fast, and easy!  You can't mess this one up. If you aren't a fish person just substitute the shrimp for chicken!  You could even use a rotisserie chicken and just peel off bite sized pieces to throw in.  

By the way, we will definitely have leftovers!  Perfect for lunch tomorrow.

On another note:
Today was just one of those days.  I got some disappointing news and was just being dramatic, you know, feeling all sorry for myself.  After dinner all I wanted to do was get in the bubble bath and eat Nutella strait from the jar.  Sort of surprised I didn't!  But instead, I blasted John Mayer throughout our speakers, sang along while making oatmeal cookies (I know, not much better than Nutella), and forced myself to do a Jillian Michael's "killer buns and thighs" workout. (slightly counterproductive) My sister is letting me borrow the video until she visits again in a few weeks, and I told her that wouldn't be a problem because I'd for sure have "killer buns and thighs" by then. HA! Guess I'd better get going.  

Also, Braedon slow danced with me in the kitchen after dinner today and I realized, life could be so much worse.  

Photo Cred: Angela Welch Young