Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January Bakers' Challenge - Gevulde Speculaas

It has been almost exactly 3 years since I last participated in a Daring Bakers Challenge, and even then I only did one challenge in 2010 (Nanaimo Bars - which are amazeballs might I add). Before that I hadn't done any since 2009.  I participated in these challenges for quite a while before I quit due to the increase of calories in our household.  But now that Jason is working lawncare full time, I figure I can get away with going back to one of my favorite hobbies - baking. 

Thankfully, my login and password was still good with the Daring Kitchen website, so I was able to download the first challenge of the year - Gevulde Speculaas, hosted by Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij

I had ZERO idea what I was making - all I knew, was that it was a Dutch pastry of some kind.  Part of the challenge was to mix our own spices to create the Speculaas spices - which pretty much consists of 10 or so different spices (Cardamom, Mace, Ground Cloves, Anise Seed, Cinnamon, Ginger, Coriander, Nutmeg and White Pepper which I didn't add).  As fun as that was, the spices smelled so strongly that I was afraid I wasn't going to like this pastry very much.  But thankfully, I was wrong ;-)

The Gevulde Speculaas turned out like a slightly crunchy gingerbread with a chewy almond paste center and taste wonderfully with a hot cup of coffee.  And as a big bonus, it was a fairly quick recipe to make.  Please believe, there's been some challenges that have taken me daaaaayyyys to make.

Jason, my inlaws and my co-workers all loved them - so the recipe is a winner in our book and will be added to my trusty recipe box shortly!

Friday, January 18, 2013


Watching:  Not a whole lot at the moment.  *Sigh*   Over the weekends I do get the opportunity to catch up on some shows, and when I do, I watch Greys Anatomy, Master Chef, The Bachelor, Private Practice and Parenthood.  Best shows ever.

Listening To: Pandora's "She & Him" station.  Freakin awesome laid back music from today and even oldies.  I swear it helps me get through the day while I'm at work.

Thinking About: This weekend!  I'm so excited to have another 3 day weekend!  Last weekend was also a 3 day weekend since I took our anniversary off (the 14th).  We relaxed quite a bit, had dinner at our friends Dana & Julie's, hung out with the kiddos in the neighborhood (Jason made a rap music video with Larry and RonTavius - oh yeah, it's coming), saw Silver Linings Playbook (loved it) and had dinner at a new restaurant in East Nashville called Lockland Table (not bad, not our fav either).   This weekend is my MIL's birthday and I'll be cooking up an Italian dinner for her Sunday evening and I'm sure we'll end the evening playing a round or two of Sequence.  AND yesterday was Jeep and Seven's 4th Birthday!!  So this weekend I plan to make them a little treat of homemade dog biscuits.  I know they will go crazy over them!  How on earth has it already been 4 years?  They are the best dogs EVER.
Trying To Figure Out: A meal plan for this next week.  I've joined the weight loss competition at work and have been trying to plan more healthier dinner and lunch options.  I wish money grew on trees, cause I would eat a Panera salad every day of the week! yum!  I'm also planning to complete my first Daring Bakers Challenge of the year with making a traditional Dutch pastry called Gevulde Speculaas (that should be interesting). Hopefully, it will turn out something like this:

Looking Forward To: Spring!  The weather here goes from 70 degrees one day to 32 the next.  My body is wiggin out from the extreme temperature changes and I'm ready for Spring already!!! 

Wearing: Layers upon layers upon layers.  Sweaters, cords, you name it and I'm layering it on! Brrrr!!! Oh and my beautiful new grey wool coat and grey, fuzzy mittens that I received as Christmas presents :-)

Reading:  I just finished Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman (see my review here) and am anxiously looking forward to starting Love Anthony by Lisa Genova.  I loved Still Alice by Lisa Genova, so it didn't take much convincing to grab my copy at the library. So that's one book down toward my goal of 30!

Making Me Happy: My sweet and loving husband who has worked very hard on keeping the house clean and doing the laundry - it has been SO nice to come home after work to a made bed and a clean home.  I also love my little choco-nut, CJ who makes me laugh every day with his super cute face, his crazy personality, his clumsy padded walk and his stinky puppy breath.  CJ thinks it's pretty funny to hide Jeep & Seven's dog food bowls in the doghouse UNDER the hay, so when daddy goes to feed them dinner, he has to do a little scavenger hunting first.  He looks huge in this picture, but he's standing on the center console of Jason's truck.  He's actually 38 pounds now and 5 months old.  I'm so curious how big he's going to get and if he'll surpass Jeep and Seven in size.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

I thought I would share a new found recipe that Jason and I fell in love with last week and so I quickly added it to my recipe box! 

I mean really, who doesn't love a warm and cozy soup when its cold and icy outside?

If you're a working girl like me, it might be best to make this on a weekend, since it takes around 1 1/2 hours to make.  I made it on a weeknight and had dinner around 8pm, which I didn't mind since I wasn't super hungry and it made for some yummy lunches during the work week.  This recipe is slightly modified from the original one I found on  It's perfect served with warmed garlic bread.

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini
Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini Recipe1 lb. Italian Sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine
1 lrg. can (28 oz) crushed & peeled tomatoes (with juices)
1 lrg. can (28 oz) diced tomatoes (drained)
1 sm. can (8 oz) tomato sauce (I use Hunts)
1 cup chopped baby carrots
1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini
1/2 Tb. Basil
1/2 tsp. Oregano
3 Tb. parsley
20 oz. fresh tortellini pasta

In large stock pot or dutch oven, brown sausage.  Add onions and garlic to pot sauteing till tender.  Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Skim fat from the top of the soup.  Stir in zucchini and parsley.  Simmer covered for 30 minutes. If tortellini is uncooked, in separate pot of boiling water, cook tortellini per package's directions.  Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes before serving.  Serve hot in individual bowls and finish by sprinkling with Parmesan cheese.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Time for Some Goals!

So I've refrained from goal-making the last few years for fear of failing at them.  This year, I say phooey!  I'm a goal setter and list maker and I just need to embrace my type-A quirkiness and get on with it!

Here we go.

1. Read 30 books.  (Last year I read 16 - which I consider pretty pathetic.  In 2008 I read 38 books, so I know I'm capable of it!).

2. Rejoin the Daring Bakers and get back to doing what I love! BAKING~!  That means one baking creation a month!  Stay tuned, I will blog my adventures with the challenges!

3. Cook more!  I get in ruts and become completely uninspired when it comes to making dinner and I have several cookbooks that I need to crack open.  I'm going to aim to cook at least 2 new meals a week from cookbooks I already own.

4. Less TV - this one has already been put into practice the last month or so because Jason and I have put into effect a "no-tv" rule on weekdays.  It's been forcing me to read more and focus on other things (like the hotness that is my man - INCLUDING getting to bed earlier).  And that is a lovely thing.

5. Finish A Quilt - I started making a quilt with my MIL a while ago and need to finish it this year!!

6. Finish Kai's Birth Announcement - I am almost finished with Julie's embroidered baby announcement gift and I need to get on it and finish it before his 1st birthday!  Yeah that's a bit embarrassing to admit.

7. Create 5 handcrafted pieces for an Etsy shop.  I've been putting that off for-ev-er.

8. Lose 20 pounds!!

9. Start walking Jeep in the mornings before work (once the weather is no longer in the 20's and it's not pitch black outside ;-) )  I don't want to officially call this an "exercise goal" because I just might break into hives.

10. Make Christmas Stockings for Jason, myself, the pups & Banks.  (Ours are very generic and I want to actually make some homemade ones)