Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

I recently discovered Natasha’s Kitchen. She has tons of great recipes that have awesome pictures, easy to follow directions, and a fun sense of humor. The other night I made her Pumpkin Creme Brûlée for dessert. Oh my goodness! It was a hit. Plus my hubby got to play with the torch to make the caramelized topping. He actually let Whitaker take a turn with the torch. This dessert is a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dessert bar or any fall time meal. Enjoy and check out Natasha’s site!

Pumpkin Creme Brûlée

1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

3 large whole eggs

1/2 cup sugar (plus extra for caramelizing)

1 cup pumpkin puree (make your own or use the can stuff)

1/4 t ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 whole eggs and 1/2 cup sugar until well blended. Heat 1 and 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream in a sauce pan, almost to a simmer; stirring frequently. You don’t want to burn the bottom. Slowly add hot cream into the egg & sugar mix. You need to pour & whisk slowly as you are combining the hot cream with egg & sugar mix. Or you will end up with scrambled mess!

Next, strain the mixture through a small mess strainer into a bowl. Whisk in 1 cup pumpkin puree and 1/4 tsp cinnamon.

Divide the mixture into 8 (4 oz) cups and place in a large casserole baking dish. You might need more than one baking dish. Fill the baking dish with boiling water about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake at 300 degrees for 35-40 minutes. The centers of the creme brûlée should barely move when you wiggle the pan.

Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate creme brûlée until ready to serve; you can refrigerate them even a week before your event.

When you are ready to serve, you can caramelize the top. Put 1 teaspoon of sugar on top. I used Vanilla Sugar from Beautiful Briny Sea made right here in Atlanta, Georgia. Spread sugar evenly over each custard. Heat the top with your torch. (This is my husband’s favorite part. Guys just love fire.) Keep torching until you have a caramelized top.

Once you have caramelized the top, do not refrigerate. This will cause your topping to not be crisp.

How Do I Pick Out My Thanksgiving Turkey?

Whether this is your first time hosting Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, the turkey situation can be scary and daunting. As soon as you enter the grocery store, you are hit with multiple options like fresh, frozen, organic, heritage, free-range…and Butterball. I mean, what does it all mean?  How big of a turkey do I need?

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A Beautiful Turkey Cooked by Williams & Sonoma

Today, I will try to help with the decision of picking out the turkey.  I have researched several types of turkeys so that you are armed when you enter the store.  This does not have to be hard.

How BIG of a Turkey Do I Buy?
To make sure you feed all your guest well, your biggest decision should be the size of turkey.  An easy rule is 1 pound for every person at your table. If you want leftovers, 2 pounds per person will be perfect.  IF you want lots of leftovers, well, you get the idea.

Where is this Bird Going to Cook?
Now, you need to consider where you are cooking this turkey!  In your oven, in a roaster oven, and the neighbor’s. You need to size-up the area you have to work with.  You can see the problem on Thanksgiving day when your turkey is TOO BIG and you have nowhere to cook it. Big Fail!

Do you have a Pan to Cook your Turkey in?
This is like a dress rehearsal.  I like to (days before) establish what pans and dishes I will be using for Thanksgiving.  Go ahead and pull out the pan you will be cooking your turkey in. You might need to purchase one or borrow from a friend.  If you are using a roaster oven, make sure your bird fits before the big day.

Heritage, Free-Range, Organic, Oh My!
When you arrive to the grocery store, you will be hit with several choices.  I consulted my friends over at Food & Wine to break it down for us.

Heritage: One of the most popular birds in the past few years because of their superior flavor, heritage turkeys are purebred and generally older than other turkeys you may find at the store. They tend to be smaller, have more bone and darker leg meat. Life outdoors gives these turkeys a gamier taste than the regular store-bought varieties. 

Organic: Certified organic by the USDA, these turkeys are now more easily found in grocery stores, and are Weening’s top choice. They are fed an all-organic vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics and are raised on organic pastures. They tend to be a little more expensive because the feed the birds eat is more expensive.

Free Range: No antibiotics or hormones are given to these turkeys and they have access to the outdoors (at least part of the time, according to the USDA).

Pastured Turkey:  This type of turkey is raised outdoors and is pretty much free to do and eat what it wants, although they are also given feed to ensure they get the proper levels of nutrients.

Kosher: Kosher turkeys are raised and processed according to strict rabbinical guidelines. Before they are packaged they are rubbed with Kosher salt, which also acts as a brine.

Brine: Some turkeys are one step ahead of you and have been brined already. Various juices, oils, seasonings, sugar and/or salt are injected into the turkey. Brining is beneficial because it can provide extra moisture and flavor to the turkey in addition to saving you some prep time, but it can dictate the flavor of your turkey and take the seasoning out of your hands. Butterball turkeys are usually brined.

Fresh vs. Frozen:  Basically fresh turkeys are kept at a temperature of 27 degrees. When the temperature drops below that, the meat begins to freeze. If you’re buying a fresh turkey, buy it NO more than two days before you plan to cook it; you can usually reserve one at markets and farmers’ markets way in advance.

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Check Out Local Restaurants and Grocery Stores For Cooked

Many local restaurants offer Thanksgiving Turkeys for your convenience. This is a great option and one I have used before.  You usually need to order a week before.  Your turkey is prepped and cooked by a professional.  Then when you pick up, you are given specific directions of how to cook your turkey.  This is a great option to take some pressure off the big day.
It Will All Be Fine….
In the end it comes down to what you want to pay. Turkeys can get pricey, so know how many you are buying for and be sure to take into account the leftovers you want to eat for days to come. Otherwise you got this.  Feel confident in the purchase of your turkey.  Your guest will LOVE it.
Looking Forward,
Amanda

 

We are Praying for our Teachers

In Georgia we are enjoying our last week of summer. It seems crazy that it is coming to an end and our school year is about to start.

As a momma, I get sad and emotional. I wonder if our summer was enough. I question myself and ask, “Could we have done more?” I know school will start and our lazy routines, spontaneous lunches, travel and late nights will come to an end.

I begin to get anxious about what the school year will bring. Are my boys ready for the new challenges and responsibilities? And sometimes I begin to worry about their teachers. Like all parents, I want the best teachers for my kids.

God has laid it on my heart to start praying specifically for all the teachers that will be teaching my boys this year. My worries and anxiety will not help. But I know I can cast my cares on God.

I will be praying that our teachers feel rested coming into the school year. I will be praying for their health and health of their families. I will be praying for supportive parents and administration for our teachers. I will be praying that our teachers have all the resources they need for the year. I will be praying that our teachers are shown the respect they deserve. I will be praying for rest for our teachers. I will be praying for my eyes to be opened to opportunity to help our teachers.

These selfless teachers devote their time, energy, and resources to our children. We know they don’t do it for the money or the fictitious summer break. Teachers have a heart for children and education. They love to see the lightbulbs go off and things start clicking.

Will you join me praying for our teachers?

Please repost this blog and/or image to let others know you value teachers and you will be praying.

Our worries and anxieties can’t change anything. But PRAYERS change everything.

Looking Forward,

Amanda

Oh, The Places You’ll Go- Graduation Book

I was a classroom teacher for many years.  Actually, I was one of the lucky one that taught Kindergarten when children were able to play in centers, learn to get along, and get a solid academic start to school.  I know education has changed so much.  But that’s not even what I’m going to talk about today……

As a teacher, I was blessed with so many amazing parents.  Before I was ever a momma, I was learning how to be a great momma by watching moms in action.  I would see an idea and file it away in my “when I’m a momma one day” file.

My fifth year of teaching, in May, I had a mom send me a message about signing a book for her child.  This book was a secret to the child so we had to be clever with the pass off of the book.  I was honored and excited to be a part of this tradition. Basically, this mom had bought a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go and has asked all teachers to write a little message in the book.  She started this book back in preschool.  As the kindergarten teacher, I was able to read what preschool teachers said and then I added to the love for this little girl.

I wrote about her sweet personality and how much I enjoyed teaching her.  The mom’s goal was to have all teachers that were a part of this little girl’s life sign the book.  Then at her high school graduation, she would be presented with this book and all the wonderful memories of her education.  How cool is that!?!

Well, I tucked that idea away and now I have it going for both boys.  The preschool and elementary years were very easy to accomplish with Will.  BUT I am learning to navigate the book signing in middle school.  I sent all his teachers an email and they were happy to be part.  They even gave me the idea of giving the book to the grade level counselor and she would help make sure it got to all the teachers.  (HOW NICE IS THAT!)

Each year I pull out the books and I love to read the letters from all their teachers.  It allows me to walk down memory lane and remember each teacher that has impacted their lives and sweet memories of their personalities.

So, help me keep this a secret for a few years but I wanted to share!

Looking Forward,
Amanda

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Shaving Cream Decorated Easter Eggs

Each year it is fun to experiment with different ways to decorate your Easter Eggs.  There are so many fun options out there.  This year we used shaving cream.  Not shaving gel or shaving butter, good ole’ shaving cream.

Whitaker and I had so much fun picking out colors for our designs.  He also loved rolling the eggs around in the shaving cream.

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It is so basic and easy!

You need:
Hard Boiled Eggs
Shaving Cream (we used )
Assorted Food Gel or Food Coloring
Rubber Gloves (my PSA- I got a little carried away with the color and had stained hands for 3 days!)

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Spray a 1″ layer of shaving cream in the bottom of the glass or metal casserole pan. If you want no clean up, use a disposable aluminum pan. Spread the shaving cream to make a smooth top.

Then using your selected colors, beginning adding small, random dots of food gel to the shaving cream.  We used 2-3 on each design.  If you use too many you will end up with a nasty brown or green color.  (that does not say “Happy Easter!”)

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Then using a wooden skewer or popsicle stick, drag the skewer through the shaving cream making lines.  You can make swirls, loops, zigzag, whatever!

Once you have the design the way you like, place an egg in the shaving cream on one end.

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Gently roll the egg in a straight line from one side to the other.  My little guy liked using a spoon to roll his egg.  Then carefully pick up the egg and place it on some paper towels. Leave the egg there until the shaving cream starts to dry up. Usually 10 minutes. Then you can rinse off the extra shaving cream under water or clean off with a wet paper towel.

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Each Easter Egg will have its own personality based on colors and swirl designs.

Happy Easter!
Amanda

The Best Hard Boiled Eggs

How do you cook hard boiled eggs?  It is actually a question that has a lot of debate. Most cooks have their way they like to cook hard boiled eggs.  But you must be careful to not overcook.  I have tried it several ways and this is my favorite way to do it.  Another tip in cooking hard boiled eggs:  don’t use fresh eggs.  It is okay if they are a few weeks old.  That actually helps the shell peel easier.

So whether you are about whip up some deviled eggs (my sister’s recipe), egg salad, or just decorate Easter eggs, this is the easiest approach I have found.

Enjoy!
Amanda

Hard Boiled Eggs

You need:
Dozen large eggs
1 T Kosher salt
2 T white vinegar
Tap water

Start by gently placing your raw eggs in a large saucepan.  Cover with at least 2 inches of water. (If you don’t have enough water, your eggs will not cook throughly) Add salt and vinegar.
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Place the pan over high heat until it reaches a boil.  Let boil for 3 minutes.  Then turn off heat, cover and let it sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the eggs from the pan and place them in an ice-water bath and let them cool for five minutes.

 

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Soak Your Eggs In An Ice Bath

Now you can either carefully crack the egg shells and gently remove the shells.  OR  you are ready to decorate your Easter Eggs.  These eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for four days.

Ooey Gooey Butter Leprechaun Cookies

I  wanted to created some cookies to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  We combined a few recipes to get this final result.  This recipe allows for different extract flavors to achieve the flavor you want.  Also you can use a different food coloring gel to match whatever you need.  These cookies live up to their name.  They are ooey and gooey.  If you like a crisp, crunchy cookie, keep on moving.  Add a little fun to your St. Patrick’s Day celebration!

Looking Forward,
Amanda

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Ooey Gooey Butter Leprechaun Cookies

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 t baking powder

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese,  softened

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups granulated sugar

2 t  vanilla extract (I used Mexican vanilla)

1 t  almond extract (you can use mint extract if you want to give that edge.  A good friend of mine said she might use Key Lime extract)

Green food coloring, gel based (this is where you can change colors for other celebrations)

1 t kosher salt

1  egg plus 1  egg yolk

1 cup powdered sugar for rolling & dusting cookies

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder until well blended. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer cream together cream cheese and butter until creamy and smooth. Beat in granulated sugar, extracts, salt, and desired amount of green food coloring.   Mix until well combined. Be sure to scrape sides of the bowl to make sure all gets mixed in. Add egg and egg yolk and beat until creamy and light.

On low-speed, gradually add flour mixture and mix until just fully incorporated. Dough will be very sticky. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place powdered sugar in a pie plate; set aside.

Use cookie dough scoop to measure dough.  Then roll dough in hands to create 1-inch balls.  (your hand will turn a little green if you used a lot of green food coloring you can live with it or use disposable rubber gloves)

Then roll in confectioners’ sugar to lightly coat. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.

Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes.  Cookies should look puffy and crackly.  The cookies will still be soft in the centers. If they start to brown around the edges, they have baked too long. The underside of the cookies should be only very lightly browned.

Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on baking sheet.  Then move cookies to a wire rack.

Keep cookies in airtight container.  Then can stored at room temperature or in your refrigerator.