Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween 2009!

The Guerra Gang would like to wish you all a Happy Halloween! This is our favorite holiday because costumers live in this household and this is the one day of the year we get to go hog wild! Admittedly, we aren't going as crazy as I would have liked, but given my energy levels, time constraints, and current finances, we did pretty good this year.

We plan on trick or treating with the Marino's like we did last year and visiting Daddy at work for the Harley Halloween Festival. Last year, we did a family theme and chose to be gypsies (or Romanian accountants as my parents cleverly called it), complete with our own organ grinding monkey. This year, Michael plans on being a zombie hunter at work and Tony Montana when we trick or treat. I'm going to be a 40's inspired glamourous Black Widow and Sybilla is a girly bat. Here is a preview of her costume from the daycare pumpkin patch excursion the other day:

Too fast for you, huh?

Here's a back view...and no the sweatshirt is not part of the outfit. Daycare felt it was a little chilly and put it on her.

This little bat needed to roost for a bit, hee hee (pun intended)

Can't wait to trick or treat!

We were supposed to go last Friday, but because of the rain, it was too muddy and had to be postponed. Darn. Another year missed for me, but at least Michael got to go. He said Billa had so much fun running around and climbing on the haybales and pumpkins and playing with all of the other kids that she didn't want to leave. In fact, she put her hand out and screamed "Noooo! Stay! Go back!" when everyone walked away. She could have played for hours!

I'll post pictures later this weekend of our trick or treating...I'm so excited and I know Billa is going to have a blast!

Happy Halloween and be safe!
The Guerra's

Friday, October 30, 2009

Paparazzi Photos

The paparazzi recently caught up with Sybilla and caught some snapshots of her doing her thing. This kid is gonna be a star do I know? Because she gets away with withwearing sunglasses inside. Instant star material:

I hope don't have anything stuck in my teeth.

What's everybody staring at?

No comment.

The glasses are off. Go ahead, punk, make my day!

Happy Friday,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recipe thuRsday: Apple Pear Gallette

I love baking. I love the smells, I love the taste, I love how it looks, but most of all I love how it makes me feel. Baking is good cheap (not to mention darn tasty) therapy. But I'll admit it, there are days when I am super lazy and want a baked good but don't want to work hard or clean the kitchen just to get my sweet fix. The following recipe was something that I just whipped up, inspired by many things and it takes almost no time or extra cleanup required. Of course, you still have to clean up afterwards, but at least you don't have to clean the entire kitchen just to bake! In case you were wondering, a galette is free form pastry tart. I always keep pre-made pie dough in the freezer for just such an occasion and this is a great way to use up those apples and pears in the fall!

Apple Pear Galette
1 pre-made pie dough round, thawed
2 apples (I think I used Pink Lady or Gala for this one)
2 pears (I like to use Bosc)
about 1/4 cup lemon juice (a couple of good splashes)
a small palmful of flour
a healthy palmful of brown sugar
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of ginger
1 egg, blended
Gallon size zip top bag
Parchment paper

1. Preheat oven to 350F and place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.
2. Roll out the pie dough a little bit bigger than it is and dock it with a fork, very lightly (Docking is the term used to poke holes in the pie dough). Place it on your pan and set aside.
3. Core and slice the pears thinly, about 1/4" thick. Dump them in the zip top bag with the lemon juice and drench thoroughly. Be careful if your pears were close to expiration, because they might turn to mush if you shake them around too much!
4. Dump in the sugar, flour, and spices and toss to coat. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
5. Carefully spoon the apple pear mixture into the middle of your pie dough. Move it out towards the edges making sure to leave about 1-2" of pie dough all the way around.
6. Fold up the outer edges of the pie dough over the filling and pinch together as needed to hold it in place.
7. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg on the crust. This will give it a nice golden crust and color while baking! Feel free to sprinkle sugar on the crust if you choose. You can also sprinkle a bit more cinnamon on top of the pastry too if you would like.
8. Pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, making sure that the fruit is cooked all the way through and a nice golden crust has formed. Allow to cool for a few minutes before diving in.

  • You can freeze pre-made pie dough for several months, just make sure that it's thawed thoroughly before trying this or you'll have torn dough on your hands.
  • The point of this recipe is to be lazy, but if you must, I use about 1/3-1/2 cup sugar and 1-2 TBSP of flour, and about 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ginger. You can add more or less sugar if you like, I tend to like my apple pie on the sweet side.
  • If you don't have lemon juice, lime will work too. You need this to keep the fruit from browning, so adjust the amount as needed; you don't want to saturate it.
  • I suggest serving this with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Yum!
  • And lastly, if you don't have a pastry brush, use a wadded up paper towel or your fingers to get the egg on the crust.

Bon apetit!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Now That's More Like It!

Many thanks to my cousin Kari for sending these pictures! These are the good ones from our mini get together Saturday evening with some members of my dad's family. Enjoy!

The Babies! Kimmy, Jenny, Bella holding twins Wyatt & Garrett
(sorry I don't remember which one was which!), Mia, and Billa!
Jenny is of course, a cousin and not a baby, but she loves her baby cousins so much!

And the cousins with their spouses if applicable.
Bottom row: Michael, Kelly, Jenny, Erin & Kari.
Top Row: Abby, Jeff, Patrick, and Jen.

One big happy family!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Billa Babble: Stuck, Next & Boobie

Here's our latest installation of Billa Babble, coupled with some body exploration...

STUCK: Billa loves to play and discover just about anything she can get her hands on. This morning, she used her stool to get eye level with the counter to play with the cooling racks from my cake baking this weekend. She managed to slide it off the counter in such a way that the leg of it got caught between the counter and the stove. "Stuck!" she cried out. "Stuck!" She pouted until I finally helped her pull it out and then she was happy as a clam as in mud. Ah, to be that easily pleased...

Our second word is NEXT: We've been trying to get Billa to help us out some more with things around the house, mostly cleaning up after herself, but one thing she definitely loves is helping with the laundry. I will pass her every single piece of laundry and she puts it in the dryer for me. Tonight, she was helping me and every time she threw one in the dryer, she'd hold out her hand and announce "Neh." [throw laundry in] "Neh." [throw laundry in] "Neh." And yes, this continued through the entire load only occasionally punctuated by a "Baack!"

Our last word is BOOBIE. Billa has discovered body parts lately and the most fascinating one is breasts. This doesn't really bother me except when we're out in public and she whacks my boob and yells "Boo-beh!" and then giggles maniacally. Yeah. Awesome, eh? She will also raise her shirt and start rubbing her nipples with the curious look on her face and I am really torn about whether or not to stop her entirely. I don't have a problem with her exploring her body and learning about bodily functions, but it does kind of weird me out when we're in public and she starts doing it. She will also stare at my chest (hello, Mama's up here!) and then poke my boobs lightly, while asking "Boo-beh?" I'm hoping she gets bored with it soon, but each time she does it in public, I just try to ignore it or quietly tell her no.

So that's this week's installment of Billa Babble. She's making lots of noise and "talking" more, so hopefully we'll have more Billa Babble coming soon!

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my parent's 29th wedding anniversary...happy anniversary Mom & Dad! Let's hope 29 more don't turn you into basket cases ;o)

The Guerra Gang

Family Reunion of Mini Proportions

My dad's family is scattered all over the place, so when someone comes for a visit from afar, the Dillons come out of the woodworks as best they can! In this case, my cousin Patrick and his wife Jen were in town from DC for a Livestrong race they were participating in and Aunt Ann and Uncle Hugh from Albuquerque were also in town, visiting their daughter Erin in Houston. This was joined by my Aunt Becky's family and us, so all said, my grandmother had a full house!

Since all of my cousins are now adult age (with the exception of Jenny who was one of my aunt and uncle's foster kids that they ultimately adopted), a good many of us also have our own kids now so there were four generations in the house yesterday evening. We decided to take a picture with all of the babies. It took a few minutes to get that ruly bunch of babies to sit down:

This was about as good as it got...

...because things quickly deteriorated:

And then Mia and Sybilla decided to start climbing on their great grandmother's furniture:

We then enjoyed dinner and some pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. You can get the recipe here on my baking blog if you want to give it a try. It was muy delicioso! The UT game got put on and the menfolk sat down to watch, although Uncle Hugh whined that it wasn't much of a game. I have to agree; it's never fun to watch when the Horns score three touchdowns in the first quarter. I want to see a GAME when the Horns play, not a smearing.

Eventually Patrick and Jen finally showed and we decided to take a cousins picture. I'm really hoping that someone else got a better picture to send me, because the ones Michael took weren't that great. Not that it was the photographer's fault. First we were missing Patrick:

Then no one could look at the same camera:

And then Billa got in the way of Erin's head:

And this was as good as it got!

Ah, nothing like family...hope you had a great weekend too!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Things We Do...

I took the day off on Friday to go with the kids at daycare to the pumpkin patch, but due to the rain from the previous two days, it was too wet to go and it got cancelled. Bummer. Another year that Mama can't go! I cheered myself up by doing some crafty shopping. I was trying to find a Wiggles toy that would work for a cake I am making for my friend Courtney's son Conner's 2nd birthday and ended up going to Hobby Lobby after Toys R Us turned out to be a bust (for my cake idea anyway, but Billa totally scored a new ball and puzzle!). I spent two hours there and ran into an old college buddy while shopping and came home with some fun crafty stuff, one of which were the materials for these cute magnets I made (the ones with the black background):

Billa has been obsessed with the magnets on the fridge lately and I was inspired at the craft store to get supplies to make some cute ones for her to use on the fridge. The traditional letters you can buy are usually cheap in price AND quality and I wanted something a bit more elegant. These fit the bill nicely, if I do say so myself. To make them, all you need are some foam pieces (or other sturdy magnet worthy subject matter) and self adhesive magnet strips. I spent a whole $2.46 on these and I have leftover magnet strips to make more!

Basically, all you do is cut the magnet strip to size, remove the magnet backing, attach to magnet worthy subject matter and voila! There you have it! Customized, way cute, and kid friendly magnets for the curious child in you. And in case you're wondering, that is a bib that my cousin Katy sent to us when Billa was very small. It's magnetized so it can stick to the fridge and one side is pocketed which serves well as a receptacle for all of these wonderful magnets. (And in case you wanted to know, the one with the praying child actually reads "Thank you God for the nice face, but the fat a$$ has got to go!" Heh. I love snarky messages paired with vintage pictures!).

Now on to more crafty ideas and fun things to do!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time Flies...

I apologize for the lack of Billa related posts this week, it's been very hectic for the last week and a half! I didn't have the energy to really post or edit or do anything, but I am taking a day off tomorrow and should have some things posted for your perusal. But in short, a summary of our past week and a half:

We celebrated our friend Cameron's 3rd birthday! His grandparents got him a cool swingset which we set up on Saturday. I made him a Bumblebee transformers cake (picture of which to be posted soon on BillaCakes) which he really loved. Billa had a great time and surprised all of us by figuring out how to climb UP the slide unassisted. She also got bitten by something in the yard which led into Tuesday...

...where we went to the doctor's office because the redness and swelling from the bite on Saturday had not gone away and not diminished in the least. We'd actually starting using Benadryl the day before but it didn't seem to be doing anything. Dr. Patil looked it over and said that it didn't appear to be scorpion related or showing signs of secondary infection which was very good. We upped the Benadryl intake, used some cortisone cream and so far, her hand is looking much better! Her allergies however are another story...

...yesterday Billa got home from daycare with a wicked runny nose. By the time we got home from Rib Night at the Marino's, her voice was getting scratchy and she was not happy. In fact, before we'd left the marino's, I asked her if she was ready to go bye bye. "Yesh!" was her plaintive wail. Poor kid. She didn't sleep well that night and by the time she arrived in bed with us at 6ish am, she and I didn't sleep beyond that. Hopefully she's not sick and it's just a reaction to the increased allergens in the air, but we'll see. Tomorrow is Pumpkin Patch Day at daycare and Michael and I are really looking forward to going with Sybilla and all of her friends there tomorrow. Although that means I have to finish her costume...yikes!

In other news I am officially now coordinating/planning/organizing part of my high school's ten year reunion! It's going to be very exciting, although it was near panic-inducing on Tuesday before our meeting. Coupled with Billa's visit to the doctor, everything going on at work, and trying to get everything done around the house, I was in a right state of craziness just prior to the conference call we had. Billa behaved herself though and the meeting went really well. I decided that I wanted to help out with the reunion because, well, let's face it--a lot has changed in the last 9-10 years and I'd like to think that there can be some good memories made from that era of my life! Not to mention, it would be really nice to meet up with folks from high school and make some new friends (or renew old friendships). I don't care that my life is vastly different from what I thought it would be (seriously, I thought I would have Oscars by now, lol) and if anyone thinks I'm lame for that; happiness is a choice to make and I'm happy with the ones I've made. I could spend my life wishing for something else, but it won't change where I am or who I am.

So anyway, with that said, time for me to log off and get some stuff done! Pictures and other things to come soon, I promise!

Recipe thuRsday: Dr. Pepper Ribs

I can't even begin to claim this as one of my originals, but we have it so frequently now that some folks might be receiving some of my version of the DP sauce in their Christmas presents! The recipe for this came from my all time favorite food blogger, the Homesick Texan. Lisa is an expat Texan living in NYC and I think you'll feel right at home with all of her recipes.

My recipe varies in that I do not add any mustard thanks to my allergy to it, and I have been known to use whatever rib cuts are on sale instead of the St. Louis cut she favors. We feel that the Boston butt or Country Style cuts work really great with this too and are actually a bit superior. Wat really makes these ribs is the use of Dr. Pepper and chipotle powder for that ultimate sweet and spicy flavor combo--it's like eating candy. And in case you didn't know, chipotles are actually smoked jalapenos; you can typically find the powder in bulk food stores or through special order online. I get mine from my local HEB.

We typically plan this for a day that my husband has off so he can get it started and take it over to our friends home once the ribs are finished cooking in the oven; the Marino's provide the sides and the grill, we provide the ribs and dessert. There is nothing better than rib night, except maybe pork tenderloin night depending on who you ask :o)

Dr. Pepper Ribs
For the Rub:
1/4 ground black pepper
1/4 cup salt
1/4 brown sugar
2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp allspice (or nutmeg if you lack allspice in the cupboard)

1. Combine the rub ingredients into a sandwich baggie and shake well to combine.
2. Pat all over your ribs in generous amounts and allow to sit for minimum of 4 hours before cooking.

NOTE: I typically buy anywhere from 6-7# of country style ribs and the rub makes enough to cover twice that. So make sure to store any unused rub in an airtight container lest you want your spice cupboard to reek of pepper every time you open it! You can also adjust the heat by adding less chipotle powder or pepper.

For the Sauce:
2 cups Dr. Pepper
1 cup ketchup (note: tomato paste works great here too if you don't have enough ketchup!)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 TBSP molasses
2-4 tsp of chipotle chili powder (easy does it here!)

1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients into one pot and bring to a boil.
2. Once it's at a good rolling boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, whisking occasionally.
3. When the sauce has thickened, you can take it off the heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before bottling.
4. Use to baste your ribs or other smoked meats. Yum!

NOTE: I have found it takes longer for the sauce to thicken if the DP is fresh and bubbly, so this is a great recipe to use with flat DP. I've also used Cherry Dr. Pepper for an even sweeter variation that went over very well. I have yet to obtain mass quantities of Dublin DP, but that would be even better...that'd be like top shelf sipping tequila!

For the ribs:
1/4 cup Dr. Pepper

1. Coat your ribs with the rub at least 4 hours prior to cooking. Allow them to come to room temp for about 30 minutes prior to cooking. (So 3.5 hours in the fridge, .5 hours out)
2. Preheat your oven to 250F. Line a large roasting pan with foil.
3. Arrange the ribs in the pan and pour the DP over the top. Cover the pan with foil and place it in the oven.
4. After 30 minutes, baste the ribs with the sauce and cover again.
5. After another 30 minutes (total cooking time is 1 hour at this point), flip them and baste again. Bake for at least another 30 minutes.
6. Once the ribs have been in the oven for an hour and a half, you can go two ways: a) you can grill those puppies for about 10-15 minutes over a grill OR b) you can turn the broiler on, remove the foil, spread on some more sauce and allow them to cook under the broiler until the sauce has caramelized (about 2-4 minutes each side). Option A is our preferred method of choice.
7. Remove from heat source and allow to rest for a couple of minutes. Pour the remaining sauce into a bowl, set the table, and belly on up to the table for some good eats!

NOTE: A word of warning here: Do NOT, I repeat, do not EVER reuse sauce that has touched raw meat. That is bad juju in the cooking world, so my advice is to separate out the sauce you'll need for the actual basting/glazing during cooking and the sauce you'll use for dipping when eating in order to avoid any unwanted guests. Coming from the woman who has the intestinal fortitude of a walnut, you'd best heed my advice on this. Plan on about 1/4 cup for each basting; you can always add more as needed or desired!

Bon apetit!

Happy Birthday Kellie!

Today is my best friend Kellie's birthday. Kellie and I met a little over eight years ago through the St. Edwards theatre dept. She was a transfer student a year ahead of me and prior to her arrival, I'd been the only Kelly in the department. I hated having to share my name with someone else (is that person yelling Kelly calling me or her?) and I didn't like her at first because she spelled her name funny. But she became friends with my roommate and subsequently we became inseperable. Professors called us K Squared or K2 or the Kelly's (or Kellie's ;o) and where there was one of us, the other was sure to follow. We were each other's right hand woman during our weddings and we've been through thick and thin.

To you, my dear friend, I raise my glass and say thank you! Hope your birthday was lovely!

The Guerra Gang

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Recipe thuRsday: Chicken Enchiladas with Verde Sauce

Wowza! Hard to believe this is my 9th posting of Recipe thuRsday...just goes to show I have a lot of recipes to share, lol. This week's contribution is one that we've been making for some time and is super duper easy to make. This recipe is also courtesy of our friends Kellie & Anthony, except that they prefer to use turkey breast instead of chicken. I guess I'm a bit of a purist! So without further ado, Chicken Enchiladas with Verde Sauce!

Chicken Enchiladas with Verde Sauce
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 pkg corn tortillas (minimum 14 count)
2 cans green enchilada sauce (we like the Hatch brand)
4 cups shredded mexican cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and prep two bowls, one with the shredded chicken and one with the cheese. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a skillet, heat the enchilada sauce. Don't make it too hot! Here's why: to keep the corn tortillas from breaking when you roll them, they need to be moistened. Most traditional recipes have you dip them in hot oil briefly to make them soft and pliable. But this recipe makes it easy and just uses the enchilada sauce.
3. Once your enchilada sauce is warm enough, start dipping your corn tortillas in it for 3 to 5 seconds each, coating them on both sides.
4. Place the tortilla in the casserole and sprinkle on some chicken and cheese. Then roll it up and move it to one corner of the dish. Repeat until the entire casserole dish is filled. I typically am able to get 9-10 enchiladas in a row along the long side and then 2 along the top in two rows for a total of 13-14 enchiladas in one pan.
5. Pour the remainder of the sauce across the tops of the enchiladas. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and cover the dish with foil.
6. Bake for 30 minutes with the foil on, then remove the foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes. I like to broil the top for about 2 minutes to make it nice and toasty.
7. Serve and enjoy with a dollop of sour cream on top and a nice cold Mexican beer!

TIP: Like our friends, you can use turkey as well. They sell it here in the rotisserie case at the grocery store. Or, use leftover Thanksgiving/Christmas turkey for a fun version of holiday leftovers! You can also make these with red enchilada sauce and omit the chicken, or omit the chicken and keep the green sauce. That's what makes this dish great; easy to shop for, easy to make, and boy oh boy does it taste good!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Madness

Oh Mondays...
Ever have one that leaves you feeling like this?

So as of 3 pm last Friday, I suddenly remember that daycare was closed on Monday (today) in observance of Columbus Day. All of the grandparents had to work or were not feeling well (hope your allergies get better soon Pop!). My brothers live out of town and my SIL's both had to work, and Michael and I had to both work. The only other option was our friend Anthony who usually stays home with his two sons Cameron and Hayden while his daughter and wife go to school. But their lives have been a bit frazzled lately and I just didn't have the heart to ask him to watch Sybilla too. Since Michael doesn't get PTO and I have the ability to work from home, that was our only option.

Don't get me wrong, working from home is a great luxury that a lot folks don't get. But it's really hard to work from home when you have a very active and curious toddler who wants nothing short of your attention ALL. DAY. LONG. Now I realize that it's my own damn fault for not having figured this out before Friday at 3 pm, but with the flu making it's rounds, my plans could have fallen through and I'd still be stuck at home anyway.

I did everything in my power to stay sane and productive while keeping Monkey Girl occupied. This meant a LOT of TV time and constantly uttering my mantra of "Say yes to mess; say yes to mess; say yes to mess..." I DID actually manage to get everything high priority done for work today, although it took me twice as long and I totally missed out on connecting with my supervisor because of a diaper change (she had surgery last week and was only going to be available for a very short window). Once my work day ended at 4ish, Billa and I took a walk so that we could get out of the house and I could chill for a bit.

The energy I expended on all of this effort today also meant that the house is now a wreck and I have no energy to clean it, so that means dinner out! Of course, Michael has his firefighter meeting tonight, too, so the house is going to be messy a bit longer, but I am learning to be ok with it for longer periods of time. This does not mean I have lost my touch, just most of my sanity. Sleep deprivation and parenting can do that to you. But given the reason for it all, I certainly wouldn't trade it for anything!

Happy Monday,
Kelly & Sybilla

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Potting Soil Mishap and No More Pix

Well, bad news, kiddies. The printer/scanner/copier of the Guerra household has officially broken after three and almost one half years and I now have no way to upload my photos. Boo. And just when I was starting to get really good about posting pictures and regular blog entries! So until I figure out what to do in the meantime, my awesome amazing descriptive writing will have to do.

Also bad news is trying to get potting soil out of a toddler's hair. Well, actually, that's more bad news for me than for you, but whatever.

Sybilla and I ran some errands this morning in anticipation of a dinner guest (who never showed but it's ok; her excuse was she got a free ticker to the UT game this evening and let's face it, in this family, we'd have skipped out on any prior engagements to go to a UT game instead too! So, Emily, you're very much forgiven...but not completely, as we are also insanely jealous) and then spent the afternoon at home cooking and cleaning.

After Sybilla had been driving me crazy in the kitchen, I decided she needed a distraction. TV just doesn't work anymore--she watches for all of five minutes and then runs off to wreak havoc elsewhere--so I needed something stronger in appeal. Aha! OUTSIDE! She loves to play out on our balcony and it's nice because she can run and play without us worrying that a) someone will whisk her away beneath our noses or b) that she can run away. I opened the patio door and let her out. Even though I could hear her, and knew that she was fine, I couldn't see her and really, it was probably a good thing because I would have flipped out even more if I'd seen the mess in progress.

I stepped back outside and my patio is half covered in potting soil. Even worse, so was Sybilla. Apparently, she'd had great fun shoveling it out with a garden trowel and then dumping it over her head. Fine, I said. It's bath day anyway and she's already dirty, so we'll just let her stay that way until she's all done, then we'll clean up and go get a bath. That was a whole 'nother can of worms!

Have you ever tried to get potting soil out of a toddler's hair? First off, potting soil is more than just dirt. It's usually ground up mulch fibers and God only knows what else, so it doesn't wash out very easily. And with a toddler's baby fine hair, it looks like lice and is horribly hard to get out. So there I was, shampooing her head three times, attacking it with a fine tooth brush, mohawking and spiking, just to get every last little bit of potting soil out of her hair. She had some crazy waves in her hair afterward! I took pictures, but alas, you don't get to see them just yet.

So my advice to all you mommies out there...don't let your kids play in potting soil unless you like dirt in your house or inflicting pain and torture on yourself. Whichever.

Happy Saturday,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Recipe thuRsday: Pumpkin Spice Cake

This week’s Recipe thuRsday is a real treat for you…literally! I had originally thought that I wouldn’t share any of my dessert recipes on here just because I do have a baking blog where I share them there too, but just in case you don’t visit that blog (which you should…ahem), here is a nice dessert recipe for you. While going through the list of ingredients you might notice the absence of all animal products in this recipe. Now I’m not vegan by any means, but I can appreciate the lifestyle, especially since it’s my goal to someday open a bakery that focuses on healthy desserts and cakes. This recipe was originally derived from the book The Joy of Vegan Cooking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, but I’ve given it my own spin now. This quick cake will get your October started off right and is best enjoyed warm.

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Cake
1 ¾ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 TBSP white distilled vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and prep your cake pans. This recipe will make one 8-9" cake (one layer) or 12 cupcakes.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients into one bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.
  3. Measure all of the wet ingredients into one container (a two cup measuring cup works beautifully) and mix the wet ingredients to combine.
  4. Create a small well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ones. Using a rubber spatula, stir until everything is mixed, but don't overmix! The batter will be very thick.
  5. Pour the batter into your pan or cupcake tin and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
TIP: This recipe originally used 1 cup of pureed strawberries, which you can too! We also substitute mangoes, peaches, other berries, etc to make different cakes as well.

Bon apetit,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Breaking News! Er...HOT News!

Got a fire? Need a cat rescued? Fallen and can't get up? Call my husband!

We have good news to share with all of you; Michael is now officially a volunteer firefighter for the Oak Hill Fire Department! We are very excited about this new development as anyone who knows my husband knows that he has been working for something like this for some time. Now he is on his way to doing it for a living!

Currently he is on probation (a probie vollie in firefighter slang) and will start fire school in February so long as he attends all of his firefighter meetings and serves 24 hours a month. But once he's finished his fire training, he can be hired on full time if there are positions available (either in Oak Hill or Austin or even somewhere else!). It may be a long way off, but Michael is very excited because essentially, this is like him finishing school and getting paid to do what he loves while doing it. Not that volunteer firefighters are paid...but his training will be, so long as he is in good standing with the FD. Me, I'm stoked because I can now say I'm married to a firefighter...firefighters are hot! (Pun fully intended)

Some people are actually surprised that I support this decision of Michael's, but we've both had lengthy discussions about this and feel that it is the right decision for our family. We acknowledge that firefighting is dangerous, but Michael and I have always believed that when you die you might as well be doing it with your boots on and for a good cause. Michael has always wanted to work in an industry in which he helps people and firefighters respond to all emergency calls no matter what they are. They are there to aid and assist and not pass judgment, which jives perfectly with his generous and loving heart. I think too, that the brotherhood offered by firefighting is going to be a hugely beneficial impact for my husband and our family. Plus, if the tales my former coworker Elizabeth told are true, Billa won't be able to get into too much trouble. Ok, and I'll admit, it's going to be so cool for her to tell all of her friends "My dad's a firefighter" and get rides on the firetruck! But overall, this is a good thing for our family on mnay different accounts.

So here's to a new chapter in our lives. Congrats honey and as always, we are so proud of you!

Kelly & Billa

Friday, October 2, 2009

Billa Babble: Yes, Shoe, Table, and Chair

They say the "word explosion" hits between 18 and 20 months. We didn't think we had hit it, but since we have stopped using the paci so much, our child just babbles away like the Energizer bunny! She has been saying a lot, but it's still taking us some time to figure out what she's saying. She's been working on her ch-, sh-, and hard k sounds, so some words seem to meld or morph into something else which makes it hard to understand. She definitely has the m- and b- words down.

YES: It sounds more like 'yeah' but when you ask Sybilla if she would like ___ she will usually respond with a 'yeah' or 'nah' (we're having trouble shaping our 'o' vowels).

SHOE: We were visiting the Marino family on Wednesday and Billa came inside with one sandal on her foot, the other in her hand, and very distressed over her "schew, schew [whimper]" (and yes, there is a slight ch- with her sh- sounds). She was almost in tears over this. I decided that since we weren't going to be leaving for a bit after all, I would just take the other shoe off. I told her to sit down, which she did, and then took the other sandal off. Tears transformed into happy chatter and smiles and off she went. [sigh] Glad that disaster was easily averted!

TABLE: This morning we were eating break fest and enjoying homemade pumpkin spice cake and Billa climbed up into a chair to get at my latest puzzle, which was still on the table. She climbed up and then patted the table top and said "tay-buh" and then pointed to the puzzle. She only said it once, but we knew what she meant!

CHAIR: This sounds mostly like "schar" which has been confused with "share", so you'll only catch it when it's in correct context. But usually she will say it if she wants to get into the computer chair or a dining room chair.

Other things that we've randomly heard here and there is a better pronunciation of cheese, milk, and we're working on actually saying please, which she did this morning when she said "Plee, Dah-da" when he took my puzzle away from her. And speaking of puzzles, she says that quite often too, especially since they've become a big passion of mine. Which if anyone has some random 1000+ piece puzzles laying around (missing a couple of pieces or not), lemme know...I just might like to take a crack at them!

Well, that's all for now folks! Nighty night,

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Recipe thuRsday: Salsa!

Mmm, salsa, the staple food of the Tex-Mex diet. Ok, maybe beans and rice and enchiladas are too, but salsa is a like a light technician for a theatre: the show can't go on without them (really, you try performing to a full house in the dark; it just doesn't have the same oomph). After years of having tried various salsas, my favorite to date is the restaurant style from Serrano's aka the Winchester (You'll get the joke if you've seen the movie Shawn of the Dead). Their salsa is super spicy and the bits are small from having been pureed. Chunky salsa is ok, but I like the ones that are pureed because then you get every flavor in one bite. You don't miss out on some onion or garlic because there isn't enough room on your chip for the whole party, if you know what I mean! So what follows is my own take on the Serrano's salsa (after many taste tests, natch) which has never failed to please yet. This recipe is best executed in a food processor, but I guess a blender would work too, although I've never tried it!

Kelly's Serrano's Restaurant Style Salsa
2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and sliced in quarters
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
2 to 3 serrano or jalapeno peppers
1 TBSP lime juice
1/4 of a yellow onion, quartered
1/4 cup green onions, roughly chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
small handful of cilantro leaves, chopped finely

1. Roughly chop everything so that it blends better in the food processor.
2. Dump the veggies sans the cilantro in the food processor and give it a few pulses.
3. Pour in the lime juice, and add the salt and pepper. Pulse some more.
4. Give it a taste and then add the cilantro and pulse or two times. You want the cilantro to end up somewhat whole.

Regarding the peppers, it's the veins and seeds that hold the heat, so if you don't want this too spicy, remove them. In fact, I usually remove them and it's hot enough for most everyone. The best way to do this is to split the pepper lengthwise and then use the lat of your knife to scrape them out.
Roma tomatoes work best for this recipe in terms of flavor, but you can use any tomato so long as it is ripe and not mealy. The peak of tomato season is in the summer, so if you're making this another time of year, look for firm, bright red tomatoes that have a good tomato smell. If you need to ripen your tomatoes, place them in a brown paper bag with a banana for one day and that should do it.

Bon apetit,

Happy October!

This is my favorite month of the year. Why, you ask? Oh lots of's fall, Halloween, our dating anniversary, the list goes on and on! I am giddy as a schoolgirl when October comes every year and while it's not my birthday month, it's probably the only other month in the year that comes close to being number one in my book. No scratch that; it IS numero uno!

Before we had a child, Michael and I would visit the Texas Renaissance Festival in Plantersville every year, and it was October 2001 that we started officially dating for the long haul (we'd tried dating during our freshman year of college but it just didn't work out then). October is also the month of my matron of honors' birthday, and the month of Michael's best man's birthday (Happy early birthday Kellie and Zander!). And this month my parents will be celebrating their 29th wedding anniversary and my brother David will be celebrating his 25th birthday! And there are lots of little babies who are celebrating their birthdays this month too! Lots going on this month :o)

What is the most exciting however, is what happens at the end of this month: HALLOWEEN. I love Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and my birthday, but Halloween is my absolute, hands down, no question about it, favorite holiday. I guess it's the thespian in me that loves to dress up. But I love the trick or treating, the get togethers, and the silly spooky fun too! Last year was Sybilla's first Halloween and we went trick or treating with our good friends the Marino's. We plan on doing that again this year too! Michael still hasn't decided what he's going to be for Halloween just yet, but Billa and I have our costumes picked out. Or rather, I have them picked out. Billa hasn't figured out yet that she can choose what she can be for Halloween so I got to pick again this year and I chose the theme of BAT. I'm going to make her a black tutu and bat wings and then dress her in black leggings and black shirt and put some little ears on her head to make a fairy bat princess!

I've been waffling quite a bit but I think I finally narrowed it down. I'm going to do something spider themed, which is pretty ironic considering that I don't like spiders very much. truthfully though, since my encounter with the scorpion last year (insert link to that post) spiders suddenly went down to the almost bottom of my List of Creepy Crawly Things to Avoid in the Order of Dangerousness and Scariness. Almost. They're still pretty scary, but they don't weird me out as much as they used to. If it's a biggun I will run screaming as fast as my short chunky little legs will take me.

I'll be sure to post pictures of all the shenanigans of course, but in the mean time Happy October Everybody!

Rabbit rabbit!


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