Monday, January 7, 2013

Mindless Monday, Vegetable Soup, Double Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies, Winter Party Ideas

Good Monday morning!

RANDOMNESS #1 - I was a little antsy Friday night. I needed to get out. I needed to do something. I needed to have a bit of fun. I needed to NOT COOK DINNER.

Thankfully, Mike read my mood soon after he arrived home (and I handed him a five-page document describing said mood... communication is key for a good marriage), and he took me and any and all kids in the house to Mugshots.

The fact we had to wait ONE HOUR to be seated, and no one seemed to care, speaks volumes.

We "needed" a Mugshots burger.

I justified this unplanned "take me out to eat... NOW" evening as a way to stimulate the economy.

Unfortunately, I live with a CPA and he totally didn't support this theory. He was even less supportive when we arrived at Mugshots and he saw how many other people were stimulating the economy.

We could have easily stayed home and eaten leftovers.

But we didn't, and I tried a new burger. I left the Peanut Butter Burger behind and ordered a Turkey Burger. And it was delicious. (Even Josh liked it when he ate my leftovers the next day.)

I'll be trying to replicate this Turkey Burger in my home in the very near future.

RANDOMNESS #2 - Matthew's Pirate Birthday Party was a great success. There were inflatables and an indoor playground and cupcakes and pizza.

Who could ask for anything more?

A good Mama knows it's the little details that make a great kid birthday party!

Like bright red cupcakes...

With tiny pirate swords sticking out the top...

And skull and crossbones pirate plates! Perfect!

A good Mama also knows a couple of "big" things help the party along.

Like a room of inflatables...

And a table FULL of presents.

This is a picture of the good Mama, Brandi.

Great Grandpa had a good time...

As well as Papa.

Uncle Jared and Aunt Amber.

Cousin Austin and me, Great-Aunt Belinda.

Does anything make you feel older and shorter than an almost-22 year-old son who is 6'5"?

I didn't think so.

All that is left to say, "Matthew turned 5 very gracefully."

RANDOMNESS #3 - While Mike and The Brothers went to see Les Mis last night, Roxie and I stayed home to watch the Season Premiere of Downton Abbey.

Can I just say... It did not disappoint.

And can I just say one more thing... Shirley MacLaine was the perfect choice to play the New York mother-in-law who comes to visit indefinitely. Just perfect.

I'm glad I didn't go to Les Mis with the guys. When they busted through the front door singing every word (instead of speaking), I remember how much it got on my nerves the last time I saw it in play-form.

They came home happy, and Roxie and I were happy.

Five out of five. That happens rarely around these parts.

Vegetable Soup

I haven't made a really, really good vegetable soup, so when I came across this recipe in my magazine travels this past week, I decided to give it a try. I found it in the January/February 2013 issue of Southern Lady.

You will need the following:

3 quarts chicken broth
2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, peeled and chopped
1 (2-pound) bag frozen baby lima beans
1 (1-pound) bag frozen niblet corn
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (14.5-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1. In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients.

2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

NOTE 1 - Since most of my family does not like chopped onion in recipes, I usually cook the recipe with a whole onion in for flavor and remove it before serving.

NOTE 2 - We're also not big fans of chopped celery. I substituted 1 teaspoon of celery salt. Problem solved.

NOTE 3 - I used 2 quarts of chicken broth AND 1 quart of beef broth.

The Faulkner Five Rating - Two out of five stars.

I know what you are thinking. "That's not very good."

But, wait! There's more.

The remaining "three stars" said it was very good, but they would like it better if it was Vegetable BEEF Soup. I just need to add a little hamburger, and I think I can get this up to a "five out of five stars" rating.

It's pretty, isn't it?

Double Peanut Butter Paisley Brownies

Sometimes you don't have to go far to find a delicious recipe. Sometimes you just need to look on the back of the Reese's Peanut Butter Chip package.

You will need the following:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package Reese's Peanut Butter Chips (10 ounces)
1/2 cup Hershey's Syrup

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan.

3. Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat well.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Blend in vanilla.

6. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix into peanut butter mixture, blending well.

7. Stir in peanut butter chips.

8. Spread half of batter in prepared pan. Spoon Hershey's Syrup over top. Carefully top with remaining batter.

9. Swirl with knife for marbled effect.

10. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly brown.

These are not quick, but they are delicious. They also make about 35 brownies, so I would probably categorize this as a "company" dessert!

Another pretty food picture.

Winter Party Ideas

1. Amy Suardi, founder of Frugal Mama and a contributing writer to TLC's Parentables, is a genius at finding low-cost ways to entertain. Among her many winter and indoor birthday party ideas, she finds that the classic slumber party is one of the easiest and most inexpensive parties to have. She suggests keeping the guest list limited to five and planning a full evening to include dinner, a movie and cookie decorating or crafts.

2. Chris Nease, founding editor and party stylist of Celebrations At Home, likes to embrace the season by creating a cozy party that's all about warming up. One of her favorite party ideas is to make it a camping theme by setting up a tent in the middle of the living room and making s'mores with hot cocoa.

Here are a few more ideas I found in my website travels this weekend.

3. Wonderland Party - Keep kids entertained for hours with a Nutcracker-themed Winter Wonderland Party. Decorate the party room with hanging snowflakes, cotton lined floors, white balloons, white mini-lights and bowls of sugar plums (candies). Make gingerbread houses by gluing together graham crackers and decorating them with different colored icings and candies. While the glue is drying on the houses, head over to the cookie decorating bar, where kids can shape cookies to cook and decorate, or just fancy up pre-made ones.

(This would be a great party for a group of young girls, AND you could plan it around a time when The Nutcracker will be performing in your area. Rather than buy ALL the tickets, be sure and ask Chaperone Moms who would be interested in taking their daughters to see The Nutcracker with you, and then dropping them off at your house for the party.)

4. Top Chef Party - A party where the kids create their own meal is fun and easy, plus you can adapt this theme to accommodate kids of all ages. Make it a pizza party with already-prepared dough divided up into small balls. Set out bowls of grated cheese, sauce and assorted toppings, then leave the rest of the work to the kids. Use extra dough for dessert pizzas topped with Nutella and ice cream. Make invitations that look like menus and give everyone their own chef hats, aprons and wooden spoons for party favors.

(For children in the 4 to 5 year-old range, let them make their pizzas using already sliced French bread. They can add their toppings without any adult help working with sticky dough.)

5. Mall Hunt and Movie Party - Not only are shopping malls full of holiday activities during the winter, but they usually have a movie theater inside. Plan a winter party scavenger hunt in the mall that includes lunch and one of the new winter movies.

(The Gadsden Mall has an indoor movie theater. Plus, it may be a mall you and your kids aren't accustomed to visiting... which would make the Scavenger Hunt more fun for everyone.)

Have a splendid Monday. I'll be back Friday with another fun Winter Party, basketball pics and I don't know what else.

Take care, and I'll talk to you at the end of the week.


The Enchanting Belinda

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