SENIORS: Anna {2018}

What a joy to spend some time at Turnipseed with this lovely young lady! I so enjoy senior photography and we just had a great time. She got to model lots of different looks and we enjoyed all the flowers and wonder that are always present at Turnipseed.

 

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Cashew Chicken with Coconut Rice

Hi there! So I feel kinda bad for only posting sugary, fattening dessert recipes so I figured I’d go a different route with this post and share a very tasty and (mostly) healthy entree. This cashew chicken is quite a crowd pleaser and can be served over lettuce like a salad or in wraps. At my last house I had a thriving lettuce garden (sadly nothing else ever thrived except peas!) and a ton of bamboo so I used both when making this and it was a big hit with my coworkers. Butter lettuce tastes the best but romaine is good too because it is a lot stronger and can hold more weight. Your choice. On we go!

CASHEW CHICKEN WITH COCONUT RICE  (yield: 8-10 servings of chicken, 4-6 servings of rice)

FOR CHICKEN:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground chicken (ground turkey works well too)
  • 1 onion (err on the small side–this recipe gets really onion-y really fast)
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 8oz can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 8oz can bamboo shoots
  • 3/4 cup cashew halves
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tsp Sriracha
  • salt & pepper
  • romaine or butter lettuce (if desired)

FOR RICE:

EITHER 1 box of ready-to-make Soy Vay Toasted Coconut Jasmine Rice OR you can make it from scratch with these ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked Jasmine rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut
  • salt
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and use it to brown chicken (or turkey). Make sure to break up the meat into small pieces, drain well and return to pan.
  2. If making ready-to-make Soy Vay Toasted Coconut Jasmine Rice, skip to step #3 (it only takes about 10-12 minutes total to cook). If you are making your coconut rice from scratch, you should go ahead and start the rice since it will take 20-25 minutes to be ready–put the coconut milk, water and sugar and salt in a small or medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add rice. Bring rice to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, until rice is tender. Pour cream of coconut into pot, stir again, and cook an additional 10 minutes. Spread coconut flakes on a parchment lined cookie sheet and begin toasting coconut in a toaster oven. Once rice is tender, sprinkle toasted coconut into it and stir until blended. Keep warm until serving. Obviously if you choose to go the Soy Vay route you save some time and can just focus on the chicken–and it’s still quite delicious, you’re not shafting flavor by going that route.

    3. Chop green onions and white onions–they should be minced. If you don’t already have one, go out and get yourself an Oxo chopper–it is so great and saves so much time and frustration! Look at the difference in the chopped size before and after!

3. Add garlic, onions, ginger, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots & cashews into the pan. I love these little packets of ginger shavings that you can get at Kroger; they last for a month and you don’t have to deal with shaving fresh ginger unless you really want to. Look at the pretty colors in the pan! Stir everything together and cook on medium heat until onions are translucent.

4. If making the instant rice, follow directions on package to get it started in a separate pot and then proceed to step #5.

5. Pour hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar* and Sriracha into the pan and stir. It helps to drizzle the sauces all over everything and not just pour them all in one spot so that they will be evenly disbursed.  (*I personally am not a huge fan of vinegar and I think this is delicious without it, but if you like the taste of vinegar, go for it). It will be also be healthier overall if you get low-sodium soy sauce; most of the sugar in this recipe is hoisin sauce, which is the real yummy kick in the pants that makes this meal great. I wish the sauces combined didn’t make everything all the same boring gold color but what can you do? You can always sprinkle some more minced green onions on top for added color. I’ve added pineapple chunks into it before too but wasn’t super impressed.

6. Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside the yummy coconut rice! If you’re making wraps or salad, just dump it right on top!

This recipe, like many of my others, freezes nicely if you have leftovers.

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RANGER COOKIES OMG

Okay so remember when I told y’all that my amazing chocolate chip cookies were my second favorite cookie? And that I’d share my first favorite soon? Well, soon has arrived. Like those, these can be altered easily to be gluten-free (Yay!). Just swap the ingredients with the ones highlighted in red. I like to joke that they’re healthy since they have ‘old lady cereal’ in them. Apparently there are a million variations of this recipe; some people just throw whatever they have available into the mix, but I like this version best.

So this recipe came to me in a funny way. It was Christmas 2003 and I was staying with my then-boyfriend at his grandma’s house. She started making these cookies and asked me if I wanted to help mix them together and then eat some. Since I had seen her dumping Wheaties and other random crap into the bowl, I answered (desperate to not offend her–which was unnecessary, this woman talked like a frat boy and was a laid-back, California hippie lol) “Well, I’m not really a fan of Wheaties, so probably not, but thank you for offering. I love to bake though”. She got this funny smirk on her face and was like “We’ll see. You can try one when they’re done”. OH. MY. GOSH. Y’ALL. I put one in my mouth and just about fell over it was so good. I didn’t even know I liked coconut back then (now it’s probably my favorite food besides strawberries!). The cookies had this nice, almost salty texture from the Wheaties crossed with the sweetness of coconut and warm white chocolate chips melting in my mouth? Sweet lord. Wars are fought over lesser things than this! I kept making return trips into the kitchen and ate so many that I was starting to feel a little queasy and really guilty about pigging out when she told me the recipe yields 6 dozen cookies. So nosh away! I’m so glad she happily shared her recipe with me! You’ll win over coconut haters, too.

RANGER COOKIES (Yield: 5-6 dozen)

  • 1 cup shortening (3/4 cup if going gluten-free)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (light brown is best if you have it)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour (2 1/2 cups if gluten-free–gluten free flour mix available here)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 package white chocolate chips
  • 4 cups Wheaties cereal (or 3 1/2 cups plain bran flakes or plain corn flakes–DO NOT USE FROSTED FLAKES)
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cream shortening, sugar, eggs & vanilla in a large bowl.
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; stir til blended. IMG_5554
  4. Mix coconut in along with half of white chocolate chips, blend, then add the rest of chips. Mix will be lumpy ;).
  5. Add Wheaties a cup at a time until completely blended. If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t use a big enough bowl and I poured the flakes all in at once, which I shouldn’t have done since my bowl was so small (I also couldn’t find Wheaties at Wal-Mart so I bought Raisin Bran and picked all the raisins out–bran flakes taste the same in these cookies as Wheaties, so you do you). If you dump them in all at once it makes it harder to ensure that they’re evenly disbursed. In case you were wondering why breakfast cereal is in these cookies, I don’t know the full story but I can say that in addition to flavor, they help keep the dough from being too runny or soft. And they give the cookies a nice crunch. Note also that if you are doing it gluten-free, you don’t want a ton of sweetness being added via the cereal, so get gluten-free bran cereal or the least sugary kind of corn or rice flake cereal you can find–these cookies are already pretty sweet.
  6. Drop dough in tablespoon-sized balls onto parchment paper lined pan or greased pan. Don’t flatten them. Space about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake 12-15 minutes** or until light gold–do NOT overbake or they’ll be like hockey pucks. **If you have a convection oven, bake 7-9 minutes. If they’re lightly golden (like they should be) they’ll have a wonderful chewy texture.IMG_5566
  8. This dough freezes really well. IMG_5565

Yum yum yum!!!!!!!!!!!!IMG_5570

Plyler Family

I so love photographing my besties’ babies!! Sweet little A really loves her big brother–isn’t it precious how she laid her head in his lap? She was giving him a hug. It was a lovely outing, other than the heat and the crazy number of mosquitoes ha. And the morning after our shoot, A took her first steps!!! Such a big girl 🙂

 

 

 

Cranberry-Almond Yum-Yum Bread

ADVANCE WARNING: This recipe is for bread that is rather addictive in nature and the recipe/instructions are intended for a bread machine, so if you’re a hands-on baker, I dunno what to tell you….there may be a site that tells you how to convert bread machine recipes?

Anyways, I LOOOVE my bread maker. I tried many times to replicate my Nana’s bread recipes–which were delicious and supposed to be easy to make–and every last loaf I made tasted entirely of yeast. Gross. I enjoy neither the taste of yeast nor hops (so I don’t like beer, either, ha!) SOOO when I got engaged, I added a bread machine to my registry. Of all the things I registered for and got (including a beautiful KitchenAid mixer in mint, lots of bakingware and kitchen gadgets), it’s probably the thing I use the most. Besides my silverware and pretty dishes, of course. I do love my dishes–they can make just about anything look pretty, which is good since my food presentation tends to be somewhat weak. I make a 1.5-2 lb loaf of bread pretty much every week; either this delicious bread I’m about to share with you or the yummy Italian Herb bread that was in the bread maker recipe packet that came with the machine. If I have another ‘lazy’ week (like this week) where I edit like crazy and don’t have time to devote to ‘real’ baking, I’ll post the Italian herb recipe. The recipe I’m sharing today is fantastic for breakfast, snacks, and padding your waistline. Also, I apologize–I don’t have a gluten-free version of this.

SPRINGY YUM-YUM BREAD–1.5 lb loaf

  • 1 cup room-temp water
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten–room temp is fine
  • 3 Tbsp half & half or heavy cream–room temp
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup baking cranberries or ‘Craisins’
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast (bread machine yeast is awesome)
  1. Measure out carefully the wet ingredients and dump them into the bread pan. You don’t want any of them to be hot (because it will mess with the yeast) but if they are too cold, it will cause your butter to solidify into little chunks. The almond extract is very much optional; I honestly can’t taste enough of a difference with or without it that if I didn’t have it in my cabinet I would go out and buy it (and you DO have sliced almonds in here anyway). Almond extract is not exactly cheap.

2.  Stir the ingredients up so that they’re somewhat blended together.

3. Measure carefully–level out all dry ingredients so you get the exact amount required–the salt and the flour and evenly pour them on top of the wet ingredients. You want the liquids to be completely covered by flour so that at the end when you add your yeast, it won’t touch the liquids. Add sugar and again pour across the pan to spread it out.

I’m not into brand names but Craisins cost half as much as ‘baking cranberries’. I would encourage you to break up the clumps of cranberries so that you don’t have huge gummy chunks of them in the bread. They’ll spread more evenly this way.

4. Here’s where we have a discrepancy–how you do this step is up to you. You can either put a little hollow in the middle of the flour and pour in your yeast (and again, make sure it’s not touching anything wet) and THEN add your almonds, coconut, and cranberries (spreading evenly over the top) OR you can pour the yeast in, shut the lid, and wait until your machine beeps at you during the kneading cycle to add them in. I prefer to dump everything in at once so that I don’t forget and also can walk away until the bread’s finished baking lol.

Kinda looks like a big bowl of granola, doesn’t it?

5. Snap your baking pan into place in your bread machine, close the lid, and choose the ‘sweet bread’ setting. On my machine it’s #4.

6. Choose 1.5 pounds as your loaf size, and set your crust color preference to either medium or dark–this is more of a ‘wet’ loaf and is very white, so even if you select “dark” as your crust color setting, it will get a nice suntan but will be super soft. Honestly it’s better to have it in there that much longer/at a hotter temperature while it’s cooking through. Mine gets to a nice golden brown but is still very very soft on the sides. I don’t cut the crusts off either–they’re not crusty! Hit the start button.

Look at that pretty dough ball!!

When your bread is done baking, either pop it out of the pan or leave it in–but don’t cut it until you’ve let it cool for at least 10 minutes so you don’t destroy it. I find that cutting it slowly (if it’s still warm) keeps it from getting shredded by the knife. Storage: this bread will keep on its own at room temp for 4-5 days; you can also keep it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks, just beware that it will be rather hard and will need to be warmed up in a microwave to be enjoyed properly ;o). It’s quite delicious with sweet butter. I tried cream cheese too but wasn’t crazy about it. Also makes good toast!

 

Super Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I am going to share with y’all my second all-time favorite cookie recipe (my first favorite I’ll save for another post!): Super Chocolate Chip Cookies. Why are they super? Because they have 3 special ingredients that regular chocolate chip cookies lack: pecans, chocolate morsels, and Nutella. Are you drooling yet?? And of course, you can also do these with gluten-free flour too!! The Nutella makes a delicious creamy center in each cookie 🙂

SUPER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: Yield: about 30 cookies

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup softened butter

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup regular sugar

2 eggs

1 small package vanilla pudding mix

1 Tbsp vanilla


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (OR 2 3/4 cups gluten-free flour–recipe HERE )

1 tbsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 12oz package Ghiradelli milk-chocolate morsels (important! don’t get the cheap stuff!)

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 cup quick oats

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Get out two bowls. Isn’t my workspace cute?

2. In bowl #1, beat shortening and butter til creamy, gradually add in sugars til blended. add eggs, beat until blended, then add pudding mix & vanilla and mix thoroughly.

3. In bowl #2, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients into bowl #1 with the wet stuff a little at a time until blended. It’ll be nice and doughy. Chop the pecans up–you really don’t want chunks that are any bigger than the size of a TicTac–and add those and the oats into the dough and use the mixer to blend them evenly.

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4. Those morsels are important!! Add them into dough and knead by hand til evenly dispersed. There are a ton of chips, so there shouldn’t be any dough without multiple chips in it haha.

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5. Now comes the messiest part–the Nutella!! This is what makes these little beauties so special! Get a spoonful of dough and flatten it in your palm until it’s about half a centimeter thick, then press it into your palm to make it a shallow bowl shape. Scoop about a half tablespoon of Nutella with a butterknife and press it into the middle of your palm. Then press the sides upwards to close up the ‘bowl’ shape of the cookie and use a pinch of dough to fill in the top and seal in that Nutella goodness. It’ll be a nice ball shape and should be a bit bigger than a ping-pong ball. If you are doing the gluten-free version of this recipe, put those suckers in the refrigerator for about an hour so they can firm up.

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6. Place dough balls 2 inches apart on parchment-lined or nonstick cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for ten to twelve minutes–if you are using a convection oven, bake eight to ten minutes.

7. Let them cool for a few minutes and then enjoy with a tall frosty glass of milk!

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