Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A good lesson- Last blog today I promise!

Are four blogs in one day too many?

I thought I was done blogging until I checked out my friend Sue's blog just a minute ago. Every Sunday she posts a "Sunday Saying" on her blog and I particularly loved the one from this past Sunday. It says "Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses". Alphonse Karr

This past Sunday in sacrament I was particularly touched by the speakers. The Heslop's are a family that lives across the street from us. They spoke on gratitude. I always enjoy when they speak. They both have a great sense of humor and make the whole audience laugh. After joking about cookies now owed to her thanks to the defeat of Utah over BYU, Sister Heslop shared her experience of when at age 29 just a couple of weeks/months after having their 4th child she had a couple of heart attacks and was in dire need of a heart transplant. She thought her time was up and even told the Lord that she was ready to go. Long story short she received a new heart and is now doing well but it was neat to hear her talk about her gratitude to the Lord for watching over her and also her deep gratitude for her donor and how she looks forward to meeting her someday and thanking her.

Her talk was awesome but what touched me more was when her husband spoke. He too shared his feelings of that time in their lives and mentioned that around the time of his wife's health problems he was on his way home from work one day and whilst stuck in traffic he was listening to a radio program. On the program a lady had called in and was complaining about her husband and the fact that he wasn't the same man she had married some years previous and she was thinking of divorcing him. He had gained weight, often left his towels and socks on the floor and snored at night keeping her awake. As he relayed this story he broke down when he said that shortly after that caller, another woman had called in and said that she had been listening. Her husband of 50 years had just passed away and she told of how she longed to have him home in bed snoring beside her keeping her awake or missed his socks and towels on the floor. He cried as he said that when he heard that program he was facing the reality that he too could lose his wife. He talked about how it had put so many things into perspective for him. It was an awesome reminder to me of how short life really is and how important each day with our loved ones should be. The little things like the socks and the towels on the floor just don't matter in the grand scheme of things.

I have always hated the rain. I still don't love it, but recently read a magazine article in which a lady was interviewed. She said that she loved the rain because she thought of it as washing the earth. When I read that I thought what a great way of looking at it. It is true and I decided at that moment to change my way of thinking and now every time it rains, I try not to think of how it will restrict my day, make my hair frizzy or cause more weeds to grow in my garden, but rather think of it as washing the earth and making things anew. It’s not easy and not in my nature for me to think this way, but I am learning and am trying to train myself to do better and to think more optimistically rather than pessimistically. It is a daily battle =)

Navajo Tacos?

On Sunday morning Brad came home from Ward counsel meeting and told me that we were having the missionaries for dinner on Monday night. I thought ok, I can do that. It will be fun to feed the missionaries.

I went into the kitchen to see what I had planned for dinner on Monday and saw that it was lasagna. Great I thought, Lasagna will be perfect and I'll even make some homemade Italian blitz bread to go with it.

So on Monday morning, I woke up ready to get going on my lasagna. I was already cooking and cutting the noodles and browning the meat when I found out that one of the missionaries was lactose intolerant. My next thought was CRAP! Now what? I don't even know anyone who is lactose intolerant. I went straight to the source and called the Elder and asked him what his favorite dinner was. I figured it would be easier just to make what he likes than try to figure something out on my own. His response was Navajo Tacos. Double Crap! I'd heard of them but had never eaten them let alone seen them myself. Back to the drawing board.

I went straight to the computer and while Gabe ripped every tissue from the box that was sitting on Brads desk out of the box and possibly ate half of them I hunted for a recipe for these Navajo Tacos. Not satisfied I called my friend Sue. She is in Young Women’s with me and as a Mum and Grandma is always a wealth of knowledge. Sue can always make me laugh no matter what. Her response after going through her recipe book was something along the lines of "He is a missionary he is supposed to suffer just make something easy". She was being facetious of course. With that I went back to the internet and found a recipe that I thought I'd give a go. I could have just made whatever, but in the back of my head I was thinking that if I made the effort for this missionary that hopefully someday a nice lady would do the same for my Gabe. I figured missionaries suffer enough. Thanks for the laugh though Sue...you know I love you!

So after a little experimenting, stressing and some lovely burns to my neck (DON'T ASK) here is the final product. This recipe was different to most I found that only called for water, flour, salt and baking powder. It called for yeast and also had sugar in it so I thought I'd give it a go. According to Brad and the Elders they were good and they actually seemed to prefer the more dense and doughy version of these Navajo Tacos. They also liked that mine weren't greasy at all. I guess Navajo Taco's have a tendency of being a little greasy.

I wouldn't say that this was my favorite dinner, but the missionary was grateful and two young Elders were fed. I suppose that is all that matters.


1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. boiling water
2 beaten eggs
2 pkg. yeast
1 c. warm water
1 tbsp. salt
6 c. flour

Mix yeast with warm water (lukewarm); set aside.
Pour boiling water over the sugar and shortening and stir until dissolved. Cool to lukewarm and add eggs, salt and yeast mixture. With mixer or wooden spoon, stir in the flour. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place in greased dish and let rise for an hour.

Pinch off small balls of dough and flatten into a pancake. Place in skillet with 1/2 inch deep hot oil and fry until brown on both sides. Top with topping and serve hot.

A crazy love of baking, creating memories and making an old house a home!

So this newish thing I have for cooking and baking is rather insane. Thoughts of baking and cooking occupy my thoughts for a good part of any day and lately I have even found myself dreaming about it or thinking about it if I find myself awake during the night.

Even as a kid I loved to cook. Being the oldest of 5 children and the only girl it seemed inevitable that I would end up helping my mum in the kitchen. Not long ago I was going through some old letters and cards of mine and I stumbled across a note from my dad. It was from a family home evening lesson I had done as a young child where I remembered distributing cards to everyone in my family and I told them that they had to write something we liked about each family member and then give it to them. This one from my dad said something along the lines of "Nat is a good helper and is good at cooking. I like it when she cooks things for me" or something to that effect.

I have said it before that the arrival of my precious little boy sparked in me this need or desire to be Martha Stewart. It is somewhat difficult to put into words why. I guess I have just always admired Martha's ability to cook and create wonderful things making a house feel more like a home with her talents. More importantly though, Gabe's arrival brought out in me a desire to be the best I could be in everything. It is my hope that as he gets older, he too will enjoy helping me in the kitchen, baking, cooking, and creating memories. I love to hear people talk about the fun things they remember doing with their mums when they were younger and love it even more when I hear a husband or a child say "My mother/wife is the best cook!".

This past Saturday when I got home from the gym I was all fired up for a day of cooking and baking. I had a few recipes that had been burning holes in my brain that I really wanted to try. A while back Brad and I were invited to dinner with the Treu family (Liz's parents). I love Liz's mom. She is a very classy and passionate (in a nut shell) woman that I have always admired. At dinner she served the best Creamy Chicken Velvet soup that I had ever tasted. I just had to have the recipe. Thankfully Liz was willing to share and it has been a family favorite ever since. In fact the last time we had it for dinner Brad had mentioned that it was one of his favorite dinners. So this past Saturday I made the soup and also homemade bread bowls. I still can't believe it myself, that I actually made them and they were beautiful and delicious. I got the recipe from My Kitchen Cafe. It didn't stop there however. I had enlisted the help of my sister in law Shanna and we also made Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Shanna and I both had a blast. I love having her come over to cook and bake with me. My sister in law Liz and her husband Blake went to the BYU v Utah football game and so Shanna and I spent the afternoon and evening baking up a storm whilst watching two one year olds. It was lots of fun. At one point (after the boys had bonked heads trying to give each other "loves")Shanna and I were in fits of laughter because we were each holding a one year old whilst stirring, rolling or kneading the cinnamon rolls. It was quite the day. The cinnamon rolls were huge and heavenly just as cinnamon rolls should be and Blake and Liz arrived just in time to help us eat them. It was fun to all be together eating yummy cinnamon rolls whilst laughing at the antics of our cute little boys. I love so much that us married Bentley kids live so closely to each other. My sisters and brothers in law have been such a tremendous blessing in my life and I love them all dearly. I am looking forward to spending more time together over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Our yummy bread bowls. They were surprisingly quite easy. The best part though was how dense and soft they were. They were the perfect addition to the yummy soup.

THE Cinnamon Rolls

All that baking wore the boys out too! Notice how Andrew was nice enough to give Gabe a little foot rub whilst they enjoyed a bottle with Brad. They are such good friends. At one point Shanna and I were in the kitchen and the boys were suddenly VERY quiet in the lounge room so Shanna went in to check on them and they were having a big bear hug. Love those kids!


This past Friday night I went with my little sister in law Shelbi to see the Twilight movie based on the popular book series by Utah author Stephanie Meyer. Thankfully we had reserved seats at the Gateway Cinema and so didn't have to wait in the crazy lines. Our seats were great and I LOVED the movie.

It is always a gamble to watch a movie based on a book, when the book was so good. Inevitably there will be some disappointments and some expectations will not be met. That being said all in all I really enjoyed it and am really looking forward to the next movie. What can I say I'm a sucker for a love story and the fact that this love story also involved attractive vampires was just an added bonus. Who ever thought vampires could be so hot! LOL. Shelbi kept laughing at me during the movie for gushing over the lead vampire and I had to tell her to leave me alone. I knew my Edward was waiting for me at home!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Moist, Gooey, Warm Chocolate Bundt Cake

Yet another recipe from "My Kitchen Cafe". This cake is moist, dense, rich, and delightful. Some of the chocolate chips in the cake even seemed a little chewy. Probably my favorite chocolate cake recipe to date. It was incredibly easy and fast to make...a must have recipe.

Please pardon the presentation. This baby was on its way out the door along with dinner, to some people in our neighborhood who just had twin baby girls.

Super Moist Fudge Bundt Cake
from Erin W. and Melanie C.

1 devils food cake mix
1 4-serving instant chocolate pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (not low-fat or fat-free)
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place all ingredients except chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Stir down sides. Continue to mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared (i.e. greased and floured) bundt pan. Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool 20 minutes. Invert onto serving platter. I usually dust mine with powdered sugar for an elegant look before digging in. Today there was no powdered sugar to be found in the pantry so I used a little granulated sugar just for texture.

Note- I also sprinkled my cake with some powdered sugar but then decided to pretty it up a little more I'd melt the remainder of the chocolate chips and drizzle it around the center. The photos don't seem to do it justice.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Best Chili Ever

I wouldn't say that I am the biggest chili fan, but after making this one last night, I'm now a chili lover. I also don't think I'll ever have a desire to make red chili ever again. I think I prefer chili with chicken as opposed to hamburger meat. This recipe from "My Kitchen Cafe" for Creamy White Chili is to die for. It has the smallest kick to it (I am a wimp when it comes to hot/spicy things) and was oh so creamy and yummy. A new fav for sure. My camera isn't the greatest so sorry about the quality of the pics.

Creamy White Chili

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon oil
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies (if you like less kick, add just one can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream

In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately. This is especially good served with tortilla chips. Makes about 6 servings.

When I made my chili I only used one can of green chilies because I don't like hot foods and I doubled the chicken stock because I wanted my chili to be a little more on the soupy side. I also think that when I make this again I'll do a little less cayenne pepper.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yummy Blitz Bread

I have already mentioned an awesome blog that I found recently called "My Kitchen Cafe". I had also said that it was on this blog that I found my recipe for my Monday night Sweet and Sour Chicken, which was a great success.

Last week while I was looking at this blog and making up my two week menu I also came across another recipe I was dying to try for an easy to make bread called "Blitz Bread". Last night while I was driving home from work to get Gabe I thought I would bust I was so excited to make this bread to go with dinner. I thought If I can work all day and still have time to make a yummy bread to serve with dinner, then that would be an accomplishment. Well I did it! I can't say that I take all the credit. This bread recipe was super easy and no fuss at all.

I wasn't home when Brad pulled it out of the oven, as I was at the gym with my sister in law Shanna, but Brad (my husband) really liked it and so did my 15 month old son! I served it with a chicken stir-fry which is probably not the best meal to serve it with given that the bread is similar to an Italian foccacia bread, but it was a nice compliment all the same. I have included the recipe below. Another recipe I will make time and time again for sure! Thanks Melanie!

(I borrowed this picture from another site, as I left my camera at home today...will have to post mine tomorrow.)

Blitz Bread- adapted from King Arthur Flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups (14 ¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
3 teaspoons dried herbs dried herbs for sprinkling ( I used a store bought mix that was Italian seasoning)
1) Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom.2) Combine all of the ingredients, except the dried herbs for sprinkling, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds. I used my Bosch and used the bread attachment. 3) Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover the pan, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it is puffy.4) While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.5) Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.6) Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with the dried herbs of your choice, if desired.7) Bake the bread till it’s golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.8) Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.To make cheese-stuffed bread: Add 1 cup crumbled feta cheese to the dough after it's been kneaded for 60 seconds.

The only thing I found when I made my bread was that while it was rising, my bread didn't quite spread to all edges of the pan. Nonetheless, it was still delicious and once cut up no-one even needed to know that was the case.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday night Sweet and Sour Chicken

I love love love my Monday's off. First of all it is so nice not to have to get up at 5:30am, I don't have to wake my baby up to take him to Grandma's house when it is dark and cold, I get to kiss, cuddle and play with Gabe all day long, I can clean my house and do laundry and finally spend time making a yummy dinner. Call me old fashioned, but I love to spend the day making a yummy dish for my hard working husband and have it waiting for him when he walks in the door after a long day at work and school. He deserves it!
A friend of mine Holly or PheMOMenon is an exceptional cook and has a really awesome food blog http://phemomenon.blogspot.com/ that I love to look at daily and last week through her blog I discovered another blog named "My Kitchen Cafe". It had all sorts of yummy dinner ideas and when I made my menu for the coming two weeks I think almost everything on it came from her blog. Yesterday, I made her Sweet and Sour Chicken. I personally am not a huge fan of Sweet and Sour Chicken. I have just never found a really good recipe for it that I liked much and it also doesn't help that I have a childhood memory of eating it and getting sick. Anyway, Brad on the other hand has always liked it so I was always on the lookout for a good recipe. THIS WAS IT! It was soooo good and will definitely be one that I make again and again.
Here is the recipe. I copied it straight from the "My Kitchen Cafe" blog and added my own pictures. You should check it out sometime. http://mykitchencafe.blogspot.com/

Sweet and Sour ChickenChicken:

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil (I used vegetable oil)

Cut boneless chicken breasts into chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in cornstarch and then in egg. Fry in a little oil until brown but not cooked through. Place in a single layer in a baking dish. Mix sauce ingredients (below) together and pour over chicken.
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Bake for one hour at 325 degrees. Turn chicken every 15 minutes. If you like extra sauce, make another batch of sauce and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Stir constantly and let cook over medium heat until thickened and reduced - about 6-8 minutes. (NOTE-My sauce didn't thicken using this method, so I mixed a little cornstarch with water and added that. I worked great.)

A VERY spoiled birthday girl!

This past weekend was heavenly! To say the least. I still can't believe how spoiled I was/am.

On Friday I arrived at work to find my desk littered with confetti and my favorite Hershey's kisses candy, along with an abundance of small gifts and cards from co-workers. My friend Bonny took me to the Spaghetti Factory for a yummy lunch and then in the afternoon another friend and co-worker had brought in a delicious cheesecake for the "12th floor gals" to share.

In the evening I went to dinner with my best friend Kami to Boston's. We hadn't been able to get together in months so it was so fun to be able to catch up over a good meal. She also told me that she was pregnant with her 3rd baby which is exciting!

Then...months ago our friend Wendy from Australia had offered to let us stay in her condo at the Westgate Resort in Park City for my birthday, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. When we got up to Park City on Saturday we did some shopping at the outlets (really what could be better than that...and two weekends in a row!) and then we headed up to Westgate. We spent the afternoon there visiting with my brother Ben and his wife Merridee who had come up for the day, my Dad and his wife Cheryl who had come up for the weekend, Wendy and a girlfriend of mine who I grew up with in Australia, Erin Turley/Cullis. It was so much fun to be able to hang out together. Any excuse to get a bunch of Aussies together is well worth it and it always makes me feel so much less homesick. It couldn't have worked out more perfectly that my friend Erin was in Park City for the weekend to attend another party. It was so much fun to see her! I love Erin.

In the evening Grandpa, Grandma, Aunty Merridee and Uncle Ben watched Gabe so that Brad and I could go out to dinner. We ended up going to a place called "Easy Street" in Park City. It was such a fun place and even though at first I was more worried about not having Gabe with me, eventually I was able to relax and Brad and I had a blast. The food looked and tasted beautiful, and the restaurant was having a deal where all entrees were half price (perfect!). You gotta love the off-season! I had the best halibut EVER and have been craving it ever since. MMMMMMMMMMMMM

On Sunday morning, we did presents in bed and boy did I get spoiled! (Thanks Brad and Mum!) Then Dad and Cheryl watched Gabe for Brad and I while we went down to the pool for some more alone time. We had so much fun jumping from the outside hot tub into the outdoor heated pool, and then going back and forth between the sauna and the steam room. I was in heaven! It felt like we were on a second honeymoon again! After we spent some time in the pool etc we went back to our room where Brad cooked a yummy pancake breakfast for us all. Wendy came up too and we spent the rest of the morning and first part of the afternoon visiting. It was a gorgeous day and the weather even in Park City was unseasonally warm.

While Wendy, Dad, Cheryl and Gabe went for a walk I took the longest shower in my favorite European steam shower. Again I was in heaven. I wasn't kidding when I said that all I wanted to do on my birthday weekend was take a shower in the European steam shower. I HAVE TO HAVE ONE OF THOSE SOMEDAY!

We left Park City in the late afternoon and headed straight to Brian and Shanna's apartment in Ogden for a LOVELY birthday dinner. The food was so good. We had some yummy creamy chicken, roasted potatoes, salad, rolls and a really yummy strawberry cheesecake for desert. Shanna had even hung up streamers. It was so much fun to be able to spend the night with them and also Blake, Liz and my little Andrew. I felt so incredibly special and blessed.

I really couldn't have asked for anything more this birthday and I am still floating on the after effects. Thank you everyone who made it so special! I love you all!

Getting ready to leave for Park City. My cute little bugger climbing on the cooler. AHHHH!!!!
So proud of himself!
Brother Ben and I chillin at the condo.

Visiting with Ezza. Aussie Aussie Aussie!
Easy Street. This is the place we went to dinner. It was so nice outside with the lights and the fire etc. Brad and I at dinner.My yummy Halibut dinner. I want more...NOW! Isn't it pretty? It was my first time eating purple potatoes. It took a minute for me to get my head around that one. Brad's dinner. He had steak, potatoes and onion rings.
Back at the Condo on Sunday
Gabe just loves my dad! It was so funny to watch them together this weekend. Gabe doesn't get to see my dad very often, but every time we get together Gabe really takes to him. He loves to be held by him, sit on his lap and over the weekend often fell asleep on him. This past weekend was the first time that my Dad and his wife really got to spend some one on one time with Gabe and they all enjoyed it. Dad said that while we were at dinner on Saturday night he did every animal sound he could think off for Gabe. Anytime I needed to get something done, I'd tell Gabe to go and find Grandpa and they would play and read together. On the morning of my birthday Gabe even went and jumped into bed with Grandpa. I love these pictures of the two of them.
Gabe had all sorts of fun playing with the streamers once Brian took them down off the ceiling after dinner.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Disney on Ice

Last night we went to Disney on Ice as VIP's. We had so much fun. Prior to the show starting we had dinner in the media room and got to meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Gabe enjoyed walking around the media room making friends and playing with the helium balloons they had up as decorations.

Gabe just LOVES kids. While I was following him around, it was so cute to watch him walk right up to kids who were either walking around or sitting at tables and play with them. The first kid that Gabe walked up to was really sweet with him. The kid was probably about 6 or 7 and his name was Jake. Gabe just kept staring at him and reached out to hold his hand. A short while after Gabe and Jake were getting acquainted Jake's Grandma, who I also happen to work with came up and told me that Jake was adopted too. It was just funny to me how Gabe was so drawn to a kid who was also adopted.

Shanna and I also discovered last night that Gabe is quite the ladies man. There was a young girl probably around 6 or so sitting at a table close to us who was dressed as a princess. Gabe walked up to her and stood in front of her for about a minute and just gazed up at her. Then he started to rest his head on her. It was sooo cute. When he was done flirting with her, he turned to her cousin and started to eye her. My boy is such a flirt!

We had awesome seats for the show and the show itself was really cute. Gabe loved it. When the show started he stood up on Brads lap and danced and clapped his hands. I wondered how long the show would keep his attention but he actually did really well. He hadn't had an afternoon nap at Grandma Sandy's so I was a little worried that I would be walking the halls while the show played, but Gabe sat on our laps the entire time and even fell asleep after the intermission for the second half of the show.

It was so much fun to be able to mark the special anniversary of Gabe's arrival by going to Disney on Ice and it was especially neat to be able to take Savannah and Aunty Shanna. Enjoy the pics!

Eating dinner in the media room with Daddy. We had hot dogs, chips, cookies and drinks. Gabe quite liked the cookie, chips and hot dog. Thankfully I was also able to get him to eat almost a whole can of green beans and some left over’s I had brought from home too. (Phew!) That way I didn't feel so bad about the junk he was eating.

Gabe loves helium balloons. He had lots of fun playing with them.

Shanna and I were both cringing while Gabe chewed on the balloons. One did eventually pop, but it didn't seem to bother Gabe.

My friend from work, Sherri was also there. This is a pic of her little niece, Demi. I think that she looks like she could be Gabe's big sister. She is sooooo cute!

This was the first little girl that Gabe was flirting with.Giving her loves.

Gabe's other girlfriend. He liked her bling! She was a real cutie!

Waiting for the show to begin.

Savannah with her new Disney toy. Shanna and Savannah
Shanna and I. Savammah and I.
Gabe getting excited when the show began. He clapped and danced. It was so cute!
Gabe also loved Savannah's new toy. She was nice enough to let Gabe play with it a little.
Gabe all worn out. He fell asleep after the intermission and woke up just as the show finished.