Thursday, December 10, 2009

The TRUE meaning of Christmas

Today I was able to be a part of something truly special. Christmas means different things to different people. As I get older, I find that Christmas means so much more to me than the gifts I hope to open on Christmas morning. While I love to buy gifts for my friends and family and while I love to spoil my son - Christmas to me means so much more these days. In a world where so many people are hurting, I can't help but feel some responsibility to ease that hurt where and when possible. To me Christmas means lifting up others who need a lift, spoiling others who don't have the means to spoil themselves, volunteering my time to help someone in need, a box of food, a box of presents, making sure a child has something to open on Christmas morning, a hug or a kind word and so much more. It isn't about the latest gizmo or gadget I really don't need anyway or about spending more money than I have to satisfy a worldly desire. Toys break, clothes get old and worn, gizmos and gadgets are fun for a minute but the things we do to lift the spirits of another last forever. Today I was a part of something that gave me a glimpse into the later and I couldn't have asked for anything better this Christmas season. As far as I am concerned Christmas has come and gone for me and it was one of the best Christmas's yet.

My favorite radio morning show is 97.1 ZHT. I love to listen to the show every morning from 7:oo am to 10:00 am. I often find myself laughing out loud at my desk while I listen to the DJ's Frankie, DB and Jessica. I am always sad when 10:00 am comes and the show is over. If I could I would listen all day long. Every year at Christmas time the radio station, supported by local businesses has a Secret Santa segment on the show. They encourage people to go to their website and nominate families who could use a little extra help at Christmas time. I had been listening to the morning show Secret Santa segments and found myself wondering if I knew anyone who could benefit from the show's generosity. After little thought it was clear. I had to nominate my friend Scott and his little girl Lucy. I submitted the following story to the radio station two Wednesday's ago and much to my surprise my letter was selected. Below is my submission letter:

I would like to nominate my friend Scott and his daughter two year old daughter Lucy for this years secret santa.

This past May Scott's lovely wife Lariann (26) passed away after an almost three year battle with brain cancer. Larrian's brain tumor was first discovered when she was just shy of 20 weeks pregnant with Scott and Lariann's baby girl, their first child. In fact, Lariann and Scott found out the sex of their baby just prior to Lariann's first major surgery to remove the orange size tumor on her brain.

Throughout her pregnancy Lariann underwent Chemo and radiation and was still able to deliver their healthy miracle baby Lucy.

Lariann was a little person with a big heart and a big personality. Throughout her battle with cancer she remained upbeat. She was still the teasing joker everyone knew her to be.

Lariann was laid to rest on what would have been Scott and Lariann's 6th wedding anniversary. It has been a tough and trying year for Scott and his family and I know that this Christmas will be an especially difficult one with Lariann gone.

Scott was a wonderful husband and is a devoted father to little Lucy. Just prior to Lariann's death Scott and Lariann were able to purchase their first home. Now that Scott is a single parent working to support he and Lucy alone he works both as an EMT and also a fire fighter with our local fire station. Despite his challenges he continues to put others before himself on a daily basis.

Anything you can do to lighten Scott's load, ease his burden, and put a smile back on his face would be much appreciated. Not only would it be a gift to Scott and Lucy to receive a little something this holiday season to make this Christmas a special one but it would also be a dream come true for all who know and love Scott, Lucy and Lariann. Thank you in advance. I love you guys!

A day or so after I submitted my letter I received a call from the radio station telling me that my letter had been selected and they were going to fulfill my Christmas wish to help my friend and his little girl. It was a dream come true. I quickly got to work calling both Scott and Lariann's parents to find out some things that both Scott and Lucy would like to have for Christmas. With the help of both Scott and Lariann's mothers I was able to pass the information onto the radio station. Scotts mum was all set to make sure Scott would be home and by the phone and Lariann's mum was planning on taking pictures when it all went down. Scott has ABSOLUTELY no idea. Then the wait began. It has been the longest week and a half EVER! I've had trouble eating, sleeping and working because I have been so excited.

Today finally arrived and I found myself in studio at 97.1 at 7:45 am this morning. I was thrilled to be able to meet Frankie, DB and Jessica. To hear my segment on the radio go to this link and click on the story for Scott and Lucy-

Below are some photos from the day. The first one is of me in the studio with the DJ's and then the others are photos that the radio took when they were delivering the presents to Scott and Lucy.

Frankie, Me, DB and Jessica

Little Lucy opening some of her gifts

Scott looking on as Lucy has fun with her gifts

Lariann's passing was and still is extremely sad to me. Like most tragedies her death put things into perspective for me. I can't imagine leaving my Brad alone with Gabe now and Brad having to do everything alone. Though I couldn't change the outcome of Lariann's illness when she passed away I made a silent promise to her that I would do anything I could to help her Scott and her sweet little Lucy until they could be together again. Until now I didn't feel like I had been able to do anything. Words simply can't express how grateful I am to have been a part of making this Christmas a little brighter for Scott and Lucy. I am eternally grateful to everyone who was a part of this and who helped make it happen. This is what Christmas is all about.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Easy French Bread

I love French bread. I especially love warm, fresh out of the oven, homemade French bread to serve with dinner. A while ago my good friend Amber made me some of this bread and brought it over. She then sent me the recipe and I recently had a chance to try it. It was delicious and the perfect addition to our meal that night.

No Fail French Bread
From Amber

Yeild: 2 large Loaves

2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
6 cups flour
1 egg; beaten
sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

In a large bowl combine water, sugar and yeast. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until foamy. Stir in salt, oil and 3 cups of flour. Stir virgorously. Add remaining 3 cups of flour and mix well. Let stand 10 minutes and stir down. Repeat this process 5 times, which will take one hour.

Place dough onto floured board. Knead only enough to coat dough with flour so it can be handled. divide in half. Roll into two rectangles about 9X12 inches long. Roll up from long side. Moisten seam with a small amount of water and pinch to seal. Arrange both loaves lengthwise on a large, well greased cooikie sheet. Place seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30-45 min.

Glaze with beaten egg (brush on gently) and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds ( I didnt have any). Use a very sharp knife to gently make 3 diagonal gashes in top of each loaf.

Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Another terrific recipe from My Kitchen Cafe. This was easy to put together and was a fun take on pasta.

Chicken Enchilada PastaMy Kitchen Cafe

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed or shredded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4-ounce can diced green chilies
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 (10-oz) cans green chili enchilada sauce (I used mild)
2/3 cup red enchilada sauce (I used mild)
1 can large black olives, cut in half- I omitted these
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
16-20 oz. penne pasta (Depending on how "saucy" you want the pasta)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet and add the onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for another 2 minutes, until pepper is barely tender. Add the cooked chicken, green chilies, spices, enchilada sauces and olives. Let the sauce simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Add the sour cream and cheese and heat through, until the cheese is melted (but don't boil!). Pour the sauce over the hot pasta. Garnish with extra sour cream, cheese, diced tomatoes, green onions or crushed tortilla chips.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Potty Time

A couple of months ago now we bought Gabe his first DVD. The name of the DVD is 'Elmo's Potty Time'. It is a cute educational show all about Elmo learning to use the potty and growing up. Since LOVES Elmo and so we thought that this would be a great introduction to potty training.

At first we would let him watch it and then we would casually ask him every day if he wanted to pee or poo on the toilet like Elmo and he would say "No, I no like it". So not wanting to push the issue, we would drop it and ask again the next day. After trying this for a few weeks we decided we may have better luck if we buy him a potty. I have to admit the big toilet is a little scary for a little guy. So we made a big deal about going to the store to buy him his own "special" potty (like Elmo) and we acted excited etc. We continued to ask him if he would like to go poo or pee on his potty to which he continued to reply "No, I no like it". He would pull it out and pull his pants down and sit on it (with his diaper still on) and moan and groan etc but still had no real desire to use it.

Then... a couple of weeks ago I decided to move the potty into Brad's office just off the bathroom to see if that would help. It worked! Turns out our boy doesn't like an audience when he has to use the potty. One night the bath was running and Gabe was getting undressed and I asked him if he wanted to go pee on the potty. So he went in to the office closed the door and emerged a few minutes later excitedly telling me he had peed in the potty like Elmo. I jumped up and down and then I put some of that Halloween candy I've been hiding to good use.

Ever since that night he has gone pee on the potty before bath time. I'm glad I was able to use the Halloween candy for a good purpose. After he uses the potty he gets to choose one piece of candy as a reward. Last night during the same routine, we had more success but this time he went No. 2 all by himself. Again we were very excited.

Practicing using the potty- the sound effects were quite funny

Practicing wiping. He would run and get toilet paper from the bathroom and practice cleaning up.

Pulling your pants up is really quite tricky!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A mention in the Deseret News!

A friend and gym buddy of mine has what could be considered one of THE coolest jobs in the world (I think). She is the food editor for the Deseret News here in Salt Lake City. I honestly envy this lucky lady. She was recently doing a story on different kinds of sugars used in cooking and baking and was interested in trying golden syrup (a baking ingredient commonly used in New Zealand and my home town of Australia). So one day I took my calorie loaded golden syrup to our gym class to let her have a taste. She then mentioned me in her Deseret News blog. I was completely flattered to know that she would mention me and my little blog. See below for Val's complete blog post.

Thanks Val!!! See you at Body Jam!

Caramel Cake

I made this cake recently for my father in law's birthday. While I liked the cake and thought it yielded a nice caramel flavor, my cakes were quite flat and dense, not soft and fluffy as I usually like my cakes. I'm not sure if that is how they are supposed to be or not.

Nevertheless, it was a yummy cake and I enjoyed making it for my father in law's special day. He works extremely hard so that his family can have the things they want. My son adores him and he adores my son. I can't ask for much more than that. Gabe just LOVES when Pappa is off work and they can spend the day together. The two of them spend hours "fixing stuff" and working in the yard together and Gabe always thoroughly enjoys the time he gets to spend with his Papa. Thank you Clark for all that you do!

Caramel Cake
Martha Stewart

Serves 8
Nonstick cooking spray with flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup Caramel Syrup, plus more for serving
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
Caramel Frosting
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray, line each with a parchment paper round, and spray again. Set pans aside.
2.Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue to beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in syrup.
3.In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix flour mixture into butter mixture, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4.Beat eggs until foamy in another bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir into cake batter until well combined.
5.Divide cake batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake until cakes spring back when gently touched in the center, about 25 minutes. If cakes do not spring back, return to oven and continue cooking about 10 minutes more.
6.Cool cake in pans for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto a wire rack and remove parchment paper round. Let cakes cool to room temperature before frosting.
7.Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread the top of the first layer with frosting. Top with the remaining layer, bottom-side up. Spread entire cake with frosting; remove parchment paper strips. Serve cake drizzled with any remaining caramel syrup.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Martha Stewart

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces of softened cream cheese
1 package (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1.In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour butter into a bowl, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool.
2.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, salt, and butter. With the mixer on low, slowly add cream; beat until smooth. If frosting seems too thick, stir another tablespoon cream into the mixture.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scrambled Eggs

I know I've said it before, but Gabe loves to help me cook in the kitchen. He loves to pull a chair over from the kitchen table and stand right by me as I cook and bake. A couple of weeks ago I was making his breakfast and he insisted on helping me crack the eggs. Of course at first I was hesitant as I don't usually like egg shell in my scrambled eggs but all he has to do is look at me with that cute little face and say "Please mummy" and he wins. He did a good job I thought as I didn't have too much trouble fishing the eggs shells out. He was so proud and it was SO worth it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Strawberry Cheesecake Shooters

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this dessert. I have always been a fan of Applebee's appetizers and desserts. The first time I had one of their Strawberry Cheesecake Shooters I was hooked. Recently I set out to see if I could find a recipe online that was similar. I found this recipe and tried it and much to my pleasant surprise it tasted exactly the same as the real thing from Applebee’s. I am thrilled to have found this recipe and I'm sure I will make it countless times.

I found that this recipe made about 6 dessert shooters.

Strawberry Cheesecake Shooters


cheesecake filling
12 ounces cream cheese (1 1/2 8-ounce pkgs)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup frozen sliced strawberries in syrup, thawed
canned whipped cream
1make cheesecake filling by blending cream cheese, eggs, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla in a large bowl with a mixer on high speed, until smooth.
2pour mixture into a large saucepan and cook over med-high heat, stirring often, for 8-10 min or until mixture begins to thinken. mixture should stick to the spoon when its inverted. pour cheesecake filling into a covered container and chill for several hours, until cold.
3to prepare each serving, combine melted butter with graham cracker crumbs. spoon 2 tbsp of graham cracker crumbs into a 6-ounce rock glass,.
4and top with 1/3 cup cheesecake filling. spoon 2 tbsp of strawberries and syrup on top of cheesecake filling, and top off the dessert with whipped cream.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


This is a little belated but better late than never has become my motto lately. Gabe LOVES Elmo and so this year when I girl I worked with mentioned she had an Elmo costume I could borrow I jumped at the chance. I thought Gabe would be thrilled!!!

However, this year our two year old decided he didn't want to dress up for Halloween. Any time i got his costume out and put it on him he would say "I no like it" and ask us to take it off. He would look at us as if to say "Why would I wear that?" Though I was disappointed at first, I decided to pick my battles and not stress out about it. We "practiced" wearing Elmo a few time before Halloween but to no avail.

On the day of Brad's work Halloween trick or treating day we walked in the office Brad holding Gabe and myself holding Elmo. It only took a couple of minutes of Gabe watching all the kids dressed up and getting candy for him to work out why Elmo was necessary. He let us put Elmo on, trick or treated for a while and then as soon as he decided he had gathered enough candy he asked us to take it off. We didn't take the camera to Brad's work that day because we didn't think he would wear his costume, but these shots we managed to get at home one day when we were practicing.

Elmo is coming to town in December and I splurged and bought 3rd row center seats for Brad, Gabe and I. I can't wait to take him!!!

Now you see it, now you don't!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I am way behind in blogging about Gabe's birthday which was in August but I figure better late than never. Life is crazy busy and I simply haven't had the time.

Meet the newest member of the Bentley household. This is Gabe's fish - Coconut.

Aunty Shanna started a fun tradition this year. That is, for each cousins second birthday she buys the bithday boy or girl a fish. Gabe was thrilled when he opened his present from Uncle Brian and Aunty Shanna. We were all over at Nana and Pappa's house opening presents and after he opened his fish Brad and I asked him what he wanted to name it. We weren't sure too sure what he was going to say- he is after all 2! After us asking him a couple of times he turned to us and as clear as day said "Coconut". Coconut it is then we said. We all started laughing hysterically at this smart little two year old who named his very own fish Coconut. Hearing Gabe say coconut in his cute little munchkin voice was pricless.

It has now become part of our morning and evening routine to feed Coconut. Gabe gets so excited to feed him/her (lol not sure of the sex- just shows what I know about fish) and it is so cute to watch him do it.

Thank you Aunty Shanna and Uncle Brian...we love you!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ogden Tree House Museum

Here are the pics as promised of the Tree House Museum. What a cool place. I can't wait to take Gabe again.

Gabe and cousin Andrew LOVED the trains!

Yeeehaww Cowboy!

Lovin the fish

Our little Fireman

Me and my little man

Fun painting with cousin Andrew

Craft Time


Friday, October 2, 2009

Fried Zucchini Coins

My mother in law has had an abundance of zucchini in her garden this year. Before this year I had never actually tried a zucchini. In keeping with my goal of introducing new foods into my cooking this year, I took a few home and had some fun with them. I made these as a side to serve with dinner when my mother and my brothers came over for dinner back in August to celebrate August birthdays.

These were simple to make and were really delicious. Next time I make these I want to try using panko breadcumbs for a little extra crunch.

Fried Zucchini Coins
By Nat

1 medium to large zucchini
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup of dried breadcrums (fresh won't stick)
1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cut zucchini into slices and set aside.

In one mixing bowl mix 1 cup of breadcumbs (dried and not fresh is best for this recipe)and the parmesan cheese. Set aside.

In a second mixing bowl combine eggs, salt and pepper.

Begin by dipping zucchini into egg mixture and then take it and dip it into the bread crumb mixture.

Fry breaded zucchini in a skillet dotted with butter until golden.

Serve warm- ENJOY!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Like Father Like Son

Uncle Blaine just sent me this picture via text. It was too cute not to share.

Gabe is so much like is Daddy. Gabe loves to watch and "help" Brad when he is working on cars in our driveway. He loves to hand Brad tools, water bottles and whatever else he needs. He is the cutest little assistant ever!!!!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spaghetti with Chicken and Zucchini

The night I made this dish was one of those nights where I didn't feel like making or eating what was on our planned menu. I was inspired yet again by the fresh zucchini I was given by my mother in law. This dish was simple to put together, tasted fresh and was excellent as lunch left overs the next day.

Spaghetti with Chicken and Zucchini
By Nat

1 small zucchini, julienne or cut into ribbons
5 cups of homemade (or your faveorite red pasta sauce)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper flakes to taste

8 oz angel hair pasta cooked al dente

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta according to instructions.
While pasta is cooking, in a large saute pan, heat pan on medium-high flame, add oil when pan is hot. Add garlic and and saute about 1 minute. Add chicken and cook until chicken is cooked through. Add zucchini and season with salt and pepper. Cook about 2 minutes, add tomato sauce, crushed red pepper flakes and fresh parsley and adjust salt and pepper. Stir for another minute. Remove from flame.

Serve sauce mixture over the pasta and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pork Chops with Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

A girl I work with recently gave me a new cook book. THANKS TABITHA! It is entitled Family Comfort Favorites by Kim Warren. There are lots of yummy looking recipes inside that I am anxious to try. This Pork Chops with Creamy Scalloped Potatoes diah is the first dish I tried and I loved it. My whole family loved it. It was the perfect sunday meal.

4 to 6 thick cut bone-in pork loin chops (see note below)
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper
4 50 6 large Yukon or Russet potatoes cut into 1/4" slices
1 can of cream of mushroom soup (I used chicken-we don't like mushrooms)
1 cup of sour cream
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley

1. Generously season both sides of the pork chops with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Then grill, broil or pan fry until nicely browned on both sides and set aside to rest.

2. In a small mixing bowl combine cream of mushroom soup, sour cream and parsley.

3. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray and place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Season potatoes with salt and pepper, then carefully cover with 1/4 of the soup mixture.

4. Repeat layering the potatoes, salt and pepper and soup mixture twice more so that you have 3 layers of potatoes. Place browned pork chops on top of the potatoes and cover with the remaining soup mixture and any juices from the resting pork chops.

5. Cover slow cooker/crock pot and cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

***I used some lean boneless pork chops. Whilst they were fall apart delicious I think that this dish would be best if thick cut bone-in pork loin chops were used. Next time I plan to use thick cut bone-in pork loin chops.***

Saturday, September 26, 2009


A couple of months ago my in-laws took the family on a summer staycation. On the Friday they went to Raging Waters and then on Saturday we went to the Tree House Museum and IFLY in Ogden and then we had dinner together at Iggys. It was a fun day. I'll post pictures of the Tree House museum in another post as there are too many to post all at once.

The Tree House Museum in Ogden is in the same complex as a place called IFLY Utah. IFLY Utah is an indoor skydiving center. A good friend and old boss of mine works there as a flight instructor and I had always wanted to check it out. After we got done at the museum we headed over to IFLY to see if my pal Dusty was working. He was and though we hadn't planned on it a few of us ended up giving it a go. Dusty hooked us up with a sweet deal including a video of the whole thing and we all had a blast to say the least. Thanks Dusty and don't panic Mum- It was nothing like the real thing! No paralysis this time around.

The pictures aren't the greatest but you can get the general idea.

All suited up and ready to go...eeekkk!

Liz and I doing our goofy excited faces just before heading into the tunnel.

Brad went first and was a total natural- We were all impressed. The proper skydiving technique is actually allot harder than it looks.

Nat in the tunnel

Liz's Turn

Liz mid flip

Uncle Blake

Uncle Brian