HAPPY LABOR DAY!

September 3, 2012

Fortunately, we both have the day off from work and will be trying to get a little R&R!

We appreciate all our readers and wish everyone a Blessed and Happy Labor Day. :-)

 

photo credit: maorlando on Flickr

~LilSis

Happy petunias make me very happy!

June 18, 2011

 

Happy purple petunias on my front walk.

I’ve had to really ‘baby’ these petunias that are in my front yard because they get a little more sun that they like, but they seem to be happy now, which makes me very happy!

I love how this random yellow pansy seeded right in the middle of this pot. :-)

When BigSis was here visiting, we were talking while I was watering and we both agreed that petunias always remind us of our Grandmama. Petunias and snapdragons always bring back happy childhood memories of our visits to her house and of her beautiful flower garden.

Happy yellow petunias

And I just love these yellow petunias that I bought for the shower! They’re very happy in my backyard.

~Not to be “Debbie Downer”, but this week has been a bit of a melancholy week. We’ve both been extremely busy with work so there hasn’t been much time for a new post, but it’s also been a little hard to get in the mood to talk about anything related to Father’s Day.~

Last year I was able to shop for Father’s Day cards for my father-in-law for the first time since Daddy passed away, but for some reason I couldn’t do it this year; four years later. I had to ask my hubby to go pick them out for his dad so I wouldn’t end up a blubbering idiot in Hallmark reading sentimental Father’s Day cards.

Any time I’m a little ‘down in the dumps’, I make myself go for a walk by the beach or just go out into my yard and do some gardening. Both of those things always cheer me up.

We’re lucky that here in Southern California we have flowers that bloom year round and right now I’ve got some blooming like crazy! So, instead of talking about Father’s Day today, I wanted to post some pictures of some of my very happy flowers in my yard that make me very happy! :-)

Happy Impatiens on my front porch.

In the winter, I just cut these impatiens back and leave the pots on the front porch and they come back in full force every Spring.

Happy Blue Hydrangeas

These blue Hydrangeas that I bought for the shower are absolutely gorgeous now that they’re in full bloom.

Happy Pink Hibiscus

I have a huge Hibiscus tree in our back yard that has struggled for a couple of years with some mean ole bugs, but hopefully this is a sign of some happy hibiscus this year.

Happy Orange Hibiscus starting to open.

The orange Hibiscus tree had to be trimmed all the way back a couple of years ago because of bugs, but this is my first bloom of the year so I hope it’s going to provide lots of happy blooms for us this year.

Happy pink Geranium.

We have several different varieties of Geraniums in our yard, but these pink ones are very happy.

Happy Bird of Paradise

And, one of my most favorite flowers is the Bird of Paradise and I’m really lucky to have several of these happy plants in my yard.

So, whatever you do tomorrow, whether you’re able to celebrate Father’s Day with your father or just spend some time reflecting on happy memories, as we’ll be doing, we wish you all a very Happy Father’s Day!


~LilSis

What to Eat for Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2011

Classic Tortilla Soup

Classic Tortilla Soup

Like most of our Texas sisters from other misters and brothers from other mothers, we sisters love our Mexican food!  Give us a reason to eat it.  Please!

Or don’t give us a reason.  We’ll still eat it.

Morning, noon and night.  We’ll eat it 3 times a day.  Or more.  Girls need snacks sometimes, you know.

Cinco de Mayo is the official Mexican food eating holiday though, so bring it on!  Check out the recap we put together last year with some of our favorite Cinco de Mayo dishes.

My new favorite Mexican food snack is veganized Bob Armstrong Dip, so that’s what I’ll be making.

Vegan Bob Armstrong Queso Dip

Vegan Bob Armstrong Queso Dip

Whatever you feast on, enjoy your Cinco de Mayo!

~BigSis

My 1st Easter Bunny Cake. Floppy, the flop.

April 18, 2011

Easter Bunny Cake

Let’s see. Where do I begin?

First of all, if you’re new here on BigSisLilSis, I should probably start by saying that I’m not a baker; and for those of you that have been reading for a while, I know that you’ve heard me say it over, and over, and over again. (But, it’s true.)

Secondly, I didn’t purposely set out to make my own birthday cake, but it just worked out that way. Yep. Today is my birthday and it’s kind of a scary number for me so I won’t mention how many candles should be on my cake. My hubby is really good about buying me wonderful birthday cakes from a local French Bakery, but I told him not to buy me one this year since I was making my first Easter Bunny Cake and we could just consider it my birthday cake.

One more thing before we get to the cake. I’ve always loved Duff and his show, Ace of Cakes and I love watching the cake decorating contests on Food Network, but after attempting this Easter Bunny Cake, I have a new-found respect and admiration for all cake decorators.

Here’s a little conversation that happened when HayHay, my 17 yr old son, walked in after school on Friday after I had just finished my cake.

Me: “HayHay, did you see my Easter Bunny Cake?”

Hay: “No.”

Me: “Will you please look at it and tell me what you think? I’m really disappointed because I made it just like the photo from the recipe and she’s not very cute.”

(This is what Floppy looked like when he first saw her.)

Easter Bunny Cake

Hay: “I think it looks pretty good considering you’re not a baker.”

(I think he really did intend for that to be a compliment.)

So, let’s back up and start with the construction of the cake. I used this Betty Crocker Easter Bunny Cake recipe and to begin, bake the cake according to directions for the 8″ or 9″ round pans and let the cake cool.

Cut one of the cake layers in half.

Easter Bunny Cake

Put halves together with frosting to form body. Place cake upright on plate or tray. Cut out a notch about one-third of the way up on one end of body to form head.

Easter Bunny Cake

Attach half of cutout piece to end of cake with a toothpick to form tail.

Easter Bunny Cake

I didn’t want the ears made of construction paper, so I decided to cut the edges off of the other cake layer to form the ears.

(The crack down the middle of the cake was an accident. It happened when I took the cake off the parchment paper. I didn’t even consider that the warm cake would stick to the parchment paper. DUH! A real baker would know not to do that. A real baker would have a cooling rack.)

Easter Bunny Cake

I forgot to take a photo, but for the ears, I just took the two edges that weren’t broken and put them together and then cut that piece in half to form the two ears.

Now, time to frost the cake.

Easter Bunny Cake

Betty Crocker recommends using the Carrot Cake for this Easter Bunny Cake, but even though carrot cake seems Easter-ish, I would not suggest it at all. IF, and that’s a BIG IF, I ever made this cake again, I would use a white cake. Even though the recipe says that if you put the cut pieces of the cake in the freezer for an hour before frosting, you won’t have a problem with crumbs, that wasn’t the case for me. With the carrot cake and the white icing, any time crumbs got in the icing, it was extremely obvious, and a big mess to fix, so why not use a white cake so if crumbs did get in the icing, you couldn’t see them?

Next, sprinkle with coconut.

Easter Bunny CakeIs it starting to look like a bunny yet?

Next, I attached the ears with toothpicks.

Then, just color some coconut green, sprinkle on the platter and scatter some jelly beans. I also colored some coconut pink for the inside of the ears. Just use jelly beans for the eyes and nose and your done.

Cute, huh? Not so much.

Easter Bunny Cake

I’m sure this cake would be fine for a kid’s birthday party or Easter gathering, but I was disappointed. I didn’t think it was cute at all and much smaller than what I expected.

Since I wasn’t happy with Floppy’s face, I decided to sleep on it and play around with it a little bit more yesterday. I never have liked sticking to any original recipe, so I don’t know why I thought I had to when it came to decorating Floppy’s face.

First, I decided to try pink eyes instead of the black.

Easter Bunny Cake

That’s a little bit cuter, but how about some whiskers?

Easter Bunny Cake

I don’t know. How about adding a mouth?

Easter Bunny Cake

Not. That looks even more goofy!

Why don’t we just change the face completely?

Easter Bunny Cake

I found this little marshmallow Easter Bunny while at the drug store the other day and decided to try using it’s face on my Easter Bunny Cake.

Now the face is definitely too small or maybe the ears are just too big.

Easter Bunny Cake

Let’s try the ears from the marshmallow bunny.

Easter Bunny Cake

That’s a little better, don’t ya think?

Meet Floppy, the flop.

Easter Bunny Cake

Not exactly what I had planned on, but I guess it’ll have to do. I think Floppy was my first and last Easter Bunny Cake.

I’m glad my hubby had a Plan B for my birthday cake.

He surprised me with this gorgeous cake!

~LilSis

Easter Cake Pops

April 14, 2011

I’m not much of a sweet eater but there’s something about Easter that brings out a little bit of a sweet tooth in me. Maybe it’s all those years of eating the Reese’s peanut butter eggs and Cadbury cream eggs that makes me crave sugar at this time of year?  :-)

If you’re in the mood to make some festive sweet treats for Easter and are interested in trying something a little different this year, you might want to consider making some of these adorable Easter Cake Pops.

Easter Cake Pops

Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats

Just in case you’ve never seen or heard of Bakerella, she has become quite infamous for creating the most adorably decorated, fun, and festive Cake Pops. Last year she came out with her own gorgeous book that shows you how you can make them yourself.

It’s not too late to order this book from Amazon and have it in plenty of time to make some of these for Easter!

Here are just a few of the Easter Cake Pops featured in her book.

Easter Bunny Cake PopsEaster Bunny Cake Pops

Easter Egg Cake PopsEaster Egg Cake Pops

Easter Spring Chicks Cake PopsEaster Spring Chicks Cake Pops

I just love each of every one of these adorable little creations!

I’m actually stepping outside my comfort zone this year and am going to attempt to make my first Easter Bunny Cake! If it’s not a total flop, I’ll be posting photos here in just a few days, so be sure to check back with us.  :-)

(Images from Bakerella)

~LilSis

I’m not ready to talk about pumpkin yet.

September 24, 2010

We’ve got less than a week before October rolls around and most everyone is already talking about baking with pumpkins and apples and getting ready for the holidays, but I’m not ready to say “goodbye” to summer yet!

We didn’t have much summer weather this year in Southern California; it’s been mostly cool and foggy, even into September, which is normally one of our hottest months of the year.

But, the good news is that it’s supposed to be gorgeous this weekend; not a cloud in the sky and in the low 80s with a slight breeze.  And you can bet your booty that I’m planning on enjoying every second of it.

Since I’m not quite ready to admit that it’s almost October and I’m still in the salad and grilling “frame of mind”, here are a few recipes that I found this week from some of my favorite foodies who aren’t yet talking about pumpkin either.

Waldorf Salad by A Southern Grace

Grilled Portobello Pizzas by Lisa is Cooking

Skirt Steak Salad with Blue Cheese from Smitten Kitchen

Pan Seared Black Cod with Summer Vegetables by Use Real Butter

If it’s nice this October, I may not say goodbye to summer until November and maybe by then I’ll be in the mood to talk about pumpkin; just in time for Thanksgiving. :-)

~LilSis

Funfetti Firecracker Cupcakes

July 11, 2010

Funfetti Firecracker Cupcakes

I didn’t even know that they still made Pop Rocks until a few weeks ago when a friend of ours brought them out at the end of a party. (Yes, we tend to get a little silly sometimes.) These little popping candies bring back some fond childhood memories for me so when I stumbled across Noble Pig’s Firecracker Cupcakes recipe with Pop Rocks, I knew that I would be making them soon.

By the way, Noble Pig’s Firecracker Cupcakes garnished with blueberries and raspberries are the most gorgeous cupcakes that I’ve ever seen!

I made my simpler version, Funfetti Firecracker Cupcakes last Sunday for our 4th of July Party but in all the excitement of getting ready for the party, I didn’t get photos taken of that batch. So, I decided to make them again since these fun cupcakes don’t have to be made exclusively for the 4th of July. They could bring a bang to any holiday or birthday celebration.  What kid doesn’t get a kick out of of Pop Rocks? (And most adults love them, too!)

Note: I don’t do a lot of baking from scratch, so this is my easy, breezy, simple way to make these cupcakes.

Funfetti Firecracker Cupcakes
(adapted from Noble Pig)

One Pillsbury Funfetti Cake Mix
3 eggs
1/3 c. oil
1 c. water
Pillsbury Whipped Supreme Cream Cheese frosting
One 1.75 oz Betty Crocker Rainbow Mix sprinkles
Assorted colors of Pop Rocks
Various candies or fruit

In a large bowl, add the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water and mix for two minutes on low mixer or whisk by hand for two minutes. Fold in the candy sprinkles. Line cupcake pan with baking cups and fill with batter. Bake at 350 degrees until done. If the cups are filled 2/3 to the top, the cupcakes should take 18-22 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting.

I prefer to fill the baking cups almost all the way to the top so they take between 22-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Funfetti Firecracker Cupcakes

When you're talking about cupcakes, a muffin top is a good thing!

I could actually enjoy one of these cupcakes just like this without the frosting, but decorating these cupcakes is where the fun comes in!

Funfetti Firecracker Cupcakes

Frost the cupcakes or pipe on the frosting as I did and then sprinkle the tops with various flavors of Pop Rocks. I found a variety pack at Walgreens that contained one of each flavor: Strawberry, Watermelon, and Tropical Punch.

(I thought the Watermelon flavor in the green packet would turn out to be green Pop Rocks, but they were also pink like the Strawberry flavor.)

Pop Rocks

To achieve a good firecracker effect, sprinkle the Pop Rocks on just before serving. The moisture is what makes the candies pop, so they will start popping immediately.

How’s this for a big teenage boy bite?

Funfetti Firecracker Cupcake

It’s like a little party of explosions going off in your mouth!

Later this week, I’ll be sharing with you another fun Pop Rocks recipe. Ever tried a cocktail beverage with Pop Rocks?

~LilSis

Easter Candy Gifts

March 29, 2010

The April 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living is loaded with creative and crafty ideas for celebrating Easter. If I had the patience, I would have attempted the adorable Easter Egg Sugar cookies, but I knew they would never have come out as beautiful as the ones in the magazine.  So when I saw the adorable Easter Candy Parade, I thought these cute little jars might be something I could put together since they didn’t require any baking! :-)

These are perfect little gifts for teachers, friends, neighbors or coworkers. I think they’re a lot more fun and colorful than just giving someone a bag of candy or a chocolate bunny for a Happy Easter gift.

WalMart had a huge assortment of pretty, colorful Easter candy this year. I used a combination of Speckled Malted Milk Balls, Mini Robin Eggs, Pastel Peanut M&Ms, Speckled Jelly Bird Eggs, SweetTarts Jelly Beans, Reese’s Pieces Pastel Eggs, the white chocolate bunny, and even some edible green apple grass. I also got the apothecary jars at WalMart for around $3.00 each.

These are so easy to make that the kids would even enjoy putting these together themselves. I went a little overboard so I’ve got to go get more jars so I can make more gifts or else we’re going to end up with way too much Easter candy left in this house!

~LilSis

Best-Ever Almond Toffee

December 30, 2009

The weekend before we left for Chicago, I decided that I was going to make Almond Toffee to give to our friends and neighbors for Christmas. It probably wasn’t the best timing to try a new recipe as we were still finishing up Christmas shopping, wrapping, and packing in preparation for our trip to Chicago the following day.

On top of all that, we ended up spending most of the weekend in Mission Bay at HayHay’s surf competition since he made it all the way to the finals. But, somehow, in the midst of all that, I did manage to make two batches of toffee.

I’d like to give a “shout out” and a “huge thanks” to Anna of Cookie Madness for taking the time to reply to me via email regarding a couple of questions I had about the instructions.
I really appreciate it, Anna!

This recipe is one that Anna has made for many years and since the directions are a little long, I think it’s best for you to go to Cookie Madness for the Best-Ever Almond Toffee recipe. You’ll also want to read her Almond Toffee Revisited post which has more tips on making this toffee turn out “just right”.

Pecan Toffee

For my first try at this recipe, I just made the small batch so I could get a feel for it. I substituted pecans for the almonds, since I had some on hand, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. Other than that, this batch was just a teensy bit thicker than I would have liked, which may have been because the temperature got up to almost 295 before I poured it out of the pan. It was still crispy and crunchy, just not perfect.

BigSis has made this toffee almost every Christmas for as long as I can remember. And, guess what? Hers is always perfect. Mine turned out pretty darn good for being my first time to make it, but it wasn’t perfect. That’s okay though, I still gave myself a little pat on the back for trying something new and not having a meltdown over a slightly thick batch of toffee.

Best-Ever Almond Toffee

For my second batch, I went ahead and doubled the recipe since I was feeling a little better about the process. This time I did use almonds, but since I discovered that I don’t like chopping chocolate, I used semi-sweet chips instead. (I shouldn’t have done that!) When I asked for a couple of expert opinions from the chocolate lovers in my house, they both noticed that the chocolate in the first batch was better.

This batch also turned out a little too thick, as you can tell in the photo, but it was still good. I don’t think anyone else really noticed, but this batch got a little chewy after the initial crunch. It wasn’t as crispy and crunchy as it should have been, but I think I know why. I panicked just a little after I poured it into the pan and I think I gave the pan one too many teeny, tiny taps, which Anna specifically advised me not to do. I knew right away that some of the air bubbles were popping and apparently that’s what keeps this toffee so crunchy.

When in Chicago, my mother-in-law happened to pull out some toffee that her brother-in-law had sent to her from Florida. Even though I usually bypass the sweets, I was curious to try it because of my recent attempts at toffee making. This toffee was even thicker than my second batch but somehow was still really crunchy and crispy. It’s supposedly made at some special store and our uncle loves it, so if I ever end up with a perfect batch of toffee, I’m going to send some to him and my mother-in-law. I’m sure they’d both be surprised!

All in all, in the end, I did learn a few things about making toffee.

First of all, toffee making is not for wimps. I never knew how long it took to get candy up to 290 degrees and with constant stirring, it’s a bit of a workout. Secondly, I would invest in a new thermometer before attempting this again.

This is the thermometer that I used, which is the “attach-to-the-pan” type that Anna advises not to use. It’s all I had and I didn’t have time to go get a new one, so the fact that both batches turned out thick probably means that my thermometer was a bit off.

Lastly, just stick exactly to Anna’s Best-Ever Almond Toffee recipe! Don’t make substitutions, use a good thermometer, and follow the instructions to a tee and I bet you end up with a perfect batch of toffee! :-)

~LilSis

Texas Brisket Recipe

September 7, 2009

I’m a little late posting this brisket recipe, so you obviously won’t be making it for Labor Day, but around our house, any get-together is reason enough to make this foolproof Texas Brisket. It’s perfect for feeding a big crowd.

This is one of those recipes that I love, where there are no precise measurements or exact ingredients.  Our really great friends, F & K, who were neighbors of ours in Texas, loved my brisket so much that they begged me to write down my recipe for them before they moved back to Maryland. That was over ten years ago and I still make it the exact same way as I did back then.

Brisket is kind of like chili; everyone has their own way of doing it and there can be quite a debate about the best way to cook it: dry rub or marinade, grill or oven, baste or don’t baste, etc..

Daddy always raved about my brisket so I would make this almost every time we had a family get-together. It’s really quite simple. Here’s my version of Texas Brisket.

Texas Brisket

4 oz bottle Liquid Smoke
2 pkgs. Meat Marinade
Adkins Seasoning
12 – 14 lb. beef brisket
Barbecue sauce

First, trim off almost all fat, leaving only a small layer on bottom. Mix the Meat Marinade (I used to use McCormick’s Meat Marinade but can’t find it any more. Just use any brand that you mix with oil, water, and a little vinegar.) Put the brisket in a roaster, cover with the marinade mixture and leave in refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, remove the brisket from the marinade, place in a clean roaster fat side down. Sprinkle the top and bottom generously with Liquid Smoke. Sometimes, I even use the entire bottle. Then, sprinkle with Adkins Seasoning.

Cover and bake in a 300 degree oven for 30-45 minutes per pound. Don’t baste! You don’t even need to open the oven. When there is one hour remaining to cook, turn down the oven to 275 degrees and cover the brisket with your favorite barbecue sauce, whether homemade or store bought. Sometimes we make homemade sauce and sometime we just buy KC Masterpiece; it just depends on how much time I have.

Watch carefully to make sure the sauce does not burn. If you have a hot oven, you can even turn it down to 250 degrees at this stage. After about an hour, check to make sure the brisket is nice and tender. Remove from oven, let rest for about 20-30 minutes, then slice on the diagonal against the grain.

Sometimes, we just serve it in nice big tender slices and sometimes I chop it up and add more sauce to serve as chopped beef on rolls. It turns out perfect every time!  :-)   Give this recipe a try; I promise you’ll like it!

~LilSis