Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Saying "Happy Birthday" with Cookies

Hey- guess what? I'm still alive. You wouldn't know it based on my lack of blogging, but I promise I'm still here. Hank has been tasked with sharing our 98% finished bathroom remodel, so hopefully he'll entertain you with that sooner than later (ahem.) In the meantime, I'll share my latest little baking project.

I had two friends with birthdays this past weekend, so of course I used it as an excuse to try out some royal icing decorating techniques. I had seen this beautiful cookie set from one of my favorite cookie decorators and knew they would be perfect for my friends. I'm obsessed with making flowers and am desperately trying to perfect them. I have a ways to go, but was pretty happy with the final product of this set.

This particular group took several days to make. Day 1- making the dough and baking the cookies. Day 2- making and coloring the royal icing. Days 3 and 4 for laying the foundation and adding on the "fancy".

I really like seeing the cookies progress from just plain old sugar cookies, to the final product. But sometimes- the in-between cookie can be really pretty too.

The Holland House: Unfinished Cookies

The Holland House: Plaque Cookies

After the first layer of white icing and the dark purple lines (it was late at night- so I apologize for the crummy picture quality), I added initials for the recipients, and royal icing ribbon roses that had been made the night before. This video gives a great demo on how to create them.

The Holland House: Finished Plaque Cookies

The Holland House: Personalized Cookies

Once all of the cookies were finished and dried, I bagged them individually and put them in a gift box.

The Holland House: Cookie Gift Box

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brees' Half Birthday

September 4th came and went without me sharing that it's Brees' half birthday. It's also the anniversary of my beloved grandparents AND the anniversary of Hank's parents. So it's a pretty special day! I know she is just a dog, but we love this silly girl so much, and can't believe she's already six months old.

She's 40.5 pounds, and I don't even know how tall (think small pony). She loves going to Mud Puppies for play care, peanut butter, new toys, and laying in bed with us for just a little bit before going into her crate at night. She's as goofy as they come (her tongue sticks sideways out her mouth half the time), and  we just can't imagine life without her.

The Holland House: Brees at 6 months

This is how she looks after a day of play care. $20 well spent!!

The Holland House: Brees after Mud Puppies

And sadly, the Saints jersey that I bought her months ago (in a size LARGE!!) is already too small. Looks like we might have to stick to a bandana until we know how big she'll end of being.

The Holland House: Brees in Saints jersey

Friday, September 13, 2013

Corn and Jalapeño Mexittata

I don't know about you, but by the time we reach Thursday evening at the Holland House, I'm pretty tired of cooking dinner. Long days at work, the lure of the weekend ahead, and now football season...the last thing I want to do is spend a bunch of time in the kitchen. When I meal plan on the weekend, I try to balance how labor intensive each night's meal is, and I often leave Thursday nights open in case we decide to order chinese take-out instead.

Since we're trying really hard to stay on track with healthy, whole-food meals, I managed to summon the strength to fix a weeknight meal that wouldn't have me slaving in the kitchen forever. One of my favorite go-to meals is a frittata. It's inexpensive, quick, and usually a great way to clean out the fridge. I wasn't in the mood for just any old frittata though. I wanted spice (and carbs) to go with it. A quick google search led me to this recipe that served as the inspiration for this dish.

The Holland House: Corn and Jalapeño Mexittata

The ingredients for this dinner cost $7.98 at the store (plus the bag of frozen corn, bell pepper and lime that I already had). Not too shabby for a meal that made 4 hearty servings for us. You could easily add a side salad, or a little meat in the frittata, if you want up the calorie content and feed a few more people. For our little family of 2 though, there was just enough for his and her portions for dinner and lunch the next day. In fact, I think Hank was planning on eating his for breakfast!

One last thing before I get to the recipe that I know you're dying to see. "Recipe" is a strong word. I treat it like most of the things I make up in my kitchen. It's a starting point, and I hope that you'll make it your own based on the things that you have available in your kitchen. Add some bacon/ham/chorizo if you want. Don't like pepper jack cheese? Use something else instead. If you have an aversion to onions, leave them out. I promise it will still taste ok!

On to the dish...I renamed it a "Mexitatta" in honor of the spicier ingredients used. I think the possibilities are endless for the flavor combinations you could try with this. Poblano + queso fresco, and black bean + avocado are a few I'd like to try.

First, get organized and gather your ingredients.

The Holland House: Mexittata Ingredients

Spray your pan with baking spray and line it with corn tortillas. Make sure to cover all of the surface. I tore some in half and used those to line the sides. Bake the tortilla layer at 350° for about 5-8 minutes until slightly crispy, but still a little bit soft. (I used a pie dish to keep the tortillas in place while baking.)

The Holland House: Tortilla Skillet

Make your salsa in one bowl, and the egg mixture in another. Reserve about 3/4 cup of salsa and then combine the remaining salsa and egg mix together with cheese. Cheese (even just a little bit) makes everything taste better.

The Holland House: Corn and Jalapeño Salsa

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the top is no longer jiggly. Now is a great time to clean up your mess! Take the frittata out of the oven and let cool for a bit.

The Holland House: Mexittata Before
Before going in the oven.

The Holland House: Mexittata After
After- straight out of the oven.
Serve with some of the reserved salsa (and maybe even a dollop of light sour cream if you feel extra fancy).

The Holland House: Corn and Jalapeño Mexittata

Corn and Jalapeño Mexittata
(makes 8 slices)

Printable Recipe Here

I used my LoseIt app to estimate the nutritional info for this (per slice).

212 calories
12.3g fat
16.1g cholesterol
103.6g sodium
15.8g carbs
1.2g fiber
6.1g sugar
12.7g protein

Next time you're looking for a fairly easy dinner, I hope you'll give this a try. And if you get creative and come up with your own flavor combinations, please feel free to share.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Adventures in Babysitting

On Saturday night Hank and I drove down to San Marcos to babysit Georgia and Blair (niece and nephew) so my sister and brother in law could go to a football game. We've babysat for friends and for Georgia a handful of times, and I used to nanny for newborns in college, so we're fully qualified to do so. But this was the first time that we've ever babysat for two(!) little ones. I know, I know....you parents are shaking your heads thinking what's the big deal? When you're used to watching football/cooking dinner/hanging out on the couch without any interruptions though, it's a big. freaking. deal.

We got down there around 4:30 and I swear from 4:30-9:30 there was not a moment of silence, with the exception (and great accomplishment) of having everyone at the dinner table to eat together. And that only lasted about 10 minutes. Don't get me wrong- both of them are great. But Georgia is still used to getting all of our attention, so I felt bad anytime we had to tend to Blair. And Blair is typically a great baby, except on this particular night when he decided to be all gassy and fussy for the evening. After having been up since 5:30 am and running in the ridiculous Austin heat and humidity, it's an understatement to say we were exhausted by the time we rolled home.

Some highlights from our evening:

Georgia wanting Hank to marry her. Try explaining why that is not possible to an almost 4 year old. I dare you.

The Holland House: Georgia and Hank

Blair's stink face. I felt bad that he got so gassy and that I wasn't able to provide much relief. But that adorable squishy face is cute no matter how ticked off he looks.

The Holland House: Stink Face

Georgia playing "beauty parlor" with Hank. She didn't seem to care that he doesn't have any hair. She was happy to fix it anyway. And...I happen to think this is one of the sexiest pictures of my husband. Ever. Baby on his lap, 4 year old playing with his hair- and he was totally ok with it. I do love this man!

The Holland House: Playing beauty parlor

Georgia blowing bubbles by the pool. She is everything that is sweet and innocent and precious about little girls, and I just love her to death. It's so hard watching them grow up when you want them to stay like this forever!

The Holland House: Blowing bubbles

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Bathroom Remodel: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

We made serious progress towards our bathroom remodel this past weekend- finally making decisions on lighting and mirrors. The project has been on hold until those two things happened. Hank was all fired up to get to work on Sunday, only to come across one major problem when he removed the existing light fixture:

The Holland House: Bathroom Electricity
Not necessarily up to code, and certainly outside his expertise. But have no fear. My ever patient and resourceful husband made a few phone calls and got a few quotes, and we should be moving forward this weekend. I know he'll share more details when he reveals the final project, but let's just say that remodels are never short of fun little surprises. Hoping that we only have 2 weekends left of this project. I'm ready to move on to the next one!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lunch in a Box: Mango Chutney Chicken Salad

I made a version of this chicken salad a few months ago when I started eating chicken again. The recipe worked at the time, but I knew I could do better. A three day weekend meant I had a little extra time to make some dishes for lunch this week, so I got to work on improving this recipe.

Substituting greek yogurt for mayonnaise often results in a more bitter or tart taste, and you definitely lose some of the richness of a traditional chicken salad. So this go around I added some light sour cream to help offset the tartness, along with a tablespoon or two of Mango Chutney to better round out the flavor. I will say that you have to love the taste of curry powder in order to love this chicken salad. I know it's not for everyone, but I like the different take on a classic dish.

First you'll need to boil and shred 3-4 chicken breasts. I used 3, but there is easily enough sauce for 4. While the chicken is cooking, you can assemble your ingredients.

The Holland House: Mango Chutney Chicken Salad Ingredients

I toasted the almonds, but you don't have to if you don't feel like it. My only suggestion if you do is that you don't forget about them like I did. Because toasted and blackened are two different things.

The Holland House: Toasted Almonds

Mango Chutney Chicken Salad
(makes 4-6 servings)

3-4 boiled and shredded chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups 0% fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbs light sour cream
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs curry powder
3 green onions, chopped (I only used the light green part)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1-2 Tbs Major Grey Mango Chutney (you could also us sweet or spicy)
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and adjust seasonings to taste. Stores well in the fridge for about 3 days.

The Holland House: Mango Chutney Chicken Salad

I also packed Cilantro Jalapeño Hummus and Homemade Raspberry Applesauce, two of my favorite lunch staples. I used my crockpot and cooked the apples for about 2 hours before blending in my Vitamix. Watch out- the stuff is addictive!!

Sweet Elise

Well, I did it! After years of baking for friends and family, I finally put myself out there as a small business baking sweets for special occasions. Under the Texas Cottage Food Law, I am able to sell baked goods out of my home and I couldn't be more excited about this new venture. I am still working full-time (with no plans to change that any time soon), but at least now maybe I can fund my hobby and build on my skill set. I have always loved making special treats for others, and I'm looking forward to doing the same for even more friends.

Over the weekend I made a few dozen cookies in a variety of shapes, just so that I could practice some icing techniques and designs. I might have bit off more than I could chew- as it was a little overwhelming to keep track of so many ideas and colors at one time. But I'm really happy with a few of the final products and thought I would share them with you.

The Holland House: Hello Kitty Cookie

The Holland House: Cupcake Cookies

The Holland House: Longhorn Cookies

The Holland House: Ballerina Cookies

The Holland House: Monogram Cookies

You might be wondering how I came about the name Sweet Elise. Elise is my middle name, passed down to me from the best grandmother ever- my sweet Nana. I thought Sweet Elise had a nice ring to it, and there is not a similarly named business in the Austin area.

My goal for the next few months is to take on 3-4 jobs a month (October is already booked!!) and work on my efficiency and pricing. The more work I do, the faster I get- and that will definitely help keep pricing affordable. If you live in the Austin area and would like more information about my services, please feel free to contact me at amyeliseholland@gmail.com. You can also visit (and like) my Facebook page.
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