Kayla’s Story

I had started a completely different post but it seemed too angry and bitter, which is not what I want to express so I am starting again. I want to tell you a story. A story about a young girl who has made such an impact on not only my life, but others as well. This is Kayla’s story.

Kayla was born on a surprisingly warm night in November of 1999. At almost 10 pounds at birth, she came out looking like a 3 month old. What surprised us was that she acted like one too. We discovered later that she would always act this way.

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Her brief time as an infant and toddler was normal with a few scares since she is a little accident prone with one exception……. At the ripe age of two, her dad was deployed. By the time she was three, she had survived a year without her father and losing her younger sister. It was a rough year for us all. Sad songs made her cry and she would refuse to tell anyone good-bye but she still held on to herself. Her own brand of Kayla-ness. Anyone who has ever met her, knows what I am talking about.

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A few days after she turned four, I gave birth to her brother and we were complete.

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The next seven years were a blur of babysitting, Girl Scouts, and school work. Then, another deployment came around, but this time was different. We were prepared……veterans in our own right. Besides, we had Adam. He was and still is our comforter.

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After his return from Iraq, my husband began working 7 days a week in the foundry of a local auto parts factory. He worked 7 days a week for the next two years until he was accepted into the AGR program with the Army. We happily packed our bags and started on our new adventure here in Pennsylvania. For the first few months, Kayla seemed to be the “new toy” at her school. Popular and loved by everyone, we had no idea what laid on the horizon.

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She began to date a local boy from her school. It was the first time she ever fell in love and the first time her heart was ever broken. The problems began shortly after that. At first it was only a few ugly things on the internet and on her phone, then came the threats. We began saving the things we could see so we could take it to her school when she begged us to let her handle it. After all, she has always been one tough cookie.

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The next day, she stood up to the group of girls and they left her alone. Her father and I breathed a sigh of relief.

We were wrong.

About a month later, Kayla was attacked by another girl after school. When I arrived to pick her and Adam up, I was shocked to discover Kayla and her “friends” talking to a police officer. When I approached the group and realized that she had been attacked. I was immediately told to take Kayla and sit in my vehicle. We were not given a chance to talk to the girl or her parents. The next three days were filled with meetings with the police and the principal of her school. Kayla began to get harassed on the internet. We informed the officer that we wanted to press charges against her attacker and was met with excuses. We started to press the officer for action and was told that he was going to press charges against both girls for disorderly conduct despite Kayla being the only one injured. We understood his implication and left the officer alone. The school refused to punish anyone because it happened after school hours. Two students and a parent (Yes, you heard right. A. Parent.) recorded the attack with their phones. The two students deleted the video after speaking to the officer but it was the parent who uploaded the video to YouTube for everyone’s enjoyment. We watched the video, which instantly became a hit at her school, with disgust and heartbreak. It shows her “friends” cheering, laughing, and urging the attack on including the ones we brought into our home and treated like family. No, I will not put a link to it. It is a disgusting and brutal video, uploaded by a pathetic person who enjoys harming children and I refuse to give her what she wants.

Want to know why all this happened? The boy who broke Kayla’s heart started spreading rumors about her. That’s it. Angry yet? We sure are.

Our child, whom we swore to protect, has been attacked, insulted, and violated and we can’t do a damn thing about it. How’s that for kicks? Expect your child to be exempt from bullying because he/she seems “normal”? Forget it. Hope you never see real fear in your child’s eyes? Forget it. Assume that your child will be protected by the anti-bullying laws? Forget it. Think those friends won’t turn on your child in a heartbeat? FORGET IT.  It has truly been a nightmare experience. I have mourned the loss of my daughter’s innocence. Mourned it like the loss of a family member. I have been humiliated at my lack of protection for my daughter and angered at the abuse of my hospitality. I CARED for those children. My emotions have hit rock bottom and the only way to go is up so here goes……

To the boy who not only broke her heart but started these vicious rumors about Kayla, I forgive you.

To the “friends” who cheered the attack on, I forgive you.

To the officer who refuses to take action, I forgive you.

To the mother who filmed the attack and uploaded it to YouTube, I forgive you.

To the school officials who didn’t punish the ones responsible, I forgive you.

And finally, to myself who failed to protect Kayla, I forgive ME.

Why forgive? Because we are who we are and hating someone won’t change them. Holding onto that anger isn’t going to help us heal our hearts. I can’t speak for my husband or for Kayla either but I can say this…….. Yes, you might have momentarily harmed us which in turn made you feel better for a brief moment in time but your actions won’t for one second, take away the first ounce of joy we have or will experience in life. I can’t hate you. I pity you and wish nothing but the best for you. How can I say that? Love. I have been blessed with an abundance of love in this old life of mine. Every joy and every heartache has brought me to this place. Here, where I can forgive, let go, and thrive once again.

This is all mine.

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Thank you for reading.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are my go to cookies for when I want some chocolate NOW! Nay, I NEED it before I go running through the house screaming, “CHOCOLATE! CHOOOOOCOLATE!” (Name that show.) And then your husband sobs in the corner and your children cower in fear and your cats flee in terror….. Don’t let your cats flee in terror! Stop the TERROR!! Stop it! Just STAAAHP……

…….staaaahp…..

Step one: Gather your ingredients. You will need milk, butter, sugar, salt, cocoa, oatmeal, peanut butter, and vanilla. You can use either chunky or smooth peanut butter and either regular or quick oats. I am using chunky peanut butter and quick oats because that’s the way (Uh huh, uh huh) I like it.

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Step two: Throw that stick of butter into your pot and let it melt over low heat while you prep everything else. Go ahead and set your timer for two minutes. Get out a trivet or hot pads on your work surface and surround it with strips of wax paper. Two is usually enough for me. You will also go ahead and measure out your peanut butter but don’t forget to grease your measuring cup with cooking spray first and the peanut butter will be a lot easier to get out. Also, set out the oatmeal, vanilla, a wooden spoon (or any large spoon), and two regular spoons.

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Step three: After the butter is melted, add in the milk, sugar, cocoa, and pinch of salt. Whisk to get rid of any lumps and turn up the heat to medium high. Now, here is an important part. You will whisk the mixture very frequently until it begins to boil then its HANDS OFF! Start your timer and let it boil for two minutes. NO TOUCHY!!

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Still ok to whisk.

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Still ok to whisk.

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DON’T TOUCH!!

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I MEAN IT!

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NOOOOOOOO!

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Step four: Here is where it gets fast. Quickly remove from heat (Remember the trivet?) and add in your vanilla and peanut butter. Mix well.

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Step five: Throw in your oatmeal. If you haven’t already, switch to stirring with your big spoon. Sometimes you will need the full 2 1/2 cups and sometimes you will need only 2 1/4 cups. It just depends on how dry you like your cookies.

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Step six: Spoon those suckers out onto the wax paper with the small spoons to cool and harden. Now you have to wait. I know, I know, it hard. Go stare at your dog then come back, wash your hands because you’ve been playing with the dogs ears and mouth, and try really hard to eat just two or three.  Enjoy!

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Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1 stick of butter

1/4 cup of cocoa

2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup of milk

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup of peanut butter

1 tsp. vanilla

2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups of oatmeal

Toss the butter in your pot over low heat to melt. Prep other ingredients. After butter has melted, add cocoa, milk, sugar, and salt. Turn heat up and bring mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. After it comes to a boil, HANDS OFF! I MEAN IT! RAWR! Let boil 2 minutes and remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla and mix well. Add oatmeal and mix well again. Scoop mixture out onto wax paper and let cool and harden. Enjoy!

Thank you for reading.

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One last shot of cookie porn.

You’re welcome.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yeah, you heard right. Brown butter chocolate chunk cookies. I also want to tell you something else. I HAVE FINALLY CONQUERED THE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE!! BOOYAH! For years, I couldn’t produce a chocolate chip cookie that was chewy. It was the most infuriating thing EVER! I tried butter, shortening, both butter and shortening. I chilled the batter. I used parchment paper. I tried greasing the sheets. NOTHING! Then came along a little website called Pinterest ( http://www.pinterest.com ) and my life was never the same. You see, I have a confession. I’m a blog junkie. A big one. I can spend hours, HOURS in child-like glee, browsing through different blogs and websites. And it is in that glee, that I found a blog called Ambitious Kitchen ( http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com ) where Monique has perfected the art of browning butter and using that glorious browned butter in cookies so good you want to slap your momma! I was in awe. I was in ecstasy. I was in tears…tears of JOY! I tried the recipe and the heavens parted and the angels sang “Hallelujah”. I danced around our townhouse in jiggly joy causing the animals to flee in terror while shouting about my success like a lunatic. Got the picture?! Good. *click-clack* DELETED!! (Name that movie.)

Let’s get to what you came here for, the cookies. Shall we?!

Step one: Gather your ingredients. You will need flour, salt, soda, butter, brown sugar, egg and egg yolk, vanilla, plain yogurt, and chocolate chunks.

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Step two: We are going to brown that butter. Put your butter in a pan over medium heat and melt. When melted and bubbly, start whisking and don’t stop until the solids have fallen to the bottom of the pan and browned. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes or so.

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Step three: While your butter is cooling, combine your dry ingredients.

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Step four: Add your sugars to the butter and mix well. While the mixer is running, add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and yogurt. Gaze at the buttery goodness. You will smell the yummy browned butter and when combined with everything else, oh its like, well like BUTTA!! Kidding! Its like butterscotch.

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Step five: Add your flour mixture and mix well. You will notice that the batter looks greasy and wet but this is ok! Trust me! Would a fat chick lie about good food?!

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Step six: Fold in your chocolate chunks and scoop out onto lightly greased sheets. Don’t worry about spacing them far apart. We are going to chill the dough before baking. Now is the time to sprinkle the cookies with sea salt if you want that salty sweet punch. We like both. Chill however many you want to eat that day for two hours in the fridge or 30 minutes in the freezer. Put the ones you want to keep for a while in the freezer to flash freeze so you can toss them in a freezer bag and they won’t stick together.

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Step seven: Bake your chilled cookies in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven and how crisp you want them. They should be lightly brown on bottom and ooey gooey in the middle.

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Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/4 all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 sticks of butter

1 1/2 c. brown sugar

1/4 c. sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

2 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. plain yogurt

1 c. chocolate chunks- Can put more in if you want!

Brown butter in saucepan and set aside in bowl to cool 10 minutes or so. Combine flour, soda, and salt together in a separate bowl and set aside. Beat together sugars and butter. While mixer is running, add egg and egg yolk, vanilla, and yogurt. Fold in chunks. Scoop out onto greased sheets and chill 2 hours or freeze 30 minutes. (You can most certainly chill and then scoop but the batter was so firm, it broke my scooper.) Now is also the time to sprinkle with sea salt if you want. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until light golden on bottom and gooey in the middle. Let cool on sheets for 2 minutes and then move to racks to fully cool.

And the movie I quoted was “Liar Liar”. Amen.

Thank you for reading.

Breakfast Gravy

I feel like all I do is apologize for neglecting this blog but I promise that I have a couple of good excuses for it this time and one is completely cute and adorable and I will share photos periodically to make up for it. Ok? Ok. One, is my computer went blah and I am forced to use my phone and my son’s computer. He doesn’t mind but I swear you could shove cotton swabs up his nose and tape his butt crack together while he’s playing a video game and he wouldn’t even know you were there. I am sorry for that image. You can totally “Stank Face” that. What is “Stank Face” you ask? It is the face you make when you smell something stinky. Like this:
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So there you have it. “Stank Face” You may use it as you wish. Also, if I suddenly disappear, it is because I posted Kayla’s “Stank Face” on here. Send help.

Our second reason is completely cute so you can rest easy. We recently expanded our family a few months ago. Are you ready for this? (You better be because she is a tornado!) Meet Bella:
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Cute right? But wait! There’s more!!
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bella

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Yes, yes you may “ooh and aah” because she is cute as hell BUT (And that butt is almost as big as mine) she is hell on paws! Having her here is like having a toddler. A destructive, sharp toothed toddler. And I am too damn old for this!! She is only 3 1/2 months old and twice the size of our old Waa Waa. (May he rest in peace.) I’m in trouble. Feel sorry for me. Then, send cupcakes. Any flavor, I don’t care! Now let’s get on with something really important, the FOOOOOOOOD!!

Ok, let’s talk about an important element of the good old-fashioned the southern breakfast….. gravy. This magical combination of fat, flour, milk, and seasonings have lured families to the table for centuries. Ok, I really don’t know if its been centuries but it sounded good, right? I’m gonna show you how I made gravy this morning and tell you the approximate amounts I used because for once, I didn’t use a recipe. I know! I know! I have complained about not having specific amounts to use but this is the only time I don’t use one! I promise! You can bust my butt later but not too much! I might like it! (I apologize profusely to my mother and the rest of my family but mainly to my mother. Having a teenager, I know what its like to feel all awkward around your daughter. I like to call it “squishy”) Ok, moving on! I will look up measurements on the web and post those as well to give anybody out there that need them, some definite measurements. Here we go!

Step one: Gather your ingredients. You will need some sort of fat. I’m using bacon grease. You will also need flour, milk, and seasonings. I am using salt, pepper, and seasoning salt.
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Step two: Melt your grease in your skillet. I used about 2 tablespoons. My skillet was coated with yummy bits of bologna from frying it earlier. Yes, we eat fried bologna with our gravy. Don’t judge! When that’s good and melted. Sprinkle in your flour (about 2 tablespoons as well) and whisk it until it makes a smooth paste.
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Step three: Keep whisking and browning it until it is as dark as you like. I don’t like my gravy very dark but Doyle does so we compromise. Now, grab your milk jug and pour it right into the pan. I guess that’s around 2 1/2 to 3 cups right there. It will bubble and fizz at first but you just keep whisking away and it will smooth right out. Also, if you didn’t already, now is a good time to add those seasonings.
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Step four: Turn up your heat to med-high. Keep whisking while the gravy comes to a bubble and thickens into smokey, creamy goodness. Turn your heat to low and let simmer while whisking occasionally until its time to serve it up, a.k.a when the biscuits get done. Crumble or split your biscuits and lavishly spoon gravy on top and serve.
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Gravy
3 Tbsp. fat
3 Tbsp. flour
2 1/2-3 c. milk
Seasonings to taste

Melt fat in skillet. Add flour and whisk until smooth and brown as you like. Add in milk, starting with 2 1/2 cups. Season and bring to a bubble over medium- high heat while stirring constantly. When gravy is thick, turn down heat until serving time. Serve over hot biscuit.

You can also add in cooked, crumbled sausage or hamburger. Whatever floats your goat!
Thank you for reading.

Hand Scrub

Remember when I said we were poor years ago? Well, being poor made gift giving rather difficult around the holidays so the kids and I started making gifts to give to friends and family. Those homemade gifts became quite the stir so we have continued it since those lean years long ago! The best part is, you are also making good memories for your kids to reminisce about! Score!! Besides, who doesn’t love being covered head to toe in flour? Wanna hear something funny? I always dust my hands on my butt so I walk around with flour hand prints on my booty! Aw yeah! I’m a dirty girl! Wait…. scratch that. Sorry!

Today I am bringing you a recipe for homemade hand scrub which is so simple, I’m almost ashamed! It calls for two, count ‘em, TWO ingredients!! I’m also gonna show you some cheap and easy ways to package your hand scrub. Ready? Let’s do dis…..

Step one: Gather your ingredients. You will need sugar and Dawn dish soap for hands. That’s it! Ba-da-BING! And some kind of container.

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Step two: Fill your container about 3/4 full with the sugar. I am using some little containers that I got from the Dollar Tree. You get two for a dollar! Not bad!
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Step three: Fill your container the rest of the way with the dish soap and mix well. It will be light pink in color.
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Step four: Put lid on, add hand towel, and decorate! Here’s where you can let your inner Martha out of her cage and get freaky with her bad self!! Yes, I will be showing you how I made these!
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Ok, let’s start with the top left container. And I will give a complete cost breakdown at the end. Just promise not to make fun of my math skills! Pinky swear?! I used some wired red ribbon from the Dollar Tree and my ancient bow making skills that I learned from the florist back in 1996 at Food City in the Plaza. Everybody got that? Good! Start by taking a section of ribbon and wrapping it around the container and towel. Leave a tiny section to tie the bow on with.

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Now, we need to make the bow! Start by making a loop. Now twist your ribbon and make a loop on the other side.
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Make two more loops, remembering to twist the ribbon between loops. I’m not making a large bow here but if you want to make bigger bows, like the kind you see on wreaths, just keep adding loops until it’s as poofy as you want it!
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Remember the little tails you left on the ribbon back on the container? Use those tails to tie your loops onto the container and tuck in the excess. Now you have a pretty little bow!
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The two green containers were very easy so I didn’t take pictures when I made them but I will tell you how! The first one was made by using thin ribbon and simply tying a bow. The second one was made by using wired ribbon, threading an ornament through the ribbon, and tying a simple knot. I made the tails wavy with the help of the wire.
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The last container was made by using regular and red colored raffia ribbon. I wrapped the raffia around the container, securing the towel, and making a simple knot with tails just like the red wired ribbon. We are also going to make loops just like with the red ribbon but without twisting.
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Now, using a tiny piece of raffia, secure the center of the loops. Tie loops to the container using tails. Now before you fluff, take scissors and cut the loops. Now, you may fluff!
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And there you have it!! Amazing hand scrub that is affordable, packaged cute, and smells delicious! Wanna see the cost? Trust me, you are gonna like it!! *wink*wink*nudge*nudge*

Ok, lets start with the soap. I used a store brand and it cost me $1.89 for a 24 oz. bottle. I used about 2/3 of the bottle which makes the cost of the soap, roughly, $1.26. The sugar is regular white sugar. A 5 lb. bag is $2.49. There is approximately 11 and 1/4 cups in a 5 lb. bag but I am going to round down to 11 cups to make it easier on my tired, old brain which makes the cost of the sugar $.23 per cup. I guess I used around 4 1/2 cups but I am going to round it up to 5 just to make sure I got it all and that makes the total cost of sugar used is $1.13. So the estimated cost of sugar and soap is $2.39. Now if I got this wrong, DON’T TELL ME!! Kidding! Please, let me know! Its been a while since I last used my brain!

The cost of the packaging is around $6.00. I am not going to add in the cost of the ribbon because it will drive me absolutely bonkers! $4.00 for the hand towels and $2.00 for the containers.

Grand total is (drum roll) $8.39 for 4 fabulous gifts for giving! Ta-DAAAA!! Thank you! Thank you! Please leave the extra money in my tip jar…. Now you can most certainly leave off the hand towels and save yourself $4.00. The containers are certainly cute on their own! You can also use pint sized mason jars. Tie them off with some raffia or add a small swatch of fabric on the top or both! The possibilities are endless!

Thank you for reading.

Rum Cake

If its Christmas time and you see me coming out of a liquor store, then it is Rum Cake time! For the past few years, I have been using this cake to bribe er…um…. show my gratitude to a local caterer to lower his prices for the Christmas party at my husband’s reserve unit. If you see me coming out of the liquor store any other time of the year, MIND YO BISNESSS!! (And don’t tell my mother!) *snicker* But seriously, if you like the taste of rum, you are gonna love this cake and even if you don’t like rum, this cake just might change your mind! The subtle taste of rum with a hint of toasted pecan is MMMM…MMMM GOOD! I bet ‘cha wanna know how to make it huh?! Well, shall we?!

Step one: Gather your ingredients. You will need flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, shortening, eggs, milk (or half and half), rum, vanilla, and chopped pecans. It is better if everything is room temperature but you most definitely need to soften the butter in order to cream it.

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Step two: Grease your large tube pan with shortening (Go ahead, try not to giggle when you grease the middle. Go ahead, I dare you! It can’t be done!) and then line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the paper. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Step three: Rough chop your pecans or just buy pecans already chopped and skip this step! Set aside.

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Step four: This cake builds like most cakes. Take the soft butter and shortening and cream together. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add your eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg. Set aside.

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Step five: In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together milk (or half and half), vanilla, and rum.

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Step six: Add the flour mixture and milk mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour and beating well after each addition. Your batter will be a little thick and smell all vanilla-ly and rum-ish. Yum!

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Step seven: Pour delightfully delish batter into prepared tube pan (Tube…..hehehe…) and bake in oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Do NOT open that oven door until the cake has been in the oven for at least an hour!

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Step eight: Put your butter, water, rum, and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently so the sugar will dissolve. While the sauce is cooking, take a long skewer and repeatedly poke the cake over and over so the glaze has places to go. Now pour glaze over hot cake and let the cake absorb the rummy goodness.

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Step nine: Remove cake from pan and enjoy!

Rum Cake

1 c. butter, softened – Use real butter!!

1/2 c. shortening

3 c. sugar

5 eggs

3 1/2 c. flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 c. milk (or half and half)

1/4 c. dark rum

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. chopped pecans

Rum Glaze

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. butter

1/4 c. water

1/4 c. rum

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease large tube pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease paper. Cream together butter and shortening. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In yet another bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and rum. Set aside. Now you will need to add everything together by alternating the flour mixture with the milk mixture to the butter mixture, starting and ending with flour. (WHEW!) Spread batter into pan and sprinkle with pecans. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Do NOT open oven door for at least an hour after putting cake in oven! Mix together butter, sugar, water, and rum in a small sauce pan on stove, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar. Take cake out of oven and poke repeatedly with long skewer. Pour glaze over hot cake. Let glaze soak into cake. Remove from pan and enjoy.

Thank you for reading.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Hello again! Have you noticed the surge of posts lately? It’s because I have been sitting on these recipes for a while now and I am cleaning out my computer before I move on! Don’t argue! Just bask in the cooking goodness….. Shh… shhh…. no talkie…. just bask…

This recipe came as a need to get rid of some cherry tomatoes that came into my posession this past summer. In the South, tomatoes are a ritual in the summer time, especially when you live close to Grainger County, Tennessee. Unfortunately, these tomatoes were not Grainger County maters and needed just a little bit of extra yumminess. I had heard of slow roasting tomatoes to use in pasta dishes and we all know that I loves me some pasta! I decided to take a few pointers from different sites and combine them all into one so here goes nuffin….

Step one: Gather your ingredients. You will need cherry tomatoes, fresh thyme, olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked pepper.

 

Step two: Wash tomatoes, slice in half, and let drain. Pat tomatoes dry with paper towel. Wash and chop thyme. Toss tomatoes with thyme, salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to coat.

 

 

Step three: Roast tomatoes in a 250 degree oven for a couple hours until the tomatoes look all shrively and caramelized and yummy.

 

 

Step four: Scrape tomatoes, oil, thyme, and all that yummy caramelized bits into jars and top with more olive oil. Store in fridge.

 

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes

Fresh thyme

Olive oil

Salt and fresh pepper

Wash tomatoes, slice in half, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Wash and chop thyme. Toss tomatoes with thyme, salt, pepper, and enough oil to coat on baking sheet. Bake in a 250 degree oven for a couple hours until tomatoes are shriveled. Scrape tomatoes, herbs, and oil off baking sheets into jars. Top off with more olive oil and store in fridge.

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