Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Red Velvet Whoppie Pies + Life.

I cook because I love to cook and I love the happiness that coming together for a meal brings to people.  It brings them together and more often than not it brings smiles and laughing and pure joy.  Well, let's be honest, I'm pretty effing great in the kitchen too :)

I bake not because I love to bake but I bake because it cures my frustration with life.  It allows me to escape into a realm of myself that no one else can touch.

Sitting at my kitchen table, in my robe, slippers on, my hair pinned up and my glasses on....with George Strait playing in the background....I type. 

There is a relationship in my life that I struggle with on a weekly, sometimes daily basis.  It is a love-hate relationship that I have had since as far back as I can remember.  It is one which consumes my being at times and pushes me past limits of control I never knew I was capable of.

Sometimes I imagine what my life would be like if it was perfect.  Actually, scratch that, my life is as imperfectly perfect as it will ever be and I could not be more blessed.  I have these amazing people in my life that teach me each day what it is that makes life so beautiful.   I was at a gas station in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon this past weekend with Scooter (the stunningly beautiful brunette that is my younger sister) and a man was counting pennies to pay for his coffee.  I first noticed his hands were chapped from the cold as he struggled to count the small amount of change he had.  Then I noticed his shoes, they were worn from walking and his clothing was torn from years of wear.  I took my time to pour the cup of coffee I was going to purchase with washer fluid for my car, which was waiting warm outside for me.  I walked next to the man and excused myself as I pulled a lid for my cup and whispered to him asking if he had enough.  He smiled at me politely only to say "I do thank you so much".  As I walked away, my heart hurt and tears began to flood my eyes.  When it was my turn to pay, standing there in my Burberry scarf, red wool jacket, black Sperry boots and Gucci handbag, I asked the woman if she would take my money and pay for the gentleman's coffee.  She paused and said yes.  As I left the gas station, Scooter asked if I had done that because I felt bad about being crabby earlier that morning.  I looked at her and for only a moment paused to say "no, I did that because he needed that more than I did".  I realized as I was standing outside freezing to put washer fluid in my vehicle, this man in worn clothing with his chapped hands was God.

There are moments, maybe one each second, in life that we are given an opportunity to see God but pass by because we are busy or too afraid to look.  I realize, as each year passes in my life, that I have been given so much because it is maybe my destiny to share it and to pass it on to those who need it more and to be the difference I wish to see in the world.

How does this all tie into homemade Red Velvet Whoppie Pies you ask, well, let me tell you....

In this modern day Princess's life, perfection is overrated.  My first batch of these little guys burned.  It was sad.  The second batch was too large and they looked awful....oh but they tasted so incredible.  The third time was a charm, I adjusted the temperature setting on my oven, made the dough a bit smaller of a portion on the pan and perfecto.....they were beautifully misshaped and goregous.  It is not the beautiful looking things in life that have the most incredible filling.  It is often those things that we overlook because of imperfections that are filled with life's best.

Red Velvet Whoppie Pies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter softened (the real stuff please)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 egg (large)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (at room temperature)
  • 1 TBSP red food coloring
  • 1 recipe Whoppie Pie Filling (see below)
What next?
  1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter until fluffy, beat in brown sugar and mix until light + fluffy.
  3. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk in small amounts until combine. Do not overmix.
  4. Add food coloring (hence "red velvet")
  5. Spoon your batter, in small amounts (y'all should fit at least 16 small spoonfuls onto a baking sheet) onto a wax paper lined baking sheet.
  6. Place into a 360 degree, preheated, oven for 5-6 minutes.  Touch the top to ensure they are done and DO NOT OVER COOK.  No one lines a burned whoppie pie! 
  7. Finish all your batter and cool them, completely, on wire racks.  Be patient my mama would say.
  8. Make your whoppie pie filling:  beat 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/2 of an 8 ounce (I used the full 8 ounces) softened cream cheese until smooth.  Fold in one 7 ounce jar of marshmallow creme.
  9. Place a dollop (or more if y'all like lots of fillin') on the bottom side of one pie and place another on the top....making a sandwich.  And yes, you can find a picture if it helps!

I encourage y'all to go out and do something for someone to make them smile.  Not because it makes you feel good but because it will make them feel good.  Life is too short to not try.

Lots of love from a snowy and cold Minnesota,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cream Corn Casserole

My grandma makes the most insane Cream Corn Casserole known to man.

I know most of y'all are saying "woah woah woah....hold your horses little princess just what makes her casserole so great?" Well, it again isn't the basic 3 ingredients that go into this but it is the life lesson she intends on giving me each time we make this casserole together.  The little ways she always hints that my bottom is nice and round and "have I been eating enough or too much" and the little ways she always hints that she isn't going to be around for so much longer and she would sure love to come to my house, meet my husband and buy my little girls dresses before she dies and the BEST life lesson "do not push the crackers so hard into the bottom of the casserole or you'll never get them out....didn't I teach you anything?!"

WE usually end up giggling because I look at her, bat my blue eyes, pout my lip and say "but Grandma I am trying so harrrrdddd to do it just perfect like you!".  She walks away laughing or pushes me to the side and says "here let Grandma show you" just like she did when I was a little princess in her kitchen and pats my bottom as she goes.

SHE has this unique ability to make cooking simple.  And life too.  She is a no bullshit lady and rules our kingdom with diamonds and great shoes (I hope y'all are shaking your heads in understanding of why I am the way I am).  The woman could make the Queen of England shush with one look.

CASSEROLE is like the bible in our family.  No family function is complete without it....sort of like Church on Sunday. Cream Corn Casserole is a tradition at almost every family meal and without it at least someone asks where it is and why Grandma didn't make it this time.  The recipe is so simple....I think anyone could make it but there is a particular type of pan (color and all) that all generations of my family make it in (that's the secret I keep telling myself)....and over-the-top delicious.

Grandma Shirley's Cream Corn Casserole

6 cans cream-style corn
4 sleeves of saltine crackers (finely crushed)
4 sticks unsalted butter (the real stuff please)

  1. Get your casserole dish out!
  2. In a gallon size ziplock bag, finely crush one (1) sleeve of crackers (I use the can to do the crushing instead of a rolling pin just to limit the amount of "things" I have out at any given time).  Be sure to flip the bag over a few times to ensure all the crackers are crushed.
  3. In a microwave safe container, melt one (1) stick of butter.
  4. In a bowl, mix the melted butter and crushed crackers with a fork until all crackers look saturated in butter (love cooking with butter).
  5. Spoon the mixture into the bottom of your casserole dish.  DO NOT press in firmly like you would with a graham cracker pie crust.  Simply ensure the mixture covers the bottom of your dish.
  6. Open 2 containers of cream-style corn and pour over the top of the cracker layer.
  7. Repeat this process until you have come to the last layer (which will be the top) of your casserole.
  8. Put a lid on the dish and place into a 350 pre-heated oven.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the edges of your top layer are bubbling with delight and the top is lightly browned.  
  9. Remove from the oven, let cook for a bit and serve!
The kicker behind this mouthwatering goodness is that y'all can do as many or as few layers as your heart desires.  Grandma says I use "one too many" but I feel the more ooey goodness the better and if I am going to eat this many calories I may as well REALLY eat!  

SO enjoy, don't let Grandma's recipe intimidate and if ever crossing her path....she loves being told her dishes are incredible.  BUT then again don't all women love being complimented?

XOXO (from a very cold Minnesota),

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Say Cheese.

I LOVE being in front of the camera.  Really love....almost as much as I love coffee in bed on Saturday mornings.

I HAVE a Bucket List.  Y'all have to be familiar with it and someday there will be a post dedicated specifically to that (we have to get to know each other a wee bit first).  My 'Bucket List' consists of a few things I have crossed off (sorry mama, I know you are not the most proud of a few) and a few yet to be crossed off.  Relevance you ask?  Well, a Boudoir Session is on that list.  A for-my-eyes-only and maybe-for-my-Prince-Charming session will take place this January courtesy of one of my new favorite photographers, Cadence Cornelius

I BELIEVE the female body is an amazing thing.  We come in all shapes and sizes and colors.  We grow babies!  What is more amazing than that fact itself.  Society tells us all too often that we need to be smaller, prettier, taller, blah, blah, blah....I say rejoice in those curves.  Stand up in front of the world and love your body you gorgeous thing! 

Oh and PS:  you will not be seeing those photos.

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tis the Season.

I love the Holiday Season.  No I mean I reallyfreakinglove the Holiday Season.  I love everything that goes into it, cooking, baking, gift-giving, snow, shopping, decorating.  Most importantly I love getting to spend the time with my family. 

As a little girl, we celebrated in mass amounts.  I.E. ALL of my family would gather at Grandma's for a huge dinner followed by dishes and presents and sleepy little ones waiting for Santa.  As the years have passed and family has moved, children have grown, we have begun our own traditions.  It makes me sad and happy all at the same time to think back to the days that dinners consisted of 20+ people and my cousins and I would fight over who actually had to help Grandma dry the dishes (ewwww ish)....Grandpa would fall asleep on the chair and before long we were swimming in a sea of wrapping paper in front of the fire. 

This year will mark the 3rd year of new family traditions at my mama's house.  Although there are no grandbabies (yet) we still manage to fill the floor with wrapping paper and fight over who does dishes (for some reason each year I get stuck with the final dish duties).  The meal is prepared (by me) with much well maybe just a little supervision from my mama (usually consisting of "mooooommmmmmmm how much more does the turkey really need to stay in the oven for" or "ohhhhhh my goodness I freakinglovemycookingskills aren't you so glad your daughter can cook").  I am such a sucker for traditions and always end up on the phone with my Grandmother asking, like I did the year before, how many white onions she puts in the stuffing if the bird is X pounds and is it okay to use a certain brand of cream corn for the casserole and "but Grandma what if it gets too brown on top?". 

The house will be filled to the brim this year with 15+ guests and guess what....this young lady could not be more pleased!  I spend the entire month of December planning out the meal.  Obsessive? Nawwww.  I'm just a girl who loves getting lost in the sheer joy of cooking and entertaining.  I love the simple elegance of putting so much work into something and knowing that for just a moment, one night of the year, I can sit back and watch as what I did is thoroughly enjoyed. 

Someday, when I have a big home of my own, these traditions will carry themselves out there.  I thank God every day that I have been so blessed with the ability to appreciate what it is my Great-Grandma, Grandma, Mama and Aunts have passed down.  I am absolutely a woman that loves the kitchen.....

XOXO (all the way from Minnesota),

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So This Is Love.

This past weekend we celebrated my cousin Cassie Marie's marriage to Kasey.  It was beautiful. The weekend started off with rehearsal and a very laid back pizza, nachos and beer Groom's Dinner.  The next morning at 6:00 am, my aunties and the bridesmaids took off to the reception area (a gorgeous golf course) and began the transformation of the reception Cassie wanted.   We left and began hair + makeup (imagine 2 hotel rooms filled with ladies + makeup + hairspray).  The ceremony was incredible and the dinner + dance were romantic.  

My mama, sisters and me. They light up my life.

My Grandma, my mama and my sisters.  Three generations of beautiful Paul women.

My Grandma and her five daughters.  They are each as individual and beautiful as can be.  From the left is my mom.  She, obviously, has three daughters.  Next is my Aunt Karen, married to a wonderful man (who looks exactly like George Strait and was also my co-host for Cassie's wedding) with two incredible boys.  My Grandma follows.  My Aunt Sue is married to a wonderful man as well (he told me about the night he met her this past weekend.  Uncle Bill was planning a year long trip away and he met Aunt Sue and fell so madly in love he stayed - they were married shortly thereafter....so romantic) with two boys and one grandson with another on the way!  Next is Aunt Mary, married to the love of her life and a great man.  They have three daughters (now all of them are married!) and one son.  They have one grandson and another on the way!  Aunt Jan is married to an amazing man that loves her to the moon and back.  They have two children and one granddaughter. 

This is my entire Paul family.  Not pictured is my Uncle John who passed away earlier this year - we miss him so much.  My Uncle Steve could not make it to this wedding, thus he is not in the photo either.
All together my Grandma and Grandpa had 10 children (5 boys and 5 girls).  We have such an incredible family and are so blessed. 

Lane and I killed much time before the wedding.  We learned the ways of 80's toys.

My sisters and I love Lane.