Saturday, December 17, 2011

Handmade Holidays

The holidays make me think of being home and celebrating the day to day blessings I have with my family.  Like many families we are quite busy and I often feel like I'm not honoring the moments I have with them as much as I should.  I miss being home with them more so I have been trying harder to create special memories with them when I am home.  The holiday season brings up this desire even more.  So this year when it came time to think about giving something special to the wonderful teachers in our lives I decided it was time to get my hands dirty again and get crafting.  

 We decided to make peppermint bark this year.  This is a very simple project and there are lots of great recipes online for it.  We chose one that combined both dark and white chocolate.  I bought all the ingredients on my lunch break the other day along with some jelly jars to package the pieces up in.

 It all starts with good chocolate.  Personally I buy Ghiradelli for my cooking and the bags of chips happened to be on sale and so it was a better bargain than buying the bars.  I just placed a bowl of chips over a pot of boiling water (1 Bag) until the chips melted.  Once melted I added a teaspoon of peppermint extract and poured half of it into a small brownie pan lined with tin foil and the other half in a second pan also lined with tin foil.  Plop that in the fridge or freezer for about 20 minutes and wait.  Once hardened you can take it out, and after melting the white chocolate you can then pour the white over the dark, sprinkle on crushed candy canes and place back in freezer.

Once the chocolate is hard you can take it out, peel off the tin foil and chop it up or break it into pieces.

I chose to put our bark into jelly jars and tied some ribbon around them.  
It's easy, fun, tastes great and makes a wonderful handmade gift.

I hope the teachers enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Being Italian

my great grandfather Angelo in his barber shop in America.

My husband and I went out for dinner last week with some friends and during a conversation with an Italian friend of mine he said "I think Kacey gets more Italian by the day."  I laughed when he said this and couldn't help but feel overwhelmed with joy.  I'm not full Italian, heck not even half.  From what I know I am Italian, Irish, and English.  My maternal grandfather is Italian, maternal grandmother is from England.  My paternal grandfather is Irish and I'm honestly not sure about my father's mother's heritage.  Despite the mix I inherited it has always been the Italian side that has clung to me the strongest.  It could be that Italian blood simply runs strong and deep and despite the fact that my mother was raised in an Italian/English home, it was the Italian side of the family that consumed us.  I can't explain why, but I identify more to that side of my past.  As I mentioned, Italian blood runs deep.  So deep that when my first child was born he came out looking like he would fit right in if born in Italy.  He was born with a full head of black hair, dark Mediterranean skin, and the deepest brown eyes that only my mother has.  Even to this day we are often told how European he looks.  Yes I think he got the Italian genes as well.

My kids both have Italian (family) names as their first names.  We did this because I married into one of the most American families I know.  Their last name screams American we felt giving them family names from my side would be a great balance.  I like it.  It works.

My husband is right though.  I am becoming more Italian.  As our family ages I feel a strong urge to keep my heritage alive.  I have several cousins who luckily feel the same way.  Through Facebook we have been able to stay in touch and pass along recipes to each other from what we remember.  Cooking is one of my passions and I love being able to make food for my family that includes stories about my heritage.  In our house the kitchen truly is the heart of the home.

I look forward to the upcoming holiday season where I can cook good food, tell good stories and feel together even though my extended family is far apart.

enjoy the last few dark days.  the light will be coming back soon.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

My kids have been begging me to make peanut butter cookies so we found a recipe, altered it a bit and made these this weekend.  They came out great.  Soft and moist, not hard and crumbly.  I cut back the sugar and chocolate chips from the original recipe because I like to be able to enjoy a few cookies without feeling like I'm on sugar overload.  I thought the original had an overwhelming amount of chocolate chips.  Plus I think they just taste better this way.  I decided to go with a vegan recipe because I could not stomach the amount of butter needed for the non-vegan recipes.  These are just as tasty and a little healthier for you.

This is my altered version.  I already cut down the sugar and chocolate chips below.

  • 2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup soymilk ( regular or vanilla flavored)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 - 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 


    1. 1
      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. 2
      In a large mixing bowl, stir together first five ingredients.
    3. 3
      In a small bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, soda and salt.
    4. 4
      Stir into batter.
    5. 5
      Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
    6. 6
      Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheet, or oil the baking sheet.
    7. 7
      Bake for 10 minutes or until set.
    8. 8
      Remove sheet from oven and let cool on tray for 5 minutes.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Finding Me Continued

So a year ago, after 10 years going by my married name I changed it.  At the time I had strong reasons for doings so.  My decision was to drop my married name, take back my maiden name, and add my mother's maiden name to it.  All of a sudden I had a new hyphenated last name that was different than my husband and children.  My reasons were good at the time.  Since I was little I always felt bitter that because my mother decided to take my father's name I wasn't given the opportunity to have her maiden name.  I thought it was wrong.  I never thought when I got married that I would change my name, but when the day came I did and I lived with it for 10 years.  At for our 10 year wedding anniversary I told my husband I was changing my name.  He wasn't surprised at all because he has heard me talking about this for years.  He was supportive so I made the change.

Rewind one year and I started to have doubts about my decision which surprised me.  For one I had no idea how much it would bother me to not have the same last name as my children.  I also didn't realize how difficult having a hyphenated name would be.  I know there are plenty of people who have hyphenated names and different last names than their kids, but this is a personal thing so I'll go on.  As much as I always wanted my mother's maiden name I had to admit that it felt a bit strange now owning it.  It was never really mine (which I always hated), but the fact was it felt almost more strange as when I first got married and took on my husbands name originally.  So $130 later and another trip to probate court I changed my name again.  This time I added my maiden name as my second middle name and took back my married name.  So now even though I have two middle names I'll be going by First name, 2nd Middle name (maiden name) and then Married name as my last name.  Think Hillary Rodham Clinton and hopefully it won't be so confusing.

I feel a bit sad letting go of my mother's name and I wish she had given it to me originally as my middle name  but she didn't.  I could have kept it, but this just felt right.  Now I can go by both maiden and married names or just make it simple and use my married last name. My sister put it best when she said "Mom's maiden name is your heritage and always will be, your maiden name is what you grew up with and was known as until you got married, your married now is your present and future."  For me this seems like the best compromise.  I had no idea I would be struggling with keeping my identity 11 years into my marriage.  We all grow, we all peel back new layers of ourselves and we all must find out own way to shine.

Goodness it's tough being an indecisive girl.