Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Avett Brothers ~ "Offering"

Such sweet lyrics.  Very romantic. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Am Thankful

* I am thankful that my children, Allen & myself are in good health.

* I am thankful that we have a beautiful home to spend our time in every day.

* I am thankful that Allen has work to do.  And that he loves what he does.

* I am thankful that I get to devote all my time & energy to my children & our home.

* I am thankful that I found religion and was led to a church where I feel at home.  And a church that lets me wear jeans & moccasins without judgment. :)

* I am thankful for being given the gift of clarity & strength to lift myself out of my lowest point & create a new & beautiful life for myself.

* I am thankful I started writing this blog because it has been an outlet of self discovery & self expression.  It's my little corner of the universe to be myself, share my deepest thoughts & my favorite things...even if no one is reading. ;)


Monday, November 22, 2010

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." ~ Theodore Roosevelt

I am trying more and more to live my life by this mantra.  I used to think "I'll do great things...when I'm skinny enough...when there's no debt...when there's more money...when..."  But I'm learning to live in the moment.  To be happy today, in this skin, at this weight, with this debt.  That's not to say I don't want to improve things, but I will no longer put off my happiness until goals are reached.  Every day that my family & I have our health & have each other is a day to be thankful for.

So I do what I can, with what I have, where I am.  I volunteer my time at Sydney's school because with 25 kids packed into a classroom, the teachers could not do their job properly without parent involvement.  I give what I can every Sunday to my little church that struggles to pay the bills.  We are working hard to pay off our debt, so there are no vacations these days, but I make sure our house is clean, warm & inviting so that we are happiest within these walls anyways.  I cook for my family.  And I play with my kids the good ol fashion way every single day so that they do not notice there's no Wii or Xbox, no vacations & no elaborate outings. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

Every Thanksgiving, I make the same stuff: pumpkin roll, hashbrown casserole & most recently, what I like to call "pink fluffy goodness".

Hashbrown Casserole
My Aunt passed this recipe on to me & I love it!

2lb frozen hashbrowns
2 c sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2-3 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 stick butter (melted)
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease a 9x14 casserole dish.  Allow hashbrowns to thaw some before adding other ingredients.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl & pour into casserole dish.  Top with some extra shredded cheddar & bake uncovered for 45 min or until golden.

Pumpkin Roll aka "The Log"
A friend gave me this recipe years ago and it has been my signature dessert at Thanksgiving dinner for at least 5 years now.  We lovingly call it "the log"...well, because it looks like a log!  And because we are a little nerdy.

2 large eggs
2/3 c strained pumpkin
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix flour, cinnamon & baking soda.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, add sugar, then pumpkin. Add flour mixture & mix well.  Spread onto a greased & floured (or wax paper lined) jelly roll pan.  Bake 15 min.  Let cool 15 min.  Get a dish towel damp and turn cooled cake out & roll up into damp towel.

To make filling, whip together:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Unroll cake & spread filling on.  Re-roll & chill.

You can serve as a log, sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Or serve sliced and displayed on a platter.

Heavenly Hash aka "Pink Fluffy Goodness"
This is my Mother-in-law's recipe

1 bag cranberries (chopped in food processor)
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 tub cool whip
1/2 - 3/4 c sugar
(you can add chopped pecans, but I don't)

Sprinkle chopped cranberries & mini marshmallows with sugar and let set over night.  The next day, add cool whip, mix well & serve.  It's as pretty as it is good!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Avett Brothers ~ "For Today"

Love, love, love this.

Mexican Food 101

I have loved Mexican food my entire life.  Luckily, my family loves it just about as much as I do.  The most important part to making Mexican food at home is homemade salsa.  It is the base for everything.  Once you get it down, you can cook it all.  Let me just first say that I am not an exact measurement kind of cook.  I eyeball everything.  So forgive me if my instructions are confusing.  And forgive me for using "about" way too much!  Let me also say that I haven't invented anything new or fancy in the kitchen.  I'm just showing you how a Mom of 2 gets some good food on the table!  Here's how I do it.

In my food processor I add:
4 or 5 Roma tomatoes
1 or 2 jalapenos, depending on size
About 1/4 of a white or red onion
Tons of cilantro...if you think you have enough, add a little more ;)
Pinch of salt

Blend a little for pico.  Blend a lot for salsa. 

~ The beginnings of salsa ~
Mash up 2 avocados.  Add a pinch of salt.  Add a squirt of lime.  Add a couple heaping spoonfuls of your salsa/pico.  Mix together.  Done!

I use whole grain brown rice.  Use the cooking instructions on box, but add to the water: several heaping spoonfuls of your salsa/pico, some frozen corn, a little extra virgin olive oil, salt & rough chopped cilantro.  Cook according to box.  Done!

Black Beans
Mix canned black beans with several heaping spoonfuls of homemade salsa & rough chopped cilantro.  Heat up on stove.  To turn it into more of a black bean soup, after it's heated, stir in some sour cream and top with some grated cheddar cheese.

You can pan fry (sprayed with Pam or with a little butter), cook in the oven at 350, or microwave...depending on how lazy you are feeling.  I think pan fry is the easiest with the best results.  I make two kinds:
1. Smear a very thin layer of cream cheese on a flour tortilla.  Top it with pepper jack cheese & fold over.  Cook until golden. 
2. Put cheddar or monterrey jack cheese in a flour tortilla.  Top with a little homemade pico & fold over.  Cook until golden.

These are so easy!  This is our "go to" thing when nobody feels like cooking.   Just smear some re-fried beans on a tostada and top with your favorite cheese.  Cook in the oven at 350 or microwave.  You can also go all out with some cooked chicken, onions or jalapenos.  After it's cooked, top with any of these: sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, chopped black olives, chopped tomatoes & fresh chopped cilantro.  I love meals like this where everyone can cater it to their own liking.  And my kids LOVE these!

Chicken Enchiladas
This is one of my favorite recipes!  My Mother-in-law passed this recipe down to me.  I have made some changes over the years and found that this is my favorite way to make these:

About 4 or 5 chicken breasts
12 oz cream cheese, softened.
1 can chopped green chiles w/juice
Flour tortillas
About 1 to 1 1/2 lbs grated pepper jack cheese

Boil chicken breasts for about 30-45  minutes until cooked through.  I cut them up some to speed up the cooking process.  Shred cooked chicken with forks.  In a bowl, mix up the cream cheese & green chiles.  Add shredded chicken and mix well.  Spoon a dab of the mixture into flour tortillas, roll up and place in casserole dish.  Cover with shredded pepper jack cheese. Sprinkle with some fresh cilantro.  Bake at 350, uncovered, until heated through.  They taste great topped with homemade salsa & guacamole!

I usually get two large casserole dishes of enchiladas out of this.  This is a meal that takes a little time, but makes so much you can eat leftovers for days.  I love cooking once and having the next couple evenings off!  It's also great when you're feeding a large crowd.

Stuffed Jalapeno or Poblano Peppers
Allen's Grandma makes these, and I think it's safe to say that Allen & I are addicted to them!  She calls them pepper poppers & uses jalapenos.  But I tried the recipe with poblano peppers and it works great too.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz sharp cheddar, grated
4 oz Monterrey jack, grated
1 container bacon bits
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Bread crumbs
Jalapenos or Poblano peppers (halved & seeded)

Mix cream cheese, cheddar & monterrey jack cheeses, bacon bits, chili powder & garlic powder.  Stuff mixture into halved peppers.  Dip cheese side into bread crumbs.  Bake on cookie sheet at 300 for: 20 min for hot, 30 min for medium, 40 min for mild. 

Veggie Fajitas: Cook sliced onions and jalapenos in extra virgin olive oil until cooked down.  Squirt with lime juice right before removing from heat.  Eat on flour tortillas topped with salsa, guacamole, cheese &/or sour cream.

Chicken or steak Fajitas:  Cook the meat on the grill.  It's best to marinate all day in some lime juice & fajita seasoning.  Eat on flour tortillas with grilled jalapenos & onions.  Top with the same goodies.

Taco Soup
My Mama Bertha (Grandma) makes this & I love it!  And I love her!

1 lb ground beef
1 yellow onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 14 1/2 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 16 oz can kidney beans (drained)
1 16 oz pinto beans (drained)
1 16 oz black beans (drained)
1 16 oz can whole kernel corn (drained)
1 14.5 oz can chicken broth
1 25 oz pkg taco seasoning mix

Cook ground beef & garlic in large pot.  Drain (if needed) and add onions.  Let onions cook down a little, then stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer uncovered 30 minutes.  Top with cheddar & sour cream if you'd like!

Chicken Enchilada Dip
A friend of Allen's gave us this recipe.  It's great as an appetizer for parties.  Serve with tortilla chips.

2 chicken breasts
8 oz cream cheese
1 c real mayo
1 c cheddar cheese
4 oz chopped green chiles

Boil chicken for about 30-45 minutes until cooked through.  Shred cooked chicken & mix with all other ingredients.  Place in small baking dish, top with a little extra cheddar & bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Bean Salsa Dip
Another great recipe for parties, from another friend. 

1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn niblets
1 pkg dry ranch dressing
Italian dressing (eyeball the amount)
1 white onion
1 avocado
Fresh cilantro

Chop onion, avocado & cilantro.  Mix all remaining ingredients & chill.  Serve with chips!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stillwater Pics

I want a better camera.  I bought a point & shoot camera a couple of years ago, rather than a high quailty SLR camera and I really regret it.  I should have gotten what I really wanted instead of being practical.  I want one to take great pictures of Allen's landscaping, the kids & just fun randomness. 

These are some pictures we took in Stillwater last Spring.  They are mostly of trees.  For some reason, I really like taking pictures of trees.  I just think they're pretty & calming.  I want to frame them & hang them around the house as little reminders of where we fell in love.  We had 4 really fun years together in Sillwater while I was going to college at OSU.  Those early days of a relationship when everything is perfect and there are no mortgages, no kids & no real responsibilities.  These pictures remind me of simpler times and of our place of "no worries". 

~ This is my favorite ~

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

I have been searching for a blueberry muffin recipe that is actually good enough to make it into the box.  My recipe box that is.  After I try a recipe out, if it's a keeper, it makes it into the box.  Well, after several duds, I finally found a blueberry muffin recipe that is a keeper!  I found it on here:

I like because they have a star rating system and you can read people's reviews.  This recipe had great reviews, and I now know why!  The topping is what makes them so good.  It only made 12 muffins though, so I will double it next time.  I like to cook in bulk and eat on it for days.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen blueberries & rinsed them under cold water to thaw a little)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

2.Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

3.To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

4.Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tiny Desk Concert

I love NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concerts.  It's so great that I can sit at my computer and watch these amazing performances that I'd never be able to see in person.  Here are some of my favorites.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sharp Tongue

"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret."
~ Laurence J. Peter

This stood out to me in our church bulletin Sunday.  This is something I've been trying to work on about myself lately.  I have the ability to say exactly what I want to say, exactly when I want to say it.  I do not stumble on my words.  This can be a great characteristic to possess in life.  But it can also cause a lot of hurt and regret.  In my older age, I am trying to learn to bite my tongue so that I do not hurt the ones I love most.   

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pancakes & syrup...yum!

We love pancakes around here and try to make them on Saturday mornings.  We also love having them for dinner...also known as brinner {breakfast for dinner}. I use this great recipe that my Father in Law passed down to me. 

Buttermilk Pancakes
1 1/4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1tbsp sugar
1 c buttermilk (if you don't have it, regular milk works...but buttermilk is the best)
2 tbsp melted butter
1 beaten egg

Mix all ingredients.  Stir only until moistened, lumpy & thick.  Cook on a hot, buttered griddle.

To make it fun for the kids, we cut them into cute shapes with cookie cutters.

We also make our own syrup. It's so much better than that goopey store bought syrup. We just make a big batch and store it in the refrigerator.

3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c white sugar
1 c water
1 c corn syrup (we use lite)
3 drops vanilla

Bring sugars & water to a boil.  Remove from heat & add remaining ingredients. 

These pancakes are also great reheated the next day.  The key is to heat them in a pan on the stove top or the griddle.  This way they are crispy & taste just like they did the first day.  I want to experiment with making a bunch and freezing them.  It would be great to be able to serve homemade pancakes & waffles on a moments notice.  In fact, cooking in bulk & freezing is my next venture I'm going to learn about.  I'll let ya know how it all turns out.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bread Making 101

I made my very first loaf of bread at the first of the year and I've been making bread ever since.  If you haven't tried it, you really should!  It's not nearly as complicated as it seems.  You don't need any fancy gadgets.  Just an oven and your hands.  It takes a little time, but you haven't lived until you've eaten real bread, fresh out of the oven!  I find kneading the dough therapeutic.  It's my ten minutes to drift deep into thought.  I use one simple recipe and turn it into bread, rolls, buns, bread sticks, cinnamon rolls & chocolate dessert bread.

Basic Bread Recipe
3 cups all purpose flour (I use organic)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
2 1/2 tbsp honey (I use local, raw honey)
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm tap water

Bread Loaf
Mix flour & salt in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, combine yeast, honey, butter & warm water.  Mix until dissolved & let sit a few minutes.  Add to dry ingredients and mix well.  Knead on floured surface about 10 minutes.  (Add a pinch of flour when it gets sticky)  Place dough in greased loaf pan, cover with a towel & let rise in a warm place for about an hour.  Right before baking, use a knife to make a shallow slit in the top of the loaf.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Remove from pan immediately and let cool on a cooling rack before slicing.  When cooled completely, slice on cutting board with a sharp knife.  Store in sealed container.  After a few days, I put it in the refrigerator to preserve it's freshness.  But it usually doesn't last that long around here!

Now I don't know about you, but I've never seen store bought bread that looked like that!

Buns or Rolls
Same instructions.  After kneading, pinch off small amount and roll into balls. Small balls for rolls, big balls for buns. Let rise on greased cookie sheet, covered with a towel, for about 30 to 45 minutes.  Then bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.  Here's a picture of the hamburger buns.

Bread sticks
Same instructions.  After kneading, pinch off small amount and form into bread stick shape or twist two together.  Let rise on greased cookie sheet about 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.  Brush with melted butter seasoned with garlic and Italian seasoning.

Cinnamon Rolls
Same instructions.  After kneading, let rise in greased casserole dish, covered with a towel.  After an hour, roll out onto floured surface.  Create a large rectangle out of dough.  Lay down small pats of butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. 

Roll up, starting at wide end of rectangle. Once you have a log shape, sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking, and slice with serrated knife. 

Place cinnamon rolls in greased casserole dish.  Depending on your mood, you can add a little more butter, cinnamon and sugar to the top of each roll. (I usually do).

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.  You can also top them with an icing made from butter, powdered sugar and a dash of milk. 

Chocolate Bread
Same mixing instructions, but add chocolate chunks in with the mixture.  Knead 10 minutes, then let rise on greased cookie sheet, covered with a towel.  It will be in a big oval shape.  Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes.  You could make this into any shape you wanted.  You'll never want a cheap processed dessert treat again!  I promise!

Once you get the hang of bread making, it becomes an easy and fast process.