Friday, November 28, 2014

The Week and The Food

Another week, another couple appointments.  A couple more answers for hubby. . .some good, some not so good.  We are still awaiting approval for a drug and he gets the joy of adding more pills to his current repertoire, with that hope that they are but a temporary bump in this journey.  But we still had much to be grateful for as we woke up yesterday:  we have each other, our kids, extended family (and all their support), our faith and friends (who have also been a source of support.) 
I didn't host Thanksgiving but I was in charge of the pies.  I made two.  Rather than my traditional pumpkin, I opted to use up more of the sweet potatoes we have on hand and made this Caramel Sweet Potato Pie.  It was lighter than pumpkin. . .a little less custard-y.  Apple Butter gave it its seasoning and sweetness.  If I'd felt more like it, I'd have made Pioneer Woman's Easy Caramel Sauce, but used some jarred stuff I had on hand.  I did whip up my own whipped cream though.  The second pie was this German Apple Pie, which is so amazing - creamy filling around tart apples. I've made it before it won raves. 

I've hosted Thanksgiving before, but it's nice not to have to clean and cook and clean some more.  But, we realized, upon returning home, that there was something good about hosting - leftovers!  About 6:30 we were all craving leftovers, whether it was turkey or the amazing mashed potatoes, we were hungry.  I'll be thawing a bird this week and with luck we'll have leftovers next week.

The odd week of two kids off school and two kids in school, combined with the holiday and the doctor visits, it was another "make it good, make it fast" menu.

It'll take a bit to remember to work a meatless and a fish recipe into the week, but this Classic Cheese Lasagna not only used up some ricotta I already had on hand, but met the meatless goal for the week.  I made this Quick Marinara, which is my go-to.  I've used this recipe before and it's creamy and gooey - everything lasagna should be.  I sometimes have fresh basil on hand to sprinkle on top, not so much this time around, though.  You could up the nutrition a bit with the addition of finely shopped spinach in the chesse filling.

This was apparently "Pasta Week," something I'll have to rethink/watch moving forward.  Luckily, I'll have some other options to keep these quick meals in my rotation.  This Monterrey Chicken Skillet used up my stash of chopped rotisserie chicken (I doubled the recipe) but was worth it.  It was a really easy one-pan meal.  I loved the heat and the BBQ sweetness.  Keep an eye on the liquid level.  I should have checked my noodles about 5 or 6 minutes into the cooking - they were a little past al dente because I had to simmer off the excess liquid after hitting the recommended cooking time.  The blogger notes this in the directions, but I just wasn't thinking.

If comfort is the name of the game this Creamy Parmesan Tomato and Spinach Tortellini Soup could be your ticket.  It's almost all pantry staples, and, look at me, I didn't even realize until now it was another meatless meal.  It was warm and smooth, even without the optional blending of the tomatoes (I used petite diced., plus I like the chunkier texture.)  It was creamy and rich.  I would be good with browned Italian sausage or chicken, but was totally filling without the addition of a protein.

Believe it or not, I still have a couple sweet potatoes to use up, but these Sweet Potato Scones got me closer to the bottom of the bag.  I love scones and these didn't disappoint.  Hubby thought they didn't have enough flavor, but if you eat scones, you know they are not the "sweet" treat that we westerners are used to.  Their flavors are more subtle, which is what I like.  They were moist, lightly sweet with a touch of All Spice.  I didn't have marshmallow cream, so I made my own by using about 1/2 cup mini marshmallows, about a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of light corn syrup.  I zapped it for about 30 seconds and stirred it until the marshmallows were melted and smooth.  Then added to cream to make the glaze and dribbled away.  I think it was better than the pre-made fluff - not as sweet, but with that marshmallow-y flavor.

I also made these Pumpkin Scotchies, to use up some pumpkin I had left over.  I've made them before and they are always a hit.  Store them flat, between layers of parchment paper and a loose lid, to keep them from getting too moist.  The same for the scones above.

Hubby and the 16 y.o. are out shooting clays this afternoon.  The 17 y.o. took the dog out to the park.  I've done a few things around the house, and just came up from the basement where I discovered my studio has been overtaken. . .and I am not happy.  The rest of the crew are doing their best imitations of slugs.  If the weather holds, I'd like hubby and the boys to get the lights on the house, while I concentrate on decorating the main floors.  We'll see where we get to.

Happy Friday,

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We Are

  • We are grateful for first grade Thanksgiving programs and all that that entails.  He had a speaking part and did awesome!
  • We are super happy for big sisters whose schedule allowed her to come watch.
  • We are a 14 y.o. boy, so unusual sights like these merit capturing them to prove to your friends you saw what you saw
  • We are pumped for the state championship semi-final football game.
  • We are crushed by the loss. . .27-15.  There's still so much to be proud of.  Go RV!
  • We are knitting.  We are going to ignore the age of the project and just keep knitting on.
  • We are grateful to a hubby who somehow read my craving.
Happy Wednesday,

Friday, November 21, 2014

A Whole Lotta Food and Little Else

This is the first week, that I can recall in the past several weeks, that there wasn't a doctor, a test or a hospital in my view.  I almost didn't know what to do with myself.  I am trying to take back my home and get back into some sort of routine.  I did clear out the rabid dust bunnies from my bedroom where they were colonizing.  That felt good, and feels good every time I see the clear surfaces.  Horizontal surfaces are almost clear, sort of.  Except the one that seems to be collecting the tsunami of incoming medical bills.  Fun.

Hubby's health issues continue, though we did get some possible news, after test after test came back "good," "clear," "inconclusive," that might resolve at least one of the problems.  We are awaiting insurance clearance for the drug.  Finger crossed it resolves the most obvious of his problems.  He has three more tests - two in the next couple weeks and one later (which I hope the drug miraculously makes the issue disappear.)

I have been doing little in the past weeks, most of my energy and brain activity sapped from days of being otherwise occupied.  I did manage to plan my menus, which were simple, fast and good, because frankly, without them, I'd have just stood in front of the 'fridge in a daze, headed for the closest fast food joint or served up bowls of cereal for dinner. 

I made this Creole Beef Casserole this week and it was so good.  Creamy potatoes (I used re-hydrated instead of frozen.They are easier to store so I always have some on hand.)  The sweet BBQ of the beef.  The crunch of Corn Flakes.  Perfect on a cold day.  My daughter said that she though it would also make a good breakfast, by substituting the beef with breakfast sausage or cubed ham.  I would most certainly agree.  I also used a bechamel instead of cream of chicken soup; my go-to instead of the cream of whatever soups.

I seem to have had a Louisiana thing going on the past couple weeks with lots of creole/Cajun recipes.  We are big fans, so it's all good.  We love those warm spices and smokey flavors and this Creole Shrimp and Sausage dish had it all; the browned sausage was the ticket.  I doubled the recipe because I served it up on In-Law dinner night and because we were doing the gluten free thing, at the time, I didn't do the Bulgar, but used rice in its place instead.  Quinoa would have also worked, and I'd planned it, but couldn't find the packaging to be sure it was processed in a gluten free plant.

Sweets are a must during stressful days, so this Autumn Harvest Cobbler was warm and sweet and comforting.  I liked the addition of the dried apricots, though next time I think I'll halve the halves, or quarter them, they were too big compared with the diced apples and raisins.  I didn't have any Bisquick - someone didn't mentioned they'd used the last - so I opted to top it with one of Pioneer Woman's Crisp toppings, like this one on her Pear Crisp.  Worked like a charm!

Because of one of the experiments suggestions by one of the doctors, we had an abundance of sweet potatoes.  Having come off that utter failure of a plan, just three days in, we had an abundance of sweet potatoes.  We love sweet potatoes, which was the only plus to come out of the "plan," and it was kind of fun to incorporate them into recipes, like this Raisin Sweet Potato Cookie recipe.  They were soft and not too sweet.  The only trick - finding a way to store them because the sweet potatoes make them really moist, and thus sticky with a tendancy to crumble, if they are stored in a sealed container.

Fall and winter menus, for me, tend to lack the goodness of fish and meatless meals, that seem to come naturally during the spring and summer months.  Probably because they are lighter fare and don't require excessive heating of my kitchen.  I'm trying to have one meatless meal and one fish meal in the menu a week.  This Cajun Pecan Catfish dish fit that goal.  I used Tilapia, instead of catfish and I got raves around the table.

This was my meatless contribution to the week: Ravioli with Creamy Squash Sauce which was warm and creamy without the cream.  The nuts added a nice crunch, though I didn't toast them, but should have to bring out the nuttiness.  The consensus around the table was it needed more seasoning; salt in particular.  I thought the garlic would have been enough, but it needed something else.  We decided that simple salt and pepper, and maybe some fresh basil in addition to the spinach.  I had some leftovers for lunch and added some diced ham, which was good, too.  This would also make a good side to chicken breasts.

This Creamy Chicken Manicotti has been on my Pinterest board for a very long time.  I printed it out weeks ago, but a restricted menu and then a gluten free plan kept it from being actually made.  I finally made it.  I used rotisserie chicken instead of frozen pre-cooked strips.  It was just okay, though I couldn't tell you why.  Maybe shredded swiss cheese instead of Parmesan would have added some tang.  Maybe it just needed some additional salt and pepper.  It was moist and creamy, and we ate it, but nobody had that "gotta keep this recipe" look about them.  It was good, but I deleted the Pin.

I'm totally hooked on reading the third book in the Outlander series - "Voyager" interspersed with watching the TV show on demand.  It's just so dang good, but it's also becoming the reason I'm not doing much of anything else.  The books have been a huge escape mechanism, but I need to do something creative.  It'd be part of getting back to normal.  We'll see how it goes this weekend. 

The semi-final football playoff game is tonight, which should be infinitely warmer than last week's game.  There's part of me that would like to go, though I doubt anyone would go with me.  How sad would that be?  A middle-aged mom sitting alone in the parent section, screaming her head off and she doesn't even have a player or cheerleader on the field.  LOL. It might be kind of creapy, actually.

The 15 y.o. is heading out to the movies tonight with friends to the Mocking Jay premier.  Hubby is feeling up to getting out of the house and is talking about hunting tomorrow.  He'll need to take the boys to get their hunting licenses this afternoon.  Otherwise, it's me doing more to get the house in order in prep for the holidays.  Can you believe they are upon us?? 

Happy Friday,

Thursday, November 20, 2014

We Are

  • We are thankful to the genius who invented heated seats.
  • We are layered (heavily layered) and wrapped and ready for the quarterfinal state football playoff game.  Go Mustangs!
  • We are rethinking that it's less stressful to get Tweets about the playoff game than actually being there. . .infinitely warmer, but possibly more stressful
  • We are headed to the semifinals with a 71-29 final.  71!!!  Go RV!
  • We are super psyched to have been accepted to our first choice - UNC.
  • We are plowing through book three in the "Outlander" series.  I think it might actually be attached to me.
  • We are always mystified by the random shots that appear on my phone.  I know who it is, I just don't know when he took it.
  • We are reminded frequently of our choice to change the spelling of her name, knowing she would forever have it misspelled and mispronounced.  For the record:  K.A.L.L.E.N.E. and her friend - Geona.
  • We are always in awe of any sunrise
Happy Thursday,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sketches on Tuesday

This month's sketch, from Becky Fleck over at PageMaps, has nine square photos.  I love square photos.  Cropping down from a 4x6 is minimal (and quick) and usually serves to greater focus the subjects in the photos. Plus square photos are just so easy to layout; none of that puzzle-piece fitting necessary.  Photos grids just rock!

Square photo layouts are also easy to adjust to fit your needs.  In the case of the November sketch, you can choose one side of the layout or the other if you need less than nine photos.  Rotating the left side 180 degrees will put the three photos on top for greater focus.

You can add more square photos to either side of the layout.  Add two more on the right (top and bottom) to get eight photos on the right side.  Add more photos along the top, on the left side, and shift the round journaling block out to the far left edge; you can tuck it in behind the photo if necessary.  Need more photos?  Consider shrinking the size of the photos to 2 1/2 or 2" squares and go with three rows.

Remove any of the photos and either shift them to close the gaps, or leave the gaps and fill with layered embellishments, patterned paper blocks or a combination of the two.  If you need more journaling, use a photo block.  You can even use larger photos to reduce the number of photos - 4x4 or even 6x6.  You can still stack the photos like the sketch, but you may need to enlarge the background patterned paper mat to give you sufficient margins.

This square-style layout is great if you're doing Project Life® or pocket-page albums because it can translate to pocketed protectors pretty readily - keep the grid affect in the protector by cropping down patterned paper to fill the blank pockets.

How will you use this month's sketch?

Happy Tuesday,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

We Are

  • We are having to tell people not to eat their homework.  Really?  We have to tell him not to do this?
  • We are doing something right if she not only knows who Journey is, but has them loaded on her phone.
  • We are doing what the birthday-boy wants. . .Laser Tag and Arcade games
  • We are too small for Laser Tag when the vest is one-third of your body weight. . .so we're cooking.
  • We are playing in the Arcade, because that we can do
  • We are non-traditional when it comes to birthday cakes. . .hello, Pumpkin Gooey Cake
  • We are 16. . .how did that happen?
  • We are ready.  Bring on the birds.
  • We are six and it only matters that it's snowing.
  • We are not ready for this kind of cold. . .not yet.
Happy Wednesday,

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I'm Here and I'm Freezing

When I disappear, blogging-wise, it's certainly not intended.  Too many doctor visits, too many medical tests last week left me pretty . . . well pretty done.  My mental thought capacity was spent thinking about my hubby and left room for little else.

But I'm here today.  I'm freezing, but I'm here.  It was 70 degrees yesterday, and sunny.  It was beautiful.  This morning it was 16 degrees, when I left the house.  It was grey and it was snowing. Watching the news this morning, it doesn't appear that Colorado is alone in this cold and snow.  I'll be looking for all my warm stuff today and then I'll be doing my best to reclaim my home.

I've got bundles of herbs, cut in haste before the temperatures plummeted yesterday, air drying from my kitchen window valence.  It's pretty cozy looking, and smells amazing.  I've got a colander filled with tomatoes, picked with the same haste, that need to be roasted or frozen before fruit flies claim it as some sort of resort and spa retreat.   I need to dig out the flannel sheets.  Laundry needs finishing.  Last night I noticed the dust in the house is only a day or two from organizing and becoming these psycho Minions from Despicable Me II. . .it's scary.

For all the tests hubby has had, we know precious little.  There are more tests and consults this week and in the coming couple of weeks.  If I miss a post, or five, you'll know why and that it's not because I wanted to.

Happy  Tuesday,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Week in the Life - Days 5, 6 and 7

Just our everyday life. . .in pictures.

Starting Halloween off with an orange sunrise.

A Shark Week victim (she's Monday) who met up with the rest of the week at school, and my Nerd, who discovered the comfort of flannel.  (Note to self:  get some of those photos from the girl)

The 6 y.o. who's photo I didn't get before he went out trick-or-treating.  I may have to have him dress up and we'll just take those shots today.

The best part of any party is usually the food. . .and it was a Pinterest-spread of goodies.

From sketch, to pumpkin, to reality.

The 14 y.o. never uses a sketch.  Usually he doesn't even draw on the pumpkin, he just starts cutting.  This year, he needed the visual of his cuts.

The 14 y.o. Enderman, party-bound.  They watched a scary movie and he has discovered that scary movies. . .not so much for him.

She almost always uses a photo to start.  She was getting very frustrated with her design and the cuts.  I think that frustration evaporated with the first group of kids who knew what her design was (we were listening to them come up the steps - one thought it was the rival high school's logo, but another quickly admonished, "No, that's the Av's!!")  Several more compliments and boom. . .frustration gone.  It also helped that her Instagram shot garnered the attention, and comment, of the NHL official site.

Eye candy for Halloween.

The 14 y.o.'s pumpkin.

The 6 y.o.'s (top) and the 17 y.o.'s  The 15 y.o. sketched his out, but wasn't able to get it carved before having to head out.  He did get compliments on it during the evening though

Bribery for the fence painters.

All hands on deck. . .well fence.

Get him a brush.

A little harvest related cooking on Sunday.  Apple cranberry applesauce from the apples sent to us.  Roasted pumpkin seeds from the carved pumpkins.  And bread, because Monday brings the need for school lunches.

Go.  Capture life.