Friday, January 30, 2015

Spirit Filled Schools and Food Filled Bellies

It was a busy week for my kiddos.  One set was celebrating Catholic Schools week (I need to remember later to head down for the Parent Appreciation Assembly.)  Their week was filled with spirit type events, extra buddy time, no homework and this morning the two youngest were volunteering to hand out burritos to the parents dropping kids off.  Got mine - delish - along with a chorus of "Thank You's" and sign waving as I drove out of the parking lot.

The other set was celebrating Make-A-Wish week.  They "adopt" a Make-A-Wish child and fundraisers are held all week to support the child's wish with the remainder of funds going to the program.  Last year the high school raised $15,000.  As of yesterday afternoon, they had $9,000 and still had today's money-raising opportunities, along with the Saturday Color Fusion dance to collect from.

We attended a Financial Aid information meeting last night, so tax prep and FAFSA are on the agenda this weekend.  You know, getting funding shouldn't be this difficult.  It's truly ridiculous.  And I'll just leave it at that.
On to something more fun. . .cooking, meal planning, eating.  If you're looking to warm up from all the cold and snow or looking for something quick to pull together so you can go play, there should be something here for you.

I've had this Slow Cooker Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup on my board for a long time.  I made it on In-Law Monday and did a stove top version instead.  It was good, but the flavors were more subdued than I expected, which may have developed better in the slow cooker, or even the next day.  Looking at the instructions for this vs. what I used, there are some differences in cooking, not ingredients.  It makes me wonder if I've pinned the recipe twice, but by different bloggers; I'll have to compare.  In any case it was good - thick and creamy, and I'd make it again.  I served this with these Butter Dipped Biscuits (my go-to biscuit) split and layered with turkey, bacon and swiss toasted up under the broiler.

I had plans for a dessert, but not the ingredients, so I punted and picked this Cranberry Almond Cake.  I love almond.  Paired with tart cranberries and crunchy almonds and it was perfect.  A really good, moist cake.  It would be great in the morning with coffee or brunch.

I was looking for a good after-school snack (or morning grab-and-go) and these Cinnamon Granola Bars became the ticket because I had it all on hand.  They aren't the traditional chewy unbaked bars, but they're soft and good and filling.  They didn't make enough to last long in this house, but I'd make them again and cut them up into squares, instead of bars - you know portion control.
Salsa Verde Beef Tacos was made for a Friday In-Law dinner, and it was really good.  Super simple to dump in the slow cooker and lots of flavor when it came out.  I served it with avocados, lime, tomatoes and shredded lettuce.

We are watching our niece once a week, so I'm trying to go a little more kid friendly when she's here.  I made this Ham & Cheese Skillet for her first evening with us.  She's a good eater when her cousins are with her, but put an adult at the table and something happens - she slows to a crawl and then stops.  Until we sat down, she was chowing away.  It was creamy and warm.  It doesn't have a traditional roux-based cheese sauce, instead it uses cream cheese.  Next time I think I'll mix the cheddar with another sharp cheese, just to up the cheesiness - it's plenty gooey.

This Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa was made the following week our niece was here.  Because we ended up feeding her parents when they came to get her the week before, I doubled the recipe planning to do the same this time.  The recipe said it served four, we'd be nine, so doubling seemed like the right thing to do.  Ah, yeah, we had a T.O.N.  Seriously, I could have fed 12 and probably still had leftovers.  The flavor was good; diced avocado, lettuce and sour cream to topped it.  I served tortilla chips and everyone ate it like a dip.  We warmed up leftovers in flour tortillas - and yes, there's still more left!  Next time - no doubling!

I love this Chicken Pot Pie, and so does my family.  When I found this Creamy Chicken Pot Pie Soup with Parmesan Drop Biscuits, of course I had to try it.  Dang, it was good.  All the creamy, richness I love about the pie and the biscuits provided that pastry crunch.   It was good and it didn't last.

I've been meaning to make granola for a long time.  It's one of those pantry staples that seems crazy to spend money on.  Most recipes have coconut oil, which I have yet to make a pantry staple, but will soon, since that seems to be a regular ingredient in the recipes I pin.  This Cranberry Walnut Granola called for Walnut Oil, which I didn't have either, but after buying it and then making the granola, I think you could substitute canola oil in a pinch.  You could probably substitute whatever you had on hand, except maybe olive because its flavor isn't as neutral.   I had run out of cranberries, but I've got tons of dried cherries, so I used them instead.  We flew through this batch.  It went on yogurt and cottage cheese.  It was eaten by the handful.  I'd have had it for cereal this morning, but it was gone (plus I had that burrito), so I'll be making up another batch today.

I've got some must-do's on my list, so I'd best get to it.

Happy Friday,

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

We Are

  • We are in the midst of a strike by the Phantom Taster
  • We are supposed to be napping, not spying
  • We are making homemade granola - check back Friday for the review
  • We are trying to free up some time to roll this new bad boy into production
  • We are scrapbooking.  What???  #Deadline
  • We are sorry that we're not sorry.  It is January, right?
Happy Wednesday,

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We Are

We are celebrating.  

It started with a fairly productive weekend.  My living room has been de-tree-ed.  I dug into The Pit and stored away decorations (though there's still a couple boxes and the tree in pieces to shove away), sorted out baskets of toys, took toys to the crawl space that weren't currently being played with, folded blankets, picked up paper supplies and photos, sorted out and counted inventory, cleared and sorted stacks and stacks of papers off the desks. 

It felt good and now it looks good.

  • We are 80 pages down. . . 1,363 to go
  • We are enjoying the view.  I always love those snow-covered peaks.
  • We are positively on rapid-boil excitement for pajama day. . . cape and all
  • We are never looking forward to year-end paperwork.  Ever.  It makes me sick
  • We are gathering
  • We are thinking it's all about the shoes.  Yes?
  • We are blowing out 50.  And there were 50.
  • We are starting foggy
  • We are discussing the working of solar power.  Seriously.  Solar power.
  • We are helpful.  (Note:  no tree in the background!)
We are also celebrating today - this day, 50 years ago, a boy was born who would grow to become the man I share this incredible life with.  Happy Birthday, Babe!  I love you.

Happy Wednesday,

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hell Holes and Food

I'm to a, sort of, lull in my year end activities.  Maybe lull isn't the right word - a place I can squeeze in a break would be better.  I have some e-filing to do and then I've got the yuckier part of closing out the year:  inventory.  I've decided there is no way I can concentrate on counting when the store room and the area around it is an utter sty.  I'm hoping that today I can make some inroads, literally - paths into the disaster that lower level has become.  I've fortified myself with coffee and oatmeal pancakes.  I've got my iPod loaded with podcasts and the weather, though it doesn't look like it now, is supposed to be open-the-windows good.

Dear hubby celebrates his 50th birthday next week, but the party will be this weekend.  Luckily, we're not having it here at the house so I won't feel rushed to "clean."  Clean translates into "get the rest of the tree down."  Yep, it's still up - though half the ornaments are off.  

The menu this week was all Pinterst.  If you're looking for a menu or a recipe that's quick, easy and yummy then check out this past week's menu.

I'm a big fan of Snickerdoodle cookies.  I almost made this Apple Butter Snickerdoodle recipe for the cookie bake, but passed on it.  I made them last week and oh my.  Learning my lesson from my last Snickerdoodle adventure, I didn't over smoosh them and I watched the cook time - which for me up at altitude usually means less time than the recipe calls for.  They were light and soft.  They were good!

One of the outcomes from all the doctor's appointments, was a need to be more aware with some diet issues.  In an effort to up the nutrition and fiber in a weekend stack of pancakes I found these Healthy Oatmeal Pancakes.  I didn't have buttermilk, so I did the substitute thing (I may need to keep buttermilk on hand more than I'm used to.)  This recipe produces a light, fluffy, moist pancake.  I served them the day of with fresh strawberries and this cinnamon syrup.  I've had the leftovers reheated with bananas.  Both good options.

While some of us were eating Oatmeal Pancakes, one of us was enjoying these Bacon & Egg Stuff Avocados.  They were really easy and I'm told very good.  My only problem was we buy large eggs and there was no way I would scoop out enough avocado, and still have avocado left, to not have the eggs overflow.  I used the blogger's tip to use muffin tins to hold the avocados, but next time I'll put muffin liners underneath to make clean up easier.  

We love a good sandwich for dinner and French Dip is one of our favorites.  These Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches were good.  The recipe calls for a particular roast, which either because of vernacular or availability, I couldn't find.  Add that I cooked it high and for a shorter time (I prefer low and slow), shredding wasn't going to happen.  But they were still quite good, I just sliced it really thin.  I've got other French Dip recipes to try and others that I have liked better, so this one won't make the rotation again.

If it's not a casserole this time of year, it's something covered in a creamy sauce.  Just like this Chicken in Cream Parmesan and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce.  The sauce was killer - I'm not a "mopper" for sauce, but I was totally dragging my dinner roll through the stuff.  I think I may have seen someone just pour the sauce directly on his roll.  I served it with a side salad, but only because I didn't have the amount of Orzo I thought I had.  You definitely need a way to use up all the dreamy sauce.

We were watching our niece on Tuesday afternoon and she was likely going to be around for dinner, so I planned a kid friendly meal.  I was intrigued by this Ham and Cheese Skillet recipe for its take on a roux, which didn't use milk, but sour cream instead.  It produced a rich and creamy sauce.  I upped the called for pasta, without altering the rest of the recipe, just to be sure there was enough.  I used 10 oz instead of 8 oz and we fed nine.

What was I saying about casseroles?  I didn't put this Slow Cooker Cheesy Tortellini in the slow cooker, I did it in a skillet on the stove.  Usually when a recipe calls for straight ground beef in an Italian recipe I sub in Italian sausage - I like the additional flavor it provides.  I didn't do that with this one and I missed it, so next time sausage it is.  I'll also drain one of the cans of tomatoes.  Since the sauce isn't a marinara, it was a bit watery for me - I'm sure the intent is that the tortellini will cook in and soak it up.  I added double the tortellini (and still too much water), but didn't otherwise adjust the recipe. 

I'm pretty sure I've made this Skillet Cassoulet before.  It's from Taste of Home, so I'm sure I made it from the magazine.  I doubled the recipe for us.  I toasted up some buttered sourdough and it was a complete meal.  It's zesty and warm, with that browned goodness of spicy sausage.  Hearty too!

Well, if I'm going to accomplish anything, I'd best dig in.  

Happy Friday,

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We Are

After the upheaval of the recent months, and the chaos that is the holiday season, it seems we have reached a quiet spot in the road, so to speak.  We seem to be relatively boring, which I gotta tell you, I'll take it.

But it also means there's not as much to take photos of.  This is where something like ProjectLife® comes in handy.  None of these things are much of a story on their own, but they do show where we are right now.  

  • We are receiving bright, unexpected bouquets on cold, dreary days.
  • We are fog and frost-bound for two days, which never happens in Colorado.  At least the fog part.
  • We are all about routines on school mornings, which include "Hurry up!" and "Eat" on repeat.
  • We are watching the big ball rise.  Today it's an odd light-pink for being this high in the sky (lens didn't do a great job in capturing the color) which is a sure sign of big-time inversion.  Pretty.  Just don't think about why.
Happy  Wednesday,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


I posted on Facebook that I've decided to embrace "the slump."  Not that I have a lot of choice at the moment.  As much as I'd like to put some crafting/me time at the top of the list, I just can't.  There are some other things that need to be dealt with first.  That's the thing about priorities, they are shifting.

I have decided that I need to take a class.  I've checked over at Big Picture, my go-to, and while they have a ton of classes and eBooks, they don't have the kind of thing I need to get me going.  I'm not very good at the self-paced thing, though they look really interesting, I need the accountability.  However, I've got several classes I've paid for and/or taken that I could re-do - though there's that whole accountability thing again.  I also have several challenges from the last class I took that are sitting on my cluttered work table still to do, as well.

I had a friend try to get me to a crop on Saturday, but I fell asleep.  Actually I had planned on taking her kit to her after church on Saturday evening, but forgot it at home.  Once I was home, I was done.  I fell asleep as she was dangling drinks at me via text.  There is another, longer crop later this month. . .maybe that'll be my ticket.  The store also had a couple classes that looked interesting; perhaps one of those would work.

Anyone got any other ideas for get-me-going classes?  I did a brief Google search and most stuff was digital and I'm a paper gal.

I thought about maybe teaching myself to convert some sketches into digital stamps and create cut-files via YouTube, but I run into the same time crunch at the moment.  I really need to learn this stuff or find someone I can work with who already knows.

Hey, does anyone know how to do that - take a sketch and create a digital stamp and/or a cut-file?  Email if you do - we can talk.

For now, I'll take down my tree (nope, didn't happen over the weekend) and try not to think about the changes that will be taking place when I take out all those ornaments and decorate the tree next Christmas.

Happy Tuesday,

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ice and Food

I had to break out the chisel again this morning to get my car out of the ice block it had become overnight, but even that didn't work.  Bring on the hot water.  They say we should get to freezing tomorrow.  

I've got a list in my head of things I'd like to get done today, besides getting dinner together.  Among them start to take down the tree (the rest of the house is pretty much devoid of Christmas), tackle some end-of-year paper work so I can move on to the next step, and start to work on the basement (there's not need to talk about the pigs that moved in down there.)  We'll see how it goes, since it's cold enough outside to not make me leave until I do the kid round-up later.

While I still can't manage an ounce of creativity in the crafting arena, cooking is flourishing, and usually does this time of year.  The menu for the week was all Pinterest.

Let me state - there is NO bourbon in this Bourbon Chicken recipe.  This is more like Bourbon Street. . .and holy cow was it good.  I doubled the recipe in both chicken and sauce.  I also used chicken thighs, instead of breasts, because they hold up better for simmering.  There were a couple comments, on the original blog post, that it was overly salty, but I didn't think so.  I used low sodium soy sauce, so maybe helped.  I wouldn't add any additional salt though.  I also used pineapple juice, which I keep on hand in small cans.  You could add julienne carrots, sweet peppers and broccoli if you wanted to up the nutrition. 

Sunday night my family found me and asked for dinner, of which I had none planned, because I usually do leftovers on Sundays.  I remembered pinning this Potato Kielbasa Skillet and it looked quick enough for a toss-together meal.  The bad part of not menu planning, you're not sure to have everything on hand.  Enter tonight's meal.  I didn't have red potatoes, enough spinach and zero onions (a staple in my kitchen.)  However, I did have russets.  Note, leave the skin on, they'll hold up better.  I also had about a cup of the four cups of spinach, though I think one was good enough, maybe two cups, but I think four cups would have been a lot.  I didn't have onion, but I had dried onion and some green pepper.  It was good.  I knew it wouldn't be enough for the six of us, and debated adding in a can of northern beans, but instead left the skillet to my kids and hubby and had leftovers myself.

I am cooking this week by the seat of my pants.  I have the menu, I just haven't hit the store.  So it's been interesting as to whether I have the ingredients, or if I'll have to wing it; I did send the 16 y.o. to get me onions.  I thought I had everything I needed for One-Pot Chicken Burrito Bowls.  I was wrong, by one can of black beans (also a kitchen staple.)  This was a quick In-Law dinner meal.  I toyed with the idea of using Quinoa instead of rice, even brown rice, but thought I'd give it a go as written.  Plus I still have a ton of rice to use up from one of hubby's restricted diets.  I will give the Quinoa a try, though.

On Mondays I usually make a dessert that doubles for the kids' lunches.  They are die-hard Chocolate Chip Cookie lovers, big time.  I keep trying to broaden their cookie horizons, usually with little won effort, which just means the cookies last all week instead of two days.  So, when I found these Cranberry Double Chocolate Chip Cookies, I thought the chocolate chips might give me an edge.  Turns out, they love them.  They'd be really good with dried cherries, which would have been my go-to had I not had enough dried cranberries and I was about 1/4 cup short, actually.

Apparently I should have waited one day before making Creamy Chicken and Corn Chowder; it was 55 degrees when we sat down to it, but less than 12 hours later it was 16 degrees, and wouldn't get any better than that.  Still it was thick, creamy and smooth.  I used rotisserie chicken, as I usually do with recipes like this.  It's even better the next day.

I had already determined to make my own, well, everything, for this Meatball Sub Kabob recipe.  The sauce, the bread dough and the meatballs.  My sauce is tried and true, as is my dinner roll recipe.  The only thing I don't have is a good meatball recipe.  Well I have a good one, but wasn't sure the flavors would "go Italian."  I should have just tried it, because I searched, found one and tried it and they were so-so.  I usually mix in ground pork to keep things moist, but didn't have any on hand, so the double cook times dried out the meatballs.  Next time I'll either go with the Salisbury steak-style meatball recipe I have, or re-try the recipe I found adding ground pork and then cooking the meatballs, just until they hold their shape, since they're getting cooked again.  I might also make them a bit larger, more meal sized.  Those things aside, I still liked them.  Meatball sub-y without all the bread and the mess of eating a fully sauced sandwich.

This week's menu has been an exercise in flexibility and creativity (at least there's creativity alive somewhere in the house.)  Take this Avocado Black Bean Enchiladas recipe, which was supposed to be my meatless meal for the week.  I had everything on hand, but the avocados weren't ripe; I could barely cut into the stupid things.  Luckily I had a rotisserie chicken in the 'fridge.  The recipe calls for flour tortillas, which I had, but I had planned on using up some corn tortillas instead.  I found those had become a science experiment, so flour it was!  The flavor was great and we agreed to try it again with the avocados.

I have my plan for tonight, which is supposed to be french dip, but since I have no roast I'm not sure creativity and flexibility will work with that one.  Which means I either head out, into the ice, for the roast or come up with something else.  I think I'll see what I've got for fish in the freezer.

Happy Friday,