Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls


This week I pulled myself together enough to make 8 dozen cinnamon rolls for my friend's daughter's wedding reception! It was a great night with lots of yummy food and I'm glad that I could help out with something since I've been kind of useless lately. If you've ever wondered what 6 dozen cinnamon rolls looks like here is a picture of them rolled out before I baked them:

Anyway, this has been my favorite recipe for cinnamon rolls! It is supposed to taste like Cinnabon and it comes pretty close when they're warm. Hope you enjoy!


Cinnamon Rolls
Dough:
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast (or one packet)
2 eggs
1/3 cup margarine (melted and cooled slightly)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 1/2 cups flour

Filling:
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 T. Cinnamon
1/3 cup butter (softened)

Icing:
3-4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup butter (softened)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt

Warm milk to 110 degrees. Add yeast and stir until dissolved. Add all remaining dough ingredients except flour. Slowly add flour while stirring. Let set until doubled. In separate bowl mix brown sugar and cinnamon together. Roll dough into 16x21 in. rectangle and spread with 1/3 cup softened butter. Sprinkle evenly with cinnamon mix. Roll dough into long tube and cut* into 15 rolls (about 1 1/2 in. thick). Place rolls on a cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until double. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. While rolls are baking, cream together the cream cheese and butter for the icing. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar. Add vanilla and salt and beat until creamy. Let rolls cool 2 minutes and then spread with frosting while still hot!

* A great trick I learned to cut cinnamon rolls is to use dental floss. Simply pull floss underneath the dough and wrap it up and around. As you pull it tight it cuts the dough from all directions at once (so it doesn't smoosh) and it helps to un-stick the dough from the counter so that you rolls stay in a nice circle shape!

Sorry for the long break...

Hello? Is anyone still reading? :-) Sorry I seemed to drop off the earth there for a bit. As many have heard or deduced for themselves...I am in fact 12 weeks pregnant! While I am so excited to be pregnant again after going through a miscarriage this summer...I have been really sick this time and so I haven't been cooking. And even when I do cook I haven't felt like writing about it...you know how that goes!

Anyway, we have still been doing some fun things around the house for the season and I've tried to keep taking pictures so that I can do posts about them all eventually! Today I'm feeling better so I decided to post some of them. Thanks for you support and hopefully we'll get back up and running on a normal schedule here at Neighbor Julia soon! We'll be at my sister's wedding next week and there will be plenty of festive foods and activities to post about soon! For now, enjoy the sudden bursts of posts from random things that have happened over the last month!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mom's Banana Bread


This is the banana bread I was raised on! I loved when my mom would make this because it not only tastes delicious...it makes the house smell awesome! I like that it's comes out really solid and moist and not super crumbly...probably all the sugar holds it together :-) Anyway, this was the first batch of the season and it was a great treat for today! Give it a try!

Banana Bread
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3-4 large bananas (I let my go brownish black to get the best flavor in the bread!)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

In a large bowl or mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. In a seperate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Mash bananas well and combine with other ingredients. Add walnuts if desired. Bake in well greased bread pans at 350 degrees. For large bread pans bake 50-60 min. For medium sized bake 30-40 minutes. And for small pans bake 20-30 minutes. (This recipe yields 2 large loaves)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Quick and Easy Beef and Rice Burritos


There are some that will tell you that just opening and mixing cans together is not really cooking! I am not one of those people...and this recipe will prove it! This is one of those recipes that was created on a Sunday afternoon when I needed to feed a big group of people and I hadn't been to the store for a while and VOILA! It now gets made frequently in our house because it's fast, the kids eat it well, and we always have the ingredients on hand! This makes a big pan-full so you can feed a big group or it reheats great for lunch the next day! If you have had a long day but still want something yummy this might be just what you need. I don't know if I've just lived in the southwest too long now or what but a warm flour tortilla is like the best comfort food ever!

Beef and Rice Burritos
1 lb. ground beef
2 cups cooked rice
1 taco seasoning packet (sometimes I only use 1/2...just depends on my mood)
1 cup salsa (I use a chunky type salsa so it adds onion and bell pepper pieces to the mix!)
1 can corn (drained)
1 can tomato with green chilies (I use Rotel) (drained)
1 can black beans (drained)
shredded cheddar cheese (to top)
sour cream (to top)
tortillas

In a large skillet or electric frying pan cook beef and drain. While beef is cooking, prepare rice according to package directions. Add cooked rice to beef. Add taco seasoning, salsa, corn, Rotel, and black beans. Mix thoroughly and cook until heated. Warm tortillas in the microwave so that they will roll easier. Put beef and rice mixture in tortillas along with shredded cheese and sour cream and wrap into burritos. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Coconut Cream Pie



I was recently talking to someone else originally from Spokane and we were reminiscing about the deliciousness of Cyrus O'leary's cream pies! YUM! Sadly they are locally owned in WA and don't distribute all the way down to the great Southwest. But the more I thought about Cyrus O'leary's and their delicious pies...I got thinking...maybe I could try and make one! My favorites are banana cream and coconut cream so I decided to give the coconut a whirl for Thanksgiving. I found this particular recipe on Allrecipes.com which is a great recipe finder website. I made a few changes to it (like it called for cool whip but I made my own whipped cream...etc) The whole pie was pretty easy to make, it looked great, and it tasted good...not O'leary good...but delicious all the same!

Coconut Cream Pie
3 cups half and half
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut (toasted)*
1 tsp. vanilla
1 9 in. pie shell, baked
2 cups whipped cream (I beat 2 cups whipping cream until fluffy and add sugar until it is the desired sweetness...which for this pie was SWEET!)


In a medium saucepan, combine half-and-half, eggs, sugar, flour and salt. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup of the coconut and the vanilla extract. Pour into pie shell and chill 2 to 4 hours, or until firm.
Top with whipped topping, and with remaining 1/4 cup of coconut. I put the whipped cream in a decorating bag with a large star decorating tip and topped the pie that way...just like my good friend Cyrus would do! Note: To toast coconut, spread it in an ungreased pan and bake in a 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Don't be like me and try and buy it pre-toasted! :-)

* So I put a star by the coconut up top because flaked coconut is one of the things I choose to be a brand snob about! Especially in recipes where I'm going to be baking with the coconut I think it's important! I think that Baker's makes the best sweetened coconut. It is super moist (way more than the cheaper brands) and really made a huge difference in the way the pie and pudding held together! Anyway, that's just my opinion...sometimes you have to splurge!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkey Pot Pie


Still looking for something to do with all of your leftover turkey? We love this turkey pot pie recipe that I got at church a few years ago. It's definitely a southwestern twist on pot pie but it is still comfort food to me! Green chilies, pinto beans, and cumin give your Thanksgiving leftovers a kick!

Turkey Pot Pie
2 green onions, chopped
3 Tbl. oil
2 (4.5 oz) cans chopped green chiles, undrained (I use frozen green chilies...which gives it a much better flavor but may not be available outside of the southwest!)
1 (2.25 oz) can sliced ripe olives, drained
¼ cup flour
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
2 (16 oz) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
(Sometimes I use more if I don't want it as thick)
2 cups chopped cooked turkey breast (or chicken)
2 cups shredded cheddar or cheddar blend
1 can refrigerated biscuit dough (or make your own!)


In a large pot or dutch oven, saute green onions in oil over medium heat 1 minute. Add green chiles, olives, flour, and cumin. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in beans and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened. Stir in turkey. Pour into a 13x9 baking dish. Top with cheese. Top with biscuits.

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until topping is golden and pot pie is bubbly.

Apple-Cinnamon Stuffing


While I do recognize that onion and celery are pretty much essential parts of the whole stuffing idea...I'm not a huge fan of stuffing that just tastes like onion-y bread! My friend Erica's grandmother had made a stuffing with apples in it one year while I was visiting them for Thanksgiving and I LOVED IT! Ever since I've been searching for a recipe that would taste as good! So after trying a few different recipes I finally decided I was just going to have to make up my own last year! So here it is! I know that apples and cinnamon sound like strange additions to stuffing but my family enjoys it. Plus, my family loves that I make it with the cheap-0 bread because it's just about the only time each year that I buy that kind!

Apple Cinnamon Stuffing
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2 golden delicious apples (chopped)
10 pieces white bread
10 pieces wheat bread (like the cheap wheat bread)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. parsley
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

In a large pot saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rip up bread into 1 in. squares. Remove broth mixture from heat. Add chopped apple and bread (making sure to coat evenly). Add spices and mix thoroughly. Place stuffing in 9x13 pan and bake 20 min. at 350 degrees. You want to bake it enough that it's not soggy but don't over-dry it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eggnog Cheesecake with Raspberry Topping


I found this recipe in a Betty Crocker holiday entertaining book. I love eggnog and everyone loves cheesecake. And when you combine the two it's magical :-) This really reminds me of a vanilla bean cheesecake...only just a hint of eggnog! So even those of you who aren't the biggest fans of eggnog might give this cheesecake a try! Plus fresh raspberries in the middle of winter is always a great treat! It's kind of a Christmas-y recipe but since we are always traveling around during December I usually make this for Thanksgiving. It was the first thing I made for this Thanksgiving so that's one dish down...20 to go!

Eggnog Cheesecake
1 1/4 cups crushed shortbread cookies
1/4 cup butter (for high altitude reduce to 2 1/2 Tbls.)
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup eggnog
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Raspberry Topping
1 (10 oz.) package frozen raspberries in syrup, thawed, undrained
2 Tbls. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine crushed cookies and butter until combined. In an ungreased 9 in. springform pan push crumb mixture into a crust. Bake for about 10 min. or until set (it took me about 14 min. before it looked set).

Reduce heat to 325 degrees. In a mixer or bowl, beat cream cheese until soft and creamy. Gradually add sugar. Mix until smooth. Add eggs one at a time on low speed. Mix in eggnog and nutmeg. Do not over beat. (I recently learned that the trick to not cracking your cheesecake is not over beating after the eggs are added. So you really want to make sure the cream cheese is beat smooth BEFORE you add the eggs so that you don't over stir the mixture later.) Pour over crust.

Bake cheesecake for 50-60 min. (1 hr. 10- 1 hr. 20 min. for high altitude). Or until set but center still jiggles slightly. Another great trick for high altitude baking is to put a small baking pan filled with 1 or 2 cups of water in the oven on the bottom rack under the cheesecake while it's baking. This will help it to not crack. Cool in pan on wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

In food processor, place frozen raspberries. Cover, process until smooth. If desired, strain seeds. In 1 qt. saucepan, mix pureed raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar and the cornstarch. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. (For high altitude boil and stir for 3-4 minutes) Refrigerate sauce 30 minutes to cool. Stir fresh raspberries into sauce. Before cutting cheesecake, carefully remove side of pan. Serve sauce over wedges of cheesecake. Store unused portions covered in refrigerator.

More recipes to come as more food gets made! Happy Thanksgiving week!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rosemary-Citrus Turkey



Well I'm cheating with this post a little because the pictured Turkey was last year's main course! But it was so yummy...I wanted to post the recipe in time for others to try it! So if you are still looking for a delicious way to cook your turkey...you may just want to give this a try. Oh, and please forgive the picture. It was taken before I became the highly successful food photographer you know today! ;-)

Rosemary-Citrus Turkey (adapted from a Taste of Home recipe that I found in their Thanksgiving edition last year)

15-20 lb. Turkey (yeah, we have a few people coming over so we needed a big one!)
2 oranges
2 lemons
3 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Grate the lemon and orange peels into a small bowl. Combine with rosemary, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. Place turkey in pan breast side up and pat dry. Brush with oil and rub with citrus mixture.

Now, the book says to cook it for about 3 1/4 hours at 325 degrees or until a meat thermometer reads 180 degrees. I like to use a turkey bag which changes the cook times so if you are using a bag make sure to check the directions they have on the box.

Also, since you only use the fruit peels in this recipe you can slice up the fruit and use them as a garnish when you serve the turkey or I think I let my kids eats the oranges and put the lemon down my garbage disposal to make it smell nice after all the other junk I throw down there! In fact sometimes I buy lemons with the purpose of doing that...it really works for a stinky sink...give it a try!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Product Review of MasterCook


Sorry for my lack of blogging the last few days! My family is visiting so we've been busy busy around these parts! I promise there are some good Thanksgiving recipes coming over the next few days!

For tonight, however, I wanted to do a product review of one of my favorite cooking tools! It is a program for your computer called MasterCook 9.0 that has some really awesome features to help you with shopping and cooking! A few years ago my friend Val brought this program to a church recipe night and totally sold me on it! I think I got ended up buying it as a birthday present for myself! It was around $20 dollars at Best Buy back then but I just looked it up on Amazon and it says $8 dollars...so that is quite a deal if you are looking for a great Christmas present for someone (or yourself!).

First of all, it contains hundreds or recipes for you to try...each including the serving size, nutritional information and shopping lists! It also allows you to enter your recipes into an easy to use spreadsheet and create your own recipe books. (Printing and emailing options are even available if you want to give your recipes to someone else).

After you enter your recipes and the serving size you would like to eat, it can calculate the nutritional info and calories per serving for you! Which is really great if you are trying to watch your calories, fat intake, etc! Some of those casserole calories can really add up though...so use with caution because it might blow some of your recipes out of the water :-)

Another great feature is the pantry option. This is awesome for food storage! You can enter all of the contents of your food storage and as you make different recipes it can subtract what pantry items you used and help you to stay on top of what you need to buy each week at the store! You can also pick your recipes for the week and generate shopping lists for you pantry!

And the BEST feature is the "What can I make" button. Once you've added all your pantry contents and recipes, you can click the button and it will search through all of your recipes (and the included recipe books) and tell you what you can make with just the ingredients you already have! I love it! With little kids, I don't always get to the store on the day I planned so it is great to find out what recipes I already have on hand. I mean hopefully I'm not alone here, but I can totally look into a full pantry and think to myself "I don't have anything to make for dinner!" This one little button proves me wrong time and time again! Plus when you plan menus around what you already have it really saves money!

Well, those are the features I use the most but there are plenty more! It's an awesome program and $8 dollars is an awesome price! There is also a newer version available for $19.99 (which is probably why the older version is only $8). I have the MasterCook 9.0 so I can only review that, but I'm sure 11.0 is going to be awesome too! For more reviews you can visit its Amazon listing by clicking here! Hope you all enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Juli's French Onion Salisbury Steak with Cheese Toast


As promised, tonight is the second recipe in our two part series from my friend Juli! Since the zucchini soup didn't have any meat in it, I decided to cook some beef to make it up to my husband! For those of you who like french onion soup this is really the same kind of idea. Toasted bread with Swiss smothered in warm onion-y soup goodness! Enjoy!

Juli's French Onion Salisbury Steak
1 1/4 lb. ground chuck (if you cannot find chuck, buy a hamburger that has more fat like an 80/20 variety, ground sirloin is also good)
a little bit of parsley
2 T. green onions, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 T. flour
1 T. oil
1 onion thinly sliced
1 tsp. sugar
1 T. garlic minced
1 T. ketchup
2 cups beef broth
1/4cup cider vinegar

Combine chuck, parsley, scallion, salt and pepper to make patties. Flour patties. Heal oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add patties and saute until brown on each side. Remove patties from pan. Add onions and sugar to pan; saute 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and ketchup, saute 1 minutes or until paste begins to brown. Stir in broth and vinegar. Return meat to pan and bring all to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. (Though the recipe says 10 minutes, I cook it longer, like 30 minutes). Serve over cheese toast.

Cheese Toast
French Bread
Butter
Garlic powder
Paprika
Swiss cheese
Parmesan cheese

I sliced the bread into slices and then topped each slice with butter and toppings. If you are planning on using the entire loaf you could probably just cut the loaf in half lengthwise and then top with butter and toppings. Broil Low for about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. Top with beef patty and smother in onion soup!

Thanks to Juli for both of these awesome recipes! If anyone else has a recipe that would make a great blog post let me know! I will gladly make it and taste test it with my family! They are always grateful for new yummy recipes :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Juli's Zucchini Soup


My friend Juli is an awesome cook! I'm going to be blogging about two of her recipes this week...so make sure to try both! She made this soup for lunch a few weeks ago and I have been craving it ever since! It was so delicious and I knew that my girls would love it too so I finally asked her for the recipe. I was surprised to find out that it was also really easy to make! My kids love any food that they get to put toppings on. This soup is topped with crumbled bacon, sour cream and shredded cheese.

This soup is also really hearty!! Just bread and soup was enough to fill up my whole family (husband included)! I served it with roasted garlic french bread tonight and it was great with a little garlic flavor on the side.

Here's the recipe:

Juli's Zucchini Soup

1 cup chopped onions
2 Tbl. butter
3 cups sliced zucchini (This was about 4 small zucchini or 2 regular sized)
2 cups chicken broth (I used 2 cups water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 cup half and half cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (to top)
1/2 cup sour cream (to top)
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, then crumbled (to top)

In a large saucepan, cook onions in melted butter until tender. Add zucchini and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Add salt and pepper. Cool slightly. Pour mixture into blender and puree it. Stir in half and half. Reheat, but do not boil. Garnish with cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits. Serves 6.

I hope you all enjoy this soup as much as we did! I'm definitely going to have to plant some zucchini next year so that we can eat this soup all the time! :-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spaghetti With Meat Sauce and Jenny's 1 Hour Bread Sticks


So my kids love all things pasta (and so do I!). Of course the number 1 pasta of all time is spaghetti! Honestly, my spaghetti varies from time to time and I've never really written down the recipe before! When I was in high school I just learned how my mom made it and have basically stuck with her recipe because her sauce is always yummy! Tonight while I was cooking the sauce I decided to pay close attention to all the ingredients so that I could actually write it out on my blog! So here you go:

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

1 lb. package of pasta
1 lb. ground beef
1 (29 oz) can of tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can of tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 T. sugar
1/2 package McCormick spaghetti Thick and Zesty mix (or substitute basil, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and dried onion)
1/2 cup cheese (I usually use shredded parmesan if I have it or cheddar. Tonight we used 1/2 cup cream cheese because the cream cheese package kept telling me to...and it was pretty good!)

Cook beef in a large pot and drain. Start water for noodles. To meat add tomato products, mushrooms, garlic, sugar, and spaghetti spices. Bring to a boil. Add cheese and stir continuously until completely melted. Reduce heat to low and let simmer at least 15 minutes. Serve over cooked spaghetti noodles!

1 Hour Bread Sticks

Tonight I also made 1 hour bread sticks that I found on my friend Jenny's blog! I've been making these for several months now and I am hooked! They are super easy, super cheap to make and I don't have to remember to make them earlier in the day because they can rise and bake in the time it takes me to make the rest of dinner! They seriously cost less to make than the refrigerated kind you get at a store and they are about 10 times as good! My kids would seriously eat the entire pan by themselves if I let them! You really really have to try this recipe!

Here is a link to her recipe: Jenny's Bread Stick Recipe. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chicken Puffs


So, I'm sure that all of you have a recipe for chicken puffs in one form or another! I remember having something similar to these at my neighbors' (the Wells) house when I was growing up but I came upon this recipe shortly after I got married!

When I first started making chicken puffs it was like one of the most involved meals I made. I would roll out the crescent roll dough and cut it into squares. Then I would pinch up the corners around the filling so it looked all fancy and top each one with stuffing! And they tasted and looked great...don't get me wrong...but I'm kind of over it! At a recipe night I went to for church, my friend Margret was teaching quick fix meals and one of the recipes she taught was chicken puffs! And I was like no way sista...those take forever! Anyway, after I watched her make them in like 10 minutes I was sold! She wrapped them in the crescent roll shape for one thing and there was no stuffing type topping...and they still tasted awesome...because really it's the cream cheese that makes them awesome! Anyway, here is the recipe!

2 packs refrigerated crescent roll dough (or make your own if you are the over-achieving type)
1 (8 0z.) package cream cheese (I usually use 1/3 less fat)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cooked chicken (cubed or shredded)

Mix the cream cheese and mushroom soup until well blended. Add chicken. Place 1 or 2 spoonfuls of chicken mixture onto one of the crescent dough triangles. Roll the dough like you would to make crescent rolls. Repeat with each roll. (Should make 16 total chicken puffs).

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is hot and crescent roll is light brown! (For baking time go by what the crescent roll package says...I think many are different)

I still think these taste really good with the stuffing...but if I make the stuffing I usually just have it on the side. The puffs themselves are a pretty heavy meal so I also do them sometimes with just a salad or some cheesy rice! Enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Campbell's Asian Chicken and Rice Bake



A few Christmas's ago my sister got me some board book recipe books! One from Nestle and one from Campbell's. They are so fun because I can let the girls hold the book themselves. They have pictures of all the ingredients which the girls also love! And since they aren't that big none of the recipes have room to get too complicated!

Today, I made a dinner from the Campbell's cookbook that I wanted to share! I love Campbell's recipes because a lot of them can be made in one pot or one pan...and since I hate dishes that is always appealing to me! You can also find recipes at Campbell's Kitchen! But for now here is one of my favorites:


Asian Chicken and Rice Bake (4 servings)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup uncooked regular white rice
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb.)
1 can Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon garlic powder
paprika

Instructions:
1) Spread rice in 2 qt. shallow covered baking dish. Place chicken on rice.

2) Mix soup, water, soy sauce, vinegar, honey and garlic powder. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with paprika. Cover.

3)Bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and rice is done. (And truthfully it seems to take me about an hour to get the rice soft enough)


Freezer Meal Prep and Cooking Instructions:
Pour rice in a small freezer bag, release any extra air, and seal tightly. 

Cut up chicken into portion sized pieces and place in a gallon sized freezer bag.  Add remaining ingredients to bag with chicken. Seal and massage bag slightly to combine ingredients.

Place both bags (chicken/sauce and rice) into another gallon sized freezer bag and freeze.

When ready to serve- thaw meal.  Place rice in the bottom of a greased 2 qt. covered baking dish.  Pour chicken and sauce over rice making sure to cover rice completely.  Sprinkle with extra paprika if desired. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and rice is tender. (remember that if chicken is in larger pieces or still partly frozen you'll have to add extra cook time. Use thermometer for best indication)



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hot Chocolate 101



As promised, today's post is on hot chocolate! The weather here has been sunny and way too warm for hot cocoa but the last couple of days have finally felt like fall so we busted out the chocolate!

As I stood there making each person's chocolate just the way they wanted it, I thought, I should do a post about all the little things we do to hot chocolate at our house and see if anyone else had some good ideas about jazzing up hot chocolate!

1) My favorite is to add just a little pumpkin pie spice to the mix! I learned this trick from my old roommate's, Marguerite's, uncle. When I dump in the cocoa powder I usually just mix in a bit of pumpkin pie spice before I add the water and then stir it all together just the same!

2) Over the holidays I will sometimes buy coffee mate flavored creamers! Some favorites are eggnogg, pumpkin pie, and hazelnut! They kind of remind me of going to the Circle K with my friends before high school would start and buying hot chocolate. We would only fill the glass up like 3/4 of the way and then top it off with just about every flavor of creamer they had. It was more creamer than cocoa! Yep...we were pretty wild back then...pretty wild! :-)

3) Anyway, back to hot chocolate ideas. Another yummy treat is to eat them with Keebler Grasshopper cookies or the Girl Scout Thin mints. Now these aren't in my house that often because I love them and can basically gain weight just by looking at the box! But for a special occasion, buy a box and have them with hot cocoa. To eat them, bite off a small piece on two ends of the cookies. Slightly dunk one of the bitten off ends in the hot chocolate and then suck the hot chocolate through the cookie. This make the cookie soft and make the hot chocolate taste mint flavored. After it is nice and soggy eat the cookie! Repeat as necessary. And I do mean necessary!

4) My final hot chocolate idea is the cocomotion! The cocomotion is a hot chocolate maker from Mr. Coffee and it is awesome! You measure out your powder and milk and the cocomotion mixes it whilst heating it to the perfect temperature! My mom got it for each of us kids when we went away to college and it was the perfect dorm appliance! Now it is the perfect kid entertaining appliance because they love to watch it cook and swirl the cocoa before they drink it! And it does make really yummy cocoa!

Well, those are my ideas! Please comment and tell me about some of your hot chocolate traditions!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shutterfly Christmas Cards!

So I know that I just did a post about Shutterfly and a few other online photo printing companies, and I was planning on doing a blog post about hot chocolate today, BUT the Shutterfly Christmas Cards were brought to my attention! So, we will have to talk about hot chocolate tomorrow!

This year they have some really cute new cards to choose from! My favorite can be seen at the top of this post or click here to read about it on Shutterfly! Shutterfly has a wide variety of folded cards, stationary cards and photo cards. The prices ranged from around 40 cents for the photo cards up to 1.50 for the folded cards! Each card comes with an envelope for that price and the folded cards have many inside formats that allow you to have your family newsletter printed right on the card! Search through all of the Shutterfly Christmas Cards!

I really like that many of their cards have space for multiple pictures! Like this card to the right would be perfect if you have two sets of identical twins like this family! But seriously, a lot of times I have a traditional family picture for the Christmas card but I also have a lot of cute candid photos of the girls and I'm always torn between which I want to use on the card! This way you can have some of both! Plus, their website is really easy to use which is great because I'm a little technologically challenged! You can also order 1 free card of your choice to see how it is going to look before you order 15 dozen to send out to all your cousins and whatnot!

Also, with the folded cards you also have space to put even more pictures on the inside! So if you wanted to have a photo of each family member and a little blurb about each person it works out perfectly. Or you could show pictures from vacations/outings and do a little write up on each of those! I love hearing about how all my friends and family are doing so I think you should all order one of these and send me a card about how you life is going! I for one would love to open up my mail and find the card below adorned with smiling pictures of children I actually know! :-)




Right now they have a few different deals on these super cute cards! And even though I only included a few in my blog there are dozens of choices and formats! If you order by Nov. 17th you can get 20% off your order. They also have a free shipping promotion if you order 30 dollars worth of stuff from their website. Also check out Shutterfly's wall calendars which are currently buy one get one 50% off! They make awesome Christmas presents (especially for all those Grandparent type people on your list!) And if you are a blogger like me (or even if you are a blogger that is not like me) check out the following link to find out how you can receive 50 free Christmas cards! http://blog.shutterfly.com/5358/holiday2010-blog-submission-form/. Merry Christmas card shopping to all and to all a good buy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taffy Apple Tartlets from Pampered Chef


Sorry that I haven't posted for the last couple days! I was feeling a little under the weather so I wasn't very creative...perhaps I should have just posted a picture of me laying on the couch so you could know what I was up to!

I did feel better today and was even able to cook a normal Sunday dinner and dessert too! My daughters are really into the Fancy Nancy books so tonight we made a "Fancy" dessert. (I've convinced my 4 year old that any finger food is fancy. Sometimes we eat cheese or fruit with toothpicks...because that makes it fancy!) Also, if you have girls and you've never read Fancy Nancy...you must check one out! They are awesomely funny books!

I had a pampered chef party a few weeks ago and this was the recipe that the lady taught us to make! They were really yummy and my 4 year old wanted to help me make them tonight. They are really kid friendly to make and like I said before they're "fancy"! Hope you enjoy too!

Pampered Chef Taffy Apple Tartlets
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts
2 Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup butterscotch sauce
1/2 cup caramel sauce
2 T. Flour
1 package refrigerated pie crusts (you'll need both pie crusts) softened according to package directions.
12 caramels, unwrapped and cut in half

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop peanuts and set aside. (I use the Pampered Chef food chopper and it totally rocks! Just FYI) Coarsely chop apples and place in a microwave safe bowl. Combine apples with 1/2 cup of the butterscotch caramel sauce and the flour. Mix well. Microwave on high for 5-6 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Stir and let sit.

Unroll one pie crust and cut into 12 circles about 2.5 inches in diameter. (I used the top of the pampered chef measure all cup if you have one or you can use a small glass). Repeat with second pie crust. Push circles into a mini-muffin pan making sure to ruffle the edges...that makes it "fancy" :-)

Cut each caramel in half and place one half in each tartlet shell. Spoon apple mixture evenly into each shell. Sprinkle with peanuts. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges of crust are golden. Remove from pan onto cooling rack. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup caramel sauce!



Well, thats all for tonight! Since we were up at 6 with daylight savings and all, I am ready to crash! Have a great night and hopefully you can still get some rest even though you may be craving mini apple pies now!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Just In...

Okay everyone, make sure you are sitting down! If you are like me than this announcement will make you pretty excited! Try and remain calm...the Kohl's black Friday ad is now available!!!!!!! If you click on the ad scan tab you can see the actual pictures of the add! Go ahead and click on the link below. I'll wait here until you're done....

http://www.blackfriday.info/sales/kohls-black-friday-ad.html

Well, what did you think? I think they've got some pretty good buys! Plus $10 Kohl's Cash for every 50 you spend! That way you can go back and get yourself a little something something after your Christmas shopping is done! We'll have to see what the Target add has going on this year and then we'll decide who gets the first stop!

Every year I make the pilgrimage to Santa Fe at 4:00am in search of great deals! It's kind of the thrill of the hunt that makes it so fun :-) On Thanksgiving, after we've eaten ourselves sick, we all sit around with out personal copies of the sales circulars and make our lists of what we want from each store. Once we've made our lists we compare notes and order the stores from most important to least important! It's fine family fun for all! Nothing brings a family closer together than running people over as a team, in search of the doorbuster item that you wanted to buy for your 2 year old! Just kidding, I promise it's really not that bad...unless you get in my way... :-)

If you want to stay on top of all the black Friday adds as they are released you can visit the black Friday website at http://www.blackfriday.info/. Seriously though, this is a super fun shopping trip! If you like to get really good deals and finish your Christmas shopping early then 5 am on November 26th may just be your new best friend!

P.S. I love Kohl's!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sweet Potato Fries and Turkey Bagel Sandwiches



My kids love sandwiches (like BLTs, or grilled cheese, or french dip) so I usually turn to sandwiches when I'm feeling like making a fast meal. Sandwiches are great, but what I didn't like was that I was making fries with them every time and I knew that wasn't good ... so I started looking for another easy finger food I could use to replace my love of Ore-Ida. Which don't get me wrong, I'm still in love with Ore-Ida crinkle cuts but I don't make them all the time!

I don't remember where I came across sweet potato wedges but they looked pretty easy and I love sweet potatoes so I decided to experiment and figure out how to make them! They do require a little more effort than opening a bag of fries, but not much more and they are super yummy! I started making these when I was pregnant with my second kiddo and by the time she was 6 months old she was already chewing and slobbering all over them! So they were a great transition food for her when she wanted to start feeding herself more.


Here's the recipe:
3 medium/large sweet potatoes
2 T. Extra-virgin Olive oil
Rosemary (to taste)
Oregano (to taste)

Cut sweet potatoes into fries or wedges (I usually cut them about 1/2 in. thick). Lightly brush with olive oil (to help them brown without drying out). Sprinkle with rosemary and oregano. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 min. or until wedges are tender and slightly browned at the tips. Experiment with what seasoning you want to use or try them without any seasoning (they are still really flavorful).


Last night we had them with turkey bagel sandwiches! The dorms that I lived in at college had a little grill place in the main building that made bagel sandwiches like this and I get a little hankering for them every now and then. It's not really a recipe or anything but since I took a picture of it I'll at least tell you what we put on them:

1 bagel
3-4 slices of turkey
tomato
shredded lettuce
1 slice Swiss cheese
1T. mayo (you really don't need too much mayo on this sandwich because the warm turkey and tomato will keep it from being dry)

I usually put the turkey on a griddle in stacks of 3 slices and top each stack with a piece of cheese. Then I cook it over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the turkey is warm and the cheese is melted. Lightly toast the bagel and spread each half with mayo. Fill with turkey and cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Online Canvas Prints


Well, the World Series is upon us which means that our house has been taken over by baseball stats, fans, and commentary! Since my husband's attention is elsewhere I have plenty of time to surf the world wide web.

As I was cleaning out the inbox of my junk email account (yes I have an entire account just for the store newsletters I've signed up for) I realized that canvases are on sale on Winkflash right now. The current sale is only good through today but this is just the beginning of the amazing deals that all the online picture printing companies will run throughout the holiday season!

So if you have any printing needs coming up, (i.e. Christmas cards, Christmas presents, family pictures, etc.) you might consider keeping an eye on some of the online companies! I've printed canvases, calendars, magnets, cards, birth announcements, and key chains over the years and have been very happy with all of them! My two favorites are Winkflash and Shutterfly but I've also used Snapfish in a pinch. My advice would be to check all the sites before printing anything in order to find the best deal. In addition to whatever special they are running most of these sites will also give you 50-100 free prints on your first order!

As I mentioned before, I love to order canvases from Winkflash. I posted a picture of our current family picture above but here is a shot from further away so you can see how it looks with the rest of the room:


This year we ordered ours while canvases were on sale for 40% off. So a 16x20 canvas only cost $31.00! (I think that the prices may have gone up a bit but they still aren't bad!). Anyway, we had our friend Mark snap a picture of us in our backyard, ordered the canvas online, stuck it on a $5 pedestal from Ross and we ended up with a $36.00 family picture that looks like something you'd get from a professional studio! Plus you don't have to spend money on a frame! I get asked all the time where we got it from...so now you all know!

So if you want to order a canvas for 30% off in the next 2 hours...go for it! But I'm sure these will come on sale again soon! Also keep your eyes out for Christmas card sales! You can get them pretty cheap on Winkflash plus they come with the envelopes! I will try to keep you posted on the online deals as I get them and feel free to share any deals that come your way! Happy hunting!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Fun!


Well, I guess these are too late to try this Halloween season but you can file them away for next year! My kids love to do silly things to jazz up their food for the holidays, especially at Halloween! If I was smart I would do silly things to their food year round because it always makes them eat it better if it looks like a ghost, or a face, or the Eiffel Tower. Okay, so maybe the Eiffel tower is a bit extreme but there are lots of easy ways to turn regular food into "Monster Food"! Here are a few of the recipes I used to feed my little "monsters" this year! Hope you enjoy!

First, are the pigs in a blanket mummies! These are a favorite among my kids! I tried them with hot dogs once but they weren't quite as good...so we usually just make them with Little Smokies (because my kids will eat almost anything if it is bite sized). A funny story about my 2 year old is that she thought we were saying "Mommy's" as in those belong to Mommy. So she kept trying to give all of them to me and she would say "here Mommy, yours!". So cute!

Anyway, the picture pretty much gives you the recipe but here it is anyway:

2 cans of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
1 pack of Hillshire Farms Little Smokies
2 Tbsp. Mustard

Cut the crescent rolls into long thin strips and wrap around the little smokies (leaving room for the mummy face). Bake according to crescent roll package directions. Let cool for 2 minutes. Using a toothpick and the mustard make two eyes on each mummy face! I usually use regular yellow mustard because that is what my kids like but I like to dip mine in Dijon! Super easy and perfect for a quick snack after trick-or-treating!


Next is Monster taco Salad. I have a small Halloween idea book from Taste of Home. I'd seen this idea in it several years ago but usually didn't have time on Halloween to make taco salad. Since Halloween was on Sunday this year I had a little extra time and decided to give it a shot! The great thing was that I didn't have to buy anything special for this recipe, you just organize the ingredients differently to make it "spooky". Here's how it turned out!


I told my 4 year old to eat it before it ate her and she said, "Mom, that's just silly. It doesn't even have a mouth"! Obviously you can use any taco salad recipe to make this Halloween creation but here is how I make taco salad if you are looking for a new recipe!

1-2 lb. lean ground beef
2 cans Rotel tomatoes and green chile mix (drained)
1 packet taco seasoning mix
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 can corn
2 cans black beans
1 tomato sliced (slice it and then cut each slice in half for the eyes)
1 can sliced olives
sour cream
shredded cheese
tortilla chips

Cook the beef in a large skillet, drain. Add drained tomatoes and chiles. Add taco seasoning mix. (The extra water from the tomatoes cooking is usually enough to absorb the seasoning but if you need to you can add 1/2 cup of water to the mix). Crush the tortilla chips on the serving plates. Top with romaine, meat mixture, cooked black beans, corn, and cheese. To make the eyes place two tomato slices on top of salad. Top with a dollop of sour cream and an olive slice to make the eyeball! That's it!

And finally, ghost pudding pie! My mom used to make us ghost pie every Halloween and we'd eat it when we got home from trick-or-treating! I'm pretty sure my mom made it with the real kind of pudding that you cook on the stove so hers was much better than mine! Here is my copycat recipe using instant pudding:

2 small boxes instant chocolate pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1 Oreo pie crust (or any brand of chocolate pie crust)
16 oz. whipped cream
2 chocolate chips (for the eyes)

Mix pudding and milk together. Add 1 cup of whipped cream. Mix until smooth. Pour pudding mixture into pie crust. Refrigerate until set (at least 2 hours). Use the remaining whipped cream to make a ghost on top and whatever other decorations you want on there. Place the two chocolate chips to make the eyes! Here's a pic of our ghost pie in all its glory! The blob is supposed to be the moon... I'm okay at cooking, not art! :-)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Soups On


Okay, so soup is one of my favorite foods to make! For a lot of reasons! 1) I can make it whenever I want during the day and keep it warm in a crockpot. 2) I can make the whole meal pretty much in one dish so I don't have a ton of pans to clean. 3) I know my kids will eat it even if it's loaded up with veggies! 4) It gives me an excuse to make a bunch of yummy rolls! and 5)It's usually pretty cheap!

Last night we had broccoli cheese soup (My 4 year old's favorite) with 1 hr. rolls from Jenny's food blog. So first things first: here's the link to the rolls recipe. Jenny's 1 hour roll recipe! They are awesome and they only take 1 hour start to finish (including bake time!)

The soup recipe is from a cookbook my mom sent me a few years ago that the ladies at her church put together! I made a few variations but I tried to be good and follow the recipe for the most part!


Cheesy Broccoli Soup

6 cups fresh broccoli chopped (you can even chop the entire stalk up and put it in)
1 small yellow onion chopped
1 1/2 qt. chicken broth (about 4 cans chicken broth)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp seasoning salt
3/4 cup butter
2 cups milk (the recipe calls for half n half but I always just use milk and it's been fine)
3/4 cup flour
16 oz. Velveeta cheese

Boil broth, broccoli, onion and seasonings until broccoli is tender. Remove about 1/2 cup of the broth and discard. Add butter to broccoli and broth. In a small bowl mix flour and milk together. Slowly add the milk/flour mixture to the rest of the broth. Add cheese in chunks and heat slowly until melted. I like it plain but my kids like to put toppings on all their food so they top it with bacon and cheese! Enjoy!!

Product Review of Dyson



I want to take a minute and dedicate this post to my new true love...the Dyson! Right as we were moving to the new house my old vacuum (A bissel) broke! So we ended up having to vacuum our entire downstairs with a dustbuster so we could pass our cleaning inspection! Good times! After the vacuum broke I was a little shy about buying a new vacuum. It's hard to commit when you've had your heart broken so many times before. Anyway, after 3 months of borrowing my mom's vacuum every time the girls made a mess (which is frequently) I finally found a new vacuum that I was ready to take the plunge with!

I found the Dyson DC14 on Amazon.com and flagged it so that I would get daily emails about changes in price. (By the way we LOVE amazon here so I'm sure that it will be a subject of a post in the coming weeks!) Anyway, one day it came on sale for about $150 off the price so I grabbed it! So far I've been thrilled with it! We have berber carpet upstairs and in the basement but most of the living areas are wood and tile. The dyson has been great for all floor types! And the coolest part is the extension/attachment part! Instead of the hose extension coming out of the top of the vacuum it comes out of the bottom so when you are pulling on it, it doesn't pull the whole thing over. So if you are vacuuming around baseboards the rest of the vacuum just follows around behind you instead of having to move it every 10 seconds. The handle itself unclicks and becomes the extension part...so it give you about 3 feet of reach to vacuum ceiling and blinds too! Oh yeah, and the whole thing is yellow which is awesome...because everyone wants to vacuum when the vacuum looks totally sweet! If you are intersted in seeing a little movie about the extension part you can see one here: http://www.vcdiscounter.com/dysondc14.html

I'm kind of a walking commercial for things when I find something I like. So when I got my new vacuum, I only vacuumed half of the stairs so that my husband could see the difference it made! Which was huge! I also couldn't believe how much junk it pulled out of my carpets and rugs! Anyway, after Alex got done laughing at me for acting like a vacuum salesman, he too was impressed with the difference it made! Anyway, if life finds you without a working vacuum I would recommend looking at a Dyson. They do cost more than other brands but so far it has been worth the difference and if you don't mind waiting for a good deal you can find them on sale online all the time!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Apples


Well, every year my daughter wants to dip apples! I love making caramel apples with her but have never been a huge fan of eating them. I've tried a lot of different recipes and apples types but this year I think we finally nailed it!

The first thing I did differently this year was to use granny smith apples. They are not my favorite to snack on but when it comes to caramel apples, the crunchier the better I say! I use golden delicious for a lot of recipes but they are just too soft for dipping.

The second thing was that I dipped the whole thing in chocolate! If at first you don't like something, dip it chocolate, and try it again! :-) They tasted yummier and my daughter thought it was twice as fun to double dip them! Plus they look super fancy even though they are super easy!

Here's what I used this year:

10 granny smith apples
2 bags Kraft Caramels (they usually have these in the halloween candy section with the melting directions on the bag)
4 Tbls. water
10 sticks of some kind (I was thrown for a bit of a loop since they usually include the sticks in the caramel bag...but they weren't in there this year. I used some crafty popsicle sticks my daughter had!)
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup toasted coconut

So first toast the coconut. Funny story about toasted coconut...a few years ago I was making my first recipe with toasted coconut and I didn't know that you had to toast it yourself. So I looked and looked and couldn't find it! I finally asked a store employee where the toasted coconut was and she looked at me like an idiot (which I kind of was) but then she nicely explained how to toast it myself. It's kind of like walking into the store and asking where to buy toast or a baked potato or something!

Anyway, toast the coconut at 350 for about 10 min. Check it every 2 minutes and toast until it's the color you'd like! Next melt the caramel with water according to package directions. Wash and dry each apple thoroughly. Remove the stem and push a stick into the top of each apple. Dip each apple into caramel sauce until coated. Wipe the bottom of the apple and place on wax paper. Let sit about 10 minutes to set slightly. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and cream until smooth but not boiling. Dip each caramel apple into the chocolate. You can do a few different designs with the chocolate by dipping them only partially in the chocolate of drizzling the chocolate over them! You can see some of the designs we cam up with below! Just have fun with it! Allow the chocolate to cool on the apple for about 1 minute and then roll in toasted coconut immediately. Enjoy!

Some Thoughts On Miscarriage

In my previous post I talked about how Neighbor Dorothy had some sad things happen to her in her life. One is that she had a little boy who died at age 4. I think that her radio show and the busy life that it brings is her way of dealing with the sorrow from that tragedy.

As I thought more about that I realized that a big reason that I'm starting this project is because I have had a personal struggle with going through a miscarriage! My first reaction was to lie in bed for a few days and cry. And when I was done with that my next reaction was to take on a billion projects so that I wouldn't be able to think about it anymore! Like paint the bathroom, finish the girls scrapbooks, throw a pampered chef party, volunteer at my daughters school, potty train my 2 year old, and hey...why not start a blog!!

So, I decided since I now have a new blog (thank you crazy hormonal Julia) I will use this forum to talk about what a weird and hard thing miscarriage really is! It's common enough that you don't really get too much special treatment when you go in to the obstetrician but while they might be used to it, I sure wasn't! I had no idea what was going on, I had to wait a week to get an ultrasound to make sure it really was a miscarriage, and not that many people knew I had even been pregnant so I felt pretty isolated!

I guess that the hardest thing was that I am a planner. And as soon as I found out that I was pregnant I immediately figured out when they were due, when we could get new family pictures, how far apart the kids would be, etc etc etc. So while on the outside nothing really changed (We had been a family or four and we were still going to be a family of four) I felt this great sense of loss because I'd already planned out and imagined our family with 3 children!

I can't even imagine what it must be like to have a miscarriage before you start having children. It gave me great insight into what my friends with infertility must be going through. It's hard to want something so bad and not be in control of getting it. When it first started happening to me I just felt like I needed to lay down and not move. That somehow I could stop it from happening, but alas I was not in control.

The craziest thing to me was that until I had a miscarriage I don't think I'd ever talked about miscarriage with anyone. I had no idea what to expect or what the symptoms were. I didn't even know that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage! Once I finally told some of my friends the truth I was floored to find out that almost all of them had gone through at least one miscarriage themselves! So I guess that for all the time we sit around talking about child birth and epidurals and pregnancy, maybe we should give a little time to discussing miscarriage! I know it's a hard subject but I was so grateful for those who shared their stories with me and hope that someday I can pay it forward by helping someone else cope with their loss!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Review of Standing in the Rainbow

Well since Standing in the Rainbow is partially responsible for the blog name, I think I'll start off with a book review of the book! Standing in the Rainbow is the second book by Fannie Flagg that takes place in Elmwood Springs, MO. It has many of the same characters that we meet in Welcome to the World Baby Girl and again in Can't Wait to Get to Heaven. I actually read Standing in the Rainbow first and it remains my favorite of the 3. (Although I love all of them!)

Standing in the Rainbow begins in the 1940s and continues through the year 2000. While it focuses on a handful of main characters there are dozens of supporting characters that intertwine their stories with one another and keep the story moving forward! With so many characters doing so many things you would think many of them would have to be one dimensional, but Flagg does an amazing job of fleshing out even the smallest character's personality. You have a sense, that given the time, she would be able to write an entire book about each person!

While the plot contains some pretty fantastic events you still feel like it could really happen to someone simply because the characters are so true to life. She is a master of starting a character out one way and chronicling their evolution into a completely different person! The way that the characters interact is hysterical and makes you wish that you lived in Elmwood Springs.

While my favorite characters are probably Norma Warren (because I'm a bit neurotic like her) and Aunt Elner (because I'm a little crazy like her), the character I would most like to meet is Neighbor Dorothy! I seriously hope that somewhere a woman like this exists and if she does I want to be her best friend! She's described as a pretty woman who is a bit overweight. Always cheery although she's had heartache in her life. One of the things I admire about her character is that instead of demanding help from everyone around her she gives help to those in need. I know that when I'm feeling down I have to get out and do something. I could pretty easily just sit around and feel sorry for myself for a long time but usually if I can put that energy into doing something constructive (instead of feeling sorry for myself) it works out much better for me and all involved. So Dorothy does her radio show, takes care of her children, sews, reads, rents out rooms, and cooks and bakes for the whole town! I just think I 'd have a ton of fun with her and I loved reading about her life! And I want to try her caramel cake!

The book also discusses the start of Gospel music. The Oatman family is an up and coming gospel group that Neighbor Dorothy meets at one of their performances. She winds up letting their daughter stay with her during another performance and eventually takes their daughter in when she is done performing with her family. She is a shy, quiet, petite girl who eventually meets a man in town and marries him. Her husband ends up becoming the governor and that story really takes over the plot from then on. I won't go into the rest of the details too much because it does have some pretty good bends and twists that kept me turning pages way past my bedtime, so I won't spoil it for you!

My favorite type of books are generational fiction books and this one takes on a big span of time! I love when you have plenty of time to get to know the characters and hear their stories out until the end! And while they all have their ups and downs they always get the ending they deserve! For the most part Flagg gives the good guys good endings and the bad guys bad endings and that is the way I like it! It makes for a fun read! And when I'm busy and worried about things a fun read is exactly what I want to pick up!

Libby's Pumpkin Pie Recipe

So with the canned pumpkin shortage finally being finished I can use up my cans of pumpkin I've been hoarding for the last year! Yesterday we made the Libby's pumpkin pie recipe for my mother-in-laws birthday!

There are a lot of things out there that I will buy generic, but for canned pumpkin I usually do get Libby's because their pumpkin tastes so good but also because I think their recipe is the best so they deserve my business! :-) My 4 year old helped mix the pie together and she was very excited that it smelled so good! She kept having me smell it! Silly girl!

Here's the recipe:
1 can Libby's canned pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk
1 unbaked pie crust

Mix the sugar and pumpkin pie spice together in a small bowl. In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the pumpkin and sugar mixture. While stirring, gradually add the evaporated milk. Pour into unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 425 for 15 min. Lower temperature to 350 and bake for another 40-50 minutes or until set. Let cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Refrigerate or serve immediately!

I decorated the pie seen here with whipped cream place in a cake decorating bag and used a star tip and round tip for the words and border! Yum!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Losing the Pearls

The word homemaker can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Some may think of a women in pearls and heels vacuuming the living room while her 2.5 perfect children enjoy her county fair blue ribbon winning chocolate chip cookies in the background! To others it may just be something they write without thinking while filling in the occupation section of a new patient form at the dentist's office! My personal belief is that everyone who has a home is a homemaker! We all make our home in to one thing or another whether we mean to or not!

Deep down all of us would like to have a home where we and our families can feel safe and peaceful. Whether you are 17 years old or 70 you want to create a place that is comfortable to you! If you are single you want a place that you and your visitors can feel welcome. If you are married you want a place for you and your spouse to feel comfortable. If you have children you want a place where your children want to be and can bring their friends. Not only can we achieve these outcomes without too much fuss we can do it without wearing pearls or winning blue ribbons at the fair!

I created this blog in order to keep track of the things that I am doing in order to make my home the kind of place I want it to be! I know there are hundreds of magazines and television shows full of tips on how to keep a home, but after seeing image after image of perfectly decorated homes and reading the stories of the seemingly flawless women who created them, I usually feel more like taking up drinking than being inspired to try some of their tips! So if you are like me, well-intended but not quite perfect, this might just be the blog for you! It contains some of my favorite recipes, products, books, household tips, parenting theories, you name it! Maybe you will find some favorites among them too!