Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Plans: Baking Bread

This little Star Wars Trooper has been giving lots of love to her little baby dolls all week. So cute. today is the last day of January. Whew. That was a long month. We don't have many plans today, except for folding laundry, reading a book, and baking bread. Well, that's what I'll be doing anyway. Don't know about the husband. He gets antsy and wants to do some recreation outside.

But if anything will draw him back indoors, it is the smell of this bread baking. Mmmm. I got this recipe from Carolann, who got it from another friend of ours. She calls it Heavenly Whole Wheat Bread. Since I name my recipes after the person who gave them to me, I call it Carolann's Bread.

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar (I double the sugar...just cuz)
2 tsp yeast

Let that sit and bubble for 5 minutes. Then add...

4 Tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup potato flakes
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp of vital wheat gluten
1 cup white flour
2 cups wheat flour

Mix until well blended. Cover pan and let rise at least one hour. Remove from pan, form into a loaf and place in greased loaf pan. Let rise for about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Makes one loaf.

If you are making rolls, shape into about 12 balls, let rise 30 minutes, then bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Diet Motivation

Sometimes I see Kamy's drawings and cringe. This was one of those times. If this drawing is of me, I'm taking away Kamy's paper and glittery pens forever!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SuperHero Cape Tutorial

Alrighty. Ya ready to make a super sweet cape for your little guy? It's very easy to do. Here are the supplies you will need.

1 yard each of two different choices of material. I chose a fire print, and a coordinating red print.
1 pkg of double fold bias tape in coordinating color. (3 yrds long)
Thread, pins, and scissors.
(seam allowance is 1/4'')

Cut one piece 28" wide x 37" tall from each fabric. (I like the capes to be nice and long. If you want to make one smaller, just adjust the measurements.)

Next, cut one long strip from whichever fabric you want, measuring 3 1/2" wide x 37" long. This will make the straps to tie around their neck.

Ok. Ready to get started? Take your long strap piece and fold in half, wrong sides together, lengthwise. Press with your iron. Open up the seam, and fold each half to the center. Press. Then fold in half lengthwise again, so it looks like your bias tape. Set aside.

Take your two big pieces of material and lining up right sides together, sew down the sides and the bottom of the cape. Leave the entire top side of the cape alone. So you are only sewing 3 sides right now.

Clip your corners and turn the cape right side out. Press with your iron to get all the seams straight. Then, take your bias tape that you bought, and sew it onto the same three edges that you just sewed.

This is what it should look like now. Three finished sides, and the top side of the cape still untouched.

Turning your stitch length to 5, sew across the top of the cape, leaving a long tail of thread at the beginning and end. Do not backstitch! Now, take one piece of thread from an edge and gently start pulling on the thread, gathering the fabric across the length, as you go. Keep gathering until the top looks like this.

Now here's a bit of a tricky part. While still holding the string taunt, so your gathering doesn't loosen up, find the middle of your folded and pressed strap and pin it to the middle of the gathered top. Work your way to the edge of the cape, by pinning the strap across the top.

Once it is all pinned, starting at the edge of the cape (not the end of the strap), sew along, across the top of the cape, going slowly. There are a lot of gathers to sew through, so take your time. Remove pins as you go. Don't sew over them. It will ruin your machine.

Continue down the length of the strap after you sew across the cape. At the end of the strap, fold in the tip so it makes a nice point. Sew to the end of the strap. Then do the same for the end of the other strap.

And that is the end of the tutorial! You are done with your cape. Turn to your son, who was asking you every 5 minutes if you were done making his super cool cape, and tie it around his neck. You made him so happy. You even have enough material left to make his teddy bear a matching cape, or to make him a cool mask.

If you make one, please tell me so we can all go admire it on your blog.

"Momma. I Sick."

Last night, Georgie was a sweet little Zurg who growled at us when we suggested she was a nice Zurg. This morning, she woke up sick to her tummy.

Poor thing. Guess we are laying low today. Good thing we have a magnificent King and a caped Star Wars Trooper to watch over us. We are well taken care of.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'm Gonna Go For It!

So, I was thinking about the Etsy store all day yesteday, and couldn't come up with much of what was my own design. The dolls, crayon rolls, journal books, skirts....they all came from a pattern, so I couldn't sell them as my own. However, last night, as I was going to sleep, all these things started popping into my head. Things that were of my own design. Tutus and supercapes, bird's nests, gift bags, baby blankets, my Journey to Forever sign, finger puppets, children's artwork holder, bracelets, and a few more. So I'm going to start crafting and see how much inventory I can come up with. A few things might be more seasonal in nature, so I'll have to wait on those, but I am excited!

Thanks for your input and support. When I get my store up and running, you better believe I'll have a big giveaway to spread the word. By the way....any ideas on what to name my new shop?

Monday, January 26, 2009

If I had an Etsy Store...

...What would I sell?

I absolutely love the idea of selling on Etsy (a place like ebay, for all handmade stuff) but I don't know what I would sell, and I don't want to copy anyone's ideas. Any of you have Etsy stores? Do you sell one specific thing or random items? How do you get your stuff noticed?

...and so I'm asking. Help!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sausage Penne

1 box penne (cooked al dente)
2 lbs sausage (I prefer Jimmy Dean)
2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup cream
1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste
Italian cheese to top

While your pasta is cooking, in a separate pan, brown your sausage and garlic. Pour in chicken broth and scrape bottom of pan, getting up all the bits. Add can of crushed tomatoes and basil. Turn on low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper. Add frozen peas. Stir. After a minute or two, (the peas cook very fast) add in your cream. Mix into your drained penne and top with Italian cheese (Parmesan or mozzarella) and serve.

This meal comes together super quick and is very good. The cream tones down the acidic taste of the tomatoes and it just tastes really good. If you aren't sure of the peas, give them a try. They taste very good with this meal. If you really don't like peas...simply don't add them.
Don't forget to check out more recipes that I've posted. They are all listed on the righthand side of the blog. Enjoy!

One More Recipe Comin'

I hope you enjoyed my week of recipe posts. Thank you for all the comments, and for those of you who made them, I hope you will add them to your meal schedules. I try to make the recipes easy and quick.

I'll post the next recipe, Sausage Penne, later on today.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Not Yo' Momma's Mac and Cheese!

This was one of the first recipes I made from Giada De Laurentiis from The Food Network. When she was making it, she said it was her favorite Mac and Cheese, and apologized to her mother because this recipe was better than the one her Italian Mother made. I knew it had to be good, so I made it. I quite agree with Giada. It really is the best Mac and Cheese ever! It's more upscale and sophisticated than your average Mac and Cheese, and to me, it resembles Olive Garden's Fettuccine Alfredo, especially the leftovers.

So hold onto your lactose intolerant tummy (oh wait..that's just me) and lets get cheesy!!

Italian Macaroni and Cheese

12 ounces wide egg noodles
2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
salt and pepper

2 cups (packed) grated Fontina Cheese
3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan
3/4 cup (packed) grated mozzarella cheese
2 cups cooked ham, diced, (optional, but I always add the ham!)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Grease your casserole baking dish and set aside. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well, but do not rinse.

Whisk the cream, milk, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1 cup Fontina, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, ham, if using, and parsley. Add the noodles and toss to coat. Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish.

Toss the remaining 1 cup Fontina, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture. Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Sometimes this dish is really saucy after it's cooked. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. (Make sure to check on it when baking. Oven time may vary.

You can find Fontina cheese, sometimes called Fontinelle, in the deli section of the supermarket. It's more of a specialty cheese.

And to answer the question you all are thinking...Yes, I did eat this; and Yes, it did cause certain digestive problems to my body. Was it worth it? That question is still up in the air. Oh, and it's definitely NOT diet food, that's for sure.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Early Valentine's Temptation

I'm going to give you step by step instructions on how to make these yummy Frozen Peanut Butter Cups!! Seriously. These are my new favorite indulgence. Absolutely super delicious. It only takes a few ingredients, and since I aim to please, I took many pictures along the way. It really is easy. Don't let the number of pictures fool you. Here goes. First...the ingredients.

Frozen Peanut Butter Cups (courtesy of Tyler Florence)

1 pound (16 oz) of semisweet chocolate. (I do not recommend using chocolate chips. You can find bars of semisweet chocolate right above the chocolate chips in the store.) Chopped up.
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup honey
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts

Melt your chocolate in a double boiler. I don't have a fancy double boiler. I just use a small pot with a few inches of water in it. I brought it to a boil, then turned it down on LOW. I put my glass bowl on top of the pot (making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, and stirred my chocolate until it melted. Keep your chocolate in this bowl, over the pot of hot water throughout the process of making this recipe. It keeps the chocolate warm and smooth so you can use it.

Take your mini muffin pan and dot a bit of chocolate in the center of each cup. Then line each cup with your paper liners. The chocolate will help the liner stay in place. Lightly spray the insides of the wrappers with PAM, or whatever non-stick cooking spray you have.

Next, line each paper lining with a nice coating of chocolate. Don't skimp....but the cup shouldn't be filled with chocolate either. Use about a tablespoon of chocolate per cup. This step is so easy if you have a pastry brush that has these silicone bristles. It makes the job so much easier! Here's one I found at Walmart, but the one I have is from Ikea and only cost a buck or two.

Put the pan in the freezer to harden while you are making the filling. Remember, keep the melted chocolate warm...we'll need it again in a few minutes.

Whip your whipping cream in your mixer until it forms soft peaks. This took about 7 minutes. While that is whipping, combine your peanut butter, warm water, and honey in a bowl. Blend until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold in your whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture to make a light mousse. (Don't overdo it. It's ok if there are streaks of cream in the filling.)

Spoon your peanut butter mousse into a pastry bag (I used a Ziploc bag), get your frozen cups out of the freezer, and pipe the mousse into the centers, leveling the top. Put it back in the freezer for a few more minutes, until the mousse sets up a bit.

Get your pan back out of the freezer and spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate over the top of each cup. (I took this picture with my left hand, with the camera upside down, because that's just how much of a smarty pants I am.)

Sprinkle chopped nuts over the tops of each cup and put it all back in the freezer for about 20 more minutes. In the mean time, look at my blog and make a comment or two.

Ok. Now you can invert the muffin pan and pop out your fabulous peanut butter cups. Put them on a cute plate...wander over to your bed. Get comfy under the covers, and watch a really great chic flick.

These can be eaten straight out of the freezer. The chocolate isn't too hard, and the whipped center stays...well...whipped. It does not harden. You can also keep them in the fridge. I don't recommend you leaving them on the counter for long, because you will end up with kids who help themselves, thus making a chocolaty mess.

p.s. This recipe makes 30-40 mini peanut butter cups.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Tastiest Broccoli Soup! Seriously.

I really mean it. This soup is so dang good. It's full of flavor! My kids absolutely love it. Of course, the Ciabbata bread that is toasted and loaded with ham and cheese make a great dipper, and Heath goes crazy every time I make this...because, as I mentioned, it is dang good. I found this recipe in a Rachael Ray Magazine last year.

Broccoli Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced
4 cups water
3 Potatoes, peeled and diced
1 bunch of Broccoli, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 cups Swiss Cheese, grated
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 cups ham, diced (I used leftover ham from Christmas that I had in my freezer)

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onions. Stirring often, cook until onions are soft. Add diced potatoes, season with salt and pepper, and add your water. The potatoes should be covered with water. Bring to a boil and boil for about 7 minutes. Add in your chopped broccoli and ham. Stir. Cover pot with lid and simmer for another 7 minutes or so, until the potatoes and broccoli are cooked tender.

Now, get out your immersion blender. If you don't have one of these babies, I suggest you run out and get one. They are just about the best kitchen tool I can think of, and it's priced rather cheap. If you don't have one, then you can use your blender for the next step. Just be careful with the hot temperature of the soup!

Use your immersion blender to puree the soup, right in the soup pot, until it gets to the consistency you prefer. Or, scoop out your soup into your blender a little bit at a time, and blend until smooth.
After soup has been blended, add in your cheese and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. This soup has a killer flavor!

Ham and Swiss Toasts

Slice one loaf into 1 inch slices. Lay across a baking pan. In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 2 cups of shredded Swiss Cheese and 2 cups ham, diced very small. Spread the mixture evenly over your bread slices and put under your broiler until brown and bubbly. In my oven, this took exactly 5 minutes, with the broiler already preheated. Serve along side the soup.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Enjoying the Weather

Monday Night the wind was so frigid! We were at a park with friends, trying to enjoy playing and eating cobbler that was cooked over coals in dutch ovens...but the wind busted the party up. We ended up going to a friends house (all 50 of us!) and spending the rest of the evening indoors, away from the wind! Thanks again Heidi!

Then on Tuesday, when I was walking Kolby to school, we only needed a light jacket. It was so nice.

However, Today's high temperatures put Tuesday to shame! It was so gorgeous. Outside was actually warmer than it was inside my house. Very nice. We took advantage of it and rode bikes around our cul-de-sac.

Oh...I how wish this next shot wasn't so blurry!

And look at these sweet treats. Stay tuned in a couple days for this yummy recipe!

And of course, today wouldn't be complete unless I talked about LOST. It airs in 2 hours and 6 minutes!!!! I am extremely excited!

Floating Tacos

Not sure where the name of this dish came from, but I got the recipe from my friend Tiphaine, before we joined the military. It's been made many MANY times since then; it's definitely a favorite of ours. In fact, it makes a nice big soup pot. When we are putting away the leftovers, we take half of it, put it in a freezer safe Ziploc bag, and freeze it. When we want to have it again, we thaw it out in the fridge for 24 hours and then re-heat on the stove top, adding a bit of water to give it the right consistency. So you get to cook it once, and eat it twice. What could be better?

Floating Tacos

1 pound of hamburger (I usually use ground turkey)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
3 cups of water
2 cans of kidney beans (I usually add one can of light red kidney beans, and one can of dark red kidney beans. It gives it some nice variety.)
1 cup uncooked rice
Spices: 1 Tbsp each of sugar, oregano, cumin, chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown your meat and onion in a soup pot. Add garlic. Add in your tomato sauce, paste, water, beans, and rice. Add in your seasonings. Stir to combine and let it come to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for ab out 30 minutes, stirring occasionally; the rice will cook in the sauce. Add more water if the mixture gets too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

1 bag Fritos
Shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
green onions

Combine 1/2 cup sour cream with 1/2 cup ranch dressing

Build up your floating taco, starting with fritos on bottom, add a few scoops of taco soup mixture. Top with whatever toppings you like, and finish off with a dollop of your ranch sauce. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Love Going to the Library!

I get to check out books like this:

And then if I like them, I can buy them. This is one book I want to buy. I told Heathie to get it for me for Valentines Day. We'll see if he remembers.

It has cute patterns for aprons, blankets, purses, and so much more. Can't wait to start creating.

Kolby's Favorite Stir-Fry

We first made this recipe last summer, and Kolby deemed it his favorite. Since he is our most picky eater, we thought this recipe very successful. As a side story, Kolby loves to watch Survivor Man or Man vs Wild with Heath. Well, all of us enjoy those shows. Anyway, Kolby is enthralled with the idea of eating scorpions, rattle snakes, and bugs of all kind. So when we are trying to get him to eat his dinner, we have to tell him that the next bite is a big juicy caterpillar, or a mean scorpion....and he'll shove the food into his mouth and eat with gusto. Weird. But it works. With this meal, however, no imaginary creepy crawlies were used to get him to eat. He even ate all the spinach without a moments pause. I don't think he even knew they were there.
Back to the recipe. I clipped it out of some magazine, and I don't remember which, so I apologize for not crediting it properly. As always, I have changed the recipe just slightly to accommodate our taste buds.
1 pound beef round tip steaks, sliced thin
6 ounces uncooked thin spaghetti
1 package (10 oz) fresh spinach, stems removed, sliced thin
1 can (8 oz) water chestnuts, drained
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 Tbsp chopped red chili peppers (I just used a couple of shakes of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce (Do not substitute! This sauce is amazing!)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp water
2 tsp dark sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Slice beef into thin 1 inch strips. Combine marinade ingredients. Pour half over the beef. (reserve remaining half of the sauce) Cover and marinate in fridge for at least 10 minutes. You can marinate the beef for half the day, if you want.
Do you have a wok? If so, use it to cook this meal. If not, use a big soup pot.
Cook pasta al dente. While pasta is cooking, remove beef from marinade (discard used marinade). Heat pan with 1 Tbsp oil and add beef, cooking for about 2 minutes, until outside surface is no longer pink. Remove from pan with slotted spoon. Set aside.
In the same skillet combine cooked (and drained) pasta, spinach, water chestnuts, green onions, red pepper flakes, and reserved marinade. Cook until spinach is wilted and mixture is heated through, stirring occasionally. Return beef to skillet. Toss to combine. Garnish with chili peppers (if you are using them) and serve! We made some amazing egg rolls that my friend Young gave me the recipe for, to go with this meal. If she gives me permission, I'll have to post that recipe too!)
(The sesame oil is very potent!! If you like the flavor, add both teaspoons. If not, hold back a bit. We found it to be very overpowering. Also, sometimes I substitute sugar snap peas for the spinach, which we found more to our liking.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Peanut Butter Munchies


I got this recipe a few years ago from This Site. They are a little more time consuming to make than your average cookie, but it's well worth the effort. Here goes.
In a large mixing bowl, combined these ingredients:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 stick softened butter
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
Add in:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
Stir until thoroughly combined and form into balls. You will have between 24 and 32 balls.
In another bowl, combine 1/2 cup peanut butter with 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Form into smaller balls, equal to the number you have of the chocolate mixture.
Slightly flatten your chocolate ball, place the peanut butter ball on top, and form the chocolate ball around the peanut butter ball. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Place on a greased cookie sheet. Lightly flatten cookie with the bottom of a glass dipped in 2 Tbsp of white sugar. This will give the cookies a slight sprinkling of sugar on their tops. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, until the tops are slightly cracked. Remove from oven and cool. (Note: They don't need to cook for long. Trust me. 8 minutes is enough. Any longer, you will have a hard HARD cookie.)
I will try to post a recipe everyday this week. Stay tuned! (and please comment if you like the recipes!! It means a lot to me.)

Hiking Trails and Climbing Walls

This always seems to be my view, when we go on hiking trips. I bring up the rear. Not because I'm slow, mind you, but because I am often holding the hand of the slowest one.

Keaton took this picture of me, to document that fact that I was on this family trip too. I just love all the rock formations and cool trails that are in abundance at Garden of the Gods. You could pick a new trail everyday, and it would take you on an adventure. If you don't know already, we love that place. Most of the trails are easy enough for George to walk by herself. If we try to help her, she says "No! Georgie do it!"

It was such a sunny, blue-sky type of day, with the temperature in the 60's. We just couldn't find fault with that. It was beautiful. In the picture above, you can see Pike's Peak in the background, still covered in snow. There were a few snowy patches on the trails we hiked, but for the most part, it was clear and dry.
The reception isn't too bad out there as well.

Then after a quick snack of oranges, granola bars, and cheese crackers, we drove a few miles over to Red Rock Canyon where we met up with Heath's friend and co-worker to do a little bit of rock climbing. He had all the equipment and everything, so he harnessed up the kiddos and they each got a turn climbing the rather steep wall of rock.

Keaton made it the furthest up the wall. He climbed at least 50 feet up before we called him back down. Of course, it took him the longest to climb back down, because he wouldn't listen to us telling him how to descend properly. See the two people in the picture just below? Keaton's the one in the top middle. He did so great and wasn't afraid at all!

Kamy and Kolby also did really well for their first time climbing. If the sun hadn't gone down, and the temperatures hadn't plunged, we would have stayed out longer. As it was, my feet were so tired from all the hiking, and Georgie was getting tired we called it a night.
Tomorrow, since it is a 3-Day weekend, Heath is going to take his bike and race around Garden of the Gods. The kids and I will hike Helen Hunt Falls (not named after the actress) and it should be a fun day.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

It Was A PERFECT Day to Go Hiking in Garden of the Gods

We just got back, but now I need to drag my tired feet to the grocery store. I'll update you about our hike tomorrow!!