Tuesday, March 29, 2011

THIS is Love!

This is Love!  I'm serious! 

It's taken me a while to find it again.  Matter of fact, there for a while I had it but then lost it.

But now that I have it back, I don't think I'm going to let it go!

This isn't scriptural . . . not even close to theological.

It only involves me and my obsession.

I was so lost without it that I even called my friend to see if she had "the love."

She didn't -- matter of fact, she used to have it too.

But lost it!  She's still searching --

It was out of necessity that I rediscovered my love!

It's not a pure love -- which can be confusing!  It's a mixed up, kind of weird love! 

One that might even sound strange to describe to somebody else.

But I'm going to tell you. 

It's my fresh smelling laundry! 

YES!!!!! 

Finally!  Fresh smelling laundry is B.A.C.K and it's hear to stay!

I want my laundry smell! 

I give my fabrics 3 opportunities to absorb as much fragrance as possible and when I shake them from the dryer -- I want to smell the proof!

Detergent, liquid softener, AND fabric sheets! 

See these? 

These detergents, on their own, weren't doing the job.  Then the crazy idea hit me -- mix those two up and see what happens!

VIOLA! 

That was it!

L.O.V.E in the laundry room!



I'm a happy woman today!




Friday, March 25, 2011

A Cookie Bar isn't just for Kids

 A few years ago, the Mr. and I were on a little get-a-way.  We stopped one afternoon at a cookie shop and had a great, fresh-baked cookie and some coffee.  That little treat gave me a fabulous idea to do at home!  I couldn't wait to get home with the kids and tell them about our new experience.  We were going to have a "Cookie Bar" for dessert!

I made a basic cookie dough recipe and put out all kinds of mix-ins in seperate bowls.  Everybody got a B.I.G. scoop of cookie dough and could stir in whatever their hearts desired!  We baked delicious custom cookies!

I don't do this extremely often, but I do enjoy offering it occassionally as an option.  It's especially fun if you're having friends over!

Basic Cookie Dough

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs and vanilla and incorporate well.  Mix in flour, soda, and salt and continue to mix well.  Refigerate, if desired, until ready to use.  I like my dough room temperature before we add our mix-ins.

Mix-In Options

chocolate chips
white chocolate chips
peanut butter chips . . . ok, you get the picture!  Any kind of chips!
chopped candy bars; snickers, chocolate bars, Andy's mints
M & M's
nuts
coconut
craisins or other dried fruit like cherries or apricots
marshmallows
granola
broken pieces of graham crackers or other cookies (like the packaged kind!)
anything that you think would be fun, yummy, or unusual

Place your mix-in ingredients in individual bowls and place a teaspoon, or sometimes a 1/2 teaspoon in each bowl.  All that does it kind of help with portion control!

When you look at the pictures, you'll see that how we did it this time isn't how I'm going to tell you to do it!  Remember the saying, "Do as I say, not as I do!" 

You'll need to pre-heat your oven to 350 and have your baking sheet ready.

Give each lucky cookie maker a small bowl and spoon.  This actually works better if they can stir their ingredients in, not smooshing it with their hands.  Here's why:  when you squish it together with your hands, your dough gets too warm and your cookie doesn't hold it's shape and it melts all over your pan.  OK -- not really ALL over, but you understand!

Bake the cookies for 8 minutes and then check.  Some may be done -- others may need to go longer.  It all depends on how much junk you've put in your dough!

Once they're perfectly cooked, let them remain on the cookie sheet for about 3 minutes (this allows the cookie to "set" before you attempt to move it to the cooling rack).  If your friends can stand it, move the cookie to the cooling rack to cool a bit -- but if the temptation is too strong, go ahead and place that cookie on a plate and serve piping hot with a spoon or fork!

Truthfully, that's exactly how we do it!  Patience is NOT our virtue!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Donna's Poppyseed Dressing

I've already posted that I'm not a fan of bottled salad dressing.  Because of that, I have several dressings that we like that whip up in a flash.  I try to keep at least one of them on hand, but the other day, I needed a dressing and we were totally out.  I was looking for the poppyseed dressing recipe when I found this one.

Which is different than the poppyseed dressing that I've posted earlier.

This one doesn't have any mayo in it.  For some, that will be reason enough to give it a try!

I've had this recipe for a long time.  I had it for the first time when we were living in Arizona.  This dressing keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks . . . if it lasts that long at your house!

Donna's Poppyseed Dressing

3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
dash of salt
1/3 cup vinegar
1 cup salad oil
1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

Mix the sugar, dry mustard, salt and vinegar together.  Stir well.  Add the salad oil and poppy seeds.  Whisk until well combined and it feels like your arm could fall off!  Whisk just a bit more and enjoy!

**The recipe I gave you is 1/2 of the recipe -- which makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing.  It's easily doubled if you're serving a large crowd; or just want more for yourself!


This is my favorite salad to throw together; spinach, fresh fruit (berries and
oranges), grilled chicken and roasted almonds.  Drizzle with the dressing
and you have a yummy meal!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Banoffee Pie

Today, I enjoyed having friends in our home to listen to the work of our friends who are serving on the mission field in London, England.

For dessert we had a traditional British dessert called "Banoffee Pie."  The 'Brits' say it's an American dessert.  I was totally unaware of this dessert and had definitely never had a taste!



Once we cleaned the dishes . . .and maybe scraped the edge of the pan of the left-over goodies, I looked on the web for some Banoffee Pie history.  Here's what I found from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


A slice of banoffee pie.Banoffee pie (also spelled banoffi, or banoffy) is an English pastry based dessert made from bananas, cream, toffee from boiled condensed milk (or dulce de leche), either on a pastry base or one made from crumbled biscuits and butter. Some versions of the recipe also include chocolate and/or coffee.Credit for the cake's invention is claimed by Ian Dowding and Nigel Mackenzie at The Hungry Monk restaurant in Jevington, East Sussex. They developed the dessert in 1972, having been inspired by an American dish known as "Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie", which consisted of smooth toffee topped with coffee-flavoured whipped cream. Dowding adapted the recipe to instead use the type of soft caramel toffee created by boiling a can of condensed milk, and worked with Mackenzie to add a layer of bananas. They called the dish "Banoffi" and it was an immediate success, proving so popular with their customers that they "couldn't take it off" the menu.[1]


The recipe was adopted by other restaurants, and was reported on menus in Australia and America.[1] In 1994 a number of supermarkets began selling it as an American pie, leading Nigel Mackenzie to offer a £10,000 prize to anyone who could disprove their claim by finding any published pre 1972 recipe for the Pie. Mackenzie erected a blue plaque on the front of The Hungry Monk confirming it as the birthplace of the world's favourite pudding.[2]


The recipe was published in The Deeper Secrets of the Hungry Monk in 1974 (now out of print), and reprinted in the Hungry Monk's later cookbook In Heaven with the Hungry Monk (1997). Ian Dowding has since put his original recipe online because he is "pedantic about the correct version", and stated that his "pet hates are biscuit crumb bases and that horrible cream in aerosols". The recipe for the dish is often printed on the tins of Nestle's condensed milk, giving no acknowledgement as to where the recipe came from.


The word "Banoffee" has entered the English language and is used to describe any food or product that tastes or smells of banana and toffee

Banoffee Pie

2 cans sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand milk) (I used fat free)
3-6 bananas
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
whipped cream (either fresh or cool whip)
grated chocolate, chocolate syrup, or chopped chocolate candy bar

Remove wrapper from sweetened condensed milk and place in large sauce pan.  Cover with water and keep simmering for 2 hours.  Add additional water as necessary.  Remove cans from pan and let cool 30 minutes before opening (or you'll have exploding hot toffee on you.  I know!)

While the cans are cooking, combine graham cracker crumbs and butter.  Press into a 9 X 13 pan.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Pour warm toffee on graham cracker crust and spread to the edges.

Cover and place in refrigerator.  This can be done a day ahead!



Just before serving, slice bananas onto toffee.  You can either do a few bananas (3) or a lot (6).  Your preference!

Top with fresh whipped cream or cool whip and sprinkle with shaved or chopped chocolate bar or drizzle with chocolate syrup.  I used a large symphony bar with toasted almonds and toffee pieces.



Cut into squares and serve!  This is an easy dessert to half if you're needing a smaller amount.

délicieux











Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring Table

This is my Spring table.  It's in my formal dining room.  Why do we have a
"formal" dining room . . .that we NEVER use . . .so that we can have a
pretty decorated table to look at!


This Spring, I used black, white, silver, cream, and glass.
Added in a bit of Spring flowers and a bit of grass to
get an airy look.

The silver was what I had stashed under the china cabinet.
For the dishes, I went to the Goodwill store and bought
mix and match plates and bowls.  I even found a couple
of silver trays to use as chargers.  For less than $10.00
I bought what I needed to get "the look."

My silver teapot holds some silverware, some wispy grass and a bird.

You can never have enough birds!  They're so cute! 
You can tuck them  . . .and nestle them . . .they're just
perfect!

You'll need some "Reindeer Moss" to use around your table (that's
what you see pecking out of the white bird nest).  It's a great filler.
Also, see the hourglass in the background . . .that's a fun thing
to have too!


This is on the side table by all the other stuff.  I kept the theme by
using the silver, white, glass, a bit of black, and some Spring flowers.

A great site to look at is http://www.nellhillsblog.com/ for some wonderful ideas about decorating!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stawberry Sauce


I love strawberries.

My oldest cherub loves strawberry sauce.  You know the kind --- in a jar that you glump onto your ice cream.  I don't like that stuff.  It taste fake to me. 

Do you think it's fake?

Today we stopped by Braum's (the best ice cream store in the world) and bought some ice cream.  I was going with the plain ol' vanilla.  I sold them on that idea because of all the things we could do with it:
  1. put it on top of the apple pie that's sitting on the counter
  2. drizzle some yummy King Arthur "Gold" caramel sauce on it
  3. put some crushed up Girl Scout cookies in it
  4. put some Golden Graham cereal and marshmallows in it with a bit of hot fudge sauce
  5.  . . .I was just getting ready to name another option  . . .
 . . . When the boy cherub, who is getting a mind of his own says, "Mom, will you buy some strawberry sauce?" 

Yuck!  I don't like that stuff . . . but I'm trying to sell him on the idea of vanilla ice cream . . .so I say, "Sweet boy" (because that's what I call him sometimes), "I won't buy sauce, but I've got strawberries at home and I'll make you some yummy homemade strawberry sauce.  How's that?" 

He was happy.

I've never made homemade strawberry sauce, but it can't be too hard.  I've made homemade blueberry sauce once before -- how different can it be?

Not really any different!

I made it.  We all love it.  We're keepin' it around! 

Yum!

Strawberry Sauce

1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and quartered
1/2 cup of sugar (or less . . or more if you want it syrup-y)
1/2 tsp. lemon extract*
2 tsp. cornstarch* (mixed with a bit of water to make it pourable)



Place washed and quartered strawberries in a sauce pan.  Pour the sugar over the berries and place on medium heat.  Stir constantly until the sugar is melted and syrup-y.  Cook for 5 minutes.  This ensures your sugar is well dissolved.



If you like the consistency, don't add any cornstarch.

If you want it a bit thicker, mix the cornstarch with a bit of water and add to the berries while on the heat.  Stir until thickened.  If you want it really thick, add more cornstarch and water mixture.

Remove from heat and add extract.  I like the lemon because I think lemon and berries go well together.  However, you can substitute either vanilla or almond.  If you add almond, I'd start with 1/4 of a tsp. and adjust from there.  Almond can be over-powering.



Let your mixture cool 15 minutes or so.  Use either an immersion blender or a standard blender, puree to your liking.  I only do a smidgen of blending because I'm wanting a bit of texture to my sauce.



You do what makes you happy!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Flags!

This is my cherub.

He was one of the kids who got to carry in a flag at the all-school worship recently.

He knew I had the camera . . . he wasn't going to humor me by looking!






That's him -- on the top row, second from the left.  Doesn't he look thrilled?  He carried in the flag that represented Costa Rica.


That's his back-side.  Do you think he turned around and gave a big smile?  If you said "No" then you're right!  He acts like I'm the only mom there with a camera . . .how embarrassing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Roasted Gold Potatoes



Yesterday, I needed a side to put with our grilled chicken.  Quick-like, I thought of potatoes!  They're often under-rated but potatoes are actually so delicious and extremely versatile!

Roasted Gold Potatoes
1 yukon gold potato per person
olive oil
Herbs de Provence
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Wash potatoes well and dice the potatoes into whatever size you like, just keep it uniform in size for even bake time.  If your potatoes are small, you may want to throw in a couple of extra just to be safe.

Place diced potatoes in large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, maybe a couple of tablespoons.  Sprinkle a generouls amount of Herbs de Provence in the bowl.  Use a large spoon to toss potatoes until well coated.

Pour onto a foil lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a smidge of sea salt.  Herbs de Provence has thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, lavender flower, and savory in the mix.  It is salt free -- that's why you need to add a bit of salt to the mix.

Bake for 20 minutes or until done.  Of course, bake time depends on the amount of potatoes you're cooking.  You'll want them to be easily pierced with a fork and have a nice goldeny-roasted color.



Serve warm.

**you can use this on fingerlinge potatoes, red new potatoes, or regular russet potatoes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I Saw . . .I Conquered!

I'm almost embarrassed to show you this project .  . . but as I say that, I realized that I am posting it -- and only I am in control of that -- so the embarrassment factor must be relatively low!  What I should say is, I see room for improvement!

The color of the picture is a bit distorted -- but the idea was there!  Can you tell what these are?  If you said, "Some type of tool" then you are right!  They are saws!

It's "Tool Time with Dad" today at school and I thought I'd make this as a treat.  Sounds easy enough -- but then the trouble begin!

I don't have a tool cookie cutter.

I looked at all of the places by me -- you know, the convenient places.  They don't have anything.  Really, did I think they would?  The answer to that is, "Yes!  I did!"  But, they didn't!

I finally found a place that carried tool cookie cutters.  They weren't that expensive -- and that's the point.  I really didn't want to drive ALL the way over there.  Miles, I'm tellin' ya -- for a $2.00 cookie cutter!

Lesson is this:  drive for the cookie cutter -- and plan on buying a few other things too!

I solve my dilemma, I go to the "web" and I find a picture of a saw; maneuver it to the size I think I want;  place the image on a plastic lid (like a sour cream container); draw around it; cut it out; and use the negative image as my guide to cut around it 20 times!  That's right!  I don't think that sounds like fun anymore either!

Now I have the saw cookies.

They have to be decorated.  When do I start that?  That's right!  Like a good mom -- at night.  When the stores are closed!  Because do I really like the color of brown I have?  No.  Can I change it?  No.  How do I know this?  I TRIED!!!!!  The answer really is no!  So I use the "chocolate brown" that I don't like. 

Can I make the saw part the color I like?  Yes.  But is that enough for my daughter, who, before bed says this to me;  "Mom, are you talented enough to make the metal part of the saw shiny looking?"  What she meant was, "do you have sprinkles to put on these?"  As any mom would say, "Yes, baby, I can!"  If that's what she wants, then I'll do my best.

Consequently, my frosting color and my sprinkles made for some interesting combinations.  But do you know what she said when she saw the saws?  "Oh mom!  These are just PERFECT!  Great job!"

When I was teaching I would say, "It's not the product, it's the process."  I totally learned some things this go-round; and you know what?  I think I like the saws even better now!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Favorite Marinade


Many years ago, like . . . M.A.N.Y years, Laronda, a friend of mine, turned me on to Dale's marinade.  This was nearly 20 years ago, and at that time Dale's was hard to find.  It is made in Birmingham, AL.  At that time, it was easier to get The Washington Post than it was to get Dale's; but who really cares about "The Post!"  We wanted Dale's! 

Because it was "exclusive," that made it even more special!

Fast-forward 20 years and now Dale's is in basically every store I shop!  It's usually towards the top of the shelf, on the same aisle with ketch-up, b-b-q sauce, and other fancy condiments!

I just LOVE Dale's.  I think I could drink it right from the bottle.  No!  I haven't tried it -- but I've been tempted!

Here's what I do with my Dale's, in numerical order!
  1. I always but 2 or 3 bottles at a time; I never want to be without the stuff.
  2. I but lots of chicken breasts.
  3. I buy lots of gallon sized, zip-lock freezer bags.
  4. I put the desired number of chicken breasts in a bag and pour the desired amount of Dale's onto the chicken.
  5. I push the air out of the bag and seal it up.
  6. I write on the white part of the bag, "Dale's Chicken."
  7. I put it in the freezer.
  8. I cook it (almost ALWAYS grilled) and am happy!
You may be asking, "Why?"  Because of this:  I like my meat to be flavor-ful.  Doing it this way, it marinates as it is becoming frozen and it marinates while it is defrosting -- with very little effort on my part!  I just found chicken breasts on sale the other day for really cheap and I packaged up 24 bags of this stuff.  Seriously!  So if you hear me start clucking, you'll know why!

Dale's is also awesome to marinate your flank steak, other cuts of beef, fish (but be careful, fish is delicate and absorbs the marinade very quickly), and pork chops.

If you haven't tried this marinade, live on the wild side and give it a try!  What do I always say?  "You won't be disappointed!"

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls and Mom!

I love to read The Pioneer Woman.  She's so creative in her writing style, she gives good recipes, and she's down right funny!  Not too long ago I heard somebody say that her cinnamon rolls were the best.  As you know, we're always on a quest for good cinnamon rolls.  The problem is that I'm afraid of yeast!  That's right!  I have a fear of yeast -- I don't know what to do with it!  I don't know how to make good bread! 

Yeast has a hold on me!

It makes me feel like a failure!

But I try to overcome my fear and occasional try something with yeast in it.  After all, I keep a fresh jar of yeast in my refrig. just for the instances when I get an urge to try and conquer the dreaded yeast recipe!

I read The Pioneer Woman's recipe for cinnamon rolls . . . and I thought to myself, "I can do this!"

I thought that the other day . . .

I thought it the day after that . . .

I thought it yesterday . . .

 . . .and today I gave in!

I made cinnamon rolls from scratch!  I made nearly 5 dozen rolls and I think they're pretty darn yummy!  I wasn't even afraid of the yeast!

It took all day -- well, sort of -- but it was worth it!

Guess what I did!

The Mr. was gone again tonight, so I poured 3 ice cold cups of milk, got 3 forks, and the "runt" pan of the cinnamon rolls that were still warm and flowing with yummy icing, and I sat that pan in the middle of the kid's table and we ate cinnamon rolls for dinner while we watched an old episode of The Cosby's!



 . . .and this made us smile!


Life is good and I'm a cool mom!

If you want to enjoy a great cinnamon roll and conquer your fear of yeast, go to http://www.thepioneerwoman.com/ and search her site for cinnamon rolls.  The recipe is posted under June 1, 2007 and up will pop her delicious recipe!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Roarin' 20's!

The other day I was having to get a prescription filled.  I had taken the time to fill out all of the necessary info on the little piece of paper so that they could verify I am who I say I am!  My doctor had filled out my name and birthday . . .

 . . .and that's where it gets funny!

The pharmacy tech had made eye contact with me SEVERAL times.  Did I say she had made eye contact with me SEVERAL times?  So, when she verified my birthday as October, 1920, I about died! 

REALLY?!!!!!!

Did you just say, "1920?" 

I laughed out loud, like not even trying to hide the fact that I thought that was a stupid comment, and I told her, "If I were born in 1920, I wouldn't be driving -- my kids would have taken my keys away!"

That would have made me 91 years old!

Honestly!

You know what -- I should have said, "Yeah -- don't I look darn good for my age!"




Born:  October, 1920!




Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Learning Styles

I remember studying different learning styles while in graduate school.  I totally believe we have a preferred way of learning; and consequently, when given those preferred opportunities, we are able to devour our material. 

With that said . . .

The other day, I was needing to help both of our cherubs with up-coming tests.  My youngest cherub was THRILLED when I pulled out the "Barbisol," as she calls it, so that she could work on her spelling words.  She has always loved playing in shaving cream, and while I don't do it often enough, it's always a fun way for her to practice some rather mundane skills.  I know it makes a mess -- but if you haven't tried it, pick up a cheap can of men's shaving cream and watch your kids get excited about spelling . . .or math . . .or anything else you need to work on with them!


Preparing the work space

It's a "full-hand" experience!


You gotta keep the writing finger clean!


So while she's working on her spelling words at the kitchen bar,
my son is working on his history test -- 






 . . .and does anyone remember the answer to this question?!
While this inter-active review was from his teacher -- the point is that there are some great learning tools/games that be can found on-line to help kids with spelling, English, and math, just to name a few.

Here are some sites that we use:

http://www.americangirl.com/ (choose 'fun for girls', then choose the tab, 'activities' -- you can make flashcards!)

Have Fun!