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Trying to keep my sanity in tact, while keeping bellies full

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Very Cranberry Thanksgiving Part I

What's Thanksgiving without cranberries? Just not right. But I'm not  fan of traditional cranberry sauce, so this year, I brought a couple of different cranberry dishes to my family dinner. And since we have a diabetic in the family, these are made with splenda instead of sugar.

Cranberry Bake

What you'll need:
2 pears (peeled and chopped)
2 sm apples (peeled and chopped)
2 c cranberries (fresh)
1 c splenda

topping:
1/2 c chopped pecans
1/4 c butter, melted
1/3 c flour
1/2 c splenda

In a 9" pie pan, add cranberries, apples and pears.


Stir in 1 c splenda.


Mix the topping until it forms a ball. Break of pieces and sprinkle over top of fruit. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes, or until fruit is soft.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guest Post: Attack of the Whiny Monster

Meet Amanda:
So, before we get started, I have to say this blog thing is weird to me. I’ve never done it before, so thanks to Jen for helping me to get started! A little background on me: I’m married to the best man ever, and I have two great kids, aged 8 and 5. I work as a call center trainer, and I usually work around 50 hours a week or so, plus driving time, which is about an hour each way.





This is my usual evening: I pick up the kids, and I’m immediately attacked by the Whiny Monster of I’m Hungry. The Monster attacks every night, and while I can sense his presence, I’ve not yet found a way to silence him in the car. We get in the house, where Whiny Monster is distracted by the TV (thank God) so I can cook. I know my time is limited, because once Whiny Monster comes back….he’s back with a vengeance.

So what’s a Mom to do? Well, I have a go-to list of foods I make that take about 15-20 minutes to make. And I have to confess, they use convenience foods. There is no reason to avoid them, unless you have a food allergy. God bless green can Parmesan cheese and pre-made tortillas.

If you have a Whiny Monster at home, or just a regular hungry person, here are some ideas for you.

Cheese quesadillas with salsa and sliced oranges. You can add refried beans to the quesadillas unless Whiny Monster will morph into Picky Monster.


Egg and Cheese quesadillas with fruit: Make eggs to your preference. Heat a skillet and add one tortilla. Top with cooked egg and cheese of your choice. Top with tortilla. Flip when brown.

Breaded Tilapia with potato cubes: Take thawed tilapia filets and sprinkle with garlic powder, black pepper, dried basil, and parmesan cheese. Cut potato into medium sized cubes. Sprinkle with the same mixture and spritz with cooking spray.  Put potatoes into a 400 degree oven first, then add fish 15 minutes later. Bake until both are lightly browned. Serve with some sort of vegetable that they won’t eat anyway but makes you feel better as a mom.



 Photo by David Stephensen

Cold cereal- Hey, it has vitamins. And minerals. And they eat it.



Turkey smoked sausage with macaroni and corn. Turkey smoked sausage is better for you, and it’s usually cheaper too.

Parmesan Crusted Fried Chicken, noodle-y things from a bag, and veggie:
Four chicken breasts
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 egg

Beat egg and dip chicken pieces into it. Dredge in Parmesan cheese mixed with garlic powder. Take 2 tablespoons of oil and heat it in a skillet. When hot, add breaded chicken and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Don’t turn the chicken until it lifts easily from the pan.

Hope this helps you be prepared for when your own Whiny Monster of I’m Hungry attacks! Thanks for letting me visit, Jen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

From the Farm Dinner

With the varied tastes in our house, it's very hard to find something we all like for dinner. One of our household favorites is breakfast for dinner.


We picked up our half a hog a week ago, and have been enjoying the tasty meat ever since! The sausage is amazing and makes the best gravy! (Oddly enough, I don't like gravy, but I can make it like nobody's business)
We get our eggs from my aunt. Let me clarify...we get our eggs from her chickens. You may notice they're a little more yellow than normal. We call them the radioactive eggs! 

You may notice that our pancakes are green. You see, in our house we don't do boring pancakes. Mostly because I don't like them. Yes, I do not like pancakes. I know, weird. Anyway, sometimes it's chocolate chip pancakes (which I DO eat because, well, they're chocolate) and sometimes it's strawberry banana pancakes. If I'm short on fresh fruit, we do colored pancakes. It's always a big deal on who gets to choose the color.  Being the lazy mom I am, I make it an all day competition. The kid who is the most polite all day gets to choose. Tonight, Thing 3 won the honor and we have green pancakes. It really does not take much to amuse these kids. A few drops of food coloring can make an evening. 

On another note, we finished up the Christmas tree last night.

Can you tell this house is ruled by girls? I found purple lights to match my purple beads this year, so obviously, I had to go buy pink and purple ornaments!! I'm trying to get into the Christmas Spirit for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Check out those links to Overstock.com. If you find something you like, enter the promo code 121728 for 10% off all Overstock.com products or 202234  ** - free shipping promo code for electronics. 

Note:
All the ideas and opinions expressed are my own. No monetary compensation was received for doing this post, however, I was provided with a discount code from Overstock.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sausage Breakfast Casserole

The husband got four teeth pulled on Friday. Yay...let me tell you how much fun this has been. It started Friday night when I went to sleep. I was awoken by him asking me if I "found it". After several minutes of trying to figure out what he lost, I realized he was asleep. Yep, he woke me up talking in his sleep. Of course I couldn't get back to sleep. So I turned the TV on and laid awake. About an hour later, he sits straight up and asks me if I'm awake. Well, duh. He figured out he woke me up talking in his sleep. He lays there for a minute and asks me how long I'd been awake. I told him for a little bit. He then informed me that he woke me up around 6, (Keep in mind it's midnight) and in his narcotic induced sleep, it was 7. Even after I showed him my phone and another clock, he was still convinced it was 7. That was what convinced me he was still asleep. Realizing I was not going to get any sleep, I decided to get up and make him breakfast. Since he's down 4 teeth, I knew the next few days were going to be soft food days. (Will someone bring me some chips, raw carrots, and anything else that's crunchy? I'm dying here)

Breakfast Casserole

What you'll need:
1 lb meat (sausage, ham, bacon, whatever)
6 eggs
8 oz package cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
Milk

So I'm in the kitchen at midnight, cooking some sausage we just picked up from the butcher

While that's cooking away, spread around the cream cheese in an 8x8 pan

Mix in the eggs and a splash of milk




When the sausage is cooked, drain and mix into pan

Refrigerate at least two hours. Place into 400 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then turn oven down to 350 and bake an additional 40 minutes, or until eggs are cooked in center.

This is where I'd normally have a picture of the finished product. However, the husband woke up right as I was pulling this out of the oven and was oh so grateful for a hot breakfast and a full night's sleep. Myself on the other hand, not so much. His night time chatter went on through the whole night. I ended up trying to sleep on the couch with the TV on. Even that, the bedroom TV and the bedroom door closed was not enough to drown out his incessive talking about whatever it was he lost. On a brighter note, even on less than 2 hours of sleep, I kicked butt at the craft fair, selling enough to pay for my booth AND the stuff I bought from other vendors!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quest for the Perfect Hot Chocolate

As the temperatures drop, one thing is always on my mind; Hot Chocolate. The foodie in me wants something other than a Swiss Miss packet with some hot milk. So today begins my quest for the perfect hot chocolate recipe. Do you have one? Please share!!



I've found a few recipes to try out. First I found this one from AllRecipes.com

3 cups milk
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, grated
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg

Directions

1.Put milk into a microwave-safe container and cook on High in microwave for 2 minutes. Mix in chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon. In a small bowl, whisk an egg until smooth, then mix it into the chocolate mixture.
2.Return to microwave and cook on High for 3 to 4 minutes or until foamy (be careful not to let it boil.) Whisk until smooth and pour into 3 mugs. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon if desired.

I'm a little concerned about putting an egg in there, but maybe I'm wrong. Also, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to microwave it for 3 to 4 minutes without letting it boil.

That will be my next venture. But for now, I'll share some other trials we went through in my quest to find the perfect Hot Chocolate.

I had a few judges for this little showdown, so I'll tell you their scores (from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best) of each drink after the recipe


Pierre Herme's CHOCOLAT CHAUD
 
2 1/4 c milk
1/4 c water
1/4 c sugar
3 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate baking squares (chopped finely)
1/4 c cocoa
1/2 t chili powder






Melt all ingredients in saucepan on the stove. With an imersion blender, blend on low speed for 5 minutes until frothy. Pour into mugs and serve!

My judges gave this a 4 out of 5

Snow Flake Cocoa (From allrecipes.com)

1/3 c + 1 T whipping cream
1 c + 3 T milk
1/4 t vanilla
3 ounces white chocolate chips
peppermint pieces for garnish
Whipped Cream for garnish

Mix together all ingredients and heat over medium low on the stove until hot. Make sure not to boil!! Pour into mugs and garnish with peppermint and whipped cream.
My judges gave this 5 out of 5!


Xocolatl (Aztec Chocolate) (from allrecipes.com)

1 1/2 c water
1 green chili pepper
4 c water
1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t vanilla

Bring 1 1/2 c water to a boil in a pot; add the chili pepper, seeds included, to the boiling water and cook at a boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Streain the chili pepper and seeds from the water; return the water to the pot. Add 4 cups water to the chili pepper infused water. Reduce heat to medium-low, and bring to a slow boil. Stir the cocoa powder and vanilla extract into the boiling water. Cook and stir until the powder dissolves completely, 5-10 minutes.

This was so horrible, I didn't even give it to my taste testers.

Fluffy Hot Chocolate (From Allrecipes.com)

8 t sugar
4 t baking cocoa
4 c milk
1 1/2 c mini marshmallows
1 t vanilla

In saucepan, combine the first four ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until the marshamllows are melted. Remove form heat; stir in vanilla. Ladle into mugs.

This received 3 out of 5.

Mayan Hot Cocoa 


4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 c milk
1/2 c sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

Heat milk in saucepan until hot to the touch. Add chopped chocolate and sugar, whisking until well blended. Add cinnamon and chili powder. Heat thoroughly over medium-low without bringing to a boil and serve.

This received 1 out of 5, with one person writing in "0" out of 5.


Vanilla Hot Cocoa 

3 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 c milk
1 c sugar
1 vanilla bean








Combine 1 1/2 c milk with vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium-low heat about 5 minutes, just below boiling point. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean and scrape ot vanilla bean seeds. Stir vanilla seeds into the hot standing milk. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Discar the pod. Meanwhile, break up chocolate and place in another saucepan. Melt with the remaining 1/2 c milk and sugar over low heat while stirring constantly. When the chocolate has melted, add the milk and vanilla bean seed mixture, stirring contstantly. Heat thoroughly. Pour into mugs and stir.  

This received 3 out of 5.


 


Just to make sure to cover all bases, the 7th cup of hot chocolate tried by my taste panel was Swiss Miss. Yep, that's right. I simply heated some milk and added a packet of instant hot chocolate. 

The Swiss Miss received 2 out of 5







So it seems our winner was #2...Snow Flake Cocoa!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Some Catching Up

It's been a while since I posted, and I thought maybe I should explain why.

First of all, I lost my cord to my camera.

As it turns out, my couch ate it. Literally. I have recliners at the ends of my couch and somehow, the cord got inside the couch and wrapped itself around the foot rest. So, the cord was literally under my feet for the last two weeks. 

Clearly, I have found the cord. As soon as I found the cord yesterday, I did my little cord dance. 





I got all excited and immediately started to write my blog. Then, the internet went down. For all you rural folks out there, stay away from IBEC! They were one of the big companies that received federal grant dollars to get the fancy high speed internet out to those of us unlucky enough to be out of DSL and cable internet range. It's cheap enough; but that's about the only good thing about it. One of the many downsides, is it is NOT reliable. And on the occasions where it actually works, it's often too slow to load  pictures. It seems to be related to when my neighbors are online, although the Customer Service Director swears it has nothing to with my speed issues. Anyway, I was able to get the Taco Bake post up, but not do any networking. Thank goodness for Lana. She's an awesome blogger who always comments on my posts, specifically at odd hours of the morning, when I'm sure we're the only two up!



The other thing that has been taking up so much of my time is this craft show I have coming up on Saturday. A couple of years ago, I got this great idea that I could make jewelry. So, because I have some severe OCD issues, I bought thousands and thousands of beads. I did a few craft shows a couple of years ago, then something shiny and sparkly caught my eye and I found a new interest. My best friend has also found a new venture that could prove to be a money maker, so we decided to join forces and take part in a craft show this weekend. 
Want to see more art? Click Here
Now, I understand I'm not going to be able to retire early from selling some plastic and metal beads, but I figure at worst, I'll spend the day with my best friend.


 So, hopefully soon, things will be back to normal!










Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taco Bake

One of my favorite time saving techniques in the kitchen is to cook several pounds of ground beef, then freeze it in one pound bags. I usually will do a simple seasoning and measure out into bags. Then I'll do a bag or two with taco seasoning. I'm certainly no "Freeze-o-Rama" mama like Cris over at GOODEness Gracious, but this is one thing I do to save time. We all have those nights where you get home late and the kids are starving. Being able to pull a pound of pre-cooked ground beef out of the freezer can be a life saver, especially when the only other option for a quick dinner is Spaghetti O's. Yuck.

What you'll need:

1 pound of pre-cooked ground beef (I prefer to use the taco seasoned bag)
4 tortillas
1 can refried beans
Salsa (I use my salsa that I canned this year)
Shredded cheese (use as much or as little as you want)
Optional:
Sour cream
Black olives
Your favorite taco toppings

To begin, smother a tortilla with refried beans and put in the bottom of a round, glass baking dish

Add some of the pre-cooked ground beef


Then spoon on some salsa

Sprinkle some shredded cheese over it

Repeat this process three times. Bake, covered, at 325 for 30 to 45 minutes.




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