Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions 2010

As most people do, I tend to make New Year's resolutions.

And by January 2, I've forgotten them. Or decided that they weren't really that important.

This year, I decided to try something a little different.

I'm going to set some really easy, attainable goals. One's that will boost my ever-fragile, New Year's failure rate. Goal's that will pull me out of the January 2 depression funk.

No brainers.

Here's a list that I'm working on. Remember, it's just a "working" list, so it's subject to change...probably on January 3.

Goals for 2010

#1. Make sure that I get the first cup of coffee. And the second. (The grounds get stuck in the throat.)

#2. Watch more HGTV...and take notes.

#3. See how many pots and pans I can dirty during the preparation of each meal.

#4. Assign dish duty to someone else.

#5. Cook every dish in my new cookbook, "Romancing the West".

#6. Try not to gain more than 10 pounds.

#7. Don't worry about 2009's 10 extra pounds.

#8. Stop obsessing over 2007 and 2008's extra pounds.

#9. Turn another year older.

#10. Try not to cry uncontrollably for the week prior and the week following said birthday.

#11. Reset goals if these seem too difficult.

I may be speaking out of turn, but I think I may be able to manage these! See, already my self-esteem is boosted!

I'm ready.

Bring on 2010! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Burger & 5 Bean Soup

Growing up, my mom made a 4 bean dish that was called, "4 Bean Dish". While the title wasn't very unique, the ingredients were. I remember my mom grabbing the ketchup bottle and squirting a huge blob into the pot. Then she'd grab the mustard bottle and squirt some more.

I loved this dish! I couldn't wait until I was a grown-up so that I could eat this whenever I wanted!

Then I actually grew up.

While I still love this dish, I have learned that corn syrup in my soup isn't exactly the healthiest choice.

Hmmm...maybe my mom should rename her dish, "Corn Syrup & Bean Soup"?

So, in honor of my mom and all mom's who have used ketchup to disguise undesirable foods, (ahem, lima beans) ...this is for you.

First, fry up some really good, grass-fed, ground beef. I'm doubling this recipe, so I used 2 lbs. This makes great leftovers, so make plenty!

While the meat is cooking, open up the cans of beans. You'll need 2 (15 oz.-ish) of each; kidney beans, garbanzo beans, (AKA chickpeas), lima beans, and pinto beans. You could substitute black beans or butter beans instead. Don't drain though...the "juice" becomes the broth. It is a step up for the lowly juice...let's give the juice their moment.

You'll also need a 28 oz. can of baked beans. These are what I had, so these are what I used.

Okay, funny story. I have a very small kitchen. In a 5600 sq. ft. house, the kitchen is teeny. I had a moment of brilliance, following a weekend of HGTV, and decided to clean off the counters to make the kitchen appear larger. So I threw the electric can opener away.

My children were not amused.

So my daughter, Melissa, decided to pay me back and take a picture of me toiling over the can opening process.

She's a funny girl.

Before the meat is done, dice up a whole, sweet onion and a couple of stalks of celery. Go ahead and add some garlic. While 2 cloves of garlic are good, 3 are even better. Trust me.

Dump all of the beans (and juice!) into the crock pot. Then add the cooked hamburger. In the same fry-pan, add 1 Tb. olive oil and 1 Tb. unsalted butter. Add the chopped up vegetables and cook until the onions look opaque. Add 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/4-1/2 cup sucanat (rapadura or brown sugar works too), 1/4 cup molasses, 1 1/2 tsp. dried basil, and 1 Tb. chili powder. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the liquid looks gooey.

Add the cooked vegetables to the crock pot. I then poured a quart of home-canned tomatoes into the pot. Stir well and cook on low for 6 hours.

Before serving, salt and pepper as needed.

And don't forget the cornbread!

Burger & 5 Bean Soup

2 lbs. ground beef
2 (15 oz.) cans each: kidney, garbanzo, Lima, pinto beans
1 (28 oz.) can baked beans
1 large, sweet onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart tomatoes
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/4-1/2 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
1 1/2 dried basil
1 T. chili powder

Cook beef in fry-pan. Dump in crock pot. Add beans to pot. Saute onions, celery and garlic until opaque. Add mustard, sugar, molasses, and spices and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Dump in crock pot. Add tomatoes. Cook on low for 6 hours.

Serve with cornbread. Because it's the right thing to do.

**I have made this dish using dried beans that were previously soaked and cooked. It adds extra time, but is well worth the effort, especially as you are able to remove the "toots".**

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gratituesday...The Year in Review

2009 was a year of smiles and laughter, sadness and tears, grace and mercy, and infinite blessings. Today I will share some highs and lows with you and hope that you will see that God is good in all of it.

January...Christmas '08 brought several inches of snow, which we happily enjoyed. But living in the Pacific Northwest, the rains inevitably come. And boy, did they ever! January brought massive mudslides and flooding, with neighbors' homes being damaged, roads being blocked off, trees being knocked over and power being lost. Through it all, we only suffered a couple of downed trees that we needed to cut for firewood anyway, and got to practice our survival skills, if only for a few days. We met neighbors that we didn't know and got to experience a true country community spirit.

February...My hubby and I celebrated 22 years of marriage on Valentine's Day, but the Friday leading up to it, we got the call that every parent dreads. Our eldest daughter, Kelsie, and 4 month old granddaughter, Madison, were in a bad accident. Today, both of my "girls" are happy and healthy, with no lasting damage. Thank you Lord! We also welcomed our 2nd son-in-law to the family. Brett and Tia married on February 4 in Texas.

March...My "Mister" got to move to a lovely, new shift at the hospital. He used to work 3 pm to 3 am, and would have to sleep until about noon. For a homeschooling family, that just doesn't work very well. Now he's on a 11 am to 11 pm shift and we love it! He also gets 6 days off (in a row!) every other week. What a blessing!

April...Our oldest son, Cody, started driver's education. While we really dragged our feet over this, it has proven to be a lifesaver having another driver in the house! Even if he IS a teenage boy! We also met Jake. Little did we know that in 2 months, he would become our newest son-in-law! Our daughter Tia, called us with the news that we would become grandparents again!

May...We started ordering seeds for the garden, going on faith, that the weather would cooperate for an abundant harvest.

June...Our daughter, Melissa, graduated from home-school. We had a big graduation party to celebrate. Several of the ladies from church made her a graduation quilt and there was enough food to feed an army! Speaking of Army, we found out that Jake, who is in the Army, was being deployed to Iraq for a year. He asked for our daughter Valerie's hand in marriage, and we helped him pull off a surprise proposal! With only 3 weeks to prepare, we hit the ground running!

July...Our very first foster child, Jeffery, came to visit for the month. He is an adult now, living in a different state, but remembered most of what we taught him during his 5 years here. Life hasn't been easy for him, but it was good to see him becoming the man that we prayed he would be. We welcomed son-in-law #3 to the family! And then we saw him off for his stint overseas. No matter how a person feels about war, I couldn't have been prouder of the men and women who marched with smiles on their faces toward the buses. It was a moment that I will never forget. Ever.

August...The garden is bursting! We planted 22 tomato plants and ended up with 300 quarts in our pantry! The green beans did well enough and we found that growing corn is not our "gift"! We gave away lots of fresh produce and made several trips to some other farms for fresh fruit. Our cow, Bailey, gave birth to a bull, which we quickly turned into a steer. We named him "Angus" and are trying not to get too attached to our food source!

September...Spent a week at my most favorite place. We brought home about 30 trout and tried our hand at smoking them. The garden was still on "hyper-drive", so we had more canning to do. At this point, I was seriously yearning for autumn! Since the weather was so beautiful, our homeschooling was put on hold until October or whenever the rains arrived. Well, except for Melissa and Cody, who started college! (hehehehe...)

October...We made the trip south to celebrate our granddaughter's first birthday! She called me "Nana" for the first time and I pretty much don't remember anything after that! Oh yeah...the rains came! And school officially started!

November...Dear hubby got his elk! And we spent an entire day cutting and wrapping meat with my in-laws! I'm pretty sure that there was an extra hindquarter in there, but hubby says that no, he did not shoot a 5 legged animal! Hmmm...Thanksgiving brought Kelsie and her family here for a 5 day visit. We enjoyed just hanging out, watching movies and eating more than we should have! Nana ended up with bursitis in her shoulder from packing Madison around...and would do it again in a heartbeat!

December...We got our first snowfall, enjoyed Christmas with electricity, and gained the "holiday 5", just reading everyone else's recipes! Our first grandson was born on December 21, on the east coast, amid 2 days of pacing and prayers on the west coast. My 2 college children got their first grades, Melissa with 2 A's and a B+, and Cody with a B and a pass for keyboarding. Yep, I'm proud.

Here's to more blessings in 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Spinach/Ricotta White Spelt Pizza

A couple of years ago, my husband and I read a book called "Eat Right for Your Blood Type". The idea is that you should eat according to your blood type.

I'm a type A, so I should be a vegetarian.


My meat-eating hubby is only supposed to eat turkey.


That's not going to happen.

But, in theory, it is a good idea.

The only thing that we really got out of that was this: tomato sauce gives us heartburn.

And we only had to spend $24.95 to learn that.

We are about 4 cows short of a herd, if ya know what I mean.

Not really our faults. So, we spent another $24.95 for the companion cookbook.


We did find a fabulous recipe for a white pizza though. White pizza means that it has no tomato sauce, which means that we can eat all we want and not get heartburn! WooHoo!

The crust is made with a grain called spelt. It can be found at most health food stores. It can also be ordered online. Spelt is an ancient grain that is gaining in popularity because it is easier to digest than wheat. For that reason, many people with an intolerance to wheat can use spelt.

I hope you enjoy this pizza as much as we do!

Basic Pizza Dough

1 Tb. dry yeast
1 cup warm water (warm to the wrist)
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
2 Tb. olive oil
scant teaspoon sea salt
olive oil for the bowl

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix well with a large spoon. Add oil, salt, and the rest of the flour and work into a manageable dough. Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as the dough gets sticky. Wash out the same bowl and grease with olive oil. Put the dough back into the bowl and turn once to cover with oil. Cover with clean towel, and let rest for 1 hour. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down and divide into 2 pieces. Roll out on lightly floured surface and let rest for a few minutes. Sprinkle pizza pan or cookie sheet with cornmeal, then place dough on pan, using fingers to spread out. Brush with olive oil and add toppings. Makes 2-12 inch pizzas.

Spinach & Ricotta Pizza

2 bunches of spinach, washed, dried, and chopped
2 cups low-fat ricotta cheese
4 T. fresh garlic, minced
2 to 2 1/2 t. sea salt
4 T. fresh basil, chopped
2/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
2 T. olive oil

Follow the general directions for pizza dough. Preheat oven to 475F. Carefully wash the fresh spinach to remove all grit, and then lightly steam until wilted. Mix spinach with ricotta, garlic, salt, and basil. Spread mixture evenly over dough. Top with grated cheeses and drizzle with olive oil. Bake on a lower rack 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 2 12 inch pizzas.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Menu Plan for 12/28-1/3/10

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! Ours was filled with food, fun and family...followed by Tums, sleep and a coma-like stint on the couch!

Seriously. And because we had electricity (unlike our 3 day outage last year!), it was a perfect day.

And because I got to "veg out" and watch "The Princess Bride" the next day, it made it better than perfect. Add in the dark chocolate Reeses peanut butter cups...

...let's just say, I would've given my children anything if they'd asked! Thankfully, they left me alone and didn't take advantage of me during my moment of weakness. (Okay, it was more like 12 moments of weakness, but who's counting?)

This week, we'll be "detoxing" from our sugar binge and eating from the freezer and pantry. We'll be enjoying several soups and adding in some vegetarian dishes, as well as using spelt flour for homemade pizza.

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Monday: Sourdough English muffin, poached egg, fresh squeezed orange/grapefruit juice
Peanut butter and jam crackers, clementines
*Tortellini Spinach Soup, multi-grain rolls

Tuesday: Soaked oatmeal w/ blueberries
Cheese & turkey quesadillas, apple slices
4 Bean dish, cornbread (carried over from last week)

Wednesday: Yogurt/granola/fruit parfaits
Taco salad
*Lentil soup, multi-grain rolls

Thursday: Plum smoothies, toast
*Black Bean Burgers, broccoli salad
Cheese fondue, pumpernickel and rye breads, fruit platter with yogurt dip, veggie platter, nitrite/nitrate free deli meats, sparkling apple cider

Friday: Waffles, juice
**Spinach/Ricotta White Pizza with homemade spelt crust**, salad

Saturday: Granola
Pesto Linguine, salad

Sunday: Granola
Melissa's choice (since she's cooking!)


Tortellini Spinach Soup

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb. olive oil
2 14-1/2 oz. cans chicken broth (or make your own)
14-1/2 oz. can stewed tomatoes (I use a quart of home-canned)
9 oz. pkg. cheese tortellini, uncooked
10 oz. pkg. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained (semi-thaw and squeeze)
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, saute garlic in oil for 2-3 minutes. Add broth and tomatoes with juice; turn heat up to high and bring to boil. Stir in tortellini and cook according to package instructions. When tortellini is almost done, add spinach; heat through. Add salt and pepper. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over individual servings, before serving. Serves 6.

Lentil Soup

8 cups water
2 12 oz. pkg. dried lentils
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 quarts pureed tomatoes (Blend stewed tomatoes to get puree)
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tb. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tb. sea salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 bay leaves, broken to release flavor
6 slices bacon, cooked (not crispy!) and chopped

Throw everything into pot. Let cook with lid on medium low for 2 or more hours. Easily adaptable to the crock-pot.

Black Bean Burgers

2 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 t. garlic salt
2 t. cayenne pepper (or less, if you don't like a little heat!)
8 whole grain buns, split
Garnish: sliced tomatoes, Swiss cheese slices, lettuce

Place black beans and onion in a food processor; process to a mashed consistency. Transfer to a bowl; mix in egg, bread crumbs and seasonings. Form into 8 burgers; cook on a grill or in a skillet with a little olive oil for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden. Place on buns; garnish as desired. Makes 8 sandwiches.

**I will post the recipe for Spinach/Ricotta White Pizza and the Spelt flour crust tomorrow!**

For more menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Night Before Christmas for Moms

It was the night before Christmas,
when all thru the abode
Only one creature was stirring,
and she was cleaning the commode.

The children were finally sleeping,
all snug in their beds,
While visions of Nintendo and Barbie,
flipped through their heads.

The dad was snoring
in front of the TV,
With a half-constructed bicycle
on his knee.

So only the mom
heard the reindeer hooves clatter,
Which made her sigh,
"Now what's the matter?"

With toilet bowl brush
still clutched in her hand,
She descended the stairs,
and saw the old man.

He was covered with ashes and soot,
which fell with a shrug.
"Oh great," muttered the mom,
"Now I have to clean the rug."

"Ho-ho-ho!" cried Santa,
"I'm glad you're awake."
"Your gift was especially
difficult to make."

"Thanks, Santa,
but all I want is some time alone."
"Exactly!" he chuckled,
"I've made you a clone."

"A clone?" she asked,
"What good is that?
Run along, Santa,
I've no time for chit-chat.

"The mother's twin.
Same hair,
same eyes,
Same double chin.

"She'll cook, she'll dust,"
She'll mop every mess.
You'll relax, take it easy,
Watch The Young & the Restless."

"Fantastic!" the mom cheered.
"My dream come true!"
I'll shop. I'll read.,
I'll sleep a whole night through! "

From the room above,
the youngest began to fret.
"Mommy?! I scared...
and I am wet."

The clone replied,
"I'm coming, sweetheart."
"Hey," the mom smiled,
"She knows her part."

The clone changed the small one,
and hummed a tune,
as she bundled the child,
in a blanket cocoon.

"You the best mommy ever.
" I really love you."
The clone smiled and sighed,
"I love you, too."

The mom frowned and said,
"Sorry, Santa, no deal.
"That's my child's love,
she's trying to steal.

"Smiling wisely Santa said,
"To me it is clear,
"Only one loving mother,
is needed here."

The mom kissed her child,
and tucked her into bed.
"Thank you, Santa,
for clearing my head.

I sometimes forget,
it won't be very long,
When they'll be too old,
for my cradle-song."

The clock on the mantle
began to chime.
Santa whispered to the clone,
"It works every time."

With the clone by his side
Santa said, "Goodnight.
Merry Christmas, Mom,
You'll be all right."

-Author Unknown
From my house to yours...Merry Christmas!!! Enjoy your families and don't forget to smile!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A New Grandbaby

My heart is full.

Yesterday, December 21, 2009, my first grandson was born.

Weighing in at 7 lbs., 7 oz, and measuring at 22 inches long, Noah Michael was born to my second eldest daughter, Tia, and her husband, Brett.

And while I haven't met him yet, Noah already owns a piece of prime real estate.

My heart.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gingerbread Barn & Family Fun

Over the years, our family has enjoyed building "gingerbread" houses together. And while they weren't really made from gingerbread, we didn't care. (Actually, they were made from graham crackers!)

It was about having fun.

It was about using our creativity for good and not evil.

It was about winning the coveted "best in show" title.

This year, it was about real gingerbread and a barn.

It took a lot of patience...

It took a skillful hand...
It took exactly 10 seconds for my family to realize that my hands were busy holding up the barn sides and therefore were unable to protect my lip from a full-on assault of frosting glue!

It took 10 minutes to get the frosting to "melt".

Haha...Mom's in control of the frosting today!

Old Frosty was trying to make a break for it...

...but then we bribed him with a swimmin' hole...

...and added some new friends...and a fence.

Every farm needs a truck, 4-wheeler and chickens!

And since the weatherman could not deliver snow for the holidays, we will just enjoy our white Christmas at the farm!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Menu Plan for 12/21-12/27

I am feeling a little like the rabbit from "Alice in Wonderland" lately. Time is running out and I have barely made a dent in all of the things that I want to do!

So it's time to reevaluate my priorities and go in a different direction.

Hopefully, all of my body parts will go in the same direction, at the same time! At least, that's the new plan.

I already missed making an advent calendar with my children. Didn't get to the countdown to Christmas chain either. I have obsessed over the Chex mix and underestimated the amount of time it takes to bring refrigerated cookie dough back up to room temperature. Someone forgot to pull the frozen turkey out of the freezer and put it into the fridge, while someone else ate all of the Chex mix that I had obsessed over.

As my favorite character, Dory, from "Finding Nemo" said, "Swimming, swimming, just keep swimming"....

Here's the new plan...we are building our gingerbread barn this afternoon. I have shortbread cookie dough that needs baked and dipped in chocolate. (Of course!) My candy cane cookie dough is waiting in the fridge and I am going to attempt to make Chocolate Thumbprint cookies (Thanks Kym!). I will make more Chex mix (and hide it from my son Cody), and will have my daughters whip up some truffle candies.

And during all of that, I will try to remember to breathe.

Did I mention that this is my favorite time of the year? Good thing could've gotten ugly around here if I didn't enjoy it all!

Here's what's cookin'...

Monday: Soaked oatmeal w/fruit
Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, sliced apples
Tater tot casserole, salad (carried over from last week, and while not the healthiest dinner, I do use organic tater tots!)

Tuesday: English muffins, poached eggs
Pita pockets with turkey, hummus and sprouts, sliced oranges
Lasagna, green salad (from last week)

Wednesday: Granola/fruit/yogurt parfaits
Grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup
Elk steak, mashed taters & gravy, salad

Thursday: Soaked oatmeal w/fruit
Whole wheat bagels w/yogurt cheese & turkey
Mexican Pasta Skillet, cottage cheese & pineapple slices

Happy Birthday Jesus!
*Monkey bread
Cheese & crackers, fruit (keeping it light!)
*Christmas dinner*

Saturday: Scrambled eggs, toast

Sunday: Granola

*Christmas Dinner*: Turkey (cooked on Thursday), mashed taters & gravy, Green bean casserole, candied yams, brussel sprouts (Yes, most of my kids LOVE brussel sprouts!), Rosemary rolls, **Honeybun jello salad, **Key Lime pie, Apple pie, **Holiday Layered Surprise


Monkey bread

1 package Rhodes rolls
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tb. cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted
1 box butterscotch pudding, dry (not instant!)

Place rolls in bundt pan. Mix dry ingredients. Pour over rolls. Pour melted butter over rolls. Let rise overnight. Bake at 350F. for 30 minutes. Turn over onto cookie sheet and dig in! It is a good idea to place bundt pan on a cookie sheet while can spill over depending on the size of your pan! (If in doubt, divide into 2 bundt pans.)

**These desserts can be found in "MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook", by MaryJane Butters. They call for an ingredient called Chillover Powder that is used for gelling. It is from a red sea vegetable called agar-agar kanten, that is used in Japanese cooking. Chillover Powder can be purchased here.

Check back tomorrow to see pictures of our gingerbread barn!

For more menu planning ideas, visit Organizing Junkie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Spritz Cookies

Normally today I would post a Frugal Friday tip. But with Christmas just a week away, I've decided to get busy with my holiday baking.

The munchkins were getting worried.

So was my Mister.

Our cookie jar usually is home to chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and snickerdoodle cookies. For the holidays though, the cookie jar gets to rest.

The cookies never make it to the jar. Between gift tins/plates and my family's "sticky" fingers, cookies disappear quickly!

Please don't feel sorry for the cookie jar though, it'll be back in action by January 5.

After I've broken all of my New Year's resolutions!

For these cookies, you will need a cookie press. It is a great little gadget, but one I only use for Christmas baking. Not because I don't love it, but because I forget that I have it! Cookie presses come with several discs to make different shapes. I decided on the rosetta disc, since my miniature trees are going to need a little more practice.

Decorate the cookies with candies, nuts, candied cherries, dried fruit or colored sugar. But make sure that you leave some plain. These are great for coffee dunkin'!

And don't worry about the amount of butter in this recipe. Your hips will love you for it...
...mine are throwin' a party as we speak.

Spritz Cookies

2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 Tb. vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 cups finely ground walnuts
6 cups flour
1 t. baking powder

In an extra large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs until fluffy. Gradually beat in walnuts, flour and baking powder, blending thoroughly. Preheat oven to 375 F. Fill cookie press with dough. To make wreaths, fit cookie press with star disk. Force dough onto cold ungreased cookie sheets in a continuous strip. Cut strips into 5-inch long pieces. Shape each piece into a circle. Continue until cookie sheet is filled, arranging them about 1 inch apart. (They don't spread, so no worries.) To form a "bow", cut small piece of a candied red cherry for the center, and add sliver of green cherry to each side.

To make trees, rosettes or stars, fit press with appropriate discs. For each, stand press straight up and squeeze dough onto cold, ungreased cookie sheet. Release pressure and lift up slightly to cut off dough. Cookies should be 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with colored sugar or place cinnamon or silver dragees on each, as desired. Bake 8-10 minutes (Try 8 first, then adjust time from there.), or until bottoms are golden. Tops should be pale, not brown. Remove immediately from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks. Makes about 200 cookies.

*Variation* Chocolate Spritz: Add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa to 1/4 of the dough, blending thoroughly. Bake at 375 for 5-7 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Homemade Fabric Softener

When my family and I decided to use more natural products, we had no idea just how many "natural" products there were. It seems as if all of the cleaning companies decided to jump on the "fad wagon" and promote their products as healthier choices.

And make a pretty little profit off of the consumer in the process.

Personally, I'd like to keep a few more of my pennies.

Here's the deal. I use distilled white vinegar in my rinse cycle, both in the laundry and in my dishwasher. And while the smell NEVER attaches itself to my socks and saucers, it is offensive to my olfactory senses going in! *shudder*

I came across this recipe for Lavender Fabric Softener. I had some dried lavender that I had picked up a the farmer's market during the summer and now have a nice little batch steeping in the laundry room. I must admit, it smells better than I thought it would!

Homemade Lavender Fabric Softener

1 quart distilled, white vinegar

1 cup dried or fresh lavender buds

2-4 drops lavender essential oil

Place lavender buds in wide mouth, quart canning jar. Add vinegar and cover with plastic lid. (Always plastic. Metal corrodes!) Let mixture steep for 1 week. Strain through cheesecloth. Add essential oil, if desired. Add 1/2 cup to rinse cycle of laundry.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Black Bean & Sausage Soup

I love soup. Almost as much as I love chocolate.


Since I can't survive on chocolate alone...and let me tell you, I have tried...soup is the next best thing to perfection. It feeds the soul and lifts the spirit. Soup can mend a broken heart and cure the common cold. Just ask any grandmother.

Speaking of grandmother' daughter, Tia, just called to inform me that on Monday, my 1st grandson will be making his appearance! But more about that next week...

Where was I? Oh...ask any grandmother. I'm a grandmother. (*happy dance*) Just ask me.

Soup is good.

This one is great. Just take it from this grandma!

Black Bean & Sausage Soup

2 lbs. dried black beans
2 lbs. beef kielbasa, cut into bite-sized chucks
3 quarts organic vegetable broth (or homemade)
2-3 cups carrots, shredded
1 large, sweet onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 t. sea salt (more or less to taste)
pepper (to taste)
lemon juice
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
sour cream, optional
green taco sauce, optional

The night before, soak beans by covering with water and adding 2 Tb. lemon juice to water. Soaking overnight helps to neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. It breaks down the difficult to digest complex sugars. (Nourishing Traditions)

Translation: It releases the "toots" that gives beans a bad rap.

In the morning, drain beans and rinse. Add to crockpot. In a large frying pan, saute onions and celery in 1 Tb. olive oil and 1 Tb. unsalted butter, until tender. Add to crockpot with remaining ingredients. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8. Serve with Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream and green taco sauce. Great with cornbread!

*If cooked on the stove, cook beans in water, until halfway done. Skim any foam ("toots") from liquid. Drain. Add back to pot along with remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, or until beans are tender.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Our First Snow...and Reindeer?

This is what we've been waiting for. A glimpse of winter. And since the snow is now gone, it was officially just a glimpse. But what joy that glimpse brought to our household! You can just make out the falling flakes....

It wasn't a lot, but it was enough...

...for now...

The day before the "Great Snow Event", my eldest son, Dakota, took some of his siblings outside to snap some pictures. This is the view from our shop/barn. The kids weren't smiling here, they wanted to look at the reindeer...I mean, elk, behind them! Of course, hunting season is over, so the elk are feeling safe!

Heather, Matthew, Mandie, and Tanner

Even without the snow, I'm enjoying the view from my little farm. Even if they aren't really reindeer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Menu Plan for 12/14-12/20

Well, we're still in a deep freeze here. And no snow yet. Somehow, being this cold just doesn't seem right without the fluffy white stuff!

I've pried my nose off the window long enough to post my menu, but plan on stickin' it right back up after!

If I can get the kids out of the way first.

Really. I need some snow. Seriously. It's bad.

I bought a hat and everything.

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Monday: Oatmeal w/ peaches
(leftover) Meatloaf sandwiches, apples
Navy Bean soup (with leftover ham bone), sourdough bread, salad (carried over from last week)

Tuesday: Poached eggs on toast
Leftover Navy Bean soup, crackers, orange slices
Chicken Enchiladas, green salad

Wednesday: Plum Smoothies, English muffins
Toasted cheese sandwiches, lime jello w/ pears
*Potato/Corn Chowder, homemade rustic multi-grain bread

Thursday: Pumpkin waffles
Leftover Potato/Corn Chowder, crackers, banana
Tater Tot casserole, spinach salad

Friday: Blueberry Coffeecake
Toasted Tuna sandwiches, sliced apples
Chicken Tortilla Soup, cornbread

Saturday: Spiced Blueberry Muffins, hot chocolate
Leftover Chicken Tortilla Soup, crackers
Lasagna, sourdough, salad

Sunday: Granola
Venison Stew, homemade rustic multi-grain bread

For more menu ideas visit here.


Potato/Corn Chowder

5 large potatoes, unpeeled and diced
1 bay leaf, broken in half
2-3 carrots, chopped
1 sweet onion, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup flour
1 T. sea salt
2 bags (16 oz.) frozen corn
1 cup cream
1/4 t. paprika
1/2 T. dried tarragon (or more, depending on taste)
ground pepper to taste

In large pot, put potatoes, onion, carrots, celery and bay leaf. Cover with water and cook until carrots are tender. Scoop 1-2 cups into blender or food processor and blend with 1/2 cup flour and salt until smooth. Stir into pot and let simmer until thickened. Add corn, paprika and tarragon. Mix a couple of tablespoons of hot soup into cream to bring temperature up. Then add cream to pot. Season with pepper.

*P.S.* As I finish this, the snow has started to fall. I just may cry. Now I have to go try out that hat!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Frugal Fridays...Wrapping Paper

When determining a Christmas spending budget, most people don't factor in the added expense of wrapping paper. Okay, maybe it's just me, but I feel like the ribbon, bows and paper are half of my budget!

This year, I've decided to boycott the wrapping paper industry.

Nobody really cares about the paper anyway. At least I don't.

I just want everything to match while waiting under the tree. And I don't want it to cost a fortune. After all, it is just paper!

For a couple of dollars, I was able to find postal wrapping paper. It comes on a very large roll, is heavy enough to deter the "peakers", and can be embellished if that's what you really want to do. We've used snowflake rubber stamps to create beautiful paper that would've cost us a small fortune to purchase.

For the ribbon, I'm using natural raffia, found in any craft store. It is very inexpensive and goes a long way. I'm using natural because that is what I already had, but I've seen colored raffia also.

Tags are made from scrapbooking paper, old Christmas cards, or cut from paper bags using cookie cutters as templates. It is a great project for the kids! In our house, it is not uncommon to find my children sitting in the living room, watching a Christmas movie and cutting tags! (We NEVER write the kids' names on the tags. Instead my hubby and I make a code for each child. It's a good idea to write down your special code though. One year, my teenaged daughter opened up a Tonka truck! Lesson learned.)

My plan was to post a picture of some neatly wrapped gifts, sitting under the tree so that you could see how nice they look.

In reality, I probably won't have time to wrap until Christmas Eve!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My "Girls"

Today, I thought I'd introduce you to some more members of my family.

The ones that we don't mention at the holidays.
Because somebody might want to eat them.

To me, they are family. And most of them have names, although I can never remember them when I need to. One year, we decided to raise meat chickens. So the kids wouldn't get attached (kids, not mom!), we named them, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Since there were more than 7, we added seconds and thirds to their names. Of course, their last names were "Dinner".

After that, our daughters declared themselves to be vegetarians.

The "girls" talk back regularly, and make a terrible mess, but I love them.

At the moment, they are grounded for disobedience.

They broke rule #1. DO NOT TALK TO STRANGERS!

So now, instead of 27, we have 26.

If only they'd listen to me and not to him...

This is one of the girls' bodyguards. His name is Rocco.

He's an idiot.

And he doesn't know how to guard.

But boy, can he sing!

He's part of a group that we lovingly refer to as, "The 2 Tenors". His cohort is named "Frisky Biscuit". Someday, they'll be big.

We have 6 more "boys" that tried to crash the party.

We'll be mentioning them during the holidays.

Because maybe, just maybe, somebody will want to eat them.

For now, we'll just be content to have some of these...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Teriyaki Chicken

Slow and easy.

My two favorite words.

Next to chocolate and free.

This is neither chocolate, nor free, but it is slow and easy.

And did I mention, delicious?

Teriyaki Chicken

1/2 cup unrefined sugar
1/2 cup tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 t. fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 T. cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
1 T. cold water
1/4 t. black pepper
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 sweet onion, cut into chunks

In a small saucepan, mix all ingredients except the chicken and onions. Bring to boil, stir and remove from heat. In a crockpot, place onions then chicken thighs on top. Pour sauce over chicken. Cook on high for 4-6 hours. Serve with brown rice and steamed veggies. If you want extra sauce for the rice, just double sauce ingredients!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gratituesday...Helping Hands

My shoulder is slowly improving, but it is very hard to keep still. Especially at Christmas time! There are so many things that need to be done, on top of all the regular "stuff". We'll be doing school through next week, then take a couple of weeks off, and then there is baking to be done, pipes that need to be wrapped (we are on day 5 of our cold snap!), animals that need extra care, presents to buy and wrap, and decorations that need to be hung.


Thankfully, I have kids.

While I was doped up on Percoset, it seems my Christmas took it upon themselves to decorate our tree.

And they remembered to take a picture.

I may have to put in a good word with "Santa", but somehow, I think he already knows.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Menu Plan for 12/7-12/13

Our first snow of the season arrived last night! I'm like a child when the forecast calls for winter weather...nose pressed against the window and all.

I may have stepped on the littlest one, in the process.

Although, I'm the one that ended up in the emergency room! Seems I have a condition called bursitis. Apparently, I held my granddaughter a little too much on the left side, so now the shoulder is paralyzed with pain and swelling. And I'm enjoying a little vacation time called "oxycodone induced delusions". It is a happy place to visit, but I don't think I want to live there! Because my shoulder needs time to heal, meals this week will be simple and food the kids can prepare.

I'll pretend that it's room service.

Here's what's cookin' at our house...

Monday: Oatmeal w/ blueberries
P.b. and J, apples
Fried elk steak, mashed taters/gravy, steamed broccoli/cauliflower

Tuesday: Cranberry Streusel Muffins, hot chocolate
Toasted cheese sandwiches, tomato soup
Lentil burritos, tortilla chips, guacamole, salad

Wednesday: Homemade granola
Chili nachos (leftover from Sunday)
Meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, garlicky green beans

Thursday: Poached eggs on toast
Meatloaf sandwiches, fruit
Ravioli soup, homemade multigrain bread

Friday: Granola
Corndog muffins, cheetos, string cheese (housefull of kids today!)
Homemade macaroni and cheese, baked ham, salad

Saturday: Pancakes
Navy bean/ham soup, multigrain bread, salad

Sunday: Granola
Venison stew, multigrain bread

For more meal plans, visit Organizing Junkie

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Book List, Part 1

The 3 R's ...

Reading, (W)riting, and (A)rithmetic...not exactly 3 R's, but who am I to complain? And who would I complain to? Hmmm..

The greatest of these is Reading! At least in my book. (Pun intended...accidentally, of course.)

I am an avid reader. And not too particular either. I LOVE historical fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and books that make me laugh out loud. (My husband hates it when I read those in bed, while he is trying to get his beauty sleep!) I also enjoy reading books that teach me valuable skills and inspirational stories that touch my soul. I read a lot of Christian fiction, but also enjoy some secular authors, as long as I have my trusty white-out pen nearby. (I have one book that has more white marks than words, but the story was good.)

But what do my children read? Anything that I read, as long as it's age-appropriate. Face it, my 9 year old son isn't going to enjoy a John Grisham novel about corruption in the courtroom! And maybe in 5 years, my 13 year old daughter will appreciate a Francine Rivers romance or a Dee Henderson mystery. For now though, they have plenty to keep them busy.

This is list 1 of our reading lists. It is appropriate for elementary aged kids. We use our local public library for most books, but have found many at garage sales and trade-in bookstores. When we do have to buy books, Amazon is a great resource, as well as Sonlight.


Cricket in Times Square
Strawberry Girl
Great Brain series
Magic Treehouse series
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Phantom Tollbooth
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
The Year of Miss Agnes
Hundred Dresses
The Little House on the Prairie series
The Viking Quest series
Amelia Bedelia
Frog and Toad books
Third Grade Detectives series
Ralph S. Mouse
The Whipping Boy
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Sarah, Plain and Tall
Stone Fox
Detectives in Togas
Henry Huggins
Dr. Suess....and there are MANY!

This is just a sampling of some of the books that our grade-school age kids have enjoyed. While some books have been read on their own, others have been wonderful for read-alouds. The idea is to find books that are engaging, so that our children will develop a love for reading and learning.

And if you have a finicky reader (I've had a couple!), keep track of the books that they've read by keeping a visual where they can see it. Watch the pride in their faces when another book (or bug in our case), goes up on the wall!

And don't stress if your son/daughter isn't reading at the level you think he/she should be at. Practice makes perfect, and with the right books, perfection is just a page away.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gratituesday...My Mister

This man...

...who makes my heart beat faster...

An awesome provider...

Amazing family man...

This man who makes me laugh like no other person can...

The one I choose to grow old with... my husband.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Tortellini Soup

Sometimes, when I cook a 24 lb. turkey, there's leftovers. Sometimes. This was one of those times. Instead of the same old turkey noodle soup, which I love, I decided to experiment with a few ingredients I had lurking around the fridge and pantry. Time to clean up, tomorrow's a grocery shopping day.

Little known secret...I'm forgetful. If I don't write down ingredients as I go, they're lost for all eternity. Of course, that doesn't mean that I won't lose the list! So I've had to resort to the infamous white board to keep track of my thoughts. I probably need a larger one, but that would require a larger refrigerator, which I'm sure my hubby would not appreciate. Anyway, the white board is too large to fit in my pocket, but large enough that I can see what I've written, without having to wear my glasses. (Foggy glasses while cooking can be a dangerous problem!)

In a large pan, saute 1 diced sweet onion. Then toss in 3 diced celery stalks. For kicks, add 2 minced cloves of garlic. If you like garlic, add a third clove. I did.

When the onions are translucent, add 2 chopped up carrots. Saute for about a minute. Add 1 t. dried thyme, 1 t. sea salt, 3/4 t. ground black pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and 2 t. dried parsley. Stir it up and let it cook for another minute. Remove from heat and dump into large soup pot, or a dutch oven. (My personal favorite.)

Add 1 can cream of chicken soup, undiluted, and 3 quarts of chicken broth to the cooked vegetables. This is where I'm supposed to tell you the benefits of making your own turkey broth, but I can't. Not today. You see, after my hubby finished deboning the turkey, he tossed the carcass. Normally, I would've warned him not to do that, but I was busy.

Enjoying this. Honestly, if I had to choose between making my own turkey stock and loving on my granddaughter, well, let's just say, the turkey loses! But it does take second place! If you haven't made turkey stock, you're missing out. But if you have a grandchild, don't miss moments like these. They are what matters.

Back to the soup...I added about 3 cups of turkey meat. I used white because it tends to dry out when reheated. Unless of course, it's in soup! Cover the pot and let simmer for an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

In a separate pot, boil about 8 cups of water. Add a splash of olive oil. To the boiling water, add 2-3 cups of dried cheese tortellini. Cook until al dente, then drain in a colander. Before adding pasta to the soup, mix 1/4 cup water with 2 Tb. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) and add to soup. Let simmer for 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top.