Monday, July 30, 2012


I saw the recipe for these Carmelitas and thought, "Holy cow! I've hit the mother load!" Seriously, a recipe with these as the main ingredients has to be good, right?

32 caramel squares, unwrapped
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until completely smooth; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8x8" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour caramel mixture over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.
*A stint in the fridge will help them cool off if you're pinched for time. They shouldn't be served cold, but all of that molten caramel takes a long time to cool down. They should be stored and served at room temperature.
**To make a 9x13" version, simply double the amounts.
***If you want to use homemade or store-bought caramel sauce in place of the caramel/cream mixture, use 1 1/4 cups of sauce.

So, believe it or not, I followed the directions exactly!  I kept forgetting to take pictures for some reason though so I don't have every single step.  
This first step takes some time.  Melting the caramel took about 10-15 minutes (I forgot to time it!  Do you see a pattern here?  In my defense, I was trying to cook 3 things at once.)  Also, let me just add a challenge - or maybe it should be a dare:  Try to unwrap all 32 caramels without eating 1!  It's impossible I tell you!!!!!!  Actually, I think it's impossible to not eat 3!  But maybe you're a stronger person than I am. :)  Yesterday was very high calorie day for me, can you tell???

After stirring up the oatmeal mixture and baking it for 10 minutes, I sprinkled the chocolate chips on top.  Looks good already!

Then I added the caramel layer.  You can see a little bit of oatmeal there because I FORGOT to take the picture and started to add the last layer!  I caught myself in time though. :)

Fresh out of the oven.  The edges were bubbly and the top lightly browned.   

So, how did this tempting dessert taste?  I can't believe I'm about to say this, but it was actually a bit too much.  It tastes good, it's just so sweet and rich that you can't really enjoy more than a few bites.  Lance wasn't too crazy about it.  He ate some just because he never wants me to feel bad if it doesn't turn out, but I could tell he wasn't too fond of it.  He actually had a little of it with two scoops of ice cream and said that was better. :)  I haven't heard the boys' opinions yet.  With each bite, I'd get a taste of the oatmeal part first and almost kept expecting to taste something like apple crisp next.  I think the it's a good thought, but something needs tweaked and I'm not sure what it is.  However, if you're into sickeningly sweet desserts, this is for you!  This one is not making my recipe book.  It was a "tried it once and that's enough" recipe.  I'm bummed about that too because I had high hopes for this one.  Oh well, I still have a dozen or so caramels left that I'll be happy to eat! :)


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Laundry Room Update

We had a bit of a lull in the laundry room redo department until this past week.  In that time, we finally managed to get the bead board up and painted, ceiling papered, and the vinyl flooring down.  It's really starting to take shape now and I'm getting very excited about finishing it!  Here's a few pictures from the last steps we've completed.

You can see the pattern in the unpainted bead board here:

I painted the walls Light French Gray from the Glam collection by Sherwin Williams.  It's hard to get an accurate picture of the color.  If you look at the color collection, I think I'm sticking with the gray for the main color with accents of the yellow and maybe a little bit of the blue.  I'm pretty sure I'm leaving the Begonia color out.  I love the color, but I'm just finding more accessories and curtains in the other colors.  

Here you can see the ceiling.  I used textured wall paper because the ceiling texture would've been near impossible to get smooth for painting.  I HATE finishing drywall!!!!!!  HATE IT!  So I used this paper instead.  I need to give a BIG thanks to my boys for helping with the paper hanging!  It was NOT a fun job but we got it done and it looks pretty good.  

And finally, the vinyl flooring.  I just used the peel and stick stuff because it was the cheapest and easiest since I was doing it by myself.  I think it's called Terraza Chalk from Lowes.  

All I can say is, thank God for trim!  When you're working with an older house (or any house I'm sure), nothing is square or straight.  It's almost impossible to get things to fit perfectly.  In the world of home improvement, trim is your friend.
Did you notice in the pictures how my washer and dryer were stacked, then unstacked, then stacked again?  My original plan was to have them unstacked, but I don't think that's going to work now.  I'm somewhat limited to where they can be placed because of the plumbing and dryer vent.  The only way to change those is to get into the crawl space below the room and the only way to get to that crawl space is to move our rather heavy concrete front steps.  Hubby made it quite clear when I began this project that there would be no moving of the plumbing and dryer vents because he wasn't getting down in that crawl space and he was relatively sure I wouldn't do it.  We have been able to adjust the placement somewhat, but it's all going to be withing a few feet of where it started, which is fine.  Where you see the washer and dryer in the last photo is their permanent home.  You can't see it in the angle of this photo, but the upright freezer is on the other side of them. 

Next step:  Installing cabinets, counter top and getting a new washtub.  Then I'll just have to trick it out with accessories and I'll be a laundry washing fool!!!!!!!


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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cowboy Casserole

So one night last week I got on the computer to catch up on Pinterest and noticed that my SON had tagged me in a pin for this recipe.  In his defense, he was being a good boyfriend and patiently sitting with his girlfriend who was perusing Pinterest at the time.  Apparently she came across this recipe and he wanted me to try it so they sent it to me.  How could I not make this for a guy who will actually sit still for Pinterest?????  The recipe came from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary.  This is exactly how it's printed on her website:

Cowboy Casserole

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used 80/20)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (15.25oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons sour cream
1 bag (30 oz) frozen tater tots (I used Ore-Ida Crispy Crowns)

Before I got ready to make this casserole, I let the Crispy Crowns sit on the counter to defrost for an hour or so. The original recipe used still frozen tater tots, but I felt they wouldn't cook as well if they were still frozen solid.

In a large skillet cook the onion until tender and translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the beef and cook over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain the mixture and place into a large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the soup, milk and sour cream. Whisk until smooth. Add to hamburger mixture and stir to combine. Add corn and 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Gently mix to combine.

Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer half of the Crispy Crowns on the bottom, pour the hamburger mixture over the top and then layer with the other half of the Crispy Crowns. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and bake at 350 for 25 - 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy.

Even though it's a long winded recipe, it's really very easy.  Everyone probably has some version of this that they already make.  This one is actually similar to my Shepherd's Pie recipe except I use mashed potatoes on that.  
After cooking and draining the ground beef, I just added all the other ingredients - except potatoes - into a large bowl and mixed together well.  I cook the onion with my ground beef  and not before like it says in the recipe.  Also, I added a can of green beans to have more vegetables.  

Layer half of the potatoes on the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Spread the ground beef mixture over the potatoes.  

Arrange the remaining potatoes on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are done and crispy, golden brown.  

So simple!

I served it with a side salad.  

Kenny with his requested recipe! :)  We all agree that it's delicious and we would love to have it again!


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

You know it's hot when you don't even feel like standing outside long enough to grill some meat!  We use our grill year round, but this week, no one wants to go out and fire it up.  I'm not too crazy about firing up the oven either, but at least it doesn't involve standing outside.  I found this recipe a week ago or so and thought I'd try it out.  The Six Sister's Stuff website always has delicious recipes!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

1 (6 oz) pkg. chicken flavored stuffing mix
1 (10 3/4 oz) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 tablespoon prepared, Dijon mustard
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into bite-size pieces 
3 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 cups cooked, chopped ham
6 slices of extra thin Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 375ºF.  Prepare stuffing as directed on package.  Mix soup and mustard in medium bowl; stir in chicken, broccoli and ham. Spoon into 2-qt. casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray; top with cheese slices and stuffing.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through.

It couldn't be easier!  I cooked my chicken breasts in the crock pot during the day so they were ready when I wanted to fix supper.  When you cook them in the crockpot though, they don't cut up into chunks very well so I just shredded the chicken.  Either way seems fine.  

I used my new Pampered Chef Mix and Chop tool to shred the chicken.  Works great for this!

I also used frozen broccoli instead of fresh.  It's just easier!  I precooked the broccoli for about 5 minutes in the microwave before mixing it with the chicken and ham.  After mixing the soup and mustard with the other ingredients, transfer it to a greased 9x13 baking dish.  

Top with Swiss cheese slices.  I will buy a better quality of Swiss cheese next time.  These slices were cheaper and I was in a hurry at the store, but I think better cheese would make a difference in the taste and moisture of the dish.  

Top it off with the cooked stuffing and pop it in the oven.  

I baked it for about 35 minutes and it was ready to go!


It really has about all you need for the meal right in the casserole, but you could serve it with a salad.  I had cottage cheese on the side because, well, I have cottage cheese with almost every meal!  :)

Lance says it was delicious and one recipe that I should add to the usual rotation and I agree.  My kids weren't available for comment because they were both working and didn't get to sample this delicious meal.  They'll get the leftovers! :)   I do feel it's more of a fall/winter dish though.  Maybe it's because of the stuffing.  
If you use the crockpot for the chicken, or already had the chicken cooked and available in the freezer, this would be an extremely easy meal on a busy night. 
Tomorrow, I'll have another new recipe at the request of my son:  Cowboy Casserole!  Until then, happy eating! :)

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer Fruit Salad and Crack Potatoes

Today I am excited to bring you two new recipes!  One from me, and one from my brother and sister-in-law.  But first, I'm going to give a shout out to my wonderful mom!  Happy birthday and I love you!  Her birthday is next weekend, but we celebrated yesterday with my brother and his family.

I also got the bonus of spending time with my precious niece.  Love that adorable smile!

My brother grilled us some delicious bbq chicken and streaks on the grill.  My sister-in-law wanted to make the Crack Potatoes that we had both pinned and I made a Summer Fruit Salad.  So, with her permission, I have a guest recipe!  Let's start with the fruit salad:

Summer Fruit Salad

1 (5.1 oz) pkg vanilla instant pudding
1 (20 oz) can pineapple tidbits with juice
1 lb. fresh strawberries, quartered
1 cup fresh blueberries (optional)
3 bananas, sliced

1. In a bowl combine the pudding mix and canned pineapple with the juice.  Stir until well blended and all the pudding mixture has dissolved.
2. Fold in the strawberries and blueberries if desired.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. Just before serving, fold in the sliced bananas.

That's it!  Pretty darn easy.  I'm not a blueberry fan though so I used red grapes instead.  You could use any in season fruit that you like.  
Clean and cut the strawberries and mix with the grapes.

Mixing the pudding and pineapple creates a thick mixture.

After mixing pudding and pineapple, combine with other fruit. 

Just before serving, add the sliced bananas.  Looks yummy!

This makes a pretty good sized fruit salad.  I would only make it if you have quite a few people to feed because it really doesn't keep very well for leftovers, especially the bananas.  I ate some of it the following day, minus the bananas, and the fruit was starting to get soft.  

Now, on to the potatoes....

Crack Potatoes

2 (16oz) containers sour cream
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 (3oz) bags real bacon bits
2 packages Ranch Dip mix
1 large (28 - 30oz) bag frozen hash brown potatoes - shredded kind

Combine first 4 ingredients, mix in hash browns.  Spread into a 9x13 pan.  Bake at 400 for 45-60 minutes. 

I didn't take any pictures before it was cooked because we didn't think about putting it on the blog until after it was already cooking.  We ended up cooking it for probably about an hour and it came out  a nice golden brown on top.  Oh, and we used one pound of real, cooked and crumbled bacon instead of the bacon bits.  

Looks like a pretty good meal, huh? :)  It was all DELICIOUS!  Everyone liked the potatoes as well but we thought they were a little too salty or ranchy tasting.  We decided that if we make them again, we'll cut the recipe down to one, or at least one and half, ranch packet.  That should be just about perfect!

Here's the evidence that everyone liked the potatoes.  They were all gone except one spoonful!

It was definitely a great day spent with family and delicious food!  I love spending time with family and a yummy meal makes it all the better. :)

and guest recipe maker, Bobbi :)  (well, my brother actually mixed up the potatoes, but it was her idea. LOL!)

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Quick Skillet Supper

My mom reads my blog. (Thanks mom!)  One day she asked me, "Don't you try any new recipes that you didn't find on the internet?"  Well, yes I do.  It's just that lately Pinterest has consumed all my free time (well, maybe not ALL, but certainly a good chunk of my daily computer time) and there are so many great recipes there right in front of me!  However, mom's comment spurred me to think outside of Pinterest and try an actual recipe from a book.  You remember cookbooks, right?  You probably have some in a small cupboard above your stove or stuffed behind the baking supplies on a bottom shelf somewhere.  I have  quite a few cookbooks but there is one that I actually use occasionally because it has some go to recipes for me like Babe's Scalloped Corn and Layered Salad.  It's the Coldbrook Christian Church Sesquicentennial Cook Book. Coldbrook Christian Church is where we got married way back in 1992. Yes, we celebrated 20 years of wedded bliss last April.  Wooohooo!

Anyway, I LOVE church cookbooks.  Those church ladies really know their cooking shiznit!!!! (my sons will be so proud I just used that word!)  This particular cookbook is a compilation of all the cookbooks that the church has produced through the years starting with one in 1934.  I love reading these old recipes.  You can really get a feel for how different things were then.  Some recipes were much less complicated and used ingredients like:

1 heaping Tbsp. lard
1 yeast cake, compressed
2/3 cup sour milk
1/2 cup melted shortening
1 cup sorghum

What, what????  No wonder life expectancy was only around 61 years old.  They put lard and shortening in everything!  I also noticed that many recipes in the early part of this book seem to assume that you already knew your way around a kitchen.  They weren't any too detailed:

Florida Stew
Boil slowly 1 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb. ground pork.  Later add diced potatoes and diced onions, salt, pepper and one can of tomato paste.
~Mrs. Ethel Acklam

Mint Sauce
Chop mint fine, and add enough olive oil to form a paste.  Add vinegar, salt and sugar to taste.
~Sarah Wallace

Roll Jelly Cake
3 eggs             1 cup flour
1 cup sugar     1 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp water
Beat eggs until foamy.  Bake cake 20 minutes with quick fire.
~Lucille Wilson

Wow! WTH is quick fire?  If I put a recipe up like this now, I'd have 10,000 questions about it!  Not all recipes are like this of course.  Many of them do have more details.  I love to read them though and someday I'm going to try some of them just for giggles and grins.  Today was not that day, however.  I opted for a recipe from the 1989 section of the cookbook.  I wanted something quick and easy so this is what I tried:

Quick Skillet Supper

1lb. ground beef 
1 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 cans (15 oz.) Veg-All mixed vegetables, do not completely drain
1 can (10 oz.) beef broth
2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 cup sour cream
1 can french fried onions

In a large skillet, brown meat and drain.  Stir in seasonings, Veg-All (reserve some liquid), broth, and macaroni (uncooked).  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring twice during cooking time.  Stir in sour cream and 1/2 can of onions.  Heat through, do not boil.  Top with remaining onions.  Makes 6-8 servings.
~Paula Rassi

I changed a little wording in the recipe to make it clearer.  Also, I season the ground beef when I cook it, rather than add salt and pepper later. Because I have a few big eaters in my house, I also used 2 lbs. of ground beef so I felt like I needed more liquid to get the macaroni to cook.  I had already drained my Veg-All, so I just opened another can of beef broth and used about half of it.  I changed the recipe to say that you should use some of the liquid from the Veg-All.  If you make this, use your own judgement on how much liquid to use.  Maybe drain the Veg-All into a bowl and then add it later if you need more liquid or add more beef broth.  Just make sure you have enough liquid to cook the macaroni.  Hope I didn't confuse you!  This is how I cook though...adjusting as I go.   I didn't increase the other ingredients with the exception of the sour cream.  I probably used about 1 1/2 cups.  

This shows the mixture right when I started cooking it.  You can see all the liquid in the center and the uncooked macaroni.  

After boiling and cooking for 15 minutes.  The macaroni is done and most of the liquid has been absorbed.  

After stirring in the sour cream and topping with the remaining onions it's ready to serve from the skillet.  

The verdict?  It's a new favorite! Kelin thought I should've added cheese, but that was the only suggestion.  I'm going to add this to my extensive repertoire of ground beef recipes.  I didn't have any frozen, already cooked ground beef on hand this time, but if I did, this would take no time at all to get ready.  This was enough to feed all of us and have plenty of leftovers for the next day's lunch.  Give it a try!


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's a Cleaning Miracle!

So I have this stainless steel and black oven.  I love it!  Except I don't love trying to keep the stainless steel part clean.  I always have these nasty looking water marks on it from people in my house, who shall remain nameless, spilling food down the front and me trying to keep it wiped clean.  I've searched the internet for tips on how to clean them.  I've seen everything from using baking soda pastes, vinegar, Dawn dish soap, to cream of tarter paste, salt, Pledge and on and on.  I've tried a couple of these ideas and none of them worked.  I know there's commercial cleaners you can buy, but I just wanted it clean today!  So I thought I'd try one more time to find a solution.  O.M.G.!!!!!!!!!  I found the easiest solution that actually works:  Mr. Clean Eraser!  Now, maybe the rest of the free world already knew this, but it was news to me.  Here's my before and after pictures:

It was hard to get a picture that really shows how bad it looked.  You can see the spots somewhat on the bottom here.

These pictures show the spots and streaks a little better.  

To get the spots off, I dampened the eraser sponge and scrubbed in the direction of grain (if that's what you call finish of stainless steel!).  Then, I took a dry paper towel and wiped it off.  At first it doesn't look like you got anything rubbed off, but be patient.  As it dries, it clears up.  Some spots required me to scrub a couple of times and dry them to get them completely off.  Eventually though, it came out looking brand new!!!!!!

I could not believe how clean it was when I finished!  If you have trouble with getting your stainless clean, you have got to try this!  If you do, let me know how it works for you. :)


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