Thursday, May 31, 2012

100 Things to Write a List of 100 About

Actually, it's going to be 100 Things to Write a List of 10 about because I don't think I could come up with a list of 100.  That would take freaking forever!  I don't have that kind of patience and fortitude.  And it's not going to be done all at once.  Totally confused?  Well, probably 10 years ago (or maybe more), somewhere I picked up this list to inspire you to journal.  I think I started it once, but never finished and can't find it anyway.  I happened across the list the other day and thought I'd try it again and create the lists on my blog.  I also decided that I'll do some of them in pictures!  So here's my first list of 10 (in no particular order - except for the first two, they should both be #1!):

10 Things I'm Grateful For:

1.
      Lance, my wonderful husband

2.
My boys!  Kenny and Kelin

3. The rest of my crazy, extended family who is there for me whenever I need them.

4. 
My book club and dinner friends of course!

5.  
                 My education

6. 
                        My job

7.
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate

8.  
Books!!!!!!!!!!

9.
My health

10. 
Each and every new day that I wake up!




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Crockpot Lasagna

So I tried another crock pot recipe.  This isn't any big secret recipe, it's just a pretty good idea when you want lasagna and don't want to run your oven.  I got it from the Six Sisters website again.


Ingredients:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 (24 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
1 (15 oz) container of ricotta cheese
1 pkg. Kraft Italian Cheese (approx. 2 cups)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons parsley
6 regular lasagna noodles, uncooked

Directions:
Brown meat in large skillet; drain. Stir in spaghetti sauce and water. Mix ricotta, 1-1/2 cups Kraft Italian cheese, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, egg and parsley.

Spoon 1 cup meat sauce into slow cooker; top with 3 lasagna noodles, broken to fit; and half of cheese mixture. Cover with 2 cups meat sauce. Top with remaining noodles, broken to fit; cheese mixture and meat sauce. Cover with lid.

Cook on low 4-6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; let stand, covered, 10 min. or until melted.

That's it!  I didn't get any pictures of this one because really it just looks like plain old lasagna.  I would say that you can actually just use your own lasagna recipe and throw it in the crock pot because I added mushrooms and tomatoes (undrained) to the meat mixture and frozen spinach (thawed and not drained) to the ricotta cheese mixture.  The only difference is to make sure and add about a cup of extra water to the meat mixture.  Since I didn't drain the mushrooms and tomatoes I only added 1/2 cup of extra water.  I cooked it for about 5 hours.  I think it would have been fine at 4 or 4.5 hours though because the noodles were actually starting to get a little too soggy.  Like I said, it's really no easier than regular lasagna, but it's nice on days you can have your windows open and don't want to heat up your house with the oven.
And don't forget to use the crockpot liner!!!!!!!!!!!!  :)

~Peace
Dawn

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

With the break in the hot weather here, I got all fired up this morning to do stuff. I went for a 4 mile walk, did dishes, laundry and made some food!  I wanted to make a dessert this time and I had a recipe for No Bake Peanut Butter Bars.  I L.O.V.E. chocolate and peanut butter desserts and this one looked pretty easy.  I got the recipe from the Six Sisters website.  They have some great ideas!  You should check it out.

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

Ingredients:
Bottom layer
1 C butter melted
2 C graham cracker crumbs (I used the boxed kind)
2 C confectioners’ sugar
1 C peanut butter
Top layer
4 Tbl peanut butter
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Directions
In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, confectioners’ sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 11x7 inch pan (They did theirs in a 9x9 inch, but I didn't have one that size.  You could also use a larger pan to make them thinner.). In the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring every 30 seconds until melted until smooth. Spread over the peanut butter layer. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares.


Bottom layer pressed into pan.


Ready for the fridge.


Yum!!!

Everyone said this is a pretty good dessert for as quick and easy as it is.  It's a nice alternative to baking something in the oven on hot days and it's so easy!

I've got a crockpot lasagna going, too.  I've never done that before so I'll let you know how it turns out later.

~Peace
Dawn Pin It

Monday, May 28, 2012

Crockpot Breakfast. Take it or leave it.

I am not a morning person.  Oh, I don't mind getting up early.  Just don't expect me to have big conversations or be in a good mood for the first 30 minutes or so (unfortunately I also passed this trait on to my younger son).  So this means that I definitely don't get up early to fix my beloved family a hearty breakfast each morning. Maybe once a year I'll do that.  Once my kids were old enough pour their own milk (and I used to buy 1/2 gallons of milk to speed that process up!), it was self serve for breakfast around here.  They're all welcome to cook breakfast, and Lance does occasionally, but I don't do it.  No mom of the year for me in the breakfast category, but I'm OK with that.  So imagine my excitement when I pinned a recipe for a crockpot breakfast casserole that would cook while you sleep!  Now we're on to something!  Then I figured out the link was broken. :(  So, I did an internet search and found several recipes that I mashed together into my own.  It wasn't as good as I'd hoped.
Here's what I did:

Ingredients

30 oz. bag of hash  browns
1 lb. bacon, cooked and diced
1 med. size onion, diced (I used frozen)
1 green bell pepper, diced (again I used frozen)
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar, or whatever cheese you like
1 doz. eggs
1 C milk
1 tsp. salt (I used a little more)
1 tsp. pepper

Directions:
You need a larger crockpot for this.  Not sure how many quarts mine is.  I have three different sizes and I used the largest one, but I probably could've used the medium sized one.
Put crockpot liner in and spray with Pam.  What?  You don't use crockpot liners you say?  Get off your computer right now and go buy a box!!!!!  I'll never cook without them again.  They are literally the greatest kitchen invention since sliced bread!  Clean up is a breeze!  And if you try this recipe, you'll be glad you used it.
Layer 1/3 of the hash browns on bottom.  Then layer 1/3 of the bacon, onion, pepper and cheese. Repeat two more times ending with a layer of cheese.
Beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together.  Pour over crockpot layers.
Set crockpot to low and cook 10-12 hours.

Pretty simple recipe.  Most of the ones I looked at had about the same directions.  Some used sausage or different cheeses but were basically the same.  One person gave this 5 stars and said it was delicious.  He or she must be used to eating dog food because this isn't delicious.  Lance said it was edible.  Kelin said it was ok, but don't make it again.  Kenny never even tried it.  Chicken!  I agree with Kelin.  It was ok, but I'm not making it again.


Looks delish, huh?


First of all, it cooked about 11 hours in the crockpot and that is too long.  It was a little burnt on the edges and the top and bottom were too done (hence the reason I'm glad I used a liner or that would've been a mess to clean!!!!).  The middle was ok.  I'd say more like 8-9 hours of cooking would probably work.  Second of all, the egg basically just soaked into the hash browns.  It wasn't like there was fluffy egg throughout.  If you hadn't known egg was in the recipe, you wouldn't have guessed it was in there.  It was just basically like overcooked hash browns.  Also, every single time I woke up in the middle of the night, I could smell it cooking all the way in the bedroom with our door mostly closed.  I like delicious smells when I'm cooking, but not when I'm sleeping.

This just confirmed my opinion that breakfast is not the best meal of the day.  I don't even like breakfast unless it's a big bowl of cereal and milk!   I would have to find another recipe that was drastically different from all those I looked at in order to try this again.  I think I'll just stick to the casseroles you can mix up the night before then bake in the morning if I need a big breakfast for some reason.  Otherwise, there is always cereal at my house. :)

~Peace
Dawn

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Smashed Potatoes

Well, that's what my family is going to call them anyway:  Smashed Potatoes.  If you follow my pins, you've probably seen this recipe.  Many of my friends have it pinned.  The original post is on The Pioneer Woman website.   She calls them Crash Hot Potatoes.   I was planning to have fried catfish and coleslaw for dinner and thought these potatoes would go great!

I followed the recipe pretty much as she has it on the website.  I used crushed parsley though and I think she used thyme or something.

Ingredients:
Small red potatoes - as many as you'll eat.  I used about 20 I think.  Remember, both my boys are home now!
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Pepper
Parsley (or other herbs as you like)

Directions:

Cook whole potatoes on stove in a pot of boiling water until fork tender.  This took about 1 hour.


Drizzle quite a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet.  I also used my pastry brush to spread it out.
Place potatoes on baking sheet spacing a couple inches apart.  I had too many on the sheet and they ended up smashed together.  That really doesn't make that much difference though.  
Smash the potatoes with a potato masher so they're flat like a cookie.  You could also use a fork.  
Brush olive oil on each potato and sprinkle with Kosher salt, pepper (I don't use much of that though) and crushed parsley (or other herbs).  Use plenty of salt.  I do like the Kosher better for this because it's a courser grain and sticks to the potatoes nicely.  
Bake at 450 degrees on top rack of oven for about 15 - 20 min. until lightly browned and a little crispy around the edges.  I think the potatoes on the website look a little burnt myself.  Ours were nicely browned. I probably could have cooked them a little longer, but my people were hungry and ready to eat!
That's it!  Pretty easy really.  




While the potatoes were baking, I was busy frying up some delicious catfish!


Add some coleslaw and you've got yourself a meal.  If you want to make coleslaw yourself, I recommend using Marie's brand coleslaw dressing.  It's actually really good for store bought and is super easy of you buy a bag of the already shredded coleslaw.  



The verdict:  Pretty darn good!  Everyone said this is a keeper recipe.  They're almost a cross between scalloped potatoes and french fries.  A nice alternative to mashed potatoes.  Kelin did suggest adding chopped bacon to them.  I think that is an excellent idea!  Or maybe even bacon bits of you're in a hurry.  You can't go wrong with bacon.  

There you have it.  Smashed Potatoes.  It's going in my recipe binder.  Did I mention that in addition to trying all of these recipes I'm also organizing them.  I went to Staples and bought this extremely cute 3 ring binder and all the inside fixins (tabbed dividers, colored cartstock, etc.).  All these stray recipes, both on paper, and on my computer, are causing my OCD skin to crawl.  I just can't take it anymore.  Now that I've started, I won't be satisfied until it's all organized.  Maybe after I get all this organization under way, I'll blog it.  Now that I'm on summer break, I'll have plenty of time to work on it!

~Peace
Dawn


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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Snickers Brownies

How can you NOT make a recipe called  Snickers Brownies????  I got this from Pinterest, but the link goes here.  I also love the other ideas on her site.  She has great gift and craft ideas as well as recipes.  Here's the recipe.  It is rather long but not as hard as it might look, just a little time consuming.

Snickers Brownies
Brownie Layer
1 box of brownie mix, I prefer Betty Crocker's Fudge or Dark Chocolate mixes
Ingredients called for on box
1/4 cup hot fudge topping, unheated, straight from the jar

Nougat Layer *Adapted from How Sweet It Is
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 (7 oz.) jars marshmallow creme (@1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Caramel Layer
1 (17 oz.) jar of caramel, preferably Mrs. Richardson's Butterscotch Caramel

Candy Bar Topping
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter.

Prepare brownie batter according to package directions for a 9x13-inch pan, adding 1/4 cup hot fudge ice cream topping, unheated and straight from the jar to the batter. Make sure to follow the high altitude directions if you live at high altitude. Cool completely.


Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil. Add in the marshmallow creme (I didn't measure, because how exactly do you measure that sticky fluff? I used one complete 7 oz. jar and most of the second jar), peanut butter, and vanilla stirring until smooth. Turn off heat and fold in peanuts. Pour evenly over cooled brownies. Use a spatula to help spread the mixture. Cool. I stick the brownies in the freezer for about 15 minutes.


Scoop caramel topping into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over low until caramel is soft and easy to stir. Pour the caramel over the nougat layer. Make sure to pour it evenly across the nougat covering as much as the surface as you can. This makes it easier to spread the caramel with a spatula. Let cool. Again, I usually stick this in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Scoop caramel topping into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over low until caramel is soft and east to stir rather than mess with hot.

Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Pour over nougat layer and cool completely. I usually stick them in the fridge until the chocolate is set. They chocolate gets pretty soft when left out, so I like to store these in the fridge and let them set out for a few minutes before cutting them. You want the chocolate to be cool enough to be set, but warmed up just a bit so that they are soft enough to cut more easily. Enjoy!



The picture on her blog looks great!  Mine, not so much:



So, what did I change? (cause you know I did!)  I made the brownie and nougat layers exactly as stated.  I used 2 small jars of the regular caramel ice cream topping you get at the store (Smucker's brand)  If I make this again, I'd try to find a thicker type of caramel.  The caramel topping I used was too thin and the top chocolate layer kept sliding off, which you can see in the picture.  The top layer is what I really changed and wish I hadn't.  I just used a can of milk chocolate frosting and the 1/4 C peanut butter (mixed and melted).  It was too much chocolate - I know, I was as shocked as you to find out that there is such a thing as too much chocolate!  The final product was extremely rich and I think a lot of that was the top layer.  I'd go with semisweet chocolate chips next time like the recipe says.  
The family verdict:  Kelin liked it but said it took him 2 glasses of milk to get his piece down.  I guess it didn't occur to him to save the rest for later when he'd had enough. :)  Lance said, "Well, it tastes like a Snickers."  And it really does!  But he agreed that it was too rich.  3 stars.
Bottom line:  I'd make it on special occasions (and follow all directions!), but not all the time.  It is a little  time consuming to make often. 

~Peace
Dawn

**Update to the caramel layer!  Remember how in my post above I said the caramel layer was a bit runny and the top chocolate layer slid off?  Well, I've found a different caramel idea using melted caramel candy pieces at How Sweet It Is.  I haven't tried it yet, but I will the next time I make these.

caramel layer
1 14-ounce bag of caramels
1/4 cup whipping cream
Combine ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Let melt, stirring occasionally, until smooth – this took about 10 minutes for me. Pour over nougat layer and let cool completely.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Taco Crap. It's What's for Dinner.

After mentioning the Taco Crap dinner the other day on Facebook, I've had many requests for the recipe.  I don't actually have a written down version that I stick to all the time, but I'll try to type it out.  I also don't have any pics to show you.  Maybe I'll take some the next time I make it.  It's VERY easy!!!!!!!!!!

Ingredients:
cooked ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning (many recipes would call for 1 lb., but I use closer to 2 lbs.)
1 package of flour taco shells
1 package of shredded taco seasoned cheese (don't know how many ounces it is...16oz? We like a lot of cheese!)
1 can refried beans
anything else you like in tacos...tomatoes, chiles, corn, whatever

I use 2 glass deep dish pie pans for this recipe.  It's basically just layers of all the ingredients.

Grease pans
Spread beans on one taco shell and put in bottom of dish.
Layer some of the ground beef on top.
Add tomatoes, chiles, or anything else you want.
Sprinkle with some cheese.
Repeat layers 2 more times ending with a plain taco shell on top and covered it in cheese.

Then I do the same in the other dish, except without beans because my boys don't like them.  I end up using 4 shells per dish.

Cover with foil (spray it with Pam so the cheese doesn't stick to it) and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or so until heated through.

I serve it with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and taco rice (that I buy in a package at HyVee) on the side.

Another version I do is to layer beans, meat and cheese in a 9x13 pan, cover with Fritos, then heat it up.  I like it, but my family likes the original Taco Crap better.

There it is.  The ever popular Taco Crap recipe!  Enjoy!

~Peace
Dawn

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hummingbird!

So I mentioned on Facebook the other day that I had a hummingbird in my yard.  I finally got a couple of pics of him, or her.



Now I haven't seen him since! :(  AND, today I was changing the nectar and broke my feeder. Double :(
I ran out to Lowe's to buy a new one and their selection is now pretty limited.  I saw one I wanted on clearance hung waaaaay up high on the display hook.  I finally got someone to get it down for me and realized it was all plastic!  (my other one was glass and heavier)  I decided to get it anyway because I was in a hurry.  Brought it home, filled it up, picked it up by the hangar, and all the nectar came out all over my counter!!!!!!!!!  Quite a sticky mess!  Long story short, it locks and unlocks for "ease of filling."  Uh huh.  It wasn't that easy.  After finally getting it filled correctly, without a lot of mess, I hung it back outside.    He's been at my mother in law's...I saw him there today.  All I can say is, this damn bird better come back after I've gone to all this trouble!  *sigh*

~Peace
Dawn Pin It

Happy Mother's Day!

Why do I love being a mom?

Hearing them laugh and talk when they think I'm not listening.
All the memories of us doing little craft projects, having picnics in the backyard, watching Winnie the Pooh and reading books (and many, many, more memories) when I was a stay at home mom.  I miss those days.
Spending time shopping together. Well, that's mostly Kenny.  At least I raised one shopper!
Hearing all the raucous noise when they're playing around, bugging each other, and yes, sometimes fighting.
Catching them doing something nice for someone when they haven't been asked such as holding open a door for a stranger or taking out the trash (well, most of the time I have to ask them to do that, but they never complain about it!)
Seeing them voluntarily read a book (I'm still working on Kelin with this one).
Seeing them smile when they're happy, and offering advice and support when they're not.
Knowing I can depend on them if I need to.
Spending time together watching a movie or playing games.
Having two more men in the house who can reach objects on the top shelf for me. :)
Seeing the two wonderful boys we have raised grow into responsible, caring, and considerate young men.

I could go on all day.  Happy Mother's Day to everyone!  I hope you enjoy the day if you're a mom.  If you're not a mom, be sure to treat the mom in your life like the queen she is, at least for today. :)

Thank you to the two best sons anyone could ask for for making my job easy all these years.  I love you!

Photo by Jodie McNally

~Peace
Dawn
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Monday, May 7, 2012

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta

This week's recipe is another pasta.  This is another internet find I got from this blog.  I read the title and thought "We love cheese!  We love chicken!  We love pasta!  This is going to be great!"  So I got to work:

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta

For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp dry mustard
1 T fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Mix together mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle over chicken pieces. When pan is hot, add chicken and brown about 3 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

For the pasta:
1 pound rotini or other short cut pasta
2 T butter
2 T flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 T Dijon mustard
8 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups milk
1 T fresh thyme
1 T fresh oregano
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

Heat water to boil in a large stock pot for pasta, add salt and pasta and cook to al dente and drain according to directions. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Add wine, garlic, onions, and mustard. Cook about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Reduce heat to low and slowly add milk, stirring to combine. Cook about 5-7 minutes more until mixture begins to thicken. Add cheese and stir to melt. Add chicken and pasta and toss to incorporate sauce. Add thyme and oregano and serve topped with crushed red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese.

I didn't take pictures as I went along because I forgot. :(  True to my nature, I didn't follow the recipe exactly because I never do.  Maybe that's why I really suck at baking.  You have to be too exact.  I like to improvise and ammend as I go.  These are the things I changed:
     I combined the first 4 herbs and spices and used them as a rub for the chicken then had Lance grill it.  I thought it would give the chicken a nice flavor and add a little texture.
     I used tri color rotini because it looked fun and was on sale :)
     I omitted the red pepper flakes because I didn't have any and don't like them anyway. 
     Other than this, I followed the recipe pretty close.  The only thing I would suggest is to not add the flour until you add some of the milk otherwise it might get a little lumpy. 
     Here's the finished product served with salad and french bread.  It's kind of hard to actually see the pasta because I covered it with grated parmesan.


So what is the family's verdict, you ask?  I gave it 4 stars, Kelin 3.5, and Lance 3.  Kelin says he'd rather not have had the chicken grilled.  After 17 years, he now tells us he doesn't like grilled chicken.  Go figure.  Lance wasn't cracked on the white cheddar.  It's a stronger cheese and he said it gave it a sort of "wang."  To which I replied, "I kind of like that wang."  Then the conversation deteriorated right into the gutter.  Hey, we've been married for 20 years.  You have to take the flirtatious banter where you can get it!  Don't judge!  Either way, wang or no wang, I think I'll keep the recipe around in the back of the cookbook to use occasionally. 

I think I'll try a dessert recipe next time.  I have a Snickers Brownie Dessert that looks delish!!!!  Maybe I could make it for myself for Mother's Day. :)



~ Peace
Dawn
    
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