Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baked Spaghetti

I've had a very busy start to the school year and I am soooooo looking forward to the 3 day weekend we have coming - for several reasons.  1.  We get a day off of school!  2.  My son comes home from college! (miss you Kenny)  3.  I get to see my sweetie pie niece (and her parents,too! hehe) 4.  We're having a family cookout at my dad's.  Is that enough to get excited about????? :) 

In the meantime though, I have another recipe to share.  The original recipe was called Scooter's Spaghetti.  I just called it Baked Spaghetti.  Let's look at the original recipe:


Ingredients
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 pound ground beef
1 large can spaghetti sauce (26.5 ounces)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped green peppers (I usually omit or substitute red peppers)
1/3 cup chopped onions
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons milk
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
French Fried Onions (small can)

Directions
1.Cook spaghetti according to directions on the package. Cook to al dente, drain and set aside.
2.Brown ground beef. Drain excess grease. Add spaghetti sauce to skillet and heat.
3.Combine onions, peppers and butter in small glass bowl. Cover and microwave 4 minutes on HIGH until soft.
4.Add cream cheese and milk to vegetables and stir well. (If cream cheese is not soft, nuke it for 20-30 seconds to make it easy to spread.)
5.Using a 10 x 6 dish, assemble in the following order:
6.Thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish.
7.Spaghetti
8.Cream cheese/vegetable mixture
9.Spaghetti sauce
10.Parmesan Cheese (amount subject to your own taste)
11.French Fried Onions (added during last 5 minutes of cooking)
12.Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Top with French Fried onion and continue baking 5 more minutes. (This is the secret ingredient–don’t let them burn.)

Make this ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze without the French Fried onions. Don’t forget to add them 5 minutes before casserole is finished cooking.
 
So, how did it turn out?  Delicious!  I used larger quantities, but really didn't keep track of how much more, and cooked it in a 9x13 dish.  I basically just cooked my usual spaghetti sauce with meat, sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes and green peppers.  Then I layered a little sauce, the cooked spaghetti, the cream cheese (vegetables were already in my sauce), remaining sauce and cheese.  I did add the french fried onions at the end of baking. 
 
Looks good, huh?   It tasted delicious!  The cream cheese layer gave it a little different taste and smoother texture.  The onions added a nice crunch and a little more flavor than usual.  

 
While I do think it was great, I'm not sure it's different enough from regular spaghetti to warrent the extra work and time.  It's not a ton of work, but we could've been eating a half an hour sooner if we had just eaten it as regular spaghetti.  I would say that I'll make it once in a great while, but it's not going to be a new favorite.  It's worth a try though.  Maybe you'll decide that it's the best spaghetti ever! :)
 
Happy eating!
 
~Dawn
 


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Monday, August 27, 2012

Blog Hop

If you're not a blogger, this probably won't interest you.  If you are, then hop on over to Naptime Review and check out her great blog hop and add your name to the hop!  There are links to some great blogs there. :)  I know I've found a few new ones to follow (as if I didn't have enough already!). She does the blog hop every Monday with Mom's Monday Mingle.


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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake

Oh little blog...how I have missed you!  I really have missed being able to create as many posts as I did this summer.  I'm still holding up my "1 post a week" deal but wish I could more.  Oh well, it is what it is. 

This is quite an exciting post for me!  I BAKED!!!!!!  I don't mean that I opened a box of Betty Crocker cake mix and added some extras and called it homemade.  I used my own flour, sugar, baking soda, eggs and other ingredients and baked from scratch!  The frosting is even from scratch!  And the best part...it's actually edible! :)  My lack of baking skills is legendary in my family so this is quite an accomplishment.  The recipe is from Allrecipes.com

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
 1/4 teaspoon salt
 1 cup water
 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
 1/2 cup peanut butter
 1/4 cup vegetable oil
 2 eggs
 1/2 cup buttermilk
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
Frosting:
 2/3 cup white sugar
 1/3 cup evaporated milk
 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
 1/3 cup miniature marshmallows
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 10x15x1 inch jellyroll pan.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 2 cups sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Combine the water and 3/4 cup of butter in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup peanut butter and vegetable oil until well blended. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients. Combine the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla; stir into the peanut butter mixture until well blended. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 18 to 26 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
4. While the cake bakes, place 2/3 cup sugar, evaporated milk, and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter, marshmallows and vanilla until marshmallows are melted and the mixture is smooth.
5. Spoon the frosting over the warm cake and spread in an even layer. Allow to cool before cutting and serving.
 
This is definitely more steps and work than I normally spend on a dessert recipe.  I'm more of a quick and easy dessert maker.  However, if you like peanut butter,  you'll love this cake!
I followed the directions almost exactly since it was baking and I'm not good at improvising.  The only thing I did different was to use regular peanut butter instead of chunky for the frosting.  25 minutes ended up being the perfect amount of baking time. 

 
My pan might have been a little larger than 10x15 because the cake was a little thinner.  But it still tasted great.  The cake isn't terribly rich either.  It has just the right amount peanut butter taste!
Enjoy!

~Dawn
 
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Whew!  What a crazy  last week it has been with all the back to school stuff!  I've barely had time to try any new recipes!  I was going into work for a couple of weeks before school actually started.  My boys both went back to school last week, too.  I "officially" started school on Wednesday, but the kids started school on Thursday.  My "baby", Kelin, started his senior year of high school this year!  I don't know where the last 17 years have gone, but he has grown up way too fast for this mama. 


He looks excited doesn't he?  We were in a hurry and I grabbed him fresh out of the shower and said, "Hurry up and just throw some clothes on so I can get some pictures."  LOL!!!!!!I was in a hurry because we were actually leaving to take my older son, Kenny, to college.  He's starting his sophomore year this year.

Kenny (on left) and his roomate. (and no, my son isn't that short, his roomate is just really tall)

My two handsome boys, er men!

We got everyone where they needed to be and school is going well so far.  We've got everyone settled into a routine again and things will slow down a bit.   Although, I start a grad class tomorrow night so that will keep me busy.  Teachers are always going to school for something!  I do hope to still be able to keep up with at least one blog post a week though. 

Which brings me to the real reason for this post.....cookies!  I got the recipe from Six Sister's Stuff.  Love their site!

Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. Place butter and sugars into a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour and mix until just combined. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until golden brown and just set, about 12 to 13 minutes.

Perfectly golden brown!

I followed the directions exactly!  I don't tend to mess with recipes when I'm baking because as my family will tell you, I am not a baker.  I can do box mixes, but when I start trying to do things from scratch it can get a little dicey.  I think the problem is that you have to be too precise in baking.  I'm more of a pinch of this and a dash of that kind of girl.  Cooking suits me better.  Anyway...I made these cookies exactly as directed and they turned out great!  I wouldn't say they are the best cookies I've ever tasted, but they are pretty darn good.  They are moist and fluffy and have a good texture.  The banana is just enough to give them a hint of flavor.  I think if anything were changed, I might add a little more oatmeal because I love oatmeal.  Otherwise, they're pretty good as is.  Not a new favorite, but a nice recipe to use up one of those too ripe bananas so you don't have to throw it out. I generally would have the rest of the ingredients on hand at all times so they would be easy to whip up at the last minute. 
I think I'd like to try more desserts for awhile.  I've been making new dinner recipes so much this summer that I've kind of gotten off track of what I usually fix.  I'm having a hard time coming up with weekly menus because I can't remember what I used to cook!  I'm getting anxious to start cooking more fall like recipes - soups, apple crisp, pumpkin stuff.  Can't wait for the summer weather to be done!  I'm a fall girl through and through. :)

Happy back to school week!

~Dawn

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chicken Caesar Sandwiches and Lemonade Chex Mix

We have another winner!  My family unanimously agrees that this recipe will go into our regular rotation.  It's sooooooooo easy and tastes soooooooooooo good!  I got the recipe from Chef in Training. 


Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (I used Chicken Breasts)
1/2 to 1 cup of your favorite Caesar dressing
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley or 2 teaspoons of dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
12 slider buns or 4-6 regular sized hamburger buns

Place chicken in a 3-4 quart slow cooker with 1-2 cups of water, cover and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.
Remove chicken from cooker using a slotted spoon and drain the water from the slow cooker. Place chicken on a cutting board and pull chicken into shreds, discarding any fat.
Place chicken back in the cooker and pour dressing, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and pepper over the top. Stir until mixed evenly. Cover and cook on high heat for 30 minutes or until mixture is hot.
Spoon 1/4 cup mixture onto each slider bun if you are making sliders or more for regular sized buns. Top with extra shredded Parmesan cheese and lettuce to serve.

I really followed the directions for the most part.  It's pretty hard to mess this up.  I cooked one whole bag of those frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 5 pieces) and that made quite a large batch. 
After it was cooked, I shredded the chicken.  I took all of the liquid from the crockpot, but reserved about 1 cup just in case. 
I put the shredded chicken back into the crockpot and added 1 whole cup of the caesar dressing, one cup of parmesan cheese, 2 tsp of parsley and a little pepper.  Stir until it's mixed well.  I did add about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the crockpot liquid back in because it seemed a little dry. 
Turn the crockpot back on low and heat it up for about 30-45 minutes. 


You could serve it on any kind of bread or bun that you like.  I used bakery fresh wheat hamburger buns.  This is so quick and easy for a busy night's dinner!  (sorry my picture is so light)  It also makes great leftovers, hot or cold!


I also made another recipe on the same day...

Do you like puppy chow?  No, not the dog food!  That yummy, powdered sugar chex stuff.  If you do, you really need to try this one!  I got it from Somewhat Simple.  And definitely is simple!


Lemonade Chex Mix

9 cups rice Chex
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 tsp lemon zest
2 TBS lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar

Pour cereal into a large bowl and then set aside.
Melt the chocolate, butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a microwave safe container. Melt for one minute. Stir. Melt for additional 30 second intervals until smooth when stirred.
Pour melted mixture over cereal and gently stir until the cereal is evenly coated.
Transfer the cereal into a gallon ziploc bag. Add the powdered sugar and shake. 

That's it!  I happened to have 4 teenagers at my house at the time of this recipe testing.  They were my first testers and all said it was really good!  I have to give a shout out to Mike, Colton, Kelin, and Kenny for being my guinea pigs on this one!  Thanks guys. :)  It has a hint of lemon flavor that seems perfect for a summer snack.

When I make it again though, I will stir the chex as I'm pouring in the melted coating.  I just dumped it in all at once this time and it sort of clumped up on some of the chex.  Regardless, it was still good!




Thanks for reading!

~Dawn

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Shockingly Simple Cole Slaw

Don't you hate it when the store quits carrying one of your favorite products?!!! Grrrr!  My grocery store quite carrying Marie's Cole Slaw Salad Dressing.  Thus began my search for a good cole slaw recipe.  This one is almost as easy as opening a jar and dumping it in!I got it from Real Mom Kitchen.

Shockingly Simple Cole Slaw


16 oz bag of coleslaw mix
½ Cup mayonnaise or miracle whip
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon honey

Place cabbage into a large bowl. Place mayonnaise, sugar, mustard and honey into a small bowl and mix together. Pour and stir into cabbage until combined. Serve immediately for a crunchy slaw or refrigerate for 1 hour for a more tender slaw.

I followed the recipe exactly as stated and it was delicious!  My family agrees. :)  We ate it after being refrigerated for about 1/2 hour and it was perfectly crunchy.  We were having fish for supper (the last of the booty brought back from the male bonding fishing trip in June) and it's a quick side dish for meals like this.  Happy Eating!  Sorry about the not quite focused picture! :(


~Dawn
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Laundry Room Remodel - Finally!

IT'S DONE!  IT'S DONE!  I'm so excited and L.O.V.E my new laundry room.  Doing the laundry is pure joy now!  Well, let's not go that far, but it's definitely a lot easier to bear when you have a beautiful room in which you can go to do that particularly endless chore.

Remember back on June 1st when I announced I was remodeling my laundry room?  My goal was to have it completed by the time school starts in August.  Well, school starts in 3 days (I've actually been going in for over a week now though!) and I literally put the final touch on the room earlier today.  However, before we see the glorious transformation, let us revisit the horror that was the room "before":

Note the exposed subfloor and unfinished drywall.





What can I say?  It was an unorganized, ugly mess.  If you know me well, you know that unorganized drives me insane!  I can't believe I've been living with this for 20 years!  Luckily, I had A LOT of help from my amazing husband, Lance!  I couldn't have done it without him!  My boys also put in their fair share of time helping me.  Thank you Kenny and Kelin!!!!!  So, without further ado, here is my new laundry room..........



............................




............................





Wait for it.........................





.....................................






TADAAAAAA!



 It's so clean and bright!  I have room to move around and tons of storage space.  We completely replaced every surface.  I used textured wallpaper on the ceiling, which is a pain in the A** to put up!  The boys helped me with that.  I could never have done that alone.  We put bead board on the walls, floor to ceiling and vinyl peel and stick tile on the floor.  I painted the bead board Light French Grey from Sherwin Williams.  I love the color so much, I'm seriously considering putting it on my bedroom walls.  The trim is just 1x2s across the ceiling and corners and 1x3s for the baseboard, painted white.  I highly recommend painting the trim before you put it up.  It's much easier to touch up later rather than paint it on the wall. 


You would think that those gray fabric bins would be easy to find.  Nope.  I could find every other color available, except gray.  I finally had to order them From Amazon.  I found the yellow at Lowes. 

I could not find curtains anywhere that I liked.  I ended up buying a set of full size sheets at Target and cutting them up.  I just laid the flat sheet out, measured 55 inches from the bottom of the sheet up and cut.  Then I cut that in half, hemmed the two sides that weren't already factory hemmed, and done.  I used clip rings to hang them. 

Here's a closer picture so you can see the pattern and the cute birds on the wall (also from Target). 







This is one of my favorite things in the room:  a pantry shelf.  I've never had any place to put extra cupboard items and thus my kitchen food cupboard is overstuffed!  I can't believe what a difference it has made by just taking out a few boxes so far.  You'll never guess where I got the pantry shelf kit! Target of course! :)  Lowe's had them, too.  


On my wish list for this room was a counter and cupboards.  Now I have a place to fold laundry, work on a project, lay a sweater flat to dry, whatever. 



These shelves were not intended to be for decorative purposes only.  However, one thing led to another and now they are, for the time being.  I will not bore you with the Saga of the Shelves.  Suffice it to say, Kenny and I spent about two hours doing something that should have taken about 15 minutes.  And it was entirely NOT our fault.  There's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in those shelves.  Don't ask.


The little laundry cart at the left was found at Menards.  It fits perfectly and is on wheels so I can just pull it out to get the supplies on the bottom.  



OMG! I had a genius idea that I just have to show you!  I was looking for a cute container of some sort to put my dryer sheets in.  I know, that's a little obsessive, but I wanted a nice looking dispenser rather than the ugly orange Bounce box that totally clashes with the rest of the decor!  Ladies...am I right????  So I'm walking around Target and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw this chrome napkin holder. 


I put the dryer sheets in the holder just like a pile of napkins.  All you have to do is grab the sheet and pull.  It pops right out!  Is that cool or what?  It also helps keep the room smelling nice because the sheets are sitting out.  I am very excited about my new Bounce dispenser. :)  Of course, you have to find just the right napkin holder for this. 



If you happen to remember my first post about the laundry room, one of my wish list items was to have the washer and dryer unstacked.  It became apparent in the middle of the project that was not going to happen.  Lance had to do some pretty creative plumbing and electrical work just to be able to move them about 2 feet to left.  It's an old house.  Nothing works out the way you really want it to.  But I'm ok with it the way it is.  


We had MANY, MANY frustrating problems come up.  For example:


Fail!  The drawers wouldn't close.  They were too tall and hit the counter top.  This all had to do with our uneven floor, trying to level the cupboards, and the counter. UGH!  All we could do was laugh becuase this was the end of a very loooong day.  Lance ended up sawing off the tops of the drawers. LOL!  I painted them white and you can't even tell the difference now.  


I did remodel the entryway, too.  There's a door that separates the two rooms.  Remember the awful "before" picture?  Pretty bad, huh?  I promise, the rest of my house does not look this bad!!!!!!! :)


"After."  MUCH better!  It's not as fancy as the laundry room.  I have a project to do that will go on one wall, but it's not done - and won't be for awhile.  I have a chair that will sit in that corner next to the wardrobe so Lance can sit and take off his work boots when he gets home from work.  I'm not sure what possessed me to do everything in white because I'm pretty sure this is going to be one of the hardest rooms to keep clean!



Let's take one more quick look, shall we? :)  Ahhhh.........


So, what was the damage?  I was hoping to do this remodel for $1,000 or so.  I really should know better than that because no remodel in the history of remodels has ever been on budget.  And ours generally run almost double of what we think they will.  I spent around $1,800.  I didn't keep perfect records, but that's a good estimate.   The cabinets are what put me over budget, but I really wanted them.  It was worth every penny!

Whew!  That was a long post! :)  I hope you've enjoyed your laundry room tour.  I've been doing laundry all day and I really haven't minded it one bit!  Don't worry.  I'm sure the newness will wear off soon and I'll hate laundry again just like everyone else.
Have a wonderful week!

~Dawn

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hawaiian Dessert

I have found another great summer dessert!  It's light and delicious.  This Hawaiian Dessert recipe came from The Taste of Home website.  I used to get their magazine and loved their recipes!  This one didn't disappoint!  (Sorry about the weird fonts.  Don't know why they changed.)

Hawaiian Dessert

(This makes 2 complete desserts!)

Ingredients:
1 package (18-1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix
3 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant vanilla pudding mix
4 cups cold milk
1-1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, well drained
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped and sweetened
2 cups flaked coconut, toasted

 Directions:

•Mix cake batter according to package directions. Pour into two greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pans. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until the cakes test done. Cool completely.

 • In a large bowl, combine pudding mixes, milk and coconut extract; beat for 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat well. Stir in pineapple.

 • Spread over the cooled cakes. Top with whipped cream; sprinkle with coconut. Chill for at least 2 hours. Yield: 24 servings.

I followed the recipe up until the whipping cream part.  I just used Cool Whip instead.  You know me, if there's an easier alternative, I go with it. 
Mix up the cake mix per the box directions and bake two 9x13 pans.  You will end up with 2 thin cakes.  Let them cool completely. 

Mix the pudding and milk, then mix in the cream cheese.  Make sure the cream cheese is VERY soft!  Mine wasn't quite soft enough and I got little lumps in the mixture.  It tasted fine, but didn't look too good at this point.  Fold in the pineapple.  Spread half of the mixture on each cake.  


Next I just spread a small (8 oz) container of Cool Whip on ONE cake.  I skipped the whole whipping cream step.  Then I sprinkled coconut on top.  Toasted coconut would look a little nicer, but I didn't have time.  I left coconut off one side because hubby doesn't really like it.  




It tastes as good as it looks!  I am going to try to figure out a one cake recipe for this.  Two is just too much!  I think I'll take the other one to work tomorrow for the office staff, so if you're lucky enough to work with me and want a piece of this dessert, stop by tomorrow! :)

 I think I would also like more pineapple in my recipe as well so if I halve the other ingredients, I don't think I'll halve the pineapple.  And I'll definitely try to toast the coconut next time!


~Dawn

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Crock Pot BBQ Beef

This is going to be a short and sweet post.  It seems I've spent too much time on the computer lately and not enough time reading.  I'm very behind in my books!  I have to finish A Discovery of Witches so I can start our next book club book, Gone Girl. 

So, I found this tasty looking recipe for BBQ pork.  I wanted to make it for dinner, but I didn't have a pork roast.  I did, however, have a nice looking piece of beef.  I also didn't have Diet Coke.  I never have anything diet at my house!  I did have Pepsi though.  AND, I didn't have Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce.  However, I did have Kraft Honey BBQ sauce.  So basically, I only used this recipe to give me the idea of combining BBQ sauce and soda pop.  :)

Crockpot BBQ Beef (or Pork)

Place your roast in your crockpot (don't forget to use a liner!!!!!).  Use whatever size your family will eat.  I think mine was about 3 pounds. 

Sprinkle it with Lawry's seasoning salt (or your favorite seasonings). 

Cover it with your favorite BBQ sauce.  I used an entire 18 oz bottle of Kraft Honey BBQ Sauce. 


Pour in one can of Pepsi, Coke, or whatever dark soda pop you have.  I wouldn't use anything like Sprite.  


I cooked it on low for 8 hours.  When it was done, I transferred it to a large pan and shredded it with my handy Pampered Chef Mix and Chop! :)
I then added another few squirts of BBQ sauce.  Sorry about the not so technical cooking term there.  Maybe it was about 1/2 cup of sauce.  I hardly ever measure when I'm doing things like this.  I also added 3 ladles full of the reserved liquid from the crockpot.  I stirred this all together over a low flame to keep it all warm. 





It made a pretty good meal!  Everyone liked and said I should make it again! :)



Happy eating!

~Dawn




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Monday, August 6, 2012

10 Reasons I Love Living in the Country

I wasn't born a country girl.  I wouldn't exactly call myself a city girl either since I grew up in a town of about 10,000 in the heart of the midwest prairie.  I was, however, used to living in town riding my bike everywhere, thinking nothing of hopping in the car to run to the store, and having neighbors a few feet away.  Then I met a country boy, fell in love and got married.  We still live in the same house, on the same farm, in the same part of the country.  Now that I've been here for over 21 years, I can't imagine moving back to town.  There are so many reasons I love where I live!  We don't live on a huge farm or raise any animals.  I'm a country girl in the sense that I live in the country on a small farm, my husband farms part-time, and there's a field in my backyard.   I do have a few neighbors, but we're basically the same 2 families that have always lived here.  So yes, I do consider myself a country girl.  And here are...

10 Reasons I Love Living in the Country

1.  It's so quiet!!!!!!!!!  I can sit outside at any point in the day and all I can hear is birds.  When I visit friends "in town," I always notice how much noisier it is there.  Trains, trains, and more trains, sirens, neighbors.....I'm sure you'd get used to it, but I'm happy without all that noise.

2.  Room to play.  My kids had acres of yard to play in...baseball, football, paintball.  We've had many family gatherings and always room for the kids to run wild - and sometimes the adults, too.

3.  I can build a fire anytime I want.  I know many towns have restrictions on this.  I love sitting outside with a fire, having weenie roasts, or just burning our brush if we need to.

4.  Getting snowed in.  I can get snowed in pretty good out here!  It sometimes takes a lot longer to get plowed out here.  I love it!  Not having to go anywhere, snuggling up with a book, watching movies, whatever. 

5.  It's a good reason to excuse myself from something I don't want to do.  (my secret is out!)  As in:  "I really don't feel like driving to town today."  or "I've already been to town once today.  I'm not going in again." :)

6.  No door to door salesmen.

7.  Watching my wildlife.  Cardinals, hummingbirds, squirrels, rabbits, an occasional skunk (who we quickly dispose of!), and once in a while deer, coyotes, foxes, etc. 

8.  All my flowers and (next year!) a huge garden.  I used to share a garden with my mother-in-law (who lives about 100 yards from me by the way), but next year we are going to cut down a huge tree in the backyard and then I'll have plenty of space for my very own garden! Of course you can have flowers and a garden in town, but I don't have to give up a lot of my space becuase I have so much room to begin with. 

9.  Being able to be as noisy as you want.  Loud stereo? Party running late?  No neighbors will complain.  Fireworks?  Sure!  Gun target practice?  You bet!  Even though I like it quiet, we don't have to worry about being too loud of the need arises. 

10.  It's peaceful.  I know that I already said quiet, but peaceful is much different.  My favorite thing in the world to do is to sit outside in my backyard on a perfect day and just relax.  It's so peaceful.  I could sit there for hours and just do nothing but sit and "be."

~Dawn

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Crock Pot Ravioli

I love my crock pot!  I wish I could cook every meal in it.  Well, I probably could, but I think my family would miss some of their favorite meals that really aren't crock pot friendly.  Although, I am finding that I can cook many things with a crock pot that I had never thought of before.  For example, this Crock Pot Ravioli recipe.  Generally, I would make my ravioli just like my spaghetti:  cook the meat in a pan, add the sauce, cook the ravioli in water, done.  The only thing I had to pre-cook here was the hamburger I added (the recipe doesn't call for it, but as you know, we like meat!).  I got the recipe from the Six Sisters' Stuff website.  Love these chicks!  They have some great recipe ideas!!!!!!!!!!

Crock Pot Ravioli


Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 (26 ounce) jars four cheese pasta sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (25 ounce) packages frozen beef ravioli

Directions:
Spray crock pot with Pam.  In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat, add onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes stirring occasionally.  Stir in pasta sauce, tomato sauce and Italian seasoning.  Place 1 cup of sauce in crock pot.  Add 1 package of the ravioli, top with 1 cup of the cheese.  Top with remaining package of ravioli and 1 cup cheese.  Pour remaining sauce over the top.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. 

So, now that you've read their recipe, let me just say that I didn't hardly follow it all! :))))))  First of all, I don't know what I was thinking when I shopped for this recipe because I didn't have the four cheese pasta sauce, Italian seasoning, or the tomato sauce.  What I did have was some alfredo sauce and spaghetti sauce.  We also like the cheese ravioli much better than the beef kind so I added ground beef to my sauce.   My ingredients list looked more like this:

2 lbs. ground beef (cooked with onion and seasoning, drained)
1 jar alfredo sauce
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 small can mushrooms, drained
1 can tomatoes, undrained
3 cups shredded mozzarella (more than their recipe calls for)
2 packages cheese ravioli

After I cooked and drained the ground beef, I added all the other ingredients except cheese and ravioli (the mushrooms aren't in this picture because I forgot them and added them later).  Ground beef, spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, peppers, tomatoes...


I spread a few spoonfuls of the sauce on the bottom of the crock pot then added one bag of ravioli.  Then I spread a thick layer of sauce...


Then a layer of mozzarella.  Repeat the layers.  The next time I make this, I'm using my larger crock pot.  This one was too full.  After it started cooking, I thought "Why didn't you just lift the bag out and put it in your  larger crock pot you idiot?!!!"  DUH!  Oh well.  I'll remember next time. It still worked. I used a lot more cheese than the original recipe calls for because the other thing we like as much as meat around here is cheese!!!!! 


I cooked it on high for about 4 hours then turned it to low.  If I was going to be gone all day, I'd probably cook it on low the whole time.  It looked a little soupy so I took the lid off for it to cook for the last hour or so.  There's probably some weird health reason you shouldn't do that, but we all survived just fine.  


I actually didn't get to eat this recipe straight from the crock pot because I went out to dinner with my BFFs. I can tell you that the leftovers are terrific though!  My family said it was really good the first time around, too.  If you're not cooking for a crowd, or at least for a couple of hungry teenagers, then you might want to just cut the recipe in half because it makes a huge amount of ravioli.  


Happy eating!

~Dawn


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Chicken Spaghetti

"This is a keeper!"  That is a direct quote from my husband after he tasted this new dish.  We all loved it and it will definitely be in our regular recipe rotation.  I got the recipe from The Pioneer Woman.  I wish she was my best friend.  She's like Martha Stewart for the country girl!  I wasn't raised a country girl, but I made the transition quickly after I married into it.  Now I can't imagine living a life in town.  There's so many things I love about the country.  Hey now...there's a great idea for a new List of 10! :)

But you're here to see a post about Chicken Spaghetti...

Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients
2 cups Cooked Chicken
3 cups Dry Spaghetti, Broken Into Two Inch Pieces
2 cans Cream Of Mushroom Soup
2 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup Finely Diced Green Pepper
1/4 cup Finely Diced Onion
1 jar (4 Ounce) Diced Pimentos, Drained
2 cups Reserved Chicken Broth From Pot
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1/8 teaspoon (to 1/4 Teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1 cup Additional Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preparation Instructions
Cook 1 cut up fryer and pick out the meat to make two cups. Cook spaghetti in same chicken broth until al dente. Do not overcook. When spaghetti is cooked, combine with remaining ingredients except additional 1 cup sharp cheddar.
Place mixture in casserole pan and top with remaining sharp cheddar. Cover and freeze up to six months, cover and refrigerate up to two days, or bake immediately: 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly. (If the cheese on top starts to get too cooked, cover with foil).

If you go to her website, she has more extensive directions and pictures.  I really recommend reading the recipe on her blog as well as this one to read her other tips.  

Now, even though I am a country girl, if there's a shortcut or easier method in cooking, I'm all for it!  Her recipe calls for cooking an entire chicken and picking the meat off the bone.  As you probably know from other recipes, my favorite method is to cook chicken breasts in the crock pot all day so they're ready for the recipe at supper.  When you use the crock pot though, you can't cut the chicken into chunks very easily, it mostly shreds.  So if you really want chicken chunks, you'll need to boil it as she did.  My family isn't partial either way so I go the easier route.  

I probably used about 3 cups (her recipe calls for 2).  We like meat!  I also reserved some of the broth from the crock pot for later as well as added a little to the boiling water for the spaghetti.  


I am not a huge pimento fan.  Rather than add jar of pimentos, I cut up some red bell pepper.  I probably ended up adding about 1/2 cup of green and red pepper each.  I think that you could add other vegetables to this if you don't like peppers.  Maybe broccoli or mushrooms would work.  Her recipe calls for adding 2 cups of broth.  I think that would be too much.  I added 1 cup and thought that was plenty.  If you read her blog, she even says she doesn't use the whole 2 cups.  The rest of the ingredients were added as listed. 

All stirred up and into a greased 9x13 dish! 


Spread some cheese on top and ready to bake at 350.....


40 minutes or so later you have a delicious meal!


I know, my food styling leaves a lot to be desired.  It looks like a blob of stuff here.  But trust me when I say it was delicious!  We apparently also eat a lot of salad in the summer.  I think many of my end pictures show a salad. :)  This recipe would be really hard to mess up so give it a try and let me know what you think!


~Dawn





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