Tuesday, February 26, 2013

10 Things I Love About Snow Days

We're having a bit of a snowstorm here in the midwest.  A lot of people grumble about them, but I really don't mind the snow...as long as my power stays on!  Also, since I'm a teacher, a snowstorm generally means a snow day.  Now I know most teachers pray for snow days, but I don't.  I used to like them when my boys were little because we could play, watch movies, and have fun all day.  My boys are practically grown, one doesn't even live here most of the year and the other one is still in bed where he'll probably stay until noon at least.  When he wakes up, straight to the Xbox he will go.  I would much rather be in school when the weather outside is cold and nasty than go one day more at the end of the year when it's nice and you can be outside.  However, there's not a damn thing I can do about the weather so I might as well enjoy the unscheduled day off.  In that spirit, I decided to do a 10 Things I Love About Snow Days post since I haven't done one of those in ages.  You know what they say, "If you can't beat em, join em."

10 Things I Love About Snow Days

1.  Wearing pajamas all day.

2.  Movie fest!

3.  Playing games (if there's enough people snowed in with you to play).

4.  Being lazy.

5.  Hot chocolate.

6.  No responsibilities or pressure to get anything done.

7.  Reading, reading, reading.

8.  Catching up on scrapbooks

9.  Soup for lunch.

10. Of course the snow!!!!!

If you're getting hit with this storm, too, stay safe and warm!

~Dawn Pin It

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Creamy Bacon Carbonara

Mmmmm...bacon! :)  That's exactly what I thought when I saw this recipe.  The original recipe is from Just Get Off Your Butt and Bake.  The recipe below my version.  In her version, she left out the mushrooms, onions, and didn't add any other meat besides the bacon.  Borrrrring!!!!!!  I added all of that into my recipe and it was delicious!  She also doesn't give directions for how to finish the sauce.  All in all, it wasn't a very complete recipe.  I added some extra ingredients and more steps.

2 eggs
1/4 cup Heavy Cream 
1/3 cup Parmesan
Parsley flakes
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes
1/2 lb. bacon fried crisp then crumbled
1 small onion, chopped
3 mushrooms sliced
1/2 lb. Pasta (I used spaghetti)
3-4 Chicken breasts, cooked to your liking

Start the water to cook the pasta in a large pot.  While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.

Beat the eggs, cream, Parmesan, parsley, salt and the red pepper together in a bowl and set aside.  Fry the bacon until crisp, then crumble and set aside.  With 1 -2 Tbsp. bacon grease, saute the onion and the mushrooms until the onions are translucent and golden.

To the mushrooms and onions, add the cream mixture and heat over low heat for several minutes (until hot).  Do not use high heat or you might scramble the eggs. 

Once pasta is done, drain and put back in the pot.  Stir the sauce mixture into the pasta.  Sprinkle bacon over the top and serve with a chicken breast and additional Parmesan. 

Ok, that's the recipe with a few adjustments.  It's a little hard to follow, I think.  I doubled the recipe for the sauce and that worked out fine.  It is definitely a multi-step recipe that requires you to have several things going at once.  I didn't use chicken breasts, I actually used chicken tenders and cooked them in a skillet while making the sauce and cooking the pasta.  Ya, I was working three pans at once!

This is not a recipe you want to try on a busy weeknight.  I'm usually into recipes that are a little easier.  Well, it's not really that difficult of a recipe I guess, it just seems like it because you have so much going on at once.  In the end, it was worth it!  It was really good.  It wasn't as creamy as I expected, but it was still a nice change from the usual spaghetti recipes.  I topped each serving of the pasta with a chicken tender.  You could also chop up the chicken and just stir it into the pasta. 
See that biscuit on the side?  Delicious!  It tastes very much like the Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster!  I'll do a post on those later. We also had side salads with our meal.  Lance gave this meal 5 stars!  That's pretty high praise from him for a new recipe!

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Club Field Trip

I love Book Club! :)  It's the one night each month that I look forward to the most (well, that and my dinner group!).  During our last meeting, we took a field trip.  Occasionally, we will do something special that somehow ties into the book we read that month.  For example, after we read The Vagina Monologues, we went to Monmouth College to see the stage production.  When we read 16 Pleasures, we invited the author, who is a local college professor, to discuss the book with us.  (Wow, it sounds like we read some raunchy stuff! LOL!)  Sometimes one of us will do a themed dessert to tie in with the book.  It's fun to add something special to the night.  Anyway, last month we read Indigo by Beverly Jenkins.  It was mostly a love story set in the time of the Underground Railroad.

The town I live in, Galesburg, Illinois, has some very rich history attached to it.  One of the famed Lincoln-Douglas Debates was held here at Knox College.  Carl Sandburg, Pulitzer Prize winning writer known for his poetry, was born here.  And, most importantly to this post, Galesburg was a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Our Book Club hostess for the month made arrangements for us to meet with the director of the Knox College Underground Railroad Freedom Station.  He was a delightful man with a passion for the history of the Underground Railroad.  He spent an hour talking about the Underground Railroad with us and answering questions.  It was an extremely informative and entertaining evening.  I thought I'd share a few pictures from our adventure:

The Freedom Station is located in the Old Knox County Jail.  It was built in 1876 and served the county for about 100 years.  It still contains the jail cells and we were able to tour them.

Let us out!!!! :)  This is the obligatory "I'm in jail" picture.  

After we finished our talk and toured the jail, we were taken across the street to Knox College.  Knox College also has a long history with this area.  As mentioned above, one of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates was held at the Old Main (a National Historic Landmark) building on the Knox College campus in 1858.  They still have the "Lincoln Chair" which Abe Lincoln himself sat in during the time of the debates.  Many famous dignitaries and other important guests have sat in the chair over the years including Ronald Reagan (who also has ties with Galesburg as he attended elementary school here!), Bill Clinton, President Obama, and many, many others!  We were each able to take a turn sitting in the chair.  If you are into history at all, this was a very cool feeling to be sitting in this chair!  

After sitting in Lincoln's Chair, we were led on a brief tour through Old Main.  
Painting of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate:

Portrait of Lincoln:

Overall, this was a very interesting night.  I do enjoy learning about history and was not disappointed with this tour.  If you are ever near Galesburg, Illinois, stop by to learn about some of our history.  We're not a bustling metropolis with ample entertainment options, but we do have some pretty cool historical places to visit and things to learn.


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Valentine Cookies

Yes, Valentine's Day was several days ago but my oldest son was home from college over the weekend and I just HAD to make him and his roommate some Valentine's cookies. I thought I'd share what I did with you.  These are simply Peanut Butter Blossoms with heart shaped chocolate instead of Hershey's Kisses.  I used Dove chocolates for mine, but any heart shaped chocolate would be fine.
You probably already have your own Peanut Butter Blossom recipe.  If you don't, you can follow the one I did from Recipe Boy.  It's a pretty standard recipe and was very good.  After you mix the dough, form into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar.  Bake as directed.  When the cookies are done, top each one with a heart shaped chocolate candy (they use peanut butter filled hearts for their cookies), pushing down slightly.  Pop the tray back into the oven for a few seconds.  I don't even close the door because I'm always afraid I'll forget them!

After a few seconds in the oven to melt the candy into the cookies, let them cool on a wire rack.  After the tray is cool, I put the tray in the freezer so the candy will set back up.  If you don't, it will usually take a long time for the chocolate to get hard again.  

Aren't they so cute for Valentine's Day?????  I hear from my son's college roommate that they're delicious, too. :)


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Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

 Well, almost.  Valentine's Day is in 3 days!  Love, chocolate, flowers, chocolate, delecious dinners, chocolate.  Oh, and my favorite thing about Valentine's Day?  Chocolate! :)  I love giving my Book Club girls little gifts and what better occasion than February 14th???  We had book club last week (I'll do a post on that one later) and I wanted to give them their Valentine's early.  These are the cutest things that I found on Pinterest.  The original idea was from Sweet Blessings.  They looked adorable and so easy!  I got busy and found some Valentine's scrapbook paper that I already had.  I bought it last year in Target's dollar spot.  Gotta love the dollar spot!  I bought 2 bags of Hershey Miniatures.  You could use any kind of chocolate though that is rectangular in shapes.  The woman I got the idea from used Hershey Nuggets. 

You need to cut a small strip of paper, approximately 1" x 3" for the Hershey Miniatures, for each piece of candy.  I just took the wrapper off of one piece of candy and cut the silver ends off to make a template.  Then, I just cut the paper the same size (or you can just use a ruler - whatever is quickest for you).  Next, I had to eat that piece of candy because now it had no wrapper!  The sacrifices I make in the name of crafting are endless!

Now you just wrap the paper around a piece of candy and secure on the back with a small piece of regular old Scotch Tape.  There you have it.  One down, a bunch more to go. :)  It really goes fairly quickly if you get all of your paper cut out first.

Now it's time to put the names on the candy.  I already had these stickers and they fit perfectly!  If you don't have stickers, you could also just use a black Sharpie or other crafting pen and write cute little letters on the candy.  Stickers are fun though!

After you get the letters attached, or drawn, slide the candy into a clear plastic bag.  I got the pretzel bags that Wilton makes from my local JoAnn Fabrics.  They're fairly inexpensive for as many as you get.  You can purchase them at JoAnn's online or I'm sure they have them wherever Wilton supplies are sold near you.  I put 6 pieces of candy in each bag.  Nicole had the longest name so to make them all even, I added extra candy with heart stickers on them so everyone had 6 pieces no matter how many letters they have in their name.  Can't cheat someone out of their fair share of the chocolate!
And there you go!  Easy peasey!!!!  I tied some red and white curling ribbon at the top to finish them off.  Just don't tie it too tight or you could make the candy get all wonky in bag.  Also, sometimes the candy wants to fall into the bag sideways.  It's easy to work it around so it's in straight though.  Aren't they adorable???? :)

Here's a closer view so you can see the paper better.  If you don't have Valentine's paper, any red, pink, or purple paper would work fine.  You still have plenty of time to make a few of these yourself.  Find some cute paper, buy some candy, and get busy!

You could make these for other holidays besides Valentine's, too.  Christmas?  Halloween? 4th of July?  They'd make great party favors, too!  The girls loved them.  It's like getting to open a tiny little present each time you eat a piece of candy. :)
I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day and spend it with the ones you love!
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