March 27, 2009

Girl Talk


Call it an organizational tool.

I was given this Vera Bradley bag as a gift.

First, I love bags.

They are one of my indulgences.

(Books, cookbooks, and chocolate being the other three)

But this bag, I love most of all.

Its size and shape are perfect...I can easily find all of my stuff in there.

The outside pockets are the perfect fit for my (in desperate need of a charge) cell phone.

The handle is extra wide and oh so comfortable.

Take a look for yourself.

After all, Mother's Day is just around the corner...

A Pale Shade of Green



I had been feeling guilty about the amount of paper towel we would use and throw away.
I was also feeling overwhelmed about our grocery bill.
So we decided to try to go without paper towels.
We put our open roll in the pantry.
I loaded a drawer with white terry cloth rags that I had previously purchased at my warehouse store.
And for the messy things that need to be wiped up and thrown away we use old paper. There is always plenty of that around.

It has been at least two months.

And I don't miss them at all.

Now to get rid of the paper napkins...

March 7, 2009

And We Have a Winner!


Yesterday I moved my cookbooks from one cabinet to another. One good thing about reorganizing is that you get a renewed interest in the things you are organizing and sometimes rediscover something you forgot you had. I came across a slim cookbook "Campbell's Weeknight Cooking". I think I bought it from a school fundraiser. Well, I never even used it....until tonight. I planned this week's menus with a few of its recipes. Tonight was the first one, and everybody liked it. This one will go into my permanent recipe box.

Chicken Broccoli Divan

4 cups fresh or frozen broccoli flowerets (I used fresh)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 can Campbell's Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1/2 Cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon butter, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Arrange broccoli and chicken in a long baking dish
Stir soup and milk together and pour over chicken and broccoli
Sprinkle cheese over soup mixture
Mix bread crumbs and butter and sprinkle over the cheese
Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the bread crumbs are browned. (I cooked mine for a lot longer because I am having oven and thermometer issues, and I overcooked the chicken. 40 minutes probably would have been perfect)

The cheese was just enough to give it a nice flavor without being too cheesy. The kids didn't care for the broccoli like that (they like it plain, no cheese sauce even, what is wrong with them anyway?), but the husband and I like it.

Quick, easy, yummy, everyone will eat it. That's 5 stars in this house.

March 4, 2009

I'm Just a Copy Cat

I am not a creative person, but I have the gift of recognizing a good idea when I see one! While checking out some great tips on Works for Me Wednesday I came across this great post entitled
10 Small Things That Make My Everyday Life Easier. Now, I'm all for making my life easier, and I love lists; what couldn't be better?

So here is mine:

10 (Small) Things That Make My Life Easier

  1. Bags. I have a bag for seminary. A bag for scouts. A bag for church. A bag for prizes (for seminary and scouts). All this in addition to my purse. Everything is ready to go. Lots of things have a place to go. And they are easily portable. Love my bags.
  2. Crock Pot/Slow Cooker. At the very best I can make a delectable stew, or a pot roast that does not have to be browned first. Or I can cook a chicken to have on hand. At the very least I can throw in some frozen meat along with some kind of flavored sauce and serve it with rice or noodles. Once it's cooked, that is.
  3. Blogs. And the favorites/bookmarks option. That's where I find such great ideas from some great people who are willing to share.
  4. Scriptures. I will paraphrase a great quote that keeps getting passed around: Someone keeps adding to the scriptures because every time I read them I find something new. They are full of advice you can count on. They strengthen me and prepare me for the day ahead.
  5. Prayer. I wasn't planning on putting spiritual things on this list, but I cannot help it. They matter that much. A conversation with my Father in Heaven is the best way to help my day.
  6. Calendar. I have a desk blotter type calendar on my refrigerator. With three children, scouts, dance, school activities, band, doctors, and dentists, it is an absolute must.
  7. Spiral notebooks. For note taking and list making.
  8. Small chocolate candies. In my purse. Need that pick-me-up. Dove milk chocolate with almonds is my favorite.
  9. Books/talks on cd. Now that I commute an hour a day, I am loving the time to listen to inspiring words. I also have the New Testament on cd and started using that to "read" the scripture block I will be teaching the next day in seminary. Right now I am listening to a talk on the Power of the Atonement.
  10. E-mail. I can ask people questions at any time of the day or night. I can relate information to large groups of people at one time. Think of how much time we save by not having to call 10 people about a meeting when we can write one e-mail. What did we ever do without it?

March 2, 2009

Can't Wait

(photo courtesy of 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven)

Monday night is Family Home Evening in our house. That always includes a treat. I'd like to do something special and different each week, but even if I have plenty of energy and time, some of us are not keen about new and different things. It is also child #1's half birthday. We celebrate 1/2 birthdays around here because they fall in the dreaded Jan - March time period and we need something to celebrate then. We celebrate by having some form of cake. This should work out perfectly, even though it's new and different:

Cake Balls

from

11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven

I'm going to have to change the name to Cake Bites because my kids are just at the age to have a field day with that name.

This is one I've been waiting for awhile to try, but haven't had the time. Hooray for snow days!

p.s. I'll let you know how they are.

UPDATE: Yum, oh yum, yum, yum. They are delicious just cold and without the "dipped in chocolate" part (we didn't have time to dip them all). However my kids COMPLAINED because they were cold (from being in the freezer). But I just ate one out of the fridge that was dipped in chocolate, it was decadent. I used a devil's food cake mix (Dunkin Hines - it's the only kind I buy) but I didn't have any canned frosting so I made my own vanilla buttercream frosting. We rolled them in melted semi-sweet chocolate, but I want to melt some white chocolate and try that too.

Making Up For Last Week's Creamy Goodness

(photo courtesy of Iron Chef Vegan)

Every Monday is pasta night at our house. I've always wanted to assign every weekday a theme for dinner but well, just haven't. At least not yet. But Monday is a guaranteed pasta night, which makes Monday something for my kids to look forward to instead of dread for obvious reasons.

I've been wanting to make this sauce for awhile, but since it takes time to cook and I've been working, I haven't had the chance. Today, however, we are snowed in (WHEN will Spring get here anyway?), and therefore an opportunity has arisen. Horray.

This recipe comes from and older edition of The American Heart Association Cookbook.

Lentil Spaghetti (Pasta) Sauce
(by the way, I always double the recipe and freeze the leftovers)
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic glove, minced
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 C dried lentils, washed
dried hot red pepper to taste
pepper
4 C beef broth
1/4 t basil
1/4 t oregano
1 16 oz can tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 T vinegar

Saute onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes
Add lentils, peppers, broth
Cover & simmer 30 minutes
Add remaining ingredients, simmer uncovered 1 hour
Stir occasionally

Sometimes I omit the oregano and add chili powder and serve over rice.

My husband and I love this. My kids won't eat it out of principle. But they will eat the pasta. They take care of their own toppings.

By the way, the above picture is not of this particular recipe, but it looks just like it.


Four Out of Five Ain't Bad


(Photo courtesy of Google)

Last night I made chicken soup by winging it. I don't wing it too often. Now, this blog is not supposed to show off what a great cook/homemaker I am, it is to share what I've learned, and to help me remember what I've done that works and what doesn't. So, I'm going to tell you the good and the bad. Here is how to make it in three levels of detail:

Christy's Easy 4 Out of 5 Chicken Soup

Chicken
Chicken broth
Carrots
Celery
Onion
Rice

Simmer the chicken in chicken broth until done...you can use frozen chicken, just simmer longer. Skim frothy junk off top.
Take out chicken.
Strain broth and put back in pot.
Chop carrots, celery, and onion fine, or better yet, use an electric chopper to make your life easier.
Throw the super chopped vegetables into the chicken broth.
Add uncooked rice.
Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop up chicken into small pieces (use that electric chopper already!)
When timer goes off after 15 minutes, add chicken to pot, heat through and voila, you are done.

Now, I like chunky soup, but on a whim I chopped everything up fine to appeal to my picky eaters and it worked. Something about everything being small made it easier to handle eating stuff-all-put-together-and-not-separated-or-even-touching.

Okay, here are the specifics, if you are like me and have to know EXACTLY what I did:

First, I buy large packages of Purdue boneless, skinless chicken at my wholesale club (I go to BJ'S). This chicken comes in individual 1/2 (or thereabout) pound packages. I love them because I throw them all in the freezer and then easily take out as much as I want. They are sealed in a heavy plastic which makes it very easy to get the chicken out of the packaging while still frozen. Just run it under hot water for 5 seconds, cut off the end and slide out. I had both boneless thighs and tenderloins so I took out some of each. I used three packages.

Now this is where it gets costly. I buy the cartons of chicken broth (much better than canned IMO). You could use water and bouillon cubes but I've done this before and it is more oily, blah. You could also start with a whole chicken, make your own broth, etc, but then you can forget about the quick and easy part. Pour in enough broth to cover chicken.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer (near low) for 30 minutes (because they were frozen solid). Another advantage to chopping the chicken up fine is if you overcooked it no one will notice if it's tough. Or, if you undercooked it it will easily finish cooking when you put it back in the soup.

I used 4 medium carrots, about 5 small celery stalks, and a medium onion. The advantage to chopping the onion really small is that picky eaters may not see it.

I used 2 cups of rice (I had about 8 cups of broth). This was too much. We wound up with chicken and rice. No soup. It was still good though. You could cook the rice separate but then it wouldn't get the advantage of the chicken broth and it would make more work. My youngest reminded me AFTER I put in the rice that I promised I would use the pasta stars I have in the pantry the next time I made soup. So, you could use small pasta too. I have no idea how much you would want to put in. When I do make it I'll probably cook it separately, or follow a recipe.

This made tons of food. And four out of 5 in my family not only ATE it, but actually LIKED it.


Dinner Anyone?


(photo courtesy of Sandra @ www.fullbellies.blogspot.com)

Last week I made two meals. TWO. It was one of those weeks.
But one of the reasons I only made two is because we had lots of leftovers.
One that I made was this yummy goodness from Sandra.

Virginia's Baked Spaghetti

I should write some kind of review, I suppose. It was creamy, cheesy, hardy, warm, and delicious. How's that? Sandra warns that this recipe makes a lot, and she is right. It took three dinners for us to finish it. This is being archived under potlucks and missionary dinners. The only thing I would do differently is break up the spaghetti into small pieces before cooking (or cut it up after cooking). You could also use a different pasta, but it might not fit in the dish if you are cooking a full recipe because other pastas are bulkier.

Check out Sandra's cooking blog, Full Bellies, Happy Kids for more delicious recipes. Let me know if you try anything else.