Wednesday, January 30, 2008

To-do Today...

Today's to-do list...

-wash sheets and towels

-steam broccoli to freeze for Elizabeth

-make chicken stock

-clean master bathroom (didn't do that yesterday!!!)

-prepare lunch (which is our main meal of the day) of Sweet and Sour Meatballs*, Buttered Egg Noodles, and Green Beans

-play with puzzles, blocks, a pretend kitchen, and read lots and lots of childrens books

So...what's on YOUR "to-do" list today?

*Sorry folks, but for those of y'all that emailed asking for the recipe for the Sweet and Sour Meatballs... well... I cannot share it. Why? THEY WERE HORRIBLE!!! I hate that when you spend all that time preparing a meal only to have it taste bad. Sigh. Oh well. I'll just take that recipe out of my recipe box!!! :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Breakfast for Dinner! YUM!!!

Let me first start off by saying, I have NO plans of turning this blog into "Cooking with Mrs. U" or anything like that!! HAHA!! I've posted sooo many things about cooking recently... it's just what I've been doing lately! I DO still keep my home and will definitely be sharing more on that later. :)

Now.... onto "Breakfast for Dinner"!!!

Last week, we had, you guessed it, breakfast for dinner. I LOVE having breakfast for dinner! I love breakfast anyway, but eating a breakfast meal at another time of the day has always been fun to me.

Baked French Toast
6 large eggs
2 1/2 cups half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 loaf French bread
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
Maple Syrup

Cut bread into slices and then into cubes and place in a greased 9x13 pan. Mix eggs, half and half, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over bread, cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Before this goes into the oven, mix melted butter, brown sugar and corn syrup together and sprinkle over the French toast. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Be sure and have maple syrup on the table in case anyone would like to add a little extra sweetness.

Savory Eggs
1 1/2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese*
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup of half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
6 eggs, slightly beaten

Grease 8 inch square baking dish. Spread cheese over bottom and dot with butter. Combine half and half, salt, pepper and mustard. Pour half of this mixture over the cheese. Pour eggs into baking dish and then add the remainder of the half and half mixture. Bake for 25 minutes.

*or use the same amount of the cheese your family prefers.

No, none of these recipes are "figure friendly" (as Rachael Ray says). But I can promise you that my family LOVED this meal!! I love preparing meals that my family really enjoys. I am sure that your family will enjoy this meal, too!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Alcohol Substitutions...

We don't drink any kind of alcohol in our home, nor do I cook with it. So what do I do when a recipe I am making calls for 2 tablespoons of sherry or a cup of white wine? Well, I just head over to the awesome page I found on the web entitled "Alcohol Substitutions in Cooking".

Now, it makes cooking much faster! Instead of only using chicken broth to substitute in savory dishes or just completely leaving it out of sweet desserts, I use this most helpful substitution chart!! Yippee!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

I found this the other day and just had to smile when I read it. It's good to know that my "tweaking" of recipes is quite the norm, even with a real chef!!!! You can read more here.

Recipes: Recipes are not assembly manuals. You can’t use them the way you use instructions to put together your grill or the rec room ping pong table. Recipes are guides and suggestions for a process that is infinitely nuanced. Recipes are sheet music. A Bach Cello suite can be performed at a beginner’s level or given extraordinary interpretation by Yo Yo Ma—same notes/ingredients, vastly different outcomes.
How to use a good recipe. First read it and think about it. Cook it in your mind. Envision what it will look like when you serve it. Try to know the outcome before you begin. Read a recipe all the way through not only to understand it generally, but to make your work more efficient and to avoid making errors or taking unnecessary steps. Perhaps a dough needs to chill for an hour in the middle of a preparation, perhaps meat needs to be salted for 24 hours, or a liquid must be simmered then cooled. The recipe suggests adding the flour, baking powder and salt one at a time, but perhaps you can combine all the dry ingredients ahead of time while you’re waiting for the butter to get to room temperature so you can cream it with the eggs. Taking a few minutes to read a recipe, acting out each step in your mind as you do, will save you time and prevent errors.
Measure out or prep all your ingredients before you begin. Don’t mince your onion just before you need to put it in the pan, have it minced and in a container ready to go, have that cup of milk and half cup of sugar set out before you. Good mise en place makes the process easier and more pleasurable and the result tastier than preparing a recipe with no mise en place.
If you’re unsure about an instruction, use your common sense. You’ve already imagined in your head what the goal is. Work toward that goal using all your senses.
How to perfect a good recipe. Do it over again. And again. Pay attention. Do it again. That’s what chefs do. Often great cooking is simply the result of having done it over and over and over while paying attention. Great cooking is as much about sheer repetition as it is about natural skill or culinary knowledge.

So for all of us ladies that love to make a "little change here, a little change there" in our recipes, it is wonderful to know that we are in the company of great chefs!!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies...

I made a mistake. A big mistake. But, thankfully, I came up with a WONDERFULLY TASTY fix and a BETTER cookie!!!

Have y'all seen the website The Pioneer Woman Cooks? She's got some great recipes on her site with step-by-step photos of how to cook the recipe. YUM!! Anyway, I found a recipe on her site for Oatmeal Crispies that looked super good. My sister made them last week and told me how yummy they were, so I just had to make them.

The recipe for these cookies is not written out like a typical recipe. The Pioneer Woman has it written throughout her post so I couldn't just copy and paste the recipe. I read the post and wrote out the ingredients and directions as I came to them, carefully making sure that I did not leave out any ingredients.

I mixed everything together and decided that I didn't want to make them into a log and freeze them like she suggests. I just made drop cookies* and baked them all. I tasted the dough (of course!!!) and thought they didn't taste quite as sweet as regular cookie recipes. But, I kept going, thinking that was the way Pioneer Woman meant for them to be. When the cookies came out of the oven, I tasted one and thought that I must have left something out- they still weren't very sweet. I looked back at the website and, sure enough, I left out 1 cup of sugar!!!!! ACK!!!! The cookies didn't taste bad, they just tasted like they needed "something", you know?

So... I put peanut butter between two cookies and they were GOOD!! However, Joshua thought that the peanut butter was a bit too strong, so I added a bit of powdered sugar to the peanut butter and S-U-C-C-E-S-S!!!! We have a new cookie that our family LOVES!!! Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies have been born in the "U" household and are here to stay!!

Here's my recipe...

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies
1 cup shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3 cups rolled oats (I used old fashioned oats)
1/2 cup very, very finely chopped pecans (I used my mini food chopper)

Mix shortening and brown sugar well and then mix in eggs and vanilla. Carefully stir in flour, salt and baking soda until all combined. Stir in pecans and oats. Drop onto prepared cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Completely cool before making into sandwiches. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter Filling
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Combine both ingredients and mix well. Spread onto cookies and make yummy sandwich cookies!!!

You can see Pioneer Woman's original recipe here.

*Drop cookies are made from a relatively soft dough that is dropped by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. During baking, the mounds of dough spread and flatten. Chocolate chip cookies (Tollhouse cookies), peanut butter cookies, and oatmeal cookies are popular examples of drop cookies. (from Wikipedia)

Monday, January 21, 2008

A lovely view...

While visiting Mr. U's family over Christmas, I took this photograph. It is so very quiet up where they live and I think the picture of this old barn captured the stillness of the area perfectly.

They own some land in the mountains and it is nice to visit them and enjoy the scenery.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Show and Tell Friday- Mickey Mouse Cookbook...

Hooray! It's time for Kelli's "Show and Tell Friday"!! Instead of me just looking at all the participants blogs, I am participating, too.

Today I would love to share with y'all my very first cookbook- Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Cookbook. I cannot remember what age I was when my mom bought it for me, but I do have lots of fond memories of this book! I was very excited when I saw it at my parents' house a few years ago- I had forgotten all about it! I look forward to giving it to Elizabeth one day.

Here it is- Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Cookbook!!!

There are very clear instructions in this cookbook to learn to measure properly.

Wonderful "Kitchen Rules" are included for safety while cooking. Things like "If you have long hair, tie it back" and "Wash your hands!!" Definitely all things that children need to learn about before learning to cook.

I remember making "Mickey Mouse's Sugar Cookies" with my mom. Yum!!!

By far, my favorite recipe from this cookbook was always "King Louie's Fruit Salad"!! We didn't serve it on lettuce leaves like the recipe says (Goodness gracious!! I was changing around recipes even as a child!!!!), but I remember making this for our Sunday dinners quite often when I was younger. Hmmm. I think I need to put this on our menu soon!!

There are lots more wonderful instructions as well as fabulous (and easy!!!) recipes in this fun cookbook. I am so glad that I found it after all these years.

EDIT: In case anyone is interested, I just found the cookbook for sale online!! Go here to see it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chicken and Dumplings

About 5 years ago, Joshua requested Chicken and Dumplings for his birthday meal. He LOVES Chicken and Dumplings. Well, I found a recipe and made it and it was pretty good. Still, though, it wasn't "Southern" Chicken and Dumplings with gooey dumplings and broth thickened with flour.

I've been looking for years for "the" recipe. The one that reminds me of eating in the homes of real Southern cooks. Happily, I FOUND IT!!! Where? Southern Living Magazine!! Now why didn't I check with them in the first place!!!

We had these last night and I truly meant to take a picture, but, well, they are all gone now and there is no photo to share!! You're just gonna have to trust me when I say "YOU MUST MAKE THESE FOR YOUR FAMILY!!!!!". And, yes, you will all fight over the dumplings. That's part of what makes Chicken and Dumplings SO tasty!! :)

Chicken and Dumplings
1 (2 1/2-pound) whole chicken, cut up
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/3 cup shortening
2 teaspoons bacon drippings
1 cup milk

Cover chicken with water, and bring to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and next 3 ingredients; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Remove chicken, reserving broth in Dutch oven; cool chicken. Skim fat from broth; bring to a simmer.
Skin, bone, and coarsely chop chicken. Add chicken, bouillon, and remaining salt and pepper to broth. Return to simmer.

Combine flour and poultry seasoning in a bowl. Cut in shortening and bacon drippings with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Add milk, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out to 1/8-inch thickness; cut into 1-inch pieces.

Bring broth mixture to a boil. Drop dumplings, a few at a time, into boiling broth, stirring gently. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring often, for 25 minutes.

8 servings

Southern Living, NOVEMBER 2001

(Ahem.... excuse me a moment here... You know how I ALWAYS change recipes around? Well, I did it for this one, too. I did not use a whole chicken. I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Then I poured water in my stock pot and covered the chicken with about 3 inches of water. Oh, and I did use a smidge more (maybe 1/2) of each of the seasonings because I used more water. I still chopped the chicken and made the dumplings like the recipe says.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

January's blooms....

When I finally took time this past weekend to look around our yard, I was quite happy with what I found. January's flowers are blooming and, boy, do they look lovely against the gray skies that we've had lately!!!

Paperwhites... lovely, gentle, crisp, clean...

Camellia bush... bright, eye-catching, a happy "pop" of color against January's oftentimes gloomy skies...

What's blooming in YOUR yard right now?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ahhh... it's good to get back to a routine...

It's SO good to be settling back into a routine around here. With all the holidays, dealing with our family getting sick and going out of town twice, it makes for hectic days. Thankfully, this week, we've finally been getting back into a routine.

One interesting thing I discovered was how much I enjoy cleaning my home. Over the past month, cleaning was more of a "do it quickly because we have to do this and this and this, too". I dislike being hurried and rushed, so I grumbled and complained while cleaning. Now that we are back to "normal", I'm enjoying getting back to our cleaning routine. Of course, that routine is always apt to change, but for now, the same schedule still works.

So today, Thursday, you will find me here, in our home, happily washing our clothes, making my FAVORITE soup and homemade tortillas for lunch and playing with little Miss Elizabeth. I love being in my home and caring for my family. I am so blessed to be able to stay home with my family.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Calling all Janeites!!!

Masterpiece Theatre has a treat coming up for all Jane Austen fans!!!

I can't wait!!

I normally don't blog on the weekends, but this news is too good to keep to myself!!

Friday, January 04, 2008

One year ago today....

One year ago today, January 4, 2006, Mr. U and I got "the call" from our adoption agency. They were calling with our referral- all the information and a few pictures about our new, long awaited baby girl.

The wait to adopt was only supposed to be 6 months, but, for us, it turned into a 15 month wait (it is even LONGER now!!!!!!!), but when we were on the phone with our agency, hearing all about our new little one, the wait suddenly seemed short! We were finally to see our new daughter's face. And what a wonderful face it was...

Now, this is what our little Elizabeth has turned into...

A sweet, kind, loving, full-of-giggles-and-smiles girl. We cannot imagine how in the world we ever had a life without her. What a blessing!!!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Lovely face...

The past two weeks have not only consisted of celebrating Christmas and New Year, but also nursing sickness. Apparently, Joshua caught a cold at work and brought it home and shared it with Mr. U. How kind. Mr. U's developed into a sinus infection. He decided to share some of his sickness with Elizabeth. Last week, she was very croupy, so we headed to the doctor. (She's MUCH better now, just has a tad bit of congestion in her chest.) Finally, germs got the best of mommy and I've been dealing with a cold for almost a week.

While dealing with sickness is NO FUN, it sure does make you appreciate your health AND your family much more. I also find myself praying way more than usual, too, because while I know that earthly medicine can do some good, I know that the Lord can fix things even better!!!

So I woke up feeling a bit "blah"today and this lovely face quickly filled me with cheer!!!! (Pardon the crumbs, we were in the middle of eating breakfast when I took this shot. CAUTION: Mommy bragging moment.)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The power of scents...

I LOVE good smells. Whether it is something yummy baking in the oven, the scent of a baby first thing in the morning or fresh air on a sunny day, it doesn't matter. I LOVE fresh, clean smells!!

For the past 6 months, however, some things that I've been using to make our home smell nice have not been friendly toward me. Fabric softener has left my skin dry and itchy and those oil plug-ins for the wall have given me headaches.

After reading Mrs. Catherine's blog one day, she pointed readers to this article- Hidden Hazzards of Home Air Freshers. No wonder I've gotten headaches from those plug-ins!! They are full of weird ingredients!!!! OH MY!!!!!

I did more investigating about found this out about fabric softeners. Good gracious!! No wonder my skin is having problems!!!

Why is it that we love good smelling things in our homes so much? Could it be that it's easier to open air freshner than to clean? Hmmm. After reading Elizabeth's post at A Merry Rose, she really got me thinking about the power of scents. I must admit, I've been very guilty of simply putting a plug-in in the wall rather than deep cleaning my home at times. Sigh.

So I've thrown away all our plug-ins and I'm using vinegar 100% of the time for fabric softener. Now... I just need to remind myself daily that I clean my home, not just to look nice, but to smell fresh and clean and to provide a healthy environment for my family in our home.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How much do YOU spend in one week on groceries?

This is quite an interesting article to start off the New Year with, but I just had to share it.

Where does your family fall on this scale? Notice the American family. Does YOUR family eat like that? Is there anything fresh in your family's diet? And if you look at the food from the families that spend the least, it's amazing how healthfully they eat.

I've been looking for ways to cut back on our family's grocery bill (about $325 tp $350 a month for four of us- and yes, I count Elizabeth because the girl can EAT, I'm telling ya!!!), so I found this article quite interesting.

How much does YOUR family spend in a week (or a month) on groceries? If you have found a way to cut back, please share so that others can learn, too. Couponing doesn't work for me because I buy the store brand items of most things and there are no coupons for those. I also try to make the majority of our food from scratch, so I don't buy any or those boxed meals. Any other ideas?

I want to bless my family with good food, yes, but I think that using less money on groceries is a blessing, too, because that money could be used in other areas.


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