…the Livin’ is Easy

I haven’t had any coffee today. What started as a dull ache is now a throbbing headache. The best part is that I have to work here in about 30 minutes. But, we’re having steak tonight (at home) so that makes it all the more bearable. I’m also making mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. We were going to have some French bread too, but the mold got to it before we did. I suppose that’s part of living in a humid environment, especially in the summertime.

A couple weeks ago, we piled into the car to drive down to Austin, TX to visit family. We ended up driving through the night and were exhausted the next day. We had a nice, albeit short, visit. We went to a reception at the Texas Culinary Academy on the Friday we were there. Oh. My. The food was grand and plentiful. There were lots of students dressed up in their chef garb with plates of hors de ouvres. There was pan after pan of cookies and all kinds of fancy treats. There was an ice sculpture the shape of a clam with huge cocktail shrimp in the bowl part. We could have stayed there all day feeding our faces. It was excellent!

On our return home, water started collecting on the floor in our car in the back. By the time we pulled up in front of our house, there was standing water back there. Apparently, it had something to do with our AC. We ran it quite a bit that weekend. It is central Texas in the summertime after all.

I Feel Like Meatloaf Tonight

I was trying to think of something for dinner tonight as we are still doing our dinner challenge, and remembered that I had a whole gob of organic spinach in the fridge that was marked down to $0.99 on a manager’s special at Dillons! I needed to use it up and thought I might “hide” it in some meatloaf. So I went searching on the internet for a recipe that would use spinach in meatloaf. I found this recipe on Recipezaar:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup onion
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup steak sauce

Mix everything together except the steak sauce. Shape into a loaf and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Add steak sauce on top the last 10 minutes.

Well, I had to make a few adjustments as follows: Instead of wheat germ, I just used more oats as I didn’t have any wheat germ. I also didn’t have any carrots to grate so I used…zucchini. I’m so predictable! Since zucchini has more moisture than carrots, I didn’t even need to use the milk. I also had fresh spinach instead of frozen spinach. When I was gooping it all together, I was getting a tad nervous as the fresh spinach seemed to be kind of “clunky” for lack of a better term. Pretty soon, though, it started to get soggy and more manageable. I also added a little bit of garlic salt and some southwest chipotle seasoning I got at Sam’s Club. Instead of baking it in the oven, I just put it in the crockpot on high for about 4 hours. I also omitted the steak sauce as I didn’t know if David would like it and figured we could just put it on at the table. I was really excited to see how it would turn out. Much to my delight, everybody liked it! I also fixed corn on the cob and garlic bread (ghetto garlic bread to be exact – hamburger buns with butter and garlic salt baked in the oven for a few minutes. I was going to do homemade biscuits but I ended up working a little later tonight). It all turned out really yummy and I have enough for meatloaf sandwiches tomorrow. I may make some spaghetti sauce to pour on top. Anyway, I was really excited about how it turned out. For dessert, we had ice cream sandwiches or…drum roll please…zucchini bread. I don’t think I’m going to plant zucchini again next year. We are going to be growing it out our ears by the time summer is over.

Next post: Our recent trip to Austin! It was definitely a whirlwind tour but more on that later. Until we meet again, adieu.

By the way, on this post, I tried my hand at a little html!

You Do the Math…

Yesterday, the kids were playing a math game with just basic arithmetic problems. The first one my son got was 9 + 8. Thinking I would definitely have to help, I asked if he could try to figure it out. Hardly two seconds later, he said, “17.” I was really surprised that he got that right because we haven’t gotten to that part of math yet. A little while later at lunch, I said, “How did you know that 9 + 8 was 17?” And then he said, “Because, Mama, 8 + 8 is 16!,” in the type of voice that just said, “Duh, Mom!” It was pretty cute. Thinking my boy was a prodigy, he then proceeded to say, “And 9 + 9 is 19!” Ahem. At least he was close!

Things That Make You Go…Yum!

Okay, we’re having company tomorrow evening and I have planned the following things, recipes included:

Baked Chicken (crockpot)

  • One whole chicken
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Seasonings of your choice (I usually use Rosemary Garlic Seasoning from Sam’s over a year ago)

Place chicken in the crockpot along with about two cups or more of water. Sprinkle seasonings on top. Cook on low for approximately 6 hours. Voila!

Cheesy Potato Casserole

  • 1 (2-lb) package frozen hashed brown potatoes, thawed.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (10-oz) can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 c sour cream
  • 8 oz sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 c crushed corn flakes
  • ¼ c butter

Combine potatoes, salt, pepper, soup, sour cream, cheese, and onion in bowl; mix well. Spoon into greased 9″×13″ baking dish. Bake at 350℉ for 30 minutes; remove from oven. Cover with corn flakes; drizzle with butter. Bake for 30 minutes longer. Yummy stuff!

Quick Cheese Biscuits

  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 T butter or margarine
  • ⅔ c milk

Preheat oven to 450℉. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in cheddar. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or two knives until coarse crumbs form. Using a fork, stir milk into flour mixture until a soft dough forms. Do not over-mix or overwork dough. Drop dough in heaping tablespoons one inch apart onto an un-greased baking sheet. Bake until biscuits are firm to the touch, about 15 minutes.

Fresh veggies, chopped (from the garden!)

Fresh fruit, chopped

Root beer floats for dessert

Hmmm…that’s quite a bit of cheese. I might have to rethink that a little. But everything goes better with cheese so maybe I should just leave it alone!

Challenge Day #6

Well, our dinner challenge has actually gone quite well so far! Day #6 of our dinner challenge, I believe we have about 70 days remaining (which also means David only has 70 days of school left! yay!). For today’s dinner, we are having ham and beans. I used to not like that meal as a kid, but I like it now, especially as it’s so economical and filling. I will be using leftover ham that I fixed a few days ago. Not exactly a summertime dish, but hey, I can do it in the crockpot and it’s easy (and cheap!).

Tomorrow’s dinner is a little bit in the air still. I was going to prepare chicken and rice but I decided to change one of my side dishes to hashbrown casserole and thought that if we had chicken and rice also that it would be too many starches. So, I’m going to be hunting down a main dish today. I also plan on posting some of these recipes I’ve been using. Right now, though, I need to go get some laundry started and straighten up the living room and kitchen. The weird part about today is that I’ve been awake – wide awake – since 5am and am not tired a bit! I really like it! I had my morning devotions, ate my breakfast and drank my coffee all before 8am! So, now I’m off to make good use of my time and get my house in order.

The Great Dinner Challenge

Okay, here goes nothing! As I mentioned in a recent post, I have been inspired by Stephanie in her decision to fix meals out of the crockpot for a whole year. While I don’t think I’m prepared to go that far, David and I have decided that we will not be going out to eat at all until he is done with school on September 29th (at which time we are going to par-tay! Oh yeah!). That will be 76 days from now. When I say “at all,” I mean unless something weird comes up or we end up going out of town to visit family, etc. I won’t be using my crockpot exclusively but probably for most meals. I love my crockpot! So, are ya with me?

Tonight’s meal was chicken noodle soup (with zucchini!) made in the crockpot with cinnamon raisin bread made in my bread machine. I’m for ease in case you can’t tell. Tomorrow’s menu will be ham with potatoes and broccoli. We usually like to have green beans with our ham but I forgot my list and remembered everything but the green beans, so we’re gonna make do with broccoli.

On a slightly different subject, I have come across some information about a really great blender called Vita-Mix. It seems so cool! You can even grind wheat into flour! And it’s a blender! The drawback? Um, it’s like $500+. Definitely not something I’ll be getting anytime soon. David’s school requires a down payment of our firstborn, so I think we might wait on the Vita-Mix!

It’s a little after 10 and I need to put some folded clothes away and make sure the kitchen is in order before bed. I hate waking up to a messy kitchen! G’nite!

The Verdict…and a Clarification

The cookies turned out great! Everyone likes them (and no one likes zucchini around here but me!). They have a subtle hint of cinnamon and chocolate chips so they have to be good, right? I couldn’t believe it when David told me he ate three in a row! I think I found me a keeper. Thanks for the recipe, April!

And to clarify…in my last post, I think I may have given the impression that I don’t cook around here very often. Believe it or not, I actuallly do prepare meals for my family. It just seems like lately we’ve been living off sandwiches or hotdogs or something easy to throw together, not necessarily the most nutritious (but we had fresh veggies and fruit with our hotdogs last night!). I think all of this comes from a lack of me being organized and life getting away with me. If I’m not organized for dinner, I get stressed out because I work until 7pm sometimes, and that’s when I pull out the ol’ lunchmeat. Sigh. I have never been an organized person, but I think if I present myself with a challenge, that may give me the “umph” I need to get with it. So, I’ll keep you all posted as I consider all of this. Today, I’m pulling out my crockpot recipes!

Of Cookies and Crockpots

Right now, I’m baking some cookies. These aren’t just any cookies either. They have a “secret ingredient!” I bet you really can’t guess, either (insert sarcasm). Yes, it is zucchini. My sister sent me the recipe (thanks April!). I don’t know how they’ll turn out but the dough tasted pretty good!

Meanwhile, I found this really neat website. She inspires me! My crockpot has really saved me on so many occasions but I never thought of challenging myself to do something like she has. This woman was even on the Rachael Ray show! I’m definitely stewing some ideas around in my little noggin. I think it would definitely present some challenges. I’d have to be more organized and do some planning ahead, but think of how wonderful it would be to have home-cooked food with just a little effort, everyday even! She’s even done creme brulee in the crockpot. Now that’s impressive! It looks like she has some really good recipes, too. Some of them seem pretty fancy. They’re gluten free for those who have celiac disease (apparently, she or someone in her family has this condition). I just think her whole challenge is really neat-o! I may be posting more about this in the future…

We Laughed, We Cried, We Ate Chicken…

Well, maybe we didn’t cry…

It was Cow Appreciation Day at Chick Fil-A today which means – free food! The catch? You have to dress up like a cow. If you dress like a cow from head to toe, you get a free combo. If you are only partly cow-like, you get a free sandwich. Can you guess what we did? Oh yes, my friends, no mere cow bell or lone black cow spot for us! We went the whole nine yards! We milked it for all its worth! (har!) First, we made cow masks out of paper plates. They turned out really cute! Next, we proceeded to dress in black and/or white. After locating the appropriate-colored clothing, I started cutting out our cow spots. We even put some on our feet! It was really just so udderly fun (insert groan) getting cow-ified today. We piled into the car and I realized our car was running on fumes and knew that I had to get gas with construction paper circles taped all over me. Thankfully the gas station was nearly empty and I didn’t have to go inside. Once arriving at the mall (this is where the Chick Fil-A is located here in town), I started losing my nerve. Miriam and Isaiah were having second thoughts too. But, we mooved our keisters into the mall (stop! stop the madness!) I wasn’t going this far for nothing! Trying to conceal my cow mask, we made our way through the mall, avoiding eye contact with folks who I was just sure were thinking we were nuts. Finally, we reached the food court to find…lots of cow people! Hooray! We weren’t the only ones! The kids and I each got a free combo, and we sat down and enjoyed some really good chicken. The best part was that it was completely free! As another person has commented regarding Cow Appreciation Day, oh the lengths we will go to for free food! I hope to post some pictures of our grand cow outing later. I’m glad Chick Fil-A decided to cow-ordinate this whole thing. It was great! (I’m done with the puns. I know you just can’t take any mooore!)

Lessons Learned From My Garden, part 2

This is a continuation of the entry I posted below. You can read it if you want. This is just a continuing list of things that I’ve learned this year (so far) from my garden.

10. Carrots are a little difficult to get out of the garden. The tops keep coming off. I just need to use my little trowel thing I think.

11. I planted kohl rabi in my garden this year because it reminds me of my Grandpa. He planted that quite a bit from what I remember when I was younger. It tastes pretty good, better with salt sprinkled on it (which is what Grandpa used to do).

12. Gardens are a good way for kids to get over their fear of bugs (so why doesn’t it work on me??). Miriam and Isaiah have had fun finding worms and playing with them. They’re also pretty excited about butterflies. My mom bought me a butterfly net when I was 4 and I remember having so much fun chasing butterflies around the yard.

13. Weeds grow fast! I was out weeding a few weeks ago and everytime I turned around, there was another weed. I think they grew when they knew I wasn’t looking!

14. Because of the weed issue, the bug issue, and creepy crawlies possibly lurking under huge leaves of various plants (zucchini), I am not nearly as excited about my garden as I had been before, mainly as far as weeding goes. I’ll pull some big ones out but the rest, well, I’ve just kind of left alone.

15. Dealing with weeds has brought home the truth of Genesis chapter 3 where sin entered the world. Seeing how tedious it is to pull them and how ugly they are have made for a good object lesson not only for me but for the kids too.

I think I’ll wrap this up. I may have more to add to my list by the time the season is over.