Thursday, August 29, 2013

First Day of School!

It's official: I now have a third and fifth grader.  As in my "baby" is in his last year of grade school.  Gah!!!

The last two pics have A's best friend (her Mom starts work before school, so she drops her here and then I take the trio off to the hallowed halls of education.  As you can see from the last picture, they're excited to kick off this next chapter ;)

D also lost another tooth the night before school started.  Yep, our boy isn't exactly little anymore...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Summer winding down

School starts Monday - I'm experiencing the normal mix of sadness and jubilation to be returning my children to the care of our school district for several hours each day.  Yesterday was the "meet the teacher" morning at school.  Don't know much about D's teacher, but she likes structure (yeah!!), plus he'll be with another teacher have the day, as they team teach in 5th grade.  A got the "yelling" teacher that she wasn't particularly excited about, so we'll see how that goes.

Trying to wrap up a few projects this weekend; we were hoping to go to the beach, but thunderstorms put a damper on that plan.  One of D's friends is moving to Honduras (parents will be teaching at a mission school), but thankfully the boys were able to hang out for several hours over Thursday and Friday.

I have a bunch of stuff running through my head, and hopefully with the kids back in school I'll have more time to post my riveting brain spillage.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with yet another fine offering from our local yardsale site.  It's an "antique" cabinet. and can be yours for the amazing price of $200.  It's truly a very special antique to have smoked glass doors with magnetic closures... Seriously, do people even know what the word antique means?  Earlier this week, a different person was selling an antique Miracle Whip cooler.  First off, if it's PLASTIC, then I can pretty much guarantee it's not an antique, people!  And a bonus hint for selling vintage gems: don't try to sell it for twice what it's going for as a "buy it now" on eBay.  Sheesh.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

French Dip Sandwiches (Crock pot)

3-4 lb chuck roast
1 can french onion soup
2 cups reduced sodium beef broth

1 c dried mushrooms + 1 c hot water
1 large onion sliced

Trim fat from roast. Brown on both sides (wiht a Tb or 2 of olive oil). Once browned, place in crock pot along with soup, broth, and mushrooms if desired. Saute onions in the pan you used for the roast with the same oil/drippings, then place on top of roast. Cook on high for 6 hours. Shred meat and place on rolls, then top with cheese of your choice (hubby & I like provolone, kids like American)

Shortcut cheesy veggies: Dump together 16 oz frozen California blend and a bag of cheesy veggies (Green Giant & Bird's Eye each have their own version)Heat on stove top or microwave until heated through.Still plenty of cheesy goodness to satisfy the kids :)

This officially concludes the transferring of recipes (for full explanation, see HERE). Seriously, I promise this is not a cooking blog!

Hot Wing Pizza

Combine shredded precooked chicken*, bottled hot wing sauce - dump onto a premade crust and add cheese. If you let your kids help, then your pizza may end up very, very cheesy like this one Add a salad and call everyone for dinner!

*I usually snatch up chicken thighs when they're marked down on expiration day, then come home and bake up a whole bunch, then break down into 1 lb bags and freeze

Crockpot Gyros

Used this recipe

I made them with ground lamb & chicken. Decent flavor, but meat was kind of dry. Also needs a bit more salt either with the tzatziki or the meat.

Sweet & Tangy Meatballs

1-2 pounds of meatballs
18 poz bottle BBQ sauce (I'm partial to Sweet Baby Ray's)
20 oz can pineapple chunks with juice
1 onion (sliced)
1 green pepper cut into strips
other veggies if desired (I added green beans tonight, also good with carrots or zucchini)
Dump into pan and cook until heated through. Serve over rice.  
(Can also be done in crockpot)

Cod & Lima Beans in foil

I have never eaten lima beans other than in mixed veggies (and honestly, I thought they were pretty nasty, so specifically buy the kind that DOESN'T have them in there) but ANYWAY, I've discovered that lima beans are actually really tasty! Piled slightly less than a cup (used frozen kind) onto the foil, then added a lemon slice and fresh flat leaf parsley. Covered with a cod fillet (these happened to be pre-marinated, which is why I didn't add anything else to the beans), folded up the little pouch and baked. I will definitely be making some version of this again in the future. (Sorry for the lousy pic, I had already started eating the cod when I remembered to take a pic!)

THM - E (just make sure that if you're using premarinated fish that it's less than 5 g fat per serving)

Inspired by Giada

Shrimp Mei Fun

We celebrated Chinese New Year with shrimp mei fun (a/k/a clean out the veggie drawer) - Stir fried carrots, onion, green pepper, and cabbage, along with garlic, scrambled egg and frozen peas at the end. Added approx 1/4 c soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, a good squirt of sriracha, enough water just to loosen it up, frozen precooked shrimp, and rice noodles (cooked separately)

SImple pasta with chicken and spinach

Chopped 5 roma tomatoes and simmered with chicken breast, olive oil, chopped onion, minced garlic, and about 1 Tb dried Italian seasoning. Added 3 Tb butter, 1 cup pasta water, fresh spinach, and a bit more minced garlic before stirring into cooked pasta and throwing a bit of fresh mozzarella on top.

Chicken & Olive Tamale-ish Baked Thingee :)

(I expect a call from Food Network any day now based solely on my food naming ability!)

Preheat oven to 400. Boil 1 1/4 c water, and whisk in 1/2 c cornmeal. Once it's all incorporated, stir in 1 can (14 3/4 oz) creamed corn and allow to cook on low for a few minutes (basically while assembling everything else). Mix approx 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken together with 1 can (15 oz) enchilada sauce, and 1 c green olives. Dump chicken mixture into pan (I used 9x13, but it will fit in a smaller au gratin type dish, too), then pour corn mixture over top. Bake about 20-25 minutes (until thoroughly heated and top beginning to brown), then pull out and top with salsa and queso (or fresh cilantro, tomato, tomatilla, onion, whatever!) and bake for another 5 minutes.

Mini Meatloaves, white beans & spinach

Recipe here.

I used a mix of lamb & beef for the loaves- it was really good, but the kids thought the balsamic was a bit too strong (might leave it out of the topping next time). I *love* the idea of pre-making these and freezing the individual loaves; they cook up pretty quickly. I used frozen spinach for the side dish and added some onion, but though it was still pretty flat. D suggested it would be much tastier with some bacon :)

Radish and Pea Salad

I just call this "Christmas Salad" because of the colors Chop up fresh snow peas (can blanch or microwave for a minute or two to soften if they're really large), radishes, and 2-3 scallions (white & green parts). Whisk together 1/4 c rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar (or substitute) and 1 Tb olive oil, then pour over and refrigerate a couple hours for best flavor

(I believe I found this recipe in an Ellie Krieger cookbook)

Creamy Pasta Bake

Cook 1 lb pasta (I used angel hair) and drain. Brown 1-2 pounds ground meat (I used straight beef this time - could use turkey, pork, or even beans), and add to sauce of your choice (try 1 jar + a can of plain tomato sauce or diced tomatoes if you want more texture). Season up with basil, oregano and rosemary. In a separate bowl, combine 16 oz sour cream, 8 oz cream cheese (I used light for both), 2 eggs, and 8 oz shredded cheddar. Mix well. Layer a bit of the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 pan, and then heap on the pasta, cheese mixture, and sauce. I layered here, but you really can't tell. Top with a bit of mozzarella and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes (until it's hot and bubbly). Add salad and possibly bread, and you'll get at least 2 meals out of it.

Cabbage wraps with pork

This is a great meal for a hot summer's night - very little stove time required, and the leftovers are fantastic, too.
THM - this is an S meal
Remove approx 8 leaves from cabbage head. Trim out toughest part of stem, then cook for 1-2 min in boiling water, just enough to soften. Set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together: 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 Tb ginger (I used dried, but I'm sure fresh grated would be much better), 2 Tb white vinegar, generous 1/4 c soy sauce (overflow the measuring cup a bit, LOL), and 2 Tb olive oil. Add: 1-2 cucumbers (seeded and diced), approx 2 c finely chopped cabbage, 1/2 c chopped or grated carrot, and chopped cilantro to taste. Add 1-2 c diced cooked pork* and stir. Add a few shakes of hot chili sesame oil to taste.

Lay a cabbage leaf down on the plate, lay a line of filling down - we also added a bit of chopped roasted peanuts at this point - roll into as neat a package as possible and eat up!
 *(I used leftover grilled pork fajita - I had gotten a deal on some premarinated loin ends and I wasn't sure how the flavors could come together, but thankfully it was great
Adapted from Sandra Lee's recipe

Greek Salad

When we were up in PA, my SIL made a Greek salad that both hubby and I enjoyed, and she said it was a Barefoot Contessa recipe.  I got home, tracked it down, and tweaked it a bit for our family:

Whisk together in large bowl:
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/4 c red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • black pepper to taste
Now start dumping - I used 1 cucumber (de-seeded ), 1 green pepper, 6 roma tomatoes, 2 c green beans (blanched), about 1/4 c diced onion, 4 oz crumbled feta cheese, and 1/2 c chopped kalamata olives. I'm thinking it would also work well with fresh zucchini or portabella mushrooms.

Tasted even better the next day :)

Warning: lots of recipes ahead

A local friend-of-a-friend started a "What's for Dinner" group on FB because she said she was bored with her family's dinnertime routine and was looking for ideas.  Basically, we take a pic of our dinner and share recipes.  Simple, and pretty fun.  I don't do it every night, and I'm being reminded about just how many people rely on prepackaged food ("I made roasted chicken and vegetables!  Go me!  What, a recipe?  Oh, I bought the seasoning packet for $5.99 that includes fresh marjorcurryam and 16 spice powder. Yummo!") Anyway, I do tend to try out a lot of new recipes, and I was scrolling back through posts, thinking, "Man, I wish it were easier to find my stuff!"  Oh, if only I had a place to record such things.

Well, duh.

Hubby went out for red snapper back over Easter weekend (friend's hubby has a boat - hooray!) and caught his limit in less than an hour.  Which meant we ended with a large pile of red snapper fillets in the freezer.  And while I consider myself a fair-to-middlin' cook, I'd never once touched red snapper simply because it's generally too expensive.  Anyway, I searched online and came across this really great recipe that I've now prepared a couple times.

Red Snapper, linguine with olive sauce

Cover red snapper with approx 1 tsp soy sauce and 1/4 c olive oil - marinate for 30 min (mine sat for probably 15, and was still good). Bake at 400 for about 8 minutes (depending on how thick the fillet is) and finish off under the broiler to desired crispiness. Cook pasta. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1/4 c olive oil. When it's hot, toss in 2-3 cloves minced garlic. Allow to cook only for a minute or so (you don't want it too sweet) then add 2 - 4.25 oz cans chopped black olives, 1 - 6 oz can tomato paste, 3/4 c white wine (I used one of those little 187 ml bottles, could sub low sodium chicken broth), 1 tsp lemon juice and approx 1 c water. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring. Season to taste (I added garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper). May also add a bit of the pasta water if you want a looser sauce.  Spoon sauce over pasta and fish, then serve! (I know the sauce isn't on the fish in my picture, but I did eat it together ;)

*If any of my "real life" FB friends would like to be added to the dinner group, just let me know!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cousin Fun

Just a few pics to share from our trip north... will try to get more posted later, but this should hold the grandparents over in the meantime :)

LIttle blessings

Just wanted to document this, a reminder of how out of God's infinite grace He sometimes grants even the smallest wants.

Last night as I was washing dishes, I commented to my hubby that my spatulas were in really rough shape, and I was going to have to replace them soon.  I have a set of 3, earned with hostess benefits from a Pampered Chef party probably sometime in 1999.  Yeah, you could say I've gotten my money's worth ;)  In my head, I was thinking that I'd really like to find something solid (so that junk doesn't get stuck between the head and handle), and preferably the "scooper" type that are so amazingly convenient.

I dropped the kiddos off at a day camp this morning, and stopped at Walgreen's to pick something up.  These were sitting on the clearance cart by the checkout.

Delivered: two molded scoopy spatulas for less than a buck total.

Seriously, how awesome is that?!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pondering the Path

The past few weeks have been a bit crazy. I didn't say anything here on the blog, but through a bizarre set of circumstances, we were able to visit Pennsylvania for four glorious days.  I had been *longing* to get back up there to see friends and family, but the expense and time involved kept preventing the trip from happening... until a strange (nearly-forgotten) circumstance from 5 years ago meant that my hubby needed to go up there for a few days.  Oh, and the expense of his 1 plane ticket = enough gas to get us there.  So yes, we piled into the car and drove until we were beyond tired.  There are some funny stories, too, but we'll save those for another day.  What it boils down to, though, is that God gave me the desire of my heart in a totally unexpected way (additional side note: we were hoping to send D to a really cool church camp up by Austin this summer in conjunction with the church where the kiddos go to AWANA.  I took the paperwork in the last week of school, but their roster had filled up the day before.  I was so disappointed!  Know what, though?  That camp was taking place while we were up north.  Just another reminder that God's working it all out, even when I don't think it's "good"!)

While we greatly enjoyed our time up there, I was reminded of how many connections we have in eastern PA.  And how after four years in south TX we are still fighting for tenuous threads.  We were able to hang out with friends that truly are more more like family.  Our kids got to play with their cousins. We soaked up the glorious beauty surrounding us (GREEN!!!! - the photo was taken in a county park).  Yes, I had tears in my eyes as we crossed from PA into MD.

The trip also brought some of the issues with hubby's job to a head.  He was on the phone way too much.  He's been with this one company nearly twenty years - hired straight out of college and steadily working his way up.  There have been many bumps along the road, and we've debated about pursuing another position at times, but he's still there.  I can't help but feeling that time is now drawing to a close, though.  And now the question is where will that take us?

There are many good things about south TX, and while I would miss a handful of friends, the balmy winters, the affordability and constant access to tacos, frankly I feel like our whole family could pack up and leave in two weeks without too much difficulty.  That's sad to me.

So we're praying about what the future will hold.  We got back super late last Saturday night, and went to church on Sunday.  I was pretty tired and honestly I can't tell you all that much about the service, but the text for the sermon was from Psalm 119, and once again I was comforted in knowing that God was reminded me HE has it all under control.  We'd appreciate your prayers as we seek His path - and the grace to accept whatever answer we're given.

Barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with your clear revelation. 
Psalm 119:29, The Message