Sunday, December 13, 2015

12 days until Christmas!

The last 2 Saturday's, my daughter has spent several hours at my house as we have worked on some Christmas crafts, baked cookies and strategized holiday preparations.

We made fabric covered ornaments

We baked plain chocolate chip, Toffee Pecan crisps and Oatmeal Cranberry Orange Macadamia with vanilla yogurt chip  cookies. 

My daughter dubbed it Cookiepocalypse 2015
To offset the sugar coma, I have made some healthy foods too. Some diabetic friendly oatmeal raisin mini bites (a breakfast cookie), Vegetable Beef soup, and Turkey Cottage pie.

Next weekend is our BIG Christmas cookie day as we make gingerbread, pfeffernusse and chocolate citrus bars. During the week I will be making Nutella Bourbon Balls, White Trash Candy, Cherry Brownie Bombs, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Christmas Crack and Butter Spritz Cookies.

I am pretty much finished with the Christmas shopping, although I have a few gifts to wrap. I have a few food gifts to make other than cookie tins which include baking some breads and a few "food in jars" gifts!

I did manage to buy a present for myself. I found this at Michael's. Normal price is $59.99. It was on sale for 70% off and with my $5 coupon, I snagged this for a mere $12.99. Woot woot! This will look great in my living room--now to find the perfect pictures...

I can't believe it 12 days until Christmas! We will celebrate Christmas with the kids on Christmas Day which we be a traditional ham dinner. Then on Saturday the 26th, we will have dinner with the hubb's family, by having a nice lasagna dinner. In some ways I feel kind of scroogish because we did not decorate outside, at all. Not to mention we had our windows open all weekend because the weather has been in the mid 60's.

The inside of the house is festive (well the living room, mostly).

How about y'all--are you ready? What are your plans?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Lightening & Brightening the dining room (part 2)

Do you recall the in progress post about the dining room? If not, click HERE.

The hubbs found this light fixture that someone has set near the dumpster. Other than 1 of the arms being a little loose (nothing a little teflon tape over the threads couldn't fix) it is in pristine condition. FREE is my favorite price!

I love how it brings so much brightness to the room.

It is maybe a little too fancy/ shiny/ blingy for my dining room but I love it regardless! What is one more eclectic piece?

We need to add a touch of adhesive to the ceiling medallion and apply a fresh coat of paint. The best part (besides free) is I now have a chandelier I can decorate for xmas. Yay!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Home is wherever you are...

This is the towel currently on display in my kitchen. The sentiment has taken on additional meaning in light of the global tragedies we have witnessed in the past few weeks.  Life is fraught with many unknowns and far to precious to squander. Let go of the unimportant minutia cluttering your brain and celebrate  your moments with those meaningful people in your life.

I have a deep ingrained sense of home. My childhood was less than stellar. It is only something I have only recently begun to speak about. We moved several dozen times while I was in elementary school, there was a bout or 2 of homelessness (sleeping in the car or floor surfing at a relatives house) and my sisters and I spent a short time in foster care.  Therefore the very connotation of HOME equals stability and is the place I feel safe. I think given my history, it is why I am a homebody and always prefer to putter around my house as opposed to going out to socialize.

My nesting continued over the last couple weekends, as I have been cleaning, cooking, baking canning and organizing. Maybe I am settling in for a long winter's hibernation, ha!

I am continuing my foray into baking bread. I have managed to make some really decent oat bread. I dipped my fingers in the whole grain bread making arena. Um, it wasn't as successful as I had hoped.

Wheat Bread
I followed the directions. The bread sounded hollow when thumped but felt heavy. After cooling, when I cut into into the loaf, the bread had a wet dough ring. So I sliced and cubed all of it, lightly toasted/ dried in the oven and combined  with all the other breads to make home stuffing. I have 4 bags in the freezer ready to go.

The rye bread was slightly dry, somewhat  chewy crust but had excellent flavor and aroma. I served it toasted and it was quite flavorful.
Rye Bread
Oh well, at least there is chocochip banana bread. My banana bread was perfect. Banana bread never disappoints me.
Banana Bread
My daughter gave me her kitchen aid stand mixer. it is the Kitchenaid 550HD Professional with bowl lift. Insert Tim "The Tool Man" grunt and more power! HAHA

 Do y'all have any idea how much I wanted one? Only for 20 years! I broke it in right away making Julia Child's Basic White bread.  It looks awfully pretty on my counter top,  hehe. Is there anything better than the yeasty sweet smell of pillowy soft dough?

This recipe is enough for 2 loaves. I separated the dough after the 1st rise. I baked 1 and froze the 2nd shaped loaf for later use.

I had a major oops, when my shelf fell off the wall and busted my pasta jars. Insert a big ol' frownie face! It was a mess! No major damage to the cabinets, counter top or floor.  The shelf has been reinstalled with much sturdier wall anchors and less weight on the shelf.

My brother-in-law (BIL) installed baseboard, window casing and door trim, YAY!  Look how amazing the this entry looks now compared to the before. No more crooked door frame! There was alot of fancy cutting to make the door frame look square and true.

Once the old door frame was built out to match the new wall, the hubbs pounded a 12 inch wide board into place for the jamb --wow, was that loud!-- it was nailed in place,  then the door casing was installed with a 1/4 inch reveal.

The window casing looks nice and the BIL gave me a nice depth on the window sill to hold a bud vase or 2. And now that the window has been trimmed out I can finally work on the window treatment.

I need to putty the nail holes, prime the jamb and paint all the casing. I am so excited because there is only ONE major project left from the kitchen project list  remaining which is to install the new kitchen entry door (hardware, kickplate and trim work). I am still undecided about installing a tile backsplash. So I guess that is 1 & 1/2 projects. My kitchen is at 99% completion. Woohoo! Fingers crossed if the weather holds, this will be finished by Christmas.

This will be our 1st Thanksgiving using the kitchen but I don't expect any issues. Remember, I was up and cooking in the kitchen for Christmas last year.  We may be inching along but we are still chipping away at the house project list.

Well that is all the news from our homefront. How are y'all doing?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Nesting Weekend

Last weekend, I must have been in a nesting mode. My weekend began with One Pot Chicken Soup on Friday.

Then Saturday I woke early--sleeping in with 2 dogs, so not gonna happen--made a light breakfast of  cheese omelet with toast and jam. And proceeded to over caffeinate myself --really, is there such a thing as over caffeination?--by drinking an entire pot (32 oz) of double strength English Breakfast Tea. Oh yes, I was wired!

Since I had energy to spare, I made a pan of chocolate chip walnut brownies. This was followed by 3 loaves of Oat bread. I baked 2 traditional pan loaves and used the bread maker for the 3rd loaf. 

You know what goes great with fresh baked bread? Vegetable Beef Goulash-Stew.  According to Taste of Home "Stew most often refers to a main dish that contains meat, vegetables and a thick broth made from the stewing juices. Goulash is a kind of stew, usually a Hungarian stew, made with meat and vegetables and seasoned with paprika."

Traditional Hungarian Goulash (Gulyas--which translates to herd or stockman) is heavily flavored with hot Hungarian paprika--often as much as a 1/2 cup and the use of red chili flakes!  Austrian Goulash incorporates both sweet/ hot paprika and caraway seeds. I kinda made my recipe up as I went  along, haha

2 slices of onion, 1/2 inch thick, separate rings
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 TBS flour
1 lb of stew beef diced into small cubes (I quartered my cubes)
1 (28 ounce) can of tomato sauce
3 small bay leaves
4 cups of low sodium beef broth
1 lb of baby potatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
3 ribs of celery, cut into 1/2  inch chunks
1 cup carrots
8 ounces of green beans, halved
1/2 of large green pepper, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 TBS paprika
1 & 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp sugar
1 (15 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1 cup okra (frozen)
1 cup of cabbage shreds

Coat diced beef with flour. Heat oil on med-low heat. Add garlic and onion. Saute for 10 minutes or until aromatic. Add the beef, cook until all sides are browned. Add tomato sauce, bay leaves, cover slightly ajar and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The beef should be very tender and the sauce will have thickened. Add the remaining vegetables EXCEPT the frozen okra and cabbage shreds. Add the paprika, pepper flakes, sugar and beef broth. Increase heat to medium, cover, cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The carrots and potatoes should be fork tender at this point. If not, continue to cook and check every 5 minutes until tender. Add the diced tomatoes, frozen okra and cabbage shreds. Once the temperature resumes the medium boil, cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, skim out bay leaves, cover tightly and let stand about 20 minutes.

The goulash base will have thickened, the cabbage and okra will be translucent and you can actually eat it without it be boiling-lava hot, ha! I added some black pepper and a quick grind of pink Himalayan mineral salt. This kept in the fridge for 2 days and the flavors melded beautifully!

Sunday, I rounded out my nesting by canning a small batch of Cherry Berry Orchard Jam.

This is a blend of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and grated / diced granny smith apples. Add some sugar, some lemon juice  and cook away!

I took some bread and jam to my coworker's and they lost their collective minds, haha. Overall it was a great productive weekend. Cooking, baking and canning are among my favorite hobbies.

How about y'all--anyone else been nesting?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

One pot chicken soup

There are so many things to love about autumn. The colors of the falling leaves; the earthy smells mixed with the spicy scents of cinnamon; the brisk air and warming by a cozy fire; dressing in layers, sipping on warm mulled cider; and comfort foods of all sorts, but especially soup!

The last few days were a mix of rain (for 2 days straight), cool weather and overcast skies. By the end of this week I was exhausted; whereas, all I wanted to do when I came home on Friday was put on my jammies, cuddle under blanket and eat comfort food.

Anyone can open a can of chicken soup but I find canned soup to be too salty and the veggies are always mushy. Anyone can make chicken soup, whether it be homemade or semi homemade. The trick is a flavorful broth base and fresh ingredients. I use packaged stock because I usually have it on hand, but if you have an opportunity to make and store your own stock (especially bone broth, please do so. Some people swear by the chicken foot broth but I have not yet  made it.)

Here's what you need:

1.5 lbs boneless chicken breast
4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of water
2 ribs of chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup carrots 
1 cup okra (I use frozen)
1/4 cup chopped spinach
3/4 cup uncooked, rinsed ditalini pasta
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 teaspoon poultry sealeaves andvegetable boullion cubes
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Add oil to a 4 qt stock pot on medium low heat. Once oil is heated add the onion, garlic and celery. Saute for 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add the diced chicken and carrots. Saute, stirring chicken until it is white on all sides. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of water, 2 bouillon cubes, 2 bay leaves and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes, (add the frozen okra about 20 minutes in) stirring occasionally. Add the uncooked, rinsed pasta and the 1/4 cup chopped spinach.  Turn the heat up slightly so, the liquid is a slightly more rapid boil. Cook for an additional 10-12 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy. Mmmmmmm. So Good!

There were 2 servings left, and I must say the flavors really came together after sitting in the refrigerator. The pasta had absorbed some of the broth so I added just a little splash of water to thin the soup out when heating. I know spinach seems odd, but I didn't have any parsley. Be warned the broth will take on a slight greenish hue from the spinach, but the flavor is great.  I was looking for a nutrient packed soup and this really delivered!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Open the Window!

Nearly 2 years after the new, smaller kitchen window was installed, it is finally open! No more hazy, opaque plastic covering the view- leaving me to look at spiders, stink bugs and other creepy crawlies- trapped behind the plastic sheeting. 

From this...

To this...

I may not have an optimum view but I love the light coming into my kitchen. More so than before, this is my favorite spot in the kitchen.

The hubbs like to be creepy and spy on me...

The outside looked like this for 2 years!

Ignore the tape  and tape residue but here is the inventive framing for the window.

My brother-in-law  and his coworker (both who work for one of my other brother-in-law) installed this while I was at work, so there are no additional how to pictures. Bummer!  Would you believe this is a plasticized material? It is called Azek. It is a highly durable material made of  cellular PVC and is designed to look like wood. It can be be painted (using acrylic latex), doesn't require additional tools to cut, and has a 25 yr warranty. I wish all of my windows were trimmed with Azek and looked this nice! Minus the residual glue, of course

It will probably take us another 2 years, just to remove the gorilla glue tape residue, haha
One more thing checked of the list! Up next, indoor moldings and trimwork!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Woe Begone

Hey y'all. What's happening? 

I have been dealing with some health issues. My diabetes has been crazy out of control. I am not sure how it whacked out so bad but I  have been on the same regimen for 10 yrs. And I admit there are days, that I don't follow the food guidelines as I should. Maybe it was a combination of factors that led to my uncontrolled condition.  So I had some blood work and the results were bad. Oh, so very bad!  In addition, to my diabetes my triglycerides are elevated. There were a few other things, but I am not going to discuss them- for now. It isn't all bad news though, I have lost 14 lbs!!

This is an excerpt of message the Dr. wrote.  A little disconcerting to read, when I logged in to see my  test results. Oh joy.

 I am not happy about the diagnosis/ prognosis the doc gave me but all I can do is work harder to get the conditions under control with diet, exercise and a few new medications. So the new menu plans require low sugar, low fat and higher fiber.

How I begin the morning.  Blood sugar check, high fiber-low sugar oatmeal, hot tea, 16 oz of water and meds.

I am trying different types of grains, combined with lean meat and nutrient dense vegetables.  This was a pumpkin wheat spelt risotto, glazed pork loin and brussel sprouts. I didn't make the "spelt risotto" from scratch, it was a frozen mix (Aldi's). I wanted to try it before I bought the grain. It wasn't bad. A little more chewy than Quinoa, has a orzo pasta shape and a barley flavor.

The glaze was awesome!  2 tsp coconut sugar, 1 tsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses, 1 TBS Pure Maple syrup, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp garlic, 1/8 tsp cracked black pepper, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 & 1/2 TBS spicy brown mustard, 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 tsp oil, and 1/4 cup beer. Whisk all ingredients together. I had 4 pork loin chops which I pounded to 1/2 in thick. The grill was set at 325°F. I brushed each side of the chops then placed flame side down. Flipping about every 4-5 minutes and reglazing on each flip. I grilled them for about 20-25 minutes.

The chops were caramelized and had a very slight crust from the glaze. The coconut sugar has more nutrients than a regular sugar (sucrose) and is lower glycemic due to a compound called inulin. Which means is absorbs into the blood sugar much more slowly. Molasses is the byproduct of refining sugar beets. Blackstrap molasses is the third and final boiling and said to be the healthiest of molasses- retaining the most vitamins an minerals. It also has the most pronounced flavor, is less sweet and can have bitter flavor profile-which make it great for savory dishes. The molasses and coconut sugar gave my glaze a somewhat smokey flavor.

I am not the only one in our house facing health issues. The hubbs has been back issues which began about 2 years ago. He has degenerative disk disease, which isn't a good combination with his very physical job of always lifting, hefting, and hauling things. So now I am even more of a nagging, um, supportive wife by constantly reminding him to be careful and not hurt his back.

We are a fine pair, eh? 

I have been decrapifying the house. It is amazing how quickly stuff accumulates.We have recycled, trashed and donated quite a bit. It is always such a good feeling clearing clutter from the house. It feels like I physically removed an oppressive force.  I reorganized the living room and the spare bedroom.

Sorry for the poor quality, I used my tablet instead of my camera.
There is a rumor, after the first of the year, that my employer will allow us to work fro home part time. If true-I will be all over that! Roll out of bed 15 minutes before logging in-check. Working in my jammies-check. Enjoying the solitude and silence while working--double check! So I set up a new office nook in the spare room. It isn't much but accommodate my needs. I was too tired (lazy) to DIY a desk. I found my RTA (ready to assemble) desk at Target on 50% clearance.  

It isn't necessarily the style I prefer but it serves a purpose. It fit's my budget and the space. I am using  an extra dining chair (from Ikea). So far it seems comfortable, eventually I may need to upgrade to an office chair and possibly bigger desk, but this works for now.

Sorry for the poor quality, I used my tablet instead of my camera. And you can see my fan reflected in the mirror, oops!
Just left of the desk is a small window cubby I am going to tuck the printer stand/ cart into instead  keeping it on the nightstand by the bed (which can be see in the bedroom picture).  Who knows, if the opportunity to work from home arises I will need to reconfigure the entire space. Maybe install a murphy bed.  This room is my everything room--spare room, craft room, sewing room and now office.

So there are changes going on here- some good, some not so great.  But in the end everything will work out the way I need it to, even if it isn't the way I want.

How about y'all? Anything new or exciting? Recipes, projects, or news? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy First Day of Fall

...and you know what that means...

I admit it--I LOVE pumpkin spice!

Except this

Here's a list (although not complete)
  • Twinings Chai Pumpkin Spice Tea
  •  Nestlé Coffee-Mate Pumpkin Spice
  • Green Mountain Coffee Pumpkin Spice K-Cups
  • McCafe Pumpkin Spice Latte Coffee
  • Nonni’s Pumpkin Spice Biscotti
  • Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies
  • Pillsbury Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Flavored Chips
  • Keebler Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies
  • Pumpkin Spice Oreos
  • Hostess Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
  • Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milanos
  • Eggo Seasons Pumpkin Spice Waffles
  • Belvita Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Biscuits
  • Puffins Pumpkin Cereal
  • Quaker Pumpkin Spice Instant Oatmeal
  • Kellog's Pumpkin Spice Miniwheats
  • Krusteaz Light & Fluffy Pumpkin Spice Pancake Mix
  • Pumpkin Pie Pop-Tarts
  • Pillsbury Pumpkin Pie Toaster Strudel
  • Pillsbury Grands! Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls
  • Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice Bagels
  • Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice English Muffins
  • Arnold Pumpkin Spice and Roasted Seeds
  • Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese
  • Country Crock Pumpkin Spice Butter
  • GoGo Squeeze Pumpkin Spice Applesauce
  • Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Swirl Bread
  • Jet-Puffed Pumpkin Spice Mallows
  • Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses
  • M&Ms Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • Extra Pumpkin Spice Gum
  • Cedar’s Pumpkin Spice Hummus
  • Larabar Pumpkin Pie
  • Jif Whips Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bars
  • Food Should Taste Good Harvest Pumpkin Tortilla Chips
  • Cosmos Pumpkin Spice Puffed Corn
  • Garrett's Pumpkin Spice and Caramel Popcorn
  • Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds
  • Terra Pumpkin Spice Sweets
  • Duncan Hines Decadent Pumpkin Spice Cupcake Mix
  • Betty Crocker Pumpkin Bar Mix
  • J.R. Watkins Pumpkin Spice Extract
  • Nestlé Toll House Pumpkin Spice Baking Morsels
  • So Delicious Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk
  • Maine Root Pumpkin Pie Soda
  • Kahlúa Rum Pumpkin Spice Coffee Liqueur
  • Alaskan Pumpkin Ale
  • Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale
  • Pinnacle Pumpkin Pie Vodka
  • Magic Hat Wilhelm “Scream” Pumpkin Ale
  • Leinenkugel’s Harvest Patch Shandy
  • Samuel Adams Fat Jack Double Pumpkin
  • Chobani Pumpkin Harvest Flip
  • Yoplait Light Pumpkin Pie Yogurt
  • Noosa Pumpkin Yoghurt
  • Siggi’s 2% Pumpkin & Spice Yogurt
  • Ciao Bella Pumpkin Sea Salt Caramel Gelato
  • Baskin Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
  • Talenti Pumpkin Pie Gelato
  • Ben & Jerry Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
  • 365 Organic Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Haha, you're welcome!

Feel free to comment and add to the list of  ALL THINGS pumpkin spice!