Friday, September 30, 2011

Banana Bread Cobbler

I had some bananas that were getting extra ripe so I was looking for a new way to use them up. I typically make muffins or banana bread, but I wanted something different. I found a recipe from Southern Living for Banana Bread Cobbler and decided to try it. Of course, I tweaked it a bit. Boy, was it super yummy! Charles had some for breakfast this morning. Though it's good cold, it is out of this world fantastic when it's warm!

Here's what you need:

For the topping
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup self-rising flour - see my note below if you don't have self-rising flour
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup oats (quick or regular, doesn't matter)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teas cinnamon

Mix these ingredients together and set aside. The topping will resemble granola.

For the filling
1 cup self-rising flour - see note
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup melted butter
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Whisk the flour, sugar and milk together just until blended. Stir in the melted butter. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan. Drop the mashed bananas by spoonfuls over the batter. Top with the oat mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly.

The original recipe suggested serving this cobbler with ice cream, but we all felt it was wonderful without it.

Note: If you don't have self-rising flour, don't run out to the store to get it! Just use what you have already. For every cup of flour the recipe calls for, add 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. So for this recipe, you need a total of 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup for the filling and 1/2 for the topping. So you'll add a total of 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt to the flour. Make sense?

Click here for a printable version of the recipe.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sausage Tortellini Soup

I made this soup years ago and Charles really liked it. I don't know why I stopped making it, but I finally dusted off the recipe and gave it another try. This soup is amazing! The kids loved it and asked for more. I tweaked it a little bit from the original recipe to suit our current tastes. Hope you like it!

Here's what you need:

1 lb Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 small onion, diced
2 teas minced garlic
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 jar (24 oz) spaghetti sauce of your choice
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teas Italian seasoning
1 teas dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups frozen cheese tortellini

In a large stockpot, brown the sausages in a little olive oil, breaking them up as they cook. Add the onion and minced garlic. Cook until the onions are soft. Add the green pepper and grated carrot. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the peppers have softened.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients except the tortellini. Simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend nicely. The soup will smell so good at this point!

Turn up the heat a little so the soup comes to a gentle boil. Add the frozen tortellini and cook for another 5 minutes or until the tortellini are thawed and heated through. Sprinkle some extra Parmesan cheese over the top of each serving.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Menu Plan September 25-October 1

It's the last week of September! Can you believe it? I love the cooler weather and the changing leaves. I've started putting soup back on the menu at least once a week. This week will be twice. Just because I want to!

Here's the plan:

Out to eat with the in-laws

Chicken pesto pasta, broccoli

Cheeseburger rice, green beans, whole wheat rolls

Pizza pasta, cauliflower, garlic bread

Calico Bean Soup with smoked sausage, flatbread

Angus beef hot dogs, fried potatoes

Tomato tortellini soup, Deep South paninis

For more menu plan ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Mondays. Also, if you're new to meal planning, check out my tips here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Pie

If you like pumpkin pie but want something a little different, this creamy pie is for you! It's got all the taste of pumpkin pie with a smooth pudding-like texture you'll love. It's particularly good with homemade whipped cream slathered on top! And it doesn't require any baking time, so it's super easy.

Here's what you need:

1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups cold milk
2 boxes instant vanilla pudding (3.5 oz size)
1 teas pumpkin pie spice
1 cup whipped cream (Cool Whip or homemade)
Graham cracker crust

Combine all the ingredients (except the crust) in a mixing bowl and mix on low for one minute. Increase the speed to medium and continue mixing for two more minutes until thick. Spread the filling into the graham cracker crust. Cover and refrigerate until set. Mine was ready after about an hour or two, but I left it in the fridge overnight. Fantastic!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pumpkin Fudge

If you love pumpkin pie, you're going to love this fudge. The princess says it's pumpkin pie candy. And she's right. It's smooth and spicy (as in pumpkin pie spicy, not hot spicy). I could probably eat the entire pan myself, but then I'd be sick.

Here's what you need to make it:

Self-control...oh, wait. That's just me.
1 1/2 c
ups sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 TBSP butter
1 1/2 teas pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teas salt
1 pkg white chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 teas vanilla

Line a 8x8 pan with foil, leaving some foil hanging over the sides. Grease the foil well with non-stick spray or olive oil.

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, pumpkin, milk, butter, salt and spice.

Stirring constantly over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Continue stirring and boiling for 12 minutes. This will get tedious, but the results are worth it!

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the white chips, marshmallows, and vanilla. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth. This might take a few minutes, but keep stirring. When everything has melted together, pour into the foil-lined pan.

Cover and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Remove from fridge and invert onto a cutting board. Peel off the foil, then cut into small pieces.

I used a pizza cutter for this, and it worked beautifully! Hey, why is there a piece missing? Hmmmm....

Store in the fridge. For a printable recipe, click here.

For more yummy recipes, head over to Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Menu Plan September 18-24

I finally got to make Crockpot Lasagna today, much to Mr. Lego's delight. That kid loves lasagna! It's fairly simple, just use whatever lasagna recipe you would use in the oven. Don't cook the noodles, just layer them like you normally would, making sure there's lots of sauce. And after 4 hours, you've got yummy lasagna!

The rest of the week will be busy. We're keeping our friends' two children while they take off on a romantic anniversary trip to Maine later in the week, plus we're expecting a visit from Charles' parents. There's the possibility their visit might not happen due to illness, but we're hoping and praying everything works out.

Now, on to the menu:

Crockpot Lasagna

Sausage veggie calzones, tater tots

Moroccan Lentil Soup, homemade flatbread

Pancakes, sausage, potatoes

Stromboli (my father-in-law's fave)

Chinese chicken, baked egg rolls, rice

Crockpot Lemon Chicken, green beans, mac and cheese

For more menu planning ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

I also posted some meal planning tips recently, so check them out here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Til disease does us part?

I'm sure by now you've heard of Pat Robertson's assertion that divorcing a spouse with Alzheimer's is justifiable because the disease is a kind of death. He said it in response to a caller who needed advice for a friend who starting dating another woman when his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Robertson advised the caller's friend to get a divorce but make sure the wife was cared for. I guess he thought that was a better solution than just moving on with someone else while your spouse still lives?

Umm, no Pat. It's better to keep your marriage vows. Remember the "sickness and health" part? Or "as long as we both shall live?"

Of course, the easier thing would be to divorce and move on. We all know that your life as you know it is over once a terminal diagnosis like this is made. But easy isn't always right! And in this case, it's dead wrong!

Would it be alright for someone to divorce his spouse if she was diagnosed with terminal cancer? Lou Gehrig's disease? MS?

I can't say how disturbing and just downright awful this attitude is, especially coming from someone who claims to be a man of God. I hope Mr. Robertson reevaluates his opinion on this and seeks answers from God, Who never changes.

Black Bean Chili

It's soup season around here, and I'm trying some new soup recipes for my family. We love chili, but I've always used ground beef or turkey as the base for the soup. This was our first time trying a meatless chili, but the results were fabulous and we all loved it. Plus, it was frugal! Who doesn't love easy, cheap chili?

Here's what I used:

1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
2 carrots, grated
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained (You can use any kind of diced tomatoes, I'm just a little obsessed with fire-roasted right now)
2 cups chicken or beef broth
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 teas cumin
1 teas chili powder
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas black pepper

In a sauce pan, saute the onion and red pepper until soft. Add the carrots and cook for another minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes, broth, and black beans. If you want to make this chili completely vegetarian, substitute veggie broth for the chicken or beef.

At this point, I used an immersion blender to thicken the chili up. If you don't have an immersion blender, pour about half the soup into a blender and pulse a couple of times. Be careful with hot liquid in the blender. If you don't hold the lid on, the pressure from the steam might blow the lid off. It can be quite messy. Want to know how I know this? It's called learning from experience. Wink!

Now add the remaining ingredients. Taste a little and adjust your seasonings according to your family's tastes. This is one reason I love soup - it's so easy to tweak!

Simmer for 20-30 minutes to give the flavors a chance to blend.

I like to add sour cream and cheese to my bowl, while Charles just likes cheese. The kids eat their chili plain. The next day, I added some rice and cheese to the leftovers, wrapped them in tortillas like burritos, and got another meal out of the chili! Talk about stretching my food budget. This meatless chili is a winner!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chicken Pesto Pizza

I love different kinds of pizza. My family does not. They're plain ol' pepperoni pizza lovers. Occasionally I can throw on some sausage or bacon and they'll eat it, but traditional pizza is their style.

That's why I love to have company over and create a pizza buffet! I can offer several variations and don't have leftovers that only I will eat! The last time we had a buffet was in August when some friends from Iowa visited. We had pepperoni, sausage, BBQ chicken and this newest creation - Chicken Pesto Pizza! It's fantastic!

Here's what you need:

Dough for one pizza crust (here's my crust recipe)
1/2 small red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 small orange or yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 small green pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pesto
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 small Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese

After you've sliced the peppers and onions, heat a little olive oil in a small skillet. Saute the veggies for 5 minutes, or until slightly soft. Roll out the dough and spread the pesto sauce over the crust. Arrange the shredded chicken evenly over crust. Place the tomato slices over the chicken, then top with peppers and onions. Sprinkle the cheeses over the top. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

The resulting pizza is delicious! You can reduce the amount of veggies or tomatoes, but don't skimp on the pesto. It gives the pizza so much flavor! You can make your own pesto, of course, but I use the Classico brand. You can find pesto sauce near the spaghetti sauce at your grocery store.

Warning Labels

I recently got a new hairdryer after my old, well-used one bit the dust. As I was reading the manual that came with it, I found this warning : Do not use while sleeping. Really? That actually had to be put in writing? I'm sure there has to be a funny story behind that one!

I know that manufacturers are simply responding to lawsuits and trying to limit their liability, but have we really lost all common sense? Do we really have to be told that hot coffee is hot and that rotary tools shouldn't be used as dental drills? Seriously?

Here are some more head-scratchers:

For external use only (on a curling iron) - I can't even imagine

Do not drive with sun shield in place (on a car sun shield) - you mean not everyone has X-ray vision?

Do not use orally (on a toilet brush) - what else are giants supposed to use to brush their giant teeth?

Shin pads cannot protect any part of the body they do not cover (on a pair of bicyclists' shin guards) - you mean someone really expects them to?

For use by trained personnel only (on a can of air freshener) - I totally missed that class in college

Please store in the cold section of your refrigerator (on a bag of grapes) - are there any other sections in YOUR refrigerator?

Warning: knives are sharp! (on a sharpening stone) - If there was ever a time to use the word, "Duh!" this is it.

Warning: this product has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice (on rat poison) - Didn't the words rat poison give this one away?

Please remove infant before folding for storage (on a baby stroller) - has anyone ever tried to fold up a stroller without a baby in it? It's not that easy. With a baby, impossible.

Do not drive a car or operate machinery (on children's cough medicine) - hmmmm, who got sued for this one?

May be harmful if swallowed (on a box of hammers) - how else are we supposed to get our recommended daily amount of iron?

Not dishwasher safe (on a TV remote control) - okay, fess up! Who washed their remote this way?

Have you ever seen any funny warning labels? Share them in the comments!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Menu Plan September 11-17

It's fall! My favorite season of the year! This week I'm trying some new pumpkin recipes and will be sharing them with you. In the meantime, here's this week's menu plan:

Shredded chicken sandwiches, corn, mashed potatoes

Chicken Crescent Roll Casserole, green beans

Crockpot Lasagna, garlic bread

Tori no kara-age (Japanese fried chicken nuggets), rice

Sausage veggie calzones, roasted potatoes

Make your own pizza night

Sausage tortellini soup, homemade bread

To take a peek at other menu plans, visit Organizing Junkies' Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Honoring Those Lost on September 11

Last year I posted about what I was doing when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred and my feelings afterward. It's hard to believe another year has passed already.

I know that since this year is the 10th anniversary of that awful day, many memorials will be held and the TV will be filled with images and remembrances - all of which are already seared into my brain. I've decided not to dwell on those images, but instead to remember how we as a country came together to pray for each other, to help each other. We stood united.

Ten years later, we're torn apart by political and ideological differences. Crime and wickedness are rampant. Families are disintegrating because of selfishness and sin. We need to stand united in prayer once again for this great country of ours. To me, there is no better way to honor the memories of those lost on September 11, 2001.

Will you join me in praying for America?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brain Cushion Experiment

This year we're studying Apologia's Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology. I absolutely love this curriculum. Jeannie Fulbright writes in a conversational style that breaks down hard to understand concepts into fun lessons.

Our current area of study is the skeletal system. We're learning that the skeletal system consists of more than just bones. Cartilage, joints and fluids all work together to keep our body moving. The cranium is one of the hardest bones in our bodies, but God designed a layer of fluid between it and the brain to cushion the brain from impact as we jostle around and bump our heads.

To illustrate the concept, we did a brain cushion experiment. It was simple and fun. And best of all, the kids totally got the idea. They loved explaining it to their dad, too!

Here's what we did:

First, we put an egg into an empty plastic container and put on the lid. Mr. Lego ran around the table a couple of times, bouncing the container as he jogged.

This is what the egg looked like when he was done. It's also what our brains would look like without a cushion between them and our craniums. Yuck!!!

So we rinsed out the container and filled it up with water. We put another egg into the container and closed the lid.

Then the Princess took her turn jogging around the table. Look at her go!

The egg survived unbroken!

I don't know about you, but I'm glad God gave my brain a little cushion to protect it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meal Planning Tips

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you'll know that meal planning is a way of life for me. I'm not necessarily an organized person in other areas of my life, but when it comes to cooking for my family, I must have a plan.

I started meal planning when I was first married, almost 13 years ago. I was working full-time and didn't get home until 5:30pm. Planning out my menus in advance took so much stress out of the evenings. Back then, my meals were very, very simple. We had spaghetti at least once a week if not more often. It was just me and Charles, and he wasn't picky at all, as long as he got his belly full!

When the kids came along, I branched out and started cooking more from scratch. I was determined that my children wouldn't confine themselves to the typical American kid diet of fries and chicken nuggets. (I know, that was a sweeping generalization.) So I introduced them to a variety of veggies and all kinds of fruits. That has paid off. They will eat just about anything now.

Some people are intimidated by planning menus. Really, it takes a few minutes and pays off greatly throughout the week. It doesn't require fancy worksheets or gourmet dishes. Here are a few tips I've learned over the years.

1. Keep it simple. I use a simple spiral-bound notebook to plan my menus. Nothing fancy. I write down the days of the week, then list a main dish and maybe one side dish or bread that will go with it. The next week, I draw a line down the middle of the paper and do the same. Two weeks on one page. This comes in handy to keep track of how recently I've made a particular meal. I just glance back at the last few pages to see how often I've had it on the menu.

2. Plan your meals around what is on sale. Just doing this simple thing can save you big bucks. Browse your local stores' ads and take advantage of discounts. When chicken goes on sale, I usually plan two or more chicken dishes for that week. I'll even buy extra to freeze so next week when it's not on sale, I can still have chicken. Stock up on other deals, too. Buy pasta, rice, noodles, beans, whatever. You can use those for side dishes. By having a well-stocked pantry, you give yourself more options for quick, easy meals.

3. Cook what you know your family will eat. No one knows your family's tastes better than you do. So why subscribe to a menu planning service that has no clue what your family enjoys? Sit down and make a list of 10 meals you know how to cook and that your family likes. Add a couple of side dishes. There - you've done it! You've made a meal plan!

4. But don't be afraid to try new recipes. I try to incorporate one new recipe each week. It might be a side dish or a dessert. But it helps break up the routine a little and expands my family's culinary horizons. When looking for something new to prepare, browse sites like and These recipe sites have ratings systems that allows you to read what other cooks have said about the dish or changes they made to the recipe.

5. Be flexible! Sometimes our week doesn't go according to plan. And that means that sometimes my menu plan gets out of whack. It's okay! I just postpone making that meal until another day. But I take comfort in knowing I have the ingredients on hand to make it when I can.

6. Make a store list based on your meal plan. There's nothing worse than starting a dish and realizing you're missing a key ingredient. Ack! So, once you've settled on the dishes you want to make for the week, write down what ingredients you need from the store. This helps to reduce impulse purchases and ensures you have everything you need when it comes time to make the dish.

7. Get your family involved. My kids love to make suggestions for meals. Every couple of weeks I'll ask them if there's something they'd like me to fix. They will even volunteer to help in the kitchen! When they are part of the planning process, they feel an ownership of the meal and usually eat it with great enthusiasm.

8. Schedule a leftover night. After you've prepared a full week's worth of meals, there are bound to be leftovers. We usually eat them the next day for lunch, but sometimes we still have a little of this and a little of that. So I set everything out like a buffet. There's something for everyone!

Meal planning definitely works for me. If you're not a meal planner already, now is a good time to start. For more helpful hints and tips, visit Works for Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Menu Plan September 4-10

We got some lovely company this weekend. My brother and his six children visited from South Carolina. My sister-in-law stayed behind because this was her weekend to work. While we certainly missed seeing her, I'm sure she got some good sleep during the day (she's a night-shift nurse) without the kids.

Each year we plan an outing to a state park with some friends for Labor Day. This year we're getting rained out, thanks to Tropical Storm Lee. So Plan B (everyone coming to our house) is already in motion. Everyone will just bring what they would have brought for our picnic and we'll have a good time indoors.

Now here's this week's menu:

Pork roast, mashed potatoes

Grilled burgers and hot dogs, picnic foods

Toscano soup, pretzel bread

Homemade pizza

Philly cheesesteak sloppy joes, waffle fries

Fiesta chicken and rice, tex-mex corn

Sausage tortellini soup, cheesy garlic breadsticks

For more inspiring menu plan ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Praying Friends, Please Pray

I received word this morning that one of my dearest friends from high school and college lost her 15-year-old son last night. He suffered an unexpected heart attack and was gone. It all happened so fast and the family is still in shock.

Tonya and I went our separate ways after college, but reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago. It was like we'd never been apart. She is an awesome mother and Lucas was her middle child. He was her cheerful, funny guy.

Please, uphold this family in prayer as they walk through a valley no parent should ever have to walk. Pray for Lucas' siblings, too. They have always been a close-knit family. I can't even imagine the heartache they're experiencing.

Thank you, friends.