Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thoughts on Being Sick

I don't like being sick. I just don't. I have so many more useful things I could be doing. Like cooking for my family. It's one of my favorite ways to show my love for them.

This week I've been laid low by a virus. I feel like crud. Every time I think I'm getting better, I try to do a little more than I should and then I'm right back in bed resting. Will I ever learn?

The answer is probably no. I'm stubborn and want my own way too much.

Isn't that how we all are, honestly?

I'm trying, though. Trying to be still. I can hear my Father's voice whispering to me through the frustration I feel.

So I'm striving to take this week day by day. Not worrying about what needs to be done tomorrow - or what didn't get done today. It will get done eventually.

In the meantime, I'm going to rest some more. I'll see you next week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Husband is the Best!

Sometimes you just have to brag on your man, you know?

Last weekend (well, actually most of us left on Thursday), 6 girlfriends and I headed to the beach for a nice, relaxing weekend in a luxury condo. I prepared some food ahead of time for the family, but my husband did most of the meal planning and cooking while I was gone.

On Friday, my camera got wet and stopped working. I was hesitant to tell him about it, but he reassured me it was no big deal. He's already researching cameras to find me a new one. I'm not talking a huge, expensive camera because I'm not comfortable with techy things. Just a simple digital one like the one I drowned. Well, actually I was just strolling along the beach when a large wave sneaked up on me. But still, it was my fault. He's just been so sweet to make sure I don't feel badly about it. Although I am sad I didn't get to take a lot of pics on the trip. I had to use my cell phone which isn't the same.

On Saturday my throat started feeling sore. I just chalked it up to change in environment or maybe allergies. By the time I got home on Sunday evening, I felt awful! I thought a good night's rest would just the thing to make me feel better. You know, no staying up until 1:30 am talking, like I'd done the previous three nights! Could that be the reason my throat ached?

No, the doctor said it was a virus and I needed to rest my voice for at least 5 days while drinking plenty of fluids. And I probably should mention the only reason I know what the doctor said is that my dear Charles insisted I go see him. He doesn't like it when I don't feel well, so he suggested I just take the time and make sure it wasn't something serious like strep or the flu. I had a million things to do - laundry, school, grocery shopping. But he told me nothing was more important to him than my well-being. The rest could wait. And it did! LOL But I do know I wouldn't have gone to the doctor had he not encouraged me to.

And now that we know it's not life-threatening or debilitating, he's still just as caring and solicitous. I realize it's nothing grand or heroic, but it's the little things like this that make Charles my hero. I love him!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Menu Plan October 29-November 4

I usually post my menu plans on Sunday night, but last night I was too tired after returning home from a girls' weekend at the beach. I had some amazing seafood while I was there.
And we found a sweet little cupcake shop that served flavors like Peanut Butter Cookie Dough and Apple Pie with Brie icing. Decadent!
The ocean view from our condo was simply stunning.
As relaxing and enjoyable as our trip was, there's no place like home and I'm happy to be back with my family.

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Honey lime chicken bites, twice baked potatoes

Potato soup (crockpot), homemade bread

Harvest cookout at church

Smoked sausage and pepper skillet, mashed potatoes

Steak, garlic roasted potatoes

Pepperoni rolls

Cheeseburger soup

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

I've seen variations of this idea floating around Pinterest for awhile now. I love anything pumpkin, so the notion of drinking what amounted to a pumpkin pie was very appealing to me. I wasn't so sure the kiddos would go for it, but they really liked it, too.If you like your smoothies really creamy, it's essential that you freeze the pumpkin before mixing everything up. So it does require a little forethought and planning, but the results are spectacular!

A few hours before you plan to make the smoothies, open a can of pumpkin and scrape it into a freezer container. Freeze until mostly solid. You don't really want one big chunk of frozen pumpkin, so make sure you can break it up before putting it in the blender.

Now here's what you need for the smoothie:

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin, frozen as directed above
1 cup plain yogurt
2-3 cups milk (I started out using 2 but added a little more to thin the smoothies out)
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 TBSP maple syrup
2 teas vanilla extract
2 teas pumpkin pie spice

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

If you've ever made a pumpkin pie, you know that 1/3 cup of sugar isn't much sweetener, even if you add in some maple syrup. If this isn't sweet enough to your family's tastes, just add a little more brown sugar or syrup.

This recipe made enough for 4 servings as shown above. We'll definitely be enjoying these again soon!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Yesterday I shared a recipe for soft pumpkin cookies. All by themselves, these tender cookies are amazing. But when paired with a fluffy, buttery filling, they are simply phenomenal!

And the filling recipe couldn't be easier.

Here's what you need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teas vanilla
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow fluff or creme

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add the vanilla. Then gently fold in the marshmallow creme until completely incorporated.

Find two soft pumpkin cookies of the same size and shape. Spread a tablespoon of filling on one cookie, then top with the other. Repeat for the rest of the cookies.

Store in an airtight container for a few days, if they last that long.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

One of the reasons I love this time of year is pumpkins! I adore them. And I love to use pumpkin in baking recipes. I have made my own pumpkin puree in the past, but the easiest thing to do is just buy canned pumpkin (not the same thing as canned pumpkin pie mix which already has sugar and spices added).

These soft, moist cookies are a treat! My family loves them. I also use them to make pumpkin whoopie pies. I'll share that variation tomorrow, so stop by then and be prepared to drool!

Here's what you need for the cookies:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teas vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (I used half unbleached white and half white wheat)
1 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
2 1/2 teas pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teas ground ginger

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the pumpkin, evaporated milk and vanilla, mixing until well combined.

In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Slowly add to the pumpkin mixture with the mixer on low. Once the flour mixture has been added (and there's no danger of throwing flour everywhere), increase the mixer speed and beat until smooth.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, drop the batter onto the cookie sheets, about an inch apart. The batter will spread, so leave enough room that they don't get baked together. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are set and the tops spring back when touched. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies. Store them in an airtight container when they've cooled completely.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Menu Plan October 22-28

I've been looking forward to this week for a few months now. I'm headed to the beach on Thursday with some girlfriends for a girls' beach weekend in lovely Destin, Florida! If anyone's ever been, leave me a comment and give me some restaurant recommendations!

I'm blessed to have a husband who encourages me to take time to relax and rejuvenate away from home. I've planned a couple of meals for him and the kids while I'm gone. At his request, I've kept them simple. I've also made some pepperoni rolls and frozen them. All hubby has to do is thaw and reheat.

Here's what we're looking at this week:

Beef and wild rice stew, homemade bread (bread machine)

Athenian tilapia (based on a dish I had last week for our anniversary dinner), Greek lemon potatoes
Homemade chicken patty sandwiches, waffle fries

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Chicken nuggets, green beans

Pizza (after a visit to the pumpkin farm)

Out to eat

Like I do every week, I'm linking up to Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie. I love browsing through other people's menu ideas and grabbing some for myself! Hop on over there and join in!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Love!

Today Charles and I celebrate 14 years of marriage. We were so young and naive back then.
We've had the same ups and downs that every married couple has. But through it all, we've had each other. I can't imagine my life without him. He's a wonderful father to our children and a fantastic partner to me on this journey through life.

I love you, babe.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tilapia Po'boys

My family loves tilapia, so I'm always trying to come up with new ways to prepare it. I thought, why not in a sandwich? This po'boy-style sandwich with Creole slaw fits the bill perfectly.

The first thing you need to do is make the slaw. It needs a few hours to sit so the flavors can blend. You'll need:

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 TBSP cider vinegar
1 TBSP milk
2 teas Creole seasoning (I use homemade, see the recipe below)
1/4 teas celery seed
2 cups cole slaw mix

Blend the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Stir in the cole slaw mix and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

For the tilapia fillets, you'll need:

4 tilapia fillets
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 TBSP Creole seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
coconut oil for frying

In a shallow dish, combine the flour, cornmeal and Creole seasoning. Place the beaten eggs in another shallow dish. Dredge the tilapia in the flour mixture, then dip into the eggs, then back into the flour mixture. Allow to rest on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes.

Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet. Fry the tilapia fillets for 3-4 minutes on each side until done. You can tell if they're done if the fish flakes easily with a fork.
Drain on paper towels.
Assemble the sandwiches on crusty French rolls. I placed the fish fillets, then tomatoes and pickles, then a generous helping of Creole slaw.

To make homemade Creole seasoning just blend together:

2 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP onion powder
1 TBSP black pepper
1 TBSP dried thyme
1 TBSP dried oregano
1 TBSP sea salt
cayenne pepper to taste, up to 1 TBSP

Monday, October 15, 2012

Honey Lime Chicken Bites

This recipe was originally written as a way to grill chicken breasts. I switched it up by cutting the chicken into small bites and preparing it on the stove. Don't get me wrong, the marinade is great for grilling! But sometimes getting the grill going is more work than I want to do. I can get these on the table in less than twenty minutes, not including marinating time.

The marinade is citrusy and sweet, with a hint of heat from cayenne pepper. Just enough heat to balance the honey.

Here's what you need:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
The juice and zest from one lime (juice should be about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup honey
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1/2 teas sea salt
1/2 teas onion powder
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/8 teas cayenne pepper (I just use a couple shakes)

Place the chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag or glass bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the chicken. Squish around to make sure all the pieces are coated. Let marinate for an hour or longer.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet until shimmery. Carefully add the chicken pieces in a single layer. Do this in batches if your skillet isn't large enough.

Cook on one side until nicely browned. Flip the chicken pieces over and allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

The honey caramelizes in the pan and gives the chicken a great browned appearance. I always finish it off with a squeeze of lime juice over all. It's so tasty!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Menu Plan October 15-21

This week we're celebrating our wedding anniversary, so we've got a date night planned. And we're going over to some friends for supper on Tuesday. Not to mention, we've got a church potluck planned for Sunday. So menu planning this week was pretty easy and I've stuck to some family favorites.

Here's what we've got coming up on the menu:

Chicken shawarma, Parmesan couscous

Friends' house for dinner - I'm bringing some snacks like Sweet & Spicy Chex Mix and Chewy Caramel Popcorn
Skillet lasagna, garlic bread

Beefy Spanish rice, refried beans

Date Night (we're going here)

Homemade pizza

Church potluck - I'm thinking about making Crockpot Potato Soup

For more meal planning ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quinoa Chili

I've been trying to incorporate quinoa into our diets more since it's a great source of protein. I had some leftover quinoa from another recipe, so I decided to make some chili. The quinoa was a fantastic replacement for ground beef. It even had a similar texture.

To make this recipe completely vegetarian, sub out the beef broth for vegetable broth.

Here's what you need:

1 small onion, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 can chili beans or kidney beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups beef broth
1 teas chili powder
1 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas cumin
1/2 teas sea salt
1/4 teas black pepper
2 cups cooked quinoa

In a saucepan, cook the onion and zucchini in a little olive oil until tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the quinoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the quinoa and heat through. If the chili thickens too much to your liking, add a little more beef broth.

You can also play around with the spices if you like a little more heat to your chili. Sprinkle in some cayenne or a little more chili powder. Diced tomatoes with green chiles would be a great addition, too.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Individual Deep Dish French Bread Pizzas

My family loves pizza, but occasionally I like to change things up and serve it in a different way. I was inspired by this recipe I found on Pinetar Press to make individual French bread pizzas. I changed up the recipe to suit our tastes, as I usually do with most recipes. The results were fantastic and left my family wanting more.

Here's what you need:

4 French bread rolls
1/2 lb bulk sausage
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
20 slices pepperoni, quartered
1/2-3/4 cup pizza sauce
1 cup (or more, depending on how cheesy you want this)shredded mozzarella cheese

Cut all around the edges of the French rolls without going all the way through. Scoop out the bread, leaving a 1/4 inch shell all the way around. Use the scooped out bread for another use, like making bread crumbs or croutons. Set the hollowed out rolls aside.
Brown the sausage in a skillet and drain. Add the mushrooms, pepperoni and pizza sauce. Cook until the mushrooms are softened. If you don't like mushrooms, substitute with another pizza topping like green peppers or onion.

Divide the sausage mixture among the rolls.
Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes until the rolls are a little crisp and the cheese is melted.
The easiest way to eat these is to cut them in half.
If you want to freeze these pizzas for later, it's very simple. Wrap each unbaked pizza in foil or plastic wrap. Place inside a Ziploc bag and freeze. To reheat, allow to thaw on the counter for 30 minutes or so. Pop into a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted and the pizza is heated through. It took my oven about 15 minutes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Menu Plan October 8-14

We had a lovely weekend. First, we went to a local arts and crafts festival - lots of greasy food, wonderful homemade and vintage goodies and folk music. Then I made some pumpkin fudge. It's one of my favorite fall recipes.
 Today was spent in the company of dear friends. Even though it was cool and rainy outside, we enjoyed some hearty soup and bread. Is there anything better than good food shared with good friends?

Now on to this week's menu:

Honey lime chicken bites, garlic roasted potatoes

Cheeseburger rice, green beans

Homemade tomato soup, grilled bacon and cheese sandwiches

Tilapia po-boys, homemade mac n cheese

Pesto pasta, garlic breadsticks

Garden Harvest Chicken Stew, pretzel rolls

Crockpot lasagna

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars

How about another pumpkin recipe this week? These pumpkin bars are really more cake-like than most bar recipes. The chocolate chips lend a little sweetness and complements the pumpkin flavor very well.

Here's what you need:

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree (I used canned pumpkin)
1 teas vanilla
1 1/2 cup white wheat flour
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas pumpkin pie spice
3/4 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar. Stir in the egg, pumpkin, and vanilla.

In another bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt together. Stir into the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Spread into a greased 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and cut into squares.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

I've been trying out some new quinoa recipes lately. This one was sent to me by a reader, Deb from Not Inadequate. It combines my love of pumpkin with the the protein power house of quinoa. What's not to like about this recipe?

The kids really liked the muffins, but the person who liked them most was my husband. He declared that these not-too-sweet muffins were the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of coffee. He drank several cups and ate several muffins just to prove it to me!

Here's what you need:

1 1/4 cups white wheat flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teas pumpkin pie spice
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1/2 teas sea salt
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
4 TBSP butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
2 teas vanilla extract
additional brown sugar and cinnamon for the topping, if desired

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Add the cooked quinoa, mixing with a fork to separate the grains.

In another bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, pumpkin, milk and vanilla until smooth.
Gradually stir the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients just until combined. Don't overmix.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups with batter. If desired, sprinkle the batter with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. I keep a spice jar with the cinnamon sugar mixture on hand. This will give it a nice, sweet crunch on top.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the muffin pan and cool on a wire rack.

I really love that these muffins are healthy. There's not too much sugar and they're full of protein. It's a perfect way to start the day!
See the little light-colored "dots" in the muffin? That's the quinoa!

Deb, thanks so much for sharing your recipe with me! It's already a family favorite!