Friday, October 29, 2010

What's For Dinner? Creamy Mashed Potates

I much prefer homemade mashed potatoes to boxed and they really don't take much effort.  This recipe is a bit more complex than what I would do pre-kitchen aid mixer but with the help of my little red friend, they were done in no time.

The trick is to slice your potatoes in a uniform size but keep them rather small.  They will boil faster.  Also, the nutrients from a potato are in the skin so I keep them on.  Keep the nutrients and save the time with the peeler.
Another little time saver, red potatoes do not hold as much dirt as brown ones so they are faster to wash.

Start with about 6 medium sized red potatoes.  I think that a good rule of thumb is one medium potato equals one serving.  But that's just my guideline, if you like huge piles of potatoes, by all means, make more!
Slice the potatoes into uniform sized chunks, throw in a pot, and cover with water.  Place them on the stove and boil until tender.  They will take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes depending on how big your slices are, what temperature water you add to the pot, and how many potatoes you use.

Just stab the potatoes with a fork every so often.  If the fork slide though easily, they are done.

Throw them in a mixer bowl and use either the kitchen aid or a hand mixer with the flat paddle.

Mix for about 1 minute low-medium.  The potatoes will be pretty smooth.

Add 1/2 cup milk.  This can be heated or not.  Mashed potatoes lose their heat quickly so heating the milk will help keep them warm.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and mix until well blended.

Now, you can keep mixing until they are really smooth or stop when they are still a bit lumpy.  What ever gets you going.

Serve with anything.  Anything at all.

Now, if you want to have Garlic Mashed Potatoes, you can add a few crushed garlic cloves to the potatoes when they are boiling.  Taste them before you add the salt.  If you want more garlic, just trade the salt for garlic salt.

For cheesy potatoes, simply toss in your favorite cheese. It's best to do this when the potatoes are still pretty hot so the cheese melts.  Keep tasting and adding cheese until they are up to your YUM standards.

You could also throw in some sour cream and chives!

Give them a try!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Daisy's Second Chemo Day

Yesterday was Daisy's second chemo day.

Since her first chemo day, 21 days ago, she has been her normal self. 

She continues to enjoy laying in the yard or on the couch.  She is back to sleeping in the bed full time.  She is eating anything put in front of her.

Ten days after treatment she has to have her blood level checked.  Everything came back good except her platelets were slightly low.  I talked to the oncologist and she was not concerned at all.

Yesterday, at 5 am, she made her way back to the University for her second treatment.  She still loves car rides, even if they are a bit more difficult for her.  It's hard for her to keep her balance on the seat.

I picked her up at 5 pm.  As always, they commented on how sweet she is and how much they just love her.

They also commented on how well she gets around.  Everyone, even the people at the University, are all still amazed at how she has adapted to her tripawd status.

Lastly, they told me that she threw up again.  As soon as they administered the Chemo drugs, she threw up. 

No one is concerned about her throwing up adversely effecting her treatment and she is not throwing up at home at all.  For her next treatment, we are going to give her some anti-nausea medication the night before to see if that helps.

But the good news is, she will be the first documented dog to receive this medication and throw up.  That's something to be proud of!

We continue to be very happy with the staff at the University as well as Daisy's laid back, just go with it, attitude.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's For Dinner? Lemon-Herb Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy

I love cooking a whole chicken.  It really is not that difficult and a whole chicken is the cheapest way to buy chicken.

I found this recipe on Campbell's Kitchen a few weeks back and we really liked it.  I want to point out that we don't like everything, I just don't post the recipe when it totally flops, which happens every once in awhile.  And I am slightly risk adverse when I pick recipes.  There have been many times when I pick something that is outside my comfort zone, purchase all the ingredients, and then spend weeks talking myself into actually making it.  Every time this has happened dinner turns out to be fantastic.

This is not one of those recipes but it is pretty good.

Here we go.

This is what you need:
1 lemon
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tsp dried rosemary leaves (I used dry)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves (I used dry)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 roasting chicken (5 to 7 pounds)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water

Roast the chicken in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the gravy.

Zest the lemon to get about 1 and 1/4 teaspoon of zest.  I found that this is basically half of the lemon.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice out, this will be about 1 tablespoon.  Put both the zest and lemon juice in a medium bowl. I used my Large batter bowl because its my favorite.

Add soup, rosemary, thyme and garlic and stir.

Remove the chicken from the oven and baste with the soup mixture.  Make sure to save at least 1 cup of the soup mixture for the gravy.  Roasting the chicken before applying the soup mix will give the skin a nice crisp which really makes the chicken very yummy.

Return the chicken to the oven, uncovered, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan and put in a warm plate.

Place the roasting pan on the stove top over medium/high heat.  Spoon out the excess fat so the gravy isn't to greasy. Add the wine and water to the pan.  Scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil. 

Slice the chicken and serve with the gravy.  Try it.  You will not be sorry.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No Stray Socks Here

I have had this dream for many years.  Maybe it has been my entire adult life.  And for a few hours last night, that dream had come true.  I was so proud, so happy to have finally reached my dream.

For a few hours last night every towel, every piece of clothing that was not attached to someones person, was clean, folded, and put away!

I honestly do not remember that last time I was able to say that.  Or even, if I ever have been able to say that!  There is always that one stray sock, that one washcloth in the tub, that one towel in the kitchen, that has always held me back.

But last night, for a matter of a couple of hours, every thing was not only clean but put away.  This means that for an entire week, every time I am asked "where are my (pants, hoodie, socks, tights...)" I can confidently say "everything was put way as of Monday night.  Did you check the (drawer, closet, cubbie)?"

How did I do this, you ask?  Well, it was not easy.  My final load of laundry was a total cheater load consisting of the following:

1 green t-shirt

1 Twins shirt
1 pair of striped knee high socks
1 pair of hockey socks
1 hockey undershirt
1 Dishcloth
2 Washcloths
3 flour sack towels
1 pair of Hockey tights
1 pair of running pants
1 bath towel
1 pink Rock Star shirt
2 hoddies, 1 pink, 1 blue
1 long sleeved green shirt
A few random socks
1 black undershirt
1 small black skirt

I had to distract my self completely while this load was being tossed in the washer but somehow I found the strength.  I hope my achievement of this dream has inspired some of you out there to reach for the stars!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Rock Star Climbs A Wall

A few weeks back when we went to the Target Book Fair, our girl climbed her first rock wall.  She was about 2 pounds lighter than the counter weight so it was hard for her to get the hang of it.  She did decide that she liked climbing and wanted to try again.

On Sunday, we went out to breakfast with my parents at a place near an REI.  After we finished eating we headed over to REI for a quick climb.

I was pleased to learn that one climb cost $10 but a membership for the family for life cost $20.  With the membership, everyone in the family climbs for free any time they want. 

Everyone who climbs borrows climbing shoes.  Aren't they cute?  They have some kind of metal weights or something in them.  I am not even going to pretend I know about climbing!
Her guide was a man and she didn't seem to mind to much as he strapped her into her harness.  She looks so excited.
They give a little demo before the first climb and continue to give tips to make all climbers better.  Our guide was very good with kids.
Look at her go!  She is about half way up the wall.  It appears there are different difficultly levels on each side of the rock.  We stayed on the front.
Don't look down!!  She made it half way when the guide called up something about keeping her eye on her feet.  She didn't hear him so she looked down to say "What?!" 

Not a good idea! She saw how high up she was and totally psyched her self out.

She repelled down like a pro to end her climb.

We are all looking forward to the next time we go out for a climb.  Maybe the entire family will get on the wall.  Well, maybe everyone but me...

Friday, October 22, 2010

What's for Dinner? Semi-Homemade Pizza

When I was a teenager and still lived at my dad's house, my dad would make homemade pizza, invite our friends over, and we would have a pizza party.  This is one of my favorite memories from those years.

When I was 19 and renting my first house, a lot of those same friends either lived with me or hung around enough we may have been able to charge them rent.

One night, I decided to try to replicate my dad's pizza.  I knew exactly what to buy since I had shopped with him many times.  I have always been good at following a recipe or directions on a package so this should be cake.

It wasn't.  I still don't know what happened but my first pizza's tasted like tomato soup and crackers.  There was way to much sauce and not enough crust.

Ever since, I have been timid when it comes to homemade pizza and have leaned on either the delivery guy from one of my five favorite changes or kept my freezer well stocked with frozen varieties.

I have since made homemade pizza and with the exception of that first try, has been very good.  But, for some reason, it still fails to make it into the normal dinner rotation.

I hope my friends, who were lucky enough to try that first pie, are warmed by that little trip down memory lane.  Now, we will make some pie!

I am going to call this Semi-Homemade Pizza because I did not make the dough from scratch.  I instead used  Betty Crocker Pizza Dough in a pouch.

Here's what you need to make two Pizza's:
2 pouches Betty Crocker Pizza Crust (or any other, this just happens to be my favorite because I love Betty!)
1 jar Pizza Sauce (I like Ragu, pretend there is only one jar in this picture or you might end up with tomato soup and crackers...)
Toppings (anything you like)
Mozzarella Cheese or Pizza blend cheese

Prepare the crust per the directions on the package.  You will most likely add warm water to the mix and then let it sit for 5 minutes, super easy.

I like deep dish so let's do that first.  Press the dough in a greased pie plate and then pour on the sauce.  I think this was about three tablespoons and ended up a bit dry.

My favorite deep dish pizza is Sausage, Mushrooms, and Spinach at Davanni's.  I browned up a pound of sausage then sauteed some baby bells mushrooms and topped the pie.  I was out of spinach but you could throw that on now too.
Next, add the cheese.  Or do you like to have your toppings on top of the cheese?  Either way works!

Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.
I also made one thin crust pizza.  I find that one pack of dough does not cover the cookie sheet.  The pack says it will but I have never been able to do that so I just stretch it out the best I can and when holes start to appear, I stop stretching.
Cover the dough in sauce but make sure to leave an edge near the crust.  One time, I went all the way to the edge and there was no way to pick it up.  That made for a strange pizza that needed to be eaten with a fork.
Add the toppings.  This one is half sausage and half cheese because Heidi only eats cheese pizza.  You really could use anything - left over pulled pork, left over chicken, onions, peppers, olives...  Pizza can be a good way to use up the little bit of leftovers hanging around the fridge.

The thin crust will bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.  I put them both in at the same time at 325 degrees and just kept an eye on the thin crust.  I think it came out at about 15 minutes.

Doesn't that look good?  So yummy!  And not at all greasy.  The crust is dryer than what you would get from a pizza shop but if you are like me and have five favorites, that's because you like many different types of crust and this might just become number six!

YUM!  I prepared these two pizza's, including browning the sausage and letting the crust rise, in under twenty minutes.  They took 15 to 25 minutes too cook.  It was a simple and fairly quick dinner and with our little family, there was even some left for breakfast.

What is your favorite kind of pizza and what is your favorite Pizza Place?  Or are you like me, and have five? (Scoreboard, Pizza Hut, Davanni's, Rocky Rococo's, and Little Caesars)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cat On A Not So Hot Roof

Our cat Pete never ceases to amaze us.  So when we found him on the neighbor's garage roof the night of our fire, we were not at all surprised.

We watched him for a few minutes, running back and forth along the length of the roof.  He finally jumped onto a fence post that connects the fence to the garage and then down to the ground.

He spent the rest of the evening running around the yard, jumping in the trampoline, and just all around being nuts.

This cat provides many hours of entertainment.  Too bad we no longer have any birds in our neighborhood...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Fall Fire

Every so often Heidi asks if we can have a fire.  Most of the time, she asks when it's 95 degrees with 75% humidity in July and the answer is no. 

On Sunday, she asked again.  It was in the 50's and a fairly clear night so the answer was yes.

We rounded up some of the kids and had a fire.

Heidi might Dig Hibbing Minnesota, but she does not dig smores.  So, she ate peanut butter from the jar.

Why did we have peanut butter out with the smores, you ask?  Well, if you have not tried a peanut butter smore then you just do not know what you are missing.
Briana showed patience while roasting her marshmallows.
Mitch, on the other hand, looked like he was going to fall asleep. 

Heidi helped everyone with their smore makings and even donated mini-peanut butter cups to the cause. 

Funny story.  Heidi and I went to a Welcome Baby party over the weekend for some friends of our who just had a baby boy.  They had two bowls on the table.  One was mini-peanut butter cups.  The other was M&M's.  The objective was to guess how many were in each, write it on a slip of paper, and who ever was the closest won the bowl.

Heidi guessed 37 peanut butter cups.  There were exactly 37 in the bowl.  She told me she counted them through the plastic bowl.

For the M&M's Heidi guess 300 but told me I should guess 325.  There were 330 in the bowl so we won that too!  She was so proud!

Makayla was the last to arrive but she had a good reason.  Notice the new pink highlights!  Very cute!!

Mitch had fun experimenting with his smore.  Here he shows off a burnt graham cracker, topped with charred marshmallows, and a melted peanut butter cup on the top.  He should submit this to Top Chef Just Desserts!

It was a chilly night but the fire was warm.  We all enjoyed one last nice evening in the fresh air before are trapped inside for the winter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What's For Dinner - French Bread

I am still totally in love with my kitchen aid mixer.  I am working my way through the book that came with it until I get used to the different speeds.  All the the recipes in the little booklet tell me what setting to use, no guess work for me!

A few weeks ago, I made a lasagna to take to some friends house for dinner so I figured I might as well make some bread to go along with it.

This is the French Bread recipe from The Kitchen Aid Instructions and Recipes booklet.  (I have to give proper credit!!)

So bust out the Kitchen Aid and cook along!  I will also give you the more calorie burning, non-Kitchen Aid directions, just in case you are still coveting your neighbors Kitchen Aid and have not yet acquired one of your own.

What you need:
2 packages of active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons from a jar)
2 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F) - I can get water this hot from my sink so I like to just fill the sink with hot soapy water, when it's almost full the water is really hot, I fill my measuring cup from the tap and toss my candy thermometer into the measuring cup and skip the microwave all together!
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal - for dusting the pan
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water

Heidi's hand is not really in the bowl near the hook, as it appears in this picture so you don't have to go call child protective services on me.  She is actually brushing stray flour off her hand a few inches above the bowl.
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a warmed mixer bowl.  I just rinse my bowl in the same hot water I just ran from the tap and it's warm enough.

Add salt, butter (melted), and flour.

If you are using the kitchen aid, the just go ahead and dump in all the flour before turning on the machine.  Attach the Dough Hook to the mixer.  Turn to speed 2 and mix about 1 minute or until well blended.  Then Knead on Speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.  Dough will be sticky.

If you are doing this by hand, then work in the flour one cup at a time until it is all incorporated.  I like to use my hands for this part, it just works better than a fork.  Once all the flour is incorporated, knead for another two minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top.  I spray my largest mixing bowl with Pam Olive Oil Non-Stick spray then roll the dough ball around in the bowl.

Cover and let sit in a warm area, meaning don't put it by the window or an exterior wall in the winter time, and cover with a towel.

This is going to rise for about 1 hour.  The dough will be more than double in bulk.

Punch dough down and divide in half.

Roll each half into about 12 by 15 inch rectangles.  I laid my knife on the first loaf so you can see how big it is.  I always wash my counter before starting and make sure to rinse very well.  We don't want any cat hair or soap in our bread!

Roll dough tightly.  Maybe even tighter than I did. 

Place dough on a greased baking sheet that has been dusted with cornmeal.  Cover and place in that same warm place.  They will need to rise again for about an hour.  Set your oven timer then go do something productive, like catch up on your TiVo'ed shows from the past week.

With a sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf.  If your cuts are not spaced well, then make five cuts.  Or three.  Whatever.

Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Beat the egg white and cold water in a bowl.  Remove the bread from the oven and brush on the egg mixture.  This looked really gross to me.  It reminded me of when Heidi was a baby...  sorry, never mind.

Return to the oven for 5 minutes.

As soon as the timer dings and you have the loafs out of the oven, put them on a wire rack.  I used my tea-towel as a huge pot holder because these baby's are hot!

Each loaf will yield about 15 slices, totally depending on how thick you slice.

Serve with something yummy like Lasagna or chili! Enjoy!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mother of the Year Application

Here is the story I will submit with my Mother of the Year application.

Setting: our house, this morning. We have two bathrooms which share a common wall. Heidi is in the main bathroom and I am in my bathroom. Keep in mind this entire conversation takes place through the wall. And, sometimes Heidi is just fun to mess with.

Heidi: Mom! Come here!

Me: What do you need?

Heidi: My pants don’t fit. I don’t want to wear them.

Me: I don’t think your pants will fit me.

Heidi: What? Come here. My pants don’t fit.

Me: I know, your pants will not fit me.

Heidi: Mom! I need you to get me new pants.

Me: Yeah, I got new pants last night. I think I am going to wear them today.

Heidi: What? I don’t know what you are saying! I just need you to get me new pants.

Me: (laughing uncontrollably) Heidi, I told you I am wearing my new pants. You would not fit them anyway.

Heidi: I just don’t know what you are talking about! I need you to get me new pants. From my room. Please.

Me: (doubled over in laughter) What? I can’t hear you very well.

Heidi: I am so frustrated right now! I just don’t know what you are talking about.

Me: (crying) You are excited? About what? My new pants?


Wait. Now that I think about it. That was kind of mean. Maybe that’s not the story I should submit for mother of the year. Never mind.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What's for Dinner? Pumpkin Muffins

It's fall and the trees are turning color.  We went to an apple orchard for a party a few weeks back, we are going to another soon, and I am really loving the weather.

I guess it's only natural that I was in the mood for something pumpkin!

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Muffins on a stray paper in my bookshelf.  I wish I knew where it came from so I could properly credit the author!

What you need:
1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 can Solid Packed Pumpkin (I like Libby's)
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
2 Large Eggs
1 tsp Pumpkin Spice
1 1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup Sugar

Mix flour and baking powder in a bowl. 

In another bowl mix the canned pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin spice, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until smooth.

Add flour mix to the pumpkin mix.  Stir until mixed and smooth.  Use your Kitchen Aid or your hand mixer or a fork, whatever you prefer.

Scoop into a muffin pan.  This recipe makes 12 large sized muffins.

 Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Sprinkle the sugar mix over the muffins.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Test the middle muffin with a toothpick at 25 minutes.  If it comes out clean, you are done.  If not, pop them back in for a few minutes then check again.

I didn't use muffin liners, I just sprayed the muffin pan with Pam.  Remove the muffins from the pan and place on a cooling rack.

They are so moist and just simply yummy.  Try not to eat three in one sittings.  That's a challenge!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What Do You Do All Day?

Do you ever wonder what happens in your house when you are not home?  Having two cats and two dogs, I think about this all the time.

I wonder if they move around the house, play with any toys, look out the window.

But something tells me they generally just sleep.  Maybe get up and find a new spot but then just go back to sleep.

Very occasionally, I will work from home.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I am home but I am in our home office most of the day, only coming out to get some more coffee or for lunch.

I think this throws our animals for a bit of a loop.  Since I was home and it was a beautiful day, I had the back door open. 

Pete saw me leave to take Heidi to school but he didn't see me come back.  He discovered the back door open and came in the house.  Then he discovered me in the office.  He must have heard me before he saw me.  He crept into the office and as soon as he noticed me he ran and jumped on my keyboard.  He then spent the next few minutes forcing me to pet him.  I would put him on the floor and he would come back.

When he was finally done harassing me, he had some breakfast, and climbed into the bay window for a nap.

Every time I leave the office, I return to Eddie sleeping soundly in my chair.  Once, I left to grab my phone, I was only gone for about 30 seconds.  He still took my chair.

Daisy spent the day laying in the yard.  I checked on her every so often to find her in a different place but never wanting to come in.  I think if I left her outside when I went to work she would be just fine.

Pig mostly slept in a mess of blankets on the couch.  I bet this is what he does every day but it was probably much better because he didn't have to share with Daisy.

I think he may have forgotten I was home.  When I came out to grab some lunch, I found this.

Pig, you are so BUSTED!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's for Dinner - Yummy, Drippy, Roast Beef Sandwiches

Sometimes the best ideas come from a company pushing their product. This is smart marketing, in my opinion. Campbell's wants to sell more soup. To do so, they include ideas of what to do with their soup in the coupon fliers with a coupon for that soup.

I love when this happens! Not only do I have a new meal idea but I to purchase the ingredients at a discount.

Last week, I came across a recipe for hot roast beef sandwiches. The picture looked very appetizing and the recipe was quick so it ended up as Wednesday nights dinner.

Dripping Roast Beef Sandwiches with Melted Provolone

Here's what you need:
1 can (10 1/2 oz) Condensed French Onion Soup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
3/4 lbs thinly sliced deli roast beef
4 hoggie style rolls
4 slices provolone cheese, cut in half
1/4 cup drained hot or mild pickled banana pepper rings (optional)

Pour the soup and the Worcestershire sauce in a pot and heat until boiling.  I realize you are using condensed soup but please resist the urge to add water.

Add in the roast beef.  The roast beef I had was all rolled up together so I pulled it apart and placed it in one slice at a time.  After about three slices I stirred it into the soup.  This way, every piece was coated with the soup and it was all warmed through nicely.

Once all of the beef is added, fill the hoggie buns with the meat and place on a baking tray.  These are a bit drippy so use something with sides.  (Ignore my pan, I like to think of it as loved.)  I used Whole Wheat Hot Dog Rolls, Archer Farms brand.  We had these in Hamburger style with shredded pork a few weekends ago and fell in love.  I think Archer Farms is sold only at Target Stores.

Spoon the rest of the soup from the bottom of the pot over the sandwiches.

Place the cheese slices over the sandwiches.  We wished ours was cheesier so next time I will use double the cheese.  We also thought maybe a stronger flavored cheese would be good.  Like Swiss.

Place the sandwiches in the oven at 400 degrees for 3minutes.  I was making fries at the same time so my oven was heated to 450.  I just kept an eye on them so they didn't burn.  Next time, I will broil them because I like that flavor better.

And here's what you end up with!  You could add some kind of pepper.  The recipe called for banana pepper rings but I don't like those.  You could also cook up some green peppers and toss those on just before the cheese. 

I served these with Orieda Fries and Green Giant Steamed Corn for a super fast and YUMMY dinner.

Give it a try, I hope you enjoy as much as we did.

Here is a link to the nutritional info, if you are into that!