Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our LA Trip

Since I am in sunny Florida for work this week, I will have little to no time to update the blog.  However, I am going to reflect back on our family trip to California in January since I have not done that yet. 

Back in January, Shawn was sent to Los Angeles to attend a training session for work. He asked Heidi and me to come with for a long weekend.
I travel by myself a lot and that's fine. I travel with Shawn and Heidi about once a year, and that's fine too. But when I thought about Heidi and me exploring LA alone I got very anxious.

I did not want to pass up an opportunity to take Heidi to Disney but something about it being just the two of us made me lose sleep.

I twisted Shannon's arm and she came along for the ride.

This was Heidi's third airplane trip and every time she gets on a plane the first thing she does is review the safety card.  She isn't called The Safety Queen for nothing!  A few nights ago, we were watching TV when someone said "Safety first!"  Heidi got a huge smile on her face and exclaimed "See, I am not the only one who says that!"

We arrived at LAX, picked up our rental car, and headed for the Sheraton Airport Hotel to begin our two and a half day vacation in Los Angeles.  But first we need some sleep, tomorrow is Disneyland!

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Favorite Holiday!!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's not about gifts and it has not been taken over by retail, it really is about family and good food.  And I am all about family and good food!

Kristen and Taylor were the first to arrive.  They like to hang out in the kitchen and visit with me while I cook.  I love it!  They are also willing to taste the food for a second opinion any time I ask.
Johannah loves Heidi's play room.  Amazingly, with only two kids this year, the play room was clean after everyone left!
Spi-Heidi made a quick appearance early in the evening.
The food was pretty good.  I tried a few new things this year.  The Soul Sweet Potatoes from the PW website are a keeper but the Green Bean Casserole from the Progresso website was a total miss and will not be making a repeat appearance.  I should have know better than to mess with a dish that normally yields no leftovers.

Pig loves any kind of family gathering.  He takes position and waits for food to fall.  We never have to worry about food getting stuck in the basement carpet with this guy around!
Briana really was enjoying herself, this is just her normal look :)
Or maybe she was just cold and needed to warm up by the fire.
I was very happy that Daisy came down to join the dinner.  She is not feeling well right now and didn't even great the guests but when she heard that dinner was served she braved the basement steps.
Dad must have eaten to much turkey and passed out after dinner.  (This is a family website, please ignore Justin on the right side of this picture.  Jerk).
Terri's brother Dave joined us again.  He always provides for the comic relief and this year, he had recently been in a car accident which, while a bit scary, made him even funnier.  And Libby likes him too!
After everyone was full and the other kids left, Heidi and Terri put together a puzzle.

Shawn's mom was there too but she never made it in any pictures. 

We cover our tables in butcher or construction paper and provide crayons for entertainment.  There are always some good pictures in the end but they just end up on the trash.  This year, Heidi cut out her favorites and decorated the hall for our party next weekend.
The main theme was the Hand Turkey.
Everyone does it a little differently.
But they were all so cute!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family and were able to enjoy a fantastic meal.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Worst Roller Coaster of My Life

It's been just over three months since Daisy started to limp.  What a roller coaster we have been on.

Do you know how much I hate roller coasters?

Three months ago, Daisy was showing signs of being an old lady but otherwise healthy.

Then she started to limp followed by the diagnosis of Osteosarcoma and the removal of her left arm.

We have all adjusted very well and are halfway though her Chemo treatments. 

We had been ticking up the roller coaster hill and then all of a sudden we dropped down the biggest hill since the beginning, into a dark tunnel.

I picked up Daisy from her third treatment on Wednesday evening.  She was extra agitated in the van but I didn't think to much of it since the van is not a comfortable place for her.  Traffic was bad and I had to run an errand so our ride home took almost a hour.  She was pacing the entire time.

When we got home, she dove out of the car and ran into the back yard.

Then like normal, she crashed on the couch until dinner.  At this point, we were not concerned.

But around 8 pm I noticed she was trembling so I cuddled up on the couch with her to see how she was doing.  Over the next hour, she didn't get any better when all of a sudden she jumped up and ran into the kitchen.  She was drooling so I took her outside and kept an eye on her.  She didn't throw up but she wasn't doing well.

She came into the house where we noticed her mouth was swollen so we called the ER at the University. They told us to give her Benadryl or bring her in. 

I gave her the Benadryl and lay on the floor with her for the next 30 minutes.  She was still trembling so I called my brother to have him come stay with Heidi while we went to the Emergency Room.

I went to change out of my pajamas and pack up some stuff for our late night trip to the ER when I noticed that Daisy seemed to be just fine.  Five minutes after asking my brother to come over, I called him back to tell him to stay home.

We decided to keep an eye on her until the morning but if she started trembling again we would take her in.

The next morning I talked to her Oncologist who told me she was having a reaction to the Chemo.  They still want to go forward with her treatment in a few weeks. At that time she will have another set of chest x-rays, since we are at the midway point, and if they are clear she will get her Chemo.  If the x-rays are not clear, then the treatment stops.

Ever since the reaction, she has not trembled again but her mouth is still a little saggy on the left side which cause water to drip out when she drinks and she is lethargic. 

I think we have made it to the bottom of this hill and are about to start up the next one.  That is unless I decide to jump off before the next treatment, take my dog, and go home.  Which really seems to be a possibility at this point.  Do I really want to put her through that again?  Do I give her one more treatment and see if she reacts or do I stop now?  It is a decision I don't want to make but one I will have to make very soon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I am thankful for:
  • My family
  • My friends
  • My health and the health of my family and friends
  • My dogs and cats
  • My house
  • My job
And many, many more trivial things.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  If you are here in the cities, please be safe.  If you are traveling, please be extra safe.

And enjoy a second slice of pie.  It is Thanksgiving after all!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Preparations

Heidi asked me what is my favorite holiday.  She has three:  Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.

I have one.  Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since we purchased our first house and started hosting both sides of the family for dinner.  It started out as a way to be able to spend the holiday with both sides and avoid the every other year or two dinner fiasco lots of families have to deal with. 

I have very fond memories of holidays with my extended families as a child.  But I also remember the drama that came with where to be when and coordination of schedules for people who might have to work on the holiday.

We moved in to our Minneapolis house during the month of September, 2000 and hosted our first dinner that November.  I, being the control freak that I am, was sold on being able to set all the details myself.  And in the end, I am pretty sure everyone was happy.

Our first few Thanksgivings included my family, Shawn's family, and a few friends who didn't have a place to go.  Every year, our guest list changes.  We have different friends, or no friends.  We have all of Shawn's family, or part of it.  But everyone knows, if they don't make it for dinner because they are seeing their other side of the family, there are no hard feelings and they will be welcome back next year.

That, after all, is the spirit of the holiday.

This year will be our smallest group by far but I think we will be enjoying the best food by far.

Our Thanksgiving has evolved from a pot luck to a meal made mostly from boxes to a few "from scratch" items to this years all home made dinner.  I am so very excited!

I have been planning this menu for weeks.  Searching for the best recipes, balancing vegetable dishes with starch dishes.

I finalized the menu over the weekend and completed all my shopping on Monday. 

This is what we are having:
Turkey - Fresh!!
Mashed Potatoes
Soul Sweet Potatoes
Brown Sugar Carrots
Green Bean Casserole
Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce
Honey Wheat Bread

I baked my bread for the stuffing and to serve on Tuesday.

Today I will be doing as much prep work as possible to make Thursday easy. 

I need to prep the turkey and get it in the fridge.  Making room in the fridge is going to be the hardest part of this task.  I am using my first ever Fresh turkey and I am super excited about this!  I am going to rub it with garlic, dry mustard, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon.  Then I am going to put the neck and gizzards until the turkey rack with 2 cups of water, one onion cut in half, and two lemons, also cut in half.  In the end of the turkey, I will also put sage, rosemary, and thyme in the end of the turkey.  This will make for flavorful drippings for the gravy!

I am also going to make the cranberry sauce today giving it a full day to set up so it's not soupy.

I am beyond excited to make this meal for my loved ones.  I hope you all have a nice Thanksgiving with your loved ones!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What's For Dinner? Potato Soup

One thing Heidi will always eat is soup and a few weeks ago, we discovered that she really like Potato Soup.  I went online to find a recipe and ended up combining the parts I liked from about four different sites.  I ended up with some of the best potato soup I have ever had! 

I made it about two weeks ago and then again over the weekend.  This time, I doubled the recipe, put it in storage containers, and froze it for easy lunches. 

A quick note about the pictures below - first, these were taken when I doubled the recipe but I am giving directions for a single batch.  A single batch will make about 6 to 8 one cup servings, the double batch made 16 one cup servings, which I froze in two cup servings because we are hearty eaters!  Second, this is my first post with the new camera.  I am still figuring it out but I am already amazing at the improvement in the pictures!

That's enough rambling, let's get started!

Here's what you need:
6 Slices Bacon, Diced
1/2 Medium Onion, Diced
2 Garlic Cloves, Diced (or more if you are really into garlic)
2 Cups Chopped or Shredded Carrots or 2 Whole Carrots, Chopped
6 Whole White Potatoes, Peeled and Chopped into 1 inch cubes
1/2 Cup Instant Mashed Potatoes
1 Cup Milk or Half and Half or a combination of both
32 Ounces Chicken Broth

For all of the items above, if you are doubling the recipe just use twice as much, with the exception of the Chicken Broth.  I would use 32 Ounces of Chicken Broth and 32 Ounces of Water but any combination totaling 64 Ounces will work, it's totally up to you!

Diced or slice the bacon.

Dice the onion.

And dice the garlic.  Please ignore that scrap of peel in the pile, I did pull it out before tossing in the pot.  And while you are at it, ignore that beat up chopping board. 

Let me tell you, this chopping board may look worse for wear but it is that best thing I have even owned.  I purchased it from Pampered Chef a number of years ago, with most of my kitchen gear.  But the reason I love this particular chopping board are the rubber edges that keep it from sliding around my counter.  It's the best and I highly recommend it. 

Toss the bacon in a stock pot and saute.

After the bacon has produced a bit of grease, toss in the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked through.

Remove the bacon, onions, and garlic from the pot and put on a plate.

I could just eat this plate of bacon, onion, and garlic and be done with it.  Try not to do that...

Add chicken broth to the now empty pot and bring to a boil.  Did you notice the broth is missing from the picture above?  Yep, it is.  I don't know where it ran off to at picture time.  Some day, I will get it right but no promises!

Wash, peel, and slice the potatoes into about 1 inch chunks.  If you are not a pro with the knife, just do your best to get the chunks to be about the same size so they cook evenly.  The smaller they are, the faster they cook.

Throw the bacon, onions, and garlic back in the pot and bring to a boil. 

Add the potatoes.  If you are just not able to wait until the broth boils and you dump in your potatoes early, I will not tell anyone.

 Add the carrots.  I cheated and used shredded carrots from a bag.  Use whatever you want but again, uniform slices are the key.

Mix it up really good and bring to a boil.

If you have a helper hanging around, have her put the potato scraps in the compost bowl.

When the pot is bubbling pour in the mashed potato flakes.  This will help the soup be thick in the end.  I know it sounds weird but trust me.

Just trust me.

Reduce to Medium heat and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring from the bottom every 5 minutes or so.

When the potatoes start to get soft, mash with a potato masher.  You could use an immersion blender or a food processor as well but the potato masher will give a nice, lumpy consistency.

It will get thicker and thicker.  After about 30 minutes it will be really thick.  That's when you add the milk. (Not pictured because it's just to much for me to remember that I am supposed to be taking pictures every step of the way!)

And maybe some pepper.  Taste it.  Do you like your potato soup peppery?  I do!

At this point, you could serve it in soup bowls, topped with more bacon, cheese, sour cream, more pepper, whatever floats your boat.  Or, you can let it cool and scoop servings into gladware containers and freeze for later use.

What ever you  do, give this a try.  It is YUMMY!  I promise!!  If you make alterations, and please do, post a comment and let me know what you did!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Afraid To Cook!

Have you ever been afraid to cook?  I am not talking about being jun shy in the kitchen, I am talking about using a method or a tool that really made you really scared?  Adrenaline pumping, sweat poring, heart beating, scared?

I have.  Twice.

The first time was about eight years ago.  I was not overly confident in the kitchen but for some reason I decided to attempt to make homemade onion rings.  What possessed me to get a pan of oil frying when I had no clue what I was doing is beyond me. 

The pan went up in flames and I freaked out.  I mean really freaked out.  I did everything they tell you not to do.  I smothered the pan with the lid and then removed the lid to "check on it" only to have the flames get all excited by the new oxygen and triple in size. 

I am lucky my brother was there to take control of the situation.  I lost a very expensive pan but my kitchen came out just fine and the fire department did not have to be called.

The second time was just the other night.  My new camera had arrived that afternoon and I had spent way to much time playing with it and not deciding what to make for dinner.  Before I knew it, it was almost 6 pm and I hadn't even thought about making dinner.

I started to dig through the freezer and found two almost empty bags of Chicken Nuggets.  Well, that will work, I thought as I dumped them on a cookie sheet. 

Now, what to have with the nuggets?  How about some fries?  I was plum out of Orieda but there are plenty of potatoes in the pantry.  But do I have time to slice them and cook them before Shawn and Heidi are back from dance?


Wait!  Great idea!  Dig out the Mandolin.  My cooking teacher told me I just HAD to have a mandolin so I picked on up last winter.  I took it out of the box, noticed how incredibly sharp the blades are, and that was about the end of my relationship with the mandolin.

Until now.  I dug that thing out, I washed it up, I installed the blades that were labeled fries, and started to slice that potatoes.

After the first slice of the potato, I noticed my heart was racing. 

A few more slices and I am clenching my jaw.

One potato down and I am starting to shake.

And then this happened.

Man, was I glad it just took off my nail and not the tip of my finger!

To this day, I have never attempted to make onion rings.  As of right now, I have no desire to use that stupid mandolin again.  I want to keep my fingers.  Thank you very much.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Couple Of Goofballs

I'm in the kitchen preparing dinner when I hear: Mom, mom!!  Take a picture of this!!

I turn around and this is happening.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's for Dinner? Caesar Pork Steaks (Chops)

I realize this a bit nontraditional but trust me when I say it's good. It's a fun change to your typical pork chop or pork steak. 

Here's what you need:
Pork Chops or Pork Steaks
Caesar Dressing (I like Kraft)
Parmesan Cheese (not pictured)

Put about 1/4 cup flour in a wide, flat dish.  Dredge your pork chops or pork steaks in the flour, both sides.

Move the pork steak to another dish and cover with a thin layer of Caesar dressing.

I use a brush to evenly spread the dressing over the pork steak, cover both sides and the edges.

Place the pork steaks in a baking dish and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.  If you are me, this is the point where you frantically look around the house for the Parmesan cheese you just picked up at Super Target.  You can't find it anywhere.  Then you remember the bag of Christmas presents you already hid in the back of the closet and realize it's in there.  Thankfully you have only been home from Target for 15 minutes so the cheese is fine.  The next morning when you are in a rush to get your kid to school and cannot find your wallet, you realize it's in that same bag in the closet and you have to shake a 5 year old from your side to sneak back into that closet, into that tightly tied bag, before she notices what you are up too. 

Oh, sorry.  Where were we?  Oh, yes. Pork Steaks.

Ok, so you have them covered in the cheese, now bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until cooked through.

Now, try to tell me that does not look so very yummy!  Try it next time you make pork chops or pork steaks.  Please promise me.  Then come back here and tell me what how much you loved them!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Our Family Rolls

We went as a family to vote.  Heidi announced to all of the people around me who I picked for Governor.  Thanks, Heidi.

I opted to park on the street instead of in the parking lot.  This meant that on the way in we had to hike up the hill.

On the way out, there were other options.

No worries about her rolling so fast she ends up in the street. She rolled slowly and sideways. It took three tries for her to make it almost to the bottom.

But she had a good time doing it and that's how we roll!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's for Dinner? The Perfect Baked Potato

I have always been a bit intimidated by baked potatoes.  I really have no idea why, I guess it's just one of my weird little things.

I decided to give baked potatoes a try and found it to be a very easy process.  I reviewed a few tips online, put them together, and what I came up with was the perfect baked potato.

Here's what you need:
Baking Potatoes - one per person
Olive Oil
Sea Salt or any other coarse salt

Wash the potatoes and stab with a fork taking care to put holes all over the potato.  This allows for air to move through the potato aiding in cooking all the way through.

Pour some olive oil in a dish.  Roll potato in the olive oil until evenly coated.

Put the Sea Salt in a dish.  Roll the potato in the dish until covered in salt.

Place on a baking sheet.  Do not wrap the potatoes in tin foil.  Foil will make the potato skin soggy. 

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 90 minutes.  To check for doneness, stab one of the potatoes with a fork.  If it slides right though, it's done.  If not, bake for another 10 minutes and check again.

When you remove the potatoes from the oven, let them sit for a couple of minutes.  The skin will be crispy and salty.  The inside will be fluffy.  Slice the potato down the middle and squeeze the sides to open.

Top with whatever you would like.  I like butter, cheese, and bacon.  Shawn likes the same plus sour cream. 

These were, hands down, the best baked potatoes I have ever made.