Thursday, April 28, 2011

What's For Dinner? Cream of Mushroom Pasta with Broccoli

This is an extremely simple recipe that is similar to Alfredo and takes less than 30 minutes to make. 

I threw it together one night many months ago and then found something that sounds like it on the Campbell's website a few weeks later so I will credit them as well.  Their version is located here.

Here's what you need to make about 4 servings:
8 ounces thin spaghetti or angle hair pasta (linguine or regular spaghetti would both work well, use what you like and have on hand)
10 3/4 ounces Cream of Mushroom Soup (this is the standard sized can)
1 cup Milk
1 package frozen broccoli - chopped or florets
Pepper to taste

Prepare the pasta per the directions on the package.  Add the frozen broccoli about 3 minutes before the pasta is done.

While the pasta is cooking, in a medium bowl mix the soup and milk.

Drain pasta and broccoli and put back in the pot.  Pour the soup mix over the pasta and toss.

The hot pasta should heat the soup but you could turn the burner on low while you toss it just to give it a little more heat.

You could add chicken or leave it without and use it for your vegetarian meal for the week.  Extra mushrooms that had been sauteed in a little olive oil would also be really good!

I served these with the Cheddar Bacon Onion biscuits from the PW website but I omitted the onions.  The meal was very yummy and even with the biscuits I had dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's For Dinner? Egg Salad

We had about a dozen hard boiled eggs sitting in the fridge so I decided to whip up a batch of egg salad.  I love egg salad but I don't think to make it very option.

Before I share how I make egg salad, I am going to share how I make a hard boiled egg.

First place your eggs in the bottom of a pot and cover with cold water.  For the egg salad recipe coming in a few minutes you will want about 12 eggs but I just made Heidi four for this demo.

Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil.  When the water is at a rolling boil set the timer for 8 minutes. Let the eggs sit in the boiling water until the timer goes off.

 After eight minutes move the pot to the sink and turn on the cold water.  Let the water run until the eggs are cool.  This takes about 3 minutes. You could also prepare a bowl of ice water and put the eggs directly in the bowl. It would be a better use of water but I never think to do this until the water has been running for a minute.

Now you have hard boiled eggs.  When I started making eggs this way, I would only boil them for 7 minutes but I found that some of the yokes would be a darker yellow meaning they were not quite cooked so now I do 8 minutes and I don't have any problems.

If I am not going to use all the hard boiled eggs right away, I dry them off and mark them with an H.  Then they go right back with the other eggs but I know which ones are hard boiled.  I tell Heidi the H is for Heidi because she wants to eat them.  Either way works!!

Now, the egg salad. Here's what you need for 5 to 7 sandwiches, depending on how much you put on the sandwich.
12 hard boiled eggs, shelled
1 cup mayo
1/2 small onion (optional)
2 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

 Start by peeling the eggs.
 Place the eggs in a medium bowl.  I like my large batter bowl from Pampered Chef for this task. (I do not sell Pampered Chef, I just like their products, this is not an advertisement.) 
 Using a fork or a mashed potato masher, mash up the eggs.

Add the mayo and mix.

And there you have it.  Egg salad with no crunchy parts.

If you like the crunchy parts, feel free to add some onion or celery.  You will not find that at my house!

Spread a dollop on some bread and salt and pepper to taste.  Add cheese or some fresh spinach if you like.

The egg salad will keep in a covered contain in the fridge for a few days.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Food, Good People, and Good Memories

I remember waking up on Easter morning to get our baskets that were hidden somewhere in the house.  I only remember finding them in the bathtub and the front closet so in my mind, that's where they were always hidden but my mom was very creative so I am sure there were many other hiding places.

I never hide Heidi's.  This year we just put it on the table by the back door. And this year was the first year I thought "Man, I wish we would have hid that."

She woke up and came in our room.  "Daddy?  Can I get up?"

Shawn, without realizing it was Easter morning says "Sure."

No more than two minutes later, Heidi is sitting on our bed digging through her basket of goodies.

"What time is it?" Shawn asks.

"7 am." I reply.

"Ugh.  I didn't realize there was going to be a basket.  I should have told her to go back to bed."

But it was too late, she was up and digging in her basket.  Within five minutes of being awake she was eating candy.

Any other Sunday, I would have taken the early morning candy consumption as a sign of a long day ahead but it was Easter and we had lots of plans.  It was the sign of a good day!

We started our day getting ready to have Shawn's sister and her girlfriend over for breakfast.  When they arrived we enjoyed biscuits (I cheated and used canned biscuits, don't tell anyone) and sausage gravy with fried eggs.  It was very yummy but we took to calling the gravy soup because it was not thickening up very well and we were all to hungry to wait any longer. 

Well, at least I was to hungry to wait any longer!

After we ate we gathered around the table to color eggs which turned out to be a blast!  This might be our new tradition.

I boiled 16 eggs that morning.  Heidi ate one while waiting for breakfast to be ready so we set out to decorate the remaining 15.

Shawn made this little guy with a Mohawk.

 This is my bunny egg creation.  He is adorable!

Kristen is holding the entire world in her hand.  This ended up being one of the best eggs of the day.

Heidi got creative and etched her name in the shell with a marker.  She loved this one and ate it first.

When we set out to color these eggs mentioned that maybe next year we would try the natural color approach but after looking at these little guys, I just want to do this again!  Later today they become egg salad, I can't wait!!

After we cleaned up a bit we hung out in the back yard.  Sunday was a nice day preceded by cold, rainy, even snowy days and I hear we are in for more cold, rainy days this week.  We wanted to spend as much time outside as possible.

Mid day we packed up and headed over to my parents house for a late lunch of Taco Salad.  Heidi got another basket and then we headed to the theater to see Hop.  It was cute but I have certainly seen better kids movies lately.

We went back to my parents house to enjoy the ice cream cake Heidi made for dessert.  I was not sure what to expect but it was great!  I will post the recipe and hopefully a picture if there is any left later this week.  It was basically ice cream sandwiches, fudge, and a cool whip/pudding mix.

We spent to rest of the evening hanging out in our yard enjoying what was left of a nice evening by a fire. 

I would chalk that up to one of the most perfect Easter's I have had in a long time.  And I hope we have many more Easters like this to follow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What's for Breakfast? French Toast Bake

This is a great breakfast for Easter or when you have overnight guests or when you have seven people living in your house like I do.

I saw a variation of this recipe on a news talk show a few weeks back.  I could not remember what the show was so I just Googled Baked French Toast, read about 10 recipes, noted all the things I liked from those recipes, then I just winged it.

It was really good but I do have ideas for next time.  When I make it again I will post a step by step photo blog.  But for today here is the base recipe.

Before we start, this recipe does need to be started the night before and put in the fridge.  The next morning it will take about 5 minutes to make the topping and then it will bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  So, plan ahead!

Here is what you need to make 8 to 10 servings:
1 1/2 loafs of French Bread cut into cubes
Pancake syrup
3 cups of milk
8 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tbsp nutmeg
3/4 cup butter - melted
3 tbsp corn syrup
1 1/3 cup brown sugar

Coat the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish with pancake syrup and set aside.

Slice the french bread into cubes and put in the baking dish.

Mix 3 cups milk, 8 eggs, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/4 tablespoon nutmeg in a bowl.

Pour the milk/egg mixture over the top of the bread cubes.

Cover with foil and place in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 and take the pan out of the fridge.

In a small sauce pan, melt butter.  Then add three tablespoons corn syrup until bubbly.  Add in 1 1/3 cup brown sugar and stir until melted. 

Remove the foil from the pan and pour the brown sugar mix over the bread cubes.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy!


 Everyone in my house loved this version.  Next time we are going to add pecans and maybe some fruit. 

I know you will enjoy it as much as we did!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brotherly Love

I am just about to get in the shower when Pig barks at the door.

I open it and ask him if he needs to go outside. He just sits and looks at me.

I ask him if he wants to come in the bathroom. Sometimes he likes to lay on the floor while we are in the shower, especially if it is cold outside. But he just sits and looks at me.

I ask him if it’s Daisy who wants to go outside. He gets up and walks to the back door.

I follow him and as soon as Daisy sees me, she jumps up , wags her tail, and runs for the door.

When we first brought Pig home, ten years ago, I told Shawn that I do not like dogs that bark. Barking will only be allowed when they need to go outside or if someone is at the door.

Pig has his occasional random barking spell but Daisy took my no barking rule very literally and in her entire 9 years has barked at the door about 4 times.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My dogs do bark. They bark when the dog that lives behind us calls them to the fence. They bark when a dog, mailman, or kid is in our front yard. They even bark at the cats.

But Pig has always had to be the one to bark at the door if either of them wants to go outside.

This has led to Pig using his power to be mean to Daisy.

Back when Daisy was healthy, she would be lying on the couch and Pig would go to the back door and bark. She would figure this was her chance to get let outside, get up, and head to the back door.

When I would open the door, Daisy would go outside and Pig would run to her spot on the couch and lay down. He can be such a jerk!

That trick does not work so well any more. Daisy is much more thoughtful when it comes to getting off the couch. It is such an effort to get comfortable, she is only getting up if she needs to. Or if someone offers her food.

And, my rule is if someone barks at the door and I go open it someone better go outside. This has gotten Pig kicked out in the cold a few times when his little trick has backfired on him.

I have always loved the way Pig cares for Daisy. I have paid even more attention to this since she has been sick. Little things like how he barks for her make me sad for when she is gone and he is alone. They have been brother and sister for 9 years. Neither of them know life without each other.

But they are getting older. Daisy still has more good days than bad. She thrives when it is nice enough to be outside sniffing the air and chasing the cats. Then she crashes on the cold days.

She certainly still has more good days than bad but I can see her aging. And it still breaks my heart to see her struggle with the things that used to be so easy, like climbing the stairs or holding a peanut butter jar. I thought by now, over 6 months since her surgery, I would be used to seeing her with one arm, but I am not.

We don’t know how much longer she will be a part of our family but while she is with us all we can do is give her all the love and the best care possible. And Pig continues to do his part.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Baking Soda and Vinegar Experiment

Friday night Heidi, Shawn, and I attended a Science Event for the Girl Scouts in our area. There were about 80 girls in attendance broken into twelve or so smaller groups. Each group went from station to station participating in a science project. At the end of the event each girl made a magic wand out of a light bulb, a stick, some wire, and a battery. This project earned them a badge.

But the project that our family enjoyed the most involved a balloon, a 20 ounce bottle, some vinegar, and baking soda.

Heidi wanted to show Margie, Kristen, and Taylor this little experiment after dinner on Sunday night. She grabbed a Mellow Yellow bottle from the recycle, found a balloon in her craft station, and set up the experiment on the kitchen table.

We put some vinegar in the empty bottle, about ¼ a cup. Then we put about ½ a tablespoon of baking soda in the balloon. Stretch the top of the balloon over the bottle so it fits securely then lift the balloon allowing the baking soda to pour into the vinegar.

The mix of vinegar and baking soda cause gas which inflates the balloon. It’s pretty cool!

When the demonstration was over, Heidi took the balloon off the top and deflated it right in my face. Let me tell you the smell of latex and vinegar is gag inducing!

She cleaned up the table, the best a six year old is able, and we all went about our evening.

A few hours later, Shawn is in the kitchen when all of a sudden we hear:

“ACK! HAHAHA!! Ick!!”

Margie passes through the kitchen “What are you doing?!”

Shawn “I am washing my mouth out!!”

Heidi and I are in the living room, confused but laughing any way.

Me: What happened? What did you do?

Shawn: I found a delicious Mellow Yellow on the counter without a lid on it. I decided to finish the last gulp before I tossed it in the recycle.

Me: Oh, no! You didn’t drink that did you?! (Between tears and snorts)

Shawn: Yes! It was a delicious Mellow Yellow. But it wasn’t!!

Me: No! It was Heidi’s science experiment! (More tears, grabs a tissue to wipe eyes.)

Shawn: It was vinegar and baking soda! It was horrible! It tasted how it smells!

Me: *snort*

Heidi: Momma! Don’t laugh! It’s not funny!

Shawn: Yeah, actually it is…

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's For Dinner? Angel Lush with Pineapple

I found this cake in the coupon flier this week and it looked so springy I just had to give it a try.  It's a Dole cake and came with a coupon for Dole Pineapple.  The picture from the recipe had raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries but I opted for just strawberries since fresh berries are not really in season yet.  I did not feel like I was missing anything at all!

Here's what you need:
1 20 oz can Crushed Pineapple, undrained (try to use the pineapple in 100% pineapple juice)
1 3.4 oz package Jell-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
1 cup thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping
1 10 oz round angel food cake, cut into 3 layers
Seasonal Berries

Mix pineapple and dry pudding mix in medium bowl. Gently stir in whipped topping.

Place bottom layer of the angel food cake on a plate.  Using a spatula, spread 1/3 of the pineapple mix on top of the layer.  Place the middle layer on top of the bottom layer, spread 1/3 of the pineapple mix on that layer.  Place the top layer on top of the middle layer and spread remaining 1/3 of the pineapple mix.

Place berries on top in a visually pleasing manor.

My cake had the pineapple mix dripping out all over so to make it look better I smoothed the mix around the sides of the cake.

Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to chill.

This cake will serve 10 to 12 but you will want to eat it half of it yourself!

We declared this cake to be Yum-tacular!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Procrastination and Alzheimers

I am procrastinating right now. This is one of those times when I actually think it will work to my benefit. And it has so far! If I had started this task on Monday, when I had planned to start it, I would have had to throw all my work away because someone made some big changes yesterday morning. If I had started it yesterday afternoon, like I had planned, I would have done double the work because more major changes happened first thing this morning.

I should be working on it now because I have to give a presentation on Friday morning but I just know if I wait another 20 minutes the dust will settle and my work will be valuable.

Plus, writing clears my brain of all the clutter and makes me more focused.

I keep thinking back to a hysterical moment from the other night, I am going to share it with you!

Shawn: I heard a story on NPR the other day about people who are bi-lingual. It seems they are less likely to get Alzheimer’s because their brain gets exercise flipping between languages.

Me: Well, that’s good for Heidi. Since we have that in our family, anything she can do to delay Alzheimer’s is good. Huh.

Shawn: What?

Me: Well, I heard something that delays Alzheimer’s the other day too.

Shawn: What was it? Sudoku?

Me: Man. I don’t remember!! That sounds like a bad joke but I really do not remember! (laugh, cry, snort… Wipe tears…) Ugh. It’s too late for me already.

Shawn: Wow. That’s amazing.

Then he continued to make fun of me for the rest of the night.

And now, I am going back to work. The best part is I actually remember what I am supposed to be working on right now!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Heidi’s Attempt to Educate Me

Child on TV: I like Komodo Dragons because they are not afraid of anything.

Me: Is that true?

Heidi: Mom! There is no such thing as dragons!

Me: There are Komodo Dragons. They are big lizards, not dragons. It’s just their name. Like a Bulldog isn’t really a bull.

Heidi: Do you really not know why they call Bulldogs a BULLDOG? And why they call a Bullmastiff a BULLMASTIFF?

Me: Because they Bulldog used to work with Bulls?

Heidi: No! Because Bulldogs are strong like a bull. And a Bullmastiff is big like a bull. You really didn’t know that?

Me: Nope, I guess not.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What's For Dinner? Cinnamon Bread

I so badly wanted to post a review of the Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Bread today but I had a yeast problem yesterday.

The problem being inactive yeast.  It was so beautiful outside yesterday, we had the back door open and the furnace never turned on which means my kitchen was probably about 65 degrees.  Not nearly warm enough for rising bread.

Margie saved it some bit but putting the dough in a warm oven with a pot of water to create a warm and humid environment.  It did raise but after I rolled it and put it in the pan, it did not rise again.

We ended up with very tasty, dense cinnamon bread.  It was good but it was not what Ree intended.

I will try it again in a few weeks, maybe on a rainy weekend when my house is warm.  I suggest you try it too!

Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Bread