Thursday, July 12, 2018

I'm playing up the positive

Hey everyone!

For all of you who keep coming back to this blog, THANK YOU! I've been MIA for awhile, but that doesn't mean I've lost my passion for blogging. In fact, just the opposite. I've only been wanting to redirect my efforts in a new way--it just took me a little while to figure out how.

The {hopefully} good news is, you can now find me at Playing Up the Positive. If you're interested, by all means hop on over there and check it out. Today's world has so much rampant negativity and unkindness, but I hope to inspire us all in playing up the positives so we can live happier. See you there!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Finally! Hardwood Flooring Makeover

Earlier this spring, we finally got the chance to replace our old carpet throughout our living room and main hallway with hardwood. Not laminate, not engineered--the real thing. This was due to Jeff's insistence long ago that we would not put in wood floors until we put in real wood floors. It's got everything to do with his love for real wood, and nothing else. 

And I have to say, I'm happy about that. Because look how they turned out. 

 It's quite a job putting in wood floors....well, for him it was. ;) My main job was helping to look at boards to select which one came next, where the seams went, etc. And then I helped hold them in place while Jeff nailed them down. {And dealing with dust!! Yep, quite a job I tell you!}

He sanded the floors with an orbital sander, just enough to smooth them nicely without removing the circular saw marks that we love about them. Jeff then applied three coats of Minwax Ultimate Floor Finish, a water-based polyurethane, in satin. It's not too glossy and it's not slippery. I LOVE the feel of the finished floors under my feet. 

Even all three closets in the main hallway have wood floors...worth doing but probably the trickiest part of installing the floors.  This pic was taken pre-polyurethane. 

We appreciate the rustic look of the boards, which we hope will disguise the inevitable scratches and wear that will occur over time. So far, they are holding up great. But the beauty of using the real thing is that they can be refinished multiple times over their lifespan if needed, and if we desire. 

The wood for these floors is Douglas Fir. We bought it in the form of tongue & groove, circular-sawn 5 1/4" planks from Rustic Lumber Co

 Rustic Lumber Co has a project photo contest every month, and I decided Jeff's handiwork should be entered. Much to my non-surprise, he was a finalist and came in 2nd in the June contest! 

And just for fun, here's a reminder of how the main hallway has evolved:
The walls used to be all white. A couple years back we had it painted a warm gray, which was a definite improvement, but we still had the old greenish carpet. Happy to finally be rid of it!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

Well. Hello!

I know I've been absent for awhile, and there are reasons for that. Like lots of other people out there, 2016 was not an easy year. Maybe I'll tell you what I've been up to later, but for now, I'm going to talk about what brings me back.

My new Instant Pot, that's what!

Christmas was great, and my most fun gift was the Instant Pot. I've had my eye on one for awhile, but it took Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales to bring one into my life. And boy, am I glad! I love this thing! I think my family likes it too, just because it's made some yummy meals since. ;)

I've made several things in it since Christmas (yes I know it's only the 29th) and I'll probably share some more recipes. Today I'm sharing Instant Pot Mac & Cheese. It was fast, easy, and turned out so creamy and delicious. I thought the recipe over at Pressure Cooking Today sounded like way too much evaporated milk and cheese, so I used half the amounts and it was perfect. Yum!

Instant Pot Mac & Cheese
adapted from Pressure Cooking Today

1 17.5 oz package pasta (I had Casarecce from Costco)
4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 cups shredded Sharp cheddar cheese
additional salt & black pepper to taste

Turn on the Instant Pot (IP) to "saute" to warm it up. Add the warm water, salt and dry mustard. Stir to dissolve the salt and mustard and then add the pasta. Mix. Secure the lid with the vent to the "seal" position. Use the "manual" setting on high pressure, and select 5 minutes for the cook time. At the end of the cook time, immediately do a quick release (QR) to release the pressure. Once the float has dropped, carefully open the IP lid. Turn off the pot and then turn it back on to "saute." Select the normal heat level. Pour in the evaporated milk. It will appear like a lot, but it will thicken. Continue stirring for about a minute, then begin adding the cheese just a handful at a time by sprinkling over the top of the pasta and stirring to incorporate it as it melts. Once the cheese is melted and everything is thickened, turn off the IP. This only takes a couple of minutes. Add additional salt and some black pepper to taste. Serve.

This is how the mac & cheese looked just before serving. After sitting, it continues to thicken.

My daughter, Sarah, had this to say about this mac & cheese: #younailedit  Hashtag and all. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Brown bag turkey {The best roasted turkey method ever!}

A few years back, I found an interesting new way to roast a turkey over at Real Mom Kitchen. She had a method for roasting the turkey in a brown paper bag, like those you get from the grocery store (if you ask for them). I was intrigued by this, and did some more research on it. I decided to try it out, and it was such a success that this is the way I roast turkeys now. Forever! 

I didn't use the recipe, just the idea. I did follow the basic directions of wetting the paper bag first--but don't soak it. Roast the turkey at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes per pound. Unless your bag is really large, you will need two bags.

Here is what I do: butter and season the turkey with garlic, salt, pepper, sage & thyme, putting some of the butter and seasonings under the skin. I also halve an onion and an apple and put those inside the cavity of the turkey. If I have them, I also stick in a couple of celery sticks. Set the turkey inside a roasting pan, and then slide one open brown paper bag over one end as far as it will go, and then slide the other bag over the other end of the pan. The two bags should overlap around the pan and completely cover the turkey. Use a spray bottle to mist the outsides of the bag, or wet your fingers and rub them over the bag to moisten it. Don't soak the bag, just get it wet.  Put the whole production in the oven and set the timer according to the size of the turkey. Don't worry--the bag won't catch fire unless the oven is at least 450. I have done half a dozen brown bag turkeys, and I have never yet had a bag catch fire. Note that when it first goes in the oven, you will smell the bag, but no worries.

Don't peek until the timer goes off, and then you can carefully open up one end and check the temperature of the turkey for doneness. Let the turkey rest in the bag for 20 minutes before carving.

This method makes the most beautiful brown, juicy, flavorful turkey. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Eve 2015

 This Christmas Eve, we started a new tradition. We started out at Crown Burger--a family favorite--and because we have only gone there on rare occasions, it was a yummy treat.

 We then visited Temple Square to see the lights. Surprisingly, it was much less busy than at other times of the month, which is just what I was hoping for.

 We definitely weren't the only ones there, but it was still much less crowded! It was really cold, but worth it.

We discovered the nativities from around the world that are set up east of the temple on the church administration building plaza. These were a couple of my favorites.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cinnamon Roll Bread with Buttery Cinnamon Sugar Crust

Today is the perfect day for baking. After a couple of snow-deficient years, we seem to be trying to make a comeback. It's looking like our New Year's snowman will be an epic one!

This bread uses my bread dough recipe as the base and is easy to put together. It's also family-approved!

Cinnamon Roll Bread with Buttery Cinnamon Sugar Crust
makes 8 4-inch loaves

1 recipe basic dough, risen once

Remove the risen dough from the bread machine to an oiled counter. Let it rest 10 minutes. 
Roll the dough into a large rectangle. You want the dough to be about 1/4" thick. Cut the rectangle in half the long way. Butter each half liberally. Don't be shy! Sprinkle a thin layer of brown sugar over the buttered dough, then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. Once again, don't be shy. Roll up each dough half into a log, starting with a long side. Pinch the long edge closed. 

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut each dough log into 4 equal sections. You can pinch the ends closed if desired, but it's not necessary. Place each section in a 4" pan that has been lightly sprayed on the bottom. Melt 1/4 c. butter, then divide by pouring over each loaf. Sprinkle each loaf with granulated sugar and cinnamon. 

Let the dough rise for 30 minutes, then bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Cool slightly on wire racks, then remove bread from pans to cool thoroughly.

If desired, drizzle a powdered sugar, butter & vanilla glaze over each loaf.   

Friday, December 18, 2015

Don't mess with the ornament of honor.

This is known as "Dad's Utah ornament" in our house. Every year, it goes front and center on the Christmas tree. Even if the rest of tree is blue & silver.

Sarah came in from work one night and pulled the ornament off the tree while saying, "This is red! It doesn't match!"

She found out, you don't mess with Dad's Utah ornament. ;)

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls

This meal is an easy, yummy way to have a good dinner ready for your family, even during the crazy Christmas rush!

You can serve it in a variety of ways: as is, or piled on a bed of tortilla chips, or wrapped up in a tortilla and baked in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. 

We lined our bowls with tortillas, then topped the whole shebang with grated cheese, chopped tomato, avocado and sour cream. Delicious!

Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 14-15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
1 c. chicken broth (or 1 c. water and 1 tsp. chicken bouillon)
2 t. salt
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder (or more to suit your taste)
1 t. garlic powder
1 T. dry minced onion
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can sweet corn, drained
1 c. regular long-grain rice
Put the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with the tomatoes, chilies, broth, beans, corn and spices. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Remove the lid and shred the chicken with two forks. Stir in uncooked rice. Cover and cook for one hour. Serve topped with your choice of shredded cheese, diced tomato, avocado, sour cream and/or salsa. Enjoy!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Easy Taco Braid

Hello, yummy taco braid!

This is a twist on traditional tacos that's easy to make and fun to eat. I saw the recipe over at 365 Days of Baking & More, and then more adapted it for our family.

Step 1: Brown 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of ground beef and then add your favorite taco seasoning. Get out a canister of ready-made pizza dough, or make your own ahead of time. My version is here. 

Step 2: roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Using scissors or a pizza cutter, snip both long sides of the dough about 1-inch apart and 3 inches deep, like so:

Step 3: Take the prepared taco meat and pile it in the center of the dough between the snipped edges.

Step 4: Cover the meat with your favorite taco cheese. I used shredded cheddar-jack cheese. Top that with some diced tomato if you like. A little salsa would also be good.

Step 5: Simply fold all the snipped pieces of dough over each other to cover the filling. It is helpful to fold up the bottom ends first, then cover with the edge pieces. Then sprinkle more shredded cheese over the top. We like a lot of cheese around here. 

Step 6: Bake the taco braid in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 22 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Let it cool for about 5 minutes, and then top it with your favorite taco toppings: shredded lettuce, more tomato, sour cream and avocado are our favorites.

This will definitely take your taco night up a notch! Our family loved it.