Wednesday, December 31, 2014

English Trifle



One of our holiday traditions is to make and enjoy an English Trifle. My hubby spent two years serving an LDS mission in the midlands of England and North Wales, and trifle became one of his favorite things. This is an almost authentic version, using ingredients readily found here, but if you have access to an English pantry, I include those ingredients below. One year we had a friend visit from England, and she taught us how to make trifle. Since then I have figured out how to replicate it as closely as possible with ingredients from my local Smith's.

First off, here is what you need to make a  berry trifle:

a white cake mix (or ready-made sponge cake from a British pantry)
2 small boxes of Jell-o gelatin, raspberry flavor (or English "Jelly")
one bag of frozen berries (raspberries, blackberries & blueberries)
1 large box Cook & Serve Jell-o pudding, vanilla flavor (Bird's Custard powder is one English variety)
1 pint of whipping cream
powdered sugar & vanilla

24 hours before you want to serve the trifle, mix the white cake mix according to the package directions and bake in a Bundt pan. Transfer the cake to a plate, then leave it uncovered and let it sit out overnight. The next morning, slice about 1/2 the cake into 1-inch slices and stand them upright in the bottom of a trifle bowl. I usually end up with about 10 slices of cake in my bowl. Leave a little space in between slices. Fill the spaces with the frozen berries, like so:



I like to try to make it look pretty.  :)

Once that step is done, mix the raspberry gelatin with 2 cups of boiling water and stir until dissolved. Then stir in 2 cups of cold water. Pour the gelatin slowly over the cake and berries so it can soak in.



Now cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge until the gelatin is set. This will take a few hours. Meanwhile, prepare the cook & serve pudding according to the directions on the package and then cover the surface of the pudding with plastic and let it chill in the fridge until the trifle is ready. If you can get English custard powder, make that, but if you can't, cook & serve pudding comes closer than the instant version. It's worth doing.

The set jello layer with the custard layer added.
Finally, whip the pint of cream with a little powdered sugar and vanilla if desired. It doesn't need to be overly sweet with all the other sweetness going on in the other layers. Pour the pudding/custard on top of the set cake/berries/gelatin layer, then top that with the whipped cream. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two hours. Trifle is best the same day it's assembled, but leftovers can be enjoyed the next day--if there are any. 







Monday, December 22, 2014

Soft Molasses Gingersnaps



One year, one of my awesome neighbors delivered a plate of these gingersnaps. And oh boy, they were the best gingersnaps I'd ever had. Soft, chewy and delicious. My whole family loved them. So naturally, I begged asked her nicely for the recipe, and she was kind enough to share. I did tweak it just a tad, using half white and half brown sugar instead of all white sugar. The recipe also has a range for the amount of cloves, and I use the maximum amount.

Soft Molasses Gingersnaps
1/4 c. softened butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 t. sea salt
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/2 - 1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ginger
2 c. flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar for rolling

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy. Blend in molasses and egg. Combine dry ingredients together in a smaller bowl, then add all at once to wet ingredients. Mix well. Form dough into 1" balls (makes a small cookie) and roll in granulated sugar. Place balls on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes for a soft & chewy cookie. For a crispier cookie, bake 10 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

***For all the diabetics out there, two of these cookies made from 1" balls costs a total of 23 carbs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Wedding



Our daughter was married last Saturday. 12-13-14! And it was the most awesome day ever.

When they set the date, she and her fiance decided that they wanted a winter theme, without it being "Christmasy." So we set out to accomplish that. A whole heck of a lot went into it, but it was worth it.

We started with this:

and this:

and my smart hubby worked up this:



From there we purchased 300 yards of white gossamer, 100 yards of gold gossamer, and about one dozen second-hand Christmas trees. Not to mention a giant fan cover, loads of heavy gauge wire, tablecloths, table runners and other various things. We rented black lanterns and borrowed lots of white lights.

And we turned all of that (and more) into this:



After the wedding luncheon, we switched things up a little and added some lights to the center of the canopy, like this:


We were able to pretty much transform the space, and our daughter and son-in-law were really happy with how it turned out. Much thanks to family and friends of both the bride and groom for helping us pull it off! 

Colors: evergreen, blush, gold and cranberry
Centerpieces: wood rounds, evergreen of various types, blush roses, berries and cedar roses
Chair sashes: 1 1/2 yds of gold gossamer

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

DIY Mason Jar Lanterns




Hi!

So a couple posts back, I mentioned that my oldest daughter is getting married next month. Make that about 2 1/2 weeks from today!

We decided pretty early on that we would do the decorating ourselves...in large part because my hubby is pretty fearless about taking on a challenge, so he decided he could handle rigging up a fabric-draped circular ceiling that Nicole wants for her luncheon and reception. Once we felt like that was doable, it was easy for me to say I could handle the rest of the decorations. The wedding has yet to happen, but so far, so good. Today I am sharing one of the projects I've been doing to try and have a beautiful wedding on a reasonable budget.


The reception will take place in a church building in our neighborhood, so the intent is to transform it as much as possible. That includes dressing up the outside a little bit. Nicole wanted paper luminaries to line the sidewalk, but the more we thought about the possibility of snowy weather, the more I thought it might be good to have something a little sturdier just in case.

Enter the DIY Mason Jar Lanterns, something you have probably seen on Pinterest. They are easy to do and turned out pretty well. Luckily for me, my aunt happens to have five matching shepherd's hooks to hang them from. The hooks will be about 20 inches off the ground, so I decided that pint jars would be the perfect size.

For two pint jars, I mixed a couple tablespoons of the glue with a teaspoon or so of water, and then stirred in the glitter. Gold is one of Nicole's accent colors, but silver would be pretty as well. I learned that you want to go heavy on the glitter in order to have a good coating inside your jar. Once your glitter to glue ratio looks good, add a little more. Lesson number one. :)

Paint the inside of the jar with the glittery glue. I turned the jars upside down on paper for a little while to let the excess drip out, then used my finger to smooth out the drips on the inside of the jar. Once that's done, let the jars dry for several hours. Once the jars are dry, simply take some wire and wrap it around the neck of the jar to form a handle. I used 20-gauge colored copper wire, and it seems plenty able to hold the weight of the jar. A wooden chalkboard tag, with lettering yet to be added, finishes it off.

FYI: Gold battery-operated votives came from Dollar Tree, and all other supplies, including the awesome chalkboard tags {my most favorite recent find!} came from Bennion Crafts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Five-grain Pumpkin Spice Muffins


Hi! I'm guest posting over at Simply Sweet Home today, where you will find the recipe for the yummy muffins above. They make a great Thanksgiving morning breakfast. Click on over and check it out. Thanks to Jerri for featuring my recipe! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Check Your Neck!


Hey friends!

I've been largely neglecting my blog lately. There are lots of reasons for that, but mainly my life is full to the brim with stuff. Mostly good stuff, but some bad too. Which brings me to the title of this post.

Thyroid cancer. Did you know September was thyroid cancer awareness month? I did, and I should have written this then, but it struck real close to home and I didn't get around to it. My oldest daughter, who has made a few appearances on this blog *wink* actually had thyroid cancer surgery that same month. She also is engaged to be married next month. See? mostly good, but we've had to take the bad along with it.

Lots of people have asked me, how did you know she had it? The answer is simple. Other than a lump on the front of her neck, there were no symptoms. No screwy blood levels, no low thyroid, no high thyroid. She didn't feel sick at all. In fact, she ran a marathon last spring! Thanks to a doctor who checked Nicole's neck during a routine physical, felt the lump and sent her for an ultrasound, the cancer was caught and her thyroid removed. Treatment is far from over at this point--getting Nicole's synthetic thyroid hormones regulated correctly is proving to be a long, up and down process--but she is doing as well as anyone could expect. If you look closely in the pic above, you can see her scar, which she has decided that she is proud of. I'm proud of her!

The kicker? Thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the U.S. It's also the #1 cancer in young women under 25. I had no idea on either count, until it struck home.

So peeps. Please Check Your Neck! If you ever feel a lump get it looked at right away. And yes, thyroid cancer may be the "best" cancer to have, but it's still cancer!

See www.checkyourneck.com for more on thyroid cancer awareness.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fight The New Drug

I'm back! I sort of gave myself a little sabbatical....life and all that. But an important cause brings me back today.

Pornography. It's so not cool.

First off, I wanna say that I don't judge anyone who may be addicted to porn, struggling to overcome it, or even wondering if they have a problem. My own research has taught me that more and more young boys, and even girls, are innocently trapped by it before they have any understanding of what it will do to them. That, to me, is the worst part of it: the stolen innocence. If you're trapped, please think about getting help. There are more and more resources out there for you. If you've gotten help and are working to be free of it, keep it up! It's definitely a fight worth fighting and winning. 

IMO, the harm porn does to those who use it, their families, loved ones and society as a whole, isn't talked about enough. If you're like I was, you know it's a problem somewhere, but you might think it doesn't affect you. Well, I'm here to say that, sadly, it probably does. It's widespread in society and it's dangerous.

Why? Because porn is The New Drug. I know there are people out there who think porn is harmless or not addictive, but it's crazy far from either of those. Numerous studies have been done that prove the dangerous effects and addictive nature of pornography. It literally can change your brain just like cocaine, heroin, or any other dangerous drug.

Please check out Fight The New Drug for more. The guys who started the cause are dedicated to showing the world why porn is harmful. The more people--of all ages--who take a stand and join the fight against the new drug, the better. 


Get the facts:  http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts#porn-is-like-a-drug
Get help: http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/get-help











Friday, May 9, 2014

I'm a Mom.

Photo credit: Erin & Nathan Barney
In two days, it's Mother's Day. And I'm blessed enough to be a mom to these crazy, fun kids.

In no way am I the "perfect" Mom. {Is there even such a thing?} In fact, while I enjoy Mother's Day most years, I've had a few that weren't so enjoyable, just because I happened to have a bad day and feel woefully inadequate! I'm sure I'm not the only one....but most of the time, I just try to be grateful for the amazing people my kids are....not because I made them that way, but because we have a Father in Heaven who sent them this way!

All mothers know one thing for sure--it is soooooooo hard to be a mom. I'm finding that it can get tougher as they get older. But the good news is, it's also rewarding. Mostly because these guys are all so amazing! Two of them are adults and are doing great things and it's fun to watch. The other four are on their way, and I realize that before I know it, they'll be adults too. And that right there is the hardest part--letting them go and be their own people--and hope they will come back and visit often. And {ultimately} bring grandchildren with them! :)


Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Women in Our Lives


This video came out a few years back, but it's definitely worth watching again. This Sunday, celebrate all the women in our lives who help us be better than we are! For me that means mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, friends, neighbors....

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hot Cheesy Chicken Hoagie



This stuff is yummy, and all my kids love it! {You know if a recipe is liked by all the kids in a family, it's a definite winner!}

The recipe is originally from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, and adapted a little by me. I felt like the chicken mixture was not quite enough, so I increased it to cover the french bread better. I also think it's even better after a couple minutes under the broiler. It's an easy weeknight meal the whole family can enjoy.

Hot Cheesy Chicken Hoagie

1 loaf french bread, cut in half lengthwise
3 large cans of chicken breast
2/3 c. mayo
2/3 c. reduced fat sour cream
3/4 t. garlic salt
2 T. dried parsley
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded Cheddar-Jack cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the french bread halves on a large baking sheet. Mix remaining ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. Spoon chicken mixture evenly over the top of the french bread halves. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Turn the broiler to low and broil 2-3 minutes, or until browned on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and fresh ground pepper. Slice and serve.

Monday, May 5, 2014

It's Official!


Last December, Nicole finished all the requirements for her degree in Human Movement Science/Exercise Science.

Saturday, she officially graduated from Utah State University! It was an awesome day for us. I particularly enjoyed all the ceremonies because I missed my own college graduation....I was prego with our second child and confined to 90% bed rest. Doctor said I'd be on my feet too much if I went to graduation....so it was out.

Anyway, I lived vicariously through Nicole and it was great!! We are SO proud of her for working hard and sticking with her goals! You ROCK, Nicole!! WE LOVE YOU!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ode to Books

China mug from theliterarygiftcompany.com


I wish I had this mug. Maybe if I had this mug, I'd actually make more time to read? I dunno.

What are you reading now? Here's a look at what I have recently read, am either currently reading or have on my to-read list in the near future:

Happily Ever After: The Life-changing Power of a Grateful Heart
by Trista Sutter

This one I would really recommend. It may be written by the first Bachelorette in ABC's The Bachelorette series, but it's a clean read and a great look at the power of gratitude, and that's something I really believe in!

A Pledge of Silence
by Flora J. Solomon

This one I would not recommend for everyone. It is a historical novel set during World War II, and tells the story of a nurse caught in the crossfire in the Philippines at the time it was lost to Japan. There is adult language and situations contained in this book. Overall, it was an interesting look at history, and I'm usually a sucker for historical fiction.

The Selection
by Kiera Cass

Have you read this one? It's on my upcoming list.

Allegiant
by Veronica Roth

Same with this one. I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent, so I hope to enjoy the conclusion to the series.

Sycamore Row
by John Grisham

Currently reading this one. It's got some language (but no F-word, which I hate), but it's true to John Grisham form with great suspense and twists in the story. I have read and enjoyed most of Grisham's books. My all-time favorite of his? The Runaway Jury! 


The Flight of Gemma Hardy
by Margot Livesey

Another on my to-read list. It comes highly recommended by one of my neighbors who read it for a book club.

Anything I should add to my to-read list?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Homemade Angel Food Cake: 3 Easy Tips for a Better Cake



Have you ever made homemade Angel Food Cake? I have, lots of times, and I have some good tips to help you out.

Baking an Angel Food cake is not as hard as you might think--and the taste really surpasses anything you can buy from the store. Trust me, I've bought my share of angel food, and the store-bought ones always seem to have a chemical aftertaste.

Tip #1: Use room temperature egg whites. It really makes a difference in the finished product because room temp egg whites will whip higher and stiffer than cold ones. It's tempting not to wait when you're in a hurry, but it's worth it.

Tip #2: Sifting all the flour and sugar can be a big pain. I discovered that if I run the flour and sugar through my blender, I get a great result. So much easier and faster than sifting!

Tip #3: You can cut the sugar in this recipe (the sugar that is sifted with the flour) by 1/4 cup. When I did this, it was actually by accident and my husband said that Angel Food cake was my "best one yet."

Homemade Angel Food Cake
adapted from a recipe at Food.com 

1 c. cake flour (no substitutions)
3/4 c. + 2 T. powdered sugar
12 large egg whites, best at room temperature
1 1/2 t. cream of tartar (a must!)
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract

First off, use an actual angel food cake pan. This is a pan that has a large hollow tube in the center and comes apart into two pieces--the base and the sides. This makes it much easier to remove from the pan after you have cooled it. Don't grease the pan.

Preheat oven to 375. Sift (or run through your blender) the cake flour with the 3/4 c. + 2 T. powdered sugar. Set aside.

Separate the egg whites from the yolks, and don't get any yolk into the white or the cake will not rise like it should. Beat the whites with the cream of tartar and salt until it forms peaks. Peaks are when you lift the beater or whisk attachment straight up out of the whites, and little pointy peaks form and stay without falling over immediately. Once you hit this point, slowly add the other 3/4 c. powdered sugar. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Stiff peaks are peaks that won't fall over at all when you lift the whisk up out of the whites, and they will actually look stiffer than the softer peaks from before. 

Beating on low, slowly add the flour mixture and the vanilla & almond extracts. After beating, use a spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and make sure all the flour is incorporated. Do this gently. Spoon batter into the angel food pan. Gently cut a knife through the batter to remove any air pockets. 

Bake angel food approximately 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched with your finger. In my oven, the cake is done at 27 minutes. Invert the cake onto a funnel or long-necked bottle, so that it hangs upside down. Crazy, I know...but this is how you do it. I remember watching my grandma hang angel food cakes upside down like this. I keep an old sparkling cider bottle around just for this purpose. 

Once the cake has cooled completely, remove the cake from the pan by first running a knife around the edges of the cake. Holding the center tube, lift the cake out of the pan. Then run a knife around the bottom of the cake to remove it from the base. 

Our favorite way to eat angel food is either plain or with berries and cream. Yum!   
       

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter 2014

We had an awesome Easter Sunday and hope you did, too! Here is a glimpse:

 That dude in the top left pic is still fighting his kidney stone, but he managed to get dressed up and go to church with us. Love him!

There are two people missing in the pics above. One is this guy (on the left), serving up in Eastern Washington:

A HUGE shout out to the family who fed him a great Easter dinner yesterday and then sent me this pic. That is the way to his mother's heart for sure.

The other person? He's in some of the pics we took and he fits right in with our family, but I don't know yet how he would feel about ending up on my blog.  All in good time! :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Suck it up, buttercup.

That's a quote that was posted on the side of the road during one of Nicole's half-marathons. It's a favorite of mine because it's true. And today it's my mantra.

Kidney stone prescriptions. Fun stuff.
Over this last week to ten days, I've been not sleeping well. I fall asleep fine, but then I wake up and my mind gets racing and then I just lay there for hours.  I like my sleep. I need my sleep. So this has been frustrating.

Night before last, I got a whole two hours of sleep, and I was exhausted by 3:00 pm yesterday. Oh yes, I tried to take a nap, but I was at that point where I was too exhausted to sleep. I figured that I was going to self-medicate with a couple of Benadryl and hope that I could stay asleep all night. But when I went to bed, I thought for some reason that I should not do that, but take a little melatonin instead, so that's what I did. I call that inspiration, because had I taken two Benadryl (one can knock me out) I would have been useless when my hubby needed me.

At 2:00 am I was woken by my hubby, who was at first tossing around hard on the bed, then he started getting up and walking through the house. After a few minutes of this I asked him what the problem was. "I've got a bad pain in my left side and it hurts to lay down so I'm trying to walk it out," he said. Within five minutes, the pain was worse, so that he was really complaining about it, and he does not complain about stuff, so I knew it was bad. He begged, "Please get dressed and take me in somewhere." That meant a visit to the ER.

Fast forward four hours, a CT scan and numerous shots of narcotics later, and we knew what it was: a big ol' kidney stone, with a smaller one behind it. I've heard how horrible kidney stone pain is, and if you've heard it but not experienced it, just know it isn't a lie. It was not fun for him, poor guy!

So I'm running on a whopping 6 hours of sleep over the last 48 hours, but hey, I'm not the one having to pass a large kidney stone. There isn't anything else to do but suck it up--and pray for a quiet night tonight and a quick passing of that stone!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rhubarb Cake



It's about that time of year again: when the rhubarb plant my husband transplanted from his grandma's yard to ours is in full production mode. That means tons and tons of rhubarb! This cake is one good way to use some of it. It has a very tender crumb and is moist and delicious. It's good as is, or topped with a little whipped cream.

Rhubarb Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 cup buttermilk (or soured milk made by putting 2 t. lemon juice in the bottom of the 1 cup measure and adding milk to the top. Allow it to stand for about 5 minutes.)
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
1 egg
2 c. sliced rhubarb, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

Topping:
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 pan with pan spray. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar together well, until light and fluffy. This should take about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat well. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix well. Add 1/2 of the buttermilk, then 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk, and the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix well between each addition. Fold in the sliced rhubarb. Spread batter evenly in the pan. For topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon together thoroughly. Sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Nothing is impossible because of Him


Happy Easter week!

I feel like I have sooo much to be grateful for lately (more on that later), and this is at the top of the list. How blessed we are to have a Savior who knows us and loves us individually! #BecauseofHim, we can start over. Again and again. So much is possible because of Him! I know it's true. Go here for more about what Mormons believe about Easter.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Must try: Sally Hansen Ultra Wear Top Coat


Hi!

Today I have a review of Sally Hansen's new Comple Salon Manicure Ultra Wear Top Coat (completely my own opinion--no sponsorship of any kind).

Not too long ago, I posted about my experiment with  DIY Gel nails using Gelous. That stuff is okay, but you know what? Sally Hansen's Ultra Wear Top Coat is better. As in, days worth of wear better. I got four days of wear out of the Gelous Advanced Gel Coat before the chipping was just too much.

Now take a look at the pic above. You can see minimal chipping of my nails, and this is seven days of wear. Mind you, I'm cooking, I'm cleaning, and I even put on some work gloves a few days back and pulled some weeds in my garden. I am not easy on my nails, that's for sure. So for approximately $6, you get pretty darn good results!

In the pic above, I'm wearing Pure Ice nail polish in Tickle Me Pink under the Ultra Wear.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What I learned this weekend.

Howdy, friends.

This weekend was LDS General Conference (#LDSConf) and it was awesome. What is General Conference? It is a series of 7 meetings, each two hours long, over a period of two days. It happens every first weekend in April, and every first weekend in October. What is talked about? Jesus Christ and His gospel. How we can follow Him. How we can emulate Him. How we can be better people.

It is edifying, uplifting and positive. And yes, Mormons are Christians.

Today I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes from this weekend's conference. There are lots of great ones out there, just check Pinterest....but these quotes are from my own note-taking, the things that stuck out to me personally.

Christ-like love is the greatest need we have on this planet. ~Jeffrey R. Holland
The best filter is the personal filter of a deep and abiding testimony. ~ Linda S. Reeves
Families are the treasure of heaven. ~Neil L. Andersen
 If blessings were immediate, choosing the right would not build faith. ~Henry B. Eyring
Obedience prepared the Savior to endure to the end on Golgotha. ~Robert D. Hales

There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, and even glorious--be grateful! ~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Heavenly Father accomplishes his miracles one prayer at a time, one person at a time. ~ Jean A. Stevens

The Savior has known and felt ALL our individual burdens. 
~David A. Bednar

No sacrifice is too great to receive the blessings of the temple. ~ William R. Walker 

Christ's resurrection from the dead ended the great human predicament. Now there is only personal predicament. 
 ~ D. Todd Christopherson


 Did you listen/watch General Conference? Share your favorite quote in the comments.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chicken Broccoli Casserole


After five days of eating out it's nice to come home and have a home cooked meal, even though the eating out is fun while it lasts. Part of this mom's vacation is a vacation from cooking.

This recipe is a favorite that I always seem to forget about. Don't ask me how that works....I just know that every so often when I'm trying to figure out what to have for dinner, I'll suddenly remember, "CHICKEN BROCCOLI CASSEROLE!" Capitals, exclamation point and all. And every time I remember to make it, everyone loves it. Maybe they love it because I don't cook it too often? Whatever the reason, it's always a hit!

Chicken Broccoli Casserole
serves 4-6

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 10 oz. bag frozen chopped broccoli
1 10 oz. can cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 t. prepared Dijon mustard
2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray an 8x11 baking dish with cooking spray. Put the chopped broccoli in the bottom of the dish. Top with diced chicken. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soup, mayonnaise and Dijon until smooth. Stir in 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Spoon mixture over top of chicken and spread to evenly cover. Cover dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 10 more minutes. Top with remaining cup of shredded cheese and bake five more minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring Break Southern Utah Style

Last week was Spring Break in these parts. We decided to take off and enjoy the beauties of Southern Utah. Everyone in our family just loves being around the red rocks. Something about a red rock landscape is soothing to my soul.

All of the following pics were shot by me in and around Zion National Park. 






There are plants and flowers that manage to thrive in this environment. What a life lesson!


We hiked from the road at the bottom of this pic, up to where I took this shot. It wasn't easy, and coming back down was harder on my knee than going up, but with a vista like this, it was worth it!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recipe Fail {a baking lesson in moisture vs. structure}

With all the recipes I post on my blog, I wouldn't want anyone to think I never mess up....au contraire. There are plenty of things I make that no one likes, or a few of us like, or they just aren't pretty. Case in point:

This is a Chocolate Chocolate Chip bundt cake I was making for after the first LDS General Women's Meeting this Saturday. I thought I should try it out early, and lemme tell you, it was a good idea. Because this cake definitely did not turn out. It tastes pretty good, but no one is going to want to eat a cake that looks like this!

Sometimes I mess up a recipe, and other times I think the recipe needs tweaking. In this case, the recipe definitely needs a little bit of help so that the cake can support its own weight. Here's what happened and how I plan to fix it.

First off, the cake needed five minutes extra to bake, and then while it cooled it started sinking into itself. When I tried to turn it out of the pan....well, you can see what happened then. This is one of those recipes that has 4 eggs, a lot of oil, pudding mix AND sour cream. The final result was almost soggy it was so moist, and no one wants soggy cake! So my amateurish baking intuition tells me that one, there is too much moisture in this cake and two, not enough structure (flour) to hold it up. The plan for Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt cake #2 is to cut out one egg, cut the oil from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, and add 1/4-1/2 cup of flour, and I think that'll do the trick. I may also cut the sour cream in half, from 8 ounces to 4. If these changes don't work, I'll be going back to the store for more  ingredients for Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt cake #3! Wish me luck....

Monday, March 24, 2014

Looks like.....a game of I Spy?

To help me blog, I try to remember to take pics of stuff (food, books I read, stuff I/my kids do) throughout the week. Then when I get ready to write a post I get my phone and check to see what pics I've taken before I decide what to write about. Sometimes I plan ahead.....other times, not so much. Taking and keeping pics helps keep me inspired. 

This morning I opened up my pics to find a couple of funny shots that I had nothing to do with, but they inspired me just the same.

 Love the wild look in her eye. Mia, ever the actress.


Evidently, she's spying on her little sister. I have no idea where I was. If Broadway doesn't pan out, she could probably put these skills to use.

Thanks to Mia for the fun surprise! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Balsamic-glazed Slow Cooker Pork Loin

Need an easy Sunday meal? Or an easy anytime meal? Here's a good option for you--Balsamic-glazed Slow Cooker Pork Loin from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Yep, Mel did it again.

I slightly adapted Mel's recipe, and it was an overall hit at our house. I say overall, because a couple of the kids didn't care for the glaze, but my hubby loved the glaze and asked for more of it. I liked a little of the glaze, but not too much, and everyone loved the pork itself.

I like to brown roasts/pork loin/etc, before putting them in the slow cooker, and then I deglaze the pan I browned the meat in and pour those yummy juices into the slow cooker.

Balsamic-glazed Slow Cooker Pork Loin
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

2 T. olive oil
 2 pound boneless pork loin, trimmed
1 tsp. ground sage
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper 
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Glaze:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. water
2 T. soy sauce

Heat olive oil in a heavy pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the spices over the entire pork loin and then brown on all sides in hot oil. Transfer pork loin to slow cooker. Add chicken broth to hot pan and bring to a boil, scraping the pan to release the spices and browned bits left from browning the pork loin. Pour hot broth into the bottom of the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.

Near the end of the cooking time, combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer til it thickens, stirring occasionally. 

Remove the pork loin from the slow cooker. Cover with foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. After resting, use two forks to shred the meat, and then drizzle with some of the balsamic glaze. Serve additional glaze alongside the meat. 
 


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Snapshots: There are no small roles, only small actors. Date night. Garden time. Whatever else I feel like saying.

I love today's title. It totally reflects my state of mind right now. Yep, you guessed it. All over the place! My mind is with Nicole. It's also in Washington with my missionary....which probably explains how my Fitbit ended up like this:

 I washed my Fitbit in the washer. And then to add insult to injury, I dried it in the dryer. The ol' rice trick is in total desperation, but I really like that thing so I'm hoping it works! 

These two cuties are in their school musical, The Wizard of Oz. This is Libby's first musical, Mia's I've-lost-count. Last year, she had the starring role when the school did The Little Mermaid Jr. This year, though she could have ROCKED the part of Dorothy, she has a bit part as an Ozian and an "Optimistic Voice" (translation, high soprano singer). It's all in the name of other kids getting a chance to shine. I'm proud of Mia, because she knows it's true, "There are no small roles, only small actors." She hasn't complained one bit. 


 Got a letter from Elder Sedlacek last week that looked like it went through a tornado to get to us.

Garden time! One night while the rest of us were out, Daddy and Libby planted a bunch of seeds. They are successfully on their way to having a lot of good starts to transplant into the garden in a few weeks. Libby literally takes a little dropper bottle and waters "her" starts every day. :)

Last week's Date Night at Cafe Rio. Somehow I missed getting a shot of my Creamy Tomatillo dressing. I can't go to Cafe Rio and NOT have any of it. And Date Night? Absolutely, positively the best night of the week for me. And so important. Even if you end up at Costco.