Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CSN Stores Review coming up!

CSN Stores has once again asked me to try a product from their stores and share my review with y'all. If you've never heard of CSN Stores, you need to check them out. Seriously.

CSN Stores has over 200 online shops where you can purchase anything from beautiful wardrobes to chic lighting pieces to children's furniture.

But here's the dilemma. There are so many wonderful products to choose from that I'm having a hard time narrowing down my choice.

Should I try out a new crockpot? Cause I love cooking with a crockpot!

Or maybe some new mixing bowls with spouts for easy pouring?

Or a new kitchen clock?

CSN Stores truly has something for everyone!

By the way, Simply Stacie is hosting a CSN Stores giveaway, so head over there for a chance to win! You might be able to get some wonderful products for yourself!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Fall is in full swing now that the temperatures have cooled. Last week we broke records for high temps in the 90's! Yesterday it rained and there was a dramatic change in the air. Still, nothing says fall to me like apples.

This recipe is my go-to muffin recipe. It's easy and quick. I use it for blueberry muffins, bacon and cheddar muffins, even chocolate chip muffins. This go around I'm using it to showcase my favorite fall treat - apples!

Here's what you need:

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 teas baking powder
1/2 teas salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 cup of mix-ins - in this case, chopped apples

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Since I'm making apple cinnamon muffins, I added 1 teas cinnamon to the flour mixture.

In another small bowl, combine the milk, egg, and oil. Stir this into the flour mixture just until moistened. The trick to great muffins is to not overmix. Just until moistened, okay?

Now stir in your chopped apples. The batter will be thick and lumpy. That's exactly how you want it! Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

If you want a little more sweetness, combine brown sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over the top before baking.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Menu Plan Monday September 26- October 2

It's going to be an extremely busy week, so I'm sticking with some simple family favorites. My in-laws are coming so my father-in-law can help hubby install a tile floor in our kitchen! Yay! I'm getting a new floor!

Here's the plan:

Pizza pasta, homemade bread

Chinese chicken, rice

Sausage veggie calzones

Lentil rice burritos

Toscano soup, salad

Chicken fingers at a Fall Festival

Turkey, green beans, potatoes

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oatmeal Pancakes

I love pancakes. Pancakes for breakfast, breakfast for lunch, and especially pancakes for dinner. Fortunately, my family loves them, too. Sometimes I add blueberries, sometimes chocolate chips. Now I add oatmeal.

Oatmeal, you ask? Yes. The addition of oats gives the pancakes a hearty texture and a boost of nutrition. And the pancakes keep you filled up longer. What's not to like about that?

Here's what you need:

1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour (you can use whole wheat or white wheat)
1 cup quick cooking oats
2 TBSP sugar
2 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
1/2 teas cinnamon
1 3/4 cup milk
2 teas vanilla
1/4 vegetable oil
2 eggs

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vanilla, oil and eggs until well blended. Stir into the oat mixture.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the batter onto a lightly greased, heated griddle or frying pan. Cook until done on both sides. Serve hot with syrup or applesauce.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pumpkin Butterscotch Muffins

It's fall, so time to bring on the pumpkin! Only I'm sure you've noticed, there's hardly a can of pumpkin to be found at the grocery store. That's because of the Pumpkin Shortage of 2009. I read about the poor harvest last year and stocked up during Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I still have a couple of cans. Hopefully this year's crop will be better and canned pumpkin will reach store shelves within the next month or so!

Update on 9/27/10 - Canned pumpkin spotted at WalMart!

If you're fortunate enough to have some canned pumpkin, here's a great recipe to try. You'll need:

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar (I use turbinado)
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas ground ginger
1/2 teas nutmeg
1/4 teas baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
1 cup butterscotch chips

In a bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the butter, pumpkin, and eggs.

Mix the flour mixture and pumpkin mixture together. Stir in the butterscotch chips. The batter will be thick.

Divide the batter among 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

I've also used the batter to make mini-muffins. Lower the oven temp to 350 and bake for 10-12 minutes.

For more great recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pear Butter

We have a wonderful pear tree in our back yard. And my husband graciously spent time on Saturday picking some for us. You can't see it, but he's up on a step ladder in this picture.

I've never been a fan of pears, honestly. I didn't care for the gritty texture. When I was a kid, my mom would pack those little cans of fruit cocktail in my school lunch, and I'd eat everything but the pears.

These pears are different. I can't remember what variety they are, but they're very, very sweet and barely gritty at all. For the first time in my life, I enjoy eating pears! Apparently, this little turtle guy does, too. The kids found him under the tree, feasting on the pears that had already fallen to the ground.

Since I've never been a fan of pears, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with the bountiful harvest. We passed some on to friends and neighbors, but had (and still have) a bunch left!

Then I hit on the idea of pear butter! I've made apple butter before, so I knew I could do it. And I made it even simpler by cooking the pears in the crockpot!

Here's the very simple recipe I used:

40 medium pears, peeled and diced (this took forever!)
1 cup sugar (less if your pears are sweet like mine)
2 teas cinnamon

Layer about half the pears in the crockpot. Sprinkle with half the sugar and 1 teas of cinnamon. Repeat layers. Cover and cook on low until the pears are mushy. This took about 5 hours. Stir a couple of times so the pears don't burn.

When the pears are very, very tender, use a potato masher to break them up. If you have an immersible stick blender, just put it in the pot and blend until smooth. Otherwise, put the mashed pears in a blender in batches and blend until smooth. Of course, if you prefer chunky pear butter, just skip the blender step all together.

Allow the pear butter to cool, then ladle into freezer jars. I got six 8-oz jars out of this recipe, with a little left over to eat on homemade bread. And let me tell you, that is the best way to eat pear butter!

For more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Menu Plan Monday September 19-25

September is just flying by! It's hard to believe we're in the double digits 'til Christmas now. Yep! Only 96 days until my favorite holiday.

This week we're going to take a little mini-vacation and go to Chattanooga for sushi on Friday, then to an amusement park on Saturday. Whoo hoo! Has anyone ever been to Lake Winnie in Georgia? Got any tips?

Here's the plan for this week:

Bacon Cheddar Chicken, mashed potatoes


Chicken fingers, green beans

Beef and broccoli, rice

Potato soup, cheesy biscuit bites

Sushi in Chattanooga

Lake Winnepesaukah

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll be surprised at how much meal planning can help you stick to a budget and reduce your stress when mealtime rolls around!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Parenting Thing isn't for Wimps

I love being a mom. I really do. Having children changed my life for the better.

But I just gotta say that as much as I love my kids, parenting is hard. Sometimes it just stinks! Sometimes I want to lock myself in my room and pull the covers up over my head, forgetting my responsibilities for awhile.

And the responsibilities are many! Parenting isn't all fun and games. We have to teach them so many things - kindness, patience, friendship, leadership, responsibility. We have to correct bad attitudes and instruct them in the ways of the Lord. And that's not even touching the life skills they need to learn to become self-sufficient. It never ends!

You know what? It's okay to admit that it's hard! It's perfectly fine to acknowledge that you need help! As Christians, our first resource should be God's Word. But it's wise to seek godly counsel, too. As long as that counsel lines up with what the Bible says, there's nothing wrong with asking for advice from another parent or teacher, especially one who's been there and done that before us.

So why is asking for help so hard? Because we don't want to admit our kids aren't perfect and neither are we? Will others look differently as us if they know we're struggling? Do we fear being judged as poor parents by our peers? Are the opinions of others more important to us than finding solutions to the problems we face as parents?

Maybe it's time we stopped worrying about how others view us and stopped judging each other's parenting skills and HELPED EACH OTHER through prayer and godly counsel!

There! I feel better!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Toscano Soup

One of my favorite things to order at Olive Garden is soup, salad, and breadsticks. And my favorite soup is Zuppa Toscano. I created my own version, using parts of this recipe and parts of a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law. It is one of the most flavorful soups I've ever had! No need to head out to Olive Garden now!

Here's what you need:

5 Italian sausage links, casings removed
4-6 russet potatoes
1 onion, diced
2 teas minced garlic
2 cans chicken broth
2 cans beef broth, plus one can of water
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 cup half-and-half

To remove the casing from the sausges, simply slice the link down the middle and peel the casing back. Then break up the sausages in a large stock pot and cook for a few minutes.

While the sausage is cooking, slice your potatoes. I didn't peel mine. I like the earthiness and rusticity of leaving the peels on. I just scrubbed them well, then sliced them in half length-wise. Slice each half into 1/4 slices.

Add the potatoes, onions and garlic to the pot. Cook until the potatoes start to soften, stirring often. Pour in the broth and water.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the chopped spinach and simmer for another 5 minutes. You can leave the spinach out if your family doesn't like it. Or you can use fresh chopped spinach if you have it on hand.

Stir in the half and half and heat through. Ladle into bowls and serve.

You can, of course, spice this up by using hot Italian sausage if you wish. My kids don't like spicy foods, so that's not an option for me. I prefer non-spicy anyway!

If you like Olive Garden's Toscano soup, you're going to love this!

For more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Soft Ginger Bars

If you're looking for an alternative to brownies or blondies, I've got the recipe for you! These cookie bars are scrumptious! The ginger is subtle, not overwhelming like in a ginger snap or gingerbread. And these bars are fabulous with a cup of coffee or glass of milk. I've tried them both ways. Wink!

Here's what you'll need:

1 3/4 cups brown sugar (I use turbinado sugar)
11 TBSP butter, softened (1 stick plus 3 TBSP)
1/4 cup molasses
2 teas ground ginger
2 eggs
2 teas vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teas baking powder
1 teas salt
1/2 teas baking soda

In a mixing bowl, cream together the brown sugar, butter and molasses. Beat in the ginger, eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time until all of it is incorporated. Spread the batter (it will be thick like cookie dough and very sticky) into a greased pan with the back of a spoon.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool before cutting into bars.

Well, I couldn't wait until they were completely cool because they smelled SO good. And it was just fine! No lightning fell from the sky or anything. You'll see what I mean when you bake them yourself. They smell like fall! You're going to love 'em!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Menu Plan Monday September 12-18

I am so loving fall! The weather is just perfect and the sky is such a brilliant blue. It always seems bluer in September!

Here's the menu plan for the week:

Pork roast with apples and potatoes (didn't get to it last week)

Steak sandwiches, homemade fries

Baked egg rolls, rice

Chicken and rice soup, homemade bread

Deep dish pizza

Black beans and rice, flatbread

Cheeseburger soup

For more meal planning inspiration, check out Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of recipe ideas and menus to jumpstart your own planning.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

I was on my way to work on that beautiful September morning, listening to the radio as always. The first plane had hit, and the DJ's were discussing what could make a plane veer off course that much. Then the second plane hit. I could hear the disbelief in their voices when they realized it wasn't a coincidence that two planes could hit the Twin Towers within minutes of each other.

When I got to work, my co-worker had the TV on in one of the attorney's offices. We sat there in stunned silence and watched the news coverage. I remember sliding out of the leather chair onto my knees when the first tower fell. It was inconceivable to me that the lives of countless people had just been wiped out.

By this time came news of the Pentagon being hit. We were under attack. In my lifetime.

It was simply unbelievable.

Charles was driving to Atlanta to a telecom trade show with a co-worker and another friend. As they neared the city, the electronic traffic signs over the interstate said "Due to national emergency, the airport is closed." He called me on his cell phone and I cried as I told him the news. When he arrived at the trade show, the large screen TVs that had been set up around the Georgia World Congress Center were all tuned to the news. Nobody bustled around the booths and spoke of technology. Everyone was glued to the TVs.

I left work and picked up Mr. Lego from the babysitter. He was only 7 months old. When I got home, I sat in front of the TV all afternoon, holding him close. I called my mom just to hear her voice. I cried as I watched the horror unfold.

For the first time in my life, I realized the depth of hatred that these people had for us and our freedoms. I had grown up in the 80's when communism was the enemy and nuclear war was the biggest fear the country faced. When the Cold War ended, we got complacent. And underestimated the threat that terrorists posed. Oh, there had been terrorist attacks on Americans on foreign soil. But I guess like most Americans, I thought we were safe within our own borders. How wrong we were!

September 11, 2001, changed everything.

May we never, ever forget.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quesadillas - the easy way!

I simply adore quesadillas. They are one of the most versatile dishes on the planet. And they're an excellent way to use up leftovers and stretch a small amount of ingredients into a tasty meal. I don't follow a recipe, I just use whatever I have on hand. How simple is that?

I make my quesadillas even simpler by using my oven instead of the stovetop to prepare them. See, nearly ever quesadilla recipe I've ever read says you need to flip the quesadilla in the pan to cook on both sides.

Ummmm, have you ever tried to flip a tortilla loaded with yummy ingredients without letting said ingredients fall out all over the place? Yeah, not so easy.

So here's what I do.

I heat my oven to 400 degrees and grease a cookie sheet. Then I place a tortilla on the cookie sheet and layer my yummy stuff on one half of it. Then I fold the tortilla over and lightly brush with olive oil.

I bake the tortillas for about 5 minutes or long enough for the cheese to melt. The tortilla gets a little crispy on both sides. Without flipping. Yay! I then use my kitchen shears to cut each quesadilla in half for easy eating.

My typical quesadilla includes plenty of cheese, usually cheddar and monterey jack, salsa, black beans and cooked chicken. Sometimes I don't have any meat, so I double up on the beans for protein. I've also used leftover steak or taco meat, too.

But quesadillas aren't limited to traditional Mexican ingredients. You can create a ham and Swiss quesadilla with tomatoes, turkey and mango with provolone, or even a pizza version with sauce, pepperoni or bacon and mozzarella.

You won't be able to find an easier, quicker meal option. You can customize each quesadilla to suit your children's tastes, too. You know, like when one kids wants extra salsa and the other wants none. They're so easy, the kids can even make their own!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mexican Rice

If you need a simple side dish to accompany fajitas or burritos, I've got your recipe right here! You know that whenever you order an entree at a Mexican restaurant, it usually comes with a side order of rice. This rice recipe is very, very similar to what you would get at the restaurant. It's tasty but doesn't take away from your main dish. You can adjust the spices to suit your own family's tastes, too.

Here's what you need:

1 TBSP cooking oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teas garlic salt
1/2 teas cumin
1/4 teas chili powder
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cups water or chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and cook until golden, stirring constantly.

Add the onion and seasonings. Cook until the onion is tender. Stir in the tomato sauce and water or broth. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff with a fork.

The kids gobbled this up. The rice had a subtle Mexican flavor but didn't compete with the main dish, chicken fajitas. I added black beans and cheese to the leftovers the next day for a different twist.


For more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Menu Plan Monday September 5-11

Fall has arrived! Temps are down in the 50's at night, but still getting up in the high 80's during the day. The air smells of fall, the shadows are lengthening, the sky is a brilliant blue. Oh yeah, it's fall in Alabama!

Here's the menu plan:

Roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits

Roast beef sandwiches, other picnic food

Pizza sloppy joes, tater tots

Chicken quesadillas

Pork loin with apples, green beans

Homemade chicken nuggets, fries


For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What a week!

This has been a busy, but blessed, week. Wednesday our church kicked off our BLAST Zone Kids' Clubs for the year. (BLAST stands for Bible Learning And Sharing Together). I'm a leader in the 5th and 6th grade class, so I help with games, present the lessons, and work one-on-one with the kids, trying to show them how to have a deep, meaningful relationship with the Lord. It takes a great deal of work and preparation, but oh, man! It is so worth it!

Thursday, my husband's grandparents stopped by our house for the night. We got to spend some precious time with them. They were on the last leg of their 3,000 mile, month-long journey through several states. We were so blessed to have them spend the night with us. We talked and laughed and talked and laughed. It's so great having a loving family like mine!

Then today we learned that one of our best friends has received a long-awaited promotion at work. What an answer to prayer! So tonight we're celebrating with an impromptu pizza party and fellowship. I'm so looking forward to it!

Of course, we have the long holiday weekend to look forward to as well. Hope y'all have a great Labor Day!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Welcome, September!

Today is the first day of September, one of my favorite months.

The weather starts to cool down into the 80's. Hey, after 6 weeks of 90+ temps, 80 degrees is cool to me!

Fall decorations come out and plans start being made for the holidays.

Apples are in season and fairly cheap. Free Picture of an Apple With a Slice Cut Out. Click Here to Get Free Images at School Clipart

Starbucks starts selling their pumpkin spice lattes! Whoo hoo! Of course, you can make your own, like I did last year to satisfy my craving.

I love this time of year!