Monday, October 31, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Bars

If peanut butter and chocolate is your thing, this recipe is for you! These little babies are addictive and so yummy! The chocolate filling stays smooth and creamy while the peanut butter cake layer is moist and delicious.

Here's what you need:

1 yellow cake mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs

Mix these ingredients together until well blended. Reserve a little less than half of this mixture for the topping. Press the remainder into a greased 9x13 pan.

For the filling:

1 pkg chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 TBSP butter
2 teas vanilla

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla.

Spread the chocolate filling over the mixture in the pan. Drop the reserved cake mixture over the filling by teaspoonfuls. A little chocolate will peek through, and that's okay.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool before cutting into bars.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Menu Plan October 30-November 5

Am I the only one who thought October just zipped by? How can this be the first week of November already? I remember my parents saying that the older you got, the faster time seemed to fly. Now I know what they meant!

Anyway, here's the meal plan for the week:

Leftover soup from our soup supper with friends on Saturday

Baked egg rolls, fried rice

Black bean chili, homemade bread

Jamie Oliver's Crunchy Garlic Chicken, lemon pepper broccoli

Cheeseburger rice, green beans


Chicken and corn chowder

So, what's on your menu this week? If you're looking for more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Hundreds of bloggers share their menu plans, so you're bound to find something to inspire you.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fun at the Pumpkin Farm

Last week we went to the pumpkin farm for an afternoon of family fun. The weather was perfect, sunny and breezy.

There was a petting zoo that the kids really enjoyed.

They also loved the hay maze. Which way should they go?

Playing in a corn crib, something I've never done.

This is an old-fashioned smokehouse. We were given samples of freshly fried pig skins and cookies that were baked in a wood stove, just like in pioneer days.

The children were allowed to pick a small pumpkin to take home.

It took some time to find the perfect ones.

And then we headed home.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cultivating a Deeper Relationship with My Daughter

As the Princess gets older - she's nine going on nineteen - I want to keep our relationship open and loving. You always hear people say, "Just wait until she's a teenager, then she won't even talk to you!" In an effort to avoid that dire prediction from coming true, I want to start cultivating a deeper relationship with her now.

So I borrowed this idea from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooling Mom. It's a notebook in which she and I write back and forth to each other. I started by asking her to be my pen pal. I told her she could ask me anything and I'd give her an honest answer. We'd keep our communications just between us. Then I placed the notebook on her bed. When she wrote back to me, she put the notebook on my bed.

So far I've shared my favorite Bible verses and she's shared a few with me. She's drawn some pictures of the two of us, too. I know that it's often easier to write out thoughts and feelings instead of expressing them verbally, so I hope this keeps the lines of communication open between us, even when she hits the dreaded tween years.

Oh, if you want to know how I made this, it's very simple. I had a composition notebook that I covered with scrapbook paper. I used a glue stick to adhere the paper. Then I used stickers for the words Mom and Me. Easy peasy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pity Party Post....or how I spent my Saturday

I spent it in the hospital. Doing nothing. And I'm exhausted!

Okay, let me back up. I went to bed around 11:30 on Friday night. I began having terrible pain in my upper back, left side. It moved around swiftly to my chest. I tried not to panic, thinking that maybe I had pulled something in my back. After an hour, the pain was just as intense and I thought that perhaps I'd better get checked out, just in case.

You see, recently a friend of mine lost her 15-year-old son to an undiagnosed heart condition. He had a massive heart attack and was gone. Also, my best friend's dad was diagnosed with a heart problem that if he hadn't sought medical help when he did, he might not be here today. So I woke Charles up, and he took me to the ER where I was admitted right away. Hey, tell them you've got chest pains, and the usually slow intake process speeds up considerably!

I had an EKG and was given a host of meds. Blood was drawn, an IV was placed, shots were administered. I got a shot right in my abdomen, beside my belly button. Ouch! The pain started to subside and I was made comfortable. Well, as comfortable as you can be with bright lights shining down on you and medical people poking and prodding you. About 4am I was given a room so I could be kept for observation and have a few more tests. I got no rest there, either, as every few minutes someone came in to do another blood draw or check my vitals. A hospital is the worst place to get sleep! Ha ha!

Thank the Lord for good friends like my dearest friend Suzanne who took the children so Charles could be with me. I know she had other things planned for her Saturday, but she voluntarily gave them all up to help us. She's a nurse, so she was able to give me some good advice (like, don't check yourself out of the hospital AMA because your insurance might not pay anything). Yes, that option was very attractive when 5 hours after the last test (a stress test), I still had not talked to a doctor about being discharged. Every blood test, EKG and ECG had come back clear, but no one had read the stress test! Okay, I know checking out against medical advice is NOT a good idea so don't fuss at me. But that shows you how much frustration and exhaustion can mess with your thinking processes! LOL

Around 9 pm, I finally sent Charles to get the kids who were worried about me, because despite being told I was fine, they couldn't understand why I was still in the hospital. The hospital is for people who are sick, right? Why would people who were okay be kept there for no reason? Good question, little ones!

Finally at 10 pm, I went to the nurses station and demanded to talk to a doctor. Now lest you think I was ranting and raving, I was actually very calm and rational. And desperate to get home. The nurses were sympathetic, and I have to say, they were the saving graces of the entire thing. Every nurse or technician who came into my room during my, stay, was cheerful and professional and very kind. But this whole idea of the doctors being too busy to read stress test results and give discharge orders for someone whose other tests came back fine is ridiculous!

God bless the nurse who finally said enough was enough and called a doctor. Within 15 minutes I had discharge orders in hand. Twelve hours after the last test I was finally allowed to go home! Oh, and the stress test was normal.

So what was my diagnosis? Well, considering I never actually talked to a doctor, I really don't know. But I will be seeing my family doctor later to follow up. It's most likely a fluke. I've known two other women with almost exactly the same symptoms and test results, my mom and our assistant pastor's wife. Both had the terrible chest pain, both had clear test results. Both are fine today. So I know it's entirely possible that there might not be an clear cut answer for the what caused the pain. I'm okay with that.

On the plus side, I've gotten lots and lots of extra hugs and kisses from the kids. We're a pretty affectionate family anyway, but Mr. Lego and the Princess have been especially considerate and helpful. Charles and I have giggled several times at how loving they've been. Sweet babies!

And so you don't think I'm a total whiner, I am grateful that nothing was seriously wrong. I'm thankful to live in a place where medical help is readily available and so thorough. And you know how couples often complain they don't spend enough time together without the kids? Well, Charles and I got several hours of togetherness with no children. Just a lot of medical professionals. See, I didn't lose my sense of humor.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Stuffed peppers are so yummy, but buying enough peppers to serve everyone can get expensive. I found a recipe for stuffed pepper soup that had all the flavors of stuffed peppers but with fewer peppers. It also eliminated the chore of actually stuffing the peppers with the meat and rice filling, too. Anytime a recipe can be made easier is fine by me! And if you'll look at the original recipe, you'll see that I did some tweaking. As usual.

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1 small onion, diced
2 green peppers, chopped
4 cups beef broth
2 cans (15 oz each) tomato sauce
1 teas Italian seasoning
1 teas salt
1/2 teas black pepper
1/2 teas garlic powder
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown rice)

In a large pot, start browning the ground meat. After a few minutes, add the onions and peppers so they can cook in the juices. When the meat is no longer pink, drain.

Add the remaining ingredients except the rice. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until peppers have reached desired tenderness. Stir in the rice and heat through.

The kids devoured this! And it's a good thing, too, because this recipe makes a lot of soup. We had enough for leftovers the next day. But like any soup with rice, it thickened up quite a bit. I added a little water to thin it out and a few shakes of the spices so the flavor wasn't watered down too much. This soup is definitely a winner!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thirteen Years of Wedded Bliss

Today is my 13th wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe it's been that long. I'm so thankful for every year we've had together.

Here's a picture of us on that lovely fall day. Yes, that is a strap hanging out of the sleeve of my dress. No, nobody told me it was there. All day long. Had I known it was showing, I would have cut it out of the dress. It was one of those ribbons used to keep a garment on the hanger, so it wasn't even necessary at that point. Oh, well.

Would you like to know how we met? Really, you would?

A little background. I graduated from college in 1992 and went back to West Virginia where I began teaching at my church's Christian school. I taught there until 1996 when I returned to South Carolina to work on my master's degree. During my time in WV, everyone I know tried to fix me up with a fella, someone they knew from work, a guy who went to their cousin's get the picture.

So I was done with being set up. I knew God had a special man for me, and He'd bring him into my life when He was ready. On my first Saturday back in SC, I attended a bridal shower for a dear friend. At the shower I met a lady who found out I was single. She honed in on me like a heat-seeking missile. When she told me she had a son who was close to my age, I laughed. What was wrong with this guy that he needed his mom to find him a girl? Besides that, he lived in south Georgia, so I'd never see him. She finally got me to agree to respond if he emailed me first.

She immediately went home and called her son. She told him she'd found the perfect girl for him. And guess what he did? Exactly what I did - he laughed. But he did agree to email me to placate his mom. He had no intention of anything beyond that. I guess it wasn't the first time his mother had found the perfect girl. Ha ha!

So he emailed me. And asked me to get his mom off his back. I thought his email was snippy, though it was a bit humorous, so I responded in kind - a little humor, a little snip. And for some reason it got his interest. He emailed again. And again.

After a month of emailing, he wanted to meet me in person. So he drove up from Georgia to visit his parents. We all went to Biltmore in Asheville, NC, for the day. We wandered the halls of that huge mansion and talked and talked. I found myself really liking him and he liked me. But to admit his mom was right? Ahhhh, that would take a little longer.

So, I was hand-picked by his mom. And Charles claims we met on the internet. I guess he's correct in that our first conversations took place via email. And you want to know something really sweet? He saved copies of those emails. I guess he knew from the beginning we were something special.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Menu Plan October 16-22

Charles has been out of town for the last two weeks (home on the weekend) for work, so I'm very glad to have him home this week. Especially since tomorrow is our anniversary. He always asks for that day off so there's very little chance of him getting sent out of town. Isn't he smart?

Even though he's home, I won't be doing as much cooking. We'll go out to eat to celebrate our anniversary, then on Friday we've been invited to our dear friends' home for a catch-up dinner. Meaning we've all been so busy, we need a special time to catch up on what's happening in each family's lives! Looking forward to that time of sweet fellowship with them.

Now on to this week's menu:

Stir fry

Anniversary dinner at The Fish Market

Stuffed pepper soup, cheese biscuits

Chicken cordon bleu pasta, broccoli

Parmesan crusted tilapia, green beans, pretzel bread

Dinner with friends, I'll probably bring a snack or dessert

Chicken and dumplings, mashed potatoes

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars

I had some leftover canned pumpkin from another recipe, so I decided to play around with my snickerdoodle bar recipe and see if adding pumpkin would work. I replaced one egg with a cup of pumpkin and increased some spices. And the results are amazing! They turned out more cake-like than bar-like, but still, amazing!

Here's what you need:

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 TBSP vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teas baking powder
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas pumpkin pie spice
1 teas salt
2 TBSP sugar mixed with 1 teas cinnamon and 1 teas pumpkin pie spice

In a bowl, beat brown sugar and butter together. Add the egg, pumpkin and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Add to pumpkin mixture and stir until well-blended. The batter will be thick like cookie dough. Spread into a greased 9x13 pan with a greased spatula or your hands. Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture evenly over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool, cut into squares and serve.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Menu Plan October 9-15

Before I get to the menu, I just want to give my husband a shout-out for the wonderful fall arrangement he made to put in the sanctuary at our church. Each week someone signs up to provide a floral arrangement for the church, and today was our day. Charles mod-podged paper leaves onto clear ornaments, then spent a good deal of time attaching more leaves to a branch from our yard with floral wire. It was my idea to place the urn on fabric with more leaves scattered around it, but other than that, this was 100% my husband's doing. At the end of the week we'll bring it home and place it in our entry way for the rest of the season.

Isn't it lovely? It's not your typical flower arrangment, which is exactly why he did it. He received many compliments on it and one lady even said she was going to steal it! Stealing in church? Can you imagine? LOL. If you want to see it better, click on the picture to enlarge. This was taken with a cell phone since I didn't have the forethought to bring a camera.

Now on to this week's menu:


Homemade pizza

Pan-seared tilapia, lemon pepper broccoli

Crockpot Potato Soup, homemade bread

Out to eat before kids' club

Fiesta chicken and rice, black beans

Ground turkey sloppy joes, crispy potato wedges

Black bean chili over rice, sweet buttermilk cornbread

For more menu plan inspiration head over to Menu Plan Monday at Organizing Junkie and take a look at what others have postes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Easy Crockpot Potato Soup

My family adores potato soup. I have prepared it the same way for years - dicing potatoes and onions, boiling them until done, adding spices, herbs and get the picture. Then I found a similar recipe to mine that was cooked in the crockpot. And instead of dicing up potatoes, this recipe said to use frozen hash browns - the Southern style, not shredded.

It was like the clouds suddenly parted and the sunshine peeked through! Why hadn't I ever thought of that before? It cut the prep time for this recipe down to a few minutes - basically just adding ingredients to the crockpot and turning it on. With cooler weather approaching, you're going to want to make this incredibly easy, delicious soup.

Here's what you need:

1 pkg (30 oz) Southern-style frozen hash browns - not O'Brien, just plain
4 cups chicken broth (this is one large carton or 32 oz)
1 cup water
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 teas onion powder
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas salt
1/4 teas black pepper
4 oz cream cheese, cubed

Dump the frozen hash browns into the crockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cream cheese. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. During the last 1/2 hour of cooking, add the cubed cream cheese and stir for a few minutes to melt and blend into the soup.

Add your favorite toppings such as bacon bits, shredded cheese or green onions. Or all of the above! The Princess chose green onions, Mr. Lego just wanted a little bacon. I added everything, like a loaded baked potato. And the next day they cheered when I warmed up leftovers. That's how simple and yummy this soup is.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

I can't get enough pumpkin. Really, I can't. Until a few weeks ago it was difficult to find canned pumpkin in the store, so I had to raid my stash and was down to my last two cans of pumpkin. Ackkk! I decided to make this yummy pancake recipe for dinner one night, and it was a hit. Paired with a simple cinnamon syrup, it was like eating dessert.

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 egg
2 TBSP oil or melted butter
2 TBSP white vinegar
2 cups flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1 teas cinnamon
1 teas pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teas ground ginger
1/2 teas salt

In a bowl, mix the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil or butter, and vinegar. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until no lumps remain. If the batter is too thick, blend in a little water.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan. It's hot enough when you can sprinkle a few drops of water on it and it sizzles. Use approximately 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. When bubbles form on the top of the pancake and it appears dry around the edge, flip over and continue cooking until done.

Serve warm with syrup. Here's the cinnamon syrup recipe if you're interested, though maple syrup is extremely yummy with these pancakes, too.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup water
1 teas vanilla
3/4 teas cinnamon

Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in the evaporated milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Serve warm over pancakes.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Easy Way to Shred Chicken - Kitchen Tip

I don't know how you shred your chicken, but I've been a two-fork kind of gal. You pull and pull until it's shredded into whatever sized chunks you want.

Sometimes that could take awhile, especially if I had cooked up a bunch of chicken at one time to freeze for later. Today was chicken cooking day. I threw several chicken breasts in the crockpot and let them cook on low all day, intending to work my two-fork magic on them later.

Then I came across this tip on Simply Healthy Family. Use your stand mixer to shred the chicken instead of all that two-fork work! I guess I never really considered such a thing before because I don't use my mixer to shred things. It's a mixer, not a shredder, right? But honestly, this worked better than I could have hoped.

Here's what you do.

Throw the warm chicken in the bowl of your mixer. I took mine straight out of the crockpot and tossed it in. You definitely want to use warm or even hot chicken, because it's soft and tender. Do not try this with cold chicken.

Using the paddle attachment, turn the mixer on low speed for a few seconds, then move up to a medium speed, careful not to let the chicken fly out of the bowl. Because it will if you get that paddle going too fast. This is what my chicken looked like after 20 seconds or so.

I gave it another 10 seconds and got a pile of nicely shredded chicken.

There were a few larger pieces, so I just used a pair of tongs to break them up (no forks necessary).

I was amazed at how easy it was to shred 6 chicken breasts in under a minute! This task would have normally taken me 15-20 minutes, depending on how many times I got interrupted. I saved some of the chicken for use later in the week, then bagged up and froze the rest. Easy peasy!

For more helpful hints, visit Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Menu Plan October 2-8

I don't know how the weather was where you live, but our weekend was cool and gorgeous! Temps got into the high 60's with plenty of sunshine, so it seemed warmer. We attended a local arts and crafts festival, then decorated our house for the season. Now it feels like fall has truly arrived!

Now on to the week's menu:

Roast beef, rice

Ravioli, green beans, garlic breadsticks

Pesto chicken shells, lemon pepper broccoli

Potato soup (crockpot), homemade rolls

Baked egg rolls

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Chicken corn chowder, pretzel rolls

If you'd like a sampling of other people's menu plan ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.