Sunday, January 30, 2011

Menu Plan January 30-February 5

Well, the first month of 2011 has flown by! If the entire year goes like this, we'll be finished with it in no time!

We've had a couple of spring-like days here in the Deep South. It makes me long for the warm sunshine and flowers I know will be here soon. I don't know about you, but I can't wait!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Pasta, green beans

Sausage veggie calzones, fries

Baked egg rolls, rice

Blackened chicken, broccoli

White chicken chili (slow cooker version), homemade bread

Pizza sloppy joes, crispy potato wedges

Roast with potatoes and carrots in the slow cooker

While you're here, check out my CSN Stores giveaway. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment! I'm planning another giveaway as soon as I hit 200 followers, too. So check back for that one!

If you're looking for more meal planning inspiration, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of great meal plans and recipes.

Friday, January 28, 2011

CSN Stores Giveaway!

Hope everyone's had a great week!

I've been contacted by CSN Stores to host another giveaway here on my blog. CSN Stores has over 200 online shops from which you can buy anything from a swing set and bikes to cookware and furniture. Whatever you're in the market for, CSN Stores has it!

CSN Stores has graciously offered to award a $25 gift certificate to one of my lucky readers to be used in the shop of his/her choice!

So here's how you can win:
Visit CSN Stores and look around. Then come back here and leave a comment, telling me what you'd like to use a gift certificate for.

That's it! You don't have to be a follower. But you do have to live in the US or Canada, since CSN Stores only ships its products to these countries.

You can enter until midnight February 1. I'll pick a random winner from the entries on Wednesday, February 2. I'll let the winner know via email, so be sure to leave me a way to contact you if your profile doesn't have your email address listed.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Getting dough to rise in a cold kitchen

In the winter I have trouble getting dough to rise. Because every dough recipe out there states, "let rise in a warm place free of drafts." And finding a draft-free, warm location in my house can be difficult during the colder months.

So I turn to my oven. It makes a wonderful warm cocoon in which my dough can rise.

First I heat the oven to 200 degrees. When it's reached that temp, I turn the oven off. While the oven's warming up, I boil some water and pour a couple of inches of it into a pan. I place that in the oven right before putting my dough in. The steam from the water helps keep the dough from developing a crusty skin as it rises in the warm oven.

Then the dough goes in. I leave it in the stainless steel bowl of the mixer and cover loosely with foil. I want to leave this in the oven until it doubles in size. Usually it will take about 20 minutes.
Here's the before picture:

After 20 minutes:

Don't forget to use pot holders if when handling your metal bowl! If your dough doesn't require a second rise, you're good to go. But if it does need to be shaped and allowed to rise again, don't worry about reheating the oven. There's still plenty of warmth left. At this point, I take the pan of water out.

Shape your dough into loaves or rolls or whatever. Here I'm making bread bowls for soup.

Return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Now bake as directed in your recipe! Easy, easy, easy!

Note: I always move my oven rack down before heating the oven for the first rise. My mixer bowl wouldn't fit otherwise. After the second rise, I put the rack back in place to bake the bread/rolls/whatever.

For more helpful tips on topics like cooking, budgeting, parenting and having fun, visit We are THAT Family's Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crispy Potato Wedges

I like making homemade fries and potato wedges. Over the years, I've found myself using the same seasonings over and over, though. And that becomes boring.

I decided to shake things up a bit by changing my standard recipe a bit. In addition to some spices and herbs, I coated these babies with some panko bread crumbs. And wow! That one simple addition really turned the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Here's what you need:

4 potatoes, scrubbed well
1-2 TBSP olive oil
1 teas seasoned salt
1/4 teas celery seed
1/4 teas onion powder
dash of cayenne pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Slice each potato into 8 wedges. I start by slicing the potato in half. Then each half gets sliced in half. And then once more to equal 8 wedges. Make sense?

Place the potato wedges in a large bowl. Combine the olive oil and spices. Pour over the potatoes and stir to coat each piece. Put the bread crumbs into a resealable plastic bag. Put a few wedges in the bag at a time and shake to coat. Lay on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time.

For a sampling of more tasty dishes, visit Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursdays.

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Menu Plan January 23-29

Is it spring yet? I am so ready for some warmer weather! Although I will confess the cold weather inspires me to make soup. Nothing better than warm soup with fresh bread on a cool day/evening! I've got it on the menu twice this week, too.

Here's the rest of the plan:

Smoked pork chops, mashed potatoes

Toscano soup, cheesy biscuit bites

Pan-seared tilapia, crispy potato wedges

Beef stew, homemade bread

Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic breadsticks

Gyros on flatbread

Pepperoni rolls

For more yummy menu plan ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Soul Searching Questions for the New Year

I know, I know, we're 20 days into 2011, so why the New Year's post now? Because I wasn't inspired until my pastor shared these questions with the congregation last Sunday. These are designed to help us "consider our ways" and look deeply at our lives for areas we need to change. They are pretty specific, because unless we identify and work on what needs changed, we'll stay the way we are.

Many of these questions not only get you to think about what you need to change or improve, but ask how you will go about it. It's one thing to have a nebulous goal of "being more like Christ." But what specific steps will you take to become more like Him? We're more likely to accomplish what we set out to do if we have a plan!

So here goes. I'd share my answers with you, but I'm still thinking and praying about many of them!

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. What one Biblical doctrine do you most want to understand this year and what will you do about it?

5. What's the single biggest time-waster in your life and what will you do about it?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church this year?

7. For whose salvation will you most fervently pray this year?

8. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

9. What single thing do you plan to do this year that will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

10. What area of your life needs simplifying and what can you do to simplify it?

11. What habit would you most like to establish this year? What will you do about it?

12. Which person would you most like to encourage this year? How will you do it?

13. What is your most important financial goal this year and what specific steps will you take to work toward it?

14. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?

15. What one thing could you do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children or grandchildren?

There were many more questions on pastor's list, but these are ones I really, really feel I need to work on. What about you? Do you have any specific goals to improve your life this year?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dry Skin Solutions - a repost

NOTE: This is a repost of a post from last January. While it hasn't been as cold as last year, it's still cold and our skin is suffering once again. Thought this would be a nice reminder to myself and my readers how to gently care for our dry skin!

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but here in the Deep South, it's COLD! Not as cold as some of you, but definitely colder than usual. We've had our 7th straight day of freezing temps and this cold is supposed to last at least until the weekend.

Not only is our heating bill suffering, our skin is too. The cold, dry air is really taking its toll. Hubby and The Princess get the worst of it. Both of them are afflicted with dry skin anyway. And this cold snap is exacerbating the problem. My hands give me the most trouble because I'm in the kitchen a great deal, washing hands and dishes.

I made a homemade skin salve to put on our dry itchy spots. It soaks in and gives relief to the itchiest patches. It's made from all natural ingredients and contains no alcohol. Did you know that most brand name hand and skin lotions contain alcohol? Look at the ingredients on the bottle. Do you know what alcohol does to your skin? It dries your skin out! Now why would these companies put drying ingredients in products that are supposed to moisturize? Do they want you to keep buying more products? Hmmmm.

All you need for this salve is olive oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and whatever essential oil you want for scent. Lavender is my favorite, but peppermint and lemon are also really nice. I found the beeswax in pastille or pearl form at a craft store, but you can use beeswax blocks as well. The blocks are usually sold per pound.

Measure 1/3 cup olive oil into a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup coconut oil. The coconut oil solidifies at temperatures under 76 degrees. So if your kitchen is anything like mine in this cold weather, your coconut oil will be solid!

Heat the oils over low heat until the coconut oil is melted. This will only take a minute or two. When the oils are combined, add 2 tablespoons of beeswax. Stir frequently with a small whisk or spoon.

Continue stirring until the beeswax is completely melted. This will be the longest part of the process, even though it only takes a few minutes. If you're using wax blocks it might take a little longer. Remove from the heat and add 10-15 drops essential oil. Stir well to blend.

Pour into an 8-ounce container. I ordered this one from Mountain Rose Herbs. You could use a glass canning jar or jelly jar, too.

Cover container with a paper towel and let cool for an hour. The salve will solidify as it cools.

The salve will look solid, but you can easily dip your finger into it and spread it on your skin. A little salve will go a long way, so start with a tiny amount. It might feel slightly greasy as first, but it will soak in after a few minutes. Give it time to work.

The best time to apply this is right after you shower. Pat your skin dry - don't rub with a rough towel, just pat. Then massage in some salve on your dry spots. Let it soak in before you start getting dressed. Reapply the salve as needed throughout the day.

Here are some other ways to help your dry skin during this cold weather if you don't want to make the salve.

Use olive oil on your hands and dry spots before you go to bed. Just a dab will do.

Coconut oil makes a marvelous facial moisturizer. I've been using it for over a year and have seen improvements in my complexion. Word of caution - don't use the coconut oil that's located with the cooking oils at the grocery store. You want unrefined coconut oil, usually found in health food or natural food stores. It's pure, doesn't contain any harsh ingredients, and naturally nourishes the skin. We've been conditioned to believe that all oil on our face is bad. But if you take a look at the ingredients in most facial care products on the market, you'll find some really harsh stuff. Why put that on one of the most sensitive parts of your body? As long as you're not slathering it on, the coconut oil will soak in and nourish your skin.

Stay hydrated. Your skin is the last place your body will hydrate. Major organs are more important in the grand scheme of survival, so skin goes last when body parts are getting hydrated. So drink plenty of water. Your skin will benefit, as will the rest of you.

Turn down the temperature on your hot water heater. Hot water, though it may feel good on a cold morning, will dry out your skin. Short, warm showers are best. And remember to pat yourself dry gently.

Use a cool mist humidifier at night. This not only helps your skin but keeps your nasal passages and throat moist too. Don't you just hate waking up with a dry, scratchy throat and nose?

Apply lip balm regularly. Don't wait until your lips are chapped to start putting it on. Look at the ingredients, too. If the lip balm contains alcohol, avoid using it if possible. It will provide temporary relief, but it will take your lips longer to heal if they're chapped. I'll post a lip balm recipe later this week.

Eat your veggies! Foods rich in Vitamin A and C will help keep your skin hydrated longer. Green leafy vegetables, carrots, and sweet potatoes are good sources of Vitamin A, while citrus fruits, tomatoes, and broccoli provide Vitamin C.

Hopefully some of these solutions will help if you or your family suffers from dry skin.

For more helpful tips, visit Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Apple Coffee Cake

Coffee cake is one of my husband's favorite sweet treats. So I'm always on the lookout for yummy new recipes to make for him. When I stumbled upon this one, I knew he'd love it. And he did.

And it was so good I wish I hadn't told him I was making it. So I could have eaten it all myself. It was just that delicious. And I'm not even a huge fan of cake.

I would never have gotten away with not telling him, though, because the smell as this piece of heaven was baking would have given me away. The scent of apples and cinnamon filled the whole house. As soon as he walked in the door, he noticed. And I think he even started drooling a little.

Here's what you'll need:
3 medium apples, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups flour (I used half white, half wheat)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teas baking powder
1/2 teas cinnamon
1/4 teas salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1 teas vanilla
1 egg, beaten
For the topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teas cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a small bowl, combine the butter, milk, egg, and vanilla.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, but be careful not to overmix. The batter will be thick and lumpy. Stir in the chopped apples. Spread in a greased 8x8 baking pan.

Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. You could add a handful of chopped nuts if you wanted to. Sprinkle over the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top is browning too much, cover loosely with foil.

This cake is fabulous served warm! And fabulous served cold. It's pretty dense, but the apples keep the cake moist and wonderful! Invite a friend over for coffee and make this yummy treat to share.

For more yummy recipes, visit Tempt My Tummy Tuesday over at Blessed with Grace.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Menu Plan January 16-22

This week we're starting a new meal tradition. Once a month we're going to pick a letter of the alphabet and come up with a menu of food items or recipes that start with that letter. I printed out alphabet cards and Daddy randomly drew the letter "r."

Then we sat down together and collaborated on a menu. The kids had lots of ideas, but Mr. Lego came up with the main dish - rigatoni. We're also going to have romaine salad, rolls, and root beer to drink. For dessert, raspberry oatmeal bars. Next month we'll do the same thing with another letter. Daddy is hoping for "x" - so we can have x-tra dessert, x-tra large helpings, etc.

Here's the rest of the week's plan:

Chicken enchilada soup

"R" menu - rigatoni, romaine salad, rolls, raspberry oatmeal bars, root beer

Bacon ranch chicken, mashed potatoes, corn

Pan-seared tilapia, steamed broccoli

Cheeseburger soup in bread bowls

Dinner at friends

Bourbon chicken, rice

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Menu Plan Monday over at Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I got for Christmas!

I forgot to tell you what hubby got me for Christmas!

A new bowl for my Kitchenaid mixer - this comes in handy when I'm baking a lot so I don't have to stop what I'm doing to wash the mixing bowl. This one is shiny, too, so you can see the reflection of my legs in the pic!

A new mixing blade complete with side scraper - love it, but there's a tiny gap between the rubber scraper and the blade. As a result, the ingredients at the very bottom of the bowl don't get mixed in well. The sides, however, do.

A Deal or No Deal Wii game - love the gameshow, but there's no money given out when you win this one! Also, the characters that you select to play the game sometimes take the Lord's name in vain - something I really don't care to hear. Even my kids were shocked by that. We did have fun, but will be turning down the volume next time we play.

This was all purchased with no input from me. Guess hubby knows me pretty well! Although he does claim that we were in Target and I saw the Wii game and said I wanted it for Christmas. I have no recollection of that, so I was still surprised when I opened it.

He's great - I think I'll keep him around.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Creamy Seafood Casserole

It's been snowing here in Alabama, so it's time for some comfort food! This casserole reminds me of a dish I had at Red Lobster once. I don't think it's on their menu now, but since I haven't eaten there in ages, I really don't know.

Here's what you need:

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
4 TBSP butter, divided
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup diced mushrooms
1 lb. cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cans (6 oz) crab meat
1 cup cooked rice
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I used homemade)
1 teas garlic powder
dash of cayenne pepper (if you want a little more zip, add 1/4-1/2 teas)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crushed Ritz crackers (12 crackers)

First, melt the cream cheese and 2 TBSP butter together in a small saucepan. The oils in each make them hard to mix together. But if you stir constantly, they will evenutally combine and become smooth. Set this aside for later.

Melt the remaining butter in a large skillet and saute the diced vegetables until tender. This will take about 5 minutes or so.

Stir in the shrimp, crab, rice, mushroom soup, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and cream cheese mixture. Make sure everything is combined well.

Transfer to a greased 8x8 square pan. Sprinkle with cheese and Ritz crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until browned and bubbly. The crackers and cheese add a nice crunch.

Now enjoy the creamy goodness!

For more yummy recipes, visit Tempt My Tummy Tuesday being hosted today At the Well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Menu Plan Monday January 9-15

Ahhh! Home at last! It's taken me several days to get my groove back in the kitchen. The first day back from Christmas traveling, I couldn't remember where my potholders were! And trying to remember what staples I had on hand...forget it. Anyway, it's back to meal planning for me this week. Hopefully things will go smoother now that I've got a plan in place.

Here's what we're having this week:

Pork roast, mashed potatoes, green beans

Moroccan Chicken Stew

Sausage veggie calzones, french fries

Chinese chicken, rice

Broccoli Cheddar Soup in bread bowls

Greek Chicken Penne, broccoli

Chicken Enchilada Soup, tortilla chips

For dozens of meal plan suggestions, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of inspiration there.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year and what we've been up to

It's been forever since I posted, but we've been here, there, and everywhere since December 11. We traveled to West Virginia to visit my family for Christmas, arriving early so my husband could do a work project. The advantage to this, he gets reimbursed for our travel expenses! Yay!

Then on the 28th we drove to Warrenton, Virginia to stay with my husband's cousin and his wife for a few days. We took the subway to Washington, DC to visit the Smithsonian. While we were there, we took in the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, and the Air and Space Museum.

The Princess explaining sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rock:

Me posing by Julia Child's cookware collection:

A reproduction of Julie Child's kitchen as seen in Julie and Julia:

We didn't have time to visit the monuments and memorials, but we did get to see them from the National Mall area.

You can make out the top of the White House and the National Christmas Tree in this one:

On New Year's Day the Princess served as a flower girl in the wedding of a dear friend of ours. His name is Paul and he's currently serving in the US Marine Corps stationed in DC. We were honored to sit at the table of the groom's family during the reception.

Here's the Princess, the other flower girl and the lovely bride:

Yesterday we returned to my parents' house and tomorrow we'll head south to our home. It's a long time to be away and we'll be thankful to sleep in our own beds tomorrow night!

Did anyone else spend the holidays on the road?