Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beefy Spanish Rice

Before I got married, I wasn't much of a cook. Actually, after I got married, I wasn't much of a cook for many years! But a dear friend gave me a wedding shower gift of a cooking magazine subscription along with a recipe box full of her family's favorite recipes. This recipe for Spanish rice was the first one I tried from her collection. Over the years it's become one of our family favorites, too. It's so easy and delicious, what's not to like about it?

Here's what you need:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 teas dry mustard
1 teas chili powder
1/2 teas cumin
1/2 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper
2 cups very hot water

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the rice and cook for a couple of minutes until the rice starts to brown.

Add the diced onion and green pepper. Cook until slightly soft. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain off some of the grease. I do this by tilting the pan to one side and pushing all the food to the other side. Then I use a turkey baster to suck up the grease. Real fancy, huh?

Stir in the tomato sauce, seasonings and hot water. Bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer over low for 25-30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Sprinkle individual servings with shredded cheese if desired. Around here, it's always desired!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ever had a Dole Whip at Disney?

If you have, you'll love this recipe. I took several recipes I found online and simplified them into three ingredients - pineapple juice, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream. Easy and yummy!

I took a 46-oz can of pineapple juice and placed it in a gallon-size Ziploc bag. I placed the bag in the freezer for a couple of hours until the juice was slushy but not frozen. I think the next time I make this, I'll use a glass dish to freeze the juice because dipping the slush out of a bag was a tad messy.

I let the vanilla ice cream soften up. You can scoop the ice cream into a mixing bowl and beat it with the paddle attachment to break up any hard ice cream chunks. Those don't make it through a straw very well.

Then I whipped a 16 oz container of heavy whipping cream until soft peaks formed. It was the perfect consistency for this yummy treat.

I layered a scoop of ice cream, then a scoop of pineapple slush, then a scoop of whipped cream. And because there was room left in the cup, I repeated the layers. Then a good stir....and it's time to sip! (That's our dog, Alexandra, in the picture. She was hoping for a taste.)

There was enough pineapple slush to make 10l arge servings. If you don't need that large amount, cut down on how much pineapple juice you freeze and how much whipped cream you make.

I can't tell you how delicious and refreshing Dole Whips are. You have to try one for yourself. And if you don't have a trip to Disney planned in the near future, whip it up at home.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Menu Plan March 26-31

The last week of March! Can you believe it? Spring has definitely arrived here in the Deep South and I have the pollen coating on my car (and my front porch and mailbox and sidewalk and anything else that doesn't move) to prove it! It rained last week and washed some of it away. But within a day there was more of the stuff everywhere. Oh well, I guess it's the price we pay for warmer temps.

Now on to this week's menu.

Chicken and corn chowder

Girls Night Out

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce, fries

Philly cheesesteaks
, roasted carrots

Chicken shawarma


Sunday (April Fools Day)
Meatloaf cupcakes

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Make Your Own Classroom Posters

Today I had an a-ha moment. Maybe a "Duh!" moment describes it better.

I used to be a classroom teacher. I used to have walls and walls to cover with something, anything that might be considered educational. So I have at my disposal a LOT of classroom posters to put up in our school room. I try to rotate them to keep something new and interesting in front of my kids.

I realized just how ineffective they were when I asked the Princess to define a particular part of speech and directed her to look on the wall to refresh her memory. A puzzled expression crossed her face and she replied, "Look on the wall?" as if she'd never seen my parts of speech poster before. Of course, she had but like most things, the posters had just started blending in with the walls and didn't stand out.

Then it hit me! Why am I putting pre-made, store-bought posters on the walls when my kids could make their own posters to display?

This has a two-fold purpose. First, I really need something to spruce up the walls. Why not let my creative children provide the decor? And second, it's a fantastic way for my kids to review what they've learned!

So I gave them some paper and off they went! The first step was to make a mini-poster defining a noun. Then we'll tackle common and proper nouns. And maybe concrete and abstract nouns. How about making nouns plural? That sounds challenging!

My plan is to combine all the mini-posters and adhere them to one big piece of poster paper for future display. Then each child will have a poster he/she made to put up on the wall.

I knew this idea was a winner when the Princess said to me, "Wow, Mom. That was fun. Can we do it again tomorrow?" Sure thing, cupcake.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lemon Cream Cheese Bread

A friend sent me a recipe for Orange Cream Cheese Bread last fall. I tried it, but the baking time and temperatures were off. It turned out kind of crispy, not exactly the kind of loaf I like. I filed the recipe away and thought I'd try it again later.

Well, later came when I came across the recipe last week. I didn't have any oranges on hand and really didn't want to make a trip to the store for some. But I did have lemons. Lovely, lovely lemons. And so I substituted lemons for oranges. Wow! I'm so glad I did. This recipe makes two loaves, so I was ready to freeze one for later. My family didn't cooperate and both loaves where gone in a flash! It's just that good!

Here's what you need:

1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teas salt
1 TBSP baking powder
3/4 cup milk
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup chopped nuts
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
enough lemon juice to make the glaze easy to drizzle

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon juice.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the milk and lemon zest. Add the nuts and mix well.

Pour the batter into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 55-60 minutes. If the top browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick or butter knife into the center. If it comes out clean, the bread is done.

Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the pans and place on wire racks to finish cooling. I always cover my wire racks with wax paper because I like to add a glaze and don't want it dripping through the racks.

After 30 minutes, make the glaze by adding enough lemon juice to the powdered sugar to allow it to drizzle easily. Spread over the slightly warm loaves.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Menu Plan March 19-25

I don't know what the weather is like where you're at, but here in the Deep South we're having some summer-like temps. I love it, but the pollen is horrible. I'm drinking lots of herbal tea, trying to stave off the worst of my allergy symptoms.

Irish beef stew, biscuits

Beefy Spanish rice, corn

Baked chimichangas, pepper saute

Pan-seared tilapia, broccoli


Ranch veggie pizza

Toscano soup, garlic breadsticks

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

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

Okay, not a few. Forty-two! Cause I'm 42 today. And on your birthday you're allowed to post long lists of nonsense.

I'm not going to list my family, because they're people, not things. And I think it goes without saying that they're my faves. I love them deeply, after all. These are just some random things I love and enjoy, in no particular order.

My Bible, a gift from my parents
John Wayne movies
Freshly baked bread
My Kitchenaid mixer
Yellow roses
Disney's Beauty and the Beast
Soup on a cold day
West Virginia Mountaineers football
Patriotic music
Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC
Reese cups
Once Upon a Time (TV show)
My slow cooker
Sunday afternoon naps
Warm chocolate chip cookies
Cheese fries with bacon
The Internet!
Historical fiction
Cape Hatteras lighthouse
Online shopping
My Nook tablet
Holding hands with Charles
Fuzzy bathrobes
Medium well steak
Green apple Jolly Ranchers
Hazelnut creamer for my coffee
Stained glass windows
Walt Disney World
Pizza with bacon
Cruise control
4th of July fireworks
Collecting seashells
Autumn leaves
Pumpkin spice lattes
Whole Foods
Mexican cuisine
Poetry by Robert Frost

And now you know more about me than you probably care to. Did anyone notice that food showed up on this list a great deal?

Hope y'all have a great weekend.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ranch Veggie Pizza

Sometimes I enjoy a change from traditional tomato-sauce, pepperoni and cheese pizza. Don't you? So I used the idea of an olive-oil "sauce" with veggies as the toppings. The end result was delicious! Charles, my traditional pizza guy, even commented that he'd love to have this one more often.

Here's what you need:

1 pizza dough recipe
3 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP ranch dressing mix
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 green, red or yellow pepper, thinly sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Mix up a batch of your favorite pizza dough. You can use thawed frozen bread dough or even a pre-made store bought crust.

Combine the olive oil and ranch mix. Allow this to sit for several minutes so the oil gets infused with the ranch flavors. I actually do this before I start mixing my pizza dough.

Stretch the dough onto a greased pan. I like to use a rectangular cookie sheet instead of a round one for this pizza. I don't know why. Prick the crust several times with a fork. Bake at 425 degrees for 7-8 minutes.

Brush the olive oil mixture on the crust. Layer the toppings with tomato slices on top. Tomatoes have a lot of moisture and if they're right on top of the crust, your crust might get soggy. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown.

This pizza is so yummy! Without the heavy tomato sauce, it crisps up nicely. You can add mushrooms or other veggies to suit your family's tastes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Menu Plan March 12-17

My birthday week is here! Yay!

Which means hubby will take me out to eat and I'll get dessert. Ha ha! That might seem funny, but usually we never get dessert out because we're too stuffed. But this time, I'll get it to go if I'm too full. Now how is that for planning ahead?

My sweet husband already got me my present, a Nook tablet. I love, love, love it! He got it for me before we left for Disney, so I've had it for over a month. I'm still learning the ins and outs. But I adore the Nook, and the man who got it for me.

Now on to this week's menu:

Tasty Tilapia, cauliflower

Feel Better Chicken Stew
, biscuits

Corned beef and cabbage

Out to eat, kids will have homemade chicken nuggets
(my birthday is not until tomorrow, but this day worked out better for our babysitter)

Juicy grilled steak, broccoli

Shepherds pie, Irish soda bread


For more meal planning ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Formua for Raising Perfect Children

Wouldn't it be great if every child came with an instruction manual unique to that child? Wouldn't it be nice if there was a step-by-step process with the guaranteed result of perfectly behaved, kind, loving children? If we followed that formula, then all of our worries for our children's futures would be over?

Ahhh, my friends, there is NO such thing.

I've read my share of child-rearing advice from a variety of sources. Some writers make wonderful claims that if you follow their advice, your kids will turn out great! Well, there are always general principles we can incorporate in our homes. But I'm sorry to say, there are no guaranteed results. Our children are individuals. We can steer them in the right direction, but it's up to them to choose the right path.

You see, if there was an A+B=C sure-fire method of rearing the perfect child, we wouldn't need Jesus in our homes. We wouldn't have to trust Him to guide us. We would slack off in our prayers for our kids. After all, the formula would always work, right?

I've heard many Christian parents bemoan the fact that they've done everything right, so why did their children stray from God? Because they're human! As adults, how many times do we stray from our Heavenly Father despite His love and goodness? How can we expect our children to follow our guidelines when we don't always follow His?

So, do we give up? Do we forgo any kind of discipline or instruction when it may or may not produce the desired results? Of course not. We have the God-given duty as parents to set a good example for our children. We've been tasked with the responsibility of teaching them right from wrong. We pray, we love, we teach. We pour our very hearts and souls into our children.

But what if it's not enough?

Here's where faith comes in. And it's so hard to put our children in God's hands. He can change their hearts when our words can't. He can direct them back to the right path when we can't see the way.

So there is hope in raising our children. God has a special plan for each of them. That's the guarantee we have as parents.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

African Peanut Soup

This is an unusual, tasty soup with peanut butter as an ingredient. To my knowledge, I had never eaten soup with peanut butter before, so this was a first for me. I wasn't sure how well it would blend with tomatoes to create something the kids would eat, but they both enjoyed it very much. It was even better the second day.

Here's what you need:

1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 teas minced garlic
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 cartons beef or chicken broth
2 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/4 teas chili powder
1/4 teas salt
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
extra peanuts for garnish

In a large pan, cook the onion and pepper in olive oil until tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Don't let the garlic burn.

Stir in the tomatoes, broth, chicken, chili powder and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rice and give it a good stir. Cover the pan and continue simmering for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is tender. Stir in the peanut butter until well blended. Garnish with additional chopped peanuts.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Menu Plan March 5-11

Last week was crazy busy, along with some crazy weather. I'm hoping for a slower, more relaxed week. As if that will ever happen! LOL.

Have you noticed grocery prices creeping up lately? I know rising gas prices contribute to that. So I'm trying to keep my grocery trips to a minimum while using cost-effective menus to save some money. This week's menu is family-friendly AND cheap.

Here's what is one the menu:

Chicken corn chowder

Baked egg rolls, fried rice

Ravioli, green beans, breadsticks

Slammin' Salmon, lemon pepper broccoli

Homemade pizza

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce

Stuffed Pepper Soup

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chicken Shawarma

I love trying exotic foods, especially Indian and Middle Eastern. I'm not a big fan of spicy, though, so I nearly always have to tone down the spices when cooking these cuisines. But this Chicken Shawarma is wonderful. It's got the right amount of curry and other yummy ingredients to make it tangy and delicious.

Here's what you need:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 teas curry powder
1 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas sea salt
1/2 teas cumin
1/4 teas turmeric

In a bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings. Add the chicken chunks and stir well to coat. Allow the chicken to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Heat a little olive oil in a pan until it's very hot and shimmery. Carefully add half the chicken chunks. Watch for oil splatters. Cook on one side for 4-5 minutes, then stir the meat and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes. I like a nice browned crust on my chicken, so I cook just a little longer.

Remove from the pan and keep warm. You might need to add a little more oil before cooking the remaining chicken. The second batch will get a little more crusty brown than the first, which is how I like it.

Serve on flatbread with tzatziki sauce.. If you don't want to make flatbread, you can substitute pita bread. Or you don't have to use any bread at all. My kids eat the chicken all by itself and love it that way.