Thursday, July 29

Cooling Off

It has been hot here.  Even I am wearing shorts.  That doesn't happen very often.  I'm more of a I'd-rather-not-show-off-my-pasty-white-legs-if-I-don't-have-to-and-wear-capri's kind of gal.  So yes, it is hot here

On Monday night, DH and I were deciding what to do on his day off as a way to cool off.  We both wanted to do something fun but didn't know what.  They have a water park here locally (like a free park with some water toys kind of park, not a big, pay $20 a person kind of water park) and we tossed that idea around.  But get this, I was totally okay with it and DH was the one creeped out by all the potential children and their germs.  So that didn't fly.  We talked about driving up to the lake that's about an hours drive away, but then we nixed that idea because it has been really, really hot here (have I mentioned that yet?) and we knew we wouldn't stay all day and didn't think the gas drive was worth it for an hour or two's worth of fun.  Plus, keeping Peanut on a schedule is always a good thing, so if we stayed in town, we could keep her on her schedule.  

So I decided to get up early yesterday and find a little pool for Peanut. Went to WalMart and of course they were sold out.  Home Depot doesn't carry pools.  (I was right there, so I thought I'd try just in case...)  Third time's a charm though, and I found the cutest little pool, complete with little butterfly toys. 

DH had it all set up and waiting for Peanut once she was done with her nap.  No fear for this girl~

It was a little cold for her at first, but it took her no time at all to figure out she loved fimming {swimming}. 

Even though we don't get to enjoy my parents house this time of year...I am glad at least that she will be able to wear her collection of suits.  Because they are pretty darn cute. 

She had tons of fun, complete with pruney fingers and toes...and as you can imagine, she wasn't thrilled about being done~

Then tonight, we got an extra treat with this heat.  Thunderstorms and torrential downpours.  I haven't seen rain like this since we moved.  Yes, that much.  And I can't remember, have I mentioned it's hot here?  It was about 95 degrees and pouring outside.  Nothing like the humidity skyrocketing to 200 % to finish of the night off right. 

The Peanut didn't like the thunder too much.  She had a concerned look on her face despite my trying to reassure her, and she kept asking me, "Loud? Loud?"  Luckily though, it quieted down by bedtime, as she is now fast asleep. 

Like I should be right now...

Tuesday, July 27

No Way!

We live in the land of milk and honey.  Or so my Dad says.  It's warm and dry here and there are fruit orchards galore around here.  The problem is is that most orchards don't allow you to come pick (because of liability), as was the case with our landlord's brother.  You can still go buy the fruit here at the orchards, but I've found it's not much cheaper than the grocery store, if even at all. 

I decided to look in the paper here in the classifieds just to see if there was some u-pick orchards available.  And there was!  I found an orchard that has organic apricots.  Even better!  So I called to see how much per pound.   You won't believe the price. 

$0.30 per pound.

For organic no less.

There is no way you find that price at the grocery store even for regular old apricots.  Even organic apricots at Azure Standard are somewhere between $2.25-$2.50 a pound depending on how much you purchase.  And they offer decent prices. 

I KNOW.  So I went and got over 12 pounds and it cost me $3.50.  I am going to freeze some, but I can't freeze too many, because I don't know how much room I need to allow for our beef

My parents are coming not this weekend, but next, and they are going to bring me some of their canning supplies.  Yes, I am that cheap and they haven't used theirs in years.  I am hoping and praying the apricots are still on so I can go get some more to can.  Although I don't have a lot of freezer space, I do have shelf space. 

Pray there are still some available!

Monday, July 26

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Before our little road trip this weekend, I thought I would make something to munch on....of course, it could have been something healthy like carrot sticks.  But no, not me.  I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  My husband loves, loves, loves peanut butter and chocolate...more than any other person I know.  See what a good wife I am....or not, depending on how you look at it.   They have been tasty though, and Peanut likes them too.  Go figure!  I used butter rather than shortening lard, so once again I refrigerated the dough before putting them in the oven.  Worked like a charm!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup turbinado sugar (I would use brown otherwise)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used organic-just peanuts, salt, and peanut oil, no fillers)*
1/2 cup butter, room temperature is best
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour (I used all purpose--wasn't sure how well whole wheat would translate?)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Combine sugar and butter until well mixed...this takes a little longer if using the turbinado sugar.  Add in peanut butter and egg, mix until well combined.  Mix in remaining dry ingredients, including chocolate chips, until dough comes together, stopping to scrape down sides of mixer if necessary.  (I know you are typically supposed to "fold in" the chocolate chips, but meh....this works just as well.)

Using cookie scoop (or your hands), scoop dough into 1 inch balls.  Place on non-greased cookie sheet and refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes prior to baking.  Bake for about 12 minutes, depending on how on your oven and how long you refrigerate. 

Makes about 2 dozen cookies. 

* These cookies were a little crumbly--not fall apart crumbly--but I think it's because I used the organic peanut butter.  Had I used Jif (my favorite not as good for you peanut butter) or something such as that, I think they would have had a better texture.  Just sayin'. 

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Life As Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap
Two For Tuesdays Recipe Swap 

You can also come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Kerrygold.


Sunday, July 25

Menu Plan Monday

It is going to be hot, hot, hot this week so I am making as much as I can on the trusty old barbeque.  And the slow cooker will be pulled out too. 

Sunday-Leftovers (too hot to be inspired)

Monday-Taco salad with homemade ranch dressing

Tuesday-Turkey Burgers, Macaroni Salad

Wednesday-Mexican Chicken (going to try grilling this?), Black Beans

Thursday-Beef Burgers (I have this abundance of burger buns I need to use from the freezer...getting ready for our beef), baked beans (do you know how hard it is to find a recipe that doesn't use pre-made beans?), green salad with ranch dressing

Friday-Salmon, rice pilaf, steamed veggies

Saturday-Black bean and couscous salad, crusty bread

For other great menu ideas, visit the Organizing Junkie

Saturday, July 24

Lots of Stuff

With the Peanut's birthday quickly approaching, I find myself preoccupied with party details.  I have created this list of things to get done and somehow, although I am accomplishing some of those during nap time, the list just keeps getting longer.  I don't know how that happens.  Perhaps it's because I want it to be perfect with all those little details that only me and a handful of others will notice.  The Peanut will have fun regardless....and I need to remind myself of that.

But please check back because there are some pretty cute party ideas I've come across and I can't wait to share them with you all.

Anyhow, that said, I haven't posted in forever.

We have spent many a warm summer evening this week at the park....DH and I have figured out that the key is to go before it cools down too much, because once it does, the mosquitoes like to munch on all three of us.  I don't do well with bug bites.  First, because I don't like anything with more legs than I have, second, I don't like things that bite, and third, I don't like things that sting.  Ladybugs are about the only bug I don't mind.  Everything else grosses me out.  Yes, I am one of those girls

The Peanut was a big fan of the quesadillas and grilled salsa I made the other night.  I think she is beginning to think like her mama that...yes, sour cream is in fact, a food group.  Yum!

And last, but not least in this round of updates, we are going in with my sister and brother-in-law and buying a half beef.  Grass fed beef.  With all this spare time I have (I kid, I kid...sort of) I have been reading all these posts on real food from here, here, and here.  Then with our Netflix, we also watched the documentaries Food Inc. and King Corn.  All of these have really opened my eyes to how important it is to understand where our food comes from.  It makes you think twice about what you eat. 

In all my "research" in pricing out organic foods, the least inexpensive way to purchase grass fed beef that is not full of hormones, antibiotics, and antacids is to purchase a side of beef.  Yes, the initial cost is certainly more, but in the long run, it is much, much cheaper than buying grass fed beef from the grocery store.  (At the store, grass fed ground beef runs around $6-$7 a pound and is around $10-$14 a pound for the pricier cuts.  We are getting all the meat for $3.20 a pound.)  And we will get cuts of meat that we don't normally never purchase.  Cuts like steak and prime rib.  Yum. 

So all of that said, we get to pick up our beef in a couple weeks, but the rancher wanted us to come down and tour the ranch.  He insisted upon it, as he was really proud of his operation. He wanted us to be comfortable with our purchase, knowing that the animals are treated and cared for really well.

Can I just say--what a nice man.  He was absolutely right, he runs (from what we city slickers can tell) a great ranch.  He was very forthcoming (and patient) with all our questions and wanted to give us the full tour--like full as in this is where we slaughter our chickens and this is how we slaughter our cattle full tour.

I declined.  DH probably would have liked to see it, but me, notsomuch.  I know what happens and that those big brown eyed bovine aren't always in butcher paper like I like to think....but some details for me just aren't necessary.  And he didn't press it.

And they have this great view....

We got to see the chicken and turkey coups, the pig hog pasture and all the stables where the sheep, horses, and cattle get to huddle when it gets cold.  We saw the hay storage and learned that they get two "cuts" of hay a season.  The first they sell, and the second they store for the animals in the winter.  We learned that a typical cow will birth about 12 calves in her lifetime.  Ohmylanta.  Twelve...really?  So glad I am not a cow.  I chose not to have an epidural with Peanut, but at least I had the option.  They don't get that choice.  And 12 of   But I guess they don't know the difference either.  Anyhow, I digress.  We also learned that the variety of chicken determines the color of the egg.  So interesting...I told you we were city slickers. 

I had been communicating with the rancher via email before we went down and had asked him if he would have some pastured eggs available to purchase.  He said he would, but then when he was done with the tour, he gave us a dozen eggs, and he wouldn't let me pay him for them.  He said that that was for us making the trip down.  Now, I'm not blind--he's trying to make me a customer for life.  I get that, but he had me at hello if you know what I mean.  His operation spoke for itself.  He didn't have to give me free eggs to sell me.  But what a kind, kind man.

To say I am excited to pick up our beef, well... that would be an understatement.   So stay tuned for some exciting new beef recipes. 

Tuesday, July 20

Works For Me Wednesday-Leftover Tomato Paste

works for me wednesday at we are that family

I used to hate recipes that called for one or two tablespoons of tomato paste.  What do I do with the rest of the tomato paste?  Well, I always put it in a container in the fridge with good intentions.   Then months later, I would find it in the back of the fridge with gray little hairs that were not there before.  And out it went.

Watching Rachael Ray, I learned that you can buy squeeze tubes of tomato paste, so you can use just the amount you need without opening a whole can.  Very cool.  But I have searched and searched and I can't find those any where.  Plus, I am sure it costs way more.  Then she shared a tip a while back that I thought was just fabulous.

After using the amount of paste you need, roll up the rest in plastic wrap like you would a roll of cookie dough.  Then, pop it in your freezer.  So down the road when you need just a tablespoon or two, you can simply slice of the amount you need and put the rest back in the freezer. 

Isn't that nifty?  

For other helpful tips, visit Kristen at We Are THAT Family's Works For Me Wednesday. 

Monday, July 19

It's All About the Grill

Homemade salsa is a summer staple around here.  I make it every couple of weeks throughout the summer months.  I realized the last time I made it, I hadn't shared it with all of you yet.  The key is to grill the tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos.  That, and a secret ingredient I'll share with you in just a moment.  This is the best with garden ripened tomatoes, but it's still pretty darn tasty with store bought tomatoes. 

Grilled Salsa

2 cloves garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 pounds Roma tomatoes (you can use any that suit your fancy--I like Roma because they aren't as watery)
1 slice/hunk of onion that is equivalent to about 1 cup
2 jalapenos (the ones I got were duds though...not very hot at all, which happens fairly often, so you may want more if you like it really hot)
1/3 cup cilantro, packed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (can use rice vinegar in a pinch)
Salt to taste

and the secret ingredient....

Liquid Smoke  (you'll find it in the near the condiments at your grocer)

(I know, this is so not even close to real food, and it goes against all my new found beliefs...but for this salsa, I make an exception--it's that good.)  And be warned, a little liquid smoke goes a LONG way.  Start with about 1/4 teaspoon...and go from there.  You can always add more if necessary. 

Start by washing tomatoes and jalapenos and slice up a hunk of onion.  Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over them and rub each down to distribute the oil evenly.

Set your grill to medium heat and place the tomatoes and onions on the grill.  Place the jalapenos on the top rack of the grill.  If you don't have a top rack, you will just to need to keep a closer eye on the jalapenos.  They will cook much faster, so keep watch.  Turn each after about 10 minutes...and remove from the grill once the skins are split and a little charred on the tomatoes, the onion is softened and the jalapenos have grill marks and are softened. 

Drop the garlic cloves through the feed tube with the food processor running. 

I just love that trick--no need to chop or mince, it does it for you.  For other food processor tricks, click here.

Next, cut up the grilled onion into quarters and pulse to chop onion into very small pieces.  Add tomatoes and process to combine.  Add in cilantro and lime juice and pulse until cilantro is chopped finely.  Pour into bowl and add salt and liquid smoke to taste. 

This time the tomatoes did not have a whole lot of flavor, so I added in about one tablespoon of tomato paste to add some addition flavor and color. 

Serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer or snack or along side White Enchiladas, enchiladas with a homemade red sauce and Spanish Rice, or just about any Mexican themed dish. 

I really hope you get to try it's really quite amazing.

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap

Life As Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap
Two For Tuesdays Recipe Swap 

Sunday, July 18

Menu Plan Monday

Last week went good, but some of the nights made so much food, we had two--count 'em two--leftover nights.  So you'll be seeing a repeat this week.  What's new, right?  It's always something!   So for this week....

Sunday-Chicken and Avocado Pizza, Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Monday-Red Beans and Rice and Ground Beef, Steamed Veggies

Tuesday-Mushroom and Spinach Calzone

Wednesday-Pasta and Chicken Toss with Fresh Pesto, Green Salad

Thursday-Pork Fried Rice, Pork Subgum

Friday-Mexican Chicken, Black Beans


For other great menu ideas, visit the Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, July 17

So Thoughtful

Peanut and Daddy napping still my heart. 

Wednesday, July 14

Look What I Got

Our landlord's brother has an orchard and she brought us over some Rainer cherries last week.  I was so excited because I rarely buy cherries (too expensive and my parents didn't have a good crop this year, unlike last year) and the Peanut loves them.  Who am I kidding?...we love them too.

Anyhow, she told us that we could have more if we wanted, but we would need to go pick them ourselves.  Fair enough.  So I emailed her and asked if we could go pick on DH's days off this week.  She checked with her brother and he didn't want people he didn't know on his orchards for liability (I get that too--I don't trust people either) plus apparently there are snakes.  Um, gross!

So to make a long story long, she asked what I wanted and she would go pick them for us.  How nice is that?   She brought over a box full of Rainer cherries--I've never had that kind until she brought them to us the first time and they are good!  A couple hours after that, she brought us a huge bowl of pie cherries!  Our landlord warned us and boy, is she right--pie cherries only good for that--pie.  DH tried one (he lives on the edge like that) and I guess they are very, very tart. They are so different too, from the Rainer's or Bing's you find at the grocery store.  They are bright red, almost kinda orangey, and they are much smaller in size too.  So I was busy all night cleaning and pitting and freezing pie cherries like I did last year

But what a blessing, huh?  

Tuesday, July 13

Works For Me Wednesday-Marking Items in Your Freezer

I freeze a lot of things.  I also reuse my zip top freezer bags (I wash them out and let them dry and reuse them--saves lots of money because I use them all the time).  But I often forget when I put something in the freezer, and I don't want to write on my bags (or containers for that matter) because I know I will reuse them at some point.

This week I searched high and low for those black wax "pens" that you can write on glass and plastic with and it wipes off.  I eventually did find them at the office supply store, but you had to buy a whole box of them for over $10.  And I am way too cheap for that. 

So I had to figure out something else and as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.  I started writing the date (and the item if I won't know what it is in few weeks) on a piece of tape and folding back the edge of tape so I can take it off the bag or container easily.  So when I come across it in the freezer down the road, I will know the date (and item) is.  No more guessing what that container of enchilada sauce is.   

Not that I've ever done that. 

For other helpful tips, visit Kristen at We Are THAT Family

Summer Ritual

We went to the park the other night after DH got home from work and the Peanut fell on the paved bike path...

and she cried for only a moment. She was up and running around after we cleaned her up, no less than five minutes later.  She never ceases to amaze me--I would have cried a lot longer.  These aren't the worst skinned knees I ever seen, but I am sure there will be many more.  

Monday, July 12

Homemade Vanilla Wafers and Banana Pudding

I was watching Alton Brown the other night and he did a show on banana pudding.  Yum!  I was intrigued from the beginning, as banana pudding/pie are a close second to my very favorite--coconut cream.  But I often opt to make banana cream because DH says he is not a fan of coconut.  But he always eats every bite he is served when I make coconut cream...hmm. 

Anyhow, this is the part I was so excited about.  Alton made his own vanilla wafers.  I KNOW.  I was so reminded me that Gayle always says that whatever you can buy in the store, somebody at some point made from scratch, so you don't have to buy XXX pre-made.  Plus, these are made from ingredients I can pronounce and they are ones that I always have on hand.  They don't look exactly like the ones you buy of course, but hey, these are way better. 

Vanilla Wafers - from Alton Brown

7 ounces all-purpose flour (if you don't have a kitchen scale, that's about 1 3/4 cups)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature (about 1/2 cup)
3 1/2 ounces vanilla sugar (about 2/3 - 3/4 cup, and I didn't have vanilla sugar, but I did use turbinado sugar)
1 large egg
4 teaspoons vanilla extract (personally, I would put more in next time)
1 tablespoon whole milk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute. Add the egg and incorporate on medium speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl. Add the vanilla extract and milk and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just to incorporate.

Scoop the batter in teaspoon-sized balls and arrange them on 2 parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, approximately 35 cookies per pan.  (I only got about 55 cookies and since these are made with all butter, I used my chocolate chip cookie tip and refrigerated each pan for about 10 minutes before baking.) Use the heel of your hand to slightly flatten each ball. (I forgot to do this and they turned out fine.) Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway for more even baking. Remove the pans to a cooling rack to cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

Also, if you get the chance, come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Beanilla.

Banana Pudding - adapted from Alton Brown

3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and chilled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
45 vanilla wafers
3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar, the cornstarch and salt in a sauce pan. Add the eggs and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the milk and whisk until well combined, about 30 seconds. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture reaches 172 to 180 degrees F, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will begin to thicken and bubble around the edges. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, being sure each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next (I added all the pieces at once, I didn't notice a difference?). Whisk in the vanilla extract. Cover the surface of the pudding with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate until the pudding reaches 45 degrees F, approximately 2 hours.

Toss the banana slices with the lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.

Spread a small amount of pudding in the bottom of a 1 1/2-quart glass mixing bowl. (You can use a trifle bowl, but I don't have one and if a glass mixing bowl is good enough for Alton, it's good enough for me.) Cover with a layer of vanilla wafers, followed by a layer of banana slices. Spoon 1/3 of the remaining pudding on top of the bananas and repeat, ending with a layer of pudding.

Put the whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and whisk just until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream over the cooled pudding and spread to cover completely. Top with any remaining cookies. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days--if it lasts that long.  :)

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam ~ Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace ~ Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Grocery Cart Challenge ~ Recipe Swap

My Baking Addiction's ~ Virtual Holiday Recipe Exchange

Sunday, July 11


A quick update.  My parents woke up to three new little ones this morning, with one yet to hatch. 

Mommy and birdies are doing well...and Jet (my parents Labrador) is now locked in her kennel. 

Menu Plan Monday

Last week went repeats for this week....amazing!  So for this week we will be having...

Sunday-Honey Mustard Chicken Pasta (I am excited to try this one!)

Monday-Red Beans and Rice and Ground Beef, steamed veggies

Tuesday-Quesadillas with chicken and cheese

Wednesday-Pizza with homemade crust, sauce & green salad with ranch dressing

Thursday-Spaghetti with fresh herbs, crusty bread, green salad

Friday-Seafood Linguine, steamed veggies


For other great menu plans, visit the Organizing Junkie.  

Friday, July 9

Matchy Matchy

I saw these aprons featured awhile back on one of the blogs I read.  While I know the amount of work that goes into sewing and I think it's a fair price, indulgences like that just don't happen on one income. 


When my family came up for Memorial Day, my Mom and I went to the fabric store.  They had these darling little patterns for aprons for little girls.  "How. cute. is that?"  I told my Mom--and my Mom thought so too.  And who was I to object when my Mom offered to make an apron for Peanut?  And then when she offered to make one for me too, I didn't want to deny myself Peanut the pleasure of looking all cute like Mommy. 

When we went home this weekend, look at what my talented Mama had sewn:

You know what's even more cute?  Peanut will only wear hers when I have mine on.  She points to hers and says, "[insert her name here]" and points to my apron and says, "Mommy's."   *Sigh*

I didn't want to wait for DH to take pictures of mine, so here ya' go:

Nothing like a self portrait to make you realize you shouldn't be putting off that exercise.  Maybe with these hot triple digit temperatures I can sweat it off without even trying. 


Also, I don't condone other forms of matching mother/daughter outfits...just aprons.   :)


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