Sunday, October 31

Menu Plan Monday

Can't believe we are already looking at November....and that Thanksgiving is just over three weeks away!  Before we know it, Christmas will be over and we will be looking at a new year....  But before I get ahead of myself, for this week we will be having....

Sunday-French Onion Soup, Crusty French Bread, Green Salad

Monday-Turkey Stuffing Meatloaf, Acorn Squash, Mashed Potatoes?

Tuesday-Zuppa Tuscana Soup, Breadsticks


Thursday-Coconut Chicken and Rice, Steamed Veggies

Friday-Baked Potato Bar with chili, sour cream, broccoli, shredded cheese, green onions, and of course, butter

Saturday-Pizza with homemade crust, homemade sauce and all the fixings and green salad

Friday, October 29

My Go To Bread Recipe

This is the bread recipe I use for quite a few different recipes I make.  I use it when I make homemade pizza, homemade cinnamon rolls, bread sticks and even dinner rolls.  It's also great to use if a recipe ever calls for pre-made store purchased dough.  I simply make my own using this recipe!  It's just slightly adapted from the cookbook that came with my bread machine years ago.

If you do have a bread machine, you can put the ingredients in the order suggested by the manufacturer (usually all wet ingredients first, then dry ingredients and yeast is typically always last).  My bread machine is almost kaput (I think from overuse) so I have had to resort to making my own (with assistance from my trusty Kitchen Aid of course).  

Standard Bread Recipe

1 1/8 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tsp. active dry yeast

Mix yeast and warm water and set aside so the yeast can "bloom."  I usually let it sit for about 10 minutes.  The mixture should get bubbly. 

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil (if making something sweet, like cinnamon rolls, I will use coconut oil)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups flour (I have used all all-purpose flour, all whole wheat flour, and a mixture of both--anyway you do it, it works just fine)

Add dry ingredients to mixing bowl and mix together using paddle attachment.  Once yeast is bloomed, add in the oil and start mixer and slowly pour in water and yeast mixture.  Once dough is completely incorporated, switch out the attachment from the paddle to the dough hook.  That's a tip I learned from Alton.  Knead dough for about 5 to 10 minutes on medium to high speed--when finished, dough should be smooth but elastic in texture.  I have noticed that when using whole wheat flour, I typically have to knead the dough a little longer.

Grease sides of bowl and let dough rise in a warm place for about an hour to hour and a half or until dough doubles in size.  (I usually start my oven to heat up to 350 degrees, but turn off the oven 3-5 minutes after you start heating it--the oven will be nice and warm, but you should still be able to touch the sides of the oven without burning yourself.  This creates a nice and warm environment so your dough can rise.  That's a tip from Gayle--love it!)   

Once the dough has doubled in size, you can punch it down and roll into dinner rolls, use to make a pizza or bread sticks or my personal favorite, cinnamon rolls.  Or you can always make a loaf of bread.  Imagine that!   Whatever you decide to make, I usually bake at 350 degrees for about 25 - 30 minutes for loaves and dinner rolls (the bread should sound hallow when tapped), as well as cinnamon rolls.  When using for pizza or bread sticks, I still bake at 350 degrees, but it usually takes between 15 - 20 minutes.  

I was sooo intimidated the first time I made my own dough and let me tell you, using yeast isn't nearly as overwhelming as it sounds.

It really is super easy to make bread! 

Monday, October 25

Stuffed Beef Loaf

Alternatively titled:  Not Your Mother's Meatloaf

So with all my ground beef sitting in the freezer, I have been looking for some new recipes to try.  You can only make so many tacos and burritos, right?  When looking for a new recipe, I usually look to online resources and I often forget about the cookbook I have from the cooking classes that my Mom and her best friend once attended together.  Every recipe in this book is amazing.  I've shared a couple here--like this and this, oh and then there are these.   There are so many good ones, I really should share some more!

I was flipping through the pages a few weeks ago and came across this one and as always, it did not disappoint.  I hesitated on sharing the picture as it doesn't do it justice.  However, everyone likes a picture don't they?  I know I do.  Please remember, that I am in no way a professional photographer and does meatloaf ever photograph well?  I am sure that it does, but I failed to capture it in all it's deliciousness.  Here it is anyhow...this is definitely a great twist on an old favorite. 

Stuffed Beef Loaf


2 lb. ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire


1 10 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
6 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 green onions, sliced

Mix ingredients for loaf well--I use my hands.  Those are usually the best kitchen tools anyhow, don't you think?  I used my Silpat, but you can also use foil as well--tear of a large sheet of foil (about the length of a cookie sheet) and spread beef mixture into a rectangle shape onto foil or Silpat.

Mix filling evenly and layer on top of the beef mixture, leaving about a one inch allowance on each edge.  Roll using a jelly roll fashion, sealing edges.  Bake on a broiler pan (or a cookie sheet with a cooling rack on top, so juices can drain) at 350 degrees until thermometer registers 160 degrees (or until meat is cooked through in the center of the loaf).   This normally takes about 45 minutes to one hour. 

This recipe/kitchen tip is linked to:

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

Hearth 'n Soul Recipe Swap  

Sunday, October 24

Menu Plan Monday

Last week went pretty good and as we were nearing the end of the week, I thought I would actually get to all of the meals as planned.  But that never happens, right?  And it didn't last week either.  The meatloaf I made was ginormous and that ended up feeding us for several meals.  But it was quite tasty, so that was okay by me.  And it gave me an extra night off--and when fighting a sinus infection, that definitely was okay!  We are also looking forward to my sister's visit this next weekend, so we are excited about that as well.  For this week,

Sunday-Penne with Broccoli and Sausage

Monday-Shepherd's Pie Twice Baked Potatoes, Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Tuesday-Chicken Pesto Pizza (I saw this somewhere and now I have no idea where, so I think I will be winging it.  I will probably post it next week...), green salad

Wednesday-Potato Soup, Green Salad

Thursday-Beef Kabobs, Steamed Veggies


Saturday-Chicken Pot Pie, Steamed Veggies

Tuesday, October 19


I don't know if you are like me, but if there is a miniature of something, it is always WAY cuter than the original.

Our little Peanut has never met a fruit she didn't love.  My Mom and Dad visited this weekend and they brought a cornucopia of different fruits with them, which included these:

Like my Mom, I had never come across these before, and besides having smooth, edible skin, they taste just like your standard kiwi. 


Oh, and the Peanut loved them too. 

Monday, October 18

Brown Sugar Indeed

Did you know that all brown sugar is is regular sugar with a little bit of molasses?  I just learned that not too long ago.  I know, huh?  

This last week, I had volunteered to bring a breakfast dish to my MOPs group.  Of course I didn't remember my commitment earlier in the week when I did the grocery shopping, so I tried to figure out a dish that I could make with ingredients I had on hand.  Homemade cinnamon rolls it was.

I prefer to make these with brown sugar in the filling rather than regular, but I stopped buying refined regular sugars a while back.  For recipes that call for sugar now, I use dehydrated cane juice that I order through Azure Standard.  I have also been getting black strap molasses through them as well.  This is a neat little trick that helps if you are either

A) wanting to use a not so refined sugar that has a little bit more nutrients or

B) trying to avoid running to the store in the middle of preparing a recipe and just making do with what you have on hand. 

Please know too, of course, if you have just regular sugar and molasses on hand, those would work just as well.

Brown Sugar

3 cups dehydrated cane juice or regular refined sugar
2 tablespoons black strap or regular molasses

Mix ingredients together thoroughly. Note: I tried doing this by hand and I did not have the patience for it.  I used my stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mixed on medium high speed for about 2-3 minutes. 

After mixing for a minute or so (or mixing it by hand) it will look like this:

But give it a few more minutes and soon it will look like this:

Fresh brown sugar!

I store mine in the refrigerator because the black molasses needs to be refrigerated, but if your molasses doesn't say to refrigerate, I wouldn't worry about it.  This is also why I don't make a very large amount at once!  

This recipe/kitchen tip is linked to:

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

Hearth 'n Soul Recipe Swap  


Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday
We Are THAT Family's Works For Me Wednesday
Heavenly Homemakers Parade of Recipes and Cooking Tips

Sunday, October 17

Menu Plan Monday

How is October half over already?  Didn't it just start?  It seems like I was just here, typing out last week's menu.  Okay, now that I am done with my little rant, this week we will be having:

Sunday-Homemade pesto and cream sauce with penne, green salad with ranch dressing

Monday-Eggplant Parmesan (I've always wanted to try this, so I am excited!) I am coming up with my own recipe based on this one and this one.

Tuesday-Cheese Tortellini Soup, green salad

Wednesday-Meatloaf, potatoes, horseradish carrots

Thursday-Chili and cornbread (double batch of chili--I am freezing in small portions for baked potato nights!)

Friday-Penne with Broccoli and Sausage


For other great menu plans, visit the Organizing Junkie

Weekend Reflection

My parents went home late this morning after a too short visit.  It's getting easier and harder at the same time.  I realize that probably doesn't make any sense, so let me explain...

Saying goodbye has become easier because I am learning not to depend on my family so much.  Not that I can't depend on them (because I know I can no matter what life throws at me), but at 30 + years old and after having been married for over six years, I need to depend on my very sweet and  patience husband so much more.  I am learning to do just that and I am growing as a person (even if just a little!), and more importantly, as a wife.  And I am proud to say that.  Of course I still my miss my family terribly....but growth for me is good, especially since I don't like to stretch. 

However, this season is getting harder too, because my dear sweet Peanut is having to grow up without her grandparents close by.  Growing up, I had the advantage of having all my grandparents within a half an hour drive from where we lived.  It allowed me a wonderful relationship with my Grandpa

For most of his life, my husband didn't live close to any of his grandparents and so wishes that he did. And quite honestly, I always thought my children would have the advantage I had as well.  But God had other plans--and that's always the case, isn't it?  I married a man who grew up two states away from where I did and that is where his parents remain to this day.  Then we moved (exactly one year ago this weekend--crazy, huh?) hundreds of miles from where I grew up.  I knew lots of different people that didn't have grandparents close by and I always took my situation for granted....and being on the other side now, I know just how hard it is.  And I hope for Peanut's sake, that God will bless us in that way again and that we will be able to move back to HomeTown and maybe even some day after that, that DH's parents will be able to move closer as well.  (Hint, hint!).

Lastly, with the holiday season nearly upon us, I am having to accept the fact that we probably won't be spending any time with family this year over the holidays and that is going to hard.  (The weeks of Thanksgiving and/or Christmas are not exactly ideal to ask for vacation in the restaurant industry.)  It sounds like we will be able to make a trip sometime in early December, and I am thankful for that.  However, this type of celebration is new to me and my family--having to celebrate the holidays together on some random day that outside factors determine for us. 

All of that said, this moping makes me feel really convicted.   I am making the holidays all about me and how this is affecting meAnd it's not about me.  Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the many ways each of us are blessed from the One who provides it all.  Christmas is about the purest gift of all.  I don't think Jackie and her holiday plans were mentioned in there anywhere....wait, let me double check....nope, I wasn't mentioned at all. 

Sooooo...................while it would be so wonderful to celebrate each of these celebrations with family, I need to be joyful regardless

And that's what I plan to do.  

Monday, October 11

Cajun Jambalaya Soup

When I used to go to work everyday, I brought a lunch from home about 95 % of the time, as it saved lots and lots of money.  One day though, I didn't bring a lunch and decided to get some of the soup from Safeway's deli--their Signature Cafe Soups.  That is when I was introduced to their Cajun Style Jambalaya Soup--and we've been close friends ever since.  In fact, when I learned their soup rotation and what days the jambalaya soup was served, I may or may not have conveniently "forgot" my lunch so I had a legitimate excuse to buy a cup bowl of that deliciousness.  What was really funny is that I was talking to my Dad one day and we figured out that we both shared the same obsession with this soup!  He would always go pick some up from the Safeway by his job to scarf down as well!

Anyhow, fast forward several years.....A few months back during a moment of weakness, I bought a container of the soup to bring home.  (If you are new here, I don't normally do convenience foods--they are too expensive!)   As I was a rinsing the container to put in the recycle bin (and in a rare moment of brilliance) I jotted down the ingredients from the container.  I promised myself that I would try to come up with a recipe for a homemade batch and I finally got around to trying it out!  In my humble opinion (ha, ha), I think it tastes just like the one from the deli, but without all the extra additives.  Please, please give it a won't be disappointed!

This one is for you, Dad...I'll have to make some one of the next times we see you.

Cajun Jambalaya Soup - inspired from Safeway's Signature Soup

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage links, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 cup diced onion
1 green bell pepper, diced
3-4 ribs, celery, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour (I used all purpose--shame, shame, I know!)
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock (that's 10 cups for those people out there like me who have to Google a conversion every time because they don't remember)
1 cup white rice
1 lb. diced ham
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (see my tip for what to do with the rest of the can)
3/4 tsp. paprika
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2-3/4 tsp liquid smoke (add it to taste)
1/2 (or to taste) pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)

In a dutch oven over medium to high heat, saute sausage in olive oil until browned and fully cooked.  Add in onion, bell pepper, celery,  and garlic and saute until onion is translucent.  Add in butter, and once melted, stir in flour.  You will have a big pasty mess--but don't worry.  Pour in chicken stock and mix thoroughly.  Once the stock has heated completely (it doesn't need to boil) add in remaining ingredients, stirring to make sure sure rice doesn't stick to the bottom of pan.  Simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally for about an hour.  Soup should thicken and the rice should be completely cooked.  Enjoy!

Note:  I didn't add in any salt because with the sausage, ham, and chicken stock I didn't really think there was a need--but if for some reason yours needs some, add some!  :)  You could also use cooked rice instead of adding in uncooked rice--I would do about 2 cups cooked.  Last, I think chicken or shrimp would be fabulous additions to this as well.  Yum!

This recipe is linked to:

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

Hearth 'n Soul Recipe Swap  
It's a Keeper Thursdays
Life As Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap

Sunday, October 10

Menu Plan Monday

Some cooler temps have arrived, so I am excited to start making soup again.  The cool, brisk air is absolutely perfect for that!  I am excited too, that my parents will be making a visit this weekend, so we that to look forward to as well.

Sunday-Lasagna (see easy tip here), Crusty Bread, Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Monday-Roast Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Tuesday-Beef Bourguignon over pasta, Green Salad

Wednesday-Chicken and Broccoli Couscous (using leftovers from Monday)


Friday-Roast Pork Black Bean Chili, Cornbread

Saturday-Steak, Baked Potatoes, Green Salad

For other great menu plan ideas, visit the Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, October 7

Tumbling Class

The Peanut started tumbling class last week and this week, the Hubs got to come with us.   He acted as our very own paparazzi/entourage.  Of course, I wanted pictures to record the event forever, but it's a parent involved class--so carrying the camera and herding the Peanut in the right direction would be nearly impossible for me.  So I was very excited that he could come with us today.

Plus, let's just say that last week, she was running in every which direction and didn't want to mind learning the ropes (no pun intended) and this week went much smoother.  And I am so glad that it did, because last week I was seriously questioning my ability as a parent.  The Peanut didn't want to listen or pay attention or let me guide her at all and after class the instructors told me that that was completely normal and it normally took a few weeks for the child to adjust to the structure of the class.  I really thought she was just being nice and that I was failing as a parent and not disciplining the Peanut at home the way I should.  That probably sounds really silly or paranoid.  However, when all the other children both older and younger were doing exactly what they are supposed to do and my little Peanut is throwing herself down on the ground each time she doesn't want to follow instructions (meaning: sit still) it caused me to question what I was doing wrong.  So this week, when the Peanut minded Mommy much better between activities, it caused my little heart to sing. 

Sitting on her little carpet square like a little champ and "swinging like a monkey"...

she loved racing and jumping over the rope...

and she laughed and laughed when she was on the wheel and was turned over...

and although instruction time went much smoother this week, it's still a work in progress.

They do these "obstacle" courses each week and this time she got to jump in a bounce house and walk on a balance beam (among lots of other fun things).....

she also got to climb up on the uneven bars and although she was timid, she was such a big girl--she did it without fail!

At the end of class, they get a stamp on each hand and foot, which Peanut absolutely adores.

When she woke up from her nap, her first words to me were "bouncy board." 

I'd say she had a good time. 

Wednesday, October 6

Pickin' the Punkin

We went to a pumpkin patch today.  Well, sort of.  I thought it was a place to go actually go pick a pumpkin, but "the patch" was a just a big area of pumpkins that had already been picked.

Oh well, I tried, right? 

It was fun nonetheless as they had a petting zoo, a trike track, a fresh produce market (that was fun for me anyway) and those things you stand behind and have your picture taken--what are those called anyway?  

Peanut did actually have fun in the market too--they had little pint sized shopping carts for the little ones.  And wouldn't you know it?....they are Melissa and Doug.  Have I ever mentioned they have the cutest things?

She loved the petting zoo.  Of course all the animals were penned up, but that didn't stop our little girl from puckering up her little lips and saying, "Mmmmwah!" trying to "kiss" all the animals.  In fact, she tried to show her affection to the geese, bunnies, chickens, turkeys, goats, sheep, a hog, and her personal favorite, an alpaca.    

She's an equal opportunity affection provider. 

And I was just proud of this picture of the turkey.  The Hubs thinks it's a little disturbing.  It might very well be, but I just like the photographic quality of it with the fence and background not in focus, while the turkey is in focus.  My photography nerdity coming out, I know.

While the Hubs and I were taking each others pictures with the Peanut, a nice lady came up and offered to take a family picture of all of us.  So nice, huh?  Too bad Hubs is looking somewhere else.  He says he isn't, but I keep looking at it and I truly think he's looking somewhere else....his focus is just off somehow.  Oh well, I'll take it either way.  We don't get too many family photo ops. 

The final thing we did was have me Peanut pick out a pumpkin.  I don't think she quite understood picking out a pumpkin, but she thought it was grand fun to hold on to it in during the wagon ride back to pay for it. 

And even though I am learning to love all of the seasons, fall is hands down my favorite. 

How about you? 

Monday, October 4

Apricot Crisp with Sweetened Cream

I still had some apricots frozen in my freezer and with our beef, I'm a little short on space.  So last night, I pulled out my last bag of frozen apricots and decided to make a crisp.  I had made an apricot crisp shortly after we first got the apricots, following a recipe I found online.  I wasn't too thrilled with it, so I decided to wing it this time and do my own thing.  It turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.

Apricot Crisp with Sweetened Cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with cooking spray or rub down with butter and set aside.


2 pounds apricots, sliced in half and pitted
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. dehydrated cane juice (brown sugar would work as well)
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp whole wheat flour (all purpose would work too, although with this, you can't even tell the difference)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
1/3 cup rolled oats

Toss sliced apricots with 2 tablespoons cane juice and 1 tablespoon flour.  Layer face down in baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mix remaining cane juice, flour, and cinnamon.  Cut cold butter cubes into dry mixture until it resembles course crumbs.  Mix in oats to butter mixture.  Sprinkle dry mixture over apricots evenly.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until crisp is browned on top and apricots have heated in center of dish.  Note: if using frozen apricots as I did, the baking time will take much longer--about an hour and ten minutes. 

In order to consume a little less sugar, I have been using whipped cream instead of ice cream, as it calls for a lot less sugar.  I came up with this a few weeks ago and we are loving it.  You can also prepare this while the crisp is baking. 

Sweetened Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy cream (don't use ultra is some good info as to why)
1 tbsp. real maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment (you could do this by hand, but why?) mix cream, maple syrup, and vanilla until cream holds a soft peak.  Note: don't over beat or it will turn to butter.  Don't ask how I know. 

Serve crisp warm with a dollop of cream and sprinkle with additional cinnamon for garnish if desired.  Enjoy!

This recipe is linked to:

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

Hearth 'n Soul Recipe Swap 

Sunday, October 3

Menu Plan Monday

With last week's visitors, we had a fair amount of leftovers to get through, so there were several items we didn't get to last week.  So you'll see some repeats this week.  I also have an abundance of green peppers, so the night I make those I am making lots of extras to freeze for an easy dinner somewhere down the road.  And sadly, I thought my parents were coming this next weekend, but I guess there was a miscommunication, so no visitors for the upcoming weekend.  :(  Oh well, I guess two more weeks before we get to see them again.  I guess I'll just have to be patient.  Maybe an old dog can learn knew tricks?   Finally, without further ado, for this week:

Sunday-Tortellini Bake, Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Monday-Stuffed Peppers, Green Salad

Tuesday-Pork Fried Rice and Subgum

Wednesday-Spicy Peanut Chicken, steamed veggies

Thursday-Orzo and Chicken Salad (recipe to come), Crusty Bread

Friday-Baked Potato Bar with chili, cheese, sour cream, green onions, broccoli,


For other great menu ideas, visit the Organizing Junkie


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