Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spring--This year and last year

Spring is  here!

A few snapshots from the yard to prove it:

Whenever I see Daffodils I always think of the verse
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up...
and the King of Glory shall come in!"
Psalm 24:7

The Flowering Pear tree is just beginning to blossom

Not too many Hellebores left;
the girls have picked most of them to brighten the table

My lone Narcissus

and three different varieties of Peaches--
it's fascinating how each variety has a different shape of blossom.

The Crab-Apple is just getting ready to pop open

And the Flowering Plum is in full bloom:

I just wanted to share these with you; spring this year has certainly been more enjoyable than my spring last year.  One year ago today I went into surgery in The City for melanoma and spent the following six weeks off my feet.  Needless to say, I didn't get much opportunity to enjoy the blossoms.

Last week I had my one-year check (what a milestone!) and was told to continue on "maintenance" for the next year--Praise the Lord!  We made a fun day of it in The City:  my children happened to have the day off school, so my sister-in-law (who home schools) and I took the children for a Field Trip!  I don't think I need to tell you that it was an Adventure: 2 Moms, 7 children, and a Suburban in The City.  We hit the hands-on exploring Museum for the morning, The Bridge at lunchtime, the doctor's office in the late afternoon, and then Rainforest Cafe for dinner.  I'm sure if you only ask, the children would be delighted to tell you all about the incredibly steep road (45*-angle, three times, anyone?) and the unplanned trip across The Bridge (wrong lane, my fault) and our other unplanned excitements.  "And a Good Time was had by all."

Here on the home-front, I gave myself a little "gift" to mark the one-year anniversary of surgery and the All-Clear-For-A-Year diagnosis:  I painted in my kitchen.  It had wallpaper in it when we moved in.  It was not my taste.  It looked like this:

Delightfully out-dated?  Yep.

About 3 years ago I stripped it off, scrubbed the wallboard, and, um, never did anything more.  Last summer, then, my Mom helped me paint the walls.  Nothing fancy, just white, like this:

And I've been "stuck," inspiration-wise, since then.  (I am. not. a. decorator.)  Then I came across this tutorial from Jones Design Company and thought ah-ha! I can do it!  So, I did, and now that blank wall looks like this:

Of course, most of the time the play set looks like this:

I cleaned it up for you...

If you want more info beyond the tutorial at Jones Design Company, or want to know how to make your own 'white board' from a Goodwill poster frame, just ask.  I'd be glad to help out as best I can.

"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in.  Who is this King of Glory?  The LORD mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in.  Who is this King of Glory?  The LORD of hosts, he is the King of Glory!"  Psalms 24:7-10

May your Spring be Blessed as we await the Return of the King!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Italian Cheese Rolls

Italian Cheese Rolls

Yeast Dough
2  packages  Dry Yeast
2 1/2  Cups  Warm Water
3/4  Cup  Sugar
3/4  Cup  Melted Butter
2  Eggs, well beaten
2 1/2  teaspoons  Salt
8 to 8 1/2  Cups  White Flour

Italian Cheese Filling
1  Cup  Butter, softened
1 1/4  teaspoons  Garlic Powder
1 1/4  teaspoons  Dried Basil
1 1/4  teaspoons  Dried Oregano
1 1/4  teaspoons  Dried Marjoram
1  Cup  Finely Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/2  Cup  Finely Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

2  Eggs, beaten
2  Tablespoons  Water
1/4  Cup  Grated Parmesan Cheese

For the Yeast Dough:
Soften the Yeast in the Warm Water with the Sugar.  Add in Melted Butter, Eggs, Salt, and 4 Cups Flour.  Stir and beat until smooth.  Stir in the remaining Flour; this will be a soft dough.  Cover and let rise until doubled, or let rise overnight in the refrigerator.  Turn dough out onto a well-floured board; knead 20-30 strokes.  Makes 4 1/2  lbs of Yeast Dough.

For the Italian Cheese Filling:
In a small bowl stir together the Butter and Herbs until thoroughly combined.  In another bowl combine the Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheeses.

To Complete the Rolls:
Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Beginning with one portion, roll out dough into a large rectangle.  Gently spread with 1/4 of the Butter & Herb mixture.  Sprinkle with 1/4 of the Cheeses.  Roll up cinnamon-roll style; slice each portion into 12 rolls and place on greased baking sheets.  Repeat with the remaining three portions of dough.  Gently brush the Rolls with beaten Egg mixed with Water.  Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese.  Allow Rolls to rise until nearly double, about 45 minutes.  Bake in a pre-heated 375* oven for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Yields 4 dozen Rolls.   These freeze beautifully!

Another combination/compilation which someone had wondered about.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chicken Almond Broccoli Stir Fry

Chicken Almond Broccoli Stir Fry

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch, plus more for coating Chicken
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
2/3 Cup Unsweetened Pineapple Juice
2/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1  lb  Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2  Cloves  Garlic, minced
3/4  Cup  Whole Raw Almonds
1/3 to 1/2  Cup  Water
1 to 2  Large  Carrots, peeled and bias-cut
4  Cups  Broccoli Florets (1-2 heads, depending on how large they are--and how well you like broccoli!)
1 large Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
2  stalks  Celery, bias-cut
1/4  of an  Onion, cut into large chunks, optional

Hot Cooked Rice

In a small bowl, mix together the 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch, Ground Ginger, Pineapple Juice, Soy Sauce, and Red Pepper Flakes; set aside.

Place the Chicken in a shallow dish (a pie plate works great); gently sift Cornstarch over the Chicken until lightly coated on all sides (do not coat heavily or until thoroughly white--the Chicken juices should absorb most of the Cornstarch).  In a large non-stick skillet or wok coated with non-stick spray,  stir-fry the Chicken and Garlic until juices begin to run clear.  Transfer to another dish, cover with foil and set aside.

In the same pan, stir-fry the Carrots and Almonds in the Water until almost crisp-tender and most all the Water is evaporated; add the Broccoli and continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes.  Transfer to another dish, cover with foil and set aside.

In the same pan, stir-fry the Red Bell Pepper, Celery,  and Onion until all the Water has evaporated, the Bell Pepper is crisp-tender and starting to char, and the Onion is softened.

Carefully return the Chicken, Carrots, and Almonds to the pan and add the Pineapple-Soy mixture.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes, or until Sauce has thickened.  Drizzle with Sesame Oil.  Serve over Hot Cooked Rice.
Serves 6

Especially yummy when the Broccoli is Garden-Fresh and just picked two hours ago!

Perfected by the Author in her own Test Kitchen.  Approved by her Husband and Children; Enjoyed by You.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ceasar Salad Dressing

Caesar Salad Dressing
1  Cup  Mayo
2-3  Cloves  Garlic--I like a garlicky salad and sometimes use 4 Cloves Garlic
5  Tablespoons  Fresh Lemon Juice (1/4-cup + 1 Tablespoon)
2  Tablespoons  Olive Oil
1/2-1  teaspoon  Worchestershire Sauce
1/2  teaspoon  Black Pepper

Mix all together and enjoy over Romaine with some Shaved Parmesan and Garlic-Butter Croutons.

Thank You to Danita for sharing this with me, and to Nicole for reminding me to share it.  This makes about 1-1/2 cups dressing, enough for about 4 salads for our family.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Skillet Pasta Florentine

Skillet Pasta Florentine

3  Cups  uncooked Spiral Pasta, whole wheat pasta preferred
1  Egg, beaten

2  Cups  Cottage Cheese
1 1/2  Cups  Ricotta Cheese
1  10-oz.  frozen Spinach, thawed and squeezed very dry
1  Cup  Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1  teaspoon  Dried Parsley
1  teaspoon  Dried Oregano
1  teaspoon  Dried  Basil
1  jar (14-oz.)  Meatless Spaghetti Sauce
2  Tablespoons  grated Parmesan Cheese

Cook Pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the Egg, Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, Spinach, 1/2 Cup Mozzarella, and Herbs.
Drain Pasta.  Place half of the Spaghetti Sauce in a large skillet; layer with Pasta and remaining Sauce.  Top with Cheese mixture.
Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover an cook for 25-30 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 160*.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and remaining Mozzarella; cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

This is a great meatless dinner; it has enough Cheese in it that the children don't complain about the Spinach.  I've made this several times, but when I went to make this last week it had all the beginnings of an Epic Fail:  for some reason I had forgotten to buy the Ricotta.  What to do, what to do....  Rush to the freezer, pull out and micro-defrost 1 lb. Turkey Italian Sausage.  Brown that real quick, add it to the Spaghetti Sauce (which I had forgotten to read the amount for, and was using a very full Quart of--over double the amount needed!), and start layering it in the skillet.  Oooppss! too full of a skillet, lid won't fit on, starts to boil over....  Quickly cover it with foil instead of the lid...  Well, when we finally did eat dinner, there was enough for the next night, too!  Gotta love improvising and leftovers!

From Healthy Cooking

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Southwestern Pasta & Cheese

Southwestern Pasta & Cheese

Prep:  30 minutes
Bake:  20 minutes
Serves:  8

3 1/3  Cups  Bow Tie Pasta
1  Red Bell Pepper, diced
8  Green Onions, chopped
1  clove  Garlic, minced
1  Tablespoon  Olive Oil
1  lb.  Turkey Italian Sausage, sweet -OR- hot

1/4  Cup  Flour
1  teaspoon  Chili Powder
1  teaspoon  minced Chipotle Chili in Adobo Sauce (I buy a can, puree it in the blender, and store it in the freezer)
1/2  teaspoon  Salt
1/2  teaspoon  Cumin
2 1/4  Cups  Milk
1  Cup  shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided
1/4  Cup  Real Bacon Bits -OR- 4 Bacon strips, cooked crisp and crumbled
2  Tablespoons  minced  Fresh Cilantro

Cook Pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, saute Bell Pepper, Green Onions, Garlic, and Italian Sausage in Olive Oil until meat is cooked through; drain off any fat.  Stir in the Flour, Chili Powder, Chipotle Chili, Salt, and Cumin until blended.  Gradually stir in Milk.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in 1/4 Cup Cheese until melted.

Drain Pasta; toss with meat sauce.  Stir in Bacon Bits and Cilantro.  Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish; sprinkle with remaining Cheese.  Bake, uncovered, at 400* for 20-25 minutes, until bubbly.

400* sounds mighty hot, but it toasts the top layer of the Bow Ties--this chewy pasta is what the children all fight for!  A fun twist to Macaroni & Cheese.  Add more Chipotle Chili if you like things on the spicier side.

Adapted from Healthy Cooking

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Smoky Roasted Chicken & Corn Chowder

Smoky Roasted Chicken & Corn Chowder

Prep/Total Time:  30 minutes
Serves:  6-8

2  small  Onions, diced
1  Cup  Celery, diced
1  Cup  Bell Pepper, diced (Red Bell Pepper preferred)
2  cloves  Garlic, minced
1 1/2  Tablespoon  Dried Thyme
1/4  Cup  Flour
3  Cups  Chicken Broth
2  12-oz.  Evaporated Milk
1  14.4-oz.  Diced Tomatoes, well drained
4  Cups  Corn (cream-style recommended, but I use my freezer corn)
2  Cups  chopped roasted Chicken Breast -OR- Turkey
2  Tablespoons  Hickory-Flavored Barbeque Sauce
1/4  Cup  Real Bacon Bits -Or- 8 slices Bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Cook Onion,Celery, Bell Pepper, and Garlic in a 6-qt pan with a little Olive Oil until tender, stirring infrequently to obtain a charr on the vegetables.  Add Thyme and Flour, mix well.  Stir in Chicken Broth and Evaporated Milk.  Bring mixture to a gentle boil and stir continuously until soup thickens slightly.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot.

Quick and easy, and a great way to use the leftovers from Sunday's Dinner without your family realizing that you're serving leftovers.  I added our leftover cooked baby Carrots.  The children commented that they like Soups that, when they're finished eating all the chunks out, don't leave a lot of broth.  This is not a 'brothy' soup. 

Adapted from Healthy Cooking, Feb/March '09.