28 October 2013

Crock Pot Sticky Drumsticks

I knew Jack was going to be busy over the dinner hour so instead of trying to start up a fire to grill drumsticks, I used this yummy crock pot recipe and the main course was ready for us when we walked in the door from church.  Feel free to add some spice via Tabasco or cayenne pepper but I opted to keep ours mild for the sake of our kids and my own tongue.
Ingredients:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce or Teriyaki sauce
1 Tablespoon mince garlic
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons pepper
10 drumsticks, with or without skin
Parsley for garnish (optional)

Bring everything except for drumsticks and parsley to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about five minutes or until sauce thickens.  Place drumsticks in crock pot and pour sauce over.  Cook on low six hours or on high three to four, turning chicken occasionally to coat in sauce.  Sprinkle with parsley if desired and serve hot.
Enjoy!

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27 October 2013

Please Look Up

The sad, old ceiling.  Poor thing.
I sometimes wonder why I waited to so long to start on the outside of the house.  I think I wanted to create a bit of a sanctuary inside--get the bedrooms and living room painted so I could have a space to escape the constant construction before working on the exterior.  Thankfully, exterior paint is usable until a few degrees above freezing so if I'm lucky, I'll get to paint right through the new year.  And I imagine it'll take that long.  It's a lot of area to cover.  Plus, a good majority of the house needs siding put up.  That will come slowly but surely too.
Halfway done!
First things first.  I painted the deck ceiling.  It wasn't much work to paint the big rectangle other than leaving a bit of a crick in my neck and giving my arms a good workout.  Totally worth it.
All done!  Now, for the rest of the house...
If you're visiting in the near future, please look up.

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24 October 2013

DIY $5 Yarn Wig

Evie's never actually seen the movie Ariel but she's already in love the with the idea of a singing mermaid.  So, that's what she requested to be this Halloween.  Problem is, she does not have Ariel's signature flowing red locks but thankfully, no worries.  With a couple skeins of yarn, a headband and about two movies worth of time, we remedied that problem.
You'll Need:

About 2 skeins of inexpensive yarns (depending on how long the hair of your wig will be)--I got everything at WalMart for less than $5.
1 elastic headband that snuggly (but not tightly!) fits around the circumference of the head
Scissors, knitting needle
I used a knitting needle to sewed the yarn right through the fabric of the headband then tied knots on the end to keep it secured.
Fit the headband.  Begin by tying or carefully sewing a one inch grid around the entire head (it doesn't have to be pretty--just secure).  Side note: it's hard to tie knots around hair.  But it can be done.
If you do it carefully, you can do it right on their heads as long as you don't tie their hair in the knots.  Otherwise, use a like-sized bowl as a substitute.
Cut long pieces of yarn--twice as long as you want the wig to be.  Begin tying the yarn on the grid at the top center of the skull.  Pull yarn halfway through and tie in a square knot.
Move from the center to the midpoint of the head then out to the sides.
After making the grid, I used this rubber-ended bowl to do the tying.
Fill the wig as much as needed.  I didn't need to do the back 1/3 of the wig since the hair from the top and sides covered the back.
For the front, tie a line of yarn along the headband to conceal it.
Trim yarn as needed and style wig.
Wear!
Trick or Treat!

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22 October 2013

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Muffins

That's right.  I made these for dinner.  They're basically chocolate chip banana muffins, minus the bananas. plus cream cheese.  They went great with our spicy cheesy broccoli soup and were enjoyed by all.
Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Sift together the flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add in the egg, sour cream, softened cream cheese, melted butter and vanilla.  Fold in the chocolate chips reserving a  few tablespoons.  Spoon into lined muffin tins and place remaining chocolate chips on top.  Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly golden (they don't turn very golden on top) and a toothpick comes out clean.
Enjoy!

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19 October 2013

Aww...

We moved the temporary fence a little further so now I can watch the horses while I wash dishes.  Aww...nap time!

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Hickory Harvest

They're ready!
We were so excited when we moved onto our property and began to discover all of nature's bounty that we'd be able to enjoy.  Honey bees in our walls (and pounds and pounds of resulting honey).  Wild plums.  Apple trees.  Grapevines.  Wild blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.  Even the garden did surprisingly well.  And now, the walnuts and a new favorite are ready: hickory nuts.
Never too young to help.
Not only has Jack been thrilled to have a new wood to smoke his meats, he's had us out enjoying family time scouring the ground for the nuts.  At first, a few half green, half brown nuts still encased in their shell tumbled heavily from the treetops.  Now, they fall by the dozens at the slightest breeze and crack open when they hit the earth.  I've been awoken more than once thinking some heavy-footed thief was stumbling through our backyard.  Nope. Just falling nuts.
The neighborhood has been inundated with squirrels but there are more than enough nuts to go around.  We've collected our fill and though we haven't figured out how to crack them without shattering them (either our nut cracker isn't well designed or we're just too strong for our own good), the remnants are still delicious.
I've seen them sold at a local orchard for $4.50 a pound so I guess that means we're slightly ahead thanks to the nut trees.  Score one more for the rundown acreage with the abundant hickory harvest.
Forest nut gathering family time...

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17 October 2013

Cinnamon Strawberry Muffins

I wanted something a little different as a side to the crustless chicken pot pie we enjoyed a few days ago.  Answer?  Cinnamon strawberry muffins.  They're a sweet, slightly tart side that whips up pretty quick.  Feel free to use fresh or thawed frozen berries.
Ingredients:

1 2/3 cup strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425F.  Mash the berries.  Add sugar, oil and eggs and mix well.  Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and add it to the berry mixture.  Spoon into a lined or sprayed muffin tin and bake 15 to 18 minutes or until set.
Enjoy!

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16 October 2013

The Windy City

Go FASTER or go home!!!
We got to take an impromptu visit up to Chicago a few days ago.  Jack's mom was there for a business trip and since it was only a few hours away, Jack took off some time from work and we made the drive.
It's a fascinating city for sure but Jack and I kept repeating, "I'm so glad we don't live here.  I'm so glad we don't live here."  A good portion of the city looks in dire need of a new coat of paint, the areas we saw were crammed tightly with tiny little brick homes or sprawling apartment complexes and the traffic was horrendous.  And everyone is angry.  You're not going fast enough.  You're unknowingly blocking them from an illegal u-turn.  You aren't turning fast enough so they're going to turn behind you and honk when you almost hit them.  They're angry when you make a proper turn and you almost t-bone them because they're illegally speeding up the shoulder.  Oh, and it costs a wad of cash just to get in and out of the city.
Some pretty little neons at the aquarium.
Other than wondering how on earth people can be content living in a place where all drivers seem constantly infuriated, we had a wonderful time.  We took advantage of my mother-in-law's hotel pool and watched a ridiculous animated move together before bidding her farewell.
Who needs a double stroller?
The next day, we toured a bit of The Windy City and ended up going to the Shedd Aquarium.  Had it not taken nearly an hour to get up the door to buy tickets, we may have splurged but this time, we took the basic tour and admired the many aquatic creations at the aquarium.
I asked Evie if she thought she could eat a lobster that big.  She didn't think so.
We made pretty good time after leaving.  I didn't bother pulling off the road for lunch or gas because, true to form, the girls zonked out.  I cut it a bit close and made it to empty before pulling into the gas station but what's life without a little nail-biting adventure?

I chose a little diner who advertised heavily on the interstate.  Turns out they've even been on television.  The root beer was great but the rest of the food was pretty much like any other diner and the rundown, peeling paint decor seemed to match.  At least now I can say we've been.
It was a fun trip--seeing family and friends always is.  But, we were thrilled to pull in the driveway, have space to stretch our legs and be reminded just how happy we are to have a slice of our own land.  Our house and Chicago may need a coat of paint and Chicago's painting time line is questionable.  At least I know I'll be getting to our house sooner or later.

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13 October 2013

Crustless Chicken Pot Pie

I've been in a bit of a dinner rut and a friend suggested chicken pot pie.  That sounded delicious except for the pie crust.  Solution?  Crustless chicken pot pie.  Serve over mashed potatoes or with a warm roll.  Delicious.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts, cubed
2 cans cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup milk
1 onion, diced
2 cups frozen peas and carrots
2 teaspoons parsley
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine chicken, soup, milk, onion and spices in a crock pot.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Add the frozen peas and carrots and cook another 10 minutes.  Serve as desired.
Enjoy!

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12 October 2013

Waffle Iron Grilled Cheese

Sometimes lunch calls for something a little more fun.  Sure, the food's the same but the packaging is different and that can make the difference between one of the girls refusing to eat and them finishing every last bite.  These grilled cheese are in the the tradition of waffle iron brownies and hash browns and are pretty hand since they cook both sides simultaneously and do it without being watched over.  Simply make your favorite version of grilled cheese, spritz the outside with cooking spray or brush with butter and place in the waffle iron as long as you'd cook your waffles.  Out comes crunchy, golden, melty cheese perfection.
Enjoy!

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10 October 2013

Creamy Italian Chicken & Pasta Skillet

Last night, I wasn't sure what to make for dinner.  Sure, I had my meal calendar all planned for the month but what I penned didn't sound good.  So, a little pinterest perusing and I stumbled across this delicious recipe.  It was so flavorful and easy to make--it's all done in one skillet so dishes seemed manageable afterward and all of the ingredients were in the kitchen.  This'll definitely be on the regular rotation.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Italian dressing
1 pound chicken breasts, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 oz cream cheese, softened and cubed
2 1/2 cups uncooked pasta
Mozzarella, Parmesan, fresh parsley or basil for garnish

Pour dressing into skillet and heat until hot.  Add the chicken and onion--cook about five minutes or until onions are soft and chicken is mostly cooked.  Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, seasoning and red pepper flakes.  Stir in cream cheese until smooth.  Add the uncooked pasta and cover for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot with cheese and/or herbs as garnish.
Wait for it . . . that cheese will melt over that hot pasta.  It was so good.
Enjoy!
Thank you to The Comfort of Cooking for the recipe inspiration!

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