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I’ve Left the Busy Life Behind

Originally posted on Did That Just Happen Blog:

I’ve been working very hard at not comparing myself to others.  In fact, it was just over a year ago that I shared this journey of growth with you, and it’s not easy, but I’ve worked hard, and while I still slip up, I am happy to admit that I am much better about not judging myself!

Like most things, you don’t always notice what a difference is being made when you make it in small steps.  Because I have just been taking baby steps in my self improvement, and because I’ve been so focused on becoming a better Me, I hadn’t realized how far I have actually come…

I never look back darling the incredibles

…until the other day.  All of the sudden, every where I went I was hearing people talking to each other.

“Wow, that sounds like a lot”

“You look tired.”

“You look stressed”

“That sounds really busy.”

I even said some of those…

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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

This year’s Thanksgiving journey was laid back and easy. I wasn’t trying out a menu full of new recipes and I wasn’t trying to create an entire Thanksgiving meal to travel via slow cooker. The meal I cooked this year was on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and it was for the girls ‘school dinner’.

I started feeling bad at the end of the week before Thanksgiving, when many people were talking about going to their children’s and grandchildren’s Thanksgiving dinners at school. Well, since my girls are homeschooled they don’t get Thanksgiving dinner at school. I decided to remedy that. Daughter Number 2 would be home from college already, so it would be great. That way we would be able have 3 girls at ‘school lunch’ and be able to go to moms for dinner on Thanksgiving. I would get to cook my own dinner and partake in hers! As the day got closer I talked to Daughter Number One; she has been off work for several weeks due to a surgery she had. I didn’t know if she would be able to drive because of her recovery, but I asked. She said if she was feeling up to it, she would love to come for ‘school lunch’. Then, Daughter Number 2 asked if she could bring her boyfriend to our school Thanksgiving dinner. The more the merrier!

My menu was going to be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, dressing, homemade rolls,  pumpkin pie, and raisin sour cream pie.

I did have one new recipe to try out, and that was the dressing (unstuffed stuffing). I told my mom I would make dressing for her Thanksgiving dinner, but she requested it be “plain”: no mushrooms, no nuts, etc. I found a recipe that I felt pretty confident would work, but wanted to try it with my family first. I also chose to use a slow cooker so that I wouldn’t have to calculate that in to my timing of all of the other dishes.

The dressing was a huge success, and The Hubs and my mother  both said that I needn’t try another recipe next year. This one is “the one”.

Another success was the fact that I had written out a timetable for the meal and it worked out to perfection. I have never cooked a large meal that was so perfectly timed. The time that it took to create the timetable was well worth it! The meats and sides were hot, the cranberry sauce and pies were cold.

The last success was the use of my convection oven! It assisted me in getting everything done in less time, and to perfection. I was able to cook all of my rolls at once, and cut the time for my ham and turkey. I did learn that sour cream raisin pie (meringue to be specific) does NOT work in a convection oven!

Below is the time table for my meal, followed by the dressing recipe. I made the cranberry sauce the day before, so it is not a part of the timetable.

5 am – mix and refrigerate pie crusts

5:30 – mix roll dough

6 – roll and bake pie crust for raisin sour cream pie

6:30 – mix pumpkin pie filling

645 – roll out pie crust, fill, and bake pumpkin pie

7 – work bread dough, roll out for 2nd rise

8 – bake bread

830 – put together dressing

9 – put dressing in slow cooker

9 – remove ham from fridge

920 – glaze ham with cola

930 – put ham in oven

11 – remove turkey from fridge, season

1130 – remove ham, wrap in foil, place in cooler to keep warm

1130 – put turkey in oven

1230pm – add sweet potatoes to oven

1 – put Yukon gold potatoes on stove top to cook for mashed

130-remove turkey ( ensure it is thoroughly cooked)

135 – bake green bean casserole

145 – bake raisin sour cream pie, slice turkey and ham

150 – mash potatoes

155 – set table

2pm – Eat Dinner!

Perfection!

Now, for the recipe!

Slow Cooker Stuffing

  • 12 cups toasted, cubed bread
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup onion, minced
  • ¼ cup celery, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper\
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Toast and cube bread to make 12 cups. Add cubed bread to a large mixing bowl. Take 2 pieces of aluminum foil and roll them length wise, like snakes. Place the foil in the crease of the slow cooker to create a ring. Spray the inside of the slow cooker crock, including the foil, with nonstick cooking spray. In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted add the celery and cook for a few minutes, then add the onion. Cook until the onion is translucent. Remove from heat and add the herbs and spice. Spoon the butter and vegetable mixture over the bread in the mixing bowl. Toss. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add the chicken broth to the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture and toss to coat. Pour the dressing into the slow cooker keeping it inside of the foil ring, and pile into the center, keeping it away from the sides. Cook on high for 15 minutes. Turn down to low and cook for another 2-4 hours until cooked through. Do not overcook.

It was an absolutely wonderful school dinner, and I was delighted that all of my girls (and one boyfriend) were able to attend! Now, that is an awfully lot to be thankful for!

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in recipe, Uncategorized

 

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Learning to Cook

Learning to Cook

In my last post http://ortsofsorts.com/2014/11/22/a-pair-of-pear-desserts/ I shared about some cooking with Daughter Number Three.

As I have said in the past, I learned to cook from both of my parents. From my earliest memories I was in the kitchen with my parents cooking and baking.

I have tried to share my love of cooking and baking with my children. Daughter Number One: My first born is the only person I’ve ever known to catch Velveeta on fire in a microwave. She has grown in her skillset over the years, so at least we don’t have to worry about her burning down buildings anymore. My second born has always been good in the kitchen and when she was in Junior High she liked to bake. That fell off over time with busy high school and college life. Daughter Number Three has always been more of an outdoorsy and building blocks kind of a girl. Daughter Number Four has always enjoyed cooking and baking, but at 9 isn’t quite capable of taking over on her own.

You can imagine my excitement the other day when I asked Daughter Number Three if she wanted to make some protein bars for breakfast or snacks and she jumped right up and got started! I used a recipe from skinnyms.com. http://skinnyms.com/peanut-butter-and-honey-oat-bars/

Daughter Number Three did such an incredible job! She followed the recipe to a T, and only needed guidance and direction from me, like a coach from the sidelines.

These bars were so good they were all gone within 24 hours of coming out of the oven. This is one recipe that I can say needs no changes or improvements and that my family will be adding to the recipe box and passing along! It really was that good.

Oh, just don’t tell the girls that these are ‘healthy’!

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2014 in recipe

 

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A Pair of Pear Desserts

A Pair of Pear Desserts

When I take my girls to the grocery store with me they, like I would guess many children do, ask me to buy things for them. Depending on what they ask for, I will allow their request; especially if the request is for a bag of fresh pears.

I have never been a fan of pears. The texture has always been a little bit off-putting to me. Daughter Number Four is huge into fresh fruits and vegetables, including pears. I picked up a paper bag full of the fresh pears and put a couple into the fruit bowl and kept the rest in the paper bag. A couple got eaten, but I noticed that the rest were just getting soft.

Puff Pastry Pear Tart

  • Puff Pastry, 1 sheet
  • 2 fresh pears, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons Turbinado Sugar
  • ¼ cup honey, divided

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Thaw and roll out 1 puff pastry according to directions on a prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar, and half of the honey over the puff pastry. Lay the sliced pears out onto the puff pastry in a circular pattern from the inside working outward to about 1 ½ inches from the edge. Fold the edges of pastry over, just covering the edges of the pears. Pour the remainder of the honey over the pears. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly. Cool slightly and serve while still warm. This would be good with whipped cream, or sliced cheese.

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It was SO good, and the four of us ate the entire thing!

I still had pears left and knew that if I didn’t use them soon I would just have to throw them away. I asked Daughter Number Three, who has started doing more cooking and baking, if she wanted to bake a pear cake. She was immediately up and ready to go. I got to work prepping the pears and she started whipping it up! I had found a recipe on allrecipes that sounded yummy and easy. I am super proud of my girl! She did such an awesome job, and I was mostly directing the show!

Pear Cake

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups coarsely grated (finely chopped) pears, with skin

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan.  In a large bowl stir together flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a large mixer bowl (or another large bowl) beat the eggs. Mix in the brown sugar until smooth and thick. Mix in the melted butter and vanilla. Incorporate the flour mixture into the egg mixture slowly, without overmixing. Gently fold in the pears. Spoon batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake for about one hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Place on wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes. Turn out onto plate.

Did I mention how proud I am of the awesome job Daughter Number Three did? So proud!

This was YUMMY! I would definitely say that if I ever have pears that need to be used I will make this again…or should I say I will have Daughter Number 3 make it again?!

 

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in recipe

 

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Halloween Fare

Halloween Fare

Most holidays I spend a large number of hours cooking and baking. This Halloween I had to forego much of the holiday food festivities, due to a ghoulish work schedule.

I did manage to help my mother make a few things for a party that she put on for residents of the Independent and Assisted Living Facility she works at. Together we selected the ‘menu (with some help from Pinterest), and I assisted her in putting on some of the finishing touches. The people she served the treats to enjoyed the food; maybe more than either one of us had anticipated.

The first item on the menu was a cheeseball. My mother has been making the same amazingly delicious cheeseball for probably thirty years. It is a hit everywhere she takes it. This year we found a Halloween cheeseball on Pinterest. I don’t know what the recipe for it was, but we used moms. The difference was that it was shaped to look like a skeleton or ghoul head, with green olive eyes and almond teeth. Success!

Cheese Ball

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 6 ounce package wafer beef (Buddig), diced (*do not use chipped beef)
  • 3 Tablespoons diced green onion

Mix all ingredients (I use my hands) until thoroughly combined. Form into a ball. Serve with crackers or crudité. For the Halloween cheeseball, it was formed into a skeleton face.

Next, we found Halloween Deviled Eggs. This was super easy. Use your favorite Deviled Egg recipe, add red food coloring until the filling is orange. Fill the whites with the yolk filling, making sure they are very round. Ship a piece of green onion off to make a pumpkin stem.

My mother also found a recipe for Halloween Chex™ Mix. I don’t know that she was a big fan of it after the fact, but I know that what I got to try (snarf) was great! I took the leftovers home to my own family to try (snarf). Tasty stuff!

Halloween Chex™ Mix.

  • 8 ounces white chocolate baking bars or almond bark, broken / chopped into pieces
  • 4 cups Corn or Rice Chex
  • 2 cups pretzel twits (we used squares)
  • 1 cup candy corn
  • ¼ cup candy decorations (sprinkles, bats, eyes, etc)

In a large glass bowl, microwave baking bars uncovered on High 1 ½ – 2 ½ minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Gently stir in cereal and pretzels until evenly coated. Stir in candy corn and decors. Spread on waxed paper or foil until cooled and set. Break into chunks. Store loosely covered.

This mix can be made scarier or more fun, depending on what you add to it!

Mother served some of the obligatory Halloween party fare: donuts, popcorn balls, sugar cookies, and punch. The Halloween themed foods that we made were a great addition!

If you are wanting ideas for your Halloween party next year I highly recommend these! They are all very easy to make, not very time consuming, but make a big impact!

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2014 in recipe

 

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Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna

I have been cooking and baking, but not doing much writing. I would love to say I will share all of the recipes that I have been making with you this week…I doubt I will. I can say that I will share a recipe with you that I made for the person who gave me this recipe. I can also say I will try like heck to share some stories of more food adventures in the Denver area.

The recipe I am sharing came from the wife of my oldest brother. She made it for a family get together many, many years ago. I really enjoyed it, and got the recipe. I have made it for my family many times over the years. I got the recipe back out a few weeks ago when I heard that my sister-in-law’s grandmother had passed. I wanted to take her dinner for after the funeral, and pulled this out of the recipe file. I made a double recipe and kept one at home for our dinner. The little girls liked it, and didn’t remember having it before. My Sister-In-Law was glad she did not have to make dinner, and said it had been quite some time since she had made the dish: Mexican Lasagna.

Mexican Lasagna

  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 -16 ounce can tomatoes, chopped
  • 10-12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups small curd cottage cheese, drained
  • 1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups lettuce, shredded
  • ½ cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup black olives, sliced or chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown ground beef and drain. Add all spices and canned tomatoes and heat through. Cover bottom and sides of a 9 X 13 baking dish with tortillas. Pour beef mixture over tortillas. Place layer of tortillas over mix. Put aside. Combine cottage cheese, jack cheese, and egg. Pour over tortillas. Bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven. Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Top with rows of shredded cheddar, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and olives.

This casserole has good flavor, and looks pretty. It can be made ahead of time and refrigerated  pre-assembled before baking. I generally serve it with rice.

I am glad that my sister-in-law shared this recipe with me all of those years ago, and that I was able to make it for her in a time of sadness.

 

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2014 in recipe

 

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Battered Chicken

Battered Chicken

For the anniversary dinner that I made for my mother I purchased a “Fry Daddy” to make her the homemade French fries she asked for. I have made homemade French fries numerous times on the stove, but NOT since purchasing my new flat top stove. This is what prompted the purchase of the “Fry Daddy”.

That was the only thing I had done with the fryer since buying it. I’m not a fan of fried foods because of the health aspect, so I have spent years “unfrying” everything! Maybe I should say “oven frying”. The other evening when pondering what to make with the chicken breasts I had pulled out of the freezer that morning, I saw the recently purchased and still homeless fryer sitting on the counter. I pulled the Family Cookbook out of the cabinet and started looking for the batter recipe.

My dad came up with “The Batter” recipe when I was a child. He used it for fish, shrimp, and chicken! It was a big hit with my family growing up. I wondered if my husband and children would love it just as much as we did, or if I would still love it.

Batter

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Lemon-Lime Soda (Sprite or 7-Up)

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in beaten egg. Add lemon-lime soda to provide the proper fritter consistency. (In case you do not know the proper consistency you do not want this thick like dough. However, it is easier to add more liquid than to take it away once you have put in too much.)

I heated up the fryer, prepped the chicken, and battered away. I almost immediately had inquisitive people in the kitchen (and an inquisitive Chihuahua). “What are you making?” “ Are we having donuts for dinner?” “Did you make French fries?”. I explained that I was making chicken nuggets  or chicken tenders, as my chicken was not all uniformly sized! I also explained that I could not make French fries and chicken nuggets at the same time, or probably not even in the same meal – because of the size of the fryer and the constraints on keeping the fried food fresh and warm.

When the moment of truth arrived I was a bit concerned because of the looks on the faces of my family. The girls LOVED it. Still worried about The Hubs reaction, I waited. He smiled, and then asked if there were more. He had only taken a couple in case he didn’t like them.

Another success! I was so excited that my family was as happy with this batter as when it was first created and brought to the table!

If you are in to fried foods, or really want to try something easy and new (or not), I recommend this morsel!

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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