Archive | April, 2014

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Egg and Sausage Casserole

30 Apr
This was a great last minute save for our dinner a few weeks back!

This was a great last minute save for our dinner a few weeks back!

Ever have one of those nights where you’ve counted on leftovers for dinner but yet when you open the fridge, there aren’t any?

Yup. It really stinks when that happens, doesn’t it?

We must’ve had a very hungry week the week prior to our spring break because when we made our menu for the week, knowing we’d be going away for the break week, we tried hard to use what we had and we worked in leftovers on the menu for a particularly busy night where we’d have to eat and run. But, we did an extra good job of using what we had because when I looked, I realized I needed a new plan for dinner that night.

Coincidentally, because I get so many meal ideas and recipes in my inbox each day, one happened to catch my eye and spark my interest for dinner that night. It was an egg and sausage casserole which was supposed to be cooked in the slow cooker, most likely for an Easter brunch type of meal, but it gave me an idea for my last minute Wednesday-before-the-chorus- concert-and-dance-class night type of meal instead.

I began looking on the internet and Pinterest for egg casserole ideas. I wanted to make a good-sized one so that I could also use it for the remaining week’s breakfasts and lunches too. I am a big fan of the “Cook Once, Eat Twice” philosophy.

The recipe I came up with was well-received by my family and I even served it with an English Muffin bread, which I made in the bread maker while I was gone for the afternoon. I did not need to slow cook my casserole, so I baked it in the oven instead. It was a perfect meal.

Here is the recipe I somewhat created, based on all the recipes I saw that day.

EGG AND SAUSAGE CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil

12 package cooked sausage (I used a combination of cut up low fat turkey sausage links (8) and what I had left of my Jimmy Dean low fat Turkey sausage crumbles.)

14 eggs beaten

1/2 cup milk

1 small onion, chopped

Several small potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces (I used six potatoes, I could’ve done with five. Six was just a bit much, even for a large casserole.)

1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (we use low fat)

DIRECTIONS

I precooked my potatoes and my onions and sausage in olive oil on the stove top first. I put them into two cast iron skillets since I had such a large amount, and cooked them before putting them in the bottom of my casserole dish. I poured my eggs on top of them once in the dish, and topped with the shredded cheese.

I baked my casserole for one hour at 350 degrees. Be sure to check it by putting a knife through. The casserole looks done about halfway before it is done. Halfway through, I covered it with foil because the top was golden brown but the inside was still loose.

 

 

 

 

Monday Musings: Got M&M’s?

28 Apr

If you have M&Ms and a messy house, host an M&M Cleanup!

ORIGINALLY POSTED OCTOBER 27, 2011:

As I look around my living room at this very moment, I see laundry in two big piles waiting to be folded, leftover birthday party paraphernalia on the table, today’s pajamas from someone on the floor (those might even be yesterday’s now that I think about it) and I think to myself, “We need an M&M Cleanup!”

The M&M Cleanup is my husband’s invention, I must give him all the credit on this one. He started it when our kids were little as a way to entice them to clean up quickly with a little chocolate for motivation. Because it’s chocolate related, it still works even when they’re big. In fact, if you offered me an M&M right now (I prefer Peanut M&Ms,) I might just clean it all up myself.

Let me tell you a little bit more about it.

First and most importantly: You don’t need to have M&Ms to do this. You could use Skittles, fruit snacks, my personal fave-chocolate chips- or whatever you think is extra special, would motivate your child best and you’re comfortable rewarding them with. In fact, mini M&Ms work just as well as full size. Other than Halloween and maybe Easter, our kids don’t get M&Ms on a regular basis, so if we have them on hand, they work well because they don’t get them often. Conveniently, Santa always leaves them in the stockings and the Easter Bunny usually leaves them in the baskets, so we often get restocked around the holidays.

Second: We only save the M&M Cleanup for big messes, and only periodically do we use it. Otherwise, it’d lose its motivating factor. If you do it all the time, it’s not special. If our downstairs playroom is a huge, overwhelming mess after a multi-kid play date, for example, rather than yell and demand over and over that they clean up, and them whine that it’s too much or they don’t want to, or my favorite, “That’s not mine, I didn’t put that there,” we just announce an M&M Cleanup and they literally run to the mess and start cleaning up.

How it works: You can do it a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s one M&M or chocolate chip for each “thing” they pick up and put away, or for each trip they take from the living room to the bedroom for example, to put something away. Or, you could do an M&M per handful so that they’re not picking up a tiny scrap of paper and getting an M&M for each one. Really, the details and logistics are up to you. And, once that’s determined, how many rewards they get is up to them and how hard they work. If everyone works equally as hard (and in our house that is NOT always the case,) you can give a final little handful to all when the job is done just to make sure it’s fair all around and that no one who worked just as hard, is neglected for being a little bit slower, or whatever the case may be.

Most importantly: Make sure you are the one holding the M&Ms. This allows you most importantly to treat yourself as they clean up. I’m sure you worked just as hard about your day, without reward, so now’s the time. Secondly, this allows you to make sure no one is digging into the reward without doing their job first, or that no one is sneaking any more than what’s due them (such as the one for you and three for me routine.)

Although you can’t use this all the time and nothing is 100% foolproof when it comes to working with kids, The M&M Cleanup has worked wonders for us. It leaves us all smiling at the end and feeling rewarded for our hard work, and everyone needs that every once in a while!

 

Photo credit:

M&M image for the public use:

Extra Extra! Exciting news to share!

17 Apr
The curtain goes up May 10 for Listen to Your Mother 2014!

The curtain goes up May 10 for Listen to Your Mother 2014!

I don’t often post on Thursdays, but I have such exciting news to share that I just couldn’t wait for a regular posting day to share it!

I know that I mentioned in a previous post that I’d gone a bit out of my comfort zone and auditioned for a local performance, something I never could’ve imagined doing before.

Well, I received notification just the other day that I’d been accepted as a cast member for the show!

Exciting right?

The show I auditioned for is Listen To Your Mother 2014, Providence. It’s a monologue show designed to “Give Motherhood a Microphone.” It’s taking place all over the country as well as in Providence, in 32 states to be exact, and it’s just in time for Mother’s Day!

You can find out more about the show by clicking on the link above, and if you’re local to the Providence area and would like to see the show, here’s the link for tickets. A portion of each ticket in Providence goes towards The Tomorrow Fund!

I hope to see you at the show!

Easter Sweet Bread

16 Apr

This recipe makes three “small” loaves of sweet bread for Easter. It’s wonderful when you grill it!

Originally posted April 4, 2012

This recipe is one that takes a while from start to finish- nine hours to be exact- but if you’re game, it’s SO worth it! It is, of course, from my mom. She received it from a woman she worked with. It’s dated April 1992.

My mom makes it every year and I have made it once or twice myself. Don’t let the number of steps scare you off. If you go step-by-step it’s not hard.

Colleen DeMoranville’s Sweet Bread

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 and 1/4 cups hot milk

1 pkg. dry yeast (Fleishman’s Active Dry or Rapid Rise or Red Star)

1 egg- well beaten

1 tsp. vanilla extract (can also use almond if desired)

7 cups flour (start with between five and six and add more if needed)

one 15 ounce can sliced peaches, drained and sliced thinner

DIRECTIONS

1) Mix butter, sugar, salt an d hot milk in a large bowl.

2) Let cool to lukewarm.

3) Stir yeast into 1/4 cup warm water and let stand 5 minutes. (If using a thermometer it’s 110-115 degrees.

4) Add 1/4 tsp sugar or whatever the package of yeast says to add.

5) Add dissolved yeast, egg, the extract and three cups of flour to the butter, sugar, salt and milk. Mix vigorously with flat wooden spoon.

6) Add three more cups of flour and then mix well.

7) If too sticky, add more flour. It almost always needs more, but not more than 7 cups. Too much flour will make the bread tough.

8) Turn out onto floured surface and knead it for one or two minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes. Add remaining flour only if sticky.

9) Knead more until elastic.

10) Put into large buttered bowl . Turn over once so it doesn’t dry out. Cover with a dishtowel or two and let it rise in a warm place until doubled. (Takes a few hours.)

11) Punch down and knead for another minute or two. Cut in half for two long loaves or in thirds for smaller loaves and divide each of those portions into three pieces (for a total of six or nine pieces.)

12) Stretch and roll each piece until long and uniform, about 12-18 inches if divided into two portions. Shorter if divided into three.

13) Use the three pieces to make a braid with each portion.

14) Pinch ends together.

15) Insert peach slices between braids.

16) Place each loaf on a buttered cookie sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in bulk. (Takes about 2 hours.)

17) Brush each with one egg yolk that is mixed with 1 tsp. cold water.

18) Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes (check at about 20 minutes) if making 2 large loaves or less if making three smaller loaves (usually between 17 and 18 minutes)

19) Remove loaves to cooling racks.

20) Cool and then glaze with mixture of:

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla

5-6 tablespoons milk

Sprinkle with colored sprinkles or non-pareils.

This photo was taken a couple of years back when Elizabeth helped me make the bread. She was probably in first grade at the time. My point is: there’s lots of opportunity for kids to help out here. There’s measuring, kneading, braiding and more, that they can help out with.

NOTE: The whole process takes about nine hours. Start in the morning, end in the evening. Mixing and kneading takes about one hour. First rising takes about two hours. Braiding takes about a half hour. Second rising takes about two hours. Baking takes about a half for each loaf, then cool and glaze.

My mom stores hers in gift boxes (like from a department store) on waxed paper.

Monday Musings: It was the worst of times, it was the best of times

14 Apr
"Friends are like flowers in the garden of life."

“Friends are like flowers in the garden of life.”

Last week the stomach bug hit our house along with some sort of upper respiratory bug also hitting our house the same week. I had one kid and one husband both down for the count for a good portion of the week. I thought we’d missed the stomach bug this spring because we’d made it through both February and March which are the months we usually get nailed. But, out of the blue at 3am last Monday morning our youngest started and once it hit her she was down and out for four days.

It was pretty awful for her, with the first day being the most awful one of all.

And yet, it’s not the awfulness of the bugs or the awfulness of having sick people for half a week that I’ll remember when I look back on it. (Don’t get me wrong, though, it was awful.)

What I’ll remember instead, is this: On Monday afternoon, a friend brought one of my other daughters home for me. About a half hour after she left, there was a knock at our front door and my daughter came running down the hall, saying that the mom who’d dropped her off was back.

And she was. I opened the front door makeup-less and in my sweats, and there she stood, holding two bags filled with Gatorade and jello for my daughter and wine and chocolates for me. I was amazed. I hadn’t asked, but yet she’d taken the time to do that for us, for my daughter, for me. She even brought extra Gatorade in case the bug hit more than one of us during the week. (Knock on wood…so far so good.)

Her gesture totally and completely made my day. I smiled afterwards for at least an hour as I went through the rest of my afternoon and evening, and later on when she checked in by text, I smiled again.

Earlier that day, I’d gotten a message from a co-worker at the paper. If there was anything I needed covered that day, she’d get it done. Another co-worker emailed me as well. If I needed any supplies, she’d drop them off on my front steps, a safe distance away from catching anything!! Our neighbor offered out her help if there was anything she could do. Family and friends from far away sent me messages of support. Just reading them made me feel good,and I wasn’t even the one who was feeling sick!

That’s the thing about hard times: it brings out the best in people. No matter what tough time I look back on, it’s countered by the goodness of those around us. When my husband ruptured his achilles tendon a few years back, and began to prep for surgery and a long recovery, we were inundated with offers of help. People brought meals, helped out with yard work, one friend even delivered a chair from their house to ours so that he could sleep in a recliner right after the surgery when he couldn’t lay in bed.

When I was going to miss out on St. Joseph’s Day in 2013, a friend from school went out in the rain and got me the zeppole I’d been waiting 12 months for, delivering it to my doorstep. The zeppole was delicious, but the thoughtfulness and kindness behind it is what I’ll never forget.

Even a few weeks back, when my same daughter was out with a different virus, I had offers of help and so many well-wishes right from the get-go when I put up a status update on social media about having a sick kid at home. If there was anything I needed, people were right there for me, even people I don’t know as well or see as often. The offers for help were abundant.

So I know the famous saying is actually, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” but I’d like to change that around. For each and every “worst” time, I have some of the “best” memories of wonderful things that people have said and done to go along with it.

And so….It was the worst of times, but it was also the best of times.

Thank you.

 

 

Resolutions and Recipes: Sweet and Sour Beef and Broccoli

9 Apr

ORIGINALLY POSTED JANUARY 13, 2012: Earlier this month, when I talked about grocery shopping on a budget, one of the staples that I mentioned buying pretty regularly was stew meat. I have two recipes that I use most regularly when making something with stew meat (and I NEVER make stew, I don’t like it.) Recently though, I was looking for something new and different to make with the beef. I did a search of Allrecipes.com and I found one. The recipe called for cooking the stew meat through, throwing in broccoli and onions and adding a teriyaki sauce to it while it simmers and everything cooks through. I figured I’d try it out since I almost always have broccoli on hand and I had an onion. So, I went on Allrecipes.com again and found a teriyaki sauce recipe.

The end result, a one-dish meal (I love one-dish meals) that got all thumbs up all around and looked like this:

Sweet and Sour Beef and Broccoli Teriyaki

I love a meal that you can make in just one pan. Easy to cook, serve and clean up.

Below is the recipe for the sauce as I found it on Allrecipes.com.

Restaurant Style Teriyaki Sauce

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 cup water

1/2 tsp. grd. ginger

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

5 Tbl. packed brown sugar

1-2 Tbl. honey

2 Tbl. cornstarch

1/4 c. cold water

DIRECTIONS

1) Mix soy sauce, one cup water, ginger, garlic powder, brown sugar and honey in small sauce pan.

2) Mix cornstarch and 1/4 cup cold water together in a measuring cup.

3) Add the cornstarch and water to the pan of sauce.
Heat to desired thickness, add water to thin.

I served this on a bed of brown rice.

ENJOY!

Monday Musings: Spring is on the way!

7 Apr
Spring is on the way!

Spring is on the way!

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 11, 2013

One of the things I so love about living in New England is the fact that we get to experience every season. I love and appreciate them all, even winter.

My scrapbooks and photo albums would not be complete if they did not have photos from each season: snow days, snow men, and sledding in the winter, jumping in the leaves, apple and pumpkin picking in the fall, and of course my all-time favorites: swimming, fishing and boating in the summer.

When I first met my husband, I distinctly remember though, a conversation where we discussed the start of spring. Not the first official calendar day of spring, but rather the first day. That day you know that spring is coming. The sky is blue, the sun shines, it looks like spring, it even smells like spring. We both knew which day we were talking about and we both knew that there was nothing like that day every year.

I know too, that if we didn’t experience the winter, we would not appreciate the spring, not as much as we do.

Today, I was reminded of that conversation and I actually think of it every year at the start of spring. After a particularly long, snowy winter, today was gorgeous. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. We’ve been seeing buds from our flowers appearing in recent weeks. The days are now officially longer. It’s coming, and I’m so excited for a new year’s springtime to start.

This week, the kids brought out the jump ropes, and played outside again, without needing snow boots and snow pants.

A sure sign that spring is on the way: the sidewalk chalk is out!

A sure sign that spring is on the way: the sidewalk chalk is out!

And today….today they played with the sidewalk chalk in the driveway.

I absolutely love sidewalk chalk. I think that it’s one of the truest signs that spring is coming, when I see our driveway covered in my kids’ artwork. You never know what they’re going to draw and it’s always beautiful, full of bright colors and it’s always creative, full of whatever theme they’re currently into at the moment. It changes after each rainstorm, another sure sign of spring. And then, new art appears.

I used to run classes at my house when I was a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator and I once had a customer say to me that she always waited with great anticipation to see what the art would be on our driveway whenever she came to our house. It always made her smile.

It always makes me smile too. I love seeing it in front of me when I back out of the driveway and I love seeing it again when I come home at the end of the day.

It’s warm and it’s welcoming.

Last summer, after several seasons of wishing and hoping for one, I received a special gift for my birthday from my husband: a bench for my front yard so that I could sit out there and watch my kids play in the spring,  summer and fall; I could curl up and read a book, and all the while, listen to them chattering, running, jumping, riding bikes and scooters, and watch them with their chalk.

Big bows and applause for a job well done!

Big bows and applause for a job well done!

Today, I pulled my bench out of the garage and dragged it out to the driveway.

I got my book, my camera and my phone, and a blanket for my legs.

And then out I went to watch my kids, as they ushered in the spring.

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