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New recipe: Stuffed Pepper Casserole from Skinny Mom and Sue

27 Jun
A new recipe for us!

A new recipe for us!

Well here it is, the last week of June!

Hooray!!! We made it to summer vacation! I will admit, there were days and nights I didn’t think it would ever, ever, EVER get here, and the final month of the school year was absolutely brutal to get through, but we did it. We have a newly minted junior in high school, an eighth grader, and a sixth grader, and we will finally be back in just two schools again next year, rather than the three from this year.

To help us make it through the year, we relied on many of our tried and true recipes, but there were also a couple of new ones thrown in there every so often. This is one I have been wanting to post for some time now, but I just never had a chance to get on and do it.

I’ve mentioned my friend Sue on this blog a few times already. You can read about Sue, her kindness, generosity and her fabulous recipes here and here.  Sue has this wonderful habit of texting me to let me know that she’s left me a treat in her milkbox. It might be a bag of the snacks I linked to just now, or it might be cookies, or a book, or in one case, a container of a new recipe she had tried out. The recipe was for a Stuffed Pepper Casserole and it was from the blog Skinny Mom. You can view the recipe here.

I love the look and smell of fresh veggies cooking!

I love the look and smell of fresh veggies cooking!

As soon as I tried Sue’s casserole (which was gluten free and low fat, perfect for our family’s needs) I knew I had to add it to one of our two week menu plans. Sue had made some adjustments of her own, adding in mushrooms, using the sauce she likes, and things like that, and I opted to do the same thing. We added in mushrooms and olives, used a sauce we liked, and I even decided to double the recipe, thinking we’d then have it leftover for another night’s meal.

I cooked this recipe in my new Pampered Chef stir fry pan, and as I did, I quickly realized that not only would I have enough leftover for another meal that week, but I actually had enough for two full casseroles: one for that week with leftovers and one to bag up into a large-sized ziploc freezer bag and freeze for a future night. It would just need to be thawed out and baked with cheese on top.

I also tried out a new gluten-free biscuit mix which we flavored with a garlic powder and butter topping, and that went over well too. All in all, I had a new, delicious meal and I had enough for a whole second meal as well. It was a win-win for us. I would most definitely make this meal again in the future. Anyone who loves stuffed peppers or even American Chopped Suey, would love this recipe too! I encourage you to try it, and I thank Sue for sharing it with me!

I quickly realized that I had enough meat for not one, but two casseroles!

I quickly realized that I had enough meat for not one, but two casseroles!

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Don and Alexandra!

23 Mar

So what’s the best birthday gift *you* ever gave someone?

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 23, 2012

Today is a very special day.

Today is Alexandra’s birthday.

Today is also Don’s birthday.

That makes me the best wife ever because seven years ago for Don’s birthday at 1:22 am I gave him our third daughter.

I know, I know, best gift ever, right?! It’s hard to top that one though, so I don’t really try. I’m back to t-shirts, pajama pants and stuff like that for his birthday gifts.

Alexandra’s First Birthday 2006

Since sharing his birthday with his daughter, Don has been blessed with getting to have a Snoopy party, a My Little Pony party, a Dora party, a Purple party and this year…Hello Kitty. Technically they’re not his parties obviously, but you see what I mean.

Birthday crowns all around on Alex’s second birthday.

Thankfully, my parents have this neat tradition that they started with us where we celebrate the adult birthday parties at their house each year and we “kids” get to choose our meal and our cake. I choose….well I won’t tell you what I choose until it’s my birthday this summer. But Don chooses a totally opposite type of meal and cake than I would choose, so I guess it’s good that we each get a chance to choose our own, to choose what we like. Don chooses meatball sandwiches (made with my mom’s homemade meatballs and gravy) with lemon cake for dessert. It’s probably the only time all year we have it and he really enjoys it.

Therefore, today I thought I’d share with you the recipe for Don’s birthday cake of choice each year, the lemon cake. It’s really yummy, I particularly love the corners.

***********************************************************************************

LEMON CAKE

A cake *just* for Daddy!

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup water

2 beaten eggs

Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix

1 can lemon pie filling (divided)

DIRECTIONS

In bowl by hand, mix together oil, water, eggs, cake mix.

Add 1/4 can of lemon pie filling into the mix.

Put into greased 9×13 dish.

On top, distribute the rest of the pie filling.

Bake 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

When cool, glaze with:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. Add a little hot water if necessary.

Fun Friday: Pillsbury’s Gluten Free Banana Streusel {Chocolate Chip} Bread

29 Jan
Only half left, already? You have to be quick here or you miss the photo opp!

Only half left, already? You have to be quick here or you miss the photo opp!

Hi and Happy Friday!

Today is a special Friday because this week we officially hit the midpoint to the school year and today is the 93rd day of school. This means that we are closer to the end of the school year than to the beginning of the school year. We began the third quarter this week, and just like that, it will soon be spring.

Well not too soon, but you know. Sooner than not spring. I’m a cup half full kind of girl.

Additionally, although we were forecast to have a giant snow storm last weekend, we happily dodged that bullet (this time) and only got a few inches. The weather warmed significantly this week and our snow is just about gone, so that’s even more reasons to celebrate the end of another week!

Today’s recipe is a new one for us as we continue down this gluten free path and I attempt to redesign some of my baking and cooking habits to fit everyone’s specific needs here. One thing I’ve been struggling with is determining when I need a binding agent in my flour, such as xanthan gum, and when I don’t. In general, I’ve been keeping two kinds of all-purpose flour on hand here, one that contains the xanthan gum which is from Trader Joe’s, and one that does not, which is Pillsbury and I buy it at Walmart. I’ve used the one without it for what is so far my favorite muffin recipe (a basic recipe we’ve used for raspberry, blueberry and chocolate chip muffins) and I’ve used the other for all of my Christmas cookies, which all seemed to stay together just fine. If you click on the links I’ve put in here, you can see both kinds of flour pictured in those posts. In addition to those, I’ve used the one without xanthan gum for much of my cooking if I need to bread chicken, and I’ve even used gluten free Bisquick to make a quick pancake mix and for making biscuits. So far, so good.

That said, I really wanted to make a homemade banana chocolate chip bread again, but I couldn’t figure out which of the two flours I needed, and the more I researched, the more confused I got. I had two to choose from, so I really didn’t want to go out and buy a bunch of individual flour blend ingredients to try to create my own blend at home, I wanted to use one of the ones that I had. Ultimately, I decided to google the words “Pillsbury gluten free banana bread” and I figured they’d have a recipe which used their own flour blend, which is what I had on hand. Sure enough they did. The recipe didn’t call for chocolate chips but I threw them in anyway. It did call for a streusel topping, which is one of my all-time favorite things, so I was immediately liking this recipe. I put it all together quickly and without issue one day this week for an after school snack, and it cooked up in an hour.

We're lucky any of the topping made it onto the bread! I kept tasting and tasting.

We’re lucky any of the topping made it onto the bread! I kept tasting and tasting.

The bread received all thumbs up from everyone here, and it will surely be one of my new go-to recipes and one that everyone can eat. My biggest problem was figuring out how to get it out of the baking dish without all of the topping coming off, because every piece that fell off, I ate. The recipe contained three bananas, which completely cancels out the fact that it contained any chocolate at all. And, the chocolate was semi-sweet, which I think is a superfood.

Right?

Right.

There was not a lot of butter in it, but we use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in our recipes. Other than that, it fit the bill and it was such a relief to me to have the house smelling of a sweet treat after school again this week. I can now check off another item on our menu that I’ve been able to conquer in the gluten free journey.

If you’d like to check out the recipe yourself, you can find it here.

Enjoy!

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Taco Bake

4 Nov

This little “cookbook” is handmade from my college roommate, Karen, circa May 1993. I still cook from it!

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 13, 2012

Last week during one of my posts I mentioned a cookbook that my college roommate, Karen had made me before we graduated URI back in 1993. Despite all our moves from state to state, apartments to house, that little booklet has traveled with me and several of our regular recipes have come from it. However, there’s so many in there that I haven’t made in years. Recently I pulled it out again, as I was specifically looking for a recipe for dinner that we hadn’t made in years, probably since before we had kids. It was a huge hit, so I thought I should share it here.

My family all likes Mexican food but I was getting a little tired of our alternating meals: tacos and quesadillas (even though they weren’t at all tired of them and could probably eat tacos and quesadillas day after day, I could not.) I decided to give Karen’s Taco Bake a try. It got four thumbs up. (And a thumbs down from Alex who said, “But I really liked the tomatoes Mom.”)

You don’t need a ton of ingredients for this recipe and I had everything on hand even though I hadn’t planned it in advance.

This recipe is all the things I like: quick and easy, one pan, and budget friendly. I had a pack of ground turkey in the fridge and everything else on hand in the house already.

KAREN’S TACO BAKE
INGREDIENTS

1 lb. Grd. Turkey or Beef

1 12 oz. jar of salsa (I had a 24 oz. jar, with about half left so I just dumped it all in.)

1 cup corn (drained if canned, mine is frozen)

1/2 cup mayo

1 Tbl. Chili Powder

2 cups crushed tortilla chips (I didn’t measure, but I put about half a bag into a ziploc and crushed them.)

2 cups Montery Jack Cheese (I used a block of cheddar)

I love how it first looks when you throw it all together.

DIRECTIONS

Brown and drain meat.

Stir in salsa, corn, mayo and chili powder.

Layer 1/2 meat, cheese and chips in a 2 qt casserole (I used a 11×7 baking dish)

Repeat so that cheese is on top of chips.

Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is lightly crisp.

Top with shredded lettuce, tomato and sour cream.

My kids were so excited for this new meal, they couldn’t wait to try it out.

Now you could serve it on a plate as is, or as my kids like to do, you could throw it into a soft taco and wrap it up, with all the fixins’ and eat it that way. We had a little of both at our house; some on a plate and some in wraps. Either way….delicious.

So there you have it….another one of Karen’s famous recipes from my college years.

Enjoy!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals…almost

30 Sep

Last week I saw the funniest post on Facebook, shared by a friend but originally from Modern Mommy Madness, and it reminded me of our weekly scrambles to get our meals planned and prepped. It made me laugh out loud, literally, and I instantly shared it on Facebook myself. We try very hard to stick to a budget and we try very hard to make a meal plan for two weeks at a time so that we can stick to that budget, but some weeks it is just so hard, and we’re just barely pulling some sort of meal together.  This graphic put the reality check right out there, and I loved it.

I'm pretty sure we all can relate. Don't you think so? My personal favorite is Friday's meal.

I’m pretty sure we all can relate. Don’t you think so? My personal favorite is Friday’s meal. Thanks to Modern Mommy Madness for keeping it real.

So this week, instead of two weeks of meal ideas for you, I’ve got ten. By the time we got our meal plan together and shopped for it, we were down to ten days instead of 14. I’d say I’d share with you the other four, but I barely remember what we ate last night, nevermind ten days ago. I think I do remember a lasagna and a shepherd’s pie in there somewhere, a chicken pot pie made an appearance as well, but for now, we have ten meals. The kids have been helping with the meal planning, putting in their favorite meal requests, which has helped us come up with two weeks of meals every time. Hopefully this list will help to jump-start your own meal planning for the next couple of weeks!

  1. Oven roasted chicken dinner, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce
  2. Fajitas
  3. California chicken (chicken sandwiches with melted cheese, avocado, and sprouts if desired)
  4. Homemade pizzas (we did Hawaiian, plain cheese with sauce, and BBQ chicken this time)
  5. Ravioli
  6. Sloppy Joes
  7. Chicken and Broccoli quiche (recipe here)
  8. Chicken and Mushrooms in white wine sauce (recipe here)
  9. Sweet and Sour Meatballs with egg noodles (recipe here)
  10. Pastene “soup” and Meatball sandwiches

#crosscountryadventure2015: Tips for planning your own trip

27 Jul

So many people have said to us that they would love to take a trip like this one at some point in the future. I thought I’d share some tips with you, including things we’ve done or learned along the way.
trip wall1) Get everyone involved: If you’re bringing kids along and they are school aged, get them involved in the route planning by asking them what they’d love to see. We kept a large map and blank poster board on our wall and asked our kids to tell us what they hoped we could see. We let them know that just because it went on the list didn’t mean we could absolutely do it, but we’d do our best to make it happen. We tried to hit at least one place each person had requested, but many of the requests overlapped, like the Grand Canyon. We all wanted to see that. Our family and friend visits were worked in as well.
2) Be flexible: We had our calendar, we knew the date when we had to be in California, so we had a deadline, but my husband cautioned me against planning where we’d stay at every single stop because we might get delayed along the way or arrive earlier than planned along the way. I took his word for it, the planner that I am, and we only made our reservations for Virginia, for Fourth of July weekend, and for Los Angeles. As it turned out, we did modify our schedule a bit, and picked up an extra day along the way, which we were able to spend in Arizona with our friends, and another extra day which then allowed us to arrive a day earlier in Los Angeles than we’d initially planned. We struggled with finding a spot to stay overnight for three nights in Yellowstone National Park, so many campgrounds were now full, but had we booked it a month ago or more, our dates would not have been correct, so having a reservation would not have helped us. We opted to just stay two nights instead because that’s what we could find. So ultimately, he was right.
20150707_2329213) Be spontaneous, and be aware of your family’s habits: We knew several things we definitely wanted to do, like visiting the Alamo and the Grand Canyon, and we had specific plans for days when we were with our family, but we couldn’t possibly plan out every single minute of every single day ahead of time for the entire five weeks. It was nice to be able to wake up and do nothing some days or to wake up and say, “What should we do today,” making that decision as a family. We tend to be later risers and night owls, so we never planned to be up and out at the crack of dawn, because that wasn’t realistic for us. There’s a lot of us also, and one bathroom, so it takes us some time to get organized and out the door. We are much better at later arrivals for things whenever possible, and with the pressure to rush out the door off, it kept everyone happy, at least for the most part.
4) Divide and conquer: With an undertaking such as a trip like this one, there was no way we could make any one person responsible for the entire thing. We did sit many nights and plan out some of it together, but we also split up the responsibilities. I took on the bulk of the organizing of the camper inside as well as the family’s needs, while he took on the bulk of organizing the route (since he’d done this trip before) and finding the campsites, as well as taking on figuring out the hardware and equipment needs for the truck and camper. Working as a team is much easier than one person doing everything or both of you trying to do every single task together. Our kids were old enough to be involved in the organizing and setting up of the camper as well, so our team was more than just the two of us.
20150629_1242495) Remember that it’s camping: Yes, you have all the comforts of home in an RV, but you also have the potential for ants, a mouse, beetles, and the like. It’s not the Four Seasons, and we didn’t want it to be, but don’t be shocked if you see a bug, or if there’s dirt on the floor or if you shower in your flip flops at the campground’s showers. If you don’t like those types of things, this type of camping across the country trip isn’t for you. Our group consists of an Eagle Scout and four Girl Scouts. We’ve all tent camped and hiked before, and we like meeting and greeting new and different wildlife. We knew we’d be okay on a trip like this.
6) Be patient: Close quarters, long hours driving, tight spaces, many weeks away from home. There will be short tempers and meltdowns and frustrating situations. It’s important to be as patient as possible as often as possible. They say patience is a virtue, and this trip is a great way to practice it. Nothing will go 100% perfectly and you deal with things as they come, just as you would at home.
7) This is a driving trip: You’re going to spend a lot of time in the car, you’re going to spend a lot of money on gas. To think of the trip without knowing those things going into it would be silly. We saved lots of money in other ways, but we were up front with knowing gas would cost money and even a great deal of money in some places, and we’d be using a lot of gas because we would be spending five weeks on the road. We also knew going into the trip that we’d be pulling a camper and driving a large vehicle, so we knew our gas mileage wouldn’t be fantastic, but again, these were all known facts way ahead of time, so no surprises there and we took it all into consideration.
8) Camping is cheap: Although gas is expensive at times, lodging is very inexpensive. Campsites varied in price from as little as $15 a night to as much as $75 a night, depending on where we stayed, with an average price of $25-$30 a night, usually. We ate out on occasion as we do at home, but we ate in much more often, just as we would at home. Had we stayed in hotels, we would not have had such inexpensive lodging and not have had the ability to cook such great meals as we do now. At $3900 to own outright, our camper was our hotel and our ability to cook meals for five people a dog and a frog, for five weeks all wrapped in one, without having to spend money on airline tickets which would not allow us to experience the entire country from East to West and South to North as we have. And when we get home, we have the ability to go anywhere else we want to go with our camper from here on in, because we own it. Who knows what adventures lie ahead for us?

Adventure is all part of the fun!

Adventure is all part of the fun!

Easter Sweet Bread

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

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

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

6) 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.

7) 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.

8) Knead more until elastic.

9) 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.)

10) 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.)

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

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

13) Pinch ends together.

14) Insert peach slices between braids.

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

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

17) 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)

18) Remove loaves to cooling racks.

19) 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.

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