Family: Nothing warms my heart like seeing my guys do their homework without me asking! I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven when I walked in on them.
Early on in my blog I posted the very cool bike rack Jeff made out of PVC pipe. Now that it's winter, I'm posting the also-very-cool ski rack Jeff made. Super easy, super convenient. Every time I drive in the garage I just stare at this piece of board in awe - it has tidied up things so well. Thank you, Jeff!
The girls were sick enough to stay home from church, so they kept themselves quietly busy by piecing together this alphabet mat. They also dressed themselves to match from head to toe. Charlotte is by "C" and Eleanor is by "E". Of course.
Beef Veg & Noodle Soup: This soup is one of those things I just put together without a recipe or measuring, so I'll try to remember what I did. Whatever it was, it turned out incredibly delicious. This is my new favorite soup (for this week, anyway).
I pan seared 2 beef round steaks,in a little oil and a lot of garlic and onion salt, then while it was resting on the cutting board (let meat rest before cutting), I sauteed veggies in the same pan. I used onions and celery and carrots (from the garden - they're still holding up from our fall harvest of my in-law's incredible garden). I then cubed the meat and threw the meat and veggies into the stock pot with water to cover it all by about 2 inches, beef bouillon (to taste - or beef broth), garlic salt, onion powder, and plenty of pepper (this is the secret ingredient - lots of pepper, but not too much). Bring it to boil and add egg noodles. Egg noodles will not swell and take up more space at the end than they do at the beginning like pasta, so put in as much as you like and know that it won't take up more room. Boil until noodles are soft. At the end, I added a can of home-canned green beans (drained, but you can add the water if you want - might be too salty, though). AND - for the OTHER secret ingredient - add a little basil. It gives it a rich deep taste similar to the Vietnamese soup Pho, which we LOVE. In fact, Jeff added Hoisin sauce to his soup (and Srirache sauce for heat - as in SPICEY) and he found it even more delicious.
To have my cake and eat it, too, is really just a bit too much for me.
I'm in charge of making the desserts for our upcoming Relief Society birthday party. I have a giant cupcake form and my friend (THANK YOU HEATHER!!!!!!!!!!) has two sets, so she came over yesterday and we baked 12 tops and 12 bottoms to these giant cupcakes for FIVE HOURS (plus a good 3 or more hours with a 6 am grocery trip, then 11 pm. clean-up, wrapping, finding freezer space). In my near future I see us spending another couple of hours unwrapping these frozen treats, filling the little hollow part inside with pudding, frosting them and decorating them. And then cleaning up. And then delivering them.
I am having nightmares of giant cupcakes eating me alive.
Jeff asked me why I didn't just order a large sheetcake, and who's idea was it anyway to do all this?
I had to answer him honestly - It was entirely my idea and I thought it'd be cuter than a sheetcake. In other words, I've dug my own grave. At least it's a tasty one.
You have to trim the cakes so the tops and bottoms match. With all the extra cake trimmings, I made this Trifle. Starting from the bottom up, the layers are cake, pudding, cool whip, blueberries & strawberries - then cake, pudding, and strawberry-flavored cool whip, topped with strawberries and a little raspberry jam in the center. It was sweet. Really. It was very sweet. I took this picture with it strategically placed in the fridge surrounded by a delightful background of Saran Wrap, Ranch Dressing, a jar of pickles, with just a glimpse of sour cream under. Oh, yeah, I'm definitely the great photographer. At least the lighting was good.
The Ultimate Chocolate Cake Mix Cake: (NOTE: I'm going back to baking this in a Bundt pan and won't make this particular recipe in a giant cupcake pan again - it just doesn't end up right).
1 Devil's Food Cake Mix 4 Eggs
1 (5.9oz) box chocolate pudding mix (instant) 1 Cup. Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Sour Cream 1/2 Cup Water
2 Cups semisweet Chocolate Chips
Beat well (except Chocolate Chips) together, stir in chocolate chips, pour into greased 12 Cup Bundt pan, bake in preheated 350F oven for 50-55 minutes until top is springy and toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for an hour or more before turning out onto plate. Dust with powdered sugar.
BREAKFAST: Oliver reminded me on Wednesday night that he'd signed up to bring German Pancakes to his class's International Food Day. So I got up early and made these. Thankfully, they are easy. And I really like them. Plus it's a good alternative to the typical scrambled eggs if you're trying to get protein at breakfast. Thanks to my mother-in-law for this recipe!
6 Eggs 3 Tbs. butter/margarine
1 Cup Milk 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. Sugar 1 Cup Flour
Generously butter inside of large cake pan (I use a 10x15 usually, but you can double the recipe and use a jelly-roll pan like picture above). Preheat oven to 400F.
Crack eggs into blender and blend briefly. Then add all other ingredients and blend together. Pour into pan.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400F, then an additional 10 minutes at 350F. (or you can fry large individual pancakes - they turn out kind of like crepes - in a well-buttered frying pan, putting enough batter in the pan to cover the bottom. Turn over when set. When slightly brown on both sides slide out of pan onto plate. Add butter to pan before frying each pancake). Serve immediately - sprinkle with powdered sugar, or use syrup, jam, applesauce, or fruit as toppings.
Casserole is just another word for "Clean out the fridge". I really did have to clean out the fridge. Here's proof that you can create something ex nihil (out of nothing). I'm only posting it because it makes me feel like I've "arrived" at being the all-powerful stereotypical housewife - a place I never in a million years would have imagined I'd be and never aspired to be, but now that it has happened I'm darn right proud of it. :)
The best part of this creation was that everyone liked it. Lots.
Ingredients: Whatever you want. :) This has left-over chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, radiatore pasta, the rest of FOUR different pasta sauces, Italian sausage (the only thing I made anew for this dish which probably made the dish palatable), olives, green onions, baked together until heated through (about 20 minutes at 350F) and topped with 3 different kinds of cheese for the last 10 minutes to melt.
I also made myself a Squash Bisque this week. Since I'm apparently the only one in my family who loves squash, I realize this is purely for me. The kids tried it, and were silent (at least they didn't complain, but I knew it wasn't their favorite). I sauteed onions and carrots and used squash (that we had harvested from my in-law's garden and I had already baked and frozen), chicken broth (or bouillon and water), seasonings (a little nutmeg does wonders). Boil it all until very soft, then use an immersion/stick blender to blend it all in the pot until smooth (or transfer to a blender in batches and blend - but BE CAREFUL! Hot soup in the blender has a tendency to explode on the first blend. Believe me, I know.)
At the very end, you can add cream (DON'T let it boil w/cream - it separates and curdles) but since it was just for me, I didn't. I like it without cream. Not that I'm trying to be all that healthy (okay, I am), but it just doesn't seem worth it to add the cream. So instead I added sour cream (yet another "secret" ingredient).
My friend Carole taught me how to make this amazing pizza. The crust is better than anything at a restaurant, and you can mix and match toppings to your heart's desire. I know I posted the pizza thing a long time ago, but it was tonight's dinner so I'm posting it again. I'll keep the crust a secret (since it's not my recipe), but I'll share the topping.
Spread olive oil over stretched pizza dough, then spread a generous (like 1/4 cup or more) amount of Thai Sweet Chili Sauce (instead of pizza sauce), cheese on that, cooked & cubed chicken or turkey, green onions - bake on hot pizza stone at 500F for about 5-8 minutes, remove and add fresh matchstick carrots, cilantro if you like, or any other vegetables (bean sprouts go with it - and you can substitute the chili sauce with peanut sauce if you want a milder taste).
Running: Okay, enough of the food talk. Now how about running... Well, I ran 7.25 yesterday, then I swam a mile today, and I plan on biking tomorrow and running again on Friday. Right now, it's all just for fun. I'm not in training mode at the moment. It simply makes me happy to get moving. I took a few weeks off then I got sick on my fourth week (what's up with this nasty flu/cold season re-emerging!? I thought winter diseases were over already!) so I'm getting back on my feet again and it's a little (okay, a LOT) discouraging that I've lost so much of my fitness, but it's coming back. Sheesh, with all this food I'm making I should have plenty of fuel to keep me running for the next six years!
Reading: I'm reading The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute. IT IS FABULOUS. Talk about learning how to make peace! Believe it or not, it all starts with yourself. Dang. That means I have to take responsibility? Oh, and it's my second time through. I just can't seem to remember to behave all the time and I need the reminder.