Thursday, May 28, 2009

Quick Pics Before the Rain Comes

On Sunday we had a beautiful, sunny day. We all decided we needed some backyard time. Zoey is learning to swing on the "Big Kid" swing and the other kids had fun jumping rope, reading in the shade and playing a bit of soccer. Then, all of a sudden the sky began to darken and the winds picked up. We all bustled inside to stay dry, but I was able to snap a few pictures before it all got nasty. Aren't they just the cutest?!

Zoey is a big girl now!

A little friendly jump roping

I love this picture of Meghan! It captures her perfectly!

They all love the new swing in the shade. Maybe we'll call it the "Book Nook"

Soccer in rubber boots, do you think it will catch on?

Nate and his big sis.

Daddy chillin' on the hammock while his girls play.

Happy Summer Days, Friends!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Menu Ideas with Two Gluten Free Recipes

I try to do a menu every week at our house. If I don't, I find that most evenings when 5:00 rolls around, I have no idea what to cook-nor do I feel like cooking-so more often than not, we have something super healthy like grilled cheese sandwiches or better yet we pick up a pizza from Papa Murphy's. This is not my husbands idea of what dinner should look like!

While I'm not a pro at the whole menu thing, I try-but it's rarely easy. It's not creating the menu that is hard for me, it's partly shopping for ONLY the ingredients needed for the menu. There are some things that I like to keep on hand and I buy them even if they are not needed for my 2 week menu. I'm sure a few of these are OK, but I have an alternate two week menu floating around in the back of my mind that I am also wanting to buying for. This is not so good for my budget.

The other problem I have is sticking to the menu. Maybe Fish Friday is just not calling my name, maybe I want Tacos! (See problem # 1) I don't believe that the menu has to be strictly followed. I am a chef that allows substitutions.

I have found that my two problems go hand in hand. It's a catch 22. So this last time I committed to buying only the things I needed for my menu and that while I could switch days around, I would only cook food that was already on the menu. I found that for the most part, this was a pretty good way to go. I cooked dinner almost every night for the last 2 weeks and rarely found myself not wanting what was on the menu-how could I, there was no other food in the pantry to choose from-if I used the cream of celery for a different dish on Monday, I wouldn't have it for Thursday's casserole! A couple of times that I got behind, we did decide to have leftovers, but it seemed to work OK because I had cooked earlier in the week and there actually were leftovers in the fridge that were edible.

So here is our menu for this week. I will provide recipes for two of the dishes at the end of the menu.

Monday - BBQ Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and French Fries (it's Memorial Day!)
Tuesday - Taco Soup
Wednesday - Chicken Noodle and Carrot Casserole, Salad and Cheesy Garlic Biscuits
Thursday - Pasta Alfredo, Green Beans and Garlic Bread
Friday - Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Corn
Saturday - Grilled Steak & Chicken, Rice-a-Roni and Salad

Hey, I never said we were health nuts!

Friday and Saturday are meals that either my husband or my oldest daughter can prepare as I will be off having a crafting weekend with my friend. Whoo-Hoo!!

Taco Soup
(I adapted this recipe from Paula Deen Celebrates!)

This is one of my favorite recipes. It goes together in just a few minutes and if you want, you can toss it in the crock pot in the morning on low and it's ready in a few hours. It's one of the recipes that I keep all the ingredients for in my pantry at all times! If you use a gluten free taco seasoning, this recipe can be gluten free.

(3) cloves of garlic, pressed (or minced)
(1) 32 oz. box of chicken broth
(2) cans of black beans, drained
(2) cans of diced tomatoes with chilies (sometimes called Mexican Tomatoes)-my family doesn't like chunks, so I puree these in my blender
1 cup water
(2) cans of canned chicken (costco size), drained
1 packet plus 1 1/2 tsp of taco seasoning
1 cup corn

Combine everything, except the corn, in a large pot.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Add the corn and simmer for 10 minutes more.

Top with your favorite toppings; grated cheese, sour cream, diced avocados, tortilla chips, and/or salsa.

Feeds my family of 7 with about one bowl left over for me to have for lunch the next day.

Alfredo Sauce

(This recipe will not turn out as thick as a jarred alfredo sauce, but tastes a lot better! My kids prefer it over a store bought sauce. It is also a gluten free recipe.)

1 cup butter
2 pints heavy cream
6 cloves of garlic, pressed (or minced)
2 cups of Romano Cheese, grated (get it at Costco) plus more for topping
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a saucepan, melt butter and sautee garlic briefly. Pour in the cream and stirring almost constantly, heat at medium high until the sauce begins to simmer. Add the 2 cups of cheese and continue to simmer, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens. It seems to take a while, but don't hurry it by turning up the heat or you will scortch the sauce--be patient, it's worth it! Pour sauce over cooked pasta noodles-gluten free if needed (we love penne because it holds the sauce in all it's nooks and crannies) -and top with more freshly grated romano cheese.

This feeds my family of 7 (and we eat a lot of it) and we generally have a bit of sauce left over. The sauce will get very thick in the fridge, but will smooth out after you heat it on the stove. If you microwave it, the butter will most likely seperate but it doesn't really affect the taste.

Give these recipes a try and let me know what you think.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Most Improved

Today was the first half of the 4H Most Improved Horse Show. This one is a little bit different than the other horse shows for a couple of reasons; first, it's a two part show and second, the girls are really only competing against themselves rather than everyone else.

Our day started at 6:00 this morning with everyone racing around to get showered, eat, hair braided, diaper bag packed and horses loaded. We were right on track when we pulled out at 7:30.

4H requires that anyone entering the arena be wearing "show attire". This consists of a cowboy hat, western style button up, long sleeve shirt with collar and cuffs, belt, dark jeans (no holes) and boots. Yesterday, my mom and I took Taylor around town to find her a show shirt, hat and belt. We had a terrible time finding a hat that would fit her, but finally we did and it even had pink trim to match her shirt and pink belt.

They looked so aDorable in their show outfits!

Taylor and Sackett

Meghan and Silver

Jeff had the opportunity to go Bass fishing with friends today, so he missed the show--that meant that I needed to pull the horse trailer again. We left a little early in hopes that we would be among the first to arrive and I would have lots of room to maneuver and I could nose in in such a way that no one would be able to park in front of me. Imagine our surprise (and my panic) to find out that there were quite a few trailers already there. To make things worse, Meghan informed me that our group needed to be parked in the same area (I'll not fall for that again) and so I was going to have to park in the row behind the other trailers.

In my now incredibly nervous state, I did not drive forward enough and so when I turned and pulled in behind the front row, I was not only too close to the trailer in front of me, but I was also terribly crooked! For one fleeting moment I thought I was going to have to back the trailer up and try to get it straight with 15 families watching me. Thank goodness one of the guys in our club was there and I happily hopped out and let him back us up and re-park us.

The girls entered both events; Showmanship and Horsemanship. In Showmanship you are on the ground leading your horse in a pattern. For this particular show it was-set up your horse at the first cone, walk to the second cone, trot to the third cone, back your horse three steps, execute a 270 degree turn and the walk to the judge.

Horsemanship is in the saddle, riding a different pattern. Today's was-set up at the first cone, walk to the first cone, trot to the second cone, lope a circle to the left in a left lead at the center cone do a simple lead change and lope a circle to the right (makes a figure 8) in a right lead, trot to the fourth cone and back 5 steps the exit the arena.

Meg and Silver doing the Showmanship Pattern

Taylor and Sackett doing the 270 during Showmanship

The patterns have to be memorized and you are penalized for not following the pattern exactly (among other things). For most shows, they post the pattern just before the show begins, but this year the kids were given the pattern a few days in advance. The judges make notes all through the routine and then the girls will get a copy of those notes telling them the things they were marked down for and what they need to work on for the next few months. Then in August, shortly before the fair, they will do the exact same patterns again in front of the same judges and they will compare the scores from the two shows. Those from each age group and for each event that have "made the most improvement" will win "Most Improved". For Showmanship you win a show halter and for Horsemanship you win a belt buckle. Needless to say, both girls want very badly to win!

Meghan being judged during Horsemanship

Taylor during Horsemanship

They both did a great job. There is plenty of room for improvement though, so there is a chance that they could be the ones to win! I love watching them work hard and then stand before the judges. I always get a little teary eyed. This year is especially big for me not only because I have two daughters this time, but because Meghan is getting to use my dad's horse for it this year. He would be so incredibly proud of his little cowgirls! I wish he were here to see them.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blogger's Block and Trying New Things

Well, I have to say that the day I started blogging I had so many "blogging topics" running through my head that I thought to myself, "You should probably write these down somewhere because tomorrow you won't remember any of them", and I was right-I should have written them down because now I am bemoaning the fact that I can think of nothing to blog about.

I am preparing this post using my daughter's computer as mine has been acting up lately and is now at Tek-Hut, hopefully being repaired. Could it be the Facebook apps that my husband blames it on? I choose to hope that it is not, but am willing to sacrifice them if it is.

This has been a pretty uneventful week, but there was one small event that might be slightly blog worthy. I needed to pull the horse trailer to 4H on Tuesday. While this might not sound like a big deal, for me it was HUGE. When Meghan started taking 4H, one of the first things I made clear was that I would not, under any circumstances, be pulling the horses. I managed to go a whole year without needing to and then Jeff decided to take Hunter's Safety Classes. So, Tuesday afternoon found me having my own little Driver's Ed Course with my husband as the teacher. I made sure to lay down the rules for him first.

1). Under no circumstance was he to become upset with me or yell at me.
2). He had to be super gentle and sweet with me the whole time(see rule #1).
3). I refused to back the trailer-we would nose-in wherever I needed to go and that included the driveway at home (see rule #1 and 2).
4). I would practice with an empty trailer so as not to kill my daughters' horses.

He agreed and after trying to reassure me that I would do fine and that it was much easier than it seemed, we were off. I managed to pull out of the driveway and make it to the fair grounds (about 6 or 7 miles away) and home again without any damage to myself, my husband or the trailer. I drove only on the back roads (in hopes of avoiding other traffic-which did not work) and I did not drive over 20 miles an hour for the first 2-3 miles of the trip and still not over 35 for the rest of it, even though the speed limit was 50 most of the way. I only had to be reminded to stop a little earlier and slow down to a crawl over the railroad tracks.

That night, Jeff graciously left the trailer hooked-up for me, and after the girls loaded the horses and we piled in the truck. Silver had a tiny bit of trouble loading and for a moment I thought we might not be going after all. I was a little disappointed when he actually hopped in the trailer just a few tries later--though I did feel a bit guilty for it.

After a few deep breaths and a quick prayer for safety, I once again made it all the way to the fairgrounds-remembering to stop earlier and slow way down over the railroad tracks (even though the girls assured me their dad went over them much faster). Jeff must have worried about me driving home in the dark because he ended up at 4H after his class and drove the trailer home. He also rearranged his schedule last night so that he dropped the girls off and unhitched the trailer while I followed in the van. I think that was because he was embarrassed to show up at Hunter's Safety again in a purple minivan. Now until Saturday, I won't have to pull the trailer again. Let's hope that I will be awake enough to drive it safely at 6:30 in the morning.

I will admit that I feel a little braver, having pushed myself to do something that terrified me. If my cowboy boots made me feel more like a cowgirl's mama-imagine what pulling that trailer did. Isn't God amazing in the way that He helps us take the little steps and trust in Him to keep us safe?

So, until next time-
"Put on your cowgirl panties and ride"!

P.S. Tip to other bloggers out there: If you are attempting to blog while cooking dinner, make sure you put the food in the oven that was preheated and not the cold one or 25 minutes later, your casserole will look the same as when it went in and your husband will have to grab a burger on his way to class.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's Dinner, You'll Like It

So what is blogging etiquette? Is it o.k. to post twice or even *gasp* three times in one day or should you save it all up and do one major post each night? Well, things in my life are either feast or famine and I'm pretty sure it's going to be the same with this blog, so forgive my blogging excess and fill up, who knows when I will post again.

I have been trying to branch out when it comes to cooking dinner. Who am I kidding, I'm doing great if I actually cook dinner lately! But, in the last few days I have tried two new recipes and I must admit, I am pretty impressed with myself. The first recipe was Spaghetti Carbonara (made with eggs and no cream) which my husband called "weird" but ended up liking o.k., the recipe needs a few tweaks, but I will probably try it again. The other recipe I tried out tonight.

A few months ago The Hubby and I took Miss M to a horse clinic in Utah with some friends of ours and we ate dinner at The Olive Garden. I ordered their Chicken Gnocchi Soup, which was to DIE for and have been pining away for an Olive Garden to be in Twin ever since. Then a few weeks ago I saw an episode on the cooking channel with one of their chefs making homemade gnocchi and I thought, "Ah-Ha! I can do this." So after some web searching, I found a knock-off recipe for the soup at Olive Garden and another recipe for gnocchi.

The soup itself was pretty simple to make and I had most all of the ingredients in my pantry (or I would have if it wasn't so close to pay day). The gnocchi was a bit harder and in retrospect, I would make the gnocchi one day and refrigerate it to use at a later date rather than try it all at once. I'm not in love with the gnocchi recipe I found, it wasn't quite as "dumpling-like" as I remembered, although it WAS tasty. It was mostly like little balls of mashed potato in my soup-not a bad thing because I love mashed potatoes! I am wondering if I had too much potato and not enough egg. I will experiment and see if I can get it just right. The Hubby and most of the children liked the soup and I know I will be making it again, and probably soon. I will share the soup and the gnocchi recipe with you. It's dinner, you'll like it!

Potato Gnocchi

(this recipe made twice as much gnocchi as I needed for the soup. I will freeze the rest of my uncooked gnocchi to use later)

1 lb. of potatoes-baked, cooled and peeled
1 large egg
1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP all purpose flour (divided)
Salt and Pepper to taste (I used white pepper)

Mash potatoes until smooth (use a ricer if you have one). Season with salt and pepper. Stir in egg and 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP of flour. Knead until a dough forms, but do not over knead or it will become tough. Pour the other 1/4 cup of flour onto the counter. Turn dough onto floured counter and roll into a log about 1 inch wide. Cut log into 1 inch pieces and roll each across the times of a fork (this is what will hold the sauce). Put pieces all at once into a pot of salted, boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Pull gnocchi out with a slotted spoon and use as desired. (I cooked my gnocchi directly in my soup)

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

3-4 chicken breast, cooked and diced (I used 12 tenderloin)
6 cups chicken broth
3 cups heavy cream
1 stalk of celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 cup of carrot, chopped or grated
1/2 onion, diced
1/3 - 1/2 package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. thyme
white pepper
16 ounces of potato gnocchi

Sautee the onion, garlic, celery and carrot in the olive oil until the onion is translucent.

Add in the chicken stock, cream, salt and pepper, chicken pieces, and thyme.

Boil gently for 10 minutes.

Add in the gnocchi and spinach and boil for another 5 minutes.
(If you would like your soup thicker you can mix a little corn starch and water and add that in.)

I served this soup with a green salad and all the fixin's and Cheesy Garlic Drop Biscuits. I am still stuffed.


In the Beginning

I have had the desire to start blogging for awhile now and couldn't decide what exactly that would look like. After much deliberation, I have decided it won't look exactly like anything! It will just be a "Daze". A little bit of this and that--some crafting, some recipes, some daily life and some random thoughts. We'll see how it goes and how often I post.

At this very moment, I am putting off a number of things that I really MUST get done today and instead I am starting on this new adventure called "blogging". There is (as always) laundry to wash, fold and put away, groceries to buy, food to cook, children to school and billing to be readied not to mention an entire house in need of a good scrubbing. My husband said to me a little while ago, "You should start your own blog." That's a good thing since I already started one. I'm not sure he will be thrilled with one more time sucker (once he figures out that that is what it will be), but he will adjust, because that's the kind of guy he is. Somehow I will get it all in...

And so it begins, the Daze of the Blogger.