Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I love Mexican food. I could eat it every day for a week, I think. Enchiladas and tacos are my favorite-mostly because they are perfect for a picky eater like me! You can customize them however YOU like them. For a while I made enchiladas on a pretty regular basis, but at some point I decided that they were just too messy and now I save them for special occasions. So instead I make tacos, but when I stopped eating ground beef (did I mention I have some picky food issues?) I stopped making tacos. For a Christmas Party this year we were asked to bring chicken for a taco bar (Don't you love taco bars? They are PERFECT for parties) and I remembered the Chicken Tacos I had at a friend's house for dinner a few years ago. They were delicious! Tacos have been REBORN!

Like I said, I used to make enchiladas all the time and for the tacos I used the same basic idea to prepare the chicken. Well, actually, my daughter Meghan took my instructions and made them hers, both for the Christmas Party and tonight for dinner. I will give you the *amounts* she used, but remember this is done mostly by sight/texture/taste. Honestly, I don't think you can mess it up.

Meghan's Chicken Tacos

1 1/4 lb chicken breast cooked and finely chopped
(We used about 19 frozen,boneless, skinless tenderloin cooked in the Pampered Chef Micro Cooker with no seasoning, in two batches for about 10 minutes-stir halfway through- or until the juices run clear)
1 (10 ounce) can of Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce
7 tsp. of Taco Bell Taco Seasoning (this is almost a whole packet)
A little water

Put the cooked chicken in a skillet and add the taco seasoning and the water (just like making tacos) and cook a bit (I know, really technical, huh? Hey, it cooking not baking...) then add the enchilada sauce and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn and all the chicken gets nicely coated.

That's it. Super simple.

I eat mine wrapped up in the flour tortillas from our local Mexican bakery and top them only with cheese and crispy lettuce, (Here's a tip to keep your cheese melty and your lettuce cold and crispy-put the cheese on top of the meat and the lettuce on top of the cheese. I know it's not Taco Bell's way, but it sure tastes yummy!) but I am sure that for those of you who aren't Miss Picky you could add all kinds of goodies; sour cream, black olives, onions, tomatoes, guacamole...

For sides I heat up some refried beans (stir a little enchilada sauce into these as well as some cheese and they are extra yummy) and sometimes (although we forgot tonight) corn in a butter sauce.

This is one of the recipes I would love to make a huge batch of and freeze in small batches for quick dinners. One of these days I will try some Once A Month Cooking. I'll let you know how that turns out!

I love it that tacos are back on my menu.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Customer Christmas Boxes

I have spent the last three days working on Customer Christmas Gifts for my husband. We started out talking about baking a few different kinds of cookies, but decided to settle on some thing we thought we be simpler and take less time.

We settled on Chocolate Dipped Pretzels with Sprinkles to start with. I had hoped to use the Pretzel Rods because they are so pretty in a cellophane bag, but the ones at Wal-mart were all broken up and they were completely out of them at Winco. I settled on the Snyder's of Hanover Olde Tyme. They are the BIG pretzel twists, not the little snack pretzels.

I love to use the Smooth and Melty Candies to do any dipping. You can buy them in bulk at Winco-they come in Milk, Dark and White Chocolate. I chose the Milk, but the Dark would have been beautiful as well. Smooth and Melty is very easy to work with. Just pour some in a microwave safe bowl and microwave it for 30 at a time and stir in between. After the first minute, stir every 15 seconds because they hold their shape even when they are melted. Once there are no lumps and it glossy, you're ready to start dipping.
I only dipped half the pretzel. Be sure to let the excess chocolate drain off. You can shake it a little to make it go faster. If you don't drain enough off, when you add the sprinkles the chocolate will be too heavy and begin dripping off.

I used three different sprinkles, but just one type per pretzel. The combination looked so pretty!

*NOTE* It's actually easier and neater to SPOON the sprinkles over the chocolate than to DIP them.

I laid them on foil to harden back up again. It doesn't take very long.

White Chocolate Peppermint Sticks were next on the list. I've made these before and I LOVE how beautiful they look. These were my WOW addition. They are super simple, but when packaged in a group they are stunning. Not to mention delicious.

You can do this with regular candy canes, but they are harder to package, in my opinion. I use these mint sticks I found at Cracker Barrel. They have a texture more like Butter Mints and a more mild peppermint flavor. We LOVE them! I used the Smooth and Melty White Chocolate and Wilton's white nonpareils from Michaels. Again, you just melt, dip, sprinkle and lay on foil until they are hard. Super simple, but check out how awesome they look!

Lastly I made Miss Lisa's Christmas Caramel Corn. This stuff is to DIE for. It's simple to make, but takes time and your attention. I will post the recipe at the end. We ate almost as much as we packaged (and that's A LOT)!

Everything got packaged up in cellophane bags I picked up at Zurchers. I like theirs because they have a gusseted bottom and are a heavier cellophane, so they are easier to work with for me.

I did two of each type of pretzel and tied the bag with a little bit of white cording and a hand stamped tag.

I made little toppers for the tops of the Peppermint Sticks and the Caramel Corn.

Over the last few weeks, I've bought two different size Martha Stewart snowflake punches at Michaels with my 40% Off coupon and I have been using them EVERY WHERE! Doesn't the smaller look great popped up on the Popcorn Topper?

Wal-mart had sets of gift boxes for $5 and I bought these to package all the goodies in. Each item got its own box and then I tied them all together with curling ribbon and tied on this aDorable gift tag.

I'm not sure that in the end these were EASIER, but they sure did turn out better than I imagined. I think our customers will feel appreciated-I know I would if someone dropped this off at my house! Here's a look at the whole package and the recipe for the Caramel Corn.
Miss Lisa's Caramel Corn

½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
12 cups air popped popcorn (sift out the kernels that didn't pop)

In a medium sauce pan, heat the butter, sugar, corn syrup and salt on medium heat until it begins bubbling around the edges. Once it is bubbly, let it cook for 5 minutes WITHOUT stirring. Then remove from heat and stir in baking soda. Pour the mixture over the popcorn and stir in until the popcorn is evenly coated. This will take some patience and at first it will look like it's not enough caramel, keep working at it, there's enough! Divide the corn between 2 cookie sheets and bake at 250 for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Turn out onto wax paper to cool.

Happy Gifting!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Year in Review

{The Sanstrom Seven ~2009}

I can't believe I am going to post these before I send out my Christmas cards, but my brother did a great job {again} with our family pictures and I just have to share them.

Also, I am hoping that my mom's FAVORITE cousin {shhh, don't tell the others} will get a chance to come on by to take a peek!

This has been a big year for me. There have been lots of ups and downs (you can read about them a few posts back). Jeff and I spent a good chunk of the year running around and just trying to keep our heads above water. We also had a LOT of fun watching our kids grow into themselves. It almost seems as though I can watch them get bigger during dinner.

{Meghan Alexandrea}

My oldest daughter is turning 16 in just a few more days. It's a little crazy if you ask me! I hope to do a little blog with some photos over the last 16 years, but I hope for a lot of things! We'll see how time goes and if I get any scanned in. {I promise no naked baby pictures or any of you on the little blue potty in the living room, Meghan!}

Meghan's passion in life are horses. Mainly (I could have used "mane-ly" but resisted the pun) her Arabian named Silver. This time last year, she could barely ride Silver, and after a few lessons with Mike Zebarth {how can I sing this guy's praises? He's FANTASTIC} and hours and hours of practice, she is earning 1st place ribbons and riding bareback. These two have a bond that is amazing to watch. I can't wait to see how she does next year in 4H. She is beginning to work a bit with our mare Hunny. I hope she gets her trained soon, we really need another rideable horse!

She is a Sophomore in high school and doing a great job. Somehow she manages to get her school work done, work with the horses and help me out each day. This girl is my right hand woman around the house. She often knows and does what I need before I even have to ask her. She is such a blessing to me!

{Taylor Katherine}

Taylor is a 6th grader this year. That means that next year I will have TWO daughters in the "Teen" group at church. Am I really this old?

She may only be 11 but, most days I feel like she's turning 30!

Tay is interested in horses as well. This was her first year in 4H and I have to say I am still a little surprised when I see her heft that saddle over her horse's back. I'm not sure she's quite as enamored as Meghan (there was nothing horse related on HER Christmas list) but she still loves to ride and it comes to her naturally.

Lately she has been studying wolves and is very interested in them. She also loves to read and has devoured most every book in our house that is age appropriate. Janette Oke and Louisa May Alcott are two beloved authors.

I have heard mention that she is writing a book but, have not been invited to read it yet. If Meghan is my right hand around the house, Tay is defiantly my left! She is quickly learning all the ins and outs of homemaking. I'm not sure she enjoys the cleaning part {but really, who does?} but she loves to cook and makes one terrific Fried Egg Muffin!

{Kennedy Grace}

My little Kennedy is 10. That makes for {THREE} kids in double digits!

Kennedy is growing up to be quite a beautiful young lady. This girl is my dreamer. She loves to write and comes up with some wonderfully creative stories and poems. She also loves to draw and color; my fridge is often covered in her creations. She is another avid reader and enjoys books on slavery and the depression.

Kennedy is my most soft hearted--the little things are important to her. She will be the first one to give you hugs and hold your hand in the store and when she is making and giving little gifts she is thrilled!

Managing our little Chicken Operation is Kennedy's job. She feeds and waters them and collects their eggs daily. She is also in charge of selling their eggs to friends and family.

Kennedy is a {HUGE} help with Zoey. She has taken Zoey under her wing and mothers her like crazy. She loves to teach her all kinds of little cute faces and sayings.

{Nathaniel Grant}

My baby boy {he would die if he knew I was calling him that!} is turning 7 in January. It is so fun to watch him learn. He is starting to get the hang of reading and in church today kept pointing out his sight words on the screen as our Pastor read from Psalms. It was a {VERY} exciting moment for me to see it all beginning to click.

For someone who's "girl trapped", he is all boy. The BB gun he got for Christmas last year is his prize possession and he defends our home against the pesky squirrels and birds. {Lucky for the squirrels and birds his aim needs a little work.}

At every opportunity, he is at his dad's side helping him with anything he can. When he can't be with Jeff he does lower himself to entertain {or annoy depending on who's talking} his sisters.

He begs each day for school but really only wants to do History and Math. It's okay with him if we work on Language but groans and complains when we get to Phonics. As much as he says he hates it-the look on his face when he reads his sentences can only be described as ECSTATIC!

{Zoey Isabella}

Zoey turned 2 in September and is talking and jabbering more and more every day. How badly she wants to be big! It is happening faster than I would like.

She mimics the actions she sees her siblings do--she stomped her foot and said FINE! the other day. (She did get a little swat on her behind and a firm taking to because of the attitude--but dog-gone it, she was so CUTE when she did it!) Then she batted her eyes and said "Oh tay, mama."

She also has most every person around her wrapped around her finger. Every person in this house runs whenever she calls--{ESPECIALLY} her daddy! Each of the kids tries to influence her in some way. Meghan is passing on her love of horses. Taylor loves to cuddle her and read her stories. Kennedy puts the paper and colors in front of her and helps her to make pretty pictures. Nathan has taught her to fall down and die when he says "bang!".

{The Most Fabulous Five}

Look at them; aren't they amazing?

I know that in a blink it will be Zoey that is turning 16. Between now and then I will savor every moment. I am so incredibly {BLESSED} by them.

How is it that God chose ME to be the one to nurture them and teach them and love them? To BE loved by them?

Jeff is such a wonderful husband and daddy. He takes the time to make each child feel special and loved. He teaches them about life and shows them how to work. The way he lives shows them about sacrifice and giving. The way he loves shows them how a man should be. He helps them to find their dreams then encourages them once they find them.

This man is my life. These children are my heart. This family is my breath.

They make my {HEART} sing.

Prayers Needed

**Updated again at 11:45 pm

Jeff and Del are in Oregon to do a job. They are close to where Del's father lives and decided to park the motor home there and spend the week with them.

I got a text from Jeff about 20 minutes ago saying that Grant (Del's dad) had fallen when he came out to greet them. He was unconscious for a bit and the ambulance was on the way. An update from Sandi a moment ago said that Del, Jeff and Bev (Grant's wife) were headed to the hospital. Del is very shaken up.

Please pray for the entire Sanstrom family and the doctors that will care for Grant. Grant is in his 90s.

***Here is an update...
Grant and Del went out to the shop and on the way back in, Grant slipped and fell on his back. He was unconscious immediately. Del ran in the house to have Jeff call 911 and headed back out with blankets and a pillow. Grant was just beginning to come to when Del got back outside. They were worried about moving him and so covered him with the blankets and put a pillow under his head while they waited for the ambulance (which came quickly).

They are all at the hospital in Hermiston where Grant is having an MRI and some X-rays. It sounds as though he will be admitted for the night. Bev was able to go and speak with him.

Del has two sisters that both live in Washington.

Jeff and Del have a scale to start installing tomorrow morning. They are trying very hard to be home in time for Meghan's 16th birthday party this Saturday. I am not sure if/how this will change their schedule.

Your prayers are a comfort and greatly appreciated.


Thank you all for your prayers! Jeff just texted to say that Grant is being admitted for observation. They do not think he had a stroke or a heart attack. They think that when his head hit the concrete his heart skipped several beats and he passed out. The CT and X-rays looked good.

Jeff and Del will be starting their install tomorrow as planned.

What a wonderful gift Godly friendship is. Your faithful prayers have encourage my heart (and many others) this evening! Thank you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

10 Simple Pleasures

I was wandering around on a new blog today and found a post on Simple Pleasures and decided that today would be a BEAUTIFUL day to do my own list.

10 Simple Pleasures AKA Things I Love

1. Cozy bed piled high with heavy blankets

2. Hugs from my babies

3. Hot tea in huge mugs

4. Beautiful Music

5. Watching horses out my kitchen window

6. Cuddly Kittens

7. Treasured Books

8. Candlelight

9. Hot, steamy bubble baths

10. Sunday naps

Thank you, Lord, for all the marvelous blessings in my life. Help me to remember to cherish each moment. Let my words today, bring glory and honor to Your Name. ~Amen

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cake Mix Cookies

I got a recipe from my friend a few years back for Cake Mix Cookies. This is a great recipe to have in your recipe box. They are fast and easy and require only a few ingredients, but best of all they are super versatile. You can mix and match mixes and chips for all kinds of cookies. If you watch for cake mixes and chocolate chips to go on sale you can stock up and then you’ll be just a few steps away from Chewy Cookie Goodness all the time. The recipe I am posting is a single batch, but the original recipe was doubled so I know it doubles well.

The cookies I made today were with a Devils Food Chocolate Cake and Dark Chocolate & Mint Chips. They turned out FABULOUS! I will list some other combinations at the end of my post.


1 box (any flavor) cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick of butter (soft)
1 tsp vanilla
Chocolate chips (any flavor)


Cream eggs, butter and vanilla. Add cake mix and stir until all powder is moist and combined. Mixture may be VERY thick.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 14-16 minutes. {The cookies should be "just set" and beginning to dry a bit on top when you take them out. Do not over bake them or they get crispy instead of staying soft and chewy.} Then remove from oven and let sit for 3 more minutes to finish the baking. Remove to a wire pan to cool.

Makes about 30 3" cookies

These go stale after about 4 days so eat them quickly!

Some other combinations are:

Yellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Chips
German Chocolate Cake with pecans and coconut
Yellow Cake with Butterscotch Chips
Devils Food Cake with Cherry Chips

You get the idea-be creative! Now, go look in your cupboard and see what cookies you can whip up. Pour yourself a tall glass of milk, turn on some music and relax with me.