Friday, December 18, 2009

Another Chance to Win...

So many bloggers get cool things to offer their blog readers... and some, like McMama just buy really cool things to give away to their readers... (Side note... why don't companies contact me for this stuff? Oh well - maybe one day - I certainly can't afford to buy my readers anything-Sorry!).

If you're interesting in getting some really awesome stuff to help you with photography, then check out MckMama's site. Check it out anyway because it's a great site, and she's just awesome. For another chance to win... head over to Grammie Mommy's site...

I'm blogging about this to get another chance to win these items, because I have a dream of being able to be a good photographer... and I think I need good editing software in order to do this... that makes sense, right???

Here's to hoping I win :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Okra and Tomatoes

Okra can be a strange thing, and some people are afraid of its slime... not me, I embrace it! Seriously though, I think it's a really yummy vegetable. My mom cooked it all the time growing up, either by using the recipe I'm about to give you(or something similar) or by frying... that's good to!!!!

If you've never tried okra, it's likely best to wait till summer when it is actually fresh (fresh tastes better), but in a pinch you can use frozen which is what I've been doing the last few weeks!

Okra and Tomatoes
1 bag of frozen okra(or 1 lb fresh) chopped
1 large (28oz) can tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced, pressed... your choice
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in skillet (use something that has a lid). Add onion and saute for a few minutes. Add in the garlic, and then the okra. If using frozen okra, allow to heat up just a minute or 2. Add the tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer with the lid on for about 20 mins... Serve :-)

See... I told you it was easy!

If you are using fresh then put everything in the pot together after adding the onion and simmer.

What I've Been Eating This Week

The holidays are a difficult time to maintain a healthy lifestyle of any sort. Seriously, people bring all kinds of things into the office--I'm guilty of it too!!!! But, I make every effort to stay healthy.

Here's what I've been eating this week:

Breakfast: Oatmeal, Milk(fat-free), Coffee (with fat-free milk and sugar free vanilla syrup!)
S: Cheese Stick, Olives, Grapes (1/2c)
L: Quinoa and Black Beans, Garlicky Butternut Squash, Green beans
S: Cheese Stick, Grapes (1/2c)
D: Roast Chicken(from Costco b/c it's only $5!), Okra and Tomatoes(I realize this recipe isn't on my site -shame on me - so I'll post it soon)

This menu is flavorful and good for you so it helps keep me sane during this time of year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Giveaways and Other Fun Sites

I've become a slight blog freak... ACK! It's relatively unfortunate, but I love them... it helps that we don't have cable right now and I can read them all to my hearts content because we don't get much on the 7 channels that come through :-)

Here's one of the blogs that I have started to follow, and really enjoy. If you need other recommendations, let me know :-)

Oh, and did I mention she's giving away a Kitchen Aid Mixer right now... my oh my, what a wonderful invention!!!!! Visit the link below if you want to enter...

She's Becoming Doughmesstic

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friends and Babies :-)

So... I'm a people pleaser... A friend's friend... someone who loves other people and gives as much as I can to hopefully make their life better... Sometimes I would/do get hurt because I want people to give as much to me as I give to them, and it just doesn't happen that way. This bugged me a lot in high school--not so much now that I'm older and wiser (Yes, I'm almost 30... ACK!)!!!

My mom always told me that when I was older (30 is older, right? Yes, yes it is!), that I would be luck if I could count my good friends on one hand. Of course, I didn't believe her because I'm everyone's friend (or at least I was when I was growing up)... but she was right. (Yes, mom, I said it!) I am very lucky to be able to consider the women I call friends my friends. I can be real with them and they still love me, and I can give myself to them and they feel loved by me (I think). There aren't a ton of them, but I'm ok with that because I realize that having good friends is important, and the one below is a precious precious friend who I am blessed beyond measure to know!!!!

This is my best friend Kristi... there are tons of pictures I could show you over our 14-15 yr friendship that began at Camp Crestridge for Girls one summer. But I'm choosing this one. Why? Because it's the most recent one, and it's from her shower a few weeks ago. You see, she's going to be giving birth soon... to my "nephew" Carver Jacob! (I'm not entirely convinced that the Jacob isn't because of her obsession with the Twilight series, though I'm sure she's Team Edward as most sane women are!)... Anyway - she's pregnant... and due at the end of December. I'm so excited for her I can barely stand it. I only wish that I lived closer to her now--She's in GA, and I'm in TN--so that I could be there when the Carver decides to make his appearance. Have no fear, I will be around shortly there after... because I won't be able to resist.

She's going to make a wonderful momma! How do I know? Because she's a wonderful friend, and I know in my heart of hearts that being able to open your hear and be a wonderful friend is the makings of a wonderful momma!

So, here are some pictures of our most recent encounter at her shower. It was at the home of another former Crestridger, Rebecca! We Crestridgers stick together... it's almost like our own little sorority...


Kristi holding the blanket that I knitted for Carver. (There was a hat and booties too... and TONS of other gifts... the budget thing I posted about earlier kinda went out the window :-) )
These are all of Carver's awesome gifts... and NO, I didn't purchase all of these... I promise!

This is the wonderful spread that Rebecca put together for the event. There were even some deliriously awesome Oreo Cake Balls (recipe at the bottom)...

And these were the star of the show (Well, besides Kristi and Carver of course!)... These cupcakes, with Carver's initials were flavored in Chocolate, Vanilla, Red Velvet, and Key Lime... they were delicious!!!!

And now for the Oreo Cake balls. I'm warning you on this... these are great, but only make them to give away because the one thing they are NOT good for is your waist line... SERIOUSLY!

Oreo Cake Balls
- 1 bag of oreos
- 1 box of cream cheese (8oz I believe)
- white almond bark, melted (You can color this with food coloring to match whatever theme you are doing... Christmas, baby shower, etc...
- parchment paper
- a cuisinart...

Seriously, it's that easy.

Grind the Oreoes in the cuisinart(or similar equipment). Blend together with the cream cheese (works best with slightly softened cream cheese). Let this mixture chill in the fridge for a little while. Scoop out and roll into balls, and dip completely into the melted almond bark. Place on the parchment paper and allow to cool... perhaps over night in the fridge...

Eat... Share... seriously, share them... I command you to share them, and so do your favorite jeans!




Friday, December 4, 2009

Orange Cranberry Bread


This bread is a favorite in our house around the holidays... you can make it any time of the year (as long as you have cranberries - which could of course be frozen)... we just like it best with fresh ingredients :-)
I have to be careful and give some away because my darling hubby and I like it too much!!!



Orange Cranberry Bread
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 large eggs
1 large orange
4 Tbsp. butter melted
2 cups cranberries, coarsely chopped
3/4 cups broken walnuts

Preheat over to 375. Grease 9 x 5 loaf pan. Grate peel from orange and squeeze 1/2 cup juice. Combine dry ingredients. Beat eggs, butter, orange peel, and juice. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture. Fold in cranberries and walnuts. Bake 55-60 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.






Nanaimo Bars - My Attempt at Winning the Company Bake-Off

Last year I won the bake off at work... with this recipe. So, this year I was decidedly going to make my mom's wonderful coconut cake, until they decided to change the rules and make it a cookie bake-off! The nerve! So, I needed to pull out all the stops, and I couldn't just do my basic chocolate chip cookies(but maybe I should have)...

I had made this recipe once before, and it was really well received. So, I decided to make it again.

Thanks Food Network :-) Though I inadvertently screwed up the recipe a bit, it was still a hit... even if it didn't even come in in the top 4 cookies entered. My coworkers really seemed to enjoy them, and I guess that's all that matters.

Here's the recipe in case you want it. And for copyright purposes I'm just giving you the link to the FoodNetwork's site because, while married to a lawyer, I'm not honestly sure how that works!

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

I'll post pics later, and I'll sulk about not winning... at least for a little while... because I'm competitive, and because sulking is expected I think! I mean, the prize was a $75 Williams Sonoma gift card!!!!
(Update)Here are some pics... they are every bit as tasty as they are pretty.
This is the fudge that I made for hubby and my coworkers... it's a hit too, but I can't give out the recipe as my father-in-law would kill me... (It's a secret!)

Special Peanut Butter Cookies


I am making these for my Bunco Cookie Exchange in my neighborhood... They are a combination of my mom's peanut butter cookie recipe and these cookies that bakerella made... (I LOVE BAKERELLA!)

I would have just made Bakerella's recipe, but for our group we have to have a cookie that contained flour... which is where my mom's recipe came in. They turned out really yummy... and my coworkers, and my darling husband's coworkers all seemed to like them!

Peanutty Peanut Butter Cookies
¾ cup peanut butter
1 egg
½ cup shortening
1 ¾ cup flour
1 ¼ cup brown sugar
¾ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. milk
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. Vanilla
Almond Bark (Chocolate)
Chopped Peanuts

Heat oven to 375. Cream butter, shortening, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Add egg and blend. Combine flour, salt, and soda and add to creamed mixture. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with form in crisscross pattern. Bake for 7-8 minutes. Do not overbake.

Once cookies have slightly cooled, melt almond bark (according to package directions). Dip opposite sides of the cookies into the melted almond bark(or melted chocolate chips) and then dip into the chopped peanuts. Allow cookies to cool on parchment paper.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

I love the holiday season... it makes me happy - Oh so happy! I am reminded that I am ever so thankful for so many things...
For my Heavenly Father. Without Him I would have no hope. For dying on the cross for someone like me who most certainly didn't deserve it!


For my husband... over 8 years ago I had to travel to Ireland to find you, and I'm so glad I did. I love you more today than I did yesterday, and will love you more tomorrow than I did today. I married my best friend and he is my biggest fan!


For my mom and dad... they made me who I am, and I love them more than I can say. They are my role models, my parents, my friends :-)


For my "other" mom and dad and brother--Richie's parents and brother--I'm so thankful for you I can barely stand it!


For my grandparents for being who they are and making my life better! For sending me to Crestridge - a place that formed my life and friendships!
For my dog and cat - because they make me smile more than they aggravate the snot out of me!

For family... brother and sister, their spouses and precious children... like these 2... And the other 3 who are taller than me :-)

For friends like these (and the ones who aren't pictured too!)- who even if I don't see that often, I know we can pick up right where we left off - because that's what real friends do. Just like family, these people have formed my life and make me better!
Kristi is my quiet strength... she keeps me sane and knows everything about me... and still loves me!!!
Laura... we were law school wives together... long lost friends and Jayhawk fans!!
Heather is so dear to my heart. Her family is so special to us and I love her like a sister :-)
Erica, Courtney, Dominic... Some of my longest friends... I love you!
Steph and Cayce - the friends who have known me the longest... elementary school is where it started and it's been tons of fun ever since!

For our neighborhood--the Bunco group and the Bible Study and the friendships we have made.


I hope during this season you are able to remember what you are thankful for, and I hope you remember to tell everyone you love that you love them!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Budgeting and Coupons...

My husband and I are serious budgeters! This may shock a few of you who have known me all my life, because I am a spender! Not a budgeter. But we've decided to live like no one else now so we can live like no one else later :-) We started the Dave Ramsey "envelope" plan over a year ago in order to help get our spending under control and also to pay off our debt. It's been trying, and sometimes we don't do so well, but we have no credit card debt, and we've paid off a HUGE chunk of change of Student Loans. It feels good to get this under control.

Lately, I've become obsessed with couponing... It's hard sometimes when you're trying to eat healthy because most of the coupons come for things that aren't so healthy. What I didn't realize though is that
a) there are coupons for healthy items
b) there are coupons for other things that are useful and fun like free songs on Amazon.com as well as free Christmas picture cards.
c) every little bit helps!!!!

So, here are a few of the sites that I have come to check out often (or I subscribe to). Maybe they will help you too! Recently, with the help of one of these sites, I was able to get our Christmas Picture Cards for $3.19 in shipping only... yes, I got 50 cards for $3.19... and they look great!!!



Coupons.com

Faithful Provisions
Target and other coupons
The Holt House (This is a friend of mine, and she's a master budgeter)
The Good Deal Gal (Another place I find good deals)

Green Bean Side Dish

This was our dinner tonight... the yummy Chili that I just posted about and then this next recipe... YUM!

I like green beans, and I like shallots... I also like mushrooms, so this seemed like it might be right up my ally!


I like Ellie Krieger a lot. I have her cookbook, and my Curried Butternut Squash Soup recipe that I love comes from her.

We decided to make this as a side dish for dinner this week...


Green Beans with Mushrooms and Shallots


Ingredients
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (We used frozen because the fresh ones didn't look so fresh!)
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup sliced shallots (about 2 medium)
3/4 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, (ie: button, baby bella, shiitake, oyster, chanterelle), sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Put green beans in a microwave-safe bowl with the water. Cover tightly and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Carefully remove the cover, drain in a colander, shaking off any excess water, and set aside.

While the beans are cooking, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water they release has evaporated and they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the green beans and stir to combine and rewarm. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


Per Serving: Calories 80; Total Fat 5g (Sat Fat 0.5g, Mono Fat 3.5g, Poly Fat 1g); Protein 4g; Carb 11.5g; Fiber 3g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 7mg
Saute the shallots in olive oil
Add the mushrooms and cook 10 mins until brown
Add the green beans that were heated in the microwave (that process wasn't an exciting picture)
And this is what you get...

Chili


It's a tad bit warm out today... 75... but we are making chili. It's going to be dinner for the week (At least 4 meals)... It's smelling really good already, and I've decided to get a head start on the post about it so that I won't get behind. I'll report back on the taste as well.


We modified the original recipe slightly... I'll post the original recipe at the bottom in case you'd rather use that. We also doubled most things to make extra.


Ranch Chili with Cheese (Inspired by the book Protein Power)
Ingredients
3 TBL Canola Oil
2 lbs ground sirloin - 93/7
2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves
4 TBL chili powder
1 tsp crushed dried oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup strong leftover black coffee (we had to make extra... coffee NEVER goes to waste in this house)
Cheese for topping
Heat the oil in a large skillet... I used my Le Creuset pan so it didn't have to get too hot - only medium. Add the beef and brown it. Then add the onion, garlic, and all the spices. Stir and cook until mixed through and onions start to get translucent or limp. Add the tomato puree and coffee. Cover and simmer the chili for an hour... checking often to make sure it doesn't go dry. If it does, add some water. At the Serve in bowls and sprinkle with cheese.

Brown the Beef


Combine the spice mixture together

Add the spices, onions, and garlic

Add the coffee



Add the tomato pureeBring all that together


Cover and wait....


This is what you get :-)




The original recipe
Ranch Chili with Cheese from Protein Power by Michael and Mary Dan Eades
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons Peanut oil
1 lb ground chuck
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbl chili powder
1/2 tsp crushed dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup strong black coffee or canned beef broth
1 Tbl masa harina/cornmeal, optional
3 Tbl grated cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the beef and brown it, then add the onion, garlic, and seasonings. Stir and cook until well mixed and the onions are limp. Transfer to a covered saucepan and add the tomato puree and coffee. Cover and simmer the chili for an hour, adding a little water if it becomes dry. The chili should be thick and soupy. Add the masa and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve in bowls, sprinkled with cheddar.

Options: You can add chopped bell peppers -- one medium pepper when you add the onions.