Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Amazing Grace

I wrote this for my first composition paper assignment and wanted to save it here as well...

Amazing Grace

My childhood memories are full of days spent traveling. We traveled for camping trips, a visit to family, and oftentimes for moving. I have lost track of the precise number of times I have packed up and relocated, but one thing I will never forget is how special my mom always made those trips when I was little. She had a knack for keeping me and my siblings occupied, ensuring we took breaks often enough to stretch our legs and run some of our young exuberance out, planning visits to see some amazing things, and always having an arsenal of game ideas for us to play as we crossed the country in our old wood-paneled station wagon.

One particular trip involved a drive from Pennsylvania to Washington State when I was about eight years old. My grandparents drove from Washington to meet us in Pennsylvania and accompany us back to Washington, bringing their R.V. along for us to use during the trip. My parents and grandparents pulled out a map of the United States and we all helped to plan our route home, making sure that visits to several places of interest were included along the way. I remember my dad and grandfather spending several days constructing walls and a roof for a little trailer to tow behind our car while we helped my mom and grandma pack up the rest of the house. The anticipation, excitement and sadness built as we prepared to leave another home behind us.

Once on the road, we spent our days in the car taking turns snuggling with our old golden retriever, making Christmas wish lists, singing songs, playing twenty questions, and filling out Mad Libs. There were plenty of mishaps along the way as well, including a flat tire, a broken axle, and a sudden downpour while we were in our tent one night that caused a large amount of rain to collect on top of the tent and resulted in the support poles breaking. I remember my mother standing in the middle of the tent, holding it up while my father tried to figure out a way to keep the whole tent from collapsing. Throughout it all, mom always kept a smile on her face and made each day an exciting adventure to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Of all the places we stopped and visited on the way to our new home, the one that I remember most vividly is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We had a fun filled day walking around to see the sites, and were thoroughly entertained by my very silly grandpa who tried to give my mother a heart attack acting as though he’d fallen over the edge at one point. It was, however, the end of that day which made the biggest impact on me. 

The sun was beginning to set and the vast, open sky exploded with warm colors. Vivid pinks, purples, and oranges seemed to create their very own silent symphony in the air around us, blending and swirling together in the most chaotic and artistic way. In that moment of profound beauty, a small group of Mennonite women gathered near where we were standing and began to sing Amazing Grace. My mother, with her lovely soul and even more lovely voice, joined them. Their voices merged together and lifted up a love song to their Savior, into a sky that seemed hand painted by God. My heart was moved and I felt blessed to be there to experience that moment. I saw my mother in a way I do not think she ever saw herself, as the truly beautiful, gifted, needed, and wanted woman she was who touched so many lives and hearts. 

My mother is gone now, taken much too soon from my life nearly three years ago, but this memory lives on in my heart and mind and still brings her back to me when I miss her most. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Oops I Did It Again...


 
I went to the shelter to pick up the microchips for the 6 puppies we rescued 3 weeks ago and I came home with her... A woman was there dropping 4 puppies off and this was the only one she hadn't filled paperwork out on. I walked in and she asked me if I wanted a puppy, when I told her I worked with a rescue group Zora found her way into my arms and then into my car!
 
I think she is about the cutest, softest, cuddliest puppy I've ever met! I am sure Rotts N Pups will have a home lined up for her in no time at all and in the mean time we will enjoy our time with her very much. The other 2 dogs we're currently fostering both have homes lined up and I am thrilled for them and can't wait for them to be on their way HOME! :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Moist Banana Bread

I found this recipe on SMO and was excited to try it out! I love banana bread but haven't had great luck over the years finding a recipe that has a great banana flavor, is still moist, isn't too dense and that I like and the boys like as well.

The day after I made this one, and it had cooled, it started to disappear very fast - my son wanted it for breakfast, snack and dessert every day. This is about the best of the banana bread recipes I've tried so far and I will definitely be making it again! I hope you will enjoy it as well.

This is the recipe:

Ingredients
3 large very ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional: 1/2 cup nuts or chocolate chips
Directions
Cream together sugar, softened butter, and eggs.

Add in dry ingredients that have been sifted together.

Add mashed bananas, nuts/chocolate (if using), and vanilla.

Pour into a greased loaf pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes (or until golden brown and cooked through).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Anniversary Chicken

This is one of the very first recipes I ever discovered on allrecipes.com I think almost 10 years ago now! I thought the combination of flavors sounded very strange, but I really liked the way this came out and have used it every now and again over the years. We had it again this past week and enjoyed it. I used the leftover chicken in place of ham for the Ham and Potato soup I posted the other day and it was perfect in that recipe!

I always omit the green onion and parsley and prefer to use whole strips of bacon wrapped around the chicken instead of bacon bits. I've made it both ways and the bacon wrapped chicken has better flavor and stays moist as well. I skip the browning step, use a basting brush to add the teriyaki and the ranch dressing then bacon wrap the chicken and secure with toothpicks. I bake as directed, but pull the chicken out and add the shredded cheddar just during the last 10 minutes. You can briefly put it under broil if you want to brown the cheese. I also like cutting half breasts in half again - they are the perfect size then for 1 slice of bacon to be wrapped around them! :)

I served this with a big batch of steamed cauliflower and broccoli and we had full and happy bellies!

The original recipe is linked here and listed below.

Anniversary Chicken I By: VICKI117 on allrecipes.com

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 cup teriyaki basting sauce
  • 1/2 cup Ranch-style salad dressing
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 (3 ounce) can bacon bits
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts, and saute 4 to 5 minutes each side, until lightly browned.
  3. Place browned chicken breasts in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Brush with teriyaki sauce, then spoon on salad dressing. Sprinkle with cheese, green onions and bacon bits.
  4. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pancakes!

We had these for breakfast a little while ago and they were YUMMY! They smelled heavenly too - the kitchen smelled like fresh vanilla, and you got a new "whiff" everytime you cut into one! They were light and fluffy, just like a pancake should be. This was a nice "treat" breakfast that the boys very much enjoyed!

This made a big batch, so we reheated leftovers the next day on a baking stone in the oven and it worked beautifully!

Here is the link to the original recipe on Pioneer Woman's website.





Sunday, August 19, 2012

Amazingly Easy and Delicious Ham and Potato (or fill in the blank and potato) Soup!!

This was super yummy - this is a GREAT chowder base, you can play with it and add ingredient combinations to your heart's desire!

It is a Ham and Potato Soup recipe and I've listed the original recipe below. I had some leftover bacon wrapped cheesy chicken from last night's dinner that I thought might go really well in this recipe, so I diced it up and added it plus some corn I had in place of the ham and it was soooo yummy! Other than those changes I followed the recipe precisely for seasonings and the milk mixture. It was creamy and perfectly seasoned. Not too thick or thin, the texture was wonderful.


Delicious Ham and Potato Soup on allrecipes.com By: ELLIE11

Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup diced cooked ham
  • 3 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
Directions
  1. Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.
  2. In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies - Crispy Chewy Perfection!

I loooove these cookies!! We have a thing for peanut butter cookies around here and these ones did NOT disappoint. Hubby said I should have just made the ones we know are good, but I reminded him I have a compulsion to try new recipes and he'd just have to suffer through. :D This is the one he really likes and he said he still prefers that one to this new one.

These came out crispy all the way around, thin and chewy! I refrigerated the dough between batches to help them hold their shape and rolled them into balls and they still spread quite a bit. I really liked the way they came out so I wouldn't change it, but you could add a little more oats or flour if you wanted them thicker.

These baked up beautifully on both the silpat and the baking stone. I baked for about 12 - 12 1/2 minutes per batch. One I let sit in an extra couple minutes and they were still great - just darker and a little crunchier than the others. Hubby liked the ones that were still really soft and not very crispy, I liked the golden brown mostly crispy ones. However you like them, if you enjoy peanut butter cookies make these!!

I used chunky peanut butter and Reese's pieces and loved how they came out!!

Here is the link to the original recipe.


Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies By: Michele on AllRecipes.com

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together shortening, margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well blended. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the oats until just combined. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until just light brown. Don't over-bake. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pesto Bacon Tomato Pizza

On our Pillsbury calendar I saw a recipe for this yummy looking pizza and we decided to make our own version!

I used this pizza crust recipe and some jarred pesto sauce we picked up at Sam's Club (yumm!!) along with cooked bacon (rough chopped into large pieces), some canadian bacon and sliced tomatoes topped with mozzarella cheese. It was really, really good! We all loved this recipe - really good for something "different" in the pizza arena, wonderful flavors and quick and easy to make!






Ingredients

6 slices bacon, cooked and rough chopped
4-6 rounds canadian bacon, diced
2 medium tomatoes, thin sliced
1 1/2 - 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 - 1/2 cup basil pesto

1 pizza crust recipe

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Prepare pizza crust recipe per instructions. Roll out dough to fit pan (we love our pizza baking stone!) and spread pesto to within about 1 inch of edges.

Sprinkle both bacons around pizza evenly then lay tomato slices on top. Top with desired amount of mozzarella cheese.

Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown and crust is cooked and golden brown.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Puppies Galore!

This past Tuesday we went to visit the doggies and kitties at the Paulding County Humane Society and what was going to be a 30 or so minute visit to pet the animals and play with a few turned into a several day ordeal! Paulding County has started a "Save A Life Tuesday" initiative - they only allow x amount of dogs in their shelter at a time (I'm not sure what their actual max number is) and anything over their limit they euthanize each Wednesday, and any dog scheduled for euthanasia on Wednesday is offered for a $10 adoption fee on Tuesday. The adoption fee includes a microchip and a $20 discount for their spay/neuter at certain vet's offices. Almost half the dogs there the day we visited had kill tags on their kennels. I was heartbroken walking around looking at all these beautiful sweet dogs with less than 24 hours to live. I just couldn't stand it!

I contacted Irina, the owner of Rotts N Pups, the group we've been fostering for, and asked if there was any chance she had room for some puppies and explained the situation. She happened to have room for 5 puppies at her place and I was so relieved!! We brought home SIX puppies that afternoon - we waited until the end of the day in case any had a chance to go home with a forever owner, but when we came back around 2:30pm (they closed at 3) all 6 of the puppies we'd decided on were still there and still had kill tags on their kennels. So about 45 minutes of paperwork and a $60 fee later 6 nervous and excited puppies ranging in size from about 4-5lbs to 30lbs were loaded up in the back of our car with our son and home we went!! Irina was going to be able to pick up the 5 youngest ones on Thursday afternoon so we about 2 days to care for them all in addition to the 6 dogs we already had at home (our 5 plus an older foster we've had for several months now).






So anyone interested in providing a loving home for any of these babies can check out Rotts N Pups website here: http://www.rottsnpupsrescue.org/adoptionapplication.htm Rotts N Pups adopts to many different locations, thanks to the wonderful transporters that work with our group! I can't wait to hear these guys have homes lined up! It felt wonderful to know we saved these sweetie pies, and I can't wait to continue working with the shelter in the future to save more at risk puppies!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Cheesy Tomato Bread

This is SUCH a great, simple and tasty recipe to serve as a side dish or a snack or an appetizer - take your pick!

The original recipe by can be found here on Tasty Kitchen.

I followed the ingredients, but reduced each to fit our tastes and the amount of bread I was using. I used a 7 oz. frozen multigrain loaf, thawed, for ours and about 1.5 TBS Smart Balance margarine, 1.5 tsp garlic powder, 1 large garden fresh tomato - thinly sliced, a pinch of salt, about 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp Italian Seasonings and probably 3/4 - 1 cup shredded mozzarella. On one of the halves I sprinkled on some grated parmesan before adding the mozzarella to see if that added to the flavor - I thought both were good, but it didn't need the parmesan. The garden fresh tomatoes were the star for sure - this was so yummy!




Cheesy Tomato Bread by  on Tasty Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf French Bread, Sliced Lengthwise
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder, To Taste
  • 4 whole Tomatoes Thinly Sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons Oregano
  • 8 ounces Sliced Or Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
* Ingredient amounts are estimates. Experiment and adjust to your own tastes.

Preparation Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Spread each half of the bread with butter and sprinkle with garlic powder to taste. Lay the tomato slices on top, then sprinkle with salt, olive oil and oregano. (If your tomatoes are very juicy, lay them on a paper towel to absorb some of the liquid before adding them tot he bread.)
  • Top with cheese and place on a foil lined baking sheet (silpat works great if you have one). Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the bread begins to toast. Turn the oven to a lo broil and and leave them in the oven for 2-3 minutes longer, or until the cheese browns. Remove the bread from the oven and slice into desired serving sizes.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches

We had a beef roast thawed for dinner and hubby said BBQ Beef sounded good! I found this recipe I'd saved from Feeding My Temple and it looked perfect. I've made BBQ Beef before but it cooked in the liquids it was served with and usually ended up greasy feeling and tasting. This one was a dry rub and a little bit of water, then drained and tossed with some BBQ sauce which sounded like it might work better.

It came out VERY flavorful and we all really enjoyed it! I would cut the spice mix in half next time - there was a LOT of excess spices that I had to scrape off and toss after it was cooked. I would also cut the paprika down as it was a little spicy for my liking. I thought it was great with some BBQ added but my husband thought it tasted great by itself and didn't add any to his! This was overall a really good recipe that I would definitely make again with some modifications to the spice mixture!

Well seasoned roast in the crock pot.

 Beef shredded and ready to eat!

Beef sandwiches served with fried okra!

Allison's recipe can be found here.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb chuck roast
  • 1/4 cup favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
Dry mix:
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley

Directions

  1. Combine the dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Place the roast in a crockpot and slather with yellow mustard (use enough to coat lightly all the way around, may be more or less than the recipe calls for).
  3. Evenly rub the dry ingredients into the mustard-coated roast and then add the water around edges. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until tender and easily shredded.
  4. Move the roast to a serving platter or bowl if desired; shred with two forks and mix in BBQ sauce.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Easy Key Lime Pie!

Key Lime Pie is one of my hubby's FAVORITE desserts - something I'd never been introduced to until we moved to Georgia. It is creamy, tart and decadent. The times we've had it at a restaurant or store bought for a get together it seemed like something a little more challenging than I'd want to tackle so I never even looked a recipe up for it. Then an e-mail from allrecipes.com showed up in my inbox with an "Easy Key Lime Pie" recipe and I was intrigued! I clicked and followed the link and was shocked to see the recipe pretty much consisted of only THREE ingredients (all of which I had in the house already) and a pre-made graham cracker crust. Kenneth insisted I make this one as soon as possible, so we picked up a graham cracker crust and I read through the comments and used the version that was recommended over and over again.

The version I made used 4 egg yolks, 2 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk (low fat), 1 cup "lime juice" (half fresh lime juice, half bottled lemon juice) and 1 9-inch prepared graham cracker crust, though I wish I'd gotten the next size up - the pie was REALLY full and I had a little leftover filling.

I baked for 25 minutes and we allowed it to rest overnight in the refrigerator. It was absolutely delicious! I think it might be the best pie I've ever made which is crazy since I'm not even that big of a fan of key lime pie. The texture and taste are really fabulous!




Easy Key Lime Pie I adapted from DINNER2 on All Recipes.com

Ingredients
4 egg yolks, beaten
2 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (low fat is ok)
1 cup lime juice (or half lime / half lemon)
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and lime juice. Mix well. Pour into unbaked graham cracker shell.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Top with whipped topping and garnish with lime slices if desired.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Homemade Glazed Doughnuts

I finally tried this recipe... I have had this saved in my allrecipes.com recipe box for about a year and a half now! I usually try pretty hard to eat very light at breakfast and avoid sweets in general. However with Kenneth home my generally good eating habits have a tendency to take a brief hiatus and we try to make up for his months eating at a mediocre chow hall by going overboard with the homemade goodies!!

For the original recipe (which I followed pretty much exactly) visit Pioneer Woman's website here. I did end up using a little more flour than called for, mine was still really wet in the bowl and wasn't forming a ball. I probably added about 1/3 cup, just enough so that it almost made a ball shape especially when I had the Kitchen Aid turned up. I used a spatula to scrape it into the oiled bowl when it was time to put it in the refrigerator.

This was a pretty labor intensive and time intensive recipe but totally worth it for a special treat. I fixed the dough last night and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. At about 6:00am I got up and rolled the cold dough out on a lightly floured surface. I cut the doughnuts (using a plastic cup and the cap off a Zyrtec bottle!! I think I need to get some round cutters!!) then I set them on two lined baking sheets and put them on top of an oven I'd preheated to 350 then turned off for a warm place. I left them covered with towels and was hoping they'd be risen after 2 hours but they were just STARTING to rise at that point, so I turned the oven back on to 350 to get the surface warm again and two hours after that they were puffy and ready to go!

I put about 3 1/2 cups of shortening in a large pot and heated it to around 350 degrees per the instructions (I got to use my candy thermometer for the first time!) I was shocked how FAST these cooked! It was only about 20 seconds total per donut, they bubbled and turned brown really quickly so I only did 1 donut at a time. While I was frying them my son fixed the glaze and coated each side then put them on a cooling rack placed over a cookie sheet for the glaze to drip onto.

These are soooo good. Very decadent treat, but if you're going to eat doughnuts, this is the way to go!!

 Cut the dough into doughnuts and doughnut holes.

 After the dough has risen for about 4 hours.

Golden brown and sticky sweet!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Banana Oat Muffins

We decided to have banana muffins for breakfast this morning and I LOVE this recipe but wanted to try something new - I haven't had the chance to make many new things lately; we've been eating mostly "familiar" foods and I was looking forward to trying something new!

This is one I've had in my Recipe Folder on allrecipes.com for awhile so I figured we'd give it a try! The muffins came out pretty good - though I would definitely add about 1/4 cup brown sugar next time; it needed a little more sweetness. I used Stevia in place of sugar and used self-rising flour instead of AP flour, baking powder and baking soda. The texture was really nice - light and fluffy. The banana flavor wasn't very strong fresh from the oven, but I'm hoping it will develop some as the few we didn't eat at breakfast sit! Someone else commented that these freeze well, and would make a nice quick breakfast snack. 20 minutes was the perfect baking time in my oven - lightly browned on top and bottom.


Banana Oat Muffins By: Karen Resciniti

Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
Directions
  1. Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the mashed banana, and combine thoroughly. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper bake cups, and divide the batter among them.
  3. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 18 to 20 minutes.