Monday, September 17, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

I found the original recipe for this on MyRecipes.com awhile back and made it with stew beef the first time which was really yummy. This time I fixed it with 1 pound of ground beef cooked with 1 diced onion, green pepper, bell pepper and a few stalks of diced celery. I cooked up some diced fresh green beans and mixed those in as well. I really love the flavor of the meat using the suggested ingredients in this recipe and then like to mix and match vegetables depending on my mood and what I currently have ready to go in the refrigerator! :)

Shepherd's Pie

1 to 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or stew beef, cook in crock pot until easily shredded and then continue with recipe)
1 medium onion diced
1 green and red pepper diced (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed (other options would be sauteed carrots, celery, canned or fresh mushroooms, or green beans - or any combination)
4 tsp beef bouillon granules
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1 TBS whole wheat (or all purpose) flour
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes (cut tomatoes to desired bite sized pieces)
1 bay leaf
2 TBS red wine vinegar
5-6 cups prepared cheesy mashed potatoes for topping

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350.

2. Sautee peppers and onions (and carrots and/or celery if using) for 10-15 minutes over medium heat. Add ground beef and continue cooking another 15 minutes until vegetables are tender and beef is fully cooked through. Drain off all excess grease and return meat mixture to the pan.

3. Add garlic, any additional desired cooked vegetables (green beans, peas, etc.), beef bouillon, salt, pepper, thyme and flour. Stir to combine.

4. Add stewed tomatoes, bay leaf, and red wine vinegar. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. Allow to simmer 15-30 minutes. Taste test and adjust seasonings as desired.

5. Remove bay leaf and discard. Spoon beef mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and spoon mashed potatoes on top, smooth to cover.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until heated through.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Best Apple Pie Ever

This is a recipe I had made awhile back and decided to pull back out to assist with my surplus of small apples that were a little too bitter for Kent's liking to just eat as snacks. I love apple pie with cheddar cheese - it brings back wonderful memories of visits with my aunt Bobbi. I remember working together in the kitchen to combine all the ingredients for a pie, baking it up, and the next morning enjoying a thick slice with a chunk of good cheddar cheese and a cup of tea with honey. Talk about comfort food and food memories!

It's a very straight forward recipe with a unique twist in the use of maple syrup. I do not layer the apples and the spices, I just toss all my apples with all the filling ingredients together and layer them into the pie and top with the 2nd crust (I like to use the butter flavored shortening in the pie crust but otherwise follow that one exactly). The flavor is wonderful, but you must let it cool completely before slicing in or you get that lovely runny stuff going on!

I did have to cook this one quite a bit longer than the 30-35 minutes called for since I didn't use granny smiths. I cooked for an hour at 350 and then covered with foil and cooked another 20-30 minutes to make sure the apples were fully cooked through.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do - and I would love to hear what kind of memories you have when YOU think of apple pie! :)


The Best Apple Pie Ever By: Laura on allrecipes.com

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie
  • 5 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Stir together the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl; set aside. Press one of the pastries into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan; reserve the crust.
  2. Toss the apples with maple syrup and vanilla extract. Spread 1/3 of the apples into the pie pan and sprinkle with the sugar mixture. Repeat the layers with the remaining apples and sugar. Cover the pie with the top crust and pinch the edges to seal.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Allow to cool before serving. 

Pie Crust IV By: Jan Bittner on allrecipes.com

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
Directions
  1. Mix shortening, flour, and salt together with a fork or a pastry blender until very crumbly. Add as much water as needed to hold together, and mix lightly with a fork.
  2. Roll gently on a floured pastry cloth to about an inch larger than pie plate. Fold carefully in half, lift to pie plate, and unfold. Press into pan. For a single-crust pie, trim with a small knife to about 1/2 inch beyond rim. Fold up, and pinch so edge of pie is raised from rim.    

Friday, September 14, 2012

Little Miracles and Big Blessings


First look at dis FACE?! Are you in love? This is our final foster puppy (Dan) still at the house - the others have all been adopted and are heading to New Jersey to their fur-ever homes this weekend and I am so, so excited and happy for them! I totally feel like a proud mama since we helped save all three of the babies that are going up this weekend from the shelter. It definitely adds another level to the happiness I always feel for any of our foster babies making their way home. :)

Over there is me and Petey who's one of the lucky pups going up to NJ this weekend. We've had this sweet boy for a little over a month and absolutely adore him. Kenneth initially said he wanted to keep him! I informed him my crazy does have a limit and I've reached it already in terms of dogs we own - foster dogs my crazy limit hasn't been reached or exceeded yet though... yet... :) He has a super sweet personality and I really don't think you could ask for a better rescue pup than this one.

Kent's first soccer game of the season is tomorrow and afterwards he gets to have a buddy over to stay the night which he is super excited about! I think tomorrow afternoon is going to be my homework and study time while the boys are playing. Kent has been having such a great time with soccer! I'm super proud of my kiddo and can't wait to see how he feels after the first game. His confidence level is slowly starting to build as each practice session passes and he gets a chance to get out there and work with his teammates. (That red blur over there is Kent during their scrimmage practice game last night!!)

So on to the big blessings in life - I have debated the last week or two about posting about an amazing person who I am so thankful has come into my life. I have been considering another GS journey since I delivered the twins (7 months ago now!) and went back and forth for awhile because of their early arrival but finally decided that it is definitely still in my heart and if an RE feels I am still a good candidate I would really love to match and move forward one last time. I am 100% certain this would be my final match and I will put it in writing for my hubby if he so desires this time. :D He is so sweet to be so supportive of me each time even though I know he always worries for my health and for my heart each and every time. I am so grateful for such an amazing man! In any event, I decided to post an ad and see what responses I might get. I got a few replies and then took my ad back down so I could talk to the couples a little and see if any were the right fit. I had gotten to the point where I was pretty seriously considering moving forward with one couple, I had even sent my medical records to their nurse coordinator for review. Then I got an e-mail... an e-mail I can say certainly changed the course of the plans I was making in my head and heart and I think I might say it may prove to have changed my life - I am not sure yet in how many ways, but I know I am excited to see just how in the coming weeks, months and perhaps even years. :) Liz contacted me pretty much out of the blue, just because of some posts she'd seen of mine on SMO and then my blog post about all the sweet puppies we'd rescued last month. In no time flat the e-mails were flying back and forth between us and I was absolutely astonished as each response came that I had been contacted by someone who seemed to be a kindred spirit, perhaps my long lost twin, and who had a similar time frame as me for a hopeful transfer next year and similar hopes and expectations for communication and expectations and desires in a surrogacy experience. I don't know if I can possibly summarize how the feelings of hope and joy have grown in my heart over the past four weeks. I keep thinking perhaps we've exhausted every single subject there is to discuss, and yet we continue to find lots of things to delve into and discuss! I have had the chance to learn SO much about Liz! Our topics have ranged from surrogacy hopes and expectations, to animals, gay rights, religion and spirituality, favorite colors, weirdest foods we've ever eaten, ideal vacations, pumpkin muffins, IVF meds, all about our husbands, Disneyland, and SO much more! In every single one of our conversations the first couple week I can't count how many times I responded to something Liz said with "me TOO!!!" we have SO many similarities in likes, dislikes, perspectives, experiences, opinions, etc. It has become almost a game to try to find things we are dissimilar in! I think me having tattoos is probably one of the biggest ones we've uncovered so far... there haven't been that many (we even share blood type!)

My records have been delivered to her RE and now we wait and see what his thoughts are and then see what's next (though we most likely wouldn't be looking at testing/contracts until early next year). We are going to hopefully meet up for the first time next weekend and I can't tell you how excited I am to finally meet this incredible lady in person!

She is gracious, incredibly thoughtful and considerate, a fabulous communicator, she loves puppies and cooking (so extra bonus points on both of those ones! :D ) and I hope I am lucky enough to get to be her GS in the future and help her and her husband build the family they've long been dreaming of and working towards. I have said several times over the past month how I feel like I need to pinch myself because this connection has just blown my mind - it just feels too perfect to be real - I keep thinking surely I must have imagined something or exaggerated something in my mind... however with each new e-mail or phone call (Liz kept me company for hours each way on the phone while I was driving to Florida for Tonya's baby shower last weekend!) I am more and more sure that I have certainly not exaggerated anything. If anything I have not given her enough credit for the truly amazing person she is. I am blessed to have met her, regardless of what our future holds, I know I am a lucky person just to have had the chance to get to know Liz and have her in our lives.

She even sent a gift for both me and Kent this week - a perfect Willow Tree figurine for me that is completely precious and keeps bringing me a huge smile and hope for what might be and she was also so thoughtful to send a handwritten note to Kent and also a book for him. I cannot even tell you how much that note meant to him. He didn't even show it to me - he read it, and looked embarrassed but very happy by what it said and tucked it away. I asked him today where it was because I didn't want him to throw it away and he said "I would NEVER throw a note that nice away"!! It means the world to me how much Liz truly seems to appreciate and acknowledge my family too - it means so much that she wants to make a point to connect with Kent and establish a relationship with him too... it just completely blows my mind and makes me feel humbled and so grateful... so, so blessed... I don't think there is another word for it. I am a blessed woman!

I am so happy that I can share my thoughts and feelings here on my blog, and save these feelings and memories to look back on! I hope we will get the thumbs up from their RE in the next couple weeks and look forward to seeing how things come together in the future!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Baby Shower for Tonya!!

Tonya is a fabulous IM friend I met through SMO awhile back, but met in person for the first time when I was newly pregnant with the twins and she was here in Atlanta for her GS's transfer (here is Tonya's blog post from that visit)!

She is now awaiting the arrival of her little one, Greyson (who is due on Kent's birthday!), and I had asked her about a baby shower and when she said they weren't planning one I couldn't think of a better reason to have a little SMO get together in Florida than to celebrate Greyson's impending arrival with Tonya and her family!

We had settled on Saturday, September 8th as the date for the event and so after class on Thursday the 6th I packed up the car with some goodies for Tonya. I had been working on a diaper cake for about a week or two prior and I also had a bag of goodies that someone from SMO (who lives in Canada) and couldn't make it had ordered and had sent to me. I tossed in my overnight bag and then hit the road around 8:30 on Friday morning for the 7ish hour drive!

I got there mid-afternoon on Friday after a pretty nice drive down. It was long, but I had beautiful weather, a comfy car to drive in, an audio book to listen to, and was excited to get there and see Tonya and her family again!

We did some last minute shopping that evening. We went to Winn-Dixie and picked up sodas, lunch meat and cheese, some colored safety pins for one of the games and a few other odds and ends we needed for the food prep. While we were there I discovered what happens when any form of Swiss cheese touches Tonya's tongue... There is mass amounts of horrible noises, gagging faces, and tongue scraping that will ensue!! :D I was also turned on to Genoa salami... YUMM-O! When we got back and had put everything away, I had the chance to meet another IM from SMO who lives very nearby Tonya. The picture above is our "Tullina Sandwich" at the "pre-party! :D We did some decorating and got everything as settled as possible for the shower on Saturday.

Saturday arrived and Tonya and I got up bright and early to make a run to Publix to pick up the cake I'd ordered over the phone a few days prior. I had NO idea what to expect! I had looked up their cakes online but they didn't seem to have any of the ones there were pictures of, so I had to take the lady's word for it when she suggested a kit they did have in stock! I was anxious to see how it'd turned out and also to make sure they had spelled Greyson's name correctly!! As you can see they did indeed spell his name right and I think it was a pretty cute cake. And most importantly it was DE-LI-CIOUS! Tonya had selected yellow cake with cream cheese icing and YUMMY that was fantastic!!

We got all the food goodies out that morning after we got back from the store with the cake, and got some coffee in our system, and then we did lots of chopping and plating. We had a tray with rolls, a tray with lunch meat, cheese and olives, a condiments server with mayo, mustard and pickles and a tray with sliced onion, tomatoes and some lettuce leaves for sandwich fixings! We had two kinds of chips, a veggie tray, a bowl of cut fresh fruit and we were all prepared and ready for the guests to arrive! Right around 11:00 the first SMOers made their appearance, Amanda and Sarah who had carpooled together. Not long after Tullina and her daughter in law arrived and we took a quick group photo!

The rest of the guests arrived soon after and pretty soon we were playing games and then watching Tonya open presents. It was wonderful to see all the goodies Tonya and John were blessed with by those who love them and wanted to join them in celebrating Greyson's impending arrival! Many were not able to be there on the day of the shower but had sent gifts prior to the party! One of the games we played was the "poopy diaper game" which I hadn't played before - it was pretty funny though. We melted 6 different mini candy bars in 6 diapers and smooshed the crud out of them til they looked like nasty little brown smears with gunk mixed in! It was totally cracking me up watching everyone sniffing the diapers with the various candy bars contained within to make their best guesses about what each one might have originally been!! I think the most correct guesses out of 6 was three - they were pretty impossible. They all smelled like chocolate diapers and that was about it! :D

The day absolutely flew by, lots of great company and conversation, good food, super yummy cake and lots of good picture opportunities!! Before I knew it the afternoon had flown by and it was creeping up on 4pm. I knew I needed to hit the road with my long drive ahead of me! Unfortunately I had worse luck on my way home than I did on my drive there - I got stuck behind a bad accident of some sort (someone told me later there was a police shoot out on the freeway!) and had to be completely routed off the freeway and take about a 10 mile back highway detour in the pitch dark and pouring rain! THANK GOD for GPS... I had a stream of traffic I was following, but I was nervous the whole time I was going to end up completely lost but eventually we made it back around to the freeway and got moving again! My eyes were pretty heavy when I finally got home around 12:30 in the morning if I remember right!

It was a wonderful visit and I am so happy I got to be there and be a part of their special day to celebrate Greyson! I think Tonya is a wonderful woman and cannot wait to hear her little man is home with her soon!!