Superpaige's Pad

The Trials of a Busy Mom

Category: recipes (page 1 of 2)

Life’s a Peach

We have three peach trees in our little “orchard”. For several years they didn’t yield much fruit, and then it’s kind of hit and miss. Last year there was a late freeze in the spring and we didn’t get more than a dozen peaches. We were at the mercy of a neighbor whose trees did not freeze to get our peach fix.

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This year Ryan attended a pruning and gardening workshop and learned that we should be picking a LOT of the tiny peaches so that the peaches can have the energy, food, and room to grow bigger. He picked at least a 5 gallon bucket full of the tiny little peaches early in the summer. But he said it was like murdering peaches and he didn’t like it.

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I don’t know if it was due to the fact that we pruned those trees last year, or that he picked those tiny peaches, but this is the most peaches we have ever had. And they are nice sized, too. Gorgeous. For weeks in the summer, we would go out and hope for ripe peaches, only to realize that close up, they were not ready yet. Well, they are ready now. Saturday I started picking. Mostly because I was worried that branches would be breaking off if I didn’t do something to lighten the load of peaches on those branches. I picked a 5 gallon bucket, with a smaller bucket full of smooshed or buggy peaches to give to the chickens. I realized these peaches weren’t going to wait, so I got the steam canner down and started going to work.

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It’s a messy process, washing, blanching, peeling, adding a simple syrup, boiling the lids, sterilizing the bottles. It had something on every single burner on the stove. I enlisted the kids to help. They are good at the peeling and their smaller hands fit well into the bottles, and really I just could use the help so the peaches don’t go brown and yucky before I get them processed. I always have to look up the instructions every year..How much sugar? How long do they process? What’s our elevation? But I got going quickly.

We got 8 quarts done that first day, leaving the non ripe peaches to wait for the next round.
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Aren’t they gorgeous?

Monday dawned, and I was a little sad that I didn’t have a play to go to that night, but all the better to get sticky and can some more peaches, right? I went out and picked another 5 gallon bucket full of peaches, and got started. No kids to help me at first, but I got the first batch of 7 into the steam bath before they got home. After I picked them up (early out day and all), everyone was home by 2:00, and they each helped for about an hour. It seemed much longer to all of us. We got another 7 quarts done for a total of 14 that day. I had to send Natalie out to pick me just a few more peaches when I ran out right after I started the last bottle.

Tuesday, I picked another bucket and took a bunch with me visiting teaching. After our VT appointments were over and I had finished my obligations at the elementary school, I figured I had better get back at it. I also sent out some texts and messages to friend to PLEASE feel free to come over and get some peaches, as we have more than we can eat or bottle. I wasn’t super productive and only did 8 or 9 quarts. Also, I was running out of wide mouth jars. As I was searching the basement, I find lots of regular jars, but I was down to my last bunch of wide mouths. Hmmm. Maybe if I make taco soup and use this jar of tomato juice, that’s ONE more wide mouth jar. Pitiful, I know.

My friend Lisa called and said she was going to come over and pick some peaches, and she had some bottles I could have. She did NOT want to bottle them, and was super generous to bring me a whole box of 12 wide mouth jars! She picked about a 5 gallon bucket full of peaches, and her kids played here for a bit while we talked. It was wonderful to have her visit, as I haven’t seen her all summer!

Wednesday I was going to skip the canning for the day, but I HAD all these bottles, and there were still LOTS of peaches on the tree, so what’s a girl going to do. I got started and pretty soon my back was aching and I was finishing up the last of the 11 quarts for the day. Work like that makes one sticky, so it was time for a shower, then clean the counter and mop the floor… AGAIN. I haven’t cleaned the stove, even though it TOTALLY needs it, but I want to finish the intense canning before I scrub all the mess. I’ll just make more mess tomorrow.

So, if I am remembering correctly, we how have about 40 quarts of peaches. I have 8 more wide mouth jars, so if I fill those tomorrow, that will be 48 (or so). That’s enough, right?

Slap some jam on that slice

I recently went to a cooking show at Thanksgiving point with my friend, Tess. We enjoyed watching the presenters and got some new recipes to try at home. One duo of presenters showed us some fun things they do with bread, but didn’t put their bread recipe in the booklet. What? Instead, they told us we could go online to their website, and watch the first DVD on bread making for free for three days. So, I went online and used the code provided and watched the video. It really wasn’t all that secret, but I did write down their bread recipe and wanted to give it a try. The only “secret” ingredients were bread flour and liquid lecithin. I had to go to two grocery stores to find the lecithin, but once I had it, I gave it a try.

Even though I kind of messed up and forgot to put in the sugar until it was mixing, it turned out great, rose quickly, and was light and fluffy bread.

I even tried the Italian loaf and was pleased with how that turned out as well.

I made another batch yesterday, and we cut it when it was hot from the oven. It was so yummy, in fact, that I couldn’t wait to take a bite, even for a picture.

Now, I’m not saying I’ll switch from my whole wheat bread to this recipe, but it’s nice to have options. In the past, my attempts at white bread (and rolls) have NOT been that successful, and it wasn’t something I would be proud of sharing. But this recipe seems to be pretty kind and forgiving, and I’ve even got some dough in the fridge to use for pizza crusts later this week. I think it’s a keeper.

White bread
10 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBS salt
3 TBS of SAF instant yeast
(mix these dry ingredients together in the Bosch before adding the wet ingredients)
add about 3 TBS liquid lecithin. (Here’s their tip for this one. Don’t use a measuring spoon because it’s so sticky, it will NOT come clean. Just squirt three quarter sized blobs right onto your flour mixture. You needn’t be totally precise on this one)
4 cups of very hot water

Start mixing, and mix for 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky, not a nice even ball. If it’s not sticky, add some water, about a TBS at a time. (I have had to add about 1/4 cup more water, because it didn’t seem sticky)

Spray the counter with Pam or cooking spray, then dump this sticky glob of dough onto the counter, and knead it a bit by hand. Cut this into four parts, and put this into bread pans. If you want, you can spray the inside of a plastic bag and save some dough for later, but only if you are going to roll that dough. I used my saved dough for cinnamon rolls and pizza crusts a couple days later and it was still good.

Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 25 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

There you have it. If you want to give it a try, it makes a pretty nice loaf of bread.

Service with a smile

I made dinner for a friend tonight. She’s exhausted and run down and emotionally spent after a difficult ordeal, so when I heard about it, I volunteered to bring in dinner. Usually when I take in dinner for someone in the ward, we do it in pairs, as a visiting teaching companionship. But my companion has been sick and is pregnant herself, so I didn’t try too hard to get ahold of her, I just figured I would do it myself.

Last night, while I was preparing dinner, I was watching Food Network (big mistake, I know) and we watched this recipe for Bacon wrapped Turkey Breast stuffed with pear hash. My children all sat with wide eyes glued to the television. “Bacon” they sighed. I had to admit it DID look good, so when I got the phone call later that night from this friend and told her I would bring her dinner, I thought of this recipe. After all, is there anybody out there who doesn’t love bacon?

This morning I went to the grocery store to buy turkey breasts so I could make that recipe. Did you know you can buy a WHOLE turkey for less money than you can buy two turkey breasts? Oh no I’m NOT going to pay $15 for two organic turkey breasts. I bought chicken instead. I came home, put away my groceries, and started on some rolls.

While I was mulling over what to do for dinner, the afternoon kind of got away from me. I was driving carpool pick up from both the high school and the junior high, as well as taking three kids to two different piano lesson locations, and each trip in the car seemed to take longer than it was supposed to. Megan also had her first footsall game, and I had to make sure she could get to that.

But I managed to pull off a pretty amazing dinner, even with all the LIFE that happens.

Bacon wrapped chicken breasts
Brown rice with veggies
Fresh hot homemade rolls
Apple bacon Green beans
Fruit salad

Luckily, I had made a big pan of mint brownies on Sunday, and had a little more than half of them already packaged up, so I took those to them for dessert.

mint brownies

(In all honesty, that’s not MY picture of mint brownies, I just found it on the internet, but really, they were that good.)

As I was trying to get everything done at the same time and package it all into disposable containers (or containers that I don’t really care if I get back), the kids started whining about how nobody ever brings US dinner, and why are we giving them ALL the rest of the mint brownies? I had to remind them that when we give service, we should always give the BEST to the person that we are serving. And I had to remind them that TWO of my friends brought in dinner just over a month ago when I had surgery, and that they were both very good meals, and included dessert. One of my daughters went so far as to suggest that her sister should break her leg again just so that people would bring us meals. Can you believe these kids?

I was quite proud of myself for a)making such a delicious dinner, and b) getting it all done and delivered while it was still hot. I made TONS of food, since they have a big family, and I had to have enough for us to eat, too. We sat down and ate dinner, and I must say it was delicious. Sure, I would have liked a nice mint brownie after the meal, but I can live without it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think that I may have used every single pan in the house, and I have to go and start doing the dishes. But I’ll do it with a warm heart, knowing that I made someone else’s day a little easier, and hopefully taught my family a tiny bit about service.

Paige’s Produce

I know that we’re past the gardening season now, but we can still talk about it, right?

In the spring, Ryan and Cole built me some garden boxes. Ryan had been reading up on the square foot gardening, and made me two 4 x 4 boxes.

He filled it with the special mix of soil and compost and something else, and then I made a grid out of bamboo, and got started planting.

I had to weight down the grid with rocks so that the bamboo wouldn’t blow away. See those cute little tomato and pepper plants? Well, those ones froze that weekend, and I had to get new ones a few days later. What is it they say about planting before Mother’s day?

A month or so later, my little garden was really starting to sprout up.

I even asked Ryan to make one more box because I had more things I wanted to plant.

Mid summer the boxes looked more like this.

I realized that things need to be planted farther apart and to put all the squash and wandering plants on the outside.

In the summer, I decided I had to actually DO something with the food we were growing, so I canned tomato juice (which I thought I had a picture of, but I guess I don’t). I thought I was all bad because I canned 24 quarts of tomato juice FROM MY OWN TOMATOES, mind you, until I was talking to my father-in-law, and he said, “Let’s see, how many quarts of tomato juice have we canned this year? Oh, yes, 65 so far.” But then when I asked him how many plants he had, I think it was something like 30 plants. I only had 8. I guess they really like their tomato juice.

I also bottled peaches, and I did it all by myself!

I only got 13 quarts, but they were yummy, and we grew the peaches ourselves, and I was quite proud of them.

Then we were given some apples and pears, so I made pear jam, and then decided to make apple pear sauce with the rest of the pears.


While yummy, applesauce is not really the quickest thing. It takes hours and hours to do a dozen quarts! But I was proud of myself for being so Mormon that I can actually use my steam canner and preserve some of our own produce.

Just this week I got another box of apples, so I spent the day on Tuesday making applesauce AGAIN. This time the kids were home, but they were sick, so they were no help. I think it took me about 5 hours to get those 12 quarts done, but they ARE done.

So, as the growing season comes to a close, I’m thankful for the blessing of being able to grow a garden. I have a lot of ideas for how to do things NEXT year, and I can hardly wait until it’s spring and time to dig in the dirt again.

Pumpkin pie bars

pumpkin pie bars
I made these pumpkin pie bars over the weekend and took them to rehearsal on Saturday. I was asked many times for the recipe, so I thought I would post it here. Of course it’s not my recipe, I got it from a blogger friend, who got it from another blogger friend, who adapted it from Kraft. So, no I don’t take credit, I’m just passing on the love.

1-1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) cold butter or margarine
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips for sprinkling on top (optional)

HEAT oven to 350°F. Line 13×9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides; grease foil. Mix flour, 1/4 granulated sugar and brown sugar in medium bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in oats and nuts.

RESERVE 1 cup oat mixture; press remaining onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 15 min. Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla, bourbon, pumpkin and spice with mixer until well blended. Pour over crust; sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture and a handful of butterscotch or chocolate chips (if desired).

BAKE 25 min.; cool 10 min. Use foil to transfer dessert from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

Black Friday? I don’t think it’s that dark.

Yesterday we had a fabulous day! Our plans to go and visit my brother and family in Arizona fell through, and I’m actually relieved. That means we can kick back and relax this weekend. On Thanksgiving, we had a large Coleman family gathering at my aunt’s church.

It was complete with basketball playing in the gym, driving some remote control cars around, wonderful food and sweet potatoes with the marshmallows. The turkey was wonderful and plentiful, and it was so much fun to chat with my cousins, who I don’t see nearly often enough. I made the maple pumpkin cheesecake, a pecan pie, an apple pie and a pumpkin pie. We have lots of pie leftovers in the fridge right now. I also made the green bean dish that I had thought I was going to make, and it was FANTASTIC. Really. And I never would have thought I would say that about green beans, but they really were a hit. My husband even said they were the best thing on the buffet, which I have to heartily disagree with, but I think I’ll for sure make these again, even when it’s not Thanksgiving. Want the recipe? Of course you do. Here you go.

Apple Bacon Green Beans

* 6 bacon strips, diced
* 1 small onion, diced
* 1 (16 ounce) package frozen cut green beans
* 1 large tart apple, chopped
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
* salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large skillet, cook bacon and onion over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until the apple and beans are tender.

I left out the apple cider vinegar, and I think they were great without it. I also sprinkled pecans on the top. It really was yummy. Oh, and I used canned instead of frozen beans. And No, I can’t follow a recipe as written.

After dinner, there was some drama over a lost coat, but it was found, and my sister lost her daughter for a while, but found her in the nursery room, so all is well. The kids also put together a little play on the stage, which was very cute.

Since we had eaten early, we decided to drop in on Ryan’s family and visit with them, too. They had already eaten and were in the act of Pythoning. (to python (verb)–to lay around and digest after having eaten a large meal, much like a python would lay there after eating a pig. I learned this word from my South African roommate way back when at BYU, and if anyone would know about pythons, I guess it would be her.) So we joined them for some fun, some pie, and even some fruitcake. What? Fruit cake on Thanksgiving? Whatever. I told Ryan to be sure and get some of his mom’s dressing, because he likes hers better, and maybe get some leftover sweet potatoes, because he likes them without the marshmallows. But we didn’t take any leftovers home. Can you believe it? No leftovers–well, except the large amounts of pie we have in the fridge. Maybe I should trade with my neighbors for some turkey and mashed potatoes. I mean, I’ve got a turkey in the freezer, and I can cook up some potatoes, but it’s not the same.

After looking over the ads, I was thinking that I really did want to go out on the craziest shopping day of all crazy shopping days. There were some things at Walmart that were screaming deals, and I decided I wanted to at least try. I’ve never gone to a store at 5 in the morning before, and for some silly reason, I decided I was up to the challenge. I set my alarm, but I did it wrong (why does that always happen?) so I didn’t wake up at 4:25 like I planned. I woke up just a few minutes before 5, and thought, “Oh, I’m too late.” And tried to roll over and go back to sleep. But I was awake already and decided I might as well get up.

So, I got up, got dressed, did almost nothing with my hair and makeup, and got in the car. It was then that I realized that in “setting” my alarm, I had gotten my clock a bit fast, and it was just after 5 am. I drove to the Lindon Walmart, hoping that it might be less of a zoo than the bigger, newer, American Fork Walmart. When I pulled into the parking lot and it was FULL, I knew I was in for some work. I got a cart from some women who were already going to their cars, and they told me “good luck!”

In the cart there was a little map of all the black Friday items and where they were located in the store. I was after a certain item for one of my children. Let’s just call it a “glipslem”, in case my kids (or my kids’ friends) happen to read this entry. I saw that the glipslem was over in the pet isle. But there were all these people in my way. How was I even going to get over there by the pet isle? I cut back to the front of the store, went in front of all the registers to the side, and then did some fancy footwork to make my way to the pet isle. Oh, look! Cars! Put one in the cart. When I got to the general area, I asked a nice Walmart employee, “Do you know if there are any more glibslems?” Please, don’t be out. Please don’t be out.
“Um,” she said, “they were right here somewhere. Oh, it looks like there’s one up here on this shelf.” Hooray! She had to get some help from another employee to get it down off the top shelf, and said, “Is this color ok?”
At this point, I really don’t have much of a choice, so what does it matter? “That’s great!” I said, and stuck it in the cart! Feeling charged by my victory, I went off to see if I could find some of the other great steals. After being stalled by traffic jam after traffic jam, I eventually found my way to the coats and sweatshirt display, and grabbed up a bunch of items for my family. And then I got in line. It was about 5:45 am. Wow. While waiting in line, I ended up leaving for a minute to grab a few more bargains that were right there, but mostly just stayed in line.

I must apologize to the people around me. They probably thought I was a crazy stalker when I said, “I can tell the ages of your kids by looking at your cart.” I mean, it was totally obvious that they had a 4-5 year old boy who was obsessed with Cars merchandise, and a young girl who was getting that dolly, and an older kid (maybe 8-10) because there was the game “Operation” on the bottom. I really wasn’t meaning to invade your privacy, and I promise I won’t follow you home. I just can’t stand that long wait in line without at least talking to someone. If my husband had been awake, I might have thought about calling him to tell him about my big score, but A-he was NOT awake, and B-he doesn’t care. So, I ended up talking to the people in line. The guy behind me was here visiting his parents from California, and on a whim decided to do some early morning shopping. The lady next to me had been there since 2:00 am, in order to score her $88 powerwheels vehicle. Wow! That’s dedication.

Finally, it was my turn at the register. It was self check, but there was a guy there to do all the scanning for me, so it wasn’t really self check anymore. But it was almost as bad as self check. I don’t know if it was his first day, but he definitely wasn’t a seasoned employee. When my glipslem (remember? we’re using a code word?) rang up at $78 something instead of the advertised $45, I was all over it. I showed him the ad, and asked if that wasn’t the right item, and shouldn’t it be $45? Poor Mr. Newguy asked some other guy, “Hey, can we price adjust this for her?” And they guy said that yes, he could. Only Mr. Newguy didn’t know how to do a price adjust, so he had to wait for a manager to help him do that. That’s ok, I’ve got all the time in the world to wait for you, as long as you don’t make me pay full price. He did get it worked out, but there were a couple other items that didn’t ring up as they should have. The worst was a men’s jacket, that I clearly took from the sale area, and it really should have rung up at $8, not $15. But I’m not going to dicker over that amount. If you can’t adjust the price to be $8, then just take the jacket off and I won’t get that. I don’t want it enough to pay $15. It’s black Friday for heaven’s sake. We don’t pay full price on black Friday! When Mr. Newguy tried to delete the item, it kept saying something like “item was not purchased” and it wouldn’t let him change the price OR delete the item. He ended up calling his friend over again, and she tried it, but it was giving her the same problem. She ended up deleting a young men’s jacket that was also $8, and then kept the $15 jacket ON the transaction, so I ended up paying $15 for two jackets instead of $8 each. Hey, that saved me another dollar–Great. And if I decided to return the $15 jacket, that would be an even greater deal. No, I’m kidding. That would be dishonest, wouldn’t it? But the thought did cross my mind.

Anyway, I finally got all my items scanned and paid for, and made my way out through the vast expanse of parking lot to the car. I looked at my watch and it was 6:30. Hmmm. Is it too late to hit any other black Friday sales? Probably. But I wanted to check at Walgreens, because they had some “Schlebfins” on sale–buy one get one free. And you can never have too many “schlebfins”, can you? (Code again, remember?) There were only a few cars in the Walgreens parking lot, and –What?– there were people sitting in the cars. What the heck? I got out the ad, and Walgreens sale doesn’t start until 7 am. Wow! I’m EARLY. So, I waited in my car for another 5 minutes, and then decided that it wasn’t that cold. There were only two people standing in front of the door (well, one guy was sitting on a chair that he brought), and I went to join them.
“What are you here for?” asked the nice lady in front of me.
“I’m here for the schlebfins,” I said.
“Oh! Me, too!” she said. She said she hadn’t even heard of schlebfins until a few weeks ago, when her daughter got one for a birthday present. The guy sitting down joined in about then, “I’m here for the tv.” I checked the ad. Wow, a 10 inch flat screen tv for $99 wasn’t too bad, either. The rest of the people were out of their cars by now, and we ended up chatting with Miss Smoker and her friend, who said, “What’s a schlebfin?” We told her what they are and that they are a fun gift for small people, and she decided she wanted one, too. Great. More competition. But I needn’t have worried. When the guy let us in a few minutes before 7, I went to the schlebfins and got my limit of 8, and then after I had bought those and taken them out to the car, I went back in and got 6 more. What? They make great presents!? And they were 1/2 off!

By then, it was nearly 7:30, and I was done with my shopping. I took a trip through the Sonic drive through for a breakfast sandwich and then was on my way home triumphant. When I got home, the kids were up and wanting breakfast, and Ryan was still asleep. Nobody even missed me!

I took off my jeans, put my pajama pants back on, and climbed back into bed for a little nap!

Later, we dragged up a bunch of Christmas decorations, went to an indoor soccer game, picked up a friend for Cole who’s going to stay for a little while, and Ryan went to go help a friend with thier wiring and electronic gadgets. After dinner we put up and decorated the tree. And listened to Christmas music. The perfect after Thanksgiving day.

Thankful–a list

I am so thankful for my many many blessings. I would be remiss if I didn’t list some of them here.

~I’m thankful for my husband. Ryan is in many ways a better person than I am, and he’s a great husband and wonderful father. He’s handy, he’s smart, and he’s funny. He supports me, he encourages me, and he is my partner in all things. And I love him.

~Cole, who is our lawnmower in the summer, our babysitter when we go out, and our resident “know-it-all” teenager. He tries hard to be a good person, and he thinks about things a lot. He’s also a lot of fun.

~Megan, who is either spunky and full of energy and helps out around the house, or the worst grump you’ve ever encountered. We never know which one it’s going to be. But she’s growing up and entering that “fun” teenage time, and becoming more responsible. She’s making my practice my patience.

~Natalie, who even when she was little was always singing or talking. She’s fun to be around, unless she’s forced to clean her room. Then it’s best to just close the door. She likes to bake and wants to help me with our pies for Thanksgiving dinner.

~Jenna, who likes to be helpful, and likes to be nice. She leaves little notes and pictures for all of us around the house to cheer us up. She takes gifts to her teachers just because.

~John, who at 5 is finally a “big boy” and we are proud of him. He is an easy going child who loves to play pretend by himself. I lay on the couch watching him the other day and asked if I could play with him, but he said No, that it was only a game for boys and cars, and not for moms. Ok. I’m ok with that.

~My wonderful group of friends. I really have been blessed with the best friends in the world. I have this group of friends that I’ve known since my early years. We’ve been together to support and help each other for more than 30 years. We’ve celebrated together, we’ve laughed together, gossiped together, and we’ve mourned together. I don’t know why I’ve been so lucky to have them as friends, and why they have loved and stuck with me for all these years, but they have, and I’m so blessed.

~In addition to these long time friends, I have met and grown to love new friends through the years. I am so thankful to live in the neighborhood where I do. I have wonderful friends who are here for me, and help out. I made a comment to one of my friends (as we were arranging carpools and picking up each other’s kids from piano) that together, we make a great mom. I know I can call them in a pinch to help me out, to pick up a child, or loan me an egg or an onion. And they are so much fun! I really do love to hang out with them. It really does take a village to raise children, or at least a neighborhood.

~And my bell choir friends, I can’t forget them. Who would have thought four years ago that I would have a new group of people that I would grow to love so much. During the slow times, we meet once a week, and even though we are rehearsing, and sometimes it is hot and exhausting and frustrating, we love it. It’s so wonderful to get together with people you love, and learn and play beautiful music. We have been set apart as musical missionaries, and that really is our goal–to share the gospel and our love for our Savior through our music. So, even though we are having so much fun, we really try when we perform to “show our testimonies on our faces” and share our love with the people who attend. During the busy times, we are often together every night of the week, and I see these people more than I do my own family. And I love them. And I am so thankful for this calling that is such a blessing in my life.

~I’m thankful for Ryan’s job. He’s been the provider and protector of our family, and allowed me to stay home and raise the children. My job is to save money where I can, and to provide the most comfortable home for the family. I get to be the decorator, the homework monitor, the cook, the cleaning lady, and the mommy. I get to go on field trips and drive carpools. And even though I get tired of those things, I’m so glad I don’t have the added stress of having to “bring home the bacon” AND fry it up in the pan. I’m also the “entertainment budget”. I often drag my family to fun and interesting things because I won passes, and while it’s always unexpected, it is usually fun. I’m so thankful that we’re able to afford our house, take care of our bills and obligations, and that we have enough left over that we can give to others.

I could go on and on here, counting my blessings, but then I wouldn’t get anything done today. And I have a maple pecan pumpkin cheesecake to make, and have to decide on some kind of green bean dish. Maybe this one.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and that you don’t forget to take the time to count your blessings, too.

Let me share with you

I will NOT share with you the nasty cold/allergies I currently am suffering. My throat hurts, my sinuses hurt, and I’ve gone through more Kleenex than I want to count. I’m hoping it goes away soon, and, NO, I’m glad you aren’t here, because I wouldn’t want to share it with you. What I would like to share with you is an awesome recipe. I saw this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens and thought it looked easy and yummy. I was right on both counts. Oh, they are good. Like English Toffee but easy to make. The problem, however, is that they are too good. I should have just taken the whole batch over the neighbors immediately, but we ate it all day Sunday until there wasn’t enough to make a decent sized plate to give away. I’d better not make this again unless I have a pot-luck or someplace to take them. But if you want to try them, here’s the recipe. Yum!

Oat ‘n’ Toffee Grahams

* 12 whole graham crackers (rectangles)
* 1-1/2 cups rolled oats
* 3/4 cup granulated sugar
* 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
* 2/3 cup butter, melted
* 1 egg, lightly beaten
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 1 12-oz. pkg. semisweet chocolate pieces
* 1/2 cup smoke-flavored whole almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil beyond edges of pan. Arrange whole graham crackers in a single layer in prepared pan. In a large bowl combine the oats, sugars, and flour. Stir in melted butter, egg, and vanilla until well combined. Spoon over graham crackers and spread evenly to edges of pan to cover graham crackers.

2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until oat mixture bubbles and is lightly browned on top. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate pieces. Return to oven for 1 minute. Spread melted chocolate over top to cover. Evenly sprinkle with almonds. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift from pan. Remove foil. Cut or break into bars. Makes 32 bars.

Double Date and a review

Last night we had a wonderful date night planned. We had procured some tickets to the Salt Lake premier of 21, and I invited our friends Tess and David to come with us. We were actually all meeting at Jordon Commons at around 6 to pick up our tickets, get some food and watch a movie. Well, shortly after I left the house, I got a call from Ryan telling me that he was there trying to pick up our tickets, and they had just “sold out”. Ugh. I’m getting tired of these movie premiers where you have to get there more than an hour and a half early just to get a ticket. So, there we were, out for a movie with nothing to see. We couldn’t find one other movie now playing that we wanted to see, so Tess suggested we go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Anything involving cheesecake sounds good to me, so off we went.

So, here’s my review of the Cheesecake Factory (having never been before, I figured I was about as impartial as I could be, although I’ve heard wonderful things about it, so I was excited to try it out).

**The Wait. We waited over an hour. On a Thursday night. Now when we went to check in they told us it would be 35-40 minutes, which didn’t sound THAT long, but we should have gotten a clue from the fact that they didn’t even have any pagers to give out. The nice hostess told us to come back in about 10 minutes just to get a pager, which we would hold on to for the next 3/4 of an hour waiting for it to light up. I don’t think the wait was totally unreasonable, but if it’s going to be an hour, why don’t you just tell me it’s going to be an hour. Then I can jump over to the mall over there and go shop for some new sunglasses or something fun. Don’t lie to me with a smile on your face and say it’s going to be 35 minutes when you know darn well it’s NOT. But, since we were waiting, it gave us time to chat with our friends, play “let’s pick what David’s going to order for dinner”, and run into old friends that we haven’t seen in at least two years. And we didn’t have any kids with us. That’s the kicker. Because I can wait in line, but trying to entertain my hungry, annoyed (or annoying) children for an hour is NOT fun. Although I didn’t know if Tess was going to make it. She needed a diet coke and she needed it soon.

**The Menu. Wow! It’s like a small novel. With advertising. Can you really order that diamond ring that you see on the page opposite the appetizers? It’s a bit overwhelming to have a menu that huge, but I guess then everyone can find something they will like. But advertising? I find that a bit tacky. And for people who have a hard time making decisions, that’s just too many options.

**The waitress. I think our waitress was attentive. She was there right after we were seated and she brought those diet cokes with good speed (and she kept them coming). She quickly brought bread and took our order, and I don’t think we really had to wait that long for our food. We were laughing and talking, so I guess I wasn’t really paying much attention to the clock and how long it took.

**The Food. I ordered a small meal of a 1/2 sandwich, salad and soup. I couldn’t finish it. Really. I ate the rest of the sandwich and salad for lunch today, it was that big. The soup was delicious and the sandwich and salad were also great. Ryan had a teriaki chicken, which was also yummy. I wondered why they put all the teriaki flavor on the chicken skin -ew-, instead of using a skinless chicken breast, but I think he enjoyed his meal. Even though it was huge, he managed to finish it. Tess got the same as me, and she really liked it. David, after all his studying of the menu, ended up ordering one of the “specials” the waitress told us about, which if I recall was fish with a whole bunch of broccoli. Knowing my fondness for broccoli, I hardly looked at his plate, except to say, “Wow, that’s a lot of broccoli.” Overall, I think the food is good. They serve very large portions, but they charge a lot for it. I mean, when they charge $7 for a grilled cheese sandwich, I think that’s a bit pricey, don’t you?

**The desserts. This is the reason you go there, right? Doesn’t matter how full you are, you ARE ordering dessert if you are at the cheesecake factory. So, I ordered a pecan turtle cheesecake, and I was not disappointed. It was so yummy! But I think that the mud pie was actually better. Dark rich chocolate brownie with ice cream and hot fudge. Yummmm-o! Both Ryan and Tess ordered the carrot cake. It looked beautiful! But I must say, as far as carrot cakes go, we were not impressed. Although it was moist, it wasn’t really flavorful. Not enough spice, and definitely not enough cream cheese frosting. Really. We were quite disappointed in the carrot cake. Especially at $6-$7 a piece, you expect it to be, well, to die for. It wasn’t. But I wouldn’t mind going back to sample each and every one of those desserts to give you my honest opinion of them all. Would someone like to finance that venture for me?

**The price. For a “free movie date”, this ended up being quite expensive. But I’m glad we went. We had a fabulous time, the place was beautiful, the food was great, and the company was wonderful. Would I take my family there? A big fat NO. Not a place to bring your kids, unless maybe it’s their birthday or some special occasion, or you just have too much money and you don’t know what to do with it. I would classify this as pricey, and not someplace I will go very often. Maybe if it’s just me meeting some girl friends for lunch or dinner, it would be a nice splurge, but we’re certainly not going to make a habit of going there.

So, if I were a restaurant critic (which I’m not, darn), I would give this place four out of five stars. Or golden forks, or whatever my little rating system was. It was a nice place, and they took good care of us. And I think I’m going to go and eat the rest of my cheesecake that’s in the fridge. And no, I won’t share it with you.

What’s for dinner?

For dinner on Sunday I made this Chicken curry with sweet potatoes and coconut rice. There’s pictures on that link, and the whole recipe. It was SO GOOD! My husband even said it was “restaurant quality”. The rice was yummy, the sweet potatoes delicious and the chicken not too currylicious. With the kids it was hit and miss, with some of them liking it and some of them not. But it’s impossible to please everyone around here. Natalie said she might like it if there weren’t so many flavors. Too many FLAVORS, huh? Well, excuse me. The only problem with this recipe was the smells that it left on my hands. Garlic, onion and curry…before church? Not such a good idea. All through church I’m smelling my hands and hoping the nobody else can smell what I just threw in the crockpot for dinner. Hand washing–doesn’t help. Lotion–not really covering it up. And my house still smells like curry. I guess that’s what you get.

And one of my new favorites is this Greek Pasta Dish

pasta
12 ounces penne (whole wheat)
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
2 tablespoons pine nuts
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, chopped, thawed and drained
4 large plum tomatoes, chopped
½ cup fat free cottage cheese
4 ounces feta cheese
Jar of calamata olives
Salt Pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Drain and set aside. Cover and keep warm.

Sauté garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add pine nuts and stir until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and tomatoes and cook until just heated though. Do not over cook.
Drain the cottage cheese in a strainer, and pour into a small bowl. Add the feta cheese. Using a pastry blender, combine cheeses together.

To serve, place the warm pasta in a bowl. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Toss until well coated.
Add the spinach mixture and toss.
Finally add the feta cheese mixture.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Top with a handful olives.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 400 calories. 15 grams fat, 17 mg cholesterol Adapted from: Healthy Homestyle Cooking 1994

I didn’t have pine nuts or those olives, and I added some bacon bits, but it’s delicious! And it saves well, too, so it’s good for a nice lunch the next day. Again, some of the kids don’t like it, but they can just eat the noodles plain, instead of with all that “stuff” on it, right?

Oh, and I made that cheesecake again, but with Splenda instead of sugar. It has kind of a weird taste, darn it. So, there you have it. Some ideas for dinner this week. Let me know if you try them.

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