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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Menu for 5/29/15-6/4/15

Well, Dad's wedding was just beautiful! I love this shot of the two of them walking out onto the deck because it captures CJ's personality so perfectly.

Admiral looked all fancy in a trilby hat and CJ looked beautiful. The inn in Townsend where they held the wedding was charming. The cake, oh man the cake was awesome! A beautiful carrot cake with fluffy cream cheese frosting that looked like a cloud, and it was delicious, which is something you rarely get from a wedding cake.

Bailey was adorable as always in her little Easter dress. The photo is a little blurry but you can see she is having a blast.

This is where she spent the ceremony, in Senator's lap. She did have her own seat but about five minutes in she banged her elbow and started to cry so she crawled up on Senator instead.

We got a few more good ones with my brother's fiance.

One with Senator, and one with me.

I did finally finish their wedding gift, and it turned out just the way I had hoped. I had to lay it out on Bailey's bed to get a good picture of it. It's a nice, big, warm, cozy throw blanket for their great room. It even matches their new couch. I still have two more crochet projects that I'm working on but as for now I'm caught up and maybe even a bit ahead of schedule which is a huge relief. After all of these projects with a deadline I'm dying to do something just for myself so I'm starting another project for myself. It's just a small project but it will get my mind off of deadlines long enough to relax a bit.

For those who are curious, I used a modified version of this pattern for Dad and CJ's throw. I used a smaller hook (J), only 1 strand of yarn at a time, extended the width, skipped the transition rows between color stripes, and extended the color stripes to the length that each skein of yarn would allow. I used Caron Simply Soft yarn in black, white, and grey heather.

Okay, back to the food. Here's the menu.

Breakfast- raisin and brown sugar oatmeal
Lunch- leftover spaghetti
Dinner- crock pot barbecue chicken, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans

Breakfast- chicken biscuits and hash browns
Lunch- leftover barbecue chicken sandwiches
Dinner- hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, potato chips, and blackberry pie

Breakfast- pancakes, turkey sausage, and scrambled eggs
Lunch- leftovers
Dinner- Admiral will provide dinner

Breakfast- cereal and milk
Lunch- peanut butter and jelly on toast and grapes
Dinner- chicken taco casserole and refried beans

Breakfast- cereal and milk
Lunch- turkey and cheddar melts and carrot sticks
Dinner- pizza

Breakfast- scrambled eggs and toast
Lunch- leftover pizza
Dinner- chicken cordon bleu casserole and honey yeast knots

Breakfast- yogurt and strawberries
Lunch- leftover casserole
Dinner- waiting on Nana to decide, TBA

Monday, May 25, 2015

All Purpose Seasoning

Did you ever watch Emeril Lagasse's shows on Food Network way back in the day? In case you don't remember he's the guy who would season things with a loud "Bam!" He also had this seasoning he called "essence" that he would use on everything! I'm not sure what was in it, though I'm sure you could find a copycat version of it somewhere online, but I figure it was pretty much just an all purpose seasoning that he mixed up. You could call it seasoned salt, similar to the stuff you can buy at the store, or all purpose seasoning. You can even tell people it's your special spice blend like Emeril does, but do be sure to have it in your cabinet at all times.

This spice mixture is perfect for seasoning hamburgers, pork chops, and chicken. It's easy to add to steamed veggies or mashed potatoes. The great thing about it is it's all pre-measured so there's no need for measuring spoons while you're cooking. It's perfect for sprinkling with your fingers when you just need a pinch or you can put it in an empty spice jar and shake it onto your food. The spices are kind of generic, the spices that are in almost every spice rub recipe, and they're the spices that are likely staples in your pantry. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have at least two jars of each in my cabinet.

I'd also like to remind you that this is a basic recipe that can be tweaked to your particular taste. Does your family like things spicy? You can double the amount of pepper or even add some cayenne to it. Do you use a lot of onions in your cooking? You can probably leave out the onion powder altogether. Play around and see what you like.

By the way, stay tuned for an upcoming recipe that utilizes this seasoning. If you go ahead and make yours today you'll have it ready for when I post

One last thing before I show you the recipe: I'm posting this recipe by parts rather than actual measurements. If you don't know how this works just pretend you're using the same measuring spoon for each ingredient. This will make it easier to make large or small batches because you don't have to think about how to double or half a 1/2 tsp.

All Purpose Seasoning

Source: Totally Original!

2 parts salt (you can use kosher salt or fine sea salt but I used regular table salt)*
1 part onion powder
1 part garlic powder
1 part paprika
1/2 part black pepper

Measure out all of your ingredients. You can measure them directly into your container or use a bowl. For photographic purposes I measured mine out onto a flexible cutting mat.

Combine the ingredients in a bowl or an airtight container. Stir (or shake if you have a tight lid) them all together until well combined.

Store in an airtight container or an empty spice jar until ready to use.

Sprinkle on almost everything you cook!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Menu for 5/22/15-5/28/15

Today is the day! My dad is getting married today. All of his sisters are coming to town and we're heading out to Townsend in about an hour. I've been trying to get their gift ready all week but sadly I'm still a bit behind so I'll have to take it to them later.

Bailey is finally getting to wear the dress that Aunt Anna bought her for Easter. She's going to look so beautiful! I miraculously still fit in the dress that I bought in 2010 for my cousin J's wedding. I'm excited to have some time with our out of town family but I gotta leave soon so I'll get to the menu.

Breakfast- cereal and strawberries
Lunch- peanut butter and jelly on toast and carrot sticks
Dinner- herb crusted chicken with basil cream sauce over angel hair pasta with steamed broccoli

Breakfast- chicken biscuits and hash browns
Lunch- ham and cheddar melts and chips
Dinner- quick roasted chicken breasts, mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and honey yeast knots

Breakfast- pancakes, bacon, and scrambled eggs
Lunch- ham and cheddar melts and chips
Dinner- Admiral will provide dinner

Breakfast- grapes and strawberries
Lunch- almonds, carrots, and cheese cubes
Dinner- hamburgers and hot dogs, cole slaw, deviled eggs, baked beans, potato chips, and homemade peach ice cream

Breakfast- cereal and fruit
Lunch- leftover hamburgers and hot dogs
Dinner- sweet corn and bacon skillet macaroni and cheese and grilled chicken

Breakfast- yogurt and cereal
Lunch- leftover macaroni and cheese and chicken
Dinner- ranch crusted chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and mixed vegetables

Breakfast- scrambled eggs and toast
Lunch- leftover chicken and vegetables
Dinner- pizza baked spaghetti and garlic toast

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Taco Spaghetti

Oh, Yaya... She knows how to combine the strangest foods to create something wonderful. I mean, who would think of mixing tacos with spaghetti, right?

Taco spaghetti is made like a casserole and served like a taco salad. Admiral mentioned that part of what makes tacos so appealing is all the different textures. You have warm taco meat, a crunchy shell, and crisp lettuce all in one delicious little package and the best part about taco spaghetti is that you get all of those textures plus pasta!

The recipe makes a lot of food. It's not terribly expensive, especially if you find ground beef or turkey on sale, and it's just as tasty as leftovers. I hope this first recipe back after my hiatus makes up for the last month of missed recipes.

Taco Spaghetti

Source: Yaya original

For the casserole:
8 oz spaghetti or linguini
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp homemade taco seasoning (or 1 packet of taco seasoning)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup salsa (optional, I skipped it this time but the flavor was a little lacking)
1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies, drained
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn, thawed
1 (15 oz) can black beans (optional, I skipped them this time)
1 1/2 cups cheddar or colby jack cheese, shredded

For serving:
tortilla chips
shredded lettuce
diced tomatoes
shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
sliced black olives
sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 baking dish with vegetable oil spray.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions in a large pot and don't forget to salt the water. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente drain and rinse with cold water and set aside. Be careful not to cook the pasta past al dente because it will continue to cook as you mix it with the meat mixture and in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook until they are beginning to soften and become clear.

Add the ground beef or turkey and season with the 1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste) and cook until the meat is browned.

Add the water and taco seasoning and simmer until nearly all of the liquid has evaporated.

Add the salsa, green chilies, corn, and black beans and cook until everything is heated through (my corn was still a little frozen).

Add the pasta and mix it in. I've found it's easier to mix with a good strong pair of tongs or with a pasta fork (OXO is a great brand) but it's difficult to get the ingredients to mix with the pasta without a sticky sauce to help. Just do the best you can.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add about 1 cup of the shredded cheese. Mix until combined. The cheese will probably melt quickly and help all the taco meat mixture stick to the pasta some.

Transfer the whole thing to the prepared baking dish, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top, and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serve warm in the style of a taco salad.

Add whatever taco toppings you like and some crushed tortilla chips for crunch.

Mine had chips, lettuce, black olives, salsa, and a little extra cheese.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Menu for 5/15/15-5/21/15

I'm still busy furiously crocheting wedding gifts so I'll try to make this quick.

Bailey's first dentist appointment is tomorrow. I know, we're a little behind for a first dentist appointment, but I know she will be one of those kids who fights the dentist and won't let them even see her teeth. How do I know this? Well, because I can't even get her to sit on the exam table at the doctor's office to let them look in her ears or eyes or mouth. I just have this feeling that she won't even sit in the chair at the dentist.

How do you prepare a child for the dentist? The very first episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is all about preparing a child for school and a check-up at the doctor so I went with a similar prep for Bailey's dentist appointment. I told her all about the chair she will sit in. I described how the dentist will wear gloves and probably a mask over her mouth and nose. I drew a picture of the little mirror and hook she will use to examine her teeth and explained that she needs to open her mouth when the dentist tells her to. I don't know how much of it sunk in but hopefully tomorrow won't be a battle now that she knows a little more of what to expect.

Alright, here's the menu.

Breakfast- eggs and toast
Lunch- Hardee's with Nana
Dinner- cajun grilled chicken and lazy Alfredo pasta

Breakfast- sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried apples, and scrambled eggs
Lunch- leftover pasta
Dinner- Yaya's spaghetti and garlic toast

Breakfast- grilled ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches and hash browns
Lunch- leftover chili
Dinner- Admiral will provide dinner

Breakfast- yogurt, berries, and granola
Lunch- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips
Dinner- taco spaghetti

Breakfast- yogurt, berries, and granola
Lunch- leftover taco spaghetti
Dinner- quick-roasted chicken breasts, green beans, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese

Breakfast- sausage links, eggs, and toast
Lunch- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chips
Dinner- chicken noodle casserole

Breakfast- cereal and milk
Lunch- leftover casserole
Dinner- TBA

Monday, May 11, 2015

An Apology for my Absence

There have been a few glitches with the blog lately and tons of activities keeping me busy, so busy that I couldn't get anything done on the blog. So I would like to apologize for my apparent absence. I had lined up a pair of posts for each week of April and scheduled them to post automatically but something went wrong with the scheduling and they never posted. I'm not even going to try to catch up. I'm just going to write off the whole month as a vacation and attempt to get back on track.

Some exciting things have been happening around me. My bestest friend is getting married in September and I'm the maid of honor. I've been working furiously to help get her wedding together. I've mostly been doing online research for dresses, shoes, cakes, nail salons, wedding invitations, etc. Basically I do whatever she asks me to.

Also, my brother got engaged! I'm so excited for him! He and his fiance have so much in common and they're so happy together. Plus, I couldn't ask for a better sister-in-law. It turns out they want to have their wedding this September as well and I've been invited to be a bridesmaid. Again, it's exciting! I've never been a bridesmaid before, let alone a maid of honor, so all of this wedding stuff is kind of new to me. I mean, I've been engaged for going on 11 years now and I'm still not married so that shows you how much I think about weddings.

I've been asked to do some cupcakes for my brother's reception so I'll be testing recipes over the next few months. Recipe testing is always fun! I'll probably be trying a new recipe every few weeks and I'm planning on having the whole family taste them on the weekends and on Mondays. Of course I'll definitely have my brother and his fiance taste them first.

They want four kinds of cupcakes:
1) Raspberry White Chocolate
2) Pumpkin Spice
3) Banana Cream Pie
4) Strawberry

Obviously I have a handle on the strawberry cupcakes since I've been making them for over two years and I have a pretty good idea what I'm going to do for the banana cream pie (a vanilla cupcake with banana custard filling and a whipped cream like topping) but the raspberry white chocolate and the pumpkin spice have been a creative dream for me. I had about eight variations of different combinations of raspberry and white chocolate but I finally decided to go with a raspberry cupcake filled with white chocolate ganache, topped with white chocolate buttercream, and garnished with a fresh raspberry and drizzled with a raspberry puree reduction. I've already done the test batch on them and they turned out amazing! For the pumpkin spice I'm going to do a pumpkin cupcake with pumpkin spice cream cheese frosting. It should have the flavor of a pumpkin cheesecake with the texture of a cupcake.

Okay, so here's the other huge piece of news: My dad, Admiral, and his long time girlfriend finally got engaged... and they're getting married in less than two weeks! I'm extremely happy for them. I really do adore her and they obviously love each other. And luckily for me I didn't have to help with any of the planning for this one (because I definitely couldn't handle that... how do wedding planners do it?) so all I have to do is show up for the ceremony. They're getting married in Townsend so it'll be really beautiful with an excellent view of the Great Smoky Mountains, one of my dad's favorite places in the world.

I've been crocheting like crazy for weeks. I have four projects with fast approaching deadlines that I'm trying to complete ahead of schedule so I'm not scrambling to finish them at the last second. For the past five or six years I've neglected crocheting in favor of knitting because I seem to knit faster than I crochet, but it turns out that I actually crochet quite fast when I get in a rhythm. I've been spending my mornings from about 8:00 to 11:00 crocheting while Bailey watches cartoons and even though I know I have a schedule to keep it's been very relaxing.

The knit-along and crochet-along projects turned out interesting. Good interesting. The knit project was (as I predicted) a lot like a patchwork quilt. Each piece had a different, new stitch. There were cables, daisy stitches, eyelet cables, mitered squares, a tweed piece, log cabin squares, corner to corner striped squares, and the last huge piece for the center was called a whirly square. They were all put together like a puzzle and sewn together and then a border was added. I'm extremely fond of the whole pattern. It looks amazing all pieced together. Well, mine isn't finished yet, but I've seen some from the other knitters I met through the knit-along and even though no one used the same colors I did I can see what mine will look like and everyone's looks beautiful.

The crochet-along was really neat because there were so many more crocheters than I had expected. I made a ton of friends and the people who managed to finish theirs (especially those who finished each clue within the week it was assigned) have earned huge respect from me. I kept getting further and further behind (it's hard to work with granny squares with Bailey because she carries pieces off while I'm working) and then of course all of the new projects came up. I have my squares ready to join together I just have to weave all of the ends in first. As soon as all of my other projects are completed I'm going to get back to the crochet-along and finally have a new throw for the couch.

I guess the whole experience has taught me that I can't follow a schedule or meet a deadline but the mystery part was fun, seeing a new piece of the puzzle every week and working new stitches I'd never done before.

It looks like I missed two Wishlist Wednesdays so hopefully I can get one up before the end of this month. If not I'll do one huge Wishlist in June. The next one will probably include some of the interesting wedding stuff I've been researching. My new wedding assignment is to plan the lingerie party so I might add a few of the fascinating discoveries I've made about heart shaped cookie cutters. (Spoiler: You can make both bikini tops and bottoms with the same cookie cutter.)

I also have about 20 post-it notes full of recipes that need to be photographed and posted. I modified my pizza dough recipe, found a few Starbucks copycat recipes that are really spot-on, tried a really great new pork recipe from Budget Bytes, and I have a few recipes that I still need to update either because I've made improvements or because the photographs are lacking in the original posts.

I will get to as much of this as possible as quickly as I can. There will be at least one new recipe post this week and an updated menu (since the last menu I posted was a month ago) so be prepared for the blog to kick back into high gear!