Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sidetracked By Life, Aunt Jack's Corn Pudding

     It has been four long months since I posted last on this blog.  I have been Sidetracked By Life.  If you've been there, you know what I am talking about.  You're in a groove, everything is going along fine, and BAM...something (or several somethings) get you off track.  I won't bore you with all the reasons I have been too busy and unmotivated to blog; most of us could write a book about why we get Sidetracked By Life.  Today, I ran into an old friend, and she asked me about my blog.  Hearing that someone has actually missed it has given me motivation to pick it up again.  No promises this time about how often.  "Lisa's DISH", "Lisa's WISH" or "Lisa's Once In A Blue Moon Whenever She Can Get To It"--here it is.  And thanks, Diana, for reminding me how much I enjoyed it!

     Our favorite way to eat corn other than fresh off the cob is Aunt Jack's Corn Pudding.  This recipe came out of "The Brent Family Cookbook", which is a wonderful family cookbook from my maternal grandmother's family.  I don't know who Aunt Jack is, but she makes a mean corn pudding, and thanks to her recipe, I do, too!  Blend 3 T. flour with 1/2 c. sugar (I use a little less sugar).  Add 1/2 cup milk and blend until smooth.  Add 1 can cream style corn, 3 T. melted butter, 2 beaten eggs, 1 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper and stir.  Pour into greased casserole dish (2 qt. square works well).  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool and set for a few minutes before serving.  This is a delicious addition to an all vegetable dinner; it's great with ham, meatloaf, almost anything.
    I am getting ready for a scrapbook retreat in 3 weeks with family and friends.  We will be going to Memory Lane Inn in McKinney, Texas  Before I can go, I need to do a major reorganization of my scrapbook closet/supplies.  I will try to post before and after pics...the before will be scary! 
    I hope that if you, too, have recently been Sidetracked By Life, it was the happy kind of busy.  We can all use more happy reasons for being sidetracked!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mini Breakfast Pigs, Timer Cleaning

The flu monster is finally leaving our house.  It is now eight days since our son first began running fever and showing symptoms of the flu.  Today is the first day that he seems to be himself, although he still has a cough.  Next week, he will have the joy of making up all the end of six weeks' exams he missed while he was home.  So far, no signs that the rest of us caught it...

I want to send him off in the morning with one of his favorite breakfasts, so I will be making Mini Breakfast Pigs.  My friend, Sharon, brought us some of these one morning several years ago when we were across the street neighbors, and I have been making them ever since.  They are easy--only two ingredients!

Recipe:  Mini Breakfast Pigs  Preheat oven according to package directions on one can of refrigerated biscuits (I use the 5 count for the four of us).  Flatten each biscuit out with the palm of your super clean hand, and cut into fourths.  Stretch out this tiny piece of biscuit and wrap it around a L'il Smokie sausage (I use the turkey--much less fat and calories). Place on cookie sheet, seam side down.  Repeat with remaining biscuit pieces, so that you end up with 20 mini pigs in a blanket.  This will use about half a package of the L'il Smokie sausages.  You can use the rest for breakfast tomorrow or a snack later.  Bake until biscuits are light golden brown--about 7 - 10 minutes.  Serve with scrambled eggs and orange juice.

Homemaking Tip:  Timer Cleaning  This is a tip I picked up from  Sometimes, cleaning my house seems overwhelming.  I'm tired, there is just too much to do, I lack motivation, etc.  But anyone can work for 15 minutes.  So, I set a timer for 15 minutes, pick a room, and work as hard as I can until the timer goes off.  I am always surprised in what I can accomplish in 15 minutes.  I set the timer for another 15 minutes, and work in another room.  Then, I set it again for 15 minutes, and work in yet another room.  After 3 work periods of 15 minutes, I set the timer for 15 minutes, and do something I enjoy.  Have a cup of coffee, read the paper or a chapter in a book, check Facebook, etc.  When the timer goes off, I start the process again.  It really works!

No scrapbooking tip for this blog entry.  After dealing with sick kids for two weeks, scrapbooking has not been at the top of my priority list.  I'll get there...I just need to catch up on some laundry and sleep first!  Have a blessed week!  Lisa

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Zesty Broccoli Rice Casserole, Mantle Decor, Saving Kid's Papers

It's been a week since my last blog post, and I'm thinking I probably should have called it Lisa's WISH instead of Lisa's DISH--W for Weekly instead of D for Daily and WISHful thinking on my part that I could actually do this daily.  But, in the spirit of positive thinking, I will let the name stand, and attempt to post more frequently in the future.  It has been a busy week, full of sick kids, doctor's appointments, school projects, book fair volunteer shifts, solo and ensemble contest, and catching up with a visiting relative.  Silly me!  I thought when I quit my job last summer that I would never find myself up to my eyeballs in dirty laundry and with a messy house on a weekend...makes me wonder how I ever did it when I was working full time.  If you are working full time, part time, or just struggling along as a full time family manager like me, I am praying for us all today!  Today's recipe is a new take on a classic family favorite.

Recipe: Zesty Broccoli Rice Casserole  Thaw 1 package frozen chopped broccoli, and squeeze out excess liquid.  Saute 1/2 medium diced onion in 1/2 stick butter in a large skillet for 2-3 minutes.  Add thawed broccoli and saute for 2-3 minutes more.  Add 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, 1 can cream of celery (or cream of mushroom) soup, 1 can Fiesta Nacho Cheese soup and 2 cups cooked rice and stir until well blended.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan (I spray with non-stick cooking spray), and bake in 350 oven for 35-45 minutes (until bubbly).  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  This is especially good served with the Parmesan Baked Chicken Breasts from my previous blog, and a salad. 

Homemaking Challenge: Mantle Decor  a few weeks back, I challenged you to take a look at your front porch and front door and clean/decorate as needed.  Now, it's time to walk through your front door to see what your guests see when they come through the door. 

Yes, I really want you to do it!

I would have said that what my guests would notice first would be my entry hall table, lamp, artwork, etc.  But when I actually walked through my front door, what I noticed first was the fireplace mantle, on the opposite wall.

Hopefully, you don't still have lingering Christmas decorations on it.

Often, mantles become a place for clutter, like any other flat surface in your home.  Try to think of your mantle as a decorating opportunity--a place that doesn't have to serve any practical function, but is strictly there to beautify your home and display objects you love.  I thought I couldn't display the yellow pottery I love so much against the tan painted brick of my fireplace, until I realized that by placing the pieces in front of the dark frame, they would still "pop". 

Change out what you normally have displayed on your mantle, if you don't love it.  Dust everything so that it gleams.  A fireplace mantle may not be what guests first see when they enter your home.  It may be a wall of windows--if so, make sure they sparkle!  Clean or replace your window treatments if they are worn, raise the blinds to let the sun shine in.  Beautify this second impression (the first being the front door/porch) and make your home welcome your guests.

Scrapbooking Tip:  Savings Kids Artwork/Schoolwork  This is a problem for every parent I know.  You want to save those treasure, but there just isn't enough room on the fridge!  Here are some options to keep your from drowning in paper while still honoring your child and his/her work:

1)  Scrapbook some of it.  I try to include 1 or 2 papers and 1 or 2 pieces of artwork per year per child in their scrapbooks.  I select the things that are humorous, unique or show growth or talent.
Some of my friends actually photograph oversized pieces of art and put the photos in the scrapbook.  I have done this once or twice with truly large projects, like Science Fair projects.

2) Frame some of it.  The truly special works of art are worth framing and displaying in your home.

3) Save some of it.  Each of my kids has a small plastic tub about the size of a banker's box in which I store their school work/ art work.  Periodically, I purge some of the past treasures to make room for new ones.  One box per child seems reasonable to me.

4) Toss some of it.  You can't keep everything, unless you want to end up on an episode of "Hoarders".  You don't need every spelling test, drawing, or multiplication quiz.  Really.  Just make sure you cover it up with some other household trash if seeing their work in the trash can will cause your child to have a meltdown.

Have a wonderful day!  Lisa

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Garlic Roasted Asparagus, Valentine's Day

It's almost Valentine's Day...did it sneak up on anyone besides me?  I will be making our usual candlelight breakfast (see my last post for THAT story)--this year, we are having heart shaped chocolate chip muffins, bacon and fresh fruit--the table is set and ready, there are cards for Mark and the kids made with love by me, and  heart shaped boxes of chocolate made by Whitmans and Russell Stover. I will get up a few minutes early so that breakfast will be ready when I wake Mark and the kids for work and school.  For dinner, we will dine by candlelight again, and the menu will be pork loin roasted with a raspberry chipotle glaze,  baked sweet potatoes and garlic roasted asparagus.  This is an easy menu, which works great for me on a crazy Monday.  Tomorrow I will be working a middle school book fair, picking my daughter up early from school to visit the special needs campus where she volunteers to deliver a Valentine gift and cards, picking up lunch for us both, dropping her back at school, meeting a plumber at my house to unclog a drain, driving car pool after school, then taking and picking my daughter up from dance class.  It is not a day for a complicated menu!  So, what are you doing to make the day special for the people you love?  I would love to hear all about it...

Recipe:  Garlic Roasted Asparagus  Preheat oven to 350.   Wash and pat dry 1 bunch of fresh asparagus.  Bend a stalk of asparagus gently and allow it to "snap" into two pieces.  You can then use this piece to as a guide for cutting the other pieces in bunches, but I prefer to snap each one indiviudally.  It doesn't make any difference to the taste, I just like snapping the pieces.  It's addictive, kind of like bubble wrap...snap, snap, SNAP!  Discard the ends.  Spread out the tips on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and minced garlic.  Toss gently, and spread out again in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Bake until asparagus turns bright green (about 5-10 minutes, depending on size of asparagus spears).

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crawfish Pepper Jack Cream Soup and 20 Year Date Nut Bars

A couple of years after Mark and I were married, we realized that we would both be working on Valentine's Day evening.  We were in college at the time, and working several part time jobs.  I wanted our Valentine's Day to be special and romantic, so I decided to make him a candlelight Valentine Breakfast.  I found a heart shaped muffin tin, and got up early to make muffins and scrambled eggs to serve with fresh fruit and coffee.  I set the table with a beautiful lace tablecloth, lit the candles and woke him up for the surprise.  He loved the idea so much, that we have continued the tradition for over 20 years, now sharing it with our children.  I don't always make heart shaped muffins; some years, I have made cinnamon rolls with pink icing, cream cheese stuffed French toast, cherry turnovers or a breakfast casserole (see my previous blog for that recipe).  What doesn't change is that I set the table, using our best placemats, napkins and dishes, add a small gift and/or heart shaped box of candy and light some candles.  Since it is so crowded at restaurants on Valentine's Day, we rarely go out for dinner.  Instead, I prepare a second candlelight meal!  After all, if one candlelight meal is romantic and special, imagine how the people you love will feel about having TWO on the same day!  Like my Valentine breakfast menu, the dinner menu changes.  I have made steak, beef stroganoff, lasagne, stuffed shrimp and other family favorites.  This year, I was asked to provide Valentine recipes for our local newpaper's food section.  I included the previously posted breakfast casserole, along with my Crawfish Pepper Jack Cream Soup and 20 Year Date Nut Bars.  Served with a salad and bread, they make a great Valentine feast.  I developed the soup recipe after tasting a soup with the same name at the Times Bar and Grill in Slidell, Louisiana.  I searched for a date bar recipe for 20 years like Mark's grandmother used for make when he was a child, and finally found a winner in one of Joanne Fluke's mysteries featuring Hannah Swenson, the fictional owner of a cookie store in Minnesota.  I hope you enjoy them both!

Crawfish Pepper Jack Cream Soup
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
½ medium bell pepper, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
½ stick (4 Tbsp.) butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups (1 quart) half and half
12 oz. pkg. cooked crawfish tail meat (thawed and drained, but not rinsed; coarsely chopped)
12 oz. Monterrey Pepper Jack Cheese, grated
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Saute onion, celery, bell pepper and carrots in butter for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.  Add flour, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne, and stir constantly for 2 minutes.  Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium and whisk in half and half.  Add crawfish.  Do not allow mixture to boil. Stir occasionally, and lower heat as needed to keep from boiling.  Cook for 15 minutes on medium low heat.  Add pepper jack cheese, and stir until melted.  Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Serves 4-6, if served as a meal with salad and bread.

20 Year Date Nut Bars
(Preheat oven to 350, rack in the middle position)
8 oz. pkg. pitted dates, coarsely chopped
1 and ½ cups orange juice
2 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 and ½ cups softened butter (3 sticks)
2 cups Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
½ cup shredded coconut (for topping)
In a medium sized saucepan, combine the dates and the orange juice.  Do not cover.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Move the saucepan to a cool burner and let it cool.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Mix it thoroughly.  Cut in the softened butter with a pastry blender, or two knives until the resulting mixture is crumbly. (You can also do this with a food processor and cold butter cut into pieces.  Use the steel blade in an on and off motion until the mixture is crumbly).  Stir in the oats, coconut and nuts.  Mix thoroughly.  Spray a 9 x 13 cake pan with a non-stick cooking spray.  Measure out 4 cups of the oat mixture and set it on the counter to use for topping.  Press the remainder of the oat mixture in the bottom of your baking pan.
Spread the date mixture evenly over the crust to within a quarter-inch of the edges.  Sprinkle the date mixture with the remaining oat mixture.  Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup coconut on the top and pat it down gently.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, or until light golden brown on top.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  When completely cool, cut into bars.  Store them in a tightly covered container.  Makes 36 bars.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baked Parmesan Chicken Breasts, Valentine Photo Magnets, Kitchen Clutter Challenge

It's Super Bowl Sunday, and I don't know for sure what time the game starts.  I'm sure my DH does, and he will probably watch most, if not all, of the game, but we are not die hard football fans.  I invited my sister, Ginny, over to watch the game, but she declined.  We are not serious enough football fans for her!  She will enjoy her wings and the game without any potential distractions from my less than committed-to-football family.  I hope that you have a great day, whether you are watching the game or not.

Recipe:  Baked Parmesan Chicken Breasts  This recipe is hands down my kids' favorite chicken dish.  The fact that it is so easy is a bonus for me!  Thaw four boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.  Preheat oven to 375.  Melt 1 stick of butter or margerine and place in a shallow bowl.  Mix 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1 and 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs, and 1 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash Garlic Herb Blend Seasoning together on a shallow plate.  Dip each chicken breast in the melted butter and then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture.  Place in a 9 x 13 baking dish that has been sprayed with Pam, and repeat with remaining chicken breasts.  Press any remaining  breadcrumb mixture onto the top of each chicken breasts.  Drizzle remaining melted butter over chicken breasts and bake, uncovered for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
This can be served with a couple of vegetables, or with spaghetti and marinara sauce for an easy Chicken Parmesana.

Craft Idea:  Valentine Refrigerator Magnets  I made these for my parents and Mark's parents for Valentine's Day when our kids were little.  Of course, I made a set for Mark and me to enjoy as well!  If you can find a box of the message valentine candy with a heart shaped window already cut out, the project will be a little easier.  If you can't, just use a craft knife or pair of scissors to carefully cut out a heart shape to frame your photo.  A sheet of clear plastic or cellophane will protect the photo, but isn't essential.   Remove the candy from the box, and tape the photo inside.  I used scrapbook adhesive, because it lasts for years and is photo safe.  Add a personal message to the back, and two strips of magnetic tape (available at office or educational supply stores).  This was a favorite gift for the grandparents, and my magnets have lived on my refrigerator for ten years!

Housekeeping Challenge:  Clear the clutter off your kitchen counters.  If you don't use it every day, or almost every day, it doesn't need to be on your counters.  Find another spot to store seldom used small appliances. Put food away, and if it is not a kitchen item, don't take up valuable counter space.  If you have a small kitchen like I do, with no kitchen "desk", find somewhere else to put the clutter, and save your kitchen for cooking.  Put up a hook to hold your keys or purse, find another spot for the mail, charge your phones in another room.  This is an ongoing challenge for me, but look how nice my kitchen looks when I clear away the clutter!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Southwestern Chicken Vegetable Soup, Making Special Photos the Focal Point, Front Door Challenge

I have a confession to make.  I burn bread.  Frequently.  I burn toast, biscuits, cornbread, and even the occasional batch of muffins or cookies.  I have done this for all 25 years of my adult life.  Once, my husband called a local cooking radio program to ask the host, David Wade, why I always burned the biscuits.  Mr. Wade was kind enough to suggest that it was the fault of the oven, but since we have had four different ovens in three different homes since then, I think it must be me.  I was less than thrilled when one of Mark's friends called our house later that day and said, "I hear you always burn the biscuits."  So what homemaking task is your burned biscuits?

The recipe below is a great, easy meal served with cornbread (especially if the cornbread isn't burned!)
Recipe:  Southwestern Chicken Vegetable Soup  In a crockpot or medium stockpot combine 2 chicken breasts (cooked and cubed--I sometimes use one package Oscar Meyer Deli Fresh Grilled Chicken Strips, regular or southwestern, cut into bite-sized pieces), 2-3 cups chicken broth, 1 large or two small cans Veg-all mixed vegetables, 1 can chopped tomatoes, 1 cup mild salsa, and 1/2 pkg taco seasoning.  Simmer for a half hour on stove, or 2-3 hours on high/3-4 hours on low in crockpot.

Scrapbooking Tip:  Focal point photo  In most of my layouts, there is one photo I want to draw attention to because it is my favorite photo, or it just tells the story or conveys the emotion better than the other photos.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Double or triple matting the photo, while leaving the others unmatted or with a single mat is one of the simplest ways.  Using a patterned mat while the other photos have solid colored mats or vice versa, is another way to draw the eye to a particular photo.  Ditto for using a different colored mat or oversized mat.  Cropping the photo(s) in another shape, such as a circle or oval adds interest to your layout as well as drawing attention the to photo(s) you select.  When appropriate, consider silhouetting (cutting around the outline of the figure in the photo)--this is a technique I use sparingly; done well, it can look fabulous.  Done poorly, it can look cheesy.  Place an single large embellishment on or near one or more of the corners of the photo.  What do you do to emphasize a favorite photo in a layout?  I would love to hear your ideas...

Homemaking challenge:  Clean your front door  Go outside and take a good look at your front door/entry area/porch.  Does your door need to be dusted or cleaned?  Porch swept?  Dead leaves removed from plants? Welcome mat shaken out or replaced?  Do you need to add a wreath, plant or other welcoming touch?  So many of us enter our homes through a garage or side door that we don't realize what kind of welcome our guests receive when they come to the front door.  So, clear away those cobwebs and make the glass shine!

Have a wonderful day!  Lisa