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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Garlic Cheese Biscuits, Title Placement, Michelle's Recipe File Idea

One of my favorite cookbook authors, Christy Jordan of  "The Southern Plate",  posted a marvelous quote on Facebook a few days ago:  "There are always flowers for those who wish to see them."~Henri Matisse.  I love this quote!  So much of my contentment and happiness in life depends on how content or happy I choose to be; if I focus on the positve, I am much happier, even though my circumstances are the same.  I have been reading the book of Philippians every day this month (okay, almost every day) and Paul's joy and contentment are so evident.  Sometimes I find myself complaining about silly things when people ask me how I am doing.  For some reason, I have a hard time saying "I am great!  I have a God who loves me, a wonderful husband who still rocks my world after 24 years, two beautiful, smart, healthy children, a comfortable home and good health."  It sounds like bragging.  So, instead, I come up with some minor thing to complain about.  And I probably come across as being negative, which doesn't really show who I am and how I feel.  So, from now on, I am going to try to answer people who ask me how I am doing with a heartfelt, "Great!  How are you?"

The recipe for today can turn a simple soup or salad into a memorable meal--it's that good!
Recipe:  Garlic Cheese Biscuits Preheat oven to 450.  Mix together 2 cups Bisquick, 2/3 cup milk, 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and 1/8 tsp. garlic powder until a soft dough forms.  (I use Heart Healthy Bisquick  with excellent results.  If you don't have Bisquick, simply use 2 cups of flour with 1 Tbsp. of  baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt).  Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.  While biscuits are baking, stir together 2 Tbsp. melted butter or margerine and 1/8 tsp. garlic powder.  Brush butter mixture over the tops of warm biscuits. Makes about 9 biscuits.  I sometimes eliminate the garlic in the butter mixture and add cooked crumbled bacon to the dough to make a great breakfast biscuit to serve with scrambled eggs, although my family prefers them with the extra garlic and no bacon.  I, however, think bacon makes everything better!  Make them both and decide for yourself!

Scrapbooking Tip:  Move that title around!  I was looking through this month's edition of Creating Keepsakes and fell in love with a winter snow layout.  I couldn't figure out what in particular drew my eye so much to this layout, and finally it hit me.  It was the title placement.  The title was in the lower left hand corner, something I almost never do.  I usually run my titles across the top, down the left hand side or in the upper left hand corner.  By placing the title in the lower left hand corner, my attention was captured.  Such a simple idea, but one I don't typically do.  This is a perfect example of why I love to look at other people's scrapbook pages--they give me great ideas and encourage me to get out of design ruts.

Homemaking Idea: Recipe file box  A couple of  years ago, my friend Michelle was looking through some of her recipes and planning what to cook for her church's Wednesday evening meal.  I noticed she had a file folder labeled "Salads".  I asked if she had her recipes in file folders and she said, "Yes!  Please tell me you are not still folding 81/2 x 11 sheets of paper to fit in one of those little file card recipe boxes."  I sheepishly admitted that yes, I was, even though most of my recipes were on larger sheets of paper.  The very next day, she brought me 12 of the most beautiful floral file folders so that I could start my own large size recipe file.  I bought a red, fabric covered file box for storage and I have used this system ever since.  I love it!  Thanks, Michelle.  Some people have the gift of giving, and you definintely do!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and that you see flowers!  Love, Lisa

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stuffed Bell Peppers, Scrapbooking with Few or No Photos, Routines

Spent the last 24 hours with my 8 year old niece, Katie, and didn't take a single picture.  Rats!  I seem to do this a lot with family members I don't see all that often.  Another niece, Lauren, came to visit a while back and I didn't take any pictures of her, either. Ditto for Mark's brother's visit and my brother's visit.  I tend to take pictures at holidays or special events with the kids, but when it comes to those family members I don't see as often I want to spend every minute they are with me catching up.  That's not a bad thing; I never want my photography/scrapbooking to take the place of sitting back and enjoying the moment.  But when I look through my scrapbooks, these precious family members are under-represented.  And don't even get me started on the under-representation of friends!  Luckily, my daughter snapped a couple of pictures of Katie playing dress up in one of Darby's old dance costumes.  I can feature one or two photos in the scrapbook and count on journaling to tell about the rest of our day with Katie.  So, this leads to...
Scrapbooking Tip:  Creating pages with limited or no photos  Sometimes we only have one photo from a special event, or even none.  Don't let that keep you from scrapbooking an important event.  Use memorabilia, if you have it.  For our recent anniversary, Mark and I went out to dinner and to see Al Jarreau in concert.  We had a marvelous time, but I only have one photo that our daughter took of us before we went out, because photos were not allowed during the concert.  I still plan to do   a two page layout, though.  I will enlarge the one photo to a 5 x7 and double or triple mat it, include our ticket stubs, and make a color photo copy of the CD insert that Al Jarreau autographed for us.  I don't have a photo of us with him, but I can use journaling to tell the story of how close our seats were, how wonderful the show was, and how gracious he was when we met him.  We only had a couple photos from Mark's mother's 80th birthday and Darby's All City Concert.  I used similar colors to tie the two pages together, even though I didn't have enough photos from either event to do a two page spread.

Recipe:  Stuffed Bell Peppers Preheat oven to 350.  Put on a large pot of water to a boil. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown 1 lb. ground turkey (or beef) with 1 small chopped onion.  While meat is browning, cut four bell peppers in half lengthwise, removing seeds and membranes.  Boil peppers for 5 minutes, remove, drain and place cut sides up in 9 x 13 glass dish (I like to use a mixture of red, yellow and green).  Add 2 cups cooked rice to meat and onion mixture.  Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cumin to taste.  Add 3/4 can tomato sauce (about 6 oz.), reserving the remainder.  Fill peppers with meat mixture.  To reserved tomato sauce, add 1/2 cup ketchup.  Spoon tomato/ketchup sauce over the meat mixture in each pepper, a bake in 350 oven for 20 minutes.  Serves four to eight, depending on appetite and what else you are serving.

Homemaking Tip:  Daily Routines  A lot of housekeeping experts talk about the importance of daily routines, and I heartily agree!  Every single day, I get dressed (including makeup, hair fixed, jewelry and shoes) before I leave the house to take the kids to school.  This is only partly because I am afraid I will get into an accident and be caught looking my worst in pajamas, with no makeup on.  If I need to make a quick stop at the grocery store, I can do so without worrying about who I might run into!  If I plan to excercise, I still apply light makeup--I am a southern girl, through and through.  As  soon  as  I  get home, I make up the beds, get some laundry going, do the breakfast dishes, and pick up any stray items.  By 10:00, the house looks reasonably good.  If someone drops by, or if I have errands to run the rest of the day, I know that our home is in pretty good shape.  The rest of the day I can focus on more serious cleaning, organizing, laundry,etc.  I feel better because every time I pass the mirror I don't groan at my appearance.  I swear I have more energy when I am dressed and looking presentable.  My nightime routine includes making sure the kitchen is spotless (who likes to greet the day with a messy kitchen?), a look at my calendar to see what appointments I might have, and some thinking about what I will cook for dinner the next night.  I can put meat in the fridge to thaw, beans on to soak, and check if I need anything from the grocery store.  When I skip these routines, it makes a big difference. When I was working full time, an important routine to me was making sure the coffee maker was ready to go, so that in the morning, I could stagger in and hit the switch.  I tried to leave the kitchen clean before I left the house each day, so that when I got home after a long day and everyone was starving, I could get started right away on dinner without having to do dishes first.  And, I made the bed as soon as I got home.  This may seem kinda silly at 5 pm, but I love to climb into a made bed at night, and making the bed makes the whole room seem cleaner, in my opinion.  Do you have any routines that have made life a little easier or your home more pleasant?  I would love to hear them...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Twists, Birthday Card, Trip to Corsicana

I did something that felt positively decadent a few days ago.  I spent a whole day having fun!  After dropping the kids off at school, I drove about 90 miles to meet my friend, Leah, who moved to Temple last summer, halfway between our homes.  Corsicana, TX is not a large town, but we found plenty to do.  We met at the famous Collin Street Bakery for coffee and a danish (mine was cream cheese and pecan, and divine!).  We spent about an hour just catching up.  I gave her the card I had made for her birthday, and we went to check out a scrapbook supply store we had heard about called  "Scrappin' Good Time" and browsed the selection of  scrapbook  tools and embellishments. I found some great card making supplies for Valentine's Day, as well as some fun pet-themed paper.  The owner was very friendly, and we were thrilled to learn that she will be opening a scrapbook retreat center in Corsicana this spring!  It will be a perfect spot for us to get together and catch up on each other's lives and our scrapbooks!  After we left the store, we browsed an antique mall and then went to a cafe to attempt to eat a monster portion of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, butter beans and peach cobbler.  It was southern cooking at it's best.  We rolled ourselves out of the cafe' and said our goodbyes--she made it to Temple and I made it to Tyler just in time to pick up our kids from school.  On the way there and back, I listened to Janet Evanovich's "Four to Score"; one of my favorite books on CD.  The family and my home survived me being away for a whole day, and it was such a welcome break from my usual routine.  I'm thinking this is something Leah and I should do every few weeks...
Recipe:  Cinnamon Sugar Breakfast Twists  Preheat oven according to directions on one package of Pillsbury's Original Breadsticks.  Separate dough into individual breadsticks. Melt 1/2 stick of butter or margerine in a shallow dish.  Pull 1 side of each breadstick through melted butter, and then dip that side into a shallow dish of  a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Twist breadstick and place on cookie sheet.  Repeat with other breadsticks and bake until golden brown.  This is one of my kids' favorite breakfast treats--mine, too!
It is almost midnight, and I have to get up early tomorrow, so that's all for tonight.  I hope you have a chance soon to spend a day having fun!  Lisa

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Raspberry-Chipotle Pimento Cheese Dip, Single Page Layouts, Laundry and a Movie

Good morning!  The scrapbook retreat last weekend was a little less than perfect.  Memory Lane Inn in Tyler was WONDERFUL, but, for a variety of reasons, none of our group was able to stay the whole weekend; and none of us got as many pages done as we had hoped.  However, any time spent with good friends is worthwhile, and I am looking forward to the next one!  My pal, Leah, wasn't able to join us, but I am meeting her at a scrapbook store in Corsicana later this week, and taking her out to lunch for her birthday.  My next scheduled scrapbook retreat is in July, where I will be meeting 11 friends and family members at Memory Lane Inn in McKinney.  One of the best things about going on these retreats is realizing how much I miss my family when I am away for a few days; there is really no one I would rather spend my days with than Mark, Darby and Douglas!  This past weekend, I made a snack for us that has become a new favorite for me:
Recipe:  Raspberry-Chipotle Pimento Cheese Dip  Spread 1 small container pimento cheese spread on a small serving plate. (I like Leigh Oliver's Spicy Pimento Cheese or Gouda Pimento Cheese, but any store bought or homemade pimento cheese spread will do).  Sprinkle on 2 T. toasted pecans (optional).  Spread 1/8 - 1/4 cup Raspberry-Chipotle Sauce over the top of the pimento cheese (I used Bronco Bob's brand).  Serve with crackers.

Scrapbooking Tip:  Paper selection for single page layouts On my recent retreat, I was working on three events that would be featured on two pages.  I had only three pictures from Halloween, one picture from a fall dance my daughter attended, and one picture of my son playing his trombone with a friend who was playing his clarinet.  I wanted the two pages to coordinate, so Halloween themed paper was out of the question.  I considered using black for the
background to tie the two pages together, but I just wasn't feeling it.  I began going through all my paper, and found the perfect fit.  It was a fall paper, with stripes of orange, cranberry and brown, with a light scroll pattern scattered throughout.  The orange tied in with our jack-o-lanterns, the cranberry picked up the color of my son's costume cape, and the brown scrolls mimicked the scroll of the iron bed in the background of one of the photos.  I used brown letters to title one side "Halloween" and the other side "Best Friends".  I had not considered this paper, because it didn't look like Halloween to me, but it was a great fit for this mixed group of photos.
Homemaking Tip:  Laundry/Movie date  I was dreading catching up on laundry after my recent four day getaway.  I usually do a couple of loads a day so that it doesn't pile up, but while I was out of town, it didn't get done.  I knew I had at least seven or eight loads to do, and that it would be just about all I would get done that day.  After I dropped the kids off at school, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up ingredients for soup I could make in the crockpot, and saw the video rental box.  I picked out two movies I had wanted to see, but no one else in my family was interested in seeing, got the soup and laundry going, and worked on folding and hanging clothes all day while I watched a couple of good movies.  The day flew by!  I'm thinking of making a laundry/movie day a weekly thing...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Easy Peach Cobbler, Scrapbooking Flexibility, Storing Cleaning Supplies, Upcoming Retreat

     Yesterday was my 44th birthday, and my 24th wedding anniversary.  Yes, I did get married on my 20th birthday!  We have had such a busy couple of weeks that I decided that instead of going out for my birthday, I would rather have takeout at home with my family, and spend the evening in my pajamas, in the recliner in front of the fireplace.  I may make this a birthday tradition; it was great!  We will celebrate our anniversary in a few days with dinner out and seeing Al Jarreau in concert.  God gave me the perfect partner when He brought Mark to me all those year ago!  I love you, honey!
      I was especially busy today with errands, housecleaning, laundry and packing FOUR DAY SCRAPBOOK RETREAT!  Yahooooooo!  I am staying at Memory Lane Inn in Tyler, Texas (my hometown).  I have stayed at the Memory Lane Inn in McKinney, Texas several times and loved every minute; I'm looking forward to checking out their new location!  Though the retreat site holds 18, my little group is only four: my best friend from college, Karina; her former neighbor and good friend, Suzanne; and my pal, Leslie, whose two year old triplets keep her on the run!  The other fourteen spots are booked; I'm curious to see if I will know any of the ladies there or if I will make some new cropping buddies on this stay.
     One of the things that was not so great this week was that our computer crashed.  It will take a couple of weeks for all of our photos and other files to be restored, but past experience has taught me that I will get them all back (LOVE Carbonite file backup service).  Of course, some of the photos I wanted to scrapbook on this weekends retreat could not be developed in time, so I am having to be flexible in what I am working on--fortunately, I have plenty of other photos to work with!  So, that leads into my
Scrapbooking Tip:  Be Flexible  Scrapbooking is not about perfection; it's about archiving precious memories of loved ones!  It's a great way to be creative and have fun.  If I obsess over photos I don't have, mistakes I make, layouts that don't turn out exactly as I hoped they would, I lose the JOY of making scrapbooks.  Without JOY, why do it?
Recipe:  Easy Peach Cobbler  Preheat oven to 350.  Place one stick or butter or margarine in an 8 x 11 glass pan  or 9 x 9 square glass pan.  Place dish in oven until butter is melted.  In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 tsp. baking powder.  Stir to combine.  Add 1 cup milk and stir.  Spoon mixture over melted butter in baking dish.  Pour a 16 oz. can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup over flour mixture.  Do not stir.  Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until peaches are bubbly and crust is lightly browned.  Serves 4. This cobbler has more of a cake-like texture than pie crust.  I like both kinds of peach cobbler equally well!  I learned how to make this kind from a friend's mom in high school. 
Homemaking Tip:  Cleaning supplies  I really don't like to have to carry a tote of supplies all over the house with me when I am cleaning, so I try to store some things at their point of use.  For example, I keep tub cleaner, toilet cleaner and brush, Clorox wipes and Windex in each bathroom (we have two).  Since we use paper towels on a pretty holder in each bathroom for drying our hands, I have everything I need to clean the bathroom nearby (except for the mop and floor cleaner).  Besides not having to carry the supplies around with me, I can also clean up messes as I see them, instead of putting it off because I don't have the supplies handy.
Signing off now, so I can finish packing for my retreat!  Love, Lisa

Monday, January 3, 2011

Beef Burger Noodle Bake, Journaling, Pantry Clean-out

Good morning!  Attended the first church service of the new year yesterday; so far, I have perfect attendance at church in 2011! Ha, ha!  I thoroughly enjoyed the sermon; we reviewed the blessings and answered prayers of 2010, made confession of areas of sin in our lives, and made a commitment to follow Jesus in 2011 with a specific plan. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way." (Psalm 139:23-24)
I feel like I have lots of "irons in the fire" this week: catching up on laundry and housework after a busy week last week, getting the kids settled back into school, preparing to go on a scrapbook retreat this weekend (yahoo!), and celebrating my birthday and anniversary.  How blessed I am!  Lots of laundry means I am surrounded by family and we have clothes to wear and a way to keep them clean.  Housework means I have a home to care for and people to share it with.  I am blessed to live in a country where my children can receive a free education.  I get to spend four days this weekend doing a hobby I love with friends I don't see often enough.  And I have been blessed with life these forty-four years, as well as twenty-four years of a happy marriage.  God is good!

Housekeeping challenge:  Clean out your pantry.  I just have a small pantry, and it gets out of control quickly.  I try to clean it out once a month or so, otherwise, I end up buying duplicates of things I already have multiples of, or I think I have something, and then realize I don't (usually right in the middle of preparing something!

Scrapbooking tip for the day:  Journaling  After the pictures, the most important element of a scrapbook to me is the journaling.  Tell the story!  Cute slogans or titles are fun, but they may lose their impact over time.  We think we will remember special moments forever, but we don't.  Write it down.  Tell what you were thinking and feeling that day; tell where you were, with whom, and why.

Recipe:  Beef Burger Noodle Bake  Cook an 8 oz. packagte of medium egg noodles as directed.  While noodles are cooking, brown 1 lb. ground beef or turkey with one small chopped onion.  Drain and return to pan.  Over medium low heat, add 2 cans tomato soup, an 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, 1 T. sugar, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp salt.  Heat for five minutes, then add cooked, drained noodles.  My friend, Karina, made this for me when I visited her several years ago, and I have made it for my family several times a year ever since.  It is one of my favorite "comfort" foods.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! Breakfast Casserole, Use-It-Up Scrapbook Challenge

This is a day when people are making and sharing their New Year's Resolutions.  What is it about this day that makes so many people make promises to themselves about improving their lives over blackeyed peas, cabbage and cornbread?  I think it's the feeling of a fresh start--a new calendar, back to work or school, holiday decorations put away, or a new perspectives gained from spending time with friends and family over the holidays that we may not see often during the rest of the year.  Some people have resolved to not make any New Year's resolutions.  Maybe they believe they won't keep them, or maybe they makes resolutions throughout the year and don't see New Year's Day as a reason to make new ones.  Whether you are making resolutions today or not, I hope 2011 is a wonderful year for you.  Here are some of my resolutions:
Family:  Be in the moment when I am with them.  Treasure every bit as the gift from God that it is.
Friends:  Work harder to maintain contact with people I care about.  Nurture both new and old friendships.
Finances:  Spend less, save more.
Health:  Eat less, excercise more.  Take vitamins.
Home:  Keep after it!  Finally hang the family photos that have been in a box for six years.
GOD:  Listen for His voice.  Go to church more.  Read my bible more.
I may not keep them all, but my life will be better for trying!
The recipe for today is a good one to make ahead on Saturday night for Sunday morning breakfast.  I can pop it in the oven and it cooks while I get ready for church.

Recipe:  Breakfast casserole In a large bowl, tear up three peices of bread, including crusts, into 1 in. pieces.  Add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, and 3/4 cup cooked crumbled bacon, sausage or ham.  In another bowl, mix together 1 cup milk, 4 eggs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp dry mustard.  Pour milk and egg mixture over bread mixture, tossing lightly.  Pour into a greased 9 x 9 square pan, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.  Serves four.  This can be doubled for a larger group, and baked in a 9 x 13 dish.

Scrapbooking Challenge:  If you are like me, you have LOTS of scrapbooking supplies.  You buy paper and embellishments that you hang on to for years, because you keep finding new stuff that you like even more!  I attended a weekend scrapbooking retreat last September and decided it would be my "Use It Up" retreat.  I brought $20 to spend on new supplies, but decided I would use what I already had.  Honestly, I was a little depressed at the thought, even though I knew our budget would thank me.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't like most of my pages.  Boy, was I pleasantly surprised.  I created some of my best pages ever!  It was actually FUN to finally use some of the paper, stickers, brads, etc. that I had been carting to crops for several years.  I even used some key tags I had originally purchased for labeling storage cubes in my daughter's room, but she decided she didn't need them!  I actually completed 38 pages, which is more than I usually finish at a 42 hour weekend crop--probably because I spent less time shopping.  I did buy some chalking inks and clearance paper, but I only spent about $14.  Since I do three weekend cropping getaways per year, I am thinking of having every September be my "Use It Up" retreat.  Or maybe, since this last one was so successful, I will adopt more of a "Use It Up" philosophy every time I crop!