Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Impossible Pie!

Hello, everybody! I'm baaaaaack! I've got a recipe my sister told me about. I wasn't too thrilled about the title because I already have enough trouble with the POSSIBLE recipes. But, I decided to give it a whirl.
 Photo credit:
Here's the recipe I used at allrecipes. I should have read the reviews first, because after I got started, I read that almost everyone who was thrilled with the pie added MORE coconut and FEWER eggs. But it turned out all right.
(Frankenstein, Universal Studios, 1931)
Before everyone who is dieting grabs their pitchforks, lights the bonfire, and ties me to the stake- let me just say this pie is supposed to be healthy. Wait, that's not right. It's supposed to be low calories. No... wait, still not it. I think the deal is that the sugar and the protein are balanced, and therefore your body doesn't grab all the sugar and run wild with it. (Did I get that right, Susie?)

  The original recipe is:
 2 cups milk
1 cup coconut
4 eggs
6 TBS margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg

But you know me (or you should by now) and I made a few changes... not because I'm overly confident in the kitchen and think I know better, but because I didn't have nutmeg or vanilla. (I KNOW! What on earth happened in my pantry?? The vanilla and nutmeg sprites came by and cleaned me out.)

 So, I substituted a little cinnamon for the nutmeg and maple for the vanilla. (Hey, my options were cloves and peppermint.)  You throw all these ingredients into the blender. Really, just lob them in.  Hit the button. Then pour it into the pie pan.
(Good heavens. This is the point where I almost gave up. Two pans? Three? Down the drain?)
 I doubled the recipe because I'm deep-down an optimistic person and if it's a winning recipe, I wan there to be TWO delicious pies! Unfortunately, as I was pouring the mix into the pans, I started thinking about those eggs. Don't eggs fluff up? Won't these spill over? Am I dooming my nice, clean oven? I put them in, put a cookie sheet underneath (WHERE ARE THE COOKIE SHEETS?) and hoped for the best. As usual, I've realized it's Tuesday at the very end of Tuesday, specifically coming back from the library where I was working on edits.
 So, I couldn't wait around to see if the pies were going to go all Mt. Vesuvius on my oven. I had little kids to put in bed, since it was already an hour past their bedtime.
There... Done. Small people tucked in. Now for the great "pie watch".
While we wait, we can just chat. Pull up a chair, I'll make some coffee. We can talk about... life.
  Is it just me, or do you guys ever get the sense that we're all just a few steps behind? (Or for me, a whole day behind.) I just read an article where a psychologist and a physicist declared we were actually living in the past, perpetually, with no chance of escape. How? You see, we  process the world around us a fraction of a second after something has happened, so we never do live in the present... ever.
 It made me feel better. I will NEVER CATCH UP so I'm just going to stop trying! I love science.
Speaking of other wonderful things, don't you love this art by Kristy Zink? I gave away a picture like this on my blog, and she sent me one, too! I think these Austen girls are soooo cute! Now I have to find the perfect frame!
Well, that went fast. Maybe because we got lost on etsy... But the oven timer went off and I peeked... afraid of what I would see! Some reviews said it took almost 2 hours to cook, and they were still liquid in the center. Mine look... not too bad! I think I'll take them out to cool. And miracle, the oven did not get the Mt. Vesuvius treatment!

But getting it out of the pan proved difficult, even after waiting about half an hour. I think this is one of those dishes where we need to distract the guests with a pretty tea cup or two.
All in all, definitely not an "Impossible Pie" in terms of difficulty and it was delicious tasting... but not great for presentation. I would give it a 5 if there was a Pie scale universally used in the cooking world.
  So, I say if you're ever in the mood to make a pie in a blender, this here's your recipe! Or, if you're weighing carbs against sugar, this is a good way to go. Otherwise, a fruit pie, a flan, or even a coconut pie might be a better choice.
 Maybe it will be better after a night in the fridge? I'll let you know after I have a piece for breakfast!
Until next time!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit...

I love me some pinto beans. And I can make a mean pot of them (recipe here). But when there's a special occasion, I like to change them up a little bit. So when I saw the Pioneer Woman cookin' up these Cowboy Beans, I knew I had to give them a try. They're like the best of pintos and the best of baked beans all in one pot.

Ree's recipe makes a HUGE batch, so I cut it half.

To make this yummy goodness, you'll need:
  • 2 cups dry pinto beans
  • half a pound of thick cut bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • half an onion, chopped
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Now I ask you, with ingredients like that, how could this be bad?
(I know, Kav, we lost you at bacon. Sorry, girl.)

Rinse the beans under cold water and set aside.

In a heavy pot, saute the bacon pieces until halfway cooked and the fat is rendered. That just sounds wrong, doesn't it? But instead of sauteing the veggies in butter, we're gonna use the good stuff. 

Add the bell peppers and onion to the pot and cook until they start to brown.
Mine aren't quite there yet.

Add the beans and cover with water by one inch. Bring to a boil, then add the brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, chili powder, salt, pepper and garlic.
Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until beans are tender and the liquid is thick (3-4 hours).

Oh...let me tell you, the flavor infused in these babies is Y.U.M.M.Y. The perfect accompaniment to barbecued brisket or just about any slab of meat you want to throw on the grill. 

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the finished product. Remember that birthday party I threw myself? 
Yeah, they were for that. 

However I do have something else to share with you. You know, it's not very often someone has a fire truck pull up in front of their house. At least, I hope not. 
So imagine my surprise when I peered out my office window yesterday as the big red truck came to stop in front of our house. Not to mention the two nice-looking firemen that emerged from said truck, but we won't go there. 

No matter how old I get, this is one of those things that I think is kind of awesome. 
I only wish I'd hit record sooner.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Spring Salad

What a doozy of a winter this has been!

First we had this:

And then this:

Some more of this:

And plenty of this:

But now we're finally ready for some of this:

Sunshine and visiting the "boys on the hill." Now, this is what I call spring!

And spring means salads galore. Fruit, veggies, more veggies, more fruit....

Here's a simple salad I made for Easter dinner.

Spring Salad


Spring lettuce mix, or spinach, or a combination
Feta Cheese
Slivered almonds
Raspberry Vinaigrette salad dressing

Throw everything together in a big bowl (amounts according to your taste), and toss well.

Is that easy-peasy, or what?

I used this Maple Grove Farms Sugar Free Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing I buy from Walmart, but any brand would do.

Or you can make your own with a tablespoon of minced onion, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon raspberry flavoring and a few frozen raspberries thrown in for color. Refrigerate for several hours before using.

The salad was scrumptious, and since we were eating with some folks from church at our pastor's home, the company was delightful.

Enjoy your spring days, everyone!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kitchen Redo

You may have heard me say that I feel like I've been treading water since Christmas and, well, my kitchen is part of the reason why. 

Here we were, chugging merrily along. Sure my faux painted walls were getting old and ugly and we weren't fond of the black, granite-tile counter top. It showed every little speck of dirt and those grout lines were a pain. 

But we'd worry about that in a few years when we sold the house.
(See, there's always a pair of shoes laying around somewhere)

Then, the tiles started coming off. Not only was it very unsightly, working around it was a challenge. So we decided it was time to bit the bullet and move forward with new solid-surface counter tops. 

We studied the pros and cons of each, as well as price, and decided to go with the Silestone Quartz. 
And definitely not black.

The counter top would be installed and we'd be on our way.

Uh...not quite. 
When they installed the granite tiles, for some odd reason they used two layers of Hardy Backer. Which raised the level of the counter top. So when it was removed and the new installed, we were left with this.
Yep, about a one half to three quarter inch gap between the counter and the back splash.
Naturally, we had no spare tiles, and we would have needed a bunch anyway, so we searched different stores for similar tiles, hoping we could just fix it. After all, we liked our back splash.

After an exhaustive search (all during revisions and edits of my upcoming release), my husband looked at me and said, "Well, we may as well go ahead and get a new back splash, too."

Okay, maybe this is wrong, but inside I was doing a little happy dance when he said this.
So another search ensued for the perfect back splash. And mind you, we're selling our house in three years, so we had to look at things from a resale perspective. 

But, wait... This also meant I was going to have to paint the kitchen. Not just paint, but texturize, then prime, then paint. 

I love to paint. I really do. But since I had done the faux finish over existing wallpaper and I wanted a single color this time, I figured I'd add some texture. You know, smearing joint compound on your walls with some sort of spreading tool, hoping you get the right look.
Had I ever done this before?
No. But I'm a DIYer. How hard can it be? (You know where I'm coming from, don't you, Virginia?)

I know you can't really see anything but the white here but, personally, I think I did a horrible job on the texture. Maybe I'm my own worst critic, but it could have been better.

But, after four months, the kitchen is finally complete.
I don't usually have flowers on my island, but hubby gave them to me for Easter and they're so pretty.

Things are lighter and brighter.
It's kind of hard to see with all my stuff on the counters, but the mosaic is only solid over the stove.
The rest is a strip with subway-style tumbled marble above and below.

And best of all, this new counter top hides everything. I kid you not. Sometimes I can't tell something is there unless I run my hand over it or the light hits it just right.

In the end, it was worth it. Yeah, the timing could have been better, but at least it's done.
And hopefully, in a few years, someone else will love it as much as we do.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Zumba and Ice Cream

Missy, here. I wanted to show you something I just discovered that is AMAZING.

It has the richest, creamy chocolate flavor. I was so surprised! I saw the "Carb Smart" and thought it would be a poor imitation of ice cream.

I was wrong!

It's not too bad on the nutrient panel either.

Today is an odd post. I don't have a recipe to share. Just the new discovery for a way to eat chocolate ice cream. :) And also wanted to share that since Mindy inspired many of us with this post (click here), I've started going to Zumba classes again.

A friend from my church and ladies Bible study group has just been certified and is teaching us at her home.

I wanted to share her gorgeous back yard! It's amazing. I could go and just spend all day there. So, for your enjoyment... a walk through her garden...

My friend is whipping us all into shape! I'm slowly but surely building up stamina with the dancing. And having so much fun doing it! (I'm also thankful there are NO mirrors.) :)

Have any of you tried Zumba? Anyone else been working to get healthier since Mindy's post?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chicken and Roasted Artichoke Lasagna

He is risen, Alleluia!!!!

:)  Oh happy day......

Okay, some Easter cuties to start with:

The Jamison boys, Elijah, Finn and Xavier.....

And then below you have Logan, MacKenzie and hey! There's Elijah again!

Here's a new twist on an old favorite, and I made this for our Easter buffet:  It was a THUMB'S UP, but we decided we could do it even better.... So I'm giving you the "better" recipe, slightly tweaked, using less pasta than I used (made the layers too dry) and more cream cheese than the recipe I adapted.

What you end up with is an amazingly delicious "hot dish" casserole/lasagna, worthy of taking and serving anywhere!

3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or diced
2 large cans artichoke hearts or one large jar from Sam's/B.J.'s/Costco
3 cups Parmesan cheese
4 8 oz. packages cream cheese
3 cups mozzarella cheese
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons garlic powder or granulated garlic
3 Tablespoons parsley
12 ounces of lasagna noodles, cooked al dente

Cut artichoke hearts into bite-sized pieces, sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and roast in 350° oven until cheese melts and turns golden, about 15 minutes.

Mix Cream cheese, milk, garlic and parsley together with mixer until well blended. Cover bottom of 13"x9" pan with thin layer of sauce.

I cut up the cream cheese and warmed it in the microwave first....

Then I added this stuff:

Mix chicken, roasted artichokes, 1 cup Parmesan cheese 2 cups mozzarella cheese together.

Spoon or pour enough of the cheesey milky sauce over the bottom of the pan.
Lay 3 lasagna noodles side by side in the sauce.

Spread one-third of chicken mix over lasagna noodles. Ladle some sauce over. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan. Repeat, ending with final layer of lasagna noodles. Pour remaining sauce over top.

Then more noodles:

Then more chicken/cheese/artichoke mix:

This is where I goofed, I should have just inundated this baby with the cheesy sauce but I thought NO!!! ADD MORE MOZZARELLA!!!!

Which ended up being too rubbery at serving time and the mozzarella kind of negated all the lovely cheese sauce I poured over the top because it MERGED....

So I won't add that thick mozzarella again. I promise.

(Can be refrigerated at this time until ready to bake, great do-ahead recipe!)

Bake at 350° for about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. Mine was thicker so it took longer, but also those extra 4 oz. of cooked lasagna noodles affected the cheesiness....


I had half a bag of spinach in the fridge, so I pulled off the stems, steamed them in a ladle of chicken broth from cooking the chicken breasts, and then "squeezed" the liquid out of the spinach, and tossed it in. I really loved the spinach in there, and everyone else voted YES to spinach, so add lightly cooked spinach to this recipe and you will not be sorry.

You will be SO happy.

Like delirious, maybe.

Yes. I mean it.

I took it out of the oven and gave it a ten minute rest time (gave us time to slice the beef and ham from the oven) and it was LOVELY.....

Looked great. Tasted better.

The things I did wrong:

I added a thick layer of mozzarella to the top. That made the top less cheesey, smushy, goodnessy so don't do that. We voted the thick mozzarella down and kicked it to the curb.

You don't have to roast the artichokes. I liked doing it, it made me feel like a kitchen queen, (WHERE'S MY CROWN????)

Some Easter pics that made me smile:

Jello Jiggler Eggs with the mold Grandma was getting rid of!!! OH WHAT A GREAT FIND THAT WAS!!!! HAPPY CHILDREN ABOUNDED ON EASTER SUNDAY!

Emma (a storyteller already), Dave (a character!) and Anna.... Adorable!

And here's Mary Ruth!!!

A house full of cuties!!!! The chocolate wasn't bad, either!!!  :)