Granola Galore!

I was trying to figure out, does the granola I make taste so good because I make it myself? Or is it really just that good?

I just wanted to make something healthy for myself to eat for breakfast. A friend had mentioned she made her own. She explained that her homemade variety had much less sugar than the commercial brands. That appealed to me and I figured if she could make her own, I could do the same. I bought a few ingredients and then looked for a recipe that fit the things I’d purchased. (I’m a little backwards that way sometimes.) I found one that worked, modified it to suit my own tastes and it turned out good! It was kind of pretty to look at too! I ate it for breakfast for a few days and decided it really was that good. Way better than the store-bought kind.

Heather tried it when she and Brad were here for the weekend and she loved it. I decided to make some for her to take back home. And then I realized my own batch was gone, so Sunday night I ended up making my third batch of homemade granola that week. Mark called home from work and asked what I was doing. When I explained about the granola he asked, “You’re not taking it all to work, are you?”

“Um, yeah. I was planning on it. Why?”

“I liked it. It’s good to snack on. Can you leave some at home?”

So that’s why it had disappeared so quickly!  I told Mark I’d leave some home for him. And before I could take my own container to work the next morning, Kacey poured herself a bowl and ate it before leaving for her own job. Who would have thought that my family of junk-food lovers would get so excited over my “healthy” food?

I’ve since replenished my supply of ingredients. Now Mark wants to know if I can make it into bars for easier snacking. Clearly I’ll be making more and doing so often!

Bake and stir and bake some more…

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans (or cashews or slivered almonds or a mixture of whatever nuts you like)
  • 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins (or golden raisins or dried cranberries or a combination any of these)

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color. Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

Mix in the raisins after the granola has cooled.

Pour in a bowl. Pour in some milk and enjoy!

And the world got a little smaller!

When I started writing a blog five years ago, I never would have guessed that the people who came by to read my stuff, the people whose stuff I’d make a routine of reading, would someday become people I would consider friends. I never imagined that. And furthermore, I never imagined I would meet these friends in person. But I have now actually had that privilege; several times. It is always an honor and always so fun to see my blog friends in person, to see live and in person those personality traits that are so easily displayed in their writing.

Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting Agg! He was in town for work but made time to squeeze in a visit with me. We made plans to go out for lunch at a place Agg was quite sure he’d read about on my blog, although I assured him it was not me who’d written a review. When he suggested we eat at The Nook, I was excited. I had seen a local news story on this little bar/restaurant a while ago. There had been a fire, and some ensuing renovations and then a grand reopening. It was while watching this news story that I learned this little corner place is locally famous for their burgers, the Juicy Nookie in particular! I made a note to self to go eat there sometime, but just hadn’t made it happen. Agg’s visit was the perfect excuse!

Agg arrived at my house in the late morning and let me just tell you, my very first impression was, “Holy cow, this man is TALL!”

I didn’t want to be rude though, and so I kept my thoughts to myself. (Agg, how tall are you anyway?) And just so you have some perspective, I am a tall woman at over 5′ 9″, so a person must be pretty tall to strike me as being very tall!

As Agg was getting out of his car, I came out to the driveway to greet him. You might think it would be awkward meeting in person when you’ve never done so before, but it wasn’t awkward at all! We hugged like old friends and then I hauled him inside to meet the members of the family who happened to be around. Brad and Heather were home for the weekend, and of course, Agg had to meet Lucy Pie and her pal, Dacotah! It was too early yet for lunch, so we had some coffee and swapped stories and Brad and Heather got to know Agg a little bit. And Agg is a great storyteller too. He swapped hunting tales with Brad and told us the stories of how his various dogs had come into his life. I hope someday that Agg will write on his blog the story of the dog who kept digging up  paving bricks and scattering them all over the yard! It is quite a comical tale!

Soon it was time to head to lunch and we all piled into my car and headed for St. Paul and The Nook!

Once inside, it was clear that there would be a wait for a table. The host informed me it would be a half-hour wait unless we cared to go down to the lower level where there was open seating. Everyone was agreeable, so we headed downstairs where the first thing we saw was the old school bowling alley!

I thought we might give the old school bowling a shot, but it just didn’t pan out. I definitely want to try it another time!

Just beyond the bowling alley was the bar and an area full of tables. There was an open spot for four and a friendly waitress quickly passed out menus. Brad, Agg and I all decided to try the famous Juicy Nookie. Heather opted for a Philly cheese steak style burger. We didn’t have to wait for long before our food was delivered, along with a warning from the waitress that the Juicy Nookies were extremely hot and that we should use caution before partaking.

I figured I could munch on my onion rings for a while and let the burger cool a bit. The onion rings were delicious – crispy and greasy as all good onion rings should be with thick rings of onion inside the delicious batter. After a few rings, I wanted to try that famous burger, so I threw caution to the wind and took a nice big bite. It was delicious, stuffed with cheese which exploded out the backside of the burger when I bit into it. MORE NAPKINS!

The conversation remained lively as we all enjoyed our burgers and more stories were shared about Agg’s various travels, his time in Germany, and experiences on the Autobahn! As we talked, we all noticed the ceiling of the bar. It was covered in dollar bills that had each been signed or personalized in some way before being stuck to the ceiling.

Agg asked the waitress the significance of the bills. I thought I’d heard her say there was another bar where people stuck money to the ceiling, but there was a bit of a challenge to it. She said someone decided to start doing it at The Nook. The ceiling is low and easy for most people to reach, and so the trend caught on quickly. (For the record, our little group left without parting with any dollar bills.)

Before we left the restaurant, I asked Agg if we could have our picture taken together. I reminded him that when he’d met Rock Chef, they’d failed to take a picture together and I wasn’t going to let him get away with that this time. He easily agreed!

After lunch, it was back to the house where Agg got to meet a few more family members, Mark and Jake. He also chose this time to bring in a few gifts. Lucy loved hers and refused to let Dacotah play with them at ALL!

Lucy is shown here with the rope toy Agg brought for her. Rope toys manage to survive quite well around here. The little stuffed duck with the squeaker inside? Didn’t last 20 minutes before the squeaker was dead and stuffing was being removed. I had to take it away!

Soon it was time for Agg to head back to the airport. I walked him out to his car and we talked about how fun it would be to meet with some of our other blog pals one day. I’m sure Agg will do so sooner than me, considering how well-traveled he is!

Thanks for the visit, Agg! We had a great time!

Learning to Relax

A few weeks ago I realized it was time for a change. I was at the end of my rope, due only to self-imposed expectations. Years ago, early in our marriage, I developed a need to clean the whole house every weekend. It wasn’t so difficult when I was home all day every day, but I carried that expectation on even as I went back to work full-time. Even as our kids got involved in sports and we sometimes spent entire weekends at some gym or ball field cheering them on in tournaments.

I realized recently that no one is making me do this clean-the-whole-house-in-one-day thing. It’s just me. I’m the only one who cares. No one else looks at the house the same way that I doAnd I was making myself crazy because every weekend I would waste precious free time and beautiful days stuck inside, cleaning. And I was making everyone else crazy because I was playing the martyr, refusing to delegate tasks and generally spending my weekends in a crabby mood. I don’t know why, but I wouldn’t allow myself to do a little bit this day and another little bit that day. It all had to be done at once.

For years this went on to the point that I began to dread weekends. I would talk about this to my friend, Lori at work, and she would ask why I thought I had to clean every week. I didn’t have any good answers. I don’t judge family and friends by the state of their homes. In fact, I feel more relaxed in the homes of people where things look a little more comfortable and lived in. Lori asked why I was holding myself to a higher standard and I couldn’t give her a good reason. And what really gave me a boost is when Lori said, you should see my kitchen. It’s always cluttered unless we’re having company.

I thought a lot about what Lori said and realized that I am tired of wasting precious weekends trying to get the house in a state that isn’t going to last more than a couple of days anyway. We have people coming and going at all hours in this house. With all of our varying schedules, with all of the kids’ friends coming and going all the time, the place just isn’t going to stay pristine. And maybe that’s why the kids’ friends like to come here. They know they can relax. They know they can go to the snack cupboard and help themselves. They know they can rumple up the living room in an evening and it’s okay with me.

I still want my house clean every week. I’m just going to teach myself to do it in phases. One thing this day, a couple of things the next. I’m going to remember to delegate a few things. And if there’s a little dust on the end tables, well, no one but me is really going to notice anyway. I mentioned this new plan to my mom, and she good-naturedly teased me. “Good luck with that, Sweetie.” She can laugh, but I think I can do this. Of course I’ll still do the cleaning frenzy thing when company’s coming, but I’m really going to try hard to make more of my weekends.

So I’ve managed to get through a couple of weeks with this new plan and new attitude and you know what? Weekends are fun again. I’ve found time to be with friends and family. I’ve found time to read. I’ve found time to soak up a few rays out on the deck. And I’ve found time to cook – really cook. Not some whip-it-together kind of meal, but an all day, relaxed preparation kind of meal. I’ve realized that doing fun things on the weekends is much more fun when I’m not mentally reminding myself of all the work that awaits me at home.

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Yeah. I think this is good.

The Week in Cell Phone Photos (and some video!)

It’s been an eventful week!

Miss Lucy Pie got herself a new pool. The story behind this is that I wanted to give her a bath one day when she came in with muddy paws. I tried to put her in the bath tub but she was having nothing to do with it. She leaped out of my arms before I could get her in and took off running as far away as she could get. Later, I had the idea that maybe a kiddie pool was the answer. And it was. On Sunday, after this video was taken, Lucy willingly let Kacey give her a bath in the pool.

Mothers Day and Kacey’s birthday fell on the same day. I’ve pretty much fallen off the cooking bandwagon, but wanted to make a birthday dinner that I knew my baby girl would enjoy. And she did!

Cheese-Stuffed Shells

Yum!

My kids gave me the coolest gift for Mothers Day! A customized cell phone cover. I’ve been looking for a new cover, but couldn’t find one I liked. This one? I love!

Lucy has laid claim to the area under the pine tree in the back yard. She loves to hang out there. It seemed a fitting place to put the garden stone my nephew, Matthew made her for Christmas. (He made one of these for all of the family dogs! Isn’t he creative?)

Lucy Pie’s Lounge

Belinda and I ventured out of the office Tuesday at lunch time. The food trucks travel around downtown St. Paul in the summertime and we walked to Mear’s Park to see what was good to eat. We found Lamb Gyro wraps – basically a gyro in a wrap instead of in flat bread. And they were delicious!

The Cave Cafe – I highly recommend!

And after work on Tuesday, B and I enjoyed a little happy hour with some current and former coworkers! FUN!

Mmmmm…. BEER!

File this one under the not really funny, except it is category. My mom broke her toe and ended up having to wear one of these boots. How did she break her toe? She was helping my dad put on the boot that he’s required to wear for his own foot injury. (Dad’s boot is much bigger than this one.)

The fashion at my parents’ house

And the happiest ending possible to my week … Kacey is home from college for the summer!

Now to figure out where to put it all until next fall!

Happy Friday, everyone!

In my Mom’s Kitchen

I love my mom’s kitchen. Not because it’s a fabulous kitchen. It’s pretty basic as far as kitchen’s go. It’s not that big either. You know how whenever you have company, it seems like everyone ends up in the kitchen? I’ve spent many a holiday at my parents’ house, helping prepare the meal while shooing nieces and nephews out to the living room and pushing my big little brothers out of the way. There’s barely room for Mom and her two daughters to work together, much less having to trip over the big feet of the big little brothers.

There’s a pantry in my mom’s kitchen. It’s not much of a pantry. It’s just a closet with some shelves in it. Inside, brown paper grocery bags are stacked on the floor and one paper bag stands open, stuffed with plastic bags. There are boxes of crackers and bags of chips. And there are recipes. My grandma’s recipe boxes are in there and so is the old Betty Crocker cook book that’s been around, probably since before I was born.

In the cupboard, there are liquid measuring cups. They’ve been around since my childhood too and they’ve seen better days. One is plastic – Tupperware. You can see the raised numbers marking the measurements on the side of the cup and if you look closely under good lighting, you can read the numbers. The markings used to be red but the paint has long since worn off. There’s a metal measuring cup too, just like the ones my grandma used to have in her kitchen. I’ve never had a metal measuring cup. They’d come out with those new-fangled Pyrex ones by the time I’d begun to stock my own kitchen.

The cupboards also hold a matching pair of stone wear soup mugs with a chestnut brown finish. The word soup in a darker brown is printed in various sizes and fonts all over each mug. They bring back memories of the kitchen table in the house where I grew up. I loved to fill one of those mugs with steaming tomato soup. There was usually a toasty grilled cheese sandwich right beside that mug.

My sister and I bought kitchen things for Mom at Christmas time. Some of her stuff was well past its prime. I think the old hand-held cheese grater was actually beginning to rust. Mom appreciated the new things. She said having nice kitchen equipment made cooking more enjoyable. But so much of the old stuff still remains.

Mom must have had a burst of energy this week. She invited Mark and I to come have dinner with her and Dad tonight. When my kids were little and Mark was working evenings, Mom would often invite me to come with the kids and have dinner with them. It’s been a lot of years since we’ve done that. It was nice to sit at the table and enjoy a meal in my parents’ kitchen again. Of course, there are holidays when we’re all there – sister, brothers, in-laws, nieces and nephews. It’s been a long time since it was just us, and it was nice.

I helped Mom put the finishing touches on the meal. She’d prepared a pork roast in the crock pot and there were white potatoes boiling on the stove. I offered to mash them, and Mom handed me the electric hand mixer and the small metal mixing bowl. It’s the baby of a set of three and has been the setting for many a homemade icing or sauce or some other concoction over the years. I realized that the hand masher Mom used for potatoes when I was growing up was either no longer around, or had simply been shunned in favor of the electric mixer. I kind of miss the hand-mashed potatoes. I kind of liked a few lumps in my potatoes.

When the asparagus was done cooking, Mom and I  put everything on the table and called the guys in from the living room where they were watching Wheel of Fortune and talking. We sat together, the four of us. We said grace before we ate. The food was delicious and I was full by the time I’d cleaned my plate. After dinner, Mom asked who wanted pie. She’d baked one of those frozen deals on an ancient round baking sheet sort of thing. The years have blackened it, but mom still uses it. She just covers it with aluminum foil before putting any food on it.

I tend to go through my own kitchen cupboards every few years. Cheap, old stuff gets purged as I replace it with newer and better. But maybe I should think twice next time. Maybe I should start working on making my kitchen “vintage” like my mom has done. After all, my kids will soon have kitchens of their own. And when they come back to mine, I want to serve up fond memories, just like my mom does.

Muffinous

It wouldn’t have been possible without Joe. He was peeling his banana at lunch last week and made the comment that he would soon see whether or not it was too ripe to eat.  Lori nodded in understanding, but I was perplexed. The banana looked like it had reached the perfect peak of ripeness for eating and I said as much.

My four coworkers all disputed my observation. It seems they all prefer a touch of green on their bananas.

“Eew,” I said. “No green. When they’re nice and yellow, just before they start to brown? That’s the perfect banana.” I went on to tell them about the bananas I had bought nearly a week ago that were still sitting in the fruit basket at home. Still solidly green and showing no signs of ripening whatsoever.

Lori’s face lit up. “I should bring you my bananas. I bought some at Sam’s Club, and you know those come in a huge bunch. They’re getting ripe past the point that anyone at my house will eat them.”

“Bring them in,” I said. “I’ll eat them!”

Friday morning as I was bringing my lunch to the break room to put in the refrigerator, I knew Lori was already in the office. I knew because there was good-sized bunch of bananas on the table, and I had smelled them before I had seen them. I laughed out loud! Clearly Lori had not listened carefully when I described the condition of a banana that was perfect for eating. What she had brought me was banana bread bananas.

Later in the day, Belinda and I split the bunch and each took some home.

I noticed the bananas on my kitchen counter Saturday morning and decided to bake a nice treat for breakfast. The beauty of having college-age kids is that they sleep very late. There was no hurry. So I browsed through a couple of cookbooks until I found a recipe for Jumbo Banana-Nut Muffins. I knew I didn’t have any nuts on hand, but I didn’t care. I don’t like to taint my baked goods with nuts. The kids would prefer chocolate chips in their muffins instead.

The recipe said it would make six jumbo muffins. It just so happens that I have a brand-spanking-new muffin pan, and I was itching to give it a try. So there I was, happily mixing dry ingredients and mashing bananas and making just enough noise to wake my beautiful daughter who came home for the weekend. When she’s home, her time is more likely dedicated to Connor and friends. I knew that breakfast was my chance for some one-on-one time with her.

Kacey came trudging from her room in her signature pajamas … a pair of shorts and a softball t-shirt. (Or was it volleyball? I can’t remember.) Her hair was tousled and she didn’t look quite awake yet, even though it was near 11:00 a.m.

“What are you making,” she asked?

JUMBO Banana Nut muffins,” I said with obnoxious emphasis.

“Yum,” came her reply! “With chocolate chips?”

“If you can find some for me. There should be some in that cupboard,” I said pointing to the one I meant. “I’ll make half with chocolate chips and half without.”

The recipe said it would make six muffins, but the batter filled eight cups. No one was complaining about the extras. I popped them in the oven and set the timer. While we waited for them to bake, Kacey told me how she was trying to kick her pop addiction and she read excerpts from an article she’d found online that were enough to convince me it’s time to kick my own Diet Coke habit. Before long, I was peeking in on the muffins and seeing they were rising nicely. Kacey and I sat down to eat them while they were still warm…

Mountain Muffin Tops (anyone else hear Led Zeppelin playing in the background...?)

The smell of fresh-baked muffins was enough to draw Jake out of his slumber and he soon joined us.

The chocolate chip variety

These began to disappear quickly!

I like mine chocolate-chipless and with lots of butter!

The bananas I bought are still neon-green, a week after buying them. If it hadn’t been for Joe’s banana commentary, these muffins never would have come to be. It would have been just another boring, cold cereal kind of morning!

June Cleaver Makes Potato-Cheese Soup in my Kitchen

I don’t want anyone expecting me to be June Cleaver. June Cleaver wore skirts and blouses and pearls and heels. I’ll wear heels when I feel like it, but you’re more likely to catch me barefoot when I can get away with it. Barefoot in a pair of hip-hugger, flare jeans and a v-neck sweater when it’s cold outside.

June Cleaver kept a tidy house. My house is tidy. For about one day out of the week. I have better things to do than spend all of my waking hours tidying up. I don’t think June Cleaver ever slept late. I have recently discovered the joy of sleeping late. I slept until 10:00 yesterday morning! And I doubt that June Cleaver ever threw a bowling ball. And I really doubt that June Cleaver ever drank beer, much less straight from the bottle.

I do not want to be June Cleaver. Except for those occasions when I do want to be her.

My inner June Cleaver, who is a slightly rougher version of the original, came out today. She wanted to make potato-cheese soup. First things first – June made sure there were tunes. June knows that cooking is way more fun with music. She docked the iPod on the iHome and turned on her favorite Pandora radio station. She opened up the fridge and found a carrot, some celery, some white onion, some Russet potatoes. She turned up the volume and then proceeded to take those veggies and she peeled and she chopped. The celery, carrot and onion had to be chopped very, very fine. The potatoes just had to be cubed. June is pretty good with the big knife and a cutting board. She swings her hips to the sound of  Billy Currington and hums along while she chops.

The veggies go into the big soup pot along with some chicken broth, a little bit of salt, and a tiny bit of white vinegar. June turns the heat on medium and waits for the broth to start boiling.

In the meantime, she pulls some strips of bacon from the meat keeper and tosses them in a frying pan. The grease begins to sizzle as the pan gets hotter. June keeps an eye on the soup and tends to the bacon at the same time.

Mmmmmm BACON!

While she waits for the vegetables to cook and for the bacon to get crisp, June chops up some green onions and readies some shredded cheese. These will serve as garnish for the soup, along with the bacon, which will be crumbled as soon as it has cooked and cooled enough.

The soup has been boiling for a while now. There are just a few minutes left on the timer. June scoops some flour into a small mixing bowl and whisks it together with some milk. When the timer goes off, she adds the mixture to the soup and simmers it for a while until it begins to thicken.

And once it has thickened, June adds a whole bunch of shredded cheddar cheese and stirs the soup until the cheese melts. She’s thinking it’s going to be good. In fact she knows it’s going to be good. And she knows this because Ward, who hasn’t been seen all afternoon, has suddenly appeared behind her as she’s stirring the soup on the stove. He wraps his arms around her waist from behind and rests his chin on her shoulder, breathing deeply the aroma that is steaming from the pot.

“Smells good,” he murmurs.

“Of course, it does,” June says with confidence. June nudges Ward out of her way so she can ladle the soup into a couple of bowls and then she sprinkles on the garnishes. She brings it to Ward who is waiting at the table now and he says, “This looks good enough to be served in a restaurant! You could open a restaurant, you know that?”

“Yeah, right,” June scoffs back at him.

“You could,” he insists.

“Whatever,” she says, calling an end to the subject. But she smiles.

And her soup was pretty darn good, even if she wasn’t wearing her heels and pearls when she made it.

Potato Cheese Soup

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced celery
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon grated carrot
  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 slices bacon cooked
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion

Peel the potatoes and chop them into bite-size pieces. (About 4 cups) Make sure the celery and onion are minced into very small pieces about the size of a grain of rice. The carrot should be grated into very small pieces.

Combine the vegetables with the chicken stock, salt a vinegar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring the stock to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Whisk together the flour and milk in a medium bowl.

Remove the saucepan of vegetables from the heat and add the flour and milk mixture. Put the pan back on the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes or until the soup has thickened.

Add 1 cup Cheddar cheese to the soup and simmer until melted. By this time the potatoes should be tender and falling apart. If not, continue to cook until the soup is as thick as you like it.

To serve, spoon the soup into bowls. Divide the remaining 1 tablespoon of Cheddar and the Monterey Jack and sprinkle on the soup. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it evenly on top of the cheese. Top off each bowl of soup with chopped green onion.

Life is Good – January 8, 2012

“Alex, go grab a bowl and just have some of your own!”

“No, no, I don’t want a whole bowl,” Kacey’s friend, Alex insisted as he grabbed another scoop-shaped tortilla chip and helped himself to some of the chowder that sat steaming in the bowl on the table in front of Kacey. And yet, he reached for another chip and dipped into her bowl again.

“Alex,” she laughed! “Just go get your own bowl!”

“No, I’m saving my appetite for dinner at Olive Garden, but I’ll be back afterwards and I’ll have some leftovers.” He reached for yet another chip and scooped another mouthful from Kacey’s bowl, at which point she went to the cupboard and got out a bowl for Alex.

Seeing that she intended to serve him his own portion, he insisted weakly, “I can’t eat a whole bowl.”

“I would like to eat my own dinner,” Kacey chided him while Connor laughed from the living room. She filled Alex’s bowl with a small helping of chowder and he sat down to eat with us. Connor was saving his appetite for dinner at his grandmother’s house, but asked if I’d make sure there were enough leftovers so that he could have some later on as well. I’d made a double batch. I assured him that would not be a problem.

Before our dinner was over, Alex’s dinner plans had fallen through, so he was free to enjoy the chowder without restraint. By now, the three have gone to Connor’s grandmother’s house so that Connor could eat his own dinner and they have returned again. I hear the distinct clanking of spoons in bowls coming from the kitchen. Where they are putting all of this food, I have no idea. But it sure feels good to have made something they enjoy so much!

The chowder over which everyone was making such a fuss was Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder. It was my first time making it and I can assure you that this recipe is going straight to the top of the family favorites list. The recipe come’s from Tara’s blog and I have just one word for it. Spectacular.

We ate ourselves into a stupor tonight. The chowder was so delicious, it was hard to stop, even once our stomachs were full. And we weren’t done eating once our bowls were empty. We capped off our meal with desert. Kacey was itching to make a chocolate cake earlier today and I suggested she try an icing recipe I’d found over at Emjayandthem’s. I have three words for this icing. To die for!

We were in food heaven. (Thank you for sharing your recipes, ladies!)

Of course, as you know by now, besides my New Year’s resolution, I’ve got extra incentive for all of this home-cooking I’ve been doing over the past week. My mom needs to gain some weight and I intend to help her do so. Not only am I trying to make home-cooked meals a routine at home again, I’m making sure that there’s always enough to share with my parents.

It’s been a crazy week with my mom in the hospital. My sister and I tag-teamed to make sure Dad had enough to eat and that things were taken care of around our parents’ house. We helped run errands and made sure that Dad got to and from the hospital every day. I can’t help but think what a blessing it was that Mom’s illness came on just two days before my parents’ planned departure for Arizona. How difficult it would have been for my parents, for my dad especially, if they were already settled in their winter home, so far away from their family when Mom got sick.

I’m also glad that I have plenty of vacation hours stacked up at work so that taking time off when necessary this past week was not a problem. And my boss was very understanding and flexible in allowing me time away from the office to help take care of things.

My mom is comfortable at home again. Her dog and my dad are glad to have her back. She’s got a new diet plan in which she will be eating lots of protein and fats. She needs to eat smaller portions more often over the course of each day, rather than trying to confine all of her intake into three standard meals. She’s all stocked up on Ensure shakes and protein powder. I’m going to do my damnedest to help her gain that fat layer she so desperately needs in her stomach. (And in the meantime, I think I’m going to have to work extra hard to keep my own fat layer from increasing!)

My mom is home. She’s feeling better. No one is hungry around here. Life is good.

Life is Good – November 27, 2011

I almost forgot to blog my thankfulness, on this of all weeks! I wouldn’t have remembered at all if it weren’t for Abby’s Silver Liningness post!

It was a nice short work week, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and the Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a good mix of busyness and family, fun and relaxation.

Our family enjoyed a delicious and plentiful holiday meal together, complete with multiple tasty desserts. The pecan pie was so yummy it didn’t last long. When I complimented my brother on his pie skills, he mentioned he was going to make another pecan pie over the weekend and he promised to bring me a piece. And he did! And I ate it for breakfast on Saturday!

One really special thing about this Thanksgiving was that my parents were with us. Since they’ve been wintering in Arizona for the past several years, they are often already gone to their winter home by the time the holidays roll around. This year they decided to stick it out in Minnesota through Christmas before escaping to a warmer climate. We kids were happy to have them. The holidays just don’t seem quite right without Mom and Dad.

Oldest boy, Brad was missing from our holiday gathering. He and Heather were spending this Thanksgiving with her family, about an hour away from here. (The trade-off here is that we get them for Christmas!) But since Heather’s parents live relatively close to us, Brad and Heather paid us a visit for the day on Friday. They brought Dacotah with them and Lucy was a happy girl!

I love weekends like this one, when there’s extra time to enjoy the kids, the comforts of home, and the company of friends. We visited our friends, Paul and Megan on Friday night and enjoyed a crazy and loud game of cards. Megan sent us home with her copy of Bridesmaids, which we watched on Saturday night. For me, it lived up to its reputation for gut-busting, tears-running-down-your-face laughter. But about the time I was trying to catch my breath, I noticed Mark was just staring at television with a rather blank look on his face. Guess it’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Doesn’t it seem like the long weekend just got here? And now it’s over already. That’s okay. There will be another one in about… oh… four weeks! And I need time to get ready for it!

Life is good!

If this keeps up, I’m totally going to get fat.

So there’s this thing in my kitchen that I’ve barely noticed before now.

I thought it was just a place for the kids to put clean dishes when they unload the dishwasher and they don’t want to bend down to put things away all the way into that cupboard nearest the floor. Bending down is hard work, you know.

Turns out, you can actually make food on that thing!

I also discovered this vast collection of books that sit on a rack in the kitchen.

Turns out these books contain instructions for making food that tastes good and doesn’t start out as something frozen that gets heated up in a microwave.

In fact, as it turns out?

I?

Can COOK! 

I know. I was as surprised as you are.

It was a rather cool day today. Perfect day for making lasagna, I thought.

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And so I did. I made lasagna! And I’m just going to be honest. It was phenomenal! There was so.much.cheese in this recipe. Can’t go wrong with lots of cheese. There were three kinds of cheese; one pound of mozzarella alone! The recipe said I should shred the mozzarella cheese, but HELLO! Why would I do that when I can buy it already shredded in a handy plastic bag? Yeah, I know, you food-snob types are thinking I just compromised the integrity of my lasagna with the pre-shredded stuff, but let me reiterate. Phenomenal!

How do I know? Because Jake ate it. And he even said out loud that it was good. And he said to make sure there were leftovers for him to eat when he got home from work. So there you have it.

Tell me this doesn’t look good:

Maybe you need a closer look?

And yes, this cooking thing is totally a ploy to lure the kids back home when they get sick of that nasty college food.

And I know you’re drooling now, so here’s the recipe. Go make your own.