Thursday, November 29, 2012

"me without you"

This song just reminds me of how thankful I need to be on a daily basis, because I'd be somewhere very different right now if I didn't have the Lord.

"In everything give thanks... "       1 Thessalonians 5:18 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

ultimate egg salad

 I've never understood why a good amount of people claim to not like egg salad... except for the smell. You know - the aroma that escapes your container when you open it for lunch? Everyone within a couple feet of you can get a whiff, and they're not always happy about it.
Yet, it just tastes so good!!!

I have two tips for this recipe - and they'll all be separate posts, so bare with the links - but I'll explain the tips here so you don't have to click them if you don't want to.

First, hard boiling eggs! I personally have never had a problem with simply putting eggs in cold water and bringing it to a boil, then timing from that point 10 minutes. After 10 at a boil I take them off the heat drain the water and add cold water, and drain that when it gets warm and add more cold water...
Now here's where it gets tricky: peeling. There are so many tips involving baking soda and blowing the egg out of the shell with your mouth... it's too complicated for a fast lunch. So let your eggs cool completely, in the fridge overnight for tomorrow's lunch. Then in a bowl put your hottest tap water. Submerge an egg, count to 30 - remove. Roll the egg on a paper towl cracking the entire surface and peel. Tada! It works for me... hope it works for you but please let me know!

Second tip involves everyone's beloved bacon. Whether it's turkey bacon or pork bacon - in this house we cook it in batches. When you want a quick breakfast what always takes the longest? The bacon! Well, unless you're okay with non-perfectly-crispy bacon...
I line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper - then fit as much bacon down on it as I can without overlapping. Then cover the pan with foil and place a smaller cookie sheet on top. Place in oven while off and then turn the oven on to 375 ˚ F. Now the cooking time varies depending on each type of bacon, it's type and it's thickness so you'll just have to keep checking it after 20 minutes till it's to your liking. But the effort is well worth it - I promise. I take my bacon out right before it starts crisping up - where it's still a bit floppy. I bag it and stash it in the fridge. Then in the morning when making breakfast for the hubby I heat it up in a pan and it crisps right away and leaves just a little fat behind to cook an egg in for him too.

  • 3 large eggs (hardboiled, peeled, and minced of course)
  • 3 Tbsp of your favorite mayo (about 1.5 heaping spoonfuls will be plenty if you use your larger eating spoons to scoop out the mayo, but just eyeball it if you'd like)
  • 1 tsp of aioli garlic mustard sauce (trader joe's) OR 1/4 tsp crushed garlic and 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2-3 small stalks of scallions or chives cut into cute tiny pieces
  • 2 slices of your favorite bacon crumbled (optional - but oh-so-yummy!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

photo fridays: hang in there

On our way to the beach while in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland we saw these guys amongst the hundred others that were doing the exact same thing - hanging on tall blades of grass. I wish now I had gotten a shot of how many more there were surrounding these two but at the time I was focused on getting an artistic shot of the pair. 

  I'll be sharing more Ireland photos as the weeks go by so keep checking in. Everyone talks about the millions of sheep over there - but I wasn't in the right area to see that, even though I wanted to see it. But I'll have to share a photo of when I finally did see a small flock of sheep on our last day in Ireland! That was such a blessing.

  Below is a photo from one of our day hikes that took us hours longer than we thought it would - but it had wonderful views along the way, like this one.

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil
is not in vain in the Lord."             
                                         1 Corinthians 15:58

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Treasury Thursdays #1

I try my best to feature those who have featured me in treasuries - also fellow CAST Team members - but if you'd like to be featured and have an idea for the treasury in which you'll be featured - just leave a comment for me. (^__^)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Potatoes Au Gratin

Potatoes Au Gratin... all I can say is yum! This was easy, and delicious - how can you make a box mix again after eating this you ask? You can't! It's that good...

5-6 potatoes
1 med. onion
2-3 cloves garlic
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
5 tsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste

Do you have a mandoline? No not a mandolin instrument, a mandoline veggie slicer... I think they're spelled differently... eh hem - back on topic > you should get one! I got a cheap one and it works great, it was like $10. It'll last me just as long as the $20-$30 ones as long as I take good care of it and it's totally worth the care! Now I can make uniform french fries - out of potatoes or other veggies!

Preheat oven to 400.
Peel and slice your potatoes (unless you're using red skin potatoes or another thin skinned potato - then you can just clean and slice if you'd like).
To keep your potatoes from turning brown while slicing/peeling the others have them submerged in a bowl of water.
Cook the slices of potato over medium high heat, when water starts to boil turn off the heat and drain.
Peel and slice the onion while potatoes are cooking. Also peel and slice/dice/crush (whatever you'd like!) the garlic.

*now, why didn't we finish cooking the potatoes?! Well, we still want them firm and not completely cooked... you'll be putting them in the oven so they'll finish cooking in there!

Butter a baking dish and layer in the potatoes and rings of onions like so >
potatoes, onions, potatoes, onions...

Now for the most important part! The CHEESE SAUCE!
In a small pan melt the butter over medium heat.
Add in milk and heat up - but don't boil.
Once it's hot add in 1 cup of cheddar cheese. (I like using sharp cheddar - you could also use a mixture with some parmesan) Stir often if not constantly until the cheese has melted and mixed in with the milk and butter. Make sure not to let any stick to the bottom of the pan and/or burn.
Now add in salt, pepper, and the garlic.
Turn the heat to simmer and let it blend for about 2 minutes, stirring often.
Pour cheese sauce over the layered potatoes.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are just getting soft and cheese is browning.

PDF file for printing out this recipe: Click Here

Monday, July 23, 2012

thrifty tip: repurposing hangers

Repurpose hangers into bag clips! 

It's easy:

Just take a hanger (or many) and saw off the  pincher ends. Make sure to be careful of course, and afterward you can sand down any sharp edges.

If your hanger's pinchers are like the ones pictured to the left - then don't saw off too close to the actual pincher - otherwise it might be hard to use the clip.

Other useful things to do with your hangers:

Thanks Pinterest!
Use it to hold recipes! Right where you can see them easily - this makes following the recipe so much easier, especially a messy recipe where yours hands shouldn't be picking it up...

OR... if you have those weak metal hangers - the type you get from the dry cleaner's...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

keeping organized

I often forget the due dates on bills, and with Ireland coming up I knew I couldn't afford to forget to send one before we left. This will help me all-year-round though... so it's not just for Ireland.

Purchase an achievement certificate frame
from your local
dollar store - it's
the exact size of
a piece of paper
- no trimming!

Then in a Word document make up your list... put it in the frame and use a dry erase marker to check off the bills you've paid.

Of course, this could be used for a multitude of things... limitless possibilities for organizational bliss... haha! Re-use it over and over again...

Monday, June 11, 2012

etsy shop love

I'm in love with this shop - she does wonderful work. I recently received an item from her and the photos do her items no justice - I don't think they can. You just have to take my word on the incredible workmanship on these pieces! I did TRY however to get some photos of my bag for you.
Our Mommie on etsy mostly has these organized and wonderfully made wallets - but she also has these really cool kitchen accessories, coasters, & more --> Check it out!

Here's my custom ordered bag - it's for Ireland. Nice and compact for just the essentials while walking around on the "emerald isle", but also with a removable strap to make it into a clutch for dressier occasions after Ireland. She envisioned what I wanted even though I know I was horrible at explaining myself - she's just an amazing sewer and great with colors!

I tried to show the details of the seams and such - she really did such a wonderful job!

Here's a few of my favorite items from her store:

another great wallet from Our Mommie

my mother-in-law got a similar wallet like this one from this shop - she loves it!

kitchen towels that stay put :)

Handmade gift tags

Friday, June 8, 2012

photo fridays

We recently got a new camera - for our trip to Ireland which is in just under two weeks!
But I'm so happy to say that I'm able to take nice high quality artistic shots again... Take a look!

Isn't it pretty!?! I love this little flower in my back yard - it's shady yet this little beauty blooms year after year... ^__^

Thursday, June 7, 2012

keeping organized tip

So here's something I came up with, but I'm absolutely sure I'm not the first to even do it exactly this way... I just thought I'd share it anyway because I find it extremely helpful.

 I adore this:
It's my grandmother's milk glass vase. I finally worked up the courage to ask her for it and she said I could. 
I remember this vase being used - so while I do just like the look of it I also remember it, which makes it special. 

Here's the organization part - I wanted to always remember who's it was and even though I think I will even in old age, if I pass it down I want them to remember too. So I used these handy rubber-bands with tags attached to them (available at staples) and wrote who she was to me (my Nanny), then her real name, her birth year and of course she hasn't passed yet but I'll eventually put the year she passes on it as well. I take it off when in use and put it back on when storing the vase.

It'll be a little family history saved right with a family item... and I think that's pretty cool. These bands are also super useful for a ton of things - I'm currently loving them for organizing electric cords and crafting items.

Monday, May 28, 2012

homemade toothpaste

So, I've been wanting to make my own toothpaste for a while now. But just never got around to it, because (yes, I'm admitting it openly) I still battle with being a procrastinator... Not that we went without toothpaste while I procrastinated of course! But I just never seemed to find the time... :) 
So after hearing of my mother-in-laws happiness with her new homemade toothpaste I decided to look up a few recipes and add my own flare (of course). The less fancy recipes, which were the multitude of what I was finding, all said 50/50 coconut oil and baking soda. I made sure to use organic virgin coconut oil and baking soda with nothing added to it. Because the baking soda was too salty for my liking I added a small scoop of pure stevia and a capsule full of cinnamon (I take a cinnamon supplement before meals to help my sugar levels stay even...) so I think a small scoop of cinnamon would be fine, maybe 1/2 tsp for the batch. Here are the measurements I used.

4 tbsp organic, virgin coconut oil
4 tbsp pure baking soda
1 scoop of pure stevia powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (EDIT: try organic peppermint extract instead, much better!)

Mix well and store in a small glass jar with a lid. Keep a small spoon handy for scooping onto your brush.
Some of the praises people were singing about this type of homemade toothpaste mostly revolved around the coconut oil. Many people stated that coconut oil has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties so it can stay on your counter without refrigeration and keeps your toothbrushes clean.

When using I find that it's best to turn the hot water on, scoop paste onto my wet brush, keep the water trickling to heat up while I brush, then when done - rinse the brush in hot water and the scoop/spoon so that the oil doesn't get the chance to harden in the pipes on it's way down the drain.

All in all, I too, am extremely pleased with this stuff! My teeth feel super clean and the cinnamon and stevia combated the saltiness of the baking soda pretty well without going to the other extreme and becoming too spicy with too much cinnamon. But play around with the amount of cinnamon and stevia till you find your preference. As you can see in the shot I like to call the 'action shot' it's pretty much the same consistency as regular toothpaste - maybe a bit less stiff than some brands but it stays on your brush while you go from scooping to popping it in your mouth to brush... !

Friday, May 25, 2012

got a picky eater?

If you've got someone who refuses to eat certain vegetables, they proclaim to you in a booming voice that they don't like it, never have - and never will.... well, just roast it! I've gotten my husband to eat many vegetables he said he'd never like by simply roasting them the first few times I fed them to him.

< - > brussels sprouts < - > zucchini < - > yellow squash < - > asparagus < - > sweet potatoes < - > 

But mostly any vegetable seems to be delicious roasted. I don't think I've tried one and disliked the result, honest. 

Simply cut into bite size pieces and roast with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil. That's it! Roast in the oven until done (I typically set the oven to 375). It's especially good (if they like the additional veggies) with slices of garlic and thinly sliced onion too. Just make sure to put the slices of garlic on top of another vegetable because when they're directly on the baking sheet they tend to burn. With all the roasted veggies done it's a great topping over some pasta or some crunchy bread. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

etsy find : loaded baked potato

A loaded baked potato BEAN BAG CHAIR that is... WITH a slab of butter pillow! 
$250 - B Fiber & Craft Emporium on etsy

There's also waffle and syrup sheets for your bed - with optional fruit pillows!

I just thought these were too cool NOT to share! I personally would not spend the money on it - but if I were to be insanely rich in the near future - I just might since it would be the coolest thing even to sit in the potato just once - haha Then after a little bit I'd probably donate it to a local kid's museum - can't you just see all the little ones getting the biggest kick out of it and all the fun photo ops for their parents!?! ^__^

Friday, May 11, 2012

Photo Fridays

Ah... internet memes. Remember when it was pretty innocent and cute though - like the lolcat photos > lolcat on wikipedia

So, for this photo friday - here's our little Billie - loldog style. ^__^

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kitchen Tips: pets & scraps

Everyone drops food while cooking, and some like the idea that the living vacuum cleaner is always right there to suck it up. But keep in mind that some foods are harmful to certain pets. For example, garlic is said to rid dogs from fleas and ticks, but it might be toxic to cats.

Pets should avoid:
- all grapes, raisins, currants, etc. are potentially hazardous and shouldn't be given to your dog.
- of course, chocolate is toxic to dogs in large amounts...
- onions, chives (& some people say garlic should be avoided too)
- caffeine
- tomatoes
- avocados
- seeds and pits from fruit (they contain cyanide, thus the grapes)
- sugar and corn syrup
- nutmeg
- all nuts (their levels of phosphorus are said to cause bladder stones) exception: peanut butter - that's good for dogs (just use salt and sugar free peanut butter)
- cold cuts in large amounts are bad for dogs due to nitrates and salt content
- alcohol
- Xylitol - a sweetener used in gum and baked goods.

Of course if you drop a small piece of onion here and there, or garlic or any of the above you're not going to harm your pet, but I find it to be useful information nonetheless.

There's a lot of info out there on this subject > click here for a google search on the subject if you'd like to learn more.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

mashed cauliflower

It's very rare that I actually enjoy eating cauliflower - never mind making sure I get every last bit of it off my plate like I did with this dish! A good friend, a while back, made me mashed cauliflower one day when we were over. And while I was thrilled and excited to have found a way to enjoy the white veggie it was because it was loaded with cream cheese and parmesan... this is just a bit better health wise but tastes better thanks to a little experiment that worked out well...

1 med. head of cauliflower
1 - 2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp earth balance* or butter
1/2 tbsp cream cheese
fresh shredded parmesan to taste

I know, I know - there's still cream cheese and parmesan - but it's a lot less than the original I assure you.
The almonds give this so much flavor - it's so good!

> Cut up your cauliflower and place in a pot with the stock... cook until the cauliflower is very tender.
> Pour excess into a cup and save in case you need it later when mixing.
> Using an immersion blender (or reg. blender) mash/puree the cauliflower.
> Mix in the butter, almond meal, cream cheese, and parmesan... adding more parmesan if needed.


* note: make sure if you use a butter substitute to use one that has non-hydrogenated oils as these are very bad for you according to many sources... When substituting butter I use organic or soy free Earth Balance

Friday, April 13, 2012

photo friday

On our first camping trip together, we fed this family of ducks. This is my favorite shot of the mother. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

berry orange julius

My husband came up with this, it's really good.

> 3/4 cup milk
> 1/4 cup berry juice or 1/4 cup frozen berries would work too and make it thicker
> 2 - 3 tbsp orange juice concentrate depending on how sweet you want it

Blend  till smooth. Drink. Smile.

Specifically, we used: organic raw cow's milk (from a farm I go to in NY), Northland blueberry, acai, and blackberry juice, and Trader Joe's organic frozen orange juice concentrate.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Photo Fridays

How can she be so cute?! I love how the little things please her most - simply fill a brown paper bag with fresh hay and she's the happiest piggie you'll ever see.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

chocolate chocolate chip brownie cake

... ah, all the above words are delicious and even more delicious slapped together and made to be lower in sugar than most sweets! Don't you agree?!


1 can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 oats
1/2 cup honey powder
1/4 sugar
1/2 Tbsp molasses (you could omit this by doing brown sugar instead of regular sugar if you don't have molasses)
3 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil (melted.)  (or an oil of your choice)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 tbsp almond meal (or about a small handful of almonds finely ground)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of chocolate chips (depends on your sweet tooth)


> Pre-heat your oven to 350.
> In a food processor add all the ingredients except the chocolate chips and blend for at least 5 minutes to break up all the beans and oats as fine as possible. (If you're using coconut oil simply measure it into a small glass jar/cup/shot glass (my liquid tsp and tbsp measuring device is a shot glass with the printed measurements on it basically - it works very well for this.) put it in your smallest pot and fill the pot with hot tap water about half way up the shot glass. Then put it over high heat until the coconut oil is almost fully melted. You can remove the shot glass carefully with a pair of tongs.)
> Mix in the chocolate chips by hand.
> Grease a springform cake pan.
> Using a flexible spatula empty the batter into the pan. The spatula will be most helpful in getting (practically) every last bit of the batter out and since it's a thick batter you'll need it.
> Evenly spread the batter into the pan and place in the oven for 35 minutes.
> Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes before (carefully) removing from the pan.

This cake comes out fudgy and really sweet. It is absolutely at it's best when served warm and accompanied by a glass of milk, in my opinion...
The photos shown are from a bunt insert for my spring form pan but any cake pan should do the trick.
If you're not using a springform pan than make sure to grease the pan thoroughly and simply flip the pan over to allow the cake to fall out - since this cake is fragile.
The directions and time for baking is for a regular 9 - 10 inch spring form pan.
If you wanted it less fudgy you can reduce the applesauce to 2 Tbsp.

Inspiration for this recipe came from this recipe over at Chocolate Covered Katie

Friday, March 16, 2012

artichoke & spinach dip

- 8 oz cream cheese (softened)
- 9 oz. frozen chopped spinach
- 14 oz can (or 10-12 individual) artichoke hearts  (chopped)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 c grated parmesan
- 1/4 c shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 c provolone (or about 2 slices cubed)
- 2 t crushed red pepper flakes
- pinch of salt and pepper

> Simmer the spinach and chopped artichoke hearts in a 1 c of water over medium heat in a small saucepan. Heat until tender, just about 6-10 minutes. Drain.
> In a large bowl mix all the ingredients in with the still hot spinach and artichoke hearts. Combine well.
> Serve immediately with carrots, crackers, tortilla chips, etc. Or put into small oven-safe dishes to bake at a later time.
> Bake in  (toaster) oven (with a little extra parmesan on top if you'd like) at 375° until it's bubbly and starting to brown on top...


- instead of using 1/4 c mozzarella and 1/4 c provolone you can substitute all mozzarella or a mozzarella/Italian cheese blend.
- eyeball the amount of artichoke hearts you use if you're like me and have a large jar of marinated artichoke hearts on hand instead of cans.
- if you're using a microwavable thing of spinach, heat it up per directions and then just saute the artichoke hearts in their own oil (or in a splash of olive oil if they came in water) until tender.  Mix everything together like usual.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

cauliflower pizza crust

So, I started here:

But although there are many comments on how well it worked we found
some issues we couldn't ignored and I tweaked the recipe.

The ingredients:
1 large head of cauliflower
olive oil
parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese
garlic salt
garlic cloves (optional)

> Wash and cut the cauliflower up into small pieces - trying to limit the amount of stalk/stem you use.
> In a food processor just pulse it until it looks grainy but is not at all mushy/pureed. (The slower and  ouch-I-cut-myself way > use a cheese grater to rice the cauliflower.)
> Using a metal strainer with very tiny holes - steam in a large pot for 5 min. with only the tiniest bit of water in the bottom of the pot, just enough to cover the bottom really. (Microwave option: just microwave the bowl of riced cauliflower for 8 min.)
> Press as much water out of the cauliflower as possible after cooking. (I do this by measuring the amount of cauliflower I'll be using (1.5 cups) and scooping it into the middle of two paper towels (layered on top of each other) then gathering the sides up and squeezing.)
> Then mix 1 1/2 cup cauliflower with 1 egg, 1/2 cup parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1 clove crushed garlic (optional for those who love garlic), and 1/4 tsp garlic salt until it seems like you could form it into a dough ball basically.
> Lightly oil your pan (make sure to use your thinnest pan). I found a cheap stainless steel pizza pan at my local dollar store and it's perfect for the job.
> Put your ball of 'dough' onto the cookie sheet and press it out gently into a circle shape approximately 11 inches wide. I like to leave the middle at about 1/2 centimeter thickness and the outer crust at a bit over 1/4 inch. Brush with olive oil if you want extra browning on the top...
> Bake on the lowest rack possible in your over for 15 minutes at 475.

> Remove from the oven, turn off the oven. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to firm up... although not necessary if you're really hungry - we found it helped a bit.
> Put your toppings on and place under the broiler (on low) until the cheese is melted and to your liking.
> Take out and let sit for at least 5 minutes, this lets the parmesan do it's magic and results in a sturdier crust.

> EAT!

* 1 large head of cauliflower with yield about 2 to 3 of these crusts...

So that's what we've come up with thus far... I'm looking into what chickpeas might do for the crust, and maybe also fully replacing the mozzarella with just parmesan although I think that'd result in too strong of a flavor honestly... I'm also going to try making a quiche with this recipe... I'll let you know how it turns out eventually.

unbaked crust 
baked crust
finished pizza

last revised:   3-10-12

stuffed mushrooms

My mother-in-law makes these delicious mushrooms stuffed with a sausage mixture, we had them one Christmas and I knew I needed to try my hand at them, and quick - they were SO good. She rattled off the ingredients when I asked for the recipe; she does it by memory and never has measurements. But I forgot what she said by the time I got around to making them. My husband said he'd eat them, but that he disliked how they get so slimy. So I set out to make them non-slimy, and I succeeded. Don't know what I did to be successful in that endeavor, but I'm glad he scarfed them down with a smile.


> 1 package stuffing mushrooms (washed and patted dry) 14oz.
> 1 package ground pork sausage 16 oz.
> 1 cup of Cabot's Seriously Sharp shredded cheddar cheese
> (optional) 1/8 cup of any other cheese you'd like if you're a cheese lover (american cheese, provolone, parmesan...)
> 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
> 1 small onion finely diced
> 2 cloves of garlic finely diced
> 1/4 cup of quick oats (make sure to use the gluten-free variety if you are sensitive to gluten!)
> (optional) 1 tsp - 1 tbsp of crushed red pepper flakes (if you like things with some spice)

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and finely dice them.
Peel and finely dice your garlic and onion.
Cook up the ground sausage, drain and set aside.
In the same pan you just used for the sausage saute the onion, garlic, and mushroom pieces until the onions are translucent.
Mix the sausage back in along with the pepper and quick oats. Cook, stirring often for 2-5 more minutes.
Remove from heat and mix in cheese.
Stuff your mushroom caps and put in the oven at 350 for 15 mins.
Turn off the oven after 15 minutes and let the mushrooms sit for 5.
Take them out and let them sit for another 2-5 minutes to cool.
Serve and enjoy!

You will most likely have left over stuffing mixture... you'll be happy about it though.
It goes great mixed in with some cooked rice and then baked for a bit, or stuffed into peppers. ^__^