Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

In the throes of Christmas and New Years, traveling and family, I've completely lost track of my days.   I'm so thankful that I have lots of extra hands to help so I can get a bit of a break this week.  HandyMan and I got a date while GBaby got time with her grandparents.  Sunday we were on the road and able to join friends for church and lunch which is a rather rare treat for us.  It was especially great to see some of our friends' extended family whom we hadn't seen in a few years

Christmas was a wonderful celebration of faith, family and fabulous food.  We had the spinach linguine that I made and HandyMan made a wonderful roasted red pepper cream sauce and his mom made a great salad, and his brother made a chocolate torte that. he claims is rather healthy (I may have to get him to guest post!)- dinner was delicious.

HandyMan's on vacation this week so we are happily enjoying family time.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monthly Menu - Success!

In the beginning of December, I challenged myself to set a monthly menu and stick to it as a method to keeping the grocery bill under budget.  I'm happy to say that I was able to keep on menu and managed to come in slightly under budget for the month.  Given the extra baking and holiday feasting, I think that this is a pretty notable accomplishment!  If you're wanting to get your grocery bill slimmed down this new year, consider menu planning and batch cooking - with a little energy up front you can save yourself some time and money in the end.

So, since it worked in December, why not try again in January?  I sat down and sketched out a menu for the month, and made the grocery lists.  I've found that one of the biggest time-savers of this method is the shopping - I can plan out the month, buy all the major stuff at the beginning of the month and then it's just the perishables and a few random things here and there for the rest of the month.  So much less time spent making list and shopping!  I also went a step farther and planned out my carry-over ingredients (like browned hamburger) to save time assembling meals.

So, here's what's cookin' in January:

-Breakfast Breads (time to restock the freezer!)

-Caldo de Res (Mexican beef soup)


-Spanish Rice Cassarole

-Ham & Cheese Souffles

-Eggs Benedict



And mixed in from the freezer: Shepherd's Pie, Turkey Barley Soup, Hot Beef Sandwiches, Green Potato Soup and Stuffed Peppers

Monday, December 28, 2009

Creme Brule

_SC02884For our anniversary last week I made one of HandyMan's favorites: Creme brule.  I used this recipe and it turned out very good.  Here are my notes on the process :)

1.  I had to cook mine almost twice as long as the recipe directed.  I'm not sure if my oven was off or what - but make sure to check that the center is set before you remove from the oven.

2.  Cooling - I let ours cool on the counter for about an hour and then to the fridge for another 4 hours or so before we served it and it set up beautifully.

3.  Crispy Sugar Top - I used my craft heat gun :).  If you don't have a kitchen torch, using the broiler is another recommended technique.  But, if you have a craft heat gun - this works too!  Just dust enough sugar on the the top so that it sticks.  Fire up the heat gun and take it to the sugar.  Once it starts to bubble up, add another thin layer of sugar and repeat.  I had to hit it with three layers to get a good crisp top, but it was good!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday - er- Tuesday Sunshine

glightsPracticing contentment by remember the graces of the week.

While my to-do list stretches long before me, I think it's important to pause and reflect in this super busy season.  My life is full of joyous things as Christmas approaches.  This is GBaby's first Christmas and watching her discover all the special things that  come with with this festive season is such fun.  HandyMan and I are celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary today and with that comes reflection on where the last years have taken us and such contentment with where we are right now.

I have a roaring fire in front of me, dozing dog beside me, and sleeping daughter upstairs.  I get to play in the kitchen today and our Christmas and New Years will be filled with family. For this I am especially grateful.

I have a sewing project to finish up this week too which I can't wait to blog about but it's a Christmas present for someone who follows this blog - so alas - you'll have to wait!

May your Christmas be filled with joy and love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Homemade Spinach Linguine

cmasling5This week I put the MamaMixer pasta rollers to work.  Our Christmas plans are in a semi-fluid state, sort of like a really good molten chocolate cake - but I digress.  So it ends up that we'll have family at our place for Christmas, for which I'm thrilled.  In a moment overtaken by a craving, I've decided to stray from the 'normal' holiday meal of ham or turkey and all the trimmings and go for an Italian feast.

Since the pasta rollers hadn't seen a workout since March and green is a great, festive, Christmas color, I decided to make homemade Spinach Linguine.  I did some google searching to find tips and tricks and below is the recipe and notes I used. We tested some for dinner last night, it's good!

Homemade Whole Wheat- Spinach Linguine


2 cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour

2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (finer than regular whole wheat)

2/3 cups Spinach Puree (as smooth as you can possibly get it)

1/3 cup Water plus 3+Tablespoons for consistency


1.  Make your spinach puree.  I took 1-10 ounce package of frozen spinach and microwaved it until thawed and semi-cooked.  Then took ran it in the blender,carryover liquid and all, and added more water 1/4 cup at a time, until the puree was the consistency such that it would pour smoothly.  (Freeze the puree you don't use in the pasta and add it to another recipe for extra nutrition.)

2.  Combine flours in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your mixer.

3.  Form a well in the center of the flour in the bowl and add spinach puree and 1/3 cup of water.  Blend ingredients with a spoon or fork until crumbly.



4. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time as you (or your mixer) kneads the dough until a stiff dough forms.  If using a MamaMixer once the dough forms a ball and all pulls away from the bowl - you're there.  Knead it for a couple more minutes until smooth.


5. Roll & Cut.  If you have pasta rollers, follow the directions on your rollers to roll and cut the dough.  If working by hand, roll it out as thinly as possible and then slice it up.


6.  Cook or Preserve.  If you're cooking up your pasta right way, place it in a pot of boiling water for 5-8 minutes, drain and enjoy.  If keeping it for a while, allow your noodles to "dry" a bit until they are the consistency of soft fruit leather - usually a couple hours.  Then put in seal-able bag and place in refrigerator or freezer.


A Couple Notes: As I was working with the dough I was really afraid that the texture was going to be off because of the whole-wheat flour.  The dough kind of felt like a fine-grit sand paper and that's not appetizing at all!  I'm happy to say that the whole wheat cooked up beautifully and the texture was soft and fabulous as you would expect a homemade pasta to be.

Also, I was concerned because there seemed to be a lot of fibers from the spinach that I couldn't get out of the puree, these too seemed to disappear in the cooking process.  If you have particularly fibrous puree, you may want to run it through a strainer before putting it in the pasta dough.

Now I have to decide if I want to make an Alfredo Sauce and garnish with roasted red pepper or make a rose sauce.  Decisions decisions!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Sunshine: Snow, Lights, Smiles & Cookies

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

This time of year, as the days keep getting shorter and shorter, I seek out the little things to add light to the dark days.  While is has been bitterly cold, there is a light blanket of snow covering up the dark, dormant earth.  As Christmas approaches, the number of Christmas lights lighting up the dark evenings is increasing, including the lights on our tree this year.  I love looking out our front window and seeing lights twinkling in the evening instead of the inky darkness.

We hosted three young ladies one evening this week for cooking decorating and it was such a pleasure to listen to the giggles and watch the creativity as they iced their cookies.  GBaby joined in jabbering along with the activity in the kitchen.

With a cancellation on the calendar on Saturday, I gained a morning to play in the kitchen and worked on homemade spinach linguine for our Christmas dinner.

We have a warm home, and our daily needs are met in excess.  Life is full and I am blessed.  May this week find your life filled with peace and abundant joy this Christmas season.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Web Design: This has been a very full week and every spare moment I've had, I've been working on re-designing  Look for my new updates early next week if all goes well.  I've also added a bit of winter cheer to this site too - see the snow flurries?

Monthly Menu: I've kept on track with my monthly menu and this week, most of my meals were out of the freezer with a few fresh touches.  A salad here, fresh cornbread there and freezer meals are fresh and new and I didn't have to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.  The souffles were a big hit, GBaby was a huge fan and these will definitely be on next months menu.  They have reheated well too!

Cabin Fever & Reorganization: This week I also begin to feel the wall start to close in on me with the first signs of early cabin fever, exasperated by seeing a friends new, and empty house.  Floor space envy set in and I came home and started rearranging.  My goals were to open up floor space for play areas, to create a sitting/movie area in our upstairs and to add more kid-proofing.  Namely, GBaby has taken quite a liking to emptying bookshelves, I'm not a fan of reloading bookshelves so I moved stuff around to make toddler access a bit more difficult.  We'll see how it works.  Anyone out there have tips to ward off cabin fever?

Giveaway!: One final note: Erin, over at 5DollarDinners has a $100 Visa card to giveaway.  Check it out if you're interested :).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Three Cheese Souffle

3chssouffle8Monday is HandyMan's day off and I like to make brunch as our mornings are usually a little slower paced than the rest of the week.  This week I made this Three Cheese Souffle recipe and it turned out beautifully and rather tasty as well.  I think it has made it on the "Christmas Brunch" menu and I'm going to try the Editor's note and mix it up ahead of time and freeze it and see how it turns out.

Souffles are meant to be a light and airy egg dish and by nature will settle a bit once out of the oven.  While there are a few more steps than a quiche or egg bake, the melt in your mouth results are totally worth it.  Skim over the recipe and here are a few of my own notes on the process.

The Cheese Sauce

-My milk & butter mixture started to thicken before it ever showed signs of boiling.  Once I could stir and see the bottom of the pan, I turned the heat off and added the cheese.

-I grated the cheese with the finest side of my grater - helped it to melt quickly into the base.

-Stop here and you have a great cheese fondue or sauce for homemade mac & cheese.


-I cheated and ran the yolks through my mini-food processor for about 10 seconds so I could do the whites in the Mama Mixer.  It seemed to work fine.

3chssouffle5-I didn't read the directions close enough and didn't let the cheese sauce cool.  It didn't seem to matter.  I poured the cheese along the side of the mixer bowl so that it actually pooled under the egg whites without disturbing them too much.  Then, gently, mixed with a large rubber spatula until it was all combined.  The mixture should be thick and foamy, but pourable. (think airy cake batter)


-This recipe states that it makes 8-1 cup servings.  I got that plus two soup-bowl size souffles too.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Christmas: Shape Magnets & Sewing Project Link

For all the folks out there that sew and need a relatively easy and inexpensive way to use up all your fabric scraps, you have to check out the Scrap Buster page over at  There are tons of ideas and one that I picked up was originally posted at Chez Beeper Bebe for making a plush alphabet and surf around her site for other simple sewing projects too - she did some neat cloth napkins.

I used her method to make a set of magnetic shapes for GBaby.  Since I wanted them to be multipurpose, I did spring for some clearance rack fabrics so that I could have solid colors to work with.  I also ended up with a fun assortment of fabrics: nylon, denim, cotton and canvas.

I stenciled out squares, triangles, circles, arrows, hearts and stars.  I zig-zagged around the marker lines and then cut out the shapes.  Easy - the whole thing took me about an hour.  I was not concerned with the marker showing through the stitching, so I just  used a Sharpie.  However, if you want a more finished look, you may want to consider a washable marker designed for marking fabric.

Here's the shapes traced and the first batch sewn:


And here are the finished shapes on my dishwasher:


I was intentional about the construction of my shapes as I have plans in my mind that they will serve as a multifunction educational toy in the coming months.

-For now they are fun textures for GBaby to explore.

-She's having fun exploring the magic of magnets and how some things will stick to the fridge and the dishwasher.

-As she begins to learn shapes and colors, they're a quick sorting game while I'm working in the kitchen (or wherever).  For example: all shapes start on dishwasher and a star gets put on the fridge - she then finds all the stars and moves them over.  An orange shape gets moved over and she finds all the orange shapes.  You get the idea.

I'm excited about this project and can't wait to see how she grows into these fun shapes!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Sunshine - Snow, Smiles & Downtime

sundaysunshinesm Practicing contentment by remembering the graces of the week.

We have had, yet, another very full week.  But amidst the solid block on the calendar, I've had some time to do a quick sewing project and was able to sneak in some baking and make some cookies and Magic Cookie Bars for a events this weekend.

This afternoon has been particularly fun as GBaby has been all smiles and we're getting our first snowfall. It is so pretty out and a wonderful improvement over the winter gray and brown that had set in.   Christmas decorations are beginning to adorn our home and Christmas lights are lighting our 'neighborhood' as it gets dark out so early.  I really do love this time of year!

I've been able to nap when GBaby's napped a couple days this week without feeling like it was going to put me way behind which has also been decadent!

What blessings have surfaced in your week?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freezer Friday: Soup & Cinnamon Rolls

freezerfridaysmThis was week one of my December Menu Challenge, so I was working towards pulling things out of the freezer, rather than filling it up.

But, Monday was still November so it didn't really count for the Menu Challenge and since I hadn't made the Cinnamon Rolls over Thanksgiving weekend, I just HAD to.  So I made a nice big batch and froze up three pans of them.

I've found that these Cinnamon Rolls reheat wonderfully if they're properly protected in the freezer.  Breads usually have a freezer life of about three months for the best results.  I take my block of cooled Cinnamon Rolls, wrap it in foil and then place the foil packet in a gallon freezer zip top bag.


On the menu this week was Butternut Squash Cream Soup round two.  I had squash to use up, and I also had a small pumpkin.  I combined them and also added more water this time and the final result was great.  GBaby still loves it!  So, one container to the fridge for later this week, three quarts to the freezer for later this winter.

How's your freezer doing?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

I am very fond of warm cinnamon rolls.  This recipe is great for batch cooking and the frozen batches reheat well enough that you'll never guess that they spent time on ice.  Topped with cream cheese frosting, these delectable pastries are great on a brunch menu or on their own.  Along with the recipe below I've included some tricks and time savers for you as well so be sure to read through and the printable recipe is at the bottom of this post.

Cinnamon Rolls



2 packages Yeast

1c. Warm Water

2/3 c. + 1 tsp. Sugar

1 c. Warm Milk

2/3 c. Butter

2 Tsp. Salt

2 Eggs, beaten

7-8 c. Flour


1 c. melted Butter

1 c. Brown Sugar

1/2 c. Sugar

3 Tbs. Cinnamon


1. Place yeast  and 1 teaspoon of sugar into warm water.  Stir to dissolve and let it sit.
2. Warm milk, 2/3 cup butter and remaining sugar in saucepan over low heat until butter is melted and let cool.
3.  Place 6 cups of flour in large bowl.  Place yeast and milk mixtures and beaten eggs in bowl with flour.  Mix thoroughly.
4.  Add remaining flour a bit at a time until dough is workable.  It should be very soft and slightly sticky.  Knead 5-10 minutes or until smooth.
timesaver 5.  Allow dough to rise until at least double in bulk.  Punch down and let rest for 5 minutes. Combine dry filling ingredients.  Time Saver: dough can be mixed up and put in the refrigerator to rise overnight, cutting down prep time in the morning.  Just allow dough to warm a bit before trying to roll it.

6.  Separate dough into 6-8 sections to work with.
7.  Roll each section, one at at time, out into a large rectangle.  Keep in mind that the dough will double again when it bakes, and gauge your thickness accordingly.
8.  Brush dough with melted butter and sprinkle the filling on top of the butter.

9.  Roll dough into a long log, making sure to keep dough tight and slice off cinnamon rolls.  Make sure to use a very sharp, thin knife or Cool Trick: use a piece of thread.  Bring thread under the roll, cross the ends over the top of the roll and pull tight - perfect cut every time - no mashing and mangling!


10.  placed on greased baking pans or sheet.  Allow room for the dough to rise and let rise 30 minutes before baking.

11.  Bake 25-30 minutes at 350* or until golden brown. Another Cool Trick:  immediatly after you take your cinnamon rolls out of the oven, dump them upside down on platter or cookie sheet to cool.  This allows the filling to cool in your cinnamon roll instead of melting all over the bottom of your pan.


12.  Frost with your favorite vanilla or cream cheese frosting. (I use 1 package of cream cheese, 1 stick of margarine (both softened) and 2 cups of powdered sugar add milk 1 teaspoon at a time for desired consistency if necessary).

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Menu Challenge

todays menuI'm a pretty organized person, but I see friends posting month long menus and start making excuses as to why that won't work for us:  "Our schedule is too hectic and changes too much."  "Well, I'll just use my meals out of the freezer",  "I'm staying on budget: and just plain "why bother".

I'm beginning to see a lack of discipline in my life and realized that meal planning is one more of my areas of responsibilities where I'm lacking discipline.  Now I'm not just feeding HandyMan and myself but also GBaby.  Good nutrition is important and when I'm making meals on a whim, we're not always getting all our food groups.

Last week my friend Sarah at Simple Pleasures blogged about how she went about making up her monthly menu.  She and her husband are grad students with classes and jobs.  Surely they have a pretty nutty schedule, right?  She can do this, I can at least give it an honest try. (Thanks for the kick in the right direction Sarah!)

I sat down with a calendar for December and our calendar as well as my list of meals in the freezer and a mental list of what's in the pantry.  My main goal is to cut down the grocery bill and use what we have.  Given our schedule, I usually cook on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings and the somewhere in the week we run out of leftovers and I pull in another meal.  So I filled in those days and then made a separate list of 6 ready to go meals to pull from.  I also added a list of breakfast items that are stock in the fridge and freezer so I have a ready-list for breakfast too.

We'll see how it works out.  Any veteran menu planners out there have any tips for me?