Gratituesday…and a GIVEAWAY!!

Good morning, friends!

Greetings from too-warm Illinois, where it will be 53 degrees today. Can you believe it? This morning, my guys are eating eggs in a hole, courtesy of the Pioneer Woman.  That brings me right to gratituesday. Growing up, we regularly made trips (usually cross-country) to my Grandparents’ home in Montana. Ranchers in the middle of nowhere, I loved it spending time with them. Every morning, you could count on hearing Grandpa’s cowboy boots clomping on the floor above us (we slept in the basement) and the country radio station blaring. Almost as soon as my dreams ended, I was aware of the sounds above mingled with the smells of breakfast. More often than not, it was eggs, bacon and fresh bread. (Fresh milk, too, but that’s a touchy subject with me ) To this, day, the smell of bacon cooking brings me right back to the house in Round Butte, Montana and the precious people who lived in that house. I would come upstairs to find the delights that my Grandma made and hoped with all my might that it included “dippin’ eggs.”  Grandma would make the eggs over easy and pop a piece or two of her bread in the ancient toaster that you had to watch  or it would surely burn the toast. On the plate was the buttered toast (if it burned, you scraped off the blackest parts with your knife) and the dippin’ eggs. They’d drink coffee and we’d drink the beforementioned milk from a gallon jar. Oh. My. Gosh.  You’d cut the toast into strips and dip it into the eggy wonder. Heaven. I still love them but with three boys who wake up starving, what’s a Mom to do?

Enter the egg in a hole. It’s dippin eggs all neat and tidy. One skillet. Hurrah!  Try it, you’ll thank me later.

Enter the gratituesday part…I am so thankful for grandparents and the safety I felt when I visited them. My grandpa was gruff (the boots across the floor were to wake us up if he felt we were sleeping too late – like 7 am!), but he’d let us ride on his boots as well. We’d sit on his feet and grab his leg with all our might as we walked from the kitchen to the living room. My Gramma was love in a human skin. Reading endlessly to us, encouraging our creativity, baking (and baking and baking) for us, buying “little cereals” and chewable vitamins for our visit and a closet full of dress up clothes. While I am so sad that I won’t ever get to sit in the kitchen and eat a dippin’ egg with the two of them ever again, I’m thankful for the years I did. And I still like burned toast to this day. 🙂

My Gramma and my wonderful Aunt Stevie. Aunt Stevie was part of my wonderful Montana times.

In the spirit of gratitude and breakfast wonderment, I now offer you my very first GIVEAWAY!!!!

The prize? A $10.00 gift card to Peet’s Coffee. It won’t buy you a dippin’ egg, but you can have a great cup of coffee. You can use it in a Peet’s store (if you live near one) or at Peet’s online store.

The rules? Leave me a comment with your favorite childhood breakfast by Wednesday, February 1, 2012 by 5:00 pm central standard time. Please leave your email address in the comment as well. I will print up the comments and put them in  a hat and draw a winner. Then, I’ll email the winner!!  I promise not to give away your info to anyone, or use it for my self other than this giveaway. To help prevent spam and other yucky stuff, please leave your email in the following way:

you at yahoo dot com   (Don’t use the @ symbol or the actual .)

Can’t wait to see what you loved when you were young!

~Janna

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Things to do on a Monday

On Mondays, Mr Darcy has the day off. It’s awesome. Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are workdays for the pastors so Mondays are the leisure days. We were certainly leisurely today. Leisure is such a fun word to say. Leisure. Laysure. Lehsure. However you pronounce it, it’s fun.

We started our day out by trying out the new pancake mix I made up. I made 2 batches and we had about 7 pancakes left over. They were very fluffy. I am sure that if we were not just coming off of not eating bread for 21 days, we could have consumed more. Part of me hopes we stick with consuming less but…

After breakfast, the boys did their schoolwork and Mr Darcy worked on whatever he works on when I don’t bother him. I am sure he was productive. I enjoyed some Pinterest time and looked for my ModPodge, which is probably in the same missing box as my pink slippers, the sterno cans and more I haven’t discovered yet. I am less anxious about the slippers as my Mommy sent me a new pair of brown wool slippers in the mail – along with one of her handmade, awesome quilts. It’s so cool. She’s cool.

Schoolwork completed and lunch eaten, we were off to the zoo. It’s free until the 12th of February so we decided to check it out. It’s lovely and we had a good time, but we walked the entire thing in an hour. And that was spending quality time with an outdoor exhibit of monkeys who were attacking some African pigs. When you have all boys, this is awesome.

you can get an idea of the magnitude of our zoo by the massive (ha) entry building.

Notice there is no snow on the ground. Notice also the blue, blue skies. Then notice that everyone only has on sweatshirts. That’s because it’s in the low 50’s. Ugh. I miss my snow. I am thankful, however, that we had a warmer day to visit the zoo. My middle guy wants to be a zoology major in college (he has stuck with this for many years) so it’s like visiting with the Animal Planet Live…Love him. I would also like you to look back at the picture and notice how tall my oldest has gotten. Mr Darcy is 6 foot 8, may I remind you…seriously, this kid just keeps growing and he just turned 14 this month. Wowza. Have I mentioned how hungry they all are all the time? 🙂

Okay, so it’s lasagne for dinner tonight with green salad and herbed rolls I made at the beginning at the month and had in the freezer. And cake. Chocolate Chip Cake. Yum.

Tomorrow is my big giveaway….seriously. I am so excited!  Tell your friends, your neighbors and your co-workers. Wahoo!!

~janna

Sing me to sleep, I’m tired and I want to go to bed.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I was in bed thinking about how I could build a table out of used pallets. I have seen it done. I am pretty sure I could get the pallets. Putting those two things together into something I would want to showcase in my home is another story. These are the things that keep me awake at night. That and wondering where my sterno cans are (yes, I know we weren’t supposed to pack those-Danger, Will Robinson). Also, where are the boys’ outside tennis shoes? And where are my pink slippers?  These are things that have not surfaced since we moved. The slippers really disturb me.

On to more exciting things.

Last night, I finished off the second batch of chicken stock. I realized that on a previous post, I referred to it as broth. This was incorrect and I apologize for steering you in the wrong direction. Mea Culpa. Broth is not made with bones whereas stock is. That said, vegetable stock is made without bones so I guess it really doesn’t matter. But I made stock. The second batch was lighter in color but just as delightful. I didn’t get quite as much, but I didn’t add nearly as much water. I got 7 cups.  I am about to put it in the freezer. Happy. I took a picture of the “rest” of the carcass but it’s so gross, I don’t want to post it. It’s gross. Did I already say that?

Today, I am going to make up one batch of this.  We love pudding and right now I am reading the ingredients on a box of chocolate pudding I bought to make a certain cake that my sweet Mother In Love always made…chocolate chip cake. It’s delicious. Anyhow, I never knew there was FOOD COLORING in the chocolate pudding. I have three boys who are quite sensitive to food coloring and I can’t believe I let this slide. 13 ingredients in the chocolate pudding box. So, I am going to make the vanilla pudding mix she posted and see how we like it. I also found recipes here that are already large quantity-ready that I may try. If we like it, I am making it up in bulk. I sure hope we like it.

Completely unrelated, I have now finished my second Zumba class at the gym. And as a bonus, I have not passed out or wet my pants while jumping up and down to the rhythm of the beat. I am very glad there are not mirrors in the front of the class because I am sure it would not be encouraging to see myself trying to shake my hips at the same time I am trying to salsa and walk forward with my hands doing the flamenco moves. And yet,  no one has asked me where I get my moves from…I have a great time, though. I might even work up the courage to try another kind of class.

That’s it. No big cooking over here today. We haven’t had bread in almost three weeks (or sugar) and I am planning a big bake-a-thon on Sunday. Cinnamon rolls, toast, maybe even my Gramma’s danishes.

Before I forget, here’s the recipe for the PoppySeed Chicken:

3 cups cooked rice

1 cooked chicken, deboned and chopped (or 5-6 breasts if you only like white meat)

1 can cream of mushroom soup (or you can make your own cream of – so much better)

1 cup sour cream

2 T Poppy Seeds

salt and pepper

optional 1 cup toasted almonds

Topping: 1 stick butter and 1 roll Ritz crackers, crushed (I have been known to double this:-))

Put the cooked rice in the bottom of your casserole dish. Isn’t casserole a fun word? It’s even more fun if you say it in your best Paula Deen voice. Like this video. Now I want to try that casserole. Cheese. Casserole. Creamy. Yum. Back to work, Janna.

Mix the chicken, soup, sour cream, poppy seeds, almonds (if you used them) and salt and pepper to taste. I put about  1-2 teaspoons of pepper and 1 tablespoon of salt. Spread that goodness all over your rice. Now, mix the melted butter and the crushed Ritz and sprinkle that deliciousness all over the top. At this point, you could pop that in the oven for 35 minutes at 350 until bubbly on the sides and crisp on top. However, if you want to make this a freeze ahead meal, add about 1 cup of chicken broth.stock to the rice before spreading the creamy chicken goodness over the top then put aluminum foil over it all and label. Bake it for 45 minutes-one hour or until bubbly on the sides and crisp on top. I have made this many times with fake chicken for my vegetarian peeps and they said it was yummy. I also make this every year that I make a big turkey and freeze it. It’s super easy to make several at one time. It’s on my short list of meals I take to people when they have a baby or are getting out of the hospital, etc. Even Mr Darcy, who is NOT the biggest fan of the casserole (understatement of the year) loves it. It’s great reheated.

Have a great weekend and look for a fun giveaway I’m having next week!

~Janna

ps.  two points for you if you get the reference in my title….:-)

 

 

Thursday adventures

This morning, I woke up feeling warm for the first time since we moved here. So warm, in fact, that I was not huddled in a little ball like an animal trying to hibernate deep, deep in the polarfleece sheets and overstuffed comforter that adorns our bed. I had my arms out all willy-nilly and the comforter was down past my chin. After telling Mr Darcy about this momentous occasion, he promptly went downstairs to the thermostat and returned to our room. He then looked me tenderly in the eyes as he cupped my chin with his strong hands and said, ” You forgot to turn the thermostat down last night when you came in from picking up Hayden from his smallgroup.” Tender moment gone, I realized that I had done exactly that and mentally moved “learn how to program programmable thermostat a.s.a.p.”

In other news, I came downstairs this morning to find that my crockpot had been working hard all night making the most AMAZING chicken broth – evah. I forgot to take a picture, but here’s a picture of the aftermath:

This is round two. Less color, less chunky. Still good stuff here.

Yes, I noticed that I have broth on the outside of my crockpot. I didn’t feel like cleaning it just so I could make the same thing right away. The first batch was darker but this still smells so good and will taste delicious.  I cooked my two Amish chickens (you don’t know how much fun I have had thinking about Amish Chickens) with water, celery, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper. After they were cooked, I de-boned them and put all the delicious meat in one dish while I put all the rest in another pile. When I was done with that step, I put all the “rest” back in the crockpot with the broth and added two capfuls of apple cider vinegar (Braggs, with the mother) and set it on medium. That was somewhere around 7 pm last night. This morning, I strained all the “rest” out again, ladled out the broth in my a pot to cool and dumped the “rest” back into the crockpot with more water.

All bagged up - I got 10+ cups of broth from the first batch. I put it in 2 cup amounts. It sounded like the right amount to me!

I am so excited! As I type, I have rice cooking so I can make up my poppyseed chicken casseroles. Family favorite. Delicious. Thanks be to Sandy J for this recipe that I will probably make until I die. 🙂

Yesterday, I also made some yogurt. We love yogurt at our house and go through a LOT of it – especially with my homemade granola. It’s really easy to make. People make it in the crockpot or even on a heating pad, but I am scared of warm dairy and I bought one of these on Craigslist – brand new:

yogurt, yoghurt...why does it make me feel so cool and European to write "yoghurt?"

This little guy makes 7 jars worth (6 ounces each) of yogurt for me in 8 hours. I put 7 jars’-worth (is that really a word?) of milk in my pot and heat it to 180 degrees, stirring every once in a while. I use a thermometer – I have not worked on my fantastic superhero temperature-reading skills enough to do anything else. After it reaches 180 degrees, I add 1/2 of a jars’ worth of plain, Greek yoghurt (had to use the European spelling there, don’t you think?) and whisk until smooth. Then I put the pan (with the trusty thermometer still in it) into a sink of cold water until it cools down to 110 degrees. Then I add 1 teaspoon of vanilla because we like vanilla yogurt. We are like that. I have made plain and tried to add stuff later but we don’t care for it. I need to make some plain, though. We like it with Indian food. Cools the  mouth off. That’s nice. Where was I? Oh yes, after I add the vanilla in, I put the little jars in my yoghurt maker without their lids and put the lid on the machine and turn it on. 8 hours later, I put their lids on and place them carefully in the fridge. They really are ready to eat today, but I am not telling the boys because we still have some store-bought in the fridge that I want them to finish up first. That’s it, friends. Call me Fage. Or Oikos. Or Stonyfield Farms.

 

Ohm by the way, in case you were curious about the GIANT cans of veggies I bought, I got about 7.5 cups of corn (we forgot to measure before cooking some last night) and about 7 cups of green beans. I got 32 ounces of marinara sauce from the can of crushed tomatoes and I am still staring at the 6 lb, 9 oz can of tomato sauce that’s sitting in my coffee bar-throwing off my coffee bar vibe. It will probably be marinara, but I have also been thinking about chili. I’ll research today.

That’s it for Thursday’s adventures. I hope you enjoyed them. Any questions? 🙂

~Janna

Smellavision and other Wonkas

I really wish there was a real Smellavision. Today, I have simmering in my crockpot, the most amazing marinara sauce.   When I went to Sam’s Club over the weekend, I purchased a GIANT can of crushed tomatoes, along with GIANT cans of tomato sauce, corn and green beans. I have already portioned out the green beans and frozen them, and plan to do the same with the corn. I have been wanting to try the marinara sauce recipe and I am glad I did. That GIANT can was $3.22 and fills my crockpot. After eating the sauce (with meatballs and grated fresh parmesan) here’s what I would do differently:

1. I’d cook the garlic in a bit of olive oil first

2. I’d add giant chunks of vegetables. Oh wait, no one else at my house would eat that, so scratch that. 🙂

It’s delicious. I am so glad I tried this. I am waiting for it to cool so I can put it in my freezer bags. Yum.

Can you smell it at your house? Mmmmmmmm.

Besides the marinara sauce, I also made three lasagnas and put those in the freezer.

 

Now, you are probably saying to yourself, “hold on a second, Janna…. I thought you said your freezer wasn’t working.”  Uh huh. Guess what was wrong?

In our house (and apparently this is common up here) every room has a light switch but only the kitchen and dining rooms have overhead lights. Weird, I know….but stick with me. So, the light switch works an electrical outlet in that room. (Guess who had to buy floors lamps as soon as they moved in?) Yesterday, in a moment that can only be described as God-inspired, I thought to myself, “I wonder if the light switch in the basement (where our freezer now lives) works the outlet that the freezer is plugged into?” I asked that question out loud to Mr Darcy who promptly went down to the basement and plugged a portable fan into every outlet whilst yelling, ” THAT’S IT!!” You see, every time we went downstairs into that part of the basement (one half is finished with carpet and paneling and such, the freezer side is past that) we turned on the light so we could see. I would walk over to the freezer and, sure enough, it would be on.  Then, perplexed as to why is wasn’t working, I would leave the basement, turning the light switch off when I left – because that what has been drilled in my head to do since I was a wee babe. Each and every time we left the basement, not only were we saving electricity by turning the lights off, we were saving big bucks by turning off the freezer. Oh dear. It’s been working like a charm ever since we taped over the light switch. 🙂

That’s pretty much it in the “eureka” moments over at our house. Did you know that “eureka” means “I found it?”  It’s one of those crazy things that I remember from grade school history. I love trivia.

Now I can use Craig and his list to find bookshelves…the 15 boxes of books sitting in the formal living room are really getting to me.

~Janna

 

My friend, Craig

Since we have lived here, I have really appreciated my friend, Craig.  Perhaps you know him, too? I just love his list….We were able to give our moving boxes to a sweet single mom who really needed them via Craig. I also found BRAND NEW roman shades for our french doors (in exactly the right size, can you believe it?) on Craigslist for 9 dollars each. Here’s the best one, though: Thursday, I was showing Mr Darcy some pictures of area rugs that I had bookmarked. I love the wood floors, but our family room is like walking on the frozen tundra (and yes, I know what that feels like – I lived in Alaska.) Anyhow, I was telling him how much  I luh-huved braided rugs. They make me happy. My Mom has had one for as long as I can remember (she doesn’t use it now, just stores it) and ever since we lived in Raleigh, NC, I just have a thing for colonial decor. I can’t explain it, but I love it. I think it must have something to do with my love of symmetry. In any case, I love braided rugs. Mr Darcy thinks they were only popular in the 70’s. Maybe they were, but I don’t care. I still love ’em. So, we’re looking at area rugs and talking about what we like and what we want for this house and then we went to bed. Friday night, I checked in with Craig and his list before heading upstairs to read in bed. Would you believe I see a little something under the “free” section? It’s a braided rug. I email and they still have it as well as a solid maple twin head/foot board set. For 5 dollars. Uh huh.

We load up into the truck and drive about 15 minutes to get the free rug (which, it turns out is WOOL) and the bed stuff. We get home and roll it out and I get the vacuum on it.  After vacuuming for a loonnnnggg time. we take a good look at it. Would you believe it has two green rows in it? Do you know who has green furniture? That’s right!  Now, I’ll give you a peek:

Check out that rug....

So I am loving it. Maybe it has a bit of a retro feel, but I am totally working with it… I priced a similar sized one (10×12) at Cabela’s and it was $1000.00!  I am feeling really great about this!  And, my feet don’t feel like they are sitting on an igloo, which is a bonus.

On to cooking…Friday night, we plugged in our trusty upright freezer so it could be ready for a Sam’s Club run on Saturday. We haven’t used it since we left Bville. I went to Sam’s on Saturday as planned and came home ready to start re-packaging what I had purchased. For instance, I bought the world’s largest bag of pepperoni and Carter helped me re-package it into 1 cup bags, using my seal-a-meal. I think we now have something like 18 bags of pepperoni. I did four kinds of cheese, all-beef hot dogs and more before getting too tired to continue. Sunday afternoon, I went to the basement to get a package of cheese out, and nothing was frozen. All cold, but not frozen. Oh no! I moved the meatballs to the kitchen freezer/fridge and started breathing quickly in a panic. The freezer runs, but it just won’t freeze. We are currently checking in with Craig to see if he knows of any freezers before we have to go to Lowe’s or something. Ugh. Thankfully, I was too pooped to cut up the 10.5 pound pork loin into chops or divide out the ground beef. They are currently hanging out in our fridge. Neato.

Since I can’t do those meaty things, I made up a batch of whole wheat pancake mix – using a new recipe I received from The Urban Homemaker. You can find it here. I had purchased some Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder online just for this kind of thing, so I added 16-17 teaspoons of it to the mix as well. It sure smells great and we can’t wait to give it a whirl.  It made approx 21.5 cups of mix. Here’s how I packaged it:

I can already taste the mixed berry jam I'll put on them!

That’s about it from Illinois. I wait to make lasagnas and poppy seed chicken until we get the freezer thing worked out.  I almost forgot to tell you about the 100% natural, all organic whole chickens I got on sale….for 3 dollars each. I bought all 5 that Kroger had. They are Amish something or other. I was so excited. I am going to make the poppy seed chicken, enchiladas and just have cooked chicken for salad, quesadillas, etc. I’ll also be able to have my chicken broth in the freezer made from cooking those cluckers for 24 hours. (Well, really it’s the bones and all but you get the drift) I read a great article from Laura over at Heavenly Homemakers about how to stretch a chicken. You can read it here.

What’s cooking at your house?

~Janna

Snowy and Settled

Greetings from…?

I am here. Where?  Oh, only about 1,347 miles North of the bottom of Texas, where we used to live. 845 miles North, Northeast of North Texas, where we spent the months of mid-August through mid-December. As I type this, I am watching the snow blow and blow on our deck. It’s 17 degrees outside and I’m sitting on the couch with a space heater 4 inches in front of me. We did not register for a space heater 19 years ago when we got married. It’s our first one. I love it. It is the most fought-over item in our home lately!

After leaving the Rio Grande Valley in the middle of August, we stayed in North Texas (DFW area) for 4 months. Well, Mr Darcy stayed for 3.5 and the boys and I left the week before Christmas. Our movers arrived with all of our worldly possessions in Northwestern Illinois exactly one week before Christmas. I’ll tell you, it was almost like Christmas when we opened our boxes of toys and “things” we hadn’t seen for 4 months! After a house sale fell through at the last minute, Mr Darcy found us a wonderful home that we are renting. We’d love to buy it. It’s just perfect for us. We’ll see what God says about it later on.

Our new church home is AWESOME. Mr Darcy loves his new job. Loves the people he works with. It’s a lot of love around here. For the first time in our married lives, we have a basement. We love it. The Legos live down there. My crafting stuff lives down there. Mr Darcy’s office lives down there as well as firstborn’s weight lifting equipment, holiday storage and…all my kitchen supplies that I don’t use every day. It’s awesome. I’ll have to post a picture soon.

I have only made bread once since we have been here. I know…how weird is that? It’s just that we haven’t been eating ANY bread for a week and a half. Crazytown. I am already planning a marathon baking day and cinnamon rolls for breakfast on January 30! I don’t know if you know this, but you can get some pretty sweet deals on baking supplies on Amazon.com. I ordered SAF yeast at a fantastic deal (I think it’s the best) and buttermilk powder 2 weeks ago. This week I ordered 2 pounds of cinnamon at a real steal. Today, I ordered foil baking pans (cake size) that I am hoping I read the package amount right on. If I did, I lucked out. 🙂

Since I mainly tell you all what I have been making , this won’t be very exciting. However, we did enjoy something fun today at lunch. We are calling it pizza soup. It’s merely tomato soup with small chunks of pepperoni and mozz cheese in it. It was yummy  (so says the boys – I don’t eat pepperoni) and wowza was it cheap to make. Very nice on a cold, blustering day. We have enjoyed cheeseburger soup lately as well as baked potato soup in the past few weeks. We also tried something I have never made and probably won’t make again – coq au vin. It wasn’t bad, just not something we loved. At least when we visit France again someday, we’ll know what it is!

Now that I feel settled and only have books left to unpack (we still need to buy/make bookshelves as one broke completely during the move and we had built-ins at the last house and we have 15 boxes sitting in the living room, no lie) I am ready to blog again. I just felt like I had nothing to say for the past 4 months. I would sit in front of my laptop with this blog open in front of me and bang out a sentence or two, but it was yuck. But I have plenty to say now, so watch out. I am ready! I feel like “me” again and I missed me.

So far, our new neighbors have kept themselves pretty scarce. I don’t know if it’s because it’s winter or because they aren’t southern :-). At first, I was getting sad about it, but then I decided I was going to be neighborly and show ’em how it’s done. Here’s my plan: Valentine’s Day is coming up and I plan to make cinnamon rolls in the pans I just ordered from Amazon, smothered in The Pioneer Woman’s Maple Icing http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/ 

(if you haven’t tried that, you are missing out!) and say “Happy Valentine’s Day from your new neighbors!”  I can’t wait!

Who could YOU surprise this year with some baked (or just homemade) goods this year for Valentine’s Day? Tell me, tell me true….

~Janna