Yum from the slow cooker

Hello to you all and happy Wednesday!  Since it’s Wednesday and I am doing slow cooker recipes on Wednesday, I tried something new. Friends, it was GOOD. It was so good that I knew…I knew I had to share it with you. It is the best slow cooker pork chops I have ever had. Really.

6 pork chops (I used my boneless center loin chops)
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or something like it.
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed

I put all 6 FROZEN pork chops in the bottom of the crock pot. I sprinkled the Lawry’s on them – but just on one side. I dumped everything else right on top, turned it on low and put the lid on. Mine were on all afternoon. I think (don’t count on this) I turned the crockpot on before lunch by just a little, but I can’t remember. Hey, that was a long time ago in Jannaland! After about an hour, I stirred it just a smidge. After 2 hours, I stirred it again. At 5:00 pm, my superthick chops were done.

They smelled amazing. I served them with corn on the cob and salted edamame. I also had sautéed onions (because I love them) as a side dish. Everyone said “WOW!”  We will make these again. SO easy. I am wondering if the same technique and recipe would work for chicken breasts or if they would get mushy like they usually do. I also wonder how a pork roast would be in the crockpot with the same recipe. I’ll bet it would be tasty.

Did I mention how yummy these were?

Last night, I made a Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuit clone with our dinner. I simply added grated fresh parmesan and extra sharp cheddar as well as about 5-6 cloves of minced garlic to my basic biscuit dough recipe. Yes, white flour. They were delicious. You should make some. Well, only if you like delicious goodness in every bite.

That’s it for us over here. Tomorrow, my youngest turns 11. Oh dear. He requested ice cream sandwiches as his birthday treat. I did not try to make those homemade. Why would I? 🙂

Here’s hoping your dinner was delicious tonight as well!

~Janna

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Carry-on luggage and other strange things

We just returned from a great getaway trip that I won. What? Yes…I WON it. It was a family reunion trip. I entered  when I lived in North Texas, so that’s where the reunion was held. Mr Darcy’s younger sister and her family flew in from the East Coast and we flew in from the Heartland. We had a great time.

In addition to everyone in Mr Darcy’s family, we were able to see my precious parents, my sister, brother in law and their 4 terrific boys AND my Great Aunt and Uncle who were in town for a wedding from South Carolina. I loved it! Even though our time was short, it was wonderful to be in the company of those we call “family.”

I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the airlines have imposed a lovely thing called a baggage cost. Basically, even though you are going far away from your closet and dresser, you are not supposed to need clothes, shoes and your Chi flat iron. So, unless you can fit those items in your small carry-on luggage (and that seems to get smaller every year), you have to pay to bring a suitcase. My father in laws says, “no big deal.” But we are a family of 5. The airlines charge $25 each way to check luggage. That would add $250 to the cost of our weekend trip. Yuck. So we have become quite good at bringing only what we need in the carry-ons and I dream of wearing a giant trenchcoat with hidden pockets to put my flat iron and shoes in!

Even with the challenges of packing everything I might need in the equivalent of a Holly Hobby Lunchbox, I want to tell you something: I love the airport. I love rolling my luggage behind me as I walk from gate to gate and I love LOVE people watching at the airport. Such fun.

Now we are back and I am going to divulge a great weakness of mine. Sit down. Take a deep breath. Here it is:  It’s grocery-store sugar cookies with Technicolor frosting. Cannot. Resist.  We returned home to an empty fridge (I like it that way), so I went to the Kroger and bought our groceries for the rest of the pay period. I was just about finished when I strolled over to the bakery department. It was like a siren song as I floated over to the “reduced” rack they had. My eyes were glazed, transfixed on the 400 clear, plastic boxes of cookies – for 49 cents. I’d like to say that the smarter part of me resisted, shouting, “NO, Janna! The ingredient list in those cookies is like the recipe for poison! Your children are allergic to food dye! Lard is certainly in those pretty round, frosted cookies! That bright blue frosting is going to stain your teeth! You will get sick from all the tooooxxxxxiiinnnnss.” Well, maybe somewhere in my mind I was hearing all of those things, but a louder voice said, “49 cents for sugar cookies… delicious sugar cookies. Buy them, Janna. Eat them, Janna. Maybe share one or two with your family.”  Before I knew it, 4 packages were in my cart. I tried to hide them under a large loaf of sourdough bread and organic spinach, but the checker wanted to start a conversation about them as I tried to look anywhere but at the belt of shame, carrying my cookies to the bagging area. I nodded as she remarked about the great deal on the cookies. It was as if I believed not acknowledging the cookies made them somehow healthier. Perhaps vegan, gluten free, and certainly not processed flour and sugar. It didn’t work. I still knew. And I still loved them. Yes, that’s past tense. They are gone now. We have removed the temptation by eating them. I feel so much better now that they can’t taunt me from the counter anymore.

In all their glory

Cookies!

Is there a 12 step program for grocery store sugar cookie consumption?

~Janna

Am I Culinary Genius?

This post will be somewhat brief because I am not feeling all that well. Bummer.

Just a few moments ago, I had a moment that will hopefully go down in culinary history. I had leftover shortbread mix from my bar making the other day and I wanted/needed to use it up. I had plans for date bars but decided at the last minute to only make one 8×8 pan of that. I chopped up about 2 cups of pitted dried dates (from Sam’s Club) in my food processor and added it to about 1 cup of water in a saucepan. I cooked it until it bubbled and thickened up. Dates are so sweet that I didn’t need to add any sugar. After it bubbled for a minute, I took it off of the heat and spread it in the pan, over the shortbread layer. I finished it just like the others from two days ago.

Now I was left with one pan of crust. What could I do? Within minutes, it hit me. I put about 3/4 cup of Sunbutter (made with sunflower seeds) into a saucepan. We have two boys who are allergic to peanut butter. I added about the same amount of chocolate chips to the pan and stirred until it was smooth. I poured that over the crust and finished it off like the other. If this turns out, I will be so thrilled. If it doesn’t, I am hoping the boys will eat it anyhow. But if it turns out…oh, how I hope it turns out!

I just pulled it out of the oven. Middle son says it smells good. My smeller isn’t working so I can’t tell you if it does. H and C just taste-tested. They said the Sunbutter is a bit overpowering. (Seriously, that was exactly what H said) so we sprinkled more chocolate chips on top and put it back in the oven to melt them.  Mr Darcy walked in  and tried one and said he likes them!

I think they still need a bit of work, but I am on to something here. What else can I put in between the two layers of shortbread?

~Janna

Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Late last night, I snuck downstairs to put my guys’ cards and candy on the kitchen table. I found Star Wars cards online and printed them up. So cute – even one for Mr Darcy.  A few weeks ago, I bought a box of conversation hearts candy and I have had them hiding in my desk area. It’s scary around my desk area so no one enters….unless they want to steal my tape and then they are full of bravery!

Yesterday, I made some bread. I made two loaves of sandwich bread, 5 bread bowls, about 25 tortillas and I made a loaf of this:

for my babies

For lunch, I sliced this up and put it under the broiler with some shredded cheese and one pepperoni slice per piece. I served it with leftover poppy seed chicken and the boys were thrilled. I was thrilled. We were all thrilled.

Tonight, we’ll have chili in those bread bowls along with a heart shaped cake that I am making as I type this. I used this recipe. However, instead of using the the dark or bittersweet chocolate it calls for at the beginning, I am using some Abuelitas Mexican Chocolate. Yum. I think the cinnamon in that chocolate will be so nice after the chili, don’t you? I brought the Abuelitas all the way from Bville. If you click on the hyperlink, you’ll see what I am talking about. I think you should be able to find it at most mainstream grocers, if you are interested.

You know, Valentine’s Day is all about L.O.V.E.  If for some reason, you just aren’t feeling it, you don’t feel loved, or this day just is stinkola for you…I want you to know that you are loved. The One who created you- loves you more than you could imagine.  He can’t stop loving you.

It’s true, you know. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. It’s better than any heart-shaped boxed of chocolates, or roses or sappy love song. But if you need to read His love letter for you today (and really, who doesn’t?), here’s one of my favorites:

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will rejoice over you with loud singing.

In Hebrew, the word rejoice is translated as giyl or gul and it means to spin about wildly. Dancing.

Yes, this is how He feels about you. YOU. He’s so in love with you that he dances around you. Can’t you just imagine it? The closest I can imagine is that it’s like when I dance around my husband when I am so excited to be going on a vacation….like when I danced in the car after bringing Mr Darcy home from the hospital when he had surgery for what the Dr was certain was lymphoma-but wasn’t…when my boys dance and jump and shout around me when I say I’m serving cake for breakfast…when I danced around, crying with joy as I realized I was going to be a Mommy…We dance a lot at our house, for lots of different reasons but His dance? It’s better, stronger, louder and certainly more rhythmic than all of those. He dances around us, loving us, smiling and rejoicing.

You are loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

~janna

Wish you were here….

Happy Wednesday, friends!

How I wish you were my neighbor right now. In 5 minutes, something that smells SO GOOD is going to come out of the oven and we are going to sample it. It will be my first live taste test on adventuresinjannaland. I am anticipating good things. 🙂

I have a recipe I have used for several years for homemade “nutrigrain” bars. It’s delicious. Seriously. You should try it. I made a double batch of the recipe and started out to make raspberry bars as per my menu plan. Problem #1: Darling children ate an ENTIRE jar of delicious raspberry jam. No, I am not kidding. We just opened it on Saturday morning and it’s gone now. What’s a gal to do? I looked in the cabinet and found several jars of my homemade mixed berry jam smiling at me. I remembered that I had half of a jar of that in the fridge. I used the jar in the fridge and half of a new jar for one batch. All the while thinking to myself, “these are going to be delicious…probably better than the raspberry ones would have been because this jam is so fantastic.” Yes, you have now had a glimpse into my mind.

Now I was faced with a new dilemma. What about the other pan? I remembered that I was going to try a new recipe for homemade Fig Newtons this week and quickly decided to transform this recipe into something figgy. Now I was going to get “figgy with it.” This is really how I think, people. 🙂 I had two packages of organic, dried figs in the cupboard. I added a smidgeroo of sugar and some water to make a simple syrup and chopped the figs in the blender. Gorgeous. I tasted it. Yumola. After it started to warm on the stovetop, my kitchen smelled like something those Keebler Elves could be proud of. I spread my fig delight over the shortbread-oat crust in my 13×9 and prayed it would be as good in real life as it was promising to be in my dreams.

The timer just beeped.

Oh. My. Goodness. I just burned my tongue but WOWIE WOW WOW. I am a culinary genius. Not really, but these are delicious. Wowza.  I am so excited!  I have a bag of dried dates and extra “shortbread” mixture. Guess what combination I will try tomorrow? Please tell me you’ll make some, too. You won’t be sorry.

Here’s how you’ll do it:

Fruit and Grain Bars

1 cup butter, softened

1 c brown sugar

1 c whole wheat flour

1 c unbleached all-purpose flour (now you know, I used all ww, but that’s just me)

1.5 cups oats

jam – recipe says 16 ounces. I think I used about 12 for the berry ones.

1 teaspoon almond extract

Step one (if you are at my house) take the oat groats and flake them.

Oat groats in the hopper on top. See how they magically turn into flaked oats in the bowl? So much better than the ones from the store!

If you don’t plan on flaking your oats at your house (and most people aren’t going to do that) it’s okay. These will still be delicious. 🙂

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add almond extract. Press half of this crumb mixture in a greased 9×13 pan. Spread with jam carefully. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top and press lightly. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Wait a few minutes so the burn on your tongue will be minimal and enjoy!

I did a 8x8 pan of the mixed berry.

I made my fig bars in the 13x9

Fig bars in the 13x9

Now listen. Don’t tell the Mom police, but I am TOTALLY going to serve these for breakfast. Yes I am. If I call it a Nutrigrain bar enough times in my head, it becomes acceptable. Never mind that I don’t buy Nutrigrain bars for my family. Never mind that there’s no protein in these. There was no protein in the waffles I made this morning and I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit. Oats, fruit, (okay, jam in one case) and whole grains and…and…extract. There you go. Breakfast. Dessert. Snack. Get figgy with it.

~Janna

 

Menu Plan Monday

Today we went out as a family to try to find bookshelves, tables, chairs and twin bed frames.  We came home with ski pants and full tummies from the ice cream shop. I would call that a success of sorts!

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but Mr Darcy is going to help me make this table. I am really excited about it. I want a big, huge, giant table to seat lots of people. This past weekend, when we had our dinner party, we moved our regular table into the dining room and shoved the card table up to the end of it. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked. I tried to make myself feel better by putting the only quasi-matching tablecloths on those tables. I still knew that it was a wobbly card table shoved at the end of the oval table. Soon, the new table will start to take shape and I won’t have to resort to the card table anymore.

The dinner went well. That’s the first time I have ever made that many chicken fried steaks at once, but it turned out. The only thing I wasn’t pleased about was my Blonde Texas Sheet Cake. When I got out my giant binder of recipes, I could NOT find that one. I looked and looked and looked and then tried to find it online. It didn’t appear there, either. So, I made a another white sheet cake recipe and the caramel frosting. It wasn’t the same and I am so sad about it. That’s one of my favorite cakes. I think I may have given that printed recipe away when we lived in Bville. Ugh.  We were so happy to have new friends over, though. 🙂

Tonight, I tried a new chicken marinade that included oil, apple cider vinegar and a citrus peel mixture. I was anticipating a burst of flavor when I tried the first bite. NO FLAVOR AT ALL. I guess that was better than yucky flavor, right? I served the guys chicken, mashed potatoes and spinach salad with freshly grated parmesan. I skipped the potatoes and just had a larger salad. It made the chicken a bit better, I think! On a side note, I could eat chunks of parmesan at any given time, I think. I love that flavor!

On the menu this week:

Monday: Citrus chicken, mashed potatoes, spinach salad and ice cream

Tuesday: Enchiladas, rice and raw spinach salad (seeing the spinach trend, yet?)

Wednesday: Crockpot Beef Stroganoff, green beans and raspberry oatmeal bars

Thursday: Chili in bread bowls, raw carrots, grated cheddar cheese

Friday: Date night! No cooking for this lady…it’s our Valentine’s date.

Saturday: Burgers, homemade oven fries, apricots

Sunday: Poppy Seed Chicken, mixed greens, homemade Fig Newtons (first time to try these)

I looked at my older post and couldn’t see that I mentioned our new menu system so forgive me if I have already told you. I devised a weekly plan that allows me the room to change up recipes while still giving me ease in planning by having the same “themes.”   Mondays are chicken. Tuesday: Tex-Mex. Wednesday: Crockpot because we are gone in the afternoons for classes. Thursday: Soup/Sandwich (either/and). Friday: Italian/Pizza.  Saturday: “Beef for Briggs.”  Sunday: Crockpot or Time Baked Casserole so we can just come right home after church and eat. We’re like that.

I am really liking this system so far. It allows me the chance to try new recipes I see on Pinterest!

What’s on your menu this week? Trying anything new? Please share!

~Janna

WINNER!!!

After a very technical drawing involving strips of paper, a ball canning jar and my teenage son, we have drawn the first winner for the $10.00 Peet’s Coffee GC.

And the winner is….

Debbie who said, “my mom would make a “filipino” omelet with lots of onions, garlic, potatoes, ham, and bell peppers. We’d eat it with rice and fresh diced tomatoes. It was so satisfying!”

Debbie, that sounds so yummy!  Let’s all give her a round of applause, okay? 🙂

I loved hearing what you all loved for breakfast when you were young. What fun!

This won’t be our first giveaway so stay tuned for more….

In other news: today I am making mashed potatoes and cakes for a dinner party we are having at our house tomorrow night. It’s our first party in Illinois and I am so excited. Because I needed to be working in the kitchen and cleaning house, I decided to paint a wooden bench that sits in our front entry. That makes total sense, right? 🙂  It’s now a pretty grey. It’s the very first thing our guests will see when they arrive and I wanted it to look “purty.” That’s important, you know! You’ll be happy to know that I have already made the mashed potatoes (Pioneer Woman) and have the Texas Sheet Cake in the oven. I am about to start the Blonde Texas Sheet Cake in a few moments. Did you know that you can make mashed potatoes ahead of time and put them in your crockpot? It’s true. I have been doing it for several years – especially on Thanksgiving. It’s a real time-saver and frees up my stovetop for the two cast-iron skillets that will be frying chicken fried steaks (and later, cream gravy). I’ll be making up my biscuits tomorrow. I was going to make it today and freeze one batch as an experiment for later, but we went to the library this morning and it took longer than I thought. Not such a bad thing!

We’ll have a houseful of people – pretty much all strangers to me and Mr Darcy only works with the spouses. I am so excited.  I love to have a houseful of people. I love that feeling of puttering in the kitchen when they are about to arrive. I love hearing laughter in my house. I love a big “amen” at the end of the dinner prayer. We are so thankful for new friendships.

After dinner, I get to use  my coffee bar! I love my Keurig coffee maker because everyone gets to choose what they’d like. Hot tea, cocoa, coffee…and I have a milk frother and coffee syrups to go with it. The frother is so much fun. Just pour the milk in, turn it on and in a minute – hot, frothy milk to go in the drink!

I wish you were coming for coffee!

Yes, that’s the Texas Sheet Cake Cooling on the counter. Doesn’t it look yummy? 🙂

~Janna