Thanksgiving thoughts

It’s November. I love November, but for the first time in my married life, I’m not putting out one STITCH of fall decor. Really. I’m being serious. We’d have to go to the storage unit and find the Rubbermaids, haul them over here, unpack them, find a place for the items, pack up the Rubbermaids, and haul them back to storage. All of this for a few items because, honey, we ain’t got no room for no decorations. It’s a little liberating, actually. After Thanksgiving, we’re going to go get our Christmas decor and do what I just mentioned, because we aren’t ready to go without Christmas yet. Baby steps.

As I type this, Mr Darcy and middle son are doing Greco-Roman style wrestling on the floor. That’s how we roll over here. (Pun intended) The two other boys are having a lively discussion downstairs about country music vs techno music, and I’m debating if I should make an espresso or not, while rubbing my aching muscles from a push-up marathon last night. No, not the frozen sherbet treat…

Next week, we are going to head north to Chicago for the holiday. It’s just a couple of hours away and it’s our family tradition. I love it. We stay at a hotel that we love and have a great time. This year, I have several family bonding activities planned. We are going to make vision boards, do a silly scavenger photo hunt around the city, and bond. I’m trying to think of some fun snack foods for the room – any ideas?

Boy, I wish you could be here enjoying this wrestling match 3 inches from me.  Boys…

I invented a new family favorite dinner.  The guys like it so much.  I think I just might need to share it with you! It’s a crockpot dinner, so I like it. Take a roast and put it in the crockpot. (I put mine in frozen, even though there are varying opinions on the safety of doing so – what can I say? I like to live dangerously) I drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top. Then I start sprinkling on the following spices to cover the top of the roast: cumin, garlic salt, salt, cayenne pepper (not as much as other spices),and chili powder (not as much as the other spices). I turn that bad boy on high, put the cover on, and don’t think about it again. This morning, I put it in at about 7:30 and we ate at 5:00. About 1/2 hour we are going to eat, I shred the meat with two forks and take the lid off for 15 minutes. This lets the meat absorb a lot of the liquid.  I get out tortillas, avocado, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. I also made cilantro-lime rice. Wowza, this is good. When I see a cheap roast at the Krogers, I always buy it and put it in the freezer. This is Mr Darcy’s favorite way to eat roast. Let me know if you try it.

The wrestling has ceased, but the downstairs discussion has now moved on to Kanye West and his religious-undertoned lyrics. They don’t like it. Me neither, boys.

Because I’m now so cold that I’m shaking and trying to warm up with the heat on the bottom of my laptop, I think I’ll sign off for now and do my night-time chiropractic exercises. Oldest son just informed me that if my muscles hurt this bad after only doing the measly amount of push-ups that I did last night, it should tell me something. I told him I didn’t want to hear his muscle interpreting skills any longer.  He just laughed and flexed his biceps as he ran downstairs. He’s quite pleased with himself. So, I really feel the need to start my warm-up so I can show him my biceps.  I hope you are warm and no one in your house is wrestling at your feet.

~Janna

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

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

 

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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