Today in a nutshell


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This morning we got up, Stephen started studying and I went off to the Mac store to find someone to help me with my iPhoto disaster. Luckily everything is back to normal and all of my pictures have been restored- hooray! Then it was off to JoAnn's and Target. Can I just say I love Target during Christmas time?! I was pleasantly surprised to find that "muddy buddy" mix I mention in a previous post and a few other fun things including this ornament...
... which just happens to look a lot like the KitchenAid I have :). Stephen and I are continuing one of my family's traditions of picking out a vintage glass ornament each year that represents us in some way or another. So far we've got a pretty fun collection. I think it will be cool to see what it looks like in a couple more years. Anyway, after going to the stores I headed over to Katie's house to help make some mason jar "winter wonderlands" like we made here
I made some snowman ornaments I saw at Target and decided it would also be fun to try to make other "festive" ornaments with those handy dandy clear ones. So Rudolf it was.
Once Emme woke up from her nap she joined in on the craftiness by playing in a bowl of fake snow, ringing jingle bells and making little foam Christmas trees. 
When we were done I headed back home to see how Stephen was doing. We were both really hungry so for dinner I made a lightened up lasagna. I was a little worried about putting raw zucchini and squash in it, but I baked it a little longer than I normally would and it turned out great- husband approved.

Vegetable Lasagna
1 (10oz) package frozen spinach, thawed according to directions on package
1 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
1 yellow crooked neck squash, sliced into thin rounds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5oz) can tomato sauce
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 c. part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 c. low fat cottage cheese
1 c. low-moisture part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tbsp. fresh basil (I use the Gourmet Garden squeeze tubes)
1 tbsp. fresh parsley (I use the Gourmet Garden squeeze tubes)
2 tsp. salt
1 (10oz) package lasagna noodles

1. Bring pot of water to a boil. Place lasagna noodles in and cook until al dente (they will finish as they bake).
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan over low heat, saute 1/2 of the minced garlic and 1/2 of the diced onion. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a low simmer.
3. In a small mixing bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, cottage cheese, 1/3 c. mozzarella, beaten egg, oregano, basil, parsley and remaining salt, garlic and onion. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated. 
4. Begin assembling by spooning a small amount of sauce over the bottom of a baking pan. Arrange noodles, overlapping if necessary to cover bottom.
5. Place half of the sliced zucchini and squash over the noodles. Then spoon cheese mixture over. Place remaining vegetables on top, covering them with a layer of sauce. Cover with remaining noodles and spoon remaining sauce over. Sprinkle with 2/3c. mozzarella and place into oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Chicken & Noodles


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Last night I was helping Stephen study and trying to clean out the fridge. I didn't want to spend a whole lot of time cooking dinner, so I decided to make chicken and noodles just like my mother-in-law makes, but with a few added ingredients. Not only is this meal light and healthy, but it comes together quickly and makes great leftovers.

Chicken and Noodles
2 lb. skinless chicken thighs
1 (16oz.) bag egg noodles
4 c. water
1 (26oz) container of chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. carrot, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Nature's Seasonings
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 bay leaf

1. In a large pot, bring water and stock to a boil.
2. Place chicken in. Add garlic powder, onion powder, Nature's Seasonings, thyme, salt, ground pepper and bay leaf. Simmer on medium-high for 1 hour.
3. Remove chicken, debone and shred.
4. Add carrots, celery, onion, shredded chicken and noodles to pot. Return heat to high and boil for 10-12 minutes or until noodles are fully cooked (adding additional water if necessary). Remove bay leaf. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Currently snacking on...


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last winter just after Christmas, I went over to my brother's house. He had a jar of Archer Farms "muddy buddies" on the counter. It was your typical Chex® cereal coated in peanut butter, but with dark chocolate and powdered sugar mixed with cocoa powder. I thought it was really good. A couple of days later I went to Target to look for it and it was sold out. Well, the other night Stephen and I were looking for something sweet to eat and I realized I had the ingredients- so I decided to make it myself. I used the recipe on the back of the cereal box to guide me along but altered it and halved it.

Dark Chocolate Puppy Chow
4 1/2 c. Corn Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips, heaping (I like Ghiradelli 60% cacao chips)
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter, heaping
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. double-dutch dark cocoa powder

1. In a large mixing bowl, measure cereal and set aside.
2. In a small microwaveable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on high for 30 seconds, remove and stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth.
3. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, gently stirring with a rubber spatula until evenly coated.
4. Pour into a large (2 gallon) ziplock bag. Add powdered sugar and cocoa powders. Seal bag and shake well until completely coated.
5. Spread onto waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator. 
Adapted from | Gluten Free | Makes approximately 10 servings

Cub Scout gift #2


Monday, November 14, 2011

For our second and final gift, we made these really simple ornaments-

Stained Glass Ornaments
Acrylic paint (2-3 colors)
Glass ornaments

1. Remove top. Pour small dabs of paint into each ornament. Swirl.
2. Allow to dry for 7-10 days (or however long your paint requires).
3. Re-insert top. Thread ribbon through loop and tie a bow.

During my search for ideas, I found some cool ornaments on...
... West Elm's website...
... and on apartment therapy...
... and on Better Homes and Gardens...
... and of course, on Pinterest.
But really, clear glass ornaments can be filled with just about anything.

Cub Scout gift #1


Sunday, November 13, 2011

                                                 Ours: $6                                                                          Anthropologie's: $38

The first gift that we made for Cub Scouts was this Christmas "Winter Wonderland" snow globe. I got this idea the other day when Stephen and I were walking through Anthropologie. They had just put out all of their Christmas decor and I thought these were cute, clever and perfect for their achievement. If you're interested in making one, here's what you'll need:

Winter Wonderland Snow Globes
1 large mason jar with a ring and seal
1 bag of craft snow or fine white glitter
1-3 trees
Super glue (I used Gorilla Glue)
*small pinecones, optional
1. Glue tree(s) to the back of the seal. Allow to dry completely.
2. Pour craft snow or glitter into jar (you'll need about 1 cup)
3. Place seal on top and securely fasten seal.
    (if you think kids are going to take it apart, you can put a line
    of glue around the seal so it cannot be opened)
4. Turn over jar and shake snow down to bottom.

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yesterday I was looking for a treat to make for my Cub Scouts. I didn't have a lot of time and I wanted to make something that even the pickiest eaters would like, so I turned to Pinterest. I've been seeing this recipe pop up on pinboards almost every day with the title "secret ingredient, you'll never guess!" Well, I checked out the recipe, read the reviews and decided to give it a try. And guess what? They're REALLY good!!! Stephen said they tasted like bakery cookies, hence the title :) I had no idea that cornstarch was even used in baked goods, but it worked wonders. I altered the recipe slightly, here is my version:

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. semi-sweet mini morsel chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars. Add vanilla and egg, mix until incorporated.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Mix in dry ingredients, one cup at a time, until smooth. 
4. Add chocolate chips, fold in.
5. Place cookies on sheet using a standard scoop. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. (Since I made giant cookies I used 2 scoops of dough, patted them together, put 6 on a sheet, and baked them for 14 minutes).
6. Remove from oven and let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Adapted from Anna Olson- Chocolate Chip Cookies | Makes approximately 2 dozen

Olive Garden inspired Tuscan Garlic Chicken


Friday, November 4, 2011

I made this pasta a while back, but I've been wanting to make it again ever since. I came across the recipe on my friend Mandy's blog and immediately knew we had to try it. I added a few extra things and substituted some ingredients to lighten things up a bit, but it turned out fantastic. I apologize as the chicken in this picture looks less than appetizing, but I chopped it up in a hurry, and sometimes that's just the way things are. I promise it's really tasty! The next thing we will be making is from her blog is the Garlic Chicken Alfredo Pizza... it sounds so good!

Tuscan Garlic Chicken
with a Parmesan Cream Sauce
3/4c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
1 tsp. Nature's Seasonings
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 boneless chicken breasts, or 4-5 chicken tenders
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1 c. fresh spinach, sliced into 1"x1/4" strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. half and half
1 c. 1% lowfat milk
2 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (can be found in little plastic containers at most stores)
1lb. fettuccine

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a shallow dish, combine flour, bread crumbs, Nature's Seasonings, garlic powder, dried basil and dried oregano. Lay each piece of chicken into the mixture and toss until both sides are fully coated.
3. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place the chicken into the pan, making sure not to rub off the coating. Cook chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side (making sure not to move it around) until it is golden brown and the crust is seared (it will not be cooked all the way through- it will finish in the oven).
4. Remove the chicken from the skillet and place onto a foil-lined, lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes (less if you are using chicken tenders). Once chicken is fully cooked, remove and set aside.
5. While the chicken is baking, heat a large pot of water and cook the fettuccine.
6. While the noodles are cooking, in a small saucepan, over medium-low heat, add 2 tbsp. olive oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic and bell pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp. flour and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and onion powder, bring to a low simmer whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Add milk, half and half, cornstarch and spinach, to the saucepan, whisk until smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly until the spinach has cooked or 'wilted' and the sauce has thickened. Stir in parmesan cheese.
7. Toss pasta and half of cheese sauce. Divide and place on plates. Top with chicken, spoon remaining sauce on top.
{Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe}

Buttermilk Banana Bread


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The other day I couldn't help but notice that the bananas I had just bought had browned. I thought about freezing them and using them for banana cookies, but I decided that instead I would use them for banana bread. This recipe is one that my mom has used and I have loved since I was little. It's up to you how much you mash the bananas or if you want to add nuts. But either way it always turns out great!

Buttermilk Banana Bread
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 c. very ripe bananas, mashed (3-4)
1/2 c. buttermilk*
1/2 c. butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped walnuts, optional
*Substitution: 2 tsp. lemon juice in 1/2 c. milk, let stand for 5 minutes.

1. Move oven rack to position where pans will be in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottoms of 2 loaf pans, using non-stick baking spray or butter and flour.
2. In a large bowl, mix sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.
3. Mash bananas on a plate, using a fork. Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
4. Gently fold in flour, baking soda, and salt and walnuts (or save for on top).
5. Pour batter into pans (sprinkle nuts on top if desired).
6. Place in oven and bake for approximately one hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, and the loaves are golden brown on the top. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides of the loves and remove from pans onto wire rack. Let cool completely (about 2 hours) before cutting.

Note: I used my mini loaf pan to make the loaves pictured above. If you're going to do so, make sure you don't use liners (oops) and that you pour the batter directly into the greased wells (this will help ensure that the crust gets brown and that they bake all the way through). Baking time will change to about 25 minutes.

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