Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's in the Box Wednesday?

It's another spooky, scary, Halloween lunch!  There are pizza bagel mummies, apple vampire grins, spooky egg eyeballs, and crawly worms for good measure.  Addie's vampire grins are made with soy butter and almond slivers.  Caroline's are made with cream cheese and candy corn.  Caroline has a peanut allergy, and even though it's soy butter, she doesn't like anything with the look or texture of peanut butter. I think it's a defense mechanism.


Today I'm using Easy Lunchboxes.  Check them out here.  Also, pictured below is the soy butter we use.  It's the best "fake peanut butter" I've been able to find.  Poor Addie, she loves peanut butter.  When she goes to a friend's house or grandparents without Caroline, she eats a lot of peanut butter!  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mulled Dr. Pepper and Weekend Events


I was browsing through a Taste of Home Halloween magazine and came across a recipe for Mulled Dr. Pepper.  I love Dr. Pepper and I really wanted to try it.  I got the opportunity this weekend when a friend invited us to her Halloween party.  I had never heard of drinking Dr. Pepper hot, but apparently, it's been happening for years.  While reading some reviews of the recipe, I noticed several reviewers talking about having it when they were younger when they had a cold.  Then, at the party, one of the guests told about how her Dad would bring home Dr. Pepper as a treat and heat it up on the stove.  I thought it was a warm and comforting drink, similar to cider in the spices.  Just don't expect to get the Dr. Pepper burn.  It goes away on heating.

Mulled Dr. Pepper

8 cups Dr. Pepper
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a 3 qt slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours.  Discard cloves before serving.  I used one of my tea strainers to hold the cloves so I didn't have to fish them out.

I also took these caramel apples to the party.  Find the recipe here over at Our Everyday Dinners.  The homemade caramel was so worth the effort!

Here's our costume.  I'm glad I have a cooperative husband.  We usually do a couples theme costume.

The rest of our weekend was filled with activity as well.  We had Caroline's school carnival.  Addie didn't go this year.  Since she is in Middle School now, she thinks she's too old for such things. :(

Sunday afternoon, the Girl Scouts presented the flag at a Mashburn Foundation concert.  I met Mrs. Mashburn in the waiting area of the Toyota Service Department while we were both having our oil changed.  We chatted about different subjects, including Girl Scouts, and she offered us this opportunity of presenting the flag and the girls got to attend the concert for free.  The music was great!  It was a tribute to soul and the girls knew a lot of the songs.  They were singing, clapping, and dancing along.  Check out the Mashburn singers.  They do a couple of concerts a year to raise money for scholarships.

Mike and the girls finished out the weekend by carving a couple of our pumpkins.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ghostly Shepherd's Pie and other Goodies

This one's from my magazine archives ya'll.  I'm a sucker for those little specialty cooking magazines at the checkout.  I pulled out the Halloween themed ones to look through and found this recipe in a Fall 2001 Pillsbury Come & Eat magazine.  I didn't even have kids back then!  Well, actually there was a kid on the way.  I'm not real thrilled about using jarred gravy, but it's better than burgers and fries at the fast food joint right?  The original recipe called for using mashed potato flakes also, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that.  I put Mike on potato peeling duty and we had homemade.

Ghostly Shepherd's Pie

1 lb lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 can Italian Style diced tomatoes, undrained
1 12 oz jar home-style beef gravy
Mashed Potatoes (I mixed in 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 cup grated parmesan to these)
1 egg slightly beaten

Heat oven to 375.  Spray large skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium-high.  Add ground beef and onion; cook and stir until thoroughly done.  Drain.

Set aside 12 peas for garnish.  Add remaining frozen vegetables, tomatoes and gravy; mix well.  Bring to boil.  Reduce to medium-low heat.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until veggies are crisp tender, stirring occasionally.

Add a beaten egg to your prepared mashed potatoes.  Spoon beef mixture into an ungreased 8 x 8 baking dish.  With large spoon, make 6 mounds of potatoes on top to resemble ghosts.  Place 2 reserved peas on each for eyes.  Bake 20 -25 minutes or until potatoes are set and thoroughly heated.

Last night and this morning, we had parent teacher conferences at both schools.  I'm on the hospitality committee at both and we provided dinner and breakfast.  I brought these pumpkin streusel muffins to Addie's school.  The house smelled wonderful while they were baking.  Find the recipe here.

For Caroline's teachers I made my old standby Sausage Spinach Quiche.  And from the picture you can tell I used a store-bought crust.  Oh the horror!  I don't like doing that, but I was trying not to be Superwoman and make things a little easier on myself since I was baking for two schools this time.  Find this recipe here in an old blog post.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's in the Box Wednesday?


It's a Halloween inspired lunch today!  Today was one of Addie's "eat at school" days, so I had a little more time since I only had one lunch to prepare.  Caroline has pumpkin pizzas made with a pumpkin cookie cutter, tortillas, pizza sauce, cheese, and turkey pepperoni for the faces.  Her spooky lunch also contains air popped popcorn with a little candy corn mixed in and a cat cut out of fruit strips, and a banana. 

Speaking of Halloween, both girls went to the annual Girl Scout pumpkin carving event with the Kappa Delta's last night.

I always love driving by the sorority houses and looking at the neat signs they make for different events.

Girls Scouts are one of the Kappa Delta's national philanthropies.  They have several events throughout the year for the Girl Scouts and this one is a favorite.  They carved pumpkins, played games, had snacks, and trick-or-treated in the house.  It was a fun evening.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blood Orange Brownies and Branson


Blood Orange Brownies.  Does that sound good?  It sure did to me when I heard the idea on a Twitter chat a few weeks ago from Devo Olive Oil. They tweeted a link to a recipe for Blood Orange Brownies using Blood Orange Olive Oil from their store.  I was intrigued, so I googled them and lo and behold they're in Branson at Branson Landing!  We had a little weekend trip planned there anyway, so we stopped in.  Wowza, was I overwhelmed with all of the oil and vinegar choices.

Addie samples Black Currant Balsamic Vinegar
We had a good time sampling the different varieties.  And the sales clerk was very helpful with ideas of mixing different flavors for marinating options.  I took home a bottle of the Blood Orange Olive Oil and whipped up some brownies today.  I decided to use my Mom's tried and true recipe and just substitute some of the oil.  Now, these are the brownies I grew up with and still make.  Actually, Addie is the brownie maker in the house now.  It's a recipe easy enough for a 10 year old to do without any intervention from Mom.  The original recipe is so, so good, but with the addition of this Olive Oil.....Oh My.....   Next time you're in Branson, stop in at Devo.

Blood Orange Brownies 

2 cups sugar
10 Tbsp cocoa
1 cup vegetable oil (I used 1/2 cup Blood Orange Olive Oil & 1/2 cup canola oil)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Mix sugar and cocoa together, add oil and eggs.  Beat smooth by hand.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes.  Do not over bake.

Here are some more pictures from our little trip.  I took my Kindle so I could try and get my book club book read, but I never even picked it up.  My eyes were looking out the window the whole time.  The leaves were so beautiful.

Our main destination was Silver Dollar City, so that's where we spent most of our time.  I just love their Harvest Festival decorations.

 I'm not sure who's kid this is that wants to ride these crazy thrill rides.

Addie on the Electro Spin
Caroline and I on the swings while Addie was off thrill-seeking

We had a great time, ate some yummy food (love the skillet meals!), and the weather was perfect.  On the way home we stopped at a roadside produce stand and bought these lovely Arkansas Black Apples.

These are supposed to be good for eating, cooking, and baking and have a long storage life.  In fact, the produce guy told me if I keep them cool, they'll probably last until April or May!  I'm thinking they'll get cooked, canned, or eaten before then.  Addie wants me to make applesauce and I'm brainstorming other ideas as well.  If anyone dares to comment on my blog, please give me your ideas and suggestions for these beauties.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Baked Potato Soup

Mike has been out of town on business all week, so I wanted to have a home cooked meal for him when he gets back tonight.  He's generally a healthy eater and always says he'd much rather eat at home than at a restaurant, so a solid week of eating out is not something he enjoys.  He may not be hungry, but it will be here just in case.  I don't remember where I got this recipe.  I've been making it for at least 11 or 12 years, because I remember sharing it with my co-workers when I worked full time before kids.  There's a restaurant in Tulsa called Charleston's that has the best Baked Potato Soup.  I remember wanting to try and make something similar at home and this is what I found.  Normally, I serve the Bisquick Red Lobster style cheddar garlic biscuits with this soup.  I didn't have Bisquick, so I used this recipe instead and I think I like them better.

Baked Potato Soup

4 large baking potatoes
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper (don't substitute black pepper, the white really makes this recipe)
4 green onions, chopped and divided
12 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled (I used turkey)
1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
8 oz sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash potatoes and prick several times with a fork; bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until done.  Let cool.  Cut potatoes in half, lengthwise; scoop out pulp and set aside.  Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth.  Cook one minute, stirring constantly.  Gradually add milk; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and is bubbly. Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, two tbls green onions, 1/2 cup bacon, and 1 cup cheese.  Cook until thoroughly heated and stir in sour cream.  Add extra milk, if necessary, for desired consistency.  Serve with remaining green onions, bacon, and cheese sprinkled on top of individual servings.  Serves 10.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's in the Box Wednesday?

Ever wonder how much water you use in the mornings?  Well, it's a lot.  We woke up to no water.  Apparently there's a sinkhole in front of one of my neighbor's driveway and a water line busted.  Yay.  Thank goodness I had some bottled water left over from soccer season.  So far, I've gone through around 5 bottles.  And that's just getting the lunches ready, washing the fruits and veggies, getting the animals and kids water, washing hands, etc.  I hope it's fixed soon, but from the looks of things outside, I'm not holding my breath.  The things we take for granted!  Today Addie's lunch, pictured above, has a hard-boiled egg in the shape of a bear face, edamame, kiwi berries, raspberries, pepper jack almond Nut-Thins, and chocolate covered pomegranate arils.  I used a mold for the egg, which you can find here at Amazon.  It's so easy to do and the girls think they are cute.  Just peel the egg while it's still hot, place it directly in the mold, and keep in the frig overnight.  The kiwi berries are something new for us.  Addie loves kiwi, and Mike found these at Sam's.  They taste just like kiwi, but they're bite-size and don't require any peeling.  I found the pomegranate arils in the bulk bin at ONF.  Addie says they are delicious!

Caroline's lunch has a bunny hard-boiled egg, shelled edamame, raspberries, Annie's organic cheddar bunnies, and a Bequet cinnamon swirl caramel also from the bulk bins at ONF. These are so good!  They are handmade in Montana and come in yummy flavors like butterscotch, celtic sea salt, chocolate, soft caramel, and several other flavors.  I even tried the Chipotle.  Well, have a great day!  I'm going to see how long it takes until I try to turn the faucet on again. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Harvest Stew

It's October, and that always puts me in the mood for stew, soup, and chili.  I've been using this recipe for 15 years, and I still get an "Mmm, I love this stuff!" when Mike comes home and finds it on the stove.  The recipe is adapted from of all places, a cookbook called Jenny Craig's No Diet Required.  And it definitely does not taste like "Diet".  It tastes like Fall.  Enjoy!

Harvest Stew

1 1/2 pounds top round steak, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cooking Spray
2 (13.75 oz) cans low sodium beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 (14.5 oz) can no salt added whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 1/2 cups peeled cubed sweet potato
1 cup peeled, cubed butternut squash
1 cup peeled, cubed red potato
2 tsp beef flavored bouillon granules
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup water
3 tbls all-purpose flour

1.  Cook first 4 ingredients in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium heat until steak is browned, stirring often.  Drain.

2.  Return steak mixture to Dutch oven.  Add broth, bay leaves, and tomato.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until meat is tender.  Stir in sweet potato and next 6 ingredients.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 55 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove and discard bay leaves.

3.  Combine water and flour, stirring well.  Add to beef mixture, cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened.  Yields 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Moms on the Farm

Yesterday I was so excited to participate in Moms on the Farm.  Thanks for the heads up!  The Animal Science Department at the University of Arkansas invited local Moms on a "field trip" to visit a local dairy farm, beef farm, and back to campus for a cooking demo with the Arkansas Cattlewomen.  The goal was to educate us non-ag Moms on where our food comes from and how it's produced.  Cooking and serving healthy and delicious foods to my family is important to me, so this was right up my alley.  The first stop was the Triple A Dairy Farm in Centerton.  Susan Anglin and her husband Ryan, a 3rd generation dairy farmer, run this farm.  A lot of planning and hard work go into keeping a dairy going!  They are generally milking around 240 cows twice a day as well as caring for baby calves and "dry cows", those expecting babies.  Susan takes care of the babies, feeding them and monitoring them for illness.  She said her nursing background has come in handy during her 28 years on the farm!  They monitor all of their animals closely and do use antibiotics if needed, but sometimes they are able to solve health issues other ways, by using electrolytes, for example.  However, she wanted us to be very clear that antibiotics are not in the US milk supply!  It's illegal.  The milk is tested numerous times, both on the farm and at the processing dairy, in this case Hiland in Fayetteville.  If it has traces of antibiotics, it's not used.  Susan told us that milk is the most highly regulated and safe food you can buy.  The main thing Susan wanted us to take away is that they love their farm and the animals and they want to provide the healthiest, quality product they can.  And I believe it!  She was very passionate as she spoke about her everyday life on the farm.  To read more about her adventures in farming, go here. Take a look at these photos.

Susan tells us about caring for baby calves

They just wanted to lick you!

Ladies in waiting.  These cows will have babies soon.

Can it get any cuter?

Farm dogs

The maternity barn where they take cows if they need a little help giving birth.

The commodity barn where they store feed.

The milk tank

This cow is getting some relief. :)
We had lunch while riding on the tour bus to the next stop, Hedge Farms in Lincoln.  This beef farm is owned by Marsha Hedge.  I left there so inspired!  Martha's husband was killed in an accident 13 years ago.  She loved the lifestyle, so she continued on with the farm along with her two young daughters.  She did what she had to do to keep the farm going, learning to bale hay, fix tractors, and still be at the house when her girls got home from school.  Like Susan, Marsha was very passionate as she talked about her life on the farm.  She loves the land and the cattle and wants to ensure they are happy and healthy and produce a good product.  Here are some scenes from her farm.
Marsha talking about what it takes to run a beef farm.

Isn't it beautiful?

Patiently waiting in a pen for our safety
Both women talked about how the economy and recent drought conditions have severely affected US farmers.  Many small farmers are being forced out of business and the rest are struggling.  Something Susan said really hit me.  She wanted us to remember that decisions made at home and behind desks really affect farmers.  Think about it.  Like the first picture says, NO FARMS-NO FOOD!

Our tour ended back on campus in the Home Ec lab.  The Arkansas Cattlewomen setup several stations with recipes and ingredients for us to cook.  I didn't get to stay and finish my dish because I had to be home for the girls after school.  But, I decided to make it for dinner!  It got a thumbs up from the family.  I can't wait to try some of the beef recipes we received as well.
Cooking in the Home Ec Lab

Some of our ingredients

My finished dish at home

This was such a great experience!  It was wonderful to learn we have local farmers committed to their way of life while looking out for us by producing safe and healthy products.  Thank a farmer today!

Apple Chicken Stir Fry

1 lb cubed boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup onion, vertically sliced
1 3/4 cups carrots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsps vegetable oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 cup fresh or frozen sugar snap peas
1 tbl water
1 medium baking apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 tbl oil
2 cups cooked brown rice

Stir fry cubed chicken in 1 tbl vegetable oil in nonstick skillet until lightly browned and cooked.  Remove from skillet.

Stir fry onion, carrots, and basil in oil in same skillet until carrots are tender.  Stir in pea pods and water.  Stir fry 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in apple.  Add to chicken.

Serve hot over cooked rice.

Thanks so much to these sponsors for making this trip happen!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Scenes from the Weekend

The colder temps put us in the mood for Halloween I guess.  The girls and I made this cute ghost garland for the mantle.  Find the instructions here.  I like browsing Wendolonia for lunchbox ideas also.  I bought 3 yards of 36 inch wide muslin and we made 12 ghosts.

 We also found these cute batty window clings while shopping for the muslin at JoAnn's.

And here's my silly girl and her silly glasses.

That's all for today.  I'm off on a Moms on the Farm field trip sponsored by the University of Arkansas ending with a cooking demo by Arkansas Cattlewomen!  More on that later...