Friday, January 31, 2014

Is it squashghetti or spagash...

I made a delicious slow cooker meal recently and, to my surprise, my husband liked it too! I can't decide what to call it though? Squashghetti or Spagash.  I like Squashghetti! 

On Wednesday's and Thursdays my son and I are out of the house most of the day; so slow cooker meals come in handy. I wanted to try something different. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and decided to add a little to it. There are only three ingredients! What is great about this recipe is you can change it up. Spaghetti squash is so delicious and much better than pasta. I didn't even add butter and that's my motto!

Ok, so here's what I did:

Clean, spilt in half vertical, scoop out seeds and membranes of spaghetti squash.

Put cut side down in your slow cooker. Next time I will get a bit small of a squash this one was almost too big!

Then add about 1 lbs of frozen meatballs and any veggies you would like. I had time for mushrooms here so I added them in. I would like to try zucchini, onions, bell pepper and onions along with the mushrooms. 

Then add your favorite spaghetti sauce, I added a jar which is 24 oz. You can add more if you like. I discovered that the squash makes a lot of liquid which thinned out the sauce a little. I might add some tomato paste next time to help thicken it up. 

That's it, put your lid on and set it for 5-6 hours on low. You can set it for 3-4 on high if you want your meal faster. 

It took tongs and a spatula to get the squash halves out.  The squash came out so easy. On the left I have scooped out the insides and on the right I haven't. I could have just eaten the squash by its self.

This squash made a lot and you can kind of see the water or juices pooling on the plate here. 

This doesn't look like a lot but it was filling. 

This looks very similar to spaghetti and meatballs. It was so yummy!

Here's the ingredient list and cooking times:

1 spaghetti squash medium sized
1 lb of frozen meatballs 
1 jar or 24-32 of homemade marinara sauce
veggies; I added 4 oz of sliced mushrooms, you can add onions, bell pepper, zucchini and anything else you can think of.

Cook on low 5-6 hours
High for 3-4 hours

I hope you and your family enjoy this as much as we did!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What's for Dinner?

One of the things I like doing least is picking something for dinner.  We probably spend an average of an hour every night trying to figure out what we want to eat.  Then I still have to cook's all very exhausting after commuting and working all day.  One of the ways I have found to make this a little easier (and healthier) is to create a meal plan each month.  I've tried doing losts of different things - like planning a specific meal for each day or just kind of getting lots of things we like that I could combine each day.  What I found is if I was too rigid I didn't really want to eat whatever I was making, and if I didn't have enough structure I would forget (or ignore) the important things - like vegetables.  So this is the plan I have been using off and on for the last year - and I have to say that it works great (when I use it).  The other thing I do is I make as many things ahead of time as I can.  Sometimes it is only a portion of the meal or the whole thing, but it really helps when I am starting dinner after 7pm.  I don't do it all at once (Sometimes I do, but I rarely have an entire weekend to devote to it).  Usually I will cook seemingly random things and store them for later.  For instance, I like to make Chicken Strips from scratch and instead of only making what we need for one meal, I will cook enough for several meals and freeze them.  They are just as good the second time around and I only have to make them once.  The first meal is time consuming so I will usually make them on the weekend, but after that it only takes about 20 minutes to cook them in the oven - fast and easy on a weeknight.    

Back to the meal planning - I will do a seperate post about ways that I use freezer cooking later.  The first step I always do is make a list of the meals I already have.  These can be meals we didn't eat from the month before, or things in my fridge/freezer that were on sale that I picked up.  Then I figure out how many meals I have to start with, I usually have around a weeks worth of meals left - sometimes we eat out or we just have Grilled Cheese sandwiches because they sound good.  Once I know how many meals I have, I figure out how many additional meals I need to plan for.  I like to plan 30 meals total, 10-15 different meals with 2-3 of each.  This seems like it would be very repetitive but really you only have to repeat every 2 weeks or so.  This is actually a better variety than if I don't have a plan since I tend to make the same 4/5 dishes.  Once I know how many meals I need to make, I start adding our favorites - like Baked Potato Pizza and Chicken & Broccoli Crescents - we make these every month.  I also like to throw in a few new recipes - for variety and so I can use all those recipes I save but never use - this month it is Thai Fried Rice and Zucchini Fritters.  Once I have a completed list, I make another list of what I need to buy at the grocery store, which I split into what I can buy at the beginning of the month and what I need to buy weekly.  I also include what I need to make for Breakfasts and Lunches for the month so I can buy anything I need at the same time.  Luckily I only have to do those meals on the weekends - and a lot of the options are things I keep around anyways.  

I know it seems like I probably spend hours slaving over this just goes on and on...but once you do it a few times it is really easy.  I think I spend about 30 minutes planning what I am going to make, and another 30 minutes making grocery lists.  An hour once a month is much better than an hour 4-5 nights a week.  The other thing I do to make it easier for me is I print out a copy of my plan and keep it in the kitchen.  I would never be able to remember what I have on hand for the entire month.  Also, it is a lot easier to give Eric a list and ask him to pick something when he asks me what the options are for dinner.  Each time I use the list I check each meal off - this way I can see at a glance what I have left both during the month and when I sit down to make the next months plan. 

Here is my February Menu...


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mini Leftover Pies

Need a quick easy dinner using what you have in the refrigerator? This is the recipe for you. This is a meal you can make a hundred different ways using leftovers and things in you have on hand. This time I used fresh carrots and celery, canned corn and peas, leftover turkey, a can cream of chicken soup, dried thyme, sage, pepper, garlic and onion powder. I chopped up the carrots, celery and turkey, then mixed every thing in a mixing bowl. To make the bottom and top of your leftover pie whisk together 3/4 cup of Bisquick, 3/4 cup of milk and 2 eggs. Put 1 tablespoon of your Bisquick mixture into 12 greased muffin tins (I tried using cupcake papers, not a good idea. The Bisquick mixture sticks to it). Add 1/4 cut of your filling to to the tins and then top with 1 tablespoon of the Bisquick mixture. Bake at 375 for about 23 minutes or until the top is golden brown. A few filling ideas could be buffalo chicken (leftover cooked chicken, chopped celery, blue cheese and buffalo sauce) and tacos (leftover taco meat, salsa, green chillies and leftover chopped veggies). The possibilities with this really are endless. I hope this helps to make your week nights a little easier!

Oh sweetness!

Last week I talked about how my husband and I stopped eating potatoes. I'm doing pretty good - I have only had a few bites here and there. My son asked for me to make eggs and potatoes for breakfast the last two days and it smelled amazing! After he ate what he could I put the rest in the garbage disposal. I have mostly been making chicken salads for our dinners, which is what we had last night. My son doesn't care for salads so I made him a PB&J and cut it up into tiny shapes. My husband handed my son a piece and it got onto his finger - he licked it off and almost went into a sugar coma, he said it was so delicious! My husband has been on a healthy food change of less milk products and no processed sugar. I'm going to start the same change February First. He has lost 11 lbs since he started. He hasn't really started working out at the gym but he has done some light workouts here at home. He was doing some push ups and I tried doing one, boy that was difficult! I will be going to the gym while I'm eating healthier and I'm looking forward to it. I want to be able to keep up with my young son. He's going to be four soon, I can't believe it. There's no better time to eat healthy and get your body active.
Hopefully I will survive...ooh good workout song!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Invite the Monkeys

One of my favorite things to do is make handmade invitations and cards.  I know this is old fashioned - especially in this age of social media as our main form of communication.  However, there are lots of occasions that I think should be celebrated with a little more effort than a Facebook Invite.  Baby Showers are one of those occasions - especially if it is the first baby for one of your best frineds.  I will admit that these invitations are a few years old, but I thought they turned out great.  They are super cute and easy to make - so they need to be shared.  I even managed to make them from stuff we already had in our scrapbooking supplies - which is always a good way to explain why you need all that stuff when your husband rolls his eyes at all the boxes.

I decided to make this a pocket invitation, mostly because they are my favorite.  I love to make all the different cards, and it really works well for giving out lots of information.  I made one with the party information and one for all the little guys information (ex. height, weight and so on) since we were having the party after he was born.  The card itself was pretty basic - all you need is a 3 1/2" x 5" card, a 2" x 9" strip of coordinating paper and an 8" ribbon.  Using double sided tape attach the strip of paper to the card on the bottom and the sides only, this will create your pockets.  The attach the ribbon.  You can embellish the rest however you would like - leave it simple or get creative - that is the fun part of making your own invitations!

 The monkey face was pretty simple to make once I figured out how to make the pieces.  I used three different circle punches, 1 3/4", 1 3/8" & 1", for the different parts.  For the brown background I made one 1 3/4" and two 1" circles, and for the cream sections I made one 1 3/8" and one 1" circle.  The next thing I did was make a set of stencils for the shape of the face and head.  Once I figured out the right shape, these made it way easier to duplicate the monkey.  To create the inside of the ears I took the 1" cream circle and cut it into a rough oval and then cut that in half.  Once everything was cut out, I used double-sided tape and put it all together.  The last step is to take a marker and outline all of the pieces with dashes or dots, and create eyes and a nose.  None of the faces were the same - but again - that is what makes them so fun and special!

I used no special tools or expensive items so anyone can make these for about as much as you would spend buying invitations at most stores.  Really...I swear! 

Here is a breakdown of what I used:
4 colors of coordinating cardstock
Double sided tape
Brown marker

Other tools I used and how to get around buying them:
Circle cutter - but it would be just as easy to cut out the circles using a template you create.
Stamps and Ink - You can buy a cute stamp or two to go with what you are making or just use markers and create your own images directly on the invites.

I hope this inspires someone to create their own invitations the next time they want to
throw a party for someone special! 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Put some frosting on it...

We talked about cake..... now let's frost it. If chocolate got married who would she (yes today chocolate is a she) choose? Well I think a lot of people would answer this question with peanut butter (just for the record I think chocolate should always marry peppermint). To be truthful I am not a big fan of frosting or peanut butter, but this frosting is super yummy. You should make it now, I promise it won't disappoint!

To makes this frosting you will need:

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup peanut butter (You need to use creamy if you want it smooth or if you're going to use it in a pipping bag. You can use chunky if you would like the little bits.)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
7 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup non fat milk
Note: the original recipe called for 5 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup heavy cream. I think you could use cream or any % of milk just change the butter up or down depending.

Put everything except the milk into an electric mixer and mix on medium until combined, then scrape the sides and add the milk. Mix on low for about a minute or two.

Put on cake, cupcakes, graham crackers or just your finger.... Yummmm

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dessert in a Flash...

These are delicious! There is something about these peanut butter bars that bring back wonderful childhood memories. To this day I still like peanut butter treats the most.

Are you ready to see how I made them?

Let's get started:

The amazing no bake peanut butter bars

 Melt 1 cup or 2 sticks of butter in a microwave.

Add 2 cups of Graham Cracker Crumbs, 2 Cups of Powdered Sugar and 1 generous cup of peanut butter mix until well blended.

Press evenly into your prepared pan.

You can use a double boiler or the microwave, I wanted this to be quick so I went with the microwave.

Melt 1 1/2 cups of Semisweet Chocolate Chips. I cooked on high in increments on 20 seconds (then stir) it took about 1 minute and 20 seconds.

Add 5 tablespoons of Peanut Butter to your melted chocolate until combined. Pour over your peanut butter mixture and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting into squares.

The graham crackers really make this recipe in my opinion. You will not miss the baking step, the graham cracker gives it a crunch.

I adapted this recipe from All Recipes, I hope you enjoy it as must as I did!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hutch Wars

One of the challenges that I continue to have while renovating and decorating my house is choosing whether to reuse a piece of furniture we already own or get rid of it and live without until I can find or build the ‘Right’ piece.  In some cases it’s easy – I will never give up the chest my grandma gave me.  Sometimes I can look at something and think maybe if I paint it I can use it for a few years – like the dresser in my bedroom.  But there are several items that I don’t want, that are worn out, falling apart or just plain ugly. 
One of those pieces is our dining room hutch.  It’s huge and we already owned it…but that’s pretty much the only thing I liked about it.  It was used and abused – then given to me.  We were sure we were taking it to Goodwill until the day we moved and ended up taking it with us.  Some days I would think "it’s going straight to the curb with a free sign".  Then other days I would think "wouldn’t it be great to see my china and teapots again".  Even if we get rid of this hutch now - it may be YEARS before I can build the custom built-in bookcases I want to use in our dining room.  Considering it had already been over two years and my dining room had a table and an empty hutch – years isn’t even an exaggeration.  So I started thinking about what I could do to keep this hutch and not hate it.  Google, Pinterest and DIY Blogs are my favorite sources of inspiration so I hit them up.  I didn’t come up with an AHA! moment like my dresser, but I liked a little of this and a little of that.  My husband wanted to throw it out – I needed to find a way to keep it for a while.  After disagreeing every time it came up, we made a deal.  I could do whatever I wanted to it, but if he didn’t like it we would sell it at the annual community garage sale. 
I knew I wanted it to look more modern and relaxed than the scalloped doors and formal feel it currently had.  I knew I wanted it to blend in more than stand out, because it is the first thing you see when entering our home and I didn’t want it to be in your face about it.  I knew I wanted to paint it, but what color??  We have a great grey color on our walls in the dining room, Darkest Forest by Dutch Boy, which took almost 2 months and 8 grey samples to pick.  The challenge was this - the hutch is too big to stay as a wood grain, white is too contrasty, and black is too moody for me.  While I would have loved a color like French Blue or Terra Cotta, my husband would have vetoed the whole project if I tried it.  Which left grey, but I couldn’t paint it grey – or could I?  I spent days trying to find a grey hutch in a grey room – to see if anyone out there had ever done it and shared.  All my friends thought I was crazy but I kept looking...only a little obsessively...and then I finally found one on a blog called Thistlewood Farms.  It was a little more country than I wanted but it has a grey cabinet on a grey wall!! (Imagine me jumping up and down and yelling in my head) 

So I started asking what people thought.  Only about half the people I talked to understood what I was trying to achieve, but it didn’t change my mind.  Then I started wondering about taking the doors off and opening it up.  There are four glass panels on the front and taking them off would make it more casual, less ‘Grandma’s in the house’ feeling.  So I did it. 

The glass doors came off the top, the scallops came off the solid doors below, and I saw progress.  I filled in holes, sanded, primed and painted that baby.  The primer I used is Zinsser, which is Low VOC.  It was almost a plastic feel after applying so I wasn't sure how it would work, but it did a great job getting rid of a lot of the scratches and mars and the wood grain is completely gone.  Instead of painting the back grey, I gave it a little flair (but just a little) and painted it Timeless Ivory by Dutch Boy.  It’s a softer white, and we use it for all the white touches in our house.  For the knobs I brought in just a little pop of color and got the Terra Cotta color I wanted.  I was prepared to like it enough to keep it around for now, but I love it.  Replacing it is now the last thing on my to-do list.  The best part is my husband had to admit he likes it too.  He doesn't love it, but he isn't making me kick it to the curb.  I barely held back the “I told you so”.
I am hoping to get a seasonal rotation going on by changing out what is displayed every few months.  You can see what I did for Thanksgiving/Fall.  I used a mixture of things given to me, things from my old kitchen decor, and new things I bought or made.  I am sure I will continue adding and changing things each year.  I would love to show you what I had in there for Christmas/Winter... but it still has the Fall decorations lol!  Oh well - Spring is just around the corner...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Let's talk about cake!

There are thousands of cake recipes out there, some crazy, some fun, some easy others hard, some yummy and others not worth the calories. In a really big sea of so many cakes it's always nice to have a few go to base cake recipes that you know will always be and you can throw together in a hurry. I use to have the best chocolate cake recipe. It was easy, so good, you could change it up and it always came out right. Well the sad part is I lost it, so I have been on the hunt for a new one. I found this almost a month ago and have already made it twice, both as a cupcake and as a cake. So far it has passed a few of my test for a go to base cake, it's easy to make, it comes out very moist (I hate dry cakes), it tastes good and every one loves it. The next step is to see how adaptable it is.

What you will need:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

From the pantry
1 and a 1/2 cups sugar
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 of a cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. The better quality cocoa powder the better the cake will be.
1 and a 1/2 teaspoons each of baking powder and baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 and 1/4 teaspoons of vanilla (the 1/4 of teaspoon is extra. I always add a little extra vanilla so you could just use the 2 teaspoons if you want to)
1/2 cup of canola oil (you could also use vegetable oil)

From the fridge
2 eggs
1 cup of milk

1 cup of boiling water.
Cupcake pan, cupcake liners or cake pan

I made about 16 cupcake with this recipe. The original said it makes 24, but I like to make big cupcakes.

Put all of the dry ingredients (baking powder and soda, cocoa, flour and salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer (if you don't have one you could use a hand mixer, or just hand mix it) and stir them together.
Then add all the wet ingredients except the boiling water (eggs, milk, oil and vanilla) and mix on medium for about two minutes.
The next step is to add the boiling water.  Be very careful and just add a little at a time if you are going to use the mixer, I just hand mixed it in.
The batter will be a thin liquid. I poured it into a measuring glass to pour it into the cupcake liners for no mess.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until a knife pulls out clean.
Let cool and enjoy.

The photo shows this as a double layer cake with peanut butter frosting (the frosting post to follow) and chocolate candies chopped up on top

The original recipe came from My Baking Empire.  I change a few little things and only used the recipe for the cupcakes.


You say potato and I say no potato...

My husband and I decided to stop eating potatoes a few days ago. My favorite foods are peppermint mocha, potatoes then cheese. It's been hard but really good for us. I even made my son hashbrowns with his breakfast the other morning and what he didn't eat I threw away. Go me!

My go-to side for dinner is mashed potatoes. I made a meatloaf the other night and I planned on broccoli and salad. Totally forgot the salad at the store and the broccoli turned out to be bad so we just had corn. Not the best option but an old favorite. Note to self - stock more veggies for what ifs..

I'm really looking forward to all the neat sides I will be trying out. I also want to try mashed cauliflower as a replacement to potatoes. I was just thinking of carrot fries, they might be too soft when cooked though. I have heard of parsnips and of course sweet potato fries, check back for updates.

I do plan on eating potatoes in the future, just not anytime soon and when I do it will be every once in a while.

Let us know what foods you have given up for the sake of health?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

Well, it's three weeks into the New Year and I'm already behind on my New Years Resolutions *sigh* Anyone who knows me is just chuckling, but really even I am surprised I'm only 3 weeks late. I was all fired up to start all 3 resolutions on the first, but then this happened (Poor Winda got a flea - JUST ONE - but the stupid thing bit her like 30 times. So then I spent an entire weekend giving her a bath, brushing her out, doing laundry and cleaning), and then that happened (Somehow I pulled a muscle in my neck - not being able to look left or right without a lot of pain makes moving a little hard).  As any good procrastinator knows, this and that are always good reasons to wait to do something...we deserve a nap first...right? So now here we are - almost through January and I am finally getting this show on the road, well maybe just backing out of the driveway...

First, My 2014 Resolutions:

1. Start Blogging! - It's been far too long that we have been talking about doing this blog - we are doing it! 

2. Get in Shape! - This is the year. I have to start working out and eating better. I am not expecting miracles, I would just really like to lose some weight and create a better eating habit.

3. Finish Projects! - We have so many things going on all the time, but this year we agreed we would finish all of our outstanding projects before starting any new ones.

Those seemed like doable resolutions - until the whole flea, neck, procrastinator fiasco of 2013...Now I am mostly healed and the dog is keeping 2 feet away so I leave her alone and I just want to do it already so it's on!  Where do I stand?  Resolution 1 - This post gets me started!  Woot Woot!  Resolution 2 - Well I was supposed to start on Saturday but I moved it to tonight instead.  Resolution 3 - We actually started this a little early - Yay us!  The first project we want to finish is Eric's office. We are currently building the desk - and someday it will get put together so I can share the pictures! We have a pretty big list of house projects to finish this year, not even including all the things I like to do on the side (like the one I plan to share on Thursday that I did last year).  Hopefully, we will not only get all of our projects done but I will be prompt about posting them. Umm...maybe promptish?  Happy Belated New Years! 

About Jamie

Hello, my name is Jamie and I am very excited to start this blog and share all our projects with you.  I have been married for 8 years to a wonderful man who has stood by my side through everything.  We have four furry kids and one with fins, including a 7 month old basset hound mix puppy named Dexter after my husbands favorite show.

I love DIY projects, cooking from scratch, baking, crafts and sewing.  Right now I am trying to get us on the path of a more self sufficient life style.  My dream life would be to live on a little homestead with a little farm and lots of little kids running around.  We would life off our garden and farm animals and make everything ourselves.  I am the crazy dreamer of the group, if it's a crazy idea (like giving up everything to live off the Montana or Alaska and even the Yukon once) it probably came from me. :)

Thank you for stopping by, now let's get messy and make something yummy.

Friday, January 17, 2014

About Felicia

Hello, my name is Felicia.  I've been married for 9 years to my best friend, we met at High School but didn't date until later.  I met Beth just before I got married (through our Husbands) and I met Jamie through Beth when they worked together.  We've been best friends ever since, three peas in a pod!  I enjoy cooking, baking, sewing and making crafts, especially with Beth and Jamie!

I'm a mom of a 3 year old boy, I'm lucky to stay at home with him, we're actually lucky to have him period!  He came into this world at 29 weeks and we really dodged some big bullets, now he is doing so well and he impresses us every day. Because he came so early his upbringing has been a bit different than most children.  Not only does he go to preschool during the mornings, we go to different therapies in the afternoon and evenings to help him catch up and he is doing an excellent job. 

My passion is baking and cooking.  I wasn't always into cooking, I did however love to eat good food which stems from my mom.  I'm still gathering recipes from her!  It wasn't until I was on my own that I learned to cook.  I discovered it was easier with handy tools and that's when I started my own cooking home business to help my new found interest.  I started watching a lot of cooking shows as well, where I learned a lot of information about preparing ingredients.  That resulted in having two full book cases of cookbooks (and growing), which I started accumulating when I was working about 5 or 6 years ago.  My favorite kind of food is Southern but I also love French food, it's very simple which is a wonderful thing as a new mom.

I made my first quilt a couple of years back, it was for my son and I was hooked...I mean stitched.  My mom quilted it for me which made it look wonderful.  My goal is to make an intricate block someday.  Right now I really like making jelly roll quilts.  I'm still new to the sewing world, but so far I'm loving it. 

I hope you enjoy our blog!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

About Beth

Hi!  I'm Beth and I'm one of the three bloggers who use this site as a way to share our interests.  I live in Washington, and since it rains so much I (should) have plenty of time to enjoy my hobbies.  Of course, I never seem to have enough time for all the things I like to do including scrapbooking, sewing, baking, painting, gardening and pretty much anything that falls under the "Arts and Crafts" or "Homemaker"  categories (except for cleaning - I hate cleaning).  I am also really interested in learning to live a simpler life.  I love the idea of not using chemicals for cleaners, making meals from scratch without preservatives or over-proccessed ingredients,  doing freezer meals to make weekdays easier and finding ways to do more homemade things without taking more time.  Even though I have plenty of hobbies, my first love is reading - as in "I didn't get the dishes done because I had to finish my book"...haha-it's a good thing my husband loves me so much.  Eric and I have been married for 11 years but we've been together for 16 years.  We are currently renovating our first home, so a lot of my time is spent on house projects.  We are completely redoing everything in our house one room at a time, or you know - whatever we want to do whenever we want to do it - so we will be working on it for a long time.  We have a 16 year old cat named Pinky and a 4 year old dog named Winda - I say they are spoiled, but my husband says they are just well loved!

I wanted to start blogging with Jamie and Felicia because we all love the same things, but sometimes we love doing them in different ways.  I hope that anyone who reads this enjoys all the different projects and posts that we plan to incorporate.  I know we will enjoy doing them and sharing our successes (and maybe a few of our not successes).  Happy Crafting! 
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