May 27, 2010

What's Cookin': Oat & Streusel Muffins

I have the baking itch. Bad. I want to bake everything. Unfortunately, the little voice in the back of my head keeps saying "But you won't be around to eat it. It will go bad... Just wait til next week..." So I have been waiting. For the most part. However, I woke up this morning wanting muffins something awful. A desperate, aching longing for muffins. I could not go on if I didn't have muffins. So I pulled out the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook I got from my grandmother's house and took the basic muffin recipe. Then messed with it, because you know I can't leave anything alone.

Did you know I used to think that I could only make muffins from a box. Seriously. Ok, you can stop laughing now. It never occurred to me, until I became a stay at home mama and started cooking everything from scratch that there was another way to make muffins. It dawned on me that I could make them myself, without a box! So now that's all I do (except blueberry. I really love the little tin of tiny blueberries from the box.) No really, stop laughing. And go make these.

Oat & Streusel Muffins - makes 24 muffins
2 2/3 C flour
1 1/2 C oats
2/3 C sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 C oil
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla

Steusel Topping:
6 Tbs flour
6 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 Tbs butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients (including cinnamon) in a large bowl*. In a separate container, mix the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid. Stir until just moistened. Don't beat it senseless. As little stirring as possible makes for fluffy muffins. Dish into muffin tins about 2/3 full (1/2 cup measure worked perfectly for me).

To make topping, mix together flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter (I use my fingers) until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle on top of muffins and press in a little bit. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until they pass the toothpick test. Cool for 5 - 10 minutes before devouring.

*Muffins are one of the few things I will mix by hand, rather than in my Kitchenaid. I like the control I have and the ability to make sure they don't get over mixed. Muffins are picky that way.

Notes & Variations: I added oatmeal to mine because I wanted something I could feel happy giving my munchkins for snack aside from just sugar. This way they get a little healthy stuff in there. Also, it makes them more filling so you don't need to eat half the batch at once... Unless you're into that.

Ben Rating: 4. He promptly ate two as soon as he saw them. :)

FK: H's Baby Blanket - The Super Secret Project Reveal

Almost two weeks late, but it's finally done. This is the secret project I've been working on. It is a baby blanket for my niece, intended for her one year birthday. I was just a little off. I had cast on the Sunday before her birthday, and knew I would be seeing her on Wednesday. So I knit like the wind to try to finish. I got half way through, but did not make it. (Half way of a good size blanket in 3 days is pretty awesome though.) Then I got sick. I finally finished and gave it her mama yesterday.

Pattern: Mitered Corner Blanket adapted by me from Elizabeth Zimmerman

Yarn: TLC Amore in "Rose" - 3.5ish balls

Needles: US 7/4.5mm Brittany wood straights

I cast on 72 stitches and it made a very generously sized blanket. It should last her a good long while. It is made by using short rows to make 4 corners, then you are supposed to sew the beginning and end together. I changed that to using a temporary cast on with waste yarn, and grafted the beginning and end together using the live stitches. Very fun! The short rows added enough interest to the garter stitch to not make it boring, and it was a good TV knit.

YTD Mileage: I forgot to weigh it before passing it on, but since I used 3.5 balls, I'm going to estimate it to be about 903 yards. Which brings my new total to 2.19 miles!

May 26, 2010

What's Cookin': Spice & Crumb Banana Bars

My SIL was commenting today about how Mom's bananas were turning bad and that they needed to be made into banana bread. At which point my brain sparked and I remembered that I had this recipe and had never posted it. I told them about it and was immediately told I had to post it.

I have no picture, because it was awhile ago and I'm a horrible blogger.

You must make these. You must, must, must. They are the tastiest banana flavored dessert I have had. Delicious. Print this out and go make them now.

Spice & Crumb Banana Bars - makes 12 (ish. Depending on how big you cut them.)
2 C flour
1 C sugar
3/4 C brown sugar, packed
1/2 C butter, softened
1 C ripe bananas, sliced (about 2 'naners)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 C sour cream
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first four ingredients until crumbly and press 1 1/2 cups into ungreased 9 x 13 pan. Reserve 1/2 cup crumb mix for top. Add the rest of the ingredients to the remaining crumb mix and beat for 1 minutes, until well blended. (You'll have some mashed 'naners, and some chunks.) Pour over crust and sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Bake 30-40 minutes until golden. Cool before cutting.

When the bottom crust cooks all the sugar melts to an almost candy like slab on the bottom. So you get the softness of the banana muffin-type filling, and the crunch of the crust. If you can't wait until it cools, I would totally serve it warm with ice cream.

May 24, 2010

Hey Look! We're Alive!

Dude. Being sick sucks. And that was a nasty one. But aside from a few sniffles, the kids and I are over it now. And Ben's seems to be moving faster than ours did, so he should be over it soon as well.

Because of being sick, life all but came to a stop last week. Chores hardly got done and I didn't run all week. Our anniversary plans got pushed back to this coming weekend. And we've been eating a lot of junk food. Whoops. =\

But now! Now I am better, and now I can get back to life. I made a delicious batch of potato bread yesterday using leftover mashed potatoes. It turned out heavenly. I think the best part is that every now and then you get a bite of ground pepper that was in the mashed potatoes. It adds a nice, surprising little kick while having a piece of toast, or a sandwich. I used this recipe, with the difference of using about 1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes and a 1/2 cup water, instead of cooking a potato just for the bread.

This week's menu plan will go something like this:
Monday: Foil Wrapped Chicken & Rice
Tuesday: Beans & Rice with tortillas
Wednesday: Slow Cooker Pork (I'll figure out the details of that later. I just have a roast that needs to be consumed.)
Thursday: Leftovers

 I can't wait to get back to home cooking. I felt so guilty giving everyone junk food last week. So guilty, in fact, that I did a whole giant meal of Salisbury Steak, mashed taters, stuffing and bread on Friday. I guess the need to cook had been building all week.

I sat down yesterday to total our grocery spending and we're over. Way over. $160 over. Which makes me very disappointed, but I know exactly how it happened. The once a month shopping just doesn't work for us. I spent most of the budget at the beginning of the month and then we had little things purchased since then. I will try to cut it to two weeks instead and see how that works.

I will need to post pictures of our garden and the changes we made. We hung just about all of our produce-bearing plants in hanging pots to keep the cats out of them. They are hanging on our eaves and they are loving life greatly. I can't believe how big they're getting. I think we're going to have a ton of tomatoes and jalapenos. And our mint is trying to take over the world.

I can not wait for produce this summer. I realized the other day that I want to can so badly. Pickles, jams, vegetables, all kinds of stuff. I want a pantry stocked to the brim. My Mom-in-love said she will plant me some more spaghetti squash this year and I am so excited for it. I can practically live on that stuff.

In short, I guess I'm really ready for summer. I just wish the weather around here would make up it's mind.

Oh! Before I forget. I'm like 2 inches away from being done with my shirt. Just in time for our mini-trip. So once it's finished I will have pictures for you all. I love it! Although I wish I had made it just a wee bit smaller. I prefer tighter fitting clothes. I am thinking I might make another one in a different color. Also, I have 1/8 left on the secret project. Will reveal all when I can.

May 20, 2010

This Man

This man is the love of my life - I love him more deeply now than I have before.

This man still makes my heart turn over and my knees go weak when he walks in the room.

This man is the most beautiful man I've ever seen.

I'm grateful that this man gave me a chance over 4 years ago and asked me to be his wife.

This man gave me three beautiful, crazy, adorable children.
This man is a goof ball, and I love him for it. He can drop me to my knees in fits of laughter.

This man has stayed beside me and stuck with me through many trials. He has rescued me from many dark places.

This man is the greatest gift God has ever given me.

May 19, 2010

The Benefit of Illness

We've had a sick household this week, which means not getting a whole lot done. The only person who has escaped it so far has been Ben, which is really unusual but I am happy for that. I hope he doesn't get it, since it seems to be a really nasty one.

Tomorrow, the 20th, is Ben and I's 4 year wedding anniversary. We have plans for this weekend, so I am trying my hardest to be at least mostly cured of this stupid cold by Friday. I have tried everything I can think of aside from orange juice - Airborn, Sombucus, hot toddies, Nyquil, Motrin, and sleep. I've sat on my butt making sure I don't over exert myself just so I can get better quickly. Which for me is really hard. The bathrooms need cleaning, the laundry needs folding, I need to vacuum, and haven't made bread in over a week. I am really glad I stocked up on bagels now. I have at least kept up with dishes. But, we are getting better. I'm to the coughing stage now, which is a good sign, and the munchkins are pretty much over it. With the exception of Ty, who has the cough as well now.

One of the good things about being so sick is that I've had a ton of knitting time. There's not much else to do when your brain and body can't really function. So I have knit on my secret project, and I have knit on my Maude, that I am trying to finish by Friday. I have a bit of the body left, and the sleeves. I am very glad that it is a short sleeve. They shouldn't take very long. But for now, I have to finish 11 inches of this
2x2 rib. It's a good thing I'm already brain dead.

May 15, 2010

C25K - Week One, Day 6

Things I've Learned From Week One:
  • You must, must, must stretch before you run.
  • Running around a fairly small yard can make you dizzy. Changing direction periodically helps.
  • Good shoes are a must.
  • Uneven ground is not good.
  • Morning is nicer to run in, it's less hot.
  • Reward yourself for motivation. I get green apples when I finish my run. (I love green apples.)
  • I've lost one half inch!
  • Stretching after a run feels good.
  • My ankles hurt (see above about uneven ground).
  • I feel incredibly good having run this week.
  • I might be repeating Week One next week. We'll see.
  • Ben said he can tell I've been exercising. SCORE!

May 14, 2010

What's Cookin': Sausage & Potato Casserole

The plan for last night was Dirty Rice with sausage in it, but I changed my mind. Since I'm the cook, I can do that. ;) I have a surplus of potatoes that need to be used, so I came up with this and it turned out deliciously. However, Ben said he liked it but would prefer it if it was made with breakfast sausage, rather than Italian. So next time I will do that.

Sausage & Potato Casserole - serves 6-8
1 package mild Italian sausage (the 5 sausage pack*)
5-6 medium potatoes, chopped to bite size pieces (I left skins on)
1 onion, chopped
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp garlic pepper
Salt & Pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup cheese, shredded (I used half cheddar and half mozzarella) 
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13" baking dish.

In a large skillet, cook sausage. Place cooked sausage in baking dish and set aside. Return pan to heat (with sausage grease in it). Add potatoes and onions, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook, about 2 minutes, until onion starts to soften and potatoes get some color. Stir in tomato sauce and sugar. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until potatoes are starting to soften. Pour into dish with sausage and mix together. Top with cheese and bread crumbs. Bake about 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are done. (I went for 30 and they were a little too soft, so I would start with 20 and go from there.)

*You can either cook up the links and chop them, or take the meat out of the casing and brown it as crumbles. I took mine out of the casing. If you can find just a pack of ground sausage you can do that as well, it would be about 20 oz.

Notes & Variations:  It would probably be good with bell peppers, but we don't really like the taste of them in casseroles. When Ben asked for breakfast sausage next time, he said it was one ingredient away from the perfect breakfast dish. If I were to make it for breakfast I would do the same, but add scrambled eggs to it as well.

Ben Rating: 3 (4 if it had breakfast sausage).

May 12, 2010

C25K - Week One, Day 3

I figured I should do updates every now and then, to keep myself going. So today you get a lame update since it's only day 3.

I ran Monday and it went fairly smoothly. I was justifiably sore yesterday, but nothing too terribly bad. Then this morning when I tried to get out of bed I almost fell over. My legs had decided to stop working. They were revolting. In fact, I am firmly convinced that they were trying to detach themselves and leave me stranded. Making myself run today was tough, but I did. My legs were not happy at all (still aren't), but it did seem to be just a little bit easier as far as stamina goes. I wasn't quit as burned out by the end as I was Monday. I really do like this program. The walking intervals make it much easier since I can say "Ok, just keep going until you get the walk cue."

I am currently 28.5" around my high hip area (where my fluff is). I think a good goal right now would be to lose 3". The people who know me will probably tell me I'm being ridiculous because I'm already so small. But I really am unhappy with the bit of baby fat I have left, so I think 3 inches isn't a bad goal. Like I said, my goal isn't to lose weight, just fat.

Also, for anyone who is doing this with me - I just found a fitness blog that said NOT to run every day. You need time in between for your muscles to heal. So start with 2 or 3 days a week for the first month, then add more once you are comfortable.

May 11, 2010

The Couch to 5k Challenge

I am ridiculously out of shape. I have a pretty decent body, I'm fairly slim and for the most part I look about the same as I did before babies (aside from my hips being about a mile wider now). But I have no stamina and little tone. I never really got into a steady exercise routine after poppin' out Duder and I've been a little unhappy with my body for it.

I've been hearing about the Couch to 5k (c25k) program for awhile from various places - the main one being knitting forums and podcasts (go figure. I guess we're all bad about sitting around and knitting rather than exercising). So I decided to look into it and see what it's all about. There are various sources of information, but the one I found was iTunes. I just searched for c25k and found the podcasts put out by Christian Indie Broadcast. Those were the only free ones I found, but their may be others. You can also find sources on the internet if you search for it.

It's a serious of 30 minute podcasts, one for each week, set to music and filled with audio cues telling you when to run or walk. The first week starts out with short running intervals and longer walking ones and the program builds you up slowly over time.

So I tried it out yesterday, running around my back yard and I have to be honest and tell you that it kicked my butt. Boy can I tell that I've been sitting on my butt for almost a year. But I got through it and I decided I'm going to stick with it. I think it's just what I need to lose that little bit of extra "fluff" and tone up. So, here I want to post my goals and plans, in order for you all to hold me accountable. And maybe you would be willing to join in!

- Lose inches, not necessarily weight (I weight 116 lbs for goodness sake). Get rid of the baby fluff that I can't seem to shake.
- Tone my legs and hopefully get my dancers legs back. Or runners legs, I suppose.
- Get my nice butt back.
-Be bikini ready by the time the season comes (if it ever does... Cold in May? Really??)
- Build up stamina so I don't get winded by getting out of bed. (Ok, it's not that bad, but you know what I mean.)

- Ben. He seems to be my motivation for everything I do, but especially keeping myself looking good for him.
- Previously mentioned bikini season.
- Keeping up with my kids.
- Feeling less guilty about eating pasta and southern food (You know, the exercise would balance it out. ;P)

- Oh I don't know. As long as I need. The nice part is you can repeat each week's program as long as you need. But I am hoping to be up to the last one, week 9, in 9 weeks. Which would be around July 12th.
- I plan on running 3 times a week - Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Once I start getting used to it, I might add in another day or two.

My legs are killing me, but that means it's working. And I have to say I felt really good last night after I was done (once the stitch in my side went away.) So...

Who's with me?

May 10, 2010

Random On a Monday

My man's latest project for a customer. Rework store-bought doors to fit, and enclose the rest of the porch. It turned out beautifully.

1. Hey, look! I'm still here. I've have spent the last week going "I really need to post something... But I don't have anything to post." So today you get random.

2. I tried something new this month in that I did menu and shopping for the whole month. I used to do that, but it never went well because we wound up going to the store for odds and ends during the rest of the month and went over budget. But I did so well last month - only $25 over budget!!! - that I decided to give it a try again. Plus we are really sticking to our numbers on everything now, it should be easier. I guess I'm just tired of going to the store every week. Plus it drains my gas. So we'll try this. I will have to get things like milk and creamer, but I think I can do it without going over much, if at all. We did awesomely on our budget last month, just the food was over.

3. Remember the sweater? Welp. I tried it on, when it was just long enough to cover my shoulders, to see how the gauge was working out and it was a little too loose for my tastes. So I ripped back to the ribbing... three pattern repeats... and started over with smaller needles. Then I got stuck on my secret project and haven't picked it up since last Wednesday. I'm thinking I won't finish by our trip. But we shall see. And the Mystery shawl... Well the latest clue was Saturday but I have to finish this project before I can do anything else. Looks like I'll be getting behind on that.

4. OMG! Duder just walked like three feet. That's the most I've seen from him! That was so exciting! It makes my mama's heart swell. Then I tremble in fear when I realize that walking means getting into more things...

5. I wish I were June Cleaver. Only in a more rural, farmy sort of way. I was born a few generations too late. I love cooking for my husband, and caring for my family. I love old stuff, old ways, and if it weren't for the fact that Ben would laugh at me, I would totally greet him at the door in a dress and heels. But I guess I'll just have to get my fix with the H family farm where I can dream of days gone by and the simplicity of plants growing in the dirt. I might make that dress though...

6. You know you're knit-stressed when you have nightmares about having to frog and restart the same project over and over and over...

7. Ben has plans to eventually start his own welding business and working from out of the house. He does side work right now, when it comes around and I just have to say that I really hope he keeps up with that dream and it comes to fruition. I love having him home and being able to hang out with him while he works. I love how I can just walk into the garage and tell him lunch is ready, then he comes in, washes his hands, and sits down to eat. It's so nice. 

8. This is a spider that Ben found in our wind chime (that he made) when he was rehanging it. It came out lookin' to fight. The amazing part is I took this picture. I don't "do" spiders. I hate them. I believe the only good spider is a dead one. So for me to be on the ground, 2 inches from the stupid thing to get this picture was crazy. 

9. Happy Monday! Time to eat!

May 5, 2010

What's Cookin': Crazy-Good Waffles

This morning we were down to our last 4 eggs. Store day is not til tomorrow, so that means I had to figure out breakfast for 4 people while still preserving one egg for Ben's breakfast in the morning. So what does that mean? Waffles!

A few months ago I threw out the last of our Bisquick. I realized that I hate it, Ben hates it, and the only thing we used it for was waffles, which I can make from scratch - cheaper and tastier. I had been using the recipe from my Betty Crocker book, with my usual additions of vanilla and cinnamon. Today, though, I used the recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cook book I got from my Grandmother. I have to say I think I like this one much better. And apparently so do the kids - Duder ate 2, Goofy ate 3.5, and Bubba ate 4. It made 12 and they're all gone...

OMG Waffles - Makes about 12
1 C white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 C butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients together, set aside. Lightly beat eggs, then mix in the milk, butter and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened (there will be lumps, that's OK). Pour into waffle iron and cook until done (about 6 minutes for our Belgian waffle maker.)

Notes & Variations - The recipe calls for all white flour, but I only had one cup's worth so I used the wheat flour for the rest. It made them a little more filling and they had more body. You could use more or less of either.

I added the cinnamon because I like the taste. Also, the recipe called for veg oil or butter. I chose butter because it makes everything better, but if you're trying to be good you can use the oil. There was a recipe variation to use buttermilk and I think next time I will do that by using a sour milk substitute for richer waffles. (You can make sour milk by putting 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a one cup measure and filling the rest with milk. Let sit 5 minutes. Same effect as buttermilk, I use it for biscuits all the time.)

Kid Rating: 5, Judging by the way they inhaled them...

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