Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Ugggghhhhhh" Moments

Of all the household tasks, the one I loathe the  most is unloading the dishwasher.  I don't know why, it's not a hard job but I just really despise doing it.

My "uggggghhhhhhh" moment of the week came doing this very task.


I unloaded the entire top shelf of the dishwasher before I realized that although I distinctly remembered filling the soap dispenser to run the dishwasher the night before, I never actually STARTED it.  So all those dishes I just put away - WERE NOT CLEAN!!!!

Sometimes rinsing your dishes really well before loading them is not helpful to you.  This would be one of those instances.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED FROM THIS:
There are worse things than unloading the dishwasher.
Unloading, reloading and then unloading the SAME DISHES, definitely worse.

Come on, say it with me.... "UGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"

Thank you, I feel better now!

Anyone else have a "uggghhhhh" moment this week??

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What I Love Wednesday

Do you have certain foods that trigger a distinct memory for you?

I had one of those moments the other day when a good friend of mine bought me one of these...


This is a Cadbury Flake, and I LOVE THEM!!!!  More than just a regular chocolate bar, this is a delightful piece of chocolate goodness that is only available in specialty import stores here in the States.  I grew up with these in New Zealand, so getting one here as a surprise was a real treat.

I'm a gifts person, so surprising me with anything is wonderful... but making it something from New Zealand... well let's just say love tank still full THREE WEEKS LATER!!!  Thank you Nicole!!

More than just a good candy bar though, this is one of those foods that triggers a very specific memory for me. 

When I was 8 years old my family made our first big move (well it was big for us then... perhaps not compared to the move we made six years later across the world...but still big).  We moved from the beautiful and popular tourist town of Taupo to the city of New Plymouth on the west coast. 


I remember thinking we were moving SO FAR away, after all it was a 3-hour drive from Taupo to New Plymouth and on a small island where you're used to reaching almost every destination in 15 minutes... that seems like an eternity away. 

So when my Dad asked me if I wanted to travel to New Plymouth with him for the day a month or so before we moved, I really had to consider hard - that was a LONG time to spend in the car.  On the upside though, it also meant I got to check out our new house before my brother and sister, and the potential to scope out my new room and claim dibs... oh yes, BIG DEAL!!!

I don't remember many details of the day - I couldn't tell you if I even got to go inside the house, or anything we did in town while we were there - but I can tell you that before we got on the road from Taupo we stopped to fill up the gas tank and Dad let me pick out a candy bar for the drive.  For whatever reason, and contrary to my normal choices (Cadbury Crunchie or a Nestle Milky Bar), I picked a Cadbury flake bar.

To this day, I still don't know how I did it but somehow by licking very slowly, and deliberately not allowing myself to take bites, I made that candy bar last the entire drive from Taupo to New Plymouth.  It was a chocolate miracle.

It might just be the most self-control I've ever shown in my life.

The same could not be said of the flake bar I was just given however.  Oh no, that was devoured almost upon sight.

So there you have it folks... I love Cadbury Flake bars, and surprises from friends, and the opportunity to practice my self-control by devouring more chocolate bars.... sounds reasonable right?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - Parmesan Corn Chowder

Today's recipe is my nod to comfort food. 

Hello tasty bowl of comforting soup... you look friendly!


Last week while the hubby was gone I took full advantage of the opportunity to cook up a pot of this delicious chowder.  Soup is great because it makes more than one meal...especially when there's only 1.5 of you to feed at home and the leftovers heat up wonderfully, but this was a treat for me too because it's rare that I can get away with a meal that has no meat when Dave is home.

Dave's step mom Sharon is a wonderful cook, and she made this one day while we were over and I fell in love.  She was kind enough to share the recipe with me, so I'm doing the same for you today.

Parmesan Corn Chowder



Here's what you need:
Potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, flour, butter, milk, parmesan cheese, one can of cream style corn.


Start by chopping up 2-3 potatoes into bite size pieces.  Chop up equal portions of celery, carrot and onion, (1/2 cup - 3/4 cup) each and toss them all into a stockpot with 2 cups of water. 


Season with black pepper and bring to a boil.



Once it's boiling reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.



In the meantime, melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan.


Add 1/4 cup flour and stir together well. 


  Add 2 cups of milk all at once. 


Continue stirring until mixture thickens and gets bubbly.  Reduce heat and allow it to cook for one more minute.



Add in your cup of parmesan cheese now and stir together until it's melted completely. 

* Fresh grated parmesan is best in this recipe, but in a pinch the bag pre-shredded kind works too, (which is what I had to use). I do not however recommend using the powdered in a canister variety... you'll just regret it!!



Carefully add your cheese mixture to your stockpot with vegetables and add your can of cream style corn. 


Heat through, stirring occasionally but do not boil.



Serve immediately with your favorite side (I went with the garlic cheese biscuit myself) and enjoy!!!



PARMESAN CORN CHOWDER

INGREDIENTS:
2-3 potatoes, chopped in bite size pieces
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cups water
pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
1 can cream style corn

DIRECTIONS:
1.   In a large pot, stir together 2 cups water, the potato, carrot, celery, onion and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

2.   Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour.  Add the milk all at once.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture is thickened and bubbly.  Cook and stir for 1 minute more.

3.   Add the cheese, stirring until it is melted.  Carefully add the cheese mixture to vegetable mixture.  Stir in the corn.  Heat the soup through, stirring occasionally. Do not boil.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What I Learned This Weekend

Is it really Monday already? 
I'd like a do-over of my weekend please and thank you!

Here's what I learned this weekend:

1.  If you stay up late scrapbooking to get your pre-made layouts done for an upcoming event you're part of... your children will undoubtedly wake up an hour early the next morning.  Fact!

2.  If you stay up late scrapbooking AND then wait up some more to wait for your husband to come home from California... he will want to sleep in the next morning since he drove straight through 14 hours to get home to you, and this will leave you to get up with your children when they wake up AN HOUR EARLY.  Also fact!

3.  If you stayed up late scrapbooking, AND then waited up for your husband AND then had to get up at the crack of early with your children, it will all be worth it because did I mention the husband is HOME!  Can I get a hallelujah?!!

4.  Dirty Dancing on Netflix may have also helped immensely with the staying up late - I forgot how much I love the music in that movie.  So many classics.  So much fun.  "Nobody puts baby in a corner."  Makes me smile every time.

5.  Black Eyed Peas RUINED the theme song from Dirty Dancing in their new cover, and you won't convince me otherwise.  I'm sorry, "Dirty Bit" doesn't belong in the song... it just doesn't Fergie!

6.  Two nights of staying up LATE scrapbooking has proven to me once again... I'm the world's slowest scrapper...sigh.  BUT all my pre-made layouts are done for give-a-ways at our Scrap Around The Clock and that makes me happy.

7.  I like three of my layouts SOOO much I want to keep them, but that means I'd have to make another three layouts to give away.  Which means more late nights, and more waking up early... and the cycle continues.  Oh the dilemma! 

AND ON COMPLETELY UNRELATED TO SCRAPBOOKING NEWS...

8.  There has been a LOT of Donkey Kong in my house lately... Hayden loves to watch his Dad play on the Wii, and on occasion try to play himself.  He calls it the "Monkey game" and he's a bit obsessed with it.  So much so that he's renamed his blankie "Diddy Kong."  Not kidding.

9.  I don't have my mother's green thumb.  I try, I really do - but plants at my house just seem to die.  I don't get it, I water them, I give them sunlight, I say nice things to them like "Please don't die, live I tell you...live!"  Alas... I fear plastic houseplants may be the only hope for me.  

But to make my mother proud, and my hubby happy... we got out in my yard this weekend and gardened (translation weeded) the entire back yard. Next step pouring our concrete mowing border around the lawn, and then I finally get to have flowers and shrubs and plants back there (outside I have more luck with plants than indoors).

9b.  While gardening weeding, I learned my back yard is the neighborhood litter box... ewwww, ewwww, ewwww.  Not a fan of cats right now!!

10.  In related news - we had another breakthrough in potty training with Hayden this weekend.  We had three instances of "big potty" on the toilet, with all three times him telling me he needed to go.  Saturday, we were completely accident free and all weekend long he's been dry all night long.  Oh light at the end of the tunnel... how I needed to see you!

And with that I'll leave you. 
Happy Monday everyone. 
MUST.FIND.COFFEE!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Baby

Today my baby is 10 months old.

Elijah David ~ AKA my baby!

When did that happen?  Wasn't it just yesterday that he looked just like this?


One week old

I'd really like for him to stop growing... at least for now... too quickly I'm seeing the baby melt off as he embarks into the pre-toddler stage and while it's exciting and they're all milestones for his life - I miss having that tiny little newborn thing who does nothing but sleep in my arms and look adorable.

Oh sure, he's still adorable, but with far more personality now.  It has become quite evident to both Dave and I that he is NOT his brother - in fact I think it's quite possible he'll have a relationship with Hayden that closely mirrors my own sisters and mine... Elijah already thinks he's the boss!

At the same time he's my Mama's boy.  Unlike his older brother who was independent from the get-go... Elijah still loves to cuddle with me.  He lights up when I walk into a room, he loves to give me sloppy baby kisses and at least for the time being... still likes me more than Grandma.  I'm not ready for that stage to end.  I'm just not!

So Elijah... 10 months is it.  We're freezing time now and we'll revisit this whole growing thing later!

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Hubby!

This past Saturday, my hardworking, sexy, completely wonderful and youngster of a husband turned 29.  He didn't want to make a big deal out of it, so when a friend from our church who was celebrating her 40th birthday on the same day invited us to her big birthday bash ~ a full sit down dinner at a gorgeous mansion with lots of our friends, dress up costume murder mystery dinner AND dancing - we jumped on that opportunity.

Happy Birthday Dave courtesy of Marcy-Jo!!

It was our first time doing a murder mystery dinner that was not scripted out (I've acted in some dinner theater productions) but this was all ad-lib and on the spot.  We were given characters to play about a month ago with sheets that gave us some background information on our character.  Dave was Michael Rochester, the nephew of the late millionaire whose murder we were investigating, and I was...wait for it... Tanya Tease (what a name) the personal assistant to the deceased.

When we arrived to the party we were given sealed envelopes with our names on them containing $500 in play money (for bribing & blackmailing other guests) and also a list of questions to ask, and specific things to do or say to other characters. During the evening as different events occurred, we were given additional clues and envelopes and we all had to try to solve the mystery.

The storyline was enjoyable, the mystery had some very fun twists, there was another murder during dinner (RIP to the maid) and everyone seemed to have a great time.  But let me give some special tribute where tribute is due...

(Click on the collages to see bigger)

Oh yes... the Griffith's know how to throw a party!

The decorating & food was OUT.OF.THIS.WORLD!!  But I must give special mention to the dessert spread... and not just because it was extravagant and rich and delicious and PLENTIFUL, and not because just looking at them almost gave my pancreas a heart attack; but because each dessert was made by the birthday girl herself.  Peanut butter mousse, banana cream pies, cream cheese apple squares, mint chocolate parfaits, cream swirled brownie bites, fresh strawberries, red velvet cupcakes, chocolate dipped wafers and so much more... girlfriend's clearly got too much time on her hands!

Mum (the family psychologist), Dad (best friend of the millionaire), Dave (the nephew) and me (the secretary).

Jodi (millionaire's daughter) Russell (chauffeur) Nicole (ex-wife), Tom (Son-in-law) and Erik & Tricia who went as themselves.

Even though the food was fantastic and there was a LOT of eating by all going on, it was also fun mingling with all the other guests, oohing and aahhing over their costumes and trying to figure out "Who Dunnit" all  night long.

Who knew we'd find out that Russell (AKA Neal the chauffeur) was actually the son of the maid, and the secret heir to the millionaire's fortune.  Finding out his real heritage, would also reveal that he was indeed dating his half-sister (ewwwww) and in the end... that he killed his own father!

Following the unraveling of the plot - it was time for the birthday girl to blow out her cake... courtesy of the amazing Jessica Ewing.

Make a wish birthday girl!

And then the DJ opened up the dance floor and after a first dance between Randy & Marcy-Jo - we all got out there and got our "crazy" on.  Watching my husband dance makes me fall in love with him all over again... he has fun, he's silly - he pulls out moves I didn't know existed and I find him absolutely irresistible.

How Dave gets his groove on!

But he was not alone out there... he had great company in his dancing efforts with Tom, Erik & Russell - the four of them kept us all in stitches.

How we roll!

Yes it was a great night ~ although I will think twice before hitting a concrete dance floor in 4" heels... ouch!

It ended up being a wonderful night for my darling Dave too - and far better than anything I would have been able to do for him for his birthday on my own.  I'm going to start thinking about his 30th RIGHT NOW so I can be prepared properly come next year.

That is unless Marcy-Jo is planning a 41st birthday bash....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tasty Tuesday - 7-Layer Bars

Sunday we had a combined birthday party for five members of our family - March is a busy month for us around here!!  I needed to bring a dessert, so I whipped up these a.) because they're delicious and b.) because they're EASY-PEASY!!!

So all you folks out there with a craving for the sweets (Lisa) here you go...

7 LAYER BARS


Here's what you need, just seven ingredients:

1.  Graham Crackers
2.  Butter
3.  Chopped Walnuts (optional)
4.  Butterscotch Chips
5.  Chocolate Chips
6.  Coconut
7.  Sweetened Condensed Milk



Start by making your graham cracker crumbs (if you're like me and don't buy the pre-crumb version).  You'll need 1 1/2 cups of crumbs which works out to 1 sleeve (9 crackers) worth.  I put mine in a zip log bag and use my rolling pin to crush them.



Then I show my 3-year old and say, "Look how strong mommy is" and watch his eyes get really big and say, "Wow... that's cool."

Time is ticking away all too quickly for how long until he no longer thinks that or his mother is cool any longer!


Preheat your oven to 350'F and melt 1/4 cup of butter and pour it evenly into the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Sprinkle your graham cracker crumbs evenly over the butter... you can give it a little pat if it makes you feel better... but just sprinkling works too.


Next add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or nut topping (exclude if you have an objection to nuts - but know then you'll only have 6-layer bars.  Sad, but true!)



3/4 cup of butterscotch chips


3/4 cup of chocolate chips - I use semi-sweet because trust me...this puppy is doing more than okay in the sugar department!!


Add shredded coconut evenly over the top... about 1 1/3 cup.


Lastly pour one can of sweetened condensed milk over everything and throw in your 350' oven for 25-30 minutes until it's a beautiful golden brown...

 
Like this!

Now the hard part... let it cool for at least 20 minutes before you cut it into it... it's even better if you can wait until it's all the way cooled.

Cut into squares (or rectangles if you're crazy like that) and enjoy!


7-LAYER BARS

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup chopped nuts
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups shredded or flaked coconut
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

DIRECTIONS:
Melt the butter and pour into a 9x13 dish.  Add the graham crackers and spread evenly.   
Sprinkle nuts, butterscotch & chocolate chips, coconut all over the top and pour the sweetened condensed milk over everything.

Bake at 350'F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let rest for 20-30 minutes and cut into squares.  Allow to completely cool before enjoying.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Explaining Death to a 3-Year Old

Late last week we received the news that my husbands Grandfather had passed away.  His health had been fading for some time and he was being cared for by hospice in his home. Grandpa Mike was 89 years old when he died peacefully in his home surrounded by his family. So this morning my husband left for California for the funeral and I had to try to explain to Hayden where Daddy went and why.

The conversation went like this:

Hayden:  Where's daddy?
Me:  Daddy went on a trip with Grandpa Jerry
Hayden: Why mommy, why?
Me:  Well, Grandpa's daddy passed away
Hayden:  He died?
Me:  Yes, Great-Grandpa Mike died.
Hayden:  Did the Wii get him?
Me:  What??
Hayden:  Did he die on the Wii?? (first clue that our 3-year old has played a little too much swords lately)
Me:  (me trying not to laugh) Something like that Hayden.
Hayden:  (thoughtful)  It's okay mommy, he can play again!

I decided perhaps I'd just leave the conversation at that.  He's three after all.

And perhaps we'll take a break from the Wii this week.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Oven BBQ'd Chicken!!


Recently while grocery shopping I bought some chicken drumsticks on a really good sale and since then have been dreaming about BBQ.  However, I live in Oregon and per usual we were having mini monsoons all week, not really ideal for pulling out the BBQ grill.

So I cheated.. and I'm going to show you how to too!

*Side note, it's always awkward to me when when the same word comes twice in a row.  Sure it's spelled differently, and has a different context, but still... "to" and "too" right next to each other sounds like "tutu" and that just sounds ridiculous on a cooking post.  But I digress...

These are oven BBQ'd chicken drumsticks with a homemade BBQ sauce.  And they're to die for!!  Really! (For the printable recipe scroll to the bottom.)



You'll need brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and then 1/2 cup of butter melted (or substitute olive oil, canola oil, or PAM for a healthier option).  And of course chicken... the recipe makes enough for about 3 lbs or roughly 12 chicken drumsticks.

Start with the rub:


Start by adding 1 teaspoon of each of your dry ingredients into a shallow bowl.

 Mix it all together and rub it liberally over your drumsticks.


Then baste them lightly with the melted butter (or your olive oil, canola oil or PAM).



Line a baking sheet with foil and if you have one, place a wire cooling rack over top... if you don't have a wire rack... just using the baking sheet will work too.  Now pop those beautifully rubbed and basted chicken pieces into the oven at 400'F for about 45mins.

Note:  We're a smaller family so I halved the recipe when I made it.

"She's got legs, and she knows how to use them"... sometimes I sing to myself while I cook.


Mmmmmm.... now at this point you could baste them with regular BBQ sauce and pop them back under the broiler for a couple minutes, or even omit the sauce altogether and just eat them as is... I was tempted to as my tummy growled ferociously when I pulled these out of the oven.

BUT if you really want to rock your socks off... try this homemade BBQ sauce.  I made it while the drumsticks were baking.

For your sauce!
Onion, garlic, brown sugar, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard and yes, I really used the Pepsi.  But any cola brand would work.


I started by grating 1/4 onion using the large size of my grater, you might want to do it right over the saucepan so you can get the juice as well.  This is the hardest part of the whole recipe... grating onion is a surefire way to cry.  If you're not worried about being laughed at... try wearing swimming goggles!!  Luckily it's only 1/4 of an onion and it grates really easy!!

To the onion I added two cloves of pressed garlic.


Next pour in 1 cup of your Cola.


1 cup of ketchup


1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce


1/4 cup of brown sugar


1 teaspoon of liquid smoke



1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar


1 tablespoon of dijon mustard and a sprinkle (or 1/2 teaspoon) of black pepper.


Bring the whole mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and let it reduce for about 30 minutes.  It will thicken up and make your kitchen smell heavenly!


See how it reduced?  The smoke makes it hard to see, but it's a beautiful rich BBQ-ey color and the thickness of a regular BBQ sauce.



My sauce and my chicken were finished almost at the same time so it worked out nicely!

Preheat your oven to broil while you baste your drumsticks with the sauce.  Then pop them in for about 2 minutes.  Baste one more time, laying the sauce on even thicker and broil for another 2 minutes... (or until preferred charred state).

Then dish them on up.  I served mine with homemade potato wedges and a green salad.


I've never seen a plate of food disappear faster at my house.. no leftovers... no nothing ~ this was a runaway hit of a meal!!!

And my happy hubby cleaned up all the dishes - yep, sure sign of a successful dinner!

OVEN BBQ'D CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS:
3 lbs chicken drumsticks

FOR THE RUB:
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted

FOR THE SAUCE:
1/4 cup onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup Cola (I used Pepsi)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Mix dry ingredients for the rub together and liberally apply over chicken drumsticks.  Baste lightly with melted butter (or substitute olive oil, canola oil, PAM, etc).  Place on a wire rack over a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400'F for 45 minutes.

While the chicken is baking combine your sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly to a simmer, and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, about 30 minutes.

Once the chicken is done, remove them from the oven and preheat your oven to broil.  Baste the drumsticks lightly with the BBQ sauce and pop them under the broiler for a couple minutes until it starts to bubble and brown.  Remove chicken from oven and baste again, this time a little thicker.  Return it under the broiler for another couple minutes until your desired state of charred-ness.