Friday, March 30, 2012

I Can Make That...

Since I stopped working, my new mantra in the kitchen...or rather when looking at a restaurant "I can make that..." I've also had those thoughts when looking at the ingredient list on pretty much anything in the grocery store. I'm not a total prude about dyes and preservatives, but I suspect less is more, in terms of what my kids consume.

Anyway...I went looking recently for a white pizza sauce to mimic that of Papa Murphy's, and today fulfilled my quest to make my version of their Gourmet Chicken Garlic pizza.

For the crust I mixed...
  • one packet of yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt.
Then I added...
  • 2 Tbsp (plus a smidge) olive oil
  • one cup of warm water (125 degrees).
Blend all that with an electric mixer for 3 minutes, then use a heavy spoon to stir in another 1 1/2 - 2 cups of flour, until the dough isn't sticky anymore. Knead it for 6-8 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Split it in half and roll it into a circle, at least 12 inches. Preheat the oven with a pizza stone in it to 425. Put the crust on the hot stone, then poke it all over with a fork to prevent bubbles. Bake it for 10 minutes, pull it out of the oven, add the toppings, then bake another 10 - 15 minutes. The hot pizza stone isn't necessary, but it makes for a super crispy crust. If you don't use a pizza stone, grease the pan that you do use.

I used this sauce recipe...

I added chicken, roma tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and a random pizza seasoning.

I can't tell you if it was good. We haven't eaten it yet. But I'm hungry and can't wait to try it!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Is it beautiful? Do I love it? Has it been used in the last year?

Sigh. I'm a bit of a hoarder. I keep stuff. It drives my husband crazy. It drives me a little crazy too, sometimes. So when I saw a free download for my kindle of this book Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living

I gave it a shot. And now I'm going through my house...each drawer, cupboard, closet, nook, and cranny and asking myself, "Do I love it? Is it beautiful? Have I used it in the past 3-12 months?"

I'm surprised at how often I say no to all 3 questions. I'm having a hard time letting go of all this stuff, though. So I'm putting it in 3 piles...give to someone specific, give to goodwill, and look at it again later. I've chosen June 30th as my look at it later date (a lot of it is clothing, so if I haven't worn it between now and June, when it will all be seasonally appropriate at some point, then it's time to go). I'm making a list of the locations of these items, a shelf in my closet for clothes, a bin of household items in the basement, and a box of kids toys in one of their closets...and I will make a final decision on their fates around the end of June.

Wish me luck. I'm going to need it because I like to keep stuff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Diet-Coke-Microwave-Chocolate Cake

At a recent Pampered Chef party in my neighborhood, I learned how to make my favorite new summer treat. Diet-Coke-Microwave-Chocolate Cake. It's easy. And it's perfect to make on a day like today, what is anticipated to be the hottest day of the summer in my area. It's also perfect, because your oven and air conditioner don't need to compete. It's mid-July, and I haven't turned on my oven in like this make that possible.

The ingredient list is short. And bizarre. So I was a skeptic. But then I watched the consultant mix, microwave, and serve this little slice...well, more like a blob...of heaven.

Diet Coke Microwave Chocolate Cake

Mix in a large casserole dish or mixing bowl...

1-dry cake mix (no eggs, no oil, no water...just the mix)
1-12-ounce can of diet coke

Top with dollops of chocolate frosting, using the entire can. You can swirl it around if you want, but it's not necessary.

Microwave it for 8 minutes.

It's not the prettiest dessert, so I recommend churching it up a bit. I topped it with strawberries (sliced and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar) and whipped cream.


Monday, April 11, 2011

The 70-Degree Party

I live on a cul de sac in a neighborhood of good folks...we all have fire pits in our backyards, porches or decks, and everyone seems to own more outdoor chairs than their families can occupy alone. All the men in the neighborhood have riding lawn mowers and a competitive spirit when it comes to lawn care. All this neighborly-ness results in frequent neighborhood cookouts...and the first one of the season is often the 70-Degree Party.

As you may have guessed, the 70-Degree Party occurs on a 70-Degree day...ideally the first 70-Degree day in Spring. It's not always convenient. Sometimes it's on a weeknight. Sometimes the forecast is sketchy, so it's hard to plan. This year, the 70-Degree party was no different. The forecast for Sunday, April 10th, was 74 with possible severe weather. Invitations went out on Thursday afternoon. The 70-Degree Party has evolved over the last 3-4 years from shouting out the front door at the neighbors to come over for a beer and a burger, to a full-on potluck with invitations.

Our menu was brats, dogs, and burgers. The Wolff family brought their specialty, Company Potatoes. The Hansen family brought pasta salad. The Barretts brought taco dip. The Kirsts brought Asian/Crunchy/Bok Choy Salad. I threw together a pan of brownies and a pan of Seven Layer Magic Bars, last minute. I haven't made Seven Layer Magic Bars for a while, and golly, what a treat!

It was a feast. We ran out of burgers. Some of the teenagers even showed up (it was good to see you guys!). Our kids played outside all day. The severe weather went north of us, so we didn't even see a drop of rain. The beer tasted really, really good. And the Seven Layer Magic Bars...well...yummy.

Seven Layer Magic Bars

1 stick butter
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1-14 oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk (not evaporated milk)
1 c butterscotch chips
1 c chocolate chips
1 1/3 c coconut
1 c chopped nuts

Melt the butter in a 9x13 pan
Sprinkle the crumbs over the butter
Pour the milk evenly over the crumbs
Layer the remaining ingredients in order

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. If the coconut isn't toated yet, I recommend turning the broiler on and watching carefully, so the coconut is deliciously toasted.

Let it cool, cut it up.

We really love our neighborhood...and our neighbors. Life is good!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Do It Yourself

My dear son is now two. While I was pregnant with him, we painted the room green, planning for a nature theme...frogs, fish, and turtles if a boy...frogs, ladybugs, and dragonflies if a girl. It was a great idea...but it never really took off. There was no decor in his room...until now, of course.

He's a boy (obviously). So he needed a boy theme...and I found it at Target. Sadly, the artwork that matched the Transportation theme was gone...and after buying a bed in a bag set, extra set of sheets, mattress pad, and mattress/box spring set, I just couldn't stomach another $20 for one thing to hang on the wall anyway...because, of course, I could buy multiple blank canvases and some paint and do it myself!

Here is my first creation...the dump truck...

I'm a little bit giddy. I spent a total of $14 at Hobby Lobby on 4 blank canvases and a multipack of paint...and I had a productive reason to sit down and paint alongside my kids on a random afternoon.

Stay tuned...I'm not sure what's truck? squad car? backhoe? The possibilities are endless.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Natural Light Photography

I'm not a great photographer. But I love my kids. And I love to take pictures of them. I attend a educational/support/social group for Mothers of Pre-Schools, called MOPS. And we've had some great tips this year from a professional photographer (see her work at

Here is my attempt this morning at following her suggestion to use natural light, instead of a flash. And this is where I apply my theory that taking lots and lots of pictures might give me one I like...I ended up with one decent picture of each kid...

 Whoops, she moved...and stuck her tongue out...


"But Mom, I just want to be on the floor."
"But S, I'm trying to take a nice picture of you."

 Sometimes this laying on the ground pose works, but not today.

 "Mama, what's this?"

 Yikes, all around.

 Better, but still not great...


 Bad angle.

 That's okay...see her pretty eyelashes?

 She's picking at her toes, in case you were wondering...

 Still picking.

And...still picking...

 A-ha! There's one I like.

Sometimes the subject is the problem, moreso than the skill of the photographer.

Aside from the skinned nose, I like this one...he skinned that in the driveway on's probably just the first of a long line of summer injuries to come...

Spring is kind of here. I can't wait to actually go outside to take pictures of my little peeps...

Growing Stuff

Lots of parenting magazines, books, and websites suggest that growing your own vegetables and involving your kids in the process will encourage them to actually EAT vegetables. We're giving this theory a whirl at our house this summer. We bought a cheap plastic "greenhouse" to house some jiffy pots I've had in the shed for a couple years....jiffy pots are little pellets of compressed and dried dirt meant for germinating seeds.

So, I arranged them in the dry tray...

Gathered our seeds...

And called in a helper...she likes "projects" she's putting water in the tray...

And now the pots are absorbing water and "growing"...

Then helper #2 showed up. He doesn't help much, but he has potential...

Here's his time-out. I put the camera down to plant the seeds, and he ran away with it.
Naughty, naughty, cute little boy!

And here's helper #1 putting the top on the little greenhouse.

In a week or two, we should see some action. We planted carrots, spinach, cucumbers, and squash...also some sunflowers and cosmos. We have high hopes, but low expectations...on both our harvest and the kids' consumption of it.