Category Archives: Recipes

Basic Crock-Pot Beans


The last few days have been PERFECT writing days… gloomy skies, wind whipping around the windows, rain pattering down in sporadic spurts… my kids are currently obsessed with LOTR (a habit I have fostered, nurtured, and whole-heartedly endorsed) so there has been lots of movie watching and role-playing. Which has obviously gone straight to my uterus, because we discovered we’re having a baby girl today, and have decided her middle name will be Éowyn (YAY!!!).

So naturally, I was NOT writing. I was reading. =)  In my defense, it was an amazing soon-to-be-published novel. And I will gloat more that *I* got to read it before you did when it’s all official like (because I’m just competitive like that). Anyways, all the reading, LOTR, and rainy weather have made me eager for low-maintenance, low-cost dinners. And while on the phone to a dear cousin who struggles (as I do) with meal planning for a hubby who NEEDS to know what’s for dinner (“Um…. peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”), I decided to post the easiest dinner to make in the whole world. It includes a tool (Crock-Pot) and skill (cooking beans) that you MUST have to be an adult, in my opinion.

You’ll need to start in the morning and gather:

  • at least 2 pounds of dry beans (we prefer black or pinto beans)
  • a big onion
  • several cloves of garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • (Opt.) cooked meat (bacon, ham hocks, etc.)

Rinse the dry beans in a colander, removing funky looking beans (sometimes you’ll even find rocks… you DON’T want to bite on those!), any bean skins that stick to the sides, etc. Basically, clean them really well.

Dump your clean beans into your Crock-Pot and cover them with water. Because you can use any amount of beans, the amount of water varies. A good measure is your finger (this is genius: my husband taught me this trick): if you gently put your index finger on the top-most bean, the water level should be even with the second knuckle on your finger (brilliant, right?).

Now, skin an onion (chop off the top and bottom and take off all the dry skin) and add it to the pot. I leave the onion whole, because my kids don’t care for onion (they think), so when the beans are done, I just take the whole thing out. But you can totally dice it and mix it in with the beans. It’s up to you. Also, if you DON’T have an onion, onion powder or onion salt work just fine. Just sprinkle enough to cover the surface of the water.

Throw in some garlic cloves, either peeled, chopped, or pressed (we don’t believe there is any such thing as “too much garlic,” and it’s kept our house vampire and zombie free for years). Again, if you don’t have garlic, you can use garlic powder instead.

Add a bunch of salt and a few dashes of pepper (don’t you love my measurements?). This last batch I made I used up all our salt and it still didn’t taste salty enough for me. I recommend a taste-test about half-way thorough the cook time to make sure the flavor is right for you.

I’ve seen a lot of people add bacon or ham hocks to their meat. Leftover bacon never happens in our house, so we’ve never actually done this. And if we have ham hocks, I make split-pea soup. So anyways, I’ve never done this before, other people do and I bet it tastes yummy!

You can also add any other spice you want (and your kids tolerate): this last batch I sprinkled in cumin powder and a dash of chili powder. It went over fine with them.

Now fire up the Crock-pot for about 6 hours. Check it every few hours to make sure the water still covers the beans. If you have to add water, boil it first so it doesn’t slow down the cooking time. Although, I usually don’t check it… I’m generally busy… you know, reading.  =)

This way, when my husband wants to know “what’s for dinner?” I have an answer. “Beans!” And when he comes home, the house smells amazing.  =)

You can serve them in bowls with cheese and sour cream, or heat up tortillas and make burritos. Mmmmm.

Enjoy!

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Let’s get really real.


Guys, I’ve gotta come clean. I struggle with depression. That sounds completely melodramatic, but it’s the truth. Sadly, more often than not, depression wins, and I end up doing stupid things like eating an entire row of freshly baked brownies, ignoring my children, and crying. The tough thing is, I’m super conscious of WHAT I’m doing and WHY it’s wrong and stupid. I mean, heck, I’m a Christian. I should have the joy of the Lord as my strength, right? It’s a mind game that I go through over and over. And guess what? I’m sick of it. This is part of the reason why I haven’t blogged much lately posted any of the entries I’ve written over the last few months. My WordPress dashboard is full of almost daily entries, but when I read them through, they’re just whiney, angst-ridden rants from a person that I honestly don’t want to be.

The last few days, I’ve really gotten pissed off at the whole thing. I’m done struggling with depression. I’m gonna freakin’ rip its head off and pound it into the ground.

So. Inspiration for this post comes from the fabulous Kelle Hampton, an amazing, brave and hilarious woman who writes a beautiful blog that I’ve been following for about a year. She’s a woman who embraces life with a passion that I so deeply admire. I’m pretty sure her life isn’t perfect, but she takes the little things (the title of her blog) and celebrates each like it’s the most precious thing in the world.  I want to be like that. I don’t want my writing to be a list of my complaints, because that’s almost too easy. I want to chronicle the joy of my life, even if only to remind myself that life is wonderful. I might just have to work a little harder than most to see it that way.

And you know what? I do have a pretty amazing life! Here are the highlights of my week.

We had purchased tickets to a Giants spring training game in anticipation of some family coming out to watch it with us. But life happened, family couldn’t come, Anthony had to work, and there was no way I was going to take three kids to a spring training game all by myself (no matter if I kinda have a thing for beards

Brian Wilson – Fear the Beard!

and mullets).

Tim Lincecum – Mmm.

We couldn’t sell the tickets back and we were out a significant amount of money. So on Monday, I did a brave thing (for me). After dropping Jonathan and Hannah off with my cousin, Josh and I went to the stadium to scalp the tickets. Have we met? I’m the baby-wearing, stick-close-to-my-husband type… not exactly the scalping-tickets-on-my-own type! But there I was, shamelessly having Josh wave tickets around while asking people if they wanted tickets at a discount (a whole fifty-cents off the box-office price). Guess what? We rocked. Josh and I made $50.  

Feeling rather proud of my awesome scalping skills, I felt it was time to take on a sewing project I’ve wanted to do for awhile, but haven’t because… well, honestly? Because my mom wasn’t around to walk me through it. I know, pathetic, right? I’m 28 and I want my mommy (I love you mom!).  But I really have never done any sort of sewing without my mom close by to help me!  So I took my hard earned $50 and the kids and went to the fabric store. Jonathan and Hannah each got to pick out three fabric quarters for their very own tote bags. I spent the rest on supplies, thread and various other accoutrement required for sewing. You know what? My kids have really good taste!

Freshly washed fabric quarters

Freshly washed fabric quarters

I used this website for general direction and inspiration. She said (and I quote) “A beginning sew-er, ages 10 and up, can sew this up in an afternoon.” *Snort* I started Hannah’s bag at 10 am. It was finished at 5. Granted, I haven’t done much sewing since I was about 16 and I was learning a brand-new sewing machine (my Christmas present from my loving aunt Suzy and cousin Tanya), but still. Yikes. I’m slow. However, the results were awesome.

Pocket side of Hannah's bag

Pocket side of Hannah's bag

Non-pocket side of Hannah's bag

Non-pocket side of Hannah's bag

I don’t care that I spent all afternoon working on this. The kids had fun watching the bag come together and I was so happy that I started and finished a project in one day! I then launched whole-heartedly into making Jonathan’s after dinner. Anthony was graciously quiet about the fact that the Cheerios from breakfast had cemented to the bowls in the sink, and that there was a mountain of clean clothes on his side of the bed when he returned home. The kids loved having picnic breakfast, lunch and dinner in the living room (because sewing took over the entire kitchen table) and watching a parade of Pixar movies. There was thread and fabric scraps everywhere when I was done, but I had MADE something! Jonathan’s was finished long after the kids were in bed, but his turned out amazingly, too!

 

Alien/helicopter pocket. So cool.

Alien/helicopter pocket. So cool.

Jonathan's "chocolate" side (as he called it)

Jonathan's "chocolate" side (as he called it)

Creativity rocks. And I can be creative, and stick to something, and finish it. That’s a big deal. And the kids LOVE their tote bags. Yesterday we were out-and-about most of the morning, and Jonathan and Hannah stuffed their bags full of books and toys and took them everywhere, showing their new bags to anyone who came near. I made that happen. That’s awesome.

After all of yesterday’s running around, though, we made a pit stop at home to start dinner in the crock-pot and get the kids into their karate gis. The day had just been too much for one little ninja, though, who passed out 10 minutes before we had to get in the car.

Sweet Sleeping Ninja

Sweet Sleeping Ninja

Purple Blanket is a requirement for Hannah sleeping. In fact, we just discovered that it was left in the car that Daddy took to work, and she’s grumpily making do with a powder blue blanket.

My final highlight is from this morning, where, amongst the disaster that is the kitchen (which has been terribly abused and left dirty the last few days), Anthony and I whipped up a little morning gustatory delight, the recipe for which I must share with you.

1. Pour a generous amount of heavy whipping cream into a mixer. Add a few spoonfuls of sugar and a few capfuls of vanilla. Set the mixer on high and whip until it’s whipped cream (numerous finger-dipped samples required to ensure quality).

What's left of the home-made whipped cream

What's left of the home-made whipped cream

2. Add several scoops of ice cream to a blender

3. Pour 4 ounces of freshly brewed espresso over the ice cream and blend until smooth

4. Add a few squirts of chocolate syrup until desired chocolateyness is attained (again, finger-dipped samples are needed for this step)

Blender aftermath (abused kitchen backdrop)

Blender aftermath (abused kitchen backdrop)

5. Pour into tall glasses

6. Top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup

This is THE WAY to wake up!

Calories be damned. This is THE WAY to wake up!

So boo-ya, depression. I own you. Scalping, sewing, kids, husband, coffee & chocolate. You ain’t got nothin’ on ’em.

P.S. Readers (my dear friends): can you help me remember to just be thankful? When you hear me start to whine, would you remind me that the latté is half-full? ‘Cuz I need that. Even though I’m miles away from most of you, I still really need your encouragement. This desert isn’t as bad as it was last summer, but it’s still tough. Thanks!

Now go grab your kids, turn up your speakers, click play and shake some booty. That’s what we’re about to do!

Pumpkin Cobbler – Thanksgiving Recipe


Growing up, my family collected people.  I guess, to be accurate, we still collect people.  I was home visiting my parents last week and they had collected two young ladies who are living in their house. Both my parents have the gift of hospitality, which means that, even if you are a total stranger, you’ll be invited in for food, fellowship and my dad will probably ask you to help rake leaves while he gives you advice.

One Thanksgiving when I was younger, our “big brother” (not really related… just someone we’ve collected) brought his girlfriend over.  Her contribution to the meal was this magnificent pumpkin cobbler.  We’re not really sure what happened to the girlfriend, but we’ve kept her recipe and it has become a part of our family’s Thanksgiving meal.

Before you head off to cook yourself silly, answer this question: what is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Pumpkin Cobbler

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Bottom layer:

1 cup yellow cake mix

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

Crumble with fingers and pat around a greased 9×12 glass pan.

Filling:

1 large can pumpkin

3 eggs

2/3 cup milk

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

a few dashes each of clove, ginger, and nutmeg.

Mix together and then pour over the cake mix crumble.

Topping:

1 egg

1/2 cup butter

remaining cake mix

Beat together until smooth. Drop by the spoonful over the pumpkin mix.

Bake for 40-50 minutes. Excellent with whipped topping or ice cream when fresh from the oven. Also excellent chilled with a cup of coffee the morning after Thanksgiving.  =)

Peanut Butter Pie


Due to a wonderful government program, we never lack for peanut butter.  This is a great thing, because my 5-year-old son thinks that peanut butter is its own food group. The most common snack for the kids in our home is Peanut Butter Spoon, which has two ingredients: peanut butter and a spoon.  Very complex. The other day, all three kids sat at the table with their peanut butter spoons while I read “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to them for the first time.  It was a memory to go down in history. Peanut butter everywhere, and Peter Rabbit sent to bed without supper. Sheer awesomeness.  However, today I’d like to share with you my personal (and much more sophisticated) way to partake of peanut butter.

Before you get carried away on piles of tasty goodness, however, tell us what your favorite kid snack is and what kids book you would pair it with!

  1. Mash up a package of graham crackers w/ a stick of melted butter and pat around pie plate.
  2. Mix 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter with 1 cup of powdered sugar until crumbly. (I nuke the jar of peanut butter for 30 seconds to aid in the scoopability [hush, spellchecker! I’m inventing words])
  3. Get ready for the layers by whipping up some instant vanilla pudding and let it soft-set (if you are the Martha type, make pudding from scratch. I choose the path that gets me back to my book fastest.)
  4. Layer 1/2 of the peanut crumbles on the graham cracker crust.
  5. Spread pudding over peanut crumbles.
  6. Layer another 1/4 of the crumbles onto the pudding.
  7. Spread Cool-Whip over crumbles
  8. Top with remaining 1/4 of the peanut crumbles.
  9. Chill.
  10. Put your kids to bed and turn on the football game for your husband (trust me, this one is kinda messy and you don’t REALLY want to share :-D)
  11. Dig in!

(We saw an episode of Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel featuring Mrs. Yoder’s Peanut Butter Pie from Sarasota, FL. This is my take on it.)

Current WIP: Cheesy Breadsticks


In the midst of focusing on my ascent into domestic-goddesshood (no spell check, it’s not an official word), I’ve rediscovered my absolute love of freshly baked bread. On Memorial Day, my husband was showing off his culinary skills (which far surpass mine) and made an amazing pasta sauce that included spinach and other amazing healthy and delicious things. Not to be outdone, I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook (Anthony needs no such trappings) and decided I’d tweak her classic Focaccia recipe into cheesy breadsticks to go along with our fantastic Italian feast.

All this was inspired by several Olive Garden commercials during “Knocked Up”. When poor and unable to afford restaurants, improvise!  Enjoy, and tell me about your favorite creative at-home restaurant experience! And then, if you haven’t already, check out my friend M. Christine Weber’s site for more awesome recipes!

Dani’s Cheesy Breadsticks
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 T. Italian seasoning
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
2 1/4 t. yeast
1 T. olive oil
1 c. warm water (between 120 and 130 degrees)
lots of grated Parmesan
garlic salt (fresh pressed garlic if you have it; I didn’t)

1. Mix 1 cup of flour with the Italian seasoning, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Add oil and warm water and beat for 3 minutes scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough flour until dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl (this is a feeling thing, not an exact measure. I add the flour 1/2 cup at a time until it looks right)

2. Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and springy. Pour a little olive oil into the mixing bowl and return dough to the bowl, coating throughly with the olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes (Start making pasta sauce now… and this was when Anthony and I had our first adult beverage of the evening).

3. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll and shape each into a long flat rope. Push Parmesan cheese and garlic salt into the middle of each and then twist. Set on an olive oil-coated cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Allow breadsticks to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Set oven to 425.

4. Remove plastic wrap. Add more cheese to the top (because there is no such thing as too much cheese) before popping them in the oven for 10-12 minutes. You’ll smell them when they are ready! Watch out, though! They smell so good, you might burn your mouth trying to eat them before they’re cool!  =)

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