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Thanksgiving Wishes

Wishing everyone a wonderful day spent with family and friends, great food and good health!!!

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Crock Pot, Meal Prep, Sheet Pan…Oh My

So my hours at work changed and I am getting home later. This means that it is later when I put together dinner. One of the great things about cooler weather is that I am one step closer to pulling out the crock pot to cook soup and stews for dinner. It also means that I have been looking for meals that would allow me to save time cooking, but are also healthy and yummy too. One of the things I came across was a number of websites that were encouraging the idea of meal prep. The idea is that you get ingredients for several meals, usually 4-6, and cook them one day on the weekend, storing the meals into containers to be frozen to eat later or kept in the fridge to eat that week. Sounds good right? Hmmm, hold that thought.

I found a website that allowed you to sign up for a meal prep challenge. The blogger would put together meals, send out the shopping list of ingredients needed and even include how many containers and what types were needed to store each meal in. Sounds even better, right? It did until I received the email with the list of meals that were to be prepped. There was not one meal that we would eat as listed. Most contained exotic vegetables or seasonings that would be extremely hard to get in my local stores. Or they contained items that were just not something that we would eat (hello brussel sprouts). As someone who only recently discovered the yumminess of roasted sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts are not in my immediate plans.

So to prep meals in advance, I would have to substitute a lot of things, which would mean guessing at the amounts to buy. One of the nice ideas about meal prepping is that you are told how much of each item you need. To replace those meant I would now risk getting to much or too little and the prep would fail. I then came across several blogs where they discuss the idea that meal prep takes nutrients away from the food, so if you are trying to eat healthier like we are, losing nutrients would not be something that we want to do.

I then came across the idea of sheet pan meals. The concept here is that you cook the entire meal at once on a sheet pan from start to finish in 45 minutes or less. Take a protein, such as chicken, and add vegetables. Season or marinade the chicken and roast the vegetables.at the same time. There were even sheet pan ideas for breakfast and dessert. I have several recipes bookmarked and I tried my first sheet pan meal last week and it worked out great. I made Asiago chicken and roasted vegetables at the same time. We added a salad and the whole thing took about 40 minutes from start to finish. Not bad for a week night meal. And of course you can make it as healthy as you want.

Now I just have to figure out what to try next? Any ideas?

Happy 4th of July

Wishing everyone a 4th filled with fun, food and friends….Stay safe!!!

All Through The House

When I was planning what goodies to make for the holidays, I asked my husband and son what they wanted. My son wanted his usual oatmeal cookies and my husband wanted his usual sugar cookies with vanilla frosting. I usually make one or two new cookies each year, so I found two recipes that I wanted to try. One was for German chocolate sugar cookies and the other was for a cheesecake cookie. Both sounded delicious. In addition, I usually make white chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate fudge too. Yes, we do like to indulge a little extra during the holidays.

I planned to try to get all of my baking done in one weekend, but coming down with a cold that lingered for several weeks made it a little difficult to bake everything in one weekend. I kept wanting to take a nap, so I started with the cookies and made 10 dozen oatmeal cookies, which were placed in individual baggies with a dozen each so I could ration them for my son. Normally he would just take the container with all the cookies and he would come back a couple of days later with the empty container. So this year, I am making them last. He has grumbled about it, but that’s normal.

I then made 9 dozen frosted sugar cookies, which my husband has been rationing. He said I made them earlier than I usually do, so he wants to make them last. Next up were the German chocolate sugar cookies and they were actually easy to make and taste so yummy. They do not have a strong chocolate taste, but are just chocolate enough. Even my husband likes them and he is not a big dark chocolate fan. I will definitely keep this recipe to make again. I went to gather the ingredients for the cheesecake cookies, but didn’t have enough brown sugar, so I decided to make those next weekend for a New Year’s eve treat.

After work yesterday, I came home to a large box on the front porch from my mom. It was a box of Cheryl’s Gourmet Holiday Cookies. Faced with all the additional cookies, my husband said he didn’t think we needed to make the chocolate covered pretzels this year. I did make the fudge though. I love a cup of hot chocolate with a piece of fudge in front of the fire. The hot chocolate melts the fudge and it is so good. If it were snowing that would be even better. We don’t have any snow this year yet, but I know it will be here before long.

fudgeAnd now, I think it’s time for a little cookie break. Happy Holidays everyone!!!

 

 

Stuffy, Tissues and Soup

So I caught a winter cold from work. One person has been sick going on three weeks. I am entering week two and my husband is still in week one. It is mainly a sinus and head cold. Not much coughing or sneezing. Just stuffed up and not sleeping well. At first I thought it was just due to the fact that we had been outside the day before raking and bagging the leaves. While I love looking at leaves, I tend to get stuffy when I actually play with them, so I hoped that it was just too much time outside, but I wasn’t so lucky. By the next morning, I felt horrible.

mrs_grass_noodle_soup_mix_smBefore I made him sick, my husband asked what I wanted and I said I wanted Mrs. Grass chicken soup. It was what we were given whenever we were sick growing up and I even now I always want a bowl when I’m sick. There is nothing quite like being curled up on the couch in your pajamas with a warm blanket and a mug of Mrs. Grass’ soup. Unfortunately we didn’t have any in the pantry so my wonderful husband went to three stores until he found it. 🙂

He started to make it and I told him to make sure the golden nugget was dissolved all the way. He said there wasn’t a golden nugget. I thought he was joking. Mrs. Grass is all about the golden nugget. It’s what makes the soup taste so yummy good. And makes you feel better. He brought me the box and showed me there wasn’t a golden nugget anymore. The picture above shows the golden nugget, but my new box didn’t have it. I immediately Googled it and learned the company got rid of the golden nugget earlier this year. What the h#%l were they thinking??? Put the golden nugget back…..really. I’m sick and now this.

Of course the company wants you to know that it tastes the same. That might be a good way to spin it, but it didn’t taste the same. It just tasted like box soup. Not yummy. 😦 And I am sure that is why my cold has lingered. The little golden nugget would have made me all better by now.

Memories Tied To Food

As part of our decluttering and reorganizing the basement, we have started to tackle the many photo albums and loose photos that we have. The first thing I did was take all of them out of the musty smelling, old albums. My husband then started to sort them into family photos, his growing up, mine growing up and ours. And also those from before we got together, his military photos and my vacation photos. The goal is to sort through them. Eliminate the duplicates. Yes, there really are three photos of me in kindergarten. And then they will be scanned and saved on a thumb drive for viewing whenever we want.

koolaid-popsicleLooking through my family photos, I was struck by how many of them were tied to food. One of the first photos of me was when my mom brought me home and she is holding me in her parent’s kitchen. For my first birthday, I was placed on the table and my birthday cake was in front of me. Clutched in my hand was a piece of cake. There are other photos of us outside in the summer, faces dripping with ice cream or snow cones. I remember that they were made by my mom, who would crush up the ice in the blender and add Kool-Aid to sweeten it up. Or we would make homemade popsicles in ice-cube trays. Other photos were taken at family events, but the one constant in many of the photos was the food.

I grew up in a large blended family. My father was married before and had four children. He then married my mom and had myself and my brother. Money was always tight, but I don’t ever remember being hungry. Sunday dinners would be a big roast, potatoes, some type of veggie and milk or Kool-Aid for the kids. Dessert would be something my mom made, be it cake or cookies or pudding. That roast would make an appearance several more times during the week as leftovers. One of my favorites was roast beef and gravy over bread. The bread would make the meat stretch for several meals. Wednesday really was spaghetti day in our house. Remember the commercials in the 1970’s about Wednesday being Prince spaghetti day?

We didn’t really eat out. A treat for us would be pizza or sliders from White Castle. Pizza night would be the first Friday of the month, which was also my dad’s payday. I remember my mom would order the Family Pizza from Cold Spot. It was always thin crust and always Italian sausage. I remember that the family size was huge and fit in the back of our station wagon. Pizza night was also the only time we got to drink soda. Mom would open a bottle of Pepsi and split it among us kids. Leftover pizza was reheated in the little toaster oven. We didn’t have microwaves back then. To this day, pizza doesn’t taste good to me unless it’s reheated in a toaster oven. If not, I’d rather eat it cold.

white-castle-sliderAnother rare treat would be when we would get sliders from White Castle. I remember that my dad would get a bag of 30 sliders and some fries. Each of us kids would get 3 sliders and some fries. When I moved away, I missed those little burgers. In the south, they had Krystal, which were just like White Castle. I got used to eating them and when they built a White Castle near us in Tennessee, I couldn’t wait until they opened. Once they did, I went for my slider fix and promptly discovered that I liked Krystal’s better. Taste buds change I guess.

My family was also a part of the clean plate club. Whatever food my mom put on our plates, we had to eat. And it didn’t matter how long it took you to eat. I remember getting vegetable beef soup for lunch and eating everything but the mushy vegetables. My mom wouldn’t let me leave the table until I ate all of it. I also remember the gallon of milk and my glass being filled over and over again to get me to swallow the vegetables. To this day, I will not eat vegetable beef soup. It is also probably why I find myself not wanting to eat many vegetables and may be why I am lactose intolerant. And I know that it is what contributed to my continual fight with my weight for most of my life. But it is also why I always let my son stop eating when he wanted. He doesn’t know what the clean plate club is and that’s a good thing. I guess there was a lesson learned in there along the way.

When I went away to college, I remember my dad slipping me $20 for pizza whenever I came home for the weekend. He always whispered for me not to tell my mom. Since she never slipped me any money, I have a feeling she knew. There were  plenty of pizza places around my school that sold it by the slice, so that $20 went along way back then.

The food pictures didn’t stop when I married. There are the photos of the cakes that I made for my son for his birthday. I remember the Thomas the Tank Engine cake took me 4 days to finish. We were living in Louisiana and it was so humid that I could only ice a little of the cake at a time. I kept having to put it in the refrigerator to keep from melting. I also remember the pain in my back and shoulders from being hunched over as I iced it. It turned out really well and the pain was forgotten. Of course, it all came back when he asked for the same cake the next year. But it was worth it to see how happy he was.

Over time, there were less photos. Or maybe the photos are different. When before we were recording our family as it was growing, we are grown. The photos we take now are mostly of our pug and of the places that we visit. Sometimes those places involve food, but mostly they remind us of the happy times we spend together.

 

It’s Pumpkin Everywhere…It Must Be Fall

pumpkinsIt used to be the only time you ate something pumpkin was at Thanksgiving. On a rare occasion, you might have also had it at Christmas, but if you did, chances are you were considered to be a little outside the norm in doing so. I mean pumpkin is for Thanksgiving, or at least it used to be. Now, it seems that pumpkin is in every food imaginable. If you like the taste of pumpkin, then you should be in heaven.

There are the usual offerings, such as pumpkin bread and muffins, but it has now moved on to pumpkin spice coffee at any number of coffee shops, as well as being available in your favorite individual pods and cups to making a whole coffee pot of the fall flavor. There are marketing campaigns that try to convince you that you have just been marking the days off the calendar just waiting for your favorite pumpkin coffee to come back to your coffee shop. I’m sure they sent you an email or text alerting you to the exact moment the coffee would return to the store. Right? And they will even sell you bags and pods of pumpkin coffee that you can make at home and it will taste just the same. Nope.

If that isn’t enough pumpkin for you, there are also pumpkin creamers by many different companies to make your coffee taste even more pumpkin. Each one tastes different, so the pumpkin fan will buy them all to find the one that it a perfect fit. It has invaded our breakfast cereals and toasted muffins. I actually saw  pumpkin shredded wheat and pumpkin O’s cereal along with pumpkin English muffins and bagels. Just imagine, you can spread your pumpkin cream cheese on your pumpkin bagel to complete your morning pumpkin fest. And did I mention soup? Search the internet and you can find pumpkin recipes for soups, butter, pudding and even waffles.  I’m sure you’ll find something that you like.

I will admit that in October, I usually buy one of the pumpkin cream cheese rolls that you can find in almost every grocery store. They are rather yummy with a cup of hot coffee after dinner. My son also likes pumpkin bread and I will make at least one batch from scratch. If he wants more, Pillsbury makes a great mix :). That treat usually carries us until Thanksgiving and the pumpkin pie still warm from the oven with lots of whipped cream to top it off. Yummy! As for the other things, I’m really not a fan. I’ve tried pumpkin coffee and didn’t like it. I finally tried pumpkin coffee creamer and it is okay, but once the bottle is gone, I will not buy it again. Honestly, most of the items made from pumpkin really don’t taste good to me, so I will stick to the original, pie, and occasionally branch out to bread…with warm butter. I can almost smell it. Oh well, off to make some. It’s September, but it’s not too soon, right?

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