Relaxing Weekend

It was nice that I did not have any plans this weekend except for the dentist on Friday. I spent some time each day outside working on our yard. I try not to do too much at once though. Yesterday I planted my tomato plants that my mom gave me. She grew them from seed this year.

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I’m hoping I did not plant them too close together. I plan on building a raised vegetable garden this year so it is ready for plants in the spring. Until then, I just had to find a spot for these tomatoes. Our ground is very rocky though, so it takes me a long time just to dig this small hole. Around the tomatoes, you can see all of the rocks I had dug up to make the hole.

Today, I planted a couple hostas. I have already planted around 12 groups of them, but I still have more to put in the ground. I’m just going to try to plant a few whenever I get the chance. I also have a couple of lily plants that my brother gave me last weekend for my birthday that I still need to find a spot for. I love getting plants from people, because, when we bought our house last year, there was only one plant (a hydrangea) on the property. Eventually I hope to have a lot of garden beds full of flowers. Spending time outside also puts me in a good mood and helps me feel accomplished even if I only have the energy to put one plant in the ground.

Besides spending time outside, I also baked a loaf of banana bread. The house smells really nice, and I might need to have a piece tonight even though I made it for breakfasts for the week. I’m not patient when it comes to fresh baked goods.

I also had a great dinner. So far, this is my favorite way to make salmon.

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My husband has been doing all of the dinners lately. In the warm weather, he loves using the grill. He isn’t a fan of salmon though, but I prepared myself a piece, and he put it on the grill for me while he made himself a cheeseburger. I put the salmon in tin foil sprayed with cooking spray. I drizzled it with lemon juice and sprinkled it with a little Mrs. Dash and parsley. Lastly, I topped it with a couple slices of tomato and folded the tin foil around it. In another piece of tin foil, I put some sliced yellow squash. Travis cooked them on the grill for me. This is my favorite way I have made salmon so far. The slices of tomato kept it really moist. I think I will have some banana bread for dessert.

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Cinnamon Raisin Pancakes

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It felt like the kind of morning that needed pancakes. These didn’t take long with the help of Bisquick.

Makes 6 little pancakes or 3 or 4 regular size pancakes

1 cup Bisquick

1/2 cup milk (soymilk in my case)

1 egg

Mix ingredients.

Add ingredients of choice.

I sprinkled in some ground cinnamon and added a handful of raisins. I’ve used chopped apples in place of the raisins before, and that also tastes very good. My house smelled like cinnamon buns this morning.

Peanut Butter Cookies

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Because I have been away on vacation, I have not been able to bake in a while. I decided I wanted cookies, so, based on what was in my cabinets, peanut butter cookies were the best option. Here is a pretty simple recipe I like to use from a Better Homes & Garden magazine. The recipe says it makes three dozen, but I only ended up with two dozen. It may be that I made them bigger than the writer did though.

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/4 c packed light brown sugar

3 T milk

1 T vanilla

1 large egg

1 3/4 c flour

3/4 t baking soda

3/4 t salt

Beat peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla. Add egg and beat. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir. Drop rounded on baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 375 *F for 8 minutes.

Tastes best when still a little warm from the oven!

Quiche and Potatoes

I decided to try another quiche (see previous quiche post here). This time I used ground sweet Italian sausage, diced orange pepper, and green onions.

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There are two quiches actually. The round one is for my husband because it has cheese in it as well as the other ingredients. The oval one is my non-dairy one. To go with it, I made some potatoes in the oven.

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I had bought one large sweet potato for me, and three red potatoes for my husband (who does not like sweet potatoes). I cut them into bite size pieces and tossed them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little dried parsley. The quiche and the potatoes made a very nice dinner, and I still have half of my quiche and sweet potatoes left over for tomorrow.

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A Productive Day

I know I have not posted in a while. I apologize. First, I will share some news: I am pregnant, and we will be expecting our baby in October! I am about 12 weeks along now. We are very excited because this is something we have been trying for. It was something that had to be planned because my essential tremor medication causes birth defects so I had to gradually stop it before we could even start trying. We can’t wait, but there is plenty of things that need to be done before October.

I seem to be past all the nauseau and throwing up. I finally have some energy back, so I have been trying to put it to good use. Just this morning, I swept the floors and did some dishes. Then I went outside to check out the yard. There are still some patches of snow, but I can see most of the yard. We have a lot of water sitting in our back yard. We are lucky that we have a sump pump, and we have been hearing it turning on a lot these past few days. Although the basement is dry, I would still like to fill in some areas in the back yard and try to make the water flow into the ditch that leads to the drain along the road in front of the house. I started the first step today by putting up stakes and twine to show where the water is filling up. When the yard is finally dry, we will need to find some dirt to fill in those areas and hopefully slope it slightly to go down to the ditch. Here is my progress:

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I basically spent the morning wading around in my rain boots. While I was at it, I grabbed a trash bag to pick up around the yard. My husband had hit one of our trash cans with his truck in the wee hours of one morning when he left to go to work. There were little pieces of shattered blue plastic all over our driveway. Now it looks a lot better. When it gets a little drier out and all the snow is gone, we will have to rake. We also didn’t finish burying the sump pump pipe last fall, so I would like to get that in the ground. Also I plan on building a raise vegetable garden on that side of the house seeing that area gets the most sun throughout the day.

It was nice to finally have a nice day to be outside. After I got some fresh air, I baked some Oatmeal Raisin Cookies:

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My parents also stopped by seeing they were in the area. We fired up the grill for some burgers and hot dogs. We also had salad and potato chips. I’m ready for summer foods! Yesterday, we turned on the grill for the first time this year. There is nothing like grilled food to bring on the good weather. My parents were happy with it too because they said that their grill is still buried under 18 inches of snow. I guess that is what we get for living in New England.

Anyway, I feel like I accomplished a lot today. Next weekend I hope to get out the shovel and try to help the water drain easier to the ditch along the road. Maybe I will also dig up some of the giant weeds we had last year before they start to get big again. I would really like to have a nicer yard this year. Not that we don’t have enough things on our to-do list for when the baby gets here. My second appointment with the doctor is on Friday, so we are looking forward to it. At my first appointment, we were able to hear the heart beat of our baby. It’s very exciting!

Whatever I have = Dinner

For dinner tonight, I just threw together whatever I had.

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I started with a deep skillet, sautéing diced onion, green pepper, and minced garlic in olive oil. I then added a package of four tomato basil chicken sausages sliced along with some frozen cauliflower and broccoli that I had left in the freezer. I cooked until everything was tender and thoroughly cooked. I sprinkled on some basil, thyme, and crushed red pepper. I added half a package of grape tomatoes that I had cut in half and added three cups of water and two chicken boullion cubes. I turned the heat on high until the water boiled. I added about a cup and a half of uncooked orzo, stirred, and turned the heat to low. I covered with a lid and let simmer until orzo was cooked and had absorbed the broth. Ta da, all done. I served with my white bread that I had baked, see previous post here. Even though the bread  had come out smaller than I had anticipated, it still tasted very good, especially warm from the oven.

For my Chicken Sausage Orzo:

3 T olive oil

1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 a yellow onion, diced

1 clove minced garlic

4 pieces of chicken sausage, sliced

1 c broccoli and cauliflower

Basil

Thyme

Crushed Red Pepper

1/2 a package of grape tomatoes, sliced in half

3 cups water

2 chicken bullion cubes

1 1/2 c uncooked orzo

Questionable Bread?

I wanted to try baking bread, so I got out my Betty Crocker cookbook to make a loaf of basic white bread. Somewhere along the way, I must have made a mistake. Here is my bread:

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It looks like it will taste fine, but it didn’t really rise in the oven. I’m not sure where I went wrong. The recipe was for two loaves and I only wanted one, so I halved everything, but I thought my math was correct. I followed the directions exactly, at least I thought I did. I’m a little disappointed, but I will still eat it. I just need to figure out where I made a mistake before I try again. Any one have any ideas? Also, I’m thinking I might want a bread machine for my birthday, which is not soon at all. Has any one had good experiences with them?

Chocolate Sweethearts

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I tried out this recipe for Chocolate Sweethearts from the Hannaford Fresh magazine that you get free when you spend over $25 at the store. These are just the thing for February being the month of Valentine’s Day.

Made 2 dozen cookies for me, though the recipe says 32 cookies, but it depends on the size of your cookie cutter.

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3/8 tsp salt

3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cubed

1 c confectioners’ sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 c semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)

1. In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt.

2. In large bowl, use an electric mixer on low to cream butter until softened. With a spoon or spatula begin to stir in confectioners’ sugar, then cream on low until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to incorporate. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients on low until well blended; dough will be dry. Form dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into heart shapes using a 2- to 3-inch cookie cutter. Ball together excess dough and roll out again until all dough is used. Place cookies 1/2 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake until surface of the cookies appears dry, 10 to 12 minutes (took about 20 for me). Place baking sheets on wire racks and allow cookies to cool completely.

6. When cookies are cool, melt chocolate chips over a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Transfer chocolate to a zip-close plastic bag and snip one corner. Drizzle chocolate on each cookie in a zigzag pattern. Let chocolate set, about 1 hour. Store cookies in a flat container with wax paper between layers of cookies, or freeze.

I’m very happy with how these came out. They go great with a glass of milk (soy milk in my case). This was one of many recipes that I tore out of a magazine. I like acquiring recipes, but I don’t always have the ambition to try something new, especially during the week when I’m working. Hopefully, I will try a couple more recipes from my pile that I have been meaning to try while I have this week off for a vacation. Does anyone else like making a pile of recipes to try? And do you find that you don’t try them as often as you would like?

Dinner with a Friend and a Clean Dusty

My best friend came to visit me from out of state. It was the first time we had seen each other in over a year. It was great seeing her, and I hope she visits again soon. There is nothing better than hanging out with your best friend, cooking, watching Downton Abbey, drinking tea, eating popcorn and candy. We made these stuffed peppers and roasted butternut squash together.

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For the stuffed peppers:

4 green peppers

1 lb lean ground turkey

about a cup of tomato sauce

1 package of 90 second Spanish rice

Heat oven to 350*F. Cook the 90 second Spanish rice in the microwave. Pour into large bowl. Add the ground turkey. Mix together. Add the tomato sauce and stir until smooth. Cut the stuffed peppers in half down the middle and clean out. Lay flat in sprayed glass dish. Fill with the rice and turkey stuffing. Spoon a little extra tomato sauce on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until meat is done.

For the roasted butternut squash:

1 butternut squash

Brown sugar

Apple Juice

Dice butternut squash into cubes. Put in small glass casserole dish. Cover with brown sugar. Pour apple juice over squash. Put in 350*F oven. I cooked for 30 minutes, then stirred it, and cooked for 45 minutes more. Cook until squash is tender.

Also, Dusty went to the pet store to be brushed and groomed. He looks so handsome! He must have thought he smelled too pretty because the first thing he did when he got home was roll in the snow.

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Christmas Blondies

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Given the name, these are nice to make around the holidays. Being our first year in our new house, I had high hopes of baking a lot between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The other day, I realized that I had not baked a single thing in quite a few weeks. I had meant to have a kitchen full of cookies and pies and other goodies. These Christmas Blondies were on my list of holiday goodies that I had planned on making sooner. I guess it is never too late though, especially when chocolate and cherries are involved.

(From a Better Homes and Garden magazine two or three years ago)

Makes 24 Bars (12 the way I cut them)

2/3 c margarine, softened

2 c brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 T cherry juice

1 1/2 t baking powder

2 t vanilla

1/4 t salt

2 1/4 c flour

3/4 c chopped dark sweet chocolate (6 oz) — I used Ghirardelli choc chips

1/2 c chopped cherries

Preheat oven 350*F. Lightly grease 13×9 inch pan.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter. Add brown sugar. Beat. Beat in eggs, cherry juice, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Stir in chocolate and cherries. Spread in pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until golden. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

I’m hoping to make these every holiday season. It seems like most people can say that their families usually make the same kinds of cookies each year as a tradition. I can usually count on my mom to make the same four kinds every Christmas, and it is nice to look forward to each year. Especially if it something you only get once a year. Do you have cookies or other goodies you make every year for the holidays?