Category Archives: mixed up crazy world

The winds of change are blowing my way (yet again!)

Some of you may have noticed that over the course of the last few months the frequency of post and the content of this blog has been changing.  There’s a reason for those changes.  My whole world has been undergoing something of a metamorphosis.  Not a Kafka-esque one, cause eww who’d want to turn into a nasty cockroach, but a series of huge changes none the less.  As some of you may remember I recently lost my dad, moved to middle America, bought a house (that needed a lot of TLC and some serious renovations), found a few job, and made some fantastic friends!  That’s a lot of stuff, right?  but that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s been going on in the last few months…  I’ve also ended a marriage, lost a bunch of weight, mostly finished renovating the house, found a job in my field, found even more great people, met a great guy, expanded my previously shrinking family, and decided to move (again)!  With all of that going on behind the scenes, I have to apologize for slipping with the frequency of my posts.  I am trying to keep up with as many of the topics as I can, but as my move to the southwest gets closer (and more of my stuff got packed – the craft supplies went 1st, then the books, and finally the kitchen equipment) it became increasingly hard to keep up.  I hope to be back up and running very soon, but just in case, please don’t forget about my out there in the blogosphere, I’ll be back with even more projects, adventures, reads, and recipes!

Now I wonder if you can make it from Ohio to Arizona by way of New York, Walt Disney World or Mount Rushmore…  We shall see!!!

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Filed under bucket board, check-it-off-the-list, family drama, hunting for a new home, mixed up crazy world, self improvement

Snapshot Saturday – Boom!

July is the month that we, in the United States, celebrate our country’s independence.  Generally speaking, we honor the bravery and determination of our forefathers by having a BBQ, drinking some beer (or beerlike substance) and blowing stuff up!  I love FIREWORKS!!!  The boom, the colors, the majestic pictures in the night sky!  So, this month I’m going share some of my favorite pictures of this year’s fireworks!

5th of July Party

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Tasty Tuesday – Chicken Broccoli Foil Packets

We’ve had a bit of a change in my house and I’ve been making dinner at midnight or so most nights.  I can’t really spend hours cooking, well actually I guess I could, but I don’t really want to at that time of night, so I’ve been hunting for hearty, quick and easy to prepare meals.  I found a recipe for a Chicken & Broccoli Foil Packet Meal that I loved so much I had to pin it to Pinterest.

This recipe reminded me of a fantastic recipe that my grandmother “created” called Chicken Thing.  It is not the same as Chicken Thing, but it does have the same homey meal feeling that I remember from my childhood.  The foils packets are also much easier to prepare, which is a big plus at 11:30pm.  I gathered all of the ingredients: 1 package Chicken Flavor Stuffing mix, 1 1/4 cup of water, 24 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts, 4 cups of broccoli, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 4 slices cooked bacon, and 4 tablespoons of Ranch Dressing (I accidentally left this out).

Chicken Broccoli Foil Packets Ingredients

First I cut the foil to size and sprayed each piece with cooking spray.

Prep the Foil

Then I mixed the stuffing and water together.  Once it was combined well, I scooped some stuffing onto each piece of foil.

combine stuffing mix and water start building your food pyramid with stuffing

Next I trimmed the chicken and laid half a boneless skinless breast on each pile of stuffing.

Layer 2 Chicken Breast

After the chicken I added some broccoli.  The original recipe gave actual amounts to use.  I didn’t pay any attention to the measurements.  I went by sight and what my family will eat.

layer 3 broccoli

Then 1 crumbled strip of bacon gets added to each packet along with some shredded cheddar cheese.

Layer 4 Cheese  Layer 5 Crumbled Bacon

This is where I was supposed to add the ranch dressing and forgot all about it.  I blame the omission on the time of day I was making the meal.  Once the stuff was all stacked, I closed the packets (leaving enough room for air to circulate inside each one).  I placed the sealed packets on a jelly roll pan and stuck them in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees.

Foil Packets Ready to Bake

They were ridiculously good, and I will totally be making these again, and I may even have to break out the Chicken Thing recipe and give it a whirl.

Chicken & Broccoli Foil Packets

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Sunday Sweets – Slightly Salted Caramel Chip Cookies

I know I’ve been slacking big time on the posts recently, but life has gotten in the way of my blogging.  This week I made some cookies for a midnight snack.  Yes I know eating that late at night isn’t good for you, but when you work 2nd shift it really is just dinner time.  (and that’s as big a hint about what’s going on in my world as I am willing to share at the moment…)  I found a recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies on Pinterest that sounded interesting, so I figured why not whip them up while I was waiting to serve dinner at Midnight.

It was a pretty straight forward recipe, and thankfully I had some wrapped caramels left in the cabinet.  I gathered the ingredients:

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 16 wrapped caramels, cut into 4 or 5 pieces each
  • sea salt

Caramel Chip Cookie Ingredients

Once I had everything out and ready to go, I preheated the oven to 325 degrees and set about making the cookie dough.  I combined the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl and set it aside.

Combine Flour Add Baking Soda

Next I grabbed a second bowl and creamed together the butter and sugars (brown & white).

room temperature butter  brown sugar  White Sugar  cream the sugar and butter together

Once it looks like a crumb topping, add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla.  Mix it until everything is well combined.

Add the eggs   And the vanilla

Now that all the moist ingredients were mixed together, I added the flour mixture in a bit at a time…

add flour and mix well

Once all the flour was incorporated, I mixed the chocolate chips in by hand.  After that, I stuck the dough in the fridge for about half an hour and set up my cookie sheet and cooling wrack.  While I was waiting for the dough to set up, I also unwrapped and cut up the caramels.

Add the Chocolate Chips   cut up caramels

When everything was good to go, I scooped out a nice spoonful of the cookie dough and added 2 or 3 pieces of the caramel to the top of each cookie.  Then I put them in the oven for 14 minutes.  My oven doesn’t cook like a normal oven, so it might take less time for your cookies to back.  You just want the edges to begin to brown.  The middle should still be soft.  As soon as they come out of the oven sprinkle the batch with some sea salt and let them cool.

Smash the Caramels into the top of each cookie before baking  Sprinkle with Sea Salt

These cookies should definitely be eaten warm.  The caramel gets too hard to chew if you let them get too cool.

 

 

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Tasty Tuesday – Not Quite Martha’s Turkey

As I mention previously, I somehow ended up with lots of extra holiday-type meat in my freezer, and I need to make some room in there, so it’s time to cook (which I guess is why I ended up with the food in the first place, huh?).  The next thing I want to make (mainly, because it takes up the most room) is a turkey.  Yes, a whole turkey, just like at Thanksgiving.  While I was pretty sure about how to prep the bird, I can never remember the cooking time or temperature.  I have a couple of really great Thanksgiving and American Cuisine cookbooks, but they are currently in boxes awaiting our up coming kitchen renovation, so I headed off to my current go to for recipe information, Pinterest.  I found exactly what I was looking for with little to no trouble, in the form of a Martha Stewart Recipe:

First, I made sure the turkey was fully defrosted.  (That took a couple of days, hanging out in the fridge.)  Then I gathered the rest of the ingredients:  the turkey (mine was just shy of 14lbs.), 1 stalk of celery, 2 dried bay leaves (I skipped these – I’m not a big fan and I was out of them), 2 medium carrots (I used a bunch of baby carrots instead), 2 medium onions, 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter (I used 8, plus 2 more for the basting liquid), 1 teaspoon of poultry seasoning (I used fresh herbs instead – rosemary, thyme, and sage), salt & pepper.  I also used 1 cup of orange juice to make the basting liquid, which wasn’t in the recipe at all.  (See, I’m really bad at following the directions accurately, that’s why I titled this post “Not Quite Martha’s Turkey.”)

Turkey Ingredients

Now that I had everything together, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  (Why can I never remember that?)  Next, I was time to clean the turkey.  I took it out of the wrapper, removed the neck and package of internal components (bleck), and rinsed it inside and out with cold water.  Now Martha said to save the neck to put in the bottom of the roasting pan, but I opted to not touch that sucker again and tossed it.  I dried it off with paper towels (I only did the exterior, I’m a firm believer in adding moisture to the meat of a turkey).

Rinsing the Turkey

When it was dry, I placed it on a raised tray in a giant roasting pan (I really love my Calphalon!)  Next I cut up the veggies.  I chopped the celery into appetizer size chunks and quartered the onions.  I didn’t have to do anything to the carrots, because I used peeled baby ones.  Then I stuck the celery, half the carrots, and one of the quartered onions inside the bird.  (You know the place where mom and grandma used to cook the stuffing, but now we know better than to do that, right?)  Martha also said to put the bay leaves inside the bird, but I left them out.  Once all the stuff is inside, you can either tie the legs together or stick them under the plastic thing thats already attached to the turkey.

Quartering Onions  Fill 'er Up...

OK, so this is where I went really far off script…  Martha said to rub the bird with butter and sprinkle the skin with the poultry seasoning.  I lifted the skin up and separated it from the meat on the breast and the tops of the legs.  You can reach the legs from the breast.  It’s pretty easy to do, just stick you hand in and slide it around a bit.  Once there’s a gap that you can fit stuff in, it’s time to add the butter and herbs.  I cut my stick of butter into tablespoon size chunks and slid 4 of them under the skin.  (One on each side of the breast and one on each leg.)  Then I added a couple of sprigs of thyme, a few pieces of rosemary, and a few sage leaves to each pat of butter.  Next, I did like Martha said and rubbed the skin of the turkey with 3 of the remaining pieces of butter (I squeezed the 4th one inside with the carrots and stuff) and added some additional fresh herbs, salt & pepper.

lifting the skin  Insert butter  and herbs  don't forget the outside

Now I went back to following directions, well sort of …  I put the remaining carrots and onions in the bottom of the pan, but left out the turkey neck.

Veggies in the pan

Now It was time to stick the bird in the oven.  I followed the directions and left it alone for the first hour, and boy was that difficult.  However, during that hour, I made my basting liquid.  Martha said to use the juices from the pan, but I didn’t think there would be enough, so I made something to help it along.  I took 1 cup of orange juice and 2 tablespoons of butter and melted the butter into the orange juice.  I kept the pot on low on the stove throughout the cooking process.  After the first hour, I basted the bird every 15 minutes.  I also covered it with foil about half way through the cooking process to keep the skin from getting too crispy.  My bird had a pop up timer, but it doesn’t hurt to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.  It should read 170 degrees when you stick it into the meatiest part of the breast, just stay away from the bone to get a good reading.

Time to baste  more basting  timer popped - check the temp

My bird cooked for almost 3 1/2 hours and boy did it look really yummy when it was done!

Time to carve the turkey

 

 

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Tasty Tuesday – Slow Cooker Brown Sugar & Garlic Chicken

I needed to find a meal I could either make ahead, or was very quick to prepare, because I was going to be home late, but everyone still needed to eat.  Hmm, that sounds like a job for our trusty Crock Pot!  I love it.  I can spend 20 minutes before I leave the house setting everything up, turn the sucker on as I walk out the door, and come home hours (and hours and hours) later to a yummy smelling house and a mostly finished meal!  I headed off to Pinterest to find a recipe I liked, and came up with this recipe for “Slow Cooker Brown Sugar & Garlic Chicken.”

First I gathered my ingredients: 3 chicken breasts, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 lemon-lime soda (thank you Soda Stream), 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper, 2 tbsp. corn starch*, 2 tbsp. water*, & red pepper flakes* (*- I didn’t actually use these ingredients).

brown sugar garlic chicken ingredients

The directions say to spray the inside of the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray first: I chose not to do this, because my crock pot has a non-stick surface already and why add chemicals when you don’t really have to, right?  So the first direction I actually followed was to put the chicken into the pot.

chicken in crock pot

Then I mixed together the soda, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, soy sauce and pepper.  When the sugar was completley dissolved, I poured it over the chicken.

brown sugar  add the soda  add soy sauce  add apple cider vinegar  don't forget the garlic  stir to combine

dump it all in the pot

Then I set the crock pot on low for 7 hours.  The next set of directions I chose to omit.  I’m not one for gooey sauces and I decided that I was going to use the liquid to dress the spinach we were having with dinner, so I didn’t remove the liquid and thicken it with cornstarch.  Instead, I served the chicken shredded over rice with a fresh spinach and mushroom salad.

brown sugar & garlic chicken over rice

I was transported back to my childhood with this meal.  When I was a kid, my dad loved this pork chop recipe that came out of the crock pot and the flavors of this meal really reminded me of those meals.  It’s weird what will tug at your heart strings.  What meals bring you back to your youth?

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Sunday Sweets – Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

I guess word got around that I can cook, because it sure seems like every time I turn around one or more of Gwen’s friends is coming over for dinner.  But who am I to complain?  They make good guinea pigs for my many kitchen adventures.  I tried this most recent one out on a couple of them, and it seemed like a hit.  I think I’m going to have to use it next time I need to make a birthday cake…  We aren’t big on cake in my house.  Dessert, yes.  Cake, not so much.  So any alternative is a great help.  This time I found the idea on Pinterest (and you’re acting surprised, why?).  I thought it was a homemade take off of those giant cookie cakes they sell.

It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but it was really easy and very delicious.  First I gathered my ingredients (and boy were there a ton!):  store bought refrigerated cookie dough.

cookie pie ingredients

Then I spread the cookie dough out in the bottom of a 9″ round cake pan.  I made sure there were no empty spaces left on the bottom at all.

spreading out the dough  it works better if it's cold  don't miss any spots

Once it’s all covered, it ready for the oven.  You cook it at the temperature recommended on the dough.  I set my oven to 325 degrees and cooked it for 14 minutes.

oven ready  fresh out of the oven

Once it was cooked, I let it cool for 3 minutes (or so) in the pan, then I transferred it to a plate and cut it up like a pie.

cookie pizza

We don’t do anything simple in our house, so we had to top the giant gooey cookies with something even more sugary… caramel sauce and ice cream!

cookie pie ala mode

Who’s coming to dinner next?

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