Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Summer Re-cap

Hello out there.  Just pushing away the cobwebs up here to take a peek into blogland.  I am thinking this blog may be ready to be laid to rest.  Periodically I end a blog, publish it in book form and begin anew.  We shall see. 

This summer we had a lovely 3 day visit from my brother, who now lives in Florida, and whom we haven't seen in 3 years, along with my nephew Bryce.  I am somewhat mellow of a person, but with a quick tongue..LOL  You get my brother in the mix and you have a full side show going. 
The confusion as our visitors get attacked by bright flashes...LOL
(mom, daughter and her boyfriend)

My brother and I
It was fun, we were crazy and loud and played games.  My mom and eldest daughter were also up so it was the whole gang at our place!  Boy was I hopping in the kitchen with the 12 of us.  My little nephew is such a sweetie pie, it was great to see him after so long. 
My brother and nephew :)
After 4 days my mom and daughter went home (a day after my brother and nephew),
bye-bye ALREADY?!
and came a couple weeks later, to stay for 2 weeks.  We didn't do a ton as my mom has a hard time getting around.  She has a wheel chair at home in MA but no way to get it in and out of the car yet....heavy stuff!  So we stayed home and just hung out for that time.  Monopoly Deal was the game of the hour!! 

Mom and my brother

Cookout as much as possible....LOL
The boys and Felicia enjoyed swimming lessons 4 days per week for our short swimming season, and learned some new skills. We have a BEAUTIFUL town pool, complete with twirly water slide which they all love.  I was turned off to the "public" pool idea until I actually saw it, and very happy to learn that a family season pass included lessons for all of our children, such a good deal.  Yes, our taxes are high in Western NY, but at least we are benefitting by it with these facilities and others like it available at low cost!  I will feel so much better when they are all strong swimmers as we are SURROUNDED by bodies of water and there is so much that can be done recreationally in them.  From canoeing down the HUGE creek, or kayaking in the lake, wind surfing, sailing, name it, we've got it!  It will be nice for those doors to open for my children when they are older. 

our town's public pool

We have also had the priviledge of visiting the Buffalo Zoo a couple of times this Summer.  It was so fun to see a different zoo for a change, and especially the polar bears, rainforest area and gorilla family which our prior zoo never had.  Here are a few memories of those visits:

While my mom and daughter was here, Mike and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.  We decided to go sailing on The Spirit of Buffalo and really beautiful schooner with RED SAILS!!!  It was so luxurious, and our first time sailing.  I made sure to load up on dramamine and away we went.  It was a nice experience, and also sweet for the two of us to be able to take a few hours away and just relax.  We never get to do that, but since their visit coincided with our special day, it worked out just right.  Thanks mom!!!

Mike's brother Dave also came over from California to pay us a vist before heading down through MA and off for a tour of Europe, where he still is currently.  We went to show him Niagara Falls for a couple of hours after our cookout lunch before his leaving.  We hadn't seen him in several years. 

We also have begun visiting a new church.  We left the one we were visiting since moving here for several good reasons.  This new church is huge, and normally I shy away from huge churches.  However, after visiting for 2 months now, the messages are actually good, so it may be a good thing afterall.  Soon the women's and other groups will be starting up so I hope to meet some new friends! 

Not a whole lot is new other than that, and looking forward to fall, and pumpkin spice coffees (recreating them at home, thank you Dunkin Donuts for the inspiration).  Apple picking and acorns, pinecones and apple picking.  Time to update the mantle with berries and vines and all that fun stuff.  I will think on what to do with this blog.  I don't have a computer at home anymore, just my phone, or computer access from the library. 

Until we meet again,


Sunday, April 24, 2011

~Happy Easter--He is Risen!!!~

This morning we attended the 9am service at church rather than our usual 11am time.  We were quite surprised that it wasn't crowded at all like we expected.  The choir did a lovely job.  I think I will join them for the next event.  I couldn't for Easter because I couldn't make two of the three rehearsals due to being out of town. 

We gave the children their gift baskets when we came home from church.  Then I began making our large dinner.  Ham, au gratin potatoes, corn, flaky biscuits, salad, coconut cake, cupcakes, soda, coffee.  YUM...what a feast for the 7 of us.   I think my body is in shock from the sugar we consumed, especially after being on a low carb diet for 2 months!!! 

Here are some pictures from our day:

Easter "eve"

at home right after church

getting shoes on for church

the boys before church

mama's tall coconut cake

it barely fits the cake stand!

bountiful feast for 7

mom and son before church

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hello Cupcake!

Today I decided to whip up a batch of chocolate cupcakes for the kiddos, they gathered the ingredients and put them away while I mixed it all up into a bowl of chocolately goodness....and boy does it look rich!   I am not eating any though, my friend's wedding is in 2 weeks from today and I am wearing a sleeveless dress!!!  I am not where I would like to be but I have come far, and am not screwing it up!!  My cousin's wedding is a month following my friends and I am wearing a dress a size down, finally, and it's shorter than I am used to so I am going to be very careful!  ;0)

Simple Chocolate Cupcakes

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 Cup of dark chocolate, chopped (or you can use chocolate chips!)

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 24 cup muffin tins with Pam.

In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until thoroughly mixed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, water, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Whisk into flour mixture until all of the ingredients are mixed in and no streaks of flour remain. Add in optional mini chocolate chips, if using.

Fill muffin cups evenly with the prepared batter.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, or with only a few crumbs.

Remove cupcakes from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

And oh yes, if I am going to bother making cupcakes for the kidlets, I am going to pile the frosting high and swirly...and no, I am not a perfectionist! ;0) I used Wilton's Buttercream icing. It was super and thick and stayed where put!

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Review of Cast Iron 12" Skillet

Originally submitted at CSN Stores

This 12" cast iron skillet can last a lifetime and become a family heirloom to be passed down through generations! It can hold up to high heat cooking or long, slow simmering, perfect for preparing meals. The skillet can avoid chipping and warping while developing a non-...

Perfect size for a family!
By Jenn the Photographer from Buffalo, NY on 3/18/2011
5out of 5
This pan is very heavy, which is what you want in a cast iron skillet. It stays where you put it!! No sliding around on your burners.

This skillet heat up pretty quickly. By the time I was done trimming and cutting the meat, the heat was ready to go. The food cooked evenly, which was much appreciated by me.

When the stove top part of my recipe was done, it easily transferred to the oven for browning the top under my broiler. Another plus was that the chicken left the pan effortlessly, including the melted cheese.

I cleaned the pan immediately after use, and it was easy, I just used a nylon spatula to loosen the couple of bits left on the skillet. I enjoy my new kitchen toy, and can't wait to use it again.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Emerilware 12" Cast Iron Skillet Review for CSN stores!!!

Look what Fed-Ex stopped by with yesterday!!

I thought I would make low-carb friendly chicken parmesan today in my new pan.   This pan is very heavy, which is what you want in a cast iron skillet.  It stays where you put it!!  No sliding around on your burners.

Before using I simply hand washed in warm mildly soapy water.  Then I dried it on the stove top and put a couple TB of vegetable oil on the inside, and rubbed it around evenly with a paper towel.  In a few minutes it was ready to use.  Very easy!

This skillet heat up pretty quickly.  By the time I was done trimming and cutting the chicken breasts, the heat was ready to receive them.  The five chicken breasts cooked evenly, which was much appreciated by me. 

When the stove top part of my recipe was done, it easily transferred to the oven for browning the top under my broiler.  Another plus was that the chicken left the pan effortlessly, including the melted cheese.

I cleaned the pan immediately after use, and it was easy, I just used a nylon spatula to loosen the couple of bits left on the skillet.  I enjoy my new kitchen toy, and can't wait to use it again.   

I had fun doing this review for CSN stores, and hope I am asked to do another in the future.  I've got my eyes on a few of their products! 

Now for the Low-Carb Chicken Parmesan recipe:

Add a couple TB of oil into your cast iron skillet, over medium heat.

Pre-heat your oven to broil.

Take your desired amount of chicken breasts, and filet each half, so that there are 2 thin pieces per half.

a cute outfit doesn't hurt!!  Thanks to son for his interesting photo angle..hehe

When skillet gets hot, add chicken breast pieces, allow to brown, slightly crisp, turning to cook second side.

In the meantime, gather the simple ingredients.  Granulated onion, Granulated garlic (I find the granulated to be much more pure and flavorful than "powder" varieties); you favorite sauce, pecorino romano grated cheese, deli-sliced mozzarella, and pepper if desired.

When almost done, top each breast with a good sprinkle of granulated onion and granulated garlic and 1 TB of spaghetti sauce of your choice.

Next add 1 TB of Pecorino Romano (found in a case near the deli...can be in block form and grated at home, or bought pre-grated in bags).  I  never use Parmesan, that is my secret, the Romano has a wonderful tang I have come to crave! 

Top each piece with a slice of mozzarella, folded in half.

 Get your potholders ready, and place this right into you pre-heated broiler for 1-3 minutes, watch closely for when the cheese is specked with brown.  It looks GREAT!!

This is one of my favorite comfort foods I just whip up without busting my diet plans!  This goes wonderfully with zucchini sauteed in butter, onion optional, and topped with grated romano.  Load those veggies up!

And hey if you don't like this recipe, don't let that stop you from the experience of working with cast iron.  Everything tastes better in this, so use your own favorite recipe.  Or do a search for some!  Next I think I will try Deep Dish Pizzafor the kids!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Low Carb Chicken and Beef Meals I am going to try this coming week

 I am tucking these away in my blog, as full recipes, with source, so that I will NOT lose them.  It will also be easier making my shopping list with it all laid out here.  They look like such winners, sure to help my family reach our goals!!  Tell me if you try any.

Creamy Southwestern Chicken

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 C minced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 6-8 oz canned chopped green chiles (depending on can size)
  • Optional: small amt of chicken stock or Better than Boullion
  • 1/4 C cream
  • 1/3 C shredded cheddar or jack cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper
1) Heat large skillet with oil.

2) Cut chicken into bite sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. Saute' till brown on both sides, adding onions about half way through.

3) Add garlic and cook for another minute.

4) If needed, deglaze the pan with a little water or chicken stock. Add 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon if desired.

5) Add green chiles and cream, and simmer until chicken is done and sauce is thickened.

6) Top with cheese, and serve when cheese melts.

Optional garnish: avocado slices; cilantro

Makes 3-4 servings

Nutritional Analysis for each of 3 servings: 4.5 grams of effective carbohydrate plus 1.5 grams fiber, 38 grams protein, 18 grams of fat, 347 calories.

Skillet Chicken Divan

  • 2.5 cups (or so) of chopped cooked chicken
  • 3 cups cooked chopped broccoli
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced, 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon Better than Boullion and 3/4 cup water, or 3/4 cup chicken broth and salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (see note above)
  • 2 teaspoons low carb thickener such as NOTStarch or 2 T whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped (it's nice if you toast them, but not vital)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1) Saute onion and mushrooms in oil for 4-5 minutes.

2) Add wine and boil most of it away.

3) Add thickener. If you are using flour, cook for a minute or so before adding the rest of the ingredients.

4) Add liquids and seasonings. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cheese - you can mix that in or sprinkle it over the top and put the whole thing under the broiler to brown.

Nutritional Analysis: (with NOTStarch): 6 grams effective carb plus 6 grams fiber, 31 grams protein, and 400 calories.

Korean beef
  It can be marinated anywhere from an hour to overnight, and the strips of beef cook really quickly on the grill.  Suggested Side Dish: Asian Broccoli Stir-Fry
  • Beef -- flank steak, sirloin, or your favorite -- cut in ½ inch strips or whole
  • For Each Pound of Beef, make the following marinade:
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup chicken broth (or water, the difference is subtle)
  • 2 Tablespoons artificial sweetener (or brown sugar -- not much of it probably actually gets into the meat)
  • 2 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 green onions (scallions) chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
Cut the beef into half-inch strips if the butcher didn't do it for you.   Mix the marinade ingredients up, and put the meat in. Marinate anywhere from an hour to overnight. If you use artificial sweetener, consider adding just a teaspoon of dark molasses for flavor.

Grill quickly on a hot grill.

There is no carbohydrate to speak of in this recipe if you use the artificial sweetener. It's hard to tell with sugar in a marinade how much gets in.

Chicken or Beef fajitas
  • 1.5-2 lbs skirt steak or other beef or chicken easily cut into strips
  • 1 medium onion, sliced, or 15 medium scallions (green onions) - same amount of carb!
  • 2 large Bell peppers, sliced - two different colors is nice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
1. Combine soy sauce, lime juice, chili powder, and oil. If grilling, save a couple of Tablespoons aside to toss with the vegetables.

2. Slice the meat into about 1/2 inch slices. If using skirt steak, flank steak, or other meat with an obvious grain (lines through the meat), be sure to cut perpendicular to the grain, or you will be chewing a very long time. (Think about it - you want to create a lot of short fibers, not a few long ones.) How to Cut Meat Against the Grain

3. If cooking in a skillet, marinate everything together in a bowl or plastic bag (a zip-type works well). If grilling, marinate the meat and veggies separately. Even a few minutes helps, up to 2 hours is great.

4. If grilling, remove from marinade and grill.

5. For cooking in a skillet (preferably regular, not nonstick), cook the meat first (it will probably take two batches, depending upon your pan). Add a little oil to the skillet and get it very hot (the oil will shimmer). If you don't get it hot enough (or crowd too much meat in), the meat will steam instead of browning. When the meat is browned, remove and add veggies. When they begin to soften, return meat to skillet to heat through.

6. Serve with salsa, sour cream, cilantro (if desired) and guacamole. If low-carb tortillas are available, that is a nice addition, but a fork works fine.

Serves 5

Nutritional Information:Meat and vegetables, with 1.5 pound skirt steak and green onions, have 4.5 grams of effective carbohydrate and 2 grams of fiber, 28 grams of protein, and 307 calories per serving. The marinade could add as much as 1 gram of carb (the whole recipe has 5 grams), but obviously not all of it makes it to the table.

---your favorite recipe minus the bread crumbs....can use crushed up pork rinds if desired

Lunch Ideas
Deviled eggs or egg salad
Chicken salad with bed of greens (baby spinach or romaine) and walnuts
Tuna salad occasionally (be careful for mercury exposure)
Stuffed bell peppers (use riced cauliflower in place of white rice)
Huge chef salad with full fat ranch (yeah!!)
Buffalo chicken salad (the chicken will NOT be breaded so it won't be quite the same, but I'll make do and the ranch will make up for it..hehe)
meatballs with sauce and cheese and a green salad

Coffee with:
Fried eggs with cheese and sausage
veggie and cheese Omelettes
Pizza Omelette (mozzarella, green pepper, onion, pepperoni or hamburger)

farmer scramble (minus potatoes) with salsa
any dinner or lunch leftovers =)

Tomorrow I go shopping and will have a very happy kitchen!!

I have a wedding I am a bridesmaid for coming in April.  I've got about 7 weeks until my dress comes in and I am measured for alterations.  I hope to be down 20 lbs. by then. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

~Black Forest Cake~

Oh I am so glad you stopped by!  Come on in out of the cold, let's set your things by the fire to dry and warm up.  Here's  a cup of coffee and an apron, I was just setting up to make a very easy lovely cake for our family's dessert this evening.  This recipe idea was given to me by my internet neighbor and friend, Connie.  Could you hold this camera for me and take a couple shots as we go along so I can share this with some dear friends online?  Thank you so much.  It's great having an extra pair of hands, and some girl talk besides!!

See this lovely bowl, isn't it old fashioned looking and simple?  I am drawn to that type of style.  I love everything retro, vintage or farmhouse.

Preparing for the evening's meal early on in the day while I have some quiet time when the home is still has become a helpful habit.  This way when the day's activities are at its peak, I am not running around trying to do too many things at once.   Attention, care and prayers can  be put into the meal.  The salad's been made,  and is covered in the ice box.  The dry ingredients for our baking powder biscuits have been mixed,  in that covered bowl on the counter.  All that needs doing come supper time is to add the milk, flatten out, cut and pop them in the oven.

Speaking of oven, I will set my oven to 350 degrees now, so that by the time the cake is ready to go in, it will be ready at the proper temperature.  That is an important step to any baking.

I suppose that is enough gabbing, now onto the recipe.  This really couldn't be any simpler.  It's simply a devil's food cake mix, 2 eggs, and a can of cherry pie filling.  Let's pour these each into the bowl, and I will mix it up with my old fashioned wooden spoon.

You know, this would be a good recipe for when company is coming, or you are pressed for time, but want to have something simple yet lovely to take to your dinner party.

Would you hand me that orange Spoonula over there?  Thank you.  I love using this to scrape every last bit of batter from the batter bowl.

You could also just make this in a retangular pan.  This cake will not come out perfectly flat and smooth, it has a more rustic look to it, which is part of it's charm.   

That's all there is to it!  Now in half hour or so I will test it with a toothpick or knife to be sure it is fully finished, and let them cool.  I think this will be great as is, or with my favorite, a huge dollop of sweetened home whipped-cream.  It's really your preference.  Get creative in your kitchen. 


devil's food cake mix
1 can of cherry pie filling
2 eggs

Into your favorite bowl pour the cake mix, cherry pie filling and 2 eggs.  Mix up good with fork or your best stirring spoon.  Scrape with your silicone spatula into well greased cake pan/s, and bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour.  Toothpick test to be sure it's done.  Cool.  Flip into best plate or serving dish, or if using large rectangular pan, just serve from there.  Be sure to have plenty of fresh whipped cream to dollop on top.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Well I have been on Weight Watchers since mid-october and managed to get past my plateau after having lost 20 lbs over the summer.  I lost another 15 lbs. which adds up to about 1 lb loss per week.  Not what I hoped for, but still 15 lbs. gone forever which makes me smile.

Well after having lost these 35 lbs, I had some blood work done to satisfy requirements for our health insurance this year, in order to get a deductible credit.  Our family deductible is $5,000.00 but if Mike and I fulfilled these requirements, it lowers to $3,500.00.  Definitely worth the trouble in my eyes!

So my fasting blood glucose was 99!  Under 100 is normal, and 100-125 is considered pre-diabetes.  Mike already is in the pre-diabetes stage, and though I am normal, I am at the very top edge of normal, and that is nuts.  I really thought my numbers would be better considering the weight I've lost, and the .8 mile walks I take with the dog!!

So we have decided we will be cutting refined foods out of our diet.  I believe the ideal diet consists of lean meats, veggies--many raw, fruits, nuts/seeds.  The hunter-gatherer diet basically.  I believe it's best to limit foods produced in a lab or highly processed or with a zillion year shelf life in a box, with the exception of salad dressing and Frank's red hot perhaps.  I am just being realistic here!!

I know it won't always be easy, but at the same time, if we can see that the standard American diet is not healthy for us, then something must be done!  I am not going to go all gung-ho and commando mom on my poor family.  In fact we have a lot of wheat products, and some cake mixes I've stocked up over the winter.  I am simply trying to limit them.  I will not buy more mixes, and I am choosing to make home made breads and biscuits over store bought.  Baby steps upon baby steps.  Cooking from scratch is not new to me, yet I had been relying more on convenience this past year since moving. 

I figure that as Spring arrives I can include even more fresh fruits and veggies and rely a bit less on the "white starch stuff". 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Triple Birthday with photos

It's *someone's* birthday!

one of many pizzas!

The banner is up!

~The birthday kids~

Had fun trashing the entire kitchen making pizzas for 9

watching funny Youtube videos

The birthday girls favorite, Carvel ice cream cake
On January 11th, my eldest daughter drove up for an 12 day visit.  We have had SUCH fun!!  It's been so wonderful having here home to be with during the days, watching movies at night, making homemade pizzas way too many times.  How could I say no?

On the 16th we celebrated her and Danny's dual birthday, like usual.  She didn't want to have hers alone, and since she was on winter break, we made sure our tradition carried on, and we added her boyfriend, Tyler to the mix also.  His birthday is on the 26th, and he goes to school in Rochester, so he will not have his family or long time friends around.  He expressed being sad about that we turned our double birthday into a triple.  Nothing fancy, just some homemade pizza for 9, followed by a Carvel ice cream cake and funny Youtube videos like Brian Reagan, comedian, and Marcel the seashell with shoes on, oh and Baby Monkey riding backward on a pig (that was strange).

I don't know what I'll do when Sunday comes and she'll have to leave in order to begin the new semester.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A glimpse of our Christmas....

The day after Christmas, that was a great day.  My daughter from MA arrived with my mom for a five day visit!  They also met puppy Cooper for the first time.  It's really something the difference that two people can make in an atmosphere.

For dinner on the first night we had spiral ham, and some side dishes.  We cheated and had a store bought Turtle Pie (maybe Mrs. Smiths?) that was very very good!  Of course, it wouldn't be the Christmas season without some peppermint chocolate fudge or cinnamon rolls for breakfast!

Here are some pics of our time together:
had to keep it simple due to chewing puppy!  Some year we shall have tree skirts and garland..haha

Autumn opening her gifts

 My baby girl from MA
yay!  Some help in the kitchen...

my girls with grandma 12/26