Sunday, July 3, 2016

Tater Tot Casserole

Wow! Almost 2 years since I've touched this blog! Oops!

Life has changed a WHOLE lot in that time.

We moved to a new house. Which is so fun! I also went back to work full time. (So I guess this blog's name is no longer accurate...) I have been working as a 9-1-1 dispatcher since April 2015. It has been a SUPER stressful year as I learned this crazy stressful job, and adjusted to being a working mom, in a new house that needed lots of updating and decorating. Not to mention adjusting to sending my kids to daycare after being with them almost 24/7 since they were born. Hubby has had to step in as Mr. Mom (and he has done an AWESOME job!) and we have had to get used to seeing each other a whole lot less.

I know several people whose lives have also drastically changed but due to death, divorce, etc. and as stressed as I have been, I realize how blessed I am and I am grateful that the Lord has helped me through this difficult transition.

Even though I haven't written anything here for a long time, I still refer to this blog a lot for my recipes. I used to keep all my recipes on Tastebook, but somewhere in the last year, they did something to where I no longer have access to my recipes.
So I am trying to be more diligent in keeping my recipes accessible, but at the same time, I have not been cooking nearly as often as I used to. For several months, my family was lucky to get one home-cooked meal out of me a week.

We just tried this recipe last night and we were pleasantly surprised. The original recipe called for twice the amount of ranch dressing mix (1-1 oz. package), and we found it to be too powerful. Costco sells Hidden Valley Ranch mix in a spice container, which will be much easier to get your 1/2 oz.

Tater Tot Casserole

16 oz. sour cream
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 oz. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
3 oz cooked, crumbled bacon
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 lbs. frozen tater tots

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together sour cream, soup, ranch, bacon, and cheddar. Fold in tater tots. Spoon entire mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake fr 40-45 minutes, until bubbly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Better Than Olive Garden Chicken

I have gotten a lot of requests for this recipe, so I'll post it to make it easier for people to find. 

I originally found this recipe on Pinterest. We love it, but it it a little more labor intensive than I like on a busy weeknight. Since I discovered Tyson's Panko Breaded Chicken at Costco, this has become a go to recipe that is easy enough for a busy weeknight and good enough to make for guests or bring to a sick friend/new mom. 

2 tsp. McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 tsp. freeze dried chives
2 Tbsp. dried basil
3 Tbsp.butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4-1/3 c. Italian diced tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

In a saute pan, melt butter. Add garlic and cook for a minute, being careful to not let the garlic burn. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium heat. 
Stir in cream and tomatoes; bring to a boil. 
Reduce heat to low. Add Parmesan cheese, basil, chives, Montreal steak seasoning, and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. 
Stir and heat until thickened.

Serve over cooked Panko breaded chicken. 

We pair this with mashed potatoes or browned butter Parmesan spaghetti and a nice salad. 
I have yet to make this for anyone who didn't ask for the recipe!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nap time crafts: DIY wood frames for under $6

I was staring at the collage above my couch, which was mainly comprised of pictures of our two girls, and trying to think of how to incorporate our new little man into the mix. The more I looked at the wall,  the more it started to bother me. I was sick of it. I wanted to change it up and go simpler.

My SIL took close up shots of her 4 kids, printed them in black and white, and framed them in her family room. Just the look I wanted. 

First up: pictures. Photographing a self proclaimed 5-year-old princess was a piece of cake. A 22-month-old little firecracker proved to be a little challenging. But trying to get a smile out of a 2 1/2-month-old required patience. But I persevered and finally got a good shot. A few minutes of editing in Picasa and they were being printed at Costco.

I took to the web to find frames. I found one I liked that had a wainscot facade to it, but it wasn't quite right. While laying in bed, my mind started churning and I thought of how much cheaper it would be to make a frame...but that would be a pain...but what if it wasn't a traditional type of frame... Then it occurred to me -  a picture doesn't have to be behind glass.

I love the rustic look. I was trying to explain to DH what I was imagining, but I'm bad at explaining these things. So out came the graph paper to try to get what was in my head, drawn out on paper. This is what I came up with:

These measurements are for an 8x10 picture, but it could easily be adjusted for any size. 

I browsed Home Depot's website to figure out what I needed and made a cut list. (Details at the bottom.)

With my list and three kids in tow (taking all three kids out by myself is an extremely rare occurrence, but when I get excited to do something, not much can stop me,) I went to Home Depot. I decided to use furring strips because they are so cheap. But that also means that you might have to search to find some good pieces. I took advantage of their free cutting services and saved myself the frustration of trying to cut the wood myself at home with my jig saw.

When I got a chance later in the afternoon, I went to the garage to sand the wood. With wood as rough as furring strips, an electric sander is an absolute must in my book. I really can't imagine sanding by hand, but it could be done if you are far more patient than I am.

The weather is too cold to use spray paint, so I went with good old cheap acrylic.
I was going to do all of the frames white, but DH convinced me to do different colors because, as he says I'm "obsessed with white." It's true. It's just so crisp and clean! Our living room color scheme is blue and yellow, so the color choice was obvious.  

After the white base coat dried, I painted the second coat and impatiently waited for them to dry. I asked handy DH to show me the best way to assemble these, but it turned in to him doing all the work for me. No complaints here!
DH marked the wood and drilled pilot holes through the vertical pieces. He then screwed 1 1/4" wood screws into the holes, making sure that the horizontal piece was positioned in the correct place, which was 2" down from the top, and up from the bottom.
 We added a sawtooth hanger to the back. DH used the markings that made for the pilot holes as a guide to position the hanger.

Two of the three finished frames.
To attach the pictures to the frame, I simply used a clear push pin, but you could use mini clothes pins, double sided tape on the back. Whatever you want.

The finished product. I'm very happy. They're big enough to make a statement, yet they are simple. 

Shopping list and Cut list for ONE frame:
(1) 1"x4"x8' furring strip, cut into 22" pieces (you will end up with 4 and you will use all of them) $2.18
(1) 1"x3"x8' furring strip, cut into 14" pieces (you will end up with 6, but only need 2) $2.12
(1) sawtooth hanger under $1
(8) 1 1/4" wood screws under $.50

My little love

Our sweet boy is here and I am so head-over-heels in love with him. But adjusting to three kids has been so much harder than I ever anticipated. After 12 weeks of being in a fog, I started crafting again. It has helped me feel somewhat normal again. So, hopefully, I can revive this blog a bit.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Buffalo Shepherds Pie

A couple years ago when we were living up in the ghetto, I heard about a pub that was in a local hotel. Being the anglophile that I am, I was eager to check it out. It's actually an Irish pub, not an English pub, but close enough.

DH and I along with our little DD were slightly out of our element. Everyone around us was enjoying a pint and we ordered soda. The menu was full of unfamiliar fare so we had to ask the waiter for recommendations. The waiter recommended something called Buffalo Shepherds Pie. It was love at first bite.

We gobbled it up and raved about it to our family. We ate there a few more times until that glorious day when we moved out of the ghetto. The menu had a good description of the dish so DH and I set about to replicate it at home.

We've made it a few times and we learn something new with each attempt. We've got it down to just how we like it. I made it yesterday and divided the goods into three dishes so that in a couple months when we're home with our new little squish, we will have some delicious dinners waiting in the freezer.

Now this recipe calls for beer. We don't drink it but we have no problem cooking with it. The restaurant uses Tetley's Draught, but we couldn't find that locally. I called up a friend who knows beer and asked what a comparable beer would be, he recommended Newcastle, which I found at the state liquor store. (I enjoyed some strange looks at the liquor store, buying beer with an 8 month pregnant belly. Good times.) In the past we have used Guinness extra stout beer, which had a stronger flavor than the Newcastle.

Buffalo Shepherds Pie

  • 1 lb. andouille sausage, cooked and sliced
  • 1 lb. ground bison, cooked and salted & peppered**
  • 1 lb. ground beef, cooked
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/2 lb. frozen corn
  • 24 oz. Newcastle Brown Ale
  • 1 can cr. of mushroom soup
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 lb. Irish cheddar cheese (Kerrygold Dubliner Irish Cheese, found in most grocery store gourmet cheese islands)
  • 14-16 medium Idaho russet potatoes
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 TBSP. sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Kosher salt to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add peeled and cubed potatoes and cook until tender.

In a large Saute pan, saute onion in a little olive oil until translucent. Add corn and saute. Set aside.

Cook beef and bison, drain fat, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook andouille. Slice lengthwise and then into small (half circle) slices.
In a large pan, combine all meats and beer. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, make mashed potatoes. In a kitchenaid, mix potatoes, milk, sour cream and butter until smooth. Season with kosher salt.

When meat is done simmering, drain the beer. Combine meat, corn, onion, cream of mushroom soup, and dried thyme.

Transfer to two 8x8 (or equivalent) pans. Top with a thick layer of mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until bubbling hot.

**ground bison can be expensive. I've never found it for less than $10/lb. But we've learned that the important flavors come from the andouille sausage and the Irish cheddar, so most of the time we just use 2 lbs. of ground beef instead using the bison.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Only 15 months....

Wow, 15 months since my last post. And so much has changed. A new home, DH has a new position at work (and only ONE job!!!!) and most significantly, we've got another little blessing on the way. And it's a BOY!!!!!! We're so thrilled.

I'm sure no one reads this blog anymore so this will be more for me. But I have two major goals that I'm currently working on. 1.) find freezer meal recipes that my family will actually like. Most recipes I find don't sound very appealing to our picky, picky eaters. Ground beef is something my family just does not eat. And with baby #3 on the way, I am determined to not get into the terrible habit of eating out that we did when our last baby was born. She is now 15 months old and we still eat out way too much. It's unhealthy and expensive. Which leads me into goal 2.) Get in control of our finances. With DH's new position, we're finally in a situation where we can save up for a house. We've never been good savers. But I am determined to get into a house. I am also determined to be out of debt before we get into a house. Aside from a car, perhaps. But we've still got hospital bills from our last baby and we're about to have more. I don't want that looming over our heads if we've got a mortgage to pay.

As for freezer meals, I was all set to start doubling recipes, saving 1/2 for a freezer meal and having the other half for dinner. Then what happens? Our second fridge died. So we've got to replace that so we'll have freezer space. Also, I like to shop once every two weeks. And since we are milk lovers, I can't fit all the milk we need in one fridge, plus all the yogurt, string cheese, cottage cheese, etc that our littlest one goes through.

As for budgeting, I am currently trying to find an envelope system that I like. Paper envelopes bother me, I've already tried them. I'm looking for a cloth/zippered envelope system. I've seen some on etsy but I can't bring myself to buy something that I know I could make. So hopefully my next post will be my new envelope system.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My latest creation...

Baby Quinn. Born on March 15th at 4:28 am, weighing 7 pounds 4 oz. I am so in love with her.