Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #42:  Cut the cable and save money!

Try these tips to trim your television costs:

*Use an antenna and get television the old-fashioned way.
*Connect your computer to your television and use sites like Hulu, NBC, ABCThe Food Network or many others to watch all your favorite shows!

*Subscribe to Netflix for $10 a month for the ability to live-stream thousands of television shows, cartoons, movies, and documentaries.  You'll love it! 
*Take a break from the tv, grab a good book, and enrich your mind!

~A special thank you to my friend Liz for sharing her All You magazine with me!  
I can vouch for all of these tips!~

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I love sweet, quick breads, but I don't love the large amounts of oil and sugar that go into a regular recipe for these breads! 

Thankfully, Jessica Seinfeld has come to the rescue with her Deceptively Delicious Cookbook full of ideas for healthier cooking and baking!  (I know I've mentioned this book quite a few times! It's really helpful!)

All of the recipes have fruit and/or vegetable purees added to make them more nutritious.  I love that part...I don't love that she still uses vegetable oil and margarine.  Personal I use good 'ol butter! 

One thing I find humorous about adding vegetable purees to the food is hearing people's comments, "Weird, I just hiccuped broccoli, but I haven't even eaten any today!"  Hehe...or have you?

I love her Banana Bread recipe.  I didn't have the cauliflower puree on hand, so I just added extra banana--it worked perfectly!  Try it!

Banana tweaked version

3/4 c. whole-wheat flour
1/2 c. flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter
1 large egg
2 c. banana puree
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix dry ingredients and set aside.  Mix sugar and butter until well combined.  Add egg, banana, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Pour batter into loaf pan.  Top with just a sprinkle of cinnamon, brown sugar and chopped pecans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-60 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan.

Cooling!  It smells so good!
Using parchment paper makes it so easy to remove the bread from the pan.
Plus, you don't gain any extra fat from greasing the pan.
Mmm...almost the perfect breakfast.
Ah, coffee is ready.
Now it's perfect!

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's in a name?

Yes, this is my name.

Given to me by my mom and dad.

I know it's different.
I know it's unusual.
I know it's just so super stinkin' hard to get right.

And if you happen to be a junior high boy trying to be cool and want to say, "What up, LINDA?" as you geekily strut by at church, that's okay.  I'll still smile and say, "Yo-yo dude."

And if I've ordered food for my children and you call out, "LONDON, LONDON, YOUR FOOD IS UP, LONDON!"  I'll still come forward and claim that food for my hungry babies.

And if my husband is introducing me to a table of pastors and one of you chooses to gufaw and snort thinking he's made some sort of joke out of my name, it's okay.  It really is my name.  Please hold your laughter.

And if my mind takes me down memory lane and remembers the time I was 16 and won a cool award in 4-H (it was cool, quit laughing) and the emcee announces to the large crowd of peers, "The award goes to LEONA NELSEN!"  I'll still slink up to the stage and accept that award.

And if you're a missionary to inner city San Diego and calling me YOLANDA makes you feel more at home, go for it.

And if you're my brother and like to stretch out my name phonetically to LAWWWN, DUH.  I'll still try to kick you in the shin and get in trouble from dad.

...because it's my name.
You may not be able to get it right.
You may think it's acceptable to call me RHONDA just because it's close.

I'll still answer.
Whatever you want.
Because really, it's just my given name.


Yes?  Did you need something?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A before and after...

Something happens at our house around payday...

Our meals go from this:

 Bland and boring colors!

To this:
 Zippy, Yippee vegetables!

With all the rainy days we've been having, chicken noodle soup has become our staple meal this week!
Sunday night, I had no vegetables left in the house, so our meal looked pretty bland.  It did taste awfully good though!  
Then Thursday it was rainy and cold again.  Carson asked if we could have the yummy noodles again.  So we did...only this time we lavished the veggies into the mix!  It made me feel like a much better mom!

We are completely sold on whole-wheat homemade noodles. They are super easy to make and taste amazing!  Try them out!

Whole-wheat Homemade Noodles

2 beaten eggs
1/4 c. milk
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried sage

2 c. whole-wheat flour

Mix eggs, milk and seasonings.  Stir in enough of 2 cups whole-wheat flour to make a stiff dough.  (I used about 1 3/4 c.)  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
On a well-floured surface, roll out dough into a large rectangle.  Let stand 20 minutes.  Cut into noodles and let dry for 2 hours.  (less if you're in a hurry!)
 Cut and ready to dry some more! 
(They don't have to be perfect...once they're in little pieces in the soup, no one will notice!)
This little antique noodle cutter is the best!
Ready for the pot!

Bring a large pot of chicken broth to a boil.  Add two shredded cooked chicken breasts, 1 c. each of sliced carrots, celery and diced onions.  Add noodles and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Season with more sage.  (A large fresh bunch of basil also added a nice fresh flavor!)
Mmm...perfect for a cold rainy night!

What's your favorite rainy-night meal?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #41:  Sign-up for a free account with Shutterfly.  You will be pleasantly surprised with their great deals on photo developing and projects and even big photo projects you can get for FREE!!! (see below!)  After checking out many photo websites, Shutterfly has the best photo editing and enhancing website! It is so slick and easy to use!  Photos can be picked up at your local Target and projects ship very quickly!  I can't say enough good things about Shutterfly!!!  Try them for yourself!

Here are some of the free photo books we have received:

Why do I love these photo books so much?

Well, besides being free, they are a WHOLE lot easier and less time consuming than scrapbooking
and nothing beats this...
(This was not staged...they seriously love reliving our family vacations with these photo books! 
I love hearing them giggle and squeal with excitement over their vacation memories!)

We're hooked on Shutterfly!

What is your favorite online photo processing site? 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cookie War

There was a battle in my kitchen.
(figuratively...although with 2 boys, it could have been literally)

Two amazing cookie makers
(unbeknown to them)
were put head to head
(because I just couldn't decide which recipe to make)
with their very best
Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes.

On one side we had Joy the Baker 
with her Chewy Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies.

And on the other side we had Amanda from i am baker 
with The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Take a look at the amazing recipes these ladies posted!
(amazing recipes are theirs...mediocre pictures are mine)

Joy's Chewy Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 3 dozen cookies

recipe adapted from Alton Brown...then Joy...and now me!

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon dark molasses, not blackstrap
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks
sea salt for sprinkling on top of cookies just before baking (I didn't do this part)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, mix the granulated sugar and molasses until no large molasses clumps remain. Look at that! You just made your own brown sugar!  (Joy is so affirming as you bake!)
Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the homemade brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Chill the dough for about 20 minutes, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Lightly sprinkle each dough ball with a few flecks of sea salt. It really brings out the chocolate flavor.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. I like these cookies to be just a bit under-done. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

The results:
Yummy!  Chocolatey!  Chewy! 

Amanda's New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour *I only used all purpose flour for my recipe (me too!)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds chocolate chips

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Add eggs. Stir in vanilla. Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients slowly, mixing until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 24-36 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

The results:
Chewy! Buttery!  Chocolatey!  Super Yummy!

easy to package for thank you's and pick-me-ups!

SO, which recipe will you try???

***Special "THANK YOU" to Joy (who will probably never ever even know a little mom in Iowa stalks her blog and tries her recipes) and Amanda (who has become a real life gem of a friend that I think the world of) for making such beautiful, delicious cookies!  Glad we could have this little bake off, Girls!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #40:  Two words for you...DOLLAR TREE.

I have such a deep love for the new little dollar store in our neighborhood.  Pretty sure we'll be on a first-name basis with all the employees within the next 2-3 weeks!  They have all sorts of great dollar items that really save us money!  (It's just avoiding the unnecessary "treasures" that entice us to purchase them!)

Here are a few of my favorite dollar store items:
toothbrushes (great variety to choose from!)
dish soap
coloring books
trash cans
party decorations
treat bags
craft supplies
random specialty spices 
and much more!

What's your favorite item from a dollar store?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I like to serve my family really (weird) unique things for dinner.


It's my effort to come up with a quick supper because soccer practice was canceled and we didn't have any frozen pizzas on hand stretch their taste buds and broaden their food horizons

We also enjoy seeing what funny more grown-up foods they'll actually enjoy.

I doubt we'll ever have Spicy Crab Dip for supper ever again because 2 children would starve...but this would make a great appetizer dip for a party...say a pumpkin carving party on October 23...details to come!

Spicy Crab Dip

2 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 c. sliced bottled roasted red peppers
1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (more for spicier flavor)
1 block light cream cheese
1 6-oz. package crabmeat

Melt cream cheese on medium heat.  Add garlic, peppers, vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Mix well.  Gently fold in crabmeat.
Serve warm on yummy crackers!
*adapted from Epicurious.  They suggested to blend the first four ingredients in a blender.  We liked the texture of the peppers.

 The verdict:  Two takers...two leavers!

So...would you take this or leave it?

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's the little things in life...

I *love* it 
...when a new magazine comes in the mail...
...and a new recipe catches my eye...
....and I have everything on hand to make it for dinner...
...the same day...

*love it*

...and I love it...
...when my family all sits down together for dinner...
...and Cloe thanks God for our food (which she can't wait to eat)...
...and they all smile and ask what the new dish is...
...and they clean their plates...
...and ask for more...

*love it*

...and then they all say "Thank you"...
...and hugs and kisses abound...
...for a simple new recipe...

*love it*

Whole-wheat Penne with Tomatoes and Red Onions

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved  (I used Roma tomatoes from our garden)
1/2 medium red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Coarse salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces whole wheat penne (I used the whole box)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 c. ricotta cheese

Preheat broiler.  Toss tomatoes and onion with 2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the red pepper flakes.  Broil until tomatoes are just starting to brown, 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c. cooking water.
Toss warm pasta with garlic, remaining olive oil and 3/4 tsp. salt (or less).
Stir in tomato mixture and the oregano.
Add 1/4 c. reserved cooking water to moisten.  Stir in remaining water as needed.

Serve with 1 tablespoon of ricotta stirred into each serving.
 *Thank you for a lovely recipe, Martha Stewart Living September 2010

What are your little things in life?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thrifty Thursday!

Thrifty Tip #39:  Want perfect popcorn at a fraction of the price of the packaged stuff?  Give one of these easy popcorn poppers a try!
 Air popper...pops with just kernels and hot air.

Stove-top popper...pops with kernels, a little oil and salt to taste.

I would venture to say that we consume popcorn more than any snack food item at our house!   It's an easy snack that provides us with a good serving of fiber and even has protein and iron in it! 

Making your own popcorn is much cheaper and healthier than popping a bag in the microwave. 

We love to buy Snappy popcorn because it's only $1 for two pounds (about ten cents a batch) and it's grown right in our very own state...the corn state!
We pop about 1/2 cup of popcorn with about a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil and a dash of salt.

 There are always plenty of helping hands for the
two minutes of cranking.

How do you make your popcorn?

*Thank you, Rachael Ray, for bringing this fabulous thrifty tip to mind!  
Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray, October 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The One Thing I Hold Against My Mother-in-Law

Did that get your attention! 
(My mother is appalled right now..."I taught you better than that, Londa!!!"

Want to know what that one thing is?


Wait for it...


These stinkin' delicious, fruit filled, pie like bars topped with yummy, glazy frosting.

Yep, my Mother-in-law has spoiled the ENTIRE family by providing these delectable treats for YEARS with no recognition that she is a true pâtissier to accomplish these in the kitchen.

Oh no, don't let this beautiful picture fool you into thinking these are just a good 'ol pan of bars.

These bars are no easy feat.
Oh no.
These bars may have a little root of evil:
Special tender, flaky, perfectly thin crust which makes semi bad words fill my head as I try to roll it out.
For eleven years, this recipe (from my mother-in-law) has been teasing me as I try to replicate the delicate pastry with the especially thin, flaky crust that she just whips up at the drop of a pin.  Literally.
I'm getting closer...but so not there yet!

I bet you'd love to try these delicious fruity, flaky bars so you could
hold this against my mother-in-law, too  
discover their amazing deliciousness!
and have people in awe of your pastry making abilities

Here you go...have at it...

Carolyn's Apple Bars 
(I used peaches in the pictures)

2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. shortening
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Mix dry ingredients with pastry blender.  Put 1 egg yolk in cup and fill to 2/3 c. with milk.  Add to flour mixture.  Dough will be very soft.  Roll out half of dough between sheets of plastic wrap.  

Spread in a cookie sheet over the sides. 
Peel and slice 6 cups of apples.  Sprinkle apples with 1 cup sugar, 1 T. cinnamon, and 2 T. flour; pour into crust.  

Roll out top crust and seal edges.  Make small slits in top to release steam.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees until slightly golden brown.

Frost with 3/4 c. powdered sugar, 2 T. butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla or milk blended until smooth.

SO, what do you hold against your mother-in-law?

JUST KIDDING...Don't answer that!  
She gave you a husband, right?
I don't want to be responsible for ANY family feuds!

**any slight bitterness or jealousy displayed here toward my mother-in-law was purposely used  for the sole purpose of dramatic effect and does not take away from my true feelings of how wonderful she is. ;)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Summer's Last Hurrah

I've got to admit...

I'm not fully on board with the changing of seasons.

Yes, I know...I can do nothing to stop this change.

But I can celebrate and cling to every . last . minute of summer.

And I am.

At least in the kitchen.

Summer Cucumber and Dill Salad
(adapted from Whole Foods Recipes)

3-5 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
2 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) dill

Mix salt, vinegar and dill.  Toss with cucumber.
Taste test to see if more salt is needed.
Try to refrain from eating the whole bowl before the family comes to the table for dinner.
So yummy!!!

Grilled Chicken Moroccan Style
(adapted from

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 chicken legs

Whisk first 8 ingredients in large glass baking dish. Add chicken; turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 4 to 6 hours.
Prepare bbq (medium heat). Place marinade-coated chicken on bbq. Grill chicken until just cooked through, occasionally brushing with any remaining marinade, about 12 minutes per side for legs. Transfer chicken to platter.
 (Do you notice that there are nine legs?  That completely creeps me out...some poor chicken out there running around with just one leg thinking, "I got away! I got away!"  I know, I need help... 
I should probably be a vegetarian!)
These were a hit!
I think we've got some big carnivores on our hands!

Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
(adapted from Whole Foods Recipes)
 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh citrus juice (we LOVE lime!)
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
1 to 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground ginger

Mix dressing ingredients and pour over any fruit you like!  
We had it on peaches and nectarines here.  Yum!

What favorite summer things are you enjoying
one . last . time?

Friday, September 3, 2010

There's a reason for my absence this week.
It deals mostly with sugar...and butter...and flour...and lots and lots of frosting...
Lots of cookies!

I just finished up a batch of cookies for a very special cause:
My good friend, Jessica is hosting a fundraiser tomorrow for my brother-in-law Cory who was diagnosed with recurrent hodgkins lymphoma.  Many of you have been praying for him, and we really and truly appreciate those prayers! 

If you live in the Des Moines area, we hope we'll see you tomorrow!  Here are the details...

You are Invited!

What: Craft Show Fundraiser for Cory Ott
Where: 522 SW Cherry St.  Ankeny, Iowa
When: Saturday, September 4th
Time: 9 am - 3 pm
...A little shopping...a huge blessing.

Twenty-five-year-old Cory Ott is a devoted husband with an amazing sense of humor. He is battling lymphoma for the second time since he and Calli were married in 2006. Their faith in God is strong, as Cory undergoes chemotherapy and anticipates an extended visit to Iowa City for a stem cell transplant in a few weeks. Every penny raised during the open house will go directly to Cory and Calli, to help cover expenses incurred during Cory’s illness.

Come encourage Calli and Cory this Saturday with your support. Together, let's show them how much we care!

Items for sale:

Handcrafted Jewelry
Exclusive Décor
Fancy Treats
...and much more!

Don’t Miss the Raffles! (Tickets: $2 each)

• A Mural in Your Home (professional artist, value $200)

Handpainted Folk Art Design Table (value: $300)

• $100 Winfrey Chem-dry carpet cleaning certificate

• Starbucks gift package (value: $40)

• Pampered Chef gift package (value: $40)

• $20 Memory Bound gift card for scrapbooking supplies

• Serenity Aveda 60 min massage, 60 min facial, and pedicure

...and More!

Purchase tickets for multiple raffles at a discount!

 Come out and encourage Calli and Cory!
Let's beat this cancer!!!