Tag Archives: kids

My Bacon Story

There was a time in my life when making bacon was a chore. But bacon is worth the chore, right? So I would get out the shirt aptly named “The Bacon Cooking Shirt”, courtesy of all the bacon grease splatters it was stained with, and get the bacon started on its way to sizzling, crispy perfection on the stove, jumping every now and then to try (and fail) to avoid the bacon grease splatters. We would enjoy the bacon, it would make us smile..and then we would walk into the kitchen and slide across the grease-covered floor and start the cleanup of bacon grease from the stove, counters, and floor. We didn’t eat bacon very often in those days. Too much work.

It pains me to learn of the number of people who still cook bacon this way. There is an easier way, people. Easy! And no babysitting of the pan, or flipping of the bacon is necessary. Yes, really. It’s true!

All you need is your favorite bacon (mine comes from a local farmer I used to buy my pork from in my hometown. I’m hoping to find a new local farmer in my new town soon, since my freezer is starting to get quite low on meats!), an oven set to 425 degrees, and a bar pan (jelly roll pan, whatever you call it, as long as it has sides. You do NOT want to use a pan with no sides. You need the pan to be able to hold the bacon grease.) Line the bacon in a single layer across the pan. You can put it pretty close together, but don’t overlap it. Put the pan of bacon in the oven, and set your timer for 15 minutes. (Please, please, please set the timer. Don’t believe that you will remember, because you won’t, and you’ll forget about it, that is, until your smoke alarm reminds you that you were cooking bacon. And then you have a pan of burnt nothingness and that is just wrong, on so many levels.)

Don’t worry. The 15 minutes is just a starting point. I always set it for 15 minutes and check it then, but usually end up re-setting the time for another 5-10 minutes. Personally, I think bacon is done just before it burns. My kids, sadly, do not tend to agree with me. But, I’m the one cooking, and when they decide to cook, they can make it how they like it. But, once in awhile I’m feeling generous and will take a few pieces off the pan early for them.

Tonight’s bacon cooking is serving multiple purposes. BLTs on the menu for the night, paired with oven fries, which I cooked on the same pan (after removing the bacon and most of the bacon grease). The bacon grease gave a great extra bit of flavor to the oven fries tonight. MMMMMMMM!!!!!! And the remaining bacon grease? Well, it now sits in a jar, on a shelf in my fridge, awaiting its turn at flavoring some fresh green beans we got in our Bountiful Baskets produce pickup this past weekend. And it will get to flavor some other things over the next couple weeks as well, I just don’t know what those things are quite yet.

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Worth the Drive!

After working 8 hours yesterday, I took a little (hour long) drive with my kiddos to my baby sis’s house. Why would I do that to myself, after working all day? It was for the tacos. But we’re not talking just any run-of-the-mill, Americanized tacos. Oh no. We’re talking authentic Mexican tacos, with pork so tender the pieces melt in your mouth, onions, fresh guacamole, warm, soft corn tortillas, queso fresco, and oh my word, this time there was a special treat of a cactus salad. I know my sis and brother-in-law were laughing at me as I excitedly asked what it was, but in the instant I asked, I also answered, knowing it must be cactus. Excitement!

But let’s back up  a minute. When I arrived at their house, sis and I took off for the auto parts store and left  brother-in-law to clean the kitchen. Me being the girl that I am, and perfectly willing to play the “girl card” (much to my sister, Frances‘s annoyance), I found this quite hilarious. But, we went, and we bought supplies for him to give my car a tune-up, which he happily did (well, maybe not *happily*, but he did it, none-the-less) after making dinner for us, while sis and I enjoyed some of Mom’s homemade Kahlua with milk over ice. (And then we enjoyed some more with dinner, and some more after dinner…and decided we need to get Mom’s recipe and we need to make more!)

When my brother-in-law makes tacos, I always come prepared to eat, and eat a lot. And this time was no different. I started with 5 tacos on my first plate. (Because that was all that would fit.) And by the end of the night, I had gone back for 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, and been given tacos that others did not eat. I lost count after eating taco #12. And I am not ashamed. Don’t come between the skinny girl and her food!

My kids and I stayed overnight, and baby sis was even kind enough to set up the coffee pot so I would have coffee when I got up in the morning. It wasn’t nearly enough to repay their kindness and generosity, but my kiddos and I helped my nephews with their chores before we left today, so my sis and brother-in-law would (hopefully) arrive home after work to a clean house. I hope the boys managed to keep it that way after we left.

Thanks baby sis and brother-in-law!!! I hope you know how much I appreciate all that you do for me. Love you guys! xoxo

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Vanilla Beans

How to cut open a vanilla bean: lay bean(s) on cutting board, holding one end with your fingers, use a sharp knife to cut bean lengthwise, exposing seeds

Not too long ago I bought a few vanilla beans for a good price. (I don’t recall what the price was, but I remember not wanting to pass up the good deal.) I finally have gotten around to doing something with them, and I am pleased to say that my first experience in working with vanilla beans has been a good one. They are simple to work with, despite their size, and now my hands smell like vanilla and that makes me smile.

So, what did I do with these fragrant, flavorful little pods of goodness? I made more goodness, of course. It will be ready in about 2 months.

First, I made Vanilla Extract. In my cupboard I had some vodka that I will, in all honesty, never drink. (Sorry, sis. I’ll buy more for your dirty Martinis when you come visit. I promise.) This is the perfect liquor for making vanilla extract. And I am almost out of vanilla extract in my baking supplies, so it seemed a perfect use to me. The process is so simple you’ll question why you’ve never made it yourself, and then you’ll want to rush out and buy some vodka and vanilla beans.

You will need:

— 1 cup vodka, bourbon, or rum (Vodka is my #1 choice here because of its neutral flavor.)

— 2-4 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place liquor into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. I was finishing off a bottle of vodka for this, so I just used that bottle and saved myself the trouble of finding another appropriately sized jar/bottle. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to liquor, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about 2-3 months, you will have beautiful vanilla extract for all your baking needs. It will become a little darker as it ages, and you can use it as you would any other vanilla, only it will taste way better. To keep it going forever, you can add more vanilla beans and liquor to the bottle.

I couldn’t stop with just Vanilla Extract, though.  I wanted a treat that could be used more frequently, and enjoyed by my awesome kiddos, too. So, now we’re on to Vanilla Sugar.

You will need:

— 1.5 cups white sugar

— 2 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place sugar into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to sugar, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about a month, you will have a flavorful sugar that can be used in baking, in your coffee, or sprinkled on some buttered toast for a sweet treat.

Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar! So easy, you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before now.

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So there we have it. A quick trip into the kitchen this morning, and the results are sweet. 😉

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Amazing Casserole (AKA Tater Tot Casserole)

I had not planned on posting this recipe tonight. I wanted to get pictures to go along with it, and that just didn’t happen tonight. So, what made me post it anyway? Well, I’m a sucker for kids who ask for recipes, and tonight, my girl child told some friends that she was looking forward to Tater Tot Casserole for dinner, and to her complete shock, most of them had never heard of it! One of those friends asked for a recipe so he can make it. Who am I to deny a child (ok, a teen) the joy of cooking? So, for my girl child’s friends, enjoy this simple recipe that you can make for your family! (Yes, that’s right. The teens shall cook for the parents. You’re welcome!)

TATER TOT CASSEROLE

Ingredients

  • 1# Ground Beef
  • 32 oz. bag Tater Tots
  • 2 Stalks Celery, sliced, including leafy tops
  • Cream Soup (your choice of flavor, or make your own)
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (plus additional for topping)
  • Green beans or other vegetable of choice (I prefer fresh, but many use canned)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare tater tots as directed on package. While those are baking, cook ground beef and celery until meat is no longer pink and celery has softened. Drain excess liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add cream soup, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and vegetable to meat mixture. Fold in a handful of tater tots. Pour mixture in a casserole dish (9×13 baking dish). Top with remaining tater tots. Bake at 350*F for approximately 30-40 minutes, until heated through and bubbly. Top with additional cheese, if desired, and return to oven for 5-10 minutes.

Serve with salad and ENJOY!

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Traditionally Non-Traditional

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my kids? They are fun and quirky, just like their Mama, but in their own unique ways. We all embrace each other’s individuality, bringing out the best in each other, making every day life fantastically fun together. Part of our fun is that we love tradition, but we also love to break tradition!

Color Me Happy

It’s Easter. So we obviously had to color some eggs. We even made some tea eggs after seeing my sister’s post about making them. Coloring eggs is one of my favorite things. I don’t know why. I don’t even really enjoy hard boiled eggs all that much. But there’s just something about the fun, bright colors of Easter Eggs that bring a smile to my face. I’ll be coloring eggs long after my kids have grown up and moved away from home. It’s a Holiday tradition I enjoy very much.

Baskets o' Plenty

Let’s not forget the candy, of course. Our baskets were left in front of the fireplace for the Easter Bunny last night. This year, we all have “proper” baskets. I have struggled every year with the fact that my kids don’t have nice baskets that they will enjoy bringing out year after year, even as adults, like I have. I’ve just never found nice ones that we liked. Some years we didn’t even have a basket, so the Easter Bunny would leave their treats in new lunch boxes or new baseball caps. Always fun, but this year when we looked, the kids decided they both really liked the plain wood ones. They are sturdy enough that I think they will last a long time for them! And we awoke to our baskets filled with candy, candy, and more candy, plus some notebooks, coasters, books, and even new toothbrushes for the kids (their Dentist will surely be happy to hear that! lol)

Traditionally Non-Traditional Easter Dinner

So, what does a silly family like ours have for dinner on Easter? I’m so glad you asked. Cheeseburgers, of course. I was asked by someone today if I would be having a big ham dinner. He seemed a bit taken aback when I said “No, we’ll be having cheeseburgers for our Easter dinner tonight.” He asked me if that was a family tradition. It was then that I realized our “tradition” is that we like to be “non-traditional”. He seemed pleased with my response, and thought it was a pretty cool way to enjoy Holidays. [By making a tradition of breaking traditions.]

Our Easter dinner, 2012: Cheeseburgers, piled high with plenty of melted sharp cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and some thinly sliced red onion. Paired with artichokes [with lemon butter for dipping!] and sweet potatoes, and of course some deviled eggs (gotta use those colored eggs somehow, right?)

And the weather for this day? PERFECT! We made great use of our deck for the first time since we moved in here, and enjoyed our fantastically fun dinner outside, giggling about our silliness and enjoying each other’s company and laughter.

I hope you enjoyed your Holiday as much as we did.

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Bountiful Baskets

Bountiful Baskets

I have discovered (with the help of my Baby Sis) an amazing resource for affordable fresh produce, and I’m wondering what took me so long to participate in the Bountiful Baskets Food Co-Op. I picked up my second basket this morning, and am so excited about all the fresh foods my kids and I will be having this week! Plenty of fruits and veggies to last us all week.

When I say affordable, by the way, I mean that I got all the produce you see in the picture for just $15! That’s right. I got 6 sweet potatoes, 3 small zucchini, a bunch of asparagus, a large head of lettuce, 2 heads of broccoli, 2 bags of brussels sprouts, a pineapple, a bunch of bananas, 3 grapefruit, 5 apples, and 7 oranges! Thatsalottafreshfood! Will we eat it all? You bet! Possibly not all this week, but when stored properly, most of this will be good for 2+ weeks.

I bet you’re wondering how we’ll use all that produce… well, we started out tonight by roasting some in the oven and topping off big bowls of pasta with the vegetables and some fresh grated parmesan cheese. And for dessert? How about some pudding and sliced fresh fruits? Yes, please! And Thank You. 🙂 And of course there will be plenty of snacks with all those fresh foods! (Hint: If you put out a bowl of cut up fresh vegetables and/or fruits while you’re cooking dinner, the kids will have something to snack on when they say “I’m HUNGRY!” Hummus or Ranch Dressing may make those veggies more appealing to the pickier eater.)

(I bet you thought I was going to be talking about a different kind of Bountiful Baskets, huh? Silly… the Easter Bunny hasn’t visited yet… that’s not til tomorrow!)

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Fabulous Friday

Today is not just Good Friday, it is Fabulous Friday! The perfect ending to a perfect week. It was like shipment central around my place all week, with packages arriving from all kinds of places, including one I have been waiting on for many years. Ok, so not the package itself, but the item. I finally purchased something I have been wanting for many, many years. It’s a French Butter Dish (you may have heard it called a Butter Bell). The husband of one of my friends makes handmade pottery and he does an amazing job. I was so happy to get my much-anticipated new piece of pottery for my kitchen, and getting to support a friend’s business just sweetened the deal!

So, what else makes this a Fabulous Friday? Well, it’s FRIDAY! Need I say more? And I got to run the bar at work today, steaming milk to a perfectly creamy, frothy texture with all it’s sweetness, pouring it over caramelly shots of espresso, chatting with customers and wishing them a Fabulous Friday…what’s not amazing about bringing a smile to everyone’s face?

And in case I hadn’t been given enough reasons to smile throughout the week, I did get some good news via email several times this week. Some relating to my kids and school, an email from an old friend I hadn’t heard from in awhile, and then an email from someone who is planning to make my Garlicky Buttery Shrimp Pasta for some family. I am excited to hear how everyone enjoyed it!

Now I get to enjoy the day tomorrow with my favorite kiddos… picking up our produce basket from Bountiful Baskets, dying Easter Eggs, eating candy, and probably planning more menus!

Excitement abounds. New beginnings emerge. What kind of amazingness are you up to this weekend?

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Excitement!

I owe you all so many posts. I had fun trying new foods with my kids in February, but was having so much fun and there were so many new and exciting things happening in our lives that computer time was limited at best. That’s a good thing, right? 🙂 I still want to share with you some food fun we had, and I will try to back-track and do that soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you some exciting news: I am changing jobs and career path! I realized I need to work directly with people and start working towards some larger life goals, so I have gone to work where I get to learn about coffee, talk to people, and smile all day long (and they pay me for this?!) This is going to free up a lot of time for me to get into college, learning about nutrition and so much more. It’s an exciting time!

And here’s some more excitement: My best friend talked me into offering my weekly menu planning and shopping lists to subscribers to make a little extra money. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but found a lot of people interested, and so I’m giving it a shot and I’m excited to launch my first email subscription with an aim to launch by April 1st (eek! That’s only a week away, isn’t it?! I better get back to my menu writing!)

So… for more information about joining my “Finding Dinner” menu subscription, check out the Finding Dinner tab and keep watching for details on how to confirm your subscription and find more time and money in your budget.

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Fruity Tastes

Cherimoya, Kumquats, Star Fruit

Last week I asked if you could name these fruits. I posed the question here at ThatCookGirl.com and again on facebook. Everyone seemed to know what the kumquats and star fruit were, but most seemed stumped by the 3rd fruit I had pictured. An odd looking greenish-brown fruit that my kiddos and I chose because we had never seen or heard of the cherimoya before.

 
It’s fun to try new foods, and I found it even more enjoyable to share it with my kiddos and talk about what we liked and didn’t like. We all agreed that the smooth texture and sweet flavor of the cherimoya was our favorite of the three. It would make a great addition to a smoothie, or alongside a cup of fresh yogurt. Both of the kiddos said they did not enjoy the kumquats. They were a little bitter, maybe they weren’t quite ripe? I was the only one who said “eh, I could take it or leave it” to the star fruit. It was good, but not something that made me think “where have you been all my life?” But again, I think it was not fully ripe, so I will have to try it again at some point. Maybe alongside the dragon fruit that was suggested by my sister. It is, afterall, the Year of the Dragon, which is MY year!
 
Speaking of MY year! It is still my Birthday Month, too! And I’m still trying new foods. Tonight: Veal!

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Loves of my Life

Heart Day Dinner for the Loves of my Life! xoxo

I celebrated my first Valentine’s Day as a single woman by recognizing the true loves of my life. The two people I spend the majority of my free time with. Who love me unconditionally (even when they “hate” me momentarily), and who I love unconditionally.  They bring me joy every day with their smiles and their laughter. They keep my life interesting and bring a ray of light even on my darkest days.

They are my favorite boy and girl in the whole wide world. They talk back. They forget to do their homework. They drive me crazy. And I love every minute of it, because more importantly, they have smiles and hugs that would melt an ice queen’s heart, they tell stories about their day and about their friends. They tell jokes. They fight and they love and they do it with their entire heart and soul.

I love you, my favorite kiddos! Thank you for sharing Heart Day with your silly mama. xoxo

So… what did I make for these most fabulous kiddos of mine? Nothing super fancy, just some of our favorite foods, shaped into hearts. My easy meatloaf, paired with roasted carrots [drizzled with olive oil and tossed with chopped red onion], julienne beets, and some mashed potatoes [I used up the last of the ranch dressing I made last weekend and that added really great flavor, along with the homemade butter I mixed in.] Comfort food with great conversation and giggles at dinner.

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