Tag Archives: love

Go For Green


Leprechaun Visit | www.ThatCookGirl.com

You’re never too old for Lucky Charms or a Leprechaun visit!
Go For Green!

 I see all these moms running around making elaborate Leprechaun traps, fancy treats, costumes…well, you name it, and I’ve seen the over-the-top, make-the-average-mom-look-bad crafts and projects and parties. This may very well come as a shock to some of you, but I am NOT a crafty mom. I used to think I wanted to be a crafty mom…but it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy and I would just rather put forth that time and energy hanging out than crafting. So far, I don’t think my kids have been scarred too much by my lack of craftiness. Now, I may not be crafty, but I still sure know how to have fun and most Holidays around here are memorable. (Let’s not talk about Valentine’s Day this year, please… I failed miserably by forgetting to leave a silly card for my kids to find when they wake up…Hey, I never said I was perfect! I think I redeemed myself by bringing home chocolate strawberries, though.)

How does a non-crafty mom make Holidays totally awesome you ask? The answer is simple! I have a private line to all the well-known Holiday spokespeople. The Easter Bunny, Santa…yes, even the Leprechauns. Having this “in” with these people really helps when you aren’t crafty! It just takes a quick call, email, or text message to confirm that my kids still get a thrill out of the little details of the Holiday, and I’m off the hook for crafting! A special treat will be dropped off by morning and I can get some much-needed sleep!

Such as it was for St Patrick’s Day! A quick “Go for Green” text message and I was off to bed at an early hour. The Leprechauns paid a visit, performed a bit of mischief with chairs on tables, stools turned upside down, milk turned green, even the fruit bowl turned upside down and the fruit stacked on top…and left a treat for the trouble of having to clean up after them. We all get a good giggle at their silliness every year, and this year was no exception.

Of course, this doesn’t let me off the hook for cooking dinner. We will still have our traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage. It is in the slow cooker now and will be ready when I get home from work. Another mealtime saved by the slow cooker!

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Shots and Ice Cream


Shots and Ice Cream For Dinner | ThatCookGirl.com | Some days just require a shot (of espresso)...and ice cream for dinner

Some days just require a shot (of espresso)…

Some days just require (espresso) shots and ice cream for dinner. Today was just such a day. I wouldn’t say I had a bad day, it just wasn’t particularly good. It began with receiving some sad news that didn’t quite allow itself to settle in. And then the day just went on as any usual day at the office would, people dropping in for different things throughout the day, appointments and meetings, coffee breaks (of course…I mean…it is MY office. There IS coffee!), just the usual goings on of the day. And then just before the day at the office ended, more sad news. And this time it took a good 15 or 20 minutes to settle into my heart and soul, and when it finally did, both bits of news settled into me all at once and it took all my strength to finish my day and get myself home to my babies.

Shots and Ice Cream for Dinner | ThatCookGirl.com | Some days just require a shot (of espresso) and ice cream for dinner

…and Ice Cream for Dinner

Life is precious and short and sweet. Celebrate the smallest moments. They are the biggest. Hug someone you love a little tighter today and every day.  Call someone. Take a chance you’ve been scared to take. Don’t wait another second to tell someone you love them, even if you think they already know. Have ice cream for dinner. Have a shot (of espresso).  Go for it! Live while you’re still living!  As my daughter wisely said once “Live; You Might Like It

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Kitchen Tree


I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that I love Christmas. I love, love, love decorating our tree. I always try to convince my kids that I should leave it up year-round. Last year I even planned on seeing just how long I’d last with it up. I probably could have kept it all the way into summer if not longer. But, we moved and it had to come down. But out of pure stubbornness, on moving day, it was the last thing standing. And we moved in mid-February! Everything else was packed and loaded into cars and there stood my tree, still as beautiful as the day it went up.

ThatCookGirl.com/Kitchen-Tree

ThatCookGirl.com
Kitchen Tree
What? Doesn’t everyone put a Christmas Tree in their kitchen?

But I digress… This year we are in a beautiful house with a big kitchen. And so I got to put up a (small) Kitchen Tree! What? Doesn’t everyone put a Christmas tree in their kitchen?  I added my coffee ornaments, my cooking-themed ornaments, and some favorite childhood ornaments and I found a home for it on my kitchen counter. I will enjoy this tree every morning as I pour my coffee, every evening as I cook dinner (or watch the kids cook dinner, whatever the case may be), and I will enjoy it every time I walk into or through the kitchen.

Who knows. Maybe it will find a permanent home atop my stack of favorite cookbooks in the corner. One just never knows.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Do you do anything unique?

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A Thankful Life


Hello my loyal blog-readers. Are any of you still out there, waiting for me to get my act together and start posting again? I hope so.

Well, today seems as good a day as any to see what I can do about getting back to blogging. You may be thinking “How does she have time to post on her blog when she should be busily preparing Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd?” Easy. I’m not hosting dinner this year. Nor have I for several years. You see (and I’m about to get really real with you here), I stopped hosting the big Thanksgiving dinner when my life turned upside down a few years ago. I tried desperately to turn it right side up, to no avail. Life has had me upside down, inside out, backwards, right side up,right side out,and forward again more times than I can count. So I just started rolling with the punches. And boy were there a lot of punches thrown my way in the last 5+ years. All the while I dodged a few, threw a few back, and found myself left breathless and disoriented by even more. In the last 2 years I have held 5 different jobs and had 4 different addresses to call home. Somehow I managed to keep my head held high, if only barely at times. So, I hope you will forgive my immense absence from the blogging world, and just welcome my attempts to return. I make no promises for how often I will blog. I only promise to try to be entertaining when I do.

This morning as I prepare to have Thanksgiving dinner with some much-loved people in my life, it hit me just how very thankful I am. Not only today, but every day. I saw this saying recently that sums up my feelings pretty well:

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.

I am thankful for more reasons than seems reasonable at times. But I am thankful nonetheless. For the love I have been surrounded by, the opportunities life has presented to me, the friends who have become family, the friends and family who have stood by my side as I made choices that they may or may not have agreed with but supported me no matter what. More than anything, I am thankful to have my 2 pretty darn amazing teenagers who keep me going when all I want to do is give up. I will show them and the whole world that life doesn’t have to be perfect or even go your way to live it happily.

Now, I am being summoned by a cup of coffee that needs my attention and my world famous artichoke dip that isn’t going to make itself.(It’s famous in my world, that counts, right?)

My wish for you is to be thankful for the small things and the big things, the good things and the bad things, and for every choice you make, the good ones and the poor ones. Each of these things will make for a happy life if only you can find a way to be thankful for them.

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Better Butter


First, I’ll allow you a moment to recover from the shock of me posting two days in a row. When I get the chance to “steal” my girl child’s computer to do some blogging, and I actually have something to blog about, I take the opportunity. And this is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a couple years now.

It’s no secret that I love butter. I’ve mentioned fresh butter several times in my postings. I’ve even talked family members who were over for dinner into helping  to make butter (once, even a sister’s ex who only dropped in to see their daughter and wasn’t even staying for dinner helped to make the butter). I don’t always make my own butter, but if I’m making a nice dinner or yummy bread, I like to have really great butter to go with it. More than once, people have said things to me along the lines of “You know they sell that at the store, right?” and “There are easier ways to make butter than that”. “I know” is pretty much my response to all of the comments. So, would you like to make your own fresh butter? You just need one ingredient, one “tool”, and a little muscle (or several little muscles with the help of some kids)

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Pour 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream into a chilled 1 quart jar with a tight fitting lid. If you have access to fresh, raw milk and the cream that comes from that…well, I’m jealous if you do, but… it will make an even creamier, sweet, beautiful butter! Screw the lid onto your jar. Make sure it’s tight. It is important to not fill the jar all the way. Half-filled is perfect. The cream needs room to move around and do its thing to become butter.

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You can shake the jar yourself, or if you have some bored teenagers roaming around like I do, you can hand them the jar. It’s a tiring job, so usually more than one person and some turn-taking will make the task a little easier. I’ve set kids up in a circle on the floor and let them roll the jar around between them, but that takes longer (although, it keeps little ones entertained for awhile, if you need an easy activity for them!).

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You will know when the cream is turning into butter because it will start to kind of “thud” against the side of the jar. And once that starts to happen, keep shaking, as hard as you can (I almost always have taken over the task from the teenagers with tired arms by this point and finish it off myself), until there is a mass of butter and the liquid has separated. That’s buttermilk, by the way. Save it and use it in some pancakes, or Breakfast Cookies.

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Pour the liquid off into a bowl (or into a clean jar to store for later use, in the fridge of course), and spoon the butter into your favorite butter dish. Mine is a French Butter Dish I got from a friend’s shop last year.

There you have it, fresh butter. One ingredient, and a wonderful treat for topping for your favorite breads, and anything else you love topping with butter!

And now, my dear friends, family, and blog-readers… I must go. The battery on the girl child’s computer is near the end, and Red Widow is on. Have you started watching this show? Oh, you should! You really should!!!

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Filed under Cooking With Love, Recipes, Sauces/Dressings

Crowd Pleasing Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara


I love to cook for people. Have I ever mentioned that before? I recently met some new people to cook for, and at our first meeting, I kinda bragged about being an amazing cook. I even brought some of my Homemade Bagels to share. I think they liked them (either that or they’re great at faking it.lol) So of course, when the invitation came for me to bring my kids out to their house and cook dinner, I was all-too-happy to plan a meal that would be both simple enough to cook while visiting and something my hostess would be able to easily recreate on her own, but also a crowd pleaser and a “wow” kinda meal. I do believe I picked a near-perfect meal to do the trick. I have only 1 picture to share with you, and the credit for that goes to Carri who brought out her phone to snap a picture before we dished up. I was too busy enjoying cooking in a big kitchen and visiting and dancing while doing so to think about taking pictures. (I know, shocking, right?)

Our hosts spent a good amount of time that day showing me and my kids around and introducing us to all their animals, even putting my girl child on a horse to ride around for a bit (the boy child had no interest). They shot a bow and arrow, enjoyed the company of children other than each other, and generally just had a nice, fun, relaxing day/evening. And I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with adults outside of work, something I don’t get to do enough of lately.

I am not a perfect cook, to which I have admitted many times. I do make some really great food, most of the time, but I do have my mishaps… In planning the menu, I decided I wanted to make dessert as well, which I was going to prepare at home and bring along. I decided on my old “signature” dessert of cream puffs…but they didn’t puff, and my work schedule was so hectic there was no way I would have time to re-make them. Seeing my sadness (I was near tears…probably more because of my hectic schedule and trying to do too much and overwhelming myself than having not had success with the puffs, though…) at not having success with this, my girl child (15 years old now, by the way! How did THAT happen?!) offered to give them a try while I was at work. When I saw her facebook status update declaring “I WIN”, I knew she had had success and it was for sure a proud mommy moment.

So, what did we share with this family of new friends? Having bragged about being an amazing cook, it had to be something amazing, of course… Well, the cream puffs, of course, thanks to the girl child. I also made Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara (the recipe is below, but to be honest, I didn’t really follow it too closely, and had only made it once before this night, so threw it together from memory, but it seemed to turn out quite well… also, this recipe is a combination of several I found on the www with my own little twists added to it) and a big green salad with lemon salad dressing. Yeah, that’s it. But it was plenty!

Thanks again for letting me come out to your house and mess up your kitchen!

 

Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

This is a dish that can be complete in less than 20 minutes if you gather all your ingredients before you start. It’s simple, with simple ingredients, and a crowd-pleaser!

When I told my kids one night that we were having Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner, they both cried out “YUM!!!!” But they had no idea what it was. They just liked the sound of the name. When I told them it had bacon in it, I thought they would both faint from excitement. I love these simple meals that impress. :)


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3/4 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lemon
    Here’s What to do:

    1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Smash about 8 cloves of garlic (or more) and add them to the water (I do this instead of salt) along with the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to package directions.

    2. Meanwhile, heat the largest skillet you have over medium to medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Chop the remaining garlic cloves, and slice the green onion (green and white parts), reserving a bit for garnish. Add these to the bacon and grease in the pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Chop tomato into cubes and cut lemon in half during this cooking time.

    3. In a bowl, beat yolks and add 1/2 cup of the water from the pasta. This keeps the eggs from scrambling when added to the pasta.

    4. Drain pasta and add it directly to the skillet with the bacon mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Working quickly, toss to coat the pasta, adding more water to make a creamy texture, maybe a ladel or 2 full. Remove from heat and add a large handful of cheese, about 1/2 cup or so, and chopped tomatoes. Continue to toss the pasta until it thickens. Garnish with reserved green onion and extra grated Parmesan.

    5. Serve in pasta bowls or on plates with large sides to hold the yummy goodness in!

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Filed under Entertainment, Main Dishes, Pasta, Pork, Recipes

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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Live Flavors


As you know, I love food. I love to talk about food. I love to make food. I love to help people find foods that they enjoy. Right now, I am in love with researching different ways in which foods are processed and how that processing affects the flavor and/or nutrition of the food. I do this for no other reason than it interests me. I don’t get paid to do this. It is something that I enjoy learning about and I love passing on new information when I learn about it. Most recently, I have learned about a processing method that does not apply heat, helping to maintain the integrity and the flavor of the original food. Keeping the flavors alive is important in food. Am I wrong? I dare you to tell me I’m wrong. (I know I’m right. ;) )

Case in point:

Evolution Fresh

There’s a new juice on the block these days. It’s from Evolution Fresh and when I did a side-by-side taste comparison of their orange juice with another brand of high-quality orange juice, I was impressed. (And it takes a lot to impress me where orange juice is concerned because, well, orange juice does not impress me. Juice in general does not impress me.) The first juice was…juice. It tasted just like most any orange juice I have ever had. It’s just juice. And then I tried the Evolution Fresh juice. It was a classic double-take reaction. I did not expect what I tasted. What I tasted was real. It was fresh. It was like the juice my son labored over for 30 minutes one morning, squeezing every orange in the house, just to serve me freshly squeezed orange juice. At the first sip, I had to know more. How did they do it? How did they make this juice that was like actually biting into an orange?

The answer is simple. They don’t heat it. Never. The fresh juice is cold pressed from the fruit, and to process the juice for commercial packaging and sale, it goes through High Pressure Processing. The juice is never heated. And the heat is what kills the vitamins, the enzymes, the FLAVOR of your foods and juices.

I have tasted several more of these juices now, and each one, even the Essential Vegetable, had such an explosion of flavor that I knew I had to make sure people knew about this new company and the amazingness they have to offer.

I really could go on and on about this. But I’ll save it for another post, another day. If you have a chance to check out Evolution Fresh in your neighborhood, you really should. I want to know what you think!

*This is not a paid advertisement. This is just me, really excited about a new thing I tried, and new information I’m learning! :)

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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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