Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tater-tot Crock Pot dish revisited

I made it again today, but used cram of chicken soup and Mexican mix cheese with taco seasoning. Not quite as delicious, but still really good! My picky eater husband even asked got seconds, and he doesn't usually go fir "hot, pasty stuff". =)

I only cooked it for 3 hours on high, stirring frequently.
(Please excuse the poor quality of the photo.  My camera is missing so this was taken with my phone.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tater-tot Crock Pot Meal

We had a potluck after church meetings last Sunday that I completely forgot about until late Saturday night.  Sunday morning, I scrambled to find something (anything) that I could throw in a Crock Pot and take with us.  It was kinda based on recipes I've used in the past, but I mostly did what sounded good to me. 

Here's what I used:
  • 1 bag of frozen tater-tots (I also added about a cup of frozen hash browns I had in the freezer)
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup (I think it was reduced fat, but any kind is fine.  Cream of chicken would be good, too.)
  • 1-1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of French fried onions
  • a generous scoop of lite sour cream (probably about 2/3 cup- regular sour cream would be fine)
  • 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese

Mix everything together really well in the crock pot, cook on high for 3 hours (stir occasionally) and then on low for another hour.  Stir before serving.

This was soooo good!  I liked it even better than the recipes I've used, and the bowl was scraped clean at the end so I'm guessing other people liked it, too.  =)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some helpful hints

Here are a few things that I do to make life a little easier.

For dinner prep:
  • Cook a whole bunch of chicken ahead of time, slice or chop it, and store it in an airtight container (or zip-lock bag) and store it in the fridge.  I bake about 8 chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet with sides, sprinkle it with sea salt and pepper (or seasoning salt or whatever seasoning sounds good), and bake it at 350* for 30-45 minutes (or however long it takes to cook all the way through).  Turn them over about 20 minutes into it, though, and season the other side (optional).  I like to slice mine into thin strips because I can always chop it up more later if necessary.  This is great for adding to casseroles, salads, soups, pasta with Alfredo sauce, or heating up with a little taco seasoning for a taco/taco salad fix.
  • Don't you hate using a rubber scraper to try and get the last of the pasta sauce out of the jar?  Just put a scoop or two of your cooked noodles in the jar, replace the lid, shake a few times, and dump everything out.  Viola!  An empty sauce jar without the hassle.
  • When I was about to have my third baby, I started thinking about how to simplify our meals even more since I knew the baby would be occupying most of my time and energy after the birth.  To create fast meals with variety, I put a few chicken breasts (sometimes cut up, sometimes whole) in gallon zip-lock bags, added our favorite marinades and seasonings, and popped them in the freezer.  In the morning, I would decide what I wanted to make, pull that bag out to thaw on the counter or fridge, and then when it was closer to dinner time I could throw the chicken in the oven (in an oven-safe baking dish, of course), cook up some pasta/rice/potatoes and vegetables, and dinner is done.   
Some of our favorite marinades/seasonings include Italian dressing (with rice), garlic and ginger with a little soy sauce (with rice), Montreal seasoning (it comes labeled like that in the spice aisle- served with potatoes), taco seasoning (in tortillas or with chips), and pesto (I buy it in the jar).

To remove stains:
  • Blood: Rinse out as much as possible with cold water and then pour hydrogen peroxide on what's left.  It will bubble and fizz like crazy!  You may have to repeat these steps a few times, but it works really well on fabric, upholstery, and fabric.  *DISCLAIMER: I cannot guarantee this method will not affect any color the fabric may have, but I haven't had a problem with anything getting bleached or faded.  
  • Ink on clothes: Spray the heck out of it with hairspray, soak it in detergent and water, and wash.
  • Crayon in the laundry: OK.  There are lots of methods for removing crayon, but this method worked for me the last two times a crayon went through the wash and dryer.  First, scrape off as much leftover crayon as you can (you know those brown Pampered Chef scrapers?  Those things are perfect, but a butter knife also works).  Don't forget to scrape out anything left in the washer and dryer, too.  Wash everything again on the hottest setting possible with lots of detergent.  Check everything for missed spots before transferring the laundry to the dryer.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My first guest posting ever

I'm guest posting on Sumo's Sweet Stuff today, one of my favorite blogs.  EEK!  It's my first gust post ever, to this is really exciting.  Go ahead, take a peek.  She's pretty awesome.  Thanks, Sumo!

Welcome, Sumo fans!  Thanks for visiting my blog.  Please have a look around and feel free to leave a comment and follow me, too.  I love getting to know new fun, creative people.  =)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Our 2011 Ornaments

As promised, I have completed our family's 2011 ornaments I posted about here
They're not as festive as my inspiration, but I like them.  I started out with green thread but then switched to red and think that looks much better.  A thicker ribbon would have been easier to sew in, but I made what I had work.  What do you think?
Since I didn't have the time or inclination to sort through my 10 boxes of fabric to find usable scraps, I went to JoAnn's and looked at the fat quarters that were on sale for 99-cents and found four coordinating patterns that I think work well together.  With my 15% off coupon I got enough fabric to make several dozen more.  Ha ha!
Maybe I'll decorate the trees later with buttons or something, but for now I'm just happy to have them done before we pack away the rest of the Christmas decorations.  =)

Spinach Artichoke Dip

This is one of my all-time favorite appetizers, but it often turns into an entire meal.  So easy, so yummy, and somewhat healthy.  Hey, it has vegetables in it, right?

Here's what you need:
 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (or 9-12 ounces of fresh spinach microwaved on high for 2 minutes and squeezed dry)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened (low fat or fat free is OK)
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup mayonnaise (light is OK)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (I never use this)
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

Here's what you do:
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients; mix well. Spoon into a
microwave-safe 9-inch pie plate and heat in microwave oven at power level 8
(80%) for 3 minutes. Serve immediately (although it's still totally delicious if you refrigerate and reheat later). Great with an assortment of crackers or breads. Bon Appetite!

Flowers in her hair

I made these fun hair pins a couple weeks ago while relishing my new-found school-and-homework-free time.  =)
 Would anyone be interested in seeing these in my Etsy shop?  They are perfect for girls of any age (even you, Mom!) and would make great gifts or party favors.
Please send me a message or leave a comment if you are interested. 
Have a beautiful day!


Birthday Shirt

My middle child turned 5 right before Christmas!  He is such a sweet boy who doesn't ask for much.  The only thing he wanted for his birthday is a puppy, and that just wasn't going to happen.  
Since his birthday is just 2 days before Christmas, we usually celebrate with family and do our best to make it his special day.  This year, we had pancakes for breakfast, my parents took him bowling and to McDonald's for lunch, and we made him a fun birthday shirt (along with a few other presents).  
I'm actually pretty proud of my husband.  He's the one that found the perfect font (it's called "Creepy") and figured out how to use my Silhouette to cut it out of Expressions Vinyl T-shirt vinyl in green (the birthday boy's favorite color).  
We've never used iron-on vinyl before, but it was super easy and worked really well.
This shirt is perfect for my funny 5-year-old.  He was SO excited to wear it!  I have an iron-on create-your-own monster that I got on clearance at Target that we will add to the front this afternoon to complete the look.  I can't wait to make another one for our next birthday boy in March!

CTR Christmas Ornament

Until mid-December, I worked with the kids ages 3-11 at church in Sunday school (we call it Primary) and have done so for most of the last 14 years. The women in charge of the Primary like to give each child a present at Christmastime, usually an ornament that will help them remember the true meaning of Christmas. 

This year, we gave them all an ornament decorated with a CTR shield; CTR stands for "Choose the Right," a motto to help them remember to make the right choices at all times, even when it's hard and even if no one is looking. 

I can't remember where I saw the inspiration for this ornament (I will happily give credit where credit is due if someone can point me towards the source) but I LOVE how they turned out! 

Most of them were green with a gold CTR shield, but some were red with gold, and others were silver with red. I'm so sad I forgot to take pictures of all of them.
Aren't those cute?  I used my Silhouette to cut out the decal from Expressions Vinyl in Metallic Gold.  The tricky part was getting it to lie flat on a curved surface, but it was a pretty easy gift overall.  
The kids loved them and the adults were super impressed.  So fun!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Our 2011 photo book

I'm not a scrapbooker.  Instead, every year I do a photo book for each kid to show what they did in between each birthday, and then I create a family one that covers each calendar year.  We keep a copy of the family one for ourselves and give a copy to the grandparents and great-grandparents for Christmas.  Our copies of all of the books are displayed in the living room so everyone can enjoy remembering all the adventures we've had together.
I love Shutterfly! They make the creation process super easy, and the new options for customizing are AWESOME.
Here is our family's 2011 photo book.  Happy New Year!

Click here to view this photo book larger

Shutterfly photo books offer a variety of layouts and cover options to choose from.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

What I learned in 2011

I can do ANYTHING. 
With the Lord's help, NOTHING is impossible. 
I'm sure 2012 will continue to prove that. =) 
Here's to a happy, healthy and successful new year!