Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Best Nachos I've Ever Made

This may be the last post for awhile, but I couldn't stop my recipe overload without sharing this one.

These Nachos are easy and so SO yummy.

So yummy that when I made them for our family soup fest awhile back, they were all but eaten before the soup fest even started.  That's because We started a bit late (as usual) and Nachos are really best eaten right when they are ready. So, those who snoozed (and were polite enough to wait for the blessing on the food) loozed.



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By the time I remembered to take a picture, this was all that was left.
But never fear--now you can make them yourself. Go ahead! Try this at home!

The Best Nachos I’ve Ever Made
(Campbells Deliciously Easy Recipes)

1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
 cup salsa
1 bag (10 oz) tortilla chips
Chopped tomato, sliced green onions, sliced olives, and diced avocados

Combine soup and salsa in saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until hot and bubbling, stirring occasionally. 

Arrange tortilla chips evenly on serving platter.  Spoon sauce over chip.  Top with tomato, onions, olives, and avocados. 


Serves 6 (appetizer size servings)



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

the staff of life

Sometimes, when I'm making the ubiquitous (around our house at least) Peasant Bread, instead of forming them into circular rounds, I roll half of the dough into "sticks" and put them in these pans.

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These pans belonged to my grandmother*. She had like six or seven of them (maybe more), and once a week or so, she'd get out her KitchenAid and make a big batch of bread, usually several loafs and/or a whole bunch of bread sticks. She'd rip those sticks into smaller bits and we'd eat them with Sunday dinner when we were visiting their Salt Lake home. I grew up thinking of them as grandma's version of rolls.

I remember at her funeral, someone (her Bishop maybe?) spoke about how Jean Willis was always showing up at people's houses with bread sticks to spread comfort, healing, or love.

When my aunts and uncles divvied up my grandparent's possessions, my mom ended up with a bunch of these tins, and she gave each of the daughters and daughters-in-law a set for Christmas that year. I'll admit, there are times when I forget that I have them, but sooner or later they make their way up to the front of my cupboard, and then they make their way to the counter, and into the oven.

And as I fill them with delicious dough, I think of my grandma.





* * *

And now for a helpful hint:

Over the Christmas break, when we were hanging out with family, we decided to get all of us together for the evening. Now that we're a big group, if we're going to be together over a mealtime it can take a little bit of planning to get us all fed. We decided on soup, and Krista whipped up these breadsticks like she was born to do it.

She used this recipe from Our Best Bites, and just skipped the twisting bit.

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They were delicious.

Absolutely, mouthwateringly, smile enticingly delicious.



*Actually, according to my mom, the tins originally belonged to my Great-Grandmother, Lucy Grant Cannon, and she had had them specially made by a local tinsmith back in the day.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Grinches and Santas and Monsters--a recipe post with a rambling story preceding it (shocker, I know)

So, way back in August, I signed up to be one of the room moms for my daughter's kindergarten class Christmas party, along with two other moms. As the party date grew nearer, and on the advice of the teacher (who I adore), we decided that we would have three different activity stations, followed by a snack.  I did the snack and one activity station.

For the snack, we had grinch hat snacks--basically small fruit kabobs, put together so as to resemble a grinch head in a Santa hat.

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We let the kids assemble them themselves, and I didn't get pictures, so I lifted this shot from allrecipes.com


For my activity, I led the kids in an old favorite "Don't Eat Santa!" (a/k/a don't eat Pete). I got my game board from a site run by my old college friend, Kara, here.

The game went well, except that some of the kids kept trying to sneak M&M's when it wasn't their turn. By the third (and final) group I finally wised up and told them kindly but firmly, that if I caught any of them sneaking even one M&M, that that person would lose their turn to "eat Santa", which would mean that they would be trading the possibility of getting NINE whole M&M's for the risky chance of getting one or two. Funny, that group didn't sneak a single candy. Were they just more well-behaved kids, or did my warning had an effect? I guess I'll never know.

All that is to say that I left kindergarten that day with a bag and a half of Christmas M&M's, which I promptly forgot about until well after Christmas.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons



Well, one day in mid-January, I unearthed the beauties, and (having had my fill of straight chocolate thanks to a holiday overdose) determined that we needed to use them in cookies ('Cuz I hadn't overdosed on those yet!) 

Thinking back to a trip that I had taken to Oregon years and years before, where Heidi, Phil, Brian, and I had feasted on Heidi's father's "Monster Cookies", I went to my trusty google.com, in search of a recipe that would do. (I could have just called Heidi of course, but I thought I'd try my luck on google first.)

I found about a million recipes, set upon one, and made up a half batch.

(We rarely make a whole batch of cookies or anything else around here, unless we are planning to do a whole lot of sharing or freezing.)


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They were delicious, and should gluten be a concern of yours, they're actually gluten-free!

Regardless of your gluten sensitivities (personally, I never met a gluten I didn't like), you're totally going to want to make them.

So, here you go:

Monster Cookies
(adapted from www.recipegirl.com)
Yield: 36 regular sized cookies

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup M&M's plain chocolate candies

directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper or a silpat mats.
2. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter with the sugars and butter until well combined. Mix in the eggs and vanilla. Mix in the oats and baking soda. Then stir in the chips and M&M's.
3. Drop the cookies by heaping spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets until cookies are set. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely before storing in an airtight container.





Friday, March 06, 2015

Bits of rubies!

Awhile back, one of my friends started a healthy living blog, featuring recipes, fitness advice, and motivation for a healthy life.  I follow it sporadically (which is pretty much how I follow most blogs these days), and back around November or so, she posted a recipe for her favorite breakfast, which is essentially super-healthy bread toasted with almond butter, and fat-free Greek Yogurt with stevia and berries.

At the time, I was trying (and still am trying) to up my fiber and protein intake and lessen my fat and sugar intake, and so I was pretty interested in her breakfast, especially the Greek Yogurt.  I went to my grocery store and bought some, finding that like her, my favorite in taste and fat content is Fage 0% Greek yogurt. (I've taste-tested it against the other Greek Yogurts that I can find, and there is no contest as far as I'm concerned. It costs $1.50 per 6 oz container in my Smith's, but I can find it on sale for $1 every couple of weeks or so).

So, nowadays, my default breakfast is a half a cup of Fiber One cereal (I like it best dry--which isn't to say that I totally like it any way at all, but I eat it because it's a really easy way to get a whole bunch of fiber in a relatively few amount of bites, and it keeps me feeling satisfied all morning.) and a bowl of Fage 0% Greek Yogurt with fruit, stevia, and either flax seeds or pumpkin seeds (to sneak in more fiber).  The yogurt tastes like dessert, and I'm not even kidding.

But, the main reason I'm even writing this post is to tell you that my favorite fruit to put in my yogurt, when it is in season is Pomegranates.

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I can't remember whether or not I've gone off her on my love of pomegranates, but believe me when I say that it is a love that is everlasting and undying. The tart sweetness! The crunch! the sense of eating bits of rubies! What could be better?

All winter long, as they've been in season, I've eaten pomegranates every morning. I dislodge the seeds (using a handy dandy wooden spoon trick that ends up taking about a minute as opposed to the 20 minutes that it used to take), and put them in a glass jar, which I store them in the fridge. When it's breakfast time, I spoon about 1/3 a cup into my yogurt and get ready for a taste extravaganza.

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Now that Pomegranate season is over, I'm back to putting frozen raspberries in my yogurt. It's more sweet, and certainly tasty, but there's nothing like a good Pomegranate, and I miss the good old days.

Oh well, something to look forward to next year.

If you like Pomegranates and you haven't seen this (or another similar) video on how to quickly de-seed one, I definitely recommend that you give this one a look. It may change your life.



Like it changed mine.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

spectacles--or "am I really that old?"

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Remember this?


Almost two years ago, I wrote a glowing review on some glasses that we were able to get for Eric. Among a bunch of witty commentary and far more pictures of Eric than were necessary, I said the following regarding my lasik surgery of January 2000, and how it had made eyeglasses a thing of the past for me.

Eric is a big glasses person.  He wears them every day.  Also, of the two of us, it is Eric who is more particular about style, comfort, and fashion than I am.  So, rather than telling Firmoo to jump in a lake because glasses were so far in my rear view window that I never wanted to think about them again, I asked if we could get a pair for Eric instead, and write a review on those.

Well.  

You know that sign in the rear view mirror that they always post? This one?



Guess who had her annual eye exam last month and learned that she was back to needing glasses?

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That's right.  Me.

Honestly, it didn't come as a big surprise. I mean, I've been squinting at concerts and street signs (at night) for awhile now. The big "uh-oh" came in December though, when Heather and I were at the Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert together. We were in the balcony, and Heather asked me to read to her the promotional materials that were projected on the two large screens mounted on either side of the stage. I couldn't do it. As I inwardly cursed whoever it was that chose to put those materials up in minuscule print, this twenty-something whippersnapper sitting next to Heather helpfully piped up and read the whole thing with ease. Sigh.

(So far I only use them for night driving and shopping and evenings at the (a-hem) thee-at-ah. If I wear them at the computer or while trying to read or whatever, my aging eyes can't make the jump with the new prescription and I end up having to take them off to see anyway. Bifocals are probably in my future, but not yet in my present, thankfully.)

Anyway, once I had my new prescription in my hot little hand, I e-mailed my friends at Firmoo.com and asked if they'd send me another pair of glasses that I could review. Tina e-mailed me back within a day and said that would be fine. I went through the same process as we did with Eric, but this time I went the extra step of uploading my picture into the website so that I could virtually "try on" each pair of glasses that interested me. I sent in my order and a week later a beautiful case filled with glasses, repair kit, and polishing fabric arrived.

I liked them so much that I ordered another pair, just so I could keep one in the car at all times. They were running a 30% off select frames special at the time, and so even though I didn't get this second pair free, it only cost me $36.35 shipped, which for prescription glasses, seemed pretty close to free to me.

Here's a shot of that pair:
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Once again, I've been pleased with the glasses, pleased with the service, pleased with the price. Just lots of satisfaction going on over here.

So, no pressure or anything, but if you're interested, Firmoo has re-opened their "first pair free" program, where you can order a pair of glasses for the cost of shipping only, no strings attached. They'd probably cost you something like $10 in that case, which for a pair of sturdy glasses is a pretty good deal.

And in case you were wondering, Eric's still wearing his same pair from two years ago, and has no complaints. So, there's that too.

Next up--a video of a fabulous way to de-seed a pomegranate that most of you have probably already seen three or four times by now. You'll want to see that again, right? Tune in next week!










Sunday, February 22, 2015

how to spend a beautiful morning

Shortly after Christmas, Eric and I arranged to have our friend come and watch Heather on a cold Saturday morning for a few hours while we went to the temple.

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Unfortunately, we forgot to check the temple schedule and we soon learned that the temple was in fact, closed for it's semi-annual cleaning on the day that we chose to go.

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Fortunately, it was a gorgeous frosty day (one of the few of the winter as it turned out). So, we had a nice walk around the temple, followed by some shopping and hanging out together, since we already had the babysitter worked out and everything, you know?

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Man, I love where I live.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Random Greatness

A bit ago, I downloaded all the photos from my iPad to my laptop, and then to photobucket. Some of them tickled me just enough or in just the right way as to convince me that they needed to be shared here.

So, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen most of these already, but if not, then here are the greatest hits of Charlotte's iPad:

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From ShaLiece. Makes me miss Cedar City

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The day I bought rum at the state liquor store and started the process of making my own vanilla.
(Jury is still out on this one, verdict coming soon-probably in March or so)

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Heather and I made our own salt dough nativity while listening to October General Conference.



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This was the summer and fall where Marilee became a prolific and generous mouse catcher and giver.

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Thankfully, Eric shouldered the vast majority of the clean-up of Marilee's handiwork.

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Speaking of Eric . . .
(what a gem.)

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And finally, two girls playing "Annie" in our backyard. Like, seriously. They were singing, "It's a hard knock life" while scrubbing the cemented back patio and having a grand time doing it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sweet November - sweet for lion-finding, that is!

We have some North American Lions today, and if my calculations are correct, they were all discovered and photographed within the same week. Pretty cool if you ask me.


These next two pictures I shot on November 20th, while we walked from our hotel to Disneyland on our first full day in California.
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Meanwhile, Lyn was living it up in Merida, Mexico. She photographed this guy on November 18, just two days before I got the one above.
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And then, whe have this beauty from Juliana, who was in St. Louis on November 22, waiting at a stoplight when she looked over a spied our friend here. She couldn't get out of the car (stoplight, remember?) but she managed a photograph (I assume she wasn't driving) and sent it to me. Notice the name of the shop--The Bug Store. How cool is that? According to their website, the Bug Store has brought elegance, romance, charm, and humor at great value for 25 years.
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So there we have it, three lion pictures within six days, in fascinating places all over the continent, and as if that weren't enough, one of the lions lives at a place called "The Bug Store".

I don't know that it gets any better than that!




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Smoky Butternut Squash Soup

I love this soup.

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It's creamy and hearty and silky and scrumptious, and it's chock full of vegetables, so it's like guilt-free creamy-hearty-silky-scrumptiousness. Win/win!

Eric thinks I have a bordering-on-unhealthy obsession with squash, and particularly winter squash, but really, isn't it more healthy to have an obsession with squash than it is to have an obsession with chocolate?

(Of course, I'm obsessed with both, so what do I know?)

Anyway, I was hankering for soup a bit ago and happened to have a butternut squash hanging around, so I made a batch of this deliciousness. I loved it so much that I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Smoky Butternut Squash Soup

(I always half this recipe--but we are a family of three and while all three of us will eat this, only one of us gets excited about having it left-over. So, while half makes plenty for our needs, it might not make plenty for yours.)

4 slices bacon (You can use bacon bits here, and it will save you some time, but it's not quite as yummy that way.)
3 pounds (about 2 small) butternut squash
3 Tbs butter
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 small carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 small celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ tsp salt
3 ¾ cups chicken broth
2 tsp sage
¼ tsp pepper

1. (This step can be omitted if you use bacon bits)  In a large heavy pot, cook bacon over medium-low heat, stirring until golden brown and crisp.  Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, then crumble and set aside.  Pour off fat from pot and set pot aside

2.  (If you’ve skipped step one, skip to step three here, and then come back to this step while the other vegetables are cooking) Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Cut each half lengthwise in half again, and using a sharp paring knife, peel the squash.  Cut the squash into ¾-inch chunks.

3.  Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and ¼ tsp salt and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, 10-12 minutes.  Add the squash and broth and bring to a simmer.  Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is very tender, about 15 minutes.

4.  In batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth and return to the pot.  Stir in the sage, and season with the remaining ½ tsp salt and the pepper.  Reheat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle some of the crumbled bacon in the center of each serving.

Serves 8


Can be made as much as two days ahead.  When reheating, thin the soup with a little broth or water.


Friday, December 19, 2014

random photo friday--His and Hers

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These two. Oh, how I love them.




Random Photo Friday - Christmases past edition

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This is my dad.

My uncle (his older brother, mentor, buddy, you name it) gave us a copy of this picture for Christmas last year. It was taken many years ago, on a Christmas Eve when my father was just a young young boy. During the Christmas Eve activities he apparently got too tired and fell asleep. My grandparents wanted a picture, and not having flash bulbs on hand (since they hadn't been invented yet), they leaned a lamp over so that he was directly in the light, and took this picture.

I love it.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Temples by Tourists

Long ago, a friend of mine suggested that whenever I see a temple, I take a picture of it (or more than one picture of it), so that if I wanted, I could have a temple gallery wall in my home with pictures that I'd taken.

As it turns out, I do have a small gallery of about five temple pictures that I hang at the top of our staircase. The temples rotate in and out a little bit, though there are some that are always there, either because I just think they are really pretty (The Salt Lake Temple) or because they hold extra special meaning to our family (The Logan Temple).

So, although not all the temple pictures that I take get a spot in my home, I'm in the habit of taking temple pictures whenever I see a temple. And, lucky for me, in the past two months, I've chanced to see three new (to me) temples. What a treat.

Here are a few of the photos that I've taken in my recent travels:

Rexburg Idaho Temple
(taken during our Yellowstone Adventure)

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Idaho Falls Temple
(Taken on our way home from our Yellowstone Adventure)

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Newport Beach Temple
(Taken in connection with a trip we took to Disneyland last month)


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