Thursday, January 29, 2015

Home Sweet Home

I'm the kind of gal that a certain group of people hate to see coming.

The guy at the car repair shop, the tech support people, every employee at Home Depot and Lowes, and maybe most of all, contractors.
I'm not rude, or cheap and I don't even nag about time lines too much. 

What I am is CLUELESS.
You can tell by the caps that this is a serious issue.

I have a specific end result in mind with no sense about how to get there(it should be easy), how long it will take(it shouldn't take long), or how much it will cost(this part gives the hubs a minor coronary, daily.)
So, when I had the brainstorm to renovate the 1860s farmhouse my Grandpa Zimmerman was born in, I went forth with reckless abandon, as usual.

I met with several contractors and each had his own strengths and creative ideas. 
One was $40k over budget, not good for the coronary patient.
One was $40k under budget, but didn't include everything we wanted.
And one was right on the nose, included everything we wanted and seemed to know exactly what to do. 

Bill and Kenny of Martin's Home Improvements were now my partners in crime and home renovations.
These 2 are saints among men. They dealt with me daily. Can you imagine?  
They explained all of the technicalities, told me what I needed to do and helped me make decisions. 
I changed my mind, made additions, took things away, asked for advice, and sometimes just told them to decide. 
Yes, we paid them, but I know their true heart was in the business of giving my family and I the home we wanted.
And they did.
I couldn't be more grateful.

And, after all this training I feel equipped to build something.
But not a house because I'm never doing this again.

This recipe(originally from Betty Crocker) is quick, easy and Delicious! It uses a shortcut method, which I don't always like, but this one is good. I've made my own adjustments and additions and am always asked for the recipe, so here it is!

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

1 pouch sugar cookie mix
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Blend cookie mix, butter, egg, flour, almonds, cranberries and 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips and milk until a stiff dough forms.
  3. Divide dough in half and press into a rectangle on one side of a cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough on the other side of the pan. 
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  5. Cut each rectangle crosswise into 3/4 inch slices. Place slices cut side down on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 more minutes. 
  6. Cool completely on cooling rack.
  7. Microwave the remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips for 30-60 seconds until smooth.
    Drizzle chocolate over cooled biscotti. Let stand until chocolate is set. 
Feel free to get creative with the add-ins! 
How about white chocolate chips, dried cherries and pecans?
Or, butterscotch chips and chopped cashews?
Endless possibilities!

What'd You Do This Weekend

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It's January, Smile!

Today my 2 year old said to me, "Mommy, it's a good day. The sun is shining right in my eyes, and I'm happy." 

These words of wisdom snapped me out of my Blah, it's Wednesday and it's bitter cold, and the sun is reflecting off of this stinking snow and making me squint, which is probably giving me wrinkles kind of mood.  

January is tough.
At least for me. 
Maybe it's the calm after the storm of the holidays. Or the cold weather. Or the lack of sun. Or the fact that it's still quite a while until spring. It's probably a combination of all of that.

The good news is, this too shall pass. 

In the meantime, my January survival techniques include:
  • Daily physical activity, because we know we feel better when we move
  • Vitamin D supplements, because it might be May before we see the sun again
  • Numerous daily Facebook chats with the funniest, most brilliant women I know, for sanity
  • Cooking and eating lots of vegetables, because they're tasty and good for you!
So here's an easy winter vegetable recipe . I even added bacon, for health purposes. 
Don't be afraid. 
Brussel sprouts are delicious and one of the most undervalued veg around. 

Give it a try. 
It's January, whaddya got to lose?

2 pounds brussel sprouts, washed and halved
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
I forgot to take the pic until after we ate almost all of them!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl combine sprouts, bacon, olive oil salt and pepper. 
  3. Dump sprout mixture onto prepared pan and spread evenly.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes or until tender.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy New Year!

Well, I survived, did you?

I'm lovingly referring to the holidays, of course.

And I truly do love them, but when January roles around, I'm ready. 

I feel a slight twinge of melancholy as an end comes to the parties, decorations, shopping, wrapping, entertaining, eating, cooking, family gatherings and on and on and on. But then I realize it's a new year and there's lots to look forward to. It almost sounds fun to get organized and tidy everything up. Almost.

Okay. Let's be honest. It's fun to buy all the organizational stuff. The cute baskets and bins and closet organizers. The actual organizing isn't my specialty, and the novelty usually wears off around January 6th. 

But organize, I must. Hopefully during the process I'll come across the bag of overdue library books that are accruing fines, my son's book bag and the cheese grater. 

With the new year comes the end of Christmas vacation and back to school. 
To help cheer my son on as he headed back to school yesterday, I made his favorite meal last night. Dough balls(gnocchi) and meatballs are a staple around here. 

I hope you'll try this simple, hearty meatball recipe with your favorite people!

Meatballs and Sauce

1-1.5 lbs lean ground beef
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg
1 T. parsley flakes
1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
2 T. olive oil
2-28oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2 t. dried basil
2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. salt

  1. Mix ground beef, garlic, egg, parsley, salt and breadcrumbs with hands until combined. Do not over mix. 
  2. Form into balls and refrigerate for an hour or more. 
  3. Heat olive oil in large skillet. 
  4. Gently place meatballs in hot skillet and brown, flipping once. 
  5. Add crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt. 
  6. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. Serve with your favorite pasta or alone.  
These meatballs freeze well and are great in the crockpot too!