Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Go pick your own….

Fruit, that is!  I just found the best way to get fresh fruit, I picked it myself! And I didn’t have the stress or work of growing it.  All I had to do was show up early on a Saturday morning, use one of their buckets and go to town!

Me and my bounty. Yum! Just looking at it makes me hungry for more!

And to town I went! Big time! We (read I) picked 6 lbs, yes, POUNDS of fresh, organically grown blueberries and they are incredible! I wish I’d known about these a long time ago! I”m sure they’ve been around a while, but I”m a little slow on the uptake sometimes!  It was so much fun. My kids, well, they stuck with it for about 15 min (daughter) before asking if it was time for donuts yet. My boy, well, he became the self-appointed ‘sorter’ picking out the ones that were not ripe or removing stems that had accidentally made it into the bucket. Me, well, I couldnt’ stop myself. The people at this farm, Thunderbird, had acres of blueberries planted and it seemed like everywhere I looked there were the beautiful purply-blue berries. It’s a very well tended farm. The rows and plants are nicely spaced so there’s plenty of room to move around between and pick til your heart’s content. Or stuffed full! They also have blackberries and I think raspberries.

Today for the first time I made a blueberry buckle and it was DELISH! I will be making it again, along with blueberry pancakes, muffins, waffles, and anything else I can put them on. And don’t think I’m not eating them by the fistful! by this time next week, I fully intend to be purple! Kind of like the girl on the movie ‘Willy Wonka’! Only not as snotty as she was!

Even though it looks like she's inspecting a berry, she's really pouting and ready for donuts!

There are some farms around here that have peaches, apples,  thornless blackberries, strawberries and other things you can pick yourself. I would highly recommend this for a few reasons.

1. you are supporting your local growers hence your local economy.

2. The produce is incredibly fresh, I mean really, you can’t get much fresher than picking it yourself!

3. It may be organically grown, you can check with the farmer.

4. It cuts down on pollution because it isnt’ shipped to a different state for sale.

5. Because it isnt’ shipped, and they don’t have to pay someone to harvest the fruit, the prices are much cheaper. For instance, at the grocery stores around here, a pint of blueberries might be on sale for $3.99. yesterday, I paid $3/lb, yes, a POUND.  I filled the bucket and would’ve gotten more!

In my mind, there is no downside. It’s an opportunity to be outside, in the fresh air enjoying nature, with my children and the bonus is we get delicious fruit and now I’m in search of new recipes! ou just can’t beat that!  You can check the link below and see if there are any in your area, I bet there are! Give it a try! And different fruits are ripe at different times of the year, so theoretically, you could be out there all the time!

www.pickyourown.org

It’s a great website. Now, if you use it and find fruit in your area, I wanna know what you got!

This is the Facebook page of the local farm I visited

https://www.facebook.com/thunderbirdberryfarm

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Penne Beef Florentine

I love this dish! My children even love it, which makes me like it that much more! And once again, it’s a meal in a pan, but hey, who can complain about that? Less dishes to clean, right?  I must apologize, I didn’t get any pics, we were starving and ate it  before I could get my camera out!

Penne Beef Florentine

1lb ground beef

1 pkg whole wheat penne (12oz)

3 cloves garlic pressed

1 pkg fresh spinach (2oz) chopped

1 can diced tomatoes, drained

2 cans tomato sauce (8oz)

1 can beef broth

1-1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 C shredded mozzarella

What to do:

1. brown ground beef with garlic. drain.

2.cook pasta according to pkg directions in salted water. drain.

3. put tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, Worcestershire in with beef.

4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until sauce begins to thicken.

5. Add spinach and stir until spinach is wilted.

6. Toss beef/tomato mixture with pasta. Sprinkle cheese on top and cover until cheese is melted.

There you go, can’t get much easier than that! If you like your spinach pieces larger, you can just do a coarse chop, or even leave the pieces whole. We discovered last time that my son likes the spinach to be in tiny pieces. Ok with me! If that will help him eat it better, I’m all for it! Let me know what you think, it’s Italian-esque, without being typical Italian.

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You win some, you lose some

Well, my attempt at a Rocco recipe fell flat, literally. It was a healthy/low fat/diet recipe for brownies. Hey! Low fat, diet brownies? Sign me up! Yeah, not so much. Sorry Rocco, but they just underwhelmed us. I really did have high hopes for them. I knew they would have a different taste and texture than what we’re used to. I mean, really, Betty Crocker is pretty generic, right? The base for these brownies is pureed black beans. Hmmm, protein and fiber in a tasty dessert treat? I was excited to try my hand at them.

Here’s the deal. They are very flat. And I mean, fluffy pancake flat. About as dense as a mud pie. Other than that, they’ve got a great chocolate flavor! I just wish they could’ve been more brownie-like, rather than deflated fudge-like.

My children didn’t go for them, which actually didn’t surprise me. Ah, well. Can’t win them all, hey, Rocco?

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Something New

Ok friends. I’m trying a new recipe. But that’s nothing new, you say. Well, here’s what is new: it’s a Rocco DiSpirito recipe. I’ve never tried any of his. I normally get my recipes from magazines with reader submitted pieces. Nothing against the celebrity chefs, just some of the ‘normal people’ recipes seem to be more appealing to my skills and my family. (picky children anyone?)

So, it’s in the oven as we speak. It should be ready for after school snack today, I”ll let you know how it goes. It’s an extra special brownie recipe. I’ll give you my review and share the recipe after I have a chance to quality control it for you! Check back tomorrow! Oh, and wish me luck, it’s quite a different recipe!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies TO DIE FOR!!!

Don’t you just love bakery cookies? When they’re really big and chewy and just so good you could eat a dozen by yourself? yep. Me too. Here’s a surprise that you’re so going to love! You can make cookies that look like they came from a bakery! Seriously, you can! I used to be the refrigerated/pouch mix kind of girl. Never really gave scratch baking much of a thought. What changed? You know, I don’t really know! But I do know that my family is pretty darned happy when I break out my stand mixer! If you’ve never baked cookies from scratch, don’t be afraid! it will be worth all the effort. Well, I can’t say that, what I should say is, it’s really not hard. Yes it takes a bit more than cutting a slice off of a log that is loaded with mystery ingredients and been sitting in a refrigerated case at the store for God knows how long. But the outcome, well, read on and take a look at my pics and you’ll see what I mean!

I can’t take credit for this recipe, I’m telling you that up front, but they are freaking amazing! The difference in mine vs the original is Crisco and a grinder. You can use butter for these cookies, but what I like to use are the butter flavor Crisco sticks. It mixes well and won’t scorch like butter can.  The grinder? Is for the oatmeal. If you like a finer texture, you can run the oatmeal thru the food processor or coffee grinder. I personally like the texture the whole oatmeal gives the cookies. Either way, they come out really good. The other thing you can do, is use all brown sugar instead of half and half.  It gives it a chewier texture.

Tell me those don't look like they came from your favorite bakery! 12 of these babies take up my entire cooling rack!

See if you can spot the secret ingredient and I’ll tell you what it is at the end.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!

1/2C rolled oats

 2-1/4  C flour

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1C butter (or crisco butter flavor sticks)

3/4 C packed brown sugar

3/4 C granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 tsp lemon juice

3 C chocolate chips

1-1/2C chopped walnuts (if desired)

1. preheat oven to 350F.  in one large bowl, mix dry ingredients and set aside.

2. cream butter/crisco and sugars, vanilla, and lemon juice.

3. add eggs to sugar mix and mix on medium until fluffy.

4. mix in the dry ingredients, pausing between each addition to give time for them to become blended with the sugar mix.

5. add in the chocolate chips and walnuts if you’re using them.

6. if you have an ice cream scooper, use that to get consistent size/shaped cookies. If not, you can use a 1/4C measuring cup. shape cookie dough into balls and place 1-1/2 to 2″ apart on a greased baking sheet.

7. bake 16 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Cook more time for crispier cookies. For chewy cookies use less time and remove from the oven when the edges are golden.

8. Allow to cool on baking sheet about a minute, then remove to racks to cool completely. ha ha! Or until they won’t scorch the roof of your mouth before eating!

I am not a little girl, and 1/8C cookie dough makes a cookie nearly as big as my palm! All I need now is a glass of milk!

To maintain the chewiness, store them in an airtight container.

Oh, the secret ingredient?  It’s lemon juice. The acidity in the lemon juice activates the baking soda making the cookies lighter. YUM! let me know if you try these! You won’t regret it, I promise!

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I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…..

Well my friends, it’s happened. After two weeks of  cabin fever, I have come to the conclusion that eating things like chicken and dumplings, beef stew, pizza, and upside down German chocolate cake really aren’t the best way to continue fitting into my favorite jeans. Nope, it’s really not. it’s a great way to work up a shopping trip. But I don’t know a single person who wants to go shopping for that reason, including me! I used to be able to eat pretty much what I wanted, in moderation, and have no problems. I was at a stable weight for a long time. I’m not skinny, but I felt good about myself, and how I looked. Then it happened: I turned 40 and everything slowed down and started catching up with me. Boo.

Do you know how easy it is to grab a handful of pretzels and dunk them in the tub of frosting? Well, it’s apparently way too easy. So, once again, here I am. On a mission to shed my extra winter insulation before I am expected to put on shorts or *GASP* a swimsuit. Here’s what I”m doing, and I hope by putting this out there to my friends, it will help keep me accountable: I am keeping a log of everything I eat. I think if I’m actually keeping track it will be easier for me to feel bad about those pretzels with frosting! I am increasing my exercise, it’s much easier to go for a walk when the sidewalks are not covered in a sheet of ice or buried under 2 ft of snow, and the temperatures are warmer. Today was 71! I’ll take that every day of the year!  I am trying to be more conscious of what’s going in, how much is going in, and what I”m doing to need the calories.

Oh, and I”m cutting out my daily glass of vino. I know it’s not a ton of calories, but it affects the way your body burns calories or stores them. Your body cannot store the calories from alcohol (don’t ask me why, I can’t remember), but what happens is your body burns the calories from the alcohol first, and then stores whatever comes later that is not needed. And that is your physio lesson for the day. I hope you remember what we discussed, there will be a test at the end of this segment.

I will buy a new cookbook I saw that breaks down the calorie content of each recipe and that helps make keeping track easier.

Ok gang. Here we go. Wish me luck, you know it’s not easy and dammit, it was so much more fun putting that extra padding on my butt than it will be getting rid of it! I’ve got one day of about 1500 calories under my belt, but tomorrow will be a challenge, it will involve cooking dinner for the whole fam, not just my kiddos. I will think positively and visualize myself in my jeans.

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What I’m making today….

I seem to be making my butt get a little bigger every day, but….I have several things on my list.

chocolate chip cookies (have to)

rice krispy treats with a valentine twist

chocolate whoopie pies (love the name)

chicken balsamico

french onion soup

santa fe chicken

and I’m sure I’ll find other things to make. My son wants me to make hamburgers, but they’ll have to be done in my grill pan, it’s too cold for me to grill. And I think I’ll just do some simple chicken strips tonight. As soon as I get some pictures, I’ll be sure and share!

I’m just happy we were able to get out yesterday. Our neighborhood streets are atrocious, but thankfully the main roads are fine. I restocked my shelves, since we’re expecting another snowstorm tomorrow. And we went out for pizza. OMG It was delish! Grilled chicken with pesto, spinach, mushrooms and garlic!

No school today, so we’re going to the library and a local bouncy-house place for a little activity.

I’ll share pics and recipes when I’ve got some to share!

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Happy eat-til-you-can’t-see-day!

Hello my friends! I just wanted to post a note and tell you all to have a happy Thanksgiving. Even if you’re one of my UK/European friends, I hope you have a fabulous day. I am thankful for all of you who keep me going. You make me think about things that I hadn’t thought of for a while, give me a laugh, or a helpful tip and I thank you for it. 

I hope your day is blessed with good health, friends, family, and no accidents in the kitchen! Oh, ok, since I said that, I guess I”ll just have to share a story of a Thanksgiving we had about 13 years ago.

We were living in Dallas at the time and I was in college. I had classmates from all over the country and you know poor college students don’t have the funds to fly home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so they normally save their cash for the big one.

Two of my best friends were from New York and going home was out of the question. My husband is a retail manager, so going back home to Oklahoma for me was out of the question as well, that whole black Friday thing and all. So we decided we would have our own little Thanksgiving celebration, just the four of us. Great!

So, I got a ham and our friend Joey, was going to smoke a turkey. MMMM! Joey set up the smoker at the foot of the stairs to our apartment, got it all ready and was going to let it smoke over night. Joey, and his girlfriend Charlanne (one of my BFF’s) stayed in our guest room so Joey could tend the turkey early in the morning, and they wouldn’t have to worry about transporting it an hour away.

It was a great idea. The problem: at some time during the night, the sprinklers came on and put out the coals in the smoker, so when we woke up all excited about this delicious bird that was waiting for us, well, it was only cooked about halfway through. Blech, can you say food poisoning? My husband and Joey tasted some of the meat on the outside and said they thought it was fine, but me? Well, I said thanks but no thanks, I prefer to keep my insides right where they are and don’t care to spend the rest of the weekend praying to that porcelain god for forgiveness for being so daft as to think I could eat something like that!

The bird went straight to the dumpster outside, it was too big for my garbage can.

Guess what! It doesn’t end there. Nope, not quite. So Joey, oh I love Joey, he was just the greatest guy, insisted that we have sweet potatoes. I never liked them, the taste, texture, smell, everything about them repulsed me, but they are tradition for many people and who am I to buck a tradition like that  for such a good friend? Joey bought I think 4 of the biggest sweet potatoes he could find and prepared them in a foil loaf pan. Have you ever seen big sweet potatoes live and in person? those suckers can be heavy, a pound each at least! Joey made his gooey sweet potato creation with maple syrup and marshmallows on top and put it in the oven to bake. When the timer went off, I opened the oven and attempted to remove it from the oven. Did you notice I said attempted? Those foil loaf pans are not designed to accommodate that much weight and as I was taking it out of the oven, the sides buckled and created a spout for this hot, sticky, nasty mess to spill all over my legs (thank God I was wearing jeans) and the floor! Amazingly, I managed to get the pan to the counter before I spilled the whole damn thing and made a mad dash for the shower and jumped in clothes and all! All I could think of was burns from that sticky stuff! When i returned, in clean clothes, I found everyone standing there looking at the mess wide-eyed and in complete disbelief at what had happened. I’m sure I was quite a sight running from the kitchen to the bathroom as if I had something up my, well, you know what I mean. We cleaned up the mess and had a lovely dinner. But I must say, if I never liked sweet potatoes before, I absolutely detested them after!

We moved out of the apartment about a year later and I was still finding sticky spots on the under sides of drawers and cabinet doors! Sheesh, what a mess! I can honestly say, I have not had any other Thanksgiving fiascos quite like that since. Unless you count the time that my grandmother and great aunt were going to come to our house for the very first time and I turned up with strep two days before. But that wasn’t my fault, and they just went to my brother’s house.

Anyway, all that to say, I hope you don’t wear hot, sticky sweet potatoes, or have your bird only half done and get food poisoning!

I am thankful for all the blessings of my life, even the ones I don’t necessarily want!

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Fire extinguisher, anyone?

Whew! That is, me, I’ll be needing the fire extinguisher now! Sorry I’ve been MIA, once again. Life has been crazy busy. I’ve done two big volunteering projects at my children’s school.  And between soccer, being ill for a couple of weeks, and the every approaching holidays, I feel like I’m that proverbial duck. You know what I mean. You see it sitting calmly on the water, just gliding about, not getting anywhere very quickly. While under the water, those little feet are paddling like mad! that has been me. The house went straight to weed and it’s difficult to catch up. But I am nearly there! Thankfully, since next week is Thanksgiving, and we’re having it here! No worries though. It’s all family and they know I’m not the world’s best housekeeper!

I will say that I’ve got several recipes lined up in the queue to get posted. No time now, today is parents/grandparents day at school and I”m having lunch with my most precious son.

Oh, one more bit of exciting news. We are getting our kitchen done by the end of the month and I can’t wait! I wanted it finished before thanksgiving, but it didn’t work out. That’s fine, I’ll have it all finished by Christmas! And new windows, but that’s not nearly as glamorous as a kitchen reno. It will just keep us warmer, since the ones we have now are extremely drafty. BRRR

I promise I’ll get the recipes up this weekend! And most of them have pictures!

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On your marks, get set, COOK!

I know I’ve been kind of absent for a few weeks. Life has been wild and crazy, but this weekend I will have some time and I have about half a dozen recipes to post, and pictures of most!  So get your pots and pans ready because I’m going to have some really delicious and easy recipes coming your way in the next few days!

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