Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TIO Tuesday - Broccoli, Grape and Pasta Salad

I was looking for something to take for lunch to a friend's house when I happened upon this recipe on Pinterest (I honestly don't know how I ever managed without this site prior!). It looked great in the picture, so I thought I would give it a try. Typically at potlucks, there is some version of a broccoli salad, most of the time has raisins and sunflower seeds? I've never tried to make it before, and get this, I've never even purchased broccoli before! Crazy, I know. My family isn't terribly fond of broccoli, but when it's fresh like this, I think it tastes much better.
I let Anderson help with the chopping of pecans. He really got into it:
Look at his face, priceless!
I brought the salad for lunch and it was a huge hit. I kept the red onions on the side as Jen doesn't like them, but I highly recommend the salad with them. It was awesome! The crunchy texture, tangy flavor, perfect! You should really make it - today!  
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 (16-oz.) package farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
1 pound fresh broccoli
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
8 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.
2. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
3. Meanwhile, cut broccoli florets from stems, and separate florets into small pieces using tip of a paring knife. Peel away tough outer layer of stems, and finely chop stems.
4. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; add broccoli, hot cooked pasta, and grapes, and stir to coat. Cover and chill 3 hours. Stir bacon and pecans into salad just before serving.

***The only change I made was the pasta, I used the mini-bowties, because they're so cute.
FYI - if/when you make this, you will want the leftovers, don't say I didn't warn you!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday - Jackson

I've missed the last couple Thursday's. There have been various reasons, and they each have ended up with me remarking at the end of the night, "Oh Cr#@! I forgot to be thankful!" It's not that I'm not thankful, just that time runs out and then you're left with feeling guilty for not posting. At any rate, it's Thursday and I'm here to say, I'm Thankful!!!
All jokes aside, Jackson is on my mind. A few weeks ago I received an email from the school nurse that his vision wasn't that great. It was 20/60 in his left eye. This was all GREEK to me. Huh?! What does that mean? I shot off a reply asking for more details and was met with a short response, you should probably have him checked out. Well, okay, sure, get right on that, add it to the list. But, what does that mean? I mean, Brad and I don't have any issues with sight, I know 20/20 is ideal, but I have no idea what any numbers mean beyond that. I called a friend and asked her what to do, she said she heard about a Dr. that their family goes to, and I called them.

I was reluctant to tell Jackson about the appointment because he had no idea he had any vision problems, the nurse never told him and he has never complained to us about headaches or anything. I told him a couple of days prior and he kind of freaked out. I talked him through it and eventually we made it to the appointment.
I sat with him in the room and watched him trying to read the letters on the screen.
It was devastating.
It was so hard to sit there and see him struggle as he tried to read the letters. He just couldn't see them. How could I have missed this?
At this point, I don't think Jack quite understood what it was all going to mean. I never mentioned to him that he might need glasses. Actually, I was hoping that we could just fix his "problem" with a patch or something and call it good. Maybe I was in denial as well.

The Dr dilated his eyes and asked us to come back a little later to get a better idea of what was going to be needed. We knew he was far-sighted and couldn't see the 3D images (why did I pay for him to go to those movies?!) but beyond that, the only way to tell was to continue the exam and see what kind of damage had been done to his eyes.

We leave the office and I am overwhelmed with guilt. Why didn't I know it was this bad? How could I have missed this? All those papers they send home after their school exams, did I just miss it and throw it away? Where are those papers now? Can I find them? Did I save them? Does the school have copies?  How many years has it been? What kind of a mom doesn't know her kid can't see? Am I that distracted? How can I help my son?

It might seem a little dramatic to those of you that have glasses or someone in your family does. Actually, everyone in my immediate family does, as well as Brad's, to varying degrees. But, we don't, so it's different for us. It's never been an issue that has impacted us in this way. Jackson is the first.
So, this is my new Jackson. Complete with specs that make him look so smart - as if he needed that - and very handsome.
I love this guy! My first boy, so strong and sweet (when he wants to be), full of life and vigor, ready for a challenge, eager to learn (how I love that the most), and an awesome brother.
I am thankful for my Jackson, so very thankful.

~ Misty

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TIO Tuesday - Chocolate Granola Bars

My kids are always starving when they get home from school. I know that's not any different from anyone else's children. In an effort to be a little healthier, I found these homemade granola snacks. This is the reason I bought the wheat germ about two months ago! So finally, I made the snacks. They were a hit with the kids, their eyes were wide seeing the chocolate.  I know I'll be making them again. Which is a good thing since I still have a huge jar of wheat germ to use up.

I followed the recipe pretty well. Just didn't use "natural" peanut butter (skippy this time) and not a "local" honey. Other than that, all else was the same.

Chocolate Granola Bars
Here’s what you need:
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/3 cup local honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup oats (not quick oats)
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup chocolate chips (Mini work best, but it doesn’t really matter.)

What to do:
1. Melt the butter, peanut butter and honey in a pot over medium to low heat, stirring constantly. Turn off the burner when melted.
2. Pour in the cup of oats and the wheat germ. Stir til combined.
3. Wait til it cools and stir in the coconut and chocolate chips. Or, if you’re impatient with things like this, like I am, go ahead and dump it all right in. The result will be a more uniform chocolate taste.
4. Pour into foil-lined 8 X 8 pan and stick in the fridge.
5. Once cooled, flip out (the bars….not you) onto cutting board and cut to the size you like.

Oh, and next time, I will double the recipe!!!

 ~ Misty

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TIO Tuesday - Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata

I'm starting to realize that my failures are going to become more frequent. As I try to venture out of my comfort zone, or my family's, I think it's easier to fail. For instance, I tried a dish from this month's issue of Real Simple. It was headlined in their feature of four one-dish dinners, advertising to be easy and taste great. I was super-pumped to try it. I enthusiastically purchased the necessary ingredients, giddy that I might be able to get my family to eat spinach. I even tried to sneak in some whole-wheat pasta. I smiled as I whisked together the white sauce, might have even hummed? To top it off, I mentioned it on facebook to a friend that I was trying out a new one, just one of many mistakes that could have tipped me off. I'm thinking now about "pride" - thanks Tim Boettger, there's nothing like a little humility in the kitchen. At any rate, it all looked like the glossy magazine picture:
I mean, look at it - one-dish, easy ingredients, not too long to make, how could I screw it up? Well, for the record, I have no idea, but it was horrible! I took a few bites, was instantly sorry I had dished it up to my kids to eat, simultaneously wondering what we would eat now that I tried to make them eat THAT!
I gave them a bunch of fruit and called it good. Brad and I had left over pizza from my brother later that night, thanks Ronnie!
Now that I've covered that disaster, we're on to this weeks SUCCESS!
After my previous failure, I sulked to my backup of Pinterest pinned recipes. I had to find something, time was running out. I apparently had pinned a recipe from Plain Chicken a while ago (I love her site btw), my pin read as "Have to try this!" I checked it all out and imagine my surprise when the recipe called for capers? Why yes, I do have those, still unopened in my cupboard for a previously forgotten recipe, yay for procrastination! I set about making the recipe and given the rather chilly climate, opted to use my inside grill:
I really like this grill pan, it has a smooth option on the other side. I greased it liberally with some olive oil and grilled my chicken right on the stove top. Perfect option for this time of year.
The whole recipe came together beautifully. Again, I was giddy with anticipation, and this time I was rewarded with an excellent meal. As I plated it on a large platter, I had to keep Hailey from stealing little pieces of the penne. It's a perfect dish to serve family style as I did. I doubled the entire recipe, I'll make my notes at the end. When Brad tried it, the first thing he said was, "This tastes like something from the Olive Garden." I'll take that as a compliment.
One important note, it has a strong lemon flavor. If you're not a fan, you can pass or just reduce the lemon amount. Brad did say it was a nice change from what we normally have. 
And what's even better, it was inspired by The Pioneer Woman, whom I love, love, love!

Juice of 1 lemon (3Tbsp)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp basil or oregano
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups dried penne pasta
2 Tbsp butter
Juice of 2 lemons (6 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
2 tsp dried basil
2 Tbsp capers
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine first 6 ingredients and mix well. Place chicken in a Ziploc bag and pour marinade over chicken. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. When ready, grill until done. Allow chicken to rest for a few minutes and then slice into strips to serve over pasta.

While chicken is grilling. Cook pasta according to directions (10-12 minutes). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain. In same sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in garlic and lemon juice. Pour in half and half and whisk until hot. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add the parmesan cheese, basil and capers, and heat until cheese is melted. Check the consistency of the sauce and add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Toss in pasta.
Serve in pasta bowls with grilled chicken on top. Sprinkle with more parmesan if desired.

***My notes:
I mentioned before I doubled the recipe. I used the chicken breasts from Fareway, so I pounded them a little thinner before I marinated them. I neglected to read the part about "overnight" so they sat in the fridge for about an hour before I made the dish. It still had a great flavor, so I think it's a matter of time and preference. The lemon flavor definitely would have been more pronounced had I marinated them as the recipe noted. I also used 1/2 tsp each of basil and oregano since I doubled it. I think a general Italian seasoning would work fine as a substitute.

I did a whole box of penne pasta, a considerable amount more of butter, only the juice of one lemon because I ran out (I would keep this the same next time so it's not too overpowering), and a full cup of heavy cream (duh!). The other ingredients were doubled as noted.
Yes, you do need the full amount of pasta water. I saved it just in case, and found it necessary to get the cream the right consistency.

This is a little more detailed than some of my other recipes, but it's worth it! Really, the only thing out of the ordinary are the capers. And some of the comments on her page say they left them out. Please try this one and let me know what you think. I loved it and can't wait to make it again!

I almost hesitate to add this part, but I did have a super easy side with it, Mini Garlic Monkey Breads
Annaliese helped me put these together as we waited for the pasta water to boil. They are a fun thing to do with the kids and they loved them. It's a nice change to the standard canned biscuit.  
Don't they look yummy?!
Mini Garlic Monkey Breads
◦2 (7.5 oz) cans buttermilk biscuits
◦6 Tbsp butter, melted
◦3 cloves garlic, minced
◦2 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
◦1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus 2 Tbsp. additional to sprinkle on top if desired

1.Cut biscuits into 4 pieces and place in a bowl. I like to use kitchen shears of a pizza cutter to the cut up the biscuits.
2.Combine the melted butter, garlic, parsley, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese together and pour over the biscuit pieces.
3.Gently toss the biscuit pieces to get evenly coated with the butter mixture.
4.Using a 12 cup muffin tin, place 6-7 pieces of the coated biscuit dough into each muffin cup. Use the additional 2 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top of the breads in the muffin cups.
5.Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 12 mini garlic monkey breads.

p.s. I "might" have used a tad bit more butter on this one?

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

~ Misty

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I was able to finish painting the first floor this weekend, with a little help of course - thanks Chris! We also had the stone started on the fire place. I think that will be done this weekend.
The darker color on the window is the same as on the North wall in the kitchen and very close to the color of the front door. 
The stone around the built-in bookshelf is done. That will all be framed out in white later. 
The cabinet building is in full swing now. We've started placing some of them to get an idea. I think Brad will start hanging them this weekend. He also needs to build the surround for the stone that will be over the cook top and the vent hood.
Things are moving quickly!!!

~ Misty

TIO Tuesday - Perfect Zesty Chicken Tortilla Bake

Today's TIO is fresh out of the oven! I was going through my old food magazines and came across this recipe in a Holiday '09 Food & Family magazine.  This is further confirmation that, yes, I do need to keep these old magazines. I enjoy the Kraft recipes because it's usually something I already have in my refridgerator or pantry.This recipe was no exception. The other thing I liked was the make one, freeze one option.
The dish on the left is the one for tonight, the other is the freezer meal, prior to baking.
I love the Glad Ware pans. They are worth the money to have and use for freezer meals. I have used them often when I bring a meal to someone, not having to worry if it was returned or not. Also,  they're much more sturdy than a foil pan and easy to reuse.   
This is it, fresh out of the oven. I like to place mine on a bed of chips and lettuce. I made a few changes to the recipe, but nothing major. Notes are below the recipe. Overall, the kids were half and half, Annaliese and Anderson thought it was too spicy but the other kids were okay with it. That's partly my fault, I used hot salsa instead of medium...

1/2cup MIRACLE WHIP Dressing
1/2cup flour
3cups milk
1pkg. (8 oz.) KRAFT Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
1-1/2lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2cup TACO BELL® HOME ORIGINALS® Thick 'N Chunky Salsa
1/2cup chopped fresh parsley
16 flour tortillas (6 inch)

HEAT oven to 375°F.
WHISK dressing and flour in medium saucepan until well blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened. Add 1 cup cheese; cook until melted, stirring constantly. Reserve 1 cup sauce.
STIR chicken, salsa and parsley into remaining sauce; spoon 1/3 cup down center of each tortilla. Roll up. Place 8 roll-ups, seam-sides down, in each of 2 (13x9-inch) baking dishes sprayed with cooking spray; top with reserved sauce and remaining cheese.
BAKE 25 min. or until heated through.

I have no idea how many cups of chicken you get out of 1 1/2 lbs, so I guessed. I used around 3 cups or so, I probably could have used more.
I didn't have fresh parsley, so I used a couple tablespoons of dried parsley.
I spiced up the salsa a bit and used more cheese.
I misread the recipe and used larger tortillas than what it called for, but I'm sure that's a preference thing. You could easily substitute a whole wheat or veggie tortilla if you like.
The link has the nutrition facts listed and some suggestions if you would like to make it a little healthier. I think it's great just the way it is.


~ Misty

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I want to preface this post by stating that I'm very thankful for ALL my children! From time to time, I plan on featuring each one individually and today it's Annaliese's turn. I am very thankful for my Miss Annaliese. I'm thankful for her patience, her good nature, her sensitivity, her thoughtfulness and genuine love for others.  She is one of the kindest people I know. She notices things about other people and is always the one to give a compliment. She shares with her siblings, even when they aren't as kind to her. She is always smiling and even bashful when she's by herself.  Annaliese is on my mind today because we are going out on a date with her this evening. Last year for her birthday (in April) I gave her this certificate:
We gave her a couple other gifts as well, but I thought this would be good for her. She seems to get lost in the mix sometimes, being the middle child. And she is so nice about it, she doesn't really bring attention to herself. In an effort to try and change this, I'd like to be more intentional about spending one on one time with her. (Actually, all the kids could benefit from this - but especially Annaliese) So, this was almost a year ago and we are just now taking her out. How terrible is that? She finally has been asking about it and I didn't want to put it off any longer. I know she's excited about it and to top it off, the other kids are jealous.
But, that's okay, tonight is just ANNALIESE!
I love her smile! 
I'm so thankful for this beautiful little girl with a heart of gold!
~ Misty