Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Hike That Wasn't and More Feasting

One of the many things I miss about Virginia was all the hiking we got to do.  We have visited our local wildlife refuge many times, but for some reason I never really gave attention to the many trails they have there (you might think I believed all the trails are only in VA).  We knew the weather was going to turn cold later in the afternoon, so we decided to beat the cold and go for a picnic and hike first.  The freeze beat us though, and we are wimps anymore when it comes to windy cold weather.  We did enjoy our picnic, but some of us headed to the van to get out of that wind and possibly refused to hike until the temps rose above 50 degrees.  I'm not naming names, but some of us behaved like we'd never lived any where further North than Texas.

It is just as well we headed home because I had planned a favorite dinner for #2 who is leaving on the 1st.
Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts are a favorite around here.  You can add any root vegetable to this and get wonderful results.
Just choose your veggies and in a bowl toss them with this dressing  before pouring out onto a prepared pan.
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbs Maple Syrup
Once I've tossed the veggies in this marinade and spread them evenly over the prepared cookie sheet, I sprinkle kosher salt and basil over all.  Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes.
After the fun of his surprise visit home, he pretty  much begged me to make him his favorite Spiral Ham & Macaroni & Cheese.  
Mac & Cheese:
1 box small elbow macaroni - boil until done then drain
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk (sometimes more)
4 cups grated cheddar cheese
In sauce pan melt the butter.  Once melted whisk in the flour until a roux forms.  Add to the roux the milk, slowly.  Once well blended with roux add cheddar cheese - but only 3 cups.  Stir until cheese melts.  In a prepared 9 x 13 inch pan add drained elbow mac and cheese blend.  Stir until well blended in the 9 x 13 inch dish.  Sprinkle cheese on top and bake at 350 for about 20 mins.  I usually broil it for about 2 mins at the end in order to crisp up the cheese on top.  Sooo yummy!
For dessert I made our favorite Brownie Pudding, served with berries and fresh whipped cream.  This recipe comes from her Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients, which I love, love, love!  Actually, I love everything she makes.  It always turns out amazing!
Today, I'm cooking again in preparation of our New Years Day meal which we will enjoy tonight so that #2 can take part.  Roast Beef, turnip greens, black eyed peas, cornbread  and possibly an Amish Apple Pie.  I love having all my children home, and feeding good food to all my rowdy boys and my little girl.  Christmas has been magical this year, and my heart is full!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Minestrone & Christmas Treats

Minestrone *recipe at end of post* just seemed like the perfect hearty soup after a day of baking treats for Christmas.  I think this is a tradition we will keep, we all enjoyed it so much!  I especially appreciated that it could simmer on the stove with little effort from me while I decorated and baked with the kids.  I think this would be crock pot easy too.

My most favorite Christmas cookie cookbook, Christmas Cookies from Southern Living  has gone missing and I was lost without it this year.  Thankfully, Pinterest is a great resource.  I found the Gingerbread Men recipe here at The Comfort of Cooking.  I like soft gingerbread men and these did not disappoint.  If I still have not found my Southern Living cookbook, then I'll make these again.

The kids have so much fun decorating these guys.

A few red hots, some colored sugar and a lot of frosting ~voila instant mess, I mean party!

I use disposable frosting bags found at any craft store, and also those little decorating bottles.  My frosting is basically:
1/2 pkg cream cheese
2 - 3 TBS heavy whipping cream
2-3 cups powder sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
-keep adding either whipping cream or powder sugar to get the consistency you want.

For my peanut butter blossoms, I just use my regular peanut butter cookie recipe and roll them into balls.
Once they are done baking I press a Hershey's kiss on top which sorta flattens them out a bit.

I started making this the year Soule Mama shared it on her blog. The recipe actually comes from Orangette though and is a MUST make for the Holidays!

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion diced
2 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
2 cartons beef broth  (the liquid measurements can be adjusted depending on how thick or thin you like your soup)
1 small package frozen mixed veggies
1/2 cup small shell noodles
1 can Cannellini beans (drain juice)
1 can black beans (drain)
1 can kidney beans (drain)
1 Tbs Basil
2 Tbs Kosher salt
1/2 Tbs Oregano
1/2 cup red wine

Brown ground beef with diced onion.  In soup pot add ground beef, and all the ingredients except the small shell noodles.  Bring everything to a simmer and add small shells.  Simmer cover on low heat until ready to serve.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

An Engagement

Our son proposed to his girlfriend and she said yes!
We are very happy to welcome her into our family.  She will finish her LVN program before they begin planning the wedding, so a date has not been set.  His being a Marine, will make this tricky but once we know the date I will share.  Most likely we are looking at a 2015 wedding!
Our family is growing and so is my heart!

Jonah and Janie have called off their engagement.  
There isn't much to share, it is really their story after all.  
I will say how much we care about her and wish her the best, it was not 
an easy break up, but it was the right decision for them both.
They neither one wish hurt on the other one.

Christmas Gifts for 2013

*I am placing this post here mainly for reference, so that I will remember next year*
In our family we set a $$ limit on each child and focus on family gifts.  

Family Gifts we received and gave:
The kids have loved every single second of this and made cleaning out the garage suddenly worth it!

Years ago we had a soft tip electronic dart board that the boys played until it wore out.  We thought it was time for a new one and the rounds of Dart have been non-stop.  A great gift idea for middle school aged boys on up!

This is for our younger kids.  We have been through more than 8 trampolines in our family and even had 2 at one time.  In order to ensure safety though, no one but our children can jump on it.  We recognize there are safety concerns with trampolines but have a long history of FUN with them, so the rule stays in place so that our kids can enjoy!

Spalding 79351 Backboard/Rim Combo with 44-Inch PolyCarbonate Backboard
Our old backboard had seen MUCH better days, the pole was still good though.
The kids each received a $25 gift card to Target also - which they truly enjoyed using on some after Christmas Sales.

Kids Gifts:

#1 (age 21)

This is not the shirt we got him but it looks like similar.  The one we got sold out, but it was Organic and had a Rosary on the front.  Inside the Rosary was written :  "Your Father would like to hear from you.  Use my direct line.  Love, Mom
We also got this shirt for #3.

#2 (age 19)


#3 (age 18)
Got the same shirt as #1 and he asked for a car (turned 16 this year) so...

#4 (age 16)

#4 is as close to a gamer as we allow, with each of his paychecks he has purchased himself a few months of 'live'.  We thought he would love just having the membership.  He follows our Technology guidelines without question so we didn't worry about giving him this gift.

Once again they sold out of the actual shirt we got him.  His says Catholic, but the words have within them symbols of our faith.

#5 (age 14)
Also got the shirt that #4 received, much like the one pictured above

This watch is the most beautiful Men's watch I've ever seen.  It really does catch your eye and #5 loves it.  He has gone through more watches than anybody I know so  I really read reviews before purchasing.  So far, so good!

#6 (age 12)
The Dr. Who Fan!

He bought the blanket below with his own money he got for Christmas.

#7 (age 9)


 Password Journal 8
This one has been non-stop fun for her!

Rainbow Loom
She has taken this to play with her cousins, watched the videos to learn more designs and over all had a blast with this gift.  I had never heard of this before but my Mom knew she would love it and she does!

#8 (age 8)

The price was not this high when we bought this.

#9 (age 6)



For my husband I found something very special:

Way back when Pete was in the Navy (pre-internet days too).  He was on a Westpac with the U.S.S. Nimitz.  While deployed in the Middle East he commissioned to have a St. Joseph's ring made by a merchant jeweler.  There was a conflict between Taiwan and China during this time (1996) and the Nimitz was deployed there.  Pete was never able to return to the merchant and pick up his ring. He has wished he could have many times over the years.  To find one for him was such a gift and I was overjoyed to give it to him for Christmas!

Christmas was wonderful this year and we have been blessed by family and one another.  I share these links for my own memory (which can be fuzzy) but also as a gift giving guide, especially for boys.
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