Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Girls' Night

Hmmm...the last Girls' Night Out for me was...probably in 1984, before our oldest daughter was born. No, wait...went to a play with the 'girls' this fall...Anyway, one of my friends from school hosted a 'Sex in the City' Party in her home. What a fun idea! These are the women that I have taught with, and we have been friends for 30 years. There are so few of us experienced teachers left. I eat lunch with teachers that have mothers my age! You already know that I teach FACS...other departments represented here...social studies, gifted, foreign language, science, business, the registrar, and the librarian. Can you guess who does what at school?!
Lots of great food, of course...my favorite to make for the holidays...
Festive Crab Dip
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
Cocktail sauce
Crab meat, flaked
Fresh Parsley
Place brick of cream cheese (lowfat, please) on a pretty serving plate. Drizzle cocktail sauce over the cream cheese. Arrange flaked crab meat on and around the cocktail sauce. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
Now, you can see why this is my favorite...It's attractive and takes only about 10 minutes to prepare. These are ingredients that you can buy ahead and have on hand throughout the holiday season.
One of the girls brought these...
Bacon Wrapped Breadsticks
8 slices Bacon
16 Breadsticks, garlic flavored
3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Cut bacon slices in half lengthwise. Wrap half slice of bacon diagonally around each breadstick. Combine Parmesan and parsley in shallow dish; set aside. Place 4 breadsticks on double layer of paper towels in microwave oven. Microwave on high 2 to 3 minutes or until bacon is cooked through. Immediately roll breadsticks in Parmesan mixture to coat. Repeat with remaining breadsticks.
OK, this recipe is also fast to make and uses ingredients that you have in your refrigerator and pantry.
And who said chips and dip weren't good for you? These with flax and sesame seeds actually had some vitamins and minerals listed.
Yummy with...
Green Olive Dip
8 oz. cream cheese
Small jar stuffed green olives
Heaping tbsp. mayonnaise
Onion, to taste
Drain olive, reserving some liquid. Chop olives and onion. Mix cream cheese, mayonnaise and some of the olive liquid to desired dipping consistency. Stir in olives and onions. Serve as a dip or as a spread on bread or crackers.
Now, here is the best tip of the night. Substitute TOFU for the cream cheese in this dip and it is delicious. My friend recently found out that she is allergic to milk and milk products and was forced to make these changes, however, allergy or not, this is a change that will benefit everyone.
There was only one boy at the party. His name is Cole. I think he is smiling here...and why wouldn't he...he's surrounded by lots of women and good food.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The New Beginnings

After the holidays, we have time to relax and tackle some necessary projects around the house. DD2 has gone through her closet and removed the clothing and shoes that she no longer wears. And what to do with perfectly good clothing? The New Beginnings Center takes donations. The New Beginnings Center is a residential, coeducational group care facility licensed to serve children with behavioral, emotional and educational problems. There are currently 17 girls staying there. Some are there because their families cannot provide proper care. The youngest is 12. Oh, how I wish we could afford to bring them bags of brand new clothes...instead, the best we can do is donate these bags of gently used items. Perhaps, they are having just a little fun going through and trying on the shirts, jeans, sweatpants and pajamas that we left there this afternoon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Man's Job...

Packing the car, that is. When it comes to anything else, I don't think jobs/work should be gender specific. As a FACS teacher, I teach courses in Personal Development, Career Exploration, Family Living, Independent Living, and Child Development. We frequently have these discussions...There is no such thing as 'women's work/men's work'. Except, maybe, for packing the car. The stuff is usually really heavy; it has to go up and usually way in; the outside of the car is usually really dirty; and there is a lot of last minute important stuff to do inside the house.

This might look like she was standing around drinking coffee...but not true. I caught her as she passed through the foyer bringing stuff up and down.
So, this Christmas company is moving on...DD1 will be back to her PA studies on the 5th and her BF is beginning his training at the Police Academy next week. Since it is a residential program, he is moving out of his apartment and storing most of his personal possessions.





We still have DD2 at home for a couple more weeks. Yesterday, we went out to catch some more bargains. We bought 2 Christmas trees...a pencil tree for my Winterfest Craft booth, and a cute little apartment size tree, as she'll be out of the dorm and into her first apartment next year. Yesterday's highlight was going to a movie in the theater...Marley and Me...and we loved it. You will laugh and cry.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sister Slumber Party

I am happy to report that girls do not get too old for a slumber party. The sectional couch in our family room has been the ideal spot, with their heads to the center. Notice that there is also room for a kitty. The 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle is finally finished there on the coffee table between them.
But all good things must come to an end. DD1 and BF are leaving today, as they want to spend time with his parents before their classes start up again. We will still have a 'chickie' in our 'nest' as DD2 and her BF will be home until January 11th.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Things in my House Thursday

Actually, it's the 'Women in my Kitchen' on Christmas Eve. Our family's tradition is to attend Candlelight Worship Services at 5:30 where my husband and sister-in-law are much involved with the music. Then we gather at our home for homemade soup and appetizers. Having our family together is the best part of the holidays. I am missing my mom. Since she is 88, she doesn't travel easily anymore. But, I am so very happy that both of our daughters are able to be here for Christmas this year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my family and friends.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fa La La La La...Lasagna...

Imagine how hard it was to get up and go to work and school today, knowing, that college daughters and a boyfriend are here (Jake, wish you were here, too)...sleeping in till noon, having lunch on their own, baking cookies, wrapping presents, watching movies, relaxing...
Anyway...tomorrow is the end of Term 2...and my Basic Foods classes are preparing for their final project... The Guest Meal. Today, we made our pans of Lasagna and I want to share the recipe with all of you. This is one my family's favorites and can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge till you need to bake it.
SIMPLY THE BEST LASAGNA
1 container Ricotta Cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh Parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 1/2 cups prepared Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. Italian Sausage
1 cup water
12 Lasagna Noodles, uncooked

Mix Ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, chopped parsely, and egg until well blended. Set aside.

Brown hamburger in skillet and break into small pieces. Drain the grease. Pour spaghetti sauce and water into skillet. Stir until well mixed. (This is where you could add chopped onions, green pepper, garlic, celery, if you wish.)

Place 1 cup meat sauce on the bottom of your 9 x 13 baking dish. Layer the noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, shredded mozzarella, and meat sauce. Repeat, ending with sauce. Sprinke remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cover with greased aluminim foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake additional 15 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting for easier serving.

Or...refrigerate overnight...and Day Two...Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes...remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes...Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. This is the perfect recipe for you, if you are busy with family and need to have an easy plan for dinner!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What'cha Workin' On Wednesday?

Notice...there are not many red and green balls toward the bottom of our tree. That's what happens when you have two kitties in the house.
And what am I working on tonight? Wrapping... there's a little something for everyone under the tree tonight!






Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa Sweetie

I have been creating things since I was a little girl...always some project in progress...
Naturally, one cannot keep everything...however, I do find it hard to part with some of my Santas...they seem to take on a personality as soon as you finish their faces.

So over the years...I've sold a lot of Santas, given a lot of Santas as gifts, and I've build this little collection for my family.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dakota Blizzard

This is the path the my hubby had to clear just to get out the front door today. He works for State Government and they never close...We, however, had school canceled. In addition to the snow...it is dangerously cold. It is -14 degrees and the wind chill is -40. So...no better time to have an unexpected day off, than one week before the holidays. I am spending my day finishing my Christmas cards, cleaning, decorating, making shopping lists, wrapping, laundry, and of course correcting school papers.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Santa...Is that You?

Did I just say...just the other day...'Nooo, our cats don't climb the tree anymore...they have gotten too old, too big, and too lazy...
I guess I lied...I guess, since I'm not here during the day, I don't really know what's going on...but I was sitting on the couch, writing on our Christmas cards when I heard this rustling sound behind me...What is that? Santa?
Oh, no...it's just a cat in my tree...

There, now..Isn't this better? Under the tree...what's that...they are both under the tree...together. These two do not do anything together, unless it's fighting. This is the 2nd time we've caught them there...together. 'Tis the season to appreciate your friends...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Little 'chickie' in our Empty Nest

If you follow this blog you know that we are 2nd year Empty Nesters. This past Thursday evening we had a borrowed 'chickie' in our 'nest'. First things first... Homework. We practiced spelling. After writing the words several times, I admimistered the Practice Test. Just like 'old' times...I'd say the word...then make up a sentence for each word...and just like 'old' times she'd say "next", before I had the whole sentence out! She also read a book to us. The reward for getting Homework done...making Puppy Chow...
People Puppy Chow
1 stick margarine
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups chocolate chips
Melt all. Pour over 12 oz. Crispix. Fold until chocolate mixture coats the cereal. Pour into paper grocery bag with 2 heaping cups powdered sugar. Close bag and shake. Add more powdered sugar,if desired.
After our Puppy Chow was done, we went down to the Family Room to look at the Christmas Tree. This tree is decorated with all the ornaments we have collected since our girls were small ~ santas...snowmen...birds...kitties...mice...teddy bears...









Many of these ornament were made by our daughters, or were gifts from special friends and hold precious memories.
...And why was she here? Her dad, who has been my husband's best friend since college, is a finalist to be the President of our University. The candidates and their wives were involved in two full days of interviews...so we had a little girl in our home again...
...and if he is chosen? I'm guessing she could be spending time with us on a regular basis, while her parents attend community functions, representing Northen State University.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Ultimate Comfort Food...

...Homemade Soup
In Basic Foods class, the curriculum includes a unit in "combination foods" like soups and casseroles...so, this was "soup" week...The students make a cream soup and a clear soup...so today, we made homemade Chicken Stock. We have done this for years, but last year when grocery prices soared, I found it much more economical to purchase whole chickens. The butcher (who went to HS with my DH) cuts them in half...each group gets half a bird...and the bonus...the students learn how to cut up the chicken!
At first, no one wants to even touch it...they are reminiscing about disecting baby pigs in science...but then, after they got started...they did an awesome job. Aren't these pictures great?!
Here's the recipe for Homemade Chicken Stock:
Wash and clean 4 chicken pieces.
Place chicken in Dutch Oven with 6 cups of water.
Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down so it can simmer.
Add:
1 carrot, cleaned and cut into small slices
1 stalk celery with leaves, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 of an onion, chopped
2 sprigs parsley
5 peppercorns
1/2 tsp. salt
1 small bay leaf
Simmer about 30 minutes.
Strain stock and place in container to refrigerate overnight. Place chicken pieces and cooked vegies in plastic bag for refrigerator overnight. Throw the peppercorns and bayleaf away.

So tomorrow we will skim the fat off the top of the stock...reheat...cut the cooked chicken into bite size pieces...
Add the cooked vegies and maybe some peas. Add noodles...cook and enjoy!
Yesterday we made our cream soup. The objective is to learn to make a roux... Here is an awesome recipe for Potato Soup.
Potato Soup
4 potatoes, peeled and diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, washed and diced
1/4 onion, finely minced

2 tbsp. butter or margarine
2 tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Peel, dice and boil potatoes, carrots, and celery until fork tender. Pour through colandar to strain.
In large pan, melt butter and saute onion until translucent. Add the flour, salt and pepper. Stir to make a paste. Add milk gradually. Cook until bubbles and thickens. Add cooked vegetables and crumbled bacon. Enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pizza ~ Everyone's Favorite

The Basic Foods class includes a unit in Homemade yeast dough...
We make dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls and of course, everyone's favorite, Homemade Pizza.

Pizza Crust
1 cup warm water
1 pkg. yeast
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray pizza pan. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt, and oil. Knead on counter, until dough forms a ball. Cover with a clean dish towel and let raise 5 minutes. Roll out dough on counter and place on pizza pan. Bake 8 minutes on bottom rack. Take out and add toppings. Bake additinal 10-12 minutes.
This crust is so easy to make and is so delicious. It turns out nearly every time. It is a favorite with our students.

Celebrating our Youngest Grandchild ~This Little Princess is now Two

This little girl had family and friends around her to celebrate her special day. After swimming, a little naptime, and a nice dinner, she op...