Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Black Forest Cake

This dessert is decadent!
What's especially convenient is the box cake mix, ready-made icing & cherry pie filling.

Bake a devil's food cake {or chocolate fudge} according to the box directions,
using 2 round cake pans, 8 in. size.

After cakes are cooled, place 1 layer on serving plate.
Top with 1 can of cherry pie filling, reserving 2 Tbsp.
Place 2nd layer on top of cherries.
Use 1 tub of chocolate icing to ice the whole cake.
The reserved cherries are the final topping right on the top of the cake.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weekend in Cincinnati

1st nt in Cincy - shopping at Tri-County Mall

James & I have been married for almost 19 yrs.
He's been my sweetheart since I was 15 yrs old.
There's nothing that I enjoy more than  spending quality time with him.
We are parents to 3 sons & family time is at the top of our list!
We like having them with us everywhere we go ... one, because we want them to have lots of life experiences & two, cause we always have so much fun together.
Occasionally though, James & I need to have that one-on-one time...
time to talk ... time to reconnect ... time to rekindle.

A few weeks ago, we decided to take a quick trip to Cincinnati for a 'date weekend.'
We had a marvelous time together.
Here are a few pictures of our fun weekend.

Our 1st dinner out was Macaroni Grill.
We don't have one near us, so we enjoy going when we can.
They give you crayons so you can color on the paper tablecloth.
The fella across the isle was drawing cartoon characters for his wife.
When they left, they passed all their crayons to the elderly couple behind them, who were together drawing a beautiful rural landscape, complete with a big red barn.
When they got up to leave, they brought their crayons over to us ...
& James wrote me a love note.

The rustic interior of the restaurant combined with the smells from the brick oven & the Italian music playing, well, it made for a romantic dinner, indeed.

On Saturday, we visited Ikea ... a neat shopping experience.
James bought the French press coffee maker that he'd be wanting.

We also visited Jungle Jim's ... a SUPERmarket extraordinaire! 
I'd say if you can't find it there, you can't find it anywhere!!

One of the many isles of cheese!  Look at the size of those wheels!

Even Paula Deen wouldn't know what to do with these 2 cases of butter!

Avocados the size of grapefruit

so many varieties of vegetables

Can't even imagine why someone would want to buy either of these!!!
whole lamb & hog head {there was just any part of a pig, lamb, cow or chicken!}

Kangaroo, alligator, pork brains, turtle ... eww!
just a portion of the many soda choices ... we brought each of the boys an old-fashioned flavor

these are all bottles of hot sauce!!

James was in heaven with isles of teas to choose from!

We look forward to taking our sons to Jungle Jim's ... such a neat experience.
They will love it!

We wanted to try some non-chain restaurants & local favorites...
& thanks to many friends & family who live in the Cincinnati area, we had lots to choose from.
We decided on Vincenzo's, recommended by an Ikea employee.
I must say, James & I both think it is one of the best Italian restaurants we've ever gone to!
{The story behind Vincenzo's is really neat ... you can read it here .}

my Gnocchi dish w/peas, red peppers & prosciutto

James' meal at Vincenzo's - Gnocchi w/mushrooms, onions & prosciutto
He was on the Daniel Fast & this was the only time he veered just a bit off of it.

The sweet end to the weekend came from Graeter's Ice Cream.
Now we know why all you Cincinnatian's recommended it ... delish!

Before the weekend was even over, we were hating to see it end.
Because we don't get away too often, we cherish these special times & sweet memories all the more.

                                            Who, being loved, is poor?  ~Oscar Wilde

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Sundays ~ 1st Day of Spring

It's finally here!
The 1st day of SPRING!
I think I began looking forward to this day, oh, probably mid-January.
By the time March rolls around, well, I'm beyond ready!
Nothing makes for a sweeter morning than hearing those birds singing.
From my windows, I can see the trees beginning to bud.
New life everywhere you look.

I found these little purple beauties out in my front flower bed on Thursday.
All winter long, they've just been waiting for SPRING...
waiting to poke through the soil ... & BLOOM!

Just as these little flowers bloom in their season, we, as Christians, 
can experience this same 'new' season in Christ!

We can have a new song ... a song of encouragement & a song of worship.
Oh, what a sweet sound this is in our Saviour's ears.

We can begin to bloom, bringing forth the fruits of the spirit!
What an opportunity to be a blessing those around us as we demonstrate love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.
These are the fruits that all Christians should be producing in their lives with Jesus Christ.

Be encouraged today, on the 1st day of Spring.
Start afresh!
Beginning anew!
Let new life burst forth in your walk with Christ!

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.  ~Proverb

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Well-Organized Pantry, Part 2 of 3

If you'd like to read part 1, you can find it here.

For part 2, I'd like to begin with looking at a

What's in a well-stocked pantry, you may ask?

It's not so much what's in it, such as items or brands,
but more about how 'well-stocked' it is.

my overstuffed pantry

The concept is this:
If you keep your pantry stocked with the items you regularly use, you will have more than enough to regularly put together dinners & desserts with ease.
Not only that, your grocery bill will decrease!
It's not because you are buying less, it's because you are paying less.
When you don't keep a stocked pantry, you have to pay  the current shelf price for the needed supplies rather than simply refreshing your existing supply when items go on sale.

Every well-stocked pantry won't look exactly alike, but here are the basics in my pantry:

fruit {pineapple, peaches, mandarin oranges, fruit cocktail, fruit pie filling, applesauce}
veggies {green beans, carrots, whole-kernel corn, creamed corn, mixed veg, peas, mushrooms}
beans {pork 'n beans, chili, kidney, red, black, pinto, white northern}
soups {various: chicken noodle, tomato, ravioli - also cream of chicken, mushroom & celery}
tomatoes {diced, chili-ready, rotel, stewed, sauce, paste}
meat {tuna, salmon, vienna sausages}
milk {evaporated & sweetened condensed}
other {broth, green chilies, black olives}

elbow mac, thin spaghetti, angel hair, lasagna noodles
{or whatever variety I'm in the mood for}
ramen noodles, bread crumbs, popcorn
white & brown rice, old-fashioned oats, instant oatmeal packets, grits, cereal

pecans, peanuts, almonds, walnuts

flour, corn meal, biscuit mix, sugar, artificial sweetener, brown sugar,
baking powder/soda, yeast, cornstarch, cocoa, jello & pudding mix
chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, cupcake liners, box cake/brownie mix, tub icing

canola, EVOO {extra-virgin olive oil}, coconut oil, shortening, cooking spray

spaghetti, alfredo, enchilada, salsa, Louisiana hot sauce, A1, Heinz 57, teriyaki, soy, worcestershire, BBQ, horseradish, mustard, mayo, Miracle Whip, ketchup, various salad dressings {ranch, honey mustard, italian}, maple syrup, corn syrup, molasses, honey

juices, white vinegar, soda, drink mix {Crystal Light}, tea, coffee, Nesquik, hot chocolate
hazelnut spread, marshmallows, marshmallow cream, peanut butter, jelly, pancake mix
pickles, pickle relish, green olives, croutons, stuffing mix
various crackers {saltines, butter, graham}, potato & tortilla chips, cookies, granola bars
tortillas, taco shells, taco seasoning, brown gravy packets
bread, bagels, buns

With these items always on hand, it's a rare occasion for me to be out of the usual necessary ingredients for any number of dishes.
It's also especially handy when we have unexpected guests ... or we're invited to an impromptu pitch-in game night or get-together.
Instead of scrambling around with no idea of what to prepare, I can go to the pantry & get cookin'.

Here are a couple of my stand-by favorites:

Peach Cobbler
1   30 oz. can sliced peaches in syrup
Pour into 9x13 baking pan.

In mixing bowl, stir together:
1 c. self-rising flour, 1 c. sugar, 1 c. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla

Pour over peaches evenly.
Dot with 2 pats of butter, divided here & there.
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.

I didn't have a pic of my own peach cobbler to add, so this one is from Easy Southern Cooking.  It looks just like mine.

Dump Cake
1 yellow butter cake mix
1 can cherry pie filling
1 lg can crushed pineapple, drained
1 c. butter, melted
1 c. pecans, optional

Layer ingredients in order listed in a 9x13 pan.  Bake at 325 for 1 hour.

photo taken from dumpcake.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Daybook ~ Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Outside my window ~ It's a dreary spring  almost spring day. The raindrops are running down the window.  Looks like the rain is here to stay.

Around the house ~ I'm blogging at the dining room table today...hanging out w/my boys as they school.  Housework & laundry was completed yesterday, so today is free for crafting, blogging & scrapbooking.

Gunnar hard at work on Geometry

I am listening to ~ Garrett singing as he gets his pizza out of the oven.

I am thankful for ~ the moments of refreshment in my spirit...those little nuggets that I know God is placing in my path to strengthen & encourage me.

Pondering these words Courtney at Women Living Well blogged this on Sunday:
"I think this is hard for a reason.  God is making sure I don't think I can do this in my own strength.  He is keeping me humbled so I will learn to persevere in prayer.  It seems I forget to pray on my knees when we take 2 steps forward....But on days when we are one step back, I am reminded I am weak. He is strong."

I am remembering ~ not to 'sweat the small stuff' ... not to make molehills into mountains.... not to be reactionary.

Looking forward to ~ a shopping trip on Saturday with a treasured friend & her daughter.

Gina & Brianne

I am noticing ~  how tax check money tends to burn holes in people's pockets ;)

I am thinking ~ maybe I shouldn't have disclosed what I am noticing ;)

From the kitchen ~ I just put together my 1st ever pot of Chicken Tortilla Soup!  It's smelling soo good as it simmers on the stove.  Hopefully, I can eat on that for the next couple days & have a nice loss at WW!

I am going ~ nowhere & I'm quite happy about it!  I'll be out & about later in the week {heading to Calvary Tab to for IBC Music Fest}, but as for today, I'm staying in out of the rain.

I am hoping ~ to accomplish alot.  Seems like I move at a snail's pace when I blog or scrapbook =(

One of my favorite things:  decorating.  I think I've completed the 'springing' up of our home & I'll blog & post pics in a few days.  Here's a sneak peek.

new flower arrangement for dining room table

I am reading:  several books, as always. 
Right now, I'm particularly enjoying The Simple Life - Devotional Thoughts From Amish Country by Wanda E. Brunstetter.  Here's an excerpt:  Lamps do not talk; they shine.

A picture thought to share ~ Had to try the Chicken Tortilla Soup {it is lunchtime}

Today's scripture: Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.    Psa 4:5

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Well-Organized Pantry - Part 1 of 3

I am all about efficiency! 
If there's a way to do something, anything more efficiently, I want to discover how to do it!
I like things organized & have found that to be KEY in leading a less-stressful life!

My kitchen ... well, my whole house, actually ... but especially, my kitchen has been set up with this as the driving force.
Which cabinet to house dishes, cookware, glasses, etc. was a deliberate decision,  to aid in smoothly running a BUSY kitchen.
Taking time to set things up properly {& to maintain them} has been a huge time saver!

This will be part 1 of 3 focusing on THE PANTRY.
First, I will share tips on getting it organized.

Blog 2 will be on keeping it well-stocked & I will share some 'quick fix' recipes {what items to keep in your pantry so you can whip up something delectable at a moment's notice!}
In blog 3, we'll take a look at spices & how to incorporate them into your cooking.

photo: Country Living

To begin, I want to first establish that by using the term 'pantry', I'm not only referring to that wonderful little bonus room we all dream about having right in our kitchen!
While having one of those walk-in closet pantries is definitely a bonus, a pantry is really just the place that you store those necessary items that you use in your household.
Your pantry may be a designated cabinet or drawer ... or the extra storage space under the bathroom sink.

When we purchased our first home, we had limited cabinet space, but a decent-sized eat-in kitchen.
So, we purchased an tall oak cabinet with double doors & 4 spacious shelves & this became our pantry.
We toted that cabinet to our next 2 homes, keeping it in the garage because it didn't fit with the decor, but it still served it's purpose as the pantry.
Finally, our home now has a walk-in pantry in the kitchen ... a dream come true.

By sticking to these simply guidelines, whether your pantry is a shelf or a closet, it will be organized.

-Keep items that are frequently used in an easy-to-reach area. 
  I keep the coffee & filters where I can get those out first thing each morning.

-If you have children, keep their snacks low enough to reach {unless you need to do just the opposite to keep them out of the snacks;)}
If they help in packing or preparing lunches, keeping all these type items in one central place will be helpful.

-Keep 'like' foods in one area.
  By keeping all the cereal, poptarts, oatmeal, breakfast bars, etc. on the same shelf, the options are easily accessed. 
In addition, it's easier to see when items are gone & need to be restocked.

After designating these zones, you may want to label the shelves.

I especially love to use baskets, boxes, bins & snap-top containers in my pantry!
I recently added a basket to store all my husband's boxes of tea.
At any given time, we have 8-10 various teas.
While I have an area on the shelf for the tea boxes, there are just too many to look through to find what you want.
The new basket now holds 8 boxes of tea & along with that, a new rule for the hubs.
Only buy a new box of tea when there's a place for it in the basket!

I also use baskets in my pantry to store:
-vitamins (there are 2 baskets for these ... another one of my hubs favorites!  He has lots of vitamins, herbal supplements, etc).
-envelope seasonings & gravy packets

I keep a box for all my baking supplies, such as: chocolate chips, pecans, walnuts, cupcake liners, food coloring, icing tubes & paraffin.
I keep boxed jello & pudding in this same box.

Another great way to store baking supplies is in canisters.
I have a 4-pc. set on my counter for flour, sugar, artificial sweetener packets, & the smallest one for matches.
In my pantry, I added 4 plastic, snap-top canisters for brown sugar, powdered sugar, cornmeal & the last for random small items.
The plastic ones are clear so I can see when I am getting low.

I have a snap-top box for storing novelty paper supplies.
I like seasonal napkins & paper products; so at the end of the season, I buy them, clearanced down to pennies & store them in this box.

Lastly, on my pantry floor, I have a large box to keep my 'overstock'.
I often stock up on certain items when they go on sale & I have coupons to match.
There's no use in putting 5 jars of grape jelly on the shelf, taking up needed space.
Instead, I put 1 jar on the shelf & the other 4 in the overstock box.
My brain tends to store random info, so I always know what items I have in my overstock box {& where I got them & how much I paid for them...lol}.
If you don't operate that same way, it may be good to keep a list of such items taped on the inside of your pantry or cabinet door.

I encourage you to spend some time this week organizing your pantry!
Your whole family will benefit from it ... & you'll be happier & more efficient in the kitchen.
All this is basic common sense, no rocket science involved, just a little time that will be well-spent.

Closing note:  I just had my hubs preview this blog. 
He says it's worth mentioning {tongue in cheek} that I'm a bit OCD ... *wink*

Stay tuned for part 2 ... A Well-Stocked Pantry & Quick Fix Recipes!