Photography Fun

Terry & I have been having a great time playing with our new camera and figuring out how to get some really great pictures with it. We went out to the Crosby Nature Area across the river from Fort Snelling 2 weekends ago and we got some awesome pictures.

The river was pretty high and many of the trails were flooded but it made for some good opportunities.

I really like this shot of Terry standing at the edge of the water.

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There were two dogs having a great time swimming and chasing sticks so I took advantage and got this shot.

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Seeing spring & new life show up after the winter.

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Terry got this one using manual focus (something I haven’t yet ventured into).

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After grabbing some lunch we went to Terry’s sister’s apt to pick up Abigail. She had a great time hanging out with Tracey at Underwater World at the Mall of America and playing at her apartment.

I think her expression is just so cute, almost like she doesn’t want Terry to take anymore pictures but she still likes it when he does.

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Knock-Knock Joke the First

Tonight we were at IKEA sharing an ice cream cone with Abigail when she told us her first knock-knock joke.

Abigail: knock knock
Terry: who’s there?
Abigail: Hannah (one of her dolls)
Terry: Hannah who?
Abigail: um, ice cream (then she giggled)

Hopefully this will just be the first installment of original jokes by Abigail!

Zucchini Bread

I’ve had a few requests for my zucchini bread recipe so here goes!

1. Beat 3 eggs
2. Add to eggs: 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup oil, 1 tbsp vanilla, 2 cups peeled shredded zucchini
3. In another bowl sift together (i just mixed it well) 3 cups flour, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt
4. Fold flour mixture into egg/zucchini mixture.
5. Fold in 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
6. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans
7. Bake at 350 deg for 45-60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

I gave a few loaves out over the Christmas Season and they were always well received!

Flying Dutchman Ghostly Gangplank – Take Two

Looks like my husband got his post about our fun yesterday on the Flying Dutchman Ghostly Gangplank at the Mall of America finished before I could. He posted some real good pictures so I will just show you a couple others. Please go and read his post and check out the rest of the awesome pictures he took yesterday!

Even though Abigail is really into the “forced smile stage” I think this is a cute picture of us girls!

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Now onto the Ghostly Gangplank pictures!

This crossing is on the first level. Since there wasn’t a line Terry was able to get right underneath us for some cool shots.

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I think this one is from the second level.

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Here Tracey & I are on the highest level, we had both already walked the plank and sounded the horn. It was so much easier at this point. We felt confident and happy that we had met the challenge!

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As we went down we went over a few of the more challenging crossings again and then met up with Terry, Abigail & Mike (Grandpa).

I really like this picture Tracey took of Terry & I. I was feeling a little warm having just finished about an hour on the ropes course but I like how it turned out. Too bad Abigail was off having fun with Grandpa Mike in Best Buy otherwise we could have had a great family photo!

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Meeting The Pioneer Woman

Alternative Title Chosen by my husband : How a crazy lady spends her Saturday.

After reading some of the first hand accounts from the Little Rock book signing (some people waited 4 hours) I knew I needed to arrive early to the Mall of America on Saturday for The Pioneer Woman Cooks book signing. The signing started at 1pm so I thought arriving at noon would probably be a good idea and get me in and out a little faster. I told Terry we needed to arrive early and he suggested 10am. I laughed. I thought it was absurd to arrive that early. I know she has a big following but come on. Well, it turns out (and it usually does) that my dear husband was absolutely right in his 10am assessment.

So instead of heading right to the Mall of America at 10am we went to Jo-Ann Fabrics so I could pick out buttons for the sweater I just finished knitting for Abigail (I think I am as shocked as you that I’m posting knitting to the knitting blog 🙂 ). Might as well show a photo of it in it’s unblocked state (the edges will lay flat once I’m done).

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I found the buttons I wanted pretty quickly then hopped over to the flannel aisle to find something to line a baby hat with. Abigail decided she needed to carry the bolt of fabric which worked out fine until she decided to start unrolling it on the floor. Then she had a tantrum. I was very appreciative to Terry since he was able to bring her out to the car while I waited to get my fabric cut. I could hear her screaming the whole time it took them to get out of the store. Fun times. 🙂

After all that we went to the Macaroni Grill for lunch. Terry had a gift card from his birthday and he was feeling like pasta. We had a nice time, Abigail really liked her macaroni and cheese and we really enjoyed helping her eat her caramel sundae.

We didn’t arrive at the Mall until 12:45 so I was feeling the pressure of being late then I got into Nordstrom Court and couldn’t see the end of the line. I was glad Terry dropped me off and went to his aunt’s house because it was going to be a long wait.

I didn’t get any great line pictures but this lady did! When she shows the line snaking past Caribou I was at the far left edge of that picture by Hanna Anderson (I can’t actually see myself but that’s where I was).

I met some really great people in line that for some crazy reason I didn’t take any pictures of. I think the Mall air must have clouded my picture taking sense. I also managed to have the camera on the wrong setting the entire time I was there.

About 30 minutes before my turn I noticed someone familiar up on stage getting her books signed. It was ChrisAnn from Love Feast Table! We met at the Mckmama Mudd Lake gathering and have been following each others’ blogs & twitter feeds since then. She has a picture of both of us posted here in her Pioneer Woman post.

Finally after 5.5 hours of standing, knitting, chatting, texting, calling & staring I got my 1.5 minutes with Ree Drummund The Pioneer Woman. She is just as charming & funny as her blog portrays and she’s even more gorgeous in person. I’d say the only thing that would have made it better is if there was Chocolate Sheet Cake at the table with her!

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Ree, it was so nice to meet you and I hope you come back to visit MN again! Thanks for being just as gracious with me as you were with the hundreds before me!

Soup Sunday

Saturday kind of got away from me in regards to cooking but it was a great day for hanging out with Terry & Abigail. Abigail even napped in a big girl bed for 2 hours!

After she got up we went to the Mall of America and walked around. I picked up a couple things from Old Navy with the 30% off coupon I had and another bread pan from Le Gourmet Chef. Now I have two bread pans the same size and one that is wider. The bread recipe I have from my mom makes 3 loaves and I couldn’t make it because I didn’t have 3 pans. I could have made two loaves of bread and turned the rest into buns but I didn’t really think about that until just now. It will be nice to get ahead on my bread making. I was using my bread machine to mix up enough dough for one loaf but then I would have to make bread every couple of days and that got to be too much. Now I can have two loaves waiting for me in the freezer and when I pull the last one out I will make 3 more loaves!

Sunday we went to the early service at church (9am) so Abigail could get an earlier nap in and I could start cooking! While I started on a Hamburger-Barley Soup, Terry started working on homemade flour tortillas from The Happy Housewife. He did a great job on the tortillas. They were so soft and tasted great with the leftover Chicken Mexican Skillet, a little cheddar cheese and some salsa.

It was fun to have both of us working in the kitchen, listening to the radio while our sweet child napped for the second time in her big girl bed.

Here is my Hamburger-Barley Soup recipe, very slightly adapted from the Better Homes & Garden’s Cookbook. Original recipe can be found here. What follows is my adaptation.

1 lb hamburger
1 c diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic (1 clove)
2 c thinly sliced carrots (4 medium)
1 c celery (2 stalks)
6 c beef stock
29 oz diced tomatoes
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 c barley
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp oregano, dried
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

I started out with a tbsp or so of olive oil in a big pot. Tossed in the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and stirred them periodically while I defrosted my precooked beef (I got a good deal on beef and cooked it all up then froze it in 2 cup pkgs–2 cups cooked is equal to 1 lb raw), then tossed in the beef and continued to cook until the carrots were almost tender.

I also had homemade/leftover beef stock/broth (i’m not sure what the difference is) in the freezer. I used all 6 cups I had because I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do with a leftover 6 oz since the recipe called for 42 oz. Now add all the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil then simmer for probably 45 minutes or an hour because I didn’t buy the quick-cooking barley. It would have cut down the simmer time to about 20 minutes if I had.

It was a Sunday afternoon and I wasn’t in any rush to get a meal on the table so I didn’t really keep track of the time. I ended up with about 3.5 qts which fed us for two suppers and 1 lunch for each of us (excluding Abigail since she doesn’t have to bring a lunch with her to daycare).

This soup has a really good flavor and Abigail loved it.

Crockpot Lasagna

***My apologies to anyone trying to access my site for the last 24 hours. We had a little hiccup which was just corrected. Hope none of you were planning on making this recipe last night!***

My husband thought this recipe was so good that I need to blog about it. So I am. I always listen when my husband says blog. Actually I usually have an excuse not to blog, like the pictures I want to blog are still on the camera and I don’t know where the camera is. But today I am prepared to blog with only one picture that doesn’t show any of the food I made. Kind of like how my knitting blog has no pictures of knitting. But I digress.

You are going to need at least a 5 quart crockpot for this recipe. Mine is 5 qt and it was filled to the brim. You can use any kind of spaghetti sauce, meat or pasta you would like for this recipe. You could even take out the meat and add in spinach or some other veggie.

If you end up closer to the 52 oz of sauce rather than 56oz you may want to add a bit of water to the sauce to make sure there is enough liquid to cook the noodles in. The water listed in the recipe is added at the end and helps the cheeses melt and jump starts the cooking.

If you are making your own sauce you probably don’t have to add the Italian seasoning but it will turn the flavor up a notch.

You can use any type of pasta you prefer but a thicker pasta like penne tends to hold up better to the crockpot cooking and gives a better ratio. I used wide egg noodles because that is what I had in the cupboard but it did feel like the ratio of noodles to everything else was a bit off. Next time I use egg noodles I will probably just use a bit less than 16oz.

This is constructed in the crockpot as layers just like regular lasagna.

Crockpot Lasagna
52-56 oz       spaghetti sauce (2 jars)
1 1/2 tsp       italian seasoning, divided
1 lb              ground beef, browned
16 oz            pasta, uncooked
24 oz            cottage cheese
1                  egg
1 tsp            dried parsley
12 oz            mozzarella cheese, shredded
Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup         water

1. Mix slightly beaten egg, parsley and cottage cheese to a separate bowl. Set aside.
2. Pour one jar (26 – 28oz) of spaghetti sauce into crockpot.
3. Add 3/4 tsp italian seasoning and mix with sauce
4. Add 1/2 lb ground beef
5. Add 8 oz pasta
6. Add 1/2 of cottage cheese mixture
7. Add 6 oz of mozzarella cheese
8. Repeat steps 2-7
9. Add a generous amount of Parmesan cheese to the top layer. Sprinkle water over top layer also.
10. Turn your crockpot on HIGH for 4 hours. (Mine was done in about 3.5 hours)

This post is linked up to What’s in Your Crockpot?

Then I decided I just had to make The Pioneer Woman’s Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever. since I was inviting my mother-in-law over for the evening and I just bought the right size pan to make it! The recipe calls for a jelly roll pan or half sheet pan. Approximately 13 x 18. This is a fast and easy chocolate cake and oh so moist and delicious! Again, no pictures but if you click on that link for the recipe you will get more pictures than you could ever think to take yourself. Every step is cataloged. Mine looked just like hers only in my kitchen and most of the cake never even made it on to a plate and wasn’t eaten with a fork. It’s just that good! Please make this cake this weekend. Your waistline may not love you, but your tastebuds will!

Here is my little girl after lasagna & cake

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Since I was home all day yesterday (Nov 12)  with Abigail (she has a bad cough but no fever) I made the Chicken Mexican Skillet I referenced in my last post. As The Happy Housewife suggests I made the brown rice with salsa added to the water and it was excellent! I also put my black beans in the crockpot for a few hours with onion, garlic & pepper and it made the house smell so good. This was a very economical meal coming in at $3.70 total. This was a big hit and I still have about 8 cups leftover! As Terry was eating he noted that his Chipotle burritos are usually made with these same ingredients. We may be making our own tortillas this weekend and trying it out! Terry has wanted to make homemade tortillas for quite a while so I’m sure he will be pretty excited for those!

So to recap our suppers this week:

Sunday: Crockpot Lasagna

Monday: Papa Murphey’s pizza

Tuesday: Leftover Lasagna & pizza

Wednesday: Brats

Thursday: Chicken Mexican Skillet

Friday: ?

Saturday: Pearson Burritos & Potato Soup

As for the meal planning, the plan was mostly in my head and the two things I really wanted to make, I made. We did make two trips to the grocery story this week after I made my “big” trip on Saturday. Once for peanut butter (breakfasts) & potatoes (for soup day this Saturday) and the second trip was for milk, garlic (last night’s supper) & salsa (I really like salsa and need to have it in the house because I knew we would run out after having supper). So we weren’t going to the store “for” supper except for the garlic. Which is really a big part of my goal with meal planning is to be able to get home and make supper without running around after work looking for food to make.

Baby Steps in Meal Planning

Last Wednesday (Nov 4) I decided what we were going to have for supper for Thursday and Friday.

Thursday Terry had a meeting at 6:30 so it had to be something quick & easy. Grilled cheese & eggs are always a hit with Abigail and super easy so I penciled it in.

Friday I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen after a week of work so I figured something in the crockpot would be best. I penciled in crockpot lasagna even though I didn’t have the recipe from my sister yet but I was pretty sure I had all the ingredients.

I was feeling pretty good about my tiny start in meal planning. Then I got a call Thursday morning from a couple that Terry & I hadn’t seen in over 6 years. The only night they were free to see us was Thursday. Terry got out of his meeting and we met them for supper at Khan’s Mongolian Barbeque. We met their 3 kids for the first time and they got to meet Abigail.

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So the grilled cheese got put on hold but Terry ended up making it on Friday for lunch instead. Then we ended up at Sam’s Club at supper time on Friday. The crockpot lasagna was on hold before we ended up at Sam’s though because I hadn’t gotten a hold of my sister yet since they were very busy out in the field combining.

Saturday morning I was organizing a bunch of my loose recipes and Chicken Pot Pie on the Fly from The Happy Housewife caught my eye. I picked up some real cheap chicken breasts ($0.99/lb) on sale at Cub earlier in the week so the only thing I needed was some mixed veggies.

While I was shopping at Aldi for the veggies I also picked up black beans & rice for Chicken Mexican Skillet. While I was putting the groceries in the car I managed to shove my sunglasses (which were perched on top of my head) into the top of my head. By the time I got home a few minutes later my head was really pounding so I reclined on the love seat and Terry helped me make supper.

As I was reading the recipe to him I realized that an essential part of chicken pot pie is the potatoes of which i had none. I know, it’s not good to just run out of a staple like potatoes but it happened. So we went without. It was very good, but I it would have been better and gone even further if we had remembered the potatoes. It was even better the second day after the chicken had a chance to marinate in the creamy goodness for a day.

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I could have left it in longer to brown the top a bit but we were hungry.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about our Crockpot Lasagna!