SST: He Traveled & I Survived

Since I have my computer back at my disposal, I thought I’d join back up with the ladies at Small Success Thursday. Admittedly, I’m not their most faithful participant, but it’s a linkup I really enjoy nonetheless.

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View from Hubby’s plane.

This will probably seem like extra small potatoes to many women out there, but my husband had a business trip this week, so I was at home with the kiddos. This is a rarity for our family, one that I dread. I know many women whose husbands travel regularly, and, of course, there are military wives whose husbands are gone for very long stretches. (THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH for YOUR sacrifice! I recognize that the military families sacrifice just as much as the soldiers who are sent off to serve.) I suppose it’s because my husband’s absence is such an anomaly that I struggle with successfully making it through his trip. I rely heavily on Josh both logistically and emotionally, so it’s a big change for me when he’s gone. Regardless of the reasons why I struggle, the fact remains that I do. So my small success is that I survived his trip, and it was actually the best I’ve ever done in his absence.

1. We ate at home the whole time he was gone. I don’t know why, but I have ZERO motivation to cook when my husband is away. It doesn’t make sense because there are 5 little mouths around the table in addition to mine and his, but, somehow, cooking seems pointless when he is away. Because of this, I usually get fast food or order pizza when he is away. But this time I didn’t. I made dinner all three meals plus snacks for his whole trip! (FULL DISCLOSURE: One night I made a take and bake pizza, but, hey, I still put it in the oven.

Halfway point of hubby's trip. Getting ready to take the kiddos on a field trip. "I think I can. I think I can..."

Halfway point of hubby’s trip. Getting ready to take the kiddos on a field trip. “I think I can. I think I can…”

2. I had the sense to meal plan before he left to ensure we would eat at home the whole time he was gone. Hence, the take and bake pizza. I bought it at Aldi before he flew out because I knew I would likely need a super easy meal one night. I’m not a meal planner, so having this foresight was a big accomplishment for me.

My pre-trip meal planning and shopping also meant that I didn’t have to go to the store while he was gone. Double success!

3. I drove on the crazy DFW roads in the crazy DFW traffic to and from the airport AND to and from Flower Mound, a town about 35 minutes away from us, with all of the kiddos in the car. Ever since I was in a car accident back in 2011, I’ve had some major anxiety issues behind the wheel. I’ve been working on them, and this is the biggest success I’ve had on the roads. I got a bit nervous driving at the airport, but, overall, I was cool, calm, and collected. I was so proud of myself!

That’s it for me. What are your small successes this week? Join in the fun over at Catholicmom.com!

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SuperCook to the Rescue!

Our very first Bountiful Basket. 2/25/12 Look how little my sweet boys are!

Our very first Bountiful Basket. 2/25/12 (Random side note: phone pictures sure have improved dramatically in the last 2 years!)

One of the things I love about our produce coop is that it pushes me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen. Because of the way it is set up, I don’t get a say in what produce I take home each week. I make my weekly contribution and the organizers get as much produce as they can at the best price possible to divide up among the contributors. This means the selection of produce is always different and always a surprise. I used to get things in my basket and have to google them because I had no idea what they were. That still happens on occasion, but, because we’ve been participating for two years, (Happy Bountiful Baskets anniversary to me!!) I’m much more produce-literate than when I first started. Thanks to Bountiful Baskets, my family’s culinary repertoire has immensely expanded in the last two years.

However, my weekly basket still manages to push me out of my comfort zone. Now, it’s not so much because I don’t know how to prepare any given ingredient. It’s because I open my fridge or pantry and see some odd collection of items that I have no idea how to use together before they spoil. I don’t know why, but this seems to be a new problem for me. Part of the issue may be that, thanks to our revised dietary standards, pasta is no longer an option. You can incorporate almost anything into a rice or pasta dish. Having that option taken away has forced me to cook differently and see ingredients differently. Another part may be that I’m pregnant and that always limits what sounds good to me. But whatever the reason for my lack of vision, today I found a little “cheat” and with this little “cheat” my struggles in this area should vanish!

logoHave you ever used SuperCook.com?? It’s so awesome! I stumbled across it on accident while I was looking for a recipe site that I vaguely remembered using in the past. The site in question had a feature where I could search recipes by ingredient. Considering my current dilemma, I figured that was exactly what I needed. But, while I was trying to find that site, I found supercook.com instead.

Basically, SuperCook is just a search engine. You select the ingredients you have on hand, and it searches the web (not just one measly little site!) for recipes that match your ingredient list. How brilliant is that?! What’s even better is, if you create a free account, the site remembers the ingredients you’ve entered. That means I can enter all my spices and other regular pantry staples one time and I won’t need to do it again. I can just change out the fresh ingredients based on what I currently have. As you add ingredients, the recipe lists updates, sorting results by how many of the ingredients you already have on hand. You even can emphasize particular ingredients to ensure you get results that include those items. Finally, once you start finding interesting options, you can save the recipes you find or create a shopping list. I’m not sure that I will use the shopping list feature, but it’s still neat to have.

OH!! I forgot to tell you about my favorite, favorite feature! You can add in your dietary restrictions and any offending recipes are automatically filtered out! Now I don’t have to search through endless pasta recipes to find something more conducive to how we eat in our home!  Can you feel my excitement?? I’m seriously so, so happy about this little discovery. Anything that makes meal planning easier is a win in my book!

Lastly, I’d just like to reassure you that I was not compensated in any way for this glowing endorsement of supercook.com. I just like to share the good things I stumble upon in case you think they’re good things too. Go check it out for yourself. Happy cooking!

Christmas Eve Tamale Dinner

In Texas, tamales are a Christmas tradition. Two years ago, Josh and I decided to give this tradition a try, in part, to stabilize and fortify our fairly new Texas roots. We had a blast at our first tamale dinner and decided to make it a family tradition. Even if we ever move away, we plan to continue the tradition as a tribute to our time in Texas. Currently, we’re in the midst of preparing for our 3rd annual Christmas Eve Tamale Dinner.

Because we aren’t hispanic, or even true Texans, I have no idea how to make real tamales. I’d love to learn one day, but, for now, we simply order the tamales. I make several sides to go with them, and anyone who attends is welcome to bring a side or dessert if they wish.

I’ve been swept up in the chaos of finals and whatnot, so I’m just getting around to menu planning for our big celebration. I figured I’d take a similar approach to my Christmas morning planning and collect interesting recipes here while I try to decide what I want to serve. The final decision will partly depend on what we get in our produce basket from our coop this week. I ordered extra Mexican veggies, but you can never be quite sure what you will get until you get it. We’ll definitely be serving lots of peppers, because I already have a fridge full of Anaheim chiles and will likely get more in the basket on Saturday.

So far, I don’t have many recipes I’m interested in. I need to get busy looking for more!

Watermelon Salsa

watermelon salsa

This is already a definite yes! It will be on my table on Christmas Eve. The colors are perfect; I can use an Anaheim Chile; I adore sweet & spicy salsas. I don’t think I could possibly find for a more perfect dish!

Mexican Rice Casserole 

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This looks yummy and easy. Plus, it’s a PW recipe. I have never, ever gone wrong, been let down, or even remotely disappointed by the fabulous Ree Drummond. I have no fear of making her recipes for guests without trying them out first.

Stuffed Anaheim Peppers

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Oh I think I’m going to make these right now! They look so yummy!

If I do get more peppers I think I’ll make something similar to this for the party. I don’t know that I want a rice stuffing, since I’m probably already going to be serving the rice casserole above. I’m thinking black beans, cream cheese, and….something else. Maybe shredded chicken? Maybe bacon? Or SHIRMP?? Oh the possibilities!

Baked Shrimp with Tomatillos

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I’m not so sure about this, but I have a pound of tomatillos to use. It looks interesting enough that it might just be yummy. Or not. Either way, it’s going on the table with some fresh tortillas on the side. *Fingers crossed.*

Guacamole Salad

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Yes, yes, yes! I was already planning to make some guacamole, but this will just have to be there too. It looks like a party in a bowl. And I can’t wait to taste the lime vinaigrette!

Christmas Morning Menu Ideas 2013

This post is a work in progress.

As you may already know, I’m a list maker. I’m not usually an electronic list maker. I like paper lists. Only very recently (like 6 months ago) did I finally cave and start using the calendar on my phone instead of my tried-and-true notebook style calendar. My phone calendar still poses some limitations for me, but I really like that it’s available to both Josh and me no matter where we are. But I digress…

Anyway, as I’m planning for any special occasion, I begin saving ideas. My favorite format ever used for this endeavor was some app/website that a friend recommended. But I can’t remember what that was. Or even what friend suggested it. It was fabulous. I could save websites in “notebooks” and add my thoughts and whatnot. It was the easiest way I’ve ever gathered recipes for our Christmas Eve celebration.

But, since that website doesn’t seem to want to be part of my life this year, being that it’s hiding from me in some distance recesses of the internet, I needed somewhere to save my thoughts. Somewhere that I would remember where it was. Somewhere that wouldn’t be turned into a coloring sheet or craft project. Thanks to my inability to remember where I put *anything* these days, my blog seemed like the most logical choice. So here I am.

This post will change and be updated as I discover more. Feel free to disregard it or share your thoughts with me. Either way, I’ll know where my recipes for Christmas morning are.

Just in case your curious, we have Christmas morning at our house with just our family. The meal is usually more of a brunch than a breakfast. It also needs to be somewhat easy, very yummy, and kid (and Josh)-approved.

Cranberry, Orange & Pecan Coffee Cake

cranberry orang pecan coffee cakeThis is really high on my list. In fact, I’m not sure I can imagine a more perfect coffee cake for Christmas morning. I suspect Andy and Josh will not agree. I think I may have to make it anyway. We shall see…

Sausage Balls

sausage ballsI used to make sausage balls somewhat regularly when were were first married. They remind me of my sweet friend Ginny from high school and her mama. Her mama always had lot of yummy treats in her kitchen and she almost always made sausage balls  for breakfast after sleepovers. I don’t think I’ve made them in at least 5 years. I think it would be an exciting Christmas morning surprise for Josh.

These aren’t linked to anything because it’s just a 1-1-2 recipe. (1 lbs sausage, 1 lbs cheese, 2 cups bisquick. Combine. Bake. Viola.) However, I just discovered there is a cream cheese variation. That just sounds scrumptious. FYI: healthy eating rules don’t apply on Christmas morning. ;)

Overnight Blueberry French Toast

blueberry french toastThis looks so yummy! It will definitely be easy because it’s an overnight recipe. The only down side to that is we host Christmas Eve festivities, so I don’t know that I’ll have a dish to spare. I suppose I could make it after the party winds down, just before we’re getting ready for midnight Mass. Can I serve this and the cranberry coffee cake? That’s probably overkill for just our family. Hmm…I suppose I’ll have to choose.

Also, Andy won’t eat this. But I don’t think he’ll eat any of what I’m thinking about so far…

Cheesy Apple Bacon Brunch Casserole

cheesy apple bacon brunch

This would be fun and different. I like the idea of the biscuity apple crust. Based on reviews and instinct, I think I’d double the apples (because that’s what really excites me about this recipe, so I want to play it up) and the eggs (because I want it to be more of an egg dish than a biscuit dish.

Breakfast Sausage Casserole

Breakfast-Casserole-Trishas-Southern-Kitchen_s4x3_sm (Boo for little pictures.)

This is a good option, too. I don’t like the idea of white bread on the bottom. I think it would end up pretty mushy and that’s not what I’m going for. But I think I could do something really similar with some cubed potatoes on the bottom. And I think I’d use spicy sausage because this family likes a little kick in our food.

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That’s it for now. I’ll keep adding more recipes and ideas as I find them.