Menu for week of 1/31 - 2/6


Our meals are all over the place this week-  in no particular order, here's what we'll be eating.  What's on your menu?

Chicken curry served w/rice, garlic naan bread

Vegetarian lentil soup with fresh grated parmesan, leafy green salad w/light vinegarette

Easy fried rice w/chicken, stir fried mixed veggies

Breakfast for dinner-  Finnish oven pancake topped with mixed berries and whipped cream, bacon for those that want it.

Tex-Mex casserole, tossed salad w/choice of dressings

Appetizers and fun party foods for our Coffee-Mate art party with plenty of coffee of course!

Slow cooker country style pork ribs, cheesy scalloped potatoes, baby peas with mushrooms and pearl onions, easiest ever freezer pickles


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The Perfection of You - Abraham-Hicks


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You see yourself as flawed and needing a cleaning. We see you as perfect and only needing the awareness that you are perfect.

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This Source Energy is always there, flowing to you. And life is causing you to have a constant expansion of personal desires. And we cannot emphasize accurately or enough, the power and importance of the personal part of your desires. You are uniquely, personally, perfect. You are uniquely asking, and Source is delighted to respond to your unique requests that are born out of your unique life experience and perspective. Every single one of you is unique. And appreciated.

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You live in a pulsating, vibrating Universe of advanced harmonics, and that at the very core of your Being you are vibrating at what could only be described as perfection - in vibrational balance and harmony.


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Pressure Cooker Beef Stew

Wow, what a difference in the stew when cooked under pressure. We have been experimenting with the Fagor electric multi cooker (it is a slow cooker, pressure cooker and rice steamer in one- great price at Macy's if you are a member and/or can find a code) and made a beef stew on the stovetop and one in the pressure cooker. Now I know why my gramma made the best stew on the planet and even though all of us tried to replicate it we just couldn't. The meat is a lot more tender and succulent and the flavor of everything is just... intensified.

Here's how we did it.

1 1/2 lbs stew meat (I cut a rump roast into chunks)
1 bag baby carrots, halved
1 bag mixed baby potatoes*, halved
1 8oz box white button mushrooms, quartered
1 bag frozen pearl onions

Heat pressure cooker to high with a bit of oil of your choice- veggie, canola or coconut work well here.

In a large zip-top bag, put about a quarter cup of flour and season liberally with whatever you are using- we used Mrs. Dash Garlic Blend.  Most any seasoned salt or salt free blend would work here, customize one to your taste starting with one of the many myo seasoning blend recipes and adjust it to taste.  Add meat and shake well to cover all sides.

Brown meat on all sides then add about 4 cups of beef broth- can make your own with bullion cubes or beef base- bring to a boil.

Set pressure cooker to high for 15 minutes then let pressure come down and add veggies.

Bring back to a boil and set pressure cooker to high for 5 minutes then let pressure come down- bring back to boil.

Add a cornstarch slurry if needed (a couple tablespoons of cornstarch mixed into cold water) and add to stew, stir until bubbling and thickened.

*We used a mix of red, yellow and purple potatoes because they were on sale, any waxy skinned potato will work just cut to the size you like.


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Chicken and Sausage Gumbo in pictures




First you make a roux
Add the trinity 
(onions, celery and green peppers)
Next, of course okra
Lots of good chicken and sausage and you've got some awesome gumbo.

*Don't let making a roux intimidate you into buying a jar-  it is really simple to make your own, especially with this super simple oven baked version of roux.  You're welcome.


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Eww I'm not eating that - dealing with picky eaters


We've all heard people say "back in my day we ate what was on the table and were happy to get it".

I'm sure *we* did, but I live in the real world with real children and we don't always like what we are served.

Our horizons have broadened, our choices are plentiful and our palates are much more sophisticated. Like anything in life, we have likes and dislikes.

While I never went out of my way to puree or hide fruits and veggies in other foods as I don't think this is necessarily a good idea I never said hey I put extra carrots, celery, peppers, onions and spinach in the sauce and you ate it so you must like them either.

What I did and still do is offer a wide variety and introduce new flavors along with things I know they like so they won't feel overwhelmed with new foods.

Getting children involved with every aspect of meal preparation helps as well- from looking through recipes together and seeing what looks good to shopping together, especially orchards and farmers markets and Whole Foods stores works wonders on their willingness to try new things.

When we lived in Alaska the girls would go out each afternoon and pick what vegetables they wanted in their salad that evening so they were willing to try things most kids wouldn't dream of.

Kyra once grew a teepee garden that had layers and along with the green beans and other familiar to her foods she grew and they ate things like radishes.

The more they are exposed to different things the more they are willing to try them.

I don't think forcing kids to eat them is likely to bring on a lifelong love of healthy eating, and most kids at least most of mine will go through very picky stages, but even miss picky-pants now eats more different types of fruits and veggies than were even commonly available when I was growing up, so I think somewhere along the line I did something right.

Making bento lunches has also been helpful for getting them to try new and different things- preparing them in new and fun ways gives a willingness that might have been lacking.

Keeping a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on hand, especially if they are ready to eat, like baby carrots, celery sticks, apples and tangerines make for quick snacks and I know my kids were much more likely to choose those things if they were already prepared and all they had to do was grab and go.

Make food, the gathering, preparing and eating of it an adventure, an activity you can share, an experience and your kids will be much more likely to try and enjoy a wide variety.

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Lentil Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped or shredded
2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 (28-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 lb lentils, rinsed
9 cups veggie (for vegetarian option) or chicken broth
2 cups V-8 juice regular or spicy
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup dried smallish pasta - elbow macaroni, mini penne, corkscrew, stars, etc
OR some diced potatoes, chef's choice here
1 cup shredded Parmesan


Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down some, stirring occasionally, about 7 or 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and V-8 and stir. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with additional olive oil if desired.


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Perfect Gravy (easy)


For everyone who says they can't make a gravy- if it is because you have no patience to stand there and stir, stir, stir to make sure it all gets incorporated and not burn (yep, that's my problem, same reason I can't make pudding on the stove top- I always try to rush it) the microwave is your new best friend.

Here is the basic white sauce (medium) I got from a cookbook long ago and how I change it up depending on what I am making.

In an 8 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup for each cup gravy melt 1 Tbsp butter (you can use pan drippings or oil or whatever- and you can use less than called for). You can use fat-free stock or bullion to make it fat free. Add 1 Tbsp flour and whisk the daylights out of it.

Microwave on high for exactly 45 seconds, no more, no less. This is whether you are making 1 cup of gravy or 6. (6 is the most you can make in the 8 cup Pyrex.)

Whisk the crap out of it again and add any seasonings you might like and then add 1 cup liquid- milk, stock, 1 cup water one bullion cube, whatever you like and microwave 2 minutes. Whisk again. Keep nuking and whisking 2 minutes at a time til it is boiling and at your desired consistency.

You cannot mess this up, it is perfect every time. You can make a basic gravy with butter and stock or milk for cream gravy then add pan drippings at the end if you desire.

This is way better than any you can buy in a can, mix or jar, and you know exactly what is going into it.


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Pineapple Salad

The pineapple salad was originally made for a bento lunch so it is a little different than we make traditionally, using only one pineapple ring, cut for easier eating and 3 cherries served on butter lettuce leaves.

 The way I learned it from my ex-mother in law is to line a plate with shredded lettuce (we often substitute organic baby spinach), top with 2 pineapple rings, a dollop of mayonnaise in the center of each, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese and put a cherry in the center of each.

Our favorite meal to eat this with is spaghetti or noodles using a marinara sauce- it complements the meal so well, and is an oft-requested favorite.  Miss picky (no condiments girl) has hers with no mayo.


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No offense, but...

Every time I hear this, I brace myself to be offended. It can be hard to both convey how you really feel, and not hurt peoples feelings... but some people swing a bit to far in the wrong direction, and just end up offending more people.

I won't name names, because I don't want to start a blog war or anything, but there is one group of people that really made me irate about it... and I'm not all that easy a person to offend.

They have the word witches in their name- I thought cool, I don't know if they really ARE witches, or are just being cutesy, but either way, that works. (For anyone who may have missed the notice, I'm a witch. Only sometimes do you replace the "w" with a "b".) So I checked out their site, and they had a little disclaimer on their about us...

It went on to say how they aren't REALLY witches, okay, no problem there. Add on that they are good christian people, and toss in a list of very discriminatory stereotypes to say they do NOT do this that or the other both in the wicked witch sense and some that are clearly more pagan/wiccan/etc based... okay, now I'm ticked off. They neither practice nor condone witchcraft. This is the part where I hit irate... and I would have hit it whether it was my belief system or not.

Why did they have to go and do that? Simply saying "About our name- we thought it was cute and went with it!" would have sufficed. Was there any reason to put the rest of it? Sure, I get that they didn't want to offend other christians, but why dis other people in the process? I know you've seen me rant many times before on peoples rights, in general, and this is exactly what I am talking about. It's not always the big things... it is the little things that lead people to believe that it is OKAY to hate someone who is not like you. These small acceptances are what enable the big catastrophes, and yeah, I'm sick of it.

Can someone please explain to me, why people think it is okay?
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Totally Random Tuesday - Despondent Versus Melancholy

Ian's been obsessed with Zombies lately--how cool is that to have a 4 year old totally into zombies?  Gah, he's so darn cute singing the theme from Plants vs. Zombies- maybe we'll try to get a video of that soon.

Anyhoo, today Dev was thinking about words and wanting to know which I preferred today, despondent or melancholy (she was on Dictionary.com doing click a simile, click a simile, etc).

To me, despondent is without hope and melancholy is kinda having the blues/blahs, so what pops into my head but this fantabulous superific metaphor-  what do y'all think?  I've got a great career as a metaphor thinker-upper, eh?

Despondent is when you have no hope of being zombie food (aka no brain--hope, in the metaphor).

Melancholy is when the zombies won't eat your brains because they're the wrong flavor.

So, while I hope and hope I am melancholy, the little divas would argue that I am despondent.  (Or as Casey used to do-  takes the hand, puts atop the head, and says "Brain sucker... -choking sound-... Oops, died of malnutrition.")

Or maybe I am just f*ckedupiter  (yes, it is a real word; we made it up ourselves! It means more f*cked up than your everyday average screw up).
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Ingredient Substitutions


Sometimes we run out of ingredients and don't feel like running to the store or there is such a small amount needed that we don't want to buy a whole thing (especially with spices) so we've built up a collection of substitutes that we use when cooking and baking.

Almond extract:
Amaretto to taste

Brown sugar:
1 cup = 1 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon molasses or Dark Karo Syrup

Buttermilk:
Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup milk
1 cup of plain yogurt or sour cream mixed with ¼ cup skim milk (only use 1 cup)

Cake flour:
1 cup = 2 Tbsp corn starch with enough flour to equal 1 cup

Chili Sauce:
1 cup = 1 cup tomato sauce, ¼ cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon, dash of ground cloves and dash of allspice combined

Chives:
Equal amount green onion or scallion tops

Cornstarch (for thickening sauces):
1 Tablespoon = 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Corn syrup:
Equal amount honey

Cream of Tartar:
1/2 teaspoon = 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice

Greek or thick yogurt:
Plain yogurt that has been strained through a sieve with a coffee filter in the fridge and left to sit- overnight is best.

Ground Red Pepper:
¼ teaspoon = 8 drops hot pepper sauce

Pumpkin pie spice:
1 teaspoon = 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Sake:
Rice vinegar to taste

Shallots:
Use equal amount red or other mild onion or the white parts only of green onion

Sour cream:
Use equal amount plain yogurt

Tomato Sauce:
15-oz can = can of tomato paste mixed with 1 1/2 cups of water

Unsweetened Chocolate:
1 ounce = 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa mixed with 1 Tablespoon melted butter or vegetable oil

Vanilla Extract:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract = seeds scraped from 2 inches of vanilla bean pod
Brandy to taste

Whipped cream:
13 ounce can of evaporated milk chilled for at least 12 hours.  Add 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and whip until stiff

Wine:
1/2 cups = ¼ cup of wine vinegar (red or white, depending on which is called for in recipe) and 1/4 cup water mixed with 1 Tablespoon of sugar
White wine:
Equal amount white grape juice; apple cider; apple juice; vegetable stock; or water
Sweet white wine:
White grape juice plus 1 Tablespoon Karo Syrup
Red wine:
Equal amount grape juice; vegetable stock; cranberry juice; tomato juice or concord grape jelly

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Alcohol substitutes to use in recipes


We're not big drinkers but often come across a recipe that has alcohol as one of the ingredients.  While we're not opposed, we usually don't want to drive out of town (we live in a dry county) and spend money on a bottle of something we only need a few teaspoons or tablespoons of so through research, trail and error we have a list of fairly common liquors and types of alcohol used in cooking and baking.  If you know others, please leave a message or email us and we'll add them.

Amaretto:
Almond extract; orgeat Italian soda syrup; or marzipan to taste.

Anisette, Absinthe, Ouzo or other licorice or anise flavored liqueur:
Anise Italian soda syrup or fennel to taste.

Applejack or apple brandy:
Unsweetened apple juice concentrate; apple juice; apple cider or apple butter to taste.

Beer or Ale:
Equal amount chicken broth or stock; ginger ale; white grape juice to taste.

Brandy:
Equal parts water, white grape juice, apple cider or apple juice.
Diluted peach or apricot syrups or syrup from canned apricots in heavy syrup; apricot preserves to taste.
Syrup from canned peaches in heavy syrup or peach preserves to taste.

Bourbon:
Vanilla extract; champagne or other sparkling wines; sparkling apple cider; sparkling cranberry juice; sparkling grape juice to taste.

Champagne and other sparkling wines:
Equal amounts ginger ale; sparkling apple cider; sparkling cranberry juice; sparkling grape juice.

Cherry liqueur or brandy:
Syrup from canned cherries in heavy syrup; Italian soda cherry syrup or cherry preserves to taste.

Creme de cacao:
Powdered white chocolate mixed with water; vanilla extract and powdered sugar to taste.

Creme de cassis:
Black currant Italian soda syrup or black currant jam.

Creme de menthe:
Mint Italian soda syrup or peppermint extract to taste.

Dry Vermouth:
White grape juice or white wine vinegar to taste

Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur or brandy:
Unsweetened orange juice concentrate; orange zest; orange juice; marmalade to taste.

Kahlua or other coffee liqueur or brandy:
2 Tablespoons  = 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of chocolate extract mixed with 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, which has been mixed in 2 tablespoons of water.
Espresso; coffee extract or coffee syrup to taste.

Kirsch:
Syrup or juice from black cherries, raspberries, boysenberries, currants or grapes to taste.

Mirin:
Equal amount white grape juice mixed with lemon juice or zest to taste.

Muscat:
Equal amount white grape juice mixed with water and powdered sugar to taste.

Peppermint schnapps:
Mint Italian soda syrup;  peppermint extract or mint leaves to taste.

Rum:
2 Tablespoons rum = 1/2 to 1 teaspoon rum or vanilla extract or 2 tablespoons water, white grape juice or apple juice.
Pineapple juice or syrup flavored with almond extract to taste.

Sake:
Rice vinegar

Sherry:
Equal amount apple cider or apple juice mixed with lemon juice and water or vanilla extract; coffee or coffee syrup to taste.

Southern Comfort:
Peach flavored nectar combined with a small amount of cider vinegar.

Sweet Vermouth:
Apple juice, grape juice, balsamic vinegar, sweet wine, or water with lemon juice to taste.

Triple Sec:
Orange juice concentrate, orange juice, orange zest or orange marmalade.

Tequila:
Cactus juice or nectar to taste

Vermouth:
Apple cider or apple juice mixed with lemon juice and water to taste.
.
Vodka:
Water; apple cider or white grape juice mixed with lime juice to taste.

White wine:
Equal amount white grape juice; apple cider; apple juice; vegetable stock or water.
Sweet white wine:
White grape juice plus 1 Tablespoon Karo Syrup

Wine:
1/2 cups = ¼ cup of wine vinegar (red or white, depending on which is called for in recipe) and 1/4 cup water mixed with 1 Tablespoon of sugar
 
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Win a Yoplait Delights Indulgent Escape prize pack. CLOSED/WINNER ANNOUNCED

Congratulations to #55,
agatewood1 said... 55
voted for you on picket fence ashleygatewood@mail.com I will be emailing and announcing on Prizey.  Thanks again to everyone who entered. XOXOX dddiva

Here at the Loonyverse, we love our sweets.

Wait, let me rephrase that.

Our MOUTHS love sweets. Our waists? They don't love sweets so much.

Something our taste buds and bodies can agree on, though, is Yoplait Delights. They're rich, creamy, and just awesome-tasting... but still bikini-friendly at 100 calories and 1.5 grams of fat per serving. And when you're tasting something fantastic without being burdened by fat-guilt? It's a perfect little indulgent escape, perfect for things like a break at work when you just need a moment to chill.

Their flavors include Lemon Torte, Chocolate Raspberry (my favorite), Crème Caramel, and Triple Berry Crème. Yoplait just came out with two new flavors, too: Chocolate Eclair and Cherry Cheesecake.

Yeah. Cheesecake.

I don't know about you, but none of those sounds like a flavor you can get at 100 calories a pop to us. And now that you can... well, why the heck wouldn't you?

You can download a printable coupon for 50 cents off new Yoplait Delights here and try them for yourself.

You can find Yoplait on Facebook and Twitter.

We received an adorable “Indulgent Escape” gift pack that includes a Chocolate scented votive candle, insulated tote and aromatherapy eye pillow along with a coupon for a free pack of Yoplait Delights.


THE GIVEAWAY:  One of our very lucky readers (maybe even you) will be sent your very own prize pack just like we received.  US ONLY 18+ ends 2/6  11:59pm CST

Mandatory Entry:   Follow us however you like-  networked blogs, twitter, facebook or you can follow us via GFC (you can find the links by scrolling down) and leave your user name in the comments then tell us which new flavor are you most excited to try, Chocolate Eclair or Cherry Cheesecake?

If the mandatory entry isn't done no other entries will count.

Optional Extra Entries:
Like Yoplait on  Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter for one entry each.  Leave your user name in the comments..
Tweet the following and leave us the link:
Win a @YoplaitYogurt Indulgent Escape prize pack from @dddiva at Our Loonyverse #myblogspark http://tinyurl.com/6gagvxy

Want even more entries?  You can find them here:  EXTRA ENTRIES FOR OUR GIVEAWAYS

Best of luck to you.

The coupon, prize pack, information, and giveaway were all provided through Yoplait through MyBlogSpark.
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Menu for week of 1/24 - 1/30

We spent some time cooking over the weekend- made up a huge batch of all day sauce (or what some of my friends call gravy) and a big pan of meatless lasagna and a pan of manicotti, tons of meatballs for spaghetti and meatballs and/or meatball subs, and while we were at it mini meatloaf(s)- some to freeze, some for easy dinners this week.

Appearing on the menu this week will be:

Honey glazed baked chicken, brown rice, steamed veggies

Lasagna, garlic bread, pineapple salad

Chinese chicken salad- this time made with napa cabbage, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds

Meatloaf, mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans (how 50's, eh?) and probably green salad with some mango and a light vinaigrette, maybe poppyseed

Main dish salad with mixed greens, baby spinach, grape or cherry tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, rough chopped, marinated asparagus spears, fresh mozzarella and proscuitto roll, sliced and quartered and topped with sliced grilled chicken breast that has marinated* for at least 30 minutes before grilling-  top with fresh shaved parmesan if desired
*use a 50/50 oil/vinegar ratio to make a dressing/vinaigrette with Italian herbs or use your favorite Italian dressing

Veggie stir fry served over brown rice

Eat whatever doesn't eat your first night aka leftovers

Anything fabulous on your menu this week?  We're always looking for new ideas, especially tnt.


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Oh-my-gosh CUTE.

That's the initial reaction when you first see a package of SmileyCookies. Because, well, look at this box.

It's so freaking HAPPY. Not to mention adorable... definitely going to re-use this box.

The heart shaped cookies inside are equally adorable. We received a pack to review, and when we saw them, the unanimous reaction was: "SQUEE!"



And these sugar cookies taste as good as they look. We won't deny having sweet teeth in this family, but we ARE pretty picky about our sugar. These are definitely winners.

They'd be great for Valentine's day, or even just-because presents. Smiley Cookies also come in the traditional round shape, minis, flowers, and stars, and you can customize them with different icing colors. Here's a great idea--use your friends favorite shapes and colors, and surprise them with cookie gifts to cheer them up! Because you CAN'T eat one of these cookies and not be happy.

You just can't.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.
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If Today Was Your Last Day - what would you do?

Given my love of Nickelback and the genius of Chad Kroeger, it's no surprise they have their own channel on my Pandora.  ;-)  Or that it's the station I listen to most.  I've heard this song dozens- probably hundreds of times- maybe more.  But today it really hit me, so today my question and my challenge to myself is-  Am I living each day as if it were my last-  if not, what would I do differently (besides not give a damn about the medical bills- nothing I can do but the best I can do there).

Here's the YouTube vid and the lyrics-  I invite you to ask yourself, and to share with us-  what would you do If Today Was Your Last Day?



My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day’s a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
If today was your last day

Against the grain should be a way of life
What’s worth the price is always worth the fight
Every second counts ’cause there’s no second try
So live like you’ll never live it twice
Don’t take the free ride in your own life

If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?

And would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce of memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you finally fall in love
If today was your last day

If today was your last day
Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are

So do whatever it takes
‘Cause you can’t rewind a moment in this life
Let nothin’ stand in your way
Cause the hands of time are never on your side

If today was your last day and tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?

And would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce of memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one you’re dreamin’ of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you finally fall in love
If today was your last day
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Menu for week of 1/17 - 11/23

Choice of easy baked eggplant parmesan or baked chicken parmesan, rosemary and herb foccaccia, mixed greens salad w/light vinaigrette

Pork chops, roasted tiny purple potatoes, baby carrots and pearl onions, hot buttered rolls

Slow cooker Italian beef sandwiches with cheese, carrot and raisin salad, cutie tangerines

Trying a new curry - not sure what yet, possibly pumpkin, naan

Veggie soup, oyster crackers or some type of bread, salad w/dressing of choice

Breakfast for dinner- blueberry waffles, bacon, mixed fruit

Eat whatever doesn't eat you first aka leftovers

We're revisiting old favorites and trying something new-  what's cooking at your house this week?


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Slow Cooker Italian Beef

Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches

It just doesn't get any easier than this, and the flavor is out of this world.

Sprinkle cheap boneless beef roast (non-fatty) liberally with Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning  (you can also use 1/4 - 1/2 envelope of dry Italian salad dressing mix but we're trying to cut out sodium).  Of course, you can also make your own salad dressing mix or seasoning blend and control both the amounts and ingredients.

Dump a jar of pepperoncini, including liquid, on the roast - the pre-sliced ones work great for this recipe.

Set slow cooker to low and cook all day (6-8 hours depending on size- longer won't hurt it any)

Our favorite way to serve is by making Italian Beef Sandwiches.

If using for sandwiches, place meat and pepperoncini* on cutting board and shred with 2 forks or chop like you do when you make pulled pork then return to the cooker and mix with the juices.

*For this recipe the pre-sliced pepperoncini works beautifully-  if you can find them, just leave them in the cooker with the juices and you only have to worry about shredding/chopping the meat.


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Hearing what Source is telling you - Abraham-Hicks

When we listen to ourselves, we often hear (in our heads) the negatives that we learned from our upbringing and just life experiences in general.  We hear things that our Source (whatever you believe or choose to label it) would NEVER, EVER say or think about us- mainly that in some way we aren't good enough or aren't worthy enough).

I absolutely love what Abraham has to say about it, so I have decided to make it a habit to read at least once in the morning and once in the evening and trying to remember it as often as possible during the day. 

Without further ado, here is Abraham's take on it:

We think it would be a wonderful thing in the way that you mean hypnosis to be so actively aware of the vibration of Source that we just went right to it. In other words, if you were following the suggestions of your Inner Being, if you had practiced yourself subject by subject, leaning by leaning, fork by fork, into vibrational alignment with how your Source feels about you, in every moment, Oh what a hypnotic trance that would be!

You would walk around and you would be saying, whether you say it out loud or you say it to yourself, "I am a wonderful Being. There is nothing that I cannot achieve. The world addresses itself to me always in positive ways. Everything always works out magnificently for me. I live a charmed life. Things are supposed to and always do, go well for me. Seas part for me. I have the resources of the Universe at my disposal. I live in an environment where I am inspired to a new thought. And as soon as I give birth to it, things align in order to bring me the actualization or the manifestation of it. I am an extension of Source Energy. I am God in a physical body and I am good. And because I am good, good things come to me. And if I am sick it is temporary because it is natural that I be well. And if I am not abundant of things that are important to me, it is temporary because it is natural that I be abundant. And there is nothing that I am supposed to do, but all kinds of things that I want to do."

If you were listening to the hypnotic voice of your Source, you’d be constantly hearing the drum beating that says, "You are loved, and you are worthy, and you are valued and life is suppose to be good for you. You are worthy, you are valued, you are loved and life is supposed to be good for you."

We want nothing more, than for you to begin listening for and train yourself into the vibrational hypnotic trance of Source Energy who knows your value.

Did you get goosebumps reading this.  Do you know deep down that this is how we are meant to live and feel that this is a gentle reminder?  That's what happened when I saw it.  It's okay if you don't, we're all at different places in our lives and that's a wonderful thing, but I think even if you don't feel this yet, it can't help but give you hope, at least a little bit.
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The difference between contests, sweepstakes and giveaways

What is the difference between contests, sweepstakes and giveaways?

merriam-webster.com defines* them this way:

A contest is a competition in which each contestant performs without direct contact with or interference from competitors.

A sweepstakes is any of various lotteries.

A giveaway is the act of giving something away free

*I chose the most relevant definition for our purposes.

So what does this mean for those of us who like to win and enter contests, sweepstakes and giveaways as a hobby?

In the sweeping world, there are two types of contests. For the most part, there is skill involved which makes them more difficult to enter than a simple entry sweepstakes and there will be fewer entrants so your odds of winning are better.

The first is a judged competition- it can be anything from a recipe contest to a photo contest to a writing contest or what have you. A single person or panel of judges use various guidelines to determine a score and judge accordingly. An example of this would be a writing contest that is awarded points based on various criteria: up to 50 points for relevance to theme, 20 points for humor, 20 points for grammar and 10 points for creativity or uniqueness.

The second is a voting contest, which is basically a popularity contest and quite frankly, I have only entered them on accident and am not overly fond of them as the best entry does not necessarily win. The entrants have to spend countless hours garnering votes and there are no guarantees no matter how good their entry. There is also a lot of cheating, presumed cheating and bad feelings that occur with this type of contest, some gets resolved fairly, and some the sponsors pretty much only care about getting visitors to their site and they don't care how you do it or if you follow the rules or not.

That being said, I do try to help out my fellow sweepers and bloggers and will vote for my friends and members of my communities IF I think they have a quality entry and I have the time.

Occasionally, you will find a contest that combines the two- either it is judged and the most popular are voted on or it is voted on and the most popular are then judged.

Sweepstakes are basically a bunch of people putting their name in the hat for a chance to win a prize or prizes and the winner(s) will be randomly chosen - no skill involved at all. Typically they are fairly easy to enter although now and then you will find one that has you answer a trivia question or two or play a matching game or something fairly easy and will generate a lot of entries because of their simplicity.

A giveaway is something someone gives away and can be done either randomly or based on some other criteria- a blogger can give something away to someone who follows their blog, a company can give a prize away on Twitter to whoever becomes their 1000th follower- basically anyone can give anything they like away for any reason and at this point there are far fewer laws and guidlines that have to be followed.

Which is right for you? That is a very personal decision- in my experience, if there is something I really want to win, it's worth taking the time to enter for, but I won't invest say 30 minutes in winning a $20 prize, but if it is a book I really want to read or free product I'd like to try I'm willing to put in the seconds or minutes required- the more I want it, the more effort I'll expend.

Do you enter contests, sweepstakes and/or giveaways? Which do you have more luck with? What are your favorite prizes to win?
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Menu for week of 1/10 - 1/16

Pressure cooker beef stew with mushrooms, potato rolls with butter.

Stir fried veggies served over angel hair pasta

Parmesan crusted oven baked pork chops, oven roasted baby potatoes, baby carrots and pearl onions, broccoli

Cheese and onion enchilada bake served with homemade guacamole and Spanish rice.

Lentil soup served with fresh grated Parmesan

Spinach and baby greens salad with grilled chicken, pomegranate seeds and pistachios drizzled with a blueberry pomegranate vinegarette.

Chili in homemade bread bowls topped with (optional) cheese, diced onion, sour cream.

Most of our meals this week make a concession to the freezing temps- yay, snow days! but a few lighter meals are tossed in so we don't turn into slugs which is entirely too easy (plus, we'll be eating the leftovers for lunches and two heavy meals in one day won't cut it. ;-)

We're playing around with our new toy (Fagor multi-cooker, mostly using the pressure cooker) as you can see-   do you have a pressure cooker?  If so, what are your favorite things to make in it?


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Winter Friends Blog Hop

http://snackbarreviews.blogspot.com/p/special-thanks.html





SPOT LIGHT HOST
~ Frugal Invitation~


RULES

* To be in this hop just follow all three hosts'.(We always follow back, leave a comment)
* Follow the SPOT LIGHT HOST
* Follow the person before you.
* Have fun. Add the linky and/or button to your page to get more followers!

ENTER: this linky and you could be the NEXT "Spot Light Blog" We will be choosing one random blog via random.org each week to be featured. We will contact you on Thursday and you'll have till Monday 6pm to respond or we will move on to the next random blog.

Don't forget to follow the first 4 in the linky.

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The essential guide to winning

 Here is where I will be sharing my secrets and strategies, hints and tips and we will be posting the giveaways we host as well as a weekly to link up any current giveaways you are hosting or wish to add.  While occasionally sponsors will have specific days/deadlines they want things posted or winners chosen, we'll try our best to do start and end dates on Wednesdays and if that isn't possible, we'll at least list them in this section so you can find them easier.
 
Because there is nothing quite like hearing or seeing the words  
Congratulations, you're a winner!
we have decided write the divas essential guide to entering  (and winning) contests, sweepstakes and giveaways.

We have a simple guide for getting started in this amazing hobby, but it's a lot of info for one page and was written for family members and friends who wanted to jump in quickly.

Our intention for writing this essential guide for Win with us Wednesday will give you ALL the knowledge you need to win contests, sweepstakes and giveaways, in a manageable, easy to follow, logical, step by step blueprint if you will that you can follow exactly, pick and choose the parts that resonate with you or use in any way you like.  Like anything else, the playing field is always changing so we'll be sure to keep you as up to date on what's new in the sweeping world as we can.  Here's what you can look forward to in the coming weeks:
 
SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE DIVAS ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO WINNING

What is the difference between contests, sweepstakes and giveaways?

Sweeping- the hobby that pays off.

5 traits that every sweeper should have.

Top 5 tools for sweepers.

I enter and enter but never win, what am I doing wrong?

Where can I find contests, sweepstakes and giveaways to enter?

People don't really win, do they?  How to tell legit sweeps from scams.

Supporting sponsors and thank you notes.
 
This is just the beginning, we have a lot more in the works.

XOXOX dddiva
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Slow Cooker Pepper Steak


Super easy, very budget friendly and absolutely delicious.

2 pounds round steak, cut into bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic, minced  (I usually use garlic powder)
3 cups beef broth OR 1 envelope onion soup mix or equivalent with 3 cups water OR 3 cups water and 3 beef boullion cubes or 1 can of condensed french onion soup and 1 can of water.
1 tablespoon ginger (fresh grated or finely diced crystallized)
1 can each (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes and Rotel.  Do not drain.
2 bags pepper and onion blend, rough chopped if you want it all bite sized (has red, yellow and green pepper and onion strips and is generally much cheaper than buying fresh-  the quality of this dish will not be affected.)
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce blended with 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Combine meat, broth, garlic and ginger in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low setting for 6 hours. Add tomatoes and peppers; cook 1 hour longer. Stir cornstarch mixture into the pot; cook on high setting until thickened.

Serve over rice.

Serves 8 with leftovers.

Easily doubles or triples - we like to make a LOT and freeze so all we have to do is defrost, heat and make rice on busy nights.  Pressure cooker rice makes fast work of even that since we're not fans of either the texture or loss of nutrients in most instant rices. :)


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Slow Cooker Old Fashioned Polish Style Stuffed Cabbage


1 green cabbage
1 lb ground beef; browned (can use all or part turkey)
1/4 cup uncooked rice (not instant)
1 egg; beaten
1 bag mire poix mix (onion, carrot and celery- find in the freezer section or dice your own)
2 teaspoons your favorite seasoned salt or salt-free seasoning blend
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 oz can tomato sauce
dash of worcestershire sauce

Mix ground beef, rice, egg, mire poix mix, seasoning. Mix together vinegar, brown sugar and tomato sauce. Drop cabbage in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes*. Remove 10 large leaves. Chop remaining cabbage. Place in bottom of slow cooker. Place 2 to 4 tb of meat mixture in center of each leaf. Roll up and place seam side down in slow cooker. Pour on tomato mixture. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

This is revised from a recipe we posted earlier- little changes that make it even better.

We like to double this because it is one of those dishes that tastes even better the longer it sits-  excellent to freeze extra portions so on busy nights you can avoid fast food.

*Can freeze several hours up to overnight then thaw before removing leaves.




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Menu for week of 1/3 - 1/9 Budget friendly recipes

We're trying to cut the grocery budget and still eat well-  here's what is cooking in the loonyverse this week.  What's cooking at your house?

Slow cooker pepper steak served over rice

Easy Lo Mein with lots of veggies

*Sausage stuffed acorn squash, tossed salad

Diner's choice of stuffed baked potatoes with a variety of toppings or leftovers.

Baked fish (I think tilapia) seasoned with lemon pepper, oven roasted sweet potato wedges (regular potatoes for Ken),  sesame green beans

Spaghetti sauce with sliced Italian sausage and peppers served over bowtie noodles, fresh grated parmesan, garlic bread

 Slow cooker old fashioned Polish style stuffed cabbage, mashed potatoes

*New recipe-  I am using the one from Taste of Home.


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Slow Cooker Old Fashioned Polish Style Stuffed Cabbage

1 green cabbage
1 lb ground beef; browned
1/4 cup uncooked rice
1 egg; beaten
1 bag mire poix mix (onion, carrot and celery- find in the freezer section)
2 teaspoons Mrs. Dash original seasoning blend
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 oz can tomato sauce

Mix ground beef, rice, egg, mire poix mix, salt and pepper. Mix together vinegar, brown sugar and tomato sauce. Drop cabbage in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove 10 large leaves. Chop remaining cabbage. Place in bottom of crockpot. Place 2 to 4 tb of meat mixture in center of each leaf. Roll up and place seam side down in crockpot. Pour on tomato mixture. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours.

This is revised from a recipe we posted earlier- little changes that make it even better.
We like to double this because it is one of those dishes that tastes even better the longer it sits-  excellent to freeze extra portions so on busy nights you can avoid fast food.
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Disclosure

This policy is valid from 01 January 2011


 This blog is a collaborative blog written by a group of individuals. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.

 This blog abides by word of mouth marketing standards. We believe in honesty of relationship, opinion and identity. The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post will be clearly identified as paid or sponsored content.

 The owner(s) of this blog is compensated to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner(s) of this blog receives compensation for our posts or advertisements, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers' own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

 This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.


To get your own policy, go to http://www.disclosurepolicy.org

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Delicious Carrot Cake w/ Best Ever Cream Cheese Icing

We made the best carrot cake (a first for us) last night. Being as it was New Year's Eve, when we realized we were out of powdered sugar we couldn't just jump in the car and run to the store so we had to make do. One of those very fortunate oopsies, because we came up with the best cream cheese icing we've ever eaten, and I've had many a cake in my day. Outstanding, and we will probably use it any time we want a cream cheese icing.

We finished making it at just before midnight, and Ki garnished it with some colored sugar and more chopped walnuts. What a treat to ring in the new year with something so pretty and delicious. Remember, we're not professionals, so we think it came out really great. ;-) If you are expecting perfection, you're on the wrong blog. ;-)

Delicious Carrot Cake 

Ingredients
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup each White & brown sugar
  • 2 - 3 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 cups All purpose flour
  • 2 tsp each Baking soda & baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups Grated or shredded carrots
  • 1 cup Chopped walnuts
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat eggs, oil, sugars and vanilla together
  3. Mix soda, powder, salt and cinnamon into flour then add to sugar mixture and mix until blended (I just add one at a time without adding to flour first and get them evenly distributed before adding flour)
  4. Add carrots and walnuts- again just let the mixer do its work til everything looks pretty evenly distributed.
  5. Divide evenly into 2 round cake pans
  6. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
  7. Let cool on wire racks 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool completely before frosting with cream cheese icing. Can cut each layer in half to make a 4 layer cake if desired.
Best Ever Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup Butter, softened
  • 2) 8 oz pkgs Cream cheese
  • 1/2 to 1 cup (more or less to taste) Light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Mix butter and cream cheese together until thoroughly blended with no lumps.
  2. Add in sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy.
If you try it, let us know how you like it- it's truly the best we've ever had, and we all love carrot cake. I think next time we may add golden raisins just to change things up.


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Starting out on the right foot- Lucky New Year's Meal made even healthier!

We have had many changes over the past year, and one of those changes is that Ken is now retired from work and has been approved for social security disability, and though he's kind of driving us nuts home all the time as we adjust to our new lifestyle, we're sort of fond of him and want to do what we can to keep him around as long as possible.

I am so very thrilled to be working with Mom Central and Mrs. Dash over the course of 2011, especially since Ken was diagnosed with high blood pressure.  I've had it for years as it is hereditary and most of my family members have high blood pressure, and am pretty good about not adding a lot of extra salt and whatnot, but Ken- well, it's been said he likes a little food with his salt.

Last month we received 14 varieties of Mrs. Dash to incorporate into our meals and I have to say, so far it's been pretty successful.  While we've not given up salt completely, Ken doesn't reach for the shaker near as often as he used to and when he does he uses it much more sparingly.

So far the favorites have been lemon pepper on several types of fish,  fiesta lime on chicken used in fajitas, original on roasted potatoes, garlic and herb on oven baked sweet potato fries, Italian medley in our all day spaghetti sauce and table blend used when we would normally shake on the salt.

One of the things we enjoy most about the Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blends is that they are perfect for the whole family-  they don't scream special diet like so many foods do and it can only be a good thing the whole family is eating a bit more healthy.

We have several more varieties to try, with my illness/hospitalization and the holidays we just haven't gotten around to them all yet.  Mrs. Dash has an interactive website with tons of info and recipes- you can also look for recipes using Mrs. Dash Blends here in the loonyverse throughout the coming year.

For our New Year's Meal (filled with superstitious good luck foods) we are incorporating Mrs. Dash into our recipes.  We will be making roast pork with apple juice and seasoned with the Garlic & Herb blend, fresh black-eyed peas w/ham also using the Garlic & Herb blend, sauteed organic baby spinach and sauteed cabbage (2 separate dishes) both seasoned with the the Onions & Herb blend and dawn's special coleslaw using a fabulous mayo/cider vinegar dressing seasoned with the Caribbean Citrus blend.

Are you doing anything special for your New Year's meal?  Do you or your family members have to cut back on the salt or have a special type of diet?  If so I'd love to hear what you do, especially if you use Mrs. Dash-  am always on the lookout for new ideas, and 2011 is the year of better choices for the divas. ;-)

Now if only Mrs. Dash would come up with a blend that made retired husbands make better television viewing choices-  do you know how graphic and disgusting 1000 Ways To Die is?  That may not even be the worst of them but it's freshest in my mind since he watched a marathon of them yesterday that he dvr'd.   I never wanted televisions in other rooms than the living/family room because I wanted it to be a family activity, but right now I am seriously rethinking that choice.  UGH!

“I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Mrs. Dash and received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.”
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Down Memory Lane



Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.  Charles Pierre Monselet

Nothing seems to trigger the memory like the scents and tastes of the past, and earlier the girls and I were taking a delightful stroll down memory lane and thought it might be nice to share some of our "food memories" here on Divas Cuisine.

In addition to being a bit of our history, some of these memories will also include recipes when possible, and all, hopefully, will trigger your own reminders of times past in a wonderful way.

Some of the memories are delicious, some are LETHAL (the little divas Uncle Randy's special sauce for the crawfish boil).  I won't spoil it here, but I will add a warning NOT to drink TOO much before packing away the leftovers. ;-) and some are just part of what makes us who we are - a family with a love of each other and good food-  or laughter when the food is not so good.

Hope you enjoy our little strolls with us, and please, feel free to share your memories with us we LOVE LOVE LOVE reading "food and family" stories.








Friday Night Fish Fry - Ted's Fish Fry
Favorite Light Summer Meal
Hey Mom, Is Bread Supposed To Bounce?
Sunday Dinner At Nana's House


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