Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Chicken Asparagus Risotto

 Hello, friends!

One of my family's new favorite things is Risotto. While a bit time consuming (you can't just walk away and forget it), risotto is super delicious and not really that hard.

I decided I would share the recipe for my most recent flavor profile creation for this super delicious meal - chicken and asparagus!

Chicken Asparagus Risotto

Before the recipe...first some risotto cooking tips!

Use unwashed Arborio rice. Regular rice does not have the starch content needed for risotto.

Secondly...have plenty of broth hot and ready for use. If you use cool liquid it will cool your cooking process down too much.

Don't chop the ends off your asparagus. Bend them near the bottom and they will have a natural break point where they will just snap off. What is left after the bottom snaps off is the best part of the plant. Then cut those pieces into 1 1/2" to 2" bite-sized pieces.

Last of all...be patient. It's totally worth it!

Chicken Asparagus Risotto

1 cup cooked chicken (can use already cooked chicken or cook some up fresh)
1 small bunch asparagus in bite-sized pieces
8 cups (2 quarts) chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bacon bits (optional)

Steam asparagus and prepare chicken and set aside. Asparagus should be bright green and still have a bit of crunch to it. Pour stock into a pot and heat until boiling and then turn down to keep warm. Add oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter to a separate pan. Once melted, add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add rice, and stir a minute or two until there is a slightly nutty aroma. Pour in a ladle or two of stock. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add another ladle of stock and repeat the process. Keep cooking dry and adding stock until rice is cooked properly (about 20-25 minutes). You want the grains to be firm to the bite but not crunchy. Do not overcook. Once rice has reached the desired texture add parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and seasoning to taste. Gently stir in asparagus and chicken. Plate up your risotto and garnish with smoky bacon bits if desired.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Birthday Party and Busy Weekend

 Happy Monday, my friends!

It has been a very busy weekend. Let me back up to Friday...

Friday morning I had errands to run, so I got those knocked out of the way. In the afternoon my friend's two daughters came over to spend the afternoon and evening while she worked.

It worked out pretty well for them to come over because I had to bake birthday cakes for both of them, and this way they could help and decide how they wanted them decorated.

Eszter turned 12 on December 23rd and Ruth will be 7 on January 26th. They decided to have a combined birthday party between the girl's birthdays. Eszter wanted an E-shaped Minecraft themed cake, and Ruth wanted an R-shaped Mini Brands themed cake. 

Both girls wanted chocolate, and my friend had a nifty Pampered Chef cake pan  (Click here to see it!) that makes letters and numbers by using inserts to help shape the cake. The girls got to help with the designs and both were pleased with the results.

Ruth's Mini Brands Cake

Eszter's Minecraft Cake

While the girls were here we also helped make up 9 double batches of my friend's secret hot chocolate mix (27 quarts worth!). It was a busy afternoon and evening!

Saturday I had several things to get done, so while I was working throughout the day Alysia worked on school. She is ALMOST caught back up. We will hopefully finish with catch-up in a day or two.

In the evening we went to Eszter and Ruth's party at Pizza Ranch in Gladstone. My friend had rented the party room there, and ended up with a fairly large crowd. The girls enjoyed their party. After the party 10 girls were going to go home with them to have a sleepover. My friend is brave. LOL!

Ruth and Eszter Enjoyed Their Cakes (Even If Ruth WAS Tired of Getting Her Picture Taken!)

After we got home I sat down late and did our taxes, balanced my checkbook, paid bills and put together a menu plan, focusing on things we already had on hand. I just supplemented it with fresh items, milk, bread, etc. I thankfully have a freezer full of meat right now, so that helps.

I pulled a turkey out of the freezer a bit ago. I bought an extra one when they were on sale at Thanksgiving. I will be cooking it mid-week. We'll eat it as a meal, then use some of it for other recipes. The rest of it will be frozen for future use and the stock will be canned up.

I have gotten somewhat better at cooking things in smaller portions so that not much goes to waste. Aaron takes leftovers for dinners at work every day, so we hardly ever throw anything away. I also have gotten good at freezing things for future use. For instance...I baked extra rolls the last few times I have made them fresh. Those went into the freezer, and that is what we will use this week when I want rolls. If there is extra roast beef it will be frozen for other recipes. We got a dehydrator recently, so if I have extra onions, celery, etc. I can dry them. Our goal is little to no waste, and we're making steady progress towards that goal.

Here is my menu plan for this week:

L: Beef and Bean Burritos, Chips and Homemade Salsa

L: Ramen Bowl with Hardboiled Eggs
D: Pesto Pasta

L: Steak Soup, Biscuit Sticks
D: Pork Chops, Raclette, Green Beans, Bird's Nest Pudding

L: Date Lunch with Husband
D: Potato, Sausage and Kraut Skillet

L: Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, Rolls
D: Jalapeno Cream Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts on a bed of Mexican Rice

L: Turkey Tetrazzini
D: Roast Beef, Roasted Carrots, Parsley Potatoes

L: Leftovers
D: Turkey Pot Pie

Sunday I got up at 5:30 a.m. to pick Aaron up from work as I had kept the car the night before to go to the birthday party. I was very tired as I hadn't slept well, and when we got home I laid back down. I forgot to reset my alarm, and since I hadn't slept more than an hour or so prior, I overslept. I felt bad because I woke up shortly after church started. I don't like missing church, and I kicked myself for not setting my alarm. I was looking forward to getting back since I hadn't been there the previous couple weeks because I was sick. 😔

In the afternoon I went and got my nails done. They were horribly overdue. They had grown out so long I could barely get my contacts out of my eyes without poking them. I stopped by O'Reilly's to get a headlight bulb as I found out this morning that it was burned out on my way to pick up Aaron. I also needed to change the battery in my key fob so I picked that up, too.

When I got home I decided to save Aaron the hassle of changing the lightbulb by doing it myself. I mean, that's an easy job, right? Well...technically it is. IF you have the right bulb. But I didn't. So I had to go back to O'Reilly's. Only to get home and realize I had looked at the bulb for the high beams...which were just fine. And I still didn't have the right bulb for the low beams, which is what I needed to change. 🤦 By that time it was time for Aaron to get up, so he rode with me back to O'Reilly's for the third time, and took pity on me and went in and did the exchange.

We got back home, and I was determined I was going to finish the project, since now I was nursing a vendetta. I did succeed, but I decided next time I'm leaving it to Aaron. I was just trying to help him out since he is in the middle of his work week, but no matter how simple the job, my car repairing is done for now. LOL.

I May Be A Lady But I'm Not Scared of Getting My Hands Dirty

In the evening I focused on relaxing a bit and doing some sit down planning while watching some TV. 

Today I am going to go see a friend for a minute, and then I'm going to pick up groceries. I have some laundry and cleaning to do and then I'm going to spend the rest of the day working on school with Alysia. She has some stuff to do to continue with catch up this morning while I'm busy.

Well...that's it for now. Talk to you soon!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Way Behind, Again!

 Hello, Friends!

Once again, I am way behind in keeping you all caught up. Life has been CRAZY BUSY! I am sure you can all relate. Instead of trying to catch you all up in one long post, I will spread this week out over a couple of days. 

My goal is to write only on weekdays, and take the weekends off. However, since I haven't been too good at keeping up with my daily posts I figured I would make a post today, and then catch you up on the rest of this week hopefully on Monday!

Tuesday we had to take our car to the dealership for a recall repair for a shift cable bushing replacement, as the previous one had been faulty and failed in many cases to allow people to put their cars in park...😗Yikes! They also tightened a loose brake caliper bracket for us. 

Wednesday we met my mom, cousin, brother's family and sister's family for lunch. It was both my birthday, and my sister-in-law Nicole's birthday. Family friend Jose owns the Mexican restaurant Tu Casa in Butler...which also happens to be the halfway point between Kansas City and where my family lives in southern Missouri, so it's one of our favorite places to meet up. 17 of us descended on the restaurant and it was loads of fun!

Our Family Gathering at Tu Casa with Owner/Family Friend Jose In the Middle

Before the Food

After the Food

Birthday Girl Nicole

Whipped Cream In the Face...A Tu Casa Birthday Tradition

We have known Jose and various members of his family since I was a teenager. When I was a kid we would often end up at El Charros Mexican restaurant in Lamar on Sunday afternoons after church. We met Jose there when I was about 16 or so. Over the years he became one of my late father's best friends. When my dad was sick I often stopped by Tu Casa on my way back and forth and kept Jose updated on my dad's condition. He was able to go see my dad on July 4, 2021 just 6 days before my father passed away. 

Jose and My Father Several Years Ago

While at Tu Casa we all had a ton of fun visiting, both with each other, and Jose and a couple of his children. I got to play with baby Kelly a lot. She seemed to want me (and occasionally Uncle Aaron) pretty much the whole time...and I was perfectly ok with that. She kept snuggling into my shoulder to give me hugs and kisses. What a precious baby! 

We ate yummy food. Sister Amber had a present and balloon for me. Mom insisted on buying me and Nicole's lunch. Cousin Dave gave me a gift. I can't express how much I appreciate all of their generosity and love as I tried to gracefully move into my 37th year. Each year is a hard adjustment for me. I do not like getting older. It was very hard for me to move out of my 20s...and now I'm pushing the end of the 30s. I wish it was possible to just freeze time yet continue living. LOL.

Once lunch was over we came home and took care of stuff here. Didn't really do much for my birthday after lunch, which was more than enough. 

Thursday was full of laundry. Since I had been sick and hadn't gotten to it like normal I had 7 loads piled up. I knew Friday and my weekend was going to be very busy, so I worked hard to try to get it all caught up. I still have a load of towels and my youngest daughter's bedding to fold (my next task after I post this), but everyone finally has fresh clean clothes in their drawers again!

Alysia is in the office/classroom working on school. Yes, it's Saturday, but we are playing catch-up, and that is the beauty of homeschool! Aaron went to pick up lunch since I have a million things to do today. I ordered soup, sandwiches and tea from McAlister's Deli in Liberty, so he should be back in a few minutes.

I can't express how much I enjoy visiting with ya'll on here. I'll update you on Friday (yesterday) and the rest of my weekend on Monday. See you then! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Sour Dough Starter and Bread

I am preparing to make a new batch of sour dough starter this week. I have not had a batch going in about 2 months, and my sour dough bread is one of my family's favorite things. A big pot of soup and a round loaf of sour dough bread is the perfect cold night meal. 

Better yet, the sour dough starter can be used for lots of different things...biscuits, pancakes, breads, waffles, muffins, pizza crust, crackers, cakes, scones, doughnuts, pretzels...the list is endless.

Sour Dough Starter

Sour Dough Jar

Make sure to use a large jar with a loose-fitting lid. I use this glass jar that I got from Wal-Mart. Most importantly, use a jar with a large opening to ensure ample ease of mixing.

The most important thing is keeping the starter going, which requires feeding. Each time it is used, the mix needs replenished. If it has been awhile since you used the starter, you may have to discard some starter and "feed" it. There are hundreds of recipes that can be used so you don't actually have to discard the starter (a quick online search for sour dough recipes will bring endless results), but you'll know it needs fed when you get a layer of liquid on top. As long as the liquid is clear or light yellow in color, it is still good to use. Stir it in and move on. If it is gray or black, discard your starter and start over.

I remember my grandma often having a jar of sour dough starter on the kitchen counter. My siblings and I spent almost every Friday night at my grandparents house when I was a child, and my grandma used that jar of starter a lot while we were there, although most commonly it was for sour dough pancakes, which she often topped with her own homemade raspberry syrup...a flavor and scent I still like to replicate occasionally that can take me back to my grandmother's kitchen faster than just about anything else. It was my grandma that first introduced me to the wonders of sour dough, and I love everything about it.

Here are my recipes for starter and my basic (yet extremely tasty) sour dough bread which I have been making for about 20 years now. Enjoy!

Sour Dough Starter
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour into jar and cover. Leave out at room temperature for 48 hours. Each time you use the starter add 2 more cups of flour and 2 cups of water and mix until smooth again. Leave out for a few hours until bubbly and refrigerate. After the first time, you will not need to use additional yeast.

Sour Dough Bread
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs yeast
2 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups starter
5-6 cups flour

Mix water, yeast, sugar and salt. Add starter. Mix flour in a cup at a time just until dough is no longer sticky. Knead until smooth and satiny on a floured board. Place in a greased bowl, grease top of dough and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size. Punch down and divide into 2 parts. Knead balls lightly and make 2 round loaves. Place onto a greased baking sheet (or prepared parchment paper) and dust tops lightly with cornmeal (This step is optional, but something I learned from an almost identical recipe while I was working at Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, and I quite love the texture, so I keep it in my recipe now as well!). Cover and let rise until doubled again. Bake at 350° F. for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom...the most truly accurate way to tell if a loaf of bread is done all the way through!

For best results serve hot with fresh butter....but don't be surprised if a whole loaf is gone in a few minutes!

Monday, January 9, 2023

On the Mend!

Well, my friends...at long last I am FINALLY on the mend. I am a long way from feeling 100%, but I am up and around and not in nearly as much pain and agony as I was a few days ago. At 2 weeks already this has been one of the worst illnesses I've had in a long time...possibly even worse (and definitely longer) than when I had COVID a year ago.

I ended up in the Urgent Care on Thursday evening. My right ear and Eustacian tubes were full of fluid, which had made its way down into pain in my jaw, teeth and neck. It was awful. A couple good days of antibiotic in, and I'm finally starting to feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

I am looking forward to starting today to get my house back in order. I have some cleaning to do, and I need to do laundry. There is a deer roast and vegetables cooking in the crockpot. I am going to try to get some school done with Alysia, as we are a bit behind since I was so sick last week. 

Deer Roast, Potatoes, Carrots and Onions

Aaron took the Christmas tree down the middle of last week. I am hoping this week to get the lights down off the front porch outside. I have decided to leave the pink lights up that I put in the bathrooms, at least for now. They are pink and go well with my décor, and I like the ambient lighting. The downstairs bathroom is pink and gray with roses. The upstairs bathroom is decorated in a pink and teal mermaid tail motif. 

Aaron and I have really been discussing trying to conserve energy and money by looking at alternative lighting sources. This, of course, means going back to candles and oil lamps when and where appropriate. And for those of you who know Aaron and myself, we are both very old fashioned and love the things of yesteryear. There are times and places that this simply will not work. For instance, there is no way I will put an open flame in my daughter's room. So she will still use her light. And there will be times that we will need more light than that provided by lamps or candles. That's all good and fine, but in the meantime we will save money when and where possible with alternative lighting. I am actually quite excited as I love the look and feel a home lit by lamplight. It is one of the coziest and warmest feelings I know of.

I just took some time to balance my checking account and pay this weeks bills. Each bill puts more strain on our already tight budget, but I am hoping that we will get enough of a tax refund back that I will be able to pay one or two of the smaller ones off and alleviate a bit of the strain. This is a hard time of year to get through, but we have almost made it.

Alysia is sitting beside me working on rewriting a corrected essay for school on a day in the life of a child during the Civil War. She is a bit behind in school since I have been sick, but we are going to work hard on getting caught up in the next few days. 

Alysia Works On School

I am a bit behind on things myself. I am going to sit down here in a bit and work on our menu plan for this week. I also need to make a grocery list and order the groceries to be picked up. All in all...a lot to get done, but the biggest hurdle is pacing myself so I don't overdo it and end up back in bed sick.

Here is to looking forward to a productive and healing week, and more time to visit with you!

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta

Yesterday I mentioned making a batch of Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Aaron. This is one of those recipes that is a bit of a "cheater" recipe, but it is so delicious that I'm ok with this one. 

You see...I grew up with a father that was half Sicilian. The thought of purchasing a jar of pre-made spaghetti sauce was majorly frowned upon. The words "Ragu" and "Prego" were bad words in our house. LOL. But with a bit of "doctoring" this recipe is super delicious and easy enough for people who don't know much about cooking...so while I was sick I could chop onions and such at the table while Aaron did the cooking.

So, sorry, Mom....but this recipe is super yummy despite the jarred sauce.

I hope ya'll try it!

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta
1 lb. penne (or other pasta of your choice)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 chicken breasts
Salt and Pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, diced
1 45 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. basil
1 pkg mozzarella pearls (I use BelGioioso brand that I get at Wal-Mart)
Parmesan cheese for topping

Saute chicken in olive oil with salt and pepper. Remove chicken and saute onions and garlic. Add sauce. Put water in jar, swish around and pour into sauce. Add basil and cooked chicken. Cook 10 minutes until nice and hot. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Right before pasta is done stir mozzarella pearls into sauce, turn off and let sit without stirring anymore. When pasta is done top with sauce and parmesan and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Rough Start To the Year

Hello, my friends!

I am sitting here, still in bed sick. It has been a long few days.

Friday (the last day I was able to post) I thought I was starting to feel better...and of course overdid it. By that evening I was down again. 

Saturday was New Year's Eve and I had an all-day "Family Fun Day" planned. I got up, we got food and I was already tired. Mid-afternoon we all took a nap with plans to be up late. When we got up we made up a batch of BBQ Meatballs, some cheese dip and chips, and a meat/cheese/cracker tray. While we waited for the new year we played a couple games of Swap and Mille Bornes, and snacked. By 8:00 p.m. I could sit up no longer, so I laid on the couch while Aaron and Kayla played a game of Uno. Then Kayla decided the time would go faster if we watched a movie...and she already had one in mind..."The Greatest Showman" (the P.T. Barnum story). I barely got 20 minutes in and I couldn't stay awake any longer. With a promise from Aaron that he would make sure I was awake to ring in the new year, I came upstairs, bathed and went to bed. 

Alysia wasn't at her best and was already in bed. At a quarter to midnight Aaron and Kayla joined me with a bottle of sparkling grape juice to ring in 2023. After we were done with our little celebration we all went to bed.

Sunday morning my right ear was full of fluid and hurting. I was getting steadily worse and was not able to get out of bed. Aaron took the girls to church. In the evening, Aaron had to take Kayla back to her mother, and I was unable to go with them. After they dropped her off, Aaron and Alysia met my mom and cousin for dinner at Freddy's. Aaron had a few things to drop off for them and when they got home, my Mother had sent me an early birthday present. I opened it to find a beautiful diffuser and a bottle of eucalyptus oil.


NOW Eucalyptus Oil
When my Mom had COVID she used her diffuser constantly, and she says it is what helped her pull through when she couldn't breathe correctly. I was very thankful for this thoughtful gift knowing how sick I was. I put it to work immediately.

Yesterday I sat in the kitchen and helped Aaron make a big pot of my Chicken Mozzarella Pasta. By yesterday evening the ear infection was bad enough it was causing my jaw and teeth to hurt. I put warm olive oil and a cotton ball in it, took some extra ibuprofen, and used my cherry pit pack to act as a warm compress. (For instructions on how to make one, though different from mine, click here.) It finally stopped hurting enough that I could get some decent sleep.

I woke this morning feeling a bit better, but not good enough to do anything. Aaron and Alysia are in Warrensburg helping my mother-in-law move into a new apartment. It will be her first time living alone in her own place in awhile, and I am excited for her. Alysia was feeling much better this morning and wanted to help "Meme", so she headed out with Aaron.

I have spent my time soaking in the bath with Dr. Teal's Eucalyptus and Spearmint bath salts and working on my blog with my diffuser going beside me. I am hoping that I am FINALLY on the mend and will be up and at it in another day or two. This has been the worst sickness I have had since I had COVID on January 1st last year. I'm not liking this annual tradition I have developed over the last 2 years of being sick for the beginning of the new year, and my resolution for this year is to not be sick at the end of the year. 

I am tired of living off of Nyquil, Dayquil, Alka Seltzer, Vicks VapoRub and Emergen-C. Please pray for a quick recovery over the next day or so. I need to get better so that I can get my house back in order and get Alysia caught up on school. I so much appreciate Aaron during this time. He has been keeping things going while I can't, whilst taking care of me. God has given me the most amazing partner. I love him more than I can even express.

Well...hoping this finds you all well, and that I have better news to share in the next couple of days. Prayers that your new year is starting out better than mine has.

Love to all!

Sour Dough Biscuits and Upcoming Changes

Good evening, friends! August is here and we will soon be in autumn and I can't wait!!! On August 1st the month started with a super moo...