Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

Okay, so here's a recipe that is a Thanksgiving staple in my home. It's a MUST-MAKE no matter what for my DH. He loves this recipe. Most sweet potato casseroles have a marshmallow topping and while I do like those, I really love this brown sugary crust much better.

4 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter softened
1/3 cup milk
1 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans (optional....I don't ever put them in. I did once and it was delicious but DH didn't like it)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. So first thing is first peel your sweet potatoes. I used these two huge sweet potatoes and they were plenty. If you see my cutting board it's about 15 inches wide and the one was almost that long. Then cut the potatoes up small. The smaller they are the quicker they'll cook. Don't boil the water first. Rinse the potatoes and put them in the pot. Fill with water till just covered. Add salt and cover with a lid. This will help to quicken the boiling process. Cook over med-high heat. When the water begins to boil, take off the lid so that it doesn't overflow. The water is pretty starchy so just like with pastas, water will boil over if a lid is on the pot.

Next drain the potatoes and put back in the hot pot. This will help dry them out so that there is not too much excess moisture. Mash potatoes but don't over mash unless you like it to be pretty smooth. I like my sweet potatoes to have lumps (but not my mashed potatoes). Add the milk, butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir gently.

Next we want to temper the eggs. Since the potatoes are hot, if we add eggs now then we'll have scrambled eggs mixed in our potatoes. Gross. SO first put your eggs in a bowl and beat with a fork or whisk. Next add a tablespoon of the sweet potato mixture and mix. Do this a couple more times to bring the temperature of the eggs up slowly. Now add the eggs to the sweet potatoes. Mix together gently.

Place in a casserole dish.
In a small mixing bowl mix the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives until resembling coarse crumbs.

Pour brown sugar evenly over the potatoes. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes until the brown sugar forms a crust.

 Hope you enjoy this as much as my family does!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tips Tuesday: Reading to Your Kids

Okay, so it's time for your tip of the week! Aren't you excited? Well, a friend shared this article with me and I thought I'd pass it along. It's from the New York Times and talks about how reading to your kids can improve their scores in school. DH and I try to do this already . However, sometimes life is so hectic and can be hard to find a minute to just sit down period let alone sit down and read a book. When it was just Princess8 in the house we had all the time in the world (or now it seems), but now with 3 princesses in the house it's a juggling act to get to each of them equally. We don't read every night, but try at least a couple times a week. Actually, I am able to read chapter books with my Princess8 which I LOVE since I myself am a bit of a bookworm. We read Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series and now are reading The Indian in the Cupboard. Princess5 loves anything pink and girly so she is on a Pinkalicious/Purplicious kick. She also loves Princess Sparkle and Fancy Nancy. Princess2 loves Elmo and Blues Clues but really, she loves anything we make interesting. So, maybe this will give you a little motivation to read to your kids. We aren't perfect by any means but I am glad to know that this really helps.

Read How About Better Parents by Thomas L. Friedman

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chicken and Dumplins

Okay, so when I think of "Comfort Foods" this is the meal that comes to my mind every time. I remember growing up in North Carolina and we'd  have Sunday Supper at my bff's (Amy) house. Her mom made some pretty awesome Chicken n dumplins among many others (though I was never a fan of lima beans...sorry Miss Terry)  It took me quite some time to come up with a recipe that I loved. This meal takes a couple hours and some lovin but it's so worth the effort! Enjoy! How do YOU make your chicken n dumplins?

1 3-6 lb. frying chicken
2 quarts water
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp. rosemary
3 stalks celery, cut into thirds
3 cloves garlic
1 large onion
2 large carrots peeled and quartered
For Dumplins:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 T. bacon drippings (hardened) plus 1T. shortening (OR 3 T. shortening)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon or poultry seasoning

First remove the giblets and the neck from the chicken. Unwrap and place in the stock pot. I usually cook these along with the chicken because it adds flavor to the stock. Next rinse the chicken inside and out.

Place chicken in a dutch oven or large stockpot.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, celery, carrots, salt, pepper,  rosemary, thyme and water. Bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 hours or until tender. (Chicken should almost fall off the bone.)

Remove chicken from the broth and cool. Remove giblets and neck. Discard.

Strain out onions, celery, garlic and bay leaf, leaving only broth.  Remove the skin from the chicken.

De bone the chicken. Cut into bite-sized pieces or just use your hands to break it apart.

Skim fat off the top and then bring broth to a boil. Then add a little bit of flour water to act as a thickener.

I usually add a heaping teaspoon full of flour to a cup (you can use one of those cups for mixing protein shakes if you prefer...I actually forgot I to use it when I made this, but I use it often) Add a little water, not a whole lot. Maybe 1/4 cup. Us a fork to mix together and use your fingers to break up an lumps

You want it to be thick and runny with no lumps. Add it to the broth at this point. Just a tablespoon or so of the liquid. Stir.

Meanwhile, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, and chicken bouillon (or poultry seasoning). I only add a little. It's not supposed to overpower the dumplins, just add flavor. The jar on the right is my jar of bacon drippings. I save them for use with this meal and soups, cornbread, anything just adds another layer of flavor.

Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the bacon dripping and shortening until incorporated and looking like coarse crumbs.

Add buttermilk and mix together.

Knead dough 4 or 5 times.

You can pinch off pieces like this and drop them in....

OR do what I do now, and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and gently pat it down so the salt and pepper stick. Cut in 1 to 1 1/2 inch squares. It doesn't have to be perfect.  I used to make the drop dumplins but now you can see I have been rolling them out. I like the squares better. They're not as thick and seem to cook a little better.

Don't these look tasty?

Reduce heat to med-low and cook 10 minutes. You want the dumplins to begin to set so that when you put the chicken back in they don't break apart.

 Using a wooden spoon, gently stir in the chicken. Simmer on low for 20 minutes.
Serve it up on a cold day and everyone will love it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

SKYPE is Awesome!

Okay, so today is Thanksgiving and unfortunately I wasn't able to spend it with my parents, grandparents or aunts and uncles and cousins. Well, thanks to technology I was able to SEE them all in the same conversation! We had Philly, St. Pete & Dover Florida, and Michigan all in one screen :) It was a little noisy...but so nice to see everyone together even if it was on a screen. Here's a pic of our family conference call using FREE Skype! I remember the days when I was younger and we only talked to them on special occasions because it was long distance. It was "hurry up honey, that's long distance" so we wouldn't be charged. Now, the world is a much smaller place with things like Skype. My parents got to watch their granddaughter play and show off AND hear her...sooo amazing! What a blessing when you live 18 1/2 hours from your folk....Thankful today for not only my amazing family and friends but for technology which I LOVE to HATE...
Happy Thanksgiving, Ya'll!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dry Erase Shopping List & Weekly Menu

Okay, so I have a new addiction...Pinterest. Yes, it's a bigger time waster than Facebook...but at least Pinterest helps me with new creative ideas. I saw this on Pinterest and decided to try it myself. I love it! I already make a weekly menu before I head to the grocery store each week. It just makes life so much easier to know what dinner plans are ahead of time, plus it helps limit over spending and forgetting things. Also, I have an ongoing shopping list on my fridge so now I have a prettier one:) Whenever I run out of something, I just write it down right away..because on shopping day there is no way I am going to remember something like being out of chili powder.  So here's my step by step tutorial.

I bought 2 frames from Walmart. Super cheap!

Since they're gonna hang on the wall I took the stand off. The frames lie flat this way.

Next I traced around the glass from the frame onto the new scrapbook page I got from Michaels

Next I typed up on the computer the words I needed in a couple different colors for choices. I did a test page to make sure it printed correctly, then I inserted my scrapbook paper.

Using fancy scrapbooking scissors, cut out the words.

Next glue them onto a contrasting color of scrapbook paper.

Here I used just regular scissors for a straighter edge.

Glue the words onto the background scrapbook paper and insert into the frames.
Hang onto the wall of your kitchen, and voila! Useful AND decorative! Use a black dry erase marker. Just wipes off with a napkin! Genius! Wish I came up with it on my own... :)

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