Friday, December 30, 2011

Feta dip

Another super de duper dip that was probably the biggest hit of the year this Christmas. I have no amounts, I just added, tasted, added more of whatever, and tasted.  So. Flipping. Good.  I never really use greek seasoning but that's about to change...

The ease of this dish means Im going to serve it on New Years Eve too so we have munchies after our early dinner.  And if the crowd is half as pleased as the Christmas crowd...there won't be leftovers!

olive oil
feta cheese
greek seasoning
green onion
roma tomatoes
dippy bread

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hot caprese dip

It's so great to have a recipe like this when you're in the kitchen for a full day making food for three Christmases...literally chop 3 ingredients up, mix them together, and put in the fridge until you're ready to bake.  Oh, and if you didn't know...anything with the word "caprese" in it gets put on the short list to make as soon as possible...I think I found this recipe on Tuesday and made it on Friday. One of my fave summer appetizers is the caprese skewers I made for the 4th of July this year...and this dip held it's own against those!

10 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped into cubes
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and juiced
3 T freshly chopped basil

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, then switch to broil for 2 minutes so the cheese is bubbly and golden brown when you serve. The only suggestion I have is to make sure you get most of the juice and seeds out of the tomato before adding it into the mix to prevent standing liquid after baking....not that the juice is bad tasting, I ate the crap out of it.  But it just doesn't look the best for serving...

I baked a baguette and sliced it up to serve as the dipper.

There were a bit of leftovers, which I killed last night.  Had to get rid of it before the end of the year when the real wedding dieting starts....and there's no way I was throwing this out, mmmmmmm all that basil-y goodness is one of my favorite flavas out there!  You had me at caprese.....

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Love story :)

So, in case you've noticed my slacking in the posting department the last 3 weeks or so, I wanted to give you an explanation. A lot of you already know, as most of my readers are friends or family in life as well as in the blogosphere....but for those of you that are in the dark, my main man proposed to me during my family's Thanksgiving this year!!  Even now when I say it or look down at my finger, it gets me all giddy! :)

My birthday is the 22nd of November and always falls close to Thanksgiving, if not on the actual Turkey Day. This year it fell on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving....kinda lame. I went to work like any other day (but did get lunch and a beautiful Fall flower arrangement from my honey unlike most work days), and came home to a beautiful new Dyson vaccuum cleaner parked in the house.  We've needed a new vaccuum, and you can't beat a I wasn't too terribly disappointed thinking that this was my birthday present, although I did have a voice in the back of my head going "Really? A vaccuum?  For my BIRTHDAY??"  We proceeded to head to Vintage, which is a wine shop where they have tastings and we had a gift card to use from my friend Bea.  The place we had chosen for dinner (because I had a free dinner coupon for my birthday!) allows you to bring your own wine in without a corking fee so we got a nice bottle to enjoy with our dinner before heading to Bravo.  We had a great dinner, during which he explained to me that he didn't really get me a vaccuum for my birthday (whew!) but his gift had not arrived yet and would be here by Friday. 

Friday came and went but I was sooooo busy preparing food for 30 guests on Saturday for my family's Thanksgiving, that I never thought much of it. Amanda and Michelle stopped by that afternoon after I had everything picked up, and we visited over some wine and had a nice time looking at Amanda's honeymoon photos.  Little did I know that Little Miss Sneaky (Michelle) had been at the jeweler with Justin that morning because he asked her to come with him to help choose the ring. She's a very good little secret keeper because she didn't act odd at all, and my Aunt Chris showed up soon after so the girls left and I got to gabbing with her.  Mom and Dad came that evening and we all hung out in the garage Justin and Tony had fixed up with the pool table, foosball table, tv, tables, radio, etc...its very cozy in there and was nice to have an area outside where we can all hang out.

That next day was busy, busy from the start! We had two turkeys on (one smoked and one fried) plus a ham as well as a million and half side dishes so I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  No time to sit and think about Justin forgetting to give me a birthday present that was supposed to arrive the day before. After the preparation, the meal, and the clean up was all taken care of, a few people left (Grandma and Grandpa snuck out of there, sadly) and the rest of us retired to the cozy garage to watch football, play pool, have some toddies, and chit chat. After a bit, Aunt Vicki and Uncle Mike got their gear ready to leave.  Justin said, "Oh, I forgot to give you your birthday present" and ran into the house and back before Vic and Mike could leave. He put the box in my lap, and the only thing I really remember is that it got very warm in there all of a sudden. Why is he doing this in front of everyone? Why is this shaped like jewelry? Why is everyone staring at me?

From there, I don't have much memory of what happened...I know only what the photos that my Aunt Vicki took show, so I'll let them tell the story for your right now...don't mind my horrible outfit, my ugly crying faces, and my house shoes, I wasnt aware I was going to be taking pictures that I would want to look at over and over every day from then on out....

How flipping lucky am I not only to have the most amazing FIANCE (that's so fun to say, by the way) but to have an awesome aunt with an awesome camera to capture one of the most exciting moments in my life!?  I can't wait to get started on my scrapbook :)

I'm not much of a jewelry person usually, but I am absolutely in love with this ring and what it means to me.  We have set a date (October 20,2012), booked a venue (Prairie Moon Winery in Ames, IA), booked a caterer, photographer, officiant, picked the colors as well as the wedding party, and even won a free wedding dress in a facebook now you see why there's been breaks in my blogging, I've been a busy blogger!! 

I will try to stay on track with the blog but I know there will be days when it will center on wedding planning rather than what I ate that week.  P.S. I can spill here since all you foodies will be excited about this part.....we are serving pork loin with au jus, poppyseed chicken, and (Justin's pick of course) lasagna as the main courses.....YUMMY!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reuben dip

I've been wanting to make this for a while, it's been at the top of my new appetizer file but I have sooooo many picky friends who would rather lose an eye than try sour kraut, that I needed a good venue where people would enjoy it as much as I would to try it.  The Jamison family  Christmas was just the spot...I brought the ever so popular macaroni corn casserole (which didn't disappoint, I must say) and thought I would try something new as here it is!!

I would put money on the fact that Justin will ask me to make this again, he just loved the stuff. We have so many leftovers so usually Sam (our dog) will get in on some of the action but Justin wasn't letting Sam get the remnants of this crockpot.  I also didn't really think I liked Rye bread, but the marble Rye I got was very tasty with this dip....just like a reuben!! I baked the bread so it was warm and cut it up into dipper sized pieces, the rest is history...

1 cup sauerkraut, drained
1 (8 oz) fat free cream cheese
1 (6oz) shredded Swiss cheese
6 oz diced corned beef
2 T Thousand Island dressing

Throw it in the crockpot on high for an hour to an hour and a half and you're set!

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Crack potatoes

This is why I love Pinterest...these potatoes. So many great ideas, easy recipes that I shouldve thought of, and drool worthy photos that give you a hankering to go to the store immediately and just cook your life away. I'm a potato girl so these were a no-brainer....super de duper easy and great for a crowd.  These were one of Justin's favorites for Thanksgiving so they will be on the do again list for sure...

2 (16oz) containers sour cream (I used one light and one fat free)
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (2%)
2 (3oz) bags real bacon bits
2 packages Ranch Dip mix
1 large (28 - 30oz) bag frozen hash brown potatoes - shredded kind

Combine first 4 ingredients, mix in hash browns. Spread into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 400 for 45-60 minutes. I mean really??  That's it?  These are absolutely devine.  That's the only thing you need to know about this dish.

**Per the comments from readers, most people enjoyed this better with only one package of ranch dip mix, two packs was too salty for most people, although we enjoyed it the way it was. Do whatever floats your boat :)

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Grandma's oreo ice cream freeze

My grandma's ice cream dessert is better than your grandma's ice cream dessert!!  I don't remember a year when this wasn't available at the holiday family of course I requested she make it for our first time hosting Thanksgiving at our place. Justin had never had it, but he understood immediately why I spoke so highly of it after he tried it. He actually was hoping Grandma had forgotten the container in the freezer and went looking for it later that weekend!  I've never actually made this before, but now that I've conned the recipe out of her, there is no question that this will become one of my signature dishes...passed down from my Grandma Theda :)

1 Pound Oreo Cookies
2 sticks margarine
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
2 squares chocolate (2 Hershey bars should work)
1/4 cup sugar
1 large container cool whip
chocolate chips

Crush cookies; mix with one stick margarine, press into bottom of cold cut keeper ; freeze. Soften 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream enough to spread over crumb mixture; freeze. Make a sauce with 2 squares chocolate,1/4 cup sugar, the other stick of margarine. Bring to a boil, don’t overcook, cool. When ice cream is frozen spread chocolate sauce over it ; refreeze. Spread large cool whip over top; sprinkle with nuts or small chocolate chips. Cover and freeze.

This picture does not do the layers of this dessert justice...oreos are my fave so maybe that has something to do with my love for this dish.  You really can't get much better than this.  Thanks for sharing, Grandma!! Love you :)

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Twice baked potato casserole

I abso-fricking-lutely LOVED these potatoes.  Then again, I love all potatoes.  Let's just put it this way...these were better than your average tater. Justin wasn't as big a fan as Curt was but they seemed to be a hit at Thanksgiving either way! This made a perfect amount for a large group, AND worked great to make and put in the fridge to bake for all know how much I love to do the cooking ahead of time so I can have a clean kitchen for guests and just throw things in the oven when I'm ready for them.


•5 lb russet potatoes
•10 slices bacon
•8 oz cream cheese (I used fat free)
•0.5 c unsalted butter, melted
•1 c sour cream (I used fat free)
•2.5 c cheddar cheese, grated (I used 2%)
•1 T pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel potatoes, and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large saucepan, and add enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender and easily pierced with a paring knife, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain; return to pan, cover, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon, and cook until crisp and browned, turning once. Transfer to paper towels to drain; let cool, and crumble into pieces.

3. Using a fork, mash the potatoes in pan until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, butter, and sour cream, and stir until combined and smooth. Add the chives, 2 cups cheddar cheese, half the bacon, salt, and pepper. Stir until well combined.

4. Transfer to a buttered 3-quart baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Bake until top is slightly golden and potatoes are heated through, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven; garnish with remaining bacon. Serve immediately.

I just threw some salt and pepper on that jazz and went face first into's very rich and kinda heavy...but dang it's good stuff! I didn't get a finished photo...just like all holidays I'm rushing around like a madwoman and then forget when it's time to serve. So you will have to imagine it...and try not to drool when you do.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mom's pasta salad

This is a tuscan pasta salad but it's Mama K's favorite thing to bring to pot luck events now, and I know why. She made this for our big Thanksgiving but with so many choices for food, nothing really got finished.  She left the leftovers here, and I ate them. When I say I ate them, I mean to tell you that I ate all of them...I ate the. whole. bowl. This stuff is right up my alley with pepper and garlic, olive oil and red wine vinegar...mmmmmm!  This is now up my sleeve as a go-to...will be great for summer parties where a cold pasta salad is needed. I always go with the same pasta salad in the summer, and it's great, but it's always nice to have a little variety...

Here's what you need:

3 cups bowtie pasta
4 oz hard salami, sliced into thin strips
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cracked black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cups torn romaine
1/2 cup shredded parmesan

Cook the pasta according to packag directions and then drain. Add all ingredients to large mixing bowl except for the romaine and parmesan. Stick in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours....should look like this:

After the flavors all meld together beautifully, mix in the romaine and toss evenly and sprinkle with parmesan to serve.  You can add more of the vinegar and olive oil if you like it a little less dry (we did)...

I did not get a photo of this dish fully prepared. I really wish I did because it was gorgeous...but I had a bit too much going on with food coming out and 30 people in the house...I'll get better at this whole process someday, I promise :)  Meanwhile...try this and enjoy it, you'll thank me later!
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Maggie's macaroni corn casserole

This is in the running for Justin's favorite holiday side...right up there with the crack potatoes (which will be posted soon).  I think he forgot about it this year until he saw it, and then filled up so much of his plate with it that he missed out on the 20+ other dishes we had for my side's big Turkey day dinner.  I really only make this for holidays, and if you notice the amount of butter it calls for, you will understand why. This would make a yumtastic year 'round side dish but it's nice to have some of those great dishes that you associate just with the you that warm fuzzy feeling of holidays past when you eat it, you know?!

I got this recipe from my friend Maggie, who got a metric crap-ton (yeah that's a unit of measurement) of recipes at one of her bridal showers a few years ago. Maggie is extremely picky...I'm talking she plugged her nose to eat a piece of salmon I wanted her to try a couple years an adult!  So the fact that she made this for us girls one night is a testament in and of itself that you need to make this for your next holiday gathering.

Besides being hella fab on the taste buds, this is super easy and has very little ingredients compared to some of my other holiday recipes that have such a process to complete (i.e. Kratoska dumplings, which I will enlighten you with very soon).

2 cans golden corn, undrained
2 cans creamed corn
2 cups macaroni, uncooked
1 small white onion, diced
1 cup butter (it calls for 2 but I can't bring myself to do it)
8 oz (half a log) of Velveeta, cubed (I use 2% to cut a little fat)

Combine the corn, macaroni, and onion in a large mixing bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave and add to the corn mixture. Melt the Velveeta slowly in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning. When it is smooth, add it to the other ingredients and mix evenly. Put the mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and cover with tin foil.  You can either make this ahead and store it in the fridge until you're ready (works well when having a large group over, believe me) or throw in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour. The golden goodness you see below is your result...if you're not huge on onions, use a half so you get the flava flav but are not overwhelmed.  Two of the girls who are onion haters love this dish so I would give it a shot even if you are normally not a fan of the onion variety.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Cinnamon roll cake

This has no business on a skinny kid food blog...and in all truthfullness it has no business being near my mouth. But this was so good, it wouldve been worth it to start a new blog, just to post fat kid food to. I'm not big on cinnamon rolls at all, I don't crave sweets, but this was TO DIE FOR. I'm not exagerrating, it was the talk of the table at Thanksgiving, and we have my mom's cousin Craig to thank for it (does that make us 2nd cousins or something in the once removed category?) if you only decide to ever make one thing off this blog in your life, you should choose this...just saying.

I don't know how you can get away with calling this breakfast but Im going to list it there just because it has the phrase "cinnamon roll" in it...


3 c. flour
1/4 tsp.salt
1 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, melted

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Mix everything together except for the butter. Slowly stir in the melted butter and pour into a greased 9x13 pan. For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife. Bake at 350 for 28-32 minutes.

2 c. powdered sugar
5 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Cynthia's boursin mushrooms

These things don't belong on a skinny kid blog at all...but it's the holidays so what the hey! The problem is that they are so simple to make that I don't even consider it a recipe.  Three...yeah I said three....ingredients and you're ready to go! The most important ingredient is pictured below:

There should be heavenly angel music playing in the background whenever you come across boursin cheese.  So rich and creamy...ugh, I wish the stuff was calorie-less.  Cynthia is a boursin mushroom goddess, she can tell you where the best ones are in town (as well as cheese sticks) wherever you are at the moment. I think she just decided to make them one time at home and this is what came of the attempt: absolute bliss.  If boursin cheese weren't so pricey I would make these every week.  I can give you a solemn promise that if you make these for a party, there will never EVER be one left over, and your guests will always ask you how you did it.   Pinky swear!

All you need is:

one of the large containers of fresh white mushrooms
one container of garlic and herb boursin cheese
fat free I cant believe its not butter spray

Clean your mushrooms and pull/wiggle the stems out of the caps.  Put a spoonfull of cheese into each mushroom cap and place onto a baking sheet.  Spray the whole bunch with spray butter to make sure they don't dry out and throw them in the oven at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. 

I always double this and have been known to triple it on occasion...if I don't I sometimes dont even get one before they're gone! They're absolutely delectable when they're warm out of the oven but they taste pretty pleasant when they're cold too...

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

BLT pasta salad

I think I'm finally back in the swing of things cooking wise. I was so burnt out from all the holiday food we had been eating out quite a bit since Thanksgiving. I'm proud to tell you we had a great home cooked meal last night, one of my faves!  I made Spicy spinach stuffed chicken and roasted brussel sprouts for dinner and it sure did hit the spot :)  But on with my Thanksgiving menu recipes...with the BLT pasta salad!

I have to be honest with you and tell you that I didn't even get to try this. I made it for our first hosting Thanksgiving and we had over 30 people in the house, with enough food to feed 3 times that! I literally couldn't get everything on my plate, let alone into my stomach! It looked really good though, and I would probably make it again as everyone who tried it said they enjoyed it.


12 ounce corkscrew shaped pasta
1/2 cup milk
12 ounces lean bacon (could use turkey but I'm trying to get rid of Wilbur in our deep freeze)
3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup mayo (I used the light olive oil mayo)
1/4 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons chopped chives
5 cups chopped romaine hearts


Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water as the label directs. Drain and toss with the milk in a large bowl; set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Discard all but 3 tablespoons drippings from the pan. Add the tomatoes, thyme and garlic to the pan and toss until warmed through; season with salt and pepper. Crumble the bacon into bite-size pieces; set aside 1/4 cup for garnish. Toss the remaining bacon and the tomato mixture with the pasta.

Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream and 3 tablespoons chives with the pasta until evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lettuce; toss again to coat. Garnish with the reserved bacon and the remaining 1 tablespoon chives. Serve at room temperature. I didn't get a photo of this, but let's get real...the photo on pinterest from A Bird and a Bean is way better this is why my mouth was watering for this salad!

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hot corn dip

I don't know if you know this about me but I'm a dip freak. Veggies and dip, chips and dip, I dip my pizza in ranch, I dip anything and everything I can legally dip.  One of my top 5 fave dips has corn in it (see HERE) so it really piqued my interest to see a hot dip with corn.  Sold. 

2 Tbsp. butter
3 1/2 c. corn kernels (I just used 2 cans golden corn)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 c. finely chopped red bell peppers
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (I didn't seed mine)
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. mayonnaise (olive oil mayo)
4 ounces monterey jack or cheddar, shredded- I used pepperjack
4 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Tortilla chips, for dipping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kernels turn deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring often, until the onions are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the beans (if using them) green onions, jalapeno, and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.Transfer to the bowl with the corn. Add the mayo, cayenne pepper, half of the monterey jack and half of the cheddar and mix well. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish (or something equivilant) and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot with tortilla chips.

I served this at Justin's mom's for Thanksgiving and reheated the leftovers to serve at my side's Turkey Day at our house.  I loved the stuff but I think some people were unaware that it was a dip and just ate it with a fork like a salad...I suppose that means it's pretty good if you can eat a dip without even having any chippies?  Ready for the mouthwatering photo? Ok, I owe you one since I've been gone for so long....will post about the reason for that soon :)  Here ya go....

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving menu

I'm taking a bit of a hiatus for the holiday this week (and my birthday!!) but wanted to give you a glimpse of what you have to look forward to when I return....believe me, I'm excited about all of this!  Some of the ones I've made before are linked, but the others will be posted after the holiday...

Tastefully Simple 'Garlic Garlic' dip and 'Onion Onion' dip
JD's southwestern dip (all dips served with tortilla chips, beer bread, and triscuits)
Mallory's tortilla rollups
Aunt Vicki's deviled eggs
Hot corn dip
Cynthia's boursin stuffed mushrooms
Pickle wrap dip

Main courses:
Smoked turkey (which we will prepare exactly as we did this smoked chicken)
Fried turkey
Glazed ham

Oyster dressing
Kratoska family dumplings
BLT pasta salad
Crack potatoes
Twice baked potato casserole
Mom's pasta salad
Maggie's corn macaroni casserole
Sweet corn
Green bean casserole
Stuffing (from a box...I'm not that talented yet!)
Jello salad
Scalloped corn

Grandma's oreo ice cream freeze
Carrot bars
Grandma's brownies
Cinnamon roll cake

Do you think we'll have enough food??

And for breakfast the following morning when I have a houseful of guests, I'm excited to be able to throw one of these breakfast casseroles in the oven!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

29 Years of Thankful

Everyone on Facebook is doing the 30 days of Gratitude thing, but I have too much ADD to remember to do a 'thankful for' status each day. Not that I have nothing to be thankful for, and not that I don't try to remind myself often of how much I have in life, but I am just way better at lists so I figured I would do a list of the things I am most thankful for during my birthday week and Thanksgiving week this year. So here no particular order:

1.  I know I said in no particular order, but he is always the first to pop in my head when I begin to think of how lucky I am.  Justin is everything I've ever needed in a partner, and he gives me more than I would ever ask for every day. He knows how to change my mood in a split second, if I happen to be in a bad one. He is so thoughtful and does all the day to day little things that let me know he's got me on his mind.  A kiss good bye every morning and a hug hello each night goes a long way with this girl...I don't ever feel like we take each other for granted, and think we are both lucky to have had the experiences we have had together, the good ones and the bad ones that make us appreciate each other to the max. I don't doubt the fact that we will spend a whole lotta years together building more memories and having more 'firsts' together each year that goes by...and I couldnt be more thankful for that peaceful feeling he gives me inside.

2. I am so very thankful for my Dad, and this has been even more evident in my mind with recent health issues for Big Dan.  I wouldn't be the person I am today without him, and I can't begin to express my gratitude for the sacrifices and time him and Mama K gave to raise my brother and I into the adults we have become. I know we didn't make it easy, and I only hope that I can instill the lessons we learned from him in my kids someday. I know everyone thinks their parents are the best, but I can honestly say that I would never want to trade mine for anything. Now if we could just get him to eat like I tell him to, we could guarantee his existence for a long time to come!  :)

3. Mama K is just as important to me as Big Dan.  She is my best friend, I can always count on her for an ear when I need her, and I hope she feels the same way about me. She gives me a different perspective on life and is without a doubt, one of the sweetest women I've ever met. I wouldn't be able to live without her...

4. My extended family is just as precious to me as my immediate family. These people all have a little to do with who I am and I would do anything for any one of them. I am very thankful for the relationship I have with all of my aunts and cousins especially, and think it's very important for women to have strong relationships with the other women in their family. I think its amazing that I feel comfortable calling any one of my parent's siblings to chat, or talk about a specific issue without them thinking it's weird.

5. Brother Ben--I won't go all mushy on you, although I doubt you're reading this anyway.  You do know how much I love you is a direct correlation to how much I lecture you on everything from your finances to the girls you associate with, don't you? I am so proud of you and everything you've accomplished, now if you would just listen to me about how you're spending your money, you will be well on your way to being set at the young age of 26!  Love you bunches, brudder! :)

6. My extra poundage gives me great unhappiness most days, but if I truly think about it, the fact that I have never in my life had to worry about where my next meal is coming from is something to be very thankful for.  There are so many people in this world who didn't grow up in as stable a home as I did, and don't get the 3 squares a day that I sometimes take for granted when groaning my way through my workouts.  So I suppose, my pants being tight is a good thing...for now.

7. Justin's family is like a second family to me, I feel so comfortable around all of them and am so glad to have them in my life. I fit right in at the Jamison get togethers and have fun hanging out with Candy when its just us or with the whole family, I am lucky to have such a great relationship with them much so that most of the time, I get the calls and texts and emails before Justin does for family stuff :)

8. My Grandma Theda and Grandpa Benji are my mom's parents and I am so thankful that they are still around as I turn 29 years old. My dad lost all of his grandparents at a young age so I know I am lucky to still have the positive influence, Grandma hugs, and Grandpa stories at my age.  I love you both to pieces, and can't wait to see you this weekend.

9. Speaking of Grandma and grandparents on my dad's side were also a strong influence on me. I am so very glad that I was given such great examples of relationships from both sides of the family....from grandparents, to my parents, to aunts/uncles, and family is loyal and committed and have taught me lots of lessons on how to make it in life, and that there is such a thing as everlasting love.  It's not easy, it's hard work, and sometimes you may not be the happiest...but its worth it when you build a family like the one we've got. I am honored to have been a product of the hard work of all these people.

10. Roo and Sam are def on this list...we lucked out in so many ways getting the best pets in the world!  Roo does not pee, barf, or poop in the house, and is such a cuddle different than other cats who just want to be left alone and pee in hidden places to stink the house up. And who knows where Sam poops, I just know he doesn't do it in the yard so we have to pick it up.  Maybe the corn field is his personal porta-john...I don't care, I just thank him.  He is also very protective of me and the house, he is always sitting at attention when I'm home and making sure no one pulls up unannounced, he's the perfect guard dog with a lot of lover mixed in.  I love them both to pieces!

11. Our home is very important to me. It's a symbol of Justin and I's relationship and all the work we've put into getting it to the point it's finally at...we've done a lot of projects together and picked out everything together and I think that's a great building block to our relationship, it gives us a solid foundation to rest our heads on each night.  I feel it's a statement about us, and how dedicated we are to each other, as well as making our house a home. It is by far my favorite place to be....

12. I am so very thankful for all the birthday calls, messages, texts, facebook posts, cards, etc that I have gotten today. You all sure do know how to make a girl feel loved! Makes me smile inside and out...

13. I am eternally grateful for the American troops that are fighting or have fought for our freedom and the freedom of others. We have lost so many great men and women who are far better than a lot of us who take our freedom for granted, and I truly appreciate the sacrifice them and their families make on a daily basis.

14. Although sometimes I get frustrated at people's thought processes, I am happy to have the freedom to have my own opinion as well as my freedom of speech. I am a stubborn girl to argue with but I guess if some people weren't wrong, then I would have no one to argue I suppose I am happy for other people's freedom of opinion too! :)

15. I am superbly thankful to even have a job, as I know a lot of people are in a bad position in this economy. But my job is not just any job, my boss is one of my great friends and I truly enjoy and care about the company. It helps that I have a very flexible schedule and can wear sweaties and slippers when I feel the need too :) I am very blessed to have gotten the opportunity to meet my boss and get in with Acumen Instruments Corp.

16. I have never had any real health issues in my life and that's definitely something to acknowledge...I had a hole in my heart when I was born, but it closed up on it's own and I've been in great health ever since!

17. I am thankful that I am an emotional person...not too emotional, but I am sensitive to other people's feelings I think.  It's important to be able to read other's emotions as well as feel and decipher your own.

18. I'm glad that I enjoy physical activity and am at least halfway coordinated in sports. I love being active and it makes it easier to stay healthy that I enjoy sports and outdoor activities like my running. I am thankful to have gotten the gumption to pick up running, I love the feeling of it and wish everyone would give it a chance so they could feel the accomplishment and thrill of finishing a race!

19. My girlfriends...and I can't say this one enough. I don't know many other people who have such a close-knit group of girlfriends, and feel very blessed to have such a support network in my life. This is very important to me since I don't have sisters, and I feel like each of us brings something different to the table for the others.  We are all very unique but we work well together and I know that we would all do anything in the world for each other. That's a great feeling to have...

20. I am also thankful for my girlfriends' children...I get to learn all about prenancies and babies before I have to bring one home myself.  I should be a pro by the time it's my turn, but even if I'm not, I know I will have a village of helping hands to support me along the way!

21. I'm very glad that a lot of my friends have such great men in their lives, whether they be boyfriends or husbands, there's not one of them that I don't think has my friend's best intentions at heart. It's great to know your friends are being taken care of so well by the ones they love.

22. My love for food gets my pants in trouble sometimes but I am thankful to be able to appreciate the nicer things in life like good food and good wine. I used to be such a picky eater when I was  younger, and am glad that I have really outgrown most of that and broadened my horizens in the last few years. 

23. Some people don't get the chance to get an education like I did. Whether their grade schools and high schools are just no up to snuff, or they don't have the money or grades to get into college, I feel thankful that my parents instilled in me the desire and the need to get a higher education to push myself further in life.

24. My alma mater...yes I am thankful for ISU's victory last week!  And if you didn't see the game, you should feel very was one of the best games I've ever seen and even better that it made my Cyclones bowl eligable when we were predicted to win only 2 games this season! I am SO PROUD!

25. My love of reading is something I will always be thankful for! No matter where I am at or what mood I am in, I can always escape into a good book. 

26. I used to hate art class, and didn't like being creative. Tell me what to do and I will do it, but don't tell me to come up with an idea on my own.  I got into scrapbooking when I was working in telemarketing in college and was seriously bored to death while on the phones spewing my memorized speech to a million people a night. I am so glad that I began this hobby, although it feels like a chore at times and is time consuming and expensive, it is the neatest thing to be able to grab a book and be transported back in time 5 years.  It's also neat to see how I've progressively gotten better with each book that passes. I make a book for each of my friends when they get married and I hope they cherish them as much as I cherish the ones I have made for myself.

27. I am thankful for the holidays, which give us time each year to count our blessings and spend time with those who really mean something to is so important and I realize that more and more each year. No matter what the holiday, Im lucky to have loved ones to enjoy them with! :)

28. Freedom to make mistakes--I am not perfect, nor is anyone else. We all have to make our own mistakes and follow our own paths to get us where we need to be in life. I have made quite a few of my own, but I don't regret anything that's gotten me to this point.  I am so happy with the path I have forged in the world so far....

29. I am very thankful to still be here looking forward to a happy future after 29 great years of learning, laughter, love, fun, and family on this Earth...may the next 29 be just as wonderful! :)

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spicy shrimp and scallop pasta casserole

I was a little skeptical of this dish.  Salsa and seafood?  Intriguing.  But I do have shrimp and scallops in the freezer so I may as well give this a shot. Sometimes the weirdest things are the ones that come together so nicely...and the blog I read it on just raved about it so I suppose...

It was actually supposed to be just shrimp casserole but I only had one pound of shrimp and the recipe calls for I had to throw in a pound of scallops to make sure we had all the seafood goodness in there we needed.

2 lbs shrimp cleaned, peeled, and deveined (I used one lb of scallops as I said)
16 oz jar of your fave salsa (I used my homemade)
3/4 box of angel hair pasta
1 t oregano
1 t basil
1 t crushed red pepper
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup grated swiss cheese (I had swiss slices so I just layered them on between one of the other layers and hoped they would melt nicely)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 and 1/2 cups half and half (I only had about a half cup left so I just added a cup of chicken broth instead as I was out of milk at the time too, eeeeek)
1/2 cup grated jack cheese

Cook your pasta according to directions and then drain. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, half and half, yogurt, swiss and feta cheeses, parsley, basil, and oregano. Mix until well blended and set aside.

Grease a 9x13 baking dish and spread half the pasta over the bottom of the dish. Now layer on your salsa, put one lb of shrimp on top of that, and then cover it with monterrey jack.  Add the remaining noodles (and here is where I added my sliced swiss if you're using that too), and then the other lb of shrimp (or the lb of scallops like I used).

Now pour the egg mixture right over the top of the full baking dish.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes to allow noodles to soak up all the juice before serving. I served with garlic bread to soak up all the yummy juices...

I'm not sold on this dish 100% yet...I mean, it was good but it wasn't screaming from the rooftops good.  If I made it again I would tweak it by using a creamier sauce to bake in there, or maybe drain some of the liquid from the salsa before layering it on. Gary and Justin both went back for seconds so I know it was edible, but I was left wanting something more instead of having that satisfied, full belly feeling after dinner.

Before I clicked "publish post" I always read through  my writing to check for mistakes in spelling or grammer...and it's a good thing I did this time. I left my blogger interface open on my home computer and funny man Justin thought he would add a little to it....

"And Im a huge food creep that hoards food.  I need some type of treatment to get over this addiction of food photos.  They are like porn to me."

And this is why I love that boy....haha!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crockpot rigatoni bake

Short posts this week, busy getting back into the swing of things with a routine. I was in Texas a couple weekends ago and only back for 3 days to work before taking off to be a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding this was a gorgeous wedding with a beautiful bride and a handsome, loving groom and everything went off without a hitch. I'm a little jealous that they are in Jamaica as we speak, and then get the Thanksgiving holiday off, so they are getting about a 3 week vacation right now...but besides that Im happy to be back at work and my schedule.

Sunday I didn't get much done at home except some much needed relaxing after a busy couple of weeks, and a few dinners made for the week so I wouldn't have to worry about cooking in the evenings.  I have much more exciting things to worry about like getting the mountain of laundry tamed and getting the house cleaned and menu organized for Thanksgiving next week...

So if you're looking for an easy crockpot meal during the week...this is it, folks. Perfection.

2 lbs ground beef (I used Italian seasoned ground turkey)
4 cups beef broth
15 oz can of tomato sauce
12 oz can of tomato paste
1 small onion, chopped
1 t oregano
2 t basil
1 t fennel seed
2 t salt
1 T sugar
1 t black pepper
2 T crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 box rigatoni noodles
2 cans mushrooms
2-3 cups shredded cheese (colby jack, mozz, etc)
1 container ricotta cheese (I used reduced fat)

Brown the turkey and onion and drain before putting it in your lined crockpot. 

In a mixing bowl, add the beef broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and spices....whisk together well and then pour on top of the meat mixture. 

Stir together and then cook on high for 4 hours (or add to the fridge to start the next morning, and cook on low for 8 hours while you're at work).

Add the dry unboiled rigatoni and make sure you push them under the sauce and mix them all together.

Add the ricotta to the crockpot by spooning tablespoons of it in random spots and gently push down on the ricotta to submerge it as well (don't stir).

Continue to cook on low for 30 minutes and then sprinkle the surface with shredded cheese.  Put the lid back on for about 5 minutes or until cheese is nicely melted.  Serve! 

I will say that this makes a heckuva lot of pasta! This meal would feed 6 adults easily, or work great for leftovers all week...which is my plan.  I absolutely love this and will be making it again (it's sort of lasagna-esque), I never knew the crockpot got hot enough to boil noodles that quickly so this is an exciting lesson for me.  Im easily entertained, I know...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ode to Mama K

Today is Mama K's 54th birthday (good thing her internet is down right now or she would probably be mad at me for calling her out on her age) it's Grandma Theda's "giving" birth-day.  I always tell my mom happy giving birth-day on my birthday...because how come no one celebrates the mother who spends hours on end pushing a basketball of a kid out?  That's a much harder task than just being born. AND they didn't use drugs on the reg when my mother's generation was procreating...are you kidding me?! Sooooo glad I am not of that generation...

Anyway, back to the point...Mama K's birthday! Although I don't get to see her today, we do get to do lunch tomorrow when she's in Ames for an appointment, and I have always loved that our birthdays are near the Thanksgiving holiday so we always get to see each other at some point in the next week or so.  I was born a week after her birthday, 29 years ago.  Wowza...I'm getting up there! I remember reading the journal she kept during her pregnancy and thinking:

1. Who goes to get ice cream when their water breaks?
2. My mother is a great writer, I can really feel her emotions when reading her entries (probably why I got the bug to write at such a young age).
3. I'm so glad that she kept a record of this for me to read later in life.

See, that's how my mom is with everything. Even 29 years ago she was writing that journal and I'm sure she was thinking that it would be fun for me to have one day...she's always thinking of other people, she's always so good at "getting" the significance of sentimental things, and always trying to make other people smile with her thoughtful gifts or homemade cards sent just to cheer you up. Yes, she still sends me real mail...she loves me :) 

The Bean in Chicago

She sends me a Valentines card every year year I didn't get one and called asking about it.  She didn't think I would care if I got a Valentine from my mom since I was 27 years old....psh, I look forward to that thing every year! No matter if I have a significant other or not, or was in a good relationship or not, I always have my mom to give me a snail mail hug and kiss on Valentines Day. 

I love her to pieces :)

She also gives the best hugs this side of...well, anywhere. I don't know if she got it from my grandma, or if it's just a mom thing, but those two can hug, let me tell you. It's like their arms somehow make a little love envelope for me to crawl into, and their necks and crevices are there for my arms and chin to fit perfectly into, and I don't ever want to get out of a Grandma or Mom hug whenever I get in there. I'm sure it looks a little odd, we will just stand there and chit chat in mid-hug swaying back and forth because no one wants to let go. 
Grandma Theda and I a couple Thanksgivings ago...

I should probably thank Grandma Theda for my 8th grade dance outfit too. It was a black silk skirt with big purple 70's style flowers on it and a purple top....and I just LOVED it. And Mom just HATED it. I didn't have a job in 8th grade (child labor laws and all) so it was up to her to purchase my outfit...and I begged, and begged, and begged for it.  She wasn't having it, and then she just switched her tune and said to go ring it up. I wasn't going to ask questions, I ran up to the register at The Buckle in Carroll as fast as I could! Only later did I find out that Grandma had done the same thing for Mom...except hers was a pair of shoes I believe.  Hideous to Grandma, and Mom was going to die without them.  They left the store and went home and to Mom's surprise...the shoes were at the house the next day. Grandma went back and got them for her after she saw how much she loved them.  I will always remember that 8th grade dance outfit for that reason...I can't even remember the dance, but the outfit is ingrained in my memory.  I guess that means if my kid wants to wear a squirrel on their back, I have to pay it forward?

You can't really see the skirt but you get the gist...

Besides her exceptional hugging ability and her willingness to do pretty much anything for anyone just to make their day better, I truly (and am not saying this just because she's my mom) think that she is almost too good of a person...if there is such a thing.  She is the most caring individual I have ever met in all my 29 years...if she's having the worst day of her life and breaks down to me, she apologizes to me for bothering me.  If she's busier than a one armed paper hanger, she will drop whatever she's doing if I need to talk.  If she has a friend who is having a baby or getting married or some other huge event in their life, it's not uncommon for her to spend hours making a handmade gift perfectly for them because she cares so much.  She is someone who we could all learn from actually....true friends are the ones who do the big things and the small things for you, the ones who spend the time to make you smile. 

Don't take life too seriously, folks...

She is actually the main reason I want to have children.  The relationship I have with my mother is unlike a lot of people I know, she truly is one of my best friends and I talk to her about a lot of things most people wouldnt discuss with their mothers. She is so supportive of anything I am doing or am going through, yet doesn't judge me if she doesn't agree with something.  I am so grateful to have had her in my life growing up and feel even more blessed to have the close knit relationship I have with her as an adult. I can't imagine my life without her, and don't know how I will ever go about losing her sometime down the road, but I do know that I want to be what she's been to me to someone else...I can't imagine not passing down the love, generosity, compassion, and stability she has given to me throughout the years. It will not be wasted on will continue on through my family.  I love you more than words can express, Mama K!!