"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave?" - Kathleen Kelly (You've Got Mail)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sugared Pecans

2 egg whites
1/2 tbsp. water
1/2 tbsp. vanilla
1 lb. pecan halves
1 c. white sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees, grease a cookie sheet and set aside. Place egg whites, water and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whisk vigorously for 60 seconds, until foamy. Add the pecans and stir well to coat. In a small bowl, toss together the sugar, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar mixture into the pecan mixture and stir well to combine. Spread pecans evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Notes: Every holiday season I've wanted to make these but I've never gotten around to it. This year pecans were on sale so I went for it! They were super easy to make and they turned out great! I put them in cello bags and gave them out as little Christmas gifts to friends and family.

PS: This is not my photo! I gave all my pecans away before I could take one...

Baking something extra special...

My last blog post explained that I haven't been posting much lately because I haven't had much time to be in the kitchen due to the holidays, etc. The truth is I haven't wanted to be in the kitchen lately...but I'm cooking up something extra special right now! We are expecting our second child July 4th! We found out in mid November and just told our families on Christmas. We're already almost 3 months along and I still can't handle cooking and being around food very well. So please stick with me during this time! I'm hoping as I get farther along in this pregnancy I'll be able to spend more time in the kitchen....

Margot is going to be a big sister! Yay!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately...it has been quite the busy month! Hopefully in the new year I can get back into the swing of things and start posting more regularly. Until then, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year :)

God bless! Lots of love, 
Randy, ChloƩ, Margot, Buckley and Truman

Photo done by Kama at Fizelwink Photography

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Pancakes

1 1/4 c. flour
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. milk
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 tbsp. oil or melted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 oz. chopped pecans
Cooking spray

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg, oil or butter and vanilla. Preheat a large skillet over medium/high heat and coat with cooking spray.
Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moist...don't over mix! Ladle the batter in about 1/3 cup measurements onto the hot skillet. Once bubbles form and begin to pop, flip over and cook an additional minute or so, until golden brown. Spray pan again for each batch. Makes about 10 medium pancakes.

Notes: I know pumpkin season is technically over but I had to squeeze in one more recipe! And I'm so glad I did...these were delicious and super flavorful! We ate them for dinner :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lemon Bars

Crust Ingredients:
1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. white sugar
2 c. white flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. white flour
4 eggs
2/3 c. lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
5 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1/4 c. powdered sugar

Crust Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 13x9 pan and set aside. Beat together the 4 crust ingredients until dough forms. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press dough evenly into the prepared dish and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. 

Filling Directions:
While crust is baking, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest and food coloring if using. Stir until well combined. Once crust has finished baking, pour the filling over the top (will be very thin) and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until light golden brown on top. Place powdered sugar in a sifted and dust the top of the bars evenly while cooling. Cool completely, slice and serve. You can serve room temperature or refrigerate. Makes 24 bars.

Notes: These bars have always reminded me of my older sister. She used to make them all the time when we were kids and I never tried them because I didn't think I'd like them (I used to be really picky!). I thought of them today for some reason, maybe because my sister was on my mind, and I decided to give them a try! I'm sorry that I never tried them before...they are delicious! Very sweet and tart...but delicious!

PS-all the bars got eaten before I got a chance to take a picture of them, so I borrowed this one from Google images until next time I make them!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cake

Cake Ingredients:
18.25 oz. yellow cake mix
1 egg
1/2 c. butter, melted

Filling Ingredients:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, melted
16 oz. powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg

Cake Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 13x9 baking dish and set aside. Combine the cake mix, egg and butter and mix until well combined. Press evenly into the prepared baking dish and set aside.

Filling and Baking Directions:
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, butter and beat until combined. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix well. Pour mixture over the cake batter (mixture will be thin) and bake 40-50 minutes. Do not over bake, the center should be a little gooey. Makes 12-15 squares.

Notes: I made this cake for Thanksgiving a couple years ago and it was a hit! I made again for an event at our church this evening. This is a Paula Dean recipe so you know it can't be good for you at all ;) But it's SO good! It's like a cross between pumpkin pie, custard and cheese cake with a really yummy, buttery crust. It's especially tasty with whipped cream and coffee.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Coffee Cake

Cake Ingredients:
2 c. flour
3/4 white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chilled butter
1 egg
about 3/4 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Streusel Ingredients:
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. white sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. chilled butter

Cake Directions: 
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x9 baking dish and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. Crack the egg into a 1 cup measuring cup and bet lightly. Fill the rest of the cup with milk and then add the vanilla. Stir well to combine. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix just until moistened. Do not over mix!

Streusel and Baking Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugars and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly. To assemble, spread half the cake batter into the prepared pan, followed by half the streusel. Repeat these steps with the remaining batter and streusel. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until cake is set. Makes 9 generous servings.

Notes: I'm not usually a very big fan of coffee cake but for some reason I was craving it last night so I threw this together for dessert. I'm so glad I did! It's probably the best tasting, fluffiest, most moist coffee cake I've ever had! And it was SO easy! I will make this again for sure :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Earring Holder(s)

I have many many pairs of earrings that have been stored in the bottom of my jewelry box for years! I hardly ever wear them because I never think about it...out of sight, out of mind! I recently went to a jewelry party and purchased a fun pair of gold tear drop earrings and then got a few more pair at the store that I found on clearance and I've been having so much fun wearing them! They reminded me of all the earrings I had hidden away. Last night I got them all out and looked at them and decided I needed to have them out where I can see them so I'll wear them more often. Then I looked up at the empty space on the wall next to our bed (I've been trying to find something to hang there since we set up our room!) and I had an ah-ha moment! I decided to make an earring holder to go on that wall. I took a trip to Hobby Lobby and got all my supplies.

Here is my blank wall:

Here are all all my dangly earrings:

So now I'll give you step by step instructions in case you want to make an earring holder, too! They were super easy and lots of fun to make and the possibilities are endless when making one of these!

Picture frames of any size or color (I used 3 black 8x10's)
Paper to line the back of frames (I used cream and black)
Ribbon (I used red, cream an black)
Glue stick or double sided tape
Hot glue gun 
...ignore the buttons in the picture, I didn't end up using them!

1. Take the frames apart. You won't need the glass so you can throw it away. Lay the backs of the frames on top of your paper and trace along the sides with a pencil and then cut along the lines.

2. Next, put glue or double sided tape on the backs of the paper and firmly attach to the backs of the frames. Here are mine:

3. Now you will need to cut ribbon, Make sure it hangs over the sides at least 1 inch. Choose how far apart you want your ribbons depending on the length of your earrings. Secure each ribbon with a very small dot of hot glue right in the center.

4. Flip over and place a 1 inch line of hot glue on the back where you are going to put the ribbon. Pull tight and press down until dry. 
This is what the back should look like when you're done gluing the ribbons down. Cut any extra ribbon off.

6. Put the backs into the frames and secure like you would if you were putting photo in it. Here's how my 3 turned out:

7.Hang on the wall or set up on your dresser or night stand and hang your earrings on the ribbons.

Here are some more photos of the holders I made with my earrings in them:

No more blank wall!

I am so happy with how these turned out! They were exactly what I had in mind! Now hopefully I won't leave the house without earrings on anymore :)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vegetarian Fajitas

1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. white sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 small zucchini, julienned
2 small summer squash, julienned
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
8.75 oz. can corn
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

In a large bowl with a lid, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, oregano, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper. To the bowl, add the zucchini, squash, onion and bell peppers. Cover with lid and marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.I marinaded mine for 5 hours.
In a large skillet, over medium/high heat, place all the vegetables with the about half of the marinade and saute until tender, about 15 minutes. Next, add the corn and beans and saute another 5-10 minutes over high heat until lightly browned. Serve in whole wheat tortillas by itself or with your favorite toppings. Makes 6 servings.

Here are the veggies all marinaded and ready to go into the fridge:

Here they are after, ready to be eaten!

Notes: I found this recipe here and I knew I had to try it! I made a few changes, but overall I stuck to the original recipe. It's actually a vegan recipe but we added sour cream and cheese as toppings so now it's just vegetarian! It was really yummy and flavorful.

New Bible!

I am beyond excited about this...so much so that I had to dedicate an entire post in my blog to it :)

I have two trusty Bible's already and I will show them to you below. One of them I got back in 2000, the summer after I turned 13. When I turned 18 I decided I needed a more "grown up" looking Bible so my parents got me a small black leather one with my soon to be married name "Chloe Bowen" on the front in gold letters. So let me introduce you to these two Bibles...

Here's Bible #1 from 2000:

It is filled with doodles, stickers, notes to my friends, tons of highlighted pages, etc. This Bible and I have had some great times! But notice it's TEEN Bible...those years are long gone!

Here's the first page when you open it up. My "Gramma" bought this for my from her book store in Nebraska City...

I still read this Bible almost every day. It's cool to look back and see verses I highlighted over 10 years ago. I just feel it's time to move on! I will probably keep this Bible around for Margot to check out when she's a teen. Yikes! That's a scary thought.

Here's Bible #2 from 2005:

This WAS a really nice little Bible! A couple weeks after my husband and I got our beagle, this became a chew toy for an afternoon. I came home to black leather shreds and pieces of paper all over the living room. That was not a happy day.

I've been doing my best to continue using this Bible and this is what I usually keep in my purse and it comes to church with me. But every once in a while I'll come across a page like this...sad!

About a year ago I was sitting next to my friend Jessica in church and she had this brand new, beautiful "journal Bible" and I fell in love! A journal Bible has 2 inch margins on either side of the pages for taking notes. I've been wanting one ever since! A couple Sundays ago I saw that our pastors wife had a super cute green and blue one and that caused me to do some shopping!

I came across this awesome brown, cream and gold once with a floral pattern. It was usually $69.99 and it was on sale for $35.99. Needless to say...I bought it! Here it is:

Isn't it pretty??

It's a really nice size and has a hard cover :) 

I just love it!

 And here's what the inside looks like...see what I mean about the places for taking notes? Or journaling...

I can't wait to start using it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash

1 2 lb. acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 c. milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. corn kernels
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. chopped green onions
3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. Rub half the butter on each acorn squash half and bake cut side up in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until tender. In a mixing bowl, combine milk, eggs, corn, salt, pepper, 1/2 the green onions and 1/2 cup cheese. Pour into the baked squash until completely full. Bake in the 375 degree oven for an additional 40 minutes or until corn pudding is set. Sprinkle with remaining onions and cheese and place under the broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serves 2.

Notes: WOW! This is one of the most incredible things I've tasted! With every single bite, Randy and I were oohing and ahhing. PLEASE make this. You won't be sorry! It was super easy and the flavors were absolutely amazing! I can't say enough good things about this dish.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small or medium onion, diced
3-4 carrots, diced
4-5 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can white cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
64 oz. vegetable broth
28 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. small dried pasta (I used Campanelle)

In a large saucepan over medium, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the can of diced tomatoes (undrained) and stir. Turn the heat to medium/high and simmer for 10 minutes.
Next, add the beans, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, parsley, basil, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Turn the heat all the way up and bring to a boil. Once boiling hard, reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer with the lid on for 35-40 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Remove the lid, return to a boil and add pasta. Boil for 10-15 minutes, until pasta is done to your liking. Serves 8.

Notes: Pasta e fagioli means "pasta and beans" in Italian and it's a delicious vegetarian soup! I love fall and winter because I get to make soup once or twice a week and I will definitely make this one again! The beans add some extra protein, which I love :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

1 c. peanut butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Combine all 3 ingredients and mix until smooth, about 30 seconds. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten the cookies slightly. Bake in the preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and cookies are still soft in the center. Don't over bake or cookies will be dry and crumbly. Transfer to wire racks and cool. Makes 24-30 cookies.

Notes: These are (obviously!) super simple to make and they are delicious as well! I think I might like them better than regular peanut butter cookies because the PB flavor is more intense. These are also gluten free which is a big plus for some people :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small or medium onion, chopped
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
10 oz. can red enchilada sauce
8 oz. shredded monterrey jack cheese
8 10 in. whole wheat flour tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender. Meanwhile, place beans and all spices and seasonings in a large bowl and mash roughly, leaving some of the beans whole is fine then stir in 1 can of the tomato sauce. Once onions are tender, add the bean mixture to the skillet and cook until hot and bubbly.
Combine the enchilada sauce and the remaining can of tomato sauce and spread enough in a 13x9 baking dish, just to coat the bottom. Next, spread the bean mixture evenly into each tortilla and top each with a large pinch of cheese. Roll up tightly and line up in the prepared baking dish. Once all the enchiladas are in the pan, spread with the remaining enchilada sauce mixture and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serves 4.

Notes: I have made many kinds of enchiladas in my day but this is hands down, my favorite recipe! The ingredients are fairly simple so I wasn't expecting much but these things were packed with flavor and moisture! Y-U-M!

Pumpkin Spice French Toast

8 slices french bread (I used whole wheat)
3 eggs
1/3 c. pumpkin puree
3 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Butter for cooking 

in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, milk, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and vanilla for about a minute. In a medium or large skillet, melt a little butter over medium/high heat and allow the pan to get nice an hot. Dip each piece of bread in the pumpkin mixture, flipping to coat both sides well. Place in the hot skillet and cook for about 3 minutes or until lightly brown. Serve hot with maple syrup over the top. Makes 3-4 servings.

Notes: Man, this stuff was amazing! I was hungry late last night and I threw this together and was really happy with how it turned out. French toast is my all time favorite breakfast food and adding pumpkin to it makes it even better :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bow-ties with Butternut Parmesan Sauce

2 1/2 lb. butternut squash
1 lb. bow tie pasta
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. diced shallots
1 pint heavy cream
3/4 c. freshly shredded parmesan cheese
Dash of nutmeg
1 tbsp. chopped parsley 
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. lemon juice
Water as needed to thin the sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 and pour 1/4 cup of water into a baking dish and set aside. Slice butternut squash in half length wise and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut side down in the prepared baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until squash is soft. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then scoop all the squash flesh into a bowl, discard the skins and mash squash well with a fork, pastry blender or potato masher.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat the oik in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the shallots until tender. Add the squash puree and stir well to combine with shallots. Stir in the cream, 1 tablespoon at a time to avoid clumping. Next, add the parmesan and stir until melted.
Remove from heat and add nutmeg, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice and water if needed. Once pasta is cooked, serve sauce poured over the top. Garnish with additional shredded parmesan and parsley. Serves 6.

Recipes adapted from here

Notes: I never buy heavy cream or fresh parmesan so this dish was such a treat! It was like a little taste of heaven in my mouth :) I found it on simplyrecipes.com last fall and I've been dying to try it...and it was worth the wait!

One year ago: Pumpkin Bread

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vegetable and Tortellini Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. diced carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 small zucchini, diced
32 oz. vegetable broth
2 c. water
14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
9 oz. fresh cheese tortellini
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. fresh spinach leaves

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium/high heat, add the onion and carrots and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and zucchini and saute another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, add the vegetable broth, water, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, itailian seasoning, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Turn heat all the way up and bring to a boil. Cover and continue to boil for 45 minutes or until all vegetables are soft (carrots will take the longest). After all the vegetables are cooked, add the tortellini to the boiling pot and cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and spinach just until the leaves are wilted. Serve hot garnished with more parmesan if desired. Serves 6.

Notes: I've made a similar soup in the past with Italian sausage but now that we're not eating meat I changed this recipe up a little by using some additional veggies in place of the meat. I like it MUCH better this way! Did you know they make whole wheat fresh tortellini now?? I was so excited when I found it in my store :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Lemon Cream Sauce

Shell Ingredients:
18-22 jumbo shells, cooked al dente
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
1 c. shredded parmesan, divided
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6.5 oz jar artichoke hearts, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce Ingredients:
2 tbsp. butter or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. white flour
1 c. milk
1/4 c. lemon juice

Lay shells out to cool and dry. Grease a 13x9 baking dish and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan, spinach, artichoke hearts, egg, italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stuffed each shell with the cheese mixture and line up in rows in the prepared baking dish. Preheat oven to 350.
For the sauce, heat the butter or oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well to combine. Add milk and whisk until it begins to bubble. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Add lemon juice and pour the sauce over the prepared shells.
Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Notes: This has got to be one of the best dishes I've made in a long time! I was SO incredibly happy with how it turned out. I've seen several of these types of recipes before and decided to make one up myself based on a few ideas I gathered. This had an amazing flavor and Randy and I couldn't get enough!

Monday, October 18, 2010

1 year blogiversary!

Happy blogiversary to me! I can't believe it's been a year ago already since I started my blog! Thank you all for sticking with me this whole time. There were times I almost gave it up but I'm so glad I didn't!

I know I don't have a whole lot of followers and that I don't get many comments or feedback but I'm glad for MY sake that I stuck it out this long! It's been a great place for me to go back and find my favorite meals I've made and to keep track of the progress I've made on our house.

So today I'm celebrating my little teeny tiny corner of the internet called My Valuable, but Small Life! Here is a look back over the past year of my favorite recipes I blogged about:

-Favorite bread: Pumpkin Bread
-Favorite chicken: Lemony Couscous with Chicken
-Favorite chocolate: Flourless Chocolate Cake
-Favorite cookie: The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
-Favorite dessert: Blueberry Crumb Bars
-Favorite ice cream: Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
-Favorite pasta: Lasagna Roll-ups
-Favorite side dish: Summery Veggie Couscous and Fiesta Quinoa
-Favorite soup: Lentil Vegetable Stew
-Favorite vegetarian: Greek Orzo Stuffed Peppers 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lentil Vegetable Stew

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 large potato, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced (or a 14 oz. can diced tomatoes) 
2 cups dry lentils
2 32 oz. cartons vegetable broth (or 8 cups water)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste (lots!)

In a large sauce pan or stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery and potatoes and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. To the pot, add the tomato, lentils, vegetable broth, basil, oregano, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, the reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 60-90 minutes or until the lentils and all vegetables are fully cooked. You may add more salt and pepper at the end. Serves 8.

Notes: I've made a recipe similar to this only it had smoked sausage in it, but now that we're eating vegetarian it was easy to omit to meat and add lots of extra veggies. This stew is so yummy and flavorful! This won't be the last time I make it this season...

Easy Cheesy Manicotti

8 oz. package manicotti shells, uncooked
15 oz. container ricotta cheese
3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 c. shredded parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
24 oz. jar pasta sauce

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the manicotti for 8-9 minutes, until al dente. Spread 1/4 of the jar of pasta sauce in a 13x9 baking dish and set aside. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 and in a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, the parmesan cheese, egg, italian seasoning and garlic powder. Once the noodles are cooked, lay them out to cool and dry. Once noodles have cooled, stuff with cheese mixture using a small spoon. Line the stuffed manicotti in the prepared baking dish and cover with remaining sauce. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serves 6.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kitchen Painted!

The kitchen is ALMOST DONE! My mom and I painted yesterday and now all that's left is installing our sink and finding a white stove to replace our old, ugly, barely working one. We also have a couple more cabinets to work on and a valance to make for the window. That might sound like a lot, but compared to what we've done already and how long it's taken, it's not much at all!

I decided to go with gray paint in the kitchen...something I never thought I'd do! But I really really love it. It's bright, crisp and clean looking and goes really well with everything else in the kitchen. First, I bought a gallon of "polished silver" by Valspar and after my mom finished edging all the walls I decided I didn't like it. It was way too blue. It almost looked like we intentionally picked periwinkle paint. I felt really bad but I decided to try another color. I chose "urban sunrise" by Valspar and it ended up being just the right color!

I didn't take any "before" shots because the walls were just plain beige. So here's what it looks like now! 

Lasagna Roll-ups

9 lasagna noodles
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
15. oz. skim ricotta cheese
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
24 oz. jar marinara sauce
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the lasagna until al dente, drain and lay out to dry. Preheat oven to 350 and spread 1 cup of marinara into the bottom of a baking dish. Combine the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, eggs, salt and pepper. Spread this mixture evenly onto each lasagna noodle and roll up tightly. Place seam side down into the prepared baking dish and cover with the remaining marinara. Cover tightly and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove cover and top with mozzarella cheese and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese and melted and bubbly. Makes 4-5 servings.

Notes: These were delicious! I made them when Randy and I first got married (about 4 1/2 years ago!) and I finally got around to making them again. We love them and I have a lot of fun making them!