Monday, June 30, 2014

Slow-Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup

I love my slow-cooker.  It's an appliance I've had for years but have only really started to use in the past year or so.  I also love broccoli cheese soup, but have yet to find one that is easy to make AND tastes good.  This was set up to be a dinner-winner right from the start because (1) I love my slow-cooker and (2) I love broccoli cheese soup.  The stars must have aligned because this soup was delicious!

Creamy Broccoli Soup (adapted from I don't know because I, yet again, forgot to save the source...)

  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth (or you can do what I do and just measure out a quart of water and add the necessary number of chicken bouillon cubes)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 20 oz. frozen broccoli cuts, thawed
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • 7 oz Velveeta, cut into cubes (You know how Velveeta comes in enormous boxes?  I actually found these tiny 4 oz. boxes hidden among all the giants so mine ended up being 8 oz--2 4 oz. portions...but it was still way better than having a half-used box of Velveeta lying around my house for weeks and ultimately being tossed in the garbage.)
  • 1 1/3 cups instant mashed potatoes (yes I know this sounds weird but they are what end up making this soup delicious, I promise!)
  1. Combine broth, milk, broccoli, onion, pepper and 1 cup water in slow-cooker bowl.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for 5 hours.
  2. Whisk Velveeta into slow cooker until smooth.  Sprinkle instant potatoes over soup and whisk to combine.  Serve immediately
Easiest dinner ever and it won't disappoint you!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Homemade Corn Dogs

My husband is a firefighter which means that he's gone 2-3 nights a week.  As easy as it would be to just throw some Marie Callender frozen dinners in the microwave for me and the kids, I vowed a long time ago that I would do my best to feed my kids real food, even when it's just us.  (This actually started when my oldest was just over a year old, so it really was tempting to just microwave a TV dinner for me and let her eat her baby food.)  

Anyway, I'm always on the lookout for family/kid friendly recipes that are a breeze to make (mostly because it's just me juggling two kids and getting dinner on the table and evening is not an easy time in our house...)  I found this recipe for Homemade Corn Dogs from Pioneer Woman and, though I'm not a huge fan of (or expert at) deep frying, I knew my daughter loved corn dogs and if I could even remotely make these work, I would have at least one happy eater that night.

Classic Corn Dogs and Cheese-on-a-Stick (adapted from the Pioneer Woman)

  • 6 cups Bisquick (the original calls for Krusteaz and I also halved the recipe which was plenty for my kids and I.)
  • 2 cups corn meal
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 6 cups water, add more if you need to thin the batter
  • flour
  • hot dogs
  • cheese (I used plain old cheddar)
  • chopsticks for the dogs, bamboo skewers for the cheese
  • canola oil
  • mustard and ketchup
  1. Combine Bisquick and cornmeal in a large bowl.  Add eggs and water, adding more water as needed.  You want the batter to be slightly thick but not gloopy.  Ree suggests starting out with 4 cups and working your way up to 6+.
  2. Insert chopsticks into hot dogs (these really do work and are easy to find at the grocery store) until they are 2/3 of the way in.  The same was suggested for the cheese, but I found that my cheese was breaking too easily so I just used bamboo skewers with the sharp tips cut off.  Also, when I started deep-frying the hot dogs, the batter just slid off. I found that if I dusted each with flour before I dropped them in the batter, the batter stayed on just fine when it went in the oil.
  3. Heat canola oil over medium-high heat.  (Deep frying makes me incredibly nervous so I used my enormous Martha Stewart dutch oven and it worked perfectly.)  Drop in a bit of batter, which will start to sizzle immediately, but not burn or brown.
  4. Dip the hot dogs into the batter and allow excess to drip off.  Carefully drop into the oil and use tongs to make sure it doesn't hit the bottom of the pan and stick.  Flip to ensure even browning.  It took me about 3-5 minutes each, but I had 2 going at a time.  When you dip the cheese, leave it in there as long as possible to allow the cheese to melt.
This was the most success I've had frying anything and they were so delicious!

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Ready to Pop" Baby Shower

A friend and coworker of mine is expecting her first baby any minute!  Another friend and coworker of mine and I decided to throw her a baby shower.  The theme?  "Ready to Pop."  Naturally Pinterest was a good friend of ours during the planning process.  The invite idea came from here.

All of the food was 'pop' related.  There was a lot of popcorn.  I made gourmet popcorn with the recipes here and here.  (The chili lime was my favorite...)

We had some plain popcorn with a variety of mix-ins to create your own flavor.  I downloaded this cute sign from here...

...along with the soda pop labels.  I used Photoshop Elements to convert the pink on the downloads to blue.

I had found this great recipe for 'buttered popcorn cupcakes' but they turned out disastrous.  Really, I wish I'd kept a picture of them for one of those fun Pinterest "nailed it" memes.  Anyway, I just whipped up a batch of chocolate cupcakes and threw some popcorn on top.  They weren't the best, but the kiddos who came loved them.

We played this really cute game.  I can't post a picture of it here for privacy reasons (we used her name instead of "Baby Shower".)  It ended up being a bigger challenge than we had anticipated--both for the participants and for us finding gifts which fit each letter!

It was such a fun party!  I feel like my friend and I should go into a party planning business (and not to toot my own horn but our pathologist said the exact same thing!)

Monday, June 9, 2014

My Paint-by-number Project

So back when I was a teenager my mom gave me this kitty paint-by-number kit for Christmas.  I was absolutely intrigued, but never found the time to do it.  As I have been collecting and collecting projects to do over the last several years, earlier this year I got tired of collecting instead of doing.  I just started grabbing things from the top.  This was one of those projects.  I shrugged my shoulders and went to work.

It actually was a lot more difficult than it looked.  Initially I was too lazy to go up to my kitchen and grab toothpicks to stir the paint.  I soon learned that paint tins that have been sitting around for 15 years really work better if they are stirred up before use!  This was my only mistake though!

About halfway done.

And all the way done.

It actually turned out pretty great!  I may just attempt another one someday!  Right now it is sitting on my pile of finished artwork to frame.  (That's going to be the next pile that I tackle.)

Monday, June 2, 2014


My daughter and I did this fun project late this past winter.  The weather (and landscape) was still rather gray and dismal so these suncatchers were the perfect addition to her room to brighten a winter's day.  

(Adapted from the Friend magazine.)

You will need:
  • Waxed Paper
  • Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Pencil Sharpener
  • Iron
  • Hole Punch
  • String or Ribbon
  • Paper Towel
What to do:
  1. On a piece of waxed paper, draw whatever shape you want your sun-catcher to be.  (This was my daughter's task.)
  2. Use the pencil sharpener to make crayon shavings and sprinkle them on the shape you drew (this was my task.)  Your finished shape will be whatever colors you include.  Put another sheet of waxed paper on top.
  3. Put a paper towel on top of the waxed paper to protect your iron.  Iron the two layers of waxed paper together.
  4. Once the wax paper has cooled, cut out the shape you outlined earlier.  Punch a hole near the top and thread a string or ribbon through it for hanging.
  5. Hang your finished shapes in front a of a window or other place where the light can shine through them.  (Never put the waxed paper near a light bulb or anything that is hot.)