Monday, August 24, 2015

Homemade Granola

After a few years of breakfast sandwiches and burritos from the local fine fast food eateries, Greg has started taking his morning meal with him from home. I flavor plain Greek yogurt with vanilla and honey, then pack a generous serving with a handful of fresh blueberries on top. As garnish, he sprinkles another generous helping of granola on top before enjoying his delicious nutritious breakfast. At first I purchased the granola -  Bear Naked brand because it’s pretty wholesome, and we like it. I bought two bags, thinking it would last through the month. No. Between Greg and Jess, it barely lasted a little over a week. Time to dig out the homemade granola recipe. The ingredients were in the cupboard already, and took less than 30 minutes to assemble, mix, and bake two quart jars full.


The recipe came from an online friend of mine. Melanie blogs at Comfy House and posts lovely healthy, delicious-sounding recipes. I couldn’t find this exact recipe so I could link to it, which makes me wonder if it wasn’t posted in an email instead of on her blog. No matter, she did post a new granola concoction this summer that also would be wonderful. I chose to try the original one printed out quite some time ago and tucked away in my recipe notebook:

Homemade Granola

3 Cups Old-Fashioned Oats

¼ C vegetable oil

¼ C honey

¼ C brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

¼ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Let cool completely before stirring in 1 cup nuts and 1 cup dried fruits. Store in an airtight container.



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

And the Pizza Just Keeps on Comin’…

(Recipes at the end of post)

Last night we were blessed to have most of my side of the family here for supper. My sister and one of my brothers were here with their families, so there were 14 hungry pizza-eaters around the table. In shifts, of course. I don’t have that big a table.

My husbands grilled pizza was requested, and since these family gatherings are few and far between, we accommodated that request. Greg and I discussed at length the logistics of feed 14 people homemade grilled pizzas since we have the one grill and the one 12” pizza stone. It meant he would be stuck outside in the hot heat (heat index was over 100°) grilling pizza after pizza while the rest of us were inside feasting. He was okay with that, I think so he could have some time to himself, and because he loves homemade grilled pizza and wanted to share that with my very appreciative family.DSCN0835 (2)

My sister came over for the afternoon and we devised our strategy for making the dough and prepping the toppings. For 14 of us, including two young adults and three pre-teens, three of those of the boy persuasion, we decided to make 8 pizzas. My dough recipe makes enough for two, so we threw together four batches of it and while it rose, we made our menu and prepped our toppings. (Menu written by my sister with a purple crayon. That’s just how we roll.)

 pizza menu 001

Each of the eight pizzas was different, but the foundation was the same with rolling the dough, transfer to the pizza peel after dusting both crust and peel with corn meal, a light brush of olive oil, then a sprinkle of Parmesan. After that, toppings were added, then the cheese. A plain pepperoni, a couple that were just vegetables, the rest had meat and veggies in various combinations. We used homemade red sauce and homemade garlic cream sauce, except for the pulled pork barbecue. The ones marked “red” were straightforward, sauce, meat/veg, mozzarella cheese. The chicken and prime rib pizzas used garlic cream sauce. Oh, that is good! We also added torn fresh basil leaves to about half of the pies. Greg cooked each one on his egg-shaped grill, and they came off hot and crispy, melty and gooey. Each one took about 8-10 minutes. As he cooked one pizza, Tonita and I built the next.

I want to talk about the barbecue pizza. Greg made pulled pork for 4th of July, and we used some of the leftover meat for this pizza. He gave me very specific instructions for building this one. Same base of dough brushed with olive oil, sprinkle of Parm, then sprinkle of shredded cheddar. On top of that, the pork, then the barbecue sauce (we like JB’s Fatboy Haugwash). He likes a layer of dill pickle chips, I like some red onion, then more cheddar, and a little mozzarella. It’s hot and gooey and I like it better than pulled pork sandwiches. DSCN0831 (2)

There were several leftover pieces for them to take home to feed the masses lunch today. We also had green salad, potato salad, green beans fresh from the garden, fresh fruit, jalapeno popper dip, super-delicious cake that Grace made to practice her 4-H entry, and assorted beverages. It was a feast.

I’m including the recipes we use for the sauces and crust. Enjoy!

Super Easy Pizza Dough (makes 2-12” pizzas)

1 C lukewarm water (I use hot tap water)

¼ C olive oil

1 tsp. sugar

1 packet instant dry yeast (2¼ tsp.)

½ tsp. salt

3 C flour

In mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in the water with olive oil and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes. Add the flour and salt and knead in the mixer until a nice dough ball forms and there is nothing left sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, turning crust to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for an hour or so, until at least doubled in size. After the dough is risen, divide in half. Roll out half on a floured surface and make your pizza.

This dough can be frozen after rising and dividing. Seal in airtight container or zipper bag and freeze. To use after freezing, thaw, then roll out, add toppings and bake.

The original recipe does not list baking temp or time. We usually grill our pizzas at 500+°F for 8 – 10 minutes. In the oven, I do 450° for 15 minutes.


Garlic Cream Sauce

1½ Tbsp. unsalted butter

½ Tbsp. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

½ C heavy cream

¼ C 2% milk

¼ C grated Parmesan cheese

Generous pinch of salt (check before you salt this – it might not need it)

Generous pinch black pepper

Small pinch red chili flakes

Melt the butter with the olive oil over low heat. Add minced/grated garlic (I use a microplane), and stir. Turn heat to med/med-high and add cream and milk. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Add cheese and seasonings and continue stirring. Once sauce is thickened, remove from heat.

(I usually have to add 1-2 tsps cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp cold water, stir, then simmer til thickened.)


Red Pizza Sauce

(based on recipe in Jessica Fisher’s “Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook”)

¼ C olive oil

2 tsp minced garlic

One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

3 Tbs chopped fresh basil (or 1 Tsp dried)

1 tsp salt

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

One 6 oz. can tomato paste

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook briefly. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, pepper flakes. Let simmer 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 3 minutes. Let cool.

This sauce freezes nicely. I portion into tiny jars and chill in the frig overnight before freezing. Thaw in the frig. One batch makes enough sauce for several pizzas.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summertime Visiting

The last weekend of June was our mini-vacation to Colorado. This was a quick trip over a long weekend, and we went so the boys could see real mountains. They not only saw the mountains, they got to go to the top of one. That was Silas’s dream - “I want to stand on top of a mountain!”. Of course, the rest of us wanted to see the mountains as well, and getting to spend time with my cousin Jesse, his wife Stephanie, and their family, was a huge bonus.

Stephanie was our tour guide going to the top of that mountain as she led us through Estes Park and up Trail Ridge Road. I had no idea we were on the highest elevation paved road in the United States. The altitude made me a bit lightheaded and caused some anxiety, but I’m so glad we went. The scenery was stunning.

Colorado 2015 (52)Colorado 2015 (65)

Colorado 2015 (32)

We saw these guys just past the mountain summit. Traffic was stopped and the park ranger was taking pics for the people in the car ahead of us. We were able to snap some of our own.

Colorado elk

At the visitor’s center I happened to spot this little guy on the rocks on the other side of the fence. He’s a Mountain Bluebird, and the first I’ve ever seen. Colorado 2015 (26)

The boys got to play in the snow. It was cool, but not chilly, just perfect.

Colorado 2015 (104)

A mountain train ride topped our agenda the next day. The Georgetown Loop Railroad was a fun ride for everyone, but of course, the boys were ecstatic. A real steam engine pulled the train and we went over a bridge with a small river beneath.0627151254b 0627151155

There were a couple of other tourist stops – Buffalo Bill’s grave on Lookout Mountain, and the evening spent in Denver at Casa Bonita’s.

Most important, we got to spend some quality time with family members we don’t get to see often. We love those guys and treasure our times together. It was a fun weekend and the kids were great travellers. We came back to the Nebraska prairie, missing the view of the mountains, but loving the cornfields for miles.


Monday, June 29, 2015

It’s Been Awhile

The past few weeks have been the usual busy with house, yard and garden, and grandkids. This summer is flying by! Thankfully we haven’t had much hot weather yet. Up until late last week, rain dominated the weather almost daily. This means that we now have mosquitoes. Hungry, hungry mosquitoes. Ugh.

We’ve had some very nice days, though, and one of those was spent with my friend and former co-worker, Barb. We attended our first lavender festival at a small farm about half an hour away. Besides sampling lavender ice cream and lavender lemonade (oh yum!), we listened to a presentation about growing and using this fragrant herb. I purchased some lavender simple syrup and have been perusing Pinterest  for ideas for using it.This tree stump chainsaw art greeted us. There was an imprint of lavender flowers and stalks in a couple of places in the sidewalk as well. I think that’s just a charming touch. They’re having another event in July, this time with wine. I’m pretty sure I can go.




The very next day, Bradley came back from being gone for almost 4 weeks. Oh, it was good to see him! He was just as excited to see us. The next weekend he went back for Father’s Day, but we’re able to spend 3 uninterrupted weeks with him at home now.

DSCN0656 (2)

Nick took vacation for a week, and spent a couple of those days hanging out with us. The highlight was playing Legos together.


Yeah, you can see the mess o’ wires in the background. Greg did bury all the AV wires, but still needs to finish the boxes and get it all straightened out. Those tools and extra flooring behind them are put away now. I’m loving the new floor, but it really shows the dirt and must be swept or vacuumed a few times a day. Silas likes to walk around on it after he’s been doing sidewalk chalk outside. He leaves a trail of chalky footprints and thinks that’s hilarious.

The next week, we took the training wheels off of Brad’s bicycle. He did a great job as long as he didn’t stop peddling. Lots more practice needed there! It won’t be long and he’ll have the hang of it.


We finally had a hot and humid day, so we set up the new wading pool for Silas. Brad was gone for that Father’s Day visit. Silas was so excited that he was in that pool by 11 a.m., before the water had warmed at all. A bonus was getting to share the fun with Greg’s great-nephew who happened to be visiting his grandparents that day.


I’ll leave this as good for now. We just got home from a short mountain vacation, but that story needs a post of it’s own. This prairie girl loves some mountains!

For now, it’s off to bed. This prairie girl is exhausted.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Baskets of Bounty


We’re so fortunate to be able to take advantage of Bountiful Baskets every couple of weeks. This is a photo of the haul we brought home last Saturday. It’s a combination of a conventional basket and an add-on basket called “Tour de France”. The conventional basket is always 50% fruit and 50% vegetables. The add-ons differ each time and they offer several things to choose from if you wish.

So far, since Saturday, we’ve eaten one of the cantaloupes (it was juicy and sweet and perfect), one of the oranges, all of the cucumbers, all of the mushrooms, some of the tomatoes, the onion, and a couple of the apples. I blanched the green beans to use in a salad later this week, and chopped and froze the green onions.


They were frozen in a flat layer on parchment paper, then packed into a quart jar and tucked back into the freezer. Now I can use them straight from the freezer for cooking.

Last night, a couple of the cucumbers were used in this recipe for Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad. No photo because we chowed it down so fast. I foresee this one being a favorite summer dish.

Tonight we enjoyed the baby bok choy in a stir-fry. I’ve never purchased bok choy, and didn’t really know how to use it. One of the fun things about getting these baskets is that sometimes we’re able to try things we haven’t had before. On Sunday I cleaned the bok choy and tucked it into a plastic bag with some paper towels. It has stayed crispy and lovely all week so far. There were several loose stalks that I just chopped up (including the leaves) and tossed into our green lettuce salads.

bpk choy (2)

We all enjoyed the dish, and I will make it again. The inspiration recipe is here, but I did change it up a little by adding onion and mushrooms, and skipping the wine. Then I added a bag of defrosted cooked rice and scrambled some eggs in it as well. I really liked how the chicken worked – slicing it while still partially frozen meant I could get nice thin slices.

bpk choy (1)

There are still several things to enjoy from the baskets, and I have recipes pinned to help us do that. Most of the fruits just get eaten fresh with lunch, or for afternoon snacks. There is that bag of cherries, though, that I haven’t decided what to do with. Some rosemary and thyme were in the Tour de France pack, and I just pull it out of the frig and sniff it during the day. It smells like it needs to be herb bread, I think.

Even with gardening season upon us, I think we’ll still indulge in the baskets. They offer so much variety, as well as introducing new produce we wouldn’t necessarily purchase ourselves. Plus, the price is right, and as long as we use up what we get (as opposed to letting it spoil and tossing it), it’s much less expensive than the store.


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Catching Up

There hasn’t been a “week in photos” post in a few weeks because we’ve been busy and I haven’t taken many pics. Three weekends ago we began our very own version of Renovation Realities (a funny DIY network show about people doing their own home renovations). Greg is a very handy DIY-guy, and I’m a pretty good assistant for him. Jessica worked for a contractor a few years back, so she’s an even better assistant. Nick provided some much-needed muscle to get the project started. We found a couple of surprises that needed to be dealt with, and they could have been major, but fortunately were not. They just added a bit of extra work since Greg had to cut holes in the sheetrock and then repair those holes. We also added in a few things we hadn’t originally planned on which made for more sheetrock work and extra days. Then I lost a day to having my first wisdom tooth pulled unexpectedly.

What was the project? Initially it was simple – pull up the carpet in the living and dining rooms and hallway. Plank the dining room walls, then paint the dining room, living room, and hallway. Then lay a wood laminate floor in all of those areas. We figured a weekend and three or four days of the next week.


As these things go, “the project” has taken three weekends and 6½ week days. Oh, and it’s not done. There are little things to finish up. There are always little things to finish up, right? So when those little things are done and the place is put back together, I’ll do a blog post on the process and what all we did. In the meantime, here’s a pic of the “almost after”:


We love it, but I can tell I’m going to be a neurotic mess about that floor. Just warning you.

The boys’ preschool year wrapped up mid-May. Bradley has been gone for summer visitation for three weeks. He returns next weekend. We all miss him terribly, but we know he’s having a good time. Fortunately he was still here for Grampy’s birthday celebration.

Gramp's birthday

The other day Silas told me he was “out of love-yous”, so I told him I’d refill his supply. There was a long stream of “Iloveyou, Iloveyou, IIoveyou…” – you get the idea. He thought that was wonderful and made me do it over and over again. I made him some hot glue letters and numbers to play with, and added some shapes as well. His fave was the heart and he used it to spread around some of those “Iloveyous” I gave him. (Just use a hot glue gun to make shapes/letters on parchment paper, let cool, then peel off.)


Little Layla Loula has been an angel while we’ve been pounding and painting and moving things all around. She didn’t like the loud stuff so much, but has been interested in all the activity. You know what else she’s interested in? Food. Jess started her on cereal, and after a couple of weeks I added in banana, and now she’s in love with avocado as well. She eats like a champ.Layla's first cereal (5)

In between all this, there has been gardening, tooth pulling, doctoring, thunderstorms, and regular life on the prairie. This week the focus will be on putting the interior of the house back together. Woohoo, back to normal!


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Just Last Week…

Another week in review post. We’ve had so many rainy days, and in this part of the country, we never eschew the rain. By mid-summer, we’ll be wishing for it again. It does make gardening difficult, but Greg was able to get out with the boys last Sunday and do some planting. They put in carrot seeds, lettuces, and radishes. There is an onion growing that was leftover from last year. See the peonies in the background? They’re ready to burst open and I can’t wait.


It is a rarity to get a photo of all three grands at the same time, even moreso a pic with their mother. Since it was Mother’s Day, I snuck out the camera while they were all gathered round.


Layla turned 4 months old, so Jess started her on cereal. She was so THRILLED with it and scarfed it right down. In this past week she has slept through the night, and Jess is getting more sleep than she knows what to do with. Layla also rolled over from her back to her tummy, but Silas was the only one to see it happen. He was as excited as can be!

Layla's first cereal (2)

We’ve been using the veggies from our Bountiful Basket every day. One night we roasted the colorful carrots with some olive oil and a spice blend called “Sunny Paris” from Penzey’s. We’d not had the different colors of carrots before, but expected them to taste like the usual orange ones. The purple seemed sweeter, the pale orange like regular carrots, but the white ones were a little bitter.


We celebrated Greg’s birthday a couple of days early with the grandkids. Cheese enchiladas and German chocolate cake with homemade caramel pecan frosting, his favorite.

Gramp's birthday

Over a couple of evenings, Greg and I managed to get peppers, tomatoes, basil, and a squash planted. They’re being watered in well, thanks to Mother Nature. We have a few more things to put out there, and I think this next week will be a good chance to get that done.

We’ve had all manner of illness in the house this past week, and while the kids are recovered, all of the grownups have lingering ailments that have slowed us down considerably. Fingers crossed we’ll all be back to normal this week.