Love in the Kitchen - making fast, healthy, homegrown meals you'll enjoy

Saturday, October 24, 2009

USS Makin Island

This is a picture of the ship we saw commissioned this morning... taken from the deck of the ship on which we are leaving thos afternoon!

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We're on Vacation!

We are on the Lido Deck! See you when we get back from our Mexican cruise getaway!

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Where we are this morning...

Commissioing of the USS Makin Island Pin It

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Holiday Readiness - Gift List

Visit 100 Days to Christmas

64 days until Christmas... and I am still determined to have a stress-free holiday season. I've been working on organizing our gift-giving. We set a budget for each person and I've made a list of ideas for all of our gifts.

Some people are easy - The Boy loves (LOVES!!) Lego Star Wars. If he got nothing but Lego Star Wars for Christmas, he would be extremely happy. Early in the year we purchased all of the new Lego Star Wars sets, and put together a Google spreadsheet with the item, cost and a link to a picture of the item. We shared this with our family so that they could easily find something that The Boy would like. The family signs up for the Lego set they like and pay us instead of a store. Works really well!

We've also purchased gifts throughout the year. We need to take them all out of our gift closet and see what we have and what we still need. My goal is to finish all of our Christmas shopping prior to Thanksgiving. We've got a good start - now just need to follow through!

Are you a last minute shopper? Do you shop throughout the year? Somewhere in between? Why?

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

WW Wednesday

I'm new to WW Wednesday, but not to weight loss.

I lost 75 pounds with Weight Watchers over the last year, and have been maintaining since March of this year. (yea!)

People are always telling me that maintenance is harder than losing the weight, and I think that may be true. It got me thinking about the major hurdles... what are the hardest parts about weight loss...

Losing weight was tough. It took me a long time - nearly a year. The Mr lost about 65 pounds in about 7 months. He was done long before I was, and that was frustrating. I lost almost 50 of the 75 pounds before anyone really noticed. (argh!) I found it hard to stay motivated sometimes.

But even harder than that, I think, and I think this is true for a lot of people, was actually making the decision to lose weight. Not "I've got a few pounds to lose, maybe I'll lay off the chips this week" but the realization that it is more important to lose weight than it is to have that piece of cake. That's tough. No one likes to admit they are fat. And food tastes good. Some food tastes REALLY good.

And that decision, the one that says you want to lose weight or stay thin rather than eat whatever tasty plate is in front of you? Has to be made over and over again. That's the hard part about maintaining.

Now we are entering a really challenging time of year, with Halloween candy, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and in my family, a whole truckload of birthdays. The Mr and I are starting the season off with a cruise as well. We leave Saturday - I'll let you know how it went!

How did you do this week?

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pumpkin Shortage?

Did you know there was a pumpkin shortage?

That if you went to the store to buy canned pumpkin, all you would find was a dusty shelf where the canned pumpkin should be?

Maybe you also didn’t know how easy it is to turn a fresh pumpkin into pumpkin puree!

I didn’t know all these things either, until Sunday at about 3:00 when getting ready for our pumpkin-themed dinner… and finding no pumpkin!

The Mr and I decided to buy a pumpkin and try to puree it ourselves. We found instructions on the internet (how did we ever live without it I wonder) and in an hour we had enough pumpkin puree to make the recipes below.

I added left-over chili to the soup to make a really hearty main dish, and served it with the waffles. The sweetness of the waffles was a little like cornbread, and we ate them like crackers with the chili-soup. The souffle was a delicious cheesecake-like dessert, light after the spicy meal. Yum!

Tuscan Pumpkin-White Bean Soup
1 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray, or enough to coat pot
1 medium onion(s), coarsely chopped
15 oz canned pumpkin
3 1/2 cup(s) fat-free chicken broth
15 1/2 oz canned white beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
6 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

- Coat a large soup pot with cooking spray and set over medium-low heat. Add onion, cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.
- Stir in pumpkin, broth, beans and oregano; simmer 8 minutes.
- In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth. (Note: Make sure not to overfill blender in order to avoid splattering.) Return soup to pot and reheat; season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top each with 1 tablespoon of grated cheese. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

Pumpkin Waffles
1 cup(s) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp table salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large egg(s), lightly beaten
1/4 cup(s) dark brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup(s) canned pumpkin
1 1/4 cup(s) buttermilk
1 spray(s) cooking spray

- Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder and next four ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk.
- Combine egg, brown sugar, oil, pumpkin and buttermilk in a bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture and stir until well combined.
- Coat a waffle iron with cooking spray; preheat. Spoon about 1⁄4 cup of batter per waffle onto hot waffle iron, spreading batter to edges. Cook 5 to 7 minutes or until steaming stops; repeat with remaining batter. Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 2 waffles).

Pumpkin Souffle
2 Tbsp sugar
15 oz canned pumpkin, puree
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup(s) fat-free evaporated milk
4 oz Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp ground ginger
3 large egg(s), separated
1 large egg white(s)
1/3 cup(s) sugar

- Heat oven to 350ºF. Coat a 2 1/2-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Over medium heat, cook pumpkin until no longer steaming, about 8 minutes. Mix together cornstarch and evaporated milk, whisk into pumpkin. Bring to boil; remove from heat and cool.
- Beat Neufchatel with pumpkin pie spice and ginger; beat in yolks to combine. Beat in cooled pumpkin mixture.
- Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/3 cup sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff. In three additions, fold whites into pumpkin mixture. Pour into prepared dish. Bake until puffed and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Holiday Baking

Who says gingerbread houses are just for Christmas?

A great start to holiday baking this year would be this fabulous Haunted Gingerbread House!

Gingerbread and Decorations
1/2cup packed brown sugar
1/4cup shortening
3/4cup full-flavor molasses
1/3cup cold water
3 1/2cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1teaspoon baking soda
1teaspoon ground ginger
1/2teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon ground allspice
1/2teaspoon ground cloves
1/2teaspoon ground cinnamon
Assorted candies and cookies

1 1/2to 2 cups powdered sugar
1/3cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4teaspoon vanilla
1tablespoon milk
1tablespoon full-flavor molasses
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About Concordance™
1.Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square pan and 15x10x1-inch rectangular pan. In large bowl, mix brown sugar, shortening and molasses until well blended. Stir in cold water. Stir in remaining gingerbread ingredients except candies. Press one-third of dough into square pan; press remaining dough into rectangular pan.
2.Bake 1 pan at a time about 15 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched in center. Cool 5 minutes; turn upside down onto large cutting surface. Immediately cut as shown in diagram below (cut windows if desired). Cool completely, about 25 minutes.
3.In medium bowl, mix 1 cup of the powdered sugar and remaining frosting ingredients until smooth. Stir in enough remaining powdered sugar to make stiff frosting. (If frosting becomes too stiff, stir in additional milk.)
4.Decorate front of house as desired using frosting and assorted candies and cookies. For windows as shown in photo, cut yellow tissue paper slightly larger than outline of windows. Brush paper with vegetable oil and "glue" to back side of windows, using frosting. Use frosting to attach supports to back of house, sidewalk to front of house, door and sign to front of house and fence to sidewalk. Complete decorating as desired.
Doesn't this sound like a scary good time?

Recipe and images courtesy of Betty Crocker.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Keeping Memories Alive!

I'm not a scrapbooker. I wish I were. I love all of the details and the creativity. I've even tried - I'm "crafty" enough, but for whatever reason, I just don't have the scrapbooking gene in me.

I have created a number of photobooks online, which is kind of the same thing. Or at least in the direction of the same thing.

I made my first book shortly after our wedding, on I called it "A Bride's Memories" and I wanted it so that I wouldn't forget some of the little details that don't get documented.

It was a lot of work. A tremendous amount of work. Part of was the site (back then) was not terribly user-friendly, and part of it was that I was not very organized. I liked the outcome a lot though.

Click here to view this photo book larger

My next book was a gift for The Mr on our first anniversary, about (some) of the adventures we had on our honeymoon. Apparently, I learned a bit from the first book, because this one did not take quite as long. I used again and was happy with the upgrades that they made to their site. New layouts, and some tools to make it easier to put the book together.

Click here to view this photo book larger

The Mr took me to NYC to celebrate my birthday and to see Spamalot! on Broadway. We're both big Monty Python fans, and I put together a book about our trip. This one was really easy because I had the book in mind as I was taking pictures. This made a great Valentine's Day present!

Click here to view this photo book larger

That same year, we spent a lot of the holiday season with our families, which was WONDERFUL! I put together photobooks for our families so they could remember what an awesome time we had!

Click here to view this photo book larger

And recently, I tried a new site - Panraven. We pre-purchased this book while we were on our Hawaii cruise. Our package allowed us to use some "official" ship's photos (the portrait-type photos they take on board) as well as stock photos of the ship. Then we upload our own photos, tell the story and you've got a photo book! My only complaint about this site is that it doesn't have as many layout options as I would like. Otherwise, I thought it was fantastic. Great customer service too! I just finished it (this one took a LONG time to finish - the narrative was the hardest, but I really wanted to have all the details of our trip in the book) and expect it to be delivered next week.

View Our Cruise in Paradise - Hawaii 2009

Tips I have learned about putting these books together:
  • Choose and organize your digital pictures BEFORE uploading them to the website.
  • Once organized, rename your pictures in the numerical order in which they will be used (this helps once the photos have been uploaded).
  • Think about the story you want to tell before you start your book. This will help with choosing pictures as well.
  • Proofread when you are done! And then have someone else proofread (preferably someone who knows how to spell any names you may have included in the book). Leave it alone for a while. And then proofread it again. Trust me on this one. I'm the voice of experience.

I've primarily used, but my experience with was fantastic, and I am working on a book now. The Shutterfly books have been of very good quality when printed, and I can't wait to see our Panraven book!

Have you made photo books online? What sites have you used and liked?

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Go Twins!

My hometown pride shines today - the Minnesota Twins are the unlikely American League Central Division champions after last night's 12 inning playoff game against the Detroit Tigers. What a game, and what a season!

Next up... Yankees!

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Just Arrived

Ready for my vacation reading. Looking forward to it!

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Monday, October 05, 2009

Too Early?

We pulled out the Halloween decorations this weekend. While putting up our scary ghosts, witches and pumpkins, I started thinking about how fast the time goes. I feel like it was just the 4th of July, and suddenly Thanksgiving and Christmas (!) are just around the corner. I looked at the calendar and realized that there are only 10 weekends until Christmas.

I decided that I need to get organized early this year, so that the holdiays don't fly by so quickly that I don't take time to enjoy them.

I can't take all the credit for this brilliant idea. I found the 100 Days of Cookies website (see the link in my sidebar) and then I found this website a few days ago - 100 Days to Christmas:

Visit 100 Days to Christmas

This year I want to get the holidays under control. Though I usually start in November, I pulled out last year's holiday planning spreadsheet and dusted it off for this year. I created this spreadsheet about 4 years ago and it has really helped to keep me organized throughout the holiday season. I have tabs for:

  • Christmas Breaksfast menu
  • Christmas Eve Dinner menu
  • Movies to watch
  • Christmas letter
  • Cookies to bake
  • Schedule of holiday activities
  • Gifts
  • Theme dinners (from Halloween to Christmas - dinners like Jack O'Lantern Dinner, Picnic in the Graveyard, Christmas Cards for Santa, St. Nicolas Day....)
  • To-do list

Some of the tabs have have information that I use every year (my cookies tab has recipes and shopping lists) and the schedule of holiday activities has all the things we have done in past years (like Paradise Point Tree Lighting, TSO Concert, Parade of Lights on the Bay) with notes on how we liked it so that we don't forget something that we really enjoyed (and so that we don't do something that "we've always done" if we no longer enjoy it).

Organize and do a little at a time... that will be my mantra for this holiday season. I'll be able to get it all done and enjoy it! Do you have organized holidays or are you frantic by December 24th?

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