Candid in NOLA

Once upon a time I went to New Orleans for the weekend with three of my sisters-in-law.
To be perfectly candid with you, we had a lovely time. We also decided to take as many candid photos as we could. I’ve decided to let you experience our trip through our photos. But, I do have a few things to say along the way.

1. I love beignets. Who doesn’t? You should go to Cafe Du Monde once in your life. Trust me.

2. I love oysters. I didn’t know this. You should go to the Acme Oyster Company even if you think you don’t like oysters.

3. I love listening to live jazz music. Plus I love that on a sunny bright morning in the middle of a Royal Street, this 3 man band asked us for a song request in this order: Country or Blues? Happy or Sad?

4. I love candid photos. Also I love semi-candid photos.

5. I loved our hotel. Supposedly it is haunted. I didn’t notice anything weird. The only thing is that a guy was leaving the hotel in his underwear one night when we were walking out the door on the way to our dinner place. He was a little disoriented. I think.

6. Bloody Mary’s are a thing in NOLA. You should try one. You might like it. Unless you don’t drink alcohol. My favorite thing about this drink was the pickled green bean on the side. It was yummy. Hey, did you know that New Orleans never ever follow the Prohibition Act? Nope. They said no thanks. And then politicians would vacation there so they could have a cocktail.

7. I want to play the spoon/washboard thing sometime. It’s very loud.

8. The Court of Two Sisters jazz brunch is a very lovely experience. Very.

9. I love history tours and cemetery tours. I learned about the burial process in the above ground cemeteries. Plus, I stood in the very same cemetery that Ashley Judd was buried alive in the movie Double Jeopardy. ūüôā Also I saw John Goodman’s home. And Sandra Bullock’s vacation home. You should go.

Enjoy the trip! We did!

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Grand Tetons 2013 Part 2

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Before entering the Grand Teton National Park, we stopped in Jackson, Wyoming to eat lunch and get the guys a fishing license for the park. We ate at the Snake River Brewing Company. The food was great, the beer was nice, and the atmosphere is fun. Our waitress was a little grouchy, but she did okay with this group of ours. I had the fish and chips which were very tasty. Hey, so what’s up with slaw? Do you like cole slaw? I’m being honest: I’m suspicious of it. Mostly, it was lovely to finally be out of the car and almost to the park!

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Full and happy, we drove into the national park. It takes awhile to get through the Grand Teton National Park, but not as long as it takes to get through Yellowstone. The scenery is amazing, and the kids were bouncing around (in their seat belts of course). Finally, we arrived at Colter Bay Group Site 7 and began to set up camp. By the way, you get these brothers together, and there are funny times and weird pics ahead.
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I remember when we camped with babies and toddlers. Setting up camp was very difficult. Now we have real workers. And these girls know their jobs. It was nice to have time to take setting up with plenty of daylight. We’ve set up camp in the middle of the night and in rain storms, and I was grateful to have dry daylight. Also, I would like to note that our tent was up first. Boom.
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Another thing you need to know is that there was a very, very large church group of teen girls in the campsite next to us. They were loud. Plus they trashed the girl’s bathroom. Then they started using the men’s bathroom. Oh, and we have proof that they did not follow the bear rules. I’m surprised one of them didn’t get eaten by a bear. It was challenging to have a good attitude with these pesky neighbors. P.S. One of the members of our group chewed them out for what they did to the campground toilets. I was glad to be related to this person. ūüôā

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Beth made her famous campground spaghetti that night. Hey, did you know that everyone looks better in campfire light? It’s true! If we started our mornings with campfire light, we would all feel warmly lit and pretty. Of course, we probably wouldn’t groom as much as we need to. There is one exception to this: the devil eyes you sometimes have in a campfire pic.

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The stars were breathtaking, and we stayed up for awhile to watch them and enjoy the campfire. Soon, the long drive started catching up with us. But, those chicks next door were still a little loud. I have to tell you that I kept a running list of quotes from this trip. I have to explain most of them to you so you don’t feel left out. Therefore, once explained, comedy value is lost. But, I’m going to share with you anyways. Besides, I don’t even ever know if you ever laugh when you are reading my blog. So, there! This first night, we were talking about bears, and one of my nephews said in the most hillybilly-est, hick accent, if they don’t follow the bear rules, “She goin’ die!” Each of the kids kept repeating this phrase. By the end of the week, we were all saying it. It was contagious. I don’t know why. We are a strange family. Strange, but funny. Even now, 5 months later, every once in awhile, someone in this house will randomly say, “She goin’ die!” And then Pete and repeat join in. It’s fun. You should try it.

The next day the plans were to hike Phelps Lake. Stay tuned….

Comfort Food

Vegetarian Comfort Food

(otherwise known as Everyday Lentils and Rice)

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Green Peppers
1 Large Onion
2-inch Stick Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground Coriander
4 Whole Cloves
1 Cup Lentils
2 Cups Uncooked Rice
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
3 or 4 Carrots
1 Bunch Broccoli
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
8 Cups Water

1. In a large pot, heat oil. Saute sliced green peppers, chopped onion, and spices for a couple minutes.

2. Add the rice and lentils. Stir-fry about five minutes.

3. Add the vegetables, salt and water.

4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice, lentils, and vegetables are tender (20-30 minutes).

5. While you are waiting, chop up a pear and toss it in a bowl with spinach leaves. Sprinkle with pecans, and drizzle with Greek Feta dressing, and you will have the best salad you ever put in your mouth.

6. Serve the lentils with the salad. Your family will thank you. I mean it. All of them. And then you will smile.

Family Friday: Food

I love food. It is so good. I think there is a bit of gluttony I need to get out of me. I’ve been daydreaming about this dewberry kolache that I had at the Kountry Bakery in Schulenburg, Texas on a trip the other day. I just think about it all the time. If you could ever go to this bakery, you should. It’s small, but it’s been around¬† for over 25 years. Oh, and you should get the dewberry kolache. But, you can only get that during dewberry season which is now. So, if you’re far away, you’ll just have to be content with the daydreaming.

I’ve been sensing you would like a recipe post from me. Not really. Mainly, I just do what my bossy sister-in-law tells me. Like the other day right after I posted The Blank Page, she texted me, “Oh, good. I was just about to text you, ‘Remember when you used to blog?'” Sassy, that’s what she is. But, still I listen to her. Sometimes I tell her to stop bossing me, and then I go do what she said. What can I say? She has good ideas, man.

I’ve been wanting to share with you these Lettuce Wrap Chicken Tacos I made up. They are so yummy. The bad thing is that I didn’t have a photo. We ate them all. But then I remembered that Matt took a photo~! Yeah!!!

Lettuce Wrap Chicken Tacos

Here’s the ingredients:

1 head Boston (Butter) Lettuce

Tortillas (for back-up)

2 lbs. Chicken (any pieces will work….you just need in boneless)

3-4 Cloves Garlic (minced)

1/2 Large Onion (chopped)

1-2 tablespoons Olive Oil

1/4 teaspoon Curry

1/4 teaspoon Oregano

1/2 teaspoon Cumin

1/2 to 1 teaspoon Chili Powder or chopped up red chilis

Salt

Pepper

2 cups cooked Quinoa or Rice

1 Tomato (chopped)

small lime

1. Chop up the chicken, and throw it in a large skillet with the olive oil, chilis, and garlic. Cook until done, stirring often.

2. Turn down the heat and throw in all the spices. Yum. Breathe deeply. It might be good to add a little tequila to the chicken here, but we didn’t have any.

3. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Wash the lettuce, pull into individual pieces and arrange neatly on a serving platter.

5. Grate the cheese, and put in serving bowl.

6. Add the quinoa or rice to the chicken. We used quinoa because it has superpowers. Just kidding. It is a grain that is also a complete protein. Not many grains can say that. You just cook it like rice. Yummy. Grainy. Proteiny.

7. Squirt the lime juice all over. Fill the lettuce wraps with the chicken/rice mixture. Top with tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.

8. Serve with a smile. If you’re children freak out, show them the tortilla they can have after they try the lettuce taco. In the photo, you can see broccoli and carrots. That’s because I lightly stir-fried some veggies and my husband stuck his in the wrap. This was after he did a rap for us. It was entertaining. I think there was some eye-rolling. Also, he decided to fore-go the cheese. It’s your taco, do what you want to do.

Happy Friday!

P.S. I just made brownies. Nothing fancy…just a box mix. I always add a little cinnamon to the batter. It’s my secret deliciousness. Except not anymore because I just told you. What I want to tell you is that I forgot to spray the Pyrex dish before I put the batter in. It was pouring out all nice and chocolatey and then I remembered. “Oh, well!” I said. It was too late. And guess what, it didn’t even matter. We’ve been duped. They didn’t stick.¬† It’s all a conspiracy. I just had to tell you.

Family Friday: A Meatless Meal

If you are participating in Lent, you might be fasting from meat today. So, I am your friend¬† because I have a recipe that your whole family will love! Unless of course you have a weird person in your family (like my brother-in-law) who despises beans. Yes, all beans…even yummy black beans. He’s weird, but I already said that. I made this meal on Ash Wednesday, and even the 4-year-old asked for seconds. We ate the whole pan. You should make it today.

Oh, and don’t forget to put make a comment on the blog anniversary p0st so you will be entered in the giveaway!

Black Bean Enchiladas

1 1/2 cups Uncooked Black Beans (hooray for beans!)

6 cups Water

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Medium Finely Chopped Onion

1 Carrot Finely Diced

1 teaspoon Basil

1 teaspoon Oregano

1 Medium-sized Finely Chopped Green Pepper

1 teaspoon Minced Garlic (4-5 Cloves)

1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin

1/4 teaspoon Ground Coriander

1 crumbled Dried Chili Pepper or 1 minced Fresh Jalapeno Pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons Salt

12 Corn Tortillas

1 1/2 cups Salsa

2 1/2 cups grated cheese

Sour Cream

1. Soak beans in a 2 quart saucepan for 8 hours.

2. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, 1 1/4 hours or more until tender. Drain most of the water.

3. Saute the onions, carrot, basil, oregano, and garlic. After a few minutes add the peppers, spices, chili pepper, and salt. Cook vegetable until tender. Breathe deeply. It will relax you. Add veggies to beans when tender.

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

5. Warm tortillas however you want. I like to put them in a little pan on the stove one at a time. I don’t use oil, but I spray a little PAM in the pan. You can use oil if you want, but this just adds fat. You don’t have to do this part, but if you don’t the tortillas will break when you roll them. This will make you grouchy after all your hard work.

6. Put 1/3 cup bean mixture down the middle of each tortilla, then a line of cheese. I used mozzarella. You can use whatever cheese you want. The original Lenten fasts include dairy, but I’m not very original. What writer is?

7. Roll them up and lay each face down on in a 9×13 pan. I used a Pyrex 9×13. When finished, pour the salsa on top. I used mild because my children are afraid of spicy food. I don’t know why. Spread the salsa out so it covers each tortilla. Sprinkle some cheese on top.

8. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Serve with sour cream (we like to use plain yogurt, but I didn’t have any or any sour cream so we ate them as is). A good side is a green salad. I wish I had a photo for you, but by the time I thought of it the pan was empty.

Happy Friday! Enjoy!

The Cookbook I Don’t Have…

So, my sister-in-law have a playful contention between us. Everyone in my family owns a certain Jr. League cookbook….except me. I don’t know why. I think I lived in a different country when they were selling them in these parts. Every single time that I ask her for a recipe of something delicious she has made, it is from that dad-blame cookbook. I don’t really know if that is a cuss word. If it is, I am sorry. I think they said it on Little House on the Prairie. (I was a big fan.)

Anyways, I waiver between being fine with not owning it and thinking that I’m going to hunt it down and get it. I know this sounds neurotic, but if you only knew the amount of recipes I have had to write down with a pen from this book. It’s over. I have to get it. I wrote the last one down today.

It is a devilish kind of creation that is wonderful. I made it for our first Bible study group from church tonight, and just to spite my sister-in-law and the rest of the family (all in good fun I assure you), I am sharing it with you too! I’m sorry to tell you that I forgot to take a before-we-ate-almost-the-whole-cake photo. (Scroll to the bottom for the recipe. Please make for many people so you can share.) Here is what remains of it:

You can tell this has all been in jest because it never occurred to my brain to search for the cookbook on the internets. I added that ‘s’ because I felt like a country bumpkin writing that sentence. What is a bumpkin?

Anyways, hearts are always at peace when they live in contentment. From a book (Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action)
I read a few years ago, I remember some advice. If you really want something (or think you need it), wait a month. If you really need it, you will need it still (plus you might’ve saved the money for it). If you don’t really need it, you might have forgotten about it. So, that’s what I will do. This seems silly over a cookbook, but we’ve used this for major purchases too. It does seem to ward off unnecessary accumulation. Oftentimes, while I’m waiting, God will provide what we needed without purchase. It happens a lot. I’m continually amazed at how God cares for all of us.

Continuing to count, today I offer thanks to God for these gifts:

373. Cookbooks I do have:

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl
Simply in Season Expanded Edition (World Community Cookbook)
More-With-Less Cookbook (World Community Cookbook)
Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook

374. luxuries like pound cake

375. Yoga…making me stronger and more lively

376. husband who jumps up and down inside the recycling bin so that I can fit more

377. my brave girls who ride horses really fast

378. The way of contentment

379. Health and wellness

380. this red desk I am writing on

381. the 1st grader’s tooth that can turn all the way around but still hang on

382. Watching our small group take turns on the zip line

383. family members who push me to take risks

Whipping Cream Pound Cake

1 Cup Butter!

3 Cups Sugar

6 Large Eggs

1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar

2 teaspoons Vanilla

3 Cups Cake Flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar, and beat some more. I used an electric mixer. Add in eggs, beat in between. Combine whipping cream, cream of tartar, vanilla in a small bowl. Smell it! Alternately add in the flour and the cream mixture mixing until smooth. Grease and flour a bundt pan, and pour in cake mix. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in pan and then on wire rack. Drizzle on glaze while still warm.

Glaze Recipe

1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

2 tablespoons Water

1/2 teaspoon Vanilla

1/3 cup Heath Toffee Chips

Here’s the the infamous cookbook. Check it out! Oh, and don’t tell me you already have it. Grr.

Saturday Pancakes

More sickness around here, and I am hoping tomorrow will put the sparkle back in our oldest’s eyes! I’m listening to her coughing as I write this.

Taking care of those around me with love is definitely meaningful work, but there isn’t much time for the computer.

There is time for pancakes and sausage for breakfast.

There is time for stealing away from laundry and Tylenol to the back yard to push little ones on the swings.

There is time for candles and prayer.

There is time for having an afternoon tea party and substituting the tea for milk and the scones for brownies with all of us having a different color plate.

There is time for playing with the new sewing machine and making Claire’s puppy a pillow and Lydia’s teddy a blanket.

There is time to throw the old dog a ball for awhile and help girls feed guinea pigs a spinach treat.

And now, there is time to go sit with a beloved husband.

For you: The recipe for our favorite pancakes that we have eaten regularly for the past ten years. I also like to make it up for folks for Christmas.

Cinnamon Oat Pancakes

4 Cups Oats

2 Cups All-Purpose Flour

2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour

1 Cup Non-fat Dry Milk

2 Tbsp. Cinnamon

1 1/2 Tbsp. Salt

3 Tbsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar

Combine all ingredients and stir to mix well. Store in airtight container or fridge. Makes about 8 cups.

Mixing Directions: In a medium bowl, beat 2 eggs. Beat in 1/3 cup of vegetable oil gradually. Alternately beat in 2 cups pancake mix and 1 cup water. Pour in spoonfuls (I like to use 1/4 cup) into a lightly greased skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the tops show broken bubbles. Turn and cook until golden brown. Makes 12 5-inch pancakes. Add in a banana for really moist pancakes (blueberries are yummy too). Be generous with syrup. These are very hearty pancakes that stick with you! This mix can also be used in a waffle maker for wheaty yummy waffles.