Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Only Been A Month?

It seems like longer than one month since my last post. I'm pretty sure I've aged more than a month. Nearly two months ago I stopped what I was doing at home to come out here and spend my time on the real grandmother gig--the one where I spend my time with grandchildren and helping out Mommy when things got tough around here. Then about a month ago, things got more intense.

There were some ups and downs and several unexpected turns along the way. But it was worth it. Let me introduce you to the newest member of the family who is two weeks old today. She arrived early and tiny but she's been home for a few days now and today the doctor said she is doing well.


Meet Baby Girl, the youngest of the three in the family.


She's two weeks old today.

I've learned from watching that this little one is going to be tough. She'll have to be. When you're number three, that means there are two older sisters who want to hug on her and kiss and hold her all the time. Little Sister wasn't sure about this new baby at first. She asked, "Can I pet it?" Well, this new baby is going to get lots of petting and loving. And it's pretty noisy here, too, with a three year old here.

Welcome to this noisy, messy world but a world where you couldn't be loved any more!

My blogs might still be sporadic for a while, but I'll get back in the groove soon. We realized that all of us in this family use the blog as our "recipe keeper" and I have several to add to the collection. I knew when Daddy-O called one day (he's been at home keeping the farm going all this time) and asked how to make something for supper that I could just tell him to look it up on the blog. How fast and easy for us!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Cake


Pi Day is an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π. Pi Day is observed on March 14, since 3, 1, and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form. Wikipedia


My math class was never like this. Big Sister and a friend spent yesterday afternoon baking cake for Pi Day today. Everyone in her 7th grade math class was to bring in "round" food today. They will measure and calculate and then eat. I heard there would be doughnuts, round tortilla chips, cookies and so on. 

But this may be the best round food of all. I had to good fortune to taste this cake a couple of weeks ago when these girls made it the first time and Big Sister brought a piece home to me. No cake mix for them. This is a totally yummy homemade devil's food cake. They found the recipe on the internet. And they obviously know their way around the kitchen.

I asked Big Sister if she would share the recipe with me so that I could post it. She was kind enough to type it out and email it to me last night. I'm posted many recipes from both of my daughters. How much fun it is for me to share a granddaughter's recipe here this time!

Here is Big Sister's email:


DEVILS FOOD CAKE RECIPE

1/2 cup butter
3 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup water
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar



Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease and flour one 9x13 inch pan or two 9 inch round pans.
2. In a small pan melt the butter or margarine with the unsweetened chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Cream together the sugar and the eggs until light in color. Add the chocolate mixture to the eggs and temper mixture by beating well (so you don't end up with scrambled eggs!) Add 1 cup boiled water (still warm) and blend well. Mixture will be very liquid.
4. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the chocolate mixture and blend well.
5. Mix together the vinegar and the milk and stir into the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan(s).
6. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cake divides well for filling with mousse, or ganache, or black forest fillings.

***The best clue to this cake being nearly done is that you will start to smell the aroma of chocolate filling your house!


DEVIL’S FOOD CHOCOLATE FROSTING

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup softened butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

5 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

3-4 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS:
Whip butter and cocoa together until smooth in large bowl.
Stir in vanilla and powdered sugar.
Slowly stream in milk until frosting reaches desired consistency.
Scrape sides and whip again until light, fluffy and smooth, 1-2 minutes.
***Frosts 1-9 or 8 inch round layered cake or 24 cupcakes.

Happy Pi Day!
π
3.14159265359

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Little Helper

Taking advantage of a few quiet minutes here—after Big Sister has left for school and before Little Sister has waked up.  We are staying so busy here trying to get everything ready for new baby and keep Mommy sitting down and resting at the same time.


But with my trusty little helper always at my side, we are getting it all done. She has such a list of things to do "when I get bigger", like "touching knives" (that means helping with the cooking) to "driving the car" (it would be fabulous to have help with the errands.) Right now, she does set the table and help with the laundry and she just got her own broom, so sweeping is exciting. (Why does all this desire to help leave by the time they are old enough to have the skills?)



But we do find time to play, too. Last week she and I cut paper dolls. When my girls were small, I cut the fanciest paper dolls you can imagine. My cutting skills are a little rusty, but I think I'll get plenty of practice out here.


She has also developed mad skills in playing Go Fish. Last game, she beat me fair and square. It took about two times playing with Big Sister and me for her to understand what we were doing. But after that, it was every player for herself!

Little Sister tells everyone "Mimi lives here now." And for these few weeks, she's right. Bless Daddy-O for holding down things at the farm and letting me have this precious family time.





Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hanging In There

Not sure that I'm even getting things in here in any kind of order, but at least family and friends who are readers will know that we are hanging in there. And for the most part, doing okay.

We spent the weekend battling kid germs of assorted varieties. There were a couple of long nights and some worry until everyone was better. So far, the mama-to-be has stayed away from the germs. And I have repeatedly washed and wiped everything in sight.

Little Sister announced to her daddy when he got home, "I was very sick." But here is proof that she is over it! The sun came out yesterday, literally and figuratively. She and had I fun playing outdoors.




Big Sister had a bout with different germs, but she is well, too. Fingers crossed that we will all stay healthy for a while. In trying to keep things from spreading, I have washed and wiped everything in the house multiple times. That also includes many, many handwashings. I have suffered from really dry hands since I've been here. Even Little Sister has told me my hands were rough when I help her out of the tub. 


Yesterday morning I made a quick trip to the store for essentials and happened to spy a bottle of Corn Huskers lotion on the bottom shelf. This is what my grandmother used. There was always a bottle by her kitchen sink. It cost less than $3.00. So I tossed a bottle into my cart with the other things I was getting. By yesterday afternoon, my hands were visibly better. Why have I not used this before? 


And there is some cooking going on here. I am looking for the easiest things I can find to keep us fed. I bought a boneless turkey breast this weekend with no recipe in mind. But a quick Google search led me to this recipe. I changed the cooking directions, but used her rub ingredients exactly as written. 


OVEN ROASTED TURKEY BREAST

1 boneless turkey breast (mine was about 3-1/2 lbs.)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon minced dry onion
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Reynold's Oven Bag, large size
1 tablespoon flour for bag

Thaw turkey completely if frozen. (Mine was fresh.) 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix all of the dry ingredients. Pat turkey dry. Rub with olive oil. Pat herb mix all over turkey. 
Add flour to oven bag and shake. Place seasoned turkey into bag and fasten bag with enclosed tie. Place into 9x13-inch baking dish. Cut six 1/2-inch slits into bag. 

Bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until internal temp of turkey reaches 170 degrees. The instructions enclosed with the oven bags will give cooking times for different sized turkey breasts. Read those before you start.

Let rest 20 minutes before removing from bag. For neater slices, refrigerate overnight.


This turned out SO good. And it was the easiest recipe for roasted turkey I saw. Using the oven bag keeps the meat moist, even when I cooked it a little past the desired temperature. The meat will also brown through the bag. Plus, the clean up is easy because nothing is baked on to the dish. You could use a bone-in turkey breast, too. It's all about the seasoning rub. 

We made sandwiches with sliced turkey, provolone cheese and cranberry mayo. And we had turkey for dinner last night with vegetables. 








Saturday, March 8, 2014

Messy Mimi

When you arrive knowing you'll be in someone else's house for an extended stay, one of the main goals is that everyone will still be speaking to each other when the visit is over. (Maybe I've watched Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation too many times.) Thankfully, we are all pretty easy-going folks here and have very good manners.

But I will admit that I felt like I wasn't being a very good guest in my first days here. I kept finding that things in "my" room had been moved around. Several small items had been moved to the bookshelf and neatly arranged. Some shoe boxes had been put away into a large shopping bag. I figured Mommy was trying to be helpful and keep my room neat. I am here to help HER, so I was falling down on the job. Plus, I didn't think I was making such a mess anyway! And I was a little bothered that she kept moving my things around.

But one afternoon I couldn't find my purse when it was time to go get Big Sister. When I asked if Mommy knew where it was, Little Sister piped up, "I know where it is!" She ran into my room and opened a drawer. There was the handbag. I still thought it was Mommy putting my things up.


Yarn: Berroco Comfort Sock
Needles: size 2

Then the next day, I could not find the socks I had finished knitting the day after I arrived. Again, when I asked where they were, the first one to answer was Little Sister. She ran into my room again and pointed. "I put them right here!!!"

Come to find out, three-year-old Little Sister had been the "cleaning fairy" all along. She was just trying to help Mimi keep her room clean. (She is much less concerned about keeping her own room that picked up.) Mommy, on the other hand, had been wondering why I was putting my things into the empty drawers that she had cleaned out in anticipation of filling them with diapers and baby supplies.

I should have had a clue when the night I arrived Little Sister announced, "Mimi's room is a mess!" after she looked at my partially unpacked suitcases.

I really must do better.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Grandmother-In-Residence

This grandmother blog might have fewer posts for a while due to, well.....grandmothering!

Just over a week ago, I got a phone call from Mommy and from the conversation and the sound of her voice, I decided I needed to get the next plane out here. Just like they do in the movies. So that's just what I did. I booked a flight right after that phone call and was here the next afternoon.

I'm here to help out while Mommy waits for the new baby to get here, hopefully not for several more weeks. "More rest" the doctor said. And that is plenty hard to do with a three-year-old in the house. Not to mention all the chauffering that a 13-year-old requires. And the daddy here has to travel a lot. So for the time being, I'm the grandmother-in-residence, glad to be here to do whatever needs doing.

I got here just in time for Little Sister to have massive stomach bug that kept me busy all during the night. I had forgotten about those nights. Changing the bed. Changing her pajamas. Over and over and over. She is better but maybe not completely over it. Last night when I missed the trash can in my bathroom, she said, "It's right here." She had put it beside her bed and put a grocery store plastic bag in it. "I put it here in case I throw out again." She's got the right idea. Thankfully, there was no throwing "out" or "up" or throwing in any direction last night. Fingers crossed that the bug is gone.


I also got here just in time for an awful winter storm. An inch or two of sleet followed by several inches of snow. My Southern bones are not used to this kind of winter. But we stayed warm inside and just enjoyed the view. I have seen enough now. Big Sister has missed 13 days of school now.


And the day school went back, I drove on some snowy roads—roads that would have kept schools closed at home. Grandmothering should include hazardous duty pay.


A little extra time in the house did give Big Sister time to finish the mitts she gave me for Christmas. (On Christmas they weren't quite done.) She added the color blocking to the pattern. A designer in the making!



I'm doing the cooking here now. This family is so good about eating healthy. They get fresh fruits and vegetables delivered to their door every couple of weeks. But this Mimi has had to resort to some of her old recipes to keep everyone fed. I'm not used to cooking for five anymore. (When I get home, I'll have to relearn the "cooking for two" system.)


This is a recipe my mother used to make. It's not like Thanksgiving turkey and dressing--it's a Wednesday night chicken and dressing, all in one dish. Big Sister gave it a 4.15 star (out of 5 stars) rating. I gave it a 3.5. But it is so easy to make and that counts for a lot. I don't use much canned cream soups anymore. This recipe has two cans in it, so I chose the Healthy Request version to cut down on the sodium. Surely that helps a little!

CHICKEN & DRESSING CASSEROLE

1 whole chicken, cooked (save broth)
2 cups of broth from chicken
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 8-oz bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix

Pull meat from chicken and cut into bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, mix soups and broth. Stir in stuffing mix and chicken. Spread in a greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 


Yes, this recipe is so old that it calls for cooking a whole chicken. I actually did that this time. But you can use chicken breasts. Or, you can use a rotisserie chicken. Times have changed.







Monday, February 24, 2014

Whirlwind Day

It's been one of those days. You start out headed one direction and soon find yourself going the opposite way. After a long spell of spinning around right in the middle. It happens.

Amidst the craziness of the day, I did make dinner and took it to a new mama who lives right down the road from us. My favorite kind of meal to take is one that she can put into the oven whenever it suits her. Heat and eat! And one of the easiest is the Baked Bowties w/Tomatoes and Mozzarella. I've posted it before (sometimes made with penne,) but in case you missed it, here is it again:


BAKED BOWTIES with TOMATOES AND MOZZERALLA

3 cups (9 oz.)  uncooked bowtie pasta (or penne pasta)
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained (this time I used diced w/oregano, basil & garlic)
2 cups Alfredo pasta sauce (I used refrigerated Buitoni sauce)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 
2 handfuls baby spinach

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with PAM. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat tomatoes to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for  to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is nearly evaporated. Stir in spinach just to wilt it.

Put Alfredo sauce into a microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 90-seconds to heat. Stir in shredded cheese. Heat another 30-seconds and stir until cheese melts. Mix in tomato-spinach mixture. 

Put pasta in the baking dish and poured sauce over it. Stir gently to mix it all. 

Bake uncovered, about 30 minutes, or until hot in center.

(I cheated and used a photo of this dish from months ago. Didn't get make a photo today Sorry.)


I watched Mommy make these enchiladas for supper one night the last time I was out there stuck in the snow. While I was putting together the pasta this afternoon, I had chicken breasts cooking, too, so I would be one step ahead tonight.  


It was delicious. It was quick. It was easy. It was NOT low-calorie. But I didn't change a thing from how she made it! (You could opt to use reduced-fat products if you want.) I promised a few weeks ago, I'd share the recipe. It took a little longer than I planned to make it for Daddy-O, but here it is—tonight's supper.



CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts (mine had 3 large breasts in it)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Ranch salad dressing
10 flour tortillas, burrito-style (that's the larger one)
jar of salsa
shredded Mexican cheese, about 2 cups

Cover chicken breasts with water in a large pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat and let simmer until tender. Let cool a bit and then remove chicken to a large bowl and shred, using two forks.

Mix sour cream and salad dressing in a small bowl. Pour half of sauce mix over shredded chicken and stir to mix well. (The other half of sauce is use to spread over tortillas.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch pan. Take a tortilla and top with sauce (about 1 tbsp.) and spread almost to edges. Spoon some of the chicken mixture down center of tortilla. Top with a little salsa and sprinkle with cheese. (Both of these amounts are to your taste.) Roll up tortilla, folding in ends as you go. Place in pan, seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. 

My dish held 9 of these enchiladas. I put #10 in a small dish and stuck it in the oven on the rack under the big dish. I did have to re-roll the first one when I discovered you should be rolling them up kind of tight.

We had ours tonight with extra salsa and sour cream. I put the remaining enchiladas in a freezer bag and popped them into the freezer for an easy meal later. Because there is no sauce over the top, these are easy to pull out individually. You can freeze them before or after baking.

Thank you, Mommy, for a great new recipe to add to my collection.