Category Archives: Special Days

Ratatouille—Vegetables after the Carb Fest!

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We have had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Texas.  It was wonderful to drive to be with our Giese family.  Thanksgiving is the only time of year that the entire clan (close to 40 of us) plan to get together.  This year we were just outside of San Antonio and next year I get to host!!! (And yes, the spreadsheet is already forming in my head and I’ve determined where furniture will be placed too!)  Then on Friday we drove over to see Brad’s parents and had another wonderful feast.  Needless to say, we need some vegetables without butter and brown sugar all over them!

I just finished prepping this Ratatouille recipe that I found last winter in “Slow Cooker Revolution”.  I served our dish with some Rigatoni Pasta to help my kids be a bit more receptive to this vegetable focused meal.  It does take a bit of time to prepare (30 minutes) but then you have 4 to 6 hours to clean up the kitchen and know that later your family will have a warm, healthy meal without any butter 🙂

Ratatouille

Cut into 1-inch chunks:

  • 2 eggplants (2 pounds)
  • 3 zucchini (1 1/2 pounds)

Heat in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Brown in the heated oil for about 5-7 minutes:

  • 1/2 of the eggplant; turning it to brown on all sides.  (I pepper mine a bit)

Transfer browned eggplant to your slow cooker.

Repeat process with 1 Tablespoon more of oil and remaining eggplant.

Then, work in two batches again, to brown the zucchini (adding 1 Tablespoon of oil before each batch.)

Put the browned zucchini in the slow cooker.

Heat 2 more Tablespoons of oil in the skillet.  Add to the shimmering oil:

  • 2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (could use 2 teaspoons of fresh if you have some)

Cook the vegetables for 8 to 10  minutes until softened and lightly browned.

While the vegetables brown, drain but reserve the drained juice

  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Once the vegetables are browned, Stir into them and cook for 1 minute:

  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Slowly whisk into the skillet, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out lumps:

  • the reserved tomato juice

Transfer everything to the slow cooker.

Stir  into the slow cooker:

  • The drained, diced tomatoes

Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low until the vegetables are tender.

Prepare your desired pasta just before the vegetables are finished

Stir into the vegetables:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Enjoy!

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St. Patrick’s Day 2013

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Even though we have absolutely no Irish blood in our family…it is fun to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!  Today for lunch we had a green lunch.  I found a recipe on the wonderful recipe blog of “Two Peas & Their Pod” called Creamy Avocado Pasta.  It looked easy to throw together so I planned to make that once we got home from church.  It was good but a tad dry, so when I make it again I will add some olive oil to the avocado sauce prior to mixing it with the spaghetti.

Then we had kiwis, green grapes, broccoli and a green salad.  I wanted to make some green kool-aid but there were some problems: no green kool-aid in the house and no more than 2 Tablespoons of sugar left in the sugar canister.  So we opted for green milk—-yellow and blue makes green!

St. Patrick's Day Lunch_beckinpa.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch I made a creamy avocado dip that we are enjoying this afternoon.  But I can’t wait until later tonight when we take another tip from Two Peas & Their Pod and make some chocolate mint shakes.

This green lunch didn’t take too much time nor too much planning but my girls loved it and thought it was fun.  Making Memories!!!

Enjoy!

 

Valentine’s Smith Style

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I know that Valentine’s Day is always on February 14 but somehow this year the 14th got here way too quickly!  Life has been zipping by at breakneck speeds lately-I’m sure you can relate.  Yesterday my youngest pulled out a can of Chef Boyardee and asked if she could have it for dinner tomorrow night (which would be Valentine’s).  Her older sister said “No, it is Valentines Day and Mom probably has a big, special dinner planned.”

Sigh

I am thrilled that she has noticed the special efforts I have given in previous years.  But this year I just didn’t have it in me.  Thankfully, I was able to say “We will have lunch tomorrow since y’all have a half-day of school and Dad is working in the evening.”  Whew, lunch is easier to do than dinner!  Then I didn’t let myself fret over it but got the evening wrapped up and ended watching my favorite TV show…Nashville!

This morning I kicked into gear getting  potato soup going by 9AM (recipe below).  My handsome fella was kind enough to bring home some awesome cupcakes from a bakery near his office so I didn’t even have to try to make a dessert.  Now to get the annual Valentine clues written for the hunt for the treats.

Fortunately I picked up some small little gifts for my girls on an errand run in the last few weeks so all I needed today was to run get some twizzlers.  Our candy selection is limited as the 7-year-old just entered the world of orthodontia with an expander…so no more gummy candy for a while 😦 But they gave approval for twizzlers so the world didn’t stop spinning.

After a salted caramel mocha at Burlap and Bean with my handsome fella, we made the Target run and came home with just enough time to get the Valentine Treat all set up.

I started getting the table set and really wanted it to be fun for the girls….so what could I do.  I remembered some special heart hotdogs that I repinned from my cousin-in-law and I came up with a clever way to make our soup Valentine-y too.

Here are some pictures from our table:

:Heart Hot Dogs

Hearts in soup

Here is how the entire table ended up for our family lunch:

Valentine Lunch 2013

Making the heart in the soup was super easy and such a fun way to make it fit with the theme.  I simply put  sour cream in a small bowl and dropped some food coloring in to make it pink….but whoops it was purple!  Oh well.  Then I put the colored sour cream in a small ziploc and clipped of the corner so I could “draw” the heart on the soup.  I made my snip too large but it still worked out fine.

So in the end, we had a great family lunch together.  The soup is always excellent and the cupcakes were great!  We ended our lunch reading the “Love” chapter from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13.

Baked Potato Soup

Combine in a large slow cooker:

  • 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (use Russets/Idaho NOT Yukons…Oh and my definition of large is like 6 inches long so if you have small potatoes use a few more to equal out large ones)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 quart of chicken broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • pepper to taste (I pepper the entire top of the crock with pepper and then mix it in)

Cook on High for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Mash the potatoes until the soup is slightly thickened.

Stir in:

  • 1 cup of 1/2 and 1/2  (or you can use cream)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

I like to serve it with sour cream, bacon and (of course) more cheese.

 

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Thanksgiving

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Wow!  Thanksgiving is next week.  I can’t believe it.  Recently I had the privilege to guest post on the fun and informative blog Play! Eat! Grow!.  There I shared in one post several of the things I have blogged over the years here regarding how I prepare for the actual meal on Thanksgiving.  But as anyone knows that has hosted the big day AND hosted guests in her home leading up to that big day….there is a LOT more to plan than one meal.

My meal planning is coming along thanks to the tips I shared at Play! Eat! Grow! on November 14.  See…I’ve already been shopping:

Here are many of the shelf items that I purchased this week.

Then there is the refrigerator…..

Remember don’t worry about how much butter or sour cream….just enjoy!

One thing that I do is mark the special Thanksgiving items with a “T”.  This reminds me not to use it and also lets my family know that it has a higher purpose at a later time. 🙂

I don’t just think about food as I prepare for the week but also all the other little things you need to have when hosting the meal and having house guests.

Paper Goods:

  • paper towels
  • toilet paper
  • paper plates for leftovers on Thursday and those spur-of-the-moment dessert needs
  • napkins (of course one must have cute napkins to go along with the paper plates!)
  • good “to go” containers for those that live close enough to take some of the bountiful meal home with them at the end of the day

Cleaning Items:

  • Dishwasher detergent- it is my nightmare to run out of this and be forced to wash everything by hand after standing all day to prepare the meal.
  • Clorox wipes- quick swipes of the bathrooms

Food things that are not a part of the Big Meal:

  • Easy Breakfast for Thursday morning—This year Entenmann‘s won sometimes it is Pillsbury.
  • Snacks- chips, dips, veggies to munch
  • Amoroso’s rolls for leftovers  (Like I’ve said before…If God ever takes us from PA, I will miss Amoroso’s rolls.)
  • Sandwich items for lunches leading up to Thanksgiving
  • Easy meals for the evenings leading up to Thursday (I’ve been known to freeze a meal or two and pull it out during this week.)
  • Coffee from my favorite place—a treat to myself!

I know the list above is not an exhaustive list but it is a great start and should prime the pump for other things you need to prepare in advance so that you can enjoy the holiday.  It is a time to be thankful not to be ticked off.  So take some time to think through the entire week and see what you may need to do (or give up on) in order to make this a holiday to smile about.

National Candy Corn Day is coming….are you ready?

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October 30th is National Candy Corn Day….yep- ya learn something new every day.  I was waiting in line at Acme Grocery to get my final items before heading home to wait out the Frankenstorm, Sandy, and this little tidbit of knowledge was given to me via the monitors they run constantly at their check-out lines.  I do enjoy candy corn and those cute little pumpkins and so in honor of the candy corn, I made this recipe.

Well, not really….I’ve been planning on making this for over a week but didn’t have the Halloween sprinkles until a few days ago!  But the above makes for a much better story- don’tcha think?

Halloween Popcorn

Pop

  • 2 bags of microwave popcorn

Put the popped popcorn into a very large bowl (try to not get the un-popped kernels in the bowl) and add to it

  • 1 bag of candy corn (I had a larger bag…probably 12 – 16 oz?  not sure now though)

Melt

  • 16 ounces of white chocolate almond bark  (I followed the package directions of melting in the microwave.  Zapping it for 30-60 seconds and then stirring before zapping it again until all of it was melted)

Drizzle the melted bark over the popcorn and candy corn—I don’t have a VERY large bowl but two real good sized bowls so I worked between them.  Putting in popcorn/candy corn, drizzling and tossing then adding more popcorn/candy corn and repeating)

Stir to coat each piece of popcorn.

Pour the mixture over wax paper and spread into an even layer.

Sprinkle with Halloween sprinkles and allow to cool for at least 15-30 minutes.

Break into pieces.

Warning….this is crazy sweet!

Enjoy!

 

Olympic Food

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Tonight is the night that all the fun begins.  So now, about 6 hours prior to the opening ceremonies I have decided that we need some “Olympic food” for our evening.  So a quick search on the internet has surfaced a couple of fun ideas that I think we are going to do.  I thought I would share them with you  in case you want to run out and gather up the items this afternoon like I will be doing!

Olympic Ring Pizza!

This looks to be like a fun one to start our evening.  I think I could probably order one of these from a local pizzeria, but we will probably get some dough and make our own.

Then for dessert we will go on the healthy side of things with these Olympic ring bagels and fruit!

Then to finish off the night with the flame being lit, these edible Olympic flame torches would be easy and fun.

Oh- I almost forgot to let you know about this fun pack of things from What’s in the Bible that I found via their facebook posting:

 

Enjoy!

 

National Something on a Stick Day is Coming!

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Not too long ago I found this list of all kinds of crazy “National Days”.  I jotted a few down on my calendar that I thought would be fun to celebrate and this next Wednesday, March 28, is one of them: National Something on a Stick Day.

Now, there are all kinds of foods can be served on a stick…but the one that is awaiting plates here at our house is the ever-loved Corn Dog.

I bought a box of our favorite brand yesterday. 

Next I have to figure out what else to serve.  I think we will have vegetable skewers and pretzel sticks as our sides.  Then for dessert I found the perfect thing on pinterest last night:

 

Doesn’t that just look yummy?

The author at “The Inspired Collection” Blog says that you need

  • Pound Cake (she used Lemon)
  • two packages of strawberries
  • White chocolate to melt and drizzle over
  • Kabob sticks

Cut up the pound cake into squares.

Wash and cut the tops off of the strawberries

Put them on the sticks- alternating cake and strawberries.

Melt the white chocolate, put it in a ziploc and trim the corner to make a”drizzle bag”.  Drizzle it over the cake and berries.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

I can’t wait for next Wednesday!

Leave a comment and let me know what you will be serving for National Something on a Stick Day!