January 26, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: Lasagna

Things are back in full swing for us and it is going to be a busy week in the Daniels household.  We've got our regular Bible Studies and groups already planned.  On top of that we went to a training this past weekend to be ESL tutors through The Richardson Adult Learning Center and classes start this week.  Add to that it's the last week of the month and that makes my work crazy and we are running all over the place this week.

So I decided I should cook up one of the main dishes that could last us a few meals and this lasagna seemed perfect.  It was pretty easy to put together and I cooked it tonight on our one night at home.  It turned out pretty tasty and I am looking forward to the left overs for lunches and dinners.

*1 jar  Spaghetti Sauce *Ready Bake Lasagna noodles *cottage cheese *1 cup Mozarella Cheese *1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese *1 cup Cheddar Cheese *1 egg *1 cup Water *Hamburger meat {I had extra from my New Years Day cooking that I had frozen, so that helped speed along the dinner process tonight!}
-Combine egg, cottage cheese, 1/2 cup mozarella, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and parmesan cheese
*Prepare hamburger meat, then add spaghetti sauce and water
*In 9x13 pan, layer bottom with 1 cup sauce
Layer with Noodles, cottage cheese mix (1/2 mix), sauce, noodles, cottage cheese mix (other 1/2 mix), sauce, noodles and rest of sauce.  Top with remaining mozarella and cheddar cheese
-Bake at 350 for 45 minutes

January 23, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: Sour Cream Pound Cake

26 weeks in (halfway through) and I had my first recipe fail of this experiment.  Most of the recipes I've made we have really loved.  In fact there have only been 1 or 2 that I can think of that we thought were just okay.  But this one, was pretty bad (in my opinion--David said it wasn't terrible, just wasn't great).  So bad I had made it take to our International Student Home Group tonight and I made David go buy something different to take.  

I don't know exactly why I don't like it.  Most likely, I messed some part of it up (like the fact that I used a bundt pan instead of a tube pan since I don't have one).  Or it could just be that this recipe didn't come together as well in our kitchen as it did in my friend Becky's.  Whatever the reason, this is not one I loved.  But I thought I'd share the recipe anyway since it's part of the year long cooking project.

This recipe came from my friend Becky and she gave us a whole box of their favorite recipes, so we've had lots of winning recipes from her stash already--this is just one I probably won't make again--especially since I still have 2 other pound cake recipes to make this year, I'm sure I'll find one I like better and that is a little easier, which tends to be better for me!

Sour Cream Pound Cake
*3 cups Sugar *2 sticks Butter *3 cups Flour *6 Eggs (separated) *1 cup Sour Cream *1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda *1 teaspoon Vanilla *1 teaspoon Lemon Extract *1 teaspoon Almond Extract
-Cream butter and sugar-- add 6 egg yolks (beaten)
-Add baking soda to sour cream and add to butter mixture
-Add flour
-Add vanilla, lemon and almond extracts
-Fold in beaten egg whites (6)--beat egg whites until stiff but not dry 
-Flour and grease a tube pan 
Bake at 325 for 1 hour 30 minutes

January 19, 2015

Home Decor Project: Updating Chairs

When we moved into our house, we bought a new dining room set and my old dining room table was moved into our office and used as a craft table.  I bought this set (from Walmart I think) 7+ years ago when I moved into my own apartment after college and it has held up pretty well!  We wanted space for more people at the table and have a big dining room, so it seemed like a good time to change things around.  And I am so grateful for my craft table--I've already gotten a lot of use out of it.

It also left us with 3 extra chairs that right now reside in our 3rd room ready for when we have people over and need additional seating.  One of the projects I knew I wanted to do was to update these chairs by adding a cushion and a fabric cover.  So I bought some fabric a while back.  Then I decided I wanted to paint the base too.  

The week between Christmas and New Years David went with me to Home Depot and we bought some navy blue paint for the chairs.  And then it proceeded to fall off our counter and spill all over our kitchen floor.  The one we had just updated 2 months before.  I had never been more grateful that we got the dark wood laminate than I was that day!  It cleaned up pretty well (after a lot of time) and since the laminate is so dark you can't see the little bits of paint that are remaining.

After that, I decided I needed a break from that project.  But after a few weeks to recover I decided to try again.  I've had lots of friends rave about Annie Sloan paint, so I thought maybe I'd try that out.  I texted my friend Laura to see where she gets hers.  She told me where, but then told me she had a friend who had tried out the following recipe to make her own since the Annie Sloan paint is fairly expensive.  
 I figured since I was just using it to update chairs that we rarely use I would try out this recipe.  I went to Home Depot on Friday to buy more paint and the Plaster of Paris and then spent most of the morning painting in our garage (the paint never even made it inside the house this time!)

 After 2 coats of paint I felt like they were covered pretty nicely.  They did end up lighter than I had anticipated.  First off, I couldn't find the exact shade of paint that I'd used the last time.  And secondly, the plaster of paris makes the paint a little lighter.  But it covered really well.  Since I've never used Annie Sloan paint, I don't know how it compares, but I was pleased with the coverage of this paint for the chairs!

 I followed this tutorial for upholstering the chairs (except I'm not a perfectionist at all, so mine are not as exact as hers).  But I like the added cushion and fabric on the seats.

 Then I screwed the seats back on and I've got 2 "new" chairs.  In the next few weeks I'll work on the other 2--I figured I'd start with half of them so that if something went wrong I only ruined 2 of them!

January 18, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: Hot Applesauce Crisp

 This is one the many recipes I received from my friend at work, Becky.  And when I was looking through all of my recipes I knew this would be a perfect one for the cold winter months when we were looking for a warm dessert.

We had dinner at our friends' new house on Friday night, so I told them I would bring dessert.  I whipped this crisp up right before we left and it stayed warm in their oven while we ate dinner and played games.  We served it up with some ice cream and all really enjoyed it!

Here's what was left after our dinner party! :)

This was a really easy dessert.  It's not quite as good as an apple crisp since it doesn't have the apples in it, but it was a great dessert for when I need something really quick but still really good.

Hot Applesauce Crisp
*1 cup dry biscuit mix  *1/2 cup Sugar  *1/2 stick Butter
-Combine biscuit mix and sugar.  Cut in butter

*16 ounce can applesauce *1/2 cup Brown Sugar *1/2 cup Nuts *1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon *1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
-Combine and place in a pie pan
-Sprinkle top with biscuit mixture

Bake 400 degrees for 20 minutes

January 15, 2015

Piper Caitlyn

We have a new niece!  She is now ten days old and we are all so in love with Miss Piper!  We've gotten to visit her several times and are looking forward to lots more time with her and her big brother.  

  Aunt Lula (as my nephew calls me) and Uncle David love you, sweet girl!

January 11, 2015

Living Room Update

When we moved into our house a few months ago we did some decorating and I enjoyed getting it set up how I wanted, but I knew it would be an ongoing process.  I didn't hang very much in the dining room or living room.  Since they are such prominent parts of our house I was scared to do anything with them that I might end up not liking.  It also was an easy time because I put out my Fall decorations and then moved on to Christmas so that filled the spaces temporarily.

But this weekend I decided it was time to pack up the last our of Christmas/Winter stuff--we put away all of the Christmas stuff before New Years, but several of my decorations are snowmen so I usually leave those out through part of January.  

I had received a couple of decor items for my birthday and Christmas so I was excited to put those out.  I got the sign from my best friend Erin as a birthday gift and the cross from my Secret Santa at work.  And they became the inspiration for changing up some of the decor in our Living Room. 

While we watched a movie at home on Friday night I mentioned to David that I thought I might want to get curtains for our windows in the living room.  When we moved in, there were no window coverings.  We bought blinds for all of the windows in the front of the house and put up curtains in our bedroom, but since the windows in the living room are so big they would need custom blinds.  And we love all of the natural light that comes in and how much it brightens up the room, so we weren't quick to cover them.  But we've also noticed that the living room is also the most extreme room temperature-wise.  It was really hot in the mornings when we first moved in (and we even missed summer this year) since the windows face East.  And now it is the coldest room in the house.  So we decided adding some curtains might help with that and might add some decoration to the room.

Once I have an idea like that in my head I usually want to act on it pretty quickly, so I woke up Saturday and headed to Home Goods to find some curtains.  I sent David pictures of a few and he helped me decide on which ones were best--and since I found some I liked there we didn't have to spend a ton to cover the windows which is a definite plus.  Then I made a few other stops for some craft supplies and curtain rods and headed home.

 My wonderful husband helping to hang the curtains for me!

 Our new curtains!
Here's a picture from when we first moved in.  I feel like the curtains add a lot to that wall!

I was also on the hunt to find something to go above our love seat on the other side of the living room since right now that is a big blank wall.  I looked at Home Goods and Hobby Lobby and found a few things I liked okay, but I decided to try my hand at making my own decor.  I got a Silhouette Cameo for Christmas from my mom so I've been having fun trying it out.  I've cut some paper for a few things, but decided to try my hand at cutting vinyl.  I bought some canvases, vinyl, transfer paper and paint from Hobby Lobby and got to work. 

 Step 1 is to make sure you have a dog around so she can sign her name on the canvas too :) Unfortunately Lily stepped on it during the first coat of paint so her signature was covered up with coat number 2.  While the canvases dried I worked on figuring out how to cut vinyl with the machine.  I roughly followed these tutorials (Cutting Vinyl and Cutting longer than 12x12 and Cutting Vinyl with Silhouette 101).  I worked with it a few times following these directions, but I could never get mine to work well without using the Silhouette cutting mat, so I ended up just using the mat and cutting my design down.  It saved me a lot of frustration to do it that way although I'm sure at some point I'll want to figure out how to cut without the mat so I can make longer designs!

 Then I got with my hubby to try to figure out what we wanted on these canvases.  We decided pretty quickly that we liked having the lyrics of In Christ Alone on one and the verse from Psalm 34:3 on another.  So then we went through a lot of options before deciding on another song lyric for the 3rd canvas.  I spent this afternoon cutting out the vinyl and transferring it to the canvases (I followed some advice from this tutorial, but I didn't use spray adhesive first because mine does dry sticky so I didn't want that).  They aren't perfect, but I'm pleased with how they turned out.  And considering I spent less than $30 for all of the supplies (and some of them can be used again later) I think it's a pretty good fit for our living room for now.

We hung them up this afternoon and got them in place on the wall.

 I added a few Valentine's printables in some frames that I got on sale. 

And I picked up this "D" on sale yesterday to add to our walls.

And here are the 2 pieces that inspired it all! 

Our completed living room: 

I love how everything turned out.  I feel like our living room is much more put together now!

January 4, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: No Bake Cookies

This recipe for No Bake Cookies is the other recipe I received in my grandmother's handwriting (along with her Sour Cream Coffee Cake).  My grandma would make these cookies for every holiday so we'd get to enjoy them when we came over.  I usually make them at Christmastime, but didn't this year so I had to think of another good time.

These cookies are my brother Jeremy's favorite cookies so my grandma would make him a batch of his own to take home once he was in college.  There's actually a long standing joke in our family because Jeremy and I have a lot of favorite foods and candies (such as these cookies that are my favorite too and Reese's peanut butter cups) but my family usually only thinks of them as Jeremy's favorite (I guess because he came first).  So in our Christmas stocking he would get Reese's and I would get something else because no one could get the same thing--so one Christmas I did point out that Reese's are my favorite candy too :)  All that to say that I am making these cookies for my brother.  My niece is supposed to be born tomorrow, so I figured I'd take him some cookies for their time in the hospital.  And I may keep a few for myself too!

No Bake Cookies
*2-3 cups Rolled Oats {I ended up using 3 not quite full cups to get somewhere in the middle} *4 Tablespoons Cocoa *1/2 teaspoon Salt *1 stick Margarine *2 cups Sugar *1/2 cup Milk *1 teaspoon vanilla
-Combine margarine, sugar, and milk.  Boil 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add vanilla
-Combine oats, cocoa, and salt {I combined these while waiting for the other pot to boil} and add to heated ingredients and mix well.  
-Drop off on waxed paper using tablespoon.

January 3, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: Alla Panna Sauce

This recipe was one of many given to me by a former co-worker Becky.  I decided to make it last night as we had dinner at home and looked ahead to some of our plans for 2015 using Jennie Allen's Dream Guide.  It was fun to have dinner together, look back at some favorite moments of 2014 and look ahead to what we want to do in 2015 as we try to be more intentional with our time.  

It was a super easy recipe and we enjoyed it with pasta and garlic bread.  The best part is that we now have a full jar of this sauce left over to use for other meals coming up!
Alla Panna Sauce
(Best served for dipping bread or over tortellini)
*1 large can tomato sauce *1/2 cup heavy whipping cream *2 ounces velveeta
-Simmer on stove until mixed

I've also done some other make-ahead meals this week.  Last week I found a few recipes for things you can make ahead and freeze then take for lunches, so I knew I wanted to try some for David's lunches during the week. On New Years Day we watched football most of the day, so by late afternoon I was ready to do something different so I whipped up these meals while David and a friend watched the games.  I love the layout of our house because I can be in the kitchen and still be part of the conversation in the living room!

I made: Chicken Taquitos, Homemade Hot Pockets (Pepperoni and Beef Pizza and BBQ Chicken), Ham and Cheese Sliders, and Lasagna Rolls.  And I got to use my new cookbook/tablet holder that David's sister gave me for Christmas--it was perfect!

Our newly full freezer!  I also have a recipe to make individual chicken pot pies, but there's no more room in our freezer so I'll wait on those!  I'm glad to have our freezer stocked up for a while with easy lunches and dinner for nights when we're on the go.

January 2, 2015

2014 was a lot of fun.  Looking forward to what's in store in 2015!

January 1, 2015

2014 Book List

I cannot believe I read 102 books this past year.  I always have loved to read which is why I thought it would be fun to see how many books I read in a year.  I know this year I read way more books than I ever have.  1 reason for that is because I was keeping track, so that added a little competitiveness in me.  Another reason is that I received a Kindle last Christmas, so it was a lot of fun getting to use that I started taking advantage of being able to check out ebooks from the library on my Kindle (you can do that with the Kindle app on a phone or tablet too, I just never had until this year).  It also doesn't hurt that I have weeks where I am a terrible sleeper and when I am awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night reading is about the only thing I do.  

So here's the list
  1. An unbreakable hope by Kristen Billerbeck
  2. The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer
  3. The trophy wives club by Kristen Billerbeck
  4. I heart bloomberg 1-16 by Melody Carlson
  5. Chasing God 1-17 by Angie Smith
  6. *The Book Thief 1-17 by Markus Zusak
  7. Fair Catch 1-19 by Cindy Roland Anderson
  8. Redemption 1-20 by Karen Kingsbury
  9. Let them eat fruitcake 1-23 by Melody Carlson
  10. Spring Broke 1-23 by Melody Carlson
  11. 3 weddings and a bar mitzvah 1-26 by Melody Carlson
  12. Remember 1-29 by Karen Kingsbury
  13. Return 1-30 by Karen Kingsbury
  14. The Fault in our stars 2-1 by John Green
  15. Where we belong 2-9 by Emily Giffin
  16. Rejoice 2-16 by Karen Kingsbury
  17. The antelope in the living room 2-18 by Melody Shankle
  18. Reunion 2-20 by Karen Kingsbury
  19. Wedding night 3-1 by Sophie Kinsella
  20. Wild 3-10 by Cheryl Strayed
  21. The spectacular now 3-16 by Tim Tharp
  22. Paleo 3-19
  23. *Firefly lane 3-26 by Kristin Hannah
  24. Unbroken 4-5 by Laura Hillenbrand
  25. To live is Christ, to die is gain 4-6 by Matt Chandler
  26. Paige turned 4-8 by Erynn Mangum
  27. Forgiven 4-11 by Karen Kingsbury
  28. Found 4-13 by Karen Kingsbury
  29. Family 4-15 by Karen Kingsbury
  30. Moment maker 4-17 by Carlos Whittaker
  31. Forever 4-18 by Karen Kingsbury
  32. Born to run 4-27 by Christopher McDougall
  33. A series of unfortunate events 5-5 by Lemony Snicket
  34. *Daring Greatly 5-8 by Brene Brown
  35. Heart of the Matter 5-10 by Emily Giffin
  36. That summer 5-16 by Sarah Dessen
  37. *The Happiness Project 5-17 by Gretchen Rubin
  38. Sunrise 5-19 by Karen Kingsbury
  39. Keeping the Moon 5-24 by Sarah Dessen
  40. The moon and more 5-27 by Sarah Dessen
  41. Balancing it all 5-31 by Candace Bure
  42. *Restless 6-3 by Jennie Allen
  43. Bridget Jones's diary 6-6 by Helen Fielding
  44. Summer 6-7 by Karen Kingsbury
  45. Someday 6-10 by Karen Kingsbury
  46. *Another place at the table 6-15 by Kathy Harrison
  47. The reason I jump 6-17 by Naoki Higashida
  48. Sunset 6-20 by Karen Kingsbury
  49. Fly away 6-22 by Kristin Hannah
  50. A love that multiplies 6-27 by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar
  51. Where'd you go Bernadette? 6-28 by Maria Semple
  52. The nanny diaries 6-30 by Emma McLaughlin
  53. Just listen 7-4 by Sarah Dessen
  54. Radical together 7-5 by David Platt
  55. Revenge wears prada 7-6 by Lauren Weisberger
  56. One small boat 7-7 Kathy Harrison
  57. China ghosts: my daughter's journey to America, my passage to fatherhood 7-13 by Jeff Gammage
  58. Take two 7-22 by Karen Kingsbury
  59. Looking for Alaska 7-23 by John Green
  60. Take three 7-23 by Karen Kingsbury
  61. Take four 7-24 by Karen Kingsbury
  62. Let's all be brave 7-25 by Annie F Downs
  63. The truth about forever 7-26 by Sarah Dessen
  64. An abundance of Katherine 8-2 by John Green
  65. Is everyone hanging out without me? 8-8 Mindy Kaling
  66. The husband's secret 8-10 by Liane Moriarty
  67. Something borrowed 8-16 by Emily Giffin
  68. What Alice forgot 8-21 by Liane Moriarty
  69. You don't know me 8-26 by Susan May Warren
  70. First love 8-31 by James Patterson and Emily Raymond
  71. *Big little lies 9-6 by Liane Moriarty
  72. Dating, dining, and desperation 9-15 by Melody Carlson
  73. Happier at home 9-16 Gretchen Rubin
  74. The art of neighboring 10-2 by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
  75. Creature of the word 10-5 by Matt Chandler and Eric Geiger
  76. Jane Austen's first love 10-10 by Syrie James
  77. I quit sugar 10-10 by Sarah Wilson
  78. As young as we feel 10-12 by Melody Carlson
  79. Master your metabolism 10-12 by Jillian Michaels
  80. Hometown ties 10-17 by Melody Carlson
  81. The hardest peace 10-25 by Kara Tippetts
  82. All for one 10-26 by Melody Carlson
  83. The negotiator 11-2 by Dee Henderson
  84. Three wishes 11-5 by Liane Moriarty
  85. Jennifer 11-12 by Dee Henderson
  86. The last anniversary 11-17 by Liane Moriarty
  87. Leaving 11-21 by Karen Kingsbury
  88. Bread and Wine 11-22 by Shauna Niequist
  89. Learning by Karen Kingsbury
  90. Bridge to Haven 11-29 by Francine Rivers
  91. Longing 12-4 by Karen Kingsbury
  92. Every bitter thing is sweet 12-3 by Sara Hagerty
  93. Loving 12-10 by Karen Kingsbury
  94. A New York Christmas 12-13 by Anne Perry
  95. Please don't take my baby 12-14 by Cathy Glass
  96. I miss my mummy 12-18 by Cathy Glass
  97. The guardian 12-20 by Dee Henderson
  98. Will you love me? 12-22 by Cathy Glass
  99. A sugar creek Christmas 12-24 by Jenny B Jones
  100. Match made 12-25 by Erynn Mangum
  101. Another forgotten child 12-27 by Cathy Glass
  102. The truth-seeker 12-30 by Dee Henderson

Fiction: 69
Non-Fiction: 33

I read a lot more non-fiction books this year than in the past (even though I still read twice as many fiction as non-fiction).  I've always preferred fiction-and I still read a lot of fiction and easy books this year-but I read some really good non-fiction books.  I have separate blog posts of my top 5 non-fiction that I read as well as one with some of my favorite fiction books.  They are longer posts since I included some quotes that stuck out to me so I figured I'd leave them separately.

Top 5 Non-Fiction books for me this year were (not in any order):

For me these books where the ones where I walked away with the most information and application.  They are also the books that I highlighted the most.  So for my list they are the top 5.  I did read several other really good non-fiction stories this year that I would recommend such as Wild, Born to Run, Chasing God, Unbroken, The Hardest Peace, The Antelope in the Living Room, and To Live is Chris and to Die is Gain.

My favorite fiction books this year were
The Book Thief; Big Little Lies; and Firefly Lane

A book I could have done without
Balancing it All by Cameron Bure--I felt like this one was just a rehashing of her life story and not so much about how to balance several things

So there's the wrap up.  It's a long list and I had a lot of fun reading through them this year.  Looking forward to what I'll read in 2015!