February 27, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: Baked Ziti {Snow Day Edition}

This has been a crazy week for all of us here in the Dallas area!  We've had ice and snow off and on all week so lots of things cancelled and moved around and changed up.  

On our way home from church last Sunday it started raining pretty hard and the temperatures were dropping, so we stopped at the store to buy at least enough essentials to get us through a few days at home and enough ingredients to make one of my recipes this week if I didn't get back to the store.  

I was planning to make this Baked Ziti Monday when David and I were both home from work due to the ice, but we ended up having a mashed potatoes, chicken and biscuit casserole (one of the complete meals from a box, no recipe needed) instead because that sounded better to him when I gave him the choice.  

Tonight we were supposed to have ICF and I had a different recipe picked out for an appetizer to take, but then it was cancelled due to the snow today so we're back to Baked Ziti.

This is a recipe from my sister-in-law Aja.  She has given me lots of good and easy recipes throughout the last 10 years that she's been part of our family and every one of them has been great!  And this was no exception.  It was good meal for a cozy night at home.

Baked Ziti
*1 16 ounce package of Ziti Pasta *2 26 ounce cans of spaghetti sauce *6 ounces Provolone Cheese *6 ounces Shredded Mozzarella Cheese *1.5 cups Sour Cream *Grated Parmesan
-Cook pasta, drain 
-In a greased 8x12 dish {I used a 9x13 because that's what I had} layer as follows:
1/2 of ziti
Sour Cream
1 Jar Spaghetti Sauce
Remaining Ziti
Remaining Sauce
Top with grated Parmesan Cheese
Bake for 30 minutes at 350
{When I made my shopping list last week I already had some Provolone cheese, but when I went to add it to the recipe today I noticed that it had gone bad, so I didn't use the Provolone.  I ended up using a little more Sour Cream than called for to make up that layer and it turned out fine for us!  Next time I'll be sure to have it on hand!}

I made some garlic toast to go with it and it was a great dinner!

After I started dinner this evening, we went and spent some time playing in the snow since David had made it home from work.

Lily enjoyed the snow a lot.  She ran and played and chased after snow balls and chewed on the snow.  But then she was quickly ready to go back in where it was warm!  

Like I said it's been a crazy week.  We were both home from work on Monday.  My office had  delayed openings Tuesday and Wednesday and we had our evening activities cancelled Monday and Tuesday.  Then a real blanket of snow today!

Another highlight of our week was having Lucas and Yali over for dinner Wednesday.  They were supposed to come over Sunday, but didn't because the roads were starting to ice over.  But we still had all of the food so when things cleared up Wednesday night they came over.

Last week was the Lunar (Chinese) New Year, so Yali had made some dumplings from scratch and she froze some to make for us at dinner.  I decided to try out some new recipes for fondue so we had fondue for appetizers and dessert and dumplings for dinner.  It was a lot of fun!

I found the recipe for cheese fondue here
 For the chocolate fondue, I started with the recipe on that page but tweaked it some.  I actually had made a small batch of the chocolate one for David and I on Sunday night but I tasted too much of the cream and vanilla.  So for round 2 I eliminated the vanilla, reduced the amount of whipping cream and then once it was all melted I added some Peanut Butter.  And we all really liked the way it turned out!

It was Lucas and Yali's first time having fondue.  It wasn't as fancy as a fondue restaurant, but we all liked it and had fun trying all the different goodies to dip.  And it was all pretty easy to put together too!

It's been a good week.  We are involved in a lot of things right now and all of them are so fun.  But it was nice to have a week of cancellations where we've been able to enjoy just being home most evenings.  And it was really fun for us to experience our first snow in our new house this week!

Happy Snow Day {Week} from the Daniels!

February 21, 2015

Weekend Home Update

We've been in our house 5 months now and I love continuing to make it our home.

One thing I've been interested in now that we have a yard is starting a garden.  This so does not come naturally to me--I've killed most plants that I've ever tried.  In fact, when I dog-sit for my sister-in-law's parents the most stressful part is trying to keep all of their plants alive for a week!  But I still am interested in trying it out, so when I saw that there was going to be a class at our local Rec Center about Herb and Vegetable Gardening in North Texas, I decided to sign up.  

So this morning I went to that and I learned a ton.  The lady who taught it was so knowledgeable and very helpful.  She gave lots of good tips about how to get started and tried and true things she has done in her garden.  But she also talked a lot about letting the process of gardening be the focus and not worry so much about the outcome.  Since we have little control over the weather and other factors that go in to gardening, you start it with the hopes of learning but not getting beaten down if nothing grows right.  And as a bonus she gave us lots of seeds from her harvest to begin some plants.  So we'll see if I get that figured out to plant something in the next few months!

This afternoon we had big plans to assemble some furniture we recently bought, but things don't always go as planned.  We went to Bible Study last night and as we were pulling up to our house we were greeted with this sight in our yard:

The wind took down several of the branches from our trees--including this giant one from one tree.  Thankfully, it managed to only land in our yard and our empty driveway--no damage to our house or cars (if we'd been home, my car would have been in the driveway and likely would have been damaged).  So we went to bed hoping that nothing else would happen overnight

This morning we woke up to about the same sight.  There's a lot of this that we could clean up ourselves, but since there were a few rather substantial branches, we decided to call someone to help cut those down.  We had a couple of guys come bag up all of our leaves in December and they were very helpful--so we called them and they were able to come out this afternoon.  They did an awesome job cleaning it all up and are planning to come back next weekend to help cut down some limbs and branches that need to be cut back

 Good as new this afternoon!

We did manage to finish one furniture assembly project!  When we bought our bed when we got married it was just a bed frame, box springs and mattress--which is all we need.  But I've been looking for ideas for headboards since we moved in to our house.  I just felt like one would add a little decor to our room.  

I looked at several DIY options such as these:

And I loved all of those options.  But we ended up finding one online that I really liked and it seemed easier than trying to make something ourselves.  So we ordered this one and it came in this week.  David spent most of the afternoon helping me assemble it.

It is Lily approved!

Next up is assembling our new patio furniture.  And I am getting the itch to paint our bedroom.  We haven't painted any since we moved in and I think I'm ready to start that with our bedroom.  Stay tuned!

February 20, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: Poppy Seed Bread

I have been really bad about these recipes this month.  We are back in the swing of things with all of commitments and have added a few new things to our plates, so I feel like we're running all the time.  We are really enjoying everything, I just feel like I am doing a horrible job of planning meals and cooking for us.  Which is why I skipped that first week of February and got to late Thursday before I figured out what I was doing for this week.  

In fact at work Thursday morning I was telling my friend that I needed to hurry up and decide on which recipe to make.  Luckily, an opportunity presented itself for baking!  My friend Stephanie and I try to get lunch together once every couple of months and we had to cancel our last one, so we are well overdue for hanging out.  As we were trying to decide where to go, I suggested she come see our house and I would get some breakfast ready for us.  So I figured I'd used one of my bread recipes for part of our breakfast.  David and I ran to the store after teaching our ESL classes on Thursday night and picked up the few ingredients I lacked and then I came home and baked this up so it would be ready for this morning.

Stephanie and I worked together for a few years.  She had been with ECI for several years before I started so she had a big part in a lot of my training.  We got to know each other pretty well and I was grateful for a like minded friend in her.  When she had her second baby almost 4 years ago she left to stay home with her kids--I am so grateful that we have been able to stay in touch for the last 4 years.  Even if our times together are few and far between, we still catch up like no time has passed.  

So this morning we enjoyed Poppy Seed Bread and some Sausage and Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls for breakfast!

Poppy Seed Bread
*2 cups Flour *1 teaspoon Salt *1 teaspoon Baking Powder
-Sift together the above ingredients
*2 eggs *1.5 cups Sugar *3/4 cup Oil *1/4 cup Poppy Seeds *1 teaspoon Vanilla
-Mix together --> Add flour Mix
*1 cup Evaporated Milk
-Mix well with mix
-Pour intro bread pan (greased and floured)
-Bake at 350 for 60 minutes

This bread was pretty easy to mix up and put together.  The top ended up a little too done, so I cut it off before I sliced up the bread.  The remaining slices were very delicious!  This is a nice bread for breakfast or a snack and seems like a perfect thing to whip up for Spring days that are coming!

February 14, 2015

Cooking Up Memories: Chicken Taco Soup

I completely skipped last week in cooking through these recipes.  I made several snacks for our Super Bowl Party and then the week came and we hit the ground running with something every single night of the week and all last weekend, so I just didn't do much cooking.   But this week I was back in the swing of it.

We hosted our Friday Night Home Group with the International Students this week so I was in charge of the main dish.  I decided to try out one of my recipes for that.  My Aunt Carol gave me this recipe for Chicken Taco Soup (I wrote about her a little in my post about her Hashbrown Casserole Recipe).  She and I love a lot of the same things, so I know any recipe of hers will be good and this one definitely was!

I doubled the recipe, so I started out yesterday cooking up 5 pounds of Chicken so it would be ready for the soup.  Then I made 1 batch early in the day and heated it back up in the crockpot last night while the 2nd batch simmered on the stove.  We had a relatively small group last night (about 17 people for dinner--so just small compared to other weeks!) so everyone got enough--and with people getting seconds there was no left over soup, which I think means it was a successful recipe!

Chicken Taco Soup
*2 lbs cooked and diced Chicken *2 cans Chicken Broth *2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup *2 cans Creamed Corn *1 can Rotel with Cilantro *1.5 teaspoon Cumin *1/2 package Taco Seasoning
-Add all together in a large pot and heat thoroughly {The first batch I dumped everything in and stirred it up, but the pot was almost full so it was hard to get it completed combined.  So with the second batch, I whisked together the soups and broth and seasonings until combined, then added the corn, Rotel and chicken--both batches turned out great, I just felt a little better about the second one!}
-Stir in 16 ounces Sour Cream
-Put in bowls and sprinkle with cheese and tortilla chips {we also added Avocado last night!}

This is definitely one we will be having again!  I sent my Aunt Carol a message last night to tell her I made it for our group and she said they had just finished eating it for dinner too!  I love all the tried and true recipes from my favorite people.

And a sneak peak at our night...

 We set up all the food on our counter.  All of the other people from our church bring sides and desserts, but I snapped this picture before anyone else came.  And by the way--I know you can't see it well, but I LOVE my chalkboard banner that my friend Amy gave me!  She gave me 2 of them and I love getting to decorate with them and change out the messages.  There are just enough spots on this one to spell out Welcome, which makes it even more perfect!

 I also love getting to use the serving dishes we got for our wedding-- we pulled out this 2 gallon drink server for our water last night along with our ice bucket

We set up our dining room table 
And a few card tables in our spare bedroom.  These place mats were a Christmas gift from my sweet mother-in-law.  The other side has a Christmas pattern, but I felt like the red with white polka-dots was perfect for Valentine's weekend!

 Dinner and Bible study with friends is a great end to the week!