Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Don't Eat Pete! Family Game Night

We have recently instituted a family game night.  We found that we were spending too much time just living in the same house and not enough time enjoying being a family.  So...on our very first family game night...this is what I chose!

The game is called Don't Eat Pete.  All you need to play is a sheet of paper and a bag of M&Ms (the size of the bag depends on how many people are playing, how long you want to play, and how many M&Ms you want to eat).  I picked up a medium size bag of Valentine theme ones at our local Fred's.  Of course if by chance, you aren't an M&M person, you could always use Skittles or other candies...just make sure that you choose something that can be eaten quickly without problem.

On the sheet of paper, you need to draw a large tic tac toe style grid taking up the whole paper and leaving nine squares.  Then place one M&M inside each square.  Have the first player leave the room while another player chooses one M&M to be Pete.  Now have the player return to the room.  Chant "go, *player's name*, go" while they begin eating as many M&Ms as they can before picking Pete.  When the player chooses Pete, everyone says "Don't eat Pete" and the player must stop.  Refill the board and move to the next player.  Continue until all M&Ms are gone or everyone has a sugar rush!

This was such a simple game to set up for and play, but we all had the absolute best time playing.  My husband was particularly awesome at not eating Pete and ended up eating the majority of the candy by himself....not that he minded that one bit.

After we finished playing Don't Eat Pete, we watched the kids play Just Dance 3 on the Wii until bedtime.  Our first family game night was a huge success and we are all looking forward to next week!  I hope you and your family enjoy this game as much as we did.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicken Thighs and Veggies: Crockpot

I have seen several variations of this recipe online, so I adapted my own for our family.  Chicken thighs were on sale recently for 99c per pound.  Actually, had I waited, they had leg quarters this week for 60c per pound that just needed to be cut.  Can't pass up deals like that!

This was super easy to throw together in the crock pot, and my family LOVED it!  Everyone wanted seconds and asked could we make it again soon.  In a family of five...that is winning.

This also made the house smell REALLY good!

6-8 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2-2 lb)
5-7 red potatoes (about 1 lb)
1 medium onion, sliced lengthwise
2 c. baby carrots
2 c. chicken broth
1-2 Tbsp Greek seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Place sliced onion into bottom of crock pot.  Layer in potato slices and carrots.  Sprinkle with half of the Greek seasoning and desired salt and pepper, then pour in chicken broth.  Coat chicken thighs with desired salt and pepper and remaining Greek seasoning.  Rub on paprika generously.  Add chicken to crock pot.  Cook on low 8 hours.  Serve hot & enjoy!

I hope your family enjoys this one as much as mine did.  I plan to prepare it again soon.  The chicken thighs were so fall apart tender that the bones literally slipped out and were in the bottom of the crock pot.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Woodburned Wooden Spoons

My oldest daughter, Laney, turned 8 recently.  Eight seems pretty harmless, but it is actually a very scary birthday.  Almost to ten, halfway to driving, only ten years from leaving!  I decided that eight is the perfect age for me to start adding items to Laney's hope chest.  A hope chest is sort of a forgotten tradition these days, but I have an old-fashioned side.  Traditionally a hope chest is used to gather and store household items such as table linens, bed linens, dishes, etc in preparation for a young girl to get married or move out on her own.  Commonly these chests are constructed of cedar wood in order to prevent moths, but other materials have also been known to be used.  While Laney's hope chest is currently a theoretical one, eventually she will have an actual chest to fill.

I started by searching all over the web for ideas of things to include in her chest.  I now have a list of items to make or have Laney make to include.  These wooden spoons are what I chose to make first because they are inexpensive and easy to make.  My goal is to post about each item I make so that you can see her hope chest collection grow over time. 

Honestly, these would be great for so many purposes.  They would be good to include in a wedding gift or give as a favor for a bridal shower.  You could also just make some for yourself to add a little homespun touch to your kitchen.  You have the idea...so now for the project.

Here's what you need:
set of  wooden spoons
woodburning kit

Walmart has sets of four wooden spoons for 88 cents, so I actually ended up buying two packs and making a set for little Leah to get a jump start on her chest as well.  They also have woodburning kits for under $10, but I already had mine from my years of craft hopping.

Ready to craft?!?  Here we go....

Because the wooden spoons are made of soft wood, they tend to be a little rough when you open them.  You could spend more money and get nice, hardwood spoons....but I chose to just sand these down a bit around the rough spots.  Plus, because of how inexpensive these are, you can afford to practice, mess up, and have fun without worrying about messing up an expensive spoon.  Your choice though.  If you choose to sand, just make sure you clear the area of any dust before we get to the burning part.

Now that you have a smooth surface, you are ready to burn.  Choose and attach your wood burning tip.  I chose a cone shaped tip.  Let your wood burner heat up.  Make sure that your wood burner is securely in its stand.  You don't want to have it burning up the whole world while it heats.  For extra security, you could work over a piece of glass to prevent damage to your work surface.

Once your burning tool is heated, you can draw your chosen design onto the surface of the back of a spoon.  I chose to freehand a flower with some leaves and textural dots.  You can choose to add any design you wish.  Remember not to hold your burning tool in one place for too long.  You will end up with strange dots and spots that are more burned than others.  Most importantly...as I always say...perfection ruins a good project...so craft with confidence and don't worry about things being perfect....mine sure aren't.

Once you have finished the back design on the spoon, you can add additional designs to the front if desired.  Jazz it up a little....add a monogram like I did on the large, flat spoons...or just do something that makes you happy!

Once I finished all of the spoons, I tied them with a blue ribbon to keep them together.

Here are my results!  I hope you are as happy with yours as I am with mine.

Let me know if you have any ideas of things to add to a hope chest or if you have tried this project yourself.  I love to hear from you!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Casual Mexican Dinner Party

My husband and I rarely get the opportunity to have people over to our home, so when we do I like to make it a big deal.  I always want people to feel special when they come here.  I want them to feel like they are worth being put on for.  When I started planning this dinner party for friends of ours, I knew Mexican food was the way I wanted to go.  We were feeding not only adults, but teenagers and children as well so it had to be something that crossed the age gap.  So here is what our plates looked like....

Yum!  Our dinner consisted of a salad with some interesting add ins, open face chipotle cheese quesadillas, mexican cheesy rice casserole, refried beans, and steak fajitas.  Then for dessert we had chipotle chocolate toffee!  Party in your mouth!

This toffee was sweet and spicy and crunchy and creamy and a whole bunch of other delicious words too.  It was such a taste adventure.  You see candy and start out tasting sweet and then the subtle spicy bite kicks in and is such a surprise.  Everyone LOVED this.

Let's start out with the recipes and then I'll give you a game plan.

Red Onion, Avocado, Mint Salad

2 heads romain lettuce, chopped
one red onion, sliced thinly, halved, separated
3-5 oranges, peeled and separated
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, sliced
8 mint leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch sugar
1/3 c. olive oil

Chop lettuce and place in a large salad bowl.  Prep and add onion, oranges, and avacados.  Toss.  Top with mint leaves.  Mix remaining ingredients well and dress right before serving.

Open Face Chipotle Cheese Quesadillas (the kids call these Mexican Pizza)

4-5 large flour tortillas, burrito size
Olive oil
2 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 tsp adobo sauce from can
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, finely chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, minced
Monterey Jack cheese, about 2 cups

Brush olive oil over the tortillas.  Mix next 5 ingredients together well and spread over the tortillas in desired amount.  Please know that this can get spicy quick if you put too much of this.  Top each quesadilla heavily with cheese.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 6 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden.

Mexican Cheesy Rice Casserole

2 packages Mexican Rice Mix (I used Knorr's Fiesta Sides)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup sour cream
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

Make rice according to directions.  In a large bowl, combine cooked rice, half of the cheese, onions, sour cream, salt, and pepper.  Transfer to a 9x13 dish and sprinkle with paprika and remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Serve hot.

Refried Beans....dump....heat....serve...yeah, I cheat sometimes too.  :o)

Steak Fajitas

1/2 c olive oil
12 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c lime juice
4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 lbs flank steak (unless something better is on sale...this time I got to use sirloin)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 large bell peppers cut into thin strips (use different colors for a prettier display...I had green and red in the freezer)
2 large onions, sliced and separated
1 1/2 tsp oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c minced fresh cilantro
10 inch flour tortillas
Any desired toppings: salsa, guac, sour cream, etc

Combine first six, cover, and chill for at least 8 hours to marinate.  Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add peppers, onions, and oregano.  Cook until translucent (around 12 minutes). Add remaining minced garlic and cook 2 more minutes.  Stir in cilantro and set aside, keeping warm.  Remove steak from the marinade and grill for 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting.  Cut into thin strips.  Serve with onions and peppers on tortillas with desired toppings.

Chipotle Chocolate Toffee

1 1/4 c butter (I like to use salted for contrast)
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/3 c water
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle pepper plus 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce from can
2 c almonds, chopped
1 c dark chocolate morsels

Melt butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat.  Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt.  Cook until sugar dissolves.  Place a candy thermometer in the pan, increase heat to medium and add pepper and sauce.  Boil for 10 minutes, stirring constantly or until thermometer reaches 290.  Remove from heat and pour onto a jelly roll pan spreading to 1/4" thickness.  (I find it helpful to have the pan be warm so that the mixture doesn't harden too quickly)  Sprinkle chocolate morsels over toffee mixture.  Let stand two minutes, then spread the chocolate with a spatula.  Let cool completely, then break into pieces like brittle.

This all sounds like a good bit of work, but with a well laid out plan, it can be pretty simple.  Here is what I did...

Day Before:
Marinate Beef
Assemble Cheesy Rice Casserole and refrigerate
Prepare Toffee

A few hours before:
Prep and bag salad ingredients and dressing and refrigerate

1 hour before:
Saute Onions and Peppers for fajitas

30 minutes before:
Bake Mexican Cheesy Rice
Begin cooking refried beans

Last Minute:
Grill and slice steak
Prepare Quesadillas
Toss & Dress Salad

ENJOY!  We had so much fun sharing this meal with our friends.  I wish I had gotten pictures of all of us together.  Afterward, we built a fire in the fire pit and let the kids roast marshmallows.  I hope your guests or family will enjoy this meal as much as we did.