“Hon, Did You Get Take-Out?”

Nope!  It’s Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef.  As promised nearly a week ago, I want to share a recipe from Saucy Mommy…a very delicious, simple recipe!  I’ve already made this dish twice and I have the ingredients to make it again soon.  I could eat this a LOT and the leftovers are just as wonderful 🙂

I’ve attempted to make Chinese food at home a couple times in the past but often the results aren’t that great.  I have a pan very similar to a wok and the fast-paced cooking at a high temp just stresses me out and the meat always ends up dry or tough…not an issue with this dish!  This yummy meal is prepared in your slow cooker (loving my new slow cooker) so there is no stress involved and the meat comes out so tender.  I really enjoyed it over brown rice spaghetti but you can find noodles in the Asian aisle at your supermarket or serve it over rice…or just eat it right out of the slow cooker 😉

If you get a chance, you should really head on over to Saucy Mommy.  She has great recipes and, if you have kids, there are a lot of lunch ideas to get you out of those lunchbox ruts 🙂

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound flank steak, cut into bite-size strips (I have also used skirt steak – both are delicious but I enjoy the texture of the flank steak a bit more)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3-5 large green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces*
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root**
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce

*The recipe calls for 3 but I like a bit more in mine because I don’t garnish the dish with the green onions after it is done but you can.

**I don’t love ginger or dealing with ginger.  The first time I made it, I didn’t use it and it was delicious.  The second time I made it, I used it…and it was delicious 🙂  This one is totally up to you.

Instructions:

Place flank steak and cornstarch into a resealable plastic bag. Shake the bag to evenly coat the flank steak with the cornstarch. Allow to steak rest for 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir steak until evenly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Place onion, garlic, flank steak, green onions, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, ginger, and hoisin sauce in a slow cooker.

Cook on low setting for about 4 hours. When it’s done, ladle over noodles or rice.  I serve mine with a side of broccoli, too.

 

Mongolian Beef over brown rice spaghetti...and now I'm hungry!

Chaos Ensues

Confession time.  I enjoy cooking.  I enjoy doing crafts.  No modesty here…I usually get pretty good results with both 🙂  I’ve let in the chaos though!  Well, that and laziness.  Even when there were no children in our lives, it was just easier to come home from work and get fast food or take-out.  I swore to myself that once I became a stay-at-home mom there would be no excuse not to cook dinner for myself and my husband (and my children once they were old enough to eat meals).  I went through phases where I would cook and craft a lot.  The desire to cook and do crafts seems to overcome me when I’m pregnant!

For whatever reason, when chaos was at an all-time high…newborn baby boy, 3 year-old son, 5 1/2 year-old daughter, holidays, birthday parties…I decided I would do homemade favors for my son’s baptism and homemade Christmas gifts and go crazy for my son’s 3rd birthday party and start cooking almost every night (I know a lot of you are thinking, “big deal…I have kids and cook every night” but this was new for me) and making breakfasts and desserts.  Oh, and why not start a blog? 😉

My husband is a huge help and works from home a lot and it was easy to get food prepared and do crafts on the weekends while he kept an eye on the kids.  Well, the holidays are over, the big group of birthdays in December have come and gone, my newborn is almost 6 months old, but chaos ensues!  I had an easy newborn.  He threw in a couple curve balls that the other two hadn’t – first cold at 2 weeks old (that’s what happens when you have two older siblings) and extremely fussy in the evenings and the only thing that calmed him was walking around the house or car rides – but he slept a lot and for long periods of time and by 2 months old he was sleeping for like 10 hrs. at night.  Then, teething started and he didn’t handle that quite as well as his sister and brother had and, recently, a growth-spurt that caused evening fussiness again and him waking up in the middle of the night.  Oh, we’re also trying to get him to sleep in his crib and it’s going alright but, well, I’m tired!

The crafting is like non-existent, cooking has fallen to the wayside and my participation in this blog has been lackluster.  The hubby hasn’t been home quite as much lately and dropping the kids off and picking them up from two different schools isn’t helping with me wanting to just be lazy when I am home.  My next blog entry will be less woe is me and will include a recipe from a friend and fellow-blogger, Saucy Mommy, which is easy to get together even when chaos ensues!

Homemade Baby Cereal

I did it!  I made rice cereal for my baby boy 🙂  I really wanted to wait until he was 6 months old to start him on solids but at around 5 months old I realized he wasn’t going to make it.  He still seemed pretty satisfied from nursing but he was watching us eat and drink like a hawk!  When we eat, he watches each bite go into our mouths with his mouth open like a little baby bird.  I decided that, for Valentine’s Day, he would get to try cereal for the first time…and he’s 5 1/2 months old so it’s not too far off from 6 months.  To make it even more special and more nutritious I wanted to make his cereal so I set out to find a method.

I didn’t do extensive research because, well, how many ways could people tell you to make rice into a powder?  I clicked on one of the first sites I saw and read the section on cereal.  If you would like to make your own cereal for your little one, visit this site: Momtastic’s Wholesome Baby Food.  So exciting…fresh, homemade, whole grain cereal for my baby…and any excuse to go to Trader Joe’s to buy groceries is a plus in my book!  Yes, the only ingredient needed besides water is brown rice, but I came home with 3 full grocery bags 😉

I chose to go with an organic brown basmati rice and followed the directions for rice cereal using “powder”.  I poured a bunch of rice into my mini food processor – maybe a bit too much.  You should probably work in batches of about 1/2 cup.  If I had worked in smaller batches, and had just kept at it, the other step I did probably wouldn’t have been necessary.  The step I added was to pull out my small sifter and I would grind the rice for awhile in the mini food processor and then dump it into the sifter over a bowl, sift, dump larger pieces back into the food processor, grind some more, sift, grind, sift, grind…I probably ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of powder.

This morning, I prepared him a bowl.  Here is how (according to the site mentioned above):

Ingredients:

1/4 c. rice powder
1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in saucepan.  Add the rice powder while whisking constantly.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes; whisking frequently.
  3. Remove from heat and scoop a small amount into a bowl and store the rest in an airtight container in the fridge.
  4. Add in breast milk, formula, or fruit, if desired.  Serve warm.

Since this was my baby boy’s first solids, I stuck with 1 1/2 Tbsp. of cereal and 1 Tbsp. of cold breast milk (the cereal was still really hot so the cold breast milk cooled it off nicely).

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hubby strapped our baby boy into the highchair, put on an appropriate bib for the occasion and we were ready to go!

First bite…

…and the reaction…

Yeaaahhh, not the reaction I was looking for after the love and work I had put into this!  That’s o.k. though – it’s new…let’s try another bite.

This face made me chuckle 😀

Maybe I should have gone with plain brown rice instead of basmati.  Maybe the texture was off for him (it was a bit coarse).  Maybe it’s just new and we need to keep trying.  Maybe my baby boy just wants some darn brand-name, processed, plain ol’ rice cereal like his brother and sister had 😉

Let’s Get Crafty: Baby Nurseries!

When we found out that our first child was going to be a girl, wooden letters spelling out the baby’s name was just becoming popular…or maybe it had been but I wasn’t aware because it wasn’t something I had looked into.  I didn’t like the plain ol’ choices they had in stores so I went online (which I did a lot during my 11 weeks of bed rest) in search of pretty wooden letters for my baby girl.  Her room was lavender on the bottom part of the wall and a pale, sunny yellow on top so I wanted my husband to paint the letters the same lavender so they would pop off the yellow.  Through my search I found someone who sold different sizes with a lot of font choices and I chose a girly-looking one.  We painted them and hung them up with Command picture hanging strips.  I was so happy with what we had done!

For our second child, a boy, I could NOT decide on a theme for him.  Part of the problem was that we were living in a two-bedroom condo so he would be in our room, which was already painted a sage green.  I wanted to be crafty for him so I decided to buy one of those quilt panels that’s basically done besides sewing some binding around the edges.  He needed something to go with it though so I painted one of the animals for him to hang up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, when my son was 5 1/2 months, we put our condo on the market and went in search of a new home.  We decided on new construction with 4 bedrooms and now I had to decide how I was going to do his first, very own room!  My sister had given him a quilt when he was baptized from Things Remembered and I decided to go with that and blue and yellow paint for his walls…but I needed accessories!  I painted two simple canvases for him and found star hooks, which I also painted, to hang his quilt from the wall.

We knew that we wanted a third child and had thought that since we already had a boy and a girl that the gender of this third child could be left a surprise!  On my son’s 2nd birthday, I found out I was pregnant with our third child 🙂  We went along telling everyone that we were gonna leave this one a surprise and I really wanted to…until it got closer to being able to find out and I was stressing about how to decorate the nursery and what kind of clothes to get…so we found out – it was time to start planning for our baby boy!

I wanted to do wooden letters spelling out his name like we had done for our daughter.  The wooden letter thing has really taken off and there were a lot of sites selling them already painted and/or decorated but I figured, “hey, I can do that!”  I found someone on Etsy that had wooden letters at a great price, different sizes and different fonts…and she was fast!

I had decided on Carter’s Tree Tops crib bedding, so now that I had a theme, I had to pick out some coordinating scrapbook paper.  Once again, I scoured the internet and bought my supplies from this site.  It really is easy to make your own coordinating letters for your little ones room!

Here is what you will need:

  • wooden letters
  • paint (if you choose to, you can paint the sides of the letters with the wall paint or another coordinating color)
  • scrapbook paper
  • Mod Podge (I used the gloss Mod Podge but you can also use the matte if you don’t want your letters to have a sheen)
  • small foam brushes
  • fine grit sandpaper
  • small scissors or craft knife
  • pencil

Here is what to do:

  • If you wish, sand the sides of the letters and paint
  • After they are dry, turn your scrapbook paper upside down and the letter you’re working with backwards and trace around the letter with a pencil (the paper and letter should be facing the correct way when turned over)
  • Cut out the paper just inside your pencil line using scissors or craft knife (I found it easier to use small, sharp scissors)
  • Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge onto the wooden letter with a foam brush and line up the paper letter over it and press it on and rub, rubbing out any air bubbles
  • Work on your other letters
  • Wait about 15 minutes and if there is any paper over the edge of the letters, lightly sand it off
  • Next, you can put your first coat of Mod Podge over the paper.  Make it as smooth as possible with your foam brush.
  • I put 2 coats of Mod Podge over the paper, making sure to let the first coat dry thoroughly (about 30 min).  I like the “brush” strokes that the foam brush leaves but if you would prefer yours smoother, then lightly sand between coats.
  • The surface will remain very slightly tacky…I didn’t mind but if you do then just spray with a clear acrylic.

Just as we did with our daughter’s, we hung the letters with the Command picture hanging strips.  Have fun!

Salted Caramel Sauce

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve made this sauce and I don’t know why because it’s pretty simple and so sinfully delicious!  Folks, I’d eat this off a shoe!  Alright, it would have to be a very clean shoe, but you get the point.  I think I originally searched for a caramel recipe because I had some extra heavy cream in the fridge from a vodka sauce and I wanted to use it up.  I looked through a few different recipes and came across this one from Yummy Supper.  I liked that I had all of the ingredients on-hand (other recipes I saw called for corn syrup, which I didn’t have, or made the idea of cooking the sugar seem daunting) and her pictures really drew me in.

I didn’t want to have to pull out a thermometer or have the fear in the back of my mind that I was going to have a burnt sugar mess on my hands.  This recipe is relatively simple though and can be used in so many ways!  Yes, you do have to stand over the stove and keep an eye on it but it won’t be long before you have homemade salted caramel sauce.  I’m making a batch right after I’m done writing this 🙂

Ingredients  adapted from Joy of Cooking

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (I have used light cream in the past and it works out fine)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • pinch of salt (you can add salt to taste…I add more because I like a salted caramel)

Place sugar in a small heavy sauce pan.  Pour water evenly over the top.  Turn stove top to medium-high heat.  Hold sauce pan by the handle and swirl occasionally until sugar has dissolved (watch carefully because it must be completely dissolved and you don’t want it to burn while it’s dissolving).  Cover pan, turn heat to high, and boil for 2 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to boil until syrup turns brown around the edges of the pan.  Grab the handle and swirl syrup occasionally until it turns a deep amber and begins to smoke (be gentle, folks…melted sugar is HOT).

Remove pan from heat. Add butter. Gently whisk, until all of the butter is mixed in.

Stir in cream.

If sauce becomes lumpy, set pan over low heat and stir until smooth then turn off heat again.  Don’t be upset if the sauce becomes lumpy – it’s happened to me every time.

Stir in vanilla and salt.  

Enjoy on shoe*, ice cream, brownies, I’ve drizzled it over chocolate chip bread pudding, stir it into a cup of hot cocoa, or just eat it off a spoon!

*Disclaimer: Please don’t eat off of a shoe 🙂

Quiche…Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner!

When my daughter was baptized, it was on a Saturday evening, so afterwards we all went to a restaurant for dinner to celebrate.  Then, when my older son was baptized, the church no longer had Saturday evening services so he was baptized on a Sunday morning and we followed that up with brunch at a restaurant.  Recently, for our baby boy, the celebration was held at our house.  We’ve been in our house for a little over 2 years now and it is more spacious than our condo was and we have a huge yard so we have enjoyed celebrating many special occasions here 🙂

I certainly didn’t want to return home from the church with a crowd of hungry people and have to stand at the stove and make them eggs and pancakes and bacon and other various breakfast/brunch goodies and not be able to enjoy the day with everyone!  I read various blogs to gather some ideas on things that I could make ahead and serve room temperature or heat up quickly.  One of the dishes that I made was quiche.  I had never made one before but had heard that it was easy and I figured I could cook them up in the morning before church and just reheat when arriving back home.  I made two different kinds, ham and cheddar and a spinach, feta and cheddar one…the latter was definitely the favorite and the one that I have made a few times since.

Once again, I turned to good ol’ www.allrecipes.com to search for a highly rated recipe.  As per usual, I found one with a lot of reviews suggesting variations and I took a bunch into consideration.  For instance, the recipe only called for cheddar cheese but I saw several people recommend feta, a cheese that I had not been a fan of in the past but I thought it would lend a nice flavor to this quiche.  You can find the original recipe here, Light and Fluffy Spinach Quiche and below is what I do (although, this recipe is very forgiving and easy to change up and I have never made it the same way twice).

Shelly’s Fluffy Spinach & Feta Quiche

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 ounces shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta*
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry**
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion**
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced***
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (1) 9-inch deep dish unbaked pie shell (if you can find Oronoque Orchard pie shells in the frozen food aisle, they are soooo good!)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line a cookie sheet with foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and milk until smooth. Whisk in eggs. Layer spinach, cheese, and onion in pie shell, making several layers of each. Pour in egg mixture. Place quiche on prepared cookie sheet. Cover quiche with foil sprayed with cooking spray (unless you want to lose the top layer of your quiche…yes, been there)
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Remove cover, and bake 10 to 15 minutes, or until top is golden brown and filling is set.
* You can add more or less feta, depending on your taste.  The last time I made this, I used an herbed feta.  I also made this quiche once and didn’t have feta on hand so I upped the cheddar and it was still delicious.
** The first time I made this quiche, I used the frozen chopped spinach and raw onion – tasty!  After that first time, I started sauteing the onion in a bit of olive oil and adding in fresh baby spinach or frozen whole leaf spinach – YUM!
*** If you would like another layer of deliciousness, saute some minced garlic along with the onion and spinach

Let’s Dig Right In!

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to visit my blog!  I hope to inspire you to try new things and to share with you my experiences with cooking and crafting while raising my three kiddos.  It’s not always easy but it’s (usually) rewarding!

I thought I’d start you off right away with a recipe I tried a week ago.  I had 3 bananas that were getting very ripe and I had never made banana bread before (at least, not from scratch).  I went to a site that I go to very often to search for a recipe:  www.allrecipes.com.  I always try to look for a recipe that has great reviews and a lot of them.  I mean, how can hundreds of people giving a 4-5 star rating be wrong?

My search resulted in the following recipe and, with 4.5 stars and over 700 reviews, I knew it was the one!  One thing that I really like about reviews on allrecipes is that people make suggestions to improve upon the original recipe.  I’ve seen some complain about this but I try to take a couple different suggestions that seem good and allow me to make the recipe “my own”.  Sure, some say, “why rate the recipe so high if you’re not using the actual recipe?” but I think if the bones of the recipe are good, then a small change here or there shouldn’t matter.

The original, Cathy’s Banana Bread, and here is:

Shelly’s Banana Bread

1 cup mashed bananas (I didn’t measure, just used the 3 I had…was probably more than a cup)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease one 9×13 inch pan, or two 7×3 inch loaf pans.
2. Combine banana and sour cream. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla and banana mixture. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; stir into the banana mixture. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan or pans.
3. Bake at 400 for 6 min and then, for glass pan, turn down to 350 and for dark/non-stick turn down to 325 and bake an additional 40-45 min. (or until toothpick comes out clean).

Enjoy 🙂