Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

Thankful list:
1. For health, which if you have, you are truly rich.
2. Family, good or bad, you gotta love 'em.
3. For my home. So many don't have one this year.
4. Friends. I could not live without mine. They make me laugh and help me keep my sanity, everyday, in real life and on my blog.
5. Living in the U.S. We are so privileged.
6. God. If I didn't have my beliefs, I wouldn't have anything.
I hope everyone has much to be thankful for this year. Have a great day and eat a lot!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creamy Broccoli Salad

The other day, I splurged a bit and bought broccoli crowns instead of the whole stalk broccoli. Yeah, I really do consider that a splurge, especially these days with the economy in the pits and all. But anyway, I got the craving to make broccoli salad, right in the middle of the coldest temps we've had in a long time! But it just sounded so appealing with the tangy dressing, plump raisins, and the crunch of the vegetables. I have a very good basic recipe in my Best of the Best from Virginia cookbook but I altered it a bit to fit the ingredients I had on hand. I'll put the real recipe here, and add my alterations on the side. Enjoy!

Creamy Broccoli Salad

1 large head broccoli (or two smaller crowns)
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (used 1 cup thinly sliced carrots instead)
5 greens onions, sliced (used diced red onion, about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped English walnuts
1 cup mayo (I used low fat)
2 tablespoons vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1/4 cup sugar

Wash broccoli thoroughly and cut off flowerets into bite size pieces. Place in a large bowl. Add bacon (or carrots), onions, raisins and nuts. Combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Add dressing to broccoli mixture and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours.

"I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."

-George Bush, U.S. President (1990)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mini Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

Sometimes recipes found on the back of food packages are the best ones. This recipe caught my eye after I bought a package of mini chocolate morsels that were on sale. I had no idea what I was going to do with the mini morsels until I saw the recipe. It just sounded so different than the usual that I had to try it. The flavors of banana and chocolate with the cake-like texture of the bars reminded me of a very sweet version of banana bread. And this recipe made so many bars that we had some at home and shared with everyone at hubby's workplace.

Mini Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 large egg
2 cups mini semi sweet chocolate chips
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan.

Mix flour, baking power and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Beat in bananas and the egg. Gradually add flour mixture until just blended. Add mini chocolate chips. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until butter knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack then sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.

Makes about 6 dozen. Recipe from Nestle Toll House.

"My friend asked me if I wanted a frozen banana. I said 'No, but I want a regular banana later, so... yeah.'"
-Mitch Hedberg, American Comedian, 1968-2005

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Little Of Everything Meme

Country Dew (Blue Country Magic) had an interesting meme she posted earlier this week that I just had to steal. It really doesn't have a theme but instead touches on a little of everything. If anyone is interested, please feel free to copy and post!

1. What do you do before bedtime? After the kiddies are in bed, which takes most of the evening :), I usually talk with my husband about how our days went (this is harder on the nights he works late). Then we try to watch a movie or catch up on a favorite T.V. show. We usually get less than an hour before one of us is falling asleep! Once I'm in bed, that is my time to read in peace. I'm reading J.D. Robb's latest In Death book. What a great series!

2. What is your favorite sound? My kids laughing. Every once in a while, one of them will laugh at something and it's more than just a giggle; it's a pure pleasure, joyful kind of laugh. To me, it sounds like how an angel would laugh.

3. What were your childhood fears? I had lots of them, mostly centered around my parents who abused me. I was afraid of dying or being left alone to fend for myself. I was afraid of other adults, esp. mean ones. Separating the abuse and real fears all kids get is hard to do for me.

4. What place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back? I usually vacation in most of the places I love like the ocean, Williamsburg, West Virginia and Virginia. One of my favorite places to go is back to Danville, Va where I grew up. And I would love to visit Savannah, Ga someday. I heard it's beautiful.

5. What has made you unhappy these days? I worry about the economy, not so much about job loss as trying to keep within our budget and making the bills and food money stretch. Because my husband works in social services, he isn't usually targeted when job cuts become an issue, though it can happen. But we are always scraping by because the pay is so poor. I also worrying that we are growing out of our house. We have one small bathroom and 5 people. It's a little tight! But I'm grateful we have a home so I try not to dwell on it.

6. What websites do you visit daily? My own blog as well as my favorite blogs on my blog list. Most days I visit Ebay and City-Data forum. Sometimes Youtube and always Google.

7. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head? John Mayer's CD Heavier Things has two songs- Clarity and Bigger than my body. I was listening to the CD today while I cleaned the house and both songs got stuck in my head.

8. What’s your favorite item of clothing? I have a thin, dark gray jacket with a hood that goes great over a simple white t-shirt or turtleneck. I also like my Levi's 550 jeans.

9. What is your dream for the future? I really want my kids to grow up healthy and happy. Boring, I know but I can't help it! I hope I can be there when they have kids too. I also would love to move back home. My dream of raising my kids in the South is pretty much shot, but I would still love to have them experience it with me and also so they could be closer to their cousins and other family.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chocolate Bar Bundt Cake

Talk about a chocolate fix! When I first saw this cake on Dozen Flours blog, I thought I was in heaven. In the same week, I saw a recipe for a regular chocolate bundt cake that got rave reviews over on I decided to try and combine the two and see what happened. Oh, did it turn out delicious! And versatile. Ingredients can be added or switched if you want the same basic cake but a slightly different taste each time you make it. I'm adding the different ingredients and ideas throughout the recipe so you can choose for yourself. Have fun!

Chocolate Bar Bundt Cake

1 box (18 oz) yellow or fudge cake mix, either with pudding in the mix or plain
1 (3.5) instant chocolate pudding (if you use the plain cake mix only!)
1 1/3 cup water
1/2 vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large (over 10 oz) milk chocolate bar, with or without nuts
1 cup mini chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bundt pan with cooking spray and dust with flour. Set aside.
Mix cake mix, water, oil and eggs in a bowl and beat for 1 to 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape bowl well. Add mini chocolate chips. Stir.

Break chocolate bar into small pieces into a microwave safe bowl. Melt on 50% power for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until almost melted. Stir until completely melted.

Remove 1 cup of cake batter slowly add the melted chocolate to temper it. Then stir into the rest of the cake batter, mixing on medium speed until blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned and center springs back when touched. Cool 10 minutes then invert onto rack to cool.


7 to 10 oz. milk chocolate bar (you can add some dark chocolate if you prefer)
2 Tablespoons vegetable shortening

Melt chocolate and shortening together in a microwave safe bowl on half power. Stir until completely melted. Pour over cake. Decorate with chips, nuts, sprinkles, etc.

"Come over to the dark side...we have candy."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Tis the season for everything pumpkin, and this includes seeds. Can't waste those, right? I've only roasted seeds one time before, when the kids brought home a recipe from school. They didn't like how the seeds turned out, so we didn't use that recipe again. This time, I used a recipe I found on the Internet and modified to our taste. It made some very addicting roasted seeds!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 cup butter, melted
Seeds from about 3 pumpkins (3 to 4 cups), cleaned in very warm water
1 to 2 tablespoons garlic salt
2 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Clean seeds and place in large bowl. Add butter and spices. Stir very well. Line a 15 x 10 cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spread seeds out on pan. Place in oven and bake for approx. 20 minutes or until very dry and slightly browned. Cool and store in large plastic bag.

"Seeds of faith are always within us; sometimes it takes a crisis to nourish and encourage their growth."
-Susan Taylor

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Veteran’s Day Tribute

When America had an urgent need,
These brave ones raised a hand;
No hesitation held them back;
They were proud to take a stand.

They left their friends and family;
They gave up normal life;
To serve their country and their God,
They plowed into the strife.

They fought for freedom and for peace
On strange and foreign shores;
Some lost new friends; some lost their lives.
In long and brutal wars.

Other veterans answered a call
To support the ones who fought;
Their country had requirements for
The essential skills they brought.

We salute each and every one of them,
The noble and the brave,
The ones still with us here today,
And those who rest in a grave.

So here’s to our country’s heroes;
They’re a cut above the rest;
Let’s give the honor that is due
To our country’s very best.

By Joanna Fuchs

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fun Personality Test

I saw this on Blue Country Magic's (Country Dew's) blog and tried it out. I think it's pretty accurate!

The Castle Personality Test

You are a bit tentative when it comes to new experiences. You have to push yourself to try new things, but once you do, you love the adventure.

You like to think that people see you as dramatic and fascinating. You do your best to seem mysterious.

You are a very realistic person. You see the world as it is, flaws and all.

Right now, you feel very trapped in your life. You often feel like there is no way out of your rut.

Overall, your life is well managed and fulfilling. You enjoy every day, even if nothing out of the ordinary happens.

You aren't optimistic about the future. You worry about what will happen to the world and if we'll be able to clean up the messes we've made.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Light Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

How can low fat, low calorie taste so good?! This recipe was on MSN last week and I could not resist. Pumpkin in any form fits in perfect with Fall and Thanksgiving. These cupcakes, along with being light, are moist and flavorful. I was very surprised when I tried the first one. Everyone in the family had one or two then I sent the rest to work with my husband, where they got rave reviews.
You've got to try these!

Light Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes


2 1/2 cake flour, not self rising
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup light corn-oil spread, trans fat free (I used Smart Balance canola oil instead)
1 can (15 ounce) pure pumpkin, not mix
2/3 cup egg beaters (I used 1 container plus 1 regular egg to equal 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup low fat or fat free milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract


2 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup light cream cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans, optional


Preheat oven 350 degrees and line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, all spice, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and spread/oil at low speed for about 2 minutes, scraping bowl often.

Increase mixer speed to medium and beat in pumpkin, egg substitute, milk and vanilla. Reduce mixer to low speed and add flour mixture until just blended.

Spoon batter into lined cupcake cups, filling about half way. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove cupcakes and let cool on rack.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix confectioners' sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Mix at low speed until blended then increase speed to medium and mix 2 minutes.

Spread icing on cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with pecans, if desired.

Makes about 24 very yummy cupcakes.

"I've learned there are three things you don't discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."
-Linus, The Great Pumpkin

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Welcome Anubis!

Here is the newest member of our family, Anubis. He is a German Shepherd Mix we bought from the Western Pa Humane Society this past weekend. He is about 2 years old (vet's guess) and was a stray in a local county, so no one knows his history. My husband was missing his dog, Romulas, who I've posted about before. When Romulas died, my husband could not face getting another dog for the longest time. But recently, I've caught him looking on the Internet at pictures of black German Shepherds and talking about dogs a lot, so I kind of figured he might be getting ready to get another dog.

The thing is, my husband has always been interested in pure bred dogs and would never consider a shelter dog. But the last two pure bred dogs were not exactly easy to deal with, so this time he was willing to look at a shelter dog. Shelter dogs have too many good points to pass up- most are housebroken, behavior is already known and some are even trained, depending where they came from. Because the hubby wanted a dog that "picked" him, we had to search high and low. We looked in Winchester, Va while on vacation, and all around Pa. I was beginning to feel we lived at some of these shelters for as often as we went! After a few months searching and no dog "spoke" to him, the hubby was ready to give up when we saw Anubis on line at the Humane Society.

Anubis was named Tony and Reggie by the staff at the Humane Society. Why he had two names, no one could explain, but it was a blessing in disguise for us. Since he was never used to being called one name he took fast to his new name, Anubis, which we came up with on the way home from the Humane Society. If you look at the picture above, you can see the resemblance to the Egyptian god Anubis. Plus, my kids used to call our last dog "Bus" because they couldn't say Romulas when they were little. Anubis became A- New- Bus.

Anubis seems to be happy in his new home. He loves rawhide, running in the yard, riding in the car and sleeping next to us at night. What a good dog! After our experience, I have to encourage anyone considering a dog to try the shelter!

"If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them."
-Phil Pastoret

"We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment."
-George Eliot