Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happiness = Something We Create

This morning my husband and I had a meeting with our financial advisor.  After and hour or so of chatting about 401K's and mortgages and college tuition for four kids, my mind was racing.  This afternoon it got me thinking, just about bills and whatnot.

How often do we go to the mailbox and find something other than a bill? 

"...I believe that happiness is something we create..."

I grew up with pen pals and writing notes.  Many of these said notes I still have to this day. My daughter is going to be a freshman next year, and I wish I could tell you how many times she has told me she wished she grew up in the time that I did. (Well, the 80's were cool! ;) ) What do they have? Texting. Nothing to save and look back and think to yourself 25 years later, wow, that was silly!

I am a firm believer in thank you cards, birthday cards, Christmas cards and presents. Heck, Hallmark loves me! I have tried to instill this "old fashioned art" in my kids.  I just believe that it's important. Maybe it's because my own mother calls to thank me for her thank you card that I sent her?  Many times I send cards just because I saw it and it reminded me of someone, so I pop it in the mail,
because who doesn't like to get "fun mail?!"  Nobody, that's who.

I have a couple girlfriends that we periodically send each other stuff in the mail. One of my friends, who lives about 8 hours away, was planning to send me something she painted for me for my birthday this month. When she got to the post office, it was going to cost her an arm and a leg to get it here! (literally, they wanted to take her arm and her leg!! ... just joking...but you know how high the post office can be.)

As luck would have it, her daughter met a friend of hers half way in between our houses last weekend, and he brought me the gift tonight, special delivery to my porch. Not only was it wrapped beautifully, it had a hand made card.  Swoon. 

She and I met half way last year and spent the weekend together shopping and goofing around, and seeing Sugarland in concert.  I have seen Sugarland 4 times and I never tire of them! We had such a great time!  One of my favorite songs by Sugarland is "Something More."  I have preached and preached to my friends and myself these words so many times. "some believe in destiny and some believe in fate, I believe that happiness is something is something we create."

Words to live by, my friends.

Never heard the song? Here's the video!

something more-sugarland
So, to my friend, thank you.  Thank you for reaffirming my belief in friends, in music and lyrics, for singing back to me words I believe in with my whole heart, we make our own happiness and for just plain putting a smile on my face. :)

Tortellini with Pesto Salad....Looks Fancy.... but Shhhhh! Only 3 Ingredients!! ;)

Need a quick and easy salad for a picnic this weekend? Want to look like you made something gourmet? This recipe looks fancy and yet... only two ingredients...three if you sprinkle cheese on top!

tortellini with pesto

All you need are two or three ingredients! I love to buy the pasta in the refrigerated section.  It, to me, tastes so much fresher. I buy Buitoni Brand. I like the package that has the regular pasta noodles as well as the spinach ones.  The three cheese are yummy! Then they have a ready made pesto.  (This also ROCKS on homemade pizza!!)

Cook the pasta like the package directions tell you, and then spoon on the pesto.  It's really to your liking, use as much or as little as your taste buds demand! Sprinkle with some fresh Parmesan cheese and Viola! Tortellini Pesto Salad!

I also make this hot, and serve it as a quick easy side for dinner! Hint...left over salad? Add a little olive oil and zap it in the microwave... Instant side... add a little grilled chicken and it's dinner!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Peg's Salad

A tribute to one special lady, and her great raw veggie salad recipe.

Peg's Salad

My husband's God-Mother, Peg, was one dynamic woman!  You know the type, can brighten a room just by entering it? She was one of the hardest working women I have ever met. She loved her family with all of her heart and soul.  No matter what was going on, she could always make the best out of any situation.  This past April, she was taken from us way too early.  She was only 58. 

my husband and Aunt Peg

Early in our marriage, I attended an event in my husband's family.  Honestly, I don't even remember what it was at this point?  There on the buffet, was a raw vegetable salad, I took a spoonful.  I sat down to eat and promptly went and got another spoonful.  So tasty!! I asked Peg for the recipe and the recipe card has always been titled "Peg's Salad."  It's a great picnic salad, you should try it sometime!

So, in honor of Peg, and of summertime picnics and being with your family, here is her recipe.

Peg's Salad

1 head cauliflower
1 bunch broccoli
1 small package carrots
1 large package shredded mozzarella cheese
1 package bacon, fried and crumbled (I have cheated and used the real bacon pieces by the bacon bits)
1 bottle Kraft (tm) Seven Seas Creamy Italian salad dressing (I can never find this anymore. So, I always buy the Kraft (tm) Creamy Italian)
Chop the veggies, combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. I usually make it the day before, and give it 24 hours.  Tastes better after it's refrigerated a while.

it can be a meal in itself!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Frozen Vodka Slush

Ah.... Summertime and the livin' is easy....

Frozen Vodka Slushes

Years and years ago a friend made these for a summertime party, and they were SO DARN GOOD, we make them every summer, at least once!  They are nice to just have in the freezer for anytime you just want to have a cool relaxing summer cocktail.  Beware though....they can sneak up on you!

frozen vodka slush

One of my favorite parts about making these, (next to drinking them!) is reading Jill's recipe, which I will share with you in just a moment. But I just wonder how many of you keep those favorite classic recipes that you have written on that tattered old recipe card or note paper that they were written on?  Some of my favorite recipes to make are the ones that are in my Grandma's handwriting.  I miss her every day.

On to making vodka slushes....

Vodka Slush

2 Large Cans of Frozen Orange Juice
2 Small Cans of Frozen Lemonade
1/2 Cup of Sugar
6 Large Cans of Water
1 1/2-2 Cups of Vodka (of course I use a little more ;) Jill says...)

Combine in a freezable container. Freeze and scoop into a glass and pour 7Up over the top.

We always use an ice cream container.  Works perfect for freezing. Just a warning, the more Vodka, the less likely it will be frozen too terribly hard!! I have also used ginger ale instead of  7Up, it's not quite as sweet.  I am thinking I might mess with a good thing and try to freeze some frozen berries in it next time? 

garnished with fresh strawberries

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

Girls Night with Make your Own Pizza and Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

pink lemonade cupcakes

My In-Laws live on a farm in Iowa and every summer they let the grand kids come and stay with them. One week all of the grandsons spend the weekend riding 4-wheelers and go carts, and fishing at a local farm pond. The girls week, they also love to ride the 4-wheelers, play with all of the kitties, and Grandma sometimes will take them golfing or to the local pool.  The boys left this morning and will be gone for three days.  So the girls are here, and decided to make their own fun!  So, they declared the next two days "No Boys Allowed."  They spent the day shopping and tonight they came to my house for dinner and a sleepover.  My kid love when we have make your own pizza night! So, that's what we did.

I made up the dough, rolled out every one's own personal crust, and filled bowls with yummy pizza toppings.  They decorated their own, and waited by the oven! We had pizza and a good salad with lettuces from my sister-in-law's garden.

homemade pizza and fresh green salad

For dessert I jumped at the chance to try a recipe that I read about on a blog that I LOVE!!

Visit Erica's Sweet Tooth for some fabulous recipes!!

I saw this recipe and couldn't wait to try it!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE anything lemon!!
 So this morning, I made
Erica's Pink Lemonade Cupcakes with Lemonade Butter Cream Frosting.
From the first taste of batter, to the way the cupcakes baked so perfectly light and springy, then...then.... I tasted the frosting.  I was in LOVE!!

I made some of the cupcakes with pink frosting and some of them with yellow frosting. I found large gum drops and sliced them to add that sugar coated lemon slice to the side.  Topped it with sugar crystals and a neon "bendy straw," and Viola! Treats perfect for a No Boys Allowed kind of night!

served with a cold glass of pink lemonade... tastes like summer

Now that dinner and dessert is done, we are off to watch 'Chick Flicks' and do facials! 
Girls just know how to make Wednesday night FUN!

Recipe for Pink Lemonade Cupcakes:

For Pink Lemonade Cake:

1 box white cake mix

3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

4 egg whites

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffins tins with liners

- Combine all of the ingredients in an electric mixer and begin by mixing low for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium for one minute.

- Divide the batter evenly, filling the liners about 2/3 full

- Bake cupcakes for about 20-25 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean

- Cool cupcakes before frosting

For Pink Lemonade Buttercream:

3 cups confectioners sugar

1 stick unsalted butter (room temperature)

2 tbsp frozen pink lemonade concentrate

Pinch of salt

 food coloring

- Combine all ingredients in an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment and mix on low until combined

- Increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and to your desired consistency

- Separate frosting in 2 bowls and color as you desire

- I doubled the buttercream recipe to pipe on lots of this delicious frosting!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Candy Coated Popcorn ("Crack-Corn!")

added this photo - 2013

My family and friends will confirm, this candy coated popcorn will be the hit of your next party!  I got this recipe years ago from a girlfriend, and have been making it ever since. It couldn't be easier, and I haven't ever taken this sweet treat somewhere and not written the recipe out for someone at the party. 

Once you begin to nosh you won't be able to stop! That's how I came to re-name this recipe.  My girlfriend called it "Almond Bark Popcorn."  The first time I took it to my friend, Betsy's house, she couldn't get over how tasty it was or the fact that she couldn't stop eating it.  She said to me, and I quote, "What on earth is on this popcorn? Crack?? I can't stop eating it!!"  Alas...from this point on it has been affectionately known as "Crack Corn."

I have made this for parties, cookouts, sleepovers, for teacher gifts and so much more. Today I was making some for the weekend, and decided I would share my recipe. I made it red, white and blue to go with the summer season!  Enjoy!!

the four ingredients you will need

Recipe for Crack-Corn

3 squares almond bark
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 bags microwave popcorn, "old maids" removed

Pop the popcorn as directed on the package.  Remove all of the unpopped kernels. Pour into a large bowl, or a paper grocery sack.  Melt almond bark squares and oil in your microwave for one to one and a half minutes, or until you are able to stir into a pourable consistency.  Pour warm mixture over popcorn and toss. 

(The reason I prefer to use a paper grocery bag is that you can roll the top down and shake it. it coats evenly and you don't end up with popcorn all over the floor....although my two puppies LOVE the ones that hit the floor!) 

After the popcorn is evenly covered, shake the desired sprinkles onto the corn and shake until you have it coated to your liking.  Let it sit in a large bowl to "dry" for a while, especially if you decide to put into treat bags.  I have also put M&Ms (TM) in before.  Use your imagination!


the finished crack-corn

cute little boxes filled for treats for some special Dads

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tacos! Tacos! ~ Homemade Taco Seasoning, from Casa Kenkel

the finished product

Recently my kids were doing the "tacos! tacos!" chant.  I had my ground beef browned, and was ready to add my taco seasoning packet, when low and behold my pantry was fresh out! I ALWAYS have taco seasoning packets on hand... now what?  Time for a little creative cooking.  Looked up the ingredients of my favorite taco seasoning, (isn't Google Grand?) and whipped up some of my own.  Now I have a jar of it on hand for whenever the "taco chant" starts.  Couldn't be easier to make, and tastes SO GOOD!!

So this year, I thought, maybe I will make up a bunch and put some into cute little decorated jars for a few of my favorite Dads for Father's Day. Here's how they turned out.  This with a 6 pack of his favorite Mexican beer? Sound like a great gift to me!

mmmmmmm..... tacos and beer....delightful!

Casa Kenkel's Taco Seasoning

1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon of onion powder
1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder

Combine and store in an airtight container.  Use as little or as much as you like.

Happy Father's Day! (or as I learned on Google ~ Feliz día del Padre!)