Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

So it's been a very busy week so far, and we've had family visiting since Saturday. More family arrives this weekend for a long-weekend visit. I haven't had much time to blog (or read your blogs, and I apologize for being so out of touch!) But as I am finishing up lunch today, I have been working on a list of things I want to accomplish this fall.

Now, I'm not much for making lists of goals or resolutions. Typically that's because then I tend to rebel against them like they're just so many more tasks I've set for myself (ironically, I love making lists of other things, as long as they aren't things I Should Be Doing). But here I'm going to share a few minor goals with you guys, so you can help keep me accountable (because you needed something else to keep up with, right? LOL!) Nah, just knowing I told you will help keep me on track. But if you think about it, don't hesitate to remind me and ask how this list is going, okay?!? I'll try to update as I go, to encourage myself with progress notes. :-)

Borrowing from my friend Angie's Thursday Thirteen feature, here are thirteen things I hope to accomplish by Dec. 1:

(1) To borrow a phrase from Helen Fielding's character Bridget Jones, "obviously we'll lose ____ pounds." In my case, this would be so that I have some hope of getting into my clothes from last year, which I currently cannot wear.

(2) Continue with my Lizard Ridge Afghan project, and complete at least 6 new blocks for that.

(3) Try 12 new recipes. Trying them won't be the problem; narrowing the list of possibilities to 12 will be the trick. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm sure I won't be able to keep it to 12! But let's make the goal "blog about 12 new recipes I've tried." Now, THAT's one I might be able to do :-)

(4) Get a real, honest-to-goodness, Flylady-approved Master Holiday Plan and Menu in place. Every year I say I am going to do this. And every year, I somehow end up more frazzled and farther behind than the year before. This year I Really Mean It.

(5) Finish my wedding scrapbook. It currently lacks about 10 pages. And if I can figure out how to scan square pages, I'll post a few of them here to share with you.

(6) Complete the Memory Lane Meme that I began a few weeks ago.

(7) Finish reading the New Testament and complete my study of the book of Acts. Don't ask why I started with Acts. I have no idea, but I enjoyed reading it and look forward to digging deeper into it. It's very motivating from a Christian perspective.

(8) Complete at least three of the new books on my list of books to read. The current pile of books overflowing shelf list is about a mile long, so I just want to work on narrowing it down to three choices for fall. I may post a few here to see if you've read them and get your thoughts.

(9) Organize the 1000+ photos that have piled up since we got our digital camera last Christmas. This includes deleting all photos I am not crazy about, those that are blurry and at least some of the approximately 800 photos of Tucker sleeping. I can't help it; she's so cute when she's quiet and sleepy!

(10) Organize my favorite "go to" recipes into a Tastebook. Have you seen this? It's the super-coolest-thing I've seen in a long time!

(11) Complete all Christmas shopping and write/mail all Christmas cards.

(12) Finish unpacking all boxes in the basement from our move in May 2006, decluttering and tossing anything that needs to go.


(13) {AHEM} complete the 100 pushup challenge by being able, without cheating, to actually DO 100 pushups. Real ones.

So that's it! A by-no-means complete, but jumping-off point for stuff I want to get done this fall.

How about y'all? What projects are lurking in your home that you want to complete?

Love, Dahrlin'

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Cheese Muffins

My friend Natalie shared this recipe a few weeks ago, and I've been wanting to try it ever since. It combines three of my favorite things - chocolate, cream cheese and muffins! I had some time Sunday morning, so thought I would share the results with you. They turned out GREAT!

To get started, grab the following:

We've got flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, eggs, buttermilk, chocolate chips, cream cheese, cinnamon, and cinnamon sugar (or you can mix up your own).

So first you'll want to soften the butter (1 stick). You don't want to use melted butter in a baking recipe unless the recipe specifically calls for it, so you just want it at room temperature. I find the easiest way to soften it quickly is to cut it in pieces and let it sit on the counter for a few minutes. Meanwhile, you want to firm up the cream cheese, so throw it in the freezer until you need it.

Now, measure out 1/2 cup sugar, and add in 2 tsp baking powder:

And 1/2 tsp salt:

And combine well:

Add the butter,

Beat until light and fluffy:

Then add 2 eggs:

And beat lightly to combine:

In a small bowl, add 2 cups flour, and stir in 1 tsp cinnamon:

Now, we need to melt the chocolate. It calls for 1 cup melted, so I started with a little more than a cup. But it melted farther down than I'd thought and I ended up getting 1 cup out of exactly 1 bag of chocolate chips... so take 1 (12 oz) bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and melt gently. I use the microwave, about 4 minutes on 30% power. You can do this in any glass container. Just be sure that you don't get any water in it! Once it begins to soften, you can usually just stir for a few moments to finsih melting it.

While you're waiting for the chocolate to melt, go ahead and grease a 12-muffin baking pan. I show two here because I wasn't sure if I would need an extra 6... but 12 worked just perfectly.

And when you're done with the chocolate, just set it to the side for the moment.

Now, because it was morning and I had not had breakfast yet, I started to get REALLY hungry. Rather than eating all that chocolate, I talked myself into this instead. And yep, that's Nana's bread from a few posts ago, here rendered as Cinnamon Toast. And MAN, does it make good toast!

When you've finished your snack, measure out half a cup of buttermilk:

And remember that cream cheese you put in the freezer? Grab it and your sharpest knife. You want to cut it in the tiniest cubes you can manage. You'll have to work quickly, and make the cubes as small as you can.

This is about the best I could do, because I forgot to throw mine in the freezer early!

When you're done with that, preheat your oven to 375. I don't do this at the beginning because I never cook that fast :-)

The trick with muffins, to keep them light and airy and prevent the dreaded Hockey Puck Effect, is to avoid overmixing. You don't want to agitate the batter any more than you have to. Use the slowest speed on your mixer, and begin combining the ingredients, alternating adding flour mixture and buttermilk to the batter.

I stopped a little shy of fully combined,

Added the chocolate,

And stir gently to combine - don't over do!

It may still look a little marbled, but that's okay.

Fill your muffin cups about 2/3 full,

And then press little cubes of cream cheese into the muffins. Now that I've made them, I recommend sort of smushing them down into the batter, since they won't move around a lot during baking. My first batch had cream cheese only in the top half, LOL!

I had a little extra cream cheese, so I used it to make some egg bites. I will share that recipe later...

Now dust your muffins with cinnamon sugar,

And bake! And while they are baking, do something, anything to distract yourself from the heavenly aromas emanating from the oven. Because waiting in there is this:

All ready for you to enjoy!

Love, Dahrlin'

Chocolate Cinnamon Cream Cheese Muffins
(adapted from 500 Best Muffin Recipes by Esther Brody, shared by my friend Natalie)

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz cream cheese, cut up (little cubes are good)
Cinnamon Sugar OR
2 tbsp granulated sugar plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon

-Preheat oven to 375 F
-12 (regular size) muffin tin, greased or paper-lined

1. In a large mixer bowl, beat together butter, sugar, baking powder and salt until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs.
2. In another bowl, mix together flour and cinnamon. Slowly stir into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk just until moistened and blended. Do not overmix. Fold in melted chocolate just until blended.
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling cups two-thirds full. Press pieces of cream cheese into top of batter in each cup. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Just a Housekeeping Update

Good morning! Happy Sunday everyone!

Just a quick note to let you guys know that I added Feedburner to my site. So if you are subscribed (yay!) to my blog, let me know if you have any trouble getting posts. There should not be any issues, but I just wanted to let you know in case. And feedburner tells me that there are a lot more subscribers out there than Google Reader shows, so thanks again for reading!

Love, Dahrlin'

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Not An Olympic Medal...

but I think it's pretty cool nonetheless!! Behold:

But let me back up a second. First, I have been blessed with several awards in the last few days from several of my wonderful new (and old) friends who read this crazy blog!! Thanks so much ladies!! I adore bloggy love! It makes me so happy to know you guys like what I'm writing, and are actually reading it, LOL! And I will be posting on those very shortly. But meanwhile, I also tripped over this on a blog I follow, and grabbed it because she said I could received in the generic sense was specifically awarded the very cute award above. And I have been dying to share it with several of you!!

Now, since I'm not aware of any rules on this one (and indeed, don't even know who the author of the award is, to credit them) I would normally award it to everyone who's reading. But since it does feature alcohol, and I don't want to offend anyone, I will only be awarding this one to those of you that I know, or at least think, enjoy a cocktail or two every once in a while :-) So if you're not mentioned below, please don't be offended! If I've left you out and you'd like to be included, just grab the button and enjoy!

And this award goes out to:

(1) Stephanie at Steph's Little Corner of the World. Steph gets listed first in honor of the fact that almost every time she has ever come to my house, she has brought me an entire bottle of Grey Goose L'Orange. And proceeded to leave it here for me. Oh, my. It's my very favorite. Just for that, she deserves to get this award twice, LOL!

(2) Angie at Angie's Spot. I am gradually encouraging Angie into bad habits turning Angie into as much of a martini lover as I am! Next time she comes down to visit, we will have to experiment with a new 'tini flavor. I found a "Snickers Martini" that I personally think would be an excellent candidate, but I'll let her pick since she's the guest!

(3) Stephanie at Live. Love. Eat. Stephanie is a wonderful new friend whom I know loves martinis (and, I am pretty sure, margaritas and mojitos as well). If Steph ever comes up to our area, I am going to get her to teach me how to make mojitos! Meanwhile, I will share these martinis and margaritas with her.

(4) Michelle at Honest and Truly. I am not positive that Michelle drinks alcohol, as I can't recall any posts discussing the topic offhand. But, I want to include her in case, because she is another great new friend, and also because she is (or was) currently in the middle of a vacation with two small children. I think they went to a fair. And it is August, and there are probably a bazillion people there, and I am just pretty sure that by the time she gets done with all that, even if she is not a big drinker, she is going to want a stiff drink of some kind! So we will let her pick her favorite.

So ladies, grab your drink of choice, raise it high and let's toast the fact that it's Friday!! (We'll dance on the bar after our second drinks...)



Foodie Friday! Apricot BBQ Chicken

So it’s finally FOODIE FRIDAY!!

I’m excited for several reasons - first, it’s FRIDAY!!! (Do we need more reason than that to throw a party?? Especially after this week?? Can I get an AMEN?) Second, it’s time for a new recipe to share with you! I feel like I haven’t had time to do anything lately, including share yummy food with y'all! Thanks for your patience!

This is a new favorite of ours. It comes from the freezer meal kits I’ve mentioned, and it’s one that my friend Lisa requested a few weeks ago.

In our part of the country, we can pretty much grill year round, but this recipe could also be done on an indoor grill, or you could probably bake them successfully (although the marinade might not have quite the same taste). I like the dark meat chicken, but if that’s not your thing you could certainly use chicken breasts.

So without further ado (and because I’m writing this over my lunch hour :-), I present:

Apricot BBQ Chicken
(Serves 4)
Adapted from Leanne Ely

8 skinless chicken legs; OR 4 skinless chicken thighs;
OR 4 skinless chicken breasts
½ cup apricot jelly
3 Tbsp white wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 green onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
½ Tbsp grated fresh ginger root
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all marinade ingredients and pour over chicken in a covered baking dish or zipper bag. Marinate for at least a couple of hours. Reserve marinade for basting chicken; grill until no longer pink. Serve and enjoy!

Serving suggestions: Jasmine Rice, Broccoli Rabe


(1) To make as a freezer kit, combine all marinade ingredients and pour over chicken in a large freezer bag. Squeeze out air and seal; freeze flat; thaw in fridge overnight.
(2) To make with chicken breasts, you may want to double the marinade.
(3) To serve marinade as a dipping sauce, boil remaining marinade for several minutes before using.

Everyone have a GREAT weekend! I'm looking forward to catching up on lots of blogging and reading and comment love for you guys!

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Midweek Catchup!

Wow, these weeks are just sliding by so fast lately. It's already almost the end of August! Crazy! Meanwhile, I'm simultaneously stuck in molasses in the middle of the slowest moving week at work in a long while! Is it really only Wednesday?

A few random notes for today -

I'm watching "Iron Chef America" while I write this. Anyone else addicted to this show? I adore sitting and watching master chefs work their magic, often with a featured ingredient that I would have no idea what to do with. Like today's ingredient is mango. That's a fruit I've never learned to like - it's just a bit too sweet for me. But it's fascinating to see what they're doing. Mario Batali (a favorite of mine) made several amazing looking dishes that I would love to try...even with mango! Also, for this show, they've got a new twist: each chef has a master mixologist on hand, and they have to make a cocktail/drink to go with each dish. Hmmm... I'm loving this show more than ever, LOL! The drinks also look awesome.

On the exercise front, I've worked out twice this week, which I'm pleased with. Yesterday I did some elliptical and strength training, and today I ran and(yes) did pushups. Ow! I apologize that I am behind on encouraging you guys for the pushup program - but don't stop now! I think we may be "supposed" to retest again this week. I will check and post an update for Friday. Meanwhile, let me know how you are all doing!

[PS: All this exercise is cutting into my blogging time. Must figure out a way to blog while walking!]

Meanwhile, with fall coming up I'm getting my food priorities back on track. The last few nights I have sat down for a while and started (or continued) the list of favorite and new recipes that I want to make/try this fall and winter. I've now filled two pages of single space paper. And I'm nowhere near done yet. There are so many awesome new recipes that have been featured on the blogs I read, that I can't stop adding new ones to the list! Perhaps because of all that exposure to awesome looking recipes, I ate almost everything in sight today. I'm not kidding - it wasn't pretty! All this stress and PMS exercise must be increasing my appetite, LOL!

All's well here otherwise. I have some catching up to do in returning comments and bloggy love (and responding to several awesome awards I've gotten), but I will definitely get caught up here shortly! And I'll have a new recipe for you Friday. So stay tuned, eat well and take care of yourselves this week!

Love, Dahrlin'

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One Fish, Two Fish...

Okay, everyone! I need your help. What's your best, most favorite salmon recipe? Preferably for salmon filets, but I'd love to hear any ideas you have. My Dad is coming to spend a week with us, and he likes freshly cooked food each night (I do too, but rarely have that much time on weeknights). Salmon is one of his favorites. Any favorite quick salmon recipes? Grilled would be even better, but I don't mind baking or stovetop. Hit me! And thanks in advance for your inspiration!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, August 18, 2008

Menu Plan Monday!

It's that time again (already?)!

This week should be pretty routine for us; just working and getting back into working out after work. Since I do hope to work out a good bit this week, I am going to try to make some of our favorite "super fast" and easy meals for this week. I'm hoping to put hubby to work grilling most nights, which means I get some help with dinner, LOL! Also, because I'm very big on seasonal eating, I'm going to try to put in a few summertime favorites that we haven't made for a while, so I get to make them at least once (or once more) this summer. Let's see what I can come up with!

{pause while I search through my recipes ;-)}

Sunday: BBQ Pork Chops, Corn with Lime Butter, Buttered Peas

Monday: Chicken with Mexican Almond Butter, Fiesta Fruit and Veggie Salad, Garlic Toast

Tuesday: Burgers, Buttered Lima Beans, Baby Carrots

Wednesday: Chicken and Artichoke Calzones, Salad

Thursday: Tex-Mex Pork Sandwiches, Black Beans (I may try a new BB salad), Lemon Butter Broccoli

Friday: Stuffed Sole Filets (these come from Omaha Steaks), Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Summer Squash Ribbons

Saturday: Clean out the fridge/leftovers

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A New (Memory Lane) Meme!

You have all got to be getting tired of hearing about me so much lately :-) But a few days ago, a new visitor came to my site. In the course of responding to her, I found an awesome meme idea on her site that I just love. I think it would be fascinating to see what all I'm able to remember(and I hope you guys will find it interesting as well!), so I'm going to begin with it and see how far I get. If you're interested, please join me!

The meme is a "memories by year" theme, where you are supposed to record an important or favorite memory from each year (you don't do this all in one day, of course). It could be that you learned to read, or ride your bike, or graduated from high school, etc. The idea is to go from age 1 to your present age. I probably won't do them in order, because I will go by whatever memory is inspiring me at the moment. But I hope, eventually, to have one for each year!

Since my family cooked a lot through the years, I'm also hoping to share with you some favorite family recipes as I go. Today's post is going to be one of those. Now, if you're anything like me, you can't remember precisely when some things may have occurred, but you'll remember about when they happened. Such is the case today.

My Nana, whom you'll "meet" in a moment, gets part of the credit for teaching me how to cook. She and I used to bake bread (and make other things in the kitchen) when I would go to visit her, and this bread recipe is one of my all-time favorites. It's a basic white bread recipe, and I rarely eat white bread these days. But I love this recipe because even the smell of this baking reminds me of Nana. And it still makes the best grilled cheese sandwich ever!

So here's my first entry for this meme - I learned to bake bread at age 8 (or thereabouts :-) But before I give you the recipe, here's a pic of my Nana, one of the wonderful grandmothers who have had a huge impact on my life.

In the spirit of bringing up old family memories, I'm going to post what I am pretty sure is her college graduation photo. She would love that I am using a "young" picture of her, and it's one of my favorite photos of her. Nana, we sure do miss you!

Because I could not resist making this recipe, I've got a few photos for you. It's not quite step-by-step, but if you aren't familiar with baking bread, don't be afraid to try. I hope these pics will give you an idea, anyway. Baking your own bread is mostly a hands-off, quick and easy deal that just takes time that you can use to do something else. This recipe takes maybe 4 hours start to finish, but it's largely unattended.

So following the recipe, when your dough is the correct consistency, it will look about like this. Notice that the dough mixture has basically cleaned the work bowl on its own:

When you get the dough into the oiled bowl (where it will rest for its first rise), it will look something like this - make sure you use a bowl that leaves room for it to grow!

After its first rise, when you turn it out to form the loaves, you'll have something about like this. Notice its more "puffy" texture? That's good!

You'll need a couple of six-cup or 8-inch loaf pans. Mine look like these, but you can pour water in yours to measure them if you're unsure. As long as they hold about 6 cups, you'll be fine.

Now, when you cut the dough in half to make loaves, each "flattened" half will look something like this. You don't want to roll it out; that will take too much air out of it. Just flatten it gently with your hands:

Next, roll each one up, sealing the seams:

Place it in a greased pan (I use butter, because it's already an ingredient of the recipe and won't add off-flavors):

And you'll end up with this:

On the second rise, you'll see that they just about double in size and begin to fill out the pans. I placed mine on our counter over the dishwasher (which was running), so the added warmth helped speed up the rising process:

And once they are baked, aside from an absolutely heaven-sent aroma floating through your house, you'll be able to show off this:

Friends, family and husband will rise up and call you blessed! Happy baking!

Love, Dahrlin'

My Favorite White Bread

1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup hot water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm water
5 to 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Combine the 1 cup hot water, butter, sugar and salt in a bowl and let cool until about 115 degrees (butter doesn't have to be melted completely). Lightly grease two (6 cup/8inch) loaf pans.

In a food processor with plastic blade (or dough hook), add the 3/4 cup warm water, 3 cups of the flour and the yeast mixture. Process a few seconds until mixed. Add the butter mixture and 1 cup flour, processing briefly and then continuing to add flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is soft but not sticky. It should bounce back gently when touched. You may not need all the flour, so go slowly. As with many baked items, the amount needed will vary on any given day.

Shape dough loosely into a ball, and place in a lightly oiled bowl.
Turn the dough to coat lightly. Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place (80-85 degrees) until doubled in size (or until an indentation made with two fingers stays indented).

Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured board or clean countertop. Cut the dough in half and gently flatten each half into an 8x11 rectangle. Press out any air bubbles you find. Roll each half tightly from the short edge to form loaves. Pinch the center seams to seal, fold ends under and seal edges. Place seam side down in the loaf pans, cover and let rise again until doubled, about 1.5 hours.

Preheat oven to 375, and bake in center of oven for 35-40 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack. Or serve warm - slice and enjoy!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tag! Seven Things About Me

My new friend Stephanie at Live.Love.Eat has tagged me, so you guys are getting to read a lot about me lately, LOL! If you get tired of reading about me, run over to Stephanie's blog and enjoy browsing her wonderful food (or just admiring her awesome Italian "pasta" dishes! I'm super jealous!)

So let's see if I can come up with some fun new things to share with y'all:

(1) Like Stephanie and Angie, I cry often. Not necessarily because of something bad in my own life, but usually from something I've seen or heard that breaks my heart. I'm very empathic, actually feeling the emotions and heartbreak of the person (yes, OR fictional character, LOL!) in question. This leads me to cry often, whether from a real-life circumstance, book, movie, etc. But it's not always about bad things. I'm just emotional in general. If I'm happy, I'm really happy, etc. and I can cry even at happy events. My long-suffering husband is used to it, but God bless him, if it's about something real he usually cries with me. He's so sweet that way. And when he does, I know he really cares and knows how I feel.

(2) I love Christian rock music, and over the last year or two I've gotten to where I listen to that most often. I never realized how many awesome groups there are out there - some of my new favorites are Casting Crowns, Third Day (shout out for the boys from Atlanta!), Nicole Nordeman, Phillips, Craig and Dean, the Newsboys, Kutless, Chris Tomlin and old favorites like Michael W. Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman. This kind of music reminds me of my faith and always improves my day/mood/energy level.

(3) I started running again this week (for exercise). It's not that exciting, but I'm telling all of you so I'll feel accountable about it. I'm back into my pushups and will run and do those today. So feel free to ask me how the working out is going, which will keep me honest, LOL!

(4) I love to be in the water. I grew up as a river rat and I've never lost that love, even though for years I went whole summers without going near water (work/real life, etc. LOL!) Since we put in the pool, I have rediscovered that love. Now I don't know how I stayed away all those long, hot summers!

(5) I'm a Flybaby in Training. Robin gets the credit for introducing me to this wonderful woman several years ago. Flylady's teachings are gradually (over a period of years) sinking in. Click here if you don't know who she is - you'll love her!

(6) My favorite breed of dog is the Rottweiler. My heart dog, Sinjun, left us several years ago, but she taught me so much while she was here. I love these dogs for many reasons, but I especially love their sturdy, powerful build, their wise faces, and their sweet smiles.

We miss you, beautiful girl!

(And there's that crying thing I was telling you about!)

(7) Back to less emotional thoughts - I have a love of mineralogy and gemology. I am fascinated by the process of turning gem rough into finished stones, but I love rocks of all kinds. Almost minored in this in college, but got lost in the level of chemistry required to minor. Not an advanced chemistry fan! Nevertheless, I've taken some courses from GIA and really love the subject.

And there ya have it! Hope you enjoyed reading! (And if you're reading this, you're tagged!)

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Things I Love About Fall

Following in the footsteps of my fearless leader, whom I introduced to blogging but who has already far surpassed my knowledge of the same, I am posting my first "Thursday Thirteen". I love this idea!

So today's topic is my very favorite season. Whether you call it autumn, or fall, or (around here) just "football season," it's my very favorite season of the year. I love so many things about it! Here are a few:

(1) Okay, let's go ahead and get this one out there. Who am I kidding? FOOD!!! Fall brings a welcome break in the suffocating Georgia summer heat and humidity, and with the cooler temperatures comes a return to the dishes I adore. The comfort food, pastas, hot sandwiches, creamy soups and casseroles that warm up cool fall evenings. Stay tuned, because some of my very favorite recipe offerings are things I only prepare during cooler weather!

(2) And since I've already mentioned it, cooler weather is also at the top of my list. I detest hot weather, and my idea of comfortably warm is 73 or below, so I welcome fall breezes with open arms (and open windows). I love that first day where the air is crispy and the sky is crystal blue and endless. I can't wait!

(3) What's fall without the beautiful colors of the world around us? For these few months of the year, I love watching God paint the landscape with gorgeous reds, golds, oranges and browns. I even pull my food and home decorating cues from these colors, as I love anything that reminds me of the season at hand. I need that rhythm throughout the year - I don't think I would thrive somewhere without noticeably changing seasons.

(4) Of course, in this house football is a huge factor. We sometimes get very little else accomplished during the fall (except food, because I've got my priorities in order on that score! :-) We all love to watch the games, and my husband and father usually bet a lot of them (which is very amusing to watch, as well!). Go DAWGS!

(5) I also love that during the fall, we usually see almost all of our friends at some point. We typically have people over to watch the games (or go to them), or get together somewhere to eat and watch. But we will often end up seeing some folks that we maybe did not see all summer, which is awesome.

(6) Family - like our friends, we typically get a chance to see each family member at least once during the fall. Fall, and Christmas, are very special times for us.

(7) I also sleep better when it's cool, so as everything cools down I start to sleep like a champ. I love the extra rest that I get in the fall, when it's not so hard to talk myself into going to bed earlier! Hubby and I keep our house as cool as we can, so we joke that we are going into hibernation.

(8) Planning for the holidays - Fall is my favorite season, but Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday/time of year. I'm a Type A organizing freak one of those people who loves the planning, preparation and organization phase of things almost as much as the actual event, so I get a tremendous kick out of planning our holiday meals, gifts for others, decorations, etc. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I usually drive myself crazy with it, but it's just part of who I am, LOL! If I had a nickel for every list I've ever made...

(9) Walking outside again - see dislike of heat, above - I love to walk around our neighborhood, but just can't do it in the summer heat. It's oppressive here. So I love being able to get out and walk the hills around our home.

(10) A return to routine - as the kids go back to school (everyone else's, that is!) and the lazy days of summer come to an end, I'm usually actually glad to get back into a good routine. Something about summer entices me to just ignore whatever I should be doing and play. Especially this year, with the pool. But the ensuing chaos of ignored responsibilities is starting to get to me, so I'll be glad to get back into a bit of a rhythm soon!

(11) Hot things - I miss lots of "hot stuff" during the summer. I miss hot chocolate, hot toddies, hot food (LOL!), hot baths, our fireplace, etc. I love the first cold, rainy day where I can have a fire in the fireplace without roasting us out of the den.

(12) More time for hobbies - I'm looking forward to finishing my wedding scrapbook, making more progress on my knitting project, and getting back into a good workout routine. Hmmm. Maybe if I work out enough, I can also fit back into my cold weather clothes, LOL!

(13) "Fall" cleaning - it sounds odd, but I really reserve most of my so-called deep or "spring" cleaning for fall. In the spring, the early appearance of pollen here makes it impossible for me to open windows when I'm cleaning. But in the fall, I don't have that problem and I can open the windows and screen doors and let the breeze blow through while I clean. And the cooler weather actually gives me energy. Or maybe it's just that the heat stops sapping it!

Anyway, hope you all are looking forward to fall as much as I am!!

Love, Dahrlin'

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pushups Update!

Hi Gang!

Okay, first off, I apologize BIG time for going MIA on the pushups challenge. We had company again this weekend and I'm sure my best friend won't mind if I blame an entire week of missed workouts on her one day visit you understand! LOL! Then it was the Olympics. I am addicted to gymnastics, so I have been glued to the TV the last few days.

I am back on track today. Hope you are all doing better than I am, LOL! I did some cardio this evening and "re-tested" today, and I'm improving, but slowly. So I'll be starting off what I believe is now week 3, from that point.

I am also looking forward to doing some actual blogging again soon. Lately it's just been absolutely nuts at work and we've been a bit out of routine at home. But I should have my head above water again here soon! (Let's hope!)

Let me know how your workouts are going. And look for a new yummy recipe in the next day or two!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, August 11, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Wow - already Monday again? It feels like I've been away from my blog way too much lately! I'm sorry for the lack of new posts recently. Lots going on here and I've just not had the time to blog much, but I promise some updates very soon! I should also have some fun pics to share.

I'm a little under the weather today, and I'm working from home so this will be a shorter post. I'm also going to post a separate catchup post on our pushup challenge and a couple other items. but for now, here's Monday's Menu Plan:

Monday - Burgers, Baked Potato Salad, Baked Beans

Tuesday - Chicken Broccoli Braid, Salad with PW's Ranch Dressing

Wednesday - Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce, Rice, and Garlic Butter Green Beans

Thursday - Lemon Chicken Scallopine, Buttered Herbed Noodles, and

Friday - Meatloaf, Steph's Parmesan Baked Potatoes, and Wilted Spinach

Saturday - out with friends

Sunday - Will be a surprise. I'm going to try something new from one of the menus posted today. I will let you know which we try and how it turns out!

Love, Dahrlin'

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Meme Tag!

It seems it’s my week to be tagged for things, which is fun for two reasons - first because I love to talk about myself surveys and questionnaires, and second because I’ve had no time (or lately, internet) to post new recipes for you guys this week, so this will make me feel at least a little better about being so out of touch! Stephanie has tagged me, and that post is coming up shortly. Angie has also tagged me with a meme.

A meme is basically a list of things about me (hence the name). The stated subject is "6 UN-spectacular things about me." Now here’s a subject that could go on forever (but I promise it won’t, LOL!) And it comes with few rules, as follows:

1. Link the person who tagged you - see above!
2. Mention the rules on your blog - here they are!
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours - This is where it will get interesting, below!
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them - see below!
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged - This is the fun part!

So let’s see. Six “unspectacular” things about me:

(1) I can’t drive a stick shift. This inability remains at my ripe old age, despite the very best efforts and intentions of EVERY guy to whom I've ever disclosed this fact, be they friend, relative or boyfriend. But in my defense, I would like to say that I can drive a stick shift flawlessly in reverse. I have never once stalled trying to back up. But it’s just something about guys - as soon as they hear me say I can’t, they feel compelled to prove that they’re bigger stronger faster a better teacher than the people who have tried before them (sound like any guys you know?). This disclosure is invariably met first with disbelief, then friendly teasing, immediately followed by a promise that whomever is speaking can certainly teach me, no problem. Won’t take five minutes (ha! that’s their first mistake!) It usually takes about four to six false starts before their confidence begins to wane, and I see the familiar frown they all try to hide (subtitled: “What isn’t she getting? What’s the problem here?”) Their confusion is usually compounded by the fact that I can go backward so smoothly, so they don’t get why I can’t go forward (neither, incidentally, do I). Typically, this process continues for a while, until they develop whiplash and a sort of fascinated horror overtakes them, when it finally begins to sink in that they really can’t teach me how to do this. The really funny part is that without fail, I can always tell that mentally they are still scratching their heads over the problem, even hours or days later. Many have tried, none have succeeded!

(2) I love to read, but I will not continue or complete a book that doesn’t hold my interest. I know people who have very strong opinions on this issue in both directions, but I just won’t force myself to read something I’m not enjoying. I think this comes from all those years I spent as an English major, reading literature I really did NOT enjoy and being forced to write about it (my curse is that while I love to read, and I write decently, I was rarely asked to write about anything I actually liked reading. Anybody with me on this? Anyone else spend hours, days, weeks, months of their childhood and young adult life reading miserable tomes such as Silas Marner, The Pearl, The Once and Future King...this could go on a while...) The stellar exception, the book I adored and still love to this day, was Pride and Prejudice. I even love the movie version - with Colin Firth!

(3) I tend to begin projects with great fanfare and enthusiasm. I am not so great at following through with them, and as soon as my perfectionist tendencies kick in, I quickly become overwhelmed and usually move on to something I don’t feel perfectionist about yet. I’m working on it! As I go through life, I am gradually learning that I don’t have to do things all in one day; I can come back to projects and pick them up again later. And sometimes I do. My wedding scrapbook is honestly, really, truly going to get completed by the holidays this year. It was begun in 2003, to document our wedding two years earlier...but it really is almost done. Angie can testify.

(4) For a kid who was ridiculously picky about what I ate as a child, insisting that everything be served on those divided, three-section plates, I consider myself to have pretty broad food horizons these days. However, there remain several items (and categories) of foods I just will not touch. Not even to try them, not even once. A few examples I can think of off hand include raw sushi, organ meats of any kind, licorice (it’s that smell), caviar (fish eggs? seriously??) and most wild game (the lone exception I can think of is that I will eat bison burgers at Ted’s Montana Grill, which I love).

(5) I love to ride bicycles, but to this day my husband laughs at the fact that I can’t ride on a sidewalk. I don’t know what it is, but I just need more room than that. Something about having to stay within those visually tiny boundaries throws me off mentally, and I can’t even ride in a straight line at that point. Even I think it’s hilarious (until I fall!). I also can’t ride motor scooters. My grandfather had one at the lake where I grew up, and I almost killed myself trying to ride that thing. I was determined to learn, but never got the hang of accelerating smoothly while adjusting to the changing need for balance. Hmmm… this could be related to the same reason I can’t drive a stick shift. Must investigate...someday! Interestingly, I did gymnastics for years as a kid and never had any balance troubles there. And my hand-eye coordination is, honestly, pretty decent. I don’t know what it is with certain transportation vehicles, but we just don’t get along.

(6) I am a great lover of 80’s and 90’s music, even a lot of the stuff most people my age like but won’t admit to liking. Yeah, I’ll claim ‘em! (Okay, but I won’t name them, because then you really would never come here again!) It’s what I grew up with, and (for my sister, who's a decade younger) yeah, people really did like that stuff at the time. And we still do. It has a way of sticking with you. :-) Some of them cause my husband to just look sideways at me and shake his head. But that’s okay. He likes some truly awful movies, so we’re pretty even there.

So let's see, there are my six things. For this set, I'm going to tag the following people: Michelle, Tara, Stephanie at Live.Love.Eat, Julie, and Stephanie at Steph's Little Corner. Have fun with it!

Love, Dahrlin'


That's me, screaming. That's the sound of no internet or phone service at home, and blog and email and reader withdrawal. I am going just a teeny bit crazy not being able to write and respond to anyone. The repair guy is supposed to come to the house today, so please keep your fingers crossed that we'll be back up and running this evening. If you don't hear from me, send help, LOL! Sorry to be even more absent than I already had been this week. Keep doing your pushups and I will check in when I can!

Love, Dahrlin'

Monday, August 4, 2008


I started to put the title of this recipe into the header. But I'm going to make you wait a minute, because some of you will run screaming if I don't ease you into it. You know who you are (or you will!) :-) Hang in there, I promise I wouldn't lie to you!

Today was just one of those days. You know, those days - Monday (which you already know how I feel about), the day farthest away from a new weekend, and absolutely packed crazy full with work. Work everywhere - at my "regular" job, at the second job I do (insurance billing for my Dad), work we need to do around the house (like, oh, I don't know, laundry that never seems to get completed over the weekends these days, grocery shopping that didn't get done, menu planning...wait, what did I do this weekend, anyway?) It was just one of those. And the most unhappy moment of my day? The minute I realized that not only would I not get a chance to blog or catch up on my reader over lunch...I realized there really wasn't going to be any lunch break today. And y'all know how I love my food!!!

[Pause for a comment from the Peanut Gallery: Yes, I realize I don't have any real problems, and I am incredibly thankful for that.] So I'm not going to continue whining. Sorry about that! We'll just move on, shall we?

First, thanks so much for your patience with the sitemeter issues and page load problems this weekend. Sorry about that. I'm glad it wasn't just my site that was affected, though, because I was really worried there for a second.

Next, I want to give a shout out to the pushups group. Let's finish this 2nd week strong! I'll be doing mine this evening. Let me know how it goes!

Now, I had hoped to get a new menu plan up today, but I just didn't get it done. So we'll be winging it this week. I was, however, very excited to see that Tara featured the Garlic Lime Chicken on her plan for this week. Hope you guys love it! Incidentally, I had leftover Garlic Lime Chicken as my super-fast lunch today - sort of in between emails and frantic phone calls (wasn't end-of-month last week??) But it was still yummy, even cold! I think it would be great for a salad, and that's going to be how I try it next. Probably tomorrow for lunch. Which I plan to actually sit down and eat, LOL!

Anyway, to console myself I'm making total comfort food for dinner. Meat loaf. Now, STOP! Don't run screaming. If you're a meat loaf hater, I've got a recipe you MUST try. I promise, if you still hate meat loaf after you've tried this recipe, I will forgive you and allow you to go forth into the rest of your life hating meat loaf. But I bet you you'll love it as much as we do. And I won't let you hate it without trying this one, LOL. It's awesome!

Just the aroma of baking meat loaf is worth the trial run, if you think you don't like it. I promise, the scary stuff you've seen in cafeterias and made fun of all your life is not real meat loaf. Angie and I went to an elementary school that served a particularly frightening version, but thankfully (for me, anyway) my mom made great meat loaf. So I didn't come out of childhood hating it like some people do.

So what I want to share with you today is my current favorite meatloaf recipe. If you love meatloaf, give this one a try. If you think you hate it, I beg you to reconsider and give this a chance. I promise you won't regret it. There's nothing to be afraid of in this recipe - most of the ingredients are things you are already eating on your burger. So if you like those flavors, you'll like this (and Angie, this means you too, LOL!)

Okay, ready? This is fast and easy and sooooo good. Throw the following ingredients into a big bowl (this will serve at least 4, unless you're serving boys like my husband, who love meatloaf - then you'll need more!):

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 eggs
1 cup tomato sauce or V-8 juice (I use the V-8)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp mustard
1 medium onion, diced as finely as you like (just don't leave it out!)
1/3 - 1/2 cup or so regular oats

Mix everything together gently. Don't overmix; you just want it well combined. Put the mixture into a loaf pan or a meatloaf pan, if you've got one (let me know if any questions on the pan). Now, here's the important part. COVER it with ketchup. I mean, sort of drown it. Smooth it out with a spoon so it's completely covered. The reason for this is that the baked ketchup has a totally different (and very yummy) consistency and flavor. It will taste much yummier than if you added ketchup afterward, though that's good too. So go ahead and put a bunch of ketchup on there. Just be sure you put a larger pan under the meatloaf pan in the oven, to catch any drips. Bake at 375 for about an hour or until a meat thermometer registers where you want it. I don't cook mine to death, but it's ground beef, so be comfortable with it. I cook mine about medium well, becuase it will keep cooking after you remove it from the oven. Also, if you like to do the freezer meals, this freezes beautifully cooked or uncooked. I usually divide this recipe in half to freeze. Freeze it flat so it will thaw evenly.

(Meanwhile, I'm still sitting here sniffing the air dreamily, as wondrous aromas drift in from the kitchen. Ohhh, yummmmmy.)

When you're done, you'll end up with something like this:

And if you're having the kind of day I was, you'll serve it with garlic toast and wilted spinach, both of which you can make in five minutes or less. But I promise, after you eat this meat loaf your bad day will be better. Promise!

Try it! I bet you'll like it. If you don't, you can even come back here and call me a liar. I promise not to delete the comments!

Love, Dahrlin'

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Page loading problems?

One other thing I wanted to mention today - apologies if anyone had trouble loading my site over the weekend. Let me know if it has occurred or continues. Apparently, my site was one affected by the sitemeter issues over the weekend. But don't worry, it's not contagious!

Love, Dahrlin'

So who did their pushups?

I just realized I didn't hear from any of our participants on the pushup challenge this weekend! Good morning ladies! How did Day 2 of week 2 go? Report back here or at the original Week 2 post. That's also where we'll report for tomorrow (Monday). I did mine yesterday, instead of Friday, because I was still fairly sore and wanted to heal completely first. I actually increased my reps on the last three sets (from Wednesday's figures). So I was pretty happy with that. We'll do Monday's sets and then I think we re-test on Wednesday to see how we should train
the next two weeks. Don't give up!

(PS To answer Michelle's question in an unrelated recent comment, my B-day is March 23. I share it with my grandmother :-)

Love, Dahrlin'

Friday, August 1, 2008

Foodie Friday - Garlic Lime Chicken!

Okay gang. I haven't gotten much cooking done this week, but more on that later. I haven't had much time for blogging, either, but I'm really missing FOOD! LOL!

So, here's a quick and easy recipe that is a huge favorite at our house. It's yummy anytime of year, but I make it pretty much anytime I want chicken but don't want to have to think a lot about it. It comes from the Dinner Diva, Leanne Ely. She ROCKS! Check her out if you don't know her.

This recipe has several advantages for weeknight cooking. One, it's fast and easy. Two, it's super yummy and comes straight out of the pantry/freezer. And three, you can make up extra dry rub mix in advance, so you always have it handy. I love anything I can make ahead.

Garlic Lime Chicken
(Serves 2; modify proportions as needed)

1/2 tsp salt (I use less; see below)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder (about the only time I use the stuff!)
1/2 tsp onion powder (ditto!)
1/2 tsp thyme
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I make 4 thin cutlets)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth or white wine (I usually mix both)
1-2 Tbsp lime juice, depending on your tolerance

Combine first 7 ingredients; make extra if you like. Coat both sides of chicken with dry rub.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over med-high heat. Cook chicken until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side (or about 2-3 for thinner cutlets). Remove chicken and keep warm; use lime juice and broth to deglaze pan/scrape up yummy brown bits. Simmer sauce to thicken (I like it almost to a glaze consistency, but if you use broth the salt will concentrate as it reduces, so just keep tasting it as you go. I don't usually put as much salt as is called for in the dry rub, for this reason). Once you reach the desired consistency, turn chicken in the sauce to coat and serve!

Love, Dahrlin'
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