Doing Our Favorite Things

Bill and I had another fabulous week spending time doing some of our favorite things.

We are starting week three of our new Paleo food plan so we planned our menu for the week, shopped for the things we need to cook all our meals, and we washed, chopped, and grilled lots of fresh fruits and veggies for the upcoming week. I think half the battle of staying on any new food plan, where you are required to eat whole fresh cooked food, is planning ahead and having things on hand that are prepped and ready to make a meal.

This week we will enjoy menu’s that include grilled fish, balsamic grilled pork chops, coconut curry chicken, Sheppard’s pie, cabbage rolls with sauerkraut and tomato sauce, warm steak salad, and lots of sides like sautéed leeks and poblano peppers, roasted fresh beets and carrots, grilled pineapple etc. We are both loving this new way of eating, and so far, we have both seen positive results. For the first time in years, Bill said his hands are not hurting him and he can actually make a complete tight closed fist… I am also noticing I’m not having as many little aches and pains.

We also enjoyed an afternoon date at the movies this week. Both Bill and I love going to the movies!

Then, today, we decided to get our exercise in by hiking the Fountain Hills Lake Overview trail. It’s a nice little hike that we had never taken before so we thought we would give it a try today and we are glad we did.

We started off climbing up and around hill,

that allows you to see all the way around the Fountain Hills Fountain Lake,

and all around the town of Fountain Hills.

After leaving the overview hike, we ventured on over to the Fountain Hills Desert Sonoran Botanical Garden which is located right in the town of Fountain Hills. Here is a picture of the hike map through the gardens.

Of course, there are lots and lots of mighty saguaro cactus everywhere. I found this group of cactus interesting because to me, they look like they are all happy to be together, and are going to hug.

This saguaro caught my eye because the more I looked at it, the more I began to see little faces within the rotted out places within the cactus… do you see any faces in it?

Then, much to our surprise, we found out there is actually a historical dam in the garden. Well, blow me over… who knew?

There are also lots of large granite boulders throughout the gardens,

and the green coating seen on many of them is called “desert varnish”.

Bill and I had never visited The Fountain Hills Desert Sonoran Botanical Garden. We thought it is a lovely little walk, and a good way to get some light exercise if you can’t make it to our beautiful McDowell Mountain Regional Park, or you just want to explore some of the surrounding areas…

It doesn’t take a lot to make Bill and I happy. After 30 years, we are still very much in love, are each other’s best friends, and we enjoy anytime we spend together regardless if it’s working, cooking or doing chores, going to the movies, or enjoying the great outdoors. If we’re together, we make whatever we are doing FUN! And really, isn’t that the way love is supposed to be?

Stay Tuned!

 

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Sixty-nine And Counting

Today is my husband, and very best friend, Bill’s, birthday. To celebrate, Bill and I met our daughter, Shantel, at her doctor’s appointment, and the three of us went out to lunch to what was once Bill/Papa’s favorite Mexican restaurant, Abuelo’s, in Chandler.

We arrived, and were seated promptly, and everything looked to be the same as the last time we were there last year.

Bill ordered an appetizer of jalapeno cheese fritter balls, served with a sauce. They were delicious.

We were served warm chips and three kinds of salsa, just like always.

I ordered grilled sea bass taco’s that were the bomb! They were served with a side of rice and pinto beans cooked with bacon.

Shantel had one chicken and one spinach enchilada, served with beans and rice. She loved the chicken enchilada, but said the spinach one tasted like “tea leaves” to her.

Bill ordered a green chili smothered beef burrito. That was always his favorite, and the only reason he wanted to go there for his birthday lunch (the other option was Cheesecake Factory that was just across the street). Unfortunately,  the recipe changed, and what he was served was not anything like what he remembered, and loved so much in the past… He ate it, and said it wasn’t awful, but he was just really disappointed that it wasn’t what he remembered it to be…

But, as with all things in life… or at least this is what we try to live by…, it’s not about what you get, or what happens…, it’s more about how you react and deal with all of it… Bill, Shantel and I all agreed that today was not about the food, it was about taking the time to spend quality time together to celebrate another important event in our lives…, Bill/Papa’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Bill/Papa, we love you!

Stay Tuned.

 

Christmas Cookie Baking 2017

Today Bill went to our daughter, Shantel’s apartment where he spent the day helping Shantel, and her best friend, Jaz, bake Christmas cookies for Christmas Eve, and to take to our family friends home for Christmas Day. This cookie baking day is an annual event for Bill, Shantel, and Jaz.

They made Neiman Marcus and Ginger Snap cookies, and a lot of them! They also made a batch of fudge for the Christmas celebrations.

Shantel loves, loves, loves, to bake. Bill captured the pictures below that show how well Jaz and Shantel work together to accomplish the job. Shantel and Jaz met when they attended the same college, and they have been best friends ever since. Bill and I feel so blessed to have Jaz in our lives as Shantel’s best friend. She is a very special young lady, and we love her like one of our own daughters.  Bill was helping with the cookies as well, but he had to stop every now and then to capture pictures to send to me so I could document the event on my blog for Shantel to read back on over the years. I just love seeing that big smile on Shantel’s face!

Shantel has no problem working in her kitchen. When she is cooking or baking, she likes to keep the cabinet doors open (so does her papa) but when I’m there, I have to keep asking her to shut the cabinet doors because I tend to walk into them… Funny how she is blind and doesn’t hit her head on the open doors, and I can see but seem to always walk into the open doors… Ha!

 

This next picture shows Shantel placing cookies on her coffee table to cool, and placing them in the storage tins after they were cool. She so loves to know that there are plenty of cookies for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and beyond… 🙂

From the looks of the first storage tin, I don’t think she is going to have to worry about not having enough cookies!

After all the cookies and fudge are made, the next part of the annual cookie baking tradition is that Bill takes the girls out to lunch which is the perfect ending to their perfect Christmas Cookie Baking Day!

I so love that Bill, Shantel, and Jaz, have this time together every year to bake and bond. They all look forward to it.  And, since I don’t like baking, it allows me an opportunity to have some “me time” without having to be involved in smelling the cookies I don’t eat, bake, or be involved in cleaning up the mess that goes along with it… Win, Win…

I spent my “me time” today making coconut curry chicken for our dinner, took a nice long walk, did some laundry, and posted this blog post… And now, I’m headed to happy hour!!!

Merry Christmas!

 

Goat Cheese, Cranberry, and Walnut Stuffed Pork Chops

So easy and simple to make and, OMG! It really is as delicious as it sounds…

All I did was mix one package of goat cheese with a good handful of chopped walnuts, and dried cranberries.

 

Then I took thin, bone-in pork chops, and just pressed them out with my hand to make them a little bit bigger… I was going to stuff the pork chops but I didn’t buy them thick enough… so I went to plan (B). There is always a plan (B) if you want one…

then I put  about a handful of the goat cheese, cranberry, and walnut mixture into the center of each pork chop, pressed the mixture out a little, and rolled them up.

Then I dipped each pork chop roll into an egg and milk mixture, then into a mixture of Panko breadcrumbs that I seasoned with a little smoked paprika, and black pepper.  Next, I placed them on a copper rack that fits into a copper tray, them put them into our outside oven on 450 degrees for 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes later we had the a delicious pork chop roll up meal that was tender and moist, yet also had a crunchy panko crust. I served this with potato salad, that my sister, from another mother, Holly, made, and peas. Big shout out to my sister, Holly, who loves to cook as much as I do, and who always cooks too much, like I do, and always shares what she makes with Bill and I…

So loving this beautiful Christmas season of spending time with family and friends.  Cooking is what makes me happy, but sharing what we have, no matter what that might be, with those we love is what always warms my heart, not just at Christmas, but all year-long…

Merry Christmas!

Split Peas And Ham Soup

Yesterday was our weekly cleaning and laundry day for Bill and I. So it was a perfect day for me to make my split pea and ham soup in the slow-cooker. It’s fast and easy, and is the perfect meal to make when I still want something home-made, but I don’t really have the time to spend hours cooking… I just put on Christmas music and got busy…

I chop up a whole sweet onion, spray my slow-cooker with non-stick cooking spray, and put the onion in.

 

Then I pick through and rinse a bag of dried split peas

Trim the fat from a ham steak, and chop it into bite size pieces. Keep the bone as it goes in the soup as well.

Put the ham, the bone, and the split peas into the slow-cooker with the onion. Add three bay leaves, some granulated garlic, coarse black pepper, and salt (I used no-salt seasoning mix) into the slowcooker

Add about one and a half boxes of chicken stock, put the lid on and set the slow-cooker on high until the liquid begins to boil, then turn to low and let it simmer until you are ready to eat (about five to six hours).

I had mine with a salad. Bill had his with buttered saltine crackers. No matter how you serve it, it is delicious, and so much better than anything you will ever get out of a can. If you love split pea and ham soup like we do, this is the only way to go…

So enjoying this beautiful Christmas Season. Hope all of you are finding ways to enjoy whatever it is that makes you happy, and that you are also finding ways to express your love for one another… I show my love by cooking, and feeding my loved ones, which always makes Bill say he is such a lucky man…. I can’t help but think that he also must be thinking to himself “now if I could just get her interested in baking as well…” Ha!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

House Alarm Beef Stew

I guess I can call this stew that from now on..

Now is the time of year when most folks that love to bake, bake… I don’t, but I love to cook.. so I cook. And I am often asked to share my “recipe’s” with others, and I am happy to do so..

Today, I made a roasted vegetable beef stew.  I’ve made this dish many times over the years, including since we have been full-time RVing, in my slow-cooker without any problem.

But, today, I put the stew meat in my slow-cooker, with a packet of beef stew mix, two cups of good red wine and one cup of water, some corse black pepper, some dehydrated onion, some dried thyme, dried oregano, and some granulated garlic. Turned it on low and left it to do its thing while Bill and I attended 8:00 a.m. Mass, went to Walmart to pick up my prescriptions, then to Costco…

However, today, just as Bill and I were leaving the parking lot of Costco, I got a call from the Administrative Assistant at the Visitor Center at McDowell Mountain Park, letting me know that the neighbor next to us reported an alarm was sounding in our rig, and had been going off all morning…

Well, you gotta know,  Bill and I made a beeline back to our home to see what was going on. I was praying all the way that nothing was wrong with our home, and asking the Lord to please keep our home safe, and not let it blow up or anything…

Long story short… we arrived home, Bill entered our rig and checked everything, and sure enough the propane alarm was sounding loudly, but nothing was on. No heater, no stove valves, nothing but the slow-cooker on low simmering our stew meat for dinner…

So, with the all clear within our home, I proceeded to roast in our outside oven (omg they smell wonderful roasting), the purple potatoes, carrots, and onions, that I chopped and seasoned with garlic, black pepper, and olive oil, then I added them to the beef stew meat.

I usually add fresh beets to the roasted vegetable mix, but I couldn’t find any that were worth the price, so I bought two cans of canned beets and added them to the stew.

I served this with warm, buttered, beer bread that I made from scratch… and winner, winner, a delicious “house alarm beef stew” dinner was served.

I hope all of my readers are enjoying this beautiful Christmas Season. I hope you bake, if you love to bake, cook, if you love to cook.. But most of all that you spend time  to reflect on what is important to you, and spend time with the people that you love, and that love you. And, if you get the chance, from the words in the song of Dolly Parton “I hope you dance”.

Merry Christmas!

Stay Tuned.

Leeks, Bacon, Mushroom, Lasagna

Yesterday, after Bill and I completed our daily exercise walk together, he went outside to work on some of his maintenance of our motorhome projects. With a home on wheels, there is always something to adjust here, or tighten up there…, So while he was working on his projects, I tackled one of my own projects for the day.

As many of you know, I don’t enjoy baking, I am more than happy to leave that to Bill and Shantel, but I love to cook. So yesterday, I made a delicious leek, bacon, and mushroom lasagna. OMG, we LOVE this dish. But, be warned, there is nothing about this dish that is calorie friendly( except that I used fat-free half and half  instead of heavy cream). However, “all things in moderation” so we only have this dish a few times a year.

I found this recipe on the internet from the Eat Smarter website. I adapted it just a bit, with spices and mushrooms etc., to suit our tastes.

Ingredients:

Leeks – I used 2

butter – I used about 2 oz

Salt ( I don’t cook with salt, or add salt to my food because I am on a low sodium diet for health reasons. I use other spices to substitute for salt)

3 tablespoons flour

16 oz beef broth (I used reduced sodium)

6 oz whipping cream ( I used fat-free half and half)

About 6 oz of shredded sharp cheese (use more or less to your taste). You can use any kind of cheese you like.

Oven ready (no cook lasagna noodles). I used 8 but you can adjust to the amount you are making. Or you can use the lasagna noodles you boil if you want to take that extra step.

Thick sliced bacon (I used reduced sodium).  Use as much or as little as you like.

I started with cutting two leeks ( a mild member of the onion family) into rings.

Then I placed the separated leek rings in cold water to let them soak so the sand that is in between the leaves can sink to the bottom. This is a very important step because if you don’t do this you will end up with…

all of this sand in you finished dish. Not good!

I added mushrooms that I cleaned and sliced to the recipe because both Bill and I love them, but if you don’t like mushrooms, simply omit them…

I fried bacon in a cast iron skillet, to ensure it got really crisp, then I removed the bacon from the skillet and

sautéed the leeks, minced garlic, and mushrooms in the fat rendered from the bacon.

Then I made the sauce using the same fat left in the skillet from the bacon and adding a pat of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour. Cooked that until the flour and butter looked a little brown. Then I added the beef broth and cream (half and half) and whisked to insure there were no lumps. Simmer until it comes to a light boil so it will thicken.

The next step is to spray a baking pan with non-stick spray and place a small amount of the sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Then line the pan with oven ready lasagna noodles.

Top the lasagna noodles with the leeks/mushroom mixture, and top that with cheese and crisp bacon pieces (if you don’t eat bacon, or don’t like bacon, you can leave it out or replace with chicken, beef, etc.)

Continue to layer the sauce, lasagna noodles, leeks/mushroom mixture, bacon, and cheese until all the ingredients are used.

Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown (about 40 minutes).

I served this with a Normandy – Style Vegetable Blend, and YUMERS!!! Dinner was served.

This is one of mine and Bill’s favorite dinners. But like I said, it is not calorie, or figure friendly… but oh my, it is well worth the extra exercise to walk/hike it off every once in a while… 🙂 And, it freezes really well.

Stayed Tuned!

 

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