Monday, May 30, 2011

Butch's BBQ Giveaway! Just in time for SUMMER! **Giveaway Closed**

I am so excited to announce a giveaway for one of my family's favorite products! 

Just in time for the summer barbecue season, Under the Big Oak Tree will giveaway some lip smacking good BBQ products from Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ

Three lucky winners will receive a bottle of Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Sauce and a jar of Magic Dust Dry Rub! 

We love the Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ products and plan on using them a lot this summer!  I already stocked up on several sauces and rubs by placing an order on the Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ website!  We'll be doing a lot of grilling this summer:  pork, chicken, salmon, burgers....Mmmmm! 

Magic Dust Dry Rub used on grilled pork chops. 
Boneless chicken breast slathered with Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Sauce.

A few months ago, Joe went wild boar hunting with his nephews. Since we now have a freezer full of wild boar (pork???), I want to try Butch's recipe for pulled pork as seen on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. You can find the recipe at

Butch appeared on episode 114 of Throwdown with Bobby Flay.
On Demand is currently running this episode.
Check out your On Demand menu for episode listings. 

But believe me, you aren't limited to just using Butch's products for grilling.  Here are some other ways that we've used Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Sauce and Magic Dust Dry Rub:
  • Check out Debbi's recipe for BBQ Chicken Enchiladas.  She incorporated both the sauce and dry rub into this recipe making it a favorite in my house! 
  • Just recently, I substituted some of Butch's sauce for my usual homemade sauce in my BBQ Chicken Salad Wraps.  Perfect! 

  • And the Magic Dust Dry Rub is great to use in place of salt!  Think: French Fries, omelets, potato salad, corn on the cob......
I could go on and on and on....but I won't!  Instead, I'll get down to the giveaway details!

Three winners will be selected via  There will be several ways to enter.  Be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry.  Don't forget the mandatory entry should be done first in order for the bonus entries to be counted. 

Mandatory Entry:
  • Check out the Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ website and come back to this post and leave a comment telling me something you've learned from the site. 
Additonal Entries: 
(don't forget to leave a comment on this post for each of the entries below)
  • Like Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ on Facebook and tell them that Under the Big Oak Tree sent you.
  • Follow Under the Big Oak Tree publicly using Google Friend Connect.  (See right sidebar.)
  • Subscribe to this blog via email.  (Use the buttons at the top right sidebar.)  
  • Like Under the Big Oak Tree on Facebook.  (Use the buttons at the top right sidebar.)
  • Follow TheBigOakTree on Twitter,, let me know your Twitter handle/id in your comment/entry. (Use the buttons at the top right sidebar.)
  • Tweet this Giveaway and provide the link in your comment here. 
  • Blog about this Giveaway and provide the link in your comment.
Bonus Entries:
  • I have another giveaway to post in a couple of days.  If you enter that other giveaway, you will earn another entry to this giveaway!   Just come back here after entering the other giveaway/s and let me know (in a comment) that you entered. 
Additonal Rules and Notes: 
  • Please provide your email address with your comments.  I need to contact you in order to let you know that you've won.  To avoid spam, you can enter your email address like this:  UnderTheBigOakTree at gmail dot com.
  • Remember, comments are counted as entries.  So to earn entries (mandatory or additional) you must leave a comment for each task (after task is complete) for it to be counted.
  • Additional entries or bonus entries will only be valid IF the mandatory entry is complete. 
  • Giveaway will close on June 13th at 10:00 pm, EST.  Three winners will be chosen by and contacted by email.  Winners will also be announced in a new blog post and will have 48 hours to claim their prize, otherwise a new winner will be selected. 
  • This giveaway is open to residents of the US or Canada only. 
  • I was not compensated in any way to do this review.  Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ provided me with 2 non-returnable products for my family to sample and review as well as the products provided for this giveaway.  The opinions stated in this review are honest and my own. 

Good Luck!  ( I hope you win!)

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of May 30th

I cannot believe we are at the end of the month already.  Almost a full month has passed since Grace's 2nd Birthday (post to come soon), school is almost out (for my nieces and nephews) and we're already into our first holiday weekend of the summer! 

Last week's menu plan went well.  A few needed changes were made, but for the most part, it went okay.  We had a couple of clean-out-the-fridge nights, also known as leftover buffet. 

I wanted to share my recipe for pasta with vegetables that I made last week.  I made sure to take note to the measurements as I threw the meal together.  BUT, the dish didn't turn out as great as I had hoped.  It looks pretty, but it tasted a bit bitter.  I added spinach this time and although, I cook with spinach often, it just didn't work out this time.  I usually use baby spinach, but Joe bought regular spinach leaves this time.  I'll try again and share the recipe as soon as it's blog-worthy! 

For June, I'm hoping to come up with a menu plan for the entire month.  I started working on it a bit over the weekend, but I still have some tweaking to do.  The reason for the month-long plan is to spend as little as possible this month (do you know, every time I say that we tend to spend MORE!) by "shopping" my pantry and freezer.  I've been checking my file of recipes that I want to try, for ingredients that I already have on hand or that could be easily switched out for other items I already have.  I'm sure I'll have to pick up a few things here and there, but I want to keep it to a minimum.  It'll be a challenge, but one I need to accomplish! 

Here's what I have planned for this week: 

  • Monday:  Barbecue Chicken, buttered potatoes, steamed veggies, salad. 

  • Tuesday:  Salmon burgers on whole wheat buns, potato salad, baked beans, sweet gherkins, salad.

  • Wednesday:  Chili Cheese Nachos, salad, carrot sticks.  Although, I am planning to start counting calories on Wednesday (I'll be joining Debbi's Slimmer This Summer on the button above to learn more!), I'll be making this junk-food meal for dinner.  To keep me from over-eating those yummy nachos, I'll fill up on the salad and carrot sticks....along with lots of water! 

  • Thursday:  BBQ Chicken Enchiladas.  I made Debbi's recipe before only slightly changing up a few of the measurements.  I realize now, that I forgot to share the changes I made and I misplaced my notes.  I'm sure the adjustments were only minor.  I love that this recipe calls for my one of my favorite BBQ sauces! 

  • Friday:  grilled hot dogs and baked beans.  This will be another high-calor meal.  The challenge will be to not over-do it.  One hot dog, one serving of baked beans.  I'd like to serve baked potatoes with this, but I'm thinking that might be a bit much, I'll decide after I see how the rest of my day goes. 

  • Saturday:  Buffalo Chicken Wraps.  I'm really excited to try this recipe!  I love the idea of the spicy Frank's Red Hot combined with the sweet brown sugar.  I also love that the chicken in served on a wrap!  We eat a lot of wraps, especially during the summer. 

  • Sunday:  Leftover Buffet.  I'm sure by Sunday, my fridge will be overflowing with leftovers and bottled water.  In order to make room for some fresh veggies for the next week, I'll have to use up some leftovers. 
Okay, so that's what's cooking at my house!  Head over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie to link up your weekly menu plan!  OR, if you like, let me know what you'll be serving this week in the comments section! 


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Knowing Me, Knowing You ~ May, 2011

I was just over reading a few recent posts over at The Life of a Sippy Cup Mom and saw that she participated in a fun getting-to-know-you type blog hop over at Tales From the Fairy Blogmother.  I love these types of hops.  It's fun to post about something a little different than my normal topics and these types of hops make it super-easy since the host thinks of the questions (topics)!  Perfect for those writer's block sort of days! 

I almost didn't make it in time for this month's Knowing Me, Knowing You

Here are the questions for May: 

1.  What was your wedding song? 

  • We didn't have a traditional ceremony or reception.  We were married on the beach with just about 30 guests (10 of them being children), so we decided to skip the whole first dance tradition.  Instead, I walked down the aisle to "She" by Elvis Costello and once the ceremony was over, the song playing was "At Last" by Etta James.  We chose "At Last" as a way to poke fun at ourselves since we were together for a ridiculously long period of time before getting married! 
2.  If you could guest star on any TV show which would you pick? 

  • Hmmm.  That's a tough one.  I am really shy.  I do not like to draw attention to myself.  At all.  See above where I mention our tiny wedding with only 30 guests?  That was mainly because I didn't want to get married in front of 100+ people even though most of those people are family and friends.  So, all of that said, I'd probably pick Grey's Anatomy as long as I could just lie there and not say a in surgery or something.  Just so I could be close enough to McDreamy (but not have to say anything)! 
3.  What is your favorite children's book? 
  • When I was a kid, my favorite book was Charlotte's Web.  I remember sitting in a circle in class while the teacher read it to us.  Now, my favorite children's book is Goodnight, Gorilla.  Joe's niece bought it for Grace when she was a month old.  It was one of the first books that we introduced to her and although she refuses to allow us to read to her, she loves looking at the pictures (she studies each page) and giggles at that book every time! 
4.  Did you watch the Royal Wedding? 
  • No, I didn't!  I wanted to watch it.  I really wanted to.  But I was so busy in the days that led up to the wedding, that I just didn't have the energy to get up earlier to watch it.  We don't have TIVO or DVR yet, so recording it wasn't an option.  Maybe Prince Harry will get married soon and I'll make sure to watch it then!  I wonder how Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie will top those crazy hats! 
5.  What's your favorite thing to have off the barbecue? 

  • A salmon filet rubbed with some barbecue seasoning and then grilled....Mmmmm!  I can't wait to make a Costco run to pick up a big pack of salmon filets.  We usually get 4 or more meals from one pack of salmon! 

So, there you have it!  A little bit about myself!  I'd love to learn more about you!  Join me over at Tales From the Fairy Blogmother for Knowing Me, Knowing You.  Or, if you prefer, leave your answers here in the comments!  Hopefully, I'll get my answers for June posted sooner! 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Watermelon Punch ~ A Perfect Summer Beverage

On Friday, my 3 nieces had off from school for the holiday weekend, so they came over to play with Grace.  My Mom stopped by for a visit later in the day, too.  So, I saw this as an opportunity to have our first picnic lunch on my new-to-me, vintage patio set.  I served up some mac and cheese, hot dogs, and watermelon punch! 

Isn't that tray the cutest?  I found it in the Dollar Spot at Target!
I have a feeling you'll be seeing it a lot this summer! 

I also saw it as an opportunity to try a new recipe that I found online earlier in the week.  The recipe is for a smoothie made with Xigua Melon (you know, those really cute, little watermelons). 

I didn't have a Xigua Melon, but I did have a normal-sized, seedless watermelon cut into chunks in my fridge that I wanted to use up.  Perfect! 

Here's what you need:
  • ice
  • watermelon
  • water
  • sugar or sugar substitute
Loosely, following the recipe linked above, I
  • crushed some ice and added to my blender. 
  • added the watermelon and water.
  • blended until combined.
  • add sugar or sweetener to taste. 
  • stir.   
The original recipe calls this a smoothie.  I thought since it wasn't creamy, it would be more like a slushie.  But, I guess I didn't add enough ice to make it a slushie.  It turned out more like a punch.  It was really tasty!  Served over some ice, this punch is perfect for sipping on a hot summer day.  Mom and I both thought that a couple of drops of coconut extract would be a perfect addition to the punch, giving it a more tropical feel.  Or, some coconut rum if you wanted to make it a cocktail.  (I like to keep it kid-friendly, so I would use the extract instead!)

Now, this uses a lot of watermelon.  Be careful not to munch on too many chunks of watermelon while drinking this punch, while also snacking on cheese curls.  That combination causes a really bad belly ache....just sayin'! 

I'll be linking this recipe to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 



Monday, May 23, 2011

Cheesey Spanish Rice Bake

Joe and I love Spanish Rice.  It doesn't matter if it's homemade or Rice-a-Roni, we really enjoy it.  Just now I realized that I never shared my usual Spanish Rice recipe.  Well, we liked this one so much, it might be a while before I make our old favorite! 

Last week, I found this recipe for Spanish Rice Bake on the Betty Crocker website.  It looked easy and the ingredients are so basic that I had them all on hand.  Aside from taste, that's the top factor in deciding if a recipe is a keeper or not! 

The recipe calls for Condensed Tomato Soup.  I wasn't sure how I was going to like that.  I use Condensed Tomato Soup in my Beef Stew, but the soup flavor changes once it's combined with the London Broil and veggies.  In this case, I wondered how it would be without the meat helping to flavor the soup.  But I followed the recipe, only making a few adjustments:  I added celery, a tad bit more oil, left out the cilantro and used less cheese.  The result?  We loved it! 

I originally planned to serve this with some quesadillas during the week.  But I didn't get around to it until the weekend.  We picked up some BBQ Chicken at a community event on Saturday and this rice dish was the perfect side dish! 

Cheesey Spanish Rice Bake

  • 3 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed tomato soup
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican-blend cheese, divided
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Spray a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray
  • Cook rice, onion, celery and peppers in hot oil until rice is golden and veggies are tender.  Stir often.
  • Add corn.  Cook a minute longer. 
  • In a bowl, combine the soup, boiling water, chili powder and salt.  Pour into casserole dish. 
  • Add the rice mixture. 
  • Cover and bake for 20 minutes. 
  • Stir in 3/4 cup cheese.
  • Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup of cheese over the top.
  • Bake uncovered for another few minutes, until cheese is melted. 
  • You can add the first half of the cheese when combining all of the ingredients in the casserole dish before putting it in the oven (like the original recipe).  My laptop battery died and I was following the recipe by memory at that point! 
  • I'm not a huge fan of cheese, I liked the cheese that was melted throughout the casserole, but I could have skipped the cheese on top.  Next time, I'll only sprinkle cheese on the top of half of the casserole. 
  • Also, the next time I make this, I'll be adding a cup of black beans to bulk it up a bit and making it a complete (meatless) meal! 
  • Adding some pre-cooked diced chicken in the last 30 minutes of cooking would also be a great option for bulking up this recipe.

I'll be sharing this recipe with the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 


Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of May 23rd

I'm really sad to say that last week's menu plan was a huge fail.  I made pasta salad instead of macaroni salad, I made the Spanish Rice, but didn't get to the quesadillas, the spaghetti was even considered...don't even get me started on the pulled pork! 

Cheesey Spanish Rice Bake

There were several factors that caused such a failure in meal planning last week: 
  1. I was a bit ambitious in my selections last week, choosing recipes/meals that required a lot of chopping (macaroni salad, pasta salad, spaghetti sauce).  I really must have forgotten that I am a mother of a toddler that doesn't like me to be in the kitchen AT ALL!
  2. I had an entire day that just didn't go right last week.  Grace woke super-early on Wednesday.  Of course, that was the day we had a play date scheduled.  The play date didn't go as planned, mostly because Grace wanted to take a nap right in the middle of playing since she was up so much earlier than normal.  I didn't even get a chance to relax after our guests left.  Remmy woke Grace up and there went naptime for me.  Good thing, I guess since the Emegency Broadcast System announced a tornado warning in our area.  That's rare, so I was really freaked out. 
  3. After all of that, my allergies kicked in and knocked me on my butt for almost 3 days.  (Luckily, I had plenty of leftovers in the fridge.)
  4. Grace and I had an unexpected outting to our local thrift shop's 1/2 Price Day!  We had a great time and found some wonderful deals, but we got home past dinner time.  I was too tired to cook and Grace was ready to eat.  So, leftovers it was....again. 
  5. I completely forgot that there was a chicken BBQ in our town scheduled for the weekend.  We picked up 2 packs of BBQ chicken breasts and enjoyed them for dinner on Saturday and Sunday.   
This week, I'm keeping the plan pretty simple.  One, because I don't want a repeat of last week's failure.  And, two, because I have a feeling Grace is going to be a bit grumpy this week.  Seems like she has allergies too.  She's had a runny nose and watery eyes for most of the weekend.  Poor baby. 

Here's what's cookin' this week in my kitchen: 

  • Monday:  Pasta with vegetables, salad, garlic bread.  I've made this pasta dish before and just realized that I forgot to share the recipe with you.  I usually make it a little different each time, but this time, I'll try to keep track of what I throw together! 

  • Tuesday:  BBQ Chicken Salad Wraps.  We still have a bunch of chicken left over from the chicken BBQ over the weekend.  So, I was really happy that I remembered this recipe from last summer!  I already mixed up the salad after Sunday night's dinner.  I didn't have any homemade BBQ sauce in the fridge, so I used some Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Sauce that I ordered a few weeks ago.  Mmmmm! 

  • Wednesday:  Easy Chicken Jambalaya.  IF we still have chicken left from the weekend, this will be the perfect recipe to finish it up.  But if not, I know there is some frozen, pre-cooked chicken in the freezer.We have errands to run after Joe gets done work.  Dinner will be quick and easy so we can get out and get home before Grace's bedtime. 

  • Thursday:  Leftovers.  We have errands to run after Joe gets done work.  Leftovers will help me get dinner ready quickly and easily so we can get out and get home before Grace's bedtime

  • Friday:  Penne with Spicy Sauce.  I love to try new pasta recipes.  Especially, if they claim to be spicy!  It's a meatless recipe, too!  We've been trying to eat a couple of meatless meals each week.  Some weeks we do better than others. 

  • Saturday:  DiGiorno's Pizza.  We'll be using the last of the DiGiorno's Pizzas from the freezer.  I'll have to look out for another sale so we can stock up again! 

  • Sunday:  Undecided.  Joe is on call for this holiday weekend.  So our plans are really up in the air.  We'll probably just hang out at home and enjoy watching Grace play in the yard while grilling some burgers and hot dogs.  Hopefully the weather will be nice.  It's been so rainy and dreary lately.  We only had one nice day last week. 

Okay, so that's what's on the menu at our house!  What will you be cooking up this week?  Join in and share your menu with us at Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie

Thursday, May 19, 2011

House on Ashwell lane: $30 store credit + free shipping giveaway to get a super hero cape from Pip and Bean

Hi, friends!

Just popping in to tell you all about a great giveaway going on over at House on Ashwell lane!

Follow the link below, to find out how you can win a $30 store credit (plus free shipping) to Pip and Bean. A shop that specializes in handmade capes for your little Super Heroes!

House on Ashwell lane: $30 store credit + free shipping giveaway to get a super hero cape from Pip and Bean

There are several ways to enter increasing your chance to win! But hurry, giveaway ends on 5/25/2011

I have a few super heroes on my holiday shopping list (yes, I said it...I'm thinking about Christmas shopping already!) that would love to receive one of these great capes!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Tutus and Rain Boots

Grace loves to play outside.  During the winter, we spent most days snuggling on the couch watching her shows or on the floor coloring.  Almost always in pajamas and slippers since they are so much more comfy and cozy than regular clothes.  Now, Grace thinks if we get dressed it means we're going out.  So I have to time it just right and only dress her when I am ready to spend a couple of hours outside playing. 

Last week, I tried her new Disney Princess tutu dress on her to see if it fit.  I barely had the dress on her before she ran to find her rain boots and then insisted that I put them on her. 

Here's how she went out to play that day: 

You can find this post linked to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of May 16th

It felt great being back to menu planning last week!  I didn't manage to get to everything last week.  Joe had a lot of late nights at work and I had a few nights where I just wasn't very hungry.  While I ate a small salad or a wrap, Joe had assorted leftovers from the fridge.  I've said this before, I don't mind when we don't get to every meal on the plan, as long as we don't resort to take-out as a result.  The meals that we skip either get rolled over to the next week, or will make an appearance in a future menu plan.  That's less groceries I need to buy for the following week! 

Here's what's cooking this week in my kitchen: 

  • Monday:  Sweet and Sour Meatball sandwiches, macaroni salad, lettuce wedge.  After I posted about trying a new Sweet and Sour Meatball recipe on Saturday, Debbi (from Debbi Does Dinner Healthy) suggested making sandwiches with the leftovers.  The idea sounded wonderful, so tonight, we're gonna have some Sweet and Sour Meatball Sandwiches!  Thanks for the inspiration Debbi!
  • Tuesday:  Quesadillas, Spanish Rice, steamed veggies.  I'm hoping to try two new recipes for this meal.  I usually reserve quesadillas for lunch or as an alternative to grilled cheese sandwiches when having soup for dinner.  I'm liking the idea of pairing the quesadillas with Spanish Rice for an easy and filling meal! 

  • Wednesday:  Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, salad, garlic bread.  I'll be making a small batch of All Day Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce.  Just a small batch this time, since I want to make a really hearty, veggie-loaded pot of sauce once the summer vegetables are in season. 

  • Thursday:  Chipotle Turkey Chili over rice, crusty bread, salad.  This is the LAST of the chili from the freezer.  Maybe even the last of the chili until the fall.  UNLESS, I decide to make a big ole pot of it to take camping with us this summer.  There's nothing better than a bowl full of chili while sitting around the campfire.  Well, okay, S'mores are better but we're talking about chili right now!

  • Friday:  Fried Spaghetti, green beans, garlic bread.  I've told you all before about my favorite way to eat leftover spaghetti.  MMmmmm! 

  • Sunday:  Leftover Buffet.  On leftover night, Joe and I each fill a plate (or bowl) with our favorite meal from the week and pop it into the microwave.  Sometimes, we even fill our plate with a combination of the meals.  It's like eating at a smorgasbord! 
The next few weeks, Joe and I are going to try to spend less on groceries.  We always tend to spend the same amount of money at the supermarket each week, even on those weeks that I say I want to skip food shopping.  It seems like the weeks we can manage with just picking up bread, milk and eggs are the weeks that we end up needing diapers (both regular and night time) and wipes. 

I've seen a few frugal recipes that I want to try in the next few weeks.  I don't want us to get bored with the same meals over and over again.  But I do want to cut back on the grocery bill while preparing healthy meals for my family.  If you have a frugal recipe, I'd love for you to share it in the comments! 

In the meantime, follow me over to I'm an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday

Meet Me On Monday ~ May 16th

The house is quiet, aside from the thunderstorm that's rumbling outside, so I decided to participate in Meet Me On Monday, hosted by Java at Never Grow Old.  It's a fun way to learn more about our bloggy friends and meet new friends at the same time!

Here are the questions that Java asks us this week: 
  1. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
  2. What is your favorite color Rose?
  3. Do you remove your shoes when you walk into your home?
  4. What is your favorite season?
  5. Approximately how many hours a day do you spend blogging?

Now, here are my answers: 

1.  Crunchy or Smooth Peanut Butter? 

I prefer crunchy peanut butter, but I usually stick to creamy.  More specifically, I like to buy Peter Pan's Whipped Peanut Butter.  More air, less calories!  LOL! 

2.  What is your favorite color Rose? 

After working in the floral industry for 15+ years, I've seen so many beautiful varieties of flowers and roses.  Since my wedding bouquet was made up of lavendar roses and lisianthus, there's a special spot in my heart for lavendar roses.  Yellow roses have always been one of my favorites as well! 

3.  Do you remove your shoes when you walk into your home? 

I had to laugh when I read that question.  My shoes are usually off before the truck is parked in the driveway!  Since breaking my leg and ankle 8 years ago, I've had trouble finding comfortable shoes.  So, I usually take my shoes off while I'm in the car on the way home from running errands! 

4.  What is your favorite season? 

Since my late teens, Autumn was always my favorite season.  I love the crisp, cool weather.  Wearing sweaters, pumpkin picking and jumping into piles of leaves.  Now, it's a toss up between Autumn and Summer.  While, I hate the heat of the summer, I enjoy the fun days outside playing with Grace during the summer months! 

5.  Approximately how many hours a day do you spend blogging? 

Yikes!  That's a tough one.  I am having a lot of trouble with time management lately.  Working on a few projects around the house has caused me to fall behind on blogging.  Ultimately, I'd like to devote a minimun of 2 hours a day to blogging (writing, reading, commenting, promoting, networking).  I'd love to hear your tips on how you manage to fit blogging into your daily routine. 


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shopping Craigslist: Vintage Patio Set

I love to shop yard sales and second hand shops for furniture, but without a car of my own, I don't get to go thrifting very often.  To me, is the next best thing.  Or, maybe it really is the best option since you can window shop online at all hours! 

Since moving into our house almost 5 years ago and having a yard for the first time in over ten years, I really wanted a patio set.  As with most big-ticket items, money was an issue.  Sets that we could afford were not sturdy enough for our needs.  Joe is a big guy.  So are most of the men in our families.  We needed something that we wouldn't have to replace the following summer. 

That first summer passed without us finding an affordable outdoor table and chairs set.  At the end of that summer (and each one after), I vowed that I would save up all winter long to get a sturdy set the next summer.  Yeah, never happened.  Other (more important) things came up. 

Every once in a while, I find the time to browse the furniture section on craigslist.  Last Sunday, after Grace was in bed, I browsed the listings hoping to find a dresser for the big girl room that I want to get started on very soon. 

I didn't find a dresser that I liked, but I did end up seeing a listing for a Vintage Wrought Iron Patio Set, $100.  I clicked on the listing and saw this: 

Joe was still awake, so I showed him the listing asking if he thought he'd be able to stop and look at it on his way home from work the next day.  So, we set up an appointment to take a look at the set.  Since the address was on Joe's way home from work, he went alone to check it out and decide if we would purchase or not. 

I was so excited when I looked out the kitchen window and saw Joe's pick up truck full of our new (to us) patio furniture!  Here's a picture of it after it was hauled out of the back of the pick up: 

I love it!  I'm so glad we waited until we found the perfect set for us and a price we could afford!  Round table, 2 chairs, 2 benches and they even included a heavy umbrella stand.  This is so much more my style than any of the patio furniture sold in retail stores right now.  It's an older set (not sure how "vintage" it really is), it could use some cushions, an umbrella and maybe a new coat of paint in the next year (or maybe two).  I'm thinking yellow!

I'll be linking this post to the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 

Twice Baked Potatoes: Just like The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

The Pioneer Woman Cooks!  was one of the first blogs I started to read (way back when).  I love her writing style and her photos of the food she cooks are drool-worthy! 

So far, I've only prepared one of her recipes.  Twice Baked Potatoes.

Now, most of you know that when I cook, I usually switch up the ingredients a bit.  Either leaving out a certain ingredient that I don't care for (mushrooms) or adding peppers and onions since I cook with a lot of peppers and onions! 

Well, when I make these yummy Twice Baked Potatoes, I follow the recipe almost exactly.  Each and every time!  They are that good.  They are pretty basic and easy too!  Making this recipe a keeper!  

My not-so-drool-worthy photo....but trust me, these potatoes are awesome! 

Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 8 baking potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 sticks of butter, sliced
  • 1 cup real bacon bits
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp.  Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 1 cup Cheddar Jack Cheese
  • black pepper
  • additional cheese for garnish
  • Bake potatoes in a preheated, 400 degree oven on a baking sheet for 1 hour, 15 minutes.
  • Place sliced butter, bacon bits, sour cream and seasoned salt in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. 
  • Remove baked potatoes from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. 
  • Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. 
  • Hold potato with a clean towel or pot holder and slice in half lengthwise.
  • Scrape the potato pulp into the mixing bowl with the butter, bacon, sour cream.  Don't scrape too much, leave a little "meat" on the skin.  Be careful not to tear the skins when scraping. 
  • Place the potato skin "shells" onto the baking sheet.
  • With a hand masher, mash the potatoes with the other ingredients in the bowl, until they are the texture you like.  I like the potatoes a bit lumpy (or rustic, as I like to say) for this recipe.
  • Add the shredded cheese (and pepper, to taste). 
  • Mix until well combined. 
  • Stuff the potato skin shells. 
  • Top with additional cheese.
  • Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. 
  • Costco sells really HUGE baking potatoes that work great for this recipe. 
  • Use the real bacon crumbles found in the salad dressing aisle of your supermarket.  Don't use the crunchy dehydrated "bacon" bits.  Or, real bacon leftover from breakfast would work great too.
  • I mentioned that I almost follow this recipe exactly each time.  Sometimes I switch out the shredded cheese for whatever is in my cheese drawer.  Usually we have plain cheddar or colby jack or the combination of the two.  Taco cheese would be great in this recipe too!  
  • Depending on how full you stuff the shells (or if you ripped a couple when scraping) will depend on how many serving you get from this recipe. When I use the big potatoes from Costco, I usually get 12-14 stuffed potato shells.  These are big, so each potato shell is one serving.  Since it's just the 2 of us, (Grace won't try potatoes right now) I freeze the rest of the potatoes for future meals. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sweet and Sour Meatballs in the slow cooker

If you remember my Menu Plan Monday post from the beginning of the week, you may recall seeing that Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs were part of my plan.  Since I've been a bit absent-minded lately, I ended up making the meatballs a day late.

So, on Thursday, just as I was getting ready to mix together my chili sauce and grape jelly (see recipe link above), I noticed a recipe for Ultimate Party Meatballs on the bottle of chili sauce.  After running downstairs to find the other ingredient in my pantry, I decided to give the new recipe a try.

Ultimate Party Meatballs in the slow cooker

  • 12 oz bottle chili sauce
  • 14 oz can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 34 oz bag frozen cocktail meatballs
  • Pour chili sauce and cranberry sauce into bottom of slow cooker insert.
  • Use a slotted spoon to really mash the jellied cranberry sauce and stir until well combined.
  • Stir in the frozen meatballs making sure to coat all the meatballs with the sauce. 
  • Cover and cook on high for one hour. 
  • Stir occasionally.
  • Reduce heat and cook on low for 3-5 hours, still stirring to coat the meatballs with sauce. 

  • My bag of frozen meatballs was ever-so-slightly larger than the amount called for in the recipe on the jar. 
  • This recipe can be done on the stove too.  As stated in the Ultimate Party Meatball recipe, add the sauce ingredients to a large saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.  Add meatballs.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until meatballs are heated through.  (I prefer the slow cooker method that I use when I make Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs.)
  • I loved switching out the cranberry sauce for the grape jelly!  It was actually easier then measuring out the grape jelly (no sticky mess!) and tasted just as good! 
  • We usually have buttered egg noodles on the side, but I'm thinking I might make some rice when we re-heat the leftovers. 

I'll be sharing this recipe at the following blog carnivals and linky parties: 
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