Simply Sweet Home

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sweet Thursday: Super Bowl Sunday Treats

As promised, here are some sweet snacks for Super Bowl Sunday. Personally, I've been in a baking mood lately. Last week I made some brownies, and a few days ago I baked a cake, and for Super Bowl Sunday, this weekend I'll probably make some football cookies. I have some frozen cookie dough that we ordered from a school kid, and several weeks ago I bought a huge set of cookie cutters, and I haven't yet found the time to try them out, so it seems like a good time to do so. (although I wouldn't mind having a pie or a cheesecake this weekend either....hmm. Well, I'll let you know how it goes.)

Anyway as usual, links to the original source are underneath the picture. And I've also included the recipe for Chocolately Football Bites from Kraft. This recipe reminds me of Cocoa Pebbles/Rice Krispie treats, except it's made with corn syrup instead of marshmallows. And this is another good recipe that you could easily change, using a different cereal or simply molding the snacks into a different shape or using different decoration. Enjoy!

flickr - mysimplysweet

6 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups POST Cocoa PEBBLES Cereal
White decorating gel

MICROWAVE chocolate, corn syrup and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2-1/2 min., stirring after 1-1/2 min. Blend in vanilla.
ADD cereal; mix well. Cool 10 min. Shape into 18 (3-inch-long) football shapes with lightly moistened hands. Place on large sheet of wax paper; cool completely.
USE decorating gel to add "lacings" to "footballs." Let stand until gel is firm.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bacon Cheddar Appetizers

Here's an easy and rather tasty looking treat. I found these on Nabisco. It's a cute, bite-size (and quick) version of potato skins, and I bet you can't eat just one! And for those of you aren't in to bacon and cheese, perhaps you could do a variation of this idea; instead of bacon and cheese try mixing in the ingredients for spinach dip or some other type of vegetable dip. Just an idea I had....but for I think I'll stick with the bacon and cheddar.

Bacon Cheddar Appetizers

1 pkg. (8 oz.) Finely Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
1/2 cup Real Bacon Bits
64 TRISCUIT Thin Crisps

PREHEAT broiler. Mix all ingredients except crackers until well blended.
PLACE crackers on baking sheet. Top each cracker with about 1 tsp. of the cheese mixture.
BROIL 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with chopped red and green pepper, if desired.

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Simple Solutions: Easy Super Bowl Snacks

If members of your household will be watching the Super Bowl this Sunday (or essentially any sporting event on television in the future) it is the perfect day for an appetizer buffet. You can make many of your snacks the day before the event and other items can be made fairly quickly on the day of the event. Then put them out on the counter so that everyone can help themselves whenever their hungry.

If you're having guests over, you might want to do a potluck buffet, but even if you do all the cooking yourself, you don't have to spend a lot of money or even a lot of time to make snacks for your family, friends, and fellow sports fans. Save time by getting ready made appetizers from your grocer's freezer or the refrigerated section of your deli. Check your deli for meats and hoagie buns, vegetable and meat trays, and desserts. Or buy pizza, wings, chicken fingers, or sandwiches from a fast food place. You can usually get a good deal on party platters.

Here are easy appetizer choices:

Chicken wings (plain, buffalo, honey barbeque)
Chicken fingers
Cheese fries/Chili Cheese Fries/Bacon Cheese Fries
Pizza (delivery or oven-baked)
Pizza Rolls & Mini Pizzas
Sub sandwiches
Hot dogs or chili dogs
Potato skins
Chips & dip (homemade, store bought, or check your deli section)
Potato wedges
Ham & Cheese tray (make your own or buy one already made from the store)
Vegetable tray & dip (store bought or homemade
Cheese sticks
Pigs in a blanket
Sausage Balls or Meatballs(homemade or buy frozen)
Cocktail weanies
Cookies or brownies

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Baskets for Storage and Organizing

Since moving in to our new home, I've had to do some rearranging and reorganizing. In particular I had to find new ways to store items because I have less drawer and cabinet space. I have some different items in mind to buy for the new place (after we get some bills taken care of, that is), but in the mean time I've been shopping around.

One thing I've looked at is baskets. I've never been a "basket person" but they are starting to grow on me. I think it's because I've begun to realize how multi-functional they are. You can store pratically anything from clothes, linens, and towels, to craft & office supplies, to books and magazines, household items, and bath and body items.

I also like these because you can place them in just about any room and they won't clash. It's also easy to find high quality baskets that look good without paying a fortune. (It's one thing to find containers to organize and store stuff, it's another thing to find containers that actually look good; with baskets you can get both, even on a low budget.)

And depending on what size you get, you can easily place them under counters, on shelves, in closets, and even under end tables or other furniture. I don't know about you, but I like the idea of organizing something and also essentially being able to hide items away.

Here are just a few baskets that I've found on the internet.

Storage Basket - Natural by Organize It All

Rope Basket Set by Greenbriar Home & Garden

Wicker Waste Basket by Organize It All

Round Wicker Hamper with Lid by Organize It All

Cabana Willow Basket - Large by Greenbriar Home & Garden

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

In this week's menu I've included a recipe for Chicken Noodle Casserole. It's a new recipe that I just recently came across, and I'm going to be trying it for the first time. I'll let you know how it turns out. And speaking of new recipes, over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting some new recipes for Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine's Day. (so back soon, food lovers!)

Now here's my menu for the week:

Monday - Sloppy Joes
Tuesday - Chicken Noodle Casserole w/ steamed vegetables (recipe below)
Wednesday - Chicken, Aug Gratin Potatoes, & Green Beans
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Breakfast for supper
Saturday - Eating out
Sunday - appetizers & snacks (for Super Bowl)

Chicken Noodle Casserole
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Condensed Cream of Chicken and Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups cubed cooked chicken OR turkey
3 cups cooked medium egg noodles (about 3 cups dry)
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
In large saucepan mix soup, milk, pepper, cheese, chicken and noodles. Over medium heat, heat through, stirring occasionally. Garnish with parsley.
Tip: For 2 cups cubed cooked chicken, in medium saucepan over medium heat, in 4 cups boiling water, cook 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cubed, 5 min. or until chicken is no longer pink.

Click here to view other menus for this week.


Chemistry for the Kitchen

Marye at Baking Delights recently posted a link to this fun & amusing, yet rather useful chart. If you've ever had a chemistry class in high school or college, and you like cooking, then you should enjoy this. It takes the layout and design of the periodic table of elements, but instead of hydrogen, helium, and carbon, you'll find things like mayonaise, jelly, and tartar sauce. And what does the chart tell you? How long the items will stay fresh, of course! Visit the links below for a good laugh, or print the chart out and keep it handy in your kitchen as a reference tool.

Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad - Black & White version

Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad - Color Version

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Recipe of the Week: Fantasy Football Meatballs

Here in the United States, there will be a lot of buzz about the upcoming Super Bowl next week, and many households will be holding Super Bowl parties, big and small, next Sunday. For this reason, I decided to post an appetizer for the recipe of the week. Whether eaten as a finger food or put on a sandwich, meatballs are a tasty treat for any party or gathering, and this recipe from Smuckers is no exception. And even if you're not a football fan, you can still enjoy this great snack.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil -or-
1 (16 ounce) pkg frozen prepared, bite-sized meatballs, thawed (about 32)
1 (12 ounce) jar Concord Grape Jelly
1 (12 ounce) bottle chili sauce


1. COMBINE first eight ingredients, mixing well; shape into 36 one-inch meatballs.

2. COOK in oil over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned. Drain on paper towels. 3. COMBINE grape jelly and chili sauce in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring until well combined, about 3 minutes.

4. PLACE cooked or thawed meatballs in a single layer in skillet coating each meatball evenly with sauce. Cover; simmer 10 minutes stirring occasionally, until sauce is bubbly and meatballs are heated through.

5. TRANSFER glazed meatballs to a chafing dish or slow cooker. Serve with toothpicks. Makes about 32 appetizers

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tips to Prevent Colds & Flu, Pt 2 - Housekeeping & Personal Hygeine

Here is the second part to my post on preventing colds and flu. This part lists tips about proper hygeine and housekeeping.

*Go for yearly checkups, and take a yearly flu shot, and get other necessary screenings and vaccinations.

*Wash your hands frequently with hot water and antibacterial soap for at least 30 seconds. Be sure to wash after using the restroom and before eating, and wash frequently if you are around sick people or if you are around a lot of school kids. Also, wash up after handling raw meats & after washing dishes & performing other cleaning duties.

*Don’t cover your sneezes and coughs with your hands. This only puts germs on your hands which will then spread to others. Cover your mouth with a tissue instead.

*Avoid touching your face. Viruses enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Touching their faces is the major way children catch colds, and a key way they pass colds on to their parents.

*Clean your house regularly, including floors, counter tops, toilets, sinks & tubs, and bedding.

*Avoid sharing towels and rags, as this spreads germs.

*Change out dish towels, rags, and sponges regularly.

*Replace your toothbrush every 2-3 months, and if anyone is sick replace their toothbrush after they get well, as well as any toothbrushes that are stored nearby.

*When someone is sick, wash their sheets and spray their mattress with Lysol to kill germs. Also, clean and sanitize toys that children play with while they are sick.

*Spray door knobs with Lysol or other antibacterial cleaners, especially if anyone in your home has been sick.

*Use plastic cups & silverware and paper plates while someone in your household is sick, in order to avoid spreading germs.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tips to Prevent Colds & Flu, Pt 1 - Lifestyle

*Due to the all the recent cold weather and because we're right in the middle of the season in which people are most likely to miss work due to sickness, I decided to research tips to help prevent colds, flu, and other illnesses. I found so much information I've decided to divide it up into 2 or 3 different posts. Part one (as you can see) involves tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

*Get plenty of exercise, especially aerobic exercise in order to strengthen your heart and carry oxygen from your lungs into the blood and the rest of your body. Exercise also causes you to perspire, which helps to naturally get rid of toxins in your body and helps your body to create cells which kill viruses.

*Get fresh air. During the winter people spend more time indoors. Central heating dries you out and makes you more vulnerable to viruses. So spend more time outside and open the windows and doors of your home for a few minutes each day to allow fresh air to circulate. This will help you to avoid catching airborne viruses.

*Drink plenty of fluids, including water and fruit juice. You should drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Drinking water helps to clean out your system and is crucial to maintain proper bodily functions.

*Maintain a healthy diet. Be sure you get enough fruits and vegetables, including green and yellow vegetables. And get plenty of vitamins (especially vitamin C) and foods that are high in antioxidants.

*Also, eat yogurt. Some studies show that eating a cup of yogurt each day can help reduce your risk of catching a cold by 25%.

*Avoid smoking. Smokers are more prone to getting colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and other infections.

*Cut down on alcohol consumption. Alcohol suppresses the immune system and dehydrates you and could make you more vulnerable to disease and complications.

*Rest and relaxation. It is very important to get about 8 hours of sleep each night. Additionally you should try to spend about thirty minutes a day relaxing. Try meditation or deep concentration while listening to relaxing music or focusing on a particular image.

*Avoid stressers. Too much stress can seriously compromise your body's ability to fight infection.

Check back in a day or two for part 2 of this article!


Monday, January 21, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Hello everyone! Well, here's my second MPM post. Just a quick note: I've decided to keep this feature for now, along with the other features that I introduced over the last couple of weeks. (I had a couple of other ideas I wanted to try, but I dropped them at the last second.) My goal is to try and do MPM each week, although sometimes I go out of town on weekends, so I may not always be on to do the post. Sweet Thursday posts will be up 2-3 times a month (at least once every two weeks or more frequently if I see something that strikes my fancy to post on). And the Quick Meals & Simple Tips will come out 1-2 times each per month. If anyone has any further suggestions for me, let me know. This is all subject to change, of course, but for now that is the plan.

Here's what's on my menu for this week:

Monday - Chicken w/ Ranch Sauce, vegetables
Tuesday - Potato Soup
Wednesday - Roast beef & gravy w/ mashed potatoes & peas
Thursday - leftovers
Friday - Mexican Chicken Casserole
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - Tuna salad sandwiches

Check out what others have on their menus. Have a great week!


Friday, January 18, 2008

Winter Sales & Closeouts

Someone pointed out to me that many of the items listed in my "liven up your winter decor" post are on sale now. This inspired me to create a small list of items that you may find on sale now and over the next few weeks in your local store.

It's kind of crazy going to the store and seeing swimsuits & shorts when it's forty degrees outside, but at least when they make room for the spring and summer clothes, they do it by marking down the winter stuff. This makes it the perfect time to get a few new outfits for the remainder of the season or to go ahead and buy up for next year, especially if you have kids. And it's a great time to get a few low cost items to spruce up your home.

So over the next few weeks, be on the look out for low prices on the following:

snowmen & other winter decor items
Winter clothes - sweaters, fleece, flannel, velour, sweatshirts, jogging suits, corduroy
House shoes
Winter pajamas
Electric blankets
Winter shoes/boots
Space heaters
Blue jeans

Also, certain lines of home decor and collector's items (knick knacks and that sort of thing) that have been on display since Christmas (or prior to the holiday season) will begin to go on sale as well to make room garden decor and other summer items.

Here's just a few places you might want to check out for deals.
Old Navy
Closeout Central
Goody's Family Clothing
Big Lots

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Recipe of the Week: Chicken & Dumplings

In January I love eating soups, stews, and casseroles. So it seemed like the perfect time to feature something warm and hearty for the recipe of the week. This recipe for chicken and dumplings is a little different from what I think of as tradtional, Southern chicken and dumplings, but it's still comfort food at it's best.

2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped potatoes
1-1/2 cups chopped parsnips
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
1 10-3/4-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. For stew, in a 4- or 5-quart slow cooker combine the carrots, potatoes, parsnips, garlic, bay leaves, sage, the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables. In a medium bowl gradually whisk broth into soup. Pour broth mixture over the chicken.
2. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.
3. If using low-heat setting, turn slow cooker to high-heat setting. With a wooden spoon, stir stew. Remove bay leaves; discard. In a small bowl combine water and cornstarch; stir into stew until combined.
4. For dumplings, in a medium mixing bowl combine flour, cheese, cornmeal, baking powder, and the 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a small bowl combine egg, milk, and melted butter. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Stir with a fork until moistened. Use 2 spoons to drop dough directly on top of stew.
5. Cover; cook for 25 to 30 minutes more or until a toothpick inserted into a dumpling comes out clean. (Do not lift cover during cooking.) Makes 8 servings.
Prep: 25 minutes Cook: 8 to 10 hours (low), 4 to 5 hours (high); plus 25 minutes (high)

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sweet Thursday: Mini Almond Bundt Cakes

Thi is a recipe I found the other day on the Martha Stewart site. Mini bundt cakes are so cute, and the icing and almond slices really add a lot to the look (and taste) of this snack. In fact it doesn't get any easier than this to decorate a cake. I also think this would make a beautiful dessert as one large bundt cake, and it would definitely be great to serve to guests or take to a party.

Makes 6
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
6 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/3 cup coarsely chopped almonds
5 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, or plain yogur
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter six mini Bundt pans; set aside. Spread sliced almonds out on a baking pan, and toast until golden brown. Transfer nuts to a bowl to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine chopped almonds, light-brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside. In another medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 6 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg; beat until combined. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until smooth. Add 1/3 of reserved flour mixture and half of sour cream; beat to combine. Repeat. Add final third of flour mixture, and beat to combine.

Fill each Bundt pan with 3 tablespoons batter, and spread evenly with a small offset spatula or spoon. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of reserved almond-spice mixture. Top with additional 3 tablespoons batter; the batter should come to within 1/2 inch of the rims of the pans.

Bake until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Unmold cakes. Place cakes, flat sides down, on a wire rack placed over a baking pan.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until color turns nut brown, about 5 minutes. Pour butter into a medium bowl, leaving behind any dark sediment. Stir in confectioners’ sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla, and 3 tablespoons milk until smooth; add an additional tablespoon milk, if necessary, so glaze is pourable. Drizzle glaze over cakes, and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve.
Tip - For one large bundt, use a 10 inch bundt pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Liven Up Your Decor This Winter (the cheap & easy way)

It seems that if there's a ever a month when people are most likely to get into a "funk" it is January. For one thing people are exhausted after the holiday rush and many hate the thought of going back to work and school. Then there's the fact that most people are experiencing the coldest part of their year. This is the time when people are more likely to get sick and, in some cases, depressed. Why? For one thing during the winter, we spend more time indoors, which means me don't get as much fresh air and we don't get any sun. I also read somewhere that as humans we need green grass and trees. It helps us physically, mentally, and emotionally to be in these types of environments, to be out in nature. This is one reason, why we have parks right in the middle of metropolitan areas.

When I look out the window on a cold winter's day, and the sky is gray, and the leaves are gone from the trees, and much of the grass looks dead, I think who wouldn't feel melancholy on a day like this? Well, obviously we can't control the weather, but we can control the environment inside our homes.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to liven up your decor this winter. In fact you can spend very little or no money at all. Here a few simple things that you can do to make your home warm, cozy, and inviting this winter.

1. Plants - A lot of people bring in their plants in the winter time. But why store them all in one room, when you can incorporate them into your decor. And if you don't have any plants already, you can get one fairly cheap at the local market. (there's the green we're missing out on outside, and having plants in the house will create more oxygen, improving the air quality of your home.)

2. Wreaths - Wreaths, like the one pictured above, don't have to be just for Christmas. A simple wreath adds color and style to any room.

3. Candles and lamplight - Light candles and turn on lamps to create a warm, inviting glow in your room. And the scented candles will fill your room with a soft, sweet aroma. The great thing about this is that most people already have these items in their home. Try placing them on mantles, end & coffee tables, and in front of mirrors. They also have a lot of new electric candles out on the market that are just lovely if you don't like to burn wax candles.

4. Rearranging - Try rearranging the furniture or other decorative items like picture frames or figurines, to give your home a different look. You may even want to store some of the items you currently have out and replace them with items currenly stored in your attic.

5. Throws and throw pillows - Drape a quilt or a throw over a chair or the couch to add color and coziness to your living room. Try soft, warm fabrics in bright, vibrant colors. If you don't have extra throws laying around, you can buy one for fairly cheap or make one with fleece fabric from the fabric store. Pillows will also have the same effect if you're not into throws.

6. Rugs - Just putting down a new rug can dramatically change the look of a room.

7. Bedspreads (swap out) - I have a couple of comforter sets for my bed, and every few months, I like to swap them out. It makes for a good change. Even though you've seen the bedspread before, it's almost like getting something new because you haven't seen it in several months. This is a great solution if you get bored with your decor but don't want to splurge on something new.

8. Bright, warm, rich colors - The key is to add warm, contrasting colors. Red is a great color, but a lot of people don't like to use it because they think it's too bright, but there are so many shades to try. I recommend crimson or cranberry. Pink is a good color as well if you use the right shade. (perhaps rose) Yellow is another great color to try. Blue, green, and purple are cooler colors, but if you use the right shades (perhaps something light or bold) these are great colors as well.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Quick Meal - Pork Chops & Rice

Another feature I've considered adding is the Quick Meal feature. (originally I was going to call it Quick Meal Monday, but here we again run into this problem: I don't always post on Monday.)

I think of a Quick Meal as anything that takes a short time to prep. Even if it takes 6 hours to cook something in the crockpot, I still think of it as a quick meal, because I didn't have to spend a lot time preparing it. But of course the best quick meals are the ones which you can cook at the spur of the moment with ingredients that you regularly keep on hand.

Most likely if I keep this idea, it would sometimes accompany the Menu Plan Monday. That is, it would feature an item that I placed on my menu plan Monday post. (but it doesn't have to. it could be totaly ramdom as well.)

This quick meal post is on Pork Chops & Rice, which is an item I placed on my menu this week. My husband loves casseroles with rice (as do I), so I keep several recipes like this one on a regular rotation. (And these are perfect to cook when you're doing it at the last minute)

1 can Cream of Celery Soup
1 cup water
3/4 cup uncooked regular white rice
1/4 tsp. pabrika
1/4 tsp. pepper
3-6 boneless porkchops (i usually get a pack of 4 or 5)

In a shallow baking dish mix the water, rice, paprika, and pepper. Place porkchops on top of rice mixture. Sprinkle with addtional pepper and paprika. Cover with tin foil.

Bake at 375 for 45 or until meat and rice are done. For a big family, you can double this recipe.

Tip: Spinkle cheddar cheese on top before cooking for additional flavor.

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Menu Plan Monday

Okay, here is another new feature I'm considering for the blog. This idea came from the blog I'm an Organizing Junkie. It is an excellent blog that you should check out. The only problem with this feature is that the post would have to go out on Sunday or Monday, and I don't always post on these days. However, I think this is a fun idea and a good way to start the week. And if my schedule doesn't permit, I can always run the feature a day late or just do it every other week. We'll just have to see. (Pardon me for rambling with my thoughts, but since I'm still deciding on whether to keep all the new features, I think my thoughts could actually help you to help me decide on what to do.) Anyway I just have one or two more ideas, and I then I'll be making the final decision. (so let me know, what you think.)

The point of Menu Plan Monday is to encourage people to plan out their meals ahead of time. You can save time and money with just a little planning. For example, if you plan out your meals ahead of time, you can make one trip to the store, instead of several small trips, and if you know ahead of time what you're going to cook you can plan all other events around the time it takes to cook your meal. Not to mention, it feels so good to actually know the answer to the infamous question, "What's for dinner?" This is also a good opportunity to share ideas and recipes.

So here it is, my first menu plan:

Monday - Grilled Chicken w/ Steamed Vegetables
Tuesday - Pork chops & Rice w/ Green Beans & Rolls
Wednesday - Vegetable Soup & sandwiches
Thursday - Left overs
Friday - Chicken Fingers and fries
Saturday - Eat out
Sunday - Spaghetti w/garlic bread & salad

For other menu ideas visit I'm an Organizing Junkie.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Sock Snowfolk Craft

Here's a fun & inexpensive craft project I found on I only wish I'd found them before Christmas; I think they would make a cute gift idea for the kids to work on. These would also be great for girl scouts, school, or a home art project, and it's sure to be great fun for kids of all ages. And it would be a cute craft to display on your shelf or coffee table in the winter time.

Beans (or rice)
Empty plastic container
Rubber band
Pipe cleaner
Button eyes

Time: About 1 Hour

1. For each one, first pour 1/2 cup of dried beans or rice into a clean, empty plastic container, such as a single-serving milk bottle, a water bottle, or a plastic peanut jar (ours were about 7 to 10 inches tall).

2. Turn a white tube sock inside out and slide it over the bottle, starting at the bottom. Tuck the top of the sock inside the bottle, trimming it a bit first if necessary.

3. For a hat, cut a piece of colored fleece that's at least half as tall as the bottle and wide enough to wrap around it with at least 1 inch of overlap. Wrap the fleece around the top half of the bottle and secure it with a rubber band or elastic hair tie near the bottom of the fleece. Gather the material at the top of the hat and secure it with another rubber band or hair tie, as shown (far left).

4. To add a pom-pom to the hat, remove the fleece from the bottle, turn it inside out, then rubber-band it back in place and hot-glue a pom-pom to the top. Roll up the bottom edge of the hat or tuck it under for a brim.

5. Next, hot-glue on the snowman's features: a carrot nose (half an orange pipe cleaner coiled around the tip of a sharpened pencil to form a cone), small black button eyes, and colorful buttons down his front. Finally, tie on a strip of fleece for a scarf.


Recipe of the Week: Hot Cocoa

I usually just go with instant cocoa, and I've actually been meaning to buy some at the store and never got around to it, but the other day I found a recipe for homemade cocoa, which inspired me to search for others until I found the perfect hot chocolate recipe to make. This recipe was the perfect one for me to try because it was quick, and I already had all of the ingredients on hand in my kitchen. I tried it out, and it tasted wonderful, so I decided to make it the recipe of the week. If you're like me, and you're living in less than tropical weather right now, you should try it out.

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup baking cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups milk
2/3 cup water
2 teaspoons
Minature marshmallows, optional

Directions - In a large saucepan, combine the suagar, cocoa and salt. Stir in milk and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until heated through. Remove from the heat, stir in extracts. Serve in mugs with marshmallows if desired (makes 10 servings)

Tip - Divide this recipe in half if you have a small family, or divide it in half twice for one or two people.

Tip - I actually added a little extra sugar to mine, which made it a little less rich tasting, but if you're on a low sugar diet or you're a fan of dark chocolate, you should like the recipe as is, or even with a little less sugar.

Tip - Add your choice of extra spices and extracts to create your own unique flavor. I added extra almond extract to mine, and it was delicious!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sweet Thursday: Snowman Cupcakes

Introducing Sweet Thursday! I've received a lot of positive feedback on recipes and other food related posts. For this reason, some of the new features I'm planning on trying are about food. Sweet Thursday would/will specifically feature desserts and sweets. Why Sweet Thursday? When thinking about the new features, I wanted to come up with catchy titles, perhaps using words from the title of the blog. When thinking of desserts, what better word to use than Sweet? Then the phrase "Sweet Thursday" entered my head, as in the book by John Steinbeck. Since I'm a big fan of Steinbeck's writing, I fell in love with the idea of borrowing his title for my blog feature.

The feature will include anything from pictures of baked items from the web(as in this first example), a featured recipe, featured links, featured websites, featured desserts from resturants, product reviews, and basically anything having to do with desserts & sweets.

For this first installment of Sweet Thursday, I decided to feature some snowman cupcake photos. All of the pictured cupcakes were found on flickr, and the link beside each pic will take you to the profile of the person who created the cupcake. If you're a cupcake fan, you'll love these! Enjoy!




queen of tartes

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Simple Tips: Shelf Brackets & Dividers

Sometimes it's easy to organize but harder to maintain organization, especially on closet and cabinet shelves. You create a stack towels or clothing only to have the stack topple over or two stacks mingle with one another and become hard to manage. The solution is to separate the stacks using shelf brackets and dividers.

Not only will this product help you to stack your linens, it can also help you organize books, photo albums, and even kitchen items.

For more on this idea, click here.

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Simply Sweet Home's New Features

Hello everyone,

I've been brainstorming over the past few weeks to come up with some new features for this blog. I've come up with several ideas and have narrowed those down to about four or five. I've decided to try out these ideas and let you help me decide which ones to keep as regular features on the blog. I'll decide which features to keep and how often to have the features based on how well I do on writing the post and based on the amount of positive post comments and emails I get.

The "unveiling" of the new feature ideas will be spread out over the next two or three weeks, and then I'll be making my final decisions some time next month. Rather than going into the details of what each new feature will be right now, I'll explain them individually later as they come up in future postings.

I'll be working to get the first couple of features out this week, along with a few "regular" posts. The first new feature is "Simple Tips." (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.) I know it's a common feature and even a weekly feature on a lot of blogs, but I figure I should give it a shot. After all if so many people use this feature it must be a good one.

Be sure to stop by again soon to see the new features and other news. Thanks!