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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What We Eat Wednesday–Freezer Meals 101

This is a very shot week for us.  We are going on vacation – YAY!!  We are coming back just a few short days before the short one’s 1st birthday party so we are trying to get ahead of the game and prepare a few extra freezer meals this week.  Hopefully when we get home, I can focus on decorating the train cake (details to come!) and get all the food ready for the 30 people plus babies that are going to be coming over.  Yikes!
So we really only have 3 meals this week, plus one dessert we took over to a friend’s house for dinner.   We had a fabulous time and always enjoy sharing a good meal!

Anyway –  and here’s what we’re eating this week!

Monday – Taco Salad (recipe to come!)
Tuesday – Dinner party with friends, we brought Dreamy S’more Pie
Wednesday – Pesto Chicken Penne Casserole (double batch – freeze one!)
Thursday – Chicken Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Pasta Fake Bake (double batch – freeze one!)

There won’t be a What We Eat Wednesday post for awhile – so keep me posted on what you’re eating!

Until the next time …
The girl behind the lama
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Trust me … just trust me when I say that these cookies will change your life.  I know!  You’ve looked at the recipe (OK maybe you haven’t … do that first…. and you’re back up to the top of the post, good job!) and you think I’m crazy.  Who creams butter and eggs together first?  The first rule of making cookies is that you always, always cream the butter and sugar together first, then add the eggs, then add the flour etc.

Not true my friends.  I make cookies – a lot and this is by far the best cookie recipe ever.  It is slightly modified from a cookbook designed to make jars of cookie ingredients.  You know, those cute mason jars with the pretty layers of chocolate chips, four, and sugar.  They have a cute little tag hanging from them with the rest of the ingredients and the recipe.  Fabulous gifts I might add.  I have tried a fair share of the recipes in this book and every single cookie comes out bigger and fluffier than any cookie I’ve ever had.  I no longer make cookies from any other cook book – caveat *this excludes Christmas cookies from the Wisconsin Electric Company Christmas cookie books from the 50’s, the most awesome Christmas “kookey” collection ever.*

So have a leap of faith.  Trust me … try these cookies … then report back.  I want reports people!  Leave them anonymously if you don’t want to admit it to the world that they rock!

Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Spice Cookies  - Adapted from “Gifts in a jar – Cookies”

1/2 C butter softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmet
1/2 C brown sugar
2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c old fashioned oats
3/4 C chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, eggs and vanilla.  Add all the rest of the ingredients, except for chocolate chips, and stur until the mixture is well blended.  Add in chocolate chips and mix in.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. 

If you’re going to freeze them, stop here and place the whole cookie sheet in the freezer over night.  Once frozen place them in a freezer bag.  When you want one (or 12), let them defrost for 5-10 minutes then bake as directed.

To bake: Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.

Until the next time …
The girl behind the lama

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What We Eat Wednesday – July 20, 2011–Freezer Meals, Taste of Home and Rachael Ray

This week really seems to be flying by for some reason.  We were on vacation all weekend and seem to be rushing around to finish things up before we leave on vacation again next week.  I’m also trying to get a few freezer meals done here and there.  I’ve got three recipes this week that I’m making 3 of at once (I’ve got those noted below).  When it doesn’t take much more effort to make 3 meals vs. 1, I’d  rather have the extra stocked up for later.  I’m particularly looking at the week we come back from vacation – we get back on Wednesday, short stuff turns one on Friday and the big first birthday party is on Friday!  I’ll be unpacking, cooking for the party and getting the house together – who wants to cook dinner?

Here’s what we’ve got this week:

Monday – Chicken, Asparagus and Cheese Stuffed Peppers (2 extra for the freezer please!) from – Mountain Mama Cooks
Tuesday – Parmesan Chicken and Gnocchi With a Tomato Cream Sauce (take out the tortellini and insert gnocchi) – from Taste of Home
Wednesday – Chicken Fingers with Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce and Curly Fries (extra chicken to freeze!) #258 in 365 No Repeats by Rachael Ray
Thursday – Beef, Cheddar, Potato Pie (extra individual servings for the freezer!) – From Rachael Ray Magazine
Friday – Family Favorite Cheeseburger Pasta from Taste of Home

By the way, I love the cheeseburger pasta.  I add a little more liquid and a lot more cheese than the recipe calls for to make it more like a mac and cheese.  I think it would be fun to make just the meat base with maccaroni and cheese sauce and leave all the condiments as stir ins so everyone can make it like they like their cheeseburger to taste (Note to self – remember this when your kids are old enough to like making the choice). 

I’m also kind of excited about the beef, cheddar and potato pie.  I purchased some small foil loaf pans (5 for $1!!!) and am planning on spooning the filling in and topping with the puff pastry before I freeze them.  Definitely an easy meal, especially if one of us is solo for dinner.

Anyway, enjoy and let me know if you try any of these out! 

Until the next time …
The girl behind the Lama

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Great Kitchen Facelift–Weekend #4–Faux Tin Backsplash

Now that we’re done with the counter project, I was happy to put that behind me and move on to what I assumed would be a fairly straightforward project (notice the word *thought*).

We tossed around a plethora of ideas for the backsplash.  Traditional backsplashes are tile.  I love tile.  I don’t love to tile, but I love tile.  I originally wanted a nice subway tile backsplash. Wouldn’t this be lovely?


What isn’t lovely is the price tag. Each tile is about $1 each.  Now, when you have 23 linear feet … by 18 inches tall … plus the two solid walls … yikes!  Not happening on our budget. I did quite a bit of research and decided that I really liked the look of tin tile.  Again expensive  … until we remembered that you can fake it with wallpaper!  Ah yes, just took wallpaper off of most of the kitchen, only to put more back up right?  Typical.

So, tin wallpaper.  It’s actually paintable wallpaper which means that it comes white and is intended to have paint applied over it. It has a raised texture to it, so it looks and feels sort of like a tin ceiling would.  The best part?  It costs just $12 a roll.  Note – mistake number 1 – we looked at our kitchen, looked at the roll and thought – “I think one roll will be plenty!!”  Measure, measure, measure!  Here’s the pattern we chose:


So we had a bit of prep work to do before we could start (and by we I really mean “he” – I watched the baby and supervised).  Most of our backsplash currently was the same faux wood laminate.  The rest was wallpaper and peg board.  Here’s a refresher:

IMG_5551    IMG_5553 

Our intent was to wallpaper directly over the backsplash laminate so we didn’t have to deal with ripping that out and filling the gaps between the counter and the wall.  The problem we then faced was that the wallpaper/pegboard walls were not in the same plane as the laminate.  Lucky for us, the Mr. had some extra MDF that was just the same thickness as the laminate.  He slapped it up and voila!  It looks like the whole entire wall is all in the same playing field.  For the record I would like to acknowledge that the drill bits he was using belonged to one Laura Johnson – yep, me pre marriage.  I’m pretty sure my dad bought me these when I as about 21 – thanks dad!! So we primed everything and were ready to go.

IMG_5735   IMG_5730

So we’ve never wallpapered before.  This was a completely new project for us and we just assumed couldn’t be that hard right?  We figured it would take us an hour or two at the most.  For the record – it’s now 8:00 pm.

We thought long and hard about where we needed to start to make patterns line up and make it easier on us. You know how you traditionally put wallpaper strips up vertically?  Well, the Mr. suggested we do them vertically on the big walls and horizontally on the shorter walls to save ourselves some time.  The pattern after all consisted of a series of squares, so why make life harder?? (Note – I’m hinting at mistake #2).  We measured, we measured again and we cut.  We wanted to get all of the pieces cut before we started.  Yep, that was where mistake #1 came in.  We were about 4 strips short.  Grumble. 25 minutes later and the quickest trip to Menards ever, we’re back in business.  It’s now 9:00 pm.  We got the rest of the pieces cut and were ready to start!

We wanted to make sure we really knew what we were doing so we started with just one piece.  It was hard to take pictures during the wet, gooey mess, but you roll up the wall paper strip, place it into a tub of water for a few seconds, pull it out and fold it on top of itself and let it sit for 10 minutes so the glue has a chance to activate.  We enjoyed an ice cream break and 10 minutes of Big Bang Theory.  Fabulous!

Hanging the tall strips was definitely a two man job.  The Mr. got the top part up while I held the bottom and got the patterns aligned and straight.  The first piece went up, but the trimming didn’t go well.  You have to cut the pieces larger than your area and then trim it with a sharp knife at the ceiling, backsplash and around the outlets.  Our razor definitely needed a new blade as we tore up the first piece.  Good thing we got that second roll of wallpaper right?


We got into a groove and got that big section done.  Onto the backsplash area where we were going to hang the strips horizontally.  Right.  Yeah, so we got that first piece up and couldn’t understand why the squares weren’t lining up.  Right.  See, they weren’t exactly squares, they were rectangles.  So nothing lined up.  Sigh.  We had to recut the rest of the wallpaper and it was a very defeating feeling.  It was now about 11:000 pm.  We were both crabby and the Mr. had to sing at church at 7 am the next day.  Fabulous. 

We marched on though!  I think it was about 2 am when we finally finished everything, but it was so worth it! 



We let everything dry overnight and got to painting the next day.  It was definitely difficult to get all of the nooks and crannies covered, but it only took an hour and a half.  We picked a nice shade of grey that we felt would be very sophisticated for the space and I must admit that I am completely in love it it!  LOVE! 

A reminder of the before:


And after:



You can see that we still have to put the trim back up at the ceiling, but that’s another project for another weekend. I’ve got all of my dishes out on the exposed shelving.  For the record – I didn’t *need* more shelving, I just wanted to have the dishes out for all of their great color!

So we are moving right along!  Wallpapering was one of the more tedious jobs we’ve attempted and I’d like to say that we’ll never do it again, but who knows?  I think if we had to do an entire room we’d definitely hire people to do it. 

How much did it cost?

Wallpaper – $24
Wallpaper wetting tray – $3 
Paint – $30
Shelving units – FREE!  We purchased them at IKEA several years ago!

Total cost of project – $57

Total cost of kitchen facelift so far – $290

Until the next time …
The girl behind the lama

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Great Kitchen Facelift–Weekend #3–Part 2

I really meant to get this update posted last week, but things just got crazy busy with the shop – and that’s a good thing!  My apologies to the numerous friends that harassed me this weekend!!

So where were we?  Counters – prepped, sanded, painted, chipped.  That brought us from here to here:


So we had to let everything dry for 24 hours before we moved on.  Short stuff got a fun day at the pool with grandma and grandpa, we got … more sanding?  Yep.  Fist up was to remove all of the loose chips.  First you vacuum up what you can.  Then you take a scraper and scrape away any chips that aren’t quite attached.  Vacuum up these chips, then take sand paper and sand it until it’s smooth to the touch. 

This actually proved to be quite challenging.  You need everything to be smooth.  Your final counter will be as smooth as you sand it.  Great!  Sand away right?  Not so much.  If you sand too much you sand away all the chips that are there and are left with nothing but paint – not good.  The backsplash and front edge areas were the most difficult.  It was really hard to get in all the corners and make sure everything was perfect.  The good thing is that if you goof up you can fix it!  If you scrape away too many chips, you just apply more paint and throw more chips on it, let it dry and sand again. 

All of that sanding now had us here:


It took us most of the day to get here.  Every time we thought we were finished we took a bright light and scoured the counter for mistakes.   Every time we looked we found bare areas or thin areas, and by the time you paint, let it dry again, sand, vacuum and wash again the whole day has gone by. 

We had plans for a 4th of July BBQ at the country club so we worked until dinner time and enjoyed a fabulous family night.  Short stuff didn’t hate the fireworks, but he definitely wasn’t too sure of them.  He clung to the Mr. and watched them in the reflection of the building for awhile.  We eventually got him to turn around, but he still wouldn’t let go of the Mr.’s neck.  It was pretty cute. 

So we get home around 10:30 and decided we just needed to finish the project.  We looked for imperfections one more time and decided that we were happy and if there were blemishes – they were there and that would just be fine.  One last step!! 

The final step was to apply a 2 part poly top coat.  You mix the two parts together and paint it on just like you did with the original black paint.  It only took about an hour but we finally had these glossy counters!


Once the top coat is on, you need to wait 24 hours for light use and 7 days before you can resume normal use. 

So what do we think?


We weren’t 100% impressed.  The kit was fabulous and I think it was a great concept, but we were disappointed with the color.  If you stick your nose up close to it, you can see the flecks, sort of:


From afar, it is really, really black and very shiny:


Now, I think it looks OK, but the box promised us this:


I guess in hindsight, it does look like the picture of the counter on the box, but we thought it would overall look more like the swatch picture. 

So initially we weren’t happy.  The Mr. (who never, ever complains about anything) actually complained to Rustoleum and just yesterday we got a check in the mail for $500 because we weren’t satisfied.

Now that we have more done in the kitchen and can see the overall picture I think we like it better.  We still don’t love it, but I don’t think we hate it enough that we’ll replace it.  Sure, it would be nice to have real granite, but the reality is that we can’t afford it and even if we could, it might be an upgrade that would out price our house for the neighborhood we live in.  We know we’ll only be in this house for another year or two (we think) so right now all the renovations are really to make the house in a good place to sell and to make us happy enough with it to stay as long as we can. 

So in the end, yes we like it.  Was it worth the work?  Absolutely.  It’s a totally new space and a drastic improvement over what we had.  Is it perfect?  No.  Good enough?  Definitely.

So let’s recap.  The kits contained almost everything, but here is what we needed for the project:
2 Rustoleum Countertop Transformation kits – $500
Extra sand paper – had on hand
Drop cloths – $4
9” microfiber roller – $5
6” foam roller – $2
Painters tape – Had on hand
Paint trays – $5
Paint brush – $4

Total cost of the project: $520
Refund from Rustoleum: $500

Actual cost of project: $20

Total cost of the project thus far: $233

One last shot of the before and after:


Not bad for $20 right??

What do you think?  Would you try it at your house??

Until the next time …
The girl behind the lama

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Friday, July 15, 2011

The Great Kitchen Facelift–Weekend #3

I’ve been hesitant to write this post.  Truth be told, Weekend #3 was actually two weeks ago.  I’ve been trying to adjust to the change that came with this weekend and make sure I didn’t judge too much.  I didn’t want to tell you all that I absolutely hated it until I let it sink in. I’m glad I waited because my initial judgment was wrong and we are really happy with the change. Not 100%, but happy enough that we don’t regret doing it.

Weekend #3 was countertop transformation weekend. It was a big weekend, like a really big weekend.   Our kitchen was overwhelmed with not only a faux wood counter, but a complete faux wood backsplash.  I’m sure at one point in time it was in style. I’m sure you don’t remember, so here’s a refresher:


It’s the one project we dreaded the most about the kitchen and has been holding us back for the 2 years we’ve lived here.  Counters are expensive.  Sure you can do laminate for a reasonable price, but I didn’t feel like it would be enough of an upgrade from what we had.  We talked about buying pre fabricated granite and installing it ourselves.  We’re crazy for DIY, but not that crazy.  That seemed a little over our heads. 

We have been seeing the “Countertop Transformation Kit” by Rustoleum all over lately.  It was on the Today show, Rachael Ray and the Mr. even saw it in Handy Man Magazine.  It’s $250 for the kit and promises to transform any countertop into a gleaming granite like counter.  It only covers 20 linear feet so since we have 23 linear feet of counter space in our kitchen, spending $500 on two kits that would save us thousands in having to completely replace it with something better than laminate.  We did a lot of research and read reviews and decided just to go for it!  Our original thought was to use charcoal (which I think would have been a better decision) but decided to go with onyx at the last minute.   We wanted dark with flecks.  Rustoleum has a 100% money back guarantee, so what did we have to lose? We’re gutsy, we’ll try anything if we can get our money back!

This was going to be quite a big project, so we definitely needed 2 solid days and short stuff stayed with grandma and grandpa (THANK YOU!!!!!!).  Before we even shipped him off though, the Mr. had quite a bit of prep work. Here’s the scoop on the stove.  At one point in the house’s history it had a stove that had a double oven – two side by side ovens.  That oven was later replaced by the glass top single stove which was not as wide.  In order to make up for the differences in the stoves we were left with two side pieces of laminate that were slapped on kind of haphazardly. They were lovely and looked like this:


They weren’t really stable and as you can see they definitely weren’t level with the rest of the counter.  It took some extra bracing and quite a bit of spackle to get that to at least look level. Lots of love got us to this:


Level and mostly smooth-ish.  Amen to that! We repaired any other blemishes to the counters the same way and we were ready to go!  After we taped around everything and hung drop cloths everywhere, the first step was to watch the 15 minute instruction video – again.  It’s not a project you want to mess up. It took us just about all morning to get all everything prepped including the taping, removing the appliances and covering the sink. Don’t forget to cover the sink!  All kitchen use is henceforth on hold for at least 48 hours. Behold:


Here’s where we started:


Step one was to sand the living daylights out of the counter.  It’s a process called deglossing and …well … it takes the gloss and shine out of the counter.  You have a diamond grit sandpaper block and you sand .. and sand … and sand.  See?? No more shiny counters!!


Then you have to vacuum and wipe up all of the dust.  It took around an hour to get every surface completely sanded and clean.  Counters are ready to go so we did one more check in the instruction book and got all of our supplies ready to go.

Step two is definitely a two man job.  You get this thick tar like paint (the color varies depending on the kit you buy).  It has to be applied first to the backsplash with a paintbrush, then to the counters. Once applied, you have to take your roller and roll everything back to front to give it a nice even finish.  Now you want it to be thick, but not to thick to avoid glops. I think that was part of our problem.  We have a few thin areas where you can still see the old counter through it and a few that weren’t evenly spread that look a little gloppy.  Here I am with my paint brush in hand! I did the brush work and the Mr. followed behind with the roller (open shelving spoiler!).



So that got us from outdated butcher block laminate to black paint:

IMG_5621     IMG_5638

Now the other problem is that you have about a 20 minute window to add on the “texturizing chips”.


These lovely chips are in a dispenser and you get bags and bags of them.  First you spray the counter with an agent that helps them stick even more and then you crank the wheel and they go flying out, all over the place.  What a mess!  Make sure you completely cover all the floors and the sink or you’ll be sweeping up chips forever!  We are still finding them in drawers and cabinets.  We aren’t sure how exactly they go there, but they did.  Now there are areas that you can’t really hit very well with the dispenser, so you have to take them by the handful and throw them forcefully at the paint.  You want them to stick, so you need to really throw them. 

We did these section by section.  I kept on painting and as the Mr. finished his section of rolling he went back and added the chips.  You want the chips to completely cover the paint.  You want more chips that you could ever imagine using. 

We definitely needed two kits of the base paint, but didn’t even use all of the chips from one box. So this was the end of day 1.


Chips applied, 24 hours to rest and get set.  We were incredibly hopeful at this point, but it looks a little jet black, not so full of the beautiful granite like flecks we had hoped for.  All the chips are black, very black.  It was really quite the transformation already.  We started working on the project 10 am and by the time we got to this point it was almost 5 pm.  Prep work was by far the most extensive part of the project thus far.  The painting and chipping really only took us maybe an hour and a half. 

More to the project coming later!  Think this is something you’d try out in your kitchen?

Until the next time …
The girl behind the lama

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What We Eat Wednesday

Lots of exciting things to cook this week!  I officially have my kitchen counters back so it feels great to be able to get back in there and cook some amazing food!   We really need to do another round of once a month cooking, but just haven’t had the time lately.  To be honest, with the kitchen under construction it’s hard to get much of anything done in there.  So in stead, we are testing out a few of this month’s recipes and if we like them we’ll put extra together to pop in the freezer.  That might be my plan from now on.  Instead of taking a whole day to cook.  I might try a recipe … if I like it I’ll make it again the next week, just in a triple batch so we have one to eat that night and two for the freezer.  We’ll give it a shot!

Here’s what we’ve got for the week:

Monday – Chicken Parm Wraps (we took a night out and never got to these last week)

Tuesday – Chicken Fajitas (ended up having an dinner with the in-laws and skipped this one last week too!)

Wednesday – Dijon Pork Loin Roast ( actually making it with pork ribs because they were on sale – OAMC recipe tester)

Thursday – Pineapple Chicken (#95 From Rachael Ray: 356 No Repeats)

Friday – Chicken Tortilla Salad (it’s actually a soup recipe from 365 No Repeats (#97), but I’m skipping the soup part and making it into a salad – more to come later!)

Saturday – Cheddar Studded Tex Mex Meatloaf with Scallion Smashed Potatoes and Spicy Pan Gravy (#101 from 365 No Repeats)

For those of you that were following along earlier in the year, you can see that I’m getting back to my quest to cook from front to back of 365 No Repeats.  I’m  up to recipe #101 so we’re 1/3 of the way there!! I’ll try to make sure I post the ones we really like as we go.

We are also running dangerously low on baby food for short stuff so I am also trying to make 5 batches of baby food, which these days doesn’t seem to last very long.  I’m making:
~Strawberry, pineapple, banana
~ Pork and sweet potatoes
~ Potato, zucchini, pea
~ Peach, appricot


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Monday, July 11, 2011

Beef Stroganoff – Good Old Comfort Food!

I’m a Milwaukee girl.  Born and raised.  That means that I have a good appreciation for beer and German food.  I don’t think I particularly liked German food as a kid.  I remember my mom making rouladen quite a bit but I was always suspicious of the pickle in the middle.  We definitely had a lot of beef stroganoff, but I for sure picked out every single mushroom in there. 

Now that I am an older and much wiser than I the nose wrinkling child growing up, I have come to appreciate the fabulousness of a good German dinner.  Pickles add a wonderful unexpected tang to a normally boring dish.  I tend to put a good squirt of mustard in quite a few dishes to give them some zing.  I still don’t love to eat mushrooms, but I sure do love the taste of them in a sauce!

So I was delighted to find a recipe for beef stroganoff that boasted it came straight from a grandfather from Germany.  Now I changed it a little because the idea of using canned mushrooms over fresh ones makes me cringe and I’m just not a fan of gravy based entirely on beer.  We have tried many a recipe and I think this was the first one that we loved and want to start adding on to the “eat frequently” rotation.  Enjoy!

Beef stroganoff

2 lb sirloin steak
2 T vegetable oil
2 medium onions, sliced
1 tub of fresh mushrooms sliced (you know, the prepackaged, sliced mushrooms in the produce section)
2 T flour (a generous 2 T)
1/4 tsp paprika (a healthy sprinkle)
1 1/2-2 C beef broth or stock
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I go a little heavy here)
1/2 – 1 C sour cream
hot buttered noodles

Slice steak into 1/2 inch thick strips (*TIP* Place your steak in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before you slice it!  It makes getting nice thin strips a breeze!)  Heat a large skillet on medium-high.  You really want it to be hot.  You know it’s ready when the oil starts to smoke a little.  Quickly brown the meat letting it get a good sear on all sides.  Remove from pan and keep warm.  In the same skillet, cook the onions and mushrooms for about 5-7 minutes until the onions are tender and the mushrooms are golden brown.  (*TIP* Don’t add any salt until after your mushrooms are cooked!  Adding it in before they are cooked will make them chewy.) 


Add in the paprika and flour.  Cook for 1 minutes then start whisking in your stock and Worcestershire sauce.  Add the stock in slowly, a bit at a time until your gravy is the consistency that you like.  Make sure you get all the tasty brown bits off the bottom when you stir!  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. 


Return the beef to the skillet.  Turn off the heat and stir in sour cream a bit at a time until it’s the desired flavor.  (*TIP* Make sure you take it off the heat!  If sour cream gets too hot, it will separate and your sauce will be a mess!) Serve over hot buttered noodles.  Serves 6-8



Yum! YUM!  YUM!!!!IMG_5572

Dinner for the short one as well!  Pureed beef vegetable alphabet stew!


Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Until the next time …
The girl behind the Lama

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Friday, July 8, 2011

The Great Kitchen Facelift–Midweek Project

Well, it wasn’t a planned for us to have a midweek project last week, but you really find yourself looking for things to do when the power goes out for a full 48 hours.  Yep, it was pretty bad around here for a few days.  We had an storm roll through last Sunday night that took everyone by surprise.  We didn’t even have a severe storm warning let alone tornado sirens that we *think* probably should have gone off. 

There was no confirmed tornado, but it sure was the scariest storm I’ve ever been in. We woke up at 12:30 and there was scary lightning and rain.  The power flashed a few times and then just went out. We checked the Mr’s phone for text message weather alerts and had nothing.  I went to the other side of the house to get my cell and check Weatherbug alerts on my phone and there was nothing.  The wind was just howling and did sound a bit like a freight train.  It was a very eerie color and just flat out scary.  We were debating whether or not we should head to the basement when we heard a tree limb crash down on top of our bedroom.  We freaked out for a minute or two and then everything just died down. 

In hindsight, we should have made a run for the basement.  When morning finally came the devastation around town was pretty bad.  Trees uprooted and snapped everywhere.  I don’t think there were any city blocks that were spared.  It seemed everyone was safe and there weren’t too many that had total losses, but it was definitely an adventure driving around.  About 30,000 of the 40,000 residents were without power.  Lucky enough though, the main strip of restaurants and fast food joints did have power – yay for food!

Most people had power within 48 hours, including ourselves.  We were also incredibly lucky that our wonderful neighbors had a generator and let us plug in our fridge and freezer so we didn’t lose too much food.  Can you imagine all of my freezer meals, baby food and everything I purchased at the grocery store just the day before gone?  We are truly blessed.

So anyway, without any form of entertainment and a half charged Nook I looked for other things to do – like paint the kitchen!  I’m going for something bright and cheery.  Yellow to be exact.  We have two lovely table runners that we received as wedding presents that I wanted to be the compliment colors of the room.


I picked up about 50 different paint swatches and we hung them all and analyzed the colors and finally decided on “Pad of Butter”.  We primed over all of the green and got the paint all up during the daylight hours those two days.


This is actually a better shot of what the room looks like now. I think I had better light when I took the picture.  Don’t mind the disaster that is the kitchen table.   We were working on the counters when I took this picture.

IMG_5555      IMG_5629

Quite the change right??  I’m not totally in love with the color.  It’s a little more lemon creamsicle than pad of butter.  I think I wanted something a little warmer and a little less bright.  I’m going to give it a shot though and hopefully once we change the floors and counters out I’ll love it.  We are also going to try a second coat of paint.  I feel like it’s pulling a bit of the green from the original pint through (not cool!).  So we’re hoping that second coat will do the trick! 

So that was our midweek paint adventure.  Total cost:


$12.95 for the primer and $20.98 for the paint.  We already had rollers, paint trays and painters tape on hand. 

This brings the grand total of 2.5 weeks worth of projects to $213.00.

Ah, I feel better about the kitchen already!

Until the next time …
The girl behind the lama

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What We Eat Wednesday

Eating this week is a tad bit different than most.  The rule is – I’m not allowed to use my counters this week.  I’m not telling you why .. you’ll have to wait until next week to find out (ooohhh, feel the suspense building???).  So this week I’m using a bit of freezer cooking thanks to Once A Month Cooking (OAMC) and doing a little bit of my own mini freezer cooking.  I’m using 2 freezer meals and one slow cooker meal.  The other 3 meals are all from OAMC, but instead of making a big day of it, I spent the morning throwing two of them together.  They are sitting in my fridge and ready to pop in the oven as soon as we are ready to eat them.  The third I need leftover chicken from a slow cooker meal to make, so we’ll have to make that one on the kitchen table.  Intriguing, hey?

So here’s the plan:

Sunday – 4th of July BBQ at Quincy Country Club

Monday – Stuffed Peppers with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce (made ahead, ready to cook!)

Tuesday – Spaghetti Pie (made ahead, ready to cook!)

Wednesday – Greek Chicken (slow cooker)

Thursday – Chicken Parm Wraps (use leftover chicken)

Friday – Steak with twice baked potatoes (OAMC)

Saturday – Chicken Fajitas (OAMC – May Traditional Menu)

So even though I can’t really use my kitchen to it’s full capacity, I still can use it and don’t have to go out to eat all week.  Saves us calories and money, that’s for sure. We’re a happy family when we eat home cooked food and have some extra cash.

Stay tuned for more updates on the kitchen!

Until the next time…
The girl behind the lama

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Power Goes Out–The Food Must Go On!

So yeah, having your power go out is a pain in the butt.  Especially when it’s fro a full 48 hours, you have a refrigerator full of food, meals planned and are trying to stick to your weekly budget. I must say that we surmounted all of the hurdles and ended up just fine!  We are so grateful to our wonderful neighbors that plugged our fridge and freezer into their generator. Without them, we would have lost everything.

We had some Apple Oatmeal Pie Bars in the freezer that were easy to defrost for breakfast.  We did go out to lunch both days, but that was more to be social and share storm stories with our friends.  The biggest challenge was dinner.  Dinner out gets expensive.  I had all sorts of meat and veggies in the fridge that were just begging to be cooked!  Well, I’m a Wisconsin girl and grew up camping and vacationing to our cabin in the woods.  I’m no stranger to cooking over an open fire, or in this case a grill. 

Remember how I was going to make Slow Roasted Beef with Tomatoes? Oh, did I make it!  Camper pack style!  I took all the basic ingredients:

Beef round roast, carrots, celery, onions, baby Yukon gold potatoes, olive oil, steak seasoning, butter, garlic, rosemary and tomato paste.

Cut everything into small pieces, threw in an ice cube (for steam) and placed them onto large pieces of foil.


I rolled them all up into little packets and the Mr. threw them on the grill for about 35-40 minutes.  Once they are done, you smush them around a little bit to distribute the seasonings and you magically have dinner!


This was actually one of the best dinners we’ve had in a long time.  I loved that the potatoes and meat got a little crispy, but everything was nice and soft and juicy.  YUM! 

We actually did the same thing the following night with the garlic lime pork chops.  We cooked the chops as is, but made little packets of potatoes with some chili powder and cumin.  Not bad for not having power right?  We used the food we had, saved money, and had our own little camping adventure.  We topped each night off with game night by candle light and we actually kind of had fun!  It was a nice way to regroup and bond a little as a family.  I did feel a little disconnected from the world and missed catching up on the news, but it was definitely fun.

What do you do when the power goes out??

Until the next time …
The girl behind the lama

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Monday, July 4, 2011

The Great Kitchen Facelift–Weekend #2

So last weekend we did some simple, but very effective changes. We swapped out the dated light fixtures and drawer pulls.  What does weekend #2 bring?

This weekend was a great adventure in wallpaper removal.  Yay?  It has been one of the most drastic changes we’ve tackled, yet was also one of the more annoying tasks.  We were lucky, really lucky.  This lovely wallpaper:


has been up in this kitchen at least since 1983, we think it could even be 10-20 years beyond that.  Based on the family historians recollection and the order that additions and extra cabinets were added .. it’s pretty old. It was actually very charming wallpaper and we thought about keeping it up, but since it was so … vintage … it had rips on the corners and stains from some decorations that had been hanging there for years.  It also had about 30 years of kitchen grease and grime built up.  I knew it was dirty, but until I held a piece in my hand I  don’t think I had realized just how disgusting and grimy it was.  It needed to go.

But, since it was put up back during a time where things weren’t so flimsy and cheap it was high quality wall paper and was pretty easy to take down. The Mr. scored it around all the doors and molding and I just started peeling.


Easy as that.  No water, no scraping … it just came down in sheets.  Lovely!  We soon discovered that there was lovely mint green paint behind the wallpaper.  It shouldn’t have surprised us.  It must have been on sale at one point as it also happens to be the inside color of the cabinets, and the color of the basement stairwell. 

Then we got to the fun part – removing the glue!  Ugh.  I’m glad this was so easy, but I’m really dreading the other two rooms in the house that are covered in wallpaper.  We might just consider painting over that wallpaper like we did in the guest room.  So having never done this before we did a little research and found that the glue can come off with a 50/50 mixture of hot water and downy.  I armed myself with my sprayer and scraper and away I went!


I sprayed and scraped, and scraped and sprayed.  The floor was slick with Downy (although it did smell fresh and clean!  Behold the fruits of my labor:


We really weren’t getting anywhere.  No matter how much I scraped it still seemed like there was glue everywhere. Sigh.  We went back to the drawing board and came up with a new plan!  We happened to have a wallpaper steamer that we borrowed from a friend.  It was definitely a very wet, 2 man job but it worked so much better!  The glue just melted off and we hardly had to put any effort into scraping!  Yahoo!

After we managed to get all of the glue down, we definitely had some repair to do.  The Mr.’s grandma loved hanging things on the walls, so we had quite a few holes to patch up.  A little bit of spackle, some sanding and a bit of cleaning and the kitchen was back to it’s original useful state, green walls and all.


So that was weekend number 2.  It did take us a fair amount of nap and post bedtime hours to get it all done, but the walls are ready to be painted and primed.  The best part of the weekend?  We spent absolutely nothing on the project.  Zero dollars required.  That’s the kind of weekend project I like!

Have you ever tackled wallpaper?  Any tips for those that want to try?

Until next time …
The girl behind the lama

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