Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad - Sis 2

While we were visiting family a couple of weeks ago, my mother-in-law made a yummy pasta salad. I really liked the pasta salad, but my husband said it needed more flavor, so I decided to try to make it even better. My husband says I succeeded, so try this recipe and see what you think.

This pasta salad has chicken, bacon and vegetables, along with the pasta so it can be the main dish for dinner. It is also very quick and easy to make.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

1 pound pasta, cooked (I used bowties, but you could use shells, or another small shape.)
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red peper, diced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cubed
1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 lrg cans, chicken breast
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Then add the sauce.


1 1/4 cups mayo
1/2 cup milk
1 packet ranch dressing mix


Monday, April 23, 2012

Spiral Curls - Sis1

Whenever I curl my girls' hair, which isn't too often, I get asked, "How did you do that?" So I'll tell you.

Using whichever type of curler you choose (type analysis to follow) take a section of hair and begin to wrap it on the curler, starting two to three inches from the scalp.Without letting go of the hair, wind it around the curler until the ends of the hair are wrapped. This will form a twisted spiral on the curler.

Now wrap the section of hair closest to the scalp over the ends of the hair, and around the curler, holding the ends in place. Fasten the curler in the normal way.Allow to set for at least the recommended time for the curler type. I have my girls sleep in the curlers.

In the above picture, I am using curlers I bought at Walmart several years ago. I like them the best for my girls' hair, but sadly, I don't have enough of them and can't find them anymore. They are a long cylinder of fabric filled with foam and have a snap on the ends to hold them together.

This is another type of curler that I got from Walmart several years ago. It is a rhombus-shaped pouch with a rectangle of foam in the center and a flexible wire going all the way through the long way. To close these, you twist the ends together like a twist-tie.

These are my two favorites for over-night curling.

Then there are the old standbys: rag curlers and foam rollers. For rag curlers, cut or tear a strip of old fabric and wrap the hair around it. Tie the two ends of the fabric together. This makes for pretty tight curls. Foam rollers work the same as any of the above, but if the hair is medium length to long, you need to spiral the hair around the curler one way and then back the other way.

When I curl my own hair, since I can't stand to live with myself if I don't wash my hair every morning, I use hot rollers. The method is the same, but the setting time is faster.

For any of the above methods, to get a tighter curl, use less hair per section. For looser curls, use more hair and/or bigger curler size. I still recommend the same setting times.

These are a type of curler that my sister-in-law introduced me to. She loves them. I decided that I'm not thrilled with them, after I bought three sets so I could do all of my long, thick hair with them. (Not the cheapest, either.)They're called Curlformers and I got them from Sally Beauty Supply. They're a semi-rigid plastic net tube that's shaped in a spiral. The starter set comes with a tool for pulling your hair through them. You might get away with using a large crochet hook, instead.

To use these curlers, you put the tool through the curler, then place the section of hair, near the scalp, in the hook. Now, while squeezing the end of the curler nearest the scalp, pull the hair through the curler. Adjust the placement of the curler so that the ends of the hair are inside the curler, all the while sqeezing the end, so that it doesn't rip the hair out of the scalp. Sometimes, it does that anyway (one of the reasons I don't love these.)

The other reason I don't love Curlformers is that the curls are less spiral-like and more wave-like, without a tighter curl at the end. And, since I can make my hair wavy simply by not brushing it after I shower, I have no real use for them. But, as I said, my sister-in-law loves them, and you might, too.

To complete the do: Once the hair is curled, gently remove the curlers. DO NOT BRUSH HAIR, unless, of course your goal is to have a frizz-ball. Just finger-comb to separate curls. If you decide the curls are too tight, mist very lightly with water and gently pull down on the curls.

Teddy Bear Cookies - Sis1

These are not an everyday cookie. They're expensive to make and not very fast, when compared to most drop cookies. (A lot less time and mess than sugar cookies, though.) They're best for special occasions or when someone you know needs a big bear hug. Or you could tell them they were "beary" cute, special, kind, etc.

A big shout-out for this one goes to the creative folks at Western Family. About a year ago, I guess, while shopping at Macey's, I noticed that the Western Family version of Cookie Crisp cereal was on a good sale. I rarely buy cereal that isn't in a huge bag, but I decided to get a couple of boxes that day. I guess I was hungry.

On the side of the box was a recipe for teddy bear cookies. I looked at the recipe and it didn't appeal to me, but the premise did, so we made them with this recipe, omitting the chocolate chips and powdered sugar.

Place balls of dough (I used my cookie scoop) in pairs on a cookie sheet and bake 6 min. at 350 degrees farenheit. Remove from oven and place cereal in the cookie dough to make ears and paws. Add eyes and a nose with whatever you have (chocolate chips won't show up well). We used peanut butter chips this time, but white chocolate chips or m&ms would work well, too. Return to oven and bake for 6 more minutes. Allow to cool somewhat on the pan before carefully removing them. They are a bit fragile.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Manhattan Cookie Project -Sister 4

A little background to set the stage: The Manhattan Project was a secret assignment created by the US, Canadian, and British governments between 1939 and 1946. Brilliant scientists, known for their intellect and initiative, were brought together to create one thing; the atomic bomb. Okay, there were probably many other goals associated with the Manhattan Project, but the most memorable accomplishment was the development of the first nuclear bombs. Now to the point: I recently got carried away by a strange wind; this prevailing gale probably came from the direction of my talented, and sometimes overly ambitious, sisters. I’m sure you’ve noticed all the cooking and craftiness. Anyhow, this gust made its way into my brain and I have acted on it. I decided I was going to make my own recipe book, just for cookies.
Since the plan started I’ve baked multiple batches of cookies, all different flavors, of course. Most have been tried and tested recipes, but I have tried a few new concoctions. Not too long ago I even created a recipe of my own. There’s a little bakery close to my office with the most delicious almond cookies and I was determined to figure out how to make them myself. It took a couple tries, but I did it. Now I make them all the time. But there are problems with this whole foolish plan. The first is that I have cookies everywhere. The girls at the office have been getting angry with me for bringing treats in all the time. Second, I’ve been eating way too many of them myself. Third, if I want the book to be successful, even if it’s just for me, I’m going to have to keep going on with this. But the fourth and most infuriating part is the constant chaotic and cluttered state of my kitchen. Thus, I have dubbed this scatter-brained idea “The Manhattan Cookie Project.”

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whole White Wheat Bread - Sis 1

I finally made bread today. It's been several weeks and I even resorted to buying a couple of loaves from the store.

When I was a kid, I loved wheat bread, especially as toast, under egg gravy. Yep. Sounds delicious. Now, I never even make white bread.

I used to think that homemade wheat bread had to be very dense and heavy. That's all I'd ever had. After about four years of marriage, I went to a stake seminar by a lady they called "the wheat lady". I don't know her name. She said that the key to making light and soft wheat bread is to use dough enhancer.

So, I went and bought dough enhancer (and I kneaded a lot more than I had in the past). Sure enough my bread turned out tall and soft instead of, as she called it, a brick.

It was about the time I ran out of dough enhancer and went to get more that I decided to look at the ingredient list. It turns out that the ingredients of dough enhancer are pretty similar to the ingredients of soy-based dry milk substitute. But when it's labeled "dough enhancer" it costs a lot more.

I haven't bought dough enhancer since. And guess what? My wheat bread is still tall and light. I used soy-based dry milk substitute for a while, but I have a lot of powdered milk that I am trying to rotate, so now I just use that.

Unfortunately, I can't give you a recipe for my bread. (There isn't one.) But I'll approximate.

Whole White Wheat Bread

3 cups warm water (I actually measure this.)
two huge serving spoons honey
two heaping serving spoons dry milk
roughly a tablespoon yeast
whole white wheat flour (keep reading to see how much)
about 2 tablespoons canola oil
almost a tablespoon salt

Place water in bowl of mixer (or large mixing bowl). Add honey and dry milk. Stir a bit. Sprinkle yeast over the top of the water. Stir a little more. Dump approximately 2 cups of whole white wheat flour on top of water. Pour in oil and sprinkle in salt. Add about another 2 cups flour. Turn on your mixer. With the mixer running, add flour about a cup at a time just until the dough pulls away from the side and bottom of the bowl. Now stop adding flour. Knead for about 4 minutes and check dough. If it's gotten too sticky, add a little more flour. Keep kneading for about 6 more minutes. (You need to knead whole wheat flour much longer than white flour to activate the gluten. I believe that this is the real key to non-brick-like bread.)

Cover and let raise until roughly doubled in size. Shape loaves and place equal parts in three well-greased tins. Let raise until the dough reaches the tops of the pans. Preheat the oven to 350. By now your bread should be higher than the tops of the tins. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from pans to wire cooling rack immediately. Butter the tops if desired.

Once the bread is cooled, I like to slice it before putting it in bags. I usually put two loaves in the freezer for later. When the bread is pre-sliced, my kids can make their own sandwiches, toast, etc. without cutting themselves or destroying a loaf of bread. If I'm in a hurry and didn't get the bread out of the freezer in time, I can also place a frozen slice in the toaster, which defrosts it perfectly.

Super-Fast Squash and Pasta - Sis1

This pasta takes as much time as does mac n' cheese. But it's a whole lot better (taste, looks and nutrition-wise). For me, it's even faster than gathering up the kids, making sure they're all wearing shoes, loading them in the van and driving to McDonalds. Again, a whole lot better.

Squash and Pasta


Dry pasta- I like penne rigate because it holds more sauce, and thus more flavor than most pastas
Olive Oil
1 medium onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (I have it growing in my yard. If you don't, substitute about 2 teaspoons dry)
2 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 14.5 oz. can stewed diced tomatoes, with the juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
3/4 cup washed baby spinach leaves


Set a pot of water on the stove and turn it to high. Add a generous amount of salt. (I know you know this, but I'm telling you this so you know how fast it is.) Wash and chop your onion, basil, zucchini and yellow squash. Heat about 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is nearly translucent. Whenever your water is boiling, add as much pasta as you need to feed your family. Dump the basil and squashes into your skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally until the squash is nearly tender. Pour in tomatoes and spices. Drain pasta once it is al dente and add to the skillet (I said a large skillet) along with spinach leaves and about 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Toss together. Garnish with grated parmesan.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moab - Sis 2

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week my husband and I left our kids with Sis #1 and Grandma, while we went to play in Moab, Utah.
It was the week of jeep safari in Moab, so it was pretty busy, but it was a lot of fun. Now, if you are wondering what is Jeep safari, I'll tell you. Every year, during the week leading up to Easter people come from all over the world with their expensive, tricked-out jeeps to ride the wild rock trails around Moab. You can find trails that are pretty easy, or you can find trails that are crazy, I mean, five foot rock steps crazy.
My husband and I don't have a jeep anymore, so we took our four wheelers, and while my husband is an experienced four-wheeler, I am not so on Tuesday I told him we needed to do a fairly easy trail. We looked at a website that rated the trails from 1 to 4+, 4+ being the hardest. We found a trail quite a bit outside of Moab that was rated a 3 called the Top of the World Trail. I thought it sounded good, and my husband agreed so we picked that trail.
The trail was not too difficult on my four-wheeler even with my limited abilities, and it was a lot of fun. It was really fun to ride my own four wheeler. In the past I have ridden on the back of my husbands four wheeler, but then he does crazy things, that I don't like, and I get mad at him. It is way better to have your own four wheeler to control.
At the top of the trail was a breath taking view. It ended at some huge cliffs and you could see for miles, which I'm sure is why the trail is called Top of the World. Here are some pictures from that day.
On Top of the World

Views from the Top of the World.

Me, riding down the trail

The drive to and from the trail was along the Colorado River, it was beautiful.

On Wednesday my husbands parents came with us and brought their razor. That day they decided we had to do a harder trail. So they picked the Poison Spider trail, which is just outside of Moab and climbs to a cliff overlooking the town. I was a bit nervous since it was a harder trail, but I actually did pretty well on it. The poison spider trail was longer than the Top of the World trail and had a lot more big rock "steps" to go up. We did see a lot of jeeps break tie rods and steering "somethingorothers" (my husband could tell you the real words, but I really don't know)on the Posion spider trail, but my husband says that is part of the fun of it. Overall, it really turned out to be a lot of fun also. If you have a chance to ride the trails around Moab I would say "do it."
Here are some pictures from the second day.

An arch a little way off the trail.

Me, coming down some big steps

My husband going down a hill.

View from the top of the Poison Spider Trail.

This was a funny sight, we saw while driving into town. It is just a miniature horse, but it is funny that it is in the back of a truck.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Break - Sis 2

Mexican Hat

Last week was spring break for my kids and their cousins, the kids of sister #1. Our family spent the whole week playing in south eastern Utah. Sister 1 was there for part of the time. So on Monday we all went to Monument Valley to show our kids the mittens, and the other rock formations that can be found there.
We stopped at Mexican Hat along the way, took a few pictures and hiked up close to the rocks.
When we got to Monument Valley we went inside the visitors center and looked around for a while, then we went outside to take some pictures.
But, it was a very cold and windy day, so we ate our picnic lunch in the cars. We did drive around the road in the bottom of Monument Valley and took some more pictures.
It was fun to take the kids and show them some of the beauty of that part of the world. And in case you have been to Monument Valley, I have some pictures for you.
The Mittens
A close up of one of the mittens
The Three Sisters Rock Formation
The Thumb Rock Formation

Friday, April 6, 2012

What the Heck?!! - Sis 1

I was just sitting in the living room, working on that last blog post when my DH called to me from the kitchen, "Where's that apple-cutter thing?"

"It should be in the skillet." (Yes, we have space issues in our cupboards. I have two skillets which are nested inside one another. Then my pie plates, and then my apple cutter. That's how it fits.)

"What's a skillet, again?"

I know I spoil my DH. He rarely has to do any cleaning, aside from his laundry (he insulted my laundry methods a few too many times) and NEVER cooks. If I happen to not be home, he chooses one of two dinner options: eat out or cold cereal.

But really. Not even knowing what a skillet is? When I showed him what it was, he said, "Those are pans."

Yes, but so are saucepans and soup pots. As are cake pans and bread tins.


Ok. I'm done.

Modest Skirts From the Store - Sis 1

Each year, I fully intend to sew Easter dresses for each of my girls. And almost every year, I end up having too little time to do it in. This year, as reality set in, I headed to the store to buy Easter outfits for my kids. I happened to be in our hometown at the time, and, although it now how many more stores than it did when we were kids, it still has a somewhat limited selection. I have found, however, that even if the selection is quite large, it is hard to find modest skirts at stores.

Here's my solution:

I buy skirts that are about four sizes larger than my girls actually wear. This makes the length about right. So then the waist is too big. Not to worry. Without sewing a stitch I can fix that, too.

First, cut a piece of ribbon at least eighteen inches longer than the actual waist circumference. Melt the ends with a match or lighter. (Sorry about the blur.)

Place two tall dots of Fray Check on the front of the skirt's waistband. I put them on the side this time, but I've done middle before, too.

Use a seam ripper (scissors would work, too, just not as easily) to cut a slit through the middle of the dots of Fray Check. Make sure your slit is completely surrounded by the Fray Check.

Attach a fairly large safety pin to one end of the ribbon and push it through one of the holes. Pull the pin through the waistband like an inchworm until the ribbon has circled the skirt and come back through the other hole. Remove the safety pin.

Tie knots at the ends of the ribbon to help prevent it from being pulled out of the waistband. When the skirt is on the child, pull the ribbon tight around the waist and tie a bow.

Viola! Less than 5 minutes of work. Even I can do that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Inspiration? - Sis 3

Yesterday afternoon during LDS General Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott spoke of personal revelation. He said that sometimes personal revelation comes through dreams. I believe that. I've had dreams that brought me just the inspiration I needed. I have had other dreams, that, well...

Take for instance, Friday night, I had a dream I was watching General Conference. When the opening hymn began, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and organ were conspicuously absent. The choir seats were bare. Instead, the director lead the congregation in the hymn. When the camera zoomed in on the first speaker, something seemed amiss. I soon realized that the beautiful greenery and flowers that usually surround the pulpit were not there. Instead, one lonely little vase, with a few dropping tulips, sat on the stand.

I felt hallow. The words of the hymn were the same. The speaker was giving a nice talk. All the fundamental elements were present. Still, I felt cheated. For some unexplained reason, they'd taken the beauty out of the meeting.

When we turned on Conference yesterday morning, to my husband's surprise, I laughed out loud with relief. The choir was singing. A beautiful spring floral arrangement festooned the pulpit. All was right with the world.

As I began to write this post, I thought my dream was an example of silliness or indigestion. But as I've written it out, I wonder. While it may not be personal revelation, maybe it's symbolic. Perhaps the message is that, the "unproductive" details are not superfluous. Focusing too much on the "important things" leaves a hole. Beauty is as much a part of Heavenly Father's world as is utility.

So, inspiration or not, I'll take my dream as a reminder.