Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Casserole

I've never cared for sweet potatoes too much. My mom never made them that I can remember, and the only time we ever saw them as kids was at my grandparents' at Thanksgiving and Christmas, when Grandma would make some sort of casserole with the marshmallows on top. You'd think that would entice a girl with a sweet tooth like myself, but.....not so much, really.
I've tried to start eating them once in awhile, seeing as they are very nutritious and all, and I even enjoy sweet potato fries with some seasoned salt on them.....but they're still not my favorite.
But when I saw this recipe posted by the Pioneer Woman, I knew I had to try it. No, it's not the most healthy option around, and yes, it could even qualify as a dessert. But let me just tell you, it is delicious. I made it for a "Thanksgiving" dinner that my church community group had last Sunday, and even the non-sweet potato eaters said it was yummy.
The original recipe called for 4 medium sweet potatoes. Now, that's a bit confusing to me, because sweet potatoes have a wide range of sizes and I just wasn't sure if the 8 I was using were small or medium. I ended up deciding they were small, so I just used 1.5x the rest of the recipe instead of doubling it. Does that make sense? Well, here's what I did.
8 small-medium sweet potatoes
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1-1/2 t. vanilla
1-1/2 t. salt
healthy dash of cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (or a little less, if you want)
Preheat oven to 375. Wash sweet potatoes, pierce a little with a fork, and bake (on a cookie sheet) for 30-35 minutes, or until fork tender.
Cut them open, scoop out all the flesh, and dump in a large bowl. Mash well, until desired consistency. Don't try to get all the lumps out, it's better if it's not all smooth.
Add sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. Mash some more until all combined.
Pour into a greased 13 x 9" pan.
Increase oven temp. to 400!
In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, pecans, and flour. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter (or whatever you have available) until well mixed.
Sprinkle over the top of the potatoes, covering well.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
It's SO good. So good. I'm not waiting till Thanksgiving to make this again.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Peanut Butter Dip

I don't know exactly what to call this recipe....because it's a dip made from peanut butter and yogurt, but it's used for apples and pretzels. So should it be called apple and pretzel dip??? Or peanut butter and yogurt dip? Or just peanut butter dip? Well, I went with just plain and simple peanut butter dip because I love peanut butter. And that's good enough reason for me.
This stuff is frightfully easy and so delicious, you'll have to force yourself to stick it back in the fridge before you eat the whole bowl...cause that would be a sure-fire lot of calories.


1/2 cup peanut butter (all natural stuff works great!)
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt (or plain, if that's all you have)
a sprinkling of brown sugar -just a Tablespoon or so if you have sweetened peanut butter and yogurt, a bit more if you've used plain yogurt)
1/2 t. cinnamon (or more to taste)
1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips (optional)

Stir peanut butter and yogurt together until well combined. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir some more. Sprinkle in the chocolate chips if using. It's delicious either way.

Serve with pretzels and/or apple slices. Everybody loves it!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Baby or Big Girl?

We've started potty-training Annika.

That's right. You can pick your jaw up off the floor. I did say Annika, our 17 month old.

Hey, it's not an outlandish concept. Did you know that as recently as the 40's, the average age of a completely potty-trained toddler was 18 months? That means there were even younger ones succeeding. And I'm guessing there weren't a lot of 3-4 year olds in diapers in those days.

Thinking about that led me to wonder why kids are potty-trained so late these days. Okay, so they're mostly not in cloth diapers anymore, and those fabulously absorbent disposables make it a lot harder to tell when something happens. And you got all the parenting "experts" in the 60's and 70's insisting that you should wait until a child tells you he's ready to even attempt potty-training.

Personally, I think all those "experts" were highly paid employees of the disposable diaper companies. Conspiracy theorist, I know. I mean, they're the ones who stand to profit. If you keep your kid in their product for double the time, they get double your money. It's a great racket.

I have a several friends at church who were very successful at potty-training their children well before the age of two.....so I figured we might as well give starting early a shot. With Corban and Marissa, I didn't even try them on the potty until they were nearly two or older.
With Annika, she first peed on the potty at 13 months. That was a bit unusual....she had woken up completely dry and I just sat her on the potty knowing she HAD to go....and sure enough, she did.

I haven't been consistent by any means until just recently....when we started putting her on the potty just before bedtime. At first, she would only pee if we had a faucet running....now she's excited and ready to pee anytime we put her on the toilet. She is so proud of herself and cheers loudly. If she doesn't go, I know it's because she really has nothing in her, because she visibly tries every time.

I'm not quite sure where to take it from here, though. She doesn't tell me when she needs to go, although yesterday she pointed to her diaper and said "Pee" just after she had peed....I could tell because it was still very warm.

I'm wondering what would happen if I put her in training pants and let her the inevitable accident occur. Maybe she'd understand to tell me before she needs to go. Or maybe I'd just have a bunch of mess to clean up.

Anyone have ideas or know how they handled potty-training in the old days?

I think it is a great idea to start early, though....before the "defiance of the two-year-old" kicks into gear. She's excited and proud to go, and I don't have to bribe her with candy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Little Mopiness. Is that a word?

Argh, I'm so tired of the sickness! Ever since December, it's been one thing after another. From the usual colds, Grant's shingles, the stomach virus TWICE (and can I mention that Corban didn't get it either time......lucky kid!), Corban with the croup (okay, so he's not THAT lucky), more nasty coughs for the other kids, it never ends.

For the past couple of days, everyone has been well, with the exception of minor sniffles, so I was bound and determined, and not a little excited, to get out to MOPS today. My table had the breakfast provision responsibility. I made some little muffins yesterday and started getting things ready for my sausage cheese rolls (a recipe I've created for the Pillsbury BakeOff...so I won't be posting it here yet!).

The kids were all in bed, all was well. And then.......Marissa had some serious diarrhea.

So much for my plans. Since I'm the table leader, I felt responsible to still take the food I had planned on.....so I had to get up early to get everyone ready and make those rolls and head to MOPS, to see it all beautifully decorated and give my friends a brief hello before I had to leave. Marissa probably would have been fine, and who knows if she's contagious......but I just didn't want to take the chance of spreading nasty germs around.

So we ended up heading to the nearby park to enjoy the gorgeous 70 degree weather before going home to do schoolwork. The kids were thrilled and had a great time......but I'm still disappointed. It's hard to miss one of my two social activities of the month.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How to Handle an Intruder - From the mouth of a 5 year old.

Last year Grant purchased one of his very favorite lawn tools, which assists him with bagging leaves, mowed grass, etc. It's basically a large plastic trash can that is open at both ends and has a funnel at the top. He'll put a bag over the funnel and it holds it there for him to fill. It makes yard work so much faster and easier for him. So he loves it. He paid $30 for it and they're not always easy to find.
Yesterday, we discovered it is missing. He normally keeps it on the side of the house near the back gate, not at all visible from the street and front of the house. We have to believe it's stolen......there's just no other explanation. A little unnerving, if you ask me. Not to mention upsetting.

Anyways, the point of mentioning all that was to give context of the following conversation, which occurred just after the discovery of the missing funnel.
I was working on the computer and he was sitting at the table behind me.

Corban: "Hey Mom, I have a plan. If somebody comes into our yard, first Marissa will scare him, and when he's running away from her, I'll punch him in the face really hard."
Me: "Ummmm.....well.......Marissa isn't very scary. She's only a 3-year old girl, you know. Maybe Monty should scare him."
Corban: "Okay, Monty will scare him, and then I'll punch him in the face really hard."
Me: "What if he's so tall you can't reach his face?"
Corban: "Well, then I'll punch him really hard in the p*nis."

At that I wheeled around and snorted to keep from laughing my head off....he was noticably tickled at my reaction and started laughing himself.

Me: "What made you think of that, Corban?"
Corban: (still grinning ear to ear) "Well, I figured if I couldn't reach his face, his p*nis would be the best to hit because it would REALLY HURT."

Boys know these things. You don't have to tell them. He would have kept on talking about it, but Marissa was sitting there all ears.....so I made him stop.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Love of my life

Over at Heavenly Homemakers, Laura is hosting a "share your love story" day and I thought I'd join in the fun.

I was born and raised in Arkansas and fully expected to meet my husband during college, as my parents had met in college. That's just what people do, right? I even expected to get married at the age of 21, just as they had. Because children always follow the footsteps of their parents, down to the very last detail. Right.

I attended the University of Arkansas and dated several guys, but none were right for me. As my graduation day loomed near, (along with my 21st birthday) I began to feel a slight panic. Okay, a real panic. After all, where else could I possibly meet my husband if not in college?

I drew some solace in the knowledge that after graduation, I would be moving to Nashville with my (two years older and also single) sister, where surely there were hoards of eligible, desirable, Christian young men just waiting for us to arrive. It was 1999.

A year later, still nothing. We were finding that finding a husband just wasn't as easy as it sounded.

We had heard about a swing dance held at a local senior center ballroom that was sponsored by a church and the funds raised were used for a ministry for inner-city youth. There was an hour lesson before the dance, and the dancing (either to CD or live bands) lasted 2.5 hours. It only cost $5.00. We were tempted to go but were nervous about not having dates to dance with and could only imagine the humiliation of being left on the sidelines with nobody asking us to dance.

Finally in November 2000, we bucked up and went. It was fabulous! We went again in December....and in January, they started having the dances twice a month instead of just once.

January 13, 2001, we went to the dance with some friends (my sister with her new boyfriend...now husband). During the lesson that night, while the girls were in one line and the guys faced them in another, I looked down the line to see who I would be dancing with in the next few turns. I saw his face.....brown smiling eyes and a huge grin (with perfect teeth, I might add), baseball cap hiding his hair, very nicely dressed. I was captivated. I couldn't WAIT to dance with this guy. Our turn finally came.....and I couldn't keep my eyes off him. He was a great dancer, smooth and confident and smiled all the time. I hated that the lesson was going to end and he'd go off to who knows where.

He did end up asking me to dance three different times throughout the night, and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of them. However, he was there with other friends and left without getting my number, much to my dismay.

What had I learned about him: His name was Grant, he was an Army officer, originally from California, stationed at the Army post near Nashville, he wore a cross on a chain around his neck, and one of the first things he asked me was what Bible study I was doing. Not the typical question from a new acquaintance! Oh, and I really liked him.

Two weeks later, we met up at the dance and somehow didn't leave each other's side except once (which neither of us wanted). From that point on, we were inseparable. He DID get my number that time and we had our first date the next week. Feb 3, 2001, to be exact.

In April, we got engaged. Yes, that was fast.

In July, we married. A mere six months after we met. A whirlwind, to be sure!

We've had two war deployments, separation from the Army, a move to another state, three children, designed and built our own home, and many other things since then. Life is always busy, always crazy, always flying past us before we can even catch our breath, so it seems.

But one thing is for sure. I love him with all of my heart and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I love growing with him and experiencing every bit of life with him, the good stuff and the bad.

No, I didn't get married at 21.....I was 23. I didn't meet him in college algebra, I met him at a swing dance, of all places. And being an Army wife wasn't exactly my heart's desire.

Nope, life didn't turn out just as I had planned......but that's okay. It turned out much better.

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