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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Really Good Spaghetti Sauce

This is from my older neighbor LeeAnn who always tells it exactly like it is. This is really good, fast to make and my family (except for one daughter who would prefer that all sauces be abolished so she could have just plain noodles smothered in butter) love it. To be prepared to make this I buy a large container of grated Parmesan cheese at Costco and freeze it in one cup servings.

Really Good Spaghetti Sauce
Makes 1 1/2 quarts - enough to generously serve with one box of spaghetti noodles

1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz tomato sauce
16 oz tomato paste
1 1/2 c water
1 c grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
3 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf

Saute hamburger, garlic and onion till cooked. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer uncovered anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours. Tastes even better the next day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sugar Cookies

These are not fragile, melt in your mouth cookies that you have to refrigerate/freeze and roll on wax paper. These are kid friendly, make right away, sugar vehicles - able to withstand having mounds of sprinkles piled on without breaking.

Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 c real butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c sour cream
3 eggs at room temperature
3 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 c flour

Cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients a little bit at a time. Roll out on floured surface to desired thickness. Cut and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool and frost with sour cream frosting.

My family is unanimous in deciding this recipe is a keeper. If you have never had it before the combination sounds strange - but it tastes delicious!

Hawaiian Haystacks

1 family size can cream of chicken soup
1 8oz block of cream cheese
1 packet ranch seasoning
2 Tbsp dehydrated onion
milk, salt and pepper
4-8 chicken breasts
2 cups of water

Put all the ingredients in a crockpot on low for 6- 8 hours. Check to make sure it hasn't leaked some steam out and dried up, in which case you need to add more water. Shred the chicken in the sauce.
Serve this over rice with the following choices to put on top: shredded cheddar cheese, pineapple tidbits, peas, carrots, tomatoes, coconut, chow mein noodles, almonds, chopped celery, and chopped green onions.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Doctors and Teachers and Girls oh my...

Dear Family and Friends,

Just returned from a fall walk. Really it feels more like an expedition with all the kids, roller skates, bike, wheelchair, dog plus our neighbor's dog who Spencer is dog sitting. But it is so nice and fall like outside with the Indian summer in full swing that who can complain. I needed to stretch my legs after today as I ended up with 6 hours of church meetings. I don't know how church leaders sit all day without loosing the feeling in their legs!

Monday I ran Allison to the doctor with Robyn tagging along. It turns out she wasn't kidding about her ear periodically hurting for the last TWO week. At least we got her on antibiotics before her ear drum burst and she has stopped the periodic waking up in the middle of the night to wail about her ear hurting. And as a bonus they got their flu shot/mist.

It is hard to believe that Miss Allison will be 9 this week. And then I looked at her tonight in longer jeans (she is so excited to have grown a little bit) and a fitted sparkly t-shirt with a dozen bracelets on her wrist and its a shock to realize that she has grown up! This week was parent teacher conferences. Allison is doing great. In fact I was a little shocked to learn how well she was doing. I knew that she had been going to fourth grade for math which isn't uncommon at their school. But since she is spending math time getting all her homework and any supplemental work done and then reading for half an hour they decided they wanted to bump her up to 5th grade. We don't want her skipping a grade entirely, so she will just be going with the 5th graders for math time. I am hoping it works out OK. When we told her that we decided she could do it for a month and then decide if it works she had mixed feelings. This is the note on my pillow: Dear Mom, I don't know what to do. I have butterflies in my stomach. Please help them go away. Sincerely, Allison. What a sweetie. But she has amazingly sweet teachers this year who will help her make the transition.

On Friday night, Allison had her birthday party. She invited 17 girls and all but one came. Inside I was just saying "dang, it" but Allison was thrilled to see all her friends. She has so many and they are interconnected so much that it is hard to invite one without the other and really she wanted all her girls over. She wanted a cooking/craft party. They made shrinky dink charms for a necklace that turned out really cute. They cooked stuffed shells, garlic bread, fruit shish kabobs and homemade rootbeer (all her choices). Then we frosted cookies, made root beer floats, opened presents and watched Camp Rock 2 while making friendship bracelets. Boy it makes me tired just saying it all. It ended up being a lot of fun even if it was controlled chaos most of the time. Jeremy took Taylor, Spencer and Robyn out to dinner and then Spencer came home and hid in the basement till the estrogen levels returned to normal.

Robyn has been in whine mode this week. She has stopped being cute in the middle of the night when she is up because of ghosties and pricklies getting her. I don't think I am very cute when I yell for her to go to her own bed or else either though. So hence the whine mode from lack of sleep most of the week. But she has been enjoying the sunshine, running outside or on bikes most of the day with her little friends. At dinner time she comes in literally dirty head to toe.

I was able to go to parent-teacher conferences for Taylor this week too. It was neat to meet his seminary teacher and tour the seminary building that is attached to his school. He has a main teacher and then each student has a one to one missionary aide. I thought it was very cool. His teacher and I talked about Taylor's diminishing abilities. Seizures just mess you up. But when he has a good day, it is a really good day - full of giggling, chirping and trying to see what body part he can use to activate switches with other than his hand.

Last Sunday I was able to go see Spencer get his 1st rank badge and his first merit badge - electricity. He led the flag ceremony and was anxiously studying the words before the court of honor to make sure he got it right. He doesn't seem to get as upset as easily since we adjusted his meds but his anxiety levels remain high over very little things - like having his shoes tied just right, his glasses rubbing his nose the wrong way, forgetting one word in a poem he has to recite. We see the psychiatrist this Tuesday to discuss options. His current teacher who had him for math last year says he seems to be much more social and open with people this year and to do better with other students - so that is a good sign. He was very excited that for guitar this week he got the song "Secrets" by One Republic, which was the theme song for Sorcerer's Apprentice. He thinks he is very cool when he plays it.

Jeremy has been working hard this week. He went to a photography night dedicated to learning how to do his lighting. He had a family photo shoot up in the canyon. And then he took on an extra design job that needed to be done by this week so he has been working some late nights. He has lost almost 17 pounds so far since he has given up eating anything beyond a small amount of healthy food. I have never felt so guilty about my sugar habit! Maybe someday I will join him when my will power and desire meet up.

Wednesday night was one of the highlights of the week as my brother Daniel came by for a visit. We were all so excited to see him and the fact that he brought Krispy Kreme doughnuts for kids and Trader Joe's chocolates for me was just icing on the cake. I would like to think I would treasure time with family just as much if they lived close by but I know that me a family visit is never long enough.

I canned salsa this week as our tomatoes finally turned red. It came out quite spicy as I put more peppers and pepper seeds in this year. One of our kids' favorite snacks after school is chips and salsa. Spencer has even learned that on a day he wants salsa he walks through the door stripping of his shirt on the way to the fridge for a bottle.

Last night the stake did a dinner/dessert thing for the broadcast. My part involved making lots of bread. So our house smelled like some wonderful bakery. But after that event and everything else this week I came home to kids all out and asleep early thanks to an amazing Jeremy. So I crashed on a couch with a mug of raspberry cheesecake hot chocolate (Stephens new flavor), a blanket and a super chick flick, Letter to Juliet. It was so nice just to lay there and be glad for my life.

Hope all is well with each of you,


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Here is my favorite chocolate zucchini bread recipe. I like to think the whole wheat flour and applesauce helps cancel out the oil and sugar :)! We had this moto when Spencer started on one of his drugs that makes you constantly hungry. It is "you can't get fat on fruit and vegetables". So you can have fruit and vegetables in our house whenever you are hungry and it isn't meal/snack time. I am rethinking that philosophy as I watched Spencer today eat 2 apples, 2 bananas, 1 peach, a bunch of cherries, a handful of carrots, a cucumber and a serving of salad. At least he is getting his 5 a day! Here is the recipe courtesy of my Aunt Karol's real estate recipe/ad cards:

2 c flour (I use 1 c whole wheat, 1 c white)
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 c sugar
3 eggs
3/4 c applesauce
1/4 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c chocolate chips ( I use the mini- kind. If you toss them with a bit of flour they stay mixed in better)
2 c grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 8" loaf pans. Combine dry ingredients and wet separately and then mix it all together and add chocolate chips and zucchini. (Often I just dump everything in the mixer together). Divide between pans and bake 55-60 min. Let cool BEFORE taking out of pan and then slice.

I usually double this recipe and make 3 regular size loaf pans. It cooks the same amount. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Taco Soup

Taco Soup

This is a cross between a mild chili and a soup. It is great for a food storage recipe as you can leave out the hamburger.

1 or 2 lbs ground beef
2 onions, chopped
2 cans pinto beans (15 oz each), drained
1 can kidney beans (15 oz), drained
1 can corn (15 oz), drained
1 can stewed tomatoes (15 oz)
2 cans tomatoes with chiles (15 oz)
1 pkg taco seasoning mix
1 pkg ranch salad dressing mix

Brown beef and onions in skillet. Drain excess oil. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Serve with sour cream, chips, avocados, grated cheese etc.

This is a recipe I found I think in high school. Although kids gripe when I make it, Jeremy and I enjoy it so we over-rode their decision to not keep this recipe. It really only works in the summer time when your vegetables are fresh but it is one of my favorite ways to eat zucchini. I will serve leftovers on top of lettuce as a salad or just eat it plain.

Grill-side Garden Salad
serves 6

2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 medium or 2 small zucchini diced
1 8 oz can corn, drained
1/3 c sliced green onions
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
1/3 c salsa or picante sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
3/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
opt: 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro or parsley

Mix everything together and let salad chill in the fridge for a few hours. Stir again before serving.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fairy Godparents

Dear Friends and family,

My parents left Tuesday morning. My friend brought me lemon bars to ease the pain. Having them around is like having fairy godparents in the house. Everyone is happy, life goes smoothly, messes and projects are cleaned up and done - it is like magic. Monday we canned applesauce with all the apples we had picked from our gala tree. It seemed effortless and easy and was all done in the space of an afternoon. Thursday and Friday I canned peaches. At the end of which I felt sticky everywhere and our kitchen had a gleam of sugar syrup everywhere I looked. There was some late night scrubbing going on!

Monday my dad helped us figure out how to do lights on our deck. Jeremy motivated by a party he was having Tuesday stayed up getting one side of the deck wired up with us being electricians assistants. The other half didn't get done but the one side looked awesome.

Tuesday Jeremy hosted a photographer BBQ here. He had a good turnout and everyone stayed late watching the fire and talking. I was a bit in and out as I had a Relief Society event but our kids after a combination of threats and bribes were happy to stay inside watching a movie till I could put them to bed. Saturday night Jeremy was able to get together with his photo friends again out on the salt flats to practice with models taking pictures. He tries to squeeze in his camera time around all the other obligations in his life and has to refuse most of the invitations he receives so I was glad he got to enjoy more camera time this week.

Friday night was the daddy/daughter camp-out. Allison and Robyn were thrilled. It was next to a bike trail so they ran around a bunch. They shot rockets and candy rockets which are a big hit every year. They came home extremely dirty and happy. Robyn's feet after wearing sandals all weekend helped motivate me to take her to get tennis shoes after she got back! The soles of her feet were black with periodic blood splatters from scrapes.

With the girls gone, Spencer and I went out for his mom date night. He graciously let Taylor accompany us as I couldn't find a babysitter. We saw Sorcercer's apprentice at the dollar theater which was a great older kid movie. Then a picnic at a park and ice cream at Coldstone. Our favorite part of the night though was that Taylor had an amazing time. Often I think Taylor should just stay home as he usually doesn't seem to enjoy our outings. This time he was alert the whole time. Watched the movie, ate a foot long sandwich with gusto and would not stop smiling, signing more and opening his mouth looking for more ice cream at Coldstone. The whole way home he kept clapping, giggling and chirping in the back seat causing Spencer and I laugh. With Spencer I often feel that I have missed the boat in teaching him things. But Friday night he went the extra mile. Opening every door he could think of, getting the wheelchair in and out for me, sharing his ice cream with Taylor after Taylor had demolished his and just bringing out his best manners for the evening.

This week I had to lead an inservice for the elementary teachers about the school art program. Don't know why I stress about it but I always feel that I shouldn't be telling teachers what they should do. All those school phobias of talking back to the teacher are still with me I guess. But it went well. Robyn even though she had been whining and screaming all day spent the hour running around on the playground with an older friend and didn't interrupt once.

School activities are in full swing now. Wednesday has become the day where my rear does not leave the driver seat of our van in the afternoon. I thought it would be easier to just cram everything into one day instead of spreading it out. Spencer and Allison both still have piano and scouts/activity days and then everyone picked one extra thing. Robyn is doing gymnastics at this little mom and pop place. Allison is doing jazz dance and was thrilled this week to win a dance off. Spencer decided to continue with guitar lessons. Allison is also doing the school choir once a week but that is really school except for the extra pick-up time. It doesn't sound like much but it makes me glad for my calendar to keep everything straight! Robyn is also in preschool three times a week, which she loves and I am doing a temple play group again. So its definitely a more scheduled life than our summer but everyone seems to be happy with their choices.

Taylor continues to do better although not great. Some days he is really with it, and others the seizures start to creep back but never as bad as they were. So we will continue working on it. We are adjusting Spencer's meds too. With his growth over the last year and a half it was time. I am hoping it will help curb the hopping around, constantly talking excited times and the low, angry, grumpy with the world times. Part of that is just an 11 year old boy but I think it can be much better.

Love to you all, Heather

This recipe has come to me through different friends but it originated with my neighbor Bonnie. These are not baked beans but more of a heartier version, almost a meal in itself. And it has lima beans in it which is Allison, our pickiest kid's favorite bean, go figure.

Cowboy Beans

1 can 15 oz pork beans
1 can 15 oz kidney beans
1 can 15 oz great northern beans
1 can 15 oz lima beans
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb hamburger
1/2 lb bacon, diced
2 Tbsp vinegar
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 c catsup
1 tsp salt
opt. add 1 Tbsp deli mustard for less of a sweet taste

1. Fry and drain bacon.
2. Brown hamburger and onion, drain.
3. Mix all ingredients.
4. Either put it into a 9 x 13 pan and heat through (40 minutes at 350 degrees) or put it into a crockpot on low for a few hours till warm.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

And so it goes...

Dear Friends and Family,

My yard is weed free, dishes mysteriously disappear and reappear washed, and kids have smiles on their faces. My parents must be in town! My parents came Thursday night to visit for a few days. We haven't done much besides just enjoying being together and catching up. Yesterday afternoon though we spent a few hours up in Provo canyon hiking to Stuart Falls. Its a 4 mile hike that is very kid friendly, right above Sundance. It was beautiful. Robyn reached her breaking point when we had to clean the office afterward but since she hiked the whole thing by herself, I can't complain that she needed to go to bed afterward! Those tiny figures up on that cliff are Jeremy, Spencer and Allison and my dad. I was praying hard. Jeremy is the only reason our kids aren't being raised as wimps. Before my parents came we ended up with a busier than planned week. A week ago our FHE activity was to pile all our furniture in our kitchen and hallway so we could have our carpets cleaned. It has been 6 years of dog and kid accidents. I was very excited to get all those smells out of our carpet! Plus we found several "lost" library books and toys. All those times I asked kids to put things away and they ended up stuffed under furniture or in couch cushions! Tuesday, Robyn, Taylor and I went up to neurology in the morning to finally ask about Taylor and what we could change for better seizure control. I figured we had four hours to go up for our 30 minute appointment and get back for carpets and to take the kids to the movies for the afternoon. But best laid plans and all... The neurology staff was as concerned as I was about Taylor and immediately admitted him to the hospital. He was having a bad couple of days again where he was doing those partial complex seizures constantly where his eyes are rolled up and fixed. So Robyn got to hang out with us in the neurotrauma unit for the day. I take for granted how our kids know that sometimes they just have to sit and wait at hospitals but I really appreciated that for a 4 year old she was amazingly good. I was able to run home that night to take Robyn home but it was a long day for her.

Taylor spent 2 days at Primary's hooked up to an EEG and video feed. They x-rayed his lungs because they sounded bad and they were worried about aspiration plus his cold hands kept fooling the machines into thinking his oxygen levels were going into the 70s. A lot of worried nurses/doctors till they figured out his bad circulation. Turns out his left lung is just a bit squished from his scoliosis. Not enough to be worried about yet, but enough to be audible to anyone with a stethoscope. They were a bit concerned that his seizures were really one long seizure which is much worse. But it turned out he was just having nonstop seizures. So they knocked him out with adavan which put him out for a few hours and stopped the cycle. Bad couple of days but after a day or two of rest he is back to normal and the bad seizures have calmed way down. The adavan stopped the cycle and then we are changing up his meds a bit to help with the long term problem.

When he was knocked out I ran home. Jeremy had left work to work at home for kids and carpet cleaning guy. So instead of a night at the movies, kids spent it squeezing around furniture and trying to stay off the carpet. Not the best timing but at least now our carpet is cleaned. Jeremy puts up with a lot sometimes and friends step in for carpool and childcare so often for us.

Then for Labor day weekend we went camping Friday through Monday down at Palisades by Manti. There is a lot of prep work before but the beauty of it is that we get there and literally do nothing. Kids ran around on their bikes a lot. Jeremy brought out his camera at night for shooting stars and bats. We spend hours laying by the lake on the grass making friendship bracelets, playing board games, reading books and climbing trees. There is a trail around the lake that the kids and I did a few times. Allison picked our dutch oven experiment for the weekend and we made dutch oven lasagna. As she put it, "its not as good as homemade but its good for camping food". Spencer and Allison set up a queen air mattress in the back of the truck and slept outside looking at the amazing star display overhead. So our trailer was nice and quiet and they felt very grown up and special. We have never camped on a Sunday before and it was fun to attend this old timer farmer ward. Then we came back to clean everything up and go to a BBQ with our neighbors. It was a great weekend and hard to get back to reality and school.

And so life goes. Some hectic moments but mostly we are just very lucky at the support we have all around us. I have been cleaning up our yard this week. It had been a while. We took out 2 dead trees and planted a new apricot and a paper bark maple. I am hoping I won't kill them off. Love to you all, Heather


We picked apples this weekend. The apple cake is from our Taste Kitchen cookbook and the sauce is from my neighbor Raquel. I can and have just eaten this caramel sauce with a spoon.

Apple Cake

3 c flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 c sugar
1 1/3 c vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 apples (granny smith preferred), peeled, cored and chopped up into 1/4 inch pieces
1 c (4 oz) chopped walnuts

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 16 cup tube or bundt pan.
2. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla together till thick and glossy, about 2 minutes. On low speed stir in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. When all the dry ingredients are incorporated stir in the apples and nuts.
3. Scrape the batter into pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan gently on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cake 50-60 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
4. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, then flip it out onto a wire rack. Turn the cake right side up and let it cool completely, about 2 hours. Serve with Caramel sauce or drizzle all over the cake before serving.

Caramel Sauce

1 c butter
1 c corn syrup or karo
2 c brown sugar

1. In a medium sized pan stir these ingredients over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Stir constantly and boil for 6 minutes.
2. Remove mixture from heat and stir in 1 cup sweetened condensed milk and 1/3 c evaporated milk.
3. Let cool.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Broccoli Cheese Soup

This recipe is from my neighbor Elaine. Perfect for cold evenings it is definitely not a healthy soup but one everyone likes (except for Allison, no surprise there).

Broccoli Cheese Soup - Makes 6 servings

1 c chopped onion
1 c finely diced celery
1 bunch broccoli, cut into pieces (about 3 cups)
1/2 c flour
1 pint half and half
1 pint milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 oz cheese whiz
3/4 c butter

Barely cover vegetables with water and bring to boil. Simmer 20 minutes or until tender. In another large pan, melt butter and stir in flour. Boil one minute stirring constantly. Stir in milk, half and half and cook until smooth. Bring to a boil and stir well. Add undrained vegetables and cheese whiz. Stir until blended but do not let it come to a boil again.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pumpkin Bread - Two ways

I love pumpkin bread. Something in the cold, fall air makes me want to break out this recipe every time. This is pretty much the Lion House recipe.  It is the gooey, if you don't it long enough it will be mushy in the middle kind.  I think it tastes the best.  But my staple is the second recipe.  It is more of a cake-like consistency and has more heft to it.  Both are my favorite, it just depends on my mood and what I have in my pantry.

Pumpkin Bread

1 1/3 c vegetable oil
5 eggs
1 16 oz can pumpkin
2 c flour + 2 Tbsp flour
2 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
2 3 oz packages vanilla pudding mix (not sugar free - I have to dump a little bit out to get it to 3 oz)
1 c mini-chocolate chips (you can do nuts but I am a chocoholic)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease well 2 large 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. Mix oil, eggs and pumpkin together and mix well. Add in flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda. Mix till blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pudding mix. Pour into pans. Bake for 1 hour.

Cake-like Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
3 c sugar
1 c vegetable oil
1 c water
4 eggs
2 c pure pumpkin

Mix all ingredients.  Grease 2 large 8x4 pans.  (I like to put a small piece of parchment paper along the bottom of the pan.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 1 hour. (At my altitude I have to cook it for 1 hour and 10 minutes.)