Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pretzel making

Tonight I decided to try my hand at pretzel making. A few months ago I stumbled on a yummy looking recipe for Laura's Amazing Soft Pretzels and for some reason today seemed like a good day to try them out. Chris always orders a big pretzel when we go eat at our favorite German restaurant so I knew he'd be in. Laura has really great instructions and pictures so I easily figured out how to twist my pretzel. My only problem was that my first two baking sheets came out HUGE! I mean big heavy pretzels that you can barely see the holes because the cooked so big. So even though the recipe says to use a fist sized ball of dough for each I went a little smaller with the next two sheets and they look great. From the moment the warm water hit the yeast the whole house smelled wonderful!

Here are my big fat pretzels. I really might weigh one of the jumbos - they are that huge.

These are the pretty ones and they're all covered in butter and salt.

I sure hope they freeze well because we'll never eat all these! I've already promised to bring a few up to my parents house when the boys and I go to visit next weekend. I made 11 fat ones and 11 normal ones so I think if I did them all the right way it would have made 2 1/2 to 3 dozen total. They sure were good though.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Family Day

Yesterday was a great day! Chris has been working alot lately (or it seems like it to me) and worked again over the weekend so we were all happy that he was off yesterday. We spent the whole day together as a family and had a blast. The first place we went was to the lake near our home. It doesn't really have a beach area so it's mostly for boating which is why we haven't been before. It does have a huge dam though so we went to check out the view and take a walk. First we checked out the lake from the bottom of the dam. We think we need to get some fishing poles and come back here.

Then we checked it out from the top of the dam. The water was really blue and beautiful. There were several people walking, some with dogs. You could tell that some people come here regularly. There was a sign that said the dam was .8 miles from gate to gate and we walked across and back so we got a nice little walk in.

As a surprise for the boys we had packed them a picnic lunch and just had to stop at a little sub shop to get something for Chris and me. Then we headed to the park by the river and had a picnic outside. I'm sure the boys thought that picnics were meant to be indoors since we've been doing that lately at home! Another bonus was that this picnic area also had another "troll" bridge that crossed over to a playground - jackpot!

Finally we headed back home for a much needed nap! The fun didn't stop there though. After naptime we all watched a movie together with all the sleeping bags and blankets out....what else, Harry Potter....and ate popcorn and ice cream (not together).

After all that togetherness yesterday I was surprised when Chris called today asking if the boys and I wanted to meet him for lunch. Me, not have to cook? You bet we went to lunch!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I must say that the new meal of Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta that we had last week was pretty tasty and easy. That recipe will be a keeper. This week we're trying several new things again.

Monday - Picnic lunch will all my guys at the park. Dinner is cereal after eating junk food and watching movies!

Tuesday - Potato Baked Crispy Chicken and green beans and garlic biscuits

Wednesday - Cranberry Chicken Margarita (254 calories) with rice

Thursday - Shake and Bake Pork and fried potatoes

Friday - Makeover Garlic Chicken Spaghetti (398 calories)

For lots of great menu ideas go to

Friday, January 22, 2010

Outside again

Thank goodness that the weather has finally warmed up enough to get back outside. Talk about going stir-crazy! When my parents came to visit last weekend the boys and I took Mimi to our neighborhood park while Chris and Papa watched football. We took a nice walk around the paved trail and stopped at the pond to feed the ducks. (I hope it's O.K. to feed them broken pretzels because they loved it!)

We had such a good time at the park (and our yard is muddy since there's still very little grass) that they boys and I have been back three more times this week. The last two days we even took plastic bats and balls plus a soccer ball to get in some play time. It was great to play on the tennis court so our balls couldn't roll too far away and I knew the boys were contained. Alex is very good at baseball and could hit many of them that I pitched to him. I wanted to take pictures of the boys playing but Alex told me (No pictures, Mama.).

Near the duck pond is a wooden bridge. It has concrete under one side of it and the boys take turns standing "under" the bridge and being a troll. They make whoever's trying to cross it pay some sort of penalty like paying imaginary money or jumping up and down. They love to play at this "troll bridge". They also started hanging on the bars and telling me they were doing exercises!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pajama party

Last night Chris was only home briefly before heading back out the door. So the boys and I had a party without him. After dinner we put on our jammies and I layed out all the sleeping bags, quilts, and pillows. Then we picked a movie (Harry Potter) and popped popcorn. We had a pajama party! The boys thought it was the neatest thing to lay on all those covers while we ate popcorn and cookies and watched our movie.

They were a little disappointed that I didn't let them sleep out there though. Maybe when they're a little bit older (and Zachary's a better sleeper).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Last week we managed to eat everything that was on the menu - just in different orders. This week started off early with my parents here for the weekend. That meant that I did a little extra weekend cooking that I don't normally do.

Sunday - Chicken empenadas with black beans - lunch
Beer-braised short ribs and baby carrots in the crockpot(465 calories) with rice and rolls - dinner

Monday - leftovers

Tuesday - Chicken Chow Mein (291 calories)

Wednesday - leftovers or throw something together (hubby won't be home for dinner)

Thursday - Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta (343 calories)

Friday - Dijon chicken (286 calories) with green beans and rice

The recipe for the beer-braised short ribs came from the January Family Circle magazine and so delicious that I had to share it.

Beer-braised short ribs
4 pounds bone-in short ribs, trimmed
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 T olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 1/4 cups dark beer (such as Guinness Draught)
1 T light-brown sugar
1/2 t dried thyme
2 cups baby carrots
8 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 T cornstarch
1 T spicy brown mustard
Cooked egg noodles (optional)

Blot dry ribs with paper towels. Sprinkle ribs with 1/2 t. each salt and black pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook meat for 5 minutes, turning once halfway through, in batches if necessary. Remove meat to slow cooker.

Add onions to skillet and cook, 2 minutes, stirrin goften. Add broth, 1 cup of the beer, the sugar and thyme to skillet. Bring to a boil, then pour over meat. Cover and cook on HIGH for 5 hours or LOW for 7 hours.

When there is 1 1/2 hours cook time remaining on HIGH or 2 1/2 hours on LOW, stir carrots and mushrooms into the slow cooker.

Whisk together remaining 1/4 cup beer, 1/4 t. each salt and pepper, and the cornstarch and mustard. Whisk into slow cooker. Replace cover and cook 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Serve over egg noodles, if desired.

Makes 8 servings

I did leave out the mushrooms because hubby doesn't like them so I added a little extra carrots. We also used Shiner Bock for our dark beer because we don't drink Guinness. I served it over rice to soak up extra sauce!

For tons of great menu ideas go to

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Snack time!

Zachary requested chocolate chip cookies for snack time today. Not good for my diet but good for hungry little boys. He couldn't wait until they were done!

It's also a really warm spot. The oven door doesn't get hot (like at the old house - what a pain with kids!) but it does blow out warm air. Zachary always likes to stand there and warm up. The funny thing is that once he ate his cookies he asked for a snack. He didn't think the cookies counted for some reason because it's not the "usual"!.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sweet, sweet boy!

The boys and I were watching a Harry Potter movie the other night (while Chris watched football in another room) when the scene came on where Hermione comes down the stairs for the school ball. Someone sees her and says "Oh, she's beautiful". I said to Alex "Look, she is beautiful". My sweet boy turned to me and said "You're beautiful just like that girl, Mama". Aawwwww..... Love him!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

All of the new menu items last week were good but the stuffed chicken breasts were probably the hands down winner. I will definitely be making that one again. This week I'm trying some more new recipes and hoping for more good low-cal meals.

Monday - Creamy Chicken n Artichokes (with rice) - 373 calories and green beans

Tuesday - Pork Chops over stuffing - 209 calories and Easy Zucchini Parmesan - 52 calories

Wednesday - leftovers

Thursday - Oven Fried Chimichangas - 354 calories

Friday - The Ultimate Turkey Burger - 425 calories (from Family Circle Magazine - no link) and Sweet Potato Fries

Easy Zucchini Parmesan
1 cup sliced zucchini
1 T. grated parmesan cheese
I Can't Belive It's Not Butter spray
Non-stick cooking spray

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then coat with cooking spray. Place the zucchini slices out on the pan, the spritz them with the butter spray. Sprinkle on the parmesan cheese and pop in the oven. Broil for a few minutes - until the cheese starts to brown.

Makes 1 serving - 51.6 calories, 1.6 g fat

For more meal ideas go to

Things to do on a cold day

Drink hot cocoa. Alex loves cocoa...well anything chocolate really. Zachary thought he wanted some (I knew better) and then cried that it was too hot to drink. (It wasn't.) Even after it got cold he refused to drink it only letting me scoop out a few marshmallows with no cocoa on the spoon.

Warm up by the fire. The boys love to "help" daddy make a fire. They think it's the neatest thing and count 1...2...3...light when daddy strikes the match.

We hope everyone has been keeping warm during this cold weather!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The rest of Christmas

So in winding up the Christmas pictures this will be a long post. I'll try to keep it down to mostly pictures - and I won't post all the opening presents ones....that would take years with nine kids! Enjoy!

No way was I getting into the hot tub with that many kids....I'm not crazy.

We found a place in Orlando to play some games and ride rides before heading back to the rent house after ICE!

Out of all the big kids (and Chris!) Zachary was the only one who pitched his baseball into the hole to win a prize. Boy, did that have the big boys talking.

We came back from an outing one day to find this.....

The kids had a great time playing in the bubbles and the bonus was that nobody needed a bath - just a quick rinse in the shower! We never found out who the culprit was but did find the empty bottle of bubble bath.

Zachary and the girls watching T.V. before bed.

At the beach:
Zachary loves to get dirty! His cousin helped to bury him sitting in a hole.

The water was freezing but there was no way we were going to keep the kids out. The little ones only went in to about their knees. They had fun mostly running from the waves.

Our oldest nephew volunteered to be buried in the sand. Then all the other kids got to jump on top of him and he couldn't feel a thing.

Looking for shells.

Our sweet baby niece. Zachary wasn't very nice to her. In fact, Zachary was a bit of a meanie to all the cousins, even the big ones.

We can't wait to see everyone again!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


One of the group outings on our Christmas trip was a visit to the Gaylord Palms ICE! in Kissimmee. There are several Gaylord resorts and they all do this ICE exhibit in Nov-Jan and it is amazing. They have special ice carvers that carve all sorts of people, animals, etc out of ice. There is a huge nativity scene, a carousel, and a Santa. I think they change every year and are different at each hotel but this one had an Eskimo theme. Oh, and it's 9 degrees inside. Yup - 9 degrees. They do give you coats to wear and we wore our own jackets underneath too but somehow I forgot the gloves. Note to self - don't forget gloves when going in 9 degree temperatures!

Here's the group of kids (minus the oldest) while waiting for our turn to go in.

All suited up in the loaner coats and ready for the cold!

The ice sculptures really were cool...get it? It was so cool in fact that Alex started crying to get out after about five minutes. With people stopping to take pictures everywhere, it was kinda hard to get out quickly. Chris hurried him through the first part and then I hurried him through the rest. He just wanted to get to the warmth and the free hot cocoa at the end. So, a few of my pictures were rushed because we didn't get to stop and sit in the ice Santa's lap (random kids in that picture) and Alex didn't want to slide down the giant ice slide. (Zachary did this but I didn't get to see it - boo hoo.) Oddly enough on our way back to the rent house Alex said "Let's go back tomorrow". Um, no. It might be something to try another year though, with heavy gloves. Oh, and a tip for anyone planning to go with a group of children (I know it's too late for this year.). From the back everybody looks the same in those big blue coats. We decided that we should have brought colored scarves or something to wrap around the outside of the kids coats so we could easily keep up with them.

The hotel itself was also amazing. It had a huge atrium with a giant Christmas tree in the middle. We saw a crocodile and turtle habitat, there were bridges and plants, and fish ponds all over the place. We had a good time just checking out all the free stuff!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I'm finally back to meal planning. Boy did the holidays throw things out of whack over here! I'm still trying to cut some calories and got a gorgeous Cooking Light Cookbook that I'll be testing this week.

Monday - Creamy Four Cheese Macaroni (350 calories) with a salad

Tuesday - Chicken Breasts stuffed with artichokes, lemon, and goat cheese (234 calories) and wild rice (200 calories) - I'm subbing out the goat cheese for herbed Laughing Cow cheese wedges

Wednesday - Spaghetti with Parmesan and Bacon (359 calories) - I think I'm going to sub the peas for asparagus in this one

Thursday - Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken (157 calories) and sauteed green beans

Friday - Chicken fajitas

For lots of great meal ideas go to