Messy cabinet

How can anyone find anything in here?

You can’t! Not without taking everything out, at least. This was driving me crazy. It was driving everyone else crazy, too. So I decided to actually do something about it.

Organized Spices

Nick put all of this together for me, and I couldn’t be happier!

Under Cabinet LightShelf Bracket

Dual Layers

This is so much better!!

He glued boards together, and gave them a light stain. Then he just mounted everything to the wall using brackets that we picked out.

The two different shelves mean I can actually see behind the first row. I only have to move one or two jars to find what I’m looking for now, instead of all of them.

I actually mounted the LED light under the cabinet (which is why you can see my marks all over the place. I was trying to eyeball the placement, and it didn’t work). It makes a really nice night light. And in the evenings when it’s a little darker in the kitchen, I can read all the labels.

This has actually sparked all kinds of other organization ideas, but I need more planning time before I attempt any of them.

In the mean time, I love being able to find everything!

Summer rain!

Summer rain!

Collin's Lily

I’m going to inhale deeply today. Rain is pretty amazing.

Please tell me you do this too.
It’s like that little slot on the handle of my cast iron skillet was made for holding my wooden utensils.

Utensil holder

Oh! And I also flatten the ground beef before I freeze it.
You wouldn’t believe how fast it defrosts this way!

Ground Beef

I just wanted to check in and see if I was the only weirdo doing this.

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Holy moly. You know when you’ve been really busy, and then when someone asks you what you’ve been up to, you automatically say, “Not much.”

What’s up with that?

I think it’s mostly because you can’t just say, “Well I’ve been dancing and working and playing and watching Netflix and helping with homework and taking pictures and and and…”

Moving on.

Look at the size of this sucker!!
Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Soup pot for scale

I am so stinking excited for summer! We joined a CSA for the first time, and I can’t wait to end up with too many vegetables. It is my goal to not let any of them go to waste, so I might be asking for recipes soon. This is an easy one, so you should totally make it.

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Just the right amount of creamy goodness and chewy texture.

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6-8

1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 onion, diced
1 quart vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup half and half or coconut milk
1 15oz can of Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

In a large stock pot, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the squash cubes and vegetable broth. Turn the heat up to high, cover the pot with a lid, and allow the soup to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes, still covered and stir occasionally.

Turn off the heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the onions and squash. Or transfer the vegetables to a food processor and puree until smooth, then add the paste back into the vegetable broth. Next add the Garbanzo beans, seasonings, and half and half or coconut milk. Allow the soup to cook over low heat until it’s warm enough to serve.

You should also serve this with Naan. It’s so right.
This soup makes really good leftovers, either hot or cold!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Look at that steamy goodness!

Yes please.

For some reason, there was some confusion over whether or not I liked chicken noodle soup. When I told my husband that this is what I was making for dinner, he said, “But you hate chicken noodle soup.”

Come again?

“I’ve tried to make it before, but you wouldn’t let me. You’ve never liked chicken noodle soup.”

I wasn’t really sure how to respond. Maybe he was thinking about canned chicken noodle soup? But he wouldn’t have tried to make canned chicken noodle soup. Or maybe I really had said at one point that I hated chicken noodle soup. There’s no accounting for my tastebuds before I actually started cooking. It’s like I was a different person back then or something. Momentary lapse in sanity?

I don’t know.

Anyways, chicken noodle soup. THIS chicken noodle soup. I could eat this stuff every day for the rest of my life. I texted this very thing to my husband when I was eating leftovers the next day. And if you froze leftover turkey from Thanksgiving? Turkey noodle soup!

Chicken Noodle Soup

It starts with an onion.

Chicken Noodle Soup

And then chicken.

Chicken Noodle Soup

And tons of broth.

Chicken Noodle Soup

And you might think I went a little overboard on the herbs.

Chicken Noodle Soup

I mean, I can see why you’d think that. I, too, had a momentary panic (as I do every time I don’t follow any sort of recipe). But just trust me. It’s totally worth it!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Broccoli was next.

Chicken Noodle Soup

And of course, you need noodles! I did not think far enough ahead to put egg-noodles on my grocery list, and this is what we had. It worked great! They’re noodles, so really it couldn’t have gone terribly wrong. But you never know, so I was a little nervous.

Chicken Noodle Soup

This is like happiness in a bowl. Think of a cliche about chicken noodle soup–this is it. I think I might actually make enough of this to eat it every day of my life.

And all those “extra” herbs? Maybe you can read my fortune?

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup
Makes around 8 servings

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 medium onion, diced
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound dry pasta noodles (or 1/2 cup dry rice for chicken and rice soup)

Combine the onion and diced chicken in a large stock pot over medium heat.
When the chicken is cooked through, add the chicken stock and water. Then add all seasonings, minced garlic and broccoli.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil.
Add the pasta noodles and boil for 15-20 minutes, until the noodles are cooked fully. Serve warm!

One Pot Chili

My sister texted me to ask if I had a chili recipe that was any good.

My first thought was, “Are you kidding me? I must make chili once a week! It’s awesome!”

But I told her to go to my blog and find the recipe. And then I sent her a link to it, because I’m an overbearing sister and I didn’t want her to possibly miss the link that says “Chili” and then feel like I lied to her or was being a brat. Fortunately, my sisters are very patient with me.

Then I thought, “I wonder if my recipe has changed any since I wrote it all down? I mean, I wrote it in 2010, but it couldn’t be too different?”

O. M. G.

It was appalling. I was mortified. I wanted to text her back and say in all caps DO NOT CLICK THAT LINK!

The pictures were tiny. They were all weirdly yellow. The amounts of ingredients are completely different from what I use now. I used THREE different pots. And I found more than one typo.

Seriously, was I drunk?

Definitely not, but that’s what it seemed like.

So please, accept this new post with my sincerest apologies. And if you ever tried to make chili from my recipe, I don’t even know what to say…

In ONE pot, brown your ground beef with an onion.

One Pot Chili

I don’t add oil to the pot because there’s usually enough fat in the beef to keep things from sticking. I just toss everything in over medium heat.

One Pot Chili

When the beef is browned, I add all the beans.

One Pot Chili

And then diced tomatoes with their liquid.

One Pot Chili

Then I toss in all the seasonings. (Seriously, WHY was more than one pot necessary?)

One Pot Chili

And after a couple minutes simmering, you have chili.

One Pot Chili

Not hard at all.

One Pot Chili
Serves 6-8

1 pound ground beef (or two boneless skinless chicken breasts, or ground turkey, or leave out the meat for vegetarian chili)
1 medium onion, diced
1 14.5 oz can of black beans
1 14.5 oz can of kidney beans
1 14.5 oz can of garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas)
2 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 1/5 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cayenne (1/4 tsp if you like it a little more spicy)
Grated cheese and/or sour cream for serving

Drain and rinse all the beans.
Combine the ground beef and onion in a pot over medium-high heat. When the meat is almost all the way browned, add the beans, the tomatoes with their juices, and all the seasonings. Stir to combine. Allow the chili to come to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Let it simmer for 10-15 minutes, and then serve.

***Want an even easier recipe? Combine all the ingredients into a crockpot and stir to mix well. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Dinner.***

You guys!!

Cinnamon Twist Bread

I did it!!

Cinnamon Twist Bread

I made pretty bread!

Actually, I’m going to say that this bread is beautiful.

Not even sorry about bragging here, because if you guys know me, you know how much I struggle with bread. I have cried, laughed, given up, and tried again when it comes to making bread look pretty. I’ve gotten so upset over pie crusts that my husband has to take over. I have pretended that “it’s supposed to look rustic” so many times that it’s shameful.

But I did this all by myself! (Cue the squealing and jumping around.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

You’ve got to try this too! Because, really and truly, if I can do this, a nine year old can probably do this.

For real.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

It starts out with flour, sugar and salt.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Water and yeast.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Which combine into dough.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

And then rest.

Up until that point, I can manage without any problems. Here is where things usually get tricky for me.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Cinnamon Twist Bread

The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle. (And yes, this is really my attempt at a rectangle shape. I swear I did not fail kindergarten.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Then you just spread on some butter, and sprinkle it with a heavy layer of cinnamon and sugar. (Don’t be like me. Use more butter and make sure your cinnamon sugar goes much closer to the edges.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Cinnamon Twist Bread

And then you roll it up as tightly as you can. With practice, I’ll get a tighter roll. This was ok, but not great. (I was already freaking out by this point, but trying to keep it together.)

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Then transfer the roll to parchment paper, and cut it down the middle with a sharp knife. Make sure you leave about an inch at the top uncut.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

I couldn’t get pictures of me twisting the bread, because I was afraid that if I paused to take a picture it would be ruined and I’d cry again. So! All you have to do is twist each side a little so that the layers are facing the ceiling, and then cross the strands over each other all the way to the bottom. Then just tuck the ends under the loaf.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Like so. And then let it rest. Then all you have to do is brush the outside with an egg wash and bake.

Cinnamon Twist Bread

Voila!

This is best served warm, and on the day you make it. We ate it plain, but my son suggested that this bread should be frosted like a cinnamon roll. Do what makes you happy.

Cinnamon Twist Bread
Makes one loaf

3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
3-4 tbsp butter, at room temperature and very soft
cinnamon sugar
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

  • Combine the yeast and warm water, and allow it to activate for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn the mixer on for about a minute to mix the dry ingredients.
  • Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients with the mixer on low, and turn the mixer up to medium speed for about 5 to 7 minutes. You might have to use a scraper to get the dough off of the dough hook during mixing.
  • Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about an hour in a warm spot. It should double in size.
  • Roll the dough out on a well-floured surface. You’re going for a nice big rectangle, about 12 inches by 15 inches.
  • Spread the butter onto the dough, going almost all the way to the edges. Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar.
  • Start at one short edge and tightly roll the dough to the other short edge. Transfer the roll to a sheet of parchment with the seam on bottom.
  • Cut the roll in half, starting about an inch from the top, all the way to the bottom.
  • Turn the cut side up towards the ceiling, and tightly cross the strands over each other until you get to the bottom. Tuck the ends under the loaf.
  • Let the bread complete a second rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Brush the bread with the egg wash, and then transfer the bread and parchment paper to a baking stone or sheet.
  • Bake the bread for about 20 minutes, and then turn the heat up to 425F. Bake until the top turns a nice golden brown.

Tapioca Pudding
I was one of those kids who would decide something didn’t look good, and then convince myself it tasted terrible.

At least I know I’m not the only one, but now I kick myself for cheating myself out of years of delicious foods.

Like Tapioca pudding.
Tapioca Pudding

It looks lumpy. And maybe a little slimy. It must be gross! *Sigh*

I’ve now become obsessed with the stuff. Fortunately for me (and you), it’s really easy to make!

Although I’ve learned the hard way that there is a huge (huuuuuuge) difference between quick-cooking and regular tapioca pearls. (Duh! Are these honestly things I still struggle with? Apparently.)
Tapioca Pudding

You get to temper eggs, so you’ll feel very fancy. But that’s the hardest part.
Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca Pudding
Milk bubbles

Tapioca Pudding
Frothy foam!

Tapioca Pudding
This seems like it should be at least 6 servings, but it’s really just one. For me.

I’d better get more pearls soaking!

Tapioca Pudding
Indeed, this recipe will make 6 servings. Use that knowledge as you will.

Place 1/2 cup tapioca pearls (NOT the quick-cooking kind***) into a bowl and cover them generously with whole milk. Allow the pearls to soak for AT LEAST 8 HOURS. You may have to add more milk periodically as the pearls soak it up. The pearls will expand and become soft. After soaking, you will need:

3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Place the soaked tapioca pearls, milk, sugar and salt into a large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir fairly constantly and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Cook for about 5 minutes longer.
Slowly whisk about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture in with the beaten eggs to temper them. Then pour the egg mixture back into the milk mixture and bring everything to a gentle simmer for about 2 more minutes. The pudding will start to thicken considerably.
Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

At this point, you can serve the pudding warm, or you can refrigerate it for later. I found that the pudding is best served the day you make it. Which is great because it doesn’t usually last longer than a day or two at my house.

***If you use quick-cooking tapioca pearls, skip the soaking process and just start the pearls, milk, sugar and salt in the saucepan together.

Holy smokes!

Hello!

I still exist, and I’m happy that you do too. We had an action-packed, relaxing, invigorating, magical summer. Hence the silence on my part.

Umm, apparently June 4th was the last time I visited here, but I swear it was only two weeks ago.

For real, June 4th?

Don’t worry, I’m not sorry at all. I soaked up every ray of sun, every giggle, every trampoline flip and fish caught. (Well, I ate the fish rather than absorbed them.) I just couldn’t remove myself from life enough to post about it, and I think that’s pretty awesome.

Now that fall is settling in and the mornings are chilly, I feel like we’ve slowed down a bit.

Want to look at my summer?

Emmett Cake

Collin turns 9!

The boy turned 9!

I got my hair cut. (You’re so excited, I can tell)

I caught my first real fish! (I caught a fish once when I was 16, but it was teeny and we didn’t keep it.)

Driving!

Father and Son

Sunset Fishing

We drove boats. And played in boats. And fished from boats. And tried to ski behind boats.

Boats. Lots of boats. Can you tell that I’m obsessed with boats? I would totally live in a boat.

We went zip-lining.

All of the cousins were together for the first time ever.

My first rodeo. For real

I went to my first rodeo! Can you explain to me how I’ve been in Montana for my whole life and never once been to a rodeo?!?

My first real beer

And you guys! I drink beer now! This is a thing! I can’t even tell you how happy this makes my husband. You know him? He’s the homebrewer that I talk about all the time. Don’t worry, beer drinking was completely my decision. And in case you’re wondering  whether or not I was replaced by a pod-person, I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll ever, ever, drink an IPA. Ick!

IMG_0046

Daisy

Clouds

Eagle

Loons!

Inspecting the lines

IMG_0020

So as you can see, I was busy.

How was your summer?

Otherwise known as the most tropical dinner I’ve ever made. Aloha!

I feel like this also got me out of my chicken rut. Lately, my chicken dinners have been so blah. Completely edible, but not exciting and only just…decent. I’ve just gotten out of my groove, and chicken has been pretty dry and flavorless. Of course this was something I had to fix.

Pineapple Chicken
Voila!

This was easy to throw together. An excellent weeknight dinner when you’re starving after work. The chicken and the rice can cook simultaneously, so it won’t take more than 30 minutes for this meal. And although I cooked everything on the stove top, it went quickly enough that I didn’t heat up the house too much.

I marinated the chicken ahead of time, but I’m not sure if that’s truly necessary. I think it would have been great either way. I’ll make it again and find out.

I also had a bit of trouble with the rice. I felt like it absorbed all the liquid so fast, but then it was still a bit crunchy. That’s never happened before, so I wonder if I have old rice? Or if we had extremely dry air that day? (This is Montana, after all.) I’m going to call it a fluke and hope it doesn’t happen to you. Let me know how it goes, ok?

Pineapple Chicken with Coconut Rice
Serves 4

For the Chicken

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (for the marinade)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (for the marinade)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (for the marinade)
  • 1 1/2 cup pineapple chunks (I used a fresh pineapple, but canned will work too! Just drain the juice first)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 tbsp Sweet Chili Sauce
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

If you’re going to marinate the chicken, add the olive oil, lemon juice and salt together in a large ziplock bag. Give it a little shake to combine. Then add the chicken and refrigerate for an hour or several hours.
In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat until melted. Add the sliced chicken and onions and cook, flipping the chicken slices as needed. When the chicken is close to cooked all the way through, add the pineapple slices and sweet chili sauce. Turn the heat down a bit, and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and your rice is done.

For the Rice

  • 1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice
  • 2 cups canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add more water if necessary a 1/2 cup at a time. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Place the rice in a bowl and top with the pineapple chicken. I used more sweet chili sauce to garnish, and we ate with chopsticks for fun.

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