Thursday, May 28, 2009

A new trick for coloring Easter Eggs, Courtesy of Author Elizabeth Walker

I can't wait for Easter to try this - to be honest we may just try it before. With a 4 and 5 year old, and a husband that doesn't have a whole lot of patience, this sounds like the perfect way to color Easter eggs. And I bet the colors turn out fabulous! Here it is - thanks so much Elizabeth for sharing!

An "ooooh! Ahhhh!" Egg coloring recipe.
I know, I know - Easter is over but....It really is my favorite recipe! After I share it with you, If you'll bear with me, I'll explain why.

What you need:
Small eggs (not boiled)
Old SILK ties, blouses, or boxer shorts with colorful patterns (Thrift stores are a great place to pick these up!)
Old WHITE cotton sheet, t-shirt or pillow case
Twist ties
Glass or enamel pot ( no reactive metal because you will adding the vinegar )

What you do with it:
Cut your old silk ties and white cotton fabric into squares big enough to wrap around the entire egg.
Wrap the unboiled egg snugly in a silk square, with the bright side of the pattern against the eggshell. Wrap the white cotton fabric square snuggly on the outside of the silk and twist tie at the top.
Put wrapped eggs into the pot and fill with water.
Add ¼ cup of vinegar to pot of water.
Bring to boil.
Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes.
Remove wrapped eggs with tongs and allow eggs to cool.
Unwrap your little masterpieces!!

I packed up my 4 messy (as usual) little boys and headed to my mother in law’s house on the Saturday before Easter. We always get together for holidays. We don’t always color eggs together, but this year she and my sister in law asked if we could. Now, I want you to understand that I love Easter, I do – but I don’t love my dyed fingers or the thin, dark line that stains the underside of my fingernails making it look like I haven’t washed since the last time I made a mud pie, or the pastel colored children that are most always the result of dying Easter eggs! We do it every year, but if I can be honest for a moment - I dread those messy little dye tablets…I do, I really really do (I couldn’t possibly be alone here). So, I was looking forward to trying the "tie dye". It sounded different and fun, and less messy, so…off we went to "tie dye" our Easter eggs.

The boys and their two cousins (on their father’s side) set to work, only slightly enthusiastically at first, on wrapping the eggs in their ties. We all talked and giggled and wondered what each pattern was going to look like, hoping they would turn out bright and beautiful. Eventually the kids wandered off and left us three ladies to begin the boiling. The kids played and bounced and giggled in the background while Mother and daughters in-law giggled and swapped stories in the kitchen. I hadn’t really had fun dying Easter eggs since I was little. I wasn’t even entirely confident in how the eggs would look when they came out, but I was enjoying myself and the kids were enjoying themselves…..and there was no dye on the carpet, fingers, shirts, table cloth, etc!

After boiling and cooling the eggs, we all gathered together again to unveil the patterns and colors that were transferred onto the eggs. Little fingers grabbed and unraveled one at a time. From the first egg right down to the very last, the kitchen was filled with "oooohh’s," and "aaaaahhh’s," and "This one’s mine," and "Mom, this one’s for you!" They were beautiful, and every one that we opened was so different from the last even though some of them were created with the same tie. The kids loved it. The adults loved it. It was a major Easter egg success.

Well, leave it up to me to try to find a lesson in everything, but I couldn’t help it. In the car on the way home I found myself thinking about how, we wrapped these plain white eggs in patterns and colors that we loved, and hoped would turn out great, but really – in the beginning – it was just that; hope. We didn’t really know how they would turn out, we just put our best into them and, well …. Hoped the best would come out.

It seemed so similar, in essence, to raising the very children that prepared the eggs for the pot. Every day we wake our children, clean them, feed them, tell them we love them, remind them to be good and do what’s right – then we send them (at times reluctantly) out the door to the "boiling pot" out there in the big world, and we hope that we have wrapped them well enough in morals and common sense and faith, that they will come out of the pot unique and magnificent. Sometimes we worry, other times we wonder, all times we hope. All in all, I suspect our little patterns will transfer – a little different on one than on another – but they will transfer….so long as we don’t let ourselves get too worried about the mess, and make sure that we spend the time it takes to wrap them up well in all the "colors" that we want to share with them. When the day comes that my kids take off the wrappings I struggled to keep on them, and head for the boiling pot of their own accord, I suspect my heart will make noises similar to the ones in the kitchen on that happy Saturday before Easter this year, as little by little I get to witness the masterpiece that each of them has turned out to be.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Walker is the author of the memoir, The Tablet of My Heart. You can visit her website at

About the Book:

The world turns upside down for a young girl when her father begins a fatal battle with the merciless affliction cancer. Before his illness finishes it’s devastating rampage through her adolescence, she is confronted by a new demon. She falls victim, by the hands of a trusted adult, to sexual abuse. The devastation of these events causes her to question God’s roll in her life, and whether He ever loved her at all. The Tablet of My Heart is a collection of Poetry from the journal of that young girl. It is narrated by the author of the journal herself, who paints a portrait of words illustrating her emotional journey from hopelessness to healing. It is dedicated to victims of abuse; to bring to them the realization of hope that there is a light at the end of the silence.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Dinner Solution Software Giveaway

What a great giveaway over at $5 Dinners, but you better hurry, it ends tomorrow! To enter visit for details!

Banana Nut Brownie Bites Courtesy of Jackie Morgan

I saw Jackie talking about these on Facebook awhile back and thought they sounded great. She was kind enough to share the recipe with me. If you want to check out her fantastic blog please visit Literary Escapism

Here's the recipe:


1 pkg brownie mix + ingredients for cake-like brownies
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the peanuts using a food chopper.
In a bowl, mix together the bananas, oil, eggs and water (which is required for the brownie mix). Mix (or blend) until everything is smooth and then add the brownie mix. Mix (or blend) until everything is smooth again and then mix in the peanuts.

Spoon out the batter into the mini-muffin pan until each slot is 3/4 full.
Bake for 13 minutes.

Yield: about 6 dozen brownie bites

Variation: Substitute pretzels for the bananas. I haven’t tried this yet, but I am so going to.

We made these yesterday and they are delicious! I will be making the prezel variety today to see how these turn out. My family loved these and I also like the size as they are perfect for my little ones to snack on. An, a lot less messy than a regular brownie. Yummy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

20 Garlic Chicken (in the crockpot)

This has been one of my family's favorite recipes for quite some time. Let me say that I don't eat the skin on the chicken and the meat has a nice mild flavor and stays very moist. Depending on how you place the garlic the skin can have a mild to moderate garlic flavor (according to my husband) but it is still delicious! Here is the recipe (picture to the left is the before):


3-4 pounds chicken
1 large onion, sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. pepper
20-40 garlic cloves, peeled but intact


Place the onion slices in the bottom of your crockpot (I use a 6 quart). In a large bowl blend the olive oil, kosher salt, paprika and pepper. When well blended, rub it onto each piece of chicken and place on top of the onions, trying to cover each one the best you can (I usually double the amount of oil, salt, paprika, and pepper to make sure I have enough).

Place the garlic cloves around the chicken and cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Makes 6 servings.


You will need a fork for this one:) Hubby tried to eat a drumstick and as he picked it up the meat literally fell off of the bone, lol! The garlic (a few pieces of which you can see here) can also be spread on some nice dinner rolls, they are very soft and have a nice mild flavor. We have made this before and it is a keeper in our house!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday May 11, 2009

Monday - Barbecue cheese stuffed meatloaf with potatoes and baby carrots

Tuesday - 20 garlic chicken(in crock pot) with buttered noodles and steamed veggies

Wednesday- Round steak casserole (in crock pot)

Thursday - Leftovers Buffet

Friday - Creamy tomoato, meatballs, and rice bake

Saturday - Burgers, fries, and baked beans

Sunday - My baby's birthday party at The Wisconsin Timber Rattler's game

Will try to post recipes for these (if they require a recipe) as I make them. Or, add a link to them if I have already posted them. Thanks for stopping!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Yum,'ve got to try this!


15 oreo cookies, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
8 ozs. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups cold heavy cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Chocolate syrup
Mini Reese's peanut butter cups

Mix oreo cookie crumbs and melted butter together and press into the sides and bottom of a pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. Cool. Using an electric mixer, beat peanut butter, cream cheese, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla in a medium size bowl until peaks form. Fold cream mixture into peanut butter mixture. Spoon into crust. Refrigerate until firm. Decorate with chocolate syrup and penaut butter cups.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

First/Last Day Cake Recipe Courtesy of Author HBF Teacher

This recipe is perfect for a group of teacher friends (or any group of good friends) on the first or last day of school or hey, any day where you need to relax. Compliments of HBF Teacher, the author of No Teachers Left Behind, please enjoy.

First/Last Day Cake

1 box yellow cake mix, without pudding (yes I said box because everything should not be done the hard way).
1 box (3 ½ oz) instant vanilla pudding (please see the previously mentioned note).
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 shot of Canadian Club whiskey (1 ½ oz)
½ cup cooking oil (I use vegetable just because it’s the healthy thing to do)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Additional ingredients for the Cake Topping:
¼ pound (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
½ cup Canadian Club whiskey
1 Bottle of the tastiest/cheapest wine you can find (not used for any portion of the cake, but gee, it tastes good going down). Add an additional bottle of wine for each additional group member.

Now get the cooking party started:
Place any George Clooney movie in the DVD/TV player in your kitchen. For extra flavor, select one of the Ocean’s movies – that way you can have a George, Matt, and Brad trio. Looking at them will make the stirring more fun. Be sure and have your first glass of wine when George Clooney appears on screen the first time.

Combine the cake mix, pudding, eggs, milk, whiskey (shot glass), oil, and walnuts.
Mix for 3 minutes then pour into a greased floured tube pane.
If exhausted after all this work, please have another glass of wine.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.
While cake is baking, remember to lust over George Clooney with wine and friends. During the last five to ten minutes of bake time, be sure and pre-make your syrup topping.
Remove cake from oven, but leave the cake in the pan.
Poke holes with a meat fork in the top of the cake.
Pour about two thirds of the syrup topping (see directions below) over the cake and let stand for about thirty minutes.
Remove the cake from the pan and pour the remaining syrup over the cake.
Enjoy with more wine, friends, and George.

**Syrup Topping directions:
To make the topping, melt the butter, add the sugar and whiskey and cook until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is syrupy.


HBF Teacher has been a public school Middle grades teacher for three years. Before that, HBF substitute taught for two years. HBF has also worked as a live-in nanny and an accounts payable representative. Today when not nurturing young minds, HBF enjoys travel, photography, culinary arts, and the cinema. The Cohen Brothers and Tyler Perry are among her favorite artistic contributors.

You can find HBF Teacher online at


Explored through a series of poems, emails, and brief conversations, No Teachers Left Behind is a fictional yet realistic look at the frustrations of middle school staff.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sun Dried Tomato Dip Courtesy of Author Jenny Gardiner

I have been making this simple appetizer for years and every time I serve it anywhere, people ask for the recipe. I found it in a newspaper probably almost 15 years ago in an article about local community cookbooks--this was from a cookbook put out by the Great Falls Elementary School PTA. It's totally addicting and fabulous with really fresh french bread slices:


12 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil)
7-oz. (1 jar) roasted red peppers, drained
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbl. chopped parsley
1 tbl. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
dash salt
4 oz. cream cheese, softened and cubed
1/2 c. sour cream

Rinse & pat dry tomatoes and red peppers. In food processor w/ blade, chop garlic and parsley. Add tomatoes and peppers, and puree. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add cream cheese and sour cream. Process till smooth, scraping sides of bowl to mix thoroughly. Serve immediately, or cover and chill. Serve on baguette slices

About the Author:

Writing has always been my “thing,” despite that D I got in handwriting in second grade (thanks a lot Mrs. Garvin). Early on I learned I could boost my flagging math grades by writing extra-credit reports. I figured if I couldn't compute, at least I could snow job my way into a better grade. Ah, the fine art of fiction writing.

As I grew up, void of more remunerative skills, I pursued a writing-related career. I wrote and edited for my college newspaper, worked in radio, was even a TV news reporter (don't ask). I earned a degree in broadcast journalism from Penn State, but quickly abandoned the TV career because I hated helmet hair, a job prerequisite at the time. I'll admit I was envious, watching all those college friends with business degrees racking up the big bucks in corporate America while I floundered in debt working at poverty level as a publicist on Capitol Hill. But after a while I got used to having my mattress on the floor, cardboard boxes for dresser drawers, and ramen noodles for dinner every night. Eventually I became a “glamorous” Washington photographer, shooting an eclectic range of events and people (including Prince Charles!). I knew I had arrived when I shot a World Welter Weight Boxing Championship and got spattered by the fighters' blood and saliva from my vantage point on the apron.

But marriage and motherhood beckoned, and those professional “glory days” gave way to the raising of three children. The only writing I did for many years were grocery lists and an annual holiday letter to family and friends. I re-launched my writing career with the onset of a terrible drought in my state a few years ago. It dawned on me that with water rationing in place, no one would dare have a holiday party. After all, who could host a hundred houseguests for four hours of festive drinking yet ban them from using the bathroom? All that flushing would alert the water police! And so I wrote about it. Lucky for me, an editor immediately bought the story, which deluded me into believing that publishing was a piece of cake. Well, that piece of cake quickly grew stale, as I tried to sell more witty essays, with mixed success.

I did eventually sell more of my writing, including to the Washington Post, Ladies Home Journal and NPR's Day to Day. I started doing radio essays on a regional NPR affiliate. I landed a column in my city's newspaper. And then my generous mother bought me a laptop, which enabled me to write while at soccer practice, which opened up a whole new world of opportunities for a mom on the run as I am. And so I continued to hone my craft, joining writers groups (RWA, VRW, WRW, LLL, and Backspace) and researching the industry, only to discover that creative non-fiction doesn't sell unless you have a standing time-slot on National Public Radio and your name is David Sedaris, or you have a tendency to do stupid things like stage your own kidnapping in order to escape an ill-conceived wedding. I kept writing, and reading, and as I read I kept saying to myself, “I can write this well!” And thus began my fiction phase. As a journalist by training, I never dreamed I'd actually make up things for publication. I guess there are those journalists who do that, but they're not exactly supposed to. But I learned quickly that fabricating information was pretty liberating--not being constrained by such nuisances as facts made it that much easier for me.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Jay Bush, who read aloud Jean Shepherd's In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash to his Latin students each year before Christmas break. It's a wonderfully written memoir that has lingered in my memory for nearly three decades and really demonstrates the staying power of fine writing. Who says teens don't like to have stories read to them? Mr. Bush motivated me to strive for excellence, at least in English and Latin. Shame I didn't have him for math.

There comes a time when a writer really needs an ally. And I have found that in Suzanne Macpherson, a writer who was kind enough to take me under her wing and really show me the ropes. It was she who got me involved in the Romance Writers of America, an invaluable resource that has led to so many wonderful things. She's a lot of fun and a great writer--you should check out her books.

A few things I will admit about myself: I love old Bruce Springsteen songs and Rod Stewart's torch songs. I always have to hang the toilet paper roll so it descends from the top. I'm pretty certain I'm allergic to housework. I can't get enough peanut M&Ms (with movie theater popcorn, even better), loathe cilantro, love to cook (and fervently believe in the Slow Food movement), love yoga, study Italian and adore international travel.

For more information, please make sure to visit:

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Primavera

Pasta and two favorite things! This sounds really good, haven't tried it yet but will be sure to let you know how it turns out.

2 zucchini, diced
2 yellow squash, diced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. dried Italian herb seasoning
1 box Penne pasta, cooked to el dente
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups roma tomatoes, diced
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh basil, chopped
drizzle of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl toss all the veggies with 1/4 cup oil, italian herbs, salt and pepper to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and cook until veggies start to brown. Stir after 5 minutes, cooking about 10-15 minutes total. In a heavy skillet, saute garlic in remaining oil for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, stir. Add broth and wine and cook 2 minutes to reduce a bit. Toss the pasta with the roasted veggies and tomato wine sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and chopped basil. Drizzle on balsamic if desired. Serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Courtesy of April Sanders

My favorite recipe are what I call Chocolate Chip Cookies. I tweaked the recipe over 3 years when I was first married almost 15 years ago.

The first time I made them, I was a newlywed. I accidentally put in baking “powder” instead of baking “soda”. The result were chocolate chip hockey pucks! I served them to my sweet new husband and kind Pastor.

I realized my mistake later and was mortified. So, when I tweaked the recipe I left in a bit of the baking powder so they get big (but never bake them past gooey J)

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies by April Sanders
(This is a triple batch and can be divided)

2 ¼ cups butter flavor Crisco (can use butter to be healthier)
2 cups brown sugar
1 ¾ cups white granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons milk
3 Tablespoons vanilla
3 eggs
5 ¼ cups flour
3 teaspoons salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
18-24 oz chocolate chips (special dark are the best)
6-8 oz walnuts (if desired)

Preheat over to 375 degrees.

Cream together Crisco, brown sugar and white sugar. Add milk and vanilla, mix well. Add eggs, one at a time.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add by the spoonfuls to creamed mixture.

Add choc chips and optional nuts.

Drop by heaping teaspoons onto greased baking sheet. Bake 9-12 minutes until lightly golden but not brown. I take them out when they are still really gooey. My hubby LOVES them like that. Never crispy!

This recipe can be divided quite easily. I love to make the full triple recipe and divide it in half and bake on a cookie sheet(like the Pampered Chef bar pan) for delicious bars. Can also make in muffin tins and put a scoop of ice cream on a warm cookie – yum!
About the Author and Book:

The national release date for my book is June 16th. It will be available through Barnes and Noble, Borders, CBD, Christian book stores, etc. Right now, however, it may be purchased directly through my publisher or myself. The digital download may also be purchased through Tate at the same link. The audio will be available soon!! I doing last edits right now.

My book Highland Masquerade may be purchased through my publisher at

Or through me at or my facebook link

I am also working on a website but that is taking some time.

Signed copies can be purchased from me. Also, with EACH book there is a FREE download of the audio book version. It will be out around the end of April.

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