Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tomato Cream Fettucini with Sausage

Here's what's cooking tonight!

This is a wonderfully satisfying dish, flavorful but not spicy. If you like more spice, try using hot Italian sausage.

I found a recipe a number of months ago on Simply Recipes for a dish similar to this one. It sounded pretty good as I read the ingredients, so I filed it away to try it. The original recipe calls for two cans of tomatoes and 1 cup of cream. I wanted a more creamy sauce, so I used 2 cups of cream and two cans of tomatoes. The original also called for 3/4 lb. of pasta, but since I feed 4 boys, 3 of them teenagers, I opted for a full pound. Another change I made is the seasonings, I omitted the shallots and sage, adding basil instead. In addition, I used Italian style tomatoes, which I normally do not purchase. I had them on hand because I sent my son to use a coupon and I figured they would come in handy sometime. It turned out very tasty in this recipe and I might have to make them a regular item in my food storage. The best thing about this recipe is the simplicity; it has very few ingredients. It's also fairly quick to prepare and easy to cook.

Here's the details:

  • 1 lb. fettuccine
  • 1 package mild Italian sausage
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 15-oz. cans Italian style diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Cook fettuccine in a large pot according to package directions, making sure not to overcook.

Cut skins from sausage links and place meat in medium-sized skillet along with garlic. Cook sausage and garlic until done, breaking up sausage while cooking. Add tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes. Add cream and basil. Simmer an additional 15 minutes; sauce will become thinner when cooking.

Drain pasta and return to pot. After sauce finishes simmering, remove from heat. Sprinkle grated cheese over pasta and pour hot sauce over the top. Stir until pasta is well coated and let sit 5 minutes. Stir once more and transfer to serving dish. If desired, add more grated cheese on top or pass grated cheese when serving.

Bon appetite!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Brandon Strikes Again!!

Poor Brandon!! This photo from a couple of months ago shows Brandon and Rudy. If you look at Brandon's cheek, you can see the very beginnings of a nasty encounter with poison oak. He ended up being a pretty miserable little boy for over a week. This rash blistered up and turned into scabs. He also had some swipes on his arms. The worst part was the rash that covered his body from head to toe and itched like mad.

I was sitting up with him for two nights. He was alternating crying because Benadryl tastes bad and because he was itching, which is worse? He couldn't decide, the itching or the Benadryl. Eventually the itching won out and he took the medicine, then he could finally sleep. Brandon loves making forts and hideouts in the woods, but we need to check more carefully before he ventures out to see whether he's going to be encountering more of this yucky stuff.

So the real story happened last Friday: We have an old heat pump that was installed in 1991, so it could really die any time, though it's been working very well since we bought the house nearly 2 years ago. There are lots of incentives right now to purchase a new one, so we decided to look into it, just to get more information.

I had an appointment to get a quote on Friday morning. The guy came to the door and knocked. I didn't hear the knock since we have a big house and I was down in the office. Brandon was happy to answer the door, he's not a bit shy and loves to hold conversations. So, the heating guy asked Brandon to get his Mom, and here was Brandon's response:

"My Mom can't come to the door today. She's locked in the dungeon. We are not even allowed to give her bread and water, but she can have all the rats she wants to eat."

Luckily, the heating guy thought this was the funniest thing he had ever heard and thought Brandon was one of the brightest kids he's ever met. I think Brandon needs to write a book to put that superb imagination to good use!

My First Venture into Pasta Making

I have had a Kitchenaid mixer for many years and use it constantly for everything from breads to cakes, frostings to cookies, and anything else you can think of. My hubby bought me the pasta maker attachment set a few years ago and I've never broken it out of the box. It has been cold and rainy here, which made me crave those thick homemade noodles in a nice hearty soup. I never purchase that type of pasta in the stores because I feed 4 boys, so the cost is just prohibitive. I am also a thrifty gal, so I buy only things that are on sale for a great price and keep a good food storage on hand, including dozens of bags of pasta I picked up for $.50 each.

This day, I just got the kick in the pants I needed to break out the pasta maker because I just couldn't get those noodles out of my head.

Making pasta was much easier than I thought. I just followed the basic egg pasta recipe that came in the Kitchenaid booklet along with my pasta attachments. The ingredients are simply egg, salt, flour, and water. It's so easy and cleanup isn't bad. I cut my noodles into fairly short lengths and tossed them with a big of flour so they wouldn't stick together

Here is my soup, it turned out exactly like I thought and was a huge hit with the family.

  • 1 package mild Italian sausage (you can use hot if you prefer)
  • 1 medium onion chopped as desired
  • 2-4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2-4 carrots cut into chunks (I used baby carrots halved lengthwise)
  • 3 Tbsp good quality beef base
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used petite diced)
  • 1 Tbsp basil flakes
  • 1/2 batch of homemade pasta (probably 2 cups or so)
Brown sausage and onions together and drain grease. Add beef base, celery, carrot, water, tomatoes and basil. Simmer until veggies are tender. Add pasta and cook just a few minutes, until pasta is done.

I love to serve this with my version of Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay biscuits or homemade, hot crunchy French bread. (Recipe to follow in a future post.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our New Addition to the Family!

I know what you're thinking, but it's not quite what you think!

Here's the newest member of the family. After many years of thinking about it, planning for it, and hitting roadblocks, we finally took the dog plunge. Meet Rudy.

He's an adorable 15-week-old Golden Retriever puppy. He's seriously the sweetest thing, and I'm not even a dog person! He's a mellow dog, very curious but very well behaved. He's really not the typical hyper puppy I've been expecting. He's already had some training, is mostly house-broken, and will follow simple commands. He's only barked once so far and that was this morning when he first spied his "people" from his crate. He's just a quiet sweetheart!

The boys are loving having him around, the cats not so much. He's very nice to cats, just curious about them. The cats are not at all curious about him, nor are they shy about telling Rudy who is boss around here.

Rudy, formerly known as Barry, was supposed to be a breeding and show dog, but due to some, uh, issues with his man parts isn't qualified in that department. That's just fine for us because we wanted to have him neutered anyway. We couldn't keep the name Barry because my brother is named Barry. We talked about names all the way home from the breeder's place. Some runner-up names were Denny, Doobie, and Dewey.

He's settling in very well and we are quickly learning not to leave any legos, socks, or other goodies laying on the floor. That's fine with me because I've been harping on that for years. Who knew it would take a dog for me to get my way!

Welcome Rudy, and here's to many happy years!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hats Off to Me!!

I decided to knit a hat for my Dad. One problem? I have never knit a hat and didn't really understand the process and knitting physics behind hats. I looked around among the free knitting patterns on the internet and after reading quite a few patterns decided I could figure it out. I initially started following a pattern I found at Lion's website. I wasn't sure how big the hat would turn out, but since I have kids, it was no biggie if it was too small.

Below is my first attempt at a hat. I found that rib knit hats are great because they are more stretchy because the ribs want to shrink more than a stockinette knit does. For this hat, modeled by my son, Conner, I followed the directions to the letter, except I added a stripe of green. This hat is knit with Knit Picks Swish in worsted weight. The colors are Dublin and Truffle. The pattern for this hat is a simple knit 4 purl 4 repeat with 2 extra knits on the end for seaming. I quickly learned that it is much easier to knit in the round when doing hats, the seaming on this was rather a pain!

Jessica's hat: This was actually the 3rd hat I made. I found the pattern and tutorial at under videos. It is a simple rolled brim hat, which rolls all by itself because of the nature of stockinette stitch. I used some yarn from my stash, some cheap stuff from JoAnn, but nice and warm and very pretty. I made her a scarf a couple of years ago for Christmas that was a fuzzy blue and this will go nicely with it. Off it goes to Idaho today, I'm sure she can use it out there!

Finally!!! Dad's Hat! After knitting the hat that ended up being Conner's, I decided that my Dad's hat not only had to be bigger, it needed to be a LOT bigger. I wanted to have a brim he could roll up to put a 2nd layer of knitting over his ears to keep them super warm whe he's working outside. Admittedly, the dog is not the best model, especially since his head doesn't really fit the hat. I had to stuff some bags up inside to fill up the top of the hat for a photo. What can I say? I had a lack of willing hat models (nobody else home) and the dog didn't complain!

This hat also uses Knit Picks' Swish worsted weight, I used Dublin, Truffle, and Camel. I wanted at least 2 inches to roll up on the hat, so I knit a total of 7 inches of Dublin. I knit 3 rows of the other colors for stripes and finished up the hat with Dublin. I'm very happy with the way this turned out, especially since I'm not really experienced with stripes, and this is the first hat I ever knit in the round and the first time I used double-pointed needles!!

Here's the front view! Don't you love how happy the dog looks to be wearing this hat? Well, this hat is going off to Washington today. I hope my Dad loves it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chicken Rustling Anyone??

Anyone who knows me knows that my youngest son Brandon is always coming up with some new scheme of one sort or another.

This is a photo of the imp in question. He turned 8 in September and began his journey as a Cub Scout. Since he's our last boy, it's Dad's last chance to do Cub Scout things. They built this bird house together to meet one of his requirements to get his Wolf Badge.

Now to the chicken rustling story:

My son Stephen called me on my cell phone and said, "I think Brandon stole a chicken."

I said, "He stole what? It sounded like you said he stole a chicken."

Stephen said, "Yeah, he stole a chicken."

Then I said, "You mean a chicken, like out of the freezer, or from a store?"

Stephen said, "No, like a real chicken, there's one in the travel trailer."


Stephen said, "No, it's alive, and there's a bunch of bread in there too."

I'm thinking immediately, "at least I have another good story to tell."

I knew right away where he got it from, but I couldn't figure out why, or how.

Our neighbors at the top of our driveway keep chickens, and Brandon has been fascinated that they lay eggs and that you can actually eat the eggs. When we first moved to the country, he was openly in awe at their house to see this phenomenon. I could just see what they were thinking when he said, "You mean you get eggs from ducks and chickens and you can really eat them, just like from the store." They must have been thinking, "City kids!!!"

Well, apparently Brandon decided we needed an egg source. I asked him why he stole the chicken, and he said, "So we could get eggs."

Never mind that I purchase eggs in quantities of 10 dozen to feed this hungry bunch of boys!!

Here's the story according to Brandon: He went in the pen and just chased the chickens around until one ran into the corner by the door and got trapped so he could catch it. He thought the back room of the travel trailer would make a perfect chicken coop, so he put it in there. We don't use the trailer much in the winter except when we have company, and then we turn it into a guest room.

He gave the chicken some bread to eat and checked on it from time to time. He kept it there for a couple of days until it got discovered. We really don't go into the trailer much, so it was lucky our son went out there to get something and discovered our new friend.

As for the chicken, we made him put it back and apologize for taking the chicken. I think he should have to apologize to all of the chickens for scaring them. But that begs the question: How do you apologize to a chicken?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chili & Cornbread

For dinner tonight, I made chili and cornbread. My chili recipe is very simple and uses lots of stuff from food storage with the exception of ground beef. You could even make it with canned beef chunks, if desired.

This cornbread is the best recipe I have ever tasted, and that includes restaurants! I got the recipe from a church cookbook from our BYU days. It was submitted by Heidi Johnson, and once I tried it, I never looked back. It is nice and moist and everyone who eats it asks for the recipe. I always double this recipe and cook it in a 9" x 13" pan.


  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup oil (I use olive oil)
Mix together egg, sugar, buttermilk, and oil. Add dry ingredients and stir well. Pour into greased 8" x 8" pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Mine usually cooks for longer, make sure to test for doneness with a toothpick in the center.

Here's the chili, still steaming from the pot. I was tempted to throw in a can of green chilis for a twist on the original.....maybe next time. Growing up, I learned to cook with dried pinto beans from my Mom. She always brought her beans to a boil, turned off the heat, then soaked for an hour, rinsed the beans, then proceeded to cook until soft.

As a teenager, I worked at Taco Time. They combine beans, salt, onions, and garlic in a bucket and cover with water, then refrigerate overnight. I like this method as well, but it also means I have to think of it the night before.

I got a tip at my bridal shower and ran across it a few years ago to soften beans in the following manner: Sort and rinse beans, then cover with water and bring to boil in a pot. Remove pot completely from heat and add 1 1/2 Tbsp. baking soda to water and let sit for 15 minutes. I learned the hard way that it is very important to have the pot off of the heat, even on a gas stove, move it to a cool burner. I also learned that less is more in the baking soda department, just use 1 1/2 Tbsp., even if using a larger amount of beans, unless you a using a gigantic pot and an industrial quantity of beans!! After 15 minutes, drain and rinse the beans, cover with water and simmer until soft.

One important note when working with pinto beans. Do not add tomato products or salt until the beans are completely soft. These ingredients slow the softening process and it will take forever to cook them to an edible state.

  • 4 1/2 cups dry pinto beans
  • 2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 29-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. mild chili powder (hotter if you like spicy chili)
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Soften beans according to one of the methods listed above in a large stockpot. Once soft, continue simmering and add all ingredients except beef, garlic, and onion. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic in skillet and drain if necessary, then add to bean mixture. I like to simmer mine at least 2 hours more to combine flavors, we also like our chili on the soupy side, so I add water as needed during the cooking time.

You can top with cheese, onions, or sour cream. My kids love to dip in chunks of the cornbread and scoop up a big spoonful of cornbread and chili. Yum!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My First Knitted Afghan

I saw a pattern for a gorgeous afghan called the Ebb Tide Afghan at I decided to make it for my hubby's sister and her husband for Christmas. This is my first time using circular needles and my first time following a lace pattern. I was so frustrated at the beginning because if you don't get the count exact and catch every "yarn over" and "k2got" it messes up the whole thing. I finally, after several unraveling sessions, counted and recounted super carefully and got the project going. I love the finished project, the color is great!

It called for cotton yarn, but I wanted a lighter weight afghan so I opted to use a merino superwash wool I purchased from I used Swish Worsted Weight in Camel Heather. The yarn is soft and easy to work with and comes in tons of great colors!

This was also my first experience in doing any seaming with finished pieces. For this afghan, you knit the body of the afghan separately from the lace edge and then stitch them together. The only really boring part of the afghan was knitting the lace (After about 2 feet I had enough of knitting it and lots more feet to go!) I do love the look of the edging and I'm pretty proud of myself for figuring this all out!

This photo shows a closeup of the design in the afghan. It incorporates a large cable with lace in between. It was kind of tricky and I had to be sure to count and recount everything, but it really turned out with only one mistake and I don't think they'll ever see it!

Here is the finished project! I hope they love it because it took me countless hours to complete.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The 10,000 Toothpick

On August 2nd, we hosted a wedding for my brother-in-law Scot and his new bride Destiny. Some of the wedding party stayed here at the house, and others stayed close by. We held the rehearsal dinner here and all week long, before the wedding, there was a parade of wedding goers, flowers, bows, and ruffles through the house. The rehearsal dinner was on July 31st, two days before the wedding and was a great success! It was so much fun having a big group here, eating fajitas and enjoying the celebration of the upcoming wedding. We loved getting to know some of Scot's and Destiny's friends. Some of them we had heard about for years, so it was nice to put names with faces.

What does this all have to do with a 10,000 toothpick, you ask? Well, I'm getting ready to tell you!

At the wedding reception, there were small champagne bottles of bubbles for us to blow as the bride and groom left the party. My 4 boys were the only children at the wedding and enjoyed the bubbles more than the adults. My youngest son Brandon decided to ask all of the adults for the leftover bubbles and, consequently, gathered up about 20+ bottles to bring home with him.

We have a very large deck across the width of our home with a fabulous view of the valley. On August 6th, Brandon took his bubble stash out on the deck and started to blow bubbles. Unfortunately for the bubbles, we tend to have at least a bit of a breeze most of the time. As Brandon tried to pop the bubbles, they were blowing out of his reach. Due to his undaunted personality, he devised a great plan to reach any stray bubbles. This plan involved a box of toothpicks and a bunch of rubber bands. He decided that if he took 10 toothpicks and bundled them into bunches of 10 with rubber bands that he would have nice "bombs" to throw at the bubbbles.

Here is where I come in. I walked by one of the office chairs in my office area and saw a large pile of Brandon's "bombs" on the chair. I put a stop to the manufacturing process and told him to put the toothpicks and rubber bands back into their proper places. I also advised Brandon that if he should leave even one toothpick on the carpet that someone could get it stuck in their foot. We have Berber carpet in our family room and office area, which I concluded would be even more likely to cause toothpick, uh, complications.

So, Brandon did as I asked. The problem? He missed one. And, only 30 minutes later, he was running through the family room (which I also think is against the rules) and started screaming that he had a toothpick stuck in his foot. I looked, and sure enough, he had a toothpick embedded in the fleshy part of his foot just below his big toe. And, to make matters worse, the toothpick broke off, leaving about 2/3 of a toothpick (about 1.5") stuck inside the foot. Of course this happened at 8:00 PM, so the only medical option available to us was the ER. I really dislike going to the ER and waiting for hours. I assessed the situation and since he had feeling in the toe and was not going into shock, I phoned the on-call Dr. at our pediatrician's office and followed their advice to bring him in the next day. (Can you tell I keep a cool head during emergencies?)

August 7th: As we went to the Dr., he advised us to go to the ER because they have better equipment to deal with the problem. Great, just great. At least I was grateful that we were spending the day in the ER instead of spending the night in the ER. At this point, I should also mention that Tom (the hubby) was out on the Oregon Coast at Camp Meriweather with our two middle boys at a week long Boy Scout camp. I should also mention that I was also in charge of a dinner at church this same evening for about 40 women.

OK, so we reached the ER, and after we finally got seen, the first thing they did was to send him to x-ray his foot. This was basically useless because toothpicks don't show up on x-rays. A bit later, a nurse practitioner came in to care for Brandon. She numbed the foot and attempted to remove the toothpick. All she managed to do was break off a small piece, which allowed the remainder of the toothpick to disappear completely into his foot. Next, they brought in a doctor, who attempted to cut the toothpick out with no success. After that, he brought an ultrasound machine to check the position of the toothpick. He could see it was in the foot but the test wasn't able to pinpoint the location. They brought in a surgeon who decided it would be better to take it out in surgery instead of in the ER.

August 8th: We got to the hospital nice and early for Brandon's surgery. The surgery went smoothly and very well except for one problem: They were unable to locate and remove the toothpick. They stitched up his foot and sent us home. I think they were pretty sure I was nuts and that there was no toothpick in his foot. They said if there was a toothpick remaining in the foot it could be absorbed by the body, or it could work its way out.

August 20th: Brandon had a follow-up appointment with the surgeon and got his stitches out. His foot was still swollen and tender.

August 23rd: I spent the day at the beach with the women from church. After arriving home, I kissed Brandon good night and realized that he felt hot. This was about 11:00 PM; I checked his temperature and he was running a fever of 101. I checked his foot first thing and it didn't look so great. It almost looked like the toothpick was coming back out, so my hubby checked it with tweezers, which resulted in a fountain of pus coming out of the foot. After consulting with the surgeon's office, they determined that he needed to be seen that night because of the fever. I took Brandon back to the ER, but by the time he was seen by the Dr., his fever was falling because the infection was draining. They told me to just keep it draining until we could see the surgeon.

August 27th: Brandon visited the surgeon who decided to schedule him for an MRI. His foot was still draining and not happy. It would take a day or two to schedule the MRI, so we went home to wait. Later that night, Brandon started hollering that the toothpick was coming out. Sure enough, I looked at the foot and that darn toothpick was starting to emerge. I grabbed the end with my bare fingers and it came right out, about 1.5" long, and none the worse for wear. It just looked like a regular, old toothpick!!

September 3: On the first day of school, Brandon made his last visit to the surgeon with a much happier foot and the toothpick in a baggie instead of in his foot. Hurray.

In all, that darn toothpick cost approximately $10,000 to NOT remove it from his foot!!

Welcome to my world as Brandon's Mom. He's always up to something, though this was by far his most expensive adventure!