Thursday, April 28, 2011

Our Attempt at Gardening

This is our little attempt at our first garden. My husband and I really knew nothing about gardening until we tried for the first time this year. This is the first time we have lived in a house with a yard, so of course, being the little cook that I am, I wanted a garden!! How awesome would it be to just walk outside my back door and get some lettuce, green peppers, and tomatoes and not have to treck to the store and pay outrageous prices?
But, we didn't do too much research besides talking to people and finding out how other Oklahomians have planted their gardens. So this post will mainly be me telling you what we have done so far, and then you commenting and telling me what we can do better! Okay, let's go.
I was really excited about gardening, but if I'm gonna be honest, my husband has done the majority of the work. He was so excited about having a garden that he dug it up for me, planted almost everything, and has worked hard to water it. So, can I really call it my garden?
The area in the shade (pictured above) was already dug up for a garden when we moved in. But the problem is that it doesn't get much sunlight. We were told that planting marigolds as a border for the garden would attract the right kinds of insects that would help our garden. So we did that (but most of them didn't get much sunlight and died already) and then Tad dug up another section (in the sun in the above picture) since it got the sunlight all day.
We have planted tomato and green pepper plants, strawberries, watermelon, carrots, lettuce (??), oregano, cilantro, parsley, basil (??), and cucumbers. It has been really dry here so we had to water it a lot, but lately we have gotten a lot of rain, so hopefully the garden is happy! Now, problems. And hopefully some of you have answers.

  1. We think that the birds have eaten all the leaves off our tomato plants. The green pepper leaves are still there, but the tomato leaves are gone.
  2. After all the rain, nasty mushrooms have sprouted up all in our garden and poking through our watermelon area.
  3. When the wind blows, we get lots of "tree turds" as my dad would call it, in our garden. I raked them out the other day. Should we leave them in there? Is it good for the plants?
  4. It's hard to tell at this point what is a weed, and what is something we planted coming out of the ground. With it being our first year gardening, we aren't sure and don't want to pull something out that is food!
  5. Should we replant marigolds as a border again, in the sunlight, to yield better results in our garden?
So, these are our issues to date. I am really excited to see stuff growing already, and really hope we can get something to grow in our first garden!! Anyone have any advice on composting? I think we are gonna start that soon. So this is the new adventure we have taken on, and hopefully there will be positive posts to come about our blooming garden!! Hopefully!!
Area where we planted strawberries and watermelon, also pictured are the dying marigolds and the "tree turds."

Head on over to Alicia's Homemaking to check out more people's adventures for the week! Click below!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shrimp Risotto with Baby Peas

I am so glad I finally discovered risotto!! I love it!! It does take a little while to make, but if you're patient, and especially when it comes to good food, then you're gonna love this recipe!! The creamy texture of risotto is divine, and when paired with yummy shrimp and baby peas, it will melt in your mouth!! I first tried a chicken/artichoke risotto, then a mushroom risotto, and then this risotto. It was very tasty!! So, without further ado...

Shrimp Risotto with Baby Peas
The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook

4 cups water
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken or vegetable broth
1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
1 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice (Italian short-grain rice) or medium grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (I just used water since I didn't have any on hand)
1 cup frozen baby peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. In 3 quart saucepan, combine water, broth, and shrimp shells (I just used the tails that I cut off because I don't like to cut off tails for each bite, and I bought the already cooked shrimp so there were no shells.) Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes. Strain broth through sieve into bowl and measure. If needed, add water to equal 5 1/2 cups. Return broth to same clean saucepan; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to maintain simmer; cover.
2. In 4 quart saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper; cook, stirring, just until shrimp are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
3. In same saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice and remaining 1 tsp. salt; cook, stirring frequently, until rice grains are opaque. Add wine (or water); cook until it has been absorbed. Add about 1/2 cup simmering broth to rice, stirring until liquid has been absorbed. Continue cooking, adding remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time and stirring after each addition, until all liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender but still firm, about 25 minutes (risotto should have a creamy consistency). Stir in frozen peas and shrimp and heat through. Stir in parsley. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

The other recipes I have used for risotto also include Parmesan cheese, so I put some of that into my individual bowl and it made it even more creamy and luxurious. But it is fine as is too!! It is also good leftover! For those of you who haven't made risotto before, you have to make sure that you let the simmering liquid get absorbed before the next addition of liquid so that the rice cooks as it should. You have to keep your liquid boiling/simmering the whole time. Enjoy!

What are your favorite risotto recipes?

Monday, April 18, 2011

How We Have Kept Ourselves Busy

Yep, we've been pretty busy around here! Sorry I haven't been as up-to-date on the blog. Taking care of a house and kids is a lot of work!! Besides homeschooling, gardening (which will be in an upcoming post!), church activities (we have been singing on the worship team!), and normal day-to-day activities, we have found some really fun things to do around town, and I thought I would let you see some of them in pictures!!

We went for a family picnic on a really windy day. Our lunches just about blew away!! We are really not used to this warm weather for springtime, but we are really enjoying it!! I can't believe we have already had to fight turning on our air conditioning several times!! Everyone just keeps telling us we are going to melt in the summer heat!
They are getting big!!

Playgrounds are a must!! There are definitely not as many as there are in Chicago, but we have a good one near our house and we walk to it several times a week!
We have been going to the library's weekly storytime for a few months now. I usually take Maddy while Judah stays home (with Tad) and takes a nap. One night, they had a "Cat in the Hat" night where they read stories, colored, and watched a movie. This is Judah "just chillin" in the children's area. He loves little chairs!!
With the "Cat in the Hat!"
We have already made good friends!! My friend, Kirsten, and I have been working out at the YMCA for about a month and a half, and we are training to do a 5k at the end of May. Our girls are the same age and have hit it off as well!! We have had several playdates, and it has been a blast!
Judah loved playing on this merry-go-round! He pushed it for Maddy, and then would get on for a ride. This is him holding on for dear life while I barely pushed it!
He was so wore out by the end of that time at the park, that he fell asleep in the car. I laid him down on the couch when we got home, thinking he would wake up, and he just snoozed until dinner. Poor boy! This country air is wearing him out!
Hanging out with Tad's family. We hang out at their house quite a bit. And they watch the kids once a week so I can go to worship practice. The kids love all their aunts and uncles! And Grandma and Pops too!!
The library also had a "Fancy Nancy" party where they made rings (pictured above), bracelets, and had punch and sweets.
All the girls in their fancy outfits!!
The kids helping to clean around the house. Give 'em a washcloth and put them to work!!
Country playdates!! This family that goes to our church has a lot of land, go-carts, farm animals, a creek, etc. etc. etc. Maddy, after playing there, said she wishes she was a cowgirl too. And that this has been the best summer ever!! Girl, it's not even May!
The kids all playing with their cat!
Judah loved playing in their little sandbox!

The creek. The kids caught minnows, walked along the water, and just played for a long time!!
Being silly in the backyard!! Judah's favorite word these days is, "out." He sees the door, any person, the backyard, he says, "out." He has been saying it right when he wakes up and during his bottles. An outdoorsman like his father!

Loving her own backyard!! Today she even helped daddy with a bunch of yardwork!!
We got to go see Rapunzel at the local theater. The kids loved it!! At intermission, all the kids got a play frog and a little bag of marshmallows and pretzels. It was Maddy's first play, and she loved it!!

After the play, she got to meet Rapunzel and some other cast members, and they signed her "frog."
Mother Goose.

We were even invited to a Pull-Ups Party. Since Judah was a little under the weather, he stayed home with dad, and Maddy and I brought him home the stuff. There was a pull-ups van (pictured) for all the kids to play in, the Potty dance, and coupons for Pull-ups.
Maddy playing with her friend during the party. They had a blast playing dress up and singing.
Judah's fo-hawk. If that's how you spell it. That must be daddy's creation.
I can't believe how old he looks in this picture!! Sitting in Grandma's kitchen, probably waiting for a snack!! He looks like a little school boy in this outfit!!
Playing on the farm. We went out to another farm, to where Tad's uncle and aunt live, and Maddy and her two older aunts (8 and 10 yrs. old) had a blast!!
They played on bales of hay.
And played in an old Mercedes that doesn't work anymore. They ran around, got dirty and tired, and slept good that night!!
Well, thanks for putting up with lots of phone pics, probably too many pictures, and not enough blog posts lately. It's just a busy time of year!! Stay tuned for details on our first garden!! Hope you all are doing well!!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Classic Cheese Souffle

This was the first souffle I have ever cooked, and ever eaten!! I keep hearing about this amazing thing called the souffle, especially in magazines, cookbooks, and the Food Network! Finally, when I ran across it in my Good Housekeeping cookbook (which has been like my cooking bible lately!) that Tad got me for Christmas, I decided I had to make it. So, what I will do is give the exact recipe from my cookbook, and then give you a little review! So, here we go!

Classic Cheese Souffle

The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book

2 Tbs. plain dried bread crumbs or freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 Tbs. butter or margarine
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper (cayenne)
5 large eggs, separated
1 large egg white

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 quart souffle dish; sprinkle evenly with bread crumbs.
2. Prepare cheese sauce: In heavy 2 quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. With wire whisk, gradually whisk in warm milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until sauce has thickened and boils. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, 3 minutes. Stir in Cheddar, salt, and ground red pepper; cook, stirring, just until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth. Remove saucepan from heat.
3. In bowl, with wire whisk, lightly beat egg yolks; gradually whisk in 1/2 cup hot cheese sauce. Gradually whisk egg-yolk mixture into cheese sauce in saucepan, stirring rapidly to prevent curdling. Pour cheese mixture back into bowl.
4. In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat 6 egg whites until stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted. With rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of beaten eggs whites into cheese mixture. Fold in remaining whites just until blended.
5. Pour mixture into prepared souffle dish. If desired, to create top-hat effect (center will rise higher than edge), with back of spoon, make 1-inch-deep indentation all around top of souffle about 1 inch from edge of dish. Bake until souffle has puffed and is golden brown and knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 6 main-dish servings.

Now, that's a top-hat like effect if I've ever seen one!! Now, I will say that my souffle did turn out just how it was suppose to. And I will say, that I didn't realize just how much it would taste like eggs. I know, laugh and laugh, call me crazy, ha ha. It tastes like the gourmet version of cheesy scrambled eggs. Now, my husband, who is an egg lover, loved it. I often have him write our opinion of recipes in my cookbooks after I make them, and for this one he wrote, "Turned out great! But only the egg lover liked it." I didn't think it was bad, just not something I was "wowed" with. But, on the other hand, if you love eggs, and cheese, then this recipe is for you!! I would be interested in trying other versions of souffles, with other additions of meat, or different cheeses. Overall, it was a good, new recipe!!

Head on over to to check out more amazing egg-lover recipes this week!! Just click the button above or check out her website!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finally...House Pictures!!

Welcome to our home!! Sorry about all the blurry pics, but my phone camera isn't the best quality (since our regular camera broke!!) But here they are, nonetheless!! Maddy loves to pose, so she will be making appearances throughout the house!
My kitchen is a little hard to see, because of the glare. Behind the sink there are two windows that come together in a v-shape. I love that little nook behind the sink where I have a plant, tea set, and other little things!! It's the biggest kitchen I've ever had, with the most counter space, and storage space. Off to the left is a door to the garage, and the door to the right goes into our backyard.
Our little dining area off of the kitchen. Love the ceiling fan, and the walls were already painted when we moved in, so we just went with the existing colors.
My least favorite area of the house. Old school light green countertop with gold flecks (no thanks!) with a top painted border of gray (matches my shower curtain) and part of the wall above the toilet, a square section not painted the same color as the rest of the walls. Oh well!! The toilet, sink, and shower work! I do, however, like the window in the shower!!
Judah's room. Again, sorry for the glare. I need something above his crib, and some more "boyish" decorations. But it's a fun room for him, for sure!! His first room!

Maddy is loving her room. She got my bedroom set from when I was a girl! My canopy bed (maybe we can find a canopy somewhere), desk, hutch, and nightstand, and Judah got the dresser!
We just need curtains for her room. Other than that, it's pretty much done!!
Her art section on her wall!
The little half bath off of our bedroom.
Living room. Sorry, these are a bit out of order!! I used a lot of nails to get curtains up, horrible, I know, but I was ready to get those curtains up!! Notice the cardboard window panel, before we got our window fixed.
The piano we got from the church!! We love it! I can't wait until I can start teaching Maddy how to play!!
Our bedroom. 2 windows. Finally our room back!! Judah has been sleeping in our room since he was born.

Well, hope you enjoyed the tour! I know so many people don't live close anymore (sigh) and wanted to see pics of the new place!! We are having a blast continuing to get settled, being creative with our new space, and loving our first backyard!! Chicago was fun, but we are loving Oklahoma!! Now if we could just get all our neighboring dogs to stop barking, it would be perfect!!