Monday, June 9, 2014

I didn't forget.

It's been months since I've been here. Have you missed me? I decided to take a break for a while. Did you notice? I've been busy and so many things are changing that I had to reevaluate what I was doing with my time.

One of those changes: I am moving! Remember this blog post? That was your hint that it was a possibility. It just took a long time to make sure we were really going to Arizona! 

That isn't the only reason I stopped blogging. I am trying to decide what to do with my blog. I don't want to blog just to blog. I want to it to have purpose and either be something that I want to have a record of or something that will make a difference. It takes to much time if it isn't meaningful. 

I am not sure when I will be back. I have some things I want to do first. I'll be back when it is time. Don't worry. 

If you start to miss me, feel free to read old posts. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday 5: Five of My Favorite Free Apps

I think we all have them: apps that we rely on for entertainment, news, or whatever else. Today I want to share 5 of my favorite. 

1. Words with Friends - I think I've mentioned this a couple of times before, but one of my favorite games is Scrabble and to be able to play a game like this with family and friends spread across the country makes me smile. If you feel like it is getting a little too easy, add some of your own twists. Use only words that are associated with food or sports. Play vertical words only. It makes it a bit trickier. Plus it is a fun way to get to interact with people who live too far away to get lunch or play games. So until we all live in the same town, this is the next best thing!

2. Mormon Channel - Music, uplifting videos and articles about becoming like the Savior, videos to help children and youth learn the scriptures. I still love and use the LDS Library app and use it all the time, but this is a nice alternative if you just have some time to kill and want to feel the Spirit. We had a challenge in FHE a couple of months ago to take 30 minutes of watching TV time and watch the bible videos and Mormon Messages from this app instead. Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

3. Zite - This app was just purchased by the company who owns Flipboard, so I am not sure how the changes will affect this app. For now, I love Zite. You get to pick categories in the news that you want to read about. For example, some of my favorites are food & cooking, vegetarian (great for meatless meals and vegetable side dishes), frugal living (they tell you about coupons and deals), and iPhone apps (tells you when apps go free and what great new apps are out there). It also keeps you updated with world news and whatever else you want to read about. I am usually reading in this app more than any other every day.

4. Dictionary - I look up words all of the time. I like to look at the origins of words as I read the scriptures and look up words I don't know. Plus it gives you a word of the day and gives you access to a thesaurus in case you write a blog a want to use superior phraseology. (You get to be my hero if that sentence made you think of Friends when Joey wrote the letter to the adoption service Monica & Chandler were using. Bless your aortic pumps.)

5. Glow - I am going to end with my new favorite. This is an app designed to help people who are either trying to conceive or are pregnant. Before you ask, you would already know if I was pregnant. Trust me. It walks you through your cycle each month with information along the way. The facts about a woman's body are fascinating. They give you "tasks" each day to complete (like make out with your spouse like you are teenagers and compliment a friend today). It gives you a place to monitor changes in your body as you try to conceive. There are community forums to connect with others in your shoes (whether you are trying to conceive or are pregnant). It is easy to use and the information they give is personalized to you. I don't know how well it works for pregnant women (I hope to someday), but for those of us trying to conceive, it keeps track of everything and gives you some peace of mind.

What about you? What are some of your favorite free apps?

Photo of the Week: Tricky Way to Get Salad on the Menu!

I love salads, but there are times that it needs something a little extra. This week that something extra was making it in the form of a tostada. Tostadas have a little lettuce on them, but they are mostly toppings like refried beans, peppers, onions and meat. Well, this week we had baked corn tortillas topped with homemade refried beans, cheese, sautéed onions and peppers. Then we had salad on top of that with a little spicy ranch dressing. It was the perfect way to add some greens (and oranges and reds). Delicious.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recipe: Frittata

Repurposing leftovers. I think that is something we all think about. After all, no one wants to eat the same thing 3 days in a row. (Unless they are some of my favorites like Honey Nut Cheerios or Caprese salad. I could eat these every day. Not kidding.) Okay so we have these left overs and don't want to eat them again and definitely don't want them to go to waste. We all have our go-to dishes for leftovers. Mine is almost always soup, especially in the fall/winter months. Now that spring is coming our way, I decided to branch out. 

I went with a frittata. Which always brings the question, what is the difference between a quiche and a frittata? Well, there are a couple of them. First off, quiche is a baked custard, so in addition to eggs, it has a good amount of cream. It is also baked in a crust. Frittata is like a baked omelet so there is very little (if any) liquid added to the eggs. It is a fantastic way to use up vegetables that are about to go bad or those leftovers we spent an entire paragraph talking about. Remember?

6 eggs (or so - I had a lot of add ins and wanted the eggs to play a dominate role. Feel free to start with 4 and add more if you need it.)
Vegetables of your choice - think about colors! (about a cup)
Sausage or bacon or ham (I'd stick to pig for this or go meatless - you'll need about a cup)
2 potatoes (can be used as a crust or cubed, sautéed and added to the egg mixture)
Cheddar cheese (about a cup)

Don't you love my measurements? That is how you know this is all about leftovers. I used what I had in my fridge. Do the same.

For this frittata, I decided to start with a potato bottom crust. (You don't need a crust, I just wanted to use up potatoes.) I sliced them thin and layered them in a cast iron skillet in a little melted butter. After they were layered, you want to season them. I let it sauté for about 5 minutes on medium low while I started cutting up some of the vegetables I wanted to use. 

Then I put it into a preheated oven for about 10 minutes while I prepped the other vegetables. Next, I blanched apparatus and sautéed red bell peppers. I already had leftover sausage ready to go. After that it is all about putting it together. 

I put the sausage right on top of the potatoes so I knew it was dispersed evenly.

Mix the vegetables in with the beaten eggs. I added a little bit of cheese to this mixture. I don't regret it. I do regret using a yellow bowl with eggs. I may never get that right. Sorry. Also, you are going to want to salt and pepper this mixture.

Carefully pour the egg mixture over the potatoes. This is when I realized I needed more egg. So I beat a couple of extra and added them to the top. 

Now let's talk about baking it. I baked it for about 20 minutes and added cheese to the top. After this point, you want the cheese to melt and the eggs to reach about 160 degrees. 

Cut it up. Eat it hot. Eat it cold. Add salsa. (If you're one of those people who eat ketchup on everything, go ahead, just don't make me watch. I still like you. Don't worry.)

I was busy talking to my grandpa and didn't watch the time as close as I should and overcooked it a little. The flavors were great and the texture was just a little off. It was worth it. We were talking about shooting targets. He taught me how to shoot. 

Now that I am done remembering shooting with grandpa (it's been way too long!), I am going to encourage you to give this a shot the next time you are wondering what to do with your leftovers!

Variety Tuesday: Preparing for General Conference

This week for FHE, I was in charge of the lesson. Since General Conference is less than a month away, I thought it would be a good opportunity to think back on some of the conference talks that touched my heart the most and to start thinking about questions I would like to have answered during the next conference talks.

I want to share with you one of my very favorite talks from Conference. It touched my heart in October and again last night as we watched it again. It's by Elder D. Todd Christofferson and could not be more important for the world to hear.

It's entitled The Moral Force of Women. Please read it or watch it. Even if you have already seen it, watch it again. Share it with the women in your life. (See me do that right now?) He has such an eloquent way of discussing the importance of women and their foreordained roles. I love this topic so much. I hear these words and feel empowered. I hear these words and know that I need to be doing so much better than I am now. I hear these words and know, without a doubt, that my Heavenly Father is aware of my thoughts, feelings, and insecurities. He's aware, and He is sending messengers like Elder Christofferson to reassure me. What an incredible blessing.

I am only going to write one paragraph on womanhood. Then I will move on to preparing for conference. I promise.

Women, as natural nurturers have the daunting task of raising children. We are responsible for teaching them... everything. We are responsible for taking care of their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. We are responsible for transforming our home into a safe and loving atmosphere where the Spirit can dwell. We teach by example. We teach them to recognize the Spirit. We teach them right from wrong and love them despite choices they end up making. The list never ends. Luckily, the children that women are blessed to raise first knew a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for those children. He is here to help. He has faith in you. He wants you to understand that there is NOTHING you will do that is as important. Raising children affects generations. Generations of YOUR family. Thinking about this overwhelming responsibility can make us feel discouraged or like we aren't doing enough. Well, there are a couple of things I want to say about that. Take an inventory and make sure you are doing everything you can with the help of Heaven. If you aren't, you can change that. Secondly, give yourself a break. Read Elder Christofferson's talk and let his words buoy you and encourage your efforts. The end.

Now I want to talk about preparing for General Conference. I have questions I want answered. No, I am not going to share them with you. Sorry. In order to feel like I have done my part to prepare to receive answers, I have been re-reading the talks from last conference. Personal revelation comes a little at a time and if I can form a foundation of knowledge and understanding before conference, the talks are going to help me that much more. I am praying for guidance as I study so I can do everything in my power.

So my message to you for today is that a Prophet of God is going to speak to the world 24 and 25 days from now. He is going to say something that you need to hear. I suggest you do your part and prepare to hear it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cooking Tips & Tricks: Cheeseburgers

Before I start blowing your mind with my tips & tricks for the day, I feel like we should have a serious talk. I was gone last week. Did you notice? I did. I wanted to talk to you everyday, but I was out of town. I've never seen WiFi with that quality before. (Luckily!) I didn't get email, couldn't play words with friends, didn't have access to food blogs, and I couldn't read updates on Twitter. What was I supposed to do when I woke up? Who was I supposed to give recipes to? It was rough. I am happy to be back though. 

Okay, that's all. We're all happy I'm here and full of information to share. Here we go!

I love a good cheeseburger. I love when it is summertime and we can grill out. There is something about the smoky flavor of a burger that makes it oh, so good. Utah weather has been crazy lately. For instance, it was almost 70 degrees yesterday. Tomorrow is calling for snow. (The temperature won't be below 40 degrees, so it will be rain, but still...) Anyway, today was one of those days that Joe mentioned grilling out, and once he mentioned it, I couldn't stop my mouth from watering. Since the temperature was on its way down for the day, we settled with grilling in instead. 

There are a couple of things you can do to make this almost as good as grilling out. 

First, FLAVOR your beef. I am going to list a bunch of things you can add to the meat. Choose a couple that go together and make sure you mix it together before adding the meat. (You only want to add enough to add flavor, you don't want to go crazy.) That way you don't over mix the beef. You should always add salt and at least a little pepper. I think you already knew that.

Worcestershire sauce
Dijon mustard
BBQ sauce
Hot sauce
Chili powder
Onion powder
Cayenne pepper
Red pepper flakes
Soy sauce
Italian dressing
Ranch dressing mix
Use your imagination -- and what you have in your cupboard/fridge

This is dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, and some hot sauce. Someday I will stop using the same color bowl for whatever it is I am mixing. I am so terrible at that. 

Next, mix the ground beef just enough to flavor it. Portion it into patties that are just bigger than the hamburger buns you bought. (If you made them, you are my new hero. I never know enough in advance to even think about being that ambitious.)

Now is when you need to heat the grill pan. You want it medium-high. You are also going to want to turn your oven on to 350 degrees. (You'll thank me later.) Put the patties onto the grill pan and leave them. You want them to develop grill marks. 

Flip them once and put the pan in the oven. It won't take them long to finish cooking, so this is when I start getting the toppings out. Let the burgers cook for about 5 minutes and turn off the heat in the oven. If you need more time to get things ready (tomatoes or onions or lettuce cut, onions caramelized, fry sauce made, etc.) you can leave the burgers in the now-off oven while you keep working. Feel free to melt cheese on the top of it now. 

The oven will be hot enough to melt the cheese perfectly. (Just remember not to take a picture of it.) Pull out the burgers and toss the buns under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Don't forget about them. No one likes scraping burnt crumbs from the buns. We all do it, but it's never the same. There is no coming back from that. Set a timer if you need to. 

Your burgers will be well-done, but not dry. The cheese will be melted. Now you can make your perfect cheeseburger. Add mayo, mustard, or ketchup. Add lettuce, tomatoes, and caramelized onions. Add crispy bacon or an onion ring or pickles. Make sure your burger requires a BIG bite. It should make a mess of your face. It should drip on your plate because it is so moist. It should make you want to keep eating. Serve them with fries or potato salad or coleslaw. You won't regret it.

I think if we all start grilling in, it will convince summer to come faster so we can all move our cooking to the great outdoors. Let's try, shall we?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cooking Tips & Tricks: Garlic Bread

I love French bread. I also love garlic French bread, but have you ever purchased garlic bread and brought it home super excited only to have an inch of butter/garlic/whatever else they've decided to throw in there? It's vile! I can't stand the flavor or that I have to bite through butter (even when I've cooked and "melted" it.) Gross. Plus, have you noticed price difference. Well, I guess that doesn't mean anything because you're paying for at least a couple sticks of butter and some other stuff, so it makes sense.

I think we all see the delicious words "garlic bread," and we convince ourselves that it is way too hard to make our own garlic bread (unless we use garlic salt and we all know that doesn't taste as good as fresh garlic) and now that we've seen the words, our taste buds won't accept anything less. I can't blame them. There is one problem with that statement, however. It's not hard at all!

The hardest part is making it home with an entire loaf of french bread. (I can't put the loaf anywhere close to me because I will start eating it. Always have. In fact, I am fairly sure when I was little, my parents would buy a loaf and most of it was gone by the time we got home 7 or 8 minutes later. No, I wouldn't eat it by myself. We all shared. Maybe that was why my parents always bought two loaves: one to eat in the car and one to eat with whatever meal mom had planned. Good idea, Parents.)

So today I want to talk about two different ways to make garlic bread. My goal was to find a way to take the delicious and classic way I know and mix it with a quick way. I am going to teach you the classic way first, the quicker way second, and the compromise. Unfortunately, the compromise is sans photos. (How much bread do you people think I can eat?!?) I think you'll get the point though.

Let's get started. First thing to do is get a regular loaf of French bread and cut it in half. This makes it easier to make a cut through the bread so you can put the garlic butter on it because you can rest the bread on the newly cut flat side and slice down towards the cutting board.

Now that you have your French bread cut and ready, we can start the garlic paste. I used one garlic clove for half of the bread. Mince it very fine.

Once you have it minced, lightly cover the garlic with salt. (Kosher salt is best, but table salt will work.)

Now comes the fun part. You are going to make a paste. This happens by holding your knife normally with your dominant hand and holding the spine of your blade with the other hand. You are going to use the side of your blade to smash and rub the salt into the garlic. (I know this make so much sense. I was really good about taking pictures of this part, can you tell? Stay with me.) The point of this step is twofold. You want to use the salt bread down the garlic. The salt will bring out the moisture in the garlic to help make a paste, and the friction will break down the minced pieces into a paste. The salt also helps bring out the flavor. (If you are still super confused, I am sure there is a video out there somewhere.)

Now you are going to put the garlic paste into a small microwave safe bowl. (I like microwaving the garlic with the butter to help bring out the flavors. You can use just a little and it is still super flavorful.)

Next, add half the butter you want to use and microwave it until half of that is melted. Stir in the unmelted part until it is all melted. This is when you add the half you set aside and stir like crazy. (I only used a couple of tablespoons of butter and it covered half of the French bread.)

As you stir, you will see that it emulsifies. You don't see the melted portion, and it looks so pretty. Bonus: It's easy to spread. Also, I should tell you that I used unsalted butter so adding the paste didn't make everything too salty. (You can taste it at this point and add a little salt, if you need it.)

When you spread it onto the bread, you just want a thin layer. It's just to add a little flavor. (We should tell grocery store bakeries this...) I added parsley to the top. You don't have to, but it's pretty.

Okay, this is the point where you bake it. Most of the people I know will wrap it in tin foil and bake it until it's perfect. I am not that patient. I put it on a baking sheet and baking it at 450 degrees for a couple of minutes. You just can't forget it or it dries out super fast.

Now we are going to look at the quicker way.

Use a microplane to mince the garlic.

Put it right into the microwave safe bowl. Add a little bit of salt.

Next, add half the butter you want to use and microwave it until half of that is melted. Stir in the unmelted part until it is all melted. This is when you add the remaining half and stir like crazy. (This process is genius. Don't change that part, you'll regret it.

You still want to spread it in a thin layer - you won't need more than that. Trust me. Just make sure you go edge to edge.

Okay, now I can tell you about the taste test. I had my husband tell me what he thought of each kind. It was great because he didn't know what the difference would be. (I did. So I was a little biased.) Luckily, he agreed! The second process, though quicker, doesn't give you the garlic flavor of the first process. You can still taste it, but it's just not as good. 

So what about those times you don't want your hands smelling like garlic and you want to save a little time? Is there a way to get the flavor in less time? 

Thanks for asking. Why, yes there is. When you mince the garlic with the microplane, don't put it directly into the bowl you want to use. Put it onto a cutting board. Sprinkle it with salt and use that to make your paste like the first way. It saves a couple of minutes of mincing garlic by hand and it is SO MUCH better than if you buy the garlic bread at the store. (Even if you scrape off a bunch of that stuff they put on it.)

One final tip for today. If you don't want to be the only one smelling like garlic, you have to share. Sorry.