Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Quick & Easy Favorite Recipes!

Happy Friday Friends!  I'm not sure how I've managed to go all this time without sharing two of our absolute favorite recipes!  Chicken Spaghetti and Banana Pudding!  The really great thing?  Both recipes are absolutely packed with flavor, but low in fat! Not only that, they're easy to prepare and quick, too!  Who doesn't like that!? 

I was first given the Chicken Spaghetti recipe by Cheryl at Hope for Each Day (who is an absolute sweetheart, by the way...).  She knew we were doing Weight Watchers and it was a WW recipe.  I didn't wait long at all to give it a try.  It instantly became a family favorite.

Here is what you need...

8 oz cooked chicken
3 cups spaghetti (I use 7-8 oz of Ronzoni Angel Hair or Thin Spaghetti)
4 oz . Mexican Velveeta (cubed)
1 can 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (optional - we do not use)
1 can Rotel tomatos (we use mild, but if you prefer more spice, you might try medium)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Saute' the onions and peppers.  Cook spaghetti.   

When onions are tender, mix in all other ingredients...
When the cheese has melted and it's well combined, it should look something like this (sometimes it looks a bit more pink than this). 

Lightly oil a casserole dish and pour in your drained, cooked spaghetti...

Pour over the sauce mixture and combine until all spaghetti is well covered. 

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (I typically cover with foil until the last 5 minutes to keep any spaghetti on the surface from drying out).  Makes 6 servings.  Serve with salad or your favorite steamed veggies. 
I've shared this recipe with so many people and everyone LOVES it!  Bet you will, too! 

(Two great timesavers...when I buy a bag of chicken breasts, I immediately bake most of them in a couple of casserole dishes.  Once finished, I cut them up for several recipes we eat frequently and place them in freezer bags in 1/2 to 1 pound increments.  When you need it, just grab it from the freezer!  Makes a fast recipe even faster!  Another thing I like to do is chop and freeze several onions at once.  I simply peel them, cut them into fourths, chop them in the food processor and then freeze them in individual ziploc bags.  This makes quick work of many recipes (and I only have to wash the food processor once!)   

Now onto dessert! 
I have to tell you, growing up my Mom made the best Banana Pudding...from scratch!  Still one of my favorite things, especially when served warm!  As my hubby could attest, (but out of sweetness probably would not)...I'm not my Mom in the kitchen!  I do enjoy experimenting and making special meals and desserts sometimes, but my comfort zone definitely lies in boxes, mixes & pre-packaged food...thank-you-very-much.  This is about as easy as it gets, and though it doesn't quite taste like Mom's...this one won't add pounds or inches to your waistline!  (This recipe makes enough pudding to fill a large trifle dish, you could essentially cut this recipe in half if you want to make less.)   

You'll need:
1 box reduced fat vanilla wafers (you won't use the whole box)
2 boxes banana cream pudding (sugar free, fat free only comes in small boxes)
4 bananas
3 3/4 cups milk (we always use skim)
2- 8 oz tubs of Cool Whip (we've used Lite, Fat Free and Sugar Free)

Just prepare pudding as per instructions on the box.  Layer beginning with vanilla wafers, pudding, bananas and cool whip...then, repeat.  I like to crush some vanilla wafers and sprinkle over the cool whip on top.  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours...ENJOY!!! 

I'd love to hear if you try either or both of these recipes! 

Now take a moment to visit a new blog friend, Colleen of And Baby Makes Five.  She hosts a weekly recipe swap every Friday! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Brennan!

A young man who is very near to my heart is celebrating his birthday today...his first as a married man!  = ) 

Recently, I ran across a very old spiral bound notebook.  I've never been one to journal, but I have been known to scribble random thoughts and notes.  As I picked up the notebook and flipped through its pages, I found the story of Brennan's birth!  From all appearances, I wrote this when he was still quite young as if I was telling him the story.  I thought it would be fun to share it, in honor of his birthday. 

* * *

On a sunny Saturday in May of 1988, a man and his wife discovered they were expecting a baby.  They were so very happy, extremely excited and a little nervous all at once!  For nearly 4 years, it had just been the two of them.  It wasn't long at all before they shared the great news with family and friends, that soon they would be a family of three!

A few weeks later, they got to hear the baby's heart beat for the first time! What a thrill that was!  Soon the woman's tummy began to grow...she felt wonderful!  The couple began reading all about how the baby was growing and changing everyday.  What a miracle!  Then one day, the woman felt the baby kick for the first time!  She couldn't wait for her husband to feel it too, and very soon, he did.  The baby continued to grow and they began to try to choose a name for this special little person. 

very night, the man would place his head on his wife's tummy and talk to the baby.  After a few months, the woman was able to see it when she had an ultrsound.  The baby was flipping and moving around in every direction and even sucking its thumb!  It was incredible!  She learned it weighed only about 1 pound and was abut 6" long.  She learned the baby was healthy and expected to arrive in late January or early February of 1989.  Oh, and one other thing...she learned that "it" was a "he!" 

She called her husband right away to share the news that they would have a son.  They both spent much of that day in a sort of daydream, thinking of their baby boy. 

They began making preparations and decorating the room that was soon to be occupied by this little guy.  They choose periwinkle blue carpet and painted walls of warm beige.  They found a charming border with lambs, horses and lions in beige, blue and pink, which the man put up with the help of his brother-in-law.  One set of Grandparents bought a lovely crib, the other Grandparents bought a matching changing table.  The man surprised his wife with a beautiful rocking chair.  She couldn't wait to rock her sweet baby boy. There were baby showers and many special gifts in anticipation of his arrival.    

At last, one evening the woman was admitted to the hospital. She was given medication they hoped would coax the baby to come.  She got settled into her hospital room, and the waiting began.  She and her husband played Uno to pass the time.  They called both sets of Grandparents and sometime later, they drifted off to sleep.  About 3:30 in the morning, the woman awoke to find her water had broken!  It was finally time!  (or so they thought...)  The hours that followed suggested the baby was quite comfy where he was and really didn't want to leave.  After many hours (27 to be exact), the doctor decided it was time to help the baby make it's arrival.  At long last...he did!  At 6:19 am on Friday, January 27th, 1989. 

He was born with quite a lot of auburn hair and round little cheeks and dimples on his hands.  He weighed a whopping 9 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20 inches long.  Lots of people said he looked like his maternal Grandpa.  As you might guess, to the man and woman, he was the most precious baby they had ever seen. 

After a couple of days in the hospital and many visitors...the couple took the baby home to begin their new life together as a family...our family...and that sweet and precious baby?  He was Brennan Thomas Klensch.  A good natured, loving, happy baby (not to mention beautiful!)  Everyone said he looked just like the Gerber baby.  He was (and still is) definitely a "cuddler" which only made him more lovable.  He was even known to put his head on the shoulder of people holding him for the first time, and they would always just melt.  Those huge blue eyes and the sweetest of smiles never failed to light up any room.  The joy he brought (and continues to bring) to his Daddy and Mommy is something beyond anything they could have ever imagined.  There was never a doubt God had blessed them greatly with this extraordinary gift. 

Bren, even though your baby days have long since passed, you continue to bring great joy to Dad and I. Being your parents remains the greatest privilege God has ever given to us.  We can truly never thank Him enough. We are so very proud of you and the way you serve and honor God with your life.  We wish you a wonderful day of celebration! (No doubt Breezy is making it a very special one.)  We love & miss you so much!   

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. ~3 John 1:4

Monday, January 25, 2010

Christmas in January...Sweet Pasta Angel!

Can you believe Christmas was a month ago?!  Wow, that seemed to fly.  I don't know about you, but I seemed to find all sorts of wonderful and creative craft ideas in blogworld in the month of December!  In fact, it seemed the closer we got to Christmas, the more creative ideas I found.  There were sooooo many things I wanted to try...just simply not enough time.  Well, I may have come up with a plan...
I'm going to take some of those ideas I saw in December and create them all throughout the year.  My plan is to feature one every month on the 25th.  So while it might look a little strange to see ornaments in April, July or September, think of how many things you could have finished by Christmas!  What do you think?   
I want to start with a simple pasta angel.  I've seen many variations, but it's always the same basic idea.  Here are the materials I used:

In addition, you will need tacky glue and your embellishments of choice (hot glue helps, too).
Start with one of the wooden beads (I used 3/4").  Take your ribbon (I used narrow, wired silver).  Cut a piece approximately 5 inches lin length and fold it half.  Feed through the holes in the bead.  Tie a knot.  (This is your loop for hanging the ornament.)   

Feed the lower part of the knot down through a rigatoni noodle.  Run a bead of glue around one end and attach where head comes to rest. 

Now it's time for the bow tie pasta, oops...I mean wings!  Glue them onto the rigatoni, up near the angel's head.
Your angel needs some arms! You will need 2 pieces of macaroni.  Run a bead of glue along one side of each piece and affix them as indicated. 
Now, she'll need some hair.  I found this tiny little star pasta.  You could use rice, grits, cous-cous or any other very small pasta.  Pour a small amount into a shallow container.

Spread a layer of glue on the angel's head, in the approximate shape of her hairline (avoiding the hole on top of the bead where the loop will come through).  Affix pasta. 
By now, your angel should look something like this.  From here, there are all sorts of variations.  I've seen them painted gold, silver, soft white or not painted at all.  I've seen them with faces and without.  I've seen them holding stars, tiny silk rosebuds, tiny songbooks, and even an upside-down tack to simulate a candle! 
When trying to decide what to use for my angel, I ran across these in my button tin.  I thought...perfect!
Glue the embellishment of your choice in between the macaroni.
Oh, and one last thing...her halo!  (Found in the wedding section of the craft store.)   
There you have it!  This would be a really wonderful craft to do with older children. I'd love to hear if you give it a try.  Watch for the next ornament on February 25th! 
Linking up today with: 


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

News from Haiti...and How You Can Help

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you. ~ Isaiah 54:10

Last night, I visited Beth Moore's blog and met this family. They are the McCormicks, missionaries in northern Haiti.  Pam McCormick attended Moody Bible Institute with Beth Moore's daughter, Melissa a few years back.  Because they live several hours away from Port-au-Prince, Melissa has been able to have some contact with Pam since the earthquake.  She asked Pam to share what she could about the disaster, what's happening now, their greatest needs, etc.  If you've been prayerfully looking for how best to help,  please take a few moments to read...

If you'd like to visit the McCormick's site directly, click here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Blake!

Today a very special young man in my family is turning 16!  Meet my nephew, Blake.  He's a caring, talented, funny, humble, and most importantly... Godly guy.  To know him truly is to love him.  He lives his faith boldly, yet humbly...whether on the football field, in the halls of his school or with family and friends. He is well-respected by adults and peers alike, and adored by his family.   

Blakers, hope your day is tremendous and special in every way!!!  We love you and we're so very proud of the person you are.  We're looking forward to celebrating with you this weekend! 

Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. ~1 Timothy 4:12

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Apple Strudel in Phyllo Dough...A Most Delicious Dessert!

I made a tasty dessert this weekend and thought you might like to try it, too! It takes just a little time, but the results...! I found this recipe on a wonderful cooking blog called, and made it for the first time about a year ago. It was definitely a hit and I printed it back then for my recipe binder. I ran across it recently and thought I'd make it again...only this time with photos, so I could share it with you! This is apparently Paula Deen's recipe (with a couple of minor adjustments). Though you will find this a very do-able recipe, can I suggest you read this entire post before you begin? (It will definitely go more me.)

First, let's gather the ingredients...

You will need:


1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup golden raisins (I only had regular, so I used those)
2 medium apples (I used 1 large Gala and 1 small Granny Smith)
1/2 lemon, juiced or 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice
1 Tbsp. of lemon zest (optional - I didn't use)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)

1/2 cup crushed shortbread cookies
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

2 Tbsp of butter, cut into small pieces
10 sheets (or a few more) of phyllo dough, thawed
4 Tbsp. butter (melted) for brushing phyllo sheets
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Caramel sauce (optional)

1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup confectioner's sugar (or more if too thin)
2 Tbsp. milk (or more if too thick)

Alright, now we're ready...first, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, pour apple juice over the raisins and microwave on high for 45 seconds. Let sit for 15 minutes. Oh, this already smells good!

Meanwhile...peel, core, and dice your apples. Drain the raisins somewhat and pour them over the apples. Add in lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon, brown sugar, cookie crumbs, pecans and small slivers of butter in a large bowl.

For the cookies, I just put them in a ziploc and then crushed them with my rolling pin.

I also chop my pecans very fine...almost crumb-like.

Stir until well-blended. Doesn't that look tasty?! Now we get to move onto the phyllo! If you're unfamiliar, phyllo is very thin sheets of dough that become delicious and flaky when baked. One thing to note...because it is so thin, it dries out very quickly. You will want a mildly damp dishtowel to lay over the sheets of dough until you're ready to use them. (Don't worry if you tear a few sheets before you get the hang of it as you should have more than plenty!)

Go ahead and melt the 4 Tbsp. of butter in a small dish.

Working on the parchment paper, lay out your first sheet of phyllo. Brush with melted butter, but don't go all the way to the edge, leave about an inch all the way around. Stack another layer of phyllo over the first, then repeat until you have 5 sheets (each of which should be brushed individually with butter as they are added). Then, spoon approximately 1/2 your apple mixture onto the nearest third of the phyllo (again, don't go all the way to the edge).

Once you've done that, you'll be ready to start rolling! First, gently lift the bottom of the edge of the phyllo and fold over once, away from you...

Now fold over each end to seal the strudel. Brush ends and top with butter. Roll once more, away from you (so that the seam should now be on the bottom). Brush what is now the top and sides of strudel with butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

At this stage you will realize you have enough filling to make another strudel. Since it is coated with butter, this one will sit just fine while you put together another one...I'll wait. = ) (You'll notice the second one is a little faster and easier than the first.) Once they're both finished, place them side-by-side on your parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. While they're in the oven, mix up your glaze. You want to be able to drizzle it, so add more confectioner's sugar or milk until you get it just right...

You might also want to microwave your caramel sauce, because it's sometimes too thick to drizzle.

Right about now, the most wonderful aroma should be wafting through your kitchen. Once out of the oven, move very carefully to a serving dish (I used two spatulas, one on each end). Drizzle with both the caramel sauce and the glaze (you probably won't use it all).

Now...slice and enjoy the fruit of your labor!! If you serve it warm, a little scoop of vanilla ice cream makes a perfect compliment, although this dessert is delectable all by itself!!! Gooey, flaky and the apples cook perfectly (not too soft, not too firm). I'd love to hear what you think if you try it!

A few additional notes...

* Somewhat draining the raisins was my suggestion. I didn't do that and lots of the residual liquid leaked from the strudel and made a very big mess on my cookie sheet and started to cause the bottom of the strudel to burn.

* Not a raisin lover? You could certainly leave them out, but can I suggest you don't do that? The flavor they add from being soaked in the apple juice is amazing. Not to mention, you really don't taste "raisin" just additional flavor...I promise!

* I cut the powdered sugar called for in the original recipe in half! I had tons of glaze left over! I think by only using 1 cup of confectioner's sugar, it should cut down substantially on that.

* Believe it or not, Paula's recipe only called for 2 Tbsp. of melted butter for brushing the dough. It wasn't enough! Right in the middle of working with the phyllo, I had to melt more, which is why I suggest 4 Tbsp. You may find you use less (or more).

* If you'd rather make one large strudel, instead of two small...I would definitely add a few more layers of phyllo dough.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, January 15, 2010

In Need of a Blessing?

Where does this Friday morning find you? Worn out? Stressed? Happy? For some, it's been an incredibly hard week, for others perhaps, it's been one of joy and blessing. Wherever you are, I believe this will speak to your heart. It's a prayer of surrender and truly one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. May it bless you this day, sweet friends.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Banner Shopping Day!

I had quite an amazing find last weekend while thrifting...

I've been on the lookout for a nice set of "white" dishes for months. Often when I see them, they're excessively worn or missing too many pieces. Imagine my utter delight when my eyes fell upon's the Heritage pattern by Pfalzgraff...LOTS of it, dinner plates, 3 different sizes of bowls, luncheon plates, cups and saucers, and several accessories, including a beautiful tea pot! It was dusty, but every piece was in amazing condition! With cautious optimism, I began looking for the price, and finally found it on the bottom of the tea pot... Are you ready??

Yes, you read that right...$20!!! (with the notation that the teapot was included with the set!!!)

Before I knew what came over me, I was doing my happy dance (well at least on the inside...LOL) Can you imagine!?! = ) I've found some really good deals thrifting, but this has to be the best! I was smiling And check this out...when I got home, I realized the carafe I found last summer for $2.00 is the same pattern! = ) Woo-hoo!!!

Something else I'm always on the lookout for...hardback books with colors that work with those in my home. I especially love the Reader's Digest condensed books. Yet again, would you look at this?? These were only $.50 each!

Lastly, I found these 3 brand new homespun dish towels. They too were $.50. I've been thinking about changing our bedroom or our home office to tan and black. I'm thinking I could possibly use these for a valance or pillow.

Indeed, it was a banner day at the thrift. By the way, I checked online and found the Pfalzgraff dishes and accessories are worth 300.00!!! (The teapot alone is worth $38.00!) Needless to say, I'm sooooooo glad I stopped in! = )

Do you love thrifty finds?? Want to see more? Take a moment to visit Leigh (Thrifty Thursday) or Jane (Frugalicious Friday)!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

First "Game Night" of 2010 - New Year's Night

We are a game-loving family! We try to schedule several "game nights" throughout the year, especially when Brennan & Breezy are in town. They're always soooo much fun. My sister, Marcia and her hubby, David were hosting this one, which we planned several weeks ago. Tom was still feeling bad so he stayed home, but he insisted that I go. I reluctantly agreed.

You've seen photos of my sister's kids before...there are 5 of them. The two oldest are in high school, the 3 youngest are in elementary and middle school. They are such great kids! The 3 youngest each had a friend over that night, so that they could have their own "game night." When I arrived, this was on the front door...I felt as though I was on the VIP list for a movie premiere! Even their dog (Riley) on the list!

There was soooo much food...hankie pankies, taco dip, chili dip, pecan squares, cheesecake, salami, etc...let's just say there was no New Year's dieting that night! After snacking on appetizers, we were ready for the games...we started with several rounds of an old-time favorite, Catch Phrase. We played girls against the guys and had a blast. Then we played Apples to Apples, another fun game (that I am apparently NO good at...LOL) Finally, we played a new game, Guesstures...very much like charades, it was a lot of fun.

My nephew Blake and his girlfriend, Lydia

You know these two...

David, my brother-in-law...the man is crazy-competitive!

My sister, Marcia. She was on my team and can I just say, she rocks! We still lost, only by one point!

I tried without success to get a photo of my niece, Brooke. I did record a video clip of her that is hilarious, but it won't load! = ( (Sorry Brookie!) She is so much fun!

Here are the rest of the kids...we were downstairs, they were upstairs. Funny how at this moment, they look much calmer and mature than us grown-ups...LOL. (In reality, I'm not sure who laughed harder or had more fun.) = )

By this time, I was really missing my hubby, so I headed home. Brennan & Breezy stayed awhile longer and played what I understand was quite a wild game of Spoons. No doubt the laughter was abounding as it had been all night. It was definitely a fun way to kick-off the new year!