Friday, January 29, 2010

Sausage, Potato and Kale Gratin

I made this tasty soup over the weekend and had a bunch of kale leftover from it.  While I like adding a little kale into my lettuce mixture for a salad, we don't eat salads every day.  And kale stands up so well to cooking, so in order for it not to go to waste, I was forced to put my thinking cap on and figure out what to do with the rest of it. 

This is what I came up with.

And by George it was good!  See those crunchy pieces of cheese on the edge?  Ohhhh... those make my heart sing.

What You'll Need:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 potatoes, sliced, seperate into three piles
  • 3 cups grated colby jack cheese, seperate into three piles
  • 1/2 pound sausage
  • 2/3 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
What You Do:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Brown sausage over medium heat. 

While sausage is cooking, chop up the potatoes, kale and garlic and grate the cheese.

When sausage is done, drain off grease.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over low heat.  Add the kale and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Add the garlic and a dash of salt and pepper.  Cook for another 2 minutes and remove from heat.

Grease the bottom of a baking dish with butter or Pam.  Layer one-third of the potatoes in the dish.  Top with a third of the cheese and 1/2 the sausage. 

Spread ALL the kale over the sausage. 

Add another pile of the potatoes, cheese and the remaining sausage. 

Add the last pile of potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with the remaining cheese.

Dot the top with 1 tablespoon butter and pour the chicken broth over it all.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Now dig in!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I (cough) Heart (cough) Illinois Politics (cough cough)

February 2nd is quickly approaching, less than a week away now.  Do you know who you are going to vote for as your next candidate for governor?

This election is VERY important for Illinois, considering that we are now the ONLY state in this great nation that doesn't allow it's citizens to carry a firearm in any way.   Why should Illinois be the odd state out? Are we not as capable/smart/safe as all the other states? Doubt it.

Go to to see the gubernatorial candidates' positions on firearms.

Firearms aren't the only things that are important to consider, obviously.  We are in a highly-agricultural state, and the Illinois Corn Growers took the time to contact all the candidates for the gubernatorial and senate races. You can find their agricultural position papers here.

Do your research and get out there and vote!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

This really needs no description....

And remember, this person probably drives AND votes!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adventures in Baby Raising

Monkey is 9 months old now.

I took her for her check-up yesterday.  This was the first trip to the doctor's in a while where she wouldn't need any shots.  Yaaay!

The appointment started off bad and only got worse....

We showed up at 9:56, four minutes early.  I like to be punctual.

We waited in the waiting room until 10:22 before we were called back.  They were not punctual.

She was weighed and measured and had all the little things done by the nurse before seeing the doctor.  We then waited some more.

Now Monkey is a good great baby, but we all get a little antsy sometimes.  I let her play on the floor with some toys instead of making her sit patiently in my lap or on the exam table.  She played until around 10:35 when she tried to pull herself up on a chair.

She's pulled herself up to standing position a few times now.  This time she wasn't so successful and she fell.  No big deal, she falls a lot.  Wrong.  She hit her head against the chair leg which had hard edges on it, not a nice rounded chair leg.

She screamed.  Cried.  Wailed.  And then screamed some more.

I picked her up and loved on her and gave her a pacifier to calm down.  Which she did in a very short amount of time.  We then started to play some more and she spit out her pacifier...

It was covered in blood!  Poor baby hit her top gum against the hard edge and it split it open!

By this time I was tired of waiting and my little Monkey was bleeding, so I marched out to the nurse's station and demanded the doctor drop what he's doing and come see us this very instant!

Maybe I wasn't that dramatic about it.  I may tend to exaggerate on this here blog.  But I did go out there and ask the nurse to have him hurry because she was still bleeding and I couldn't tell where it was coming from at that point. 

Moral of the story:  It was supposed to be a care free visit, but instead my baby had her first bloody topple. 

That's okay, she's tough.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Loaded Baked Potato Pizza

I forgot to take a picture until after everyone had dug in.  This was all that was left, obviously it was a hit!

What You'll Need:

•1 package Pizza Dough (if you want to make your own, you go right ahead, I didn't have time)
•Olive Oil
•½ cup Sour Cream
•2 whole Potatoes, chopped
•4 strips Bacon, crumbled
•2 stalks Scallions, chopped
•Cheddar Cheese
•Salt and Pepper

What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop potatos and cook in microwave for 5-7 minutes or until tender.

Heat frying pan and fry bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside until cool. Crumble into small pieces. Set aside.

Roll out pizza dough into onto pan.  Brush with olive oil. Cook for 3 minutes.

Top pizza dough with sour cream, salt & pepper, cheddar cheese, cubed potatoes, bacon, and scallions. Top entire pizza with additional cheese.

Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese has completely melted.

*I think I will try this in the summer on the grill.  If you give it a shot before I do, let me know how it turns out!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Steel Yourself! Great Giveaway Ahead.

Knives are awesome. 

I have this set myself
It's a Furi 10-piece set.  And this one... this one I am head-over-heels in love with.  I use it practically every day.

Everyone needs a good set of knives.  I don't care who you are or what you do, you NEED knives.  They are your friend.

I know what you are thinking, a good set can be pretty expensive and you just don't want to spend the money on it right now, right?  But guess what?

Today is your lucky day!  Over here on this blog is a knife giveaway!  They aren't Furi, but they are Rada and they are nice.   

Go enter and enjoy if you win.  You can thank me later.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Smart Way to Get Out of a Stupid Situation

Not every story needs a villian to show a need for the right to bear arms!

One man escapes death by shooting his way out. Sounds like a line from a movie, doesn’t it? Well apparently, a man ended up driving into a creek after his hands-free device for his cell phone activated. Apparently the sound scared him so much that he veered off the road into a creek.

After the driver drove into the creek, his vehicle began sinking. Thankfully, he was packing a pistol and shot out the window to escape the cold waters. This was only because he was an armed security guard at the Thunder Valley Casino just north of Sacramento.

The man only sustained minor injuries. His name has yet to be available. According to the Roseville Fire Department, the man was driving northbound on Industrial Avenue in Roseville.

Police described the situation, saying he drove into the guard rail and toppled over it in his SUV. He began to sink in Pleasant Grove Creek. If it wasn’t for his gun, he might not have escaped.

 For more Armed Citizen stories go to America's First Freedom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Down She Goes

Since we've had a few days of above-freezing temps (YAAAYY!!!!), my older sister and I decided to take Peanut sledding over the weekend before all the snow melts.  It was her first time sledding down a big hill and she was pretty excited.

Little did she know, at the bottom of the hill would be some obstacles.

An electric fence and trees! 

Luckily, she barely missed getting her first shock.

This one may be my favorite of the day... Brandy was giving Peanut a push and ended up going down the hill with her.

I laughed and took pictures.... what else are sister's supposed to do?

*Peanut uses a roll-up toboggan sled here... take the poll and tell me what you use!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Naked and Hungry

What a great video by students at the University of Missouri!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not Quite Chili

Do you ever have a hankering for a specific food, but can't make it because you are missing a vital ingredient and a trip to the store is just not feasible?  It happens to me a lot it seems. 

Do I let it get me down?  For goodness sakes no!  I perservere, endure the hardship and forge on anyway!  Just like Martin Luther King Jr. did in his crusade for equal rights! 

Okay maybe that's a little dramatic, but I did overcome an obstacle the other day when I really wanted chili only to find when I went down do the pantry that I didn't have any chili beans.  Oh, the shame!  What kind of pantry doesn't have chili beans?  Mine, apparantley.

To be honest, I actually don't even like beans in my chili.  Hubby likes them; he says chili isn't chili without beans, but oh did I show him!  I decided chili doesn't really need beans and prove it I did!  He gave this recipe an A and my lovely baby sister gave it an A+!

So I'm sharing with you, my friends, my new favorite recipe for chili... I like to call it Not Quite Chili.

What You'll Need: 
1 lb Hamburger
1 lb Chorizo
1 Diced Onion
1/2 Diced Green Pepper
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Quart Stewed Tomatoes (I used a jar from the summer that we canned, you could use store bought as well)
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 Can of Beer
Few Dashes of Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
1 Cup Uncooked Rice
Lime Pickles, sliced
Grated Cheddar Cheese

What You Do:
Brown the hamburger and chorizo over medium heat in large stock pot.

While the meat is cooking, chop up the onion, green pepper and garlic.  Add to the pot once the meat is browned.  Cook for a few minutes.

Add tomatoes, beer, chicken broth and Tabasco sauce.

Let simmer over low heat for at least 20 minutes.  The longer the better though; let the flavors all meld together.  I had it simmering for about an hour.  It should be fairly watery right now, but that's okay.

Add uncooked rice to pot.  Let simmer for another 20 or 30 minutes.  The rice will soak up the excess juices and should thicken up nicely.  If it's too thick for your liking you can add some water.

When serving, sprinkle in some grated cheddar cheese and sliced Lime pickles.

You MUST not skip this step.  I'm telling you, this may just be the MOST important part of chili.  And that's ANY chili.  And they must be Lime pickles. Dill, Bread & Butter, Gherkin, Sour... any of those just won't do.

Trust me on this. Everyone I've ever had over for chili looks at me like I'm crazy when I tell them they have to do this.  And then they try it and instantly fall in love with me. 

I'm not kidding, how do you think I landed my husband?

**If your local grocery doesn't carry lime pickles (Shocked, I am not.  I've never seen them in a store around us,) you can make them yourself.  I will post a how-to on that before the summer.  Make sure your spring gardening plans include cucumbers!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One Bad Dude Gets His Due

While I'm happy this North Carolina woman was able to turn the tables on this scumbag, I only wish she would've had a gun with her at the time of the attack.  Maybe it would've prevented her from being abducted and raped at all.  I do applaud her courage and level-headedness during the attack though, and her ability to take advantage when the opportunity arose and get the upper hand!

On a side note, I would like someone to explain to me WHY this predator was even loose in the first place after committing sex crimes against children? 

A Charlotte woman managed to get a gun from her attacker and held him until authorities arrived, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office reported.

O.C. Billings of Harmony faces seven charges, ranging from first-degree rape to possession of drug paraphernalia, and is in the Iredell County Detention Center in lieu of a $225,000 bond.

Billings has an extensive criminal history, dating back 20 years, and many of the offenses involved sexual conduct with children. The victim in this case, said Capt. Darren Campbell, is an adult.

She called the sheriff’s office early Thursday morning from Billings’ home on East Memorial Highway and said she’d been raped and was holding her attacker at gunpoint, Campbell.

Deputies arrived and took Billings into custody.

The woman told authorities she was able to free herself during the assault and grab the gun, which Billings earlier held on her, and strike him in the head, Campbell said.

For more Armed Citizen stories go to America's First Freedom.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Tip of the Hat

While I've heard of some farmers that are still harvesting corn (photos from a Nothern Illinois farmer taken last week) most around my area have finished and are looking towards the upcoming planting season.  But nationwide there are still thousands of acres of corn that are still standing.

Beneath all that gloom and doom, there is a ray of sunshine.... the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported this morning that corn farmers brought in a record amount of corn in 2009.  A record amount!  This is despite a harvest season that left thousands of acres of corn around the country still unharvested. USDA estimated a crop of 13.2 billion bushels, with a record yield of 165.2 bushels per acre.

What's even more astonishing is that U.S. corn growers produced this record crop utilizing fewer acres. In 2009, USDA estimates 86.6 million acres were used for corn production, compared with the 93.5 million acres used to produce the previous record crop in 2007.

How is this possible, you ask?  As NCGA President Darrin Ihnen said "Even in difficult conditions, our growers combine the most modern technology available with a strong and determined work ethic to produce a crop that meets all needs for food, feed, fuel and fiber. What remains to be seen is the full impact of the millions of bushels that farmers could not yet harvest.”

My hat is off to all the farmers out there who put in long hours to get their crops out of the field.  I thank you and appreciate your efforts!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Drowned Chicken Roll Ups

A co-worker of mine has been making all sorts of stuff with crescent rolls recently and I thought I'd jump on the band wagon.  This wasn't my favorite meal of all time, but the Hubby gave it a B, said it was man-pleasing food.  Of course what isn't man-pleasing when it's smothered in gravy?

What You'll Need
Approx. 2 cups of Chopped Cooked Chicken
1/2 block of Cream Cheese
1/2 cup of Sour Cream
4 tablespoons of Butter, plus 2 more for coating or an egg
1/2 Chopped Onion
1/4 Chopped Green Pepper
2 cans Crescent Rolls
2/3 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
Gravy (I prefer white, but you may use whatever you wish)

What You Do
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook chicken however you prefer - grill, bake, etc.
Combine cream cheese, sour cream, butter, onions and green peppers until smooth.
Add cooked chicken.
Seperate crescent rolls.  I did individual rolls as well as leaving 2 triangles together to make more of a pouch than a roll.  Either is fine.
Melt the remaining butter (or beat egg).
Place bread crumbs in a seperate bowl.
Roll the chicken pouches in the butter and then in the crumbs.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
While the chicken is baking, prepare gravy.
Smother the chicken roll ups with gravy when served.

*For this batch I threw the raw onions and peppers in with the cream cheese mixture.  They were still slightly crunchy when done baking.  If you don't like the crunch, then saute first.  I will saute first next time I make it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Flashback Friday

I can't explain why, or what we were thinking, but one of my best friends from high school and I liked to have our sports pictures taken in random places.  We thought it was fun... we even had one taken in the school's mailbox!  I'm not sure where that one is, but if I can ever find it, maybe I'll share.  Here are two others though...

Don't you just love the poses?  I can even remember talking about how we should do it... where our hands should be, how to do our hair, etc.  Cracks me up looking back at them, but I also miss those times of carefree living and the hardest decisions we had to make were what we should do in a picture!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Difference Between Farmers and Gardeners

I want to share a very interesting article by Russ Parson's in yesterday's LA Times called the California Cook that is worth reading.  In it he tackles the tough and often controversial subject of how our food is produced and where it comes from. 

If you don't have time to read the entire thing, here are a few highlights:

* Agriculture is a business. Farming without a financial motive is gardening. I use that line a lot when I'm giving talks, and it always gets a laugh. But it's deadly serious. Not only do farmers have expenses to meet just like any other business, but they also need to be rewarded when they do good work. Any plan that places further demands on farmers without an offsetting profit incentive is doomed to fail.

* Food is not just a culinary abstraction. No matter how much you and I might appreciate the amazing bounty produced by talented, quality-driven farmers, we also have to acknowledge that sometimes food is . . . well, just food. So when we start dreaming about how to make our epicurean utopia, we also have to keep in mind that our first obligation is to make sure that healthful, fresh food remains plentiful and inexpensive enough that anyone can afford it.

* There's no free pass on progress. Just because you've always farmed a certain way does not mean that you are owed the right to continue farming that way in the future. The days of a small or medium-sized farm making a decent profit growing one or two crops and marketing it through the traditional commodity route are long past. The world is changing, and those who can adapt are the ones who will be successful.

* Quality is more expensive than quantity. Farming fruits and vegetables that are not just healthful but also have great flavor takes a lot of time and work and usually means not growing as much as a neighbor who doesn't focus on flavor. So when you're shopping, don't begrudge a good farmer a little higher price -- that's what it takes to keep him in business.

* You don't climb a ladder starting at the top rung. In a system as complex as our food supply, change is evolutionary. Remember long-term goals, but focus on what's immediately achievable. Any argument that begins, "All we have to do is rewrite the Farm Bill," is probably decades, if not centuries, from reality. But there are plenty of small things we can do now to start us down that road.

* What's political is also personal. If you believe in something, you should be willing to make sacrifices to support it, even if it's expensive or inconvenient. Wailing about farmers who use pesticides and then balking at paying extra for organic produce is hypocritical because the yields in organic farming are almost always lower. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with doing the best you can whenever you can -- as long as you're willing to accept compromises from the other guy too.

Basically, it has to be understood and accepted that, along with everything else, farming will always be changing and evolving into something best suited to meet the demands of feeding the world.  Bottom line: it's a business, and in order to survive, businesses must change along the way.

The fact is, 'commercial' farmers – those 20% of U.S. farmers who produce 80% of our nation's food – have an image problem. A lot of misinformed consumers, longing for something from their past, want nothing to do with food produced from modern technology.

Farmers are no longer using horse and plows and that's not causing any outcry.  Why should using pesticides or other advances in technology?  Parsons has it right.  If we take a step back and use more labor intensive practices, it will result in reduced production...  and cost a lot more.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Road Trip!

Do you know why Monkey is so happy?  No?  Well check out that sweatshirt...

That's right, we are going to Oklahoma to see Scott and Annie!  Look how excited she is to show them how she rocks that OK attire.  Alright, maybe I'm excited too. 

And we're even getting to make the trip before Monkey has grown like a weed and is walking and talking!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mini Cheesecakes

I made these tasty little treats for New Year's Eve, but they are good for anything.  Make them and then be prepared to not stop eating until they are gone. 

What You'll Need
Nilla Wafers
2 blocks cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can pie filling (blackberry, raspberry, cherry, whatever you prefer)

What You Do
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line two muffins pans with cupcake liners (makes about 20)
Place Nilla Wafer in the cupcake liner.
Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until thick and creamy. 
Spoon mixture on top of the Nilla Wafer, filling about 1/2 to 3/4 full. 
Bake for 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool then add pie filling to top.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mamas, Don't Let Your Children Grow Up to be Ignorant

I have previously said why it's good for children to be comfortable with a firearm and this 13 year old from Michigan proves my point.

He may be only 13 years old, but police say two burglars proved no match for Josh Cichy. He had just arrived home to what should have been an unoccupied house, but something wasn't right. "I walked down the hall and I saw two guys at the door and window," Cichy explains. He took fast action, grabbing a powerful spotlight, an air pistol and a 20-ga. shotgun. First, he blinded the intruders with the spotlight and shot at them with the air gun, hitting one. "I think I got him right in the face," Cichy recalls. Then he fired the shotgun and the intruders fled the home. Cichy says he's familiar with firearms, thanks to his father. "I go hunting with my dad and friends, so I know what to do. I wasn't really scared, but at the end I was shaking because of the adrenalin, I guess." (Kalamazoo Gazette, Kalamazoo, MI, 10/02/09)

For more Armed Citizen stories go to America's First Freedom.