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Chocolate Cherry Dr. Pepper Cobbler

Do you ever get the urge to bake, but are thwarted by the need to keep your house cool in the summer? Here’s a recipe you can make without needing to up the AC because you make this delicious cobbler in your crockpot!

Best of all, this recipe from Life Should Cost Less takes a total of four ingredients, some of which you may already have in your pantry, and takes less than 10 minutes to throw together and only about two hours until you get to dig in.

Simply grease or spray your crockpot pot and pour in a can of cherry pie filling, dump a box of devils food cake mix (store-bought or homemade, just don’t buy one with pudding mix in it), making sure to spread it evenly over the cherries, a bottle of Dr. Pepper and cubed butter. See the link below for more information and exact amounts, along with many other tasty-looking recipes!

Seal the lid on the crockpot and cook on high for about two hours. Test to make sure it’s done and serve with vanilla ice cream or just eat it as it is.

Life Should Cost Less' Chocolate Cherry Dr. Pepper Cobbler   More

Applause! Applause!

Our kids are just getting started on their educational paths, but I’ve quickly learned that the annual end-of-year awards day many schools hold can prove quite revealing.

If I had to identify which of my three children is the most challenging it would, without a doubt, be Warner. Maybe it’s because he’s the baby and yes, the crying and whining have gotten him what he wants at times, so I guess it’s partly our fault. Maybe it’s because his personality is just different than Hays and Sylvia’s. Maybe he secretly wants to drive his mother crazy … he acts up for me far, far more than anyone else. Sigh. Anyway, he can be a stinker, bless his sweet little heart!

You will understand, given all this, why my mouth dropped to the floor Friday when Warner was named Little Gentleman of the St. Joseph Pre-K class. He marched up to the front of church, pleased as punch, and proudly accepted his award, a huge cheesy grin on his face. It was priceless.

When I talked to his teacher later, she gushed about his behavior, as she has before. “Warner is just wonderful,” she said. “I never have to get onto him, he always listens, always helps and always does what he’s supposed to do.” I asked her if she could please send this Warner home to me every day. She laughed and said her nephews are the same way; golden children at school, but the little devil horns come out at home.

Sylvia and Hays both received perfect attendance certificates this year. Good thing, too. Last year, there was a mix-up and Hays didn’t get one, despite having never missed a day. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except attendance is a really big deal to me and I had talked it up all year, promising he’d get an award at the end. Then he didn’t. Ugh.

Of course, the first thing he said to me after the ceremony was, “I’m glad they got it right this year. I should’ve gotten one last year.” Which is exactly what I would’ve said if I’d been in his shoes. He is his …   More

Paleo Balsamic Chicken

Here’s one for you paleo folks and I wish I had a higher opinion of it. You win some, you lose some.

The Paleo Diet is huge on Pinterest, with most likely thousands of boards dedicated to recipes following the trend. The diet is based on foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, primarily non-processed meats, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit and leaving out things like dairy, grain products, fruit juices, legumes (so no peanut butter, peanuts or beans), almost all alcohol and processed foods. Apparently, vegetables high in starch, like regular and sweet potatoes are also no-gos. While lists of foods approved by the paleo diet are all over the Internet and cook book sections of book stores, there is, of course, an app for that as well. Attention paleo diet app developers: Want to be named here? Talk to me about a sponsorship fee.

This specific recipe features balsamic vinegar, which, if I haven’t mentioned it already, is one of my favorite flavorings. However, my favorite vinegar still wasn’t enough to give this the flavor it needed to take it from boring chicken to something I don’t regret making as a whole recipe. This is strange given the number of spices used in the recipe — garlic (powdered and fresh minced, both also high on my list of favorite seasonings), basil, salt, pepper, dried onion and the vinegar. You’d have thought this would have been enough to make it taste like something other than plain chicken. In fact, I’ve grilled chicken on the stovetop seasoned only with salt and pepper that has been more flavorful.

Should you want to test this out for yourselves, combine your spices and spread these over your boneless, skinless chicken thighs on both sides and place them in your crockpot with olive oil and garlic in the bottom. Pour your vinegar over the top and cook on high for four hours. The parsley isn’t enormously necessary, but go ahead and add it if you wish.

Like I said, it looked good, smelled good, but the …   More

And now, for something completely different …

There are lots of things I want to see and experience in my life. I don’t maintain a written bucket list as some people do, but I have a loose list in my head. Learning Tae Kwon Do was not on that list. Nope. Not even at the bottom.

Yet, in mid-February I found myself standing in the back row to the far left (the least experienced class member’s spot) wondering just what I’d gotten myself into as I listened to Chief Master Tom Crecelius bark out orders in Korean. I watched the black belts in the front row smoothly perform intricate movements and frantically tried to follow along, without much success.

Late last year, Hays decided he wanted to learn Tae Kwon Do. From a friend we’ve made at the Crawford County Public Library, we learned of the Ohio Valley Tae Kwon Do School. It came highly recommended, although I had no basis for judging a good school from a poor one. The main selling point for me was that it’s just two miles from our home.

It was all my driving that drove me to commit to learning this martial art along with Hays. As I observed Hays’ first couple classes, I noticed the adults were breathing heavily and sweating after completing a series of movements. My commute has put an end to my previous exercise routine and my body is showing the effects. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “I might as well get out there and exercise instead of sitting on my behind.”

And so I did. Or, I do.

Master Crecelius talks a lot about how there is no pressure to advance, one can go as far as he or she wishes and is willing to work for. Quite frankly, when I joined I could’ve cared less about what color belt I wore around my waist. I wasn’t in this to become a first degree black belt, much less a ninth (the highest) degree.

The problem is, I’ve always been a highly competitive sort. I want to win. I want to be the best. Learning to compete against myself instead of anyone (everyone?) else will probably be a lifelong process for me. I …   More

Tuscan Lasagna

While Self.com suggests this recipe’s “spinach and lowfat ricotta make it hearty — and good for you,” it’s important to remember this hot, cheesy, perfect square of pasta, cheese, veggies and sauce still packs more than 450 calories per serving, 20 grams of fat and 38 grams of carbs.

Like most good Italian recipes, this lasagna is a labor of love. Emphasis on the labor. This is not really a quick, weeknight meal, though, if you have a Saturday free, you can make multiple pans of this recipe and freeze them, making them perfect for a slip-in-the-oven-after-work dinner that, depending on the size of your family, will leave you plenty of leftovers for the next day (and let’s be honest, Italian food gets better with age ­— within reason, of course).

You’re going to start with the meat/cheese sauce. Cook ground beef, mushrooms (these do not need to be cremini mushrooms — portobello or even white mushrooms work just fine), onion, garlic, parsley, salt, Italian seasoning, fennel seeds (not necessary, but throw ‘em in if you’ve got them) and pepper until the meat is cooked through. Dump this into a mixing bowl and add the ricotta cheese. After this, cook your noodles and rise with cold water.

Now you get to start your layers. Coat a 9x13-inch pan (I’ve never seen an 8x11-inch baking dish, to my knowledge) with cooking spray and place a layer of noodles in the pan. Top this with a third of your meat/cheese mixture, a third of the marinara sauce (which I mixed with the spinach rather than adding the spinach in all in one layer at the top, because why not?) and a third of the mozzarella. Place, top, repeat until you’re out of ingredients. Top this with some grated Parmesan cheese and cover the lasagna with foil and bake for about 30 minutes in a 375º oven. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, to let the top get nice and golden.

Now, as hard as it may be to let it cool after you take it out, this is important because it …   More

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Take a look at the pictures here. There’s about a twenty minute difference between the two.

Being a Baptist means potluck attendance and my church hosts one once a month. This means I can flex my cooking muscles (and create material for this blog) without being stuck with fattening desserts for days on end. I brought this pumpkin cheesecake to church one night and it was snapped up faster than probably anything else I’ve brought.

Better yet, it’s not too terribly hard to make.

Start with graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and pumpkin pie spice (homemade — there’s a recipe on the blog post on which I found this recipe — or store-bought). Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with foil and grease it. Dump the crumb/crust mixture into the pan and push it into place, about an inch up the side of the prepared pan. I found there to be plenty of crumb mixture, so the crust could go up higher if need be. This cheesecake was well over one inch in thickness. Bake this for seven or eight minutes and let it cool.

The next step in the recipe is to boil water for the water bath. Here’s the deal. I don’t have a pan big enough for my springform pan to fit into, so I forwent the water bath and this cheesecake turned out just fine. I hear the water bath helps to keep the cheesecake from cracking, and while my cheesecake didn’t really crack, that’s not to say my next one (or yours) won’t. I said all that to say if you’re like me, without anything big enough to use for a water bath, you can still make this cheesecake and it will still turn out all right. If you need to cover up cracks, just arrange some whipped cream over the top of it and no one will know. They’ll be too busy eating the thing. If you do use the water bath, you’ll put your cake in the water until the water is half-way up the pan.

Now, for the filling. Mix room-temperature cream cheese and sugars, either in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer. You could feasibly …   More

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Reliving my teenage years

When I think about my teenage years, I automatically think of John Cougar Mellencamp. The albums, “American Fool” and “Scarecrow,” contained songs that spoke to my generation and probably more so because “we live(d) in a small town” and so did John.

Many of my friends attended the taping of his video in Little York. I’m not sure how I missed out on that but I did. I attended his concert in Louisville with my boyfriend, Duane (who happens to now be my husband) and best friends, Tony and Kelly. It was my first concert and it was awesome. We sang and danced to every song.

Then when I attended Indiana State University and was chairman of the Homecoming committee, John Cougar headlined the homecoming concert. The entire committee and myself were invited to watch him and his band practice and then we got to meet him. Well, of course, that just cemented my love for him and I swore I didn’t wash my shaking hand for 6 months or so.

We also had really sweet seats for the concert, where once again I sang and danced to every song.

As I entered adulthood and married life, he entered his outspoken political phase. I still deep down loved him but wasn’t always fond of his comments. I held on to his youthful and iconic songs as my favorites, as his new music at the time didn’t appeal to me much.

Well, my love for him has flared up again as one of my best friends (and high school buddy), Jennifer asked if I wanted to go with her to his concert. How could I turn down such an offer? An evening out with a bestie and John Cougar to top it all off, I had to say yes.

With the tickets she received a free download of some of his newest music from the album “Plain Spoken” so she shared it with me. I began listening in preparation for the big day and it turns out I liked most of the songs. My favorites were “Troubled Man,” “The Isolation of Mister” and “Blue Charlotte.” He sang the first two at the show.

The show was in Bloomington in …   More

Sledding … it’s as fun as I remember

Sledding … it’s as fun as I remember

Our driveway is long – a quarter mile – basically uphill all the way. It’s a steep climb and more than one person has become stuck trying to traverse it during dry conditions.

So, you can imagine that the recent snow and ice could give one pause when negotiating it. We actually made it through the snow week unscathed until Thursday. As I returned home from work, I made it up the steepest section only to get stuck at the very top. It was my own fault; I just didn’t have enough speed up. Darin helped me get out and all was OK.

When he returned from work Saturday morning it was a slick, slushy mess. The Subaru slid on the flat part so he wisely parked and walked up. A while later, the kids were out playing and I decided to join them. I walked down to the car to get my camera (only to discover the battery was dead). As I walked down, I realized that, while coming up the driveway might be a pain, that going down it – on a sled, that is – would be a blast.

The tracks made by the car and truck tires would hold the sleds and there are no trees right on the edge of the drive, so it was safe. That was a biggie - I knew the kids would fly down that hill!

And fly they did. It was awesome! Since my camera died after a single picture, I got the video camera and made some movies of the kids.

“Mom,” Hays suddenly called, “Why don’t you sled?”

Now, I hadn’t been on a sled in years. I have great memories of sledding as a child, but as I’ve gotten older I’m less inclined to venture out in the cold. As it was above freezing Saturday, I was game.

“Why not?” I asked myself. “Because you weigh a whole lot more than the kids and consequently will go a whole lot faster,” I answered. “But it would be sooo much FUN!” I argued. I couldn’t resist.

The kids each wanted to ride down with me, but I said not on the first try, until I got a feel for it. I positioned the sled, climbed on and …   More

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Butter Glaze

“Sometimes we try to disguise the fact we’re eating cake. ‘It’s breakfast, so I can’t have cake. I’ll have a muffin!’ You know the difference between a cake and a muffin? Nothing. A muffin is a bald cupcake. And we know it. Have you seen the mini muffins? How much denial are we in when we’re eating mini muffins? ‘Oh, I’ll just have, like, one or twelve. There’s so small, they don’t really count. They’re like muffin vitamins. When I eat them, I feel like an astronaut. That’s why I have them for breakfast.’” -- Jim Gaffigan in Beyond the Pale

Remember this past summer when blueberries went on a beautiful sale, with pints of blueberries selling for 99¢ at JayC? I don’t remember being that excited over produce, probably ever. I bought about $15 worth at a time. I couldn’t fit any more in my freezer.

This left me with about three gallon-sized freezer bags full of blueberries (I ate some fresh and froze the rest). Some went into pancakes. Some topped the magic cake from a few months to a year ago. I can’t be bothered to check because some went into these delicious muffins I found on Pinterest and had to make right now. The rest are languishing in my freezer because, while I love blueberries, I want to make sure mine last until they go on sale again. I’ve still got most of two bags left and it’s now February 2015.

This is a pretty basic recipe — it’s the glaze that makes them special. Also note, there will be much more glaze than you’ll need. Feel free to cut the glaze recipe in half, double the muffin recipe or use it as pancake topping (another form of breakfast cake, if you recall from the next part of Jim Gaffigan’s cake bit).

Start with your flour, sugar, baking powder salt and the rind (I’m guessing it means the zest — I don’t think you want the white peel part) of one lemon and stir this together. In another bowl, beat an egg, milk and melted butter together and then add this to the dry …   More

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