Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dear Santa...

Just about every line of Tyler's letter to Santa (a school assignment) cracks me up...

I love the small talk at the beginning. Cats?! Totally deflecting his own naughty or nice-ness. Also, it's a good thing he doesn't believe in Santa so there's no false hope about that 3DS. ;)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

We enjoyed spending Thanksgiving with my Mom and Dad for the first time in 8 years.We met in Branson on Thursday afternoon. We took advantage of what the condo had to offer. We enjoyed the playgrounds, pool, game rooms, taking brisk walks, and took in a couple of shows. We cooked all but one meal in, including our Thanksgiving meal. :) It was wonderful spending time together.

Aubrey being a goofball when she sees the camera...but enjoyed her foot rub. 

On Sunday, the weather was beautiful. We (okay, Wayne and Dad) grilled steaks. It took awhile to get the charcoal going, but they were successful!

Aubrey and Tyler enjoyed the playground while the guys worked on the grill. Tyler just ran away from all the pictures I tried to take with him in the shot.

Wayne "falling" off the bridge.

Aubrey's been begging to go back to her "new house" (which morphed into "my blue house") to see Grandpa and Grandma. I explained that it's a long drive back...which did not deter her. I agree. I miss them too.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Crusty Bread

I'm still on my baking kick this fall...and I have a recipe that you MUST try if you like bread. I mean, really. You have to try this. It's super easy and so delicious. Wayne and I have been looking for a long time for a good artisan-style loaf that is crusty on the outside, and airy and chewy on the inside. We've tried lots of recipes, some fairly labor-intensive, that have all fallen a bit short. We still felt like we could find a better loaf at a bakery than we could make at home.

But, thanks to Pinterest, we found The One. And it takes next to no effort. I've made 2 loaves this weekend. The first was plain the second was jalapeno and sharp white cheddar. Both delicious. Next up, rye. If I'm going to indulge in some bread, this is what I'm after. Just spread a little salted butter, or Laughing Cow cheese and salami, make a sandwich, spread a little cream cheese and jam, or eat it plain. It's all good. Mmmm. 

The link I've included gives a lot more pictures and instructions. I'm writing how I made mine, which is slightly different. 

Crusty Bread

3 cups bread flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water

In your stand mixer, mix together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and let the dough hook mix it together until it comes together. (I let it go a few minutes). (Or you can just whisk it together until a shaggy mixture forms). It will be a wet, sticky dough. Place in a large bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking spray or with a little oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours (or more). Overnight works great.  Alternately, I have learned from a King Arthur flour version, after covering it at room temp for a couple of hours, refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 7 days. The longer it is in the refrigerator the tangier it will be. (If you are pressed for time, put it straight in the refrigerator).

Pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set.  (OR, just scrape the dough down off the sides, so it releases some of the gases, and let it rest in the bowl until the pot is preheated). We tried it both ways and didn't notice a difference in the final result. We let it rest about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for about 10 minutes. We used our stainless steel stock pot. (She recommends preheating an enamel cast iron pot for 30 minutes).  **See below.

Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 18 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.  Devour.

Some variations (all but the Jalapeno Cheddar are straight from Simply So Good):

* Jalapeno-Cheddar loaf:  2 seeded jalapenos, about 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar.

*Rye bread: 1 cup rye flour, 2 cups white flour and 1/2 tsp caraway seeds and caraway seeds sprinkled on top.

*Lemon/Gruyere/Rosemary: Zest of 1 lemon, 1 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere and chopped rosemary

*Cranberry/Orange/Almond: 3/4 cup dried cranberries, zest from 1 orange, 1/2 cup sliced almonds

**She recommends your pot to be about a 5.5 quart pot. (You can go a little smaller or a little larger). You can use any container that can handle the heat and has a lid.
Other baking dishes she says have been used:
Clay pots with lids, Pizza stone with a bowl to cover the bread, insert from a crock pot, Pyrex baking dish with a lid, stainless steel pot with a lid, baking dish covered with aluminum foil, old cast iron dutch oven.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini has long been out of season in my garden. But, did that stop me from making a zucchini lasagna? Nope. I've been craving comfort food. I made chicken and noodles last night. Lasagna tonight. I have a great recipe for a completely from-scratch lasagna that takes several hours to make. This, on the other hand, is quick. It uses a store-bought sauce that you just doctor up a bit. Replacing the noodles with zucchini is a nice way to add vegetables and leaves you feeling less heavy than when using noodles. Sadly, my children have caught on to my scheme...I'll have to find a way to hide the vegetables better. (I suppose peeling the zucchini would be one way). But, Wayne and I really like this, and I like having leftovers for quick lunches throughout the week. So, it all works out. :)
Zucchini Lasagna
(I know, not the greatest picture, but you get the idea...I couldn't wait to take a picture until after we had already eaten).
1 onion, finely chopped
1.25 lb ground beef (or sausage, turkey)
1 jar (25 oz) spaghetti sauce
2 cups frozen spinach, optional
2 garlic cloves
Salt, pepper, seasoning (Italian, etc)
16-oz cottage cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tsp dried parsley
3 zucchini, sliced into 1/8" pieces 
    (or 1 home-grown zucchini) OR eggplant OR lasagna noodles
8 oz shredded mozzarella (at least)
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange zucchini slices and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes per side. Then remove from onion. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees.
2. Saute onion in a little oil. Add ground beef and brown. Drain.
3. Add spaghetti sauce, spinach, garlic, and seasonings. Simmer for at least 10 minutes.
4. Mix cottage cheese, eggs, Parmesan, and parsley. Set aside.
5. In a 9x13 casserole dish, spread meat sauce to cover the bottom. Next a layer of zucchini, then a layer of cottage cheese mixture. (Optional: sprinkle a layer of mozzarella on top). Continue to layer until all ingredients are gone and casserole is full. Top with mozzarella. Cover with aluminum foil.
6. Bake at 375 for 1 hour.
7. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.
8. Let rest for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

That hair

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Bierocks are a food that I had never heard of until I attended Hesston College. It's a filling of cabbage, onion and hamburger wrapped in a roll dough and baked until golden brown.

After I moved away from Hesston, I wanted to make bierocks and had been using the More with Less bierock recipe, until now. Sue had gone to a cooking class a couple of years ago and had passed along this recipe, but I had not gotten around to trying it. I made them for the first time about a month ago. We all liked them. A lot. The dough crisps up on the outside, and the filling is so good. I think the combination of adding sauerkraut and mozzarella makes a big difference. I could make a  meal of just the filling. As soon as the first batch was gone, Wayne sheepishly asked if I could make another. He loves to douse them in Sriracha. This time, I doubled the dough recipe (which is how I wrote it below). This was just about perfect, with enough dough to make 3 pizza filling bierocks for Tyler. So, here you go. Enjoy - Happy fall baking!

-Meta and Barry West
(Enough filling for about 3 dozen large bierocks)
1 large onion, finely chopped + oil for sauteing
3 1/2-4 pounds lean ground beef (optional: use part sausage)
1 head cabbage, finely chopped (3-5 cups per 1 lb of ground meat)
1 tablespoon salt
pepper, to taste
1 can of sauerkraut (regular or large depending on your preference), optional...but I believe
     essential :)
(Recipe suggested 2-4 T flour to thicken. I used 8-16 oz shredded mozzarella instead)
1 batch roll dough (recipe follows or use your favorite bread dough recipe)
Saute onion in dutch oven in a little oil. Add meat and cook until browned; drain excess fat. Add chopped cabbage, salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and steam until cabbage is tender. Add sauerkraut and cheese.
(Other options - add grated carrots, green pepper or potato with the cabbage, a teaspoon of other seasoning, cream cheese, etc. We made a pizza filling with some leftover dough - sauce, cheese, pepperoni - this is Tyler's favorite. Or ham and cheese, etc).
Rapidmix Cool Rise Roll Dough
(for 1 batch bierocks or 6 dozen dinner rolls)
10-12 cups all-purpose flour
4 packages or scant 1/4 cup yeast (active, dry instant)
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks butter, softened cut into pieces
3 cups hot water
4 large eggs
cooking oil
Combine 4 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir well to blend. Add butter and hot water. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and 4 cups more flour. Beat with electric mixer at high speed for 2 minutes or until thick and elastic. Gradually add just enough remaining flour with wooden spoon (or dough hook of mixer) to make a soft dough which leaves sides of bowl. Dough should be very soft and pliable without being sticky; too much flour will yield a tough dough that is hard to form and resists sealing when formed into a bierock). Knead until smooth and elastic - 5-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover, let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Dough may be used now or placed in a refrigerator (oiled and covered with plastic wrap) for 2-24 hours. Remove from refrigerator and let stand 10-15 minutes before proceeding with recipe.
Punch down dough. Pinch off dough balls about the size of a small orange and roll flat, about 1/8" thick. Edges should be thin to avoid a wad of dough at the closing point. The round is about 6-7" in diameter. Put around 1/3-1/2 cup filling in the center. Pull the sides up and pinch the sides together to seal. Place on baking sheets sprayed with cooking oil. Bake in a preheated oven set at 375-400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  
(Can be frozen and reheated).

Friday, November 2, 2012


This year, we went trick or treating with Pat, Lisa, Oliver and Eli in their neighborhood. Before we left, we took a few pictures. (As you can see, we got lazy this year and didn't carve our pumpkins - I really like the Mr Potato Head's so easy and the kids can help with it).

Aubrey was quite taken by Pat and Lisa's wagon and had to either be in it or next to it. This meant we were usually behind the rest of the crew.

...Then Aubrey would sprint to catch up.

Eli's race car costume was so cute! And seeing Pat hoist him onto his shoulders was entertaining too. As you can probably tell, we couldn't have asked for nicer trick-or-treating weather!

Aubrey hadn't napped that day, and with all the sprinting to and fro, so she didn't last too long before she just wanted to chit chat with the homeowners, then wanted to stay in the stroller eating her candy, and ultimately fell asleep. Lisa kindly continued to walk around with Oliver and Tyler so Tyler didn't have to call it quits.

Halloween School Party

I enjoyed joining Tyler for his school Halloween party again this year. As is the tradition, they start the party with a costume parade, through the whole school and around the building. Tyler is never a big fan of taking pictures. This was no exception.

Ms Farrell, his teacher, is in her cheetah suit. Tyler's on the right.

One party game was to wrap up their classmates like mummies. Doesn't she look happy? ;)

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Aubrey still loves music, and loves to dance. I wanted to catch her "spin move" which is at the beginning of the video. If you make it to the end, you'll hear my laugh as she tries to imitate Wayne playing air guitar.

And I include the next video, because Tyler is finally joining in. Normally he hates when we have our little dance parties, but apparently this music he likes. Eeek. My ears hurt.

Trunk or Treat

We enjoyed going to Trunk or Treat this year. I caught a quick picture before they started trick or treating. I think Tyler was trying to look intimidating as a vampire...

Tyler playing Pumpkin Golf

Fall Treats

Cooking and baking are a hobby for me, and a stress reliever. I'm still trying to limit my sugar/naughty foods, but these are a few treats I've made in the last week (or two) that I would recommend you make soon. :)
Click on title to link to the recipe
I don't know if they are perfect, but they are good. They kept a nice chewy texture on the inside and slight crunch on the outside, even after being frozen and defrosted to serve again last night at Trunk or Treat.
Click on title to link to the recipe
I avoid making sugar cookies, even though I love how they taste, because of the work of rolling them out, cutting shapes, etc. With this recipe, you make drop cookies, frost and put on sprinkles. Easy peasy. I used orange and brown for the frosting and fall sprinkles (from the Target dollar section) as a treat for Trunk or Treat.

Click on title to link to the recipe

Wayne loves Chex mix. The Pioneer Woman adds fresh garlic and Tabasco to spice it up a little. I didn't have Tabasco on hand, so I used Sriracha. I really liked the slight heat the garlic and Sriracha added. This was another snack for last night...and before and after last night...

Click on title to link to the recipe
Tyler's class party is Wednesday, for Halloween of course. I gave him some options for our contribution for a snack, and this was his pick. It's a mix of white chocolate, semi sweet chocolate with the addition of Reese's Pieces. It's pretty yummy. But what Puppy Chow isn't?

Click on title to link to the recipe
I made these burgers a couple of weeks ago. My modification was to use 1 lb ground beef, 1 lb sausage and made it into 7 patties instead of 4. They were still plenty big for us. I just need to get the ingredients on hand again so we can make more. They are delicious!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Parks and Rec

Though most of the shows I watch these days are reality tv, I really enjoy Parks and Recreation. This segment struck my funny bone. This might be one of those times where you need a little more background to "get it" or it might be that it just struck me as funny. Anyway, I'll stop rambling...enjoy...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spider or Cider

I took this video a week ago...I like her nod at the end that says, "See, I did it." :) heh heh heh

Monday, October 8, 2012

Helmet head

Tyler's 8!

Saturday, Tyler turned 8! 

Friday was Breakfast with Moms at his school. I joined him at school for a school breakfast. I think we were both happy that he normally eats breakfast at home. But, it was nice to spend time together.

That afternoon, I brought Whoopie Pies for his birthday treat. My favorite part was being able to take him to and from school that day since he normally rides the bus.

Saturday, after the breakfast of his choice (hashbrowns, eggs, toast, and sausage), we headed to the kids' Dentist's office for their Patient Appreciation day. The kids enjoyed checking out the fire truck, police car, and playing some games.

We came home and let Tyler open his birthday gifts from us. Including a Leatherman multi-tool. (Daddy thought this was a good gift for camping trips). A package from Grandpa Norm and Grandma Carol arrived just as he finished opening our gifts. Great timing! With lots of safety advice, and direction from Daddy, Tyler carefully used his new knife to open his new toys. I was scurrying around getting prepared for the afternoon party and came upstairs to find Wayne washing Tyler's finger at the sink. Tyler was trying to open the knife and cut his finger. Wayne told me he thought Tyler might need stitches. So, Tyler's first trip to the ER was on his eighth birthday. I told Tyler this would be a birthday he wouldn't forget. (He argued that it ruined his birthday, but I think it turned out alright after all). The doctor suggested that he could glue it, but it would heal with just a bandaid, so we just did that. Whew!

Here he is, after we made it back home.

In the afternoon, he had a few friends over for a Ninja/Ninjago themed birthday party. (I must credit most of my ideas/planning to Craft Interrupted).  We had originally intended to start the party with a game of minigolf, but Saturday was the coldest day we've had yet this fall (I think it was in the upper 40's) and it was spitting rain on and off. So, we just stayed at our house.

We started with a treasure hunt. Here, they are hunting for a clue in the Legos.

Here, they were instructed to each pop a balloon by sitting on it to receive their next clue. (I didn't realize Wayne was video taping...but you'll see that I wondered if this was such a good idea after all...).

Their "treasure" was personalized Ninja headbands.

Next, they all worked on decoding their "Ninja names."

 Then, of course, we needed to take some Ninja pictures (with Sensei Wu beards).

There was a game of "pin the beard on Sensei Wu" which they got a kick out of.

Then, they decorated their Ninja stars and practiced throwing them.

I made a Ninjago pinata. (Something I've never done before, so Wayne and I worried it would all be over too soon). Luckily, it lasted for everyone to have at least 3 turns before it finally opened.

Afterward, they jumped on the trampoline with the pinata until not much remained...

A little picture of the table, (Chinese takeout boxes held the party treats).  We had snacks, including Fushi (fake sushi from rice krispie treats).

We played a little game that we planned to call "Poor Kitty." But, true to the ninja theme, it morphed into "I'm Sensei Wu, I like to drink tea..." (The goal is to try not to smile, or you are "it"...I don't think anyone was able to stay out of the middle).


Happy Birthday, Tyler! We love you!!!

We ended the evening with dinner at Ziggy's - Tyler's (new) favorite pizza place.

Sunday, we celebrated with Ted and Sue. Dinner was Tyler's request - we had shrimp cocktail, chicken curry with rice, pickles, spinach salad, cheese, etc. We skyped with Aunt Rachel, Jillian and Reid, and later talked to Grandpa Norm on the phone. What a great way to wrap up a fun birthday weekend!

Wichita Air Show

Last Sunday, Wayne and Tyler went to the McConnell Air Show. They had a great time. Wayne took a bunch of pictures and video, and has been wanting to share that with my Dad. Here is a little preview, Dad.

(I don't know why it's not letting me make this picture bigger).


I feel like it's been busy around here. Last weekend while Wayne and Tyler were at the air show, I got a few pictures of my little muffin. She cracks me up!

And on another day.
I guess paper becomes old news as a canvas...

Monday, September 3, 2012

Daddy's shorts

 My little lady is growing up so fast...but she still looks tiny when she's "wearing" Daddy's shorts.

So, after my attempt at getting a picture, I handed Wayne the camera. Much better!!