Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cheddar Bay Biscuits/Bean & Bacon Soup

On a daily basis, Hunter Man does not know whether he can expect to find dinner ready or in progress when he gets home from work.  That is partly because I never know when he is going to get home, but also because I may have been too busy to even think about cooking, I haven’t been home all day, or I am just not in the mood to cook.  My life is complicated!
But, I do like to have a good dinner and I know that we can’t afford to eat out as much as we have been in the last couple of years.  I keep hoping that things will get better both financially and in the complicated sense, but so far, it is not looking like my hopes will be fulfilled anytime soon.
Last night I was in the mood to cook and I was looking online for dinner ideas.  I came across a recipe for some copycat Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits.  I love those biscuits and immediately wanted to have them for dinner with homemade Bean and Bacon Soup. 
I compared a few of the online recipes for the biscuits and found that one of the ingredients that they all had in common was Bisquick.  Bisquick.  I never, ever have Bisquick on hand.  Now what? Oh, yeah look for homemade Bisquick ideas online!
Sure enough, I found many recipes for it.  I had to combine several of them until I came up with one that seemed like it would work with the Cheddar Bay Biscuit recipe. 
Forgive me--I am not an expert
food photographer
at this point!
My recipes never end up exactly like the ones I start with.  One reason, that everyone will need to remember is that I can be quite picky and there are a lot of things that I don't like to cook with (like real onions, garlic, peppers, etc.)  So, I often use onion powder, garlic paste, and one of my favorites--Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning. 
These cheesy garlic biscuits turned out to be the BEST!  They were so good that I almost couldn’t stop eating them. 
Hunter Man said that he liked the fact that they were very moist.  He declared that they were better than the real Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits. 
Awesome.  I love it when a cooking experiment works out so well.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with baking spray.
2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. margarine
1 T. sugar
¾ tsp. Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. milk
3 T. margarine
1 tsp. Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
First, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, margarine, and sugar with a pastry blender.
Stir in the Mrs. Dash Garlic Seasoning, cheese, and milk.  Eventually, you will have to start mixing it with your hands to make sure that the cheese gets evenly distributed.
Take a handful of the dough and form it into the general shape of a ball.  Place on the baking sheet.  You should have 12 biscuits.
Bake for 10 minutes.  After they have baked for about 8 minutes, melt 3 T margarine in the microwave.  Mix in 1 tsp. Ms. Dash Garlic Seasoning, and 1 tsp dried parsley.  (Do not do this step too early because the parsley will absorb the margarine and make it less easy to spread).
Remove the biscuits from the oven at 10 minutes and brush each biscuit with the melted butter and spices.  Return to the oven and bake for 5 more minutes.
The bottoms of the biscuits should be slightly browned.
Ty and I were talking about the biscuits and he thought it might be interesting to try different kinds of cheeses in them.  That was a good idea and he gets the credit for it!
I came up with my recipe for Beans, Ham, and Bacon Soup because I love Campbell’s Bean and Bacon Soup.  But, I don’t eat it anymore because it has monosodium glutamate in it and msg is on the list of things that I try to avoid in order to prevent migraine headaches.  My own recipe for this soup does not taste exactly like the original, but I like it and Hunter Man does too. 
You can either make this about 30 minutes before dinner, or put it in the crock pot on low for few hours.
4 cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1 package thin sliced ham, cut into pieces
2 T. real bacon bits
12 baby carrots
1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
½ c. water
½ tsp. garlic paste½ tsp. to 1 tsp onion powder¼ tsp. pepper¼ tsp. celery salt
2 bay leaves
½ cups instant potato flakes

Cut the mini carrots into tiny, tiny pieces, cover with water, and cook them in the microwave for about 5 minutes until they are soft.  If you don’t do this, they will never get soft in the soup. 
Combine all of the other ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the carrots and all of the water they are in to the soup. 
As this soup cooks, it tends to get thick, so be prepared to keep adding water a little at a time to keep it at soup consistency.  Simmer over medium/low heat for at least 30 minutes, stirring often to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Before serving, remove all of the Bay Leaves. 
When I eat this, I always add a splash of milk and a few saltine crackers.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Valentine Day 2012

This year, I had one of the best Valentine Days of my life.  I spent most of the day with the most amazing man.  A little man--my awesome, almost 2 year old grandson.  His mommy invited me to go with them as they delivered Valentines to his great and great/great-grandparents on our side of the family.  I absolutely loved spending the day with him.  I just love him so much. 
It was so neat to see him go up to each grandparent and hand them a Valentine.  At every house, he remembered the things that he liked about it the last time he was there.  At his Great Grandpa and Grandma Scott’s house, as soon as he handed off the Valentine, he went straight to the toy closet and grabbed the first thing he could find—some blocks.  He dumped them all out and then was done with them.  Next, he wanted to pick up every picture frame and identify the people in the picture.  They were so impressed that when it was time to go, he happily picked up all of the blocks and put them back in the closet.   
As soon we pulled into his Great-Great Grandma Holmquist’s driveway, he remembered that there are horses in the corral and started saying, “Horse, horse, see horse!”  She loves to give the grandchildren a balloon to play with and it was so much fun to see the delight on his face as he played with it.  Grandma was very happy that we came.  Especially when she found out that we brought her a KFC Chicken Fried Steak meal! 
At his Great Grandma Susan’s house, he walked in the door, grabbed the first and only toy that she has in plain sight--a Nerf gun, and immediately wanted to shoot it.  He also asked to see the kitty that she had been nursing back to health on her back deck the last time he was there, but didn’t get upset when she told him that the kitty went away. 
He loves to go to “Grandma” Colleen’s house because we always stop to buy lunch to eat with her and he gets to have his favorite “nuggets”.  Even though we always do it, she acts so surprised that we bring lunch and is happy with whatever we get for her.  She is a big fan of ice cream, so we always get her a shake.  While we are there she tries to think of treats to give him because she thinks the world of this little guy and loves to spoil him.
He was a good boy at each house and his mommy was so proud of him.  I was too.  He is such a lucky little boy to have three great-grandparents, two great-great grandparents, and an adopted “Grandma”, on our side of the family. 
We are all as blessed as can be to have HIM. 
That night it was very cool to get my Grandparent Valentine Day Visit from him (and his mommy and daddy).  He gave me the cutest Valentine.  His hand was traced and then the paper fingers were bent into the sign language symbol for “I Love You”.  It was great!  He was so funny because he wanted to have the sucker that was taped to the back of it.  He pulled it off and his parents told him that the sucker was for Grandma because it was her Valentine.  So, he put the sucker in my mouth—with the plastic on it.  We all laughed.  He is such a cutie. 
Right now in my life I can honestly say that there is not much better than being a Grandma.
The day before Valentine Day, my other man—-Hunter Man brought me two beautiful flowering plants--a Calla Lily and a Flamingo Flower.  He said he wanted to give me flowers that wouldn’t die.  (I laughed at that because lately, life has been stressing me out so much that I have been neglecting all of my plants and they were all on the verge of dying). 

He has always been the guy who gets the gift a day or two before the holiday—just to make sure that he isn’t late.  Quite a few years ago, (24 to be exact) he brought me a bouquet of beautiful yellow roses on January 14th, thinking that it was Valentine Day and that he had almost missed it.  Then, he found out that he was one month early!  That was the earliest he has ever been.  He always makes me laugh when he brings me my gifts before the holiday because I always think that this year will be the year that he will actually wait until THE DAY.  It makes me happy that he thinks about me and that he tries really hard to remember to do something nice. 
The weekend before Valentine Day he mentioned that he used to love to get Linguine with White Clam Sauce at the Spaghetti Factory.  We never go there, so it has probably been over 20 years since he has eaten there!  I have made my own version of this at home before, but it must not have made much of an impression on him.  I decided to try to make it again as his Valentine Day dinner.  I looked up a bunch of recipes for it online and then tweaked them with the recipe that I had used before. 
Success!  He liked it and said that it was the best that he had ever had.  I thought it was very good, too. 
My Linguine with Clam Sauce
3 T. butter or margarine
1 package sliced, fresh mushrooms
tsp. garlic paste
3 T. butter or margarine
1 cup half and half cream
3 – 6.5 oz cans minced clams with juice
cup red cooking wine½ T. dried parsley½ tsp. dried basil¼ tsp. dried oregano¼ tsp. black pepper
2 pinches red pepper flakes
2 T. lemon juice
tsp. thyme½ tsp. onion powder¼ cup. grated parmesan cheese
8 oz. linguine pasta prepared according to package directions.
Melt butter over medium heat.  Sauté mushrooms and garlic paste in butter.  Mix in 3 T. flour.  The flour will coat the mushrooms.  Add cream.  Stir gently for about 2 minutes, and then add clam juice from all 3 cans of clams.  Stir in the cooking wine.  As the sauce thickens, add the rest of the spices and lemon juice.  Add the clams and parmesan cheese last. 
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Serve over linguine pasta.

I made the traditional Valentine cookies earlier in the week and for some reason, even though I have used the same recipe for quite a few years now—this time the cookies turned out better than they ever have.  I think it was because I just didn’t have the patience to roll the dough out and cut out each heart with a cookie cutter.  I just rolled the dough into balls, flattened them and then shaped them into hearts by hand.   The cookies turned out thick and soft.  I frosted them with pink cream cheese frosting and red sugar sprinkles and that was just the right finishing touch.  (Sorry, no pictures—they all turned out blurry!)
1 c. butter or margarine
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. baking powder
to 7 cups flour¼ tsp. salt (I usually just put in a tiny pinch of salt)
Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Mix in yogurt, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add 6 cups of flour.  Then, judge how much more flour to add by adding a little bit at a time.  The dough will appear to be a little bit too moist, even though it is not.  I like it to have just enough flour in it so that if I roll it into a ball in my hands, it just barely makes my hands feel sticky, but not so much that I can’t do anything with it.  You don’t want them to be too dry.
Roll dough on floured surface to ½ inch thickness.  Cut with cookie cutters.  Place on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  (I like to use an Air Bake cookie sheet for these sugar cookies).
Or, do what I do when I am in a hurry (or lazy) and roll them into balls and flatten with the bottom of a glass.  If I am not going to frost the cookies, I like to put a damp paper towel around the bottom of the glass (secured with a rubber band) and then dip the bottom of the glass in sugar before I flatten them. 
Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Cookies will be very soft and just barely light tan on the bottom.  Then, let them rest on the cookie sheet for 2 more minutes before removing them to the cooling racks.
Frost the cookies, if desired.  Store in air-tight container after the frosting has set.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (I usually use the lower fat Neufchatel style of cream cheese).
4 T. butter or margarine
tsp. vanilla
½ c. powdered sugar
Mix all ingredients together until well-blended and smooth.    

Sunday, February 12, 2012


One week ago, it was my daughter’s 24th birthday. 

24 years ago, our baby girl was born under miraculous—yet, near tragic circumstances.

Every year at this time, I think about how I nearly died and how my life was saved when I was blessed that I would live to raise my children.  This year, these thoughts seemed especially poignant because my daughter is about to become a mother, herself.
At what point will my children be considered “raised”?

Even though two of my children are adults and married, and our youngest is almost 16, I hope they all continue to need me for a long time. 

I am truly thankful that I have been able to be their mom for all of these years.  It is so awesome that I get to be a grandma to one--soon to be two--amazing little boys.

My daughter was born about 1 month early.  I went to sleep one night and my husband woke up when the bed started shaking.  He thought our Yorkie, who slept on our bed, was doing some kind of weird dog thing, but when he turned on the light to see what she was doing, he saw that I was having convulsions.

Then, the miracles started happening. 

My husband’s first thought was that he needed to call his Dad.  We lived in a little house that was on the same property as my husband’s parent’s house.  We were remodeling our little house while we were living in it.  One of the things that we hadn’t gotten yet, was our own telephone line.  We shared one with the main house.  We had a way to call each other, where we would call the one phone number that we shared, hang up, then pick up the phone again, and we would be able to talk to someone in his parent’s house. 

When he told his Dad what was happening, my father-in-law dropped the phone without hanging it back up and ran to our house.  Seeing that I needed medical attention quickly, he picked up our phone and called for an ambulance.  But, there was no way he should have been able to make a phone call when the phone at his house was off the hook.  Yet, he made THREE phone calls.  The second call was to a neighbor who lived at the top of the dirt road that we lived on to ask them to watch for the ambulance and direct them to our house (we didn’t really have a real address, just a rural route number).  When it seemed like the ambulance should have been there, he called the dispatcher again to ask where it was.  It had been sent to Freeburg, not Smithton.  So, they sent another ambulance.  Miraculously, this ambulance had an EMT who was specially trained in treating people who were having seizures.

After those three phone calls, the phone would not work and they found out later that it was still off the hook at the other house.  Miracle.    

I had several seizures at our house, including one where my mother-in-law thought she should grab my tongue so that I wouldn’t swallow it and I hit her and told her not to touch me. I also bit my husband’s finger when he tried to do the same thing.  I had no idea that I was doing any of those things.  I had another seizure in the ambulance, but didn’t have one after arriving in the E.R so the doctor said that they would monitor me over night.  As soon as he said that, another seizure began. 

My husband felt that this last seizure was also a miracle--to make the doctor would realize that our baby’s life and my life were in danger and that monitoring us over night was not a good idea.  
The doctor performed an emergency C-section and minutes later, we were the proud parents of a 4 pound, 4 ounce tiny baby girl.

I had no idea that I was the proud parent of this little miracle.  I wasn’t aware of anything that had happened so far that night.  After the C-section, I did not wake up.  My body was starting to shut down and the doctors told my husband that they didn’t think I would live.  I had a collapsed lung, pneumonia, my kidneys were failing, fluid was running outside my veins and I was swelling up, I was in a coma, and I had a central line going straight into my heart trying to keep me alive.  My husband had this beautiful baby girl that he was thrilled about, but was so worried about me that he didn’t know what to do.  He was fortunate that his parents were right by his side throughout the whole thing and my parents came on the first flight from Utah to Illinois that they could get. 

My husband and father-in-law had given me blessings, and everyone in our families, and our church branch was praying for me, but my father-in-law had a strong feeling that there was someone else who needed to come to the hospital to help me. 

He called our stake president and asked him to come to give me a blessing.  The stake president started to say, “Glen, you can do that”, but then he also had a strong impression that he really did need to come to the hospital.  He said that he was on his way.  Our stake bounderies encompassed something like a 50 mile radius.  Luckily, the stake president was at the church, about 10 minutes away from the hospital instead of at his home, which was about 45 minutes away from the hospital.  He and the others he was meeting with at the time prayed for me and then he left. 

I was in a coma for two days and I don’t remember very much that happened for about a week.  But, I have this vague memory of seeing the stake president’s face and hearing his voice.  My husband was in awe because the stake president had not been given all of the specific details of my condition beforehand, but he blessed me specifically with every single thing that I needed in order to be healed. 

Another miracle.

After asking one more time,
"Where is my baby?"
My husband says that he has
definitely seen me at my worst!

After the blessing, as I was slowly waking up from the coma, I repeatedly touched my stomach and asked where my baby was.  Whoever was in the room with me at the time would tell me that she had been born and that she was in the nursery waiting for me to wake up so that she could see me.  Whenever they could, the nurses would go get her in her little incubator so that I could see her.  Then, I would go back to sleep, wake up, and repeat my question about where my baby was.

I remember waking up and seeing my parents standing in the doorway of a hospital room.  It seemed like they had suitcases with them and they said they were going back to Utah now that I was awake.  I asked them why they were there and then I asked where my baby was again.  I didn’t even know they were there and then they were leaving.  I was so confused.

Even after I had been transferred to the maternity ward from the ICU, I woke up not knowing where I was and what had happened.  I think I must have been driving my husband crazy by asking him that over and over again, but he was very patient and loving with me.

Jer made me a card.
So tiny.
Our little girl, Kj, was doing very well.  Her only problem was that she was so tiny.  But, she gained weight quickly and was able to go home when she weighed over five pounds.  I was released before she was, but I developed a big infection under my C-section incision and was only home for a few hours before I had to be readmitted because I became very sick.  So, when she was ready to be released from the hospital, I had to stay.  That was hard.  They brought her to my room to see me before she left the hospital.  It made me unbearably sad that I had to stay in the hospital while she went home. 

But, soon we were all together as a family.  I was elated to see our little boy, Jer, and it felt good to be out of the hospital, even if I did still have a long road ahead of me to get my health back.

So this is a sister?
One of the hardest things for me to do was to remember things.  I thought that maybe I would crochet while I was laying in bed—since I was not able to do much else and I loved to crochet.  When my husband brought me my yarn and crochet hook, I just stared at it.  I could not remember how to do it.  Another time, my husband brought me the checkbook and all of the bills so that I could take care of that chore again.  But, when I went to sign the check, I couldn’t remember how to sign my name. 

We stayed at my husband's parents house for several weeks after I came home so that they all could help me with the baby and with our 2 ½ year old son.  The first time I went back to our little house I saw a bag of fabric sitting on the counter in the kitchen.  I could not remember buying it or what it was for.  I showed it to my mother-in-law and she told me that I had gone to the mall the day before my daughter was born and bought the fabric to make curtains for Jer’s room.  I could not remember doing that, at all.  She told me that I came to see her when I got home from the mall to show her the fabric and that I told her about stepping hard off of a curb as I was going to the parking lot and I said that my stomach hurt while driving home, especially bouncing down our dirt road.

The doctor’s didn’t really know exactly what had happened.  Acute fulminating eclampsia was one diagnosis.  The placenta tearing away from the wall of the uterus and releasing toxins into my system, was another.  Whichever it was, or whether it was both of them or not, it was a miracle that my daughter and I survived it.  Usually both mother and daughter do not live—-typically, one or the other does. 

But, miracles happen. 

I’m glad they happened to us.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

104 Years Old

About two weeks ago, my My Hunter Man’s grandfather celebrated his 104th birthday.  He is the 2nd oldest man in the state of Utah.  We think it is pretty awesome to be his grandchildren (I consider him my grandpa too, since mine have all passed away and I have been in the family for 28 years).  He is amazing and we love him very much.  My husband and my kids are all so lucky to have a grandpa and great grandpa who is still alive.   
Driving to his party was very interesting.  A few blocks from our house, we came to a railroad crossing that was lowering the arms just as we came to it.  But, no train was coming and no train came.  We waited and waited forever.  Well, it seemed like forever.  It was probably only about 10 minutes.  Finally, Hunter Man pulled forward as far as he could and then backed onto the shoulder lane.  He backed up and backed up past a long, long line of cars that had formed while we were sitting there.  Finally, he came to a clear spot and he made a U-Turn to go another way around the railroad tracks.  I’m sure a lot of other cars followed his example after that.  Traffic incident number one.
Driving north on the highway, we came to an intersection that has recently been re-vamped to prevent accidents.  Ha. Ha.  You can no longer make right hand turns on red lights because the previous lane to turn into is now a left-hand, continuous flow traffic lane.  Well, Hunter Man felt like he was in a hurry since we hand been delayed by the malfunctioning train signal so when we came to the red light, he started to turn right just like you can at almost every red light in the state.  Unfortunately, the left hand turn traffic in the lane he thought he was turning into was starting to commence.  Honking ensued!  He slammed on his brakes and reversed as fast as he could.  That was a little bit scary.  Traffic incident number two. 
When the light turned green, he put on the gas.  But, guess what?  He was still in Reverse!  He slammed on the brakes again and did not rear-end the front end of the car behind us!  I’m surprised that we didn’t hear a bunch of honking again!  This time I laughed.  I laughed and laughed and laughed.  Even he laughed.  Which I could tell was hurting his ego – having to actually laugh at himself, admitting that he really had made a mistake, or two!  Ty was probably silently laughing in the back seat.  He wouldn’t openly laugh and give us the satisfaction of knowing that he might be enjoying himself in our company.  We did drag him away from the X-Box to go to a party with old relatives that he says he doesn’t know or care about.  He does like Grandpa and thinks it is cool that he is so old, but doesn’t think it is cool enough to spend several hours of his day celebrating the fact.  Ty did say that maybe my husband should let me drive from that point on!  That was traffic incident number 3.
Soon, we came to a busy intersection.  Just as we got there, the traffic signal malfunctioned!  It started flashing on and off red for a 4-way stop.  But, then, just as it seemed like it was our turn to go, the signal would change back to solid red and then we didn’t know if was green for the opposite traffic.  I kept telling Hunter Man to just go when it was our turn, but he was hesitant since we could have gotten broadsided if that other signal was green.  Finally, he chanced it and we made it through alive!  We laughed again.  Traffic incident number 4 sure started to make it seem like some cosmic force in the universe did not want us to go to that party!
Telling stories
It was nice to see Grandpa on his birthday.  We enjoyed hearing him tell stories.   He loves to talk about his life.  He told about a time when he was a boy and he had a pony.  He was riding the pony with his brother one day when Indians came and stole his pony.  Can you imagine being alive when there would have actually been Indians stealing horses?  Wow.  He got on his brother’s horse and they rode back home.  He told his uncle what happened to his pony, then his uncle went into the house, got his gun, and rode away on his own horse.  He came back that night with Grandpa’s pony.  Grandpa said that his uncle never told him how he got the pony back. 
He talked about catching skunks and what they had to do to get the skunk smell out of their clothes and bodies.  His daughter interrupted and said, “Your mother made you bury your clothes, didn’t she?”
And he answered he as if he thought she was crazy to think that there was only one skunk incident in his life, “We got sprayed by skunks more than once and had to use tomato juice to get the smell out.”  He told about a time when they got to school after throwing a skunk into the river and the teacher made them go back home. 
He laughed as he told us that the teacher said, “We don’t want any skunk smell in this house!”  It was fun to hear Grandpa laugh at his own humor.
Our family with Grandpa (minus 3 of us)
He would have gone on and on, but someone decided that four stories were enough and told Grandpa that the ice cream was melting and so he would have to stop for now.  Some of us were not happy about that.  They could have put the ice cream in the freezer and Grandpa could have enjoyed his captive audience.
Our family with Hunter Man's mother, 2
 sisters, brothers-in-law, niece, and nephew.

His mind is as sharp as ever and he still has the greatest sense of humor.
He likes to set goals for his longevity.  He wants to be the oldest man in the state and then he wants someone to figure out if he is the oldest man in our worldwide church.  He is working toward 105 now.
Here’s to his next celebration!