Friday, February 13, 2015

Family Dinner

Thank you all for your comments of support! It is kinda of a dark time here behind the picket fence and I appreciate your kind words. I am dipping my toe back into a more normal life and have reinstated my family dinners.

Our family includes my dh and myself, our five children and their five chosen ones and almost seven grandchildren and then extended family, too.  Everyone works different days and different shifts and it is impossible to schedule everyone at one time. Meanwhile I have chosen Wednesday night as dinner night and anyone available can make reservations.

Two Wednesdays ago, it was Meat Loaf night. I found this recipe on Mennonite Girls Can Cook's blog  - the minute I saw them, I knew my family would go nuts! Unfortunately we had a bad storm that night and I had lots of cancellations from out-of-towners. The good news is that we had lots left over and they are just as good, if not better, the second time around!

The mini loaves were delicious with green beans and cheesy potatoes! We enjoyed a pan of brownies for dessert.

This week we had a table of seven adults, a 2 year old, a 9 month old and a 5 month old.  On the menu:
 We started with a simple salad on my favorite pink plates.
 Two bowls of Oven Fried Chicken, so that no one had to fight over a drumstick.
Oven baked potatoes. I line baking sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. I then wash potatoes and halve them. Spray the raw side with cooking spray and then sprinkle with paprika, garlic powder, seasoned salt, pepper and a little oregano. Place face down on the baking sheet and bake along with the chicken. Pinch at the ends and slather with butter and/or sour cream.

Thank goodness for a convection oven, I had two 9 x 13's of chicken and two baking sheets of potatoes.

We finished with a cranberry cake
It looks great and tasted pretty good, too. I cannot find my recipe and used this one from pinterest. This is not my recipe. It is cooked in a springform pan, like mine is. I think that mine has the cranberries in the bottom and you flip the cake upside down. I am on a frantic search for my REAL recipe on the internet and in the zillions of piles of papers in my house. I have enough cranberries in my freezer to try this again if I find MY recipe!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Constant Comfort

Yes, I have been missing the last few days. It has been an interesting year.  This worst-than-a-Lifetime-movie experience. I am hoping to get back to blogging and visiting on a regular basis, but sometimes, well - sometimes . . . I just can't even manage to push a button . . .

Can you make this out? It is a church - taken from my car window in the parking lot before I ran inside for a meeting last Spring.  It was really and truly raining that hard.. 
Anyway - I thought I would do a quick update on something that makes me smile and feel better.

I am having a terrible time sleeping (Actually, there was a period in November where I did not sleep or eat for three straight days. I do not advise this). To try to help with this affliction, I have given up all forms of caffeine except chocolate. After all, there are limits to everything!

And a cup of hot tea can help make things better.
I would like to recommend several decaffeinated teas available in easy to use tea bags. I love my loose tea, but it is hard to find decaf varieties.

In my town the selection is sparse, but when I went to my daughter's house in the big city, even the grocery stores carry a good variety. And I bought a variety pack of Bigelow teas.
I was a little leery of the French Vanilla tea; it just did not sound right. I was wrong! It is totally delicious! I cannot explain it, but it is creamy without being creamy. Not overly scented. I highly recommend it as a hot tea.

I recently found the Spiced Chai. I like Chai, They carried the regular Chai, but only had Spiced Chai in decaf. I bought one box to try. Amazing - not "spicy" at all , just a delicious flavor.
But my favorite is the decaffeinated version of Constant Comment. Everytime I look at the packet, I misread it as Constant Comfort. And I do find a cup very comforting! When I make a cup each evening around 9:00 p.m., I feel like a little of the weight on my shoulders has been lifted by this comforting cup of tea and that the name is a reminder that I need to have faith that things will get better.
And here is my cup for tonight. Yes, it is February and I am still using a Christmas mug, with a chip in it, no less. Don't judge me - it is the perfect size! Not very glamourous, but very comforting. 
Well, thanks for attending my pity party. I promise the next post will be much more fun - I have lots of cute crafts and fun activities to share with you! I am going to try to visit all of you during the next few days. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taco Tarts

I want to be totally honest. Even though my own family, my extended family, my friends, my children's friends, my children's former teammates ALL consider this my recipe - It Is NOT.

I found this recipe in either Country Woman or Taste of Home magazine. It was attributed to a woman who submitted it. I wish I knew her name so I could thank her! The website says it was originally published as Taco Tartlets Appetizer in Country Ground Beef 1993, page 7, and shares the recipe here:  I do not own this recipe book (I looked) and I am sure it was published in one of those ground beef recipe contests (do you remember their recipe contests for each issue?)

I bet I have been making these since at least 1993. Ground beef would go on sale for less than a dollar a pound (I remember when it was 99 cents a pound in the "family packs". I had 5 teenagers, load me up with "family packs").  This weekend, which just happens to be Super Bowl weekend, ground beef was on sale for $2.88 a pound at our local grocery. Thank goodness there were no limits.

Since the recipe on the Taste of Home website has no photos (what???) and since I have tweaked it over the years (or made it easier for the lazy cook) - I thought I would share how I make what we call Taco Tarts.

First I will share my philosophy on appetizers and large families. Recipes like this, which must be made in LARGE quantity are best either broken into a few days or, if you are lucky to have children to press into service, assembly line produced for faster results.

Second, the original recipe states that it makes 24 appetizers which serves 8 people. This is crazy talk! My family eats at least 12 each. That means the original recipe serves 2 members of the Merry family!

Third, the recipe can be time consuming, so why not just make more for later?

So - instead of 1 pound of ground beef, I started with 6 pounds of ground beef. Instead of 2 tablespoons of water, I used 12 tablespoons of water (or a little more) and, instead of measuring 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning, I used 2 envelopes full. And you could use even more for more taco flavor. Unless you make or purchase taco seasoning in a jar - just use envelope contents. Mush together with your fingers until well mixed.

The original recipe adds 1 cup of shredded cheese to the ground beef. I add it to the filling.
In a second extra large bowl,  you can mix 1 cup of sour cream or increase it to 6 cups like I did.  She adds 3 tablespoons of chopped black olives. I use 3 cans of black olives, run through my Sunbeam Oscar. She uses one cup of crushed tortilla chips. I used one large bag of crushed tortilla chips. She used 2 tablespoons of taco sauce; I used 2 jars of salsa.  As you can tell this recipe is very forgiving. Before mixing I added 2 cups of shredded cheese. More cheese could be added, but this was all I had.
 Mix well. Now you are ready to start. If you are only doing 2 dozen - hey go to it! If you are doing enough for an army - you may want to separate both mixtures into smaller quanities and put them in the frig for food safety.
As you could see, I use my 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to make "meatballs" which I then press into a mini muffin pan. You could make the meat mixture a day ahead and refrigerate the meatballs if you want to split up the work.
 Alternately you could assign one cook around your island to make the meatballs and one to press into the pan as shown.
And I am sorry I got my dirty kitchen floor in this one :(    I used to have some wooden thing from Pampered Chef to press down the meatballs, but honestly, just as easy to use your fingers.

Now - just fill them! I use an iced tea spoon. No particular reason. This could be a job for another child or willing participant.
 And bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes.
 The next portion of the recipe will call for a WHOLE roll of paper towels. When you remove the taco tarts from the oven, they will be sitting in a puddle of grease. Ick. I am not a fan of the grease.
Use a spoon (here I use a soup spoon, no particular reason) and remove each tart and place on a prepared area lined with paper towels. This will help drain the grease from the tart. 
You will be left with a mini muffin tin full of grease. Ick. Drain and then grab paper towels. I wipe off top of tin then ball up the towels and wipe out each cubby hole. This will use 3-4 paper towels for each tin full.  
 After tarts have cooled, I place them on clean paper towels in a glass container with a lid and refrigerate overnight.
 These are so much better reheated. They actually can be frozen at this point, just thaw before reheating. I place them in a circle on a paper towel lined plate and reheat in the microwave. Time will depend on the wattage and amount of tarts.  This will remove any residue grease from the tarts. I am a little phobic about that grease!

If you are a fancy pants, you can dab some more salsa on each tart, dab some sour cream, top with shredded cheese or a slice of black olive, whatever fancy strikes you! If you are making 240 of them like I did - they are just fine as is!

Miss Merry's Taco Tarts

6 lbs. ground beef
12 tablespoons water
2-3 envelopes of taco seasoning

Mix well

6 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded cheese
3 cans black olives, drained and chopped
1 large bag tortilla chips, crushed
2 jars of salsa

Mix well

1 roll of paper towels
2 giant bowls
Mini muffin pan(s)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place one tablespoon of meat mixture in cups of mini muffin pan, press to cover bottom and sides. Put one teaspoon (or so) of cream mixture in each cup.

Bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Store in refrigerator in container lined with paper towels. Reheat in microwave on paper towels.

Makes 240 tarts which serves 20 people at my house. (regular serving size is supposed to be 3)

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Blog - Life Happens - Blog - Life Happens

Worse than Lifetime Movie Life Happens. More like Nightmare Theater Life Happens. Well, that kinda sums it up. And sometimes so much Life Happens that you can't even pretend that you can set a table or paint a room or, you know, stop and smell the roses (as in breathe).

But enough about that! This is blogland, not the real world, so let's get to the good stuff!

My last post was a newborn baby boy grandson! (I called him Hootie and gave him this hat before I met him)
And if that wasn't enough - the evening he was born by surprise - my youngest daughter and her boyfriend stopped by to show us a diamond and rename him fiance!
 And while I was quickly planning and preparing the bridal shower,
 another baby boy grandson; this one a baby brother grandson with a head full of hair (and doesn't the fold in the screen look like a halo?)
 and then a wedding!  (and FYI - a homemade brooch bouquet tutorial someday)
So, in the midst of Life Happening, there were some rays of sunshine!

And today, January 24, 2015, in spite of Life Still Happening, I set my table. So there.

Miss Merry