Monday, April 30, 2012

April Foodie Pen-Pal

This month I participated in Foodie Penpals (for more info and how to join click this link) again. This month I was able to send a package to Sarah. I received one from Jennifer. I love getting packages in the mail, is it just me, or does pretty much everybody? I had a roommate in college who was pretty much as obsessed with it as I was - we'd walk to the mailbox together to get the mail!

Here's what came in my package this month: 
 And a closer look: I've had Almond Milk before and loved it! The Snapea Crisps were also good and didn't have too much of a vegetable taste (my son actually ate some!), and I absolutely adore chocolate covered pretzels!
 I've never seen Pumpkin Butter and am super excited to try it. I'll get more to the Peanut Butter in a minute...
 I'd have to say this cereal was pretty delicious!
 Now onto the peanut butter:
 It was very good, and my son LOVED it...
 He took it away from where I was taking pictures to snitch some.
And I have to admit that by the end of the day, it wasn't just his finger mark in the jar... It also had my husband's AND mine...
It was super fun to be able to try new things - I love getting exposed to new foods (Especially those I can't buy since I live in such a rural area!) Thanks again Jennifer!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fairy Tale Endings - Who needs them?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about expectations and reality.... Growing up I use to sit with the Sears or JC Penny HUGE catalog (remember those?) and plan what furniture my house was going to have. Please tell me I'm not the only one who did this... I even had a notebook to write it down in! Each child would have their own whole bedroom set that they got to move with them when they got their own house. I also planned my living room with the perfect matching furniture. I knew exactly what I wanted for the inside of my beautiful house that I'd have custom built (I also loved the house I'd planned and still would love to have it today!) I also knew what I wanted in my life as well! I would be the perfect mommy to my children, I would keep my house clean, I would wear nice clothes all the time, make treats for them every day for an after school snack, be able to work part time in my chosen profession, and I would have the perfect relationship with my spouse. We'd live somewhere great - which by the end of high school I KNEW there was not going to be the area of the state where I'd grown up. I really wanted to live in another state as well, but not enough to go out of state for college...
I learned a LOT about my expectations of marriage in my first few years (it has only been 6 years, so I'm no expert still!) However, I felt that by the time I got married most of my unrealistic expectations were gone... But not all of them, unfortunately! I also learned TONS about being a mommy when I had my first child. Seriously, I never knew how tired and worn out a baby/toddler can make you. Now I honestly laugh and totally agree with signs that say things to the effect of, "We used to want it all, and now we just want to pee alone." Nice clothes all the time - totally out the window... now I wish I had a fixed personal hygiene routine (I do try to shower at least every other day!) I've also learned that it is really hard for me to be a perfect mommy when I'm tired and grumpy.
Me & My Son Revised
I also learned how life can play it's own games with you and have you end up living in the exact place where you didn't want to (although I did get to live outside the state while Hubby was in grad school) and told yourself you wouldn't live, but actually be grateful you are there... after 2 years of not having our own place or full time employment, I am glad that we have our own house and my husband has a full time job (that lets me be a stay at home mom-even though we have to stick to a tighter budget!) Speaking of budget - gone are my wishes for the perfect bedroom set for each child (and for myself too) as well as the matching Living Room furniture... I still want that (we do have some, just not everything I want), but now I realize that it will take time... I may have all the pieces I want in time to start replacing them!
Did I get my dreamed fairy tale ending? No, but I don't think I'd want my fairy tale ending, because it has been the hard times that have made me who I am, my relationship with my husband where it is (LOVE YOU Honey!), and has made me really grateful for what I do have. (Don't get me wrong, I'd still love to have it all together every day!) I may not be the perfect mommy (and sometimes wish it wasn't so hard) but I do enjoy being a mommy (most of the time...) I wouldn't trade anything (or even all) I've given up for what I have.
Smell the Roses
What were your dreams as a child/youth that you now realize are hard/impossible to achieve?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Baked Potato Bar

Potatoes, can I mention how much I love them? Maybe it's in my blood... Have I mentioned my husband was born and raised in Idaho (which has nothing to do with it being in my blood)?  Or that my dad's dad is from Idaho as well (okay that's my blood connection!) - oh and one of my great-aunts (and 4 other ladies) broke the World fastest potato peeling record in 1992. As far as I can tell they still have the record, but I could be wrong... It's hard to beat 5 Idaho school district cooks - not that I've tried! 

One of the best ways I like to eat potatoes is a plain, simple baked potato... However, I also love to dress up baked potatoes.

Baked Potato Bar

First, you'll need a baked potato (or at least 1 per person!). I wash the potato, dry, pierce with a fork, wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 400 for an hour for an average sized spud (more for larger, less for smaller.) Test with a fork to make sure it is soft in the middle. Remove from oven and while still hot (use a hot-pad to hold) bang it on the counter 4 times, rotating it each time - this helps loosen the potato and makes it extra fluffy! Unwrap, place on plate, open however you like and fluff with fork. Then to the toppings!
 You can use any toppings you like on a baked potato, these are just a few of the ones we love. Butter, Sour Cream, Broccoli Cheese Sauce, Ham,
 Green onion, chives,
 Broccoli, cheese and cheese sauce (not pictured). Growing up my family use to put chili on them as well...

To make the broccoli cheese sauce, I just chopped up some of the cooked broccoli and stirred it into the cheese sauce. The best part is you can decide if you want only a little broccoli, a lot of broccoli, little chunks, large chunks or a combination.
 Okay, now back to the potato...
 This is usually the way I do mine - in separate sections as I don't want my toppings to mix but I can't decide on just one type!
 So Sour cream on one, Broccoli on another, Cheese on another and ham on the last one.
  Then the broccoli gets topped with broccoli-cheese sauce, the sour cream gets chives, the ham gets cheese sauce and a bit of cheese, and the regular cheese gets topped with green onion.
That's just the way I like it, I should have taken a photo of my husband's - it was just stacked super high with everything! 
What are your favorite toppings for a baked potato?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Menu: April 16-22 & Little Kitchen Winner

Happy Monday everybody. At least I'm hoping you're having a better Monday than I am! (Okay it's not horrible but I didn't get enough sleep so that makes it worse...) 

First, to announce the winner of Little Kitchen: 

Winner is comment #4 -
Hi Crystal --- I have been a follower of your blog for quite some time now --- and also a Facebook "friend". I have now joined you on Pinterest (fun!) and on Twitter as well. I would LOVE to be entered in your drawing!

Be sure to email me at crystalscozykitchen at by Friday evening to claim your prize, or I'll be picking another winner.

Now on to the menu we had last week... unfortunately I didn't take pictures of the meals we had (except one!). I have a reason! I started potty training our son last Monday and to tell you the truth, some days simply getting a meal finished was all I had left in me for the day. Nobody ever told me that potty training was an absolutely exhausting task (and maybe it's partly because I'm pregnant?!?)! It also didn't help that my husband had to work 9-10 hours every day (M-F) last week.

Monday: Leftover Thai Chicken Cabbage

Tuesday: Broccoli Bacon Alfredo
Wednesday: Chicken Tostadas

Thursday: Black Bean Quesadillas

Friday: Ordered Pizza (yep I wasn't in any mood to cook!)
Saturday: Stuffed Shells

Sunday: Grilled Chicken with Brussels Sprouts & bacon, and BLT Pasta Salad

What did you have for dinner last week - anything fun or delicious?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cookbook for the Lunch-box Set Winner

Today I need to share an accomplishment with you - I for the first time ever canned all by myself (I use to help with the peeling, cutting, etc growing up but not the actual canning stuff!) So what did I make this first time? Spaghetti sauce. I decided something halfway though, it would have been SO much easier to just can tomatoes... I even asked my husband "Why did I do this to myself?!" To which he answered, "Because you wanted to make stuff ahead of time to get ready for when the baby came." He was right, I wanted to have home-made spaghetti sauce as a quick meal idea for when I'm a new mommy. However in the middle of getting it all ready it was a bit daunting! I'm sure I'll be glad in a few months when I have it all ready to just heat up though. 

Now for the winner (as chosen by
Comment # 3 - Barbara who said:
I also follow you with GFC!

Barbara you have until Tuesday to email me to claim the prize - crystalscozykitchen at If unclaimed, I will announce another winner.

Oh and for those of you who haven't entered already -  the giveaway for Little Kitchen is still open!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Baking From the Heart - Winner

I almost forgot to close the contest and announce a winner! Life has been crazy here this week - Hubby has been working tons and hasn't been home very much PLUS this is the week I decided to potty train my son. Yeah not the best timing with Hubby's work - but in my defense I did not know that he was going to be gone so much!

So to announce the winner: Comment #6 (as chose by, but no I did not get a screen shot, you'll just have to trust me on this one!) Oh and if you didn't win, there are still 2 more cookbook giveaway going on now (Here and here)!

Comment #6 is: 
I did the Facebook and Twitter, but it is probably not wise for me to get on Pinterest.

Congrats Elise - just email me at crystalscozykitchen at to claim your prize. If it is not claimed by April 24th I'll announce a new winner.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cheese Sauce

We love cheese at our house... so much so that when I make pretty much ANYTHING with grated cheese in it, if I have to grate extra so my husband AND son can snitch some grated cheese (not that I don't eat some, but it's quality control when I do it, right!?) Do any of you have this problem?

Today I really wanted to share my basic cheese sauce recipe. This is the one that I use with Mac & Cheese, Baked Potatoes, etc. I typically use cheddar as the cheese in this sauce, although you could use other types as well. However, if you're looking for an Alfredo sauce, this is not the one to use!

Basic Cheese Sauce
 First, you'll need 1 Tbsp Butter, melted in a saucepan over medium heat. If you want to have onions and/or garlic in your sauce you should add them now and cook until tender.
 Then add 1 Tbsp flour and a pinch of pepper if desired. If you want to add any additional spices, now would be when you want to toss them in.
 and whisk together
 until fully combined.
  Let cook for about a minute once the flour is fully incorporated. You can make the cheese sauce have a different taste profile if you let the butter and flour turn a bit brown - but not burnt (it gives it a nuttier taste.) Experiment to see which you like best!
 Next, add 1/4 cup milk and let it come to around the same temperature as the butter/flour mixture. You can also just add heated milk.
Having the butter/flour mix and milk at around the same temperature will help reduce the chance of having a lumpy sauce... and who wants a lumpy cheese sauce? I've made my fair share of lumpy sauces though!
I was a bit hesitant to do this the first time I learned about it (probably from some cooking show-but I can't remember it's been years), but having the milk sit in the pan to heat up does NOT hurt the sauce in any way!
 Mix until combined.
 Then add 1/4 cup more milk and bring to temperature, then mix.
 Finally, add the rest 1/4 cup milk and whisk to combine.
 Adding the milk in 3 batches helps the sauce thicken better.
 Now, on to the cheese (be sure it is at room temperature)! I usually add the cheese in 2-3 batches depending on my mood...
 For 3 batches, use 1/2 cup each and for 2 batches add 3/4 cup each (for a total of 1-1/2 cups of shredded cheese - I typically use medium or sharp cheddar to make my cheese sauces as the flavor comes through better.)
 Whisk and stir the first batch until the cheese is mostly melted.
 Then you can add the next batch of cheese.
Whisk and stir the cheese into the sauce.
 Keep stirring to make sure the sauce doesn't start to burn onto the bottom of the pan.
Oh, and to make sure all the cheese is fully melted!
When the cheese is mostly melted in the sauce you can taste to make sure the cheesyness is where you want it.
 If not, add more cheese and stir until melted.
 I've added about a half a cup of shredded parmesan to this sauce and it makes a delicious addition!
 Once the cheese is all the way melted, turn off the burner - you don't want to overcook the cheese - it can become tough and curdled. That's not so fun when you want a smooth cheese sauce!
 You will want to keep the sauce warm until it is used!  If skin develops, simply stir back into sauce.
 This sauce is nice and thick, but still runny enough to drip off the spoon.
 This cheese sauce was for baked potatoes (you can make broccoli cheese sauce by simply adding some finely chopped broccoli to the sauce). However, I use the same cheese sauce for stove-top mac & cheese... Just add about 2 cups cooked pasta (Macaroni, Rotini, Penne, etc) to the sauce and stir. You can also use it to top veggies or rice.
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