Ingredient of the month: Cream of Chicken Soup

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Oriental Steak Broil

This is one of my favorite Sunday dinners! And I don't use a whole 1 1/2 lbs of steak for my family. I just buy the 3 or so lb package from Sams or Costco and cut it into 3 chunks, then we can have it 3 different times.

Oriental Steak Broil
3 T lemon juice
1 T vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 T soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 anise seed or ground allspice
1 1/2 lbs flank steak

In 1-qt saucepan combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, soy sauce, salt, pepper, and anise seed. Bring to boil and stir 30 seconds. Pour hot marinade over steak and let marinate for 30 minutes or longer turning at least once. Then you can either broil the steak 3-5 minutes on each side or bbq it. Cut steak on the diagonal into 1/2 inch slices and serve.
** I always broil mine since we don't have a bbq but it's never been done after 3-5 minutes on each side... I usually end up doing almost 10 minutes per side. So just watch it and cook it till it looks done. It should still be pink when you cut into it but not bleeding red! Enjoy


The Moms' Club Diaries

So, sorry that I've been absent from this blog for a while, but we're in the middle of getting ready for a move back to the "promised land" as someone told me on Sunday. But, I just thought I'd tell you about a fun book for which I was lucky enough to be a contributor. One of my high school friends (Allyson) is a great writer and put this project together of moms' experiences with raising kids. My chapter is about the joys of having a toddler who is a little (okay a lot) too assertive. I've read a few of the other selections and they had some great insights into being a mom. You can find out more about this book at:


Chicken & Dumplings

This is so good, especially on a cold day. The easy to make dumplings make their own gravy as they cook. This is one of my favorite chicken dishes. It makes extra chicken broth so bag it and freeze it. It is really tasty in other dishes.

Chicken & Dumplings
3 quarts of water
1 bay leaf
1 3-4 pound chicken, cut up
1 tsp dried parsley
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 small onion, sliced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic, peeled and quartered

For Dumplings:
2 cups flour
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp milk

Bring water to boil, add chicken, 1 tsp salt, onion, garlic, bay leaf and parsley. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Liquid will reduce by about one third.
When chicken has cooked, remove it from the pot and set aside. Strain stock (into a large bowl) to remove all vegetables and scum. You want to save this stock! Toss everything else out. Pour 6 cups of the stock back into the pot and save the rest for other recipes. Add pepper, ½ tsp salt and the lemon juice, then reheat stock while making the dumplings.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all dumpling ingredients. Stir well with wooden spoon and let rest 5-10 minutes.
Roll dough out on lightly floured surface to ½ inch thickness. Use a pizza cutter to cut dough into ½ inch squares and drop each square into the simmering stock. Use all of the dough. The dumplings will swell and then partially dissolve into a nice gravy. Simmer for 20minutes. Stir often.
While dumplings are cooking, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to pot and stir. Simmer 5 minutes more.
Serves 4-6

A Potty Party

My daughter (and I) are officially potty trained. It's been a week, a few accidents, lots of focus and lots of books read from the bathroom floor. I have to admit it was 1000 times easier than I was expecting. Here are some things we did:
  • We set a date and talked for days leading up to the big day (Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day to me!) we discussed how we weren't going to wear diapers anymore...yada yada yada.
  • She "threw away" her diapers. We put them in a big bag that I actually put in my closet. I still put a diaper on at night. I'm not ready to deal with laundering sheets.
  • We have "special books" that we read only when she is using the bathroom. She also has special underwear, a special toilet seat (thanks Bridget!) and a special stepping stool to aid in getting on the toilet and washing hands at the sink. Oh, and she had special drinks all week long (orange soda and Martinelli's apple juice.)
  • We ended the week with a Potty Party...we're always looking for an excuse to party.

I think mostly you and your child need to be ready. Leave a comment and share what were/are some of your tricks of this trade?


Peanut Butter Sushi

Ok one more peanut butter post to finish off the week.

I saw this on Rachael Ray (I really don't watch it that often!) and Parker was really excited about it because he loves bananas with peanut butter. And it's healthy and so easy! All you do is flatten 2 pieces of bread together with a rolling pin, spread peanut butter, lay down a banana, roll up and slice into like 4 or 5 sushi pieces!
Now Parker wants to make this every day! For more detailed instructions go here:


Glazed Carrots

So this was inspired by my sis-in-law Annie (Hi Annie!) I got the recipe out of my favorite new cookbook--America's Test Kitchen that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. Sounds like lots of in-laws...anyway. Here is a great side to any meal...

COMBINE in 12-inch frying pan:
1 lb of carrots cut on the bias
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until carrots are almost tender.

Uncover, bring to a boil again and cook until the sauce has cooked down to about 2 tbsp. (about 2 minutes)

2 more tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (mine was salted) cut into 4 pieces
Cook until carrots are tender (about 3 more minutes)

Off the heat ADD:
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (mine was concentrate)

Voila! Candied carrots! It was really fast and really easy! Serve with a side of Peanut Butter (ha ha...I was feeling guilty I didn't have a peanut butter recipe this week.)


Bean Cake?!

I just heard this great idea for "healthifying" some of your baked goods. In anything that has a cake-like texture (cake, cupcakes, muffins, quick breads, pancakes, even biscuits), you can swap all of the fat (i.e. butter, shortening, oil) for mashed white beans! Just think, this adds protein and fiber while reducing the fat. I am so excited to try it! Let me know how it works out if any of you do. The swap is completely even, so no need to figure out conversions.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

These are a simple take on chocolate chip cookies. I like the oats and peanut butter mix.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Beat together: 2 eggs
½ cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Add: 1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 ½ cups flour
Mix together and add ½ cup peanut butter, ½ cup chocolate chips, and ½ cup walnuts. Form into balls and bake at 375 degrees for about 9 minutes or till lightly browned. Remove and cool.


Chicken Satay Noodles and No Bake Cookies

I was planning on posting this No Bake Cookie recipe all week. But then yesterday we tried out a Rachael Ray recipe that also had peanut butter in it and it was actually pretty good and not too hard. So I figured I could put up the cookie one and the link to the Rachael Ray recipe.
So for Cold Chicken Satay Noodles click below:

Cold Chicken Satay Noodles Recipe

I left out the scallions and the cilantro and it was great! And I just noticed on the recipe that the last 2 steps are in the wrong order. You're supposed to add the tamari, garlic, etc. before the oil and noodles, etc.

And now... this is one of my favorite cookie recipes! They are so good and way too easy to make! And the recipe says the peanut butter is optional but I can't imagine them being as good if you leave it out.

No Bake Cookies
2 C sugar
1/4 C cocoa
1/2 C butter
1/2 C milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 C oats
1/2 C peanut butter (optional)

Mix sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. Let cool for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Drop spoonful sized balls onto waxed paper. Let cool maybe 30 min before ready to eat.
Hint: When bringing to a boil, let top get all bubbly. Add oatmeal last. If runny, add more oatmeal, no more than a cup extra.


a Cook'n necessity

This is one of my favorite Christmas gift, its normally 99.95 but on sale right now for 79.95. You can also download it but I don't know if its cheaper or not, I like having the the actual softward. I use this all the time, well in the month that I have owned it now. It is a recipe organizer and it can: (copy and pasted from its website)

Search thousands of recipes--just tell it what you have on hand
Organize your own recipes
Adjust serving sizes automatically
Analyze nutritional value of your recipes
Build weekly menus
Display hundreds of food photos
Make grocery shopping lists
E-mail recipes to your friends
Print recipes on decorative cards
Publish your recipes in html for web browsers
Download recipes & shopping lists to your Palm Pilot!
Show preparation video clips
Search the internet for coupons

I have one folder that is filled with my mom and family recipes and then I have one folder that is just my recipes. It is so easy to use and so fun. One of my favorite features is that it adjusts the serving sizes, to often I make way to much food because I can't figure out how to reduce it properly so you tell this how many servings you want and it does all the math for you and gives me a recipe to make for 2. Once you register your software it will automatically update it with more recipes, and you can by other recipe cd's to go with it. I have Cook'n low carb, Cook'n chinese and one other that I can't remember. But seriously if you have this you will love it. The website is


So I have some questions about preschool and I'm hoping some of you mom's of past and present preschoolers can help me out. Mikelle turns 3 in June and I have been thinking its time to start her in preschool. Is she too young? We just moved so I don't know anyone that would want to do a joy school type thing. So should I enroll her in a preschool and how do I go about choosing one. I saw on a blog that this lady had just enrolled her child for preschool in the fall, she went and toured the facility and had a little interview. Is it too early to do that? What questions would I ask them, I have no idea so please help me!!!


3 month food supply

Did you say food storage? I am not an expert, nor do I have all of my food storage ready and set to go, ut I might have something to contribute to this topic. This fall I was called to be on the emergency preparedness committee in our new ward. We are trying to get an emergency preparedness fair organized and I am specifically working on the food storage area, focusing on the new recommendation from the church to have at least a three month supply of food you eat on a day to day basis. I am really grateful that the church has changed their focus for food storage. I had started gathering some of the “1 month supply” boxes from the church cannery but wondered if I would really know how to use the stuff I was gathering.

My family has a three month supply and we keep it in our pantry as well as on some shelves in the closet under our stairs. We live in a house but we have no garage and no basement so storage issues remain for us. Most of my 3 month supply consists of cans, box meals, pasta, flour, sugar, powdered milk, etc. Things that are easy to store and are food we regularly eat. We also have toilet paper, diapers, wipes, soap, and things like that. What I severely lack is water storage, any recommendations for that? I have more info on food storage but I fear this post will be gigantic! Here are some gathering recommendations that I have been putting together for our upcoming fair. If you have any other ideas let me know! Keep in mind this is specifically for the 3 month supply.

· Make a plan: Determine how fast you can gather your three month food supply depending on your budget. 3 month supply of food = 270 meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) The size of meal and type of meal depends on family size and preference.

· "Tithe" for food storage: set aside a regular percentage of each week's grocery budget for food storage. Even a few dollars a week will start the process of stocking and maintaining food storage.

· Buy on sale: take advantage of supermarket promotions and coupons to stock up. If it's a food storage candidate and it's on sale, buy multiples!

· Buy in bulk: bulk-buying for food storage really pays off. Using the food storage "tithe", buy the 25-pound sack of bread flour for $3.89 at the warehouse store, rather than spend $1.39 for the supermarket's five-pound bag. You'll save and stock up at the same time!

· The church cannery: The church has a fantastic resource for us to use and it is perfect for stocking up on basic items. Try to order a little at a time or use your food storage tithes for larger purchases.

· Plant: Try out your green thumb and plant a vegetable garden. Plant things that grow well in the area, that might be easy to store, and that you will use. Learn how to can your excess crop. This can be extremely satisfying even if you only have a container garden on your apartment balcony. Buy and store seeds for your food supply, you may need them later!

· Replace, replace, replace: Make sure you add the things you use to your shopping list so that you are constantly using and replacing what you have stored. This will keep your storage fresh and you will never be caught off guard.

· Gather at your own pace: We have been counseled to gather food but to do so with care. We should not go into debt to gather our food storage.

Making a lot out of a little

Hello ladies! So I have always been interested in food storage. We have been counseled time and time again to have some sort of food storage for you and your family. I would love to start my food storage, but I don't know where to start. Also, living in such small apartments, where can I put food like that? There is so little cupboard space as it is, and relatively no storage space. Do any of you have information about acquiring your food storage, or have any tips on how to start and also some different storage tips? Also, any other advice you'd like to share, I'd love to have it! Thanks!

Peanut Butter Bars

I slacked off on the last ingredient post, so I wanted to be the first one this week! I LOVE peanut butter, as much as I love cheese! These bars, or cookies are great, easy, and really yummy with chocolate frosting or with ice cream.

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/2 t. soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. flour
1 c. oatmeal

Mix butter and sugars together; add peanut butter and egg, then vanilla. Mix all dry ingredients and pat dough smoothly into a greased 13x9 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Frost with chocolate frosting.


Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu

Well I thought cheese would be an easy ingredient but maybe everyone is just busy this week!
But here's my cheese recipe. We all love this and you can pretty much use any kind of cheese. We've always just done swiss since that's how cordon bleu usually is.

Easy Chicken Cordon Bleu

Skinless/boneless chicken breasts (as many as desired)
Ham slices- ½ size of chicken breasts (same number)
Cheese slices- whatever kind your family likes
Melted butter
1 C bread crumbs
½ C Parmesan cheese
2 T dried parsley

Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and parsley together. Flatten Chicken breasts. Lay a slice of ham and cheese on each breast. Roll up (you can use a toothpick to keep chicken from unrolling) and dip in butter and roll in the bread crumb mixture. Lay in 9x13 pan. These are pretty big left whole so I cut them in half at this point. Bake

Temp- 350 degrees
Bake Time- 40-45 min

Our babysitter

So Mike and I had a date tonight it was so fun. We went to see Enchanted, so cute, then went to dinner at Chili's. We hired my cousins daughter to baby sit, and she was awesome. We were gone 4 1/2 hours and payed her $20. She left the house extremely clean and did an awesome job. This was the first time we hired a sitter and I was happy to give her the $20. I didn't expect her to clean anything that wasn't clean when she got here, and she got my kids fed and in there jammies and into bed, she was well worth my money. I do know that I want her to come back and if that means paying a little then its worth it. I've had mother's offer to have their teenagers watch my girls (thats just how cute they are :)) for $1 per child per hour, I can't believe any one would come back at that price. Could you imagine getting paid 8.50 for 4 1/2 hours of your time. Plus I expect them to leave the house in as good (or bad for that matter) a shape as it was when they came but not worse so that is worth more too, isn't it...


More on Babysitting!

Ok, so this might be kind of long. I only have one child and we have not had to pay a babysitter yet, but I do remember back in the day when I baby sat. I have babysat upto 5 kids at one time, that means give them dinner and put them to bed. (I think asking a babysitter to give a bath might be to much, just me) I would usually babysit for about 5 hours and get about $20, now that was 10-15 years ago, but I think $1-$2 per hour per child is good. I think as a babysitter the best thing is to let them know what to have for dinner, what to have for snack, and any kind of bedtime routine with the bedtime. I know that with most of the kids I watched most of the time they did go to bed for me, sometimes they would come out once or twice but if you let the babysitter know to just keep telling them it is bedtime they listen. Sorry for this long blog, I just hope it helps someone. Maybe think about what was required of you when you watched other peoples kids.



I know most of us have husbands that are still in school so we can't afford to hire a babysitter consistently for a weekly date night. But now that my husband and I have 3 kids we decided this had to be a priority. When I actually got around to thinking about babysitters though I realized how clueless I am about what is appropriate. So I'm coming to you to see what you guys think and know about babysitting norms.

How much do you pay a babysitter? How many kids and what ages are appropriate for one babysitter to watch? How old do you think a babysitter needs to be to watch your kids? How long and how late is ok to have a babysitter over? How often can you use the same babysitter? What tasks are appropriate to expect of a babysitter (ex: feeding kids, bathing kids, getting kids in bed)? What do you look for in a good babysitter? Ok I know that's question overload but like I said... I'm clueless!

Our biggest dilemma right now is the baby. He's at an age where it would be hard to take him with us on a date but I hardly ever leave my husband alone with all three kids, let alone a teenage girl who hardly knows them! So how do you go on dates when you have a baby or multiple kids that you don't think a babysitter could handle?

So tell me what you think/know! :)

Tomato Soup

Okay, I know this sounds really boring. My favorite thing to warm us up in the winter is Tomato Soup with Grilled cheese sandwiches. Not just any tomato soup, we like to add like 1/2 c. rice to our bowls and pour the soup over it, then sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. And, grilled cheese sandwiches are the best made in a fry pan, with lots of butter, cheese, and thick slices of bread!

Sorry for the lame post, but this truly is a very cozy dinner (and EASY!)


Green Chili Stew

This is my dad's specialty. He used to make this a lot when I was little. Back then I didn't like it that much but now I love it! So maybe not a great dish for little kids because it's spicy, but it's worth making with a side of mac n' cheese for the kiddos! :)

Green Chili Stew
Round steak with bone
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 T lard
1-2 T flour
3-4 tomatoes
1 13oz tub green chili (frozen)
Cilantro (optional)
Wild Oregano (optional)

Cube and fry steak on skillet until water is gone. Add chopped garlic. Set aside. Add lard and flour to skillet and brown to make smooth gravy. Boil tomatoes and potatoes to remove skin and then chop up. Add meat, chili and garlic into the gravy and fry until you can smell the chili. Then transfer it all to a crock-pot and add the potatoes and tomatoes and a little cilantro and oregano if desired. Add water until crock pot is mostly full. Slow cook on low for several hours. The longer it cooks the better it tastes. Serve with tortillas.


Clam Chowder on a cold day, Yum!

This is creamy and delicious. If I don't have enough cream, I substitute with milk.

Clam Chowder

2 8-ounce bottles clam juice
3 cans chopped clams
2-3 large baking potatoes, peeled and well chopped
½ cup butter
1 large onion, minced
¾ cup flour
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups milk
salt & pepper

Sauté onion in butter in a large pot. When onion is browning, add flour and cook 2-4 minutes.
Add clams and juice to the pot and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, boil potatoes until just tender.
Add cooked potatoes to the clam pot when it is boiling.
Reduce to simmer and add milk and cream. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.
Serve hot with bread or crackers.
Serves 4-6


Meal planning idea

A few months ago I got tired of scrambling for recipes every week so I thought I would try a different approach. I always see ideas and meals in magazines that I want to try but then I forget about them by the time I am done with the magazine. So now I just rip out the page of the magazine when I see a recipe I want to try and throw it in a clear page cover in a three ring binder. I have them separated into different categories: main dish, sides, sweets, and I even started one for crafts. Now when I am planning my meals for the week I just pull out the binder and it is full of recipes I want to try. Then after I try out a recipe I usually type it up and put it into a separate 'tried and true' category.

Planning Meals

The easiest way for me to plan meals is to sit down once or twice a month and plan about 2-3 weeks at a time. I keep a calendar on my fridge and I usually plan 4-5 meals a week, write them down on specific days (or just list them), then I grocery shop once a week for the stuff I need. One thing that makes it really easy is planning a theme for each night. For example, we always have pizza on Friday nights, and at least once soup a week.

If you want it really easy, go to and print out this "month of meals" calendar. It has the whole meal, plus sides, and you just click on the meal to get all the recipes. I think they even have a grocery list already made up for you. I've found lots of great meals from here, and of course, it changes monthly! Good luck!


Meal Plans

Ok, So I am the worst at planning meals! I was hoping that anyone out there might have some good ideas as to how to start a meal calender or just how to plan for them better. Thanks all!


Hello, hello...

Hello all! I am Jill Albano. Here's the story: My husband Tony and I are both from Sacramento CA. He is here in Minneapolis as a graduate student in Educational Psychology. I am here because he is here. We have a two year old boy, Anthony, and a six week old baby girl, Audrey. I am still adjusting to having two kids, but I love them both fiercely. I love to read, sing, and eat. And I am currently spending my days trying to fathom how much colder it can actually get here and how in the world I am going to survive! Other than that, or family is happy to be here. And I am happy to be here (on this blog...if that wasn't obvious enough). I'll try to be interesting.


HOORAY for GOOD music...

i am so excited right now i just had to post and share this awesome radio station i've discovered---i don't know if i'm alone in this but i'm sort of a music geek and i just LOATHE about 99% of all kids music...i've been on a mission to discover something my daughter and i can both enjoy. i've found it-wahoo.
minnesota public radio has recently launched a non commercial station "for kids and their grownups". it is an HD radio station which means you either need to have an HD radio receiver (like 200 bucks) or you can listen to it online for free like me...we've been playing it non-stop the last 2 days and i'm loving it... just go to, then click on the link labeled "the current" up on top (it's a red box), then scroll down in the blue box, and on the left hand side near the bottom of the blue box you'll see "wonderground radio". i'm SURE there's an easier way to get to it but i haven't found it yet...maybe just google "wonderground radio"...yeah i'm not so hot at explaining stuff. let me know if you have trouble finding it. i'm so excited--this is going to make a major dent in the number of times i have to sing "the monkey song" everyday! (the monkey song is "you are my sunshine" with about every other word replaced with the word "monkey". shoot me please.) :)

p.s. for some reason blogger is telling me that i'm not allowed to use exclamation points. i had to go back and change them all to ellipses...but just know that i am psyched. (EXCLAMATION POINT HERE) :)