Thursday, December 22, 2011

Creamy Fettuccine with Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Nothing beats a good casserole!
They are great if you are cooking for a crowd.
They are great if you want leftovers.
They are perfect for one dish meals.
Oh, and I mustn't forget the church pot luck dinner!

My only problem with the Casserole is that I don't have enough good recipes to pick from.
If you have a good one...I would be OHHHH so grateful if you would share it.

This is my favorite Casserole Recipe.
Even though I am a household of two...
I make a big batch.
Its perfect right out of the oven, but its even better the next day!

To my hubby,  Its a plate licker.

Its called, Creamy Fettuccine with Chicken and Spinach.

you will need...

1 lb. Boneless Chicken Breast
1 stick of Butter
20 oz of Spinach, chopped
1 lb. can of Peeled Tomato's, chopped
1 16 oz. container of Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp. of Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper

1 lb Fettuccine, al dente

1 Cup Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut chicken into bite size chunks.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that it is much easier to cut chicken (and other meats, especially when I need to cut them very thin) when it is still mostly frozen.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash it well and coarsely chop it.
I have always used fresh spinach.  Recently I tried frozen because it is so much cheaper and found that in this recipe, I can not tell the difference.

I do not skimp on the tomato's though.
Don't drain the tomato's.
Any peeled tomato will work fine.
These ones are saucy and that just enhances the casserole sauce.
If your tomato's have basil leaves, remove them.
Chop and squish up the tomato's.

Start a large pot of salted water for the Fettuccine (or pasta of your choice).

In a large frying pan melt the butter.

Add the chicken and saute until cooked through. 
When Chicken is cooked through, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add Spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Cook until wilted and warmed through.

Add Tomato's and cream.
bring to a boil.
Cook for one minute, stirring.
Remove from heat.

Cook and drain pasta.

Add pasta to Spinach Mixture with Chicken and Parmesan Cheese.

Mix thoroughly and evenly.  Add to casserole dish.
Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove cover and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbling all through.
Remove from oven and allow to sit for ten minutes or so.


I have been making this casserole for years and years.

I have never had an unhappy customer!


Like I said before... Feel free to pass your favorite casserole my way.

Oh, I would love it so!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

An interesting excercise, on a dirty subject.

Before I start,
 I want to say to anyone reading today's post...

It's possible that today's topic might inadvertently push some buttons.

That is not my intention.

I am simply sharing what I am learning.
I am not here to pass judgement or tell anyone what to do!

About a month ago, I left a job that I loved.
As much as I loved it, it was taking more from my personal life than I could afford to give.
So, for the time being, I am among the ranks of the unemployed.
I will have to go back to work at some point but my intention is to have a job that more closely matches my husband's schedule and gives me a little more time to pay attention to the things in my life that matter.

I believe that while I am not working it is important for me to do everything I possibly can to pinch my pennies.  Its my "new job" if you will.

In addition, I am increasingly concerned about the state of affairs in "my America".
 I get really overwhelmed when I try to think about it. 
I feel paralyzed. 
I vote, but it seems to make no difference. 
Things just happen.  I can object and complain all I want but, it doesn't help.
 I am left with the question...
Is there really anything I can do?
  I am so small.
 I am one woman.
 I live a small life, in a rural community. 
I am only one among seven billion people on the planet.
 What possible difference...

 can I make?
That got me thinking. 

I am the most average, of average Americans...

America is a consumer driven society...
Much of what we consume drives the decisions that are being made in Washington.
In the world!
All of that just feels too big and makes me feel too small. 
As much as I object to many of the things that are happening in this country, if  I break it down to its simplest form...   It is all the "stuff" I am consuming that is driving it.
So it only makes sense to me,
to look at what I consume.
What am I spending my money on?

So one thing at a time... I am taking a look.

I am starting with the things that bother me.
I am asking... what can I change?  What am I willing to change?
What am I not willing to change?
I figure, if I change only a few things maybe that will make a small difference.
 At a minimum... I feel a little less paralyzed,
and I am saving a few pennies along the way.

So after that long winded prelude...

on to today's post.

Today, I am taking a look at my trash.
I pay for my trash disposal by the pound.  Every time my hubby takes a trip to the dump I inflict some  serious damage on a twenty dollar bill. 

We have been recycling bottles and cans for years so I have been fairly confident that I was doing all I could to spare the landfills and save my money.

  I wanted to see.

  Is that true?

A few days ago I took a trip to the dump and had a chat with the people who were working there that day. 
I wanted to take some pictures...but they wouldn't let me. Hmmmm???  that's a whole different subject!
They were very nice though and gave me plenty of information to chew on.

Turns out,  I am not doing as well as I thought
 I decided to pull my trash can apart and see whats in there.
Ugh, yuck! I cannot believe I'm doing this!
I am paying roughly ten cents per pound to dump at my local transfer station.
Is there anything I am throwing in that trash can in that I could recycle?
I have a garden and a little piece of land.  What am I throwing away that I should and can compost?

So...prepare you is what I found!
The bag of trash all together, weighed twenty pounds.


Real Trash that I can not recycle or compost.
Mostly plastic food wrapping.
Different types of paper and cardboard that I could have been recycling all along.
I just need to sort it properly.

is the worst shame of all.
15.5 pounds of CAT LITTER.

2.5 pounds of compost.

.5 pounds of recyclable paper and cardboard.

and from all that,
1.5 pounds of real garbage.

 I can tell you,
that was NOT a pleasant experience!!

I will not soon forget it!!

Now, let's sit down with a pencil and a calculator and put it into dollars.

20 lbs of trash at 10 cents a pound is $2.00
By removing the compost at 2.5 pounds I save in this bag alone .25 cents.
 by recycling the paper and cardboard at .5 pounds in this bag I saved 5 cents.

Here is the whopper!
By changing from this CHEMICAL FILLED, NON-COMPOSTABLE cat litter.

to this COMPOSTABLE cat litter
(Price appears to be less.  I will know better when I see how much of it I use)

I would save $1.55 on this bag of garbage alone!

On average I would say I fill two bags of trash per week.
And lets just say that each bag weighs about the same.

in 1 week I would save $3.90

In one year I would prevent 2040 lbs of trash from going into a land fill.
I will save $192.40
I don't know about you, but for me, up here in "Potato Country"...
that's not far from a weeks pay!!

You know, maybe it is a small thing.
Maybe in the scope of the worlds problems... this is nothing.
Maybe I am..a little off my rocker!

this feels more effective,

Then my VOTE.

Take it for what its worth to you.

Thanks for taking the time to visit.

I am grateful to have had you here.


P.S.  Of course I will keep voting!
P.P.S.S  Have any ideas of your own?  I would love to hear them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Something yummy to do with those Banana's headed for the trash can!

Years ago when I had some old banana's on the counter I would always intend to use them for banana bread or some other yummy banana concoction.

Invariably..more times than I would care to admit, I would get busy and... once I noticed the fruit flies or saw the mold, Those once valuable bananas, would end up in the trash can.

What a shame.

Hallelujah!  I saw the error of my ways!

Now, I covet them, I hoard them,  When I pass the banana spot in the store and they have (cheaper) overripe bananas...I snap those baby's up!

and I freeze them.

There are lots of things that I do with them.

Banana Bread
Banana Cake with Cream Cheese or Peanut Butter Frosting
Banana Bread Pudding
Banana Whoopee Pies
Banana Cookies

but my all time favorite is... Banana Muffins.

They are not much different than Banana fact, there is no reason I can think of that you couldn't take your favorite Banana Bread recipe and just make muffins, if you are so inclined.

What I like about the "Muffin" is that I can make lots of them and freeze them.  Then, if I want something quick, or I have a sweet tooth and nothing on hand to satisfy it, I can pull one serving (or what ever I need) out of the freezer. 

I love Banana Bread but Banana Bread is the reason I came up with my Banana Bread Pudding... the bread goes stale sometimes before I can eat it all.

Anyway... Frozen bananas are surprisingly slimy, watery and gross looking when you thaw them out but,


They are perfect for baking!

Don't throw away a single drop of that slimy juice.  Your baked good will love it.

FYI... When I make muffin topping,(I have a few different types that I like) I make big batches of it and then throw the leftover in the fridge(or freezer).  I have never had a problem with it and sometimes its in there for a few months before I use it all up.  Its nice to have that part all ready, especially if you have sudden company and you want to whip something up in a hurry.

I am not the original author of this recipe.  I cant remember where I got it.  Somewhere online I suppose.  Its a good one, for me anyway.  I have made a lot of different ones and settled on this one.

Banana Crumb Muffins

1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp. Flour
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1 Tbsp. Melted Butter

Sprinkle topping on top of muffin batter prior to cooking.

1 1/2 Cups Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
3/4 Cup of Sugar
1 Egg
1/3 Cup melted Butter
3 over ripe Bananas (mashed)

The texture of a muffin is best if the batter is not over mixed so, many people mix by hand.
I use my mixer, I am just careful that I don't mix it to death.  To ensure that you don't over mix, it is helpful if you beat your egg a bit with a fork before you put it into the batter.  Other than that, I dump it all into the bowl and mix just until all the ingredients are wet and and the egg is all mixed in.

I use a 325 oven.  I like that temp. for much of my baking.  I find that I don't burn the bottom of things (especially cookies),  but it does take a little longer.  For these muffins 30-40 minutes.  Start checking them at 25 to 30 minutes.

I also love love love an Ice Cream Scoop for a tool.  I wish I had more of them in different sizes.  I learned that trick baking in a restaurant.  We had a different scoop for every job.  It speeds up the job and makes all your sizes uniform.


so... bake away and don't throw away anymore of those bananas.  Depending on where you live, they probably traveled a long way to get to your house.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Using up a head of Cauliflower

I have been working on using more of what I have on hand rather than deciding what I want to eat and then shopping for it.
I will waste less and spend less both of which are important!
A few days before Thanksgiving I sent Tim to the store for some Cauliflower.
I told him to get two heads because they are usually so small.
This time they were HUGE so I really only needed one.
So, what to do with this extra head of Cauliflower????

I broke it up into the flowerette's (sort of bite size ones) and then steamed it for maybe??? 7 minutes until crisp/tender. NOT SOFT.
With half of it I made a Cauliflower Gratin which was really yummy. 
With the rest I did...


 2 Tbsp Olive Oil,
 8 cloves of Garlic sliced thin,
 1/2 tsp? Red Pepper Flakes,
 1/2 head of steamed Cauliflower,
 1 large Tomato seeded and chopped,
 1/4 cup chopped fresh Basil,
 1 can of (drained and washed) Cannellini Beans,
 Bow Tie Pasta
 Parmesan Cheese,
 Salt and pepper.

 I sauteed the garlic and pepper flakes with the cauliflower until garlic was soft and Cauliflower was warmed through. 
Added the Tomato, Basil and Beans,
Cooked the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water I drained it and then added it to the cauliflower mixture.
I tossed it around and added a little of the pasta water.
Served it in a big bowl topped with Parmesan Cheese.

GOOD, healthy and works great as a leftover.
I just had a big bowl of it now and its a few days old.

I have made similar dishes in the past, but what I liked so much about this (other than the taste) was that I used up the Cauliflower and the Tomato because I was worried about them both going bad. I didn't want to throw them away. Food, especially those two items are expensive!

I wasn't really sure what to do with them at first. I just gave it a little thought. I like all of those flavors and threw in the beans for the nutrition. My hubby was not crazy about the idea of beans but what is great about him is he will eat anything.  He is very good about encouraging me to try something new. If it comes out bad he eats it anyway without complaining and if it comes out great he grunts and yum's all the time he is eating it...
and then licks the plate.
Rude, maybe... BUT I LOVE IT!
I love to cook for him.
On this one he licked the plate :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas at my house

Truth be told,
Christmas is not my favorite holiday.

There were years when I ignored it completely.

When I moved to Maine some years back, I decided to bring to life an idea of Christmas that I was more comfortable with.

So, I invite you to visit for a moment...

Christmas at my house.

I like the idea of spending as little mullah as possible on this season.  For me, money dulls any Spirit that the season holds.
When I focus on money and things, I quickly lose sight of the true meaning.

This year... I happily have time on my hands so I decided to make some wreaths.

It would be a slight exaggeration to say that I have spent $20 so far this Christmas Season.

My Christmas tree this year was destined for a brush fire when it was rescued by my hubby.

The greens for my wreaths were given to me by a friend who has recently cut down some trees in her yard.

Although I had plenty of ribbon to make Bows, I had much more fun gathering things to decorate with as I walked with my hubby and dog Finnegan through the woods around my house.

I have discovered joy in making things beautiful with what I have on hand.

So this is what I started with.

As I built them, each wreath spoke to me differently.

This one for my parents front door.

This one for some dear friends.

This one for my hubby's brother.

And these ones, for us.

Our tree has been decorated the same way for the past few years.

It is so... us.
My hubby and I both grew up along the shore of Connecticut.
We love Maine but, as we are in the heart of potato county... we are land locked.

We miss the shoreline DEEPLY!

For years in Connecticut, every Sunday we would walk the beach together and collect Sea Glass.
When we moved, all that glass went into a plastic bag and just sat in the back of a closet.
When we decided to start putting a tree up again...
I made ornaments out of the glass using thread and Mod Podge.

the result is...

My Tree!

My tree always brings me to a place of gratitude.
Each and every piece of glass represents a precious moment spent with my hubby.
It takes my breath away to realize that even though the pieces of glass on this tree are many...
they represent only a small portion of the blessings in my life, past and present.

Now all I have to do is wait for the day.
Everyone is coming over for a big family breakfast.
My favorite part!!
I get to cook.

My wish for you during this season is that you experience joy!
Take some time to swim around in all the blessings of your life.
Leave your worries for another time.

Merry Christmas!