Life really can be a picnic!

Everyone loves a picnic! This blog is about some of the things I love the most, and the term "picnic" just about covers them all. First of all, a picnic has to include food; simple food that is easy to fix. Next, you need someplace fun or different to visit; a nice, peaceful location. And of course, you always need to take along a good book to read and a well-used quilt to spread everything out on. So, there you have it! Easy recipes, good books, fun quilts along with some interesting, down-to-earth places to visit. You can even take your family or a friend or two if you want.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Bigger and Better Things

"The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy."~Kalu Ndukwe Kalu


     I have been honored to attend three graduation ceremonies this Spring.  One son graduated at LDS Business College, another son graduated USU in Civil Engineering and finally another son graduated high school.  It has been a busy and wonderful year.  For the son who graduated from the university I made a necktie quilt.  I gathered ties from his friends, his brothers, his grandfathers, his dad, some uncles and from some close neighbors.  Needless to say this necktie quilt means a lot to him. 

     I finally received an email that included some of the recipes that we enjoyed at our quilt retreat.  I am passing on just a few here.

Green Chile Enchiladas

1 lb. chicken, cooked and cubed
1 8 oz. cream cheese
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
12 fajita size flour tortillas
2 small cans old El Paso green chili sauce or 1 larger can of Hatch enchilada sauce

Combine chicken, cream cheese and chilies.  Heat through on stove top.  Roll into flour tortillas.  Top
with sauce.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.  Top with cheese.
These can also be made with corn tortillas.

Spaghetti Salad

12 oz. thin spaghetti - cooked and cooled
chopped 1/2 red pepper
chopped green pepper
chopped red onion
chopped cucumbers
grated carrots
Mix the vegetables with 1/2 bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing and let marinate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Just before serving add:
chopped tomatoes
small can of sliced olives
chopped avocado
Add remainder of the dressing and toss.  Serve.

     I am apologizing for the name of these brownies but as a quilter we do spend a lot of time sitting.  Just saying.
Chocolate-Mint Brownies

(otherwise known as “Big Butt Brownies”)

DeAnn Thomas

4 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa
4 tsp. vanilla
8 eggs
2 cups melted butter
4 cups flour

Blend sugar and eggs.  Add cocoa that is blended with melted butter.  Add vanilla and flour.  Pour into greased large cookie sheet.  Bake 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Mint Frosting

1 stick butter (softened)
4 cups powdered sugar
5-6 Tbsp. milk
1-1/4 tsp. peppermint oil
Green food coloring

Spread on cooled brownies.  Place in freezer while making the chocolate frosting to set.

Chocolate Frosting

1 stick butter
1/2 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4-5 Tbsp. milk

Melt butter, add cocoa.  Mix in powdered sugar, vanilla and milk.  Frosting will be thin but will set up as it cools.  Spread over mint frosting.

     I have included this book because it was one of my favorites to read to my boys. This one is in honor of students and their new ideas and their teachers who are always doing their best to help and inspire.  This is one of my favorites by Andrew Clements.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Quilt Retreat

everything I still believe that people are really
 good at heart."~Anne Frank
     A friend of mine invited me to attend a quilt retreat with her at Bear Lake.  I was so excited because it's the very first quilt retreat that I've gone to and it did not disappoint.  I had the time of my life.  Each day we sewed and sewed only stopping to eat and sleep.  We had fantastic meals that we took turns fixing and each night little gifts were left for us either on the table or on our pillows.  Such a fun week spent in a beautiful house with beautiful women that I was so thrilled to get to know better.

As the quilters finished a quilt top they would display it over the edge of the balcony railing.  As you can see there were some beautiful quilts created last week.

     Thanks so much to my family for letting me go and play with fabric for a week.  It was the best Mother's Day gift ever.  Here are just a couple of recipes that would be wonderful at a Mother's Day luncheon.  My friend, Sharon, made this pasta salad for a luncheon and it was so good.  I begged her for the recipe.  The pie recipe comes from another friend, Lisa, who submitted the recipe for a neighborhood cookbook.


Chicken Pesto Salad
1 cup Italian salad dressing
1 cup pesto
1 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
1 chicken, cooked and deboned
1 package pasta, cooked, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups purple grapes, cut in half
Small package fresh spinach
     Stir first 3 ingredients together; pour over pasta and stir well.  Stir in chicken and grapes.  Add spinach just before serving.

Chocolate Mousse Pie

1 ½ cups mini marshmallows                                     1(8oz.) Cool Whip
½ cup milk                                                                   1 Oreo cookie crust
1 cup chocolate chips                                                 1 chocolate bar

Melt first three ingredients together until smooth, stirring constantly.  Let cool until lukewarm.  Fold in Cool Whip.  Spoon into Oreo cookie crust.

             Crust: Row and a half of Oreos, crushed mixed with 3 Tbsp. softened butter.

             Grate 1 chocolate bar over top.  Refrigerate until set.  Can be frozen.

     I bought this book with my own money from a scholastic book order when I was in sixth grade.  It was a memorable and poignant book and it's message has stuck with me.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Scrap Happy!

"When life gives you scraps, make a quilt."

"Quilting is a scrap of happiness."

     We learned several different methods of making scrappy quilts at quilt guild last week.  I am so inspired to try one of these techniques.

     We're in the middle of painting a bedroom and I was motivated to redo one of our old kitchen chairs to match the new bedroom.  Here are the before and after photos.


     April is winding down and May is on it's way.  Here are two recipes that could be used for Cinco de Mayo.  Crystal brought this salsa recipe to quilt guild in March.  It's so good!

Cowboy Caviar Salsa

2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 can black eyed peas
1 can black beans
1 can corn
(Drain all cans.)
green onions
cilantro, diced
2 avocados, chunked
8 oz. Italian dressing

Mix and enjoy with chips.
(Place one avocado pit in mixture and they won't turn brown.)

Pork Tacos

4-5 boneless pork loin chops                          8 small corn or whole grain tortillas
2 Tbsp. olive oil                                               1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
1 Tbsp. lime juice                                            red onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp. oregano                                                cilantro
1 Tbsp. soy sauce                                            pico de gallo or salsa
½ tsp. smoky paprika                                      sour cream
½ tsp. chili powder                                          sliced olives
½ tsp. garlic powder                                       sliced radishes
¼ tsp. salt                                                         grated cheese

     Thinly slice pork chops into strips.  Whisk next 8 ingredients together and add pork strips to marinate for 20 minutes.  Spray frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and saute pork for 4 or 5 minutes or until no longer pink.  Fill warm tortillas with pork mixture, romaine lettuce, red onions, pico de gallo, sour cream, sliced olives, sliced radishes and grated cheese.  Serves 4.

      Here's a sweet little adventure/romance story, The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Winds of Change

"Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it." ~ Winston Churchhill

     Some of the most fun days in early Spring are those spent flying kites with the kids and grandkids.

     We are making a Mystery Quilt in Quilt Guild.  Each person that wants to participate is required to choose three different fabrics. . . a focus fabric, an accent fabric and a background fabric.  These are the three fabrics that I have chosen.  I can't wait to see how it all turns out. Too bad, I will have to wait because the quilts are not expected to be completed until August.  I'll try to post some pictures between now and then to keep the interest going.

Lemon is one of my favorite flavors of Spring.  Here are a couple of recipes that utilize that great flavor, ones that my family loves.

Tortellini Spinach Bake in Creamy Lemon Sauce

(From Our Best Bites)

12 oz. bag Barilla Cheese & Spinach Tortellini            
4 strips bacon                                                       1 ½ tsp. dry basil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced                            ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes                                    
2 T flour                                                              1 medium lemon      
2 cups milk                                                           2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
¾ tsp. salt                                                              ¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/8 tsp. pepper                                                     ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook tortellini according to package directions. Cook bacon until crisp in a medium skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and cook garlic in pan drippings for about 1 minute.  Add flour to pan and whisk for about 1 minute. Slowly add milk and whisk until smooth.  Add salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes.  Bring sauce to a simmer.

Add 2 tsp. lemon zest and 1 T lemon juice to sauce. Stir for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Put drained tortellini back in pot it was cooked in. Add crumbled and cooked bacon to pasta except for 1 T. Add spinach, ½ cup mozzarella and ½ cup parmesan cheese. Add sauce and gently stir to combine. Place pasta in an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish and top with remaining ¼ cup mozzarella and parmesan cheese and crumbled bacon. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5-10 minutes more or until cheese on top is melted and pasta is bubbly throughout. Serves 4-6.

 Lemon Bars
This recipe comes from Ina Garten and the Food Network
Yield: 20 squares
For the crust:
·         2 sticks butter, softened
·         1/2 cup granulated sugar
·         2 cups flour
·         1/8 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

·         6 extra-large eggs
·         3 cups granulated sugar
·         2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
·         1 cup lemon juice
·         1 cup flour
·         Powdered Sugar, for dusting
1.      Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2.      Line a 9x13 pan with foil or parchment, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
3.      Cream together the butter and sugar. Mix in the flour and salt until dough forms.
4.      Press the dough into the pan, building up 1/2 inch crust on all sides.
5.      Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Chill.
6.      Whisk together all of the remaining ingredients (except the powdered sugar), and pour into the cooled crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is set. Let cool to room temperature or chill overnight.
7.      Dust with powdered sugar before cutting and serving.

           We read this book, The Cedar Post  by Jack R. Rose for Book Club last month and found it interesting.  It's about a boy growing up in Declo, Idaho and how he finds inspiration and motivation from an old blind and deaf man in a wheel chair. 


Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Precious Gift!

"The most precious jewels you'll ever have around your neck are the arms of your children."~ Author unknown
I feel so blessed this week to have a brand new baby grandson.  He is here and beautiful and his mom is doing well also.  So appropriate to have him come just before Easter, a time of new beginnings and when the greatest gift of love ever was given to mankind.
I was able to finish the baby quilt just in time.  The sailboat blocks were fun to make and I was able to use up some more scraps.

New moms and new grandmas need easy and fast recipes to fall back on.  Here are two that meet the needs.  This chicken recipe is not only very easy but it's tasty too.
 Coconut is one of those ingredients that always reminds me of Easter.  So I threw in a recipe for Coconut Oat Cookies.  A little secret . . . . if you add a cup of slivered almonds and two cups of milk chocolate chips you'll have the flavors of Almond Joys which just happen to be one of my very favorite candy bars.  YUM!!!!!!

Baked Chicken Breast

6 thin-sliced chicken breast halves                ½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ cup olive oil                                                    ¼ tsp. dried rosemary
½ tsp. salt                                                           ¼ tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place chicken in greased baking dish.  Brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary and basil.  Bake chicken in preheated oven until no longer pink and juices run clear or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees (30-45 minutes). 


Coconut Oat Cookies

1 cup butter, softened                                     1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar                              1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs                                                                  2 cups flaked coconut
2 tsp. vanilla                                                       1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups flour                                                                 or old-fashioned oats
½  tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until mixed.  Stir together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl.  Gradually beat flour mixture into creamed mixture.  Stir in coconut and oats.
Drop by tablespoon or small scoop onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Makes about 3 dozen.


We are reading The Giver Series by Lois Lowry this month in Book Club.  I love these books and the movie is as thought provoking as the books.