Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Favorite Soup

When Jon introduced me to Bahama Breeze's black bean soup several years ago, I got hooked on it. It is soooo good, and I tried many times to make something similar at home. I finally found a recipe that I'm happy's not exactly like Bahama Breeze, but it's close. I found the recipe on one of those copycat recipe sites last year, but I had to change it a little...ok, a lot. The original recipe was awful (just ask Jon), but my version tastes great.

I made a pretty big pot of it tonight so I'd have some left over to freeze. It is a very filling soup, so you don't have to have a huge meal to go with it...we usually have grilled sausages with it. And if you want a vegetarian version (Jennifer), just leave out the would still be good.

Here's Savy chopping a green pepper for me...she loves to help me cook. She picked out this child-sized apron with the bees on it at Williams-Sonoma outlet.

This was our dinner tonight...chicken andouille sausage and black bean soup.I don't think I've posted this recipe before, so here it is.

Black Bean Soup

4 cans black beans
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup green peppers, diced
2 tbsp garlic
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp tabasco sauce
sour cream
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pot on medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and saute for 1 minute. Add the peppers, onions, and garlic; saute for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the water and tabasco sauce, and bring to a boil. Add 3 cans of beans with the juice and bring back to a boil. Using a hand held blender, puree the soup until smooth.

Add the remainig 1 can of beans and bring back to a boil. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste and, serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More (Healthy) Yummy Stuff

Last night I made white chicken chili for dinner and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Both of these were very healthy versions, and they turned out to be really good. Savy hated it, of course, but Jon and I enjoyed it very much.

White Chicken Chili

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 seeded jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies
2/3 tsp ground cumin
chili powder to taste
2 cans white beans, drained (I used great northern beans)
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken (I used chicken-in-a-can for convenience)
shredded cheese for topping (I used monterey jack/colby blend)

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, chilies, and cumin. Continue to cook and stir about 3 more minutes. Mix in the chicken broth, chicken and one can of white beans. Puree the other can of beans in a blender or food processor and add to the mixture, then bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve topped with the shredded cheese.

If you leave off the cheese topping, this dish is almost fat-free...only about 3 grams of fat in the whole pot.

Healthy Strawberry Shortcake

Make strawberry syrup by pureeing fresh strawberries and no-cal sweetener (equal, spenda, etc). Pour the syrup over a piece of angel food cake. Top with sliced fresh strawberries and fat-free whipped topping.

Savy went over to play with Abbey and Zoe this afternoon. She's wearing a new bow. Granny Ruth sent her a whole box of these bows in every color, and she loves them. Thanks, Granny Ruth!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vacation: Part 1

We left for East TN first thing Monday morning. We had to go get duck food at the Old Mill as soon as we finished checking in. Savy could feed the ducks all day and still not be tired of it.

Here's a little video of Savy "talking" to the ducks.

She couldn't wait to go swimming that night after dinner.

Since it was very cold Tuesday, we spent the day shopping. Of course, we had to feed the ducks before we left.

Wednesday, we visited Mingo Falls in Cherokee, NC. There are about 160 steps up to this waterfall (probably a few more than that). This is a view from the bottom of the steps.

Here's Savy and Papi on their way up.

We had to stop and rest when we made it to the top. I actually made it up without much difficulty.

Here's a great view of the waterfall.

Savy wanted to climb down to the stream at the bottom so she could play in the water.

Vacation: Part 2

Thursday was Dollywood day. It started out like every other day...breakfast at the hotel, then feeding the ducks.

Dollywood wasn't crowded, and Savy got to ride over and over without any waiting in most cases. The antique cars were first. Savy got to drive Papi around the track.

Then came the first of many carousel rides.

Mimi and Papi both got to ride the elephants

And the teacups.

Savy was tall enough to ride the scrambler this year as long as she was riding with an adult. She was so disappointed last year that she couldn't ride it, so this was a treat. That's her and Mimi facing this way.

We took a break to ride the train. Savy napped on this trip.

Then it was back to the carousel. Savy had been trying to ride the dragon all day, but someone always beat her to it. Papi finally got in the front of the line with her, and when the gate opened, he took off straight for the dragon...he actually knocked a boy down in the process who was trying to run around them to get to it. Savy was so happy she finally got it!

Savy kept saying on the way to Dollywood that she wanted to ride "the pickle", but we couldn't figure out what she was talking about. We noticed there's a pickle on the sign for the kiddie roller coaster....could she have possibly remembered that from last year?

The roller coaster turned out to be the "it" ride. I lost count of how many times she rode this thing. She'd say "do it again" immediately after getting off it, and right back on they'd go....Mimi and Papi were exhausted by the time she got tired of this. Here's Savy and Papi in the first car.

Then Mimi and Savy in the third car from the end.

The last thing they rode before the park closed was a boat ride where you sit and shoot a stream of water from a gun, and the targets (and also onlookers) shoot back. I wish I'd gotten a pick of that, but I was resting in the shade after a long walk across the park. They were absolutely soaked when it finished.

Friday morning we went to the flea market, then we rode the trolley to Gatlinburg that afternoon. Savy was fascinated by the big marble ball rotating on water in fron of Ripley's.

It was so hot that day! We stopped at the Happy Days Diner for ice cream on the way back to the room.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We're Home

We made it back from East TN safe and sound. Savy was soooo glad to see her daddy! We had a great time, but we are very tired. I've got a ton of laundry to do tonight. I promise to post vacation pics very soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Belly Shots

Jon took some belly shots this afternoon. It took a little bribery, but Savy gave her little sis a kiss for the camera.

Mimi and Papi will be here tomorrow. They're staying overnight, then we're off for some fun in East Tennessee!

Sorry for the short and infrequent posts lately. I've been sick as dirt for almost 2 weeks now...I'm finally just starting to feel well again. First, Savy got that terrible sinus infection, then I came down with it soon after. She got over it pretty quickly, but it has really stayed with me. Last week, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with severe abdominal and back pain. I was afraid I'd wind up in the hospital (it was about this time with Savy that I wound up there), but luckily it was just muscle spasms and some ligament thing triggered by the terrible cough I had. Several days after that, I had a bad earache, and my left ear has been completely stopped up ever since...I'm just starting to be able to hear (a little) out of it. Poor Jon...not only was he sick himself (although he got over it a lot faster than I), but he had to take care of Savy and me, too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Savy's First Protest

We went to the tax day tea party today. Savy was so cute waving her flag and clapping for the speaker.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

DIY Riddling Rack

I just love it when one of my projects actually turns out the way I intended. I've been looking for a wall mounted wine rack to hang in the dining room for a while. I wanted something sort of rustic to coordinate with our furniture, but everything I found was more contemporary-looking. I finally came across the perfect antique riddling rack.

Unfortunately, every one that I found for sale was at least $600. Also, most were very large panels that were supposed to lean against a wall rather than hang on a wall. So, I decided to make my own. Jon had his doubts that my little project would turn out right, but he humored me and did the sawing for me anyway. Here is the finished product.

No, it's not an antique, nor is quite the statement piece that a real one would be. I didn't have the time or tools needed to make something very authentic-looking. But the total cost was about $25 as opposed to $600, and it's the perfect size for our dining room. I have to get some wine bottles to display now...that's actually a bottle of sparkling grape juice in the pics.

I couldn't find plans/instructions for making this anywhere, so I had to wing it. I purchased a precut aspen board from Lowe's. I marked where I wanted the holes, then I attached 1x4's (cut to length by Jon) to the back of the board where the line of holes would be (to provide more stability for the bottle necks). I used a 1 1/4 inch drill bit to drill holes at an angle (so the bottles won't fall out)...don't ask what degree angles, I free-handed it. Then I stained it and used a heavy-duty mounting hardware for hanging.

What do you guys think?