Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vanilla Bean French Toast Casserole

Breakfast is Tim's favorite meal of the day. Me- I can't make up my mind enough to choose a favorite! When Tim's birthday rolled around this year, I knew I wanted to make him a big breakfast. I let him choose between baked oatmeal or French Toast Casserole.  Secretly, I was hoping he'd choose the French toast. He came through!!

This is my go-to meal for special occasions. I even made it for Christmas morning this year. It's a simple and straight forward recipe that needs to be prepared the night before.  Perfect for taking stress out of getting breakfast on the table in the morning. The original recipe doesn't call for it, but I make mine with vanilla beans. Like I've said before, vanilla beans take everything over the top! I will never have a spice cabinet that doesn't contain vanilla beans again!
After baking in the oven, it gets all fluffy from the eggs and the bread on the outside gets a nice crisp<--- my favorite part!

Next time you have guests for breakfast throw together this simple casserole to bump your breakfast spread up a notch!

Vanilla Bean French Toast Casserole
Adapted from Taste of Home


  • 1 loaf (1 pound) French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups milk or half & half
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • beans from 1/2 vanilla bean pod (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • Maple syrup, optional


  • Place bread cubes in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  • Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Dot with butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the top.
  • Cover and bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with maple syrup if desired.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Go-To Meal

I have never been a huge fan of meat. Sure, I love a good steak every once in a while. And I could eat chicken a few times a week, but I actually prefer to get my protein from other sources. Beans, hummus, boiled eggs, huge salads with LOTS of vegetables. I always stock up on chicken breasts when they're on sale, but when those are still frozen or all gone, I turn to other things to fill me up. 
When I was in Costco a few weeks ago, I spotted these Mediterranean Chickpea and Spinach Patties. I immediately threw em in the cart. Easy, non-meat protein. And only $9.99 for 16 patties! Score!! Not to mention that Mediterranean flavors are one of my favorite!

Kaydin and Tim like them, too! I've already gone through two packages! All you have to do is heat them in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Pair them with a salad with whatever vegetables you have on hand and you have yourself a full meal! Pictured above I added kalamata olive hummus (any hummus is great with them, though) and homemade tzatziki sauce- no calorie laden salad dressing needed for this salad!  The tzatziki didn't have the consistency I was hoping for so I'll have to try that recipe again before I share here. It still tasted great, though!
And the nutritional stats on these are also a winner! Only 120 calories per patty, 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and no artificial preservatives or flavors!
veggies patch mediterranean spinach & chickpea patties package

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

One of my Dad's favorite recipes from my Grandma Lyon was her strawberry rhubarb jam.  I don't remember it specifically, but I do know it was good!  When Mom and I take trips to the Downtown Farmer's Market here in Des Moines, we try to search out some jam to rival Gradma's. Dad likes them but he always says they're just not as good. 
This year Mom and Dad's rhubarb plant in their garden produced a whole bunch of stalks! They just kept growing! Mom decided to try her hand at making some jam and see how it would measure up.  The recupe she used was a simple, straight forward one but it worked out great!

She learned a new tip from someone she works with to help the jars seal. After tightly securing the lid, flip the jar upside down and cover with a towel. 
They all sealed tight! Try it the next time you preserve your bumper crops!

I didn't hear Dad's final approval of how it measured up to Grandma's jam, but I gave it two thumbs up!!
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Adapted from
4 cups prepared fruit (buy about 1 qt. fully ripe strawberries and 1-1/2 lb. fully ripe rhubarb)
1/2 cup water
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
6 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

1. Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
2. Remove stems from strawberries; discard stems. Crush strawberries thoroughly. Measure exactly 2-1/4 cups prepared strawberries into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot. Finely chop unpeeled rhubarb. Place in medium saucepan. Stir in water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover. Simmer 2 min. or until rhubarb is tender. Measure exactly 1-3/4 cups prepared rhubarb into saucepot with strawberries; mix well.
3. Stir pectin into prepared fruit mixture in saucepot. Add butter; stir. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
4. Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Note: Sugar could be scaled back 1/2-1 cups, if you would like. Mom reduced it by 1/2 cup and I think it would have been fine taking back even a little more.

Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 Summer Bucket List

Ok- How is it almost the 4th of July already?!?! I've had this post as a draft now for a couple weeks because I wanted to make it prettier and look cooler but....time keeps passing so I want to get this out there before it's already Labor Day weekend and we're turning the corner yet again into another season! Here's a list of things I want to do for the summer!

  • Take pics of Des Moines landmarks at night.
  • Farmer's market
  • Science Center
  • Ice Cream from the Purple Cow
  • Blank Park Zoo
  • Des Moines Arts Festival
  • Jasper Winery concert series on Thursday nights
  • Girls Night Out!
  • Paddle boating at Gray's Lake
  • Buy new running shoes
  • Clean and organize my closet
  • Clean and organize Kaydin's room and closet
  • Lay out at the pool
  • Take dogs for walks through Brown's Woods Park and Walnut Woods Park
  • Purchase a dog car
  • Visit 4 new-to-us restaurants
  • Swim at the pool
  • Make homemade hummus
  • Adventureland
  • Picking wildflowers
  • Frozen yogurt trips
  • Pizza on the grill
  • Iowa State Fair
Anything I'm missing that we need to accomplish this summer? What are your plans?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

This time of year always takes me back to my childhood. At the end of every June Josh and I packed up our suitcases for two weeks in Kansas with my Grandma Farris.  She lived eight hours away in southern Kansas.  We were always so anxious the night before our road trip. We had our books, coloring books, travel games, and many, many snacks all packed up ready to go. We had to come up with our own ways to stay entertained- no Leapsters, Nintendo DS, Nooks, or cell phones to keep us quiet and pass the time. Did anyone else play the Alphabet game with license plates?
Our meeting spot was usually Bethany, MO. As we got closer I always felt myself getting anxious.  As much as I was excited to stay in KS, I had to hide my tears when Grandma's car headed South with Josh and I in it, and Mom and Dad headed back North. 

Anyway, about this time of year Josh and I would be getting ready for our two week stay with Grandma.  Smells of the season take me back.  The chlorine at the pool reminds me of the many hours we would spend in the pool in their backyard; when I smell or taste iced tea I have visions of Grandma's pink Casey's cup and her lipstick-stained straw; the fireworks throughout the day on the 4th of July; and even just the trees in the morning.  The trees smell differently this time of year. Anyone else know what I'm talking about?  And then there was the strawberry shortcake.  A quick and easy dessert that we had every summer.  Back then we used KFC biscuits, frozen strawberries, and Cool Whip. I made it a little more homemade and used some biscuit mix, macerated my own strawberries and used real whipped cream with LOTS of vanilla bean added in.

 Ahhh, the vanilla bean! I put this in as much as I can.

Nothing too fancy about this dessert but it's still a winner!

Strawberry Shortcake
Baking mix (or use homemade biscuit recipe)
Milk for baking mix
Heavy cream
Powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
1. Bake biscuits according to recipe.
2. Lightly smash strawberries and add in 1-2 tablespoons of sugar.
3. Add 1-2 tablespoons of powdered sugar to 12 ounces of cream. Whip until light and fluffy.
4. Add beans from one vanilla bean pod to the whipped cream.
5. Assemble

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekend Happenings

Another weekend passes...and Monday is here before we know it.  As usual, we were on the go pretty much the entire weekend.  Kaydin and I started off Friday evening with running a bunch of errands, Costco, Trader Joe's and Hy-Vee for some essentials for the weekend including stocking up on some of Tim's favorite beverages, Gatorade and red wine blends, for Father's Day. We kept the errands running into the evening with a trip to the mall so Tim could return some shoes and one more trip to Hy-Vee for a few more things we remembered we needed. It was a great trip, though. We found Chobani's for $.25!! That's a reason in itself to go to the store!

Saturday started early with preparing a pasta salad and oatmeal bars for Tim's family reunion at Saylorville Lake.  I met lots more of his extended family and even better we were already on our way home before the rain hit.

Too bad for us though, we ended up back out in it to run a quick errand. Kaydin has been needing some water shoes for her splash days at school this summer. 
Saturday night ended with a late night movie in bed. Safe House with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. A great flick!  I highly recommend if you haven't seen it yet.

On to our Sunday, Father's Day! This morning we took the dogs for a nice long walk before it got too hot. We were still nice and sweaty when we got back home though so decided to make a trip to the pool to cool off!

Tim has been looking at couches recently so we decided to go check them out together and we ended up coming home with a new one!

A quick supper of some chicken burgers I got at Costco (really good!), salads, and protein smoothies, and then we headed back outside to clean up the garage and sneak in a little volleyball lesson. Kaydin got out one of her balls and wanted to play volleyball.  We're practicing getting her form perfected early ;)  Once we got all cleaned up and in PJ's we cut a little cake we've had in the freezer. A Pepperidge Farm cake from the freezer at Hy-Vee. Pre-made but still a winner! Perfect nightcap for Father's Day 2012.

Shoutout to my Dad on this Father's Day, too! Love you, Dad!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Family Wedding 2012, part 2 Angie & Nate

After Kaydin's dance recital, her Tim, and I hit the road to make it to the next event of Tim's over-booked birthday, my cousin Angie's wedding.  It was a warm and breezy day, but I would say she lucked out with clear sunny skies.

Her dress was beautiful and well-suited her!  Smiling beautifully as she takes her first walk back down the aisle with her now husband!! :)

For Angie's bouquet toss, she mentioned a few months ago to me that she was thinking of doing something a little different. She wanted to present someone in a committed, headed-toward-marriage relationship (ME!) with the bouquet rather than throwing it to one our younger second cousins-- usually the only ones that head to the dance floor during the bouquet toss anymore.  I didn't know her final plan until I heard that DJ announce that Angie would be doing the bouquet toss, only she had a little something different planned.
It was then that I informed Tim it may involve us!

Angie was the one that caught our cousin Jamie's bouquet back in 2005.  Now she ended up being the next Lyon girl to get married. Now maybe this will give me some luck to be the next one in line! (tim--hint, hint if you are reading this!)  Seriously, though, it was an honor for Angie to take the time and thought to think of Tim and I and present us with her flower bouquet.  It may be a tradition that maybe I'll keep carrying on!

I loved the concept of her guestbook table. It had the parents' and grandparents' wedding pictures Along with Angie and Nate's engagement picture.  I've seen this idea before through the web and just love it!

Congrats Angie and Nate! I wish you many years of happiness!
Until next time family.....

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Happy Birthday to My Main Man

Tim and I have spent a few birthdays together now and this one was by far the most jam packed.  His birthday was this past Saturday, June 9th, and we had Kaydin's dance recital and also my cousin's wedding.  Not Tim's first choice of birthday activities, but he smiled the whole day! That's why I love him, always so selfless. If you asked him about the day, though, he would say he didn't have a choice-- he had to go. lol.

Friday night Kaydin and I had to make a quick run to Hy-Vee for Birthday Breakfast supplies. Kaydin spotted a small M&M ice cream cake. We scooped it into our cart to share with Timmy for dessert that night. 

It seems that Kaydin getting her face shoved in the cake on Tim and I's birthday has become a tradition!

Tim is becoming like my dad in that he's getting pretty hard to buy for. His main interests are pretty big tickets items. And other ideas I usually have, he goes out and buys it himself before a birthday or holiday rolls around. 
In the past, Tim and I have kinda went all out for gifts (well he definitely does, I try to). This year I kept it fairly simple and put together a basket of some grilling items to expand his title of "Grillmaster". He recently mentioned that he'd like to try new things and cooking more. I also plan to have Tim choose a cooking class this fall when more are offered through community education for us to take together

Saturday morning we started our marathon of activities off bright and early with a full breakfast for the Birthday Boy.  Eggs, turkey sausage links, fruit, and vanilla bean French toast casserole (recipe to come).  After our family breakfast it was time to get the ballerina all dolled up and ready for her big performance.

A quick photo shoot outside the dance recital venue and we were on the road north to hit my cousin Angie's wedding. 

When we broke out the ice cream cake Friday night, Tim asked where his cheesecake was.  See, every year growing up he requested a cherry cheesecake for his birthday cake.  He didn't know it yet, but I had made arrangements with my cousin about a month prior to have a cheesecake made and delivered to surprise him with at the reception. I didn't get to make quite the surprise I wanted though, cuz some little girl had to leak our little secret. I didn't tell Kaydin until the night of the wedding that we had a cheesecake waiting to give to Daddy after we had eaten dinner. Well, the little stinker went back and told Tim about his surprise!! I held off telling her so she wouldn't spill and then with only about 30 minutes left, she goes and tells my secret! I should've known better. I've also learned to avoid taking her shopping with me for his presents. On his birthday two years ago she went to the mall with me to get him a couple new ties.  We rode the escalator in JC Penney.  The next time we saw him she immediately tells him about her escalator ride while at the mall buying his birthday present! Of course he pressed a little further and she revealed what we purchased on that shopping trip. 

Oh, well! Even though he learned about his cheesecake before I brought it out to him, he was still pretty impressed about the thought and planning behind it. A success, still, I suppose!
Happy Birthday, Timmy!