Monday, August 8, 2011

Wow. Spring has come and gone... and summer is not far behind. I feel like I blinked and it is fall again. If only winter would go by as quickly! I know I know... I wish I was so lucky. Since I have been MIA for a while.....

Here's a quick update on life at the Kluesner house---

1. I started working on my Special Education endorsement, which will eventually become Masters. 3 classes in. 4 more to go.

2. Eric has turned 30... which means my birthday is coming up shortly. I am not quite sure how I feel about that one. We celebrated cleaning water out of the basement and dealing with wet things. Not fun. Rain is not my friend.

3. We welcomed 3 adorable babies this summer.. no not ours. We are leaving that to our fantastic friends! Andrew, Bryce, and Beckett sure are cute! There is one more coming later this month! (Again not ours!)

4. We have not attended any weddings this year. (I think that is a first in a long while)

5. I have 2 more days of summer vacation left, then back to school with meetings. I will be teaching at one of my FAVORITE schools, and am so excited to get going. Not very excited to start getting up early though.

6. Pinterest has become my new addiction. Not healthy, but oh so fun!!!

7. I joined a club... that shall not be named ahem *Chef League* ahem. And my mouth waters at all the awesome things in it!

8. We have spent some time catching up on Bones. Such an awesome show. How we have missed it for 6 seasons, I am not sure. Dancing phalanges!

9. Our yard is still a train wreck this year. Part of it looks a little better, thanks in large part to my parents. I am looking forward to fall for the simple fact that lots is going bye-bye!

10. Food Challenge had gone on Hiatus for a while..... but its back baby! So to welcome it back I'll share the first recipe. Spicy but oh so good. Get it while the peaches are good! :)

Barbecued Shrimp and Peach Kabobs

  • 12 (12 inches each) metal or bamboo skewers
  • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (ground red) pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 pound (16- to 20-count) shelled deveined shrimp
  • 3 medium peaches, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 bunch green onions, dark green parts trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Lime wedges, for serving


  1. If using bamboo skewers, soak skewers in cold water at least 30 minutes to prevent burning. Prepare outdoor grill for direct grilling on high.
  2. In large bowl, combine brown sugar, chile powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Add shrimp, peaches, and onion; toss until evenly coated.
  3. Thread shrimp, peaches, and onion alternately onto skewers.
  4. Grill 3 to 4 minutes or until browned and shrimp just become opaque throughout, turning once. Serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter blues got ya?

With all this dreary winter weather lately, I am finding lots of time to indulge in my favorite winter activity..... Reading! There is nothing better than curling up on the couch in my nice warm slippers, a blanket, and a good book! It looks like we have a few more days headed our way, so I MUST share this book!

I went to my favorite friendly and cozy bookstore just looking for ideas. They have a great section with all the local book club picks and I love to look here for great ideas. The lady came over and told me that I need to read this book. After hearing her spiel, there was no way I was going to enjoy this book, but I humored her and took it over to the comfy chair to read before I buy. Much to my surprise I was immediately sucked in to this book and couldn't put it down. I read it every free second I had!

The book you ask? Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

It is a book about Alzheimers/ Dementia. Not the most enjoyable subject (thus my apprehension). It is about a 50 year old Harvard professor, at the height of her career, who starts forgetting things. It explores this haunting disease in fiction form. It's a tear jerker... a thought provoker.... it is sad but an increasing and unavoidable problem in the world..... It's haunting.... It is MUST READ!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The house that built me

It's just a house.. just a house.
But it was my house!

(well technically it still is... until Saturday)

I left behind the house that built me..... the house I grew up in. The house filled with my childhood memories... the place where my parents got married .... the place we celebrated Proms, graduations, first dates..... the house where I cut my foot on a piece of glass .... the house I didn't always like, but it was my home!

It just looked so different... so empty... devoid of everything that made it HOME.

(It's not like my parents are leaving my hometown, they are moving across town, after staying in a hotel for couple of months, but that is another story.)

Surprisingly, I shed very few tears driving away, but many MANY MANY more were shed throughout the week. As I was unearthing the hidden treasures, I was remembering the story behind it or hearing the story for the first time, and was OVERWHELMED with the emotions! About the time I would get it together, I would find something else that would send me back over the edge. Such an emotional roller coaster that I was completely unprepared for! (I thought I could just sort my stuff and be done! Naive I know! )

Through the tears, the laughs, and the frustrations I realized a few things---

1. I have been IMMENSELY blessed!

2. Somethings haven't changed since I went to Casa Montessori as a kid--- my teachers noted that I was often "clumsy" because I was too busy watching what others are doing! And I do things well, when I am paying attention!

3. Someday I will learn to knit and tat. I have the supplies that were my Mom's I just need to learn how.

4. Even though I wonder what my life would have been like.... I am so thankful for the things I would never have known if my life had taken that course!

5. The outpouring of memories of my Mom that haven't happened in a long time.

6. Finding notes from high school.... ahh Teenage Angst!

7. A supportive husband who is stable and level-headed.... even when I am not.

8. Even though the house will not be mine.. I will still have the memories. I welcome the opportunity to create many many MANY memories at the new house.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day 3: Baked shells with pesto, mozzarella, and meat sauce

Tonight's recipe comes from a Food & Wine Cookbook. Food & Wine is not a usual source of food inspiration, due to the "fancy recipes" made with "weird ingredients!" Even though I thoroughly enjoy both Food and Wine. I draw my limit at calf liver... or really liver of any kind! And if that interests you, I will gladly give you that page!

These books were actually a gift from a friend who bought them at one of the many book fairs that frequent the teacher's lounge! She decided to pass them on to me, knowing full well that I would use them.

This recipe sounded interesting due to the fact that

a. It is Italian, and we like Italian. A lot.

b. There is none of the afore mentioned weird ingredients.
c. An appetizing picture always helps too!

Here's the recipe.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans chopped tomatoes , drained
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 3/4 cup medium pasta shells
  • 6 oz. grated mozzarella
  • Parmesan cheese
Directions (the Jenn version)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook shells according to box directions.
  3. Use large skillet to brown hamburger and onion. Drain and return to pan.
  4. Add tomatoes and salt to pan with meat. Simmer for 10 min until thickened.
  5. Remove from heat and add pesto.
  6. Drain pasta and add to meat mixture.
  7. Grease 9x13 pan. Add 1/2 of meat mixture. Add 1/2 of cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers.
  8. Cook 15 min, or until cheese is good and bubbly!
Doesn't it just look good?

This recipe is a keeper. We usually make the recipe according to directions first, then make changes. However, this time we made some initial changes.
  • We cut the salt. 1 1/2 tsp sounded like a lot. We only used 1/2 tsp.
  • Instead of mozzarella, we used smoked Gouda (my new favorite) and you could really taste it!
  • Next time, add mushrooms and sausage instead of ground beef.

Since it is Thursday.... and Pie League is back from hiatus.... and just because...... I decided to finish my meal with a piece of Apple Pear Pie and a little Ben & Jerry's Dulce Delish! Yumm!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 2: Pork Chops and Mashed Potatoes

When we got married a year and a half ago, we had registered for some new cookware. We just happened to find a set that we really liked- Emerilware. Little did I know, Eric would now use it as an excuse to yell Bam! all the time! We decided that since we have the cookware maybe we should actually try an Emeril recipe. And what could be more perfect than one with TONS of Garlic! Eric has a love affair with garlic. It is in almost everything we make, and if not, we usually find a way to add it in.

So enter tonight's meal- Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Jam

- 4 thick cut pork chops
- Olive oil
- Essence Creole Seasoning- You can buy this but it was easy to make.
- 2 1/2 T. paprika
- 2 T salt
- 2 T garlic powder
- 1 T black pepper
- 1 T Onion powder
- 1 T Cayenne pepper
- 1 T dried Oregano
- 1 T dried Thyme

- Garlic Jam (Recipe follows)

- 4 large heads of garlic (Yum!)
- 1/2 c olive oil
- 1/4 of a red onion
- 1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce.. plus a little more
- 1 t. lemon juice.. plus a little more
- 1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 300.

In a small saucepan, heat salted water to a boil. Cut garlic heads
in half cross-wise and blanche in water for 5 minutes. Pour olive
oil in a small baking dish. Remove garlic from water and place in
baking dish. Add 1/4 of red onion to dish. Cover tightly with
aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.

Remove garlic from oil and squeeze softened garlic from skin
into a bowl. Dice onion and place in bowl with garlic. Smash
garlic with a fork and mix together. Add in Worcestershire
sauce, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until smooth and creamy.


Heat Foreman grill. Brush pork chops on both sides with olive oil and rub with Essence seasoning. Cook until cooked through. Serve with garlic jam on the side or on top.

As a side tonight, I made mashed potatoes. Real Mashed potatoes. Growing up mashed potatoes were the bain of my existence. I loathed them, but my parents required that I ate them. And we had them EVERY Sunday! So every Sunday, I would always be the last one to scoop out my potatoes hoping that somehow my Mom had miscalculated the amount of potatoes. But there were always enough. So instead, I would make the tiniest, most minuscule dollop I could get away with.

As a grown up, if I make potatoes they are usually instant potatoes, because those I like. Weird. I know. If the potatoes aren't instant, then they are Slow Cooked Mashed Potatoes from Taste of Home. I don't make them often, usually when potatoes are on sale for cheap. :)


- 6 cups of mashed potatoes ( no butter or milk added)
- 3 oz of softened cream cheese
- 1/4 cup softened butter
- 1 packet of dry Ranch Dressing
- 1/2 c sour cream
- parsley flakes on top


Put all ingredients in a slow cooker. Stir and mix completely. Cook on low for 3 hrs.

That is it for the potatoes. Easy and delish. And how can potatoes be bad with cream cheese and sour cream and ranch!

Overall good meal. The garlic was good to cool down your mouth, but if you were short on time a big glass of milk would do the same thing. Didn't really think about color until the very end. So sorry it is all in the same color family! Werm, my Foods teacher in HS, would not be very happy with me! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Generic Food Challenge-- Day 1

Hi. My name is Jenn, and I am a cookbook junkie.

Here is my story--

I can't help walking down the cookbook aisle at Borders or Target or Hyvee... (I think you get the idea.) And walking by is not such
a bad thing. However, I always seem to walk away with at least one or two. It has gotten to the point that my cookbook shelves are now overflowing. So many cookbooks, many marked with fantastic sounding/looking recipes, but it is getting out of control. I am forgetting what we have.. what we've tried... and which recipes I desperately wanted to try!

Solution? We created the Generic Food Challenge. What is the Generic Food Challenge? In a span of three months, our goal is to cook a different meal for supper each night of those 3
months- No Repeats. Once we have successfully completed a 3 month period, we are free to repeat up to 6 recipes over the course of the next 3 months.

Disclaimer--- I usually only cook 2 or 3 days a week, so I am not sure how this would work if you are super woman and cook EVERY night !

Impossible? Not really. It is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. However I did get a HUGE craving for Asian Pork Burgers this summer and couldn't remake them, because that would break the rules! That was not fun, but we suffered through.

We have tried this out and seem to have worked out some of the wrinkles, so now I think I'm ready to share some good stuff!

Day One: 3 Cheese French Onion Soup with Turkey Bacon Panini

  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 4 cups Chicken or Veggie Broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (maybe a little less)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder.. or a little more in our case.
  • 7 slices French bread (3/4 inch thick)
  • shredded Swiss cheese
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • grated Parmesan cheese

  • In a large soup pan, saute onions in butter until tender. Add the broth, water, soup mix, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat: cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

  • Place bread slices on a baking sheet. Put some swiss and mozzarella cheese on each slice. Broil for 1 to 2 minutes. Put a slice on top of soup and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
  • To make the Turkey Bacon Panini.....

  • Leftover French Bread
  • 2 slices of Apple Smoked Gruyere cheese
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • Dijon Honey Mustard
  • Mesquite Turkey Breast Lunchmeat
Cut French bread into 4 slices. Place honey mustard, cheese, turkey, and bacon on a slice of french bread and top with the other piece of bread. Repeat because you husband needs one too. Brush outside with a little olive oil. Cook for a few minutes on panini grill until dark and crusty. Yum!

Both parts of super tonight were awesome! I love nights like this!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I am addicted to....

The Good Wife.

Have you seen it? I'll admit, I dismissed this show last year not giving it a second thought... but over the summer I thought I would give it a shot, after hearing some praise of this show. I have been hooked ever since. It has a stellar cast, but they follow it up with fantastic writing, and intriguing story lines. Law dramas are hit and miss , but this is a law drama with personality and depth, which you rarely find. This season has been no disappointment. Last night's episode was particularly interesting. I was engaged in the episode for the entire hour! (which is actually rare, I am usually doing something as I watch tv!) I highly recommend it.

As much as I love this show, I have one hangup. Rather than seeing the distinguished lawyer, Will Gardner, on the screen in front of me..... I see the picture the loveable boy who worked at Clown Dog in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead. hehe.