Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm the Savage Woman

Triple Coupons are a rarety at my local grocery store - so when they do actually take place, I lose my mind with excitement. The chance to collect all of your coupons that are $.99 or less, have them tripled in value and matched against current sales to result in basically free groceries - what's not to love?!

I research the best deals on line, take my limit of 20 coupons per day to the store and go wild. It's an organized treasure hunt and I fly through the aisles. I've often come across deals that are SO amazing that women actually stock up - buy multiple coupons and then proceed to literally grab every last item on the shelf. I mean really, who needs 47 toilet bowl cleaners or a lifetime supply of yellow saffron rice? I've coined those who do such deeds "Savage Women." Here I am, with my lowly one or two coupons, just wanting that box or granola bars or dishwasher detergent, but some savage woman has come just before me and cleaned them out. It's a disgrace!

Sigh. I'm afraid I've sunken to a new low. This week, not only was it triple coupons, but it was buy one get TWO free packages of fresh chicken breasts. This, my friends, literally only happens twice a year. My deep freezer and I become fast friends during these special sales and I asked my friendly customer service clerk if the 3 package limit was for the entire week and he assured me it was only a 3 per day limit. Marvelous! I went 3 days in a row - 9 packages of chicken are nicely tucked away in my freezer, well make that 8, as we had bbq chicken on Sunday for lunch.

Anyway, I was at a super fun baby shower last night and as I was stuffing my face with all sorts of delectible delights, I talked to a fellow frugal couponing maniac about the chicken deal. She informed me of a store nearby that didn't enforce the 3 packet limit. Folks, it was all I could do to sit there calmly and watch all those precious baby gifts be opened. Chicken was on my mind.

As soon as the last gift was opened, last hug given and pleasantry exchanged, I grabbed my mother and told her to hurry to the car - we had to hit the store! Here we were, two partners in crime running to the back of the store with the shopping cart. She helped load up my cart with the rest of the chicken on sale. I checked the clock - it was 9:40pm and the sale ended at midnight. I'd just made it under the line!

The clerk rang up my transaction and the sound of the discount being peeled off of each package was like a symphonic melody. Ahhhh, I won't have to buy chicken for ages!

I walked out of the store and then it hit me - I'd become one of the Savage Women.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sell with a Roast

It's Monday and my kitchen was officially closed this weekend due to the Easter Musical at church that I sang in. The musical was amazing, blessed thousands of people who attended, and it was an honor for me to take part.

I've got a mini-dinner party this evening, so the kitchen is open and back up and running. I'm on a roast beef kick right now and I have to say that if someone came out with a room freshener that came in the scent of roast beef in the crock pot - I'd buy it by the case. I love it!

I've heard it recommended that if you're selling your home, put a loaf of bread in the oven to bake while people are touring. It makes them feel like they're at home. Well, if we ever put our house on the market, I'm putting a roast in the crockpot. The smell of roast, carrots and potatoes are wafting through the house and making my mouth water as I write this.

Here's my not so secret recipe:

Quality Meat! Don't skimp - buy the good stuff.
1 packet of Onion Soup Mix
1 package of fresh Carrots
3-4 large Potatoes

Chop and peel your carrots, chop your potatoes (I keep the skin on - there's something sensational and rustic about leaving it on). Place all of that in a large crock pot. Sear your meat in a cast iron skillet with butter. Place the meat ON TOP of the vegetables (fat side up if you're using bottom round). Sprinkle some pepper and garlic salt (don't go crazy - there is salt in the soup mix). Combine the soup mix with 1.5 cups of water and pour over the entire contents of the crockpot. Set it to low and 8 hours later you have a meal that is fit for a king. I make a gravy out of the onion stock that is in the crockpot and add one of the brown gravy packets from McCormick and a nice dollop of sour cream, mixing it well.

Trust me. Your house will sell. They'll be negotiating your crockpot in with the curtains.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Making a Difference

I feel like the ultimate candidate to be cast in a Calgon commercial. This week has been full of adventure as I executed an extremely successful series of events to honor 22 teachers and staff at my children's preschool. Yesterday was the last hurrah and I couldn't have been more pleased. My caterer showed up on time, was professional and the food totally rocked the house. We had a mexican buffet and it was worth every penny of upgrades spent.

Being a huge fan of party favors, each place setting had a Reece's peanut butter cup egg and a Snickers egg along with an encouraging, appreciative note I composed on behalf of the parents of the students. Along with the party favors and mexican fiesta, each teacher was given a gift and a gift bag full of cards from their students. The coordinating lime green and pink gift wrap choice was matched to my themed plates and napkins from the start of the week (please tell me someone noticed this detail).

Once it was all cleaned up and the last tortilla polished off, I headed home to collapse - only to return a few hours later for our Easter dress rehearsal for our church choir. A phenomenal musical is being performed Saturday and Sunday and I'm living by the teleprompter as evidence of how I did in rehearsals.

In reflection of what took place this week, I am reminded that we all have gifts, talents and abilities and what we do with them will be the difference between a lasting impression or a candle hidden under a basket. It's important to give from what you have. We are all blessed to be a blessing and I challenge you to look for ways to reach out to others. It can be an encouraging word, a meal for someone who is ill, sharing your knowledge, lending a helping hand or surprising someone with a card in the mail. Make a difference. It matters. It means something. It's important.

Enjoy your weekend - go make a difference.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rod Stewart Smoothies

Today's thoughts muse on days gone by in former positions that had me interacting with high profile celebrities - some A-listers, some C-listers, but celebs nonetheless. I'll keep the job and location nameless, but will tell you that all that glitters certainly isn't gold. I could write a novel on tell-all stories of the rich and famous, but for now, will succumb to a blog post.

Since this is about food, I'll center my celeb sitings to food related coincidences. Rod Stewart once requested a Proper English Tea. I had to educate myself on all the in's and out's of this - as it's more than just a cup of hot water with a bag of Earl Gray on the side. I had to go borrow a $1000 fine service silver tea set from an antique dealer, eduate culinary staff on setting it properly and then sit back and wait 'til he finished so I could return what I'd borrowed. The result was positive in that no complaints were made, but sadly, all my hard work and efforts were not met with a rendition of "Have I told You Lately". Once he was gone, I went to retrieve the set, only to find the kitchen in his suite a total disaster from smoothies he decided to make. Fruit was everywhere and the tea was barely touched.

I had a run-in with Cher similarly. Did you know that she's so picky about her food that she has it specially flown in to wherever she is? Indeed. I have the not-so-fondest memories of her since she was the last celebrity I agreed to take care of before jumping ship into the waters of the banking industry.

Cher's box of food arrived and when I tried to deliver it to her, she refused to acknowledge me. I could literally hear her 3 inches away from me on the other side of the door. She ignored my knocking, so I plopped the box down. She was probably one of the most labor intensive people - having me hire a doctor, secure a pottery studio (in one hour)...the list goes on and is too long to recount.

Instances like these make me appreciate behind the scenes and all that takes place. I will forever remember those who 'make it happen' for those in the spotlight, as I have been on both sides. Many things are smoke and mirrors and it's those that do the grunt work, change the sets, move the lights, deliver the food, sew the costumes, pick out all the yellow m&m's, stand on the tarmac with golf credentials at midnight for the VIPs and clean up after it's all over that are to be applauded. For all those who are behind the scenes, I salute you.

Cheers - with a Rod Stewart smoothie and a triple batch of homemade tapioca pudding I just made.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Apricots meet Babe

Our local grocery store had an amazing sale on meat a few weeks ago, so I stocked up on it like I was either feeding the 5000 or preparing to live underground for the next year. It's a good thing I have a large chest freezer in the garage.

One of my overdosing purchases was pork loin. I've never done anything to a pork loin other than hand it to my husband and ask him to put it on the grill. I was in the mood to try something a little savvy and was thinking cranberry-ish but lo and behold! There was a recipe for Apricot Stuffed Pork Loin (thanks again Junior Leagers!). I was intrigued and had to try.

You basically reconstitute dried apricots and make this fabulous stuffing with sauteed onion and bread crumbs and seasonings, stir in the apricots and stuff the loins. Sounds easy, and it basically was - until the actual act of stuffing of the loins came into play. Let me remind you, I've never done anything more than hand a plastic sealed marinated piece of pork over to a loved one. This time, I actually opened the package and had to do something with it.

Much to my surprise, two pork loins were present in this package. I butterflied them and layed them flat and stood back to analyze. There was fat, which I promptly cut off. I realize this was probably left on to self baste while cooking - but I don't do fat. Off it went. Then to stuff each piece and roll it up. Ummmm. Tricky! Each piece of meat wasn't long enough to do this so I improvised.

One piece of pork was gingerly placed in a large pan, the stuffing was tossed on top and I threw the second piece of pork on top of that. The directions say to then secure with cooking string. Well, don't we all just have that lying around? I considered the kite string from my son's turtle kite, but then remembered he made a spiderweb out of it last week on our stair railing and it had to be tossed. Oh well. Toothpicks to the rescue! My magnificent stuffed pork loin was baked to perfection after a layer of butter and salt/pepper topped it off. My family gave it a two thumbs up and I was pleased.

Tomorrow is the kickoff of my preschool teacher appreciation week and I'll be loading up the family roadster with delicious treats. My house smells amazing right now - I made these mini cheesecakes from a recipe I made in the 4th grade. Can you believe I've held on to it this long? Also on the menu are chococlate chip cookie tarts with a hershey kiss in the center. Fabulous - I've sampled several already. I'm debating on brownies and I also have an array of salty snacks - nuts, chips, etc that will be there. Top it off with a refreshing cup of raspberry lemonade and you'll think I do this full time.

For dinner tonight? So glad you asked! Roast beef with carrots and potatoes. Crockpots are such an amazing invention. I feel like Violet Beauregard eating the forbidden gum of Willy Wonka's. Should you happen to be one of four people in the entire world to have never seen the movie - it's flavored like roast beef.

Ciao friends! Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Two Thumbs Up Tortellini!

Last night was utter chaos in my house with a screaming child who is teething and 3 year old with tons of energy who covered our living room floor with all - yes all of his toys. Somehow, in the midst of the madness, I was able to pull off a crab dip appetizer and amazing tortellini salad with chicken for dinner. The crab dip was incorrectly titled "Knock Your Socks Off Crab Dip". My socks weren't on in the first place, but they wouldn't have been knocked off. It was an ok crab dip with cream cheese, blue cheese, white wine, egg and crab. It was baked and served with crackers but I won't be bringing it to a funtion anytime soon. In fact, it's a 'crosser-offer' so I won't fix it again. I'm a firm believer in putting annotations by recipes in my cookbooks so as to avoid hideous repeats.

The tortellini salad was utterly amazing and was a 'fix-againer'. Shredded chicken, cheese filled spinach tortellini, artichoke hearts, goat cheese, fresh spinach, roasted red peppers and a homemade balsamic vinagrette dressing. Sigh, just thinking about the leftovers I have to look forward to for lunch brings a smile to my face.

I have no earthly idea what I'm fixing for dinner tonight, but I am embarking on a bit of a cook-a-thon for the kickoff of Teacher Appreciation Week at school. Tuesday is a catered snack break and I am the self proclaimed caterer, so we'll see what I come up with for that.

Cheers to a good weekend and the start of Spring!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lilly Pulitzer

Last night I made Lilly Pulitzer's chicken. When I came across the recipe in my favorite Junior League Centennial Cookbook, I immediately wondered what a clothing designer was doing making chicken. I mean, as pricey as those pastels are - surely she has a cook, right? I investigated. Donning my pink tennis skirt with green embroidered lobsters all over it, I read up on dear old Lilly.

As it turns out, she's a chic grammy in East Palm Beach and instead of a door knocker, has a large "L" on her front door. It's an open invitation to walk right in an join her for one of her marvelous meals. Apparently, in between designing those frocks and smocks, she makes some killer recipes and is known for her fantastic dinner parties. She's even written cookbooks and guides to entertaining.

Well, I decided to transport my family to East Palm Beach last night. We dined on this amazing chicken of Lilly's which marinated in lemon juice and white wine with garlic and seasonings all afternoon. Just before popping it in the oven, I rolled each chicken piece in butter and crushed potato chips. Complemented by a white bean salad and some sauteed zucchini, we were truly posh and rubbing elbows with the elite of East Palm.

Back to reality, I realized this pink tennis skirt with green lobsters was not working on me and will be promptly donated to Goodwill. Sorry Lilly - the clothes don't work for me, but your chicken sure is delish!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple Cris...

I know you're waiting for the "P" in Crisp, but my 3 year old excitedly asked me for Apple Cris! so there you have it. I fixed a variation on an old fav that I found in a Kraft magazine I had tucked in the archives. The variation is adding crushed Vanilla Wafers to the topping. It gives this baked apple dessert some much needed spunk. It's quick, easy and I polished the rest off for breakfast.

Here's the recipe for you to enjoy as well:

8 large Granny Smith apples (2 lb.), peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 cup packed brown sugar, divided
2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
1/3 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold margarine
25 Vanilla Wafers, crushed (but not pulverized!)- about 1 cup crumbs

HEAT oven to 350°F.
TOSS apples with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Spoon into 8- or 9-inch square baking dish.
COMBINE oats, remaining brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in margarine with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in wafer crumbs; sprinkle over apples.
BAKE 30 to 35 min. or until apples are tender. Serve warm or cold and vanilla ice cream adds extra delicious calories. :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

I got the recipe!!!

Happy Friday! We made it through the week! I have to tell you, it's been one crazy busy couple of days and I'm looking forward to the weekend.

My amazing husband fixed the trout for us and it was superb. Our recipe is a breading mixture of parmesan cheese, cornmeal and cracker crumbs with salt and pepper. Fried in a cast iron skillet and finished with a squeeze of lemon - it's absolutely delicious.

I'm absolutely giddy with excitment over this next recipe to share with you. I've been a long time fan of Carabba's - they have a dish that I've been trying to replicate for a long time. I've searched all over the internet and in those secret cookbooks and have come close - but not gotten the cigar on Chicken Bryan. It's an amazing dish that makes you look around the restaurant to make sure people can't see you licking your plate.

Carabba's generously mailed out the recipe in a recent promotion and we're having it for dinner tonight. I can't wait!

Here's the recipe for you to enjoy as well....

Chicken Bryan

4 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Goat cheese (sliced from a log works best)
Lemon butter sauce (see below)
10-12 pieces of sliced sundried tomatoes
1 T. chopped basil

Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Dab with olive oil. Grill chicken until cooked to 165 degrees. Place one slice of goat cheese on top of chicken and continue to cook until warm. Place lemon butter sauce in a sauté pan over medium-low heat and add sundried tomatoes and basil. Heat gently until hot but do not overheat or sauce will break. When goat cheese is warm, place chicken on warm plate ad spoon sauce over top.

Lemon Butter Sauce

1 t. butter
2 t. finely chopped garlic
2 t. finely chopped yellow onion
2 T. white wine
2 T. lemon juice
Kosher salt
Pinch of pepper
1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

Place butter, garlic and onion in a pot over medium-high heat and sauté until garlic and onion are soft and transparent. Do not let garlic and onion burn. Add white wine, lemon juice, kosher salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then set heat to medium and let it reduce. After liquids have reduced and you have about ¼ of what you started with, reduce heat to low and gradually add cold butter, beating with a wire whisk to allow butter to blend and melt to a cream sauce.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We Taco Bell'd It

So, last night I had grandiose visions of an amazing dinner of trout - from what we caught on our last vacation. Unfortunately, it didn't thaw in time - so I was stuck. Nothing else magically appeared in my frig and said "pick me! cook me! call me your dinner!"

My husband walked in the door from work and upon learning of my dilemma, announced we were going out. Oh my hero! I wanted something quick, as we were all starving, so we decided on Taco Bell. I ordered my favorite - a Mexican pizza with a hard taco supreme. The secret is to combine the two. I open up the Mexican pizza box and dump the taco on top, then squeeze 3 packets of hot sauce liberally over my concoction. Folks, you just can't beat it when you're in a Taco Bell kind of mood. Top it off with an Apple Empanada and you'll forget your name. It's delish.

Today was my son's special day at school and since we went out, my time in the kitchen to whip up something Betty Crocker-ish was limited. Remember, my Gloppy Cocoa Puffs were a disaster, so I opted to fill Easter eggs with the plethora of candy we have in the pantry. Ta-daaaaa! All that and time to watch American Idol.

Now for that trout....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gloppy Cocoa Puffs

Double thumbs up to my inaugural Beef Wellington experience. It turned out PERFECTLY! My steaks were tender, the sauteed onion and mushrooms were the perfect taste and texture and it was all magically enrobed in a flaky puff pastry crust. It looked like I'd ordered it from a fine steakhouse. I was quite pleased with my fancy schmancy-ness.

At least I had one hit this weekend, as the next experiment ended up in the garbage. My son's preschool class has a rotating schedule of 'Special Days.' Once a month, it's my son's 'Special Day' where he brings in a treat to share with the class, a stuffed animal or toy and a favorite book. This is a cherished time for him and he and I both look forward to it. As it turns out, this Wednesday is his special day and I decided to make a fun new cookie treat. Thumbing through a Betty Crocker Cookie Cookbook, I found these Cocoa Puff balls intriguing. A sugary chocolatey cereal coated in a gloppy chocolate candy syrup that is formed into a baseball sized ball and allowed to harden. The picture showed them displayed on lollipop sticks. How fun for a group of 3 year olds! I did a trial run (thankfully). The chocolate syrupy base didn't harden as much as I felt it should and while I was able to manually form them into balls on wax paper, when you picked them up, they just fell to pieces all over the floor.

My dog was thankful for this, I was not. I gave one to my son and after only taking one bite and then running off to play I figured this was not a hit. They went straight to the trash. Sigh. You can't win them all.

Now I'm wracking my brain on a new treat....any ideas?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chocolate Wellington

So, with a handful of blog posts under my belt I was convinced my co worker Larry was the only one reading these blogs - until lo and behold! I recieved my first Musing Foodie prize! A special thank you to Mandy for the super fab easter themed oven mit/potholder set. It brought a huge smile to my face. If my camera memory stick wasn't in dire need of uploading, I would post a picture (which is a project I hope to get to this weekend).

I didn't succumb to the Lindt truffle temptation yesterday, I rather, enjoyed a nice mug of Sipping Chocolate. If you're not familiar with Sipping Chocolate - let me enlighten. Think hot chocolate - rich, creamy hot chocolate, made with heavy cream - and mixed with a battery operated frothing whisk. It's one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. When adding the sipping chocolate mix to warm/hot milk or cream, this amazing little whisk whips the two ingredients together, forming an airy froth on top just like Starbucks. The result is truly divine. It's the thickest, richest chocolate beverage you can possibly imagine. A dessert all to itself. It will truly wow your guests. Bellagio is the brand I've been enjoying and I can't say enough wonderful things about it. Their website is:

Tonight I'm attempting to make Beef Wellington for the first time ever. Wish me luck! I'm sure my Easter potholders will enhance the experience. :)
Enjoy your weekend and may all your culinary endeavors be delicious.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm a mom.

My three year old asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast today. I took one look at his face after he finished and we both started giggling. The sandwich was wider than his mouth and I had generously slathered blackberry jam on the bread, so he had 3 inches of purplely deliciousness on either side of his face. Adorably cute and you probably won't appreciate unless you're a parent.

I love being a mom. I strive to be the 'cool mom' the 'involved mom' and the 'over achiever mom'. I'm the room mom for both of my son's classes at school and am currently organizing our annual Teacher Appreciation Week. It's loads of fun and the Event Planner in me gets to go crazy and use my creativity in such a rewarding way. I'm planning a catered lunch, gourmet snack break, fresh flowers from all the students with a parent sponsored breakfast (notice the food theme?) I feel appreciated with food - I don't know about you! More details to come on that exciting week that will unfold March 23-25.

I'm trying to block out of my mind the fact that I have a bag of Lindt Milk Chocolate filled truffles in my pantry. Nevermind that I ate half of them for breakfast yesterday. If I'm going to fit in my Easter dress, I need to block them out of my least until lunch?

Ciao for now!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A cannoli will get you noticed.

My cousin is an amazing designer - she has her own line of wedding gowns and has been featured in some premier bridal magazines. She's looking for a new position in Chicago and came across the perfect fit - so she applied. I gave her a piece of advice that she chuckled over - but I was actually serious about. Why not send your resume to the hiring manager with a cannoli? I got the idea from a place I used to work. An applicant submitted their resume attached to a helium balloon. It got them to the top of the stack!

I dearly love cannoli's - I can eat my weight in them. If you're ever in Ocean City New Jersey - you've got to go to Cannoli Corner on the boardwalk. They're fabulous! Purchase at least a dozen. Half of them will be gone by the time you're back to your hotel. I've made them from scratch - though can't seem to get the same quality of ricotta here in "the South". So I now have friends and family import a tub of the filling with a side of shells every time they come to visit. It's a sickness, I know - but is there anything more perfectly unique and delicious in Chicago than an authentic crispy Italian pastry shell filled with rich, creamy ricotta, powdered sugar and miniature chocolate chips?

In today's day and age, it's all in who you know and making yourself stand out. So I say, throw caution to the wind and when in Chicago - send a Cannoli!