Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Carmel Crunchy Day!

It was a virtual fiesta of carbs in my pantry. What to do with so many boxes of cereal, pretzels and nuts? Clearly I'd been hitting some amazing sales and using coupons wisely, but they weren't being gobbled as quickly as I hoped...and of course, in the excitement of life in general around our house, ALL of the boxes and bags and packages and tins were opened. Why would we possibly ever want to open one thing and consume it entirely before opening another?! To avoid anything going stale, I made Snack Mix that seemingly disappeared in 2 days with lots of help from family munching, grazing, craving, sneaking and snacking.
Think carmel corn with out the corn...it's a sweet, salty, crispy, crunchy, tasty treat that everyone will enjoy.

Here's the scoop: Make this carmel corn-like coating and pour it on just about anything and it will transform a mundane pretzel into a party all its own. Bake it for 25 minutes and Ta-DAAA! You're done. Now, for you over achievers who are already thinking about Christmas, tuck this recipe away as it would be a great addition to a teacher's gift - package it in a snazzy way though, who wants to be the dork parent!? I like to make stuff like this around the holidays and it just so happens that I named today a holiday - so THERE! Happy Carmel Crunchy Day!

The ingredients to the blissful glaze of sugary wonder:
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of corn syrup (I used dark as that was what was in my pantry)
  • 2 pinches of salt
Combine all of these ingredients in a saucepan (as I have pictured above). On medium heat, bring it to a boil for several minutes.

Remove it from the heat and then add:
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Now, for the ingredients in which to pour that sugary glaze over...raid the pantry!

  • 4 cups Bugles
  • 5 cups rice cereal
  • 2 cups pretzels
  • 1 cup (or two - who's counting?) Cheerios
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup cashews

Pour the glaze over the snack mix and stir to distribute and coat evenly. Spread the mixture on foil on a large cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes.

Cool completely and store in a container with a tight fitting lid so you have enough time to catch your children sneaking the snack before the lid is off and contents devoured. Enjoy!

Finished Product - I should make this my walpaper on my computer screen.



Have a delicious day!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Now THAT'S a Steak Sandwich!



Le Tour de France wrapped up this past weekend and the closest I came to it was buying a huge chunk of Brie. We had a trivia contest at work and so thanks to 3 weeks of non-stop trivia questions and my huge desire to win a competition, I became rather saavy on my biking knowledge. We find out tomorrow who won...


I love marinated London Broil and there are dozens of good marinades out there - my prerequisite is making it from scratch, as packets and bottles seem to scream of a preservative taste. I switch up my marinades every time I buy this particular cut of meat, but it always has an oil/vinegar/lemon juice base with a zing of various seasonings. Go Google a few - they're delish! Soaking this thin, lean cut of meat for a long time helps breakdown it's tough reputation. Slap it on the grill for 8 minutes on each side and you have a medium rare slab of possibility.


The possibility I went with was a Steak Sandwich. Slicing the meat across the grain into narrow strips, I toasted several pieces of good bread and Brie. The Brie was melted onto the bread in my trusty toaster oven, topped with the meat, a dab or two of spicey brown mustard and the added flair of leaf lettuce. The rest, was history as the sandwich disappeared before my very eyes. The marinated meat and creaminess of the melted cheese married so well together that my mouth is watering just describing it to you. I felt like I was part of the Peloton, circling the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées...only instead of heading to the podium, I would bike straight into a pastry shop.


If you're looking for an escape from the norm, this is an exceptional sandwich that's not too complicated to make.


Have a delicious evening and a great week ahead!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Me vs. Super W

With my new found energy from having a full night's sleep, I felt I could conquer the world...or at least Super Walmart. My shelves were as bare as Mother Hubbard's and before I could resort to feeding my family peculiar oddities from whatever one concocts from cornmeal, some navy beans, a can of evaporated milk and some apple cereal bars, I opted to head to the store.

Giving foresight into the trip, I came armed with snacks for each child. We were set...or so I thought. The snacks disappeared before we reached the store and I zipped right in, plopping both children into a cart. Let me also mention that the weather has been in the upper 90s with serious hair curling humidity. We were all perspiring a bit by the time we reached the inside of the store (this is mere foreshadowing...stick with me).

I had a list that I almost abided by...until I got talked into Mickey Mouse shaped cheese. I was as intrigued as the kids, so why not? Every now and then, one should be treated to Mickey Mouse shaped cheese. I mounded the groceries into the cart - which is difficult due to lack of space. One child was drowning in lettuce, blueberries and canned goods, while the other sat on the Fritos. Sigh.

The checkout lines were all but wrapped around the interior of the store (I of course picked the most ideal time to shop) but no one was at the self check. Thinking I can handle a self check with about 65 items clearly shows that I have lost my presence of mind. The snacks the children ate have worn off by now, they are hungry and tired of being wedged in between Cheerios and Cheese Puffs. They start to whine and cry and I am struggling through self check with the stares and glares of people all around me. I try to ignore them and plow through. I will survive this and live to tell about it.

You know how you can smush lots of groceries into a cart, but somehow it all doesn't fit the same when you bag it? My experience exactly. I'm left carrying two bags while pushing the cart and somehow in the midst of the trek to the car we lose the two gallons of milk from underneath the basket. I rescue those and am feeling like a wilted piece of lettuce by the time we reach the car. It's hot, we're tired and hungry.

I get the kids into the car and as I finish buckling up the carseat, I turn around in time to see my cart full of groceries halfway to China as it is rolling at a fast pace down the parking lot. After chasing it down, I throw the groceries into the front seat and we head for the homestead.

I peek into the rearview mirror to make sure the kids haven't passed out from the heat and catch a glimpse of myself. Good Lord. My forehead has brown streaks all over it...then I see my hands...OH MY WORD. Somehow in the course of this trip, I have managed to get chocolate on my hands (most likely from the chocolate chunk granola bar my son ate on the way there). In the heat, I wiped my forehead of perspiration with the back of my hand and managed to smear it all across my forehead. I have no idea how long I've looked like this and can't find any chocolate remnants in the backseat on the seat belt or anywhere. So I have most likely looked like a freak for about an hour to several hundred people in the store.

Life. You gotta love it. I'm off to try some Mickey Mouse Cheese. Thank God it's Friday.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What day is it?

It's Thursday - which means I'm one day off from my post. Yesterday I was convinced that tomorrow was Friday, and indeed the let down is that it's merely Thursday. I've had two sick children and finally got my first full night's sleep in 4 days last night. I almost don't know what to do with the extra energy. Thankfully one son is completely better, the other is on the mend.


Meals were quick and easy this week in light of it being the sick ward around here. Silly me, always on the verge of the next greatest deal, drug the entire family (sick ones and all) to a local pizza place who had claimed to be passing out free medium one topping pizzas to the 1st 300 customers. Alas, we walk in and are not one of the first 300 customers (though I'm still trying to figure out how we weren't...). Well, since it wasn't free, it wasn't for me - we drove back home and had grilled chili dogs instead. Hey - if it's not in the budget...


I also entertained my husband's expert grilling capabilities with marinated chicken breasts that we sliced and put on salads to be our entree. They were delicious! I had marinated them with a dry rub seasoning that was lurking on my pantry shelf. Taking a picture of the food just didn't materialize due to my eyes being crossed and the room spinning from my exhaustion, so catch me on the next post, ok?


I will tell you that I served these wonderful salads in the most fun salad bowls I own. Fun story behind my odd shaped porcelein bowls...I was eating at an Italian restaurant for lunch one day and my Caesar Salad came out looking like a work of art and was presented in one of these bowls. I fell in love with them and asked the manager if he'd be willing to sell me a few. He agreed and I am the proud owner of funky shaped bowls that take over my entire dishwasher. But boy are they fun! I'm convinced the added aesthetic appeal increases the deliciousness of the dish.




Have a delicious day and hang in there with me...it's almost FRIDAY!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Falling off the Bandwagon

I've been on a no dessert diet. It was going well - though tough at times, until this past Friday. Remember me closing the kitchen? It was for good reason and my husband and I had an incredible meal. We participated in the Charlotte Restaurant Week / Queen's Feast promotion currently taking place. A group of upscale restaurants agreed to a 3 course for $30 meal option for one week. After salivating over about 25 menus, we set our sights on Mickey & Mooch.

Stepping back in time to the Big Band era, live music played in the bar area and we were escorted to a primo table location overlooking a lake (my husband was in heaven - there were ducks and he is an avid hunter). The low lighting and incredible menu options set the tone for the perfect evening. They tipped the scale on their competion, offering not just 3, but 4 courses - each an experience in and of itself. The first course for me was a filet fondue, pepper seared rare tuna with Tabasco butter for my better half. I all but drank the warm gorgonzola fondue that you dipped bite size filet mignon pieces into. Next we both chose the house salad with one of my favorite dressings. It was a warm honey mustard with bacon and I'm smitten with the candied walnuts and dried cranberries that adorned the romaine.

Already full, the main course arrives and I'm staring at a lifetime supply of yukon gold mashed potatoes that surely have at least a stick of butter in each portion, along side tender filet medallions in a sherry reduction, topped with few fried onions. Bliss! It's impossible to finish, but wait!!...There's still one more course. The finale is what causes me to not fall - but DIVE headfirst from the no dessert bandwagon into the dessert cart. I opt for the raspberry cheesecake with the chocolate crust and the waiter keeps trying to talk us into the chocolate cake. Neither of us are cake fans, but he assures us this is no normal chocolate cake. My husband agrees to the selection and after polishing off my cheesecake, I fall in love with his dessert too.

The waiter is right. This is no normal chocolate cake - it's a chocolate heaven. Seven layers of almost fudgelike brownie with rich chocolate mousse slathered in between every lucious layer...enrobed in chocolate ganache and chocolate curls, this dessert is in a league of its own - which is saying something from me, the non-cake eater. We're not able to polish it off at the restaurant, so we opt to bring it home. My husband promptly goes back on the bandwagon and I, not being one to ever let anything go to waste, sacrifice the calories and finish it for breakfast and pre-lunch the next day.



The cake was double this in size when brought to the table...I just couldn't take a picture in time to capture it all.



This is all that was left. Good to the last crumb and worth every calorie. So sad to say goodbye!



Have a delicious day!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Squashed

Can I be any more grateful that it's Friday? It's been a crazy busy week and I've been running from meeting to meeting, errand after errand, endless projects, baking and cooking up a storm and tonight the kitchen is CLOSED. I'm going on a date with my hot husband and one of my best friends is watching the boys. I'm counting down the hours and minutes until the work week comes to a close.

This week was a big week in our house! We got to harvest the first of our zuchinni and yellow squash that my almost 4 year old and I planted weeks ago. It's been fun to watch them grow and he and I both have a huge feeling of satisfaction as this is the first success we've experienced with this vegetable...the last few years have flopped with the wrong soil or worms that have eaten them or the drought sucking the life out of them. We at last have delicous squash! I was all but ready to set up a road-side stand and make millions, but so far we've just picked 3 - so I'll hold out for a week or two on the entrepreneurship.



Is this the picture of a proud farmer or what?





We grow them in pots, as our soil is basically clay with a lot of rocks in it - not exactly primo gardening conditions. The pots also are placed higher up in our yard so that the herd of 8 deer that like to roam and munch in our neighborhood will stay away from these tasty treats. So far, the deer haven't ventured up to the pots, though they have come pretty close. Let's hope they don't like squash.



1st Harvest! Too bad he wont actually EAT squash. Sigh. Someday...

One of my favorite ways to fix these veggies is a simple saute. I take 2 or 3 zuchinni and yellow squash, thinly slice them along with an onion, and saute them until tender with olive oil, salt and pepper. It's a great side, or I'll even go crazy and add it to the top of a lettuce salad - creating a fun hot and cold combination that's amazingly tasty and delicious!


I'm off to pick out a cute dress for my date tonight - have a delicious weekend!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Butt Success!

Ok, so the meatloaf I fixed Friday night was a huge hit with our guests, but my hubby likes the more gourmet ones I've fixed. I'm debating on whether or not to pull the recipe from the blog...it won't go in my cookbook, but it was just fine and the guest had seconds and thirds on everything, so let it suffice to say the meal was tasty and down home good.

I've been contemplating pork recently. I pull my cart up next to the meat section and stare in disbelief at the gigantic cuts of pork - Boston Butt, in particular and wonder what in the world one does with such a behemoth cut of meat? I went out on a limb during a recent sale and purchased a smaller sized butt of my very own and took it home. After researching many recipes, I found several that didn't require a smoker and settled on one of Paula Deen's.

With the help of a dry rub of garlic powder, kosher salt, pepper and seasoned salt, I also massaged in some liquid smoke and put the meat in my roasting pan. The directions further indicate a cup of water and a sliced onion should be placed in the bottom of the pan. After covering it all with foil and heading off to church for our evening service, I purposely had low expectations of this meal and was confident that if it was a disaster, we had some standby leftovers and wouldn't die of starvation. All through church my hands reeked of liquid smoke. It was somewhat amusing to clap my hands and have the scent of a barbecue restaurant waft through the choir loft.
This is my 3.5 pound pork attempt - view is prior to putting in oven.


We got home and every one's noses squinched up into a look of horrid displeasure. A strong burning smell infiltrated our entire home and I was already thinking to Plan B for dinner. I pull what I thought was going to be a charcoal briquette of Boston Butt out of my oven and was pleasantly surprised. I accidentally turned my roasting pan into a smoker in that the water had all evaporated and the onion was unrecognizably charred, but the meat was cooked perfectly! Note to self: increase water amount in bottom of pan for round two.




I chopped the meat, added barbecue sauce and dare I say - it rivals Sticky Fingers pulled pork any day of the week!

I hope your week is off to a great start - fix something delicious and we'll chat soon.

Have a delicious day!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Meatloaf?

I think I blinked on Monday and it turned into Friday. This week has flown by! I just didn't have it together this week to whip up amazing wonders in my kitchen. Perhaps it was due to coming off a holiday weekend of travel. Last night we had brie burgers - subbing in slices of brie cheese to melt into utter heaven rather than the standby of American or Cheddar. Have you tried different cheese options on your hamburgers? It's fabulous! I also enjoy blue cheese on my burgers. Ooooooooooohhh so good. I still need to enter that burger contest...note to self.

Tonight we're having guests over and I was at a loss on what to fix until a large package of ground beef all but jumped into my shopping cart last night. Out of it came the above mentioned burgers...the rest will be transformed into meatloaf. How odd does that sound? I don't know that I've ever fixed meatloaf for guests, but they are truly meat and potatoes people, so I'm fixing meatloaf and seasoned potatoes and most likely a salad of some sort. We're (sadly) on a no-dessert kick right now until our next vacation (how will I survive until mid-August!?) so dessert will be Cantaloupe and Watermelon. I don't like Cantaloupe, but I'm sure someone does. We'll see how fast it flies off the plates at dessert time. I might have to go hide in the pantry and down some mini twix and kit kats I have hidden.

Here is the meatloaf recipe I'll be fixing this evening: (how I enjoy the sweet ketchupy sauce on top!)

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 egg
1 onion, chopped and sauteed
1 cup milk
1 cup dried bread crumbs (I make my own fresh)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
garlic salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/3 cup ketchup

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large bowl, combine the beef, egg, onion, milk, Worcestershire sauce and bread. Season with garlic salt and pepper to taste and place in a lightly greased 5x9 inch loaf pan, OR form into a loaf and place in a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish.
In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and ketchup. Mix well and pour over the meatloaf. (If you're an avid fan of lots of the sauce, double this).
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Have a delicous weekend - and think of me as I suffer through Cantaloupe!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dinner was a FLOP.

I had such great intentions for last night's dinner. In purchasing not one, but TWO packages of barbequed pork ribs at $3.99 a rack, my Sandra Lee-like hopes towards being semi-hommade were dashed against the grill burner and incinerated. They looked so tasty - those innocent pre-cooked ribs, just asking to be heated up on the grill and eaten. Let me further paint the picture for you by adding that my 1 year old was crying because it was his bedtime and my 3 year old was crying because I was making him eat 4 green beans, I had a migrane headache and then my husband brought in one of the two racks of ribs and served them tableside.

After giving thanks, we both ate a bite of meat and the rest played out like the scene of a movie. My husband got this grotesque look on his face like he was going to lose everything he'd eaten all day, and then madly rushed to the trashcan to get rid of the formidable bite he allowed to touch his tastebuds. I'm attempting bite number two as he now has his entire face under the sink faucet to wash his mouth of the taste. I was hoping bite number two was the key to success and it wasn't. The ribs went straight to the trash and we dined on sliced tomatoes and green beans with a bowl of cereal.

My migrane subsided, the kids went to bed and I have $8 of meat in the trash. Things could have been worse - I could have served them for company. You win some, you lose some.

I was recently asked about the salads I make, as I fix one almost every day for our family. The fresh produce and endless toppings make salads one of my favorite side items for dinner. I feel the key to a successful salad is the dressing - you can have simple salad ingredients and the dressing is truly the icing on the cake. My favorite dressing is not in a bottle - I taste the preservatives and don't care for it. Instead, I have my old stand by that has survived the test of time: Good Seasonings dressing packets. I take my little cruet, add apple cider vinegar, water, olive oil and that magical seasoning packet and my salads are transformed into tasty deliciousness.

The salad, in and of itself, varies from night to night depending on what I have in the house - lettuce, tomato, sometimes cucumber, always grated cheddar cheese, always parmesan cheese, sometimes black olives or grapes or raisins and I also like to add cheez-it crackers (slightly crushed) to the top. It's a tasty alternative to croutons. I also will toast almonds or mixed nuts and add them - or sundried tomatoes or roasted red peppers. I never tire of them, as they are different each night. I have a thing for the dressing though - I really feel it's key. And if I should happen to run out of packets, I season my salad with sea salt and black pepper and then carefully pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar on it. Delish! Thanks for helping me decide what to have for lunch...as of course leftover ribs are not an option.

Have a delicious day!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When You Are 100.

It's just me and a large bowl of Praline Ice Cream as I sit here and ponder my whirlwind holiday weekend. I'm simply not ready for the festivities to draw to a close - though I don't think we could have packed in one more detail.

It was a 4 day weekend for me and I flew to Mississippi to celebrate my husband's grandmother's 100th birthday. It was a special time, spent catching up with family and reminiscing on favorite memories with the birthday girl. I honestly have never met (until now) someone reaching that milestone. I sat and thought about what she has seen and experienced in her lifetime. It's amazing! Some have asked, what do you get someone for their 100th birthday? My response? You. There is no gift more precious than time spent with the ones you love.

From Mississippi back to North Carolina we spent time with additional family, attending fabulous services at church, splashing at the pool, fishing, shopping, eating, eating, eating, setting off fireworks and singing patriotic tunes. My head hit the pillow with a contented sigh last night.

I already find myself looking forward to the next event or holiday - which will be a family vacation in mid-August. My husband has implemented (starting today) a health regime that omits desserts so he (we) can get in shape. He's challenged me to an abdominal workout as well. Not quite ready to fully adopt this health kick, I'm licking the remnants of carmel and praline bits out of my bowl and will start tonight...though we're having ribs...not exactly your Jillian Michael's type diet - but perhaps we'll forgo the peach cobbler staring us down in the refrigerator. Wish me luck - sweets are my downfall.