Friday, April 29, 2011

When Prince Charming's on a Business Trip...

It's been a long, whirlwind of a week and I can't be more pleased that it's Friday. My husband's plane touches down in a little over an hour and I can't wait to see my very own Prince Charming after a week long business trip.

I find that when he's away, I tend to eat bizarre foods and odd times and consider it nutritionally sound. I justify it because of being solo with my two young boys and yearning for the extra set of hands to help out.

I was stressed beyond measure earlier this week when I had to spend 4 hours on the phone with non-english speaking tech people to get my work laptop fixed. The language barrier sent me right to the refrigerator for a Whoopie Pie for breakfast.

After one tech guy got mad and literally hung up on me, I shot like a cannon to the freezer and enjoyed a bowl of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream for lunch. It was deserved, trust me.

After having a sick child one night and cleaning up after him, I was awakened 2 hours later by the other one who accidentally wet the bed. After getting him all set, I was woken up an hour after that to a thunderstorm and our dog going bezerk. Let's just imagine the food choices the next day. I believe I was sustained by Reece's Peanut Butter Eggs and Snapple Peach Iced Tea.

Dinners for my boys have been the most manufactured, easy way out a mother could ever take: Tyson's Chicken Nuggets, Stouffer's Mac 'n Cheese, Taco Bell and Burger King. I was so tired when going through the drive through at Burger King last night that I literally forgot to get my son's burger and fries. How does that happen? I embarrassingly turned around and drove back and got the food. Sigh.

Last night I splurged and got sushi for myself. It was so pretty, I had to take a picture.

Clearly my husband can't get home fast enough - we're ordering PIZZA for dinner. :)

Congratulations to Donna for winning the Debbie Myer Green Bags Giveaway! Donna, tomatoes are one of my all time favorite garden staples in the summertime too.

Have a delicious weekend everyone! Perhaps next week I'll reintroduce myself to my kitchen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday's Tip (AND Giveaway!): Fruit & Vegetable Longevity

This time of year we begin to search out the roadside stands, Farmer's Markets and our own backyard gardens for fresh herbs, produce and fruits. There is nothing like the taste of home grown goodness - after all, we've been struggling through the winter on canned goodness. Give me fresh! Give me liberty or give me death!

While I'm not the extremist Patrick Henry was, I do have a fun little tip for extending the life of your fruits and veggies. Debbie Meyer Green Bags! This Debbie Meyer has it goin on - she somehow figured out how to make a magical green colored baggie that takes out all the Ethylene Gas (the yuck that causes rot and decomposition that occurs the second you make your purchase).

Simply place the fruit or vegetable in a bag and it will extend the life for 2 weeks or more! And the best part - you can wash and reuse them over and over and if you play your cards right, one box of these beauties will last you all season.

So who wants some green bags? I do! I do! I have a box for me and a box for you. Respond between now and Friday at 2:07 pm eastern time and tell me what your favorite homegrown produce is for a chance to win. I'll tell you mine - tomatoes, squash and peaches!

Chat more soon - have a delicious day!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Dinner

As I found myself hiding in the pantry and munching on white chocolate truffles, I remembered I had many requests for what my Easter meal was this past weekend. Popping one more truffle, I waddle to the computer and am here to answer that request.

What a wonderful weekend! Lots of family time, a test drive with a car salesman I wanted to have the ground swallow whole and never hear from again, more family time, delicious food, egg hunts, ice cream cake and most importantly - remembering the Cross, the EMPTY Tomb and the wonderful gift of Salvation. Church was so good on Sunday, I'm surprised Jesus didn't come back during the Hallelujah Chorus.

Friday night my parents joined us for dinner and I pulled out all the stops - white table cloth (never mind that I don't iron, the plates hide the fold wrinkles - sort of) the China (that only gets used once, maybe twice a year), fresh flowers as a centerpiece and a crazy gourmet menu that received rave reviews.

We started with an Artichoke Dip and Whole Wheat Crackers. Not your ordinary Artichoke Dip - this was a kicked up version with Green Chilis. Yum.

For the main dish, I fixed Red Snapper and Shrimp in a Champagne Sauce. Ho-hum, I hadn't fixed it before - despite the recipe sounding amazing. I won't fix it again, it was good but not pa-zazzy enough for me, so I didn't take a picture.

Side items included an ultra amazing Brie and Carmelized Onion Tart with a Fig Glaze. OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS! Show Stopping fabulous. Of course we had rolls and butter to sop up all the goodness.

Then there was the ridiculous Cleopatra Salad with Grapes and Blue cheese and homemade Croutons and a dressing that makes you want to lose control and lick the bowl. I could have just eaten the salad and nothing else and died a happy woman. I'm glad to still be alive, but wow is this a good salad.

Dessert was tough for me. I couldn't decide on just one, so I made two! A cherry and pineapple cobbler, which made my husband ever so happy since he is a lover of fruit desserts. Then I made a Black and White Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake. It was so rich and decadent, you can't eat it all - you THINK you can, but seriously can't. I've tried. Four Times.

And that, my friends, was our "Easter Meal" as we actually ate out on Easter Sunday, followed by an egg hunt and Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Cake (have you tried the Praline Ice Cream Cake? Oh gracious!!!).

Have a delicious day and we'll chat soon!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Asian Chicken Salad

I'm sitting here staring at a Reece's Peanut Butter Egg. The BIG full size version. It's a battle of the wills, of which I will surely lose. These happen to be my favorite chocolate in the entire world. I've filled my boys' Easter baskets with them and I've sampled more than my share. The perks of parenthood. :)

But today I want to share with you a sensational salad I fixed for dinner. It's light, yet filling and is so unique and delicious, you'll be craving it for weeks (provided that you don't burn the house down during the cooking process - but more on that later).

The ingredients are simple but come together to give you a little crunch, a little sweet and a LOT of good.

Start by roasting 1/2 cup of almonds at 300 degrees for 5-7 minutes - it brings out the flavor and gives it added crunch.

Then pull out of thin air: 2 cups of cooked, shredded chicken (remember when chicken went on sale and you put it in your slow cooker and then froze it in portions for times like these? Loving life right now, aren't you?) To that chicken, add toasted almonds and a tablespoon or two of roasted sesame seeds (I happened to be out of my seeds and the salad was still delish).

And then slice, dice and chop down 4-5 tablespoons of onion - microscopic is what we're aiming for, in case you have a non-raw-onion eating family like I do.

Stir it all up and let it sit while you work on the dressing.

Take 1/2 c. Canola Oil, 6 Tablespoons of Cider Vinegar, 4 Tablespoons of Sugar, 1.5 teaspoons of Salt and a teaspoon of Pepper. Combine these simple ingredients and shake well for a sweet and tangy dressing. Then pull out cool bowls (cool as in I love these bowls and bought them from a restaurant because I liked them so much) and put generous heaping mountains of green leaf lettuce in each.

Divide your chicken mixture and put it on each bed of lettuce and toss with the dressing.

Now for the sensational edgy-ness that transforms your salad into Spectacular Status: Rice Noodles. I'll forwarn you that this takes practice and you have to be careful on frying, or these will burn, burn your non-stick pan and potentially your house if you're not looking. Haven't I just set the stage for you to attempt this without fear? HAHA! I learned the hard way that you MUST use a deep fryer or a regular metal sauce pan (the oil gets too hot for a non-stick pan and will burn the non-sticky stuff and you'll have to get a new pan. UGH!)

Place a few tablespoons of Canola Oil in the pan...

and when it's sizzling hot, throw in the rice noodles. The turn into amazing cool white crunchy curly things that enhance the beauty and pazazz of your salad. See?

Now put all of the fried noodles on your salad and serve it up and sit back to enjoy the compliments that spill forth from the salad enjoyment.

Have a great afternoon and we'll chat soon!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: For the love of a Danish

You've heard me say it before: I love a good Danish. They are perfect for breakfast and so when Entenmann's had a buy one get one free sale at the grocery store, I happy danced all they way in to Harris Teeter. Grabbing 5 of the Raspberry Danish Twist, I have a little tip to share with you. These delicious store bought beauties are perfect for breakfast before church on Sundays.

I sliced them into individual servings, placed them in sandwich bags and put them back in their respective boxes. The boxes went into the freezer and now I have a good 4 months worth of Sunday morning breakfasts fixed and frozen. Beautiful!

Now all I have to do is pull individual servings out Sunday morning before I get ready and by the time the lipgloss goes on and the hair is curled to perfection, they are defrosted. My family enjoys them warmed up for 20 seconds and breakfast is a huge hit.

Feel free to share some of your time saving ideas - I'm always up for a delicious time saver! (And for you locals, the sale is still on thru today at midnight!)

Have a great day!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bunny Cupcakes

Last year at exactly this time, I was standing in line at the grocery store with my son. He excitedly pointed out a magazine cover that featured a picture of Bunny Cupcakes. They were adorable and he begged me to make them. They were cute, he was cute, I like to bake so it was meant to be. Since they were a huge hit last year, I made them again this year for his class at school.

Sauntering in from choir practice last night at 8:30ish, I made triple chocolate cupcakes from a box (4 year old tastebuds are fine with box mixes). Then I made Martha Stewart's recipe for Fluffy Vanilla Frosting and felt like a kid again as I decorated these cupcakes.

The ears are jumbo marshmallows, cut in half. I dipped the sticky side in pink sprinkles and used toothpicks to keep them in place in the cupcake. The rest is candy and marshmallows and icing. Such fun, so cute - you might want to consider these if you have little munchkins. They're a hit!

Have a delicious day!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Apple Bread Loser meets Sesame Chicken Winner!

I made what I thought would be the most amazing apple bread to ever grace kitchens across America. A delicious array of ingredients; apples, apple sauce, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts, an applesauce brown sugar glaze that turns into apple butter when you bake it. Surely this one was going to be a winner?

Surely it was not.

The house smelled incredible while it was baking. We were all salivating on our shoes, just waiting for the 50 minutes of baking time to pass so we could pounce on this apple deliciousness.

The effort was not worth the outcome. It's a perfectly fine recipe - no glaring tastebud issues. It just wasn't aMaZiNg. And that's what I was seeking. Not one family member thinks it's all that great. So we're eating it for breakfast this week anyway (even though I scowl every time I look at it) and it's being nixed from the list, never to be fixed again (except for that apple glaze that has got to be good on something...I'll continue to ponder that one).

In the mean time, last night I had a party for dinner. No hats, streamers or gifts - just a fun night of party foods. Who says you have to have an excuse? There was an Asian themed appetizer that had been calling out my name and by golly it was a success! Finally!

I started by marinating chicken nugget sized pieces of chicken breasts over night in equal parts of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, 2 cloves of minced garlic and some sesame oil. Then I prepared a breading of flour, cornstarch and sesame seeds and breaded all of the chicken.

Next it was fry time. I fried all of the breaded chicken in a mixture of Peanut and Canola Oil (only because I ran out of Peanut Oil and needed more so Canola stepped up to the plate, good 'ol gal!)

While the chicken was cooking, I steamed several dozen snow peas and then quickly cooled them on ice to stop the cooking process (Yes, this was so Iron Chef, I was slightly giddy about this ice bath too).

Next, the cooked chicken gets wrapped in a snow pea and secured by a toothpick. And for your information, any food served on a toothpick gets automatic Party Food status. I whipped up a bunch of these with a chili dipping sauce.

We ooh'd and ahh'd and were so pleased with the end result. It's a fixer-againer!

And with that, I'll bid you good day! (With one slight confession that I simply have to share). I left my brain at home today. Have you ever used one of the vacuums at the gas station? You know, the super suckers that take quarters and you rush around like a nut trying to vacuum the entire inside of the car before the time runs out? Well, I used one today. I pulled out the kid's 2 car seats so I could get all of the crumbs, crackers, granola bar bits and oh there's that sock! I pulled away. I drove home. I got out of the car to go in the house.

I realized I left the carseats back at the gas station on the side walk.

Racing back to the gas station, praying the Lord would keep evil car seat stealers from helping themselves, they were thankfully still there and I felt like a fool as I threw them in the backseat and madly dashed off. Sigh. The chocolate bar I just consumed was merely for medicinal stress purposes.

Have a delicious day!

Monday, April 11, 2011

What to do with leftover Bacon?

Good morning and welcome to the start of a brand new week! I DID try a bunch of those recipes over the past few days and am pleased to report back to you the results.

I painstakingly made a Green Enchilada Casserole with a Salsa Verde from scratch. The results: mediocre at best. LOVE the Salsa Verde and will hang on to that portion of the recipe. The casserole won't be fixed again.

Black Bean Dip - promising. We enjoyed, but its goodness was overshadowed by the mediocrity of the aforementioned casserole (served the same evening). I'll give this one a second chance. (And how aweful are these photos? It looks like I took a picture of shredded cheese - there is a casserole and bean dip under there - I promise).

Pink Lemonade Cake with Lemon Buttercream Icing - HUGE success. I'm putting this one on the catering menu. Served in cupcake style, they were a crowd pleaser to family and friends alike. Refreshing, light and delish - they are fixer-againers!

Chewy Graham Brownies - decadent, delicious and disappeared before a photo could be taken.

I still have a few more recipes on my list from last week to try and I love the fact that I'm using my cookbooks to their full potential, trying new foods and adding some winners to the archives.

I'll leave you with this great tip concerning BACON! I love bacon - though I don't fix it very often. It's messy, greasy - almost more work to clean up than it's worth. I usually fix half a package for a Saturday breakfast once in a blue moon and the rest sits in the frig until it expires and has to be thrown away. Not anymore! I have resorted to a virtually mess-free bacon cooking experience.

Yesterday I wanted to doll up a side salad to fix with lunch and bacon seemed to be the perfect accoutrament. Not wanting to pull out a skillet and go through that whole frying ordeal, I grabbed two paper towels and a dinner plate. I put one paper towel down on the plate, placed 4 slices of bacon on top of that and then covered it with the 2nd paper towel. Microwaving it for 4 minutes gave me 4 slices of crispy bacon - all the grease had been soaked up in the paper towels. I crumbled it over my salads - delicious! How great is this?!

Have a delicious day and we'll chat soon! (I think there are Reeces pb eggs in the house that I need to seek out and munch on).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How did that happen?

Wait a minute - it's Thursday? How did that happen? I should at least be on brand new recipe #3 or 4 by now and all I have to show for it is diaper rash cream in my carpets, yogurt smears on my windows, lipstick designs on my guest bedroom comforter (in true almost-2-year-old-style) and a very dead car.

What a week! Thankfully I had a Fix 'n Freeze swap this week that landed me 8 delicious entrees in my deep freezer and they have been sustaining us. So fingers and toes crossed that I can get to a new recipe goal of Green Enchilada Casserole tonight before my Tomatillos turn brown...otherwise it'll be another Fix 'n Freeze casserole to the rescue. Please Lord, don't let Denton make another mess this week. Please?

No recipe sharing right now friends, I've been in minor crisis mode. But not to worry! I will survive and we will eat well. I just need to talk myself out of eating a case of Cadbury Creme Eggs and a half gallon of ice cream. So far it's not working.

Chat more soon!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spice up your Kitchen Life!

Happy Monday to you! The sun is shining in the South again, it's warming up to short sleeve and flip flop weather and I just had a marvelous weekend with my family. I'm blessed, plain and simple. I'm sitting here developing my grocery list for the week and...hold on, it's WAYYY too quiet in the house for my 20 month old. Be right back.

Lord Have Mercy. I went downstairs to discover my son wanted yogurt, opened it and preceded to create a Hansel and Gretel trail for me to find him. Yogurt all over the kitchen floor...on the outside and INSIDE of the silverware drawer....on the outside and inside of the french doors to the deck...all over the deck and outside windows and OH THERE HE IS behind the propane tank for the grill. Smiling. "Big Mess, Mommy" is the response I got from him. Gracious. Now that that mess is cleaned up, I'll get back to my post.

So I'm working on my menu and wanted to encourage you to break away from your tried and trues. Do you ever feel like you're fixing the same things over and over again? I feel like we use certain recipes as a crutch - they're easy, they're good, we know our family likes them - but after fixing them 247 times, they get a little ho-hum boring boring boring.

Spice up your kitchen life and pull out those dusty cookbooks! I have a guilty pleasure of a zillion cookbooks. I love them, read them, get them as gifts and often times will fix one or two recipes from them and then get another new one. There are clearly hundreds dare I say thousands of recipes that are delicious little nuggets of tastiness that just sit in my cabinets and never get fixed. I love trying new things and do it fairly often, but have decided to go crazy and fix ALL NEW recipes this week - pulling them from my archives of cookbooks.

You've GOT to be kidding me. I need to interrupt this broadcast once again folks - sorry. Denton found the spare prescription strength $25 a container of diaper rash cream. Oh no. It's bad. I'll be asking for a carpet steamer in my easter basket.

Sigh. Unbelievable. Two disasters in less than an hour - have the terrible twos hit 3 months early?!

So, in order to keep my recipes straight, I am a scribbler - I make notes by every recipe I fix in a cookbook so I can remember the next time I revisit it. You'd laugh at my notations as they vary from "Delicious! A favorite! and "Add Butter" to "Horrible! Never fix again!" Who wants to make the same mistake twice? Try it - the method helps.

I've pulled out a favorite cookbook and perused it for new inspiration. I challenge you to do the same - try something that sounds good to you and give it a whirl. You just might have a new "Delicious! A favorite!" in you cookbook that you never knew was there. I compiled a list and am excited at this week's culinary adventure...

Artichoke Dip (I have a large jar of marinated artichokes in my frig)
Black Bean Dip (Black beans taste amazing and I can't wait to try this!)
Sesame Chicken with Chili Dipping Sauce (Totally intriged - you wrap the chicken in sugar snap peas!)
California Pizza (This is perfect because I have a jar of basil pesto in my pantry that I haven't known what to do with).
Asian Chicken Salad (Ok, I'll admit - I've fixed this one before, but it's been about 2 years, we're due)
Green Enchilada Casserole (This involves a homemade tomatillo sauce - whoooaaaa!)
Lemonade Cake (This is a trial run for my friend HPS' mom)
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (I was given a mix as a gift and it's burning a hole in the pantry shelf - I HAVE to fix them).
Apple Bread (I made Banana Bread over the weekend and it's great for breakfasts - now on to Apple!)

So that's my week - doesn't it sound delicious? I'm excited to see how everything turns out and it'll make for some great posts for me to write.

Have a great week and we'll chat soon! I'm off to get about a pints worth of smeared diaper rash cream out of my carpets. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Simplicity of a Strawberry

We're quickly approaching Strawberry Season, as evidenced by the lowered prices and better sales. I can't wait to gather the family and go picking at a huge strawberry patch near our home...but we're still about a month away from the truly local fruit. In the meantime, I purchased 3 containers from the grocery store (who can resist Buy one, get TWO free!) and we have been enjoying them allllll week long.

I've found these red juicy bites of fun to be a wonderful addition to breakfasts and lunches - just slicing them and letting the kids eat them plain. It was also a perfect side dish to a quiche I made for dinner the other night. And for dessert...vanilla bean ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries on top. I haven't had to add even a pinch of sugar - they were ripe and naturally sweet.

To go a bit more schmancy, I also made Strawberry Pochettes - a strawberry filled pastry cookie from Melissa D'Arabian. She actually fills the pastry with Nutella - which I must try after I get past my strawberry kick. I filled mine with strawberry preserves.

I just can't get enough of this delicious berry. We won't talk about the fact that I ate 6 of them without blinking. Here is a picture of the cookie display before I ate 6 of them.

Enjoy your weekend and don't forget to go to church on Sunday!