Monday, October 27, 2014

This is Halloween!

Those who know me know that I LOVE Halloween.  It's hard to say it's my favorite holiday since I love Christmas too, but Halloween is right up there!  There's nothing about this time of year that I do not adore.  The weather is amazing, dressing up is always fun and I'm all in for anything spooky or scary!  Last year, Halloween was the first holiday we missed out on being overseas.  So this year, I made it my main goal to have the new house ready for visitors so we could have a Halloween party.

Thankfully, I got it all done and a blast was had by all who attended.  As usual, I had a blast putting together all the theme food and finding the perfect outfit for the hubs and I to dress up as.  There's too many recipes to list them all, so here are the pics...and perhaps a few recipes to come soon!  Everyone have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Bloodshot Deviled Egg Eyeballs

Green Slime (Green Goddess) Dip with Vegetables

Crunchy Haystacks (Cookies)

Red Velvet Brain Cupcakes...though they look a little more like skeletons

Spooky Smoked Gouda Pimento Cheese

Roasted Rack of Ribs

Bat (Chicken) Wings

The Robber and his Bag 'O Loot

Our sweet little Rapunzel


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fishing for a New Fish

No, I'm not a big fisher but I do love to find new and interesting ingredients that I've never heard of before and play around with them.  One of the things I love about the area we live in now is all the Farmer's Markets.  Not that there weren't any in Charlotte, but there's something different about the ones here.  They are smaller, quaint and everywhere!

We came across one a few weeks back and, of course, had to check it out.  My poor hubs has been drug to markets all over the world and still, most of the time, puts on a good face knowing that something yummy is probably coming his way at dinner that night.  Today was no exception.

One of the vendors at this particular market was a small, almost traveling grocery store.  Aside from the fact that their trailer was set up on a hill making it impossible for me to stay inside for more than a few minutes without feeling sick, it was wonderful!  Tons of fresh produce, meats, dairy and breads lined the small walls.  I was intrigued looking at the multitude this little gem had to offer when the owner happened by telling us that all the frozen seafood they had was 40% off today in order to make room for new product.  Sold!  I was getting something for dinner.  The only question was what to choose.

I ventured over to the cooler seeing things I had seen elsewhere, scallops...flounder...grouper.  All good choices, but I really wanted something new.  That's when I saw a single pack of Sheepshead. 
Having never heard of it before, I asked what it was like.  "Kind of buttery, almost along the lines of lobster" the lady told us.  Sold again!  Time to go home and play.

Of course, I had to google the fish as soon as I got home.  I wanted to know more about it.  When I looked up pictures of the fish in the wild, I was pretty shocked.  Ever seen a fish with teeth before?  Me neither!?!

I learned these are saltwater fish found in the Atlantic Ocean whose diet consists mostly of oysters, clams and other crustaceans.  Their teeth help crush the shells of their prey, since they eat everything whole.  It's commonly nicknamed the fish with the human teeth...and I can definitely see why!

For this preparation, I decided to keep things very simple.  Having never had the fish before, I wanted the natural flavor to come through as much as possible without being over shadowed by a bunch of spices.  I seasoned the fish with salt and pepper.  I then threw a stick of butter in a pot with 1/4 c of white wine and some dry roasted garlic flakes.  I let this cook down until the butter was slightly browned and reduced a bit and used is to baste the fish as I broiled it.  I severed it up with a side of roasted asparagus. 

The result? was sooo good!  The fish was buttery, rich and super moist.  Even the little one gobbled it all up with out so much as a peep.  I can only hope that I will be able to find this fish again since it has now become one of my favorites!  Guess that's the only real danger in trying ingredients you don't come across very often.  Oh well, this time I've come across a gem and you can bet that I won't pass it up if I see it again!

So what's your favorite thing to play around with in the kitchen?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Forging for Brownies?

So a good friend of mine is a blacksmith...or in contemporary day terms...a metal worker.  Cool, huh?  She's really talented, and I love seeing all her new projects!  Currently, she is working on a really big project called ShopSpace where she and some of her friends are striving to create a communal space for current metal workers as well as an area they can teach others the craft.

A few weeks back, they had an open house at the space.  It's pretty amazing.  I even had the opportunity to do a little forging myself.
 I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to make something and, I have to say, pleasantly surprised how well I did for the first time.  More than that, I think I was surprised that more people didn't want to take a turn hammering away on red hot metal.  I mean, who wouldn't right?

My contribution to this little event was some brownies, my go to quick and easy recipe that I have been making for people since I was about 10 years old.  I even had a babysitter at the time who wanted me to make them for her ever time she watched us overnight.  They are super quick, super yummy and always a hit.  Nowadays I even have an adorable little helper to assist in all the mixing.
Isn't she the cutest?!?  Of course her favorite part is licking the whisk after she's done!  Try out these no fail treats.  They are sure to put a big 'ole smile on your face!

The Best Brownies EVER! - Makes about 16 (Adopted from the Hershey cookbook)
4 oz butter; melted
1 c sugar
1 T vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 T cinnamon

1 - In a bowl, stir together butter, sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate before adding the next one. 
2 - In a separate bowl, combine flour, coca, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Add to egg mixture in three different batches, incorporating each batch before adding more.  Pour batter into well greased 9x9 pan.
3 - Bake brownies at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until they begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the middle is almost completely set.  Cool completely, cut into squares and ENJOY!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hot Soup on a Warm Night?

I don't know what the weather has been like in your neck of the woods, but this past week it was rainy, cold and all around gloomy.  I'm right up at the front of the line wanting fall to be here, but I hate the misty nasty rain that keeps you from being able to go out and enjoy the cooler weather.  YUCK!

In preparing for the drop in temperature, I planned to try out some new soup recipes.  I looked though my Pinterest page to see what popped out and found a little gem for Cheeseburger Soup.  Sounded like a winner!  I had best laid plans to do this early in the week...and then this week happened.  I've been having some killer headaches with this little bun in the oven and this week they were in full swing.  So, we lived off leftovers and pizza for the better part of the week, but by Friday I was ready to go!  Of course, Friday was the first day the sun came out and the temperature went up.  Oh well...soup I was craving and soup we would have!

Still, I wanted a little something more to go with the soup.  And what goes better with soup than bread?  The hubs LOVES bread and reminds me often that we don't have it at dinner enough.  Since it had been quite some time since I made fresh bread, I was excited to try out a new recipe there as well.  My biggest craving with this pregnancy, strangely enough, has been beer.  So when I came across a recipe for Basil Beer Bread, I was sold!

Some tips for recreating this meal.  The soup is meant to be made in the crock pot.  I started the soup in the crock pot...and then ran out of time for not starting soon enough...and switched it to a pot on the stove.  This wasn't the best idea.  Unless you are going to stand over the stove and stir this soup constantly, make sure you leave yourself the extra time to let the crock pot do the work for you!

In the end, the soup was pretty thick.  I didn't mind this since I like a heartier soup anyway, but if you wanted it a little thinner, I would suggest doubling the chicken stock.  Between the cheese and the hash browns, a lot of liquid is soaked up!

The bread is probably one of the simplest you will make...EVER!  The recipe wasn't really specific about the type of beer to use, so I picked out a nutty ale at the grocery store.  Here's the one I used:
 It was pretty perfect!  If you can't find this exact beer, I would stick to something a little stronger and in the "nut ale" family.  The flavor really comes through in the bread.  Even the little one ate it all up so it must have been good!

The bread also called for fresh basil, which I thought I had, but turns out I was wrong.  I substitutes about 2 T dried basil for the fresh and the flavor came though.  I would love to experiment with this again to see if I can taste a difference by using fresh basil, but in a pinch dried will work beautifully!

Cheeseburger Soup - Serves 8-10 (I wish I could credit the person who originally pinned this, but the link was broken.  Thankfully the ingredients were in the description!)

1 pound ground beef; browned and drained
2 pounds Velveeta; cut into cubes
2 pounds shredded hash browns (I used 2 packs of Simply Potatoes Hash Browns, one original and one Southwest style for a little kick)
1 pound bacon; cooked, drained and crumbled
30 ounces chicken broth (more for a thinner soup)
1 T each dried basil, garlic, pepper, salt, tarragon and thyme

1 - Make sure beef is browned ad drained and bacon is cooked, drained and crumbled.  Throw all ingredients in a crock pot and cook over high for 2-4 hours or low for 4-6 hours, stirring every now and then to mix everything up.  Easy as that!
Basil Beer Bread - Makes 1 loaf, size of the average meatloaf pan (Adapted from Drizzle and Dip)

3 cups AP flour
1 bunch of fresh basil; chopped (or 2 T dried basil)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 T brown sugar
330mL beer; room temperature

1 - Using a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, mix the dry ingredients together.  Add beer and mix on low speed for 3-5 minutes until the dough bounces back when you press it.
2 - Grease a meatloaf pan.  Add the dough and press down so the dough covers the pan evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until lightly browned.  Allow to cool slightly before slicing and eating.

On a side note, the wonderful hubs found my camera battery charger!  No more phone pics for this girl!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Can You Smell Fall Coming?

It's been almost a month to the day since we moved into the new house in Clayton.  Although we are still having some hot days, the cooler mornings and evenings are proof that fall really is on the way, and I couldn't be more excited.  See this time last year we were packing up to leave the country for the rest of the year and basically missed fall.  Sure it got cooler and cold in France, but the leaves didn't change, the holidays weren't celebrated the same and everything I love about this time of the year was gone.  So this year I want to do everything I can to enjoy every minute!!

Moving is always stressful, so I was excited to meet our new neighbors almost as soon as we moved in.  Everyone we have met is super friendly, more proof that we moved to the right place!  This week I got invited to a ladies Bunco night in the neighborhood with the instructions to bring a bottle of wine or a snack.  Since I can't drink with a little bambino growing in the tummy, I decided to use this opportunity to try out a new cupcake recipe.  Trying out new sweet treats is a little more challenging now that we've moved since the hubs isn't a fan of desserts and I no longer have his employees I can send them too.  I wanted something new, something that was a perfect fall welcome and something everyone could enjoy.  That's when it hit me the one "fall thing" that has been trending on all the social media lately...Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  That little Starbucks drink that people everywhere wait all year for.  Pumpkin is pretty much the "end all be all" of fall flavors so why not turn the legendary drink into a cupcake?

So I turned to the place we all go for inspiration...Pinterest!  Really, what did we do before this website existed?  To my surprise, I found tons of recipes out there dedicated to turning the flavors of the beloved drink into all things edible.  After weeding through several recipes that used a box cake mix as the base...which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine...I finally landed on one from Table for Two.  I made an adjustment here and there to make the recipe my own and the outcome was amazing!  The little one ate hers up, hubs gave it his "other people will like this" stamp of approval and I left the party with a clean platter!  Since my camera battery is still in a box somewhere and said camera is dead, I didn't get a good picture of my actual cupcakes.  But here's one from the Table for Two blog to show off the yummy goodness!

I only made a few small additions to the original recipe.  Once I mixed the batter, it still tasted like it needed something so I added some vanilla, which did the trick.  I also mixed up a quick cream cheese filling to go on the inside of the cupcakes which I felt added a nice little break up of flavor overall.  The simple whipped frosting is the perfect finishing touch and definitely reminds me of the actually latte topping!  Careful with it though, since it's just sweetened whipped cream, it will melt easily if put in the heat! 

Getting back in the kitchen to do some baking really got me excited for the upcoming season and seeing how many more twists of classics I can come up with!  Let the recipe testing begin!!

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes (adapted from Table for Two)
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes or one 2 layer 9 inch cake

     2 2/3 c all purpose flour
     3 T espresso powder
     2 tsp baking soda
     2 tsp baking powder
     1/2 T pumpkin pie spice
     15 oz can pumpkin puree
     1 c sugar
     1 c brown sugar
     1 c vegetable oil
     1 T vanilla extract
     4 eggs
     1/2 c coffee; brewed and slightly cooled for brushing
     1 c cream cheese
     4 T cinnamon
     2 T sugar
     1/2 T pumpkin pie spice
     2 1/4 c whipping cream; chilled
     1/4 c powdered sugar
     10 caramel candies (or make your own caramel if you're feeling ambitious!)
     2 T whipping cream

For cupcakes:
1 - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with cups or grease and flour two 9 inch cake pans.
2 - In a bowl, whisk together flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice.  
3 - In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle, combine pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla.  Mix until well combined.
4 - Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each before adding the next one.
5 - Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing each just until the ingredients are incorporated.
6 - Divide batter evenly between muffin tins (using about 1/4 to 1/3 c for each tin) or between the two cake pans.
7 - Bake 15-20 minutes until tester comes out clean.
8 - Allow cupcakes to cool slightly.  Brush the tops of the cupcakes or cakes with coffee.  Apply three coats total, allowing the coffee to soak in between each coat.  Remove cupcakes from tins or cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely on wire racks.

For filling:
1 - Put all ingredients in a stand mixer with whip and cream until smooth.  
2 - Using a corer or small spoon, remove a small part from the center of each cupcake.  Pipe the filling into the center of each cupcake.  If making the cake, simply spread the filling on top of one cake layer before adding the second layer.

For frosting:
1 - In stand mixer with whip, whip cream to soft peaks.  Gradually add powdered sugar and whip to stiff peak.  Pipe as desired onto cupcakes.  (Note: More frosting will probably be needed if frosting a 9 inch cake.  I would start by upping the recipe by half and whipping more cream as needed.)

For topping:
1 - Combine the caramels and cream in a small sauce pot over low heat, stirring occasionally until the caramels are melted.  Allow to cool completely before drizzling on cupcakes or cake.

Now you can drink your Starbucks and eat it too!  ENJOY!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Ray of Sun on a Cloudy Day

I can't believe how long it's been since I've been able to find time enough to myself to sit down and write!  Things have been pretty hectic around our house lately with lots of transitions going on for our family.  Still, through all the hubbub, I was able to help a very dear friend make a very special day a little more colorful.

I was excited about the opportunity to make a cake for a beautiful little girls Baptism.  I was even more excited when her mom sent me an idea for a cake I had never done before, a Rainbow Cake!  Ever since spending time oversees, I've had a slight obsession with "surprise" inside desserts.  So, needless to say, I was a bit giddy at getting to take on this new challenge.  Fortunately, this turned out to be a lot easier than the checkerboard cake I made for my daughter's birthday last year!  Pictures of that cake will not be posted...take my was a disaster and left me wanting to pull my hair out!  If you ever get the wild idea to try it, keep in mind, more time and lots of alcohol will be needed to keep you from loosing your mind!!

The Rainbow Cake, however was really very simple.  Time consuming only in the fact that I had to bake twice since I only had three 9 inch cake pans.  But that wasn't a problem for me since I had a cute little beauty to play with in between!  I whipped up my favorite white cake recipe, making enough batter to essentially make two three layer 9 inch cakes.  I then divided the batter into 6 equal portions and added food coloring to each portion to get all the colors of the rainbow.  It was so easy, even my own little adorable helper was able to lend a hand!

After all the cakes were baked and cooled, I mixed a batch of my "no fail" buttercream, filled the inside with some white chocolate lavender ganache I had left over from a wedding and stacked the monster.  It was tall!  The tallest since tier cake I had ever done.

For the outside, I mixed together some blue and white buttercream to give the illusion of clouds and bordered the cake to look like crashing waves.  Leaving the outside of the cake looking like this...

And the inside looking like this...

I was in love with how vibrant the colors came out!  Most importantly, mommy was happy with the outcome as well.  This will definitely be one I keep in my bag of tricks to pull out again!  After all, who could be glum on a rainy day when you have this to feast upon? Now for what you've been waiting for...the recipes for this masterpiece!

The LAST White Cake Recipe You Will EVER Need (adapted from Sweetapolita)
Makes 1, three layer, 9 inch cake

7 egg whites; room temperature
2 whole eggs; room temperature
1 1/2 c milk; room temperature
4 tsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 c cake flour; sifted
3 c sugar
3 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
18 T butter; cold, cut into 18 pieces

1 - Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans.
2 - In a bowl, combine egg whites, whole eggs, 1/2 c milk and vanilla.
3 - In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle, combine dry ingredients until mixed.
4 - Add butter to the dry ingredients, one piece at a time, until all butter is incorporated and mixture is crumbly.
5 - Add remaining milk and mix until well incorporated.  Scrape the bowl well.  Add the egg mixture in three batches, making sure to incorporate each addition before adding more.  Scrape the bowl between additions as well.
6 - Bake the cakes for 20-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing and completely cooling on wire racks.
*If making the rainbow cake, add food coloring as needed to the cake batter.  Make sure to make the batter slightly darker than you want the actual cake to be since the color will dull in the oven.

"No Fail" Buttercream (adopted from Savory Sweet Life)
Makes 5 cups

1 c unsalted butter; room temperature
1 c shortening
8 c powdered sugar; sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 T vanilla extract
4-8 T heavy cream

1 - In the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together the butter and shortening.
2 - Gradually add the powdered sugar, about 2 c at a time, incorporating completely before adding more.
3 - Once all sugar has been added, add the salt, vanilla and 4 T heavy cream.  Whip the buttercream on medium high speed for 5-6 minutes.
4 - If your frosting needs to be thinned, add more cream 1 T at a time and mixing for 2-3 minutes before adding more.  If your frosting needs to be stiffened, add more sifted powdered sugar.  Color, if desired, and use as soon as possible for best results.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Remember Me?

It's been quite a while since my last post.  I know...I'm sorry.  A lot has been happening in the household.  I started a new job...and left said job.  The hubs is in the process of making some changes to his business.  My little one will be 4, yes FOUR next idea how that happened.  Oh, and we're moving!  Just a few little life changes around here doesn't leave time for much else.  But I missed my little blog getaway, so I'm coming back!!

In all the crazy that's been invading our lives recently, it's been more important than ever to simplify as many things as possible.  Of course, this translates immediately into food.  We've been bad about eating out lately, I'll be the first to admit.  However, we're justifying it in that we want to hit up all our favorite places before we go.  That makes it ok...right?  Still, even I can't stomach eating out everyday (and neither can our bank account), so I recently turned to my best friend Pinterest for some wonderfully quick and healthy ideas.

I stumbled over a wonderful little blog called Damn Delicious.  Don't you just fall in love with that name?  Or is it just me who loves to add expletives whenever little ears aren't close by...or slip when sometimes they are?  The link above will take you to the original recipe, which sounds damn delicious (just as the name implies).  Usually I like to try any recipe I come across "as is" before putting my own twist on it, but since I needed this for dinner and didn't have time to run to the store, I improvised.  I was just so in love and curious about the idea of cooking a pasta dish all IN ONE POT, I couldn't not try it!  I fully intend on trying the original version soon, but here's the ingredients I had in my pantry and fridge to use.

Odd as it seems, I really did have this "veggie" pasta in my pantry.  It was on sale at the grocery store a while back, and I couldn't resist.  I will admit that I had shied away from using it since it was new and (most likely) tasted funny, but now was as good a time as ever.  I would be pleasantly surprised that it didn't taste much different from regular pasta, even when I tasted it on it's own.  By itself, I could tell a slight "veggie" difference, but all mixed into one, no difference at all.  I even had to tell the hubs it was different so he could give his opinion.  Extra serving of vegetables with no extra work coming up!!

Now comes the best part about this recipe...throw everything into the pot.  Yep, everything, all at one time.  Just like this...

This was the only part of this recipe that I was a little hesitant about.  I figured if the pasta was cooked, everything else would be mush.  If the other ingredients were cooked well, the pasta would be crunchy.  So with Pap John's on backup speed dial, I set the pot on the stove, brought it to a boil and left it alone for 10 minutes.  Everything came out wonderful!  The pasta, in fact, could have cook a minute or two less for my taste...something that is easily fixable.  I was amazed, and I am rarely amazed by a recipe.  Impressed, yes...amazed, no.  The final product came out as a true one pot tasty wonder that led the whole family to go back for seconds!

Can you say simple, quick, no fuss and damn delicious?!?!  This will definitely be a go to for those busy nights when you forget to thaw anything...or prep...for dinner.  Have fun trying out my version, the original masterpiece (I'm sure!) or invent your own.  I would love to hear what yummy goodness you add to your pot.  And the simplicity of it actually allows you a good 10 minutes to sit and have a glass of wine while your dinner cooks itself.  What could be better than that?  No one needs to know ;)

One Pot Wonder Spaghetti (adopted from Mushroom and Zucchini Spaghetti by Damn Delicious)

1 box "Veggie" spaghetti noodles (or other pasta)
1 package cremini mushrooms; sliced
2 T olive oil
14 1/2 oz can fire roasted tomatoes; undrained
14 1/2 oz mushroom broth (or other broth); use tomato can for measuring
3-4 garlic cloves; sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes; or more if you like some spice
1 T dried oregano flakes
1 T dried basil flakes

1 - Put everything in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat slightly and cook 7-10 minutes until pasta is cooked to your liking.  Remove from heat, cover and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes so pasta can soak up all the yummy juices.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wellness Wednesday - The Clean Eating Craze

My quest to feel better about myself in 2014 has led to friends and family asking me advice on how they can do the same.  While I love to help a few people here and there while I can, I thought a good thing to help more people...and continue to hold myself accountable...would be to start a "Wellness Wednesday" on the blog.  My goal is to post a new blog every Wednesday that has something to do with health concerns and general healthy living.  So if you have a topic you want to hear about, let me know.  First up...clean eating!

I'm not going to claim to be a genius on the whole clean eating movement.  It's become increasingly popular over the last few years, as has the Paleo diet.  I've talked in several blogs before about the Paleo diet and the Whole30 food challenge which both did AMAZING things for my level of energy and general "feel goodness".  If you are looking at clean eating as a means to help you loose weight, I suggest you head over to the website The Gracious Pantry.  She breaks it down so much more than I ever could.

That being said, here's my two sense.  Eating clean is exactly that, chemicals, artificial additives, nothing that can't be found naturally in nature.  The best way I've learned to think about this is to imagine your grocery store.  Now pretend the only place you can shop is around the outer edges of the store and not the isles.  This will hit your produce, fresh seafood, fresh meat, dairy and frozen foods.  Now, we all know that wonders of Ben and Jerry's that hide in the frozen food sections, but this does give you a starting point for figuring everything out.  You could also imagine that you are back in the pre-grocery days where everything you put in your body was either grown or made naturally and that is clean eating.  The truth behind the phrase, you are what you eat is ever present, and when you put crap can figure the rest of that.

A lot of people look at this lifestyle change and think they can't afford to eat clean.  My opinion on this one is that they are confusing eating clean with eating organic.  So, ok, soapbox moment.  Most people who are full force on the organic train do so because they are under the understanding...or misunderstanding...that their organic food is grown COMPLETELY natural without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.  The truth is, organic farmers are only limited to the fertilizers and pesticides they can use, not completely banned to do so.  And when farmers have rough seasons, most will turn to some type of help to keep putting food on their families tables.  So when you're buying that organically grown lettuce that you're going to go home and wash before you're eating anyway, you kind of washing that money down the sink.  Buying fresh produce is enough.  If you want the added benefits of an organic product, do so in your protein (meat, eggs and the like).  Rules are stricter and you will taste and feel the benefits.  *Soapbox moment over*

Time is also a big issue I hear people talk about when wanting to make a change in what they eat.  For that I say, I hear ya!  My life is just as crazy as the rest of yours, and while I would love to spend my days testing healthy recipes for my family (and readers), it's not practical to everyday life.  So, that's why at the end of every Wednesday blog, I'm going to give you a recipe that is healthy, family friendly, tasty...and most importantly...quick and cheap!  Sound good?  Here you go...

Edamame Hummus (adapted from Oh My Veggies)

Quick note here:  I am a hummus fanatic!  I would buy Trader Joe's out of every single flavor every single day if I could.  But it's so easy and I know I could get more bang for my buck if I made it.  So I ran on to this gem one night...which I immediately cheered about since Trader Joe's doesn't sell Edamame Hummus anymore.  With a few tweeks, I had a fabulous hummus I would put up against them any day!

1 16 oz bag frozen edamame; thawed (not cooked-it gets really mushy if you do!)
3 T lemon juice
4 cloves garlic; peeled
1/2 c cilantro; leaves picked and stems discarded
1/2 c tahini (sesame seed paste)
4-6 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 - Get out your handy dandy food processor and get ready to be amazed at how easy this is!  The original recipe called to rough chop the garlic and cilantro (or herb of your choice).  No need!  Let the processor do the work for you.  And don't be scared about adding the thawed edamame without "cooking" them first.  I ate a handful just to be safe and I'm still here :)
2 - Add everything to your food processor except the olive oil.
3 - After a few seconds, slowly drizzle in your olive oil while the processor is running.  Stop halfway through, scrape down the sides, and continue adding the rest of your olive oil.
4 - Taste, season as you would like with salt and pepper and mix again.  Done!
My little one was even chomping at the bit to get a hold of this one!  Best yet, along with being "clean eating" approved, it's vegan, dairy free and gluten free!  Yeah for quick, easy and healthy!

Stay tuned next week for a few snacks for the little ones in your lives...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A New Kind of New Year's Resolution

On Saturday, it will be March.  By that time, most of the people that made New Year's resolutions have long broken and abandoned them.  The odds are against any one who makes them anyway since change is hard and takes a while for a new behavior to become a habit.  Life gets in the way and sooner or later, most people fall back in the same routine, more than likely feeling like a failure that they couldn't do the one thing different they wanted to do this year.

Sound familiar?  This happens to me almost every year.  In reflecting why my New Year's resolutions don't stick, it's more than like because my list of things I want to do differently usually looks something like this...

No mom, I didn't start smoking and you and I both know I call you...but you get the point.  Our resolutions turn into more of a shopping list than one or two attainable goals.  No wonder we give up.  We set ourselves up to fail.

Now, ideally, I would like my attitude about resolutions to look something like this...

Unfortunately, I've never had that good of an opinion about myself.  That's when it hit me.  My resolution for this year...

"Do something about it or stop bitching about it."

This can go for anything in my life that I don't like.  Too often I find that instead of taking an active role in fixing the things I'm unhappy with, may they be physical or otherwise, I complain more that I try and change them.  And that's what I want to change this year.

I'll be honest, it hasn't been the easiest journey so far.  I brought back more than a few extra pounds from France...thanks to all that wine, cheese and yummy I knew I wanted to get my diet back in shape and loose some weight.  I thought what better way to jump start this than to complete another Whole30?  I'd done it before, so what would be so hard about doing it again?  Until the hubs and I had our first date night in months and I wanted a drink...or two...and my dad turned 60 and I wanted to eat the cake I made him.  Call it lack of will power, but life events combined with the fact that I just started a new job as an Assistant Pastry Chef...and the Whole30 just wasn't going to work for me right now.

THIS time, instead of getting discouraged and completely throwing in the towel, I decided to take a step back and reevaluated how I was going to approach the "diet" aspect of loosing some weight.  I'm starting small this time and working up from there, beginning with making Paleo dinners for the whole family.  Last night I made this yummy recipe for roasted chicken:

This was everything I love in a pan, quick prep, healthy and oh so yummy!  It's Whole30 compliant and flexible to change up to use what you have on hand.  Give it a try, I know it will be a hit!

Crispy Roast Chicken and Vegetables adapted from Stuff I Make My Husband

1 whole chicken (cut into 8 or 10 pieces...if you feel like it, throw some water over the bones, add a little salt and pepper, put it on low heat for 10-12 hours and you have homemade stock!)
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T dried rosemary
2 T dried oregano
2 T dried thyme
1 bunch asparagus; trimmed to 2 inch lengths
10 oz box frozen artichoke hearts; thawed
1 red bell pepper; cut into chunks

*Recipe note: If you look at the recipe, you see some of the veggies I used are different.  Here's where this recipe is great.  You can put any vegetable in you have on hand...which could help lower the monthly grocery bill (Yep...another goal...)

1 - Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2 - In a bowl, combine olive oil and herbs.
3 - Toss the veggies in the olive mixture.  Remove from the oil and line the bottom of a roasting pan with them.  I had a disposable one on hand which made clean up even easier!
4 - Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of the veggies.  Pour the olive oil mixture over the chicken.  Cover with alluminum foil and cook for 45 minutes.
5 - Remove the foil and cook for an additional 15 minute.  Turn oven up to broil for the last 2-3 minutes to really get the skin crispy. 

So here's my new start for my New Year's resolution.  Along with starting my new job, I've also agreed to supply healthy treats for the hubs to take to doctor's offices to help drum up some business for the pharmacy.  We've also talked about me doing a blog once a week focusing on a dietary concern or healthy meal to post on the pharmacy Facebook page.  Lots of new things coming up!

What are your major health or dietary concerns?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?

DISCLAIMER:  I am a southerner!  Born.  Bred.  Lived here all my life.  Although I welcome readers from all areas of the country...and world...I want no fun being made by all the northerners out there.  After all, when the temps rise above 80 and you freak out about the heat, we southerners don't call you sissies for not being able to handle it correctly.  So here is my take on our snow storm from last week.  No judgement here :)

"Snowmagedon" as I heard many Facebook friends refer to it, began on Tuesday, February 11.  Although it was by no means the end of the world, almost a foot of snow fell on the lovely city of Charlotte before the sun went down on Thursday.  Our city, the largest in the state, has only four snow plows and NO way of really handling this kind of snow.  In all my years living in NC, I've never seen it snow so hard for so long.  It really did shut down the city and had me wishing that I had gone to the grocery store with the rest of the crazies to clear out the milk and bread aisle...both of which we ran out of!

The little one was in heaven!  She spent the first day "shoveling" our back yard and Thursday we built a snowman.  She was quite surprised at the amount of snow on the ground and how she would sink when she jumped in the snow.  I know I'm biased, but she's pretty much the most adorable girl in the world!

After time in the cold, all I wanted for lunch was the same thing my mom always made on snow days growing up...grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Here's were I had to get creative.  The grilled cheese was handled, although this would be the last of our bread.  But we had no actual tomato soup.  I dug through the cabinets and came up with the following in which to put a concoction together...

Random ingredients to make my soup with.  After all, my first chef in culinary school would say that soup is nothing but liquid with stuff in it.  So here's the best at a recipe for you (note my lovely measurements for this one!)

Tossed Together Tomato Soup

1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 jar tomato basil spaghetti sauce
3-4 c chicken broth; the more you put the thinner it will be
3-4 shakes across the pot of each of the following: shredded Parmesan
; thyme; rosemary; oregano; garlic salt and pepper

Looks like this in the pot
Throw it all in and stir it up
Heat it through and serve with a toasty grilled cheese

Perfect end to a perfect day!

A Sweet 60th Surprise!

This year is a big one for birthdays!  Both my parents and the hubs parents turn 60 this year.  About a week and a half before my dad's birthday, my mom called to ask what I thought we should do.  "Have a party!"  I suggested...and we were off to pull off a surprise about 12 days.

For those of you who have met or know my dad, you know getting something by him is no small task.  For those of you who don't know him, he's very smart, extremely curious and is known to figure out presents simply by looking at the box...sometimes even if it's camouflaged.  Pulling off a surprise party wouldn't be easy.  His birthday fell the Tuesday before Valentine's Day, so we set the day for the Saturday before.  Mom told him I would be coming into town to cook him a birthday dinner, a friend of him took him boat shopping in Raleigh for the day, which got him out of the house and with the hubs acting as my sous chef for the day, we pulled off all the food for the party!  When the moment of truth came, we (all 50 or so of us) waited patiently to see if Mr. Detective would really be surprised...

...and he REALLY WAS!!  I was pretty amazed that we pulled the whole thing off without him expecting anything.  My dad is a big golfer so I named the food with golf terms and made him a golf cake, vanilla with Bailey's ganache on the top and carrot cake (his favorite) on the bottom.

Thanks to Pinterest, I also had the idea to print off pictures of dad through the years in the shape of a "60".  I think it turned out pretty awesome!

A fun time was had by all!