Sunday, January 31, 2010

Good Times!

This past week has been crazy busy! Mid-week, however, I was treated to a four day visit from my mom. Moms just seem to make the world a brighter place. We had such a great time and the boys adore her! That is probably because she spends time with them and talks to them, not at them. While the boys were in school we shopped, shopped and shopped! So much for that budget I was attempting to stay on this month! It was well worth it though. As a woman, it is wonderful to have another female, especially your mom, with you to participate in some marathon shopping! I am having to take the weekend to recover from all that strenous exercise! I took the week off from cooking and we "roughed" it, eating sandwiches, chicken and pizzas! (My hubby has spent the past five days soaking up the last of the hunting season.) Now you can understand why I needed to marathon shop, I had to burn all those extra calories off! The best caloric gut bomb we ate was the birthday cake I made for mom. Chocolate cake! There is nothing better than a good, old fashioned cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting! It made it a whole day! Here is mom with her cake before we devoured it!

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This was such a great cake! I could share the recipe with you, but every cook has their own secrets! Cakes are mine!

Since I have been recooperating this weekend, mom and I watched one of my favorite movies last One Night with the King. It tells the story of Esther. If you know me then you also know Esther is my favorite woman of the bible. I love everything about her story. From the precise planning God layed out for her to save the Jewish people to the courage and strength she showed. She was to become queen to save her people! How awesome is that??!! God used a woman and saved the Jews! So this prompted me to ask of you all, what do you like most about Esther and her story? I would REALLY love to hear your thoughts on her life story. And if you haven't watched the movie, well, now you must! I can't wait to hear from you all!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta!

Yesterday I ran into a friend of mine while out shopping. Her name is Dawn and she is a bit of a food fiend as I am. She happens to have her own recipe article in our newspaper. So, it goes without needing to be said, that whatever recipe she recommends, I am sure to love! She didn't fail me here either! I just happened to have the makings for this wonderful and VERY easy pasta dish. Yes, I know, but I'm like that! I added mine own twist, imagine that! I sauted some thinly chopped shallots and garlic for a more robust flavor. Dawn recommended adding sun-dried tomatoes as a garnish for some added color. Color really does appeal to the brain and senses. I used chicken broth and real parmesan and mozarella. You can go directly by the recipe and I truly believe it will still be great. I just am a fresh ingredient girl and keep a few items stocked. This recipe came from http://find.myrecipes.com.Let me know if you try and like it! Don't forget to thank Dawn for passing it along!

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Total time 45 minutes. Prep: 10 min., Bake: 35 min.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings


Ingredients
1 (6-oz.) package fresh baby spinach, thoroughly washed
1/3 cup refrigerated pesto sauce
1 (15-oz.) jar Alfredo sauce
1/4 cup vegetable broth*
1 (25-oz.) package frozen cheese-filled ravioli (do not thaw)
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Italian six-cheese blend
Garnishes: chopped fresh basil, paprika
Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Chop spinach, and toss with pesto in a medium bowl.

2. Combine Alfredo sauce and vegetable broth. Spoon one-third of alfredo sauce mixture (about 1/2 cup) into a lightly greased 2.2-qt. or 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Top with half of spinach mixture. Arrange half of ravioli in a single layer over spinach mixture. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining Alfredo sauce.

3. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish, if desired.

*Chicken broth may be substituted.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used Santa Barbara Original Basil Pesto and Bertolli Alfredo Sauce.

Southern Living, AUGUST 2008

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Throw Me Something Mr.!

Here on the Eastern Shore to New Orleans us locals are gearing up for another season of Mardi Gras! The fantastic parades and balls are just part of the excitement that goes on during this time. I used to LOVE to get dressed up in a pretty ball gown with my handsome man looking all debonair and dance the night away! The libations flow ALL night at these shindigs! If you have a low alcohol tolerance, stick with the wine, otherwise you are drinking straight liquer with a splash of coke(oj, sprite, whatever!)! Now, alas, I am a mom and wife with different priorities. I still love the parades and looking at all the ball goers dressed in their de rigueur. The kids really enjoy catching all the trinkets the masked riders of the floats throw. If you never have had the opportunity, you must come to at least one Mardi Gras parade! New Orleans is a little(ish),( heavy on the ish), more rowdy than the gulf coast of Alabama and Florida Panhandle. It will depend on the experience you are looking for (ie: to see a LOT of ladies breasts or not!). Personally, I have my own set and don't care to look at other women's ta-tas, nor do I want my kids to be exposed to that!

This brings me to my post. Finally! I have my fake Christmas entryway trees still in the pots at the front door. Winter in the South is so dreary and there is just nothing that I want to plant right now, so I thought I would keep the trees in the pots and use them for Mardi Gras decorations. Voila! Problem solved. Oh, No!,Wait! If I decided to decorate the trees, then I should make a wreath too, and oh, let's not forget those baskets that I had hanging from the lanterns at Christmas! Time to dig through the old decoration bin! I found some picks and tulle ribbon from the past years and decided to put them to use. I did buy the masks for the wreaths and a few picks for the baskets. They were REALLY reasonable and Miller's Grand Events had a great selection of decorative Mardi Gras stuff!
Now I have a festive front porch and I didn't even have to plant any plants that would surely perish! Here is what the result looks like:

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Soups On!

So far this winter has been COLD! Brrr! Us Southerners are not thick-skinned enough for this harsh climate! Even our two dogs can't relieve themselves quick enough to get back inside! Luckily, we are expecting a warmer climate soon. Which brings me to this weeks post: Soups! I love soup in the winter time. It just makes you all warm and toasty on the inside! I really enjoy eating a nice bowl of hearty soup and crackers (or a sandwich) in our cozy chair beside the fireplace. Thanks, Melanie for moving it there! I thought I would share two edible indulgenses I made this past week. So get out your dutch ovens or broiler pots and get ready to warm your insides!
My first soup is an reliable companion for a panini or turkey club.

Rosemary Tomato Soup
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I have to take this opportunity to tell you about the bowl. Ok, I know it's cute, but that is not what I want you to notice. This is a rice bowl. The reason I want to highlight this bowl is because it is a perfect portion size for just about anything from cereals, ice cream, soup, oatmeal, etc. I know a lot of us are trying to watch our diets as part of our New Year's resolution, and what we eat out of and off of makes all the difference. It really is easy to trick the mind!


I chose to use rosemary instead of basil, but you can subsitute whatever herb best suites your taste buds.

Ingredients:

1 tbs. fresh chopped Rosemary
3-4 tomatoes, roasted in the oven for 20-25 min.
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce ( I like the type with basil, garlic & oregano)
1 can tomato paste
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
freshly grated parmesan cheese
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In a food processor, or blender, puree the roasted tomatoes and rosemary. Take a dutch oven or broiler and over medium heat add the next 5 ingredients. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer about 15-20 minutes. Ladle into individual bowls and top with grated parmesan. (I am partial to true parmesan. There should be a stamp on the outer rind of the wedge. Real parmesan is just so much fuller of flavor than the pre-shredded kind. It also adds a "nuttiness" to the soup). I hope you enjoy


Baked-Potato Soup

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Ingredients

3 large baking potatoes
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
6 c. reduced-fat milk
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (no,you don't have to have the good stuff)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 c. reduced-fat sour cream
3/4 c. chopped green onions, divided
6 slices cooked bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pierce potatoes with a fork, wrap in tin-foil and bake for 1 hr. or until tender. Cool. Mash potatoes with skins on. (If you do not like the skins then peel it off- I'm too lazy!)

Place flour in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk constantly until there are NO lumps. Cook over medium heat until bubbly. Add potatoes, 3/4 c. of the cheese, salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder. Stir just until cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 c. of the onions. Cook over low heat about 10 minutes or until throughly heated through. Do not boil. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with leftover cheese and onions, adding the cooked bacon crumbled on top.
* I got this recipe from Cooking Light at myrecipes.com and tweaked it a little. It has become my new favorite potato soup! Tip: Do not leave the dutch oven while the milk is heating, you will need to stir continually to avoid scorching.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

All about the breakfast!

I don't know how you are, but I am NOT a morning person. I envy the one who can awake feeling all bright eyed and bushy tailed! This would be my husband. He is such a morning person that is makes me all the moodier when I awake. I need a good cup, or two, of coffee just to function. Breakfast is the last thing I care to make, but alas, the kids have to eat before school! I must confess, most mornings it is just scrambled eggs and bacon, but from time to time I will whip up a little something extra. This french toast casserole, I actually made for New Year's breakfast, the kids liked it so much I have had to make it a few times since. It is simple,time efficient,great and filling. A little something "extra" to kick off your day! Enjoy!

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Baked French Toast Casserole

10 slices whole grain french bread (or other whole grain bread)
4-6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. sugar
fresh or frozen mixed berries ( I used frozen)
sour cream
maple syrup
dash of cinnamon

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take a 9 x 13 baking dish and coat it with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the sugar onto the bottom of the dish. Pour berries over top, spreading them out over the entirety of the dish. Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Dip bread slices into bowl until throughly saturated. Places slices of bread over the berries and sprinkle with remaining sugar.Bake in over for 20-30 minutes or until bread is lightly toasted and crisp on top. Spoon desired amount onto plates and dallop with the sour cream. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with syrup. Enjoy!

I adapted this recipe from Southern Living, but added a few extras to give it my own touch, you can do the same. This is perfect for a brunch or comfort meal.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back- On- Track Dinner

If most of you are like me, you always start the new year with the intention of eating better. Maybe this particular phenomenon that sweeps fervently across our country is just embedded into our subconscious, "Eat healthier, lose weight, ignore all of the bad for you foods". I can't speak for the rest of you, but as for myself, well let's just say I have tried ALL types of diets. I have even tried one that has you to eat flaxseed oil on nothing but a bed of greens. Let me be the first and last to inform you, it SUCKED! There was nothing good about that diet! In case you have never tried flaxseed oil, allow me to spare your taste buds,(and stomach), don't try it, gross. Yes you will lose weight, because you are going to starve to death!!
Maybe I am just a food-snob, at least that is what my friends say. I just have a hunkering for tasty food. But, I, like most of America have vowed to eat healthier( at least for a few weeks). I discovered this wonderful little book by Bethenny Frankel. She is one of the women from The Real Housewives of New York. I don't watch the show, but her new recipe book rocks! The Skinnygirl Dish. It has some great recipes and she offers alternative subsitutions in case you may not have an ingrediant or do not like one. I took one of the chicken recipes and added a salad and brown rice. It was fabulous! My kids ate most everything on their plate. Which is an accomplishment in its own! I have included my menu below and hope you will try it. Afterall, who knows how long before its back to pasta and pizza!

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This is the Spiced Rubbed Chicken with Mustard-Green Onion Sauce:

3-4 boneless,skinless chicken breasts
Sea Salt
Spice Rub:

1 tsp. each of paprika, chili powder, cumin, ground mustard, white (or regular) pepper and tyme.

*Preheat grill, or oven. (I cooked on the grill) Rinse and dry the chicken breasts. Rub Spice Rub onto the chicken. Grill til desired doneness.

Cook Brown Rice according to package directions.

Mustard-Green Onion Sauce:

1/4 c. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey or agave nectar
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
s&p to taste
1/4 c. finely chopped green onions

*Mix all ingredients together

* Spoon the brown rice onto a plate and place the chicken on top. Top with the mustard sauce. YUM-MY!


Toasted Pecan, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

This is soooo good and good for you too! You can have seconds without feeling guilty!

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Ingredients:

1/2 c. toasted chopped pecans
1/4 dried cherries
1 chopped pear
Mixed greens (raddicio, arugula, etc..)
Crumbled goat cheese
Vinegrette of you choice ( I like a sun-dried tomato)

Mix ingredients in bowl an top with vinegrette.

I hope you enjoy, I did!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hello New Year!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and I pray this new year holds many blessings for each and every one of you! Whew! This holiday season was VERY busy, but so enjoyable. The many get togethers were wonderful and I couldn't have better friends and family to share them with. There is something about the beginning of a new year that makes me want to take charge! I start the race with too much energy and before I can get to the finish line, I have given out of gusto. Alas, this year shall be different. Life is too short and I intend to take it by the reigns! So, after you have eaten your black-eyed peas (for luck), the turnips (for money) and gobbled up the last of the cornbread (for gold), grab your life by the horns and take off!
Ok, now that I have liberated myself, it is time to take the Christmas decorations down and store them until next season. I am thankful that I did not put out too many decorations this year, as in the past. My theme was, " The simpler, the better". I guess I went green this past year, using natural accessories and allowing mother nature to have her shining moment. I often think about when Christ was born. That was the first Christmas. There were no trees alit with lights, no mantles adorned with stockings, no cozy fire and no garland to welcome visitors at the door. There was only a dirty stable with animals and the frigid night air to blanket Mary and her newborn baby. The only comforting light was the star of Bethlehem. But oh, the fellowship that took place! As a mother I can only imagine at what it must have been like to be Mary. To give birth to the Savior of the world! And I for one am so thankful she did!
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