Search This Blog

Friday, December 31, 2010

What a Wonderful after Christmas Present! Great Family Fun night idea! Hot Fudge Sauce and Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream

I am blessed with some of the most wonderful neighbors.  After we moved into our home, two ladies in our neighborhood brought a delicious meal of Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Green Beans, Rolls, and Pie to celebrate the birth of our second child.  That was the first of many tasty food gifts from our neighbor.  As we had been visiting family for Christmas, Ms. Jane delivered our Christmas present last night!  And oh what a gift it was!
Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce along with a gallon of Peppermint Candy Cane Ice Cream!  What a fabulous gift it has been!  And what a great idea!  My family has enjoyed it immensely!
Side note - this Peppermint Candy Cane ice cream is amazing!  Crunchy red and green bits of peppermint in each smooth vanilla bite!  Heat the Hot Fudge Sauce, scoop the ice cream, pour sauce over the ice cream and Enjoy!
Wouldn't this be a great Family Fun idea?  When everyone begins to focus again on budgets and money saving ideas, stay at home for an ice cream treat instead of going to an expensive Creamery Chain.  Make a batch of Homemade Fudge Sauce.  Buy a gallon of ice cream and the grocery store, maybe even some sprinkles.  Think of the memories you can create with your family!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Italian Roast with Whipped Garlic Potatoes

Big Guy stopped at the grocer on his way home for lunch today and brought a fresh cut Bone In Rib Roast.  Essentially, a small version of a Standing Rib Roast - a little over 2 pounds.  As the pork loin for dinner was slow to thaw, I changed the main dish to beef.  Feeling a little adventuresome and wanting a "hearty" kind of meal, I created an Italian Rib Roast dish.
This could easily be used for lesser expensive cuts of meat as well - by the time I took it out of the pan for dinner, it was falling off the bone!

You will need:
2 Tablespoons oil - vegetable or olive oil
1/2 Onion chopped - all vegetables, coarsely chopped, in chunks
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chicken broth or white wine
1 can stewed tomatoes (I used frozen from the summer - Thank you Dear Mother!)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in large pan on cooktop, Medium high heat.  Salt and Pepper Beef.  

Add Beef to Hot oil in pan.

Sear for 2 minutes each side.
Take Beef out of pan. Add veggies, sauteing and getting all the yummy goodness off the bottom of the pan.

Cook veggies 5 minutes.  Add chicken broth.  Stir.  Add Tomatoes.  Heat and let bubble for several minutes - 5-8 minutes.
Here's a little side note/story......  Number 4 was due and arrived the beginning of July this summer.  My parents are retired but to occupy my Daddy's time, he has 2 greenhouses.  Beginning in January, my father plants seeds - tomatoes especially.  The first several hundred plants he sales to backyard farmers.  Others he plants.  He plants quite a few tomato plants along with summer squash and cucumber plants.  The produce is sold, given to local food banks, delivered to neighbors, etc.  My Mother spends many many hours in the early hours of summer picking cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes.  Rotating the fruits of their labors, they are very particular of selling any over-ripe vegetables.  When my Mother came to lend a hand in our household as we welcomed Number 4, she came armed with dozens and dozens of ripe tomatoes.  Now, my family enjoys tomatoes but many a gallon Ziploc bag was filled with peeled tomatoes and frozen.  I now add them into the mix of spaghetti sauce, soups, etc.
So, instead of grabbing a can of tomato paste or stewed tomatoes, I went to a freezer and grabbed a 1/2 full bag with about 7 frozen tomatoes.  Thawed in the microwave, drained a bit of the excess water and added to the veggies and broth.  Sliced with a fork and knife.
Add spices.

Add Beef back to pan.  Turn to simmer.  I am a lucky gal who has a wonderful cooktop that has a true simmer with a low simmer option.  That is what I turned on and walked away to do other activities in the house.  Checked back in about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

This was the final result - literally falling off the bone!
Whipped Potatoes can be checked out here!

Linked to Real Food Wednesday

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Burgers! A little Ketchup, Onion, Mayo - how about You???

I LOVE burgers!  I can remember one summer literally eating a burger a day.  Of course, I was around 13 with a fast metabolism and probably didn't eat too much else for the day!  Can't quite do that as I slide close to 40!  But burgers are still a fast, good sit down to dinner meal at home for us.  And even when the thermometer shows the temperature in the 30s, I fire up our gas grill.  Kind of neat to crunch in the snow while grilling hamburgers.
Burgers are one of those foods that are easily adaptable.  Want to make them "healthier"  - go ground turkey or even a Black Bean burger?  Want to jazz them up a bit - dice jalapeno, tomato, and add shredded cheese for a South of the Border twist!  What about sauteing mushrooms and sliced onions in a pan and topping the hamburger with Swiss cheese on a bun?  The possibilities are endless!  Just think of the chain restaurants who have made a fortune just serving Hamburgers!  Red Robin - Yummmm!  First one to pop in my head!
Tonight, I simply added dry onion soup mix you purchase in packets at the grocery store, 4 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, and 2 teaspoons garlic powder to our 2 lbs of Ground Beef. For a good juicy burger, I recommend ground beef with 80/20 ratio.  93/7 is much leaner - and healthier - but you do loose a bit of flavor.  I pat my hamburgers out by hand.  From 2 lbs of beef, I made 6 burgers.  If Big Guy had been making them, it would have been 5 BIG burgers.  The grill is a hot 350 -365 degrees.  We use a gas grill and only fire the back and front burners, not the middle, for indirect heat cooking.  I grill them for 8-9 minutes per side, adding sliced cheese the last 2 minutes to melt.  Slide onto a whole wheat bun!  A slice of American Heaven!

Menu Week Dec 27th - Jan 1

The week after Christmas and New Year's is always a curve ball in our routine.  We are either coming or going in travels, Big Guy off for a few days in between the holidays.  Just not the norm.  Thus, planning my weekly menu on Tuesday night vs. Sunday. 

Dinner at Family

Pizza after a long afternoon on the road travelling (delayed a day thanks to 14 in of snow!)

Burgers and Fries

Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate and Chipolte Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Broccoli

Italian Sausage and Cannelloni Bean Soup

Crockpot Boeuf Bourguignon

Traditional Southern Dinner for New Year's Day
Collard Greens
Black Eyed Peas
Buttered Corn

This menu has been shared with Menu Planning Monday

Back in my Kitchen!!!!

After being away for several days visiting family for the holidays, I am back in my kitchen.  Oh, how I have missed it!  A relaxing break is enjoyed - and often needed - every once in a while.  But I am a gal of routine.  I enjoy planning out our weekly menu, heading to the grocery store with purpose.  Prepping and cooking dinner most nights.  I get comfort from those routine actions.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoy and greatly appreciate someone else's good cooking (did I mention the oyster dressing with crab meat Christmas Day dinner?  Oh My!).  But I also enjoy feeding my family from my own kitchen.  And I am back.  Where I belong!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to Each of you!  Time in my kitchen is such a gift to me - I am feeding my family and friends plus also my soul with warm memories!  Looking back over this year, I can recall times of making large and small meals!  Birthday celebrations for the children,

 arrival of a new child when many, many friends brought meals to us,

grilling outside, baking inside.  Enjoying Thanksgiving with family, Christmas luncheon with even more family.  Watching Teen discover she enjoys baking - her signature dish so far, Brownies!  Memories of family members enjoying many, MANY of those brownies - *smile*!  Warms my heart!  This year, the Boys - ages 3,2 - enjoyed cracking eggs, stirring batter, mashing potatoes. 

They have also joined their older sister in sitting the table for our evening meal.  Having friends over to "experiment" in the kitchen.  Watching the Big Guy make breakfast for us on the weekend.  The kitchen holds so many wonderful memories for me.  So as you enjoy your Christmas Holiday, I hope you and your family are making memories in the kitchen!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Focaccia Bread - thanks to the muscle of the Bread Machine

The Big Guy likes tools.  Tools for his yard, around the house, to fix trains and transformers that power the trains.  Tools in general.  But a tool needs to have a purpose before it enters our home (or at the least a general guide of potential use).
The kitchen is no different.  When I met Big Guy, he cooked, and cooked well he did! That was one of the zillion reasons I fell hard for him, he could romance me with food!  And he still enjoys cooking - just this weekend, he prepared 3 different meals.  All because he wanted to do so, no asking needed.  Some may ask why doesn't he cook more often - he likes to eat right?  Well, I like to buy a few things (food, clothing, gas, get the picture) every once in a while so his job is to provide for our family and mine is to take care of them.  We meet in the middle often.
Back to tools in the kitchen.... Big Guy had a fabulously stocked kitchen of cookware and gadgets when I met him.  He still likes to acquire nice kitchen accessories.  Two years ago, we purchased a bread machine.  I go through spells using it.  It sits in a top cabinet so I "forget" about it.  But when I do pull it out to use, I am always happy.  It is super to use - especially to knead and proof breads.  This Focaccia Bread recipe is no different.  It is nice to be able to toss all the ingredients in the bread machine, set it to "dough" setting and walk away.  All I had to do was "punch" the bread down once, let it rise again and bake.  Oh so easy!  And nothing smells more warm and inviting than fresh baked bread in the kitchen!

Honey Soy Wahoo with Quinoa Pilaf

I am very blessed to have a family member who lives at the NC coast.  Every visit, our freezer is stocked of various fish - wahoo, tuna, peanut dolphin, and flounder.  I grew up in the middle of NC where the only kind of fish we ate was fried flounder at Seafood houses (restaurants that were normally just open for the weekend).  So the Big Guy has broadened my horizons in the seafood department.  I still can't tell you the difference when looking at frozen fish of tuna, wahoo, or dolphin.  But typically how I cook them doesn't matter.
Yes, we live in the South and enjoy fried just about anything.  But finding other recipes for fish is nice.  Grilling and broiling fish are very enjoyable to my family as well.
Fish is so easy - and fast!   The quinoa pilaf took longer to cook than the fish.
Once the fish was thawed, I mixed the marinade of soy sauce, honey, vinegar, ginger, and scallions.  Spooned it over the fish to marinate - I did mine for about 30 minutes as that was when I had my hands free.  The recipe calls for 15 minutes. 

Fish marinating
To broil, I sprayed non-stick cooking spray in a dish, placed the fish in the dish and under the broiler for about 7 minutes.  Great sweet and sour flavor from the vinegar and honey.  Everyone - including the 2 year old - enjoyed it!  Honey Soy Broiled Fish is a keeper!  Clink of the recipe link for exact measurements.
Quinoa is a favorite in our family.  The Teen gets excited when she sees it on the weekly menu.  Too bad she ate at a buffet from a Christmas dinner elsewhere tonight!
If you are unfamiliar with Quinoa, find it on the aisle with rice.  It's another grain that you can use in place of rice and full of nutrition.  Great nutty taste that you can do so much!  Quinoa Pilaf was so yummy!  The 2 year old ate all that was on the plate pictured and asked for 2, yes TWO, MORE servings!  Bonus, he was enjoying his veggies as well.

Quinoa Pilaf (from the back of Earthly Delights bag)

1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (this takes the bitter flavor out of it)
2 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken as that was on hand)
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped (I omitted)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in saucepan over med high heat.  Cook onion in oil for 5 min or until translucent.  Add carrot and cook for 3 min.  Stir in quinoa and broth, bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender and fluffy.  In a separate bowl, toss quinoa together with walnuts and parsley.  Can be served hot or room temperature.

This recipe is linked to MouthWatering Mondays.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs - my "Go to" meal

Everyone should have a "Go To" meal in their pantry and freezer.  Nothing fancy, just to feed hungry stomachs and souls.  My "Go To" meal is Spaghetti and Meatballs. And go ahead and faint, I don't make my sauce from fresh tomatoes nor do I make my own meatballs.  Have done both in the past, and enjoy it.  But sometimes, the grocery store is your friend.  We keep frozen meatballs in our freezer, jars of Spaghetti sauce (pick your favorite) and whole wheat noodles in the pantry.
When we have it on hand, I like to add Italian Sausage links.  So the family has a choice, meatballs or sausage.  We have used Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage.  Typically the Hot Italian sausage made by the butchers at our local Grocery store is not "too" spicy.  The sausages take a chunk of time to cook on the griddle - I would cook them 30 minutes, flipping halfway at 350 degrees.
The meatballs I use can be popped in the microwave to heat. 
I do like to saute a bit of chopped onion and garlic in a pan with a little splash of olive oil.  Add the ready made Spaghetti sauce.  I prefer to add several tablespoons of oregano and basil.  Add the meatballs and sausage.  Let simmer together while cooking the pasta.
Why in the world am I posting about using store bought items?  Because it is perfectly fine and acceptable to use these items.  Not everyone has the time to make a homemade sauce, pasta, and bread (though my bread machine does all my work!).  Convenience and Priorities - you have to decide.  For me, the most important part of a meal is all of us sitting together as a family.  Eating at home is a necessity for our budget.  And right now, with all the other "stuff" we have to enjoy the holidays, this kind of meal fits perfectly!

Menu for the Week Dec 20 - 25 Christmas Week!

My mind is so far into gifts, Christmas meals, and making Christmas memories with the family!  Menu planning for this week is super simple.  Every meal does not have to be totally prepared from Scratch!  The moments I can spend with the kids and the Big Guy are more important that which recipe I razzled and dazzled in the kitchen.  So if you feel you don't have the time to prepare meals from scratch, take a lead from Food Network's Sandra Lee and let it be semi-homemade!

Spaghetti and Meatballs along with Italian Sausage
Focaccia Bread

Honey Soy Broiled Fish
Peas and Carrots


Meal on the Go

Christmas Eve Appetizers

Christmas Dinner (aka I'm not cooking!)

This menu is linked to Menu Plan Monday

Appetizers for Christmas Eve

Finger foods are planned for our Christmas Eve celebration this year.  The anticipation of an extra large Christmas dinner helped us to plan an easy, casual approach to Christmas Even dinner.  So no rushing in the kitchen, no formal sitting, just time to get the kids ready for bed, have Santa's cookies and milk in place, head outside to sprinkle a little Reindeer food!  The Big Guy and I are in charge of Christmas Eve dinner.  On our menu is:
Boiled Shrimp with cocktail sauce
Crab dip with crackers
Bacon Water Chestnut Wraps
Vegetable Trip with Dip
Focaccia Bread

Shrimp are very easy to boil!  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Drop shrimp into water.  Check on the shrimp after a minute.  When the shrimp begin to rise to the top of the water, they are done - typically 2-3 minutes depending on how many you have in the pot.  Turn off the heat.  Drain shrimp into a strainer.

Cocktail Sauce - making homemade cocktail sauce is simple. 
Ketchup - 3/4 cup
Horseradish - 2-3 tablespoons (more if you like it hot and spicy, less if you don't)
Grate onion - 2 tablespoons
Worcestershire sauce - 2 tablespoons
Lemon juice - 1 tablespoon
Mix all the above together.  Consider this a guide, you can adjust to your taste.

Crab Dip
Cream Cheese - 8 oz
Mayonnaise - 1 cup
Grated onion - 4 tablespoons
Mustard - 2 tablespoons
Cooking Sherry or White wine - 3/4 cup
Worcestershire - 4 tablespoons
Crab meat - 8 oz

Melt cream cheese in a pan on cooktop on Medium Heat.  Add mayo, onion, mustard, and Worcestershire  Stir well.  Add Cooking Sherry or White wine (I often use wine as it is already open).  Heat thoroughly for 3 minutes till it begins to bubble.  Add crab meat.  Let heat for another 5 minutes on Medium Low.
We like to add a few dashes of hot sauce as well.  Serve with crackers, warm.

These are so easy it's truly ridiculous!  Equal parts Ketchup and Grape jelly.  Blend the two together till smooth.  Put the two in either a crockpot or in a pot on the cooktop.  In the crock pot, heat on High for at least 4 hours along with Meatballs.  I use the precooked frozen ones.  You can easily substitute Turkey Meatballs as well.  On the cooktop, heat on Medium High heat along with Meatballs for about 20 minutes, stirring often.  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chocolate Chess Pie - Not a crumb was left!

For our family soup and sandwich luncheon, we had several dessert choices.  Pumpkin Roll, Buckeyes, Cookie Dessert, Mini Cupcakes, and Chocolate Chess Pie with homemade Whipped Cream were all on the table!  And all were so good!  But my favorite of the day was the Chocolate Chess Pie.  I made it the night before.  It was so easy!  Another mom from a local discussion board had shared the recipe and Ginny was kind enough to allow me to share it with you!  So decadent and slightly sinful!  Hope you bake one soon!

Chocolate Chess Pie
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar (I probably use 3/4 cup...the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups...too much for me!)
3 eggs well beaten
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of salt

Melt butter in saucepan, add cocoa and milk, mix well. Beat together eggs, salt, and sugar. Add cocoa mixture to egg mixture, add vanilla, and mix well.

Bake in preheated 350 oven for 30 minutes.

Snowman Soup!

Surprisingly, we have had snow 3 - yes, Three! - times already in North Carolina!  I love it!  We were enjoying a family Christmas luncheon when we looked out and huge fluffy white flakes were falling from the sky!  How picturesque!
With all of this snow, making mixes called "Snowman Soup" seems quite appropriate!  I first made the Hot Cocoa Mix from Southern Plate provided.  So easy it's ridiculous!  Very budget friendly homemade gift!  I made 8 jars of Hot Cocoa Mix for presents and over 10 Snowman Soup gifts. 18 gifts for less than $10!  For some gifts, I scooped 1/3 of cup into Ziploc sandwich bags.  Added 10 marshmallows, a candy cane, 2 Hershey Kisses and a cute little poem.  All together it made Snowman Soup!
Of course, Teen had to test out both the Cocoa mix and Snowman Soup - two nights in a row!  It is Teen approved!

Oodles of Noodles! Chicken Noodle Soup

One family tradition we started just a few years ago was our immediate family (my parents and siblings' families) gather for a soup and sandwich luncheon.  We then enjoy watching the grand kids open their presents, playing games, and overall good family time!  Since we typically have another traditional Christmas meal on Christmas Day with turkey, ham and all the sides, we decided to change it up a bit - and make it easy on ourselves.  I make two soups and my sisters bring sandwich choices for us to have a nice buffet.  The soup selections were New England Corn Chowder (a friend's recipe) and Grandma's Chicken Noodle Soup.  Both were so tasty and simple!  I'll post the recipe to the Chowder another time.  The Chicken Noodle Soup was perfect!  Highly suggest this recipe!  I used chicken from a store bought rotisserie chicken (why do more work than you need), cut up celery and carrots, added chicken broth, seasonings and store bought German egg noodles called Spaetzle.  I picked several bags of these noodles the other day at a favorite bargain grocery store, Aldi.  They are a German based company so when October rolls around, great German and European delights show up in their stores for fabulous prices!  Side note - if you love good chocolate - and I don't mean Hershey, much better - check out their European chocolates.  They taste just like Belgium chocolates we ate in the little Chocolatiers along cobblestone streets in Brussels!  Back to the soup - add all the ingredients as well as a little bit on cornstarch mixed with water. I left mine on the cooktop on low simmer for a bit so I would be ready prior to family arriving. It was SO SO good!   Great meal for anytime - cold night, week night, or if you have the sniffles!

Linked to Finding Joy in my Kitchen 2010 Soup Countdown

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brittle - Warning, quite addictive!

Every year, I enjoy making goodies to give as gifts to teachers, friends, neighbors, and family.  I have my staples - chocolate dipped pretzels and peanut butter crackers - but I like to find new ideas as well.  Cookie Dough Brittle is a recipe A Whisk and A Prayer shares with us on her blog.  And it is very adaptable.  You can use chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, heath pieces, peanut butter chips, etc.  I had several bags of peanut butter chips so that is what I used.  Very easy to make - softened butter, vanilla, sugar, flour, salt and chips.  Mix all together, spread out on parchment paper (I used a large rectangle bar pan from Pampered Chef - LOVE IT!) and bake for 20 minutes.  Leave it out to cool completely.  Break into pieces!  That's it! 
The Big Guy is not as crazy about sweets as he is salty but he took several pieces of this brittle with him as he passed through the kitchen one evening!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Guest post on Wonderland Kitchen!

Go check me out!  I am so honored to have been asked to be a guest post on Wonderland Kitchen!  Perfect winter meal - Vegetable Beef Soup!  So go visit, enjoy Katie's blog, and Have a fabulous Day!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ornamental Oranges

Sometimes you really can learn something from teenagers.  Teen has several blogs - mostly of the crafting kind - that she enjoys reading during her computer time.  The other day, I glanced at the screen during her time and saw Dried Oranges!  Every year, there are a handful of "old-fashioned" ornaments or decorations that I intend to make but never do!  This year I can cross one off my list!
Natural Suburbia shows us how to make Handmade Ornaments (or in my case, decorations) using oranges and cinnamon.
Mine are a wee bit different.  I used tangerines as that's what I had on hand.  And since they were smaller than oranges, a cinnamon stick did not look proportional so we didn't use one.  I sprinkled cinnamon on some of my slices.
I sliced the tangerines, placing them on a baking sheet.  Popped in the oven at 275 degrees for an hour.  Lowered temp to 225 degrees for another 2 hours.  Great project on a super cold day to heat the house!

After they cooled, we added a bit of pizazz with school glue and glitter.  Simply brushed a little glue on with a brush and sprinkled multi color glitter over them to shimmer in the kitchen light.  Made a hole using scissors and laced ribbon to hang.

I hung mine from a garland I have over my kitchen sink.  Makes the kitchen smell wonderful!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Food - what's on the Menu this week!

The countdown to Christmas is ON!  Are you ready???  I am "almost".  And I say that with my fingers crossed!
So my game plan for feeding the family this week is ease and speed!  Two Christmas programs with the boys, two evening meetings for the Big Guy, a super busy day at the end of the week, and general life all around!  Sounds normal right?
So between fast to make and the crock pot, we should be all set!  And using stuff out of the freezer as much as possible!

Monday (had time and "MEAT" was requested by the Big Guy!"
Boneless Leg of Lamb roast
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli

Chicken quesadillas with red and orange peppers
Black Beans
Toppings - guacamole, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes

BBQ Chicken (crock pot)
Roasted Red Potatoes
Collard Greens

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Homemade Focaccia Bread

Vegetable Beef Soup
Bread from night before

Need more meal ideas, check out Menu Planning Mondays!  I do!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chicken, Bean and Tortellini Soup

Cold, rainy day and a super busy schedule means pull out the crockpot.  And this soup was the perfect meal to end the day!  Of course, it would have been more perfect had my bread rose and been edible but, eh, win some, loose some.  I'll work on the recipe for my bread machine another day...
I adapted the recipe Jaimie posted for her Chicken and White Bean Soup.  Half the battle was won as I pulled frozen already cooked, chopped chicken from the freezer.
CHICKEN AND WHITE BEAN SOUP4 c low sodium chicken stock (or enough to cover meat)
4 c fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 c celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (fat trimmed)
Put raw chicken in the bottom of the crock pot. Add the rest of the ingredients. Make sure the broth covers all the ingredients. Turn crock pot on high and cook for 4 hours. Take chicken breasts out, shred with two forks, and return to pot. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

I tossed everything else in the crockpot along with the chicken and went about our day, off to the museum with the boys and the Teen to usher at and enjoy "The Nutcracker" ballet.  When I arrived back home, ah, the heavenly smell that welcomed us at the door made the rushing earlier worthwhile.  The Big Guy was stirring the pot as I walked in the kitchen and suggested tortellini to be added.   Brilliant idea! As several of us - including me were starving - I cooked it according to the package directions, adding it to the soup!  YUM!  It was fabulous!

Simply Chocolate Covered Oreos and Pretzels!

Warning - if you are to receive a present from me, these just might be included.  Sorry to ruin your surprise! Shhhhh.....

Some things in life are so simple, they're good.  Chocolate covered pretzels and Oreos are so easy to make but so yummy to eat.  First the pretzels, simply buy snack pretzels and either Almond Bark or white chocolate chips (both in the baking goods aisle).  If you really want to feel like you are baking, go ahead and melt the chocolate/almond bark in a double boiler.  I go for convenience and pull out a microwave safe dish.  Empty the bag into the bowl.  Pop it into the microwave for 1 minute intervals.  You might need to do 30 second intervals if your microwave is newer than 10 years old - mine is not!  It's still working so we have not replaced it.  That - use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without kind of philosophy!  In my microwave, a bag of white chocolate chips took 2 min 30 seconds to melt. 
Now pay attention, this is the hard part....

Dump a handful of pretzels into the chocolate.  Stir.  Really difficult, eh???  Have waxed paper or parchment paper already lining your counter or cookie sheet.  Take individual pretzels with the fork, tap the side of the dish a few times to shake off excess

and place on waxed paper.  That simple!  If you are feeling festive, sprinkle sugar crystals over the pretzels.

Oreos are the same.  And if you want to change up a bit, use dark or semisweet chocolate.  A bonus was finding Peppermint Oreos.  We dipped those in white chocolate and sprinkled crushed candy canes on top.  Teen gave her grand approval of those especially!

This post has been shared on Tasty Tuesday with Beauty and Bedlam!  Go Enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Amazing Pork Tenderloin in the Slow Cooker!

I switched up the menu of tonight to another night's dinner to make it more convenient to make two copies of my dinner.  Why would I need to two of a meal?  To give a fellow mom a night off from cooking so she and her husband can enjoy their brand spanking new addition to their family.  Having a newborn is tiring - just ask any mom or dad, but add a newborn with a very active 2 year old, even more tiring!  When our children were born, friends, family and neighbors gave meal assistance that was greatly appreciated!  It's nice to be able to pass that along to others!
Speaking of being busy with kids, due to my lack of planning last night prior to bed, I remembered at 5 AM that I had not taken the Pork Tenderloins out of the freezer downstairs in our basement.  At 5 AM this morning, I had already been awaken several times and was falling asleep sitting up on the couch with the 5 month old.  Walking downstairs was last on my list at that hour!  So I didn't pull the pork out to defrost until the morning hours.  Thus, my plan of cooking in the crock pot went out the window.  But that was no problem as the heat from the oven was welcomed today.  Did I mention how frigid cold it has been lately???? 
This Amazing Pork Tenderloin was so easy to cook!  White wine, onion soup mix, a bit of soy sauce, water, and garlic - mix all together.  Poured over pork tenderloin - mine was 3 lbs of meat.  Cooked at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes.  It was so tasty!  And I made a gravy out of the juice from the cooked meat.  It was beyond yummy!  Full of flavor!  Great flavors that just needed simple sides - steamed broccoli, cooked white rice, and salads.  Definitely a keeper in the recipe box!

Say Cheese!

Several years back, the Big Guy and I ventured across the pond for a few days and nights.  We enjoyed seeing Europe decorated by Holiday decorations, an outdoor ice rink in the town square, candles lighting windows in churches and cathedrals.  It was fabulous!  So many sites to enjoy and absorb.  Just the "European Flair" was great!  And we enjoyed the local fare at the eateries.  One evening, we shopped the local grocer and dined on cheeses, breads, and pate along with wine.  What a great meal that was!  One of Big Guy's favorite cheese we dined on that evening was Old Edam Cheese.  So much so, we brought home 5 rounds of it in our only luggage we took with us (for a week!) - our carry on bags!  It was that important to the Big Guy for us to make extra room for his cheese!
Since our trip, we have ordered Old Edam Cheese from the best Cheese Farm - Henri Willig.  Big Guy treated himself to an early Christmas present and it arrived last week.  His Edam cheese has been enjoyed by everyone in the house!  It arrived with a 15% off coupon for any future orders.  Big Guy had intended to use this coupon code in the near future.  Me, not being a mind reader, tossed his order info out with the trash!  Ooops!  Bad wife!  So to make up for my goof, I emailed the customer service department of Henri Willig, explaining my predicament and asked for help!  Lightning fast, Nico from customer service emailed me the coupon code and bonus - offered it to all of my readers!   How great was that! 
So if you have a cheese fan you need to purchase a gift, or even would like one for yourself, go check out their assortment of cheeses!  They have many kinds - Gouda, Herb, Goat, Pesto, Fenugreek, and many many more.  And any kind of accessories you could need to go alongside your cheese!  At checkout, please use the promotion code EMA1225 which will give you a 15% discount
(valid until December 31st 2010).

Peppermint Bark Hot White Cocoa - Yippee!

I recently posted on the ease of making Peppermint Bark.  You can not imagine how giddy I became when I found The Weekend Gourmet AND Wendy's post on making your own Peppermint Bark Hot White Cocoa!  It brought back the smells of Pumpkin White Hot Chocolate and how easy it was to make such a yummy treat!  So I was tickled when I read through the instructions for making yet another delicious concoction at home, Peppermint Bark Hot White Cocoa.  What more reminiscent of the Holidays than peppermint?  And the perfect treat to make to warm up after battling the ahem, "cool" temps we are currently having - 30 degrees in the Carolinas, *shock* in DECEMBER!!!!  Chill - Brrrrr!  Wouldn't it be great to have a few friends over, enjoying cups of this Hot Cocoa with a few Christmas treat?

Lamb Chops with Tzatziki Sauce

Don't let the name fool you - think of grilling a steak and using steak sauce.  This meal is just that simple - but in my opinion, so much better!  The Big Guy has discovered that our warehouse club store carries lamb chops for a pretty fair price.  He made a trip there the other evening after seeing a client.  For a family of 6, we (I) appreciate a warehouse to buy many items in bulk!  Having rolls and rolls of tissue paper and paper towels on hand, well it's handy!
So we changed the menu a bit for last night and had Lamb Chops with Tzatziki Sauce, mashed potatoes, and salad.  The Lamb Chops marinated in an easy marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt and rosemary.  The Big Guy grilled them - even with ice on the deck!  Heated the grill for about 10 minutes (it was only 30 degrees last night!).  Grill about 4-5 minutes on each side. Beautiful and tender!
The Tzatziki Sauce sounds fancy but it's very easy.  Simply, peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber mixed with Greek yogurt (or sour cream), vinegar, garlic, dill and mint.
One key is to allow your cucumber to drain a bit.  I accomplish this by putting the seeded, chopped cucumber in a strainer with a coffee filter in it.
Add in the Greek yogurt - and I have used sour cream in the past when needed to substitute.  Spices added.

Let set in the fridge for at least an hour or two, longer if you can.  The flavors blend together and are fabulous!  So much so the 2 year old was eating it with a spoon last night!

Sour Cream Pound Cake - a Tried and True recipe!

To me, some of the best desserts are the simple ones.  They bring back childhood memories.  Every October, my elementary/middle school hosted the most fabulous Fall Festival.  The Fall Festival was like none I have attended in the recent years.  The gymnasium was full of games made by parents, supervised by teachers and parents.  One of my favorites was "Go Fish" where you tossed your fishing line over the "pond" aka wooden board hiding the "fish" that tossed it back with a prize!  Basketball toss, Raffle Tickets, and even a Talent Show!  And there was always a Cake Walk!  My sweet tooth then loved a Cake Walk as much as I would now!  Walking around the circle as the music planned, hoping to land on the "right" number that would be chosen to win - what else, A Cake!  And these cakes were homemade - red velvet, carrot cake, and my favorite, Pound Cake!
So when I was deciding today what dessert to bake for a meal I will be taking to a family with a brand new addition, I thought, Pound Cake would be great!  And this recipe is so easy, no fail!  And so delicious, even the Big Guy who states he doesn't like sweets, takes extra bites!
And if for some reason (like me today), you don't have enough sour cream, you can substitute yogurt or even Greek yogurt for it.  It worked for me today!

Sour Cream Pound Cake

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp grated lemon peel (I used lemon juice as that's what I had on hand)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter softened/melted
8 oz sour cream
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and flour 10"bundt cake pan.  Mix all ingredients together. Pour into cake pan.  Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes until top of cake springs back when touched lightly in center.  Let cake cool completely in pan before trying to take it out.
Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice to drizzle over cake if desired.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Peppermint Bark

Want to WOW someone with a really easy gift of food this holiday?  Here is another idea - Peppermint Bark.  It looks beautiful, tastes so yummy and is easy that the kids can help!  Dark chocolate, white chocolate and peppermint - what could be better!  Big Guy had purchased some the other day and my first thought - after taking a bite - was "I could make this"!  And thanks to brown eyed baker, here are the step by step instructions!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara - the Emily Way!

If you had told me a year ago I could make Spaghetti Carbonara, I would have said, "No way!"  Just the title intimidated me - sounded so sophisticated!  But this meal was so easy, it's ridiculous! 
I had asked the Big Guy to bring home eggs.  Eggs are a crucial ingredient to make Spaghetti Carbonara.  Due to life at the office, he was later than my normal dinner hours.  I had everything prepped ready for the eggs to walk in the door.  Salads were ready minus the dressing, corn sitting on the cooktop, noodles ready.  So as soon as the eggs walked in the door, I had dinner on the table in less than 15 minutes!
I changed the Spaghetti Carbonara recipe to accommodate what was in my fridge and pantry.  Instead of bacon, I used thinly sliced, slivers of Smithfield ham from our Thanksgiving dinner.  Instead of spaghetti, I used linguine noodles.  And a chunk of Reggiano cheese was in the fridge, so I grated it instead of Parmesan.  Last change, I tossed in green peas from last night's dinner as well.  If cleaned plates are a review, the boys gave it 5 stars!  They sat and ate, no talking, no playing.  Very simple but flavorful meal!
Spaghetti Carbonara is simply bacon (or ham in my case) cooked, then sauteed with minced garlic.  Add white wine.  In a seperate dish, beat eggs, add cheese.  Add the egg mixture and ham mixture to the hot pasta with a little bit of hot water from the cooked pasta.  Mix all together and say a Big YUM!  That's how simple it is!  Perfect meal for entertaining as well!
Lynn and her kitchen adventures posted this fabulous recipe of Spaghetti Carbonara.  It was so good!  Hope you enjoy it with a glass of white wine!
Featured on Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday and All the Small Stuff's Tuesdays at the Table!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gift of Fruit Crisp

Have I ever mentioned how much I love convenience?  Over the past few years, I have gotten better (not perfect by far) but better of having the basics on hand in my pantry.  This has been a lifesaver when company pops in for dinner at a few hours notice.  With 3 little ones under 5, rushing to a grocery store is the last thing I find convenient.  So to have staple goods on hand that I can whip into a dessert is my saving grace and sanity!
This is one of the most perfect gifts to pass that saving grace and sanity along to friends and family.  All but the butter that you would need to make a fruit crisp in a nice little gift bag!  How perfect!  Christy over at shows us a super simple recipe to make the "crisp" and how to incorporate our children in the "decorating".  And the choices of fruit is up to you - blueberry, apple, peaches, whatever tickles your fancy!  I love this idea!

CrockPot Meatloaf - doesn't get any easier than this!

Mondays should be easy. Period.  And what better why to make life easy than to have dinner waiting for you as you walk in the door?  This was one of those meals!  And this is a great basic recipe for Crock Pot Meatloaf.  I only used 1 lb of hamburger meat, adding 1/2 cup of oatmeal as my traditional recipes for meatloaf call for it.  Also a way to cheat and make meat stretch a bit in the budget.  I didn't have tomato soup on hand and since I don't run to the store for just one item, I used a bit of ketchup instead.  Simply mix egg, hamburger, onion soup mix, (oatmeal in mine) all together - go ahead, get those hands messy!  Place mixture in the crockpot.  Pour cream of mushroom soup, then tomato soup (mine was ketchup).  Cook on low 8 hours - I did high for 4 hours  It was good - a little different, but made me realize how easy meatloaf in the crock will be in the future.  I would probably skip the cream of mushroom soup and use some sort of gravy.
This size meatloaf worked out perfectly for our family as the Big Guy shucked about 25 oysters this evening. My wonderful Brother in Law and his fabulous wife kayaked into the waters around Hatteras, harvesting fresh oysters before Thanksgiving.  They have been housed in our downstairs fridge for a few days.  The Big Guy loves Oysters!  Just loves them - if he had his choice, our Thanksgiving meal would be oysters.  But he doesn't have complete say so it isn't.  Anyway, he had requested fried oysters this evening.  I had never fried oysters but thanks to the handy internet, I was soon skilled enough to tackle the request.  The Big Guy also decided he wanted some of those oysters in his childhood oysters stew.  So we worked together in the kitchen, he making oyster stew, me frying oysters.  One of the reasons I love this man!  Here is the Big Guy's recipe for oyster stew:
Simple fresh oyster stew

shucked oysters with juice
equal parts cream (we used skim milk) and melted butter

Heat oysters and liquid in one pot - low heat.  Melt butter in another pot, adding milk or cream slowly.  Stir on low heat to prevent curdling.  Slowly add the two pots together.  That easy!  And so delicious!

Fried oysters

shucked oysters
Milk to cover them
equal parts flour and breadcrumbs
cast iron skillet with the bottom covered with oil

Cover oysters in a dish with milk.  Let them soak in the milk for 10 min.  Heat oil - the key is the oil needs to be HOT for frying.  To test, sprinkle a dash of dry bread crumbs in the oil.  If it bubbles as though it is cooking immediately, you are good to go! Dredge oysters in breading mixture, coat all of the oyster.  Go ahead and play with your food and use your fingers to do this step.  It helps.  Place oysters in oil.  Cook 2 - 3 min on each side till golden brown.  Delicious!  The three year old tasted and asked for MORE - twice!