Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of another year....

As the end of 2010 approaches, I look back at what has been a difficult year. Pain has been my constant companion since March. Knee surgery in April and a fall in August has kept me down for the majority of the year. It has been unsettling and disheartening to say the least. When you are a mom and told "to stay off your feet", you can't help but laugh at the pure ridiculousness of that statement!

I have come through some dark days and sorted through some major feelings. I am ending the year on a hopeful tone. There are brighter days and that is a truth I can believe now. I can also see the light at the end of the tunnel, I will feel better and better each day. My knee will never be 100%, but at least I can walk and that is more than what some people have. Empathy for others in pain comes easy to me now. It is definitely something you can't understand unless you have been there.

My kids have been an enormous source of pride and happiness through this. Grace is so ready to cheer me up or help me around the house. All the while keeping her grades up and turning into quite a young lady. Dylan is my source of laughter! You can't be down long with him around! Both of my kids have a special purpose in this world and I love watching it unfold.

Cal, I would be lost with him. God was competely amazing for placing him in my life.

This year has been filled with new adventures, new pains, exciting news, and honestly, I wouldn't change a thing. Even through bad patches, we learn something for the future.
My New Year's Resolution: Be better (better Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend, etc..) Get stronger (never give up on myself, mentally or physically) Judge less (God just may put you in their shoes and then what?) People do what they can with what they have. Be forgiving (even of the people who seemingly don't deserve it in our eyes)
That's alot, I know. And I am sure I will fail a time or two (or twenty) but the point is to make yourself aware and try. All we can do is try. If we fail, try again. If we succeed, then who knows what can be accomplished!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Baking

If someone makes German Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies for you, they REALLY love you!Tasty and festive cherry-cranberry pie....yum!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Savory Sides

With the holidays approaching, I have been searching for new ideas for side dishes. And I have a WINNER!! Roasted Cauliflower with red bell pepper, roasted garlic and Parmesan cheese.
It is light but filling and the red bell pepper gives it a festive look
1 head of cauliflower
1 red bell pepper
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, roasted (drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, place in foil and roast at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Cut up cauliflower into florets, chop bell pepper and place both in a 11x7 baking dish. Chop garlic cloves and add to dish. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast at 400 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crisp tender. Top with cheese and bake an additional 5-6 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Celebrate and Decorate!




I love Christmas, I love the lights, the sounds, the smells....all of it! Mostly I love baking and cooking special recipes to delight my family and friends. I look for new things to try, as well as, new twists on old favorites.

For our annual "tree party" (that's what my son calls it when we put up the Christmas tree), I wanted to make something special, something that would make everyone say "Wow!"
I found inspiration from The Proud Italian Cook, you can find her blog here: http://prouditaliancook.blogspot.com/

Eggplant Timbales - little packages of yumminess made with roasted eggplant and filled with small pasta, sauce ( I used some of the Cacciatore sauce I made) and Parmesan cheese....
The main dish I chose was Chicken Cacciatore.......this is heavenly! The sauce is amazing filled with green bell pepper, onions and zucchini
Serve with spaghetti and asiago cheese bread...they definitely said "Wow!"
Enjoy!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Never Forget

It has been six years ago today that I gave birth to my son Spencer Thomas. He never took a breath in this world and I will always miss him. Cal and I were still in the first year of out marriage when we found out we were going to have a baby. The excitement was overwhelming! The plans we made, the dreams we had. After Thanksgiving I just didn't feel well. I went to the doctor alone. He couldn't find a heartbeat. (I was unaware of this at the time) He said he wanted something double checked and I went to the imaging center for an ultrasound.
By this time I was in panic mode and had called my mom. Cal was at work and a little part of me still believed everything would be fine.
It wasn't. The doctor told my mother and I that the baby had died. Apparently a blood clot had blocked the umbilical cord.
I was in the hospital 4 days, being induced into labor. Cal never left my side. I will never forget dancing to Brenda Lee's "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" with Cal the night before. Or the fact that my father-in-law never left Cal's side. It was so important that Cal have that support.
There are so many little memories tucked away. I will never forget.
It is important to remember Spencer, he brought Cal and I closer together in a way that can not be explained.

Every "even" year we buy an ornament for Spencer to add to the family Christmas tree....




Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giving Thanks.....

....it shouldn't be limited to one day. Today I am thankful for my health (hey, it could be wayyy worse), for my family, and for my home.

This morning after we took hubby to the bus stop, the kids and I returned home to see 3 fire trucks, 2 cops and an ambulance on our block. There was smoke and distraught onlookers...my heart sank. The fire was put out fairly quickly and no one was injured. The damaged was somewhat contained in one area. Not sure if they will be able to stay there tonight, the smoke damage and smell may be too bad.

Christmas time is upon us and now this family will have to direct their funds and energy into clean-up. They have 2 kids and my heart hurts for them. These are hard and stressful times, without adding something like this to it.

Too often we forget to STOP and look around at all the blessing we have been granted. I urge you to do that today. There are so many that do without daily, so many that are going through the worst time of their life right this minute. Give Thanks and Give to Others.....we reap what we sow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brighten Your Day with Cranberries!

Nope, not the band, although they can get you moving at times too. Cal is working late today, due to first-of -the-month stuff, so I wanted to bake something to make the house smell yummy and his tummy say "Oh yeah...."

This works well with my mission to find new desserts, salads and sides for Christmas. Cal loves when I am on a mission :)


Cranberries scream Christmas with their beautiful red color....

Cranberries, pecans and sugar line the bottom and a yummy filling of melted butter, sugar, flour and vanilla top it off
Dylan is helping to cool off the tart :)
Hopefully this will brighten Cal's day and be a contender for the holidays!

Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall Days

My beautiful family enjoying a hay ride at the local pumpkin patch :)

Afterwards I attempted a new recipe: Butternut Squash Lasagna
I thought it sounded like the perfect fall dish
The original recipe is from The Proud Italian Cook's blog...you can find her here:http://prouditaliancook.blogspot.com/
I don't usually use ricotta in lasagna...I do not like it, but I thought I would try it again for this recipe.
The line up to layering the lasagna: Butternut Squash chunks, ricotta mixture, and bechamal sauce with roasted garlic and various seasonings, not pictured: mozzarella cheese
ended up being 4 layers!
looking very yummy
All done!
The end result : Very good, very rich and I still do not like ricotta cheese. I will make this again minus the ricotta and replaced with Italian sausage. With the absence of meat, you could almost have a small piece to accompany a steak or other meat. Strange to think of lasagna as a "side dish" but anything is possible!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Favorites

Everyone at my house has a favorite meal and or dessert that they request at least once a month. Dylan's is chocolate chip cookies or any kind of dessert really..lol! Grace loves pumpkin bread, chocolate chess pie, deviled eggs and her favorite main meal is my own Spanish chicken recipe. Cal loves everything but even he has "favorites" : key lime pie, rice pudding, chicken spareribs....actually the list goes on.....I am very lucky to have a hubby who will try anything!

Now a couple of weeks ago Papaw and Mamaw came to visit. We watched Grace play soccer and then headed back home for a home-cooked meal. Harvest Pork roast, whipped potatoes, roasted baby carrots, salad and the finish....Upside Down Apple Pie. This was my first go at it and it has already taken first place in MY favorites :)

If you need something to "wow" someone with, I recommend this delicious pie:
(I needed a large platter and the biggest one I have is the snowman plate...gonna have to correct that;) )

Yes, those are pecans.....oh my goodness!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup shortening, cubed
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

  • PECANS:
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup pecan halves

  • FILLING:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 8 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples

Directions

  • In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt; cover and pulse until blended. Add butter and shortening; pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. While processing, gradually add water until dough forms a ball. Divide dough in half so that one portion is slightly larger than the other; wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until easy to handle.
  • Coat a 9-in. deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray. Line bottom and sides of plate with parchment paper; coat paper with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and butter; stir in pecans. Arrange in the bottom of prepared pie plate with rounded sides of pecans facing down.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out larger portion of dough to fit bottom and sides of pie plate. Transfer to plate; press the crust firmly against pecans and sides of pie plate. Trim edges.
  • In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Add apples; toss to coat. Fill crust. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie; place over filling. Trim and seal edges. Cut slits in pastry.
  • Place a foil-lined baking sheet on a rack below the pie to catch any spills. Bake pie at 375° for 60-70 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully loosen the parchment paper around edge of pie; invert hot pie onto a serving plate. Remove paper. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Yield: 8 servings.
*************I cheated and used Pillsbury's refrigerated pie crust*******************************************

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Down but not out....

With the help of a walking boot, crutch and my mother, I made a fabulous soup for hubby :)
I think this is a keeper for sure! I decided I couldn't wait for cold weather any longer. I needed something comforting for dinner. This soup, or chowder as the recipe refers to it, is wonderfully flavored. Don't skip the cilantro!

Southwest Tortellini Chowder

3 (10 ½ oz) cans condensed chicken broth

1 ½ cups mild chunky-style sauce or picante

½ teaspoon grated orange peel

2 (9oz) pkg refrigerated meat or cheese filled tortellini

2 cups frozen cut broccoli

1 cup frozen corn

½ cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper

1 (5oz) can evaporated milk

Dash of salt

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In Dutch oven or large saucepan, combine broth, salsa and orange peel. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 3 minutes.

Stir in tortellini and vegetables; cook over medium heat 6-9 minutes or until tortellini and vegetables are tender.

Stir in milk and salt; cook 1 to 2 minutes longer or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Do Not Boil. Top each serving of chowder with cilantro. Serve immediately

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just Quiche It

In just a few weeks life will return to the "routine". School, PTA, soccer, meetings, appointments, etc. I have enjoyed the kids' summer this year. Games, crafts, trips to the library and cooking together....no amount of money could buy the time we have spent together. Grace is growing up so quickly and I am thankful that I am present in each stage, the rapport will pay off in the long run. Dylan is changing and growing, no longer the baby of the family. He has his own personality and is making his place in this family. No matter how busy we get, we always have time for evening dinners together and talk about our day. These memories will fill empty days once the kids are gone. For now Cal and I are stocking up and cherishing our time with them.

Dinner tonight is from one of Grace's cookbooks she checked out from the library. She thought we needed a Quiche night :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Fun

Going to the library is a must for us during the summer. The kids enjoying finding new stories to read, as well as old favorites. I like to find craft books to generate some creative play. This time around we found a book on making masks. Robots, butterflies, lady bugs, bears, witches, apple trees....there are dozens to choose from. The kids chose robots and butterflies. The robots are easier of the two, the butterfly is some what time consuming. W didn't have some of the exact supplies it called for, but we made up for it, i.e. bendy straws for antennas :)
I think they had fun!
To make the fun continue, I made the kids' current favorite....chocolate waffle cookies! This is a terrific summer treat, because you do not have to heat up the house! The waffle iron serves to be a handy tool and you can make a batch in under 20 minutes!
1 stick of butter softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 blocks unsweetened chocolate baking squares
1 cup flour

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well. Melt the baking squares in the microwave mix gradually into the batter. Add flour and mix well. Place batter by the teaspoonfuls on ungreased pre-heated waffle iron. Cook for 1 minute and remove. After they have cooled, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.
Yum!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

More chicken, more ideas

I have been on a kick lately and Cal is loving it! Apparently chicken is the inspiration of late....
I call this Pepper Chicken for now, but Cal says it needs a different name. The onion really brought out the flavor of the sauce. It was one of those dishes that you couldn't get enough of! The pepper was not overwhelming, but just enough to compliment the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Steamed rice was the perfect companion. YUM!



Friday, June 25, 2010

Creative Kitchen

Wednesday I felt creative and decided to create my own recipe for the chicken I had to prepare for dinner. I made a rub and mixed in some extra virgin olive oil and let the chicken marinade for a while. I sauteed onion and garlic until just tender, added some other ingredients and then the chicken. The results were tremendous and I will continue to tweak the recipe. Cal asked me several times, "Did you write it down?" Guess he liked it! I served the chicken with roasted garlic couscous. We had several tomatoes that came from Grace's garden, as well as our neighbor, so I decided to use them in a salad. I made a tomato-cucumber salad with fresh mozzarella....yum!

FRESH TOMATO AND CUCUMBER SALAD
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
10 fresh basil leaves
5 fresh oregano leaves
3 small fresh cucumbers (pickling or thin slicing)
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, vine ripened
Mince garlic or press through a garlic press. Let garlic stand in balsamic and wine vinegars for 10 minutes (this takes the "edge" off). Discard any garlic which has green sprouts in the center, as the flavor is too sharp and bitter for this salad - use for another purpose.
Wash basil and oregano leaves (pick at noon time on a sunny day for best flavor). Roll up leaves and slice into little strips (chiffonade). Chop and add to your best olive oil and allow to stand in oil while garlic marinates.
Meanwhile, prepare salad ingredients. Wash cucumbers and tomatoes. Peel cucumbers, leaving a scant amount of peel (helps with digestion). Slice cucumbers into 1/4 inch coins (circles).
With a sharp knife, remove stem and blossom end from tomatoes (a very small amount). Slice tomatoes into wedges, being careful not to crush and lose juice.
Place tomatoes and cucumbers in salad bowl and sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt.
Combine olive oil with vinegars, whisking together well. Use to dress tomatoes and cucumbers; serve at room temperature.
Variations: Add 1 thinly sliced red onion, pitted oil cured black olives and fresh mozzarella, sliced (or use the small bocconcini).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Chicken Carbona Night

Tonight I tried a new recipe, Chicken Carbona, and it was fantastic! Fantastic isn't descriptive enough...it was food heaven! You can't go wrong with bacon, chicken, heavy cream and cheese......

Chicken Carbona
2 packages Uncle Bens Garlic & Butter Rice
10 oz. bacon 1 inch sliced
1 lb. chicken breast boneless, skinless, sliced
1 tsp. garlic minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup frozen petite peas thawed, drained
2 oz. Parmesan cheese shaved
3 green onions thinly sliced

PREPARATION
1. Cook rice to package directions.
2. Cook bacon until crisp; drain off all but 2 tbsp. of drippings. Season chicken with salt and pepper as desired. Add chicken, saute until seared on all sides.
3. Add garlic and cream; simmer until it begins to thicken. Add peas, continue to cook until peas are heated through. Stir in enough cheese to thicken to sauce consistency.
4. Serve over rice; garnish with onion; top with cheese, if desired.

Next time I will skip the rice and serve it over angel hair pasta. I will add more cream and cheese to accommodate this....YUM!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Planting and Cooking

Grace is very proud of her tomato! She planted tomatoes and squash this year. This is the first one ready for harvest! We chopped it up and used it in our tacos...yum!My Goober :)

Potatoes are on thing I can count on my family enjoying, no matter how they are prepared. This recipe is easy and I love that you can throw it in the slow cooker and forget it for a few hours. The ham made the dish a little on the salty side, but if you give it a good stir before serving it is alright. I am going to tweak this recipe a bit to be a side dish, minus the ham.
Scalloped potatoes and Ham
6 large russet potatoes,sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 ham steak (about 1 1/2 pounds) cut into chunks
1 can cream of mushroom
1 soup can of water
1 cup shredded cheese
grill seasoning to taste
Layer potatoes and ham in slow cooker
combine soup, water, cheese and seasoning in large bowl, pour over potatoes. cover and cook on high 3 1/2 hours or until potatoes are fork tender. turn to low setting and continue to cook for another hour.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Delicious Ribs

I tried a slow cooker recipe for ribs....so good! I will definitely make these again!

1/2 cup paprika
3/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup onion powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
2 1/2 lb pork or beef baby back ribs - slice to fit in slow cooker
1 can (20oz) beer or beef stock
1 quart barbecue sauce
1/2 cup honey
White sesame seeds and sliced chives (optional for garnish)
Lightly oil grill grate and preheat on high
while grill heats, combine first five ingredients and generously season ribs with the rub mixture. Place ribs on grill. cook for 3 minutes on each side or until ribs have grill marks.
place in 5-qt slow cooker. pour beer over ribs. Cover and cook on high 2 hours. blend barbecue sauce with honey and add. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours or until done. serve with extra barbecue sauce.
Grace loves deviled eggs, so I made them especially for her :)