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Mango Avocado Salsa & Chili-Coke Chicken


Austin Countdown: T-17 days. That’s right, in just two weeks the hubby and I will be packing the wagons and heading to the big land of Texas where Jack will work hard on his PhD and I will lounge lazily by the pool, work on my tan and eat Fro-Yo. Have I mentioned I am still unemployed? Hopefully that will change soon after we get settled and then off to work for me as well. Now, on to more tasty topics…With most of our home packed into boxes, there have been few projects for me to share with you, that is, until this week.

Jack and I have been on a constant scouting mission for avocados. Avocados are my all time favorite summer food. Unfortunately, finding these delicious fruits is easier said than done. Produce options are ridiculously limited in our small town and when we do find a decent batch, they typically sell for around $2/fruit. Yikes! Lately, our local produce stand down the street has had a fairly good showing of avocado however and we have been taking full advantage.

Mango Avocado Salsa & Chili-Coke Chicken

This week, we had avocado every night. Since the weather here is hot and sticky, we wanted our meal to highlight the avocado flavor and also remain light and fresh tasting. Here’s what we came up with:

Mango Avocado Salsa & Chili-Coke Chicken over Spinach and a Toasted Tortilla

That sounds long and complicated as I write it out but it is pretty simple and incredibly delicious.

Mango Avocado Salsa & Chili-Coke Chicken

Chili-Coke Chicken

2 chicken breasts 1 tbsp red pepper flakes 1 tbsp Adobo seasoning 2 tbsp Brown sugar pepper to taste coke to taste –start at 1 tsp rum to taste –start at 1 tsp 2 tsp lemon juice

Boil 2 chicken breasts until cooked. Run cold water over chicken and shred. Mix above ingredients, adjust according to taste. All our sauces are done by taste so these are rough measurements. Toss chicken with seasoning and let sit.

Mango Avocado Salsa & Chili-Coke Chicken

Mango Avocado Salsa

1 Mango 1 Avocado 1/4 cup chopped red onion 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro 1/4 cup yellow tomato chopped 1/4 Feta Cheese 1 tsp lemon juice salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients by tossing gently. Set Aside.

Next, pour 1-2 tsp of olive oil into a pan. Allow the oil to warm up and then toss your tortilla into the oil. Cook on each side until slightly crisp.

Pile spinach on top of the tortillas, followed by the chicken and topped off with the mango avocado salsa. Enjoy!


Summer Refreshments: Mojitos


Nothing quite compares to the thrill of that first refreshing splash of summer. The anticipation as you drive toward the lake, the squeal of delight as your toes dip playfully at the water’s edge and the rush of adrenaline as you hold your breath and dive on in. The humid summers of East Tennessee have made me appreciate more fully the therapeutic refreshment that water brings. Whether it be by poolside, lake, river, or ocean, water gives us a chance to beat the heat, both literally or figuratively. Although for many the mayhem of work continues into the summer, the endless heat eventually beckons people out of their cubicles, into their cars, and toward the water.

While we can’t spend every moment of summer lakeside with a drink in hand, we can find some satisfaction in the refreshments of summer. I’m talking Mojitos, people!

Virgin Mojitos

The hubby and I have been experimenting with different refreshing cocktails this summer, and while I’m always game for the traditional Mojito, I wanted to try an alcohol-free version that would taste light, refreshing and full of summer. Today I attempted a Mojito spritzer. There is no fancy trick to this little number, just simple minty deliciousness.

Recipe: 1 oz simple syrup/1oz lime juice (Cheat: 2 oz Mojito Mix) 10 Mint Leaves 3 oz Club Soda 1 tsp. brown sugar Ice

To Mix: Grind fresh mint leaves with brown sugar in separate bowl and place in shaker. Place ice in cocktail shaker. Add Mojito Mix or simple syrup and lime juice. Shake. Pour into glass. Add club soda. If you prefer less minty flavor, simply add more club soda or you can always add rum.

Virgin Mojitos


5 Beautiful Blogs


Happy Friday! Today I’d like to take a moment to share with you five beautiful blogs & websites that I just can’t get enough of. These are my daily go to blogs for inspiration and an overall feeling of goodness. Check them out and be sure to spread a little love their way.

KinfolkMag: A photographic/journal-style blog that provides casual entertainment ideas. They put out a beautiful magazine that is available for purchase on the site and also have a Journal site as well as galleries of their various events.

Kinfolkjournal

My Ideal Home: A beautifully crafted tumblr page filled with awe-inspiring architecture, design, and decorating elements.

myidealhome

Sunday Suppers: Beautifully staged photographs and details of class-cooking-dining experiences, pairing friends and food. Classes are held in a waterfront loft in Brooklyn, NY and are taught by local Chefs. The food is market fresh, local and organic and the approach is to create seasonal and fresh meals together.

Sunday-Suppers

Treasures and Travels: Hosted by the two girls behind the online shop, Kalos which sells handmade jewelry and vintage clothing. They post about anything and everything they see, love, wear, etc.

TreasureandTravels

Tiny White Daisies: Beautiful photography is king at this tumblr page. The photographs range from nature, to architecture, to everyday sightings. A must see sight for beautiful finds.

tinywhitedaisies

Happy browsing!


Brussel Sprouts & Toasted Pecans


I didn’t grow up a vegetable-eating child, not even a semi-compliant vegetable eater. I spent many a night sitting at the table after everyone else had finished their supper staring down the grotesque stalks of broccoli and cauliflower that threatened my sensitive palate. I hated vegetables forever, and then one day, I didn’t. I tell you about my childhood vegetable woes because it is necessary if I’m to convince you that this brussel sprouts recipe is absolutely delicious!

brussel sprouts

Yes, despite the common misconception that brussel sprouts are a child’s worst nightmare (and many adults’) these little vegetables are so tasty when cooked right. I had the pleasure of trying my first sprouts at a friends home a few weeks ago and decided I needed to attempt my own recipe.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Toasted Pecans

1 package brussel sprouts
1/2 cup chopped pecans
olive oil
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
garlic powder or 2 minced cloves
pepper
salt

Instructions:

Rinse sprouts and place in casserole dish (or similar). Coat generously with olive oil, balsamic vinegar & lemon juice–adjust vinegar for individual taste. I cannot emphasize enough to coat the brussel sprouts well with the olive oil, this is the key to getting them cooked just right, all the way through to the middle.

Chop pecans and garlic (unless you use powder) and place in small oven safe dish. Place dish under broiler for 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add toasted pecans & garlic to the sprouts. Add a dash of salt and about 1 tsp of pepper. Place in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, you want the sprouts very tender. Stir contents every 15 minutes.

Once sprouts are tender, broil on high for about 15 minutes until the outsides begin to char. Remove from the oven & allow to cool. Serve alone as a side dish or add to a mixed-green salad with artichoke hearts.


Table Setting: Mercury Glass + Blue + Yellow


I hope each of you had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones. We had the pleasure of having a family member in town this year, hooray! I always miss our family around the holidays and can’t say enough about how thankful we were to have my mom in town. Here is just a tiny glimpse at our shiny Thanksgiving table setting.

Blue & Mercury Glass Table Setting

Blue China: TJ Maxx
Grey Napkins: Target
Yellow Raffia: Walmart
Mercury Glass Votives: Target

This table setting was incredibly simple to put together and the mercury glass votives went a long way to making it dressy for the holiday.

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!


Freezer Meal Schedule & Planning: Month #3


Hello friends. Let’s jump right into our third month of freezer meal schedules, grocery list and tools for planning (if you haven’t read Freezer Meal Schedule & Planning: Month #2, check it out first). Our schedule for month #3 worked out to be even better than the month before. This is getting easier and easier each month because we always have a few meals leftover so I don’t have to add as many new recipes to the mix and yet we still have much variety to work with.

Here is the link to our shopping list for this month. Our total store amount added up to $93.10. We decided we would allow an extra trip for milk each month since our freezer isn’t big enough to buy 2 gallons and freeze one. So our extra expenses for this month added up to $18 with one extra carton of eggs, milk and produce.

See our month #3 meal schedule.

Monthly Meals:

Dinner:

Chili over rice–leftover from last month (2 meals for 2)
Curried Carrot Soup–leftover from last month (new batch-8 meals for 2)
BLT Sandwiches
Tomato soup & Grilled Cheese sandwiches
Burgers–leftover (2 meals for 2)
Sloppy Joe Chicken Sandwiches (6 meals, new twist)
Taquitos (24 individual-6 meals for 2)
Potato Corn Chowder (2 meals for 2)
Hawaiian Chicken and Carrot slaw (8 meals for 2)
Spaghetti (5 meals for 2)
Baked Potatoes (5 lb bag, about 8 meals for 2)

Sides:

Oriental Chicken Salad
Homemade Cornbread
Rice

Lunches:

PB&J
Tuna
Small Baked Potatoes

Breakfast:

Toast & Jam
Eggs
French Toast
Oatmeal

Snacks:

Bananas
Apples
Yogurt
Grapes

Sweet Sloppy Joe Chicken:

I used the same sweet & sloppy joe chicken recipe as last month but we decided to use a rotisserie chicken at Ingles since they were on sale for $4.89 instead of chicken breasts. The rotisserie chicken proved to be a bit less expensive and yielded the same amount of chicken as the chicken breasts. Click link above to see recipe at “Freezer Meal Schedule & Planning: Month #2″ post.

Curried Carrot Soup:

I cooked up a double portion of our curried carrot soup this month because, well, it’s delicious! Click the link above to see our recipe.

Taquitos:

Since I used the last of the shredded beef in last month’s taquitos, I decided to go for simple rice and bean taquitos this month. We used brown rice, kidney beans, green onions, cilantro and a bit of cheddar cheese to fill the tortillas along with a sprinkling of adobe powder and pepper.

We bought a 40-pack of small flour tortillas, which were $.05 cheaper/unit than smaller amount packages.

Hawaiian Chicken & Carrot Slaw:

We bought our usual large package of chicken breasts and a bottle of Hawaiian marinade. When we get home from the store, we always cut the chicken into 8 oz portions (4 oz = 1 single serving). This makes it easy to quickly thaw a bag for dinner. You can choose to marinade the chicken before freezing or after it thaws.

Warm up your pan and get your chicken cooking. Now peel one large carrot with a potato peeler. Then chop your shavings into smaller pieces and combine in a bowl with chopped sweet onion, a dash of pepper and garlic, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar and a dash of red wine vinegar. Combine, chicken, carrot slaw, and rice in your tortillas and enjoy!

I love this recipe, it tastes very light, flavorful and fresh. We used the leftover tortillas from our 40-pack that was bought for taquitos. Ours lasted all month long but they freeze well too if you are worried about them staying fresh.

Spaghetti:

Kielbasa was on sale this month so we changed up our usual spaghetti recipe (which uses ground sausage) and substituted kielbasa. Yummy! I purchased some pasta noodles, diced tomatoes and tomato paste last month when it was on sale so I thought I should use up those items this month. Of course, I recommend sticking with what you know best and use your favorite spaghetti recipe. Divide the sauce into meal-sized baggies to freeze and when you’re ready for spaghetti, just thaw your sauce and cook up the noodles. My recipe yielded 12 cups of sauce.

Cornbread:

Simple and quick golden sweet cornbread recipe from all recipes. We poured our batter into muffin pans, which left us with 12 large cornbread muffins.

Snacks:

For our snacks this month, we tried to eat the bananas first, as they expire more quickly, the apples last us pretty much all month long. Yogurt Jack can space out with his lunches for about 3 weeks. The grapes, we separated into individual baggies and froze to be eaten later. They taste just as wonderful when you pull them back out.

I hope you found some helpful recipe ideas in this post. If you have any questions about recipes or amounts please leave a comment or shoot me an email. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in this series:

Lowering Your Grocery Bill (Part 1): Many tips for lowering your grocery bill with once-a-month grocery shopping and freezer meal preparation and schedules.

Lowering Your Grocery Bill + Monthly Shopping (Part 2): A few more tips to help you make the most of your food purchases along with our first month of freezer meal planning and recipes.

Freezer Meal Schedule & Planning: Month #2: Our second month of recipes, grocery lists and planning.


Freezer Meal Schedule & Planning: Month #2


Hello Friends! I have two months of freezer meals, schedules and recipes to share with you today. You can link directly to Freezer Meal Schedule & Planning: Month #3 here.

Our second month of once-a-month-shopping and freezer meals was a little haphazard due to my lack of diligent planning on the front-end with meals, however, we made it through the month with only one extra trip to the store for a special dinner we hosted for a couple of friends. At the end of Freezer Meals: Month #1 we still had about six burger meals leftover, four carrot soups, and five servings of chili. Those meals were then incorporated into the next month’s meal schedule.

Here is a link to my groceries for month #2. I only included the food groceries for a general guideline and left off the detergents, lunch baggies, etc. There weren’t as many BOGO deals at Ingles this month but I took advantage of some of their discounts on chicken broth, kitchen bags and tomato sauces for the following month. Our total grocery store trip (between two stores) cost $102.47. Throughout the month, we also spent $12 more at the produce stand down the street.

Month #2 Meals:

Dinner:
Chili over rice–leftover from last month (5 meals for 2)
Curried Carrot Soup–leftover from last month (4 meals for 2)
BLT Sandwiches
Burgers–leftover (4 meals for 2)
Sloppy Joe Chicken Sandwiches (5 meals)
Taquitos (24 individual-6 meals)
Potato Corn Chowder (5 meals)

Sides:
Oriental Salad
Roasted Red Potatoes
Homemade Dinner Rolls

Lunches:
PB&J
Cheese Sandwiches
Tuna
Rice and Beans

Breakfast:
Toast & Jam
Eggs
French Toast
Oatmeal

Snacks:

Bananas
Apples
yogurt

Check out our first month of freezer meals for recipes that were re-made or leftover (carrot soup, roasted red potatoes, homemade dinner rolls, Chili)

Grilled Corn and Potato Chowder:

Since the weather was starting to cool down a bit, we decided to make another soup, and this time a bit heartier one. We chose this grilled corn and potato chowder from MyRecipes–it is awesome! I was a bit skeptical, especially as I was making a corn paste with our food processor, but it is really a treat. We ended up adding in more of the corn paste, because it added such a good flavor, and a bit more milk (1%). I did not use fresh thyme, just the ol’ dried stuff, and instead of actual corn ears, I used canned (cause it’s what I had) and grilled it with salt and red pepper before throwing into the food processor.

Taquitos:

We also bought a package of those mini flour tortillas, great for making taquitos. I pulled out my last bag of plain shredded beef from a roast we made last year and placed rice, beans onion, and the shredded beef into the tortillas, rolled them and lined them up in a casserole dish to freeze. Every time we wanted taquitos, we simply pulled out the dish, broke off four taquitos and baked them in the oven for about 35 minutes. We typically ate these with a side of rice and a salad. I used about 3 cups of shredded beef and 3 cups of rice and 2 cup of beans to make 24 taquitos (we adjusted this for the next month if you don’t want to use the meat).

Our last addition to month #2 of freezer meals was an experiment by me for sloppy joe chicken. I love normal sloppy joes, minus the grease and I wanted to at least pretend I was making a slightly healthier version by using chicken (we really like our chicken). I basically just started throwing things together to see what I could come up with and this sweet & sloppy sauce hits the spot every time. Seriously, it’s our favorite meal now, and yes, we continued it into the next month.

Sweet & Sloppy Joe Chicken:

4 large chicken breasts
2 cups ketchup
2 tbsp Worchsetershire
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
salt

Since it was our first attempt at this sauce we started off with a small batch and only used four large chicken breasts (the next month we tried it with one rotisserie chicken from the store ($4 and same amount of meals). Put the chicken in the crockpot, let it cook through, add the rest of the ingredients, allow to cook on low in the crockpot for one hour. Voila, sweet and sloppy chicken. We toasted wheat hamburger buns and piled on the sloppy joe chicken.

Hope you are able to find some helpful recipe ideas in this post. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in this series:

Lowering Your Grocery Bill (Part 1): Many tips for lowering your grocery bill with once-a-month grocery shopping and freezer meal preparation and schedules.

Lowering Your Grocery Bill + Monthly Shopping (Part 2): A few more tips to help you make the most of your food purchases along with our first month of freezer meal planning and recipes.

You are reading Month #2 of freezer meal planning and recipes.

Skip ahead to Freezer Meal Schedule & Planning: Month #3


Lower Your Grocery Bill & Monthly Meals (Part 2)


I hope you enjoyed Lowering Your Grocery Bill Part 1 of tips to lowering your grocery bill and preparing monthly meals. Today I am going to show you a sample meal plan with various recipes.

I mentioned in our first post that you should prepare your meals on a different day than your shopping day. We shop on Friday evenings when people are out painting the town red, this allows us to come home, put away groceries, soak beans, relax and then start fresh on Saturday morning. Prior to preparing your meals look at all of your recipes to consolidate prep time. If more than one recipe requires onions, then by all means, chop all of the onions at the same time. Trust me, this will save you oodles of time. Also, look for alternate cooking methods–if you have two items that can be baked at the same temp, prepare them first, put them in together, and move on to the next meal while they cook. You can also throw lots and lots of meals in a crockpot (chili!) while others are cooking in the oven.

Month #1

Dinners:
Roasted Red Potatoes, sauteed onions & salad
Chili over rice (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it)
Curried Carrot Soup
Grilled Eggplant Tomato Aioli Sandwiches
Grilled Chicken Salad
Chicken and Rice (with a variety of marinades & seasonings)
Burgers
Jerk Chicken Sandwiches
Frittatas

Sides:
Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, pine nuts
Grilled Zucchini or zucchini salad
Red potatoes (smaller portion than the dinner potatoes)
dinner rolls
corn on the cob

Lunches:
PB&J
Tuna Sandwiches
Our favorite Rice and Beans with salad
yogurt
granola

Breakfast:
Toast
Eggs
Homemade granola

Here are some of the recipes I used and the ways I’ve adapted them to keep costs low. Although the recipes are simple you can mix them up quite a bit with different seasonings and by mixing up the paired sides. Also, most of my seasoning is done by taste and I am not shy at all with adding seasonings especially when it comes to garlic and curry so be generous, I’ll try to keep track of my amounts when these items come back into our rotation.

Dinners:

carrot soupCurried Carrot Soup:
Adapted to save money From Rachael Ray
12 servings/6 meals
(6 ziplocks filled with 2 c. each)

I used Rachael Ray’s recipe as a guideline for making a cheaper version of the soup. Since I was making a lot of soup (ended up being 12 individual meals), I used 1 whole bag of the giant carrots instead of the baby carrots, 1/2 stick of butter, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1-1/2 onions (chopped), salt to taste, cayenne pepper to taste, curry to taste (lots and lots of curry–don’t be shy). I also added 3 tbsps of honey to sweeten it a bit and break up the heavy carrot taste, you can probably just use a 2 tbsp or so of regular sugar for this. Last change was cutting out the sour cream to keep it healthier. Also, these soups always seem a bit thicker after thawing them so Jack and I will add water, milk or cream to them to make it more soupy and give us a bit more per serving.

Roasted Red Potatoes:
Makes about 7 meals for 2, 1-5lb bag)
2-3 potatoes/person x 7

Jack and I wing this recipe every time. We ended up cutting 2-3 red potatoes into smaller cubes drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic, rosemary, pepper and a dash of salt. Toss potatoes to make sure they are thoroughly coated. Place in skillet, we use our cast-iron, place in oven at 350 degrees until they brown. Turn potatoes every 10 minutes to heat evenly and prevent burning. Pair with a larger portion of salad and veggies.

Also, did you know that according to food regulations, the bagged produce (like potatoes and onions) must weight at least what it says on the bag? Apparently this means that may times, distributors will throw in extra potatoes just to make sure they exceed the listed poundage. How does this help lower your grocery costs? If you weigh your bagged veggies, like onions and potatoes, you can end up with more bulk for your buck since the bags are a set price. Pretty neat, right?

Chili:
20 serv./10 meals
(10 ziplocks filled with 2 c. each)

My chili recipe changes each month depending on spices and what not but typically it takes 1 bag of beans (kidney, black or pinto–we like kidney best). Yes, I said bag, meaning you must soak them overnight or attempt the quick-soak method which requires bringing the beans to a boil then letting them sit in the water for 1 hour before cooking. I quick soak when we get back from the store and then throw them in the crockpot, cover with water and let cook overnight. In the morning, I brown 1 lb of ground beef and toss it into the crockpot along with lots of onions, chili powder, garlic, a little cumin, some tomato sauce (small can), 2 small tomatoes, Worcestershire and my favorite part of our chili recipe–cocoa powder! Seriously, this is the best discovery of my cooking life thus far. The cocoa gives the chili such an incredible savory taste. If your chili tastes too tomato-y, add brown sugar and Worcestershire to balance it out. I’ll be making a fresh batch next month and will write down my steps to share with you all. For now, don’t be afraid to use your favorite chili recipe. The main money saver is buying bagged beans, purcasing your produce from a produce stand or farmer’s market, making do with what you have on hand and limiting fancy ingredients.

Now, I must admit, we have a bit of a leg-up in the meat department. We buy local grass-fed beef once a year, and I work on the farm that we buy it from in the summer so that is extra money I don’t have to factor into my monthly totals (not that it would increase it too much). Just be aware this will raise your monthly amount a bit more than ours. However, if you are able to find some, I highly recommend buying grass-fed beef locally–it’s delicious! We buy about 30lbs and it lasts us the entire year, so we don’t actually eat very much beef.

Burgers:
Makes 10 burger patties

Since we have ground beef on hand it seems a shame to not make a round of tasty burgers. I hate preparing burgers for just one night, it’s a lot dirty work for just the two of us. I decided to see how well I could freeze these guys. I broke out 2 lbs of beef and added 1 chopped onion, about 1 cup of bread crumbs (depends on how juicy your meat is), garlic powder, pepper, 3 tbsp Worcestershire, basil and a touch of salt.

Perfect Burger PattiesNext, I made perfectly round patties by placing a large round cookie cutter onto wax paper and pressing the meat mixture into the cookie cutter as a mold which when lifted up, reveals a perfectly round patty. Yes, I like consistency that much. I experimented and wrapped some of the patties in foil then in saran wrap and some just in a healthy layer of saran wrap. Both seemed to keep well in the freezer. The 2 lbs made 10 burgers that we then paired with $.20 corn cobs from the produce stand down the road.

Egg, tomato, eggplant sandwichEggplant, Tomato, Aioli Sandwiches:
2 sandwiches/eggplant

I have already written an entire post on these bad boys. They are SO SO SO delicious. My favorite nights of the month are our hot sandwiches. Once again, be creative! There are so many different ways to combine your simple foods that turn them into favorite family recipes.

Chicken:
1 large package yields roughly 10 baggies for 2 people

We eat quite a bit of chicken but we have learned how to combine well with other sides to make it stretch. First of all, we almost always buy our chicken at Walmart, the large 5 breast packages, and usually when it is $.99/lb. We buy boneless, skinless breasts but there are other things like drumsticks and what not that you can buy cheaper if that is more your style. The reason we stick to breasts is because of their versatility.

chicken portionsThe only other prep task you might see us doing the same night of our grocery run is cutting up our chicken and placing it into smaller baggies. We slice the breast in half thickness-wise (so it’s half as thick making it a quick thaw) then cut into strips and place 2 serving sizes (3-4 oz–it’s a small handful) in one ziplock baggie. To give you an idea, Jack and I usually get about 10-12 baggies of cut-up chicken out of 1 large package of chicken.

Now you have chicken in meal bags ready to freeze. We typically pull out one bag of chicken/meal, thaw and cook to go on a salad or with rice. We also give variety to our chicken meals by adding marinades to the chicken prior to cooking or experimenting with the seasoning. One of my favorite ways to cook chicken is to sprinkle it with Salad Supreme, pepper and garlic, saute onions and serve with rice. Our first month we also ate Jerk Chicken sandwiches, where we simply pulled the chicken out, poured caribbean jerk sauce into the bag while it thawed, cooked the chicken and served on a burger bun kind of like a sloppy joe but with lettuce, tomato and onion. Delicious!

Since the chicken makes many loose bags in the freezer we store it in what used to be our ice bin. The bin seems to be the perfect size for a full month of chicken baggies.

Frittatas:
4-5 eggs/1 large frittata

Eggs are pretty stinking cheap around here. We buy ours at the little produce stand down the road for $.99/dz and since it’s at the produce stand we allow ourselves to buy it more than once a month. Jack eats one egg pretty much every morning but we have also incorporated eggs into our evening meals (the open-faced sandwiches and frittatas). The frittata ends up being about $2/meal for two people so it is great on the wallet. This is basically like scrambling eggs with veggies but here’s how we make it: Cut up some veggies (onion, green pepper, tomatoes) and sautee in olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan, season with garlic, curry, pepper and a little bit of salt. Whisk together 4-5 eggs in a separate bowl with about 1 tbsp of milk. Once the veggies are ready, spread them evenly around the bottom of the pan and pour the egg mixture over the top. Your eggs should fill all the space around the veggies and just barely reach the top of the veggies (so basically, you want to still see your veggies sticking out in various places, don’t cover them like a soup). Sprinkle the eggs with a bit more seasoning and place a lid over the pan and let cook for about 20 minutes. The eggs should fluff up nicely and create a little egg pie–kind of a quiche-like consistency without the crust. Cut into the middle to make sure your eggs are cooked all the way through. Pull out of the oven, allow to cool and serve with toast.

Sides:

I’m not sure I need much explanation on our sides. But here’s a quick overview:

saladSalads–just like any salad, we make do with what veggies we have on hand. Sometimes that can include many ingredients (cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, oriental noodles, onions, pine nuts, hard-boiled eggs) and other times we just use the last bits of produce in the house which may just be onion and tomato. Sometimes we buy salad dressing if it is on sale but often we make individual portions of dressing to go on our salad. This dressing is a mixture of balsamic vinegar(2 tbsp), olive oil(2tbsp), lemon juice (1/2-1tbsp), garlic powder and pepper. We just combine these until we’ve reached the right amount of zing.

The red potatoes we cook just like the dinner version but we usually just need 1/person, so it’s a smaller batch.

Grilled zucchini–cook however you normally would. We drizzle in olive oil with garlic and pepper sprinkled on top and place on the grill. We also grill it on skewers with peppers and onions.

Zucchini Ribbon SaladZucchini Ribbon Salad–Using a potato peeler, peel the zucchini in long ribbons and place in a bowl. Chop 1/2 of an onion and add to the bowl along with pepper and garlic (can you tell I like these two seasonings?). Prepare the balsamic/olive oil dressing listed above under “salads” and pour on top. I also usually have a package of pine nuts on hand for when I make pesto so I sprinkle those on top of this salad for a little added crunch. A small package of pine nuts costs about $2.38.

Corn and other veggies– just grill as you normally would. This veggie item varies according to which produce is the best price and better quality.

homemade dinner rolls Homemade Dinner Rolls– these are incredibly easy to make and cost nearly nothing if you typically have flour and yeast on hand.

Lunch:

Obviously sandwiches need little explanation but Jack’s favorite lunch meal, seasoned rice and beans, is so stinkin’ simple, I wonder sometimes why he loves it so.

On Sunday evenings I usually cook a small batch of brown rice (1-2 cups), pull out some extra beans that I’ve already cooked and put in the freezer and put about 1/2 cup of each into a lunch container. I also add a little pepper, salt and garlic along with a little chopped onion and tomato. In the other half of his lunch I chop up some lettuce and veggies and voila! A warm and healthy lunch for him to enjoy and it took me all of 10 minutes to throw together three for the week. Sometimes I’ll shred some cheese to go on the rice and beans, other times, if we’ve found tortillas on sale that month, I’ll give him a tortilla to wrap the mixture into, just to give a little bit of variety. Of course, he likes his staples and still swears the simple rice and beans mixture is his favorite lunch item.

Jack also makes homemade granola to eat with yogurt for snacks or lunches.

Here is a link to my grocery list from month #1. Keep in mind, I chose my menu recipes based on some of the ingredients already in my home. This is very important to keeping your grocery bill low. It takes a few extra minutes to take inventory of your fridge, freezer and cupboards but it lowers the cost tremendously. Google Recipes can come in handy here if you don’t yet have staple meals for various recipes. You can go to Google and type in “chili recipes” then over on the left column click the items you already have and see what links appear that use those items. From there figure out what else you would need from the store to make that recipe. This was very helpful when I wanted to find a carrot soup recipe.

Anyways, I say all that to inform you that if the item is not on my grocery list but I listed it above in my recipe instructions, I already had that item at the house. In month #1 this mostly pertains to seasonings. Also, although throughout the month we buy our produce at various farmer’s markets and the local produce stand, our first trip of the month we tend to buy the bulk produce and maybe a few other items if needed at the store.

Ok, I think that is plenty of information for you all to process. Keep in mind this was my very first month of monthly meal planning so, now looking back, the meals are terribly exciting but they tasted good and worked well throughout the entire month. We even had leftovers of some of these items to use in month #2 which helped break up the meal routine.

As always, let me know if you have any questions at all or if anything is unclear. Good luck!


Homemade Dinner Rolls


To continue my attempt at stocking our freezer (Lower Grocery Bills & Freezer Meals), I decided to bake homemade rolls to accompany our soups. I usually direct all bread-making ventures to Jack because, unlike me, he is patient. When I bake I want to prepare the food, put it in the oven, wash the dishes, and pull the food out of the oven. Simple, easy, no hassle, and no waiting between steps. All that to say, these are the characteristics I look for in a bread recipe–I know, it’s sad, but this time it worked!

homemade rolls

This recipe is incredibly easy and really doesn’t take long. I followed it to a tee, but changed the seasonings on top.

“My Favorite Buttermilk Dinner Rolls” from The Bread Bible (slightly altered):

Ingredients:

1 tbsp dry yeast
Pinch of Sugar
1/4 c. warm water
1 c. warm buttermilk
2 tbsp. honey
4 tbsp. butter
1 large egg
2 tsp. salt
4 c. all-purpose flour (plus some for dusting during kneading)

Directions:

1.) In a small bowl combine yeast, sugar and water. Dissolve and let stand until foamy, roughly 10 minutes.

2.) In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, sugar, butter (melted), egg, and salt. Mix in 1-1/2 c. flour and yeast mixture. Beat on high for 2 minutes.

3.) Continue to add the remainder of the flour 1/2 c. at a time with a wooden spoon.

4.) Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 4-7 minutes by hand. Use flour to prevent sticking, 1 tbsp at a time.

5.) Grease a large bowl and place smooth dough inside. Turn dough over so top is greased. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1-1/2 hours.

6.) Deflate dough and turn out onto floured surface. Divide dough in half and roll each into a 2 to 3 inch cylinder. Cut each into 8 equal portions. Roll each into a small oval.

7.) Lay dough balls on a greased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Cover with saran wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

8.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush each roll with egg glaze (1 egg, 1 tbsp water, 1 tbsp milk). Sprinkle the top of the rolls with garlic, thyme, sesame seeds and pepper (or choose your own combination).

9.) Cut small diagonal slashes on top of each roll. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown. If using 2 baking sheets, switch top to bottom halfway through baking process.

10.) Allow to cool before serving and enjoy!

These rolls freeze beautifully. Just make sure you seal them up nice and tight and try to get all the air out of the bag or container you store them in to reduce the chance of moisture getting trapped inside.


Grilled Eggplant, Tomato & Aioli Sandwiches


In preparation for the coming school year our kitchen has once more turned to freezer-meal central. I recently read a book on cutting your grocery bill in half and while I began the read thinking it would be quite useless, I can proudly say, it works! I’m very excited to share some tips with you throughout the coming months. For now, let me just emphasize the importance of going to the grocery store once monthly and taking one day each month to cook up a couple staple meals that will keep in the freezer. Last year we realized just how valuable freezer meals can be with a schedule like ours.

Anyways, I’ll get to more freezer meal recipes, tricks and tips in a few weeksMore freezer meals here, but I’ll get to back to the point… While freezer meals are wonderful on the wallet, we love our fresh fruits and veggies so we supplement our menu with produce dinners from the farmer’s market. Whipping up a quick vegetarian meal once or twice a week goes a long way to incorporating variety into your month of meals.

Egg, tomato, eggplant sandwich

This week one of our produce meals consisted of eggplant, tomatoes, onions and eggs. The tomatoes were from our very own garden, the eggplant was thrown into my produce bag for free after buying 5 zucchinis and 5 yellow squash and the eggs are from a local farmer. Neat-O, right? I love fresh!

Here’s how we put this dish together:

1.) Grill Eggplant: Slice eggplant, sprinkle with salt, parsley, pepper, thyme and garlic, place in a sauce pan with 2 tbsp. of olive oil, cook each side 3 minutes or until slightly browned

2.) Saute onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil

3.) Cook 2 over-easy eggs

4.) Prepare Aioli Sauce: 1/4 c. light mayo or Greek Yogurt, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove

5.) Slice tomatoes, toast bread and assemble sandwiches

Egg, tomato, eggplant sandwich

Easy as pie! My favorite part was slicing open the yolk and letting it drizzle all over the sandwich, seriously, it was SO good.

Next time you are looking for a healthy, tasty and filling dinner recipe, give these open-faced sandwiches a try. Trust me, it’s a decision you won’t regret.


Curry Egg Salad Sandwich


Curry is a seriously under appreciated seasoning. While living in Ukraine, I learned many unconventional ways to incorporate curry into everyday recipes. One of my absolute favorite curry recipes is this curry egg salad.

Ingredients:

3 hard-boiled eggs
2 tbsp miracle whip (or mayo)
3 green onions (chopped)
2 tsp curry
pepper
1 leaf of lettuce
1 slice of wheat bread

Directions:

Boil the eggs and allow to cool. Chop the eggs into smaller pieces and place in a small bowl. Add onions, curry, and miracle whip to the bowl. Toast your bread slice. Add a slice of lettuce, the egg salad and a dash of pepper on top.

That’s it. One incredibly simple curried egg salad recipe. All that’s left is digging in! What’s your favorite curry recipe?


Crockpot Chili Recipe


Woke up this morning, my third day back in class, to a wonderful text message alerting me of our snow delay! Looking outside it was hard to not mock our little corner of Tennessee for their never-fail overreactions to winter weather (less than 1 in. this morning). However, I got to go back to sleep for 45 minutes before my long day, so no complaining here. I’ve been hanging onto this chili recipe, waiting for that perfectly brisk and chilling day to share it with you. I think you’ll agree after seeing this picture that today’s the day!

This savory chili is sure to warm both your heart and tummy on days like these when you just can’t seem to escape the winter chill. Simply throw the ingredients together at night or in the morning, and leave the crock pot on low throughout the day–allowing your humble abode to fill with the welcoming aromas of coffee, chocolate, and spices.

Crockpot Chili

3 cups pinto beans (or 2-3 cans if not using dry)
2 cans kidney beans
1 lb ground beef
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 tsp cocoa
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley
1 tbsp Worcestershire
Easy BBQ Sauce (see recipe below)
1 sweet onion (chopped)
5 carrots (shredded and chopped)
2 Roma tomatoes (chopped)

_Easy BBQ Sauce
_

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:
If you are using dry pinto beans, soak overnight and prepare beans per instructions on the bag.

Place 1 lb of thawed ground beef in your slow cooker. Season with cinnamon, garlic, parsley and anything else that floats your boat. I threw in a pack of Goya seasoning. It is fantastic and can be found in the Hispanic food section of the grocery store, it is in an orange and white box.

Separate the meat a bit and allow to brown slightly. Add beans, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and cocoa. Prepare the Easy BBQ Sauce by simply combining the ingredients above on the stove then pour into the crock pot. I changed a few ingredients to work with what we had in the fridge, but the here is the original.

Shred the carrots first, then chop. Chop the onion and tomatoes. Add vegetables to crock pot. Stir well and let sit until you are ready to eat. If you are preparing this a couple hours before eating, set the crock pot on high, if you are planning to leave it on all day, set the crock pot on low. Remember, as with most crock pot dishes, the longer it cooks the tastier it becomes. This is also the recipe I used to prepare our semester of freezer meals.

Hope this warms you up on the cold days to come. Welcome to Winter!


How to Prepare Freezer Meals


Our kitchen has seen much progress in the past 4 years as Jack and I develop new ways of cooking that keep us healthy, provide warm homemade meals, and save time. This past year we started following some of the Biggest Loser protein menu guidelines to help define our eating styles. We both attend classes and run back and forth between 2 other jobs–this means our eating time is limited and usually involves us scarfing down whatever is quick and easy. Not to mention the hassle of coming home and attempting to prepare dinner. By the time 6 o’clock rolls around, the last thing we want to do is thaw and prep food. The Biggest Loser protein packed menus are fabulous (sample menu), because as the name suggests, they are packed with protein. What does that mean for us? We can eat less throughout the day and still remain full and energized enough to exercise those valuable brain cells.

What does our daily food system usually consist of?

Breakfast: 1 slice whole grain toast, 2 poached egg whites, 8 oz fat-free milk, coffee, fruit (you can even have 2 sausage links in this meal plan)

Snack: 1 medium apple, sliced, with 1 tablespoon peanut butter or 1 non-fat yogurt cup, 1 nature oats granola bar

_Lunch:_Black Bean Burrito with salsa, onions, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and 1 wheat tortilla or 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber and 4 oz lemon-pepper seasoned chicken (cooked ahead of time and separated into baggies to freeze)

Dinner: This is where we added in a bit of variety. Usually we pair fish with either 1 cup of brown rice, a side salad, or 1 serving of penne pasta with vegetables.

However, with school in full swing I pre-made 37 freezer meals for two in order to help us stay healthy, eat smaller portions and still have time for the necessary nightly study extravaganza.

The meals I included are made from fresh ingredients and are separated into moderate serving sizes. Most of these meals are to be paired with either brown rice or a side salad for a healthy and filling meal.

Spring Semester Freezer Meals:

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato-Basil Soup
Yields: 8 cups
Serving Size: 1 cup
2-Person Meals: 4
Pair with: salad or homemade wheat bread

BBQ Chili
Yields: 10 cups
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
2-Person Meals: 10
Pair with: 1/2 cup brown rice or homemade wheat bread

Vegetable Pork Roast
Yields: 10 cups
Serving Size: 1 cup
2-Person Meals: 5
Pair with: 1/2 cup brown rice or side salad

Steamed Vegetables
Yields: 18 cups
Serving Size: 1 cup
2-Person Meals: 9
Pair with: 1 cup brown rice or 1 cup penne pasta
Note: We eat vegetables with everything so you can throw these into the steamer basket while your rice cooks or toss them into a pasta dish or simple cook as a side to go with your fish.

Rump Roast
Yields: 44 oz
Serving Size: 4 oz
2-Person Meals: 11
Pair with: sandwiches, salads, tacos, soups, pasta, etc
Note: I cooked an extra roast and shred the meat just to have extra meat on hand for whatever other dish we may want to throw together. I didn’t do anything special to this meat so there could be a variety of uses.

Pinto Beans
Note: I cooked 1 whole bag of dry pinto beans, using 3 cups for the chili, 2 cups to make hummus (great low-calorie snack), and 2 cups of leftover to use as a side or to throw into a stew. The bag only cost $1.49 and the resulting meals make the extra cook time worthwhile.

I was able to buy all of the ingredients for these freezer meals including a large bag of brown rice and salad fixings to go along with the meals for under $100. The only part that wasn’t included was the rump roast and 1 lb of ground beef because we bought grass-fed beef last summer from the Doan’s farm.

Freezer Meals Tips:

1.) When dividing your portions into baggies, think about how much unthawing/rethawing you want to do. I don’t put more than 4 individual portions into each bag, i.e. 2 nights of meals for 2 people.

2.) Flatten bags of food onto cookie sheets to freeze. Once frozen remove from sheet and stack upright to conserve freezer space.

3.) Many people will tell you not to cook your meat ahead of time for beef/pork crockpot meals as you will lose some of the flavor. I have frozen crockpot meals both ways, and I didn’t think it made that much of a difference so if I have time to cook it all ahead of time I will. Chicken, however, you really should cook ahead of time if mixing with other foods.

4.) As always, be creative. You might be amazed to find that most of your meals can be prepped ahead of time and set out to thaw or thrown into a crockpot to cook or even just thaw all day. And let’s face it, who doesn’t like coming home after a crappy day to a house that smells like Grandma’s old-fashioned pot roast? Brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

5.) Keep your freezer organized. I’m a stickler for organization. I love thinking of ways to organize and the process of organizing my life. For instance, my favorite part about January is buying a new planner for the year–so refreshing! I grabbed an old filing bin to store our randomly packaged meats. It also works well for “filing” flattened soup ziplocks. You can find little bins of all sizes to fit your freezer at the dollar tree so don’t let a few dollars discourage you from years of organized freezer bliss.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these few ideas and tips. I will be posting my freezer meal recipes throughout the next few posts. If you have any questions, suggestions, or tips to share please send them my way.

Happy freezing!


Christmas Party + A Few Tips


What holiday homecoming is complete without dressing up at least once for a Christmas party? Many individuals are put off by throwing their own party because, let’s face it, organizing an event on top of work and family can at times seem daunting. As soon as Jack and I knew we would be flying home for Christmas this year, I begged my mom to let me throw a little shindig at their house. These are a few of the set-up pictures.

When planning a holiday get-together, be sure to choose quick, easy and inexpensive treats that can feed a large group. In keeping with this rule, I decided to make bruschetta. This dish requires tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and feta–all fairly inexpensive and best of all, a little goes a long way. Jack even made baguettes to go along with the bruschetta and save a little money. My parents also decided to buy one HoneyBaked Ham to avoid the hassle of baking all day, and lots of wine.

Another way to lower the stress and remain in budget is to simply ask your friends and family to bring something to share. Many people think they are required to provide everything for the party but most guests are more than happy to contribute and don’t even need to be asked. Remember, it is OK to let go of some of the party-planning responsibility…a tip I find myself repeating often.

Simple is better. Cheese, crackers, wine–even three themed ingredients can make a successful party. We had a wine and cheese bar at the party. My aunt and uncle contributed an out-of this-world homemade tomato jam (recipe to come), that we paired with crackers and various cheeses. I filled up on this combination alone.
A few of the contributed foods included: pumpkin dip and gingersnaps (courtesy of my sister), meatballs (mother-in-law), more cheese and cracker plates (you can never have too many), ham, pickle, and cream cheese rolls (sister-in-law), and more wine.

For the non-wine drinkers, we also created a fun little space for a hot chocolate bar. I emptied cocoa and marshmallows into tins from home depot, and filled a teapot with hot water right before the guests arrived. I also filled clear containers with cinnamon sticks for stirring, and pirouettes to pair with their drinks. We set out the mugs ahead of time for easy access and also decorated the cocoa bar with various desserts, Costco truffles on shiny flower cut outs and blackberry pie.

To decorate, we simply used ornaments and candles to add ambiance and sparkle to the decor. Once again, simple and inexpensive is the key to throwing your own party. This should be an enjoyable process, not one that will cause stress. Decide ahead of time your budget, time requirements, and how many people you are willing to host. If you aren’t sure, start small and in time, throwing a party will be as easy as 1-2-3.

Remember it’s not about the party, it’s about the people–Coming together with those you love. I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures from our little holiday party and I hope your holiday gatherings were as joyful and refreshing as ours was. Happy New Year!


September Daring Baker Challenge


I had the privilege of participating in my first ever “Daring Baker” challenge. What is Daring Baker? Daring Baker comes from The Daring Kitchen a website that challenges both bloggers and non-bloggers to a different baking or cooking challenge each month. The bloggers attempt a difficult recipe, then blog about it on the same day each month, revealing to their readers what the secret challenge was. I joined in August and was ready for my first challenge this month, and what a time to start!

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Lucky for me, croissants are a baking challenge I’d been dying to try ever since watching “It’s Complicated”-with their bakery scene making pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants).

Now, I don’t know how many of you realize how truly involved the process of baking croissants can be (I didn’t). Perhaps you have a never-fail family recipe that you can whip up and serve hot, fluffy croissants in a jiff…

This is not one of those recipes.

My dough sat overnight twice, if that gives you an idea of the time investment. It is possible to make these in one day, if you have one FULL day to spend on croissant making (it takes 12 hours). I, however, did not. So there, you are warned.

I was surprisingly happy with how my croissants turned out, that is until I went to our secret forum to see the other blogger’s results. Some of them were out of this world fantastic. I’m jealous.

However, to be a good sport (and show you that croissants can be well-worth the effort), I am posting links to some of the croissant-bakers blogs that seemed to really outdo themselves. Be sure to visit and show them some love.

cuisine a 4 mains
la galletika
Tart to Heart

I think I’ve decided my issue was the second dough rise. I’m not exactly sure what went wrong (I followed the instructions to a T), perhaps the Tennessee humidity was my downfall. Hmmm…

I also wanted them to be a bit darker than the result. I did a double egg wash, coating the dough in a generous amount of egg/milk mix, and then again right before placing into the oven. Others did the same process with a much different result.

I read a few tips that may help those who prefer a dark shell:

1. use a pan that has low edges/rim so it doesn’t block heat from gliding across the croissants
2. space out your croissants placing only 6 on a pan (I put all 12 on one pan) in order to allow more circulation of heat

Audax Artifex has some great tips to getting beautiful croissants.

I ended up making a few plain croissants, pain au cholocat, and apples and cinnamon.

And without further ado, for the brave at heart, Julia Child’s Recipe (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2). I have grouped the steps into manageable segments.

Ingredients

¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 3/4 cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash

Directions:

1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Allow the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam slightly.
2. Measure out the other ingredients and heat the milk until tepid, dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar.
3. Scoop flour into a large bowl. Add oil, yeast mixture, and milk. Mix with a rubber spatula, don’t over mix.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest while you wash out the bowl.
5. Knead the dough eight to ten times. Check out this video from Julia Child.
6. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the entire bowl in a plastic bag.
7. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size.

8. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips.
9. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle, about 8 X 12 inches (20cm X 30cm).
10. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up).
11. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge.

12. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
13. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
14. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
15.Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two.
16. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm).
17. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle.
18. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges.
19.. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book).
20. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 X 8 inches (35 cm bX 20 cm). Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up.
21. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.

22. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
23. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes.
24. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three, as before.
25. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 X 8 inches (35 cm X 20 cm). Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising).

26. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants.First, lightly butter your baking sheet.
27. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter. Roll the dough out into a 20 X 5 inch rectangle (51 cm X 12½ cm).
28. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 X 5 inches (25½ cm X 12½ cm). Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold.
29. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 X 5 inches (38 cm X 12½ cm).
30. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 X 5 inches (12½ cm X 12½ cm). Place two of the squares in the fridge
31. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles.
32. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles.
33. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape.
34. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
35. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
36. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour.

37. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
38. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water (or milk). Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants.
39. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely.
40. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

If you give these a try I would love to see the result so be sure to take pictures and send them my way. I’m hoping to give them another try soon. Best of luck and I look forward to sharing next month’s Daring Baker challenge with you all.


Guest Post: Mint milk with chocolate ice cubes


Our guest post this week comes from Meredith of Garden in the South. Meredith is a talented cook, wife, and mother of two adorable children. She is our College Archivist and Information Resources Librarian. Jack and Meredith work together at the library and I’m so grateful they do because I have had the pleasure of getting to know her these past 2 years and she is fabulous! She cans, cooks, bakes amazing baklava and so much more. Please be sure to head over to her blog and show her a bit of love today.

First of all, I’d like to thank Tiffany for asking me to guest post! I blog (such as it is) at Garden in the South, but not nearly as often, or with as much focus as I’d like. C’est la vie, for now. But I love The Kitchen Curtains, and everything Tiffany posts I think, “Oooh! I want to try that!” So this is an honor.

The other day, my friend Sarah sent me a link to this [Vanilla Milk with Chocolate Ice Cubes](http://translate.google.com/translate?client=tmpg&hl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsandrakavital.blogspot.com%2F2008%2F08%2Fchocolat-det-frais-et-gourmand.html&langpair=fr en “Le Petrin”) at Le Pétrin (Google translates this as “Trouble.” That seems an apt title, given the deliciousness of this recipe, and how much of it I want to drink.) I had to make it immediately, but first I had to go to the store for some chocolate (because all of mine was old and chalky looking) and instant coffee powder (which I generally do without, but often wish I had). I considered Via, because it’s better, but went with Maxwell House, because I think it’ll mix in more completely, being that it’s freeze-dried. Via, which I’ll drink in a pinch, is super-finely ground, and so doesn’t dissolve well. Also, it’s crazy expensive. So $2 jar of Maxwell House it is.

I also did not have a vanilla bean. Sarah used one for her Vanilla Milk, and I suspect it’s essential. In something this simple, extract might be a bit harsh. I also live far from my spice purveyor of choice, and definitely couldn’t wait for shipping. But I do have a beautiful pot of fresh mint, and very fond memories of a Fresh Mint-Chocolate Truffle Tart I’ve made a few times. Mint is refreshing, of course, and perfect for summer, but the herbal quality of the fresh mint steeped in the cream is a little unexpected and wonderful. So I decided to go with Mint Milk, instead. And I’m so very glad I did. I’m sure the Vanilla Milk is wonderful, but the Mint . . . Seriously. This might become a staple in my refrigerator. The Chocolate Ice is nice – it melts into the milk, and I think it’d be good in all sorts of drinks. But it was all my husband and I could do not to drink the milk right up, and make more immediately.

So here’s the recipe. I was going to be all helpful and do the metric-American conversion, but then I realized my handy 2-cup Pyrex has mls on the other side, and I’ll bet yours does, too.

For the Chocolate Ice:

200 ml milk

50 ml water

1 T instant coffee

1 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 t sugar

70 g dark chocolate, 66% (I used a combination of 82% and 60%, because I forgot to write down what I needed before I went to the store, and was thinking I was looking for 77%. It worked out ok.)

Whisk the coffee, cocoa powder, and sugar together in a small saucepan. Whisk in the milk & water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often. Meanwhile, finely chop the chocolate, and put into heatproof, pourable vessel (I used the aforementioned 2-cup Pyrex.) Pour hot liquid over chocolate. Let stand a few minutes, and whisk smooth. (The original suggests a wooden spoon, but I’m pretty excited about my new 4-inch whisk, so I used it.) Pour into ice cube tray, and freeze. This made 12 cubes for me.

For the Mint Milk:

600 ml milk (I used 500 ml 1%, which is what I had, with 100 ml 1/2 & 1/2 for richness. I think I’d just use the 1% next time – I’m not sure the creaminess added that much.)

60 g sugar (about 1/4 cup)

8-10 sprigs fresh mint

Heat the milk & sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When milk is very hot and sugar dissolved, remove from heat, toss in mint sprigs, and cover. Let steep half an hour or so (I forgot to look at the clock when I started, which, of course, I didn’t realize until some time later.) Remove mint, and chill. I poured it through a strainer into a Mason jar, but there wasn’t really anything to strain out.

To Serve:

Place 2-3 cubes chocolate in glasses, and pour milk over. This recipe makes 4 servings (at three cubes each, and milk divided 4 ways.) I think next time, I’ll double the milk, and use 2 cubes per serving. We had a hard time sipping slowly enough to let the chocolate melt in, and ended up topping off with regular milk (and a splash of Bailey’s) just so we’ll have more Mint Milk left for tonight. But, seriously, the Mint Milk? You must try it.


Tomatillo Avocado Dip


If you haven’t figured it out yet, there is no method to my kitchen madness. I sort through buckets of recipes and after “getting the gist” of the ingredients needed, I just go at it. Sometimes I substitute ingredients because I’m curious, and other times simply because I don’t have an ingredient. Really, it is only through great pains and a lot of luck that I am able to produce something resembling a recipe for you each week.

Why am I telling you this?

I made this dip. It was fantastic.


However, I didn’t measure all the ingredients.

The recipe I’ve written below should be very close to the original, but be sure to taste as you go and adjust if needed.

I know many of you have never used tomatillos before, but trust me they are worth the gamble. Tomatillos are delicious when mixed with the right ingredients. They are responsible for the tart flavor in many Mexican green sauces. I encourage you to give them a try and add a new ingredient to your family meals.

Tomatillo Avocado Dip

Ingredients:

2 tomatillos
1 avocado
1 tbsp half and half
1 tbsp lemon
2 tsp garlic
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions:

Remove skin and pit of avocado. Chop tomatillos into smaller chunks. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Use the half and half to smooth out the dip.

Serve with your favorite chip or a plateful of fresh veggies and enjoy!


Guest Post: Cookbook Reviews


This week I am welcoming back the talented Mary Jackson who recently updated you on Google Recipes. Today she is sharing a little bit about herself as well as a few reviews from cookbooks she has used throughout the years. I went ahead and included one of my own photos for you as well. Hope you enjoy!

I am Mary Jackson, wife of John Jackson, Milligan Bible/Humanities professor and mother of two teenagers, Quincy, 16 years old and Grace, 13 years old. I fortunately have a job I love as the Research and Instruction Librarian at Milligan. I work 30 hours of the week most of the year, but take time off in the summers and during holidays. All of that would keep me pretty busy, but I am also the fellowship coordinator along with other responsibilities at my church, Hopwood Christian Church, and teach an online course several times a year.

My hobbies are reading, traveling, internet fun and for purposes of this blog, cooking and baking. I was raised by a mother trained in all the traditional home economic arts, culminating in a Masters’ degree. Most of my childhood, she worked as a registered dietician. In another era, I think my mother would have chosen more of a science oriented path. While completely lacking in creativity, my mother knew how to do lots of things involving cooking, sewing, and crafts. More importantly she was willing to try just about anything. If she didn’t know how to do something, she was more than willing to find out how and buy the supplies necessary to do it. My childhood had plenty of art supplies, cooking ingredients, and sewing materials.

I lack much artistic ability and I am, at best, a very basic seamstress—I can usually get 75% of a project completed before the pattern completely baffles me and I just don’t enjoy it. But what I love is baking and cooking. I also married a man with very few cooking skills, but who was very keen on learning. We now cook well together. He took a great interest in yeast products, which I don’t enjoy, and has become an excellent bread man.

Baking is my favorite activity and baking in large quantities is my specialty. To give you some idea of what I consider “normal”. I make treats (usually two-three choices of cookies, bars or muffins) on test days for my husband’s classes. He has 100+ students most fall semesters. Needless to say I have some standby large quantity recipes and a good work routine. I have also been cooking for church groups and potlucks for most of my adult life. I’d like to blog on recipes/tips/strategies on cooking for large groups and as the owner of a large collection of cookbooks, I’d like to review a few that I love…

Since I work with college students, I get invited to a lot of weddings. Shortly after one of this year’s crop of weddings, one new bride posted on FB asking for recipe suggestions and cooking advice. This got me to thinking about what cookbook I would give to a couple just starting out.

Two classics deserve a bit of discussion. Back when I got married, 28 years ago (oh, my!), the traditional book for all new brides was The Joy of Cooking. I still have mine. The book went through a number of editions, some better than others. I used to refer to it occasionally as it is packed with lots of useful information. But with the rise of the Internet and other newer cookbooks, it is no longer my book of choice. Many of the recipes now seem dated.

Another of my wedding gift cookbooks, was The Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book in the three ring binder. It is truly a cookbook with only a little additional information. I love several features of this book. The inside front and back covers have one of the best equivalency charts (1 lemon = 3 Tbsp juice) and emergency substitutes. Very handy and I still use them. I like the three ring binder as the book lays flat, but now after all these years and several big moves, the pages are starting to fall out and have gone missing.

However, the book that I have gifted to many people and the one we most, is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Bittman is a long time food writer for the New York Times. He just stopped writing his weekly column this year. We have both the original edition (falling apart) and the revised 10th Anniversary edition. I have given this as a gift to everyone from experienced cooks to beginners.

Most of the recipes are straightforward and use ingredients commonly found in U.S. grocery stores. If the ingredient is more exotic, he tells you and usually gives a more readily available alternative. What I enjoy most are his many ideas for how to change up ordinary foods. He includes snazzy boxes labeled: 19 Thirty-Second Ways to Jazz Up Plain Rice, 12 Alternative Toppings for Pasta, and lists over 20 ways to cook chicken cutlets. Who hasn’t looked at a package of chicken breasts in the fridge and hoped for some dinner inspiration? He provides basic information about fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans including buying, storing, preparing and best cooking methods.

My only criticism, and it is very minor, is the desserts section is weak. If you need a desserts cookbook, comment on this post or just keep reading as I’ll soon be submitting dessert reviews.


This and That Sloppy Joes


There are two dishes that I tend to crave without warning, macaroni and cheese and sloppy joes. Luckily, both of these dishes can be quickly thrown together, even with the measly ingredients found in the dark barren wasteland I commonly refer to as my fridge.

Last week, following a particularly hot and muggy day on the farm, I haphazardly threw these ingredients together in the hopes of creating something spectacular. Both Jack and I were VERY happy with the finished result, especially considering how quickly this pulls together. It is oh so tasty! If you don’t have all of these ingredients, feel free to substitute (I always do). As long as there is ketchup and Worcestershire, I don’t think you can fail.

**
Ingredients:**

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Worcestershire
1/4 medium onion
1 tomato, diced
1 small green bell pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp steak seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. ketchup
hamburger buns

Instructions:

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add meat, Worchestershire, and minced garlic. Cook on medium heat until beef is nearly cooked through. Stir occasionally. Add chopped onions, tomato and pepper. Let cook 5 minutes.

Add ketchup, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and steak seasoning. Let cook for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.

Grate Parmesan cheese on top and enjoy!


Shrimp Creole Recipe


Have you ever had that feeling of dread when you reach into the dark recesses of your cabinets only to find an empty space in place of that vital ingredient necessary for your meal? I had such a feeling a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I did not discover the lacking ingredients (yes, multiple) until I was fully emerged in cooking the meal, already at the point of no return.

After a small mental tantrum, I pulled myself together and set to work finding and making substitutes.

Here is the link to the original recipe.

And here are the ingredients to our version, which, by the way, turned out to taste fantastic.

Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of chili powder (I also sprinkled more haphazardly throughout the cooking process to our liking)
1/2 tsp. salad supreme seasoning
1 tbsp of all purpose flour
2 tbsp water
1/2 lb of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp Soy sauce
1/4 jalapeno chopped finely
3 green onions chopped
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. white rice

*I know that seems like a lot of seasoning but it was in lieu of the Cajun seasoning which includes all of those ingredients and a few more.

Instructions:

Begin by preparing your rice. Follow instructions on bag.

Heat olive oil on medium heat and add onion, bell pepper, celery, and minced garlic. Once the vegetables are tender, add tomato sauce, soy sauce, and all seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a low heat. Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Lightly season shrimp with garlic, paprika, chili powder, and lemon juice. Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a separate pan and cook shrimp. Add shrimp to sauce. Cook 5 minutes.

Mix flour and water and add to tomato mixture. Cook 5 more minutes.

Add chopped green onions. Taste, taste, taste! Adjust any seasonings necessary to fit your preference.

Serve over rice and enjoy!


Parties and Paella


Jack and I flew out West (California) last week to help celebrate three momentous events: grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, aunt and uncle’s 25th anniversary, and uncle’s 50th birthday

In the middle of the party, the grandparents decided to surprise the guests by throwing a second wedding and renewing their vows. It was a beautiful day full of friends, family, and lots and lots of food.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/06/cali-2011-076-575x431.jpg "paella closeup")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/06/parties-and-paella/cali-2011-076/) Paella Closeup

Other ingredients for this spectacular bash: 200 guests, 300 BBQ Oysters, 3 roasted pigs, 1 giant pan of paella, 4 bands,  and lots and lots of appetizers

I thought you all might enjoy pictures of the beautiful paella dish. For those of you who may not be familiar with this dish, I will attempt to explain.

Paella is a type of Spanish rice dish, associated with the region of Valencia. Paella can take on many forms with many different combinations of ingredients which may or may not contain the following:

chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers

The essential spice is saffron, which also turns the rice a golden color.

What I believe is most intriguing about paella is the way in which it must be cooked. Paella is cooked in a giant flat pan over an open fire. The meat is browned first on a higher heat and later reduced to simmer the rice.

Our paella included clams, sausage, chicken, rice, asparagus, red peppers, and much more.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/06/cali-2011-075-575x431.jpg "Paella Pan")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/06/parties-and-paella/cali-2011-075/) Large Paella Pan

The final pictures are absolutely beautiful and reinforce my belief that beautiful looking food is the key to wonderful tasting food.


Google Recipes


A guest post from a very talented individual Jack and I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past 2 years. I love this new feature on Google. If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot. It is fabulous!

I am Mary Jackson, friend of Tiffany and co-worker (and friend) of Jack. I was talking with Tiffany about a blog post I was writing for the Milligan library blog that related to cooking. Tiffany suggested that it might be a good choice for her blog (which I love).

This spring Google launched a new feature, Google Recipes. I stumbled across it when I was craving lemon meringue pie. I did a regular Google search for lemon meringue pie, then realized while scanning the recipes that I didn’t have a required ingredient, cream of tartar. I went back to revise my search and what did I see:

I could now filter my results: by ingredients that I did (or did not) have, by cook time and by calories. WOW! I quickly clicked the NO box next to cream of tartar and instantly I had a new list of recipes that did not require me to make a trip to the store. The best part is you don’t have to do anything. If you type search terms into the regular Google search box and it yields results including recipes, the recipe features automatically pops up on the left hand side of the results. I love it! And the lemon meringue pie made without cream of tartar? Delicious.


Gyro Pizza


It is not uncommon to find myself at a complete loss in the kitchen. Every few weeks I feel as if I have hit a cooking rut. There are only so many different ways to combine the same 7 ingredients. I know the simple solution is to incorporate more ingredients, but every time I find myself at the breaking point, another idea comes along. This time, my lovely husband provided the idea, a Gyro pizza.

You see, we kind of like Gyros. Actually, that is probably the understatement of the century. We kind of LOVE Gyros! More specifically, we love Ozzy’s Gyros in the mall. Not only are the gyros delicious, but we love Ozzy’s family. In fact, we rarely go to the mall for the actual mall, we just go for the gyros.

So, of course, the idea of a Gyro pizza sounded genius to me. Here’s what we did to make it happen.

Dough Ingredients:

2 tsp. dry yeast
1 c. warm water
2 c. flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. basil

Dough Instructions:

Mix yeast in water and let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and mix. Add in the creamy yeast mixture and blend until dough is firm and joined.

Cover the ball of dough and let sit until it doubles in size, roughly 30 minutes. Mine never doubles in size, but somehow Jake is able to make it work. Basically, if it doesn’t double, you’ll have a thinner crust. Since I love thin crust, I am ok with it.

Once the dough has risen, roll it out into the shape of your stone and get ready to bake.

Next, make my Greek sauce. This is very simple and is the same one we recently used on the Greek Turkey Burgers. You can view instructions here. Once you’ve made the sauce, coat your dough generously. Why generously? Well, aside from more being better, this tends to soak into the crust a little bit so you want to start with a healthy amount.

We used ground Italian sausage for our meat, mostly because it is easy and you don’t have to season it. Just open the package and crumble bits over your pizza.

Jack and I wanted this to taste very Gyro-ish so we decided to add the traditional veggies after baking so it would taste fresh. However, I still love the smell of baking onions so…I went ahead and added 4 stalks of green onions to the pizza before popping it in the oven. I also added half of a package of feta cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Once, your pizza is done baking, pull it out of the oven (thank you Captain Obvious) and add your freshly chopped tomato, lettuce, and sweet onion.

Last step, enjoy your Gyro pizza. So good.


Greek Turkey Burgers


Today was a great day. Instead of the isolated thunderstorms the weather man called for, today’s forecast was bright and sunny. A much-needed reprieve from the past two weeks of dreary rain, although I’ll take the rain over tornado warnings any day.

Aside from the beautiful weather, Jack and I were able to partake in a day of celebrations as our friend Adam graduated from a 4-year-long Master of Divinity program. Yay Adam! He will soon be attending Johns Hopkins so, ya, you could say were pretty proud to know this guy.

Anyways, after a fun day of friends and mocha cake, I am going to try to crank out this recipe for you. Jack and I broke out the ground turkey Thursday evening to make one of our favorite meals, Greek turkey burgers. If you are one to criticize the authenticity of food origins than you might want to stop reading now as I have no idea if this can really be considered Greek at all.

However, we do use Greek yogurt to make the sauce, so that’s the name I am going with.

We have made these numerous times and this last batch was the best yet.  Just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed…well, you know the rest.

Turkey Burger Ingredients:

1 package ground turkey
1/4 of a large sweet onion
1/4 c. mushrooms ( I think I chopped 6 or 7 mushrooms)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 package of feta cheese
1 tbsp Worcestershire
salt/pepper
oregano
garlic powder

Turkey Burger Instructions:

Thaw turkey. Chop mushrooms and onions.

Combine turkey, Worcestershire, onion, and mushrooms in a large bowl. Add egg and bread crumbs.

If you think the mixture looks super liquidy, you either need to mix it up some more (using your hands works best), or add a few more sprinkles of bread crumbs. I added less crumbs this time and the burgers ended up super moist, which was awesome.

Next, add 1/2 the feta package to the mix as well as seasonings. Be generous with the seasoning, really… you can never over-season. General seasoning guidelines??? I would say add at least 1 tbsp of oregano and garlic and 1 tsp of salt and pepper. The image below has all the seasonings on top of the meat, you should also have this much seasoning.

Form mixture into patties. You should be able to get 4-6 patties depending on the size you prefer. Cook in a pan, not on the grill to prevent any slippage through the grate.

At the same time, you should sautee some onions in olive oil to add to the top of the burger. Trust me, it’s the right choice.

Now to the Greek sauce…

Greek Sauce Ingredients:

1 single container of Plain Greek Yogurt (in the size that costs $1)
1/4 grated cucumber
2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp lemon (tast it after 1 to see what you think)
1-2 tsp. garlic

Greek Sauce Instructions:

Grate the cucumber, yes, like on a cheese grater. The end product will look something like this…

Combine all ingredients.Taste it as you go, you may not like as much seasoning as we do or you may want more. Either way, these amounts should be a good starting point.

All that’s left is to place your burger on a bun, add sauteed onions, lettuce, Greek sauce, and voila, deliciousness on a bun!

These are fabulous, really, truly, fabulous. Happy cooking!


Bruschetta Baguettes


We have officially entered my favorite time of year, that time of year when there are more than 2 veggies in the store that both look and taste fresh. Maybe it’s just me but I’m pretty sure our meals taste 500 times better in the spring.

With summer just around the corner, Jack and I have started phasing out our heavier meals in exchange for lighter, more fresh versions of our favorites. Monday’s meal was fantastic! I made broiled bruschetta baguettes. This one is a must for the Weinbender recipe box.

Ingredients:

1 baguette
1/2 large tomato
1/4 c. onion
1/4 c. cucumber
feta cheese
graded cheddar cheese
3 garlic cloves (minced)
lettuce or spinach leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
pepper
salt
oregano
basil

Instructions:

Slice the baguette lengthwise, so you separate the top from the bottom. Brush olive oil lightly over the tops of the bread. Mince garlic cloves and spread evenly over baguette.

Chop tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. Place veggies on baguette. Lightly sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Sprinkle all seasonings according to your individual tastes.

Place baguette slices under broiler for about 10 minutes. Be sure to check every few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Chop a few slices of spinach or lettuce. Pull baguette out of oven when edges are browned. Sprinkle with lettuce and feta cheese.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Happy broiling!

Tags: http://www.staying-awake.org, http://www.whyhcg.com, http://www.myprovigil.com


Vegetable Shrimp Soup


I absolutely love shrimp. I could eat shrimp every single day and never tire of it. So, the other night, I decided to experiment with a make-shift shrimp soup. I was pleasantly surprised with the result. This recipe will feed 4 individuals 1 cup apiece.

Ingredients:

30 deveined shrimp without tail
1/4 c. tomato sauce
2 tomatoes
2 green onions
1/4 of a large cucumber
1/4 c. red onion
1 avocado
1 leek
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro
1-2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic

Instructions:

Thaw, rinse and drain shrimp. Place in frying pan to cook. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic. Add 1 tsp. lemon juice. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side.

Chop cucumber, tomato, leeks, and onions and place in a pot on low with a small amount of butter.

Add tomato sauce, lime, lemon, cilantro, 1 tbsp. garlic, salt and pepper.

Add cooked shrimp to soup. Let cook for 5 minutes. Add avocado and serve.

I also think this meal would work well cold or over rice. Don’t let the recipe limit your imagination, feel free to add to or take away from the ingredients, especially seasonings. I try to provide a general idea of how much seasoning I use but I normally season to taste, so taste your food as you go to make sure you like the finished product. Happy cooking!


Grilled Vegetables


Grilling is one of the things I most look forward to about summer and this past weekend was perfect grilling weather.

Growing up, dad was always our designated grill master. I’d like to think I learned a few things from him throughout the years. However, I had never tried to grill the sweet potatoes before this past Saturday.

Prior to living in the south, I had never eaten a sweet potato. I suppose you could argue that I must have tried yams at Thanksgiving or something to that effect, but I am convinced it never happened.

In Tennessee, everyone eats sweet potatoes, also known as yams (although there is a difference between the two). Apparently, this root vegetable is some sort of nutrient super food, outranking all other vegetables in nutritional value in a 1992 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Anyways, all that to say, this weekend, we grilled our sweet potatoes and they were fantastic. We also grilled baby asparagus and zucchini (my all-time favorite grilled veggie).

Our simple and tasty grilling tips:

Using a brush, lightly coat veggies with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic and pepper.

Grill until tender.I know… it’s super complicated, but simple always turns out the best.

Another method for the zucchini is to coat with Italian dressing instead of olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic. Delicious!

Best of luck with your grilling days to come. May it bring you and yours closer together this summer.


Momma Tammy’s Spaghetti Sauce


My mom (momma Tammy) makes the best spaghetti sauce of all time. Even with the recipe, somehow mine is never quite as good as hers. Personally, I think the key to this yummy sauce is using ground Italian sausage instead of hamburger meat. The sausage is SO much more flavorful.

Despite my inability to recreate this sauce exactly, I thought I would share the recipe in the hopes of you making a sauce that is just as tasty. I have adjusted some of the ingredients to make the serving size for two.

Normally, momma Tammy dishes the sauce over spiral rotini noodles. If you are going to use noodles, you must use this kind. I don’t know why but it makes the dish so much better. You can also try my style, over garlic bread.

Ingredients:

1 package ground Italian sausage
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 green pepper
5-7 mushrooms sliced
1/2 red onion chopped
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 loaf french bread
Olive oil

Instructions:

Set oven to broil. Spread a thin amount of olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder and oregano over tops of slices. Place in oven about 5 minutes before sauce is completed.

Chop all ingredients. Place Italian sausage in frying pan with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until browned.

Add onions, peppers, and seasonings to meat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add stewed tomatoes after draining excess juice. Add tomato sauce (I like to buy one with some flavors added). Let simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

If the sauce looks watery, add 1/2 can of tomato paste (mine varies with the type of sauce I buy).

Once you have allowed time for the flavors to mix together, pull the bread out of the oven add sauce and enjoy!

A few tips for making Momma Tammy’s spaghetti sauce…

  1. The longer you let it sit on the stove, the better it tastes. One thing I always thought was excessive was the amount of oregano and garlic she added. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH! Every time she went to stir the sauce, she added more oregano and more garlic. Trust me, this is the key to a spectacularly flavorful sauce.
  2. Watch your bread. Our family is notorious for making a delicious meal and then forgetting our bread in the last 5 minutes. We almost always end up fanning the smoke alarms. A sure-fire way to ruin the finishing touches of a great meal.

Good luck and happy cooking!


Edible Books Festival


In order to celebrate the nourishment that books bring to our lives, Milligan College library staff threw the college’s first ever Edible Books Festival at the P.H. Welshimer library. The event was a hit! It looks like next year the staff will throw a full-out competition due to all of the positive feedback.

Neither of my entries were as elaborate as I had hoped (this week was abnormally hectic). Jack asked me to make his entry since he works late Thursday evenings. I immediately said, “of course!” Unfortunately, I underestimated the precision required to make caramel apples. It will be a long time before I attempt those by myself again. Timing is key and between keeping caramel melted, crushing candy bars, and dipping apples, I did not have good timing. Oh well, I’ve learned my lesson.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-026-325x243.jpg ""Green Eggs" Cupcakes")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-026/) "Green Eggs" Cupcakes

Anyways, my “Green Eggs” entry wasn’t anything special so I am not even going to bother giving you the recipe. The icing was the same powdered sugar frosting from my previous Rummy Shortbread Cookies post, minus the rum.
Here are the other entries…

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-036-575x431.jpg ""Candide Apples"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-036/) Jack’s, oh so clever, “Candide” apples. He’s so witty.

And a few other entries that were both creative and clever…

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-030-575x431.jpg ""If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-030/) Kirstin Blackburn: "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-031-575x431.jpg ""The Illiad" (aka Book-la-vah)")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-031/) Meredith Sommers: "The Illiad" (aka Book-la-vah)
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-034-325x433.jpg ""The Invisible Man"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-034/) John Jackson: "The Invisible Man" (we gave him a hard time but it's pretty clever)
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-037-575x431.jpg ""The Very Hungry Caterpillar"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-037/) Mary and Grace Jackson: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-042-325x433.jpg ""The Giving Tree"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-042/) Melissa Nipper: "The Giving Tree"
[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/04/Edible-Books-033-575x431.jpg ""The Lion and the Mouse"")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/04/edible-books-festival/edible-books-033/) June Leonard: "The Lion and the Mouse"

And there you have it, a few highlights from the first ever Milligan College Edible Book Festival. I am also including a little background information on the event for those of you who might be curious…

Judith A. Hoffberg originally came up with the International Edible Book Festival idea in 1999. Beatrice Coron created the Books2Eat website for participants worldwide to enjoy each others edible creations. The first Edible Books event took place in 2000 and has since taken off as an annual sensation.

Edible Book festivals take place on or near April 1 in honor of the French gastronome, Jeane-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s (1755-1826) birthday. He is famous for his book, “Physiologie du gout,” a witty mediation on food.


Mandarin Pizza


Jack and I have a slight bias toward our little pizza joint back home, Ugo’s Pizza. Since moving to Tennessee, we have tried our best to find a comparable pizza joint but have had zero luck. Because of this, we now make our own pizzas, with each one becoming increasingly more creative.

This past week we decided to add fruit to our colorful masterpiece and it was delicious. Probably my favorite pizza so far.

As usual, Jack made the crust while I chopped up a variety of veggies. I’ve included a simple crust recipe from All Recipes. We prefer thin crust but feel free to substitute your favorite.

Dough Ingredients:

3 c. flour
1 package of dry yeast
1 c. water
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. sugar
Toppings:
1/2 package of grape tomatoes
25 pepperoni pieces
1/4 c. green peppers
1/4 c. onions
1 cup mandarin slices
1/2 c. cheese (we used, cheddar and pepperjack)
1/4 c. pesto paste

Directions:

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dough ingredients. Knead dough. Roll to fit your pizza stone.

Spread pesto onto crust. Chop all toppings.

Add meat, veggies, and fruit. I especially liked the sweeter grape tomatoes with the fruit.

Place in oven for 20 minutes. Check the bottom of the crust for crispy-ness and voila! A beautiful and tasty pizza.

Get creative and try substituting veggies with different fruits. Here’s another we’ve tried recently, strawberries!

The combination possibilities are endless. Good luck!


Quick and Simple Meatballs


Have you ever had a late night craving you just can’t shake? Well, I have for the past two weeks! I am not sure why, but suddenly a meatball sandwich sounded glorious. I don’t think I have ever eaten a meatball sandwich but I wanted one none-the-less.

When I realized this craving was not going away, I broke down and went to the store for some ground Italian sausage and made these quick and easy meatballs for my sandwich.

Ingredients:

1 package ground Italian Sausage
1/4 c onions
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/4 c shaved parmesan
1 egg
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Set oven to 350 degrees. Chop the onion into small pieces. Mix all ingredients.

Roll mixture into 1in. meatballs and place on a cooking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes.

Once the meatballs are done cooking, combine meatballs and a sauce of your choice in a large saucepan. I of course went with what we had in the cupboard which was a simple traditional spaghetti sauce (yes, from a can… gasp).

Only add enough sauce to be able to coat your meatballs after you’ve rolled them around for a bit. I used half of a 16 oz jar. I also added 2 tsp. of Worcestershire, 2 tsp. garlic, 1 tsp. oregano, and a dash of pepper and salt.

Let your meatballs simmer in the sauce for about 10-15 minutes.

If you are looking to make a meatball sandwich as well, slice some onions and mushrooms and saute over medium heat while the meatballs are simmering. Once the meatballs are finished remove your sauteed veggies and create your sub.

Oh so yummy with very little work. Good luck and happy cooking!


Caribbean Shrimp Cups


I was so excited to share this post today. I have been wanting to cook this meal for two weeks now and finally made myself take a break from homework to try it out.
I found the original recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s website, posted by one of her followers. You can find the original instructions here. I adapted the recipe to fit the flavors I tend toward and, of course, those that I had on hand. Making the trek to our local grocery store during the 5 o’clock traffic is not exactly ideal.

Now to food…

Ingredients (for 2):

1 c. rice (basmati rice would be my first choice but any rice will do)
8 large lettuce leaves

Marinade:
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. teriyaki sauce
1 tsp pepper

Shrimp:
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 c. cornstarch
16 shrimp, deveined with tails removed

Salsa:
10 grape tomatoes
2 green onions
1/4 c. sweet onion
1/2 stick carrot (peeled and then chopped)
1/2 medium-sized orange (chopped)
lime juice

Directions:

Start your rice. Prepare marinade by combining all ingredients with shrimp in bag. The original recipe has you marinade for an hour. I only marinated for 20 minutes and it was fabulous so don’t let the hour time frame stop you if you are in a hurry.

While the rice is cooking and shrimp marinating, chop up your salsa ingredients. Make sure you peel the carrots first and then chop up the peels so the salsa doesn’t feel heavy when it is mixed together. You could also use mango or your favorite fruit in place of orange. A citrus-tasting fruit is best. I added about 1 tbsp of lemon juice to my salsa, you can add to taste. I also sprinkled in a dash of garlic and pepper to taste.

Next, peel and wash your lettuce from the head. Head lettuce makes the best cups for eating. Our lettuce was just regular green leaf and it was harder to manage when we attempted to eat. Go ahead and lay your lettuce cups out so they are ready to fill once the shrimp is finished.

Mix cornstarch with garlic and pepper. Coat shrimp with mixture.

Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a pan. Make sure the pan is hot before placing in the shrimp. If it sizzles, you are on the right track.

Cook shrimp about 2 minutes on each side. There should be a beautiful golden brown coating when you flip them over. So exciting!

Now comes my favorite part! Dress your plate. The rice should be finished by this point. Scoop a spoonful of rice into each cup, followed by a salsa, and then top each with two golden shrimp.

These can be a bit messy, but they look so beautiful on the plate that I think it is worth the hassle. If you aren’t going for beauty you can always chop up the lettuce and make these into shrimp tacos. Happy cooking!


Apple Spice Soup


My friend Kelly is getting married in a few months and asked me to sew her table runners for the reception. She brought over a sampling of fabric to work with on Tuesday and since I don’t need much of an excuse to make a big pot of soup, I went ahead and experimented with a new combination of veggies for the evening.

This soup was a bit spicy for me but Jack loved it so I recommend deciding what level of spice you can handle before you cut up your jalapeno. If you like just a little kick at the end I would only use 1/4 of a large jalapeno.

Ingredients:

2 apples
1 large sweet potato
1/2 onion
1/2 large jalapeno
1/4 c. white wine
1 32oz. box chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp/ pepper

Directions:

Chop the apples, sweet potato, onion, and jalapeno into thinly sliced chunks. Add ingredients to large soup pan along with 1 tbsp. of butter. Add spices. Mix well. Add 1/4 c. white wine of your choice, mine was a chardonnay. Stir until ingredients are coated. Add half the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Stir, add the rest of the broth and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

You only have to let it simmer until the veggies are soft but the flavors are better if you let it simmer longer, plus cooking it longer makes your house smell fabulous!

Finally, pour ingredients into a mixer and puree. Presto your soup is complete! If you want a creamier soup, simply add a small amount of cream to the mix after you puree.

I also made this herb quick bread from allrecipes.com to go with the soup. It was quick (which is what I needed) but had an interesting texture. I added rosemary, garlic, and thyme in mine and it paired well with the soup.

Good luck and happy cooking!


Honey Ginger Shrimp with Rice


Ingredients:

10-15 Shrimp (precooked, detailed, and de-veined)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp fresh chopped sage
1/4 c. onion (chopped)
1/2 c. mushrooms (sliced)
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 c. rice

Instructions:

Follow the directions for your rice of choice. Add 2 tbsp soy sauce and 1 tsp ginger to the rice before covering. Set the rice aside to cook and get started on the shrimp and veggies.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shrimp, honey, pepper, sage, and garlic. Wait until shrimp is lightly browned and add mushrooms and onion. Cook until veggies are tender.

The rice should be done by now. So, now for the best part, dress your plate and enjoy!


Lemon Tilapia with Zesty Salsa


Ingredients:

1 cup rice
2 Tilapia fillets
1/2 bunch of cilantro (chopped)
2 roma tomatoes (diced)
3 stalks of green onion (chopped)
1/4 c. red onion (chopped)
1/2 small zucchini (chopped)
2tbsp olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
pepper/salt/garlic powder

Preparation:

The rice takes the longest amount of time to prepare so go ahead and boil your water and get the rice going before you start in on the following steps.

Chop all the vegetables. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan on low. Add in the vegetables and let them warm up slowly in the pan (do not add in the cilantro now). Add in just a dash of pepper and garlic (or more if you’re like us and can’t get enough garlic).Sprinkle in a bit of lime juice (1-2 tsp). Stir occasionally and leave the vegetables to warm up while you prepare the fish.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in skillet. If you have a large enough skillet feel free to cook both fillets at the same time. We eat so much fish that we buy the prepackaged fillets in the seafood section of the store. These kind are thin enough where they only take about 3 minutes to cook so it doesn’t take long if you choose to cook them separately. Once the olive oil is hot drop in the tilapia and cook about 1.5 minutes on each side (may be longer depending on how thick your fillet is). Sprinkle each side of your fish with pepper and just a touch of salt and well as a spray or two of lemon juice.

Go ahead and add the cilantro to the vegetables and mix it up. With any luck your rice will be finished by this point. This is when I dress the plate. I use about a 1/2 c. of the rice as my base, then I lay the tilapia on top of the rice bed and go back over to the pan of veggies (make sure the cilantro is warm but not soggy looking) to dish the salsa on top of the fish.


Key Lime Pie


This is an extremely simple pie to make and one that I wish I would have added cool whip and a few shavings of lime on top for the picture, but you’ll all do better right?

Ingredients:

5 beaten egg yolks
1/2 c. key lime juice
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
6 tbsp butter
1/3 c. white sugar
1-1/2 c. finely ground graham cracker crumbs

Directions:

Crust:
Combine melted butter, sugar and crumbs until well-mixed. Press mixture into 8- or 9-inch pan. Bake shell at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes to harden.

Filling:
Combine lime juice, yolks, and milk. Mix well and pour into crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and top with cool whip and graded lime rind.