Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fall Fun

I don't really have a good lead into this so... just read and enjoy:

My mom came over today and we did an art project for her church's fall festival. One of the activities for the kiddies is Trunk Or Treating. Each participating family decorates the trunk of their vehicle for the trick or treaters at the festival tomorrow.

Well, mom can't just smack some balloons and garland on her trunk and call it good. (I wouldn't let her if she tried) If she was going to do this thing, she was going to do it right, especially since she asked for my help ;)

She decided, after doing a web search (did ya catch that? Halloween, web... Alright, it was funny to me) to have The Doors of Mystery (Sounds cool right?!)

So, with my dad's help, we went in search of supplies. We found foam board, little wooden signs, a black gauzy background with spider webs, and three different textured "sleeves". Then, after a small side trip to Pier One Imports we wandered back to my house to work on putting it all together.

Here's what we did:
We cut three holes into the foam board, attached our sleeves (a lambs wool sleeve, a scrubby washcloth sleeve, and an oven mitt) then we covered the entire board with the black gauze.

Small doors go over each of the holes marked 1,2, or 3.

Then, the whole thing gets set up in the trunk of the car. Behind the board, there are two boxes for candy. If you choose the hole with the oven mitt you loose (play the "sorry, not a winner" music of your choice in your head at this point) But, not really- if you choose the dead end sleeve, you can pick a prize from the prize bucket. (Did you really think we'd make children cry at a church festival?!)

The wooden signs say: Doors of Mystery and Choose Wisely! They are hung above the sleeves along with some mummy wraps for some atmosphere. Fun huh?! It was a HUGE hit with all the kiddos at the event.

Are you ready to see it?!

It was a fantastic afternoon, but all that work and creativity makes a girl hungry. My mom thought ahead on that though. She and my dad grabbed a rotisserie chicken and the couscous salad she made last night. It was fantastic!

The couscous recipe was originally from Sweet Tomatoes, my favorite buffet restaurant. Seriously, if you every get the chance to eat at a Sweet Tomatoes or Souplantation, GO! (In CA they are called Souplantations for some reason...) She changed it just a little to fit with what she had in her cupboards. Let me tell you, it was stellar! Dad said it's good heated up too.

That's what I am going to share today- Couscous Salad. Here's the original recipe from the Sweet Tomatoes website:

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

8 oz dry couscous
1 3/4 cup water
3/4 TBS vegetable or chicken bouillon base

3 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1 scant tsp black pepper
1/4 cup olive or canola oil

1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup diced or crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced celery (1/4 inch dice)
1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1/4 cup snipped chives

Boil water and bouillon base together. Remove from heat. Immediately add couscous. Stir and cover. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes. Remove the lid. Fluff with a fork and cool.

Whisk together lemon juice, salt, pepper, and oil.

In a medium/large bowl mix couscous with all remaining ingredients. Drizzle with dressing. Toss to coat. Serve well chilled.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hello Old Friend

We visited the ocean today with my parents.

Mom and I searched for seashells.

Dad and Jon played in the waves

I gathered a bunch of small crab shells. Jon named it the crab graveyard.

After Dad grilled chicken for lunch, we spotted this little gal across the parking lot.

Isn't she cute?! She is a gopher tortoise. She's on the endangered species list in FL so we put her down to wander back to her burrow.

We had a lovely day visiting and playing. Tomorrow will be a busy day as we get settled into our house. And yes, my foodie friends, we will get back to the cooking of it all :) In fact, today I made pot roast. Threw it in the crock and went to the beach. It was yummy.

Last night my mom made some fantastic pan seared chicken. It will be added to my keepers book. And so, I am sharing it with you. (I know, YAY! A recipe, FINALLY!)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Mom's Crispy Chicken
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast- boneless, skinless
egg beaters
Italian seasoned Panko bread crumbs
olive oil

Cut chicken breasts in half width wise.

Set up your coating station: 1 dish with flour, 1 dish with some egg beaters, and 1 dish with panko crumbs. Place a cookie sheet with a wire rack at the end of your line up.

Coat the chicken halves in flour. Shake off any excess.

Dip the coated chicken in egg. Shake off any excess.

Finally, coat in panko crumbs. Lay each piece out on a wire rack. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. This step is critical to keep the coating on the chicken.

Put 2 TBS of olive oil in a large skillet. Heat over medium high heat.

Add chicken pieces, do not over crowd the pan. Cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes . Flip chicken (add more oil if needed) and cook 4-6 more minutes until cooked through(about 12-15 minutes total cook time).

Repeat steps as needed, cooking chicken in batches until all the chicken is done.

A tip for knowing if your chicken is done- touch the tips of your thumb and ring finger(the one closest to your pinky) together. Using your free hand, feel the pad at the base of the thumb that is touching your ring finger. This is the texture the chicken should be when it's done. If it's still mushy, it's not done. If you are unsure- USE A THERMOMETER. ;) Unlike steak, chicken shouldn't be pink!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We have arrived

After 3 days, 1624 miles, and countless potty breaks, we made it to GA!

If we can get the cat out from under the bed we will be good to go ;)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Road Trippin'

Well, we are just a few short days away from the big day.

We had our moving sale on Thursday and Friday. It was supposed to be today as well. But you know what? We ran out of things to sell! The Lord blessed us with many customers willing to purchase our treasures. We ended up with only a few odds and ends leftover which we will be donating to our local historical society for their annual garage sale.

We have wonderful friends and family who helped us out with our sale. Since we live in an apartment it was nearly impossible to have a garage sale at our home. Our friend Josh offered us his yard and garage right on the main drag in town. Jon's brother helped us acquire tables. Our friend Mike came by to help us take down tables last night. And, countless friends and family came by to purchase things. We couldn't have done it without every ones help.

In preparation of our trip, I made a batch of beef jerky. Unfortunately, Jon got into the bag. He ended up bringing it to the garage sale and sharing it with our helpers. By the end of the day the entire bag was gone. I wasn't mad though, I considered it a compliment. Besides, it was after all Jon's birthday. If he wanted to eat all my jerky then so be it, we'll call it his birthday gift ;)

So, I made my way back to the market to buy another sirloin roast. Jon decided we should make a double batch, so we bought two roasts. I found my meat slicer as we were cleaning out closets. I absolutely Love that slicer. It makes slicing the jerky quick and easy.

Jon has been told to stay out of this batch, we will see if I have any jerky for my road trip across country in a few days...

I will share my basic marinade recipe for jerky. But be warned, just like every good cook, I have my secrets that I just can't share. One of the secrets I won't share are the brand names of the ingredients I use. I admit I am a total snob when it comes to jerky. If even one of my ingredients is missing in the brand I prefer, jerky won't be made until the "right" brand is available.

Play with the recipe until you find a marinade that you like best. Once you get it right, people will be begging you for your recipe!

I have several variations of my marinade recipe for the different meats I dry- chicken, turkey, steak,bison, and venison. Again, don't be afraid to experiment. You will be rewarded for your bravery.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Basic Jerky Marinade
Enough for about 3 lbs of meat

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
3 TBS liquid smoke
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 TBS brown sugar
fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 TBS ketchup
1 1/4 tsp salt
hot sauce

Combine all ingredients together in a zip top bag.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I had my final day at the adult foster care home where I've worked for the last 4 years. Saying goodbye to everyone was much harder than I ever imagined it would be. I've learned so much about myself and about what I can do. Lessons I may never learned otherwise.

There were ups and downs, as it is with life. I am thankful for who I've become because of everything I experienced.

I met a lot of interesting people over the years. I forged friendships that will go with me no matter where I move. For those treasured few, I am left without words to express my gratitude for their part in my life.

My dear friends Kate and Joshy decided we needed to celebrate our friendship over dinner last night. It was more than I could have ever asked for. Good friends, laughter, and food. It was perfect.

Kate posted a quick blog about our dinner that you can check out here:

The only words I have for these two gems are- Thank you. I love you both.

Although I didn't make dinner, I did make a snack when I got home. It was a little project I started the day before- pepperoni chop bread.

My brother, Adam, has a friend from high school named Wyatt. Wyatt's mom used to make a snack bread that Adam really enjoyed. He brought the recipe home and my dad baked up the pepperoni chop bread. We ate it around the table playing board games one night. It was a hit.

When I moved out the recipe disappeared somewhere into the depths of my cookbooks. I found one similar the other day I wanted to try out. Guess what!? It was the recipe I remembered.

Jon gave it a thumbs up. He really liked that he could just pull a piece off and go back to what he was doing. Pizza flavor without the mess. Yum.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Pepperoni Chop Bread
Makes 1 free form loaf

1 loaf frozen white bread dough
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 tsp. oregano
4 oz. thin-sliced pepperoni
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Thaw dough at room temperature on a cutting board lightly sprayed with vegetable oil spray for 2 hours, or until thawed. Pat into a 10-inch circle on cutting board. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or in an air-conditioned house for 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Or dough may be thawed and risen overnight in the refrigerator, in a bowl lightly coated with vegetable oil spray. Pat dough into a 10-inch circle on a cutting board and continue with recipe.

Spread pizza sauce over dough. Sprinkle with oregano. Top with pepperoni, then mozzarella cheese.

Draw dough up around filling. With a large, sharp knife, slice bundle about five or six times across, then five or six times in the other direction. With knife, gently mix by lifting dough and pizza mixture from bottom and piling on top. The dough pieces should be about 2 inches square.

With a spatula, gently mound mixture on a lightly greased baking sheet, re-shaping into a circle and making sure most of the filling touches the dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until puffy and brown. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before removing from baking sheet. Serve warm or cold. To reheat, bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes, or until heated through.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Move over McDonalds!

When I was a kid and we'd go on long trips out of town, we would swing through a drive through on the way out. It was a treat just a few times a year, as fast food is meant to be.

When we'd go for breakfast on those out of town trips I always looked forward an egg mcmuffin sandwich.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of nutritional value in these little guys. I needed a solution. Enter Becca's kitchen. :)

Quick and easy, my version is low fat, high fiber, and just as delicious as the inspiration. Jon and I love these for a quick breakfast on the go.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Breakfast Egg Sammy
Serves 1
219 calories

1 Thomas Better Start English muffin (8 grams fiber per muffin)
1/3 cup Egg Beaters original
3 slices Land O Frost turkey breast lunch meat
1/8 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
5 sprays Parkay butter spray
salt and pepper or Jane's crazy mixed up salt

Spray a small skillet with cooking spray.

Mix butter spray, egg beaters, and seasoning together.

Pour into a preheated skillet over medium heat. Gently scramble the egg pulling it into itself to make a shape similar to the english muffin. Flip to finish cooking.

OR pour the egg beaters into a round, sprayed cookie cutter. Flip halfway through.

Split and toast english muffin.

Sprinkle half the english muffin with cheese. Top with egg.

Warm meat through in the skillet. Place on the egg. Top with top half of english muffin.

Bacon, egg, cheese sammy
Serves 1
254 calories

1 Thomas Better start English muffin
1/3 cup Egg Beaters original
2 slices turkey bacon, pan fried and cut half
1 (2%) American cheese single
5 sprays Parkay butter spray
salt and pepper or Jane's crazy mixed up salt

Spray a small skillet with cooking spray.

Mix butter spray, egg beaters, and seasoning together.

Pour into a preheated skillet over medium heat. Gently scramble the egg pulling it into itself to make a shape similar to the english muffin. Flip to finish cooking.

OR pour the egg beaters into a round, sprayed cookie cutter. Flip halfway through.

Split and toast english muffin.

Sprinkle half the english muffin with cheese. Top with egg. Place crispy bacon on the egg. Top with top half of english muffin.

Quick Quiche

So, as you all know from my last post I am using what is in the cupboards for meals.

Well, today was rough day for me. I am working on passing another kidney stone, boo. While the pain was in a temporary lull I decided to make dinner. A feat I am told was rather comical to watch... (Yes, Jon was my supervision so I didn't do anything silly.)

I stood in front of the fridge and got this genius idea to make a veggie quiche. We had egg beaters, a pie crust, leftover broccoli, and diced onion. I added a few extra things and threw it in the oven. Jon gave me the thumbs up to keep this one. Maybe it was because I was really hungry, but I thought it was fantastic ;)

Just a side note to all my friends watching your cholesterol- this dish only has 34mg of cholesterol per serving. Egg beaters are an amazing substitute that allows for enjoyment of breakfast dishes such as quiche. The texture and flavor match that of a "real egg." I do suggest sticking with the name brand on this though. I didn't particularly care for the generic brands of other egg substitutes I've tried.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Quick Quiche
Serves 6-8
147 calories for 8 servings
197 calories for 6 servings

1 frozen pie crust, thawed
1 cup egg beaters, original flavor
1 whole fresh egg
3 TBS low fat buttermilk
3/4 cup steamed, chopped broccoli
3 oz Farmland 95% fat free diced ham
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a skillet with cooking spray or 5-7 sprays of Parkay spray butter. Saute onion and ham. Remove from heat. Stir in broccoli. Evenly distribute in the unbaked pie crust.

Sprinkle pie filling with half the cheese.

Beat together egg beaters, 1 egg, buttermilk, salt and pepper. Pour over filling.

Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing.

*Helpful Hint: I usually cover the pie crust fluted edges with some aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil for the remaining 10 minutes. This prevents the crust from getting to dark.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Saddle up partner

Here we go kiddies.

It's time for a new adventure.

In 2 1/2 very short weeks Jon and I will say good-bye to the place we've called home for the last several years. We will be leaving behind/selling most of our "stuff" and taking only the things that we truly treasure. We will be driving the long road from Minnesota to southern Georgia with the help of my parents. We feel blessed to have such wonderful travel companions willing to drive 1600 miles!

We are thrilled that God has given us this opportunity. Please pray for us for safe travels and as we get settled into our new surroundings.

I was recently asked if I would continue my blog once we moved. The answer is a resounding yes. I love to cook, no matter where we live.

Since we are moving soon, not a ton of new recipes are coming out of my kitchen at the moment. Mostly, we are using up the food we've got stocked in the freezer and the cupboards.

So, now that you know where we are going, it's time for a pop quiz. What do you think of when you hear Georgia? Peaches and pecans.

I don't have any peaches, besides, they aren't in season. But I do have pecans. My mom sent them to me when they were in season. I store them in the freezer so I can use them as long as possible. (If you store them at room temp the oils can go rancid before you eat them all up, and that's just sad!)

I use them to make pecan crusted chicken and pork.

I use them in pasta dishes.

And, I love to use them to make cheese balls for holiday parties. My niece loves to help make this recipe because she gets to squish the cheese with her fingers.

I am sure I will have plenty more pecan recipes coming your way in the future. Until then, this will have to tide you over. ;)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Mom's Pecan Crusted Cheese Ball
Plan ahead, this is best made the day before

2 (8 oz) pkgs cream cheese
1 (1 oz) packet Hidden Valley ranch DRY salad dressing mix (NOT buttermilk mix, it's too salty)
2-1/2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
1 to 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans

With clean hands, combine the cream cheese and dry dressing mix together thoroughly.

Add cheddar cheese and mix well.

Shape into one large ball or into a log.

Roll in chopped pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve with crackers, pretzels, or fresh veggies.