Monday, April 23, 2012

Low Key

This weekend was looooooooow key (well, for me anyway) which is just what I have needed after some pretty busy weeks! I will say that we have been having wonderful weather and so last week we were able to take some lovely walks after work! Of course, today it is freezing but hopefully this will be the final cold snap of the year!!
This past Friday Forrest headed down to the beach with some guys for Jay's bachelor party. He was looking forward to some fun in the sun but it turned out to be a rainy weekend! They did have a good time, even if it meant playing golf in the rain!! While Forrest was gone I was determined to have a relaxing weekend full of "me time", and that is just what I did! Justin was gone as well so Farrah and I went together to the Regency ball on Friday night. I love this dance because they serve breakfast at the end!!
Regency is a black and white ball and the members get to wear crowns! Fun!

On Saturday I got a little work done and then had lunch with my parents. I also did all of my usual Sunday errands early and got to take an afternoon nap! Ahhhh, it's the small things, isn't it?? After Mass I went with the Gandhis to eat dinner at the LeBlancs. It was so sweet for them to let me tag along since I was solo all weekend. We had a great bbq dinner and I enjoyed hearing them talk baby!! I didn't take one single picture but that is probably because I was using my hands either to shovel lots of Shannon's delicious dip into my mouth or to play with precious Eloise!!
On Sunday I was a laaaaazy girl!! I got to sleep in and lounge around all day! I did find the energy to go see The Lucky One with my sister and Julie, and to eat dinner with my parents, but other than that I was less than productive.
Sorry for such a lame post, but stay tuned for more fun!!

Stella (my boy cat) really wanted to be on the bachelor party, apparently. I kept finding him sleeping on Forrest's cooler in the basement!

Nerd alert!! My sweet mom made these periodic table cupcakes for her AP Chemistry class! I thought they were adorable!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monday Monday

Usually Mondays are crazy busy and everyone is tired and doesn't want to be at work. Yesterday, though, we found a way to have a perfectly lovely Monday! Forrest was on a rotation in town so we got to have lunch at home together! Then I cooked us dinner that night, we got to take a lovely walk with the dogs, and we even baked a sweet treat for Farrah who needed a pick me up! It was a nice day of just being Baileys! See below for the recipes that made our day so yummy!!


Ingredients:
2 whole red bell peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fat free half & half
4 oz. garlic & herb goat cheese
2/3 cup grated parigiano reggiano cheese
1/2 cup artichoke hearts (optional)
1/2 lb. linguine, cooked to al dente
salt & pepper, to taste
Directions:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place red peppers on baking sheet and bake 20-30 minutes until peppers are charred. Remove from oven and cover with foil 10 minutes.
In the mean time, saute onions and garlic in olive oil 7 minutes or until tender. Pour in half & half, goat cheese, salt & pepper. Stir to melt goat cheese into sauce and keep warm over low heat.

Uncover peppers, peel off skin and remove stem and seeds. Chop into large pieces and place into sauce along with parmesan cheese. 


Stir to melt cheese and remove from heat. Pour sauce into food processor and puree, or use an immersion blender. 

Place back into hot pan and toss with cooked pasta. 

Taste and adjust seasonings. Top with more parmesan cheese, pepper, salt and parsley, if desired.



S'more Cookie Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (approximately 7 full graham crackers)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 super-sized (5 oz.) dark chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. Two 5 oz. Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread marshmallow fluff evenly over the chocolate layer.
Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff. This is most easily done by putting the second half of the dough in a gallon size freezer bag. Use your palms to flatten it out, and then use scissors to cut down both long sides of the bag, so it will open up book-style. Open it up carefully, and the dough will stick on one side of the bag. Then place the bag, dough side down, on the other three layers. From there peel the bag up ad spread the dough where it is uneven.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars
Makes 16 cookie bars.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Dip

I tried this out this weekend for Jonathan and Denise's shower. I thought it was pretty tasty but I think it would have been better had I made it the night before. I tried, actually, but I had accidentally purchased Vanilla Bean flavored Greek yogurt instead of plain!! This recipe is SUPER easy and quick!!!

From Real Simple

Ingredients

It wasn't until after this pic that I realized I had vanilla bean yogurt!

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mash together the Feta, yogurt, and oil until mostly smooth. Mix in the sun-dried tomatoes and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. 
Yummy!


Oops this is out of order, but doesn't that look good???

So Many Friends!

I LOVED this past weekend because we got to see so many different friends!! On Friday I co-hosted a couples shower for Jonathan and Denise at Justin and Farrah's house. We had bbq, beer, wine, and cookies--it was super simple but so much fun! I made Bama Caviar and a new dip I found on pinterest, Sun-Dried Tomato and Feta. Everyone enjoyed sitting around outside toasting the newly weds to be--we had PERFECT weather! I am mad at myself for not taking ANY pics of the party. All I got were a couple quick pics of the flowers. 

On Saturday morning I was up and at 'em early to head to the Gadsden Service Guild Rummage Sale Storage Units. I treated myself to a Jack's biscuit on the way for being so good and getting up early on a Saturday! :)
Each month a group of GSG girls gets together to organize the units. This way, when the sale comes, we can take our organized boxes to their designated section instead of sorting all of the rummage at the sale site. I am SURE this process will help us be more efficient in November! It was actually a fun morning with the girls--we had a radio going so we were singing, dancing, and chatting as we sorted, boxed, and labeled! 
Afterwards Forrest and I went to the Smoke on the Falls BBQ festival at Noccalula Falls. I almost backed out because I thought I would have more fun taking a nap, but since the weather was so nice I felt bad about wasting a day indoors. Once we got there we ran into the Smiths, and then the Gandhis, and then Daniel LeBlanc with Eloise!! Fun times!! We all enjoyed our free bbq sandwich and were about to wander around the park when one of Daniel's co-workers walked by and handed us all VIP passes! SCORE!!! In the VIP tent we were able to eat tons more food (including cake--yippeeee), and help ourselves to some tasty margaritas! After fueling up we wandered around the park. We were excited to show everyone the falls and the park area where both Forrest and I grew up playing. We were a little disappointed that the participants in the bbq cook off were not giving out samples, but we had a great afternoon regardless!
Eloise ready for a fun day!

The girls at the falls

Our group (minus me) on the park train!
Forrest, Daniel and Eloise, Micha and Tony (the Gandhis' friends) and the Gandhis

Shelia the lion!!

Forrest and Daniel enjoying the petting zoo!

After Smoke on the Falls Forrest and I went to Mass and then to meet our Young Marrieds group at the Back Forty Brewery. After having some samples we headed to Jeffereson's for dinner. Since the weather was still so nice we ate outside! 
On Sunday I was determined to lounge around as long as possible, and that is just what I did! I managed to get moving early enough to get my grocery shopping done before the Service Guild New Member Tea. What a fun party! I am so excited about all of the potential new members that we have for the guild and hope they will all join!! That afternoon Forrest and I hung around outside with the dogs until time to head to dinner with my parents. Steaks and salad? Yes please!!! 
I hope you are enjoying spring with all of your friends just as much as we are!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thai Chicken Enchiladas

I am honestly shocked that I actually cooked last night. I was feeling pretty burned out after all of my Easter baking. HOWEVER, I found this delicious recipe that I just had to try and of course I have no patience when it comes to yummy things. I was surprised that I found all of the ingredients (easily, no less) at one store--hooray! These enchiladas were simple to make and absolutely delicious!! Forrest took one bite and declared that they were a "do over" and was trying to think of people to invite over next time we make them! Hope you enjoy!!

Thai Chicken Enchiladas-From How Sweet it Is

serves 2-4
8 flour tortillas ( I used 6 med sized)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I used 5-6 chicken tenders)
1 tablespoons canola oil (I used olive!)
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped/shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped/shredded cabbage
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 green onions, sliced
1/3 cup chopped + crushed peanuts + more for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro + more for garnish
2 1/2 cups light coconut milk (this looks GROSS in the can)
1/3 cup + 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (looks like sweet and sour sauce)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add canola oil. Throw in onions, cabbage, carrots, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring to mix. Let cool until vegetables are soft, about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Add in chicken, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, remaining salt and pepper, tossing to coat, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add in 3/4 cup coconut milk and 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce, mixing thoroughly to combine. Turn off heat.
Icky!! Coconut milk looks nasty in the can! Make sure you mix it!
ooo la la!!!

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk together remaining coconut milk and sweet chili sauce. Pour about 1/2 a cup or so on the bottom of the dish. Slightly warm tortillas if desired to make them more pliable, then place a few spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in each, rolling up tightly and placing in the dish. 
This is how much I filled each tortilla. Then wrap securely and place with the crease down so they don't open.

Cover with remaining coconut milk and chili sauce mix. I usually take a spoon and cover every inch of the tortilla with the sauce, just to make sure it’s coated.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and top with additional peanuts and cilantro. Since sauce is not as thick as traditional enchilada sauce, when you remove them from the oven, spoon sauce from the bottom of the dish all over the tortillas. Additionally this can be done halfway through cooking too.
After baking!!! Delicious!


Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Goodies Recipes

I went ALL out this year for Easter!!! Here are all of the recipes I used, including my notes!

Saturday Pot Luck in Selma

Pasta Salad (from the Pioneer Woman--a cooking club recipe)

ingredients

  • 12 ounces, weight Farfalle (bowtie) Pasta (I used 16oz and just upped the other ingredients)
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used garlic infused)
  • 1 whole Lemons (more To Taste)
  • Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 whole Zucchini, Cut Into Small Wedges Or Diced (I used cucumbers, accidentally, but they were perfect)
  • 10 ounces, weight Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup Minced Fresh Parsley
  • 6 ounces, weight Crumbled Feta Cheese (I used 5 oz and then several ounces of shredded Parmesan)
  • I also added halved black olives and some chopped carrots for color and texture)
  • I also seasoned with garlic powder and Italian seasoning

Preparation Instructions

Cook pasta until done. Drain and rinse in cold water until completely cool. Add olive oil and lemon juice, then add salt and pepper to taste (do not undersalt). Toss to combine. Add zucchini, tomatoes, parsley, and feta, and toss to combine. Add more of what you think it needs; I like to go heavy on the feta! Squeeze in a little more lemon juice/drizzle more olive oil if it needs more moisture. (This is definitely a guessing game!!)
That's a whole lotta cheese!!!

Cover in plastic wrap for at least a couple of hours. Pasta is best when chilled for a few hours before serving.
Tada!!! finished product

*Note: Add grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, or grilled flank steak if you need a little protein.

Red Velvet Cheese Ball (a delicious pinterest find!)
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups red velvet cake mix, dry
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • assorted cookies and crackers 
Instructions
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add in the red velvet cake mix, the brown sugar and the powdered sugar. Beat until smooth and combined.
  • Turn the mixture out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap up into a ball and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  • I tried to make it look ball-like while it was still in the bowl and then just dumped it onto the plate covered in plastic wrap


  • Put the chocolate chips on a plate or in a shallow dish. Remove the cheese ball from the refrigerator and unwrap. Roll in the chocolate chips. (This might get messy!) Place on a serving plate and serve with cookies or graham crackers. (I used Vanilla Wafers)

  • Yummo!!!!


Ingredients

  • 1 box White Cake Mix
  • 1 package (4 Ounce) Pistachio Instant Pudding Mix
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 4 whole Eggs
  • 3/4 cups Chocolate Syrup (such As Hershey's)

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan.
Mix all ingredients but chocolate syrup and beat for two minutes on medium-high. Pour 3/4 of the batter into the bundt pan.
Doesn't it look pretty??

 Add chocolate syrup to the remaining batter and mix well. Pour chocolate-laced batter on top of the pistachio batter.
Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Note: You can use a knife to swirl chocolate batter into the pistachio batter for more of a marbled design.
I went with the swirl idea!
 Variation: Coat cake with chocolate ganache! (Definitely do this. I think people thought my cake was burned but it was just the chocolate. The ganache would definitely help the appearance!
See??? Not the cutest cake ever!


Birmingham Easter Feast



Ingredients

  • 1 package (18-1/4 ounces) French vanilla cake mix
  • FILLING:
  • 1 carton (16 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract ( I used real rum---why not?)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used mini choc chips)
  • FROSTING:
  • 2 cartons (8 ounces each) Mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  • Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions, using two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, confectioners' sugar, cinnamon and extracts; stir in chocolate. In another bowl, beat the Mascarpone cheese, confectioners' sugar, milk and extracts on medium speed until creamy (do not overmix).

  • Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with 1 cup filling. Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining filling over top of cake to within 1 in. of edges. Frost sides and top edge of cake with 2 cups frosting.
  • Press almonds into sides of cake. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Refrigerate until serving. Yield: 12 servings.

A word to those shopping in Gadsden--this is ONLY available at Food World!! Save yourself the trip to 4 grocery stores!!


Slightly lopsided, but still delicious!

Not too shabby!

Cadbury Cream Egg Brownies
These??

Like this?

In these????
YES PLEASE!!!!
4 1/2 Cadbury Creme Eggs (total of 9 halves)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut the Cadbury Eggs along the crease. You should have a total of 9 halves. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, unsweetened cocoa powder and kosher salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment (a handheld mixer works too), mix together the packed light brown sugar, sugar, melted unsalted butter and vanilla extract on medium speed for 3 minutes.
Add in the eggs one at a time and mix.
Slowly add in the dry ingredients on low speed. Mix until just combined. Take a spatula and fold the ingredients together.
Throw in the semi sweet chocolate chips and fold them in.
Spread the brownie batter into a lightly greased 8×8 inch baking pan. The brownies will bake for a total of 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Once the brownies have baked for 25 minutes, remove them from the oven and carefully press the Cadbury Creme Eggs on top of the brownies. The center of the Cadbury Eggs should be facing up.
Put the brownies back in the oven and continue baking for 5 more minutes.
Cool the brownies and then cut into pieces. Enjoy!


Easter Basket Cookies
These were the most frustrating things to make. The dough was delicious but the cookies wouldn't stay in the basket!! I didn't even dignify them with a pic, however, like I said, they tasted delicious!!!

1 cup butter
8oz cream cheese
2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
Flaked coconut and green food coloring
Egg shaped candies: Reese's eggs, Cadbury eggs, Peanut M&M's or jelly beans work great!
Beat together butter and cream cheese till smooth. Beat in sugar. Add egg, vanilla, and extracts. Mix well. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Roll dough in balls (about the size of ping pongs). Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Make an indentation in each one using the back of a Tablespoon. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Cookies won't brown. Remove from oven and use the spoon to press down the indentation again. Let cookies cool completely. Mix coconut with a couple of drops of green food coloring in a small bowl with a lid. Cover and shake till coconut is tinted green. Fill nests with coconut, and add a few egg candies.

 
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