Friday, March 29, 2013

easter menu | favorite things friday

 Easter is almost here!  What a wonderful celebration of a miraculous event.

As a fairly new family, we're still figuring out what our Easter traditions will be.  Last year, Pebbles was too young to really enjoy it (let's face it - she slept right through it), so this year I'm excited to plan a big day that she'll be a part of.  The Easter bunny is going to visit us in the night and leave her a chocolate bunny (her first one!), a book, and some art supplies.  We're going to be filling plastic eggs with toddler snacks and having her "search" for them.  And, like most families, we're planning some delicious food.

We're going to kick off the day with Grandma's Buttermilk Waffles by Ambitious Kitchen.  We've never tried this recipe before, but it's one I've had bookmarked for a while.  We are a waffle-loving family, and these look absolutely delicious!

Picture from Ambitious Kitchen.

It wouldn't be Easter in my house without Deviled Eggs.  These are my husband's recipe, and he's always the one to make them from start to finish.  They are simple, straightforward, and some of my favorites.  If you want a basic deviled egg, this is the recipe to try.

Normally, I'd be content to forgo any vegetable in my Easter dinner, but since we're having company, I thought this Blueberry Tossed Salad would make an excellent side dish.  It's our favorite salad and has always gotten rave reviews from guests whenever we've made it.  Hopefully I'll be able to find fresh blueberries - they really make this dish.

For our bread, we're making this beautiful Challah by The Ivory Hut.  I had Challah once and thought it was some of the most delicious bread I had ever had.  With it's beautiful braided presentation, it will make a lovely addition to our Easter feast.

 Picture by The Ivory Hut.

At Easter dinner, you must have Glazed Ham, and this one looks amazing.  Pioneer Woman just posted it as part of her Food Network special, and I can't wait to try it out.  Her secret ingredient was Dr. Pepper!  I'm going to use root beer instead because root beer and ham go together like two peas in a pod.  Since we'll be at church in the morning, I'm going to try initially cooking the ham in a slow cooker and then transferring it to the oven once we get home.  We'll see how it goes!  I can't wait to try it.

Picture by Pioneer Woman.

For dessert, I've settled on a delicious Blueberry Vanilla Pie.  I created this recipe years ago, and Cookie Bandit just loved it.  It seems like the perfect spring dessert and the perfect way to end our Easter dinner.

Last, but not least, we're going to continue an Easter tradition that we started last year - cookie decorating!  I'm whipping up a bunch of Sugar Cookies using my new flower and Easter collection of cookie cutters.  I'm hoping our decorating skills have improved since last year, but I doubt it. :)

Happy Easter from our home to yours!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

creamy chicken noodle soup

Did it get cold where you are?  It went from sunny and 75 to freezing here!  We visited family in Oklahoma this weekend and looked out the windows on Sunday morning to see SNOW!  It was gorgeous, but I wasn't quite prepared for winter weather all over again.  I had just gotten used to spring.

The nice thing about cold weather, though, is that it gives me an opportunity to make soup.  I just love it.  This soup is particularly delicious on cold, windy days.  It's chock full of chicken, veggies, and noodles with just the right amount of seasonings and creamy broth to warm up your whole body.  You could make it more brothy if you want, but we are a chunky soup family. :)

In a large stockpot, saute onion, celery, and carrots in a small amount of olive oil until crisp tender (about 5-8 minutes).  Add cooked chicken, broth, and seasonings.  I like to save money by buying a whole chicken at the grocery store and boiling it.  I save the broth it creates (skimming any fat off of the top) and then use the meat for soups like this.  It's much more economical than buying pre-cooked chicken and boxes of chicken broth.

Bring the soup to a boil, and add your egg noodles.  Continue simmering until noodles are tender (about 7-10 minutes, depending on your noodles' package instructions).

Finally, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in heavy cream and mushrooms.  Continue cooking and stirring for another 5 minutes or until soup is heated through.

Serve with a large piece of crusty bread for a meal that will warm your soul!

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 2 t. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. rosemary
  • 1 t. thyme
  • 6-8 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 package egg noodles
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced

In a large stockpot, saute onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil until crisp-tender (about 5-8 minutes).  Add seasonings, broth, and cooked chicken; bring to a boil.  Add noodles and cook until tender (about 7 minutes, depending upon your package instructions).  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add whipping cream and mushrooms, cooking and stirring for 5 minutes or until heated through.

Friday, March 22, 2013

no-mess cast iron seasoning | favorite things friday

Do your cast irons ever look like this?

Mine do.  After I cook in them a while, they begin to lose that beautiful sheen that they had when I first got them.  Or, I'll commit the cardinal sin of cast iron cleaning and accidentally leave leftover food or water in mine for hours (or...ahem...days) after I'm done cooking.  Guilty as charged.

I used to hate seasoning my cast iron because it was such an ordeal and always made such a huge mess.  And it never looked right - there was always a bunch of oil left in my pan.

Fortunately, I've found a new, no-mess way to season my cast iron, and it comes out perfect every time.

Begin by lining your top oven rack with aluminum foil. 

Then, spread lard or solid animal fat liberally over the inside of your skillet.  I went out and bought a bucket of lard for this purpose alone.  I just put a paper towel over my fingers, dip it into the bucket of lard, get out a large amount, and use the paper towel to spread it over the skillet.  My hands stay clean the whole time.

Then...and this is your cast iron upside down on the foil-lined oven rack.

Close the oven door and turn it on to 200 degrees.  Keep it at 200 degrees for an hour, and then turn the oven off.  Keep your cast iron inside for at least another 2 hours or until it has completely cooled.  You want the lard to return to a solid state, so if you see liquid grease on top of the foil, leave it alone.

When your cast iron has cooled, you'll find that the lard has left a lovely sheen of seasoning without gooping up - it just sinks right into the pores of the cast iron.  You'll also find that the remaining lard has solidified on the foil in your oven - just dispose of the foil for easy clean-up!

Do this as often as you need to in order to keep your cast iron looking like new.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

honey rosemary pork

I was desperate.  I wanted to serve Cookie Bandit something special, but we were low on funds and on time.  It's practically impossible to cook with Miss Pebbles roaming the kitchen - she crawls over to my feet and wraps herself around my ankles.  I can often get her to play by herself for a few minutes in the living room while I whip something up, but 15 minutes or so is about all I get.  It's difficult to cook fancy dishes in 15 minutes!

That's why I created this.  It's beautiful and remarkably easy, and it tastes like something that could be served at the Cheesecake Factory.  When Cookie Bandit dug in, his eyes lit up like it was Christmas.  Made my day!

If you've got 15 minutes on hand, give this one a go.  In a small bowl, combine honey, 1 T. oil, mustard, rosemary, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, brown pork chops in oil on both sides.  They don't need to be cooked through at this point...just browned (we only have 15 minutes, after all).

Transfer the pork chops to a baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Give your honey mixture a good stir and then pour over the top.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.  Serve over mashed potatoes, spooning plenty of sauce over each pork chop.

Honey Rosemary Pork
  • 6 T. honey
  • 3 T. olive oil, divided
  • 2 T. Dijon mustard
  • 2 t. dried rosemary
  • 2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 4 boneless pork chops

In a small bowl, combine the honey, 1 T. oil, mustard, rosemary, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper; set aside  In a large nonstick skillet, brown pork on both sides in remaining oil.  Transfer to a baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Pour honey mixture over pork chops and bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.

Friday, March 15, 2013

sandwich to go | favorite things friday

I've decided to start something a bit new.  I call it Favorite Things Friday.  Basically, every Friday I'm going to be posting about one of my favorite things.  It might be a recipe...a tip...a cute baby photo...something for the home...whatever!  But I'm looking forward to highlighting a few of my favorite things for you, and I hope to hear more about your favorite things in the process.

Today's favorite thing is a tip.  I love hot sandwiches, especially things like tavern burgers and sloppy joes.  But have you ever tried to take them to go?  Impossible!  It brings a whole new meaning to "sloppy" joes!

Recently, though, I've discovered an excellent way to pack up your messy hot sandwiches and keep them hot...with little to no mess!  

The trick, my friends, is all in the bread.  Rather than getting normal hamburger buns, buy yourself some whole hoagie buns or rolls.  You don't want them pre-sliced.

Cut the bun yourself, but don't slice it in half.  Instead, slice it about 1/4 of the way down from the top.

Then, hollow out the bottom half of the roll.  You can eat the leftover bread or take it to feed the ducks.  Doesn't matter.  The point is that you want to create a hollow bun (kind of like a bread bowl).

Spoon your hot meat mixture into the hollowed out bun and then top with the top slice.  The hollow portion allows the meat a place to settle without spilling out the sides.  Ingenious, I tell you!

Wrap the hot sandwich in foil and keep in a warm oven until it's time to go.  These are perfect to take to ball games, outings to the park, or just about anywhere.  Sloppy joes aren't so sloppy anymore!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

sausage lentil stew

It decided to rain over the weekend, so I felt like eating something warm and hearty.  This soup was the perfect creation for a cloudy day.  It took only 10 minutes to put together, is chock full of healthy ingredients, and filled us up more than I imagined it would.  It is also a slow cooker recipe, which meant that I didn't have to stay in the kitchen all morning tending to it.

The recipe was so simple that I didn't even take step-by-step photos.  So, I hope you enjoy the finished product.  Think of it on your next rainy day!

Sausage Lentil Soup
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 14 oz. package turkey Kielbasa, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 bunch kale (about 1/2 pound), washed, stemmed, and cut into pieces
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 1 t. parsley
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg

Sort and wash lentils.  Combine lentils with remaining ingredients in a large slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high setting one hour; reduce heat to low setting and cook 3 hours.  Stir before serving.  Serves 6.

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