Memories... Like Mom Made!

Memories... Like Mom Made!
Out of dark moments, flowers grow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Pasta Dish... in the MICROWAVE!!!

Yes, you read correctly! A pasta meal that you can prepare in the microwave!!

Start to finish this will take you barely 20 minutes... And it is SO worth the time!

Also, like most of my recipes, this is one of those completely customizable recipes. I really prefer recipes that are more or less a palette for creativity: everyone has different tastes, diets, food styles, whatever you want to say... It is fantastic to be able to add your personality to a meal!

So anyway, you probably want to know what exactly it is that I have made in the microwave... It is a pasta dish with tomatoes, basil, and lots of other delicious stuff. I cooked some chicken breasts (cut into 3 inch strips, or if you are like me and like to buy the frozen bags of chicken breasts already cut into tenders, use that) in a skillet on top of the stove to go on top of the pasta. I marinated the chicken in wine, italian dressing, and a splash of lemon juice. Then I dumped the chicken and the marinade in the skillet with a few drizzles of olive oil and cooked until nice and goldeny brown and cooked all the way through.

While I was cooking the chicken, I dumped a container of grape tomatoes into a casserole dish that has a cover for it (trust me, you need a cover to keep it from splattering everywhere), and added two baby spoon scoops (ummm maybe 1-2 tsp?) of minced garlic, and microwaved for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through...

(before microwaving)

(after they have popped open)

Once all the tomatoes have "popped" open, you are ready to smoosh them with a mashed potatoes masher, and then add 2-3 cups of uncooked pasta, like rotini, shells, penne, or bowties, 2 cups of chicken broth, and 1 cup of wine.

(I used rotini)

A good rule of thumb is to add the same amount of broth that you added of pasta. I had a weird amount of pasta (since I usually make mine fresh and rarely use dried), so I just measured out my pasta, dumped it in, then measured out the broth to the same amount, and poured it on top. Add freshly ground sea salt and pepper on top, then cover and microwave for 10 minutes. Stir well, then microwave for 5 more minutes.

Stir in 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese (the kind in a can), and 1/4 c shredded parmesan cheese (if you don't have it, just leave it out), and a bunch of chopped basil leaves. Top with chicken, garnish with basil and freshly shredded parmesan and serve.

Okay so I am sure you are thinking "wow this is so simple"... Yes, it is! But you can easily dress it up to go with any meal theme or ingredients that you have...

Some ingredients you could add:
Crisp crumbled bacon
Roasted red pepper
Sun dried tomatoes
Artichoke hearts
Leeks (you knew that one was coming!)

I am sure there are many more ideas: surprise me with a few!!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pasta with Butternut Squash Wine Sauce

If you have read my blog at all, you have probably noticed something very important about me:

I LOVE leeks. And I love finding random dishes to include leeks in.. Oh and I love wine... and vegetables...

Ok so basically, since Donovan is gone, I can eat whatever the heck I want that he wouldn't normally be game for, and if it is a bust I don't have to worry about him thinking his wife has "lost her touch"...

But guess what? Leeks + butternut squash + wine + pasta = AMAZING!

So here is what you do...

At least 2 hours before you want to serve dinner, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and scrub down a butternut squash. Then slice it in half long ways and place in a baking dish cut side down and fill the dish with about a half inch of water. Bake for about an hour or until super tender. Let cool and when cool enough to handle scoop out the goop and seeds, and then scoop the flesh out of the shells into a bowl and set aside for later. Below is a picture of what the squash looks like when it is nice and tender.... See that spoon on the left? It didn't take any effort to slide into the squash.. If your squash is still a little crisp or tough (don't know how else to describe it), pop it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Now prep your veggies... I chopped a yellow onion very finely, and halved two leeks and then cut into thin half moon ribbons.

Next melt 1/4 c butter in a large skillet and add the leeks and onion. If you want to add some minced garlic, add it when your leeks and onions are getting tender and translucent to avoid burning.

When your veggies are tender and translucent add a splash or two of wine. Okay then add a couple more splashes... Don't be stingy... I think I used about 1/2 c wine or something...

Okay so let the wine mix in with the veggies and butter. Add the reserved butternut squash and mix into the leek and wine mixture.

Add a couple splashes of heavy cream (about 1/4 c or so) and stir until super creamy. I added a couple good dashes of sage and some fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Cook until heated through.

You can mix this sauce in with some cooked angel hair, fettucine, penne, or any pasta that you like, then top with cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes, or serve on pasta as is.

Landon ate this like it was the only thing he has eaten in days! It was gone in seconds!

I made it just like the above recipe and served it with some pan grilled chicken breast alongside it. I garnished it with a couple fresh basil leaves and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This is a very delicious, easy meal for the whole family, and can easily be changed to suit anyone's taste buds...

A couple ideas:

Throw a handful or two of fresh spinach in with the leeks and onions
Roast a bunch of grape tomatoes in the oven while baking your squash: only roast them until they "pop", checking often so they don't burn, and shaking the pan occasionally to ensure evening roasting and that they don't burn and stick to the pan.It should take about 10-15 minutes, but still check often. Then add these to your sauce in the last step for an extra Italian flair...
Chop a roma tomato up and sprinkle on top
Crumble a few crisp pieces of bacon on top
Use the sauce, some ricotta cheese, and some chopped cooked chicken as a filling for manicotti, shells, or lasagna
Top with sun dried tomatoes and kalamata olives for a Mediterranean feel

Get creative! If you think of any great ideas, add them in a comment!!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Oh pooh... I am alone... and a casserole!

So my darling lovely husband (puke now if you will) left today for two weeks..

Two weeks is not that long, but it is long enough for me to go a little crazy missing him...

Okay who am I kidding, two weeks is going to drag out like you wouldn't believe.

I know I went through months and months, but it doesn't make being away from him at all any easier.

But there is a little bit of liberation when he is gone...


WOO HOO!!!!!

You know what I am going to make with my new found freedom and liberation?!?!!


Yup. Leftovers.

I made two casseroles tonight for dinner to take to my friends' who just had babies. I used a recipe I found on another blog and tweaked it, and called it "Fiesta Chicken Casserole". In hindsight, I would have tweaked it even more.

Here is a link to the original, below is what I would change.

To make Fiesta Chicken Casserole:

Chop an onion and sauté until tender. Add 2 cups chopped cooked chicken, a drained can of black beans, and a cup of frozen corn. Stir in a can of Rotel, a can of cream of chicken soup, and a can of another cream of (chicken, celery, or mushroom) soup... you choose.

Turn off the heat and mix these things together well. Then stir in some chili powder, garlic powder, and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 13x9 inch casserole dish, or if you are like me and making this to freeze or for a friend, grease two 8x8 foil casseroles. Tear some corn tortillas into quarters and layer the bottom with them. Spread a bit of the mixture on top of the tortillas and top with a good smothering of cheese. I used the "four cheese mexican blend"... But use whatever you have: monterey jack and cheddar would be fabulous! Repeat until all of the chicken mixture is gone and top with plenty of cheese.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

If you want to freeze this casserole, wrap tightly with foil and then freeze. When you want to have it for dinner simply throw in the fridge to thaw the night before, then bake according to the original instructions.

Enjoy! But seriously, read the original recipe for a different take on it (it was her recipe in the fist place) and a good laugh about how much her husband loves this casserole!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tuna Burger Wraps!!!

For lunch today I found myself digging through the pantry asking "what am I going to make for me and the kid!!!" Explanation: it is the day before grocery day and my house is barren...

So I ended up finding a can and a packet of tuna: about 7.5 oz total... ish... and a bunch of fresh spinach and lettuce.

So I made tuna burgers and wrapped them in lettuce, and made some cheesey creamed spinach which I will post next.

Tuna burgers are WAY better than they sound, and they are a great way to get kids to eat a little fish, as well as a great break from plain old tuna fish sandwiches... another plus: they don't stink like regular tuna fish sandwiches do! I put my tuna burgers on lettuce leafs, more like a lettuce wrap than a burger, but you can serve yours on toasted buns, bread, or just by themselves!

Take a can of tuna (I used 1 5 oz can of tuna and a 2.5 oz pouch of tuna and got 4 small bun sized patties, if you need to feed more people, double the tuna and just adjust the bread crumbs and mayonnaise, but don't add an extra egg) and drain it.

In a small bowl, mix a heaping spoonful of mayonnaise, a good squirt of mustard, and an egg until blended. Then add about 1/3 a cup bread crumbs and your tuna. I think I ended up adding at least 1/4 more bread crumbs. I wanted it to make a good enough mixture to handle and flatten into a patty.

**Added on May 15** I forgot to put that I added a good handful of chopped parsley to the mixture!

Divide mixture into equal servings (eyeball it depending on how many people you are feeding) and flatten into patties. Then coat in more bread crumbs until it is no longer sticky to the touch.

Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in a pan big enough to fit all the patties, then lay each patty in the pan. Spray the tops of the patties with cooking spray (I know that is totally cheater town, but it works so well that I can't help myself!). Cook on med hi heat about 4 minutes on each side, or until each side get nice and goldeny brown.

While they are cooking, tear some big pieces of lettuce and wash and dry them. Cut a red onion and grab your pickles. If desired, keep your mayonnaise and mustard out, though I skipped extra condiments.

Put a patty on a lettuce leaf, top with pickles and onion and any other desired ingredients (avocado and bean sprouts would have been delicious!). Enjoy your ten minute lunch! (Or dinner!)

Healthy kids tip: Some grated celery, zucchini, and/or carrots and add them to your mixture. Don't over do it, but a rib of celery and a small carrot, or a small zucchini should blend in nicely.

I served Landon's to him cut into small "baby burger" pieces each topped with its own pickle!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Preparation... And Bread Bowls...

So I start my new job on Monday, and it is going to be a full time position which will have me completely out of my comfort zone and away from my kitchen... This is good, yes, but I will have to work twice as hard to keep our house stocked with all of our favorites that usually take me hours to make. So I decided to get a leg up on some of my baking so that I can freeze portions for future use, and then I won't have quite as much work ahead of me when I come home tired from work!

Today I am going to make bread bowls that I can freeze and then thaw and fill with soup or even dip for a party. I originally had the thought that I would make these to serve with broccoli cheese soup, homemade of course, thanks to Anneka's recipe, but then I decided to just make a bunch to have on hand whenever necessary. If you plan on doing this as well, make sure to under bake them just a little bit, then freeze them on a cookie sheet, then put them all into a freezer bag together and toss in the freezer for when you need them. If you try and put them in the bag all at once before separately freezing, you will have a giant frozen mess, so don't do that. Since they will be under baked, you can pop the frozen bread bowls into a preheated oven to bake the rest of the way, which will help thaw them and finish baking them at the same time: it will be like they were baked fresh the whole time!

To come up with the recipe I read a few different "crusty" bread recipes. This is the one that I fashioned...

If you have a bread machine with a dough cycle, then this will be cake. If not, you will need to mix your yeast with the warm water first, then sift in the remaining ingredients and knead, then let rise.... For those with a bread machine, follow me:

Put the following in your bread machine bowl in this order:

2 cup warm water
5 1/2 c sifted bread flour
2 T sugar
2 teaspoon salt
1 T yeast

Set on the dough cycle and let it go until the cycle is over. Then lightly flour and let rest in a warm area for 10-15 minutes.

Now it is time to form your "bowls". Divide your dough into 6 equal sections.

You can form your bowls 1 of two ways...

1. You can shape your dough into a ball and let it rise for an hour, then cut a criss cross into the top.

2. You can grease glass custard or prep cups (I use my pampered chef prep cups), and form the dough around the upside down cup on a cookie sheet. If you choose to do it this way you will want to make sure that you don't accidentally fold the dough under the cup. Let rise 1 hour before baking.

Before baking, beat together an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water, then brush onto the surface of each bread bowl. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Be careful when lifting your bread bowls from the cups, if that is the method you choose, then let rise on wired racks. I know I don't have to say this... but the custard cups will be hot, so don't try and grab them and pull them off of the bowl... just please, don't ;) .

Remember, if you want to freeze your bowls, under bake the ones you want to freeze by about 6 minutes, or to the point where they are firm, but not fully cooked.

I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lemon and Orange Herb Chicken with Carrots and Roasted Asparagus

Saturday night was "Date Night" for me and Donovan. He is leaving on Friday for a 2 week det, so we have been trying to have little "dates" together, even if it means watching a movie on pay per view and having a "picnic" on the floor in our living room. So I decided to make a "fancy" meal, since I knew we wouldn't be getting a real date anytime soon.

I had a whole chicken in the fridge and I knew I wanted to roast it in the oven. I also had a bunch of oranges and lemons to use, so I decided to put it all together.

Preheat your oven to 350.

First I rinsed the chicken off and took out the neck and gizzards and innards and tossed them aside. Normally I wouldn't condone throwing away perfectly good innards, but I knew I wouldn't have time to put them to use, so in the trash they went.

Pat the chicken dry and gently loosen the skin on the chicken. Cut a stick of butter into even slices and stick the butter under the skin. Put chicken, breast side down at first (this helps seal in the juices), into a roasting pan, and cover with 1-2 cups chicken stock or broth, if you don't have stock on hand.

Cut an orange and squeeze the juice all over the chicken, then stuff the orange shell inside the chicken. I threw some baby carrots into the pot with the chicken and dunked them down under the broth so they could get soft. Melt a stick of butter and pour it on top of the chicken.

Salt and pepper your chicken, then sprinkle with rosemary, thyme, sage, and any other herbs you like. Put in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, covered with foil or a lid. Then pull the pot out and flip the chicken over so the breast side is up. Then sprinkle with the same herbs you put on the other side, and a little more salt and pepper.

Slice a lemon or two into 1/4 inch thick slices. Then, using toothpicks, secure the lemon slices to the top of the chicken.

Roast for about 2 more hours, uncovered, or until the thickest part of the thigh reads 170. I cooked ours until the thigh read 180 just to be on the safe side, and it was still super juicy and incredible!!! If you want the skin to get a little crispier, you can remove the lemon slices and put it under the broiler for a minute or two, but don't overdo it! You don't want a dry chicken!!!

Let the chicken rest for ten minutes before serving: this helps the juices settle and keeps all the juices from running right out of the chicken when you make that first slice.

While the chicken is resting, pop your asparagus into the oven and let it roast. I usually just cut off the woody stems of the spears, then drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and my homemade lemon pepper seasoning. Then place on a cookie sheet and roast for about 5 minutes on each side in the already preheated oven.

BBQ Pork Sandwiches with Baked Mac n Cheese

Friday night's dinner was half planned and half improvised... I was still on my baby fix and far more concerned with seeing baby Zane than cooking dinner. So I threw a pork roast into the crock pot in the morning, topped it with a bottle of our favorite BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's or Jack Daniels are the staples in this house), then poured about 1 1/2 - 2 cups Dr. Pepper on top. Then I put on the lid and turned it on low for 8 hours.

You can just use 1 can Dr. Pepper, or Coke, or Pepsi, or whatever. But we had a 2 liter Dr. Pepper, so I just dumped in a whole bunch... about 2 ish cups.

About 30 minutes before dinner was ready I brought some baby shell pasta to a boil on the stove and then drained it. Then I greased a casserole dish and layered pasta, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, cracker crumbs, and a little bit of evaporated milk. I continued until all the pasta was used up: about 3 layers. Then I baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is super bubbly.

Shred your pork in the crock pot and lift with a slotted spoon onto toasted buns (spray with pam and broil for 2-3 minutes, cut side up, on a cookie sheet) and top with more BBQ sauce, and then the bun. Serve with baked Mac n Cheese and a salad.

Super yum!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Brisket and a Baby!!!

Yesterday was such an exciting day for my family and pretty much anyone who knows us well, because most people who know us know our good friend Gypsy, which means that they know that Gypsy had her baby last night!!!!


Well I had started dinner in the crock pot in the morning-ish, around the time that I heard that Gypsy was back in the hospital, but that they thought she was really in labor this time (yay!). So I figured a crock pot meal was definitely the best choice, that way if I had to scoot during dinner I wouldn't need to worry about it burning.

I salt and pepppered a 2-3 lb brisket, then browned it in a hot skillet with about 1/4 c olive oil. I made sure to cut off all the extra fat first, that way the meat gets all nice and browned and seals in those delicious juices.

Then I transfered the brisket to the crock pot and added a little more olive oil to the pan, along with a sliced onion and some garlic. I let the onion get nice and soft and then added some seasonings: thyme, bay leaves, a little bit of seasoned salt. Then I dumped some espresso that I brewed specifically for this, so it was nice and fresh. I don't know how much I used, Rachael Ray used like 3/4 c espresso and 1 cup water or something, but I did about 1-1/4 c espresso and about 1/2 c or so water. Add a little dash of soy sauce and some Worcestershire (trust me, sounds weird, but trust me... oh and no more than 1-2 T of each). Let the onions soak up the espresso and get soft, then dump everything on top of the brisket. Scoop the onions back on top of the brisket, cover, and cook on low for 8ish hours.

It was super delicious.

We had basil and garlicky green beans, and mashed sweet potatoes.

And about halfway through fixing the sides, I get a text telling me to head to the hospital because it would be a good time for me to go. Now, this is about 7:15 when I get this call... By the time I finished up dinner, changed and bathed the baby and laid him down, grabbed my bag and headed out the door, it was about 8:35... So I pull into the parking lot a few minutes later and try to call, to no avail...

I walk upstairs into the maternity wing and what do I hear: a sweet, newborn baby cry. I looked at a nurse and asked if that was Gypsy's baby, and she smiled the biggest smile and said that he was born barely a MINUTE before I walked off the elevator!

I immediately started getting all weepy and smiley and jumpy and went and sat in the waiting room like the dad's used to in the olden days... (Isn't this silly: I am not even blood related and I am falling all over myself!!!!) They called me in to see the mama and baby and I couldn't believe how gorgeous she looked, or how healthy the baby looked! He has the most gorgeous color and chubby cheeks, red hair like his big brother, and the cutest little nose you could ever see! He has the grip of a gladiator and the appetite of a teenage boy!!!! Gypsy and Josh are truly blessed with their bundle of joy!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hot Wing Burgers

Tonight's meal was SO good! It was a welcomed change from plain, boring hamburgers, and a much healthier change too! We had Hot Wing Burgers made from ground turkey and coated in hot sauce, topped with cheddar and blue cheese.

Here's how to do it:

Take about 5 or 6 baby carrots (or a couple regular sized ones if you have them) and shred them in your processor. Shred a rib of celery and a half an onion too.

Toss this in a skillet with some EVOO and cook on medium until soft. Throw some garlic in there too, being careful not to burn.

Put all this in a bowl and let cool, then mix in 1 pound or so ground turkey, and a bunch of dill.

Mix up with your hands and form into four good sized burger patties.

Put back into the pan you cooked your veggies in along with a good glug of olive oil. Cook for about 6 minutes on each side until firm and when patties have good color. Remove to a plate and melt 2 Tbsp butter in the pan, then add a bunch of hot sauce. Like 1/4 c, or if you are like me, add the rest of the bottle that was hanging out in your fridge.

Once it gets well mixed, carefully add your burgers back to the mix and coat gently on both sides with sauce. Then top with thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese and a little mound of blue cheese.

I put the blue cheese on top of the cheddar, but I realize in hindsight that it may have been smarter to top the blue cheese with the cheddar to keep it all contained.

Turn the heat off of the pan and cover it with a lid or foil and let it sit until cheese melts.

Toast some earth grain whole wheat thin bun things (I love those things!) or whatever you want to serve it on. I sprayed mine with Pam and then broiled in the oven for about 2-3 minutes.. They came out so perfectly toasted.

Top each bottom bun with lettuce, avocado, pickles, and any condiments you desire, (blue cheese dressing would be yummy) then a patty and the other bun.


This is the outfit I wore yesterday.. I was feeling the breezy hippie vibe...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Berry Berry Shortcake: Like My Mom Made

Okay so the shortcake part of this recipe is a very old family tradition... I kind of amped up the berries a bit with a fresh take for spring: grapefruit simple syrup.

You will want to fix the berries in the morning of the day you want to serve them so that they have plenty of time to sit and mix and make plenty of juice. My Nana used to just cut strawberries and sprinkle sugar on them and leave them all day, but I like to add in unexpected flavors, so this is my take:

One pound fresh strawberries, tops cut off and sliced in half
Handful of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries (fresh preferred on all three)
One grapefruit
1/2 c + 2 Tbsp sugar

Mix all the berries together in a bowl and sprinkle with about 2 Tbsp sugar.

Zest the grapefruit on top of the berries with a microplane grater/zester.

Cut open the grapefruit and juice it, taking care to remove all of the seeds and pulp.

Pour the juice into a small sauce pan and add 1/2 c sugar. Bring to a simmer until thickened, then pour on top of berries and stir. Cover and refrigerate for several hours until ready to serve.


3 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c solid shortening (crisco)

Using a pastry cutter work together until consistency of meal. I have come to recognize this statement as "mash together until no large pieces remain".

Add 2 beaten eggs. Do not try and pour the eggs on top and mix really fast... you will have bits of bright yellow in your batter and it won't look right. Trust me, beat first.
around 1/2 milk, or a little less.
Mix well. Flour hands and shape into 12 patties. Place in a greased 9x12 baking pan and bake for about 15 minutes (I baked mine for 13 minutes and they were perfect) or until lightly browned. DO NOT BURN!

Split them open and slather with butter. Spoon your berry mixture on top and top with homemade whipped cream.

A cute note on my Nana's recipe card is from a man that ate at the restaurant years ago. "A man eating this in our Tea Room said it was like a religious experience!" I love that. It makes me smile!

Homemade Whipped Cream

1/2 c heavy whipping cream
2-4 Tbsp sugar

Put into a magic bullet cup or small blender or mixer with a whipping blade/paddle and whip on high for as long as it takes to make cream... You will never buy store bought again because it is so easy to do, absolutely delicious, and cheap.


Southern Comfort Food: Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Roasted Corn

I am just going to admit it: I don't post as many healthy recipes as I should.

I apologize...

I *really* will try to do better.

But seriously, I can't keep this recipe from you. It is just to easy and too ridiculously good, and if you are missing cooking like mom made, this is the way to get that home-cooking satisfaction.

What I did:

Chicken Fried Steak

2 good sized cubed steaks

cup or so of flour
black pepper
season salt

1/3-1/2 c milk
1-2 tsp vinegar
1 egg

enough shortening/vegetable oil to make about 1/4-1/2 inch deep in a frying pan

Add the vinegar to the milk and let sit for about 5 minutes. If you have buttermilk, skip this step and just use buttermilk - no vinegar. If you are like me and don't have it, then do this to make your own buttermilk.

Meanwhile, mix your flour and seasoning in a pie pan or big plate or bowl. Beat the egg and mix with the buttermilk in a separate pie pan or shallow bowl.

Cover your cubed steaks with the flour mixture, being sure to pat it into all the crevices. Dip into the buttermilk and egg mixture, then back into the flour mixture. Make sure it is very well coated with flour, then lay on a piece of waxed paper to rest while moving on to the next.

While steaks are resting for about 5 minutes, heat your oil in your frying pan to medium hi - hi heat. Carefully add the cubed steaks and fry until each side is golden brown.

Remove to a plate and cover with foil or transfer on a baking sheet to warm oven to keep warm while making your gravy.

Add about 1/4 c or less of flour to the pan and whisk vigorously to make a smooth paste, heating over medium heat. Add about a cup of milk to the mixture, stirring as you add, until you reach your desired thickness. I used a bit of half and half, and the rest milk.

Add plenty of salt and pepper and pour on top of your chicken fried steak and homemade mashed potatoes.

Mashed Potatoes

I have found that my favorite technique for making mashed potatoes is steaming the potato chunks in the microwave until tender, then mashing with chicken broth, sour cream, and butter. You may ask why steaming them? This is because I always hate how watery the potato chunks get in a pot of boiling water, and with this microwave method the chunks don't retain water, so I can use more yummy liquid to thin it, like milk and chicken broth, instead of already having watered down mashed potatoes.

You can steam any veggie in the microwave with Ziploc steamer bags, or if you have a freshsaver vacuum system, they have steamer bags too. I wash, peel, and cut my potato chunks into halves or quarters, depending on the size of potato. Chuck them into the bag, then seal it in my freshsaver. Then I microwave for about 7 minutes, dump into a bowl and whip with a splash or two of milk, about 1/4 or so chicken broth, and 1/4 c butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve with chicken fried steak gravy.

Roasted Corn

This is now my all time favorite way to eat corn! And it should probably be called char-grilled corn, but I am going to say roasted because it evokes a more sophisticated image... whatever that means!

Have your hubby turn on the grill. Donovan said he grilled them on medium heat. Leave your corn in the husks, have hubby toss them on the grill and close the lid. Leave until the husks are all burnt and charred.

Using gloves or some sort of towel to protect your hands, strip the husks off and reveal your delicious corn. Slather in butter and parmesan cheese (if you desire... we ate it with butter and sea salt and fresh ground pepper).

Perfect Mother's Day Gift: Body Scrubs!

For those of you that don't know: I make and sell homemade organic body scrubs. They are wonderful and leave your skin feeling silky smooth. The best part is: they are completely natural!

In honor of Mother's Day I am selling 3 32oz jars of my scrub, normally $25 a piece, for $15!!!! I am only making this deal for the three jars I made today, and once they are gone - they are gone! So let me know quick if you want to get in on the deal!!

I have:

Grapefruit Sugar Scrub
Lemon Sugar Scrub
Peppermint Sea Salt Scrub

Okay so I could make one more, if someone really wants me too, but get in contact with me quickly!!! I want to leave plenty of time to complete orders in time for Mother's Day!

Grapefruit Meringue Nests with Mixed Berries

I was looking through some cooking pictures from last month and my mouth watered when I landed on this one.

Are you drooling now too? I figured.

This delicious dish is called a Grapefruit Meringue Nest with Mixed Berries... The name is kind of a handful, but that is what Good Housekeeping named it when they featured it in their magazine last month. I made them and was completely impressed. A few things went a little wrong with mine, however. Like: I had to turn the oven off early because I had to leave the house, so they didn't quite dry out all the way and stuck to everything. Okay that was the only thing. The berries that we put on top were ridiculous. I am not kidding. They were down right ridiculously tasty. We had some leftover so I turned them in to berry shortcakes with the recipe I will post later.

But seriously, if you want a super impressive brunch or dessert item for your next gathering, try this. If the nests don't quite work out, just spoon up some berries on your favorite shortcakes, or use the recipe I am going to be posting shortly.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mexican Chicken Lasagna

Tonight I made Mexican Chicken Lasagna, and my sweet, supportive husband taped me while I went through the motions like a Paula Dean, or a Rachael Ray...

I have to admit, this is the craziest way to cook!!! But I kind of like it...

So I will be entering this recipe and video in the Paula Dean: Real Women of Philly competition, along with a few others.

Here is the recipe

3 cups cooked shredded chicken
1 onion chopped
1 can chopped green chiles
1/2 package cream cheese, softened for 1 minute at half power (after trial and error I suggest only using half the package, though my video says 1 package)
1/4 sour cream (this too is an adjustment)
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
1 can green enchilada sauce, or your favorite enchilada sauce
Flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350
Grease a medium sized casserole dish. I used a 8x10, but a 9x9 would work fine.

Mix the cream cheese, sour cream, onions, chiles, chicken, and about 1/2 cup of the cheese together. Shred cilantro and mix in to chicken mixture.

Place a layer of tortilla(s) to cover the bottom of the dish. Spread the chicken mixture evenly on top of the tortilla. Top with cheese and a thin layer of sauce. Repeat with tortilla, chicken mixture, cheese and sauce until you run out of ingredients.

Top with remaining cheese.

Baking for about 30 minutes on 350, then set under the broiler for 2 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Let sit for about 5 minutes to rest so that it is easier to cut.

Serve with cilantro and sour cream to garnish.

Delicious with roasted corn and a light salad. I will post the roasted corn recipe soon.


This can be changed easily to fit tastes: change type of tortilla, type of enchilada sauce, or type of meat to please even the pickiest eaters.

Recipe made the way it is written above can be cooked in the microwave, in a microwave safe covered cooker. Microwave about 7 minutes or until heated through.

MilSpouse Blog Hop!

So all I know about this blog hop is that I found it on Sailor Wifey's blog. I think it is a fantastic idea but don't know how best to explain what it is so check it out here.

About Me

My name is Virginia Decker and I am 23 years old. I am a very proud military wife of 2 years, and mother to a 17 month old little boy. I am a cancer survivor and I thank God every day for blessing me with such a wonderfully supportive family. Cooking is more than just a daily duty or responsibility to me. I see cooking as a way to create powerful memories for my family: the smell of fresh baked bread wafting out the front door as my husband comes home, crisp bacon and fresh brewed coffee waking up my husband and child, homemade graham crackers delighting my hungry son... Food is not just a basic survival need: it is much more than that to me.

I met my husband around Thanksgiving 2007. I never believed in the term "love at first sight" but I think we came pretty close. We started dating a few weeks later when we met again, and within 10 days we were engaged and madly in love,and married 2 months later. We got pregnant on our honeymoon, and 9 months later our Landon was born. Lucky for us we are still just as in love as when we first met, though we realize that our story is a rare one.

My husband and I have been through so much together. I am truly blessed to have him in my life.

I hope you enjoy checking out my blog. It is a wonderful tool for me to retain a little bit of my identity, and to feel like I am giving a bit of myself to the world.

Slow posting

So I have been super slow on the posts lately... No real excuse: just slow I guess!

Tonight I am making a super easy Mexican lasagna with roasted corn and a salad for dinner. I am taping this for the Paula Dean: Real Women of Philly contest. I also have a super top secret appetizer that I am making. I don't want to give it away...

Will post later!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Pancakes with Pecans and Chocolate Chips

Can you say YUM!?!!?

I sure can!

I am actually eating these right now while writing this post. It was too good not to share. I mean, really, who says breakfast has to be boring?!

So this morning I wanted to make pancakes, but I never use a mix, and I always do something different to them to make them fun and exciting for Landon. This morning I decided to make oatmeal whole wheat pancakes. For Landon's I mashed in a banana (half of them a did a layer of bananas in the middle, then finally gave in and mashed it in. It was easier and just as good). For mine I got a little adventurous and decided to take inspiration from one of my favorite Pepperidge Farm Cookies: Pecan and chocolate chip. So that is what I did. I sprinkled pecans and chocolate chips in my oatmeal whole wheat pancake... Yum.

See the deliciousness? Oh and you can tell I went easy with the chips, about five in each of my two pancakes, so I can't feel too guilty ;).

Here is how I made them:

1 cup rolled oats
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 3/4 cup milk + more as needed
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 T maple syrup
*1 banana, mashed (for Landon's version)
chocolate chips

I suggest putting the oats into a coffee grinder, magic bullet, or blender to whiz to an appropriate texture. I left some of the oats whole, but most of them I pulsed to a coarse texture.

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then put the wet ingredients on top and mix well. If you want to do the banana pancakes, add the banana with the wet ingredients and mix well. If you want to do Pecan and Chocolate Chip Pancakes, leave the banana out.

Heat a griddle on med heat and coat well with butter. Pour about 1/4 - 1/3 c batter onto the griddle and sprinkle with choc chips and pecans. When bubbles start to rise to the surface of the pancake, it is ready to flip. Watch to make sure you don't burn it, then remove from griddle when nice and golden brown.

You can top with sliced bananas or syrup and butter or whatever makes you happy.

Oh and I know I promised healthy meals: this one *counts* for me since it has whole wheat flour and oatmeal... haha, don't you love how that works? Oh goodness I love food!

Oh and these pancakes are absolutely wonderful without any additions, so you can use it as a plain pancake batter, or a base for you favorite creation!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Brats on the grill and a Greasy Plate of Deliciousness...

Note... to my followers requesting healthy meal ideas...

this is not it.

But boy was it DELICIOUS!

So my husband and I usually eat relatively healthfully, but we have decided to make a bigger change in our eating lifestyle starting tomorrow... Okay let me rephrase that. Donovan is making a bigger change in his eating lifestyle. Pretty much being that he is no longer going to be consuming massive amounts of soda and caffeine, and we will continue to eat like we normally do...

Okay so now is the time to get to the point:

Tonight we splurged. I mean, we REALLY splurged.

Let me show you a picture, so you can understand...

Can you just feel your arteries clogging as you look at this? And I bet you are drooling too!

Okay so that big pile of yumminess is a batch of deep fried potato wedges topped with loads of sharp cheddar cheese, a big pile of crumbled crisply fried bacon, and a big dollop of sour cream. If I had green onions I would have chopped them up on top too, but this is what I had.

To serve with the loaded potato wedges, I mixed up a spicy ranch dipping sauce.

It was extremely easy.

Just squirt about 1/3 cup ranch dressing into a dipping bowl and sprinkle in 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and a 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Adjust to your tastes.

And enjoy your super unhealthy meal!!!!

We sure did!

P.S. I solemnly swear that I will have healthy, completely homemade meals back on my website tomorrow...