Monday, July 29, 2013

Half the Battle

I love all of your suggestions and posts, thank you for participating!  Do you want to know something embarrassing... I could not remember how to log in for like 3 weeks!  Good thing I emailed all of you with the details and even wrote it in my trusty and very official purple polka dotted notebook that I keep all of my passwords! So, I decided that half of the battle of summer cooking, comes when I sit down to write my grocery list and I can't turn to my usual crockpot meals or soups (which Ryan and I have a love/hate relationship with... I love them and Ryan hates them!) So, besides the obvious BBQ here are a few of the summer"ish" menus that we have had the last week or so:
*BBQ pulled pork sandwiches (cooked in the crockpot) then put on soft rolls with coleslaw
*Wraps (chicken salad, bacon tomato ranch avocado, Asian salad with soy sauce and mandarin oranges and wonton strips... pictured above... I know, they look awful... but taste light and fresh!) 
*Quinoa salads (Heather's black bean, creamy italian dressing and feta salad tastes great with quinoa instead of brown rice.  I also like to make quinoa with snap peas chopped up, a few tablespoons of Kraft Toasted Sesame dressing, toasted almonds, mandarin oranges and green onions.  Since the quinoa is a good source of protien you don't have to add chicken, but sometimes it seems like more of a meal to Ryan if I do this!)
*Fajita bar (this is my kids favorite) I just slow cook some chicken so it shreds easily for me, then serve it with tortillas, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, rice and beans, cheese, avocados it is easy for everyone to add their own and the kids like all of their stuff separate!
*Sandwiches or Panini bar I love a good sandwich we throw on some green peppers, chicken, cheese, vegetables and serve with some frozen sweet potato fries or chips, EASY!
*Salad bar (same concept as the fajitas, but a big plate of washed romaine and top with lots of yummy toppings like boiled eggs... is that weird?) We usually serve this with homemade rolls or bread sticks.
*Cool drinks- in the summer we love to try things like Our Best Bites Brazilian Limeade, Italian Cream Sodas, Dirty Diet Cokes (pictured above) or that old school pineapple slush with sprite! 

We served these with summery sides like watermelon, asparagus, corn on the cob, mozzarella and tomato salad, cold cut vegetables and ranch dip etc.
Happy Summer Cooking!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ice Cream Sandwiches, Patriotic Cupcakes, Popsicles!

For a treats post, Jordon and I have been having fun making different summer treats! Here are a few we have enjoyed:

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches:

Shirley requested these for her birthday dinner and I have to say... the cookie recipe I used really wasn't my favorite... I wish I had used something different. Oh well. Does everyone have the thin, yellow cookie cook book Grandma Long put together for all of the couples for Christmas a couple years ago? I used a chocolate cookie recipe out of there for the outsides of the sandwich and honestly, it just wasn't chocolatey enough for me. It didn't have the rich chocolate flavor you need for a truly delicious ice cream sandwich. If I could do it over again, I'd use a delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe instead... or I would have used a chocolate cake mix to make the chocolate cookies... Just sayin.

We put a scoop of ice cream on the cookie, topped it with another cookie, and then rolled the cookie in sprinkles. For this to work, you need to make sure the ice cream is bulging out the sides of the cookies so they catch the sprinkles. Also, it would be a fun variation to use different flavors of ice cream instead of just vanilla - like cookies and cream, strawberry, chocolate, etc. But this being for a birthday celebration, I tried to stay pretty safe in my choices. :)

Jord was the expert on the assembly line as shown...

This was back on June 30th and it's sad that I can't really remember but... I think we may have substituted apple sauce for half of the oil in the recipe... perhaps that is where we went wrong with the flavor and texture of the cookie? Is that a valid substitution for cookies? I know it is stellar in cakes but do any of you know about cookies?

Patriotic Cupcakes!!

Now THESE, have been some of my favorite cupcakes I've made or eaten! They have lots of fun flavors in each cupcake, are moist (thanks to the yogurt used), and are delicious!! Heather, I'm sorry I didn't have them done before you and Ty had to leave! :(

The recipe? From OBB: Seasons of course! In the summer section. :) They are a bit time-intensive on making them, but again SO good and a fun holiday treat. The 4th of July is my absolute favorite holiday of the entire year so I am a-okay going out of my way to make a fun treat for this day!!

I should have taken a picture of each step as I did it, but once you mix up the batter, you divide it evenly between three bowls, these will become the colors of the three layers for each cupcake. Add one 6 oz carton of blueberry yogurt to one bowl with blue food coloring, one 6 oz carton of strawbery yogurt to another bowl with red food coloring, and one 6 oz carton of coconut (I used pina colada since we had that) to the third bowl. Mix each bowl until you have the color you want and then you layer each color in each paper cupcake liner/cup.

The recipe explains all of this, but I do want to explain an error I made that will hopefully help you guys if you ever make these. I started with blue as my bottom layer and added WAY too much to each cupcake liner so that I ran out of blue and ended up with a couple of red and white cupcakes (Keri was happy I was apparently celebrating Canada Day as well...). :) So what I would do if I could do it again, would be to add only a small amount of blue to each liner and then go back and add more after I've put some in each liner. Also, since I had added too much blue but still had two other colors to add, my cupcake liners ended up being SUPER full and I was afraid they were going to spill over while cooking. Thankfully they didn't. PHEW! Anyway, I would follow that same tactic with the remaining colors as well.

I definitely toasted the coconut and added that on top of the frosting. It made a DELICIOUS addition! But I was so so sad that I totally forgot to bring my strawberries and blueberries over to my mom's to put on top of the coconut/frosting! So just imagine that there are slices of strawberry and a couple of blueberries on top of the one in the picture. Fortunately, my mom had some blueberries I could use... bah! My forgetful mind sometimes... Anyway, here are a couple of pics. One is of my friend Gen and I having fun frosting the cupcakes in a variety of ways and then the finished product!

Berry Creamsicles:

Again, I got this recipe from OBB: Seasons and have been anxious to make my own popsicles! The recipe is super easy and all of the steps they include are awesome. I didn't change anything - I just used raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries and I used a substitution for half and half since we didn't have any. Other than that, everything was the same! We have enjoyed them! Depending on how much pulp you like, you'll want to blend the berries for a longer time so that it is more liquid than chunky. Ours were a bit chunky and I think I'd rather it be more liquid. Next time... And can I give a shoutout for Costco berries?! They are amazing! Usually when I buy a carton of strawberries in the store there are at least 3 or more of them that aren't good and have to be tossed out and the whole carton maybe lasts a week... if we're lucky. The strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries I bought at Costco were ALL good and last for at least TWO weeks. We're still eating the blueberries about a month later... Yes you have to buy a lot when you get them at Costco but they're cheaper than buying them in smaller cartons at the store, they taste better, ARE better, and last longer. Just a shopping tip. :)

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie and Chicken Spaghetti

I don't have pictures for either of these recipes! :( BUT they are both saved on my Pinterest board "Lunch/Dinner" and they're on Heather's Pinterest boards as well because she is who I pinned them from. :)

Last week I made Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie and it turned out scrumptious! The only thing that takes time is chopping up all of the vegetables but then you just throw everything in the crockpot and you're pretty much done! I added celery to the recipe and that added a nice touch as well.
I decided for our "crust" to make biscuits since those would be fast and the leftovers can be used with other meals as well. I pinned a DELICIOUS biscuit recipe from Pinterest and it honestly turned out to be flaky like the Pillsbury biscuits! I was pleasantly surprised. If you look at my board to find the recipe, I have two biscuit recipes pinned: one of them is for southern biscuits and uses cream cheese in the recipe and the other one has a lot more simple ingredients. The recipe I used was NOT the southern/cream cheese biscuit recipe! Use the other one! The steps for it seem a little silly since you're asked to fold the biscuit dough over and over again and I didn't intend to do this since I was in a time crunch, but I ended up doing it as I cut out the biscuits and reused the dough and, honestly, I DO believe that folding the dough like the instructions say adds to the flakiness! Anyway, they were pretty simple and quick to make and turned out very tasty. Oh! Follow the directions that say NOT to twist your biscuit cutter when cutting the biscuit dough. Just pull the cutter straight up. Apparently, twisting the cutter can change how flaky the biscuits are... I'm not sure why that is but I followed it and mine turned out very flaky! So... just fyi. :)

We put a couple of biscuits at the bottom of a bowl and topped it with the crockpot chicken/veggie mix and it was delicious!

Chicken spaghetti:

Again, another recipe I pinned from Heather and I wish I would have taken a pic of this because it totally sells the recipe! The picture on Pinterest is what hooked me, so take a look at my board if you're skeptical of what the final product of this recipe will be.

I'm currently cramming for a Praxis test that I take on Saturday so Jordon has been doing  a lot of the cooking and he made this last night and it turned out SO good! We used whole wheat noodles instead of white and we didn't have a can of Rotel (we usually do in the off brand) so we used a can of diced tomatoes and a small can of diced jalapenos. We didn't drain the diced tomatoes but we DID drain the jalapenos and mixed those together to make our "Rotel." The jalapenos made it VERY spicy... so next time we'll just wait until we have actual Rotel since that's a bit milder. :) But it still turned out so so good! Again, it's one you have to use the oven for. But Jord served it with salad and cut up celery and it was delicious! For leftovers today, we are going to have it with steamed zucchini. Just a couple of ideas.

Love, Kris

Indian Food and Bruschetta

Okay, I have seriously been stock piling a LOT of meals that Jord and I have been enjoying lately and I need to post them! So... this is the first of what I'm sure will be several posts. I'll try to combine as many as I can into one post to save on space. ;)

Shortly after returning from DC I was SO in the mood to get cooking and create meals Jord and I have never had before so where did I turn? With it being summer, my favorite season, I took out one of my all-time favorite cook books, "Our Best Bites: Seasons" and turned to the summer section... the mother lode of goodness! I got daring and started with an Indian dish they have in there and it was delicious! If you're not an Indian food fan then you can skip this and go on to the next meal idea. :)

The chicken is called "Grilled Tandoori Style Chicken" and uses a marinade, which is nice because you can make that the night before and throw the chicken in with it and all you have to do is cook the chicken the next day. We don't have a grill yet, so I cooked the chicken in the oven... which, I'll admit, was not as good of a result as I was hoping for. So if you have a grill, use that! Also, it took FOREVER to cook in the oven so I'd definitely recommend the grill for that reason too. I don't have a pic of the chicken... it's on Jord's phone, but the cookbook has a stellar picture... our chicken didn't turn out looking quite like that. Ours still had quite a bit of marinade on it because I caked it on the chicken before putting it on the oven fearing that if I didn't, there wouldn't be much flavor. I was wrong! You can scrape the marinade off of the chicken before grilling it (it's a thick marinade) and the chicken will still taste great. Leaving it as a thick layer on the chicken made the taste VERY strong.

Next, I used our rice cooker to cook the rice, instead of cooking it on the stove like the OBB gals suggest and it turned out just as delicious and was a lot less work. I love rice cookers. :)

Then I attempted the naan flat bread and I have to say... the rice and the naan were my favorite!! I was so excited that the naan turned out! And with the rice, chicken, and naan we had a complete Indian meal! And the cool thing is that none of it is super curry tasting (which I like curry... but in measured doses) so it was a milder Indian meal but still SOOOOO good! All of these recipes are in the OBB: Seasons cook book in the summer section. It definitely was a more time-intensive meal so I wouldn't make it all of the time, but it was so worth it. If you're an Indian food lover... try at least the rice and naan sometime!

Next, I was looking for a summer meal that would be simple and use summer veggies and I got an idea while watching "Julie and Julia" with Jord right after getting back from DC. (I promise I'm NOT obsessed with Julia Child! Well... not THAT obsessed. I was on a Julia Child kick after seeing her kitchen on display in DC, and Jord hadn't seen the movie or known much about Julia Child at all so we sat down and watched it together. Best part? He totally liked it and was into it! Boo ya!) Anyway, at the beginning of the movie, Julie makes a bruschetta for her and her husband and it looked AMAZING! So the following week I decided I wanted to make bruschetta and where did there just happen to be a recipe for it? You guessed it: Our Best Bites: Seasons! Those OBB gals sure come in to save the day all the time!

So again, the recipe is in the Seasons cook book in the summer section... and it turned out DIVINE. I would use a little less purple onions next time. I'm not a huge fan of the EVERLASTING flavor that raw purple onions leave and trust me, these one left an after taste for that whole night and even the next morning when I woke up I was still tasting onions! But don't let that downplay how delicious and refreshing the meal was! Worth it, definitely.

I used french bread instead of baguette because I wanted bigger pieces since this was going to be the main part of our meal, not a side or appetizer (and I wanted the leftover french bread for french toast the next morning!). I also followed their suggestion of adding cheese before the tomato mixture. So after brushing the bread with olive oil and dusting it will garlic powder (instead of slicing a garlic clove and rubbing it on the bread... we were in a hurry) and toasting the bread in the oven for a few minutes,  I topped each slice with shredded mozzarella cheese that we had leftover from a pizza we made earlier in the week and put it back in the oven and let the cheese melt. Then i pulled it out and topped it with the tomato mixture. I also used fresh basil and that really made a difference. If ANY of you need/would like fresh basil PLEASE text me and let me know because Jord and I have two basil plants that are doing really well and getting big but we don't eat it fast enough and don't want to waste any!

Then once the bread is topped with tomato mix... scarf! Seriously, these were good and a very refreshing summer meal! Yes, you have to use the oven, but not for very long and it's deliciously worth it. As our tomatoes really start growing in our garden we'll be having this a lot I think...


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Alfredo Sauce

Here's the Alfredo Sauce that we had for Shirley's birthday. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to post it. It's definitely not healthy, but it's good to have something fatty every once in a while :)

1 stick of butter
1 (3 oz.) package cream cheese
1 pint heavy cream (I told you it was fatty :) )
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Mix in the cream cheese (I make sure the cream cheese is melted before I go on to the next step otherwise your sauce is lumpy). Stir in the cream and garlic powder. Increase heat and bring to a boil (sometimes I increase the heat earlier if I'm not in a patient mood, but you have to watch it really close and stir constantly). Decrease heat and simmer, stirring often. Stir in Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Baby Bedding Help!

Hi ladies!

I'm needing advice from you pro moms on what y'all would pick between these two bedding sets. Try to focus on the patterns/bedding itself and not on the price of each one. :) I'll be honest, the price of one is definitely swaying me that way, but I'm looking for your thoughts on decoration ideas with each bedding set.

Before you look at the links, here are my thoughts with the nursery: I would like to use bright colors in there. I'm not a huge pastels fan, but I realize that pastels are in both of these options I'm showing you. So with each option here is a question that I need answered: can bright colors be used with them in other decor?

Also, I LOVE the jungle animal theme! I also love using the alphabet. I saw a really cute idea on pinterest using the alphabet as a wall hanging... and part of me is thinking that could be good visual stimulation for the baby? I dunno. :) Here is the link to that Pinterest idea just for reference...

So finally, with that being said, here are the two bedding sets that I'm deciding between. With the comforter, I'll most likely use that as a wall hanging since that will be the theme of the room. I'm thinking of getting a shelf with a rod that connects underneath it and hanging the comforter on that.

Target's bedding set:

I really like that this one (is YES cheaper but also...) has brighter colors? I might be able to do more with brighter colors with this one? Yes? I'm seeing yellow and white chevron curtains... anyone else?? I don't really need the baby blanket that comes with it since we're getting several quilts and probably small blankets at showers... but I suppose it's a plus.

Burlington Coat Factory's bedding set:

The HUGE plus with this bedding set is that it combines the jungle animals WITH the alphabet and even numbers! I could use all three themes in the nursery with this bedding and it wouldn't seem awkward. It might be too much so I'd probably just stick to the animals and the alphabet but that is why I love this set so much. The colors are more pastel-ish so I'm not sure I have a lot of options to add bright colors in there? I can still do the yellow and white chevron curtains with this theme as well...

So what do y'all think? It may sound like I'm going to go decoration crazy with the nursery and I'm really not! That is why I'd like a cute bedding set to be the main theme and then I can use small things/accents around it. Which do you vote for and why? It's time to let your voice be heard! (and yes... underneath it all, price is a huge deal that is pulling me more one way than another, but I'd like to hear your feedback on all facets of this!)

Thank you!!! Love you guys!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Quick and Zesty Asparagus

Ok, so I am in love with all your amazing cooking creations. Unfortunately most of my cooking attempts turn out like this:
(Major waffle fail!) 

However once in awhile something actually seems to work! Hallelujah!! 
I give you (drum roll please).... A super quick and yummy trick to make your asparagus taste better than ever! 

I am a huge fan of asparagus, and was taught to make it by brushing a little olive oil before baking in the oven. That was good. One day I was in a daring mood and thought I would try some Italian salad dressing instead of the oil. That was DELICIOUS! After lightly brushing with the dressing, I throw them in the oven and bake at 350 for about 12-13 minutes.