Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas gifts - Peppermint Oreo truffles

6 words to the wise

I had heard about these morsels called Oreo balls/truffles from my friend Melanie about a year ago and when racking my brain about what to make for coworkers this year, they popped into my head. Originally I was going to make peppermint bark popcorn, but instead decided to make 2 kinds of oreo truffles. I made plain with chocolate candy coating, drizzled with white almond bark (chocolate) and sprinkled with sea salt. I also made a peppermint version. It turned out absolutely devine. I think the peppermint might be my favorite. The all chocolate version is just soooo rich.Peppermint Oreo Truffles
Makes 3 dozen (depending on ball size)
Ingredients:
1 bag original Oreo cookies
1 8 0z. package of cream cheese, softened (you can nuke it in a bowl for about 30 seconds to achieve this)
4 peppermint candy canes
3/4 package of white almond bark
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Directions:
Crush candy canes in food processor until small. Place a strainer over a bowl and sift out the dust/finer peppermint pieces. Wipe out food processor and dump oreos in. Process until there are no chunks. Add cream cheese and peppermint extract and process until a nice sticky dough forms.

It's up to you, but I find it a little easier at this point to refrigerate the dough for an hour before rolling out the balls. Roll them in your palms about the size of a quarter and place them back in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Melt almond bark either in the microwave or in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler method). Once it is melted all the way, stir in the finer dust of the crushed peppermint.

Working with a spoon and fork, lower an oreo ball into the melted chocolate and coat evenly. Shake off excess and place on waxed paper. Repeat with a few more and sprinkle with the coarser peppermint before the chocolate has set. Allow to set at room temperature or speed up the process in the fridge. Trim away any excess chocolate with a knife once chocolate has hardened. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container (because of the cream cheese).

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Artery clogging corn casserole

2 words to the wise

I'm sure everyone knows who Paula Deen is. I'm convinced she has millions invested in butter. The woman cooks with one thing in mind, FLAVOR. Calories and fat grams are not things she's heard of. I remember seeing her speak about her style of cooking once and she noted that her family owned restaurants and so they always cooked with flavor, and not your figure, in mind. That being said, I'm quite proud of taking one of her recipes and actually making it less healthy.

I made her recipe with 1 omission and 2 additions. I omitted butter. Instead I chopped and cooked a 1/2 lb. of bacon and poured all the grease and the bacon into the mix and I added one beaten egg. The casserole had great flavor and a thick, almost custardlike texture. It was so rich and yummy.

I did this to turn this side dish into a main and I totally intended on serving it with a huge healthy salad to balance it out. Turns out my lettuce wasn't feeling any love and despite having been purchased only 2 weeks ago, took a turn to the dark side.

Instead I made fried okra for hubby and I had green beans. Arteries be damned.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not news to me

0 words to the wise

Not to follow a gripe post with another gripe post, but is it me or do we have the crappiest morning news in the country? Post-child, I do not have time to get my news online or read the paper. Therefore, I'm reduced to 5 minutes of news in the morning as I eat my bowl of cereal. I typically watch ABC, but am occasionally treated to CBS (heh). So far this week I've been treated to:

1. A tabloid publishing a story about a professional golfer screwing some cocktail waitress.
2. Whatever schmuck was eliminated from dancing with the stars.
3. Navigating the channel's website. Seriously do I need to watch you surf your own site? Brian Schrader please stick to the traffic.

I know there's more, but they aren't coming to mind right now.

And while I'm at it, can someone please get Elizabeth Gardner a new wardrobe that isn't centered around shoulder pads and gigantic collars? I'm no slave to fashio, but DAMN. At least she's got good personality and seems knowledgeable.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tact needed

7 words to the wise

Okay, I've been told on several occasions that I lack tact. Help me out here. How does one tactfully request an adjacent coworker to eat with their mouth closed? I don't want to hurt feelings here, but seriously I'm ten feet away and playing music and I can't block out the crunching resonating from a nearby cube. Oh and the same suggestion would be helpful for slurping of coffee every morning...Please help!!!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A month later...

3 words to the wise

Wow, has it been a month since I've posted here? Goodness. Well I could say I've been busy readying for the holidays and whatnot, but that would be a lie.

I used to look forward to cooking over the weekend and do you know what my beloved Sunday cooking has become? A cheese plate. I honestly don't know where time disappears to these days, but I want to say that with the cooler weather and shorter days, I've just grown lazy. All I want to do is snuggle up with the family and drink wine and eat cheese.

Pathetic. Yet comforting.

How does the change of seasons effect you?

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Candy corn coma

4 words to the wise

Help me. I swear I only ate like 10. The thing is, that I wasn't even really impressed with the first couple I ate. But I couldn't stop putting them in my mouth. 10 candy corn later, I was so jacked up, I thought I was going to have a stroke.

Ever hear your own heartbeat in your ears?

Now? Now I'm crashing hard. No surprise there. #1 ingredient: sugar. #2: corn syrup.

Yikes.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Pea Puree

1 words to the wise

Pea Puree
Makes 24 1 ounce servings

Ingredients:
1 lb. frozen sweet tender peas (I used frozen for convenience, but you could use fresh)
water

Directions:
Bring a cup of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add peas, cover and reduce heat to low. Steam until just tender/thawed, but not mushy. Drain peas and reserve some cooking water.

Place peas into your preferred pureeing mechanism. I used a food processor. Puree until smooth, slowly adding cooking water until you achieve your desired consistency. Serve immediately once cooled or pour into ice trays, cover and freeze. Once frozen, dump into freezer storage bags. Serve within 4 weeks. To thaw, place one or 2 cubes in covered container in fridge overnight or microwave until thawed (be sure to allow to cool before serving).

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Apple Puree

1 words to the wise

Apple Puree
Makes 16 1 ounce servings

Ingredients:
5 ripe apples
water

Directions:
Peel apples, core and cut into cubes. Steam until tender (about 5 minutes). Reserve cooking water.

Place apples into your preferred pureeing mechanism. I used a mini-processor. Puree until smooth, slowly adding cooking water until you achieve your desired consistency. Serve immediately once cooled or pour into ice trays, cover and freeze. Once frozen, dump into freezer storage bags. Serve within 4 weeks. To thaw, place one or 2 cubes in covered container in fridge overnight or microwave until thawed (be sure to allow to cool before serving).

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Butternut Squash Puree

0 words to the wise

Butternut Squash Puree
Makes 20 1 ounce servings

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash
water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Cut butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place flat sides down in a deep dish (I used a 9x13 casserole). Pour about an inch of water into the dish and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Reserve cooking water.

Scoop flesh from skins and place into your preferred pureeing mechanism. used a mini-processor. Puree until smooth, slowly adding reserved water until you achieve your desired consistency. Serve immediately once cooled or pour into ice trays, cover and freeze. Once frozen, dump into freezer storage bags. Serve within 4 weeks. To thaw, place one or 2 cubes in covered container in fridge overnight or microwave until thawed (be sure to allow to cool before serving).

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pear Puree

0 words to the wise

Pear Puree
Makes 10 1 ounce servings

Ingredients:
3 ripe pears
water

Directions:
Peel pears, core and cut into cubes. Steam until tender. Reserve cooking water.

Place pears into your preferred pureeing mechanism. I used a mini-processor. Puree until smooth, slowly adding water until you achieve your desired consistency. Serve immediately once cooled or pour into ice trays, cover and freeze. Once frozen, dump into freezer storage bags. Serve within 4 weeks. To thaw, place one or 2 cubes in covered container in fridge overnight or microwave until thawed (be sure to allow to cool before serving).

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sweet Potato Puree

0 words to the wise

Sweet Potato Puree
Makes 10 1 ounce servings

Ingredients:
1 large sweet potato/yam
water

Directions:
Peel sweet potato and cut into 1 inch cubes. Steam until tender. Reserve cooking water.

Place potatoes into your preferred pureeing mechanism. I used a mini-processor. Puree until smooth, slowly adding water until you achieve your desired consistency. Serve immediately once cooled or pour into ice trays, cover and freeze. Once frozen, dump into freezer storage bags. Serve within 4 weeks. To thaw, place one or 2 cubes in covered container in fridge overnight or microwave until thawed (be sure to allow to cool before serving).

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Photo of the Day - Bull City

0 words to the wise

What I want to know is, who gets the steak?

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Photo of the Day - Grandpa

2 words to the wise

From our first trip to see the Bulls play this weekend. What a great place for kids!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Los Portales - Fayetteville Road, Durham

4 words to the wise

I could eat Mexican food every day of the week and never get sick of it. One of my favorite parts of living in Mebane was having a really great Mexican restaurant to eat at. I love Durham, but find it seriously lacking a good family Mexican-American restaurant. I don't like Torerros or El Rodeo. El Custaleco was okay, but the flavors don't quite jive for me. And yes there are lots of great taquieras, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I strolled into Los Portales on Sunday afternoon after a trip to Babies R Us. My first impression was that the decor is bright and cheerful, and the restaurant is clean. I was promptly seated in a booth next to another table with a baby and handed a menu.

The menu is diverse and allows you to create your own combinations, along with a wide selection of their own specialties. The prices were quite decent too, especially for the Southpoint area. After ordering from the vegetarian menu (also featuring custom combinations), I snacked on chips and salsa. The chips weren't anything too special, but the salsa was great. It had a smooth texture and great flavor.

My potato burrito was filled with mashed potatoes, onions and cheese, and smothered with a lovely tomato-based sauce. My spinach enchilada was filled with fresh sauteed spinach and diced onions. The flavor in both of the items was fantastic, and the rice and beans were just what I like.

I've been eagerly awaiting the opening of this restaurant and am thrilled to no longer have to drive to Mebane for great Mexican food! Go check out Los Portales and let me know what you think!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Shepherds pie

1 words to the wise

This was my first go at an old recipe. I've never eaten Shepherd's pie, but I've seen it. I know it usually has peas and is made from lamb. This was not traditional, but was extremely tasty. My hubby informed me that it's usually also made with cubed meat and has more gravy. If you like it that way, adjust the broth and flour amount and use cubed meat.Shepherd's Pie
Makes one pie (4 large servings)
Ingredients:
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp oil
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 carrot, sliced thick
1 celery stalk, sliced thick
4 large shallots, chopped
4 oz. button mushrooms, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup beef or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Bring medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 to 1 cup water. Add 1 tbsp butter and adding back cooking water, mash until smooth. Whip with a spoon until light and fluffy. Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, shallots, thyme, rosemary and a pinch of salt. Cook 10 minutes. Add ground beef and mushrooms and saute until beef is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Break up any chunks and salt and pepper to taste. Add flour and stir well to combine. Cook another 2 minutes. Add broth and cook until thickened, another minute or 2.

Dump meat and vegetable mixture into a 9 inch pie plate and level. Pile mashed potatoes on and smooth to edges with a spoon. Using a fork, create fun little ridges with the potatoes. Break up 2 tbsp butter and spread evenly over top. Bake in oven 30 minutes. Broil until potatoes are lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Avocado puree

2 words to the wise

Avocado puree is probably pretty self-explanatory, but unless you plan on feeding baby the entire thing in one sitting, you'll want to freeze some for later. Avocado can be a little tricky with it's tendency to brown almost immediately. I figured I'd share the method I used.

Avocado Puree
Makes 6 1 ounce servings

Ingredients:
1 ripe avocado
breast milk, formula or water

Directions:
Slice the avocado in half and remove the seed. Running a tablespoon along the inside of the skin, gently scoop out flesh and place flat side down on the counter. Slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Keep 1-2 slices out and place the rest in a freezer bag or plastic container. Take the 2 slices and mash with a fork in a small feeding bowl until smooth. Add breast milk, formula or water until you achieve your desired consistency.

Now with those frozen slices, I just remove 2 and drop in a bowl and nuke for 15-20 seconds and mash and add liquid as described above. It works great for keeping the avocado from turning brown.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Acorn squash puree – baby's first vegetable puree

2 words to the wise

I'm making my own baby food, surprise of all surprises. So far baby has had avocado, rice cereal (not homemade) and oatmeal(not homemade). Earlier this week I prepared her first vegetable, acorn squash. It was super easy. I can't wait until she's old enough for me to begin adding spices to things. The squash was a hit!
Acorn Squash Puree
Makes 12 1 ounce servings

Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Cut acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place flat sides down in a deep dish (I used a 9x13 casserole). Pour about an inch of water into the dish and bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Reserve cooking water.

Scoop flesh from skins and place into your preferred pureeing mechanism. I dropped mine in a bowl and used an immersion blender. In retrospect, this was messy and splattered me and my kitchen! I'll be using a mini-processor from now on. Puree until smooth, slowly adding water until you achieve your desired consistency. Serve immediately once cooled or pour into ice trays, cover and freeze. Once frozen, dump into freezer storage bags. Serve within 4 weeks. To thaw, place one or 2 cubes in covered container in fridge overnight or microwave until thawed (be sure to allow to cool before serving).

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Parenthood

1 words to the wise

Things I never would have guessed but have discovered in my first 5 months of being a new mom:

1. That I'd walk in to work at least 1 day a week with puke on me.
2. That I'd have to plan an extra 30 minute buffer into anything (in case of blow-out, etc.) to be on time.
3. That date night would consist of take-out on the couch.
4. That I can do almost anything with 1 hand!
5. That I would narrate virtually everything I do as I do it, for my child.
6. That dinner would be eaten between 8-9 pm.
7. That I could change a diaper probably blindfolded.
8. That I wouldn't even mind changing diapers.
9. That I'd wash my hands so much that I have alligator skin.
10. That I can function on 3-4 hours of sleep, for weeks on end (though I really prefer not to).
11. That I'd fully comprehend how much love the human heart is capable of.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Molten Lava Crunch Cake

5 words to the wise

I got my weekly crap bundle of coupons in the mail yesterday and in it is an insert for Domino's. Apparently they've got this dessert now, 2 of them for $3.99. Has anyone tried it? I think It's worth ordering the pizza to try it out. Hmmm easy dinner tonight! I'll report back tomorrow :)

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

Photos of the Day – Wedded Bliss

2 words to the wise

I am just starting to sort through some 400+ photos taken this weekend. Pawleys Island is BEAUTIFUL!!

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Backyard BBQ Pit #2 - Guess Road, Durham

1 words to the wise

Friday night I got take-out from Backyard BBQ Pit #2. While this restaurant is not my idea of a great place to dine-in, the take out was GREAT! They have an extensive selection, the food was hot, good and extremely reasonably priced.

We got 2 small BBQ plates which come with 2 sides and hushpuppies. Between the two plates we had well over a pound of barbeque, homemade baked mac and cheese, homemade collards (not from a can), black eyed peas and green beans. All of the sides were fantastic. The mac and cheese was amongst the best I've had out in the area. It was filled with gobs of cheddar, no slimy velveeta sauce. The portions of barbeque were huge and more then we could finish. My husband wasn't wild about the sweeter sauce that came on the side (he prefers vinegary), but I thought it was great on the 'que.

All of this for $12 made one of our cheapest "date nights" on the couch ever.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Bliss comes in all forms

0 words to the wise

I am photographing my first (second really, but the first one was a catastrophe) wedding soon on Pawley's Island, SC. I'm super excited about it. To add to my small collection of lenses for the event, I've reserved/am renting a 17-35mm wide angle lens. That's right folks, I'm putting a lens worth more then my camera body on my camera. WOOHOO!! I figured this was the perfect excuse to try this one out. I can't wait to use it and see the photos. I'm sure I'll share some here (with permission of the bride and groom of course).

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Photo of the Day - Gaze-go

1 words to the wise

I snapped this with my phone last week and had forgotten about it until just now. I was making my normal trip home and had to do a double take. It's not everyday one sees a gazebo driving up Duke Street.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kids Exchange - State Fairgrounds, Raleigh

2 words to the wise

I know I have a few moms and future moms that read my blog so I wanted to pass this info along. This weekend the Jim Graham building at the state fairgrounds will be housing the annual (I think) Kids Exchange sale. I am actually selling all my daughter's newborn and 0-3 month clothing in the sale. Yesterday when I went to drop everything off, I was treated to a preview. This sale is MASSIVE. I love being able to re-use other's clothing and for others to use mine. I've quickly learned that babies grow so fast that some of her clothing has never even been worn by the time she outgrows it!

I had no idea as to the enormity of this sale before yesterday and I cannot wait to go to the seller's pre-sale on Thursday!! It's absolutely not just clothing and everything looks so well organized (down to toys being sectioned by gender and type). The public sales are:

Friday, July 24 9am-6pm

Saturday, July 25 9am-5pm

Sunday, July 26 10am-5pm 50% Off Day

I loved that they give you the choice to either pick up your unsold items at the end or donate to charity. I'll let you know how I make out. I'm hoping to just break even, but I secretly know there's no way that will happen!!!

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Lifecycle of a blog - a reflection

5 words to the wise

I don't post here much anymore, and even when I do, I rarely document my cooking. At one point, I was posting here daily about my kitchen activities. Especially in the summer. The farmer's market is bursting with fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs. How tasty and inspirational!

Yet here I sit, in silence.

The funny thing is that I still do cook good stuff, but mostly just on the weekends. Take last night for example. We had a lovely roasted pork tenderloin served on top of risotto with sweet corn and cherry tomatoes. It was delicious. I didn't even think to drag out my camera or write down one bit of what I was doing.

I have to ask myself, has the excitement of my blog worn off?

I believe it has. I still have a love affair with food. Maybe I just have less of an interest in sharing it online? Or perhaps it's that I want to spend what little of my free time I have, with my family or trying to catch up on sleep or relaxing?

Life has changed. With change comes adaptation.

When my daughter was born in March, I quickly realized I wouldn't be able to keep up with this blog in the manner I had. I promised myself I would try to post about my weekend cooking adventures. I failed miserably. I don't know why I felt this pressure to blog. I know it was all in my own head. This was supposed to be a creative outlet for me to share my love of cooking. I think I've finally come to the realization that now is not the time for that. I blog avidly for my daughter on her own little private blog and perhaps that's all I need as a creative outlet right now.

I think I'll continue to post here about life, but probably a lot less about food. I have no idea who would be interested in reading such drivel, but I just can't bring myself to kill this blog. I like having a journal I can look back on and a nice collection of my recipes. So for now, this blog will live on. Not in the fashion that it had, but in the way that it fits in with my life. Adapted.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Blueberry buckle and a quest for the past

2 words to the wise


When I was growing up, we lived in what used to be known as the country. Of course that's not the case now. The only thing that was even remotely close by was a small health food/general store called Sunrise Farmer's Market. Odd combination, I know. At any rate, when I earned money (which I did in any number of ways, I was very entrepenuerial), I chose to ride my bike down to the market and spend it on a treat for myself. I was brought up in a healthy house where sugar was only around in very limited quantities. Even our cereal was unsweetened.

I always bought one of three items at the store to reward myself for my hard-earned money. It was either a Dove ice cream bar, a Ben & Jerry's brownie bar (good luck finding one of those now) or a piece of blueberry cake. When I say cake, I mean it more in a sheet cake fashion with no icing. This was made by Ninth Street Bakery. I've never been a fan of blueberries, but wow was this cake good.

Like anyone else, I occasionally crave food from my childhood, probably because I know I can't have it. Ninth Street Bakery is still very much in business, but they mostly make bread and my guess is that this cake/bar concoction is long gone.

Skip to Sunday, I was at the grocery store and spied blueberries on sale. I decided I was going to attempt to find a recipe similar to the cake. I found a recipe here for blueberry buckle and it seemed to be close to what I remembered and relatively healthy and easy to make.

The only modification I made was that I used salted butter instead of unsalted and I baked it in a 9x9 square pan instead of a spring form pan. I don't keep unsalted butter in my house. Whoever dreamt up such a thing!?

The cake was delicious, but sadly, wasn't quite what I was remembering. It tasted a bit more like coffee cake because of the cinnamon streusel topping, but it was still excellent. If anyone knows a good recipe for something that sounds like what I'm describing, or where to get a Ben & Jerry's brownie bar, please let me know.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Breaking news!

1 words to the wise

I've just eaten an entire full size snickers bar for the first time in probably 3-4 years.

It was just as good as I remembered and worth every bit of 280 calories.

So, do you have a rare indulgence?

For me, I'd say ice cream, but I indulge in that very regularly. So I guess it's the occasional candy bar.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Photo of the Day - Lake Gaston

2 words to the wise


Baby girl's first annual family trip to Lake Gaston was this weekend. She's definitely a lake girl!

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Nestle cookie dough recall

1 words to the wise

It was bound to happen. The FDA is warning not to eat Nestle Toll House prepackaged cookie dough (cooked or raw) and Nestle is recalling it due to E. Coli. Link here. Turns out our moms were right heh.

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Durham's West End Wine Bar

1 words to the wise

I'm headed out to the new West End Wine Bar in Durham tonight. Have any of my Durham readers been yet? What are your thoughts? How does it compare to Six Plates? I've never been to either one, but I've been to it's Chapel Hill counterpart.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Best meal?

3 words to the wise

What's the best meal you've had this week?

Mine was from last night. Yes, I actually cooked! I sauteed some spinach and shallots and set them aside. Then I sauteed some thinly sliced chicken breasts (just salted and peppered), threw fresh cream, basic and crushed garlic in with them and let it reduce down a little. I piled the chicken on top of the spinach and poured the basil cream sauce over it all. Them I steamed some fresh haricot verts from the farmer's market and sauteed them with more shallots and a little lemon juice and garlic.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Random

7 words to the wise

People that whistle or sing music in public piss me off. What's one of your peeves?

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Durham organic spa

1 words to the wise

This post is a little late coming, but better late then never, right? For mother's day this year (my first ever), I was gifted a massage, a brow wax and facial at a new organic spa in our beloved bull city, Orchid. What's an organic spa, you might ask? Well, they only use organic products. So for my facial, I was treated to masks, etc. made of all natural ingredients. No harsh chemical peels or acids that will give you cancer ;)

The location is the only negative feedback on the place. The staff was friendly. The services were professional, relaxing and not cut even a minute short. The atmosphere is relaxing and clean. Being directly at the intersection of Chapel Hill road and University drive though, makes for a massage not as relaxing as it could be. The cinderblock walls didn't do much to dampen the sound of cars whizzing by. Eventually I tuned them out and really enjoyed my massage.

My custom facial was fantastic and so was my brow wax. Jennifer took her time doing a personal skin analysis and studying the arch of my brows before proceeding with both services. I'd really like to see this place succeed, but perhaps another location would be more ideal? And if you're in the market for a massage, I'd still recommend Christine Hughes for the Durham and Chapel Hill area. She's got a location much more conducive for relaxation, decades of experience, and no, I'm not biased just because we're related ;)

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I miss you

4 words to the wise

I started back at work last week and it went pretty well with the whole being-separated-from-baby-after-11-weeks-and-putting-her-in-the-hands-of-strangers thing. But for some reason, this week has been harder, especially today. I miss her terribly today, I wonder why?

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Photo of the Day - Wrapped around your finger

6 words to the wise

Our little girl at 3 weeks old. Her hands are much bigger now!

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fall off the bone spicy baby back ribs

4 words to the wise

Have you ever wanted to try to make ribs, but been worried about tough meat? Fear no more! I made these for memorial day. It starts with a dry rub and a slow roast and is finished off with your favorite sauce on the grill. It's super easy!

Fall off the bone spicy baby back ribs
Makes 4 large servings
Ingredients:
2 racks baby back ribs
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
Your favorite barbeque sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all spices in a small bowl until well blended. Using your hands, rub spice mixture over the ribs until coated evenly. Place ribs, rounded side up, in a shallow baking dish and cover with foil. Bake 2 hours.
Preheat grill on high heat. Brush barbeque sauce over ribs and place on the grill. Cook covered 6 minutes. Brush more sauce over ribs and flip and grill 6 minutes more. Serve alongside with some corn and asparagus salad (pssst I blanched my asparagus and used canned corn as a shortcut) and dinner is done!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Photo of the Day - Kicking back beach style

3 words to the wise

Carolina Beach, May 23, 2009.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Photo of the Day – Buzz off

3 words to the wise

These flowers were filled with bumblebees last week at Duke Gardens. They were climbing all the way into each flower. Seems like a bee's paradise!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Best damn turkey meatloaf

5 words to the wise

I've decided to share my beloved meatloaf with you folks. It's only cause I like you and I feel guilty for not blogging much these days. I prepared this Sunday and just tossed it in the oven last night for 55 minutes and it was delightful.
Jeni's Best Turkey Meatloaf
Makes a 9 inch loaf (about 5 servings)
Ingredients:
20 ounces lean ground turkey (breast)
2 eggs
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I use store bought dried stuff)
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tb ketchup (for topping)
5 large white button mushrooms, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tb oil
1 tsp ground sage
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt, divided
dash of black pepper
handful of parsley, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in large pan over medium heat. Saute mushrooms and onions (sprinkled with 1/2 tsp salt) for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Combine all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, except the 3 tb ketchup. Add mushrooms and onions. Knead ingredients with hands until everything is mixed evenly. Dump into a nonstick 9 inch loaf pan and form a loaf with a rounded top. Top with remaining ketchup and bake for 55 minutes. Allow to cool 5 minutes before cutting.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Orecchiette with escarole and sundried tomatoes - a promise kept

2 words to the wise

I cooked two meals last night and will be blogging them both. This first one was an experiment. I'd never had escarole before and I bought a beautiful head of it at the farmer's market this weekend. If you're never had it, it's a bitter green that mellows nicely after being cooked for awhile. We both really liked how the sweetness of the sundried tomatoes balanced out the remaining bitterness of the escarole. If I had some ricotta on hand, I would have tossed a little of that in too, but alas, I was out! You could use any pasta with this really, but I like to use ones with fancy names cause they make me feel fancy. Make sure to rinse that escarole really well. You don't want to bite into grittyness like we did. Poor hubby, I kept insisting it was the sundried tomatoes because I didn't want to gross him out ;)Orecchiette with Escarole and Sundried Tomatoes
Makes 6 servings
Ingredients:
1 head escarole, washed and cut in half inch ribbons
2 large shallots, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tb olive oil
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 lb orecchiete (little ears)
2 tb grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook pasta per package instructions and reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Heat olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots, red pepper and sundried tomatoes to the pan. Fill pan with however much escarole will fit and wait to cook down a little so that you can add the rest. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute for 8 minutes. It will cook down A LOT.Remove from heat and toss with pasta, pasta water and parmesan cheese.
Serve warm alongside some other yummy italian creations. We had ours with chicken parmesan and a fresh tomato salad.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photo of the Day - Peony

3 words to the wise

Did you know the delicate, fragrant petals of peonies are opened by busy little ants? It's true.
This photo was taken at my mom's a few years ago. I thought I'd post it just to show you.

They have a great many varieties of peonies at Duke Gardens, but my favorites were the classic pale pink.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Photo of the Day - Irises

3 words to the wise

Until my trip yesterday to Duke Gardens, I really had no idea how many iris varieties there are. It's not just a difference in color either. Being near the end of their season, I didn't photograph all the varieties there, but take my word for it.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Photo of the Day - Kicking back

3 words to the wise

From our trip to Duke Gardens this afternoon. Many more photos to come tomorrow.

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Beer migration

6 words to the wise

I am not a huge lover of beer. I do like it and I will drink it, happily. However, if I am allowed only one drink (which I am since I'm nursing) and am given the choice of beer or wine, I will always choose wine. There are a couple of beers I hold quite closely to my heart and perhaps it's that they are so hard for me to get that I love them so much.

Beer number one is Fat Tire. It's brewed in Colorado. I used to live there with my father and when I went back and visited several years ago, I tried Fat Tire for the first time. I fell in love with it. I was treated to it again the last time I was in Arizona. I was sad not to find it on the east coast. That is, until 3 weeks ago. I was in Moe's (the fast food mexican joint) and they were selling the Amber Ale by the 22 oz. bottle. Later that week, I found one last bottle for sale at Parker and Otis. This weekend though, I was very very happy to be treated to it on tap at Tyler's as one of their seasonals. It seems Fat Tire has finally made the ride to the east coast.

Beer number two is Sweetwater Blue. I was turned on to this by two friends that had friends in Atlanta. It's a lovely ale with a hint of blueberry. I looked forward to holidays when the friends would make the trek up from Atlanta and always with some Sweetwater Blue. Well, life happens and people move, drift apart, get divorced, etc. I haven't had Sweetwater Blue for many years. That is, until last night. When I was shopping at my local Kroger yesterday, I traveled down the beer aisle to see if they maybe had Fat Tire. This is when I spied the six pack of my other beer love. At $9.14/6 pack, I find it a little steep for casual daily consumption (not that I drink beer daily), but this was a special occasion. I was celebrating my two favorite beers migrating to Durham!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Photos of the Day - Spring Blooms

4 words to the wise

There was a time, not too long ago, when I used to post photos of the day. I don't know why I stopped. Yesterday I spent my day with moms, including my own. My mom has a beautiful garden. Actually it's her whole yard that is landscaped gardens. I'm always inspired by the flowers.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

God I suck

4 words to the wise

This poor blog has been so neglected since the baby has been born. It's not that I don't have the time to cook. I do and I do. And my love of food hasn't dwindled. I've just not been filled with inspiration to photograph and document what I'm cooking. The baby gets all of my attention and focus. I keep her (private) blog current and filled with almost daily photographs.

From here out, I'm going to make an effort to cook a lot of food on Sundays (so I can freeze or easily finish off dinner during the week). I will try to blog these cooking ventures for you. I do apologize for the decrease in post frequency, but what can I say? Take a look at who's occupying my time (isn't she cute)!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Chocolate chip banana nut muffins

6 words to the wise

Yum! I modified a banana bread recipe from allrecipes.com and made muffins this morning. They turned out fantastic!Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Muffins
Makes 16 muffins
Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 mashed overripe bananas
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir flour, baking soda and salt into wet mixture; stir just to moisten. Stir in chips and nuts. Pour batter into muffin cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick is clean after being inserted into the center of a muffin.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Lemon herb roasted fingerling potatoes

7 words to the wise

We don't actually celebrate easter, a tradition which will likely change with the addition of a child, but that doesn't keep us from using it as an excuse to have a tasty meal! For Sunday dinner, I made a slow roasted chicken, roasted asparagus, and lemon herb roasted fingerling potatoes (hmmm seems roasting everything was in the cards).
Lemon Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
1.5 lbs mixed fingerling potatoes, washed and sliced in half lengthwise
juice of one lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp (2 cloves) crushed garlic
2 tbsp chopped italian parsley
1 minced shallot
1 tsp kosher salt
cracked black pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400. Combine all ingredients but potatoes in a large bowl. Stir well. Add potatoes to bowl and toss to coat. Spread potatoes on cooking sheet and roast in bottom half of oven for 10 minutes. Flip potatoes and roast 10-12 minutes more.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blog-iversary Chicken and Black Bean Empanadas

9 words to the wise

It's pretty hard to believe a year has already passed since I began this blog. Though I haven't been writing much here lately, I'm still trying to keep up with most of the blogs in my reader. It's been difficult. Hell, as I write this, I'm rocking my three week old with my foot. I've become quite the multitasker. Yesterday, however, I came across a post for empanadas over at Thursday Night Smackdown that captured my attention. With my multitasking abilities increasingly improving, I set out to make some empanadas. Nevermind that I spread it across 3 naptimes and it basically took me all day with clean up. Making empanadas was a first for me. I had leftover shredded chicken and black beans from tacos the night before so all I really had to worry about making was the crust. These were great.
Chicken and Black Bean Empanadas (Dough recipe taken verbatim from Michelle at TNS)
Makes 14 empanadas (7 servings)
Ingredients:
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups shredded seasoned chicken
1 6 oz can black olives chopped
1/2 can black beans, drained and seasoned
1 cup shredded cheese (your choice)

For the dough:
3 c. AP flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tbsp. white vinegar
up to 1/3 c. ice water
pinch of salt

Directions:
Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. Don't be like me and forget the cheese. Can you believe I forgot the CHEESE???? This is what multitasking does to you!

This is easiest to make in a Food Processor or stand mixer, but you can also use a pastry cutter, 2 forks or your fingers to cut the butter into the flour.

For the Food Processor version, put the flour, butter, egg and salt into the Food Processor and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is pea-sized. Add the vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of water, pulse a few more times. Keep adding ice water and pulsing until the dough just starts to pull together - you don’t want so much water that you end up with one big, wet dough ball. Dump the dough out onto your work surface and briefly knead/mush it around until it comes together. Flatten it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat your over to 425.

Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick and cut out rounds the size of your choice. Add a spoonful of filling to the center of each round, moisten the edges with water and fold the rounds in half.
Crimp the edges closed with a fork to seal. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to cool a few minutes before eating.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

"Get Induced" Chocolate Chip Scones

3 words to the wise

On the morning of Friday, March 13th, I decided to make a recipe for chocolate chip scones that my dear friend Vicky shared with me. This recipe is incredibly easy and sooooo chocolatey and satisfying. I did manage to snap some photos, but somehow those got lost in the shuffle of baby photos. While eating these scones for breakfast, I got the call from my OB/GYN office to come in to discuss some test results. The appointment resulted in them wanting me to be induced and so the epic 3 day saga of my labor began.

It all began with these scones. Enjoy. And big thanks to Vicky for the recipe.

"Get Induced" Chocolate Chip Scones
Makes 8 large scones
Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar + 2tsp sugar
2.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg, separated
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter until it's small crumbs. Add chocolate chips. Mix egg yolk and milk together then add to dry ingredients. Mix with fork.
Plop whatever size you want onto a baking sheet. Bake until slightly golden about 20 minutes.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Life

14 words to the wise

Please forgive me for the delay in posting this. On Sunday, my daughter was born. I spent the better part of a week in the hospital and we all returned home, healthy and happy on Tuesday afternoon.

I'm going to take a small break away from food (and life rambling) blogging to settle into my new role as a mommy. I promise to return and look forward to cooking regularly again! We enjoyed our first "future cooking" meal last night which took FOREVER to cook in the oven from frozen. It was a yummy pasta dish! I am super glad I stocked up my freezer prior to having my daughter!! I wish everyone well and look forward to continue reading everyone else's blog posts when I'm sitting up late nights with baby in my arms!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Asparagus pesto lasagna

7 words to the wise

I've had this recipe clipped from Vegetarian Times for a couple of years in a binder of things I've been meaning to make. Rather then republish the recipe, I'll link to it.The modifications I made were to add 2 sliced green onions (which I sauteed with the asparagus). I used 1 tsp of crushed garlic instead of the 1 clove of chopped garlic. I used mozzarella instead of fontina because it's what I had on hand. Oh and I used whole wheat lasagna noodles. The noodles on the very bottom didn't cook all the way. I'd suggest putting a thin layer of sauce under them. Other then that, I stuck to the recipe!
I liked the different take on the lasagna. I'm sure I'll make it again. It was pretty easy, but I have to say that getting 10 servings out of a 13x9 dish is a bit of a joke. For a main dish, it's more like 6 or 8 ;)

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crispy polenta with mushrooms, sausage and creamed spinach

3 words to the wise

I still cook, I promise. I know it's been awhile since a post. Life is hectic. Here's what I made last night. It was by no means a gourmet, painstaking meal. Speed is the name of the game these days. I love the combination of textures and flavors in this. It's comfort food without being artery-clogging.
Crispy polenta with mushrooms, sausage and creamed spinach
Makes 3-4 servings
Ingredients:
1 tube cooked polenta
3 spicy italian sausages
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
canola oil
1 tb butter
1 tb flour
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste

For the spinach:
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook sausage in non-stick pan or iron skillet over medium heat until just barely pink. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Unwrap polenta and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Add 1 tb oil to hot pan and slowly add in half of your polenta. Cook without disturbing 5 minutes. Meanwhile, slice cooled sausage into 1/2 inch slices.

Flip and cook 5 minutes more, adding a little more oil if necessary. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining polenta. Drain polenta on paper towels. Add another tb of oil to hot pan. Add mushrooms and sausage to pan and continue cooking until mushrooms are just softened and sausage is no longer pink. Remove to bowl, leaving behind little sausage and mushroom bits.

Add butter and flour to pan and cook 1 minutes. Slowly add milk and crushed garlic, stirring constantly. Allow to thicken some and reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes until a thick sauce is achieved. Salt and pepper to taste.

Lay slices of polenta on plate, top with sausage and mushrooms and pile on the creamy sauce.

For the creamed spinach, combine the last 5 ingredients well, cover and nuke for 2 minutes. Easy as can be.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spicy rigatoni with spinach and mushrooms

7 words to the wise

I wasn't in the mood for marinara or pesto last night so I opted for a simple treatment of ricotta, red pepper, garlic and salt and pepper. This was actually much better then it looks.
Spicy Rigatoni with Spinach and Mushrooms
Makes 4 entree servings
Ingredients:
1/2 lb rigatoni
2 spicy Italian sausage links, sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 lb frozen chopped spinach
2 tbsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup part skim ricotta
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook rigatoni al dente in salted water per package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2–1 cup of the pasta water. In a large saute pan, cook sausage until no longer pink over medium heat. Deglaze pan with a little water and add mushrooms. Cook another 3–4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently stir in pasta, spinach, ricotta, garlic and crushed red pepper. Add reserved water until desired consistency and continue cooking until spinach is heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

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George's Garage – Ninth Street, Durham

0 words to the wise

For date night on last Friday, we ventured to George's Garage. I was craving seafood, and knowing our remaining date nights are dwindling, we opted to spend more then usual. While I love Blu, the menu is rather limiting to me these days due to my restricted diet and my distaste for oysters.

It was early (5:30ish) and it was nice and quiet, relatively empty save for a few of the after work folks at the bar. We were seated, given our menus and told the specials by our fantastic waiter, Patrick. Seriously he made our seemingly average experience extraordinary. We opted for our appetizer and entrees from the specials menu.

For our appetizer we ordered a seafood platter. This consisted of fried calimari, two seared large sea scallops and two jumbo sauteed shrimp. My hubby ate most of the calimari and one of the shrimp. I ate the scallops, the other shrimp and a few pieces of the calimari. My only complaints about our entire meal stem from this dish. The scallops and shrimp were almost room temperature. Other then that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The cocktail sauce and tartar sauce were fantastic. The tartar sauce differed from the typical mayo-based, relish over-run stuff you're used to. It was creamy and filled with what seemed like a mild minced onion or perhaps even some celery. I loved it.

For my entree I ordered the pan seared red snapper served over shrimp lemon thyme risotto. The snapper was tastefully seasoned, perfecctly cooked and served on top of a generous pile of arborio rice with healthy chunks of shrimp. The risotto was a little off in it's texture, not the creamy stuff I'm used to, but it was still very tasty. This entree was a steal at around $12!

My husband had the NY strip with mushroom jus. It was served with homemade fries and broccoli. He said it was fantastic. For dessert we shared bread pudding (he'd never had it) with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. Typically I order chocolate desserts, but this was completely satisfying and I also thought it was a steal at only $4.

As I mentioned before, the entire experience was lifted to another level by a fantastic, informative waiter, who urged us to ask for him by name when we returned post-baby. That, we will definitely be sure to do!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bacon wrapped chicken with cheddar and almonds

10 words to the wise

This is adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe to what I had on hand and to be healthier. You could use any cheese and nut combination. I really liked the addition of green onions. We really also liked the mustard cream sauce (also adapted).
Bacon wrapped chicken with cheddar and almonds
Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
4-6 slices turkey bacon
1 tb olive oil
2 tb butter
2 tb flour
1 1/4 cup skim milk
2 tb grain mustard (I used my dear friend Joyanna's spicy wintertime mustard)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Pound chicken breasts thin between plastic wrap. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Cover the breasts with cheese, onions and nuts in equal amounts. Roll each one up and wrap each roll with a piece (or 2) of turkey bacon. Secure with toothpicks. This was the most tedious, pain in the ass part of the process because trying not to cross contaminate is such a pain. I think I washed my hands like 8 times!

Preheat oven to 375. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken on all sides for a total of 5-6 minutes. Place chicken on small baking sheet in oven and cook for 10 minutes more.

In the same skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Stir in milk slowly and whisk until smooth. Next stir in mustard and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to warm until chicken is ready. Remove toothpicks from chicken and cut in half. Pour sauce over chicken.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hearty slow cooker beef stew

3 words to the wise

I love an easy meal that you can prepare ahead of time, and then just pull out of the fridge, plug in and leave as you're walking out the door for the day. I'll let you know how this turns out once we eat it!!

Edit: The beef stew was great, but I ended up skimming a good amount of fat off the top of the pot and added at least a tsp of salt!

Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Makes 4-6 servings
Ingredients:
1 large celery, sliced thick
1 large potato, cubed
1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced thick
1 lb. stew cut beef
1/4 c flour
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
2.5 cups water
2 cubes beef bouillion
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat water and bouillion to boiling in pot or in microwave. Stir to dissolve bouillion.Combine flour and spices in a large bowl. Mix in beef and toss well to coat. Pour into bottom of slow cooker.

Cutting up the veggies is the most time consuming part of this meal.

Add vegetables and cover with broth (bouillion and water). Stir well to combine. Cook on low 8 hours or high for 5 hours. Salt and pepper to taste.

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