Being that Ben is in class during prime dinner time four nights a week means that once I get home, there’s about 30 minutes of good quality time we get to spend together before we (meaning “I”) have to start on dinner to get him out the door and to learning all he needs to know to become a world class nurse. Scrubs are hot, just sayin’.
During the week it’s imperative that we have healthy, quick and nutritious meals. Some days are better than others in that department. But one of the recipes in our (meaning “my”) back pocket is ATK’s Spa Chicken. Yup, another adapted ATK recipe for ya. The beauty behind this recipe is that you can vary and substitute whatever herbs you want into it with luxurious and well, spa-esque results every time.
For your grocery list be sure to add:
~ 1 pound Chicken Breast
~ 1 1/2 cup Water
~ 2 tsp. low-sodium Soy Sauce
~ Salt and Pepper
~ 2 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
~ 1 Tbsp Cilantro, minced
~ 4 sprigs Lemon Thyme
~ 1 Tbsp Chives, minced
In a large non-stick skillet, whisk together the water, soy, garlic and herbs bringing to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Pat the chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper. I prefer sea salt for seasoning, but that’s just personal preference.
Once your water has come to a simmer (don’t let it come to a rolling boil)f, place the chicken boobs in there and cover with lid letting them simmer away for 10 minutes.
After that 10 minutes, flip and continue to cook for an addition 7-10 minutes, or until the temperature in the thickets part of the chicken registers 165.
Serve over a bed of fresh spinach and a side of extra vege and your’e off to the races.
Oh, and the best part. It’s only 4 Weight Watchers points a serving. Boo-yah! Now that’s something to relax over!
When cooking blueberry muffins, or anything else that has watery berries in it like Blackberry Icebox Pie, cook down half of your berries over a stove, adding in 1/2 cup of sugar and make a mock jam out of them. This will concentrate their flavor and reduce the excess moisture that would leave your dish bland and wicked of that berry flavored punch we so adore.
Sharper Knives are Safer Knives.
Invest in a good set of knives. Like, for real. There is nothing like a good, balanced and sharp knife.
The sharper they are the SAFER they are. Completely counter intuitive, but absolutely true.
Less slippage and cleaner cuts. When you aren’t muscling your way through a cut of meat, or slicing an apple – it will be much prettier and less bloody than if you slipped and ran the blade over your hand.
My enameled cast iron dutch oven baby. My hunny loves me.
Cook with cast iron.
Last forever. Cheap. Distributes heat evenly. When seasoned properly they are virtually non-stick. They don’t have all of the pesky carcinogens and chemicals coating them that more mainstream modern non-stick cookware contains.
And they’re terribly romantic and nostalgic. They’re nostalgic, because what good grandmother doesn’t have one or two of her very own. And romantic for their old west roots, with cowboys cooking over a hot fire, and wearing cowboy hats and chaps…sorry, I got a little distracted there.
Sure, they’re pretty darn heavy. But if you haul enough cast iron around your kitchen you’ll get a good arm workout. So maybe it’s a “pro”, after all.
There is nothing more rewarding than when you get your first poached egg perfect. The keys are to use a shallow pan, about 3″ deep and gently lay the egg into the simmering water. It’s like putting a fish into a new bowl, you don’t just DROP it in – you lay it in there gently.
And while you bring your water to a simmer – add 1 tablespoon of Vinegar to it. The pH will help the whites stay together and not fray at the edges. Nifty, and works every time.
When you master the poached egg, you also conquer patience. Something I’m usually short on.
I was also asked what my biggest cooking fails were and much like my first (non)-experience on Splash Mountain at Disneyland where I screamed, cried and refused to get on, my biggest cooking failures are mostly repressed memories. Much like Splash Mountain.
But occasionally, you can salvage those mishaps and turn them into complete and unprecedented successes. My Bacon Maple Cupcake Bread Pudding, was one of those incidents. And it will go down in infamy as a raving success.
Always find the positive and don’t let one mis-step beat you.
Easier said than done, I know.
Eventually, everything will fall into it’s proper place and you can claim kitchen victory.
Shout it from the rooftops, spatula and glass of wine in hand – VICTORY IS MINE!
What are your biggest and most utilized cooking and kitchen tips?
*UPDATE* And the winner of the $20 giftcard to MasonJar Primitives and chosen by Random.org is…
Darlin’, I know you are going to love the heck out of this prize. MJP melts have been burning in my house non-stop and I still can’t get enough.
Thanks again to Suzy, my homegirl back from the land of rolling wheat fields, aka Colfax, and her daughter and creative candle melt genius, Christina, for providing us this fantastic giveaway.
And remember, even if you didn’t win. Be sure to stop by the shop and pick something up for yourself or someone you love. ________________________________________________________________________________
Before we know it fall time will be over and the pumpkin smell will dissipate from our homes. It is a sad day when the holidays are over and we are forced to smell the mundane and lack luster smells of normalcy. Sorry, I’m just a little attached to the smell of pumpkin pies and fall – anything other than that smell just doesn’t compare and doesn’t rank on my smell-o-meter.
(Lumps of Coal in Plumberry Spice – smells like sweet pine)
But one way to prolong that smell a little longer is with some melts and candles. You can’t deny that they do give you the aroma that you crave, permeating the home and transporting you back to the holidays. Nothing wrong with that! And now with all of the fabulous candles and melts you can find in stores, you can get that smell all year long. The only downside being that candles get really expensive! When was the last time that you found a good jar candle for less than twenty bucks?
(Melts in Southern Creme Brulee, Banana Nut Bread, Apple Spice, Cinnamon Mocchiato)
Well, no more! This week I will be giving away a $20 giftcard for MasonJar Primitives. I was turned on to MJP by a friend of mine Suzy, who lives back in my beloved Palouse. Her daughter Christina is the maker of the most mouthwatering smells that MJP has to offer.
Christina is a Marine-wife living on the east coast, raising two beautiful boys and providing a loving and nurturing household for her family. When her first born, Mason, was diagnosed with respiratory issues as a wee pup she thought her candle burning would be put on indefinite hiatus. But with the melts she’s created, she can plug in an electric and make her home smell utterly delicious without running the risk of putting her boys health into jeopardy. And with two rambuncious boys padding around, candles also posed a safety issue as well. Hence, the melts.
(Carmel Dipped Apple in Pumpkin Apple Tart flavor)
Her candle melty deliciousness is all made by her, lovingly packed and shipped through her Etsy shop, MasonJar Primitives. And it’s all fabulously priced! The $20 gift card will go a long way to making your house smell incredible all year long.
Mandatory for Entry:
Stop by Christina’s Etsy shop and leave a comment telling me what you would buy if you were the lucky winner!
~Like me on Facebook, leaving me a comment you did.
~ Follow me on Twitter, leaving me a comment you did.
~ Become a Google Follower, leaving me a comment you did.
~ Tweet about this giveaway, leaving me a comment yada yada yada.
~ Share this giveaway on Facebook, and leave me a comment here!
That’s a total of 6 entries. 6 chances to make your house smell delicious all year ’round.
This giveaway will conclude on Friday, October 21st. Now, go enter and make your home smell incredible.
*Obligatory Author’s Note – I was provided with these melts by Christina to test out and review. The opinions are my own. I’m so delighted to be given this set to review and help promote a hard working military wife and mother.*
We all know what kind of America’s Test Kitchen weirdo I am. It’s been well documented. And the recipe below is no different.
But first, there is news.
Last week I received a wonderful e-mail from the fine folks of ATK letting me know five other bloggers and myself had been selected to review their soon to be released Menu Cookbook! How neato-burrito is that?
The other bloggers and myself will be hosting dinner parties for 8 guests, each fixing up a different dinner party menu. ATK’s Menu Cookbook outlines various different menus based on food themes, from provencal bistro to family style Italian, which I will be preparing. So keep an eye out on the ATK Feed page for all of the deliciousness that gets created and meet some really exceptional foodies while you’re at it. Meet the lineup here.
Now, for the food!
For Christmas Ben’s family got me a copy of the ATK Healthy Family Cookbook and I’ve been hooked ever since. They take all of the classic recipes we all know, putting a much healthier and just as tasty spin on them. Less guilt but just as much flavor as the originals. You can’t lose.
Earlier this week I made their Meat and Cheese Lasagna. With Ben having class almost every night during the week, there is a limited amount of time we get to spend together and the last thing that I want to do is spend the 2 hours we see each other everyday in front of a stove. This lasagna made the perfect dinner with plenty of leftovers for us to reheat and devour on his busy school nights.
The only substitution I made to this recipe was using beef instead of the required ground chicken, because let’s face it – I was way to lazy to go the store and battle rush hour traffic. We all know that feeling.
For your Grocery List be sure to include:
~ 1 cup Non-Fat Shredded Mozarella
~ 16 oz. Non-Fat Ricotta
~ 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan
~ 1/4 tsp Ground Pepper
~ 1/4 tsp Salt
~ 1 cup chopped Basil
~ 1 pound Ground Chicken or 90/10 Ground Beef
~ 1 medium onion, diced
~ 1 28oz can Diced Tomatoes
~ 1 28oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
~ 2 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
~ 1 pkg. No-Boil Lasagna Noodles
In a large bowl, whisk together the ricotta, 1/2 of your shredded mozzarella, the parmesan cheese, the salt, pepper and 1/2 of the chopped basil.
Whisk into tasty cheesy oblivion. Oblivion never looked so good.
Once all of these have been mixed together throughly, place in the fridge to meld until the final preparation.
Reserve the other half cup of basil for later.
In a large non-stick skillet, saute the diced onion until they are in the in-between sweated and translucent phase. Once this has happened, toss in your meat and brown throughly. Once it has just turned, drain off the excess grease. This is a healthy lasagna, remember?
Add each can of tomato to the skillet, not forgetting the garlic! Shame on you if you omit the garlic.
Over medium-high heat, let the mixture start to reduce and thicken. Once it has you’re ready to prep and bake!
After pre-heating your oven to 425, grab a 9×13 dish or 2 9×9 pans if you’d like to make one and freeze one, and spray with non-stick spray. On the bottom layer add 1 cup of meat sauce and spread evenly.
Top with no-boil noodles and then spread the ricotta mixture over the top of each noodle. Then layer more sauce, noodles and ricotta on each subsequent layer.
Top the last layer with meat sauce and the other half cup of your chopped basil.
Cover and bake for 45 minutes, making sure you place your lasagna on a foil lined baking sheet to prevent over flow. One it has baked, uncover topping with the rest of the mozzarella and continue to bake for 20-25 more minutes.
Positively delicious straight out of the oven and still wonderful reheated on those chaotic nights.
Being too cheap to invest in the wonders of cable, has really put my cooking show and Food Network addiction to a screeching halt. Due to this personal injustice that I have inflicted on myself, I have missed years, YEARS, of fabulous programming from cooks like Pioneer Woman,who throws culinary caution to the wind and cooks from the heart , Paula Deen who adds an extra stick of butter to any and every dish just in case, and last but not least Alton Brown who mixes the wonders of science and geekdom with the glories of food.
Seeing as I’ve missed out on so much, when my bestie presented me with the opportunity to meet One of the Greats, I had to join in. Who would I be to leave her hanging? With there being no cake classes to hold that night and the promise of caffeine and coffee the next day, I had to partake. If the roles were reversed she would sit through a PW book signing with me, I had to submit and do this one for her. Needless to say…
Holy crap am I glad I did!
Not only is sir Alton geeky on TV, but he did not disappoint in person. Bow tie and all! For nearly an hour he took audience questions, ranging from “Who is your favorite Iron Chef?” asked by an adorable little toe-head to “Why Welch’s?” All valid questions.
You name it, it was probably asked. The answers to these questions included, “I’m not dumb enough to answer That question…all the Iron Chefs are snowflakes. They have knives, I’m not answering”, and “Worst dish? Raw Trout Ice Cream!”
And as for why the Welch’s pitches, “It goes great with gin.”
Straight shooter, I like that.
After all of the questions were answered and Beka was bouncing on the edge of her seat, the book signing began. We continued to sit for about an hour and a half, butt bones aching and growing fidget-tier by the minute. The snaking line wrapped almost entirely around the downstairs section of the bookstore.
As the winding line grew shorter, us two weary book-signing travelers meandered up the stairs into the dwindling line.
Through the Children’s section we wound, stumbling upon this beauty.
Bawr! A beer wanting his hat back? What jerk would do such a thing? He looks so cute and cuddly, he needs some love. And a hat!
Next on our kids book stroll we came across “Bake Sale”. Is it weird that cupcakes selling cupcakes is part of childrens’ reading fodder? It’s like cupcake cannibalism…
Finally, we were within eyesight of said Great One. Just as Beka was about to piddle like a puppy, we were up!
(Subconscious says, Piddle? Really Megan, you just jumped ahead 25 years to become your mother…)
He was so patient with the two of us fumbling with our things, asking us polite questions and even cracking a few funnies. Then…
After all of the baking experiments, new recipes, disastrous results, messes I’ve made sometimes it’s good to get back to the basics of baking and the one recipe that never fails you.
Or it’s the recipe that never fails you and that your fiance has requested again and again because he just wants a good, tender golden brown delicious cookie unadulterated and unsullied by the changes I seem to make to everything else…
Oh, the good ol’ chocolate chip cookie – the one true cookie. Fact.
Everyone has their recipe, the one that was passed down from that one relative that long time ago. This one however started somewhere a little less romantically, a little less sentimentally. It’s based off of Mrs. Field’s recipe. Yeah, I told you – terribly unsentimental. Except that these cookies were the first recipe I had ever learned to bake on my own.
And my secret for cookie success? This pan.
This pizza pan is basic aluminum pan, not an air pocketed creation, or even a heavy duty non-stick dark coated beauty. It was given to me by mi madre when I first moved into my apartment. And it won’t leave my hands, ever. EVER.
A little possessive of the pan, don’t you think?
For this recipe you will need to resource yourself:
~2 1/4 c. AP Flour
~ 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
~ 1/4 tsp Salt
~ 1 cup Brown Sugar
~ 1/2 cup White Sugar
~ 1 cup Butter
~ 2 whole eggs
~ 2 1/2 tsp Vanilla
~1 bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Setting aside.
With your handy dandy mixer, blend together the two sugars and then 1 tablespoon at a time add in your butter. Mix until it becomes light and creamy. Now, add in one egg at a time mixing for 30 seconds in between each egg. Scrap down the bowl a couple of times if necessary. You want to make sure that lovely buttery yellow egg is mixed in well.
Add in the vanilla and finally – the whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Yes, the whole bag. And yes, semi-sweet. These are meant to be as rich as a stock broker rolling in piles of cash. So don’t skimp and use milk chocolate chips.
Dollop 2 tablespoons worth of dough onto your baking sheet and bake at 300 for 22 minutes, or until golden brown. These are baked low and slow. The end result is a scrumptious cookie perfectly crisped on the outside and soft on the inside.
Now go and make these for your hunny. You’ll win his heart all over again.
Just as the name would imply, this stuff is crack.
It’s crack fit for fall.
Hastening to look up any other moniker, epithet, or handle on the internet lest the DEA shows up at my front door for weird internet browsing, I hope you just take my word for how wonderfully fabulous this stuff is. And that was before I tweaked it like I did tonight…
A few months ago my lovely friend Kandace introduced me to the wonders of Crack Dip. Two ingredients, whip into submission, devour with any fruit or sweet cracker you can get your hands on. Add a few hungry PMS-y girls this equation and you have a pack of hyenas over a zebra carcass…
Maybe that’s not the visual you want after all. Too late, it’s already typed. It stays.
For this recipe you’ll need:
~ 1 brick Cream Cheese
~ 1 tub Marshmallow Fluff, 2 cups
~ 2/3 c. Pumpkin Puree
~ 1/4 tsp Vanilla
~ 1/2 tsp. Pumpkin Spice
Okay, so now it’s got five ingredients. Still, not bad.
After realizing that my cream cheese was still a little too cold to whip with a hand whisk, it got put into Kitchen-Aid and whipped into creamy submission.
The mallow fluff, vanilla and pumpkin spie was added and 1 minute later…
After Friday’s savory pumpkin beer bread adventure – that is now absolute delicious history – I decided it was high time to make it’s sweet and lip licking counterpart.
Beer and sweet? Trust me, this works!
For your grocery list be sure to add,
Pumpkin Beer Bread
~ 3 cups AP Flour
~ 2 tsp Baking Powder
~ Pinch of Salt
~ 1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree
~ 3 Tbsp Honey
~ 1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
~ 1 bottle Pumpkin Beer, room temp
For Candied Walnut Topping:
~ 1 cup Walnut, chopped
~ 1/4 c. Water
~ 1/4 c. Sugar
~ 1/3 tsp Pumpkin Pie spice
Start this process by making the candied walnut topping. After all of the years of buying candied nuts from any possible purveyor of the goods, packing them into my cheeks like a squirrel until I could get my next fix – I have learned the beauty of making them at home. Rays of sunshine broke forth through the clouds out yonder!
In a small sauce, make a simple syrup of water and sugar until it starts to bubble.
Whisk in the pumpkin spice and toss in the nuts. After turning the heat down to medium, the whole kit and caboodle was whisked into candy covered oblivion. Allow the bubbling to continue until a thick syrup forms, and just as the final moisture evaporates you know you’re done!
Turn them all out onto a piece of parchment lined on a baking sheet and allow to cool.
Now, for the bread part!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and Pumpkin Pie Spice.
In a small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and honey.
Then, into the flour mixture goes the pumpkin and your whole bottle of beer.
It may seem like a sacrilege to pour a whole bottle in – but trust me, its a good cause.
Once you fold it all together, and it’s all just moistened dump it all into a 9×5 inch sprayed loaf pan.
Add a few pats of butter to the top and your candied walnuts and your’e ready to go!
Bake for 35 minutes on the middle rack, and then here’s the most important part…
After that first 35 is done – add more butter. I feel positively Paula Deen-ish!
Bake another 25 minutes, or until your toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a rack, turned out of the pan after 10 minutes of cooling. Slice and serve. And if you have any of those candied nuts left over – devour those too.
It’s fall and that means everything is pumpkin! And really, I’m pretty darn okay with that.
Pumpkin pie, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, ice cream and beer…
With that, I wanted to whip up a quick bread with that warm and comforting flavor and spice that only something made with pumpkin can provide.
Slice frame to beer. Beer makes everything better. Maybe that’s just me. Oh, dear. Moving on…
This quick bread is fabulous with a hearty soup, or as a side to a thick slab of meat.
For your ingredients list include,
~ 1 1/2 cup diced onion,
~ 2 cup diced mushrooms
white button mushrooms used, can substitute whatever you like
~ 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
~ 3 cups AP Flour
~ 2 tsp Baking Soda
~ 1 tsp Salt
~ 3 Tbsp Sugar
~ 12 oz. Pumpkin Beer, room temperature
~ 3 Tbsp Butter
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. After dicing up onion and mushroom, place them into a heated large non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon of heated olive oil.
They will cook down quite a bit so don’t be worried when it looks like a heap of veggies before you. It won’t be nearly as mondo as they look. After the onions have softened and become translucent and the mushrooms have shunk and begun to brown, set them aside and allow them to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together your flour,
sugar, salt, baking soda.
In the middle of the bowl create a well for the mushroomy goodness and the beer.
crack the beer,
Pour in the beer and fold everything together until it’s just mixed. This is a quick bread afterall so it’s imperative that you don’t over mix this hot mess.
Now we’re gettin’ somewhere!
Place the mound into a 9×5 inch non-stick loaf pan that you sprayed with non-stick spray. Why tempt sticking? This is so good you don’t want to leave any bread behind!
Pour on 1 1/2 Tablespoons of melted butter and bake for 35 minutes.
After the first 35 minutes, remove the loaf, pouring over the last 1 1/2 Tablespoons of butter and put back into the oven for an addition 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the loaf to let it finish cooling on the rack.
Serve it whilst still slightly warm and slathered in butter. Everything is better with butter, and beer.
Don’t judge me.
So go forth and make this. Your beer swilling buddies will love you.
Oi Vie! Holy Moly, hand this girl a drink if you please!! This has been a fabulous week in the way of planning Ben and my wedding and dang, with two more big decisions struck off the list, I’ve earned that drink that you should be shoving in my direction. What are you making me? Anything will do.
Saw it. Fell head over heels in love. I tried it on myself, in taupe, Beka tried it on in this teal. We simultaneously melted.
This dress is like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Bridesmaids’ dress. Beka and my body types are the difference between night and day, yin and yang and Penny and Leonard (Big Bang Theory, anyone?). But this dress fits us like PB&J, Nutella on a spoon, or like Jim and Pam – PERFECTLY!
Not to mention – it’s a dress that can actually be worn again. I love my bridesmaids dresses, but unfortunately there’s never been an occasion to wear them again! Figure if the girls are gonna drop the dough on my wedding, I might as well force them to wear something they can don again…
So, for myself I did purchase the taupe one for engagements pictures, rehearsal dinner, graduations, and an office party I have coming up next month. See? And Ben thought I was never going to wear it…silly. If there’s a will there’s a reason. Right?
The only downside to the dress is that the belt doesn’t exactly match the country-chic motif we are going for. Instead, we’re going to be resourcing us a different belt a little more suited to the wedding theme.
Thank goodness equestrian is making a comeback – because I am absolutely digging this beauty.
The treatment of their photos is divine, whimsical, classic and wonderfully romantic.
And since the wedding is about 400 miles from where they are located we opted for their all day, all inclusive style package. It’s perfect!
All day photography
2 photographers (Kimbry is actually Kim and Bryan – they’re married)
1 wedding album
2 parent albums
3 large prints – all framed
1 canvas print
And a CD and the rights to all the photos
250 Thank you Postcards
Including their travel and hotel costs, they were by far the cheapest option – but their photos ranked as some of the best we saw. I was blown away.
Besides my dress, the photographer was the next thing I wasn’t willing to compromise on – and with them, I got everything I “dreamed” (read: required) and Ben got to stop hearing me hem and haw over photographers and big decisions and money flying out the window.
Not bad huh? Win win!
So that’s our update thus far. Now all we have to do is find a cake, florist, honeymoon locale, hair/makeup salon, and honeymoon outfits (Yay more shopping!).
No, we’re not too far off? *scoffs* Only 10 more months to go, no big deal.
Now – where’s the drink you were going to bring me?
What were you most stressed over during your wedding planning?