sum sum summer time

While I wait for the rain to pass why not write a blog-post… because they are slowing down with lack of inspiration and not needing to cook.  Once our summer travels are done I know I’ll want to get back in the kitchen but when my husband was gone for a week I wasn’t going to cook a gourmet meal for one. Now it’s my turn to travel and then in a few weeks it’s his again.

Since I haven’t been cooking a whole lot I’m going to share a pasta recipe I entered into a contest:

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“Salad”:
1 box of Dreamfields rotini pasta (cooked and cooled)
1 pound of cubed ham
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
5 oz. crumbled blue cheese
“Dressing”:
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 shallots DICED
8 tbsp EVOO
S/P to taste

Boil the pasta (lightly salt the water; the dressing & blue cheese will add plenty of flavor) when it is fully cooked, drain the pasta & set aside to cool.
While the pasta is cooling, mix the “dressing” ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk (use a really large bowl so you can serve the salad in it). Combine the cubed ham & dried cranberries. Mix together with a spatula evenly coating everything. Once the pasta is cooled add it to the large bowl of dressing/ham/dried cranberries. With the spatula, fold everything slowly to evenly coat the pasta. Be gentle so you don’t tear or rip the pasta.
Chill in the fridge 4 hours (or overnight; cover with plastic wrap); when ready to serve, fold the salad again & sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese on top.

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I did cook one real meal this week, it’s an easy one but really flavorful…enjoy!
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Sauteed onions with just 2 scoops of butter 😉 … pork loin steaks – so good!  We love pork but it was nice to eat a different cut of the meat.

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Cheated on veggies but the ‘silver can’ peas are so yummy. Yellow potatoes (use a large bowl to mix: cut into wedges, sprinkle salt & pepper, 2 grated garlic cloves, and 1 diced shallot… drizzle on EVOO and fold with a spatula) – bake at 400 for 45 min.

So that’s that… it was salsa chicken last night and tonight is spaghetti.  Of course there are plenty of leftovers so my husband doesn’t starve while I’m gone.

As for my trip, I’m really looking forward to eating Czech & Polish food – pierogis and sauerkraut here I come… getting back to my roots! And some Italian sausages (not my roots but certainly a ‘must have’ while in Chicago) … I’m so ready for something other than BBQ and Mexican food. Texas, I love you but I need a break.

 

Whirlwind Weekend

The Higby Hacienda Housewarming Weekend is complete and was a semi-success.  I stuck to my favorite finger foods and maybe those were a bit too successful because everyone chowed down on those instead of my dinner so needless to say I’ve got a ton of leftovers.  I don’t mind though, it means I won’t have to make a grocery run for this week (I’ve got some frozen chicken that I can bust out in a few days when the pulled pork runs out).

I was scared to use a new slow cooker recipe on the pork but I loved the root beer base – yes it was a bit sweet but I prefer sweeter BBQ. I had Stubb’s smokey BBQ sauce to mix in and for adding extra as you build a sandwich.  I guess I could have only bought 1 tenderloin but you know if I did that, everyone would have ate and then I would have ran out of food. So buy more and be prepared it’s the safest way to go.

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I totally cheated on the sides – went to Rudy’s BBQ for cole slaw and potato salad… got 2 quarts of each and only 1/2 of 1 quart was eaten.  I actually just had some to go along with my lunch, nom nom nom. More for me 😉  Josh’s sister had sent these cute glass ornaments filled with seasoning to make dip mixes with.  What an awesome and clever idea! They were tasty and everyone loved them; bowls were almost scraped clean. I put out 2 brands of crackers (1 gluten free rice / 1 rosemary & olive oil Triscuits). Always provide options!

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Other finger foods offered: pizza balls and zucchini bites. I’ve previously blogged about those 2 recipes, feel free to search for them 🙂

Guests brought plenty of desserts and a few other apps … beer was plentiful (got some good use from the beer drawer, lol!).  After all was said and done, belly’s were happily full with food and adult beverages.

To cure any grumbling stomachs the next morning (we had a couple guests stay the night who traveled from Austin), I prepared a light brunch recipe adapting something from Giada De Laurentiis.  That girl has more time and money on her hands so I clearly changed a few things … this is a close cousin to the classic lox and bagels.  Which is actually funny because she didn’t even mention that in the TV episode she prepared this dish on. So yeah, I purchased pre-made pizza dough, whipped cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers. It was budget friendly, simple to make, and a 10 minute dish.

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**I felt the need to add a disclaimer – I had a fabulous time (as did my husband) with our guests this weekend.  We were so excited to see our friends … being able to catch up and just chill.  I am not calling the overall party/those who attended a “semi-success”, it is only referring to my food … the reason I blog.

This little piggie was full, full, full.

We officially gave our property management a 60 day notice to us moving out! WOOHOO!!! We were approved for our VA loan and the lead contractor on our house says Nov. 20 is a firm closing date. We have our rental until the end of Nov. so we can take our time moving the small stuff, no rush!  I will have an amazing kitchen and an actual music studio/office and Josh will have his man-cave 🙂 .  We can’t wait to spread out.

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In the mean time, I will put up with my current small/nasty kitchen for another 30 days and cook delish meals, to the best of my ability.  Having friends to help is a Godsend, chatting & drinking takes away the constant thought of how disgusting the kitchen is.

Let’s get to it, my menu changed mid-week because we decided to go to dollar beer night at the Rampage hockey game (Friday) so I needed an easy dinner.  Chelsea made her sword fish on Thursday, spaghetti squash moved to Friday, and I made the chicken marsala on Monday. If you know food won’t go bad feel free to moves things around, no one said your menu was set in stone.

Friday – spaghetti squash with quinoa/pork meatballs
You will need to put in some extra muscle for this meal. Holy cow, I seriously worked up a sweat between trying to cut the squash in half and then scraping the seeds + “spaghetti” out; I was so tired when dinner was done.  I couldn’t cut through the first squash, thank goodness Cory was here. The second squash was easier, smaller ones are not as tough but then you don’t get as much “meat” from them.

I got this recipe from Emily, a college classmate – her blog is all about cooking on a budget and the meals are healthy! So for all y’all complaining on FB “eating right is expensive… it’s too hard to find healthy meals that taste good… I don’t know how to shop for healthy foods” STOP IT!  Quit your belly aching and do some reading, educate yourself and you’ll quickly realize changing your diet is incredibly simple. I mentioned it a few weeks back, just by changing my diet I lost 6 pounds in 1 month. Just to note, I am a somewhat active person but I don’t go to the gym.

Anyway, back to the squash + meatballs.

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Spaghetti squash has zero flavor so you must add seasoning. Emily’s recipe called for sour cream, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes.  While I did not have sour cream (I hate s.c. at this point, I had to make 3 trips to the store because I kept running out of it last week. I refused to go back again.), I used a TON of cheddar cheese which melted nicely, get some s & p on there with the red pepper flakes – you’ve got yourself a tasty dish!  The quinoa meatballs were incredibly easy and took 20 minutes from start to finish. You’ll spend most of the time on the squash so the meatballs can be saved until the end or they will dry out from sitting around.

Monday – chicken marsala
WOW what a simple dish! I always thought it was this complex Italian meal that would take hours. Nope, maybe 30 minutes! For a protein and vegetable, of course we added a side salad, but this is a complete meal that people will be impressed with.

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What can be easier than coating butterflied chicken breasts in flour, cooking them on the stove for 5 minutes on each side (you can do 1 at a time and just stack them in a dish so they stay warm), throw 2 large packages of mushrooms in the same pan when the chicken is done … boom, dinner is ready.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, add the chicken stock, Marsala wine, and butter – honestly though, I started at 7 and we were at the table by 7:45. The extra 15 minutes includes pulling out the ingredients, setting everything up, etc. plus setting the table and serving our plates.  Now this recipe calls for prosciutto which I left out, didn’t miss it.  My wallet appreciated the left out ingredient as well 😉 .

Tuesday – sloppy joes
HOMEMADE! None of that canned Manwich crap (which is incredibly delish but not the best healthy eating choice out there)
I’ll have to get the exact recipe from Chelsea but I believe she combined a recipe she already knew with a recipe from the Pioneer Woman’s blog.  BTW, love the Pioneer Woman. I think she might be the next cook I turn to for more inspiration.  Rachel Ray, while I love you and your “burger of the day” … I can’t stand how many ingredients your meals call for (like she’s actually reading this, HA!).

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Use any kind of meat, we had turkey and fake meat (hence the double stir action happening); halve *uncooked* biscuits, put cheese on one side, pile on the meat, and put in the oven to bake (until biscuits are golden brown). These were amazing and not sloppy! I know, totally defeats the name but these would be awesome for football Sunday’s or parties. Everything is contained in its own little biscuit of goodness. I ate 3 plus a side salad, Josh ate 5 (he’s so gross! LOL!) – between 4 adults I think 16 sandwiches were made and we have 2 leftover. Hello! Talk about being piggies last night. Whatever, you can indulge every once in a while.

Tonight’s line up is pretzel bun hot dog minis (stacked with cheese & sauerkraut), Thursday is shrimp scampi pizza (courtesy of Chelsea), and Friday calls for homemade pierogies + sauerkraut.

STAY TUNED & HAPPY COOKING!!!!

do not pick up a bottle by the cap

How many times has your mother told you this little tid bit of knowledge … gah, well, I forgot and wound up with olive oil on me, the counter top, two cabinets, the floor, inside a grocery bag, and then almost in Ella’s belly (such a good helper, wanting to clean up after me … we got her away from it in time, don’t worry).

And that was only Wednesday afternoon … I still had to get through the rest of the day! So much for being excited that it was ….

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I’m clearly behind on blogging so today’s will be longer but hopefully sticking to a paragraph for each day, Monday-Thursday.

Monday:

Originally scheduled were leftovers but Chelsea offered to cook up her family’s recipe of sausage and peppers … wowzers, definitely a keeper. The pictures say it all … think of it as a picture book 🙂 We all loved those as kids, no words! Easiest read over.
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Tuesday:

Tilapia burgers (store bought – FRESH seafood counter), veggie medley (red & green peppers, red onion, zucchini, and yellow squash + herb/garlic marinade), and whatever fries were in the freezer: waffle & sweet potato.

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Veggies were done in the AM so the marinade would really set and coat the veggies.  We needed a “sauce” for the burgers, Chelsea & I combined forces and came up with: sour cream as the base, garlic, green onions, and lime juice.  SO DELISH.  See, 2 blondes are better than 1 … wait, what?! 😉

Wednesday:

Slow cooker BBQ pork sliders – I used the same recipe as before but turned them into sliders – super easy creations. Broccoli bites for a side and you’re set! I added a TON of cheese this time to the bites and they were 100% better.

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Thursday:

I should just stop cooking after Chelsea made dinner last night … double wowzers, she hit this one out of the park!  I even busted out my Thanksgiving serving tray for this meal.  Presentation is key!

Sword fish steaks with a tomato/caper/fennel/onion/garlic “sauce” + grilled asparagus (I heated up some leftover orzo/broccoli since I do not share the same passion for asparagus as the others do).

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Boys were busy doing their thing, the steaks were cooked to perfection and we popped the asparagus in a foil pouch (a la camping style cooking) on the top rack.

Obviously this is not an everyday meal, we have Chelsea & Cory staying with us this week before they move into their downtown loft. I’m not going to complain if another person offers to cook, a night off is always welcomed. Or in this case, two nights off!

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So if you ever wondered what a fridge would look like with food for an entire week, to feed 4 adults, here it is.  Plus that darn Chillow, I hate that thing. Mostly I hate how small our fridge is.

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It’s funny because I lived with 4 people before and our fridge was never this full … that was also in college where most of our meals consisted of fast food and beer. Oh what a diet!  Boy how the times have changed.

Hands off my crock pot!!

Annnnd it’s Friday. I’m sorry little blog, my only friend and I’ve been neglecting you.

Tuesday: cleaned the house and did some grocery shopping for the two meals I planned.  Wednesday: watched Miss E again, payment of short ribs and veggies.  I ate dinner that night in 15 minutes, it was so good and amazing comfort food. I need to get the recipe ASAP. To make things easier for transporting I gave Kathy one of my grandmother’s pots to use and I’m telling you what, I think food tastes even better knowing it was cooked in a dish that’s been passed down.  It may be mustard yellow with small orange flowers on it, but it’s whats inside and knowing where it’s been.

If you guys have crazy weeks like we do in this house, I suggest setting up a “menu board”; I used to put a list on the fridge but for something reason the white paper with black ink didn’t catch Josh’s attention.  Neon markers? YEP! That fixed things 🙂 I actually started my menu board so he would know what was off limits in the fridge and freezer, 9 times out of 10 he’d eat half of my weekly ingredients and I’d be running to the store while attempting to get dinner going. Here’s what this week looked like:
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I change out the quote to keep it interesting for Josh … he’s easily amused.  The last one was “Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit”.  As you can see one day was leftovers, my fridge was being taken over my storage containers.  While I loved the organization of it all, it was starting to scare me that they might attack.  Oh, Monday’s meal was so delicious; pork chops cooked perfectly and with them being stuffed with blue cheese and cranberries, oh man MELT IN YOUR MOUTH.  I’ll have to add that to my rotation as well; I’ve done Gouda/spinach and caramelized onions/apples both which are hits as well.

On to last night’s crock pot meal; it wasn’t a crazy Thursday like the last few weeks but I taught all evening.  This was the easiest and fastest meal to prep, don’t be shocked when I tell you this piece of advice: BUY A MANDOLIN! I was able to slice a green pepper and 3 red potatoes in a minute. I had everything layered (shake some S & P on each layer!!!) in the crock pot under 8 minutes. Yes, I timed myself to prove to you that delicious dinners are possible. Please note, this is not the healthiest meal to date but it was good and we all need some extra goodness every once in a while.

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I tried to cut corners due to teaching, I didn’t have time to empty the crock pot and then melt the Velveeta, so I used a baby crock pot for that step and I’m super thankful I lined it with foil because it burned to the bottom. GROSS.  I highly suggest NOT skipping that step … Since I had leftovers I planned on taking them out then melting the remaining square of cheese, pour it on the chicken/veggies in a container and hopefully have an improvement the second time around.  Well my lovely husband cleaned up while I was teaching my last lesson and that idea was quickly laid to rest.  I love that he helped but now I don’t have leftover juices from the crock pot 😦 I didn’t tell him about this so when he reads the blog he’ll get upset that he “messed up”.  You didn’t mess up boo boo, you were super helpful to clean up the kitchen, one less thing I had to do after an evening of lessons.  Next time, don’t touch the crock pot until I say so *stink eye*, xoxo.

I was able to use some of the baby crock pot cheese, the meal didn’t turn out bad but the cheese was goopy (it is a processed log after all); it needed the juices to turn it in to a sauce.

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And to finish off an unhealthy meal, an unhealthy dessert!  We went out for a friends birthday on Wednesday and couldn’t pass up a slice of cheesecake … it’s sacrilegious to be near “The Factory” and not take home a slice of heaven.  MMMMM NOM NOM NOM.

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