Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tried and true

You might recall that my New Year's Resolutions were to try new recipes, make more crafts and be more frugal.

Have I become more frugal? I think so.

Have I done more crafting? But I am relatively caught up on laundry, so I think it evens out.

Have I tried new recipes?  Yes!  While I've made a point to blog about the new Martha Stewart and Everyday Food recipes I've tried, I've had great experiences with meals and desserts from other bloggers and websites.  Also,  Pinterest has become a great source of new recipes for me.  I have boards for general recipes, desserts and vegetable dishes, and I am trying something new as often as possible.

Here's what I've tried, along with the links and my reviews.

Creamy Garlic Pasta by the Cheese Pusher:  OMG this stuff is amazing. I love this recipe. I've made it as a side dish and seeing how it was inhaled by my family, I made it again. The second time around, I added diced cooked chicken to make it the main course. Yum!

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder by Lulu the Baker: this is another great recipe. I foresee creating a crockpot version of this for cool fall nights.

Baked Potato Soup by Mama Loves Food: this was okay. I think I experimented a bit with the amounts of ingredients and technique here (and we all know how that usually turns out for me!) so it wasn't as tasty as I had hoped. I'll try this again in the fall, and next time I'll be sure to follow the instructions.

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili by Reds:  this is pretty good (and a good break from regular chili), and as far as cooking/prep go, it's a breeze!  I like to combine any leftovers with rice to make my Tex Mex Chicken Casserole.

Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Sauce by this was okay. I didn't make the recipe as spicy as it could have been, but this was a hearty (and different!) dish. Serve with rice!

Blueberry Breakfast Cake from Alexandra's Kitchen:  this is so, so, so delicious!  It's so cake-like that I feel guilty for eating it as breakfast instead of dessert. Word to the wise, however...Alexandra mentions in the instructions that the cake might need 10 minutes or so longer in the experience is that it most definitely needs longer time in the over. Just so you know.

Baked Sweet Potato Chips (shown above) from Martha Stewart:  these are amazing. I could eat them all day long!  Keep in mind that I had a sheet of these burn, so at the halfway mark you'll want to keep a close eye on these and probably decrease the baking time.

No Bake Cookies from Lick the Bowl Good: these cookies were a favorite when I was a kid, and I still love them just as much.  I increase the amount of oats by one cup when I use this recipe.

Terribly Terrific Toffee from A Southern Grace: NOM NOM NOM  I've made this recipe three times in less than a week now, and I might do another batch or two this weekend. This toffee, based with plain old saltine crackers, is easy to make and even easier to eat. Give it a try!

In fact, give all these recipes a try! And if you have a recipe I might like, or that you'd like to see featured on The Martha Initiative, be sure to let me know. Happy cooking!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Since my Blondkopfchen tomato seedlings were started way back in February at Little Miss' birthday party, it makes sense that these are the first tomatoes to ripen in our garden. In fact, I believe the first grape tomatoes turned yellow-orange at the end of June.

And of course, we ate them immediately.  And by "we," I mean the kids.

Little Guy assured me they were quite tasty.

Little Miss kept asking for more, and I had to stop her several times from picking the unripe tomatoes.

And now, Little Miss is absolutely hooked on fresh Blondkopfchen tomatoes. Every other day, we check the vines to see if any are ripe, and end up eating them right then and there.

A week or so ago there were almost 20 ripe at once. I convinced Little Miss to wait until dinner to eat them.

At least, I thought I had convinced her to wait.

But these little tomatoes are just too tempting for Little Miss.

As it turned out, we didn't have any tomatoes to go with dinner. 

I am totally okay with that.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Martha Monday--Mojitos and a sandwich

In the July/August issue of Everyday Food, I marked ten recipes as must-do's for this month. Of the ten, six of them are for cocktails. Go figure.

Last week I made the Watermelon Mojitos on page 94. They weren't bad!

There are five cocktails featured on the "Instant Party" spread--everything from a Singapore Sling to a Painkiller. Once I've made my way through them all, I'll let you know my favorite. ;)

After the mojitos, I made the Pesto Chicken Burgers from page 13.  I didn't have any ground chicken on hand, so I simply used cubed breast meat.  The ciabatta rolls, pesto, chicken, melted cheese and tomato slice was a terrific combination--what a great sandwich!

I'm not entirely sold on the watermelon mojito (a regular mojito is more my thing) but I am smitten with these pesto chicken burgers.  I'll be making them again. Need something different for dinner? Give these pesto chicken burgers a try!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PW's perfect iced coffee

Last summer, I had a strict morning routine. Get up, get ready for work, get the kids ready for their day, leave the house, stop at a coffee shop drive-thru for an iced coffee, and proceed to work.  I did this every day. Without fail. 

I am like the tides.  And I like my iced coffee, okay? Scratch that, I need my iced coffee. Daily.

However, that daily iced coffee routine was cutting into my summer fun (read: yard sales) budget in a big way, and I'm sure it wasn't helping my waistline either.  This summer, in order to have both my daily iced coffee and money for yard sale purchases, I decided to make my own iced coffee rather than dropping $5.00 at Dunkin' Donuts each morning.  Enter The Pioneer Woman's perfect iced coffee recipe. 

 I gave it a try, and I love love love it! It has saved my mornings and my budget.  All you need to make it is coffee grounds and water, and then whatever accompaniments you demand of your caffeine serving. I like half-and-half along with a splash of caramel flavor in my iced coffee. 


After I took the above picture, I realized that some of the ingredients are hard to see.  So I rearranged everything on another countertop and took another picture:

You can see the ingredients and final product, but everything is blurry. When it comes to photography, I am certainly not The Pioneer Woman. Though it might help if I drank the iced coffee before I started snapping pictures in the morning.

Note to self: caffeine intake first, taking pictures second.

I am really happy with this iced coffee recipe. Not only does it taste exactly like what I used to buy at the drive-thru each morning, but it costs a LOT less.  Seriously, the savings is amazing! Last summer, I spent $20-25 each week just on iced coffee. This year, I spent just $20 on ingredients to make iced coffee all summer long. You do the math!

Really, math isn't my thing. You do it.

And give PW's perfect iced coffee recipe a try. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Martha Monday--Skillet shrimp and orzo

In the May 2012 issue of Everyday Food, there is an amazing one-pot recipe of skillet shrimp and orzo:

The ingredients are fairly simple, as is the process, and I just had to make it. The recipe calls for 3/4 pound of orzo, but as you might know, most boxes of orzo are a full pound. Rather than deal with the math, I put in all the orzo and two full cans of chicken broth.  And, since I used canned tomatoes, I added all of the juice. The orzo turned out just fine.

However, I got the crazy idea to GRILL OUT the accompanying shrimp (along with some chicken). As you can see, that did not turn out just fine.  Grilling simply isn't my thing.

Then, to add insult to injury, I wasn't watching the orzo closely enough during the cooking process and a small layer was burned to the bottom of the pan.  Not fine. I'd say cooking isn't my thing, but I will not let this one mishap diminish my quest to become Aurora's version of Martha Stewart. 


And because it is summer, watermelon is also my thing. A thing which, when following dinner, totally makes up for blackened shrimp and chicken and burned orzo at the bottom of the pan. Which is just fine with me.

I will be trying this recipe again. The orzo was delicious, and I can only imagine that by following directions and cooking the shrimp in the skillet that the entire dish would be amazing.  Give this recipe a try today, but please learn from my mistakes and follow the instruction.  Just in case, keep some watermelon on hand and you'll be just fine.

A note to Tenney in Hawaii:  your emails always brighten my day. Aloha!

A note to everyone: As always, thanks for reading. Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pesto with kale

Need a fun side dish for tomorrow's festivities?  By fun, I mean 'easy', and of course I'm referring to my favorite summer side Pasta with Pesto. YUM!!!!

But, now that I am a bona fide gardener, I'm putting a bit of kale in with my usual pesto ingredients (basil, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic).  Kale is a superfood so expect to be able to fly or have x-ray vision after you eat it.*

*This statement is probably mostly not true. Maybe.

Also, the addition of kale helps the pesto keep that awesome green color.  If you give this a try, and you really should I INSIST, be sure to keep the kale/basil ratio at 1:2.  That's one part kale to two (or more) parts of basil.  I think.  Really I'm not sure how to express that in mathematical terms, so just read the word parts and do what that says.

Have a wonderful (and safe) Independence Day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Martha Monday--Fourth of July desserts

Independence Day is almost here...time for grilling out, parades and fireworks!  With the heat wave here in the Midwest, I am looking forward to cool desserts to follow the bbq.  And naturally, Martha has a bunch of ideas on her site.

Since it's too hot to turn on the oven, these Firecracker Ice Pops are worth a try:

This Mixed Berry Salad with Mint also looks refreshing:

But if your dessert needs to contain chocolate, then these super-easy Pretzel Sparklers are for you:

Should you feel the need to take a more traditional route and actually bake despite the soaring temps outside, then I can heartily recommend these Fireworks Cookies:

I made them last year and they were a huge hit. 

This Summer Shortcake is also a real crowd-pleaser:

I've also made this before, and it was delicious! 

My plans for the Fourth are still up in the air, but I'm sure they will include good food, good friends and good desserts.  What are your plans for the Fourth of July?