Update

•August 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This past month, the hubby and I have committed to do better meal planning and eating in. I tracked our expenses for the past two months and we came to the realization that we spend an enormous amount on eating out. So to keep us on track, I’ve been using a meal planning tool called Plan to Eat. I’m on my first month free trial and so far it’s worked well. I can save recipes from blogs I read and drag and drop them directly into my planner. I can bring it up on my iPad to cook with in the kitchen (although I do hope they develop an ap). Our commitment to eating in and the meal planner have reignited my love at looking at food blogs! I’ve found a few more favorites that I will be sharing with you soon!

In the meantime, some photos from a recent baby shower for a friend! My friend Lorin is due in October and our other friend Amie and I hosted the shower at my house. We had a blast planning a cute theme and cooking and baking to our hearts desire! I am especially proud of my cupcakes – two people asked which bakery I bought them from! If you want to know – the link for the recipe is below – easy, quick and REALLY tasty!

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These cupcakes are Vanilla but I called them “Sugar Cooke” because they were super sweet and really tasted like a sugar cookie. Even the tops of the cupcakes were a little crispy and cookie-like. I will be making them again!

http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/10/28/vanilla-cupcakes-vanilla-buttercream-frosting/

Our pom pom decorations were super easy too – we used this link: http://www.marthastewart.com/265163/pom-poms-and-luminarias-how-to

Easy Fish Tacos with homemade Pico de Gallo

•July 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The hubby and I have been working really hard these past few weeks to do more meal planning. And sticking to it. We are taking all the money we are not spending on eating out and plugging that away in savings. And I have to say I’m very proud of us – we are in week three and we’ve done a great job of keeping it cheap!

Last night was a total success due in part from a lot of home-grown veggies I acquired from my mom and a coworker. I love fish tacos – they are one of my absolute favorites and I really love making them at home, if I have the fresh ingredients. This recipe is so easy too – you’ll be ready to make it when you get home!

Fish Tacos

3 tilapia filets (you could use cod too, if you had it)

olive oil

spices (I used Pampered Chef’s Spicy Tangerine Rub, but any good lemon herb rub or chili rub would work too)

Pico de Gallo

Sriracha Sour Cream

lettuce, sprouts, or anything else crunchy you like on a taco

Pico de Gallo

4 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 of a small red onion, diced

1 small pepper (if you want some kick, use a jalapeno, but all I had was green bell, worked great), diced

black pepper to taste

fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Sriracha Sour Cream

1/4 cup of sour cream

Sriracha, to taste (a little at a time – I taste in between to make sure it’s not too hot)

 

For the fish – in a dish, lightly coat the fish with some oil and rub generously with the spices. Let that sit for 30 minutes or so. While that is soaking in, make your pico and your sour cream. Mix all the parts for the pico and refrigerate until it’s ready to use. Stir together the Sriracha and the sour cream.

In a medium or large skillet, cook the fish over medium heat, until flaky. Flipping once. Roughly chop. Now pull out your toppings and make it up!

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Last Minute

•July 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I had just a little bit of the spring roll ingredients left over, and at the last-minute I grabbed them for lunch at work along with a package of Thai Kitchen instant noodles. Once I sat down for lunch, I thought, “maybe I should combine them!?!?”  I did and it was genius! I cooked the noodles according to the microwave instructions, drained most of the water, and added my left overs. BAM!

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Spring Rolls

•July 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I snagged this recipe from what has quickly become one of my favorite blogs – Thug Kitchen – and if you head that way, you’ll know why. Just beware of the f-bombs.

I had a gluten free friend over for lunch and a horror movie afternoon and I needed to find a recipe. Once I saw this recipe, I knew it was the one :)

I used the sauce recipe from Thug Kitchen’s Peanut Tempeh Summer Rolls for this recipe. Since I can’t have most soy products like tempeh or tofu, so I substituted chicken and shrimp. The sauce is a jarred sweet and sour, but you did not need it one bit.

Peanut Spring Rolls (from Thug Kitchen)

Rice paper wrappers

lettuce

shredded carrots and cukes

chopped spring onions

1 chicken breast

1/2 pound of shrimp

Sauce:

1/3 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup of warm water

1 tablespoon of lime juice

2 teaspoons of Gluten free soy sauce

3 tablespoons of Rice vinegar

1 teaspoon of sriracha (or more if you like it spicy)

1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh Ginger (I used a teaspoon of dried)

1 clove of garlic, minced or chopped

Clean and devein the shrimp. Cut up the chicken into small pieces.

For the sauce, mix the peanut butter and water and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients until they are completely incorporated. Pour over the shrimp and chicken and let sit for 20 minutes or so.

Cook the shrimp til just done. Dice into small pieces. Cook the chicken until fully cooked. Let both cool.

When making the wraps – get out a big dinner plate and pour some warm water in it. Soak one paper wrap for about 30 seconds until it is just pliable. Then gently move it to a paper towel being sure not to let it stick to itself. (this takes practice) then add the lettuce, shredded veggies and meat. Wrap that sucker up like a burrito and enjoy!

Don’t judge me on my wrapping skills….it wasn’t pretty but it was delicious!

 

 

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Annnnnnnd if it turns out you don’t like the texture of rice paper – you can always make a lettuce wrap, like my friend did:

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Spice Up Your Life

•June 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Recently I have been in desperate need of quick, fast, and easy. Recipes that is. I’m trying hard to find my motivation for cooking after a long day at work and sometimes even after a long grueling workout. When that happens I often turn to one of my go-to blogs, Budget Bytes. Her recipes are super yummy, cheap and exactly what I need on the fly. Tonight I made her Dragon Noodles – which I have had earmarked for about a month or so. The Hubs and I love spicy foods with an Asian flair, so I knew we had to try it. I made a couple of additions because I needed some protein, but that’s it! Total – probably took me 15 minutes to prep and another 15 to cook. And we can tell you – this recipe is the DEAL.

Don’t be shy when you check out her blog either, she’s got a lot to choose from! And she breaks it down by cost per serving so you really know how much you are saving instead of going out!

Dragon Noodles with Chicken and Green Beans (from Budget Bytes)

4 oz. lo mein noodles (I used two sleeves of Udon Noodles because I couldn’t find lo mein)
1 cup of cooked chicken (I bought a roasted chicken because I needed it quick)
1 cup of cooked or steamed green beans (again, I cheated and used Steam Fresh)
2 Tbsp butter
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 large egg
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sriracha (rooster sauce)
1 handful fresh cilantro
1 sliced green onion

 Boil the water for the noodles and cook according to the package directions. The Udon was 4 minutes.

While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl stir together the brown sugar, soy sauce, and sriracha.

In a large pan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the red pepper to the butter as it melts. (If you wanted something less spicy, you could omit the red pepper. I did, only because I forgot! And it was still nice and hot!) Whisk the egg in a bowl and then add to the melted butter. Scramble til cooked through. Chop up with your spatula into small pieces.

Drain the water from the noodles and then add them to the pan with the egg. (Add them right away because if you let them sit, they turn into a big sticky ball of noodles) Add the soy sauce mixture. Add the chicken and green beans and stir to incorporate the sauce. Heat on low until chicken is heated through. Garnish with spring onions and cilantro.

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Lobster Bisque

•May 31, 2013 • Leave a Comment

This past Memorial Day, the hubs and I decided to try a recipe that was a little challenging and also had some sentimental value. Our late brother-in-law, Mitch, used to make the best lobster bisque – he brought it to every family holiday. Mostly because every one in the family requested (insisted on) it.

He knew I loved to cook and that I was a little adventurous so a few years ago he gave me the cook book that had his recipe in it. He got it from In The Kennedy Kitchen with recipes from Neil Connolly. This cookbook has lots of good Irish favorites and New England classics. It was an excellent gift and I always told Mitch I couldn’t wait to make his bisque.

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Unfortunately, we never got the chance to make it before he passed away last year. So this past weekend we thought – enough putting it off! And what a fun way to spend a holiday :)

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Now, I’m pretty intimidated by the thought of cooking lobsters, so the hubs agreed that he would do the messy part, and I would take care of the rest. One tip for folks dealing with whole, live lobsters – get ready for a HUGE mess!

Neil’s recipe is a little different – we did ours a little different to start with. (Mostly, because I didn’t read ahead far enough!) I’m pretty sure that Mitch fudged with the recipe too – but I will have to keep testing it to get it just like his!

For the Stock:

2 live 1 pound lobsters

3 sprigs of fresh parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh tarragon (I used dried, about a teaspoon)

1 teaspoon of thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 teaspoons of whole peppercorns

1 medium onion, chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons of brandy

2 tablespoons of dry white wine

3/4 cup of tomato puree (I blended together diced tomatoes and tomato paste)

For the Bisque:

8 cups of the stock, separated

1/2 cup of basmati rice

1 cup half and half

1 1/2 tablespoons of butter

1 cup of chopped lobster meat

2 tablespoons of dry sherry

1 tablespoon of brandy

We boiled the live lobsters one at a time in a large pot. Make sure your pot is pretty big – the water has to completely cover the lobsters. I put 4 tablespoons of sea salt in the water ahead of time. Our lobsters were a little over a pound each and we boiled them for 6 minutes and quickly removed them and put them on ice. Be sure to plop them in head first and cover them immediately (and cover your ears so you don’t hear the poor things clawing around!)

When you pull the lobsters out try to uncurl the tail as much as possible and lay it flat on the ice. After they have cooled – cut them open and remove the meat and reserve the shells.

To remove the meat was a messy process – so I let the hubs take care of it. First he used a large chef’s knife to slice underneath, from the “chin” to the tail. Under cold running water, hold the head upwards and your thumbs along the cut you just made. Pull it apart to rinse out all the organs (fun part, huh?). Use your hands to clean out any stragglers. Once that is done, pull the tail from the rest of the body. The tail meat should be easy to remove. Pull of the claws and crack them to get to the meat. Chop off the head and pull the legs from the remainder of the shell and clean out all the rest of the organs.

Chop up the meat in small bites and put in the fridge til later.

In a large sauce pan add some olive oil and get it real hot. Add the carrots, celery, onions and brown for about 3 minutes. Add the lobster shells, brandy, and the wine and cook for another minute. Finally add the tomato puree, the spices, and about 10 cups of water. Boil for 30 minutes. (Up til now is where we differed from the recipe – Neil says to have the lobsters cut up into chucks by your fish monger and then cooked with the veggies before removing the meat. I think this probably would have added more flavor than my method).

Remove the shells and strain the broth. Set back on the burner to boil another 5 minutes. Strain through a sieve to remove any tiny bits.

For the soup – I used Minute rice :) And I cooked it and blended it in the blender with 3 cups of the broth, until smooth. Neil says to get regular basmati rice and cook it in the lobster stock – I should have done this step too. I was trying to cheat. :)

Add 4 cups of the broth to a small sauce pan and add the cream and rice mixture. The recipe called for half and half or light cream. I used half and half, but I remember when Mitch made it, it was much creamier and richer. My guess is he used heavy cream instead. Or maybe cream cheese. Either way, next time I will be trying one of those to get a thicker texture. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I added a lot, it needed some umph) If you are feeling frisky, add some cayenne pepper. Mitch added just a bit to give it some kick.

Meanwhile, in a small pan add the butter and heat the lobster meat for about a minute. Add the sherry and brandy and let cook for another minute. Spoon some of the meat into a bowl and top with the liquid.

All in all – after the cooking of the lobster – it wasn’t really that difficult!

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We had ours with a simple egg salad and ripe cantaloupe slices. Perfect way to spend the extra day off – good food and remembering a fantastic guy!

Grilled Asparagus and Arugula Pizza

•May 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A few months ago I went temporarily vegetarian - yikes! I know! I was trying to find a little more moderation in what I ate and hopefully shed a couple pounds before our vacation. I have to say I kind of like it :) Now that we’ve come back from vacation I’ve cheated a little, so I decided to update my diet to keeping the meat to once or twice a week. So far the hubby hasn’t noticed ;)

Last night I wanted to put my own spin on a white pizza we had at a place in Church Hill called Anthony’s On the Hill. My brother has grilled pizzas for us before – but we hadn’t been able to try it ourselves until now. YUMMO. We use a pizza grill pan, but you don’t need it – you can put it straight on the grill.

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Grilled Asparagus and Arugula Pizza

2 cups of ricotta cheese

1 cup of shitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped

1 cup of chopped asparagus

1/4 cup of shredded parmesan

1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella

2-3 cups of Arugula

2 cloves of garlic

2 tbs. of olive oil

4 flat breads (I like Stonefire brand)

Salt and pepper to taste

I sauteed the garlic and mushrooms for a few minutes before putting them on the pizza, but you don’t have to. The garlic will have quite a bite on it if you don’t, however.

Mix the cooked garlic, salt and pepper with the ricotta cheese and brush a tiny bit olive oil on the flat breads. Smear a spoonful of the ricotta onto the flat breads as it if it were red sauce. Top with the asparagus, mushrooms, mozzarella, and parmesan.

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Put those suckers on the grill – but they don’t need to be on there for long. If you have the heat on high while you were warming up, turn the heat down. 5-6 minutes is pretty much all you need.

Once off the grill top with arugula and garnish with a little bit more parm. I would advise you to use arugula that has a really strong flavor. I bought mine at the grocery store and it lacked quite a bit. Local arugula from the Farmer’s Market is ten times better.

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