Friday, July 30, 2010

An Ode to Pioneer Woman...

Oh Ree… you’ve done it again. You’ve filled my heart with joy. Your witty posts, helpful hints, and delicious delights are what I look forward to everyday. You inspire me, and fill my tummy with goodness.

I’ve been neglecting to address this important part of my blogging life and I simply can’t put it off any longer. If you haven’t been to Ree Drummond’s lovely website… STOP everything you are doing and GO HERE! Ree’s a ranch wife, mom of four kiddos, fabulous cook, homeschooler, photographer, and full time blogger… she’s amazing.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest… we’ll get back to filling our tummies…

When I found this recipe on PW, my mouth literally began watering. It was soo good that even though the hubby and I are desperately trying not to gain a hundred pounds this year, we ate until we couldn’t move. It’s an interesting combination of ingredients, but when they come together… boy is it GOOD!

Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Quesadillas         Ree Drummond
8-10 large flour tortillas
A couple Tbsp of butter
2 cups grilled pineapple, sliced
A couple chicken breasts (depending on how many you’re feeding)
3 cups Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese
1 jalapeno (either sliced whole or finely chopped depending on the heat you can handle!)
A large bunch of cilantro
Your favorite Barbecue Sauce (but KC BBQ sauce is the ONLY real way to go)

First, grab your grill pan (or heat your outdoor grill) and use low heat. Slice your pineapple into long wedges for easy grilling. I also threw my jalapeno on the grill pan, because that’s the way the hubby and I like it. You’re done when you’ve got nice brown grill marks and it looks like this...

Then transfer it to your cutting board and slice the pineapple. I finely chopped my jalapeno here too. Finely chop up a nice bunch of cilantro to keep your pineapple and jalapeno company.

Next you want to pound out your chicken breasts for even grilling. I don’t have a meat mallet, so I just put saran wrap over the chicken on a cutting board and give it a good whack with my heavy skillet. I have to admit that it’s kind of cathartic.

Season your chicken with S&P and drizzle it with EVOO. Grill it for about 7 minutes on each side, and brush it liberally with that BBQ sauce! Let it rest for a minute on your cutting board and then slice it up real thin.

While that chicken is grilling, put some butter in a skillet and toast up your tortillas on both sides. You can wrap ‘em up in foil to keep warm if you need.

Next, gather the gang for assembly…

Now grab a cookie sheet or two and line it with toasted tortillas. To assemble your quesadillas, sprinkle the bottom tortillas with some cheese. Arrange the chicken, pineapple and jalapeno, and sprinkle on some cilantro. I definitely gave each pile of toppings a nice drizzle of BBQ sauce, just for good measure. Top ‘em off with another tortilla and stick your cookie sheet in the oven at 350 for a few to get the cheese nice and melty!

Slice up your quesadillas with a pizza cutter and DIG IN ya’ll! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thank You Miss Paula!

I can’t remember when exactly I fell in love with Miss Paula Deen… but I know it was early in my trying-to-cook/bake phase! Her sweet, sweet spirit and southern charm are only icing on the cake to her ability to create comfort food so good, you’ll feel home after just one bite. Many of my “go-to” baked goodies are from Miss Paula… and this one’s definitely been made a few dozen times. You think you’ll have just one… but then you look down, and five more are gone! They’re sweet buttery little bits of goodness! Make ‘em when you’re feeling homesick, or just need a comforting pick-me-up.

Here’s what you need…

Mini White Chocolate Chip Blondies               by Paula Deen
(Makes about 55-60 mini blondies)

1 cup butter
4 oz white baking chocolate
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups flour
1tsp vanilla
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Go ahead and line your mini muffin pan with little paper liners. I got my tins and liners at Sur La Table and I use them for all sorts of mini treats!

Next grab a large bowl and add the white baking chocolate and the butter. Microwave at 30 second intervals, or just put it in a sauce pan on low until they’re melted and nice and smooth. Add both sugars and beat in eggs one at a time. Slowly add the flour, and then stir in the vanilla, nuts and chips. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins… you can lick your fingers when the batter accidentally misses the paper liner!

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let ‘em cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then put them on a wire cooling rack.

Now grab a glass of milk and a warm blondie and say Mmmmm.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Perfect Summer Dish...

It’s not too often that I get a hankering for coming up with my own recipe for something. The resources out there for amazing dishes are endless… and although I usually tweak them according to what Bri and I like and don’t like, and what I’ve found to be easier, this dish was inspired by several recipes and the written by little ol’ me. It’s a light dish that’s figure-friendly and perfect for a warm summer night.

I was reading through my copy of Rachael Ray’s 365:No Repeats for the bizillionth time, and saw a recipe for Balsamic glazed chicken. Now whenever I see anything with balsamic vinegar in it, my mouth starts watering for a nice Caprese salad! I just looove fresh tomatoes and mozzeralla. It’s the perfect combination… don’t argue with me. After gathering the necessary ingredients, this recipe was born…

Balsamic Chicken Caprese & Greens             by yours truly

3-4 chicken Breasts (depending on how many you’re feeding)
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
Splash of chicken stock
A pinch of rosemary & thyme (give it a super fine chop)
Small bunch of basil (don’t you dare chop it!)
Bag of field greens or “spring mix”
4 oz fresh mozzarella (thinly sliced)
A couple of vine ripened tomatoes

First, grab a skillet and get some EVOO over medium heat. Season your chicken with S&P and cook for about 5-7 minutes on each side until their cooked through. Then put them in some foil to keep warm while you make the glaze.

Add about 2 Tbsp EVOO to the same skillet and cook the onions till their nice and soft along with the rosemary & thyme. Then add the balsamic vinegar, honey & chicken stock and let it simmer and get nice and thick while you slice the mozzarella and tomatoes. When thick enough for your taste, add the cold butter and give it a stir. Then add the chicken back to the skillet and turn it a couple times to glaze it.

To assemble, put a bunch of greens on your plate, then the glazed chicken. Add some extra glaze over both to dress the salad. Then layer the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves on the chicken breast and season with S&P. Grab a fork & knife, a glass of sweet tea and head out to the patio! Happy Summer ya’ll!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fresh out of the oven!

My dear friend Casey… well that girl KNOWS me. You know what I mean? Those people who can almost predict your response to something and who take an actual interest in what’s going on in your life. Casey’s Mama was always making all kinds of wonderful things for dinner when I was a teenager and hanging out at their house… and along with all that yummy food was often homemade bread… Can anything else make a person feel more welcome than fresh bread right out of the oven? Well, for my birthday last year, Casey, that wonderful girl, gave me a book that nearly changed my life!

It’s exactly what it says… quick and easy and it fills your house with such an amazing aroma that people will literally come running from miles around to see what’s makin’ their mouths water!

Of course, the first recipe I made was a French Brioche (a moist buttery bread with honey in it!) because my sweet tooth wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s what you need:

***Disclaimer: This recipe makes 2 1lb loaves, but I make one and save the other half of the dough for Caramel Sticky Buns… you should too.

¾ cup lukewarm water
1 packet of granulated yeast
¾ Tbsp salt
4 eggs (lightly beaten)
¼ cup honey
1 ½ sticks butter (melted)
3 ¾ cups flour
Egg wash (1 egg + 1tbsp water beaten together)

Grab your handy dandy Kitchen Aid Mixer and attach the dough hook. Add the lukewarm water, yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter.

Slowly add the flour. It will be a loose dough, but after chilling it will firm right up!

Cover the dough in the mixer or a large bowl (NOT AIRTIGHT) and let it sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Yep… just walk away.

Now you’re going to want to chill that dough. Just stick it in the fridge. Once it’s good and chilled you can use it, but you can also just keep it in the fridge until you need it. (Up to 5 days)

When you’re ready to bake up some bread, grease a loaf pan. Use half the dough and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the dough around to the bottom on all sides. Then elongate it so it’ll fit nicely in your pan.

Let the dough rest in the pan at room temperature for an hour and 20 minutes. Before baking, brush the dough with the egg wash.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and it’s golden brown on top. Your nose will tell you… just wait!

YUM! It’s making me hungry just lookin’ at that picture! I might just have to go whip some up! Enjoy!

Friday, July 9, 2010

An Italian Classic, Burger Style!

I don’t know about ya’ll, but these burger recipes seem to be getting better and better! Every Friday night, I ask Bri if THIS is his favorite burger, and every Friday he says that particular burger is the best one yet! I guess we’ll never know… but I sure am having fun trying all these delicious takes on the American fav!

This one’s a doozy! It’s got not one, but TWO mouth-watering sauces! Here’s the cast of this dramatic dish…

Lasagna Burger                                   by Rachael Ray

1 lb ground sirloin (Rach used a beef/pork/veal mix)
1 onion (finely chopped)
14.5oz can Italian tomatoes (with basil, garlic & oregano)
Small bunch of basil (finely chopped)
2 tsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
Pinch of nutmeg
½ cup ricotta
¼ cup grated Parm
4 gourmet white hamburger buns (I like to say gourmet!)

First, put some EVOO in a skillet over medium heat and get the onions nice and soft. Then add the Italian tomatoes and give ‘em a mash. Season with S&P and let it thicken while you cook the other sauce and the burgers. Stir in the basil at the very end.

Then make four even patties of ground sirloin and season with S&P. Drizzle ‘em with a little EVOO and grill over medium-high heat for 7-8 minutes. We like medium burgers around here!

While those burgers cook, grab another skillet and melt the butter. Add the flour and cook for a minute, then whisk in the milk. You’ve just made a roux & a bechamel… aren’t you fancy! Season it up with some S&P and a pinch of nutmeg and bring it to a bubble! Then add all that yummy cheese. This next step is very important… dip your finger in that sauce and give it a lick… then die of bliss. I want to pour this sauce on EVERYTHING! Amen?

To assemble these babies, spoon some red sauce on the bottom bun, then the burger, then spoon some white sauce all over, trying not to lap it up in the process. Top it with the other bun, and take a BIG tasty bite!

***Note: this burger is extremely messy, and if you’re like my hubby (afraid of anything messy) grab yourself a fork and a knife!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It ain't home yet...

So it wasn’t pretty, but we finally got all our stuff into the new condo. My wonderful brother-in-law and his girlfriend came out to help us get all our furniture into the new place! It was a looong day, but with all the hard work, we got it done! I think the worrying alone wore me OUT! Now I just gotta concentrate on getting it all filled with some cozy d├ęcor and get this place looking like HOME!

I must say, that as nice as the new condo is, it’s not a house, which is what my little heart really desires. It’s just a different way of life out here on the coast. There have also been some unpleasant bumps in the road… leading to more tears and frustration, but I just keep reminding myself that THIS is where God has got us, and I better buck up and make the best of it!

First challenge… the property management company failed to have the place cleaned before we moved in (so unprofessional), which means the hubby and I spent an entire day scrubbing, sweeping, vacuuming and disinfecting before anything could move in. ALSO… the carpets are definitely not up to my standards, so now we’re having them cleaned sometime this next week… of course that means more moving of furniture… lovely.

Second challenge… the “entry way” area of our old Apartment doesn’t exist in the new condo, leaving my beloved PB shelves homeless… currently working on making them work in the living room, or dining room… haven’t decided yet.

Third challenge… the new master bed room is HUGE, I mean so huge that our little full-sized bed (we are small people), dresser, and bedside tables look terribly dwarfed and lonely… this will probably result in buying some furniture for a sitting area/reading chair. ALSO… this means that the guest room is pitifully small. I’m not joking… it’s PITIFUL. We don’t want to get rid of the furniture in there since we’ll probably use it someday, but we’ve heard storage here is expensive…sigh. This room is currently making me pull my hair out.

I’ll leave ya’ll with a few “BEFORE” pics of the place. Any ideas, suggestions, comments are GREATLY appreciated!

Living Room: First thing we did…. Took down the awful mirrors and the tacky blinds. Ew.

Dining Room & Kitchen: Loooove my new appliances. This is where I spent a vast majority of my time so the fact that it’s upgraded = bliss.

Hallway & Cabinets in Hall: I love that there IS a hallway! It feels more like a house this way. To the right is the hall closet, guest bedroom, and these handy cabinets. To the left is the hall bath and laundry room. Straight ahead is the Master bedroom.

Teeny Tiny Guestroom & Hall Bathroom:
I have no words.

Huge Master Bedroom: I love the bathroom area… the shower and Loo are in their own separate room. Also, we have our OWN closets… this is a very good thing.

I’ll post pictures of each room as they’re finished! I’m off to peruse the Pottery Barn website again.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

We're Moving!

It’s been a year in our very first Home Sweet Home out here in SO CAL, and, sadly we need to get outta here! We realized shortly after the big move from Missouri, that while our apartment has been lovely, there are far less expensive places to live, and a lot NICER places too! Since we picked our first place over the internet, we really had no idea what there was in San Diego. It took many weeks of anxious searching, disappointments, and then more nerve-wracking decisions. But folks, the hubby and I have FINALLY found a Condo that’s the same size, with a whole lot more updates, more privacy, and is WHOLE lot cheaper! The papers are signed, I’m currently sitting, surrounded by boxes and bubble wrap… and I’m wiped!

Now, I’ve moved a few times in my life (mostly from college dorm to apartments), but when you get married, and live in a grown-up home, you inherit a LOT of STUFF! It’s a bit overwhelming actually… there have been moments of pure panic. Most recently, my poor Hubby came home, and I suddenly burst into tears. Now, being the wonderful man he is, he just pulled me into a hug, kissed my forehead and waited for the waterworks to stop. I then came to my senses and grabbed the bubble wrap again.

There are some definite benefits to moving… giving those rooms a refresh, and maybe changing up a few things… my heart just fluttered a bit! I do loooove to decorate and of course it’ll give me more material to Blog!

The big move is tomorrow so if ya’ll think about us, send up a prayer! Now don’t worry your pretty little heads… my computer engineer hubby wouldn’t let me go more than about 2 days without internet… so I’ll be back to my virtual life REAL soon!