Reuben Quesadillas

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We had quite a bit of corned beef leftover after St. Patrick's Day. Since I already had the menu planned out for the next week, I decided to freeze the leftovers until I could figure out what to do with them.

When I was making the freezer inventory sheet, I decided to use up the remaining corned beef right away. I debated on this recipe or a soup one, but the weather decided for me that soup was definitely out.



Reuben Quesadilla
Source: Closet Cooking
Servings: 1 quesadilla
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Ingredients:
    • 2 8" tortillas
    • 1/4 cup sauerkraut, drained
    • 1/4 cup shredded corned beef (warmed)
    • 1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
    • 1 tsp. thousand island dressing

Directions:
1. Add the sauerkraut to a small pan over medium heat. Stir frequently and cook until the sauerkraut is just barely caramelized.
2. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat to medium.
3. Spread the cheese and meat over one tortilla. Add the sauerkraut and dressing and top with the remaining tortilla.
4. Place in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until the the cheese has melted and the tortilla is golden brown on both sides.   

I really enjoyed this recipe. Putting the ingredients on a tortilla instead of rye bread is a nice touch to it and cooking the sauerkraut beforehand really makes for a deeper flavor.

Weekly Menu 4/29 - 5/4

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Ugh. What an interesting weekend.

My list of places to visit before we leave is collecting dust because all of a sudden Mother Nature decided dreary cold weekends are the new "in" thing to do. I had grand plans of getting everything packed this weekend until we got home Friday evening and I remembered, you know what makes packing easier? When you actually bring home the ginormous stacks of boxes currently invading your office. Then the damn toilet won't stop running, Dr. Google isn't helping and the maintenance people don't consider it an emergency so they won't be here until Monday.

I beg to differ. When your 'water company' is a third-party billing company located in Florida with the worst BBB records EVER and you're paying $60 a month (yes, A MONTH, you read that right) for water which includes a $5 "administrative fee" which involves speaking to incompetent morons and receiving your bill 5 days before its due which then adds a $10 late fee, IT.IS.A.FREAKING.EMERGENCY!

My apologies for the excessive use of the word "which" in the above run-on sentence. I can wholeheartedly say that one thing I will absolutely NOT MISS when we move is the ridiculousness associated with receiving that free natural resource called water. I've already confirmed with the new apartment complex that they don't use third-party billing companies in other states who think I'm stupid enough to believe they "manually read my water meter". Please, oh incompetent one with an attitude, explain to me how you manually read my water meter attached to my apartment building in the state of Maryland while you are located in central Florida? I've heard of good eyesight but you really may want to contact Stan Lee with your superhuman abilities. I'm sure it pays more than what the water company does.

I digress. You're here to see what I'm cooking for the week, not what I think about D rated third-party billing companies for water. 

Sunday - Mushroom Stuffed Pork with Wild Rice and Roasted Green Beans 

Monday - Kitchen Sink Frittata

Tuesday - SRC-Style Recipe Swap

Wednesday - Baked Cod and Fries

Thursday - Chicken Parmesan

Friday - Tacos (the ones we didn't make this past Friday)

My initial plans didn't include any recipes requiring more than a few ingredients but I realized we're going to have two weeks like that (the week of the move and the week after since restocking the fridge and freezer is costly) so I may as well make as many recipes as possible. 
Make sure to check back on Friday when the SRC-Style Recipe Swap post will go live! Tom is extremely excited for this one.

Saturdays with Nichole: Silly Cooking Confessions (Week 5)

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Confession: I am an incredibly squeamish cook. Mostly because I am an incredibly squeamish person.
  
I don't do blood. Even in small amounts. Lets put it this way, I once passed out when changing my earrings after a new piercing because there was blood on the earring post. And we're not talking a lot of blood by any means. We're talking a few drops.

Any amount of blood and down goes Nichole. 

I fully accept that if I were in any type of real life Hunger Games or in a real post-apocalyptic world, I'd be one of the first people to die. I couldn't kill any animal if it handled me a gun, wore a target and stood directly in front of me. HG Reference: I'd be all over the nightlock berries in a heartbeat. 

I also can't handle pretty much anything that is considered gross. Or that I have deemed gross. Cutting off chicken fat on raw chicken makes me shudder. The juices that chicken or any meat is packed in also makes me shudder. Fishy smell = shudder.

This makes for some interesting times while preparing dinner or packaging up food to be frozen. So I decided to share with you my silly cooking confessions from least to most ridiculous. 

Veal: But it's just an iddle-widdle baby cow! Adult cow - I'm okay with it. Well, kinda, but we'll get to that later. My stomach honestly flips over at the thought of eating veal. Yes, I realize this limits a few recipes from my list of things to try, but I'm more than 100% okay with that. Eating babies is wrong! 
Lamb: Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow. This is what happens in my head every time I see or hear of someone eating lamb. It's always in a sad pitiful voice. The thought of eating lamb has completely grossed me out for years. I tried it once and I just couldn't get past two bites before Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb was honestly drowning out all other sounds around me. I have agreed to, however, try it again in the form of a burger to please Tom. We'll see how that goes. 
 via publicdomainpictures.net

Fish: I only like a few different types of fish as it is, but if any of them ever came to me (cooked or not) with their head still attached, I'd lose the contents of my stomach. Yes, I completely understand that obviously fish come with a head and eyes but I absolutely refuse to ever see them that way. The fish I eat comes in nicely prepared filets okay?! 

Lobster: I do like lobster and I will eat it. I just refuse to kill it first. My food or future food does not need to come to me while it is still alive (I have one exception, kind of). I like dead food. It's nicer that way. The though of stabbing/cutting/whatever the hell it is that you do to kill a lobster before cooking it, is just not okay in my book. I'm not lying, I'm involuntarily shuddering just while typing this because I hear the noise in my head. I can't even watch it on television. 
 via eastcoastgourmet.com

Crab: The kind of exception. Look, I'm from Maryland. Old Bay seasoning runs through our veins and steamed crabs are a staple dish of summer. I've ate crab as long as I can remember, but I have some requirements first. (1): I prefer to purchase them already steamed. I do realize this increases the price, but like Mr. Lobster above, I just can not bring myself to put a live crab into a pot of boiling water. Its wrong! However, I can watch others do it. Something about being slightly removed from the situation makes it okay. And (2): It can't be looking at me. Stop laughing. I'm serious! While I'm completely okay with ripping the shell off the crab and pulling off his legs (because he's already dead!), I can't handle eating steamed crabs if its looking at me. I have to turn them around first. And somewhat related, a softshell crab honestly makes me kind of nauseous. It's a crab that MOLTED! Blech! 
 via marylandmeals.com

Shrimp: Lets put it this way, Mr. Shrimp better never show up to me with his head on. It's bad enough they look like bugs to begin with but good lord the last thing I need to do is ever see the face of the 'bug' I'm about to eat! Ironically though, since fresh shrimp typically don't come de-veined, I can handle that. I'm not going to lie to you, its completely disgusting to devein a shrimp (or to eat one with the vein intact), but I am okay with doing this for some reason. And by okay, I mean I can actually do it without gagging. Not that I find it a pleasant experience at all. 

Turkey: I have a hard time preparing a turkey on Thanksgiving. I understand people use the parts that come in bags which will not be named for other things but dude, thats just gross. I'm all for using all parts of an animal (pink slime aside) but they need to sell turkeys without the extra parts. Its hard enough for me to reach into those cavities to add herbs and fruits and you seriously think I want to pull a bag of assorted innards out of there? HELL NO!  
 via turkeyoff.com

And the most embarrassing: CHICKEN: I have multiple issues with Mr. Chicken. Lets start with the breast. First off, for the love of God chicken processing companies will you please stop pumping the chickens full of hormones? I don't need a 9 inch long and 5 inch wide chicken breast. It's just not natural! Second, the bloody vein in the chicken breast...that's just gross. I have to disfigure my chicken breasts all of the time because it grosses me out so badly. And generally, just the slimy feeling of chicken breast makes me slightly squeamish. 

And finally: ROTISSERIE CHICKEN. Yes, this is the most embarrassing cooking confession for me. ::hangs head in shame:: It honestly grosses me out a bit to pull the meat off a fully cooked rotisserie chicken. Why? Because he has a chicken shape still! This is also why my uncle carves the turkey on Thanksgiving. I mean, I can do it, but I really don't like to. 
 via runwaydaily.com

To be fully honest, its hard for me to stomach eating any type of protein when I think about how they are handled up until the time of their death. I believe I may have mentioned this before, but in my dream world, I'm quite the pretentious food snob. 

I have unlimited amounts of money. I have a fully running farm with humane living conditions for the animals who are also humanely slaughtered and cut into desires parts by someone with a stronger stomach than myself. There is an incredibly large vegetable garden with absolutely everything I'd ever need. There are also fresh herbs and a separate dairy facility. And we never purchase anything from the grocery store unless company is coming.

I hope you've enjoyed laughing at me this Saturday as you read my silly cooking confessions. But the real important question is, what are yours? :-)


Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Pound Cake

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I had bought one of the last bags of Meyer lemons at the store with no planned recipes. I looked around on the internet and just couldn't find anything that screamed "MAKE ME!" but I did come across this recipe on Pinterest and figured there was no reason not to substitute the lemon zest and juice for Meyer lemon zest and juice.



Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Pound Cake
Source: A Cozy Kitchen, originally from The Craft of Baking
Servings: 1 loaf
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Cake Ingredients:
    • 1 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup + 2 tbs. all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • zest of 1 Meyer lemon
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 tsp. Meyer lemon juice, strained
    • 1 1/2 tbs. milk
    • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3 1/2 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
    Glaze Ingredients: (optional)
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 1/2 tbs. water

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line the bottom of an 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pan with parchment paper. Spread the butter over the paper and up the sides of the pan.
2. Add about two inches of water to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
3. Meanwhile, combine the Meyer lemon zest, sugar and eggs in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
4. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the Meyer lemon juice, milk and olive oil.
5. Place the bowl of your stand mixer over the simmering water and whisk the ingredients for 2 minutes or until the are warm. Return the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on medium speed until the mixture is pale yellow, thickened, about 6 minutes.
6. Slowly pour the lemon juice/milk/olive oil mixture into the stand mixer. Once combined, lower the speed to slow and pour in the flour. Once combined, stop the mixer, scrape down the sides and return the machine to low while pouring in the butter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and cooked through.
8. Transfer the cake from the loaf pan to a wire cooling rack.
9. (Optional) Prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar and water until it reaches your desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooling cake.

Unfortunately the lemon flavor comes out much stronger than the olive oil flavor in this cake. If you want a more pronounced olive oil flavor use a higher quality one. The first time I made this cake I used the glaze and didn't the second time. I don't think the glaze added anything extra to the cake. It's delicious on its own. 

White Chocolate Mousse

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One weekend instead of going through my binder of recipes, I asked Tom what he wanted me to make for dessert. He immediately answered "mousse". Every time I hear or see the word mousse it reminds me of a funny story.

Many moons ago, I decided with a friend of mine that we were going to make Valentine's Day dinner for our boyfriends instead of going out. We decided on steak, baked potatoes, salad and chocolate mousse. I'd never made mousse before, but my friend had, so I left it up to her.

Our first disaster started when she turned on the mixer too high and the cocoa powder went flying all over the kitchen. Our second disaster was when the timer on the stove decided to no longer work, which resulted in some very overcooked steak. And to round out the night with a third and final disaster, we had picked up champagne flutes at the dollar store to put the mousse in and then refrigerated them. One accidental clink of a spoon against the glass sent it cracking into tiny shards. I'm glad to say we've both improved in cooking since that night. :)

Tom decided to make it a little more interesting for me after declaring that he wanted mousse. He decided that it had to be white chocolate mousse. I'd never had it before and was up for the challenge. I knew it would be much more sugary than a chocolate mousse so I liked that this recipe called for a tart fruit as well.


White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Sauce
Adapted from: allrecipes.com 
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
    • 6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
    • 1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
    • 1 carton fresh raspberries, plus extra for garnish
    • 2 tbsp. water
    • 2 tbsp. sugar

Directions:
1. Fill the bottom pan of a double boiler with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Place the top pan over the bottom, add the white chocolate and 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream and melt, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Let cool.
2. Add the raspberries, water and sugar to a blender and process until smooth. Place a metal strainer over a bowl and pour the raspberry mixture into it. Discard and seeds from the raspberries. Taste, adding any sugar if necessary.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the beater attachment, add the remaining cup of heavy whipping cream. Start on a low speed and gradually increase until soft peaks form.
4. Transfer the melted chocolate mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon of the raspberry sauce and stir until fully blended. Gently fold in the whipped cream until fully combined.
5. Transfer to individual serving dishes and garnish with some of the raspberry sauce and a few fresh raspberries.

A lot of the comments on this recipe said that using fresh raspberries would end up with a sauce that was too tart to eat. I have no idea what these people were talking about. The chocolate mousse was incredibly sweet and the tartness of the raspberry sauce was perfect to cut through some of that sweetness.

Brown Sugar and Mountain Dew Ham

Sometime way before I started this blog, I was tired of making chicken for dinner and picked up a precooked ham one evening. I had no idea how I was going to make it until I started looking around in the pantry and my eyes landed on brown sugar and Mountain Dew soda. I know the inspiration for this recipe must have come from somewhere, but I can't find anything similar online now. Maybe it was just a combination of multiple recipes.

Hams were on sale after Easter and I decided to pick one up. I didn't have a recipe in mind, but Tom immediately suggested that I use brown sugar and Mountain Dew.



Brown Sugar and Mountain Dew Ham
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 6
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Ingredients:
3-4 lb. fully cooked ham
4 tbs. brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1-2 tbs. Mountain Dew.
3-4 pineapple slices

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Place the ham in a large baking dish. Pour the 1/4 cup of Mountain Dew into the baking dish.
3. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and remaining Mountain Dew until a paste forms (adding more of either ingredient if necessary). Spread the paste over the ham.
4. Top the ham with pineapple slices, secured with toothpicks if necessary.
5. Bake the ham according to package directions, typically 20 minutes per pound, basting with the juice every 15 minutes.
6. Slice and serve hot.

While its not healthy and not lacking on calories or sugar content at all, its definitely an easy way to add some flavor to a ham. I love the crust the brown sugar makes on the ham. This is also just as good leftover either reheated or cold on sandwiches.   

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Chips

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Nothing says spring or summer like a huge bowl of fruit salsa. With this unusual weather we've had, I couldn't wait much longer before making it. Luckily the fruit crops seem to agree with me since they were all available in the grocery store and looking much fresher than usual for this time in April.

This was actually one of the first recipes I ever made, back when I would spend hours upon hours on allrecipes.com searching through all of the recipes and printing out tons that appealed to me. I believe the first copy I stuck in my recipe binder was printed way back in 2006.

I did alter the recipe a bit this time and honestly, I could leave the cinnamon sugar chips behind and eat it with a spoon!



Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Chips
Slightly Adapted from: All Recipes
Servings: 3 cups
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Fruit Salsa Ingredients:
    • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and diced
    • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
    • 3 kiwi, peeled and diced
    • 1/2 cup pineapple, diced
    • 1/2 cup blueberries
    • 1/2 cup raspberries
    • 1/2 cup blackberries
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • 1 tbs. brown sugar
    • 4 tbs. sugar-free fruit preserves, any flavor
    Cinnamon Sugar Chip Ingredients:
    • 1 package flour tortillas
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • butter flavored cooking spray 


Directions:
1. Combine all of the fruits together in a large bowl. Stir in the sugars and preserves until fruit is coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.
2. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil.
3. Cut tortillas into chip-sized wedges and place on the baking sheet. Spray with the cooking spray and then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the chips.
4. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool to room temperature before serving with the fruit. Must be stored in an airtight container to keep overnight.

The picture and the ingredients say it all right? What more can I really say to tell you that this is delicious and you should definitely make it for your next party or just when you feel the need to chow down on some fruit!

Weekly Menu 4/22 - 4/27

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Oops, sorry everyone. I had a bit of a brain fart and thought that I posted the menu for the week in advance. Then, around 11 pm last night when I just could not get comfortable enough to fall asleep, I realized that I had never posted the menu.

Operation clean-out-the-freezer is underway so I do realize that some of these combinations seem...a bit weird.

Sunday - chicken, sausage and shrimp gumbo

Monday - toasted ravioli

Tuesday - pork, wild rice, applesauce

Wednesday - southwestern turkey chili 

Thursday - cajun seasoned cod, sauteed veggies, corn on the cob

Friday - tacos

Hope you're having a great start to your week!  

Cheese Steak Subs

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A while back Tom decided that he was going to start cooking on Friday nights so I could start the cleaning as soon as we got home. I'm very organized in the fact that I have to get everything that isn't fun (cleaning and washing clothes) done first before I can do anything moderately fun (grocery store) or super fun (going out somewhere, baking/cooking a new recipe). I just don't feel right going out and doing something fun knowing there is a load of laundry or a cat box to clean waiting for me at home.

At the beginning of the week he had decided he wanted to make cheese steaks, but when the night came, he was too tired to do so. I, however, had thought of these cheese steaks all week. I have yet to find anywhere near where we live that makes a really decent cheese steak. By decent, I mean one where I can customize my toppings and one that doesn't use the cheapest meat ever leaving you with a soggy pile of grease in the form of a cheesesteak. So while Tom was content to have cheese and meat on his cheese steak, I planned on going all out with toppings on mine.



Cheese Steak Subs
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Yield: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 1/2 lbs. chopped beef (or Steak-Umms)
    • 1 lb. provolone cheese slices
    • 8 tomato slices
    • 1/2 cup lettuce, shredded
    • 4 tbsp. mayo
    • 3 tbsp. jarred jalapenos, diced (or sandwich hots)
    • 4 sub rolls
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently for 20-25 minutes or until the onions have caramelized. Set aside to keep warm.
2. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the mayo onto each side of the sub roll then add 1-2 pieces of cheese on each roll.
3. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Season with meat with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up the meat until it is cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, place the baking sheet with the sub rolls in the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sub rolls are lightly toasted.
5. Break up any remaining provolone cheese and stir it into the meat until melted.
6. Place the lettuce, tomato and jalapenos onto one side of the roll. Add the meat on top and then top with caramelized onions.

These were much better than I expected. The caramelized onions made them taste more like sub shop style cheese steaks not homemade ones. If only they were healthier and we could eat them more often. :-)
 

Saturday's with Nichole: Growing Herbs Indoors and Out (Week 4)

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Yay, Saturday! Are you interested in growing herbs? If you've ever complained about the price of fresh herbs in the store or how quickly they go bad for being labeled as 'fresh', I think you should give growing them a chance.
 
Backstory: Around this time last year I had commented to Tom that since we had a balcony, maybe I should grow some fresh herbs instead of always buying them from the store. I probably should mention, I don't have a green thumb. I've only managed to keep bamboo and some type of fern plant alive for any significant amount of time. But I figured herbs couldn't be that difficult. So for my birthday last year we went and picked out some herbs. I chose oregano, parsley, rosemary, mint and romaine lettuce.

Lessons Learned Last Year: I quickly found that rosemary doesn't like too much water, the romaine got too much sun no matter where we placed it on the balcony and if we ever wanted to keep up with the amount of mint that was growing, we were going to need to spend our days pretty drunk on mojitos. 

Potential Issues for this Year: I was really hesitant to accept the apartment that we're moving into because it doesn't have any outdoor space. I've come to be quite attached to our balcony, but mainly I knew I wanted to try out more herbs this year and where exactly was I going to put them without a balcony? Then I realized that since I had quit smoking I had spent maybe a total of 5 minutes on our balcony and I could easily use the sunroom in our new apartment to grow the herbs.

Purchasing the Herbs, Part 1: So on my birthday I ventured out to the wonderful world of Wal-Mart to purchase herbs I intended to only grow indoors. We went through parsley and oregano faster than it could grow last year, so I purchased two of each plant. The basil looked especially pretty so I added one of those to my cart. I wanted to try another lettuce for this summer but there wasn't anyone working in the garden department that could give me advice.

Purchasing the Herbs, Part 2: Recently, a new Lowe's was built nearby. I headed over to there and had quite an amusing experience. After finding out that their forklift had accidentally run over the garden hose causing a huge blast of water to knock down 90% of their herbs, I asked an employee if there were any forms of lettuce that grew better inside than out. His response: You grow herbs in pots. 


Hello, there Smart One: I blinked a few times then just smiled and walked away. Then ended up returning to Walmart to pick up Cilantro, Spinach and Red Leaf Lettuce.


Cats - Murderers of Herbs: Having two curious cats, one moreso than the other, and having limited space to keep these herbs indoors before we move, I wanted to keep them as contained as possible. After purchasing plastic planters to transfer them to, I also purchased a clear Rubbermaid tub just about the height of the planters that would hold 6 of them. Now I didn't have to worry about any accidental watering drips on the carpet and I figured I reduced my chances of the cats getting into them.

What You'll Need for Above:
herbs of your choice
watering can
planters/containers
gardening gloves, optional
soil (Miracle Grow Organic for herbs/vegetables is what I used)
large plastic container

To Create What's Above:
Read the directions on your herbs. Mine said water the herbs then remove the earth-like lining from around it carefully. After watering each herb in its container, I filled each of my planters up with about 3 1/2 cups of the soil.
Gently place the herb with the surrounding soil on top of the soil in the planter. Add enough additional soil to cover all of the roots of the herb and keep it standing upright. Gently pack down the soil around the herbs. Water, set aside and repeat with remaining herbs. Place into a plastic tote and place in an area with adequate sunlight.

In just a few days some of these herbs look better than they did in the stores. I think the spinach and lettuce will need to be moved to bigger pots as they grow, but for now I'm happy with their progress. But I'm even more impressed that the cats are leaving them alone!

Happy Saturday,

Recipe Swap: Shrimp Scampi

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Recipe swap time again! The category for this swap was Celebrity recipes. It was actually pretty hard for me to pick out a recipe to submit. I didn't realize that I rarely blog any recipes made by celebrities anymore. Luckily though, I do have a few on here. For this swap, I was given Cathy's blog, Cathy's Kitchen Journey and her adaptation of Tyler Florence's Shrimp Scampi.

Recipes like shrimp scampi make me sad for all of the years I refused to eat shrimp any way other than steamed (peel-n-eat for you non-Marylanders). Shrimp, butter, garlic and pasta. What could be a better combination?



Shrimp Scampi
Adapted from: Cathy's Kitchen Journey via Tyler Florence/Food Network
Servings: 2
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 large shallot, minced
    • 1/8 - 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more if you like)
    • 1/4 cup dry white wine
    • 2 tbsp. lemon juice, optional 
    • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
    • 1/3 lb. fettuccine
    • 1 tsp. parsley
    • salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic, shallots and red pepper flakes. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the shallots are translucent.
3. Add the white wine and lemon juice and let bubble for 2-3 minutes or until most of the liquid has burned off.
4. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
5. Add the remaining butter and olive oil and stir until the butter has melted. Drain the pasta and add into the skillet. Toss to coat.
6. Serve the shrimp and pasta garnished with parsley and with additional salt and pepper to taste.
 
Tom isn't a fan of lemon in savory dishes so I always just use the juice from a slice of lemon to add to my plate individually. This was great, we both really enjoyed it and I definitely plan on making it this way again.

Improv Challenge: Peanut Butter & Jelly Heart Cookies

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Peanut butter and jelly. What in the world other than a sandwich am I supposed to make with that? That was my first thought after reading the Improv Challenge ingredients for April. Usually I'm all for thinking outside of the box and trying to create something that no one else will have thought of.

But then I found these cookies. They were just so cute that I decided to hell with the creative recipes, I want to make these! So that's just what I did.

Let's back up a second. If you're a new follower/reader you may not know what the Improv Challenge is. The short and sweet of it is that Kristen, over at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, created this little challenge where each month there are two ingredients and you can make whatever you want as long as they are included. Obvious, unusual, savory, sweet, strange...whatever you desire. Then, on the third Thursday of each month, we all post and share our creations. Sound interesting? If you want to join, just click HERE for more information.



Peanut Butter and Jelly Heart Cookies
Source: Delish via Martha Stewart Living
Yield: approx. 3 dozen cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
    • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup jam/jelly/preserves flavor of your choice (I used strawberry)
Directions: 
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the beater attachment, cream together the butter with both sugars.
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the peanut butter and egg to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined. Slowly add in the flour until fully combined.
4. Refrigerate the dough for 10-20 minutes or until its easy to handle.
5. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Scoop about two tablespoons of the dough and roll into a ball. Flatten slightly into the palms of your hands and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, placing about 2 inches apart.
7. Use your fingertips to press a heart shape into each piece. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 350. In a small bowl, stir the jam/jelly/preserves of your choice to loosen it.
9. Spoon the jam/jelly/preserves into the heart shape of each cookie. Bake for 16-18 minutes, checking on the cookies around 12 minutes to ensure they don't burn.
10. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack then place in a container and refrigerate until ready to eat.

The original recipe calls for baking the cookies for 12 minutes then adding the jam/jelly/preserves and baking for an additional 5-6 minutes. I did this on my first batch and my hearts puffed up kinda funny after the first 12 minutes of baking. After adding the jam/jelly/preserves, they didn't look so pretty. I had intended to just keep going that way and hope I got some cookies pretty enough to photograph out of the deal, but it was late, I was tired and I accidentally added the jam to a batch before cooking them. They turned out much prettier than the other batch so I did that for the remaining dozen of cookies.

I'm not a huge peanut butter cookie fan but the jam/jelly/preserves is a nice aspect to these cookies and they're also not overwhelmingly peanut butter flavored. Plus, aren't they just adorable with the hearts? :-)

Korean Street Tacos

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Have I mentioned I have a bit of an addiction to Sriracha sauce? I love the flavor and how it can be spicy-hot without being overwhelming. So I'm absolutely thrilled when I come across a new recipe that calls for Sriracha sauce.

I've been trying to reduce the number of condiments in the fridge now for quite some time, but it seems as though its a never ending battle. I never even intended for the Sriracha to be refrigerated, but Tom stuck it in there without me seeing it one day. So, since we are moving soon, I've kept my eye out for any recipes that allow me to use whats open in the fridge and this one just so happened to cover both tasks, my love of Sriracha and m overwhelming desire to use what's left in the bottle.


Korean Street Tacos
Source: For the Love of Cooking 
Servings: 3-4
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Marinade Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. flank steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tbs. sugar
    • 2 tbs. soy sauce
    • 3 tsp. water
    • 2 tsp. sesame oil
    • 2 tsp. mirin
    Dressing Ingredients:
    • 2 tbs. soy sauce
    • 2 tsp. sesame oil
    • 1 tsp. sugar
    • juice of one lime
    Ingredients:
    • 8 tortillas
    • 1 package coleslaw mix
    • 2 green onions, diced
    • Sriracha sauce

Directions:
1. Combine the marinade ingredients into a seal-able container. Toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 2 hours but up to 24.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the flank steak pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes or until steak is cooked through. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
4. Add the remaining marinade to the skillet and bring to a boil. Let reduce slightly, then pour over the meat.
5. Wrap the stack of tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for one minute.
6. Add the coleslaw mix to the salad dressing and toss to coat.
7. Spoon some of the meat mixture into each of the tacos, top with the coleslaw mix, green onions and Sriracha sauce.

Oh boy were these tasty! I really enjoyed them! Tom liked them as well but asked me if next time we could have the meat shredded. A little extra work, but I think it would be worth it!

Cake Batter Doughnuts

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After making the cake batter pudding cookies and the cake batter milkshake, I had a problem. There was still yellow cake mix left over. I know, I know, what a horrible problem to have! However, since I'm assuming everyone else who made a cake batter recipe also ran into this little problem, they decided to create more recipes! I can't exactly say I'm upset.

My obsession with baked doughnuts isn't nearly as bad as my love for all things cake batter, but how in the world could I ever resist making these?



Baked Cake Batter Mini Doughnuts
Source: Stephanie Cooks, adapted from The Dishes of Mrs. Fish
Servings: ~3 dozen mini doughnuts
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Doughnut Ingredients:
    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2/3 cup yellow cake mix
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • sprinkles
    Glaze Ingredients: 
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 tbs. corn syrup
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
    • 1-2 tbs. water
    • sprinkles

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325. Spray a mini doughnut pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
4. Pour the egg/milk/vanilla mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine. Add sprinkles and stir until combined.
5. Use a teaspoon to scoop the batter into the mini doughnut pan. Fill them about half way.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes then gently remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.
7. When your final dozen of doughnuts are in the oven, prepare the glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, corn syrup and vanilla. Add water 1 tbs. at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
8. When all doughnuts have slightly cooled on the rack, dip them into the glaze and then top with more sprinkles.

Yum! Something about sprinkles just makes things more fun to eat and the cake batter flavor surely doesn't hurt!

Drunken Cheesecake Brownies

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In order to make the Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake Bites for St. Patrick's Day, I needed to purchase some Bailey's Irish Cream. Since I only needed a small amount of it, I opted to purchase the 4-pack of Bailey's mini's. I barely used one little bottle for that recipe so the other three hung out in the back of the refrigerator for quite some time before I finally came up with another recipe that used some.


Drunken Cheesecake Brownies
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 16 brownies
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Ingredients:
    • 6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 3 tbsp. Baileys Irish Cream
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
    • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 stick butter, melted
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 tsp. Bailey's Irish Cream 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to hang over the sides of an 8x8 baking dish. Place the parchment paper in the dish.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the beater attachment, beat the cream cheese and Bailey's Irish Cream together until combined. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, add the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Stir until combined.
4. Add the eggs, butter and vanilla and teaspoon of Bailey's into the flour mixture and stir until there are no lumps.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread out evenly.
6. Scoop the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter and use a rubber spatula to stir the cream cheese into the batter, making swirls.
7. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean.
8. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Use the parchment paper ends to lift the brownies out of the baking dish. Cut into 16 squares.
9. Return to the baking dish or transfer to a container. Refrigerate brownies for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled.  

While the brownies were baking I was slightly concerned that I didn't use enough Bailey's for the flavor to come through. Waiting for these to come to room temperature and then be chilled before taste-testing one was absolute nightmare! But the wait was more than worth it in the end.

The Bailey's flavor comes through wonderfully and the brownies are moist and dense. I'm pretty sure I'll need to make these again and again to finally finish up the remaining 2.5 mini bottles of Bailey's in the fridge.

Weekly Menu 4/15 - 4/20 & Gel/Shellac Nailpolish Review

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Only 5 weekends left until we move. Time is going by incredibly quickly. My list of things to do before we leave is no where near complete. We've made it to one restaurant and only because it was my birthday. Assuming nothing goes wrong later today, we are planning to cross something else off the list, but I still feel like there are hundreds of things to do and merely hours left.

I've been ready to start packing since we received the letter in the mail saying how much it will cost us to move. We've been collecting boxes for a few weeks now. So yesterday morning when the cats decided to wake me up at an ungodly hour for a Saturday, I decided I could see what we could pack up 5 weeks in advance. The main stuff - our dining room. We don't really use it and most of the stuff in there is just overflow from other rooms. I quickly used up all of the boxes we had accumulated, but all that is left is one shelf full of stuff and furniture. I also went through the kitchen and packed up a few things that I'd like my mom to hang onto until we have more space, mainly most of the stainless steel pots from my aunt and a trillion different types of drinking glasses from another aunt.

The bookcase in the bedroom is packed, the linen closet has been reorganized and we've went through the totes in the storage closet full of holiday decor. For one day, I'd call this successful. I fully plan to have everything but absolute necessities packed up and ready to be moved as of May 14th.

So, what does this have to do with the menu? I've also started "Operation Clean Out the Freezer". I really hate moving with food. Almost as much as I hate going to the grocery store after moving and wondering how in the world you've managed to double or triple your grocery bill. But, Friday night I went through the freezer and pantry and wrote down quantities of the items I don't plan on moving with.  This includes everything in the freezer, glass jars in the pantry and open boxes of pasta or rice. The menus for the next couple of weeks are going to be a bit strange but its all in the sake of moving with the least amount of stuff as possible.

However, if you haven't figured it out yet by reading when I plan to make something on the menu and when it actually shows up as a post, I have posts scheduled pretty far in advance. I haven't calculated it out just yet, but I'm hoping by next week I'll have enough posts to carry me right through that 7-10 day OMGIJUSTMOVEDWHEREISMYSTUFF period that even the most organized of us all seem to encounter. I figure the largest interruption you'll see on this blog is there will probably be two consecutive weeks without a weekly menu post. But because I'm incredibly organized and plan WAY to far ahead, its quite possible there will only be one.

Sunday - Sriracha Turkey Meatballs with Edamame Fried Rice

Monday - Shrimp Scampi with Roasted Asparagus

Tuesday - some type of Stir Fry

Wednesday -Omelet or Frittata

Thursday - Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic-Wine Sauce 

Friday - to be determined, probably something unhealthy and boxed from the pantry 

Tuesday when I got my pedicure for my birthday I was easily convinced to try out one of those Gel/Shellac manicures. I never pay to get a manicure because I am incredibly hard on my nails. If I'm not biting them, tapping them on something, using them to scrape something off, or soaking my hands in dish water, I probably could maintain a decent manicure for more than a day or two. But that's just not the case. A regular manicure, done by me or paid for, doesn't last more than 2 days without getting chipped.

While the gel/shellac manicures are more expensive than a regular one, I've got to say, I'm pretty impressed so far. First, they have a glossy sheen to them which makes me not want to bite them at all. They've made it through a regular weekend of cleaning, baking,  hand-washing dishes and even some light packing with absolutely no chips or cracks. Granted, its only been 5 days and they're supposed to last 2-3 weeks, but its already 3 days longer than I usually get!


I'm a definite fan and I think next time I'll try out a darker color since now I know it really won't chip right away! (If you can't tell from the pic, I opted for a very light pink color.)

Saturday's with Nichole: Name Brand vs. Store Brand (Week 3)

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Happy Saturday!

I'm really having fun with these Saturday posts. While I was concerned at first about running out of topics I found that it's actually quite easy to continue coming up with them. At any time though, if there is something specific you want me to talk about, just tell me. I like requests. :-)

In the multiple groups of people I talk to, brand name vs. store brand has been a pretty popular discussion recently. How do you feel about it? I know there are some people out there who are strictly "Whole Foods! Trader Joe's! Organic! Natural! Store Brand is evil!" and some people are "Pfft. Organic. Buy the store brand and save money." I think most people reside somewhere in the middle.

I'll be the first person to tell you that I'm cheap. Bathing suits are at the very top of my list for overpriced ridiculousness. $90 for less than a yard of fabric!?! Insanity. Jeans and shoes also rank up there in my "You want me to spend HOW much on WHAT!?" list. I like sales, clearance racks and coupons.

I once heard that practically all store brand items are packaged in the same warehouses right alongside the brand name items. I don't know whether its true or not, but I think generally its pretty accurate. If you hold up a can of store brand tomatoes and brand name tomatoes, chances are, the ingredients are exactly the same. So I do believe that in some cases you are only paying extra money for the logo and packaging of said product.

Brand name vs. store brand is actually a bit of an internal argument for me. One side doesn't care about the name or packaging of the product and the other side thinks people need to care about what they're eating. Processed food isn't good for you and organic, fresh foods need to be available at affordable rates for everyone...but that's another post for another day.

What it comes down to for me is quality. If the quality of a store brand item is just as good as the brand name item, I'll immediately pick it up and gloat at my $0.25 - $2.00 savings. If the quality of the store brand item is crappy, I'm going to shell out the extra cash for the brand name item.

If you looked in my pantry, fridge and freezer you'd see an even mix. But just in case you're interested, I thought I'd share what is what. All of my "store brand" items are Great Value which is Walmart's brand. Personally, I haven't noticed a different in taste or quality for any of the items listed below.

Pantry:
Store Brand: whole wheat pasta (in various forms), canned vegetables, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, crackers, canned beans, all purpose flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking soda, cornstarch, juice, baking powder, light soy sauce, steak sauce, apple cider vinegar, distilled vinegar, red wine vinegar, applesauce, old fashioned oats, quick oats, cornmeal, dried cranberries
Brand Name: cereal, popcorn, rice, bread crumbs, peanut butter, peanuts, cocoa powder, cake flour, bread flour, chocolate chips, baking chocolate, granola bars, sauces and condiments.

Fridge/Freezer:
Store Brand: milk, butter, eggs, chicken breasts, ground beef, pork tenderloin, frozen fruits, ice cream (for smoothies), frozen vegetables, juice, shredded cheese
Brand Name: tea, sliced cheese, cheese sticks, sour cream, cream cheese, coffee creamer, pickles, condiments

There are also household supplies that I prefer in brand names. Paper towels, toilet paper, feminine products, toothpaste, all purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, floor cleaner, and I'm sure of some other various things that are escaping me at the moment.

How do you feel about the brand name vs. store name debate? Do you purchase any store brand products that you think are better than the brand names? Tell me! I'm really curious. 
  

Skinny Texas Cheese Fries

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Cheese and fries are more than likely two of the larger reasons why I can't ever seem to lose a significant amount of weight. I can't help it, I love them both equally, but I really, really love them even more together.

How can you not love that delicious combination of crispy fries, melted cheese and seasonings? It's like heaven on a plate until you look at the nutritional information and realize that typically, one plate of heaven is around the number of calories you should consume in a day, not in a meal.

So when I found this healthier version of cheese fries, I knew I needed to try them out and see just how closely they compared to the full fat ones.

Skinny Texas Cheese Fries
Source: Skinny Taste
Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
    • 2 large potatoes, scrubbed
    • 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 1 tsp. paprika
    • 1 tsp. chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
    • pinch of cayenne
    • 1/2 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
    • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 1 tbs. canned/jarred jalapeno, diced
    • 2 tbs. green onions, sliced
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Cut the potatoes into 1/4" fries and place in a large bowl.
3. Add the olive oil and seasonings to the bowl and toss fries to coat. Spread out in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until just lightly crisp. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the cheese over the fries and return to the oven for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
5. Serve the fries garnished with the crumbled bacon, diced jalapeno and green onions.

You know how with some recipes that have been adjusted to be healthier, you can immediately tell that there is something missing from the recipe? Mainly some type of fat or greasiness that ties it all in together. Well, this is absolutely not the case with this recipe.

If you only ate these fries without ever seeing a recipe, I can confidently said that you'd have absolutely no idea that these were a healthier modification. I could easily eat these fries for just about every meal for the next week and still not be sick of them. They're that good! 

Cinnamon Sugar French Toast

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I've never been a big breakfast person. I prefer to eat something small while on the go. Sitting down for a big breakfast is just something I don't do. Which is unfortunate, because I do like a lot of breakfast foods. So what does one do in that predicament?

Have breakfast for dinner. And no, don't shorten it to "brinner". Words like that annoy the crap out of me. It's a sandwich not a "sammy". I get cranky when Food Network stars do things like that.



Cinnamon Sugar French Toast
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 3-4
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Ingredients:
    • 12 slices bread (I used honey wheat)
    • 6 eggs
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 2 tbs. cinnamon
    • 1 tbs. vanilla

Directions:
1. Combine the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together. Add the vanilla and cinnamon-sugar mixture and whisk until combined.
3. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.
4. Dip the bread into the egg mixture and thoroughly coat on both sides. Place the bread in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Reduce the heat to medium/medium-low and repeat with remaining slices of bread.

I'm also one of those people who doesn't use syrup on their french toast. Syrup is for pancakes, not french toast. I lightly butter mine and sprinkle powdered sugar over it. If you haven't tried it that you, you really must give it a chance!  

San Marzano Spaghetti Sauce

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Recently there has been a bunch of talk about how San Marzano tomatoes are the absolute best ones out there because they're sweeter. I immediately assumed that it would be months before I was able to find San Marzano tomatoes on the shelves of the grocery stores. To my surprise, as I was wandering around Redner's one day, the cans popped out at me. I had a hard time deciding between crushed or diced tomatoes but finally decided crushed was the way to go.

Now I just had to figure out what to make with these tomatoes. I had a few dishes coming up that involved tomatoes but I didn't want to chance hiding their flavor. I wanted them to be the star. Then I realized its been an extremely long time since we've had spaghetti. I figured using the tomatoes for a sauce would be the best way to find out whats so special about them.



San Marzano Spaghetti Sauce
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients:
    • 2 14.5 oz. cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes, drained
    • 1/2 cup mushrooms, minced
    • 1/4 cup onion, minced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
    • 2 tbs.p Italian seasoning
    • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
    • 1 tsp. olive oil 
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup potato flakes or bread crumbs, if needed

Directions:
1. In a medium sized skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onions and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their liquid. Drain any liquid and set aside.
2. In a medium sized saucepan over low heat add the mushroom/onion/garlic mixture, tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper.
3. Stir to combine and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. If sauce is too thin for your liking, add potato flakes or bread crumbs 1 tbs. at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and serve over pasta.

Honestly, I don't get it. They tasted like regular tomatoes to me. Maybe Maryland just has good tomatoes to begin with? I'm really not sure. The sauce was definitely good and I'd make it again, but I just don't understand the hype of why you should only cook with the creme de la creme, San Marzano tomatoes.
 

Happy Birthday to Me: Cake Batter Milkshakes

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At 1:04 in the afternoon today I will officially turn 27. I'm not sure why people keep asking me "how do you feel about that?" Uh, how I am supposed to feel about it? It's not like there is some magical switch you can just hit and you stop aging. And while not aging like in the movie In Time would be kinda cool, time as currency creeps me out a bit so I'll pass.

So, in case you were wondering, I'm not concerned about turning 27. It's just another number. Although, I am beginning to wonder at what age am I actually going to feel like an adult. I assumed it would have been a while ago but it never came.

As for birthdays, I fully believe that one should treat themselves to the absolute fullest on the day of their birth. Those people who are all "Oh, its just another birthday. Ho hum"...well, I don't like them much. It's the day you were born, damn it! Celebrate! Enjoy that you have survived another year!

A few weeks ago, I decided that since my birthday landed on a Tuesday it was only in my best interest to take off work Monday and Tuesday because really, who doesn't want a 4 day weekend? Once my vacation request was approved, I needed to figure out what to do with that time.

I immediately booked a massage and then decided that I also needed to get my hairs done. With the time before, in between and after, I plan to spend it shopping. I have a bathing suit top to return and a dress to find for a wedding at the end of May. All of that happened yesterday. So what am I doing today? Getting a pedicure and then spending the rest of the day sitting on my butt.

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important Birthday Rule of ALL! Calories don't count on your birthday. So you should indulge in absolutely anything that you like. In my case, that included this cake batter milkshake because its easier to make one at home than it is to drive 30 minutes to the nearest Coldstone.



Cake Batter Milkshake
Source: The Naptime Chef
Servings: 1
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup boxed yellow cake mix
    • 2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • sprinkles, for garnish
    • whipped cream, optional 

Directions:
1. Combine everything but the sprinkles into a blender and blend until you reach desired consistency. Add more milk for a thinner milkshake and more ice cream for a thicker one.
2. Pour into a glass, top with some sprinkles and/or whipped cream, add a straw and enjoy!

To make the sprinkles stick to the side of the glass like in my picture above, use your finger to spread a thin amount of corn syrup around the rim of the glass then place the glass sticky side down into the sprinkles and rotate.

Do I really need to tell you what this tastes like or that you shouldn't wait until your next birthday to make it? The picture should clearly speak for me.

SRC: Rosemary Cheddar Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms

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It's that time again! I can't believe that I've been a participant in the Secret Recipe Club for almost a year now! A lot has changed in that year too. The SRC grew so big that we were broken out into 4 different groups each post on a different Monday. We now have 4 hostesses - one for each group, a website, and a Facebook group.

This month I was assigned Paulchen's Food Blog. I spent a lot of time clicking through the recipes trying to figure out what to make. For the first time, I was slightly uninspired. Usually I go into this with at least the decision that I'm either going to cook or bake. This time, I had absolutely no clue and just patiently went through each page of recipes waiting for something to jump out at me. And that's just what happened with this recipe.

It jumped out at me on the page practically screaming 'Make me! Make me! I'm the best choice!' So I ignored the fact that Tom isn't the biggest sweet potato fan and immediately added this to my next week's menu.

Rosemary Cheddar Sweet Potatoes and Mushrooms 
Source: Paulchen's Food BlogServings: 3
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Ingredients:
    • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/4" rounds
    • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
    • 2 tbs. fat-free sour cream
    • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
    • salt and pepper 
    • basil and cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Arrange the sweet potato rounds in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the rosemary sprig on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly crispy.
3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently until mushrooms are soft and have released their liquid, about 10 minutes.
4. Remove the sweet potato rounds from the oven, cover with cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes.
5. Stir the sour cream into the mushrooms until coated.
6. Arrange the cheesy sweet potato rounds into a serving dish. Add mushrooms and toss to combine. Garnish with basil and cilantro.

I wasn't really sure what to expect of this recipe. Once I added the sweet potatoes to the serving dish I immediately knew it was going to be a picture that just wouldn't photograph nicely. But after taking a taste-testing bite, I have to say the taste definitely outweighs the photographic issues of these potatoes. Tom even surprised me by really liking this dish and asking me when I would make it again. 

Happy Easter! Weekly Menu 4/8 - 4/13

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Happy Easter! Has the Easter Bunny visited your house and left you tons of chocolate and candy to enjoy yet? If not, I think he should be on his way shortly. :-)

If you've been a follower/reader for a while now, you're probably wondering why I didn't post a menu about what I was making for Easter. That's because I'm not hosting Easter. It may have been as far back as Christmas when my mom told that we were doing Easter at her house since I host the holidays all of the time. I said okay, sure whatever and assumed I'd still probably end up hosting it.

But then towards the end of March my mom called me again and said "We're doing Easter here but its just going to be simple stuff that you can eat cold...ham sandwiches, potato salad, macaroni salad..." Poor Tom. I instantly knew it was going to be difficult for him this Easter. He doesn't like any type of cold salad. So, in order for him to have more than just ham to eat, I decided that I would make the jalapeno popper dip and a fruit salsa and that we would have a more "traditional" Easter dinner tomorrow since I'm off work.

Sunday - Easter at my mom's. Preparing Jalapeno Popper Dip and Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Chips 

Monday - Pineapple Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Dinner Rolls and Fruit Trifle 

Tuesday - IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!  So, we're going out to eat. 

Wednesday - Mozzarella Baked Gnocchi 

Thursday - Turkey, Apple and Cheddar Paninis

Friday - fend for yourself

I'm definitely going to enjoy this week in the kitchen! Monday is the only day that I'll really need to do any cooking and since I'm off, it should take no time at all! I believe that we're going to the seafood place near us for crab cakes for my birthday. Wednesday's dinner was on the menu last week too, but it didn't quite turn out. I made homemade gnocchi and something went wrong somewhere. My gnocchi fell apart when cooking, so I decided to purchase the pre-made ones and give this recipe another try so we could use up the remaining fresh mozzarella cheese.  

Saturday's with Nichole: Favorite Gadgets (Week 2)

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Happy Saturday! If you missed last weeks first post of Saturday's with Nichole, catch up on it HERE! Or, if you just want to know what this is all about without spending so much time to click on that little link there...

So what is Saturday's with Nichole? Each Saturday there will be a post with something I think could be helpful to you. It can be anything from a tip or trick I've learned, a product review, suggestions on how to use leftovers or anything in between. Sound good?

This Saturday I want to talk to you about gadgets. When I first started cooking I immediately wanted every kitchen gadget imaginable. Why? Because then I'd never be able to look at a recipe and think Oh, I can't make that because I don't have a rotating-stainless-steel-double-sized-doohickey. Then, I caught an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown explained his distaste for unitasking gadgets. Why? Well, because they take up space since you're not always going to need a rotating-stainless-steel-double-sized-doohickey. You know, since they don't even exist...

Even though I accepted that every kitchen gadget in the world was not what I needed, I still had a very hard time when we went to register for the wedding. But this set of measuring cups has 1/8, 2/3 and 1 3/4 cups. Everyone needs that! Or But its a super huge stock pot AND a steamer IN ONE! Yeah, Tom had fun shopping with me that day. And I'll admit, I can still get caught up in the kitchen aisle of just about any store looking at all of the nifty things I could purchase.

But the point of this post is to share my favorite gadgets with you, so lets get started on that.

Measuring Cups and Spoons. While I appreciate my pretty stainless steel fancy measuring cups and spoons, the ones I gravitate to the most are these.

This was by far the best $10 I ever spent on kitchen items. It's the set of measuring cups I mentioned above. They start at 1/8 cup and go up to 2 cups. The measuring spoons start at a smidgen (1/32nd of a tsp.) and go up to 2 tablespoons. I use this cup and spoon set every time I need to measure something.

Mixing Bowls. I use these bowls for just about everything. Muffins that don't need to be mixed in the stand mixer? These bowls. Separating out dry ingredients from wet ingredients on any baking recipe? Check. Salads for dinner? Check. Stir fry dish that needs noodles tossed into sauce? Check.
The four different sizes are perfect for whatever you need and the small lip on them really helps from sending your dry ingredients flying all over the kitchen when you get a little whisk-happy. My only advice to you is not to pay full price for these. Macy's almost always has them on sale for half off or close to it!

Colored Coded Cutting Boards. One thing that completely grosses me out is the idea of cross contamination in the kitchen. I plan my meals to where all of my veggies are chopped up with my favorite knife and set aside before I'll even touch raw meat.

These boards are great for making sure you'll never have raw chicken touch your veggies. I also like to use the veggie one for when I need to chop chocolate for a baking recipe. For some reason I think its easier to cut when not on a wooden board.

Microplane Grater. While I have a really nifty large box grater that even has a cup with measurements on the side, I like using my microplane grater the best. Have I ever mentioned that being left-handed prevents some challenges in the kitchen? Well, it does and one of the things I've found is its easier for me to use a microplane grater than a larger one. 
I use this for to zest fruits and on hard cheeses that I need really fine like Parmesan.

Silpat. This is by far the best invention ever for the kitchen. No more wasting foil covered in non-stick cooking spray. No more added calories from greasing your baking sheet. No more scrubbing over the sink forever to get that burnt cookie/vegetable/hunkofcheese off your baking sheets. 
The make baking an absolute breeze. I need to buy more of them because I don't see the point in ever using foil or parchment paper again. 

Reusable Muffin/Cupcake Liners. At first this was just a novelty item to me. Then I realized just how much money I was spending in those paper liners and how annoyed I'd get when the paper would buckle funny and the cupcake or muffin would turn out with a funny dent in it. 
While this will provide no relief if you're also addicted to pretty designs on paper liners, they're great for those muffins or cupcakes you don't need to show off to anyone. And the best part: if you barely spray them with some non-stick spray, washing them is incredibly easy.

Collapsible Strainer. When you're low on cabinet space the last thing you feel like adding to it is a big ol'honkin metal strainer. Sure, they're larger and nice for huge vats of pasta, but for everyday uses, a smaller collapsible one is perfect. 
They no longer sell my exact one, but mine is most similar to the green one in the picture above in size and because it has a handle. We have a double sink in the kitchen and its the perfect size to sit suspended all on its own with the handle and lip. I love it!

Strainer/Sieves. I have two different sizes of these and I wish I had more. I use these much more than I expected to. 
The larger one I have is great for straining vegetables from chicken stock or skin from larger fruits like apples (for applesauce) and the smaller one is great for juicing fruits with seeds. I use it for lemon juice all of the time! 

Salad Spinner. Last summer when I grew my own lettuce I realized I desperately needed a salad spinner but all of the ones I found in stores were close to $30. Thirty dollars for a bowl inside a bowl that spins? Really? Then I was wandering around Ikea one day and this baby popped out at me. 
For the incredible price of $2.99. She immediately came home with me and we've been best friends ever since. I don't just use this for salads or lettuce. Have you heard about the trick where if you spray your fruit with vinegar it will stop it from growing mold? Yeah, I fill up the bottom bowl with 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water, add my fruit and spin. After a few rinses and spins, my fruit is good to go!

And now, just so you don't think that I already have absolutely every gadget that I need, I'd like to share with you my future purchases. 

Beater Blade. My life will not be complete until I own this beauty. While I love baking, I absolutely hate stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl. 
Brita Water Filter. Dude, bottled water is expensive. Not to mentioned wasteful and bad for the environment. Previously, I wasn't overly concerned because I'd use a water bottle a few times before throwing it away. 
But then, we got a kitten who requires bottled water. We're spending way too much money on bottled water. So I'm waiting until we move and then purchasing and installing this bad boy. I'm excited!

Gnocchi Board. Look, I realize this counts as one of those dreaded unitaskers, but its $5 and I just can't make little rolls in my gnocchi with a fork without smushing them. 
Besides, I'm sure I can figure out some other use for it like...smacking Tom? Look, I don't know, I just want the damn thing, okay?

To redeem myself after telling you I plan to purchase the dreaded unitasker, here are some unitaskers that I just find absolutely hilarious and pointless. 

Garbage Bowl. Yes, I get it, the world loves Rachael Ray but seriously, we need a separate bowl to put items in that we're just going to throw away? Isn't that the purpose of, oh I don't know, a trash can?

Asparagus Peeler. Uh, what? Sure, asparagus looks all pretty when its peeled into carrot-like ribbons, but is a separate peeler really necessary for this? I think not. A regular vegetable peeler will work just fine. 

Carrot Curler. Speaking of carrots...do you really need to curl them for a garnish? And also, isn't this exactly what happens when you have a large enough carrot and a vegetable peeler? Or do i just purchase special curling carrots that do this all on their own?

No offense to Bed, Bath and Beyond for carrying these items. I'm quite sure a ton of other stores do as well. It was just easier for me to take the links from there site since I was already there after the gnocchi board. 

Have a great Saturday,


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