10/14- Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas

Obviously, another Crock Pot one! It's a keeper, too. Even though you don't get the "just grilled" flavor of traditional fajitas, this comes really really close. It turns out pretty juicy, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Too moist is way better than too dry, right? The only issue I had with it was that the steak pretty much disintegrated upon serving, but in the end it really didn't matter because it tasted so good. I served it with shredded cheddar, sour cream, and guacamole. SO good! The kids devoured it! Sadly, I made this when we had a house full of out-of-town family, and didn't think to snap a picture. You should really try this one, though, it's worth it!

1 beef flank steak (about 1 pound)
1 medium onion, cut into strips
1/2 c medium salsa, plus additional for garnish
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2T fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 small green bell pepper, cut into strips
1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips
flour tortillas

1. Cut flank steak lengthwise in half, then crosswise into thrin strips; place meat into Crock Pot slow cooker. Combine onion, 1.2 c salsa, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin and salt in Crock Pot slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 5 to 6 hours.
2. Add bell peppers. Cover; cook on LOW 1 hour.
3. Serve with flour tortillas and additional salsa, if desired.

10/24- Easy Corn Chowder

Another one from the Crock Pot cookbook, and it's a keeper! Again, it's super easy, and it's absolutely made for these cool Fall nights. It's awesome!

2 cans (14/5 ounces) chicken broth
1 bag (16 oz) frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
3 small red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 rib celery, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 c heavy cream
8 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled

1. Place broth, corn, potatoes,  ell pepper, onion, celery, salt, black pepper, and coriander into Crock Pot slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours.
2. Partially mash soup mixture with potato masher to thicken. Stir in cream; cook on HIGH, uncovered, until hot. Adjust seasonings, if desired. To serve, sprinkle on bacon.

I thought mashing it with the potato masher sounded weird, but it really made a huge difference. It takes some time to get it to actually work, so keep on mashing until you start to notice a difference. This soup is seriously good. The kids weren't as crazy about it as Joe and I were, but that could be because of the pepper. The next chilly night you see coming, try this out. You won't regret it!

10/4- Chicken in Honey Sauce

I borrowed a Crock Pot cookbook from a friend, and found some really amazing ones in there. This was the first one I tried, and it did not disappoint! Being a Crock Pot recipe, it was really easy. I will say to be sure not to cook it too long. I put it in earlier than I should have because that was my only window of time to get it done, and it was a bit overcooked. All that really means is that the chicken completely fell apart and the color was extra dark, but it still tasted great. I served it with rice and peas. Delicious! More to come from this cookbook for sure.

6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)
2 cups honey
1 c soy sauce
1/2 c ketchup
1/4 c oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sesame seeds

1. Place chicken in crock pot slow cooker; season with salt and pepper.
2. Combine honey, soy sauce, ketchup, oil and garlic in medium bowl. Pour over chicken. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours, or on HIGH 3 to 4 hours.
3. Garnish with sesame seeds before serving. Serve extra sauce on side, if desired

9/25-Summer Vegetable Stew with Basil Puree

This soup was seriously good; better than I expected it to be. The basil puree just makes it. Looking back now, I think I made some substitutions or slight changes, but I can't remember what they were anymore. I don't think they were anything super major, though, so go ahead and give the recipe a shot. You won't be disappointed!

9/23- Hot Chicken Salad

I got this recipe from a friend at Church; actually, it was given to me at mainly music (a kids' music program at our Church) as a Mother's Day gift. Anyway, we liked it so much when we had it that first time that I decided to make it again. Even though the name is "chicken salad", it's really not much like your traditional chicken salad. To us, it's more like a one-pot Thanksgiving meal. It's shredded chicken, herbed stuffing, lemon juice, mayo, and cheese all mixed up and baked. All it's missing is the gravy, which is a great way to moisten it up.  The lemon juice is the key in the recipe, it really brightens up the flavor.

2 c cooked, cut up chicken
1 c chopped celery (optional)
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
3 c Herb seasoned stuffing
3 T lemon juice
enough mayo to make it moist (about 1 cup)

Mix all together and put it in baking dish. Bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes, until heated through. Bake it covered if you want it moister. (for 13 x 9 pan, double recipe).

9/20- Chicken Philly Sandwiches

These were amazing. Just writing about them right now is making me hungry. Aside from the slicing and dicing time, they really didn't take too long. Having a grill pan made a huge difference in finishing them off, if you ask me. The grill marks on the bread were just perfect. These sandwiches were a huge hit with the whole family, kids included!


HH6 September Challenge, Part 2

As I mentioned a few posts ago, this month's challenge was to prepare a meal using only what you had on hand in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. I posted pictures of  my pantry and freezers, and now it's time to impress you all with what I managed to throw together. (Not really, just giving myself a pep talk...)

After raiding the fridge and pantry, these are the ingredients I came up with: chicken tenderloins, boil-in-a-bag brown rice, frozen broccoli, sugar snap peas, red and green bell peppers, and Philly Cooking Cream. I decided to cook everything but the rice together kind of like a stir fry and serve it with the rice. I really wanted to cook it with pasta and toss it all together, but I only had about a third of a box of spaghetti, and that wasn't nearly enough to feed all of us. 

I cooked it all up and even had enough fruit in the fridge to make a fruit salad. Not the best one ever, but not bad at all for using what I had left from the last grocery run!

I thought it all came together really well, and was really tasty. My mother-in-law said it was missing some spice or something, but I liked it pretty well the way it was. I do wish I could've had pasta, I think that would've been better, but oh well! Maybe I'll buy some of the cooking cream again sometime and do it right.

9/14- Ginger Lime Swordfish.. er.... Tilapia

Yeah, I'm not springing for Swordfish when I've got Tilapia in the freezer! I'm sure it makes a difference, but it seemed this recipe was more about the sauce than the fish so I decided to risk the substitution. I think it was well worth it. The fish was very light, and the sauce was very flavorful. It was delicious served with brown rice, especially when the sauce mixed in with the rice too. My son said it was a bit spicy at first, but then he got used to it and ate it, especially after I squirted some honey on his plate for him to dip the fish in. (He is his father's son.... Joe puts honey on some of the strangest things!) The spiciness was probably my fault since I didn't exactly measure the ginger, I just guesstimated. I thought it was fine, and Joe said it was very good, so clearly guesstimating isn't that bad!


9/13- Baked Sesame Chicken Noodles

Here I go again with the Asian foods! After the Szechuan Steak turned out so good, I figured I actually CAN cook Asian food, so I figured I'd add another one to my repertoire. This one is another fairly easy one, although it does require some prep in the form of chopping veggies and cooking pasta. Once you start the stir-fry, though, it all goes very quickly. Since it bakes, you can cook it a little before dinnertime and then play with the kids while it bakes. :)

Speaking of baking it- let me just say that it was tasty, but I think I would like it better if I skipped that part. Maybe I did something wrong, but baking it seemed to really dry it out for me. When it was fresh off the stove, it was piping hot and deliciously moist. Out of the oven it was of course hot, but it was a bit more dry and sticky looking. I had some leftovers for lunch the next day, and putting soy sauce on it helped considerably, but I still think I'd like it better if I skipped baking it and just served it fresh out of the pot. 

HH6 September Challenge- part one

I'm late posting this, but I took the pictures on the 5th. This month we're challenged to prepare a meal using only what we have on hand. We were to take a picture of our pantry, fridge, and freezer to document what "on hand" meant, and then post the pictures so everyone could see. So, here are the pictures. 


chest freezer

regular freezer

8/31- Grilled Salmon Salad

Cooking Light strikes again! This salad was really delicious, and the dressing was so light and refreshing. The recipe calls for "gourmet salad greens." Um, the Food Lion here doesn't exactly cater to "gourmet", and my grocery budget can't handle it anyway, so I stuck with boring old lettuce. I did, at least, use a mixture of Green Leaf and Ice Berg lettuces. Gourmet enough for me! It also calls for basil to be mixed in, so I picked some from the herb garden and tossed it in. It makes such a big difference! The perfect bite has a piece of salmon, lettuce, some basil, and a bit of mango. Combined with the dressing it's just delicious!


8/26- Rigatoni with No-Cook Tomato Sauce

Last summer, my mother-in-law made this sauce for us one night and served it with shrimp. It was delicious, and I decided then that I wanted to try it with pasta, it just took me a year to do it. It's really insanely easy! I was a little nervous that it wouldn't taste right since it wasn't heated, but when you mix it with freshly cooked pasta it heats it up just enough to be awesome. What made it even better was the fact that pretty much the entire sauce came out of my garden! Well, not the olive oil, I didn't bother with an olive grove this year. The tomatoes, parsley, basil, and thyme were all freshly picked right before I made the sauce. Can't get better than that!

No-Cook Tomato Sauce

1 lb ripe tomatoes (3 large or 4 medium), cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 4 cups) *
1/2 c good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 c roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil or both
1 T coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp minced garlic (1 medium clove)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper; more to taste
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl large enough to hold the tomatoes and the cooked pasta; mix well. Let the sauce sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

Toss the sauce with just-cooked pasta. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately

*I used cherry tomatoes since that's what I had in my garden. Loved it!

8/25- Stir Fried Szechuan Steak on Rice

Well, since I tried making a Chinese dish recently (Shrimp Fried Rice) and didn't exactly hit it out of the park, I decided to try again. This time I went for Szechuan Steak, and it was awesome! It was really amazingly easy, and was done super fast. It's also a Cooking Light recipe. Surprise! :)

I did make a substitution or two, but they didn't really affect the overall dish. I didn't have dark sesame oil, so I just used the regular stuff. No difference. I didn't read the recipe clearly, and used vegetable oil to cook the veggies in instead of the sesame oil- I put the sesame oil in the sauce. Since it all gets mixed together eventually anyway, it tasted just fine. Next time I make it though, I'll be sure to turn my brain on before I start cooking.

HH6 August Challenge

This month's challenge was to create an original slow-cooker dish using 5 ingredients or less. I'm going to revisit a post from last year for this challenge: Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Having grown up in South Carolina, I was trying to recreate good ol' Southern pulled pork. It turned out to not be quite the same since, as I recall, they serve the pork dry and you put the sauce on top and this has the pork cook in the sauce, but the flavors are fairly close, and it's pretty darn good! It's become a regular in our household because it's so yummy and so easy to make.

The previous post actually has 8 ingredients instead of 5 so it's not exactly meeting the challenge. I'd hoped to be able to eliminate something, but I just can't; all of them are important! So you don't have to click through, I'll repost the recipe here for you.

1 c bottled BBQ sauce
1/2 c mustard
2 T Worchestershire sauce
1.4 c apple cider vinegar
2 T honey
1/2 c ketchup
2 T brown sugar
~3 lb pork tenderloin*

Combine ingredients up to pork in slow cooker, mix well. Put in pork, turn to coat. Cook on low ~4 hours if thawed, ~6 hours if frozen, turning occasionally to coat in sauce if you're able (not vital, but it helps keep it moist if you can). An hour before you want to eat, shred pork with forks. Mix shredded pork well so it's all covered in the sauce. Let cook another hour so the sauce really gets into the meat. Serve on burger buns and top with whatever you want- cole slaw, pickles, hot sauce, etc. 

*I used Boston Butt once because it was on crazy sale.... it worked, but it had a MUCH higher fat content and made it extremely greasy. I suppose I could've cut off come of the fat, but I must prefer using tenderloins.

7/29- Butterbeer Cupcakes

Since you know I'm a Potterhead, you KNOW I made Butterbeer cupcakes! This recipe was floating all over Facebook around the movie premiere, and I was just waiting for an excuse to make them. They're kind of involved, but they're totally worth it. Since I don't see a trip to Potterworld (or whatever it's actually called) in Orlando any time soon, I figured I'd better give these a shot since it's as close to Butterbeer as I'll get for the forseeable future. They're good cupcakes, I'm good with it. :)


The only change I had to make to the recipe was for the ganache. When I made it as the recipe directed, it was really runny. Like, so runny that I had a really hard time getting it to squirt into the cupcake without dripping all over the place in the process. I ended up just melting another half a bag of butterscotch chips into the ganache, and that solved the problem. It made it a bit thick for drizzling on top of the frosting, but it still worked out just fine. (The runny glaze is pictured here, I forgot to take one after I doctored it.) I got rave reviews from all who tried them!

7/24- Peach Cobbler

The Ultimate summer dessert. Peach Cobbler. Just saying it makes me happy! I've been searching for the perfect Cobbler recipe since at least last summer, and I have yet to find it or invent it. This attempt was based on this recipe. It was quite tasty, but it wasn't what I remember as the amazing cobbler from my youth. This has a thin batter; what I remember eating in Aiken, SC when I was growing up was much more biscuit-like. THAT's what I think of when I think "peach cobbler". The search continues..... my husband is particularly troubled at the prospect of eating multiple batches of it until I find the perfect one. ;)

(When I made this one, I made some adjustments to the original recipe. I don't remember them all off the top of my head, but I do know that I used 6 peaches instead of 3, and 1 cup of sugar instead of 1 1/2. )

7/15- Grilled Sirloin Skewers with Peaches and Peppers

This recipe is very tasty, but I never had good success with the peaches. Maybe it's just me, but they always fall off the skewer and get stuck to the grill, no matter how much Pam I spray it with! As with any dish involving skewers, it can be time-consuming to actually skewer everything, but it's always worth it in the end. These skewers are a bit heavy on the Cumin if you ask me, but I just tone it down a bit and we're good to go. It's got steak, veggies, and fruit in the same dish, and it all goes on the grill! What more could you ask for?!


7-14- Treacle Tart and Pumpkin Pasties

You guessed it, I'm a Potterhead! In preparation for the final movie, I broke out "The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook" and went to town! A good college friend came to town to see the movie with my husband and me (at midnight!!!!) so I figured I at least owed her some Potter treats!

There are plenty of Tart recipes out there, and the one in the cookbook is insanely long to type out, so if you want to make one, I'll let you hunt one up yourself. I had to make a few substitutions from the recipe in the book, so it didn't quite come out fantastic. It tasted alright warm, and was moist enough if you ate it with vanilla ice cream, but once it cooled down, it somewhat resembled a very dry brick. I may try it again with a different recipe and see if I like it better.

The Pasties turned out really good, though! Actually, I had to make Sweet Potato Pasties since none of the stores in town saw fit to stock pumpkin for the movie premiere. (The nerve!) These were pretty easy to make, thanks to a food processor, and I absolutely loved them! The plan was to eat them during the movie, but they sadly got smashed to bits in my purse, so we waited until the next day to try them. I also completely failed at remembering to take pictures of them, so I have none. I'll come back and add one if I make them again, which I probably will once Fall arrives and stores actually carry pumpkin! (again, the nerve!) The recipe is much shorter than the Tart one, so I'll type it out for you.....

1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 T granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
5 T cold butter, cut into chunks
3 T vegetalbe shortening, chilled and cut into chunks
4-6 T ice water

1 c canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter and shortening over the flour mixture. Pulse about 15 times until the mixture resembles coarse yellow meal, with no white powdery bits remaining.
2. Transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 4 T of cold water over the mixture. Toss the mixture together with a spatula until it starts clumping together. If it's too dry, add more water 1 T at a time (better too wet than too dry). Gather the dough into a ball and pat it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.
3. Combine the pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Preheat the oven to 400*. Roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick. Ise a saucer to cut out 6-inch circles. **
4. Put 2 to 3 T of filling in the center of each circle of dough. Moisten the edges with water, fold the dough over the filling, and crimp with a fork to seal the edges. Cut slits to make vents. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 30 minutes or until browned.

**- I found 6 inch disks to be much too big, the Pasties were HUGE! Think Starbucks-pastry huge. For me, 3 inches, or thereabouts, was perfect. It makes much more than 6 Pasties that way too!

7/7- Pasta-Chicken Salad on Watermelon Wedges

I can't believe I haven't written about this one yet! This one is a big favorite in our household, particularly for my husband who would willingly eat an entire watermelon by himself (and still have room for vanilla ice cream afterwards). It sounds like an unusual combination, maybe not appetizing at all, but trust me- give it a chance. It's light, juicy, has a bit of a crunch to it, and the watermelon adds a wonderful sweetness. Really, it's a perfect summer meal, you've got to try it!

I found it in a little cookbook/magazine I grabbed at the checkout years ago, Betty Crocker's "Heart Healthy Meals." There are quite a few in there that have become regulars in our family.

1 1/2 c uncooked mini penne pasta (I can never find mini anymore and just use regular penne)
2 c cut up cooked chicken breast
1 c red grapes, cut in half
8 medium green onions, sliced (1/2 cup)
3/4 c reduced calorie mayonnaise or salad dressing
3 T fat free milk
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
10 watermelon wedges, 1 inch thick
1/4 c toasted sliced almonds

1. Cook and drain pasta, rinse with cold water and drain.
2. In large bowl, mix pasta, chicken, grapes, and onions. In small bowl, mix mayo, milk, mustard, and salt; stir into pasta mixture.
3. To serve, place 3 watermelon wedges on each of 6 dinner plates, Divide salad evenly among watermelon wedges. Sprinkle with almonds.

7/4- 4th of July Cupcakes

Well, I no longer remember what I made for dinner that night, but I know I made cupcakes! What's more American than cupcakes, anyway? I had fresh blueberries that the kids and I picked with Grandma, so I thought I'd use them in cupcakes for dessert. I made Martha Stewart's Blueberries and Cream Cupcakes. They're a bit sweeter than muffins, so they count as cupcakes. :) They're really good!

The debate of what kind of frosting I should use came next. I was initially thinking of a lemon frosting, but I only had lemon extract and wasn't sure how that would react with buttercream. It probably would've been fine, (can anyone tell me?) but I didn't want to waste the time if it flopped... not to mention wasting the eggs and butter! So I opted for coconut buttercream instead. Once again, I turn to Martha for my favorite basic frosting, her Swiss Meringue Buttercream. It's an easy, and incredibly versatile frosting that you can add so many different flavors to. This time I just added a splash of coconut extract, and it was perfect! (With coconut, a little goes a long way, so I probably only used about a half a teaspoon.)

Coconut and Blueberry aren't an incredibly common combination, but I thought they worked pretty well together. And of course I topped them with a bit of American flair. :)

7/2- White Chocolate Raspberry Bread Pudding

I posted briefly about this last summer in my catch-up post (here). I took the kids raspberry picking with my mom last summer, and decided to make this as a way of using up some of the raspberries. We picked them again this summer, so I of course thought of making it again. When I made it last summer, it was really good, but I remembered thinking it needed a bit of a sauce or something to moisten it up a bit, so I decided to try to come up with one this time. I took a bag of white chocolate chips and melted them in a double boiler. As the water heated up, I took about a cup of raspberries, maybe 1.5 cups, and mashed them in a sieve so as to catch all the juice but not have any seeds in it. Once the chocolate was melted, I mixed in the raspberry juice, and viola! A super easy, VERY yummy, raspberry-y white chocolate sauce! (Also good on vanilla ice cream, even if it is a little gloppy once it gets cold.)
The bread pudding recipe I used this time was from Maureen Whittmann's blog: http://maureenwittmann.blogspot.com/2006/06/white-chocolate-raspberry-bread.html

6/14- HH6 June Challenge- Poached Salmon

This month, the challenge was to prepare a dish using a technique you've never tried before. I've never poached anything in my life, so I decided to go with that. While on vacation at the beach with my family, the women each had to cook one night, so I figured I'd use my whole family as guinea pigs and try it out. I looked up some recipes to get an idea of how to do it, but I basically made it up myself. It got rave reviews from the guinea pigs, so I think it may be a repeat!

I filled a deep skillet about 2/3 full with water, and added 2 cubes of chicken bouillon. Once those dissolved, I squeezed in some lemon juice, and some honey for sweetness. I chopped up some freshly picked dill, basil, parsley, and chives, and tossed some of that in the poaching liquid as well. I seasoned the salmon with a little salt and pepper and let it sit for a minute. I let the poaching liquid boil for a minute or two to let the flavors come out and combine, and then I slid the salmon fillets in. I cooked them for 10-15 minutes, until they were firm and non-translucent. After I took them out and put them on the platter, I sprinkled them with more of the fresh herb mixture.

The salmon was very moist, and very flavorful. Poaching is way easier than I thought!

I served it with fruit salad (duh! :) ), rice, and sauteed squash and zucchini. (Slice each squash long ways, then cut horizontally into small slices. Season with salt and pepper, then saute in a small amount of butter. I like it best when some caramelization gets on the veggies. Yum!) All in all, it was a great "at the beach" meal!

5/29- Grilled Rockfish

A friend of mine loves to go fishing, and lucky for us, he also loves sharing what he catches. There's nothing quite like free fresh-caught seafood! After his last fishing trip, he brought us some Rock fish. I'd never tasted it, much less cooked it myself, so I was a bit apprehensive, but I followed his instructions and it turned out great! I simply seasoned it with some salt and pepper, and then squeezed some lemon juice on it as it was cooking on the grill. I gave it another squirt once it was off the grill on the platter for good measure. Oh my goodness, it was so good! I grilled up some corn and pineapple to go with it. A perfect summer meal!

5/25- HH6 May Challenge- Veggie Goddess Pizza

This month, our challenge was to make a pizza without using any tomato sauce. Pizza is a big thing in my family, but generally it must have sauce, cheese, ham, and pineapple on it. There is no other kind of pizza as far as Scott is concerned! I knew I'd have to get creative if I was going to get it to pass muster, so I started thinking. It didn't take me long to come up with what I hoped was a brilliant idea.

One of my husband's and my favorite restaurants is The Melting Pot. A couple years ago, a friend gave me their cookbook for Christmas, and I've used it for fondue nights several times since them. Every time we have fondue, I always make their Green Goddess dip. It is seriously the best veggie dip on the planet! It's a cream cheese, white onion, and herb dip that is to die for. For some reason, that dip came to mind almost instantly when faced with making a tomato-less pizza. I decided to use that as the sauce, and top it with cheese and veggies. (I thought about chicken too, but decided to go simple the first time out. Maybe next time I'll add it in.)

Green Goddess Sauce

3/4 c cream cheese
1/2 c milk
1/4 c sour cream
1/4 c finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c finely chopped fresh chives
2 T minced white onion

Whisk the cream cheese, milk, sour cream, parsley, chives, and onion in a bowl until combined. You may also beat with an electric mixer or a hand-held mixer for 1 to 2 minutes. Chill, covered, until serving time.

I made up the sauce and spread it on the pizza dough. (I used the recipe off the back of the pizza dough  yeast packet... not the greatest but I was pressed for time). I topped it with a pizza mix of cheese from Food Lion, and then arranged yellow and red bell peppers on it, as well as broccoli. Then, just for good measure, I topped it off with a bit of shredded mozzarella. I believe you should be familiar with my family's policy on cheese..... there's no such thing as too much!

Since I was the only adult around to sample this new invention of a pizza, I made a Hawaiian one as well to appease the boy. He doesn't do onions, so I knew I couldn't get him to try it. I thought the Veggie Goddess pizza was delicious though! I look forward to trying it again sometime and trying to make it even better! Thanks for a fun challenge!

5/24- mainly music cake

My Church started a program called mainly music this past fall; it's a music and movement class that originated in New Zealand. It meets once a week, and there's a half-hour of singing and dancing around, then snack time, then an optional Bible Study for moms while the kids stay in the nursery (lunch is served to both moms and kids as well). I've really loved this program this year, and it's been so much fun to watch my kids enjoy it and grow up with it over the past few months.

This past Tuesday was our final session until the Fall, so we had a big picnic after the music portion was over. We had hot dogs and hamburgers, other picnic foods, as well as some fun play time outside. God graced us by letting the sun come out on what was supposed to be a cloudy day! While we were planning the picnic, I got the wild idea that I wanted to make a fun cake for the picnic. The other ladies graciously let me have my fun, and I debuted the cake at the picnic that afternoon.

Now before you look at the cake, let me explain it a bit. It's based off of some songs that we sing at mainly music. One of the biggest favorites of all is a song called "Five Little Ladybugs." Another one is "I Spy"..... "I spy a creepy crawly caterpillar crawling by me.... a teeny weeny tiny flea....... a busy buzzy bumble bee.... a flashy dashy butterfly...." you get the idea. Fun songs for kids to learn with lots of little critters in them. So I decided that the cake needed 5 ladybugs, some bumble bees, a caterpillar, 2 fleas, and of course some butterflies. The wings on the critters that needed them didn't work out like I wanted them to AT ALL, but the rest of the cake I was completely satisfied with. It seemed like everyone there loved it too, which was what it was all about, so that's all that matters. :) Luckily, I've got a year to think up a design for the next one!

4/28- HH6 April Challenge- Sachertorte

 This month's HH6 Challenge was to create a dish or meal from a a country that you have lived in, been stationed in, or visited, outside of the US. Sounds like a fun one, right? Considering I've only really been out of the country once, that narrowed my choices pretty quickly. Back in 2004, before I got married, my family and I went to Europe for 2 weeks. We went to Venice; Salzburg; Mossbach, Germany; Munich; Heidleberg; Vienna; and finally Prague.  

My favorite cities we saw were Venice and Vienna. Coincidentally, those 2 cities had my favorite foods of the trip! Our first European meal was dinner in a very quiet Venice. We found a little tiny restaurant that was mostly empty, sat down and picked our meals. This is where it got sticky. I couldn't remember what I ate, and neither could anyone else in my family! There are no pictures of our entrees, either. The only pictures of that meal are of gelatto. While that was certainly delicious, gelatto wasn't quite what I wanted to make for this challenge.

So, on we go to Vienna. I believe on our last night in the city, we went to Demel and each picked out a dessert to take back to our (super awesome!) hotel. We each picked out a different kind of cake, or torte, and then booked it back to the hotel so we could sample them all. I did take pictures of them before they vanished, but I did not write down anything about what kinds of cakes they were. Once again, nobody else could remember either! My good friend Google helped me out though! I looked up Demel, and through their website figured out that the cake on the far left of the picture was a Sachertorte. Here again, Google came to my rescue and led me to a recipie by Wolfgang Puck. I figured it must be pretty accurate since he's from that region himself. The next obstacle to tackle was to find the time to bake it! I'm late posting this because of Rebecca's birthday (see the previous post for that adventure), Easter, out of town guests, and life in general. Better late than never though, right?

So a Sachertorte is a light chocolate cake that is sliced horizontally into 3 layers. An Apricot preserve sauce is put in between the layers, and then the whole cake is covered with a chocolate glaze. Because I happened to bake this on a particularly humid and monsoon-y morning, the cake didn't rise as weel as it should have, so it was really difficult to slice it horizontally. I ended up with 2 very uneven layers instead of 3 gorgeous ones. I guess I won't be getting a job at Demel anytime soon. :) It still tasted pretty good though! Ok, without further ado, I present you with my Sachertorte!

4/22- Rebecca's First Birthday Cake!

I can't believe that the baby that inspired this blog is a year old already! Even though she's been out of the "oven" for a year now, I haven't come up with a better title yet. She was the inspiration, I can't let go of that! Anyway, I decided that she needed a spectacular cake for her first birthday, so I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the land of fondant! Being a Food Network junkie, I'd always wanted to try it, so I figured this was my chance!

I found an amazing-sounding chocolate cake recipe on allrecipes.com, so I decided that would be my base. Then since her room is chocolate brown and light pink, I decided I'd go with strawberry buttercream frosting. Let me tell you, the combination was just perfect! The cake was super easy to make (I made 4 of them. Yes. FOUR).  The buttercream is easy enough, but I ended up makig 4 batches of that as well. Let's just say that trying to make my life easier by making it ahead of time and freezing it did not work out. Note: you CAN NOT freeze this kind of frosting and then use it later. It separates and gets all gloppy and runny at the same time, and is absolutely disgusting. If you're like me, you'll try it and then end up scrambling to make 2 more batches of it when you're supposed to be fondant-ing and put yourself into a frenzy because you're running out of time before the party and the baby just woke up so now you have to do it all with both kids awake and you'll never get it done and what are you going to do??? Thankfully, my mom and sister rode to the rescue and helped me finish assembling the cake so I avoided total mental breakdown. Moms and sisters rock, don't they?

So I got the cake layered, crumb-coated, and all set to go in the fridge, only to discover that it wouldn't FIT! I'd made the base too big and it just wouldn't go in! Thankfully my sister and I managed to squeeze it into my parents' extra fridge. Phew! I also threw together 2 smaller cakes- one for Rebecca to demolish, and one for my brother-in-law who is allergic to strawberries. I got the smaller ones covered and decorated and finished them up rather quickly. Rolling out the fondant to cover the massive cake was more difficult. It took me 3 times to get it to not stick to the counter, and then the dang rolling pin poked through when I finally got it on the cake. I patched it up as best I could since there was no way I was getting it back off, and I think it still turned out ok. I worked on the cake until about 9:30 the night before her party, and then got to work assembling her toy kitchen. Now THAT was a project, but that's not exactly related to the cake, so I digress. :)

The cake was really fun to make, all things considered, and I hope to have an occasion to play with fondant again sometime soon! I've already warned my husband that this could become an addiction, and I've actually already had someone tell me they'd pay me for a cake! How cool is that?!

4/19- Grilled Salmon with Fresh Lime Cream

I can't believe I haven't posted this one before! This is one of our family's all-time summer favorites. It's light and refreshing, and good for you too! It's from a random little Betty Crocker magazine thing I grabbed in the check-out line one day, and I'm SO glad I did! There are a few in there that we just love! This one's really easy, too!

1 tsp grated lime peel
1/4 c lime juice
2 T honey
1 T chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried dill weed
2 tsp canola or soybean oil
1 1/2 lb salmon fillets, cut into 6 pieces
1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c fat-free mayo
1 tsp grated lime peel
2 tsp lime juice

1. In small bowl, mix lime peel, lime juice, honey, dill weed, and oil.
2. In 8 inch square glass baking dish (I use a zip loc bag) arrange salmon skin side up in single layer. Pour marinade over salmon; turn in marinade to cover all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 20-30 minutes.
3. Brush grill rack with oil. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Remove salmon from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle salmon with salt. Place skin side down on grill. cover and grill over medium heat 10-15 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork. (Maybe I buy crapy salmon or something, but it never takes that long to cook!)
4. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix all lime cream ingredients with wire whisk. Serve with salmon.

I am telling you, you will LOVE this recipe! The lime cream is really what makes it. I always add a little extra lime juice and zest to give it a touch more flavor. It doesn't taste like mayo at all, I promise! Oh man, now I'm hungry. I usually serve this with some grilled veggies like squash and zucchini, and Parmesan Cous Cous. Delicious!

4/15- Sausage and Pepper Calzone

I posted this one in February of last year (here's the link for the recipe: http://las8704.blogspot.com/2010/02/sausage-and-pepper-calzones.html) but I'm posting it again because I made an improvement on it. I happened to make these again on an absolutely gorgeous day, and I just plain didn't feel like having billions of pans to wash afterwards. So I looked down at the sausages I'd bought, and decided it would be faster to grill them. Then I looked at the peppers and onions, and decided I'd grill them too! WAY less clean up, right? So that's exactly what I did. I tossed them all on the grill, cooked them up beautifully, got squirted with grease from the sausages a few times, and then pulled them off and chopped them all up. I also didn't have much mozzerella, so I just used the whole tub of cottage cheese. It tasted AMAZING! The extra flavor from the grill was absolutely delicious. I will make these this way from now on! Fewer dishes to clean, and that unmistakable summery flavor from the grill just made these calzones a million times better! (In my humble opinion, of course. ;) )

As a side note, the very first time I ever made these, I didn't have peppers so I threw in zucchini and squash instead, and they worked really well too! I had planned to do that this time, but my co-op veggies didn't show up in time. Oh well, next time! Also, I always end up with WAY more filling than I need somehow. I discovered that the extra filling tastes great on Ciabatta rolls for sandwiches for lunch; my husband has also eaten it on top of rice on leftover night without complaint. :)

4/10/11- Penne with Pancetta, Spinach, and Buttery Crumb Topping

Well, that's what the recipe is called, anyway. I couldn't find pancetta at the store, so I used Prosciutto. I almost forgot to add the spinach, and I completely forgot I was out of bread crumbs, so there went the "buttery crumb topping." So I guess it was really more like "Penne with Prosciutto and Spinach" but it was still pretty good!

The original recipe is from Cooking Light again, but as usual, it's really easy to make it not-so-light. It's really not a complicated recipe, but when you have 2 little human creatures either "helping" you, or getting into anything an everything in the house while you cook, and 2 canine creatures stealing the human creatures' toys and/or standing right behind you in hopes that food hits the floor, even the simplest things become complicated. Some days I marvel at the fact that I manage to get something even remotely edible on the table in time for dinner. Anyway, this particular one wasn't one of my best, or calmest, efforts, but it worked!


3/26- Easy Feta Chicken Bake

This is another one I found in a Food & Family magazine. It couldn't be easier, and it's delicious! I served it with brown rice, mixed vegetables, and fruit salad. The lemon in the dish really comes through, which really surprised me! The flavors all really compliment each other, and it is just so good!

6 boneless chicken breast halves (I used tenderloins)
2 T lemon juice, divided
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 c crumbled Feta cheese
1/4 c finely chopped red pepper
1/4 c finely chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350. Arrange chicken in 13x9 pan. Drizzle chicken with 1 T of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Top with feta cheeze, then drizzle with remaining 1T of lemon juice. Bake 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with red pepper and parsley.

(I put some of the red pepper on before I cooked it so as to get a mixture of cooked and raw peppers in the dish. )

3/23- Tomato and Spinach Pasta Toss

I found this little gem tucked away in a Food & Family magazine on my bookshelf. I was lacking inspiration for meal planning and decided to dig out some books I never look at. It's amazingly easy to make, it's cheap, and it was delicious! It has sausage, which I don't normally like all that much, but it really is a must for this dish. Ground beef would just be too flat flavor-wise. It's a great one pot meal for a chilly, hectic day!

2 c penne pasta
1/2 pound ground sausage
1 package baby sinach leaves
1 can diced tomatoes, Italian, undrained
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzerella cheese
2 T grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta. Meanwhile, cook sausage. Add spinach and tomatoes, cook about 2 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm. Drain pasta, place in large serving bowl. Add sauce, top with cheese, mix lightly. Serve it up, and enjoy!