Saturday, July 31, 2010

Meet My Husband

Have you met my husband? He's super helpful. He adores me so much that on occasion he has dinner ready for me when I get home! I walk in and the house smells so warm and inviting. He is so easy to clean up after and doesn't require a lot of work. I think he's quite perfect. Meet Mr. Tyler Duff Crockpot.

I love my Crockpot so much that I affectionately named him after my former Food Network future husband and my current Food Network future husband. I used to want to marry Tyler Florence, but then I found out he was married. So, he's still my favorite, but Ace of Cakes Duff is my second favorite and new future husband. Yes I know he has a girlfriend, but girlfriends don't always last forever. I'm just sayin'.

Tyler and Duff made me a super yummy meal on Friday. I love BBQ and have been craving it since Memorial Day. It passed... no BBQ. Then 4th of July passed... no BBQ for me again. So, when I came across a pulled pork recipe, I had to try it. It's almost effortless, and so so so so so good! Made ALOT. I have pulled pork for days, but it's so yummy! If you like pulled pork or BBQ at all, you must try it. Don't buy it! Make it. I promise it's worth it. I made some coleslaw (1 package of coleslaw veggie mix, 1 cup of low fat coleslaw dressing, salt & pepper. Or you can make your own dressing and chop your own veggies, but... We already know how I feel about julianing things. Next time I will make my own dressing though. Cooked some corn on the cob. I added a little coleslaw on my sandwich, gives it a little crunch. Not everyone likes that, but lots of people do! Yummy almost effortless meal. Try it!

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

4 lbs  pork roast shoulder or butt (I used a picnic shoulder and cut off the binding)
2 large onions (I used vidailia)
1 cup ginger ale
1 (18 ounce) bottle favorite barbecue sauce (They suggest Sweet Baby Ray's, I used some new Mississippi Honey Mustard one)
barbecue sauce, for serving

1. Slice one onion and put it in the bottom of crock put. Wash roast, pat dry with paper towel, place on top of onion. Slice second onion and put on top of the roast. Pour ginger ale over. Cover and cook on LOW for 12 hours. (Yes 12! Do it. It's worth it.)

2. Remove the meat. Strain the onions and discard all liquid, save the onions. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat or skin. Most of the fat will have melted away. Return the shredded meat and the onions to the crock pot, stir in the barbecue sauce. Continue to cook for another 4 to 6 hours on LOW. (I had to eat some after it had been cooking with the sauce for just an hour and it was great then! I let the rest of it cook the full 4 and so yummy!)
3. Serve with hamburger buns or rolls and additional barbecue sauce. Any leftovers freeze very well. Their Tip: freeze ready-made sandwiches - a scoop of meat on a bun, well-wrapped. These make a great quick meal or snack. To reheat, remove wrapping, wrap in a paper towel, and zap 1-2 minute in the microwave. (I think I will for sure do this. I'm telling you, I have a TUB of pulled pork left. And I've eaten 3 sandwiches so far. Looks like I haven't even eaten on it!)

If you don't have a Crockpot, you are missing out! And if you do, you should name yours. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

stressed spelled backwards...


You know you've heard it at least once, if not many times. You've probably even used it as an excuse to indulge yourself! How many times have you wanted chocolate chip cookies, brownies, ice cream, orange cinnamon rolls (okay maybe that's just me) or just something sweet and yummy when you just had the most stressful day?! For me when I am stressed, sure I too crave that something sweet, but mostly I just want to bake! The methodology and creativity of it is complete stress relief for me. So when I am stressed, I bake! And then bring it to work so I don't eat it all. My co-workers hate when I'm stressed hehe. They say I make them fat. I say... I just bring it, you don't have to eat it. But of course they do! I mean it's yummy! And I feed their stress need of eating sweets and mine for baking them! Sounds win win to me.

Tonight I made strawberry shortcake! Super easy easy! And though I love those little sponge cakes, WAY better. Found the recipe on the Heart Healthy Bisquick! So it's heart healthy too! And did I mention REALLY easy.

Strawberry Shortcake

The recipe makes 4 cakes, but I doubled it to make 8. Figured they'd make yummy breakfast with a little jam.

1 cup Heart Healthy Bisquick
2/3 cup skim milk
2 tbsp sugar
1 pint strawberries
1/4 cup sugar

Slice strawberries, add sugar, stir, refrigerate. Preheat oven to 425. Mix Bisquick, sugar and milk together to form a soft dough. Drop 4 spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet. Cook for 10/12 minutes or until slightly brown. Let cool, split cake, add strawberries and coolwhip/whipped topping.

Great light and fluffy summer dessert!

And last week I was in a stress baking mood too. I made a homemade yellow cake. I wasn't too crazy about the recipe. I'll try another one sometime. BUT the icing recipe I found... WOW. Best chocolate icing I have ever had. I will NEVER buy store icing again. AND it's easy too! The recipe is from (the old, my fav recipe website). It's by one of the famous recipe posters there, Kittencal.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, soften
2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted (I didn't sift)
1/2 cup half-and-half cream (I used 1/4 cup skim milk and 1/4 cup cream)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Depends on the richness you want. I did 1/2 and it was a creamy milk chocolatey frosting)

Cream butter. Mix in other ingredients alternating wet and dry until a desired consistency is reached. Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Don't be stressed! Turn it around into something constructive. Bake! Eat a little. Then give the rest away!

Makeover Madness

Say hi to everyone new madeover pretty-in-pink blog! I She says hi. She... Hmm. Its name was Mitch though, so it was a he. I guess we'll have to rename it. Oh, I know! Her name will be Julie. Because I often feel like Julie from Julie and Julia. For obvious reasons (our mutual love for cooking and writing), and because oh too many times have I found myself sitting on a floor crying like a crazy lady like she does often in that movie. Pink is much more me. As is talking to Julie and not Mitch. I'm not very good at that whole talking to boys thing. So I hope you like the, much more appropriately me, makeover.

And speaking of makeovers, my kitchen received a small makeover that might not seem like a very big deal to most people, BUT it was huge and exciting to me! My favorite co-worker who is much more than a co-worker, she's become a very close friend, says to me just casually, "Oh yeah, I brought my Kitchenaid mixer for you. I never use it. You can have it." I almost fell out of my chair and jumped up and down and squealed all at the same time! THE Kitchenaid mixer. The one that every Food Network chef has. The one I've wanted for 5 years but never bought because it's way too expensive for me to talk myself into buying for myself. So now it sits beautifully in my VERY humble little kitchen, making it shine a little brighter. I've already order the Mixer Bible and Kitchenaid Best Mixer recipes. Can't wait! And of course I will be sharing them all with you.

And speaking of makeovers... again, as wonderful as the Meatloaf of Awesome was, after eating it for dinner Sunday, lunch Monday, dinner Monday, and as a meatloaf sandwich for lunch today... I was meatloafed out. And it was a new cooking day (Sundays, Tuesdays, Fridays). I love every single one of my precious pennies and the food they go to buy and hate to waste anything. And there was quite a bit of meatloaf and mashed potatoes left. So, when I am -insert food-ed out, I try to make the meal over. But, I found myself in a quagmire (always looking for reasons to use that word). How do you makeover meatloaf other than meatloaf sandwiches? Well... shepherd's pie of course! I cut it into small chucks and then used my handy slap chop to mash it all up. I pressed the mashed up meatloaf into an itty bitty casserole dish, sprinkled a thin layer of frozen peas atop, and then topped with the left over mashed potatoes. Lid securely in place and into the freezer it went! I am thinking it will be a yummy surprise if I need a quick fix meal! And it's good for two more meals! I love stretching meals and pennies as far as I can make them go!

Tonight's scheduled meal was borrowed from my friend Carrie Tassin! She posted it on facebook with a picture and it looked super yummy! I had to try it! I only very slightly made it over (also knows as making a few changes due to what I had, but in keeping with the theme we'll call it made over).

Penne Macaroni with Peppers and Grilled Chicken
(changes or extra tips and comments will be noted like this)

13.25 oz Heartland Whole Wheat Penne (Used a box of Great Value brand Whole Wheat Penne)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 c sweet onions, diced (Used a whole onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz basil, chopped (Used about 2 tbsp of Italian seasoning)
1 c chicken, grilled and sliced into strips (Used 2 uncooked chicken breasts cut in small chunks)
1 c roasted red bell peppers, diced (Used 1/2 each of fresh green, red, and orange bell peppers)
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c Parmesan cheese (If you use the shaky kind you put atop spaghetti, the good kind is so much better for recipes like this! It's by the cream cheese in the cold section in a little tub.)
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

* Cook Penne according to package directions.
* Heat olive oil in large skillet on med heat, add onions and garlic; cook until onions are transparent. (I also added my uncooked chicken. It's way too hot for me to use my grill.)
*Add basil, chicken and red bell peppers. (Added Italian seasoning and bell pepper assortment, chicken already added.)
* Cook 2 more minutes.
* Add chicken broth (at this point I also added just a little bit of cream, about 2 tbsp. I wanted to add a little more consistency to the sauce, but not make it all fatty. Just a little pour to give it a bit of a white color but still the same thinness) and hot, drained Penne to skillet and toss together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
* Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper as needed.
*Serve immediately.

I also made a salad to complete the meal. I used romaine, lots of grape tomatoes halved (trying to use them before they go bad), a diced green onion, 1/4th of a cucumber diced, 1/4th of a bell pepper diced, croutons, cranberries, sliced almonds, 2 crumbled boiled eggs, the rest of my feta (maybe like 4 tbsp) and carrots. Random carrot tip you can take or leave... I hate A. chopping carrots and B. biting into big pieces of carrot. Any way you slice or chop carrots, unless you finely juliane them, is too chunky for me to bite into in a salad. I love biting into a carrot by itself or to dip, but I hate biting into it in a salad. It disrupts the flow of salad to me. Crunch is good, but not super hard crunch you can't even poke with your fork! And have you ever tried to chop a carrot quickly? They shoot everywhere! Just not a fan of it. BUT I do love the flavor of carrots. So take a handful of baby carrots or carrot chips or if you have big carrots cut them into a few smaller pieces and put them in my handy electric mini food chopper/processor. Press the button a few times and you get little carrot pieces! They are chopped in less than a minute, no one's eye was put out by flying carrots from chopping them, and they just make more sense and fit the salad and its parts better.

I have an overwhelming urge to get a makeover now... Maybe just a pedicure.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pure Comfort!

You know when you eat one of those meals and it just warms you from the inside out? Not the Louisiana spicy warmth, or the Louisiana summer warmth for that matter, but the warmth of comfort and home and all things warm and fuzzy. Well despite most people's aversion to the horribly named for the goodness it is capable of meatloaf, it truly does deliver that warmth, if made correctly of course. If you are a lover of the loaf-o-meat, you will of course like this recipe. If you turn your nose up at the unworthy of such treatment meatloaf, give it another try! This recipe is straight out of my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It really is the best meatloaf I've ever had! And all the spices and ingredients are probably stuff you always have on hand!

Meatloaf of Awesome! 
(The recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs of meat, but the package from Wal-mart came with 2 1/4, which is about what most bigger packages come with. The amount still fits nicely in a loaf pan. Due to using more meat I increased the amount of other things. I will note my changes like this.)

2 egg, beaten (Used 3)
3/4 cup milk (Used about 1 c)
2/3 cup bread crumbs (Used a little less than1 c) 
1/4 cup chopped onion (Used 1/2 cup)
(I also added 3 green onions chopped, save a pinch of the tops out to sprinkle on top)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley (Used 2 tbsp of dry plus 1 more teaspoon probably)
1 teaspoon salt (Used 1 1/2 - 2 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon dried sage, oregano, or basil (Used 1/2 teaspoon of each, definitely use sage though, really adds to the comfort flavor)
1 1/2 lbs of lean ground beef, ground lamb, or ground pork (Used 2 1/4 of ground chuck)
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Preheat oven to 350. Mix milk and eggs together. Stir in bread crumbs, parsley, sage, basil, oregano (or whatever combination you use), salt, pepper, and onion. Mix in meat. Pat mixture into a loaf pan (or mold into loaf form in a baking dish). Bake 1 - 1 1/4 hours (I cooked mine for about 1 1/45 because of the additional meat, it was perfect). Internal temp should be 160 on an instant read thermometer. (I don't have a thermometer, need to get one, but mine came out perfect. If you are worried about it losing moisture put a pan of water in the oven under it. This can also catch any drippings you might have, which I did.) Spoon or pour off fat. In a small bowl combine ketchup, brown sugar, and dry mustard. Spread over meat. (Sprinkle with green onions tops if desired.) Bake for another 10 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

So yum! Pure comfort in your mouth and tummy. I made homemade mashed potatoes and asparagus with mine. (Target has the best asparagus! It's steam in the bag and is so yummy and cooks perfect.) Now, let's come up with another name for meatloaf so that so many people don't have an aversion to it!  

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Cinnamony Goodness

Saturday's scheduled meal was pancakes! But for dinner of course. I had the realization that I don't believe I have ever made pancakes when they are "supposed" to be eaten. There is just something about pancakes that are so comforting for dinner to me.

Pancakes can be rather... mundane. So I decided to spice them up a bit, literally hehe. First, I don't really like syrup. So any way that I can make them and not need syrup is a better way to me. I usually remedy my syrup problem by making a fruit syrup or with a little powdered sugar. This time I decided to be inspired by the yummy goodness of french toast. I can't decide whether to call the Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes or French Toast Pancakes. Either way, it was supper easy and REALLY yummy! Kids would love them too! And the taste is a little fancier than normal pancakes to appetizing to the sophisticated adult palette too (who are we kidding, we still like gummy bears, animal crackers, and macaroni and cheese too!) I had the almost effortlessly convenient microwavable bacon and a fruit salad with the meal. Took a little over 30 minutes to prepare and cook the entire meal. (Another tip: When you make your fruit salad, composed of whatever fruits you have around, after mixing it swirl a little honey on top and then stir it in. It brings out the flavor of the fruits. I also sprinkle a little cinnamon atop each serving. But it depends on what fruits you use. This might not be as good with a fruit salad that uses melons. I used blackberries, strawberries, plums, a peach, an apple, and an orange.)

French Toast Pancakes/Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes

2 cups Heart Health Bisquick mix (can make homemade batter too, but I love the Heart Healthy Bisquick)
1 1/4th cup fat free skim milk (or whatever you have)
1 egg
(This is where the Bisquick box stops, but I added...)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Mix well. If you have an ice cream scoop, it distributes the perfect amount for perfect sized pancakes! My pan is small so I only fit two at a time. Spray the pan then scoop the batter on. Cook pancakes on medium - medium low heat. When the pancakes started bubbling and were about ready to flip, I spooned on, in a swirl design, a little brown sugar butter.

Melt 1/4 cup of margarine, butter, whatever, I used smart balance in a measuring cup in the microwaves. Spoon in a few tablespoons of brown sugar and a few shakes of cinnamon. I just used a metal teaspoon full on each.

Flip and cook for just about a minute or less longer and done! I also mixed up some cinnamon sugar with just a drop or two of butter to make it slightly crumbly and sprinkled that on top. Once they were all done, I drizzled the remainder of the brown sugar butter over all the pancakes, probably less than a tablespoon less. They need no syrup, no butter. They are warm, cozy and comforting! You can omit the cinnamon sugar sprinkle or even the brown sugar butter if you want. They batter stands alone. But you usually butter pancakes anyway, so I just decided incorporate the butter in a swirl! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pseudo Steak

Well, I told you I cook 3 times a week and plan my meals out for the month. I'd love to cook everyday, but I'm just me and ALOT of food would go to waste. I eat about three times off each meal, sometimes more depending on what it is. I freeze it if it's something that makes a whole lot and is hard to make a smaller batch. So, it goes for two dinners and a lunch usually. Tonight's meal was nothing special, but I'm going to post it anyway. I like knowing what other people eat because it gives me meal ideas. So I'm gonna share just in case anyone out there is like me!

I am a girl (obviously, by the simple fact that I use way more words than necessary to say anything). Until a few months ago, I was convinced only boys could grill. Then, I got tired of not eating grilled things! So, I bought a cute little red mini grill, charcoal, fun grill accessories, and a cute basket to put them in and I conquered the grill! And yes, I made grilling cute (and am convinced that is ok! Despite what any man crowned in his kiss the cook apron and fancy grill may think). But the one thing I can't cook is steak. I would prefer to leave that a man job. They really do do it better. My dad makes the best steaks in the entire world (just like everyone else's dad). So that being said, I never ever get steak. Once a year from my dad and maybe once or twice a year at a restaurant. But I love steak! I love A1. I love the whole steak/baked potato/salad meal.

Well, tonight I made a meal I am dubbing Po' Man's Steak. What I always thought were chopped steaks, but are actually cube steaks, are really cheap! I decided to get some and treat them like steaks. I marinated them the night before and all day today in italian dressing. I made baked potatoes and that yummy greek salad again that I posted a couple of days ago. I cut up a sweet onion and half a red onion and sauteed them with two small cans of mushrooms, EVOO, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and some red wine vinegar. I sprinkled the steaks with sea salt, cracked pepper, and some McCormick steak rub. I pan grilled them, just coating the bottom of the pan with a little EVOO. Way too hot to be using the cute red grill. Sweating is so not cute, even if you have on a cute apron and cute red grill. OH! Speaking of aprons, my Nanny sent me a box full of her old aprons today! Cute, girlie, frilly, amazing retro aprons! Ok, distracted moment over. And...

VoilĂ ! Po' Man's Steak! It was really yummy! Something else you should know about me... Even when it's just me eating, I "present" my plate. I'm totally like Jennifer Lopez on The Wedding Planner. It has to be a pretty presentation! And this was pretty! Side note, I need a camera to take picture of my meals. Anyway, baked potato all mashed up with skin, like I like it, with a little butter, sour cream, bacon bits, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Next to it, the "fake steak" with onions and mushrooms beside, A1 poured over both. Salad in a bowl. It was totally the steak/baked potato/salad meal feel! If you treat it like steak and dress it like steak, it's might just become steak! Or Po' Man's Steak. Cheap, yummy, easy!

Make yummy food! Put away the George Forman and experiment!  Food can be healthy AND taste good. Food should never be boring! When it's boring, McDonald's is more appealing to you than cooking. And that my friend, should be a sin!

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's all Greek to me!

Ok. Today is a new day! I decided this month was going to be better! Last month I was in another funk. Nothing felt right. Oh and months to me go from the 15th to the 15th. So by new month I mean the month of Jugust (July 15th - August 15th). Last month I didn't plan my meals like I usually do, I ate out way too much, I was sick twice, I had to get new tires, I didn't manage my money well, I didn't feel like cooking or cleaning, I didn't work out, I got in trouble at work a lot (which we all do every week, but it just was getting to me). I was just blah! 

Now! I have a dishwasher (that I got for free) and I literally LOVE doing dishes now. Go 10 months washing them by hand with no counter space and an itty bitty sink, then get a dishwasher and you'll love doing dishes too! I found a grocery list template and OCDish made my list and planned out all my meals for the entire month. I cook on Sundays, Tuesday, and Fridays, expect recipes on those days :). I bought all my groceries for the entire month, tithes, and paid all my bills! Finances will be much better this month! I brought my lunch today and will everyday. No eating out! AND I started back to the gym today.

On a side note, I really love doing organizing tasks. Somehow, it is the best stress relief to me. I love planning out meals for the month! It's like a puzzle making it all a variety and figuring out how to best use leftovers, etc. I just love it. AND it saves SO much money. And makes you so excited about cooking. I anticipate each meal and recipe. I also make sure to do several new recipes a month, using at least one from one of my cookbooks, and the others from (formerly know as 

Ok back on track. Tonight I found my new favorite meal of all time (or until I find another new favorite). I literally could eat this once a week! Which by the way, I never eat anything once a week because planning your meals is so fun and helps you no repeat and have the same ol' same ol'. I LOVE Greek food. If you've ever had a conversation about restaurants or favorite foods with me you know its all Greek for me! Except, oddly enough, to love Mediterranean food so much, I hate olives. I try them once a month to try and make myself like them, because I really really want to like them, but I just don't. But I always have hummus and pita bread at my house and if given the choice of any New Olreans restaurant, I will always always pick Lebanon's or Mona's. So I had this realization that I've never made anything Greek (other than hummus). I decided a Greek recipe was a must for this months meals! My faithful favorite site came through! Tonight I had Greek chicken and potatoes with Greek salad and I could eat it everyday for two weeks straight! 

The recipes! [Any changes or specifics will be noted like this.]

Greek Salad

1 cup olive oil (can reduce to 3/4 cup) [I used 1 cup]
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice [I used 3]
2-4 teaspoons dried oregano [I used 4]
3 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

    1 large romaine lettuce, chopped [I used bagged/washed/chopped hearts of romaine (1.98 for a BIG bag at Sam's]
    2-3 plum tomatoes, cut in wedges [I used grape tomatoes, 4.98 for a BIG container at Sam's, and I rough chopped them with the slap chop, which is 5.97 at Wal-mart and the best food prep tool ever! Cuts cutting time in half, love love love it!]
    1 English cucumbers (peeled, seeded and chopped) [I used a regular one and didn't peel or seed. I sliced then rough chopped smaller with slap chop]
    1 red onions, cut in slices [I cut mine smaller with slap chop, don't like big pieces of onion]
    1 green bell peppers (seeded and cut into rings or sliced) [Or slap chopped! Can you tell I'm obsessed with that thing?]
    1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled [1 of the little circle containers of it]
    1 cup kalamata olives [I didn't use olives. Wish I liked them!] 


1. For the dressing: in a processor or use a wire whisk process/whisk the olive oil with lemon juice, oregano, garlic, basil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar until smooth. [I put everything in one of those little salad dressing jars you get with the Italian or ranch dressing mixes and shook! Easier and less clean up.]
2. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours before using to blend flavors. [I made it the night before.]
3. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss to combine. 
4. If desired allow the salad to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving, or you can refrigerate for 1 hour (tossing a few time during sitting time).

Greek Chicken and Potatoes 

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in 3/4 inch cubes [I used 3, wanted more leftovers]
2 cups potatoes, cubed [I used 4 small russet potatoes, which was about 3 cups]
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved in 1/2 cup water [I used 1/2 cup chicken stock]
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 to taste salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chicken, potatoes, and garlic in a 9 X 13 inch glass baking pan. 
2. Mix well to get everything evenly distributed in the pan.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Pour the chicken bouillon [or chicken stock]over all. 
5. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice and crumbled oregano together. 
6. Pour evenly over chicken and potatoes. [I also sprinkled Greek seasoning all over it at this point.]
7. Bake approximately 30-35 minutes until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender and golden brown. [Says 30-35 but really not sure how long I cooked it, probably longer, until potatoes were tender.]

I highly recommend these recipes!