Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shish Kabobs

Shish Kabobs have long been a family favorite of ours when hosting parties.  Especially if kids are involved.

We will have a variety of meats, veggies and marinades available for our family and friends to create their own version of what sounds, taste and looks delicious to them.

I love to make my own marinades by using what I have in my fridge.  Sometimes they turn out okay and other times they turn out excellent.  It's always a new adventure.

Store bought marinades are a great way to save time and try new flavors.  We use them on rare occasions when we are in a hurry or going camping.

There is not much of a recipe to follow for making the shish kabobs.  You can buy wooden skewers or metal ones.  I like the metal ones because we can reuse them.  The kids have an easier time piercing the veggies and meat because they also seem a bit sharper.

Don't be afraid to have an interesting assortment of veggies and fruits too.  The thing to remind guest is when making their kabob to try and remember cook times for their meat and match the accompanying veggies and fruits.

You could end up with some charred pineapple if you want your steak well done.  Tomatoes are another veggie that taste great on a kabob but cooks fast and can get mushy.  

Have your BBQ nice and hot and ready to go.  The kabobs don't take long to cook.

If you are only sharing one type of meat, then you can marinade it longer in the refrigerator before your guest get there.  This is simple to do.  Cut your meat into smaller pieces and cover with marinade.  The smaller pieces are better because then more of the meat is marinating.  If you use one large piece of chicken or beef then the surface that is being marinaded is much smaller and the flavor may not shine through.

Types of meat to use:


Types of Veggies to use:

Bell Pepper
Yellow Squash
Cherry Tomatoes

Types of fruit to use:

Pitter Cherries
Grilled Peaches

Here are a couple of marinades that we have used before.  I found them on the Food Network Site.

Dijon-Rosemary Steak:

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, stemmed
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons balsami vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sirloin steak , cut into 1-inch cubes

Citrus-Tarragon Chicken:

1 orange, zested, then juiced, remainder discarded
1 lemon, zested, then juiced, remainder discarded
1 lime, zested, then juiced, remainder discarded
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

The marinades are prepared the same.  Combine all of the ingredients, except the meat, and combine well.

Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and add to the marinade.

Let meat marinade a minimum of 15 minutes, longer is preferred.  I would not recommend marinading the 1 inch cubes over night though.  You may end up with very strong cubes.

Recipe shared over at Amee's Savory Dish for Fit and Fabulous Friday.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

2020 UPDATE:  This recipe has been visited over 4 million times!  Thank you for the love!!!

Read the comments--lots of people love it as is, but some have made changes, like preparing it in a crockpot. Great idea!

Game day!  That's right, it has become a huge deal in our home to sit and watch football. It only took my husband 44 years to finally decide that he likes football.  I should rephrase that, that he likes to sit and watch football.  He is no longer content to read the sports page and sip his coffee.  He wants to see every play first hand.
I thought I was one of the few wives left on earth that was lucky enough to not have my Sundays and Mondays ruled by a football schedule.

It is a schedule because the NFL has the gall to play more than two teams on any given day…LOL

I am saying this all in tongue and cheek because I love football.  I grew up watching it with my grandfather.  That was back in the day when the Chicago Bears had the Refrigerator (a player).

I have enjoyed having the time to spend with my hubby and with our kids.  We make yummy food, choose teams and wear our favorite colors.  This season we hope to be wearing a lot of PURPLE…go RAVENS!

This dip is popular throughout the web and can be found on numerous blogs, Pinterest accounts, and feeds.  It's not that hard to throw together but it is still so dang good.

The dip can be made up the night before and the topping can be ready to go in a baggie.  It's a great traveler to take to friends and family that are having game day parties.  You can alter the temperature of the dip based on the jalapeno's used and whether you decide to have seeds or no seeds.

Recipe:  Jalapeno Popper Dip

6-8 slices of bacon, diced and cooked crispy
2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, soft
1 cup of mayonnaise
4-6 jalapeno's, chopped and deseeded.  The seeds will make it fiery hot.
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup diced green onion


1 cup of crushed crackers ( I used Ritz)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 stick of butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all of the ingredients into a medium bowl.  Stir well.

Transfer to an oven proof dish. The size of the dish depends on how thick the dip is.  The thicker the dip the longer it may need to warm up.  I used this stoneware dish that is round and measures 12 inches across.  My dip is usually about an inch thick.

Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle all over the top of the dip.

Bake the dip for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly.

2020 Update: 

I'm still writing on my blog. I don't share many new recipes but I am working on updating the recipes I have here on my blog.

I went to school and got my degree. I had another baby. We moved.  Lots of new things in my life.

Add your email to keep up to date (enter on the home page on the top right).

Visit my HOME page to see my latest post!

Enjoy your day.



181. Ham and Potatoes on the BBQ

BBQ season is slowly coming to an end as we are almost to September and the weather will soon be getting much cooler.

I can't say we don't BBQ in the Fall but it is definitely not as often.

This was a dish that I threw together because I wanted to see if I could use my grill like my oven.  I already had the ham in the refrigerator and tossed in some potatoes, carrots, onions, salt and pepper.

I used a cake pan, covered it with foil and cooked them on the BBQ for 30 minutes.  The temperature was set to 350.

I removed the foil and added some cheese…tadah…dinner was served!

It also made great leftovers and a wonderful breakfast the next morning.

Simple.  I like that.

Monday, August 20, 2012

187. Lemon Pound Cake with Cherries

I remember the first time that we gave Isabella a slice of lemon.  We had gone to the zoo with a group of friends in Salt Lake City, UT.  Isabella was about 1.5 years old and at that curious age of being a toddler.

I can see us all sitting around the table at Red Robin chatting about our adventures and encounters of lion, tigers and bears (OH MY).  

Many of my friends enjoy having lemon with their Diet Coke.  If you have ever had teenagers while at the same time having a toddler, then you know that they master mind together.  Drake and Rye could not wait to see their baby sister enjoy a lemon slice.

We had brought our cam corder and so we were set to see the puckers, lip smacking and shrills of delight coming from Isabella.

She did not disappoint.  I told her it was sour and that she may not like it, she still reached for the slice of yellow flesh I held in my hand.

OH boy was it cute.  She did all of the right facial expressions and we laughed uncontrollably for an hour, in fact we still reflect on this memory.

To this day Isabella loves the slices of lemon that we get in our ice teas.  

I, on the other hand, don't think to make a lemony treat when I bake.  I am more of a chocolate and peanut butter kind of gal.  On this day I was desiring something new and light.

I had these cherries in the fridge and I was afraid they would go bad.  We love the Washington Cherry's but the season for those is short.  I then go for the red cherries and my family does not eat them.  I don't know why this is.

I love the colors  red and yellow together.  I pair these two colors together often when I quilt or decorate so it was an easy marriage of the two: lemon and cherry.

My oldest daughter loves pound cake.   In searching for a recipe I found this recipe on The Food Network.  The reviews were good and this led me to try it for the first time.


 I used my mini bundt pan that  Cory and the kids had given to me for Mother's Day.  They were so dang cute in the palm of my hand.  There it sat, all alone, pretty pale yellow and ready to be dressed up.

The cherry compote was a success too.  I had never boiled down fresh fruit for a dessert topping before.  I started with a little of this and a little of that and came up with this easy recipe.

Lemons and Cherry work together.  They compliment each other on a white plate.  They create a nice balance of sour and sweet. 

Simply put, it was a real treat that was different for my family and one that they enjoyed.  To add the gourmet touch to these cute little cakes, I dusted them with powdered sugar, topped them with whip cream and found the perfect cherry to go on top.

Recipe:  Lemon Pound Cake with Cherry Compote
Makes one bread loaf pound cake or 18-20 mini bundt cakes

1 1/2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Attach the paddle to your Kitchenaid, in the bowl cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.  Add the vanilla.

Add the lemon juice and dry ingredients alternately until well combined.

If using a bread pan,  line it with parchment paper.  If using a mini bundt pan, use Pam to spray the pan well.  If using a cupcake pan, use liners.

The bake times for each will vary:

Bread pan- 1 hour and 15 minutes
Mini Bundt Pan-15-18 minutes
Cup Cake Pan- 15-18 minutes

Let cake cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with your favorite glaze, compote or topping.

Recipe:  Cherry Compote, makes 1.5 cups

1 teaspoon of lemon zest
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 cups of pitted cherries
1/2 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4-1/2 cup of sugar, use the minimum amount if you don't want it too sweet

Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan.  

Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil.

Boil for 15 minutes, reduce heat and let simmer until the cherry compote reduces and gets thick.

Serve warm or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

186. Curry and Chicken Rice

Dinner tonight was a hit.  I made curry and chicken rice.  I made a huge batch and we barely had any leftovers for tomorrow.  I love when that happens.

My recipe for Curry and Chicken Rice can be found on Recipe Lion or HERE.

*A few of my recipes are shared on their site first for a few months before they are displayed in full on my blog.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sifting Through Life: Wings and Pretzels

Pretzel recipe can be found here.

It's Friday morning and I am sitting at my MAC thinking…

"I have had an interesting week, do I talk about it or not?"

In a nutshell it went like this:

Friday-photo shoot
Saturday-pack for trip, leave on trip, car catches on fire, return home
Sunday-great day, book store, shopping, day at the park
Tuesday-work, adjuster declines claim on car
Wednesday-find out damage of $3500 for said car
Thursday-buy new car and have lunch at The Tilted Kilt, all hell breaks loose for 15 minutes
Friday-recovering from long week

Where to start is a good question.  If you know me well then it's not a surprise that my red hair and Irish  spirit comes out every so often.  I am the first to admit, in my younger days, it was pretty much a daily episode until I learned to harness my attitude and personality into something more approachable and manageable.  I became a lady and not a rogue.  LOL

To say I was high strung, unrealistic at times and high maintenance might be an understatement.  I was raised to believe that I was the cream of the crop and therefore there was a sense of entitlement that was bestowed upon me at an early age.

Through the years, and a lot of miles into my life, the struggles and triumphs made me change.  I wanted to change.  I did not like that person more times than not.

So when I have a moment when I wig out…and I did…it is unsettling to me.  Let me explain.  If you are familiar with Hooters (wings) and the Tilted Kilt (pretzels) then you may understand why I wigged out.

Having an old car with issues was such a no brainer to me, it was old and we expected the mechanical part of the car to not last forever.  I was cool, calm and collected.  We made a decision to go and buy a new car.  Keep in mind that we have not had a car payment in 8 years.  We have always tried to pay cash for our vehicles and run them into the ground…basically use them until we have no other options.

We did this with our Volvo, our last truck and the two vehicles before that.  I believe we both felt that our time of driving old cars and worrying about problems had come to an end.  We needed and wanted peace of mind while driving our family around Maryland.

I dread going to the car dealership.  Our last experience was a joke. We were very honest with the dealership about our credit and the amount of money we could put down.  We test drove a few cars, went through a few sales people and finally settled on something we liked.  Keep in mind, we did not love it but we needed a car and we were willing to settle.  As we entered the financial part of the office and found a comfy spot on the couch, the deal was preposterous.  They failed to listen to our situation, to how much money we were willing to put down and how much we needed our payment to be each month.  Without batting an eye and seeing red…we left.  I was furious that they had wasted our time.

This was our last experience and this is why the thought of going through this again was causing my nerves to bristle with anticipation at the thought of wasting another whole day sitting inside a small waiting room while 4 men decided if we could buy a car.

In preparing to go to our dealership, Cory did all of the paper work in advance.  This was awesome!  We new what we could afford, he had told David about our experience with the last dealership and we were set to go.

We arrived, he showed us some cars, we nodded our head, test drove some, agreed on how much money we would be putting down….done deal in 2 hours!   Now folks, in my opinion that is how it should be done.

Straight forward.  I was so happy!  Our week went from uncertainty to problem solved in less than two hours.  Happy dance!

In the process of buying the vehicle we opted for the warranty and this would require the car to be in the shop for an hour or so to have the paint sealed.  By this time we were starving and decided to go have lunch while the car was being taken care of.  We lived almost two hours from the dealership and this would be easier than driving back to White Marsh next week.

David told us where we could get something to eat.  This is where the wings and pretzels part of the story get really juicy and frankly a bit messy.

We found this lovely outdoor mall with a ton of places to eat.  As we pulled in from the road we could see some familiar restaurants , we thought, this is good.  We were hungry.

Walking through the mall we had a tough time deciding, I will admit at times finding a place for us to eat wheat free is hard but there is always or usually a salad option.  As we approached the center of the mall I notice a restaurant named The Tilted Kilt.  They had outside eating.  I LOVE to eat outside.

In my mind this is what I am thinking:

--oh, we can eat outside…bonus
--kilt, that word makes me think of Scotland, and that makes me think of Scotch Eggs..YUM

I love scotch eggs!

My husband says to me,  "This is so and so's favorite place to eat."  Keep in mind he has a strange smile on his face, but I am so focused on scotch eggs that my WIFE DETECTOR does not go off.

As we open the door and we are greeted by 5 lovely pairs of perky breast in little red plaid bra's and the shortest kilts I have ever seen…it's all starting to come together.

Oh our waitress was so cute and perky and did the best job.  The girls were all quite pleasant.  I have eaten at Hooters a few times, hell, I have been to Vegas multiple times and loved every minute of it.

To see girls in their underwear was not the issue for me.  The fact that my husband knew what type of establishment this was and did not warn me set me on fire.

Our day together to this point was wonderful.  We were laughing, hugging and having a great time.

BUT…and this was the issue for me….when I walked into this restaurant with no warning as to what I would find greeting us at the front door, he immediately put a wedge between us.  I felt out of place.

I was wearing no makeup, a top knot.  I looked frumpy.  I was not on my A game.  I felt that if we are going to this type of restaurant then let me look my best so that I don't feel like a mother hen.

Honestly, I felt a bit ambushed.

Do you know that look that Victoria Beckham has all the time…the glassy eyed glare…well, that was me through the whole lunch.

My husband knew he had made a mistake.

When we sat down to eat (outside) he mentioned how good their pretzels were (oh, so he had been here before). NICE.

When I hear these words, "Hooters has the best wings".  It makes me angry.  WINGS?  REALLY?

Just like here, "They have really good PRETZELS"…..news flash,  I make really good wings and pretzels too.

To make a long story short, we ate our lunch, paid our bill and walked across the street to spend a few minutes in the book store.

I opted to sit on a park bench out front.  I was fuming!  In my mind I am thinking what is wrong with me.  I am 45 years old, been married for 25 years and all of a sudden I am jealous!

What the heck?  I was upset, but I was really trying to get a handle on what was setting me off at the moment.  Was I having a pre-menopausal fit?  Did I really feel threatened by these young girls?

I would have been fine, if I could have just sat there on my little park bench and had a few minutes to my self.

My hubby new he had messed up and I should have kept my mouth shut.

I should have, but I did not.  Every Irish, red head vein in my body came unglued.  When I get upset, and I know this may surprise a few, but I turn into sailor Bob.

My mouth opened and out came the foulest words that a diginified lady should never ever say.  I am pretty sure that was the longest 3 minutes my husband has had in a while.

He says he loves my honesty, well he got some and then some more.  Lets just say that fudge and freckle were not the f words I chose to use.

I stormed off and walked back to the car and cried.

He felt horrible and I believe that he did.  He had no idea of knowing that one decision to eat at this type of restaurant would set me off.  I had no idea either.

He apologized and we had a good talk.  His attempt at having a burger and beer turned into an emotional roller coaster ride for me.

So where was my emotion coming from?  Fear.

I have had a hard time aging.  My husband just keeps getting more and more handsome as he starts to age.  The silver is coming in perfectly.  His body is not changing shape.  He is not having mood swings every other week.  He is pretty much the same guy I married 25 years ago.

On the other hand, I am not having the same experience and so I do fear that he might get tired of me.  This is not how he feels, this is my mind playing crazy games with my head.  I exercise every day, watch what I eat and try to stay sane.  Some days are better than others but it's a daily job that I must keep up on.

It is the fear of being alone, of loosing my best friend.

Yes, wings and pretzels are good, they are fun to have, even to look at but I don't take my husband to restaurants with hoagies and six packs (good looking men) and I don't want him to take me out for wings and pretzels anymore.

I really am not a fuddy duddy but I have come to a place in my life that I don't want to sit and look at girls that are my daughters age flirt with men my husbands age while I am trying to enjoy my salad.

Am I the only one with a pretzel and wings story to tell?  I would love to hear your story and how you handled the situation.

NOTE:  My husband proof read this entire article and we had a good laugh this morning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Oreo Wafers

When I was a kid I would share my Oreo's with my dog.  He got the creamy center and I got the cookie.  Now that I am a parent, I used to share my Oreo's with my kids.  They got the white soft center and I got the cookie.  With this recipe I solved my issue, no creamy white soft center.  Just a nice simple, thin wafer all to myself.   I still share though.  

Recipe:  Oreo Wafers
Simply Gourmet

Yields: 30-32 cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 7-9 minutes
skill level:  easy

Preheat oven to 375.

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 large egg, slightly beaten

In a Kitchenaid bowl, combine all ingredients.   If you don't have a counter mixer, then use a medium size bowl and mixer, combine all ingredients.  

Mix ingredients until well blended.  Batter will be similar to thick brownie batter.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a scoop, scoop cookies 2 inches a part.  These cookies spread and you will need the whole cookie tray.  Don't try to make them fit or you will end up with one large cookie.

Bake for 7-9 minutes.  They are very thin and will burn if you over bake them.

Remove cookies from oven and let rest on sheet for a few minutes, remove carefully with spatula to a cookie cooling rack.

If you would like to have a filling, let cookies cool completely and then fill.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cellophane Noodle Stir Fry

One of our favorite places to eat in Annapolis is a restaurant named Lemon Grass.  All their food is excellent.

What is amazing to me is the size of the restaurant.  It is very small with a few tables inside and a few tables outside.  In the summer we usually don't have any problems getting a seat but come winter..you better be prepared for a wait and it's a packed wait.  There is maybe a 4X6 foot spot when you first walk in to wait.

I love it because it's a great chance to meet new people.  The tables are very close together and you may even get a  chance to say hello to more new friends…LOL

My favorite dish is the fried duck.  I can't for the life of me figure out how they get the duck slices so crispy.  I have been asked by several friends what I think their secret is and I can't find anything that would give a hint as to what they do.  I know of a friend who knows the owners and even he can't get the "recipe"…LOL

While my mom and sister were in town a few months ago we took them to Lemon Grass.  They had to agree the food was excellent.  My sister always orders this one dish named Pad Woon Sen.  She asked me to come close to reproducing it for her so that she could make it at home.

It wasn't too hard to make because this is a dish that we make a lot, not ever realizing it had a fancy name.

I use a simple sauce of three ingredients.  This sauce I use on most of my asian noodle dishes.  I know that some recipes will call for hoisin sauce or plum sauce.  I personally find these sauces to be too sweet.  I want to taste the noodles, veggie and meat more than the sweet sauces used by some.

Another new favorite I have discovered is Pork Belly.  When we go into our Asian market, they sell it by the pounds.  I could never figure out what it was used for, until now.

I bought some and did some researching in trying to figure out how I prepared the meat.  I found that you cook it similar to a pork chop.  I will tell you how I prepare the pork belly below in the recipe.  You can always use chicken or beef in this recipe.  I just enjoy pork belly, way too much!!!  LOL

I think this recipe fits right into our Simply Gourmet way of eating.  We use wheat free noodles, lots of veggies, a little bit of meat and a few sauces.  It's fresh, beautiful and sure to be enjoyed by the whole family.

This recipe was featured over at Amee's Savory Dish for her Fit and Fabulous Friday feature.  You can see the other links here.

Recipe:  Cellophane (Glass) Noodle Stir Fry

1/2 pound of pork belly, prepared…see below
1  small head of green cabbage, diced into 1x1 inch squares
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 packages of cellophane noodles, prepared according to package
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce (use this sparingly at first)
peanuts to garnish
Cilantro to garnish

NOTE:  There are other things that can be added to the recipe: scrambled eggs, mushrooms, bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, etc.

To prepare the pork belly I use a cast iron pan.  Preheat oven to 350. Score the pork belly across the top of the fatty side every inch.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in pan and add pork belly.  I cook the pork belly until crispy on all sides. Place cast iron pan with seared pork belly into oven to finish cooking.  Cook for 15 minutes until it is no longer pink on the inside. This is the amount of time it should take you to prepare the noodles and veggies.

Prepare your noodles according to the package.

In a saute pan, add sesame oil.  Add your veggies and saute until they are cooked to your liking.  We like our veggies to be al dente, still a little bite to them.

Drain your noodles and add them to the veggies.

Add the dark soy sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce.

Remove pork belly from the stove and slice into bit size pieces, add them to the veggie and noodles.

The noodles can be pretty hard to stir into the dish because they are so long.  I will take a fork and pull the noodles up and cut them with a pair of kitchen scissors.  It makes the dish easier to serve and to eat.

I like to add peanuts and cilantro to my Thai dishes, but it's up to you and your guest.

For cooking pictures, see below:

Pork Belly, cut and ready to add to the noodles and veggies.

Veggies before they are sauteed.

Veggies and Pork Belly awaiting the noodles.

Noodles, veggies and pork belly with sauce.  YUM

Monday, August 13, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

 The very first time I tried a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, I was hooked.

The combination of hot sauce, blue cheese and crunchy celery kept me coming back for more.

I have a tendency to "obsess" a bit about things.  When I find something I like I have no problem eating it over and over, back to back for days.

I like this recipe because it can be made in the crockpot, in the stove or thrown together in the microwave.

I like to cook this dish in the crock pot if I have the time.  I also make a large loaf of warm bread for family and friends. You can find the recipe that I use for the bread here.  I chop extra veggies for those that cannot eat the bread (like me).

I also think that this could be made without the chicken pieces and still taste yummy for your friends that don't eat meat.

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup of green onions, diced
1/2 cup Franks hot sauce
1/2 cup Jack or Cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1.5 cups of cooked,diced chicken
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
2 celery stalks, diced for garnish
Serve with celery sticks, crackers or fresh bread

I used my crockpot to prepare this dip.  If you wish to use your oven, preheat oven to 350.  Use a pie dish and cook for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

To prepare in the crockpot:  Add cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, green onions and hot sauce.  Combine until mixed, it does not have to be smooth.

Add cheese and chicken. Mix well.

 Cook on high for 2 -3 hours.  Check every so often and stir.

Transfer dip to a pie plate and garnish with blue cheese and celery pieces.

I used the left over dip on a salad the next day.

I grilled my lettuce on the grill with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Warmed up the dip and enjoyed a buffalo chicken salad.  It was delicious.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pork Chops, Potatoes and Gravy

I love a meal that is prepared and baked all at once.  Pork chops, gravy and potatoes are a sure way to bring your family running to the table when they hear the call for dinner.

Recipe: Pork Chops, Gravy and Potatoes

Serves: 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours

4 thick boneless pork chops
1 egg
2 T. milk
1/2 cup of flour ( I use almond meal and brown rice flour, 1/4 cups of each--for gluten free option)
2 T. oil, for frying pork chops

1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced
2 T. olive oil to saute

5 Yukon gold potatoes, sliced

1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of flour (you can use white or brown rice flour or potato starch--for gluten free option)
1 cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 pkg. of Lipton onion soup

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1. Heat oil in saucepan. Combine egg and milk, beat together. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Stir well. Take each pork chop and dip in milk bowl, then dip on both sides in the flour bowl. Add pork chop to hot oil and cook until golden brown on each side. Remove to a dutch oven style baking dish.
2. Slice potatoes 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

3. In a medium pan, melt butter. Stir in flour. Add milk and cream. Once sauce is thick, stir in onion soup mix. Remove from heat.

4. To saute onions and mushrooms, add 2 T. oil to pan and saute together until onions are soft.

5. You will layer your dutch oven like this: pork chops, sauteed onions and mushrooms, onion gravy and top with the sliced potatoes.

6. Cover and bake for 1.5 hours.

Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie with Peanut Butter Sauce

I have told you before how awesome I think cast iron pans are.  

My love and adoration for them has been bumped up another notch after making this one dessert.

Two weeks ago my husband and his buddies read a book about being wheat free.  They have decided  they would like to cut wheat out of their diets.

Honestly, sometimes you have to just shake your head.  I say this with a ton of love for my hubby but I have been saying this for about 3 years.  This is when I first discovered I had a sensitivity to wheat and some other foods myself and started limiting my intake.  

For the most part I am wheat free and so we have lots of wheat free stuff in our house to eat.  I cook a lot of vegetarian dishes, I make all of my own sauces (most of them without wheat), we eat meat in moderation and try to eat more fish than we used to.

I have kids and so we do have the healthy boxes of cereal (with wheat), I buy pretzels (with wheat) and on occasion I make bread, cookies, cakes and breakfast foods, (all with wheat).

We try to eat wheat in moderation.  With my husband, it is usually a case of being in a hurry and grabbing what is easiest to eat on the run.  Sandwiches, a bag of pretzels, a cookie here and there. The amount of wheat he ate started to add up and his diet was not balanced with fruit, veggies and proteins. He ate almost all carbs and pretty soon his body craved them all the time.

I will say this, just because you drag a horse to the watering hole does not mean it will take a drink.


I cannot make him eat a certain way just like he cannot make me eat a certain way.  It has to be a choice that you/they/us make. 

He  believes, after reading this book, that he has a wheat gut.  He exercises until he is blue in the face and still he has his Budda belly.

I have watched him struggle with portion control, running, going without and then giving up.

So you can imagine my surprise when out of the blue he made this announcement, another diet.

I want to be that supportive wife, but I cannot babysit my husbands diet.  He would have to make the decision and LIVE by it no matter what food we had in our house.  He had to fight his own temptations to say NO, walk away and make a better choice.

I cannot do that and our kids cannot do that for him.  

I will say this:  I am so proud of him.  He has committed to making a lifestyle change with his eating habits and he is succeeding.

I have admired Cory as he has tackled his eating habits and changed things slowly.  He made himself a success in changing the way that he was feeding his body. 

I know how hard it is making these choices from my own experience.  I was encouraged to go cold turkey.  He recognized that in order for him to accomplish his goal, he would have to give up some of the things he enjoyed having: cookies, cakes and breads.  I explained to him that this was not always the case.  He would have to change what he reached for but not give up completely.  I know this is not new "news" but, we do have many more grains and flours at our disposal than just wheat.  Many of these recipes are healthier for us.  

I went on a quest to find him healthy alternatives to some of the things he had chosen to give up.  In searching, I have found many low carb, vegan  and high protein snacks.  

Choice and change are possible but it does take work, motivation and a desire.  Cory was willing and he had all three.  I just made it easier for him to feel his success by preparing things he can eat, staying positive, applauding his journey and encouraging him every step of the way. 

I may not be able to control what he puts into his mouth, but I certainly am willing to be his cheerleader as he goes through this process.

I am going to share two recipes, one with pictures and the other without (we ate them too fast) that are wheat free and low carb.  You don't have to be on any type of diet to enjoy a yummy and healthy treat. 
I know that it is easier to reach for a bag of this or that, but with a little bit of time and a few ingredients on hand, you can make something that is tastier and healthier for you and your family.

Your friends and family will be amazed after they finish their serving and ask for seconds. They also may be surprised to learn what this delicious skillet cookie was made of as well.

Quite simply, this is a simple recipe in a simple cast iron skillet, with the best peanut butter sauce served over the top to add that gourmet touch.


Recipe:  Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie with Peanut Butter Sauce

1/2 cup of coconut oil (see note)
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup of real maple syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla
pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
3 cups of almond meal 
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips ( I use bittersweet)

Preheat oven to 350.

NOTE:  Virgin coconut oil will taste like coconut, refined coconut oil will have little to no flavor of coconut.  I used the virgin coconut oil in this recipe.

In a blender, combine the first 5 ingredients and blend for 5-6 minutes.  The ingredients will pull together and make a caramel type sauce.  

I used a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  Add one cup of caramel to the pan.  Add baking soda, almond meal and dark chocolate.  Combine until well blended.  

Using your fingers, pat mix into pan.  Bake 12-14 minutes.  The cookie will be golden brown and puff up.  This is a good sign it is done.

Remove from oven and spread the remaining sauce over the cookie.  

Serve with a bunch of spoons and eat right out of the skillet or dish it up, either way it won't last long.

Recipe: Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup of mashed ripe bananas
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup of almond meal
1/4 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all of the above ingredients in Kitchenaid or bowl.  Mix together.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop dough 1 inch apart on sheet.  They don't spread too much.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, they should be golden when done.

Let cool slightly on cookie sheet and remove to cookie rack to cool.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hamburger and Zucchini Patties

Summer's in Maryland are beautiful except for one thing.  BUGS.

They are everywhere and combined with the humidity it can become quite uncomfortable outside.

Our first summer we stayed inside for most of it.  This year I had to find a way to allow us to be outside.  I can handle the hot and even a bit of the humidity, but the bugs are a force to be reckoned with.

It is not uncommon for me to go and shoot a few images, be gone for about 5 minutes and come back inside with 10 mosquito bites.

This is the reason for one picture of our hamburgers with zucchini.  I wish I had taken more, but you only really need one to see how the zucchini mixed with the hamburger creates a juicy thick patty.

To help us with our summer and enjoying the great outside in our yard, I made us a haven.

It's small, but so quaint.  We have strung lights in a variety of sizes and colors around the tent.  I placed potted plants at the entrance and embellished the chairs with cushions and quilts.

It is our little retreat from the phone, our computers and sometimes, the kids.  LOL

Inside we can enjoy a glass of wine, discuss the events of the day, read our favorite magazine or just sit in silence.

I love the simplicity that a simple camping tent in our back yard provides us on busy days.

Recipe:  Hamburger and Zucchini Patties

1 pound of grass fed burger meat
1 medium size zucchini, shredded
1/4 cup of red onion, diced small
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1/2 cup of uncooked oatmeal
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce

Set your BBQ to 350 and preheat.

Combine all of the above ingredients.

Shape into patties.

Cook until desired doneness.  I try to only flip my burgers once on each side.  This gives them great grill marks and keeps them from possibly falling apart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

169. Almond Pretzels with Almond Dipping Sauce

When Cory and I left Utah two years ago with our kids, pets and the few possessions we could put into our 30 foot travel trailer, I can only imagine the thoughts that went on in our families and neighbors minds.

It reminds me of a scene in Beauty and the Beast when the towns people are describing Belle's father, "oh, you know, crazy old Maurice". Only there were a few more of us than one Maurice and we were not crazy.

What were we?  We were unemployed, ready for an adventure and change but most of all I was longing for some time with my kids.  Our lives had become busy.  We had church activities on the weekend and through out the week, we had civic responsibilities, sports, dance, school, work…sounds familiar?  We had a life.  A very busy life.

We made a choice to let life take us where ever the wind blew.  Cory found work teaching on line and then, through some friends, he found work that allowed us to work and travel for one year before we settled down again.

Poppies down by the Naval Academy, right before you go over the bridge.

Why one year?  Kids.  We do a lot for our kids.   They had fulfilled the so called "mid-life crisis" that their parents were going through and we had promised them we would only stop our lives for one year

Our lives did not stop. 

We laughed late at night around camp fires while listening to the wild life creep and creak behind us and the stars shown ever so brightly above us.  We talked into the wee hours of the night all crammed on our rv size queen bed.  We ate meals together on red and white checkered table clothes in the most wooded, green and serene state parks in 12 states.  We discovered each others interest through visiting museums, historical sites, movies, malls, parks, university's, city centers, etc…

What we stopped was not our lives but the noise and chaos that we sometimes cannot escape.  I for one had a hard time saying no, I was booked beyond belief.  My year off taught me to value my time.  It allowed me to work and hone on the one thing I enjoyed filling my time with, and that was my family.

We came to this area on a contract with IRS and my husband ended up working for a local company.  

To say that Annapolis is our home almost causes me to tear up.  I had no idea that a place could so easily root itself into my heart.

A pair of windows on a home downtown.

While on the West coast I yearned for the opportunity to live on the East coast.  I was drawn to this area.  Even before we decided on which neighborhood, school district or county, when the map was open my finger automatically fell on Annapolis.  We stayed for two months in our trailer looking for the perfect fit for our family.

I have a daughter at AACC, a son at Broadneck and a soon to be kindergartner.  We love our home.

Annapolis, MD is an amazing place that wraps it's gentle swaying sails around your heart and takes you back in time.  When down at the city docks, I often will close my eyes, listen to the waves and feel the sea air on my face.  

Happiness.  Joy.  Home.

A boat that is always docked in the harbor.  I love this boat.  

While we were on our mini adventure, I was not able to bake very many things.  Our oven was not the greatest.  I missed cooking bread, pretzels, brownies, cakes and all sorts of doughy yumminess.

I am pretty sure I have made up for it while living here this last year and a half. 

I learned to make pretzels, and then I discovered that I could coat them with almond gooeyiness and take a simple pretzel recipe and add a gourmet touch, giving my family the most mouth watering experience; all with one pretzel.

You can also find a step by step tutorial HERE of how I had my daughter help me make the plain pretzels a few months ago.  They are really easy for your kids to make.

Recipe:  Almond Pretzels and Almond Sauce

makes 12 pretzels 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Dough to rest: 30 minutes
Bake: 8-10 minutes

2 cups of warm water
1 Tablespoon of yeast
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
5 cups of flour

1 cup of warm water (for the water bath before baking)
1/4 of baking soda


1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoon of water
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1/4 cup of ground almonds or almond meal
a few drops of almond flavoring
chopped nuts for topping

To make the dough:

Add yeast and sugar to warm water. Let rise about 4 minutes.

In Kitchenaid, add flour and salt.  When yeast has activated, add to the flour.

Mix until combined and then knead for 6 minutes. Turn your oven to 500 degrees.

Let dough rise for 30 minutes.  When a few minutes are left on the rise time, prepare your warm water and baking soda mixture.

Have two cookie sheets ready to go.  Dump your dough onto your table and cut into 12 sections.  I usually cut the dough in half, then those halves are split in half again. From the four quarters on the table you should be able to get three smaller sections which will total 12 small mounds of dough.

Spray your table with Pam and start rolling your dough into long "snakes, about 20 inches.  Dip each strand in the warm water/baking soda mixture and then shape your pretzel on the cookie sheet.

Have your oven trays so that one is in the middle and one below that.  Add your sheets together.  Let them cook for 4 minutes and then switch the trays.  If you want your pretzels to be darker then just add an extra minute or two.  Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

You can serve your pretzels two ways:  Add butter and Kosher salt or add the almond glaze and serve with the sauce.  Both ways are amazing!  To add butter, when you transfer them to the cookie sheet coat each pretzel with melted butter and immediately sprinkle with salt.

To make the almond glaze and sauce:

Add all of the ingredients above into a small pan.  Warm the sauce on the stove until the brown sugar is melted and the mixture is well combined.  At the end of the cooking time for the pretzels, remove the trays.  Using a pastry brush, brush the pretzels with the almond glaze.  Return to the oven and cook for 3 minutes.  The glaze should be bubbly.  Remove and transfer to a rack. 

I love serving these pretzels with an extra side of glaze, so don't fret if you have some left over.  If you need more just follow the directions and make a second batch.

NOTE:  You can add chopped almonds also, but be careful because the will burn easily if the oven shelf is too close to the heat.

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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