Monday, May 30

Summer Pasta Salad

With the unofficial start to summer today, I had this hankering for pasta salad.  Funny thing is that the weather doesn't match my summer food mood.  At all.  The sky is full of ominous gray clouds and I can hear the thunder rolling in the distance.  Ah, well--I still made the salad and I although I will share my recipe, I won't share how many platefuls I had for lunch.

Summer Pasta Salad

6 cups pasta, uncooked (I use tri-colored because it looks pretty--it's not whole wheat and that's only because I can't seem to find tri-colored-whole-wheat-pasta)

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup minced onions (red would be more appealing to the eye, but whatever you have--I had yellow--works)
1 can black olives, drained
3/4 cup artichoke hearts, sliced in thin strips
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2-3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
6 large basil leaves, chiffonade
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse in cold water to stop cooking and to start cooling down pasta.  Drain pasta well and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking and set aside.

Slice, mince, or chop remaining ingredients and combine with pasta.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and vinegar, to taste.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.    Serve with additional Parmesan for garnish, if desired.  Serve slightly cooled or at room temperature--which ever you prefer. As you can see, much of this is flexible--that's pretty much how it goes in the kitchen for me! 

This a great salad to have on hand for an easy lunch during the week.  It is also great for barbeques and potlucks as it doesn't have any mayonnaise in the dressing that you would need to worry about refrigerating. 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Designs By Gollum Foodie Friday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap
Friday Potluck at EKat's Kitchen
Hearth 'n Soul Recipe Swap  

La Bella Vita's Fresh Clean and Pure Friday 

Life As Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap
Miz Helen's Country Cottage Full Plate Thursday 

This Chick Cooks Recipe Swap 

Sunday, May 29

Menu Plan Monday

I am trying some new recipes this week--received another Taste of Home subscription (thank you, C!)--so I am excited.  It's always fun to try some new recipes out.  I will let you all know if any of them are keepers in the coming weeks. 

Sunday-Ham It Up Primavera (one dish meal)

Monday-BLT Chicken Salad

Tuesday-Burgers, Chipotle Lime Corn on the Cob

Wednesday-Thai Beef Noodles, steamed veggies

Thursday-Sweet & Sour Pork, green salad with Asian dressing

Friday-Cajun Jambalaya Soup (something else with some sausages I need to use)


For other great menu ideas, visit the Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, May 28

Tried It & Loved It: Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf

Quinoa. I finally tried quinoa.

For those of you who are like me and have seen this used in recipes or have seen this around the blogshere and thought for the longest time it was pronounced “ki-noah” like I did…. no, it’s actually pronounced “keen-waugh.” SO glad I could be of service and save you from this grammar faux pas I egregiously made for so long.

Hubs’ cousin actually inspired me.  I had been thinking about trying it and she emailed me one day asking if I had tried it because she was looking for some new recipes to use it in.  She also warned me that it was best to soak the quinoa prior to cooking—she had had the best results that way.

So my next trip to the store, I got some quinoa in the bulk section.  There it sat for several weeks, until a few weeks ago when I actually thought ahead and incorporated it to my menu plan.

We tried it and I loved it!  Hubs liked it—he didn’t say he loved it.  Now had it had chipoltes in it, I am sure he would have loved it.  I’m just sayin’.

Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf ~ adapted from $5 Dinners

1 cup quinoa
Water, for soaking

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz can sliced mushrooms, undrained
1/2 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp parsley

Soak quinoa in enough water to generously cover the quinoa (about two cups) for about 24 hours. Caution, quinoa may start to sprout.  It's okay, it is still perfectly fine to eat.  After soaking, drain and set aside. 

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat and saute onions until tender crisp.  Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add in mushrooms and liquid along with quinoa, chicken stock, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper as needed.  Quinoa will start look translucent when cooked, and you know it's done when it is no longer firm--very similar to rice.  You may want to add a little additional chicken stock if necessary.   Serve as a side with your choice of meat and fresh veggie.

Thursday, May 26

Some More Tumbling

Peanut has graduated to the next level of tumbling.  Her instructor told me she was ready, but I had to disagree.  However, seeing as the instructor was the expert in all areas tumbling related, I let Peanut move up--against my better judgement.  Or so I thought.

It's about the same class in terms of skill level, however with the first level, parents are expected to assist their child throughout the class and with the second level, the parent no longer assists the child.  The child only has instruction from the instructors and Mommy gets to sit back and take pictures watch.

Several weeks ago, Peanut had her first non mommy involved class and she has actually been doing really well, much to my surprise.  Yes, she still occasionally wonders off across the gym, but for the most part, she is attentive to the instructors.  She is also attentive to where Mommy is at all times and occasionally has to leave the group to give Mommy eyelash kisses and nose kisses.  And as unofficial goalie, I push her back into play, after giving said kisses of course.

I am actually really surprised to see how far she's come.  She could do all these things before, but I was always there to help her--and without me there, she has to depend only on herself.  And she has been flourishing in nearly all areas.  Except for the balance beam.  She always wants to hold someone's hand.....but she is slowly getting better, so that is fine too.

Do you notice a common theme in some of the pictures?  Yes, she still bites her lip or tongue when concentrating really hard.  There were actually a huge slew of pictures with that theme.  However, lighting in the gym is really lacking and if you pair that with my flash only flashing so far, a lot of the pictures didn't turn out so I didn't bother to post them. Such is the reason for the graininess of the posted pictures as well.  My apologies! 


We are going to pick up Hubs' mom from the airport shortly, so I won't be blogging for the next few days.  Hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  And thank a military serviceman or woman if you get the chance!

Tuesday, May 24

Now Back to Regular Scheduled Programming

Oh. My. Lanta.

I have been without a computer for over. a. week.  Contrary to my previous held belief, it is possible to survive without one.  Yeah, it's called I-just-call-my-mom-or-sister-to-look-up-whatever-needs-looking-up.  Which may or may not include a frantic phone call about 7 pm Thursday night to request looking up the American Idol results prior to the airing on the West Coast.  Am I the only one who does that?  Drives poor Hubs nuts, but I can't handle the suspense.  And can I just say yay for Scotty and Lauren?  They were my favorites from the beginning--for reals.  Peanut's too. Well, that part is just because of Mommy. 

Anywho.....our poor little five year old computer (isn't that nearly a hundred in computer years?!?!?) just got back from some much needed R&R.  And she is doing okay for now, but we will be putting her out to pasture sometime soon.  Anybody have an opinion on iMacs?  I am leaning towards one, but Hubs needs some convincing....

We have continued to have more gorgeous weather here in SmallTown and little Peanut seems to have Hubs' "tans easily" skin.  Thank goodness she doesn't go from pasty to lobster like yours truly.  Her feet are already starting to look "dirty"--otherwise seen as cute little tanned feet. 

I bought some of those Starbucks-esk cold drink glasses several weeks ago and with my lovely new blender, blended iced coffee drinks are an afternoon favorite when running erands or going to the park.  Fun times for the Hubs and I! 

Our neighbor taught Peanut how to blow dandelions and that tops the charts of Peanut's favorite activity at the park these days.  And for some reason, the soccer ball only seems to be a source of entertainment in our tiny little home--not in the big, open expanses at the park.  Why is that?

There was duck watching as well as lots of eyelash and nose kisses (previously known as Eskimo kisses, but somehow lost that title).  This is Peanut's new obsession--having to give eyelash kisses and nose kisses whenever she is to be separated from either of us for longer than five minutes.  She starts panicking saying, "I need to give _______  eyelash kisses and nose kisses."  And if it can't happen right then and there, she starts to tear up.  Like when putting her to bed at night when Hubs is closing at the restaurant.  We've had several meltdowns because the kisses cannot be given at that point in time.  Luckily I have thought to tell Peanut she can save them for Daddy in the morning and that has seemed to appease her.  At least for now.

So back to the park.  There was also lots of "1-2-3 Wees" and some very flushed cheeks.

And I just had to add that last one....I have NO idea who B & E are, but I just thought that was so sweet.  I've always wanted to do that.  Can you say sappy?  Maybe someday....

Please stay tuned for this Saturday as I will pick up where I left off with my Tried It & Loved It series.  Have some great new recipes to share with you all! 

Have a great week!

Monday, May 23

Onion Rings and Special Sauce

So during my little unexpected blogging hiatus, I made some homemade onion rings.  We had these with some sizzling grass fed steaks on our anniversary.  Yes, that's how we roll--onion rings on our anniversary--but seriously, can you say yum?   We sure did.  This is entirely my own creation as I was computer less and had no way to reference any online recipes.  They came out pretty well, if I do say so myself!

Onion Rings with Special Sauce

1 large, softball sized onion
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup bread crumbs, preferably panko
3/4 cup flour
Coconut Oil (I used expellar pressed, unless of course you would like coconut flavored onion rings)
Seasoning salt

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat coconut oil.  There should be enough oil so that it is about a half inch deep.  You know it's hot enough to start frying when you stick a wooden spoon in the oil and bubbles roll off the spoon quickly.  Thank you, Rachael Ray, for that tip. 

Peel onion and slice into half inch slices, separating rings individually.  Soak onion slices in buttermilk for about ten minutes.

Mix bread crumbs and flour evenly, adding several dashes of seasoning salt.  Dredge onion slices in flour mixture and allow to set up on a plate prior to frying.  Fry rings in an even layer, flipping after about 3-4 minutes.  Rings should just start to look a little golden, but they won't be super dark due to the coconut oil. Remove from hot oil and layer on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.  Season with additional salt, if needed. Repeat until all rings are fried.  Keep warm in a 250 degree oven until ready to serve.  

Special Sauce

1/2 cup mayonaisse
1/2 cup barbeque sauce

Mix together thoroughly.  Serve with homemade onion rings.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Designs By Gollum Foodie Friday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap
Friday Potluck at EKat's Kitchen
Hearth 'n Soul Recipe Swap  

La Bella Vita's Fresh Clean and Pure Friday
Miz Helen's Country Cottage Full Plate Thursday 

Friday, May 13

Warmer Weather

Our weather has went from zero to sixty in just the course of a week or so.  Not that I am complaining.  It has just been sort of strange.  It wasn’t a gradual warming up of the weather like last spring.  Just last week I was wearing long pants and socks and shoes and this week it’s been Capris and flip flops.  I even wore shorts even one of the days!  And we all know I don’t do that very often.  We also turned on the air conditioning—yes, it has been quite the week around here.  All that to say, the weather has been beautiful this week and it’s been wonderful!

Due to this unspringy spring, we haven’t been to the park all that much.  Not for lack of dry weather, because we haven’t had a whole lot of rain—but it’s been cool, not freezing cold of course, but just cold enough that it’s not that fun to be outside.  At least for me.  Ahem.

The warmer temps were an excellent excuse to get our busy girl out in the fabulous weather.  Nasty cough and all.  Yes, we finally get some park worthy days and the Peanut has a terrible cough.  Poor thing.  However, this child rarely lets sickness get her down and this last Tuesday was no exception.   Peanut was thrilled when we told her we were visiting the park that day.

The Hubs took us to a park he remembered seeing when we first moved here.  For some reason, we had just never ventured to this one. 

I don’t know why though, as it has quite the play structure.  

It probably takes up several thousand square feet.  It’s honestly that big. 

Peanut had a grand time, as evident in her flushed cheeks….but our girl is becoming more and more timid.  It’s a little concerning, actually.  She wanted Daddy’s or my hand everywhere she went on the play structure.  Even in the areas that weren’t open where she could potentially fall.  I think she might be afraid of heights.  Can children be afraid of heights as such a young age?  

I fully admit I am not an adventurous person by any stretch, but neither the Hubs or I are timid or unsure on the big play structures….but the Peanut, she definitely seems to be.  She has been become a little more timid at her tumbling class too, but her instructor assured us that it’s the age when they start to realize they aren’t invincible and they know they can get hurt.  I really hope that is all it is—my Peanut already has several of my characteristics that she will have to overcome….I don’t want her to have to fight acrophobia too. 

She did love the swings though and the slides are always fun for her.  Daddy had her climb the rope net thingy again and she was successful once again, so that was good.  

She was even rambunctious enough to get bark dust in her shoes that I had to clean out at one point.  Don’t mind the pasty whites of mine….I told you I never wear shorts!

Hubs has the day off today and we are going to enjoy the sun once again.  Here’s to warmer weather and barbeques! 


Monday, May 9

I'm Spreading My Wings

One might think that this going to be some heartfelt post about going outside my comfort zone and doing something hugely important in my life or for the community or something else divinely meaningful.

Not so much.

I have this thing for garden salads.  When you see green salads listed on my menu plans, it's always your standard lettuce/mixed greens-tomato-carrot-celery-cucumber-green onion kind of salad.  One may even call it a garden salad.  Oh, and if bell peppers weren't too costly that week, I might throw some of those in too.  'Cause I'm adventuresome like that.

It truly might be that I have a thing for ranch dressing.  Especially my homemade variety.  It's so garlic-y and good.  And what better kind of salad for ranch dressing than a garden salad?   I might mix it up occasionally and make basil pesto ranch or honey mustard....but it really doesn't happen all too often.  I am my father's daughter through and through. 

I am no stranger to different kinds of green salads either.  I even like them.  I like Asian inspired salads and whenever we are at my parents, my mom always has some type of non garden variety salad--you know the kind--with some sort of fruit and nuts and a tangy vinaigrette.  Really tasty and yum, but for some reason I never make that kind of salad at home. 

It's always garden salad and ranch dressing.  However, ranch dressing has mayo.  Sigh.  I have nothing against mayo--I still even buy the conventional kind.  It's the soybean oil I have an issue with--and most conventional brands of mayonnaise contain it.  I know you can make your own, but the raw egg thing has me kind of creeped out.  In defense of raw eggs, I've also heard there's no issue if the eggs are pastured.  However, using a "whole food" oil is tricky as well.  Extra virgin olive oil, peanut oil, and sesame oil all have too strong a flavor, coconut oil will turn to a solid once refrigerated, and most other oils are bad for you in one way or another.  So I haven't even gone there yet and meanwhile I continue to buy conventional mayo. 

Anyhow, I digress.

Back to the salad I came up with a few weeks ago. This salad is super easy, super yum, and it doesn't contain the aforementioned perplexing mayo.  Several weeks ago, I had a bunch of greens that needed using up.  (Love the organic mixed greens from Costco!!!)  I also had some feta cheese.  Everything else I had was in the pantry and we are loving this new variety of salad!


Tender Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette ~ from me

Mixed greens (have I mentioned I love the organic mixed greens from Costco?)
Dried cranberries
Sliced almonds
Feta cheese, crumbled
Green or red onion, sliced thinly
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Black pepper, freshly cracked

Layer greens, cranberries, almonds, feta, and onion on salad plate.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and top with black pepper.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This recipe is linked to:

Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday
Blessed With Grace Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Designs By Gollum Foodie Friday
Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap
Friday Potluck at EKat's Kitchen
Hearth 'n Soul Recipe Swap  

Life As Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap
Miz Helen's Country Cottage Full Plate Thursday 

Sunday, May 8

To The One Who Made Me a Mother

I love you more than words can express.

And to the one who makes it happen everyday (including today) so I can stay home....thank you, my dear, sweet Hubs.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

And please don't kid took nearly 100 shots and three different locations to get those two.

I kid you not. 

Menu Plan Monday

The temperatures are finally starting to warm here.  It's funny, last year at this time, we had already been using our air conditioning for several weeks.  We haven't even turned it on yet this year.  I shouldn't complain though--although it hasn't been terribly warm--it has been dry, which is nice.  I can't wait for our deck to be done too, as that will make much more convenient use of our barbeque.

Sunday-Roasted chicken, mushroom quinoa pilaf, steamed broccoli  (Hubs' cousin has encouraged me to try this quinoa stuff--she says we won't be disappointed!)

Monday-Fire Island Penne (one dish meal!)

Tuesday-Burgers, oven fries, salad

Wednesday-Chicken Broccoli Couscous  (another one disher!)

Thursday-Sweet & Sour Pork Stir Fry

Friday-Nachos with leftover chicken, black beans, cheese, sour cream, and salsa


For other great menu ideas, visit the Organizing Junkie

Saturday, May 7

Tried It & Loved It: Cheese Crackers

My dear friend sent me this recipe awhile back.  She told me how much her family all loved them and I gave them a try soon after.  Let me tell you...they are fab. u. lous!!!  Plus, if you have a food processor, they are ridiculously easy!  I make mine with white whole wheat flour and they are still wonderful--and the Hubs and the Peanut love them too.  Although Peanut does tell me every time she eats them that they are "Bicy."  {Spicy}

And then she proceeds to demand her milk.  :)  However, she still always wants some when we eat them, so she must not mind too much. 

These are also a great alternative to those store bought cheese crackers--you know what's in them and they taste way better too.  My only complaint is that they are somewhat fragile--so these are more for serving at home--they definitely would not hold up being tossed in your big mom purse for an easy snack on the go.  (For this reason, I still do the organic cheese bunnies when we are out and about.)  

Cheese Crackers ~ Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Cheese Straws 

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In your food processor, combine cheese, butter, flour, salt, and red pepper flakes.  Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add whole milk and combine until mixture forms a ball.  This takes about 15-20 seconds in the food processor.  

Roll dough into a one inch log--mine was about 6-8 inches long.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 20 minutes.  Don't go too much longer--I did that the first time I made these and they don't slice too easy when the log is rock solid.  Twenty minutes is perfect.  Trust me.  

Remove cheese mixture from the freezer and slice log into slices about 1/4 inch thick.  Bake on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes, or until crackers just start to brown around edges.   


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