6.10.2020

Vertical Herb Garden


After searching vertical herb planters on Pinterest, I found three different ideas that I really loved. I decided to put all of these ideas together and have my husband build a custom herb garden for us. We had the perfect spot at the end of our porch, which we are in the middle of redoing. The cool part is that the planter stand serves as a privacy screen as well!

                              

To start, we bought a few pieces of pressure treated wood from the home depot and my husband put together the stand. Using a red stain, we did two coats on the entire front and back of the stand. Adding one piece of white vinyl lattice on the back added really nice contrast.


For the herbs: The ring wall hooks are from Crate and barrel and can be found here. I got them on sale for Memorial Day - score! The self watering pots are linked below from Amazon. I was really skeptical about these pots, but they work amazing! They're sturdy and the water indicator works great.


I love succulents and thought they would make perfect low maintenance plants for the bottom.

Next, there are a lot of herb kits online but I headed over to my local farm and grabbed trays of herbs for $4 each! They are really filling in and growing beautifully. I have yet to find dill and chives so I may order seeds online.


Lastly, we all love Rae Dunn right? I found these Rae Dunn inspired decals on Etsy here. They were affordable, shipped quickly, and easy to put on! 

What is the first herb you would use? What is your favorite recipe with fresh herbs? Let me know below!
I personally love making homemade herb butter and cannot wait to make some over salmon!


4.21.2020

Easter during quarantine


It was so strange to go from 60-70 people at my uncle's house, to only the four of us at home this Easter. Quarantining through Covid19 will never go forgotten. That being said, I did try to make Easter special for my family still. I had planned the menu for a couple of weeks since supplies and ingredients have been hard to find. All worked out luckily! Here is what we made:

Breakfast: Whole wheat pancakes in the shape of a bunny. Two cadbury mini eggs for eyes, a strawberry nose and bow tie, banana slices for cheeks and marshmallows for teeth.


Appetizers: This Pillsbury pull apart bread is a favorite of mine! It is filled with cheese, spinach and seasoning. Wrapped in crescent rolls and placed into a bundt pan. I do find that it needs longer time in the oven than the Pillsbury recipe calls for, so keep that in mind!

I also served my wasabi cream cheese appetizer found here.





Main Course: This stuffed pork from Natasha's kitchen was incredible... truly. We have never made stuffed pork before, but Natasha's recipe was easy to follow and came out perfectly cooked. We will definitely be adding it to our monthly rotation of dinners! Recipe here: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin





Side dishes: I made two sides with the star pork. Corn casserole and deep fried brussels sprouts. The corn casserole recipe has been in my family for years. It is SWEET, almost like a dessert! Sometimes I even leave the sugar out the recipe, and it comes out just as good!

Corn Casserole:

1 can of creamed corn (16 oz)
1 can of corn niblets (16 oz) -- do not drain the water from the can
2 eggs, beaten
8 oz Sour cream
1 stick butter, melted
1 box Jiffy corn mix
1/2 cup sugar *optional*

Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish and bake for 70 minutes on 350 degrees
*I used the red cocottes just for serving, I baked in one round casserole dish


Deep fried brussels sprouts: Cut each brussel in half, and deep fry for 3 to 4 minutes at 350 degrees. Drain on to paper towel and sprinkle with salt immediately. Drizzle on Mikes hot honey and fresh lemon juice. They are the best this way!


Dessert: Brookie parfait - Follow directions to boxed brownie mix, but add in a few balls of store bought cookie dough from the tub/tube. Bake as directed and let cool.
Build the parfait - brownie/cookie mix, chocolate pudding, peanut butter eggs, repeat. Top with whipped cream! Yum!


Happy Easter from my two beauties, Kora and Everett.

Crispy Eggplant Stacks


Similar to eggplant napoleon, these eggplant stacks make a great appetizer! They are unique, pretty and quite delicious! The small drizzle of flavored balsamic adds a sweetness which pairs great with the saltiness from the fried eggplant. A little bit goes a long way.


Serves: 4
Prep/Cook time: 25 minutes


Ingredients:

1 eggplant, peeled and sliced thin
2 eggs, whisked in a bowl
1 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
Oil for frying
1/2 cup marinara, warm (jarred, or homemade)
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Fresh basil, for garnish
2 tbs balsamic (I use raspberry or fig infused)
Salt, to taste



Directions:

1. Dip each slice of eggplant into the whisked eggs. Then into the breadcrumbs until fully coated.

2. In a medium saute pan, heat oil on medium heat.

3. Fry eggplant discs for 60 to 90 seconds on each side, until golden brown. Remove and place onto cooling rack. Salt immediately.

4. On your serving plates, spoon on some sauce. Build your stacks - eggplant, mozzarella, very light drizzle of balsamic - repeat. Garnish top with fresh basil and a final drizzle of balsamic. Serve warm.

3.25.2020

Safari Dinner


As all know, we are in a global pandemic and life is a bit upside down for everybody. That being said, yesterday was day two of quarantine from work, but not for my husband. Kevin works for a local hospital and has been setting up triage and testing sites day and night with the help of the national guard. He will literally leave at 9 PM get home around 1 AM and head back to work by 8 AM. The kids and I really wanted to do something special for him so we planned a Safari dinner, as seen in the movie No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta Jones.


My kids faces were lit up the entire night. To sit on the floor, as a family and eat dinner under a tent, with string lights... it was the perfect evening. I chose an easy menu, one that could be made ahead.



Chicken taquitos are clean to grab and eat - no utensils needed! I sauteed two chicken breasts and then cut into bite size pieces. Next, added a 1/2 cup of corn chipotle salsa, 1/2 cup of Mexican four cheese, and 2 tbs of taco seasoning. It is important to warm the tortillas to prevent them from ripping - a minute and 20 seconds usually does the trick. We normally use corn tortillas, but the flour ones worked amazing this time! Once you spoon a few spoonfuls of the mixture onto the warm tortilla, you simply roll it up and place the open side face down on a baking sheet to prevent it from opening. Bake at 400 degrees, for 18 minutes.

Rice and beans - I am working on getting a recipe up for this one. The beans use my mom's homemade sofrito, which she makes for me, freezes it into cubes and I use a few cubes per can of beans. Sofrito can be store bought but it is incomparable to the real thing!

Steamed broccoli drizzled with garlic olive oil. I heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small pot with thinly sliced garlic cloves. Heating low and slow until the garlic just begins to turn golden in color. . Once the broccoli is steamed and drained, I drizzle the garlic oil right on top.

Lastly, the chili taco cheese dip in the middle, which is one of my most popular pins on pinterest! Find the recipe here.

What are some other themed dinner ideas you’ve done, or would like to do?

3.17.2020

Nancy's Pot Roast



This recipe is so delicious and super easy, too! A lot of recipes out there use beef broth, but my mom, Nancy, uses mushroom soup. The creamy mushroom flavor is a perfect addition to pot roast. Along with the ingredients below, all you'll need is an oven safe dutch oven (with cover) and five hours to spare.


6-8 servings

Ingredients:
4 lb boneless chuck
1 can cream of mushroom soup (10.5 oz)
1 can of red wine (use soup can)
1 can of water (yup, same can)
2 envelopes of lipton onion soup
Fresh basil, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (added in the last hour of cooking)
*optional - serve with roasted or mashed potatoes


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. In a large dutch oven, mix soup, red wine, water, onion soup mix, basil and garlic. Mix to combine.

2. Place beef chuck into the pot and use a spoon to coat the top of the chuck.

3. Bake, covered, for 5 hours total, flipping the chuck halfway into cooking. Add in carrots for the last hour of cooking. One meat is finished, Shred/cut the meat and allow to soak in sauce for 5 minutes before serving. Like most pot roasts, the juice will not be thick, but should be spooned over the meat when serving!

Enjoy!



3.09.2020

Corn Crab Cakes with Corn Succotash

The cake: What is your perfect crab cake? Do you like it bready? Meaty throughout? Baked, or fried?  Spicy sauce or tartar sauce? So many options when it comes to crab cakes! I prefer a meaty cake, with a crispy coating and spicy sauce on the side. This recipe has been one of my favorites for a long time. It was passed to me by my mom, and I have only made minimal changes like leaving out the celery and adding 1/2 cup of crushed saltines into the mixture, rather than 1/4 cup.

Find the recipe here: Corn Crab Cakes by Sheila Lukins & Julee Rosso

The sauce: This spicy cajun remoulade from Whole Foods is everything! I have tried many, but this one is definitely our favorite. Find the Cajun Remoulade here.






















The side: As for the succotash.. it is such a refreshing and colorful side. I think it is one of the most underrated sides out there, to be honest! You can pack so much flavor, yet it is low in sodium and cholesterol. The beans are packed with fiber, and zucchini is a great source of vitamin C. When you are looking for something light, but delicious, succotash is a great option! Here is how I made mine:

Ingredients:
Half of a red pepper, chopped
Half of an orange pepper, chopped,
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 yellow (or white) onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped into cubes
1 11 oz can of sweet corn, drained
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
1 can of small white beans
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Rinse and drain beans. Pour into small sauce pan with one can full of water added to the pan. Simmer on low for about 8 minutes, then drain and set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and 1 tbs of butter on medium low heat. Add in peppers, garlic, onion, and zucchini. Allow them to cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Lower heat, mix in the corn, and beans and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, being sure the zucchini is tender. Add in the butter, salt and pepper and stir until combined. Lastly, remove pan from heat, stir in pineapple and place into a serving bowl.







As for Everett, he certainly approved of this dish. As discussed in one of my previous posts, I started giving both of my kids everything that we eat, starting at a young age. He devoured this crab cake and succotash (no spicy sauce for him lol). Seriously, his plate was empty by the time we all finished! I love seeing them enjoy food, real food!

Flower Apple Pie


I am not a baker. There, I said it. I have baked about 6 pies in my life, all apple. On my third attempt, I tried a new recipe online and have not turned back. It was the only recipe that I saw at the time that precooks the apples. That is HUGE advice when making an apple pie! There is nothing worse than crisp apples in a soft crusty pie - those little babes have to be tender and gooey!

Here is the perfect recipe: https://www.tastesoflizzyt.com/homemade-apple-pie/
I did not make any substitutes or changes - it really is perfect as is!

Now, although I don't bake often, I always wanted to try and design a nice looking pie. You see bakers braid lattice, make beautiful roses, leaves and other flowers. I had purchased a mini cookie cutter set to use for my kids lunch boxes, that would be perfect to decorate our pie!

My 3 year old daughter took the store bought pie dough and cut out each flower one by one using 5 different cutters. She kept them close together, but managed to not cut any edges off. It was the most mind boggled I've ever been.. to see how naturally this came to her. It was a very proud moment!


So in making this pie, I learned a few things:
1. Check off each step as you go. I was so excited about the flowers, I forgot the whole step of putting dots of butter on top of the pie before the dough went on.
2. Once decorated, it is very hard to brush milk on without pieces flying all over the place. It will be necessary to brush each flower and lattice strip BEFORE they go on the pie.
3. Have strips of foil ready to cover the edges of the pie, as they will cook faster than the center. This will allow you to continue cooking full time, without the edges getting much more brown.The center of my pictured pie could've used more time. Thankfully with precooked apples it didn't affect much.
4. Take notice if your oven bakes unevenly. The back of my oven gets hotter than the front so I have to turn my pie throughout.

That's it for now! Looking forward to trying again and again with more designs to come!



2.10.2020

Steak with Truffle Smashed Potatoes


Last month, Kevin and I went to a very elegant restaurant with my parents. We were served the most incredible truffle smashed potatoes. I had to go home and find a recipe that came close, and I did just that! I came across My Gourmet Connection and read through Lynne's potato recipe. It was so simple, that my hopes were not high. I followed the recipe exact, and served the potatoes with the rest of our meal. I topped with scallions because, you know, adding green to any dish makes it complete!


One bite... that is all it took. These truffle potatoes had me melting with happiness into my chair.  I was hooked... If they weren't as fattening as they are, I would truly want to make them everyday! I know in about 6-8 weeks I will be drooling for them again, and I plan to fulfill my craving! If you are a fan of truffle, please try them! Recipe here: https://www.mygourmetconnection.com/crispy-smashed-truffled-potatoes/

Ok, now that my dream potatoes are out of the way, let's talk steak. Kevin picked up a pound and a half of filet mignon, on sale at the local butcher. They were on the thicker side, so Kevin jaccard the steak with this tenderizer. It uses a lot of thin blades to tenderize the steak, and allows a marinade to soak in more quickly. Our seasoning preference for filet mignon, is salt, pepper and a bit of yoshida sauce (found at Costco or on amazon).


Kevin has really perfected his cooking technique for steak. It does help that we have an amazing weber grill, with a grate and a griddle. If you have a griddle also, here is what he does:
Heat grill on high - both the grate and griddle side.
Steaks placed on grate, high heat, and grilled for 4 minutes on the one side only. Lower heat to medium on grate side.
Flip steaks onto the griddle with butter, 2 minutes on each side (griddle only). This will lock in the juice and moisture.
Flip steaks (side down that hasn’t been on grate yet) back on to the grate, medium heat, for an additional 4 minutes.
This will give the beautiful medium rare as shown below for that size/thickness.
Is that perfection or what? Medium rare is where it is at!

On medium heat, I sauteed the asparagus in olive oil for about 6 minutes, tossing around halfway. Seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic herb powder.