Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving menu

I'm taking a bit of a hiatus for the holiday this week (and my birthday!!) but wanted to give you a glimpse of what you have to look forward to when I return....believe me, I'm excited about all of this!  Some of the ones I've made before are linked, but the others will be posted after the holiday...

Tastefully Simple 'Garlic Garlic' dip and 'Onion Onion' dip
JD's southwestern dip (all dips served with tortilla chips, beer bread, and triscuits)
Mallory's tortilla rollups
Aunt Vicki's deviled eggs
Hot corn dip
Cynthia's boursin stuffed mushrooms
Pickle wrap dip

Main courses:
Smoked turkey (which we will prepare exactly as we did this smoked chicken)
Fried turkey
Glazed ham

Oyster dressing
Kratoska family dumplings
BLT pasta salad
Crack potatoes
Twice baked potato casserole
Mom's pasta salad
Maggie's corn macaroni casserole
Sweet corn
Green bean casserole
Stuffing (from a box...I'm not that talented yet!)
Jello salad
Scalloped corn

Grandma's oreo ice cream freeze
Carrot bars
Grandma's brownies
Cinnamon roll cake

Do you think we'll have enough food??

And for breakfast the following morning when I have a houseful of guests, I'm excited to be able to throw one of these breakfast casseroles in the oven!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

29 Years of Thankful

Everyone on Facebook is doing the 30 days of Gratitude thing, but I have too much ADD to remember to do a 'thankful for' status each day. Not that I have nothing to be thankful for, and not that I don't try to remind myself often of how much I have in life, but I am just way better at lists so I figured I would do a list of the things I am most thankful for during my birthday week and Thanksgiving week this year. So here no particular order:

1.  I know I said in no particular order, but he is always the first to pop in my head when I begin to think of how lucky I am.  Justin is everything I've ever needed in a partner, and he gives me more than I would ever ask for every day. He knows how to change my mood in a split second, if I happen to be in a bad one. He is so thoughtful and does all the day to day little things that let me know he's got me on his mind.  A kiss good bye every morning and a hug hello each night goes a long way with this girl...I don't ever feel like we take each other for granted, and think we are both lucky to have had the experiences we have had together, the good ones and the bad ones that make us appreciate each other to the max. I don't doubt the fact that we will spend a whole lotta years together building more memories and having more 'firsts' together each year that goes by...and I couldnt be more thankful for that peaceful feeling he gives me inside.

2. I am so very thankful for my Dad, and this has been even more evident in my mind with recent health issues for Big Dan.  I wouldn't be the person I am today without him, and I can't begin to express my gratitude for the sacrifices and time him and Mama K gave to raise my brother and I into the adults we have become. I know we didn't make it easy, and I only hope that I can instill the lessons we learned from him in my kids someday. I know everyone thinks their parents are the best, but I can honestly say that I would never want to trade mine for anything. Now if we could just get him to eat like I tell him to, we could guarantee his existence for a long time to come!  :)

3. Mama K is just as important to me as Big Dan.  She is my best friend, I can always count on her for an ear when I need her, and I hope she feels the same way about me. She gives me a different perspective on life and is without a doubt, one of the sweetest women I've ever met. I wouldn't be able to live without her...

4. My extended family is just as precious to me as my immediate family. These people all have a little to do with who I am and I would do anything for any one of them. I am very thankful for the relationship I have with all of my aunts and cousins especially, and think it's very important for women to have strong relationships with the other women in their family. I think its amazing that I feel comfortable calling any one of my parent's siblings to chat, or talk about a specific issue without them thinking it's weird.

5. Brother Ben--I won't go all mushy on you, although I doubt you're reading this anyway.  You do know how much I love you is a direct correlation to how much I lecture you on everything from your finances to the girls you associate with, don't you? I am so proud of you and everything you've accomplished, now if you would just listen to me about how you're spending your money, you will be well on your way to being set at the young age of 26!  Love you bunches, brudder! :)

6. My extra poundage gives me great unhappiness most days, but if I truly think about it, the fact that I have never in my life had to worry about where my next meal is coming from is something to be very thankful for.  There are so many people in this world who didn't grow up in as stable a home as I did, and don't get the 3 squares a day that I sometimes take for granted when groaning my way through my workouts.  So I suppose, my pants being tight is a good thing...for now.

7. Justin's family is like a second family to me, I feel so comfortable around all of them and am so glad to have them in my life. I fit right in at the Jamison get togethers and have fun hanging out with Candy when its just us or with the whole family, I am lucky to have such a great relationship with them much so that most of the time, I get the calls and texts and emails before Justin does for family stuff :)

8. My Grandma Theda and Grandpa Benji are my mom's parents and I am so thankful that they are still around as I turn 29 years old. My dad lost all of his grandparents at a young age so I know I am lucky to still have the positive influence, Grandma hugs, and Grandpa stories at my age.  I love you both to pieces, and can't wait to see you this weekend.

9. Speaking of Grandma and grandparents on my dad's side were also a strong influence on me. I am so very glad that I was given such great examples of relationships from both sides of the family....from grandparents, to my parents, to aunts/uncles, and family is loyal and committed and have taught me lots of lessons on how to make it in life, and that there is such a thing as everlasting love.  It's not easy, it's hard work, and sometimes you may not be the happiest...but its worth it when you build a family like the one we've got. I am honored to have been a product of the hard work of all these people.

10. Roo and Sam are def on this list...we lucked out in so many ways getting the best pets in the world!  Roo does not pee, barf, or poop in the house, and is such a cuddle different than other cats who just want to be left alone and pee in hidden places to stink the house up. And who knows where Sam poops, I just know he doesn't do it in the yard so we have to pick it up.  Maybe the corn field is his personal porta-john...I don't care, I just thank him.  He is also very protective of me and the house, he is always sitting at attention when I'm home and making sure no one pulls up unannounced, he's the perfect guard dog with a lot of lover mixed in.  I love them both to pieces!

11. Our home is very important to me. It's a symbol of Justin and I's relationship and all the work we've put into getting it to the point it's finally at...we've done a lot of projects together and picked out everything together and I think that's a great building block to our relationship, it gives us a solid foundation to rest our heads on each night.  I feel it's a statement about us, and how dedicated we are to each other, as well as making our house a home. It is by far my favorite place to be....

12. I am so very thankful for all the birthday calls, messages, texts, facebook posts, cards, etc that I have gotten today. You all sure do know how to make a girl feel loved! Makes me smile inside and out...

13. I am eternally grateful for the American troops that are fighting or have fought for our freedom and the freedom of others. We have lost so many great men and women who are far better than a lot of us who take our freedom for granted, and I truly appreciate the sacrifice them and their families make on a daily basis.

14. Although sometimes I get frustrated at people's thought processes, I am happy to have the freedom to have my own opinion as well as my freedom of speech. I am a stubborn girl to argue with but I guess if some people weren't wrong, then I would have no one to argue I suppose I am happy for other people's freedom of opinion too! :)

15. I am superbly thankful to even have a job, as I know a lot of people are in a bad position in this economy. But my job is not just any job, my boss is one of my great friends and I truly enjoy and care about the company. It helps that I have a very flexible schedule and can wear sweaties and slippers when I feel the need too :) I am very blessed to have gotten the opportunity to meet my boss and get in with Acumen Instruments Corp.

16. I have never had any real health issues in my life and that's definitely something to acknowledge...I had a hole in my heart when I was born, but it closed up on it's own and I've been in great health ever since!

17. I am thankful that I am an emotional person...not too emotional, but I am sensitive to other people's feelings I think.  It's important to be able to read other's emotions as well as feel and decipher your own.

18. I'm glad that I enjoy physical activity and am at least halfway coordinated in sports. I love being active and it makes it easier to stay healthy that I enjoy sports and outdoor activities like my running. I am thankful to have gotten the gumption to pick up running, I love the feeling of it and wish everyone would give it a chance so they could feel the accomplishment and thrill of finishing a race!

19. My girlfriends...and I can't say this one enough. I don't know many other people who have such a close-knit group of girlfriends, and feel very blessed to have such a support network in my life. This is very important to me since I don't have sisters, and I feel like each of us brings something different to the table for the others.  We are all very unique but we work well together and I know that we would all do anything in the world for each other. That's a great feeling to have...

20. I am also thankful for my girlfriends' children...I get to learn all about prenancies and babies before I have to bring one home myself.  I should be a pro by the time it's my turn, but even if I'm not, I know I will have a village of helping hands to support me along the way!

21. I'm very glad that a lot of my friends have such great men in their lives, whether they be boyfriends or husbands, there's not one of them that I don't think has my friend's best intentions at heart. It's great to know your friends are being taken care of so well by the ones they love.

22. My love for food gets my pants in trouble sometimes but I am thankful to be able to appreciate the nicer things in life like good food and good wine. I used to be such a picky eater when I was  younger, and am glad that I have really outgrown most of that and broadened my horizens in the last few years. 

23. Some people don't get the chance to get an education like I did. Whether their grade schools and high schools are just no up to snuff, or they don't have the money or grades to get into college, I feel thankful that my parents instilled in me the desire and the need to get a higher education to push myself further in life.

24. My alma mater...yes I am thankful for ISU's victory last week!  And if you didn't see the game, you should feel very was one of the best games I've ever seen and even better that it made my Cyclones bowl eligable when we were predicted to win only 2 games this season! I am SO PROUD!

25. My love of reading is something I will always be thankful for! No matter where I am at or what mood I am in, I can always escape into a good book. 

26. I used to hate art class, and didn't like being creative. Tell me what to do and I will do it, but don't tell me to come up with an idea on my own.  I got into scrapbooking when I was working in telemarketing in college and was seriously bored to death while on the phones spewing my memorized speech to a million people a night. I am so glad that I began this hobby, although it feels like a chore at times and is time consuming and expensive, it is the neatest thing to be able to grab a book and be transported back in time 5 years.  It's also neat to see how I've progressively gotten better with each book that passes. I make a book for each of my friends when they get married and I hope they cherish them as much as I cherish the ones I have made for myself.

27. I am thankful for the holidays, which give us time each year to count our blessings and spend time with those who really mean something to is so important and I realize that more and more each year. No matter what the holiday, Im lucky to have loved ones to enjoy them with! :)

28. Freedom to make mistakes--I am not perfect, nor is anyone else. We all have to make our own mistakes and follow our own paths to get us where we need to be in life. I have made quite a few of my own, but I don't regret anything that's gotten me to this point.  I am so happy with the path I have forged in the world so far....

29. I am very thankful to still be here looking forward to a happy future after 29 great years of learning, laughter, love, fun, and family on this Earth...may the next 29 be just as wonderful! :)

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spicy shrimp and scallop pasta casserole

I was a little skeptical of this dish.  Salsa and seafood?  Intriguing.  But I do have shrimp and scallops in the freezer so I may as well give this a shot. Sometimes the weirdest things are the ones that come together so nicely...and the blog I read it on just raved about it so I suppose...

It was actually supposed to be just shrimp casserole but I only had one pound of shrimp and the recipe calls for I had to throw in a pound of scallops to make sure we had all the seafood goodness in there we needed.

2 lbs shrimp cleaned, peeled, and deveined (I used one lb of scallops as I said)
16 oz jar of your fave salsa (I used my homemade)
3/4 box of angel hair pasta
1 t oregano
1 t basil
1 t crushed red pepper
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup grated swiss cheese (I had swiss slices so I just layered them on between one of the other layers and hoped they would melt nicely)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 and 1/2 cups half and half (I only had about a half cup left so I just added a cup of chicken broth instead as I was out of milk at the time too, eeeeek)
1/2 cup grated jack cheese

Cook your pasta according to directions and then drain. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, half and half, yogurt, swiss and feta cheeses, parsley, basil, and oregano. Mix until well blended and set aside.

Grease a 9x13 baking dish and spread half the pasta over the bottom of the dish. Now layer on your salsa, put one lb of shrimp on top of that, and then cover it with monterrey jack.  Add the remaining noodles (and here is where I added my sliced swiss if you're using that too), and then the other lb of shrimp (or the lb of scallops like I used).

Now pour the egg mixture right over the top of the full baking dish.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes to allow noodles to soak up all the juice before serving. I served with garlic bread to soak up all the yummy juices...

I'm not sold on this dish 100% yet...I mean, it was good but it wasn't screaming from the rooftops good.  If I made it again I would tweak it by using a creamier sauce to bake in there, or maybe drain some of the liquid from the salsa before layering it on. Gary and Justin both went back for seconds so I know it was edible, but I was left wanting something more instead of having that satisfied, full belly feeling after dinner.

Before I clicked "publish post" I always read through  my writing to check for mistakes in spelling or grammer...and it's a good thing I did this time. I left my blogger interface open on my home computer and funny man Justin thought he would add a little to it....

"And Im a huge food creep that hoards food.  I need some type of treatment to get over this addiction of food photos.  They are like porn to me."

And this is why I love that boy....haha!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crockpot rigatoni bake

Short posts this week, busy getting back into the swing of things with a routine. I was in Texas a couple weekends ago and only back for 3 days to work before taking off to be a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding this was a gorgeous wedding with a beautiful bride and a handsome, loving groom and everything went off without a hitch. I'm a little jealous that they are in Jamaica as we speak, and then get the Thanksgiving holiday off, so they are getting about a 3 week vacation right now...but besides that Im happy to be back at work and my schedule.

Sunday I didn't get much done at home except some much needed relaxing after a busy couple of weeks, and a few dinners made for the week so I wouldn't have to worry about cooking in the evenings.  I have much more exciting things to worry about like getting the mountain of laundry tamed and getting the house cleaned and menu organized for Thanksgiving next week...

So if you're looking for an easy crockpot meal during the week...this is it, folks. Perfection.

2 lbs ground beef (I used Italian seasoned ground turkey)
4 cups beef broth
15 oz can of tomato sauce
12 oz can of tomato paste
1 small onion, chopped
1 t oregano
2 t basil
1 t fennel seed
2 t salt
1 T sugar
1 t black pepper
2 T crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 box rigatoni noodles
2 cans mushrooms
2-3 cups shredded cheese (colby jack, mozz, etc)
1 container ricotta cheese (I used reduced fat)

Brown the turkey and onion and drain before putting it in your lined crockpot. 

In a mixing bowl, add the beef broth, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and spices....whisk together well and then pour on top of the meat mixture. 

Stir together and then cook on high for 4 hours (or add to the fridge to start the next morning, and cook on low for 8 hours while you're at work).

Add the dry unboiled rigatoni and make sure you push them under the sauce and mix them all together.

Add the ricotta to the crockpot by spooning tablespoons of it in random spots and gently push down on the ricotta to submerge it as well (don't stir).

Continue to cook on low for 30 minutes and then sprinkle the surface with shredded cheese.  Put the lid back on for about 5 minutes or until cheese is nicely melted.  Serve! 

I will say that this makes a heckuva lot of pasta! This meal would feed 6 adults easily, or work great for leftovers all week...which is my plan.  I absolutely love this and will be making it again (it's sort of lasagna-esque), I never knew the crockpot got hot enough to boil noodles that quickly so this is an exciting lesson for me.  Im easily entertained, I know...

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ode to Mama K

Today is Mama K's 54th birthday (good thing her internet is down right now or she would probably be mad at me for calling her out on her age) it's Grandma Theda's "giving" birth-day.  I always tell my mom happy giving birth-day on my birthday...because how come no one celebrates the mother who spends hours on end pushing a basketball of a kid out?  That's a much harder task than just being born. AND they didn't use drugs on the reg when my mother's generation was procreating...are you kidding me?! Sooooo glad I am not of that generation...

Anyway, back to the point...Mama K's birthday! Although I don't get to see her today, we do get to do lunch tomorrow when she's in Ames for an appointment, and I have always loved that our birthdays are near the Thanksgiving holiday so we always get to see each other at some point in the next week or so.  I was born a week after her birthday, 29 years ago.  Wowza...I'm getting up there! I remember reading the journal she kept during her pregnancy and thinking:

1. Who goes to get ice cream when their water breaks?
2. My mother is a great writer, I can really feel her emotions when reading her entries (probably why I got the bug to write at such a young age).
3. I'm so glad that she kept a record of this for me to read later in life.

See, that's how my mom is with everything. Even 29 years ago she was writing that journal and I'm sure she was thinking that it would be fun for me to have one day...she's always thinking of other people, she's always so good at "getting" the significance of sentimental things, and always trying to make other people smile with her thoughtful gifts or homemade cards sent just to cheer you up. Yes, she still sends me real mail...she loves me :) 

The Bean in Chicago

She sends me a Valentines card every year year I didn't get one and called asking about it.  She didn't think I would care if I got a Valentine from my mom since I was 27 years old....psh, I look forward to that thing every year! No matter if I have a significant other or not, or was in a good relationship or not, I always have my mom to give me a snail mail hug and kiss on Valentines Day. 

I love her to pieces :)

She also gives the best hugs this side of...well, anywhere. I don't know if she got it from my grandma, or if it's just a mom thing, but those two can hug, let me tell you. It's like their arms somehow make a little love envelope for me to crawl into, and their necks and crevices are there for my arms and chin to fit perfectly into, and I don't ever want to get out of a Grandma or Mom hug whenever I get in there. I'm sure it looks a little odd, we will just stand there and chit chat in mid-hug swaying back and forth because no one wants to let go. 
Grandma Theda and I a couple Thanksgivings ago...

I should probably thank Grandma Theda for my 8th grade dance outfit too. It was a black silk skirt with big purple 70's style flowers on it and a purple top....and I just LOVED it. And Mom just HATED it. I didn't have a job in 8th grade (child labor laws and all) so it was up to her to purchase my outfit...and I begged, and begged, and begged for it.  She wasn't having it, and then she just switched her tune and said to go ring it up. I wasn't going to ask questions, I ran up to the register at The Buckle in Carroll as fast as I could! Only later did I find out that Grandma had done the same thing for Mom...except hers was a pair of shoes I believe.  Hideous to Grandma, and Mom was going to die without them.  They left the store and went home and to Mom's surprise...the shoes were at the house the next day. Grandma went back and got them for her after she saw how much she loved them.  I will always remember that 8th grade dance outfit for that reason...I can't even remember the dance, but the outfit is ingrained in my memory.  I guess that means if my kid wants to wear a squirrel on their back, I have to pay it forward?

You can't really see the skirt but you get the gist...

Besides her exceptional hugging ability and her willingness to do pretty much anything for anyone just to make their day better, I truly (and am not saying this just because she's my mom) think that she is almost too good of a person...if there is such a thing.  She is the most caring individual I have ever met in all my 29 years...if she's having the worst day of her life and breaks down to me, she apologizes to me for bothering me.  If she's busier than a one armed paper hanger, she will drop whatever she's doing if I need to talk.  If she has a friend who is having a baby or getting married or some other huge event in their life, it's not uncommon for her to spend hours making a handmade gift perfectly for them because she cares so much.  She is someone who we could all learn from actually....true friends are the ones who do the big things and the small things for you, the ones who spend the time to make you smile. 

Don't take life too seriously, folks...

She is actually the main reason I want to have children.  The relationship I have with my mother is unlike a lot of people I know, she truly is one of my best friends and I talk to her about a lot of things most people wouldnt discuss with their mothers. She is so supportive of anything I am doing or am going through, yet doesn't judge me if she doesn't agree with something.  I am so grateful to have had her in my life growing up and feel even more blessed to have the close knit relationship I have with her as an adult. I can't imagine my life without her, and don't know how I will ever go about losing her sometime down the road, but I do know that I want to be what she's been to me to someone else...I can't imagine not passing down the love, generosity, compassion, and stability she has given to me throughout the years. It will not be wasted on will continue on through my family.  I love you more than words can express, Mama K!! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tuna macaroni casserole

This is not my normal tuna noodle casserole recipe. Mama K makes it better than anyone else...there's even potato chips on top!! She also adds frozen peas (blech! The only veggie that Justin and I both hate with a passion)...and when I make her version I started adding mushrooms and onions. Justin loves the stuff...I get all excited about basil-y chicken and he can't control himself around tuna noodle casserole. Go figure. But I saw this in my Food magazine and thought maybe I should give another recipe a try and see if we can't improve on an oldie but goodie.

1/2 box wheat elbow macaroni
1 cup panko
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1.5-2 cups shredded mexican cheese
2 T olive oil
1 small diced yellow or white onion
3 T all purpose flour
2 cups low sodium chicken broth (I didn't have this on hand like usual so I used boiling water and chicken boullion to make my broth)
1.5 cups whole milk (I used the rest of my fat free half and half)
2 cans (5 oz each) albacore tuna, drained and flaked
I also added 1 can mushrooms

Preheat oven to 425 degrees if you're going to cook this right away. I made it the night before and left it in the fridge for Justin since I had dinner plans that evening with friends and he had been pushing snow all night.  I like him to have a good meal in his belly before going to bed after not sleeping all night and drinking coffee and eating gas station food.  I lurve him :)

Boil water to cook pasta until it is a couple minutes undercooked. Drain and toss together with tuna and mushrooms.

In saucepan, heat 2 T olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened (about 8 minutes).  Add flour and whisk to coat onion with flour.

Slowly shisk in broth, then milk.  Cook, stirring constatly, until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened, about 8 minutes.

Stir sauce into pot with pasta and tuna, mix evenly. Transfer tuna mixture to a 9x13 baking dish and cover with shredded cheese. Mix panko, parmesan, and 2 T olive oil thouroughly. Top the tuna mixture with the panko mixture and bake until sauce is bubbling and crust is golden, 17-20 minutes (if you're throwing it in the oven from the fridge, I would go 25-30 minutes since you're starting it cold rather than hot).  Let cool before serving!

I liked it alot but I wasn't home when Justin ate this so I texted him to ask him how it was.  His foodie critic eloquent response? "It's ok. Don't really care for the crumbly shit on top."  There it is, folks....I guess if you're not a crumbly shit person then this dish is not going to be high on your fave list! I guess if it ain't broke, I shouldn't go trying to fix it, so I'll probably just stick with our tried and true recipe from here on out. But from the looks of the pan...either he was hungry, or it really wasn't all that bad.  :)

Fat Stats (serves 8):
357 cals per serving
8 g fat
22 g protein
49 g carbs
3 g fiber

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cheesy basil stuffed chicken

Basil is my new fave.  Maybe it's not new, I've been loving the crap out of it all summer.  But I never knew how much I really loved it until this dish.  It's straight up basil much basil and garlic flavor I could burst! I absolutely adored this chicken, Justin cleaned his plate but wasn't begging for more. To each his own I guess...
I wouldnt say this is the healthiest chicken breast I've ever prepared but it's under 350 calories per breast so if you add a veggie for a side, it's not horrible either.  Did I say that this is packed with BASIL and GARLIC flavor??  I did...ok, just didn't want you to miss out on that tidbit!

1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese (I used shredded mexican 2% cheese because it's what I had in the fridge)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil (this is my new fave product instead of keeping fresh basil around when I don't have my planter growing on the deck)
2 T heavy cream (I used fat free half and half since I had it leftover in the fridge and refuse to use heavy cream in any recipe)
1 T lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I only had 3 so I stuffed 'em full)
3 T mayo (I always use fat free)
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2 T olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes (I cut up 2 small tomatoes since I didn't have any cherry tomatoes)

I know this seems like a lot of ingredients, but the only thing I didn't have laying around was the mozzerella, and my substitution worked just fine! Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the shredded cheese, minced basil, cream, lemon juice, and minced garlic.

Cut a pocket in the chicken breasts and stuff them with the cheese mixture, sealing with toothpicks if needed. Transfer the chicken to the baking dish and spread evenly with the fat free mayo.

In your mixing bowl (I used the same one I used for the stuffing mixture so I had less dishes at the end), combine the bread crumbs, 1 T olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle crumb mixture over chicken, pressing lightly to adhere. Toss tomatoes with remaining T of olive oil, 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper and arrange them in the baking dish on top and surrounding the chicken cutlets.

Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and chickn is cooked through (internal temp of 160 if using a thermometer) which took me about 25 minutes.

After you stop drooling from looking at your plate and smelling all the flavors, dig on in! Doesn't look so pretty but sure did taste beautiful :)

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Roasted tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons

6 cups cherry tomatoes
3 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 t pepper
2 T butter (I used light)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped onion
1 can diced tomatoes (I didnt have this so I diced up 2 large tomatoes)
4 cups chicken broth (I used low sodium, low fat)
1 cup whipping cream (I used fat free half and half)
I also added 1/2 cup fresh basil, diced up

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the cherry tomatoes with 2 T of olive oil and salt and pepper, then transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer. 

Roast the tomatoes until they are shriveled with brown spots, about 30 minutes.

In a large pot, heat the butter and the remaining T of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice (or the diced tomatoes with their juice), the broth, the basil, and the roasted tomatoes, including any liquid on the baking sheet. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. How flipping pretty is that??

Using a food processor or blender, puree the soup until its smooth.

Return it to the pot and stir in the cream (or half and half). Without letting the soup boil, warm it over medium heat, stirring often, until steaming. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Make yourself some grilled cheese croutons for serving! If you don't know how to do this, don't worry...when I went to college I didn't either. I had no idea you had to butter the bread!  So here's a quick tutorial in case you were a lazy kid like me who left the burning of the grilled cheese to your mom:

1. Butter one side of each piece of bread
2. Lay bread buttered side down into greased skilled
3. Layer cheese on top of that (I used one slice of American and one slice of Swiss but Pepperjack is killer in there if you have it)
4. Throw your other piece of bread on top, buttered side up. I usually sprinkle each buttered side with some thyme for a little flava.
5. Don't burn them like Mama K always did (sorry for calling you out, Mom)! Keep checking the bottoms and flip when golden brown.
6. When cheese is melted and toast is perfectly browned, you have just made your first grilled cheese. 

It sounds easy, and it is...but it really is quick to burn so be careful!

Cut our grilled cheese up in bite sized pieces once it cools for a few minutes so the cheese doesn't ooze out....that would be catastrophic!  Throw them into your steaming soup and serve immediately so they don't get super soggy...

Justin is always a huge fan of grilled cheese, so he was easy to please with that aspect.  He wasn't real up on the tomato soup though...he said it's just as easy and good to eat the Campbell's Select tomato basil we usually do..and he's correct.  BUT I had cherry tomatoes up the wazoo and any good food hoarder knows you shouldn't waste food when there's starving kids in Etheopia! I really liked it though, maybe due to the feeling of accomplishment of making my first soup besides chicken or beef noodle...who knows.  I will tell you that soup weather is upon us whether you like it or this really hit the spot in front of the fireplace that night!  But you decide for yourself....

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Roasted tomatoes with shrimp and feta

Oh. My. Goodnessgraciousgoodgodalmighty.  This stuff is heaven. I knew I would like it..I mean it has basil, shrimp, tomatoes, olive oil, these are right up there on my yum-worthy taste charts. But I didn't know I would fall in LOVE with this dish. And Justin liked it to boot (which actually did surprise me a bit)! I assumed this would be one of the "it's alright" meals for him...he doesn't have a hankering for shrimp, like ever. He just eats it when it's in front of him. He's a good dude like that :)  But he wolfed this stuff down...I mean there were no leftovers...none.

The sauce was flipping phenomenal...I don't have descriptive words for the party that was going on in my mouth here. I love me a good dippy sauce just like the next gal, but I really think I will do some angel hair pasta with this next time too. It was perfect to just soak up all the glory with some crusty bread but I think this would be amazing on a bed of thin pasta...will report back when I try it next time! Anyway, this is the newest edition to the "favorites" tab...

5 large tomatoes, cut into 1/8ths
3 T olive oil
2 T minced garlic (I didn't have any, GASP, so I used a bunch of garlic powder instead)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb medium shrimp (uncooked and tails taken off...this means get the grey ones and not the pink ones that are precooked)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 T lemon juice
1 cup feta, crumbled
crusty bread, for serving (or pasta if you so choose)

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the tomatoes in a large baking dish and spoon the olive oil and garlic over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast them on the top rack of the oven for 20 minutes. 

Remove the baking dish from the oven and stir in the shirmp, basil, feta, and lemon juice.

Return the dish to the oven until the shrimp are cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Serve warm with the bread. Justin called it shrimp soup, but you can call it whatever you want...just give it a try, you will thank me later!

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Monday, November 7, 2011

S'mores bars

The plan was to make a plate of these to bring to the new neighbors (yesssss, the house next door finally sold and the couple that moved in is our age)...but, that didn't quite happen. Justin said I was an 80 year old for baking for the new neighbors so I got nervous they would think the same thing...we don't want them to get the impression that we're not hip, now do we?  So I brought the whole pan to our Halloween party, which was really Brandy's surprise 30th birthday party, which turned out great!  As you know, Im not much into desserts but these are a smash hit when they're right outta the oven....when they cool off they're alright but you def want to serve these warm (Amanda was visiting from Texas and couldn't keep her hand out of the pan!

Here's what you'll need:

1/2 C. margarine or butter, melted
1/2 C. packed brown sugar
1 C. flour
1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs (about 1/2 a package graham crackers)
2 C. mini marshmallows (or as many as you'd like)
1/2 (12 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips

Beat margarine or butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add combined flour and crumbs; mix well. Press onto bottom of greased 9 inch square baking pan. I started out with a fork but I ended up using my hands like I was spreading a pizza dough...

I doubled the recipe too so I could make a standard 13x9 baking dish full of smore bar love. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and then marshmallows.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown. I had to let them cool before cutting them so they could harden up, but before serving just throw them in the microwave quick for the melty smore like quality.  Word to the wise...don't try these after you brush your teeth or you will think they are horrible and almost throw them away.  They are actually quite delightful so don't throw them away.  :)

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Apple pie shots

This is Manda from Chicago Texas New Orleans...she calls this "poison" because she's been hurt by it before.  The guy who gave me the recipe from the bar called these shots "legspreaders" because girls love the taste and end up on their faces.  I like to call it "warm apple pie"....sounds a lot more inviting than either of those, not?  It's sort of a Halloween staple, and I like to have a huge batch so there are leftovers for me to sip on throughout the winter in a warm mug before bedtime. 

The thing is, these taste amazing, but if you're not careful they can bite you in the tush...either right away, or in the form of a horrid headache the following day. It's the Everclear...the stuff is wicked.  BUT, if you are a sipper and watch your intake, this is a very relaxing Winter beverage as well.

1 quart apple juice
1 gallon apple cider
1 bottle everclear
1 container cinnamon sticks
1 cup sugar
vodka to taste is optional

Add everything but the alcohol to a large stockpot and bring it to a boil for 5 minutes. Let it cool and add the alcohol when it's chilled.

Mix and funnel back in the containers for storage (this recipe is from a bar so they made large batches....aaaaaand I usually double it! You don't have to use a skeleton beer bong funnel...but I don't see why you wouldn't.

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