Friday, March 30, 2012

Pesto Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Monday night Kaydin and I had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. One of my trusty favorites for a quick and easy meal.  Tim, however, is not as fond of this meal.  A couple years ago when I needed something for supper for all of us one weeknight, I made this meal. He wasn't impressed. Turns out it's just not one of his favorite meals. Soup in general is just not a go-to for him.  Men!
It is a go-to for Kaydin and I, though. Actually this winter it was an everyday for Kaydin. All the girl wanted was soup! Then she was in a sandwich phase for awhile.  So anyway, when Tim is away with meetings on Monday nights, Kaydin and I get to come up with our own meal.  And since she is soup-and-sandwich-obsessed, she was excited about this one!

This soup is my favorite! Not homemade but still just as good!
Note- I tried the low sodium kind to have better nutrient stats, but it is just not as good as the regular. I think I'll be switching back next time.  Pour this in your bowl and pop in the microwave and the soup is all done. Now to the sandwich...
I use this little baby to make paninis and hot sandwiches.  One of my Black Friday buys a couple years ago at Target.  Not the highest quality, I'm sure, but hey- it was $3 and it does the job!
I spray my bread with olive oil using a mister I picked up at Trader Joe's last year. I like misting it rather than slathering the slices with butter. A little healthier this way.

To make my grilled cheese sandwiches extra good I add a couple different kinds of cheese and also some of my homemade pesto! Yep, pesto. And homemade. Everyone should make their own pesto. Super easy! I'll be posting about that later this summer.  It was actually my friend, Summer,who taught me how to make it and lets me steal some of her basil every summer.
The cheese I used this time was deli slices of American and some shredded mozzarella. I have been adding shredded mozzarella since high school. One night when a bunch of us were hanging out on the weekend we decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches. One of my friends added the mozzarella, something I hadn't tried before. It made it so much better! And that's how I've been making them ever since! Try it!
Close the top and in a couple minutes you'll have toasted bread and ooey, gooey cheese and pesto. Perfection!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Breakfast Smoothies

This morning Kaydin asked for a chocolate smoothie with ice cream in it.  Well, she would have loved it with ice cream but that wasn't gonna happen at 7:30 in the morning. I knew what she really meant, though. When Tim makes his protein smoothies it is inevitable that Kaydin will be right at his feet in .2 seconds asking for a drink.  She hovers and hugs and puts her lip out until she gets a drink.  Tim's smoothies are sometimes like an ice cream shake. So even though she asked for ice cream, what she was really wanting was a protein smoothie with fruit.  I whipped up one for her and one for me in 6 minutes. That took getting the ingredients out, making both of them, and then putting everything away again.  Healthy and quick! That's my kind of breakfast!

 My smoothie included:
  • 3 tsp Optimum Nutrition chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup vanilla coconut milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup flax seeds
I used my Magic Bullet blender to get it all smoothie-fied and we were out the door!

Kaydin requested the following in her smoothie:
  • milk- "from the cow, not coconut milk", as she said
  • 1 frozen banana
ok- quick side note about the banana- She came into the kitchen just as I was getting started on her smoothie. At this point I had only put the banana into the glass.  She quickly says, "Ewww, I don't want a hot dog in it!!"  Through my outburst of laughing I informed her that it was not a hot dog but a banana. A banana she was ok with but let me know she did not want a hot dog in her breakfast!  Ok, back to the ingredients.
  • handful of frozen pineapple and strawberries
  • 2 tsp Optimum Nutrition chocolate whey protein powder
You can use lots and lots of variations to make a nutritious and filling breakfast smoothie. What's your favorite combination?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Corned beef paninis

This year St. Patrick's Day came and went without any Irish food consumed or green clothing worn.  I went to the Flower and Garden show wearing black and ate Mexican food that evening with a couple friends.  I did have a corned beef...roast, brisket...whatever you call a chunk of corned beef in the freezer, though.  I really needed to get it used up so I threw it in the crockpot overnight not quite sure what I would do with it.  I turned it to the "keep warm" setting for the day while I was at work.

While at work for the day I decided I would make some type of panini sandwich.  A Reuben is typically what's made with corned beef.  Neither Tim or I are too fond of sauerkraut, though. Or Swiss cheese.  So with those couple changes I came up with our take on the Reuben, which isn't really a Rueben at all. Ok here we go...
I picked up a loaf of marbled rye and a few slices of provolone cheese at Hy-Vee after work.
For the sauce on the sandwich I decided to go with a little bit of mayo and spicy brown mustard.
Layer it all together on the sliced bread and throw on a sandwich press. Make sure to shred all the meat by hand, though, so you can get out all the fat. No fat will make it onto my sandwich!!
Well rounded plate: steamed broccoli, Isreali couscous Greek salad, homemade crispy French fries, and corned beef panini.

On one half of my sandwich I added some mushrooms. I had a carton of baby bella sliced mushrooms so I sauteed them up with some olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, and a clove of crushed garlic.

Let the mushrooms saute away, stirring occasionally.

Friday, March 23, 2012

DIY kitchen canisters

I completed a new craft project! All on my own this time! My baking cupboard was getting out of control. I have used some canisters before but just didn't like them enough to stick with them. Well this time I had a new idea, one I've seen making its way through Pinterest. 

This is just what I had on hand that was needing a jar. All of this stuff was just shoved in the cupboard above my stove.  Now that I've filled my jars, I have thought of and found more things that I would like to get transferred over. 
I think it was fate that I made myself get started on this project because Hobby Lobby has their glass on sale for 50% the week I went and picked them all out!  Keep watch for me because I'm needing more!! I grabbed that wine bottle as a last minute decision with the idea of filling it with my grains, legumes, etc.

I grabbed some masking tape from the Dollar Tree for a buck, the chalkboard paint from Micheal's for $.63 (I used the weekly 40% off coupon. I thought I would use it for something else more substantial but didn't find it. I had the coupon so used it anyway.), and I had the sponge brush at home already.

First, I taped off a square on all the jars.  I cannot draw a straight line to save my life but I think I did ok with laying the masking tape in straight lines.

Once the tape is laid, paint away.  I did two coats on each jar to get rid of the streaks. Be careful when peeling the tape off, though, because the paint pulled up on some the edges. I also had a few smudges where paint got under the tape.  I just used a Q-tip to clean up the excess paint and make it a straight line again.
All filled! I still have a ways to go on filling the wine bottle but I ran out of stuff I already had on hand to put in it.
Now I'm excited for them to come on sale again so I can add more to the collection!
Other things I want to add to them are quinoa, Israeli couscous, other sugars, steel cut oats, my list could go on and on!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Prosciutto wrapped asparagus

I bought a bunch of asparagus just over a week ago.  I knew I wanted to use some of the asparagus for a "recipe" I had seen many times online and in magazines over the last couple years. I had some prosciutto in the freezer leftover when I used it for pizzas a couple months back.  Perfect! Now I just had to actually put the two together. I couldn't keep putting it off because the asparagus was entering the use it or lose it stage.  
Monday night I finally pulled the prosciutto from the freezer and trimmed up the asparagus.  

Next, I wrapped the spears in all of the remaining prosciutto I had in the freezer. I tore the meat in half and that was still plenty to wrap around the asparagus.  And because I am a fat-phobe, I tore off all the extra fat along the edges of the slices.  Now matter what kind of meat, whether it's ham, chicken, steak, pork chops-- anything, I will spend more time prepping the food that actually eating it. That is prepping it by removing ANY and ALL visible fatty or grissely pieces. If I miss even a little bit and it ends up in my mouth, it will for sure be coming back out! Just.can'! I remember when I was little at family gatherings a cousin, aunt, and uncle actually fought for the fat chunks off the meat. Just thinking about that grosses me out!! Ick!

After baking in the oven for about 20 minutes the aspargus is roasted and the prosciutto crispy.  The combination is great! Tastes like it's wrapped in bacon but even better. And way less fat! ;)

So this is what you can call a no-recipe recipe.  Just two ingredients and pop 'em into a 425 degree oven.

It's almost asparagus season! I'll be home over the next couple weekends. With all the early blooms this year I hope the asparagus is growing already, too. You better believe I will be back at Mom and Dad's searching the ditches!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Superstar, part 2

Right at a year ago  Kaydin was part of a photo shoot with the Iowa Department of Public Health for their Pink A Better Snack program.  It was lots of fun and she did a really good job! She even earned her first paycheck! Well they actually paid her in cash but we still have that $20 bill. We've been meaning to frame it for her just haven't thrown it in one yet. 
Anyway, as pictures are getting used and chosen where to be placed, I have been getting notified.  Last fall her picture was used as posters and placed in Wal-Marts and Hy-Vees throughout the Des Moines metro area.  A couple months ago I got an email that her pictures were being used on a few billboards this spring. Last weekend when Mom and her friend, Carla, were here we set to find them.  As of now, only one is up. It's at 2nd and Forest Ave. The other should  be up any time now and that one is at SE 14th St and Maury.  More will also go up in April.  If you are in these areas be on the lookout!!
I spotted this billboard before we even crossed University Ave.  I told Kaydin I could see her big picture.  It was so fun to see her reaction when she saw herself so big! She was so giddy and excited!

You may remember me mentioning a meeting Kaydin and I went to a few weeks ago.  We visited a local talent agency in Des Moines that places you with clients for photo shoots.  I submitted a few good shots including her pictures from this shoot.  After seeing her pictures, he wanted to meet with her.  He loved her look and wants to work with her! It will just be a hobby with shoots coming sporadically and hopefully add to her college fund along the way!

I'll post more billboards as we find them ;)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Dessert Extravaganza

Last weekend Kaydin and I made the trip up north to Mom and Dad's house.  Of course traveling up there meant submitting a menu! :) This time my requests included cream puffs, monkey bread, and egg rolls.  I hadn't had any of these things in far too long. It was time they make an appearance!

Cream Puffs
Mom has made cream puffs for as long as I can remember.  An easy batter made of flour and eggs.  This time she made mini puffs using a cookie scoop coated in flour after every scoop so the batter wouldn't stick.

Whip up some French vanilla instant pudding and cover the puffs
Cream Puffs
Recipe from Mom
1/2 stick butter
1 cup water
1 cup flour
dash of salt
4 eggs

2 packages of French vanilla pudding mix
4 cups cold milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring the water and butter to a boil in a saucepan. Add the flour and salt. Remove from heat. Stir til combined and dough makes a ball.  Let cool.  Using a mixer, add the eggs one at a time.

Drop the dough on a greased baking sheet.  Use a small cookie scoop coated in flour after each scoop so the dough does not stick to the cookie scoop.  Bake for 40-50 minutes.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Josh whipped up this pie in about 3 minutes with the help of a pre-made graham cracker pie crust.

We preferred to use a fresh whipped cream topping but Cool Whip was already in the fridge. This saved us a trip to the store in town. :)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Recipe from Josh's culinary imagination
1 pre-made pie crust
1 package of milk chocolate instant pudding
2 cups cold milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
Cool whip or fresh made whipped cream

Mix pudding according to the directions on the package.  Add peanut butter to pudding mix.  Pour pudding into the pie crust.  Top the pie with whipped cream.

Monkey Bread
Monkey bread was something we made every few months growing up.  It had been since at least middle school since I had had this recipe. I don't even know how I thought of adding it to my list of requests, but when I did I texted Mom right away before I forgot! 
Kaydin got in on the shaking action needed to assemble this monkey bread.  Monkey bread is usually made in an angel food cake pan, but since we had so many other sweets going on this weekend we decided to halve the recipe and just bake it in a small glass baking dish.

Here is the first layer of goodies!

Once it comes out the oven, you need to invert in onto a plate of deep dish bowl so the caramel sauce oozes down onto all of the biscuit pieces.
Caramely, nutty, goodness! 

Monkey bread
Recipe from Mom
4 tubes of buttermilk biscuits
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

Sauce3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the biscuit dough in quarters. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a large ziploc bag.  Add the biscuit dough to the bag in batches and shake until coated.  Place the dough pieces in a greased angel food cake pan (not the kind that is two pieces, the sauce will leak out the pan). Add pecans.

To make the sauce, bring the butter, sugar, and cinnamon to a boil in a saucepan.  Pour the sauce over the biscuit dough. Bake for 30 minutes.

Kaydin approved of all the desserts. She hastily made her dessert decision of Curious George fruit snacks that Dad picked out for her stay. Once she saw our picks, she made the rounds to everyone conning them of bites of their desserts. I think she was pretty successful in her journey!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles have always been one recipe that I make better than Mom! This meant that while growing up, I was the one that made the Snickerdoodles.  They are not my most favorite dessert, but Mom loves them so I decided to whip a quick batch before my trip back to my parents' house this past weekend.   

Soft and Chewy Snickerdoodles
Recipe from Our Best Bites
1 3/4 cups sugar (12.25 oz), divided
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups (12.5 oz) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt*
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter* (not margarine) at room temp
8 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
*if using salted butter, just omit table salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in shallow dish and set aside.  Whisk flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.
Beat butter, shortening, and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
Reduce speed of mixer to low and slowly add flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds.  Give dough final stir to ensure that no flour pockets remain.
Working with 1-2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll into balls.  Working in batches, roll dough balls in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat and set on prepared baking sheet spaced 1-2 inches apart.
Bake 1 sheet at a time until edges of cookies are set and just barely beginning to brown, but centers are still soft and puffy, about 10-12 minutes.  The cookies should look raw between the cracks and seem underdone.  Let cookies cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature.  Makes about 2 dozen 3-4 inch cookies.

This was just one of the many sweet treats we had throughout the weekend. More on that to come.

This week Kaydin is enjoying a Spring Break vacation back at Grammy and Papa's. That means a vacation for me, too! Although mine isn't as fun as hers. I'm still working all week and cleaning the apartment. I get so much more done when there's not a little girl behind messing up what I clean.  Last night I tackled her closet.  In 30 minutes I had it organized and lots of junk removed.  Now to keep the motivation going and finish up her messy room! :)
It won't be all work and cleaning this week, though.  When Kaydin is away it means more quality time with Tim! We don't have any big plans, but I have a few fun things in mind!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mint Chip Milkshake

Earlier this week Kaydin and I whipped up a quick milkshake for a quick evening treat. I never keep ice cream on hand but when it was cheap at the grocery store a couple weeks I threw it in the cart.  It came together really easily using my immersion blender. I don't use this little kitchen tool too often, but it's one I'm really glad I have.  
For the milkshakes I used the vanilla and a little bit of the chocolate ice cream from a Neapolitan mix (I would never choose Neapolitan but I let Kaydin choose).  Instead of using regular milk I added some of the coconut milk I picked up at Trader Joe's last week.  <-- Sooo good! Try it when you get the chance! I even caught Kaydin drinking from the carton after I poured in what we needed for the milkshakes.  To add just a little extra to the mis I added some Andes mint chips I have had in the cupboard.

A quick spin with the immersion blender was enough to get everything mixed just right!
 This is a little dessert I would love to have a few times per week! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Crockpot Yogurt

Right at two years ago I started making my own yogurt. I knew it was easy and I knew it was much  healthier.  I got to decide how to sweeten and flavor it, there was no chemicals or fake sugar, and wayyy cheaper!
First, you start out by pouring a 1/2 gallon of milk into a crockpot.  Turn the crockpot on high and let heat up for 1 1/2 hours.  Then, unplug the crockpot and let it sit with the lid still on for 2 1/2 hours. After the time is up, add one 6 ounce container of plain yogurt and one packet of nonfat dry milk. I use the dry milk because I use skim milk.  The dry milk makes the end result thicker.  If you use milk with a higher fat content, it will thicken more and you may not need the dry mlk.  Stir carefully and just until mixed.

Next, cover the whole crockpot with a blanket or towel and leave untouched for 6-10 hours.  I time mine so I'm wrapping the crockpot up right before I go to bed.  The longer you leave it sit, the tangier and thicker it will be.

In the morning you will wake up to yogurt! Nice and thick!

This is how much whey accumulated after sitting in the frig for a couple days.  I have read that you can strain it with cheesecloth and it will then be really thick and creamy like Greek yogurt.

It did work! but- it was a messy process! One I probably will not do again. Besides the whey is good for you! Just makes the yogurt not as thick.
To the yogurt you can add whatever you like!  We've used grape preserves, orange marmalade, honey, raw sugar, agave, pureed berries, kiwi chunks, peaches.  So many possibilities!   I also use it as sour cream.  The yogurt will last in your frig 7-10 days. (Although I've kept it longer.)  You can then use some of your homemade yogurt as your starter for the next round of making it in the crockpot! I have used it in the past but usually don't make it back to back so I just end up buying the plain yogurt starter from the store each time.

For more detailed information, check out this post.  If you are needing more slow cooker inspiration, browse around this site. She used her crockpot EVERYDAY for one whole year!!

Let me know how your yogurt turns out!