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Santa Came Early!

14 Dec

Santa came early, and he arrived on a Home Depot truck! Check out what he squished through the chimney:

stove 006Well, maybe it was two delivery dudes on the truck and they came through the front door, but it felt like Christmas!

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One of the first things we needed to replace in our house was the old range…we moved in 10 months ago…nothing like procrastination! The previous stove was pretty dirty, it took an eternity to heat the oven, and I almost singed my hair (and poor Kevin almost lost his eyebrows) on numerous occasions while lighting the burners.

This may be the only pic I have with the old stove in it

We went with a stainless steel LG freestanding range with a double oven. I have been wanting a double oven range since I discovered them last year. What a fabulous idea! The bottom is big enough for a large turkey (so they say) and the top is big enough for a tray of rolls or cookies. It is the perfect invention. Why heat an entire oven if you are making a small tray of stuffed peppers for two people? Yes, stuffed peppers is a totally random example, but I made some last night with our beautiful new oven and I am going to share the recipe in a second….

We purchased the stove and 2 other appliances (that I will share later) at Home Depot on Cyber Monday. I actually went into the store and got the same price as on-line. Score! We paid less than $1,000 for this range (with free delivery), and I see now that it is $1,349.10. That makes me happy. Now we need to update the rest of the kitchen (new floor, cabinets, countertops…ugh).

Until then I will enjoy cooking on our beautiful range! The first creation that came out of this bad boy was Stuffed Red Peppers.

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Because I was making this up as I went along the measurements are not exact…

Turkey and Squash stuffed Red Peppers

  • 6 red peppers (seeded and tops cut off)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 5 mini portabella mushrooms diced
  • 1/2 large onion (or 1 small onion I suppose) diced
  • 4 servings of cooked brown rice
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 25.5 oz. jar of butternut squash pasta sauce (yes this is the most random ingredient ever, but I think this is what made the dish sooo good. I got a 2 pack of these at cost-co for about $7 just to try it out, and I will definitely be getting more)

sauce 003

Get cookin’:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 (this serious took no time at all!) and grease the bottom of an oven safe dish/corning ware-set aside.
  2. Cook turkey in a skillet until browned. Add onions, mushrooms, and salt. Cook until onions are soft.
  3. Mix in the brown rice.
  4. Place peppers in the dish and fill with turkey/rice mixture.
  5. Spoon most of the sauce over the peppers, replace the tops of the peppers, then add remaining sauce.
  6. Cover and cook for 40 minutes, remove and enjoy!

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I wasn’t sure how these would turn out but Kevin and I really liked them. I am a huge fan of peppers and onions. Any time I order pizza it always has green pepper and onions, and they are also pretty tasty on an omelet. Do you like stuffed peppers? What do you like on your pizza? Have you been the happy owner of an LG appliance? Or maybe even a double oven range?

Have a lovely Wednesday and enjoy these last 12 days of Christmas!

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White Chocolate Peppermint Granola Bars

27 Nov

Ok, so…I was going to try to be healthy and make a granola bar…but the candy cane kisses were calling my name at the grocery store, so I made a semi-healthy alternative to a Christmas cookie for week three of Kim’s Dare to DIY link party.
Dare to DIY

This week is “Dare to…eat cookies!”  Kim’s skillet cookie looks Ahhhmazing, so you should probably stop by and check it out.

What I have to share today is White Chocolate Peppermint Granola Bars:

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I know that sounds like a lot, and maybe kind of strange, but they are actually pretty good!  I wanted to make something I wouldn’t feel too bad eating and I have always wanted to try to make my own granola bars.  I think they are the perfect breakfast food.  I am always in a hurry in the morning, so I can grab one and go.

I found a basic recipe for granola bars on allrecipes.com (that site really has great recipes), and I substituted Craisins (left over from the turkey wrap I made last week) for raisins and added chopped up peppermint kisses.

GranolaBar

Here is what you need for my version:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 24 Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 8 x 11 inch baking pan.
  2. Chop up the kisses.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, Craisins, kisses and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.
  5. Enjoy!

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Have you done any baking yet this holiday season?  Any plans to make cookies?  I will definitely be making other cookies when it gets closer to Christmas….

I hope you had a great weekend; see you soon (hopefully)!

Also linking up at Centsational Girl’s Cookiepalooza!

Turkey Cranberry Wrap

25 Nov

Wow. I seriously think I am still full from last night! Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving? How many calories do you think you consumed? I know I had way too many. Nonetheless, today I am going to write about turkey.

A few weeks ago I ate lunch at Macy’s on State Street in Chicago. If you have never been there, they have quite the food court with anything you could really want. I was feeling adventurous so I picked out the turkey cranberry wrap from the deli section. It was fantastic (thank you to the chef/cook at Macy’s). I liked it so much I took a pic of it with my iPhone so I could remember what was in it for re-creating later:

image

As you can see, all you need is:

  • Spinach Wrap
  • Mayo
  • Pecans
  • Smoked Turkey (or maybe just your turkey leftovers)
  • Spinach
  • Dried Cranberries
  • (they also added Lemon Zest-to the mayo, but I skipped that)

The putting together part is pretty self-explanatory…tortilla, spread mayo down the center, sprinkle some nuts, add turkey, layer of spinach, then top with dried cranberries, roll up, and enjoy! Yum!

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Mine wasn’t quite as pretty as the Macy’s one, but it tasted the same!

What are you going to do with your leftovers? Or did you eat your entire Thanksgiving feast?

Has anyone gone shopping today (or maybe you are heading out later)? Did you get any great deals? Have a fabulous weekend, and be careful at those stores!

Banana Cupcakes and Frosting Tip

11 Nov

The other day I got home from work kind of late and Kevin had a wonderful steak dinner waiting (winner winner steak dinner)! After dinner Kevin asked me what was for dessert (like he usually does), and I told him nothing (like I usually do). I decided I was in a baking mood and thought he deserved a nice dessert after making me a great dinner…so I raided our cabinet and found what I figured would make some sort of baked good. I also spotted some mushy bananas in our fruit basket.

Everybody loves cupcakes; doesn’t everybody love bananas too? Well I do, and I wanted to test out combining the two. I googled “banana cupcakes” and the first recipe that popped up was on All Recipes. You can check out the basic info here, but I skipped the baking soda (because I either couldn’t find it or we didn’t have any), and I subbed skim milk for the buttermilk. I am sure they would have been even better if I had those two, but all in all they came out great!

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This also gave me an excuse to use my bright and shiny (it’s sparkly like a bowling ball, and so shiny you can see my Betty-Crocker-self taking a photo of it) Kitchen Aid Mixer =)

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I mixed it all up, put it in the pan, baker, baker, baker (wo) man…

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While they were baking I made the frosting and put it in a baggie:

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20 minutes later we had…

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Yum! Banana-y perfection! I let them cool on a plate for quite a while before frosting (Kevin and I had 1 or 2 while they were still warm).

After enjoying my creation, I cut a small hole in the corner of the frosting baggie…

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I think the easiest way to get pretty cupcakes is the use this baggie method. Squish the frosting thru the hole making one even layer on the cake:

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Then make another layer just in the center of the cake:

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And if you want to get really fancy add some sprinkles. I randomly had yellow sprinkles in the cabinet; how perfect for banana cupcakes!

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Enjoy and have a lovely weekend!

Frosty the Basil Leaf

15 Sep

Well, it is officially fall (actually it felt like winter this AM) in Chicagoland.  I awoke to it being 66 degrees in the house (and it definitely was in the 30’s overnight); I was pretty close to turning on the heat, but I held out.  Hopefully our lovebird, Mr. Crackers, doesn’t mind the chilly house.

Tweeeet

With all the talk of the temperature dropping I recalled an article I had read in September’s Martha Stewart Living about drying herbs.  According to the article (page 6)  it is important to remove your herbs from outdoors before the first frost.  The first frost happens when the temperature outside goes below 32 for a short period of time.  Chicago’s first frost should be around the beginning of October, but it can come in September.

If you read one of my first few posts you may recall that Kevin and I made a tomato tree that also had basil and oregano.

Our Tomato Tree

With the temps going into the 30’s last night we decided to be proactive with all of our basil and oregano, and bring it inside to dry.  We had quite a bit…

Bowl-O-Oregano

Bunch-A-Basil

All we had to do was use some twine and tie the bunches up…

Twine & Herbs

Tying the bunches

Then hang them in a cool, dry place for about 4-10 days.

Hanging out in the basement

And now we wait...

When the leaves are crisp we can remove the leaves from the stems and put them a jar.  According to Martha they should last for about six months if sealed well.  Hopefully it works and they don’t fall all over the basement floor….although Stewie might enjoy that!

Have you dried any herbs before?  Has it gotten chilly where you live? Hopefully the weather is nice for you this weekend!  We are going apple picking with my family…I think I see apple pie in our future!

Today I am partying at:

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Simply Designing

Tickled Pink at 504 Main

Carrot Cake and Beaded Cake Server

19 Jul

Hi everyone!  This past weekend we celebrated Kevin’s birthday.  We had a lot of fun packed into two short (extremely hot) days; I finally feel like I am recovering from the sugar overload.  We had our family over yesterday for birthday cake, cupcakes, brownies, laughs and just good times.  The hit of the get-together was the made from scratch carrot cake-Kevin’s favorite.

carrot cake

How do you like my nutty letters?

Here is what you need to make this delicious cake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces neufchatel cheese, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 cups chopped walnuts

And here is what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and dust with flour two 9″ round cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in walnuts. Pour equally into prepared pans.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  4. To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake and decorate with remaining nuts.

This recipe is a slight variation of the one found on www.allrecipes.com

Once the cake is made, do you have something cute to serve it with?  Never fear, I am about to show you how to make a custom beaded cake server like this one:

DIY beaded cake server

Gold beaded cake server

I have found that this little cake server is a great gift (birthday, shower, housewarming, hostess, etc).  I made a pretty pink one for my mom a few years back (and she still uses it for every birthday party and/or holiday).  When I gave it to her, I put the server on 4 clear glass dessert plates and tied it with a pink bow.  You can select whatever color beads you want…perhaps you can find dessert plates first, and go from there.  Check out these cute little gnome ones I found at a gift shop the other day:

Gnome plates

Brightly colored gnome plates

These would look so cute with a red and blue server.  Gnomes are almost as cute as owls…

Anyway, let’s get to the instructions:

DIY supplies

Gather your supplies

You will need assorted beads (I just used some gold ones from an inexpensive tub of glass beads), the metal server (got this one at Bed Bath & Beyond for $9.99), thick 20 gauge wire, and possibly some jewelry pliers (helps, but not essential)

Bend wire

Place bent wire along back of handle and wrap wire around a couple of times.

Now you are ready for beads!

Add one bead, wrap around back, add another...

And another...and another...

Once you get to the end wrap the wire around a few times and secure it in the back.

What the back looks like...

And there you have it:   A DIY beaded cake server, perfect for gifts or just serving up a beautiful birthday cake!

beaded cake server

Close up of the finished piece

DIY beaded cake server

Gold beaded cake server =)

You can apply this same technique to any type of serving piece.  I have made serving spoons and cheese knives…but the possibilities are endless!

Enjoy!

Tomato Trees and Eggplant pizzas

26 Jun

The other day at our local produce store eggplants were on sale for something crazy…like 39 cents a pound.  Not that I track the prices of eggplant, but that sounded like a good deal (is it??).  I picked up two decent sized ones and have decided to make a pizza of sorts for dinner tonight.  A few months back I had seen something similar on TV (I believe it was on Hungry Girl…she has a website and now a television show where she makes healthy meals).   I searched her site and she had some similar ideas, but I made my own version.   Because I really did not want to go grocery shopping today I tried to use items we already had at home.  Unfortunately our tomato tree only has a few tiny green tomatoes, but it does have a decent amount of basil (who knew basil grows on tomato trees? lol).  I told everyone about our Topsy Turvy Tomato Tree a few days ago here, but take a look at the impressive before and after pics of the tree:

Before

After

Mini green tomato

Basil before I stole some for the pizza =)

I am happy to see that we are able to grow food out of a plastic bag!  Too bad the tree isn’t growing mozzarella…we could have a nice caprese salad, or at least some cheese for the pizza!  Speaking of pizza, here is what I came up with:

Ingredients:

2 Eggplants

1-15 oz can Pizza sauce (or you can use a combo of tomato sauce and paste and add Italian seasonings)

Pizza toppings (tonight I am making green pepper & onion and fresh basil)

olive oil (or spray oil)

garlic salt (I could probably add garlic salt to everything)

shredded cheese (regular or low fat mozzarella would probably make the most sense, but like I said I don’t feel like going to the store so I am going to use whatever we have in the fridge)

Ingredients

Let’s get cookin’!

Heat oven to 425.

Slice Eggplant into 1/2″ thick pieces

Line a cookie sheet with tin foil, lay slices of eggplant on cookie sheet and lightly brush with olive oil (or spray)

Check out that brush!

I definitely did not have to take a photo of this, but I love that brush…my mom got me him a few years ago 😉

Sprinkle with Garlic salt (to your liking)

Put in oven for about 12 minutes (or until eggplant is a bit softer)

If you are putting fresh veggies on pizza, dice them now, and heat a pan with oil (or spray).  Add veggies to pan and cook till tender.

Remove eggplant from oven, top with sauce, cheese, & toppings

Put back in oven and cook till cheese is melted and pizza looks good enough to eat (probably about 10 min)!

eggplant pizza

A healthy alternative to pizza!

It was pretty good, and Kevin even enjoyed it also!