Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sweet Treats

My good friend, Brie, loves to craft just as much as I do.  So, when I went to my local bead shop to purchase a birthday gift certificate for her, I found some really fun food charms that I knew my (also foodie) friend would love.  She has acquired quite the reputation among the local firemen for making tasty pies (she's also an old soul, like me).  So, how appropriate is this pie necklace?!  I couldn't pass it up.  But one is just not enough... I thought I'd stick with the food theme and allow her to layer on the sweet treats.  And instead of a silver chain, I looped the charms on summer colored silk threads and easily tied each end on a lobster claw clasp and jump ring closure.

So, when she opens up her little pastry box tonight, she won't find anything edible, but something just as sweet... that will last much longer.

I had so much fun with this little project, I might just see an Etsy shop in my future.  What do you think, should I go for it?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Bruschetta

I can't completely take credit for this recipe.  My always-experimenting-in-the-kitchen brother, Tony, created this new kind of Bruschetta that I personally would eat over classic Bruschetta any day.  It's layered with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese and fresh basil.  It's super easy to put together and loaded with richer flavors than the average raw tomato topping.  I paired it with a sliced apple and syrah cheese from Trader Joe's and it easily became the perfect lunch I love to eat.  It instantly puts me back in that Tuscan Villa I'm always dreaming about. 

What you'll need:  Serves 4

8 slices Udi's White Bread (cut in half)
1 small tub pesto (Trader Joe's has the best)
1 small jar sun-dried tomatoes (pat with paper towel to remove excess oil, roughly chopped)
To taste salt and pepper
olive oil
parmesan cheese
6 leaves fresh basil (roughly sliced)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or use the broiler.  Line the slices of bread on a foil lined baking sheet.  Lightly drizzle the olive oil on the bread.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper and toast in the oven for about 10 mins or until it's crunchy and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and let slightly cool. Spread on each slice a layer of pesto, a tbsp or so of sun-dried tomatoes and top with parmesan cheese.  Put back in the oven or broiler for another 10 mins or until warmed through.  Remove from the oven and top each slice with a layer of fresh basil.  Serve warm or room temperature. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

DIY: Succulent Garden

This past weekend, I tapped into Madalene and her love for gardening to make a Mini Succulent Garden in a Vintage Milk Glass Bowl I found at a local thrift store.  My Aunt Jean's birthday is this month and I wanted to make something fun for her to enjoy that doesn't require a lot of maintenance.  She loves milk glass and antiques, so instead of using a plain ole pot, I thought she would appreciate this vintage decor instead. 

I purchased all the succulents and cactus/succulent soil at Home Depot.  They carry a fabulous variety.  In fact, I found myself staring at their selection for over an hour, trying to decide which ones to take.  In the end, I went for different colors, height and textures to give the garden interest and depth.  

Because the vintage milk glass bowl doesn't have a hole for draining excess water, I lined the bottom of the bowl with a few 1 in. rocks.  Then I filled the bowl halfway with the soil, piled in the succulents (they like to be snug), lightly patted in more soil and decorated the edge with colorful pebbles I found in the candle section of Bed Bath and Beyond.  When you water the garden, the water will have a chance to drain down to the rocks so the plants aren't soaking in it.  Then the water will eventually evaporate.  These are desert plants!  They don't need too much water.  You really only need to water it, once you feel the soil is dry.  They like sun but should do well inside by a window.  I had a hard time letting this one go... ;)

 And congrats to Stacey for being the winner of The Perfect Hair Ties Giveaway.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The "Perfect" Giveaway

Are you like me and constantly lose your hair ties?  I buy them in huge packs and in three months they have all completely disappeared.  They're like socks... I have no idea where they run off to.  But with The Perfect Hair Ties, there is no way you can lose these bright and colorful sets of Headbands and Ties.  My creative and talented friend, Marlo, has finally figured it out - a cute and fun way to put your hair up with a comfy hair tie or headband without having to reach back into your 90's drawer for an outdated, stretched out scrunchy.  We all still have one, right?  So, today I'm thrilled to give away to one lucky winner their own set of 5 Hair Ties and 3 Headbands of their choice.  Visit her Etsy site here, and tell me which one is your favorite.  I personally love the Watermelon Tourmaline set... so great for making dinner in my sunny kitchen this summer!

All you have to do is:

1. Follow this site
2. "Like" Perfect Hair Ties on Facebook here
3. Leave a comment below and provide your email

Entry will end Sunday night and I will announce the winner on Monday!

Hair Ties

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day Dinner

Zucchini Succotash

Yesterday was a laid back holiday for Dad.   Together we traveled over to the gym in the morning, watched golf all afternoon and ended the day with a fabulous dinner.  While my mom was working on the BBQ Pork Loin and Zucchini Succotash (mixed with corn, red onion and garlic), I was busy whipping up some Gluten Free Stuffing filled with granny smith apples, red onion, celery, dried cranberries and pecans.  It was like having Thanksgiving in June but BBQ style.  And to complete the meal (based on my dad's only request of the day)... Ambrosia Fruit Salad.  

What you'll need:  Zucchini Succotash (serves about 5)

1 16 oz bag frozen corn (you can also use fresh corn)
1 zucchini (diced in 1/2 in cubes)
1/2 red onion (roughly chopped)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
to taste kosher salt and pepper
Trader Joe's 21 Salute Seasoning (21 ingredients of herbs and spices) but you can use any type of seasoning that suits your desire!
2 tbsp olive oil

In a medium pan over medium heat, saute the corn, onions, zucchini and garlic in the olive oil.  Stir occasionally while they cook for about 5 - 10 mins.  Once the veggies start to brown, add in the salt, pepper and 21 salute seasoning.  Again, stir occasionally for another 5 mins.  Serve hot or cold!

GF Stuffing
GF Stuffing

What you'll need:  GF Stuffing (serves 6)

1 pkg GF Three Bakers Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1 granny smith apple (diced)
1/2 red onion (roughly chopped)
4 celery sticks (diced)
1 cup pecans (roughly chopped)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (add more for moister stuffing)
to taste kosher salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter

In a medium size pot over medium heat, melt down the butter.  Saute the apples, onions and celery in the butter until the onions start to sweat and turn clear (about 5 mins).  Turn off the heat.  Pour in the entire package of stuffing.  Mix together.  Add in the broth and mix until all is incorporated.  If the stuffing is still too dry, pour in another 1/2 cup of broth.  Add in the cranberries, pecans, salt and pepper.  Mix again.  Pour the stuffing mixture in a baking dish (if baking) or foil pan (if BBQing).  If you're BBQing, cover with foil and "bake" over medium-low flame for about 30 mins, or until the top is crunchy and golden brown.  If you're baking this in the oven, bake at 350 degrees for about 30 mins until top is crunchy and golden brown.  Serve as is or top with gravy!

Father's Day Feast

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No Bun Burger

Tasty Gluten Free breads are still hard to come by in my opinion.  Aside from Udi's, I not finding too many that are light, fluffy and remind me of the old bread I'm used to eating in the past.  So why not just go bunless?!  This Burger is low carb but rich in juicy flavors!  Topped with swiss cheese, a thick slice of fresh pineapple (can you tell I'm on a pineapple kick lately?) and sauteed mushrooms and red onion... you'll never know bread was even supposed to go with this Hawaiian gourmet style burger. 

What you'll need:  serves 3 1/3 lb burgers

1 lb lean ground beef
swiss cheese
fresh pineapple slices
1 pkg sliced button mushrooms
1/2 red onion (roughly chopped)
1/4 cup thicker Teriyaki sauce (I used Trader Joe's "Trader Mings" Dipping Sauce - very similar to teriyaki sauce)
your favorite ground steak spice (I used McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning)
to taste salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Divide the ground beef into thirds and shape them into patties (thickness is up to you).  Season both sides with your steak spice.  Set aside.

In a medium size pan over medium heat, saute the mushrooms in the olive oil.  Once the mushrooms have started to brown, add in the onions, salt and pepper (to taste).  Once the onions soften and start to sweat, add in about 2 tbsp of teriyaki sauce.  Mix and lower the heat, cook until the burgers are done cooking. 

Cook the burgers on the BBQ over medium-high flame for about 4 mins each side (for medium-well).  Once you flip them, top them with a slice of swiss cheese.  Let the cheese melt and then remove from the grill.  Throw on the slices of fresh pineapple onto the grill for a quick sear on both sides and to warm through (about 2 mins per side). 

Now, build your burger - meat with cheese, pineapple and top with the mushroom and onions.  Drizzle on any remaining teriyaki juices leftover from the pan.  And if you must have this with a bun, nobody is stopping you.  ;)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hawaiian Coleslaw

This Coleslaw was the perfect side dish for our Luau Party last week.  A little bit of sweet and tang all in one.  I get picky about coleslaw, because a lot of them out there have mayonnaise in them and I just can't handle that.  Sorry folks.. you'll never see mayo on this blog... ever!  We all have our hang ups and mayo is mine.  But this particular recipe has Paul Newman's Poppy Seed Dressing in it instead which adds a ton of flavor.  And what gives this slaw a Hawaiian twist - pineapple!  Now, that's my kinda coleslaw.

What you'll need:  serves about 4-6

1 pkg shredded broccoli, carrot and cabbage mix
1 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 red onion (chopped)
1/3 bottle Paul Newman's poppy seed dressing (or to taste)
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
to taste salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until all is incorporated.  Cover and put in the fridge for about 4 hours or until cold.  The flavors get better as it sits in the fridge, too!  Mix one more time and serve.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mama Bird for the Day

The last couple of days has been bitter sweet in my animal loving household.  Yesterday morning, my mischievous cat, Wyatt, was waist deep in ivy rummaging for something.  I thought it was a small mouse until I saw something small fluttering - a baby mockingbird, whose nest was hovering just above in our bottle brush tree.  His mama was not too happy with this and frantically tried to save her little one by dive bombing Wyatt.  But this persistent cat doesn't let anything stop him once he puts his mind to something.  Fortunately I was able to yank Wyatt away from his play toy and put him in the house for time out!  I was able to rescue little Petri (I named him) and put him in a small box with breathing holes.  I called the animal hospital and they advised me to put Petri back in his nest.  So Pop climbed up the ladder and plopped him back into his home.  Just in case he tumbled out again, I put a table underneath with several cushy towels for a softer landing.  A couple hours later (after I reluctantly went off to work), my folks found Petri wiggling around on the table.  He plopped out again.  Not knowing if he was sick or hurt, my parents took him to the humane society for treatment.  We called today and he is hanging in there.  We hope he can pull through and be released in a couple weeks.  But we can't help feel sad for his separation from his mother.  Unfortunately, we don't have a safe anti cat prowling yard for Petri and his mother to have naturally survived this growing up process for baby mocking birds.  But I pray for him to be on his own one day. 

I felt the need to share this today, because Madalene had such love for birds (hence the header).  She used to tell her grandchildren that if they were good, a little birdie would give them a treat.  So she would wrap up little candies and sweet cough drops in a piece of tissue and leave it on the windowsill for my mom and her siblings to find.  This memory of her is one of their favorites. 

But I hope I did a good deed by doing what I thought was best for Petri.  May he survive and live a long healthy life.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pineapple Cupcakes

It was my mom's turn to host Bunco this month and she created a Luau theme party that got the Bunco Babes in the Hawaiian spirit with leis and grass skirts.  Feeding twelve guests can get stressful, so we kept dessert simple.  These cupcakes may be from a box but they taste homemade.  The trick - use pineapple juice instead of water!!  This is soo important and makes a world of difference... turns a yellow cake into a pineapple flavor cake instead.  We do the same for our pineapple upside down cake.  And to add an extra homemade touch to this store bought mix, a toasted shredded coconut topping with pineapple slices.  I don't know about you, but these definitely made me want to hop on a plane to Hawaii!  

What you'll need:  makes about 18-20 cupcakes

1 pkg yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 can sliced pineapple rings cut into small pieces (use pineapple juice from here)
1 container cream cheese frosting
cupcake paper liners

Follow the instructions on the back of the cake box.  But instead of using water, use the pineapple juice from the can of sliced pineapple.  If it doesn't make a whole cup, fill the rest with water or milk (it won't be much).  Pour the batter into each cupcake liner (about 2/3 full).  Bake for 12-15 mins in a 325 degree oven.  Use a cake tester to check for doneness.  While those are baking, toast the shredded coconut in a small pan over medium-low heat until golden brown (5-10 mins).  Stir occasionally to avoid burning.  Let the cupcakes and coconut cool completely.  Frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting then dip them into a plate filled with the toasted coconut.  Top with a piece of pineapple and serve!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rustic Blueberry Ice Cream

I'm calling this "rustic" because this was my first attempt to creating my own Blueberry Ice Cream and it turned out great!  It has a more homemade taste and texture to it (which I think is a good thing) than your average store bought ice cream.  And even though there are 4 cups of blueberries in this recipe, it's light and not as sweet.  But my favorite part about this icy creation has to be the orange zest and triple sec that was added to the mixture!  I absolutely love the combo of blueberries and orange and in this recipe, that extra zing from the zest and liquor gives it a punch of freshness and flavor that this ice cream really deserved.  

What you'll need: 1 quart

2 cups frozen blue berries (half thawed)
2 cups fresh blue berries (rinsed and stems removed) + extra for garnish
1 cup half and half
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup extra fine sugar (put regular size sugar in a food processor to create fine sugar)
zest from 1 whole orange (leave a bit for garnish)
3 tbsp triple sec (or any orange flavor liquor)

In a blender, puree the blueberries.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend together.  Follow the instructions on your ice cream maker and eat immediately for soft serve or finish it off in the freezer until completely frozen.  If you don't have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture in a container with a lid and put in the freezer until completely frozen (about 4 hours).