Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mushroom Cross Stitch for Memory Jar

As I was putting away Friday night's concert tickets in my movie and concert memory jar, I realized that I never shared this project.  I originally saw both ideas (the memory jar and mushroom cross stitch pattern) on Pinterest and decided to combine the two.

Putting concert, movie, and sporting event tickets in a mason jar is an easy and creative way to keep your ticket stubs together.  You could keep the lid as is, but I thought I would go that extra step and cross stitch something small - like a mushroom - for the top.  The free pattern is here.  I added some batting to make the lid puffy. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chicken Bacon Alfredo Pasta

For this dish you'll need:
1/4 box of pasta
olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 cup cream
1 and 1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cream cheese
Salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
1 can peas
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped 
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
handful of fresh chopped basil


1. Boil your choice of pasta in salted water.  We used angel hair.  Drain and lightly toss is olive oil.

2. Saute 2 cups of sliced mushrooms and onions.  Set aside. 

2. In a separate sauce pan, melt a 1/4 cup of butter over medium heat.  Whisk in cream, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and cream cheese.  Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.  Add a can of peas, cooked chicken, mushrooms and onions. 

3. Add cooked noodles to the sauce pan and toss to coat.

4. Plate and add crispy, chopped bacon and basil. 

Cooking note - The Parmesan cheese was challenging to melt.  Next time we might use a cheese that melts easier, like Provolone, an Asiago blend, or Gruyere. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Seven Layer Cookies

For Seven Layer Cookies you only need seven ingredients and the whole dessert is made in one 13x9 pan.  It couldn't be easier!

1 stick of butter or margarine
1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup butterscotch flavored chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 and 1/3 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 cup chopped nuts

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (325°F for glass dish).

2. In the 13x9 baking pan melt butter in the oven.

3. Sprinkle the crumbs over butter. With a fork, form the crumbs into a crust. 

4. Pour condensed milk evenly on top of crust.

4. Top with remaining ingredients in order listed; press down firmly with fork.

5. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

6. Cool or chill if desired.  Cut into bars.  Take your time cutting to make nice neat pieces.   Cover and  store at room temperature.

Makes 24-36 bars.

Cooking Note - These were a hit at work.  M suggested peanut butter chips; next time I think I will substitute the butterscotch ones for pb chips, or maybe even use dark chocolate chips.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hummingbird Cross Stitch Lavender Sachet

Within an afternoon, I completed this hummingbird cross stitch sachet for my photographer friend's birthday present.  She's been interested in capturing these fast-winged creatures on film, plus she enjoys lavender.  I thought it would be fitting to incorporate the two into her gift.

I found the free pattern here. Looks like it's for pin cushion, so I omitted the "needles" and transformed it into a sachet filled with lavender. I finished the back with a red and white polka dot fabric, which really brings out the red in the flowers. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nectarine Caprese Salad

Put a little spin on the classic caprese salad by substituting tomatoes with sweet, end-of-summer nectarines or peaches.

During the summer, my friend noticed a peach caprese salad on the menu at a local restaurant/tavern.  That night, we only ordered stouts; however, I have been curious about this app for months.  Sunday I bought some fresh mozzarella and basil at the farmers market and finally decided to give this salad a try. 

For an appetizer size for two you'll need:
1 large nectarine or peach
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
2-3 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
few teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
sea salt

Slice the fruit and cheese and arrange on a plate.  Top with basil leaves.  Drizzle with vinegar and salt to taste. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chile Relleno

We heart Mexican cuisine.  Many Mexican restaurants only add cheese and fry their chile rellenos.   However, we saw a segment on "Rescue Chef" to grill the poblano peppers and fill them with lots of  yummy goodness.  Ever since that episode, we have been baking a heartier, healthier chile relleno.  It's a hit in our bellies.

First we grill the pasilla chiles (also known as poblano peppers) and remove the outer skin.   (Note -  I have also made this dish with red peppers).  For the filling we mix grilled onion and jalapeño, carnitas, rice, fresh tomatoes (you could use canned diced tomatoes), salsa, cilantro, chile powder, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper.  After baking them, we top the chile rellenos with shredded cheese and more fresh cilantro.  ¡Buen apetito!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mom's Protein Balls

Here's a yummy, healthy treat for school lunches or an anytime snack. My mom has been making these protein balls for years.  It's a great way to use up the cereal at the bottom of the bag or whatever dried fruit you have in your pantry.  That's exactly what I did yesterday with the frosted mini-wheats and golden raisins. 

For the protein balls you'll need:
1/2 cup peanut butter (plain or crunchy)
3/4 cup dry milk
1/2 cup flax seed meal
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup crushed cereal (rice cereal, corn flakes, shredded wheat, whatever you like)

In a mixing bowl, combine the above ingredients.

Then add:
1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries (I used a little bit of both.)
1/3 cup chocolate chips

Mix together and roll into teaspoon-size balls.  Keep refrigerated until ready to eat so the balls stay together. 

Makes 16 protein balls.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grilled Salmon Tacos with Fresh Pico de Gallo

Last night M made delicious grilled salmon tacos with homemade pico de gallo.  He made the pico in the afternoon so the flavors could merry. 

Pico de gallo:
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes  
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
salt and pepper
freshly squeezed lime juice
handful of chopped cilantro

On the flat-top grill pan he warmed the wheat-corn tortillas.  Then he sprayed the hot flat-top grill with cooking spray and simply grilled the salmon with salt, pepper, and some lime juice.  The fish cooked in a few minutes. 

Here's another shot of the tacos with homemade cole slaw, 
which was leftover from earlier in the week.  A yummy addition to this Mexican meal!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Loaded Football Fries

It's the first Sunday of the football season, which means all-day football watching, drinks, and of course FOOD.  During the season we like to indulge on some not-so-healthy football foods.  Now we could order take-out, but I thought why not make our gluttonous treats at home and maybe even make them a bit healthier. 

For loaded football fries you'll need:

1/2 bag of crinkle or waffle fries
1/2 medium onion, diced 
few tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil 
1/2 can of chili, vegetarian chili, or beans
few tablespoons of cheese sauce
few dollops of sour cream or non-fat plain Greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste 
chopped green onions/scallions

1. Bake the fries in the oven until crispy.  About 25 minutes. 
2. While the fries are cooking, get a sauce pan and add oil and diced onions.  Cook until translucent.  Then add chili or beans of your choice.  Cook until hot. 
3. Warm a few tablespoons of cheese sauce in a separate pan or in a microwave-safe dish in the microwave.
4. When the fries are crispy, transfer them to a plate.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Then layer your other ingredients: chili/beans, cheese sauce, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and top with green onions.

May the best team win!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Yum-Yum Cake

Growing up my Aunt Doris made Robert Redford cake; it was delicious and very similar to this Yum-Yum recipe, but with a nutty pecan bottom and shaved chocolate on top.   Aunt Doris was an amazing baker, but I was afraid that her recipes, like this one, were lost.  I spoke to my Mom and it turns out she has Aunt Doris' family recipes and old cookbooks -YAY; this one is similar the one my Mom shared over the phone.

On the other side of the family, we have some nut allergies.  M's cousin started making Yum-Yum Cake for family gatherings.  This nut-free, layered dessert is always a huge hit. Yesterday I made it for our Labor Day cookout.

For Yum-Yum Cake you'll need a 9x9 pan.

Layer 1:
1 cup of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of melted butter

Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl.  Spray the 9x9 inch pan with cooking spray and press into the dish.  Bake for 15 minutes @ 350°F.  Set aside to cool. 

Layer 2:
4 ounces cream cheese (I have used regular, light, and free-fat and they all work.)
4 ounces Cool Whip
1/2 cup powered sugar

With an electric mixer, blend these ingredients together and spread onto of the cooled graham cracker crust.  Place in the refrigerator to set.

Layer 3:
Make a small box of instant chocolate pudding according to the directions.  Pour on top of layer 2.  Again, place in the refrigerator to set.

Layer 4:
Spread the remainder of the Cool Whip (4 more ounces) on top and add sprinkles.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Cooking Notes:
We make this recipe in a 9x9 pan because if you don't eat it within a few days it gets soggy.  This is the perfect size for our friends and us.  You could always double the recipe for a 13x9 pan.