Friday, August 23, 2013

Dinner Challenge #2

With summer winding down and a lot of fruits at the peak of the season I decided I'd try a healthy summery salad from EatingWell for our dinner challenge this week. I don't know about you but I love cooking and eating seasonal flavors. This salad almost made me wish I had another month of summer but I have to say I'm ready for some cooler weather and hearty warm dishes the fall always seems to offer.

Raspberry, Avocado & Mango Salad
 EatingWell Magazine
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of ground pepper
Salad greens
1 ripe mango diced
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup nuts
1. Dressing: puree 1/2 cup raspberries, oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in blender until well combine
2. Salad: Mix together salad greens, avocado, mango and onion. Toss with dressing and top with raspberries and nuts.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lake Treats

When I think of summer I think of going to the lake. Most would say they think of going to the beach but not me and my family. Dinners at the lake are usually simple and nothing fussy, I mean who wants to get off the boat after a long day on the lake and go home to cook  a complicated meal. I'm usually charged with bringing dessert. In purging my seasonal recipe binder I found an incredibly perfect Tequila Lime Bar which I have now changed up and call it a Margarita bar (you'll see why shortly).

Margarita Bars
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans (or any nut), chopped
2 (8oz) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. GOOD tequila
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. grated lime zest
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large bowl, beat butter till creamy, add sugars and beat till well combine.
3. On low speed, add flour to mixer and beat till just mixed. Fold in pecans.
4. Press mixture into the bottom of a 13x9 inch non-stick baking dish.
5. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool slightly while making the filling.
6. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar till well combine.
7. Add eggs one at a time and beat well, add vanilla extract, beat, add tequila, lime juice, and zest, beat well. Add cornstarch and beat well.
8. Add topping over crust. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cool slightly and refrigerate.
I like adding a dollop of cool whip and berries when serving.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Another Year Wiser

My sweet husband had his birthday this past week and we have been celebrating all week long. On top of his birthday we had our one year wedding anniversary (yes, I purposely planned it that way)! Since we had already planned on going out to dinner a couple of times last week for multiple celebrations, he elected to have a nice home cooked meal and desert on his birthday. As usual, my first question was "what would you like for me to make you for desert?"  He quickly replied without hesitation,"sopapillas!" I naturally then assumed we would be have a Mexican dinner however I was so very wrong,"Pasta!" flew from his mouth as I asked about the main dish. After I assured that he wanted pasta for dinner and sopapillas for desert I quickly wondered how old my husband really was, but the man wants what he wants so who am I to deny him.

A little nervous knowing I was going to have to figure out how to make sopapillas I started researching to find the best ideas and tips. The last time I fried something in oil I started a kitchen fire!Lucky for me I know how to put out a grease fire! Much to my surprise, my sopapillas came out lite, fluffy and delicious and I can wait for you to try them at home!

 Makes 12 Squares
4 c. All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 tsp. Salt
3 tsp. Baking Powder
3 tbsp. Sugar plus extra for serving
2 tbsp. Shortening
1 1/4 c. milk
Peanut Oil
Cinnamon (optional)
Honey (optional)
1. Sift 4 cups all purpose flour, measure and sift again with salt, baking powder and sugar. If you packed you flour before the first sift, there will be extra flour for the second sift. 
2. Cut in shortening (use a dough/ pastry blender or take two butter knives and in a crossing motion cut dough into flour mixture).
3. Slowly add milk into dough, mixing by hand while adding milk. You want to add just enough milk so that the dough pulls away from the bowl ad everything is mixed.
4. Cover dough and set aside for as much time as you have. The longer it sits, the fluffier the dough will be after frying.
5. In a nonreactive pot (porcelain pot) pour oil at least an inch deep. Using a candy thermometer heat to 375 degrees.
6. While the oil heats, on a floured surface, roll out dough roughly and quarter of an inch thick and cut into desired shapes.
7. One at a time add dough to oil. If you add to much to fast, you can cool the oil and affect the turnout of the sopapilla.
 8. As the dough browns on one side, flip and brown the other.
9. Remove from oil and dry on a paper towel
10. Coat with sugar, cinnamon and honey to serve!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Funday!

This past Saturday marked the end of my hosting showers season! Its been great fun but I'm ready to spend my time focusing on other subjects, such as re-doing my back yard. Here are a couple of pictures taken before everyone arrived:

 Gender Reveal Shower
I always enjoy coming up with food items to serve at parties, trying to find something new and creative. At the last shower I definitely found a keeper! I'm an avid reader of Southern Living Magazine and always love trying their cakes. For the last shower I threw I made their Luscious Lemon Cake which can be found here and did a variation of their Luscious Lemon Frosting. I find it important in a frosting to make sure the flavors are strong since a lot of the time a flavor ends up being more subtle than intended in the cake. There are several of my family members who do not like icing on cakes that ended up LOVING this butter cream which means it will be the ONLY butter cream base I will ever use again, for now!
 Yields enough frosting for 24 cupcakes
2 cups butter, room temperature
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 (32 oz.) pkg. powered sugar
1. Beat butters until creamy. It is very important that the butter be room temperature for the correct consistency.
2. Mix in lemon zest and gradually pour in lemon juice so that it has time to mix together.
3.Gradually beat in powdered sugar.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Dinner Challenge #1

It's finally Monday! Never thought I would say that but it's been baby shower mania in my house for the past week and I have one more shower to go. I will be the first to tell you that I LOVE hosting parties! My husband, Kevin, and I bought the house we did because, #1 we fell in love with it and, #2 it's a great party house! The downside to my love of throwing a party is that I love decorating and making food to go with the theme and it all MUST to be perfect! I usually drive myself crazy the day before and especially the day of the party (and I'm pretty sure I drive Kevin crazy too) but this is why I will always have some form of alcohol at my events; to celebrate of coarse!

I'll post pictures of the most recent shower later this week but for now I'll stick to the subject of this post, the first dinner challenge. With a laundry list of projects to do around the house, I have started to  look for ways to cut corners on some things, for example doing my own dry cleaning and ironing istead of sending it off. A big part of this change is eating at home more often. To give you a little bit more history on this challenge, I grew up never eating out and always at home where as my husband grew up eating out the majority of the time. While he is trying to bring his lunch to work more often, a goal of atleast twice a week (baby steps), I am trying to eat at home completely except for work lunches and our date night out! Yes, we feel it's important to either do a dinner out with friends or a date night once a week and it gives us something to look forward to at the end of a long week.

This week's new dinner was Mexican Beef & Pasta! Sounds a little strange but I knew that for my food particular husband having a marriage between his two favorite types of food would be a win, and it was!

Mexican Beef & Pasta
Serving size: 4

2 cups Spiral Pasta (I used whole wheat) or any shape pasta will work
1/2 lbs ground beef
1 small onion or half a large onion (I used red onion)
2 cans (14 oz) no-salt- added diced tomatoes (undrained)
1 can black beans (drained)
1 ear fresh corn or 1 cup frozen corn (thawed)
1 cup salsa (chunky prefered)
1 can chopped green chilis or jalepenos
fajita seasoning or taco seasoning
                                                                                    sour cream (optional)
                                                                                    tortilla chips (optional)

1. Cook pasta according to package and drain. While pasta is cooking, brown ground beef and onions until meat is fully cooked and drain excess liquid.
2. Stir in the next 5 ingredients.
3. Sprinkle top of food with desired amount of seasoning to taste, stir together and bring to a boil.
4. Let simmer, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes.
5. Serve with sour cream and tortilla chips if desired.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home