Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's in a spoon?

The other day, I came home from work and I stepped out the front door to check the mail. I was really surprised to see a big package from Anthropologie on my door mat. I don't really talk about Anthropologie that much- I'm pretty sure Jeremy doesn't even know it exists. I couldn't really figure out who would be sending me something from that store. Then, I got really nervous that it was just delivered to the wrong house!

But no, it was for me! My BFF, Am, sent me the best measuring spoons ever! I've wanted them for such a loooong time, but couldn't really justify the purchase. As you can see, I have several sets of measuring spoons . . .

Amy was with me in Anthropologie one time (when I was buying them for someone else as a gift) and I could not stop talking about how much I loved them!

I have several sets and I should really think about donating a few to a better cause, but I probably won't. These cheap, plastic mustard yellow measuring spoons should be the first to go, but I'll never get rid of them!

After college and before I was married, I didn't have so many sets of fancy measuring spoons. I was telling my mom and my Nana about how I was baking a dessert and somehow, I lost my teaspoon. I don't know what happened to it. I don't know if it was baked into the dessert or if I accidentally threw it away. It just disappeared. That meant anytime something called for 1 teaspoon- I had to use the 1/2 teaspoon twice. Funny story!

But my Nana couldn't believe it! She gave me an extra set of hers- the cheap, plastic mustard yellow measuring spoons. Who even knows how old these things are?!?! So, I'm holding on to them and holding on to the memory!

On to seeing these little spoons in action . . .

I was making cupcakes for a work friend's birthday. I always like to try new things, so I settled on a vanilla cupcake with chocolate chip buttercream frosting.

For the cupcake part, I used the "white cake" recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I feel like almost everyone I know has this cookbook, so I'm not going to post the recipe. If you want the recipe and don't have the book, email me and I will copy it for you.

I'm a big fan of this cupcake recipe! They turned out really well! Better than a mix!

I used a buttercream recipe from Martha Stewart.

Basic Buttercream
12 ounces (3 sticks), unsalted butter, softened
1 lb confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Beat butter with a mixer on medium high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla, and beat until buttercream is smooth. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

To make it chocolate chip buttercream- add 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips. I used regular chips, but I think mini-chips would have worked better.
The finished product spells out "happy birthday sami!"

I made the letters by melting vanilla flavored candy wafers. You can find those at most craft stores (Michaels or Hobby Lobby). They come in lots of different colors!

Put about 1/4 cup or so of the wafers (depends on how much writing you plan to do) in a ziploc sandwich size plastic bag. Microwave for 30 seconds or until wafers have melted. Snip off a tiny corner of the baggie and you're ready for letters.

I printed out a page of a font I like, so I could trace the letters and they would all be the same size and style. It didn't really work so well for this. I ended up just doing my own thing. Put a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet and pipe out all your letters. I highly encourage you to write it out several times. You never know when one might break and if you don't have extra, you'll have to start all over again with melting the wafers.

When you have all your letters on the cookie sheet, pop it into the fridge for 20-30 minutes, so they can get really hard.

After frosting your cupcakes, put the letter on top of each one!

And just for fun, some pics of Ivy and Win!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pork Tenderloin: Take 2

Remember how I said leftover pork tenderloin has lots of uses??? Well, here you go!

The first night, we ate a little over half of one of the tenderloins, which left quite a bit.

The next night, I made a stir fry (sorry, no pics). You can use your favorite stir fry recipe and add the pork that's been cubed. Mine was a combination of mushrooms, onion, rice, soy sauce, and the pork. It was delicious! A great way to use any of your leftover veggies. Broccoli, bell pepper, carrots would all be a great addition!

I still had a little less than half a tenderloin left. And I thought about Jeremy's family. At every big holiday (mostly Thanksgiving and Christmas), they have tenderloin and biscuit or ham and biscuit. I had never heard of this until I met Jeremy! It must be a Tennessee thing!

After trying the tenderloin and biscuit, I'm a big fan! As most of you know, I don't exactly care for ham, but I'm sure those are delicious as well!

This next dish is a tribute to Jeremy's family's tenderloin and biscuit. Although, it doesn't even come close to Granny B's. She breads and fries the tenderloin, so you can imagine how tasty that is!!!

I just sliced off a couple pieces of the tenderloin, salt and peppered both sides, and heated them up in the skillet until they were a little brown.

I cheated big time and bought the Grands frozen biscuits. I baked up two of those, added a little grape jelly.

And I had a quick version of tenderloin and biscuit! Not the same, but it will do!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Smoothie Queen

I love smoothies! And I love my Magic Bullet! It's a great quick breakfast. I don't have an exact recipe, but I'll give the basics. You can change it based on what you like.

The Magic Bullet is optional as well, but it makes a great smoothie. Minimal dishes- you can blend and drink out of the same glass! And you can do lots of other things with it (salsa, margaritas, omelets, etc.).

There is about an hour long infomercial on all the great ways to use the Magic Bullet, so I'll let you tune into that if you're really interested. I've really only ever used it for smoothies!

However, I will say that Magic Bullets are available at Target! On to the smoothie!

I buy packages of frozen fruit- raspberries, blueberries, dark sweet cherries, strawberries, berry blend, and mango. These are great for smoothies! Occasionally, I'll use a little fresh fruit if I have some that might go bad.

Into my Magic Bullet glass, I put about 1/4 cup of plain, low fat or no fat yogurt. 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fruit (any combination will work). Then, I add a splash of milk and a splash of juice, 2 splenda packets and blend away!

It's delicious and the possibilities are limitless! I also like to use sugar-free vanilla syrup sometimes. This is really good with strawberries only- it's like vanilla creme strawberry. Yum!

The Diet V8 Splash juices work really well for more flavor. Just use all your favorites. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Easy Dinner

For an easy dinner, pork tenderloin is a great idea. I made the marinade the night before, so the meat had time to soak in all those delicious flavors at night and while I was at work.

Even better, I found pork tenderloin on sale- buy one get one free. Lots of ways to use the leftovers, so I went ahead and made both. I served the tenderloin with garlic mashed potatoes, and a side salad. Yum!

I can't remember if I've posted the way I make my garlic mashed potatoes, so I'm going to give the run down again, just in case. I cube my potatoes and put them in the cold water and also add in 1-2 whole garlic cloves. Then, cook the potatoes over medium high heat for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Drain the water and then put the pot back on the warm burner (you can turn the burner off and it will still be warm). This way you can be sure all the excess water gets out!

Mash the potatoes up with the pastry blender and then, add a little butter, sour cream, half and half, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions.

If you're wondering what happens to the garlic, it gets soft and mashes up with the taters. It just leaves a hint of garlic. You can also change up the ingredients a little bit depending on what you have- milk, cream, or half and half will work. Or if you don't like sour cream, omit. The cheese is also optional.

Pork Tenderloin

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry red wine
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 green onions (green parts only), chopped

Combine marinade ingredients in a measuring cup and whisk to combine. Pour over pork tenderloin in a plastic bag. Marinate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes or until meat is 145 degrees F when measured with an instant-read thermometer. Allow meat to rest about 10 minutes before cutting into 2-inch serving pieces. Drizzle a small amount of the meat juices from cooking over each piece of meat.

E’s Notes:
  • I used a lot less cinnamon- less than ¼ teaspoon.
  • I also used reduced sodium soy sauce.
  • Plan on cooking meat for at least 1 hour if not more.

Sorry the meat pics look a little disgusting! I don't know if there is a good way to make a meat dish look pretty?!?!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fire + May + Black Jack = ???

Jeremy has been working really hard trying to balance work and school. I decided to surprise him with a date night and an early graduation present.

I acted casual about maybe going out to dinner somewhere and when we got in the car, I had three clues waiting for him. He opened them as we drove to our surprise destination.

The first clue was a picture of fire. Of course, with such limited information, Jeremy had no idea. He was guessing campfire or cookout. Really, do I look like a campfire kind of girl?!?! And in heels???

The next clue, was a calendar of May with the month of May circled. He was really stumped! Mayfire? A fire next May? A month of fire? Nope. And he was trying to guess restaurants, since it looked like we were headed downtown. But we drove right past downtown!

Finally, he opened the 3rd clue- it was an Ace and a Jack- blackjack! Jeremy put it all together, the Firelake Casino to see Ralphie May!!!
He put it together just in time, because within the next 30 seconds, we drove past a huge billboard for the Firelake Casino and Ralphie May!!!

We got there just in time to eat at the crab leg buffet and into the show, where we had 3rd row seats. Ralphie was pretty darn funny. A little inappropriate at times, but that's what you get when you sign up to see a comedian. We had such a fun date night!

Happy Graduation, J!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Rachel has been my intern all summer long and all summer, we've talked about having lunch at Pops. She's been there before and talked about how awesome it is. I couldn't wait to try it.

It's a gas station on Route 66. Sounds a little sketch, but it's really cool. They have tons of bottles of soda pop- I don't know how many- hundreds! You can choose any kind and they sort of have diner food- burgers, chicken fried steak, onion rings, grilled cheese etc.

Friday was Rachel's last day, so we had to go to Pops! It was really good and such a neat place to go! If you are ever driving Route 66, you should definitely stop at Pops.

I got a pomegranate Fizzy Lizzy and Rachel got a Vanilla Creme Soda. Rachel's was delicious- mine not so much. I didn't even drink it all! It was such a bummer- I was really looking forward to some sort of sugary, cherry, berry goodness. It wasn't sweet at all! Oh well! Luckily, Rachel shared a little with me!

Bottles line clear glass shelves all the way up to the ceiling! Don't worry- they are glued down, so no one can take them. We checked!

I know- nice name tag!

Rachel was so extremely helpful to me this summer and I'm so bummed that her internship is over, but I know we will keep in touch. She has already said that she would like to volunteer with us! : ) Thanks, Rachel, for all your hard work! You rock!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Spice In Life

I had volunteer training all week (it's from 6pm-9pm each evening), so I decided to make several meals that we could easily heat up.

I saw this recipe on the Food Network and I really wanted to try it. It was delicious and it also heats up really well. It had just enough spice to make it taste really good, but not so much heat that you couldn't enjoy it.

I made a few substitutions to make it a little bit healthier. I did not use the bacon or the bacon grease and I used half and half instead of heavy cream. I wouldn't exactly call it a healthy recipe, but it's a little better with those changes.

Spicy Corn Chowder

4 pieces thick-sliced bacon, chopped
1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small jalapeno, chopped seeds and ribs removed
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 large red potatoes, well scrubbed and small diced
1 cup heavy cream
16 ounces frozen corn
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf

In a small saucepan over medium heat, saute the bacon until crisp and browned and the fat is rendered. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towel and reserve. There should be about 4 tablespoons of bacon grease in pan.

Add the onions and red pepper to pan. Saute until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the jalapeno and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the flour until thoroughly combined. Cook the flour until it reaches a slight blonde color, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken stock and the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes; potatoes will become soft. Add the cream, corn, cayenne and bay leaf. Simmer for 15 more minutes. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with the reserved bacon.

I made it on Sunday evening and we also had grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches. Pretty good dinner! Later in the week, I served a soup with Italian sausage and tomatoes. And one morning, I put a roast with potatoes and carrots in the crockpot. It's nice to have a home cooked meal during a crazy hectic week. I think Jeremy and James appreciated it as well!