Friday, July 26, 2013

Rewind: Timothy's Amazing Turkey Burgers


It's been nearly 5 years since I first posted this recipe, and it remains one of my favorites! My brother Timothy came over last night and cooked some up for us and I was amazed again at how much flavor and moisture can be found in something so lean. He made them in a skillet with a little olive oil last night and I baked up some frozen french fries to go along with them. We had some bakery rolls as well as some of the Arnold Sandwich Thins, which honestly were my favorite, and I'm ALWAYS a bakery-bread kinda girl. The ratio of bread to meat was smaller so it allowed the flavor of the meat to be the shining star of the dish. I like mine best with a little bit of mayo, a slice of romaine and a slice of onion, but the hubs does his up all the way with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayo, ketchup and mustard. We didn't do any cheese on ours last night but I tend to think a mild tart cheese like Provolone or Swiss would be perfect with these burgers. 



Makes 12 Burgers

3 lbs ground turkey
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix turkey, bread crumbs, onion, egg whites, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Form into 12 patties. Cook in a skillet on medium-high with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or grill them about 5-7 minutes per side. Put on a serving dish, cover tightly with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. 





If you read back over the original post nearly 5 years ago, you'll read about how I had a huge aversion to ground turkey for about 5 years after my pregnancy with my second daughter, Annabelle. I'm so glad that I got over that because I had always been a huge fan of replacing ground beef with ground turkey whenever possible, and now I've gotten back into the practice of doing that at least half the time. These burgers are truly delicious, much lower in fat than beef burgers, and with the awesome flavor they have, you don't even miss the fat. Trust me! 
Have a great weekend, see you next week!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Restaurant-Style Queso Blanco

(many thanks to my hand model bro for this photo. :))

I can't tell you how many dollars we have spent on queso at the Mexican restaurants. One of our favorite local ones is La Fiesta and the last time we went there, we were celebrating the kids' school awards and we spent more than half our bill on queso. That's how good their queso is and that's how badly we are addicted! In fact, our addiction is so bad, that by the time our entrees arrive, we are always so stuffed full of queso and chips that we have to pack up our meals and eat them at home the next day for lunch. So....to save our wallets...I knew I needed to find a way to make it at home. So on Tuesday, after spending the day at Epcot and riding the boat ride in Mexico and smelling the amazing aromas wafting our way from the restaurant, we knew we had to have Mexican food that night. So we went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants there in Orlando and my husband was brave enough to ask the waiter for the recipe. And he GAVE it to us! I couldn't believe it. I think I could've hugged him then and there--hubs and the waiter both, actually! And imagine my shock when our waiter said "It's American cheese!" Suddenly, everything clicked. All my queso attempts prior had been with Monterey Jack, cheddar and pepper jack. Now it all made sense why I never got that creamy, melty, perfect texture that all the restaurants have perfected: I was using the wrong cheese all along! So, last night, on our way back home from Orlando, I made my hubs stop at Publix so I could run in and get a big block of white american cheese from their deli counter. And today, first chance I got, I whipped up a batch. And. It's. AMAZING! Happy Dance!!! No more wasting way too much money at the Mexican restuarant when I can make it just as delicious at home. Next time we go to Sam's Club I'm going to buy my white american there because I know it will be cheaper. At $6/lb, I still spent $13 just on the cheese, so it really wasn't that much cheaper, but now that I know it works, I'll be finding a way to make it as cheap as possible. So, without further ado!


Makes 6-8 Servings

1 lb. block white american cheese, shredded or cubed
2-3 poblano peppers
3/4-1 cup half & half

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425.

Wash your peppers and dry them completely. Place them on a baking sheet and in your preheated oven for 10 minutes. Flip them over and bake another 10 minutes. Pull them out and let them rest 5-10 minutes. Remove the skin and seeds and dice finely. In a double boiler, combine cheese, peppers and 3/4 cup half & half. Cook over medium-low heat until melted, whisking constantly, about 15 minutes. If it's too thick, add remaining 1/4 cup of half & half and whisk well. Serve with tortilla chips.




This was so easy and tastes so good. The poblano peppers are really perfect, but if you prefer you can use a can of diced green chiles and a half a can of diced jalapeƱo peppers instead. You can also microwave it in 30 second increments until fully melted, just don't let it boil over! If it comes to a boil fully it could separate and then you'll have a lumpy mess. As the cheese melts, it will appear lumpy, don't let that scare you! Just keep whisking and cooking until you get the texture you want. You can always thin it out even more if you prefer. We found that these three simple ingredients were perfect for us, especially when paired with salty tortilla chips, but if you want, you can always add a little salt, pepper and/or cumin. You can also make this directly on the stovetop rather than a double boiler, but again, keep it on low and whisk it constantly. You don't want to risk it burning and/or boiling over. We're hooked on this queso! We're already coming up with several ideas for it including breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, sandwiches, burgers, and yes...even a Mexican sushi roll. I promise when we do these, I'll keep you posted! Hope you're having a fantastic week. The weekend is nearly here! Have a great evening!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Egg Foo Young


One of our kids' favorite comfort foods is egg foo young. They love to get a big bowl of steamed rice, a couple patties of egg foo young and drip a little soy sauce over the whole thing and eat to their tummy's content. Egg foo young is SO simple to make at home, you don't have to wait until you go to your fave Chinese restaurant to have it...just whip up a batch at home! The only thing you'll need that you may need to get from an Asian market (unless your local supermarket has an ethnic food section) is Squid brand fish sauce. Of course you can use another brand if you want, but Squid is the best, trust me! It sounds weird but once it's in the food you won't notice it overly much and it's not fishy, it's salty. It's a necessity to Asian cooking! Here's what it looks like so you can find it in your store:


Our "usual" egg foo young recipe is simple--eggs, ground pork and green onions. But this is basically an Asian omelet and you can add any type of veggie you normally like in omelets. We also love to add chopped zucchini and minced garlic to ours. Vidalia onion, green pepper, mushrooms and broccoli are also great additions to this dish!

Makes 8 Servings

12 eggs
1 lb. ground pork
1 small bunch green onions, chopped
1/2 cup Squid fish sauce
corn oil

Directions:

Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Whisk eggs, pork, scallions and fish sauce together until well combined. Pour enough of the egg mixture into the skilled to cover the bottom, about a cup to two cups, depending how thick you want your egg patties to be. Swirl skillet until fully covered with egg. Cook until lightly browned on the bottom and flip. Again, cook until lightly browned on the bottom. About 3-5 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel lined dish to absorb the oil. Continue cooking until all the egg mixture has been used. Serve over steamed rice with soy sauce, if desired.




Hubs made this for dinner last night, it was a Sunday evening and we usually eat a big meal on Sunday afternoons after church, so Sunday evenings are usually "fend for yourself" days. He was craving this dish and the kids have been wanting it since they went to visit their grandma last week and had McD's nuggets instead of this dish, which they were expecting LOL. Silly kids, disappointed over McD's nuggets...I remember back in my day, we NEVER ate out, so McD's nuggets were a special treat and we'd never have been disappointed over that! Makes me happy to know they get more excited over home-cookin' than restaurant food though, I must say! So we scarfed this down last night and then ate the leftovers this morning for breakfast. Delish! Well, we are off to enjoy a couple days at Disney this week since we are running out of summer days...I'll be back in a few days with a new recipe to share! Have a great week!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Southern Peach Cobbler

One of my husband's very favorite desserts is peach cobbler. Most of the time I do a simple dump cake (1 can of peaches + 1 box yellow cake mix + 1 stick of butter, melted and drizzled on top in an 8x8 pan for 30 minutes) which is really delicious also, but every once in awhile I get the ambition to do a "real" one like all the nice ladies used to bring to dinner-on-the-grounds at the church I went to growing up. There were casseroles galore, chocolate brownies with the perfect thin, chocolate crusty layer on top, corn casserole, fried chicken and neverending amounts of sweet iced tea. Mmmm. My brothers and sisters and I LOVED dinner-on-the-grounds day at church! We got to hang out with our friends after church, eat lots of good food, and play lots of kickball, going home worn out and exhausted at the end of the day. Which was the part I'm sure my parents loved the most. It was the best!



Makes 8 Servings

2 28oz cans of peaches, drained (or 3 cups fresh, skinned, pitted and sliced)
2 cups baking mix
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups milk
1 stick of butter, melted

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.

Mix the baking mix, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon together with a wire whisk. Slowly stir in the milk and melted butter until combined and a soft dough is formed. Tilt the dough into a greased 9x13 baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle peach slices on top evenly and bake on the middle rack for an hour. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.



Oh yeah, I love me some peach cobbler! Sad to say on this particular evening, we were all scarfing ours down so quickly that I never got a shot of it on a plate! Oh well, you get the idea. :) I personally like mine plain, without the ice cream--and I can eat it warm or cold, I like it either way. Something about the silky peach slices mixing up with the amazing combo of crusty and mushy, bready goodness just makes my mouth oh-so happy and brings me back to the days of running around with my friends after church for dinner-on-the-grounds. I have a particular fondness for peaches...must be the Georgia Peach in me coming out! Now I've got a hankering to go mix up some peach cobbler right now to satisfy my sweet tooth that is craving a big bowl of the stuff right now. I know no one in my household would be complaining one bit! It's Friday! What's everyone got going on this weekend? Tonight is sushi night here and we've got some friends and family coming over to roll up some yummy rolls and drink some sake so we're really looking forward to that. My Spicy Mayo will be mixed up in a bulk batch, of that I am certain. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crockpot Mississippi Roast

We eat a lot of chicken. That's probably because I love chicken the best and I'm usually the one doing the cooking. ;) I could probably eat it every day. Or at least 6 out of 7 days in a week. But I wouldn't do that to my family. I know they appreciate it when I mix it up, so I do try to alternate meats when meal-planning. I'll do chicken one day, ground beef the next, then pork, then meatless, chicken again, beef, etc. Last night we had BEEF. And not just plain beef. A delicious, tender, tasty beef ROAST. My kids always cheer when they discover we've got beef roast on the menu. I must admit I really love it, too!


This roast is a simple as you can get. A tablespoon of au jus mix, a tablespoon of ranch seasoning mix, a stick of butter and a handful of pepperoncini peppers is all you need to get some amazing flavor out of a cheap chuck roast or whichever type of roast you prefer.




Makes 6 Servings

1 3-5lb. beef roast
1 tablespoon ranch seasoning
1 tablespoon au jus seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick of butter
6-8 pepperoncini peppers
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3-4 teaspoons water

Directions:

Grease down your crockpot and place the roast inside. Sprinkle the ranch, au jus and salt over the top of the roast. Place a stick of butter on top of that, then put the peppers around on top. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours, or high 4-6 hours. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with water using a fork or whisk. Skim all the oil/fat off the top of the liquid in the crockpot. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture until completely dissolved. Cover and cook 5 more minutes. Stir before serving. Serve with potatoes, rice, pasta or bread.



This roast forms its own gravy that is delicious served over mashed potatoes, our personal favorite, or egg noodles or even rice. We've also used some crusty bread to sop up the gravy. You don't need to add any additional liquid to this roast, the beef gives off its own liquid as it cooks down. I've even put a frozen roast in there and had it turn out just as good! And let me tell you...leftovers in a hoagie with some of that gravy for dipping make an EXCELLENT lunch the next day! Yummo! This is one easy-peasy recipe. Have a great day!

Homemade Au Jus Mix

Okay, since I'm really on this kick lately of making homemade what I would usually buy pre-packaged in the store, here's a simple recipe for au jus that is delicious and easy. Just like the other seasonings I've posted, this one will last 2-3 months on the shelf in an airtight container. I keep mine in one of these adorable little glass jars from IKEA--they come in a set of 4 for like $3 and are perfect for holding small amounts of seasonings or yummy baking goodies like mini M&Ms or chocolate sprinkles! Just like all my other seasonings, I break out the ole P-Touch and whip out what it is and handy-dandy measurements onto labels and slap them on. Cute and efficient=happy Sunshine. :)





Makes 12-14 Cups

12 beef bouillon cubes (or 4 tablespoons granules)
4 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a blender 30 seconds until completely ground and combined. Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag. To make au jus, measure out 4 1/2 teaspoons into a small saucepan and whisk with 2 cups of water over medium-high heat 15 minutes until bubbly and thickened. To use as seasoning, measure out 4 1/2 teaspoons at a time to equal one package of au jus seasoning mix.



Another quick and easy homemade fix that is way cheaper than buying the individual seasoning packets. To avoid MSG, always check the labels when buying bouillon. Organic beef bouillon without MSG can be found! The recipe I use this for most often is my Mississippi Roast in the crockpot, but every once in awhile I'll mix it up to make sandwiches for a party or dinner. Yum! I do have a weakness for au jus sandwiches. :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ranch Dressing & Seasoning Mix

If your family is anything like mine, you use those little ranch seasoning packets pretty regularly. I have a pile of recipes that call for that tasty little seasoning. But the problems with those seasoning packets are a) MSG b) expensive & c) you're always out when you need it. So I've taken to making my own. I mix everything together in a medium mason jar, shake it all together, and voila, I've got homemade ranch seasoning mix! It lasts for 2-3 months on the shelf theoretically, however, we use ours pretty quickly, so we've never had to test that theory! We use it in dips, snacks, dinners, or we mix it up with some mayo/yogurt and milk to make a quick ranch dressing when (not if) we run out. 



Today I've got it in my crockpot along with a roast that is happily simmering along and smells delicious. Already looking forward to dinner! That recipe will be making an appearance here on the blog tomorrow. :)

Okay you delicious little seasoning, your time to shine!



Makes 6 "Packets"

1/2 cup parsley
2 tablespoons dill weed
2 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 1/2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons minced dried onion flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons dried chives
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

Directions:

Whisk everything together in a large bowl (or shake it up in a mason jar!) and store in a ziploc bag or airtight container for up to 2-3 months. Use 1 tablespoon for 1 packet of ranch seasoning. Mix 1 tablespoon with 1/3 cup of milk and 1/3 cup of mayo or Greek yogurt to make dressing.



I've got mine in a mason jar in my spice cabinet. I used my trusty little P-touch labeler to make a label for it with the measurements on there so I'll never forget what I need if hubby is the one needing it, he'll know exactly how much to use. ;) I have a beautiful Mississippi Pot Roast going in my crockpot right now, which calls for this seasoning along with a few other things. It's so much easier to make your own "convenience" foods and mixes! Use your freezer, use your cabinets and pantry space to save money and time as well as making healthier options for your family. It's seriously a great feeling for me when I have a "Mom" accomplishment like this! And to be honest, I actually like the taste of the homemade one even better than the stuff I can run down to Publix and buy ready-made. Yay Wednesday, the weekend is in sight! And my hubs actually has the weekend off...a rare occurrence indeed! Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sausage, Biscuits & Gravy


Here it is. The mother lode of all blog posts. The recipe for sausage gravy. Oh my, yes. Why so special, you ask? Well, to me it's the mother lode of all breakfasts because this is my absolute favorite breakfast of all time in the history of ever. I could eat this every single day. Of course, that would be quite detrimental to my health, but I'd sure be happy while doing it! My mom makes amazing, delicious biscuits and gravy. I grew up with this obsession with the dish because of her finesse at making it. However, being that I no longer live with my mother, getting to enjoy any of her biscuits and gravy is a very, very rare treat, sadly. Very sadly.

But, my hubs knows how much I love the stuff and took pity on my soul. So a few years ago, for Mother's Day, he decided to teach himself how to make it. And teach himself he did! He is now a true champion biscuits and gravy maker. (Of course I knew/know how to make it also, but it's just not the same as when someone prepares it for you with love because they know how much you adore it...besides, if I'm being honest here, I would have to admit that my hubs' biscuits and sausage gravy have far surpassed any of the ones I've ever made. I admit it!! I'm a southerner down to the bone, born in Georgia, raised in Florida...and my LA-born, Asian, grew-up-on-Vietnames-and-Chinese-food hubs...has well and truly beaten me. And I'm perfectly ok with that, in fact I'm great with it! He really is the best. I'm a lucky girl.) 
On with the show!

Makes 8 Servings

1 lb roll of sausage
1/4-1/2 cup flour
1 stick butter
3-4 cups milk
2 teaspoons black pepper
Salt, if needed

Directions:

Brown sausage in a hot skillet, stirring constantly, until all browned and crumbled. Place the stick of butter in with the sausage and stir until melted. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the sausage/butter combination and stir well, cooking and stirring for 5 minutes. Slowly pour in 3 cups of milk, a little at a time, whisking briskly with a wire whisk to ensure no lumps. If it looks too thick, stir in the extra cup of milk. If it looks too thin, sift in more flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Cook and stir for another 10 minutes or so, until gravy is thickened and bubbling. Stir in pepper, taste and add salt a pinch at a time if needed until you reach desired flavor. Serve over hot split biscuits topped with a sausage patty.



Ok, now I really need some biscuits and gravy. Problem is, the hubs is at work! Whatever shall I do?! So this recipe is just for the gravy, but we serve ours along with sausage patties--usually we have another pound roll of Jimmy Dean or Tennessee Pride breakfast sausage on hand that we slice into half-inch slices and brown over low heat with a little water to keep them from becoming dried out until they're nicely browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside--split one open to find out. Usually takes about 10 minutes, so we let the gravy sit on the warming burner to stay nice and warm. If you don't have a warming burner, you can let it sit in the oven or on simmer, just be sure to stir every few minutes to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

As for the biscuits, it's personal preference. I must admit that even I use frozen biscuit dough (GASP!!) every once in awhile when I don't want to take the time to make homemade. Or we use one of our other two go-to biscuit recipes. One is my mom's Light and Tasty Biscuits which I absolutely adore of course, having grown up on those. And my other favorite is Brown-Eyed Baker's Buttermilk Biscuits. It just depends which type you prefer. My mom's recipe uses shortening. BEB's recipe uses butter and also she gives directions for making hers in the food processor for no-fail, perfect dough, every time. The food processor is SO easy, so often times that's been my go-to for biscuits. 

If you choose to make my mom's biscuits (or any biscuit recipe, really...), which are super tasty and moist and fluffy, here are some tips to ensure success! 


  • Make sure you use always fresh baking powder--it can go "stale" and become less potent, resulting in flatter biscuits. 


  • Don't overmix, this will give you tough biscuits, not the light and fluffy ones we're after--absolutely handle the dough as little as possible. It's touchy, it doesn't like to be messed with too much. :) 


  • Thirdly, always let the oven completely preheat to 475. The key to tall, perfectly risen biscuits is a super hot oven. The steam in the dough is what causes the biscuits to rise. 


  • And the last tip I have for perfect biscuits is, don't roll the dough too thin! Barely press it into shape with your hands or a rolling pin, but keep it no less than 3/4" thick, I sometimes do a whole inch thick. 


So now that you're overwhelmed with information :) why don't you give it a try? Bake up some biscuits, whip up some sausage gravy and indulge in my absolute favorite breakfast recipe in the history of the universe. :) I know, it will probably require extra time on the treadmill or at Zumba. But it's worth it, I promise. Have an awesome day!!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Creamy Chicken Noodle Casserole

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has way too many of these in my pantry!!


...rolled-up bags of chips that are 3/4 consumed, leaving a handful or so of chips and crumbs in the bottom of the bag! I don't know what it is about my kids, but apparently they're afraid to completely finish something. They leave handfuls of chips, half a cup of cereal, two gulps of milk, one slice of cheese, etc., etc., etc., in my pantry, fridge and freezer ALL the time! The chips almost always get tossed and it drives me crazy watching all that money and food go to waste. So one of my favorite ways to use up chip crumbs is to sprinkle them on top of casseroles. The oven bakes them up crispy again and they add a nice crunch and flavor to chicken, tuna or veggie casserole dishes. So Saturday night I was in the mood for a tasty, comforting casserole for dinner. I had about a cup of broccoli in the fridge from when hubs made his Ultimate Twice-Baked Potatoes and these FIVE bags of rolled-up chip crumbs in my pantry. So throwing together a few other yummy ingredients along with these resulted in a good, old-fashioned casserole like grandma used to make. Now, I don't claim this to be low-fat by any means. You could certainly cut back on the fat by using low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt and reduced-fat cream soups and cheese as well if you so desire. But this casserole certainly comes in handy for those busy nights when you need something filling that cooks up in under an hour!

Ready for its first bout in the oven!

On my plate about to be devoured...

Makes 6-8 Servings

16 oz egg noodles
2 cans of cream of chicken soup (or the equivalent of two cans of my homemade Cream of Chicken soup mix)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups milk
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked & cubed
1 1/2 cups of broccoli, cooked/thawed and chopped
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2+ cups of potato chip crumbs, any flavor you want

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

Boil pasta for 7-8 minutes and drain. In a large bowl combine the noodles, sour cream, milk, soup and seasonings. Stir in chopped broccoli, chicken and 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese. Pour into greased 9x13 baking dish and bake for 30 minutes until bubbly. Take casserole out, sprinkle with remaining cheese, then top with potato chip crumbs and spread evenly. Bake another 10 minutes until chips are lightly browned on the edges. Serve.




Yet another one of those amazingly versatile recipes that you can really do so much with to create the flavor you're in the mood for. You could substitute peas for the broccoli. Adding in a half a cup of chopped onions would be amazing also. You could use tuna instead of the chicken or even cubed ham if you had some on hand and needed a quick dinner. Like I said, you can easily lower the fat content by using lower fat ingredients if you want. I always use fat free dry milk when making my cream of chicken soup mix, so that's already lower in fat than the original canned stuff. This was a hit and my kids all had seconds! Only a small serving, enough for one person, was put away as leftovers, so this will definitely be added to the repertoire of regulars! So what did everyone do this weekend? Happy Monday!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Spicy Mayo


Around here we do sushi night pretty regularly. Whether it's homemade or takeout, we love sushi! Even my kids will tear up some sushi. They love California rolls, sweet potato rolls and of course, chicken rolls. We let them try anything that doesn't have raw in it. And if the idea of eating raw fish wigs you out, there's plenty out there that's cooked! In fact, I think the scales may even tip in favor of more cooked vs raw sushi here in the States. If you're not a seafood person, you'd be surprised to know that raw fish actually doesn't taste "fishy" at all. It's the cooking process that brings out the oils in the seafood that give it that "fishy" flavor. 

This is one of the kiddos' favorite rolls that we make here at home: imitation crab meat, chicken tenders, scallions, cucumbers and cream cheese, all rolled up in sushi rice and nori and then battered and fried before slicing it up...mmm.


Personally, I love seafood...comes from being raised on it from the time I could eat solid food. My grandparents used to live right on the St. John's River here in Florida, and we would catch fresh seafood every single day to eat...crabs, shrimp, fish....mmmm, it was delicious. Nana S. would put it all in a big pot with salt, garlic powder and some seasoning like Old Bay or Lawry's seasoned salt and serve it up with melted butter and we'd devour it all. Anyway, as usual, I'm going off on a rabbit trail. My point today is to share with you my recipe for Spicy Mayo...a necessity when eating sushi, in my opinion, but it's also delicious on salads, with grilled fish or chicken, steak, baked potatoes...well practically anything other than dessert, really. Love me some Spicy Mayo!



Makes About 1 Cup

1 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Directions:

Whisk everything together briskly until well combined. Taste and add extra sriracha if you want it spicier. 




     I usually taste and add a dash of this or that from the ingredient list until I get it exactly how I want it...we like to put ours in a squeeze bottle like you see above so we can squeeze it directly onto each bite of sushi. A mouthful of heaven! :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Organized in 2013: Workspace

So my only New Year's resolution for 2013 was to get my home organized. With four kids and busy schedules for all of us, things often get piled up and messy and I'm the kind of person that goes a little bit crazy every day looking at it. I can't sleep well at night if I have piles of clutter throughout my house. So, I've been pouring over Pinterest, blogs, BHG, magazines, Google, etc., trying to get ideas and inspiration. One of my favorite blogs to visit is iheartorganizing

Seeing Jen's befores and incredible afters, and knowing that they did all of the work to a builder's spec home with typical builder-grade finishes and floorplan is just amazing. We built our home here in the suburbs in 2005, and our befores look a lot like Jen's befores, so when it came to designing and organizing, I felt so inspired to really make big changes and bring our home to a place that is more "us" than it ever has been before.

So far I've tackled my kitchen, garage, laundry room, bedrooms, bathrooms, linen closets...and then, after putting it off long enough, I had to do my workspace. And when I say workspace, I mean my desk. Which is in the family "study" where the family desk and computer also reside. Which is a small square room that has half-walls open to the living room and rest of the house, so it's not quiet by any stretch of the imagination. Which means I need it to at least be pretty and functional in order to get any work done! And for the past several months, it hasn't been pretty OR functional! Mail, tools, cords, CDs, pens, notes...everything...all got tossed on my desk. 

Please observe exhibit A:


Awful! Look closely, you can see the piles on the desktop surface. And I chose to use a wide photo so you can see how the family desk and computer are right next to mine...which means usually when I am editing photos or blogging or emailing, I am also having little voices next to me asking me to watch them do some particularly fancy move on whatever video game they're playing. 

Yeah, it's hard to get anything done! But I've learned lately to put earbuds in and play some Explosions in the Sky to try to get into a Zone for writing. It's working wonders so far. And since I don't have anywhere else that I could possibly relocate my desk to for more peace and quiet, I have to make the best of what I've got!

Here's another shot of my desk at its worst!:



And an after:


Here's a side by side comparison:


The difference probably doesn't seem major, but to me it's a vast improvement! I removed that extra monitor, as well as the laptop that it was connected to--it had been stepped on by my son, and had a shattered screen, so I was using that extra monitor with it. But I hardly ever used it anymore and it was taking up unnecessary space. So off it went! I also installed a shelf above my desk and moved all of my less frequently used things up there and that cleared up a lot of space on my desktop. All of those boxes and baskets hold things like rulers, extra staples, thumbtacks, crayons, important mail, notes from our projects like paint colors, manuals to appliances, etc. I used some aqua chevron adhesive drawer liner to recover a few of the pieces and they became pretty and functional! Score! 

My trusty Brother P-touch labeler, can of pens and calendar.

My basket of essentials like lotion, chapstick and address stamper, post-its, a cute little potted plant for some "pretty", and hiding behind my monitor is a box of tissues. Underneath is my Silhouette SD.

Important mail, school records, grades, household papers, etc., reside in these boxes.

Extra staples, thumbtacks, ink pads, pens, pencils, crayons, etc., are in these.

Angled view of my shelf...you can see where there's a seam on the handled tin that I recovered with the chevron. I found a cute teal candle that fit perfectly in that spot and covers the seam, not to mention matches and looks pretty! And bonus, I can light it for some smell-goods while blogging!

And one more after:


What a difference a little bit of organization makes! It doesn't need to cost a thing, I used some boxes/bins and a shelf that I already had in my house and it looks so much better. I'm already breathing easier while typing this and since this space is viewable from my front door, I'll be extra motivated to keep it looking like this. Love it! What spaces are you needing to tackle that you keep putting off? 
Happy Wednesday!









Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ultimate Twice-Baked Potatoes


Several years ago, on the day of the very first Gator football game of the season, hubs decided to make this delicious concoction for everyone. It was an immediate hit and it's been a regular on our menu ever since--whether it's for parties or dinner at home just us. He usually makes a separate version for the kids minus the onions, and the kids just tear them up. I guess for them it's like a cross between a baked potato and mashed potatoes--both of which they LOVE. Sometimes we make them without the broccoli, but it's an easy way to get that extra veggie in the meal, so why not? Do these look amazing or what? We always make enough for an army, but you can easily half the recipe.

Makes 6-8 Servings

10 potatoes
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped broccoli
1/2 cup chopped green onions
12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400.

Clean potatoes and stab many times with a fork. At this point, you need to cook them; you can bake them in a 400 degree oven for 75 minutes, you could wrap them in foil and put them in a crockpot for 4-6 hours on high, or you could microwave them for about 10-20 minutes until softened. It all depends on how soon you need them to be ready. After they're cooked, carefully slice each potato in half lengthwise. Using a sturdy spoon, scoop out the insides, creating a hollowed-out shell like so: 


Place the filling in a large bowl, then put all the shells on a well-greased cookie sheet and place them in the oven while preparing the filling. You can either use a potato masher on all the ingredients in a large bowl, or if you want a creamier filling, you can put everything in a mixer and blend it all, being careful not to overblend, you don't want a gummy filling. Taste and add more seasoning if desired and you can add milk if the mixture seems to dry. Usually a half cup at a time until you get the consistency you want. Pull the shells out of the oven and scoop the filling into each one. Then put back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly and browned on the top. 






YUM, I could go for a leftover twice baked-potato right now! I love these. They're so tasty and so filling, so they make the perfect accompaniment to dinner or as an appetizer for a get-together. We've experimented with all sorts of fillings and different cheeses too. Sometimes we sprinkle a little cheese on top to get a melty coating. Also garlic powder is good in these, I'd add about a tablespoon to the filling ingredients. Swiss is excellent with the broccoli and ham in place of the bacon goes perfectly with that. Play around with it! It's such a good recipe and so easy, you can't go wrong. Have a great Tuesday! We are headed for IKEA ourselves and I can't wait...it's been months since I was there and I'm suffering from withdrawals. ;)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Creamy Spinach Dip


Makes 6 Servings

2 pkg Knorr Spring Vegetable Soup mix
2 10 oz packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
16 oz. sour cream
1 cup mayo
1/4 cup parmesan

Directions:
Squeeze liquid out of spinach and place in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients until well combined. Refrigerate until serving. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips or bread.


I love spinach dip! This is one of the tastiest versions I've ever had. My husband is a huge fan of it, he always tells me he's just going to take the bowl and a spoon and eat it all, LOL. My oldest daughter, Jade, and my oldest son, Noah, are both big fans of spinach just like their dad so they always get big helpings of this dip as well. In fact, Noah asked me if I could make it for his birthday dinner this year! He's so cute. I love seeing how much they love spinach. As a mom it makes me really happy when my kids love something so good for them (spinach in general, obviously, not this dip, LOL). They'll eat spinach any way they can get their hands on it, too. Makes mama so proud, *sniff sniff*. Haha. So I needed a second dish to bring along with me to the Fourth of July BBQ at our friends' house the other day, so I decided to whip this one up. It takes no time at all to throw together and it's always a big hit so it was the perfect choice along with my Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad that I had also brought. I've served this dip in a big bowl of pumpernickel bread that I've hollowed out; rye is also a good choice. I didn't get a chance to go to Publix though for a fresh loaf of pumpernickel so I ended up just bringing Ritz crackers and those were really good with it too. Gotta love this versatile appetizer that's always a big hit at parties!