Month: July 2015

Another Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!

My second Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award nomination! Thank you so much Linda Creation! I love the diverse ethnicity in your food. I don’t think you are afraid to cook anything.

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, including a link back to their site.

2. Put the award logo on your blog.

3. Answer the ten questions the blogger has sent you.

4. Create ten new questions for your nominees to answer.

5. Nominate ten people of your own. (You can notify them to make them aware)
My Questions &  Answers:
1. Blogging to you is a real or virtual world?
Both: It’s personal and real in that sense. But the vast amount of information seems endless and hard to fathom, almost unrealistic.

2. You would call yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
Can I say both again? Mostly extrovert, an extroverted homebody.

3. Top 3 things in your to-do list..
I like Linda’s answers: Family, Blog & Photography.

4. Your role model and why?
It would have to be Jesus. He went around doing good, healing the sick and speaking life.

5. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
I love the typing, writing, photography, planning posts, etc. It’s perfect for me, and an excellent diversion from my daily life (which I also love, but in a different way.)

6. Sisterhood to your means..
I have a sister, and friends that are like sisters; the relationships are priceless. It’s selfless and giving, trusting and a meaningful connection.

7. Do you enjoy nominations?
Yes!!! I am so thankful that fellow bloggers appreciate what I’m doing!

8. Your Favourite drink..
Coffee.

8. Any addictions?
Literally, I hope there is not a habit in my life I couldn’t leave behind in an instant. But if I don’t drink a cup of coffee in the morning, I will get a headache.

9. What do you want to earn more money or fame?
Money? It would be nice to take my family on vacation.

10. Free-be! Thanks again Linda!!

My Nominations:

1. Natascha’s Palace

2. How Mummy Flowers does it

3. Cooking With a Wallflower

4. theantiramen

5. Smiling Notes

6. Darie’s Daily Dish

7. With All My Affection

8. Aromatic Essence

9. Farm Raised Cooking

10. The View From Bridge Street

Your Questions:

1. What is your favorite activity (aside from blogging)?

2. Who is your biggest blogging inspiration?

3. Is there a dish you are intimidated to try to make?

4. What did you eat for breakfast?

5. Where is your dream destination?

6. If you had 1 more hour in a day, how would you use it?

7. For traveling do you prefer boat, plane, train or automobile?

8. Skiing in the Alps or bumming it on the beach?

9. Have you ever done karaoke?

10. What’s your favorite form of pampering?

Aunt Lynn’s Cheesy Egg & Sausage Casserole

A classic breakfast egg and cheese casserole dish has to be in every mom’s recipe box. Thankfully Aunt Lynny gave me hers! It’s morning comfort food. And it makes your kitchen smell like love. This dish is great for weekends and I have fond memories of it making an appearance on the Christmas buffet at Gram’s. It’s versatile, so you can substitute the sausage for cubed ham, change around the cheese, add green or red pepper… mix it up as you please.

As organic as possible:

10 eggs, beaten

8 oz shredded cheese

3-4 slices bread, cubed small

1 lb pork sausage, browned and drained

1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 X 9 baking dish and set aside. Add browned sausage to beaten eggs in a large bowl, add cheese (I used cheddar and Emmentaler), bread, and milk. Pour mixture into greased pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until center is firm.

Diets

I like to start diets at the most inopportune times, like two days before Thanksgiving or on Christmas eve. I don’t know what my problem is. If I had to psychoanalyze myself, I’d probably say I was setting myself up for failure. But that is not how it feels at commencement; it feels very earnest as in “I don’t care what tomorrow is, I’m starting today!” But you can imagine how it ends.
So the past couple days, I’ve been contemplating, let’s just call it, healthy eating. The list of reasons why is boring, and redundant, so I’ll spare you and me. Then I’m reading this article from Food Network magazine about how much activity you need to do to burn off certain popular summer treats. And some of it is not relatable; I don’t row or play tennis. I don’t play basketball or jump rope (that’s actually a hilarious thought), and on a plus side I don’t eat lobster rolls… which means I just spared myself an hour of swimming, awesome! I do have the yard work thing under lock down which means I burned off two pieces of fried chicken last night (that’s like the same as a reuben sandwich right?) Anyway I put down my bag of honey mustard pretzels and said ok. Let’s do it. There’s not even a holiday scheduled for weeks so there’s that, momentum.

15 Minute Creamy Pasta

This creamy dish takes about the time to make as it takes to boil water and cook the pasta. The sauce is tangy and cheesy. My family eats a lot of pasta, a lot. It’s fun to have a quick creamy white sauce. This recipe uses low fat dairy, so it feels light but still decadent. And because the cheese still has bite, you won’t miss the meat!

As organic as possible:

1 pound pasta (rotini or what have you)

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1/2 onion, diced small

1 tsp dried basil

1 cup low fat cottage cheese

1- 8 oz block reduced fat Cream cheese, softened

1 Tbsp grated Parmesan

1 tsp granulated garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1 pinch red pepper flakes

1/8 tsp freshly grated black pepper

2-3 Tbsp low fat milk

Bring water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauce pan. Add the diced onion and let cook for about 2 minutes, add dried basil and let infuse in the oil (if you prefer fresh, double the amount and add at the end). Add the cheeses, garlic, salt, red pepper, black pepper and milk. Allow the cheese mixture and seasonings to melt together and combine. If the sauce seems thick, add another tablespoon or so of milk. When pasta is cooked and drained, the sauce should be completely melted and creamy. Top the pasta with sauce and serve!

Roast Your Own

In the recent years of American coffee enlightenment, the flavor advantages of freshly roasted, freshly ground, and freshly brewed ‘Joe’ have become common household knowledge. Not only have we come to learn the difference between Arabica (the superior bean, even advertised to be sold at McDonald’s) and Robusta (the inferior) coffee beans, we are learning to appreciate the fruit behind the bean; the climate, soil and shade etc. its grown in, likened to grapes used for wine. Let’s be honest, whether you like them or not, Starbuck’s can be credited for opening the gates for many of the micro roasters we love today. And opening the eyes of many coffee drinkers, who didn’t grow up in cities like Seattle, that now know the difference between a crappy and a good cup of coffee. Because of local roasters and the variety available in most town grocery stores, we now refer to the names of coffee by the regions of origin, i.e. Kenya, Brazil, Hawaii (Kona), Jamaica (Blue Mountain), Guatemala, Columbia, etc. rather than Folger’s or Maxwell House. More importantly, the coffee craze has brought awareness to fair trade practices world-wide where farmers, harvesters and the like can receive more fair earnings for a hard day’s work (we still have a way to go).

What you may (or may not) know is that about half a century ago major coffee manufacturers added things from saw dust to brick dust to bulk up the quantity of product in their cans. True story, but that’s not what I was going to say. I was going to inform you that coffee in it’s green bean (un-roasted) form lasts a lot longer than when it’s brown and roasted, years even. Most retailer’s have gone the extra mile to equip their pre-packaged coffee bags with systems that let out the gases of roasted coffee beans without letting in oxygen, that will start to deteriorate the quality of the bean. Once you open it of course it’s only a matter of days, about 7-14, until your coffee will turn into dirt. Well not really, I’m exaggerating, but it might taste like it. You can freeze it, but I’ve actually heard experts say that if you plan on using it regularly that’s not the way to go either.

So what is a coffee lover to do? Roast your own.

Keep your green coffee beans in a clean dry container at room temp, (or a chic burlap sac) and roast in batches. People around the world do this many different ways. Some cook their beans on a stove top in a pan, others have made their own drums and rotating devices similar to a spit on a grill. You can bake them in the oven. One day I will own a professional grade roaster. In the meantime I use an air-popper, the kind used for popping corn. The air gets heated quickly and stays at a certain temperature (unlike doing it over an open flame). It is built to keep the kernels (or beans) in a constant state of motion for even heat distribution, much like a rotating drum. Depending on your roast, if you did find a bean that was really dark or extra light, you can remove it from your batch. I mean I’m not selling it commercially, it’s for my own personal use. And it’s as freshly ‘“roasted” as you can get! (Although I usually wait about 24 hours before I actually grind and brew it.)

Obviously there is an art to coffee roasting. Experts can go on for hours about the sound, smell and look of perfectly roasting the bean, depending on the type of bean, etc.; but I’m referring to home roasting. I don’t have a thermocouple or heat probe measuring the internal temperature of a coffee bean. I don’t roast low then turn up the heat, blah, blah, blah. But I do enjoy my coffee and especially doing things myself. The system is based on listening for 2 different “cracking” sounds. The “crackings” have to do with letting out moisture and gases. Also beans expand in size when roasted so keep in mind what looks like a normal brewing amount of green beans will be more when roasted.

It’s relatively easy. It’s about listening for the two cracks, and you will know if you are listening. Times aren’t exact, so I can’t tell you precisely when it will happen, but let’s say on average you will hear the first crack somewhere between 4-7 minutes, the second crack about a minute later. If you like a light roast remove the beans from heat shortly after the second crack (some people even do it before the second crack, but not the majority). If you like a medium roast, wait maybe another 30 seconds to a minute, and for a dark or espresso type roast maybe another minute yet (don’t burn ’em). The longer you let them “roast” the darker and shinier the beans will appear. It all happens rather fast after the second crack. And for a beginner I recommend getting the beans out sooner than later. It is also recommended that you do this in a well vented area, I place my popper on the stove top and keep the vent on. Some people I know like to do the whole process outside.

What is important to know is two things, one the beans have chaff, a paper-ish flake it gives off. (Which to be responsible, I should warn you is flammable, but I’ve never had a problem) Using my air popper I let the air blow into a kitchen strainer. Then I quickly dump it into the garbage and pour my beans into the same strainer and shake them fervently, while blowing on them. Because the second thing you need to know is that the beans will continue to cook, so you want them to cool quickly. Some people also use a fan, but I don’t want to clean chaff that’s blown all over the kitchen. I could see this if you are outside I guess.

It may sound like a lot, but it’s really not. Making biscuits could sound hard until you do it. Just remember this is for fun! Experiment with different beans and blends! Most people start keeping a chart of blends and roasting times, then you can remember what you enjoy the most. My favorite part is serving my husband and guests my own brew!

…Now if I only lived at a certain elevation on a location within a particular distance from the equator, I could actually grow my own!

Chili-Chocolate Brownies

I love chocolate. Love. These brownies are moist, chewy and chocolatey. They are everything you really want in a chocolatey and yummy brownie with a little elevated surprise. Sometimes having a fiesta means adding the spice to your brownies.

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 Tbsp Spicy hot chocolate mix (such as Pete’s Chocolate Co.) *for that hint of chili and even more chocolate goodness

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp safflower (or vegetable) oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8 x 8 inch square pan. In a mixing bowl blend butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and beat well. In a separate bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add egg mixture and stir until combined. Add oil and mix until blended. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 – 40 mins, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Olé!

Words of Wisdom: Post A Quote Challenge Day 3

1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.

3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:

4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.

8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

9 Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:

12 For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.

17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.

19 The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.

21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:

22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.

26 For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.

27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

28 Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.

29 Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.

30 Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.

31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

32 For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous.

33 The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.

34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.

35 The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

Proverbs 3:1-35 KJV

Peter Rabbit Tea Party

“Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

Beatrix Potter

My mother had been planning a Beatrix Potter tea party for her grandchildren for a while,

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long before we knew of Prince George’s first birthday.

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The walkway was lined with little reminders of which way to go.

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There were snacks awaiting the little guests; like strawberries fallen in a little oreo dirt and white chocolate bunnies.

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Costume jewelry to adorn the ladies.

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Characters from the story made special appearances everywhere.

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Along with other special touches.

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Including frogs in the pond.

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Lavender hung with care…

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Just like the story book. (Mom’s art work, a gift to her grand-daughter from years ago)

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Mr. McGregor’s garden was a must. (No need to turn up the grass, just lay a tarp topped with dirt and cabbage leaves!)

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Careful Peter!

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It was a bounty for little rabbits.

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The setting was absolutely lovely, nestled under a shade tree.

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Vivid florals strung in the air added ambiance.

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Photo ops are some of my favorite party options… They make great gifts to send out with your “thank you’s”!

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Refreshments included rabbit and flower shaped sandwiches. (And wrapped chocolates that get eaten first)

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Chocolate milk served in a Beatrix Potter china set.

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The ladies and gents quite enjoyed themselves.

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Every children’s party needs activities! First it was a hunt for Jemima Puddle Duck’s lost eggs.

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Which made for a riveting egg toss! (Note: make sure the eggs are hard boiled!)

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Are both of her feet behind the hat?

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Reading Bench…

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Story Time!

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And a butterfly hunt! (No butterflies were hurt, in our catch and release.)

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Who’s ready for some cake?

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Now let’s burn off some sugar with a sack race!

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What a special day! Thank you Granny!

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award and Post A Quote Challenge

A sincere thank you to Smiling Notes for your nomination of the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! I have been overwhelmed with the amount of support and friendship in the blogging community. Smiling Notes, you have a great blog and I am honored by your recognition. I am also excited to participate in your 3 day Post A Quote Challenge!

Firstly, to answer the questions for your nominees:
1 How did you decide your blog name? Is there any story behind it?

When I decided to start a blog, I knew I was going to share about my daily life. I think my mom came up with the suggestion.
2 Comedy, horror or chick flick? Which type of movie do you generally prefer?

I like to laugh, so I would say comedy, except in reality I always pick chick flicks; Romantic comedies.
3 What is your best memory till date?

I can hardly remember yesterday!
4 Heels or Flats? Which is your go to style?

Definitely flats. I gave up heels during my first pregnancy, and never looked back.
5 Favorite Pizza Topping?

Can I pick two? Feta & onion… If just one, I guess onion.
6 What did you want to be when you were little? It could be any random/ funny thing.

In first grade I did a report on this… I was going to be a singer.
7 Is there any movie which you can watch over and over and not get bored with it?

You’ve Got Mail
8 Have you ever gone to a live concert? If yes, which was the last one that you attended?

Yes. Jack Johnson? That was a while ago!
9 Do you like applying make-up? If yes, what is your make-up must have?

I want to be good at doing make up, I really do, but I’m not. If I had to pick one thing… mascara
10 Favorite Dessert?

This is subject to change, but right now I could go for some chocolate layer cake!

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Recently, I was recommended by a friend to read the cookbook Momofuku. In it was this quote:

“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”

Steve Martin

That sentiment resonates with me, probably with most people. It’s easier to look back at what you’ve done and think “I didn’t know anything!” But not knowing and thinking you could is probably what allowed you to go through with it in the first place! I’m learning all of the time.

Thanks again Smiling Notes!

The Chef’s Creamy Pasta Salad

Sometimes you want a side dish that can stand up with any burger, barbecue chicken or pulled pork you throw at it. You want the kind of pasta salad that makes you happy going back for seconds, knowing that you don’t have to get everything; just some of that really good pasta salad. Here it is…

4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni

1 1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1/2 cup Miracle Whip

1/4 cup Champagne vinegar

2/3 cup White sugar

2 1/2 Tbsp Yellow mustard

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Black pepper

1 large Onion

2 stalks Celery, diced

1 Green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 Carrot, grated

Cook macaroni as directed, rinse with cold water and drain. In a large bowl mix mayonnaise, Miracle Whip (for that tangy zip), vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, carrot, and mayo mixture to the macaroni. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or longer to let flavors combine, overnight is preferred! Enjoy! (Compliments of Sadie via The Chef)