Monday, May 31, 2010

Caprese Salad



Happy Memorial Day, friends! What's everyone doing today? I hope you're enjoying your day off, soaking in the the sun, and remembering those lost.

Since Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer, I decided that I needed to post this Caprese salad recipe. It is meatless, so it goes along with our Meatless Memorial Monday...perfect! It's so simple, delicious, healthy, and pretty. It has all kinds of summertime flavors and is perfect to take on picnics.

I just made a portion that would feed as a side dish for two or a main dish for one. You can double or triple the recipe easily.

Ingredients:
6 cherry tomatoes
several fresh basil leaves (10 or 12 leaves)
4 or 5 slices of fresh mozzarella
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Dice the tomatoes and mozzarella into bite-size pieces. Chop the basil up. Toss these three things together in a salad bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the oil and vinegar. Drizzle over the tomato, basil, and cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Blondies



My husband came home from the station yesterday talking about these. Another firefighter had made them the night before and he wanted me to try them. Those firefighters have good taste! These were delicious and really simple to throw together. They taste like cookie cake to me, and for those of you who know me in real life, you know how I love some cookie cake! It's one of those recipes that you have everything for almost all the time.

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans. The firefighter used walnuts.)
1/3 cup butter (melted)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, powder, soda, salt, and chopped nuts. Set aside.

In a larger mixing bowl, mix the brown sugar and melted butter together well. Add the beaten egg and vanilla and stir well. Add in the flour mixture, a little bit at a time, mixing everything well.

Spread in a small baking dish (8x8) and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Lemon Marinade


I found the recipe for this summery chicken marinade on Jaimie's blog. She's always cooking up something good up there in Boston! I'm going to be trying out her Cheesy Muffins soon.

Yesterday I took the kids to the grocery store for a few things. I guess I'm on a lemon kick because I purchased three whole lemons, one lemonade mix, and one bottle of Simply Lemonade. It's summertime, folks!

Our chicken is marinading in this now. Later, my fantastic husband is going to work his magic on the grill and we have supper. Easy as that! I think I'll have a glass of lemonade to go with it.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Chicken breasts

Directions:

Mix everything together with a whisk. Pour it into a ziploc bag and add your chicken. Allow to marinate for 2-8 hours. Grill.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Work, Work, Work

Work, work, work...there has been a lot of it going on in our little yard this week. We're making big changes and loving it! We had our storm shelter installed yesterday. These are pretty important to have here in Oklahoma! You should have seen the amount of dirt that they dug up in order to put that thing in! I'm planning to plant some ivy and other plants around the sides. It needs it...you see all that red clay we deal with? Not pretty! Any suggestions for shelter landscaping???
My zinnias are just beautiful already. They haven't bloomed yet, but they look gorgeous anyway. I think I'll be planting some of them around the shelter.
We planted two trees in our backyard this week. One is a plum tree--can't wait for that to start fruiting. The other is this one...can anyone guess what type of tree it is?? We're hoping it produces lots of shade for us to enjoy.
Aaaaah, dirt. I have been working with a lot of dirt this week. We pulled out last year's garden and stole the soil. We're going to build a compost container in its spot. I'm using the soil in this year's garden, so the wheelbarrow and I have become good friends.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Poppyseed Chicken


I hope you're all having a great Sunday! We definitely are!! We spent the morning hiking at a nature center. It was a beautiful day for it. I normally cook Sunday lunch, but since we were gone, I am doing a Sunday dinner. This poppyseed chicken is always a hit whenever I serve it. My sister-in-law, Shannon, gave me this recipe before we were married. It is a great one to take for friends in need.

This is not my picture. I stole it offline and will add my own later. I just wanted some color in the post!

Ingredients:

1 package chicken breasts (boiled and cubed)
1 can cream of chicken
6 ounces sour cream
1/2 can chicken broth
1 stick butter (melted)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (crumbled)
2 teaspoons poppyseeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the sour cream, cream of chicken soup, and broth until combined.

Place the cubed chicken in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Pour the sauce over the top of it.

Mix the melted butter, crackers, and poppyseeds in a bowl. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the chicken and sauce. Bake for 30 minutes.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blossoms, Stakes, & Coffee Grounds

It's time for my garden update. I wish you all could see how much everything is growing! The picture above is one of our four pumpkin plants that are growing in our front bed. We planted pumpkins last year and had four return this season. I think those big, green leaves are so pretty!
These are some of the petunias that my kids bought me for Mother's Day. The other green plants that are growing in there with them are zinnia sprouts that I am growing from seeds. I cannot wait to watch them bloom! I anticipate that it will happen in the next couple of weeks, so I'll be sure to get pictures of them.
We staked our tomatoes and noticed that we have our first tomato blooms. That pretty yellow flower will *hopefully* be a juicy red tomato very soon.

Did you know that you can get used coffee grounds from Starbucks to use in the soil of your garden? This kind of thing is right up my alley! We try to be as "green" as possible in our home, so using something "old" to give life to my plants is awesome. Check out this web post to find out more information on this subject.

Growing a garden is truly one of life's simple pleasures. The children and I are excited to see the growth every day, and they are more than eager to help any way they can. We're already brainstorming on how we can make a bigger version next year!


Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake


I hosted a playdate today, so I made this yummy cake for us to munch on. Oh wow--it is so yummy! The chocolate chips make it extra moist. Prepare yourself for some serious indulging with this one. I need to thank Mommy's Kitchen again for this recipe. She has some good stuff on her blog!

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (I used salted butter, so I left out the salt.)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt.

In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon set aside.

Using a electric mixer, beat together the remaining 1 cup sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the sour cream and vanilla.

Fold in the flour mixture in two parts until just combined. Pour half the batter into a small cake pan (8x8 or oval shaped) and sprinkle with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Spoon the remaining batter as evenly as possible over the filling. Spread gently and evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon mixture and chocolate chips.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Perfect Pancakes



I found them! I have been searching for the "perfect" pancake recipe my entire adulthood. I absolutely love the pancakes at Cracker Barrel (they are actually the only ones I truly even like), and I think that these are as close as I've found. The secret? Cake flour. I was browsing Mommy's Kitchen when I came across this recipe. After our grocery shopping trip this morning, we came home and made these. What a yummy lunch! If you love pancakes, you have to try these!

Ingredients:
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups milk or buttermilk (I just used milk, but I'm sure buttermilk would be amazing!)
2 large eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons butter (melted)

Directions:
Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring very gently until just combined. Melt butter in the microwave and add it to the batter, stirring gently to combine. Cook on a greased skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown. I grease my skillet with a little oil and about a tablespoon of butter. Serve with butter and syrup.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Au Gratin Potatoes


It's a late post for Meatless Monday today. We have had a full day of running and playing, so this is the first chance that I've had to actually sit down at the computer. There are pictures, but they'll have to wait. I'm a tired mama. *Yawn*

We are at the end of our groceries (tomorrow is grocery day!), so I had to use what we had laying around to prepare my dinner tonight. I had several potatoes and part of a block of Colby-Jack cheese, so I decided to make these potatoes to go along with the rest of our meal. I wish that I would have made double what I did because they were gone so fast! I'll know better next time.

Ingredients:
6-8 medium-sized potatoes (peeled and thinly sliced)
olive oil
garlic powder
pepper
Tony Chachere's
dry minced onion flakes
Colby-Jack cheese (shredded)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, toss your potatoes with a generous amount of olive oil. You want each slice covered with the oil.

Spread the potatoes in the bottom of a large baking dish. Use PLENTY of seasonings on the potatoes. Shake the onion flakes all over the potatoes, as well. There really is no need to measure anything. Just add the seasonings to taste.

Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brown Sugar & Oats Muffins



I found these muffins on Kaitlin's recipe blog. She often has really delicious-looking things that she cooks up in her kitchen! I made them this morning for breakfast and there is only one left. They were just slightly sweet and the oats gave them a nutty flavor. They are truly a perfect way to start the day. Oatmeal is one of our favorite things, and I'm always trying to find new recipes to use it in. If you have any, let me know!

Ingredients:

1 cup oatmeal
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400.

Line a dozen muffin cups with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla together. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until moistened. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full and bake for 15-17 minutes.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sprinklers, Strawberries and Spring Storms

It's time for my garden update. I've been linking up each Thursday over at The Inadvertant Farmer's blog. There are several bloggers who write about their gardening endeavors, so go check them out! I've found lots of great gardening tips while reading through them.

Here are our strawberry plants. We haven't seen any fruit yet, but I don't think it will be long! Aren't the containers so cute? I found both of them in someone's trash. *hangs head in shame* Yes, I guess I'm a dumpster diver, but I could not pass these up! They are made of cement and have a rustic look that I just adore. Don't judge!
Our sprouts are really growing! We now have several from each of the seeds we planted. It won't be long before we're eating fresh cantaloupe and slicing up cucumbers for a snack. That will be so awesome!
The kids bought a soaker hose and a shower-type head, along with a flat of flowers for me for Mother's Day. They are so enthusiastic about growing things, and I love that gardening instills a love for that in them! Great life lessons growing along with our plants. Josie and Rhett love using the shower head sprinkler to help water the garden.
I don't know if you all saw the tornadoes that the Oklahoma City area dealt with earlier this week, but along with the high winds came some ginormous (is that a real word?) hail. I stole this picture from my friend Mandi. We weren't able to take pictures of any of it, because we were driving through it at the time. What a night! My poor little tomato plants didn't appreciate that hail one bit! I think that everything survived, but the weather was definitely rough on them. By the way, we called the day after those tornadoes to have a storm shelter installed on our property! That will be in next week. Now if we can make it through tonight's storms....


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bacon & Eggs Pizza



Those of you who know me in real life and those of you who have followed my blog for some time know that my kids love breakfast food. My friend Teri told me that her family made this breakfast pizza and devoured it, so it sounded perfect for us to try! Usually when I make pizza, I use this crust recipe, but Teri used a ready-made crust for hers, so that's what I used. I think I would prefer it on the homemade crust a little more. This is definitely a must-try for one of those "I don't feel like doing a whole lot of cooking" nights!

Ingredients:
1 pizza crust
salsa (I didn't measure this. I simply spread a thin layer.)
3 eggs (scrambled, but not fully cooked--You want them watery since they'll finish cooking in the oven.)
6+ pieces of bacon (cooked)
shredded cheese

Directions:
Preheat your oven according to the crust packaging (or your recipe.) I preheated to 350.

Spread a thin layer of your favorite salsa on the crust. Top that with the (not fully cooked) eggs. Crumble your bacon into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle those on top of the eggs. Sprinkle lots of shredded cheese on top.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.


Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all my fellow Mamas! Enjoy your day with your special little people...I am definitely enjoying mine!

Come back in a bit to see a fun breakfast pizza recipe!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Some Plugs

Hey guys--this is just a quick post to let you know that I have set up a Facebook fan page for my blog. I'd love it and be extremely honored if those of you with Facebook pages would "like" it. Just click the "like" button on the left side bar, if you feel like it.

Secondly, I am walking in the March of Dimes walk-a-thon in the morning with my husband and three precious kids. March of Dimes raises money for premature babies and their families. All three of our children have been born prematurely, though only one has had to spend time in the NICU. We are so grateful for the care that he received while there, and are happy to be raising a little money for this cause. We just signed up for it this afternoon, so we haven't raised any money yet. If you feel like donating, the secure site is http://www.marchforbabies.org/brandicastle. Thank you all and have a great weekend!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sprouts

See my sprouts? These are in our flower beds. They're zinnia flowers that Jeremy's grandmother gave to me. They're so cute, don't ya think?

There is something miraculous about watching things that you care for grow and thrive. I think that's why I love having babies! Babies, puppies, sprouts...I love to watch them grow!
We noticed our first sprouts sprouting two days ago. Josie and I were so excited. She is a little mini-me and is fascinated by growing things, as well. We have been going out to check on our newest "babies" several times per day. There are cucumbers, summer squash, cantaloupe, and one tiny sunflower sprout growing in our garden. What a thrill!
I read somewhere that egg shells were a good calcium source for tomatoes. The kids and I saved a dozen shells and sprinkled them with our tomato plants. I have worked them into the soil, and am hoping that I'm going to have some monster tomatoes in a few weeks.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Artichoke Bread



Oh my goodness--we just ate this bread for lunch, and it was so, so, so good! It's not actually supposed to be a lunch, but that's what we ate it as, and I am super-glad we did. It is cheesy, with chunks of artichoke, and crispy French bread. Good golly, it is yummy.

I found this recipe on Jaimie's blog. She has lots of great recipes to check out! Funny, small-world story to go along with Jaimie...she found my blog and it turns out that she's from the same town in Louisiana that I lived as a child. We are friends with several of the same people, but would never have connected had it not been for this blog!

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter
4 garlic cloves (minced)
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
4 oz Monterey Jack cheese (shredded)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 oz cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 french bread
salt & pepper to taste or Tony's

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

Melt butter and add garlic, cook the garlic until it is fragrant. Add the artichoke, Monterey Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, and sour cream. Stir to blend. Remove from the heat and cool.

Slice bread lengthwise and scoop out some of the center. Crumble the pieces of bread and add it to the mixture. Spoon the artichoke mixture on the bread and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese. Place each half on the baking sheet and cover lightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes then remove the foil and bake for another 5-8 minutes until the cheese melts completely. Cut into slices and serve warm.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monterey Chicken



Have you ever tried the Monterey Chicken at Chili's? If so, you know that it is full of all kinds of delicious flavors. I recently tried to replicate, and was very successful (if I do say so myself!). The best part was how easy it was.

I took pictures of it, but haven't uploaded pictures in a few days. I'll try to do that this evening.

Ingredients:
1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded almost flat)
1 bottle bbq sauce (We use Head Country because it is the best!)
2 pieces of bacon for each breast (cooked and drained)
Monterey Jack cheese (shredded--I only had cheddar on hand, so that's what I used.)
1 tomato (freshly diced) This is optional. I didn't have any, so we did without. Can you tell it's time to buy groceries?
salt and pepper for seasoning the chicken

Directions:
Preheat your outdoor grill or George Foreman grill.

Put the breasts in a ziploc bag and pound them until nearly flat. I used the end of a heavy knife (wrapped in a hand towel) for this. Pull them out of the bag and salt & pepper them well.

Cook the breasts on your grill until done. While they are cooking, brown up the bacon, shred the cheese, and dice the tomato.

Turn the broiler of your oven onto high. Place the cooked chicken breasts on a cookie sheet and place 2 strips of bacon on each. Pour a generous amount of bbq sauce onto each breast and then sprinkle with cheese.

Place under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Pull out and sprinkle with diced tomato.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Coconut Cake



Is it okay to share a dessert on Meatless Monday? Afterall, it doesn't contain any meat! I found this recipe on Kelly's blog, and since I'm hosting a playdate today, I thought I'd try it out. It is baking as I type, and I am so excited to eat some! One small problem with it, though...I forgot to get shredded coconut! Uh-oh! I think it will still taste awesome since it has the cream of coconut in it. We shall see!

Ingredients:

1 box white cake mix
1 can cream of coconut (You can find it in the mixed drink section of the grocery store. It doesn't contain alcohol.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 package shredded coconut (I forgot!)
1 container whipped topping

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350.

Bake the cake according to the back of the box.

Pull the cake out, and while it is hot, poke holes all over the top of it with a straw. Mix the sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut together and pour over the top of the cake.

Allow the cake to cool and then top with whipped topping and sprinkle with coconut flakes. Store in the refrigerator.