Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - My Babies

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Taking on New Recipes

If you're like me, you have your own database of go-to meals forever in your brain. You've made them time and time again, memorized the ingredients, you know they'll taste good and in a pinch you have dinner prepared.

There are those evenings though when the old faithful recipes just don't do it for me. I want something new - a challenge that I'm never quite sure that I'll be able to tackle successfully. The recipe may say that it will take an hour to prepare and cook and I don't even care if it takes me two or more, I will make something new and fabulous (or at least attempt it).

Another reason I oftentimes try out a new recipe is when I'm cooking a special meal or having company over. Risky - totally. I don't know why I do it to myself. I always think, "maybe I should make something that I know is good..." and then that's exactly when Carlos challenges me to try something new and I totally can't help myself but accept the call to action and break out the cookbooks, leaving any doubts of incompetency behind me.

Recently Carlos and I had our first dinner guests over, and I was determined to make something fancier than I had made in the past. I went through my cookbooks (usually Rachel Ray), searching for the perfect thing and I stumbled across a recipe that I had been interested in several times, but always thought it might be too difficult. Turns out, the most difficult time I had was finding the ingredients! Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to find puff pastry (in the right size), fig preserves and Italian fontina cheese?? Thank goodness I started shopping early in the day and not RIGHT before dinnertime because I had to go to four stores just to find everything. Three out of the four stores had fontina cheese, but it was from Denmark. Two out of the four stores only had puff pastry shells and out of the remaining two, only one had the puff pastry sheet size that I needed. Only ONE store had fig preserves. Can we get a Whole Foods in Salinas please?

Anyway, with all of that said, ingredients collected, the recipe wasn't difficult at all - pretty straightforward and the result was delicious. I served it alongside green beans and asparagus with a tarragon lemon dip (also Rachel Ray) yummmm and finished off the evening with pears with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. It's a pretty expensive meal, but compared to a dinner out, not bad. For four adults it was $60 for a gourmet meal in.

I challenge you to try them all! Here are the recipes:

Love Birds - Chicken in Pastry


4 pieces skinless chicken breast, boned (about 8 ounces each)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 sprigs fresh finely chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 sheet puff pastry (11 by 17-inch), (recommended: Dufour)

8 slices Italian fontina cheese, slices should be 2 to 3-inches square and 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick, cut in 1/2

1/2 cup fig preserves

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and rosemary. Cut each piece of chicken in half across the breast giving you 8 equal portions. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the chicken on both sides, 5 minutes total. Remove from heat.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 8 pieces. Place a piece of cheese on each pastry square and top with spoonfuls of fig preserves and the chicken pieces. Pinch and seal the dough up and over the meat and cheese, seal with egg wash, flip the pastry packets over and brush the tops with remaining egg wash. Bake 12 to15 minutes, until golden.

For entree portions, simply leave chicken breast whole and cut the pastry into quarters. Trim off excess dough and use it to decorate the pastry with small cut outs such as heart shapes.

Asparagus and Green Beans with Tarragon Lemon Dip


1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed


1 cup mayonnaise

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 small shallot, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, (4 sprigs), chopped, plus sprigs for garnish

2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, plus sprigs for garnish

Few grinds freshly ground black pepper


Cook asparagus spears and green beans in 1-inch of salted boiling water, covered, for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain and cool the vegetables and arrange them on a serving plate. Combine the dip ingredients in a small bowl and garnish with sprigs of parsley and tarragon and set dip along side vegetables on serving dish.

Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce


2 cans pears in heavy syrup, 15 ounces

4 tablespoons amaretto or dark rum

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or, chop up a bar

1 pint French vanilla ice cream


Drain pears over a small saucepot. Reduce syrup over medium high heat 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in liquor and cook 2 minutes longer. Add chocolate and stir to melt. Remove from heat.

Slice pears and place in cocktail glasses. Pour hot chocolate sauce over pears and top glasses with small scoops of vanilla ice cream.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Customization. . . the HTML Blues

I have spent the past three days immersing myself in HTML and websites and Photoshop and Photobucket and tons of other sites I haven't ever been to just trying to make a blog to my liking. Three days later....I'm pretty satisfied and I have eye strain, BUT I've done almost everything that I had set out to accomplish. I changed my template to something cuter, added a signature, added more gadgets, added titles for my gadgets, set a new font for the date/post titles and most importantly, designed my own header (which was the most fun I had in the whole process).

After a few days, I'm glad the customization process is over. There's creativity and then there's eye-crossing code for days and I'm not sure if I'll ever learn how to use it to my creative benefit without a step-by-step instructional - which has been my only proven method so far, and even with that I managed to screw up. I give a round of applause to those who can actually look at the rolling pages of code and make sense of it all on the spot.

My favorite part of it was designing my header. I've always loved tooling around in Photoshop and making something that truly reflects myself and my individual creativity. I barely used Photoshop at all to make the header because I happened across a website called Scrapblog that was super fun to use and create with. You are able to import your own images, and with them and the provided images, create an assortment of items: calendars, books, albums, cards, etc. that you can order. You can also create an online scrapbook that you can invite friends and family to. Another way you can use it is create one page and export it as a jpg like I did. Then you can leave it as is, or take it into Photoshop and add some more flare to it. It was a great tool, in that it gives you lots of backgrounds and TONS of stickers to use, all for free. You can pay for some really cool decorative stickers and backgrounds, but why when you can just get it for free?

With that said, my blog should be looking the same for quite some time. I don't think I'm down for anymore html craziness for a while. I set out to make something I'd enjoy looking at and I accomplished that. I hope you enjoy it too. =)

Here's a link for Scrapblog....Check it out!


Monday, September 13, 2010


When I was in elementary school my mom used to take us to Bakers Square when it was raining and order hot cocoa and cornbread - it was the best. It made me crave cornbread whenever the weather was gray and drizzly. I love it.

It was the first thing I proudly learned to make when I was a kid, all by myself. I loved the feeling of measuring out so many things, mixing them all together and knowing that in 25 minutes I would have something delicious. I can't have chili beans without it. I must have a piece of cornbread with melty butter on it with every bite. Indulgent? Yes. Delicious? Totally.

I always use the recipe on the back of the Albers yellow cornmeal box. Its the best.

Albers® Corn Bread

(Makes 12 servings)

This moist corn bread can be served with salads, soups, stews, chilies, or southern fried chicken. Try it toasted and spread with butter and jam in the morning.

1 cup Albers® White or Yellow Corn Meal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Grease 8-inch square baking pan.

COMBINE meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Combine milk, oil and egg in small bowl; mix well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pan.

BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

NOTE Recipe may be doubled. Use greased 13x9-inch baking pan; bake as above.

SPOON batter into 10 to 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 400°F oven for 15 minutes.

Don't forget to serve alongside some good chili beans. =)

As we head into the fall season, one question:

What's your favorite go-to comfort food/meal in cold weather?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day = Cleaning Day

Okay, before I talk about the large cleaning strides we made this weekend, I am going to introduce you to my baby, Chloe. Carlos and I got her in May when she was 6 weeks old, and she's 5 months now. She's my rambunctious sweetie and I was surprised how much I missed her morning puppy hugs when we were on vacation.

I'm pretty excited about the cleaning accomplishments that we made over our three day weekend. I may still be sneezing due to the dust I inhaled, but our house is clean, for the most part organized and we were actually able to use our extra room as a creative space on Sunday when Carlos suggested we do some painting. After clearing enough floor space in the extra room and making quick run to Michaels to buy some canvases and some new colors, it felt good to have a paintbrush in my hand again, with no clue as to what I was going to paint. Our experimental painting session went well - its always fun to slap some paint on a canvas and see how it ends up. We brought Chloe into the room in her crate so that she wouldn't feel left out. She whined a bit, but I think our quiet artsy time chilled her out after a while.

Here are our paintings and our work in progress extra room/creative space:

Hopefully soon I can start using my sewing machine and chipping away at the bags of fabric I have tucked away in the closet.

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