Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What I Love Wednesday

It's Wednesday again and time for me to acknowledge that special thing in my kitchen that just really has made life easier for me this week.  

Last week I loved on my pots & pans, and while I still love them dearly, this week they have been outshone. Move aside Rachael Rays...   what I love this Wednesday is my friend Sairaina! (Here she is in my kitchen so it TOTALLY counts.)

Isn't she just adorable?!  Definitely my favorite thing in my kitchen!!
Sairaina and I go WAYYYYY back, but over the last couple months she's become a great cooking cohort also.  Every other week we get together and prepare a meal together (this sounds better than I stand around telling her what to do and watching her cook for me).

Sairaina is an amazingly talented person.  She's an incredible musician, singer, songwriter, worshiper.  She's one of my closest friends, a great co-worker, a fantastic Kids Camp counselor (go Super-raina go!) and she's one of the most photogenic people I've ever encountered.  She's also kind, and generous, and lovely, and gracious, and giving and sweet, and funny and gorgeous and I just love her to pieces... and for some crazy reason she loves me too and we enjoy our quality time together in my kitchen!

She'll tell you she needs the cooking lessons.  I'm here to tell you she's lying - she certainly doesn't need my help, but I sure like cooking alongside her and so I play along like I know something she doesn't when it comes to culinary skills, and she pretends I'm actually teaching her something and we have a great time.  Oh, and then we eat our creation!  It's really a win-win!

Last night she came over and we cooked up one of my quick easy favorite meals.  Spinach, Tomato & Feta over Penne pasta with garlic & herb chicken.  (and then I roasted some acorn squash too because I had them and needed to use them.)

Hello deliciousness... visit again soon!

It's a very easy recipe and so flavor-full!  It's a favorite around our household, even with Hayden who told me it was "mmmmm tasty!"

"Sairaina" action figure not included with most kitchens
Here's what you need: 

Chicken, EVOO, onion, garlic, spinach, tomatoes (I used cherubs, but you could use any kind diced), feta cheese and penne pasta.  The Sairaina is optional, but I highly recommend her!

Start by boiling some water in a big stock pot.  Salt it good and add your penne pasta, cooking it al dente.  Drain and set aside.


 In a saute pan heat some olive oil over medium heat.  Season your chicken (I used a roasted garlic & herb blend) and cook 'em on up.


In a skillet, heat some olive oil and saute a chopped onion for a couple minutes until it starts turning translucent. 


Add some minced garlic (I used three cloves) and stir around another minute.


Dump in a whole bag of baby spinach.  It will look like a lot... do not fear, that stuff wilts down SERIOUSLY!  Cover with a lid, or just stir around in the heat for a few minutes.


See, totally wilted. 

Add your pretty tomatoes next... don't they add such a lovely color?  Oh I'm getting hungry all over again just staring at this. 


Then add your cheese (I used 2/3 of the container) and allow the cheese to melt for a few more minutes.


Add your pasta back in and toss around.  Serve with chicken...or not, whatever floats your boat!


So thank you Sairaina!  Thank you for coming over, and cooking with me, and making such a delicious dinner.  You're my favorite thing in my kitchen - and an obvious choice for what I love Wednesday. (and everyday!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

10 things I learned this weekend

This past weekend went by in an absolute blur.  Weekends tend to be busy for us, well...okay life in general is busy for us - but for some reason this past weekend went by extra fast!!

However, in the midst of the whirlwinds I learned a few significant things:

1.  I learned that my 3-year old son already has a reputation among his peers as being the world's best fighter.  What makes this even funnier is the following sequence of photos was taken the same day this "rumor" was spread. 

Even rough & tough fighters get in touch with their feminine sides from time to time
You look lovely son!  Pink is your color!


2.  I learned, much to my chagrin, that when I asked my darling husband how I looked before I left for church to LEAD WORSHIP; he did not notice, and nor did the six other males on the worship team with me that morning, that my sweater was buttoned wrong (one side totally longer than the other) all morning. Yep... five full hours I displayed my aptitude for dressing to the world before it was kindly pointed out to me by several people following the service. 

3. I learned that due to #2 I'm happier than ever that we don't do live broadcasting of our services.   350 people in service was more than enough witnessing for me.

4.  I learned that I'm a total sucker for babies.  Okay, not real breaking news there, but I didn't think that this guy would make my 8-month old look like a toddler and in turn make me desperately want another already.  Hello Logan... I just want to put you in my pocket and smuggle you home with me!! 

But I won't, because that would be kidnapping.
And your mommy would miss you.
And probably press charges.     

Baby Logan - 3 weeks old - totally adorable and with more hair than both my boys put together!

5.  I learned that eggs-in-a-hole may be my new favorite "quick" way to prepare my eggs for breakfast.  Thank you Pioneer Woman & Joey from Friends for inspiring me to try it.    Couldn't be simpler - but oh so delicious.  I'll never go back to plain ol' toast and eggs again.

6.  I learned that the one Sunday you don't pack extra clothes in the diaper bag when you drop your kid off in nursery, will be the Sunday that he pees all over himself and the nursery worker (sorry Shannon) and will get to spend the rest of the morning wearing nothing but his diaper and his blanket.

7.  I learned that I have a serious illness, a chemical imbalance, or just some really strange disorder that causes me to involuntarily make four times the amount of food we actually need to feed our family EVERY MEAL!  So, if anyone would like some baked potato soup... we have it coming out our ears.

Mmmmmm good... but not for five days in a row!  Help me!
  
8.  I learned that my 3-year old is not ready to walk beside me in the grocery store instead of riding in the cart.  "Clean up on aisle 6!"   Oh how I wish I was joking!  He can't NOT touch things.  I won't go into great detail, but it involved face lotion and jars of baby food, and me being totally mortified (and angry, and irritated, and embarrassed again) and it wasn't pretty!

9.  I learned that no matter how late you keep a child up at night, they will not, and I repeat WILL NOT sleep in for you the next morning.  My children's internal clocks keep better time than the atomic clock in Colorado!  

* Along with this, I also learned that Dave's internal clock is on a different time zone than the rest of us and there will be NO getting up for him if he was up late the night before.  Sigh.  Guess mommy will be getting up with the children at the crack of early on the weekends!
 
10.  I learned that you can't stay mad at your kids... no matter how hard you try.  And why even try when you have this smiling at you every day!

Cuteness personified!

What did you learn this weekend?



Sunday, January 23, 2011

For Becky: How to chop an onion!

In honor of my friend Rebecca... and all those other people who don't know how to chop an onion!


Dearest Becky,

You are far, far away in Australia, but even Aussie's 
have to eat, so I have posted this just for you!  
Please don't chop an onion the slow and long way again. 
Let's be honest - crying is not your best look! 

Your friend, Kelly



 Start by lopping off the ends of the onions.


With one of the newly cut ends face down on the cutting board, cut the onion in half with a sharp knife.  

(Note...dull knives do you NO favors in chopping onions!)


Peel the skins off and lay your onions flat-side down on the chopping board.



Make vertical slices as thick or thin as you want your onion chopped.  If you need a finely diced onion, do your slices close together.


Now turn your onion (of if it's easier your cutting board) 90 degrees and slice in the opposite direction.


And presto... done!

So quick you won't have time to cry!!!  

But to help with that process:  Keep your onions in the refrigerator before you cut them... it helps.  Also, I've heard holding a piece of bread in your mouth (and letting it hang out partially) while you chop is supposed to work too.  Never tried it, but a co-worker of mine swears by it!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Butter Lovers Club

Tuesdays are dangerous for me.

You see I belong to a club.  And we meet on Tuesdays.  And when I walk in the doors this is what I'm generally greeted with.

Danger in it's purest form!
Welcome to the Butter Lover's Club - AKA - Women's Bible Study.

I love my Bible study group, they're a fantastic group of ladies and we have such a good time together - BUT they like to bake, and cook and then bring dangerously good things with them to share - and then I feel obligated to eat them, because hello, it's rude if I don't sample their hard work right?? 

This is justification in its saddest form.

We meet at my dear friend Angey's house which is cozy and warm and she always has fresh brewed coffee, and cocoa and chai tea, and then she also makes these:

Homemade blueberry scones.  TO.DIE.FOR!

Like I said... Tuesdays are dangerous!  

But our night is about much more than the food.  We cram into Angey's living room, snuggle in on her comfy leather couches and look to our fearless leader Debbe.

Ready to teach us - she's brave, because we're mostly sanguines with no attention span!


And then we get VERY serious!
A window into our deep, intellectual theological discussions!
Okay, so I use the phrase "serious" loosely!  But I think God is okay with that - after all the Bible says:

"A merry heart does good like a medicine."
Proverbs 17:22

And after a long day at work, picking up kids, cooking dinner, cleaning up dinner, getting kids ready for bed and then having to head back out the door when all you want to do is fall into a coma on the couch - laughter is really good medicine. 

And we laugh... a LOT!  

But we also have really good discussion time, we share our hearts, we pray together, and at the end of the night, we walk away encouraged, strengthened, inspired and maybe a pound or two heavier... 

I call it a trade off!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What I Love Wednesday

I just typed in my title and immediately my mind jumped to multiple things I LOVE dearly.

My husband, my children, my Jesus, my family, coffee, the way my babies smell when they've just had a bath, tulips, scrapbooking, my friends, my church, shoes, white chocolate, massages, Thai food, New Zealand, vacations, everything about summer, the way my husband looks at me, bread pudding... and so much more, but today's post is dedicated to what I love most in my kitchen... at least today :)

I'd like to introduce you to my Rachael Rays.

They came to live with me in July of 2009 as part of a WONDERFUL surprise from my most amazing husband and quickly earned themselves a place in my life and my heart forever.  Not to mention they have made my cooking experience FANTASTIC.

Are they top of the line?  No.

Will they last me forever?  Doubtful.

Do they make me as cool or as good a chef as Rachael Ray?  Sadly... not even close.  (But I sometimes pretend.)

HOWEVER...

Are they a thousand times better than what I was using prior to July of 2009?  A thousand times YES!

Do they have the cutest orange handles EVER, totally reminiscent of the seventies, yet modern, stylish and dare I say, sassy?  (Can a pan be considered sassy?)  I vote yes.  

And do I love that my husband was thoughtful enough to completely surprise me on a non-holiday, non-anniversary, non-birthday, non-Christmas, simply-because-he-loves-me type occasion?  You bet your bottom dollar baby!!

That line always makes me think of little orphan Annie.

"The sun will come out tomorrow...bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow...there'll be sun!"

That has absolutely nothing to do with this post or my lovely cookware, but sometimes I ramble and you're just going to have to live with that.

Anyhoo.... when UPS delivered the giant box to my doorstep that blessed sunny afternoon I gasped, I gaped, I laughed, I cried, I clapped and jumped up and down like an excited little school girl and then I glued myself to the box in a giant bear hug and didn't let go.

Hello... pretty shiny pots & pans, I love you!
 
A year and a half later I'm still ridiculously happy with them.  So today, on What I Love Wednesday - I'd like to give a shout out to my Rachael Rays... and my husband Dave.



Thanks again my love, if I haven't told you lately how much I love them, and you... I do.  I really do!!!

P.S.  With Valentines Day approaching nothing says "love" like the matching 5-qt oval saute pan or the 16.5" roaster with rack... just sayin'.

Tasty Tuesday - Garlic Breaded Chicken

Tonight I made an old favorite recipe that always has been a crowd pleaser at my house.  Garlic breaded chicken!  It's quick, it's easy, it makes my whole house smell good and wow does it ever make my tastebuds do a happy dance in my mouth!

No really! Mine jump up and down and do wild and crazy moves like the 'sprinkler', 'disco fever' and the 'macarena'.  I allow it only because they led a sheltered life growing up and they excite easy! 

But enough about my dancing tastebuds... here's my recipe.
Start by throwing a 1/4 cup of flour in a small bowl.  I use my cereal bowls... I like them.  They're not too big, not too small and they're shallow and wide enough for dipping which is important as you'll see in a moment.


Then right on top of that flour dump 1/2 cup of bread crumbs - I have Italian seasoned but plain would work just fine too.


Now the part where you'll have to trust your own taste and spice levels... because as I've mentioned before I'm not so much a "measurer" as a "throw-it-in-there-til-it-looks-good" person.

Add garlic powder, black pepper and paprika.  I go heavy on all three - I'm crazy like that!


Then mix it all together with a spoon so you can see all the pretty colors evenly and set aside.

Hello pretty colors...please make my chicken taste delicious.  Thank you!

Take a second bowl and crack an egg in it.


If you're going to post pictures of the process... try to remember to grab your bowls that DON'T have chips in them so you look like you actually take care of your dinnerware.

Now whisk in some milk... you can eyeball it but it's probably 3/4 cup worth.

And... see if you can cleverly cover the chip in photos with the whisk handle so the bowl doesn't have to be embarrassed of it's flaws any longer!


Now create an assembly line:  Chicken, egg mixture, bread crumb mixture, clean plate.


Now at this point many people would use their fingers to do the dipping... but that's messy.  It works, and if you're into that sort of thing go right ahead and be my guest, but I have these bad boys!

Hello pretty tongs... I'm so glad you found your way into my Christmas stocking this year.  Oh do I ever have a fun job for you!!

Sometimes I talk to my kitchen utensils... deal with it!

Pick up a piece of chicken...

  

Then dunk it completely in the egg/milk bath.



And then dredge both sides in the bread crumb mixture.  The scoops on the tongs are also great for picking up extra bread crumbs and spreading over areas that don't get covered completely.




Then transfer to the clean plate and start again.  At some point the build up on the tongs may require you rinsing them off... but once again, preferable to the build up on fingers and the mess!

At this point, if you're me - you can also have a small fight with your 3-year old who insists he should be cooking this with you.  

He'll pull up a chair, and you'll tell him "don't touch the raw chicken" which means right away he'll touch the raw chicken, you'll have to wash his hands and briefly contemplate lecturing him of the dangers of salmonella poisoning. 

Then you'll remember he's three and instead discipline him accordingly and then listen to him cry in his bedroom while he thinks about disobedience and consequences and gets self control and comes out to ask "pweese fwogive me for touching the no-no."

But all that aside - before you know it you'll have a whole plate that looks like this:


The longer you can let the chicken sit in the breading the better it will stay on during the cooking process. 

If you have the time... 15-20 mins in the fridge will do a world of good!  However, I was rushing a bit tonight (remember delay by 3-year old) so don't judge me in coming photos... but even straight to the skillet I lost very little.

Heat up some EVOO in a skillet on medium high...just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  



When the pan is hot dump place your chicken pieces in.  They should bubble and sizzle right away or your oil is not hot enough and all you're doing is soaking your food in oil...blegh!!!

Blegh = bad for those not familiar with my terminology.  You should be warned that sometimes I type with an accent too.. I'll let you decide what that sounds like in your head.

Brown on one side...flip and repeat!


You may want to reduce the heat as it gets going because you don't want your outsides to be browned too much while the inside is still uncooked.  Unless you're going for blackened chicken, but I don't think burnt really meets that definition! 

NOTE:  I use chicken tenders because they're fairly thin and they cook through quickly.  If you use this recipe on bigger cuts of meats - you may want to brown on each side and finish the cooking process in the oven.  

Well hello dinner... you look delightful!

Serve up with your favorite sides.  Tonight I made The Pioneer Woman's Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin for the first time, and also green beans.  

If you've never tried cooking your green beans in chicken broth instead of water...try it soon!  



And dinner is served.  It made the perfect amount for my family with leftovers for both Dave's and my lunches tomorrow.  

Anytime I don't have to make a separate lunch, I consider that a big success!

And then while my darling of a husband got up and volunteered to do all the dishes - I got to play with this guy:


Meet Elijah - he's 7 months old and he's squishy and kissable and makes my heart melt.
What did you make for dinner?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Crockpot Monday - Pork Roast

One of my resolutions this year is to be more organized with my menu planning so I'm not taking countless trips to the grocery store for just one or two items! Along with that I'm also trying to use my crockpot at least once a week!

Crockpots are wonderful for many reasons:

1.  They do all the work for you.  You can leave the house without worrying about catching something on fire or things overcooking.  You just come home to dinner ready... almost like having a personal maid (but they don't do laundry...sadly).  

If someone would create a crockpot that would do laundry...well, they'd be a rich person that's what!

2.  If you love doing dishes as much as I do (insert dripping sarcasm) - they're ONE POT cooking... yes people, just one dish to clean up at the end.   

If someone would create a crockpot that would self clean, and then do my laundry... you get where I'm going with this?!

3.  They're practically fool-proof.  You just throw your ingredients in and turn the machine on and *poof* dinner's ready.  Turning the crockpot on is key... just ask my sister who has been known to find out at dinner time that it never got turned on and therefore, has not cooked anything... that is a sad day.

Yes, crockpots are wonderful.  And that is why I'm so sad I did the following to mine a couple years ago:  

Hello sad deformed handle... I'm so sorry I did this to you.
Word to the wise - even if your slow cooker brags that the removable stoneware insert is oven-safe, do not assume that applies to the lid - because the handle is not, and I repeat NOT oven safe!!  "What's that burning plastic smell?... why it's a melting piece of hot lava plastic that used to be a handle."  Sigh.  I was able to remold it to a usable form with oven mitts and then stuck it in the freezer to re-harden the plastic.  It's not pretty, but it works.

But I digress.

Today was Martin Luther King, Jr. day and both the hubby and I had the day off work.  We slept in, had a late breakfast, played with the kids - and then this afternoon I ran over to a friends to watch a movie, while the boys took naps and Dave worked on his car.  Before I left, I threw dinner together in less than 5-minutes and it was ready to eat when I got home - and smelled delicious!

CROCKPOT PORK ROAST

Cast of characters:  1.5 lb pork sirloin roast.  Cream of mushroom soup, onion, garlic, baby carrots, potatoes, steak seasoning.
Start by seasoning your roast.  I used Montreal Steak seasoning today, but you could use anything - good ol' salt & pepper, poultry seasoning, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, italian seasonings... it's all good.



Once it's seasoned... normally I would braise it in oil in a stockpot to seal in the flavors... but today I was lazy and didn't.  I told you it was the 5-minute version!

Next dump in a can of cream of mushroom.



Peel and chop a couple large baking potatoes and chuck them on in.


Then dump in baby carrots, or chopped carrots depending on what you have, and a roughly chopped onion (I used half an onion).


Then I used my garlic press (because I love it so) and added in three cloves of garlic...but I like garlic.  You may want to use less if you fear garlic.



Then just because I had leftover from breakfast... I chopped up some cooked bacon and tossed it in there to add some more flavor.

Hello dinner... I'm going to go have fun now... you just cook away!

I threw on the lid, turned it on high for 6 hours and left the house.  When I came home it looked like this and smelled divine!


The cream of mushroom soup creates a tasty gravy for the meat and the vegetables!   The potatoes & carrots were cooked just right, the meat was tender and juicy...so I called my family to the table and served it up with some green peas on the side because I can't handle food that's all one color, it's a sickness in me...that and I like peas.


And then we ate it...ALL.  

And my guys loved it, which made me happy.  

And because I'm a words person I'll admit, I went ahead and took all the credit! (Sorry crockpot.)

This recipe also works in a regular dutch oven or roasting pan (with lid).  Just cook at 300'F for about 2.5 hours (or until internal temperature reaches 160'F).  Add your vegetables in during the last 1.5 hours and toss them in the gravy before replacing the lid.