NFR: Happy Birthday Will!

October 30, 2008 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Fun, kids, Randomness | 7 Comments

Today is Will’s 5th birthday – that is a big one to a little boy!!!  Being able to say he is 5 is huge!  🙂  I just talked to him on the phone and he thought he didn’t turn 5 until his actual party which is on Sunday so he was quite excited to learn that he can actually say he is 5 today.  HA! 

Happy Birthday Will!!!

A Weekend of Halloween Fun!

October 29, 2008 at 1:25 am | Posted in Cookies, Fun, kids, Pumpkin | 7 Comments

This past weekend was a blur for us we had so many things going on.  I won’t bore you (or make you tired) by listing out all of the details.  Let’s just say that we crammed about a month’s worth of activities into one weekend.  I guess that is what happens as kids get older and get invited to parties and have all sorts of activities at school  : )

Our fun activity Friday night was going to the pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkins.  We always each pick one to carve and one to paint.  We paint smaller ones to sit around the house – Sheridan loves doing this!  I get out all of my acrylic paints and let the kids just get creative and do whatever they want.  We have a blast doing this!  Hard at work:

Saturday night (after the Fall Festival at the kids school…after our nephew’s soccer game an hour away…after the Halloween party the kids went to at the country club…etc. etc…) Sheridan and I baked sugar cookies.  This is her favorite cookie to make – she loves making the icing different colors, using our cookie cutters, and using all of the sprinkles.  We do this every holiday and I just let her make a mess and don’t really care about it for one night.  Anyone who knows me knows that is a hard thing for me to do.  LOL  I let Sheridan decorate all of the cookies so here are her masterpieces…

Sunday morning the four of us along with my great friend Lindsay carved jack-o-lanterns at our house.  It was a little chilly so we did them in the garage this year instead of outside.  This normally turns out Tommy and I doing most of the carving.  This year was no different.  : )  Lindsay brought a book of Disney Princess patterns and Sheridan wanted to do a rose and Lindsay did Arial The Little Mermaid.  Tommy, Will, and I chose more traditional patterns.  : )  Our handywork:

Lots more stuff going on this coming weekend – Friday I have my work Halloween party followed by seeing the kids trick or treat followed by a Halloween party that night and another Halloween party on Saturday night.  Whew!  Holidays are nuts!  But I secretly love it.  : ) I’ll post costumes next week! 

Happy Halloween all!

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

October 27, 2008 at 11:23 pm | Posted in Chicken, pasta | 4 Comments

One of my favorite chefs on the Food Network is Giada.  I adore her!  All of her food always sounds so yummy to me.  I love Italian food so I love her stuff.  I have been wanting to make this Italian Baked chicken and pastina for quite some time but kept forgetting about it.  I wanted something kind of easy for a Friday night dinner that I thought the kids would like, or at the very least try so I thought this looked like a good candidate.  One of their favorites is baked ziti and this was similar enough I thought. 

Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients

1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta – I used wheels)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes

Pig Rating:  The Pig thought this one was pretty good but he says he likes the baked ziti way better.  He said it reminded him of goulash – is that how you spell that?!  I am not even sure what that is…

Mrs. Pig Rating:  I really enjoyed this one.  It was light for a pasta dish and I will definitely make this again when the Pig is traveling.  I think it will make great leftovers as well!

Little Pig Ratings:  The little  pigs at least tried this which is what I want them to do – try everything.  Sheridan liked it okay but she didn’t like the chicke and tomatoes.  She basically ate the pasta.  LOL  The  littlest pig just ate salad.  He wasn’t a fan.  Bah. 

 

Kids Night: Healthy(ish) chicken strips and fries

October 23, 2008 at 12:51 am | Posted in Chicken, kids, potatoes, Yummy Veggies | 1 Comment

I admit it.  When I was a kid, I was super picky when it came to food.  If you ask my mom, she will tell you that I ate nothing but Chef Boyardee pizzas (does anyone make those anymore?!), spaghettios, and maybe the occasional hot dog.  So I really shouldn’t be surprised that our kids are picky either- they are (almost)5 and 8 after all. 

I really try hard to make sure that the kids have healthy eating habits while at our house.  We eat healthy most of the time so I want to pass that on to them.  When they want snacks, the things available are apple slices, bananas, nuts, healthy granola bars, and for a real treat, a 100 calorie pack or something like Chips Ahoy.  Brutal?  Nah.  They are so used to it that they like the healthy snacks.  I just don’t keep other things in the house.  When it comes to dinners, it’s more of a challenge.  Most of the things that Tommy and I eat, the kids wouldn’t really like.  I have managed to find some favorites that we use in our rotation though that everyone likes and I’ve even managed to make them as healthy as possible.  Our favorites include Baked Ziti (I use whole wheat pasta & ground turkey), tacos (I use ground turkey, my homemade seasoning, and lots of veggies), breakfast for dinner (put lots of egg whites in the scrambled eggs, low sodium bacon, and whole grain bread), and homemade chicken strips and fries, which is the recipe I am about to post. Kids love chicken strips and fries, plain and simple.  And you know what?  So do I!  I tried to find a way to make them healthier than just buying them frozen.  I rarely buy anything frozen so I definitely didnt’ want to start with these.  I finally found a recipe that made them much healthier than other options and everyone loves them!

Recipe from www.aplaceofourown.org

Ingredients

1/4 cup seasoned fine bread crumbs
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup egg substitute
Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven 450 degrees F.
Combine 1/4 cup of seasoned fine bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon of paprika, and 1 tablespoon of garlic powder into a shallow dish.
Dip each chicken strip in 1 cup of egg substitute and then roll the chicken strip in the bread crumb mixture.
Arrange the chicken strips on a sheet pan coated with non-stick cooking spray.
Bake the chicken strips for 35 to 45 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve and enjoy.

I cook these up and serve them with a side of fries (I cut up potatoes into strips, put a little olive oil and a dash of salt on them and bake them to make them healthier), and fruit (usually apple slices).

Mrs. Pig Rating:  This is a yummy quick workweek meal for when the kids are here.  I like those kind!  And I like that I can find ways to make foods healthier for my family. 

Pig Rating:  The pig really likes this meal as well!  He loves potatoes so his favorite part is the fries even though they aren’t fried, he still loves them.

Little Pigs Rating:  The little pigs like this one a lot!  Well, sometimes Will decides he doesn’t like it and wants a bowl of salad instead (yes, he would pretty much rather have salad than anything right now).  Sheridan really likes this though!

White Chili

October 22, 2008 at 12:35 am | Posted in Chicken, soup | 4 Comments

We looove chili in our house – Tommy does, I do, and the kids do.  I have been in a soup mood lately with the weather getting more fall like and Tommy isn’t a soup person so I wanted to find something that I thought he would like.  I decided I would go with white chili.  He loves spicy stuff and he loves chili so why not?!  I found this recipe on allrecipes.com that had a ton of great reviews so I thought I would give it a shot. 

This is quite possibly the sickest picture I have ever taken and put on this blog, but it is what it is.  I apologize.  LOL

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced jalapeno peppers
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers (I forgot to buy these so I omitted)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (I halved this)
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (I used two cups)
  • 3 (15 ounce) cans white beans
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Slowly cook and stir the onion until tender. Mix in the garlic, jalapeno, green chile peppers, cumin, oregano and cayenne. Continue to cook and stir the mixture until tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in the chicken broth, chicken and white beans. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I simmered for about 30 minutes)
  2. Remove the mixture from heat. Slowly stir in the cheese until melted. Serve warm. I added about a tablespoon of fresh salsa to mine.  I served this with Multi Grain tortilla chips.

Mrs. Pig Rating – I REALLY liked this recipe.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was the perfect amount of spiciness for us.  I loved this with the tortilla chips.  I froze half the batch for later since it’s just the two of us.  I am sure it will make for yummy leftovers!  Definitely a keeper.  This will be fab in the cold winter coming!

Pig Rating:  The pig really liked this one as well – score!  He put crackers in his instead of the chips.  He said it tasted similar to regular chili – I disagree, but whatever.  LOL  He definitely said keep this one!

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

October 20, 2008 at 12:47 am | Posted in cheesecake, chocolate, Cookies, Dessert | 4 Comments

In case you haven’t noticed, I am more prone to baking and cooking this time of the year.  Something about fall gets me in the mood.  That and we are finally finished with T-ball, soccer, etc. and I have more time to do these thing.  : )  I have been trying to bake something every weekend.  I love to do it and my co-workers love me because normally I take everything into work that I bake.  We aren’t huge on sweets – we will eat one or two of something and then it’s back to our Kashi and apple slices.  But I adore trying new things.  I saw this recipe on My Kitchen Cafe, one of my absolute favorite blogs, and I knew I had to try it.  My husband loves cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies so I knew he would love this one.  Before I give you our reviews…I hope you are writing this down or saving it in your favorites.  You will NEED to make this.  Okay.  On with the recipe.

Ingredients

Crust
1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 9″-square baking pan.  Line pan with parchment paper (I used foil), leaving enough to extend over the sides. Lightly coat the parchment paper/foil with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter until crumbs are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips. Press crust mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 6 minutes. Set pan on wire rack to cool.

Cookie Dough
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (On My Kitchen Cafe, she said the dough was a little dry so she would cut it down by 1/8th of a cup next time.  I tried cutting it down 1/8 and it was still pretty dry so I suggest cutting it down more)
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Using an electric mixer, mix butter, brown sugar, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract at medium speed until smooth. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour. Mix just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.

Filling
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar just until smooth. Add egg and vanilla extract, beating just until blended. Pour batter into baked crust. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonfuls over the top of the filling.

Bake about 30-35 minutes, or until set. Transfer to wire rack

For chocolate topping, melt 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave. (Tip: put the chocolate chips into a zipper bag and heat on 50% power for a few minutes. Cut the corner off the bag and squeeze the bag to make drizzling less messy). Use a teaspoon to drizzle chocolate over top of bars. Cool bars in pan completely, about an hour. (Stick the bars in the freezer for 5 minutes to set quickly if you’re in a hurry).

Using the edges of the parchment paper/foil, remove bars from pan. Cut into bars (clean the knife after each cut) and serve.  I cut into pretty small bars – these babies are RIIICH!

Mrs. Pig Rating – SO FREAKING GOOD.  This is one of those things that I could eat until I was sick.  And I’m not even a “sweets” person.  I am making these for our Halloween party we are going to next week for sure.  This is hands down one of the best desserts I have made in a LOOONG time.

Pig Rating – The pig says, and I quote, “Put on your blog that the Pig gives these two hooves up and a really big tail wag.”  HA!  He loooved these!  He is hard to please with desserts and he adored these.  Normally when I make something he doesn’t want me to keep anything at home, but he requested to save some of these for him.  : )

Angel Hair Pasta with Homemade Pesto

October 19, 2008 at 11:42 pm | Posted in pasta, Seasonings & Sauces | Leave a comment

I am a little bit behind in posting this, so I apologize.  This is one of the dishes that I made for my dinner party that I had recently (you know – the one where I wore my wedding dress?  Come on, that has now become legendary…ha!).  This is another recipe from my friend Andrea’s cooking class.  I don’t have the exact source, so I apologize for that, but she made this at her Tuscan class and I knew that I HAD to make it.  I love pesto and I had never made it homemade before so I figured now was a great time to try it out.  I wanted to try it before I served it to my guests so I spread some on a Triscuit cracker.  It didn’t disappoint even on a cracker!!! PS – this was my first time buying “expensive” cheese.  Who knew Parmesian -Reggiano  cost so much?!?  HA HA!

Recipe from Andrea:

Igredients

Pesto:
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/2 cup), finely grated
1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 (packed) cups fresh basil (I used a little less than this as I ran out…still really good though!)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pasta:
4 to 6 quarts water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound angel hair
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

Directions

1.  For the Pesto:  Combine the gralis, pine nuts, cheese, salt and pepper in the work bowl of a food processor; pulse to make a paste.  Add the basil, and pulse to combine.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube until it forms a smooth paste.
2.  Spoon the pesto into a storage container; press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pesto, then cover the container with a lid.  Place in refrigerator until needed.  Just before serving, stir to recombine and taste. (I made this the night before the dinner party to save on time and it was still fantastic)
3.  For the Pasta:  Place 4 – 6 quarts of water in an 8-quart stock pot.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  When the water begins to boil, add the kosher salt and bring back to the boil.  Add the pasta and immediately stir to separate the individual pieces.  The water should return to a boil very quickly. 
4.  Cook just until al dente.  Toss the pasta with the pesto, adding 1 tablespoon of pasta water at a time as needed to moisten. (You may not need to add pasta water at all).
5.  Distribute the pasta between four dishes.  Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve immediately.

Mrs. Pig Rating:  YUUUUM!  This was so good – if you like pesto.  I really love it so I enjoyed this.  This recipe makes a lot though – probably enough for 6-8 people.  I had a ton leftover, but I will definitely make this one again!

My First “Dinner Party”

October 13, 2008 at 12:56 am | Posted in appetizer, Cakes, Cheese, Dessert, Fun, Menus, pasta, pizza, wine | 11 Comments

I use the term “dinner party” loosely because really it was me and two of my awesome co-workers who also happen to be very good friends of mine.  I decided I wanted to have them over for dinner so we turned it into a fun event – we all dressed up and made it a true “girls night” and had waaaaaay too much to drink.  And by that I mean that I had a bottle and a half of wine.  On a Thursday night.  I felt miserable on Friday.  Stupid, stupid.  HOwever, we had an absolute blast!!!  We are already planning our next one – Asian inspired food with a prom night theme…HA!

Here was my menu:

Appetizers:

Bruschetta with Fresh Marinated Mozzarella

Garlic Bread
Port Wine Cheese Ball with crackers

Dinner:
Stuffed Shells
Angel Hair Pasta with Fresh Pesto (recipe to follow)
Margherita Pizza (recipe to follow)

Dessert:
Chocolate Lasagna
Assorted Milano cookies (I couldn’t help it…I adore them!!!)

Drinks:

Gewurtztraminer
Pinot Grigio
Shiraz

 

Oh yeah, did I mention that I wore my wedding dress?  Yeah, I drink wine in it often so I decided it would be a riot to answer the door in it with an apron on.  My friends loved it!  HA!  That’s right.  I’m insane.  You know you love me.  : )

Olive Garden Chocolate Lasagna – My Version

October 13, 2008 at 12:47 am | Posted in Cakes, chocolate, Dessert | 3 Comments

I really am not a big “chain” restaurant fan.  I love the little hole in the wall restaurants that no one has ever even heard of.  However, one of my favorite desserts of all time is from Olive Garden.  It is their “chocolate lasagna” which I am not even sure that they still make.  I knew for my dinner party I wanted to make a memorable dessert so I decided to try to tackle this one.  I found a recipe for it on www.cdkitchen.com.  I started looking at the recipe and almost had a heart attack – 12 eggs?!?  Really?!  3 sticks of butter?!  12 cups of powdered sugar?!  I wasn’t sure about it, but I decided to give it a go.  This turned out to be the HUGEST cake ever.  Seriously.  This cake was so big for just an everyday dessert.  I literally had to put some muscle into this when trying to cut through it to get a slice.  Without further adieu…

Ingredients

***Cake***
6 cups cake flour
5 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups Hershey.’s Cocoa
2 tablespoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cup butter
12 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
***Butter Cream***
2/3 cup water
4 tablespoons meringue powder (You can buy this at Michael’s or anywhere that sells Wilton)
12 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 1/4 cup shortening
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon clear almond extract
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1 teaspoon colorless butter flavor (Again, a Wilton product – I ordered on ebay)

Directions

Cake: Heat oven to 350 F. Grease three 10-inch springform pans. In mixing bowl, stir together sifted cake flour, sugar, Hershey.’s Cocoa and baking soda. Add butter and mix well. Add milk, eggs and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Pour about 5 cups of the cake batter into each prepared pan. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before you remove the cake from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

 Serve.

Mrs. Pig Rating:  This cake was pretty good and the presentation is insane, however I probably won’t make it again unless someone asks for it specially.  It takes a lot of time and it’s honestly that THE best dessert I’ve ever had.  Olive Garden’s version is better.  : )

Dinner Party Guest Rating:  They couldn’t believe how massive this cake was.  I think everyone liked the icing better than anything – it was super good!

Bruschetta with Marinated Fresh Mozzarella

October 13, 2008 at 12:39 am | Posted in appetizer, Cheese | 1 Comment

My friend Andrea went to this fab cooking class and one night they had an Italian/Tuscan theme.  She made some things that sounded phenomenal and I knew that I had to try them.  I decided to have a little dinner party while Tommy was out of town this past week and it was the perfect time to try them out.  My dinner party had an Italian theme – I mean hey, let’s face it.  What theme goes better with my favorite thing – WINE! – than that?!  Picture of the dinner party to follow but let’s start with some of the things that I made.  First up…Bruschetta with Marinated Fresh Mozzarella. 

Recipe from Andrea’s cooking class….not sure the exact source

Ingredients

Crostini:
8 (1/2-inch thick) slices Italian bread, cut on the diagonal
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly groud black pepper to taste

Mozzarella:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced lemon zest (about 1/2 lemon)
1 tablespoon coarsley chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 bay leaves, torn in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices

Directions

1.  For the crostini:  preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet, and cook until crisp and golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
2.  For the Mozzarella:  Whisk together oil, garlic, pepper flakes, zest, parsley, and basil.  Stir in the bay leaves, then season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.  (Note:  Before drizzling over the mozzarella, remove and discard the bay leaves, then whisk to re-combine.)
3.  Place the cheese in a shallow dish; drizzle with the marinade to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap, and allow tot stand at room temperature for at least one hour.
4.  Just before serving, place one slice of cheese on each crostini, and garnish with additional chopped fresh parsley; serve at room temperature.

Mrs. Pig Rating:  I looooved this!  I adore fresh mozzarella and it looks really pretty served up on a platter for an appetizer.  I will definitely be making this again!!!

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