Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grocery Budget Update

I just have a short post today to let you know how my first month of the $200.00 a month grocery budget went.  I made my last trip to the grocery (of the month) today and I only needed a few items: milk, bread, flour, & eggs.  My budgeting went much easier than I had initially expected.  I figured it would be really hard to just spend $50.00 a week but it wasn't too bad.  Going to the grocery, I had $22.00 to spend.  I kinda freaked out last week when I left the store and only had $22.00 for this week's food but once I realized I only needed 4 items, I knew that was more than enough money.  My bill today was $21.65! I know that's not much left over but you must consider I bought an extra bag of flour (it was on manager special), pack of tortillas (on sale and I had a coupon) and I also got a Spider Skimmer, which wasn't on my original list.  It was really exciting (probably too exciting) that after getting the 4 items I had to have, I still had money to spend and since I had been wanting a skimmer and I wanted to make tacos tonight, I could get a few extras :)

Needless to say, I'm really excited about next month and can't wait to keep you posted :) Although I'm not one of those extreme couponers I have really been trying to use as many coupons (or items I already buy) as possible.  So far, my biggest savings on one trip has only been $10.00 but that's a huge improvement from 6 months ago when I had NEVER used a coupon!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Roasted Chicken & Peppers

When I was younger if chicken wasn't on the table, I wasn't eating.  Well, I would eat the sides but chicken was the only "meat" I would eat.  Although I now consume almost any meat (however I don't eat fish), chicken is still my favorite! The first time I made roasted chicken I went by a recipe that had me cranking my oven up to 500 degrees F.  After about 20 minutes of cooking my entire kitchen house was filled with smoke and the only thing cooked was the skin (BURNED, actually)...the chicken itself was raw in the middle. Needless to say, I have no pictures of this lovely event to share because this all occurred quite some time before starting my blog.

The other evening I decided to try again, but this time I would just do my own thing and not go by any recipe.  My version turned out much better. YAY! The chicken was so tender and moist and the roasted peppers were almost like dessert they were so sweet-just the way I like 'em :)




Roasted Chicken & Peppers
Printable Recipe 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
3 bell peppers, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
lemon pepper seasoning (about 1-2 tbsp depending on your tastes)
4 tbsp butter, softened
salt & pepper
olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place peppers in a roasting pan* and place roasting rack on top of peppers, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Mix butter and lemon pepper seasoning until combined.

Make a small opening in the chicken breast membrane between the skin and flesh of the chicken. Glide your finger down the chicken breast to make room to stuff the butter mixture into the chicken.  Place half the butter mixture in the opening you made in the chicken breast and smooth out by running your fingers over the skin of the chicken.  Do the same with the second chicken breast.  Rub a little butter on the outside of the skin for browning. 

Place chicken on the roasting rack and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. 

Cook in oven for 45-60 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. 

Place chicken and peppers on a plate and enjoy!



*If you don't have a roasting pan you can use a cookie sheet and cooling rack.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Roasted Pepper Pesto Potato Salad

This would make a great side dish but when I made this it was all we had for dinner and it was extremely good and filling!  It's also a vegetarian friendly dish :) I actually don't have any close friends or family members that are vegetarian but sometimes I just don't feel the need for meat.  There are many occasions when I think a steak, burger, chicken, etc. would just be too much and something like this potato salad would be perfect for one of those nights.

I made this during the week one night after work and we sat out on our back porch and enjoyed the sunset :) It's been really hot here in the past few weeks but this last week was actually not as hot (in the lower 80's) and we have been able to spend more time outside eating. I love eating outside in the summer but come July and August it's just too hot and humid here in Kentucky and the bugs are TERRIBLE!  So, while it's semi-enjoyable I expect to eat outside as often as possible!


Roasted Pepper Pesto Potato Salad
Source: Heather's Dish
Printable Recipe 

Ingredients:

2 lbs red potatoes, washed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 Vidalia onion, sliced
6 mini bell peppers or 2 regular sized bell peppers*
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

*I used 1 jar of roasted red peppers because I had them on hand and just skipped the whole roasting them myself step.


Directions:


Turn your oven on to broil.  Spray a cooking sheet with nonstick spray and place all of the peppers on it.  Roast the peppers under the broiler for about 10 minutes, turning every 2 minutes, until the outsides are slightly charred and starting to wrinkle.  Carefully move them onto a plate and let sit.  (I skipped this since I used peppers from a jar)


Reduce the heat to 400.


Mix the potatoes, onion slices, and 2 Tbsp of olive oil and spread evenly on the same pan.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt. 


Roast at 400 for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the potatoes start to brown and the onions caramelize.  Make sure potatoes are done by checking them with a fork. When a fork is easily slid in and out of the potato you know they're done!


Meanwhile cut off the tops of the bell peppers and jalapeno, trying to keep as much of the juice as you can (this is what helps us not use so much olive oil.   Make sure you to remove as many seeds as you can, especially with the jalapeno.


Place  peppers in a food processor with the walnuts, cheese, garlic, and the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Process until thick and smooth, pulsing when you need to.


Place the pesto in the bottom of a bowl and dump the potatoes and onions on top.  Stir until combined!  Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold. I prefer hot :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Blog Design

You may have noticed that today I got a new blog design. I would like to say a big THANK YOU!!! to Jenn from Munchkin Land Designs for my new blog design. If you are in need of a new design you need to head over to her website because she is amazing! Jenn was great to work with and was super fast!

Thank you Jenn! I love my new blog design.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another Fail & Semi-Success?


Well, I said the point of this blog was to share my success and FAILURES with you so I'm keeping that promise.  On Easter I decided to give this cake a go.  As you can see above (and below) it was an EPIC fail!  I had never made any kind of roll cake before and since I woke up early that morning and had nothing to do until we went to my mom's for dinner (dinner in the south=lunch to everyone else) I got to work on this bad boy.
I thought I had been so careful with making this: I had taken my time and given myself what I thought was enough time for it to cool before rolling.  WRONG!  When I started to roll, things seemed to be okay.  You see you roll this twice and the first time it went just fine.  I then unrolled it (with only one small crack) then re-rolled with the filling and that's when it all went to down the drain.  You see, you have to account for the center of the cake (the part you can't really feel when you put your hands on top to see if it's still warm) to cool..DUH!!!!!!! I thought 1+ hours was enough for my cake to have cooled but OBVIOUSLY I was totally wrong!

Here are a few picture from before the disaster happened:

lookin'good

still lookin' good
heart breaking :(
But, I saw this as a challenge and gave it another go....


What better day to re-attempt this cake than on Father's Day? Actually there is no specific reason I chose this day....it just happened to work out that I had time to do some baking.  So, just like my first attempt everything went just fine and dandy.  Once I thought the cake had time enough to cool, I waited another hour longer just to ensure it would be cool enough! I know that seems like a long time (2 + hours for a cake to cool) and perhaps you won't need this long, but I was taking NO chance this go around.

I did change a few things from the original recipe (the first time I tried this I stuck to Deb's recipe completely).  One change was by accident...ah well. 

My second attempt was definitely much better and the cake tastes awesome! However, when I went to put it on the serving platter I didn't get the seam down on the bottom so it's kinda lop-sided and when I cut into the cake it cracked on the other side...UGH! I might attempt this a third time but it won't be soon.  Do any of you have tips for jelly/cake rolls? I could sure use them!
the left side should actually be on the bottom


not quite the perfect circle but as you can see I still ate it :)


Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

Cake layer
6 ounces semisweet bittersweet chocolate, chopped or 1 cup semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons water or strong coffee*
6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided

Filling
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar (use more if you prefer a sweeter filling)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 to 2 tablespoons liqueur of your choice, such as Grand Marnier**

*I used 1/2 tbsp coffee extract & 2 1/2 tbsp water
**I again used 1/2 tbsp coffee extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-by-15-inch shallow baking or jellyroll pan. Line the bottom lengthwise with a piece of waxed or parchment paper (I used waxed) that extends up the short sides one inch.

Melt chocolate with water or coffee in a small saucepan over very low heat until it is 75 percent melted. Remove from heat and stir until the remaining chocolate is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat egg yolks with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to beat until yolks are pale and ribbony. Gently stir the chocolate into the yolk mixture.

In another bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites with salt until they hold stiff peaks. Stir 1/4 of egg white mixture into the chocolate-yolk mixture to lighten it. Fold the remaining whites into the cake batter in three additions. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until cake layer feels dry (but very soft) to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. It will still seem a little underbaked.

Transfer to a cooling rack and cover the top with a light damp towel for 10 minutes. Gently remove towel; it will have a bit of cake stuck to them. Run a knife around the edges of the cake. Sift one tablespoon cocoa over the top of the cake*** and cover the cake with a thin tea towel that is a little longer than the pan. Place the back of a baking sheet or a large flat tray over the towel and invert the cake and paper onto it. Gently peel back the parchment or waxed paper that lined the pan. Sift the remaining tablespoon of cocoa powder over the top of the cake (that was, one minute ago, the underside). Using the towel underneath to help lift and roll the cake, roll the cake from short end to short end with the towel inside. Let cool completely, encased in its towel.

Once cool, beat heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla (or other desired extract) until it holds stiff peaks. Get your serving plate ready and place it near your cake roll. Gently unroll chocolate cake and remove tea towel.  Spread whipped cream filling evenly over cake. Gently use waxed or parchment paper once again to reroll cake. Place on serving platter, seam side down.

You can now garnish it with shaved white or dark chocolate or even a drizzle of each, melted; raspberries are pretty too. Serve immediately in 1-inch thick slices or refrigerate until needed. This cake is best to serve on the first day it is made. It’s still delicious after that, but the whipped cream filling does begin to deflate a little into the cake spiral.

***I forgot to sift the cocoa on this side of the cake, but it still turned out just fine. I just added some cocoa to the top after I finished the cake. 



Hop everyone had a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fudge Popsicles

 
Yesterday I told you that I had a picnic for myself.  What's a picnic without dessert? It's been super hot here in Kentucky and what better way to cool off than a popsicle...A FUDGE POPSICLE. I love ice-cream so very much and popsicles, frozen yogurt...you get the picture. 

Yet another childhood memory at my grandparents' home were the fudge pops they kept in the basement's deep freeze.  My grandparents' basement is a scary place and when I was younger I would NEVER go down there alone....Unless it was a hot summer evening and I was retrieving fudge pops.  It's shocking I didn't turn into a fudge pop I ate so many of them as a child.  And still today, I love them, I crave them, I ask my husband to go out at 9:00 PM to the dollar store near our home and buy them for me :)  

I won't lie and say I'll never purchase fudge popsicles, but I wouldn't have to.  These babies are SUPER DUPER easy and soooo much better than the store bought ones! Why? GOOD QUALITY CHOCOLATE!  I'm telling you if you didn't believe me when I posted these cookies then believe me now: Good quality chocolate is NOT, I REPEAT, NOT a suggestion! It's a necessity!  However, if you won't take my word for it then go ahead and make those cookies and these fudge pops with your store-brand chocolate and then make them with a better quality chocolate and if you don't taste the difference let me know and I will pay for that expensive chocolate! I'm not saying to go out or online and purchase a $20.00 bar of chocolate but try the Ghirardelli instead of your store brand, it's so worth it...PROMISE!  I bought the stock I have now on clearance right after Christmas at Wal-Mart. They were 75% off a bag the week after Christmas...SCORE!

Okay, let me step down from my soap box and get back to the fudge popsicles.  I think these took about 10 minutes to make then I put them in the freezer over night (again, my urge to make goodies came around 10:00 pm).  I saw this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. Can I take a moment and tell you if I could spend a week or even just a day with someone and do nothing but ask them about food and eat with them, it would be Deb! She's just amazing! I love all her recipes and she's so knowledgeable about food.  If by chance you haven't went to check out her blog, you're missing out! So, like almost everything I see on her blog I had to make these right away.  They did not disappoint; so yummy :)

In case you don't already have popsicle molds, BUY THEM CHEAP! I got mine at Wal-Mart for $1.00 a pack.  All you have to do is run some warm water over them and they slide right out and are ready to enjoy.  Plus, they are a good size :) Or, you can use small cups/glasses and insert the popsicle sticks.  

Fudge Popsicles

Makes 4 popsicles

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons (21 grams or 3/4 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup (67 grams or 2 1/3 ounce) sugar
1 tablespoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons (8 grams or 1/4 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) unsalted butter

Directions:

In a medium saucepan over very low heat, melt the chocolate chips, stirring constantly until smooth.

Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk and salt and raise heat to medium. Cook mixture, stirring frequently until it thickens, anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes.  

Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter and stir until combined. 


Set aside to cool slightly then pour into popsicle molds (I poured the mixture into a measure glass first to make the pouring easier) Freeze 30 minutes, then insert popsicle sticks. Freeze the rest of the way before serving.*




*If you have molds like mine that have sticks attached to the lids, then place them on top of molds after pouring in chocolate mixture and freeze. You don't need to freeze 30 minutes prior to attaching lids.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Picnic For One (Pesto Panino)

The weather was lovely this weekend so I decided to throw myself a little picnic.  My husband went golfing with a friend on Saturday and I was bored and hungry and thought, "I can have a one person picnic. That's not lame, right?"  So, I did!  The night before I had actually made these for dinner and it was so tasty that I had it again for lunch the next day!  

Let me begin by making a confession: I love cheese! If you know me outside my blog and you know my family, then you already know this.  In fact, my cousin and I used to joke around when we were kids that you weren't really part of our family if you didn't love cheese.  As a child I spent many weekends on the farm with my grandparents and almost EVERY day at lunch I would sit with my Granddad and enjoy a cheese sandwich-wheat bread, Colby cheese and mustard :) So delicious! As a teenager and young adult my love for the cheese sandwich still remained but often I wanted a grilled cheese. I still adore a good cold cheese sandwich and I beg Steve to make me a grilled cheese almost once a week.  Although I'm the main cook here, he makes a mean grilled cheese! Well, at least until I made these sandwiches; now he might be out of business because I rocked these!


I got to use my very own basil from my garden to make the pesto which was fun. I felt like such an accomplished gardener ... Not really.  But the pesto is great!  Even if you don't use it to make this panino, you should make it and slasher up some toasted baguette, use it as a pasta or pizza sauce...whatever floats your boat. Just make it, because it's fantastic! Super easy, very basic and yet so yummy!

Pesto Panino 

Ingredients:

1 loaf ciabatta or 4 ciabatta buns, sliced in half horizontally
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Basil Pesto
3/4 lb. fontina, sliced (or more if you're like me and steal a very slices)

Directions:

Turn on Broiler.

Lay both sides of ciabatta (cut-side up) on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Broil for 3 minutes, just until bread is slightly crispy on the top but not browned.  Remove from broiler. 

Slather pesto on both sides of bread and place cheese slices on the bottom side of bread.  Place the top piece of bread on the bottom and press down slightly. 

Return to broiler for 3 minutes, until cheese is melted and loaf if crusty.  Be careful not to burn. 

If using a loaf of ciabatta, slice into individual sandwiches and ENJOY!

Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more if needed
1/4 cup olive oil, or more if needed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt, or more if needed

In a food processor, pulse the garlic and pine nuts together with the salt until finely chopped.

Add the basil leaves and lemon juice, blend until basil begins to break down. Stream in olive oil until mixture is smooth and has the desired consistency, add more oil if needed.

Fold in Parmesan and taste for seasoning.  Add more salt or lemon juice if needed.

Next time the weather's great and you're alone, just throw yourself a picnic :) Oh, and makes this pesto panino because they are YUMMY!!!

Happy Ending

Friday, June 10, 2011

Coming Along...

I got to cook in my kitchen for the first time in almost 3 weeks! Unfortunately it wasn't anything too exciting: Turkey Burgers & bacon.  You're probably wondering, "Bacon? With turkey burgers...that sounds bad".  It was going to expire in a few days and the Turkey Burgers weren't really appealing to me so I fried up some bacon for a BLT.  Except I had no lettuce and no tomato so it was really a BMC (bacon, mayo, & cheese-provolone).  What I wouldn't give to have had a nice ripe tomato to place on top my bacon :) Ah well. It was still good. In fact, I ate two :) Anyway...

My kitchen is still not complete; we lack the drawers and cabinet doors.  This is probably going to take a lot longer because we plan to only do a few doors and/or drawers at a time so we don't get overwhelmed and so I can actually use my kitchen.  We aren't big into eating fast-food for dinner and that's what we've been doing far too much since I wasn't able to cook in my kitchen. To me, it's still a depressing mess but it's functional.  And I know once it's all complete I will be a happy cook once again! 

Also, I think my painting is just about done.  After a few days of priming and painting I thought I was getting a sinus infection but then I figured out it was just the paint getting to me and my horrible allergies.  It started with just being stuffy and sinus headaches everyday then turned into nose bleeds. Every time I try to paint, my nose feels very dry (I even tried using a mask) and then within 10 minutes it's "running" but it's blood...EWWWW!!  It's awful, painful, and GROSS!

Here are some pictures of the progress:


The doors are staying off this one


able to put stuff back in the cabinets :)

There is still so much to be done!  We have only lived in our home for 2 years and I was determined that I was NOT putting everything I took out of my cabinets back in.  In just 2 short years I have acquired TOO MUCH STUFF! All my cabinets were completely full.  So far I have been able to part with some extra wine glass, coffee mugs, and random glasses and a few bowls.  I still think I have too much stuff but I honestly use ALL of what I kept! YIKES....We'll have to wait and see if I can bring myself to part with any other items :)

One last picture just because she's my baby and I love her...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Strawberry Summer Cake


I bought some strawberries a few days back for $1.29 on manager special (I'm starting to really love the manager special incase you couldn't tell). I bought two cartons and after placing them in the fridge I wondered what I could make with them.  Naturally, I started looking through my recipes and found a few things I thought sounded okay but nothing really struck my fancy until I noticed that Deb over at Smitten Kitchen had posted a new recipe......STRAWBERRY SUMMER CAKE!

As usual as soon as I read her post I knew this would be another success.  So, the next morning I woke up and started the oven & making this delicious cake!  Before I even popped it in my oven I knew it was going to be amazing - my inner 3-year-old self licked the batter off a spatula and I was in heaven already! If the batter is good, the cake usually is too :)

This is such a great summer dessert (or breakfast, hehe) because it's easy and quick to put together and those strawberries cook up so nicely!  It's okay to eat this for breakfast, it's a serving a fruit...right? Whose with me?



Strawberry Summer Cake
Source: Smitten Kitchen
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a Deep Dish pie plate.

Whisk flour, baking powder, & salt in a small mixing bowl.

With an electric mixer (or bowl of your stand mixer) cream the butter and sugar about 3 minutes or until it's soft and fluffy. Mix in egg, milk, & vanilla extract until combined then slowly add dry mixture in 3 portions.

Pour batter into prepared pie plate and place strawberries (cut side down) into batter.


 
Place pie plate on a baking sheet (just incase you have any bubble over while baking) and bake for 10 minutes on 350 degrees F.  Drop temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for another 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean from the center. 

Allow cake to cool on cooling rack before serving! ENJOY!   


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kitchen Update

A few of my friends and co-workers have been asking to see pictures of my kitchen progress so here ya go....

This is also why I have the BEST husband in the world!  Those of you who think your husbands are so wonderful and the best, well you're wrong.  They can be 2nd, but mine is definitely 1st!  Here's why....Steve works his tail off all day (10 or more hours) outside (it's been in the 90's here) then comes home and mows the yard, plays with Greta AND still has the energy to work on the kitchen ALL weekend and nights after work! He's amazing! And I can never tell him enough how much I love and appreciate all he does for me!


Warning...it's not pretty so brace yourself for the mess!

Putting up trim
 There used to be a nasty piece of trim that connected my cabinets that are separated by the window, so Steve fixed that for me! It looks so much better this way!
Issue with the nail gun

some of my kitchen stuff that's being "stored" in the extra bedroom

Not everything was even in there yet. I still had 3 cabinets to unload! YIKES

Priming

Paint in my hair from priming underneath the cabinets-I dipped into my paint bucket :(

More Priming


Finally the BLACK begins!


shelves

My little helper! Notice her tail is burred (she is ALWAYS waggin' that tail)
We have made a lot of progress but there is still so much more to be done! We haven't even started on the doors and drawers and we are probably going to need 2 coats of paint! I will try to keep you posted!  Are any of you doing any home projects?

OH, by the way I HAVE been helping...I did a lot of painting, just don't tell my allergist. :)

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