Friday, August 18, 2017

Mermaid or Pirate Desserts

Last month I hosted a baby shower where the gender wasn't known yet.  With summer in full swing, we went with the fun theme of Mermaid or Pirate.  I've been posting about this for a few weeks, and next week I'll post the whole thing, but here were the dessert offerings.  Since it was summer, I had more time to bake....and I did.  
 First off, I made mermaid tail sugar cookies.  I bought the cookie cutter on Amazon, and I used my favorite sugar cookie recipe to put these together.  These can be done in advance, so that helped!
 Amber's husband loves cake balls, and even though he wasn't in attendance, I made these so we could ship some home.  I just dipped the cake balls in white chocolate and to make them look like pearls I served them in little seashell cups and then brushed on some of the Wilton's luster dust.
I posted about these cheater cupcakes last week.  Again, I bought cupcakes at the store and then used a kit from Wilton to dress up my cupcakes.  
 I definitely made too many desserts, but....too many and the word dessert are welcome words to string together any day in my book!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One Pan Chicken Meal

I'm always looking for the easy way around dinner, and I've been fascinated with all these one pan meals, so I finally decided to give one a go.  It actually called for four pieces of chicken, but the chicken I was using seriously looked like it was King Kong's child, so I just coated two.  It also called for new potatoes, but I was trying to use up some baking potatoes, so.....all this to say-the chicken had a great crust, and the vegetables are very forgiving and flexible, but it really was tasty!  It'll make the rounds again....and again....and....
Ingredients:  
For chicken: 1 large egg, 2 T lemon juice, 2 t. minced garlic, ½ T fresh chopped parsley, ½ t. each salt and pepper, 
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs, ⅓ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (I doubled these)
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts 
For The Veggies:
  • 8 (1 lb) baby potatoes, quartered, ½ c. butter, melted, 2 t. minced garlic, salt to taste
  • 1 lb green beans
  • Instructions:
  • 1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
  • 2. Dip chicken into egg mixture, cover and allow to marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • 3. Preheat oven to 400.  Grease a baking sheet.  Set aside.  
  • 4.  In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese.
  • 5.  Dredge the egg coated chicken in the breadcrumb/Parmesan mixture, lightly pressing to evenly coat.  If it doesn't coat enough, redip them in the egg and dip again in the breadcrumbs.  Double coating make a great covering.  
  • 6.  Place chicken onto the baking sheet / tray and lightly spray with cooking oil spray. Arrange the potatoes around the chicken in a single layer. Mix together the butter, 2 t. garlic and salt to taste, and pour half of the butter mixture over the potatoes. Toss to evenly coat.
  • 7.  Bake 15 minutes.
  • 8.  Remove  tray from the oven and turn each chicken . Move the potatoes to one side and place the green beans around the chicken on the other side of the baking sheet. Pour remaining garlic butter and return to the oven to broil for a further 10 minutes, or until chicken is golden and potatoes are cooked through.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Back to School Treats

 Last year we had a bunch of new teachers at our school.  This means, we spent a lot of time in advance of the first school day planning lessons and getting classes together, which left me very little time to bake cookies etc, so I decided to make some trail mix.
 I bought these Cheez Its that come with alphabet letters, pretzels, nuts, and M&M's.  My teammate and I did it together, so she was given the task of sorting primary colors.  I don't know why.
I added little tags I found for free on the Internet, and then close them with some letter washi I bought on Etsy.  Easy, and affordable for 9 new teachers.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Easy Pirate Cupcakes

 I recently hosted a baby shower.  The theme was mermaid or pirate.  I wanted to do a mix of both themed desserts, so for the pirates-I saw a kit from Wilton with all the pieces you need.  I knew I would be busy right before the shower, so I decided to buy the cupcakes and then just slip them in the liner and add the decorations.
I picked the color closest to 'flesh', and man I'm glad I cheated.  1)  Sam's makes a fine cupcake 2)  This saved me a lot of time and dishes.  In my old age I'm learning that sometimes it's OK to cheat.  So this is my confession tip-buy the plain cupcake....then decorate them up the way you want.  

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Baseball Wreath

 My brother's girlfriend decorates her house every month with a theme.  I'm not sure I have the energy, but I DO have the energy to help her.  She decided August would be baseball (our team, the Rangers, just so happen to be red, white, and blue, so she didn't have to change out her lights).  She had found some baseballs in her backyard, and I had a ton of ribbon left over from projects I brought over.  We used a wire wreath from the dollar tree.  Eventually, I'll post a tutorial on making a wreath (again).  I've done so in the past, but this post is about those baseballs and how we got them to attach to the wreath.  I've tried hot glue, but they are heavy, so this time....
We used my brother's drill and some wire.  It worked so much better than I could have imagined!  So, things you can drill....baseballs!

Crockpot Meat Balls

I recently hosted a party at my house and one of the things on the menu were meatballs...or....canon balls (it was a Mermaid/Pirate themed party).  I've done a lot of different versions with jellys and sauces, but I decided to try something new, so I went to the internet.  These were commented on and well received at the shower.  It'll definitely stay on the rotation for future parties.  The original recipe (from familyfreshmeals) even suggested serving them over rice for regular ol' weeknight meals.
So, if you are in need of some canon balls....try this one out.
Honey Garlic Crockpot Meatballs
Ingredient:  1/4 c. brown sugar, 1/3 c. honey, 1/2 c. ketchup, 2 T soy sauce, 3 cloves garlic (minced), 1 (28 oz) bag fully cooked, frozen meatballs (I used some from Trader Joe's b/c I read they were the best...and the internet never lies).  
Instructions:  
1.  In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, and garlic.  
2.  Place frozen meatballs in a 3-4 qt crockpot and pour sauce over the meatballs, stir until all the meatballs are coated evenly.  
3.  Cook on low for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  
(I actually put them in the crockpot the night before and put the ceramic inside in my fridge and then just lowered the time by about 30 minutes the day of the shower since the meatballs had thawed some, but it saved me a few minutes and a sink of dirty dishes during the shower).  

Monday, August 07, 2017

First Birthday Banner


I've made a few of these little banners for first birthdays.  The gals I've made them for usually want them to decorate high chairs.  I've also made some longer banners to hang along the wall.  
2 and a half yards of fabric makes about 6 feet of garland (the strips are about 21 inches by 2 inches). 
I usually use yarn or rope to tie the ribbon in place.  I've cut it with pinking sheers, or in this case I just used a straight edge.  I also added a burlap banner that I embroidered the letters to spell out one.

Friday, August 04, 2017

 I recently hosted a Mermaid or Pirate? themed baby shower.  I wanted a blue punch, but a lot of them called for ice cream....and living in Texas in the summer I was worried about it melting too swiftly.  I found a recipe that just used two bottles of Sprite (or some sort of clear soda) and blue Hawaiian Punch.  You freeze the Hawaiian punch in advance, then just pour it into a bowl with the Sprite.  It melts and turns the punch blue.
I served these in little glass fish bowls I bought at the dollar store with little mermaid tail straws I made.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Chocolate Chip Pie

Speaking of pie....oh wait....we weren't, but we should be!  The truth is, I made this pie last Thanksgiving, but by that time I had already posted a lot in advance, so....I decide it to push it towards the end of the summer as we are gearing up for a new season of fall holidays and everything pie.
Traditionally we have apple pie and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but the third (or fourth) dessert is sometimes a toss up.  I was trying to think of something new and ran across this recipe from Toll House.  It's a sweet dessert, but it really was delicious with ice cream.  It's a cross between a cookie, but with a denser texture.  Fall's version of a Pazookie if you will.
Chocolate Chip Pie
Ingredients:  1 unbaked 9 inch deep dish pie shell, 2 eggs, 1 c. flour, 1 c. sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 stick of butter (softened to room temp), 1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips, 1 c. chopped walnuts, vanilla ice cream
Instructions:
1.  Head oven to 325.
2.  Beat the eggs on high until light and foamy.  Add the flour and both sugars.  Mix until combined.  Add the softened butter and mix one more time until completely combined.
3.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts until evenly throughout batter.  Spoon into prepared pie crust.
4.  Bake for 50-60 minutes (until a toothpick in the center comes out clean).  Cool for 30 minutes.  Serve with ice cream.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars

They say your taste buds change every seven years.  I don't know who 'they' are or if it's true, but lemon is a a taste I definitely acquired in my 30's....unfortunately I haven't dropped any of the things I like, so I just keep adding....I'd like to subtract something-like chocolate.
I digress.  Anyway, I was trying to think of a good dessert to bring for a pot luck style that included lasagna, and besides some obvious Italian choices (that don't travel well)...lemon seemed like a good choice.  I found a recipe for lemon bars where you make your own sugar cookies, but....I simplified it and just used a tube of store bought cookie dough and it was delicious.
Lemon Sugar Cookie Bars
Ingredients:  tube of sugar cookie dough (divided), 8 oz of cream cheese (softened), 1/4 c. lemon juice, 2 T lemon zest (divided), 1/2 c. sugar
Instructions:
Heat oven to 350.
1.  Take a 9x9 dish and cover the bottom with foil.  Spray foil with cookie spray.
2.  Press half of the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan evenly to form a crust.  Bake for about 25 minutes (until golden brown) in a 350 degree oven.
3.  While the crust cools beat together the cream cheese, lemon juice, 1 T of lemon zest, and sugar.  Pour over cooled crust.
4.  Top lemon mix with the second half of the cookie dough.  Crumble and spread all over the lemon filling evenly.  Bake at 350 for another 25 minutes (until cookie is browned on top).
5.  Top with last 1 T. of lemon zest.  Cool and slice.
*It took me two lemons to get enough lemon juice and zest for the dish.  
*By using the foil, you can lift it out of the pan easily for slicing.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Mermaid Tail Straws

I made these simple little straws for a shower I hosted this month.  The theme was mermaid or pirate. I decided the drinks would be a mermaid theme.  I had the blue straws already, and I decided that instead of buying an svg file, a tail would be easy enough to cut out.
 I made a template and bought some green sparkle paper at Hobby Lobby.
 I raced my tails and cut.
 I ran some glue along the straws to attach them. The straws are paper, so it doesn't melt them.  My plan was to serve these in small fish bowls I bought at the dollar store with a blue drink inside. Stay tuned....a full set of details to come.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Root Beer Pulled Pork

I'm always looking for easy recipes....and during the heat of a Texas summer I search, in particular, for recipes that don't require an oven.  I recently found this recipe via MomonTimeout.  It's simple (just a few ingredients), and tasty.  Your meat will basically be as good as your BBQ sauce, so...don't skimp on this...and now....back to lazy summer days and staying cool....
Crockpot Pulled Pork
Ingredients:  2 lbs pork loin roast, 12 oz root beer (your fav), 18 oz bbq sauce (your fav), 8 hamburger buns, coleslaw (for topping)
Instructions:  
1.  Place pork in crockpot and cover with rootbeer.
2.  Cook for 6 hours on low.  Drain out liquid, shred meat with fork.  Cover with bbq sauce.
3. Cook for an additional 30 minutes on low.
4.  Serve on buns with coleslaw on the bun (or on the side).

Monday, July 24, 2017

(Vegan) Oatmeal Cake

     I'm not a vegan, I just play one on holidays when the 'real' vegans come to eat with us.  My goal is to turn some traditional recipes vegan without sacrificing the taste.  This cake is one of those examples.  I've found that there are some great ways to turned baked goods vegan with a few substitutions.  This guy definitely isn't low calorie, but come on-when you read the word 'cake' that probably wasn't the first thing on your mind.
     If you want to try out this cake, but don't want to make it vegan I'll leave some notes in the actual recipe for what I substituted.  Just fyi-the 'icing' isn't your traditional icing-it's more like a sauce.
     All of this to say-this cake was a big hit with the vegans and the non-vegans who didn't know any substitutions had been made, so that's a win in my book!
Oatmeal Cake
Cake Ingredients:  2 1/2 c. boiling water, 2 c. quick cooking oats, 1 c. margarine (*or butter for nonvegan), 2 c. sugar, 2 c. brown sugar, 2 t. vanilla, 1 c. non-sweet applesauce (*nonvegan this takes the place of 4 eggs), 3 c. all purpose flour, 2 t. soda, 1 t. salt, 1 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg
Cake Instructions:  
1.  Pour boiling water over oats.  Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.  Beat butter until creamy and slowly add sugars and beat in until fluffy.  Add in vanilla and eggs.  Add oats to mix.  
2.  Add flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  
3.  Spray 9x13 inch pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Cool.
Icing Ingredients:  1 c. melted margarine, 2 c. brown sugar, 6 T.  coconut milk (*nonvegan use evaporated milk), 1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans, 3 c. flaked coconuts
Icing Instructions:  
1.  Mix everything together and spread it over the cake. 
2.  Place cake under broiler in over until frosting becomes bubbly. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Laundry Room Mirror

 This is my unfinished laundry room a month or so back.  I will post it all in another post, but I did a bunch of different projects to try to make it a little more fun....as fun as laundry can be.  I also TRIED to keep the budget low since I SHOULD be the only one frequenting the room, but it's become a catch all that is slightly frightening.
There are no windows in the room because it used to be part of the garage that the owners before me walled off.  To lighten up I painted the walls white, and I've found in the past if I added mirrors it sometimes seems lighter (at least to me) because it catches some more light.  Normally, I would have hunted down a mirror at a thrift store for dollars, but....it was a busy time, so I found this one at Walmart for ten bucks.  I taped off the mirror part and gave it a couple sprays of some mint paint I had.  I then bought a svg file on Etsy and cut it out on my cricut and applied it to the mirror.  It was a really quick project, but it makes a big impact.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sweet Coleslaw

The only thing better than tasty is easy.  I love coleslaw, but a lot of it is just too dry...or too liquid(y).  I found this recipe at allrecipes and it's my favorite by far.  It's the perfect side dish to summer anything.
So if you like summer, simple, and tasty-try this!
Sweet Slaw
Ingredients:  16 oz bag coleslaw mix, 2 T diced onions, 2/3 c. mayonnaise, 3 T vegetable oil, 1/2 c. white sugar, 1 T white vinegar, 1/4 t. salt, 1/2 t. poppy seeds
Instructions:  
1.  At last two hours ahead of time, combine coleslaw and onions.
2. Combine all remaining ingredients, stir, and then toss with coleslaw mix.
3.  Chill until serving.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Taquito Echiladas

 This year, as (a very warm winter for North Texas) came to a close-I started going through my freezer. I like to stock up b/c if there is a snowflake anywhere within a 15 mile radius we shut the city down, right after we buy every loaf of bread at the grocery stores within a 20 mile radius.  So, each fall....I stock my freezer for all both days I might be snowed in....it hasn't happened in several years, but it happened once-five  snow days in a row-once in 37 years.  So, to make a short story long,  one thing I had in the freezer were some taquitos from Costco.
 Several years ago a friend introduced me to this variation on enchiladas.  You lay your taquitos out while they are still frozen in a 9x13 baking dish.  Mix 1 can (10 oz) of cream of chicken soup, 1 can (about 1/3 c.) of green chilies (drained), 1 c. of cheese, and 1 egg.  Mix and spoon it over the frozen taquitos.  Top with 1 c. of cheese.  Bake uncovered at 350 for 50 minutes.  You can serve them with aside of sour cream or guacamole, but....man are these good.  If you have small taquitos you can make several layers and divide the mix between the layers.
..and now there is room in my freezer for next winter!

Friday, July 14, 2017

California Vacation

 I tried to narrow down the pictures for this post, but it turns out this June when I headed to Yosemite for my first visit....they just so happen to be having the best waterfalls in over fifty years thanks to some major snow this past winter....and I just can't narrow it down.
 I love visiting National Parks, and each one has it's own set of rules and ways of successful maneuvering.  I headed here at the beginning of June before a lot of schools were out, but it was already super crowded, and I know it only gets more crowded as the summer heats up, and the waterfalls decrease.  I can see why.
 We had rented a car and we took it down all the paved roads in the park and lucked into some spots, BUT they also provide a shuttle service for free throughout the park, which is definitely something I'd do in the more crowded months.  One stop we made a few times was the Majestic Dining room-it had a beautiful view.  They recommend reservations, but if you go at lunch they do have some openings and you can get on a list-we did that twice and were able to get seated within 20 minutes.
 We had better luck parking the first day when we arrived before the lunch reservations (about 11-the dining room opens at 11:30).  My favorite find was the vegetarian onion soup.  They are famous for this, and it was really delicious!
 My two favorite stops were at tunnel view (the view you get after coming through a long tunnel).  It overlooks El Capitan and a beautiful view of the valley below.
 Glacier Point also took my breath away-and Half Dome and more waterfalls.
 On our second day we hit up Toulumne Trail.  One of the park rangers told us to get there well before 8 b/c the parking lot filled up since some of the more famous sequoia groves are currently closed.  It was down an old paved roads cars and carriages used to drive down, but it was straight down.....and then alllllll uphill on the walk back, but very peaceful.
 It was a mile before the first Sequoia tree, BUT the famous drive through tree was just a few hundred yards up the road from the first tree, which was my main goal!
 We also went to a less frequented part of the park-Hetch Hetchy.  The winding roads were gorgeous (and a little frightening).  It ends at a dam where we got to catch a great double rainbow in the mist...a common sight around the park when the sun is just right.
 The easiest trail in the park is one called Bridalveil.  It leads to Bridalveil falls. Again, the parking lot backs up, but you can shuttle up there too.  We went later in the day and were able to snag a spot.  It was not too far up a hill before we caught sight of the falls that definitely did it's job soaking us with those sprays.  A lot of folks brought ponchos, but my camera and I just dared the damp.
 We did not spot any real wild life (a few deer, and a lot of squirrels), but one of the most fascinating things we spotted were the rock climbers on El Capitan.  There were often crowds, or even folks seated in chairs watching their climb.  I used my telephoto lense b/c I forgot my binoculars.
 This was my first trip to Yosemite and it did not disappoint.  I learned a lot about maneuvering through the crowds, but even with a lot of folks enjoying the same views, it managed to be peaceful and it did not detract from it's beauty.
On our way back to LA we decided to stop in Sequoia National Park as well.  It takes about an hour from the highway to get to the park, and then another full hour to get up to Giant Forest where General Sherman resides.
 I had never seen sequoias before this trip and when I had taken the trail in Yosemite I kept wondering if each large pine was a sequoia, BUT once I spotted my first I understood the magnitude of these beast.
 It's hard to capture in picture, but it's worth seeing at least once!
 To get to General Sherman (the largest tree in the world) you have to take a half mile trail downhill, but if you don't want to walk back up you can walk a few hundred more yards and catch a shuttle back up the road to where the trail started from the handicap parking section (just fyi).  Again....I couldn't even fit the tree into my lense....
 After the Giant forest we also took a small road near the museum that led to a tunnel carved out of a fallen sequoia you can still drive through.
 We weren't able to get over to King's Canyon b/c we wanted to head back towards LA to spend more time with family, but it was worth the stop.  Warning, the roads are really windy snaking back and forth, and there are some really sheer drops.  That makes me totally nervous, so I'm glad I didn't know before....and I'm glad I wasn't driving.
Back in South Pasadena I went to visit Olvera Street.  It's  small street that is where Los Angeles began.  There is a Mexican Market with merchandise and food up and down the street.
 We walked up and down and then headed on to the Griffith Observatory.
 There are all sorts of parks around this area, but at the top is this planetarium with an amazing view of LA and the Hollywood sign.
 In the evenings you can also use their telescope for free to check out space.
I spent the day with my cousin's kiddos and they were satisfied with these little scopes.
 Inside the observatory are all sorts of space exhibits and a show in the domed ceiling.  There are all different shows that last 30-40 minutes (kids 5 and older only after the first show of the day).
The kids and I really enjoyed the show.  The planetarium was one of my favorite places as a child, and they fell in love too and wanted to see the next show (the shows were only 5 for kids and 7 bucks a ticket for adults).  I've headed to California quite a few times since my family lives there, but each visit I try out new things, and this trip was one for the books and will be hard to top, which is a great problem to have.