Easter 2017 Weekend

On Friday night I convinced hubby who was exhausted to take a walk with me around the neighborhood and it ended up being one of our favorite parts of the weekend. While we were dating and engaged, we talked about all the after dinner walks we would take together once we finally lived together and that sadly has not happened as much as we dreamed it would. Anywho, after our walk we made some popcorn and watched Moana (again).

On Saturday morning I slept in till about 8 and then hustled to the farmer’s Market and Walmart. The farmer’s market was a freaking zoo (and I suspect full of lots of newbies…aka, do not leave your cart unattended in that store!) and then met a friend who shared some of her extra plant goodies that she picked up. When I got home I unloaded then started cooking for Easter brunch, cooking and doing laundry, and working on our garden! And in the blink of an eye, 8 hours went by (nice rhyme, eh?) When J got home from his errands (school, oil change, gym) we had dinner al fresco.

Sunday we went to early church and then went home to relax and study before brunch. The brunch menu was: carrot soup, fruit salad, asparagus salad, peach stuffed French toast, and “carrot-patch” brownies. Our friends brought mimosas and we had a fun 3 hours of conversation and food. After brunch J cleaned up, I studied, rested, and then made dinner (veggie bowls).

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Defrosting meat trick

One evening I got home from work and realized I had forgotten to pull out sausages for dinner from the freezer. I  had remembered reading about this trick to defrost your meat of stacking it between two metal pans so I figured it was time to try it and guess what…it worked. PERFECTLY! What I did was took a small cooking pan and put it upside down, so the open part was down and I had a level surface. I then put the meat on top of that pan. Then, I put my stock pot on top of that and put water inside the stock pot. I walked away and 30 minutes later walked back to perfectly defrosted sausages. Here’s my handy graphic:
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P.S. “Wow, Diana, that graphic is amazing! What program did you use to create that work of art?” “Well friends, that would be our favorite computer program from childhood, PAINT.”

In the kitchen in December 2016

Cookies on Deck | This year I baked cranberry bliss bars (LINK), sugar cookies (#favorite), and double chocolate cookies with snow caps.

The other night I tried on my favorite winter pants and they were skin tight, so this is the last of the baking I’ll be doing for a good long while.

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Cauliflower Rice | I’ve been hearing so much about cauliflower rice taht I finally gave it my own attempt and O. M. G. I understand the hype! I made a recipe from Eat Yourself Skinny for fried rice and both J and I devoured it.
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Shredding chicken

Do you know about the Kitchenaid stand mixer shredding chicken trick? Put cooked chicken breasts into the Kitchenaid with the paddle attachment, lock the head, turn it on the first speed, and after 1-3 minutes you have shredded chicken. After telling a coworker I was met with a dubious stare, so on Sunday while prepping dinner I took pictures of the process and sent the photos to her—it is like magic!

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Cooked chicken breasts, cooled

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Paddle attachment, low speed

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Shredded chicken!

Recent Recipes

One of my favorite parts of the week is meal planning. I meal plan, shop on the weekend, and tend to cook all of our food on Sunday. My favorite sites for meal planning and tasty recipes are Budget Bytes and Skinny Taste–I have yet to find a dud! Here is some of what I’ve been cooking recently:

J’s birthday cake!

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The Mr. requested a “chocolate cake with vanilla filling and caramel frosting.” …he really likes sugar, if you cannot tell. The first vanilla filling recipe I tried TANKED, and TANKED in a bad way. I now really, really hate gelatin. But that is neither here nor there, and take two of just butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar did the trick!

Lunches

J’s lunches tend to be tuna noodle salad or a sammie of some sort (other than the week he requested to have my kale salad). My lunches tend to be the aforementioned kale salad (kale run through the food processor mixed with a homemade dressing, beans, a grain like couscous and whatever veggies are on hand) or lentils and spinach.

Veggie lasagna

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I made this when N and her husband came to town. It was so tasty! I used broccoli (frozen), onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, and homemade tomato sauce with the noodles and cheese.

Strawberry Shortcake

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Strawberry shortcake is one of N’s favorite desserts and I made a recipe that was easy to make small portions of. She could not stay long because she had some errands, so I made her some to go!

Beef tips and rice

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J requested beef tips and rice, and almost EVERY recipe calls for corn starch. I was not a fan of putting that into my food, so for this I cooked down onion, garlic, mushrooms, and beef, and then to thicken it I cooked green beans and ground them up with my immersion blender. It worked so well! Well…it was more like dirty rice, but there were no complaints on the taste.

My favorite kitchen tips | Edition 1

I will firstly acknowledge that some of the tips below will make me sound like a kitchen jerk. I have accepted that about myself. Now let’s carry on.

I always have an eye for the “kitchen tips” when I read social media forums. I have come across true gems and awful duds, and then there are those that make me roll my eyes. Take for instance, “FLUFFIEST PANCAKE EVER! tips.” Those usually involve adding some random ingredient that will truly result in the most life-changing fluffy pancakes of your life. Umm…no. In my life experience, with any recipe (I cannot vouch for pre-made mixes because I do not use them) but getting sky-high fluffy pancakes is all in your technique. I am a pancake snob and like mine so much that I will not bother ordering them in a restaurant because I always have smooth fluffy pancakes when I make them. My technique/tip is LEAVE THEM ALONE. For such a happy food, in getting them to be awesome they do not play nicely. I thoroughly mix all the dry ingredients in their own bowl. I beat the eggs for a good long while, and then mix the eggs with the wet ingredients in their own bowl. Then with as little jostling as possible I stir the wet into the dry, pouring in the wet as I incorporate the two to make sure they are not jostling a lot. When I put them on the (sizzling) hot griddle, I don’t mess with them till time to flip. Flip once, cook on the other side, and done. Fluffy, sky high pancakes.

Another is scrambled eggs. Another item I’ve heard “add this” or “add that” for “truly fluffy pancakes.” Again, I’ve had fluffy scrambled eggs with just eggs and a dash of milk (though if I have plain half-n-half on hand milk will be trumped). It boils down to your heat. The egg liquid measure when placed into a screaming hot pan screams in return, cooks too fast, and gets tough. Instead, put them the egg mixture into a cold (Pamed or buttered) skillet, turn the heat on low, then busy yourself with other items while keeping an eye on them. When the eggs are looking a bit firm, it is time for a solid stir with a spatula, then carry on again (but stay closer). When cooked over a long time over low heat they are tender (awful word) and fluffy and in the T family opinion, perfect.

Finally, hard boiling eggs. I have read so many tricks about how to make peeling hard boiled eggs easier and what I have found to consistently work well is peel them after you drain and rinse them. Finger tips may get hot, but the shell comes off immediately!

Ice Cream! Finally.

We received some really awesome presents at our wedding and one that hubs was most excited about was the Kitchenaid Ice Cream maker attachment. Reviews talked about how very easy it was to have “fresh, homemade ice cream in no time.” Why it does take very little time for ice cream base to become ice cream, it does take HOURS of forethought and prep-work to get to having ice cream in your bowl.
Step one, the bowl. The bowl has to be frozen for at least 15 hours. I may or may have not have a small freezing problem (Freeze everything!) and bulk buy frozen broccoli. We are pretty short on freezer space in the T home. Getting the bowl into the freezer takes adult Tetris to make it fit, and prayers that nothing will smack you in the face when you open the door.
Step two, the base. I went to the grocery store last week and purchased all my ingredients (even grabbing the next to last half-and-half containers). I get home to read through the directions and BAM! This awesome mixture you make has to cool for at least 8 hours. And the mixture you cook requires moving often times hot liquid back and forth between two pans. On Sunday prep day, that is just something you don’t want to read. I despondently called out to hubs, “you’re getting ice cream later this week.” Making the base wasn’t too bad once I read through the directions in entirety a few times (a necessary kitchen skill anyway) and got it made with minimal spillage and no burns.
Step three, assemble the attachment. It took two YouTube videos to figure out how to put on the drive attachment, but after that it was smooth sailing (and it was ridiculously easy to put on. So easy that we doubted it).
Step four, make ice cream. And here is when it is really easy. Turn on the machine. Pour in the base. Set the timer. Go about your business, add in mix ins if you’d like (in our case, Oreo cookies), let it finish, enjoy. Our first endeavor was a bit soupy, but I am chalking that up to amateur problems.
AND WE ARE DONE. And having ice cream.
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