Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cooking School Week 3

Another crazy busy week. Here are my latest creations from last night. If you want any of the recipes, just leave me a comment! I miss being around more, but my doggies gotta eat!

Chicken Salad with Lime Vinaigarette dressing. Hot German Potato Salad. Curry Chicken Salad with Nuts and Coconut

This was my centerpiece. It's made from pastillage which is basically corn starch, powdered sugar, gelatin and vinegar. Pretty neat huh?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Reviews: Life on the Refrigerator door & Cracked Up to Be

I caught up on homework and read this weekend. It was too cold to do anything outside, so I made a quick stop at my library and grabbed some quick reads ;) I read both of these in a day (I'm a quick reader).

Life on the Refridgerator Door by Alice Kuipers wasn't what I expected. The daughter, Claire, is a teenager just like every other 15 year old girl you know. Dating a guy she is confused about, her parents are divorced and she does homework. Her mom works too much as a Labor & Delivery doctor at a local hospital. I must not have read the cover closely because I thought this was going to be a light read, which it was not!
It read quick, some pages only had a line or 2. Most pages had a paragraph to read. It really was just likes notes left on the fridge. I didn't care for the story and not really the ending. The notes didn't let you develop a great sense of the characters. Overall it was mediocore for me. 

(YA) Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
I enjoyed this book, it really addressed issues teen struggle with. Parker was very identifiable and I could imagine her as popular, but she was more interesting as the loner. I didn't like how the book skipped around so much. It kept going back to "the night it happened", but there were times I felt really confused and just wanted to know what happened. I know why the author chooses to wait until near the end, but I'd have liked to have a better understanding ahead of time instead of going back and forth. I did have a hard time understanding the relationship between Parker and her ex, Chris. I never had any boyfriends that I stayed close with after a breakup, but I think he was still in love with her through most of the book. The author did leave it open for a follow up book, but I think it ended well and she should leave it.
I would recommend this book to any teenage girl (or boy, I guess) and I enjoyed reading it myself. I wish it had addressed more of the drinking issues, instead of just stating that she drank a bottle of Jack. I was more interested in that, then her meetings with a counselor at school.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Week of 2 of school

As promised I'm busy busy between work, school and my dogs. I was able to snap a few pictures before things in class were gobbled up! I'm trying to plan out dinner, but my brain is zapped. Enjoy the photos from this week.

 Manhattan Steak Salad with homemade Balsamic Vineagarette Dressing

Individual tarts: apple, blueberry and walnut chocolate chip raisin

All super simple and super tasty! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My life as of late...(with pictures)

Has involved alot of challenges. Getting back into school is becoming difficult and it's only week 2. All of my "free time" has become homework time. I'm picking up longer hours at work to make up for time when I'm in school. My life just went from 30 to 120 in 5 days. To say I'm exhausted is like telling a child in Ethiopia that they look hungry. I've spent the last 2 days in the ER with Mr. P and they can find NOTHING wrong with him, but he's still "sick".
I've done a few meals and desserts, but only took a few pictures. We've taken to eating quickly and not caring what it is. Mostly me, I hate cooking for one.

Mushroom Pork Chops with Stuffing

Mr. P's basketball cupcakes :)

Hope ya'll are having a fun week! I do still check my email when I get time, so feel free to send me a quick note. I do get breaks at school :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I've been a little gone lately....

Because I started school! I'm a full-time college student and I have a part-time job and I make cakes on the side and raise my pups and have a boyfriend. I'm busy. I need some tips on how to keep up this blog while I'm busy getting back into my new "routine". I would like to start scheduling posts. I have a few pictures saved up on my phone that I need to transfer and type out the recipe. This is going to be a grueling semester, but I will have some pretty cool pictures to share with you. The art of sugar pulling & casting, different meats and how to prepare them and lastly, pastry arts! I can't wait to get things under way and get my books and binders organized. Any tips on organizing and scheduling and all that fun stuff, email me or leave me a comment. I hope to be back soon!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Easy Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken Recipe

I was in a rush last night and couldn't figure out what to make for dinner. I had thawed chicken breasts in the fridge (the right way!) but I was completely unmotivated. I've started freezing odd things, to keep them on hand and fresh. Mr. P loved this and with it having bacon, who wouldn't? It took me about 6-8 minutes of prepping and then I let the oven do the rest. Most of the ingredients you should have on hand. Serve with a veg and a starch and you have a complete meal.

Easy Cheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I always season my chicken to taste either Mrs. Dash or S&P and garlic salt)
2 Tbsp. EVOO
3 Tbsp. Worshestshire Sauce
1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
1/4 c. Ranch Dressing
Heaping handful of cheddar cheese (also keep frozen)
3 strips of bacon, crumbled (I keep this frozen, so I don't have to dirty another pan)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat EVOO over med. high heat in skillet.
2.) Add chicken and season to taste. Saute chicken 3-4 minutes per side for crisp golden brown color on outside.
3.) Remove from heat and place in glass/metal (oven-safe) dish. Add Worshestshire & Soy sauces. Pour ranch over entire chicken (a brush may help).
4.) Add cheese to cover chicken. Sprinkle with bacon. Cook in oven 25-35 minutes, until juices of chicken run clear.

Here is the end result: 


Monday, January 10, 2011

40th Over the Hill Birthday Cake

This weekend I was prepared to make an over the hill birthday cake. Turns out, my friend (who's mom the party was for) wanted to help also. We went with a few idea and I don't have the 3-tiered cake pan set :( It's on my list of needs at the moment, especially if I actually do start a business. So instead, we decided on doing a sheet cake with a hill on top. I was planning on making a mounded hill (circle shape) with a glass bowl and rice crispies. He had a different idea of having steps, covering it in green sprinkles and decorating it to look like a hill. This wasn't my best cake, but she loved it because her son made it :) It turned out better than I had originally thought. All I did was bake the cake and assemble the steps. I also helped ice. Other than that it was his design. 

Frosted cake with rice crispie treats assembled.
After decorated with sprinkles

Decorated with my chocolate 40 on the back.
This was the final product. Cody had never used royal icing before (or cake decorating writing) but overall he did a great job.
The steps were It's a boy (for Cody), It's a girl (for his sister), then their mom getting married to his step dad, and then her grandbaby (my godson). It was a great concept and I'm proud of him for the effort.

Here's the side view.

I love it :) It looks like a spring wedding cake, but he had limited time to find the figurines. Oh well.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What's ALWAYS in my kitchen

This week has been busy and I haven't gotten to blog like I would like. This weekend I'm in baker mode and baking an over the hill birthday cake. I will take pictures and document the event. Today I wanted to share what are my kitchen MUST HAVES. In the past I have blogged about a well-stocked kitchen. I'm just adding on to that.
How many times have you heard Rachel Ray say EVOO? You need Extra-Virgin Olive Oil in your kitchen! You saute onions, garlic, peppers, meat, anything and it's a quality oil that gives flavor to the food in the pan. Minced garlic is a convenience food I gladly hand over my hard earned money for. All you need is a spoon to have finely chopped garlic added to any dish. The garlic comes pre-minced and they do a great job of having a uniformly diced product. More accurately than my knife skills allow. A quality Balsamic Vinegar is a must! Don't buy the $5 special. I urge you to spend the extra money, it actually does make a difference.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Spaghetti and Meat (Sausage) Sauce

It's been a hectic few days and I haven't been able to cook like I would like to. Our water heater died and we had to take cold showers (for 1 day and it was horrible). We had a funeral to attend (and those are never fun). We finally were able to settle down and I made Mr. P's favorite last night, Spaghetti and Meat Sauce! My secret is: I don't make the sauce from scratch *hangs head*. I don't have the time and I'm not Italian!

Spaghetti & Meat Sauce
*Yield: more than plenty for 2 people
Time: 30 minutes, including prep
1/2 box spaghetti (any brand)
1 bottle spaghetti sauce (prefer Prego, but anything works)
1 roll sausage (I used Farmer's Pride)
Add-ins (chopped onion, sliced mushrooms, diced green peppers) Whatever your family prefers
Italian Spices (Mrs. Dash has a great Italian Medley)
1.) Brown sausage in skillet until cooked through. Drain fat. 
2.) Bring salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and boil for approx 8 minutes (or until desired doneness).
3.) Depending on your tastes, saute veggies or add them directly to sausage skillet. Add jar of sauce. Season with spices to taste.
4.) Let sauce mixture simmer for about 20 minutes on med-low heat.
5.) Drain pasta. Add sauce mixture to pasta and mix.
**Serve with side of garlic toast and tossed salad.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bad blogger! 2 Pictures, that's it?

I took 2 pictures the entire 3 day weekend and we only ate out once, which equals tons of recipes AND pictures! My goal for 2011 is find my digital camera and stop using my phone that takes only so-so pictures as it is. I decided to have an appetizer dinner on New Year's Eve :)

I made cocktail weenies in the crockpot, tortilla roll-ups, chicken wings in my new deep fryer (with hot sauce!) Mr. P was fast asleep by 10pm on NYE (with a full belly at least). I stayed up reading a new book. We ate sweet potato and apples baked with cinnamon as a side dish to turkey yesterday. Taco Soup on New Year's day and my mom made us waffles for brunch.

Instead of a recipe today, I will share with you what new kitchen things I plan on spending some of my gift cards on :)

That should spend most of my gift cards (at that store), but wait until I get a coupon! Although BOGO Free is a pretty good deal right now too....

Mingle 240