Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week 53: Last Week of School!

This is always a strange week for me because I'm excited for the change in routine that summer brings, but I'm also a bit resistant to the change in the schedule I've established over the last 9 months!  Overall, I think I'm more excited for the change than anything, but I feel this rush to get as much done as possible while the girls are in school all day!  Since I grow to be a greater procrastinator each year, that makes every year a little bit more difficult.  Is that why time seems to fly faster each year?

All of the kiddos (Annabelle, Emilie and Zach in front of our cul-de-sac garden)
I'm not sure if I've mentioned our cul-de-sac garden yet on this blog, but we have started hosting the community garden in our cul-de-sac every Spring and it's SO awesome!  Alain is really the gardener in the family.  I kill every plant that's given to me, so my hubby always takes care of any plants that are given to me as gifts.  Anyway, we have 5 houses in our cul-de-sac and everyone contributes to the garden each year.  Each year we try a few new things, but this year we have tomatoes, basil, jalapeƱos, zucchini, radishes, green beans and I'm not sure if that's all, but it sounds like a lot to me.  We all share the harvest and it's a great project that brings us all together!

Oh, he's so cute!  Love that little man of mine!
The last two weeks of school are crazy busy around this house.  There's a few parties this week at school and swim team started last week, so we've been out practicing every night with the girls!  It's fun, but I'm looking forward to swim team practice in the mornings after school is out so that we'll have the rest of the day free to play!  

Weekly Menu #53:

Sunday - Roasted chicken legs, corn on the cob, broccoli
Monday - Thai shrimp with basil, cabbage, white rice (didn't get to this last 2 weeks, so I'm really craving it this week)
Tuesday - Mexican beef tacos, black beans, white rice leftovers (this is crock pot meal, so I'm hoping this will be easy while I'm packing the night before we leave to go out of town)
Wednesday - Leftovers
Thursday - out of town
Friday - out of town
Saturday - out of town

Have a great week!  Let's see your menus now!  I'm out of town this weekend, so menu probably won't be going out until late next week!


Almond Tarragon Chicken Salad

It seems like a long name to describe chicken salad that only has 4 ingredients, but this chicken salad packs a powerful punch!  I started buying this chicken salad (of the same name) from Publix in their deli section a few weeks ago and I got hooked on it.  It's super simple, but really delicious!  After my fourth container of chicken salad in 2 weeks, I decided that I am paying too much for this stuff.  We buy rotisserie chicken at least once a week in my house, so I should be able to make this wonderful concoction myself!

After a detailed recipe search that listed the three most important ingredients, I find this wonderful recipe on!  This woman was in the same dilemmas as I've found myself: In love with Publix Tarragon Chicken Salad!  Her solution is this simple recipe.  You can definitely add onto it if you desire, but it's perfect just the way it is.  I've been eating it with the  Vermont Honey Wheat Oatmeal Bread and I just love it!

Almond Tarragon Chicken Salad (original recipe on

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked chopped and cooled
1/2 cup mayonnaise (if salad is too dry you can add more)
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Combine all of the ingredients in a tupperware bowl so you can store the leftovers (if you don't eat it all in one sitting).

Cover and chill for a few hours.  You can serve this on bread, rolls, or even with crackers.  Alain ate this with sliced apples today (as pictured above) and it was really tasty!  

NOTE: If you use a whole or half rotisserie chicken, just adjust measurements to taste.  I think I used half a rotisserie chicken today to make this and I used and extra 1/4 cup of mayo and sliced almonds and 1/2 tsp. extra of tarragon.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Week 52: Happy Mother's Day!

I'm so grateful for my family!  The kids really spoiled me this weekend!  Emilie (5) had a Mother's Day Tea on Friday (and made me all kinds of gifts) and Annabelle (8) made me cards and a handprint flower bouquet with a poem!  Zach (3) even painted me a flower pot with sweet little flowers in it!  I'm awed and amazed by my sweet children every day.  An extra bonus this year was that I got to hang out with my mom and my sister on Saturday and we went to Antico for the best pizza ever!

My husband made me eggs benedict for breakfast and we decided to try the hollandaise from scratch this time.  For years, we've bought the little packages, but those require milk and we thought it would be better to make the sauce from scratch because it does not contain milk (only egg yolks, butter and lemon juice).  Here's where we remember the importance of measuring ingredients.  Alain squeezed one whole lemon into the saucepan, but it was supposed to be only one tablespoon.  This was a particularly juicy lemon, so the sauce was very tart!  ;)

Onto the menu planning!  Our calendar has been so crazy busy, that menu planning is getting difficult.  Might be a few more 'out to eat' days that usual just to accommodate the craziness.

Weekly Menu Plan #52

Sunday -  Homemade pizza, salad
Monday - Out to eat for me (maybe spaghetti for the family?)
Tuesday - Out to eat
Wednesday - Community Group Dinner (we just bring burgers and a side)
Thursday - Beef tacos, black beans, white rice, seared zucchini
FridayThai shrimp with basil, cabbage, leftover white rice
Saturday - Grilled salmon, corn on the cob, roasted mixed veggies

Have a great week!  Looking forward to seeing your menus too!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Coconut Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

And my fascination with coconut continues. . .

I wasn't really happy with that last batch of coconut cupcakes I made a few weeks ago, so I found this recipe from Ina Garten and I couldn't resist making them for an event last night.  OMG!  They were SO amazing (especially right when they came out of the oven - no frosting required for that goodness, baby)! I made two dozen, but my family devoured almost half of those before I left the house.

Ina Garten is one of my favorites because her recipes almost always turn out perfectly when I attempt to make them.  The cake was moist and held together really well inside the cupcake liners.  I've been trying to find a good yellow cake from scratch, but this might be my go-to cake now since the kids liked it so much.  The only changes I made to her original recipe were to replace buttermilk with unsweetened coconut milk (So Delicious brand) and I used buttercream frosting rather than her cream cheese frosting.  I prefer buttermilk because my hubby can eat it.  His milk allergy makes cream cheese a little difficult, but butter is tolerable thank goodness. . .

Coconut Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting (adapted from Ina Garten's recipe)

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the coconut milk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting (adapted from Betty Crocker's 'The Big Red Cookbook')

6 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
3 tsp. vanilla extract
3-4 tbls. coconut milk (or any kind of milk)

Mix powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl with spoon or electric mixer on low speed.  Stir in vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the coconut milk.

Gradually beat in just enough remaining coconut milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable.  If the frosting becomes too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.  If frosting is still too thick, add a bit more milk.  

This is double the recipe written in the cookbook because I like to use a lot of frosting on my cupcakes.  If it's too much for you, then just cut the recipe in half.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Vermont Honey Wheat Oatmeal Bread

The smell of bread rising and baking in my kitchen is so comforting to me!  While browsing the web, I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website.  I love their flour and they have a wonderful database of great recipes.  They also make a good gluten-free flour mix from what I've heard from my GF friends.  This is actually an oatmeal bread (one of my personal favorites), so I couldn't resist trying it this past weekend!  I made one loaf in the bread pan and one round loaf because I didn't have another bread pan of the right size.  The round one was good, but burned a bit on the bottom, but the bread in the loaf pan was amazing and it really made the best sandwich bread!

This bread tastes so amazing with a little bit of marionberry jam from Oregon (thanks to my BIL and SIL who provide us with our stock whenever we get a chance to visit).  I'm told the Marionberries are grown in the Pacific Northwest and that they are similar to blackberries, but much larger.  I think I will be making another 2 loaves tomorrow because I've got to have more of this stuff!  :)

Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread (adapted from King Arthur Flour - original recipe)

2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar (or maple sugar if available)
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon Saigon-type cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oats, maple sugar, honey, butter, salt and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm.

Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough. Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.

Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch bread pans. Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise till they've crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.

Bake the loaves in a preheated 360°F oven for 33 minutes.* Remove them from the oven when they're golden brown, and the interior registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Yield: 2 sandwich loaves.