Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week 61: Return to Normal?

It feels like August was gobbled up by the time goblin!  Seriously, we traveled for one week to Oregon, had a week home, and then were blessed with almost two weeks with visitors!  During all of the excitement, the kids started school and now I feel like things are slowly starting to come together!  I don't think we've encountered 'normal' yet, but we're enjoying each day!

We had a special treat this weekend by visiting with my best friend from high school, Stef, and her family!  Here's a picture of the girls with Stef's 2 kids!  We visited a barbecue festival up in Kennesaw and then ate dinner at our house!  It's been over 6 years since we've seen each other, so it was indeed a special treat for everyone!

I did not even attempt a menu plan last week while we still had family in town!  Now, I'm back and ready to get creative with some cooking. . .

Week 61 Menu

Sunday - Marinated salmon (Costco) and roasted frozen veggies
Monday - Sirloin pork roast, potatoes, broccoli
Tuesday -  Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Wednesday - Leftovers 
Thursday - Roast chicken, carrots, potatoes, couscous (just use whatever veggies you have on hand)
Friday - Out of town
Saturday - Out of town

Have a great week!  I'd love to see those menus!  Doesn't matter if it's fancy or simple!  We can all inspire one another!


Coconut Chocolate Jumbles

I was desperate for some cookies a few nights ago and I needed dessert for an evening MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting I was attending.  There were limited resources in my pantry and these cookies were the only quick cookies that I could make!  WOW!  So glad for that little incident because the cookies were delicious!  I found a recipe for coconut jumbles in an old cookbook titled 'Country Cooking' that is one of my favorite dessert cookbooks, but then searched for the recipe online and found one from Kraft.  Combined they were the perfect recipe!

Coconut Chocolate Jumbles

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose or white wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips or chunks (dark chocolate preferred)
1 pkg. (7 oz.) shredded coconut (2-2/3 cups)
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (toasted if desired)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large bowl, beat softened butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add egg and mix until just combined.  Add flour, baking soda and salt and mix well.  Now add all remaining ingredients and mix well.  

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown.  These definitely taste better a little under-cooked rather than over-cooked.  Cool a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.  Cool completely and store in air-tight container.

Yield: 3 dozen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Week 60: Oregonians Invade! :)

Well, last week I mentioned that we were just getting over leaving the Pacific coast of Oregon and now my BIL, SIL and their 2-month old sweetie, Josephine are all staying with us for the next week and a half!  I'm so excited to see them again and my kids are thrilled that they finally get to meet their cousin!

First week of school starts tomorrow for my kids and it's always bittersweet!  They have a brand new school, so they are really excited, but a little nervous for a new school year.  

Week 60 Menu

Sunday - Spaghetti with meat sauce, zucchini noodles or rotini, steamed broccoli
Monday - Chicken tacos, black beans, white rice
Tuesday - Leftovers 
Wednesday - Grilled salmon, roasted mixed veggies
Thursday - Thai basil shrimp, cabbage, red peppers, white rice
Friday - Burgers, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots
Saturday - Out to dinner

Happy menu planning!  Have a great week, everyone!  I'd love to see your menus!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting

I have been obsessed with these cupcakes since I saw them on Pinterest a few days ago, so tonight was the night for experimenting!  Please remind me never to try new recipes out on the day when we have 5  guests coming over for dinner!  The recipe is amazing, but the caramel frosting was very time intensive and I tried to substitute another frosting that turned out nasty.  So, I started over and made a new batch of buttercream, but added some of the caramel frosting into the buttercream and then it tasted really great!  Of course, I only used maybe 1 cup of the caramel frosting that I originally doubled so that I would have enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes, but I'm ok with it. . .  Lesson learned.

Typically, I like to practice my recipes before I try them out on guests.  I know not everyone has time for the trial, but it's really important in case you run into a bad recipe.  Speaking of time, I think I was frosting the cupcakes with the newly improved frosting only 5 minutes before the first guests arrived, but at least all of my cleaning was done!

Back to the matter at hand. . . these cupcakes turned out delicious!  Everyone ate one and I didn't even see any crumbs left afterwards!  Always a good sign at my house!  The frosting surprisingly turned our amazing and the cake was similar to an apple cake I make, so my kids devoured them!  I love baking with apples, zucchini, pumpkin, acorn squash, carrots or whatever we can sneak into dessert.  It seems like the desserts are always really moist when using those ingredients!

Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream Frosting (Adapted from Baked Perfection)

3 cups white wheat (or all-purpose) flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups grated apples (I used 3 large Granny Smith apples, but the blog author recommends a mix of sweet and sour apples, so I'll have to try that next time)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Insert 24 cupcake liners into 2 muffin tins.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In large bowl, add eggs and sugars and beat until creamy.  Add the orange juice, vanilla, oil and applesauce until well combined.  Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until they are just combined (I like to use a wooden spoon for this type of recipe to ensure that I don't over mix the batter).  Add the grated apples and gently mix.   Use a greased 1/4 cup to dispense the batter into each of the 24 cupcake liners.  Use a spoon to help get all of the batter into the liner.  

Bake for 20-24 minutes (start checking at 20, but mine took exactly 22) or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.  

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Caramel Buttercream Frosting (Heavily adapted from The Betty Crocker Cookbook)

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 tbsp. milk (I use coconut milk, so you can substitute anything here)
1-2 tbsp. caramel syrup (any kind will do)

Place powdered sugar, butter and milk into mixer (if you have a whip, that works best, but any mixer will do) and mix until it appears smooth and creamy.  Add more milk if frosting is too thick.  Add caramel syrup and continue to mix until frosting is creamy and spreadable.  

If you double this recipe, you'll get enough to generously frost cupcakes using an icing bag, but if you make one batch, you'll have enough to frost all 24 cupcakes exactly using a knife or spatula to spread the frosting.  A nice added touch would be a light drizzle of caramel over each cupcake.  


Almond Butter Bites

I hope I don't make any enemies, but I have to admit that I really can't stand peanut butter.  So, these almond butter bites made me so happy.  My neighbor has made this recipe with peanut butter multiple times and they have looked so delicious, so I had to give it a try my way!

It blew me away how easy these little bites were to make.  Literally, it took me 5 minutes to put them together and throw the batter in the fridge to cool for a few hours.  I LOVED them!  Of course, I couldn't resist rolling them in a little bit of cinnamon sugar to give them a finished look and taste!  ;)

The original recipe I found was on a great blog titled, Smashed Peas and Carrots.  These are just the right snack size, but it's hard to just eat one.  Give them a try and see. . .

No-Bake Almond Butter Bites

1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup almond butter (or any nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
Cinnamon-Sugar for the coating

In a medium mixing bowl, add all ingredients and mix until completely incorporated.  I actually threw this batter in my kitchenaid mixer because it's really thick and I was having trouble getting it to come together.  Allow mixture to chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but more time is fine.  Prepare cinnamon-sugar in a small bowl.  Use a rounded tablespoon full of the mixture and roll into balls.  After rolling into balls, drop the balls into the cinnamon-sugar mix and roll around until completely covered.

Store almond butter bites in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week!

Yield: 18-20 bites

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mango Salsa

Lately, I make this salsa and sit down to eat half of the bowl.  Seriously. . . this stuff amazes me!  How it is that I've gone so long without mango salsa in my life?

If you haven't yet attempted using mango in your kitchen, I have a few links for you to check out.  I used to be intimidated by the idea of cutting a mango, but it's really pretty easy.  I had to watch a youtube video many times while I attempted the procedure, but I now feel like I actually know what I'm doing.  ;)

Here's a few links to help you if you are in need of a mango choosing and cutting tutorial in your life:

Youtube Video:

I basically model this salsa after a tropical salsa recipe that I make from Emeril Lagassee.  I post it on this site at least once a month because the fish marinade in the recipe is so delicious on grilled Mahi-Mahi!

Mango Salsa

2 ripe mangoes, seeded, peeled and chopped (as described in tutorials above)
1/4 cup minced onion (recipe calls for red, but white/yellow are fine too)
1/4 cup minced red pepper
1 jalapeƱo, seeded and finely diced
3 tbls. chopped cilantro
1 lime, juiced
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and gently mix together.  The mango can be delicate, so that's why you need to be careful when mixing.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Week 59: Home from Oregon!

Well, we arrived home on Wednesday, but I felt that it was just too much to try to make a menu with only a few days left in the week, so we struggled along this week.  My hubby and I spent 3 days on the coast in Lincoln City, Oregon to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary and then we spent 4 days with my BIL and SIL (in Bend, Oregon) who just had their first baby, Josephine!  We left the kiddos home with my FIL and I don't think they missed us at all because they had so much fun with him.  It's the first time we've left our kids for more than one night in 9 years, so this was a big deal for us and it was amazing!  

We ate amazing food while in Oregon!  It was my second visit, but I just love the food there!  Everyone seems to be a foodie and they are SO focused on using locally grown ingredients!  It just makes everything taste amazing!  The picture above is grilled salmon with crab risotto and vodka sauce! OMG! It was so amazing! Thanks to Tidal Raves in Depoe Bay, Oregon!

One of the best breakfast sandwiches in the world is pictured above!  It's a bacon & egg sandwich with arugula aioli on a homemade croissant.  Thank goodness for Sparrow Bakery in Bend, Oregon!  I think that I will visit this place even if Josh & Mary move back to Atlanta one day!  ;)

This is the precious little bundle that inspired the whole trip!  This is Sarah Josephine and we had such a wonderful time with her last week!  That was one of the first smiles her Mommy was able to catch on camera!  Love that sweet girl!

Onto the menu. . . 

Week 59 Menu

Sunday - Rotisserie chicken, green beans, potatoes
Monday - Pho Ga (Vietnamese chicken noodle soup) - this recipe looks a little complicated to make the broth, but Annabelle has been begging for this since we went to a Pho restaurant a few months ago, so we'll see how energetic I feel Monday morning!
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Roasted salmon with assorted frozen veggies roasted
Thursday - Ground beef tacos, black beans, rice and asparagus
Friday - Out to dinner
Saturday - Sirloin pork roast, roasted cauliflower, potatoes and carrots

Happy meal planning!