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October 31, 2011

Taste of Home Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda

As I've stated many times before, this is my favorite time if year. There are many things that I love about the fall, but the biggest is the food. Growing up my mother would go into a baking and cooking frenzy during the months leading up to Christmas. The smells were delicious and my mother would spend hours teaching me to cook the dishes she was making. Now that I have a family of my own I have continued the tradition of fall baking with my own family. My absolute favorite fall ingredient is pumpkin, I love it in just about everything. I was excited when the November issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda, which looked delicious and utilized my favorite fall ingredient, pumpkin.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It makes 9 servings and takes 15 minutes of prep and 35 minutes of cooking time. During the non-fall/winter months it is absolutely impossible to find pure pumpkin in my local stores, but this time of the year it is easily found. All the ingredients were basic and I had no problems finding any of them at my local grocery store. I made my own chicken broth from scratch. I prefer the taste of homemade broth, plus it is free of preservatives and sodium (I don't salt my broth, I salt the dish I prepare it with instead). I used thick-cut bacon, I love the taste and texture and use it frequently in my dishes.Make sure to adequately salt the soup, since I used homemade chicken broth which I don't salt when preparing I had to add a significant amount of salt for flavor. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Pumpkin soup is delicious, and this recipe was no exception. I loved how quick this bisque went together and how few ingredients were needed. My two boys were impressed with this soup and ate their entire servings. The recipe states that this serves 9, but I found there was a significant amount of leftovers after feeding my family of four. Overall, a delicious and easy pumpkin soup recipe, perfect for the fall.

For the recipe go to Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda.

October 30, 2011

Eating Well Nana's Creole Pecan Cake Bars

I love when I get the first issue of a new (to me) food magazine. There is something thrilling to me about picking out the first recipe that I want to try and review. I spend a good hour or two every week going through my food magazines and tearing out recipes that I want to try in the future. Then I sit down with the file folder of saved magazines that I have collected and go through to find my menu plan for the week. When I get a new magazine it's exciting having a new set of recipes to mull over and decide which ones to try. My newest magazine Eating Well had a recipe for Nana's Creole Pecan Cake Bars, which looked delicious and a great first recipe to review.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It makes 4 dozen bars and takes approximately 2 hours of total time, with 30 being active. All the ingredients I either had or were easily available at my local grocery store. I used dried dates, since those were what I had available and golden raisins as suggested by the recipe. I did find that my baking time was significantly less than the 45 minutes stated in the recipe. My total cooking time was closer to 30-35 minutes. Additionally, I rotated my pan halfway through to ensure even baking. Finally, I made my bars larger than the recipe suggested, so I had closer to 2 dozen total cookies. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These bars are different than normal cookie bar recipes. They have a texture that is more consistent with cake, and are full of nuts and dried fruit. The corner cookies get a slightly sweet and crunchy texture, which is delicious. My family loved these cookies and how they were different than other cookie recipes I have tried previously. Overall, a great new recipe from a new (to me) magazine I look forward to using again in the future.

For the recipe go to Nana's Creole Pecan Cake Bars.

October 29, 2011

Taste of Home Easy Ropa Vieja Stew

This is my favorite time of year. I love when the weather turns colder, the leaves fall and I pull out my crockpot. With two busy boys my life times to be chaotic at the best of times, and especially around dinner. I love how my crockpot can help me make delicious meals that I can prep, put in the slowcooker and the rest is done for me. Crockpot cooking is especially helpful during the cooler months, when a hot home cooked meal provides welcome relief from the cold weather outdoors. During the fall and winter months I normally use my slowcooker about once or twice a week. I've tried just about every type of crockpot meal and I was surprised when I saw a recipe for Easy Ropa Vieja Stew in the November issue of Taste of Home magazine, which looked different than any slowcooker recipe I had tried before.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It makes 8 servings and takes approximately 25 minutes of prep and 6 hours of cooking. All the ingredients were easy to find at my local grocery store and I didn't have to make any modifications. Be very careful when de-seeding the habanero pepper, it is very hot and will burn your eyes if the oils makes contact with them. I served the finished stew with rice, but it would also be delicious served alone. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written, with no modifications.

I was very pleased with the taste of this finished stew. My whole family enjoyed this recipe, even my two young sons. It made more than enough for leftovers, and it re-heated well the next day for my husbands lunch. A great, easy crockpot recipe perfect for the cooler months ahead.

For the recipe go to Easy Ropa Vieja Stew.

October 28, 2011

Saveur Pesto Focaccia

Bread is a popular stable in my house. Most weeks I make at least two loaves, sometimes more. Every couple of weeks I try to change up my normal bread routine and try something different such as scones or biscuits. A particular household favorite is focaccia. It takes longer than most breads to prepare and bake, but the end result is well worth the effort. Recently, Saveur magazine had a recipe for Pesto Focaccia using cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives, two foods my family loves.

This recipe has 8 ingredients for the pesto and 12 for the focaccia. It makes 12-14 servings and takes approximately 4 and a half hours to prepare and bake. There are a number of ingredients in this recipe, but I only had problems finding one, durum wheat flour. I looked at every store I could think of in my area to no avail, so I chose to leave it out. Instead of the durum wheat flour I used an additional cup of all-purpose flour, making 5 and a half cups of total flour. I noticed that the top of the focaccia cooked very quickly and I had to tent the top after approximately 10 minutes to prevent burning. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Over the last five years I have made a number of focaccia recipes, about one every month. I was intrigued by this recipe since it used mashed potatoes and lager beer in the focaccia dough, a combination I hadn't tried in previous recipes. The combination of the kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes worked well together and went great with the sun dried tomato pesto. Overall, a recipe well worth the time involved and filling enough for a main dish or side.

For the recipe go to Pesto Focaccia.

October 27, 2011

Family Fun Rosemary-Buttermilk Scones

Breakfast is one of my favorite parts of the day. I get up early every morning to pack my husband's lunch and then have about a half hour before my two kids wake-up. Some mornings I make pancakes, others cold cereal. One of my favorite breakfast foods is scones. I make sweet scones about once or twice a month and they are always eaten quickly. In the last couple of months I have been trying to utilize more fresh herbs in my baking and I was intrigued when the November issue of Family Fun magazine had a recipe for Rosemary-Buttermilk Scones.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It makes 12 servings and takes approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes of total time, with 10 minutes being hands-on. All the ingredients are basic and I had the majority already in my fridge and pantry. I decided not to sprinkle the top with coarse salt, since it was being served to my two young sons. I found that the suggested baking time of 30 minutes, was too long for my oven, my total cooking time was closer to 25 minutes. Make sure to rotate the pan halfway through the cooking time for even browning. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These scones made a perfect side to the roasted pork tenderloin that I served alongside. The fresh rosemary blended well with the buttermilk, making a savory scone. While I served these initially as a breakfast side, they re-heated well in the oven the next morning for breakfast. A great combination of flavors, perfect for anytime of the day.

For the recipe go to Rosemary-Buttermilk Scones.

October 26, 2011

Taste of Home Lemon-Thyme Bread

I remember when I was younger helping my mother pick fresh herbs from the herbs pots she had all over the yard. Pretty much any type of herb she could get to grow we had. I loved all the smells and tastes that they created in the recipes my mother would make. There is something so delicious about baking and cooking with fresh herbs. When I moved out on my own I kept a herb garden on my window sill to mix fresh herbs into eggs and the other simple dishes I made on a limited budget during college. When my husband and I got married we lived in a small apartment with no space for herbs, so for the first time I utilized the local grocery store to buy fresh ingredients. Today my biggest homegrown herb deterrents are my three cats and no window or yard space. So I have bought fresh herbs from the grocery store for many years now. Luckily the selection is relatively large and I have always been able to find what I need. Recently, the November issue of Taste of Home magazine had a recipe for Lemon-Thyme Bread which looked easy, delicious and full of fresh herbs.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It yields one loaf with 12 slices and takes approximately 25 minutes of prep and 40 minutes of baking. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I found with the ceramic dish that I baked the bread in, that I had to add an additional 10 minutes to the baking time and tent the top with foil after the first 30 minutes or so. Without the tenting the top of the bread loaf would have burnt; with the tent it turned out perfect. I chose not to sprinkle confectioners sugar over the top, I try to avoid additional sugar if possible and this bread was delicious without the addition. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was very impressed by how well this bread turned out. Normally, I make non-savory breads about once a month and I tend to make banana or fruit bread. Previous to this recipe I had never tried making a lemon bread with fresh herbs and I was pleased with how well the flavors blended and complimented one another. This bread would make a great hostess gift or as a breakfast with melted butter. Overall, a sweet and delicious bread recipe.

For the recipe go to Lemon-Thyme Bread.

October 25, 2011

Martha Stewart Living Braised Chicken with Potatoes, Olives, and Lemon

Growing up the local 'fancy' grocery store in my area had an olive bar. I remember looking at all the varieties and imagining how they would taste. My family never had a lot of money, so asking for the olives was out of the question, but one day out of the blue my mom let me buy a few. They were absolutely delicious and I fell in love with olives. My two boys have similar tastes to my own, and have been known to eat whole jars of olives out of the fridge. Given my family's love of olives, a recipe for Braised Chicken with Potatoes, Olives, and Lemon from the September issue of Martha Stewart Living caught my eye and loved perfect for my family.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It makes 4 servings and takes approximately 40 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store and made no modifications. I do make my own chicken stock and used it in this recipe. The chicken thighs that I bought weighted exactly 2 1/4 pounds for 4 thighs, which was perfect for my family of four. I would suggest doubling the recipe if your family size is larger.I found that the green olives were rather hard to pit, so I ended up cutting them off the pit. I didn't feel comfortable keeping the pits intact with two small boys. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written with no modifications.

The skin on this chicken dish turned out crisp and delicious. My husband complains and won't eat most chicken skin due to its lack of crispiness and he was very pleased with how this recipe turned out. I particularly enjoyed the olive/potato mixture, and the sauce complimented everything nicely. Even my two boys ate this dish without complaints and loved the olives. A great, easy chicken recipe.

For the recipe go to Braised Chicken with Potatoes, Olives, and Lemon. 

October 24, 2011

Saveur Barbecued Baked Beans


If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that my family loves pulled pork and chicken. I tend to make pulled meats at least once a month and it's one dish that I can guarantee that the leftovers will be eaten. Since I make so many pulled pork and chicken recipes, I am always looking for new sides. I can only make cornbread or corn so many times before I long for something different. I have tried a number of baked bean recipes over the last couple of years, some have been great, some less than stellar. As I was flipping through a recent issue of Saveur magazine I came across a recipe for Barbecued Baked Beans, which looked delicious and perfect as a side with pulled pork sandwiches.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It makes 6-8 servings and takes approximately 2 and a half hours to prepare and bake. There are a number of ingredients in this recipe, but they were all very easy to find at my local grocery store. Normally I would have used leftover pulled pork that I had made myself, but this was a week that I took the easy road out and bought pre-made pulled pork. I prefer homemade, but there are actually some decent brand of pulled pork available at our local grocery stores, which I buy when I run out of time (or don't feel like cooking all day). To crush the tomatoes, I use a ziploc bag, seal and then crush by hand. It saves the mess and makes clean-up a snap. It's also a great way to crush graham crackers or saltines for recipes. I would have used dried beans, instead of canned, except I have never been able to find dried navy beans at any of the grocery stores in my area. Since most people use pinto beans, they are the most readily and abundant beans available. Make sure to wait until the beans have cooled for 15-20 minutes before serving. The recipe suggests waiting 10 minutes, but I found waiting 20 minutes helped for the beans to completely thicken after standing. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I hadn't made homemade baked beans in a long time and this was a big hit with my family. My two boys liked the sweetness and thought they tasted like 'candy beans'. The only complaint I received was from my husband, who wasn't a fan of the texture of the bacon. That's to be expected from him though, he has to have his bacon almost burned to get it crispy enough for him to eat. The leftovers heated well for a dinner later in the week, and my boys ate multiple bowls as snacks. This recipe makes a large amount of beans, more than enough to take to a potluck or to have plenty of leftovers for future meals. Overall, a delicious baked beans recipe.

For the recipe go to Barbecued Baked Beans.

October 22, 2011

Everday Food Buffalo Chicken Thighs with Celery and Blue Cheese Salad

When my oldest son was around two years old, he decided to eat an entire habanero pepper out of the fridge. He absolutely loved anything spicy, and the spicier the better. Eventually he outgrew his love for spiciness and his younger brother took over. My two-year-old is now the one eating hot sauce like chocolate. I think that they must get this particular habit from my husband who seems to put Franks RedHot sauce on everything he eats. Given my family's love of spicy food, I was intrigued when a recent issue of Everyday Food magazine had a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Thighs with Celery and Blue Cheese Salad.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It makes 4 servings and takes approximately 40 minutes, 20 minutes of which is active. All the ingredients are basic and I had no problems finding any of them at my local grocery store. My chicken thighs were on the large side and in order to temp correctly with a thermometer it took 5 minutes longer of cooking time than the recipe suggested. I used the extra butter mixture both over the chicken and on the salad. The mixture gave the salad a nice spicy undertone, which was delicious. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The celery and blue cheese salad is the best part of this recipe, it was delicious and simple. It was even better the second day with the leftover melted butter mixture. The buffalo chicken thighs were good, but like all baked chicken a little mundane. My husband found the chicken skin to not be crispy enough and would have preferred if the chicken was first pan fried skin side down and then cooked the rest of the way in the oven. The combination of the salad and the chicken worked well together and the tastes complimented one another nicely.

For the recipe go to Buffalo Chicken Thighs and Celery and Blue Cheese Salad.

October 21, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Stuffed Pasta

My favorite memories growing up often revolved around food. Not just any food, but pasta. I have absolutely loved pasta as far back as I can remember and whenever I was allowed to pick a restaurant as a kid I would pick the Italian place that had the best ravioli (still the best to this day). As an adult my love of pasta has only increased and I tend to make a pasta recipe about once every week or two. The rest of my family shares my love of pasta and pasta dishes tend to be household favorites. Recently, the September issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a recipe for Stuffed Pasta which looked easy and claimed to be a complete meal all by itself.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It serves 8 people and takes approximately 50 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of baking time. My recipe took an additional 15 minutes to grind my own beef. I actually had to make a few substitutions due to the lack of availability of certain ingredients. I was unable to find dried jumbo pasta shells, so I used regular pasta shells. Since I had to substitute the pasta, I obviously had to make some significant changes to the recipe. Instead of stuffing pasta I made a casserole by layering the sauce, cheese and meat mixture, and pasta.I increased the cooking time by about 10 minutes and tented the pan the last 20 minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

Since I had to make major changes to the recipe, I'm not sure what the original recipe would taste like. The modified casserole that I did make turned out well. Make sure to adequately salt at all steps, or the dish will be undersalted. Other than the lack of salt, this was a very easy and popular recipe with my family, especially my two boys. A straightforward and easy pasta recipe that makes enough for multiple meals.


For the recipe go to Stuffed Shells.

October 20, 2011

Saveur Potato Salad

I love homemade potato salad. Not the store bought potato salad that my mother would bring home with the very greasy fried chicken from the grocery store. For years I wouldn't touch any type of potato salad thinking that it would all taste like that store bought version. Luckily, I discovered how delicious homemade potato salad can be and have rarely bought the store variety since. I was excited when Saveur magazine recently had a recipe for Potato Salad, which looked simple and delicious.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It makes 4-6 servings and takes approximately a half an hour to prepare. All the ingredients are basic and I was easily able to find them all at my local grocery store. To save time I hard-boiled my eggs in the morning. I find it easier to peel hard-boiled eggs once they have sat in the fridge. My potatoes were on the large side so instead of quartering them I cut them into 1-inch pieces before boiling. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My family really enjoyed this recipe. It was simple and had a great taste. I loved how easy it was to prepare and how well the tastes of the red onion and pickle relish balanced together. This is one of the best straightforward potato salad recipes I have tried in a while and I will definitely make it again in the future.

For the recipe go to Potato Salad.

October 18, 2011

Everday Food Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad

Pasta is a stable in my household. I never have to worry about having too many leftovers that won't get eaten if a dish includes any type of pasta, someone in my house will eat it. My love of pasta goes back to my childhood. Growing up my family didn't have a lot of money, so pasta was a common meal. Luckily my mother was a very good cook and almost every meal she made was delicious. I especially loved pasta and she invented a recipe for Asian noodles, that to this day is one of the best dishes I have ever tasted. My two boys have inherited my love of all things pasta and literally cheer when they realize a pasta dish is for dinner. Recently, the September issue of Everyday Food magazine had a recipe for Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad, which looked delicious and a great way to use pasta as a side dish.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. I makes 6 servings and takes a total of 35 minutes, all of which is active cooking time. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. Make sure to add lots of salt to the pasta water when cooking the orzo or the dish will be very under-salted. Even with the pasta water being adequately salted, I still had to add a decent amount of salt to bring out the full flavor of the zucchini and fresh corn. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If your trying to feed a crowd this is a great recipe. The recipe states that this makes 6 servings, but they would be 6 very large servings. I would say that this salad could easily serve 12 or more people. This dish was light and delicious the day it was made, but was even better tasting after it had sat in the fridge overnight and soaked up all the flavors from the dressing. I didn't feel that the taste of the jalapeno was very apparent. I would suggest either adding another seeded jalapeno, or if you enjoy spicy dishes, keeping the seeds in for extra flavor. Overall, a light vegetable and pasta salad, that makes enough leftovers for another meal. 

For the recipe go to Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad.

October 17, 2011

Family Circle Sweet and Sour Pork

Fall is my favorite time of year. The weather starts to turn cooler and I take out my slow-cooker. I absolutely love using my slow-cooker when the weather turns cooler. It's great being able to put a meal in the crock-pot in the morning and do nothing until dinner time. When I first moved to West Virginia I only knew how to crock-pot a handful of things, mostly meat. I quickly learned that everyone in my state uses their slow-cookers for just about everything, especially pinto beans. After many less than great dishes (which my great husband ate and didn't say anything negative) I learned how to correctly use my crock-pot. Today I use my crock-pot multiple times a week in the cooler months. Since I use my crock-pot so frequently I am always on the look-out for new dishes, and was pleased when I saw a recipe for Sweet and Sour Pork in the July issue of Family Circle magazine.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It makes six servings and takes 15 minutes of prep and 8 hours of cook time on low. I have never actually seen a 2 lb pork shoulder in my area, so I bought a 17 pound shoulder and had it cut to the right size. Instead of using reduced-sodium soy sauce, I used the regular version I already had in my fridge. This is a basic recipe and I had no problems finding any of the other ingredients at my local grocery store. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I love how easy this recipe is to make. My family loves anything using pork and this dish was no exception. Serving the pork over noodles made for a nice combination. The noodles did a great job of blending with the pork and worked much better than rice would have. This doesn't taste like a traditional sweet and sour pork recipe, but has a great flavor. An easy pork crock-pot recipe, that's perfect for the cooler months ahead.

For the recipe go to Sweet and Sour Pork. (registration required)

October 16, 2011

USA Weekend Pumpkin Bread

Growing up the fall season was always a big deal. My mom had eleven brothers and sisters and since she was the oldest our house was always busy. There was always baking or cooking of some sort being done and it was by helping my mom get ready for parties that I learned to really cook. One of my favorite baking ingredients was pumpkin. My mom would make pumpkin pies and breads that were delicious and it was the one time of year that my mother allowed me to have pie for breakfast (since it had pumpkin in it I was able to argue that it was somewhat nutritious :). I seem to have passed on my love of pumpkin to my two boys, anything pumpkin related that I make they gobble up every last bite. Recently, I pureed a number of pumpkins that I found at a farmer's market in our area and have been baking recipes using the puree in the last month. While reading the Sunday paper I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Bread in the USA Weekend insert, using ginger instead of nutmeg, which looked delicious and different than my normal pumpkin bread recipe.

This recipe has 12 ingredients. It makes 24 servings and takes approximately an hour to prepare and bake. All the ingredients are very basic and I already had all of them in my pantry cupboard or fridge. Instead of using canned pumpkin I used frozen puree that I had prepared a few weeks back. I found the baking temp to be a little too high since I was using dark coated pans, so I turned the oven down to 325 and baked about 10 minutes longer than the recipe suggested. I did notice that the sides of the bread browned quickly, so I tented the bread to cook the last 20 minutes or so. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

If you like the taste of ginger and pumpkin, you will like this recipe. It has a very strong spice flavor and works well with melted butter. I wasn't sure if my sons would like this recipe due to the ginger, but my family ate both loves in about 3 days, so it was very popular. I love finding recipes that are different than the run of the mill traditional cookbook recipe and this recipe definitely fits the bill. A great lower sugar way to make pumpkin bread, which can also be modified to use applesauce instead of half the amount of butter. Overall, a delicious fall bread recipe.

For the recipe go to Pumpkin Bread.

October 15, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

My family loves sweets and I make them at least once a week. I have tried unsuccessfully to cut out sugar multiple times and have come to the conclusion that since we eat healthy most of the time an occasional homemade treat is fine. Additionally, I find baking very comforting. My mom and I used to bake cookies frequently together and I have passed on the tradition to my own children. There is something very comforting about baking and eating homemade cookies. In the past year I have been trying to find new ways to make sweets, while incorporating adding nutrition. Recently Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a recipe for Loaded Oatmeal Cookies using flaxseed meal and wheat germ, which looked healthy and delicious.

This recipe has 15 ingredients. It makes 30 cookies and takes approximately 30 minutes of prep and 9 minutes of cooking per batch. I had no problems finding all the ingredients at my local store, even the flaxseed meal was easy to find in the organic section. I used 80 percent cocoa dark chocolate in bar form and then chopped. I found that the cookies cooked very quickly, watch to make sure they don't overcook and burn. I followed the recipe as stated, however, it could easily be modified to use almonds or sunflower seeds instead of walnuts.

These cookies were very good and my household ate the whole batch in a couple of days. I love that they have the added benefits of flaxseed meal, wheat germ, dark chocolate, cranberries and chopped walnuts. The taste is delicious and my kids didn't notice that they were healthy. A great way to add nutrition to baked goods and would make a great healthy snack.

For the recipe go to Loaded Oatmeal Cookies.

Stop Being a Zombie and #ComeAlive to Win $2500

Growing up, my mother was a receptionist and my father was a janitor. We lived in a big city and money was almost always tight. My parents never complained about their jobs or money, but as far back as I can remember the value of education was instilled in my head. I can recall my mother sitting up with me in second grade doing advanced math, since I was ahead and there was no way to teach me one-on-one at school. Thanks to my parents pushing and lots of hard work I became the first one in my family to graduate college. I worked for a year and then decided to go back to get my master's degree. Long story short, I met my husband, got married, finished the degree and had two kids. I'm now in my thirties and am a stay-at-home mom. Life is about to change drastically for my family as my husband goes back to school next fall after deciding that the job that he currently has isn't what he wants to do as a career. The thought of sitting at his computer 8 hours a day until retirement motivated him enough to take action. When he's done in three years I have a feeling that I will be next in line to go back to school. The love of learning instilled by my parents is still very much apparent.

Are you tired of sitting staring at your computer 8 hours a day or have that nagging feeling that you want to do more? That's where MyEducation.com can help. They encourage you to no be like Zoey the Zombie, stuck at a job you don't like, but instead be more. They have a really cute MyEducation.com zombie commercial (who doesn't love zombies?), that encourages watchers to do better for themselves through education. Even better, currently they are having a MyEducation.com Come Alive contest, which has a $2,500 prize.  To enter, make a 60 second or less video that shows how you can "Come Alive" with education and enter it here. The top video wins $2500 and there will also be bi-monthly chances to win $100 American Express gift cards. So, if you interested in sharing you story with the world go to here, watch the MyEducation Zombie Girl Come Alive and to gain access to MyEducation TV. 

So  don't look like this:
 Take the steps to Come Alive today and submit your video! In addition to the website, you can also connect to MyEducation.com in the following ways:

Like them on facebook.  
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Subscribe to the YouTube channel.  

Good luck to everyone that submits a video, I'm sure you have great ideas! I would love to hear your stories, share!



Disclosure:
This post is sponsored by MyEducation.com. All opinions are my own. Find out more at MyEducation.com. 

October 14, 2011

Martha Stewart Living Herb and Scallion Rice

I have a soft spot in my heart for rice. I absolutely love rice, as an ingredient or a side dish, however it's prepared I adore it. Now I know that nutritionally I should be eating more brown rice and putting away the white, but try as hard as I may I just can't find the taste for brown rice. I try to eat healthy, but white rice is one area I wont compromise, I would rather sacrifice in other areas. However, the white rice that I make I try to add fresh ingredients and vegetables to in order to make the recipes and dishes as healthy as possible. Recently, Martha Stewart Living magazine had a recipe for Herb and Scallion Rice using fresh herbs and garlic, which looked simple and delicious.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It makes a total of 4 servings and takes approximately 50 minutes to prepare. The ingredients are basic and I had no problems finding any of them at my local grocery store. The only modification I made to this recipe was to substitute olive oil for the vegetable oil and use my food processor to blend the ingredients, instead of the blender suggested by the recipe. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I absolutely loved this recipe. The finished rice has a beautiful green color and tasted delicious. There are many variations this recipe could be modified to using different spices and fresh herbs and is a great base recipe. The best part is that it only takes a couple minutes more than making plain white rice and turns out great. Overall, this recipe is very easy and makes a light, flavorful rice dish.

For the recipe go to Herb and Scallion Rice.

October 13, 2011

Bon Appetit Fried Chickpeas

Growing up my mother loved making spicy food. The spicier the better, which would have been great if my father hadn't absolutely hated anything with the least amount of spice. My dad would grimace through my mom's dishes, so my mom would only made things hotter. She made a really delicious and spicy Asian noodle dish, which she never followed a recipe for. There was one time in particular that it was so spicy that I swear my dad actually turned completely red (but he still ate it). When I got married I was surprised to learn just how much my husband enjoyed very spicy foods. He has been known to add hot sauce to just about anything. In consideration of my husband's love of spicy foods, I try to frequently prepare snacks with a kick. Recently, Bon Appetit magazine had a recipe for Fried Chickpeas using smoked paprika, cayenne and grated lime peel, which looked full of spices and delicious.

This recipe has 6 ingredients. The total prep and cooking time is approximately a half an hour and the recipe makes 6-8 servings. I already had everything except the lime in my pantry cupboard, so I had no problems finding any of the ingredients. Make sure to fully dry the chickpeas in order for the finished recipe to have enough of a crunch. After patting the chickpeas between paper towels, I let them dry on the counter to fully dry out. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

When I finished making this snack, my two-year-old ate one told me it was too spicy and then ate more. The taste while hot, is delicious. My husband particularly enjoyed this snack and ate the majority of the recipe. If you aren't a fan of spicy foods, you could cut the spices in half and reduce the amount of heat. My family enjoys spices, so I made the recipe as written and it was perfect. An easy and deliciously spiced snack.

For the recipe go to Fried Chickpeas.

October 12, 2011

Parents Asian Burgers with Pineapple-Mango Salad

In the last couple of months I have made a large amount of soup and stew recipes. While, my whole family enjoys these dishes, I figured it was about time for a change in my menu plan for the week. My oldest son has been going through a fruit stage where he is literally obsessed with any and every kind of fruit that he can find at the grocery store. I'm proud of his love for fruit, but my husband has less of an enthusiasm for getting in his daily fruit requirements. I fall somewhere in the middle of the debate. I grew up in Washington state and never understood that apple prices at the grocery store could be high until I moved to West Virginia. I remember picking wild blackberries by the community college in our area and eating a large amount of locally produced fruit. I never really thought about whether I liked or didn't like fruit in general. As an adult I haven't been as vigilant about making sure that I eat my daily requirement of fruit, so I recently have begun to try to find recipe using fruit as an ingredient, in an effort to make my family healthier and my oldest son happy. Recently, the September issue of Parents magazine had a recipe for Asian Burgers with Pineapple-Mango Salad, which looked like a perfect way to increase my family's fruit intake.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It serves six and takes approximately 15 minutes. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store, with the exception that I substituted an English cucumber for the seedless variety specified in the recipe. I ground my own beef so that added 15 minutes to my overall preparation time. I chose not to add the parsley to the salad, my children can be picky about parsley in dishes and I knew that without it they would eat the fruit without complaints. I followed the remainder of the recipe as stated.

The fruit salad was the most popular part of the recipe for my two boys. My husband and I loved the flavor of the burgers, but felt that they were very dry. I would suggest adding the hoisin mayonnaise from this earlier blog post of mine. I think the combination of the flavors would be delicious and add greatly to the overall recipe. With the stated modifications I think this could be a great dish.

For the recipe go to Asian Burgers with Pineapple-Mango Salad.

SheSpeaks Cerra Be Aware, Act, Reflect™



SheSpeaksbutton
I have always been a person that runs full out at all times. As an undergraduate in college I worked over 25 hours a week, double majored and ran marathons in my spare time. I have never been great about taking the time to slow down and take a moment to myself. After I had kids things became even more hectic and my time even more limited (if that's possible). My oldest was a relatively easy baby and toddler, which made me in no way prepared for my youngest. I love my two-year-old, but he gives new meaning to the term 'terrible twos'. To make matters worse, he is a mommy's boy, daddy can never solve anything as well as I can, from diapers to patting him to sleep at night. So my 'me time' has become next to nothing in the last couple of years.

Given my hectic schedule, I was intrigued when I as a member of SheSpeaks I was given the opportunity to discover the  Cerra Be Aware, Act, Reflect™ program. The Cerra™ experiences are based on the Seven Intentions, which help to be aware of how one is feeling and to act with purpose. The Seven Intentions are as follows:
  • Grounded
  • Creative Energy
  • Gratitude 
  • Loving Kindness 
  • Courage
  • Wisdom
  • Inspiration
As part of the Cerra™ program I was given the opportunity to experience some the products for myself.  I received two packages. The first package contained:

  • Three Tea Bags in Grounded, Creative Energy and Gratitude varieties
  • Creative Energy Sensory Oil
  • Dissolving Notes and Pen
  • Sample Sized Lotion
  • Gratitude Keepsake Notes
  • Cerra™ calling cards you may share with friends and family
  • An informative Cerra™ Booklet and Journal
My favorite part of the this package were the Three Tea Bags:
I rarely have time to sit down for more than five minutes, but when I do tea is one of favorite ways to relax and take time to think.

The second package I received contained the Me Time Pebble Candles:
and the Dissolving Notes in Gratitude:

I am a huge candle person and I thoroughly enjoyed the Pebble Candles, the great thing is that they are small enough to fit into a suitcase or purse to take on a vacation or business trip.

So if your like me and need more time to let yourself relax and have 'me time' check out the SheSpeaks Cerra™ Site. The site has great Cerra™ products which can be used alone or in combination with one another to journey to a more balanced life. Additionally, there are also online forums where you can interact and share your experiences with other women. So log on and try it out for yourself and tell me what you think!

In the spirit of full disclosure, I received products to review for this blog post. No payment was given and as always, all opinions given here are fully my own.

October 11, 2011

Family Fun No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars

My family loves to snack. A couple of years back I tried reducing the amount of snacks that I had in the house and all that ended up resulting was my husband going to the mini-mart multiple times a week. So, since that didn't work out so effectively I decided to try to make as many snacks as I could from scratch, instead of relying solely on pre-packaged alternatives. I have tried many snack recipes since that time, some have been great, some less than stellar. Nevertheless I keep trying out new snack options to see which ones stick. The September issue of Family Fun magazine had a recipe for No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars using cashew butter, which looked like a delicious change of pace from my normal granola bar recipes.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It makes 24 bars and takes approximately 75 minutes, 15 minutes of which is active. Most of the ingredients for this recipe I already had in my pantry cupboard, with the exception of cashew butter, which I was able to find in the organic section of my local grocery store. I had never bought cashew butter for my family before this recipe and my husband and two-year-old absolutely feel in love with it. I did notice a few things with the recipe. My finished granola bars were still very sticky after cooling for an hour, so I placed them in the fridge to firm. After sitting in the fridge the texture was much better, but different than the photograph in the magazine. I'm guessing that the granola cereal that I bought might have had a different texture than the one photographed for the article. I followed the recipe as stated stated, with no modifications.

My two boys thoroughly enjoyed these granola bars and have eaten almost the whole batch since I made them yesterday. My husband liked the taste of the cashew butter, but is not a fan of light corn syrup and would have preferred honey instead. I thought that this recipe was very easy and it was nice discovering that my family likes cashew butter. If cashew butter is unavailable in your area, or to save money peanut butter could also be substituted. Overall, a tasty and easy granola bar recipe.

For the recipe go to No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars.

October 10, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you haven't guessed from previous blog posts, I absolutely love pumpkin. Fall is my favorite time of year and I do a ton of baking during the fall and winter months. There is something very comforting about the smell of baked goods during the colder months which makes me feel very warm and homey. My husband and kids just love that they get all kinds of delicious food and sweets to try. A couple of years back I started making my own pumpkin puree due to my total inability to find any type of canned pure pumpkin. With so many freezer bags full of homemade puree I set out to find various recipes utilitizing the ingredient. I found a number of chocolate-chip cookie recipes that I was less than excited with and my family half-heartidly ate them. This year I tried a new recipe from the Food Network website and I was pleased with the result (and so were the rest of my household, who ate almost 60 of these cookies last week).

This recipe has 14 ingredients and yields approximately 60 cookies. The total time is 32 minutes, with 15 minutes of cooking time. The ingredients are very basic, I had every spice and dry good already in my pantry cupboard. Instead of using store-bought pumpkin puree I used the homemade pumpkin puree I made last month. This recipe would work just as well however, with the canned variety. Be very careful with the baking time for these cookies. My oven tends to run hot, so I turned my pans half-way through the baking. These cookies brown a little quickly, but if you take them out too soon they will be very cake-like in texture. If you prefer a less soft texture, I would flatten out the cookies with a cup or spoon before baking. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written, with no modifications.

These were a much bigger hit in my household than the previous chocolate-chip pumpkin cookie recipes that I have tried. This recipe does make a lot of cookies, so would be perfect for a party or a bake sale. However, the cookies are pretty small, so if you prefer you could make larger cookies or bake the batter in a 13 by 9 inch pan and bake them as bar cookies (with an adjusted cooking time). Overall, a delicious way to use fall flavors that takes very little time to prepare and cook, and would be a perfect baking activity with kids (my five-year-old was able to help with no problems).

For the recipe go to Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

October 8, 2011

Pumpkin Scones

As I've stated numerous times recently, fall is my favorite time of the year. The weather cools down, but isn't too cool yet, the leaves turn beautiful colors, and best of all the food. I have a slight pumpkin obsession and make just about anything possible using pumpkin puree. For whatever reason, pumpkin puree is impossible to find in my area except for the few months leading up to Thanksgiving. Therefore, I make my own pumpkin puree, which is very quick and easy to do. With a freezer full of puree I have been making numerous recipes, with one of my favorite being Pumpkin Scones. The recipe is as follows:

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 7 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 6 tablespoons Cold Butter
  • 1/2 cup canned or homemade pureed Pumpkin
  • 3 tablespoons Half and Half
  • 1 large Egg
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl.  Cut butter into mixture (either using a pasty cutter or a food processor, sometimes I even use a fork). Mixture should be crumbly, but not full of butter lumps.

In another bowl combine pumpkin, half and half and egg. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Form a ball with the dough, add more flour if dough is too sticky. Form dough into a circle approximately 1 inch thick, cut into either 8 or 12 scones, depending on the size preferred. Place on a greased baking sheet. If desired brush with heavy whipping cream and sugar (I almost always do this step, but some people prefer scones without this step). Bake for 14-16 minutes.

These scones are very easy to make and have a great fall flavor. The original recipe included two types of glaze, I chose to bake the scones without the glaze, I try to avoid additional sugar when possible. My two boys really enjoyed these scones and ate almost the whole batch before my husband arrived home from work. A great way to use fall spices and makes a delicious breakfast or snack.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my chocolate-chip pumpkin cookie recipe!

This recipe was adapted from here. It contains the recipe for the two glazes, if you would prefer to add them to the recipe.
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October 7, 2011

Bon Appetit Blue Cheese-Bacon Focaccia

The males in my house love bacon. Not just a little bit, but they would literally add bacon to everything they ate if they could. My dad was the same way growing up. He couldn't even boil a pot of water, but every Sunday there would be bacon and fried potatoes waiting at the breakfast table that he had prepared. Don't get me wrong I like bacon, but I'm more of  a breakfast sausage fan than the rest of the family. However, I do appreciate the taste of bacon in recipes and was intrigued when the October issue of Bon Appetit had a recipe for Blue Cheese-Bacon Focaccia.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It serves 12 people and takes a total time of approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, with 25 being active. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. The only problem I encountered with the recipe was that the dough was a little too sticky to handle. I had to add additional flour and the texture was still a little soft. However, the taste was delicious. I would recommend using even more cheese and bacon than the recipe states, probably approximately double the total amount. The total cooking time in the recipe was a little short, I left my focaccia in for 5 minutes longer. I followed the recipe as stated with no major ingredients modifications.

As expected the most popular part of this recipe in my household was the bacon. The bread turned out delicious and re-heated very well in the oven the next day. My husband ate part of the leftovers cold for breakfast the next day and thought that it still tasted delicious. I would recommend adding additional bacon and cheese, especially if your family love either of the ingredients. A great, easy focaccia recipe.

For the recipe go to Blue Cheese-Bacon Focaccia.

October 6, 2011

Redbook Lemon-Caper Chicken

Growing up I remember eating a lot of chicken. My mother was a great cook, but when it came to chicken it was either fried or oven baked and not much else. When I got married to my husband I was lacking in the chicken recipe department and mostly made oven baked chicken with store bought BBQ sauce. My pan fried chicken was downright horrible and it took me many years before it became anywhere near great. Luckily today I have a variety of chicken dishes that I prefer and chicken is one of my children's favorite foods. Recently, Redbook magazine had a recipe for Lemon-Caper Chicken, which looked delicious and easy for a busy weeknight meal.

This recipe has 11 ingredients (plus 4 additional for the master chicken recipe). The total time is approximately 10 minutes of prep and 8 minutes of cooking time. The recipe makes four servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store, and many I already had in my fridge and pantry. I am not a fan of chicken breast. I have tried many times to make it with tons of different recipes and I just don't have the taste for it even though it's healthier. Instead, I substitute thighs, which I did in this recipe. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

The sauce for this chicken was delicious. At first my two sons turned their noses up at the sauce, but after tasting the dish, ate their whole servings. My five-year-old was particularly fond of the capers and tried picking them off his brother's plate. I loved how easy this recipe was and how I had dinner done in less than twenty minutes. Overall, a great, fast weeknight meal.

For the recipe got to Lemon-Caper Chicken.

October 5, 2011

Better Homes and Gardens Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

I really love pumpkin. As far back as I can remember fall has been my favorite season and one of the big reasons for my love of the season is pumpkins. I love just about any recipe using pumpkin and bake a ton of pumpkin recipes during the fall. One of my favorite memories growing up was the day after Thanksgiving every year when my mother would let me have homemade pumpkin pie for breakfast, to this day it is one of my favorite foods in the world. Unfortunately, my mother isn't around to make my favorite pie anymore, but my two children have grown up sharing my love of everything pumpkin and I have found creative ways to use it in recipes. I was excited when the October issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine had a recipe for Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, which looked delicious.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. The approximate prep and cooking time is about an hour. Now, I am usually a very detail oriented cook. I make lists every week for my meal plans and create my grocery lists based on sales, pantry cupboard stock etc. Well, this last week I thought that I had all the ingredients for this recipe and low and behold the day I was to make it I was missing some ingredients. Therefore I modified this recipe quite a bit. First, I substituted ziti for elbow macaroni, since it was the only type of pasta I had on hand. Second, my two sons drank all my whole milk, so I used the non-fat milk I already had in the fridge. I used fresh pumpkin, instead of canned since I had already made a bunch and stuck it in my freezer. Finally, instead of soft bread crumbs I used panko. I prefer the crunchy texture of panko in most recipes and use it frequently as a substitute for bread crumbs. I left out the sage since I was unable to find it at my local grocery store and had no desire to drive out of my way to find one ingredient.

I was very impressed with how well this macaroni turned out even with all the modifications. I think I actually preferred the ziti to the macaroni. Using the ziti made the recipe more of a baked pasta and it was delicious. My two boys loved this recipe and ate all the leftovers over the course of the following two days. The taste of the pumpkin is delicious without being overly sweet and the cheese blends nicely. Overall, a great way to use fall ingredients.

For the recipe go to Pumpkin Mac and Cheese.

October 3, 2011

Saveur Sedanoe Pomodori Brasati (Braised Celery and Tomato)

Growing up my mother was a great cook, but never really served a lot of vegetables. The vegetables we did eat were normally in the form of salad or raw with ranch dip. As I grew up and had kids of my own, I tried to make a variety of vegetable dishes to expose my kids to a large number of new vegetables and tastes. However, there is one vegetable that I have always had more trouble with, celery. I have made great soup dishes using it as an ingredient, but I have found few recipes in which celery is the main ingredient. I was pleased when I was flipping through a recent issue of Saveur magazine and came across a recipe for Sedanoe Pomodori Brasati (Braised Celery and Tomato), which featured celery as a main ingredient.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It serves 4-6 people and takes approximately 2 hours to prep and cook. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients, they were all very basic. I did have to use sliced pancetta, since that was the only type available at my local grocery store. Additionally, I found that my total cook time took longer than the suggested 1 1/2 hours, I allowed the celery to cook for closer to 2 hours. I followed the remainder of the recipe as stated.

I was pleased with how easy this recipe was and how great the taste turned out. I had never tried braising celery before and I liked how sweet the celery was at the end of the cooking time. To save money bacon would work more than adequately in this recipe, especially if pancetta is unavailable at your local grocery store.  This recipe is a great way to use celery, especially given how inexpensive the vegetable can be. A great vegetable side dish recipe, that takes minimal effort to prepare.

For the recipe go to Sedanoe Pomodori Brasati.

October 2, 2011

Seven Layer Bars

Every year during Thanksgiving and Christmas parties my mother would make my favorite cookies, seven layer bars. I absolutely love them and have great memories of making them with my mother. Unfortunately, my mother passed away from cancer when my oldest was only nine days old and I stopped making many of the dishes that I grew up with her making. As my boys have gotten older and time has passed I have begun to make many of mom's favorite recipes from her recipe box. I am fortunate that she kept her recipes and sent them to me when I started baking for my husband, now these are some of the best ways I have to teach my boys about their grandmother. So here is my modified recipe of my mother's Seven Layer Bars.

  • 1/2 cup of Butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1/2 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs (This past week I used a graham cracker crust that I had instead of actual graham crackers)
  • 1 cup Butterscotch Chips
  • 1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Chopped Walnut
  • 1 1/3 cup Shredded Coconut
  • 1 14 oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk
This is a very easy recipe. Combine the butter (melted in the microwave) with the crumbs and then press into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Layer the butterscotch chips, semi-sweet chips and chopped walnuts. Top with coconut. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the top. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Make sure the bars cool before cutting. I also recommend placing wax paper in the baking pan before adding the graham cracker crust. It makes the bars very easy to pop out once they are done. I prefer storing the bars in the refrigerator, especially during the warmer months.

These bars are very easy to make and are always a big hit at parties and any type get together. I had only made these once before for my two boys and they absolutely loved them. After making them this time around my five year old informed me that they were his new favorite dessert. A great cookie for a cookie tray or just for an easy yummy treat!

October 1, 2011

Saveur Tzimmes (Root Vegetable Stew)

This weekend has been cold in my area. I actually had to dig around and find my youngest son's winter hat before going out for the day today. Granted like our weather always is in the fall it will be back up to 75 by the end of the week, but the first nip of cold air always makes me in the mood to make warm meals. Virtually all week last week I tried out various new soup and stew recipes. One of my favorite new recipes was from Saveur magazine and for Tzimmes (Root Vegetable Stew).

This recipe has 14 ingredients and the total time is approximately 3 hours. I was finally able to talk to the butcher at my local grocery store and get a great set of beef bones, so I made my own beef stock. Homemade beef stock tastes so much better and is much cheaper than the grocery store varieties. I actually forgot to add the honey and parsley at the end of the recipe. Sometimes, dinner time turns into chaos at my house and I forget last minute details. Luckily, these were optional ingredients and didn't effect the final taste of the recipe. I found that my sweet potatoes took slightly longer than the suggested hour of cooking time. Additionally, I covered the stew the last hour to ensure that the sweet potatoes became tender. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My husband and I were surprised by how sweet and delicious this stew turned out. The prunes and sweet potatoes blend nicely with the beef, making a nice combination of savory and sweet. As expected my two boys picked out all the beef and ate none of the rest of the stew. That's normal for them and I'm glad that they at least ate the protein. Overall, a delicious fall stew recipe.

For the recipe go to Tzimmes (Root Vegetable Stew).

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