2017

2017 Bucket List: Victorian Dinner Party

4:48 PM




So going into 2017, I have a ton of food related things on my bucket list. While baking more homemade bread is one of the simplest things on that list, it ranges all the way up to a more complicated Victorian inspired Dinner Party.



I say inspired, because seriously, there is no way I can recreate the opulent luxury of the interior of the Victorian dining room, but I may be able to recreate some of the recipes of that time..while taking a few shortcuts, of course. (Seriously, so thankful for some of the stuff we can find at the grocery store)



I love for my children to experience different things. I remember being a live in nanny for a family in Atlanta back in the early 2000. Each week the family would go to the  grocery store to get the food for that week. Each week they bought exactly the same thing as the week before. Every week, they had the same meals over and over. Hamburger Helper, Spaghetti, and fried chicken. There was no variation, deviation or anything.And I mean that, that is what they had each day of the week, one of those three options. To change it up meant, going out to dinner at a local franchise restaurant.

That experience led me to not wanting such a routine for my family. Not that anything is wrong with that, but I like to think that food can be an expression of love. I also think that having a diverse palette can lead you into being more accepting of other cultures, people, places...more diverse as a person. I know, a bit weird, but in my mind, that is what I think.

Not wanting to serve the same thing over and over, led me to being a lot more adventurous in the kitchen. So many times, I will find a recipe from another country or region and my kids and I will try it. It leads to discussions about not only the food, but the place and the people. Good food, good times.

With the Victorian Dinner Party, I can go over etiquette with my kids, talk about the time before all of these new-fangled gadgets and doodads we have now adays.

So yeah, this is on the bucket list for 2017. Must. do. this.

What is on your bucket list for 2017?

granola

Simple Goodness: Viki's Granola

2:25 PM


It is no secret that my kids are not picky eaters. They have a tendency to love trying new foods, vegetables, different types of fruits. This means, to me as the mama, I have raised some kids who love to eat healthy. Instead of cereal in the morning, they would rather have oatmeal or grits with fresh fruit.  Instead of bags of potato chips, they love snacking on popcorn, oranges and of course granola.

With four kids, a bag of granola does not last long at our house. Once it is opened, it is all over with. And I don't mind. So imagine when this bag of Viki's Granola came in. They were dying to tear right into it so after school, I made them a simple snack of honey greek yogurt with fresh mango, dried cranberries and some of Viki's Granola.  (Did I mention, they have a ton of varieties and one comes with dried cranberries already! Win!)




A simple, easy and tasty snack perfect for them and certainly perfect for after school and to hold them over while this mama finishes up dinner.



I can say this, they loved the yogurt snack with the granola topping, but once they finished, the boys somehow snuck the rest of the bag into their room. But hey, it's healthy and so much better than a candy bar. All natural ingredients, also gluten free for those with Celiac, I think I will give my boys  a pass.




To find out where you can buy this granola, (which comes in the cutest snack sized bags too!), click here.

beans

Oxtails and Butter Beans....

6:52 PM


Here is another oldie to tide over while I get some delicious fall inspired recipes done. I do not cook for my blog, I cook for my kids. So I wait until we have it for dinner before I make what you see here on the blog. That way, I don't waste food and these four beauties of mine can let me know if the meal is a winner or a loser! This fall I will be sharing some of my family's Southern fall favorites. 

I remember growing up, my mom cooked a full dinner 6 days a week. Her only off day was on Saturdays. On Saturdays, we took a trip to the local mall (if you can call it that, it was more like a shopping center with a food court that consisted of two choices). My dad would give us our weekly allowances and while my two younger sisters made their way to the toy store, I ventured off into the bookstore and used my money to buy fresh great smelling books and paperdolls. 

deli

Fried Green Tomato and Deli PoBoy

5:29 PM



If you mention fried green tomatoes outside of the South, usually people will think you mean the movie but it is actually one of those truly southern foods that people just do not make often enough. It used to be that many families fried these bad boys up back in the day, growing their own tomatoes they were easy for those families to come by. Now, green tomatoes are pricey and served in the most fancy of restaurants. They are not available all year here where I live so when I see some, I snag them up quickly.


christmas

Man Gifts: The Mantry

10:48 PM



I must admit...this holiday shopping is going to be hard. Not because I do not know what the guys in my life like, but because it is getting harder and harder to choose gifts that not only that they will like or love but will show just how much they mean to me.

As for my two boys, ages 12 and soon to be 15, they are easy. Every gift for them will be something that makes them happy, have fun, educates them and inspires them.

I do have a few men in my life who are single and mean the world to me. They are  foodies like me and one loves to think that he is a gourmet chef. Although that is what he may think he is, he still needs a bit of assistance every now and then. That, on top of the fact that he works a hard nine to five, dinner as a single is more than shouting your order through the local drive through.

Imagine my excitement when I saw this.

Peep The Mantry.

So you mean to tell me, I can help out my single, handsome (totally single), foodie man friend with a gift of foodness?  Boxes include snacks and tons of stuffs your man friend may not buy for himself. Prices are amazing and yep, who doesn't love getting a gift of yums?



Encourage your man friend, brother, uncle, dad, friend, cousin to step up his culinary skills and tastebuds with treats that will definitely influence him and make him happy. Did I mention they also have recipes? Double win.  Did I also mention that Mantry partners with City Harvest to donate 1% of sales? Triple win.



biscuits

Fall and Chicken and Dumplings

5:47 PM





Nothing says fall quite like hearty soups, stews, chili and of course, chicken and dumplings.

With the orange and golden leaves blanketing the ground, we are slowly welcoming cooler weather here in the South. I can't say that it has been cold, but we have been enjoying a slightly less sticky and warm day with a slightly cooler night.

When the weather starts changing, I live for soups and hearty meals that will warm the kids and fill them up.

Despite it not being as cool as I wanted it to be, last night we enjoyed a great dinner of Chicken and dumplings. Usually I always pair it with cornbread but we switched it up to a nice thick french loaf for dipping into the creamy soup.

You can find the recipe for how I make my chicken and dumplings here. The only thing I did differently was add half a stick of butter into the soup once it was done cooking for a little fatty goodness.  Super easy, super tasty and does not take long at all. The hardest part....cleaning up the flour you got everywhere.

christmas

Chocolate Pecan Pie

4:14 PM


Here in the South during the holidays there are certain desserts that you just know will be at almost every family dinner. One of them is the must have, pecan pie.

Pecan trees are a'plenty here and while some make their way through heavily leaved yards and gather them, most of us resort to the grocery store for a bag or two of super expensive pecans already de-shelled.


beef

Easy Mexican Pizza....

9:19 AM




Back when I was in high school, our school was not far from our local Taco Bell. Seniors had the awesome privilege of being able to get off-campus lunch while the rest of us had to suck it up and deal with whatever the school cafeteria was serving (which of course, if it was Chicken Nugget day, we all did not mind not being able to leave campus for anything!). 

When I became a senior, I was over Chicken Nugget day and ready to express my upper-classman superiority by heading to Taco Bell every chance I got. It felt good walking back to school with a bag full of brown napkins, a million packets of fiery sauce and a good ol' Mexican Pizza. Yes, I was one of those people who got the exact same thing every time at a restaurant. I hated tomatoes but that Mexican Pizza was so good in all of it's processed mass produced glory.

I hardly ever go to Taco Bell anymore, but every now and again I think about those Mexican Pizzas...haven't had one since college, and I decided to make my own version. Super easy and using Ragu Double Cheddar sauce with a packet of taco seasoning, how can you go wrong with delicious, easy and quick!?





You will need:

Flour Tortillas (2 per pizza)
Refried Beans
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
or
2 pounds of ground beef
2 packets of taco seasoning
Lettuce
2 tomatoes
Shredded Cheese

I made both chicken and beef versions for my family, but you can use either or.  Cook the chicken or beef as you normally would in a pan. (Once ground beef is done, drain grease and then add taco seasoning, mix well and set aside in bowl. Once chicken is halfway done--juices run clear-- remove from heat and begin to 'shred' by using two forks...one to hold chicken in place, the other to shred. Place shredded chicken in bowl and season with taco seasoning packet. Mix well.)

Place your flour tortillas in the oven at 250 degrees until lightly toasted. Prepare refried beans on top of the stove per directions. Chop your lettuce and tomatoes. I place everything in its own bowl for easy assembly.

In separate bowl, empty your jar of Ragu Double Cheddar sauce and add in taco seasoning. I use 1/2  a packet of seasoning since I like a lighter queso flavor. Mix well.


Spread beans on tortilla evenly, top with meat then sprinkle with cheese. Add the top tortilla. Spread the cheese sauce and then top with lettuce and tomato.

And there you have it. That is it. This would make a perfect build your own Mexican Pizza night for the kids and family. Everyone can assemble their own and you can add bowls with corn, black beans, red peppers, etc so that each pizza can be customized. 








bbq

Family Movie Night & Wings

4:38 PM

I serve my wings this way, with fried new potato wedges, some veggies and toast. 

My family loves movies. We watch some of everything. I used to be really restrictive of what my children could watch, but as they get older, our spectrum continues to expand. While we love horror movies (especially badly acted ones that we can poke fun at), we love a good family movie with adventure.

Here are some of our favorite family adventure movies:


Spirited Away

We like this movie because not only does it have magic in it, it has a good story to it. One courageous girl, lots of weird looking and fun characters and of course a quest that she has to complete.


City Of Ember

From IMDB:  When mankind is about to come to an end, a group of scientists decide to create and populate a city deep underground. The city of Ember is to last for 200 years after which its inhabitants are to retrieve from a strong box instructions to return to the surface. Over time however, the message is lost and life in Ember is rapidly deteriorating. Their power supply is failing and food is being rationed. It's left to two young adults to unearth the secret of Ember and to lead the way out. Written by garykmcd


Crusade in Jeans

From IMDBAfter using his mother's newly built time machine, Dolf gets stuck in the year 1212. He ends up in a children's crusade where he confronts his new friends with modern techniques. However, the Crusade turns out to be even trickier than he first imagined. Written by lettor


The Thief Lord

From IMDB: A tale about two young boys, Prosper and Bo, who flee to Venice after being orphaned and dumped in the care of a cruel auntie. Hiding in the canals and alleyways of the city, the boys are befriended by a gang of young urchins and their enigmatic leader, the Thief Lord. From their home base of an old cinema theater, the children steal from the rich to support themselves and soon capture the interest of a bumbling detective. However, a greater threat to the children is something from a forgotten past-- a beautiful magical treasure with the power to spin time itself. Written by Kasey and Toby



While we do a lot of full meals around here, movie night is a chance for us to indulge. We like the food to be fun and usually something we can eat with our hands. So we grab the paper plates and go to town.

Here are a few wing recipes I have found that you might want to give a try on your next movie night.

bake

Simple Candy Cake

5:57 PM



I am far from a baker. I keep cake mix and brownie mix in the pantry but I dread when my kids ask me to bake something for them. I don't know why, really. I just like to keep baking as simple as possible.

Every year I make my kids a birthday cake. Sometimes that means taking the cheater way and buying a cake already baked and just embellishing on it. Saves me time and I get to cut the chase and hop right to the best part, the decorating!



So for my daughter's birthday last Friday, I did just that. Picked up two 2 layer cakes from Walmart, added some sour candy and lollipops and guess what, it saved me a ton of time and it was a HUGE hit.

There is no recipe to this, it is simply a design idea. Loads of candy, wrapped around a confetti sprinkle side, tied with a sour Airhead Extreme strips.

It was so good and I think it looked pretty cool too!

cake

Ready For Easter

1:40 PM

It is getting close to that time and I have been searching the internet for ideas. As my kids get older, it gets harder to come up with ideas that they do not think is too 'baby-ish'. But heck, as long as they live with me, they will just have to settle for doses of 'cutesy'. I am the boss after all and what mama wants is what everyone gets.

Here is some past ideas for Easter. Use the Recipe Index to find these and more.





dinner

Easy Roast Beef

1:22 PM




Sometimes being a mom of four, I just want to prep dinner and forget about it. Making a roast is one of those meals that you can do just that with. You prep it and place it all in a crock pot or in the oven.  I limit my use of crockpots because I really have no control over the final product. If it over cooks, it is done for and sometimes the contents can become a mushy mess.  I like to either boil my roasts in a large pot or place it in a casserole dish and pop it in the oven.

This is really easy to make. How much easier than taking a woosah breathing moment and cutting your vegetables and then seasoning everything. Dinner can be ready for the oven in what, 15 minutes? That is what I did here. I placed everything in the cooking dish, covered with foil and placed in ta preheated oven at 350 degrees. Cooking at that temp, I left the roast in the oven for three hours then reduced to 250 for two more. When done, your roast should be tender and able to be pulled apart instead of sliced. If it is still tough, put it back in the oven covered.



You will need:
Beef Shoulder Roast
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup diced celery
1/2 sliced bell pepper
1/2 sliced red, yellow bell peppers
Red Potatoes (cut in quarters or if small enough in half or whole)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 tbsp dried italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to your liking (I use 1-2 tbsp of each)
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup water
Carrots & Mushrooms *optional

Clean all your veggies and meat. Place meat in center of your baking dish and places your veggies around it. Pour in your water and Worcestershire sauce and then add your dried seasoning. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in the fridge until ready to cook. Preheat your oven to 350 and cook for three hours, reduce temp to 250 and cook for two more hours until meat is tender and able to be flaked.

Allow roast to sit for about 15 minutes and serve.


*while cooking, check in on the roast every hour to make sure there is enough liquid in the dish. You should have the liquid coming up halfway on the roast. That way it does not dry out.

breakfast

Memories Of Dad: Broiled Grapefruit

9:11 PM



One of the greatest memories I have from growing up is the fact that my mom made sure we all had breakfast and dinner as a family. There was no one person in front of the television while another was in their bedroom...we all set the table, washed our hands and sat down to a home cooked meal prepared by her. She did not play. We sat around the table, talking about what was coming up for the day and at dinner, we talked about how our day was. Now that I am older and I can reflect, it was truly magical.


With Valentine's Day upon us, it got me to thinking about the fancy dinner's my mom would have for us on the day of love. Dinner was complete with her best china given to her by her mom and we each had a stuffed animal and chocolates at our place setting. Of course, my dad had the best gifts. He and my mom exchanged jewelry and other tokens of their love in between lots of kisses on the mouth (to our kiddy disgust) and hugs. Dinner was the end all be all but breakfast....oh breakfast. It was so good. The start of our day...we all sat down to a fully cooked breakfast. Toast or biscuits, sausage, bacon, eggs, oatmeal or grits and ....grapefruit on holidays and special occasions.





One of my dad's favorite breakfasts started with broiled grapefruit. Now that I am older, I do not think I have even seen or heard of anyone else serving or eating this for breakfast. But he did...and that meant, we did too.

The tartness of the grapefruit paired with a sprinkling of sugar was just so good when warmed up.



This one memory makes me feel so good. It reminds me of the times at the kitchen table with my mom, dad and sisters, laughing, being mad at times, but always feeling loved.

These photos are not my own, but you can best believe I will be heading to the grocery store and grabbing a few grapefruit to broil this Sunday. Not to just serve my kids a bit of goodness, but to show them they are loved and share with them some of the love I got as a child.

What memories from your childhood are you keeping alive? Or what is that one thing you want to pass on to your children that you just have not yet?

 Happy Valentine's Day, all.




Find the recipe by clicking the links under the above photos of the grapefruits.

condiment

Spice Up Your Life: Tabanero

12:33 PM



Hot sauce is one of those condiments you will find everywhere in the South. Every restaurant will have it displayed and even if it is not in sight, you can certainly ask for it and I bet you they have bottles of this spicy sauce.

My family loves hot sauce. When I go to the grocery store, I end up with the huge 12 oz bottle and as big as it is, it only lasts a few weeks. My sons, especially put it on every single thing. Like seriously, everything. My 14 year old must have it on certain foods otherwise he will not eat. While we keep hot sauce in our house, being spice and hot sauce fanatics, we love trying different kinds of hot sauce. Sometimes we have challenges. Sometimes we do blind taste testing.

When we received two awesomely packaged bottles of Tabanero, my kids were ready. We even had a neighbor over who wanted in on giving the two sauces a try.



So I laid out two tasting bowls, filled them with the sauces and we did a taste test.

I really loved the regular one and the sweet one we all agreed would make a pretty mean hot wing sauce.  So we voted and we all gave the sauces high marks and decided that we would use them both for a batch of hot wings in place of our regular buffalo sauce for our Super Bowl Party.

*image from Tabanero Blog*


For delicious game day wings from the head honchos themselves, check out the Tabanero Blog for five finger lickin' wing recipes!


The heat level of the Tabanero sauces is just right. There is a hint of heat without it being overwhelming and there is no after taste that will leave you reaching for a glass of milk. I mean, it is really smooth.

When trying the Agave Sweet & Spicy, your tongue is greeted with a bite of spice then ends on a soft and lightly sweet note. For anyone who can not handle a bunch of heat, this one is really nice. I think it would be perfect with a few dashes of it on top of a burger.

So for this tasting, they both were winners, but we really have almost used the entire bottle of the Hot Sauce Picante. It was just that good.



If you have ever wanted to try hot sauce here is a list of things to try it on or in:

1. Add a few dashes to your cocktail sauce and kick up Shrimp Cocktail to a new level.
2. On popcorn. A few splashes and add a bit of heat to your popcorn.
3. In your bbq sauce
4. Instead of regular tartar sauce, add in a little hot sauce
5. In greens. Mustard, collard, turnip or even on kale.
6. Love baked beans, add in a few splashes.
7. In your sloppy joes. When mixing your sloppy joe, sprinkle in some hotsauce
8. Sprinkle on your eggs. 
9. Fry up some fish and use hot sauce instead of tartar sauce
10. Mix in a little hotsauce to your butter and place a bat of your spicy butter on top of a nicely cooked steak.

ad

Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup & Pasta Salad With Better Bakery

12:41 PM


*sponsored post, all opinions and views expressed are entirely my own*

The new year has kicked off to a fabulous start. While the weather here in the South is a bit unusual for this time of year, the unseasonably warm weather still is not enough to break our winter eating habits. We have been filling our bellies with lots of warm soups and stews and chili is of course a staple for this time of year.




Whenever I make a soup or stew, I always have to serve some sort of bread. Usually, we go for hearty crusty breads that make it easy to sop up the last bit of broth from our bowls. Sometimes we do sandwiches. I mean, seriously, nothing quite beats the soup and sandwich combo and who needs to dine out when you can get a deli experience at home. With four kids, making things at home and giving my kids a restaurant like experience is way easier on my pocketbook.



On Fridays growing up, my mom dubbed it Fun Food Friday. That was the day of the week when she brought the restaurant to us. She made chili dogs, homemade pizzas, whatever we could get at the fast food joint, she made for us at home. I love that I get to give my kids the same thing I got when I was their age. My mom even has these cute little baskets lined with wax paper and she goes from kid to kid, saying, "Can I take your order?"

So on this slightly warm day, with just a hint of a cool breeze, we went deli style. I made a huge pot of Wild Rice and Mushroom soup and I decided to give the melts by Better Bakery a try.



At the end of dinner, all bowls were empty and there were nothing but crumbs left where the Chicken & Bacon Club melt once lay. The melts are a pretty nice size. I cut them in half for my younger kids and it was very filling for them. Of course, my teens wanted a whole one and my 14 year old son scarfed his down like he was breathing. The bread was nice and crunchy on the outside and soft inside with the cheese oozing out. Seriously. Dude. It was so good. It was so good, I called my mom and told her about it.





I am a stickler for details so, yeah, the packaging was really neat. 



For the soup, I kept it simple and hearty. I added a bit of heavy cream to the chicken broth to give it just a hint of creaminess. Pair that with some freshly grated Parmesan, it was so good.  Paired with the Better Bakery Chicken and Bacon Club melt, the soup was immediately inhaled by the kids. We loved dipping the pretzel crust into our soup.

This soup is something you can easily make in the crock pot. I cooked my rice separately because I really don't care for swollen overcooked rice. But of course, you can cook it along with your veggies.

Wild Rice, Mushroom Soup with Parmesan
You will need:
1 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice blend
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup of grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1-2 stalks of celery (diced)
1-2 carrots peeled and diced
5-8 mushrooms sliced
1 tablespoon diced onion

Add all of your ingredients except the rice to a large pot and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for an hour or until carrots are tender.

Cook rice separately and then add to soup before serving. 

Serve with a bit of grated Parmesan on top. 





 We did the oven option for heating our melts. It gave them a really nice crunchy crust with a warm melty inside.


For a quick, simple and delicious lunch, why not try my super easy recipe for Pasta Salad and pair it with the Better Bakery Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza melt. I mean, who does not like pizza and what better way to serve it than with a little pasta on the side?




My kids and I are always having pizza in some variation. We make our own or embellish a store bought one.  These are certainly less messy than making our own and we still make it dinnertime or lunch time by adding a nice simple pasta salad.




I try to avoid a lot of chips and fries at our dinner table, and love giving my kids a healthy option that is not only --good for them--but good for them. This is a super easy and quick side dish that can be made ahead of time and placed in the fridge. There are many variations to this type of salad. I have an aunt who makes a delicious one using shrimp and chicken. Simply wow. This is also perfect for warm summer months.

Creamy Pasta Salad
You will need:
2-3 cups cooked pasta
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup Italian Dressing
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing
Blackberries
Cubed sharp cheddar cheese
Cucumber (sliced)
Watermelon (cubed)

Mix everything together in a large mixing bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served chilled.





If you would like to give these delicious Better Bakery melts a try, click here to enjoy a coupon for $1.50 off. You can use this link to find a store near you that sells them. Here they can be found at our local Kroger. Check out the frozen food section at a grocer near you to find these treats and other flavors/varieties they have.





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