Monday, April 29, 2013

Secret Recipe Club: Blackberry Cobbler

This month, my assignment is one of the newer Group D members: Becca from Lovely in Pink. She has a ton of great recipes on her blog - I narrowed my search down to two: Southwest Chopped Chicken Salad and Blackberry Cobbler. I've been really craving chicken salad and cobbler lately, so I was really glad to see Becca had recipes for each of them on her blog.

I haven't made the SW Chopped Chicken Salad yet, but I will be asap. The cobbler was made for our Sunday dinner a few weeks ago. I decided to make that a thing now...dessert on Sundays! This cobbler was everything and more that I could have wanted. It tastes just like my gramma's cobbler and she passed before I could get the recipe. Definitely brought me back!

Blackberry Cobbler | A traditional cobbler that is oh so tasty! #cobbler #dessert

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fantastical Feature: Downtown Grill & Brewery

[first posted on my personal blog]
A while ago, my mom-in-law sent up a pint glass from this place in Knoxville, TN [where we're from] called Downtown Grill & Brewery. I've made it a new goal that each time we visit we find something new. Since we visited right before Nick deployed, I wanted to make sure we got a date in. We normally only go on dates when we're home and family watches the kids. Plus there is way more to do in Knoxville than up here at Fort Drum. So I wanted to do something extra special since it'll be a while before our next date - so we took a trip to the SawWorks Brewing Company Headquarters and then out to dinner. Since DG&B is near SawWorks, I decided we should go there too AND it also has to do with beer :)

I was honestly really disappointed with SW, so we only stayed for like 10 minutes and headed out for dinner. Downtown Knoxville can be really awesome, but I've never really had the chance to check out everything down there. We had no wait when we got to the restaurant even though it was very packed! It seems like such a popular joint!

The atmosphere in Downtown Grill & Brewery was very relaxing. It was one of those darker type of restaurants. Our server [wish I caught his name] was so friendly and incredibly awesome. He actually talked to us for a good bit each time he came to the table. The menu - WOW!! Nick and I have never sat for 20 minutes to try and figure out what we wanted to eat. Every single item on the menu looked like something amazing. Nick had a hard time picking what kind of craft brew he wanted to try too. Plus the whole menu was full of really funny descriptions and jokes :)

Nick tried the German Alt first - and while I'm not a beer drinker, it was very good. The second beer he tried was the ruby red New World Porter. Below is Nick showing me the color and talking about it. LOL We decided right before Nick gets back from deployment that I'm going to brew a batch of beer. He wants me to make up my own recipe and this beer right here was my inspiration. Instead of a crappy beer aftertaste, it literally tasted like you just bit off of a chocolate bar. It was the most delicious beer I've ever had. So I'm definitely going to try my hand a chocolatey porter like this one...with my own added touch.

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to try an actual piece of tuna, not just the canned stuff. Nick is the same exact way. Neither of us are big on seafood though. Nick was the first of the two of us to grow a pair and try it out. He ordered the Blackened Ahi Ahi. He let me have the first bite, since he "accidentally" took the first bite of my food. The Ahi Ahi is one of the very best things I have ever eaten. Absolutely mouthwateringly GOOD.
I finally decided upon the steak fajitas it came with 5 tortillas and fixings [including fresh pico de gallo], refried beans, rice, and then I ordered a side of fries. Nick teased me because my food took up a good 2/3 of the table. I don't know what they did to the steak, but oh my good lord, *DROOL* - I just can't believe how good all of our food was. Not to mention the amount of food we got for their prices.

Overall, this is definitely a place we will be visiting every single time we go to town. The atmosphere, service, food, and price was outstanding. We had nothing but good things to say about it. If you are ever in Knoxville, CHECK IT OUT! Go there! :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pass the Cook Book Club: Weeknight Shredded Chicken Taquitos

This month's cookbook is Jenny's The Picky Palate Cookbook - we had the choice between Peanut Butter & Jelly Baby Lattice Pies, Shrimp Mango Quesadillas, and Weeknight Shredded Chicken Taquitos. My kids don't really eat PB&J and I didn't think to use chicken instead of shrimp for the quesadillas, so I went with the taquitos.

Weeknight Shredded Chicken Taquitos | Featuring "The Picky Palate Cookbook" for April's Pass the Cook Book Club

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cheddar Baked Potato Soup

My husband's genie powers win again. I swear I'm going to end up loving all the foods I hate. I just hope he doesn't try chow mein next - ick! I am now a partial beer lover. If beer is cooked into my food, I will devour it like a crazy ravenous person.

This soup was no exception. It was all the goodness of a regular, run-of-the-mill potato soup with beer and cheese to make it this extraordinarily delicious soup that is not your typical potato soup!
Cheddar Baked Potato Soup - amping up boring potato soup with cheese and beer #soup #recipe

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce

I have been dreaming about the basil cream sauce that I made months ago for my Secret Recipe Club dish and when I found this recipe from Christy of The Girl Who Ate Everything - I knew it was going to be a winner, winner, chicken dinner. Literally!

I love the breadcrumb coated-chicken with the sauce though. That is what really made the dish for me :) We paired it with broccoli and carrots and a spinach salad.

Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce - crunchy chicken breast smothered in a rich, creamy basil & sundried tomato sauce #recipe #chicken

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Herbed Cracker Crusted Chicken

I have menu/meal planned as long as I have been buying groceries (which would be since I was 16). I don't think I found the idea anywhere, as we didn't have home internet when I started buying groceries for the family. But because we had very little money to spend, it seemed like the best idea. Plan out what foods you're going to make and get only what you plan for - that saves a ton of money.

When I visit my in laws (which is twice a year - yay army life!), I love to cook and try and let my mom-in-law relax a little. She works at a group home for special needs adults and has started to work some long, overnight shifts as a caretaker. Even with a busy work schedule, she still manages to make sure we have something to eat. Love my mom-in-law! One particular night, a meal she had planned on us eating had oddly disappeared - which is not unusual in a house full of people. So I had to wing it! I found some frozen chicken tenders and used leftovers as well. Moral of the story: sometimes good food doesn't have to be planned!

I made restaurant-style steak for my mom-in-law's birthday and there was leftover herbed butter. Plus she had buttermilk and Ritz crackers. :)
Herbed Cracker Crusted Chicken - chicken coated in crackers and fried in a lemon-herb butter #chicken #recipe

Friday, April 19, 2013

Pepperoni Pizza Omelets

Before leaving for Knoxville for Christmas, I needed to clean out my fridge of all perishable items. Usually I leave the last 2 days before heading out as a sort of fend-for-yourself type deal with meals. The night we left, I had a ton of eggs and cheese and pepperoni. My husband is always begging for eggs anyways, so I figured no one would mind omelets for dinner. I also had some Classico sweet basil sauce (my favorite!) and decided to go for some pepperoni pizza omelets. They were good. They were so so good. They were also pretty filling because they are 3-egg omelets.
Pepperoni Pizza Omelets - pizza for breakfast or the best brinner ever, you decide! #breakfast #eggs #pizza #recipe

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Instant Chai Tea Mix

Instant Chai Tea Mix - a perfect blend of spices for the tea junkies in your life #tea #beverages #mixToday's recipe is one that I, myself, still haven't tasted. I made it for my sister-in-law for Christmas after conferring with my mom-in-law to see what she is into nowadays. She got a tea tumbler too - which I might add, was pretty durn nifty! If I drank tea, I'd be jealous :) This mix was really easy to make and was easy to package up as a gift. I do want to make a batch for us because my husband loves chai tea. Who knows, maybe I will too!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

9 Charming Cakes

Triple Layer Triple Berry Cake
This first one is a birthday cake I made for my husband - and an original recipe :) Also one of the first few I posted so that's why the picture is horrendous, but the cake isn't!

Andes Grasshopper Cake
A recipe I made before Fantastical even existed and one of the best cakes I've ever had.

Cherry Berry Cobbler
This cobbler is a quick, easy cake using a boxed muffin mix - and it's sinfully delicious.

Best Ever Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
The very first thing I made in my KitchenAid stand mixer was this cake. It was fluffy and moist.

Bestest Chocolate Cake Ever
A rich chocolate cake recipe with rum extract instead of vanilla and caramel drizzled over top.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
This took the place of the traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving 2011 - it has a cream cheese filling and is out of this world good.

Vanilla Cupcakes for Two 
I got a craving for something sweet and was lucky enough to have all the ingredients (and some leftover rum buttercream frosting) to make these. Unfortunately, I shared one with Nick, but with an upcoming deployment...I have a feeling this recipe is going to be used a lot!

Nutella Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting
My first Nutella recipe on the blog was this incredible recipe from Nikki of Chef in Training. I also got one of the best pictures ever taken of them :)

Coconut Cream Cake
Another recipe from Nikki and another huge success - coconut cake is one of my all-time favorite cakes and this one is a very easy, fast, effortless recipe.

Don't hold out - comment and share your favorite cake recipes!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So Bad, So Good Tacos

Ever since I made Tatortot Tacos for the first time, I have been obsessed with tots in my tacos. I mean, seriously?! It's the best. When I found this recipe, I knew that it would be too good...and maybe a little bad too :) But it's a nice change in pace to have something not so good for you...just as long as it's once in a blue moon, right?

From what I hear - Taco John's makes a taco close to this, so it's technically a copycat!
So Bad, So Good Tacos - a sinful variation of tacos with tatortots and nacho cheese for once in a blue moon. #tacos #recipe

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sweet 'N Sour Meatballs

So I'm pretty horrible with time management, especially if I start something and I'm in the on my computer or reading. This can get in the way of meals that I plan that are slow cooker meals. Nothing sucks more than seeing the clock hit 3:00 and the meal should have been in there at like 11:00. Luckily a lot of slow cooker recipes can be adapted to make in a bind of time!

I also made my own meatballs because I've suddenly gotten really good at doing that. I used a combination of turkey and Italian sausage - because they are my favorite meats to use for meatballs.

Next time I make it, I'm doubling the veggies and sauce though. Couldn't get enough of it!

Sweet & Sour Meatballs - a savory delicious meal that you just can't stop eating! #meatballs #recipe

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fantastical Feature: 20-Dollar 20-Minute Meals*: *For Four People

Disclaimer: I received an e-galley copy of this cookbook from NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for my honest opinion.

[image via Amazon]

Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals has it all: A bold and irresistible promise—make fresh, delicious meals for four for $20 or less, and that take twenty minutes or less to prepare. A dynamic young author with serious fans. And the singular point of view that pulls it all together, from the narrative recipe style to the author’s unerring sense of the ingredient-forward way people want to cook and eat today. 

Twenty-Dollar, Twenty- Minute Meals is for millennials on a budget and young moms and dads who want to make the kind of food they eat in restaurants or read about on blogs—for anyone who likes to cook and entertain but doesn’t always have a lot of time (or money). It’s quick and easy with a modern twist: Steak with Herb Sauce and Buttered Radishes. Seared Salmon with Orange Rosemary Lentils. Merguez Burger with Cucumber Dressing. Sage Pork Chops with Grilled Peaches and Onion. Orzo Risotto with Pancetta and Radicchio. And, of course, there’s dessert.

It’s the Wright way to cook: 20 minutes + $20 = a fabulous meal for 4.

My Thoughts:
I was incredibly excited about this cookbook when I saw it on Netgalley. What's not to love about a $20 meal that takes 20 minutes to make?? And it's for 4 people - my family is made up of 4 people.

This cookbook is really colorful and the pictures are just stunning. Some pages are full length pictures of the food, others are more in a graphic novel type form where you see just the food and dish. 

However, I'm not a huge fan of directions and ingredients muddled together. I like them to be separate because it's easier for me to make a grocery list if the ingredients list is right there. They do highlight the ingredients in the directions, but it's not the same.

I honestly had to scour to find recipes that I was sure my whole family would eat and items that I would be able to find. Unfortunately, we do not have as diverse a grocery store as I would like. We all love salads, but all of the salads in the cookbook contained things that not everyone (including myself) would find appealing. There's a lot of seafood as well. In a way, I'd say a hipster would really enjoy just seemed for "city-like" - the author did say she lived in New York City. It's very apparent in the selection of foods present.

I did find recipes that I could try though and what we did try, we enjoyed.

What I Tried:
[page numbers are subject to change]

Smashed Cherries & Pistachio Sundae
from p. 183
I really loved this combination of fruit and nut together. It was a really quick dessert to make :)

Spaghetti with Ramps & Bread Crumbs
from p. 59
Not really sure what ramps are, but a substitution was suggested: scallions. We don't have those here either, so I just used green onions. I paired it with roasted asparagus and baked chicken.

Sweetened Whipped Cream with Smashed Strawberries and Crushed Shortbread
from p. 166
This was easily my favorite recipe that we tried. My strawberries didn't smash so well, but it was still a welcome dessert in my belly. I got to use some of my Trefoils that had somehow survived in my pantry.

Roasted Sausage Meatballs with Fennel & Tomatoes
from p. 120
This one was my second favorite recipe - the tomatoes were perfect with the meatballs and I loved the fennel too. I paired it with toasted partisan bread and a spinach salad.

Bourbon-Espresso Affogato Sundae
from p. 183
Not sure what Affogato means - I should probably google, but this was another tasty dessert. I fourth-ed the bourbon in the recipe and it was still a tad too much for my liking and also pouring the hot espresso over the ice cream made for a race to eat it before it got soupy. Again though, the flavors did compliment each other and it was delish.

20-Dollar 20-Minute Meals gets a 3-utensil rating from me.
The set up of the recipes and the choice of ingredients in the recipes made it a bit difficult for the every day kitchen-goer. Many of the recipes didn't appeal to me or my family.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Girl Scout Week: Thin Mint Gooey Cake Bars

Thin Mint Gooey Cake Bars | Yellow cake + Thin Mints = chewy, gooey trouble :) #dessert

I am normally pretty good at keeping an eye on my foods and making sure they don't burn or get too dark, but every once in a while, even at the minimum cooking time, stuff can get a little overdone. This is one of those times. I probably should have checked it prior to it hitting the 30 minute mark, but I didn't. However, these were still gooey and delicious. I mean, it's pretty hard to mess up something with Thin Mints in it! I hope you all enjoyed Girl Scout Cookie week!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Girl Scout Week: Samoa Blondie Bars

Samoa Blondie Bars | Your favorite Girl Scout cookie in bar form #dessert

I am happy to announce that no Samoas were harmed in the making of these blondie bars. I did realize that one major part of the Samoa is missing in these: the caramel. Next time I make them, I'm going to experiment with adding in some caramel somewhere. I know the butter + brown sugar kind of imitates it, but it's not the same. They were still fantastic little bars!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Girl Scout Week: Mini No-Bake Banana Cheesecakes

My confession of the day: Trefoils are my favorite Girl Scout cookie. I think this makes me in the minority with the old ladies. No one thinks Trefoils are the best!! I think they are the most addictive...they kind of sneak up on you that way!

These cheesecakes were really cute and a fast, easy dessert to make for a crowd. I used banana chips instead of real banana slices because the chips clearly keep better.

Mini No-Bake Banana Cheesecakes | A no-bake treat with a shortbread bottom #dessert

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Girl Scout Week: Samoa Cheesecakes Bites

Samoa Cheesecake Bites | A cute little cheesecake dipped in chocolate and topped with caramel, coconut, and a drizzle of chocolate #dessert

As I said yesterday, Samoas are my husband's favorite Girl Scout cookie. I personally could take 'em or leave 'em. I don't like the way they get stuck to my teeth. However, I knew that I really wanted to make these little cheesecake bites. They are so cute and I knew my husband would like them. I made a double batch and brought them to our monthly FRG meeting along with tomorrow's treat too. I got the compliment - "This is the best thing I've ever put in my mouth." and it made me really happy :) I'm so used to "You're going to make me fat." - I'd much rather hear how delicious it is!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Girl Scout Week: Ultimate Thin Mint Brownies

So perhaps I should have done this in March, but I didn't plan very well. I actually was unsure that I was going to get any Girl Scout cookies at all this year and almost gave up. I, by chance, ran into a Girl Scout leaving a store when the power had gone out and bought a ridiculous amount of cookies. I probably looked nuts. I ended up getting too many boxes of Samoas (my husband's favorite) and not enough of the Thin Mints (my second favorite). However, I did make two yummy recipes with the Thin Mints I got and put the rest in the freezer for random snacks.

Ultimate Thin Mint Brownies | A classic brownie with Thin Mints baked in and swirled with a minty icing #dessert

I love how easy these were to make and I definitely want to try them out with a homemade brownie batter and try and alter the icing marble up a bit. But they were still really good brownies!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Buttery Grilled Cheese

Buttery Grilled Cheese, I dub thee Queen of Grilled Cheesandia.

Why queen and not king? It's got no meat...but it's still royalty as far as grilled cheese is concerned. There is lots of cheese and butter involved in this gem. It's definitely the crown jewel...okay, I'll stop now :) Both sides of both pieces of bread are buttered. Plus there are 2 slices of cheese, plus 4 Tbsp. of shredded cheese for each sandwich.
Buttery Grilled Cheese - both sides of each piece of bread are buttered and there is more cheese than you'd think possible #grilledcheese #recipe

Friday, April 05, 2013

S'mores Snack Mix

My kids are typical kids when it comes to their favorite treats. They love anything s'mores - anything that has the ingredients of s'mores. I saw this recipe on Cookies & Cups and thought it was the cutest thing ever. I loved it just as much as they did :)

If you are looking for the Mallow grocery store has them by the marshmallows, but my Walmart has them by the hot cocoa/coffee stuff. If you don't want to do the whole melting of the chocolate, just the chocolate chips mixed in works too. I did that the other day for a quick snack.
S'mores Snack Mix - a super adorable treat for kids of any age...and adults too! #snack #smores #recipe

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Spicy Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

I've had to make this recipe twice due to the fact that the first go-around I didn't have any tortillas. The second go-around my meat didn't want to shred. I found out via Worst Cooks in America that shoulder cuts are tougher, but they are really juicy. I used pork butt the first time and it shredded beautifully - it was eaten over a spinach salad. The second time I used pork shoulder and it had to be cubed, but it was still mighty tasty.

Spicy Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork - pork shoulder marinated in the #crockpot with chipotle peppers and Dr. Pepper #recipe #porkFun fact: Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked, red jalapenos. I didn't know this until I went to explain to my husband an equivalent of heat. I thought they were pretty close to jalapenos and I was right :) This recipe is superb. It is just the right amount of heat, plus a little sweet from the Dr. Pepper and so much smokey goodness from the peppers and adobo sauce.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

DIY Cream of Celery Soup

There is nothing better than finding copycats of your favorite restaurant meals or store-bought items. I personally love copycats so much. I use cream of celery soup in a meal regular: tuna noodle casserole. I realized one night that I had forgotten to grab some at the store and I had already started cooking dinner...Pinterest to the rescue!

This recipe really amped up the tuna noodle casserole. Homemade is so much more delicious than store-bought. Yum!

DIY Cream of Celery Soup - and mushroom & chicken too. #DIY #copycat #soup #recipe

Monday, April 01, 2013

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

In third grade, I met my stepdad's parents and my grandma (miss her so much) made pigs in a blanket or stuffed cabbage rolls. I wish I had her recipe so badly, but I don't. So I've been searching for something as amazing as her pigs and this casserole comes mighty close to that. This one also comes with the amazing no-rolling step. No pesky taking forever to get dinner ready because you're rolling everything into the cabbage leaves.

My husband is not a fan of cabbage, but I think this recipe converted him a little. He kept going back for more and raving how much he liked it. :) Score one for me! Now if I could just get him to eat mayonnaise.

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole - no slaving to roll up all the meatballs! #casserole #recipe