Sunday, July 31, 2011

Family Favorites

Since the girls came home from their summer trip, they've been craving some good country soul food. So, we've been revisiting some of their favorite dishes.

Is it bad when a kid wants to eat mashed potatoes straight out of the bowl, much like any other kid would lick cake batter out of a bowl? I hope not, because my little munchkin ate an entire batch of smashed spuds!

Fresh cucumbers have been stalking our fridge lately too! My girls can't seem to eat enough of them. And I stocked up on some beautiful fresh plums, strawberries, Carolina peaches, and necatarines. So, for a simple summer dessert I made some fruity shortcakes. Delicious!!
Shortcakes are like a cousin to the biscuit, baked in a very hot oven, and when made with shortening and butter, they are light and flaky and not overly sweet, but adding fresh whipped cream and summer fruits you have the recipe for happiness.

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup half and half
melted butter
additional sugar for sprinkling

Heat oven 450 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
Cut in butter and shortening. Mix in half-and-half. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Top with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vacation, part 2

So the next few days were spent in the lazy river, pool, beach, and playing mini-golf at the resort's own mini-golf course directly across the street from our gorgeous home away from home. The kids LOVED it! We also trekked to a water park in nearby Surfside Beach. Our youngest daughter was fearless on the tallest waterslide!! She was excited that she was finally tall enough to go on every slide.

Our food adventures were perfectly wonderful! One night we had Ultimate Pizza--highly recommend the beef tenderloin pizza, one night we enjoyed the 2nd Ave Pier Fireworks and ate at The Oceanfront Grill at the Boardwalk. I was thrilled to find fried dill pickles on the menu!! Although they were delicious, they are nothing like the real fried dill pickles from my hometown of Atkins, AR. Nothing compares.

And we ended our stay with a trip to Broadway at the Beach and took the kids to see Harry Potter 7 part 2. and grab some eats at Margaritaville with a beautiful view of the water and amusement rides.

After picking up a few little treasures to bring home and a photo opp at Tiki Jim's Shop, we headed up through some tiny little North Carolinian towns. If you've never been to Rose Hill, NC, you may not know that it is home to the world's largest frying pan! Now it may not be as exciting to you, but I, for one, was thrilled to get to see this roadside attraction in the quiet little community of Rose Hill.
I don't know about you, but I can imagine about 50 different things I could cook up in that fryin' pan. I think I'd start with some Southern Fried Potatoes.

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, quartered, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced
6 medium red-skinned potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large, heavy frying pan.
Add onion and sauté until tender.
Add the red pepper and garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
Add the potatoes, paprika, about 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.
Cover and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are just tender.
Uncover and increase heat to medium-high. Continue cooking for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until nicely browned.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Vacation, part 1

Y'all don't even know how excited I was to finally get to go on vacation. Although I love my many jobs I get to do, I hadn't had a 10 day vacation, well, pretty much ever. I hadn't taken that much time off from a job since Elliana was a baby. And we had never really taken the kids anywhere, so this was it....our first REAL vacation as a blended family.

We decided that I would pick the girls up in Savannah and head north to Myrtle Beach. Scott and the boys would drive south and we'd meet in the middle. A four hour drive for us, a six hour drive for them and when we arrived we were absolutely thrilled to find a little piece of paradise ......ours for the week.
I booked this luxury resort a few months earlier for a great price considering there were 7 of us and we needed enough space. We had a beautiful condo on the 18th floor with an incredible oceanfront room. Water as far as the eye could see.

Here's a view from the balcony of the beach toward North Myrtle Beach.
If I had taken a picture straight ahead it would be nothing but water and you'd be bored.
The boys had their own space in a huge room with two queen beds and a sparkling bathroom. The girls had their own space with a queen bed and the master suite was fit for a King. Not that I had planned to cook, but we at least we had a full kitchen complete with granite 'tops and tile floors and a washer/dryer to keep those beach towels nice and clean. And the great thing was I didn't come home with any dirty laundry.

The balcony was amazing and stretched from the living area to the master suite. The panorama was nothing but pure Atlantic Ocean! It was so peaceful to fall asleep listening to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.

18 stories below the balcony was our choice of 3 pools, 2 hot tubs and our resort came with a lazy river to boot!Obviously Myrtle Beach in July is a happening place, pretty much anywhere you go because of the tourist season. The first night we were there we decided to eat at Landshark, which is part of Jimmy Buffet's chain of Margaritaville restaurants, with an amazing view of the SkyWheel that offers this really spectacular LED light show. Beachy vibes, boardwalk atmosphere, jazzy beach tunes and the spicy queso and salsa was the perfect start for my hungry crew.

After picking up a few breakfast goodies for the family at the Piggly Wiggly, we headed back to enjoy some pool time with the kids under a blanket of stars.

Here's some spicy queso to knock your socks off!!

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup picante sauce
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese
4 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
dash paprika
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chile peppers
dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
tortilla chips

Sauté onion in butter until tender. Add picante sauce and stir. Gradually add the cream cheese and shredded cheese. Stir in paprika, peppers, Worcestershire sauce, and salt; continue cooking and stirring until cheese is melted and mixture is well blended. Serve with tortilla chips. Keep warm in slow cooker, if desired.
Makes about 2 cups.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Babies, Things that go Bump in the Night, and Banana Spice Muffins

After spending a beautiful Sunday with our church family in Savannah, we enjoyed a little time at the pool and spent the afternoon in beautiful historic downtown Savannah.

I got to take pictures of my beautiful friend and her adorable family in Forsyth Park, where the trees are soaked with Spanish moss. Kristina is a wonderful mother to two of the cutest little boys in the world. And her husband serves our country in the Army!! It's no wonder that I love her so much, she loves her crock pot too!I was really excited to take pictures of their family and spend a little time with them that afternoon. I think the boys were more interested in their Lightning McQueen and 'Mater cars I gave them, than the camera in their face, but they are two precious little boys and I can't wait to see their family again.

I just love their sweet little faces!
Then, we met up with my favorite lady, who is like a mother to me, for a little walk on River Street to catch up and spend some time together.

The evening brought us to a Ghost Tour I planned for my girls through 6th Sense Savannah. They absolutely love spooks and creaks and I thought it would be fun to share with my friend Shannon and her son Austin.

When I first moved to Savannah, I instantly fell in love with the beautiful homes and the rich history there. The best way to appreciate the beauty of the city is walking, so we met up with our tour guide Nick at Clary's Cafe. A couple of other families vacationing in nearby Hilton Head Island, SC joined our tour group for the evening and Nick began a wonderful historic and haunted view of some of these incredible areas of Savannah. Nick could've stepped straight out of 1924. He was a great storyteller and offered his historic flare on the areas we visited. Fantastic.

If you're ever in Savannah and feel compelled to take a tour, I highly recommend this one! Just don't forget the bug spray and some comfy shoes!!

The next morning, the girls and I grabbed some Java with a dear friend of mine, Diane. She is one special lady to me because she was my very first boss when I first moved to Savannah. She even remembers me before I was ever married, so she's been through many of my life's events. It was great to catch up with her!!

For breakfast each morning in Savannah we had yummy muffins and pastries! Here's a recipe for banana spice muffins that's so easy. Not all muffins are created equally, but these are pretty great! Enjoy!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Combine the egg, egg substitute, bananas, applesauce and oil; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Coat muffin cups with cooking spray; fill two-thirds full with batter. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 375° for 15-18 minutes or until muffins spring back when lightly touched. Cook for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

We're baaaaack!!

We are Back from Vacation and feeling all refreshed and ready for the rest of our summer!
Boy is it hot outside. I think I'd rather just live the next 2 months in my refrigerator. Eek, what a heat wave. My hot flashes are having hot flashes and I'm not even old enough to have hot flashes yet.

Our vacation was fantastic and I can't wait to share some of our adventures with you! The exciting fact is that the girls are home from their summer visit with their dad. They seem to have had a great time although they were quite ready to have some of momma's home cookin'.
I was welcomed to open arms and a long list of dinners that they practically begged for. We spent a weekend in Savannah, GA. Our home sweet home. It was lovely! We got to see a lot of our family and friends and pack a ton of exciting things into that one weekend.

Of course we spent some time by the pool!
My friend took over ownership of a great little restaurant/bar so I was lucky enough to take some photos of the place. She is a great cook and I'm so excited about her new adventure!

And if you know anything about Georgia, you're first thought is probably peaches!! And I absolutely love fresh summer peaches! Especially when they come from Georgia.

How about a fresh peach pie recipe? It's an absolute winner for those beautiful summer peaches!

Pie Filling
10 fresh peaches, pitted and sliced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch pie crust

1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped nuts, optional
Crumb Topping: Combine topping ingredients with a fork.

Mix flour, sugar and butter into crumb stage.
Place one crust in the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate. Line the shell with some sliced peaches.
Sprinkle some of the butter mixture on top of the peaches, then put more peaches on top of the the crumb mixture. Continue layering until both the peaches and crumbs are gone.
Top with crumb topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until crust is golden. Turn the oven OFF when 35 minutes is up. Allow pie to sit in the cooling oven while continuing to set. This will boil off the liquid and you'll end up with a pie that isn't runny. Allow pie to cool completely before slicing. Best when eaten fresh.

More adventures to come!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Voodoo Annie's Rice and Beans

So, it seems as our kid free portion of the summer is coming to a close. The girls will be home very soon. I'll miss our lazy afternoons of complete quiet, our daily "date nights" and lunches at neighborhood dining, and the break from the sounds of iCarly and Spongebob was wonderful. But I'm excited to see our girls again and can't wait to hear all about the first part of their wonderful summer.

For one of our last days together, Scott decided he'd rather just have lunch at home. So, I whipped up Voodoo Annie's Rice and Beans.

1 ring Smoked turkey sausage, sliced into 1" pieces on a bias
1 package Jambalaya flavored rice mix
1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked (not quick cooking rice)
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis

In a skillet, brown sausage. The turkey sausage makes this dish less fat and it still has a great taste. You can easily substitute beef or pork smoked sausage.

Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large dutch oven. Add Jambalaya rice mix and brown rice, allow to boil for 2 minutes, then add onion. Stir occasionally to make sure the rice doesn't stick. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Add beans and tomatoes and 1/2 of the cooked sausage.
Allow to cook until rice is tender another 10 minutes or so.

Serve topped with additional sausages.

It's a really colorful and spicy dish that's
so easy and cooks in about 25 minutes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hey Girlfriend

Having a great group of friends is the absolute best. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by some of the most wonderful women. Ever.

Here are some things I have learned from my group of gal pals:

Girlfriends are much cheaper than therapists and a whole lot more fun.
They know my secrets and like me anyway.
They are no farther away than the phone, even if it's 4 in the morning.
Good times are even better when they're shared,
because laughter makes the world a happier place.
You can never have too many shoes.
Calories don't count when having dinner with them.

It's important to make time to do "girl things" and we try to do this at least once a month. Living in coastal Virginia, we have the opportunity for fun venues for our girls nights.

This past weekend, we chose The OV Fishing Pier. It's like a little tranquil island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Quite literally.

The trek is a sandy hike, but once your feet hit the wooden planks of the fishing pier, you'll feel as though you've stepped into an alternate universe. It's as though you're not even in Virginia anymore. Crossing over the beach and the water, the sides of the pier are lined with fisherman with all levels of expertise with their scattered rods, reels, tackle boxes, traps, and bait.

The restaurant and bar area is situated several yards out over the water. The top deck is open air with trendy swinging table bungalows and picnic style dining with brightly colored umbrellas. The vibe is friendly and fun.

The food leaves a little to be desired, but the bar tender, affectionately named, Twiggy because, well, that's what she looked like, though as the sun went down she did bare a strong resemblance to Kate of Kate plus 8, made a great margarita and beer punch, which is actually neither beer nor punch.

Painted a beautiful orange and pink, the sunset over the water was classic beauty. The 80s music played loudly over the speakers and we rocked out to the sounds of Madonna, U2, and Prince to name a few. And I thought, there is no better company I could have in this beautiful atmosphere than celebrating the summer with my wonderful girlfriends.

Here's a simple beer punch recipe (that's made with Rum) for your next summer party. Enjoy!

1 fifth Rum, light
1 qt. Hawaiian punch
2 Cups Orange Juice
2 Cups Pineapple Juice
1 qt. Lemon Lime Soda

Place Ice in a very large punch bowl. Pour Rum over ice followed by Hawaiian punch.
Then, Orange juice, pineapple juice. Stir to mix.
Add Soda last so no carbonation is lost. Stir well. Serve.

I love you Laura and Erica and Mimsey! You're the peanut butter to my jelly! I'm so glad you're my friends!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Simply Satisfied

So there I was on the couch on a quiet, rainy afternoon. Poignant that Julie and Julia was on Epix movie channel, when I get a knock on the door. I'm greeted by FedEx and a beautiful brown box.

What's inside you ask? Only the last year of my life, heart, and soul, man hours, and my heart is exuberantly filled with excitement!!


It was hard to contain my giddiness as I danced around the house with glee. Avoiding ripping the box to shreds, I carefully removed the plastic packaging and the brightly colored 8.5"x8.5" square book, breathing in the new book smell. All 67 pages of perfect bound softcover bliss. Pure joy overcame me!!

This book has been a labor of love for the last year. It takes a LOT of hours to prepare, test, and tweak each recipe, as well as choosing what makes it and what doesn't. Then, there are hours of editing and choosing the right layout, font, and order of each recipe. Then, there are hours of making sure each recipe has the ingredients listed in proper order, the correct directions. Then, there is choosing a cover and the photos. And it all comes neatly packaged and arrives at my door!

What happiness!!!

When can you have one? Target date of August 1 for pre-orders (working out the details), so you can get your hands on a copy very soon!!

I must send out a HUGE thank you to the support I have been given. I'm incredibly thankful and grateful for the opportunity. There are so many friends who have been faithful in giving their opinions and available for taste tests on a whim. I'm thankful for the encouraging words and the excitement from my friends and family. So, to you, I am humbled and honored to be given this opportunity!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A recipe for Clothes?

I've gotta say, I really don't care for doing laundry! That probably stems from my days of working in clothing retail in my younger years. I folded clothing ALL day, it was a huge chore to have to come home just to keep folding clothes. When I finally became a stay at home mom, the laundry was always done and folded, so it wasn't as much of a chore, but definitely a turn off.
And now, I'm REALLY not a fan, because I tote it all down 3 flights of stairs, to the laundromat, and back up 3 flights of stairs. Not pretty. Really not pretty. But there is a Mrs. PacMan machine there, so that makes up for it. A little.

So, a while back, I came across a recipe to make laundry detergent. I've always loved a bargain and washing with less chemicals and more natural remedies. So, this "recipe" for cleaning seemed absolutely amazing. My friend Kristina decided to give it a whirl and she ended up loving it.

For a top load washer the cost is about 2 cents per load. Can you imagine it yet?? It's a steal and the directions are really easy!

The BEFORE AND AFTER results are amazing too! It has tough cleaning power. Although you should use a stain remover as usual for tough stains, it's great at cleaning. You can even add your own essential oils to "scent" the detergent to your liking.

1 Ivory soap bar
4 Cups - hot tap water
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
½ Cup Borax
1 cup of dollar store oxy clean

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water.
Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. It will gel.

Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled.
Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

To use:
-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What a fun weekend!!

Our holiday weekend included celebrating with "Big Bands On The Bay". If you like Big Band music, you'd love it here!! Every Sunday evening at one of the Chesapeake Bay beaches, Ocean View, the gazebo is filled with beautiful sounds of swing music and each week a different band plays.

Classic tunes of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller
are always a treat and my favorite song is "In the Mood"
although I love "Sing, Sing, Sing" as well.

The sunset taking it's inspiration from Orange Juice,
is breathtaking over the beach pier.

Happy couples dance and sway to soothing sounds
and the salty air flows deliciously in the Bay breeze.

It's a perfect time to pack a picnic supper and sit under a beautiful sky on a blanket enjoying the summertime!

Here's a Curried Chicken Salad that makes a great sandwich on the go.

3 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1 medium apple, finely chopped
1/2 cup shelled salted sunflower seeds
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Add the yogurt, preserves, curry, mustard, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Serve on buns.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekend Breakfasts

So during the week, there isn't a lot of time to prepare breakfast, so weekdays start with whole grain bagels or toast. Maybe cereal. Yogurt, fruit.

I love making breakfasts on the weekend, though. I can actually spend a few minutes preparing a delicious outrageous breakfast. The kids love when I make pancakes and waffles, or a biscuit and gravy, egg, sausage, bacon treat.

Since this morning was just the two of us I made some beautiful Swiss egg sammies with smoky thick sliced bacon and beautiful herb potatoes.

I finished just in time to head to the birthday party of a precious 1 year old little girl to take pictures of her party, remember I'm a photographer too!

Our youngest son stayed with us this weekend, so After the party, we headed to see Transformers 3 after a quick lunch at Johnny Rockets.

Fantastic Saturday indeed!!

Start your Saturday with one of these Swiss Egg Sammies!

1 Tablespoon butter
2 eggs
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices swiss cheese
2 whole grain English Muffins

In a small skillet, melt butter. In a small bowl, mix together eggs, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Do not over beat the eggs. Pour into skillet. Allow to cook slightly omelet style, turning once. Fold over into 2 separate rounds. Remove from heat and top with Swiss cheese.

Toast English Muffins, top with eggs and cheese.