Mimi’s Fried Squash

Last weekend my grandparents came down to see the house, since they havent yet and we cooked dinner for them and just kind of hung out and then David and I picked my grandma’s brain for some of her old family recipes. She makes some of my favorite side dishes, like most souther grandmas! Things like macaroni salad, cucumbers in vinegar, creamed corn, annnnd the famous fried squash and onions, which I suggested we have as a side dish to our tasty meal so she could give me a little lesson. Its not that I can’t sauté up some summer veggies on my own but she gets them just the right amount of crispy and delicious so I was looking for a few tips on improving upon any failed attempts I have made in the past, annnnd a little help with some of the side dishes, and she definitely delivered! If you’re looking to make some hearty southern fried squash, here is my attempt to rehash Mimi’s hands on lesson in the kitchen.

Ingredients: 

  • 2-3 large squash sliced (or quartered, whichever you prefer)
  • 2 onions halved and sliced
  • vegetable oil
  • flour

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Slice the squash and onions and mix them together in a large mixing bowl. then spoon flour on top of the ingredients and mix well.

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Mimi says the best method is to hand toss it, starting form the bottom and folding the flour through the mixture until all the pieces are coated. Also, make sure none of the pieces stick together since you want all the sides coated pretty well. While you’re doing this put enough vegetable oil in a large pan to coat the bottom

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Continue to let the oil heat until you can flick flour in it and it sizzles and crisps right up, then you know you’re cookin’! Start with the pan on high and if needed you can reduce the het throughout, but you never want to be below about a 7 unless your stove is unusually hot and fast cooking.
Next, add large handfulls of the squash and onions to the pan, making sure to distribute them evenly across the bottom.

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Then make sure that they are all pressed flat to the bottom and there are no air pockets and that something is always touching the bottom of the pan to get crispy and delicious.  Once everything is spread evenly, let the mixture simmer for a bit to let to bottom get nice and toasty. you can check occasionally by pulling up the sides with a spatula because it starts to stick as you cook it.

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When you feel that the bottom is pretty browned, slide the spatula underneath to lift and flip large sections of the squash and onions all at once, so they are kind of stuck together.

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Continue this process until they are relatively browned on all sides and the squash are cooked all the way through. This takes about 30 minutes. As you finish, tilt the pan at an angle and pull all the squash and onions to the top side to drain off as much of the oil as possible and then move the drained veggies to a serving bowl.

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Then its time to eat! Its best to make sure these finish just as you are getting ready to eat, as they are not as good cold. AND, if you have left overs like we did, you can reheat them by throwing them into a warm pan with no oil for a few minutes until they heat all the way through. Microwaving is definitely NOT your friend here. But MMMMM are these good! Hope I can pull it off on my own next time!

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Crockpot Asian Chicken

The crockpot got me again. Somehow I am always convinced that I can remedy the bland taste of crockpot chicken by trying a variety of different sauces. I think its because it over cooks so its a little drier than I like. I even started this one when I cam home for lunch, but it was still a little over done by the time I got home from work at 6. I think it was because the chicken was cut into bite size pieces as opposed to being larger strips that needed to cook all the way through. I really need to be better about thinking these things through. But the sauce was really good and had the chicken been a little more moist I would have really liked it, so I really think we will give this one a try again.

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Ingredients: 

  • chicken breast strips
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup Teriyaki sauce for crock pot, 1 cup for glaze
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • honey

Instructions: 

  • Place chicken into crock pot
  • Combine the chicken broth, 1 cup teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, and garlic powder in crockpot, pouring over the chicken
  • cook on low for 4-6 hours.
  • Before serving place 1 cup of teriyaki sauce into a sauce pan and bring to a boil then slowly add honey (to taste) and a bit of brown sugar until the sauce thickens and reduces. Once the sauce is thick, add it to a bowl and remove chicken from crockpot and toss in the mixture.
  • Once chicken is coated serve over white or brown rice with a side of steamed veggies and enjoy, another easy crockpot meal.

+if you’re still skeptical about the crockpot chicken like we are, you can bake the chicken or pan sear it and then toss it in the sauce, but the sauce is definitely what makes it!

Fun Friends and Food

Like I said on Monday, our friends Jaque and Chris came over for dinner on Friday night for a little relaxation and dinner before we get completely bogged down with all things wedding for the next 3 weeks (BECAUSE ITS SO CLOSE NOW!!!! AHHHHH!!!!) It was nice to do something to keep my mind from wandering into wedding never land for a bit thinking a schedules, and organizing, and how were going to get what where, etc etc. We were also very excited to have the chance to break out some of our fun new serving pieces we have gotten from showers and to use our fun little rolling island we got from ikea a while back! Well David was excited about the island, I was excited about the serving pieces, to set the record straight. But I just love entertaining and setting everything up, I think its just so fun!

I picked up some small bouquets of assorted flowers at the local grocery store and used a small little vase I acquired from someone dropping off some treats at work (I love fab freebies!) I always joke that I should have gone into flowers because I love fresh flowers so much. I just think they add so much to a room and really soften the space. Not the fanciest thing ever, but I appreciate the touch of class!

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So to add to the set up we wheeled out our awesome butcher block ikea island and set up a little appetizer area for our guests featuring dipping bread and a tasty red wine sangria (which probably would have been better if I had more time to let it rest and mix all the flavors together!). But it was a great set up and kept everyone from congregating around the food prep space on the counters and opened up the counter space by giving us a little bit of extra room to set things, which we also appreciated!

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The great thing about this cart is that it has shelves underneath so for a big gathering you could keep plates/cups/etc underneath and place all the food or drinks on top AND because it has wheels we can just roll it outside and BAM more serving space for out there. Im really starting to like it and not resent buying it just to store it in our closet under the stairs! And then, when it was time for dinner… BAM Change over and we were serving the main course here which made it so easy to feed everyone through the kitchen to prep their plates etc.

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David grilled up some BBQ chicken quarters and fresh squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and some brown rice! super tasty! I love all the fresh veggies that are available in the sumer and I especially love that David is so into grilling. It alleviates some of the stress in the kitchen! Such a great night with great friends, and if you’re dying for that sangria recipe, here it is for ya!

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  • 1 Large bottle of red wine – chilled ( I used Pinot Noir)
  • 1 large orange sliced and placed in the bottom of the pitcher
  • 1/2 large orange juiced into the pitcher, slice the other half for garnish
  • 1 lemon sliced (half for garnish)
  • 1 -1 1/2 cups of a dark juice (I used cranberry pomegranate, but you can personalize the recipe here or leave this part out)
  • Add orange liquor to taste. I added enough to cover the fruit in the bottom of the pitcher.

Combine all the ingredients into a pitcher Fruit slices first then orange liquor, then red wine, then juice to mellow things out a bit, if needed. Then stir everything out and let chill for at least 3o minutes before serving. Then pour into glasses and garnish with freshly sliced fruit! Bottoms up!

Jerk Tilapia with a White Wine Mushroom Sauce

We made this a few weeks ago as a tasty change to our week night dinner routine, we were a little nervous about it taking a lot longer than we had originally intended but the tilapia filets were small and cooked pretty quickly. The recipe called for brown rice or grits as a bed to serve the fish on, and we decided to go with grits. A) because we had them already and b) because its a nice change from the traditional dinner starch options. Definitely recommend giving this a whirl, especially if you’re looking to do a dish for people who aren’t the biggest fish lovers!

Ingredients: 

Mushroom Scallion Sauce
1 tablespoon butter (or cooking spray)
2 cups sliced baby portabella mushrooms (cremini, or other regular mushrooms)
1/2 cup sliced scallion
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 pint heavy cream (or fat-free milk w. 1/2 tsp of flour)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and black pepper

Grits
5 cups milk
1 cup quick-cooking grits
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Tilapia
6 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets
1/3 cup jamaican jerk spice, marinade

Instructions: 

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Mushroom Scallion Sauce: Melt butter in a large saute pan. Saute mushrooms and scallions for about 3 minutes. Stir in wine and heavy cream. Season with garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir until sauce thickens slightly. Keep warm until ready to serve.

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Grits: Bring milk to a boil. Gradually whisk in grits, butter, salt, and pepper. Stir constantly for about 3 to 5 minutes until grits thicken to desired consistency. Keep warm until ready to serve.

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Tilapia: Heat grill to medium. Rinse and dry fillets and then rub with jerk seasoning. Grill tilapia for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat.

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Plate entree by spooning grits on center of plate. Lay tilapia on top of grits. Lay the carrot slices on top of fish in a criss-cross manner and place broccoli stalk on the side of fish. Top with mushroom scallion sauce and serve immediately.

Not my best plating attempt but you get the idea. Layer it all up and serve it as one dish for lots of deliciousness and minimal clean up, one of our favorite things to do on the week nights!

Movement Mondays- Bobblehead

This weekend our friends Jaque and Chris came over for dinner and somehow we got all caught up watching Minute to Win it, which seems to be the simplest concept but for some reason I am always shocked when people complete the tasks, and I am increasingly anxious as the show goes on and the amount of money they could win gets higher and higher. The first few tasks always seem relatively easy… and then all of a sudden its like bounce these 10 quarters across the stage off this tub jello into those tiny trampoline plates, you have 60 seconds…. GO. and Im just like what to you mean you can’t get that quarter to bounce of the Jello, COME ON… COME ON. Stop bouncing the quarters off the trampoline plates, just make them stand still AHHH you just bounced all 5 quarters off the trampoline when you got that last one on there. And it just continues on from there. But thats beside the point. This past weekend the first task was for the couple to wear sweat bands with pedometers on them and try to get a combined 200 tracked movements and they would move on to the next round. I didn’t even think about how HILARIOUS this would look but I was DYING! Then we started thinking about brain damage and how you must get a headache but they girl got something ridiculous like 173 and the guy got 150 or something… so they moved on but it was just HILARIOUS to watch, so here is a fun pick me up for you on this Monday morning. Sure to get you laughing and ready for another week of work.

This isnt actually from the show but some people did it at their office and its three guys, which is pretty comical. Their scores weren’t as intense as the competitors on the show, with one of them not even hitting 100, but still pretty comical to watch.

Breakfast Stromboli

I made this a few weeks ago, but David LITERALLY still hasn’t stopped talking about it. One night my friend Jaque was coming over so we could have a much needed girls night and we hadn’t really made plans for dinner so in a last minute attempt to avoid just grabbing takeout we decided we would try a new take on breakfast for dinner! I found this recipe for breakfast stromboli and because I am always willing to try something once, we gave it whirl. We grabbed all the ingredients (including the fresh pizza dough ball, which was in the bakery/deli section in a little bag) from the local supermarket. All the ingredients were easy to fix up, just cook the ground sausage over medium high heat in a skillet and add the peppers at the end, and then scramble the eggs with the milk and a bit of cheese and put all of it inside the pizza dough. The hardest part was rolling out the dough because it got kind of gooey and I just couldn’t get it to roll out the right way, I guess this is where my lack of experience in a pizza place is really showing through! So after A LOT of struggling and everyone else just standing around laughing at my inability to get the job done, we finally just started pulling it (which Im SO sure is not the correct method) until it did what we wanted it to. Anywho, once we got that whole situation taken care of, we stuffed it, rolled it, and baked it and BOY was it yummy! A great breakfast treat, if you’re looking for one, and definitely a fun take on something similar to a breakfast casserole! I definitely recommend it, we served ours with grits and it was quite tasty. I think my favorite thing about this is you can really make it whatever you want, you could add spinach, mushrooms, onions, cook it with only egg whites; there really are endless possibilities!

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Ingredients:

1/2 lb pizza dough

Ground breakfast sausage (we used neeses)

2-4 eggs, plus one more beaten for an egg wash

2 Tbsp milk

Pinch salt and pepper

1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and diced (or half of a medium regular bell pepper)

1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Parchment paper to line pan (don’t leave this one out!)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line large rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray, trust me you DEFINITELY want to use parchment paper.
  2. In a large skillet, brown your sausage, and add your pepper to it to brown a bit. Once cooked all the way through, transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Keep oil rendered from sausage in pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, a bit of cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Back to the skillet with the oil, reduce the heat to medium-low and scramble the eggs
  5. Spread pizza dough out on baking sheet to be approximately 10×16 inches. Leave a 3×16 rectangle of plain dough along one of the edges and on the rest, sprinkle with half of the cheese, followed by the sausage, eggs, red bell pepper, and the remaining cheese on top.
  6. Brush the plain strip of dough with the egg. Fold in the outer sides about an inch and brush them with egg. Roll up like a jelly roll* lengthwise starting along the long edge of dough topped with all the fillings and ending with the plain strip of dough on the bottom of the roll.
  7. Brush the entire Stromboli with egg and gently cut slats in the top of the dough every 1-2 inches. Sprinkle parsley over top and bake 8-10 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Remove from oven, cool 5 minutes and slice into pieces.

Pergola Pining

Since we moved into our house I have been DYING to create an awesome outdoor space to relax and enjoy. I think this is partially because of my parents “poolage” outdoor area with a kitchen and comfy furniture under an awning with fans. Ya know, the perfect place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. And I always loved sitting out on the porch at the lake or around a bon fire, so now that we actually have a space of our own to do all these things I’m dying to get my hands dirty to make it happen. David is on another plan that involves saving money and postponing projects which I find depressing so since I can’t see the project through to a reality JUST yet, I thought I would continue pining for my perfect pergola via pinterest and home decor magazines until one day I am allowed to put one on our back deck.

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I know this is a terrible picture, I can only justify by saying I did not take it, its from the listing information when be bought the house, and I cannot find the one I did take, but I wanted you to be able to see what we have to work with, which is a really awesome foundation for an EPIC outdoor entertaining space! So, right now its pretty empty. We have a rocking chair and a few planters in the corners and David’s grill inhabits a bit of the space but we dont have much going on to make it a practical entertaining space, but were working on it! We hope to eventually re-do the railing, its a little loose and wobbly in places and the only way to get into the yard is a small little opening to the right that comes out on the side of the house. NOT helpful. Our plan is to pick a new railing, maybe something a little more decorative and remove the two center sections to create a walk down into the yard, ya know with a few stairs and such. Then we want to add a pergola covering the portion to the left of the opening and put some seating and everything under neath there, I would love to have some fans so that its still comfortable in the summer. Then to the right of the opening we would have a table and chairs for outdoor dining, AND as I have mentioned several times we really want to replace the sliding glass door with a french door or feaux french doors or whatever, just not the sliding door! haha! Here is a TERRIBLE illustration of what we are looking to eventually accomplish back here.

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You can laugh, its fine. I know it looks ridiculous, but the real thing will be awesome, and everyone will be like “PORCH PARTIESSSS!” and that’s really the goal here! So now that you have a general idea of the direction were going, lets talk style and design… Starting with the pergola area! I’m more into the idea of a lounge type set up than I think David is, but I can just imagine hanging out and relaxing in a set up like this and with the railing it would be so easy to build bench seating around the perimeter without much effort!

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Im not necessarily a fan of the whole pallet idea, but I am sure I could get a few for free (wink wink, nudge nudge, hey Dad!!) and make an awesome set up if I had to haha! I think I would rather build something that was a little more sturdy, but I do love the whites and blues! But since sturdy and long lasting is the name of the game, I do love this next option!

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Although, I dont think its as practical. Sofas, and huge stuffed footstools/seating? probably not the best idea for outdoors, and David hate the idea of the curtains, but I am OBSESSED! even if we only had them up when company came over, I think they add such a cool element to the space, and they look awesome!

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Which brings me to this, I could get behing this set up. The wood would work (say that three times fast! YIKES!) But I might change it up on the cushions just because white gets so dirty and we do have some clay in our back yard so I don’t see that ending well if we end up getting a four-legged friend in the next few years. So, white might not be a good decor option!

c8ecd25f9cd20e24e40315b2b80ed879Then there is this, which I love, except it doesnt have a pergola, It looks just like what I was describing with the seating built into the railing and lots of space to relax, looks like the perfect space for a girls night, if you ask me!

If we move to the other side of the eventual walk down into the yard, I want to eventually do a table so we can actually enjoy dinner out on the deck, maybe a 6 top would be perfect. I really want wood but David is worried about wear and tear and the wood rotting so he is pushing for wrought iron, which I guess would work if I could paint it a funky color and get some fun cushions, and he’s right as far as something being long lasting and a good investment the wrought iron might be the way to go, but I would have to find just the right things to spice it up, like a cute little umbrella, and cushions and the perfect shade of spray paint to bring it from drab to fab!

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I love this set up with the dark wood table on the dark stained deck, I just think it looks really classy but I agree that it would take a much larger maintenance effort to make this table last as long as some other options, but you have to admit, this is fancy and FAB!

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I also really like the simplicity of this furniture, not really into the pillows on the benches and I think this would be relatively easy to make, so it is a good option, except David doesn’t really get into bench style seating, but I think for an outdoor space it works really well.

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I love everything about this table set from Target… except the price range, clearly I am attracted to the more natural look, which is where I get in trouble price wise, I think!

4226389lgI also found this more affordable option at Lowes. Its aluminum but has that wood look, so its more affordable, and potentially more durable, so it might be a good contender. Our goal here is to wait until things go on sale at the end of summer and see what we can put together for a steal of a deal! I will let you know how that goes, but I have my eye on the sales!!! Can’t wait to get to work on our little outdoor oasis. I will keep you all updated as the process unfolds, slowly but surely, sloooowly but surely.

Movement Mondays – The Power Couple

I luuuurved the opening number of SYTYCD this past week. In the truest sense of the term (except the part where you have to be dating) I think Sonya Tayeh and Christopher Scott are SYTYCDs power choreography couple. They both create such strong and powerful movement its almost unfair to the rest of us, but at least we get to enjoy it! I love the concept of this piece and any number that brings a larger than life prop on the stage for dancers to fling themselves off of is a win in my book. I have to say I have been somewhat underwhelmed with this season and it kind of depresses me, but at least I have my buddies Sonya and Christopher to keep me artfully entertained at least during a few numbers! Looking forward to what tomorrow night brings as the top 16 perform, but for now, you can just  enjoy this! And you will! Happy Movement Mondays my dance fiends!!!

 

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

I found this recipe on Pinterst and have been dying to try it, especially since I have a weak spot for tasty cheeses, and Gouda definitely makes that list! This was relatively easy to make and considering its the first time I have made a real baked mac and cheese casserole, I was pretty happy to find out it wasn’t going to be as complicated as I had first feared. We used way too many noodles so we probably should have doubled the gravy sauce you are supposed to make but, you live and you learn, other than that it was a pretty rocking dish, and definitely a good change of pace from a more traditional mac and cheese dish. IMG_3900

 

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 4 garlic cloves,- minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups hot cooked macaroni
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese ( your choice, we used mexican cheese mix, hahah, because we had it in the fridge, I think gouda would have been rather delicious, but we didn’t have enough!)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 2 minutes). Add cheeses; stir until melted.

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Add macaroni to cheese sauce, stirring until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spary, to make a thin layer on the bottom then sprinkle with some of the shredded cheese, continue to layer until the dish is full.Then, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and top with a bit of cheese . Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

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We obviously did NOT have a dish large enough to hold the massive amount of mac and cheese we made, so we ate the single servings for dinner, and then we had the larger casserole to pair with various meals throughout the week, which was awesome! It saved really well and was pretty tasty even as a left over, and was really easy to reheat and serve! Definitely a good dish to make a lot of!

Tied Tulle Wreath

A few weeks ago I missed my first friends baby shower due to some pre-wedding festivities and obligations, however I did not pass up the chance to make a fun gift to pass on to the mother-to-be! My college roommate and her husband Caleb are expecting their first child, a little girl sometime at the end of August/beginning of September. However, if she is anything like her mom and dad, I think she might make QUITE the grand entrance a little earlier than expected! I decided that any baby of Caleb and Lauren’s needed a stylish, fun, and funky way to announce her presence to the world, so, I put together this simple tied tulle wreath with her name on it!

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All you need to get this project done is a Styrofoam wreath form, 4 rolls of tulle (2 of each color if you plan to alternate), some ribbon for a bow, white floral wire, and whatever letters you will need. I was going to have it say “its a girl” but they didnt have all the letters I needed. Oh well, compromises, compromises. Once you have all your materials pulled together, start to cut your tulle. enough to double knot it and leave a little hanging off, mine was too long at first so I had to trim some of it down so it wouldn’t look as wild and wolly.

IMG_3932Once you have all your tulle cut, start tying it onto the wreath form. Make sure you bunch it relatively close together, just so that its not super transparent, but you also don’t want it so close together that you run out of tulle, I found that I had to make a lot of adjustments as I was working on it to get the spacing right, but you’ll be able to tell when you’ve got it looking right!

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Once  you get all the tulle tied on, you want to tie your bow and attach it using a floral wire. I also attached the eltters to floral wire and the tied the AND glued them onto the wreath form for extra security. Make sure to lay everything out before you start to attach it just to make sure you have the spacing right and like the way it looks, I had to play with mine a few times. Then once everything is attached, make another loop with floral wire, that you can attach to the form to hang the wreath from a door hanger! And there you have it! I was able to knock this project out in just a few hours and the Mommy-to-be says she will definitely be bringing it to the hospital so everyone will know where to find them, which makes me so excited!

You can really change this wreath design up for anything you need, use your team colors for football season some small pumpkins and gourds for fall, or a larger letter for you last name, or maybe your house numbers! Like I said, anything will work, so be creative!