Say cheese…board!

Who doesn’t love a good cheese board? Wine and cheese makes just about any house guest happy. And it’s a great appetizer to entertain before the main meal. Now that I have attempted my first, I’m here to report they really are not that complicated. All you need is some olives, fruit, crackers and/or bread, and really good cheese.

I had a cheese board from Christmas, which as you can see in the pics, has a tiny drawer that stores a few cute cheese knives. It’s just so adorable, I wanted to use it!  I invited a couple over for a small dinner party, and I was a little unsure where to start. How much should I buy? What all should I put on it? IMG_2913.JPG

I went with grapes, olives, gouda, brie and herb-crusted goat cheese that I smothered with a little honey! I wanted to have mix of crumbly, semi-soft and soft cheeses. I also had a few nuts in a silver bowl and of course carbs outlining the deliciousness inside. For a dinner party of three, this was just the right amount to kick us off for the evening.

Now that I have created a few (the pictured above was my very first) I’m starting to get a little bolder with my cheese choices.

I did a little more research on idea, and thought you might enjoy a few articles:

More cheese please!

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Stuck on Food: Easter Cake

I’m a little late on posting this one. But, I made an Easter cake this year! My parents decided to come to my apartment for Easter, so we went to church and then had a big meal of ham, corn, butter beans, rolls, and a very special Easter cake!

I not really a baker. But, I’m trying to challenge myself in the kitchen more this year, so why test my decorating skills on this cake too?! I ran out of time that week, and opted for a cake mix from the grocery store, instead of making from scratch. I planned for a 3 layered yellow cake, and chose whipped vanilla icing for the layers and top. I also bought some beautiful candied pearls to decorate the top.

The baking part was easy. I whipped together all of my ingredients and threw three separate pans of batter inside! Once I had my beautiful yellow cake layers baked and cooled, I was ready to start icing.

Note to self: you have to cut the top of the layers a little to make them flat. Cakes rise, but they don’t really rise evenly. I had never really thought about that, but I’ve never made a 3 layered cake! The first layer I had already iced and plopped down layer 2 on top before I realized this, so the cake was a bit lopsided. Who cares 😉

The next layer was much more successfully placed. But, still a little lopsided. <I’m sure there is some creative quote about foundations that would be appropriate here.>

The icing of the cake was pretty fun. It was a lot like painting, very relaxing. Then, it was time to decorate. I alternated with candy pearls, with white in the center, and color pearls all around the outside.

Another note to self: My cake did not fit inside my display platter and topper. AND, to make matters worse, I didn’t realize what I had done until it was too late. Thank goodness I took a picture before I smushed my cake. We ate it anyway, and it was delicious.

Easter Cake

Dinner Party: Taco Night!

This Friday night, I had a little fiesta of my own. I invited 6 friends over, and let them vote on what they might want. Taco Night won! So, I went on pinterest and pinned a few ideas.

Follow Julie’s board Dinner Parties on Pinterest.

And here is what I chose to do for the night!

Apps:

  • Bowl of multi grain chips
  • Salsa
  • Queso

Chips were in the bowl (still in the bag) out on the table as soon before I left for work, and then I bought pre-made salsa, but added some fresh cilantro to it before putting on the table. I also heated the queso in a small crock pot cooker, so it was nice and warm. (And, was gone in about 30 minutes!) All three were ready to eat on my living room table at 6:25, for my guests to show up at 6:30. They were all on time. Also, don’t forget to have app plates and napkins already out!

Main Dish:

  • Tacos- soft and hard shells
    • I put them in the oven at 6:00 pm on warm
  • Chicken – frozen, and had options of either pulled or grilled
    • I added diced tomatoes, chicken broth, taco seasoning and ranch dressing
  • Ground Turkey
    • I cooked this at 5:45, with taco seasoning
  • Cilantro Rice
  • Black Beans
  • Corn

I borrowed my sister’s 3 pot crock pot! I can’t find hers, but just for an example. That way I could keep all my meat warm, but use the stove top for other cooking. I had 1/2 my mixture for the chicken already in the pot too, warming. The Cilantro rice was super easy. I cooked the 2 cups of rice by the directions with chicken broth, and then right before everyone got there, I added in the chopped cilantro.  I also had the black beans and corn heated on the stove top.

Toppings:

  • Cilantro
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Green onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Red and yellow pepper
  • Jalapeno pepper
  • Limes

I forgot the sour cream and a Siracha dressing that I wanted to have out. Everyone loved this, as they could add whatever they wanted to their tacos! The more, the merrier.

Signature Drink:

  • Chopped Strawberries
  • Lemonade
  • White Grape Juice
  • One Can of Sprite
  • Mint leaves

Yum. This was so refreshing. I let them add what the wanted – champagne, chardonnay or vodka. We ran out of champagne, but it was fun to try other things too.

Dessert – Brownies on a Skillet

  • Brownies – that I made on Thursday night
  • Ice Cream
  • Condensed Milk
  • Chocolate Syrup

I have these small cast iron skillets, and you just want to make sure these are pretty hot. I usually reheat the brownies, then add the condensed milk over it (should bubble), chocolate syrup and ice cream when you are ready to serve!

Couple of things I learned:

  • You can always plan better and differently. But, you don’t know until you start experimenting.
  • Chop alllllllll your veggies the night before. You just run out of time.
  • Frozen chicken and ground turkey are super easy to use for this.
  • Fresh meat will spoil after a few days in the fridge. Gross. And, waste of money …leading to a last minute dash to Walmart.
  • Lay out and organize all your bowls, plates and spoons before anyone gets there. Once everyone arrives there’s no time! Especially for some who likes to talk as much as I do! I learned this from my sister!
  • I wish I would’ve put labels on the bowls too. I had two left over, and couldn’t remember what they were  for… so, we didn’t have sour cream or the Siracha sauce on the table.
  • I wish I had thought to pull out my galvanized tub, and had the wine/ champagne/ vodka in the ice. It would have kept them cold and looked pretty.
  • There is never enough ice. I’ve got to get better with that.

What a fun night. I’ve learned from this one, and am ready for more. Sorry, I was so busy talking I didn’t grab any pics!

The Forgotten Food: Fried Rice

I made brown rice Sunday…and made WAYYY too much of it, hoping I would eat it all week. It’s Wednesday, and I’m over it. Forgotten Food Challenge Time!

Here’s meal #4 in my Forgotten Food | A Meal series. Come here, soy sauce. You’re up!

The Forgotten Food: Fried Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup of cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 egg
  • A few slices of ham, chopped (also leftover)
  • A few shakes of soy sauce

I mean, you can’t go wrong with this. This meal is not on any diet anywhere, but sometimes you just need to have something bad! I sauteed the onions and butter in my pan first, then dumped my already cooked rice in and stirred for about 4 minutes until the rice was pretty warm. I added the ham next. Then, I pushed the mixture to the sides of the pan, and fried the egg in the middle.

Last but not least, shake a little soy sauce into the pan and boom. Dinner!

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The Forgotten Food | A Meal

I love to cook.

Big, daring meals. Fattening, wholesome meals. I also fall prey to healthy and organic kicks, and maybe even a juice craze from time to time. While it’s all fun, I’ve noticed two habitual trends that I have developed.

I over – buy.

There, I have said it! The problem starts in the grocery store.  I make lists, but I always somehow fill up my gargantuan grocery cart. Even if I grab a little basket, I’m panting and switching arms going down the aisles because I’ve maxed it out on space and weight.

I am obviously terrible at meal planning and/or portion control!

Then, I always seem to cook way too much rice, have leftover chicken for DAYS, went a little too happy with a buy one get one deal, etc. And there it is, staring at me every time I open the fridge or pantry.

Or, if I really love something, I might just eat 90% of it, leaving behind only remnants of yumminess lingering in the sides of my dish. But, so now what do I do with these leftovers? Leave them in my fridge until I finally have to toss them? Continue to push them back in my pantry until they are hiding from my site? Who wants to eat the same thing for 3 dinners straight. Not this girl!

I hate wasting food. I’m a faithful member at the clean plate club – maybe because I don’t like to be wasteful or maybe because I hate seeing dollars going in the trash can. But, there is only so many times a girl can ENJOY a meal she’s had every night this week.

So, I’m challenging myself to one night a week to make something from my leftovers. I’m calling it – The Forgotten Food: A Meal. One meal that I cook that week HAS to have some leftovers in it – whether it be food forgotten in the fridge or pushed back in the pantry. Maybe I was in a hurry in the grocery store, and don’t have everything I need for my meal, so I have to get a little creative.  Maybe I have some left over Mac and Cheese that I’ve eaten every night that week, and it’s time to change it up. It may be made from a microwave, oven or stove top, but it has to be a meal made from things I already have. Y’all have to hold me to it!

Let’s see what I can create! This should be interesting!

Stuck on Food: Broccoli Slaw Pasta

Hungry Girl Time!
Anyone else on the no-carb plan? My doctor advised me that I was taking in one too many carbohydrates, so I have been trying to find ways to eliminate them – or let’s be honest, put them on the portion control plan. But, this was a direct shot to my heart.  I love pasta! And, it’s cheap, so it fits rather nicely in my itemized and limited budget for groceries. Regardless, I’m following my doctor’s orders, and I am at least trying as best as I can to keep my same diet, just with substitutions!

Insert Pinterest. (What did we do before our glorified Google machine?) I found what seemed like millions of recipes on there to help your pasta dishes be a little healthier, so I picked one I thought I looked pretty easy – http://bit.ly/19xSbUo

I simplified this recipe though. I was exhausted when I got home, but I really want to try this!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Package of Broccoli Slaw
  • 4-5 cups of water (enough to cover the slaw)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Favorite pasta sauce (I used Bertolli’s Four Cheese Rosa Sauce)

I boiled water with a pinch of salt, put the broccoli slaw in the pot, and simmered the water and slaw it until it was tender. After draining the water, I added my sauce (obviously didn’t save any calories with that choice, but I was tired and hungry). I cooked the sauce and slaw just a few minutes more, just to give the sauce a little soaking time. Dinner was served, and in about 10 minutes!

Now, this is not as good as the real stuff, but it really was pretty tasty. I could hardly taste the broccoli slaw! I probably more of a mental thing, so maybe the next time I make it, it will taste exactly like pasta! I made way too much (since I put the whole packet of slaw in the pot), and the leftovers were terrible the next day. When I make it again, I’ll only make as much as I want for that night.

Overall – pretty good dish, great price for a meal, and gluten-free! Added to my recipe rotation – for a main dish or a side!

Stuck on Food: Creamy Rice Noodles with Spinach and Sausage

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Hungry Girl time!

I have to say, I’ve out done myself. This recipe is the best yet. Who doesn’t love some noodles in tomato sauce? The spice from the sausage is perfectly balanced with the creamy sauce, and it’s just down-right delicious!
I found this recipe on Pinterest – click here for the original recipe from the blog Budget Bytes!

Project: Creamy Rice Noodles with Spinach and Sausage

Ingredients:

– 3/4 box of rice noodles
– 1 package of link sausage ( I used medium heat)- 1 medium onion, diced
– 1 cup of spinach, chopped
– 1 cup of monterray Jack cheese, shredded
– 1 cup of chicken broth
– 1/2 can of tomatoes
– 1 green onion

That’s it! Easy ingredients and an easy recipe always make me a happy, hungry girl!

First, since I had to thaw my whole package of sausage, I wanted to kill a few birds with one stone, so I cooked the whole package. (I get weird about meat when I’m cooking, and I just rather it be done. Let’s be honest, I’ve never claimed to be an expert chef!) After it had turned a deep red color, I pulled all the sausage out and drained the pan. This sausage tends to be a little fatty, so I wanted to get excess grease out.

Next up, the onions. I put my chopped onions – while tears streamed down my face- into the pan. If anyone has tips on this, please share. I even had on sunglasses, which I read somewhere would help, and no such luck.

After the onions were translucent, I added back in a little over half the sausage I had cooked. Next up, I poured in about a half can of tomatoes and a 3/4 of the box of the rice noodles. I then poured chicken broth just until the noodles were covered in my pan, and I pushed everything down in the pan because I didn’t want it to be too soupy. Also when you are adding this in your pan, don’t be too strict on the measurements. I wanted my sauce to be creamy and not too liquid, so if you need more liquid, add some more tomatoes.

I let this cook for about 8 minutes and they cooked perfectly!

Next up I added about 3/4 a cup of my shredded cheese and the spinach.

Topped it off with a few slivers of green onions – and volia!

Homemade goodness – and gluten free! But next time, I am not using so many onions.