Friday, February 28, 2014

Mini King cakes for Mardi Gras

TGIFF -- thank goodness it's finally Friday!  Please do me a favor and take a moment to imagine all of the usual conversation found at the beginning of Friday posts: busy week, to-do lists, dreams of relaxation, and assorted fun things!  I can't manage to see past these adorable treats, so I'm going to skip the small talk and get right to it.

What I've really been looking forward to all week is the chance to share these cute and tasty little creations with you.  Mini King cakes.  Yep, that's right.  Mini. King. Cakes!!!  If they had cheeks, I'd pinch them!  ...right before I devoured 'em.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Turkey, black bean & pepper quesadillas with spicy apricot salsa

I don't know how it's possible, but I always seem to forget about quesadillas.

Allow me to pause while you pinch yourself.  You're not dreaming.

Standard bread sandwiches are just more familiar and, therefore, easier for my brain to recall in stressful times.  Stressful times = when my stomach is sending my brain impatient and borderline angry messages demanding sustenance.

But, every now and then, the universe sends me a sign puts an entire show on TV about quesadillas and the nudges me in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

No-bake peanut butter chocolate chip oat bites

I'm not sure where the weekend went, much less how it's already Tuesday.  I had lists of lists of things to do, places to go, and people to see... and accomplished approximately 10% of those tasks.  It's no outstanding victory, but it's no down-in-flames failure either.  Sometimes you've gotta celebrate the smallest of victories, right?

Self high five!

That felt good.  Let's all promise to give ourselves pats on the back and high fives more often, okay?  Deal.

Anywho, at the start of this past weekend, I had peanut butter on the brain.  I also dreamt up many grandiose plans and new recipes to use said nut butter.  But none of them quite panned out the way I imagined.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fast Friday: Polenta with BBQ pulled pork

By the time this is posted, I'll have officially begun my pre-game pacing routine.

In case you aren't aware, the Olympic men's hockey semifinal game between the United States and Canada is today.  Yes, game time isn't until 12:00 noon EST.  Yes, this was published at 8:00am.  Yes, I've gone a little cray cray for the Olympics.  But really, who doesn't do the same?

During past winter games, I've honed in on one sport and overdosed on it for the entire two weeks.  When I was younger, it was women's figure skating.  I imitated those ladies in the privacy of my bedroom every chance I got; my double axels were things of beauty.  As far as I was concerned, I was the next Michelle Kwan; my talent was merely undiscovered.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The best slow cooker pulled pork & homemade BBQ sauce

I've got a real head-scratcher for you today.  Something that will definitely get the wheels in your head spinning... and maybe think I'm a little bit weird.

Before I ask it, I want to say that I love my life and am incredibly grateful for all of the blessings and wonderful people in it and wouldn't change a thing.

Now that that's on the table, here goes: have you ever thought about what your life would be like with a curse?  And, specifically, what that curse would be?  I swear I don't walk around every day, waiting for the sky to fall.  There's a reason for my peculiar train of thought.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New product alert: Cookie Dough Oreos

Lest you think I became some health food hippie who only eats (delicious) homemade Larabars, guess what I finally got my paws on this weekend?

Cookie dough Oreos!

We spotted the much-anticipated latest limited edition Oreo flavor at Target over the weekend and had to buy a package, no questions asked.  (The Marshmallow Crispy flavor was nowhere to be seen.)

The verdict?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Homemade pecan pie Larabars (fruit & nut bars)

That was one terrific weekend, if I may say so.  How was your Valentine's Day/Presidents' Day weekend?  Sweet?  Spicy?  Patriotic, thanks to an economy-stimulating shopping trip to take advantage of sales?  Mine was all of the above, and extra special, because one of my best friends visited us for the weekend!

Rachel and I met early in college and lived together for three memorable years before she moved away for grad school and eventually settled in Los Angeles with her husband.  Though we're over 2,400 miles apart, we made a pact to see each other at least once a year.  Sometimes I go there, other times we meet somewhere in the middle like Las Vegas.  This time, however, Rachel came back to Pittsburgh!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love ya!

Good morning, snow bunnies!  How are ya?  Hopefully safe and warm and with power.  This latest winter storm largely missed Pittsburgh, but the rest of the northeastern part of the country can't say the same.  Looks like it's a good time to hunker down, bake something sweet, and watch a favorite movie (or three).

This week has been busy, tiring, and good all at the same time.  The lowest point was one sleepless night when I woke up at the ripe hour of 1:30am and couldn't drift back to dreamland.  The highest point was an impromptu weeknight trip to Sarris for an ice cream sundae.  I hope I never get to a point in my life when an ice cream sundae can't erase my woes.

I've left things undone in every part of my life -- nothing urgent, thankfully -- and they're just going to have to wait.  I had great plans for not one but two delicious recipes to photograph and share with you and... it never happened.  I'm human, but I'm still sorry.  Forgive me, will ya?

So today, instead of a lusciously simple new pasta recipe, I'm leaving you with one very important message: I love ya!  Without you, there would be no fun, no posts, no inspiration, and no heart.  Despite Valentine's Day being a goofy made-up holiday, it's a happy reminder to all of us to appreciate all kinds of love in our lives and the world around us.

That and it gives us an excuse to indulge in some of the best chocolate and candy of the calendar year :)  Happy holiday weekend, everybody!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

6 Homemade strawberry desserts for Valentine's Day

Before you rush out and buy a heart-shaped box of chalky-tasting chocolates or some mega-overpriced chocolate-covered strawberries, check out these recipes for my favorite strawberry desserts.  Your wallet and your Valentine (that includes yourself!) will appreciate the thought and the effort, not to mention the delicious dessert itself.  All of them are easy and come together in minutes, so you can get out of the kitchen and make the most of the day/evening.  Cheers, lovers! :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies

Are you a morning "news" show watcher?  For the past two years or so, I've been a loyal Good Morning America fan.  Robin, George, Lara, Josh, the departed Sam, and Ginger have become my breakfast buddies.

This week, Ginger and Josh have begun a countdown to the first day of spring.  That's all well and good, but I feel there are so many more important countdowns to feature.  Countdowns of national interest.  Like the countdown to Girl Scout cookies.

Now that's a countdown everyone can get behind, don't you think?  It's of utmost importance to our mini household, that's for sure.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shepherd's pie burgers

This burger thing isn't going away.  Neither quietly fading into the background nor stepping aside for something shiny and new to take its place.

Instead, it's craning its neck, waving its hand around like the class know-it-all, and yelling, "Pick me!  Me!  I know the answer!"

Confession: I was that know-it-all.  I also had thick plastic-rimmed glasses.  I'm proud of none of these things.

I don't know what's come over my appetite with these burger cravings... in winter, no less.  Is it some screwed up subconscious longing for the summer grilling season?  I doubt it, though I suppose it's possible.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Five: Valentine's Day dinner recipes

I'm only going to say what I'm about to say because I can hide behind the protection of my computer and the interwebs:

I'm so glad it's colder again.

That's what I'm really thankful for today, in addition to the fact that it's Friday.  TGIF!  The relatively warmer temperatures made the city a slushy, impassable mess this week.  Say what you will about disliking winter, but I think we can all agree colder temperatures and drier roads and sidewalks are slightly preferable and much safer.  I've seen enough videos of sliding buses and spinning cars for a lifetime!

Hopefully all of you (and your vehicles) survived the week in one piece and can spend the weekend at home, snug as a bug in a rug.  Matt and I don't have anything big planned other than some cleaning for company next weekend.  Fingers crossed I can convince him to hit the furniture stores with me in search of a buffet cabinet.  I'm thinking it's a good weekend for a movie date and some baking, too.

Speaking of food, I'll also be planning our dinners for the week to come, which includes a special Valentine's Day home-cooked meal.  Looking through past blog posts, I picked five of my most favorite, special occasion-worthy dishes to serve yourself and your sweetheart, too.  (Hint: All look like a million bucks but are secretly much easier to make than you think.)  Enjoy and have a fanciful weekend!

1. Portobello mushroom lasagna - An upscale twist on the classic Italian casserole.  The meaty portobellos and rich white sauce make this dish feel so grown-up.

2. Sun-dried tomato parmesan salmon - There are two food groups that folks think of for special occasions, and seafood is one of them.  Even if salmon is part of your everyday diet, dressing it up with sun-dried tomatoes and nutty parmesan cheese will surprise your taste buds. 

3. Herbed chicken in puff pastry - Chicken's answer to traditional beef wellington -- and way more delicious, in my opinion!  Flaky and buttery pastry purses are bursting with juicy chicken, fresh spinach, and creamy garlic and herb cheese.  This is the very first dinner I made for Matt, so you know it's magical.

4. Steaks with creamy blue cheese onion sauce - The second of the aforementioned special occasion food groups is most definitely steak.  I made this for Valentine's Day last year, and it made Matt want to marry me all over again... at least that's what I imagine he was thinking as he mmmed his way through dinner.  Heads up steak novices, which includes yours truly -- this is so easy and so divine.  The blue cheese onion sauce is decadent with a capital D.

5. Shrimp & asparagus risotto - My friend, Val, was telling me yesterday how much she loves risotto, which reminded me of this exact recipe.  Great timing!  Risotto gets a bad rap for being fussy and difficult to make when, in fact, it's actually really easy and just requires a little patience and time.  Tweak the ingredients to your liking, be it shrimp or scallops or even chicken, and whatever vegetables you like.  Just don't forget the cheese -- it adds a creaminess to the final dish.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Food for thought: Chia seeds

Okay, friends, I've got a food question and I need your help.  For the past year or so, chia seeds have been everywhere.  I don't know if you're heard, but they're a super food!!!!!!!!!!!

Ha!  But really, from what I've read, they are chock full of good stuff.  People suggest adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, soups, baked goods, salads, and even meatballs.

Have you tried chia seeds or cooked with them?  I'd love to hear what you think before I venture out and buy some for myself.  Thanks! :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Salsa burgers with guacamole

Can I tell you something?

I'm in the throes of a major burger kick.

For the past few weeks, I've been craving meat like more than I can ever remember.  Wherever we go, I'm scanning the menu for a steak or a burger.  Doesn't have to be beef necessarily, but it's gotta be sizable and cooked just right.

I've wracked my brain as to what could've triggered this, and the only real change is that I've been running more.  A lot more, to be exact.  But I would've guessed my cravings would be for pasta, breads, and spaghetti sandwiches.  Not so, apparently.  My muscles want protein.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chicken Caesar salad flatbread

Have you ever loved a dish so much that you see it everywhere you go?  I don't mean spot it literally, like on a menu, but envision the possibilities of where it could be.

Thus is the Caesar salad for Matt and me.  We love Caesar salads and try 'em everywhere we go.  We've had classic versions, kale versions, dressing-made-tableside versions, and rare but so delicious whole anchovy-topped versions.  In other words, Caesar salads for miles.

...and therein lies the problem.  The more you're exposed to something, the easier it is for you to spot a good version and a not so good version.  Inadvertently, you become a snob regarding a food you once loved so much.