Monday, June 30, 2014

Meal plan: Week of 6/15-6/21

Good morning and happy Monday to you!  How was your weekend?  Ours was equal parts adrenaline-pumping and laid-back.  We spent Saturday morning climbing, jumping, and flying from tree to tree on the GoApe ropes course.  I can't recommend this enough as a fun physical activity/date/group activity!  We both agreed it was much more challenging than we expected -- in a good way.  By that evening, we were pooped and walked to a local restaurant for dinner.  On Sunday morning, we kept it low key and met friends in a local park for Bach, Beethoven & Brunch.  Picnic treats, classical music, and good company are some of my most favorite things.

Three cheers for a short holiday week!   We're getting into my favorite part of summer, when weekends are long and filled with adventures and the weekdays barely seem like enough time to recharge, do chores and go to work, before it's time to do it all over again.  Warm weather and sunshine are even enough to get me out of the apartment to do fun things on weeknights.  Crazy, right? :)

Week of June 15th-21st

Sunday: Portobello burgers with sweet potato fries
Monday: Tuna melts with garden salad
Tuesday: Out to Pusadee's Garden
Wednesday: Lemon rosemary salmon with broccoli & cauliflower
Thursday: Banana blueberry smoothies (we deemed it too hot to cook!)
Friday: Out - sushi for her, Uncle Sam's sub for him
Saturday: Hosted party with sliders bar, potato salad (sans eggs), and fruit salad

Saturday, June 28, 2014

18 of the best 4th of July party recipes!

Hello there and happy weekend to ya!

I know it's not my style to post on the weekends, but I couldn't leave you without a menu for the biggest holiday of the summer.  The 4th of July is just under a week away (!), and everyone and their mother seems to be spending this weekend brainstorming, organizing, and shopping for all the fixin's.   I've made your life a little easier and rounded up 20 of my favorite recipes, perfect for a crowd of any size on a sizzling summer day.  Most of these can be prepared ahead of time, so you can devote your attention to the fun stuff.  Here's to life, liberty, and the pursuit of grilled meats, cool treats, and great company! :)

  • Matt's ranch pretzels- What makes this a perfect picnic/party food is what I've deemed its "all day snackability factor."  That right there is a scientific term.
  • Grilled asparagus - Quick, easy, and can be scaled up or down for 20 or 2.  If you've never had roasted asparagus before, be warned -- it's the best way to enjoy it!
  • Sally's Baked Beans - These beans are my life.  Bacon, beef, sweet molasses... what's not to love?  Make these and Sally will be the hit of your party, too!
  • Broccoli slaw salad - Who needs soggy pre-made coleslaw from the store when you can have crisp broccoli slaw that's made from scratch right in your own kitchen?  Love the surprising sweet cranberries and crunchy almonds.
  • Three bean salad - Don't let this simple recipe fool you -- you'll go back for seconds of this fresh bean salad, thanks to the tangy dijon dressing.
  • Caprese quinoa-stuffed tomatoes - A great make-ahead vegetarian option to utilize garden fresh produce.  These are great served warm or even cold.  Plus, don't you just love that they're individually packaged?
  • Andy's BBQ Chicken - I've had lots of barbeque chicken in my life but none has come close to Andy's master recipe.  Mix and marinate the night before, and grill when ready.  How easy is that?
  • The best slow cooker pulled pork - Some folks prefer to give the grill grill master a break and have a Crock Pot full of something yummy ready for hungry guests.  If that appeals to you, then I recommend this pulled pork recipe.  A few extra steps stand between you and homemade BBQ sauce bliss!
  • 3-ingredient Nutella brownies - I can't remember a summer picnic without some kind of brownies at the dessert table.  Up your brownie game with these easy bar cookies and watch people go crazy when you say the magic word: Nutella!
  • Grandma's ice cream Oreo dessert - No summertime (or fall, winter, spring) Kemp family get together would be complete without Grandma's famous Oreo dessert.  Crunchy, cool, and that gooey butterscotch layer that always sends me back for seconds... and patroling others' plates to make sure none of it goes to waste.  Not even a little ashamed.
  • S'mores cupcakes - A lot less messy but just as delicious as the fireside version.  Make ahead and watch both kids and adults mmm and ahhh at this spin on the nostalgic flavor combination.
  • No bake flag cake cups - Because no 4th of July menu would be complete without a flag-inspired dish.  My patriotic brainchild of last year is at the top of my must-make-again list for this year's holiday.  I love how you can make as many or as few as you like!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Five: All the (random) things

TGIF!  How has your week been?  I could've sworn the morning news shows -- all of them -- made a mistake when they said that today was June 27th.  Good gracious, how is it the end of June already?!  I guess we've just been having too much fun to pay any attention to planners, calendars, and reality :) 

This weekend is going to be an extra good one.  We've got picnic brunch plans with friends on Sunday, a baking supply stock-up trip on the agenda since I'm currently out of nearly everything, and an exciting new adventure at the end of this post.  Here is today's Friday Five that's just as varied and random as our weekend will surely be!

1. Joe-Joe's Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies - My coworker is a major devotee of Trader Joe's goodies and brought these to our most recent office book club gathering.  Someone else brought Oreos, so we had a taste-off.  Unsure as to whether the Joe-Joe's would live up to the originals, I dug in hesitantly... only to fall head over heels in love with these cookies!  The chocolate creme is much smoother and softer than that of an Oreo.  Let's just say I'm glad she left them in the office because I had one a few yesterday morning for a snack.  Are you a Trader Joe's shopper?  I might have to schedule a visit soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Southwest pulled pork salad


Every now and then More frequently than I should admit (being a food blogger and all), I make a dish that I go absolutely gaga over and you're none the wiser.  It's not that I'm knowingly keeping delicious food from you.  It's merely that my brainstorming for that week's meals was a little fuzzy, and I didn't think that particularly meal would be worthy of fussing and photographing.

Like the sweet & spicy pork chops.  And the Thai mango salad.  Oops.

Sometimes, I have the bright idea to make it again and document the process-- sheer brilliance!  I diligently plan, stage, and snap step-by-step photos, and present it to you in a timely fashion.  No matter if it's the second or seventieth time I've cooked that frittata.  At last, you can make it, too.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meal plan: Week of 6/8-6/14

Pretend today is Monday.  Or pretend this post went up yesterday and you're just now getting around to reading it today.  It was one of those Mondays, so your forgiveness is appreciated :)

Week of June 8th - 14th
Sunday: Out to Piper's Pub
Monday: Salad with mango, red pepper, cashews, avocado, and pork
Tuesday: Hot & spicy grilled pork chops with peas & corn
Wednesday: Chicken enchiladas (half of batch I made a few weeks ago and froze)
Thursday: Taco salads with ground beef, black beans, tomatoes, shredded cabbage & cheddar
Friday: Tuna pomodoro with radiatorre pasta
Saturday: Dijon brown sugar salmon with cauliflower & broccoli

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mini chocolate chip cookie cup sundaes

It's come to my attention that Matt and I have become creatures of habit.

File this under "Least Surprising Things I've Ever Said."

To be fair, I love our routine.  It brings me comfort and happiness and a welcome sense of familiarity that the rest of the day sometimes usually lacks.  From my morning GMA ritual to Matt's 3:15 phone calls signaling that he's on his way from school to practice, we've learned what it takes for us to be a functional and happy "us."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Meal plan Mondays: Week of 6/1-6/7

Happy Monday to all of you!  Here's hoping you had a fantastic Father's Day weekend.

The weather was seriously, couldn't-complain-if-ya-tried perfect around here in western PA.  We spent the slightly-cooler Saturday running errands, and rewarded our productivity with a date night that evening:.  We went to see 22 Jump Street and stopped for ice cream after the show.  The former was utterly hilarious -- as funny as the first, if not funnier! -- and the latter (a small hot fudge sundae) was sweet, petite, and totally hit the spot.  Sunday we met up with my family in the Strip District for a lobster lunch to celebrate Dad on Father's Day.  It was a very relaxing weekend!

Much to our dismay -- and I mean childish, hands-on-hips pouting kind of dismay -- the work week waits for no one.  Late Sunday evening, we're asking one another, "What do we have going on this week?" as we pack lunches are packed, fold laundry, and try to get our acts together so things can go off without a hitch in the days until the next weekend to come.  Thankfully, with a little planning and smart shopping, we've already got answers to one of the most important/frequent queries posed: What's for dinner?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blue cheese-stuffed pork chops with pears

"Less is more," said me almost never.

Despite my less is more stature, I'm not one for keeping things simple.  In fact, it could be said that I regularly go out of my way to make things more involved and, occasionally, more prone to failure.  But, with increased risk comes the promise of greater reward, right?  Go big or go home.

For example, I won't settle for canned baked beans.  Instead, I follow Sally's lead and jazz them up with beef, bacon, and molasses.  They're the stuff of dreams, I tell you!

I wasn't content with one dessert at our wedding, so I set up an entire dessert bar, in addition to the cupcakes, complete with cookies, pie, torte, and candy.  Oh, and the favors were cookies, too. 

Heck, I even found one of my kind in my wonderful husband, who always, always adds bacon to his haluski, the traditional Polish cabbage dish.  He just gets me :)

Friday, June 6, 2014

National Doughnut Day! + 7 Doughnut Recipes

TGINDD - thank goodness it's National Doughnut Day!  Treat yourself to something sweet.

Feeling inspired and want to turn your kitchen into a doughnut shop?  (Hello, one of my fantasies.)  I've got six decadent recipes for you to try, so you can make those sugar-scented, chocolate-frosted dreams become a reality:

If you're feeling particularly hungry/hangry/adventurous, might I suggest going big and making a breakfast sandwich with bacon, eggs, cheese, and doughnuts?  Oh yeah, you know you want some of that.  Happy Doughnut Day/Friday/weekend!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sally's baked beans


Good gracious, almighty.  I'll get to them in a minute.  But these beans!!!  First things first, though.

Hi, howdy, hey there, friends!  It's been a little while since I posted something new -- cough two months cough -- but I promise this was worth the wait.  I want to thank you for your words of understanding and encouragement.  I've never once viewed blogging as "work" and never want to get to that point.  I cook, photograph, and write because I truly enjoy it.  The past two months were so filled with good stuff (running, baking orders, travel, etc.) that I didn't have time for it all and knew something had to give.  Realizing that my blogging hobby could take an unwanted turn into "obligation" territory, I gave myself a little vacation.

All of that being said, I really, really missed you/this!  I have multiple lists around my office, apartment, and various purses with new ideas to make and share.  In other words, I hope you've worked up an appetite :)