Sunday, June 28, 2009

A year ago today....

We were doing this!!

and celebrating at the country club on a beautiful evening with friends and family!

danced til 1 AM....
and surprised with fireworks. Always remember this night!

We celebrated last night by going to watch Big Fat Fun with some friends. We're just hanging around today...watching our wedding DVD and wanting to go do it all again:)
The first anniversary is supposed to be paper (according to only Hallmark, probably!), so we went with it and put in a contract on a new house! As long as the sale of our house goes through, we will be moving about a mile north of where we are now to start the process all over again!
I'm off to Florida this week with my mom to celebrate her birthday. Back next week!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

I did something out of character for me this week--went to the grocery store with no idea of what I was going to buy. I normally have a list so that I don't buy a bunch of random stuff that goes bad before I get to it, and so that I know we'll actually have enough food so that I won't have to go back to the store in a couple days! (lately trending more toward not having enough!)

I came home with a bunch of mushrooms and some whole wheat kaiser rolls, and had a random part of a jar of spaghetti sauce in the fridge, so I went for a chicken parmesan sandwich. I am sure a sandwich similar to this is available from many other sources, and I definitely know I'm not the first to come up with this. I did a quick google search just to see what other recipe sources would come up, and they are endless. I just stuck with the idea in my head, so here it is. Simple, done in less than 30 minutes, and really good! Norris loved them!

Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

(makes four sandwiches)

6 chicken breast tenderloins
1/3 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
mushrooms (as many as you want), sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup or more of marinara sauce
3 slices mozzarella cheese
4 rolls or buns of your choice

Preheat oven to 375. Set up standard breading procedure--shallow bowls or plates with raw chicken, next with flour, next with beaten egg, next with breadcrumbs, then a sprayed baking sheet. Lightly coat each piece with flour, then egg (shake off excess), then breadcrumbs and spread out on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes on each side.
As these are baking, heat a saute pan with the olive oil in it. Once it's ripply, saute garlic for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add in the mushrooms and saute until done.
Heat up marinara and buns while you wait.
After the chicken is done, add the cheese to the top of the pieces (a half piece per chicken tenderloin) and stick under the broiler until bubbly on top. Assemble your sandwiches and enjoy!
(I used 1.5 chicken tenderloins per sandwich; make it even easier and just cook whole chicken breasts and use one per sandwich, obviously:)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Roasted Chicken with Herb Salt

Last week after our fresh herb class, we received herb salt made from the fresh herbs (didn't want them to go to waste!). I managed to get it home on the plane (although it definitely looked like something illegal in my suitcase, and combined with my knife set, I'm surprised I didn't get searched!). I found a chicken at the grocery store for 3.50, and cleaned it and rubbed down the inside and out with the herb salt. I drizzled a tiny amount of olive oil on and put it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes per pound of meat (about 1.5 hours for me). This was an awesome chicken. It was so moist and flavorful, and even inexpensive to make! Make a big batch of herb salt to use on lots of other things too. Rub it on whatever you are making right before you cook it so the salt doesn't have a chance to draw the moisture out of the meat.
I promise I will try to work on taking better pictures this summer....which I can't believe it's almost the end of June. We have some big things happening right now that I will share details of soon!

My not so pretty in a picture, but nice looking and awesome tasting in real life, chicken!

Herb salt
handful rosemary
handful thyme
handful oregano
handful sage (optional)
handful kosher salt
2 cloves garlic

Mince all of the fresh herbs so fine they are like dust. Mince the garlic as small as possible, also. Mix together with the kosher salt and store in the refrigerator to use on meats, vegetables, breads, or whatever sounds good!

We went out for a little country cruise last night and saw this peacock crossing the street! Random!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Week 1 of Culinary Training: Complete!

I just got back today from a week at the Orlando Culinary Academy. I was SO ready to get home! Lots happened while I was gone, which I'll share later, but I missed my husband and my puppy (and everybody else, of course!) a WHOLE lot while I was gone.
The school treated us so well and showed us a great time. My flight there was delayed a total of 9 hours, so I was not too happy when it took me 17 hours to get to Orlando and I missed the opening reception, but got started on Monday morning with everyone else. Each day was packed with information about everything from knife skills to cooking techniques to human resource management in the restaurant setting. Each day started around 7:30 and most didn't end until around 8:00 PM!
On Monday night they took us out to Universal Studios City Walk and for some reason this is the only picture I took. I guess just for proof I was there, because I don't know anybody in this picture! It was a little odd at first going to dinner and hanging out with a bunch of people I didn't know, but we became friends quickly and had a lot of fun. We had dinner at the Latin Quarter-- ceviche and good! The head chef was kind enough to give us a full kitchen tour after dinner when we told him why we were in town. Pretty cool! I was SO tired by the end of this night!We got to practice all sorts of cooking techniques and knife cuts, but one of my favorite sessions was on herbs and spices. All of the chefs were also really funny and made great teachers, which I was really impressed with. During this session, there were over fifty herbs and probably 30 spices we got to pass around and learn about. There were a lot of common ones I've used before, but also a lot I've never even seen before! One of my very favorite ones I haven't used before was the lemon verbena. They had real lavender too, which was a little piece of heaven!
We were required to wear the official culinary student uniform while we were there--this picture is right before heading into the kitchens, so we had to also wear our aprons. I learned the hard way (when a student made fun of me!) that you only wear aprons in the kitchens!! At the end of the week, Chef Jimmy also gave us a toque, which is pretty cool but also pretty stupid looking on me!! :)

Chef Rosado doing a demonstration before our second practical. The kitchens were craaaaazy--packed with all of us trying to get done in our time limit. We didn't realize we were supposed to bring our own spoons, tongs, etc., so nobody had any of those and that created even more chaos. Note to self for level two--bring own utensils! We all had our own knife kits and whisks, so we did a lot of whisking of things we wouldn't normally whisk.... like sauteing vegetables with a whisk..
The students are also required to complete a section on front of house duties. Machon is the restaurant inside of the school, so it's really a "classroom" so students can practice, but is open to the public. We ordered crepes suzette served tableside, and this girl was so cute because she was so nervous about being out there! Most of them know their food, but don't necessarily want to be around people much--hence the reason for requiring a front of house section. She did a great job, and all the food was excellent! The mahi mahi with dirty rice and mango salsa was awwwwwesome.
That's the end of the pictures I took! It was really difficult to have a camera out because we were busy all the time, and cameras aren't exactly the most sanitary thing to whip out in the kitchen. Although, maybe I could have figured out a way to use it as a spoon??? :)
Fun week--already looking forward to level two next summer! We are supposed to go for a week every summer for four years. Should be fun!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Taco Pasta Salad

Tonight, our friends are hosting a potluck for all the young people in our neighborhood. Just the ones we know, but there are a ton of us around here that all know each other! It's a bit like college or a small town where people live close enough that we walk by each other's houses and just randomly stop by because we live so close. It's great!
I decided on a taco pasta salad, which is supposed to be another Cara with a "C"'s Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad, but my store didn't have wagon wheel pasta, so I settled on mini farfalle. Good enough! The pasta salad was really good--I prefer pasta salads without any mayonnaise or creamy dressing, and this fits that preference. It has all the great flavors I love-- black beans, corns, salsa, pasta, cheese, and fresh cilantro--and I think it would be great with some shredded chicken in it as a meal. Next time I make it, I'll add chicken and plan on eating it for meals all week! It does make quite a bit, so plan on eating it for a while or feeding a small crowd!

Wagon Wheel Taco Pasta Salad

1lb wagon wheel pasta

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 10oz package frozen corn (I don't even bother thawing it, because I always make this at least a few hours before serving, so it plenty of time to defrost)

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

8oz shredded Mexican-blend cheese

1 1/2 cups salsa

1/2 cup olive oil

3-4 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp cumin

1-2 tsp chili powder

2 garlic cloves, minced

freshly ground salt & pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, diced

Cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa, and cheese. Add the cooled pasta and mix well.In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Pour over the pasta salad, add the cilantro, and mix well. Season to taste with salt & pepper.Just before serving, stir in the diced avocado.
Good bye for a week! I am leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for a week at Orlando Culinary Academy, which is Cordon Bleu affiliated! I am really excited, and a little nervous and anxious for the week. Hope to come back with lots of great information to share! Which reminds me...I still have to pack.....oops!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Grilled Shrimp

This is a great healthy 30 minute meal. (And I actually mean 30 minutes, not like the Rach's "30 minute meals" that always take me much longer because I don't have anybody to mince my herbs and arrange them in bowls for me before I start cooking...)
I got this recipe from Cassie. She skewered hers and put them on a grill. I didn't have any skewers, so I broiled them and it worked just as well. My shrimp are a little smaller than hers too, but again, use whatever you have! I served this with my favorite apple/cashew/golden raisin salad, and counting salad and shrimp, it was all ready in less than 30!

Grilled Shrimp
Serves 4
1½ pounds 31/40 shrimp (31-40 shrimp per pound)
For the marinade:
3 tbsp fresh lime juice (I used part lemon and part lime)
1 tbsp tequila (optional)
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika (I only used a dash, because I'm definitely not a fan of this stuff!)
dash cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp dried parsley, or 1 tbsp finely minced fresh parsley
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the grill to medium high heat.
Mix together all of the marinade ingredients. Peel and devein the shrimp if necessary and add them to the marinade. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Thread the shrimp onto skewers and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side or until pink and opaque. Serve warm.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Balsamic-Rosemary Grilled Tritip

I saw this recipe on Kristina's site, and she got it from Weight Watchers, so I figured we should at least try it! She made it with pork, but we have a freezer full of beef, so I went with a tritip beef cut. It was really really good. Norris liked it alot too, and it made a perfect amount for the two of us. The only change I made (besides the meat!) was to bake it instead of cooking on the stovetop. I baked it at 425 for 10 minutes, then at 300 for another 35 minutes for medium doneness.
(sorry...still not any better at food photos!!)
Balsamic-Rosemary Grilled Pork Chops

(Source: WW cookbook and

4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 teaspoon dried chopped rosemary
¼ cup lemon juice
1 Tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
4 3/4 inch pork chops (I replaced with a tritip...about 1.3 pounds)
Combine all ingredients except pork chops in a large Ziploc bag.Add pork chops, making sure all pieces are coated in marinade.Place bag in the refrigerator for at least 6 hour turning occasionally. (It is best to let chops marinate overnight, if possible.)About 30 minutes before you are going to grill the chops, remove the bag from the refrigerator and let it warm to room temp.Preheat stovetop grill pan to medium high heat.Spray with nonstick cooking spray.Remove pork from marinade and arrange on grill pan.Brown on all sides and cook through (firm to the touch), 8 to 12 minutes total, or until internal temperature in center reaches 150°F.Remove chops from the heat and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing.
WW Points 5.5 per serving

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Yogurt Poppyseed Muffins

I have been seeing baked goods with yogurt a lot lately, which is a great idea--replace some of the fat and keep it moist and airy. I love to use poppyseeds in both sweet and savory things, so I decided to give these a try. The recipe is from Group Recipes.

The result was a really fluffy little muffin. My babies had to bake only ten minutes, and the mamas only baked twelve--watch them closely around there, especially since the recipe says 16 to 18. I omitted the lemon peel in the actual muffins because I didn't have any. Next time I do these, I'll try a blueberry pomegranate yogurt I have that would be really good too. You can use low fat or fat free yogurt. I used plain lowfat yogurt in these.
The recipe says 12 muffins, but I got 16 good sized muffins out of this recipe. So good!

Lemon Yogurt Poppy Seed Muffins With Lemon Glaze Recipe
original recipe from Betty Crocker's Best Of Baking
1/3 cup Milk
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 container (6 oz.) Lemon Yogurt (2/3 cup)
1 Egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose Flour
1/4 cup Sugar
2 Tbs. Poppy Seed
1 Tbs. grated Lemon peel
2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
Lemon Glaze:
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
2 to 3 tsp. Lemon jucie
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease bottom only of 12 medium muffin cups, 2 1/2 X 1 1/4-inches, or line with paper baking cups.
Beat milk, oil, yogurt and egg in large bowl.
Stir in remaining ingredients except Lemon Glaze just until flour is moistened. (Do not overmix).
Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, (cups will be about 3/4 full).
Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Immediately remove from pan.
Drizzle Lemon Glaze over warm muffins.
Lemon Glaze:
Mix ingredients until smooth and of drizzling consistency.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dinner by the fire

We went camping Friday night out at Marion Lake since it was so nice out. Little did we know there was a Bellamy Brothers concert nearby, so the campground was almost full! We went to the primitive area since we didn't need hookups, and got a great campsite over there. Guess who slept the whole way out there? Spoiled much?Pretty nice location! Norris cooked us dinner, and Jason brought the s'mores. Norris even brought knives and pans he got from a garage sale specifically for the purpose of using over the fire. I was impressed! I thought tent camping dinners consisted of Doritos and hot dogs, but I was way off! The cook made us steak and potatoes over the fire.

Complete with ketchup packets Jason snagged from Casey's. :)
The cook...this is my kind of cooking! Sit outside and look at the nice scenery and just wait for it to be done! Hopefully there will be a few more camping nights this summer for us.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Off to a great start!

We left Colorado early this morning and drove all the way back. We were so excited to see Bruno, who was definitely excited to see us too! It's probably really nerdy to admit to missing your dog, but that's alright.
We stayed in the beautiful mountain town of Estes Park, CO for three days with my parents and my sister and her fiance, Zac. Zac's family owns a cabin there and was kind enough to let us stay was awesome! We could actually lay in bed and see deer out the window, so Norris was in heaven. We saw plenty of elk and deer throughout our stay. These deer were right outside the cabin, looking at Norris.We took a few drives through Rocky Mountain National Park, and stopped to walk around Sprague Lake. We weren't exactly dressed for the weather (most tourists weren't...the shirt shops that sold sweatshirts were loving the extra business!) and Lauren and I were really NOT smart and wore flip flops. COLD! But so pretty.
Lauren and Zac--I think this is Zac's cold face
Norris and I. He took off his fringe blanket cape for the picture.

My parents--who also happen to be celebrating their anniversary tomorrow! They stayed on for a few more days and the rest of us went home. Great place to celebrate an anniversary!
Yesterday, we went horseback riding in the Rockies in the Glacier Basin area. It turned out to be not nearly as cold as we expected, which was nice. Norris's horse, Norman, was HUGE. He's always been into horses and has always wanted to ride a horse like this, so it was perfect for him. We had some pretty incredible views and the horse ride was surprisingly a little challenging--definitely not horse head to horse butt walking in a straight line on even ground the whole time like some guided rides are! My horse, Crystal, was pretty nice, except when she stopped the whole line to make a huge foamy pool of pee. Not so ladylike!

Yesterday afternoon, we took the drive up Trail Ridge Road. It just opened for summer on June 1, so we were some of the first to get to enjoy it this year. There were ten foot snow drifts on the side of the road. How would you like to be the guy that had to plow that on the side of a mountain? We took some awesome photos too, and then the cameras were all dead or out of memory space. Poor planning! When we got to the top, it was snowing hard pellet snow. I couldn't believe how hard it was snowing and it actually kind of hurt to get hit by the snow! Totally worth the drive--incredible masterpiece. I found myself saying little prayers of thank you to God a few times throughout our horseback ride and looking at these incredible views.
Overall, it was a great vacation--we played lots of rummy and checked out lots of local specialties. I definitely ate like I was on vacation, and loved it!
Back to our world here--Saturday planned for the lake, and I start my internship in dietary at a retirement home next week, then culinary school the next week. Better squeeze in some sun time tomorrow! :)