Simpatico: February 2011


Just the life and times of a silly girl, her dachshunds and all things Southern!

Saint Patrick's Day Decor Part III

Here is the last of my decorations for Saint Paddy's Day.

The piano got a very mild treatment. Ivy again, my candles set in lentils to give it some color contrast, a few Irish blessings or sayings, and I was done.

I was unable to get a good picture of the saying on the picture above the keys. It says "May Good Luck Be Your Friends in Whatever You Do and May Trouble Be Always a Stranger to You".

In my glass canister I simply filled the bottom with split peas, a few wooden or straw bits and bobs I had lying around and inserted a print-out of the Irish Blessing which says:

“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

I love the look of the blessing with the little things I had around the house!! What a cheap and nice focal point of the decor.

Beside of the canister is subway art I found on one of those blogs I frequent. I thought the pink background made it even better!! :)

Above my piano is the old hymnal wreath I had been working on during the last month. I found an old hymnal at Goodwill, where else, and promptly saw it as a great opportunity to make a wreath for above the piano. It is simply rolled hymnal pages, stapled onto a foam core wreath form I cut out the size of a charger plate. It was lovely as it is, but I felt it needed something extra.

I have some cording I purchased on discount at Hancock's Fabric which matches the colors of my room. I have it stuck away to make a piano bench pad, but just haven't made it yet. Honestly its because I see the foam when out, but have never measured the bench to know how much to get. :)

So I picked up a mirror at the Dollar Tree, glued it onto the circle I had cut from the inside of the wreath originally, attached the cording around and then made a hook to hang it. It is separate from the wreath just in case I wish to do something different during the year.

There is my house for the Saint Patrick's Day holiday. Next, I can show you what I have been working on for my guest room! :)

Saint Patrick's Day Decor Part II

This is a little split pea topiary I made. The bottom container is a tuna fish can, cleaned well and de-stinkified with some white vinegar. I hot glued clothes pins around the outside to give the illusion of a wooden fence. I hot glued some styrofoam in the bottom of the can, covered it with sphagnum moss and attached the topiary to it directly. I thought it turned out really cute. :)

For the middle portion of the display I simply pained some small clay pots a nice neutral beige, covered the holes on the bottom with tape, filled with lentils and inserted a small votive candle. I am not totally crazy about the look, but I anticipate something more special during the Easter holidays. :)

Here is the look in full. It gives the tv a bit of decor without taking away from Top Gear or NCIS in 1080p!!

I didn't take any of the red candles from the other winter holidays down. Red is a secondary color in my room, so it fits rather well, and I just enjoy the aroma of cinnamon apple they give off when they are burnt.

Above the tv, to jazz up my $6.50 Goodwill find, I make a banner from felt, just green and gold shamrocks layered on each other and the world Lucky, glued on top. The whole thing is laced onto some white grosgrain ribbon.

Since I loved the t-shirt pom-poms last month, I made more for this month, using green, gold and a light green which mimics the split pea color.

I realize as I look at these pictures, I really need to invest in a better camera!!

Saint Patrick's Day Decor Part I

I am not a big decorator for Saint Patrick's Day... probably because I am not Irish, do not know anyone who is Irish, and am not a huge fan of green. But, I thought since there was such a huge gap between Valentine's Day and Easter this year, that it needed some special treatment. Actually Saint Patrick's Day won the coin flip, because I was also thinking about doing Mardi Gras.

So here are the few little decorations I made for the holiday.

The family room has one lone little coffee table decoration. Its rather sad, isn't it. But I do love ivy, and it always reminds me of spring. My next door neighbor has ivy all about, and some times it creeps onto my property. I immediately cut it back. Although I love ivy, I don't love it that much!

My kitchen is pretty simple. I had green plates I purchased last year, gold chargers, white napkins with pretty gold napkin rings. Its pretty simple, but it gives me an excuse to use those green plates!!

Oh the pretty glasses, all wavy and thick, I got at Goodwill, too!! Seriously, I love that place!

The centerpiece is a white cupcake plate tier I made from things I picked up at Goodwill. It was a simple project to do, just 2 candle sticks, 2 plates and a bowl. I lucked out on 2 matching candle sticks and the plates and bowl matching. :)

Then I decorated my cupcake plate with moss and things I had picked up during my travels. From a Lilliput Lane church I picked up in Ireland, to money from different travels abroad, it has lots of memories. Besides the idea of being 'blessed' with money and memories, how often do you get to use your foreign money in a decoration? The small picture I picked up in Mexico last year, it says "Bless this House Forevermore".

I will show my living room next.

Powder Puff Sandwiches

Sorry, not enough brain power to write something about these... Just know that they are amazing... they are so pretty, and definitely worth the effort of making.
Go make now!!

Powder Puffs
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup cornstarch
* 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

* 3 eggs, separated
* 3/4 cup sugar

Fillings (pick any):
*Raspberry or strawberry Jam, Lemon curd, stiffly whipped cream
*Confectionery sugar for dusting.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, and baking soda into a bowl. Separate the eggs into two bowls. Beat the whites to soft peaks. Add the sugar to the egg whites in 3 stages, beating after each addition to make a stiff meringue. Whisk in the egg yolks, 1 at a time. Sift the dry ingredients together, then sift them over the egg mixture, and fold them in with the whisk, without beating or you'll lose volume.

Pipe or drop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving room between them so they can spread. Bake until lightly golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the cakes to a rack to cool. They will harden slightly as they cool.

Sandwich the rounds together with whatever combination of filling you would like. Let the sweets sit an hour or so to soften before serving.

6am, Why Not Bake?

We have the plague at our house... It isn't going away. Ever. So what does one do when they have a cranky boy child who is taking up all of your bed... sideways... You bake.

Easy, Sweet Scones
*2 cups all-purpose flour
*1/4 tsp salt
*2 tbsp baking powder
*1 stick unsalted butter
*1/2 cup granulated sugar (or honey maybe substituted)
*approx 1/4 cup milk

In your food processor bowl, place your flour, salt and baking powder. Pulse.
Cut your very cold butter into 8 pieces and add to the flour mixture. Pulse again until the mixture resembles large crumbs or pea size clumps.
At this point sprinkle in the sugar or honey. Pulse.
Add half of the milk and pulse until the small clumps become one big ball of dough (adding more milk as necessary). The ball of dough should come together and roll around the processor noisily.
After your dough has reached this stage, remove and knead one or two times on a floured surface. Not too much kneading as that can make them tough and melt the butter.
Roll out to about 1 1/2 inch thickness.
Cut out with cookie cutter (shape of your choice).
Arrange your scones closely on a clean cookie sheet.
You may sprinkle with sugar or brush with egg white at this point (optional).
Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Hamburger Supper with Noodles

Don't ask... its been one of those kinda weeks... When those sorta days happen, then comfort food is in order. :) So here is a favorite of mine!!

* 1 lb ground chuck
* 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
* 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
* 2 tablespoons brown sugar
* 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

In a medium bowl combine the beef, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Form into 4 patties In a skillet brown the patties and pour off the excess fat.
In a medium bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Pour over the patties in the skillet. Simmer for 10-20 minutes. Serve over egg noodles.

Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits

I am in a 'mood'. Yeah, the 'OMG I am so grouchy I cannot stand to hear your voice, see your face, leave me alone for the remainder of my natural life' kinda mood. I have a feeling that I shall be taking a little trip this weekend back home to WV, if I can swing it. There is something about being at home, which never fails me.

Speaking of home, here is what I made last night to try and woo me out of my mood. It didn't work, obviously, but it sure was great. Thank you, Grandmother, for being such a great cook!

Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits
*4-5 Cups Chicken Broth
*1 Cup Yellow Stone Ground Corn Meal
*1 Cup Grated Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
*3 Green Onions Sliced for Garnish

Sauteed Shrimp:
*20 Large Shrimp, Shelled and Deveined
*1/2 lb Thick-cut Bacon
*2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
*3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
*Salt and Pepper

Bring 4 cups of broth/stock with 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan over high heat. Slowly whisk in the grits and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the grits are soft, whisking every couple minutes. This will take 15-20 minutes depending on your stove/pan. If the mixture becomes too thick, add more of the additional broth/stock. Once the mixture is smooth, whisk in the cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the bacon (I recommend baking, I prefer the faster method) and save the rendered bacon fat.
Pat your shrimp dry with a paper towel and salt and pepper them. Place 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and add the shrimp and garlic to the pan. Cook until the shrimp is opaque about 1-2 minutes on each side.
Remove the shrimp and place in a bowl and reserve the garlic oil from the pan.
Divide the grits into 4-6 bowls (depending on what size portions you want) and add the shrimp on top. Drizzle on some garlic oil and top with the sliced green onions.

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookie Bars

A sweet for my sweet. :) Of course as I was having stove (which turned out to be electrical) problems, I was unable to make anything 'special' for the day of love. It turned out to be a "Hey, lets call into Pizza Hut" for dinner kinda day.

After my stove was fixed I got busy making these for my love. He was most appreciative.. well I think so.. He ate during his homework then went straight in to watch "Head Rush" on Discovery Channel. -sigh- Little boys...

Sugar Cookie Bars
*1 cup butter; room temp.
*2 cups sugar
*4 eggs
*2 tsp vanilla
*5 cups flour
*1 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp soda
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each egg. Add vanilla & mix well. In a separate bowl combine flour, salt & soda & stir with a whisk to combine. Add to wet mixture and mix just until combined. Spread on a greased baking sheet (use a 13 x 18 pan). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 min, until light golden brown or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and frost.

*1/2 cup butter; room temp
*1/2 cup shortening
*1 tsp vanilla
*pinch of salt
*4 cups powdered sugar
*5 Tbsp milk
*food coloring (if desired to decorate for the holiday)
*sprinkles (if desired)
For frosting combine butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and salt. Add powdered sugar in 1-2 cup increments until combined, then add milk & mix until smooth and spreading consistency. Spread over cooled cookie, then cut into bars.

Sesame Chicken Tender Salad with Spinach and Cucumber

I have been on a spinach kick lately.. Well, I hate tomatoes in the winter, so a 'normal' salad is out until at least June in my thinking. Spinach with a bit of feta, a fruit and a light vinaigrette is just perfect to make the days of winter better. When you need something a bit heartier, you cannot get any easier than this.

These chicken tenders are perfect on a sandwich, with some dijon mustard, and a wee bit of shredded carrot and baby spinach leaves as well. You might wish to make a few extras :)

Sesame Chicken Tender Salad with Spinach and Cucumber

2 pounds Chicken tenders
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup sesame seeds
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch slices

¼ cup soy sauce
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 teaspoon light brown sugar

In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, ginger, and sugar. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Put it in another bowl large enough to hold it, pour over half of the vinaigrette and toss. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the fridge for about 2 hours if you have the time, or until you’ve got the rest of the dish ready to go. Set the rest of the vinaigrette aside.
When you’re ready to cook, put the panko and sesame seeds in a shallow platter and season with a little salt and pepper. Mix with your fingers so that the seasoning is incorporated and then taste it – the panko should be well seasoned. Roll the chicken pieces in the seasoned crumbs, patting gently so that the crumbs adhere, until well coated.
Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Line a platter with paper towels and set that to the side of the stove. Add about half of the chicken pieces to the pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Remove the chicken to the platter to drain. Do the same to cook the rest of the chicken.
Put the spinach in bowl with the cucumber. Add the rest of the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and give it a good toss. Divide among 4 plates and top with the chicken.

S'more Pie

This is the best dessert ever.
Enuff said... do not hesitate... make it now...

S'more Pie
* 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 6 tablespoons butter, softened
* 4 egg yolks
* 1/4 cup cornstarch
* 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 3 cups milk
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 bag miniature marshmallows

Heat the oven to 375º. In a mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter, rubbing it in with a pinching motion until evenly distributed. Press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the crust to cool.
Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set them aside. Combine the remaining cup of sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat and gradually whisk in the milk, stirring until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolks. Repeat with 1 cup of the chocolate mixture, then return the chocolate and egg mixture to the saucepan. Boil over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the vanilla extract. Pour the filling into the pie shell and allow it to cool at least 15 minutes, or chill it in the refrigerator overnight.
Just before serving, heat the oven to broil. Cover the pie with the mini marshmallows and broil it on the uppermost rack for about 30 seconds or until the marshmallows are lightly browned. (Watch carefully, or the marshmallows will burn.) Serve warm or chilled. Serves 8.


I had several posts written and edited for posting over the days, but for some reason they didn't. @_@

I am posting them all now. Sorry for the Sunday spam.

Italian Wedding Soup for Lovey

It was my friend's birthday this past weekend (his girlfriend calls him Lovey, so it is impossible for me to think of him as anything other than Lovey now) which allowed us to have a party filled with great italian fare, like mozzarella basil and tomato appetizers, this sundried dip for bagel chips that was to die for, some home made Cannolis that made me breathless,vegetarian (yay, Mackenzie for thinking of moi) and meat filled lasagnas, home made strawberry cake for Lovey to enjoy and other great things that I feel remiss about not mentioning... Lets just say, between the food and the great Merlot they had for us, I as quite the happiest of girls (and it wasn't even MY birthday!)

My offering for the evening was my homemade Italian Wedding soup. The concept of the meatballs is taken from Ina Garten's recipe... I modify everything to fit me... So, here is my recipe... It seems like a lot of work, but honestly after you chop the mirepoix, my child remembered whilst I was chopping away, yay!, which is called soffritto in Italian, you are free to sit back and wait for the aroma to fill the house.

Italian Wedding Soup
~For the meatballs:
* 1 pound ground turkey
* 1 pound Italian Chicken Sausage, crumbled (Whole Foods offers it without casings)
* 2/3 cup dried Italian Bread crumbs
* 2 teaspoons minced garlic
* 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
* 3 tablespoons milk
* 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten

~For the soup:
* 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1 cup finely chopped onion
* 1 cup diced carrots
* 1 cup diced celery
* 12 cups homemade chicken stock
* 1 cup Barilla Pastina
* 3 tbsp dried dill
* 12 ounces baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. For the meatballs, place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, milk, and egg in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don't have to be perfectly round.) Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
In the meantime, for the soup, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Add the dill and meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Taste for salt and pepper. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook for 1 minute, until the spinach is just wilted. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

Beef Burgundy ala Shelle

I don't have a picture as I am just making this today. I have about 1000 places to go, and less than 3 hours to go there.. This is going to be dinner tonight. I will update this tomorrow when I take a picture tonight.

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy ala Shelle

*1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
*1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
*1 cup beef broth
*1 small onion, chopped finely
*1 can sliced mushrooms, drained
*1 package (1 ounce) dry onion soup mix
*1 tablespoon minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 6 to 8 hours or until beef is tender.

Valspar Paint Sample

I got my free paint sample from Valspar yesterday via FedEx! Woot!! The dogs got to bark and I got something freeeeeee!! Yup, I live a simple life.

It was thru a sign-up on Facebook where you were allowed to pick out the color of your dreams. (I already knew this color... Cabin Red of the Eddie Bauer collection... I had been coveting it for a bit!) I am not sure if this promo is still ongoing... it was supposed to be just through 100,000 samples sent. But go check it out!

It came with a pretty box (like I said.. I lead a very... V.E.R.Y. simple life).

It came with some stuff inside like a coupon, thank yous, information about Valspar and complimentary colors to the color I picked. Albeit the colors they have for the compliment, Taffy, Lilac Petal and Snapdragon SOOOO do not suit my decorating style. But it was nice of them to include their opinions.

The paint was custom mixed and had the tint information on the container so I can go to Lowe's, coupon in hand, and get more of this marvelous color.

The best part of the freebie? It game with a little, tiny, itty-bitty roller and pan.

Toad in the Hole Muffins

I got up early today and made breakfast for Reed... Yeah, don't be too impressed, I had gone to bed before 9pm last night so I was up and raring to go by 6am! :) Once again, I was feeling a bit grouchy and am trying to fight it off... One day of grouchy is enough for me!! So I fixed something my grandmother made for me and my brothers all the time while we were growing up. Something I rarely fix though! :)

Regrettably, I am working through my menu ingredients for Breakfast later this week. Guess I will need to go to the store!! :)

Toad in the Hole Muffins
* 1 cup all purpose flour
* 2 tsp dry mustard
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1/4 tsp garlic powder
* 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
* 1 large egg, beaten
* 1 1/4 cups whole milk
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used bacon drippings as I had made bacon the night before)
* 6 link sausages, uncooked
* 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Mix the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl and mix to a smooth batter. Do not overmix.

Grease a nonstick muffin tin with oil (or bacon drippings). Divide the sausage and onion evenly among the wells. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the onion is lightly golden, the sausage is golden around the edges, and the drippings are bubbling.
Remove the muffin tin from the oven and divide the batter evenly among the wells. Return the muffin tin to the oven and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, until popovers are puffed and golden brown on top.
Serve immediately, as they will deflate if you let them sit.

BLT Salad with Peaches, Blue Cheese & Roasted Potatoes

Tuesday was an all outta sorts kinda day. I have been dealing with a personal matter which is eating away at my positive brain matter and leaving me with nothing but grouchy. When I get this way I try my best to stay on the positive side, but sometimes a good wallow in the grouchy, grumpy side of life is advisable. At the end of the day I went to bed early with a headache (the kind where you've gritted your teeth all day long and now your head wants to fly off your head). But before that, I made some comfort food as a part of our dinner.

We were scheduled to have Monte Cristo sandwiches and fries, but I wasn't feeling it. Instead, it was salad time. :)

BLT Salad with Peaches, Blue Cheese & Roasted Potatoes
* 5 medium red-skinned potatoes, diced
* 3 Tbsp olive oil
* 12 slices bacon, cooked to crisp
* 2 peaches, thin sliced
* 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
* 2 tsp maple syrup
* 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
* 10 cups Spring Mix Lettuce (I used Artisan, which is my new favorite lettuce)
* 1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large saute pan. Add potatoes, sprinkle with salt, and cook, turning occasionally until browned on all sides and cooked through.
In a medium bowl, mix together peaches, tomatoes, vinegar, and maple syrup. Toss to blend very well and set aside.
Divide the roasted potatoes on your dinner plates, I created of potatoes to act as a bowl of sorts for the lettuce. Divide the lettuce, and top with the tomato-peach mixture. Sprinkle bacon and blue cheese liberally over each, and then serve.

This can make 4 servings, but I made 3 larger servings, with one set aside for lunch today.

Weekly Menu

I decided to begin posting our planned menu for the week each Monday. I actually do plan these things out! :)
Actually I am doing this because Monday's posts are usually the most difficult for me to plan. I rarely do anything inspirational over the weekend, and our meals are a bit less inspired as well. :) So this will give me an easy peasy post to publish on Monday!! Win!

Actually this week is totally uninspired when it comes to menu as well! Mostly that is because I asked Reed what he would like me to fix, and he chose his favorites. :) I think subconsciously I knew that would happen and therefore I didn't have to try out new menu ideas and do test samples to see if things would be up to snuff.

So here is our menu for Week of February 7-11:
Monday: Salmon Foil Wraps with loaded baked potatoes
** I might make some adjustments to the ingredients... But when asked what Reed wanted, this was at the top of his list!

Tuesday: Monte Cristos with fries
**If you must have sandwiches one night a week, as our budget requires, might as well make them special, eh?

Wednesday: Crab cakes, parmesan corn, baked potatoes and corn muffins
**The corn is simply frozen, microwave in bag corn with butter melted in it and a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese on top. Perhaps I might do a recipe for my corn muffins, but to be honest I do not have any measurements.. one of those passed down recipes!

Thursday: Turkey phyllo pouches and Ranch Cheddar Potatoes
**Plan to see my recipe for the turkey pouches later. I accidentally picked up phyllo instead of puff pastry for chocolate turnovers a couple weeks past. I thought I could use the stuffing for my turkey italian sausage ravioli for the pouches... we shall see if they turn out!

Friday: Breakfast which includes: eggs, bacon, french toast (or chocolate chip pancakes if I go purchase more mini chocolate chips before then), homemade hash browns and toast
**I do not like breakfast food in the morning. Only way I will eat breakfast food is later in the day or night!

Super Bowl Burgers

I have been calling them my Ben Worthless-burgers ever since being asked to provide burgers for our annual Super Bowl Party, but honestly they are as far away from worthless as they can get! I tried several different add-ins, but this received the highest marks from the US judge, so I hope you can enjoy it as well.

I am off to the party! Happy Super Bowl to the Cheese-Heads and those Terrible Towel wavers.

Super Bowl Burgers ala Shelle

(makes 8 burgers)

* 1 1/2 pound 80/20 ground beef
* 1/2 pound mild ground italian sausage
* 4 hot dogs, angus beef, diced
* 3 tablespoons chili powder
* Hamburger seasoning (recipe to follow)
* 3 teaspoons Worcestershire
* 3 tbsp hot sauce
* 4 tablespoons ketchup
* 12 oz Bleu Cheese, crumbled
* 8 slices bacon, fried crisp
* 8 Hamburger rolls
* Lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc for dressing the burger

Mix the first 8 ingredients gently, by hand, to insure incorporation of all the ingredients. Divide into 16 patties.

Form 4 cheese patties from the crumbled bleu cheese, which are smaller in diameter than the hamburger patties. Place one bleu cheese pattie between 2 hamburger patties and pinch the edges to seal the cheese completely.

Place the stuffed patties on the grill and cook to desired temperature, about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium. (Alternately, cook the patties in a large skillet over medium-high heat.)

Dress the burgers with your favorite toppings and cheer on your favorite team!!

Hamburger Seasoning Mix
* 2 teaspoons paprika
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* 1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Mix in a small bowl.

Glazed Cinnamon Pop Overs

It was cold outside, I had been cleaning closets and organizing all day and found I was dying for something sweet, but nothing heavy.. Enter the Cinnamon Popover. -sigh-

Using the recipe which I use for eclairs and tweeting it a wee bit, I was able to make something amazing, which is not nearly as much work as my homemade eclairs! (yay!)

I will tell you this was simply delish and simply gone before I batted an eye. Make a double recipe, you'll thank me!

Glazed Cinnamon Pop Overs
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted margarine
3 Large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a muffin tin.
Combine milk, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, sugar and flour on low speed with your mixer. Blend until well combined but not frothy. Fill each cup of the tin about 2/3 of the way full, dividing the batter evenly. Bake for about 35-40 minutes.

Let cool 5-10 minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack.

While the pop overs are cooling melt the butter and allow to cool for a few minutes. In a small bowl combine your sugar and cinnamon for a topping and set aside. In another small bowl combine your confectioner's sugar and milk with a small wire whisk to make your glaze.

Once the pop overs are cooled enough to handle, brush the tops and sides of each popover with butter and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar to cover. Then, using a fork or spoon, drizzle each pop over with the glaze mixture.

This makes 9 pop overs.

Baked Salmon Packets with Spinach, Feta, Ranch and Bacon

(Apologies for the picture... I had help, who apparently has a shake @_@... In all fairness I did stand over him with directions about what to get and not get in the shot, which apparently made him nervous about his first blog photo!)

There is nothing lazier than making foil packets: Foil, meat, veggies, fold and into the stove! Some days that is about all I can muster up! And earlier this week I had that sort of day.

Reed told me I had to blog about it because he fell in LOVE with the flavor combination. So here goes:

Salmon Packets with Spinach, Feta, Ranch and Bacon

4 x 5oz Salmon fillets (with or without skin)
1/4 cup Ranch Dressing
1 1/2 cups Spinach
4 tbsp Feta Cheese
4 tsp bacon bits

Measure out lengths of foil that can be foiled over to cover each into a sealed packet. Divide evenly all the ingredients above. I layered mine like this: Spinach first, salmon (if you have skinned salmon, be sure to place skin side down), feta, ranch dressing and bacon bits. Then fold the foil over and fold each of the corners to create a sealed packet. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until your salmon is flaky.

Shelle's Spaghetti Casserole

When its cold outside, my natural proclivity for snuggling in and being lazy wins. And, sometimes that is a good thing. :) This recipe came from my desire NOT to go to the store and NOT deal with lasagna noodles. I first made this -mumble- years ago, and it has been a staple in our menu since. I hope you enjoy!!

(this makes a LOT, so be prepared)

Shelle's Spaghetti Casserole
* 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
* 1/2 of a box (4 oz) of cream cheese
* 1- 16oz container small curd cottage cheese
* 1/8 cup dried parsley
* 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
* 4 cups of spaghetti sauce (made however you like it. Mine, as shown, has Italian sausage. You may make homemade sauce, or just a big glass jar of sauce with whatever add-ins you like.)
* 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Spray an 11x7 inch glass cooking pan lightly with cooking spray and layer in the cooked spaghetti.

In a small bowl, mix together on low speed the cream cheese, cottage cheese and parsley. If the mixture is too thick, a bit of milk may be added to thin the mixture out. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the spaghetti layer.

Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of the cream cheese layer, then cover with your spaghetti sauce mixture.

Bake in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes or until the casserole is bubbly. Layer your mozzarella cheese on top of the cooked casserole and bake until the cheese is melted (approximately 5 minutes).

Shelle's Hash Brown and Cheddar Soup

I love hash brown casserole. I only make it 2x a year (Christmas and Easter) so the rest of the year I am reminiscing about the taste and the memories of being together as a family. I thought I could take the ingredients, and some how form it into a soup we could enjoy the rest of the year. This is what I have come up with... Its a lot of ingredients, but once you get them together, there is very little left to do but leave it alone until its cooked. :)

My budding little chef advised me to add bacon as a garnish as well... it took it from good to amazing!! :)

Shelle's Hash Brown and Cheddar Soup

*2 Tbsp unsalted butter
*1 stalk celery, diced finely
*1/4 cup onion, chopped finely
*2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
*3 cups Chicken stock
*5 cups Water
*2 pounds potatoes, peeled and shredded
*1/2 c half & half
*4 oz white cheddar, shredded
*8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
*1/2 -1 t Worcestershire sauce
*2 chicken bouillon cubes
*1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
*1/2 tsp black pepper
*1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning (like Tony Chachere's)
*sour cream (to garnish)

In a large pot melt the butter and saute the celery and onion until tender or translucent. Add the flour in and stir. Slowly add the chicken stock to the vegetables and flour mixture (which is called a roux) until all the lumps disappear.
Combine all the remaining ingredients in the same large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in a bit of sour cream as a garnish, if desired.

My Holiday House: Valentine's Day (Part II)

Here are a few more things from around my house for Valentine's Day!

This is my piano-scape. It is pretty simple, but I really enjoy it. The wreath is simply some felt roses on foam-board tied up with a tulle ribbon. It was time consuming making the felt roses, but it is just gorgeous.

Some candles, a bit of "Love" artwork and a pretty bird house (I don't know why I have this bird theme going this year) completes the look for the piano!

I forgot to make a post about my wonderful Goodwill find in my mirror. I had been looking for something to put above that gargantuan tv and was not successful. The problem is having busy art takes away from the pleasure of tv viewing, and I could find nothing I like short of just plain color panels.

Then I happened upon this beauty. She is the same width as my LCD tv and just needed some love. A bit of wood filler, some sanding, spray painting and new hardware and I took this $6.50 thrift store find into something GORGEOUS!

The decor for the mirror are simple "L-O-V-E" letters printed on cardstock and tied up with pretty ribbon and two 't-shirt' pom-poms. I adore the look!!

My TV, being the star of that room, always gets a wee bit of decor, but nothing to take away from tv watching. I made conversation heart topiaries for either side of the tv, and planted them in little clay pots painted red. In front of each I have little chalkboards with "Love You" and "Be Mine" painted on them by my son.

The topiaries are adorable, but you will be surprised how many of those hearts and how much hot glue it will take to create them!

I made hearts from two pink pipe cleaners twisted together to give it some heft. The add just enough pink without making me crazy!!

The little signs are cute, too, aren't they? I added some pearl seeds to the hearts he painted to make them pop just a bit more.

Oh, in the corner you can see another great Goodwill find! I got these two large wooded candlesticks for $2.50 for the pair. I ADORE them. They were already painted white, so I just antiqued them with some sanding and a light coat of acryllic paint in some of the more worn areas. :)

This is a close up of the greenery in the front of the TV. Its the same greenery I used for winter, just adding in some heart picks I found at the Dollar Tree and a pretty bow of tulle!

I think it is just lovely!

**Sorry about the drawer being open. That is where the digital converter box is... it seems to always be open!**

Finally we have my front door! I LOVE my heart. This is scrapbook paper woven and modge-podged to a foamcore board. Around the outside I have little felt roses and to make it even grander I have the outside completely circled in tulle. It makes a statement... Even the lovely mail-lady rang my bell today to tell me how pretty it was! :D

**Now that I look at the picture I see a couple areas that are not as full with tulle. Sigh! I need to shut the door and not think about it, right? Not take it down and fix it.. -sigh-**

Here is a close up of the weave. This was SO time consuming. I watched several movies while cutting and weaving these bits. Oh, I probably will not do it EVER again, but it was a nice addition to this year's pretty decoration. :)

My Holiday House: Valentine's Day (Part I)

Valentine's Day is probably one of my least favorite holidays to decorate the house around. I am just not that big of a fan of pink! But I did my very best trying to decorate a little, to get into the holiday spirit.

I didn't do a lot, but I did have some fun playing with some new crafts. This wreath is made from left over scrapbook paper, cut to fit around the wreath, and then trimmed into 1/2 inch fringe. I made a bow, roses and rose petals from left over felt. :) Nice to clean those items out of my file folders and scrap box!!

The bunny was a on clearance last year at Garden Ridge, the flowers were a gift from a baby shower trivia contest, and I purchase more candles than anyone should! I always have these things burning around the house. I love the aroma as well as the flickering light. :)

This was also a left overs craft. More of the same scrapbook paper used on the wreath above, a limb from my chinese maple tree in the front yard, some felt birds I stitched together while watching an episode of "Lie to Me", a crystal bowl I had lying around unused, and a bit of ribbon which came off of a mother's day gift from Reed (think it was a Bed and Bath pre-pack thingy). I simply crammed it all down into the bowl and voila! instant prettiness!

The print I found online from a craft blog (which I forgot to keep a link of to reference! Sorry!!!) and I simply stuck into a Dollar Store frame!

Now to my tablescape... Garden Ridge chargers, 4 red plates picked up at Goodwill, 4 pretty little heart bowls (99 cents each at Michaels), which totally makes me happy. I love the bright colors, albeit is hard to tell with the lighting on this picture. I really need to invest in a good camera and quite relying on my cell camera!! :)

My centerpiece consists of 3 pretty glass votive holders I found at Goodwill for $1.50 for the whole set, a brass bowl full of red velvety roses and white baby's breath, and my special card from Reed's 4 year old preschool Valentine's Day that says ""Thumb"body Loves you!"

Yeah, its too sweet not to include every year in my decoration!!

The whole center consists of 2 foam board heart shaped cut outs, with gold beading along the side and silk paper twisted into roses. It adds a splash of color underneath, and was too simple to make!!

I will have more pictures uploaded soon!

Shelle's Thai Peanut Chicken

As you know, or don't know, peanut butter is my least favorite food in the world. I think it comes from 4 years of college at a school with a horrible kitchen. :) I spent the 4 years eating fruit, salads, and whatever I could keep on hand in my dorm room (which was mostly peanut butter and jelly). So cooking a recipe with peanut butter is totally out of style for me. But I was in the mood for Thai food, am cheap and didn't wish to spend my limited $$, so creating a recipe on a budget was a necessity.

I must have been on a sweet kick yesterday as I served this with sweet corn on the side, and a spinach, feta and apple salad with raspberry vinaigrette. :)

Shelle's Thai Peanut Chicken
* 3/4 cup water
* 1/2 tsp garlic powder
* 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
* 1/4 tsp ground ginger
* 3 tbsp soy sauce
* 1 tbsp sesame oil
* 1/4 cup honey
* 2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 pound cubed boneless chicken breast
* 2 cups shredded carrots
* 1/2 cup chopped scallion whites
* 1/4 cup chopped scallion greens
* Cooked rice

In a small bowl, whisk together water, honey, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, ginger, soy, sesame oil and the peanut butter.
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
In the same skillet, cook the carrots and 1/2 cup chopped scallion whites over medium heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the peanut butter mixture. Return the chicken and its juices to the pan and cook, stirring, until heated through; season with salt and pepper, if needed.
Top with 1/4 cup chopped scallion greens and serve with cooked rice.

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