Category Archives: The Heart of the Home

What I’m Lovin’ Wednesday

January 1, 2014

Wow!  Welcome to 2014… It’s so hard to believe how fast the past year went, and even crazier to think how my 2014 is starting off!  The big news is… We’re moving to a new house!  And with a new house, comes a new kitchen!!!  I am SO THRILLED to be moving into my new kitchen, and have been busy all holiday break thinking about how to decorate.  Thanks to Pinterest and some clever bloggers, my What I’m Lovin’ Wednesday is some delightful art for my new digs!

First things first, this is my new kitchen:

Their stuff- not mine, yet!


We’re planning on painting things a light grey, so with greys and whites as my color palette, I set off on my quest.  I wanted cozy, classic, and a little bit quirky.  I knew I’d need to make a new “meal planner” board because the one I made previously just wouldn’t match.  Drat. 

So I set off to scanning pinterest, and the first little gem that I found was from www.lizzieroe.com.  One of her posts for “Make it Monday” made me swoon. 

property of Lizzie Roe 

Her post for this ADORABLE FREEBIE is here:  Lizzie Roe’s adorable kitchen art Freebie
I’ve never met her, but we might be kitchen style soul mates.  I idolize Julia Child, love all things that look “chalkboard”, and the fonts… I die. I HAD to have it.  I immediately came up with a million ways that I wanted to use this print, but couldn’t decide…so I thought about it for a while.

Next, I found this little guy:

His picture was kind of everywhere… I credit google images?

How cute is he, right?  I decided he needed to live in my kitchen too and bought a white frame from AC Moore to feature him in.  He’s going to live above the pantry where that Coke sign is currently hanging out.  I love him, and think I shall name him Fredrick. (Like I said, a little quirky)

  
 

Back to my super cute Julia Child quote print.  I finally decided to put it as part of my meal planner board, and my goodness- the finished product makes me giddy!  Here’s how it all came together:

1) get an 8 frame collage style frame, such as this one: Collage Frame
(I got mine at AC Moore- they are almost ALWAYS on sale, and you can use a coupon!)

2) Pick out your background paper- I used the ministacks of scrapbooking paper in neutral tones.

3) Pick out a super cute picture

4) Print out days of the week on CLEAR Avery Address Labels.  I used the font “Skinny Jeans” found here from misstiina.com

5) Put it all together!

Now I feel like my kitchen will be my dream room!  I can’t wait to move on in, unpack, and start whipping up some new TwiceAround recipes!

What are you LOVIN’ today??
J

Creamy Sundried Tomato and Artichoke Tortellini

September 23, 2013

This tasty dinner comes with a shortcut supper version.  Make it from scratch, or take a hand from some store bought ingredients.  Either way, you’re in for a crowd pleasing meal!

1 family bag of 3 cheese tortellini (barilla)
1 and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
*I get my peppers in a jar, pull out 3 or 4 and chop them up*
1/4 cup capers
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry milk (trust me)
1 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped

Prepare tortellini as directed.
While it’s cooking, throw your tomato, artichokes, peppers, and capers in a deep sided skillet with a swirl of olive oil.  Cook down for 2-3 minutes, and add chicken stock, along with the dry milk.  Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.   Stir in cheese and reduce heat to low.  When pasta is ready, drain, and toss in.  Stir and heat an addition 2-3 minutes.  Eat and enjoy!

**SHORT CUT**
Instead of all the prep with the artichokes, peppers, and capers- a few companies make some GREAT artichoke bruschetta that is a perfect and quick sub-in.  Trader Joe’s and Delallo’s are 2 of my favorite “go-to’s” that I keep in my pantry.  1 jar will do you!

Pretzel Crusted Cheddar Stuffed Chicken

September 9, 2013

When you eat chicken as much as we do, every now and then, you start to crave something a little different.  Lately, I’ve been going outside the box to make tasty chicken that’s man pleasing, too!  Today, that means Pretzel Crusted Cheddar Stuffed Chicken.

2 chicken breasts
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1 cup pretzels, crushed

In 3 separate plates, set up your crusting station with
1 plate of flour
1 plate of beaten egg
1 plate with crushed pretzels

I crush the pretzels by putting them in a baggie and rolling them out with a rolling pin.
Another trick of the trade- PAPER PLATES.  They are the perfect size and make for easy clean up when crusting proteins.

Preheat your oven to 350.
Filet your chicken breasts to create a pocket, and stuff each with 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
Coat both sides of the chicken with Flour, Egg, and Pretzel.
Swirl some olive oil in a skillet, twice around the pan, and heat over medium high.
Add in the chicken and cook 2-3 minutes per side.
Transfer the chicken to a baking dish and continue to bake at 350 for 25-27 minutes depending on size and thickness.

These were the perfect delight of salty crunchiness and gooey cheesiness.  I’ll definitely be adding them into our rotation, and I was told that the leftovers made an awesome sandwich.  (Told because well, my husband ate them all!)

Until tomorrow, and Creamy Sun-dried Tomato and Artichoke Tortellini,

Happy Eating!
J

Ragin’ Cajun Pasta

August 26, 2013

I’ve been on a spicy kick lately, so when andouille sausage went on sale at my local grocery store, I was pretty excited to cook up something new.  As it so happened, fresh bruschetta was also on sale, and I knew that with those two ingredients, I was on my way to a pretty tasty dish.  By throwing in a few more household staples, I had a great pasta meal in under 15 minutes from skillet to table!  Break out your Mardi Gras beads, because tonight we’re making Ragin’ Cajun Pasta!

Ragin’ Cajun Pasta
4 links pre-cooked cajun style andouille sausage links (I like Aidells)
1 small tub of fresh bruschetta
1/2 cup green peppers, diced
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup grate parmesan
1 box penne or farfalle pasta

Cook pasta as directed. 
While pasta is cooking, combine diced peppers, bruschetta, and chili powder in a skillet over medium heat.  Stir and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Cut andouille sausage into “penny” slices and add to skillet.  Stir in 1/2 cup of chicken stock and simmer until pasta is cooked al-dente.  Drain the pasta and toss into the sauce mixture.  Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Yep- that simple, kids!
Until next time- Happy Eating!!
J

Scrumptious Savory Crepes

August 15, 2013

 

….Because just calling crepes “really, really thin pancakes” doesn’t do them justice…

When Kevin and I started dating, we would frequently go on dates and explorations in West Reading, PA.- a cute stretch of town that had been given new life with boutiques, shops, and restaurants with a slightly hipster vibe.  Perfect for food junkies on culinary quests.  On one such morning, we stumbled upon a yellow and orange awning adorned building and into a French wonderland called “A Taste of Crepes”.

One look at the menu, and I all but came undone.  There were savory crepes and breakfast crepes; sweet crepes, and crepes with fruit.  Crepes with Nuetella, crepes with salmon- my God, the crepes!!  And they were all being prepared right before our eyes.

4 cups of coffee and 5 crepes later, we knew we’d found our favorite new spot for weekend breakfasts, cozy lunch dates, and dazzling dessert.  How could we resist?  We tried their ham crepe, spinach crepe, salmon crepe, fresh lemon crepe, and finally, their bananas foster crepe.  If you are ever in West Reading, PA or close by- Honestly, you need to go.  It’s an experience.

Then came the day where we up and moved-   We left our little apartment, in our little town, and our cozy little crepes place.  We were happy, but crepes were missing from our lives.  We tried a few places near by.  We tried a few places NOT so near by.  (Driving an hour for crepes on a Sunday morning, while delicious, would not become routine.)  We’d venture home to visit family, and use any excuse to head into town to get our crepes.  But in our new home on Sundays, we’d sit quietly with our eggs and coffee, mourning the loss of our delicious crepe life.  Something had to be done.

We’d all but given up on our dreams of Sunday crepes, when I entered Home Goods on that fateful day…and there it was, gleaming at me from its little hook in the cookware section.  Round, flat, and screaming my name…an $8 Crepe Pan.  The Gods had spoken, there wasn’t even a question about it- I had to become a crepe master, and this $8 pan was the key to crepe goodness.  I quickly added it to my already overflowing cart, and headed on home.  (It IS Home Goods, after all.  I mean, really.  Can you ever walk in there without needing a cart? I think not.)

The conversation upon returning home, went a little something like this:
“I BOUGHT THIS FOR YOU!” I exclaimed to my husband.
“What is it…”  he responded.
“A CREPES PAN!!!!”
“Is this going to be like the empanadas?” 

Such a comedian, isn’t he?

It turns out that actually making crepes, is pretty darn easy for the most part.  You get your batter  thinned out, scoop some on your sizzling pan, give the whole thing a swirl, and a minute or two later, flip and fill with tasty toppings.  Sure there are some tricks along the way that I’ll share, but I felt like a master on my first go around!  AND- It’s QUICK!  So, without further delay, here’s my recipe for the savory crepes base.  Essentially, anything that I would put into a panini, I’d probably put into a crepe.  I’ve also included my sweet crepe recipe, because every good meal deserves and equally tasty dessert.  Have fun playing! 

Savory Crepes:
2 eggs
1 Cup flour
1 Cup milk
1 TBSP melted butter
1/8 tsp salt

Mix up the batter with a wisk, or a hand mixer-  you want it to be free of lumps because, let’s face it, lumpy pancakes are gross.  Get your pan nice and hot.  If you don’t have a crepe pan, go get one at Home Goods.  (Kidding.  No, really…you should.)  Any skillet will work, but the flatter and smaller the “lip” the better.  Ladle in some of your batter- I use about 1/2 cup.  Once ladled, give your pan a little turn and tip, so that the batter covers the entire bottom of your pan in a thin little layer.  Watch until your edges start to get golden, and brown.  Give it 30 seconds longer than you think you should- Trust me, I’ve had quite a few ‘flops’ instead of flips.  I try to drag my crepe nearly 2/3 of the way off the edge of the pan before I flip it mighty quick.  If you lose a few in this process, it’s okay.  The first one ALWAYS goes badly for me.  like “oh, hell” badly.  No use crying over flopped batter though, and luckily, this makes a few of these bad boys, so flub up all you need to!    Once flipped, add whatever fillings you may want.  The possibilities are endless!  For our last ones, we used some leftover chicken that DH sliced up thin, sauted spinach and red onion, bacon, and mozzarella cheese.  Let that go for a minute or two until your cheese gets  bubbly, and then roll that sucker.  I take a flat silicone spatula to assist in the rolling.  Be advised- the more you stuff your crepe with fillings, the more difficult it is to roll.  I learned this the hard way.    Flatter is better.  Then, when it’s rolled onto a plate, garnish as desired, and eat it up!  If you haven’t tried a red pepper spread, I recommend giving it a whirl.  That’s the orange stuff drizzled across my crepe in the photo.  I spoon a bit into a little plastic bag and snip the tip off of it- it turns it into a make shift piping bag.  Great for drizzling.

Batter, all mixed up.

The Flip- please excuse my poor quality picture.

Stuffed with goodness

and now, for the sweet…

Sweet Crepes
1 and 1/2 Cups flour
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Cups milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2 TBSP melted  butter

Mix it all up- I sometimes use 1 tsp vanilla, simply because much like my mother, I like the flavor.
Again, fillings are a world of endless possibilities.  A personal favorite is Nuetella with sliced strawberries, garnished with some powdered sugar and chocolate sauce. 

Have fun playing and impressing your friends and family!
Until next time,
J

Meal Plan Monday!

August 12, 2013

A lot of posts on Pinterest are all about meal planning, and making your life easier.  I am ALL for meal planning, and here’s why:

1) It keeps me organized
2) It keeps us making healthier choices
3) It keeps us in our budget

There are probably a ton more reasons why I like meal planning, but those are my big three.  That being said, I started out planning a bit hap-hazard.  I’d write lists with the days of the week and start filling them in.  And that worked- sort of.  Then, I attempted to use other people’s templates, and I found that while there were parts that I liked, they just didn’t flow with my natural progression of meal planning.

So, today I am sharing my template with you, along with my thought process on why it is set up the way it is.  If you want to skip ahead, and just get the planner- by all means, scroll on down to the bottom!

I try to be a “twice- a- month” grocery shopper.  That means, we make our large shopping trips around our pay days. This works for us because the money is in the budget during those times, and generally speaking I can get everything we need for 2 weeks, except for fresh produce.  Money saving tip- when doing this “twice a month” plan, we buy a lot of our meat in the family value packs.  A lot of higher cuts of meat are more cost effective this way.  Once home, I portion them out into sets of 2 (since it is just darling husband and I) and put them into a small freezer bag.   Then, several of the small freezer bags containing the same type of meat go into a larger freezer bag.  I highly recommend the double freezer bag plan- your food will be protected from freezer burn, and it’s just easier to have it all contained in a nicely labeled bag.  **Editor’s note:   Darling husband decided to combine bags the other day- We ended up having meat medley for dinner because what we thought were 2 steaks turned out to be 1 steak and 1 pork chop.  oops!**  At any rate, it’s not unusual for me to come home with 10 chicken breasts and 14 pork chops.  This is magnified even more if there are BOGO deals.  Seriously- you may as well get 2, and freeze those suckers.  A lot of times, cashiers ask me if I’m having a party.  Oh honey, it’s always a party at my house!  

To answer what you must be wondering… “How big of a freezer do you have?”  UM, just a regular freezer in my side by side standard fridge.  BUT- when packing in freezer bags, those suckers are primarily flat.  and flat- STACKS.  We’re coming up on a pay period, so my freezer right now doesn’t show the justice of this statement, but I’ll take a picture after pay day to show my stacked and stocked freezer.

Anyway, back to business.  I start off my meal planning by filling out my “What’s on Hand” box.  For this box, I open up the freezer, the fridge, and the pantry and make note of what we have-  like I said, when you buy meat in bulk packs, you tend to have some around.  This makes up the base of my meal planning, but if you aren’t a stockpiler like me, look at your local grocery ads. “What’s on Sale” is an easy substitute for the “What’s on Hand” section.  I do this first, because that way, I know what I’m workin’ with. 


Next, I look at our weekly calendar.  I’ve found that this is crucial because I use to go to the trouble of planning out really great meals for the week, only to be totally derailed by a hectic schedule that ultimately resulted in us ordering a pizza.  Coming home after a busy day and seeing a meal requiring a lot of effort just isn’t going to happen, so plan

Then, I make my preliminary grocery list.  This is the list of items I KNOW WE NEED prior to even planning any meals.  Usually this includes fresh items that we constantly use, and constantly need.
accordingly.   Some weeks will be crazier than others.  During those weeks, I rely on tried and true 30 minute or less meals. 

Finally, I get down to the bottom section with the days of the week.  Generally, I will put a star or a note by those days that I mentioned in the Weekly Events section.  Just for a visual reminder.  A lot of this is pairing up my “what’s on hand” with what we’re in the mood to eat.  Sometimes there are some new creations, but a lot of times, we have “rotation” meals that frequent our kitchen once or twice ever 2 weeks.  I try to throw in a meatless meal when I think I can pull a fast one over on my sweet husband, but sometimes that just doesn’t work out.  Once meals are on the calendar, I think about the non-staple ingredients I’ll need to pick up at the store, and add it to the grocery list section!

And that’s it really!  The only other thing, is following through.  To help with that, I post the meal plan.  It keeps everyone in the house aware of the plan, and reminds us to thaw out any meat that we may need in the upcoming days.

I made my weekly meal board by using scrapbook paper, and a collage frame from A.C. Moore.  Best $20 craft ever. 

I hope you’ll find this useful, and start to add meal planning into your life!  After a few weeks of practice, you’ll be SO surprised with how much time and energy it saves you!

Weekly Meal Planner Document

Until Next Time,
J

Healthier Bacon Onion Fettuccine

March 26, 2013

Truth be told, I think I was Italian in a former life.  I love their beauty, their fashion, The Godfather, their cars (oh how I love their cars!), but most importantly, their food.  I truly think I could eat pasta every day of my life and  be completely content.  ‘Fat and Happy’ as my sweet husband would call it.

However, that fat part just doesn’t sit so well with me, and reality tells us that pasta every day is probably not the best idea.  Nowadays, when I make pasta, I tend to lean towards a wheat pasta and load it up with roasted veggies in my sauce.  The good thing about pasta, is that there are endless possibilities, and if you make it healthy- you’ll be able to whip up a great meal.  The other great thing- It’s super quick, and generally speaking, super cost effective. 

Have I mentioned, I love pasta??

Tonight’s healthier version of Bacon and Onion Fettuccini comes courtesy of my sweet mother, and while she didn’t call for wheat pasta, feel free to sub it in and make this dish even better!  She even give some of the Weight Watchers breakdowns, friends!  Best of all, this cooks up and makes it from skillet to table in about 15 minutes.  Manga!!

Momma’s Bacon Onion Fettuccini

1 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cups hot cooked fettuccini noodles
1/3 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup grated fat free Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bacon bits (I use turkey bacon or soy- don’t tell my husband!)
1 tsp italian seasoning (optional, but do it!)

Go ahead and start by cooking your fettuccini noodles as directed on the box.  It should take them about 12 minutes to get to ‘al dente’.  Once your noodles are about done, coat a large skillet with cooking spray, and add your chopped onion.  Saute until tender, about 4 minutes will do it, depending on how small you chopped!  Stir in your noodles, and keep everyone happy on low. 

Next, mix up the dry milk, water, cheese, bacon bits, and seasoning in a small bowl.  Stir it on in with your onions and noodles, and let everyone get happy in the skillet.  Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking.

Voila!  It’s as simple as that!

Here’s the WW breakdown, for anyone interested:
(per half cup serving)
174 Calories
2 fat
2 Fiber
1 1/2 Starch
1/2 Veggie

Breakfast Egg Biscuit

January 19, 2013

Today’s recipe credit goes right to my darling husband.  About a week ago, I had made cheddar biscuits to go with dinner.  You know the ones- the little bisquick pouch where you just add water, plop them on a baking sheet, and 8 glorious minutes later, you have biscuits!  It had made 6, and we had leftovers.  Wouldn’t you know it, the best breakfast sandwich was born… He took those leftover biscuits, added an egg, topped it with some guacamole, and wham! It’s breakfast.

Now, I will say, I’ve gone back and doctored these up a little since that first day.  Kevin likes his eggs over easy, and I only eat mine scrambled- however you like your eggs, this sandwich is a winner.  AND, if you make a batch of biscuits in advance (We now make them on Sundays and Wednesdays) you’ll really cut down your prep to plate time!

Breakfast Egg Biscuits

You’ll need:
1 pouch of bisquick cheddar garlic biscuits (or 3 cheese… They were out of those at our store, rats.)
1 100 Calorie pack of Wholly guacamole
1 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 slice canadian bacon, ham, bacon, or sausage patty… your choice (go with the pre-cooked- saves time!)

If you haven’t premade your biscuits, then you’ll need to preheat your oven to 450.  Mix 1/2 cup of water with 1 pouch of biscuit mix and stir.  Plop them onto a greased/ sprayed baking sheet.  It should make 6- sometimes, I get carried away with how much to spoon out, and I only get 5 and they are HUGE.  6 is the way to go.  Anyway, pop those in the oven for 8 minutes and then let them cool for a minute or two after they are done.

Now that you have biscuits ready, this gets so much easier.

Whip up 1 egg, and scramble in a skillet over medium, stirring as you go.  Generally, this takes about 2 – 3 minutes for one egg.  In the final minute, top with 1 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese, so that it has time to get a smidge melty.  (Such technical terms today)

Turn off the heat and let your egg sit for a moment while you split your biscuit.  Spread a spoonful of guacamole onto the top of your biscuit.  I like Wholly Guacamole’s 100 Calorie packs because 1 pack is just about perfect for 2 people or 2 biscuits.  Today, we used the spicy guacamole- it packs a nice little kick!  If you’re on your own- no worries… use a spoonful and then pack the rest into a container with a tiny splash of lemon juice- the lemon juice will keep it from turning brown, which only means that your guacamole got oxidized- not a big deal.  I’ll take the extras sometimes with some carrot sticks for lunch or a snack.

Transfer your egg to the bottom half of your biscuit and top with your meat selection-  I chose ham today, and no- I didn’t intentionally cut it to look like a heart, that was just by sheer dumb luck!  Cute, right?

Plop your guac. coated biscuit top back onto your bottom half and dig in.  The slight crunch to the biscuit combined with the creaminess of the guacamole and soft, cheesy egg… one perfect bite.  Match it up with a hot cup of coffee, and you are sure to have a great start to your morning.  Plus- it’ll keep you filled up til lunch!

I’d love to stay and chat more about breakfast, but my sandwich is calling my name- and if I don’t dive in soon, the puppy will find a way to make my sandwich his!  

Until next time,