Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Seniors, Shrimp Skewers with Pesto and Cheddar Polenta

The day has arrived...the "Last, First Day of School".  My girls are Seniors and this day has been coming for a very, very long time.  Although it doesn't seem that long...feels like they were just taking their "First, First Day of School" photos.

My heart is overwhelmed with emotions and it's going to be one of those long Kleenex kinds of year. Well, my little birds will be ready to fly soon and we just continue to pray for them and be thankful for all the Blessings we have been given with them.

This dinner has absolutely nothing to do with anything other than it is a great comfort meal for me in my time of need.

Shrimp Skewers with Pesto and Cheddar Polenta
Adapted from Cuisine at Home Grilling

For The Shrimp;
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. paprika
minced zest of 1 lime
salt to taste
16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails off
(1) 4 ounce container, prepared pesto sauce

For The Cheddar Polenta;
3 cups water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
salt to taste

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Combine 1/4 cup oil, garlic, pepper flakes, paprika, lime zest, and salt for the shrimp in a bowl.  Add shrimp and toss to coat; marinate for at least 5 minutes.

Thread 4 shrimp onto each of the 4 skewers through both the tail and the head to hold in place.  Reserve marinade for basting.

Arrange skewers on the grill with the handles extending over the edge.  Grill covered for 1-1/2 minutes per side, brushing shrimp with marinade as they cook.  Serve skewers with warmed, prepared pesto.

For the Polenta, bring water and milk to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Gradually whisk in cornmeal.  Cook cornmeal according to package directions, or until thick, stirring often.  

Add Cheddar, stirring until melted.  Season polenta with salt.

One Year Ago: Naughty Cookie Bars
Three Years Ago: Flatiron Steak Salad

Monday, August 15, 2016

Zucchini Pie and School Week Meal Prep

It's "Back-To-School" week here in Colorado.  Just completed a great weekend of getting caught up on my 37 loads of laundry that I was in denial of and started on my closet purging for another Goodwill delivery.  A good home cleaning and refreshing the house for a new week and school year always feels good.  Every school year I remember my girls starting their school life in Kindergarten and reading Robert Fulghum's book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  It is a must read if you have not done so already.  It's a timeless classic that makes you look at and smile at life and how simple it really can (and should) be.

School clothing shopping for Senior Portraits is all complete, location scouting has been finalized and my Senior girls are ready to finish their high school careers.  Registration packets and parent authorizations are all signed. Incredibly bittersweet...what more can I say.  As always, to take my mind off my birds leaving the nest someday...I cook!

Last night I made a refrigerator full of chicken quesadillas, breakfast burritos, pancakes and waffles, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, my Pot Roast know, the quintessential teenager meal needs...(well, maybe for mama too, after all my mornings can get hectic also)!

For weeknight dinners, this side dish is awesome!  It came from one of my summer deliveries of Cuisine at Home and I was so excited to try it.  Comes together so quick and flawless that it will be one less thing to stress about during your back-to-school week.  Enjoy and have a good week!

Zucchini Pie (with cheesy rice crust)
Courtesy of Cuisine At Home May/June 2016

1 cup dry instant white rice
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick spray.

Combine rice, broth, Cheddar, egg, mayonnaise and pepper flakes; pour into prepared dish.

Arrange zucchini in an overlapping spiral on top of rice mixture.

Combine butter, Parmesan, Italian seasoning and salt; pour over zucchini.

Bake pie until bubbly and top is golden, 30-35 minutes;  let rest 10 minutes.

One Year Ago: Greek Chicken Salad
Two Years Ago: Spinach Chicken Bacon Pizza
Three Years Ago: Snickerdoodles

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Key Lime Jalapeno Cake

It is local fair and farmer's market seasons around most of the country and most definitely here in Colorado.  I love going to our farmer's market on Saturday mornings.  The freshest most beautiful fruits, vegetables and flowers with vibrant colors and scents.  Along with those, you can also get a taste of local honey, sausages, wines and cheeses with all the farms around our area.

Colorado is known for their peppers...all kinds...Hatch, Ghost, Jalapeno and every other kind imaginable.  The other day I was reading our local paper and noticed an article on one of our family owned bakeries here.  They specialize in taking everyday desserts and add a Colorado fresh ingredient twist to them.  I saw that they add jalapeno peppers to their Key Lime Pie...are you kidding me?  How awesome does that sound?

Since I had never made a Key Lime Pie from scratch (yet), and I was short on time, I did a play on the dessert and made a Key Lime Cake instead.  Oh my goodness!!!  This cake has everything...sweet, rich, creamy and a little kick of heat at the end of your bite that gets you in the tastebuds.  Honestly though, I could have just sat and ate the entire bowl of the key lime frosting...delish!!

Key Lime Jalapeno Cake
Adapted from Lauren's Latest and Inspired by La Momo Maes Bakery

(1) 16.5 oz. white cake mix
+ ingredients to complete cake mix (eggs, water, oil)
2 Tbls. finely grated lime zest
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs (removed and discarded) finely diced
8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbls. finely grated lime zest
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbl. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 9x13 glass baking dish with nonstick spray on bottom and sides of pan and set aside.

Make white cake mix according to package directions.  Stir in lime zest and finely diced jalapeno. Pour into prepared pan and smooth batter out evenly.  Bake 23-28 minutes or until cake is completely cooked and lightly golden.  Set aside to cool.

For the topping; mix cream cheese with hand mixer to loosen.  Pour in sweetened condensed milk and stir until smooth.  Add in lime zest, lime juice and vanilla until smooth and filling has thickened.  Pour over cooled cake and spread evenly.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours covered in plastic wrap to set.

For the whipped cream; stir cream, powdered sugar and vanilla all together in a bowl until whipped into big pillowy peaks.  Add a spoon of whipped cream over serving.  Top with lime zest and serve.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

French Dip Date Night

It had been almost three years to the day since my girls were last at the Pepsi Center in Denver, for a concert. Looking back at their last concert photo, they have changed so much in three years, it's just unreal to me sometimes.

Well, after a long wait of 8 months (they received concert tickets for their birthday last year), the night had arrived...Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas.  Floor seats, nonetheless!!  I don't know how, but the Angels in Heaven above found me amazing (and affordable) seats for these girls.  The problem with having great seats...they will never sit in the "nose bleed sections" again!  I was just impressed that we didn't lose the tickets in those 8 months!

Priceless Smiles!

Fun Sister Memories Forever!

Demi Lovato

Nick Jonas

While our girls were rock'n out (they take after their mom, don't you know) my husband and I hit the big city.  We walked into the LoDo district and wandered around the new Union Station downtown. Once the scary lightning storm passed it ended up being a beautiful evening.

We stumbled onto the Thirsty Lion...which I can now say is probably my new favorite place downtown!!  Super fun atmosphere, extensive menu and awesome service...and the food, WOW!

I am a huge afficianado of The French Dip Sandwich.  I love, love, love these sandwiches and have since forever!  Their sandwich was unbelievable.  They make it with a Ciabatta roll (my new way to make it at home now), Provolone cheese and their Au Jus dipping sauce is infused with rosemary (also my new way to make it at home now). Amazing, just saying!!

My husband had their Fish'n Chips and he was equally impressed.  Yes, we will most definitely be back to the Thirsty Lion when we return to Denver for a future date night.  Cheers!

One Year Ago: Bistro Sandwich
Two Years Ago: Baja Turkey Tacos
Three Years Ago: Roasted Garlic and Cheese Platter

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Camping vs. Glamping and Potato Packets

So there's "camping" and then there's "glamping".  If you are a "glamper" then you already know the difference and I don't need to explain.  I am a glamper and I'm not going to apologize for it!

We finally were able to get away this past weekend to our favorite spot in Estes Park.  It's clearly everyone else's favorite spot too...because you have to make reservations in January for a summer weekend!  I know we must look like The Clampets from Beverly Hillbillies, but we are a high maintenance glamping family and pack everything, even if it's just for a few days.  Plus, if there's anything that makes me more crazy is having to pay $10.37 for a bottle of salad dressing I forgot at home and have to pay "tourist" pricing in the nearest convenience town.

The boys were even excited to go for our little excited that Angus threw up in the backseat before we even got out of the driveway. So much fun!!??

The view from our campsite was absolutely breathtaking at sunset.

First night, grilled ranch husband has truly become "The Pit Master"!  If you are looking for hot dogs or hamburgers for dinner, don't come to our will never see that being served on my watch...never!  We go full on gourmet even in the middle of the forest!

Thank God my husband is an early riser.  He knows I refuse to come out of the tent unless the percolator is brewing and my steaming cup of hot coffee is ready to go in my hands by the nice warm fire.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing better than pancakes made in a cast iron skillet!  My kids loved them so much that even when we are home, they will only have them prepared in the same skillet.  

Here is our new digs for the season.  Our kids commandeered our other tent for them and their teenager friends that tag along.  We haven't reached the motor home stage of our lives yet...yet!  However if you have to tent it, this one is really's like a condo on stakes.  Holds my 6'3" husband and our Labradors you can see, Theo approves of his new "patio".

Our super sized cots fit the bill nicely in the new tent and let's just face it, no girl can go glamping without her JLo faux fur blanket...and yes, my husband needed his custom made Seahawks blanket as well.

You will also never find a Pinot Noir being served in a plastic disposable cup in my glamping world.

Fireside ring ready for the audience.

Rib-eye steaks and potato packets grilled for our finale night.

Why is dinner so much better served in the forest.

Aside from his scary photo glow eyes, this sweet little friend was also having his dinner right next to our site.  He must have stayed at least an hour and just hung out with us.  So perfectly beautiful and mesmerizing to watch in his environment.

Potato Packets

6 large red potatoes, sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
1 cold stick butter, divided into 12 slices 
Lawry's season salt
ground black pepper
garlic salt

On a square piece of foil, spray with non-stick spray.  Divided all the vegetables evenly for 6 servings.  Pile the foil with potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers.  Add 2 slices of butter.  Sprinkle lightly with season salt, pepper and garlic salt.
Fold foil together in the middle and then fold each side in.

Put on grill at medium-high temperature for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through.

*Makes 6 packets.

One Year Ago: GGMa's Angel Food Cake
Two Years Ago: Baja Turkey Tostadas
Three Years Ago: Sunrise Bars

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

One Skillet Tuscan Chicken

It's Wine Down Wednesday and you know what that's Wednesday and time to wind down with a nice wine.  We love Cara Mia Pinot Noir.  It's affordable and has a wonderful bouquet.  Chill it down and it's a lovely compliment with a salad, appetizers or dinner.

To go along with our beautiful glass of wine, I had half a brick of cream cheese that needed some love along with a little bit of pesto sauce that didn't get used up from pasta night.  I wanted a nice spreadable cheese to go over my toasted baguette slices...there you have it...two ingredients and the most perfect combination!

Another perfect combination...Saturday mornings and a good laugh!  The other day for the first time, I tuned into Patricia Heaton Parties on Food Network.  If you have not seen an episode yet, you must tune in asap!  Patricia is hilarious!!!  Her quick wit and sense of humor had me over-the-top laughing. She said, "She runs on 2 speeds...completely overcommitted and vegetable".  Right at that moment, the light bulb went on!  That's me!!  That's totally me!!  I am either running on warp speed drive in every direction or I am a pajama clad unshowered vegetable on the couch for an entire weekend.

Well, if you are also in your warp drive mode during the middle of the week like me, this dish is easy, fast and so flavorful.  It's just what you need for a Wine Down Wednesday...Enjoy!

One Skillet Tuscan Chicken

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 (15 oz) can Cannelini Beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup Kalamato olives, pitted and drained
1/4 cup capers, drained
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the cubed chicken pieces and cook for about 8 minutes. on both sides, until cooked through.  Remove chicken and transfer to a plate.

Add 1 Tbsp. of olive oil to the skillet and saute the sliced mushrooms 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the juices have evaporated.  Set aside.

Add another 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the skillet and the diced onion.  Saute the onions 3-4 minutes until translucent.  Add the minced garlic to the onions and saute together one more minute.  Add salt and pepper to taste while cooking.

Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the skillet and toss the diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, Cannelini beans, Kalamato olives and capers.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle in the oregano, thyme and drizzle in the balsamic vinegar and honey.  Stir a few minutes.

Add the cooked chicken and mushrooms to the skillet.  Stir and cook 1-2 minutes or until chicken is heated through.

Serve hot over your favorite pasta with the fresh basil.

One Year Ago: Lemon-Blackberry Olive Oil Cake
Two Years Ago: Fry Sauce
Three Years Ago:  Colorado Pickling Cucumbers

Friday, July 15, 2016

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Almonds and Multitasking

I have started to realize there are some days that I am taking my multitasking a little too far...way too far! Even for a full-time working wife and mother, sometimes we just tend to over do it.

I realized it when this week, I had to have my car's quarterly service done.  My first mistake was making the appointment at 7:00 am.  That mean's my caboose needs to get up extra, extra early. Well, I stayed up a little later the night before, trying to tidy up the house before I went to bed.  I have also realized I truly like waking up to a perfectly neat and uncluttered house in the morning.  Putting away mail, straightening up the throw blankets and pillows (yes, I know it's 97 degrees here during the day, but we still like to snuggle with our throws in the evening) and giving the kitchen one last wipe down and polish before I call it a night.  It just gives a feeling of starting the day off fresh.

Well, all that freshness that I was organizing the night before, made me sleep in the next morning!..not good. I had to do the hyper speed shower (which meant the shaving of my legs just got postponed to the next day...again...ewww!!) and the fastest hair drying ever!

I didn't want to be late for my car appointment and get sent to the back of the waiting line...definitely no time for that!  I had achieved getting my "base face" on at home and proceeded to pack up the finishing color touches in my purse.  I grabbed the rest of my hair items and off I went.

After checking my car in, I headed to their restroom (and may I add it is one of the nicest public restrooms I have ever seen).  The place was empty and freshly cleaned.  I then dumped my mail that I needed to still open, the rest of my make up, my hair accessory and spray, and the jewelry I hadn't put on yet either.

There I am in Ford's private dressing room space...getting ready.  I looked down at the counter and just laughed!  Too much going on in life right now...must step back, take a break and breathe.  Oh, then I saw a bottle of clear top coat polish in my purse...what the heck, might as well do a quick pedicure touch up on my toes too while I'm waiting for my car!!

You're probably wondering where this is all going and what does it have to do with today's recipe. Well, as my brain was on overload, I realized I never posted this recipe in my que from our anniversary dinner menu. ...yes, the meal I made two months ago, yes that one!!  See, I told you...too much multitasking going on!

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Almonds
Courtesy of Anne Burrell, Food Network

extra virgin olive oil
8 chicken thighs
kosher salt
1/2 pound pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 large onions, julienned
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 pounds assorted mushrooms, such as baby bella, button, cremini, cleaned and sliced
2 cups dry white wine
4 to 6 cups chicken stock
1 bundle thyme
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted

Coat a large, wide, deep pan with olive oil and bring to a high heat.  Pat the chicken skin dry with paper towels and season generously with salt.  Add chicken, skin side down to the pan.  * If the pan is smoking excessively, turn the burner down and continue to cook.*  When the skin is brown and crispy, turn the chicken over and brown it on the other side.  Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

Lower the heat and remove most of the excess fat.  Add the pancetta and brown.  When the pancetta has started to get brown and crispy add the onions.  Season with salt and crushed red pepper and sweat over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and saute for 3 to 4 minutes or until they release their juices.  Add the wine and reduce by half.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add chicken stock to almost cover the chicken.  Add the thyme and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.   Simmer the chicken for 30 to 35 minutes.  Add more chicken stock, if needed.

While the chicken is cooking puree the almonds in the food processor.  Drizzle in a little olive oil while the machine is running to make a loose paste.  Season with salt and reserve.

Once the chicken has cooked for 30 to 35 minutes, remove it from the pan and reserve.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and add in the almond puree.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer to thicken the sauce, if needed.  The almond puree with help thicken the sauce and make it very rich.

Add the chicken back into the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.

** Serve over Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Sauteed Haricots Verts

One Year Ago: Spaghetti Squash Fritters
Two Years Ago: Grilled Vegetable Salad