Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hungarian Goulash and Heartthrob #JakeRyan

I am a girl of the 80's.  My high school years were in the 80's and it was truly I think the best of times.  Great movies, great music and you cannot forget the really great big hair (and shoulder pads of course).

It was a time when teenagers actually talked on the phone and had conversations.  There was no Twittering, texting, tagging in photos or hash-tagging.  I'm embarrassed to say that I am still not completely clear on the whole # (hash-tagging) thing. Nonetheless, I am working my way through it with two teenagers.

I was happy to see last weekend was an 80's movie marathon, complete with Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles.  I learned that neither one of my girls had never seen either of these sad is that?

It was my duty as their mother - you cannot go your whole life without seeing these two classics.  It was just us girls home and we snuggled in with our pajamas and I got to relive the 80's all over again...and Jake Ryan.

What girl from that decade could forget the infamous Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles.  Every girl dreamed of meeting someone like Jake for their 16th birthday and having a prince charming sweep them off their feet (with his red Porsche).

Our 80's hunk, Jake Ryan.
My work here was done - girls loved the movies and Jake Ryan.

In feeling nostalgic this weekend, I was craving my sister-in-law Cathy's family recipe of Hungarian Goulash. Just to show how old this recipe is, she sent it to me on a fax machine in 1998 before our kids were born, before e-mail and way before tweeting.

Hungarian Goulash
Courtesy of Cathy

2 pounds top sirloin, cut into 1" - 2" chunks
1 white onion, chopped in 1/4" chunks
1 whole orange pepper, cut in 1/2" chunks
1 whole yellow pepper, cut in 1/2" chunks
olive oil
salt to taste
flour to coat
2 cans beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 small can tomato paste
Hungarian Paprika

In crockpot pour in beef broth, diced tomatoes in juice, red wine and tomato paste - stir well.

In a skillet add olive oil, simmer the onions and peppers until soft.  Remove from skillet and add to the sauce in crockpot.

In same skillet that vegetables were cooked, add the sirloin (dusted in flour first).  Brown meat and season with salt and pepper.  Do not cook meat all the way through, just get a nice crust on it, as it will continue cooking all day in crock pot.

Add the browned meat to the crockpot and mix into the sauce.  Add enough paprika so the stew turns reddish.

Cook in crockpot on low for 8-10 hours.  The longer it cooks, the better it is.

I served it over cooked egg noodles, coated in a little sour cream.  You can also serve the goulash over dumplings, spaetzle, gnocchi or mashed potatoes.

A toast to Jake with Vina Temprana

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Grilled Shrimp and Girls Bump, Set, Spike

The day had finally come upon us...first competitive volleyball tournament of the 2014 season.  The girls were like giddy little kids, not able contain their excitement.

Luckily we had the late start that day, so I had some quite (and shopping time) in the morning.  I caught a few food television episodes and quiet coffee time with the boys while they "kibbled" after their breakfast.

Then it was off to Real Deals across town with one of my girls' friend's mom.  She shared the tip with me on this darling place and we were finally able to set a mom shopping date for the morning.

"Real Deals" - Really Great Shopping!
They have amazing prices and the best candles, clocks and culinary ware, oh my!!!

Well after quick shopping and prepping for the road trip and tournament, off we went.....

The twins teaming up.

One of the recipes I watched in the morning was from Bobby Flay's Barbeque Addiction.  He made the grilled shrimp as an appetizer, but I thought it would make a great dinner dish, just changing it up a bit and adding a pasta side of creamy angel hair.

Grilled Shrimp with Bacon, Tomato and Scallion Vinaigrette
Courtesy of Bobby Flay

  • 8 ounces slab bacon, rind removed, cut into large dice
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for brushing
  • 6 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 green onions, green and pale green parts, thinly sliced
  • 16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined, heads off
Put the bacon in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered.
When the bacon is just about done, heat the canola oil in a nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper and cook, stirring, just until slightly softened. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the skillet with the tomatoes and add the cilantro, vinegar, thyme and green onions. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Set aside; keep warm.
Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high for direct grilling.
Brush the shrimp with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using two skewers at a time, thread four shrimp on the skewers near the tail and head ends--this makes it easier to flip the shrimp on the grill. Grill until slightly charred and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
Remove the shrimp from the skewers and top with the warm vinaigrette.

Paired with Meiomi Pinot Noir

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Paninis and My Handyman

I married my husband for three reasons: His blue eyes, great sense of humor and his Makita drill set, seriously.  Well, maybe there were a few other reasons too.....

At any rate, he really is quite handy.  I guess being in the construction industry for over 25 years, you tend to pick up a few tricks of the trade.  The problem is I have also been in the same industry for the same amount of time and we are both think we are the Chiefs in the house...neither one of us wants to be the Indian.  Makes for an interesting marriage that's for sure.  That sense of humor on both our parts comes in very handy also.
The Handyman's helpers in training.
Well my husband also has very good (and expensive taste) in washers and dryers.  Laundry is a very big thing to him.  His perfect dream house would have a laundry room bigger than our bedroom, I'm not even kidding here.  He loves to wash, dry and fold laundry, and truth be told he is much better at it than I am.  He says it's a sense of accomplishment to have everything clean and neatly put away in its place.

As you can imagine, we really put our washer and dryer to the test with all our family's laundry.  Recently our appliances were not working up to par, so I called in a reputable appliance company to come out and see what the dryer noise and leaking washer was all about.  Since our appliances are from Sweden, there aren't many companies that can repair them.  I should have kept that in the back of my mind during our "diagnostic appointment."

I will fast forward and spare the details.  The bottom line from them was " It's going to take several hours to take them apart as they are very difficult and timely to replace the dryer drum ball bearing and replace the water pump in the washer", to the tune of nearly $650.00 to fix the problems.

Now mind you, I am just coming off of Christmas and birthday budget$, so needless to say I almost had a breakdown right then.  I said thank you very much for coming out and I would need to discuss it with my husband.  Well, I called him and broke the news....a half hour later he called me back and said he was able to purchase the new ball bearing for $71.00 and the new water pump for $48.00.  Now, I am mad!

My husband assured me, no problem....we can do this.  He Googled instructions on how to replace these pieces and guess what (thank God for Google), there were actual YouTube videos on replacing these items in our exact brand, make and model appliances.

My Makita Man
In less than an hour, we had both parts replaced.  Now I am really, really mad!!!  I cannot believe that a company can get away with that - $650.00 ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? !!

Well once again, God Bless my husband and his Makita.  We were able to conquer corporate America and achieve DIY sucess - Victory Is Sweet !!  It was time to celebrate with his favorite lunch - paninis.

Prosciutto Paninis
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

2 slices of fontina cheese
2 slices of rustic white bread
1 thin slice of red onion
1 thin slice of tomato
1 thin slice of prosciutto
6 fresh baby spinach leaves
freshly ground black peper
2 tsp. olive oil

Place one slice of fontina cheese on 1 slice of bread.  Top with the onion, then the prosciutto, tomato and the spinach.  Sprinkle with the pepper.  Top with the second slice of fontina, then with the second bread slice.  Brush both sides fo the sandwich with the oil.

Preheat panini grill or a ridged grill pan over medium heat.  Grill the sandwich until the bread is golden brown and the cheese melts, pressing down.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Marinara Meatball Sliders and Making Blankets

It's been girls week as husband is out of town with some buddies.  It's also been an exhausting week with volleyball practice up in full swing (no pun intended), school back in session full time and work is beyond out of control and busy.  Dogs are missing my husband and they think they are my guardian protectors, following me everywhere throughout the house.

One of the gifts I gave the girls for their birthday were new volleyball blankets. You see, even 15 year olds need their special blankies.  Almost every girl and team I see at the volleyball tournaments have their "No Sew Fleece Blankets".  So, it was time for their new 2014 Winter/Spring Collection version that I was to make.

 Well, time got away in preparation for their birthday, so I was only able to get the fabrics and not get them tied and made in time.  This week was a great opportunity to have some down time at night and get them done. Not to mention that their first tournament of the season was less than 24 hours away, so the pressure was on.

Our girls first made these a few years ago at their Girl Scout Troop sleepover - so cute and easy for kids to make. I cannot sew, at best, I can put a button on in an emergency time of need. My mom and grandma are the "Singer Sisters" and can make anything on a sewing machine or by hand.  That being said, I am a HUGE fan of these blankets.  I love making them for kids and adults.  They are cozy, last forever and I really like how I can customize them to any size, color and style that I want.

I was also trying to keep this week's dinners easy, light and use up some leftovers from the weekend.  I confess, I did cave one night and we treated ourselves to dinner with no dishes.  Admit it, sometimes moms need a night out with Red Robin  unlimited french fries, a salad and nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.  It makes for happy kids and mom!!

I did get creative another night with the leftover meatballs from girls' pasta bar birthday party.  Marinara Meatball Sliders - delish.

Marinara Meatball Sliders
Inspired by Pioneer Woman's Mini Meatball Sandwiches
  • 1 pound Ground Chuck Or Ground Beef
  • 1/2 cup Panko Or Other Bread Crumbs
  • 1 clove Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Diced
  • 1 jar (large) Marinara Sauce
  • 12 whole Dinner Rolls (or Slider Rolls)
  • 4 slices Provolone Cheese, Cut Into Four Wedges Each

Preparation Instructions

Mix meat with bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, and milk. Knead together with hands. Roll into heaping tablespoon-sized rolls.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook for one minute. Add meatballs between the onions and brown for one minute. (You might have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your skillet.)
Pour in jar of marinara; shake pan gently to mix. Put on lid and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
When ready to serve, cut each dinner roll in half. Place a wedge of Provolone on the top and bottom of each roll. Spoon a meatball with the sauce onto the bottom bun; top with the top bun.

** Fork and Cork Note:  I substitued the Provolone Cheese with freshly shaved Parmesean Cheese.  I also cut the slider rolls in half and toasted them lightly on a grill pan before spooning on the meatballs.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Birthday Party - Chapter 2 - Pasta Bar and Garlic Knots

...and the birthday party continues....

My sister-in-law always tells me that when she dies, she wants to come back as one of my kids.  The party never stops and they are quite pampered....Guilty as charged!  I think I get more enjoyment out of spoiling than they do receiving....

After our eventful afternoon of appetizers, painting pottery and cupcakes I had to prepare for dinner and a sleepover of 8 teenagers.  It's no wonder my husband asked if he could check into the Holiday Inn that night - I told him only if I can escape and come with him.

The girls were great and it was a successful night.  I did a pasta bar set up for all of them.  3 different sauces:  Alfredo, Pesto and Marinara....Penne Pasta and sides of meatballs and grilled chicken.

To mop up all the sauces I made our addicting Garlic Knots, which is really aren't knots, but more like an Italian Monkey Bread.  This recipe ended up on someones Facebook page a few years ago and my daughter shared it with me because my hips and thighs are not big enough already.....

I love the versatility of this bread because you can add so many different herbs and spices to it and have it compliment any meal.

Garlic Knots

(1) Can Pillsbury Refrigerated Grands Biscuits
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves of garlic, minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the cold 1/2 stick of butter into (a non-stick sprayed) bundt pan and let it melt in the preheated oven.

While the butter is melting, cut the Grands biscuits into quarters.  In a bowl, toss the biscuit pieces, garlic and Parmesan cheese together.

Once the butter is melted, add the biscuit mixture, sprinkling with any cheese and garlic that gets left behind in the bowl.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes until biscuits are cooked through and top is lightly golden.  Let cool on rack for approximately 5 minutes.  Put a platter on top of bundt pan and invert it.  Remove bundt pan and serve on platter.

Birthday Party - Chapter 1 - Pottery and Painting

Since our girls were born just 3 days after Christmas it is always a little challenging for birthdays.  The good news for them is they typically score on gifts for a week straight in December.  The difficult part is school is on break and they will never know what it was like to have a classroom birthday party and most friends are out of town on Christmas vacation with their families.

The challenge is when to let them have a fun varies every year. Sometimes it's right after the new year, other years it has been late January.  Well, this year we picked right in the middle.

We decided to change it up a little and venture out.  Us girls (yes I consider myself to be quite the cool and hip mom) started our afternoon at The Pumphouse Restaurant in old town.  We took over the upstairs dining room and had a beautiful sunny view of Main Street.  In typical teenager fashion, we had an appetizer frenzy.  (Not a good time for my PMS either).  I think I inhaled more than the girls did.

Before the food coma kicked in, I had to keep this party moving.  We walked down the street to our local hands-on pottery studio called Crackpots.  I had reserved a room for all the girls and set them free to pick out their favorite pottery piece that they could then paint.

It was the best two hours.  The girls got their phones out to play music and I watched the creativity begin.  They chose mugs, owls, kittens and fish to paint.  Crackpots has a phenominal selection of pottery and paints to work with.  You pick your piece, paint away and in 5 days after they have prepared and fired your works of art, you come pick them up.

They even let me paint special memorable custom birthday plates for each birthday girl that all their friends signed before we fired them in the kiln.  They turned out absolutely precious.  The girls have decided that they want to eat their birthday cake every year on these special keepsakes.

Since we were gone most of the day, I took the easy route for sprinkled cupcakes from your basic boxed cake mix.  Nothing fancy, but very "girly girl" colors inspired from our painting excursion and really yummy.  Cupcakes just seem to always hit the spot, especially on my hips.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Black and White Parfaits and Tinis and Back To School

Tomorrow is back to school (my third favorite day of the year)...Hallelujah !!!!  After 2-1/2 weeks of vacation, the girls are off to be with their peers, books, volleyball  and a normal routine again and I couldn't be happier.

We had about a foot of snow come in and blanket us this weekend.  I couldn't believe what I heard come out of the girls' mouth..."I hope we have a snow day tomorrow and they close school."  Are you kidding me???  No, off to school you will go..snow, hail, freezing rain...out of the house you will be !!

 The dogs had a great time playing in the snow this weekend, bouncing through all the white powder and attacking the soccer ball and anything else they can find buried in the yard.

My husband said that Theo looks so black against the white snow.  Right then, I have no idea why, but I immediately went to my mom's dessert that she used to make for us when we were little.  Two ingredients from the 70's and I always felt like she worked all day and it was the most special treat for us to have on Sunday nights after our pot roast.

This worked out great since I am trying to rid of the extra pantry items for over the holidays.  Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone, so to go with the black and white parfait I also created a black and white martini.

Black and White Parfaits
Courtesy of Mom

Cool Whip Topping
Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers

Layer (starting with the whip cream) in a small glass or parfait glass, the whip cream and alternating with a chocolate wafer.  Layer until you get to the top and finish with the whip cream.  Top off with one of the wafers crushed and sprinkled on top.

Cover each glass with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

Black and White Tini
Celebrating Back To School

1/2 cup milk
1 mini Smirnoff "Fluffed Marshmellow" flavored vodka
1 mini Smirnoff "Vanilla" flavored vodka
1-1/2 teaspoon JELLO-O White Chocolate flavored instant pudding mix
Hershey's chocolate sauce
crushed Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers

Mix milk, both vodkas and JELLO-O instant pudding mix in shaker with ice.  Shake for about 30 seconds.

Dip rim of martini glass in chocolate sauce, then dip rim into crushed wafer crumbs.  Strain drink into glass.

Friday, January 3, 2014

S'More Dip and Student Drivers

Over the past 15 years I have held many jobs (in addition to my regular career).  I studied and learned the occupations, practiced and practiced and now own a great amount of experience as a nurse, tutor, dental hygienist, cyclist, physical therapist, cake designer and expert book report grader.  I think every mom becomes experts in these fields at one time or another.

This week on New Year's Eve I officially signed my life away with the State of Colorado and have become an unofficial certified driving instructor.  My daughters completed their four grueling days of Drivers Education from the company Top Cops - one of the best training courses I have come across for teen drivers.  After they completed the program and took their written test, they officially became owners of their own Driver's Permit.

 As part of their next year in practicing their driving (and my training as a driving instructor), Top Cops came up with this great magnetic sign to put on your car, so as to forewarn any nearby drivers that we have teens at the wheel - brilliant!!

My new after market car accessory.
To celebrate the week's rite of passage, my daughter found this recipe for S'more Crack Dip.  Since it's too cold to make s'mores outside, this was the perfect combination with the same amazing sweetness, gooeyness and taste.

S'more Crack Dip
Courtesy of Tasty Kitchen

1 cup of milk chocolate chips
2 tbs of milk
1 1/4 cups mini marshmallows
Graham crackers for dipping

In a medium sauce pan add chocolate chips, milk and 1 cup of your mallows. Mix continuously over medium heat until melted and smooth. Using a rubber spatula, scrape chocolate mixture into a small casserole dish. Top with remaining mallows.

Place dish under you oven broiler for approximately 30 - 60 seconds or until the top has started to brown. 

Dip your graham crackers and enjoy!!    

The boys begging for "s'more".

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Roasted Shrimp, Rose Parade and Happy New Year!

My favorite day of the year is December 1st when we put up Christmas second favorite day of the year is January 1st, when all the decorations are packed up and I get my house back in order again.  Time to say good-bye for another year to the snowman and Santa collections, family ornaments, jingle bells and too many bows and rolls of wrapping paper to count. I breathe a sigh of relief as I can sit spaciously and comfortably in our living room again wihout the multi-colored LED lights blinding my eyes.

Happy New Year from our home to yours.
New Year's Day holds a very special place in all of our family's hearts.  My husband grew up in Pasadena right down the street from the annual Rose Parade route.  His family would sell parking spots in their front yard to parade goers each year.
1st Class seat at the Rose Parade, circa 2008
There have been a few years that we were blessed to attend the parade in person and go behind the scenes for a private tour watching all the last minute preparations as each flower, seed and greenery is applied.

Behind the scenes watching last minute flowers.
One year my daughter for her 4th grade historical California project, researched the history of the Rose Parade and made a replica of one of the previous year's floats.

4th Grade California History Project - The Rose Parade
In the spirit of this year's Rose Parade, I condensed the girls' birthday centerpiece into separate floral arrangements for their bedrooms to enjoy everyday.

For our New Year's Eve family festivities, we had "nosh night", with appetizer platters...Baked Artichoke Dip, Mushroom and Five Cheese Flatbread and Ree Drummond's Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp.

Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp
Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

2 pounds raw shrimp, deveined, shells on
2 sticks cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cups fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 whole lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse frozen shrimp to separate, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

In the bowl of a food processor, add cold butter, garlic, lemon juice, salt parsley and red pepper flakes.  Pulse until combined.  Sprinkle cold butter crumbles over the shrimp.

Bake until shrimp is opaque and butter is hot and bubbly.

Serve with hot crusty bread.  Peel and eat the shrimp, then dip the bread into the butter in the bottom of dish.

We toasted in the New Year with
 Shannon Ridge, Sauvignon Blanc