Friday, August 29, 2014

Smoked BBQ Chicken Nachos

Well, it's that time of year again...the weekend when the most grilling/BBQ/smoking happens more than any other time of the year.  I also heard today that the average person eats twice as much during an outdoor event, than if they were eating indoors...hmm.

I don't know about that because we tried out these BBQ nachos a couple weeks ago, ate them inside and I could have inhaled them all by myself, they were that awesome!!  If memory serves me, I believe I was even referred to as "Cronk" at one point during the night...can't say it wasn't well deserved.

We started with using taco seasoning blend, and grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Let chicken cool.  Chop into diced, bite size portions.  Coat with your favorite BBQ sauce.  
We are partial to Stubb's Original BBQ Sauce.
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with a non-stick spray.  Spread a layer of tortilla chips.  Add a layer of Mexican four cheese shredded blend.  Top with the bbq sauce coated chicken.

Add another layer of the shredded cheese.

*This next step can be done in your oven at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes 
(or until cheese has completely melted).
We used our Traeger Grill at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (turning them around, half way through), so they got equal heat and they were positively amazing.

Add your favorite toppings and serve.
We included diced tomatoes, diced avocados and green onions and sour cream.

Enjoy and have a safe and relaxing Labor Day Weekend.

One Year Ago:  Flatbread Friday

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spicy Roasted Chicken Legs and Old Lady Legs

They say that it is very important for a parent to bond with their children, I think that goes without saying and quite obvious, of course all parents and children should have bonding moments.  However, I didn't think that one of my bonding times would be having to wear the same type of knee brace that my daughter has also started in, due to too many floor dives in volleyball and developing tendinitis.

My new daily "accessory".

So there you have it, I now officially have "Old Ladyitis".

Last weekend as I had my knee propped up and icing it while I watched Pioneer Woman, she made these really great chicken legs and since I am a "spicy" kind of lady, I thought it was very timely and very appropriate. So in celebration of great (and not so great) legs, here it is....

Spicy Roasted Chicken Legs
Courtesy of Pioneer Woman

24 whole Chicken Legs

2 sticks Butter

1 Tablespoon Hot Salt (or You Favorite Seasonings)

1/2 cup Lemon Juice (or To Taste)

Melt 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan.  Pour 1/2 cup of lemon juice (fresh or bottled).  Now add your seasonings.  In this case, I used 1 tablespoon of Lawry's Season Salt and a few dashes of cayenne pepper.  Stir it together until combined.

Rinse and pat chicken legs dry.  With metal tongs, transfer them one by one into the butter mixture and place on a baking sheet.  Once all of the chicken legs are coated and on the baking rack, take a pastry brush and give them one last coating of the butter mixture.  Sprinkle them with some more of your seasonings.

Place them into a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.  If they need a bit more color, turn on the broiler for a couple minutes and watch them closely.  Remove them when they are nice and golden brown.

I served our new legs with a salad version from the South Beach Diet.

Baby Greens with Tiny Tomatoes, Fresh Herbs, and Toasted Pistachios
Adapted from The South Beach Diet "Taste of Summer" Cookbook

1/2 cup shelled pistachios
6 ounces mixed baby greens
1-1/2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry, white wine or champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Toast pistachio nuts either in a saute pan on the cooktop or in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes, until golden brown.  Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.

In a large bowl, combine greens, tomatoes, cucumber, and basil.  Add oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper; toss to coat.  Divide among salad plates and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Volleyball Cookies and Lessons in Icings

For 4-5 months of the year during the Spring/Summer and early Fall, I am a golf widow.  My husband took up the sport the morning of our wedding 17 years ago and was immediately addicted.

The rest of the year, my husband is a volleyball widower.  Nights and almost every weekend is dedicated to volleyball both high school and competitive club.  My girls and I are constantly on the go.

This past week our girls' school volleyball teams had a potluck.  We were given plenty of notice and the girls were assigned to bring cookies.  Well, in the craziness of our week I forgot about the potluck. The day before, they reminded me...I played it off like of course, it's the first thing on my mind as I dropped them off at school.

While driving to work, my wheels in my overloaded brain start turning.  Could I just pick a couple packs of cookies from the grocery store?  No, that is just not in my DNA, I couldn't possibly be that boring.  Could I pick up a gourmet case of fancy cookies from Costco and just drizzle some melted white chocolate on them to look homemade?...of course not.  No, I decide with just less than 24 hours until the event that I am going to make 48 volleyball cookies and individually package them in cute little clear bags tied with ribbons in their school colors.  Can you say "insane, overachiever"?

Now mind you, I am not much of a baker or a cookie/cake designer by any stretch of the imagination. So, I spent a good amount of the day during breaks on Google, Pinterest, Wilton and any other website I could get my hands on to figure out how I was going to pull this off....brain overload!!  I had no idea about the world of "icings".  I can honestly say I now know everything about "bordering", "flooding" and "settling".

Thank God I discovered King Arthur Flour.  This website positively saved my sanity and my mission.

Simple Cookie Glaze
Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

2-1/4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1-1/2 to 2 Tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon milk (2% or Whole)

Mix all of the ingredients together.  Stir until smooth; a fork works fine.

The glaze should be thick, but soft enough to "settle" when you spread it.  If the glaze is too thick, dribble in another teaspoon of milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

King Arthur Flour Tip:  Be sure to measure accurately here.  Too little milk, and the glaze won't spread nicely.  Too much milk and it will be thin, spotty and develop splotches overnight.

Once the glaze has hardened, you can color on it with foodsafe markers or you can pipe another color over the top.  You can sprinkle sugar on top of the wet icing for a sparkly effect.

Yield:  2/3 cup of glaze (this amount glazed 24 cookies)

** I used Wilton's Cookie Icing in Black for the volleyball lines.

Spreading the glaze with an offset spatula for "settling".

Before and After Glazing

One volleyball player....

...two volleyball players helping out.
Resting for packaging.
Our basket of little beauties - mission accomplished!
One Year Ago: Mocha Mint Delight

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Orzo Salad With Everything and Redecorating Everywhere

As all new school years typically go there is the new wardrobe, new school supplies and new haircuts to start the year off fresh.

Well, since we had recently moved into our new house, the girls decided they also wanted new rooms...something a little more grown up, sophisticated and mature. Yes, another rite of passage that breaks my little girls are growing up too fast.

We have spent the last couple months searching out ideas on Pinterest and slowly transforming not only their rooms, but also seeing them really coming into their own young ladies.

Love the owl lamps and owl headboard piece we discovered.
The oldest one really took to the set designs of the show Gossip Girl.  She loves the elegance and classy sophistication of their home in New York.  My daughter really has an affection for her owls and I found the greatest finds at Hobby Lobby to finish it off.

Gossip Girl's infamous butterfly wall design.
We started her collection of accent pillows, a beautiful jacquard bed set and she now has her espresso colored dresser and nightstands.  I love finding great deals and never paying full price for "fabulous".
My other daughter is more of a relaxed, colorful spirit with a touch of pizazz.  She loves organic designs and lots of color around her.  Again, we searched far and wide and found incredible designs and deals at Target and Hobby Lobby.

The perfect wall decals to bring out the bedding colors.
Eggplant color framed mirror with her sparkle arrangement.

Beautiful art piece that sparkles in just the right light.
After the finishing touches everywhere it was time for our neighbor's annual end of summer potluck dinner with all the neighbors on their street.  I decided to make the family Orzo Salad With Everything.  

My sister-in-law Leslie first introduced this salad to us at one of our family dinners.  Love this salad...really versatile and goes great with any type of meat dish.  Leslie and my husband's brother Steve will be visiting us in the next couple weeks, so I know that there will be much cooking, baking and BBQ going on...stay tuned for that one next month.  They both love to cook as much as me and my husband, so rest assured no one will be starving that weekend.

Orzo Salad With Everything
Courtesy of Leslie

1-1/2 cups orzo (rice shaped pasta) uncooked
1/3 cup (packed) chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1 cup finely chopped radicchio (about 1/2 of a small head)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Cook orzo in a pot of boiling, salted water until tender.  Drain well.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add sun-dried tomatoes, oil, vinegar and olives.  Toss to blend.  Let stand until cool.  (This part can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead, cover and refrigerate).  Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Mix chopped radicchio, pine nuts, chopped basil, Feta and garlic into the orzo mixture.  Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.


One Year Ago: Pasta Puttanesca

Saturday, August 23, 2014

BBQ Ranch Grilled Chicken

Well we did it...we have survived the first week of school.  To say it has been a whirlwind is an understatement.  Non-stop schedules all week, both day and night, but we made it.

My mantra, next to our coffee maker...enough said.
To help keep my sanity (especially during school and volleyball season), I always plan our dinners one week in advance and keep a monthly calendar on the refrigerator to help with the planning.  It's a good thing because I need to refer to it several times a month when I am writing my blog.

I typically photograph and keep about two weeks of meal and/or specialty photos stocked and ready to go for the postings.  The problem is when I go back to write and download the photos, sometimes I cannot recognize the dish.  My sister-in-law who was the Marketing Director for Bristol Farms taught me that food is one of the most difficult things to photograph to capture the true colors and textures of a dish...she was spot on.

So as I was going through my photos this week I came across this one and it took me about a day and referring to my meal calendar to figure out what it was.  I can't believe I forgot about it because it was one of the most amazing chicken dishes we have had...served with a caesar salad and parmesan-garlic couscous. The moistness and flavors of the chicken was outstanding. This is by far a if I can only remember it for the future!

BBQ Ranch Grilled Chicken
Courtesy of Plain Chicken

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup prepared Ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp BBQ seasoning
1 teaspoon white vinegar
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, BBQ seasonng, and white vinegar.

Pound chicken breast to 1/4" thickness.  Place chicken in the gallon size ziplock bag.  Pour marinade over chicken.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours (all day).

Preheat the grill for medium-high heat.  Grill chicken for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and the juices run clear.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Spinach, Chicken, Bacon Pizza...Back To School Shopping

 "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"...I love it when I hear the Staples t.v. commercial with Andy Williams singing this tune in the background.  Yes, it has arrived once again!!

A beautiful sign nearing end of summer in our backyard.
Well, once again, I walked our 17 mile adventure at Flatiron Crossing Mall with my girls for our annual back-to-school adventure.  All the major places of interest were hit...Hollister, American Eagle, H&M, Forever 21, Kohl's, Sports Authority, BC Surf and Sport and of course Office Depot (well the last one wasn't very popular, but necessary).

All in all, a very successful day and happy to report we got it all wrapped up in one day.

The fruits of our labor and the "fruit of the vine" for mommy!!
After a very long and traffic packed day I needed simple, easy and satisfying dinner.  It was not South Beach friendly but I didn't care I had definitely walked off the calories this day and deserved a little indulgence.

Spinach, Chicken and Bacon Pizza

Boboli Ready Made 12" Pizza Thin Crust
10 oz. container Buitoni Alfredo Sauce (in refrigerator deli section) - I only use about 1/2 of the container.
(1) cooked chicken breast, diced
(5) slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1 small jar, marinated artichoke hearts, sliced
(1) handful fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon Italian blend seasoning mix

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put pizza crust on a pizza stone (or cookie sheet).  Spread alfredo sauce all over pizza crust.  Layer pizza toppings starting with spinach, chicken, bacon, artichoke hearts and top with Parmesan cheese.  Finish with sprinkling Italian seasoning all over pizza.

Bake approximately 12 minutes (check after 10 minutes, depending on your oven).  Continue baking until crust is golden brown and cheese has melted and bubbly.  Let set about 5 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy this luscious pizza with a
 chilled Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay.

One Year Ago:  Flat Iron Steak Salad

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Baja Turkey Tostadas and National Twins Day

So, I just learned that there is a National Twins Day and Twins Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio this weekend...really?  I joined a local "Mothers of Multiples" club when the girls were first born, but had no idea that there was an actual annual festival that takes place every year.

This festival is for those twins that truly do look exactly alike.  The siblings that you cannot tell apart, just like our nieces.  Truth be told though our girls not only don't look like twins, they don't even look like they could be cousins.  They are as opposites of the spectrum as you could and night both in looks and personalities.  It's as though I gave two separate births at different times.

They do have one thing in common though, just like every other child....I saw this posting on Pinterest and could not stop laughing.  I loved it so much that I immediately printed and posted on our refrigerator.  The girls and my husband read it and said, "Yep, that's so true".

As you know, we have been trying to improve some of our eating habits and I have been a regular on the Jennie-O Turkey website trying to find different turkey recipes because I think I have now exhausted every type of salad that I can stand right now.

Great diversion from our regular Tuesday Taco Night option.  So easy and I am in love with this new cole slaw...we are using it all the time now.  Incredibly flavorful with such few ingredients.  I changed up their recipe and made my own short cuts for weeknight time savings.

Baja Turkey Tostadas
Adapted from Jennie-O website

For the slaw:
1 Bag shredded cole slaw mix (purple and green cabbage with shredded carrots)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup shredded jicama

For the turkey filling:
1 (20-oz) package Jennie-O Extra Lean Ground Turkey Breast (or your favorite brand)
1 package of your favorite taco seasoning mix (I used the McCormick's brand package made for Chicken tacos, for a lighter flavor with the white meat)

Whole Wheat Tortillas
Sour Cream
Lime Wedges, if desired
Salsa, if desired

To make the slaw, in a large bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil, honey, cayenne pepper and mix well.  Add the cabbage/carrot mixture and jicama.  Toss well with dressing.  Cover and chill 3-4 hours, if time permits.
** I chilled mine for only about an hour while I prepared the rest of the dinner and it was still great.

To make the turkey filling, in a large skillet, cook the turkey as specified on the package.  Always cook to well-done 165 degrees F.  Add the taco seasoning and prepare as directed on package.

While turkey is simmering, prepare the tortillas.  Heat a medium size skillet to medium-high heat.  Add tortilla one at a time and heat each side about one minute, or until the tortilla starts to get golden brown and crisp.

For plating, fill each cooked tortilla with turkey mixture.  Top with slaw and sour cream, if desired.  Serve with lime wedges and salsa, if desired.