Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It's So "Sweet" To Be 16


The ever anticipated "Sweet 16" birthdays can never be taken too lightly.  My daughters came up with their color scheme and theme for their birthday party to celebrate with friends, three months ago. (I can't imagine where they get their pre-planning from).  Once I received my direction, I started searching out plans, ideas, all finally came to reality this weekend.

The "Sweets" 16 Buffet
Complete with 16 different delicacies.

Purple flowered cake
Purple sugar dusted cupcakes
Grape Kool-Aid
Grape Vine Licorice
Purple Macaroons
Grape Laffy Taffy
Purple frosting drizzled pretzel rods
Grape Jelly Beans
Purple M&Ms
Dark Chocolate Hershey Kisses (purple foil wrapped)
Hershey’s Bliss Milk Chocolate (purple foil wrapped)
Purple sugar glazed shortbread cookies
Purple frosting glazed Rice Krispy Treats
Grape cotton candy
Grape saltwater taffy
Grape Pixie Stix

Custom ordered macaroons from Happy Cakes.
Purple sequin tabletop overlay from Wal Mart.

Homemade tiered cake and cupcakes.
Black lace cupcake holders
and purple sugar from Michaels.
Our dining room was transformed into the Great Gatsby(esque) event.

Various home cooked fondues for the menu.
(Traditional Swiss, Italian Pizza and Mexican Queso)
Serving ware from Bed, Bath and Beyond,
Party City and Dollar Tree.
Down to every detail.
Black chair bows made from cut rolls
of glittered tulle material from Wal Mart.

Lined the coffered ceiling with white twinkle lights
and swags of black and gold glittered tulle.
One Year Ago:  Hungarian Goulash

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Antipasto Salad with Bacon Wrapped Artichoke Hearts

It is no secret that my husband is a love of salads (all the men in his family must have salads at their dinner).  When we still lived in California, every time there was a family event, the sister-in-laws would all volunteer to bring anything but the big salad.  The guys don't want any typical green garden's got to be fancy, exotic and no less than fifteen ingredients.  They are all aficionados in salad recipes. Hence, the reason all us girls dreaded having salad duty.

Ladies, if you need a "Honey Do" list completed,
make these for your man!

I have learned through my years of marriage, if I add artichoke hearts and kalamata olives to a dish, I can pretty much win the wife award for that day...and if I also add bacon to it...he's putty in my hands.

We have always been huge fans of the antipasto salad.  Since most antipastos have marinated artichoke hearts in them, I thought it would be fun to take it further and wrap them in bacon.  If I am going to this much work for "the big salad", I might as well benefit from the finished product also.

Oh my gosh, this salad was unbelievable!!  The crisp bacon added the perfect crunch and the marinated artichoke hearts were a great flavor addition layer.

Antipasto Salad with Bacon Wrapped Artichoke Hearts

** Portions will vary, based upon how many people you are serving.
This can be a side salad or a main entree for dinner.

4 slices bacon, cut in half, widthwise
(1) 12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts (you will need 8 artichoke hearts)
Romaine Lettuce, cut into bite size pieces
Salami, cut into bite size pieces
Ham, cut into bite size pieces
Mortadella, cut into bite size pieces
Pepperoni, cut into bite size pieces
Kalamata Olives, cut in half
Button Mushrooms, sliced
Red Bell Peppers, cut into bite size pieces
Roma Tomatoes, diced
Pepperoncini, served whole (on the side)
Feta Cheese, crumbled
Newman's Own Family Recipe Italian Salad Dressing (or your favorite)

Make bacon wrapped artichoke hearts, (as listed below).  While the artichokes are baking, in a large bowl, toss the lettuce, salami, ham, mortadella, pepperoni, kalamato olives, button mushrooms, red bell peppers, roma tomatoes and feta cheese with the italian salad dressing.  Plate each salad.  Serve the baked bacon wrapped artichoke hearts on top of your salad.

Bacon Wrapped Artichoke Hearts 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Spray with non-stick baking spray.

Wrap each artichoke heart with half a slice of bacon. 

Place on the baking sheet and bake in oven for 12 to 15 minutes 
(turn over half way through the baking time).  Bake until lightly browned.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Kamikaze, Krazy Football Fan, and Blue Cheese Buffalo Bites

Unless you have been at the top of Mt. Everest the past 48 hours, you obviously either watched or heard about the unbelievable championship football games that took place yesterday.

My husband is still in shock (as many football fans also are).  The owner of the company I am with has Broncos box seats every year.  His brother that I also work with is a lifelong Packers fan.  As you can imagine, I was not a very popular person when I walked in the office door this see, as I live in Bronco land, we are the extreme Seahawk family.  I took our win very graciously and am so excited for the Super Bowl!!

I made my husband this custom sized, flannel tied blanket for his birthday this year.  Unfortunately our girls commandeer it all the time and snuggle in their rooms with it.  I have gave them strict orders, the blanket must stay in our family room for the next 2 weeks, through the Super is our special good luck charm.

I know I said last week that grown ups shouldn't do Kamikaze shots.  I caved on Sunday night...we were so overjoyed with excitement, we shared in special celebration and toasted our "hawks".


1.5 oz Vodka
.75 oz Triple sec
.75 oz Lime juice

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or divide between two shot glasses.


These chicken bites are perfect for upcoming Super Bowl festivities or any other gathering.  I made them for dinner with a side salad as a light weeknight dinner that was super fast to put together.

Blue Cheese Buffalo Bites
Adapted from Buffalo Chicken Cupcakes by

1 can refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Seamless Dough Sheet
1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese blend
12 pieces frozen popcorn chicken
3/4 cup Frank's buffalo wing sauce
8 oz. container blue cheese crumbles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray 12 regular size muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

Remove dough from can and press out to an 8 x 18 inch rectangle.  Cut dough into 12 squares.  Press squares into muffin pan cups.

Place 1 tablespoon of cheese blend in the bottom of each dough lined muffin cup.  Dip popcorn chicken in buffalo sauce.  Place one piece of chicken in each cup on the cheese. Sprinkle with remaining cheese blend.

Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until just starting to brown. Turn off oven and remove muffin pan. Sprinkle 1 heaping teaspoon of blue cheese crumbles over each cup.  Return to oven until blue cheese is melted.

Bites can also be made without the buffalo sauce
and blue cheese crumbles, for those who prefer
a more simple palette.

One Year Ago:  Paninis

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lemon Drop Martini and How To Be A Grown Up

In our busy lives, it is a rare occasion that we get a half hour to sit, relax and find a television show that we enjoy.  (You would think with 300 channels that would be easy...not so much)  We came upon a new series on TruTv called "How To Be A Grown Up".  It is 30 minutes of pure laughter that sometimes puts me in uncontrollable happy tears...true comic relief for me once a week.

It is a group of comedians that make fun of who we were in our 20's and how we evolve into becoming (or trying to be) the perfect grown up.  They really have a great time telling the truths that everyone goes through and all you can do is laugh at yourself because you know exactly what they are speaking of.  Viewer warning though...make sure younger (especially teenager) ears are out of the room, their truths can get on the crude side that even make me blush sometimes.  If you have this channel and need a really good laugh, I highly recommend this one.

As we all have learned, when you become a grown up, you really shouldn't drink, dress and act the way you did in your 20's.  The nights of Kamikaze shooters and Long Island Ice Teas while dancing scantily clothed on a bar table is no longer acceptable (unless you are celebrating your 40th birthday in Las Vegas...then anything goes).

This martini is a very grown up and respectable drink.  Just don't drink 6 of them in one night, as you may end up dancing on your dining room table during your kids' birthday sleepover party.

Lemon Drop Martini

(makes 2 martinis)
3 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Triple Sec
2 tsp. superfine sugar
1-1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place martini glasses in freezer for 15 minutes.  Mix the vodka, triple sec, sugar and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Shake well to make sure sugar is blended.  Remove the chilled martini glasses from freezer and take a lemon wedge and rub the drinking surface of the glass so it is barely moist. Dip the edge of the glass into sugar.  Pour strained liquor into the sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with a twisted peel of lemon. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pasta Salad with Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

Yes, it is volleyball season has begun.  Yesterday we saw our first tournament, so it is back to 4 am Sunday wake-up calls, team road trip catering, late night homework and very tired and sore Monday morning teens. Someone please remind me again why we suggest our kids join organized sports?? 

This pasta salad is great for any large or small get together.  Makes up really fast and has tremendous fresh flavors.  I will definitely make this again when it is my turn for the side dish at our next road tournament for the team.

Pasta with Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes
Courtesy of Green Valley Kitchen

8 oz of pasta - about 2 cups dried pasta. I used mini farfalle (bow tie pasta).
2 cups of chopped green beans.
2 cups of halved cherry tomatoes
12 kalamata olives - diced
¼ cup of parsley - minced
⅓ cup of walnuts (optional)  I am allergic to walnuts, so I did not include them, still tasted great!
2 oz of feta cheese - diced
½ lemon
2 tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove minced
6 twists of black pepper

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Add green beans to cook with the pasta about 3 minutes before the pasta is done cooking.

When the time is up, drain pasta and green beans.

Slice cherry tomatoes in half and add to a large bowl.

Dice olives and add to cherry tomatoes in the bowl.

**Optional: Add walnuts to cherry tomatoes in the bowl.

Mince parsley and set aside.

Dice feta and set aside.

Whisk together juice of ½ lemon, 2 tbs olive oil, 1 minced garlic clove and 6 twists of black pepper.

Add drained pasta and green beans to tomatoes in bowl. Add parsley and lemon dressing and stir to combine.

Gently fold in feta and serve.
I served this as a dinner side dish
with my *Deconstructed Chicken Cordon Bleu.

*Recipe coming to you soon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Orange Olive Oil Cake

It never fails...after the holidays are over when the cookies, fudge and candy canes go away, the cravings hit.  I think we all need to go into "sweets rehab" right after the new year, because after about two weeks of no desserts, I start hearing it...pantry cupboard doors opening and shutting, the refrigerator light goes on, then I hear the freezer door shut and vapor lock.  "Don't we have any treats in the house?" echoes every night, at about 8 pm from various voices.  So there you have it, if there are too many sweets in the house I hear about it, but if there aren't any treats I really hear about it.

As I am altitude challenged here, I always hesitate when it comes to baking...especially trying new cake recipes.  It took be about a year of us being in the Rocky Mountains before I figured out how to bake in high altitudes.  I saw this dessert on Food Network a few weeks ago and thought it looked really good.  I have made a few olive oil cakes in the past (at sea level) and enjoyed them.  (Since olive oil is good for you and in the Mediterranean Diet, this cake can't be bad for you, right?)

I tried branching out and get fancy with the powdered sugar design, as I came across an extra doile in my pantry.  The finished product reminded me of all our snowflakes this winter and the snow that we still are dealing with.

This cake is beyond amazing.  It is a dense cake, but incredibly light and the hint of orange sends it over the top.  My husband couldn't stay out of it and he doesn't even like that really says a lot.

Orange Olive Oil Cake
Courtesy of Melissa d'Arabian's Ten Dollar Dinners

Butter, for greasing the pan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 orange (about 3 tablespoons juice, 1 tablespoon zest)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

Mix together the sugar and eggs in a medium bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until blended and light. Drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla and mix until light and smooth. Add the orange juice and zest and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in another medium bowl. Add the flour mixture half at a time to the wet ingredients and mix on low just to incorporate.

Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cake cool 15 minutes, dust with confectioners' sugar and serve.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chicken Tetrazinni for Comforting on Wine Down Wednesday

In the matter of one week my children have hit a milestone birthday, got their driving licenses, are now driving without me and started interviewing for jobs to save for a car...I have cried more in this one week than I care to admit and am pulling out gray hairs faster than I can keep up with coloring them.  I say a prayer every time they leave the house in our car and cannot believe how fast the time is passing before my eyes.

This, on top of the winter doesn't want to let up.  We still have lots of snow, chilled mornings and nights and icy roads mixed with wind here and there.  All I have wanted lately is comfort meals, hibernation (and wine of course)!  It's taking every ounce of resistance in me not to power down on a Blackjack Meatlovers Pizza, a bottle of Ferrari Carano Chardonnay (it is Wine Down Wednesday after all), Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream and a box of Kleenex.

I am doing my best to stay strong, trying to make the gym a few days a week and somewhat stick to a South Beach(esque) menu.  Trying....

Well, this casserole doesn't make the diet cut, but it hit my comfort zone for one night (and freezes well for individual work lunches), super easy and luscious flavors.

Chicken Tetrazinni

(1) 16 oz. package of angel hair pasta, cooked
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 chicken breasts cooked, shredded
(2) 10.5 oz. cans Cream of Chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbl. fresh parsley, chopped finely
2 Tbl. parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine melted butter, shredded chicken, soup, sour cream, salt, garlic powder, pepper and chicken broth.  Add the cooked angel hair pasta and mix well.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the chopped parsley.  Sprinkle the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses over the parsley.

Bake covered in foil for 45 minutes.  (Tip: Spray the foil with non stick spray on the side that will be near the mixture/cheeses, so it doesn't stick.)  Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with more fresh parsley before serving.

One Year Ago:  Black and White Parfaits

Friday, January 2, 2015

Crepes for Cranky Mom

The new year celebration is now over.  The Rose Parade was beautiful and football games exciting. It is now back to reality.  Today we will take down our Christmas decor and pack them away for another 11 months and it will be very sad.  I have been spoiled with 5 days off of work and next week will feel tremendously long. Starting Monday it is back to school, volleyball practices and prepare for traveling tournaments next weekend, but not before we get through all the laundry and housework this weekend.  (Let us not forget the homework assignments that have sat for a week and a half that also need to be done before Monday!)  I am already starting to feel my crankiness set in...

Before I realized all of this though, yesterday we spoiled ourselves by making New Years brunch items for the family.  My husband and I started off with a quiche and a side of raspberry-cream cheese coffee cake while my youngest daughter wanted to make crepes.  It was a quite a feat so early in the morning, but why not...we only do this once a year.

Theo also approved of the crepes.
She immediately got on her phone and searched out a crepe recipe for us...and found the perfect rendition that took no time at all to accomplish.  Delicious!!

Basic Crepes
Courtesy of Martha Stewart

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups whole milk, room temperature, plus more if needed
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for skillet  

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Pour milk mixture into flour mixture, whisking to combine. Whisk in butter. Strain mixture into a medium bowl, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 1 day)   **(I am certainly not that organized to plan out crepes 24 hours in advance.)  We stirred, we poured and we ate all in 1/2 hour and they were great.  Batter should be the consistency of heavy cream; add more milk if needed.

Heat an 8- or 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, and brush with butter. Ladle or pour 3 tablespoons batter (for small crepes) or 1/3 cup batter (for large crepes) into pan, turning and tilting skillet to coat bottom evenly with batter. Cook until top of crepe appears set, bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, and center is lifted by pockets of air, about 1 minute.

Run a spatula around edge of crepe to loosen. Slip spatula under crepe, and gently flip in one swift gesture. (If it doesn't land quite right, that's okay; use the spatula to unfold or rearrange it.) Cook until bottom is firm and golden brown in spots, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a plate, and cover. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan lightly with butter as needed (every 2 or 3 crepes). Serve immediately.

**Recommended serving...drizzle with a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar.  Fold and top with sliced strawberries.  (Keep your dog from stealing it.)

One Year Ago: S'More Dip