Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mayan Chocolate Cookies...and Memorial Model

Yes, once again it is school finals time in our household.  To sum it up, this means late nights, glue gun burning fingers and attention to the finest details.  I am happy to report that the girls have worked on their time management skills and not started projects the night before they were due.  Hallelujah!

One daughter for her History class, needed to create a memorial that represents World War II and the people of The Great Depression.  All semester, they have been reading "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw.

Once she decided on her memorial, she then had to make a model of it and decide where in the country it would be located and why.

She decided on Arlington National Cemetery for the location and did such a beautiful job depicting the most serene memorial site, complete with pillars engraved with the names from the book.

The other daughter for her Spanish class had to make a dish representing Guatemala and serve it to her class.  Thank goodness she chose a travel friendly dish that didn't require much for presentation.

These cookies were unbelievable!!  My husband, who is not a dessert guy, could not stay out of them. If you are attending a Cinco de Mayo event next week, these would be perfect to bring along. Coincidentally, while we were making them "Chocolate" the movie with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp was that movie!  Great chick flick and there are several references to the Mayans and their spicy chocolate.

When you first bite into these, they taste like a normal chocolaty, chocolate chip cookie - then all of the sudden you feel that kick in the back of your throat.  Then, you can't stop eating them!!!

Mayan Chocolate Cookies

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar (plus 3/4 cup for rolling)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl with electric mixer, cream butter, 1 cup sugar and brown sugar until smooth and fluffy.

Add eggs and mix well.

Add cayenne, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Blend well.

Add flour and blend.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Spoon out chilled dough with tablespoon or melon ball scooper and roll dough in hand to make a ball. Roll ball into remaining 3/4 cup sugar.

Drop onto a lightly greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheet.

Bake 10 - 12 minutes.

**Keep a tall glass of cold milk handy!!

One Year Ago: Taco (Bowl) Salad

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Derby Day Delights

This school year my girls' history classes have been studying World War II, The Great Depression and The Greatest Generation.  A few months ago my daughter had to watch Seabiscuit and do a report on the characters, The Great Depression and the challenges and characteristics of that time period.

I was so excited to see the movie had been too long and I forgot how much I truly enjoy this story and its magic.

All four main characters in Seabiscuit have known tragedy and disappointment, pain and sorrow.  All four through their beautiful partnership find redemption, courage and victory, in one form or another.

If you have not read the book or seen one of the movies yet, I don't want to give it all away.  I can only recommend that you definitely take in the story in one form or another.  It is memorable, inspiring and incredibly motivating.

In celebration of victory, horse racing and this coming weekend's Kentucky Derby, here are a few goodies that we will be enjoying.  Here's to also hoping you find your magic and inspiration.  Cheers!

Last Year's Kentucky Derby Menu (photos below)

Kentucky Hot Brown Panini
with Bluegrass Salad
Derby Pie Bars

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lemon Orzo Shrimp and Asparagus

My husband saved this tulip's life in our yard
and brought it in before the latest snowstorm.
There is a saying, "April showers bring May flowers".  Well, what then does it bring when it is April snow blizzard?  I will tell you, it brings a cranky mom and wife!

I have been so eager to eat outside again on our patio, bring out the lounging furniture and enjoy a nice happy hour watching the sunset. We had a little teazer with record sunshine, grass was getting green and tulips appeared in our yard again...and then it hit!  Snow, snow, snow.  Luckily, the sun came right back out and melted it all off quickly enough.

In my effort to wish spring and summer back, I made this shrimp and asparagus dish, which was very light, yet filling...and refreshing but also warmed our cold bones.

Lemon Orzo Shrimp and Asparagus

4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups (plus 1/4 cup) chicken broth
1 pound peeled, deveined raw shrimp, thawed - tails off
juice from 1 lemon and its zest
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus
1-1/2 cup dry orzo pasta
2 cups water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the dressing: mix the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Add olive oil and whisk.  Set aside.

(Here is a new way I learned to make asparagus on Pinterest) For the asparagus:  cut the ends off and lay the asparagus stalks in a baking dish, 8 x 8 (preferably Pyrex).  Pour boiling water over the asparagus (just enough to cover it), cover dish with plastic wrap and let sit until the water is warm to the touch.  Drain water and cut into 2 inch pieces.

In a medium pot, add water and 2 cups of chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and add the orzo.  Cook to package directions, approximately 10 minutes.

While the orzo is boiling, saute the shrimp in butter with salt and pepper in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, for approximately 2 minutes, on each side until they are pink and opaque.

When shrimp is done cooking, deglaze pan with the remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth.  Drain orzo well and add to the shrimp.   Add chopped asparagus to shrimp/orzo pan and mix well.  Off the heat add the lemon/oil dressing and Parmesan cheese to the shrimp mixture and stir.  Plate and top with chopped bacon.

One Year Ago:  Pizzette and Soup

Monday, April 20, 2015

Mom Monday and Sydney

Today is not about me, my family or the greatest newly found recipe to share.  
Today is about a mom's fight for her daughter.

Deanna and her daughter Sydney.
I just found out this morning that my friend Deanna's daughter Sydney was recently diagnosed with Lymphatic Cancer.  If you don't know Deanna and Sydney Senior's names, you soon will.

Deanna and I met nearly 20 years ago with so much in common...we were both young pageant queens, interior designers for a major developer in So. Cal., married and had children around the same time...we even lived down the street from each other for many years.  We shared a love for Mexican food, a nice bottle of wine and a good contagious laugh.

Also in common, like so many other Californians, when the economy dropped out for us there, we had to make very difficult life decisions and transplant our lives and families to different states.  We also had to reinvent ourselves for careers in our new locations and grow emotionally while trying to stay strong for our kids.

Deanna and her family ended up moving to Williston, North Dakota to try and start over in the oil field business.  You will get to know Deanna and her family as they were selected to be part of the cast of Boomtowners premiering on the Smithsonian Channel this coming Sunday.

I know Deanna and her family have been through incredibly difficult times and many, many changes. Now, after all of this, she has been given this opportunity for her family to start a new life, her 15 minutes of fame has arrived and now life throws this curve ball...I don't understand it and even though we have not seen each other in many years, as a mom, my heart breaks for her and their family.

I don't "tweet" or do Facebook and I have no idea if this blog of mine reaches anyone out there.  If by chance you happen to read this, please pass it on to your family and friends.  Deanna and her family need prayers and medical support.

They have started a GoFundMe page in an effort to help raise funds for the increasing medical expenses their family is incurring.  If you cannot help financially, please help get the word out and take a moment for a prayer.

Update: April 2016...Sydney has now been cancer free for one year.  However, her mom Deanna has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Please keep Deanna and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cambozola Platter on the Patio and Meal Planning

Another glorious weekend and the weather could not have been better (hard to believe snow is in the forecast later this week...ugh!!)  Having a rare free weekend, I was finally able to get back into the kitchen and cook.  I feel like with the crazy and hectic schedule all of us had these past few weeks, I was just barely making my way through getting meals on the table.

Before any of the weekend's cooking started though, we enjoyed a wonderful platter of Cambozola cheese, Peach-Mango Salsa, toasted Naan bread and a chilled bottle of Butternut Chardonnay on the patio.  Perfect sunset and happy hour appetizer to end our week.

My mission this weekend was very simple...knock out as many breakfast pieces, work lunches that can be reheated and ready-to-go dinner items as I could for us to have a relatively smooth week (as much as our family can in any case).  So, here is a recap of what I accomplished.  I made some oldies but goodies, which are photographed below from previous posts and the recipe link included.  I also tried out some new ones, stay tuned for those.

Banana Blueberry Muffins

Sunrise Bars

Grannie's Lasagna
Also made this weekend (photos and recipes coming soon...)
Bacon Breakfast Muffins
Balsamic Braised Steak with Gorgonzola Alfredo Pasta (freezer/crockpot make ahead)
Applesauce BBQ Chicken (freezer/crockpot make ahead)
Beef Tips with Mushrooms and Gravy (freezer/crockpot make ahead)
Reese's Mini Cheesecakes

Have a blessed week!
One Year Ago:  Mixed Berry Pavlova

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chicken with Gorgonzola Sauce and Augusta Golf Club

There is good news - bad news in our home this week.  The good news is that it is spring break here and I get an extra hour sleep for five days (and much deserved after last week's trip), since I don't need to drive the girls to school.  The bad news...when I come downstairs in the morning for my coffee time, it is 24 hours of Golf Channel, my husband and the annual Masters Tournament coverage from Augusta Golf Club.

Up until this morning the number one story for the last two weeks...what is Bubba Watson, defending champion going to serve for his Masters Club Champions Dinner with all the prior winners, a tradition since 1957.  Well the moment came and went last night and after all the hype, Bubba served the exact same menu as he did in 2013.  The menu two years ago: Caesar salad, grilled chicken breast, green beans, mashed potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese with cornbread along with Confetti cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert.  "It's the same meal because it's from my mom" Watson said.  "Home-cooked meal and that's why I do it."  Kudos to you Bubba for sticking to your roots and the comfort of family traditions - I applaud you!!

This year's menu of Champions.
Well, for those critics who were appalled by Bubba's simple menu selection again this year, perhaps they would want to try this version of chicken with a delectable Gorgonzola sauce.

Chicken with Gorgonzola Sauce

4 boneless , skinless chicken breasts
canola oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tbl. butter
4 tsp. all -purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbl. freshly chopped parsley
1 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Heat skillet over medium-high heat.  Pat chicken breasts so they are completely dry.  Add about 2 tablespoons of canola oil in skillet (just enough to coat the bottom).  Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides and add chicken to pan when it is hot.  Cook about 5 minutes on each side (depending on their thickness) or until cooked through.  Remove from heat and keep covered.

In same skillet, add chicken broth to deglaze the pan until almost evaporated.  Add the butter over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk constantly for one minute until all the flour taste has cooked off. Gradually add the heavy cream, stirring constantly.

Add the Gorgonzola cheese and stir until melted and well blended.

Spoon sauce over chicken and your favorite side vegetable.

One Year Ago:  The Masters Dinner

Augusta National Golf Club

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spicy Sausage Skillet and Home Sweet Home

Our team with "Humphrey" the camel mascot.
What felt like 5 weeks away, has actually only been 5 days and we are now back home. After arriving at 1:00 am last night (or does that count as this morning), my bed never felt so wonderful.

The South and people of Atlanta were very good to us.  It was an awesome experience for our team, my girls and everyone who attended the weekend. The sites around town were tons of fun and although I was not wearing a pedometer, I am quite certain I put on 10,000 steps every day, which is good because I needed to burn off all our great meals we had out.

One of my favorite breakfast/lunch places is Corner Bakery Cafe.  I treated myself to a turkey sandwich lunch on the patio overlooking their gorgeous tulip garden.  It is so rare that I get a quiet meal to myself and even though I really don't like eating alone, it was nice to take in some sunshine and relax for a while.

I made this dish for dinner a couple weeks ago and it was terrific!  I hope I froze some leftovers because after arriving in the middle of the night last night, I have no idea what to do for dinner tonight!!

Spicy Sausage Skillet
Courtesy of Plain Chicken

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb smoked sausage, sliced into 1/4" slices
2 Tbsp dried minced onion flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can Rotel tomatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz campanelle pasta (or penne)
1/4 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

Heat olive oil over medium hight heat in a 12-inch oven safe skillet until hot.  Add sausage and cook until lightly browned.  

Add onion flakes, garlic powder, broth, tomatoes, cream, pasta, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until pasta is tender.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in half of the cheese. Top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with scallions.  Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.

One Year Ago:  Mushroom Soup

Happy Spring to everyone !!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

BBQ Chicken Fiesta Salad and Touring The Big South

Well, we successfully made it to Atlanta yesterday.  Our first visit to the South and home of the Georgia Peach.  Everyone here has been so incredibly nice and hospitable.  I love the South!!!!  My girls and I have been non-stop with the subway, walking and being the ultimate tourists before our tournament starts tomorrow.
The final stop at World of Coca Cola - The Gift Shop!!
 Last night we were all craving Mexican food and ended it finding this great place called Martha's Mexican Restaurant downtown.  I had my first Peach Margarita - delish !!  Then this morning I searched out breakfast near the Coca Cola Museum and came across the Atlanta Breakfast Club.  Oh dear heaven, BEST breakfast ever!!!  I don't know what else to say, other than if you find yourself in Atlanta, you must find the Atlanta Breakfast Club.
Martha's Peach Margarita and Soft Tacos -
perfect end to a long travel day!!
So as I had my Italian Chopped Salad at California Pizza Kitchen by myself with a nice glass of Pinot Noir, I thought of my husband home alone with the boys, Angus and Theo and am willing to bet that he is also having salads this week, while we are away.

I made this salad for my friend Toni, during her brief visit with is one of our go to favorites that we just love!!

BBQ Chicken Fiesta Salad

3 Cooked Chicken Breasts
1/2 cup Pre-made BBQ Sauce
1 small head Romaine lettuce
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 small jicama, peeled and diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can mexican blend corn and peppers, drained and rinsed
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1/2 cup ranch flavored salad dressing
corn tortilla chips

Chop the diced chicken and toss with bbq sauce and set aside.

Wash and chop the romaine lettuce and put in large serving bowl.  Add the diced tomatoes, diced jicama, black beans, mexican corn/pepper blend, chopped bacon and chopped bbq coated chicken.

Add ranch dressing and toss salad well.

Plate salad and top with crushed corn tortilla chips.

Makes (4) dinner sized servings

One Year Ago:  Chinese Chicken Salad - Ramen Style