Saturday, September 30, 2017

Raspberry Peach Cobbler and The Rockies

We wrapped up Felicia's visit to a Colorado Rockies baseball game.  Her first live and in person MLB game and I was all too happy to take her (after our purple manicure/pedicure session, of course).    Beautiful Colorado evening and thank goodness the rain stayed away for our night.

It did get a little chilly for us, so we had to purchase the inevitable souvenir fan blanket each.  Good thing because after playing tourist with Felicia for three days...I need a serious nap (with my new blankie!)

Before my shut eye though...dessert!

Raspberry Peach Cobbler

For Filling:
1/4 cup apple juice
2 Tbl cornstarch
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice
4 cups frozen peaches
2 cups frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For Topping:
1 box shortbread cookies, crushed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbl cold butter, cut into cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

Whisk together apple juice, cornstarch, and lemon juice in a saucepan until cornstarch dissolves.  Add peaches, raspberries, sugar and pinch of salt.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil over medium heat until thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Pour filling into a cast iron skillet and place on prepared baking sheet.

Stir together crushed cookies, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Drop dough evenly over filling. 

Bake cobbler until filling is bubbly and topping is brown, about 25 minutes.  Cool cobbler on rack for 1 hour. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream.

One Year Ago: Mexican Pizzas
Two Years Ago: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Three Years Ago: Garlic Parmesan Filet Mignon
Four Years Ago: Sunday Night Pot Roast

Monday, September 25, 2017

Grilled Mini Sweet Peppers with Goat Cheese, Sipping and Painting

The greatest part of having friends and family come to Colorado, is I get to play tourist right along side's my favorite part of living here!

This week, my long time high school friend Felicia came to visit from Alaska.  She was only here for two days but we packed in so much at so many places she called it her "Fast and Furious Weekend"!

I booked a painting session at Dabble Paint and Sip, here in Longmont.  It is positively my new favorite place now...I became an instant fan and we had the best night ever!  I cannot wait to go back with my girls!  If you have the chance to take in a painting class at any "paint and sip" place, it is a must go!  Plus, an added bonus, I went home with my new masterpiece artwork for my house.
(No photo shop accents were done...we actually painted these beautiful canvas creations!)

Since Felicia is a vegetarian, I try to ramp up new recipes for her when she visits.  Unfortunately, we were on the go so much, I didn't get to serve her my new repertoire.  These little pepper bites are so awesome...guess she'll have to come back to try them out...

Grilled Mini Sweet Peppers with Goat Cheese
Courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

1 pound Mini Sweet Peppers
1/2 Tbl Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Log (4 oz. size) Goat Cheese
Minced Fresh Rosemary
Minced Fresh Thyme
Maldon Smoked Sea Salt Flakes

Heath grill to medium to medium-high heat.  Make sure grates are scrubbed clean and then oiled.

Cut stems off peppers, then slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove inner ribs and seeds.  Place halved peppers on large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, folding to coat evenly.  Sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Fold and repeat.

Place peppers cut-side down on hot grill grates.  Once the peppers are charred to your liking, flip to grill the other side of the peppers.  Each side should only take a minute or two.  When peppers are done, remove them to the rimmed baking pan, cut-side up or to a platter.  Using a small knife or spoon, remove a bit of goat cheese from the log and add it to the center of a grilled pepper half.  Repeat until all goat cheese is used.

Sprinkle peppers with fresh rosemary and thyme, plus a nice amount of Maldon smoked sea salt flakes.  Some of the salt flakes can be rather large, so lightly crunch them between your finger tips as you sprinkle, if desired.  Serve warm.

One Year Ago; Mexican Pizzas
Two Years Ago: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Four Years Ago: Quick Candy Cookies

Felicia even got in some "sipping" time in at the Celestial Seasonings Tour Center
and the most amazing Gift Shop.  I could buy this entire set of dish and serving ware!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Berry Tartlets and Weekend Tasks

This past weekend I had it all planned out (to the half hour).  I have been building my "to do" list for my friend Felicia's upcoming visit to Colorado.  As you know...I'm a planner, to a fault.  I'm not going to show you the list because A). I'm embarrassed as to how extensive it is and B). I don't want Felicia to read this and ruin her upcoming surprises...

At any rate, my husband and I were debriefing Friday night and discussing our weekend plans.  I don't know about him...but I certainly had my tasks planned out...(or so I thought).  He proceeds to tell me about a large office building they are getting ready to demo and that the previous tenant left all their office furniture there.  Everything there was available and free to pick up before demo day.  He saw a couple desks that he thought I would like and wanted to know if I could go with him Saturday morning to look at them and possibly bring home.  Sure, I can squeeze that in first problem.

Saturday morning, we get to the office building...really more of an office "city".  It was 2 stories and I actually don't know how many tens of thousands of square feet...a giant maze of offices!!  I look around and I think I have gone to furniture heaven!  It was like someone placed me in the middle of Furniture Town, U.S.A (if there is such a place). and said to me, "have fun're welcome"!

Well, to make a very, very long story, as short as I can.  2 days and 3 trips to the office later, we end up in a full blown basement remodel.  I know by the end of the first day my husband was thinking "why did I open my mouth".  Not only did we get the most beautiful desks with upper hutches (for each of us), we also walked away with a large craft table and chair, console table, coffee table, 2 rolling carts, a large french bakers rack and 2 lounge/casual chairs.  Such a gift!

So, the end of the story is...nothing got done on my to-do task list, however (thanks to re-purposing of lamps, fabric and artwork), I now have the most serene, meditating, quiet, "she shack" niche for me.  Good thing, because I am so stressed about not being on schedule for Felicia's visit, I'm going to need a moment in my new special area to breathe and relax.

I did however, squeeze in enough time to make these quick, delicious tartlets for breakfast. Delicious I tell you!!  I think next weekend I'll make another batch and hide in my new niche with them and my coffee!

Berry Tartlets

For Tartlets:
1 sheet (1/2 pound puff pastry)
1 egg, beaten well with fork
1/4 pound fresh raspberries
1/4 pound fresh strawberries
2 Tbl granulated sugar
1 Tbl all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup sliced almonds

For Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbl milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Thaw pastry 30 minutes at room temp, or until you can unfold the pastry.  Cut into 9 equal sized squares and place on parchment lined baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart.

Beat 1 egg in a small bowl with 1 Tbl of water and set aside.

Slice strawberries and place in a medium mixing bowl with the raspberries.  Sprinkle with 2 Tbl sugar, 1 Tbl flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp lemon zest, and 1/4 tsp vanilla and gently fold together with a spatula.

Layer berries over the center of each pastry square.  Brush pastry edges generously with beaten egg.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake on the center oven rack at 400 degrees for 17-19 minutes or until puffed and golden at the edges, turning the sheet halfway through baking.  ** Keep an eye on it to not over bake, it browns quickly at the end.  Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for 10 minutes.

While pastries cool, make the glaze.  In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 Tbl milk.  Drizzle over warm pastries and serve.

One Year Ago: Mexican Pizzas
Two Years Ago: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Four Years Ago: Nutella Cookies

Friday, September 15, 2017

Traeger Beef Tenderloin Steaks and Date Nights

I think I speak for many when I say that sometimes the best date nights are the ones at home and executed at the very last minute without any planning.

We recently found ourselves home alone as both our girls were working their jobs late.  It had been a long weekend day of chores and errands and we were both wiped out.  The next thing I knew, it was 6pm and I hadn't even thought of dinner.  To make matters worse, I had already been at the grocery store twice that day and never thought of dinner.  We looked at each other and didn't have a clue what to eat.

Off to the store we went...for the 3rd get inspired.  He suggested one thing and I would turn it down...I suggested something and he would turn it down.  This went on for a few rounds (and aisles), as nothing sounded good or appetizing.

Our back patio with bistro lights, fountain, tiki torches and firepit sets the ambiance.
Finally, we stopped at the butcher counter.  I must have stared at it for 10 minutes...gazing left, then right, then left watching the U.S. Open Tennis.  I looked down again and saw beautiful beef tenderloin steaks...on sale nonetheless!

That's it, I decided...we are treating ourselves to a beautiful steak night dinner date on the patio (trying to take full advantage of our wonderful nights outside before winter hits).  After a 5 minute drive home, we were back in business.  Forty minutes later, a perfect candlelight dinner outside, complete with a salad, rice and Bearnaise sauce! Our steaks were cooked to perfection and melted like butter on our palettes.

Beef Tenderloin Steaks
Courtesy of Traeger Grills

4 Beef Tenderloin Steaks, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches thick
Olive Oil
Prime Rib or Steak Seasoning (for rub)

When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes).

Brush the outside of the steaks with olive oil and season with your favorite rub/spice blend.

Arrange the steaks directly on the grill grate and smoke for 30 minutes.

Transfer the steaks to a plate or platter.  Increase the temperature to 450 degrees and preheat, lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes.

Return the smoked steaks to the grill grate and finish cooking to the desired degree of doneness, turning once with tongs.

Remove from the grill and top with your favorite butter compound, sauce, blue cheese/gorgonzola cheese or sauteed mushrooms.

**If you don't have a Traeger or smoker, you can prepare these on a grill, charcoal BBQ or even grill pan on your cooktop...however you like to prepare your steaks.

Two Years Ago: Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Four Years Ago: Nutella Cookies

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Croissant French Toast and "The Change"

Not only are we seeing a change of seasons around here...I am also seeing "changes".  I'm sure that may be sharing too much information (TMI) with all of you, but there is much humor in all of it...or at least I'm trying to convince myself anyway.

It started with just a little bit of perspiration on my forehead.  It was however 97 degrees out, so I just chalked it up to really hot weather.  Then the 2:00 am insomniatic wake up call that lasts until 4 am (every night) as I spin around over and over like a Costco Rotisserie Chicken. Followed up with the massive headaches and the laugh/cry/laugh/cry (all in one hour) episodes....add those clues all up and a "change" is a coming!  It's life, it's inevitable and there is nothing that can be done about it except a lot of electric fans, patience and a careful family ( I actually feel really bad for them).

How it feels when my hot flash and night sweats hit...
pure spontaneous combustion at any given moment!
(There's truly no other way to describe it...a picture is worth a thousand words)
(Photo courtesy of Iron Man 3)

I have a ceiling fan blowing on me at night and another large box fan in the window and's still not enough during "sleep".  My husband is now up to three blankets on him at night, as I won't be satisfied until I wake up with icicles on my eyelashes.  However by the phenomenon and marvels of modern space technology, I discovered a cooling pillow case that was worth every penny!  It actually stays at a comfortable chilled temperature all night long. This miracle fiber that some amazing genious invented (whom I am thoroughly convinced deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for it) is better than sticking my head in any ice bath before I lay me down to sleep.

On those nights that I spend more time sweating than sleeping, I wake up really cranky and hangry! (remember I am burning about 2300 calories a night during my "rotisserie spinning").  I recently treated myself to Croissant French Toast to cheer me up and which made me very happy (as well as my daughter who loves my French Toast...and mom making her breakfast).

There's no secret recipe or ingredients...instead of using your normal bread routine, just cut up mini croissants horizontally...dip and saute away.  Serve with maple sausage links and your favorite eggs (you know, to balance out that buttered slice of Heaven!) and if a little Prosecco accidentally ends up in your orange juice, I won't tell anyone.  Stay "cool" ladies!

Two Years Ago: Pear Cake
Four Years Ago: A Comfort Food Morning

Friday, September 8, 2017

Monterrey Tapenade Chicken and My Torture

During last weekend's extended holiday time off, I went into refrigerator mode.  Refrigerator mode is when there is so much Tupperware, Pyrex and Corning Ware, that you can no longer see the sides or back of refrigerator due to all the leftovers.  It was time to toss or get creative and re-purpose for some breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

It is inevitable when this happens, every pot, spatula, scraper, skillet, and whisk come out...which means many dirty dishes and the kitchen looks like I just finished making Thanksgiving dinner for thirty people!

It was on this day of course, that the dishwasher decides to break down...and I'm not talking about my husband the dishwasher.  I'm referring to the one that my world revolves around.  I could not get one of the special or standard cycles to work.  It revved up...and then stops...and then I go into mass hysteria looking at my piles of dirty dishes that I just conjured up.

You see if the washer and dryer break, no just load all your dirty laundry in the car, head to your nearest, safest, laundromat and three hours later you come home with beautiful, clean and warm clothes. However, when the dishwasher have nowhere to take all your ingredient induced dishes....nowhere!!!

So, after (a bottle of Pinot Noir) a bottle of Ajax grapefruit scented dish washing liquid, 108 degree scalding hot water, 7 dish drying towels and 3 beach towels (for staging the clean, wet, dishes on deck waiting to be dried), we are now at our 6th sink load of hand washing dishes.  This Monday, the dish washer repair man will be at my house...I may even hug and kiss him.  Until then...paper plates, plastic forks and bbq outdoors!

In my creative leftover efforts, I came across a recipe for Monterrey Chicken.  Monterrey Chicken, typically has a Mexican seasoning ingredient flair and always...always includes cilantro.  If anyone wanted to kidnap me and torture me, they would feed me cilantro!  I could be on a deserted island and if the only thing that kept me alive was cilantro...I'm sorry to say, I would miss you all terribly, as that would be my demise.

Even though my husband thinks I am just being picky, I am not the only one that feels so strongly about the subject this way sister-in-law (who is a fellow Pisces) also concurs with me, as does The Barefoot Contessa.  So there you have it...I am in good company and authoritative on this!

Thankfully I changed it up the recipe and gave it an Italian spin with my leftover tomatoes, olive oil and green olive tapenade that I had in one of the floundering Tupperware bowls.

Monterrey Tapenade Chicken

1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tbl apple cider vinegar
2 Tbl water
2 Tbl chicken grilling seasoning (like Lawry's)
2 Tbl Dijon mustard
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally
6 slices, applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 cup green olive tapenade

For the chicken, whisk together the canola oil, apple cider vinegar, water, chicken grilling seasoning, Dijon mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.  Add marinade to a large plastic sealable bag.  Add the chicken breasts.  Toss to coat and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to 8 hours).

In a separate small bowl, toss the cooked bacon crumbles and shredded cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

In another small bowl, combine the diced tomatoes and green olive tapenade.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Heat a grill pan or grill over medium.  Brush pan with non-stick spray.  Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip off.  Discard marinade.  Cook chicken covered until the thickest part of chicken registers 165 degrees with a meat thermometer.  (Approximately 5 minutes per side).

Top chicken with bacon-cheese mixture, cover and cook until cheese is melted, 1 minute more.

Serve with tomato and green olive tapenade topping.

One Year Ago: One Pot Cajun Shrimp Pasta
Two Years Ago: Eggplant, Green Olive and Provolone Pizza
Three Years Ago: Lemon Spaghetti with Jumbo Shrimp
Four Years Ago: Hot Chili Mamma Salsa

Thank goodness I had for forethought to use parchment dirty baking sheets!!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Mama Z's Breakfast Biscuits

I hope you all had a nice, relaxing and restful Labor Day Weekend!  I blinked and ours was over...really, just like that...over.  I can't even tell you what we did because we were just going and doing everything from yard work, shampoo carpets, laundry, laundry oh and yes, some laundry, cleaning cars, and filling boxes of miscellaneous items for Goodwill donations.  

I think in the back of our minds as we are starting to see our trees turn yellow and orange so rapidly, we know winter is not far behind (although with 97 degree days we've been having, it's hard to imagine that is ever coming).  So, with that, we are getting the house and yard ready a little bit every weekend.

We did manage to squeeze in a quick road trip "daycation" day to Breckenridge and enjoyed beautiful scenery and a great lunch.  Such a sweet little town and reminded us of Main Street in Disneyland. Perfect day for playing tourist.

Image result for breckenridge summer

The rest of the weekend was trying out new recipes and preparing meal planning for the week.  I'm always trying to get ahead of the game, as it were, to have breakfast and lunch ready to grab-and-go for us out the door on weekday mornings.  I have been guilty far too many times of not being prepared and then I am stuck with eating a travel size bag of "gorp" (nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds and M&M's) to last me through the day...which never works out well for anyone.  Mama comes home "hangry" (not a pretty sight).

I learned a new way to make a lot of eggs at once.  I'm sure I'm late to the game on discovering these, but better late than never...and I have never been so thrilled to have a new go-to in my arsenal.

Yes, I know these really are just the homemade version of McDonald's Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit from their breakfast menu (or could also turn into an Egg McMuffin), however, I must admit, these were really so incredibly good.  Perfect little present to start your morning off right or also great for a morning tailgating event or camping weekend.

Mama Z's Breakfast Biscuits

(12) Buttermilk Southern Biscuits and/or English Muffins
(12) Large Eggs
(6) Colby/Jack Cheese Slices, cut in half
(12) Cooked Bacon Slices (or) Cooked Sausage Patties (or) Cooked Canadian Bacon Slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 12 count muffin tin with non-stick spray.

Add one egg to each muffin tin opening.  Bake the muffin tin with eggs in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Depending on your egg size, start checking them early to make sure they are cooked through.

Once eggs are ready, add them to your favorite biscuit or muffin and top with meat selection of your choice and a really good cheese.  Endless possibilities!

Two Years Ago: Mushroom Marsala Ravioli
Three Years Ago: Garlic Chicken Skewers

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Baked Parmesan Artichoke Hearts and The Queen of Hearts

Today marks the 20th Anniversary in the passing of Princess Diana.  Affectionately known as the "Queen of Hearts" and "People's Princess".  I will never forget that day...we were just recently married and home watching television that night.  A breaking news story interrupted and said that Princess Diana had passed away.  I remember I burst into tears from complete shock and sadness.

When I was in my pre-teens, my best friend and I stayed up all night long to watch her royal wedding, and completely transfixed watching the traditions of royalty.  It was at that moment, I truly became mesmerized by Diana, not so much the Princess, but by the incredible woman.  The strength and grace that she displayed in her far too short life was truly inspirational.

Diana's outpouring of charm, outreach and loving heart will never be forgotten.  Her style was like no other and to this day has remained and displayed in the history of fashion.  She will forever be missed and remembered.

I read somewhere that her last meal at The Ritz in Paris was Vegetable Tempura.  These artichoke hearts are a little like that...I think Diana would have liked these.  Diana, may you continue to rest in peace Princess and thank you for touching the world with your kind and sharing heart.

Baked Parmesan Artichoke Hearts

2 (15 oz) cans quartered artichoke hearts drained
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup Parmesan Herb Panko Bread Crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted
1 lemon, freshly squeezed juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place artichokes on paper towels and pat dry well.

In a small bowl, combine melted butter and garlic powder.

In another bowl, pour in the Panko breadcrumbs.

Dip each artichoke heart quarter in the butter, then the Panko crumbs.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with all artichokes.

Bake artichokes for 18 minutes, turning over once half way throgh baking.

Let cool for 10 minutes.  While artichokes cool, mix fresh lemon juice in with remaining melted butter.

Serve baked artichokes with lemon-butter dipping sauce.

One Year Ago: Grilled Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad
Two Years Ago: Surf and Turf Crostinis
Three Years Ago: Smoked BBQ Chicken Nachos
Four Years Ago: Flatbread Friday

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Med Salad

When we moved to Colorado five years ago, one of the first restaurants we tried out in our new adventure was Noodles & Company.  If you ever have the chance to dine at must go!  Whenever we get new visitors to see us, we typically at one point end up there for a quick lunch.  They never disappoint and our friends and family are instant fans. P.S....when you go, try the Peach Sprite from their soda will change your world!

During the past four years while my girls were playing high school volleyball, we inevitably ended up having what I coined..."Bleacher Picnic Dinners", twice a week for game nights.  Even though they weren't quite as romantic as a lakeside, sunset picnic, they were always most definitely action packed!

One of the meals I started to really like was "Noodles'" Mediterranean Salad with Grilled Chicken.  It actually became a weekly craving at some point.

Well, now that we no longer have our bleacher picnics, I started making my own version at home.  Still, so incredibly this salad for dinners!  It's also a great way to use up those 1/2 packages of left over ingredients.

The Med Salad
Inspired by Noodles and Company

Grilled Chicken, sliced thin
Romaine Lettuce
Mixed Greens
Roma Tomato, diced
Cucumber, diced
Red Onion,, sliced thin
Kalamato olives, pitted and chopped
Pepperoni Slices, chopped
Genoa Salami Slices, chopped
Mini Penne Pasta, cooked, according to box directions and cooled
Feta Cheese, crumbled
Spicy Yogurt or Creamy Italian Dressing
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

One Year Ago: Grilled Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad
Two Years Ago: Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce
Three Years Ago: Spicy Roasted Chicken Legs
Four Years Ago: Mocha Mint Delight

Thursday, August 24, 2017

No-Bake Ombre Blackberry Cheesecakes

It's been harvest time around here and after all the summer months of growing, the farmers have been inundated at our weekend Farmers Market with people lined up for all their beautiful fruits, vegetables and fresh flowers.

This coming weekend we will be making our annual visit to stock up on items to make our fresh salsa, a few flowers and I'm sure sneak in a few delectable pastries for breakfast and loaves of baguettes for crostinis to enjoy Saturday night.  We even have a local vineyard nearby that has wonderful wines at the market as well.

Last weekend I tried out a new cheesecake dessert because I really can't turn away trying any kind of new version of cheesecake.  I realized this, when I went back through my list and found all of these that I have made...Cherry Cheesecake BrowniesPumpkin Gingersnap CheesecakeThe Masters CheesecakeCheesecake with Strawberry SauceReese's CheesecakesEaster Cheesecake Baskets
and Lemon Chess Cheesecake Pie.  Yeah, I would say I have a bit of an addiction to cheesecake...yikes!

When I read the recipe ahead of time, I was a little intimidated by the whole separation of bowls to make ombre fillings, etc, etc...but once I dove into, it was so easy.  I cannot wait to try this out with other fresh fruit versions like raspberries and strawberries...yummy!  

No-Bake Ombre Blackberry Cheesecakes
Courtesy of King Soopers My Magazine July 2017

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup fresh blackberries, plus more for garnish
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Springs of mint, for garnish (optional)

Evenly distribute the graham cracker crumbs between 4 glass or clear plastic serving cups, and set aside.  Puree 1 cup blackberries in a food processor and set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or using a hand mixer, beat the heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.  Set the whipped cream aside in a clean bowl.  Clean the mixer, and beat the cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the paddle attachment (or with hand mixer)until totally smooth, about 3-4 minutes.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the prepared whipped cream.  Add the rest to the cream cheese mixture, then mix on low speed for an additional 1-2 minutes until totally incorporated.  Divide this mixture evenly between 2 bowls.  Add a scant tablespoon of the berry puree to 1 bowl, and 2-3 tablespoons to the other.  Mix each bowl well to make 2 shades of purple cheesecake filling.

To assemble, spoon or pipe the light purple cheesecake mixture evenly over the graham cracker layer.  Repeat with the darker purple mixture, and finish with the remaining berry puree.  Use the reserved whipped cream to top each cheesecake, and garnish with fresh blackberries and sprigs of mint.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

*The recipe says that it makes 4 servings, but honestly they are so rich and decadent, you could probably stretch it into 6 servings or 8 shot glass size servings.

Three Years Ago: Orzo Salad with Everything
Four Years Ago: Puttanesca and Pasta

Monday, August 21, 2017

One Skillet Parmesan Chicken and Zucchini and One Day

Last week was a bit of a trying one for me.  All the schools started back up in session.  I started seeing friends posting their kids' "first day of _ _ grade" school photos and hearing about their "back-to-school" shopping adventures.  Seeing kids with their brand new backpacks and the overflow of traffic at the grocery store as mom's stocked up for school lunch provisions and after school snacks.  

Their "very first day" of pre-school.

That's when it hit me...I don't have that anymore...that chapter of my life is completely over.  There was no four trips to Office Depot, hours at the mall shopping for the perfect outfits, saving up for the ultimate, latest backpack and Converse shoes, getting coiffed with a fresh haircut or the rush and chaos of first day of school morning, pleading and trying to get them to squeeze 15 seconds of their life for me, so I could take that "first day" annual photo.  Remember, it's not the gifts you have been's what you do with those gifts that matters.  I thought a lot about that last week and I'm not going to lie...I cried a lot over it too.

When our girls started pre-school, we started a tradition at the dinner table (which we carried through most of their school years).  We would ask the girls two questions...."Tell me something good that happened today" and "Tell me something not-so-good that happened today".  We would go around the table and each one of us would share our stories.

It made for great conversations, memories, some great laughs and a chance to work through some of those "not so good" days, life lessons and situations that everyone goes through.  My point here in all of this is...cherish every day with your children because one day it is all over.  I'm here to tell you that "one day" comes faster than you are ever prepared for.

We live in such a different world now, then when they first started school.  Technology has gone way beyond anyone could imagine and there are so many distractions...too many to even try and list. From day one, to this day, when we serve dinner, all distractions and electronics are turned off and there has never been a cell phone allowed at our table...never.  Take time out of your day and listen to your kids.  Listen to what they have to share with you each and every night.  Kids love to tell stories about their day, teachers, friends and what they learned...

...and as for that annual "first day of school" photo that they will begin to hate you taking around the middle school years...don't give in to their fits.  Take the photo!!!  When they are older, they will be so happy you did and actually thank you for it.

Now I know weeknight dinners can be daunting and hectic during the school year.  I survived weeks, months and years of Girl Scouts, ballet recitals, voice and piano lessons, evening and weekend soccer and volleyball practices, volunteering, homework way beyond my capability and worked a full time job...I must quote the words of our daughters' teacher's graduation speech...just tell yourself "I know this...I've got this"!

Until's a super easy one for you!

One Skillet Parmesan Chicken and Zucchini

2 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally (for thin cutlets)
8 Tbl butter, divided
1/2 cup Italian-Parmesan Panko
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 zucchini, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbl freshly squeezed lemon

In a large skillet over medium heat melt 2 tablespoons butter.  In a shallow dish, add 4 tablespoons melted butter.  In another dish combine the Panko , Parmesan cheese and flour. Dip the chicken in the butter and then coat in the Panko crumb mixture and place in skillet.

Cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes until the outside is crispy and the chicken is cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside on plate.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter back to the skillet and saute the minced garlic for a minute.  Add the zucchini to the skillet and saute until tender.  Add the freshly squeezed lemon over zucchini.  Add salt and pepper to taste and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan.  Add the chicken back to he skillet and heat for a minute.

One Year Ago: Grilled Shrimp, Corn and Avocado Salad
Two Years Ago: Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce
Three Years Ago: BBQ Ranch Grilled Chicken
Four Years Ago: Flat Iron Steak Salad

The last of the "lasts".