Monday, February 29, 2016

Ellen's Aunt Bennie's Olive Spaghetti Salad

One of my former coworker's used to bring this delicious olive spaghetti salad to work. Everytime I saw that bowl of salad, I'd pile my plate high and feast for the next couple days. Luckily she gave me the recipe which I will share with you now.

12 oz package vermicelli
1 tbs accent
2 tbs season salt
3 tbs lemon juice
4 tbs veggie oil
1 cup chopped celery or 1 tbs celery seed
1/2  cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 small jar chopped pimentos
1 small can chopped ripe olives
1 1/2 cup mayo

1. Cook, drain and rinse vermicelli.
2. Mix accent, season salt, lemon juice, veggie oil, and vermicelli. Leave to marinate overnight.
3. In the morning, add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined and refrigerate until ready to serve.

I know exactly what you're thinking. Why is this so simple?! I have no clue. It is a bit fatty but eat in moderation. I added some protein and only ate about 1/2 cup of salad a time. This dish was superb and I made sure to share with my coworkers. If you have a potluck coming up, here's an idea for you!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Toddler Meal: Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries

As you all know by now, I'm an avid cook. I love all things food and am determined to pass that passion on to my daughter. Since she started on actual food at 3 months, I have been cranking out home cooked meals for her. What I like to do is make a couple different items and mix them up for the week. This week, she had Paprika Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries, Green Beans, and Rice a Roni. The Rice a Roni was for me because I had a craving but I shared with my baby. Here go the recipes! 

Paprika Chicken: 
1 package chicken tenders, cut into bite size pieces
1 quarter onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons Adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 
4 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon veggie oil

1. In a skillet on medium high heat, add veggie oil and onion. Saute until golden brown. 
2. Add garlic. Saute until you can smell the garlic. 
3. Add chicken and all of the spices. 
4. Cook for 5-10 minutes until all chicken is cooked through.

Sweet Potato Fries: 
2 sweet potatoes, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt or Adobo seasoning
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. On a baking sheet, lay out fries and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
3. Spray with cooking spray and mix it all together. 
4. Bake until edges start to get golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

Green Beans: 
1 pound fresh green beans, tips removed and cut in half
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon veggie oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Place green beans on baking sheet. 
3. Add spices and veggie oil. Mix until all green beans are coated. 
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until green beans start to get color on them. 

Rice A Roni:
Follow the box. :) 

As you can tell, this meal was easy peasy. I love to do all my chopping beforehand so while I had the veggies in the oven, I cooked the chicken and rice a roni on the stovetop. I would say my whole meal was done in an hour (including prep time). This made a lot of food so I individually packed up her meals and stored a couple containers in the fridge and the rest went into the freezer. 

If you think that you can't do this, throw that thought out the window! I work full time and I have a total of a 2 hour commute daily. I do all of my cooking on Sundays when I'm off and everything I've made has frozen pretty well! It's tough but so doable. 

Friendly hint, if you think your food is under-seasoned, feel free to add more spices. My daughter doesn't like things overly spiced so I try to accommodate. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Book Review: On Lone Star Trail by Amanda Cabot

On Lone Star Trail by Amanda Cabot
(Texas Crossroads: Book 3)

Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Revell, a division of Baker Group
Published on February 2, 2016
# of pages: 368
The Future Starts When You Let Go of the Past
"She wasn't looking for love at Rainbow's End, just a change of scenery and a chance to rest"

Sometimes our past tries desperately to navigate our future. But what if facing our fear and going against our protective impulses is the key to our future? In Amanda Cabot's final book in her Texas Crossroads series, an unlikely couple discovers that their differences just might be what bring them together. 

Gillian Hodge was heading toward a fulfilling life as a concert pianist when her dreams and career were shattered by a motorcyclist. Now she once again faces an encounter with a motorcyclist whose bike crashes in front of her. 

TJ Benjamin, who has been wandering around the country on his motorcycle, is recovering from the death of his beloved wife and feeling lost in both his life and his faith. When he finds himself stranded with a busted bike and a reluctant rescuer, he has to wonder about God's sense of humor. Can a woman with and uncertain future and a man running to forget his past find love at Rainbow's End? Or are they too tied to the way life used to be? These vivid characters develop and grow while readers enjoy the beautiful Texas setting. 

Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of the Texas Dreams series, the Westward Winds series, Christmas Roses, At Bluebonnet Lake, and In Firefly Valley. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards and the Booksellers' Best Awards. She lives in Wyoming. 

BLOG        WEBSITE         FACEBOOK          TWITTER
If you've read any of my previous review, you know I don't read too many Christian Romances. I do love a good Contemporary Romance though and On Lone Star Trail delivered just that! On Lone Star Trail follows two main characters: Gillian and TJ. Gillian is a former concert pianist that is looking for an escape. TJ is a widower looking to finish his late wife's bucket list. Their paths cross when TJ crashes his motorcycle in front of Gillian. With the help of Gillian, TJ finds himself at Rainbow's End, the resort owned by Gillian's friend Kate, awaiting the repair of his motorcycle. As both Gillian and TJ take solace in Rainbow's End, they also start on a journey of discovery and faith.

What I absolutely loved about On Lone Star Trail was the journey. I could see the struggles of both TJ and Gillian and relate them to inner struggles of my own. I could feel the pain they both experienced by their losses. Amanda Cabot has a way with words and she really brought this book to life. I really enjoyed the very real journey both TJ and Gillian took with their faith. I know many people who have lost faith only to restore it after a difficult journey.

The other characters Gillian and TJ encountered also helped to create a very real portrayal of us Texans. I like to think I could have walked into Rainbow's End and had breakfast with the characters. That's what I look for in any book. If I can find myself in your world, I would say your book is a success!

I would say all in all, On Lone Star Trail by Amanda Cabot is a must read for any booklover. It's written so well and has such a great story. It also delivers a great message to any and everyone.

Check out these other great blogs on the tour!
2/11 My Book Fix Blog – Author Interview
2/12  The Crazy Booksellers – Promo
2/13  Missus Gonzo – Review
2/14  All for the Love of the Word – Promo
2/15  Hall Ways Blog – Promo
2/16  Books and Broomsticks – Promo
2/17  Because This is My Life Y'all – Review
2/18  Blogging for the Love of Authors and Their Books – Promo
2/19  The Page Unbound – Promo
2/20  Book Crazy Gals – Promo
2/21  It's a Jenn World  – Review
2/22  Belle Whittington on Tumblr – Promo
2/23  A Novel Reality – Promo
2/24  Secret Asian Girl – Review
2/25  The Librarian Talks -- Review
 Blog Tour Services Provided By:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

I recently saw this delicious recipe for a chocolate cake with red wine in it from Tasty. From the ingredients, it's your basic chocolate cake minus milk/water. Instead, you add red wine! Yummmy!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake: 

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks  unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup dry red wine

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, mix butter and sugars until whipped.
4. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix until blended.
5. Add dry ingredients in small batches.
6. Add half of wine and mix. Add other half of wine and mix until all ingredients are well blended.
7. Pour in a greased pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes.

Now the recipe and accompanying video add a red wine chocolate glaze which I chose not to do. Since we were close to Valentine's Day, I decided to make a red wine, strawberry & chocolate sauce. Here's the recipe:

Red Wine, Strawberry, and Chocolate Sauce:
10 strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring red wine and strawberries to a boil.
2. Add sugar and reduce heat to simmer. Let cook for 20 minutes or until strawberries start breaking down (mixing occassionally).
3. Add chocolate chips and stir until chocolate is melted. Sauce is ready to serve!
Note: If you want to strain the sauce to remove any strawberry pieces, you can. You can also puree the sauce so that it's smoother. I chose to do neither since I wanted the texture of the strawberries.

To put this all together, you just take your cake out of the pan (if you want) and spoon the chocolate sauce over the cake. I refrigerated my cake overnight because it was to be served to my friends the next day. You can serve the cake right away though. I'm sure it would've been absolutely heavenly right out of the oven!

The Tasty video showed the cake in a bundt form and I followed suit although bundts and I have never had a great relationship. When I was ready to remove my cake, it fell apart (which is pictured to the left). I was so heartbroken but quickly thought on my feet! I formed my cake into the bundt form (as best as I can) and placed all the crumbs into the center. I then spooned my sauce all over the cake. It looked okay but as you can see from the above picture, that wasn't good enough. I quickly made some chocolate covered strawberries and placed those suckers on top of my cake. It was not the prettiest of cakes but it was definitely the most delicious! Next time, I'll just leave the cake in the pan though!

If you're on Facebook, like Tasty for more recipes. My friends and I have made more dishes from this site than cookbooks lately!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Book Review: Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers

When I was pregnant, the first thing I feared was not the fact that I'd be going into labor (although that did frighten me a lot) but the fact that I'd be raising a child in an age where everyone has something digital on them. From cell phones to tablets to watches, being digital has become a way of life. So for me, the biggest fear was raising a child who would become so dependent on technology that she forgot to use her brain.

Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers by Lucy Palladino speaks to parents like me who are worried about technology and raising kids in this digitized world. Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers talks about the different types of attention spans we all have and how activities guide our attention. It also discusses which types of attention(s) are most useful for school and various other activities. For me, that's what counted. I needed to differentiate the type of attention my daughter would soon be devoting to school work vs TV or play time. I needed to understand that I don't have to take away technology in order to raise a well rounded child within a digital society.

I highly encourage any and all parents to read Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers by Lucy Palladino even if you aren't worried about technology. They offer a lot of problem solving strategies that are really helpful. Parenting is such a hard job and it's great to have resources like this to help us do the absolute best for our kids.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Super Bowl 50: Dessert

Let me start this post off by stating that my family did not want me to cook for Super Bowl 50. I know, I know. I was shocked at the prospect too but I admit it was nice not having to worry about creating a huge meal for everyone as well as dessert. That being said, I made a cheesecake because I still felt the need to cook. :) 
The recipe I have for an original cheesecake is actually a copycat recipe of the Cheesecake Factory recipe from Top Secret Recipes. I've used it for years and it's extremely delicious! I linked the original recipe but here's mine with a couple tweaks.  

Original Cheesecake: 
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter
4 8 oz packages of cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
5 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Mix graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, and butter until combined. 
2. Place crust in spring form pan. Push the crust into the bottom of the pan and allow for some to come up the sides. Place pan in freezer while you make the filling. 
3. Preheat oven to 325. In a medium saucepan, boil about 4-5 cups water. 
4. In a big mixing bowl, mix cream cheese and sour cream. 
5. Add sugar and vanilla and mix. 
6. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until incorporated. 
7. Remove crust from freezer and pour filling into pan. 

To make the cheesecake, you will need to bake it in a water bath. To do this, you will need a bigger roasting pan. Make sure the pan is big enough to fit the cheesecake pan. 

8. Place cheesecake in roasting pan. Add water to pan (not on cheesecake). Make sure it comes up to about halfway up the cheesecake pan. 
9. Bake for 45 min to an hour or until lightly golden brown on top. 
10. Remove from oven (CAREFULLY) as not to spill any water. Once water cools, you can remove cheesecake and refrigerate for at least 6 hrs (personally I let it set overnight). 

This will assuredly produce a delicious cheesecake! The original recipe includes a topping which I do not use. Feel free to use it though or create your own topping. You can see from the picture that I added chocolate sauce to my slice as well as some fruit. It was the Super Bowl after all!

Monday, February 1, 2016

National Chocolate Cake Day

Last Wednesday, January 27th was National Chocolate Cake Day. A coworker of mine informed me on Tuesday and so I only had a couple hours to think of what I wanted to do. I had to celebrate this because I am a certified chocoholic. As I drove home, I thought about those chocolate cupcakes I made during Halloween. The recipe was very simple and the only change I'd have to make was putting it into a cake pan as opposed to cupcakes. I also decided to add some chocolate chips to the cake batter just to add more chocolate to it. (For the chocolate cake recipe: click here.)

When the cake came out of the oven, I realized I had no icing for it. I couldn't very well serve a naked cake to my coworkers. After browsing my cabinet a bit, I remembered I still had lots of chocolate chips left (I buy in bulk). I decided a quick ganache would do the trick. For those that have never attempted a ganache, it is a very simple chocolate icing. It can also be the base for a chocolate truffle.

Chocolate Ganache: 
12 oz chocolate chips (milk, dark, semi sweet. you choose which chocolate you prefer)
2 tbs milk (you may need more)

1. Place chocolate chips and milk in a mixing bowl.
2. Using either a double boiler or microwave, warm until chips are semi melted. Stir to combine milk. The consistency of your ganache should look something like the picture to the left. You want it to be the consistency of syrup; not too thick and not too thin.

Once you make the ganache, let your cake cool a bit and then pour the ganache all over the cake. Put the cake in the fridge overnight. The chocolate should firm up a bit so that you can still cut through the cake. It's as easy as that!

Now, I forgot to take a picture of my delicious treat before it was cut I snapped a picture of the aftermath....

As you can see, everyone loved the cake. It didn't last long in the breakroom. Hope you get a chance to try this recipe out. If so, let me know what you think!