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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! I’ll keep it simple today. Today’s menu: chicken cordon bleu, rice, and spinach strawberry pecan salad.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

3 chicken breast filets
Sliced ham (luncheon meat)
Swiss cheese
Flour
Eggs
Panko bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper

Pound the chicken breasts to 1/4 inch with a flat meat mallet. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Place ham slices to cover the chicken.

Top with Swiss cheese.

Roll chicken like a burrito. Place in the refrigerator for an hour. This helps it hold its shape without using toothpicks.

Take chicken out of the refrigerator. Prepare to bread the chicken by beating 2 eggs and placing in a shallow dish. Place flour in one shallow dish and the Panko in another.

Dredge chicken in flour, dip in egg and coat with Panko. Place on plate seam side down. Repeat for all the chicken. Place in the refrigerator for an hour so that the coating with stick better.

Heat oil in non stick skillet. Brown chicken on all sides. Finish off in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Easter Cookies!

Happy Easter! After painting my front door and watching paint dry for a good portion of the day, I was determined to bake cookies for Easter baskets for my son, daughter, her boyfriend and my 2 year old great nephew. I got a very late start, but baked more than five dozen cookies.

I was excited to use my newly acquired King Arthur Flour (unbleached all purpose flour). It’s supposed to be the best for baking. I’m not sure why.

I’ve made cookies using a cookie press off and on for the past 15 years with varying levels of success and different recipes–I’m not talking taste, but how the cookies actually come out of the press. This time, these were the best. I’m not sure if it was the recipe, cold cheap cookie sheets, King Arthur Flour, the recipe or the addition of gel food colors.

Here are my tips for using the Wikton Ultra II Cookie Press:

1. Use the recipe listed below!

2. Slightly chill (15-20 minutes) the cookie dough after working the gel color through it if you use it.

3. Only use cold/cool cheap cookie sheets, ungreased and without the non stick coating.

4. Use a cookie press with a rubber bottom because it helps prevent slipping when pressing the cookies onto the cookie sheet.

5. Make sure the cookie press touches the cookie sheet firmly while pressing the cookie dough out the press. Press only once.

Here’s the recipe:

1 c butter, softened (I use salted butter)
1/2 c white sugar
1 lg egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 c all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla to the butter/sugar. Beat until well incorporated.

Add flour and mix well.

If you are going to color your dough, do it now.

Put cookie dough in the press. Press cookies. Bake for 6-8 minutes until edges are slightly golden.

Cool on cooling rack.

These cookies haven’t been glazed:

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Final product! Glazed cookies!!! Yum!

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Shut the Front Door! Watching Paint Dry.

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The weather was so beautiful yesterday that I decided that it was ’bout time to paint the front door. Yes, we are that house. The house with the jacked up front door. Really it’s not so bad who am I fooling?. -_- it just needed some love in the form of paint and manual labor. You know me, I’m not paying anyone to paint it for me. It just paint and it isn’t rocket science.

It’s not me if I don’t research the mess out of a new project because I want to get it just right. See, if my daddy were alive, I’d call him and he’d go into the recesses of his encyclopedic mind to tell me exactly what to do. You have to understand, I’ve researched this project off and on for months. With no screen door and a dog who will jet out the front door any chance he gets AND the prospect of flies and other insects entering the house, I was stressed. How do I prevent the outdoors from coming in. I’M NOT AN OUTDOORS PERSON.

My daughter, the entomology student at North Carolina State University, told me that I should
not have insect problems now. It’s been too cold and many aren’t out now. She also told me if I do get flies, I should turn on the AC to make it cold in the house. They will die because they can’t survive in very cold temperatures. Nonetheless, I still feel the need to stand guard at my front door. What if a critter comes in? Heck. Who am I foolin’? What the ham sandwich would I do if one came inside. My husband is out playing golf. I guess I’d call my BFF’s husband to catch it.

How did I do this?
1. Purchased a quart of exterior semi gloss latex paint that was a paint and primer combo. Make sure you purchase the right paint because you can’t put latex on top of oil unless you prime it first. Oil takes forever to dry.

2. Purchased a good quality 2 inch angled brush.

3. Purchased a mini foam roller for doors and cabinets.

4. I prepped the door by sanding some of the chipped areas and wiping it down with a damp cloth.

5. I taped off the hardware and taped the drop cloth to my floor.

6. My son put the dog in his crate.

7. I used the angled brush to cut in the frames, around the hardware and in areas where the roller won’t fit. I rolled the paint on the longer portions of the door in the direction of the grain or the longest strokes. Two coats later. It only took about 20 minutes per coat to paint. I let it dry about an hour between coats. It’s been drying for about 3 hours at this point. I think I can SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! It’s more than dry to the touch.

Before and after:

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Good Friday! Wall Art

I just can’t stand to let a day off go by without a project, unless I’m sick of course. Well, today’s a great day! It’s Good Friday and the time that we Christians are in our final spiritual preparations for Easter Sunday! My Jewish friends have been honoring their roots by celebrating Passover this week.

Anyhoo. I’ve had these oversized canvas that I covered in burlap hanging around in my house for about a year. The canvas is upcycled from my 12 year old son’s 5th birthday party table cloth (see I was doing the burlap thing before it was chic to do so). The canvas is upcycled from an art project gone wrong.

You cannot imagine how long I’ve searched for the right piece of artwork to hang on this huge wall I over my sofa. I mean this wall is about 16-20 feet long, empty and white. Ugh. Let me just say, yuck!

With a little ingenuity and determination, I stumbled upon the perfect idea on Pinterest! I set out this morning to buy an oversized stencil that was modern and fresh. This is not your mother’s stencil–all country and what not. I’m not hating on my friends, readers and followers who like that decorating style, it just doesn’t fit in my decorating style.

Off to Michael’s and AC Moore I go. While at Michael’s an older woman asked me to help her match some paint. She said I must be an art teacher–picked a perfect match. *made my day* Because Michael’s (is that double apostrophe correct to show possession in this sense?) didn’t have a great oversized stencil selection, I went to AC Moore.

Voilá! I found the perfect stencil. I picked my paint colors–red, burnt umber and lime green–and mosied on home. After testing the colors on the burlap, I hated the green because it looked too lime-y. Yes, I said lime-y. I added some burnt umber and it was perfect!

Because I used some stuff i had at home, the total cost for this project was $21!

Here’s the final product:

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How to:

Supplies: canvas covered with burlap, spray adhesive (the repositionable kind), acrylic paints, small sponge paint rollers, plates (to put the paint on) and stencil of your choice.

1. Test your paint on the burlap for color appropriateness.

2. Use spray adhesive to temporarily place the stencil on the burlap. Follow the directions for the adhesive. Mark the registration marks from the stencil onto the burlap if you will be repeating the design on the burlap.

3. Roll the paint on the stencil.

4. Once completed, let dry.

Yay!

UPDATE: My husband saw the wall art when he came home. He said he liked it! I didn’t even ask if he did!!! Warms my heart. Tomorrow, I shall paint the front door (exterior).

March Madness Munchies: kale chips

After a very exhausting day yesterday, I’m back at it today. Yesterday’s win means that my beloved UNC Tar Heels are playing in the ACC tournament championship today. The basketball worshipping watching is in full effect. After the game, we get a few hours and then the NCAA bracket pairings begins.

All right. I. Can’t. Stop. Eating. The. Kale. Chips. Even. As. I. Type. This. Post. Gah. So darned good. You, too, will fall in love. Heck, I don’t eat kale. Let me change that. I now only eat kale chips!

The slightly sweet, yet savory notes offered by the Italian Dressing Blend are perfect for this slightly bitter green. You can taste the basil, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sugar. So good.

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In case you want to make your own.

Fresh kale (well duh!)
Olive oil
Italian Seasoning Blend (Cindy Jones, owner of SSSR, suggested sprinkling this on baked kale chips. You can use whatever seasoning you prefer.)

Preheat oven to 350. Wash and dry the kale. It must be thoroughly dry. Toss in olive oil. Sprinkle with the Italian Dressing Mix. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 until crispy.

NOTE: please make way more than you think. Just like cooked greens, these little boogers shrivel up to less than half the volume. Ahh. So good.

March Madness Munchies: steak fajita nachos

It’s March Madness and here in ‘basketball country’ this time of the year is just about a whole month-long holiday season. With all this basketball worshipping watching, I try to prepare great game time Munchies for my boys, my husband and my son. Yeah, I enjoy the Munchies too but DH accuses me of watching the game because of a party. Gah! Whuuuut evuh!

Anyway, I’ll bet you want to know about the yummy nachos I made.

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Here’s what you’ll need:

Bag of tortilla chips
6 oz package of cooked steak fajita strips from that store that starts with a W and ends with mart
Salsa (I prefer the canned salsa in the Hispanic foods section of that same store)
Sour cream
Fiesta mix cheese, 1/2 cup or so
2 green onions, sliced (use entire onion)
Shredded lettuce
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat oil in a nonstick pan. Cube the steak strips and add them to the pan. Add the green onions. Cook until heated through and the meat begins to carmelize slightly.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Layer the chips and cheese in an oven proof bowl. Top with steak mixture. Add more cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted.

Add shredded lettuce to a serving platter. Carefully slide the nachos onto the serving platter. Add more green onions, a scoop of sour cream and a scoop of salsa.

Yum! Go Heels!

I Didn’t Forget! Shrimp and the Museum

I didn’t forget about my peeps! I’ve been super busy with some other things, primarily work. But I’m baaaaack.

Yesterday I met fellow foodie Johanna Kramer. I met her at my spice stompin’ ground Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh. Johanna was signing a new shipment of her book. Because I promised my kids I wouldn’t stay and talk (ice been known to hang out for a very long time) I ran in, picked up my spice blends and was on my merry way. Johanna gave me her card.

Yesterday, I spent time with my nearly 19 year old daughter, my son, my niece, her husband and the cutest 2 year old on the planet, their son P (I won’t be using his name). We went to the science museum complex–it truly is a complex of complex and interesting things. My daughter was on a mission to get pictures for her entomology class project (she’s a freshman at a very large land grant college in NC) and my son was along for the ride.

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Before touring the museum (we’ve been there a billion times but this was our first time in the new part), we had lunch in the Daily Planet Cafe. Can I say YUM! Gah. My small plate (code words for ‘you’re getting a small amount of food artfully plated and pleasing to the eyes and palate) of pecan shrimp with honey cream and local slaw was wonderful. It was just enough for lunch and priced just right. It’s owned by a local restaurant group that focuses on locally sourced, scratch-made foods. They own one of my favorite restaurants, the Twisted Fork.

Anyhoo, I got to thinking about the meal. The shrimp were perfectly flash fried with a dusting of…cornstarch? white wheat flour? Who knows? Lightly tossed with this honey cream and topped with a small roasted pecan. All six of them. They surrounded the ‘local’ slaw. I’m not sure what made it local but it didn’t look like I expected. It was shredded napa cabbage with julienned red pepper strips and tossed in a delicate vinaigrette. It was the perfect complement to the shrimp. So now I’m on to recreating the dish using small pieces of chicken or even a tilapia filet since my husband can’t eat shrimp. I’ll keep you posted.

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All that being said, I’ve prepared for today’s menu which is not that shrimp dish I was just talking about. I have to think on that!

Today’s dinner menu will consist of a reprise of jerk chicken, rice and black beans, candied yams (I’m allergic to plantains) and some type of vegetable.

Can you believe it’s March already? Happy belated birthday to my dear sister in law Debbi. She’s the best! Love her! Muah!

Don’t Wear a Dress to Work When We’re Expecting a Weather Event!

For the second Friday in a row, it’s supposed to snow. What? I tell you, it was as cold as all get out today. And today was probably not the right day to wear a dress. Oh well.

In this part of North Carolina, we go on ‘snow watch’ as I call it. I like to hunker down and wait. I don’t run to buy milk and eggs, although last week I had to go to the grocery store because I hadn’t been in a month! This time, I really need bread and milk and rice and my list could go on. These are the things that I ran out of.

Eight years ago, on January 19, we had light snow flurries that turned a 20 minute trip to my daughter’s school into a two hour tour trip (C’mon, I know the Gilligan’s Island theme song went through your mind.). And then a 30 minute ride from her school to our home turned into a seven hour ride. You heard what I said. Our city made national news that day.

I won’t get into how stressed I was, how paranoid I was that we were gonna run out of gas and how thankful I was that the Burger King near my house was open even though they couldn’t take my debit card because the computer connection was down. I am glad that I could scrape up $2.00 I’m change so Bria and I could buy a burger and fries to share. The cups of water were complimentary. I left work at 2:00, arrived at her school at 4:00 and was at BK at 10:30 or so.

Oh yeah, that day, I chose to wear a dress and heels.

I violated EVERY RULE my dad taught me for emergency preparedness.
1. I had no blanket in the car in case we got stuck or ran out of gas;
2. I had not hidden $20 in my car, just in case I needed it (We sure could have enjoyed our own burgers.);
3. I didn’t wear gloves to work;
and his most critical any weather rule:
4. My gas tank was at less than half a tank when I started this trek.

Moral of the story: don’t wear a dress to work when we are expecting a weather event!

You Jerk! Chicken, that is!

I LOVE me some Jamaican food. Bear with me while I slip into my Jamaican flair.

Ok. I’m back. This recipe is loosely based upon a recipe I saw online here.

Marinade:
1 onion, diced
1 c orange juice
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c white vinegar
4 tbsp jerk seasoning
1 lime

Gah! The marinade tastes so good on its own. And it smells so good too!

1. Put all the ingredients except the lime in the blender to purée.

2. Squeeze the juice of the lime into the purée. Set aside.

Preparing the Chicken

1 whole chicken (I used 3 chicken quarters and 2 split chicken breasts, bone in)

1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken

2. Using a fork, pierce the chicken all over.

3. Place chicken in zip loc bag or non metallic dish and coast with marinade, reserving about 1 c for basting/dipping (use half for basting and other half for dipping)

4. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Remove and pat away excess marinade from chicken.

5. Roast/bake at 400 on a baking rack until done. Turn and bast ever 20 minutes. OR you can grill the chicken instead of cooking it in the oven.

Chicken in the marinade bath:

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Just out of the oven!

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Cut into serving pieces:

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Serving suggestion: rice and peas (I prefer black beans) and sautéed cabbage–recipes for accompaniments will be posted later

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Lazy Chili Night (super easy for my non-cooking folks)

I haven’t forgotten you! I’ve been under the weather since Christmas and just haven’t felt up to cooking like I like to cook. Today’s trip to the grocery store was my first trip since Christmas! Can you believe it? My husband has gone to pick up stuff here and there but he doesn’t so full on grocery shopping.

I planned to make chili since its chilly outside, Blizzard 2013 has come and gone in less than 24 hours and it’s all about watching some sports in my house (husband and son). It’s 7:00 pm and way too late to get started on homemade chili so I decided to get a little help from the Hunts people. I bought a can of “Premium” (whatever, it’s canned tomatoes) Seasoned Diced Tomato Sauce for Chili. Their recipe looked simple enough and it feeds six!

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1 lb ground beef
1 can 15oz Hunts Diced Seasoned Tomato Sauce for Chili
1 can (14.25 oz) your favorite chili beans undrained (I used black beans)

1. Cook ground beef until it is no longer pink.
2. Stir in sauce and beans.
3. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

I’m simmering mine a bit longer because no one has come downstairs looking at me wondering where’s dinner.

It turned out pretty good. It will do in a pinch. I made this meal for less than $10!

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Serving suggestion: garnish with cheese and serve with corn cakes (recipe to follow–got some tweaking to do)

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