Tag Archives: friends

Crowd Pleasing Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

I love to cook for people. Have I ever mentioned that before? I recently met some new people to cook for, and at our first meeting, I kinda bragged about being an amazing cook. I even brought some of my Homemade Bagels to share. I think they liked them (either that or they’re great at faking it.lol) So of course, when the invitation came for me to bring my kids out to their house and cook dinner, I was all-too-happy to plan a meal that would be both simple enough to cook while visiting and something my hostess would be able to easily recreate on her own, but also a crowd pleaser and a “wow” kinda meal. I do believe I picked a near-perfect meal to do the trick. I have only 1 picture to share with you, and the credit for that goes to Carri who brought out her phone to snap a picture before we dished up. I was too busy enjoying cooking in a big kitchen and visiting and dancing while doing so to think about taking pictures. (I know, shocking, right?)

Our hosts spent a good amount of time that day showing me and my kids around and introducing us to all their animals, even putting my girl child on a horse to ride around for a bit (the boy child had no interest). They shot a bow and arrow, enjoyed the company of children other than each other, and generally just had a nice, fun, relaxing day/evening. And I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with adults outside of work, something I don’t get to do enough of lately.

I am not a perfect cook, to which I have admitted many times. I do make some really great food, most of the time, but I do have my mishaps… In planning the menu, I decided I wanted to make dessert as well, which I was going to prepare at home and bring along. I decided on my old “signature” dessert of cream puffs…but they didn’t puff, and my work schedule was so hectic there was no way I would have time to re-make them. Seeing my sadness (I was near tears…probably more because of my hectic schedule and trying to do too much and overwhelming myself than having not had success with the puffs, though…) at not having success with this, my girl child (15 years old now, by the way! How did THAT happen?!) offered to give them a try while I was at work. When I saw her facebook status update declaring “I WIN”, I knew she had had success and it was for sure a proud mommy moment.

So, what did we share with this family of new friends? Having bragged about being an amazing cook, it had to be something amazing, of course… Well, the cream puffs, of course, thanks to the girl child. I also made Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara (the recipe is below, but to be honest, I didn’t really follow it too closely, and had only made it once before this night, so threw it together from memory, but it seemed to turn out quite well… also, this recipe is a combination of several I found on the www with my own little twists added to it) and a big green salad with lemon salad dressing. Yeah, that’s it. But it was plenty!

Thanks again for letting me come out to your house and mess up your kitchen!

 

Garlicky Spaghetti Carbonara

This is a dish that can be complete in less than 20 minutes if you gather all your ingredients before you start. It’s simple, with simple ingredients, and a crowd-pleaser!

When I told my kids one night that we were having Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner, they both cried out “YUM!!!!” But they had no idea what it was. They just liked the sound of the name. When I told them it had bacon in it, I thought they would both faint from excitement. I love these simple meals that impress. 🙂


Ingredients:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3/4 pound bacon, chopped
  • 1 head garlic, divided
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lemon
    Here’s What to do:

    1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Smash about 8 cloves of garlic (or more) and add them to the water (I do this instead of salt) along with the pasta. Cook to al dente, according to package directions.

    2. Meanwhile, heat the largest skillet you have over medium to medium-high heat. Add bacon to pan and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Chop the remaining garlic cloves, and slice the green onion (green and white parts), reserving a bit for garnish. Add these to the bacon and grease in the pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Chop tomato into cubes and cut lemon in half during this cooking time.

    3. In a bowl, beat yolks and add 1/2 cup of the water from the pasta. This keeps the eggs from scrambling when added to the pasta.

    4. Drain pasta and add it directly to the skillet with the bacon mixture. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Working quickly, toss to coat the pasta, adding more water to make a creamy texture, maybe a ladel or 2 full. Remove from heat and add a large handful of cheese, about 1/2 cup or so, and chopped tomatoes. Continue to toss the pasta until it thickens. Garnish with reserved green onion and extra grated Parmesan.

    5. Serve in pasta bowls or on plates with large sides to hold the yummy goodness in!

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Filed under Entertainment, Main Dishes, Pasta, Pork, Recipes

Vanilla Beans

How to cut open a vanilla bean: lay bean(s) on cutting board, holding one end with your fingers, use a sharp knife to cut bean lengthwise, exposing seeds

Not too long ago I bought a few vanilla beans for a good price. (I don’t recall what the price was, but I remember not wanting to pass up the good deal.) I finally have gotten around to doing something with them, and I am pleased to say that my first experience in working with vanilla beans has been a good one. They are simple to work with, despite their size, and now my hands smell like vanilla and that makes me smile.

So, what did I do with these fragrant, flavorful little pods of goodness? I made more goodness, of course. It will be ready in about 2 months.

First, I made Vanilla Extract. In my cupboard I had some vodka that I will, in all honesty, never drink. (Sorry, sis. I’ll buy more for your dirty Martinis when you come visit. I promise.) This is the perfect liquor for making vanilla extract. And I am almost out of vanilla extract in my baking supplies, so it seemed a perfect use to me. The process is so simple you’ll question why you’ve never made it yourself, and then you’ll want to rush out and buy some vodka and vanilla beans.

You will need:

— 1 cup vodka, bourbon, or rum (Vodka is my #1 choice here because of its neutral flavor.)

— 2-4 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place liquor into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. I was finishing off a bottle of vodka for this, so I just used that bottle and saved myself the trouble of finding another appropriately sized jar/bottle. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to liquor, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about 2-3 months, you will have beautiful vanilla extract for all your baking needs. It will become a little darker as it ages, and you can use it as you would any other vanilla, only it will taste way better. To keep it going forever, you can add more vanilla beans and liquor to the bottle.

I couldn’t stop with just Vanilla Extract, though.  I wanted a treat that could be used more frequently, and enjoyed by my awesome kiddos, too. So, now we’re on to Vanilla Sugar.

You will need:

— 1.5 cups white sugar

— 2 vanilla beans

— clean bottle or jar

Here’s what to do:

Place sugar into a clean bottle or jar with a tight fitting lid. Split open vanilla beans to expose the seeds inside the bean pod (as shown in picture). Add vanilla beans to sugar, secure lid, and shake well. Place in a cool, dark cupboard, and give it a little shake a couple times a week. In about a month, you will have a flavorful sugar that can be used in baking, in your coffee, or sprinkled on some buttered toast for a sweet treat.

Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar! So easy, you'll wonder why you haven't tried it before now.

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So there we have it. A quick trip into the kitchen this morning, and the results are sweet. 😉

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Amazing Casserole (AKA Tater Tot Casserole)

I had not planned on posting this recipe tonight. I wanted to get pictures to go along with it, and that just didn’t happen tonight. So, what made me post it anyway? Well, I’m a sucker for kids who ask for recipes, and tonight, my girl child told some friends that she was looking forward to Tater Tot Casserole for dinner, and to her complete shock, most of them had never heard of it! One of those friends asked for a recipe so he can make it. Who am I to deny a child (ok, a teen) the joy of cooking? So, for my girl child’s friends, enjoy this simple recipe that you can make for your family! (Yes, that’s right. The teens shall cook for the parents. You’re welcome!)

TATER TOT CASSEROLE

Ingredients

  • 1# Ground Beef
  • 32 oz. bag Tater Tots
  • 2 Stalks Celery, sliced, including leafy tops
  • Cream Soup (your choice of flavor, or make your own)
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (plus additional for topping)
  • Green beans or other vegetable of choice (I prefer fresh, but many use canned)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare tater tots as directed on package. While those are baking, cook ground beef and celery until meat is no longer pink and celery has softened. Drain excess liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add cream soup, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and vegetable to meat mixture. Fold in a handful of tater tots. Pour mixture in a casserole dish (9×13 baking dish). Top with remaining tater tots. Bake at 350*F for approximately 30-40 minutes, until heated through and bubbly. Top with additional cheese, if desired, and return to oven for 5-10 minutes.

Serve with salad and ENJOY!

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Fabulous Friday

Today is not just Good Friday, it is Fabulous Friday! The perfect ending to a perfect week. It was like shipment central around my place all week, with packages arriving from all kinds of places, including one I have been waiting on for many years. Ok, so not the package itself, but the item. I finally purchased something I have been wanting for many, many years. It’s a French Butter Dish (you may have heard it called a Butter Bell). The husband of one of my friends makes handmade pottery and he does an amazing job. I was so happy to get my much-anticipated new piece of pottery for my kitchen, and getting to support a friend’s business just sweetened the deal!

So, what else makes this a Fabulous Friday? Well, it’s FRIDAY! Need I say more? And I got to run the bar at work today, steaming milk to a perfectly creamy, frothy texture with all it’s sweetness, pouring it over caramelly shots of espresso, chatting with customers and wishing them a Fabulous Friday…what’s not amazing about bringing a smile to everyone’s face?

And in case I hadn’t been given enough reasons to smile throughout the week, I did get some good news via email several times this week. Some relating to my kids and school, an email from an old friend I hadn’t heard from in awhile, and then an email from someone who is planning to make my Garlicky Buttery Shrimp Pasta for some family. I am excited to hear how everyone enjoyed it!

Now I get to enjoy the day tomorrow with my favorite kiddos… picking up our produce basket from Bountiful Baskets, dying Easter Eggs, eating candy, and probably planning more menus!

Excitement abounds. New beginnings emerge. What kind of amazingness are you up to this weekend?

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Filed under Cooking With Love

Excitement!

I owe you all so many posts. I had fun trying new foods with my kids in February, but was having so much fun and there were so many new and exciting things happening in our lives that computer time was limited at best. That’s a good thing, right? 🙂 I still want to share with you some food fun we had, and I will try to back-track and do that soon. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you some exciting news: I am changing jobs and career path! I realized I need to work directly with people and start working towards some larger life goals, so I have gone to work where I get to learn about coffee, talk to people, and smile all day long (and they pay me for this?!) This is going to free up a lot of time for me to get into college, learning about nutrition and so much more. It’s an exciting time!

And here’s some more excitement: My best friend talked me into offering my weekly menu planning and shopping lists to subscribers to make a little extra money. I wasn’t sure how that would work, but found a lot of people interested, and so I’m giving it a shot and I’m excited to launch my first email subscription with an aim to launch by April 1st (eek! That’s only a week away, isn’t it?! I better get back to my menu writing!)

So… for more information about joining my “Finding Dinner” menu subscription, check out the Finding Dinner tab and keep watching for details on how to confirm your subscription and find more time and money in your budget.

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Lunch With the Girls

My Birthday Month started out a little rocky mood-wise, finding me in a funk that I couldn’t seem to shake most of this week. So when I was asked to meet an old school friend for lunch with her 2 lovely daughters, I was thrilled to find myself escaping the office for my lunch break, something I haven’t done in awhile.

The little cafe just a little over a block from my office was just perfect for us. A nice big table to seat the 4 us, plus a couple dolls. Some burgers and fries and plenty of visiting and laughing helped t improve my mood.

Thanks for the fun lunch, my friend!! We should do that more often. 🙂

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Reusable Memories

Stacks of Memories!

I use real dishes. Yes, even for parties with many people in attendance, I use glass plates, glasses, and flatware, and I even use cloth napkins. It’s not that I’m a snob about dishes. Not at all. I have a hodge podge mix of plates, bowls, glasses, flatware, and napkins. There are matching sets among the mix, but for a large group, nothing matches, and I rather prefer it that way. It’s casual. It’s fun. It’s me.

When the party is over and all the guests have left, I walk around and pick up stray plates, glasses, and whatever else is sitting on tables, window sills, next to chairs… and this brings a smile to my face, because I know that everyone enjoyed themselves and as I stack up the plates and line up the glasses, it’s like I’m stacking up memories with every clink of dishes hitting against each other. And those memories will get to come out and play again and again as those dishes are used for nightly family dinners, dinner with friends, parties “just because”, impromptu get-togethers, and much more. And those memories are worth more than any possible breakage might cost to replace.

Remember: Use the good stuff. Today is special.

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Happy New Year 2012

I am finally feeling settled in our new home. Just in time for the New Year! I have spent New Year’s Eve baking and cleaning and preparing for what is going to be an amazing 2012. How do I know it’s going to be amazing? Well, because I said so! Someone once told me that having a great day is a choice, and I think the same is true of the entire year, so I’m making a choice right now to have an amazing 2012. I hope you’ll join me in that choice.

Tomorrow I will re-enter civilization with the installation of internet at home. We also have cable being installed, but ssshhhh… that’s a surprise for the kiddos. 😉

Happy New Year! It's going to be amazing! xoxo

A toast to you in this New Year. Happy New Year! My wish for you is to always remember that you deserve to be happy. xoxo

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The Great Pumpkin Hunt

The Great Pumpkin Hunt of 2011

Saturday morning, just 2 days before Halloween, and it occurred to me that we still had not gotten our pumpkins for carving. It was already going to be a busy day, but we were determined to make time for our carving tradition.

We begin our hunt, before heading to the soccer fields, at the Farmers Market where I made my usual first stop to see Bambi at Parke Creek Farm. This stop was not only for getting some great fresh veggies for our weekend food as we continue the move, but to say “good-bye”, since my “home” market will be in our new town next year. She didn’t have a lot of pumpkin choices as far as carving choices go, but I did pick out some great small pumpkins that she said are called “cuties”, but admitted she had yet to actually cook with one. That’s ok. I’ll experiment and report back to her. We said good-bye with promises to keep up via our Facebook pages at Parke Creek Farm and That Cook Girl. You can keep up with us there, too! </end shameless plug. Heehee>

As I mentioned in opening, we had a busy day planned. So, here’s just a quick rundown of the rest of the day before we got to continue our Pumpkin Hunt:

  • Soccer game (we won! Go RED BULLS!)
  • Quick visit with friends before leaving the fields
  • Load car with boxes from storage
  • Stop at house (that was filled with people and food… it would have been rude to
    not have a quick visit with them as well, so we stayed there longer than we had
    planned)
  • Add a few more things to the car, hoping there would still be room for the kids to
    sit (there was)
  • Drive and hour+ to the new place
  • Unload the car (to the 3rd floor apartment)

Now that we’re unloaded and sufficiently exhausted, it was time to head out for some shopping and pumpkin hunting… our first stop had the last-minute costume things we needed, and the food, and the other home necessities we were looking for…but no pumpkins. But what they did have was squash. Butternut and Spaghetti. Both made their way into the cart for the night’s carving activities. When all else fails, we carve squash, because the carving must go on. (Wait… that’s the show that must go on… nevermind. 😉 )

We did make one final stop before ending our hunt. There is a grocery store near our new apartment, so we swung in there, to find they still had plenty of pumpkins sitting out front. We made our choices and headed for our new home.

Enjoy! Our first Fireplace Decoration in our new home!

While I began cooking dinner, the kids set to work on their pumpkins. But they weren’t happy with carving just pumpkins. They wanted to carve the squash, as well. Afterall, that is why we bought them, right? I listened to their talking and giggling while I cooked and
put some more things in order in the apartment and started to feel like we really are at home, wherever we are together. I love you, kiddos!

 

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Eye Roll Worthy Ranch

I make an eye roll worthy Ranch dressing. It will make people roll their eyes for different reasons, but will almost always bring on the eye roll in some form.

Believe it or not, some people don’t understand why I would make my own Ranch dressing (or any other dressing for that matter) when the condiment aisle is filled with so many choices and it wouldn’t take any effort. These people are rolling their eyes at my preference to make my own dressings (and many other things) because they think I waste my time to make something that I can just buy in a bottle… but they don’t know what the next group of eye rollers know…

Anyone who has ever tried my Ranch dressing has rolled their eyes. It’s that eye roll of pleasure. Yes, I don’t mind if I do say so myself, my Ranch dressing will make your eyes roll back in your head!

My secret is simplicity! And I’m going to share it with you.

Eye Roll Worthy Ranch Dressing:

  • buttermilk
  • mayonnaise
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs

As with most of my “recipes”, there’s not much recipe at all, just a list of ingredients. And with this one, it’s a matter of taste and how much dressing you want to make. So, here’s how I do it.

Start with equal amounts of buttermilk and mayonnaise (I never measure, but it’s probably about 1 cup of each). Mix in 1 pressed garlic clove and 2-3 tablespoons of fresh herbs. My favorite combo is dill and chives. I’ve used oregano and marjoram and thyme, also. Generally, I send my kids out to the garden to choose 2-3 herbs to mix in. Whisk all of it together and put it in a jar in the fridge. It’s best to allow at least 30 minutes for the flavors to blend together before serving.

I would try to give you an idea of the shelf-life for this, except it rarely lasts more than 3 or 4 days in my fridge before I find the jar empty. 😉

I serve this up with salads, potatoes, oven fries, fresh veggies… you can make this a thicker dressing for a dip by adding more mayonnaise than buttermilk.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Sauces/Dressings